Mourning

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This article is about Mourning. For Mourning of Imam Husayn (AS), see Muharram mourning.

Mourning (Persian: سوگواری) is a ritual that takes place at the death of the deceased. Mourning has a long history and since ancient times, it has been held in memory of relatives or religious figures.

Based on historical sources, the history of mourning in Islam goes back to the time of the Prophet (s). Since then, it has been held in different forms in Islamic countries; such as funeral ceremony, the third day after funeral and fortieth day after the person’s demise.

Shia jurists consider it permissible to mourn, cry and lament for the dead; but, according to the fatwa of Sunni jurists, one can only cry silently when mourning the loss of his loved ones. Some Sunni jurists do not consider it permissible to cry loudly or shout for the dead.

Most Shiite mourning ceremonies are religious; i.e., they are held to commemorate religious leaders, including the Prophet (s) and Imams (a) and especially Imam al-Husayn (a). Some Sunni scholars consider this kind of mourning an unlawful innovation and thus forbidden. But, since the past until now, some Sunnis participate in Shia mourning.

Mourning, commemoration of the deceased ones

Mourning is a ceremony held in sadness for the demise of someone. Mourning ceremonies are held to express sadness for the loss of loved ones or religious figures.

The background of mourning

Mourning has long been common in different cultures. It is said that it was also common in pre-Zoroastrian Iran and there are examples of it in Shahnameh. In the Bible, there are reports about the mourning of Bani Israel in mourning for their lost ones.

According to historical reports, the history of mourning in Islam goes back to the time of the Prophet of Islam (s). For example, Ibn Kathir, a historian of the 8th/14th century, wrote that after the battle of Uhud, the women of Medina mourned their dead. Seeing this scene, the Prophet (s) grieved why there was no one to mourn for Hamza (who was martyred in the battle of Uhud). So, the women also mourned for Hamza b. 'Abd al-Muttalib.

Mourning in different cultures

Mourning ceremonies for the deceased have different forms in different cultures: in Iran, ceremonies such as Majlis-i Khatm (after burial), the 3rd night (after decease), the 7th night (after decease), the 40th day (after decease), and the anniversary (of decease) are held. In some countries, such as Tajikistan, mourning ceremonies are held on the 20th, 40th days and the anniversary. On the third day after funeral, Indian Muslims hold a ceremony over the tomb of the deceased. Other countries such as Egypt, Azerbaijan and Iraq also have special rituals for mourning.

Religious ruling of mourning for the deceased

According to the fatwa of Shia jurists, it is permissible to cry and lament for the deceased. Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi the author of Jawahir al-kalam (d. 1266/1850) wrote that there are many hadiths that acknowledge crying and mourning for the dead as permissible; among which, there are narrations that report the crying of the Prophet (s) in the mourning of his uncle Hamza and his son Ibrahim, and also the narrations about the lamentation of Lady Fatima al-Zahra (a) upon the demise of the Prophet (s).

The Sunnites’ point of view

According to Egyptian jurist 'Abd al-Rahman Jaziri, based on Sunni jurisprudence, it is not permissible to recite laments for the dead; but, it has no problem to cry for him, if it is done silently. Regarding crying out loud, there is a difference of views among Sunni schools of jurisprudence: Malikis and Hanafis consider it forbidden; but, it is permissible according to the Shafi'i and Hanbali schools.

Religious mourning

Main article: Mourning of Muharram
A view of Zanjir-zani (Chain-beating) of Shia mourners in Mourning procession of Muharram

Some mourning ceremonies have religious aspect. Shiites pay special attention to this type of mourning and hold mourning ceremonies for religious leaders such as the Prophet (s), Lady Fatima al-Zahra (a) and Imams (a), especially in Muharram for Imam al-Husayn (a).

Shia religious mourning for Imam al-Husayn (a) is held in different ways, including narration of his martyrdom accounts, reciting lamentations, crying, reciting elegies, Chest-beating, and hitting oneself with chains.

Shia scholars have written numerous books and treatises in defense of mourning and explaining its lawfulness; an example of which is Sayyid Muhsin Amin’s Iqna' al-la'im 'ala iqamat al-matam.

Sunni scholars, especially the Hanbalis, consider mourning an unlawful innovation and forbidden. However, according to historical reports, in Iran, some Sunni followers, especially Shafi'is, and even Sunni scholars, including some Hanafi and Shafi'i scholars, have participated in Shia mourning ceremonies.


References

  • The material for this article is mainly taken from سوگواری in Farsi WikiShia.