Without priority, Quality: c
From wikishia
Ritual information
TimeFirst Ten Days of MuharramLast Ten Days of Safar
OriginThe sufferings of the captives of Karbala such as having chains on their arms and legs

Zanjīrzanī or Self-Flagellation (Persian: زَنجیرزَنی, literally: beating oneself with chains) is a Shiite mourning ritual in which people beat their shoulders with clusters of chains attached to a wooden handle in the memory of the elegies of Ahl al-Bayt (a), and in particular, the Captives of Karbala. The ritual is popular in India, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq. It is generally practiced only by men who participate in processions on important occasions of mourning rituals, such as the First Ten Days of Muharram and the Last Ten Days of Safar. There are different styles of "zanjirzani". Zanjirzani processions are usually accompanied by Nawhakhwani, drumming, and Sinj (cymbal). Although the majority of faqihs (Shiite jurisprudents) permit zanjirzani, some of them have forbidden it along with Tatbir.


The origin of zanjirzani allegedly traces back to India and Pakistan. The ritual probably entered Iran in the middle of the Qajar period. There is no account of zanjirzani in older sources. There are reports of zanjirzani in European travel books in the period of Nasir al-Din Shah. In the period of Reza Shah, mourning rituals, including zanjirzani, were forbidden. In the period of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, there were temporary bans on practicing such rituals on some occasions. For example, in August 1955, before the Muharram month, the Pahlavi government appealed to a fatwa by Sayyid Hibat al-Din Shahristani, an Iraqi jurisprudent of the time, and banned zanjirzani and some other mourning rituals. Protests followed the ban, including a huge procession of zanjirzani by people of Azerbaijan who sat in on Sayyid Muhammad Bihbahani's house. The sit-in ended after the intervention of Husayn 'Ala, the prime minister of the time.[1] Zanjirzani was also banned in 1927 in Hyderabad.

Geographical Locations and Places

Zanjirzani is a Shiite mourning ritual mainly held in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, and India in different manners.[2]

There is no particular place to hold zanjirzani. It is held in alleys, streets, as well as enclosed places, such as the courtyards of religious sites or Husayniyyas.[3]


The ritual of zanjirzani is probably a symbol for the elegies of the caravan of the Captives of Karbala on their way to, and in, Syria; elegies such as having chains on their arms and legs and being whipped by the guardians of the caravan. Zanjirzani is a sort of undergoing pains and sufferings to share the sufferings imposed on the Captives and the Martyrs of Karbala by their enemies.[4]

Manners and Styles

The ritual is held in different areas of Iran and Iraq with slight differences, though it preserves its identity nonetheless. However, it is held in a totally different way in India and Pakistan. The main difference is that the chains used in the latter two countries have blades on them.

In Iran

A zanjirzani procession in Iran
A zanjirzani procession in Karbala, Iraq

In Iran, people who practice zanjirzani hold processions organized in lines with one or two persons in each row. In front rows are seniors and then the youths, teenagers, and children.[5] They beat their shoulders, and sometimes their heads and chests, with chains in harmony with the rhythm of the nawha recited by a Nawhakhwan. They beat drums and Sinj along with the procession. There are different styles of zanjirzani, such as uni-stroke, two-stroke, three-stroke, four-stroke, and more. The rhythm of zanjirzani follows that of nawha and the drum.[6]

On days of Tasu'a and 'Ashura, sometimes horses covered with white cloths stained with red drops, as symbols fobloodds, move ahead of chest-beating and zanjirzani processions. And sometimes some pigeons are put on the back of the horses as symbols for propagating the news of the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a) from Karbala to Medina.[7]

In Iraq

In Iraq, zanjirzani is practiced in an almost similar way to that in Iran. All people who practice zanjirzani wear black clothes, the shoulders of which are torn apart for the chains to touch the naked bodies for more empathy with the household of Imam al-Husayn (a). In Kadhimiya, a group of men form rectangular or oval shapes and march towards the Shrine of al-Kadhimiya. Drums, Sinj, and horns resound along with these processions, and Nawhakhwani is usually practiced.[8] Some people attach small blades to their chains to inflict greater pain on themselves.[9]

In Pakistan and India

In India and Pakistan, the ritual of zanjirzani used to be held in the way it is held in Iran, but later, it underwent changes by people, such as the attachment of blades and knives to the chains. People who beat blades on their bodies believe that they are permitted to shed their blood for Imam al-Husayn (a), just as Uways al-Qarani sacrificed his teeth for Prophet Muhammad (s).[10]

Zanjirzani is held in all cities of Pakistan. Even some young Sunni Muslims and Christians take part in the ritual.[11] In Pakistan, it is customary for men and women who do not have children to pledge to God that if He gave them a child, they would bring him or her to the ritual of zanjirzani for Imam al-Husayn (a) every year.[12]

Opponents of Zanjirzani

Although the majority of Shiite faqihs permit zanjirzani,[13] some of them have forbidden it along with Tatbir.

  • Sayyid Muhsin Amin: in his al-Tanzih li-a'mal al-shabih, he treated zanjirzani in the same way as Tatbir and forbade both.[15] In this essay, he attributes to Mirza Shirazi the fatwa that "latm" (beating one's body, e.g. chest-beating) is also forbidden if it causes the body to become red.[16]


  1. Mazāhirī, Muḥsin Ḥisām. Zanjīrzanī entry.
  2. Maẓāhirī, Muḥsin Ḥisām. Zanjīrzanī entry.
  3. Farbud, Kitāb-i Irān: Sūgwārī-hā-yi madhhabī dar Irān, p. 71.
  4. Farbud, Kitāb-i Irān: Sūgwārī-hā-yi madhhabī dar Irān, p. 71.
  5. Farbud, Kitāb-i Irān: Sūgwārī-hā-yi madhhabī dar Irān, p. 142.
  6. Maẓāhirī, Muḥsin Ḥisām. Zanjīrzanī entry.
  7. Farbud, Kitāb-i Irān: Sūgwārī-hā-yi madhhabī dar Irān, p. 145.
  8. Ḥaydarī, Tirājidī-yi Karbalā, p. 114.
  9. Ḥaydarī, Tirājidī-yi Karbalā, p. 115.
  10. Riḍāyī, ʿAzādārī-yi Imām Ḥusayn dar jahān, p. 102.
  11. Riḍāyī, ʿAzādārī-yi Imām Ḥusayn dar jahān, p. 102.
  12. Riḍāyī, ʿAzādārī-yi Imām Ḥusayn dar jahān, p. 101.
  13. See: Amīn, Rasāʾil al-shaʿāʾir al-Ḥusaynīyya, vol. 1, p. 42-45.
  14. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 2, p. 331; Khalīlī, Hākadhā ʿaraftuhum, vol. 1, p. 207.
  15. Amīn, al-Tanzīh li-aʿmāl al-shabīh, vol. 2, p. 171.
  16. Amīn, al-Tanzīh li-aʿmāl al-shabīh, vol. 2, p. 236.
  17. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 10, p. 261; Khalīlī, Hākadhā ʿaraftuhum, vol. 2, p. 212.


  • Amīn, Sayyid Muḥsin al-. Rasāʾil al-shaʿāʾir al-Ḥusaynīyya. [n.p]. Al-Rāfid: 2011.
  • Farbud, Muḥammad Ṣādiq. Kitāb-i Irān: Sūgwārī-hā-yi madhhabī dar Irān. Tehran: Al-Hudā, 1386.
  • Ḥaydarī, Ibrāhīm. Tirājidī-yi Karbalā. Translated to Farsi by ʿAlī Maʿmurī and Muḥammad Jawād Maʿmurī. Qom: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmīyya, 1380 Sh.
  • Khalīlī, Jaʿfar. Hākadhā ʿaraftuhum. Qom: Al-Maktabat al-Ḥaydarīyya, 1426 AH.
  • Maẓāhirī, Muḥsin Ḥisām. Zanjīrzanī. In Farhang-i sūg-i Shīʿī. Tehran: Khayma, 1395 Sh.
  • Riḍāyī, Ṣāfīyya. ʿAzādārī-yi Imām Ḥusayn dar jahān. Qom: Intishārāt-i Sibṭ al-Nabī, 1388 Sh.