Muharram rituals in Yazd to be held differently due to coronavirus pandemic

August 4, 2020 - 16:31

TEHRAN – While Iran is still fighting the coronavirus outbreak, this year’s Muharram mourning rituals would be different from previous years.

Iranians, who are mostly Shia Muslims, hold special ceremonies during the first ten days of the lunar month of Muharram, which falls from August 21 to 30 this year to commemorate the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (AS), the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his 72 loyal companions.

Mourners in Iran’s central Yazd province have decided to allocate the cost of their Muharram rituals to the poor and needy families this year, IRNA reported on Tuesday.

Yazd Muharram’s rituals are well-known countrywide and have been held for centuries in a fixed style, which hundreds of men, all clad in black, congregate in Hosayniyas (places used for religious mourning ceremonies) to beat on their chests according to the rhythm of a sung eulogy. During recent years the ceremonies have been broadcast live on different IRIB channels and have been welcomed by people in other provinces.

According to the National Headquarters for Fighting Coronavirus gatherings and attendance in crowded places could lead to the spread of the disease, so some of Muharram mourners in the province took a different approach this year.

The ceremonies will be held limited and with less time in small neighborhoods and most of the rituals’ expenses is scheduled to spend on needy families, freeing prisoners, helping their families and buying livelihood packages, as well as helping public health, the council of religious boards of Yazd province has announced.

Every year thousands of foreigners flock to the country to see with their naked eyes and record with cameras the Iranian fervor during Muharram that reaches its climax on its 10th day, also known as Ashura.

They could witness various ceremonies such as Tazieh, a passion play inspired by historical and religious narrations, Sineh-Zani [beating the chest] and Nazri, food offerings during Muharram in every village, township, city or metropolis, which are usually sponsored by wealthy benefactors.

However, this year, one of the main features of Yazd Muharram ceremonies, “Nakhl gardani”, the act of carrying the Nakhl -- a wooden structure used as a symbolic representation of the Imam’s coffin-- from one place to another, resembling an Imam’s funeral, as well as other ceremonies will not be held. 

Yazd, the cradle of Zoroastrianism, is now one of the unavoidable points of Islamic Iran. Home to thousands of small and big mosques and Hosayniyas, Yazd has earned the title “Iran’s and world’s Hosayniya”.

A Hosayniya is a congregation hall for holding Shiite Muslim commemoration ceremonies, especially those associated with the mourning month of Muharram, the month in which Imam Hussein (AS) was martyred by the then ruler Yazid.

The commemoration of the battle of Karbala on the day of Ashura (literally meaning 10th as the battle took place on the 10th day of Muharram) and the epic passion and courage of Imam Hussein (AS) and his 72 loyal companions who were all martyred (in 680 CE) is annually honored by Iranians.

ABU/MG

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