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The Who, What, How and Why of Azadari


Who Is It For?:

One of the amazing things about the month of Muharram is the fact that people who you don’t see in the Imambargah during the entire year, show up. They take out time from their busy schedules and come dressed in black to attend the mourning ceremonies of Imam Hussain (as).

And why not?

The Ibadat of Azadari is something nobody wants to miss out on, especially since we have no idea how long we have left to live in this world.

But why do we feel so compelled to attend these Majalis? Is the lone reason to provide solace to Bibi Fatema (as)?

Here’s an extract from Wikipedia:

“Shias believe they share in Fatimah’s suffering by weeping for her sorrows. The tears of the faithful is also believed to console Fatimah.”

Be honest with yourself. How does the second sentence make Bibi Fatema (as) sound? An extremely Patient woman, the Best of all Women in the entire Universe, someone who is said to have a secret just between herself and Allah (SWT), the Princess of the Day of Judgement, and yet we make her sound like she still needs condolences from sinners like us?!

I mean, if you were to tell your friends in school or your colleagues that the reason you cry for Imam Hussain (as) is to bring peace to the heart of Bibi Fatema (as), they’re just going to roll their eyes. Because, my dear brothers and sisters, if you think about it, that does sound a bit odd..

We need to understand that we are not attending the Majalis for Bibi Fatema (as). You may argue that Bibi Fatema (as) is said to collect our tears in her handkerchief, and so the tears are for her, but don’t those tears become the light of our own graves, and a shade for us on the Day of Judgement; how, in any way, do they benefit the Great Lady (as)??

So the next time someone asks you why you’re attending these Majalises, don’t say that you’re doing it for Bibi Fatema (as).

These Majalis are meant as a revival for our dead hearts, an awakening for our drowsy souls, and are not, in any way, providing an advantage to Zahra (as). They are just, as the first part of the Wiki extract says, a means of solidarity with her, to show her that we too care about the tragedies that happened, and that we too are crushed by what the Ummat did to Hussain (as) and the rest of her family.

What Should It Be Like?:

Azadari today, is what Kerbala was in 61AH. Kerbala happened to wake up the sleeping Ummat, to show them the difference between right and wrong, and then to ask them which side they were on? The side of people who called out:

Be quick in the slaughter of the grand son of Rasool Allah, we must pray the Asr Salah!

Or on the side of the Imam (as)?

Muharram comes every year to remind us of the tragedy, and then asks us the same question…So lets see how well my Azadari prepares me to be able to answer it:

I attend a Majlis every night, in which I’m dressed completely in black. I listen to each and every word the Zaakir says, I weep profusely when he talks about the Masaib that fell on my Imam (as) and take part in the Matam too. When I go home that night, it’s 1:00 am, and I remember what the Zaakir had said about the importance of Shab Namaaz, such that Bibi Zainab (as) recited it even in the prison of Shaam! I consider Praying it, I mean I did cry a lot at that statement in the Majlis.. Hmm.. Nah, tonight I’m not up to it. So I get into bed, forget everything the Zaakir told me, and fall asleep.

That, was the Azadari of almost each and every Shia on the face of this Earth today, and I’m sure you can tell, something isn’t right here..

If you really want to know what true Azadari is, let’s go to Shaam, where the very foundations of Azadari were laid. The first time a Majlis was ever held though, was not by Bibi Zainab (as) after they were freed from prison. Rather, it was those stories Bibi Sakina (as) would tell the little children while she was in the prison. The children’s hearts were moved by what they heard, and they went and told their mothers, who also started to listen to what Bibi Sakina (as) had to say. Bibi Sakina (as) would tell the women of Shaam the story of Kerbala, and the cog-wheels of those women’s brains were turning. They were starting to realize that what happened to the family of Aba Abdil Lah wasn’t fair, and every word of the Majlis by Bibi Sakina (as) was taking it’s toll on the consciences of the Shaamis.

And when the little Princess left this world, the ladies of Shaam, because they had done Azadari, a true Azadari, one which heated their blood and flamed their hearts, went out, and spoke against Yazid, and because of the fear that their protests and “INTERNAL AWAKENING” would topple his throne, the Ahlul Bayt were set free.

This, my brothers and sisters, this is Azadari!

There was a lecture, there was the story of Kerbala, there was mourning and there was weeping, there was a Khateeb and there were listeners, but what it did to the hearts of the Shaami women, and what it does to our hearts today, is something totally, totally different.

Unfortunately, Azadari now is all about crying, and thinking about it, if all the women of Shaam would have done was cry over Bibi Sakina (as)’s death, the Ahlul Bayt would never have been released that quick, and it would have been proof that the Majlis of Bibi Sakina (as) hadn’t affected them one bit.

We need to understand that when our Imams (as) insisted we remember Imam Hussain (as), when the Prophet (S) said he’d intercede for those who cried over his grandson, this was the type of crying and Azadari they had in mind, one that would move us to such an extent, that our insides burn and flare, and that we get so affected by what Imam Hussain (as) did, and by what happened to him, that until we change what is wrong, we can’t rest in peace.

And that change doesn’t have to be marches and protests on the road. Every single one of us has a battle going on within us, every second of every moment of every hour of every day. If each and every single Azadaar can win the battle against the Yazid inside him, where, oh where would the Muslims be today?!?

It all boils down to this: When we believe that we come to the Majlais, just so that our tears can heal Bibi Fatema (as)’s broken heart, that is all we do. We don’t bother taking Azadari to the next step, the actual reason why we have been commanded to remember Imam Hussain (as) in the first place.

How Can We Change It?:

We see in the Quran:

“Verily, those who disbelieved after their Belief and then went on increasing in their disbelief (i.e. disbelief in the Qur’an and in Prophet Muhammad S) – never will their repentance be accepted [because they repent only by their tongues and not from their hearts]. And they are those who are astray.”

Surah 3 (Aal e Imran):90

If we feel that crying and lamenting is enough, and if we don’t bring about a change from within, the tears are valueless, no matter how many they may be. The Ayah above clearly tells us that the repentance of the people will not be accepted because it is just on their tongues, why then will our Azadari be accepted if it’s just in our tears??

Now what?

How do we let these Majalises have the same effect on us that they had on the women of Shaam? The only way we can change the ritualistic Azadari into something more effective is by changing how you listen to the Majlis.

When you hear about how sweet death was to Hazrat Qasim (as), what goes through your mind? Do you just cry over that statement in the heat of the moment, and then forget about it? Or do you ask yourself what your own feelings on death are? If you’re scared of dying, does the statement of Hazrat Ali Akbar come to mind; the one in which he tells his father that if they were on the right path, it didn’t matter whether death came to them or they went to death. So if you ARE scared, does it mean you’re indulging in sins? If so, WHY?? Didn’t Imam Hussain (as) sacrifice everything he had so that you get the true Islam, and yet you’re sinning??…

Just imagine: If one line of the Majlis can bring such a train of thoughts into your mind, what can twelve days of constant reminding and advising do?!

Another one:

When you hear that Bibi Zainab (as) actually asked Imam Zain ul Abideen (as) whether they should stay in the burning tents because they didn’t have their Hijab. Stop. Look at the greatness of the Ahlul Bayt! Because in other words, what Bibi Zainab actually asked Imam Sajjad (as) was: Should we give up our lives, as compared to Na Mahram seeing us without Hijab??

Is that how you are, oh Azadaar who cries over the Hijab of Zainab (as)? Do you interact with Na Mahram for no reason? If it’s a must for you to do so, is that how much care you take when you do interact with them? Or are you relaxed? Do you laugh and joke around with your colleagues and classmates? Look at yourself in the mirror before you leave the house? Is this the Hijab the women of Kerbala would ever be seen wearing? If not, why are you wearing it? How can you cry over a tragedy which pained the hearts of the Ahlul Bayt, yet do the same thing which caused them that pain in the first place? What kind of Azadari is it that you do then??

This, this is what the Majalis should do to us. If we limit the Majalis to weeping only, then when we’d hear that Bibi Zainab (as) asked Imam Sajjad (as) whether they should stay in the tents, we would just cry and after the moment would pass, so would the statements that we just heard, and hence, we would never think deeply, nor ponder over the events that transpired and the umpteen lessons behind each and every single one of them.

Why Did Hussain (as) Take A Stand?:

Imam Hussain (as) did not die as a compensation for the sins of the Ummat of his Grandfather. Rather he sacrificed himself and his family so that the very same aforementioned Ummat gets the religion of Islam in one piece, with no alterations, so that by adhering to its rules and regulations, they can get into Jannat. If we just live our lives with no care and concern, hoping that the intercession of the Ahlul Bayt (as) will save us, Imam Hussain (as)’s sacrifice becomes pointless because we’re not following the religion he saved!

It’s sad how we fail to understand that.

All in all, let us always keep in mind that Azadari is important. Remembering Imam Hussain (as) is important. Not letting this annual tradition slip away or be forgotten in our future generations is important. But actually following what the Imam (as) died for, is the most important of them all…

May Allah (SWT) accept all our acts of devotion to Him and the Ahlul Bayt in these two Holy months, May we be able to act upon the message of Imam Hussain (as), May we be able to live by what he died for and May we see many more months of Aza in good health Insha Allah.


Special Thanks to sister Sakina Vakel!


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