Mourning for Imam Hussein (PBUH) and holding gatherings in such title is one of the most important and yet simple ways to keep the movement of Ashura and its culture alive. Such mourning ceremonies, which are persistent and constant, uphold the memories of the Master of Martyrs and his genuine spirit to fight tyranny. While these reminders increase people’s resistance to oppression and deviations, it is essential that they be directed in the proper and positive direction.
From the beginning, both Imam Sajjad (PBUH) and Lady Zeinab (PBUH) worked to establish the practice of mourning the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (PBUH). Their first effort took place in Damascus, Yazid’s capital. After an awakening session, Yazid changed his strategy, and decided to put on a show expressing his regret for what had happened. Meanwhile, Lady Zeinab (PBUH) asked permission to hold a mourning gathering for her brother Imam Hussein (PBUH). Imam Sajjad (PBUH) was very influential in making this matter take place.
Yazid felt no choice but to agree, and Imam Sajjad, along with the women held mourning sessions in “Dar al-Hijareh” of al-Sham for seven days. Many women participated in those gatherings, and the tragedy of Imam Hussein (PBUH) and the martyrs of Karbala spread to crowds and crowds of people. People were so emotionally moved that they came so close to attacking the palace of Yazid, and killing him. Marvan, who was in Syria, felt threatened, and told Yazid, its best if Imam Sajjad (PBUH) and those in his company leave Syria and return to Medina.
After seven days of mourning, Yazid had Imam Sajjad (PBUH) and those with him return to Medina on the eighth day.1
It is therefore customary to say that the key people for establishing the mourning of Imam Hussein (PBUH) were Imam Sajjad (PBUH) and Lady Zeinab (PBUH). This matter is also seen when the caravan of Imam Sajjad (PBUH) left to go to Medina. It had been ordered that they return directly to Medina, with no stops in between. But instead they went to Karbala first, which coincided with the Arbaeen (40th day) of Imam Hussein’s (PBUH) martyrdom, in which they mourned for three more days beside the graves of the martyrs.
According to some narrations, Jabir ibn Abdullah Ansari was present there, and in these three days people from the clan of Bani Hashim and from Kufa had gathered to mourn the incidents. This account became another proof for the significance of mourning, and perseverance of its practice. After three days, they returned and continued this practice in Medina, until it spread little by little to other places. And today, we can see this practice worldwide as a significant act done by the devotees of Ahlul Bayt. Imam Sajjad (PBUH) wanted to remind people of the tragedy of Karbala and the path of Imam Hussein (PBUH), and protect it from being forgotten.
Today, Shiites continue this practice, mourning in a variety of ways, which in effect strengthens their beliefs, and protects them from going astray.
(Selection taken from the book, A Look into the Life of Imam Sajjad (PBUH) by Muhammad Muhammadi Eshtehardi, with minor changes.)
The Roshd Website offers condolences to all Muslims, especially you dear friend, upon 25th of Muharram, the anniversary of the martyrdom of the exemplar of worshipping and the fourth Imam, Imam Ali ibn Hussain (PBUH).
1. Nafas al-Mahmoom, p. 262