|An Active and a Passive Mode
Michael Fischer (1980) uses 'paradigm', rather than 'passion', to describe the Moharram-rituals for two reasons. First, it focuses attention upon the story as a rhetorical device rather than on either the emotional component or the theological motifs common to Islam and Christianity. Second, it provides a way of clearly demarcating Shi'ite understanding of Islam from Sunni understanding of Islam and Islamic history. And indeed the Kerbalâ event is important in the Shi'i cosmology, as also the Professor of Religion at the College of the Holy Cross succinctly states:
"Remembrance and ritual reenactment of the tragedy of Kerbalâ is a cornerstone of faith, personal and communal identity, and piety. It accounts for the special vision and character of Shi'a Islam as a disinherited, oppressed community, loyal to God and His Prophet, struggling throughout history to restore God's rule and a just society." (Esposito 1988; p.114).
Most researchers on the Kerbalâ paradigm distinguish between two different modes, an active- and a passive mode. Mary Hegland (1983a) calls the two modes for "Hosain as a mediator", and "Hosain as an example". Michael Gilsenan (1990; p.61) follows basically the same line in his description of the rituals in a Lebanese village, but he terms it an active or a passive understanding of the martyrdom of Hosain. I find the distinction between the two modes extremely useful. It is not merely an analytical category, but also an indigenous one, since the influential Muslim ideologist dr. Ali Shari'ati used similar categorisation before the Western social scientists (Shari'ati 1972). The distinctions are precise and deserve some elaboration.
In the passive mode, history is seen as a continuous fight against bad luck, and consequently good relations are needed with the more powerful persons. Hosain is the mediator of these relations, and participating in the rituals for his martyrdom, is a strategy to win his approval. For this reason Hosain is very popular, he is seen as a mediator between the individual and the higher powers.
On the more theological level it is argued among Shia Muslims that the only legitim ruler is the Emâm, and since he has gone into occultation, one must simply await his coming patiently and passively.
The other image of Hosain is that of the revolutionary leader. He was fighting the evil at Kerbalâ, and everybody were forced to take side. Those not with him were against him. Neutrality did not exist since those who did not participate in his just struggle were considered evil, on the side with Yazid.
On the theological level the active stance is defended among Shi'a Muslims by arguing that people must make the society ready for the 12th Emâm to return, meaning that they must use his absence to build and prepare a just and devout society.
In this century the first view, the passive mode, has been dominant. Hegland (1983a) argues that it is due to the socio-economic dependency relations, especially among the peasants. They lived in constant fear for the lord's whims, and one strategy to appease him was to act humbly and to try to please him.
The Transformation of Mode
The transformation to the active, or revolutionary understanding of Hosain's role was a key-factor leading to the mobilization of the masses in the 1979 Revolution. This role of the rituals have received so much attention that it can appear to be its primary function. All researchers recognize the importance of the rituals and they link these to the events leading up to the Revolution. Descriptions of the Moharram-rituals in 1978 show that this change in ethos is very clear. The chest beating and wailing of the passive mode was changed with raised fists and shouts: "Death to the Shâh".
The transformation went together with changed socio-economic conditions. When the peasants started to work in the cities they became independent of their former landlords. The migration to the cities starting in the sixties was speeded up by the Pahlavi regime's "White Revolution". Being dissatisfied with prevailing conditions in the cities, the migrants returned to their villages, as it had become customary, in order to participate in the processions of Moharram (Hegland 1983b; p.89).
The renewed interest was also connected with the regime's ubiquitous censorship and oppression of opponents to the regime and its policies. The Moharram was a good disguise to communicating political messages in Iran. In Moharram 1978 (December) the ritual was used in an unambiguous confrontation. Government officials first banned '_shurâ processions. The ban was rescinded because it was obvious that people would participate anyway. Hegland describes the processions of that year. They were different from previous years. Non-Muslims participated as well as Muslims, and instead of either sineh-zani (chest-beating) or zanjir-zani (flagellating with chains) people raised their fists and shouted marg bar Shâh (death to the Shâh) and similar slogans. With this show off of power, the revolutionary movement in Iran changed tactics. From underground subversion to blatant, overt confrontation. The rituals of Moharram indeed had turned into the rituals of the Revolution. The non-muslims agreed on the basic goal, the overthrow of the evil, the Shâh ((ibid; p.86-7). Hegland can then point out that it was:
"rational reevaluation, embedded in ideology, of real political, economic, and social conditions, not an unreflective emotional attachment of traditional rituals, [that] was instrumental in pulling a people together to revolt." (Hegland 1983a; p. 235).
Thus combining religious and revolutionary values and images into an apparently coherent system, in addition to having charismatic leaders, one had a successful way to mobilise the masses (Kreyenbroek 1990; p.192-93). The massive popular support for the Revolution is a result of, as also Mary Hegland (1983b) understands it, changed economic and political conditions combined with active propaganda by leading clerics and a regime that repressed all political activity, and this in combination transformed the understanding of the central meaning of Shi'a Islam (the martyrdom of Emâm Hosain), from an understanding of Hosain the Mediator to Hosain the Example.
One might be forced to explain why the Revolution was carried through in religious idioms, and thus why the Moharram rituals achieved the salience they did. Mehdi Mozaffari (1987) asks why it was the clerical class with Khomeini in front rather than for example Mojaheddin or Mojaheddin-e Khalq who became the leader of the Revolution. It is important to remember that political parties were prohibited and suppressed before the revolution. Accordingly it was not a religious revival the world witnessed during the Iranian revolution, rather it was the suppression of open political discourse by the Pahlavi regime, which forced politics into a religious idiom (Fischer 1980, p.5, Hegland 1987, p.194). That it was precisely Khomeini who became the leader, rather than for example Mojaheddin or Mojaheddin-e Khalq was simply because he was the only one who was able to present a coherent plan of action (Mozaffari 1987). Furthermore it is argued that the language used by the Islamists was easily understood by the masses:
"Islam provided a common set of symbols, an historic identity, and a value system which was non-Western, indigenous, and broadly appealing. It offered an ideological framework within which a variety of factions could function. The ulama-mosque system provided a natural, informal nationwide communications network. The thousands of mosques, scattered throughout every city and village in Iran, became the foci for dissent, centres for political organization and agitation. The Friday sermon became a political platform, and religious figures represented a vast reservoir of grass roots leadership. Shi'i Islam offered an ideological view of history that gave meaning and legitimation to an opposition movement. Shi'i Islam is a religion of protest with an ideology and symbolism well suited to protest and opposition." (Esposito 1987; p.190-91)36.
Moaddel suggests that the effectiveness of the symbols and the workability of the metaphors used by the power contenders to mobilize support against their adversaries had a certain contribution to the outcome of the conflict. IRP used the images of the 'Great Satan' and 'World Imperialism' as the main enemies of the Revolution, and generally used popular idioms and rhetoric, whereas Mojaheddin had an academically informed critique of the ulama, which was too abstract to rally the public. Bani-Sadr and Mojaheddin's notions of democracy and individual freedom had already been discarded as being too closely associated with the West. "In short", Moaddel concludes, "the metaphors used by these leaders simply "misfired," to quote Geertz ("The Interpretation of Culture," New York, Basic Books, 1973)." (Moaddel 1993; p.216).
Religious or Political Sentiments/Dissent?
Mary Hegland observed in the village near Shirâz where she did her fieldwork, that the increased observance of religious rituals were concomitant with increased political activities, and she concludes that "Shi'ism provided an idiom and symbolic context used in expressing, organizing, and promoting the political struggle not only against the Shâh and his regime, but also against his representatives at the local level." (Hegland 1987). Economic conditions and complaints, as well as the expressed goal of the Islamic leaders, resulted in increased use of the language of Shi'ism. All observed increased religious activity was however related to political resistance. Moharram-rituals were likewise arranged by members of the political opposition.Gør tydeligere hvad de bidrager med, hvilke perspektiver de anlægger.
At the same time respect and devotion for the religion did increase because of most of the Shi'i establishment's uncompromising opposition to the regime which won the respect of many. Shi'ism was instrumental in the political struggle, at local, national, and international levels (ibid; p.208). Hegland stresses that the Revolution as such was not Islamic since Jews, Zoroastrians, Christians and others participated in the Revolution, in demonstrations against the Shâh, while at the same time some Muslims remained passive (1983). Most likely Mozaffari will agree with her, while he remind us that:
"People do not struggle for ideas or abstract notions; people struggle and accept sacrifices to obtain material advantages so as to be able to live in peace and prosperity. People want to see their lives progress and the future of their children assured (Mozaffari 1987).
Mortensen brings the imaginary aspect of the Moharram processions in focus when she terms it 'illiterate religion' (Mortensen 1989). She feels that the mental images evoked by Moharram processions were so strong and potent that it adds another dimension to the metaphor phrased by Umberto Eco that "...images are the literature of the layman..." when he describes the impressions created by the carved stone of a Medieval church doorway on the mind of a spectator who is familiar with all the stories in the Bible but cannot read or write (Eco 1984 (The Name of the Rose), p.41)" (ibid; p.85).
However, calling the Revolution Iranian rather than for Islamic might be seen, I think, rather as a reflection on the actual happenings, on the revolutionary "hangovers" (cf. the above quotation of Esposito).
Different Research Strategies
With the exception of Good & Good (1988), it can be seen from the different analyses of the Moharram-rituals presented above that it is the political and social aspects of the rituals which are emphasised. Summing up the previous chapter, the rituals appear to a certain degree to be formed according to ideology, political, economic, and social conditions (Hegland 1983a+b, Gilsenan 1990, Kreyenbroek 1990), and they were furthermore encouraged by the fact that suppression of a political discourse opened a religious discourse (Hegland 1987, Fischer 1980, Mozaffari 1987). The language of the rituals was understandable for all, and its ideology and symbolism was well suited for one of opposition (Esposito 1987).
Inge Mortensen from the University of Århus points out that it not always has been so. She writes about Ta'ziyeh, which is an aspect of the rituals which can be considered to by a hybrid between the processions and the rowzeh-khâni. The description of the Ta'ziyeh is generally useful for an understanding of the whole Moharram ritual complex as well. She succinctly lists different paradigms in the research tradition which can be summarized as follow:
1)The historical and philological-literate entry,
2)Ta'ziyeh from a Muslim point of view,
3)Ta'ziyeh seen as "cultural performance",
4)Political Islam, made manifest through Ta'ziyeh (Mortensen 1987; pp.10-26).
However relevant other approaches might be, it is surely the paradigm with the political Islam which is now dominant. The fact that the object of research, the Moharram-rituals, has changed its position in the Iranian society, has influenced the research being done on it. The focus has thus changed from different aspects of the rituals (philological, historical, semiotic, etc.) to a very determined focus on the social and political drama (ibid; p.27). The change of paradigm to political Islam within the research-tradition is directly connected to the events of the Islamic Revolution. Before the Revolution it were other aspects of the rituals which were emphasised.Måske skulle man komme med eksempler!
Contemporary Interpretations and Uses of the Rituals
Kreyenbroek, associate professor or Iran Studies at the University of Amsterdam, follows the same line of reason as Hegland is. The Islamic revolutionary movement, or the Iranian Revolution, has shown traits which can be termed 'puritan'. These are such as a desire to return to a pristine Islamic ideal, and the development of a new religious ethos calling for the Islamisation of society and the purification of the individual (Kreyenbroek 1988, p.185). His article can be seen as a complementary to Hegland's. He describes the transformation of the "passive" state of Shia Islam to the "active" state. Instead of looking at economic and social circumstances only, as does Hegland, it is now appropriate to look at the role of two present day ideologists in propagating the new, active understanding of the Kerbalâ paradigm. The two ideologists are Dr. Ali Shari'ati and Ayatollah Ruhollâh Khomeini.
Dr. Ali Shari'ati (1933-77) was born in a village near Mashhad in the North-Eastern part of Iran. His father, Mohammad Taqi Shari'ati was a scholar-preacher, traditionally trained but reformist in outlook. Shari'ati received his early education in Mashhad. In the late 1940s he and his father joined the Movement of God Worshipping-Socialists, and they were also active in Dr. Mosaddeq's nationalist movement. In 1959-65 Shari'ati studied Islamic History and Sociology i Paris, and earned a doctorate from the Sorbonne. Returning to Iran he was imprisoned for his anti-government activities in Paris, but eventually he obtained a teaching position at first at the University of Mashhad, after which he became a leader of the Hosaini-ye Ershâd Religious Centre o Vær konsekvent med transkribtionen. in 197237. His lectures were enormously successful, thousands of students attended his summer classes, and his writings were published in more than 100.000 copies. The regime labelled him as an "Islamic Marxist", closed the centre, and placed Shari'ati in solitary confinement in his village, Mazinan. In 1977 he was allowed to leave Iran for England, where he shortly after his arrival died of an apparent heart attack (Esposito 1987; pp.182-184), but it is widely believed that it was from the hand of SAVAK (the Shâh's intelligence service). Today the leftist Mojaheddin al-Khalq is arguing with the Iranian regime as to whether Shari'ati was a revolutionary leftist or a revolutionary Shia (Schade-Poulsen 1988, p.51).
The Persian word for religion is mazhab, and basically it means 'road', 'path'. This path is, says Shari'ati, intended to lead to a goal, not to be venerated for its own sake. The traveller gets lost when it becomes an end rather than a mean. This has happened to Shia Islam, and the passivity of the masses is to blame as well as collaboration of Shi'ite clerics with secular rulers. The right of ijtihâd (= independent analysis or interpretation of Islamic law) is to be with the people, and this will guard the Islamic community against the decline which he regards as inevitable in other societies. The right of ijtihâd in traditional Shia is the prerogative of a few high ranking clerics (mojtahed), and their authority must be followed (taqlid, ara.= unquestioned imitation or following of tradition) by the community. By rejecting traditional ijtihâd and taqlid, he was attacking the very foundation of the Shia establishment, but it was precisely these elements which were widely blamed for causing its backwardness and lack of social engagement (Kreyenbroek 1988; p.188-89), and he thus secured the support of the more secular oriented strata.
The 'Hosain as an example', the 'active' revolutionary power of Shi'ism surely shines through Dr. Shari'ati's descriptions of the Shi'i heroes38. He further explicated:
"Shi'ites find their slogans in the embodiment of the tribulations and the hopes of the masses of the oppressed. Aware of the rulers and in rebellion against them, they cry out: 'Choose imamate and stamp "cancelled," "disbelief" and "usurpation" upon the forehead of the caliphate.' 'Seek the leadership of Ali and flee from the leadership of cruelty.'" (ibid; p.15).
The terminology he used was indeed one that was attractive and understandable both to the devout Muslims and to the leftist factions in Iran (which were particularly strong in the Northern provinces because of the exposure to socialist ideas they had received due to their proximity with the then-USSR). When he distanced himself from the clerical class (those of them collaborating with the rulers), and claimed that the right of ijtihâd indeed should be with the people themselves rather than only with the mojtaheds (Shari'ati 1971), he was indeed also appealing to the strata attracted by Western conceptions of democracy.
The next ideologist does not need a further introduction. Ayatollah Khomeini also advocated an active understanding of Islam, but he differs on vital elements from Shari'ati. The right of ijtihâd is not extended beyond a clerical elite with drastically increased powers. His view of history is rather static, the Islamic state is to be based on laws and ordinances laid down in Scripture (Qorân and Hadith) and there is no indication that, once an Islamic government has been set up, further fundamental changes are foreseen, or regarded in any way as historically inevitable until the return of the hidden Emâm (whereas Shari'ati's ijtihâd of the people always will provide a dynamic Islam) (Kreyenbroek 1988; p.189-90).Måske skulle jeg gøre lidt mere ud af Khomeini, fortælle om hans talemåde, etc.
Dette afsnit viser hvordan skiftet foregår fra aktiv til passiv, og skulle måske placeres mere centralt... Also the official depiction of the Ideal Muslim Woman reflects the two modes of the Kerbalâ paradigm. Fâtemeh and Zeinab are both ideal Muslim women role models, but they have very different qualities. Fâtemeh is the good daughter of the Prophet, the faithful wife and companion of Ali, and the exemplary mother of Hosain and Zeinab, whereas Zeinab is seen as the courageous sister of Hosain, who is said to have stood up against Yazid and who, after the Kerbalâ massacre, delivered an eloquent speech of condemnation. After the Revolution, in May 1979, Khomeini in a speech repeatedly referred to the day, which both was Fâtemeh's and his own birthday, as 'Woman's Day', and a year later the Islamic Republican Party officially adopted it as Woman's Day, and the day has been commemorated every year ever since (Najmabadi 1993; p.375). It is thus clear how the qualities of Fâtemeh, the more passive of the two, again has been valorized after the role of the more revolutionary Zeinab has been outplayed in post-revolution Iran.Denne konklusion skal nok gøres tydeligere...
It is beyond any doubt that these two personalities had a major saying in the forming of the revolutions. They both had huge followings and their speeches were recorded and distributed on cassette all over Iran. They differ significantly from each other in the question of ijtihâd.
Opsummering af kapitler
Nyt kapitel. So far it has mostly been the political uses of the religion that has been discussed. This is in a way to be expected since the Shi'a branch of Islam is so suited for being a political 'protest'-movement and because of its salient feature in the 1979 revolution. One must however be careful not to regard Shi'a Islam as the only force behind the societal changes and to regard the religion only as a vehicle for political protest. It is fair to say that Iranians are religious, but in a much more pragmatic and individual manner than is seen in other Islamic countries, much less than is inferred from the analysis of the Moharram rituals.Use the Sa'di's poem from Gulestan as an example
There exist an amazing diversity of conceptions of Islam even in very small communities. Islam is taken to mean anything, and with this fundamental diversity, we have, in the words of Loeffler, to discard any essentialist conception of Islam (Loeffler 1988; p.246). Furthermore it is very important to understand that the new Islamic regime so to speak has officialised religion and the practice of it. To show and/or claim ones devotion for Islam is now taken as a sign for support and accept of the regime.
Following this chapter will I give a description of the Moharram-rituals which took place in the Summer of 1993. With this and with the two vignettes presented in the next chapter, I wish to modify the understanding of the religiosity of Iranians which has been built up from the previous analyses.
CASE STORY 1: Moharram
Despite the crucial part played by politics in shaping the structure of the cultural event, as is evident from the above, one should dismiss the cultural in terms of the political. Cultural symbols and the communal relationships which they generate and sustain are so powerful in their hold on people that political groups everywhere, including the state, continuously attempt to manipulate them in their own interests (Cohen 1983; p.119). This is certainly also the case with the rituals being performed in the month of Moharram. In spite of this appropriation of the rituals by the regime, popular participation is high. People will participate, seemingly unaffected by their attitudes and relationships to the sitting regime ("Everybody like Hosain").
The previous chapter showed that the Moharram rituals do have a central place within Iranian mythology, as mentioned already. The performances of the rituals as I experienced it the Summer of 1993 are in some regards not all together in accordance with earlier descriptions of the rituals. The participants' outlook on the rituals place previous analyses in a slightly different perspective. First and foremost by emphasising the ambiguity of the event. By showing nuances in this otherwise rather black/white, either/or, passive/active ritual complex. Via this case-story I attempt to confer the atmosphere of the first ten days of Moharram 1993, as I experienced it to be in a middle-class area of Tehran39, I hope to make clear these points of digression with the scholarly "Moharram-Paradigm".
First and foremost I experienced the Moharram-rituals to be an extremely popular celebration. In contrast to other official, more or less compulsory, ceremonies, where one noticed all the decor, but not at all any sense of festivity, there was here a pervasive activity that could be felt all over when people anticipated the rituals in the evening. The ceremonies are built around religious themes, but many participated even though they were not particular religious, because, as one young man said: "Everybody likes Hosain!"40. The whole thing was set off on the 1st of Moharram, and its culmination was on the tenth ('_shurâ). In those ten days people remembered the injustices and torments Hosain and his followers suffered at Kerbalâ, and they cried at this remembrance. Everywhere big tents, taki'eh, were erected, and in them people gathered to share the grief with others. A rowzeh-khân read from the sufferings of the family of the Prophet. A few among the participants worked up an ecstasy, shouting: "Voy, voy, Hosain voy!" beating their chest heavily. Most others contended by beating their breast softly while they sang different songs with themes from Kerbalâ. Then, in the evening at around 11 o'clock (when everybody had finished their work), they would take a chain, or maybe even one in each hand, and start out from our taki'eh41 in a procession. The men had chains in their hands which they rhythmically slapped down on their bags (zanjir zani). Before they set out a sheep was sacrificed, its blood symbolizing the blood that was shed at Kerbalâ, and the meat was used for a meal, a nazri, which the participants ate when they after approximately two hours returned to the taki'eh. Besides the men with the chains, the procession consisted of a cart equipped with loudspeakers and spotlights illuminating the procession (this cart can be a pick-up truck, or it can be just a hand pulled cart). A generator was pulled behind it on a separate cart. Stories from Hosain and his followers' ten days at Kerbalâ were recited over the loudspeaker system. When nobody was singing there would be music, played for example by an organ, a clarinet or a trumpet. Furthermore were percussion played throughout, from the snare drum to the big drum that one could physically feel a hundred meters away. The rhythm was very inciting, and at times the music became extremely touching indeed.. On top of this sound collage came the whiz of the chain in the moments before they hit the backs. All this should be imagined on the background of the dark and silent night, since it was performed at a time when the city had started "to go to sleep," and it was thus a solemn, quiet, and serious atmosphere. It could thus be a very beautiful, touching, and rhythmically experience. On the route we visited another taki'eh, and people there greeted us with friendliness while we were singing and were given a glass of tea. I thought it to be a fine way to get in touch with people in the neighbourhood, people whom I had nothing to do with otherwise.
Some days, when I were not in a procession myself, I would instead walk with my landlady along it42. Many other, especially women and girls, would do the same. When the procession came to their takieh again, they would eat nazri. My landlady urged me to go and fetch her something, but I were shy, and thought it unnecessary. She would urge me more, and I always ended up irritated, feeling that something grandiose and really beautiful was going on, a climax in these much acclaimed Moharram-rituals, while she was thinking mainly about the free food. She would explain that eating the food served in connection to the processions (nazri, i.e. what comes from people who have made a wow, nazr kardan) was full of religious merit (savâb) and that Emâm Hosain would be much pleased, even with the persons who only ate, but otherwise did not participate, in the rituals to his commemoration. Somewhat reconciled we would return home in the silent night.
The 9th and the 10th of Moharram are the most important days. It was on the 10th that Hosain and his followers were martyred. On the 9th we walked in procession, sang and flagellated ourselves. The flagellating which we did in this procession was not painful, and most of the participants were not very enthusiastic about having pain (I got a sore wrist, they are heavy those chains). When we arrived at the taki'eh after midnight we would all eat together (around 150 people). Food would be passed back and forth between the two stories in our taki'eh via the balcony (the men were sitting downstairs, the women upstairs). Having finished the meal we would return home.
Next morning we met again in the taki'eh, and walked in the procession. This was the big time. Taking place in the heat of the summer this year, it was a good remembrance to the thirst they suffered at Kerbalâ. Spectators offered lemonade (also a nazri) to the participants in the dastehs, and they drank "to Hosain." The streets were indeed crowded, and our dasteh often became disorganized due to other groups competing for the little space in the narrow alleys, (and a lack of discipline and enthusiasm, it seemed). However, the major roads were equally crowded (for example Damâvand-street which leads up to, incidently, Emâm Hosain Square). Where the procession the other nights had a glimmer of beauty, now everything was chaos. The music from the different dastehs intermingled in a rather unharmonious manner, whoever had the largest amplifier would be heard, whoever were biggest would be given precedence in the warm and dusty streets (this way the rhythm, which is so important for a successful procession, would be broken). The women and girls (as well as some men) stayed and watched. Many youths hinted that this was a perfect opportunity to meet the opposite sex, and indeed a heavy smell of perfume did blend with the smell of dust and sweat from the participants. The procession ended at the taki'eh, and we had lunch, rested, and met again in the evening to eat dinner. After the meal we were to walk in procession again, but because of technical problems with the loudspeaker-system we stayed in the taki'eh, turned off the light and sang in the dark, while at the same time beating our chests rhythmically.
The following days were much more sombre, and different kinds of processions were performed. Unfortunately I was unable to participate in those.
Måske skulle denne afslutning afrundes lidt mere. Det er en lidt flad slutning, synes jeg.