|CASE STORY 4: Behesht-e Zahrâ, the cemetery:
This vignette is somewhat different from the others in that it describes an activity which can hardly be said to be ritualized. However, since it took place between other ritualized activities, and since the contrast between the private and public is so clear here, I feel it justified and useful to use the event in this thesis. The vignette is a description of the martyrs cemetery, where private sorrow meets official propaganda.
After having been on râhpaimâi57 with my landlord and his mother, Naneh, in connection to the Revolution Day (22. Bahman) we had lunch in the house, and then Naneh and I set out for Behesht-e Zahrâ, the giant cemetery situated just south of the city.
Få det sammen med besøg fra Qom. Kamp om døden. Religiøsitet udfolder sig på andre præmisser. It was very crowded when we got off the bus, and I first noticed the desert-like plain, crowded with families who were picnicking besides the naked grave-stones. This is very ordinary and takes place every Thursday and Friday on all cemeteries. But Naneh told me that we must go to the graves of the Shuhadâ (martyrs). The whole cemetery is huge, in the distant we could see Khomeini's shrine (Maqbareh-ye Emâm Khomeini), and I understood with disappointment that I would not come to see that today.
The martyrs' graves are situated in the Eastern part of the area, separated from Khomeini's shrine by the ordinary cemetery. They are arranged in rows (khat) and it resemble a greenhouse in as much that there are many plants and trees there, which is in sharp contrast to the other ways very open and bare level country south of Tehran. It is also much less crowded here. My first impression, that people come here only to pass time, as on a picnic, had to be modified while many looked genuinely sad, and some even cried.
The martyrs' graves are very distinct from the ordinary graves. They consist of a big, body-sized stone laid on the ground, and at its head there is a slim glass and iron cupboard on two tall iron legs, maqbareh-ye shahidân. In this cupboard various artifacts are exhibited. Typically there will be a picture of the deceased, a picture of Khomeini or another mullah, and plastic flowers. The picture shows the deceased in a variety of positions. A facial portrait is very normal, but also pictures of the boy (a great many of the martyrs were young teen-age boys) in full uniform, or in front of his airplane or combat vehicle is typical. A "death-advertisement" (tarhim nâmeh), that is a piece of paper with a copy of the picture in the corner and then a description of what has happened, is seen in almost all of the windows.
Naneh walked a little back and forth between the graves before she finally stopped to point out a grave to me. She told me that it is her daughter-in-law's brother's. It was very neat, with clean plastic flowers. We did not stay for long but continued to her son's place which we soon found, even though Naneh from time to time had difficulties finding her way through the rows of graves. Her son's grave had a smaller cupboard than Maryam's brother's. The size and the form is something the parents decide upon. She sat down on the neighbouring grave and rested. Then she offered me candy that she had brought with her from home, and intended to share with everybody. Other people had brought with them dates, oranges, halvâ, or other sweets which they in the same way as Naneh offered to whoever was nearby. Sometimes a box of cakes would simply be left on a grave for by-passers to take freely. "Salâmât miferestânand", they send health, it is said. It is not important what kind of candy, fruit or cakes which are brought. It seems that there are no rules governing what to bring, but generally one takes something different each time, apples, oranges, clementines, etc. Bringing (as well as receiving) this has savâb (religious merit).
Having rested (while I went to see Ayat. Taleqâni's and Ayat. Beheshti's graves) Naneh cleaned the cupboard, and hung up a black piece of clothe where she had sewn red and green shiny pearls on, forming her son's name and an Allahu akbar (God is greatest). She then placed the two plastic flowers and the picture (one big and two small in the same frame) back in the cupboard. The "dead-advertisement" (tarhim nâmeh) was glued to the back of the cupboard and was not removed. Finally she took a can of water and rinsed the stone. Having water left, she rinsed the surrounding graves as well.
Ayatollah Taleqâni's grave was formed of a big stone monument in the middle of the road, outside the khats. People went up by stairs, and a green piece of cloth covered his gravestone. Flowers were lying all over, and water was constantly poured over it. Like in the haram in Qom, people would sit and place the tip of the fingers on the cloth, while they prayed (yek hamd o seh qol huwa âllâh miferestand; They send one hamd and three "say he is God". "Hamd" is the opening surah in the Qorân). This has savâb both for the one doing it and for the deceased in whose honour it is done. Others would stay on the ground and just touch the monument while praying.
Ayatollah Beheshti's grave was much simpler. It was like the other graves, bigger, but without the cupboard. Instead there was a big portrait of him. In front of his grave there were two graves like his, presumably belonging to important, or high esteemed, mullahs.
On leaving, Naneh incidently pointed out the part made for the monâfeqin (hypocrites, double-crossers, mischief-makers; used (negatively) about everybody in opposition). It is a dump. I thought they were to build there or prepare it for new graves, but when I went close I could see the rest of the gravestones. They were very messy. A group of three women strolling into that area called me: "Hâji âqâ!, here lies those who were executed." I asked if I heard right and they answered in the affirmative and added: "Mellat kharobesh kard" (The people have destroyed it). I then ran up to Naneh and asked more. She elaborated and told me that it was the enemy lying here, and that the people had got angry with the men who had killed their sons, so consequently they had destroyed their graves. She spoke with conviction and it thus seemed to be a very logical thing to do.
On the way home the bus driver played a tape with electronic bird song and a story about Ali (maqtal-nâmeh). I thought it so artificial and exaggerated that I was about to ask who would like that. Luckily I didn't, because all the passengers, who had all visited the cemetery were moved by it, Naneh even cried. She was thinking of her children and of the past, she said.
PRIVATE SENTIMENTS AND PUBLIC DISCOURSE
Comments on case story 2, 3 & 4:
These three vignettes describe aspects of religion which I believe are important for an understanding of religiosity in Tehran today. While restating that I am looking, following Bell (1992; p.219), at ritual as a way of acting, at the ritualization of activity, the two former vignettes can be seen as examples of how the ritualising person generates strategic schemes which can appropriate or dominate other socio-cultural situations. In this chapter I would like to comment on the three vignettes. Each vignette will be treated separately before I explore some more general aspects of the material, and proceed with the two last case-stories.
Comment on Case 2, the Khâneqâh
Concerning the khâneqâh I would firstly like to come with some methodological considerations. Being a dervish involves more than participating in the convent's meetings. Dervishes, more than any other God worshipper in Islam, are more occupied with the inner feelings than with the outer rituals. The few dervishes I actually came to know (my friend's father, and the father's friends) were dervishes, not by appearance, but by heart. For them indeed it was a way of life, a complete philosophy. However, as already stated am I in this thesis concentrating on observed phenomena, and for that reason I have found it valuable to include the case story from the khâneqâh.
Secondly I would like, before commenting on the actual case, to give some background information concerning Sufis and Sufi history which I believe will throw some light on the present case.
Sufism might be seen as an alternative intellectual manifestation of Islam. The Sufi way, the Islam of the 'âref (gnostic), as opposed to the Islam of the faqih, theologian, jurist. It is not possible to make a clear cut distinction between these two, while many Muslims have tried to bridge the two and even tried to deny their differences (Meskoob 1992; p.161).
The history of Sufism dates back to the earliest period of Islam. In Iran the Sufi groups were closely associated to Shi'ism, and many prominent Sufis, such as Ibn Arabi (d.1240), were greatly influenced by Shi'ite teaching and theology. It was however not until the thirteenth century that Shi'i sects began to appear in Anatolia, and not until the late fifteenth century that the Safavid order in Iran adopted the Ethna'ashari (Twelver) form of Shi'ism (Moosa 1988; p.xxii). After Changis Khân had invaded Iran in 1258 A.D., Sufism in Iran experienced a phenomenal growth. Unlike Emâmi Shi'ism, which was an urban movement dominated by patrician strata, Sufism was distinctly plebeian. Sufism, by admitting the possibility of immediate contact with God, provided a fertile ground for the growth of undisciplined religiosity (Arjomand 1984; pp.66-67). In Iran, however, Sufism has always been more city oriented, spread among Bâzâris, tradespeople and craftsmen. Sufis and disciples of gnosticism is less common among village people. The city was and is the locus both in way and methods (Meskoob 1992; p.160). Because of their tight organization and loyalty towards the qotb, the organisations' economic power, and sometimes also through their rather militant attitudes, the Sufi târiqâts (Sufi groups) have often been able to gain great political influence58. Common features of the târiqâts are: belief in divine incarnations, including Ali, the later Emâms, and often the local sectarian leader; remnants of solar and lunar beliefs; reincarnation; and a strong and activist messianism (Keddie 1972; p.218), even though it would be equally valid to recognize the Sufi saints and their disciples for their pacifism and quietism (Ashraf 1994; p.109).
Despite the brotherhoods pacifist and quietist attitudes they have seldom lived in peace with the state power. The conversion of Iran to Shi'ism was, for the most part, carried out for 'reasons of state' and aimed at stamping out actual or potential centres of power. The policy consisted in the eradication of millenarian extremism, persecution of popular Sufism, suppression of Sunnism, and, finally, the propagation of Twelver Shi'ism (ibid; p.109). Under the Safavids (who themselves originated from a Sufi selseleh) there were many mojtaheds who persecuted the Sufis. One of them, _qâ Mohammad Ali, was even nicknamed Sufi kush (the Sufi killer) because of the many whom he sentenced to death (Asmussen 1981; p.379).
There has thus always been a strained and ambiguous relationship between the Sufi târiqâts and the Shi'i establishment. The latter were often seen by the former as co-opted by power, tolerating and supporting the sociopolitical abuses and excesses of the government. They in turn felt that Sufism challenged their authority and prerogatives. Sufis claimed their own authority and guides. They often rejected as religious formalism the official, legal-moral Islam of the ulama, seeking to go beyond the letter of the law to its spirit. Sufism claimed to go back beyond religious forms, institutions, and laws to the divine source itself. While some members of the ulama were Sufis, the majority dismissed Sufi doctrine and practice as heretical, as an unwarranted deviation or innovation (bida) from the orthodox consensus (ijma) of the community. Deep-seated suspicions and hostility led to persecution and even executions, as in the martyrdom of al-Hallâj59 (Esposito 1988; p.105).
These hostilities between Sufi and the Shi'i establishment which have been prominent throughout Iranian history can be traced to the time when the Safavids made Shi'a Islam state religion. Before that time, various Sufi brotherhoods were highly politically active. The resistance against the dervish-convents was probably understandable. The convents did spread Islam, but they were nevertheless conventicles and as such odious in the eyes of the authoritarian state power (Asmussen 1981; p.379). This resistance is of course explained differently by the Shi'i establishment. The teacher Nâser Makarem, who teaches the 'Course in Doctrines and Religions' in Qom thus says about world-rejection, that separation from the world in the name of piety opens society to domination by colonialists. Thus sufism is bad. He adds that târiqâts have been important in political history as a kind of political parties, but that does not make them correct. Sufism is an accretion from Hinduism and has nothing to do with real Islam, he concludes (Fischer 1980; p.68)60
Khomeini attempted to present himself as a dervish, which is illustrated by this verse from his well-known poem which was written during the last months of his life. It is with a pantheistic mood of dealienation that he states:
Freed of the self, I claimed "I am the Truth" as mine.
Just like Mansur, I bought the secret of the gallows tree.
My lovers' grief set fire to my soul, it drove me wild,
And I became the scandal of the marketplace.
Swing wide the tavern door before me, day and night,
For I've grown weary of both mosque and madraseh. (Resâlat, 15 June 1989, cited in Ashraf 1994; p.109).
This poem is in concordance with the mission which he felt he was called upon to perform, expressed by the mystical charisma that he felt within himself. This feeling was reinforced by his deep-rooted belief in the gnostic and pantheistic ideas of Ibn al-Arabi and Mullah Sadra who were two leading gnostic figures in the history of Islamic thought (ibid; p.108).
Fischer and Abedi (1990) draw attention to a "counter-poem", in which this "pseudo-Hâfez" poem is ridiculed. For example he compares himself with Mansur, but he himself has caused thousands of Mansurs to go to the gallows. Very humorous the counter poem pity the police who, as the poem says, must have a very hard job now when even the mullahs start to frequent the bars.
As to the place of Sufism in the hearts of Iranians today, I would like to draw attention to the place of poetry in Iran today (to be discussed below). What is interesting is that much of this poetry is of a gnostic nature. This can hardly be explained with regard to the relationship between the Shi'i establishment and the Sufis while it has always been treasured among all strata61.
The use of Persian language in the Sufi poetry might be a key to understanding this condition. For the taking of estekhâreh (augury) many Iranians will use Hâfez rather than the Qorân, and few will sojourn on a journey without either of these books. We can ask why the Sufis have chosen to use the Farsi language for their texts rather than the Arabic of the Qorân, as did the Shi'i establishment. Shahrokh Meskoob suggests some answers to this, among others that Sufism has or never had anything to do with the government or caliphate, and even knowingly and deliberately turned its back on them, while the Shi'i establishment, because of religious and social responsibilities, judicial matters, religious endowments, and because of the government's need for theologians and religious scholars, had to have contacts with the rulers. They were thus mutually dependent and interdependent (Meskoob 1992; p.166-167). Meskoob furthermore points to the question of reaching an audience. The Shi'i establishment had mosques and other facilities at their disposal which the Sufis never had to the same extent. It was thus a way to make sure that the message reached the largest number of people. Or in the words of 'Abdollâh b.Mohammad Najmoddin Râzi:
One must tell an old sorrow to a new beloved,
One must speak to her in her language.
"Fais-le" and "ne fais-le pas" are not of much use;
When you are with a Persian you must say 'do it' and "don't do it." (cit.in. ibid; p.172).
Lastly, Mr. Meskoob draws our attention to the relationship between Sufism and science. Sufism is the way to God by help of feelings and sentiments, whereas formal Islam uses science and reason as a way to God. Sufis did not 'show off', and would rather use Farsi even if they knew the language of science well (e.g. Arabic) (ibid; p.168-171).
In the Sufi convent we do not see these ambiguities as such, and neither could we expect to. But with the aforementioned reservations keeping my empirical material in mind, I think that we can tentatively suggest that the paraphernalia being sold at the entrance in addition to the many pictures of the founder and his son inside the convent should be seen as devices helping creating a Sufi-identity. Likewise the worship of the founder of the Selseleh might be seen as an identity-creating device vis-a-vis the official religion. Besides the attraction of the metaphysical messages involved in Sufism62, I find that this worshipping of the Qotb is to a certain extent aimed at creating a distance to the official "holy trinity", (as one young man called the triumvirate of Ayatollah Khomeini, Ayatollah Khâmeneh'i, and President Rafsanjani) whose pictures are seen everywhere, in offices, in shops, etc63. It is true that the sense of belonging to a sufi-convent, with its otherworldly focus, is in opposition to the official religion, but it is in no way threatening the existing order. What is adhered to here is what Dr. Shari'ati labelled 'black shi'ism', that is the Shi'ism of sorrow. Anger is never aroused, only deep sorrow, expressed in a sometimes uncontrolled sobbing64.
As mentioned this is however only a tentative suggestion while more solid historical and ethnographic evidence is needed to support it. For example we would need to know whether the selseleh has experienced an increase in membership after the Revolution or not65. When I despite insufficient empirical evidence anyway make this proposition, it must be understood on the background of the scene which met us when we left the convent, namely the juxtaposition of the busy convent on one side of the street with the empty mosque at the other side of the street.
Another subject that strikes me as being central to the description of the Khâneqâh, is the sentiments of sorrow, injustice and belonging which are encountered. People attending are deeply involved in the spiritual performance that they are witnessing, and which is the whole essence of Sufism, and they express their sorrow audible and with oceans of tears66.
The importance of gham u ghosseh (sorrow) for Iranian self perception has already been discussed, but the salience of tears need a comment. Of course weeping is not a necessarily spontaneous manifestation of emotion. It can be a formal, ritual act, as is the case with the Andaman Islanders, the Tapirapa Indians of Central Brazil, and ritual mourners of southern Italy (Christian 1982; p.97). Christian analyses weeping in connection with religious rituals in Spain. Because of the structural similarities between Moharram-rituals and Easter processions I find his conclusions useful for the present discussion. He uses literature from the 15th century to establish that weeping, solitary or groupwise, in fact was a very widespread phenomena. Emotions were signalled by the weeping, seeking penitence to God. The special arena of spiritual emotions was thought to be the heart. Likewise Good & Good with concern to Iran show that the heart acts as the focus of concern. The heart is at once a central physiological organ and an organ of emotional functioning (or the seat of the vital soul) in man. The heart is described as the central driving force of the body. It is only very loosely linked to blood, instead centrality of the heart to life is emphasized (Good & Good 1977; pp.36-37). Present days expressions such as dard-e del (broken-heart, deep felt grief) and del-tangi (longing) etc. attest to this.
In the sermon in the Khâneqâh we were told that the condition of the heart is important for the relationship that can be established with God ("You must empty your heart if you want God in it"). Tears are generally thought to come from the heart, and it is thus an important outward sign by which people can know the nature of the motion of their own as well as other people's hearts. The weeping must be public, so that the weeping not only serves an individual's spiritual promotion, but also so that it can be an outward sign that collective repentance is in progress. It is thus equally important to see the tears of your neighbour as it is to see your own. Christian (still speaking about Spain) concludes, rather functionalistic, that weeping appears to be involved in the reduction of stress, the relief of suffering, and the release of tension. In present day Spain a privatization of weeping has taken place, which Christian connects to the de-emphasis in theology on punishment and contrition and the virtual disappearance of the notion of collective community responsibility to God (ibid; p.111). Also Max Weber has drawn our attention to the differential function of salvation religions for higher and lower strata, namely legitimation of the privileged strata and compensation for disprivileged groups (Arjomand 1984; p.163). As for the Tehranian society it could be argued that the different strata have not yet identified themselves, have not yet been sorted out. Consequently is it problematic to use or comment a clearcut explanation like the above.
Comments on Case 3, the Haram
On line with the private and intimate religion of the Sufis is the institution of Haram (Saint's tombs). The line between 'great' and 'little' tradition, or traditional and official, religion is difficult to draw. Such a Saint Shrine must be characterized as belonging to the periphery of both domains. Thus the Emâms and their family have a high and respected place within Shi'a Islam67, and they are the objects of worship to such a degree as to be on the border of what is called shirk68. Indicatives of the eclectic devotional religiosity is to be found as far back as 1480 A.D. (Arjomand 1984; p.106).
Betteridge writes about objections from the Shi'i establishment to vow-making, and the affiliated rowzehs. Since pilgrimages in many instances come about as a consequence of a vow, it is reasonable to consider the critique given for rowzehs as appropriate for the pilgrimage to a Saint Shrine as well. The critique Betteridge refers to is especially pointed towards women's activities, but it is still valid, I believe. Objections from the Shi'a establishment focus on the mercantile attitude reflected in making rowzeh-connected vows and the tendency to emphasize social aspects of the ceremony rather than sincerely expressing devotions to God (Betteridge 1980; p.144). However, devotion to God is expressed with this tradition that has a firm grip in the populace, and the mullahs are furthermore themselves making much money on the event. Maybe for this reason no real or practical opposition to this popular tradition is to be found.
The scenes from the Haram furthermore show completely different attitudes to the sacred from what we are used to see from a Christian tradition. Adjectives such as relaxed and informal come to mind, and I believe that it tells us something about to what degree the religion is internalized. This is one aspect of religion which shows us that it is not only religion in the form of ritualized activities, but as an integrated part of life that are practised in Iran69.
Going on a pilgrimage is still prestigious, but probably more in the rural areas, and in the migrants quarters of Tehran. This is especially the case to places such as, of course, Mecca, Mashhad, and Kerbalâ all of which give the pilgrim an honorific title. In Tehran, large parties testify to the return of a pilgrim, and at the same time it testifies to the economic abilities of the pilgrim and his family70. Also the Shâh attempted to cultivate something of an Islamic exterior for himself and his regime, although those efforts notably declined in the later years of his reign. This was done in part by much publicized visits to shrines within Iran, particularly Mashhad, and in part by the patronage of a small group of ulama, headed by Ayatollah Bihbihâni and Dr. Hasan Emâmi, the Emâm Jum'a of Tehran, who did not shun association with the state. The elements of this policy are familiar from the Qâjâr period, but now as then they have been fruitless (Algar 1972; p.244).
Comments on Case 4, the Cemetery
In this case one of the first things that presents itself is the rather obvious discussion of the importance and meaning of expressed sentiments of sorrow. Emotions within individuals, however, are largely beyond an anthropological purview (Huntington & Metcalf 1979; p.23). The exterior, physical realities of the whole cemetery complex on the other hand, gives itself easier to an anthropological analyses.
Monument and memorial building is one of the more dramatic forms of symbolic expression, representing aspects of a community's collective history, and serving to crystallize consensus and solidarity (Gregory and Lewis 1988; "Symbols of Collective Memory", abstract from SilverPlatter 3.11 CD-ROM). The concept of martyr's cemeteries might on this background be seen as a glorification of the eight year long Iran-Iraq war. The Martyr's Cemetery is constructed as to aggrandise the war. This is for sure not only an Iranian phenomena. The Iraqi regime, for example, likewise glorify the war and its fallen soldiers by means of a gigantic monument in the middle of Baghdad ("Horisont", Danmarks Radio-Television, 4th September, 1995), and similar gigantic monuments such as the Arlington Memorial in Washington D.C. also come to mind.
Following Shi'i martyrology the martyrs are not to be bemoaned, but rather to be celebrated. In the struggle on the side with the good, martyrs achieve heaven without need of any intercessor. Since martyrs are said to go to heaven, one need not mourn their deaths as one does those of ordinary people (Fischer 1980; p.214). When Naneh started to cry, I took it for granted that she bemoaned the loss of her son. But when answering my consolations, she replied that had she had five sons she would happily have sacrificed them all for Khomeini. Others, however, would remark that they had fought the war for Iran, not for any mullah, not even Khomeini. In this connection I find it relevant that it in my host family it was only Naneh who wanted to go. The rest of the family excused themselves with work or studies which had to be done, and did not otherwise seem to wish to elaborate on the subject. I understood the lack of interest as an expression of indifference or maybe even of apathy. With the heavy war propaganda which took place under the eight years of war with Iraq, the cease fire in 1988 seemed as traumatic for some as it seemed as a relief for others. Not going could then be seen as a reflection of a frustration with this aspect of newer Iranian history, a wish to forget and repress.
Beside the valorised place of martyrs in Shi'i cosmology, the glorification of the martyrs might be seen as the regime's attempts to control the presentation of history, also by using the powerful symbols of death. Death and martyrdom are very much part of the official propaganda71, as is also made clear from writings on the walls of Emâm Khomeini's sayings such as: "The blood of the martyrs is the blood in my veins", or from slogans attributed to Khomeini such as: "The martyrs are the living in history".
Building of monuments can furthermore be seen as being instrumental in the establishment of more centralized authority (Huntington & Metcalf 1979; p.19) as also the work of Pierre Clastres shows ("Society Against the State", Urizen Books, New York, 1977). Khomeini's own shrine (Haram-e Emâm-e Mottahar) certainly testifies to this, as its gold plated dooms rise up over the area72, visible from miles on. This elaboration of the shrine is on one side popularly explained as a result of "the love for Khomeini, and a love for our martyrs", as it was stated by Naneh. It is thus no surprise that the Martyrs' Cemetery everywhere was something special, a showcase for the government to demonstrate their appreciation and gratitude for the martyrs73. Physically these cemeteries indeed resembled oasis in the deserts. Oasis filled with picture of the great revolutionary leader, Khomeini. Another popular estimation was that it was a waste of money, which was needed hard for more basic materials, such as pencils in the schools.
In order to make a value judgement of these utterances, I believe that it is important to remember that Khomeini has been dead since June 1988. Many of his followers see no connection between his person and deeds and the performance of the present regime. People would often tell me about the greatness and merits of Khomeini, and they would in no way connect the present situation in Iran, which they were highly and audibly critical about, to his person or deeds. Rather it is his incompetent followers who have destroyed everything he has created, they claim.
The respect that was shown the deceased ayatollahs could point to the same phenomena. The great poet Ahmed Shamlu wrote in 1953 a poem called "Public Love" ('Eshq-e 'Omumi). It is in reality a commentary to the CIA-backed coup d'etat made against Mossadeq in 1951, and he describes how the happiest people, the most loving people, are the ones now lying in the cemetery74. Also Mowlânâ speaks about mordeh parast (worshipper of the dead) in one of his poems75. It seems very topical today while many Tehranians complain, like him, that it always is the past and the deceased ones who are glorified, that Iran is seeking refuge in past greatness76. Many people have likewise started to glorify the time of the Shâh.
Despite these preliminary reservations I would like to comment on the emotional side of the visits to the cemetery. One of the most prominent aspects of death is its potential for intense emotional impact on survivors, and it would be arrogant to discard this in face of the idea of martyrs going directly to heaven. By comparing the visits to the martyrs' cemetery to the visits to the ordinary cemeteries I might be able to illuminate some differences.
Visits to a cemetery is a very common activity. Sometimes the family goes, sometimes separate groups of women or men go. These gatherings can often be regarded as splendid opportunities for socializing and for gathering information rather than as expressions of sorrow. This is so especially for village women who otherwise has few occasions to gather (see for example Betteridge 1980 and Friedl 1980 for a discussion of this). The event is seen year round on Thursdays or Fridays.
At Behesht-e Zahrâ's Martyr department there seems to be a difference from the ordinary graveyard. It is however very difficult to detect the mode of feelings in this part of the cemetery, but it seems that everybody are mourning privately. This is in contrast to the other part of the cemetery, where people are enjoying themselves as much as they are mourning for their dead. This is so especially in the shrine of Khomeini, where children are running around playing on the slippery marble floors, while groups of women, or men, or families are lying resting, or sitting talking or eating, while still others walk leisurely around. Tourists have pictures taken in front of the cage-like chamber in which Khomeini's coffin is displayed.
The reason for this difference might be that the death of a young person is tried to be forgotten, whereas the dead of the old is celebrated and remembered. It is the same series of rituals which is held over the dead, young or old77, but in the daily talk the young one is tried forgotten by silence.
The problem is interesting, but I am unable to follow this trace due to methodological shortcomings. Participant-observation would be necessary to a quite different extent than the case is now. As with the other vignettes my aim is primarily to communicate an atmosphere. When Fischer tells us how the cemetery functioned as a rallying ground before the Revolution, we certainly notice a difference today (Fischer 1980; pp.205,206,210,213,222). This might be while the bitterness stemming from the realities of the "living martyrs' is too real to be forgotten in this park-like cemetery. Everywhere these martyrs are complaining about lack of opportunities, and they feel that their needs are being neglected78. It is true that the Martyr Foundation cares for the martyrs' families in a number of ways, but today it seems that the war is long over, and that the government is forgetting about it. It might be that the part of the monâfeqin's graves is impressing people like myself, but it does not seem to have any effect on most other of the very few people who come to view it.
Finally it can be noticed that the giving of nazr and the reading of maqtal-nâmeh are events that are so general, and as such can not be connected to the visit to the cemetery only. It is obvious that the rowzeh-khâni will amplify those emotions of sadness and sorrow that has been excited by the visit to the cemetery.
Summing up of case 2, 3 & 4:
Rounding off these three vignettes, it seems that we are speaking about behaviours which are to a high degree informative about the relationship between the official dogma and more private sentiments in Tehran. All three scenes take place in the religious environment, but as to their content of religious sentiments, they very clearly express the prevalent ambivalence reigning in Tehran concerning ritualized, especially religious, activities. Private sentiments are difficult to detect, but their expression in public fora are easily observed. The lack of agreement over ideology in the Tehranian society is reflected by the weakness of religious ritualized activities. We thus have a series of activities which seem to be rather fragmented, without any kind of internal order: Naneh goes alone to the cemetery to see her son and son-in-law while the rest of her family excuse themselves, another family goes on a tour to the harams in Mashhad and Qom in their holiday, at the same time as devout people fill the khâneqâh with their tears. One can sense that a deeper religious experience is found outside the established, official religion. This being said without making a further distinction between what are the official and what are the popular aspects of religion, since this in many instances would be a rather academic endeavour. It has been tried solved by speaking about orthodoxy versus orthopraxy, but even this distinction will tell us little. Robertson-Smith made the observation that things done precede things said, and I believe that it is essential to keep this in mind when one speak about rituals in today's Iran. The consequence of this it not that it is meaningless to look at rituals, while they anyway stay the same ('things done'), rather the axiom prepares us to look at more subtle changes than would otherwise be the academic praxis. It also means that more emphasis should be placed on 'things said' rather than on 'things done', as I have been doing. We can nevertheless learn much from the case stories while they also might be seen as representing a meeting, or maybe even a collision, between my purely academic preparations and the empirical realities of an until recently, in many regards, very closed country.
Accordingly is the making of pilgrimage to a haram an integrated part of life for many people, as is other religious activities, such as going to the mosque. However, when these activities function as markers for accept of the regime, then people will find new ways to modify them. One way could be, I suggest, to become a member of a târiqa. Sufism has always been seen as more as a complement to the official Islam rather than as an alternative (Eickelman 1981; p.289). I suggests that Iran could be an exception to this while there are no other alternatives. At the same time the historical relationship between the Shi'a establishment and the Sufis has been marked by the degree of power held by the ulama. This is much contradicted by the Sufi-characteristics which Khomeini held. In order to explain Khomeini's claim as a dervish, I believe one can understand it as a way of creating distance to earlier historical relationships between the clerical class and the powerholders, which, as I pointed out, was likely to be one of the reasons for the popularity of the Sufis.
This points in the direction of a tendency to a privatization of the religion. This observation is not contrary to the joke observed by Good & Good about drinking in private and praying in public, because the religion the joke is ridiculing is the official one, the one belonging to the birun.
The (political) movement which led to the Revolution can be described as being religious, but this is as much a consequence of the religiosity of political movements as it is a matter of faith. This relationship is elaborated nicely by Hegland (1987).
Simplified, this might be understood as either a kind of indifference to the religious order of the day or as thriving diversified religious practises, depending on the observers political orientation.
With the next two case stories I would like to elaborate on these two extremes, thereby hopefully shedding some light on them.