Master thesis



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26  For a discussion of the meaning of the allegories in the literature today, see Karimi-Hakkak 1991. The aversion against Arabs might be explained by what Beeman sees as the central sym­bolic pattern in Iran, the pattern giving meaning to small and great acts alike in life, and that is the "struggle of the inside, the internal, the core, to conquer the outside, the external, the periphery" (Beeman 1983; 193). For a dis­cussion on this, see the chapter "The Kerbalâ Paradigm".

27  A university teacher told me that he was much grateful to Khomeini, because Khomeini had made the Iranian people turn away from Islam.

28  Examples of books from before the revolution which do not cover the religion in any major sense is Jacqz 1976, Amirsadeghi 1977, and Halliday 1979. The two former do contain articles which mention the role of religion by respect­ively Michael Fischer and Ehsan Naraghi. Surely many articles and books have been written before the revolution about religion in Iran. The point is that no book would be written today without an account for the role of religion in Iran. More literature on Iran and religion before the revolution is mentioned in Fischer 1980, p.265 n.4.

29  For a very precise and more detailed description of the history around Ali and his sons, see Fischer 1980, pp.13-21.

30  Taki'eh can both be a stage where the ta'ziyeh is performed, or it can be a tent, a house, or any building, converted into the use of gathering and rowzeh-khâni during Moharram.

31  During the eighth to tenth centuries there were Sunni factions known as the Sunni-ye tafzili (Preferentialist Sunnites) and Sunni-ye davâzdah emâmi (Twelver Sunnites). The "Preferentia­lists" accepted the legitimacy of the three caliphs before Ali, but reckoned him superior to them. The "Twelvers" accepted Ali's twelve descendants as successors to the calipha­te after him and considered the Umayyads and 'Abbâsids both as usurpers (Arjomand 1988, p.66).

32  Other works of maqâtil (sing. maqtal) has appeared. Reciters vary the sources of their rowzeh, but the name of this institution remains rowzeh-khâni, after the first Persian compendium of martyrology (Mahdjoub 1988, p.75).

33  My landlady had made a wow (nazr kard) that if her son succeeded in entering the university she would hold a five days meeting. This was the third day, the last two would be given later. She came to my room (which was upstairs, above the room wherein the rowzeh-khâni was held) and asked me to listen carefully (through the cooling-system) to what they said, especially that which concerned Hosain.

She also explained about the dars-e akhlâq (moral lessons) which she tried to attend every Sunday. There they teach you not to ask why he eats like that, what is the price of your clothes, where are you going, etc. When they often asked me these questions it was because "we are khudemâni (familiar, intima­te)."

34  This phenomena is excellently captured by the Iranian writer Gholâmhosain Sâ'edi who tells the story of the 12-year old boy loosing his mother. After her death his father and the doctor agree to tell the boy that she must undergo surgery, and that they will therefore bring her to another hospital (Sâ'edi 1370/­1992).

35  Beeman (1983) elaborates nicely on the cultural reasons for this blaming of exterior forces.

36  Many Iranians living in exile today can attest how they at the time of the revolution shouted "Allahu akbar" even though they did not think of themselves as being even the slightest relig­ious.

37  This centre had a central importance as a command central during the revolution.

38  In Dr. Ali Shari'ati's red Shi'ism (the religion of Martyrdom) the qual­ities of the Shi'ite heroes are summarized thus:
F_TEMEH: The heir of the Prophet, the manifestation of the "rights of the oppressed" and, at the same time, symbol of the first objection, a strong and clear embodiment of "the seeking of justice". In the ruling system, these are the cries and slogans of subject nations and oppressed classes.

ALI: The manifestation of a justice which serves the oppressed, a sublime embodiment of the truth, who is sacrificed at the altar of anti-human regi­mes which lie hidden in the layers of the formal relig­ion of the rulers.

HASAN: The manifestation of the last resistance of the garrison of "imamate Islam" who confronts first the garrison of "Islamic Rule."

HOSAIN: Bears witness to those who are martyred by the oppression in history, heir of all the leaders of freedom and equality; and seekers of justice from Adam to himself, forever, the messenger of martyr­dom, the manifestation of the blood of revo­lution.

ZAINAB: Bears witness to all the defenceless priso­ners in the system of executioners, the messenger after martyrdom, and the manifestation of the mes­sage of revolution! (Shari'ati 1972, p.15).

39  Nârmak in the Eastern part of the city is a resi­den­tial, middle-class area. It has existed for the last 25 years, and is today situated in the intersection between the Well-to-do Northern, and the poorer Southern part of the city.

40  As mentioned in the introduction the neighbourhood group and the hay'at (religious study circle) play important roles in the organisation of these activities. I participated in two differ­ent groups, one was a neighbourhood group in the area where I lived, the other was the hay'at to which my host family belonged. The hay'at is often composed of families and people stemming from the same city or area who then keep relations in the city by regular meetings in the hay'at. This was the form of hay'at which my host family was affiliated with. As everywhere in Iranian society, rituals are very structured and hier­archical, and mostly all rituals which takes place in public space is organ­ized and lead by a hay'at or by a mosque. The hay'at has many extra-religious functions, such as insurance, economic help to studies, mar­riage, etc. It is, I believe, an important aspect of the hay'at that it is not under official control, thus there is no â­khun (âkhun is the more colloquial term for persons having studied at the seminar. A more respect­ful way to speak about him would be to call him Ruhâni) who is in charge of their activ­ities. Only on special occa­sions is he invited and paid for offering relig­ious ser­vices, such as rowzeh-khâni.

41  This takieh was situated at the square beside which we were living. My host-family did not participate in this takieh, while they were with relatives (from Hamadân) in an area more mid-town.

42  My landlord is a cook, and was thus very busy cooking. After each procession there is nazri in the form of a solid meal. His two teen-age boys would be at his side, helping him, and they would all come home very late.

43  In Zoroastrianism Ormizd and Ahriman are equal, both created by Zurvân (Time).

44  This is for example mirrored in satirical cartoons such as them in the weekly Gol _qâ. On the front page is the following drawing: attacking enemy-planes are named: 'Infla­tion', 'lack of dwellings', 'expenses', 'problems of the youth', 'unemployment', and 'population increase'. The minister is trying to shoot down the planes with the canon named "2nd Five-Years Plan", but he has forgotten to load it with the canon-balls named 'pro­gramme', 'implementation', 'budget' (Gol _qâ, no.41, 24 Day 1371 (14 January 1993). There thus exist a open and sometimes lively debate as how to solve these problems. The religious nature of the system is however not open for debate in such magazines.

45  Few participants would be so eager with the self flagellation that their backs would become bloody. I was told many stories about the use of swords which the participants hid their forehead with, so that blood would start to run. What they in reality do is to hit themselves with the flat side of the sword until the forehead has swollen. At this time they will hit the swelled forehead with the edge, and the bump will painlessly be opened. The use of sword is, as far as I could understand, either discouraged or altogether prohibited today.

46  I am aware that many people do not consider the Mohar­ram processions as part of the official religion. What I am talking about as 'official' religion, however, must be under­stood as the various religious practices which are encour­aged, or even appropriated, by the sitting regime.

47  This case-story is compiled from a couple of visits to the khâneqâh. The contents of the meetings by large followed the described pattern.

48  Târiqa is an Arabic word meaning "The Way". This terminology is not used much in Iran. "Selseleh" has a close meaning to "dynasty", usually after the name of the original qotb, as is used to differentiate and specify a branch, sect, type, or kind of Sufi order.

49  There is Shâh abd-ul 'Azim in Shahr-e Rey, in the far Southern part of Tehran where the brother of the eight Emâm is buried, and a smaller one, of less importance, Emâm Zâdeh-ye Sâleh, in Tajrish, which is in the far Northern part of the capital.

50  Ja'far Sâdeq is the founder of the Ja'fari mazhab, (=school of Islamic jurisprudence) which is the only accepted one in Iran).

51  Tasbihs are distributed from here to other parts of the country. Some of them were made in China or in Japan. Most of them were plastic. A tasbih shall have 101 beads, divided into three parts by two smaller ones. When one is doing tas­bihât-e hasrat-e Zahrâ one starts with 34 Allahu akbar, then 33 alhamdu lillah, and finally 34 sob­hân-e Allah (Praise be to God, Good God). The name "tasbihât-e hasrat-e Zahrâ" derives from the fact that Zahrâ, the daughter of the prophet, was the first to use it.

The tasbih with very big beads only have 33, but the right number is 101. They come in many different colours, with decorated or plain stones, and in many sizes. The colours and sizes have not any specific importance, rather it is a question



of personal taste.

52  Shi'a Muslims use a stone, mohr, made out of clay from Kerbalâ, Mecca or other holy places, which they place between their forehead and the earth when they prostrate during namâz (prayer).

53  The money thus collected in harams is often, among other things, used for running an affiliated darmângâh (health cli­nic).

54  In many Iranian editions of the Koran the surahs are marked as either bad, good, or in-between (bad, khub, or mottavaset). This is used for taking estekhâreh (augury) where one opens the book on a acci­den­tal page to get some guidelines for future action. The poems of especially Hâfez is used in the same manner, but often on a more general level. The use of estekhâreh is very wide­spread among all strata, but the Iranian embassy in Copenhagen was unwilling to show me a copy of such a Koran. They told me that people figure out for themselves whether the surah is good, bad, or in-between, or that they can consult a special compendium. To this many comment that if that was the case it would be too time-consuming, "bikâr keh nistim" (we are not going around idle!).

55  Ayatollah Haj Sayyed Hosain Borujerdi came to Qom (from Borujerd in Lorestân) in 1944 and became 'the source of imitation' (marja'-e taqlid), and during his 16 years leaders­hip of the theological centre in Qom he was recognized as the sole leader of the Shi'a world (Bakhshayeshi 1985; pp.185,187). Until the late nineteenth century, Shi'ites followed regional marja'-e taqlid, but from the time of Sheikh Mortezâ Anzâri (d.1864), single supreme marja were periodically recognized. Borujerdi followed Sheikh Abdul-Karim Ha'eri-Yazdi (from 1920-1935), and became marja'-e taqlid from 1944 to 1961 (Fischer & Abedi 1990; p.126).

56  Especially Emâm Rezâ's haram in Mashhad is visited. Whenever people encounter very difficult problems, for example infertility or disease, they will make a pilgrimage to this haram. They are to sleep outside near the haram until they receive a dream, and this dream is often the key to the cure of the problem. I was told many stories of people not believing in this, but who nevertheless made a pilgrimage and had their problems solved.

57  Râhpaimâi is literally translated as a walking tour, hiking, but after the revolution it has got the meaning rather of a demonstration, march, parade.

58  Some contemporary examples is the Libyan kingdom which Moammar al-Qâddafi revolted against in a coup d'etat in 1969. It had its roots in the Sanusi târiq (Hjärpe 1989; p.87). The Syrian president al-Asad belongs to the ultra shi'ite sect, the Alawis. As mentioned also Khomeini was fascinated by sufism, and after his death a divân has been compiled of his poems, many of which are said to be sufi-inspired.

59  Mansur al-Hallâj lived in the ninth century A.D. He was executed after a trial for heresy, accused for being a claimant to divinity. His guilt consisted of his exclamation of "Ana al-Haqq" (I am the Truth [e.g. God, while al-Haqq is one of God's 99 names]). This was within the framework of monistic mysticism, and the meaning of the exclamation was that "I am nothing, I am God", that is "I no longer exists, God alone exists".

60  The Shi'i establishment's opinion on this problematic is ambiguous. The devotion for God is appreciated, but the Sufism as such is doubted, as it is clear from Dr. Ali Shari'ati's description of Mansur Hallâj:

"As for Hallâj he was a man aflame. A man that is on fire has no responsibility; it is his function simply to burn and to cry out. Why was he burning? From the passionate love of God... Hallâj was constantly immersed in the burning invocation of God, and this was a source true exaltation for him. But imagine if Iranian society were to consist of 25 million Hal­lâj's. It would be nothing but a vast lunatic asylum, with everybody running in the streets proclaiming, "Come kill me! I can endure it no longer! I have nothing! There is naught in my cloak but God!"" (Shari'ati 1979; p.68).



61  I was told of meetings between illiterate nomads and educated people from Tehran who did not even share the same language, but who nevertheless found each other in the poems of Ferdovsi and Rumi. This happened back in the 1960s.

62  For an introduction to the metaphysics involved in Sufism, see for example Laleh Bakhtiar: "Sufi Expressions of the Mystic Quest", Thames & Hudson, London, 1976.

63  Many shopkeepers confided me that the routine checking of their shop by the komiteh was eased considerably when these pictures were on the wall or on the table. Did the komiteh find any wrongs with the business they would not hesitate to close the shop while investigations were going on, and this would be an extremely hard economic blow for small shopkeepers.

64  Gilsenan shows that the seemingly uncontrolled ecstasy of the sufi members during their rituals are in reality highly controlled (Gilsenan 1990; p.82-83). I expect that a similar form of control is on work here, while one man, who was trembling because of his loud crying, was hindered by two men in moving to the qotb to kiss his hand.

65  Members are of the opinion that the Sufi population has increased especially in Iran and Turkey, and they say that the Khâneqâh in Tehran is extremely busy now.

66  One gets the impression that they are not merely attending out of a sense of duty, which to a high degree is the impression from for example the Friday Sermon at Tehran University. The first row is reserved for men of high rank, military as well as politicians. Thus attending, or not attending, indeed becomes a political statement.

67  A downright deification of Ali has taken place the last thousand years. Ibn Saba was a Jewish convert to Islam who is reported to have been the first to attribute deity to Ali. A funny anecdote tells that Ibn Saba once exclaimed to Ali: "You are, You are", meaning that Ali was God. Ali returned that there is no God except for God. When followers of Ibn Saba still claimed that Ali was God, Ali got angry burned some of them, and as they were cast into the fire they kept saying: "Now we know that you are God, because no one tortures by fire except God" (Moosa 1988; p.xvii).

68  (lit. idol­atry, poly­theism, or associationism; to associate any other deity, person, or thing with God). Official Sunni Islam is ambivalent and/or reject popular religious practices, such as visiting the shrines or tombs of saints and belief in their intercession. For Sunnis, God and human beings have a direct relationship (Dr. Shari'ati says the same, and was on this point in direct opposition to Ayatollah Khomeini). For Shi'a muslims, intercession is an integral part of the divine plan for salvation. Ali and the other Emâms were divinely inspired models, guides, and interme­diaries between God and the believers. This belief developed later into the notion that a distinguished cleric might serve as the supreme guide and authority on law, the source of emulation (marja'-e taqlid) (Esposito 1988; p. 112-13). This notion is today a basic pillar of the Islamic Republic.

Again the writer Gholâmhussein Sâ'adi gives us an amusing story which show how easily and with how much enthusi­asm the villa­gers create them­selves a haram out of a canon-shell (1992; p.177-201).

69  Fernea gives a splendid account of Iraqi villagers making an all female pilgrimage to Kerbalâ (Elizabeth Warnock Fernea: "Guests of the Sheik. An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village", Anchor Books, New York, 1969).

70  The pilgrimage to Mecca costed in 1993 around 300.000 tumans which far exceeds an average yearly income in Tehran (and anywhere else in the country).

71  This is also illustrated by an incident in the fall of 1992. At this time, hundreds of fallen soldiers from the Iran-Iraq war had been found. On the way to Behesht-e Zahrâ, where they were to be buried as martyrs, they were transported through the town in open military vehicles. Their speed did not exceed 20 km/h, and this massive caravan, with the beautiful coffins, on the way to the cemetery, was bound to impress the spectators, even though the war had ended four years ago.
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