What Is Azadari?

Azadari is name of the practices related to mourning & commemoration of the anniversary of the death of Imam Husayn ibn Ali at the Battle of Karbala in 680, particularly in period of Muharram (in the Indian sub-continent Muharram in the context of remembrance of the events of Karbala means the period of two months & eight days i.e. 68 days starting from the evening of 29 Zill-Hijjah and ending on the evening of 8 Rabi-al-Awwal) and in general round the year. Majalises, processions and other rituals that are observed by the Shia community & other communities including Sunni Muslims, Hindus, etc. to commemorate the sacrifice of Husain & house-hold are known as Azadari.

While in many cultures and religions the New Year is greeted with merry-making, for Muslims the lunar New Year portents tearful eyes and lamentations. The eyes that anxiously scan the sky for the new crescent of Muharram and Safar well up with tears. That is the proper way to ring in the Hijri New Year since our Aimmah AS looked at the new crescent of Muharram and wept in remembrance of Imam Husayn AS and his household. That is the wont of Our Imam of The Time, Hadhrat Hujjah AFS also. The crescent of sorrow heralds, inter alia, majalis, matam and juloos, each of which is a manifestation of azadari (mourning), the very core of our life.

The mourners (azadar) of Imam Husayn AS pay homage with attendance at Imambarghas all over the world, in villages, in towns, in cities, in metro and megapolises. We weep and mourn in the footsteps of The Prophet SAWW and The Ahlul Bayt AS, inter alia, because the murderers did not allow the kith and kin of the innocent martyrs to weep and mourn and also that Immaculate personages were killed thus depriving the ummah of their companionship, guidance and blessings. They shackled the Imam of the time, Imam Ali Al-Sajjad AS and he could not pray over or bury the dead. The cruel, brutal act of the enemies of The Prophet SAWW created revulsion and the true followers of The Prophet SAWW have made their homes places of mourning and their hearts tombs of martyrs. Azadari is indeed a way of life.

As the month of Dhulhijja with its various joyous occasions winds down, thoughts turn to the Muharram majalis to console Seyyidah Fatimah AS. She was worried who would weep over Imam Husayn AS when neither The Prophet SAWW, Imam Amirul Mu.miniin, herself nor Imam Hassan Al-Mujtaba AS would be present. Seyyidah AS’ blessings are in mourning Imam Husayn AS and therefore azadari makes our lives worth living.

In Muharram and Safar the black clothes come out. Women abandon adornments and ornaments to remember the ladies of Karbala who lost children, fathers, brothers, husbands, uncles, nephews and loyal companions. Muharram also sees fervent activity of preparing the Imambarghahs, Azakhanas, individual homes and replicas of the ‘alam and taziyah for the majalis of azaa. Indeed, these preparations symbolize cleansing of the mind, the spirit and the self, receiving knowledge and rejuvenating the faith. This is one of the many ways azadari transcends our life.

In majalis, mourners congregate with their compatriots, reminiscing Muharram and Safar in the motherland.Bonds of empathy and sympathy get strengthened as the majalis are delivered in the mother tongue. These majalis draw out the depth of feelings and emotions. At these gatherings, many who had not seen one another since the previous year reunite in a common cause. Once again, there is fraternity, solidarity, and brotherhood. Distinctions of wealth and status melt away as the blue and white collars sit together on the ground in absolute equality. As the azadar listen to nauha (dirges), marathi (elegy), soz, tahtul lafz and latmiyyah new words, new expressions and fresh emotions enter their repertoire. Erudite majalis add to the store of knowledge. Azadari is thus dynamic. It is education in action. The majalis inculcate good manners. Maintaining silence and concentration, respecting and being considerate of others, following instructions, parking vehicles and shoes in orderly manner ennoble adults. To the children, the majalis offer training in discipline, courtesy, silence and curiosity.In Karbala, there were at least 64 children of various ages but not a single instance of unruly behavior. Awn and Muhammad, Kassim and Ali Al-Akber are role models for tweenagers, teenagers and young adults. Similarly, Fatimah Kubra, Rukaiyya and Sakina are role models for girls and young women.

The formations for matam and the Ashura and Chehlum processions are a lesson in harmony, unity and decency as the message of Imam Husayn AS is proclaimed to the world of supporters and enemies. They help curb egotism, individualism and unruliness to portray civility, cooperation, collectivism and order. They are displays of mourning and should eschew joviality, laughter, frivolity and exhibitionism.

The tabarruk and sabeel symbolize the hunger and thirst of Karbala and beyond. The smooth, orderly distribution, proper disposal of plates, cups, spoons, foils and fruit are requisites. The hungry and thirsty children and adults in Karbala showed unparalleled endurance, patience and discipline. Three days of hunger and thirst from seventh to Ashura day, and possibly many more days after that, were enough to drive anyone to desperation. Yet how the whole household of The Prophet SAWW bore it all with dignity and patience is matchless. Seyyidah Zainab AS gave away her share of food to nourish the children in the dungeon of Damascus and became very weak for lack of nourishment.

Azadari teaches emulating the generosity and the spirit of giving that Imam Husayn AS is renown for. In Karbala, Imam Husayn AS and his household gave away everything in the cause of Allah SWT. So, azadari for Imam Husayn AS entails going beyond mere ritualism into the very spirit and purpose of life. It should lead to a better and vibrant community and lift it to greater heights. The Qur’an in verse 13:58 enjoins an individual to initiate change to bring about collective change. The individual is the ignition. Imam Husayn AS, an individual, stood up to change the Islamic society that had become corrupt. His stand galvanized Habib, Zuhair, Hur and Wahab to join ranks with him in the ultimate sacrifice. The courage, stand and sacrifice of Imam Husayn AS paved the way for our successful future in both worlds. We have to live that success. The Qur’an and azadari go hand in hand. They point us in the right direction with sincerity of purpose and noble intentions. The Prophet SAWW and his Ahlul Bayt AS lived the life of The Qur’an. Azadari teaches us to “Live like Ali and die like Husayn” every day for “Every day is Ashura and every land Karbala”, forever. An Urdu poet captures this in “Waqt ke saylab me har khushko tari beh jayega, magar name Husayn reh jayega.” (In the flood of time every dry and wet thing will flow away, yet the name of Husayn shall live forever).

Hazrat Imam Hussain’s(AS) objective was universal and high in character, restoring supremacy of religion, respect of the humanity preaching and protecting the message of God, he was against infidelity, oppression, tyranny, separatisms and barbarity. The remembrance and commemoration of Hazrat Imam Hussain(AS) is called as Azadari.

Azadari is the best means to promote Islam and give public awareness with the facts and realities of Islam and history. The effects of Azadari in the existence of Islam are eminent till today. Azadari has educated us in all times and every environment and saved us from diversions.

Anyone who accepts the responsibility of propagating the truth and meaning of life they also knows that in the battle of time and place and history they has to choose between the message of Imam Hussain(AS). And the message of Bibi Zainab(AS). In other words they have to fight in the battle of resistance or in the battle of protest. Some choose the path of Hussain for the battle of resistance they are therefore gone but those who have remained have to work like Janab-e-Zainab(AS) and fight in the battle of protest. Azadari is the battle of protest.

Due to the blessings of Azadari people get awareness of their rights, it is the strength to stand against tyranny and oppression. This is Azadari which gave birth to the biggest revolutions, redressed the grievance of oppressed. Azadari is a weapon against oppression. The life of humanity lies in Azadari. Hazrat Imam Hussain(AS) granted salvation to Islam, and protected its eminence from being trampled by kissing martyrdom. Azadari is a universal protest of the oppressed gainst oppression.