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Hosayn b. Ali is the second surviving grandson of the Prophet Moḥammad through his daughter Fāṭema and the third Imam of the Shiʿites after his father and his elder brother Ḥasan.

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Volume XII, Fascicle 5, pp. 493-506

ḤOSAYN B. ʿALI B. ABI ṬĀLEB, ABU ʿABD-ALLĀH (also referred to among Shiʿites as Sayyed-al-Šohadāʾ), the second surviving grandson of the Prophet Moḥammad through his daughter Fāṭema (q.v.) and the third Imam of the Shiʿites after his father and his elder brother Ḥasan.


According to most reports, Ḥosayn b. ʿAli was born on 5 Šaʿbān 4/10 January 626; another report mentions the middle of Jomādā I 6/beginning of October 627 as his date of birth. Jointly with his brother, he was at first brought up in the household of Moḥammad. Many of the accounts about Moḥammad’s treatment of his grandsons and his great love for them deal with them together and at times confuse them (for these reports see ḤASAN B. ʿALI). As the elder grandson, Ḥasan seems to have attracted more attention, and he later remembered more of his grandfather. Ḥosayn is described as looking like Moḥammad, but less so than Ḥasan did.

Whereas Ḥasan primarily sought to take up the heritage of his grandfather and was critical of some of his father’s policies, Ḥosayn patterned himself after ʿAli. While Ḥasan named two of his sons Moḥammad and none ʿAli, Ḥo-sayn named two of his four sons ʿAli and none Moḥammad. In contrast to the pacifist and conciliatory character of his elder brother, Ḥosayn inherited his father’s fighting spirit and intense family pride, although he did not acquire his military prowess and experience. While training his elder son Ḥasan to become his successor as head of the Prophet’s family, ʿAli’s attitude toward Ḥosayn seems to have been more protective and lenient. At the time of the siege of the caliph ʿOṯmān’s residence in Medina by rebels from Egypt, Ḥasan joined the sons of other prominent Companions to defend the caliph. When ʿOṯmān asked ʿAli to join, the latter sent Ḥosayn. When ʿOṯmān asked Ḥosayn if he thought he would be able to defend himself against the rebels, Ḥosayn demurred, and ʿOṯmān sent him away. ʿOṯmān’s cousin Marwān b. Ḥakam is reported to have told him: “Leave us, your father incites the people against us, and you are here with us!” (Balāḏori, V, pp. 78, 94). During ʿAli’s caliphate, the brothers Ḥasan, Ḥosayn, Moḥammad b. Ḥanafiya, and their cousin ʿAbd-Allāh b. Jaʿfar appear as his closest assistants within his household. Ḥosayn was included in the public curses of ʿAli and his major supporters that had been ordered by Moʿāwia (Ṭabari, I, p. 3360).

Ḥosayn was initially opposed to the surrender of Ḥasan to Moʿāwia in 41/661 and to the peace treaty recognizing Moʿāwia’s caliphate but, pressed by his brother, accepted it. When several Kufan Shiʿite leaders proposed to undertake a surprise attack on Moʿāwia in his camp outside Kufa, he objected and insisted that he must observe the treaty as long as Moʿāwia was alive, but he would reconsider his position after Moʿāwia’s death. He then left Kufa for Medina jointly with Ḥasan and ʿAbd-Allāh b. Jaʿfar.

It was probably at this time that he married Laylā, daughter of Abu Morra b. ʿOrwa b. Masʿud Ṯaqafi, who bore him his son ʿAli (commonly known as ʿAli Akbar). Laylā’s mother Maymuna bt. Abu Sofyān was a paternal sister of Moʿāwia, and her father belonged to the aristocracy of Ṯaqif, who were closely allied to the house of Omayya. These marriage ties may have benefited Ḥo-sayn materially. According to one report (Ebn Saʿd, p. 32), Moʿāwia used to give him 300,000 dirhams when he met him. The marriage probably did not last long, however, and could not permanently improve his relations with Moʿāwia because of the continued public denigration of ʿAli and persecution of his followers. In Medina, Marwān b. Ḥakam in particular was determined to forestall any reconciliation between the Banu Omayya and Banu Hā-šem. When Ḥasan proposed to marry ʿOṯmān’s daughter ʿĀʾeša, who had previously been married to Marwān’s brother Ḥāreṯ, Marwān intervened to marry her to ʿAbd-Allāh b. Zobayr. This slight to the Prophet’s family appears to have enraged Ḥosayn more than Ḥasan. When Moʿāwia later, after Ḥasan’s death, instructed Marwān to arrange the marriage of Omm Kolṯum, daughter of his cousin ʿAbd-Allāh b. Jaʿfar b. Abi Ṭāleb, to the caliph’s son Yazid, Ḥosayn expressly retaliated by marrying her to Qāsem b. Moḥammad b. Abi Bakr (Ebn Saʿd, pp. 40-41). Ḥosayn, in contrast to Ḥasan, responded sharply to the regular cursing of ʿAli by Marwān during his first governorship of Medina (41-48 /661-68) by cursing Marwān and his father Ḥakam, who had been banished by Moḥammad (Ebn Saʿd, pp. 33-36, 38).

The death of Ḥasan in 50/670, apparently by poisoning, strained the relationship with Moʿāwia further. Ḥasan refused to name his suspect, probably Moʿāwia, to his brother since he did not wish to obligate him to retaliate. He asked to be buried with his grandfather Moḥammad. If this demand were to provoke a danger of blood-shed, however, he wished to be buried next to his mother Fāṭema. When Marwān b. Ḥakam opposed Ḥasan’s burial near Moḥammad on the grounds that ʿOṯmān had not been buried there, Ḥosayn appealed to the ḥelf al-fożul, a solidarity pact of several clans of Qorayš, to back the right of the Prophet’s family against the Banu Omayya. His brother Moḥammad b. Ḥanafiya and others, however, prevailed upon him to heed Ḥasan’s wish to avoid bloodshed and to bury him next to his mother. At the same time the Kufan Shiʿites shifted their allegiance to him. Their leaders met with the sons of Jaʿda b. Hobayra b. Abi’l-Wahb Maḵzumi, grandsons of ʿAli’s sister Omm Hāneʾ, in the house of Solaymān b. Ṣorad Ḵozāʿi and wrote Ḥo-sayn a letter of condolence on the death of his brother in which they assured him of their loyalty. The Banu Jaʿda informed him of the high esteem of the Kufans for him, their longing that he would join them, their loathing of Moʿāwia, and their dissociation from him. Ḥosayn wrote them that he was still bound to keep the peace concluded by Ḥasan as long as Moʿāwia was alive and asked them to conceal their feelings. If he were still alive at Moʿāwia’s death he would inform them of his views.

His supporters from Iraq, however, kept visiting him in Medina in large numbers, and ʿAmr, the son of the caliph ʿOṯmān, warned the governor Marwān. The latter informed Moʿāwia, who instructed him to leave Ḥosayn alone as long as he would not display any hostility to him but also to withhold any sign of friendship from him. Marwān wrote Ḥosayn a menacing letter, warning him against sowing renewed discord in the community. Ḥo-sayn answered him scornfully, enumerating Moʿāwia’s offences, such as his recognition of Ziād as his brother in violation of Islamic law and his execution of Ḥojr b. ʿAdi, and rejected his threats. Moʿāwia complained to his entourage about Ḥosayn, but refrained from further threats and continued to send his regular subsidy and gifts (Balāḏori, II, pp. 458-60). Jointly with the sons of several other prominent Companions of Moḥammad, Ḥosayn resisted Moʿāwia’s demands that they pledge allegiance to his son Yazid, whom he had appointed as his successor in breach of both his treaty with Ḥasan and ʿOmar’s principle of election by the consultation (šurā).

After Moʿāwia’s death on 15 Rajab 60/22 April 680, Yazid immediately instructed the governor of Medina, ʿOtba b. Abi Sofyān, to compel Ḥosayn, ʿAbd-Allāh b. ʿOmar, and ʿAbd-Allāh b. Zobayr to pledge their allegiance. ʿAbd Allāh b. Zobayr and Ḥosayn left separately for Mecca to seek asylum. The account of Wāqedi (apud Ṭabari, II, pp. 222-23; tr., XIX, pp. 9-10; Ebn Saʿd, p. 56) that the two left together is unreliable. Ḥosayn was accompanied by his household, his sons, brothers, and the sons of Ḥasan. Moḥammad b. Ḥanafiya did not join him and urged him not to move to Iraq before receiving the oath of allegiance there. Ḥosayn should rather stay in Mecca or hide in the desert and mountains until the sentiments of the people became clear. Ḥosayn traveled the main road to Mecca, refusing to avoid being pursued by taking a side road. ʿOtba b. Abi Sofyān, in spite of Mar-wān’s prodding, did not wish to use violence against the grandson of the Prophet, and Yazid replaced him for his inaction. In Mecca Ḥosayn stayed in the house of ʿAbbās b. ʿAbd-al-Moṭṭaleb (Ebn Saʿd, p. 56) and remained there for four months.

In Kufa the leaders of the Shiʿa, on learning of Mo-ʿāwia’s death, assembled again in the house of Solaymān b. Ṣorad. They wrote to Ḥosayn praising God for having destroyed the obstinate tyrant Moʿāwia, who had seized the rule of the Muslim community without its consent, appropriated its fayʾ (immovable properties acquired by conquest) and made it pass into the hands of the wealthy and powerful, who had killed their best men and retained the most evil among them. They urged Ḥosayn to join them, since they had no imam. They informed him that they did not attend the Friday prayer with Moʿāwia’s governor Noʿmān b. Bašir Anṣāri and would drive him out of the town as soon as Ḥosayn agreed to come to them. They sent him in short order seven messages with bags of letters of support by Kufan warriors and tribal leaders. The first two of them arrived in Mecca on 10 Ramażān 60/13 June 680. Ḥosayn wrote the Kufans that he understood from their letters that they had no imam and they wished him to come to unite them by right guidance. He informed them that he was sending his cousin Moslem b. ʿAqil b. Abi Ṭāleb to report to him on the situation. If he found them united as their letters indicated he would speedily join them, for it was the duty of the imam to act in accordance with the Koran, to uphold justice, to proclaim the truth, and to dedicate himself to the cause of God.

Ḥosayn was also visited by a Shiʿite supporter with two of his sons from Baṣra, where Shiʿite sentiment was otherwise limited. He then sent identical letters to the chiefs of the five divisions into which the Basran tribes were divided for administrative purposes. He wrote them that God had preferred the Prophet Moḥammad above all His creatures and that his family were his legatees (awṣiāʾ ) and heirs of his position. Their people (Qorayš) had illegitimately claimed the right which belonged exclusively to the Prophet’s family. The family had consented to their action for the sake of the unity of the community. Those who had seized the right of the Prophet’s family had set many things straight and had sought the truth. He, Ḥosayn, prayed to God for mercy on them and on the Prophet’s family. He was now summoning them to the Book of God and the tradition (sonna) of His Prophet. The tradition had indeed been destroyed while innovation had been spread. Ḥosayn promised to guide them on the path of righteousness if they would obey and follow him. The contents of the letter closely reflected the guideline set by ʿAli, who had strongly upheld the sole right of the family of the Prophet to leadership of the Muslim community but had also praised the conduct of the first caliphs Abu Bakr and ʿOmar. While most of the recipients of the letter kept it secret, one of them suspected that it was a ploy of the governor ʿObayd-Allāh b. Ziād to test their loyalty and turned it over to him. ʿObayd-Allāh seized and beheaded Ḥosayn’s messenger and addressed a stern warning to the people of Baṣra (Ṭabari, II, pp. 235-36, 240-41).

The mission of Moslem b. ʿAqil was initially successful. The Kufan Shiʿites visited him freely, and 18,000 men are said to have enlisted with him in support of Ḥo-sayn. He wrote to Ḥosayn, encouraging him to come swiftly to Kufa. The situation changed radically when Yazid replaced Noʿmān b. Bašir by ʿObayd-Allāh b. Ziād, ordering the latter to deal severely with Moslem b. ʿAqil. ʿObayd-Allāh succeeded in intimidating the tribal chiefs. A revolt collapsed when the rebels failed to capture the governor’s palace. Moslem b. ʿAqil was found and delivered to ʿObayd-Allāh, who had him beheaded on the top of the palace and his body thrown down to the crowd. Hāneʾ b. ʿOrwa, chief of the tribe of Morād, was also crucified for having sheltered him. Yazid wrote to ʿObayd-Allāh, commending him highly for his decisive action and ordering him to set up watches for Ḥosayn and his supporters and to arrest them but to kill only those who would fight him.

Before news of the adverse turn of events arrived in Mecca, Ḥosayn set out for Kufa on 8 or 10 Ḏu’l-Ḥejja 60/10 or 12 September 680, breaking off his ḥajj for the ʿomra (the lesser pilgrimage). He was accompanied by some fifty members of his family, close kin, and a few supporters. He had been advised by ʿAbd-Allāh b. ʿOmar and other prominent men of Qorayš against his move. According to most accounts, ʿAbd-Allāh b. Zobayr, seeing him as a rival in his own bid for popular support, urged him to join his partisans in Kufa (see esp. Ebn Saʿd, p. 56), but this is contradicted by other reports, according to which he offered to support him if he would rise in Mecca (Balāḏori, II, p. 467). His uncle ʿAbd-Allāh b. ʿAbbās in particular warned him not to trust the Kufans, who had betrayed his father and his brother and pleaded with him not to take his women and children along if he insisted on accepting their invitation. Ḥosayn regularly thanked his advisers for their concern but replied that he must leave the outcome to the decision of God. After Ḥosayn’s departure, his cousin ʿAbd-Allāh b. Jaʿfar sent him a letter with his sons ʿAwn and Moḥammad, in which he implored him once more not to proceed. He further induced the governor of Mecca, ʿAmr b. Saʿid Ašdaq, to write a guarantee of safety and protection for him if he would return to Mecca. The governor sent his brother Yaḥyā b. Saʿid with a group of men and ʿAbd-Allāh b. Jaʿfar to persuade Ḥosayn, but he told them that he had seen a vision of the Prophet, who had ordered him to proceed, whatever the outcome. As he continued on his way, there was a minor scuffle between his supporters and the messengers of the governor, who then returned to Mecca. The two sons of ʿAbd-Allāh b. Jaʿfar accompanied Ḥo-sayn and were killed with him.

At Tanʿim Ḥosayn seized a caravan carrying clothes and dye plants sent by the governor of Yemen to the caliph, Yazid. He gave the camel owners the choice between accompanying him to Iraq and being paid in full there or being paid immediately for the distance they had already traveled.

ʿObayd-Allāh b. Ziād sent his police chief Ḥoṣayn b. Tamim to Qādesiya with the order to block the roads from Ḥejāz to Iraq. Ḥosayn learned of this from some bedouins he met, who stated that they were cut off from Kufa, but he continued on his way. In Ṯaʿlabiya he first received news of the abortive Kufan rising and the execution of Moslem b. ʿAqil and Hāneʾ b. ʿOrwa. The reliability of reports that he considered turning back at this stage and changed his mind only because of the resolve of Moslem’s brothers to seek revenge or death is to be doubted. In Zobāla he was informed that a messenger he had sent to Kufa to announce his imminent arrival had been intercepted and killed by ʿObayd-Allāh b. Ziād by having him thrown from the roof of his palace. In a written statement he broke the news to his supporters, acknowledging that the Kufan Shiʿites had deserted him, and encouraged anyone who so wished, to leave freely without guilt. Most of those who had joined him at various stages on the way from Mecca now left him.

Soon after leaving Šarāf his supporters sighted a troop of 1,000 Kufan mounted men under the command of Ḥorr b. Yazid Riāḥi Tamimi. He turned off the road towards the left and alighted at Ḏu Ḥosom near Karbalāʾ, where he was joined by the Kufan troop. Ḥosayn ordered the call to prayer to be made and addressed the Kufans, reminding them that they had invited him to come because they were without an imam. He told them that he intended to proceed to Kufa with their support, but if they were now opposed to his coming, he would return to where he had come from. The Kufans did not respond, but performed the midday prayer under his leadership. After the afternoon prayer he addressed them again. He stressed the prior right of the Prophet’s family to govern them and mentioned the letters he had received from them. When Ḥorr claimed that they knew nothing of these letters, he had the saddle-bags with them brought forward and scattered the letters before them. Ḥorr averred that they were not of those who had written them and that they were under order to bring him to ʿObayd-Allāh b. Ziād. When Ḥosayn set out to move, Ḥorr blocked his way. After a heated exchange, Ḥorr explained that he had not been ordered to fight Ḥosayn but to bring him to Kufa. If Ḥosayn would not follow him, Ḥorr would not allow him to take the route to either Kufa or Medina. He would write to ʿObayd-Allāh for further instructions, and, also suggested that Ḥosayn should write to Yazid or ʿObayd-Allāh. Ḥosayn did not accept the advice and turned left in the direction of ʿOḏayb and Qādesiya. Ḥorr kept following him and warned him against a fight in which he would inevitably perish, but he was unable to prevent four Kufan Shiʿites from joining him. When they reached the district of Ninawā, a village near Karbalāʾ, a messenger arrived from Kufa with instructions for Ḥorr to force Ḥosayn to camp in the open desert in a place without fortification and water. ʿObayd-Allāh’s aim evidently was to force Ḥosayn to start fighting. As Ḥorr prevented him from alighting either in Ninawā or Ḡāżeriya (a village to the northeast of Karbalāʾ), on 2 Moḥarram 61/2 October 680, he set his camp in the desert land of Karbalāʾ at a location that was without water.

The following day a Kufan army of 4,000 men arrived under the command of ʿOmar b. Saʿd b. Abi Waqqāṣ. ʿOmar b. Saʿd had been appointed by ʿObayd-Allāh governor of Rayy and been sent off to fight the Deylamites, but was recalled to lead the army against Ḥosayn. As the son of one of the most eminent early Companions of Mo-ḥammad, he was loath to use force against the Prophet’s grandson and asked to be excused from the mission. ʿObayd-Allāh demanded that he return the letter of appointment for the governorship of Rayy if he refused to lead the campaign against Ḥosayn. After some delay, ʿOmar accepted the command, evidently still hoping that he could avoid a battle. He first sent a messenger to Ḥo-sayn to inquire about the purpose of his coming to Iraq. Ḥosayn answered again that he had responded to the invitation of the people of Kufa but was ready to leave if they now disliked his presence. When ʿOmar b. Saʿd reported back to ʿObayd-Allāh, the governor instructed him to offer Ḥosayn and his supporters the opportunity to swear allegiance to Yazid. If they were to do so, he would judge the matter further. Shortly afterwards, he ordered ʿOmar b. Saʿd to cut off Ḥosayn and his followers from access to the water of the Euphrates. ʿOmar stationed 500 men along the river, but was unable to prevent Ḥo-sayn’s brother ʿAbbās with fifty men from filling their water-skins in a night sortie.

While the formal standoff continued, Ḥosayn sent a messenger to ʿOmar b. Saʿd, suggesting that they meet privately at night between the camps. They met and are said to have talked for much of the night. No one was present to hear their conversation, but there were rumors that Ḥosayn proposed that they both leave their armies and together go to see Yazid. ʿOmar b. Saʿd, however, refused to do so, afraid of being punished by ʿObayd-Allāh. The majority of the transmitters, rather, maintained that Ḥosayn offered ʿOmar three choices: Either he would return to where he had come from, or he would go to Syria to submit to Yazid personally, or he could be sent to one of the border stations to fight the infidels. ʿOmar is reported to have transmitted these proposals to ʿObayd-Allāh. This offer ascribed to Ḥosayn was, however, emphatically denied by ʿOqba b. Semʿān, a client of Ḥosayn’s wife Rabāb, who survived the battle of Karbalāʾ. He testified that Ḥosayn never offered anything but to depart and travel the land until the affairs of the people would clarify (Ṭabari, II, p. 314; tr., pp. 108-9). An offer by Ḥosayn to submit to Yazid at this stage must appear unlikely in view of his religious convictions, and the reports are in line with the tendency of the early tradition to accent the primary guilt of ʿObayd-Allāh in Ḥosayn’s death.

Whatever proposals ʿOmar b. Saʿd submitted to ʿObayd-Allāh, they were evidently designed to avoid fighting or the surrender of Ḥosayn to the governor in Kufa. ʿObayd-Allāh is reported to have at first been ready to accept them. Šamer b. Ḏi’l-Jawšan advised him, however, not to allow Ḥosayn to escape from his territory without having submitted to his authority, since this would be a sign of weakness on his part and an acknowledgment of the power of Ḥosayn’s position; but if Ḥosayn and his followers submitted, the governor could either punish or forgive them. ʿObayd-Allāh now changed his mind and wrote to ʿOmar b. Saʿd that he had not sent him to hold him off from fighting Ḥosayn and to intercede on his behalf. If Ḥosayn and his supporters submitted to his authority, ʿOmar could send them to Kufa in peace. Otherwise, he should fight, kill, and disfigure them, as they deserved that. If Ḥosayn was killed, he should make the horses trample on his chest and back since he was a disobedient rebel, an evil wrongdoer who split the community, since he, ʿObayd-Allāh, had made a vow to do that to Ḥosayn in case he was killed. If ʿOmar refused to comply with these instructions, he should surrender the command to Šamer b. Ḏi’l-Jawšan, with whom ʿObayd-Allāh sent the letter. On reading it, ʿOmar b. Saʿd cursed Šamer but agreed to carry out the orders himself.

ʿOmar b. Saʿd now prepared for immediate battle in the evening of 9 Moḥarram/9 October. Ḥosayn was sitting in front of his tent when his brother ʿAbbās informed him that the enemy was advancing towards them. He asked ʿAbbās to inquire about the cause of the change of their attitude. They told him that an order of the governor had arrived to attack unless Ḥosayn and his followers submitted to his authority. Ḥosayn asked for a delay until next morning so they would have time to decide on the option. The account stresses that he did so only in order to arrange his affairs and give counsel to his family. ʿOmar b. Saʿd was consulted and, on the advice of some of the army leaders, agreed to the postponement. Ḥosayn once more encouraged all his supporters to leave and scatter in the desert under cover of the night, releasing them from their oath of allegiance. They might also take the members of his family along. He suggested that the enemy was looking only for him and would not search for them once they found him. Nearly all his followers, however, decided to stay and fight and to protect him. They spent the night in prayer and preparation for the battle. On the next morning, as ʿOmar b. Saʿd arranged the Kufan army in battle order, Ḥorr b. Yazid challenged him and went over to Ḥosayn. He vainly addressed the Kufans, rebuking them for their treachery to the grandson of the Prophet, and was killed in the battle.

The battle of Karbalāʾ lasted from morning till sunset on 10 Moḥarram 61/10 October 680. ʿOmar b. Saʿd, evidently hoping to isolate Ḥosayn and force him to surrender, did not order a general attack that would inevitably have resulted in a quick massacre. The reports rather describe numerous incidents of single combat, skirmishes, assaults, and retreat. Ḥosayn ordered heaps of wood and reeds to be burnt in a ditch behind the tents to prevent an attack from the rear. From the front he was protected by his men, and he was not involved in actual fighting until close to the end. As the Kufans also suffered losses because of the self-sacrificing bravery of Ḥosayn’s followers, the fighting gradually became more brutal. In one attack the enemy set the tents on fire, but the flames at first hindered their own advance. Šamer (Šemr) b. Ḏi’l-Jawšan is mostly described as the moving spirit, viciously driving on the assault. Ḥosayn was first wounded by an arrow hitting his mouth or throat as he was trying to reach the Euphrates to drink. After receiving further wounds, he eventually was stabbed with a spear by Senān b. Anas Naḵaʿi. As he fell, Senān and Ḵawali b. Yazid Aṣbaḥi joined to cut his head off. In accordance with ʿObayd-Allāh b. Ziād’s instructions, ʿOmar ordered his body to be trampled by horses. Later he was buried by the Banu Asad of the nearby village of Ḡāżeriya in the spot where the sanctuary of Ḥosayn arose. His head was carried to ʿObayd-Allāh b. Ziād in Kufa and then to Yazid in Damascus. Later there were claims in regard to several locations to be its burial place.

The dead on the side of Ḥosayn are said to have numbered seventy or seventy-two. At least twenty descendants of Abu Ṭāleb were among them. The first one of these to be killed was Ḥosayn’s own son ʿAli Akbar. As a nephew of the caliph Yazid he was offered a safe-conduct, but he refused it, proudly proclaiming that he valued his descent from the Prophet more highly (Ebn Saʿd, p. 73; Zobayri, p. 58). Ḥosayn’s son ʿAbd-Allāh was still a child and is described as having been killed by an arrow while placed on his father’s knees. He can, however, hardly have been a baby as claimed in some accounts. Six of Ḥosayn’s paternal brothers, sons of ʿAli, fell. Four of them were sons of Omm Banin bt. Ḥezām of the Banu Kelāb. Her brother’s son, ʿAbd-Allāh b. Abi Moḥell b. Ḥezām, obtained a letter of safety for them from ʿObayd-Allāh b. Ziād, but they rejected it. Three sons of Ḥasan and three sons of ʿAbd-Allāh b. Jaʿfar were killed, as well as three sons and three grandsons of ʿAqil b. Abi Ṭāleb. Ebn Saʿd (p. 77) lists among the dead two other Hashemites, a descendent of Abu Lahab, and a descendent of Abu Sofyān b. Ḥāreṯ b. ʿAbd-al-Moṭṭaleb. Among the survivors of the Prophet’s family, being led off as captives, he mentions two sons of Ḥasan, a son of ʿAbd-Allāh b. Jaʿfar, a son of ʿAqil, and five women. According to Abu’l-Faraj Eṣfahāni (Maqātel, p. 119), three sons of Ḥasan survived, among them Ḥasan b. Ḥasan, who was severely wounded. Ḥosayn’s other son named ʿAli survived because he was sick and unable to fight on the battle day. He was brought as a captive before ʿObayd-Allāh b. Ziād and then before Yazid in Damascus. The latter treated him well and sent him with the women to Medina. He thus became recognized as the fourth Imam of the Shiʿites.

The impact of the tragedy of Karbalāʾ on the religious conscience of Muslims has ever been deep and goes beyond its consecration of the passion and penitence motives in Shiʿism. The motivation of the major actors in it have often been debated. It is evident that Ḥosayn cannot be viewed as simply a reckless rebel risking his and his family’s lives for his personal ambition. He refused to break his oath of allegiance to Moʿāwia despite his severe reproval of his conduct. He did not pledge allegiance to Yazid, who had been appointed successor by Moʿāwia in violation of his treaty with Ḥasan, and most likely never agreed to do so. Yet he also did not actively seek martyrdom. He offered to leave Iraq as soon as it became clear that he no longer had any support in Kufa. It was ʿObayd-Allāh who vainly sought to provoke him to start the fighting. His initial determination to follow the invitation of the Kufan Shiʿites in spite of the numerous warnings he received and his visions of the Prophet reflect a religious conviction of a mission that left him no choice, whatever the outcome. Like his father he was firmly convinced that the family of the Prophet was divinely chosen to lead the community founded by Moḥammad, as the latter had been chosen, and had both an inalienable right and an obligation to seek this leadership.

The accounts of the early sources tend to put the responsibility for the death of Ḥosayn mostly on ʿObayd-Allāh b. Ziād and to exonerate the caliph Yazid, who is described as cursing his governor and stating that if he had been present he would have spared Ḥosayn. ʿObayd-Allāh certainly was eager to humiliate and kill Ḥosayn, as is evident from his vow to have his body trampled by horses. His hatred ultimately sprang from the denunciation of Moʿāwia’s recognition of Ziād as his brother by the grandsons of the Prophet in the name of Islam. The prime responsibility for the death of Ḥosayn, however, lay with Yazid, who knew that the grandson of the Prophet would constitute a menace to his reign as long as he was alive, even if temporarily forced to submission. Yazid wanted him dead but, as a caliph of Islam, could not afford to be seen as having ordered his death. He was aware of ʿObayd-Allāh’s hatred of Ḥosayn when he appointed him governor of Kufa and hinted in a letter to him that Ḥosayn would reduce him to slave status again (Balāḏori, II, p. 464). He commended ʿObayd-Allāh highly for the execution of Moslem b. ʿAqil, and the governor could not be in any doubt as to what was expected of him. When the caliph sought in public, however, to place the onus for the slaughter of the Prophet’s grandson on him, ʿObayd-Allāh reacted with resentment and declined Yazid’s wish that he next lead the assault on ʿAbd-Allāh b. Zobayr in the Kaʿba (Ṭabari, II, p. 408, tr. p. 204).

The family of Ḥosayn. Ḥosayn’s first marriage was with Rabāb, daughter of Emraʾ-al-Qays b. ʿAdi, a chief of the Banu Kalb. Her father came to Medina early during the caliphate of ʿOmar and was appointed by him amir over all tribesmen of Qożāʿa who would convert to Islam. ʿAli proposed to him to establish marriage ties, and he agreed to give three of his daughter to ʿAli, Ḥasan, and Ḥosayn in marriage. Ḥasan and Ḥosayn, and no doubt the daughters of Emraʾ-al-Qays, were too young for the wedding to take place immediately, and Ḥasan may never actually have married the girl chosen for him. Ḥosayn later married Rabāb, and in the later years of ʿAli’s caliphate, Emraʾ-al-Qays and his kin were referred to as his in-laws (aṣhār; Ṯaqafi, p. 426). Rabāb remained Ḥosayn’s favorite wife, even though she was childless for many years. Probably after ʿAli’s death, she bore him a daughter Āmena (Amina, Omayma), commonly known as Sokayna. According to Sokayna, Ḥasan reproached Ḥosayn for his excessive favors to Rabāb, but in response Ḥosayn declared his great love for her and Sokayna in three lines of poetry (Abu’l-Faraj Eṣfahāni, Aḡāni XIV pp. 163-64). Later Rabāb bore him his son ʿAbd-Allāh, who was still a child when he was killed at Karbalāʾ. He presumably had saved his own patronymic (konya), Abu ʿAbd-Allāh, for a son by her. In some late Shiʿite sources ʿAbd-Allāh is called ʿAli Aṣḡar (q.v.), but this is without historical foundation. After Ḥosayn’s death, Rabāb is said to have spent a year in grief at his grave and to have refused to remarry. No details are known about Ḥosayn’s marriage to Solāfa, a woman of the tribe Bali of Qożāʿa. She bore him a son named Jaʿfar, who died during Ḥo-sayn’s lifetime.

Of Ḥosayn’s two sons named ʿAli, the one who survived him, known as Zayn al-ʿĀbedin, the fourth Imam of the Shiʿites, was the elder and probably his first-born son. He was twenty-three at the time of the battle of Karbalāʾ and thus was born during the caliphate of ʿAli. His mother was a slave woman, probably from Sind (see ʿALĪ B. AL-ḤOSAYN). She was later married to a client of Ḥosayn and had a son with him, ʿAbd-Allāh b. Zobayd, who was thus a maternal brother of ʿAli Zayn-al-ʿĀbedin. The descendants of ʿAbd-Allāh b. Zobayd later lived in Yanboʿ (Ebn Saʿd, p. 17). Whereas Zayn-al-ʿĀbedin is called ʿAli al-Aṣḡar in the early Sunnite sources, Moḥammad Mofid (pp. 236-37) and other Shiʿite authors are probably correct in calling him ʿAli Akbar. The second ʿAli, called ʿAli Akbar in the Sunnite sources but ʿAli Aṣḡar by Shaikh Mofid, was nineteen when he was killed at Karbalāʾ. His mother was Laylā, daughter of Morra b. ʿOrwa Ṯaqafi and Maymuna bt. Abi Sofyān, sister of the caliph Mo-ʿāwia. The marriage must have taken place soon after Ḥasan’s surrender to Moʿāwia, as it would not have been possible during the lifetime of ʿAli. Ḥosayn evidently named his son by Laylā also ʿAli since he, because of his aristocratic Arab mother, had precedence over his elder son by a non-Arab slave woman to become his primary heir. Moʿāwia is even quoted as observing that ʿAli b. Ḥosayn was the one most suited for the caliphate, since he combined the bravery of the Banu Hāšem, the munificence of the Banu Omayya, and the pride of Ṯaqif (Abu’l-Faraj Eṣfahāni, Maqātel, p. 80).

After the death of Ḥasan, Ḥosayn married Omm Esḥāq, daughter of the prominent Companion Ṭalḥa. She bore Ḥosayn’s daughter Fāṭema. Contrary to some reports, Fāṭema must have been younger than Sokayna. At the time of her father’s death, she was probably engaged, but not yet married, to Ḥasan b. Ḥasan, the primary heir of Ḥasan b. ʿAli.


Abu’l-Faraj Eṣfahāni, Maqātel al-Ṭālebiyin, ed. Aḥmad Ṣaqr, Cairo, 1949, pp. 78-122.

Idem, al-Aḡāni, ed. Naṣr Hurini, 20 vols., Bulāq, 1869, XLV, pp. 163-65.

Abu Ḥanifa Dinavari, Aḵbār al-ṭewāl, ed. ʿAbd-al-Moʾmen ʿĀmer and Jamāl-al-Din Šayyāl, Cairo, 1960, pp. 220-21, 224 ff.

Moḥsen Amin, Aʿyān al-Šiʿa IV, 2nd ed., Beirut, 1960, pp. 49 ff.

Aḥmad b. Yaḥyā Balāḏori, Ansāb al-ašrāf II, ed. Maḥmud Fardus ʿAẓm, Damascus, 1996, pp. 449-519; V, ed. Solomon D. Fritz Goitein, Jerusalem, 1936, index, s.v.

Ebn ʿAsāker, Tarjamat rayḥānat Rasul Allāh … men Taʾriḵ Demašq, ed. Moḥammad-Bāqer Maḥmudi, Beirut, 1978.

Ebn Saʿd, Tarjamat al-Emām al-Ḥosayn, ed. ʿAbd-al-ʿAziz Ṭabāṭabāʾi, Qom, 1995.

Ebn Šahrāšub, Manāqeb Āl Abi Ṭāleb, ed. Moḥammad-Kāẓem Kotobi, 3 vols., Najaf, 1956, III, pp. 206-72.

Henri Lammens, Le califat de Yazîd Ier: extrait des Mélanges de la Faculté orientale de l’Université St. Joseph de Beyrouth, pp. 131-82.

Moḥammad b. Moḥammad Mofid, Eršād, ed. Kāẓem Miāmavi, Tehran, 1958, pp. 139-237.

Ṭabari, index. Ebrāhim b. Moḥammad Ṯaqafi, Ḡārāt, ed. Jal-āl-al-Din Moḥaddeṯ, Tehran, 1975, p. 426.

Fahmi ʿOways, Šahid Karbalāʾ al-Imām al-Ḥosayn b. ʿAli … , Cairo, 1948.

L. Veccia Vaglieri, “Ḥusayn b. ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib,” in EI2 III, pp. 607-15.

Julius Wellhausen, Die religiös-politischen Oppositionsparteien im alten Islam, Berlin, 1901, esp. pp. 61-71; tr. R. C. Ostle and S. M. Walzer as The Religious-Political Factions in Early Islam, Amsterdam, 1975, pp. 105-20.

Aḥmad b. Yaʿqub Yaʿqubi, Taʾriḵ, ed. M. Th. Houtsma as Historiae, 2 vols., Leiden, 1883; repr., Leiden, 1969, II, pp. 266-67, 286 ff.

Moṣʿab b. ʿAbd-Allāh Zobayri, Ketāb nasab Qorayš, ed. Évariste Lévi-Provençal, Cairo, 1953, pp. 57-59.


Imam Ḥosayn’s revolt and tragic death at Karbalā in present-day Iraq (10 Moḥarram 61/10 October 680) was one of the greatest calamities in the early history of the Muslim community. The cult of Ḥosayn first evolved locally, where the archetypal motif of the “God who dies” had been deeply engrained since the ancient Mesopotamian traditions. The elements specific to the cult of Ḥosayn, which have come together to establish the ʿĀšurā (q.v.) and Moḥarram devotions, may none the less be retraced to their own historical context.

According to tradition, Ḥosayn’s son ʿAli Zayn-al-ʿĀbedin (see ʿALI B. ḤOSAYN) made a pilgrimage to his tomb with the women survivors of the Karbalā massacre forty days later (arbaʿin; q.v.). It seems, however, that the pilgrimage of Arab penitents (tawwābun) in 65/684 (see Denny, “Tawwābūn” in EI2) served as the prototype for Moḥarram devotions, since it placed emphasis on remorse, self-sacrifice, moaning, and wailing. Later, the revolt of Moḵtār (66-67/685-87; see Hawting, “al-Mukhtār b. Abī ʿUbayd al-Thaḳafī” in EI2) sparked the Kaysaniya movement, which branched out into various groupings that supported the Imamate of Ḥosayn’s half-brother, Moḥammad b. al-Ḥanafiya (d. 81/700-701), whom they regarded as the Mahdi. With his war cry “Revenge for al-Ḥosayn!” Moḵtār systematically hunted down and murdered those he considered responsible for Ḥosayn’s death, including both Umayyads and Kufans. He mobilized the discontented Persian clients of Arab tribes (mawāli), and thus Persians came to participate in the early development of Shiʿism.

While Ḥosayni Alids remained quiet politically, a tradition of pilgrimage to the tombs of Ḥosayn and the other Karbalā martyrs quickly developed. Although they were to be repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt, from ʿAbbasid times onwards, the tomb and mausoleum (mašhad) also benefited from generous gifts and endowments from rulers of various dynasties, including the Buyids, Seljuqs, Il-Khanids, Safavids, and Qajars, which helped it to survive and flourish (see E. Honigmann, “Karbalā”). The shrine suffered more recently when it was sacked by the Wahhābis in 1215/1801. Many pilgrimage (ziāra) texts dedicated to Ḥosayn and the martyrs of Karbalā therefore came to be written, which could be recited in actual (or mental) pilgrimages.

In association with this pilgrimage, a genre of religious literature also evolved, called maqtal or maqātel after the Maqtal al-Ḥosayn attributed to the traditionist Abu Meḵnaf (d. 157/774; on Arabic maqtals, see e.g., al-Mowaffaq al-Ḵᵛārazmi, Maqtal al-Ḥosayn li’l-Ḵᵛārazmi, Najaf, 1367/1947; ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Musāwi, Maqtal al-Ḥosayn aw Ḥadiṯ Karbalā, Najaf, 1383/1963. On Turco-Persian maqtal literature, see Calmard, 1975, pp. 220 ff.). These texts contain many more stories that are miraculous and supernatural than historical sources such as Ṭabari’s Tāriḵ, and they include accounts of Moḵtār’s terrible vengeance. Although originally in Arabic, the maqātel inspired the Turkish and Persian maqtal-nāmas, which were recited by storytellers (maddāḥ) who also produced other religious epics, such as Abu Moslem-nāma, Moḵtār-nāma, and Jang-e Moḥammad-e Ḥanafiya. Rather than grief and lamentation, these epics emphasize the theme of vengeance by the so-called “73 avengers of Ḥo-sayn’s blood,” most of whom are non-historical, such as Moḥammad b. al-Ḥanafiya.

In addition to these religious epics, elegiac poetry (marṯiya; on Persian marṯiya literature dedicated to the martyrs of Karbalā and other Shiʿite sacred figures, see Calmard, 1975, pp. 193 ff., 510 ff.; Clarke, pp. 13-28; Hanaway; and Haywood) in Arabic and Persian about the Ahl-e Bayt (q.v.), particularly Ḥosayn and the Karbalā martyrs, was increasingly composed by authors of both Shiʿite and Sunnite persuasion. Under the Seljuqs (1038-1194), this devotional literature spread widely through storytellers. During this time, elegies (marāṯi) and eulogies(manāqeb) continued to be composed, in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, by learned theologians, poets, and popular storytellers. A major synthesis of maqātel and manāqeb literature was provided by Ḥo-sayn-Wāʿeẓ Kāšefi (d. 910/1504-5) in his Rawżat al-šohadāʾ. During the imposition of Twelver Shiʿism by the Safavids (1501-1722), Kāšefi’s work became the textbook of preachers, thus called rawża-ḵᵛāns, who also continued to use material from epic, elegiac, theological, and historical literature. Along with Kāšefi’s book, the celebrated Moḥtašam Kāšāni’s (d. 996/1587 or 1000/1591) Davāzdah band on the tragedy at Karbalā was used extensively in Moḥarram ceremonies and served as an unrivalled model for further elegies, homilies, and dirges.

Legendary accounts about Ḥosayn and his martyrdom were from the outset influenced by his status as a Shiʿite Imam, and one of “the fourteen immaculate personages,” (Čahārdah Maʿṣum; q.v.), who are endowed with an extraordinary anthropogenic nature in Shiʿite cosmogony (see COSMOGONY AND COSMOLOGY v.) The cosmic dimension of his martyrdom was thus enhanced by his status among the most venerated Ahl-e Bayt and the fifth of “the people of the cloak” (Panj Tan; Ahl-e Abā) to die, thus symbolizing the death of all of them. The belief in Ḥosayn’s return as a precursor of the Mahdi at the end of time was also prevalent in early Shiʿite eschatology (Ayoub, pp. 223 ff.). Parallels were drawn between his fate and the passion and ascension of Jesus Christ; thus the day of ʿĀšurā is celebrated on a Friday, although in fact it fell on a Wednesday. A parallel was also drawn between Ḥosayn and John the Baptist, as precursors of the Messiah, or Mahdi (Ayoub, pp. 246-47; Crow, pp. 90, 97, 105-6). For instance, the sky turned blood-red and wept for both of them when they were killed, each by individuals who were thought to have been illegitimate children, and it was believed that their blood would participate in the apocalyptic revenge. Ḥosayn’s suffering is also compared with the Prophet Job’s afflictions, and the universal character of the tragedy of Karbalā is seen to have been anticipated by Cain’s murder of Abel (and the revenge that would follow), as well as by Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Ishmael (Ayoub, pp. 32-33, 235-36, 246-47), among other such examples.

Many legends grew about the miracles performed by Ḥosayn’s blood and his severed, “talking” head, including the conversion of a monk, which is the reason why a Byzantine ambassador is included among the cast at Yazid’s court in the taʿzia, or passion play. Ḥosayn’s legends and their related symbols may have been influenced by Persian pre-Islamic themes, such as the murder of Šiāvoš and its revenge. This includes the tulip (lāla) representing the blood and suffering of martyrs, and the prominent role attributed to the hero’s horse; moreover, in contrast to Ḥosayn, who has a heavenly nature, his murderers are demonized and transformed into animals, and it is believed that apocalyptic revenge will also afflict their descendents. However, the most important devotional aspects of Ḥosayn’s cult are connected with redemptive suffering and intercession, emphasizing the merits of lamenting, weeping, repenting, suffering, and striving for revenge. Audiences tend to find particularly moving the anecdotes about Ḥosayn’s nativity (a premature baby of six months, like Jesus), his repeatedly foretold tragic destiny together with that of his elder brother Ḥasan, and all the miracles connected with his death and its aftermath. Ḥosayn is referred to, often together with Ḥasan and their mother Fāṭema (q.v.), by many honorific titles, including in particular: Sayyed Šabāb Ahl al-Janna (Master of the Youths of Paradise) or Sayyed al-Šohadāʾ (Prince of Martyrs). Traditions concerning Ḥosayn were repeatedly published and commented on by later generations of Shiʿite and Sunnite theologians, together with those about the rest of the Ahl-e Bayt. They were systematically compiled by Moḥammad-Bāqer Majlesi (d. 1110/1699 or 1111/1700) in his massive work, the Beḥār al-anwār (q.v.). Majlesi’s work and those of other theologians were then used together with maqātel and elegiac literature by the most literate rawża-ḵᵛāns.

It did not take long for public rites of remembrance for Ḥosayn’s martyrdom to develop from the early pilgrimages. Under the Buyids (q.v.), Moʿezz-al-Dawla officiated at public celebrations of ʿĀšurā in Baghdad (352/963; see Calmard, 1975). (This provoked Sunnite counter-commemorations for many years.) These commemorations were also encouraged in Egypt by the Fatimid ruler al-ʿAziz (r. 365-86/975-96; Daftary, p. 185). From Seljuq times, ʿĀšurā rituals began to attract many participants from a variety of backgrounds, including Sunnites. With the enforcement of Twelver Imamism by the Safavids, Moḥarram ceremonies extended throughout the first ten days of Moḥarram (this remains unclear for pre-Safavid times). They were often called by European observers (Calmard, 1996, pp. 178-81) “the Feast of Ḥasan and Ḥosayn,” on the basis of the devotees’ shouts of “Ḥasan! Ḥosayn!” and “Yā Ḥasan! Yā Ḥosayn!” (hence the “Šaḵse-vaḵse” heard in Caucasian areas). In their most elaborate form, public rituals then included: (1) Daily and nightly sermons in public places, palace courtyards (as well as—probably—mosques, takias, and ḥosayniyas, q.v.), with the participation of many women. (2) The ritual of burying oneself up to the head. (3) A processions of penitents engaged in self-mortification using stones, chains, and blades, as well as burning themselves. (4) Ritual fights between neighboring quarters belonging to rival Ḥaydari and Neʿmati factions (see ḤAYDARI AND NEʿMATI). (5) Parades of coffins and a large bier of Ḥosayn (naḵl) accompanied by banners (see ʿALAM VA ʿALĀMAT), mimicry, and pageantry, with the more dramatic elements taking place on the central venue (maydān) and on floats. (6) Ritual burning of effigies of villains (ʿOmar-košān). Moḥarram parades thus took on certain carnivalesque aspects, mixing joy with grief.

Most of these elements were retained in the official post-Safavid Moḥarram ceremonies, although the ritual cursing of the first three caliphs was abandoned. In the course of the 18th century, the merging of stationary rituals (majles-e rawża-ḵᵛāni) and processions (see DASTA) gave birth to the theatrical performances of taʿzia, or šabih-ḵᵛānis, the passion plays. Under the Qajars, in order to accommodate large crowds of devotees, takias and ḥosayniyas were built in increasing numbers in Tehran and all over Persia. While being concentrated on the events at Karbalā, the taʿzia repertoire includes many other stories, from those about early prophets to those about contemporary personages. Female audiences tend to be moved in particular by stories about Ḥosayn’s mother Fāṭema, his sister Zaynab, his wife Bibi Šahrbānu (q.v.), and the tragic fate of Ḥosayn’s sons, ʿAli-Akbar and ʿAli-Aṣḡar (q.v.), his half-brother ʿAbbās (see ʿABBĀS B. ʿALI), and his nephew Qāsem b. Ḥasan, allegedly married to his daughter Zobayda (also called Fā ṭema-Kobrā).

Along with the composition of taʿzia scripts, elegies and dirges (nawḥas) to be sung in Moḥarram rituals were composed in great numbers, some by outstanding Qajar poets such as Qāʿāni (1223-70/1808-54), Yaḡmā (ca. 1196-1276/1782-1859), Soruš Eṣfahāni (1228-85/1813-68), and Weṣāl-e Širāzi (1193-1262/1779-1846). Safavid street-fighting was replaced by less violent competitions between the residents of neighboring quarters, mainly in the parading of banners, ritual singing, and self mortification, the latter taking the form of chest-beating (sina-zani) and flagellation with chains (zanjir-zani) or swords (tiḡ-zani, qama-zani). Moḥarram ceremonies extended into the month of Ṣafar during the Qajar period. This extension was perhaps due to the commemoration of the arbaʿin on 20 Ṣafar, when the Ahl-e Bayt made a pilgrimage to Ḥosayn’s grave, and the miraculous rejoining of his head and body (the sar o tan feast, a celebration attested in Safavid times). Furthermore the commemoration of the death of Imam Ḥasan was held on 28 Ṣafar (Massé, I, p. 136).

During the Qajar period taʿzia-ḵvānis were sponsored by the Shah and the grandees. The most lavish presentations were performed in the huge Takia Dawlat established in Tehran by Nāṣer-al-Din Shah in the 1870s. Although it eventually started the tradition of secular theater in Iran, the taʿzia tradition itself suffered setbacks from politico-social changes, losing its official sponsoring and being restricted to provincial towns and villages. Taʿzia- ḵᵛānis and extreme self-mortification were repeatedly condemned by the Shiʿite ulama. The tradition was eventually revived by the Iranian intelligentsia in the 1960s, notably at the Shiraz art festival and on televi-sion. Moḥarram ceremonies influenced not only Iranian theater but also architecture and painting. Specially constructed takias or ḥosayniyas were decorated with murals depicting the battle at Karbalā and related scenes. These were also painted on wood, glass, and canvas. From Safavid times, such scenes were painted also on large leather screens which were used by traveling storytellers in their “one-man shows” (šemāyel-gardāni or parda-dāri). They were also reproduced in miniatures and lithographed booklets.

Moḥarram ceremonies are accompanied by profound expressions of grief, the wearing of mourning garb, abstinence, and the endurance of other hardships. Because of the merit attached to weeping, in order to increase tears, adjuvants, such as grilled lentils, have been used (Calmard, 1975, pp. 455-56; idem, 1974, p. 97). There is a widespread belief that devotees will produce tears kept in bottles for Judgement Day. Special virtues are also attached to prayer tablets (mohr) made from the clay of Karbalā (torbat) believed to be mixed with Ḥosayn’s blood. Merit is also believed to be derived from meeting the expenses of these commemorations, for decoration, accommodation, appropriate food and drinks (tea, coffee, food for the poor on 10th Moḥarram, etc.). Besides royal and other official sponsorship, these expenses have been increasingly supported by communal and private contributions. Ḥosayn’s cult and the Moḥarram rituals have been particularly important for the Persian zurḵᵛāna (gymnasium) tradition and guilds (see AṢNĀF).

From pre-Safavid times, the “Karbalā paradigm,” as a symbol of tyranny and injustice, has had political implications, with oppressors often being labeled as “the Yazids of the Age.” This includes the Ottoman sultans and even the Qajars, since some of the Shiʿite ulama encouraged rumors that their ancestors had assisted Yazid against ʿAli’s family (Calmard, 1975, p. 192; idem, 1974, p. 91; Algar, pp. 121, 252). Ḥosayn’s revenge and the Advent of the Qāʾem also had a symbolic meaning for the persecuted Bāb (Amānat, pp. 377-78; see also Calmard, 1976-77b, p. 193). From the Constitutional revolution of 1905-11 (q.v.), Moḥarram rituals took a more definite political character. In 1977-79, mourning transformed into revolution, and it continued to assume political functions under the Islamic Republic (see ʿAZĀDĀRI). Symbols relating to the blood of the Karbalā martyrs were frequently used, such as Ḥosayn’s red flag, and the blood shed by the insurgents and martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88 (see GRAPHIC ARTS ii.).

Ḥosayn’s martyrdom is commemorated by Shiʿite communities throughout the world. In Iraq, apart from the pilgrimage to Karbalā, the traditions are similar to those which take place in Iran, but there are no dramatic performances. Taʿzia-ḵvānis influenced by the Persian tradition are, however, performed in Lebanon. Dramatized Moḥarram rituals were also introduced in Central Asia in the late 18th century (Turkmenistan, Ferḡāna, Bukhara) through the influence of Persian elements in the population. In South Caucasian khanates these rituals retained the sanguinary self-mortification characteristic of the Safavid period; and, until around the time of the Soviet Revolution of 1917, passion plays could be performed openly. In Ottoman areas and Kurdistan, Moḥarram ceremonies remained connected to the rituals of mystical orders. The Qezelbāš, the Bektāšis (see BEKTĀŠIYA), and the Šabaks, who have in common an intense devotion to the Imams, all hold special mourning ceremonies for Ḥosayn. Besides fasting, the Bektāšis accompany their ritual weeping by reciting Fożuli’s Ḥadiqat al-soʿadāʾ. On the last day, they eat “aşüre,” a sweet dish made from rice and milk specially for this occasion, hence its name. As far as the Nosayris are concerned, like Jesus before him, Ḥosayn was not really killed, and so they celebrate ʿĀšurā joyfully.

In the Indian subcontinent, Ḥosayn’s martyrdom has been commemorated for centuries. Although local traditions have over time permeated the associated beliefs and rituals, the elegiac literature in the vernacular languages (Urdu, Hindi, Sindhi, etc.) was influenced originally by the Persian sufi tradition. Devotional aspects, both private and public, are paramount, especially during the recital by the rawza-ḵᵛāns, which are called rawza-ḵᵛānis. Mourning assemblies have sometimes been held in buildings erected specifically for this purpose (called emāmbāras, ʿazā-ḵānas, and ʿāšur-ḵānas), such as the huge emāmbāras which were built in Lucknow (Cole, pp. 94 ff.; Hassan ul-Ameene, IV, pp. 189-90). The processions with the taʿzia (or tābut), a supposed reproduction of Ḥosayn’s tomb, are believed to have special qualities; the most precious ones have been kept in emāmbāras, and at the end of the celebrations the others have been buried in a local “Karbalā ground” (as may have been the case in Safavid Persia; Mrs Meer Hassan Ali’s Observations, p. 18; Jaʿfar Sharif, p. 182; Hollister, p. 173). The participants in the Shiʿite processional rituals, including Sunnites and Hindus, compete with each other in their acts of devotion. These affairs have often had a festive rather than mournful character, with much spectacular pageantry, including parading elephants, but a tradition of passion play performances has never developed here. By the mid-19th century, these Moḥarram rituals had been exported to the Caribbean island of Trinidad by Indian migrants (Korom and Chelkowski, pp. 150-75). Since the creation of Pakistan in 1947, there has been an effort to eliminate extraneous influences from the Moḥarram rituals and to revive the practice of extreme self-mortification.


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Moḥammad-Bāqer Majlesi, Beḥār al-anwār, Tehran, 1376-92/1956-72 (mostly within vols. 44 and 45).

For a bibliography of taʿzia as far as 1976, including passion play collections, see P. J. Chelkowski, “Biographical Spectrum,” in P. J. Chelkowski, ed., Taʿziyeh: Ritual and Drama in Iran, New York, 1979, pp. 255-68.

Studies. H. Algar, Religion and State in Iran, 1785-1906, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1969.

E. Allworth, “Masraḥ 5. Central Asia and Afghānistān,” in EI2. A. Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of the Babi Movement in Iran, 1844-1850, Ithaca and London, 1989.

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M. Ayoub, Redemptive Suffering in Islam, The Hague, 1978.

S. A. Arjomand, The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam, Chicago, 1984.

Idem., The Turban for the Crown: The Islamic Revolution in Iran, New York, 1988.

Idem., ed., Authority and Political Culture in Shiʿism, Albany, 1988.

Balʿami, tr. Zotenberg, IV, pp. 22 ff. A. Bausani, Persia religiosa, Milano, 1959; tr. J. M. Marchesi, Religion in Iran, New York, 2000, pp. 347-78.

J. Calmard, “Le Culte de l’Imam Husayn. Etude sur la commémoration du drame de Karbala dans l’Iran pré-safavide,” unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Sorbonne, Paris, 1975.

Idem, “Le chiisme imamite en Iran á l’époque seldjoukide d’aprés le Kitab al-naqd,” in Le monde iranien et l’Islam I, Geneva and Paris, 1971, pp. 43-67.

Idem, “Le mécénat de représentations de ta’ziyé, I. Les précurseurs de Nâseroddin Châh,” in Le monde iranien et l’Islam II, Geneva and Paris, 1974, pp. 73-126.

Idem, “Le mécénat de représentations de ta’ziyé II. Les débuts du régne de Nâseroddin Châh,” in Le monde iranien et l’Islam IV, Geneva and Paris, 1976-77a, pp. 133-62.

Idem, “L’Iran sous Nâseroddin Châh et les derniers Qâjârs,” in Le monde iranien et l’Islam IV, Geneva and Paris, 1976-77b, pp. 169-94, pp. 189 ff.

Idem, “Le patronage des taʿziyeh: Eléments pour une étude globale,” in P. J. Chelkowski, ed., Taʿziyeh: Ritual and Drama in Iran, New York, 1979, pp. 121-30.

Idem, “Moharram ceremonies and diplomacy: A preliminary study,” in C. E. Bosworth and C. Hillenbrand, eds., Qajar Iran 1800-1925: Political, Social and Cultural change, Edinburgh, 1983, pp. 213-28.

Idem, “Les rituels shiites et le pouvoir. L’imposition du shiisme safavide: eulogies et malédictions canoniques,” in J. Calmard, ed., Etudes safavides, Paris and Tehran, 1993, pp. 109-50.

Idem, “Shií Rituals and Power, II. The Consolidations of Safavid Shi’ism: Folklore and Popular Religion,” in C. Melville, ed., Safavid Persia, London, 1996, pp. 139-90.

Idem, “Mohammad b. al-Ḥanafiyya dans la religion populaire, le folklore, les légendes dans le monde turco-persan et indo-persan,” Cahiers d’Asie Centrale 5-6, 1998, pp. 202-20.

P. J. Chelkowski, “Popular Shi’i mourning rituals,” in Papers from the Imam Husayn Conference, al-Ṣerāṭ 12,1986, pp. 209-26.

Idem, “From Maqātil literature to Drama,” Papers from the Imam Husayn Conference, al-Ṣerāṭ 12, 1986, pp. 227-64.

Idem, “Narrative Painting and Painting Recitation in Qajar Iran,” Muqarnas 6, 1989, pp. 99-111.

Idem, “Rawḍa-Khwāni” and “Taʿziya,” in EI2. L. Clarke, “Elegy (Marthiya): Arabic and Persian,” in Papers from the Imam Husayn Conference, al-Ṣerāṭ 12, 1986, pp. 13-28.

J. R. I. Cole, Roots of North Indian Shiʿism in Iran and Iraq, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1988.

J. R. I. Cole and N. Keddie, eds., Shiʿism and Social Protest, New Haven, 1986.

D. K. Crow, “The death of al-Husayn b. ʿAli and early Shiʿi views on the Imamate,” Papers from the Imam Husayn Conference, al-Ṣerāṭ 12, 1986, pp. 71-116.

F. Daftary, The Ismā-ʿīlīs: Their History and Doctrines, Cambridge, 1990.

B. A. Donaldson, The Wild Rue, London, 1938.

W. Ende, “The Flagellations of Muḥarram and the Shiʿite ʿUlamāʾ,” Der Islam 55/1, 1978, pp. 19-36.

M. V. Fontana, Iconografia dell’Ahl al-Bayt. Imagini di arte persiana dal XII al XX secolo, Supp. 78 to AIUON 54/1, 1994.

M. J. Fischer, Iran: From Religious Dispute to Revolution, Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1980, pp. 170 ff.

W. L. Hanaway, “Marthiya, 2. In Persian Literature,” in EI2. J. A. Haywood, “Marthiya, 4. In Urdu Literature,” in EI2. Hassan ul-Ameene, Islamic Shiʿite Encyclopedia, 4 vols., Beirut, 1968-73.

J. N. Hollister, The Shiʿa of India, London, 1953, pp. 164-77.

Ṣādeq Homāyuni, Taʿzia dar Irān, Shiraz, 1368 Š./1989.

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J. Korom and P. Chelkowski, “Community Process and the Performance of Moḥarram Observances in Trinidad,” The Drama Review 38/2, 1994, pp. 150-75.

A. Kovalenko, Le martyre de Husayn dans la poésie populaire d’Iraq, Geneva, 1979.

R. Loeffler, Islam in Practice. Religious Beliefs in a Persian Village, Albany, 1988.

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H. Massé, Croyances et coutumes persanes, 2 vols., Paris, 1938, I. pp. 12-136.

I. Mélikoff, “Le Drame de Kerbela dans la littérature épique turque,” Revue des Etudes islamiques, 1966, pp. 133-48.

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The taʿzia (literally “mourning”) is a dramatic form which Shiʿite Muslims in Persia have created to commemorate the tragedy of Ḥosayn ebn ʿAli, and thus it is comparable to the Christian passion play. It is the only significant drama that developed in the Islamic world before contemporary theater, which was introduced there along with many other Western influences in the mid-19th century. The taʿzia emerged as an original dramatic form out of stationary and ambulatory mourning rituals that had become established as part of the commemoration of Ḥosayn’s martyrdom at Karbalāʾ in the month of Moḥarram (see ḤOSAYN B. ʿALI ii. In Popular Shiʿism). Once Shiʿite Islam was enforced by the Safavids as the state religion of Persia in the sixteenth century, royal patronage ensured that the Moḥarram festival would assume a central position in Persian cultural and religious identity, and thus it became a unifying force for the nation. When the stationary and ambulatory aspects of the ritual merged in the mid-18th century, taʿzia was born as a distinct type of musical drama.

Like Western passion plays, taʿzia dramas were originally performed outdoors at crossroads and other public places where large audiences could gather. Performances later took place in the courtyards of inns and private homes, but eventually unique structures called Ḥosayniyas, or takias,were constructed for the specific purpose of staging the plays. Community cooperation was encouraged in the building and decoration of the takias, whether the funds for the enterprise were provided by an individual philanthropist or by contributions from the residents of its particular locality. The takias varied in size, from intimate structures which could only accommodate a few dozen spectators to large buildings capable of holding an audience of more than a thousand people. Often the takias were temporary, having been erected specially for the observance of the Moḥarram festival. During this festival period, the takias were lavishly decorated with the prized possessions of the local community. Refreshments were prepared by women and served to the spectators by the children of affluent families. Takia-ye Dawlat, the Royal Theater in Tehran, was the most famous of all the taʿzia performance spaces. Built in the 1870s by Nāṣer-al-Din Shah, the Royal Theater’s sumptuous magnificence surpassed that of Europe’s greatest opera houses in the opinion of many Western visitors.

In contrast to the richness of the theater decoration, taʿzia stage décor and props are quite stark. All takias, regardless of their size, are constructed as theaters-in-the-round to intensify the dynamic between actors and audience: the spectators are literally surrounded by the action and often become physical participants in the play (in unwalled takias, it is not unusual for combat scenes to occur behind the audience).

The main drama occurs on a raised, curtainless platform in the center of a building or courtyard. Subplots and battles take place in a sand-covered, circular band of space around the stage. Actors frequently jump off the stage into this space to mark the passage of time or a journey, and scene changes are indicated when a performer circles the platform. If there are auxiliary stages that extend into the audience, they serve as settings for scenes of special significance. Corridors running from the stage through the seating area serve as passageways for troops, messengers, and animals. The starkness of the stage represents the barrenness of the desert plain at Karbalāʾ. Props are few and largely symbolic: the Euphrates River is denoted by a basin of water; a tree branch indicates a grove of palms. More utilitarian props, such as chairs or bedding and cooking utensils, are carried onstage by the actors, or even by members of the audience.

Costumes are also meant to be representational. Although fabulously elegant stage attire was common at the Royal Taʿzia Theater during the reign of Nāṣer-al-Din Shah, there was no attempt to make the actors’ garments historically accurate. The main goal of costume design was to help the spectators identify a character and his nature by his clothing. This practice has continued, with certain characters adopting the prevailing fashions of their own time for their particular roles. Thus, an actor in Nāṣer-al-Din Shah’s era playing a 7th-century Western ambassador wore a frock coat—the standard diplomatic outfit of the 19th century; since World War II, the same ambassador could be seen wearing a British military uniform. Performers in women’s parts wear baggy black garments which cover them from head to toe. Since female roles are played by men, the voluminous robes and veils serve to conceal this fact. Additional clues to a character’s identity can be discerned through various accessories, in that sometimes a learned character wears reading glasses, while a villain appears in sunglasses (reflecting perhaps the worldwide influence of American gangster films). Color symbolism further helps the audience to recognize different dramatic personalities and situations. When a white cloth is put on a protagonist’s shoulders or he dons a white shirt, it is understood to represent a shroud, thus indicating to the audience that he will soon be martyred.

An even more obvious indication of a character’s disposition is apparent in the way that he delivers his dialogue: in the taʿzia, protagonists sing, while antagonists recite. Dressed in red to symbolize blood and oppression, villains also often purposely overact by shrieking their lines in harsh, unpleasant voices. By contrast, the heroes sing their parts in the classical Persian modes and clothe themselves in the green color of the garden paradise. Traditionally, actors are chosen for their physical attributes. Protagonists playing Ḥosayn, for example, are expected to be tall with broad shoulders and fine beards. This sometimes leads to casting problems, however, since a fine singing voice is necessary to complement the strong physique of a hero. Young boys with good vocal skills, who begin to act by playing girls’ roles in the taʿzia, would therefore often assume the parts of heroic young men after their voices break. If a young actor does not attain the stature deemed appropriate for a heroic part or if his voice retains a feminine quality, he will continue to play one of the female characters.

Singers are accompanied by a variety of drums, trumpets, flutes, and cymbals. An orchestra can be quite substantial or consist of just a few musicians, depending on the financial resources or theatrical experience of the troupe. Drum music announces that the drama is about to begin. It may be repeated several times, particularly if the audience needs more time to assemble. Once the spectators have gathered, a fanfare is played as the actors file into the performance area in procession. This is followed by a short overture, which sets the mood for the play about to be performed. The drama opens with the piš-ḵᵛāni, or prologue, which presents a summary of the plot sung by the chorus. During the piš-ḵᵛāni everybody sings, including the antagonists. The chorus usually assembles in the main performance space, but it occasionally divides into two groups on either side of this area and sings alternate lines in antiphony (“call and response”). Throughout the play, programmatic instrumental music alternates with singing. These musical intervals set the mood or advance the action by indicating the passage of time. They also serve to cue a singer by establishing the particular dast-gāh, or mode, in which he is about to perform. He will then sing the scene a cappella.

According to many scholars of music, it is thanks to the taʿzia that much of the classical Persian repertoire has survived. But just as Western influences are evident in taʿzia costumes, they are also prominent in the musical elements of the drama. During the zenith of the taʿzia in the latter part of the 19th century, the first polytechnic college, called Dār al-fonun (q.v.), was founded in Iran and staffed by foreign instructors. The curriculum consisted largely of military subjects, which included band music. Eventually, quite a number of these marches found their way into the repertory of the takia theaters.

It is the responsibility of the taʿzia director to supervise the music and assemble an orchestra. In addition, he acts as the producer, stage manager, prompter, public relations man, and financial director. He is truly a “Renaissance man” of the theater, not only supervising the drama itself, but also making the necessary arrangements with the local authorities and accounting for the financial returns. Always onstage during a performance, the director makes sure that the production runs smoothly and oversees the interaction of actors, musicians, and audience. His ubiquitous presence is not distracting to the spectators, as he is seen as an integral part of the taʿzia drama.

In his role as prompter, the director cues actors and helps children and inexperienced players with their lines. In the past, actors used to read their lines from crib sheets held in their palms, indicating that they were merely role-carriers with no personal connections to the characters they portrayed. Today most performers learn their roles by heart (if they don’t, they refrain from conspicuously referring to their notes). While traditionally the director was responsible for eliciting strong emotions of grief and sadness from the audience by the manner in which the production was staged, it is today more the responsibility of the actors to provide a cathartic experience for the spectators. Influenced heavily by the realistic acting of modern film and television, taʿzia actors no longer distance themselves from the characters that they are playing, but throw themselves wholeheartedly into their roles. Often the performers identify so strongly with their parts that they are swept away by their situations. In turn, the audience is caught up in an atmosphere of genuinely powerful emotions.

The plays devoted to the tragedy at Karbalāʾ and its surrounding events form the core of the taʿzia repertory. Although the massacre of Ḥosayn and his followers historically took place on one day, the tenth of Moḥarram, the battle is divided into many different episodes performed on separate days. The only fixed play in the Moḥarram repertory is the martyrdom of Ḥosayn on the tenth, or Āšurā (q.v.); others can be performed in varying sequences. Usually, the cycle begins on the first day of Moḥarram with a play commemorating the death of Ḥosayn’s emissary to Kufa, Moslem b. ʿAqil. This is followed by a daily progression of plays, each devoted to the martyrdom of different members of Ḥosayn’s family or his companions. In these dramas, a hero takes on the entire enemy force unassisted, while the remaining protagonists gather on the central stage to reflect on their fate and deliver comments of a philosophical and religious nature. Each play contributes to the gradually increasing emotional build-up in anticipation of the supreme sacrifice of Ḥosayn, the “Prince of Martyrs.” Ḥosayn’s death does not always conclude the essential taʿzia repertory. Performances may continue after Āšurā to depict the sorrowful destiny of the female members of Ḥosayn’s family, who were taken as captives to Damascus.

Over time, new plays that depicted the sacrifices of Shiʿite martyrs before and after the massacre at Karbalāʾ were added to the taʿzia collection. Based on the Koran, the Hadith, legends, and current events, these productions provided an opportunity to extend the performance of taʿzia dramas throughout the year. Even these non-Moḥarram plays, however, retain a connection to the tragedy at Karbalāʾ through a dramatic device known as goriz, or digression. Within a particular play, the goriz may be a direct verbal reference to Ḥosayn’s martyrdom, or a brief scene depicting an aspect of his tragedy, or both. Through the goriz, all taʿzia drama expands beyond spatial and time constraints to merge the past and the present into one unifying moment of intensity, thus enabling the spectators to feel they are simultaneously in the performance space and at Karbalāʾ.

The number of taʿzia scripts is vast with new productions and local variations of established dramas constantly being added to the canon. The Cerulli collection at the Vatican Library contains over 1,055 taʿzia manuscripts. It is important to note that taʿzia scripts are rarely intended for reading, but solely for performing. Each part is written on narrow sheets of paper which the actor can hold in the palm of his hand. The theatrical context of the script, in conjunction with the setting, costumes, action, and musical and verbal elements, provides the standard for judging its value.

There is an amateur Moḥarram taʿzia tradition which exists alongside that of the professional taʿzia dramatic companies. Typically, a production of this kind is organized by a former professional taʿzia actor, who brings together the residents of a district to perform together for purely religious reasons. The dramatization of the death of Ḥosayn gives the participants an opportunity to exhibit their own sorrows and desires, as an expression of their faith, within an archetypal setting. Professional taʿzia productions today are usually commercial enterprises—fundamental social and political changes in Iran during the 20th century abolished the practice of artistic patronage on the individual and communal level such as had flourished in the past. In the 1930s, restrictions imposed by the government forced taʿzia performances to move from towns to rural areas. At present, professional troupes are often family-run businesses that move from place to place every two weeks, performing a different play every day and occasionally giving performances both in the afternoon and evening.

In the last fifty years or so, Europeans and Americans have traveled to Asia to experience the bond between actor and audience that is one of the hallmarks of the Eastern dramatic tradition. The most common destinations have been India and the Far East; but in the late 1960s Peter Brook, Jerzy Grotowski, and Tadeusz Kantor discovered taʿzia. Brook, in particular, was profoundly impacted by the dramatic possibilities of the Persian form. He explained: “I saw in a remote Iranian village one of the strongest things I have ever seen in theatre: a group of 400 villagers, the entire population of the place, sitting under the tree and passing from roars of laughter to outright sobbing—although they knew perfectly well the end of the story—as they saw Ḥosayn in danger of being killed, and then fooling his enemies, and then being martyred. And when he was martyred, the theatre form became truth” (Brook, p. 52). Brook went on to prove that Iranian dramatic conventions and cultural themes could be effectively transposed to the Western stage with his successful adaptation of a 12th-century mystical poem, The Conference of the Birds, as a theatrical play.

Jerzy Grotowski also borrowed from the taʿzia tradition to fuse dramatic action with ritual as a means of uniting actor and audience. However, his productions for the Laboratory Theater carefully controlled the dynamic between the players and the spectators by imposing limits on space, audience size, and seating placement. Taʿzia, in contrast, retains a fundamental principle of intimacy without placing any constraints on the size of the performance space or the number of spectators. This is le théâtre total. In the words of Benjamin, the first American envoy to Iran, “Taʿzia is an interesting exhibition of the dramatic genius of the Persian race.”


A. Bausani, “Drammi popolari inediti persiani … ,” in Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi Etiopici, Rome, 1960, pp. 167-209.

Bahrām Bayżāʾi, Nemāyeš dar Irān, Tehran, 1965.

E. Bertel’s, “Persidskiĭ Teatr,” Vostochniĭ Teatr IV, Leningrad, 1924, (entire volume).

Peter Brook, “Leaning on the Moment: A Conversation with Peter Brook,” Parabola 4/2, May 1979, p. 52.

J. Calmard, “Le mécénat de représentations de ta’ziyé, I. Les précurseurs de Nâseroddin Châh,” in Le monde iranien et l’Islam II, Geneva and Paris, 1974, pp. 73-126.

P. Chelkowski, ed., Ta’ziyeh: Ritual and Drama in Iran, New York, 1979.

Idem, “Shia Muslim Processional Performances,” The Drama Review 29/3, New York, 1985, pp. 18-30.

A. Chodzko, Théâtre persan, Paris, 1878.

Abbé R. H. de Generet, Le Martyre d’Ali Akbar, Liežge and Paris, 1946.

Ṣādeq Homāyuni, Taʿzia dar Irān, Shiraz, 1989; revised ed., Shiraz, 2001.

F. J. Korom and P. Chelkowski, “Community Process and the Performance of Moḥarram Observances in Trinidad,” The Drama Review 38/2, 1994, pp. 150-75.

A. Krymski, Perskiĭ Teatr, Kiev, 1925.

W. Litten, Das Drama in Persien, Berlin, 1929.

P. Mamnoun, Schi’itisch-Persisches Passionsspiel, Wien, 1967.

D. Monchi-Zadeh, Ta’ziya: das Persisches Passionsspiel, Stockholm, 1967.

H. Müller, Studien zum Persischen Passionsspiel, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1966.

Papers from the Imam Husayn Conference, al-Ṣerāṭ 12, 1986.

L. Pelley, The Miracle Play of Hasan and Husain, 2 vols., London, 1879.

M. C. Riggio, ed., Ta’zi-yeh: Ritual and Popular Beliefs in Iran, Hartford, Conn., 1988.

E. Rossi and A. Bombaci, Elenco di drammi religiosi persiani, Vatican City, 1981 (catalogue of the collection of taʿzia plays [1,055 manuscripts] housed in the Bibilioteca Apostolica Vaticana).

ʿEnāyat-Allāh Šahidi and ʿAli Bolukbāši, Taʿzia wa taʿzia-ḵᵛāni dar Tehrān, Tehran, 2001.

Ch. Virolleaud, Le Théâtre persan, Paris, 1950.

Figure 1. Šemr, the arch villain in a processional taʿzia, Mehriz, 1977.

FIGURE 1. Šemr, the arch villain in a processional taʿzia, Mehriz, 1977.FIGURE 1. Šemr, the arch villain in a processional taʿzia, Mehriz, 1977.

Figure 2. Parda-ye taʿzia, representing the tragedy of Karbalā.

FIGURE 2. Parda-ye taʿzia, representing the tragedy of Karbalā.FIGURE 2. Parda-ye taʿzia, representing the tragedy of Karbalā.

Figure 3. ʿĀšurā, oil painting by Muḥammad Modabber, 1960s.

FIGURE 3. ʿĀšurā, oil painting by Muḥammad Modabber, 1960s.FIGURE 3. ʿĀšurā, oil painting by Muḥammad Modabber, 1960s.

Figure 4. Taʿzia, “Bāzār-e Šām,” Takiya-ye Moʿāwen-al-Molk, Kermānšāh, 1999.

FIGURE 4. Taʿzia, “Bāzār-e Šām,” Takiya-ye Moʿāwen-al-Molk, Kermānšāh, 1999.FIGURE 4. Taʿzia, “Bāzār-e Šām,” Takiya-ye Moʿāwen-al-Molk, Kermānšāh, 1999.

Figure 5. A Moḥarram penitent, after B. Vereschquine, Voyage dans les Provinces de Caucase, Paris, 1869.

FIGURE 5. A Moḥarram penitent, after B. Vereschquine, Voyage dans les Provinces de Caucase, Paris, 1869.FIGURE 5. A Moḥarram penitent, after B. Vereschquine, Voyage dans les Provinces de Caucase, Paris, 1869.

Figure 6. A tile panel illustrating self-flagellation, Takiya-ye Moʿāwen-al-Molk, Kermānšāh.

FIGURE 6. A tile panel illustrating self-flagellation, Takiya-ye Moʿāwen-al-Molk, Kermānšāh.FIGURE 6. A tile panel illustrating self-flagellation, Takiya-ye Moʿāwen-al-Molk, Kermānšāh.

Cite this page
Wilferd Madelung, Jean Calmard and Peter Chelkowski, “ḤOSAYN B. ʿALI”, in: Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, © Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. Consulted online on 31 May 2023 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2330-4804_EIRO_COM_3193>
First published online: 2020
First print edition: 20041215

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