The Etymology of Tazyeen

This article will explore the etymology of the Arabic word tazyīn, focusing on the various meanings of zīnat and how they relate to the zikr of Imam Husain AS.

The word tazyīn is derived from the trilateral root z-y-n. The most common verb form of this root is form II, zayyana, which means ‘to adorn, decorate, embellish, or ornament.” Similarly, the word zīnat is a verbal noun which means “adornment, decoration, embellishment, or ornament.’ In a prophetic injunction, Rasul Allah SAW elucidates the essence of all zīnat. He states:

زينوا القران بأصواتكم فما شيء احب الي من الترنم بالقراْن

Embellish the Quran with your voices, for there is no sound I adore more than the melody of the Quran.

In a similar fashion, al-Daʿi al-Ajal al-Fatimi Syedna Mohammed Burhanudin RA beckons Mumineen to the call of ‘Ya Husain’. He states:

يا قوم قولوا ثم قولوا ياحسين * فاحب صوت نحو سمعي يا حسين

My followers, say and say again ‘Ya Husain’, for there is not a sound more pleasing to my ears than [the words] ‘Ya Husain’.

When read together, the hadith and the poetic verse exemplify the timeless connection between the recitation of the Quran Thaamit (Silent Quran) and the remembrance of the Quran Naatiq ( Speaking Quran). By decorating their voices with the chant of ‘Ya Husain’ and recalling the tragedy of the Imam AS who was torn to shreds on the Day of ʿAashura, Mumineen receive the barakat of reciting the Quran.

The word zīnat also takes on the meaning of libaas (clothes). Libas al-Anwar has become a distinguishing marker of the Dawood Bohra community. It is not by coincidence that al-Daʿi al-Ajal al-Fatimi Syedna Mohammed Burhanudin RA expressed his desire that 10,000 Mumineen men and women come to attend Ashara Mubaraka in the newly restored al-Jami al-Anwar in Cairo at the turn of the 15 century Hijri. Just as Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal RA restored the community’s outward identity by granting them a single attire, so too did he restore their spiritual identity by clothing them in the garbs of grief and mourning of Syed al-Shuhada AS.

Finally, the term yaum al-zīnat is used to describe the day of eid. The Day of ʿAashura is known as Eid al-Huzn wa al-Kaʿbat (The Eid of Mourning and Sorrow). Unlike the Ummayads who celebrate having successfully violated the sanctity of the house of Rasul Allah SAW, Mumineen recollect the atrocities that befell Imam Husain AS, the members of his household, and his companions on the scorching sands of Karbala. By adorning their eyes with tears and embellishing their chests with matam, they purge themselves of their sins and thereby acquire the true meaning of eid—a return of the soul to its heavenly abode.

As the sun sets on the year 1441H and the dawn of the new year nears, Daʿi al-Imam al-Husain, al-Daʿi al-Ajal al-Fatimi Syedna Maulana Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS beckons Mumineen to prepare with both body and spirit for the blessed days of ʿAshara Mubaraka. This year he has instructed his followers to perform the tasbeeh of ‘Ya Husain’ one-thousand times daily. Furthermore, all Mumineen are to partake in preparing tazyīn for their homes so as to create an atmosphere of mourning and lamentation.

May Allah Ta’ala grant our beloved Maula, Syedna Abu Ja’far us Sadiq Aali Qadr Mufaddal Saifuddin a long life in happiness and health. And may He grant us the tawfīq to prepare for the days of Ashara Mubaraka by adorning both our hearts and homes with the zikr of Imam Husain AS.