Throughout every epoch, Awliya Allah AS have emphasised the significance of the Day of ʿAashura. Historical reports provide glimpses of how ʿAashura was commemorated during the period of Aimmat Fatimiyeen’s AS zuhoor. One of the most telling reports in this regard is recorded by al-Dai al-Ajal Syedna al-Qadi al-Nuʿman RA (d. 363/974) in his Kitab al-Majaalis wa al-Musayaraat. Maulana al-Imam al-Muʿizz AS (d. 365/975), the 14th Fatimi Imam, instructed Syedna al-Qadi al-Nuʿman RA to proclaim in his Friday sermon the significance of ʿAashura and elucidate the manner in which it should be commemorated. Imam AS directed him to address those gathered in the following manner:
O, Believers! Pay reverence to this day [ʿAashura] which has been exalted by Allah Taʿala and follow the Sunnah of Prophet Mohammed SAW in its veneration. Do not celebrate it as a day of joy and pleasure like the sons of Marwan [of the Umayyads], who, instead of regarding it as a day of repentance and good deeds, celebrate it for having successfully violated Rasul Allah’s SAW sanctity and slaughtered Awliya Allah AS. May Allah’s mercy be upon those who perform virtuous deeds for their soul, follow the Prophet’s Sunnah and seek forgiveness from Allah. And [may Allah’s mercy be upon those who] do not neglect this exalted day by abstaining from commemorating the tragedy of the Prophet’s progeny, nor do they forget to say curses upon the oppressors.1
Al-Maqrizi (d. 845/1442), a medieval Egyptian historian, notes that in the Fatimi empire the Day of ʿAashura was marked as a day of grief and markets were shut.2 The chronicler al-Musabbihi (d. 422/1030), reports that on ʿAashura, people used to flock to al-Jamiʿ al-Azhar to wail and recite elegies commemorating Imam Husain AS. The gatherings culminated with a massive feast called the feast of grief. The historians Ibn al-Maʾmun and Ibn al-Tuwair (617/1220) mention that ʿadas (lentil) was included among the dishes served in this solemn meal. This relates to the popular Prophetic tradition cited in Fatimi texts which asserts that the consumption of ʿadas softens the heart.
A vivid image of how Mumineen living in the reign of Imam Mustansir AS (d. 427/1094), the 18th Fatimi Imam, were encouraged to explicitly express nawha and aweel in the zikr of Imam Husain AS can be observed in the majaalis authored by al-Dai al-Ajal Syedna al-Muʾayyad al-Shirazi RA (470/1078) on the occasion of ʿAashura. Each of his weekly sermons, the compilation of which is known as al-Majalis al-Mua’yyadiya, was first presented to Imam Mustansir AS for approval before being read out to select audiences. Even today, a millennium later, Syedna al-Muayyad’s RA heart-rending expressions of grief continue to inspire bukaʾ and matam when recited during Ashara Mubaraka.
The 20th Fatimi Imam, Imam al-Aamir AS (526/1132), presided over a congregation on the Day of ʿAashura from his qasr mubarak, seated on an uncushioned chair made of palm branches. The Imam AS wore a litham (veil) that day, and the reporter, Ibn al-Ma’mun, writes that sorrow and grief were clearly visible in his countenance. The chief qadi, the dai, and several other important figures of the Fatimi court were bestowed with the opportunity of Imam’s AS salaam on that day.3
Ibn al-Tuwair records that on the Day of ʿAashura, the royal carpets in the qasr would be replaced with straw mats.4 Continuing with this tradition, a haseer (straw mat) is laid on the takht for the maqtal on ʿAashura. On the day of ʿAashura, al-Dai al-Ajal Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA would state that today Imam al-Zaman AS, the present Fatimi Imam, like his forefathers in Misr, commemorates ʿAashura seated upon a mat made of straw and narrates the shahadat of Imam Husain AS. He would then add that the Imam AS casts his benevolent gaze towards each and every Mumin engrossed in the zikr of Imam Husain AS.5
Indeed, the annals of history have recorded the manner in which ʿAashura was commemorated during the period of zuhoor: the reports depicting the grieving congregations, the narrations of the tragedy of Karbala, the expressions of nawha and aweel in the majalis, the recitals of elegies, the Imam’s AS presence, the haseer, the feast of grief, and the closing down of markets in mourning, all testify to the commitment of Aimmat Fatimiyeen AS to the zikr of Imam Husain AS. Today, owing to the tireless efforts of al-Dai al-Ajal Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS, the traditions of Fatimi Aimmat AS in venerating the Day of ʿAashura are alive and vital.
- al-Dai al-Ajal Syedna al-Qadi al-Nu‘man RA, Kitaab al- Majalis wa’l-Musayarat, Pg. 436-7. ↩
- al-Dai al-Ajal Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS, al-Risala al-Sharifa Barakat Sibghat illah 1390/1970, Pg. 535. ↩
- See al-Dai al-Ajal Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS, al-Risala al-Sharifa Barakat Sibghat illah 1390/1970, Pg. 535; al-Maqrizi, al-Mawa‘iz wa-l-I‘tibar bi-Dhikr al-Khitat wa’l-Athar Vol.2, Pg. 330. ↩
- al-Maqrizi, al-Mawa‘iz wa-l-I‘tibar bi-Dhikr al-Khitat wa’l-Athar Vol.2, Pg.331. ↩
- See al-Dai al-Ajal Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA, al-Iqtibasaat al-Nooraniya Majlis 9 1414; Majlis 10 1421; Majlis 9 1432. ↩