Tazyeen 1445 H

Human existence is fraught with difficulty, and in his trying times man resorts to people, places, and objects that offer protection. As Nabi Yaʿqub AS said to his children, however, the greatest of protectors is Allah Taʿala. 

Allah is the best Protector, and He is the Most Merciful of the merciful (12:64)

Graciously, Allah Taʿala has vested his beloved Awliyaʾ AS with this power of protection, and throughout the ages, they have become living embodiments of this ayat shareefa

With the establishment of Islam, Rasul Allah SAW was charged with protecting the Ummah and the new faith. This protection was earned through various means, but included also the donning and maintaining of a number of defensive arsenal, both as functionary objects to be physically employed when needed, but also symbolic icons that represented the philosophy of protection. 

Several historical narratives establish the great importance Rasul Allah SAW and his legatee and wasi Amirul Mumimeen Maulana Ali AS gave towards defensive protection during battle. During the battle of Uhud, when companions delayed in responding to Rasul Allah’s SAW instruction to hold on engaging in battle, insisting instead to confront the enemy, Rasul Allah SAW donned his armour. Realising their error in not heeding Rasul Allah’s SAW wishes, they later returned to say that the Nabi should act as he saw fit, and hold off from battle and seek refuge in Madina. However, Rasul Allah SAW had already worn his armour. In a statement that explains the significance of the haqq na saheb donning his armour and the powerful symbolism this entails, he declared “When a nabi dons his armour, he does not return until the battle is over.” 

Amirul Mumineen Maulana Ali AS always wore his armour on the front and never on his back. When asked why this was so he stated that, “If I were to ever turn my back to my enemy, then he can do what he wants.’ In the battles of Jamal and Siffeen,  Maulana Ali AS wore an armour called Dhaat al-Fudool, which belonged to Rasul Allah SAW, who had also bequeathed to him Dhu al-Fiqaar, the famed sword that was with Imam Husain AS in Karbala as well.

The shahzadas of Rasul Allah SAW and Maulana Ali AS, the Fatimi Imams AS inherited the mantle of protection. After founding the city of Qahira (Cairo), one way this responsibility of protection manifested itself was through a special treasury in the palace known as Dār al-Ṣināʿa (arsenal), where priceless arms, shields and coats of mail were safeguarded. Historians report that Aimmat Fatimiyeen AS  would regularly visit this arsenal to look into its affairs and had appointed special officials to oversee its operations. They would give instructions on how to preserve and maintain their equipment, and issue directives on their proper and most efficient usage. Al-Qadi al-Rashid b. Zubayr narrates in Kitab al-Zakhaair wa al-tuhf that during the reign of al-Imam al-Hakim AS a special shield known as al-ʿAsjada was displayed in a prominent location in the ceremonial hall of the Fatimi palace. The shield was made entirely of gold and ornamented with exquisite jewels. Its surface was so brilliant that when the sun’s rays struck it, no onlooker could behold it lest it blind him. 

During the golden era of the Fatimi Imams AS, extraordinary pieces of armour were proudly showcased and exhibited in processions and other celebrations, strengthening the symbolism of the philosophy of protection discussed above. A customary practice during these processions involved a high-ranking official from the Imam’s court bearing and walking with a gold-encrusted armour known as “al-Dirqat.” Historical records indicate that this armour originally belonged to Maulana Hamza AS, the beloved paternal uncle of the Nabi Mohammed SAW, and was subsequently inherited by Aimmat Fatimiyeen AS.

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Awliya Allah AS protect Mumineen both physically and spiritually.    Remembering them, recalling their name, in fact, their very presence, are shields and armour that protect Mumineen from every conceivable threat of attack and danger. In particular, the remembrance of Imam Husain AS and his matam are the best means of hifazat and protection. The tazyeen of this year’s Ashara Mubaraka majaalis commemorates the protection Mumineen are provided by the virtue of Awliya Allah AS and the zikr of Imam Husain AS

In order to represent this philosophy and phenomenon of protection, the central backdrop behind al-Dai al-Fatimi Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin’s TUS takht mubarak was designed to show two distinctive means of protection: a shield and a coat of armour. 

As discussed above, shields and armour feature regularly in Fatimi history. The form and design of both objects in the backdrop were determined by historical references and descriptions. The circular shape and design of the shield, which is in front of the coat of armour, was determined by representations of shields found in drawings, carvings and paintings dating to the Fatimi era. In particular, the circular shield motif on Bab al-Nasr was a primary source of inspiration. The shield has been decorated with motifs found on the Fatimi gate of Victory, Bab al-Futuh, and Fatimi era ornamental jewellery, and utilises gold, silver, precious stones, enamel inlay, and leather in its fabrication. During the Fatimi times, the craft and beautification of arms and armour was a major forum of artistic expression, and the objects were valued not only for their function, but their aesthetics and appearance as well. The adornment of the backdrop’s shield suggests that the zikr of Awliyaʿ Allah AS and matam and buka of Imam Husain AS are not only spiritual means of protection but an elegant way to adorn our souls, as expressed by Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS in his recently composed marthiya mubaraka.

The medallion at the centre of the shield has been inspired by the design of a pendant dating to the Fatimi era (originally excavated from Fustat, but today found at the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo)  which features elegant Kufic script and beautiful use of decorative enamel inlay. The pendant is arranged along three horizontal sections. The central and broadest section comprises a Quranic inscription which reads, “Only Allah is the best Protector” (12:64). This inscription is written in white, decorated in red and placed against an ash-green background. The sections above and below the inscription are decorated with vegetal motifs, a branch more specifically, depicted in red and set against a green background.
The shield consists of three bands surrounding the medallion. The first band contains the first verse of Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin’s marthiya mubaraka “dhikr al-Husain Khayr zaad al-zakireen”  and the second band is decorated with motifs from Bab al-Futuh and inspired by Fatimi era jewellery. The outermost band in burgundy leather is fashioned with tear shaped motifs and the inscription of “Ya Husain”.

Just as a shield precedes a coat of armour, the backdrop’s shield is split in half and removed when al-Dai al-Fatimi Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS commences waʿz mubarak in order to reveal the armour coat of mail behind. The golden medallion containing the Quranic ayat shareefa “Allah is the best Protector” rotates and reveals a medallion containing the names of Panjatan. This series of automated movements demonstrates that the key to securing Allah’s Protection, represented by the shield and medallion, is by adhering to the Panjatan AS, the Fatimi Imams, and their Duat Mutlaqeen AS, the names of whom are found inscribed all over the chain armour.

Like the shield, the backdrop’s chain armour draws inspiration from textual and historical references rooted in Fatimi and Islamic history. This chain mail armour features interlocking rings designed to resemble the patterns commonly found in Fatimi stucco grills from the jawamiʿ of Cairo. The armour’s interconnected weave incorporates the names of the Fatimi Imams AS, suggesting their silsila will remain connected and unbroken until the Day of Qiyaamat. The armour’s border is embellished with the sacred names of Duat Mutlaqeen AS fabricated in gold and handsome specimens of carnelian (aqeeq). Additionally, the flaps to the right and left of the armour are inspired by motifs from the archway of Bab al-Futuh, another potent symbol of Fatimi protection that has stood strong for over a 1000 years. 

In addition to the shield and chain armour, the central backdrop features this year’s ayat shareefah, the name for this year’s ʿAshara Mubaraka majaalis, and barakati remnants from the shrines of Maulana Ali AS and Imam Husain AS. Shield-shaped motifs from Bab al-Nasr, the Gate of Divine Assistance, are also found throughout the backdrop.

Burhani Masjid’s interiors are adorned with carefully selected excerpts from kalimaat nooraniya that emphasise the concept of protection found in Imam Husain’s AS zikr and matam. These excerpts are complemented with verses from various maraathi mubaraka, elegiac compositions, which work together harmoniously to elevate and enrich the overall spiritual ambience of this sacred space.

Imam Husain AS, his blessed progeny the Fatimi Imams AS, and the revered Duat Mutlaqeen AS have tirelessly worked to shield and safeguard Mumineen from the challenges and the upheavals of this temporal world. Their dedicated efforts ensure that Mumineen remain steadfast in their faith, and their exemplary lives serve as a perpetual source of inspiration and protection for the faithful, both in this world and the hereafter. In today’s ever-changing world, their successor, al-Dai al-Ajal al-Fatimi Syedna Aali Qadr Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS, assumes the vital role of being the custodian of their heritage and guardian of their faith and its followers. Like a protective shield, he defends and supports them, acting as an armour of support and assurance. The gatherings of ʿAshara Mubaraka bear witness to the remarkable exhibits of protection and sanctuary that envelop all those who partake in the remembrance and matam of Imam Husain in the blessed company of Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal TUS

May Allah Taʿala bestow upon such a protector a long and prosperous life till the Day of Qiyamat, and may Mumineen continue to be protected and guarded under his benevolent and generous guidance.