Send Over Some Tabarruk!

By Abu Abid

Oncha Rahe Apna Alam
Har Qalb Par Chaate Chalo
Duniya Ko Batlaate Chalo
Aik Aik Mahazir Zulm Ki
Tasveer Dikh Late Chalo
Har Dil Mein Bhar Do Sheh Ka Gham

Our flag must remain high
Move forth winning over every heart
Move forth telling the world
Of each and every incident of oppression
Move forth showing them the image
Fill every heart with the grief of Husayn

There is a unique set of values which Husayni youth are brought up.  In the sub-continent, these values have been weaved into the azadari culture which renews these values every year.  As we move away from the sub-continent and establish our lives in our new homelands, we are faced with the challenge of passing on these values to our children and sometimes to our brothers and sisters who may start to forget them.

This article is inspired by some recent discussions surrounding spending money on tabarruk taking place in our community.  One position is that we should spend less money on tabarruk so that we may spend the remaining amount on feeding the poor, while the other position maintains that such concessions should not be made in the case of tabarruk.  By shedding light on two values which are weaved into this eulogy, this article hopes to help the reader find a solution that they are agreeable to.

The first value that this verse teaches us is in the first line and in every line.  It speaks to us in imperative tense commanding us to do these things.  This means that we as Husaynis are not just attendees or participants in these majaalis.  We are the organizers and the ones who bear the responsibility of promoting this noble cause.  We will keep doing it until we have filled every heart with the love of Imam Husayn (as) and even then we will keep doing it.  It is our responsibility to make sure we invite everyone to our majaalis.  It is our responsibility to make sure these majaalis are successful.  It is our responsibility to make sure these majaalis are done in such a way that the attendees find value in them, want to come back to them and most importantly learn something from them which may inspire them to become like us some day.  We are a community that was born to promote the purpose of Imam Husayn (as).

The second value this verse teaches us is in the main line itself.  What does the poet mean by, “Oncha rahe apna alam?” (Our flag must remain high).  One way of understanding it is that the poet is saying when it comes to promoting the message of Imam Husayn (a), one should take pride in competition.  This is another value that we have been brought up with; that is, when it comes to doing good, competing to be the best is a good thing.  One could make the argument in such a situation that perhaps such a tall alam (flag) is not necessary and that is we chose to carry a shorter alam we would be able to save some money and potentially put it to a good cause somewhere else.  The fallacy in this argument is that it fails to recognize the good that the alam is not simply a cultural symbol.  It is a weapon that allows us to promote the message of Imam Husayn (as).

Having established that our purpose in life is to promote the message of Imam Husayn (a) and that competing to be the foremost in doing azadari is a good thing, we now come back to our topic.  Our naive friends that ask these questions about tabarruk are most likely not asking out of malicious intent.  When we are organizing a majlis, we know that everyone that attends that majlis is not at the same level of faith, but we still invite them.  Some of them may still see themselves as participants and attendees while we see ourselves as organizers.  Some of them may not even see the value of the message as we do.  We invite them because we know what the eulogy tells us later on in another verse, “Mazloom ki aavaaz hai, dil mein utar ti jaayegi.” (The voice of an oppressed, will reach into the depths of the hearts)  We know that attending these majaalis and hearing about the oppression of Imam Husayn (as) will win over their hearts and soon they too will turn.

Does this mean that we should not feed the poor? Absolutely not.  Showing mercy towards those less fortunate is one of the messages of Imam Husayn (a).  Someone explained it to me this way; when you feed the poor you are doing one good and when you give tabarruk after a majlis you are doing one good, but what is stopping you from doing both?  There are many poor people in this world who do not know the message of Imam Husayn (as).  Establish a forum where you invite those that are less fortunate and tell them the message of Imam Husayn (as) and the values this family has taught the world, and then pass out tabarruk in the name of Imam Husayn (as).

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4 thoughts on “Send Over Some Tabarruk!

  • “By shedding light on two values which are weaved into this eulogy, this article hopes to help the reader find a solution that they are agreeable to.”

    To the contrary the solution seems to be spoon fed to the readers, through the article.

    “It is our responsibility to make sure these majaalis are successful.”

    What is successful? This sentence is too vague

    “We are a community that was born to promote the purpose of Imam Husayn (as).”

    I thought we are a community who was born to submit ourselves to Allah. Didnt know we were so limited.

    “The second value this verse teaches us is in the main line itself. What does the poet mean by, “Oncha rahe apna alam?” (Our flag must remain high). One way of understanding it is that the poet is saying when it comes to promoting the message of Imam Husayn (a), one should take pride in competition. This is another value that we have been brought up with; that is, when it comes to doing good, competing to be the best is a good thing. One could make the argument in such a situation that perhaps such a tall alam (flag) is not necessary and that is we chose to carry a shorter alam we would be able to save some money and potentially put it to a good cause somewhere else. The fallacy in this argument is that it fails to recognize the good that the alam is not simply a cultural symbol. It is a weapon that allows us to promote the message of Imam Husayn (as).”

    I think the more suitable interpretation of the line is “May Imam’s message always be high”. I dont know where competition came from it is too vague of an interpretation which the author seems to be using for his own benefit. And about the alam. Please explain HOW it is a weapon that helps promote the message of Imam Husayn. By simply making an argument and creating a vague justification for that argument all answers are not solved. As far as Ive seen it looks more like its a weapon that promotes the message of bidda.

    The question of “tabarruk” can be tackled in a similar fashion. Although it is good Islamically to invite people and feed them. Lets also talk about the amount of food which is thrown away during muharram. The excessive spending (israaf) in any aspect of Islam is not allowed. If you spend $5000 on an alam which is tall and high, its most likely not going to become a weapon we can spread the message of Islam with especially in the west. Some cultural practices which were in the east are not suitable to be brought back in the west. We have to change according to times.

    The article talks about why we must bring these “not so cultural traditions” to the west when in fact they are fundamentally cultural. Whats the point of teaching your siblings and other “brothers and sisters” about alams? Lets look at the context of alams:

    – they were created to help spread islam and the message of Imam
    – they were created in India (A densely populated HINDU country which uses symbols such as idols to represent gods)
    – a symbolic representation of Islam gave them something they could relate to which was probably successful in that country and context

    Now whats the relation of Alam in Western society other than the fact that people who migrated from east have been accustomed to some what worshiping them even. In many parts of India, alams are the hindu idols of shias. I know this first hand, Ive lived it.

    As for the tabarruk, Islamically it has importance if used in right context and if no israaf is taking place. But the problem still stand with the fact that many people go to majaalis because of “tabarruk” not because of Imam. And the amount of food I’ve thrown with my own hands after majaalis throughout my life could have been fed to at least 100 people. This is a reformist issue not a fundamental tabarruk issue as per say. But I wanted to include it because we are on the topic of tabarruk.

  • “Now whats the relation of Alam in Western society other than the fact that people who migrated from east have been accustomed to some what worshiping them even. In many parts of India, alams are the hindu idols of shias. I know this first hand, Ive lived it.”

    It is funny that you should say this only days after Joannie Rochette was celebrated as Canada’s flag bearer @ the Olympics closing ceremoney for her “grace and courage”. You can read about it here:
    http://www.cbc.ca/olympics/story/2010/02/28/spo-olympics-flag-hamelin.html

    Everything can be used for good and for bad. To try and ‘invalidate’ the good in something by trying to give an example of someone using it for bad is not sound.

  • It is not a religious symbol. If non-muslims in the west see people kissing an alam or a jhoola or a horse, they cant relate to that. The argument still stands that some cultural traditions in the east were relevant in the east. Trying to play something cultural as part of Islam and as a necessity is biddah (no Im not a wahabi)

  • Dear Agha Mahdi,

    You seem to have taken my banter in passing to heart… Since we are getting into it, let’s clarify a few things…

    First of all, your definition of ‘biddah’ is not correct. Where did you find this definition?

    Second, it also seems based on your statement, “to play something cultural as part of Islam and as a necessity is biddah” that you are unaware that there is more than one type of biddat. Did you know there is such a thing as an obligatory biddah? (I too was shocked and awestruck when I first heard that) Then I found out there are things that are reccomended biddahs (bid’at al hasana).

    Third, you are correct that you are not a wahabi, but perhaps share a common understanding with the ‘boys of bin baz’ on the ‘belief’ that all types of biddat are bad and impermissible. Your statement above certainly seems to make it seem like you hold this belief. Is this true?

    Now that those three pesky points are taken care of, let’s talk about the real issue. Your point is built on a few faulty perceptions. The first perception that the ‘alam’ is an ‘eastern’ cultural tradition. This is not correct. An alam is a flag. A flag is used across the world. The example of Joannie Rochette is proof enough from the west to provide a proof by contradiction to the faulty premise that a flag is a cultural tradition of the east.

    You also mentioned that people in the west would not be able to relate to some of these things which you seem to dislike so much. Then you went on to further imply that non-muslims not being able to relate to something should prompt us to change our behaviour. What’s up with that? I think you may have not noticed that there are a lot of things we do which people in the ‘west’ cannot relate to. This is not reason enough to abandon my culture (or religion for that matter) or fall into some sort of an inferiority complex. Can you imagine the chaos that would cause. Excuse me Maulana, I need you to stop wearing so many rings. People keep mistaking you for an MTV rapper. And yes sisters, that ‘he-jaab’ you are wearing is making my redneck neighbours uncomfortable so we’re gonna need you to go ahead and take that off too. And listen brothers, you can’t just stand up at random place and start praying and prostrating on the ground. My non-muslim friends are not able to relate to that. Of course if you score a game winning touchdown and wish to fall to the ground in prostration, my nonmuslim friends have no problem with that.

    Have you been to any of the restaurants in Brampton at lunch time? You’ll find the Indian/Pakistani restaurants are more crowded than even the Canadian ones. Our pure-bred Canadian neighbours are not handicapped mentally. They have the ability to think, listen and read. Let’s not abandon our culture becuase ‘you’ do not understand it or are embarassed of it.

    You mentioned that the Canadian flag is not a religious symbol. Are you suggesting that you have never seen someone ‘non muslim’ kiss a religous symbol? If so, I’d like to introduce you to my friend youtube. That being said, I am of the opinon many people make ‘quasi-gods’ out of things which they aren’t willing to admit is a religion. When something other than God becomes the object of your obcession, it becomes an idol that you worship. This is why you see so often people kissing money, cars, pictures of women, jewelry, etc… These material things turn into a sort of golden cow.

    My response to your comments does not imply or suggest anything is a necessity in Islam. As a matter of fact, it does not even talk about Islam. You know what’s even funnier is that I did CNTRL+F and found that even the original article above doesn’t have the word ‘islam’ in it. lol.

    Here’s my point. An alam is an alam. It holds value because it is a symbol of timeless values taught to us. If it becomes the object of your worship, then you have stepped outside the boundaries of Islam. If it used for the correct purpose as a symbol of the heroic personality whose name it carries, then like the Canadian figure skater who would gladly kiss a flag of her country in honour of the sacrifices people before her gave to save that flag, I too would kiss that flag and hold it high in honour of those personalities who saved my religion for me. I kiss the Quran, but my intention is to kiss the Prophet (pbuh). I kiss the Alam, but my intention is to kiss the arms of Hazrat Abbas that were sacrificed for the sake of loyalty.

    My religion nor my culture is not so weak that it would need to keep changing based on my surroundings or public opinion. This is the fabric I am made of not some popularity contest. Dear Agha Mahdi, you may choose the path where you change your ways, but I am with Robert Frost on this one. I will take the path less taken and will change everyone else along the way.

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