Friends asked, once I was back home after my second trip to India, what had impressed me most in my work with Hyderabad’s Shiites. The hospitality, was my immediate reply; that, and the willingness of most of the men I encountered to talk to me and welcome me to their family chapels. Looking back now over two Muharram seasons, however, and having had more time for reflection, I would add something else: I was impressed by the immediacy of Karbala for Hyderabadi Shiites. Husain’s death is no historical datum from the remote past; it generates a sense of injury, of something gone wrong with the world. This community guards a lively awareness of the violence inflicted on the Imam and the persecution visited on his followers down to the present day. Untiringly my hosts would recount for me each indignity suffered by Husain thirteen centuries ago, each blow that struck him and where it fell; and I sometimes had the feeling that we were talking about something from just yesterday, as if these were things that had befallen an immediate acquaintance or family member. And so in a sense they were. “We want the world to know, we want the world to see our side of things,” as one informant said in describing the wrongful usurpation of the caliphate by the Umayyads; and in fact many of the men I interviewed were eager for me to write down notes and take photographs of the liturgies I witnessed.
KeywordsWorld Community Persian Gulf Region Sudanese Government Hostage Crisis Sacrificial Victim
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