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The Shiites pp 83-98 | Cite as

Shiite Men’s Guilds of Hyderabad: An Overview

  • David Pinault

Abstract

Initially it was difficult for me to learn much about the guruhan; the first few people I consulted were well-to-do, educated Sunnis and Shiites, who dismissed these organizations as composed of ignorant uneducated men who knew nothing about the true nature of Islam or the forms of worship actually required by the religion. When I pressed such critics for their specific objections, they singled out the unnecessary emotion and violence with which—according to these critics—the associations perform acts of self-mortification in public. Of course many of the practices related to Muharram in general have repeatedly been criticized by some educated Shiites, and foreign visitors have occasionally encountered a reluctance to discuss Muharram ritual on the part of those Muslims who feel such practices have nothing to do with orthodox Islamic observances. Sir Richard Temple, British Resident at the court of the nizam of Hyderabad, made the following entry in his journal under the date of May 14, 1867:

In the evening I went out driving to see the tazia processions by torchlight in Chadarghat. The usual crowds and detachments of the Nizam’s troops were present. About midnight the torchlight procession of the “Na’l Sahib” took place. I wrote to the Minister to know if it was worth seeing, but he replied that it was attended only by the lowest class of the population.1

Keywords

Private Home Islamic Republic Foreign Visitor Divine Command Islamic Revolution 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Richard Temple, Journals Kept in Hyderabad, Kashmir, Sikkim, and Nepal (Delhi: Cosmo Publications reprint, 1977). In two volumes; volume 1, 122. First published in 1887.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    For the changes in Hyderabad’s Muslim population after the 1948 Police Action see Ratna Naidu, Old Cities, New Predicaments: A Study of Hyderabad (Delhi: Sage Publications, 1990), 23–25.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    For an example of moth/flame imagery from thirteenth-century Persian Sufi poetry, see Farid al-Din Attar, Mantiq al-tayr, lines 3987–4004; translated by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis in The Conference of the Birds (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1984), 206.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Those interested in the subject may wish to consult Barbara Daly Metcalf, ed., Moral Conduct and Authority: The Place of Adab in South Asian Islam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    The admission criteria stipulated in Parwaneh Shabbir’s application form—the promise of obedience and the emphasis on proper deportment towards fellow members—are to a limited extent reminiscent of the ideals of the urban futuwwah organizations once active at various periods in medieval Islamic history. See Claude Cahen and Fritz Taeschner, s.v. “Futuwwa,” Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1965), vol. 2, 961–969.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    For an example of Shiite exegesis of this Quranic passage see A. F. Badshah Husain, The Holy Quran: A Translation with Commentary According to Shia Traditions and Principles (Lucknow: Madrasatul Waizeen, 1936), volume 2, p. 67. A copy of this text was very graciously presented to me as a gift in Lucknow by the Maharajkumar of Mahmudabad.Google Scholar

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© David Pinault 1992

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  • David Pinault

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