Words Asma G.
Photograph Alifiya S.
Bostonian. Epidemiologist. Mehndi Artist. Photographer. Wife. Daughter. Sister. I like to believe I am a jack of all trades… and master of some.
The Joys of Sorrow Theme Blurb:
Ashara is around the corner. Indeed this Gregorian month will see us welcome it. It is for the individual to decide what readiness and what preparation means for them when it comes to the case; though united in attempts to ready each other through practice, the reality is the journey is an individual one. Blog posts this month will explore what anticipation and readiness our writers have for the greatest test on Earth.
When I visited my hometown for Eid earlier this year, I was excited to see friends and spend time with a community that is very close to my heart. As Eid-ul-Fitr approached, nostalgia was in the air as a month full of ibadat, yet again, went by too quickly. Emotions were swinging like a pendulum as the sadness of Sherullah ending were replaced with the anticipation of wearing new clothes and adorning my hands with mehndi. This year, however, Eid at home would involve another layer of feelings that I had not yet experienced. Ashara ohbat had started with full force. With only 3 short months left before Moharram, the community began to plan for 10 days of mourning, while celebrating the most festive time of year.
The jamaat took on the brave responsibility of preparing mumineen for Ashara through sight, sound, and touch in a way most had never experienced. A maaraz, or exhibition, was meticulously planned by volunteers in the jamaat. This maaraz aimed to solidify a month of ibadat and repentance and start the journey of preparing for Ashara Mubaraka. As I was a visitor, merely assisting in last minute details that weekend, I had the privilege of observing the attention to detail that was taken by the team to ensure every aspect of Ashara ohbat would be covered.
Within the masjid sehen, tents were erected closely modeling the grief-stricken khaimats by the River Furaat. Presentations played on a large screen TV, with noorani kalemaat and bayaan echoing through the room. Scenes were described over audio and through life size replicas, showing the chaotic environment of Karbala and troubles the family of Imam Hussain (AS) endured before and after Shahaadat. The last section of the maaraz included a bowl of sand on a hot plate and prickly rocks on the carpet, providing tactile examples of the zulm faced by Ahle Bayt (AS) as they journeyed from Karbala.
Words cannot begin to capture all that was displayed through this maaraz. But, my internal reactions to what I saw, felt, and heard, can hopefully provide others with a peek into the experience.
Having attended a dozen Ashara Mubarakas with our beloved Moulas (RA & TUS), I expected the maaraz to provide reinforcement of facts and feelings I had already felt in many past waazes. I figured the maaraz would include the privilege of hearing excerpts from last year’s waaz again and possibly some maps and explanations of Karbala. To the contrary, the maaraz gifted me so much more. Not only did I have the naseeb of listening to noorani kalemaat from years before, but every single aspect of Moula’s (TUS) description was portrayed in real life-size models. Arrows taller than me were splayed around the sehen floor. Torn and blood-spattered walls of tents hung from the ceiling. Detailed descriptions of the torture faced by little children played on the loudspeaker and rattled my core. I put in my hands the replicas of chains, shackles, and weapons that until now were only conveyed through words.
We, as mumineen, are fortunate to be able to learn of the events of Karbala directly from our Moula (TUS). Tears of sorrow flow naturally for many of us during the days of Ashara Mubaraka when our eyes are fixated on our one source of deeni fulfillment. It was my naseeb, though, this year to experience a true sense of preparation for the days of Ashara – three months in advance. As I exited the maaraz and resumed my role of helping to organize another group of visitors, I experienced a clash of emotions much like I did when Eid was approaching. However, this emotional response was much more vivid, deep and resounding. My heart filled with grief as all of my senses were enlightened. My eyes saw things that my brain had only acknowledged through sound before. My ears listened to a river flowing and the distant sound of children crying and fires blazing. My fingers and toes felt the roughness of hot sand and twigs on the floor.
But, I sensed a glimmer of joy within me as well. This joy was not superficially based on the excitement of clothes and mehndi, but instead on the sense of achievement I felt as I recognized a layer of grief that will surely prepare me for the days of Ashara Mubaraka.
My internal ohbat for an event that has been a constant in my life, had blossomed. Having seen, felt, and heard the tales of Karbala as early as Eid-ul-Fitr this year, my mind and body are ready for wherever Moula (TUS) takes us this year for Ashara Mubaraka. I am counting the days until I feel the satisfaction of sharing grief with my Moula (TUS). I am prepared.