Risālah al-Tanzīh li A’māl al-Shabīh by Āyatullah Muḥsin al-Amīn

Risālah al-Tanzīh li A’māl al-Shabīh (رسالة التنزيه لأعمال الشبيه) is a treatise written by Ayatullah Muhsin Al-Amin (~1868-1952) in 1927. The treatise was written specifically to prove the prohibition of blood rituals and he declared them to be innovations (bid’ah).

During the beginning of the late 19th century, a number of Iranian families had immigrated and settled in different cities of Lebanon as merchants, tobacco growers and coffeehouse owners. One lasting legacy of their presence was the introduction of Muharram mourning rituals, typically associated with Iran, such as self-flagellation and passion plays to Lebanese Shi’as. Passion plays in particular developed in Iran, from where they then spread to Iraq and then to Lebanon.

After Muhsin al-Amin wrote this treatise, denouncing them and deeming them contrary to the spirit of Islam, many rose to their defence and set off a polemic that lasts until today.

The work was translated into Farsi, by then a 20-year old seminarian in Iran named Jalal Al-e Ahmad. He published his first work in 1943 as a little booklet titled Azadariha-ye namashru’ (illegitimate mourning). The son of a cleric, this young seminarian had spent a few months in Najaf, where he had probably come across the book. Within two days the booklet was sold out, but the author’s joy was premature because it was determined later that the friends of his father had bought the entire stock to burn it.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Glory be to Allah (swt), who has made it obligatory upon us to repulse away sins to the best of our ability, whether it be by one’s heart, hands or tongue. The greatest sin is that when a man carries out an innovation in place of what has been recommended in the religion or considers a recommended act an innovation (and thus doesn’t perform it) and invites others towards it and promotes it.

Satan and his allies deceive people by that which has been established amongst them. Many religious people have been misguided through innovations presented as religion, and this is one of the best methods that Satan employs for misguidance. In fact, rarely will Satan and his allies not corrupt the religious ones through their acts of worship and adherence to the sunnah.

From those acts is the mourning upon Imam Hussain (as), which is a worship that has continued by the Shi’as from the time of Imam Hussain till today. When Satan and his allies see the advantages and benefits of this worship, and realize that they are unable to abolish this worship with their tricks and machinations, they implore men to add innovations and repulsive acts to it. Through this, they intend to diminish the benefits of this worship and nullify its rewards. Thus, they insert acts within it which the Muslims would consider most of them prohibited and they are acts that are disowned by Islam. Some of them are considered major sins, which Allah (swt) has warned against and they have been vilified in His Holy Book.


2. Reprehensible Acts

1. From these acts are the lies, and blatantly obvious false reports, that do not exist in any narrations and are not recorded in any books. They are recited from the pulpits in the gatherings without any hesitation. We will mention some of these reports in our words to follow InshAllah, and this is by itself the biggest error, especially when words are attributed to Allah (swt), his Messenger (pbuh) or any one of the Imams (as).

2. And from these actions, are harming the body and inflicting pain upon it, by hitting the heads and chests with the use of swords, till a lot of blood flows. What is worse is to let an abundance of blood to flow till one becomes afflicted with a disease, or death or, lengthy surgeries.

Or by hitting the backs with metal chains or other than that. Its prohibition is proven through intellect and narrations, and it is well known that Islam is a religion of ease and simplicity, for which the Prophet (pbuh) also says: I brought a set of laws (Shariah) for you which is easy and simple.

Difficulties and hardships have also been lifted up from the religion, according to His (swt) words: [22:78] He has not laid upon you in religion any hardship.

3. And from it is the use of instruments of festivity, like the drum, horn, the tambourine and other than that.

4. And from it are the men resembling women during times of acting (the different scenes).

5. And from it are the women riding on the camel litters with uncovered faces, depicting the daughters of the Prophet (pbuh). This is in its essence unlawful when it is accompanied by tearing. There are many other examples in regards to what is included in this ugliness and indecency. Like what took place last year in Basra from a mistaken women who was depicting Zainab (sa), and her camel litter become unveiled amongst the crowd of people.

6. And from it is the screaming of the women which is heard by men who are strangers. If we assume that it is not prohibited, then it is a disgraceful vice, contradictory to etiquette and manliness and distancing oneself from such type of mourning is imperative.

7. And from it is the screaming and shouting with reprehensible and ugly sounds.

8. And from it is all those actions that necessitate degradation and repulsiveness.

Thus the insertion of these things in the upholding of the mourning symbols of Hussain (as) are from the seductions of Iblis. It is from the reprehensible acts, that angers Allah (swt), His Prophet (pbuh), and it angers Hussain (as), for he was killed for the revival of the religion of his grandfather (pbuh) and to remove the evils. So how can he be satisfied with those acts, especially when they are done with the motive that they are obedience and worship (of Allah).


14. The Scholars & the People

Rather, no one has reported that anyone from the Shi’a public performed it or that one of their scholars permitted it, in an era where all the kings of the Islamic countries were Shi’a. That is the period in which the Buyids ruled over Fars and Iraq, and other countries in which the family of Buya were. The Abbasid caliphs did not share the rule with them except by name. The Syrian regions and the Island were ruled by Bani Hamadan and the rulers of Egypt, Africa and the Maghreb were the Fatimids. In their time there were great Shi’a scholars such as Shaikh Mufeed, the Sharifayn namely al-Murtadha and al-Radhi. On top of that was the extremism of the Buyids in propagating the establishment of the mourning ceremonies to the extent that on the day of Ashura the markets of Baghdad would be closed and the mourning ceremonies took place on the roads. Despite this, no one reports that anything such as injuring the heads with the swords or its like took place in that period.