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Ashura Poems in English Explained and Annotated

Ashura Poems in English Explained and Annotated Volume 1

Author:
Publisher: www.alhassanain.org/english
English

This book is corrected and edited by Al-Hassanain (p) Institue for Islamic Heritage and Thought

Alhassanain (p) Network for Islamic Heritage and Thought

Ashura Poems in English;

Explained and Annotated (Volume 1)

Compiled by: Muhammad-RezaFakhr-Rohani

www.alhassanain.org/english

Table of Contents

Foreword 3

Preface 5

Acknowledgments 6

Abbreviations 8

Introduction 9

Hari Kumar: Ashura 15

T. D. Chattani: Vale of Sorrow 16

Ameen Khorasanee: Husain of Kerbala 17

Sarojini Naidu: The Night of Martyrdom 18

Sarojini Naidu: The Imam Bara 19

I 19

II 19

W. C. Tailor: An Ode 20

Anonymous: Vision of Kerbala 21

H. Wells: Imam Husain 22

Tabish Khair: Poem from Outside a Muharram Procession 23

Anonymous: On the Morn of Muharram 24

Farah Yeganeh: A Shaped Elegy for Karbala 25

Ethel M. Pope: Tragedy of Moharram 26

His little children dear 27

Justice A. D. Russel: The Martyr of Karbala 28

Mariam Rizvi: Untitled Poem 30

Syed Ahmed Ali Mohani: The Hero of Kerbala 32

Anonymous: A Journey 34

A. K. Esmail: The Conqueror of Kerbala 37

Sayyed Ali Musavi Garmarudi: The Track of Blood 39

Works Consulted 45

1. Bibliography 45

Books: 45

Foreword

Praise is all to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. Praise and salaams are to the Prophet Muhammad b. Abdullah and his noble and infallibleAhl al-Bayt . Denunciation and curse are to their foes forever until the Judgment Day. Amen!

Elegy is a literary technique which enables the poet to compose fine pieces of poetry. In elegy, the mind and soul of the poet get elevated, for he finds himself confronted with the mysterious phenomenon of death.

Faced with the mysteries of life and the vicissitudes of times and fate, he tries to find a justification for that eternal silence.

As is well known, elegy is an important element in the literature of the adherents of theAhl al-Bayt school of thought. It is here that in elegy deep sorrow gets commingled with fierce wrath, leading to a type of sentimental literature. In like manner, it may also be regarded as a type of political literature, because this wrath, sometimes discernible therein, is indicative of political thought which has found expression in this manner.

It can hardly be forgotten that beyond the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn b. Ali there were political reasons which can never be severed from the incentives and the bloodshed in favor of the religious convictions.

Here, the relation signifies the same firm relation which ties the hearts of the staunch believers with the holy Prophet Muhammad and his honorableAhl al-Bayt .

Among the first who elegized Imam al-Husayn wasBishr b.Hidhlam . It happened when Imam AliZayn al-Abidin , then the leader of the caravan of the survivors of the Karbala massacre, en route home, sent him on a mission to hasten toward the city and inform the inhabitants of Medina of the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn .

Wearing a black turban and pulling his horse with a piece of black rope, he entered the city and imparted to them the ominous news of the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn . There he composed an elegy of which the following lines are famous:

O Inhabitants ofYathrib ! Why are you sitting still, While [Imam] al-Husayn was martyred, Hence I am shedding tears.

May God not take me away from those homes and their inhabitants,While they have turned uninhabited, despite my desire. The Martyr ofTaff belongs to theBani Hashim ,

8 Though his martyrdom causes Muslims to be ashamed.

Elsewhere, it is reported that the first elegy on Imam al-Husayn was composed byBahil al-Jumhi , who expressed himself as follows:

Drowsy and drunkard are theUmayyads ' eyes, While theTaff incident never lets the friends sleep a wink.

Ever since the Karbala tragedy, there have been innumerable poets who gained the grace of composing an elegy in praise of and in memory of Imam al-Husayn b. Ali, or the heartbreaking and woeful Karbala tragedy and its mournful consequences. Such a line of devotional literature has never stopped and will never cease.

The tradition of elegizing Imam al-Husayn and the Karbala tragedy has by no means been confined to the Arab or Arabic-speaking, poets; poets of other languages have also made significant contributions as well.

In the Urdu language, there is a long list of poets who gained fame and reputation for their elegies on Imam al-Husayn . Among them are Mir Babar Ali Anis (1801-1874),Mirza Salamat AliDabir (1803-75), MuhammadBaqir , the founding father of Urdu journalism (d. 1857), Shams al-Ulama Mawlana MuhammadHusayn AzadDihlawi (d. 1910), the poetMawlana Hasan Raza Khan (d. A.H. 1326/ 1908) and the poetFaiz AhmadFaiz (d. 1984).

In Persian, a great host of poets are known for their poetry and elegies on Imam al-Husayn .Mulla Husayn Vaez Kashefi Sabsevari (d. A.H. 910/1532) included many such poems in his workRawzat al-Shohada .

Of Persian poets who elegized Imam al-Husayn , the most well-known isMuhtasham Kashani (d. A.H. 996/1588), who used to serve at the court of ShahTahmasb theSafavid . Others in the same line includeAbulmajd Majdud Sanayie (d. A.H. 1131/1719),

Adibulmamalek (d. A.H. 1308),Mahmoud KhanMalek al-Shoara (d. A.H. 1311), Safi Ali Shah (d. A.H. 1316/1890), the author ofErfan al-Haq , Bahr al-Haqaeq , andMizan al-Ma`refah , andYaghmayie , a professor of Persian literature at Dar al-Fonoun College in Tehran.

In Turkish, quite a good number of great poets have composed poems in memoriam Imam al-Husayn b. Ali and the heartbreaking incidents of the Ashura tragedy. Among them, mention must be made of the following:Lameie (d. 1531),Hairati (d. 1535),Fuzuli Baghdadi (d. 1555),Abidi (d. 1572), Safi (d. in the 16th century),Shamsi Pasha (d. 1580), andSabouhi (d. 1647).

In line with the above, English-speaking poets, whether Muslim, Christian, Hindu, etc., have also made significant contributions to produce elegies for Imam al-Husayn and the Karbala tragic incidents.

It has been the grace of the Almighty to our friend and brother Dr. Muhammad-RezaFakhr-Rohani , presently professor of English at the University of Qom, that he has anthologized a fine collection of such English poems in the present book, titled Ashura Poems in English.

He showed interest and an inclination to have his book published in the series of the books published by, and with the emblem of, the Library of Imam al-Husayn's Sacred Sanctuary; the curatorial council of the Library consented to this request.

With the publication of this book, we wish Dr.Fakhr-Rohani more success and graceful opportunities to render services to theAhl al-Bayt and to throw light on the afflictions they endured throughout history.

Muhammad al-Hassoun

1st Ramadan 1427/25th September 2006

Preface

The prime reason and motive for compiling the following anthology of devotional poems on Imam al-Husain is to record and mark my humblest degree of reverence and devotion to the unimaginably high status of Imam al-Husain, and then to provide readers with a range of such poems so far composed in English.

When my colleague Mr. Abdul-Hosseyn Tale'i suggested to me to embark on such a task, it hardly seemed practicable; however, it has been certainly by divine grace that I have been able to gradually come across such poems here and there and produce the first volume of such an anthology.

Considering that this is my first endeavor to take a step toward collecting and anthologizing Ashura literature in English, I wish to request each and every esteemed reader to provide me with additional poems of the nature collected here.

This is just to work out a further revised and enlarged edition. Surely anybody who contributes to this collection they will receive the divine grace and will benefit from the favor of Imam al- Husain.

The poems are anthologized in this collection just as they appear on websites or in the sources from which they are taken.

I would sincerely appreciate any comment, suggestion, contribution, or reminder. I can be reached at the following addresses: dr_fakhr_1385@yahoo.com or P. O. Box: 37185- 744, Qom, Iran.

Qom, Iran

Muhammad-RezaFakhr-Rohani , Ph.D.

Acknowledgments

First and foremost, I am thankful to Allah Who provided me with this opportunity to carry out the present task as the least cultural service to those who have got to know, or learned to love, Imam al-Husain (May Divine grace and salaams be bestowed upon him).

No doubt, it is a gratifying and blessed work which, I hope, will be recognized as a mark of my humblest service to the divine status of Imam al-Husain which is beyond conjecture. I simply hope to receive his graceful favor for such a humble task.

I am grateful to Mr. Abdul-Hoseyn Tale'i for his initial suggestion to compile such an anthology. Next, my sincere thanks go to Sheikh Ali al-Fatlawi , presently the Curator of the Library of Imam al-Husain's Sacred Sanctuary in Karbala for his permission to let us have the honor of indicating Imam al- Husain's Sanctuary as the publisher of the present volume.

This will certainly remain an everlasting honor for all those who have been involved in producing this book. I cannot forget Sheikh Muhammad al-Hassoun for his kind and sincere help.

Indeed, Sheikh Muhammad al-Hassoun's cooperation makes me indebted to him forever; he suggested to me to have this book published in the series of the publications of Imam al- Husain's Sacred Sanctuary. AlsoSayyid Hashim al-Milani , the Curator of the Library ofImam ?Al ?'s Sanctuary in Najaf deserves my sincere appreciation for this support.

I express my sincere appreciation to Dr. AliAfkhami and Dr. Ali-MuhammadHaghshenas-Lari , distinguished professor of linguistics at the University of Tehran, and his family for having read the final draft of the present volume and the suggestions they made.

My special thanks go to His Grace ArchbishopSebouh Sarkissian , Sheikh MuhammadSadiq Muhammad al-Karbasi , the editor of the London-based Imam al-Husain Encyclopedia, Sheikh MuhammadKalbasi , Dr. Ali-RezaBabazadeh , and Mr.Kamal al-Sayyid .

Among my university students, Mr.Hamed Akhyani deserves my profound and special appreciation. He has always expressed keen academic interest as well as devoutly religious fascination and rendered his substantial assistance while the present volume was in gestation. I am, and will always remain, appreciative of his effective and invaluable cooperation and crucial help.

Regarding office jobs, Mr.Gholam -RezaYazdandoost , Mr. Muhammad-Hosseyn Shahri , and MissMinoo Jalali also helped me a lot.

I cannot forget the assistance I received from my good friends in New Delhi in the summer of 2006. Among a long list of friends who proved cooperative, I ought to mention the following: Mr.Morteza Shafi'i-Shakib , Mr. Mohammad-Hossein Mozaffari , Dr.Syed Quayam Hussain , all at Iran Culture House in New Delhi, Mrs. M.Vijayalakshmi ,

Librarian ofSahitya Akademi ( National Academy of Letters), New Delhi, Mr.Murad AliBaig , Prof.Makarand Paranjape of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Mr.Mortaza Danesh Husaini and her eminent mother, Dr.Bilquis FatimahHusaini of the University of Delhi, Dr.Nonica Datta , professor of history at the University of Delhi as well as at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Dr. Shah MuhammadWaseem of Aligarh, Prof.

Abdur Rahim Kidwai and Dr.Syed Faiz Zaidi both of Aligarh Muslim University. I am also grateful to Prof. RichardParmentier of Brandeis University, and Dr.Tabish Khair of the University of Aarhus, Denmark, for contributing one of his poems to this collection. They helped me in many ways and made my short research trip to India as pleasant and fruitful as possible. May God reward them all.

Dr.Mahmoud Mahdavi-Damghani of Mashhad, Iran, Dr.Farideh Mahdavi-Damghani and her eminent father, Dr. AhmadMahdavi-Damghani (presently at Harvard University) showed great interest and encouraged me to go along with the project.

I also thank my French friend Dr.Mouslim Fidahoussen and the famous Lebanese Christian literary figure, Dr. GeorgesGordak , widely renowned for his scholarship on the life ofImam ?Al ? b. Ab?T?lib , for their moral support.

Last but not least, I offer my most heartfelt thanks to my wife for her patience and understanding and for creating a fitting environment for the accomplishment of this task.

Abbreviations

A./rabic

b., Arabic ibn, son (of)

E./nglish

L./line

Lit./eral (ly )

Ll., lines

P./ersian

s.v ., Latin subverbo , under

Var./iant , various

Permission (to fight) is given unto those upon whom war is made for they have been oppressed, and verily, to help them, God is Most Potent; Those who have been expelled from their homes unjustly save that they say: ?Our Lord is God!? The Holy Quran, 22 [al-Hajj]. 39-40.

And say not of those who are slain in God'scause, ?They are dead?: nay, they are alive, but you perceive it not. The Holy Quran, 2 [al-Baqara ]. 154.

God loves whoever loves [Imam] al-Husain.

The Prophet Muhammad The place where [Imam] al-Husain is buried has been one of Paradise Gardens since he was buried therein.

ImamJafar al-Sadiq

Once God wishes to do a favor to someone, He makes them love [Imam] al-Husain.

ImamJafar al-Sadiq

In a distant age and climate the tragic scene of the death of Hussain will awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader.

Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall o f the Roman Empire The best lesson which we get from the tragedy of Karbala is that Husain and his followers were the rigid believers of God, they illustrated that numerical superiority does not count when it comes to truth and falsehood. The victory of Husain despite his minority marvels me.

Thomas Carlyle,

Hero and Hero-worship

Introduction

There is something quite strange yet intriguing with the name Imam al-Husain. One of the most charming and pleasing names, the name Imam al-Husain? implies noble characteristics and most admirable qualities.

Yet, it mysteriously inspires his adherents and admirers to carry out their most sincere duties and modes of servitude, simply for the sake of meeting his satisfaction. The compiler of the present volume simply aspires to be regarded as one such person.

Throughout history, the purest and noblest forms of art, literature, architecture, and so forth have been associated with either religion itself, or figures closely associated with God and/or religion. Hence, the most sincere feelings of devotion are crystallized in the form of poetry, regardless of the language used.

The impact of Imam al-Husain on poets is highly evident in such languages as Arabic, Persian, Urdu, or Turkish, being the dominant languages of Muslim populations.

Such poems reveal the extent and depth of the impression the Imam has since exerted on the culture of the language in question. By the same token, it is interesting to examine such devotional poems in English. Indeed, such poems only express the poet's most sincere feelings or reflections about the admirable figures in question.

The bulk ofziarat 1 texts, poems, prose pieces, laments, sermons, andtazia (Shiite version of passion play) 2 scripts devoted to the Ashura tragedy collectively make up what can generally be called Ashura literature.3 Granted that such forms of Ashura literature necessitate redefinition of ?

literature proper? simply to cover literary and linguistic manifestations of the whole event, Ashura literature is by no means limited to the Islamic era, beginning specifically from the very day of Ashura.

1- According to The Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed., 20vols [1989],s.v . ?ziarat ?), the word ?ziarat ? is defined as ?A Muslim place of pilgrimage, a shrine; a pilgrimage to such a place.? This is one sense of theword ? ziarat ? as used in Arabic and Persian. Although not recorded in The Oxford English Dictionary, there is still another sense of the word which concerns prescribed and often-recommended texts, of various lengths, to be read while paying such a visit.?Ziarat texts? deal with the second sense noted here; they signify a religious meeting, far beyond the bounds of time and place, with a mostly monologue type of talking.

2- Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (5th ed., 2vols [2002]) defines it in this way: ? A play commemorating the suffering and death of Husain, performed esp. on the anniversary of the event each year.?

3- In Arabic, it is calledAdab al-Taff (lit.Karbal ? Literature).Taff is another designation ofKarbal ?. See, for example, J.Shubbar ,Adab al-Taff , 10vols (Beirut: Dar al-Murtada , 1409 AH/1988). In Persian, the following works must be mentioned as examples: H.Gool-Muhammadi , ed.,Ashura va She're Farsi [Ashura and Persian Poetry] (Tehran: Atlas, 1366Sh / 1985) and M.-A.Moj?hedi ,Shokuh -eShe?r -e ?shur ?dar Zab?n -eF?rsi (Qom:Shahid Mahall?ti Institute, 1379Sh /1999).

Ashura literature dates back to the pre-Islamic period.

According to an account related inMaf?t ?h al- Jin?n,1 following theSafw?n prayer, ImamJa?far al-S?diq remarks, through the chain of authorities indicated therein, that the text of theAshura Ziarat was initially composed and issued by the Almighty.

(Supposing that there had not been any praise for Imam al-Husain except the very account indicated here, this single account itself proves well indicative of the magnificence and significance of the Ashura incident and the unique personality of Imam al-Husain.)

If such an authoritative text as theAshura Ziarat could provisionally be put aside on the basis of the fact that its source of production was God the Almighty, the first human-produced work in the rest of the common heritage of Ashura literature dates back at least to the very first elegy which the Christian apostle Zachariah composed on the Ashura incident2-3

1-Maf?t ?h al-Jin?n is a collection of prayers for recitation, non-obligatory, recommended rituals, and so forth anthologized by the late SheikhAbbas Qommi . Although the explanations were originally phrased in Persian, the whole text later on appeared in Arabic and Urdu translations. Various editions and selections of the book are widely available.

2- See the annotated English translation of the Holy Quran produced by S.V. Mir Ahmed Ali (1st US ed., Elmhurst, NY:Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, 1988),s.v . the Quranic mysterious letters K?F , H?, Y?, ?AYN, S?D in the first verse of theSura Maryam (viz. Mary), p.242f, 1309.

3- Viewed from this broad perspective, one may come up with a classificatory scheme of Ashura literature. That is, it may be classified as a) pre-Islamic vs. b) post-Islamic accounts of lament on Imam al-Husain While of the former there are just some reports in certainhadith -based exegeses (tafs?rs ) of the Holy Quran, the latter can (conveniently and irrespective of the language used) be subdivided into poetic prose pieces, lectures and sermons, and poems, all focusing on the captivating personality of Imam al-Husain, his speeches, addresses, the poems (ascribed to him), and particularly the hardships he and his matchless adherents endured. As such,

several centuries ahead of its taking place. (There are some outstanding and high-ranking Shiiteulema [clerics] who have written various accounts1 of the similarities observable between the attributes and fates of the Christian apostle John [ArabicYahy ?]

and Imam al-Husain.) Such literary forms are entirely devoted to revealing the purest and noblest kinds of sincere feelings of their composers as well as serving as accounts of the hardships and afflictions Imam al-Husain's front suffered and endured in the Ashura tragedy.

2 In the Islamic period, since the Ashura tragedy onward, almost every devout belletrist, author, or researcher, however amateur or proficient, has produced (at least) a work, literary or scholarly,

chiefly to mark his or her reverence and tremendous respect for Ashura literature proves to be one of the most interesting literary genres not only far beyond the frontiers of Islam but signifying a linking thread between (at least) such Abrahamic religions as Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Unfortunately, such an archetypal and symbolic tragedy seems not to have received the due attention it deserves in most Western or Islamic literary circles. Needless to say, Ashura literature cannot logically be restricted to any predetermined languages and genres, nor to the faith and denomination of anyone who composes such a devotional piece of literature.

1- See, for example, J.Sh?shtar ?, Dam? al-?ayn ?al?Khas?'is al-Husain, Persian title [Ashk -eRav?n bar Amir-eK?rav?n ], trans.Sayyed MuhammadHosseyn Shahrestani (first lithographic ed., 1313 AH/1895; 9th ed., Qom: Dar al-Ketab , 1381Sh /2002), pp. 439-443, and pp. 423-450, for Imam al-Husain's similarities with other prophets and apostles; cf.

the Arabic original under the title of Al-Khas?'is al-Husain?yya :Khas?'is al-Husainwa Maz?y ? al-Mazl?m , ed.Sayyed Ja?far B?qir al- Husain? (Qom:Anw?r al-Hud ?, 1425 AH/ 2004), pp. 496-503, on the similarities between Imam al-Husain and the Apostle John; the entire Chapter 10, pp. 475-515, is concerned with the similarities between Imam al-Husain and other prophets and apostles.

2- Undoubtedly, the earliest piece of Ashura lament (viz.nawha ) was produced by LadyZaynab , Imam al-Husain's sister, beside the Imam's decapitated body on the Karbala battlefield of Ashura.

Imam al-Husain. Such works are by no means limited to Shiite literary figures; rather, quite a lot of Sunnite, even Christian, Jewish, and Hindu figures have shown and continue to show their respect and reverence by composing such pieces.1 Truly amazing is the fact that Ashura literature transgresses beyond all bounds of religion, political leaning, or language in that almost nothing can stand on a par with it as so penetrating and moving and, at the same time, smoothing.

The more a person reads or writes about it, the more eager they feel to go on with it. It makes one ponder, feel aflame, produce a work,2 feel satisfied for having done his or her duty, and then find it far from expressing their true feelings and pathos they experience, let alone to reflect the smallest degree of the depth and wide horizons of the event! In a nutshell, fatigue does not make sense here for this is a true instance of a labor of love.

Ashura literature in its entirety is not, and should by no means, be restricted to the main languages of the Muslim population. Such literature has been either translated into major European languages or produced directly in such languages as

1- See, for example, A. Bara, Al-Husain f? al-Fikr al-Masi?hi (2nd ed., Beirut, 1979; Qum:Fadak , 1426 AH/2005); A. al-N?blus ?,Al?qah al-Mas?h?yy?n biAhl Bayt al-Nab?yy (Beirut:D?r al-H?d ?, 1422 AH/2001). Here mention must be made of ArchbishopSebouh Sarkissian's work ?The Events of Karbala: A Survey of Some Classical Sources: al-Ya?qubi , al-Tabari , and al-Mas?udi ?

(Unpublished thesis, University of Birmingham, 1981), andKam?l al-Sayyid ,Boules Sal?mah :Sh?'ir al-Ghad?r wa Karbala f? al-Zaman al-Akhir (Beirut: Dar al-Ghadir , 1425 AH/2004). Part of the last work (pp. 46-76) focuses on the Ashura incident as mirrored in the poems ofBoules Salamah , a famous Lebanese Christian poet.

2- This encompasses any type of work colored and minted with a sincere sense of devotion, be it drawing an artistic work, e.g. the contemporary Iranian painter MaestroFarshchiyan's famous painting ?Asr -e ?Ash?r ? [The Ashura Afternoon].

English, French, and so forth. As long as Ashura is remembered and devoutly commemorated, its literature will remain and survive, for Ashura has been an incident far beyond the bounds and confines of the precise day of Ashura, the plain of Karbala, and the religion of Islam. It will remain imbued with invaluable and perennial lessons, moral, religious, and educational for all humanity.

Ashura will always remain a never-ending lesson. It has since vociferated the voice of the perennial battle between right and wrong, darkness and light, and it continues to mark the oppression of pure religious thought and noble human characters. In this way, it reverberates the voice of religious nobility as exemplified and crystallized in the Ashura battle.

Throughout the ages, Imam al-Husain, the mourning ceremonies held for him, and even going on pilgrimage to humbly pay visitation to his sacred tomb and sanctuary, and even paying a visit to those who have been on pilgrimage to Karbala, have not been altogether devoid of political implications for those who have realized the inherent political force behind the belief in the personality of Imam al-Husain as well as the spiritual and religious rewards and virtues recorded in the authoritative and canonical hadith texts. 1 To these, one

1- The bulk of hadith literature in this regard is legion and amazingly abundant, thought-provoking, and awe-inspiring. See, for example, the hadiths recorded in such texts asJa?far b. Muhammad b.Q?lawayh al-Qumm ?,K?mil al-Z?y?r?t , ed. ?Abdul Husain al-Am?n ? ([lithographic ed.] Najaf: al-Murtadaw?yya , 1356 AH/1937), ?Abdul Husain al-Am?n ?, 'Adab al-Z?'ir Liman Yamamm al-H?'ir , ed.

Naj?h J?bir Salm?n alHusain ? ([orig. lithographic ed.] Najaf, 1362 Ah/1943;repr . Beirut: al-Balagh , 1424 AH/2003); Muhammad b. ? Al? b. al-Hasan al-?Alaw ? al-Shajar ?,Fadl Ziy?rat al-Husain ?Alayh al-Sal?m , ed.Sayyed Ahmad al-Husain? 26

must add the innumerable biographies 1,nawhas (viz. laments),marthiyas (viz. elegies), and dramas, 2 produced in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu, to mention just a few. 3

The present book is by no means the first and last volume collected in this field. Contrary to an initial anticipation, it seems that Ashura literature in English will occupy at least five volumes of books. Hence, readers and (Qom: AyatollahMar?ash ? Public Library, 1403 AH/1982) which contains eighty- nine hadiths on this topic.

1- A huge number of volumes of bibliographies have been compiled on the biographies of Imam al-Husain. The bulk of biographical accounts is legion and incalculable. Certainly no other figure can match Imam al-Husain as the subject of so many books, treatises, theses, dissertations, and biographical accounts, short or long, published or unpublished, in history. Excluding manuscripts and essays on his biography, compiling a bibliography of the published books dealing with the life of Imam al-Husain would turn into a voluminous work.

There is a short list of 103 important Arabic books on Imam al-Husain in M.-A.al-Am? n ? al-Najaf?'s thirty-two page Introduction toMaqtal al-Imam al-Husain of M.-R. al-Tabas ? al-Najaf? (Qom:Muhibbin , 1382Sh / 2003), pp. 9-20. See also the bibliographies of such short accounts as M. T. al-Sam?wi ,Ibs?r al-?ayn f?Ans?r al-Husain, rev. ed., ed. A. J. al- Hasan? (Beirut: al-Bal?gh , 1424 AH/2003), and M.-B.

Pour-Amini ,Chehreh ?dar Hem?se -yeKarbal ? (Qom, Iran:Boust?n -eKet?b , 1382Sh / 2003). The Persian books and monographs on the subject are almost innumerable. The present author has not had access to a list of such biographies and research monographs written particularly in English; however, it is not illogical to guess that quite a great number of such accounts must have been produced in Muslim countries where English is the lingua franca.

2- For instance, A. Al-Sharqawi , Husain the Martyr: A Play in Six Scenes, trans. A. Abdul-Razzak (Chicago, Ill.: The Open School, 1997).

3- See, for instance, the articles ?An?s ?, ?Marthiya ?, and ?Muhtasham-i K?sh?n ?? in TheEncyclopaedia of Islam, new edition (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1960- ). I should here like to mention a research project on the Turkish heritage of Ashura literature, currently under development by Dr. Amir al-Khaledi at the University ofKufa in Najaf, Iraq (personal communication).

critics are requested to contribute to this collection by providing the compiler with poems not included in the large corpus so far collected.

An attempt has been made to facilitate the readers' tasks. Where a person, a concept, a term, or an event is mentioned in a poem, the reader may refer to the endnote indicated, geared to its proper line number.

This is for the reader's ease of reference to the lines in which they appear. Just after each poem, there are some explanations to save the readers' time, and to provide them with some basic information to comprehend the fragment(s) in question.

The present introductory essay can hardly be regarded as a true introduction to a poetic collection on Ashura. It merely serves as a text by way of introduction. And, no doubt, any introduction to the life and afflictions of Imam al-Husain will prove far from adequate in respect of the greatest tragic incident in the world.

1 After all, who dares, or may even claim, to adequately describe the life of Imam al-Husain whom God honored with martyrdom?2 Any attempt to describe such a great incident would be like an ant's description of the Prophet Solomon's kingdom.

1- Take note of the following phrase quoted from theAshura Ziarat ? mus?batan m? 'a? zamuh ?wa 'a?zama raz?yyatuh ?f?'l-isl?m wa f? jam?? al-sam?w?t wa'l-ard ? [an agony for which there is nothing comparable in Islam and even in the whole world]. 2- Consider the fragment of the 'Arba ??n Ziarat which reads ?akramtah ? bi al-shah?da ? [you, viz. God, respected and honored him [Imam al-Husain] with martyrdom].

The present introductory discourse ends with a fragment of a poem by the Iranian poetSeyyed AliMusavi -Garmarudi : ? Here the word ends/ Where I reach an end/ At you no end bends.?

May God the Almighty consider and accept the present humble attempt. Amen!

Hari Kumar: Ashura

The chain whips awaken

a hundred eyes on their backs.

Red tears trail the streets

to the gold-domed tomb of Husain.

A golden spider with legs of blood.

Wails shake the sky the minaret props.

But today, for every lash for Husain,

a lash will tear for a warded son.*

T. D.Chattani : Vale of Sorrow

Through the Vale of sorrow does history trace

Two matchless martyrs our Prophet's pets

Who left their hearths with Islamicgrace

In hunger and thirst their duty to face.

Severed from home, exhausted on the field

Opposed by enemies who had Satan's shield

They gave their lives that others be freed

From falsehood, tyranny and aKafir's creed.

Most precious blood flowed from their veins

Battlefield of Karbala has still those stains

From our hearts should rush rivers of blood

Renewing our faith with this vital flood. !*

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*Khurshed , ed., Imam Husain, 2nd ed., p. 157

L.8 ?Kafir ? refers to ?infidel, unbeliever, orpagen ?.

Ameen Khorasanee : Husain ofKerbala

Men weep for you today in many lands,

And on their breasts in bitter anguish beat,

And in sad, mournful tunes, the tales repeat of how you

lost your family upon the sands.

You nobly spurned the tyrant's base demands and chose 5

Death to prevent your soul's defeat,-

Became a martyr with unflinching feet-

For these well may one weep who understands.

This sorrow at your death, despite the years is still as

fresh,

Which Time has failed to quell.10

In every heart this day new pain appears

And of your sufferings men each other tell.

They see a vision through slow falling tears of that lone

Battle where athirst you fell.*

*Lalljee , The Martyrdom of Imam Husain, p. 60.

Sarojini Naidu: The Night of Martyrdom

Blackrobed , barefooted, with dim eyes that rain

Wild tears in memory of thy woeful plight,

And hands that in blind, rhythmic anguish smite

Their bloodstained bosoms to sad refrain

From the old haunting legion of thy pain,

Thy votaries mourn thee through the tragic night

With mystic dirge and melancholy rite,

Crying tothee ? Husain! Husain!

Why do thy myriad lovers so lament?

Sweet saint, is not thy matchlessmartyrhood

The living banner and brave covenant

Of the high creed thy Prophet did proclaim,

Bequeathing for the world'sbeautitude

Th ' enduring loveliness of Allah's name?*

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* Naidu, The Feathers of the Dawn, p. 6.