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Sayyid M.B. Kashmiri, the representative of Ayatullah Sayyid al-Sistani in North America, visited centers and institutions in San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans during the first ten days of Muharram. The purpose of his visit was to convey a message from the Marjaeya, namely “Finding Unity through the Majalis of Imam Hussain (p).” A summary of his message can be found below. 

Finding Unity through the Majalis of Imam Hussain (p):

A Message from the Marjaeya

In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful

“To respect the symbols of [God] is the sign of a pious heart.” (22:32) There can be no doubt that veneration of these symbols is sanctioned by the Almighty. These not only include such symbols as Safa and Marwah or the Holy Kabah, but also the veneration of the Ahl al-Bayt (pbut), in such assemblies as the majalis of Imam Hussain (p), particularly during the months of Muharram and Safar. Although these events occurred over 1300 years ago, we remember them today in communities all over the world in the form of the majalis (gatherings) of Imam Hussain (p). These gatherings are a powerful means by which diverse communities can and should become unified and overcome any and all differences.

Love for Ahl al-Bayt (pbut)

It is incumbent on the followers of the Ahl al-Bay (pbut) to show devotion toward the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) and his family. God, the most High, says in the Holy Quran, “[Muhammad], say, “I do not ask you for any payment for my preaching to you except [your] love of [my near] relatives.” (42:23)

How, then, should we show love for the family of the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp)? Indeed, one such way is to express solidarity with them—to show happiness when they are happy and to be sorrowful when they are sorrowful.

Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (p) is reported to have said, “If one’s eyes tear up about us because of our blood being spilled or our rights being reduced, or our honor being violated or because such things happened to one of our Shi’a [followers of Ahl al-Bayt] God, the most High, will settle such a person in the garden (paradise) because of this.” (Bihar al-anwar, vol. 43-44)

We can perhaps find no other occasion to express our solidarity with the Ahl al-Bayt (pbut) as much as we do in the majalis of Imam Hussain (p), which is a powerful symbol of God.

The Majalis of Imam Hussain (p): The Speakers

Given the importance of majalis in helping us to obey God by showing love for the Ahl al-Bayt (pbut), we must hold these gatherings with the highest level of integrity and in compliance with the teachings of the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) and his family. This includes creating an environment that fosters unity and transcends diversity in our communities. The heaviest burden to help nurture this environment, therefore, falls upon the shoulders of the speakers during these occasions.

His Eminence, Sayyid al-Sistani, in his Advice of the Supreme Religious Authority to the preachers and public speakers in the month of Muharram, emphasizes several key points on the issue of Shia unity.

“Speakers should not delve into intellectual or ritual matters that are a source of disagreement, argumentation, and disunity among the Shia, because in doing so it can lead the Hussaini pulpit to become biased toward a certain group over others. In addition, it can lead to social chaos and division among the believers, while the Hussaini pulpit should be a banner of unity and a symbol of the Hussaini light, which brings together the hearts of Imam Hussain’s lovers towards cooperation and one path.”

“The entire heritage of Ahl al-Bayt (pbut) is beautiful and great, and the speaker with skills and creativity can highlight the texts and narrations that are appealing to people of different faiths, intellects, and social backgrounds. This encompasses what Ahl al-Bayt (p) have taught their followers, as is narrated from them ‘if people knew the excellence of our words they would surely follow us.’ Their excellent words are their heritage, which indicate the highest human values that automatically attract all people from various cultures and religions.”

“It is not advisable that speakers present examples of societal problems in their speeches without also providing a solution, whether this relates to the disintegration of the family, the gap between the younger and the older generations, or the problem of divorce. Otherwise, it creates controversy without contributing useful solutions. Therefore, it is expected that speakers consult specialists in the fields of sociology and psychology to identify effective solutions, and present them in a progressive way such that it transforms the Hussaini pulpit from stagnation to a relevant and engaging state, and into a position of leadership to reform and rehabilitate societies.”

The Majalis of Imam Hussain (p): The Community

At the core of the gatherings for the commemoration of Imam Hussain (p) are the faithful attendees, their interaction, and their empathy. They are important to the success of every gathering. Believers should graciously extend a helping hand of moral and material support to those managing the gathering to help in its success by inviting the general public, encouraging them, and helping to remove barriers that prevent their participation and attendance. We should do this to introduce them to Islam through the commemoration of the death of Imam Hussain (p).

Helpful Resources

There are many helpful resources available to help deliver a unified message to the community. Two such resources can be found in book form. Advice to Youth offers deep-rooted advice, inspiration, and spiritual guidance from Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani. It provides a progressive foundation to formulate the direction for a productive and meaningful life that will enable the youth of today to be the better generation of tomorrow.

Another helpful resource is Who Is Hussain?  This book is a great resource for readers of all faiths and answers popular questions on Imam Hussain (p) and the tragedy of Karbala for those who are unaware of the event or are new to the faith.