Karbala Mourning among the Fāṭimid-Ṭayyibī Shīʿa of India: Doctrinal and Performative Aspects of Sayyidnā Ṭāhir Sayf al-Dīn’s Arabic Marthiya, “O King of Martyrs” (Yā Sayyida l-Shuhadāʾī)

In: Shii Studies Review
Tahera Qutbuddin Professor, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Division of the Humanities, The University of Chicago Chicago, IL USA

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The Sayyid al-Shuhadāʾ lament—a poignant fifty-one-stanza Arabic marthiya composed by the Ṭayyibī Dāʿī l-Muṭlaq Sayyidnā Ṭāhir Sayf al-Dīn (d. 1385/1965)—holds an iconic status in the Karbala tradition of the Fāṭimid-Ṭayyibī Shīʿa of India. This article transcribes, translates, and analyses the lament to showcase a distinct religious tradition within a hybrid cultural milieu. The lament’s forms intersect with Arabic poetic conventions set in pre-Islamic times; its themes overlap with Twelver-Shīʿī Karbala laments in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu from the Middle East and South Asia; and its performance stems from melodic Persianate-Urdu recital. Simultaneously, it reflects the Fāṭimid-Ṭayyibī heritage, particularly the teachings of al-Muʾayyad al-Shīrāzī (d. 470/1078), including the fundamentals of their Imāmate doctrine and the salvific importance of weeping for Ḥusayn.

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