The Argument Against Losing the Symbols of Hussain (a)
This is perhaps one of the most common arguments that is used by promoters of blood flagellation. It is argued that since these rituals have become associated (amongst some people) with the commemoration of Ashura, they now represent the commemoration itself. So you will find that some people call these practices ‘Hussaini rituals’ or the ‘Symbols of Hussain’ (in Arabic ‘Sha’air al-Hussain’). These people may use slogans such as: ‘We must uphold the Sha’air of Hussain’, in opposition to those who are not in favor of the rituals. They consider any calls for a review of these traditions, as an affront to the whole commemoration of Ashura. They also tend to argue that if blood flagellation is stopped then it will be the first step leading to the abolition of other established commemoratory practices, and thus eventually there will be a complete loss of all commemoration.
These arguments are very weak and we only address them because they are made so often. It is incorrect to frame these rituals a ‘Hussaini symbols’ just because some Shias practice them on Ashura. If something has not officially been prescribed by Islam as a Hussaini tradition then it is not proper to enforce the notion upon people that it is indeed a Hussaini tradition. It is akin to labeling the dress code of Muslims in Asia or the Middle East as the ‘Islamic dress code’. Islam is not restricted to any particular culture and to do so would result in the alienation of many Muslims from other cultures. Cultures and traditions change over time and thus what may be considered a mourning practice today may not be seen in the same light in the future.
If these rituals repel people from the message of Imam Hussain (a), then it is an insult to the Imam (a) to give them the label of Sha’air al-Hussain. We should not use that phrase for actions that break the laws of Islam and drive people away from our religion.
The argument that the abolishment of blood rituals will lead to the abolishment of the commemoration of Ashura is indeed a very weak argument. It is like arguing that the abolishment of Taraweeh will eventually lead to the abolishment of Salaat, or that the removal of ‘Asalaatu khair al-min al-nawm’ in the Adhan will eventually lead to the loss of the whole adhan.
Shias who are opposed to blood flagellation are very much in favor of the general commemoration of Ashura as can be seen in the teachings of Ayatullah Khomeini. To suggest otherwise is to involve oneself in spurious propaganda. To be precise, the opposition to blood flagellation is done with the intention of supporting the message of Imam Hussain (a) so that more people will be attracted to it.