Dr. Muhammad-Reza Fakhr-Rohani
A ziarat-text is a piece of discourse, originally spoken and later on transcribed, in Classical Arabic and issued for being read out to discharge one's veneration unto either an infallible dignitary or an infallible-like one. The followers of the Shi`i denomination of Islam are honored to have inherited a large number of such ziarat-texts.
Amongst the Infallibles in Shi`i denomination, the 3rd Infallible Imam al-Husayn has received the highest and most varied types of ziarat-texts. A great majority of such ziarat-texts were issued by the 6th Infallible Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq. Although the 4th Infallible Imam `Ali al-Sajjad was the surviving son of Imam al-Husayn and one of the few survivors of the Ashura Battle of Karbala (61 AH/ 680) was present at Karbala, almost no ziarat-text has been related to have been issued by him in favor of his father Imam al-Husayn. This point indicates the very suffocating and harsh political situation of Medina and the whole Islamic empire of the day under the tyranny of the Umayyad and later on Marwanid dynasties who brought nothing but devastation, catastrophe, massacres, and tears for the true followers of the Prophet Muhammad. The Ashura Battle of Karbala is still a good yardstick to find out who was the true successor to the Prophet Muhammad.However, with the downfall of the Marwanid tyrants the whole situation got a bit better so that in the interim peaceful days of the time lapse between the Marwanid and later on `Abbasid caliphs, the two Infallible Imams, Imam Muhammad al-Baqi and Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq, made the most of the opportunity to instruct people about the religion of Islam.
A glance at collections of the ziarat-texts issued in favor of Imam al-Husayn reveals that they are both high in number and varied in size. The ziarat-texts can be classified in a number of ways of which one is rendered below.
Ziarat-texts can be classified according to their source. Source-wise, ziarat-texts can be (i) Divine or (ii) non-Divine. A famous example of (i) a Divine ziarat-text is the Ashuraziarat-text whose source goes back to Allah the Almighty. Had there been no other ziarat-text in favor of Imam al-Husayn but this one, the very ziarat-text is well indicative of the sublime value of his matchless sacrifice to safeguard the true version of Islam and to rescue people from bewilderment and abysmal ignorance. Those of (ii) non-Divine origin can be subdivided into (ii.i.) those issued by an Infallible Imam in contrast to (ii.ii.) those issued by non-Infallibles. Several specimens of (ii.i.) ziarat-texts issued by Infallible Imams are available in Ja`far b. Muhammad b. Qulawayh al-Qummi's book Kamil al-Ziyarat: the Arba`inziarat-text was issued by the 6th Infallible Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq. Of (ii.ii.) those issued by non-Infallibles, mention can be made of the one issued by Ibrahim b. Abi al-Bilad and ratified by the 7th Infallible Imam Musa al-Kazim.
The ziarat-texts can also be classified on the basis of occasion. Although any ziarat-text can be read out at virtually any time, some are (iii.i.) general, while others are (iii.ii.) occasion-oriented. Granted that the Ashuraziarat-text is expected to be read out on Ashura, it is highly recommended to be read out everyday, if possible.
Perhaps Imam al-Husayn is the only Infallible Imam who has the shortest ziarat-text. Such a single-sentence ziarat-text was issued by the 6th Infallible Imam in answer to an inquirer who was a devout Shi`i but could not perform a ziarat in situ at Karbala owing exclusively to the harsh punishment waiting for any Shi`i who dared to get to the sacred tomb of Imam al-Husayn. This is indicated in the late Allamah Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi'sTuhfa al-Za'ir and Ja`far b. Muhammad b. Qulawayh al-Qummi's book Kamil al-Ziyarat.
Interestingly, everybody can pay a ziarat unto Imam al-Husayn from anywhere. Such a ziarat can be performed in situ at Karbala or from afar at the virtual pilgrim's residence. The point is that paying ziarat unto the Infallible Imam al-Husayn must not be forgotten or underestimated at any rate, for this is a right of Allah the almighty that everybody must discharge their utmost respect toward Imam al-Husayn.
Content-wise, the ziarat-texts issued in favor of Imam al-Husayn are replete with several noteworthy points; this will be tackled in the future, Insha Allah.