Julus – Performance vs Perception

By Mohamedarif Suleman,
Nairobi, Kenya

Ashura: Last time’s discussion on Julus and the current anomalies surrounding it invited a lot of debate. As always, various people saw the point made, while others, the die-hard veterans believed that the statements were malicious and far from the truth. The Community on Friday, in reality, is in the pursuit of objectivity, which is why views from all corners are invited and circulated.

But as the brave words of Br Hussein Datoo propensed through the subscriber list, a lot of people could identify with the vicious circle in which we are now moving without realizing the impact that we are now causing to society in general. Sister Saeeda has made a commendable comparison between the Julus she witnessed from Beirut and another from the Indian Subcontinent and Pakistan. Her points are well received, and in fact, confirm the fears of many leaders and the well-wishers of the community vis-a-vis our apparent return to Hindu practices. Interestingly, as the discussion made forays, a visiting Maulana reciting in Nairobi over the Ashra of Muharram made some very questionable remarks. Amongst his predominantly “Indian” theme, he said that the action of ladies in Banaras in Uttar Pradesh if washing the feet of the shabeeh of Zuljana with milk was symbolic of its role in the last hours in the life of a thirsty Ali Asgher (AS). He further said that in a certain year, when the typical Julus did not pass through a certain route featuring the omnipresent Zuljana, mothers refused to feed their children until they first “fed” Zuljana. These, he opined, were examples of non-Shias’ appreciation of the sacrifice made by Imam Husain (AS)’s caravan, something that we had failed to comprehend. One wonders that as we scream our heads off for reform, what good will the arrival of such reciters do to our efforts at bringing a more practical approach to our understanding of the event of Kerbala?

Incidentally, the Hindu involvement in our processions was also discussed as a common feature in Dar es Salaam processions in the last edition, and a question was posed as to why their belief is so selective so much so that it hinders their accepting the belief wholesome. An incredible piece has surfaced from Br Aunali Khalfan who has aired his views, and in between throwing some hard lines at the author, has resolved an important factor that the Ashura Julus purports to deliver a message and raise our voices as a Muslim Nation amidst growing oppression against our brethren, especially in the Middle East. His message, while loaded with sharp sentiments about the Julus, raises important points as far as the true role of the procession is concerned. Unfortunately, this is hardly the case. Ask some recent past Nairobi Jamaat leaders, and they will tell you how some people thought that we were a Hindu sect heading towards the Karbrastan to bury the idols of our fallen war heroes. Ask any highly learned man and experienced personality of this community to tell you why the “alam”, originally a flag, has been converted into a different form today. Ask specifically, why the “alam” of Hazrat Abbas (AS) is tall and has a mashq (water bag) tied to its “neck”. Ask them if this symbolizes the flag that he heralded on a fateful day, or that it represents the tall stature of the brave warrior whose hands were cut off and the mashq was strapped across his neck.

It is very easy to proclaim that we are doing this with a reason, but very difficult to be logical. If the organizers of the Ashura Julus, the leaders of this community in the first place are not going to accept that a problem exists and that most of our tradition is Hindu in flavour, and if we continue to rationalize with our explanations, then what can one say? If our appearance in public is causing a misinterpretation of our beliefs, we must change that. That brothers and sisters, is what communication is all about…the world is free to draw its conclusions, but they will always be based on our presentation. That will be the true perception.


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About the author

Mohamedarif is a marketing professional and educationalist with a penchant for writing as a hobby since childhood. As he experimented writing about sporting events at first and then current affairs, he quickly developed a skill for observation of his environment and began to write on reform topics, especially in connection with the community. To further feed his pursuit of writing, he founded several newsletters and bulletins at his school and at the Husayni Madrasah in the 1980's, all the time learning from others already in the field not just about writing, but also about pre-press and production processes. He was also the editor-in-chief of the Knowledge Magazine in 1995–1996. A decade later, importing a flurry of ideas into his new home, Nairobi, he first founded a two page community newspaper then became a regular writer of the Friday Faculty before establishing the Community on Friday, a fully fledged Madrasah magazine in 1996. And while his writing at the community continued, he simultaneously started writing for a business weekly, pairing in with his newfound role as a marketing professional. During his time in Nairobi, he wrote several speeches for sitting chairmen and presidents while also giving some himself, developing his concurrent role as a public speaker and trainer.

With changing times and a decrease in advertising sponsorship, as well as a fall in overall readership, Mohamedarif transformed this publication into an electronic blog. Thus was born the Community on Friday in its present format.

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