Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Death of the Seventh Imam Ceremony

"The Shiite Muslim ceremony that pilgrims were marking Wednesday when the Baghdad bridge disaster occurred commemorates the death of the seventh imam, one of 12 imams revered in the Shiite branch of Islam.

That imam, Imam Moussa ibn Jaafar al-Kadhim, died in the year 799.

Each year, on the date on the Islamic calendar that marks his death, devout Shiites gather at the site of a mosque in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Kazimiyah that is believed to sit atop his tomb.

Dressed in black, the pilgrims walk in groups to the shrine, flogging themselves with iron chains and slicing their foreheads with swords. The self-flagellation slowly turns their cloaks red with blood in a ritual of grief that was banned under ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

Most shops are closed and pilgrims who travel from around the country to attend the ceremony often sleep on carpets laid out in the streets. They cook camels, cows and sheep in enormous pots shared by neighbors and visitors."

"Description of Shiite Ceremony in Iraq" Associated Press via August 31, 2005

Photo credit: Harvard University


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