Mareike Beez: Der zwölferschiitische Martyriumsdiskurs im Iran des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts
This PhD thesis focuses on the Twelver Shīʿī discourse of martyrdom in 19th and 20th century Iran based on the analysis of an extensive corpus of Persian sources.
The study starts out from the hypotheses that Twelver Shīʿa features a specific discourse of martyrdom being characterized on the one hand by Imam Ḥusain’s violent death and the doctrine of Imamate and on the other hand by an ideological shift the discourse had undergone in the late 1960s and 1970s framed by Tiersmondism.
The corpus of primary sources is composed both of maqtal works written in the Qajar era and written speeches which religious-reformist and secular-nationalist intellectuals had held in pre-revolutionary Iran to commemorate Imam Ḥusain’s martyrdom at the battle of Karbalāʾ A.D. 680 during the month Muḥarram. While depicting the prophet’s grandson as a role model and hero, these intellectuals utilized the Karbalāʾ narrative to strive for social and political change by mobilizing armed struggle against the Pahlavī regime.
The discourse of martyrdom consists of four main topics to be found in both periods of investigation, demonstrating and comparing not only its distinctive characteristics but also the ideological shift that took place in the course of political confrontation between the Shah and the opposition in the 1960s and 1970s. Among these, the image of Ḥusain is central since it focuses on the issue to what extent he had divine knowledge about his impending martyrdom, e.g., whether he knew the exact place and time of his killing. Consequently, the interpretation of potential reasons why the third Imam defied his political challenger and departed from Mecca to Iraq is closely interwoven with the image of Ḥusain. Both debates describe respective purposes of the Imam’s martyrdom and give reasons what he may have died for. Beyond that, the sources discuss the willingness of the martyrs of Karbalāʾ to sacrifice their lives as well as the mourning rites. These rites used to serve later generations of Shīʿīs as time-transcending symbolic and redemptive support of the Imam’s commitment to Islam. The fourth main topic is a “philosophy of martyrdom” which not only refers back to theological aspects of the early Islamic doctrine of martyrdom but also unfolds abstract and partly ideologically influenced ideas.
- Beez, Mareike. 2015. "Der zwölferschiitische Martyriumsdiskurs im Iran des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts", PhD dissertation, Freie Universität Berlin.