Reliving Karbala: Martyrdom in South Asian Memory

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Overview


In 680 C.E., a small band of the Prophet Muhammads family and their followers, led by his grandson, Husain, rose up in a rebellion against the ruling caliph, Yazid. The family and its supporters, hopelessly outnumbered, were massacred at Karbala, in modern-day Iraq. The story of Karbala is the cornerstone of institutionalized devotion and mourning for millions of Shii Muslims. Apart from its appeal to the Shii community, invocations of Karbala have also come to govern mystical and reformist discourses in the larger Muslim world. Indeed, Karbala even serves as the archetypal resistance and devotional symbol for many non-Muslims. Until now, though, little scholarly attention has been given to the widespread and varied employment of the Karbala event.

In Reliving Karbala, Syed Akbar Hyder examines the myriad ways that the Karbala symbol has provided inspiration in South Asia, home to the worlds largest Muslim population. Rather than a unified reading of Islam, Hyder reveals multiple, sometimes conflicting, understandings of the meaning of Islamic religious symbols like Karbala. He ventures beyond traditional, scriptural interpretations to discuss the ways in which millions of very human adherents express and practice their beliefs. By using a panoramic array of sources, including musical performances, interviews, nationalist drama, and other literary forms, Hyder traces the evolution of this story from its earliest historical origins to the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Today, Karbala serves as a celebration of martyrdom, a source of personal and communal identity, and even a tool for political protest and struggle. Hyder explores how issues related to gender, genre, popular culture, class, and migrancy bear on the cultivation of religious symbols. He assesses the manner in which religious language and identities are negotiated across contexts and continents.

At a time when words like martyrdom, jihad, and Shiism are being used and misused for political reasons, this book provides much-needed scholarly redress. Through his multifaceted examination of this seminal event in Islamic history, Hyder offers an original, complex, and nuanced view of religious symbols.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Reliving Karbala is a significant contribution to the existing scholarship on Karbala. Hyder adds vitality and depth to his analysis through a range of personal anecdotes, including memories of his own experience of growing up between cultures. This book is an invaluable resource from whcih students of various disciplines will benefit." --American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195189308
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/31/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 278
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author



Syed Akbar Hyder is Assistant Professor of Asian Studies and Islamic Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2000.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2006

    Brilliant - Must read for any one interested in religions

    A must read for any one interested in religions, and particularly Islam. It shows how polyvocal the symbol of Karbala is, and how religions should be studied.

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