The development of Iraqi Shiʼa mourning rituals in modern Iraq: the ʻAshurā rituals and visitation of Al-Arbʻain
This study is based on a submission of anthropological, historical, and literary approaches. The ethnographic study of the Shi'a holy shrines between November 2011 and January 2012 is based on my visit to Iraq. The study lasted almost ten weeks, to include the two events under discussion: `Ashurā and Al-Arb`ain, in Karbala of that year. This thesis argues that the mourning rituals of `Ashurā and the Forty Day Visitation Zyarat Al-Arb`ain contribute to the social or individual life of Iraqi Shi'a. They also make significant contributions through creating a symbolic language to communicate for the community, as well as communicating with their essential symbolic structure. Second, the Forty Day Visitation Zyarat Al-Arb`ain is one of the most significant collective mourning rituals, one that expresses unity and solidarity of the Iraqi Shi'a community, and helps them to represent their collective power, and maintain their collective existence. This study uses two of Victor Turner's tripartite models. For `Ashurā the rite of passage rituals is used, which consists of the separation, margin, and re-aggregation phase. Through this process of entering and leaving time and social structure, it helps in changing the social status of the participants. The other model used for Al-Arb`ain is pilgrimage as a social process, which includes three levels of communitas: existential, normative, and ideological communitas. The Shi'a in Iraq are holding a position similar to Turner's notion of communitas since they are living within a society that is Muslim and yet even though they are a larger population of the society, they still become marginalized by the Sunni population socially, economically, and politically. Social relations and links play a significant role for Shi'a in `Ashurā and Al-Arb`ain as a reflection between their social status as an undefined communitas and the general structure of Iraqi society.