Author: Syed Akbar Hyder
Publisher: Oxford University Press (March 2006)
Pages: 278 Binding: Hardcover
Description from the publisher:
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.
"This is a very ambitious book that seeks to trace the many recurrences of the trope of the Karbala tragedy in the literary life of South Asia, historically to the present. The tracing of the role of the trope--from personal and communal lament, to celebration of martyrdom, to a political frame of protest and struggle, and concomitant literary utility that transforms the Karbala aesthetic to a rhetoric of socio-religious reform--is a dramatic tour de force that intimates the full range of Karbala's personal and public use. This survey suggests a different approach to South Asian literature, and therefore South Asian culture, than we generally see today, and one that this reader finds particularly intriguing and instructive."--Tony K. Stewart, Professor of South Asian Religions & the History of Religions, North Carolina State University
The strength of this book derives not just from the author's discerning readings of a multifaceted symbol, but also from his exploration of existential tensions that are at the heart of Muslim communities. Reliving Karbala boldly and brilliantly demonstrates the broad variety of ways in which Karbala becomes a polyphonic symbol, dynamically configured in different contexts and defying simplistic dichotomies such as Shia and Sunni, Muslim and non-Muslim, religious and secular. It calls for an interdisciplinary approach to interpreting pivotal religious symbols, one that restores much-needed complexity to understanding Islam's religious narratives and its lyrical perspectives. A must read for students of Islam and its literary traditions and anyone interested in the humanistic study of religion.--Ali S. Asani, Professor of the Practice of Indo-Muslim Languages and Cultures, Harvard University
"Akbar Hyders wide-ranging study examines the Karbala metaphor not just in the Urdu language but in fact in the full richness of the lives of the over one hundred million speakers of that language in South Asia. His chapter on the use of the Karbala story by and among Sufis is a brilliant expose of just how wide-spread in use and non-sectarian in purpose the Karbala story has always been. His juxtaposition of the Muslim Muhammad Iqbal, the Poet-philosopher of Pakistan, with the Hindu Premchand, the Gandhian champion of Indian peasantry, allows us to comprehend the amazing range of the metaphorical force of Karbala. These and many other insights make this book an exhilarating read, not only to Urdu scholars but to all humanistic scholars interested in Islamicate literatures and societies." --C. M. Naim, Professor Emeritus, South Asian Languages & Civilizations, University of Chicago
278 pages; 14 halftones; 6-1/8 x 9-1/4;
About the Author(s)
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.