FLASHBACK of Hosay flagnight in St James last
Photo: KENROY AMBRIS
Small tadjahs show tonight
Apr 02, 2001
RESIDENTS and visitors to St James and Cedros will tonight
witness the second phase of the annual four-day Shiite
Muslim commemoration of the siege and slaughter of Imam Hussain
and his followers.
Observances began last night, with the memory of a fallen soldier
and his significance to Islam and tomorrow night, huge and ornate
replicas of the tombs in which the remains of Hussain and his
brother Hassan were buried will be pulled through the streets.
Tonight, devotees remember the plight of the children caught in
the siege and who starved to death or were slaughtered along with
their parents. These events took place in what is now Iraq in 640
The story is one that tugs at the heart, particularly in those
sequences where soldiers under instruction to dismantle Islam and
wipe out its followers, disregarded pleas made on behalf of the
Small Hosay, as tonights commemoration is called, present
small tadjahs, representative of the resting places of the
murdered children. Imam Husseins six-month-old son, Ali
Ashgar, was one of those children.
Muslim scholars say the Imam picked up the baby to take him to
the front, so that he could demonstrate to the soldiers who had
them under siege that the child was dying of thirst. The move
seemed to have tugged at some sensitive chords among some of the
soldiers who, the story goes, began to cry at seeing the parched
lips of Ali Ashgar.
The Imam held up the baby and asked What has this child
done to you? But his cry clearly did not impress the
opposing armys generals, one of whom, Omar Bin Saadm,
decided to take no chances and ordered his best archer, Hurmala,
to kill the child. The other children in the Imams group
were starved to death.
Each night, the procession begins about 11 p.m. and often goes
into the wee hours of the following morning. On Wednesday in St
James (Thursday in Cedros) a day procession is staged. At every
sequence, the cortege moves to the beat of tassa bands.
Using a combination of heavy thud of the dhol, tinkling of
cymbals and rhythmic rolling of the tassa, the bands could be
heard for miles as early morning replaces late night, a fact that
introduces a conflict of purposes between spectators and
Because the same combination of drums is used in festive
applications, well-oiled tassa groups often hold quite another
persuasion for the thousands of spectators, many of whom remain
unfamiliar with the religious root of the commemoration.