In Legacy of a Revered Martyr, Saudi Shiites Find Sustenance
Lessons From Killing of Hussein in 7th Century Define Lives, Ambitions of His Followers Today
Faiza Saleh Ambah

QATIF, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 30 — Fawzia al-Hani dropped her black veil over her face and wept softly on Sunday, enveloping herself in the sadness of the last days of Imam Hussein, grandson of the prophet Muhammad and Shiite Islam’s most tragic and revered martyr.

The women in the packed community center commemorating Ashura, the anniversary of Hussein’s death in A.D. 680, watched on a projection screen as a turbaned cleric described how Hussein set out with a small band of family and followers to confront a large army, then was filled with anguish when his favorite son was slaughtered before he himself was killed.

Beside the cleric, men huddled on the floor with their heads bowed, dabbing at their eyes with tissues.

To many of the region’s historically persecuted Shiites, the death of Hussein in what is now Karbala, Iraq, the event that triggered the schism between Sunnis and Shiites, remains central to their lives. Shiite belief that Hussein and his descendants were robbed of their rightful succession as rulers of the Islamic world heightens their sense of persecution and victimization.

As did every other media service with reporters on the ground in Saudi Arabia, The Washington Post sent its reporter to Qatif, in the Eastern Province, to observe the rites of Ashura. This article is a good one, worth reading.

The article quotes Saudi Shi’ites who say that the conflict in Iraq is already spilling over the borders. Sunni clerics in the Kingdom have recently taken up cries against the Shi’a. Saudi Shi’a leaders try to remind their people that Iraq’s problems are not their own and that they are not under any obligation to pick up the Iraqi Shi’a fight for their own.

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