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Kids collect cold hard cash during Ashura

December 29, 2011

Soliciting money for Shiite holiday

This eye-catching photo taken earlier this month during an Ashura procession in India shows two boys collecting plates full of money from the crowds.  The poor white horse appears to have a few drops of blood on his head.

The full Getty caption reads:

NEW DELHI, INDIA – DECEMBER 06: Shi’ite Muslims walk a white horse through the streets as people donate money and food during the religious procession of Ashura on December 6, 2011 in New Delhi, India. Hundreds of Muslims in New Delhi and thousands around India took part in a procession to mark the 10th day of the Islamic month of Muharram when they remember the killing of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed, who was martyred some at the Battle of Karbala, Iraq in 61AH. Shia men and women dressed in black crying and beating their chests participated in the capital’s processions to mark this important date in the Islamic calendar. On Muharram Muslims also undetake voluntary fasting, give to charity and pray in remembrance of Hussain.

Collecting money during Ashura seems to be a Shia tradition.  Morocco World News reported earlier this month that “On Ashura, children move from house to house, singing rhyming songs and collecting money and sweets.”

One mufti defended the practice this month in an online forum in response to a Muslim’s question:

Question:

I would like to know whether spending on one’s family on the 10th of Muharram is an authenticated practice. If this is so, is it recommended to spend specifically on food and drink or will general gifts suffice. Also could these gifts be bought in advance with the intention of spending on one’s family on the 10th of Muharram?

Answer

In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

There are two types of narrations related in this regard. The first concerning the virtue of giving general charity on the 10th of Muharram (Ashura), and the second concerning the virtue of spending specifically on one’s family on this day.

As far as general charity is concerned, it has been reported from the Companion Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-As (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said, “Whoever fasts on the 10th of Muharram (Ashura), it is as though he has fasted the entire year. And whoever gives charity on this day, it is like the charity of an entire year.” (Recorded by Imam Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali in his Lata’if al-Ma’arif from Abu Musa al-Madini)

As for spending and being generous on one’s family, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) is reported to have said, “One who generously spends on his family on the 10th of Muharram (Ashura), Allah will be generous on him for the entire year.” (Recorded by Imam Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali in his Lata’if al-Ma’arif from Tabarani in his al-Awsat and Al-Bayhaqi in his Shu’ab al-Iman)

These and other narrations indicate that one should be generous on one’s family and dependants and spend more on them by providing more food and other items on this day as compared to other days. One may give cash, food and drink, or any other item of gift.

Although some scholars consider these narrations to be weak (dha’if), others like Imam Bayhaqi and Ibn Hibban have accepted them as reliable. Imam Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali relates from Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (Allah have mercy on him) that he did consider some basis for them. He also quotes Sufyan ibn Uyayna (Allah have mercy on him) as saying, “I have practiced this [spending on the family] for fifty or sixty years, and have found nothing but good in it.” (Lata’if al-Ma’arif P 64)

Thus, unlike other Islamic taxes that are primarily intended to strengthen or expand Islam (zakat, jizya, etc.), money collected during Ashura seems to be retained by the families of the children who collect it.  In this sense it seems like a Shia version of Halloween, where the goodies are kept by the kids themselves and are not distributed as charity.

If this is incorrect, Money Jihad welcomes any Shiites with personal experience in this area to set the record straight.

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7 comments

  1. The source you quote regarding Ashura is a Sunni source and therefore not applicable to the practices of Shi’a Muslims.

    Ashura, as practiced by Shi’a Muslims, is analogous to Easter, not Halloween.


    • So it’s more like an easter egg hunt for cash than trick-or-treating for cash? Okay, got it–thanks.


      • Your comment demeans both Easter and Ashura.

        Perhaps you are an antheist who attaches no more signifcance to Easter than searching for colorful eggs and candy. For my Christian relatives, it is a deeply spiritual occasion mourning the martyrdom of Christ and celebrating his resurrection. Do you hate Islam so much that you would belittle Christianity as well?


  2. Referring to an Easter egg hunt does not “belittle” Christianity any more than referring to a Christmas tree “belittles” Christmas.

    And you’re still side-stepping the issue of deploying children as money collectors during Ashura.


    • I was referring to tone of your comment as demeaning Easter, Christmas and Ashura.

      As far as I can tell there is no “issue” to side step. Perhaps you are attempting to insinuate that the children pictured are being exploited. Children collect donations at churches, synagogues and mosques all the time. What precisely is the “issue” you that concerns you?


      • I’m not familiar with other religions having annual parades that deploy children with collection plates to work the crowds.

        I am still trying to get confirmation on whether the families of the children keep the money for themselves, or whether the money is given back to the mosques, imams, or to some other recipient.


      • brother just ask this shias if the things they do in muharram are permitted in Islamic Sharia and where it is that our prophet saww permitted it.



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