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A History of (Safavid) Muharram Rituals

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Chapter Summary

This chapter on the history of Muharram shows the development of the ceremonies from the formative period of Islamic history to the Safavid era. In addition to tracing the symbolic and performative developments, the chapter seeks to answer several questions. How did Muharram develop from an esoteric devotional practice after the seventh century into a major public procession under the Safavids in the seventeenth century? How did social transformations on a transcultural level influence the development of the rituals? What significant feature distinguished early practice of the ceremonies from Safavid Muharram rituals? In Syria, the former headquarters of the Umayyad caliphate, the ceremonies were also performed in their distinctive chant elegies and processional forms in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The absence of European travel reports on the ceremonies from 1576 to 1602-04 is indicative of a domestic crisis in the pre-Isfahani phase of Safavid rule.

Keywords:Isfahani society; Muharram rituals; Safavid era



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