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Last Updated: 2011/08/06
Summary of question
What is the Islamic law about taking off one's shirt and beating the chest in mourning for Imam Hussein (a)?
question
Salamun alaikum, I have a few questions which I would like to ask as under:
1. There are people from different walks of life taking off their clothes (shirts) during mourning for Imam Hussein (a). I would like to know whether or not such an action is endorsed and approved of by the religion. Is it not derogatory? What part of the body can be exposed during mourning for Imam Hussein (a)?
2. What is the Islamic law about self-flagellation and beating the chest to the extent that it turns pale?
3. It is said that Imam Hussein (a) asked for an old shirt on the day of Ashura so that the enemies might not take it off the Imam's body. Is it not a good proof of the impermissibility of taking one one's clothes and becoming naked during mourning for Imam Hussein (a)?
Concise answer

What has been mentioned in the fatwa of most of the grand jurists about taking off one's shirts and beating the chest indicate that it is permissible to take off one's shirts, if it is not in front of non-mahram (women) and if it does not entail any corruption. None of the grand jurists has forbidden beating the chest; rather they have encouraged it and stressed on its desirability.

Perhaps the "old shirt" story contains a moral message relating to one's guarding his chastity and dignity. It has nothing to do with what you have mentioned in your message. No jurist has ever considered it as a reason for the impermissibility of taking off one's shirt during mourning for Imam Hussein (a).

Detailed Answer

1. What has been mentioned with great emphasis in the verdicts of grand jurists and religious authorities is that mourning, lamentation, crying and being sad at the sad martyrdom of the Chief of Martyrs, Imam Hussein (a) is good and profusely rewarded. It should be noted that different cultures, communities and people hold different forms of mourning and ceremonies in commemoration of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (a). No special form of mourning has been recommended in the traditions. Taking off clothes which is customary in some countries or places are subject to the same area's customs and habits; they have no special virtue or value nor has any special emphasis been laid on them. In fact, at places where there are women and these ceremonies are held in their presence, it is better and more appropriate to hold these ceremonies without taking one's shirts. [i]

In any case, what has been mentioned in the fatwa of most the grand jurists about taking off one's shirts and beating the chest indicate that it is permissible to take off one's shirts, if one is not taking them off in front of non-mahram and if it does not entail any corruption. [ii]

It is worth mentioning that taking off shirts (in its current manner) is not considered to be derogatory. In case, it is considered to be derogatory in some countries, it is not permissible.

2. Latm literally means hitting the face and body with the palm. [iii] Considering the traditions about mourning for Imam Hussein (a), none of the jurists have ever forbidden latm or beating the chest in mourning for Imam Hussein (a) and other infallibles; rather, they have emphasized on its desirability. [iv]

It goes without saying that permissibility of beating the chest is allowed only to some extent. Firstly, it should not involve self-crime. Secondly, it should not entail desecration and derogation of Islam and Muslims. [v]

The "old shirt" story as stated by Lohuf of Ibn Tavus is such that Imam Hussein (a) asked his family to bring him an old shirt. " Bring me some old and tattered dress to wear so that they might spare me ." [vi]

Perhaps, this story contains a moral message pertaining to guarding one's chastity and dignity. It has nothing to do with what you have mentioned in your message. No jurist has ever considered it as a proof of the impermissibility of taking off one's shirt during mourning for Imam Hussein (a).

Related indexes:

Question 7183 (site: 7277, Index: Traditions on the permissibility of mourning for Imam Hussein (a).

Question 12164 (site: 11927) Index: Harming the body in mourning for Imam Hussein (a).  



[i] - Answer provided from Porsman Software

[ii] - Gulpaigani, Lotfullah Saafi, Jami'al-Ahkaam, Hazrat Ma'sumah Publications, Qom, fourth, 1417 A.H.; Khomeini, Rohullah, Istifta'at, vol.3, Miscellaneous Questions, question NO.46; Fazel Lankarani, Muhammad, Jami' al-Masail, vol.1, question 2163 and 2165; Bahjat, Muhammad Taqi, Tawzih al-Masail, Issue No.1937; (Ayatollah Makarem: If there are women present, it is haram to take off one's shirts and if there are no women, it is problematic i.e. a matter of objection. Refer to his website at the following address: persian.makarem.ir/estefta/index.php (

[iii] - Farahidi, Khalil bin Ahmad, Kitab al-Ain, vol.7, pg.433, Hijrat Publication, second, Qom, 1410 A.H; Ibn Manzur, Abul Fazl Lesan al-Arab, vol.12, pg.543, Dar al-Fikr Publiations, third, Beirut, 1414 A.H.

[iv] - A number of authors, Fiqh-e Ahlulbayt Magazine, vol.49, pg.201, Islamic Jurisprudence Encyclopedia Institute, Qom, first; Tabrizi, Jawad, New Questions and Answers, vol.1, pg. 452, Qom, first; Lankarani, Muhammad, Jami' al-Masail, vol.1, pg.579, Amir Qalam Publications, Qom, 11th. For further information about the views of grand religious authorities, see question 12165 (site: 12865).

[v] - Shirazi, Naser Makarem, New Questions and Answers, vol.2, pg.247, Imam Ali bin Abi Talib Institute, Qom, 2nd, 1427 A.H.

[vi] - Sayyid bin Tavus, Al-Lohuf Alaa Qatlaa al-Tofuf, pg.123, Jahan Publications, Tehran, 1348 (solar calendar).

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