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Is there any Reason for the Permissibility of Chest Beating and Self-Hitting?

Why some Muslims beat their chest and hit themselves during Muharram? Isn’t it haram to hit or hurt yourself? Do we have any example for the Prophet doing this? Did any Imams hit themselves because of the martyrdom of a person?

Mourning for Imam Husayn (as) is one of the highest forms of worship, and doing anything for him that is considered a form of mourning in culture and society is permissible, unless it really brings about a considerable amount of harm to the body, or is a means of the undermining of the Shia and the Ahlul-Bayt’s school of thought; chest beating is none of the two, so it is permissible. Because of none of the above applying to it, and since it is a form of lament and mourning for that great imam (as), it is mustahabb.[1]

In addition to the responses that can be found on this website, there are also hadiths on beating on one’s head and chest for Imam Husayn, namely: “The narrator says: When Imam Kadhim (as) was apprehended, he told his son Imam Ridha (as) to sleep at the entrance door of his home as long as he (Imam Kadhim) is alive until news of his father comes.

He says: We would prepare the sleeping place of Imam Ridha (as) every night and he would sleep there every night after dinner and would return to his own home in the morning. Four years passed like this until one night, when we were preparing his sleeping place, he didn’t come like every other night and this matter worried us and those in the home. The next night the imam came to the home and went to his father’s family and summoned Umm Ahmad and told her: Bring the trust my father had entrusted you with. Upon hearing this, Umm Ahmad screamed and slapped her face and tore her collar saying: By Allah my master (Imam Kadhim) has passed away! Imam Ridha (as) said to her: Don’t say anything in this regard and don’t disclose it to anyone, until the news reaches the governor…”.[2]

Although in this hadith, the person screaming and beating herself isn’t the imam (as), but the point here is that all of it was done in the imam’s (as) presence and the imam didn’t say anything to prevent it. Such silence is confirmation[3] by the imam (as) and is binding for others.

There are other hadiths that indicate that the household of the prophet (pbuh) would rend their collars in tragedies. This matter has been narrated about Imam Askari[4] and also Lady Zaynab.[5]



[1] This is Ayatullah Mahdi Hadavi Tehrani’s response to the inquiry. Grand Ayatullah Safi Golpaygani’s response in this regard is: If it doesn’t cause considerable harm to the body, it is permissible per se.

[2] Kuleini, Muhammad bin Yaqub, Kafi, vol. 1, pp. 381 and 382, Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah, Tehran, 1365.

[3] Tradition is comprised of three elements: the action, saying and confirmation of an infallible.

[4] Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 50, pg. 191, Al-Wafa’ Institute, Lebanon, 1404 (AH); Kashi, Muhammad bin Umar, Rijal Kashi, pg. 480, Daneshgah Mashad Publications, 1348.

[5] Seyed Ali bin Musa bin Tawus, Al-Luhuf, pp. 178 and 179, Jahan Publications, Tehran, 1348.


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