This article looks at the historic presence of the festival, survival as boria (choral street performance) and alleged Shi‘a roots in Malaysia.
There is a tendency, within and outside academia, to connect the public observance of the Muharram festival to the Shi‘a school of Islam. In consequence historic reports of the Muharram festival in places such as the Americas, Africa, and in Southeast Asia are linked directly to Shi‘a Islam. This article looks at the historic presence of the festival, survival as boria (choral street performance) and alleged Shi‘a roots in Malaysia. Nearly all scholars believe that it originally arrived there in the nineteenth century via Shi‘a Indian soldiers/sepoys who accompanied the British. Yet a detailed study of the sepoys reveals that they were actually Sunni Muslims or else Hindus. The article concludes that most studies discount the Sunni Muslims historic participation in spreading the festival as their ‘own’. The study also high-lights a need to move away from using contemporary interpretations and parameters of Shi‘a and Sunni Islam as they were formerly observed and practiced.
Title: The Hullabaloo Surrounding the Origin of the Muharram Festival Amongst the Sunni Malays
Author: Maziar Mozaffari Falarti
Published in: Journal of Shi‘a Islamic Studies, Autumn 2016 . Vol. IX . No. 4
Length: 25 pages