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The Shi’i Islamic Martyrdom Narratives of Imam al-Ḥusayn: An Introduction

The book “Shi’i Islamic Martyrdom Narratives of Imam al-Husayn” leads the Western reader to a clear and profound understanding of a “universal classic” of Islamic studies, the “Maqtal” literature.

The author, Muhammed-Reza Fakhr-Rohani, deploys his vast erudition and expertise and multiplies the possible points of view on the topic, so that the final result is not only a comprehensive study on martyrdom in Shi‘i Islam but also a sophisticated essay on the human nature and on the different interpretations of heroism, sacrifice, and altruism for the common good and community.

Martyrdom narratives (maqtals) represent a prominent genre of Islamic, particularly Shiʽi, literature. In this genre, the heart-rending aspects of the martyrdom scenes of religiously prominent people are depicted graphically. Although not exclusively limited to the martyrdom accounts of Imam al-Ḥusayn and his companions, who were martyred on the plain of Karbala, Iraq, a great majority of Islamic martyrdom narratives deal with the Ashura episodes.

As the first book-length treatment of this genre in English, this text takes the reader from the dawn of Islam in ancient Arabia, exploring the background of the Battle of Karbala and giving a view of the various maqtals and several related studies. Although examining Arabic and Persian sources, this book presupposes little background knowledge on the part of the reader.

About the Author

Muhammad-Reza Fakhr-Rohani is a linguist and translator who has been preoccupied with research on the impacts of Ashura in English sources. In addition to compiling Ashura Poems in English (two volumes; 2011), he has translated many Ashura-oriented works from Arabic and Persian into English. He compiled the first Ashura encyclopedic dictionary in English and an Arabic-English dictionary of the titles and designations of Imam al-Ḥusayn, his step-brother, al-ʽAbbās b. ʽAlī, and his elder son, ʽAlī al-Akbar.

Table of Contents

Part One: Background

Chapter 1


Chapter 2

Leadership: A Quranic-cum-Prophetic Perspective

Part Two: Imam al-Ḥusayn’s Movement

Chapter 3

The Medina Phase

Chapter 4

The Mecca Phase

Chapter 5

From Mecca toward al-Kufah

Chapter 6

On the Plain of Karbala

Chapter 7

The Ashura Battle of Karbala

Part Three: The Ashura Battle of Karbala

Chapter 8

The Ashura Battles: Non-Hāshimid Martyrs


Chapter 9

The Ashura Battle of Karbala: Hāshimid Martyrs

Chapter 10

Imam al-Ḥusayn’s Martyrdom

Part Four: Maqtal: A Specific Martyrdom-Oriented Genre

Chapter 11

Maqtals and the Husayni Maqtals

Chapter 12

Maqtals: An Historical Survey

Chapter 13

Maqtals and Ashuragraphies in English

Chapter 14

Other Types of Maqtals

Chapter 15


Chapter 16

Sample Annotated Maqtals

Selected Bibliography and Further Reading

Bibliographic Information

Title:The Shi’i Islamic Martyrdom Narratives of Imam al-Ḥusayn: An Introduction

Author (s):  Muhammed-Reza Fakhr-Rohani

Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Length: 275 Pages

ISBN:‎ 978-1-5275-9228-5

Pub. Date: 15th June 2023

The Shi’i Islamic Martyrdom Narratives of Imam al-Ḥusayn

About Ali Teymoori

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