A Study of Suffering and Martyrdom in Islamic Ta'ziya and Christian Passion Plays

Ammar Shamil Al-Khafaji


The theme of suffering and martyrdom occupies a central place in the history of religion from the earliest time. In the myths of the ancient Near East, the hero is slain, but his death, then, guarantees the revival of life. Sacrifices are means for reaching higher and loftier stages of life; the Biblical and Qur'anic story of Abraham, who so deeply trusted God that he, without questioning, was willing to sacrifice his dear son, points to the importance of such sacrifice.  Greek theater, on the other hand, grew out of a religious festival, and was often concerned with the deepest questions about morality and the relationship between mortals, gods, and fate; it was theoretically a temple of the god Dionysus, with his alter in the center.

       Church history is also rich with examples of art enhancing religious teaching. From the beginning of early churches through to the Middle Ages and beyond, people interact with images, music, ritual symbols and drama. Mystery, Miracle, Morality, which have developed successively, have led to the creation of what is called now "the passion plays of Christ". The passion play is a dramatic presentation which depicts Jesus Christ's passion , his trial, suffering, and death. It is a traditional part of Lent in several Christian denominations, particularly in Catholic tradition. The counterpart of the Christian Passion play in Islamic tradition is the "Ta'ziyeh" which means Condolence Theatre. It commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, grandson of Prophet Muhammad. As Christ gave his life as a sacrifice for the sake of humanity, Imam Hussein is seen as having sacrificed himself for the sake of Islam. In both traditions the theme of martyrdom is celebrated through literature.

         The reconnection of Church and drama was a recovery of former state of affairs which had been lost. It was a dream that came true on some modern poetic dramatists. Thus, many poetic plays were written on the theme of martyrdom and sacrifice in Christian traditions. In the Islamic tradition, the tragedy of Karbala inspired some modern Muslim poets to write modern poetic dramas about it. Modern poetic drama succeeded in performing a social function by dramatizing complex states of human spiritual and moral beings and it was the fruit of the seeds planted by Christ passion plays and Islamic T'azyia. It is the role of the poetic plays to show that the true meaning of martyrdom is to sacrifice one's self to give life to others, by making use of the heritage of hundreds of martyrs who sacrificed their lives defending the peaceful life of their countries against those terrorists who have killed life and destroyed peace. It is the most suitable time now for the writers of poetic drama to show through their work the difference between the true and genuine meaning of martyrdom and   the deformed one.



martyrdom; passion plays; Ta'ziya

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17951/lsmll.2017.41.1.7
Data publikacji: 2017-07-04 09:02:28
Data złożenia artykułu: 2016-10-04 11:43:20


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