A Description of a Spiritual Ritual

Monday , 08/31/2015 - 06:17
Suffah Ritual
. Since long ages, many rituals were held in the holy shrine and servants of the holy shrine are the main performers of the rituals.
Suffah ritual is as old as the holy burial chamber and the historical evidences show that since the time of Imam’s burial (A.S.) in the present place, Qur’an has being recited continuously. Qaries gathered around the holy burial chamber and recited Qur’an; hence, a number of Qur’an volumes were endowed to Astan Quds that were preserved inside the holy shrine.
Historical accounts indicate that when Muhammad Khan Sheibani, Sultan and founder of Uzbeks, took Khurasan from Teimurids, he came to Mashhad in 910 A.H. for pilgrimage and decreed that Huffaz (Qur’an memorizers) recite Qur’an outside the holy burial chamber. This indicates that until then, Suffah ritual was performed by Huffaz inside the holy shrine and afterwards, it was transferred out of the holy shrine.

In 1276 A.H. a righteous man, named Imam Verdi Khan Bayat Mukhtari for perpetuation of this ceremony assigned a portion of the revenue of an endowment for meeting the expenses of this ritual and requested that Huffaz should recite Qur’an all day long in the Towhid Khaneh portico along with the twelve stanzas compiled by Khwaja Nasir al-Din Tusi. For a long time this ritual was performed in the Towhid Khaneh until the experts transferred it to the Dar al-Huffaz portico for its magnificence and approximating it to the burial chamber, as it deserved.
Performance of any ritual demands certain manners. Before the ceremony is performed, appropriate preparations are made by the Farrashan (sweepers) in the special place. Then, 14 bookracks, candleholders and copies of the Glorious Qur'an, are brought to the place, and arranged in two rows at the two sides of the portico.
The Huffaz, in a special order, enter the portico, sit behind the bookracks and make ready to start the ceremony by reciting the Fourteen praising articles. As soon as the servants enter the portico and the supervisor and his deputy settle at the middle and front of the portico while the other Khuddam stand in two lines beside them, the ceremony starts. At this moment, the reciters recite about one part of the Glorious Qur'an and each recite one part of the Fourteen praising articles beautifully in a loud voice. They all stand up as a sign of respect when the name of Imam Reza (A.S.) is recited, and again sit down to continue the recitation. Once again, while hearing the name of the Imam Mahdi (A.S.) recited at the start of the part 14 of the poem, the population stands up as a sign of respect.
After completing the recitation of the Fourteen praising articles, while all Khuddam and Farrashan are standing in a queue, the orator of the reciters read aloud the special Khutbah (oration). This special oration contains praising and worshipping God, praising the Infallible Imams (A.S.), Imam Reza (A.S.) in particular, praying to Allah for hastening the glad advent of Imam Mahdi (A.S.), asking for God's favor for the Late Founder of the Islamic Revolution -Ayatollah Khomeini (R.A), scholars and all those who devoted their life to Islam in the past, and praying for the health and a long life for the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution and all those who have devoted their life to Astan Quds Razavi and the sacred Order of the Islamic Republic of Iran. After prayer is finished, all the servants bow down and perform thankfulness prostration to God for having the chance of being in this ceremony.

Then the supervisor picks up the Qur’an over the first bookrack at the right side of the portico and then the candleholder opposite to each bookrack, kisses it and gives to the first Hafiz. Huffaz and servants kiss Qura’ns, bookracks and candleholders one after another and take them back to the special room by handing them out.

Photo: Muhammad Zaernia
Passage: Naeimeh Bakhshi