Reliving Karbala Martyrdom in South Asian Memory by Syed Akbar Hyder (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 261 pages.)

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Liyakat Takim

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Abstract

Most studies on the epic events in Karbala and the martyrdom in 680 of
Husayn, the Prophet’s grandson, have focused on the possible ramifications
of his sacrifice and the paradigmatic models that can be constructed from
this event. Other studies have examined the various genres of Shi`i rituals
enacted to commemorate Husayn’s martyrdom. Akbar Hyder’s Reliving
Karbala examines this death from very different perspectives.
The author does not claim to provide a systematic exposition of the historical
events or philosophy of Husayn’s martyrdom. He neither focuses on
the written texts of history nor presents a normative reading of Karbala.
Rather, he transcends the traditional Shi`i-coded understanding by offering
a more trans-sectarian and trans-communal, as well as multiple readings, of
this entire episode. The book also covers Karbala’s influence on the South
Asian cultural and literary landscape, demonstrating, in the process, how this
narrative is appropriated and lived in the contexts and memories of South
Asian Muslims and non-Muslims at different times.
Hyder uses a wide array of sources, ranging from classical Islamic texts
to modern twentieth-century discourses and incorporates citations from Iqbal, Premchand, Gandhi, and others. The book opens a window on how various
interpretive strategies can be utilized to read a seventh-century event and how
they can shape social milieus inhabited by more than a billion people ...

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