Qame-Zani

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Qame-Zani, striking the head with a sharp knife, is one of Muharram rituals. On 9 and 10 Muharram, men solemnly march through the streets performing various acts of bloodletting self-flagellation, including striking the head with a sharp knife (tatbir, qameh zani) or striking oneself on the back with chains or blades (shamshir zani, zanjir zani). Since the early 20th century, Shiʿi ulama have debated the permissibility of performing “bloody matam.” In 1994 Ayatollah ʿAli Khamenei issued a fatwa (legal opinion) prohibiting the performance of matam in which weapons are used to shed blood. Likewise, the leader of the Lebanese organization Hezbollah, Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, has upheld Khamenei’s fatwa, urging Shiʿa to donate blood on Ashura. These legal opinions reflect the desire to deflect criticism away from Shiʿi Muharram rituals, which are often portrayed as excessively violent and rooted in superstition.

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