The Language of Tears: My Journey into the World of Shi'i Muslim Women

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The Language of Tears: My Journey into the World of Shi'i Muslim Women
The Language of Tears My Journey into the World of Shi'i Muslim Women.jpg
AuthorBridget Blomfield
PublisherWhite Cloud Press

The book The Language of Tears: My Journey into the World of Shi'i Muslim Women is for anyone who wishes to understand how Shi’ism is experienced by women in East and West.  

About the author[edit | edit source]

Dr. Bridget Blomfield teaches Religious Studies and is the director of the Islamic Studies Program at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. She is also a faculty member of the International Studies and Women’s Studies programs. Her areas of interest include women’s religious rituals, and Islamic mysticism. As an ethnographer, she researches Shi’a and Sufi Muslim women and their religious commitments to Islam. Her personal life is dedicated to the pursuit of consciousness.

bout the book[edit | edit source]

This book published in White Cloud Press (November 3, 2015), has 160 pages and best sellers rank of 3,547,979 in Books.

Bridget Blomfield takes a journey into the lives of Shi’a women pursuing their faith in Southern California. Shelearns from everyone and informs us about the stories of the holy family, the ritual of tears, other ritual terms, social customs, and public and private dress. She especially enjoys the range of Muslim women she writes about: from Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and India Doctors, educators, housewives.

Abstract of chapters[edit | edit source]

Chapter 1: The City of Knowledge: Learning about Islam through the Eyes of Children[edit | edit source]

In this chapter the author goes to the school (The City of Knowledge School) a few days a week to tutor, she starts in the Arabic class. There, she becomes aware of the Five Pillars of Islam. In this loving environment she makes friends with the children’s mothers. They ultimately trust her and invite her to their homes for parties, weddings, Qur’an studies, and spiritual gatherings. She records their stories and watches their children grow up. She is allowed to participate in their gatherings and understand the spiritual and emotional cleansing nature of their religious rituals. Ultimately, she sees how the rituals and spiritual role models helped them in their daily lives by giving them strength in difficult times.

Chapter 2: Fatima: Lady of Heaven[edit | edit source]

In this chapter, we read how the author gets acquainted with Fatima, the youngest daughter of the Prophet and his first wife, Khadija. The more time the author spends in the Shi’a community, the more fascinated she becomes with Fatima. Fatima al-Zahra is a role model for Shi’a Muslim women because she courageously represents resistance and justice as well as familial and community love.

Chapter 3: Zaynab: Young Women and Feminism[edit | edit source]

This chapter is about Zaynab. Like Fatima, her daughter Zaynab is an elevated and beloved role model, especially for young Shi’a women. The young women seem to identify more with Zaynab because they see her as a feminist, picking up where her mother Fatima left off. As a feminist, Zaynab offered much inspiration for young women in contemporary times. She was the prototype for young women’s courage and piety. Daughter of Ali and Fatima, granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad, she maintains the image of a young woman who spoke her mind against all oppression and injustice, challenging her oppressors in the court of her father’s murderer. Zaynab was a wife, mother, daughter, and sister, representing the needs and hopes of all women during their lifetimes. But more than that, Zaynab stood up against those who oppressed her and her family. Centuries ago, Zaynab became a symbol of courage, in particular for Shi’a women. She remains a symbol of courage for today’s women in Shi’a communities who fight for the right to define freedom and agency within their own religious culture.

Chapter 4: Muharram[edit | edit source]

In this chapter the author is confronted with the story of Imam Hussain and Karbala. This story is the epic tale of how the Shi’a were martyred trying to defend Islam. The story is told to her as if it had happened yesterday. Then she becomes familiar with majlis ritual. A majlis is a gathering in which the participants sit and perform their rituals of sorrow as they commemorate the deaths of the holy family and their followers. These gatherings offer the participants an opportunity to lament the martyrdom of their ancestors. Shi’a believe that the azadari ritual works as an intercessory prayer to members of the ahl albayt.

Chapter 5: The Iranian Women[edit | edit source]

It is difficult for the author to tell the difference between the Iranian and Iraqi women. She then finds a tremendous difference: Iraqis are Arabs and Iranians are Persian! their cultures are quite different. In this chapter, she expresses her first encounter with an Iranian family and on of their religious rituals, sofreh. Sofreh, whose name literally means “tablecloth,” is a form of nazr, a vow to do a good act in return for an answered prayer. These functions are hosted any time of the year or specifically during Muharram and Safar, to express thanks for intercession. Most commonly they are in honor of Fatima, Zaynab, Sakineh (Roqayyeh), or alAbbas. Then the author is asked if she would like to take part in washing the body of an Iranian woman and she feels tremendous gratitude that she was asked to participate in such a sacred rite.

Chapter 6: The Iraqi Women[edit | edit source]

In this chapter the author becomes familiar with the Iraqi Women and says that It was them that first taught her the rituals and laments. She is fond of their style of commemorating the holy family. Like the martyrs of Karbala, many of the Iraqi refugees had suffered horribly for extended periods of time, yet they had balanced sorrow and loss with hope and faith. They were able to weep and wail, yet joke and laugh moments later. Their love of their religion allowed them security in an unsure world.

Chapter 7: The Pakistani/Indian Women[edit | edit source]

In the last chapter of this book, the author gives information about Pakistani and Indian women customs.  In many homes, Pakistani and Indian women have special rooms that have been emptied, where they have created an imambargah, an altar, specifically for Muharram gatherings. The rest of the year these rooms may be used solely for prayer but more typically revert back to a spare bedroom, office, or sewing room. The Pakistani and Indian women wear plain black shalwar kameez and no makeup or nail polish. Occasionally there is someone with a lacey top or a small pattern on black, but typically it is seen as more pious and respectful to wear a perfectly plain black cotton shalwar kameez (or Punjabi, as they are called in India) with a long dupatta, the shawl that also works as hijab. Their concept of ziyarat is different from that of women from the Middle East because, unless they have the financial means, they have not had the opportunity to travel to Iran and Iraq and visit the shrines of the Imams.

Source[edit | edit source]