The closest thing we have to “festivals” in Iran are the religious eulogy ceremonies. Growing up in a culture with too many of these, I often don’t like them very much. But this particular video that is going around among Iranians in social media brought tears to my eyes because it seems to be an artful, coordinated, cleverly contemplated act of political protest against the government using very beautiful poetic verse with religious themes to send a subtle message to those who hide behind the veil of religion to impose their beliefs on others and abuse their power. The video shows a religious eulogy ceremony in the city of Yazd. Delivering this message in one of the only forms of musical spectacle allowed by the government is genius and reminiscent of some of the most clever political protests in history. It expresses a sentiment felt by many religious people in Iran: The government does not have a monopoly on Islam and not all religious Iranians agree with the government’s interpretation of Islam. Websites of political opposition / green movement groups are featuring this video.
A friend who doesn’t speak Persian asked me if I could translate the verses to English. So I am going to give it an attempt. You will need to know some background before understanding the translation though:
The most common theme for these religious eulogies is usually the “Day of Ashura” and the Battle of Karbala tragedy which is probably the most famous story in the history of Islam. The main protagonist in this story is Husayn, who is the third Imam of Shiism and the grandson of the prophet. He and his family sacrificed their lives in an unequal battle on the day of Ashura. The main antagonist in the story is Shimr, who ultimately beheaded Husayn with his sword. Most eulogies retell some aspect of this story which has managed to bring Muslims (specially Shiites) to tears for ages and harden their faith by reminding them of the sacrifices that have been made for their religion. It can be viewed as the Islamic counterpart to the Christian story of the crucifixion of Christ.
The following is a translation of the second of the two poems performed in this video (starting from 4:21):I am Husayn, oh people turn back to the way of truth, turn back On the day of Ashura, dusk is the dawn of awakening, turn back Oh oh people turn back from the wrong path, turn back The enemy’s flag is now apparent, if you are men [of honor], turn back <Chorus: I am Husayn, oh people turn back to the way of truth, turn back On the day of Ashura, dusk is the dawn of awakening, turn back> Oh you who are wearing the clothes of tyranny pretending to be justice Oh you who are wearing the clothes of religion and religiosity with hypocrisy and deceit If the palace becomes neighbours with religion, that path is wrong If Shimr becomes the sword of the Amir of the faithful, that path is wrong** <Chorus> The scene of liberty floats in a sea of blood anywhere Believe me, believe me, love will be believed anywhere The times are of those who sell out religion, oh commanders of tyranny The time of tyrants always comes to an end anywhere <Chorus> Oh oh caravan of people who are lost in the wrong path Again you seem to have lost the holy path, turn back <Chorus> END OF TRANSLATION
**”Amir of the faithful” is a reference to Husayn’s father Ali, who is the second most important figure in Shiism after the prophet. He was known to have a revered double-pointed sword that Shiites believe he used only to bring justice. The verse is sending a clever message: you pretend that by oppressing people with force, you are similar to Ali using his sword, but in fact your tyranny is similar to Shimr using his sword for evil rather than justice.
Original Persian / Farsi lyrics:من حسینم رو به سوی راستی بازآوردید ای قوم روز عاشورا غروبش، صبح بیداری است برگردید های های مردم از بیراهه برگردید برگردید پرچم دشمن نمایان شد اگر مردید برگردید ای لباس ظلم را جای عدالت پیرهن کرده جامهی رنگ و ریای دین و دینداری به تن کرده کاخ اگر همسایه با دیوار دین باشد خطاکاری است شمر، شمشیر امیرالمومنین باشد، خطاکاری است صحنهی آزادگی در خون شناور میشود هرجا باورم کن، عشق باور میشود هرجا دور، دور دین فروشان است ای فرمانبران ظلم دور ظلم ظالمان روزی آخر میشود هرجا های های ای کاروان رفته در دامان گمراهی باز راه کعبه را انگار گم کردید، برگردید