TEHRAN – An Iranian woman who spent 17 years praying to become pregnant finally saw her dream of becoming a mother come true after she turned to Ali Asghar, the son of Imam Husayn.
Together with her seven-year-old daughter, Shahnaz Ahmadi went to give thanks at a mourning ceremony in Tehran in memory of Ali Asghar, which is celebrated on the eve of Ashura, when Shiites commemorate the martyrdom of the Imam Husayn and his relatives in 680 CE in the battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq.
“For 17 years I prayed to the different imams to intercede on my behalf before God to have a child, and when I had totally lost hope, I asked Ali Asghar and a month later I found out I was pregnant,” Ahmadi, 40, told EFE.
With her voice broken by the emotion of the memories, Ahmadi said that Imam Hussein’s son is “the door of fulfillment of the wishes of women who want to be mothers,” although she admitted that she put off appealing to him because she was shy and regretted what his parents suffered with their loss.
According to the story, Ali Asghar died aged six months when he was struck by an arrow while in the arms of his father Husayn, the third Shia imam and grandson of Prophet Muhammad.
His death, like that of his father, took place during the battle of Karbala against Caliph Yazid I, an event that marked the beginning of a schism between Shiites and Sunnis, the two main branches of Islam.
Mona Masrur, who was unable to become a mother for several years, also implored the baby to help her to become pregnant.
“I promised God that if he gave me a son I would come with him for seven years to the ceremonies in honor of Ali Asghar,” Mosrur told EFE at a “takieh” in Tajrish, northern Tehran.
In gratitude for the fulfilled wish, Masrur handed out cartons of milk and donated money for five years.
Following tradition, at ceremonies in memory of Ali Asghar, called “Shir jaregane” (milk drinkers), milk is offered to women and children, who are the protagonists of these events.
Many children come dressed in traditional scarves and green ribbons, the color of the prophet’s descendants.
After the usual mourning songs typical during the Islamic month of Muharram, a cradle is passed among attendees, symbolizing the baby, to which women cling tearfully and in which they usually put money.
Hamid Seifineyad, one of the people in charge of the takieh, told EFE “there is a special belief about the day of ‘Shir jaregane,’” especially among women.
“A woman brought a thousand cartons of milk yesterday after having promised it last year if she became pregnant,” said Seifineyad, who is in charge of decorations at the takieh.
According to Seifineyad, milk plays a prominent role at the event and many women drink it and ask for their wish, as part of celebrations in the month of Muharram.
An important day of the month is Ashura, which falls on Thursday, when the processions of men beating their chests and backs with chains fill the streets of Iran to remember the martyrdom of Imam Husayn.
To initiate children in the mourning rites during Ashura, the most important religious festival for Shiites and with a widespread following in the Islamic republic, a first step is the “Shir jaregane” ceremony.
As Ahmadi said, they bring their children to “learn about the ceremony and understand the reality of what happened to the imam and his family, and when they grow up they can delve deeper into this area and follow this path of faith.”