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"Hay'at Muhibban Husayn (a)" in Tehran was attended by some famous scholars of the time including Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Hadi Milani. Photo is taken in March 1961.

Hayʾat of Mourning (Persian: هیئت عزاداری) is a religious foundation holding mourning ceremonies for the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (a). Although mourning ceremonies have a long history, it was not until recently (over a century) that the word, "hay'at", was commonly used to refer to such ceremonies.

Hay'ats of Mourning are mostly formed for Imam al-Husayn (a). Their ceremonies usually consist of four main parts: the recitation of the Qur'an, the recitation of a ziyarah or a supplication, a sermon, and rawdakhwani.


The Focus of the Activity

A Hay'at of Mourning is a religious foundation which holds mourning ceremonies for the Prophet (s) and Ahl al-Bayt (a). They mostly focus on holding mourning ceremonies for Imam al-Husayn (a). Their members are people from cities or villages who gather in order to hold mourning ceremonies and Rawdakhwani for the Prophet (s) and Ahl al-Bayt (a).

A "Hay'at" is administered by people with the funds from lovers of the Prophet (s) and his household. Hay'ats are active during the year and hold religious meetings, but they hold special meetings on religious occasions, such as the anniversaries of the martyrdoms of the Imams (a). On the Day of 'Ashura, many of the hay'ats go out of husayniyyas or their districts in the form of mourning processions and go to holy sites. Each hay'at has its own name, flag, and sign. The names of hay'ats usually come from the names of Imams (a) or the Martyrs of Karbala.


Mourning ceremonies for Imam al-Husayn (a) and Ahl al-Bayt (a) have a long history. It is reported that Imams (a) themselves held mourning ceremonies for Imam al-Husayn (a) and recommended the Shi'as to hold such ceremonies. However, the use of the word, "hay'at", for such meetings is recent (over one century ago). For instance, the following are some old hay'ats in Tehran:

  • Hay'at of "Muhibban-i Husayn", founded in 1363/1943.
  • Hay'at-i Ahmadi, founded in 1365/1945.
  • Hay'at-i Husayni in Tehran
  • Hay'at-i Karbala'i-hayi Tehran, founded in 1348 Sh/1969.

Ceremonies of Hay'ats

Ceremonies of hay'ats consist of four main parts: the recitation of the Qur'an, the recitation of ziyaras or supplications, a sermon, and Rawdakhwani. They usually begin with the recitation of some verses of the Qur'an, and then a ziyara or a supplication. After that, a preacher —usually, a clergy- delivers a sermon. The sermon usually takes about one hour. The sermon is centered on religious, moral, social, and sometimes, political issues, and ends by a Rawda and elegies of Ahl al-Bayt (a). After that, a maddah (reciter of elegies) recites the elegies of Ahl al-Bayt (a), and participants practice chest-beating along with the maddah.

Types of Hay'ats

Mourning hay'ats in Iran have been classified with respect to time, place, types of activities, contents, and participants as follows:

  • Time: weekly, monthly, the ones held every season, annual, and special occasions (such as birthday and martyrdom anniversaries of Ahl al-Bayt (a)),
  • Place: mosque, husayniyya, schools, universities, home hay'ats, governmental and private organizations,
  • Activities: active, semi-active, temporary, occasional,
  • Contents: the main contents of ceremonies held by hay'ats are the following: the recitation of the Qur'an, the recitation of ziyaras or supplications, sermons, and Rawdakhwani. Some hay'ats do not practice all of these.
  • Participants: public hay'as (in which all people take part), women, men, youth, teenagers, middle-aged, ethnic groups, and family hay'as.