Tabarrā'īyyūn (Persian: تَبَرائیّان) were a group of Shi'as formed during the Safavid era in the periods of Shah Isma'il I and his son, Tahmasp I. Safavid kings dispatched groups of people across Iran to propagate their government and Shiism, which had just been announced as the official religion of the country. Tabarra'iyyun were one of these groups; they went out to alleys and bazaars loudly announcing their love of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) and the progeny of the Prophet (s), as well as cursing the enemies and opponents of the wilaya of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a). Some Shiite scholars opposed such a practice. The practice was strongly banned during the period of Shah Isma'il II when Tabarra'iyyun were executed.
Later, Safavid kings also banned the practice, but they refused to strongly punish Tabarra'iyyun. In Afsharid, Zandi and Qajar periods, the practice was banned by the government, but some laypeople insisted on the practice in private ceremonies.
Tabarra'iyyun were a group of Shi'as who believed in the obligation of expressing the wilaya of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) and enmity towards his enemies. They believed in tabarri, that is, cursing the enemies of 'Ali b. Ali Talib (a). Tabarra'iyyun were accompanied and supported by another group known as Qalandariyya.
Tabarra'iyyun loudly expressed their belief in the wilaya of Amir al-Mu'minin 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) on streets and in bazaars, and cursed his opponents and enemies as well as Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs. They also expressed their enmity towards the enemies of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) at entrances of bazaars and public baths. Tabarra'iyyun usually congregated around religious scholars and rulers.
Causes of their Origin
Tabarra'iyyun were formed during the Safavid dynasty. In order to protect their realm against Ottomans and Uzbek Khanates, Safavid rulers followed their predecessors, that is, Sarbadars and Musha'sha'iyya, in propagating Shiism by Tabarra'iyyun and other Shiite groups.
In this period, Shiism was announced as the official religion in Iran. Another reason for the popularity of Tabarra'iyyun was the excessive pressure on Shi'as that had been exerted by pre-Safavid Sunni rulers.
The Safavid Era
- Main article: Isma'il I
Isma'il I arrived in Tabriz between 906/1500 and 908/1502. As his first act, he announced Shiism as the official religion in Iran. He ordered the introduction of "third testimony" (أشهدُ أنّ علیّا ولیّ اللّه) and "hayy-a 'ala khayr al-'amal" (Hurry toward the best of deeds) into adhan and iqama. Although this was justified in terms of Shiite beliefs, it faced serious opposition by Sunni scholars.
He also ordered that Ahl al-Bayt (a) be mentioned in sermons of Friday Prayers and coins be minted in their names. When the Shiite version of adhan was initiated, tawalli of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) and his progeny and tabarri of the enemies of Islam and Imam 'Ali's (a) wilaya became customary.
In order to establish his kingdom and propagate Shiism, Shah Isma'il I sent out a group known as "Tabarra'iyyun" to different parts of the country. In alleys and bazaars, they loudly cursed the enemies of Ahl al-Bayt (a), and in response people said, "more so" or "no less". The practice was, in some places, enforced by Shah Isma'il I and his successor Shah Tahmasp. In some cases, people who failed to adequately respond to tabarri by saying "more so" or "no less" were killed by Tabarra'iyyun.
Shiite scholars vehemently condemned and prohibited radical actions against opponents of Shiism. However, Shah Isma'il persisted on enforcing his order. In this period, many innocent people were murdered. Tabarra'iyyun found their way into the armies of Safavid kings as active participants.
Cursing the Opponents of the Government
Tabarra'iyyun became so influential that some Safavid kings threatened their opponents by warning them that they and their families could be publicly cursed by Tabarra'iyyun. This could lead to the humility and isolation of that family among people.
- Main article: Tahmasp I
Shah Isma'il II
- Main article: Shah Isma'il II
According to some historical books, Shah Isma'il II was accused of having Sunni tendencies under the influence of his Sunni vizier, Mir Makhdum, and other Sunni companions. He condemned public cursing and began to oppress Tabarra'iyyun.
He opposed scholars and preachers, because their meetings were safe places for Tabarra'iyyun. He threatened to execute Mir Sayyid Husayn Mujtahid al-Karaki al-'Amili because he was accompanied by Tabarra'iyyun in alleys and bazaars. He also threatened, and finally executed, Sayyid 'Imad al-Din 'Ali al-Husayni al-Astarabadi, known as Mir Kalan.
In addition to imposing a ban on Tabarra'iyyun, he threatened many other people and killed many. In this period, no one dared publicly curse the enemies of Ahl al-Bayt (a) and Tabarra'iyyun suddenly disappeared, although there were religious movements other than Shiism and Sunnism, such as Shaykhiyya and Shaykhiyya Karimkhani.
Reception of Tabarra'iyyun in the Period of Shah Isma'il II
According to some historical books, Shah Isma'il II met with, and was influenced by, Amir Khan Musullu and then Amir Khan accompanied an army of ten thousand Tabarra'iyyun, ordering public curse of the enemies of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) in the presence of Shah Isma'il II.
Tabarra'iyyun after Isma'il II's Death
After Shah Isma'il II's death, Tabarra'iyyun restarted their public cursing in alleys and bazaars, and people were mostly happy about their actions because of their dissatisfaction with the government. It should be noted that, despite general dissatisfaction with Shah Isma'il II, no riots took place in the capital, Qazvin, or other parts of the country.
- Main article: Shah 'Abbas
Shah 'Abbas prohibited radical actions by Tabarra'iyyun. However, the practice was common in cities throughout Iran.
The practice of tabarri was banned during the period of Nader Shah. However, the practice was still there in Zandi and Qajar period, despite the ban. It was common among people during the period of Naser al-Din Shah, although there were years when town criers announced the ban on the practice, as well as other practices.
Tabarra'iyyun in Other Areas
Tabarra'iyyun in Herat
When the practice of tabarri was permitted, Tabarra'iyyun gained a remarkable fame. People of Herat who had long been dominated and persecuted by Sunni rulers began to publicly curse the enemies of Ahl al-Bayt (a) at the command of the Safavid king.
After a while, Shiite rulers of the city banished non-Shi'as from Herat. As a result, the city came to be resided only by Ghazis, Shi'as, and Tabarra'iyyun.
Given the remarkable position of Tabarra'iyyun in the government, some superstitious beliefs became common among people. Given the infiltration of Tabarra'iyyun, some of them began to deceive people with fabricated dreams or making tabarruk by certain objects and places.
Murder of Tabarra'iyyun in Herat
After the invasion of 'Ubayd Khan and his victory over Khidhlan and Herawi tribes, Herat was conquered and then Qizilbash and Tabarra'iyyun were killed. Taymur Sultan arrived in Herat and delivered a sermon as kings do. He began to kill Tabarra'iyyun as a result of plots by Sunni Muslims.
Tabarra'iyyun in Baghdad
A judge in Baghdad asked the ruler to put a ban on tabarri. He argued that tabrri was answered by "more so" (or "bish bad" in Persian), and in Turkish "bish" means "five", which might imply cursing the five Caliphs. Thus, the ruler of Baghdad banned the practice of tabarri.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from تبرائیان in Farsi WikiShia.