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Myth, ritual and the early development of Shīʿite identity
Dalarna University, School of Humanities and Media Studies, Religious Studies. (Minoritet, identitet, autenticitet)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9963-8124
2015 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The story of the killing of Ḥusayn b. ʿAlī at Karbalāʾ is of course one of the most important narratives in Shīʿite Islam. In this paper, a very early phase in the development of this story into a Shīʿite myth will be discussed. It will be argued that in the story of the Tawwābūn (the Penitents) we can see some of the mechanisms of this process at work.

The paper will begin with a brief discussion of the concept of myth which leads up to a stipulated definition of myth: the term will be used to connote a narrative that is foundational to the world view and identity of a group of people. I will argue that the story of the Tawwābūn, at least the parts that are relevant in this context, date back to the beginning of the 2nd/8th century if not earlier. Finally, I will maintain that, in this early story we see how pre-Islamic stories are re-interpreted, and old rituals are filled with new meaning in accordance with the Karbalāʾ event and the Tawwābūn’s feeling of guilt concerning Ḥusayn’s fate. The story of the Tawwābūn thus testifies to the growing importance of the Karbalāʾ drama and the beginning of its development into a myth in the sense mentioned above.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Islam, Shi'ism, Penitents, Karbala, Myth
National Category
History of Religions
Research subject
Culture, Identity and Representations, Hämnd eller martyrium! Berättelsen om Botgörarna som en länk till Shi`ismens tidiga utveckling.
URN: urn:nbn:se:du-20612OAI: oai:DiVA.org:du-20612DiVA: diva2:890912
The Mythic Dimension of Islam: Examining the Sources through the Lens of Myth, Dec. 16–17, 2015 at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute
Hämnd eller martyrium! Berättelsen om Botgörarna som en länk till Shi`ismens tidiga utveckling.
Swedish Research Council, 421-2011-1806
Available from: 2016-01-05 Created: 2016-01-05 Last updated: 2016-01-05Bibliographically approved

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