You are viewing a read-only archive of the Blogs.Harvard network. Learn more.

Thirst – Week 5

Title of Portfolio:


Description of Portfolio:

I chose to use photography as my media for this portfolio for Week 5. Depicted is an image of an ice-cold glass of water under the sun on a hot summer day. The bottom half of the photograph is dominated by sizzling sand, whereas the top half of the photograph emphasizes the shining sun and its glare to viewers. Together, each of these elements of the photograph are meant to symbolize simultaneously the thirst of one in an arid climate like this (which could have been found in Karbala) as well as the value of the thirst-quenching water in this aforementioned situation.

Explanation of Portfolio:

One of the central themes of Shia Islam is the commemoration of the martyrdom of Hussain. Shia theology developed in a context of worldly defeat where in the 2nd Civil War Hussain, the grandson of the prophet, was beheaded after the Battle of Karbala. Throughout the “Martyrdom of Husayn”, the Miracle Play of Hasan and Hussain is depicted. Here, I noticed that there were many repeated phrases regarding water and the thirst of Hussain. One line in particular struck my eye—Hussain states “I voluntarily die of thirst to obtain a crown of glory from God. I die parched, and offer myself a sacrifice for the sins of my people, that they should be saved from the wrath to come” (Pelly 97). Later in the play, the Prophet comes down to talk to Hussain, where the Prophet states that “at present thou art thirsty, but to-morrow thou shalt be the distributor of water of Al Kausar” (Pelly 101).

This emphasis on the distribution of water and the quenching of thirst is not just any coincidence. As described in Peter Chelkowski’s book Ta’zeiyeh: Ritual and Drama in Iran, “the word ta’ziyeh literally means expressions of sympathy, mourning, and consolation”, where “because early Shi’ites viewed Hussein’s death as a sacred redemptive act, the performance of the Muharram ceremonies was believed to be an aid to salvation”, ultimately giving “them Hussein’s intercession on the day of the Last Judgement” (Chelkowski 2).

The emphasis on how Hussain can be a intercessor who is the “distributor of water of Al Kausar” (Pelly 101) is what inspired me to photograph this glass of ice-cold water in a sizzling summer day on the burning sand. When taking the photograph, I sought to align and include the scorching sun and contrast that with the nice cold glass of water. I wanted to convey the fact that to some Shi’ites, Hussain quench individual’s thirsts as the “distributor of water” (Pelly 101) hence showing “Hussein’s intercession on the day of the Last Judgement (Chelkowski 2). In other words, the glass of ice water represents Hussain’s intercession to those who participate in this ta’ziyeh—Hussain will quench their thirst on an incomprehensibly hot day of the Day of Judgement.

Leave a Comment

Log in