Public Religious Offerings
The religion of Islam has developed the natural generosity of the people of Iran. The offering of food and refreshments to the public, and especially to the poor, is an expression of that generosity. Public feasts, served in private houses or in the mosques, are paid for by wealthy hosts and hostesses. There are two different occasions when food is offered to the public. The first is purely for charity’s sake, and the offering is given at any time of the year by one person or, in these days, more often by a group. The second is a religious ceremony which takes place on the specific days or nights of the morning months of Muharran and Safar (the first and the second, months of the Arabic year) and on the fasting month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Arabic year). All charity dinners used to be free. No one ever paid for them. But since the inhabitance of the big cities have become Westernized, some of them consider free charity feedings old-fashioned. Now they gather in groups, arrange a party, serve the food but sell tickets to help the poor. Still, free charity receptions are the custom to some extent all over the country. They may be offered in thankfulness for the recovery of the health of a beloved child or relative, for the success of difficult business or financial enterprise, or to express gratitude for the birth of a long – wanted child, for any these reasons and many more, that best of food ids offered to the poor, and the feasts last from one to three nights, depending on the importance of the subject or the wealth of benefactor. Religious public feasting, on the other hand, commemorate either happy or sad events in the life prophet Mohammed and his family. Such as his birthday, the birthday of any of his twelve descendants (Imams), or the day he was elected by God as His Apostle Messenger (Payghambar), which is a happy occasion for Moslems. Among the faithful observers of these events are many aristocrats and wealthy businessman, who hold the celebrations at their houses, as well as at the bazaars, mosques or at Hosainiyehs. Hosainiyehs are large houses dedicated to Imam Hussein by wealthy men and women for public feasts. They have vast grounds and gardens where the people sit and are served. When there is a happy occasion, the head of the house, the Aga, receives people of all classes at his birooni. Every part of the house or of the bazar is cleaned and carpeted and decorated with fresh flowers and mirrors and other articles of beauty. In the bazaars both men and women come and go, sitting a while on couches placed on large carpets to enjoy tea or sherbet with cookies and candies. Only men are allowed in private houses.
The sad religious occasions for public feasts are in the morning months of Muharram, Safar, and Ramadan. Thirteen centuries ago, on the tenth of Muharram, the martyrdom of 1 man Hussein (Mohammad’s grandson) and his close relatives took place in course of battle with a caliph on a plain in the southwest of Baghdad. The plain is now a city named Karbala. This city as well as Najaf and several others cities of Iraq near Baghdad are sacred cities for Iranians, because Ali, the Prophet’s son – in – law, and his descendants have been buried there. For many ages the Iranians have expended enormous wealth in those cities, building magnificent tombs and marvelous shrines. They have presented the most precious jewelry, carpets, and valuable works of art for their adornment. Thousands of Iranians go on pilgrimages each year to visit the shrines, and many of the extremely faithful, when they are old.