Sufi-Shia Nowruz Ritual In Aghanistan – Jahenda Bala Ceremony

Mazar-i-Sharif (also known as Mazar-e Sharīf or simply Mazar), is the fourth-largest city in Afghanistan by population, It is the capital of Balkh province and is linked by highways with Kunduz in the east, Kabul in the southeast, Herat in the southwest and Termez (birthplace of Imam al-Tirmidhi), Uzbekistan in the north. The region around Mazar-i-Sharif has been historically part of Greater Khorasan.

A whole city named after a bogus tomb

The city of Mazar-i-Sharif is multi-ethnic (Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Turkmens, and Ubzeks) with a majority Sunni (Sufi) population and a Shia minority.

The entire city of Mazar-i-Sharif is centred around a shrine that also serves as the focus of northern Afghanistan’s Nowruz celebration. It is the hotspot of Shia-Sufi tomb and shrine veneration in Afghanistan, even under Taliban rule.

In fact, Mazar-i-Sharif literally translates to ‘the honourable shrine’ (similar to Mashad in Iran, yet another city named after a mausoleum – cars and even airplanes make Tawaf around it!), the so-called shrine of Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him).

The Masjid-e-Kabud (Persian: مسجد کبود) or Rawze-e-Sharif (Persian: روضه شریف), also known as the Blue Mosque located in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, is a ‘mosque’ which Sufis in Afghanistan believe contains the tomb of Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him). Besides the two aforementioned names, the site also has many other native names as Mazar-e-Ali (Persian: مزار علی), Ziyarat-e-Ali (Persian: زیارت علی), Masjid-e-Ali Mazar (Persian: مسجد علی مزار)

The Shia, including those in Afghanistan, reject the claim that Ali ibn Abi Talib (whom they believe is buried in yet another bogus shrine in Najaf) is buried in Afghanistan, however – not surprisingly – the Shiite clergy in Afghanistan (which has close ties to the Iranian government and the Hawzah of Qom) have always united with the Sufis of Afghanistan and actively encouraged and cheered them in Nowruz and tomb and shrine veneration rituals at the ‘Imam Ali’ tomb in Mazar-i-Sharif.

A Bollywood-like Sufi-Rafidi tale

The claim that the resting place of Ali ibn Abi Talib is located in Mazar-i-Sharif is nothing short of absurd. According to Afghan-Sufi tradition, Ali’s body was supposedly brought there by a white camel to protect it from desecration by his enemies.  Ali’s remains were placed on a white female camel, which wandered eastward for several weeks until it ultimately fell to the ground exhausted. The body was then reburied where the camel fell, and its location was forgotten.

Some Zoroastrians suggest that the personage buried in the Mazar-i-Sharif shrine may have predated Islam and be in fact Zoroaster’s resting place (many Shia shrines in Iran are also suspected to be former Zoroastrian temples and shrines). Some historical studies indicate that the owner of the shrine was Ali bin Abi Talib Al-Balkhi, captain of the Alevis in Balkh during his time.

Apparently, it all began with a dream of a local Sufi Sufi cleric in the 12th century who claimed that Ali bin Abi Talib had been secretly buried near the city of Balkh. Of course, there was no evidence to support this claim, but that didn’t stop the Sufis from making up stories as they go along. The Sufi cleric had a dream in which Ali bin Abi Talib appeared to reveal that he had been secretly buried near the city of Balkh (near present-day Marzar-i-Sharif). After ‘locating’ the site, the Seljuk sultan Ahmed Sanjar ordered a city and shrine to be built on the spot, where it stood until its destruction by the Mongol warlord Genghis Khan around 1220. Two centuries later, in 1480, the shrine was rebuilt by the Timurid sultan Husayn Bayqarah Mirza, furthering the town’s development into a large urban center which is centered around a bogus shrine attributed to the Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them)!

While the shrine is considered the most important landmark in Mazar-i-Sharif, tombs of other Afghan political and religious leaders have been added over the years, leading to its current irregular dimensions.

A local legend claims that the entire mosque was once buried to protect it from Mongol armies although no evidence has been found to support this claim.

The Sufi tale in Afghanistan, i.e. the so-called shrine of Ali ibn Abi Talib, is not at all bizarre given the shenanigans and history of the Quburis (tomb worshippers):

Multiple shrines for the head of al-Husayn (may Allah be pleased with him) alone are claimed by the Quburis (Sufis and Rafidah) in various cities and countries, such as Cairo (Egypt), Syria (Damascus), Iraq (Najaf and Karbala), and even ‘Israel’ (Ashkelon, where Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani originated from). The tomb merchants take advantage of their gullible murids and muqallids by making them flock to pseudo-graves of the Ahl al-Bayt and the Awliya, making it a Quburis circus with no limits.

Who knows, maybe someday the Quburis will start boasting about their knowledge of ‘hidden’ tombs on the Moon or Mars, after consuming way too much halwa or Persian kababs. Can you imagine the rush of space tourism to see these out-of-this-world shrines?

The pagan flag-hoisting Nowruz ritual

The bogus shrine of Mazar-i-Sharif draws in Sufi and Shia pilgrims throughout the year, particularly during the celebration of Nowruz. In fact, the beginning of Nowruz is marked in Afghanistan at the annual Jahenda Bala (جهنده بالا, flag-hoisting, banner-rising) ceremony in Mazar-i-Sharif in which (predominantly) Shia and  Sufis indulge in the practice of hoisting a ‘holy’ flag that bears resemblance to the Zoroastrian-Sasanian royal flag in honor of Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) and Nowruz.  The people invoke Ali (“Ya Ali madad”) and touch the flag for good luck. All of this takes place in front of the Shia and Sufi clerics.

The responsibility of the Taliban

According to various news outlets the Taliban have removed Nowruz (and Rafidi Ashura self-flagellation mourning anniversaries) from the Afghan calendar and declared those festivals as non-Islamic and haram. The expected reactions from the Rafidah and the secularists:

Afghanistan (feminist) Women’s Political Participation Network: Nowruz is our cultural heritage”.

The ban on Majoosi Nowruz is “a desperate attempt by the Taliban to destroy the ancient cultures of the people”. In this message, Massoud called women’s protest against the policies of the Taliban admirable and described the women’s struggle as “a bastion of resistance against the Taliban”.

During its first rule from 1996-2001, the Taliban group banned Nowruz, describing it as “an ancient pagan holiday centered on fire worship.” However, last year the group said they will not celebrate Nowruz but have no problem with those celebrating it.

In the years that followed the Taliban’s removal from power, the celebration of Nowruz was observed zealously and enjoyed by Afghans of all backgrounds.

The spokesman of the Taliban’s ministry of vice and virtue, Molavi Mohammad-Sadeq Akef-Mohajer, said Nowruz was a “magus” holiday, which means the occasion originates from the Zoroastrianism and the earlier religions of Persia (ancient Iran.)

Some reports also state that the Taliban engaged with locals, explaining to them the Islamic stance on Nowruz (which is as haram as is any Western or Arab non-Islamic festival rooted in religion).


May Allah guide the bamboozled and may He give those who have miguided the masses in the name of the Awliya/Ahl al-Bayt what they deserve.

اللهم عليك بتجار القبور – القبورية