Tatbir is a wrongful act. I know some might say, “It would have been rightful if he had not talked about tatbir.” They might say, “What would you have to do with Tatbir?”, “Some people practice it, let them do so!” No! One cannot stay silent towards such unlawful actions. If they had propagated tatbir during the blessed auspicious life of Imam Khomeini (r.a)—like they have done over the past four or five years and continue to do—he would certainly speak against it.
It is wrongful that some people hit themselves on the head with daggers to break blood. What are they in search of? How can this be considered an act of mourning? Of course light drumming on the head with one’s own hand is a distinctive sign of mourning. You have seen it several times when people are stricken by grief, they hit own their chests or heads. This is a typical symbol of distress for mourning. But when have you ever seen a person, who is grief stricken by the loss of a dear loved one, take a dagger to their own head in order to draw blood? How can this be a form of mourning?
Tatbir [Qame Zani] is also a fabricated tradition. It is among issues that do not belong to the Islamic religion and undoubtedly God is not pleased with such a practice. Scholars among the last few centuries did not have the opportunity to speak out and declare it as an unlawful or wrongful act. However, today is the day of Islamic establishment and the day for the manifestation of Islam. We should not go along with actions that may introduce a small group of irrational, superstitious individuals to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, to be represented as the bulwark of the noble Islamic society--the society that loves the progeny of the prophet (pbuh) and has the honor to carry the names of the Imam of our Time (may our souls be sacrificed for him), Imam Hussain Ibn Ali (as) and Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (as).
The more I thought about it (tatbir), the more I truly realized I cannot overlook my responsibility of informing our dear people on Tatbir, which is certainly an act of wrongdoing built upon heresy. Do not practice it, I do not approve. If someone does anything to display their desire to practice Tatbir, I will be deeply disappointed in them. I am declaring this solemnly. This is certainly an unlawful action, one which Imam Hussain (as) would not be pleased with, as practiced today. I cannot fathom who would and based on what evidence would they establish such peculiar and wrongful traditions in Islamic societies and within our revolutionary society?
Tatbir is one of those concerns which not only lacks logical reasoning, but is also the nearest of things to superstition. Why do some promote such things? This is a great danger, which has to be carefully tended to within the world of religion and religious insight by the guardians of the faith.
Like I said, some people will say—certainly out of compassion--that it would have been better if I had not talked about Tatbir. No, I must speak out on it. I must address it. I have a responsibility greater than others and certainly others should talk about it too.
- Ayatollah Khamenei, June 07, 1994