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['Aalim Network QR] Sofreh/Sufro

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|       In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the All-Merciful       |\
|  Greeting of Allah be upon Muhammad and the pure members of his House |\

Salaamun alaykum,

	The reply to the following question was kindly provided by Shaykh
Mohammad Panah. 


Mustafa Rawji
Acting Moderator, 'Aalim Network

 	Can anyone please help explain the history and purpose for a
 Sofreh?  I believe it is mainly practiced by Iranian Muslim Women.  It is
 a prayer session in someone's home and attended only by women.  There are
 different types.  My mother-in-law mentioned the following as different
 types of sufro: 
		 Abul Farz
	 	 Fatemeh Zahrah
 		 Hazrateh Roqieyeh
		 Imam Jafareh Sadeq
		 Imam Alian Naqhi

 	I understand that Abul Farz is the largest type.  It is a prayer
 session for the purpose of expressing gratitude for a prayer that God has
 granted. That's about all I know.  Any further information would be

 				Besmehi Ta'ala

Salamun Alaykum. I do not know if i am the right person to respond to you 
question, however I do my best. You may want to consider the following 
points in order to understand the subject of Sofreh:

1- The issue of Tawassul [approaching God through respecting his true 
servants such as the holy prophet (SA), Imams (AS) or other believers], 
Nazr ( pledging to do some good things if your prayers and wishes are 
answered by God), and Shafa'at (intercession) are accepted beliefs in Shia'.
And many people seek some sort of solutions or remedy for their problems 
through these legitimate mechanism.

2- Like many other religious beliefs the above beliefs when they became a
part of popular culture and ordinary believers, they were transformed into
new forms appropriate to their cultural settings. Feeding the poor and the
needy has always been one of the most encouraged forms of "Nazrs". My own
experience in Iranian cultural tells me that the practice of Sofreh is
mainly understood, by its believers, to be a twofold Nazr. On the one hand
it is a Nazr to feed people and at the same time it is a Nazr to do so in
the name of one of Massumin (AS) or Hazrat Abbas (Abul-Fazl). 

3- As I understand there are only three types of Sofreh: Sofreh Hazrat 
Fatemeh (SA), Sofreh Imam Hassan (AS) and Sofreh Hazrat Abul-Fazl(AS). 
Sofreh Hazrat Abulfazl is the most popular one but depending on the type of 
wishes (Or 
Hajat) one may do her Nazr for Hazrat Fatemeh (SA) or Imam Hassan (AS). 
There is a belief that Hazrat Abul-Fazl has achieved the status of being 
"BOB-ul- HAVA'J-e ila-Allah" (Door of fulilling wishes through Allah) 
because of the sacrifices he made in Karballa on the the day of 'Ashura.

4- There are certain prayers recited in Sofreh gathering and after that
some food are served. There are some differences in the types of food
served for each Kind of the three Sofreh. As I mentioned traditionally
only three types of Sofreh have been acknowledged, but if you have heard
other types of Sofreh, they might have been new trends developed out of
particular personal or cultural circustances. For example, someone whose
name is Reza might become ill and his mother in a dream sees that she
should have a Sofreh for Imam Reza (AS) and ask God the recovery of her
son through Imam Reza. 

5- Finally you may be interested in knowing some of my cultural
observations on the subject: 

(a) Only women have Sofreh, I have heard of no cases of men gathering for 
the Sofreh. 

(b) Women usually take some of the food served in Sofreh for 
the male members of the familing as a blessed food (usually nuts). 

(c) This practice is more common among wealthy families, perhaps because they 
feel they should feed the poor, but more recently middle class families 
have also adopted this practice. 

(d) Many of the women who set a Sofreh are not considered religious, they
may not even do daily prayers or observe other Islamic rules.

(e) Recently there has been a growing trend of criticism against this
practice for becoming a form of secular social gathering with a strong
sense of competition for showing off wordly privileges. 

6- I hope you find this much of information helpful, but if you ask me 
abou my personal opinion, I must say that my opinion is somewhat 
ambivalent with regard to this subject. I believe that the basic ideas 
upon which the idea of Sofreh is based can be supported by Islamic 
beliefs, but some forms of its cultural adaptation are questionable from 
an Islamic point of view. In short, I believe it demands personal 
judgement in each particular case as to how it must be carried out. Good 
ideas can always be practiced in a bad form.

With Regards,


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