Myth: A widely held but false belief or idea.
A few kilometres from Budgam is a place called Sundipora. My ancestral home from my mother’s side of the family used to stand tall there. My grandfather was a teacher.
Usually, class lectures used to be enough education for most kids, but when his students expressed a wish to walk seven kilometres uphill to take extra classes at his house, my grandfather was more than happy to oblige.
So, the classes started around twilight and ended a while after dinner.
The students were given a room to sleep and my grandad went to bed himself. Around 1 a.m., he woke up to a rustling sound of drapes and raspy breathing. He opened half his eyes and saw a collective silhouette of all his students hovering over and around him.
His eyes opened wide. His mouth dried. This is it, he thought. This is how I die.
For over a minute, they kept staring at him with alternate glances at the wall clock. When my grandfather finally had the gall to ask, what he heard was something like this.
“Master ji, we heard that Shias grow horns around midnight and that is what we had indeed come to see. Where are your horns?”
Here are some myths which are popular about Shias
1. Shias grow horns around midnight
My grandfather and his students can debate the veracity of this one.
2. Shias are idol worshipers
This one time in an English class in my sister’s school, which later through the course of sentiment, turned into a religious-theological-history class, my sister had the biggest existential crisis of her life.
The teacher was tracing the small hands through the written history of idol worship pre and post-Islam.
“If you see,” she said in a rather conclusive tone, “even Shias can be considered idol-worshippers since they prostrate to idols.”
3. Spit in the food
I don’t know why or how this legend came about, but when I offered tea to one of my Sunni friends in my hostel in Chennai, he doesn’t drink tea. I was surprised because the boy used to drink more tea than the hostel would produce.
So, I kept nudging and he kept dodging. So, I kept pushing and he kept wavering. So, I urged, and he gave in.
“I don’t like it that you guys spit in our (Sunni people’s) tea.”
“Ha Ha Ha,” I laughed, clearly not getting the joke.
When he didn’t break into a smile, I realised that this myth had spread to other parts of the Muslim world too.
Clearly, there was no joke, so I didn’t get any.
4. Blood stealing
There was something called the Yindri Trus. The needle used for sewing. There was a belief that while passing through a Shia area, you would be pricked by a needle and your blood would be drawn.
This was not the only story revolving around blood-and-Shia myths.
5. Blood in the food
There was another myth I had almost started to believe – Blood in flour. The myth dictated that the Shia Muslims would draw some blood of the Sunni Muslims, mix some of it in flour, and make bread out of it.
The root of the myth is not very clearly known.
6. Hitting with chains
Speaking of blood, there was another less known myth that while passing through a procession, the Shias were very likely to hit you with their chains and blades.
7. Women grow ugly after marriage
There was another rather mystical belief about the beauty of Shia women. It was believed that Shia women, after marriage, would lose their beauty.
8. The ditch people
The nickname ‘khuode’ given to the Shia people comes from another myth, something along the lines of Shia people digging trenches and living in them.
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