Arbaeen is a Shia Muslim religious observance that occurs forty days after the Day of Ashura to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (a.s), the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and the third Imam of Shia Muslims. Large crowds visit the shrines of Imam Hussein(a.s) and his half-brother Abbas(a.s) in Karbala, where they were killed in an uprising against the tyrant and corrupt Umayyad ruler Yazeed in the 7th century AD when they refused to pledge allegiance to Yazeed’s Umayyad caliphate.
The pilgrims are said to come from over 60 countries, the majority Iranians who started crossing the border days ago, and most of them march all the way to Karbala from other Iraqi cities like Najaf and Baghdad in a show of devotion.
Millions of people from different religions and sects have taken part in this biggest march in the world, as they travel through Iraq in celebration of the famous Muslim martyr, Imam Hussain (a.s). Dr Mohammed Shomali, director of the Islamic Centre of England said: “For Muslims and non-Muslims, the sacrifice and noble message of Imam Hussain represents the peace and virtue of Islam, which prevented Hussain from resorting to violence or capitulation. This is why non Muslims as well as Muslims of different sects and denominations gather together for this event in Iraq and globally Hussain’s decision not to submit to the will of violence is a model all of humanity can replicate.”
This is a video of an Italian Christian artist who has attended the Arbaeen walk and talks about her feelings towards Ashura and Arbaeen, and why she decided to be there.
Despite the serious threat of terrorism that has prevailed in Iraq, pilgrims are still flocking in their millions to visit Imam Hussein (a.s) and nothing will keep them away. The pilgrimage has taken on additional meaning in response to this threat: a protest in recent years against Isis terrorists. Although most regions in Iraq have been cleaned from ISIS forces so far but even in previous years which security in Iraq didn’t exist at all, many chose to make the journey on foot. They traveled near Isis-controlled areas in the country and the extremist group having made frequent deadly attacks on the pilgrimage.
Despite the pilgrimage being one of the world’s largest – it is far larger than the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in which around 1.5 million people take part – it remains largely unknown in the West. Organisers of the annual Arbaeen procession in UK have previously spoken of their frustration over the lack of mainstream media coverage of the event. Mohammed Al-Sharifi, a volunteer at last year’s event, previously told the Independent: “Unfortunately [some] media outlets have gone for stories that to some extent can be divisive. If a group of Muslims do something good, it’s not mentioned or the religion is not mentioned. But if someone does something [negative], it is on the front page and their religion is mentioned.”
These 20 millions people who make the journey and WALK to Karbala, don’t think of food or shelter as free food and shelter is offered by local people all way long. Locals will BEG them to eat from their food or stay at their home. It is incredible that no food problem or similar occurs while e.g. in Hajj which many experts of many countries try to manage 1.5 million pilgrims but problems like 2015 Hajj stampede happens.
You could watch documentaries made about Arbaeen and enjoy it or you all could join this movement next year and make it the best memory of your whole life.