SHAFAQNA – It’s not the Muslim Hajj, or the Hindu Kumbh Mela.. Known as Arbaeen, it is the world’s most populous gathering and you’ve probably never heard of it! Not only does the congregation exceed the number of visitors to Mecca (by a factor of five, in fact), it is more significant than Kumbh Mela, since the latter is only held every third year. In short, Arbaeen dwarfs every other rally on the planet, reaching over twenty million last year.
While the pilgrimage takes place in Iraq, communities across the globe mark this day every year through marches and processions.
London of course is no different. This year again the Muslim community will rally in Marble March to mark their Arbaeen and commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussain ibn Ali, the grand-son of the Prophet Muhammad, who, through the strength of his courage and piety inspired mankind to rise against oppression.
There’s another peculiar feature of Arbaeen. While it is a distinctively Shia spiritual exercise, Sunnis, even Christians, Yazidis, Zoroastrians, and Sabians partake in both the pilgrimage as well as serving of devotees. This is remarkable given the exclusive nature of religious rituals, and it could only mean one thing: people regardless of color or creed see Hussein as a universal, borderless, and meta-religious symbol of freedom and compassion.