The congregation of Arbaeen is a miracle in itself, which dwarfs all the other rallies on the face of earth by exceeding 30 million this year, which is a staggering 60% of Iraq’s population (Unfortunately not reflected by international media).
Arbaeen walk is unique because it takes place against all the chaos and politics that is a constant factor of that place. Especially the threat from ISIS, which see this congregation of Shia Muslims as their ‘mortal enemy’.
Surprisingly, as the security conditions getting worse, even more people including women and children challenge the threat and march towards Imam Hussain. Every year’s record of pilgrims beat the previous year’s record.
While Arbaeen is a marked event for Shia Muslims all around the world, people from other religions such as Sunnis, Christians, etc. take part in the walk of love. Besides, they contribute in serving the pilgrims on their way towards the Holy Karbala.
An Australian man who had recently converted to Islam said that what caught his heart was just a glimpse of this walk that was aired on the national TV in his country. He said that there was one name that he had never heard before, “Hussain”, which was being enchanted by the millions of people streaming towards the golden dome and that was the turning point for him. He says, “If you want to see a living, breathing, lively religion, come to Karbala”.
One of the Italy’s well known artists; Claudia Borgers displayed the pictures of mourning of Ashura from her trip to Iran. She said that the purpose of her exhibition is to send out a message to the Italians to understand Imam Hussain and Karbala. That how this man stood against oppression and the significance of martyrdom in Islam.
In the following arbaeen that next year, she took a leap forward and joined the next walk of Arbaeen from Najaf to Karbala to take a closer look into the history of Karbala and feel the love which drove all that crowd towards Imam-e-Hussain (a.s). She says, Hussain is not just a person or Imam; he is a way of life. Living and looking for the truth and justice are what she learned from him and that’s what she is trying to do by herself too in her day-to-day life.
Over the course of the walk, pilgrims are asked one common question that “why are they doing this”? “Why this walk is so important for them”? And answers have always been unanimous:
We are doing this walk in order to ensure Aba Abdullah and his Son, the Imam of our times that we will be there for Him.
Some said, we are here acknowledging our debt to Aba Abdullah, the sacrifice he made fourteen centuries ago, saved our religion, if he wouldn’t have done it, our religion wouldn’t be what it is today. Some even said, we are doing this out of love we have for Aba Abdullah and Abul Fazal and it’s an exercise we are doing to become a true follower of our Imam. The follower, that Imam of our times needs the most today.
When I came back, many people asked me, was it safe to be there, especially to do the walk from Najaf to Karbala along with little children? My answer to all of them was one.
Food, Water, some place to sleep wasn’t a problem at all. The hospitality of Iraqi people and their immense respect for pilgrims were phenomena. We were provided by the best food, warm blankets, and very welcoming hearts.
On my way to Kerbala from Najaf, many times I broke down in tears. We witnessed, what’s called the peak of hospitality and heartiness. People were doing what they could do the best to serve the pilgrim of Imam and all that was because of utmost respect that they bear in their hearts for the pilgrims.
At one point, I saw a man standing on the roadside chanting the significance of Zair that how blessed you are O’ Zair to go and commemorate the arbaeen of Imam near Him and that how lucky I am to serve you O’Zair of my beloved Imam. I couldn’t understand that most part as Arabic is not my language but at one point I heard him referring us as ‘The Friend Of My Mazloom Imam’ ( Ya Yawara-ne-Hussain) and that point I realized my position and status that my Imam granted me. What an honor it is to be a Zair-e-Imam-e- Hussain. Alhamdulillah- O- Shukar.
The love of Imam Hussain was in air and I could feel the corporeal existence of my Imam in my bones and in my skin. There was not even a single chance that anyone could deviate or distract from the goal, even for a split second. The goal was common among all, to reach Imam-e-Hussain as soon as possible and to propitiate Him.
One thing fascinated me and later when I asked about it from a friend, excited me even more, was that I saw no one referring to Imam Hussain as ‘IMAM’. People were seen calling out for HIM as Hussain ( i.e just by His name ). I was told that whoever is walking to Imam-e-Hussain, is going to Him as His acquaintance and His companion because on the afternoon of Ashura day our Imam was stranded alone by His enemy. This is why every single person walking to Kerbala has pledged to be Imam’s ally and compatriot hence pledged to be the supporter of His son, the Imam of our times, when he will descend soon Inshallah.
There were many events when we witnessed the extreme hospitality and love of Iraqi people towards pilgrims, but I would particularly like to mention about this amazing person who we met in Kerbala. He is originally from Iraq but has an American nationality who had lived in America for 16 years. Therefore English was the medium way of communication among us. He works as a translator in one of the newly fitted hospitals in Kerbala.
Every year on Arbaeen, his family, which includes his mother, his lovely wife and four beautiful kids, set up a mokib at their home to serve the Zaireen-e- Imam-e- Hussain. We met him with the reference of our brother who is his closest friend. They cater around 60-80 Zaireen at a time in their 5-6-bedroom house without even a little speck of anxiety and anger on their faces. The thing that excited me so much was this man and his family had poured their hearts out for the Zaireen of Imam with utmost respect, love, and care. What was about this man that impressed me and made him so respectable in my eyes was, I saw him worrying for his guests like he would worry for his own family. Every morning he used to go to each Zair personally and ask them if they need any help regarding anything at all. Almost 60% of Zaireen who had walked from Najaf to Kerbala had some medical issues with them. This wonderful man used to gather all the patients among his guests, who included Arabs, Iranian, Pakistani and Indians, and used to call either my husband or my brother in law (as they are doctors), so these patients can be seen and prescribed with any medicine if needed. Not just that, he used to collect all their prescriptions and personally buy them medicine and other necessary things which they needed for the treatment. On the other hand, his wife was seen busy in preparing the best three-course meal for the Zaireen.
His 80-year-old mother used to stand outside their house and look for any Zair in trouble so he can be brought in their house to be looked after.
After Arbaeen, there was a sudden spell of winter in Kerbala. This guy used to set off in his moped in the middle of cold chilly night, looking for any Zair in distress due to this cold weather so he can bring him home. Bear this in mind that it was after Arbaeen when almost all the road side mokibs had been wrapped up and removed, but his will to serve the Zair was fresh until after Arbaeen. For us he is an example of cordiality and companionship at its best.
These are the heights of the phenomenal hospitality and generosity that these Iraqi people offer to the Zair of Imam-e-Hussain.
What I feel is that every person who is marching towards Imam-e-Hussain and those serving the Zaireen, have developed a special relation with Him. Their acts show a divine compassion that they have for their Mazloom Imam. The way they cry when they see the golden dome, the way they kiss the floors of Haram, the way they whisper to Imam when they are entering the Haram show the palpable sustenance of Imam. What motivates these people requires an understanding of the personality and status of Imam-e-Hussain and the spiritual relationship that they have attained over the course of their lives with their leader.
May Allah and Ahlulbayt ( a.s) accept our Ziarat and invite us once again soon – Ameen