Another Arba’een, another epical fervor (3)
Condolences to you all on the approaching anniversary of Arba’een or the 40th day of the immortal epic of Ashura, the martyrdom of Imam Husain (AS), the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (Blessings of God upon him and his progeny).
As we said yesterday and the day before, this grand ceremony of Arba’een revives our grief for history’s most heartrending tragedy as we commemorate the supreme sacrifice of the Martyr of Karbala that saved Islam and all humanitarian values. Thus, whether from near or afar, we salute Imam Husain (AS) from the depth of our hearts, while those who can afford the journey, travel to his holy shrine in Iraq to pay their respects, with millions converging upon Karbala from all over the globe, to make it the largest assemblage of human beings anywhere in the world.
Last year on the 20th of Safar, there were around twenty million pilgrims, and this year the number of devotees is expected to exceed this figure.
The following is the third episode of our 5-part series in this regard, titled: “Another Arba’een, Another Epical Fervor”.
These days, the 80-kilometer Najaf-Karbala road is the cynosure of eyes all over the world. Every step that the pilgrims take on this road takes them closer to God. A total of 1452 columns, each 50-meter apart, line this celestial highway, and the last one stands opposite the holy shrine of Hazrat Abu’l-Fazl Abbas, the valiant brother of Imam Husain (AS), and the standard-bearer of the small force that attained immortal martyrdom on the epical day of Ashura, or the 10th of Muharram 61 AH. It is quite interesting that no organization or establishment manages this greatest disciplined march of the faithful, as no government can provide residence and facilities for 30 million pilgrims. It is Divine assistance that inspires the devotees who are welcomed warmly by the local Iraqi people, whose dwelling dot the way and whose devotion for Imam Husain (AS), makes them offer whatever amenities they can to the roaring sea of pilgrims. The hospitality of the Iraqi nation is so conspicuous that the pilgrims need not have anything but a small back-pack. Those who start their march from Najaf, first pay their respects at the holy shrine of the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) and then proceed toward Karbala for homage to the holy shrine of his son, Imam Husain (AS). There are people from over 50 countries and every year this number increases.
Thus, one hears pilgrims in their native languages from all over the world, such Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Azeri, Turkish, Pashto, Punjabi, English, French, Hausa, Malaysian, Spanish, Russian, and so on. Of course, the largest number of pilgrims are from Iraq itself who speak Arabic. But this diversity of language and color of skin cannot separate hearts from each other as everybody is absorbed by the same magnetic pull towards Karbala. The glorious Arba’een March is a rehearsal for the reappearance of the Awaited Savior of mankind, Imam Mahdi (AS).
Having passed by Wadi us-Salaam, or the Valley of Peace, which is the world’s largest cemetery, pilgrims step on the Najaf-Karbala road. Now, everywhere there are tents that render different services to the pilgrims. The men, women and children at these tents invite pilgrims to take a rest and refresh themselves through freshly prepared food, tea, and cold drinks. The atmosphere is fraternal.
There are unforgettable scenes on the way that cannot be repeated anywhere else. For instance, one comes across children as young as three-years old, standing on the road and offering delicious Iraqi dates to the marchers, along will cool water to drink.. Some others prepare hookah or polish the shoes of pilgrims. The tents, which are called Maukib, rival seriously for offering services to the marchers.
Abu Kumail is an Iraqi who has thrown open the gate of his house to the passing pilgrims for rest and refreshments. He says, “When I visited Iran and paid my respects at the holy shrine of the Prophet’s 8th Infallible Heir, Imam Reza (AS), in Mashhad, I wondered how I could thank for this great honour. At that moment, I took a vow at the shrine to prepare any food that the marching pilgrims of Arbaeen desire. I decided to make various dishes and then tell the pilgrims, ‘Which food do you like? Mutton? Beef? Fish? Chicken? Vegetables? Fruits? This is fresh fish. This is chicken. Please partake. I have barbecued chicken for you. We are at your service. Sit down and take rest before continuing your journey.”
When I asked the Iraqi man about the motive for this much of hospitality, he answered, “Love of God is the base of faith. When you have love you need nothing else.”
Mawkib Isa ibn Maryam, which means Encampment of Jesus Son of Mary (peace upon him), is one of the complex of tents on the way to Karbala, which is jointly managed by Iraqi Christians, Mandeans, and Muslims, who offer services to pilgrims of Imam Husain (AS). Iraq’s religious minorities also greatly venerate the Immortal Martyr of Karbala. For instance, the Christians seek the likeness of Prophet Jesus in Imam Husain (AS), while the Mandeans of Prophet Yayha or John the Baptist.
One of the lady organizers of this Mawkib says, “The personality of Imam Husain (AS) is magnetic. As a Man of God, he attracts all humanity. I say this as a Christian and I am sure that the Mandeans also agree with me. Really I cannot express this love by words. As a Christian, I am proud of what we are doing. I don’t think you can find this culture anywhere except in Iraq. Here even the poor have something to offer. This is the sign of love of people for Imam Husain (AS). I have traveled to many countries; but I haven’t seen this culture that is at the service of the pilgrims of Imam Husain (AS). As a Christian, I am proud of my Muslim brothers, both Shi’a and Sunni, who also have great reverence for the Prophet’s grandson. When I see how they serve the pilgrims, I become proud. When I see how they sincerely offer food and refreshments to the pilgrims, and provide them cool water to drink, I remember the acute thirst of Imam Husain (AS), who for three days was denied water by the Godless Omayyad hordes, and then cruelly martyred, after witnessing the heartrending spectacle of the martyrdom of his brothers, nephews, companions, and sons, including the 6-month baby Ali Asghar (AS).”
These words were not spoken by a Muslim, whether a Shi’a or Sunni, but by a Christian. People of all faith have great respect for Imam Husain (AS) and thus they provide free-of-charge services to the pilgrims.
Another person at the Mawkib Isa ibn Maryam, or Jesus Son of Mary, is a Mandean, who are followers of the Prophets Zachariah and John the Baptist. He says, “The very calamities that had befallen John Son of Zachariah, befell Imam Husain (AS). That’s why we consider him our saint.”
Sabeans live around the Rivers Euphrates and Tigris in southern Iraq, and speak a language related to ancient Syriac.
With the Arba’een marchers increasing every year the number of pilgrims keeps growing and will continue to rise, much to the horror of the forces of darkness, such as the U.S. the Zionists, the reactionary regimes, and the takfiri terrorists, who cannot prevent the Divine Promise of the establishment of the global government of Imam Mahdi (AS), the Heir of the Immortal Martyr of Karbala.