The Arbaeen March (7)
Welcome to the 7 and last episode of our special series titled “The Arbaeen March” regarding the annual gathering in Karbala at the holy shrine of the Chief of Martyrs, Imam Husain (AS), the younger grandson and 3rd Infallible Heir of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), on the traditional 40th day of the epic of Ashura.
If you remember, yesterday, while presenting to you an eyewitness account of this spiritual journey, we said that several days agon the pilgrim on entering Iraq via the Iranian border of Mehran, first visited the holy city of Kazemain, north of Baghdad, and after performing pilgrimage to the blessed shrines of Imam Musa Kazem and Imam Mohammad Taqi (peace upon them) the Prophet’s 7th and 9th Infallible Heirs respectively, visited the holy city of Samarra, where repose in eternal peace the Prophet’s 10th and 11 Infallible Heirs, Imam Ali Naqi al-Hadi and Imam Hassan Askari (Peace upon them). The pilgrim next visited Najaf to perform pilgrimage to the blessed shrine of the Commander of the Faithful, the Prophet’s Divinely-Designated Vicegerent, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS). He then joined hundreds of thousands of devotees covering the 80-km distance on foot towards Karbala, where he reached on the eve of Arba’een and said the joy of seeing the holy shrine of Imam Husain (AS), was indescribable. Let us continue the account of the pilgrim.
After performing the early morning ritual prayer, I began the final leg of this memorable spiritual journey toward the holy shrine of the Chief of Martyrs, Imam Husain (AS). The closer I got to the city centre, the marchers increased in great numbers. The tents, within which pilgrims were hosted, were located adjacent to each other. I stopped at a corner to take a fresh breath. I picked up my booklet, reviewing my notes. The holy Qur’an calls on the believers to be mindful of the special days in order to keep alive memories of important events for the benefit of all mankind. Without the least doubt Arba’een is one such immortal day. Every year it marks the climax and culmination of the epic of Ashura.
Hence, in order to commemorate every year in a fitting manner the mourning season for history’s most heartrending tragedy, the faithful renew their pledge of allegiance to Imam Husain (AS) and the rest of the martyrs of Karbala, including his sons, brothers, nephews, cousins, and the small group of steadfast companions, who preferred death with dignity in combat rather than acknowledging the illegal rule of a tyrannical regime. This is indeed a further slap for Yazid and his ungodly hordes as well as for the modern day enemies of humanity.
This is the reason such a great number of pilgrims from all over the globe converge on Karbala, making the Arba’een March the largest ever gathering in the world.
According to a famous statement from the Prophet’s 11th Infallible Heir, Imam Hassan Askari (AS), pilgrimage to the shrine of Imam Husain (AS) on this day or recitation of the ziyarath or standard form of salutation for the Imam (from anywhere around the world) on the Day of Arba’een is one of the five signs of a true believer.
It was before the break of dawn when I caught sight of the two gold-plated minarets and the golden dome of the holy shrine of the Imam’s venerable brother Hazrat Abu’l-Fazl al-Abbas (AS), who lost both his hands and his life in trying to fetch water from the enemy-controlled River Euphrates for the thirsty encampment of Imam Husain (AS).
It meant we had reached the rendezvous of martyrs, Karbala. The valiant Abbas was the standard-bearer of the small group of Imam Husain (AS), and as long as he was alive, the enemies couldn’t dare attack the Imam. Today his blessed shrine acts like a sentinel to the shrine of Imam Husain (AS), and welcomes the pilgrims coming from different directions.
At last we had entered the holy city of Karbala. It was indeed a defining moment. It is definitely a miracle how the small city of Karbala every year hosts such a huge gathering of pilgrims whose numbers exceed 25 million. Yet, there is no disorder, no shortage of food, no lack of amenities, and no mismanagement. After performing pilgrimage at the holy shrines of Hazrat Abbas, and shedding tears for the great sacrifice, I moved slowly towards the shrine of Imam Husain (AS), with an aggrieved heart recalling the sufferings which the survivors of the tragedy of Karbala had endured. I mean the Imam’s son and successor Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS), the Imam’s sister Hazrat Zainab (peace upon her), and the rest of the ladies and children of the Prophet’s blessed Household, especially the Imam’s less than 4-year daughter Hazrat Ruqaiyya (peace upon her), who were taken as captives to the court of the tyrant Yazid in Damascus.
As a matter of fact, it were the memorable sermons of Hazrat Zainab and Imam Zain al-Abedin (peace upon them), which shook the Omayyad court to its foundations and made Yazid release with honour the Prophet’s Household, following the martyrdom in prison of little Ruqaiyya (peace upon her). These two great figures institutionalized, universalized and immortalized the mourning ceremonies for Imam Husain (AS), of which Arba’een is the climax,
With these thoughts and how the survivors had commemorated the first Arba’een of Imam Husain (AS), I entered the holy shrine of Imam Husain (AS), along with the huge number of pilgrims. I thanked and glorified God Almighty for having granted me the opportunity of pilgrimage to the holy shrine of Imam Husain (AS). I felt as spiritually elated on this day of Arba’een as the Prophet’s aged companion Jaber ibn Abdullah had felt when he became the first pilgrim to Karbala. I cried from the depth of my heart and after kissing the zareeh or latticed silver enclosure around the Imam’s tomb and that of his two sons, the youth Ali Akbar and the infant martyr, Ali Asghar (peace upon them), I prayed at this blessed spot.
The impact of the Day of Arba'een is thus eternal, touching the sincere hearts of the devotees. The uprising of Imam Husain (AS) has always acted as the Beacon of Guidance for those who seek the truth and justice. Throughout history, it has inspired many righteous movements against falsehood. Today, millions of devotees of Imam Husain (AS) have assembled the holy city of Karbala, many of them marching on foot from different directions, in order to pay their respects to Imam Husain (AS). The pilgrims have arrived in Karbala to point out that they will defend the ideals of Imam Husain (AS) (AS), until the last drop of their blood.