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Largest Peaceful Gathering on Earth in Iraq for Arbaeen

Written and Anchored by Zainab Rights, Produced by Fatima El-Zein

Today marks Arbaeen, the 40th day after the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (a) the grandson of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) who was killed 14 centuries ago by the second Umayyad Caliph Yazid son of Muawiya. Millions of pilgrims from around the world flock to Karbala to observe Arbaeen. 


Iraqi forces are said to have thwarted a hostile plot by the Baath party in light of the upcoming Arbaeen commemoration that marks the 40th day following the martyrdom of Imam Husayn. 

The centuries-old tradition of commemorating Arbaeen, the 40th day after the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (a) the grandson of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) who was killed 14 centuries ago by the second Umayyad Caliph Yazid son of Muawiya.

From TMJ News, this is Zainabrights and you’re watching today’s newscast. 

In late March this year, the Iraqi army launched a military operation to pursue ISIS terrorists in Nineveh, Salah Al-Din and Al-Anbar. 

Each year on Arbaeen, millions of pilgrims around the world from different countries travel to Iraq, many of them participating in the 50 mile walk from Najaf to Karbala on foot. The fortieth day holds great significance in Islamic culture that marks a period of mourning when a loved one dies. 

The fortieth day in honor of Arbaeen is held to grieve the sacrifice of Imam Husayn, his family and 72 companions who were killed in Karbala.

While the walk itself has been a centuries-old tradition, the world has witnessed millions of pilgrims flock to Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. 

The origin of this tradition can be traced back to 61 A.H, or 680 AD, when the companion of the Holy Prophet PBUH Jabir ibn Abdilahil Ansari arrived in Karbala on the 20th of Safar and saw the graves of Imam Husayn and his companions on the plains of Karbala. 

It is also reported in some historical works that the family of Imam Husayn (a) who survived and were imprisoned in Damascus made their way to Karbala on the 20th of Safar as well upon being released. It is said this is when the family of Imam Husayn (a) spoke to Jabir about Karbala, recited eulogies and mourned the martyrs.

The gathering of Arbaeen by millions of pilgrims is known to be the most peaceful annual gathering in the world where residents employ selflessness to serve the visitors who have come from different parts of Iraq and the world. 

Although the Hindu gathering Kumbh Mela is considered larger in population, it is held every four years, making the Arbaeen pilgrimage the largest and most peaceful gathering held annually.

Based on the numbers from the Iraqi electronic counting system that recorded the numbers from five main entrances that include Baghdad-Karbala, Najaf-Karbala, Babylon-Karbala and Husseiniya-Karbala, there seems to be a growing movement of pilgrims arriving to the city for Arbaeen.

As an example, 

In 2016, eleven million two hundred and ten thousand three hundred and sixty seven pilgrims attended Arbaeen

In 2017, thirteen million eight hundred and seventy four thousand eight hundred and eighteen pilgrims attended Arbaeen

In 2018, the number was at 15.3 million. 

In 2019, fifteen million two hundred and twenty-nine thousand nine hundred and fifty-five pilgrims attended.

In 2020, fifteen million three hundred and twenty-two thousand nine hundred and forty-nine pilgrims attended, despite the COVID pandemic. 

In 2021, Sixteen million three hundred and twenty-seven thousand five hundred and forty-two pilgrims attended Arbaeen in COVID times. 

This year, it is said that the numbers could be higher than 21 million pilgrims, a record breaking statistic. 

There could be discrepancy between the numbers as some years are reported upward 30 million as well due to the other entrances. 

Pilgrims come from all over the world, many hailing from the United States and Canada as well, uniting under a shared love for the Prophet of Islam and his grandson Husayn ibn Ali killed in the plains of Karbala on the tenth of Muharram. 



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  • Zainab Rights

    Zainab Rights is a Muslim American Journalist and Editor in Chief at TMJ News Network. She holds a double degree in Political Science and Homeland Security and a Masters in Journalism from Harvard University. She has over 12 years of experience in political commentary, writing and video production.

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