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5 Things You Didn’t Know about Arbaeen

Image credit: Husain Hajilari | Twitter

As pilgrims are now making their way back home from The Arbaeen walk which takes place between the cities of Najaf and Karbala in Iraq, the numbers surpass 22 million visitors, a million more than last year. Displays of generosity, unity and love are seen mirroring the values of Hussain ibn Ali. The day of Arbaeen dates back to 680 CE, the year Hussain ibn Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), fought tyranny and injustice in the lands of Kerbala in order to save the religion of Islam and human morality from corruption. Hussain ibn Ali was joined by 72 companions and family members who fought an army of 30,000 men; later, after the killings of the men, the womenfolk of the Prophet’s household were shackled, paraded and imprisoned. 40 days after the battle of Karbala, a revered companion of the Prophet Muhammad known as Jabir bin Abdullah visited Hussain’s burial site, and marked the beginning of the annual Arbaeen pilgrimage walk. 

People from all over the world participate in this three day, 88 km walk, from young and old, to the disabled sometimes crawling or crutching their way through. Iraq, the walk’s host country, freely distributes food and water to its pilgrims as well as provides places to relax, wash and sleep. Iraqis also open their own homes for pilgrims, despite many of them living below the poverty line and giving whatever they have. Pilgrims claim that such hospitality is matchless. And despite the world’s largest peaceful walk in the name of Husain ibn Ali converging in war torn Iraq, it continues to remain largely ignored by the mainstream media. 

Largest Peaceful Gathering in the World

Over 20 million people visit Karbala for the eve of Arbaeen every year, surpassing even the largest festival in the US, the Coachella, by a landslide. 

Iraqis Host 22 Million Guests in Karbala Despite Poor Infrastructure

The Holy city of Karbala in Iraq holds a population of roughly 600,000 people whose infrastructure struggles to support its inhabitants yet, over 22 million people are currently in Karbala who claim they are very well taken care of. An estimated 600 million meals are fed to the visitors three times a day, for free.  

Unity in Humanity at Karbala

Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians and even atheists have been spotted in the annual Arbaeen March. Sunnis and Shias pray together at the Holy Shrines. This year, 65 representatives of different countries converged at Arbaeen for a conference on Palestine, relating it back to the history of Karbala.

Pilgrims believe Husain, grandson of the Holy Prophet PBUH did not just save Islam, but preserved the values and morals of humanity. This is why millions are attracted to Husain’s message of Truth, logic and true Liberation.

Stats Contradict Reality

According to the World Population View, Iraq is shortlisted as one of the most dangerous countries to visit yet ironically, the world’s largest peaceful gathering is held in the same country, in the Shiite holy city of Karbala. 

One million more than last year march for Arbaeen

In 2019, it was estimated that approximately 14 million people attended the Arbaeen pilgrimage. The number jumped to 21.2 million pilgrims last year, according to the organization that manages the Shrine of Abbas, brother of Hussain ibn Ali in Karbala. This year, the number of pilgrims has risen to 22,019, 140 million according to a statement given by The General Secretariat of the Holy Shrine of Abbas.


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  • Zamena Manekia Manji

    Zamena Manekia Manji is a breaking news writer for TMJ News with experience of over 10 years in the field. Her areas of focus are important breaking stories in North America specifically untold stories from a minority lens.

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