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What do we know about the Arbaeen Million March?

by Gee Tv
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The pilgrimage to Arbaeen has been subject to ups and downs in different periods of Islamic governments. Over the past decade, the number of Iraqi and non-Iraqi pilgrims has reached several million. Visiting the graves is one of the religious traditions of Islam where people travel to seek spiritual solitude and to remember the immortality of the material world. One of these ziyaras is The Arbaeen, which is held on the 40th anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Al-Husayn (a), the third Imam of Shi’a, in the form of a few kilometers of walking to his shrine. This march, which has turned into a gathering of karads, is today considered to be the most powerful symbol of solidarity among the Shia world. Arbaeen is attended by various groups of Muslims, Shias and Sunnis, even Christians, and followers of various ethnic groups in the Middle East such as Yazidis and other religions, making the march the world’s largest annual religious gathering. Arbaeen March Feature The Arbaeen March has a distinct feature in all the pilgrimage rituals of Shia Muslims and, as mentioned, walks from the 7th to the 20th of the month of Safar every year from different countries of the world. The pilgrims first visit the shrine of Imam Ali (as) in Najaf city and then visit the shrine of his son Imam Al-Husayn (a) to show sympathy with the captives of Karbala. In the historical event of Karbala, Yazid’s army took the captives from the deserts of Iraq to Syria. In this traditional march, most pilgrims go from Najaf to Karbala, and along the route of the procession, places are made to welcome the pilgrims, which are called “Mokab”. These events are organized by the people of different countries. Philosophy of Arbaeen March In this march, pilgrims refresh the memory of the remaining captives after the Yazidis’ unequal battle with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in 61 AH by enduring the sufferings of long walks and learning from resistance by remembering the sufferings of these captives. A look at the historical record of Arbaeen March Historical accounts show that walking in the presence of imams (a) was common in the life of imams and took place in different parts of Islamic lands. But in different Islamic centuries, due to strictness and fear of Shi’a taking power, it has faced many problems, and just as the pilgrimage of Imams (a) faced many difficulties at different times and places, so has this tradition also fluctuated. In fact, visiting Imam al-Husayn (a) on the day of Arbaeen is one of the most frequent Shi’a traditions, and the group continued to follow the movement during the Umayyads and Abbasids. Of course, the Safavid regime in Iran also played a major role in introducing the culture of pilgrimage on foot. It is narrated that Shah Abbas Safavi and great scholars of his era such as Shaykh Baha’i decided to go from Isfahan to Mashhad in 1009 AH to spread the culture of ziyara among the people and walked to Imam Ali bin Musa al-Rida (as). Saddam’s pressure on pilgrims However, after Saddam Hussein came to power in Iraq and the Ba’ath Party ruled the country, there were many restrictions on walking and going to visit Arbaeen, and there are reports that government forces have committed atrocities on pilgrims, resulting in the martyrdom of many pilgrims. However, it has been said that despite these restrictions, many scholars have made it obligatory to walk towards Karbala. Published in 2004, “Sunawat al-Jamarat” talks about the restrictions on visiting Arbaeen during the Ba’ath Party regime: The Iraqi Ba’ath Party was organized in 1397 AH. In 1977, religious ceremonies and organized processions, and a ban on walking to Karbala and visiting Arbaeen, when Iraqis were preparing to visit, they moved towards Karbala, but this action was taken by Saddam Hussein’s government and many people were killed and a group was imprisoned. Some clerics, such as Allama Askari and Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fazlullah, who had fled Iraq, were also sentenced to death in absentia. The situation of Arbaeen March after the fall of the Ba’ath Party After the fall of the Iraqi Ba’ath Party with the US invasion of the country in 2003, the march was revived with the new government in Iraq, and every year in addition to Iraqi Shiites, Shias from other countries, especially Iran, also join the Arbaeen March. According to reports, in addition to Shias, groups of Sunni, Christian, Yazidi, and other religions also participate in the arbaeen procession. Apart from Iran, Afghanistan, and African countries, people from Sweden, Denmark, America, England, Austria, Finland, Argentina, Colombia, Russia, and Australia also participate in the arbaeen procession. Millions of pilgrims at a time of ISIS threat Since 1993, with the support of the Iranian government, the number of pilgrims to Arbaeen has reached 20 million, most of them foreign visitors. According to Iraqi interior ministry figures a year ago, about 1.3 million foreign pilgrims went to Iraq. In 1994, when countries in the region were under threat from the Islamic State terrorist group and other Takfiri groups, Arbaeen’s pilgrims were reported to be 22 million, although Iraqi officials put the number of pilgrims at 26 million. In recent years and despite the coronavirus situation (in the last three years), the average attendance of Arbaeen pilgrims has been reported to be between 12 million and 20 million people. Pilgrim Arbaeen statistics in recent years In 1395 Shamsi (2016), an announcement was made by the Toleti Committee of Hazrat Abbas (as) that more than 11 million 200,000 people entered Karbala in the two weeks (i.e. from 7 safar to 20 safar) going for Arbaeen. In 2018( 2018), the Toleti Committee of the Shrine of Imam Al-Husayn (a) announced in a statement that more than 11 million 85,000 people entered the city in the ten days leading up to Arbaeen (from 10 to 20 Safar). A year ago, when the coronavirus situation was decreasing, the effects of the spread of the disease were still present in the world, but despite this, the march was held without coronavirus restrictions in the first year and news agencies put a number of pilgrims going to Karbala during Arbaeen at 21 million.

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