The Arba'een Pilgrimage is the world's largest annual public gathering that is held every year in Karbala, Iraq at the end of the 40-day mourning period following Ashura, the religious ritual for the commemoration of martyrdom of the grandson of Prophet Mohammad and the third Shia Imam, Husayn ibn Ali's in 680. Anticipating Arba'een, or the fortieth day of the martyrdom, the pilgrims make their journey to Karbala on foot, where Husayn and his companions were martyred and beheaded by the army of Yazid I in the Battle of Karbala.
The number of participants in the annual pilgrimage reached 20 million or more by 2016. On the routes of the pilgrimage, food, accommodation and other services are provided for free by volunteers. Husayn is believed to transcend all cultural boundaries and be a symbol of universal freedom and compassion.
Some of the pilgrims make their journey from cities as far as Basra, about 500 kilometres (310 mi) away by road. The ritual has been described as "an overwhelmingly powerful display of Shia belief and solidarity". Iran and Shias however have criticized mainstream media for ignoring the event.
|Date(s)||Arbaeen, 20th day of Safar|
|Participants||Mainly Shia Muslims|
(Some Sunnis, Christians and Yazidis)
|Capacity||More than 45 million|
Jabir ibn Abd Allah was the first pilgrim of Husayn ibn Ali in the Arba'een of 61 AH (AD 680). According to narrations, the custom of performing the pilgrimage on foot was forgotten during a time period after Morteza Ansari and it was revived by Mirza Husain Noori Tabarsi in an Eid al-Adha who repeated this action every year performing the last one by 1319 AH (AD 1901). Some other scholars and Marja's kept on the same manner in Arba'een up to the Saddam's time during which the pilgrimage was banned although a small number of people used to perform it secretly. It was revived just after Saddam's overthrow in 2003 and the number of participants grew year after year reaching 20 million pilgrims by 2016.
"Shia cities, towns and villages all over Iraq empty out" during the 20-day period of the pilgrimage "as their people take to the roads in an elaborately organised and well protected mass movement not seen anywhere else in the world". By 2014, over 19 million people from 40 countries of the world participated in this occasion, making it the second largest gathering in the world. The figure reached 22 million pilgrims by 2015, according to Iraqi state-run media. By 2016, according to al-Khoei Foundation, almost 22 million pilgrims gathered in Iraq, 10 percents more than 2014. Even though the Hindu Kumbh Mela is larger in population, it is only held every four years, and hence the Arba'een pilgrimage is the largest gathering held annually.
The pilgrimage is marked by long walks from Najaf or Basra to Karbala. People from different walks of life, ethnicity and sect participate in the march including toddlers in prams and elderly pushed in armchairs. Some Sunnis, Christians, Yazidis and people of other faiths also participate the occasion.
Husayn ibn Ali the Muslim saint for whom the pilgrimage is made is believed to transcend all cultural boundaries and be a symbol of universal freedom and compassion. The mood of the pilgrimage has also been described as "one of intense piety and communal solidarity".
During the pilgrimage "copious supplies of food, small clinics and even dentists are available for pilgrims and they all work for free. The care of pilgrims is regarded as a religious duty." Along the roads to Karbala, many mawakibs (tents) are devised with the aim of providing "accommodation, food and beverage and medical services", and practically anything else the pilgrims need for free. There are also shoe-polish stations every few meters where the pilgrims' feet are kissed by volunteers as a sign of respect before their shoes are polished for free. This is because it is believed that serving even the pilgrims of Hussain attracts Divine blessings.
The pilgrims carry flags of different color but the black flag of mourning for Imam Hussein is by far the most common. They also decorate "permanent brick buildings and temporary tents which are used for praying, eating and sleeping along the three main routes leading to Kerbala". Seven thousand of such mawakeb were set up in city of Karbala in 2014. Besides Iraqi mawakibs, which are unofficially organized, there are some Iranian ones which are less "specifically targeted" but pilgrims are from various regions.
Ali Moamen, Academic and former director of Al Najaf Satellite TV Channel, said:
What is interesting about this human crowd is that all society segments take part in it. Despite its religious character, nonreligious people also participate in it, in addition to illiterates and holders of high academic degrees, and ordinary people and leaders of the country.
According to Sayed Mahdi al-Modarresi, writing for The Huffington Post:
Arbaeen should be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records in several categories. The biggest annual gathering, longest continuous dining table, largest number of people fed for free, largest group of volunteers serving a single event, all under the imminent threat of suicide bombings.
The Arba'een pilgrimage is non-obligatory compared to Hajj which is obligatory for those who can afford it. But tight regulation of Hajj by Saudis have driven up costs and depriving it of spontaneity seen in Arba'een, making the latter an alternative for Muslims who cannot afford Hajj. Arba'een attracts more pilgrims than Hajj.
The pilgrims face dangers such as "attacks that have been blamed on Sunni extremists, who have routinely targeted the pilgrims" using car bombs or rockets. The pilgrimage is performed under "tightened security" guarded by tens of thousands of Iraqi police and soldiers backed by armored vehicles and military helicopters to protect the pilgrims. Iranian advisers also help protect the visitors through a joint operation room. On 20 November 2015, a major bombing plot in Hussainiya in Iraq, Baghdad was foiled by the Iraqi police, where 18 booby-trapped dolls were seized by the security forces. Stuffed with bombs, were meant to be scattered on the roads leading to Karbala during Arba'een.
The ritual is no longer considered a purely cultural ceremony while ISIL, the group who regards Shia as apostate, had launched a wide offensive in Iraq, and hence the presence of such a large population of Shia is of a political importance. According to Ali Mamouri writing in Al-Monitor, the pilgrimage became "a show of force against those hostile to the rise of the Shia in the region". After the fall of Mosul to the ISIL "and the subsequent massacres of Shia soldiers and civilians", the gathering took a political form for the first time for the Shia, who use the mourning rituals as a way to condemn injustice and express their social power. "The second sign of Arba'een's political shift was the regional message conveyed by Shia to their opponents: The Shia Crescent," Mamouri added. As the third sign he pointed to "a message exchanged between regional forces" and "unprecedented Iranian presence" which has led to "a feeling of solidarity between Arab and non-Arab Shia".
Surveys are done to study Shi'a Muslims via both "traditional survey instruments and experimental methods". The survey included topics such as "religion and politics, democracy, women's rights, regional conflict and Iran's nuclear agreement". Experimental methods were employed to investigate the "latent perspectives" of pilgrims towards "sensitive topics", including "Iran's nuclear program, and attitudes toward the West, China and Russia".
Iranian media, officials, religious figures and citizens have accused the Western media for ignoring the pilgrimage despite its large scale and its geopolitical and cultural significance. Despite being even larger than Hajj, the most important Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, the Arba'een Pilgrimage remains largely unknown to the world.
In 2016, Asharq al-Awsat, a daily paper based in London, claimed the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that "unplanned pregnancies and [...] disease" were seen "following the arrival of scores of unregulated Iranians to take part in the annual Shia pilgrimage to Karbala", in reference to the Arba'een Pilgrimage. According to the article, 169 unmarried women had become pregnant from the Iranian pilgrims. This report was later proven to be false.
The WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean rejected the claims reported in Asharq al-Awsat and condemned the inclusion of its name, calling it "unfounded" news. In a television interview, a spokeswoman for the WHO said that the organization was "shocked" by Asharq al-Awsat's report and said that they were discussing with the Iraqi Ministry of Health on taking legal action against the paper. Prime Minister of Iraq Haider al-Abadi and other Shiite leaders condemned the report and demanded an "apology".
The Husaini Islamic Trust UK organizes a procession in United Kingdom which draws an attendance of thousands of people. In 2015, the organizers condemned terrorism following the November 2015 Paris attacks. The organizer said that the procession failed to gain coverage by the mainstream media because of "stereotyping", saying that "people see the entire Muslim community as one community."
Pilgrims in West Africa who are unable to go to Karbala due to the distance involved instead head toward Zaria in Kaduna, Nigeria to be addressed by the Shia cleric Ibrahim Zakzaky. These include pilgrims from Nigeria as well as Ghana, Chad, Cameroon, Benin and Togo.
On 5 October 2017, this annual Arba'een trek was attacked by Kano police, resulting in the death of a religious leader and injury to dozens of participants. It was organised by the Islamic Movement of Nigeria which was previously a target of the 2015 Zaria massacre.
In reference to 2017 Arabeen pilgrimage, head of Iran's Islamic seminaries Ayatollah Alireza Arafi said "Arba'een pilgrimage has truly become a manifestation of unity and brotherhood within Muslim community so much that even followers of other religions have been drawn to it and attend the ceremony alongside Shia Muslims."
Abu ʿAbd-Allāh al-Ḥusayn ibn Ḥamdān al-Jonbalānī al-Khaṣībī (Arabic: الحسين بن حمدان الخصيبي), mostly known as al-Khaṣībī (??–969) (Arabic: الخصيبي) was originally from a village called Jonbalā, between Kufa and Wasit in Iraq, which was the center of the Qarmatians. He was a member of a well-educated family with close ties to eleventh Twelver Imam Hasan al‐Askari and a scholar of the Islamic sect known as the ʿAlawiyyah or Nusayriyya, a branch of the Twelvers, which is now present in Syria, Southern Turkey and Northern Lebanon.
For a time, al-Khaṣībī was imprisoned in Baghdad, due to accusations of being a Qarmatian. According to the Alawites, after settling in Aleppo, under the rule of the Shīʿite Hamdanid dynasty, he gained the support and aid of its ruler, Sayf al‐Dawla, in spreading his teachings. He later dedicated his book Kitab al‐Hidaya al‐Kubra to his patron. He died in Aleppo and his tomb, which became a holy shrine, is inscribed with the name Shaykh Yabraq.He taught several unique beliefs. One such belief was that Jesus was every one of the prophets from Adam to Muhammad, as well as other figures such as Socrates, Plato and some ancestors of Muhammad. Similarly, other historical figures were the incarnations of Ali and Salman al‐Farisi.He and his works were praised by the influential Iranian Shiʿite scholar Muhammad Baqir Majlisi.Bazighiyya Shia
The Bazighiyya Shia (named for Bazigh ibn Yunus, to whom they were related) was a Ghulat sect of Shia Islam. They believed that Ja’far ibn Muhammad al-Sādiq was God. Today, descendants of the followers of the sect either converted to Sunni Islam or mainstream Twelver Shia Islam.Bishwa Ijtema
23.8914722°N 90.3968637°E / 23.8914722; 90.3968637
The Bishwa Ijtema (Bengali: বিশ্ব ইজতেমা, meaning Global Congregation) is an annual gathering of Muslims in Tongi, by the banks of the River Turag, in the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is one of the largest peaceful gatherings in the world. The Ijtema is a prayer meeting spread over three days, during which attending devotees perform daily prayers while listening to scholars reciting and explaining verses from the Quran. It culminates in the Akheri Munajat, or the Concluding Supplication (Final Prayer),Maulana Zubair Ahmed in which millions of devotees raise their hands in front of Allah (God) and pray for world peace. The Ijtema is considered a demonstration of Muslim unity, solidarity, mutual love and respect and an opportunity to reiterate their commitment to Islamic values.The Ijtema is non-political and therefore it draws people of all persuasion. It is attended by devotees from 150 countries. The majority of its devotees come from across Bangladesh, the world's third largest Muslim majority country.
Speakers include Islamic scholars from various countries. Bishwa Ijtema is now the second largest Islamic gatherings with 5 million adherents, after the Arba'een Pilgrimage (15-20 Million attendees), surpassing the 2-3 million worshipers that perform the Hajj in Saudi Arabia (which is one of the five pillars of Islam for Muslims). The Bangladeshi Ijtema is a modern event where Muslim participation is voluntary.Dhammiya
The Dhammiyya Shia was a Ghulat sect of Islam. The name “Dhammiyya” was derived from the Arabic word “dhamm” (i.e. “blame”). Therefore, the Arabic name “Dhammiyya” is translated as “blamers.” The name “blamers” was used for the Dhammiyya Shia because they believed that Ali was God and Muhammad was his prophet and messenger and that Muhammad was to be blamed because he was sent by Ali to call the people to Ali, but called them to himself instead.Dukayniyya Shia
The Dukayniyya Shia (named for one of its leaders, Abu Nu'aym al-Fadl ibn al-Dukayn) were a sect of the Zaidi branch of Shia Islam. The Dukayniyya Shia were led by Abu Nu'aym al-Fadl ibn al-Dukayn and Ibrahim ibn al-Hakam.Fatimah bint Hasan
Fātimah bint al-Hasan ibn ‘Alī (Arabic: فاطمة بنت الـحسن بن علي) was a daughter of Hasan ibn ‘Alī and Umm Ishaq bint Talha. She was married to ‘Alī ibn Husayn (fourth Twelver Imām), and became the mother of Muhammad al-Bāqir (fifth Twelver Imām). Her kunya was Umm ‘Abd Allāh and she was referred to as, "as-Siddīqa" ("the very truthful one") by ‘Alī ibn Husayn. It has also been reported that her features were such, that no one in the family of Hasan ibn ‘Alī looked like her.Hakimah Khātūn
Hakimah bint Muhammad al-Jawād (Arabic: حکیمه بنت محمد) Hakimah Khatun or Lady Hakimah was the daughter of Imam Muhammad Taqi al-Jawad, and the aunt of Imam Hasan al-Askari. She is a prominent narrator in Shia hadith and history, especially for her narration of the birth of Al-Mahdi.Khalafiyya Shia
The Khalafiyya Shia (named for its founder Khalaf ibn Abd al-Samad) were a subsect of the Zaidi branch of Shia Islam.Khashabiyya Shia
The Khashabiyya Shia (named for their exclusive use of pieces of wood as weapons in their revolt against the Ummayads under the leadership of Al-Mukhtar) are an extinct subsect of the Zaidi branch of Shia Islam. They originated as followers of Al-Mukhtar and hence would have been expected to be categorized under the Kaysanite Shia sect. The Khashabiyya Shia were later known in Khurasan as the Surkhabiyya (named for their leader Surkhab al-Tabari).List of largest peaceful gatherings
This is a list of the largest historic peaceful gatherings of people in one place for a single event.Mafatih al-Janan
Mafatih al-Jinan (Keys to Heavens) by Abbass Qumi is a Twelver Shi'a compilation of Abu Zebo , Taaqeebat e namaz (acts of worship after namaz), supplications narrated from the Ahle bayt and text of Ziyarats. The book is widely popular in the Twelver world and is widely available at Abu Zebo Shi'a shrines in much of Iran & Iraq. The book was originally in Persian translation & commentary accompanied with Arabic text, but later on was translated into Urdu, English and Hindi.November 2016 Hillah suicide truck bombing
A suicide bombing occurred in Iraq on 24 November 2016 when a truck bomb exploded at a petrol station in Hillah, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) from southern Baghdad, killing at least 125 people and injuring many others.
Shia pilgrims were en route back to Iran after the 2016 Arba'een Pilgrimage. Besides Iranians, people from Basra and Nasiriyah were also killed in the attack.The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility for it.Nuqtavi
The Nuqtavi (Arabic: نقطوية Nuqṭawiyyah) movement was founded by Mahmūd Pasīkhānī (Persian: محمود پسیخانی) when he proclaimed himself the Mahdi in 1397. The group is an offshoot of the Ḥurūfī movement, from which Pasīkhānī was expelled for arrogance. The group first arose in Anjudan near Kashan an area known for its Nizārī Ismā'īlī Shia Islam. The group attempted to proclaim Shah Tahmasp as Mahdi after Pasīkhānī died.Qalandariyya
The Qalandariyyah (Arabic: قلندرية, Hindi: क़लन्दरिय्या, Bengali: ক়লন্দরিয়্য়া), Qalandaris, Qalandars or Kalandars are wandering ascetic Sufi dervishes. The term covers a variety of sects, not centrally organized and may not be connected to a specific tariqat. One was founded by Qalandar Yusuf al-Andalusi of Andalusia, Spain. They were mostly in Iran, Central Asia, India and Pakistan. (The word also entered English as calender.)
Starting in the early 12th century, the movement gained popularity in Greater Khorasan and neighbouring regions, including South Asia. The first references are found in the 11th-century prose text Qalandarname (The Tale of the Kalandar) attributed to Ansarī Harawī. The term Qalandariyyat (the Qalandar condition) appears to be first applied by Sanai Ghaznavi (died 1131) in seminal poetic works where diverse practices are described. Particular to the qalandar genre of poetry are terms that refer to gambling, games, intoxicants and Nazar ila'l-murd, themes commonly referred to as kufriyyat or kharabat. The genre was further developed by poets such as Fakhr-al-Din Iraqi and Farid al-Din Attar.Rubab bint Imra al-Qais
Rubāb bint Imra’ al-Qays (Arabic: ربـاب بـنـت إمـرئ الـقـيـس), or Umm Rubāb (Arabic: أم ربـاب) was a wife of Al-Husayn ibn ‘Alī, and the mother of ‘Alī al-Asghar (also known as ‘Abdullāh) and Ruqayyah. Her father was Imra’ al-Qays ibn ‘Adī bin Aws (Arabic: إمـرئ الـقـيـس ابـن عـدي بـن أوس).Shaykh Junayd
Sheikh Junayd (died 1460) (Persian: شیخ جنید Shaikh Junaid) was the son of Shaykh Ibrahim. After the death of his father, he assumed the leadership of the Safaviyya from 1447–1460.Umm Farwah bint al-Qasim
'Umm Farwah bint al-Qasim (Arabic: أم فروة بنت القاسم) or Umm Farwah FatimahMuhammad al-Baqir, and the mother of the sixth Imam, Ja'far al-Sadiq.Ziyarat Ashura
Ziyarat Ashura (Arabic: زیارة عاشوراء) is a Shia salutatory prayer to Husayn ibn Ali and the martyrs of the Battle of Karbala. The prayer is part of the liturgy used in pilgrimages to the shrine of Husayn in Karbala. Muhammad al-Baqir, the fifth Shia Imam, recommended reciting Ziyarat Ashura on Ashura while facing Karbala, as a symbolic visit to the shrine.
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