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Arbaeen is known as the world’s largest peaceful gathering and it is a significant religious occasion for Shia Muslims. Every year, the event draws millions of worshippers to the streets of Karbala, Iraq’s holy city, to commemorate the great sacrifice of Hussain ibn Ali (as), the Holy Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) grandson.

Outside of Iraq, millions of Shia Muslims gather in cities around the world on Arbaeen to commemorate the occasion as well. 

In this blog we’re going to look at the story behind Arbaeen and why it’s commemorated. Read on to find out more. 

When is Arbaeen in 2022?

Arbaeen is commemorated on Safar 20 or 21, the 40th day after Ashura.

This year Arbaeen will fall on Friday the 16th of Sep 22. 

Who started the tradition of Arbaeen?

The Arbaeen tradition has been observed annually since 680CE, the year of Hussain (as) martyrdom in Ashura during the Battle of Karbala.

According to Shia belief, 40 days after the battle of Karbala, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) named Jabir ibn Abd Allah was the first to make a pilgrimage to Hussein’s burial site, beginning the annual Arbaeen pilgrimage.

Many people credit Sheik Mirza Hossein Nouri with reviving the pilgrimage in the modern era. Mirza Husain Noori Tabarsi was a Shia Islamic scholar and renaissance. He revived the foot pilgrimage to Karbala when he performed the pilgrimage for the first time with thirty people, including friends and relatives. He later decided to continue this practice every year until his death.

However, Shia Muslims have not always been permitted to observe the event. It was illegal to observe Arbaeen publicly in Iraq for nearly 30 years under Saddam Hussein’s rule.

What is Arbaeen and what happens during Arbaeen?

On October 10, 680 AD, Imam Hussein (as) was killed in the Battle of Karbala in central Iraq. Today, nearly 1400 years later, millions of people around the world commemorate his passing.  

Arbaeen means “forty days” in Arabic, referring to the traditional length of mourning in Muslim traditions following a family member’s death. Every year, up to 25 million Shi’a Muslims gather in southern Iraq to mark the end of a 40-day mourning period for the prophet (saw) grandson. 

Pilgrims from all over the world travel 50 miles to walk from the holy city of Najaf to Karbala. This walk takes roughly three days to complete. Other pilgrims also walk from various other Iraqi cities to reach Karbala on Arbaeen.

As a host, half of Iraq’s population manages pilgrimage. During Arbaeen, Iraqi volunteers distribute free food and drinks to pilgrims along the 88-kilometre stretch from Najaf to Karbala, as well as places to relax, wash, and sleep. The Iraqi people welcome pilgrims with such warmth and respect that many pilgrims claim they have never experienced such hospitality and warmth in their lives. Iraqis also offer their homes to pilgrims and provide them with everything they need. People from all walks of life and all over the world travel to make this pilgrimage.

Arbaeen 2022

Throughout the walk, travelers are given the opportunity to put the Karbala story into context and use it to contemplate and reflect on their lives. Karbala was a battle between good and evil, righteousness and wrongdoing. When one spends days walking toward the man who won this battle, they naturally wonder where they stand today. Are their actions aligning with Hussain or Yazid? Have they raised their voices against today’s oppressors as Hussain did?

For Shia Muslims, Imam Hussain’s (as) sacrifice and noble message represent Islam’s peace and virtue, which kept Hussain from resorting to violence or capitulation. This is why even some non-Muslims and Muslims of various sects and denominations gather for this event in Iraq and around the world. 

Hussain’s (as) decision not to submit to the will of evil and it is a model that all of humanity can follow.

The Zahra Trust’s Arbaeen Together 2022

Last year, in Muharram and Safar, you helped:

  • Provided the equivalent of over 3,368 months worth (over 280 years) of clean water supply to families in need
  • Built ten water wells serving over 10,000 people in remote communities with little to no access to clean water
  • Provided over 25,000 meals to orphans and vulnerable families
  • Provided food for over 2,555 vulnerable people at our local office
  • Delivered tens of thousands of pounds of emergency aid to Afghanistan and Yemen
  • Helped provide services to an estimated 100,000 Zuwaar at our Pole 470 Mawakeb

This Arbaeen, let’s come together again and offer a helping hand to those in need worldwide and serve the Zuwaar (pilgrims) of Imam Hussain (as). 

Donate now!