Arbaeen Walk: What is the importance of walking to Karbala?

Arbaeen Walk: What is the importance of walking to Karbala?

What is the historical origins of the Arba’een visitation to Imam Husayn (A)? Who was the first person to practice it and what is the significance of walking to Karbala?

The 20th of Safar is known as the Day of Arbaeen, as it marks the 40th day after the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, alayhi as-salam, in Karbala. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003, the world has been witnessing millions of pilgrims who annually travel to Iraq to mark Arbaeen by walking from Najaf to Karbala over a couple of days. Some may be wondering what exactly is Arbaeen and what is its religious significance.

The origin of the Arbaeen visitation of Imam Husayn, alayhi as-salam, can be traced back to 61 Hijri when the companion of the Prophet Jabir ibn Abdilahl Ansari arrived in Karbala on the 20th of Safar and saw the graves of Imam al-Husayn and his companions on the plains of Karbala.

It has also been reported in some works of history that the caravan of Imam Husayn, alayhi as-salam, who had been imprisoned by Yazid in Damascus were on their way back to Madinah after being released. During their return, they also arrived in Karbala on the 20th of Safar and encountered Jabir. After the caravan informed Jabir of the details of the tragedy that transpired in Karbala on the day of Ashura, they all began to recite, eulogies and mourn the martyrs.

One of the most famous traditions for Arbaeen is the report attributed to Imam Al-Askari alayhi as-salam, in which he says “the signs of a believer are 5, 51 units of prayers, Ziarat al-Arbaeen, wearing the ring on the right hand, prostrating one’s forehead on the ground, and reciting Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim, loudly in prayers”.

Further, in a narration from Imam al-Sadiq, alayhi as-salam, he tells one of his companions to visit and send salutations to Imam Husayn, alayhi as-salam, on the 40th day of his martyrdom, indicating the highly recommended nature of visiting the Imam on this specific day. This establishes that visiting Imam al-Husayn, alayhi as-salam, on this day is not an innovation, rather, it is from the teachings of the Prophet, salla Allahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, and the inheritors of his knowledge, the Imams of the Ahl ul-Bayt, alayhi as-salam.

According to some narrations, walking to the Ziyarah of Imam al-Husayn, alayhi as-salam, is itself relevant and has lots of rewards. In one narration, Imam al-Sadiq, alayhi as-salam, says: “Whoever comes to the grave of Husayn while walking, Allah writes a thousand good deeds for him in every step, erases a thousand sins, and raises him a thousand levels”.

During the brutal rule of Saddam Hussein, restrictions were placed on this walk, but since his fall, Iraq saw an organic revival of the walk, that was being suppressed for many decades. In fact, today it attracts millions of people, not just from within Iraq but all over the world.

Today, the Arbaeen walk has turned into one of the symbols of Islamic identity and a cause for propagating the message of Islam and therefore should be venerated as one of the symbols of Allah.


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