The Day of Ashura is the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar, which marks the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS), the holy Prophet’s (PBUH&HP) grandson, and his companions in the battle of Karbala. They were all slain in such a horrific way that it is difficult to find such cruelty alike in the history of humankind. They were violently martyred after they were besieged and prevented from obtaining water to drink, and so they departed this life thirsty- this was for no crime other than their refusal to swear allegiance to Yazid, the notorious tyrant of the time .
Imam Hussain (AS), along with his family members and companions, showed the highest degree of moral standards in dealing with calamities they went through. He made any effort to clarify the truth and goals for which they rose up and were ready to sacrifice their lives. This article focuses on some of the most prominent virtues Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions displayed on this day; the ones that –if practiced- will finally lead to the salvation of humankind:
Imam Hussain (AS) taught the faithful believers, in practice, that they should not hesitate to sacrifice everything for the religion of Allah to protect it when it is at risk. He rose up against Yazid when he noticed this dictator openly violated the commandments of Allah.
He announced: “Don't you see that truth has been replaced by falsehood? We must be prepared to sacrifice everything precious in support of Truth!”. Ali Akbar (AS), Imam’s eldest son, asked him in this regard if they were on the right path. Imam (AS) replied in the affirmative. Ali Akbar (AS) then said: “Then, it makes no difference if death comes to us or if we approach death.”
Imam Hussain (AS) believed that living under a tyranny was nothing but living in hell:
“To me, death is nothing but happiness and living under tyrants nothing but living in a hell” .
In Karbala, when Imam Hussain (AS) was placed in a dilemma by the oppressors to be humiliated by swearing allegiance to Yazid or to fight and die with glory, he said he would not accept humiliation and obedience to mean people .
In another famous narration, he said: “If you don't believe in any religion and don't fear the Resurrection Day, at least be free in this world” . In other words, if you do not follow a specific religion or believe in the Hereafter, at least be humane in your worldly affairs. This saying of Imam (AS) invites the whole world to reject submission to oppression; to practice freedom.
The most important social message of Imam Hussain (AS)’s revolution is fighting against people’s unawareness. The tyrants of that time had done everything to diminish the limits between right and wrong, and Imam Hussain (AS) intended to redefine that for the society:
“I never revolted in vain, as a rebel or as a tyrant, but I rose seeking reformation for the nation of my grandfather Muhammad (PBUH&HP). I intend to enjoin good and forbid evil, to act according to the traditions of my grandfather, and my father Ali ibn Abi-Talib (AS)” .
Imam Hussain (AS) and his loyal companions were all patient in the face of traumatic events, among which are: being surrounded in the hot desert and prevented from obtaining water for three consecutive days by the enemy, martyrdom of his six-month-old infant son, his young son, Ali Akbar (AS), his brother Abbas ibn Ali (AS), his relatives and companions before his eyes, etc.
Imam (AS) never complained about these and instead would say: “We, the household of the Prophet (PBUH&HP), are subservient to whatever Allah has destined us. We will be patient on this calamity, which has happened to us. Of course, Allah the Almighty will give us the reward of the patients. We will be surrounding the Prophet (PBUH&HP) in the Paradise” .
On the day of Ashura, when the battle was in full swing, he told his companions: “Be patient O ' the son of the nobles. Death is only a bridge that takes you from misery and loss to the vast Paradise and the eternal graces” .
Imam Hussain (AS) and his blessed companions were living examples of what the Quran taught: “So be patient, with a patience that is graceful” (70:5); patience which was not out of helplessness or weakness but was a demonstration of steadfastness and bravery.
Fidelity and promise-keeping was the other prominent feature of Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions. See how Imam (AS) described his companions on the night before Ashura: “I do not know companions more loyal and better than my companions” . That night when Imam (AS) told them they were free to leave and give up before the battle, his brother, Abal-Fazl al-Abbas (AS), said: “Why should we do such an act? To live after you, never! May Allah forbid such a day!” The others, too, unanimously said they would never betray their Imam.
Or, in another example we see, on the day of Ashura, after Abbas (AS)’s right hand was cut off by the army of Yazid –when he had gone to get some water for the children and women- he bravely recited these epic verses: “By Allah, if you cut my right hand, I will never stand back, and I will protect my religion, and I will support the Imam who stands firm in his belief and is the grandson of the pure and truthful Prophet ”.
These were only a few examples of what made Ashura and Imam Hussain (AS)’s uprising an epic that will never fade from the memory of humankind. Every year, millions of people around the world commemorate this tragedy, express their sorrow, and remind themselves to firmly stand against tyranny as Imam Hussain (AS) did. This has also affected the people of other faiths, as Mahatma Gandhi has said:
“I learned from Hussain (AS) how to be wronged and be a winner, I learned from Hussain (AS) how to attain victory while being oppressed ”.
Every year on the 20th of Safar, the second month in Hijri Calendar, a huge number of people from all over the world, Muslim or even non-Muslim, gather in Iraq to take part in a symbolic walk. People of Iraq for months before this day, eagerly prepare themselves to welcome the visitor of Imam Hussain’s (AS) shrine. They find it a great honor to serve those who are participating in this event and are paying a visit to Imam Hussain’s (AS) shrine. Iraq on this period becomes the site of the purest and most humane manifestations.
But, one might wonder what is the reason behind all these efforts? Why would someone walk a long distance, bearing all the difficulties on his/her way, to reach a shrine? What is it that drives this huge number of people here?
In what follows, you will find out about Arbaeen and the ceremonial walk on this day.
Arbaeen is the Arabic word for forty, and it marks the 20th of Safar, the fortieth day after Imam Hussain’s (AS) martyrdom on the day of Ashura, who was martyred in the event of Karbala along with his companions in the cruelest and most inhumane way possible.
After the event of Karbala, Imam Hussain’s (AS) family including his sister Lady Zainab (AS) and his son Imam Sajjad (AS), were taken as prisoners to Sham (Damascus) to Yazid’s court. Imam Hussain’s (AS) head was also sent to Yazid’s court along with his family .
According to some historical accounts , some of the members of Imam Hussain’s (AS) family after being released from the bondage of Yazid forces, returned to Karbala from Sham (Today’s Damascus) to visit Imam Hussain’s (AS) grave. Also, some believe that Imam Hussain’s (AS) head which was taken to Sham by Yazid’s army was brought back to Karbala on this day and buried with his body  & .
But these are not the only reasons behind the commemoration of Arbaeen every year. Visiting Imam Hussain’s (AS) shrine is one of the recommended deeds at any time of the year, especially in Arbaeen [i]. Also, Imam Baqer (AS) enumerates the several benefits of this action. These include the increase in wealth, acceptance of prayers by Allah, longer life, and pardoning of the sins .
But, why would visiting Imam Hussain’s (AS) shrine be of such importance? It is not where we are visiting, but who we are visiting and what he taught us that makes this action so worthy of attention. In fact, in paying a visit to Imam Hussain’s (AS) shrine, we try to remind ourselves of these two messages:
1. To never surrender to injustice and oppression, as Imam Hussain (AS) did not yield to the tyrant of his time.
2. To always be eager in improving and reforming ourselves and our society, as Imam Hussain (AS) answered people’s call for improvement and did his best to help them, despite the fact that his will remained unfulfilled due to his enemies’ deception.
Now, we can better understand the Prophet’s (AS) conviction that Imam Hussain’s (AS) personality would forever guide the humanity toward everlasting peace and success. And ignoring the values he emphasized would cause eternal distress and calamity .
Visiting Imam Hussain’s (AS) shrine is more recommended on some occasions, especially Arbaeen which could be because of the history of this day. Yet, this does not mean that this action cannot be done on any other days of the year.
But, this is not the only reason for this huge number of people to gather together on this day. In fact, they are all driven by the lasting message that Imam Hussain (AS) left for us through his courageous and rightful movement. That is the urge to stand against injustice, oppression and to strive in the way of improving their situation socially or individually. Arbaeen walk is where people reunite to commemorate these lessons of Imam Hussain’s (AS) revolution together.
The journey on foot from Najaf to Karbala which is called Arbaeen walk takes almost three days. But, everything is ready for those who want to take part in this life-changing walk. Many camps (Mawkib) are prepared on this way by people voluntarily which provide free food and accommodations for the respected pilgrims of Imam Hussain’s (AS) shrine.
Muslim or non-Muslim, a large number of people take part on this journey. According to the Independent: “Nusayyef al-Khattabi, who heads the Karbala provincial council, said he expected the total number of visitors over several days to range ‘between 17 million and 20 million’” .
While Arbaeen Walk is one of the greatest Muslim gatherings, it is not an obligatory ritual. In other words, it cannot be considered as one of the practical principles of Islam (e.g., prayer (Salat), fasting (Sawm), Khums, Hajj, etc.) which a Muslim is required to perform. Participating in this journey is totally up to your choice, decision, and interest. Yet, Arba’een walk is a recommended ritual which carries many spiritual benefits for the one who takes part in it.
Anyone, from any nationality, religion or any age, can join this walk. This is a gathering of those who respect humanity and peace, are after making changes for the better and do not surrender to injustice. As Imam Hussain (AS) believed being free-spirited and honest is what guarantees human dignity . So, as long as you believe in these values, you are most welcomed on this journey.
It only takes your decision. And you might need to prepare some necessary things to carry with you in this walk. Also, it is better to be both physically and spiritually ready for this experience. Since, like many other life-changing experiences, it has its own hardships and challenges.
Note that the walk starts three days before Arba’een so that you will reach Imam Hussain’s (AS) shrine on Karbala on this day. So, you should start your journey from the 17th of Safar and finish it on 20th.
While visiting Imam Hussain’s (AS) shrine on Arba’een is a recommended deed, what matters most is to be aware of the philosophy behind this action. Imam Hussain’s (AS) universal and all-encompassing message, is not limited to an especial location or a specific time .
We can declare our commitment to Imam Hussain’s (AS) cause anywhere and at any time. So, if you couldn't manage to take part in Arba’een’s ceremony, there are some actions that would help you benefit from this occasion spiritually, such as reciting the Ziarat al-Arba’en or Ziarat al-Ashura. The least you can do is to send your peace and salutations to Imam Hussain (AS) wherever you may be:
Peace be upon Hussain (AS) and Ali ib al-Hussain and Hussain’s children and Hussain’s companions 
[i] Imam Hassan al-Askari (AS) told in a hadith that, among the signs of a faithful person, is visiting Imam Hussain’s (AS) shrine .
- for more information see Salam Islam’s ebook: 40 Points about Imam Hussain (AS) and the Event of Karbala
- Ibn Tawus, 'Ali b. Musa, Al-Luhuf 'ala qatla l-tufuf, Uswi, Qom, 1414 AH.
- Al-Biruni, Abu Rayhan, The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries, p.331.
- Qazi al-Tabataii, Muhammad Ali, A Research on the first Arba’een of the Leader of Martyrs (Imam Hussain (AS)), vol.3, p.304.
- Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol.10, p.239.
- Hashim al Bahrani, Al-Burhan Fi Tafsir al-Quran, vol.3, p.232.
- Shaykh Tusi, Tahdhib al-Ahkam , vol.6, p.52.
- Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 45, p.49.
- Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol.10, p.309.
- Ziarat al-Ashura
In the first part of the article, some stress relieving practices were discussed. Here we complete the list with other advises proposed for facing stress in Islam.
Isolation is undoubtedly the worst way to deal with depression, although some have a completely opposite view on this matter. In general, upholding kinship with relatives and visiting them regularly, benefits one from their social and emotional support . And particularly, in the case of having a problem as serious as depression, they will not leave their loved ones alone and will help to find the resources to get him/her treated. That’s why keeping family ties is strongly emphasized and recommended in Islamic teachings .
Gathering frequently with supportive friends can also play a big role in making depression more manageable and relieving stress in Islam. In Islamic resources, trustworthy friends are known to be like one’s eyes and hands, and family and properties of a person; they are rare and invaluable , and they can help a lot to deal with such disorders.
It is stated in Surah Rum that God has created mates for the human beings which are the source of solace and comfort to them (30:21). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that after Islam, nothing is more beneficial than a righteous, kind, Muslim wife who brings a smile to the face when looking at her . That is within a lawful (Halal) marriage that both sides receive pure affection and emotional support from each other; respond safely to their sexual urge; help and encourage each other to achieve their goals, promote their social statue and get a better economic situation. Moreover, the researchers suggest that marriage provides the companionship and emotional support needed to help alleviate depression . Hence, many of one’s worries might fade in a successful marriage .
Looking clean and nice is one of the manners of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It makes one look good, feel good, be confident and attract the company of people and their respect which consequently helps one’s stress to be healed. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to put on perfume and always advised others to do so . On the contrary, looking disheveled has always been blamed in Islamic teachings and narrations since it is believed that one should make the most of the blessings of life . The effect of having a clean and nice appearance and smelling good manifests itself in a healthy, joyful individual .
Doing sport and healthy entertainments are highly advised in Islam due to its wonderful benefits on one’s peace and success. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that a wise person divides his daily schedule to four parts and dedicates one of them to lawful (Halal) and healthy entertainment which comforts heart and mind . Imam Ali (AS) has emphasized the impacts of cheerful moments and the state of being happy on one’s soul and mind, too [11, 12]. However, entertainment should not be confused with useless activities. Doing sports especially horse riding, shooting and swimming are encouraged in Islam [13, 14]. On the contrary, playing marbles, gambling or any kind of activity with the intent of winning money or material goods , and any entertainment which is a waste of time (like sitting in front of the TV all day and doing nothing else) are absolutely forbidden. That is due to the fact that one gains nothing for doing such activities but loses time and energy, and Muslims are warned neither to lose nor to cause damage.
One of the psychological impacts of giving charity is the joy that the donor will experience in his/her heart. Acts of charity and helping others might happen in several forms, like watering a plant, teaching, helping deaf (without nagging and complaining) to communicate with others and being tolerant towards people . In Surah Baqara, it is said that those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah, will be surely rewarded by their Lord. Moreover, they will not fear, nor will they grieve (2:262).
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 216.
- what does islam say about maintaining family ties
- M. al-Kulaynī, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 2, p. 248.
- Shaykh Tusi, “Tahdhib al-ahkam fi sharh al-muqni'a”. vol. 7, p. 278, T. 4.
- Frech, A. and Williams, K., 2007. Depression and the psychological benefits of entering marriage. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 48(2), pp.149-163.
- stress in life
- M. al-Kulaynī, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 6, p. 510.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 164.
- H. F. Tabarsi, “Makarim al-akhlaq”, p. 42.
- Shaykh Sadouq, “Ma'ani l-akhbar”, p. 334.
- “Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim”, T. 3992.
- “Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim”, T. 3993.
- Al Suyuti, “Jami al-saghir”, vol. 1, p. 38.
- Al Suyuti, “Jami al-saghir”, vol. 1, p. 627.
- Ibn Babawayh, “Al-Khisal”, p. 331.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 547.