Visiting the tomb of Imam Hussain (AS) has been popular among Shiites since the time of the Shia Imams who taught Shiites that this pilgrimage plays a significant role in a Shia’s life as quoted from regard Imam Sadiq (AS) in this regard:
Do not pull back from going to Karbala for visiting the shrine of Imam Hussain (AS) out of insecurity or fear because anyone who does, will regret it so much that he wished the grave of Imam Hussain (AS) was near to him. Don’t you like to be one of those for whom the Prophet (PBUH & HP) and Imam Ali (AS) and Lady Fatimah (AS) and the Imams pray? (1)
Having a significant impact on every aspect of our lives, the Shia Imams encouraged us to fulfill this pilgrimage. such a great event which has been discussed and studied through so many aspects for example its history, its political and social impacts and so forth; but seldom have its moral effects on our personality been examined. Arbaeen pilgrimage may change our individual and social life in so many ways from which we’re going to mention some in this text.
To purify soul in Islamic culture means changing our personality in a way that we obtain so many virtues and redeem our souls from bad habits or sins. Experiencing a very spiritual and calm atmosphere during this journey, anyone can revolutionize their lives and repent from all of their sins.
Imam Sadiq (AS) said:
Should anyone leave their house in order to visit the grave of Imam Hussain (AS) Allah blesses them with a reward for each step they take if they go on foot and forgives one of their sins. (2)
Imam Hussain (AS) himself is the emblem of patience and endurance as he sacrificed all he had for the sake of Allah even his own life but he didn’t surrender to the tyrant oppressors. He and Lady Zeinab (AS) showed us how much a human can be patient facing the intolerable hardship that happen in their life. Imam Hussain (AS) even chose his companions from the most tolerant ones so that they could accompany him on his journey. For that matter, once he said to his people:
Anyone who is able to resist the sharp edges of swords and the invective of tongues can come with us and anyone who doesn’t must leave us (3)
Nowadays although Iraqi people have made it so much easier for the pilgrims, taking this trip to visit Imam Hussain’s holly shrine (AS) is still full of dangers and hardships . When the pilgrims undergo these difficulties and think about the patience that Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions had, they can practice how to be patient in their own life.
When a pilgrim puts their heart and soul into reach a certain destination which is the land of Karbala to pilgrimage Imam Hussain’’s shrine on their way they endure so many problems and difficulties, they understand what a human is verily capable of. They can find out that life isn’t just the material world that we see around us but humans are able to see something more in this life and sacrifice all they have for it. It makes people value their souls, believe in themselves and raises their more self-esteem.
The Impact of Arbaeen Pilgrimage on our Social Life
In Islamic culture, “Infaq” means helping people by giving charity, spending your time for them or even teaching others for free and stuff like that .
During Arbaeen rituals , money isn’t an important issue for the pilgrims as people’s needs are mostly provided by others in Iraq. Most of Iraqi people even save money for a year so that they can help the pilgrims during the Arbaeen rituals with food, medicine and so forth.
This enthusiasm for Infaq roots in the Islamic teachings and the messages of the Quran where says:
The parable of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is that of a grain which grows seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains. Allah enhances severalfold whomever He wishes, and Allah is all-bounteous, all-knowing. (2:261)
Also about the importance of the Arbaeen walk Imam Sadiq (AS) says:
For each coin that they spend for the sake of Imam Hussain (AS) Allah will consider it ten thousand coins and rewards them as they have spent that much and Allah will be pleased with them and the Prophet (PBUH & HP) will pray for them and Imam Ali (AS) and the Imams will do so. (4)
The holy Quran says:
Cooperate in piety and God-wariness, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression, and be wary of Allah. (5:2)
Arbaeen walk is a symbol for a society in which people with different ideas, nationalities, ethnicity colors, age groups, and religions work together to reach one common destination. The objective of all these people is the same and it’s making Allah pleased with themselves by commemorating the sacrifice of Imam Hussain (AS). People respect each other and help just for the sake of Allah.
Pilgrims in this ceremony think more about the message of Imam Hussain (AS) which was justice and fighting against tyranny, violence, and doing sins. Imam Hussain (AS) himself says:
I didn’t start this movement so that I could achieve a status among people or to please my desires. I didn’t do it to create chaos or to oppress. I started this movement so that I could make the followers of my grandfather better people; I want to enjoin others to do good works and prevent them from doing sins and I do as my grandfather and my father did. (5)
This walk helps us change ourselves and the others and understand that sitting down and watching people being in pain and oppressed is not what Allah wants us to do. We all are responsible for the circumstances in our society.
- Kamil az-Ziarat, Ibn Qulavaih, Pg.127
- The same, Pg.143
- Yanabi’ al-Mavaddah, al-Qunduzi, vol.3, Pg.62
- Kamil az-Ziarat, Ibn Qulavaih, Pg.139
- Bihar al-Anvar, Allamah al-Majlesi, vol.44, Pg.329
Whatever we look at or even see, enters our mind and soul, and sticks to them. Imam Ali (AS) said: “The eye is the reporter of heart and the messenger of mind.” . It means that every act of looking profoundly affects our heart and soul. The prophet (PBUH&HP) said: “Avoid unnecessary excess looks as they grow lust in your hearts and make you heedless.” .
In another saying from Imam Ali (AS), we read that: “The eyes are the snares of Satan” . That is why Islam has special guidelines and rules about at what or whom, one is allowed or not to look. And, this is more pressing in case of Muslims living in a non-Muslim society, where they are constantly exposed to both men and women freely and improperly dressed in the streets, TV, magazines, web pages, etc. Islam has regulated looking at the opposite gender according to the two categories: Mahrams and non-Mahrams .
A man is permitted to look at the body of a woman who is his Mahram, except her private parts (Awrah). And he must not look at her body from the navel down to the knee. This means that a woman should dress decently even in the presence of her Mahrams. One’s wife is an exception to this rule; married couples are allowed to look at the entire body of each other.
It is forbidden for a man to look at the body of any non-Mahram woman but he can look at her hands and face as long as they do not have any decoration. If the woman is Muslim, then he is not allowed to look at her hair. But if she is not Muslim, looking at her hair is not forbidden as long as it is not for pleasure.
Generally, there is no sin on a man for the first involuntary look at any non-Mahram woman, but the second look should be avoided . In any case, men should remember that: “Tell the faithful men to cast down their looks and to guard their private parts. That is more decent for them.” (24:30).
This rule also extends to adolescent boys and even younger ones, who understand women’s physical attributes and might be attracted to them. They should be taught to lower their gaze, too. Since children’s minds and souls are clear lands ready to be cultivated with several types of thoughts and ideas mostly captured by eyes, we need to teach them which seeds they should plant in their lands to attain Allah’s eternal satisfaction.
A man is not allowed to look at another man’s private parts, nor a woman at those of another woman; whether Muslim or not. Besides, looking at any parts of the body of another man, even the face and arms, will be forbidden for a man if done with the intention of having pleasure. The same ruling applies to a woman towards another woman. This also means that one should always cover his/her private parts in the presence of others, even of the same gender.
A woman is allowed to look at the body of a man who is her Mahram, except his private parts, if it is not for having pleasure. One’s husband is an exception to this rule as mentioned earlier.
A woman is not permitted to look at the body of a non-Mahram man, except for the face, hands, and that amount which men usually [i] do not cover and if it is not for pleasure.
One is permitted to look at the entire body of a child until he/she reaches the age when the child’s consciousness of sex has developed, or when evidence of sexual urge is noticed on him/her; even if it is before reaching puberty. However, it is better to accustom the child to always dress properly.
As a general rule, it is forbidden (Haram) to look at anyone (even at one’s own body) or anything (including people’s photos and films, statues, etc.) with the intention of having pleasure (with the exception of one’s spouse), even if one is looking at a Mahram.
In cases of “necessity” such as in administering first aid, medical treatment [ii] or during a trial testimony where the judge requests the witness to look at a non-Mahram to identify him/her , all the rules of the prohibition of looking become void. As an instance, if a doctor is compelled to look at a part of the body of a non-Mahram woman, he must only look at that part necessary for the treatment, but not more than that. Also, if possible, the examination or testing must be performed over the clothing. Other exceptions are looking at one’s spouse as explained above.
[i] This, although following a definite limit indicated in Islamic ruling that should be respected, is based on the normal condition of each society to some extent.
[ii] In the case that a doctor of the same skill and with the same gender is not available.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 104, p. 41, T. 52.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 72, p. 199.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 77, p. 294.
- Ibn Babawayh, “Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih”, vol.3, p.474, T. 4658.
- looking to others
Muslims commemorate the fortieth day after the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions, called Arbaeen, meaning the fortieth day in Arabic. They all gather around the city of Karbala and Imam Hussain’s (AS) shrine, mourning and lamenting the unfair and cruel war between his comrades and those of Yazid Ibn Muawiyah, which led into the death of those pure men and the bondage of their families.
This commemoration happens every year around the city of Karbala. Muslims begin to walk to Karbala from other towns. They gather together in groups to pray, and especially to mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS).
This walk is a hard one. It takes at least three days and lots of energy and time. So, why do Muslims take that? What is the philosophy behind it?
To answer our questions, first, let’s have a review of the history behind this walk and then move to the other aspects of this commemoration.
The history of Arbaeen walk goes back to the first visitors of Imam Hussain (AS) after his death. On the day of Arbaeen, forty days after the tragic martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS), Imam’s (AS) son, sister and the remaining members of his family and that of the other martyrs came back to Karbala to lament the death of their dear ones besides their graves.
Their next visitor was Jabir Ibn Abdullah Ansari on the year 61 AH. Visiting Imam Hussain’s (AS) shrine was a tradition in Shiite culture until a short period after Morteza Anasari’s became the religious reference (Marja’) of Shiite Muslims. It was then lessened for some years and then revived. Some other religious references (Marja’) kept this tradition alive among their followers, until the government of Saddam Hussain, which banned all religious Shiite traditions to be performed publically .
The tradition was revived after the fall of Saddam, and it is still to be continued.
Visiting the holy shrines and going on pilgrimages on foot is not something new or belonging to our age. It’s got a long history, and Adam did the first pilgrimage on his visit to Mecca . It isn’t a tradition just among Muslims either. It is performed in other faiths and religions, too. For instance, Caesar made a vow to his God to go on a pilgrimage to the Dome of Rocks if he won the battle against the Empire of Persepolis (Iran). He performed his vow after his victory .
Pilgrimages are highly admired, and their act is seen as a way of getting closer to Allah by Imam Sadiq (AS). Visiting the holy shrines of the twelve Imams (AS) is even more praised, especially the sacred shrine of Imam Hussain (AS). Of course, it’s not these shrines themselves that are of value and importance, but the people who have been buried there. Thus, when one makes a pilgrimage toward these shrines, he/she finds the chance to think more about these great personalities who won Allah’s satisfaction and praise and were Muslims in the real sense of the word. So, in every step that a pilgrimage takes toward Imams' (AS) shrines, especially that of Imam Hussain (AS), he/she is getting closer to a source of spiritual blessing, bringing him/her thousands of virtues and wiping away thousands of vices from his/her mind and soul.
The Arbaeen pilgrimage is not merely a long walk. Instead, it is a kind of movement in which despite being in publics, pilgrims have their own private relationship with Allah and Imam Hussain (AS), which finds a new form of divine immaterial dependence and conformance. Thinking about the goals and the history behind the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS), the injustice and cruelty imposed on his family and the devotions of his faithful followers brings about many personal and social growth and improvements.
Meeting other Muslims, exchanging ideas, and making friendships with Muslims of the other countries is another social outcome of this pilgrimage. One finds out that they are not alone in their faith, and have friends all over the world. They may have differences, but they have one thing in common: Belief in Imam Hussain (AS) and his right cause.
The last and the most crucial point to mention this great gathering is it's a kind of preparation for the grand reappearance of Imam Mahdi (AS), the awaited savior among Muslims. The Arbaeen pilgrimage is to make the minds and souls ready for this great event. It is said that when Imam Mahdi (AS) reappears, he introduces himself as the son of Hussain (AS) , whose fame has reached many people through the Arbaeen Pilgrimage; one of the most significant religious gathering around the world, with the estimated number of 40,000,000 people participating in it, whose news is broadcasted all over the world .
- "The background of Arba'een rally/The importance of Najaf-Karbala rally from the scholar's viewpoint." Fars News. Archived from the original on 16 November 2015. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
- Hor Ameli, Muhammad Bin Hussain Vasayel-o-Shia, Vol 11, p 132
- Sobhani, Jafar The Light of Eternity p. 696
- Kamel-o-Ziyarat: Pp 183, 184 and 185
- Philipson, Alice (19 January 2015). "The ten largest gatherings in human history." The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 6 October 2015. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
- Khademi Shirazi, Mohammad Yad’e Mahdi P16, P132