Shafaqna Pakistan:Despite a blackout by mainstream media, the social media have been lit in the Muslim months of Safar over the past several years with pictures of the Arbaeen Walk.
For years people taking part in this walk, including my friends in Iraq and other parts of the world, constantly asked me to take the journey once. So this year I decided to be a part of this world’s largest religious gathering.
My journey began from Iran’s Shalamcheh border crossing with Iraq. When I arrived there it was 7 o’clock in the morning and I saw thousands of people crossing the border while thousands more were arriving by the hour.
The pilgrims were welcomed in by a large number of Mawkibs, in which services like food, water and medical services were offered free of cost.
I entered Iraq after taking a brief rest at the Shalamcheh terminal. It was scorching hot but the sweet and chilled juice Iraqi people gave me with love and respect made theheat disappear. They were greeting people by calling them in Arabic: “Halibikum ya zuvvar” (which meant “welcome dear pilgrims,” as I later found out).
After the necessary paperwork on the border, we took a taxi to Najaf. The taxi driver was a decent man. Although he did not know English and I didn’t understand Arabic but he welcomed me with his gestures and tried to explain the magnificence of Arbaeen Walk using a mix of Arabic, Farsi, broken English and body language.
After a 6-hour drive, we reached Najaf at around 12 in night. Despite it being midnight, the Iraqi residents of the holy city pilgrims were providing the pilgrims with a full range of services. Someone was pouring them tea while others offered them water and food.
An Iraqi child also brought a cup of hot coffee for us which felt great after the long trip. Due to travel fatigue, I went straight to my hotel and rested the night.
The second morning I was completely fresh and ready to join the great walk.
At the first look, it was an 80km long highway like any other made to connect two cities in any country. However, the landscape between Najaf and Karbala, two cities sacred to Shia Muslims, is very different during Arbaeen.
At every step of the way, all the necessary items for any traveler could be found for free. Someone was giving you food, someone handed out locally grown fresh dates.
Some Iraqis would grab you and even beg you to stop at their Mawkib or even spend a few hours at their house. There were even people who would give you foot massages to keep you ready for the long walk.
Excellent sofas were installed on the side of the road so that the pilgrims involved could rest. For people like me, who come from countries where anything has a price tag, the extent of free services is astonishing.
The story is long, it is not possible to narrate it all in one article, so my suggestion is that you must be a part of this great walk at least once in life.
According to the data, more than 20 million pilgrims participated in this walk this year, which had about 8 million foreign pilgrims. The number of Iranian pilgrims was the highest among foreign pilgrims, followed by Pakistan. I met pilgrims from Africa, France, the US, Germany, India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Finland and other countries during the walk.
In the walk, I met a woman who had come from India to join the “Arbaeen Walk” with her three young children.
His name was Ruqayya Rizvi. Two children were seated in the same baby trolley while she hugged the third one. There was a tired look on her face but when I asked her to talk, she smiled and agreed. This was also her first walk.
She told me that this walk is not only for Shias but also for Sunni Muslims as well as people from other religions like Christianity and faiths such as Hinduism.
All of them together mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (a.s) in front of the prophet. It is Hussein’s love that gathers all of us here.
“Hussein’s love unites us,” is actually the slogan of Arbaeen.
I also met Abrar Hussain, a Kashmiri youth. He came for the third time in this walk. He said that it was not easy for him to join the walk this time.
The situation in Kashmir is not good, the Government of India has imposed many restrictions on Kashmir since the removal of Article 370.
The means of communication have been cut there, we cannot contact anyone, our phones are not working, the internet is disconnected, people are being put in jails without any crime. In spite of all the problems, I have come to join this walk so that I can tell the world about the crimes on Kashmiris.
The martyrdom of Imam Hussain and Arbaeen teaches us that one should not sit silent against tyranny. We are loyal to our country but cannot tolerate atrocities.
The situation of the shutdown in Kashmir is atrocities on Kashmiri citizens, it is a violation of human rights, the World Human Rights Organization and the United Nations should break their mysterious silence on this issue.
During the walk, I met A lady who was from Hyderabad province of India and had Indian flag in her hand. She joined this walk for the first time with her entire family. She was very pleased to be a part of this world’s largest gathering. He praised the hospitality offered by the Iraqis and said that Hussein’s love connects us with other religions and people in the world.
I also met an Indian student studying in Al-Mustafa International University, Iran. His name was Tajdar Hussain Zaidi.
He explained to me the importance of Arbaeen. He told that Arbaeen is a symbol of the faith of a Muslim, Arbaeen is a fight against terrorism and imperialism. Arbaeen is a symbol of peace and non-violence.
Arbaeen means standing in support of the weak. Today’s imperialism and extremist power are afraid of the Arbaeen walk, they want to end it.
They tried to stop this walk by supporting the peaceful demonstrations in Iraq and making the protests violent just before the Arbaeen, but they failed in their attempt and this walk continues with its full splendor.
Imperialism is not afraid of ISIS and the Taliban because they work for their interests, imperialism is afraid of Arbaeen because it teaches to fight against tyranny and imperialism. Arbaeen opposes the imperialist policies of America in the world. The Arbaeen call on to oppose the tyranny of the Zionist regime on the Palestinians. Arabian is the name of a revolution against tyranny and imperialism.
On reaching Karbala, this walk was at the peak of its splendor, people of every color and race forgetting all discrimination and immersed in the love of Hussein. Everywhere, there was a huge gathering which was seen like a waving sea.
My journey was over and I was getting ready to return home.
I was waiting for my flight to Baghdad Airport, but I was wondering, what kind of power this martyrdom which made 1400 years ago has that still pulling millions of people from every corner of the world towards it.
It seemed that everyone present there had a personal relationship with Imam Hussain (a.s) and no one else could understand this relationship, and this is the reason that attracted people from different parts of the world to every religion and community towards Karbala and teaches the lesson of freedom.