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02 October 2023 / 17. Rabi-Ul-Awwal 1445

Arbaeen 1439 AH

The Significance of the Arbaeen Walk According to the Maraji‘ of Taqleed

On the occasion of the approaching Arbaeen of 1439 AH, we would firstly like to offer our condolences to the Living Awaited Imam (af) from the progeny of Imam Husayn (a).

We remind mumineen that the Ziyarat of Imam Husayn (a), on this day, is highly recommended. Imam Hasan al-Askari (a) mentions it as being a sign of a true believer, and he lists it among other signs such as performing 51 rak‘ats of daily prayers (17 obligatoryrak‘ats and 34 recommended).[1] This seems to suggest that just as salat is the pillar of the religion, the Ziyarat of Arbaeen is the pillar of the wilayat of the Ahl al-Bayt (a). May Allah help us to attain salvation by saving us from ignorance and arrogance, and may He help us to move progressively towards perfection by following the lofty divine values taught to us by the Ahl al-Bayt (a).

We are blessed to live in times when we can witness and experience the massive display of love for Imam Husayn (a) in the annual Arbaeen Walk to the shrine of Imam Husayn (a). Indeed, all of our great maraji‘ of taqleed (may Allah protect them as the best guides to the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt (a)) have praised and promoted the Walk, and some of them have even participated in it.

[1] Tahdhib al-Ahkam by Shaykh Tusi, 6:52, hadith 122; and Misbah al-Mutahajjid wa Silah al-Muta‘abbid by Shaykh Tusi, 2:787-788.

Below are some of their quotes:

‘This multi-million march on foot from far and near, East and West, towards Holy Karbala is a great congregation which announces to the world that the path of Imam Husayn (a) and his goals are unforgettable.’[2]

‘It is an unprecedented great movement full of meaning.’[3]

‘It is a sign of the greatness of 

‘It is undoubtedly a practical display of “man
yu‘adhdhim sha‘a’irallah”’[5]

[2] As Iraqis say, ‘Ma nansa Husayna!’ (We do not forget Husayn!)
[3]Ayatullah Ali Khamenei
[4]Ayatullah Shubayr Zanjani
[5] ‘One who venerates the sacraments of Allah.’ This is a reference to verse 32 of Surat al-Hajj (Chapter 22): ‘And whoever venerates the sacraments of Allah, indeed that arises from the piety of hearts.’

Some maraji‘ explain that walking for Ziyarat is especially recommended. Both Imam Hasan (a) and Imam Husayn(a) would walk to Mecca. For example, there is a report in al-Kafi in which Imam al-Sadiq (a) says that Imam Hasan (a) walked to hajj along with his mount. [6]
[6] Al-Kafi, vol4, p455, hadith 2

“Essentially, walking to perform Ziyarat displays a type of reverence and humility to Imam Husayn (a).” [7]

Hence, some maraji
‘ strive to personally participate in the Walk, despite their old age and infirmity, whereas others express the wish: 

‘Alas! If only my physical ability would allow, I would participate in the Walk!’[8]

‘There is nothing I envy more than the 
able-bodied who walk to perform Ziyarat!’[9]

May the All-Appreciating Lord reward them for their pious intent.

[7] Ayatullah Shubayr Zanjani
[8] Ayatullah Shubayr Zanjani
[9] Ayatullah Ali Khamenei

What is the hadith basis of the emphasis placed by the maraji‘ on walking for Ziyarat?

There are several traditions on the great reward for walking specifically for the Ziyarat of Imam Husayn (a); for the sake of brevity, we will quote only one hadith which is mentioned by one of the maraji‘[10] (may Allah protect our great religious authorities).

[10] Ayatullah Nasir Makarim Shirazi.

Imam al-Sadiq (a) says:

‘When a person travels to visit the grave of Imam Husayn (a), as he takes his first step away from his family he is pardoned for his sins. Then, for every step he takes he continues to become purified until he reaches the holy grave. When he arrives there, Allah whispers to him: “My servant, ask me (whatever you wish) and I will grant it to you! Pray to Me and I will answer your prayer! Beg from Me and I will give you! Ask Me for any need and I will fulfill it!”[11]

The Imam (a) further added: ‘It is an obligation on Allah (self-imposed as a promise to be fulfilled) to grant him what he expended!’

[11] Kamil al- Ziyarat, p. 132, hadith 2

Ayatullah Waheed Khurasani is quoted to have said that "other hadith are even more baffling in the enormity of the rewards mentioned in them for walking for the Ziyarat of Imam Husayn (a)". It is no wonder that scholars who became aware of the rewards began walking for the Ziyarat individually or in small groups. For example, at the time of Shaykh al-A‘zam Murtada al-Ansari (died 1281AH),[12] the walk has been reported but later was abandoned for some time; it was then revived again by Shaykh Mirza Husayn Nuri (died 1319AH) (the teacher of Shaykh Muhaddith Abbas Qummi and Shaykh Agha Buzurg Tehrani, who has written about his teacher’s walks for Ziyarat).

[12] Nobody can claim to be a Mujtahid unless that person is trained in his school of ijtihad.

Marhum Ayatullah Mahmood Shahrudi would walk not only from Najaf to Karbala but also back to Najaf;  apparently, this was because there is great reward mentioned in traditions for walking for the Ziyarat of Imam Ali (a) as well.

Among prominent personalities who regularly walked in groups were Shaykh Amini (the author of the 11 volume al-Ghadir), and Shaheed Mustafa Khumayni, who would walk to Karbala on all the important recommended Ziyarat dates (1st and middle of Rajab, middle of Sha‘ban, Day of ‘Arafah, and of course on Arbaeen). Imam Musa Sadr did the same (may Allah reward them all).

The Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein prohibited mass collective movements for Ziyarat since he assumed power in 1979, and so when this evil power was overthrown in 2003, the ardent lovers of Imam Husayn (a) restarted the Ziyarat walk in the Arbaeen of 2003/1424AH. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shia participated.

Subsequently, this number has been growing every year with pilgrims taking part now from all over the world. This year, almost 2.3 million visas have already been issued just for Iranian pilgrims!   

Ayatullah Nasir Makarim Shirazi walked some 60 years ago with a group of scholars from Najaf to Karbala through the longer route along the banks of the Dajla and Furat rivers - a journey of over 100 km. He explains the effect of walking for Ziyarat as follows:

‘Observe that even women, the elderly, and the young come despite the potential risks; this is because they really love Imam Husayn (a). It is only love that drives them in their millions. But the effect of walking is different to a simple Ziyarat; a different level of spirituality is experienced.’
‘If someone goes for Ziyarat by transport, they will arrive at the holy shrine early; they may stay in the Shrine City for four days and do Ziyarat every day. But, after a three-day walk (from Najaf to Karbala), you will have perhaps only one day to do Ziyarat at the shrine but it will be a lifelong and unforgettable experience!’
‘During the Walk, the pilgrim can achieve spiritual self-reformation and engage in good discussions during the day and night.’

Hence, the maraji‘ recommend we ought to preserve this sha‘a’ir (holy sacrament), as mourning Imam Husayn (a) is one of the greatest sha‘a’ir.

Furthermore, they warn us that we should be wary of some people creating bid‘ah and introducing inappropriate practices that smear this great movement.

‘It’s a Grand Treasure that is being partially discovered every year’[13]

We should recognise the worth of the Walk and propagate it globally as the grand congregation of the lovers of Imam Husayn (a); this will demonstrate the great status of Imam Husayn (a). 
Our great Marja‘ Ayatullah al-Uzma al-Sayyid al-Seestani (may Allah Protect our maraji‘) addresses the Arbaeen pilgrims with these words:

[13] Quote from Ayatullah Nasir Makarim Shirazi.

"Allah the Almighty has encouraged the Ziyarat of the Holy Shrines to perpetuate their teachings as they were the humblest servants of Allah who demonstrated for us the best model of worship, struggle, and sacrifice in the way of Allah. Therefore, pilgrims ought to practice their lofty teachings of salat, hijab, conciliation, pardon, tolerance, polite manners etc. so that their soul is spiritually developed. Participating in these great rituals is like attending the educational and spiritual classes of the Ahl al-Bayt (a).”

Ayatullah Bahjat (may Allah raise his station in Barzakh) lamented on how we are failing in our duty to prepare for and hasten the re-appearance of Imam Zamana (af):
"When Imam Zamana (af) makes his appearance, he will introduce himself through Imam Husayn (a) thus: “Inna jaddiya al-Husayn qataluhu atshana![14]

‘So people in the world should have recognised Imam Husayn (a) and it is our shortcoming that people still haven’t recognised Imam Husayn (a). The mass multi-million Arbaeen Walk is one of the best ways to globalise Imam Husayn (a) in preparation for the Imam’s reappearance.’

[14] “Verily my grandfather Husayn was killed while he was thirsty!”

May Allah enable us to become worthy of the company of Imam Zamana (af) through the inspiration of following Imam Husayn (a) as a model of struggle and sacrifice.

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