Millions gather in Karbala, Iraq for annual Arbaeen mourning ceremony


Millions of pilgrims have flocked into Iraq for Arbaeen, the last day of the 40-day mourning period that follows the anniversary of the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) grandson, Imam Hussein AS, in the seventh century.

Pilgrims from Iraq, Iran and other parts of the world have converged on central Karbala in a procession which is expected to attract over 22 million devotees this year. Apart from Shiite Muslims who make the majority of Arbaeen pilgrims, Sunni Muslims, Christians and people of other religions and creeds also participate in this massive gathering to pay homage to Imam Hussein AS.

The first ten days of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic Hijri calendar, mark the martyrdom of the third Shiite Imam and the grandson of Prophet Mohammad SAW, Imam Hussein AS, in 680 AD (61 Hijri) in an unequal battle with the tyrant of the time. The tenth day of Muharram, known as Ashura, marks the day when Imam Hussein was martyred with 72 of his loyal companions. The historic event’s message of resistance and rising up against tyranny has been key to the evolution of a culture which rejects abjection at any rate.

Imam Hussein AS preferred to accept the challenge of an unequal battle and to fight with a small group of seventy-odd followers and relatives against Yazid’s army of several thousands.

The Arabeen ceremony began and was soon established when Jabir ibn Abdollah Ansari, a companion of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), then 77 and blind, visited Imam Hussein’s grave as the Imam’s first pilgrim, 40 days after Ashura.

2.5 Million Iranian pilgrims

This year Iraq has so far granted around 2.5 million Iranian applicants visas for going on pilgrimage to the Arab country to perform mourning rituals marking Arbaeen.

The routes to Karbala, where the holy shrine of Imam Hussein (AS) is located, are packed with pedestrians from around the world.

Last year, around 22 million pilgrims gathered in Karbala on Arbaeen, making the world’s hugest human gathering in modern history and officials say the number is set to rise this year as has been the case since 2003.

This year, Iran has installed more than 1,600 pavilions and congregation halls to provide food, beverages, accommodation and medical services for the pilgrims traveling on foot.

Iran, Iraq providing security for Arabeen pilgrims

Meanwhile, a senior commander at Iran’s Khatam al-Anbia Air Defense Base said the base is closely monitoring the country’s airspace over western borders to ensure the security of pilgrims visiting Iraq during Arbaeen religious ceremonies.

In remarks released on Monday, Brigadier General Shamkhal Jafari highlighted measures taken to provide security for the pilgrims who visit Iraq’s holy cities during Arbaeen, the major Shiite occasion marking the 40th day after the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (AS), which falls on November 9 this year.

He said Iran’s air defense has completely covered the airspace over the routes taken by the Shiite pilgrims.

Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces have stepped up their security checks inside Karbala to protect the pilgrims from possible attacks by Takfiri terrorist groups opposed to such gatherings

Over the years, Iraqi forces have managed to greatly improve security of the millions of pilgrims flocking Karbala.