Arb’een Pilgrimage – Largest Annual Gathering in the World

“…O’ my Lord!…and [O’] the Revealer of the Torah and the Bible and the Psalms and the …Quran, full of wisdom! You are my haven when the wide courses fail to carry me and when the earth, despite its width, becomes too narrow to bear me…”

[A part of Dua Arafah by Imam Hussain (PBUH)]

Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem, salaam alaykum dear readers,

Many people have never heard of the Arb’een Pilgrimage which takes place every year in Iraq. This pilgrimage (walk), which is the largest annual gathering in the world, starts in Najaf Iraq and ends in Karbala Iraq (roughly 50 miles).

Millions of people from all corners of the world, different nationalities, men, women, children, the elderly, the disabled, Shia’s, Sunni’s, Christians, Zoroastrians, and others come to do ziyarah (pilgrimage to the holy shrine) of Imam Hussain (as).

Arb’een marks the 40th day of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (as) (grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWW)) and his companions. They were martyred on the 10th day of the month of Muharram. This 10th day is known as Ashura.

Arb'een Pilgrimage

“… a reminder of the blood-stained field of Kerbela, where the grandson of the Apostle of God fell at length, tortured by thirst and surrounded by the bodies of his murdered kinsmen, has been at anytime since then sufficient to evoke, even in the most lukewarm and heedless, the deepest emotions, the most frantic grief, and an exaltation of spirit before which pain, danger and death shrink to unconsidered trifles.”

[Edward G. Brown – A Literary History of Persia, London, 1919, p. 227]


For humanity, the Arb’een Pilgrimage is a journey which transcends the temporal. A uniting & unifying call to stand for the weak, to elevate the oppressed and give power & voice to the powerless the world over. For all those who are upholders of justice, truth and freedom, go to Arb’een and leave with hope, and persevere and relent not to end oppression.

“First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me” [Martin Niemöller]

The Pilgrimage recently received UNESCO heritage status due to the hospitality at the Arb’een walk. It truly is like nothing else. In this pilgrimage, there is no societal strata. No job is menial; brother / sisterhood is the enduring theme.

All along the way from Najaf to Karbala, stalls have been set up by local residents, mosques, charity groups and foreign aid groups to provide food and drinks to ensure no pilgrim goes hungry or thirsty. Vast quantities of grilled fish, meats, rice, bread, stews, fruits and much more are prepared and served at any time at no cost whatsoever to the pilgrims.


There are makeshift tents set up with mattresses and blankets for people to rest & sleep, massages for tired feet, mobile bathrooms and ambulances for emergencies. Along the walk, visitors are urged to stop for snacks, tea and rest. Though the people of Iraq are still suffering the devastation of wars imposed upon them, they have opened their arms to the world and have redefined the concept of hospitality and humanity.

This walk is where one can witness the human in humanity no matter the race, religion or status in society. This is all nations under God.

There have been some recent initiatives for having a “green” pilgrimage. Setting up recycling bins, water refill stations, and reusable containers. Al-Kawthar Orphans and Berak H had a mowkib set up at pole #70:

Green work has also been done by Green Pilgrimage:

About Arb’een:

InshaAllah (God willing), one day I will be able to make the ziyarah of Imam Hussain and join my fellow brothers and sisters in humanity on such an uplifting and humbling pilgrimage.             

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