The journey of Arbaeen is the commemoration of the martyrdom of the grandson of the Holy Prophet, Hussain (A.S). It is the 40th day after the tragedy that befell Imam Hussain and his 72 companions, also known as the day of Ashura. The journey is both spiritual and emotional as millions from around the world gather at the shrine of Imam Hussain. Imam Hussain stood up for justice and peace against the tyrant of his time, Yazid.
Our journey started in Najaf, Iraq, where the father of Imam Hussain, Imam Ali, is buried. After spending two days in Najaf we traveled to Karbala, Iraq, the land where the battle between Imam Hussain and Yazid's army took place. It is recommended to walk from one city to another, a journey that is 80km and usually takes three days. My experience on this walk was like no other. While walking there was always an Iraqi native offering me food, water, a place to massage my feet, and bed to sleep. The people of Iraq sacrifice their time, money, and homes to help the walkers of Imam Hussain. These Iraqi citizens spend all day and all night helping the walkers, for even when we started our walk at two in the morning there were people offering us tea, hot chocolate, or the sweet milk from a camel.
When we reached Karbala, our hotel overlooked the shrines of Imam Hussain and his brother Hazrat Abbas. Throughout the day and into the night I could hear the procession of people outside reciting their poetry. I visited the significant landmarks of the battle that took place 1400 years ago. The walk from Najaf to Karbala brings in millions of people dedicated to the message of justice and to stand up to injustice.
After such a journey the mind is so transfixed and is in utter dismay that going back to "reality" is hard and almost inconceivable. It makes you appreciate your surroundings and if you let it, this journey will change you. The main goal of this trip is to come back a better version of yourself, to become a better human, to help society from the teachings and example of a man who stood up to injustice. When I asked Kaazim Hasan for a quote on his experience, he said,
"When you see the streets of Karbala expand from the zawars, when you feel at home in a city where you know no one, the beauty of Karbala becomes so apparent. Once I got to work, people inquired about my trip asking how it felt to be back to reality. I smiled because this felt so fugazi, Karbala was reality"
The story of Imam Hussain and the battle at Karbala isn't just for the Shia Muslims of the world, but for anyone who wishes to instill the same basic values of human rights that Imam Hussain stood for.