The Arba’een mass movement; how and why?

Over the past fourteen centuries the events of the first century of Islam became the focus of the successive generations who admired Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed. Imam Hussain was martyred in Karbala on 10th Muharram in the year 61 AD, i.e., fifty years after the demise of the prophet himself. The martyrdom of Hussain became a rallying point for the followers of Mohammed who were systematically pursued and purged by the ene- mies of Mohammed’s humanist religious mis- sion. AS the post-Mohammed political regime became a virtual alternative to the pure religion, Hussain found himself in the midst of a crisis that no one else could shoulder. Being the inheri- tor of the divine message, Hussain vowed to defend the message and challenge those who audaciously betrayed Mohammed and his divine mission. He took a stand for which he paid dear- ly but knowingly. His philosophy was that when evil becomes enshrined in the community it takes more that verbal attempts to remove it and may need the ultimate sacrifice. The divine mes- sage was being distorted and deformed. Only Hussain was able to understand the extent of the evil and the scope of the political alternative that the Umayyads had prepared.

Upon the martyrdom of Hussain the situation became clearer to some, but remained a mystery to many. The taking of his women and children as prisoners of war proved beyond any reasona- ble doubt that the new rulers of the Muslim are oceans away from the religion that Mohammed had propagated. Zainab and her nephew, Imam Ali ibn Al Hussain worked hard in the 40 days between he martyrdom of Hussain and their re- turn to Karbala after an arduous journey through Iraq and Syria. They were able to turn the table on Yazid inside his palace in Damascus. He real- ized the seriousness of the situation and ordered their return to Medina. On the way they con- vinced their guards to take them to Karbala to pay final tribute to their slain men. It was a his- toric moment for the women and children to be back at the scene where their brave men had taken the final stand and embraced death as the ultimate price for the freedom of the Ummah. Those stands altered the course of Islamic histo- ry and tilted the balance against those in power. Today the followers of Hussain have followed in the footsteps of the women and children. It has become a norm to approach the graves of the martyrs barefooted. Millions are now following that practice and begin their journey to Karbala

several weeks before the Arba’een (the 40th Day after the martyrdom of Hussain). Over ten mil- lions participate in the annual march to Karbala in order to revive those events. Figures and num- bers are not the main achievement here, but the spirit of sacrifice in defence of the divine mes- sage is what the enemies of Hussain and Islam fear most. The institution of the Arba’een has become enshrined in the culture of Shiism con- solidated by the blood of martyrdom. The march of the millions each year is significant. It has transformed their culture into more dynamic approach to the tragedy of Karbala. It has also emboldened those millions to challenge the stat- ic legacy of the process of lamentation and ora- tion. Today, those millions who march for days and weeks in recognition of Imam Hussain’s movement are aware of their duty to transform this mass movement into a more dynamic ap- proach to support the Muslims and the oppressed who are subjected to tyranny and injustice. The sounds of Karbala still resonate in the ears of these millions whose love of Hussain is reflec- tion of their attachment to Islam, Prophet Mo- hammed and his household. The outside world has suddenly awakened to the significance of this mass movement which is inherently linked to the strongest movement against tyranny and dictatorship in the Islamic history. The Arba’een movement is gradually becoming institutional- ized and regularized in a way that induces fears in the hearts of the enemies of justice and the rule of law. Divinity is part of that movement that is destined to become a global phenomenon under the leadership of the hidden Imam.

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