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Arba'een – All Roads Lead Towards Karbala

By: Seyyed Ali Shahbaz


“Peace unto Husain, who established the true faith by giving his life in the way of Allah; a martyr who underwent untold hardships at the hand of rogues and transgressors! Peace on the hostage surrounded by the tightening circle of sorrow and grief; killed by a horde of savages.”
Karbala is once again the cynosure of all eyes. As we go to the press, millions have already assembled on the land where history’s most heartrending tragedy occurred 1372 lunar years ago, while millions more are headed towards it from all over Iraq, as well as from Iran and other parts of the globe, for commemoration of Arba’een – the traditional 40th day after the anniversary of the immortal epic of Ashura.
Undaunted by the bomb blasts and the sniper fire of US/Saudi-backed terrorists, a steady flow of men, women, children – including infants and the elderly bent with age – is swelling the ranks of the faithful. According to Iraqi authorities, a record 15 million are expected for this year’s Arba’een at the rendezvous of martyrs.
The deafening cries of “Ya Husain” is reverberating in and around Karbala, obviously in response to the lone voice of “hal min naserin yansorouni (is there any other helper to come to my aid)” raised by the Prophet’s Grandson on the afternoon of 10th Muharram 61 AH when all his companions and male kinsmen, including his 6-month infant son, Ali Asghar, had been brutally slaughtered by the bloodthirsty Omayyad hordes.
The Godless Yazid, who masqueraded as caliph or political head of the Muslim realm, had thought of eradicating forever the fundamentals of Islam and the name of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) by cruelly killing Imam Husain (AS) – whose merits are enshrined in the holy Qur’an (3:61; 33:33; 42:23; 76:5-22, etc) – but his plot utterly failed, thanks to the unique jihad of the Martyr’s indomitable sister and son.
Hazrat Zainab (SA) and Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS), though captives in the tyrant’s court, quickly turned the tables on the regime through their eloquently electrifying sermons that ripped off the mask of hypocrisy from the face of the Omayyads, and forced Yazid to release them and send them back to Medina – but not before the Prophet’s granddaughter had held the Majlis al-Aza in the enemy’s camp itself, thereby laying the foundations of the mourning ceremonies which the faithful have continued to hold all over the world in the months of Muharram and Safar ever since.
Meanwhile, in Karbala, where the Omayyad hordes gave a state funeral with a military salute to their dead, but left the decapitated and dismembered bodies of Imam Husain (AS) and the other martyrs exposed to the sun and wind, the first pilgrim to the makeshift grave of the Prophet’s grandson was the Prophet’s venerable companion, Jaber ibn Abdullah al-Ansari.
Now almost blind with age, the person who 57 earlier was at the side of the Prophet to congratulate Imam Ali (AS) and Hazrat Fatema Zahra (SA) at the birth of Imam Husain (AS), threw himself on the grave with loud wails and lamentations.
“Habib man la ya’raf al-habib (how could a friend not recognize a friend)”, moaned Jaber and saluted the Imam with a lengthy salutation starting with the words: “As-salamo alaika ya Aba Abdallah.”
Today, not just the pilgrims to the holy shrine in Karbala, but the devotees of the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt all over the world, have kept this virtuous tradition alive by saluting the Chief of Martyrs on the day of Arba’een.
Interestingly, the Prophet’s 11th Infallible Successor, Imam Hasan al-Askari (AS) has considered the Ziyarat al-Arba’een to be one of the five signs of a true believer. The other four signs are: performing 51 rak’ats of prayer daily (17 obligatory plus 34 recommended), reciting Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Raheem in a raised voice during the daily ritual prayers, wearing ring on a finger of the right hand, and prostrating on the clay during sajdah in the ritual prayers.
Here are some phrases from this famous Ziyarah: “I bear witness that Allah put faith in you like He had full confidence in your father (Imam Ali); and that you always looked for and accumulated good and virtue, lived a highly praiseworthy life, and departed from this world a martyr, forsaken and oppressed…
“I bear witness that you kept your promise with Allah, and strove in His way till what was certain came upon you; so the curse of Allah on those who killed you, the curse of Allah on those who oppressed you, the curse of Allah on the people who came to know (of your tragic death) and approved (it)...
“I know and bear witness that you were "light" in the sublime loins and in the pure wombs; never touched you the dirt of ignorance, nor ever obscurity concealed you in its folds. I bear witness that you are the Pillar of Faith; the Support of Muslims, and the Refuge of the Faithful ...
“I bear witness that the Imams among your descendants are the symbols of "conscious piety" and signs of "true guidance", the "safe handle" (lslam) and the decisive arguments over mankind...”

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