Does the number “40” have any significance?
by: Saleem Bhimji
It is very much possible that the visitation of Jabir on the 20th of Safar was “by chance” or a “coincidence” and that the 40th has/had no significance and because he reached there on the 20th of Safar that we now too mark this day – or it could be that this day actually does have some mystical and spiritual importance?
In fact, there is spiritual significance to some numbers and this is seen in the Qur’an and the traditions such that the number 40 is repeated in many places of the Qur’an:
“And when We appointed a time of forty nights with Musa, then you took the calf (for a god) after him and you were unjust.” (Suratul Baqarah, verse 51)
“He said: So it shall surely be forbidden to them for forty years, they shall wander about in the land, therefore do not grieve for the nation of transgressors.” (Suratul Maidah, verse 26)
“And We appointed with Musa a time of thirty nights and completed them with ten (more), so the appointed time of his Lord was complete forty nights, and Musa said to his brother Haroun: Take my place among my people, and act well and do not follow the way of the mischief-makers.” (Suratul A’raaf, verse 142)
“And We have enjoined on man doing of good to his parents; with trouble did his mother bear him and with trouble did she bring him forth; and the bearing of him and the weaning of him was thirty months; until when he attains his maturity and reaches forty years, he says: My Lord! grant me that I may give thanks for Thy favor which Thou hast bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may do good which pleases Thee and do good to me in respect of my offspring; surely I turn to Thee, and surely I am of those who submit.” (Suratul Ahqaf, verse 15)
In addition, there are numerous traditions which mention the number “40” such as the following:
The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his family, has said: “Indeed the Earth laments over the death of a true believer for the period of 40 days.”
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir, peace be upon him, has said: “Indeed the sky lamented over the death of al-Husayn for a period of 40 days.”
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq, peace be upon him, said: “The heavens cried for forty days with blood (weeping) over Imam Husayn; the earth cried for forty days by being covered with darkness; the sun cried for forty days by being in eclipse and turning red; the mountains were torn apart and dispersed; the seas gushed out and the angles cried for forty days over him. After Imam Husayn’s martyrdom, all of our women stopped colouring their hair, using kohl, applying oil, and styling their hair until the head of Ubaydullah ibn Ziyaad was sent to us; and even after that we (all) continued to weep over him.”
In summary, this all points to the reality that there is “something” contained in the visitation to Kerbala 40 days after the tragic massacre of Imam al-Husayn, peace be upon him and his family, as the “40th” is not marked for any other Imam nor is it marked for any other Prophet – and perhaps if we are given the Divine Providence (tawfeeq) to be in Kerbala on the 20th of Safar to pay our respects and condolences to the Prophet and the noble family on the supreme sacrifice offered on the 10th of Muharram 61 ah, then we may be able to benefit from the spiritual bounties contained in this spiritual journey to reach our Beloved.
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