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History

"Karbala" Origin & Meaning

There are many opinions among different investigators, as to the origin of the word "Karbala".

Some have pointed out that "Karbala" has a connection to the "Karbalato" language, while others attempt to derive the meaning of word "Karbala" by analysing its spelling and language. They conclude that it originates from the Arabic word "Kar Babel" which was a group of ancient Babylonian villages that included Nainawa, Al-Ghadiriyya, Karbella, Al-Nawaweess, and Al-Heer. This last name is today known as Al-Hair and is where Imam Husayn's (a.s.) grave is located.

The investigator Yaqut al-Hamawy had pointed out that the meaning of "Karbala" could have several explanations, one of which is that the place where Imam Husayn (a.s.) was killed is made of soft earth - "Al-Karbalat".

Other writers made the connection between the name and the disastrous event which painted the desert with blood, and so the word "Karbala" was said to compose of two Arabic words: "Karb" meaning grief and sorrow, and "Balaa" meaning affliction. Such a connection, in fact, has no scientific evidence, since Karbala was known as such even before the arrival of Imam Husayn, peace be upon him.

Martyrdom and popularity

Karbala was at first an uninhabited place and did not witness any construction activity, although it was rich in water and its soil fertile.

Following the tenth of Muharram 61 AH (680 AD), after the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (a.s.), people from far as well as tribes living nearby started visiting the holy grave.

A lot of those who came, stayed behind and/or asked their relatives to bury them there after their demise.

Despite many attempts by successive rulers, such as Al-Rashid and Al-Mutawakkil, to put a restriction on the development of this area, it has nonetheless spread with time to become a city.

Bounty of visiting Imam Husayn (a.s.)

There is a lot of benefit and great spiritual reward in visiting the grave of Imam Husayn (a.s.). The Prophet [s] has said of his grandson Imam Husayn (a.s.): "Husayn is of me and I am of him". Several narrations mention that visiting the grave of Imam Husayn (a.s.) relieves one of worldly afflictions as well as those after death.

Believers, therefore, come from all parts of the world all year round to receive the honour of visiting Imam Husayn (a.s.), particularly during the first ten days of Muharram (Ashura) and the twentieth of Safar (the fourtieth).

One common Iraqi custom during that season is to go walking from Najaf to Karbala, reflecting their strong adhesion to and adoption of the morals and principles for which Imam Husayn (a.s.) struggled and attained martyrdom.

Adapted from the book: "History of the Shrines"