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Arbaeen congregation in Karbala hit record high this year: Shrine official

By Syed Zafar Mehdi

This year’s Arbaeen congregation in the Iraqi holy city of Karbala hit a record high as millions streamed into the city after walking by foot from the holy city of Najaf, says a shrine official.

In an interview with the Press TV website on Saturday, Razzak Noor Ridha, a translator for the public relations department at the Al-Abbas Holy Shrine in Karbala, said the annual Arbaeen pilgrimage keeps growing bigger every year.

Arbaeen marks the 40th day after the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions on the desert plains of Karbala almost fourteen centuries ago, which is commemorated every year across the world with massive congregations and tremendous religious fervor.

The biggest procession is taken out between the holy Iraqi cities of Najaf and Karbala with millions of pilgrims from different countries covering the stretch of 80 kilometers by foot under the blazing sun.

In recent years, especially since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime in Iraq, the Arbaeen pilgrimage has grown bigger every year, drawing Muslims and non-Muslims from across the world.

Ridha said Iraqis have for centuries strived to keep alive the legacy of the martyrs of Karbala through annual Muharram commemorations as well as the traditional Arabeen processions.

“This year the number has been the highest, but it must be noted that this number only represents visitors coming from outside Karbala,” he told the Press TV website.

“As for the people of Karbala, they were not counted up to 12 noon (Saturday), so the number (of total pilgrims who visited Karbala this year) exceeds 23.5 million.”

According to official figures released by the shrine authorities, more than 22 million pilgrims visited Karbala for Arbaeen this year, one million more than in 2022 and six million more than in 2021.

Ridha said the Arbaeen walk from Najaf to Karbala is the largest gathering in history where services are offered for free and Karbala happens to be one of the most visited places in the world.

“This gathering is not limited to a specific sect or religion,” he said in a conversation with the Press TV website. “There is a gathering of millions among the Hindus as well, but that is specific to them, whereas Arbaeen brings together people from different religions, sects, languages and nationalities.”

On the famed hospitality of Iraqis during the Arbaeen pilgrimage, the senior official of the Al-Abbas shrine said Iraqis, "by their religious and behavioral nature, are generous."

“Their generosity is not linked to any particular sect or nationality. In every Iraqi household, especially in central and southern regions where pilgrims are mostly received, you will find a safe box in which they collect money starting from the 21st of Safar and open it on the last day of Muharram,” Ridha said.

“If this amount is sufficient, they use it to prepare food and drinks for guests of Imam Hussain (AS), and if it is not sufficient, they sell some of their possessions, which is normal for them.”

He described the Arbaeen walk as the “largest demonstration against terrorism and extremism” in line with the sacrosanct principles exemplified by Imam Hussain (AS) against the Umayyad despots.

On what the Al-Abbas shrine is doing in spreading the message of Ahlulbayt (as), he said the shrine runs a website in eight languages that promotes the ideas of the Prophet’s (PBUH) holy household.

The shrine also publishes books, which are translated into 11 different global languages, and works on rare manuscripts related to the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and his progeny and other topics.

Apart from that, it sponsors and holds international conferences and cultural seminars in Iraq and other countries, from Africa to South Asia, to spread the thoughts of the holy family.  

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