Thursday, November 9th, 2017, marks the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussain ibn Ali (p), 20th…
Recommendations to North American Visitors of the Holy Site of Imam Hussain (p) During the Event of Arbaeen
In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
“This is so. And whoever honors the rituals of Allah, it is from the piety of the hearts.” (Quran, 2:32)
Based on experiences from past years, we would like to bring a number of observations and recommendations to the attention of the honorable believers in North America who are seeking to visit Imam Hussain (p) during Arbaeen for their safety and the ease of their visit.
It is important to know that:
- The traveler must make sure to be completely vaccinated against COVID-19 because the authorities have announced that they will not allow unvaccinated travelers into Iraq.
- It is highly recommended to book travel through Najaf Airport rather than other airports.
Below are information, notes, recommendations, and other observations based on past experiences:
It is necessary to have a sincere intention to perform ziyarah and to seek benefit from the visit. According to many narrations, visiting Imam Hussain (p) is one of the most important Hussaini rituals, which the Ahl al-Bayt (p) urged their followers to perform and promised great reward in return. It has been narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (p), “On the Day of Judgment, everyone will wish to be amongst those who had visited Hussain (p) because they will see the dignity with which God Almighty treats the visitors of Hussain (p).” It has also been reported from Imam Musa al-Kadhim (p) that “God forgives all the past and future sins of the person who visits Hussain (p) and knows his status [in the eyes of God].” Moreover, Imam al-Ridha (p) says, “There is a binding covenant upon all of the Imam’s supporters and followers. The complete fulfillment of this covenant and their duties is in visiting their graves. On the Day of Judgement, the Imams will intercede on behalf of the one who visits their shrines eagerly and willingly accepts what they had accepted.” As such, it is best for the visitor to establish a sincere intention for the visit by seeking nearness to God Almighty and pledging allegiance to Imam al-Mahdi (p) by following Imam Hussain’s path of resilience, dignity, and sacrifice in reviving the values of humanity and Islam and in fighting injustice and oppression.
General Facts about the Arbaeen Visit
- The distance between Najaf and Karbala is approximately fifty miles (80 km).
- The approximate time required to comfortably traverse this distance is 2 to 3 days.
- There are 1452 numbered poles along the entire way to help guide the visitors and prevent them from getting lost and maintain order. The poles are 50 meters apart.
- The best day to begin walking is the 16th or 17th of Safar and the expected day of arrival is the 18th of Safar.
- There are no restrictions on who can visit Imam Hussain (p), whether based on background, religion, ethnicity, gender, or age. The way is open for everyone, and the ark of Imam Hussain has room for all people and unites everyone.
- The number of visitors is massive, and it varies from year to year depending on the circumstances and conditions. Estimates reach twenty million people during some years while during others it’s a few million. However, the annual average over the past two decades is closer to the former. Regardless, there is nothing to worry about, everyone returns safely having successfully completed the visitation and spiritually relaxed even if a bit physically fatigued.
- The federal and local authorities use their full capabilities to serve the visitors, ensure their security, and provide them with the necessary services. Yet, the extent of these services hardly suffices the number of visitors. In reality, the hidden care of God for the noble visitors is clearly observed. For instance, the mobilization of thousands of volunteers to sincerely serve the visitors in exceptional ways is the result of deep faith in God and devotion to His religion.
Resources and means you require
- It is necessary to make sure that you have a supply of face masks to use everywhere, even if you have been vaccinated, and that you follow the health guidelines to avoid any infection from COVID-19 or its variants, such as constantly washing your hands with soap, avoiding touching your face, especially the nose, mouth, and eyes, and staying away from large crowds as much as possible. Moreover, always have sanitizer with you to sanitize your hands whenever you touch anything.
- Try to lighten your travel by leaving behind heavy items and luggage because you will not need many of the things.
- Try to carry your belongings in a backpack, it is easier and more practical than carrying them in a suitcase (i.e., in your hand).
- You will not need to carry water or food because they are available along the way. However, it is best to carry a small refillable bottle with you to refill with clean drinking water, which is available along the entire way.
- Have a supply of medicine for cold, flu, allergies, asthma, and headaches enough for three or four days. Note that there are small clinics and medical camps along the way.
- Try downloading a collection of religious audio files (Quran, supplications, lectures, nasheed, latmiyyat, etc.) on your mobile phone and take headphones to benefit during the long periods of walking.
- Make sure you carry a light jacket or fleece for travel because the desert road gets cold at night. Also take extra socks, gloves, a scarf/kefiyyeh, a toothbrush and toothpaste, needle and thread, ointments and lotions to treat rashes, muscle pain, and burns, preferably two phone chargers, and an umbrella to protect you from rain or sun.
- Use comfortable walking shoes (avoid new leather shoes) and it is better to have a shoe larger than usual by a size or two because legs and feet swell when walking long distances.
- Make sure to always have official identification documents, such as a passport, with you.
- You should know the name and address of your residence in Karbala in advance. Write it on a piece of paper and put it in your pocket because sometimes the communication network breaks down due to the heavy usage when you reach Karbala and you may not be able to access the internet. If you need to communicate, use SMS messages instead of apps like WhatsApp and Telegram. It is preferable that you call the place of residence on the day of your arrival or before and tell them that you are on the way and your expected time of arrival.
- Beginning the Walk: It is better to begin walking from the shrine of Imam Ali (p) after fajr prayer. Exit from the al-Sa’ah gate and head towards Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p) street or Imam al-Sadiq (p) street. Continue walking straight till you reach the Karbala Road where you will see thousands of people heading towards Karbala, where you can join them and begin your journey. When you reach pole 1452 after approximately 50 miles, you will have entered Karbala from the side of the shrine of al-Abbas (p)
At the beginning of the walk: When you leave the shrine of the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (p), it is good to include your parents and all the believers who have a right over you in your intention for this blessed deed. Mention them by name to spread the reward and include those who were unable to be present.
At the end of the walk: When you reach Karbala and see the noble domes, do not forget to turn to God Almighty and thank Him for this blessing and honor, and that you arrived safely to visit and pledge allegiance to His infallible vicegerent. Then make your way to the Imam with peace and supplication and say with complete presence of heart, “I bear witness that you hear my words and witness this moment, and that you are alive with your Lord, receiving provision.”
About the walk and the path: Begin walking after fajr prayer and stop at maghrib every day. It is necessary to take a full night’s rest to continue the walk the next day. There are those who prefer to walk during the night in order to avoid the heat, but this is not recommended for the sisters. Moreover, it will tire the visitor and make it difficult to find a place to sleep during the day.
- Do not tire yourself by walking quickly. Instead, walk calmly and continuously glorify and praise God, and try to conserve your energy as much as possible.
- Try to calculate which pole you will reach at sunset to determine which camp you would like to pray, eat, and sleep at.
- Do not worry about arranging overnight stays ahead of time. There are many available places. However, try to determine a place before sunset because it may be difficult after sunset since the camps will be full of visitors.
- There are reporting centers for missing persons every three kilometers if you lose your way or lose one of your friends or family members. These centers are located at poles 72, 335, 602, 1103, and the last one is the shrine of al-Abbas (p).
- Walk with the general crowd and avoid the side roads used by a few people.
- Avoid walking near the road used by vehicles in order to avoid accidents, which can happen from time to time.
- Keep your important belongings such as documents and electronics with you at all times to prevent them from being stolen, especially while resting or in the restrooms, because devious people always infiltrate the masses of believers for their vile purposes and the visitors should be aware of them.
- Try to wear and carry the symbols of the Hussaini legacy like flags and banners bearing the words of Imam Hussain (p) because this will allow the world to witness and appreciate the message that the visitor carries and walks this great distance for. It is imperative that one is careful not to display slogans, banners, or pictures of groups, parties, and political personalities because the visitation of Imam Hussain (p) is not the time and place for this (i.e., there is another time and place for this). It is necessary to maintain the spirituality and atmosphere of the visit to achieve its purpose.
- There are many caravans of believers who walk in groups and they are usually accompanied by Hussaini chants. It is good to participate with them, even if it is temporary, to seek reward (from God). However, the visitor must be careful if they chant slogans not related to the visit of Imam Hussain (p), such as political, tribal, or factious slogans that seek to exploit the visit and the believers at these times. It is important to maintain the general Hussaini atmosphere out of respect to all believers regardless of their backgrounds, convictions, and affiliations.
- Try to repeat, “O’ Allah, send your blessings upon Mohammed and his family” while walking and say, “O’ Allah grant us the visit of Hussain in this life and his intercession in the afterlife.” Occupy yourself with the remembrance of God Almighty, recite Dua al-Faraj (O’ Allah, be for Your representative, the proof son of al-Hassan, Your blessings be on him and his forefathers, in this hour and in every hour, a guardian, a protector, a leader, a helper, a proof, and an eye. Until You make him live on the earth, in obedience, and cause him to live in it for a long time), and pray for the hastening of Imam Mahdi’s reappearance.”
- Do not carry too much cash with you because food, drink, sleep, and medicine are available along the way.
- Avoid eating open (i.e., unpackaged, unsealed, or uncovered) foods and drinks. Try acquiring closed foods and drinks only because they are less likely to be contaminated.
- Restrooms, some of which are western design (in contrast to squat restrooms which are common in the Middle East), are available to use along the way, including showers.
- There are cars and buses along the way to transport you to Karbala, so do not worry about not reaching there if you cannot continue the walk.
- The most profound examples of tolerance, love, and generosity are witnessed along the Arbaeen walk every year following the example of the Master of the Martyrs (p). Yet, some mistakes or shortcomings may occur here or there due to stress, fatigue, or some other cause. You should respond in a way that is better, such as smiling and giving peace and forgiveness, so that you do not make your deeds worthless. In return, the reward of God Almighty will be huge and great.
- Try to help clean and advise others to maintain cleanliness because the entire route is maintained by volunteers and not paid employees.
- Do not forget the sincere intention to honor the sacred symbols and rituals of God through the visit of Arbaeen and always maintain this intention.
- Take out charity every day at dawn with the intention of deflecting affliction because it has been mentioned in a narration, “Charity pushes away seventy kinds of affliction.”
- Maintain prayer at the beginning of its time like Imam Hussain (p) did on the 10th of Muharram. Places for prayer are available along the way and congregation prayer is held everywhere at its time.
- Avoid joking and kidding around. In fact, try commemorating the days of Arbaeen with the grief of Ahl al-Bayt and condolences to Imam Mahdi (p).
- Both young men and young women should maintain high levels of chastity and appropriate religious decorum throughout. Everyone should avoid unnecessary and impermissible interactions to repel the devil and prevent temptation, which would degrade the visit and corrupt its goal.
- It is a good habit to record your notes and describe the beautiful spiritual images that are imprinted on your mind during this blessed spiritual walk. It is also good to capture the beautiful scenes because that will be a good memory to recall later.
- After returning, try to write and publish a story, blog, or article about your trip, its benefits, and what you would like to share with others of the lofty and spiritual feelings you experienced and the everlasting memories you have in your mind. This will revive the experience and spread the message of Imam Hussain (p).
- Comply with the recommendations and advice of the religious authority that was specifically directed to the visitors of Arbaeen (click here to view.)
We wish you a prosperous trip and an accepted visit, and we pray that you return home safe and successful.
Do not forget us in your prayers.