Arba’in processions in London 2013 and 2014

An important ritual for Shii Muslims associated with the commemoration of the murder of Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, on the plains of Karbala in Iraq in 680CE are Arba’in processions. These processions occur across the world forty days (arba’in means forty in Arabic) after the anniversary of his martyrdom. They have served as public displays of Shii identity and involve various ritual activities such as rhythmic self-beating, the recitation of eulogies and also staging passion plays, re-enacting the events around the murder of Imam Husayn. As public processions, participants also wave flags with the names and epithets of Imam Husayn and other members of the family of the Prophet and, in some cases images of Imam Husayn and other members of the family of the Prophet. Being performed by Shii communities across the world, the processions are equally shaped by local traditions, customs and languages.

London is home to one of the largest and most diverse Shii communities with Shii Muslim coming from various countries in the Middle East and South Asia. During the procession the mix of these different backgrounds of Shii communities is visible. At the same time, the procession also serves the function to present Shii Muslims to non-Muslims as a public articulation of their religious identity. The processions provide an opportunity to dissociate Shii Muslims from radical and militant movements in Islam which most often have a Sunni background. In the section below, the signage during the Araba’in processions of 2013 and 2014 is compared. 2014 was the year when ISIS began to conquer significant parts of Iraq and Syria. One of the core features of ISIS has been its strong anti-Shii sectarian hostility.

Arba’in procession in 2013

Arba’in procession in 2014

Page Manager: oliver.scharbrodtctr.luse | 2024-03-20