Arba’in Walk Iraq 2023
A key Twelver Shia ritual associated with the commemorations of the murder of Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet of Muhammad, on the plains of Karbala in 680CE is the Arba’in walk. This is an annual procession forty days (arba’in means forty in Arabic) after the anniversary his martyrdom which is commemorated on 10 of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar.
On the occasion of Arba’in, pilgrims walk to the shrine of Imam Husayn in Karbala. The most common and most important route is to walk from the shrine of Imam ‘Ali, Husayn’s father, in Najaf, to the shrine of Imam Husayn in Karbala - around 80 kilometers. While during the rule of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the performance of the Arab’in walk was highly restricted and could often only be performed in secret, after his fall in 2003 the Arba’in walk has turned to a global event attracting Twelver Shia pilgrims from across the world.
In 2023, an estimated 22 million pilgrims walked from Najaf to Karbala making the Arba’in walk the largest global religious gathering in the world.
Video above: The road from Najaf to Karbala is filled with various stalls and stations where pilgrims can get food, water, tea, coffee for free. Religious associations from Iraq and other countries provide this service for pilgrims, mostly preparing food on site.
Video above: Pilgrims lighting candles on the route from Najaf to Karbala to commemorate the death of Imam Husayn.
Video above: Pilgrims from across the world enter the shrine of Imam Husayn in Karbala. The rhythmic self-beating is an expression of sorrow for the death of Imam Husayn while eulogies in his memory are recited.
YouTube video above: Eulogy, called “Journey to God”, by the popular Iraqi reciter Haydar al-Bayati on the Arba’in walk. This eulogy highlights the global nature of the pilgrimage and the role of Iraqis as hosts of pilgrims from across the world.