Millions of Muslims gather around the Husayn Mosque in Karbala after making a pilgrimage on foot during Arba'een.

Arba'een (Arabic: الأربعين, "forty"), Chehlom (Persian: چهلم, Urdu: چہلم, "the fortieth [day]") or Qırxı, İmamın Qırxı (Azerbaijani: امامین قیرخی, "the fortieth of Imam") is a Shia Muslim religious observance that occurs forty days after the Day of Ashura. It commemorates the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, who was killed on the 10th day of the month of Muharram. Imam Husayn ibn Ali and 72 companions were killed by Yazid I's army in the Battle of Karbala in 61 AH (680 CE). Writing in forty batches has become a tradition among Islamic scientists. The reason is the famous saying of the prophet of Islam: "On the day of judgment, among my people, God will consider whoever memorized forty Hadiths as an erudite man". In this regard, numerous Islamic scholars have gathered precious collections that each consists of forty sayings, Hadiths, quoted from the prophet and the following Imams. According to al-Jizzini, the primary martyr, he, too, has written his book Al-Arbaʿūn ḥadīth to practice this narrative of the prophet. Arba'een or forty days is also the usual length of mourning after the death of a family member or loved one in many Muslim traditions. Arba'een is one of the largest pilgrimage gatherings on Earth, in which up to 45 million people go to the city of Karbala in Iraq.[1][2][3][4][5][6]


The Arba'een pilgrimage has been observed since the year 61 AH of the Islamic calendar (10 October 680) after the Battle of Karbala or the following year.According to tradition, the first such gathering took place when Jabir ibn Abd Allah, a sahabah, made a pilgrimage to the burial site of Husayn. In fact, Jabir considers as the first one who visited the tomb of Imam Hosein.[7] He was accompanied by Atiyya ibn Sa'd because of his infirmity and probable blindness. His visit coincided with that of the surviving female members of Muhammad's family and Husayn's son and heir, Imam Zain-ul-Abideen, who had all been held captive in Damascus by Yazid I, the Umayyad Caliph. Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin had survived the Battle of Karbala and led a secluded life in deep sorrow. He lived under pressure and tight surveillance set by Umayyad Caliphate.[8] It is said that for twenty years whenever water was placed before him, he would weep. One day a servant said to him, ‘O son of Allah’s Messenger! Is it not time for your sorrow to come to an end?’ He replied, ‘Woe upon you! Jacob the prophet had twelve sons, and Allah made one of them disappear. His eyes turned white from constant weeping, his head turned grey out of sorrow, and his back became bent in gloom,[lower-alpha 1] though his son was alive in this world. But I watched while my father, my brother, my uncle, and seventeen members of my family were slaughtered all around me. How should my sorrow come to an end?’[lower-alpha 2] [9][10]

Arba'een's performance has been banned in some periods, the last of which was when Saddam Hussein, was president of Iraq. For nearly 30 years under Saddam's regime, it was forbidden to mark Arba'een publicly in Iraq. Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the observance in April 2003 was broadcast worldwide.[11]

Annual pilgrimage

Main article: Arba'een Pilgrimage

Arba'een is consistently among the largest peaceful gatherings in history. The city of Karbala in Iraq is the center of the proceedings which many pilgrims travel miles on foot to reach. The distance between Basra and Karbala is a long journey[12] even by car, but it is traveled annually on foot by Iraqi pilgrims, which takes them two weeks, or approximately one month to come from other countries like Iran. The crowds become so massive that they cause a blockade for hundreds of miles. In 2008, approximately nine million religious observers converged on Karbala to commemorate Arba’een.[13] However, in 2009, the number of people visiting Karbala on Arba'een significantly increased. According to BBC News and Press TV, over ten million people had reached Karbala one or two days before Arba'een. The number of pilgrims was expected to rise to 18 million during the next two days. In 2013, Arbaeen reached 20 million people from 40 countries.[14][15][16] A car bomb targeting worshippers returning from Karbala killed at least 20 Shiite pilgrims in January 2013.[17] In 2014, up to 17 million people made the pilgrimage and many choose to make the 55-mile journey on foot from Najaf, near areas controlled by the militant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has declared Shia Muslims apostates.[18] There were no reports of major incidents at 2014's Arba'een, which was considered a success against ISIL by the governor of Karbala, Akeel al-Turaihi.[19][20]

Ziyarat of Arbaeen

Main article: Ziyarat of Arba'een

Each and every one of the imams have been cruelly oppressed, and to enlight the people, they took every opportunity to expose it and let them know about it.[21] The Ziyarat Arba'een is a prayer which is usually recited in Karbala on the day of Arba'een. It is narrated from Safwan al-Jammaal from Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, the sixth Shiite Imam, in which the Imam instructed him to visit Imam Husayn's mosque, and to recite a specific visitation prayer on Arba'een by which the believer should reaffirm their pledge to Husayn's ideals. The Ziarat or prayer is a text which designates Husayn as the "inheritor" of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus.

Peace be on the favorite of Allah, Peace be on the beloved friend of Allah, His distinguished hero! Peace be on the choicest confidant of Allah, sincerely attached precisely like his father! Peace be on Hussain, who gave his life in the way of Allah, a martyr, underwent untold hardships Peace be on the hostage surrounded by the-tightening circle of sorrow and grief, killed by a horde of savages.[22]

He met with deadly dangers, acted justly and fairly, made use of everything belonging to him to pay full attention to give sincere advice, took pains, made every effort and put his heart, mind, soul and life at the disposal of Thy mission to liberate the people from the yoke of ignorance and evil of bewilderment, but an evildoer, deceived with empty hopes of mean and worthless worldly gains, had pressed heavily on him, and sold out his share (eternal bliss) for the meanest and lowest bargain, betrayed his "day of judgment" for a vulgar return, took pride in insolence, fell into the fathom- well of silly stupid follies, provoked Thee and Thy Prophet to anger, did as the harsh discordant, the hypocrite, the heavily burdened bearers of sin, condemned to Hellfire, advised to him, however, he (the Holy lmam), steadily, rightly and justly coped With them, till, in Thy obedience, gave his life after which his family was set adrift.[22]

Other religions and countries in the Arba'een

While the Arba'een is a distinctively Shi'a spiritual exercise, Sunni Muslims and even Christians, Yazidis, Zoroastrians, and Sabians partake in both the pilgrimage as well as serving of devotees. Pilgrims from European countries including Sweden, Russia and even a delegation from Vatican City have joined in past observances. Some Iraqi Christian religious leaders also joined the delegation from the Vatican.[23][24]

Many delegations from various African countries including Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Senegal have also participated in the Arba'een.[16]

Political significance

18 million Shi'ite Muslims gather around the Husayn Mosque in Karbala after making the pilgrimage on foot during Arba'een, 2013.[25]

Since the first Arba'een, it has influenced subsequent Shi'ite uprisings against Umayyad and Abbasid rule. Arba'een has also been used as a political protest, at least in Iran. It was first used there to protest the killing of supporters of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Qom on 5 June 1963 when a general strike was announced. A cycle of Arba'een public observance of mourning rituals of martyred protestors — where an Arba'een observance was held to commemorate those killed in the preceding Arba'een protest demonstration — is often credited as part of the reason for the success of the 1979 Iranian Revolution that overthrew Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi,[26] although that explanation has also been questioned.[27]

Arba'een in the Gregorian calendar

While Arba'een is always on nearly the same day (20 or 21 Safar) of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year because of differences between the two calendars, since the Islamic calendar, the Hijri calendar (AH), is a lunar calendar and the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar. Furthermore, the method used to determine when each Islamic month begins varies from country to country (see Islamic calendar).

Arba'een always falls 40 days after the Day of Ashura. The Day of Ashura, in turn, falls nine days after the first day of Muḥarram. Hence, Arba'een falls 49 days after the first day of Muḥarram. This date is shown for a selection of years, according to the Umm al-Qura Calendar of Saudi Arabia, in the table below:

Islamic year Saudi Arabia[28]
1435 23 December 2013
1436 13 December 2014
1437 2 December 2015
1438 20 November 2016
1439 9 November 2017
1440 30 October 2018

See also


  1. Quran, 12:84
  2. From Shaykh as-Sadooq, al-Khisal; quoted in al-Ameen, A’yan, IV, 195. The same is quoted from Bin Shahraashoob’s Manaqib in Bih’ar al-Anwar, XLVI, 108; Cf. similar accounts, Ibid, pp. 108–10


  1. 44 Millions of Shia marching across the world to Karbala for Arba’een rituals, The Yam Times, November 21, 2016
  2. "El Paso Inc". El Paso Inc. Archived from the original on 10 July 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2010.
  3. uberVU – social comments (5 February 2010). "Friday: 46 Iraqis, 1 Syrian Killed; 169 Iraqis Wounded -". Retrieved 30 June 2010.
  4. Aljazeera. "alJazeera Magazine – 41 Martyrs as More than Million People Mark 'Arbaeen' in Holy Karbala". Retrieved 30 June 2010.
  5. "Powerful Explosions Kill More Than 40 Shi'ite Pilgrims in Karbala | Middle East | English". 5 February 2010. Retrieved 30 June 2010.
  6. Hanun, Abdelamir (5 February 2010). "Blast in crowd kills 41 Shiite pilgrims in Iraq". Retrieved 30 June 2010.
  8. جعفریان, رسول (2008). حیات فکری و سیاسی امامان شیعه علیهم السلام [Hayat fekri va siysi aemeh] (in Persian) (11th ed.). قم: موسسه انصاریان. p. 273.
  9. Sharif al-Qarashi, Bāqir (2000). The Life of Imām Zayn al-Abidin (as). Translated by Jāsim al-Rasheed. Iraq: Ansariyan Publications, n.d. Print.
  10. Imam Ali ibn al-Hussain (2009). Al-Saheefah Al-Sajjadiyyah Al-Kaamelah. Translated with an Introduction and annotation by Willian C. Chittick With a foreword by S. H. M. Jafri. Qum, The Islamic Republic of Iran: Ansariyan Publications.
  11. Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival. New York: Norton, 2006; pp 18–19.
  12. "". External link in |title= (help)
  13. "".
  14. "زيارة الاربعين: 18 مليون زائر ونجاح امني كبير". Al-Alam. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  15. "Arba'een, an appointment for army of Imam Mahdi (a.s) on the rise". December 2014.
  16. 1 2 Dearden, Lizzie (25 November 2014). "One of the world's biggest and most dangerous pilgrimages is underway". The Independent.
  17. "Car bomb in Iraq kills at least 20 Shiite pilgrims". independent. 3 January 2013.
  18. "One of the world's biggest and most dangerous pilgrimages is underway". independent. 25 November 2014.
  19. "Arbaeen pilgrimage in Iraq: 17.5 million defy threat". SBS. 14 December 2014.
  20. "Shia pilgrims flock to Karbala for Arbaeen climax". BBC NEWS. 14 December 2014.
  21. جعفریان, رسول (2008). حیات فکری و سیاسی امامان شیعه علیهم السلام [Hayat fekri va siyasi aemeh] (in Persian) (11th ed.). قم: موسسه انصاریان.
  22. 1 2 ""Ziarat" on the day of Arbae'en". Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  23. Al-Modarresi, Mahdi. "World's Biggest Pilgrimage Now Underway, And Why You've Never Heard of it! huffingtonpost". Retrieved 11 December 2014.
  24. "Christians in Karbala in Arbaeen". Retrieved 11 December 2014.
  25. "Millions of Shia Muslims from across the globe have come together in the Iraqi city of Karbala to mark the Arbaeen ritual, which marks the 40th day following the seventh-century martyrdom of the third Shia Imam, Imam Hussein, Press TV reports.".
  26. Kurzman, Charles, The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, Harvard University Press, 2004, p.54-5
  27. Kurzman, The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, (2004), p.57
  28. "The Umm al-Qura Calendar of Saudi Arabia".
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