Arbaeen: A Lens into a Sacred Journey

Book Image of ‘Arbaeen: A Lens into a Sacred Journey’

Arbaeen: the world’s largest peaceful gathering where up to twenty-five million people reach the city of Karbala to mark the occasion. The event commemorates the fortieth day after the brutal martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the beloved grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

On the Day of Ashura in 680 CE, Hussain, together with his seventy-two close family members and companions, was murdered in Karbala at the hands of the caliph, Yazid and his army of thousands for protesting the legitimacy of Yazid’s tyrannical rule.

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The Arbaeen pilgrimage has survived a number of political bans; most recently when it was ordained illegal during the decades of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Pilgrims who dared march towards Karbala for the event would ‘disappear’ – detained, persecuted and murdered by government forces. However, Arbaeen once again surpassed efforts to repress the immense spirit of this sacred occasion, when it commenced in full force following the fall of Saddam in 2003. In the heightened reverence of his commemoration, Hussain’s eternal presence takes precedence and rules over mourning hearts as black flags are raised in salute across the country.

Open Book Image of ‘Arbaeen: A Lens into a Sacred Journey’
Book Image of ‘Arbaeen: A Lens into a Sacred Journey’

Arbaeen: A Lens into a Sacred Journey documents this event, intertwined with poetic expression of the emotions a Zaa’ir may feel and observe throughout the various stages of visitation. It follows the annual journey undertaken by millions of people as they walk eighty-kilometre from Najaf to Karbala and the final culmination of forty days of mourning.

The aspiration of documenting this journey is to enable further coverage of the annual phenomenon. Due to the scarcity of current reporting, this book is published with the hope that more photographers, journalists and authors will share their work and, in particular, provide more detailed accounts highlighting the experiences of the people of Iraq.

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