Every year 20 million people gather in Iraq to rally from Najaf to Karbala to commemorate 40 days after martyrdom of Imam Hussein in Karbala (on Ashura); while the tradition has been going on for many years and if not the biggest, it is one of the biggest religious ceremonies on earth, Western mainstream media has never paid enough attention to it. Shabbir Hassanally, activist & Islamic scholar, has answered our questions on the event and its low media coverage; here is the first part of our conversation with him1:

What are the features and characteristics of Arbaeen rally from Najaf to Karbala, as a human gathering and assembly, from the point of view of media?

Over 20 Million Muslims Thronged Karbala for Arbaeen Commemoration

Over 20 Million Muslims Thronged Karbala for Arbaeen Commemoration

The Arbaeen gathering and the rally from Najaf to Karbala are manifestations of the unity of humanity; of the universal love for Truth, and for the beautiful nature of humanity. In the rally you will find countless people from all walks of life, from multiple religions – not just Muslim but many religions, from many schools of thought, from the revolutionary to the secular – all marching in unison, helping each other.

This is a testament to the eternal message of Aba Abdullah al-Hussein, that when he made the ultimate sacrifice by not bowing down to the tyrant Yazeed, but refusing humiliation, by refusing to allow the principles of Islam to be compromised – the stance taken by Imam Hussein was so powerful that now, nearly 1400 since his martyrdom, we still remember and our hearts still bleed for the stance of the Imam, and we are still all in awe of his massive sacrifice, wanting nothing in return except the real reformation of the Muslim Ummah, and indeed humanity at large.

After all Imam Hussein said that if you are not a brother in belief, then at least be a free man. Indicating that Imam Hussein was indeed the father of the free, those who are fighting the Yazeed’s of their time and standing against the oppression of their time, with a view to working towards becoming free from the yoke of the tyrants and despots that sadly our world in this age is overrun with.

Imam Hussein also has a beautiful saying “when you see the Truth alone, think of me” – and this is an important point in understanding the Arbaeen rally. The rally is a testament to the fact that there are countless people now who adopt the Husseini and Karbalai revolutionary stance – whereby “death with dignity is better than life under the yoke of tyranny and humiliation.”

From the direct perspective of the media – the free media – this is a unique opportunity to see the human spirit, how people work together, how no threat – even that of death at the hands of the Zionist and US-backed DAESH psychopaths that work to harm humanity and defame Islam – changes their will, this is a significant stance against the powers of Global Arrogance – because all of these people on the rally of Arbaeen – primarily the one between Najaf and Karbala – but indeed across the world there are many others – such as in Nigeria, where we know our brothers are under attack – but even in that scenario – they continue.

This is the strength of Truth; this is the inspiration people take from the pure sacrifice of Imam Hussein.

The world media would do well to learn from this and realise that they are but mouthpieces for the tyrants. Instead the media would do well to look at this, examine this event, understand the inspiration that drives these millions to walk the many miles between Najaf and Karbala – or across the world in other places – in a show of loyalty and support, and indeed allegiance to the line of Imam Hussein, to the line of Revolutionary Islam, a line that never bows down to the tyrants, and only bows down to the one worthy of prostration to, and that is the sublime and most unique Creator, Allah, may Glorified be His name.

Media-wise, is there any other events in the world you can make parallels with this rallies?

No, I don’t believe there has been any event globally that can be compared to the Arbaeen rallies. The reason for this is – that while some suggest that Hajj is a large gathering – and indeed that is true; but Hajj is a mandatory Islamic activity that those able to afford it must perform in their lives – with a Muslim population of approximately 1.7 billion – this then stands to reason that it will have a large turnout (especially given that some people choose to perform the Hajj more than once as per their financial circumstances).

However, with the Arbaeen March – this is not a mandatory event from an Islamic perspective. It is a purely optional and voluntary activity. The fact that over 20 million people choose to participate voluntarily reveals a lot about the event and its sheer significance. A significance that the world media would do well to realise and report on.

How do you see the global media coverage of this event considering its size with over 20 million people gathering in Karbala? Does the coverage match the potentials the event has?

Arbaeen March aerial view

Arbaeen March aerial view

Sadly, the global media – the mainstream media – is controlled by those who oppose Truth. The mainstream media works to turn the population away from Truth, from working with people, from empathising with others and from helping people. Rather the mainstream media works to enslave and humiliate the people. Thus; you find that the mainstream media don’t mention the Arbaeen rally, and if they do it’s in minuscule print in an obscure part of their publication.

This is sad given that the rally is a stance against the Yazeed’s of our time; the tyrants of our age, those who go around obtaining “Nobel Peace Prizes” – but then indiscriminately bomb and murder innocents in the dark of night with their “PlayStation weapons of mass destruction”.

The mainstream media, if it were objective and cared about its readership, would inform people of the reality of the Arbaeen rally – it would explain the event of Ashura, it would show the stances and positions of Lady Zaynab who stood against the tyrant and spoke directly against him and broke his every argument with an unmatched eloquence that silenced the despot. It would show the world that Islam doesn’t subjugate its people, it rather liberates and empowers its people. It would explain the actual position of both men and women in Islam – where both are arrayed against the tyrants, and where both stand for the principles of Truth and dignity.

The despot’s will and history prove this, will always be relegated to the books of history, the Yazeed’s of each age will be forgotten and when remembered will only be remembered with contempt and disgust at their behaviours and actions. Hussein, who nearly 1400 years ago was martyred in Karbala is remembered as the hero and revolutionary that he was, he is remembered as the essence of Truth, he is remembered as the one who stood firm against the enemies of humanity.

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  1. The interview was conducted by Mahdi Farahmand and Parnaz Talebi and published in the Tehran Times

Written by Shabbir Hassanally

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