(Persia Digest) – Today, 30 October [8 Aban on the Iranian calendar, 20 Safar on the Islamic calendar], is Arbaeen. This is an important day for Shia Muslims. Arbaeen means “fortieth”, a name attributed to 20 Safar 61 AH which is the fortieth day of the martyrdom of Imam Hossein (AS), son of Imam Ali (AS), and the third Shia Imam. The Arbaeen pilgrimage is a special ceremony that takes place on this day, only performed for the martyrdom of Imam Hossein (AS). No precedent can be attributed to Arbaeen and acts related to this day until the Ashura incident.

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This is an official holiday in Iran spent in mourning. Men and women take part in separate ceremonies. Some of these are for women only, and some only for men. The ceremony can be held at home, or in mosques and other religious venues (tekkieh, hosseinieh). It begins by reading of verses from the holy Quran or “Ziarat-e Ashura”, and ends with a speech, reciting of the events of Ashura, and a eulogy.

In recent years, the crowds of pilgrims attending Arbaeen in Iraq, where Imam Hossein (AS) is buried in Karbala, have been among the largest peaceful crowds in the world. According to the Head of the Karbala Provincial Council, the number of pilgrims reached 27 million people in 2015. This number of people arrived in Karabla in just ten days, and left after their pilgrimage. Most of these travel the 80km Najaf-Karbala road on foot in a three-day peaceful walk.

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Iranians form the largest number of pilgrims. In 2017, over two million and 320 thousand Iranians took part in this walk.

The Iranian government is trying to register the Arbaeen ceremony jointly with Iraq as a Unesco intangible heritage.

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