Millions gathered in the holy city of Karbala to mark Arbaeen, the annual commemoration marking the end of the mourning period for the martyrdom of Imam Husain, the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson.
Despite threats from Daesh aka ISIS, the Iraqi security forces secured the borders and in-out routes of Karbala for visitors traveling from all over the globe.
While Arbaeen is a distinctively Shia spiritual exercise, Sunnis, even Christians, Yazidis, Zoroastrians, and Sabians partake in both the pilgrimage as well as serving of devotees.
Imam Hussein was killed in a battle in Karbala in A.D. 680 on the tenth day of the Islamic month of Muharram, the day which is known as Ashura, having refused to pledge allegiance to the corrupt and tyrannical caliph, Yazid.
He and his family and companions were surrounded in the desert by an army of 30,000, starved of food and water, and then beheaded in the most macabre manner, a graphic tale recounted from pulpits every year since the day he was slain. Their bodies were mutilated.
Shia Muslims have since mourned the death of Hussein, in particular on the days of Ashura, then, forty days later, on Arbaeen. Forty days is the usual length of mourning in many Muslim traditions. This year, Arbaeen falls on Friday 10 December.