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Arba'een (Arabic: الأربعين, "forty"), Chehelom (Persian: چهلم, Urdu: چہلم, "the fortieth [day]") or Qirkhi, Imamin Qirkhi (Azerbaijani: İmamın qırxı, 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, which falls on the 20th or 21st day of the month of Safar. Imam Husayn ibn Ali and 72 companions were killed by Yazid I's army in the Battle of Karbala in 61 AH (680 CE). 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 31 million people go to the city of Karbala in Iraq.
According to tradition, the first such gathering took place when Jabir ibn Abd Allah, a salaf, made a pilgrimage to the burial site of Husayn. He was accompanied by Atiyya ibn Sa'd due to 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.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,[a] 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?’[b] 
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.
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[clarification needed] 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. 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. A car bomb targeting worshippers returning from Karbala killed at least 20 Shiite pilgrims in January 2013. 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. 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.
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 believer should reaffirm their pledge to Husyin's ideals. The Ziarat or prayer is a text which designates Husayn as the "inheritor" of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus.
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.
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 June 5, 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, although that explanation has also been questioned.
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 due to 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|
|1435||23 December 2013|
|1436||13 December 2014|
|1437||2 December 2015|
|1438||20 November 2016|
|1439||9 November 2017|
|1440||30 October 2018|
- Quran, 12:84
- 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
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- Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival. New York: Norton, 2006; pp 18–19.
- Official website of Multi-National Force - Iraq
- "زيارة الاربعين: 18 مليون زائر ونجاح امني كبير". Al-Alam. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
- "Arba'een, an appointment for army of Imam Mahdi (a.s) on the rise". December 2014.
- Dearden, Lizzie (25 November 2014). "One of the world's biggest and most dangerous pilgrimages is underway". The Independent.
- "Car bomb in Iraq kills at least 20 Shiite pilgrims". independent. 3 January 2013.
- "One of the world's biggest and most dangerous pilgrimages is underway". independent. 25 November 2014.
- "Arbaeen pilgrimage in Iraq: 17.5 million defy threat". SBS. 14 Dec 2014.
- "Shia pilgrims flock to Karbala for Arbaeen climax". BBC NEWS. 14 December 2014.
- Al-Modarresi, Mahdi. "World's Biggest Pilgrimage Now Underway, And Why You've Never Heard of it! huffingtonpost". Retrieved 2014-12-11.
- "Christians in Karbala in Arbaeen". Retrieved 2014-12-11.
- "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.".
- Kurzman, Charles, The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, Harvard University Press, 2004, p.54-5
- Kurzman, The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, (2004), p.57