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Updated on 12 March 2018
The Significance of the Arbaeen Walk According to the Maraji‘ of Taqleed
On the occasion of the approaching Arbaeen of 1439 AH, we would firstly like to offer our condolences to the Living Awaited Imam (af) from the progeny of Imam Husayn (a).
We remind mumineen that the Ziyarat of Imam Husayn (a), on this day, is highly recommended. Imam Hasan al-Askari (a) mentions it as being a sign of a true believer, and he lists it among other signs such as performing 51 rak‘ats of daily prayers (17 obligatoryrak‘ats and 34 recommended). This seems to suggest that just as salat is the pillar of the religion, the Ziyarat of Arbaeen is the pillar of the wilayat of the Ahl al-Bayt (a). May Allah help us to attain salvation by saving us from ignorance and arrogance, and may He help us to move progressively towards perfection by following the lofty divine values taught to us by the Ahl al-Bayt (a).
We are blessed to live in times when we can witness and experience the massive display of love for Imam Husayn (a) in the annual Arbaeen Walk to the shrine of Imam Husayn (a). Indeed, all of our great maraji‘ of taqleed (may Allah protect them as the best guides to the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt (a)) have praised and promoted the Walk, and some of them have even participated in it.
 Tahdhib al-Ahkam by Shaykh Tusi, 6:52, hadith 122; and Misbah al-Mutahajjid wa Silah al-Muta‘abbid by Shaykh Tusi, 2:787-788.
Below are some of their quotes:
‘It is an unprecedented great movement full of meaning.’
‘It is a sign of the greatness of tashayyu‘!’.
‘It is undoubtedly a practical display of “man yu‘adhdhim sha‘a’irallah…”’
Ayatullah Ali Khamenei
Ayatullah Shubayr Zanjani
Hence, some maraji‘ strive to personally participate in the Walk, despite their old age and infirmity, whereas others express the wish:
‘Alas! If only my physical ability would allow, I would participate in the Walk!’
‘There is nothing I envy more than the able-bodied who walk to perform Ziyarat!’
May the All-Appreciating Lord reward them for their pious intent.
What is the hadith basis of the emphasis placed by the maraji‘ on walking for Ziyarat?
There are several traditions on the great reward for walking specifically for the Ziyarat of Imam Husayn (a); for the sake of brevity, we will quote only one hadith which is mentioned by one of the maraji‘ (may Allah protect our great religious authorities).
 Ayatullah Nasir Makarim Shirazi.
Imam al-Sadiq (a) says:
The Imam (a) further added: ‘It is an obligation on Allah (self-imposed as a promise to be fulfilled) to grant him what he expended!’
 Nobody can claim to be a Mujtahid unless that person is trained in his school of ijtihad.
Marhum Ayatullah Mahmood Shahrudi would walk not only from Najaf to Karbala but also back to Najaf; apparently, this was because there is great reward mentioned in traditions for walking for the Ziyarat of Imam Ali (a) as well.
Among prominent personalities who regularly walked in groups were Shaykh Amini (the author of the 11 volume al-Ghadir), and Shaheed Mustafa Khumayni, who would walk to Karbala on all the important recommended Ziyarat dates (1st and middle of Rajab, middle of Sha‘ban, Day of ‘Arafah, and of course on Arbaeen). Imam Musa Sadr did the same (may Allah reward them all).
The Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein prohibited mass collective movements for Ziyarat since he assumed power in 1979, and so when this evil power was overthrown in 2003, the ardent lovers of Imam Husayn (a) restarted the Ziyarat walk in the Arbaeen of 2003/1424AH. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shia participated.
Subsequently, this number has been growing every year with pilgrims taking part now from all over the world. This year, almost 2.3 million visas have already been issued just for Iranian pilgrims!
Ayatullah Nasir Makarim Shirazi walked some 60 years ago with a group of scholars from Najaf to Karbala through the longer route along the banks of the Dajla and Furat rivers - a journey of over 100 km. He explains the effect of walking for Ziyarat as follows:
Furthermore, they warn us that we should be wary of some people creating bid‘ah and introducing inappropriate practices that smear this great movement.
‘It’s a Grand Treasure that is being partially discovered every year’
We should recognise the worth of the Walk and propagate it globally as the grand congregation of the lovers of Imam Husayn (a); this will demonstrate the great status of Imam Husayn (a). Our great Marja‘ Ayatullah al-Uzma al-Sayyid al-Seestani (may Allah Protect our maraji‘) addresses the Arbaeen pilgrims with these words:
"Allah the Almighty has encouraged the Ziyarat of the Holy Shrines to perpetuate their teachings as they were the humblest servants of Allah who demonstrated for us the best model of worship, struggle, and sacrifice in the way of Allah. Therefore, pilgrims ought to practice their lofty teachings of salat, hijab, conciliation, pardon, tolerance, polite manners etc. so that their soul is spiritually developed. Participating in these great rituals is like attending the educational and spiritual classes of the Ahl al-Bayt (a).”
‘So people in the world should have recognised Imam Husayn (a) and it is our shortcoming that people still haven’t recognised Imam Husayn (a). The mass multi-million Arbaeen Walk is one of the best ways to globalise Imam Husayn (a) in preparation for the Imam’s reappearance.’