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Arba’een is a Shi’a religious observance which occurs forty days after the tragic events of Karbala. During this day, Shi’a community commemorates the martyrdom of Hussain ibn Ali and 72 of his followers who were killed by Yazid’s army in the Battle of Karbala in 61 A.H. (680 C.E.).

Significance[edit | edit source]

A day of mourning, preferably at the shrine of Imam Hussain, Arbaʿeen forms part of a cycle of days commemorating the burial of the Imam and his companions and the various stages of the return journey of the women captives to Medina. Many pious tales, which have come to form an important part of the Ashura tradition, have sprung up around this journey.[1] A special pilgrimage of visitation, the Ziarat of Arba’een, is associated with the day, which is still widely observed. The sanctity of the number forty and especially of the forty-day period in the religious lore of the region is most probably one of the reasons behind this tradition. Fortieth-day observances honoring the dead are still common in the Middle East.

The Number Forty in Qur’an[edit | edit source]

There is spiritual significance to some numbers and this is seen in the Qur’an and the traditions such that the number forty is repeated in many places of the Qur’an:

 (وَإِذْ وَاعَدْنَا مُوسَى أَرْبَعِینَ لَیْلَةً ثُمَّ اتَّخَذْتُمُ الْعِجْلَ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ وَأَنْتُمْ ظَالِمُونَ)

“And when We appointed a time of forty nights with Musa, then you took the calf (for a god) after him and you were unjust.” (Suratul Baqarah, 2: 51)

  ﴿قَالَ فَإِنَّهَا مُحَرَّمَةٌ عَلَیْهِمْ أَرْبَعِینَ سَنَةً یَتِیهُونَ فِی الْأَرْضِ فَلَا تَأْسَ عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْفَاسِقِینَ﴾

“He said: So it shall surely be forbidden to them for forty years, they shall wander about in the land, therefore do not grieve for the nation of transgressors.” (Suratul Maidah, 5:26)

 (وَوَاعَدْنَا مُوسَى ثَلَاثِینَ لَیْلَةً وَأَتْمَمْنَاهَا بِعَشْرٍ فَتَمَّ مِیقَاتُ رَبِّهِ أَرْبَعِینَ لَیْلَةً وَقَالَ مُوسَى لِأَخِیهِ هَارُونَ اخْلُفْنِی فِی قَوْمِی وَأَصْلِحْ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ سَبِیلَ الْمُفْسِدِینَ)

“And We appointed with Musa a time of thirty nights and completed them with ten (more), so the appointed time of his Lord was complete forty nights, and Musa said to his brother Haroun: Take my place among my people, and act well and do not follow the way of the mischief-makers.” (Suratul A’raaf, 7:142)

(وَوَصَّیْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ بِوَالِدَیْهِ إِحْسَانًا حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ کُرْهًا وَوَضَعَتْهُ کُرْهًا وَحَمْلُهُ وَفِصَالُهُ ثَلَاثُونَ شَهْرًا حَتَّى إِذَا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ وَبَلَغَ أَرْبَعِینَ سَنَةً قَالَ رَبِّ أَوْزِعْنِی أَنْ أَشْکُرَ نِعْمَتَکَ الَّتِی أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَیَّ وَعَلَى وَالِدَیَّ وَأَنْ أَعْمَلَ صَالِحًا تَرْضَاهُ وَأَصْلِحْ لِی فِی ذُرِّیَّتِی إِنِّی تُبْتُ إِلَیْکَ وَإِنِّی مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِینَ)

“And We have enjoined on man doing of good to his parents; with trouble did his mother bear him and with trouble did she bring him forth; and the bearing of him and the weaning of him was thirty months; until when he attains his maturity and reaches forty years, he says: My Lord! grant me that I may give thanks for Thy favor which Thou hast bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may do good which pleases Thee and do good to me in respect of my offspring; surely I turn to Thee, and surely I am of those who submit.” (Suratul Ahqaf, 46:15)

The Number Forty in Hadith[edit | edit source]

In addition, there are numerous traditions which mention the number “40” such as the following:

   عن رسول الله (صلى الله علیه و آله و سلام): إنّ الأرض لتبکی على المؤمن أربعین صباحاً.

The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his family, has said: “Indeed the Earth laments over the death of a true believer for the period of 40 days.”

   عن الإمام محمد الباقر (علیه السلام) أنّه قال: إنّ السّماء بکت على الحسین أربعین صباحاً.

Imam Muhammad al-Baqir, peace be upon him, has said: “Indeed the sky lamented over the death of al-Husayn for a period of 40 days.”

   عن الإمام الصّادق(علیه السلام) أنّه قال: إنّ السّماء بکت على الحسین أربعین صباحاً بالدّم، والأرض بکت علیه أربعین صباحاً بالسّواد، والشّمس بکت علیه أربعین صباحاً بالکسوف والحمرة، والملائکة بکت علیه أربعین صباحاً، وما اختضبت امرأة منّا ولا ادّهنت ولا اکتحلت ولا رجّلت حتّى أتانا رأس عبید الله بن زیاد وما زلنا فی عبرة من بعده.

Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq, peace be upon him, said: “The heavens cried for forty days with blood (weeping) over Imam Husayn; the earth cried for forty days by being covered with darkness; the sun cried for forty days by being in eclipse and turning red; the mountains were torn apart and dispersed; the seas gushed out and the angles cried for forty days over him. After Imam Husayn’s martyrdom, all of our women stopped colouring their hair, using kohl, applying oil, and styling their hair until the head of Ubaydullah ibn Ziyaad was sent to us; and even after that we (all) continued to weep over him.”

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

According to hagiographical tradition, on the night of Ashura the inhabitants of Medina heard a voice announcing the death of Hussain. One of those who heard this was Jaber b. ʿAbdallah Ansari, well-known companion of the Prophet and a friend of the imams. He immediately set out for Karbala and arrived at the tomb of the martyred imam forty days later. Meanwhile, on their way to Medina, the captives begged their escort to pass by Karbala, and thus they reached the sacred spot at the same time as Jaber. The entire company performed the first ziara, and held the first lamentation, ʿazadari, at the sacred tomb.[2] .

Rituals[edit | edit source]

Recitations form the essence of pilgrimage; it is no accident that the word ziara denotes both the act of visitation and the words recited during it, especially in Arabic . A ziara text for the day of Arba'een is narrated from Imam al-Sadiq and Shaykh 'Abbas Qummi has mentioned it in his Mafatih al-jinan in the third chapter with the title of “ziarat Arba'een”. The Text of Ziarat of Arba’een is as follows:

“Peace be on the favorite of Allah, Peace be on the beloved friend of Allah, His distinguished hero! Peace be on the choicest confidant of Allah, sincerely attached precisely like his father! Peace be on Hussain, who gave his life in the way of Allah, a martyr, underwent untold hardships Peace be on the hostage surrounded by the-tightening circle of sorrow and grief, killed by a horde of savages. O my Allah I give witness that beyond a shadow of doubt he is Thy favorite and choicest confidant, who enjoys Thy confidence and favor, precisely like his father! Thou looked up to him and elected him in Thy cause, picked and chose him for the good fortune, selected for him the best purified parents, appointed him guardian, leader, and defender of rights, a true representative (inheritor and progenitor) of guardians, leaders and defenders of rights, gave him much and more from the inheritance of the Prophets, put him forward as a decisive argument, along with the other successors (of the Holy Prophet-the twelve lmams) to the mankind. He met with deadly dangers, acted justly and fairly, made use of everything belonging to him to pay full attention to give sincere advice, took pains, made every effort and put his heart, mind, soul and life at the disposal of Thy mission to liberate the people from the yoke of ignorance and evil of bewilderment, but an evildoer, deceived with empty hopes of mean and worthless worldly gains, had pressed heavily on him, and sold out his share (eternal bliss) for the meanest and lowest bargain, betrayed his "day of judgment" for a vulgar return, took pride in insolence, fell into the fathom- well of silly stupid follies, provoked Thee and Thy Prophet to anger, did as the harsh discordant, the hypocrite, the heavily burdened bearers of sin, condemned to Hellfire, advised to him, however, he (the Holy lmam), steadily, rightly and justly coped With them, till, in Thy obedience, gave his life after which his family was set adrift. O my Allah, therefore, condemn them to hell as a denunciation and conviction; and crack-down on them with a painful Punishment. Peace be on you O the son of the Messenger of Allah! Peace be on you O the son of the first of the successors (of the Holy Prophet)! I bear witness that Allah put faith in you like He had full confidence in your father, and that you always looked for and collected good and virtue, lived a highly praiseworthy life and departed from this world a martyr, forsaken and abused; I bear witness that Allah will promptly fulfill the promise, He made to you, and destroy those who left you helpless and punish those who killed you; I bear witness that you kept your promise made with Allah, and strived in His way till what was certain came upon you, so curse of Allah be an those who killed you, curse of Allah be on those who oppressed you, curse of Allah be on the people who came to know and approved. O my Allah be my witness that I make friends with those who love him and oppose those who deny him. I, my father and mother, are at your disposal 0 the son of the Messenger of Allah. I know and bear witness that you were "light" in the sublime loins and in the pure wombs, never touched you the dirt of ignorance, nor ever obscurity concealed you in its folds;I bear witness that you are the pillar of "Deen", support of the Muslims, refuge of the faithful; I bear witness that you are a truthful, well-aware, content, intelligent, rightly guided guide (Imam); I bear witness that the Imams among your descendants are the symbols of "conscious piety" and signs of "true guidance", the "safe handle"-Islam, and the decisive arguments over mankind; I declare positively that I have full faith in you and I know for certain that you shall return. I am, fully committed to the laws of my religion, certain of my deeds, my mind and heart ready for your return, and my affairs carried out in the light of your instructions, till Allah gives you permission, together with you, along with you, not at the same time with your enemies. Blessings of Allah be on you, on your souls, on your bodies when you are visible, when you are invisible, on your perceivable aspects, on your innermost genius be it so, O Lord of the worlds[3].”

References[edit | edit source]

  1. M. B. Maǰlesī, Beḥār al-anwār XLV, Tehran, 1384/1964, pp. 107, 112ff., and passim.
  2. ʿAlī b. Mūsā b. Moḥammed b. Ṭāʾūs, al-Lohūf ʿalā qatlat al-ṭofūf, Naǰaf 1385/1965, p. 82.
  3. “Ziarat on the day of Arba’een”. Retrieved 5 August 2019.

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • ʿA.-R. Šīrāzī, Beirut, 1391/1971, V/3, pp. 373-74.
  • ʿA. Qomī, Kollīyāt mafātīḥ al-ǰenān, Tehran, 1389/1969, pp. 925-29.
  • M. B. Maǰlesī, Beḥār al-anwār CI, Tehran, 1388/1969, pp. 329-36.

Source[edit | edit source]