The Shiite pilgrimage of Arbaïn, in Iraq, once again in mourning

The Shiite pilgrimage of Arbaïn, in Iraq, once again in mourning

Eighteen people, mostly Iranian pilgrims, were killed in a traffic accident on a road north of Baghdad, Iraq, on the night of September 1-2. Among the 18 dead are 14 Iranian nationals, two Afghans and two unidentified victims, a hospital source told AFP.

Initially, the Iraqi state agency INA reported 16 dead and 13 injured, ensuring that most of the dead were Shiite pilgrims from Iran.

Shiite spirituality

Every year, millions of Shiite pilgrims, including many Iranians, flock to Karbala, in central Iraq, for Arbain, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world. This major Shiite festival marks the 40th (“arbaïn” in Arabic) day of mourning for the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed and founding figure of Shiite Islam.

More than 2.6 million pilgrims already arrived in Iraq

The event, which culminates this year on September 6 and 7, is regularly accompanied by road accidents, in a country with crumbling infrastructure. More than 2.6 million pilgrims have entered Iraq via land border crossings or airports since the start of the Arbain, and four road accidents have already left 20 dead and dozens injured, mainly Iranian pilgrims. , Start of the week.

The Shiites are those who recognize Ali, cousin of the Prophet Mohammed and husband of his daughter Fatima, as his legitimate successor. They thus oppose the Sunnis, supporters of Abu Bakr, companion of the prophet, who will become the first caliph of Islam.

What is the Shiite movement in Islam?

The Shiites revere the first five members of the family of the Prophet Mohammed: himself, his daughter Fâtima, his son-in-law Ali – whom they consider “first imam” -, as well as their two sons, Hassan and Hussein, all objects of a true mystical love. The presumed days of their birthday constitute religious holidays, their death dates days of mourning. Their tombs are the main places of pilgrimage for the faithful.

The imam, central figure of Shiism

Ali was murdered by a Kharijite in 661 and buried in Najaf, Iraq. Hassan was proclaimed caliph by his supporters upon the death of his father, but he died either of a long illness or of poisoning by the Umayyad dynasty. His brother Hussein refuses to pledge allegiance to the latter. On his way to join his supporters in Kufa, Iraq, he must stop at Karbala, where the Umayyad governor of Iraq comes to meet him. He tries to negotiate. After fierce resistance, he was beheaded along with his entire family. Only his sister (Zaynab) and his youngest son (Alî) survive.

The imam remains a central figure in Shiism, responsible for making the spirit of the Koran known to a minority of initiates. Their lineage and number are subjects of divergence between branches of Shiism. Only three main ones remain today: the Zaydites, present mainly in Yemen; the Ismailis, of which the Aga Khan heads one of the two branches; finally the Twelvers (the Shiites with twelve imams), by far the most numerous, the majority in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain and even Azerbaijan.

In Iraq, the Karbala pilgrimage maintained during Covid-19

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