Arbain of Imam al-Husayn (a)

Arbaʿīn of Imam al-Ḥusayn (a) (Arabic:
اربعین الحسینی) is 20th day of Safar in the Hijri Lunar calendar and the anniversary of the 40th day after the event of Karbala when Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions were martyred on the day of Ashura, (10th of Muharram 61 AH/13th of October 680.) It is reported that the captives of the Event of Karbala came to visit Imam al-Husayn (a) in Karbala on 20th of Safar 61 AH (November 22, 680) on their return from Sham to Medina. In a hadith from Imam al-Hasan al-'Askari (a), Ziyara of Arba'in is considered among the sings of the faithful. This day is a national holiday in Iran. Shi'a mourn on the day of Arba'in and mourning groups rally in streets. Great procession of Shi'a who try to arrive in Karbala on the day of Arba'in is one of the most important mourning ceremonies of Shi'a around the world. Procession of Arba'in is regarded as an act of following the mentioned hadith.

Historical Background

The day of Arba'in which is now a mourning day for Shi'a and an official holiday in some countries, origins from the event of Karbala which happened in Muharram 10, 61 AH (October 13, 680) when Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions were martyred in a battle with the army of Kufa. The first Arba'in of Imam al-Husayn (a) (Safar 20, 61 AH) was 40th days after the that event.

Return of the Captives to Karbala

It is not agreed by all Shi'a scholars whether captives passed Karbala on their return from Medina, but some scholars including al-Muhaddith al-Nuri in his Lu'lu' wa Marjan,[1] and his student al-Shaykh 'Abbas al-Qummi in his Muntaha l-Amal[2] believe that the mentioned visit did not happen in the first year after the event of Karbala and that it was not even possible at all. Before al-Muhaddith al-Nuri, Sayyid b. Tawus expressed his doubt about the issue as well in his Iqbal al-A'mal.

However, elsewhere in Luhuf, Sayyid b. Tawus mentions that the caravan of the captives arrived in Iraq from Sham and arrived in Karbala on the day of Arba'in and after visiting Imam al-Husayn (a) moved towards Medina. He also mentions that they also visited Jabir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansari and some of Banu Hashim as well.[3]

Sayyid Muhammad 'Ali Qadi Tabataba'i wrote a comprehensive book called Tahqiq darbari-yi awwal Arba'in-i Sayyid al-Shuhada (a) (Research on the first Arba'in of Imam al-Husayn) to refute the views of al-Muhaddith al-Nuri and al-Shaykh 'Abbas al-Qummi.

Visit of Jabir

Jabir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansari, one of the companions of the Prophet (s) is known as the first pilgrim and visitor of Imam al-Husayn (a) after his martyrdom. Accompanied with 'Atiyya al-'Awfi, he arrived in Karbala on the first Arba'in of the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a) in 61 AH/680 and visited Imam al-Husayn (a).[4]

Ziyara of Arba'in

In a hadith from Imam al-Hasan al-'Askari (a), the faithful are described as having five signs, one of which is Ziyara of Arba'in.[5]

Also, a Ziyarat nami (Zaiyarah Text) for the day of Arba'in is narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (a)[6] and al-Shaykh 'Abbas al-Qummi has mentioned it in his Mafatih al-jinan in the third chapter after Ziyara of 'Ashura ghayr ma'rufa with the title of "Ziyarat Arbain".

Qadi Tabataba'i says that Shi'a also call Ziyara of Arba'in, "Maradd al-Ra's" (return of the head), suggesting that when the captives came back to Karbala on that day, they also brought the holy head of Imam al-Husayn (a) and buried it with the body.[7]

Procession of Arba'in

Recommendation of the Ziyara of Arba'in has been the cause of the procession of Shi'a, especially Shi'a of Iraq, to move towards Karbala every year on the occasion of Arba'in. This procession is usually made on foot and is considered as one of the most crowded rallies in the world. In 2013, some reports mentioned the number of 15 million pilgrims attending Karbala.

Qadi Tabataba'i wrote that procession of Arba'in towards Karbala has been a custom among Shi'a since the time of Imams (a) and Shi'a used to perform it even at the time of Umayyads and Abbasids.


  • Ibn Tawus, 'Ali b. Musa, Iqbal al-a'mal. Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyya, Tehran, 1367 SH.
  • Ibn Tawus, 'Ali b. Musa, Al-Luhuf 'ala qatla l-tufuf, Uswi, Qum, 1414 AH.
  • Al-Tusi, Muhammad b. al-Hasan, Tahdhib al-ahkam, Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyya, Tehran, 1407 AH.
  • Qadi Tabataba'i, Tahqiq darbari-yi awwal Arba'in-i hadrat-i Sayyid al-Shuhada, Bunyad-i 'Ilmi Farhangi-yi Qadi Tabataba'i, Qom, 1368 SH.
  • Al-Qummi, 'Abbas, Safinat al-bihar, Uswi, Qom, 1414 AH.
  • Al-Qummi, 'Abbas, Muntaha l-amal, Matbu'ati-yi Husayni, Tehran, 1372 SH.
  • Al-Nuri, Husayn, Lu'lu' wa marjan, Afaq, Tehran, 1388 SH.


[1]. Nuri, Lu'lu' wa marjan, pp. 208-209
[2]. Al-Qummi, Muntaha l-amal, pp. 524-525
[3]. Ibn Tawus, Luhuf, p. 225
[4]. Al-Qummi, Safinat al-bihar, vol. 8, p. 383
[5]. Al-Tusi, Tahdhib al-ahkam, vol. 6, p. 52
[6]. Al-Tusi, Tahdhib al-ahkam, vol. 6, p. 113
[7]. Qadi Tabataba'i, Tahqiq darbari-yi awwal Arba'in-i Sayyid al-Shuhada, p. 2



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