Iraq used to host millions of Arbaeen pilgrims from across the world. Arbaeen is the commemoration of fortieth day after the Islamic sacred Ashura. Iraq has put number limit for foreign pilgrims for a second consecutive year due to pandemic considerations.
The Arbaeen pilgrimage normally occurs in Iraq and is an Islamic traditional ritual for commemoration of a religious leader. This yearly march is projected to attract around 20 million Arbaeen pilgrims from various nations, even non-Islamic countries.
During the days leading to Arbaeen, people travel long miles from numerous Iraqi cities on foot to join the companions in Karbala. During the ritual, travelers are offered with various voluntary services like as lodging, meals, and healthcare.
In 2019, with the outbreak of Covid-19 across the world, the Arbaeen pilgrimage was affected too. Iraq banned the entrance of pilgrims to keep up with WHO protocols and Islamic nations registered a civil response by respecting the rules.
One year later, now in 2021, the Covid-19 condition is somehow under control. With the introduction of various vaccines and the rapid vaccinations process in Middle East Nations, there seemed to be a better circumstance for welcoming the pilgrims.
Despite that, Iraq announced limitations on the number of Arbaeen pilgrims it could authorize. Iraq would only let 40,000 foreign pilgrims to participate in the ritual during the weeks before and after the Arbaeen. The number includes 30,000 from Iran, which registered more than 3 million Arbaeen pilgrims before the pandemic.
Based on a report by France 24, Iraqi officials mean to prioritize the public health over the feelings of millions who yearn for the travel. The global health communities praised the move and appreciated the respect for national and regional interests. Baghdad’s move was also welcomed by Islamic nations and administrations as a wise step.
Arbaeen Pilgrims in Iraq
The grieving period for the murder of Imam Hussein is set to end after forty days on Arbaeen. Imam Hossein is Muslim’s religious leader and grandson to their prophet Mohammad. Islamic history says he was killed by the soldiers of the emperor Yazid in 680 AD.
Millions of pilgrims, primarily for Iraq and Iran, generally descend to the focal Karbala on foot for the yearly journey. Karbala is where Imam Hossein, along with his companions, was killed and buried.
Official data says 14 million Arbaeen pilgrims participated in 2019 the latest year before the Covid-19 outbreak. Unofficial statistics, though, suggest that the number of pilgrims was far beyond the number. Some sources claim that 2019 gathering surpassed 20 million pilgrims in Iraq.
Iraq restricted the number of Arbaeen pilgrims from foreign each country to 1500 in 2020. The intense restriction was imposed due to uncontrolled and unpredictable condition of Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the negative views, Iraq had constructive cooperation with Muslim nations.
In an announcement by Iraqi health and security committee, the number of Arbaeen pilgrims from foreign countries is 40.000 in 2021. Among others, “30,000 pilgrims from the Islamic republic of Iran” and a total of 10.000 pilgrims from Arab world and other countries will receive authorizations this year.
The committee also announced that the pilgrims can only travel using air borders. Mustafa al-Kadhemi, Iraqi president, is the head of decision making team at the committee.
Arbaeen journey is a traditional religious ritual in Iraq and among Muslim nations. During the reign of former dictator Saddam Hussein, the ritual was limited in scope and freedom. A year after the collapse of former regime, spontaneous flow of pilgrims took the way to Karbala in Arbaeen. The move was reinforced by other Muslim nation in following years.