A narrative from a pilgrim:

Houses dedicated to Imam Hussein

Faezeh SassaniKhah
Translated by: Fazel Shirzad

2020-10-14


After saying goodbye to the shrine of Ali ibn Abi Talib (PBUH)[1], we set out for the exit of Najaf to attend the Arbaeen[2] walk on Friday of 25 October of 2018, at 8:30 am. After a little walking, we reached a square where we passed it every year but we were hesitant to move to the right or the left.

A companion who was an Arabic-speaking of Khorramshahr asked the policeman standing nearby for the way we should go and reach the target, and the policeman pointed to the left side.

There was Wadi al-Salam cemetery nearby, and we recite the Al- Fātiḥah[3] for the dead and continued on our way. The route was completely strange and unfamiliar to us; I was sure we had not passed it in last year.

We were walking but we didn't still reach the exit of the city, but the route was very interesting. It wasn’t wide streets but it was full of people who were going to Karbala and the number of this population was increasing moment by moment. There was a commotion, the people were welcomed and fed in front of the houses, and the owners of the houses were watching the pilgrims with open eyes. Most of the houses were open to pilgrims and they had toilets, baths, and washing machines.

At the beginning of the road, the Iraqis Hosayniya[4] welcomed and fed pilgrims with hot jalebis and falafel. Some Hosayniya offered cold lemonade, others offered tea and coffee. a little ahead, A man put boxes of bananas on his expensive car and distributed them among pilgrims.

As usual, little boys and girls stood in the streets and greeted the pilgrims with water or paper towels, and greeted them by perfuming their hand. It was obvious from the clothes what social class they belonged to.

 

 

During these years that I have gone to Arbaeen, I have seen that children were an essential and important element in this route. It does not matter if they were poor or rich. They have learned from their elders that they should dedicate themselves to serving Imam Hussein and his pilgrims and be humble in the face of their demands.

I gave the girls whom I passed by a bobby pin and thank them in Persian. The gifts were given by two close relatives who could not attend the walk.

In one of the streets, we saw an Iranian Hosayniya where gave tea and greeted the pilgrims, and they said loudly: "welcome to the shrine of Sajjad's Father…!" I missed hearing this sentence. One of the servants of Imam Hussein (PBUH) was standing on a footstool with a Qur'an in hand; the pilgrims passed under it. We asked one of them how long it would take to reach the entrance of Najaf city, he shattered all our hopes and said:" There is a long way to reach!" But the path was so interesting that it was as if we had entered a piece of paradise and did not want to leave it soon.

It was warm but cloudy. I was worried for the hosts was distributing hot milk, tea, and coffee, their customers were less than a year ago and sometimes rare; there were more customers for lemon juice, fresh orange juice, and cool and refreshing mint juice.

We had come a long way, but we still had not reached the exit of the city. Sometimes we had to stop until others reach to us. The presence of a sick young man had slowed us down. We lost many companions due to the crowds, and we did not find them as long as we stayed there, but we knew they were coming behind.

It was time for prayer. We decided to pray and then telephone the companions and make an appointment to see them. We entered one of the houses. I pulled back the curtain and entered the yard, which was very small. It was perhaps ten meters long and three meters wide. There were new and clean toilets on the corner. A middle-aged woman was washing them, and when she saw us, she greeted and smiled and said hello. We talk to her warmly. I put the carriage with our bag and baggage on it next to the entrance and we entered the living room, which was about nine meters. This house was smaller than all the houses I had visited during these years, and the space of the house might not have reached sixty meters, but the landlord had given all the facilities to the pilgrims.

There were two nine-meter rooms, a small kitchen, and a bathroom inside the building, and there was a staircase between the two rooms leading to the second floor. The washing machine was available so that everyone would like to wash their clothes or tent.        

The women who were in the house greeted us warmly and kindly. It has long been said that a person goes to her house on the open, not on the open door.

Another Iranian woman who had already come and was praying. We performed ablutions and prayed with a clean and tidy prayer rug and new prayer seals.

The landlord's daughter, who was about nine or ten years old, was dressed very neatly and beautifully and had her hair neatly arranged. They were sitting on the steps with an Iranian girl of the same age wearing a black veil. They spoke Arabic together, wrote something on paper, and laughed. The Iranian girl was able to speak Arabic fluently. I guessed she was from Khuzestan. The girl was the same woman who was praying. I asked her mother: "Where are you from in?" She replied: "We are from Ahvaz."

 

 

The young lady was ready to leave the house, but her daughter did not like to leave her Iraqi friend and her attention was on to her writings. Finally, after calling several times, her mother agreed, and the hosts and guests said goodbye to each other after a while. The landlord’s daughter was happy a lot, and thus showed her happiness for our presence. My phone was in my hand, she picked up the phone and entered the WiFi password until I wanted to say something, but it did not connect. I was curious about what this girl wrote on this paper that she showed to her Iranian friend! I saw that she wrote words in Arabic and wrote the Persian equivalent in front of them. She had written the word "جوع" - that is, hungry - but had not written any equivalent in front of it; I took the pen and wrote the equivalent for it. She also wrote "عصفور" – that is, sparrow -among the words!

By learning Persian, Iraqis tried to communicate verbally with Iranians to understand what they want or how to welcome and respect them. Last year, when we were guests at Habib Ibn Mazaher Asadi's Hosayniya placed around the Pillar 610, one of the young girls of the landlord had a notebook, in which she wrote some Persian words and used them to speak with Iranians with a smile on her face.

My friend Ms. Salimeh, one of my friends from Khorramshahr, who is originally from Kuwait, was fluent in Arabic more than Persian and talked to the hosts. After prayers and some rest, we got ready to leave the house. We did not want to leave that house, but we had to continue on our way. Before leaving Mashhad, I took some Mashhad candy out of my bag with the intention of congratulations and a few bobby pin to thank the host. Although they sincerely showed affection for the pilgrims, the love must be responded with love. Ms. Salimeh thank me, and I,  as I became better in Arabic than previous years, thanked them for their hospitality and said in Arabic, "God willing, we will reciprocate your love in Iran," and we said goodbye.

Before telephoned our friends, we found them in front of one of the houses a little ahead. They had not yet prayed and wanted to stay somewhere. We entered one of the houses with them. The women were cleaning the beans.

After our friends prayed, we left the house and continued on our way. Dark clouds covered the sky, and it was clear that it was going to rain soon. It was a warm day and we were happy there was no sun.

Finally, after hours of walking, we left the city at about 2:30 and reached the main road, The road that I had been eagerly waiting to see it for a year, and move on it. I did not know how to thank God that I was on this road again. The exit way from Najaf to Karbala had a nice atmosphere. The first place of gathering and crowding, where was in a wide and spacious way has a different atmosphere. The last days when we were going to come to Arbaean from Tehran I couldn't stand to wait; I counted the seconds to start the journey get Pillar 1. A few days before my body, my soul reached here came here - that is at the beginning of the road - sooner than my body, and then walked and waited to join it my body so that they could start walking together on the path of Hussein;

 

The sweetness of separation is not less than seeing beloved

If love is a purpose, the path to get it will be a pleasure

"O love, do thy best, and hold my hand to save me!

 

It was much easier to move on the wide road. As far as the eye could see, it was the crowd moving on both roads. The Hosayniya started to welcome and give drinks and food. The servants of Imam Hussein (PBUH) welcomed the pilgrims with tea and coffee or cold juice and a variety of foods.

Thanks to God, the presence of Iranians was significantly noticeable and the presence of family, especially children and adolescents, was more noticeable. Some families put five- or six-year-old children in the baby carriage to move faster. Happy are the children who were introduced to the route from an early age.

 

 

Two young Iraqis sit on a high ladder and taking film of pilgrims with their phones. We went to Pillar 10 with our companions, but some friends request us to stop there. A friend came with her brother who, in addition to the problem of mental disability, had back pain as well. Her brother was very tired and could not walk anymore. He was right. Because we walked from morning to 2 p.m. It was at ten o'clock. Whereas if we had come from that one route, we would have traveled at least a hundred Pillars by that time. We were supposed to be at the house of Iraqi friends at night with whom my companions, who were from Khuzestan and Arabic-speaking, had befriended on previous trips, and this friendship had continued for many years. They were Najaf Shiites and their brother was martyred in the war against ISIS. The companions had promised the landlord that they would be their guests tonight.

A friend and I did not want to go this route by car. We had been dreaming of these moments for a year! They were supposed to go by car, and we could join them if we could. The companions went to the road where the cars were traveling and we continued on our way.

Cleanliness on the way from Najaf to Karbala was significantly observed. There were empty boxes of fruit, bins, and nylon that had been used for trashes. moreover, people volunteered to clean the road.

When we arrived at Pillar 50, it started to rain. The rain, in that hot weather, had created a spectacular and dreamy scene. Men and women, young and old, old and young, Iraqi and non-Iraqi, continued on their way to Karbala. The rain, which was getting heavier and faster every moment, made the air softer and cooler, and the road dust was reduced.

Around six o'clock at night we reached Pillar 175. It was too late to reach friends. We were looking for a place to settle. Where were we going to stay!? We have heard that due to a large number of people at night, it was difficult to find a place to stay.  we looked hopelessly at the in front of us. The space of Hussainiya about 30 meters and full of pilgrims, but the landlord gave us a small room when I speak with her in Arabic friendly.

We left the room to perform ablutions. in the middle of the night, An Iranian family sitting was sitting under the steps of the corridor leading to the second floor. The space of the house was relatively large, but like many other houses, it was simple. The landlord had ignored the furnishing of the world and had dedicated herself, her family, and her life to Imam Hussein and keeping her name and memory alive.

We went to a very small yard. Most of its space was dedicated to building several baths and toilets for pilgrims. There were two new washing machines for the pilgrims. Pilgrims were washing their clothes. I washed my tent and put it in the dryer and then hung it up on the rope. Every house we entered in the morning was being repaired by someone to make extra space to provide more facilities to the pilgrim of Imam Hussein (PBUH) these days. All this change for only twenty days surprised me! It has not been and won't be normal for me during these years to see these scenes and I found how far behind I was in real life! As I see these scenes, I always wanted to be a guest of the Iraqis in the Arbaeen and learn a lesson from them.

We went back to the room and prayed. The middle-aged housewife would not leave us alone. she would come to us whenever she had the spare time and talk to my friend. After nine p.m., the number of guests increased and the companions came and went and made beds for the male pilgrims who lived outside the house. The landlord would sometimes take my friend with her to translate the conversation between the Iranian pilgrims and herself.

They brought us dinner, but we were so tired that we slept without dinner. We had come a long way for a day. Unlike previous years, when we went for a walk at midnight, we rested until Morning Prayer due to fatigue.

The landlady was sleeping in the kitchen with a large number of children. After the prayer, we got ready to leave. Before leaving, we gave the host gifts that included some bobby pin, Mashhad candy, and some dried mint; she thanked us very much, and we thanked them for their hospitality and left the house to start another morning on the path of Imam Hussein (PBUH), the path of love and affection.

 

■ This text is dedicated to all the pilgrims of Hossein(PBUH) in the Arbaean in all parts of the world who died of the Coronavirus and were buried as strangers.

 


[1] He was a cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, who ruled as the fourth caliph from 656 to 661. He is one of the central figures in Shia Islam and is regarded as the rightful immediate successor to Muhammad as an Imam by Shia Muslims.

[2] It is a religious observance that occurs forty days after the Day of Ashura. It commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, who was killed on the 10th day of the month of Muharram. 

[3] It is the first chapter of the Quran. Its seven verses are a prayer for the guidance, lordship, and mercy of God.

[4] It is a congregation hall or station for Shia Muslim commemoration ceremonies, especially those associated with the Mourning of Muharram.



 
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