The Success of Arbaeen Pilgrimage

Hussein Faqih, an Art Director, 39 Years Old from Neishabur

Compiled by: Faezeh Sasanikhah
Translated by: Fazel Shirzad


I think our life is divided into two parts: before going to the Arbaeen pilgrimage and after attending the Arbaeen pilgrimage; that's where you know if you've spent your life the right way or not.

I grew up in a religious family. I have been involved in cultural and artistic work since the old days. In an art group, I was writing as well as television and directing. It had been many years since my friends went to Arbaeen and we didn't go. I said that it was not successful; Now, not that I have gone anywhere else, but I did not have a passport and I thought that my work and economic conditions did not require such a thing; Until a few years ago, two weeks before Arbaeen, one of my friends called me saying that we are going to Karbala, if you want to come too. I said: "I can't." From these words, it was not successful and we were not invited. I said to ease my conscience. He said: "You begin to work and follow up, will surely do it with the help of God."

My friend's words were in my mind for two or three days, and finally, it occurred to me to apply for a passport. At least later I would say that I got my passport but I couldn't go, not that I didn't do anything.

Ten or twelve days before Arbaeen, I applied for a passport. Those were the years when the visa was not so serious and if you had a passport you could cross the border. Those friends also said that we would leave in six or seven days to reach Karbala on time. After two or three days, the passport office called that you have a problem with the duty system. I said it should not be solved. It seems that we are not going to go this year; However, I immediately went and fixed the problem, and we were delayed for a day, and then they said that the problem was solved.

Arbaeen was on Thursday and I estimated that if I leave Mashhad on Monday, I can be in Karbala on Arbaeen. On Monday morning, I saw that the passport has not yet arrived. I left the house around ten o'clock. I told my wife that it was unlikely that the passport had arrived, but I would go to the passport police. Now I was thinking, Dad, you didn't go to Arbaeen for all these years. But there was a fire in my heart and I had a thirst that I could no longer ignore. On the way, my wife called to bring your passport. I returned home. I said that as we received a passport, there was no excuse. At the same time, I put my things in the bag and said goodbye. I called one of my relatives and said that I am going on a trip and I need some money. That servant of God also put the money in my account and I came to the terminal and took a bus and came to Tehran. I arrived in Tehran at three o'clock. Now when you reach the border. I found a private car right there in the terminal where they were going to the border. I walked with them and we went to Mehran. The city was bustling. Some people were going to the border, some were coming back. They said that there was no car on the Iraqi side to go to Karbala or Najaf. I said whoever brought us here would also take the rest. I took a short break from midnight to morning, and in the morning I took my bag and went to the other side of the border anyway. It was a seven, eight, or ten-kilometer walk and we crossed the border at one past midnight. It was a Dark, crowded desert, without any cars. The crowd, all tired and wandering, gathered here and there in the desert.

I was thinking should I go back or stand or go sit in the terminal? I heard a voice saying: "One for Najaf". I went forward and said, "Do you want just one person?" He said: "If someone comes, take a ride." There were four of them and they took one car and had room for one person. We started walking and in the morning we were at Kufa Mosque. We prayed in the Kufa mosque and walked towards Karbala from Tariq al-Ulama or the road next to Shat. Now, what strange and sweet moments the same walk had; that even his tiredness, bitterness, helplessness, and loneliness are sweet. Since then, my order to my friends has always been that if possible, they should go alone during the first Arbaeen trip and give themselves to the imam's shrine. When you walk with a group, it seems that you have power over your fellow travelers in many places; but when you are alone, you know you are yourself and Imam. Then your spiritual perceptions would be different. Your sustenance was different. That suspension between fear and hope was more intense. It was in such a situation that you feel that you have been chosen, you have been invited, and the whole path has been laid out for you. Then all the moments of the trip would have a different understanding and meaning for you; But when you are part of a group, you may feel that I am part of them too.

For me, one of the most difficult moments of the trip was when I returned. Because I had no experience of such trips and the day I returned, I had about sixteen thousand toman (Iranian currency); fear and hope again for how am I going to return now? But even here you understand that Imam has not released you yet. I had a number left on my phone from someone who said some time ago that I am going to Karbala for Arbaeen. This was my number. If someone has something to do, give it to him. All my money was the size of buying a mobile phone line with one charge. I went to the sea and bought a line and a charge. With every misfortune and punishment, I was able to communicate with this servant of God that I am in such and such a place. God's servant found me in the same crowded Arbaeen night. I told him I didn't have money and I would take it. He said, by the way, I also don't know why I took extra money this year. He gave me all his extra money. With that money, I went and bought a pair of slippers. My shoes were missing and I had been barefoot for several hours. Because I had no experience, I thought I was playing tricks, so I came back at midday of Arbaeen. Later I realized that this was the worst time to return.

The day before, I had walked for two days and was extremely tired. I returned with the same tiredness. Because I was coming back at the peak of traffic, no cars had the right to move, and I walked back twenty kilometers until I reached the trucks. I was able to go to the vicinity of Najaf with a truck; that means it was still fifteen kilometers away. We fell into the night again; naked No procession, no blue. Same as the Mohshar desert. There were no facilities at night. We were left in a cold desert. It was really cold then. Some three or four people were hugging each other and sitting around everyone - a way that they can only endure until the morning. It was a vague situation where you did not know what would happen next, would you get anywhere, would something catch you.

I was wondering what would happen now. Where was I? How could I reach the border? Would I reach the border at all? Without eating anything How far did I walk? My other legs had smallpox and smallpox had burst and become bloody. I couldn't walk in this situation. What do I want to do now? What time was the night prayer?

In that situation, a driver suddenly called out: "Mehran, one person." I ran in front of the crowd and found him. "Where are you going?" I said. He said: "Mehran, one person?" "Yes," I said. He said: "Follow me." "I followed him and he took me to the dirt path behind the road. We went a little further until we reached a van. A group of young people had taken the garbage van and there was room for one person. I went and sat in the front seat next to another passenger. I mean, I had one foot on the gear. It took six hours to reach Mehran.

One interesting thing for me at that time was the type of these young people: all of them were smokers. From the time we got in the car to the border of Mehran, they were swearing. They used to call each other insults; I mean, in a way, this space was terrifying for me. At that time, some parts of Iraq were still in the hands of ISIS, and the driver went down a road with his lights off. He often grumbled that no one should light a cigarette so that we would not be seen. They didn't pay attention to these words either. I thought to myself, what did this Arbaeen have to do with this kind of morality and thinking? When you looked at it, you say that these people came and returned to Arbaeen with this life model that is completely different from ours, with all these characteristics. After that, many of our comrades who follow Imam Hussain (PBUM) and follow the revolution, uprising, and jihad, remain in the city. It seems that the selection model in this route was different from other places. As if it was completely unrelated to the type of life.

Later, when I reviewed the different stages of this trip, I saw that it was as if someone picked me up from the very beginning and taken me on a journey. In all the stages of the trip, it provided me with spaces where I found a new understanding of myself and my life and cultural work; For example, on this trip, while you are treated like a gentleman, you would feel certain hardships. No matter how you come, it means that your pocket is full of money and you can buy all kinds of facilities for yourself; The rule was that everyone must endure some type of hardship during the Arbaeen journey. It seems that the essence of that journey was to endure these hardships.

Another feature of this journey was being suspended between fear and hope. Was I a pilgrim this year? Should I go? Would that be my money okay? Would they give me leave?

It happened that I was different after this trip. My way of looking at social and cultural activities has changed. Like the attention, I got from this trip onwards. Before this, we were doing cultural work, but we didn't pay attention to the fact that we have to prepare for the army of the advent period. We used to pray to Kamil and organize a camp for its moral results, its social results; but this trip showed me that whatever we want to do, we have to find the ratio between expectation and appearance. After Arbaeen, you would see everything in Imam Hussain's orbit.

That Arbaeen trip had a great impact on my professional and family life. I had a problem with the collection I was working on for a long time. Finally, after the Arbaeen trip, I decided to leave that group. In this way, I was unemployed for a while and had financial problems; but despite my disbelief, sometime later, the municipality of one of the cities of Khorasan province suggested that I accept the post of deputy of cultural and social affairs in the municipality. While I had no relationship with that mayor and his city complex in terms of political issues. I was hesitant at first, But I asked Istikhara and the answer was that there are difficulties but the end is good.

There, like the Arbaeen journey, everything seemed impossible in the beginning; but when we said Ali (PBUH), God solved the problems one by one. My wife was working and it was unlikely that they would give her a mission, but it was agreed very soon. The problem of children's school was also solved. I knew that accepting this responsibility means entering a war front. Later, the scope of the war increased and I resigned after a year. But in that one year, we did good things in the city. An excuse was also found for many Hezbollah children to gather and make a statement in support of me.

My impression was that this year was a continuation of that Arbaeen trip. Even though I couldn't go on the Arbaeen pilgrimage the following year due to the same work conflicts in the municipality; but then I returned to Mashhad and heard from the children that Mr. Fakhar is planning to take some artists to the Arbaeen pilgrimage. I went to Mr. Hamid. I said: "If there is anything I can do, tell me." He said: "If you can spare time, come and help, I have no one around." This trip was the first collective pilgrimage of artists.

In the first days, 40 people registered for this trip, but in practice, 26 people came. Some regretted some were caught. Half of them were artists and the other half were executives.

But it was after this trip that we found a new definition of a revolutionary artist; an artist who wants to come to Arbaeen walk must be a jihadist. A Jihadi artist is the one who carries his bag of things on his shoulders. The color pen is ready and you don't need to provide it. It doesn't need to be already. Jihadi works. He says that I am ready to do this under any conditions and at any time and place. I don't care that my bed is ready, that my dinner is ready and on the table. Jihadi force is a force that does not wait for any rules and says that I will do my job in any situation. While in art spaces, unfortunately, the situation of artists is not like this. Their claims are many. These claims make a person too involved with himself and his needs.

The following year, we went to Syria with Hamid for cultural work. At first, four or five of us went. There they told us that you are the four people, all your work and affairs are with you. Now, this project was so heavy that if you wanted to do it in Iran itself, you would have to hire forty or fifty people. Woe to the conditions in which you want to work in a war-torn and insecure country, with people who do not understand each other's language. They said we want an exit in ten days.

We were supposed to perform a Quran ceremony in seven cities of Syria during the month of Ramadan, and all seven cities were involved in the war. Each city of nearly one hundred and forty people only wanted a training force, apart from the structures and organizations that had to be installed there. They said that you should go and get help from these organizations, and go coordinate with the municipality for your structures, then provide security with yourself. We have no power.

After several days of consultation, we convinced them to recruit two or three more people from Iran. They said you just give us the name, we would deliver it to you right here. Mr. Hamid got bored and had to go to Iran. That means there were three of us. We called Mr. Hamid and told him to find two or three people to come here and help us. Mr. Hamid plowed all around us, he found all the children who were in love and claimant and claimant of Jihad atmosphere. No one wanted to come.

Later, when we sat and talked, we saw that we are very busy. Does that mean we don't have a battalion of Jihadi artists who can be counted on for the future crisis? It happened that we decided to plan the Men of Pen husseiniya in such a way that a jihadi artist could be trained in it. Although the conditions of the country of Iraq and the crowding of people in Arbaeen are such that practically all matters are not in our hands to be able to plan. However, every year when we come back, we immediately get together to review that year's plans and change them for the next year. Another thing is that new and interested people are added to our group every year. We pass on our experiences to them so that they don't get lost if we can't continue the work.

The first year when we started the husseiniya, we didn't want to give it a name. We thought that now the others would also like this idea and dozens of other husseiniya with the same idea will take place among other art groups; But in practice, other processions did not start. Again, we were left in the middle of another bitter incident. Those who liked our idea expected us to put their signatures on Kerman. They used to say that God blessed us, we could have lunch with them today, if we didn't want lunch, we would buy and give us drinks. Because it was felt that the husseiniya was being confiscated by some movements and organizations, we decided to give it a name to defend its identity.

Now, when there is a procession of science, its people gather from here and there to get a job. From the children of Qom and Isfahan to Iraqi artists and other artists of the Islamic world. Those who have been our guests even for an hour or two have created something, seen the works of their friends, said thanks, and begged and left.

Now one of our concerns is to find artists who may not have been in these spaces until now. Their shape may be different from ours; but we have seen that their hearts are tied to the love of Imam Hussein (PBUH), we have even gone and found these people one by one and described the atmosphere to him. Then we asked, are you coming with us or are you coming by yourself? Their reception has been good so far. We think we should take these people to break this divided space. Let's tell everyone that this space is not reserved for a certain class. Imam Hussain (PBUH) belongs to everyone. As much as you feel close and belong to Imam Hussein (PBUH) and love Imam Hussein (PBUH), you can come and understand this space. We will do our best to make this journey less difficult for you. We try not to worry about money. We also cut his running. In our opinion, just as Imam Hussain (PBUH) himself does not belong to a certain group, working for Imam Hussain (PBUH) does not belong to a certain group either.[1]


[1] Source: Daneshgar, B, translator: Hadi Pourzaafrani, Colorful Hosseneyeh, Tehran, Ahed Mana Publisher, 2018, p. 49

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