Reflections on Inter-generational Shi’a Pilgrimage during Scottish Interfaith Week

Isolation, sorrow and detachment pervade an ailing world. It is a story now too often told; one of families and communities breaking up, one of the trappings of temporal acquisition and the loss of a sense of humanity’s innate benevolence andclemency. Isolation and loneliness have breached the confines of our homes and the social bedrock.

As people of faith, we are equipped to deal with the challenges of isolation. Building community, worshipping communally, working collectively, breaking bread in company, lifting each other up, supporting our elderly and young, and connecting generations, is our bread and butter.

For Shia Muslims, these activities are ingrained in the community’s collective practice, but are not so visibly displayed as they are once every year at Arbaeen. The community then becomes a large-scale example of connection and support across generations. At this time, millions of Muslims—from the world’s most populous and most remote regions—visit the Holy City of Karbala to undertake a visitation of Imam Hussain. Arbaeen is a commemoration of the fortieth day after the anniversary of Imam Hussain’s martyrdom. In 680 AD, Imam Hussain was killed in battle alongside his family and friends; a minority of 72 who stood against many thousands. Hussain’s only crime was upholding Divine Truth and Justice, and refusing to accept the barbarous, unjust and immoral rule of the Caliph Yazid. Since his death, Muslims—and non-Muslims alike—pay tribute to the sacrifice of Hussain, take counsel from his message, mourn his passing, and visit his shrine in Karbala.

This year, 15 million people gathered in Karbala for Arbaeen on the 30th October. It was an assemblage of young and old, sick and well, rich and poor, black and white; every wall that divides and every barrier that separates is torn asunder at the Doors of Hussain’s Shrine. Young members of the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society, and of the Shia community in Edinburgh, were present at this extraordinary meeting. There they stood in the Holy Land, with the Scottish Flag, as ambassadors of a nation that has remembered the legacy of Imam Hussain. This particular flag was gifted by the Rev Neil Galbraith of Cathcart Old Parish, Church of Scotland, and symbolises understanding and fellowship between faith families in Scotland.

Forthose unable to make the journey to Iraq, community gatherings were held at this time, right through to the end of Scottish Interfaith Week, in every place wherein Shias reside, be they in large numbers or small. These gatherings took place in Scotland’s major cities and by way of them were the ties that bind our Ummah (Nation) strengthened. This global community isnot made one family by blood relation, but by our love for God and of Imam Hussain.

It is in remembering him and living the teachings of his grandfather that we bridge the divide between generations and become one whole.

(Excerpt from Ali-Abbas Hussnain – Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society)

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