Arbaeen mourning, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world occurs 40 days after Ashura, the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Husain, the Grandson of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). Each year a millions of Muslims flock to the Iraqi city of Karbala where the holy tomb of Imam Hussein (AS) is located to perform mourning rites.
The purpose of the symbolic trek is to recall and experience the trial and tribulation faced by the Household of the Holy Prophet (AS), chained and dragged in scorching desert, barefoot from Karbala in Iraq to Damascus in Syria after the killing of Imam Husain 61 years after Hijra. It was a period of anger and anguish at the perpetrators of injustice not just in the plain of Karbala but the world over.
However, we are aware of the lack of understanding shown to us by some people because of this Arbaeen commemoration on foot. We will like to reiterate what our incarcerated leader, Sheikh Zakzaky said in 2014 in answer to our critics. He said: “Those who oppose the trek should have come and asked us why we embark on such a journey, and not to pass judgment on us over what they do not know. If you don’t like what we are doing, then keep your mouth shut, it is our legs we use to trek with, not yours. If you don’t like the black attire we wear, we put it on our bodies, not yours. We will never force you to trek or wear black clothes, until we do that keep your mouth shut!”
Last year’s Arbaeen trek was not met with the usual gunfire and attack from the security agents, like they have been doing since Zaria massacre of 2015 by the Nigerian Army. However we will never forget the attack on Ashura mourners in Kaduna by the police on the orders of Governor Elrufai. Hence we beseech Allah to prevent them from persecuting us during our religious Arbaeen ceremony as he protected us from any harm from them last year.
Any attempt by this regime to disrupt this year’s Arbaeen march will be a clear violation of our fundamental human rights as enshrined in the constitution. How can an unarmed group of people be termed as terrorists or bent on disturbing public peace? It has never happened everywhere except here in Nigeria.
However we would like to assure the general public that this year’s Arbaeen, like the ones before it, should not cause any anxiety to the public unless the security agents decided to attack it. Nobody should fear our Arbaeen trek. It is a religious duty to us. Love for Imam Husain (AS) is not the exclusive right of Muslims only right from the gruesome attack on the Imam at Karbala, but for all those who love justice and fight against oppression in all ages, ours inclusive.
We will like to also reiterate our demand for the release of our revered leader, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky who has been in an illegal and unconstitutional detention for over five years now, even with a valid order from a competent court for his release. We will not rest on our oars until the Sheikh, his wife and others in detention since December, 2015 are set free.
SHEIKH ABDULHAMID BELLO*