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Millions of Shiites gather in Karbala to mark Arbaeen

Shiite Muslim pilgrims gather as they commemorate the Arbaeen in Karbala, southwest of Baghdad, Iraq, on Nov. 20, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Alaa Al-Marjani *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ARBAEEN-IRAQ, originally transmitted on Nov. 21, 2016.

(RNS) Shiite Muslims from across the world are descending on Iraq to mark Arbaeen, the world’s largest annual pilgrimage, attracting upward of 20 million people.

The pilgrimage, mostly on foot, commemorates the death of Imam Hussein bin Ali, who was killed by forces loyal to the second Umayyad caliph, Yazid, in the year 680. It is held at the end of the 40-day mourning period after Ashura.

Hussein, who was the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, is venerated by Shiites for his battle against the thousands of troops dispatched by Yazid to confront him.

The focal point of the commemoration is the holy shrine of Hussein in the Iraqi city of Karbala.

Iran is one of the countries that sends the most visitors to the ceremony, with more than 1.5 million pilgrims traveling to Iraq.

Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims walk to the holy city of Kerbala, Iraq, ahead of the holy Shi'ite ritual of Arbaeen, on November 15, 2016. The Shi'ite ritual of Arbaeen marks the end of a 40-day mourning period for the killing of Prophet Mohammad's grandson Hussein 13 centuries ago. Photo courtesy of Reutersl Mousily *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ARBAEEN-IRAQ, originally transmitted on Nov. 21, 2016.

Shiite Muslim pilgrims walk to the holy city of Karbala, Iraq, ahead of the holy Shiite ritual of Arbaeen, on Nov. 15, 2016.  Arbaeen marks the end of a 40-day mourning period for the killing of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein 13 centuries ago. Photo courtesy of Reuters *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ARBAEEN-IRAQ, originally transmitted on Nov. 21, 2016.

 

Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims gather as they commemorate the Arbaeen, in Kerbala, southwest of Baghdad, Iraq, on November 20, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Alaa Al-Marjani *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ARBAEEN-IRAQ, originally transmitted on Nov. 21, 2016.

Shiite Muslim pilgrims gather as they commemorate the Arbaeen, in Karbala, southwest of Baghdad, Iraq, on Nov. 20, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Alaa Al-Marjani *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ARBAEEN-IRAQ, originally transmitted on Nov. 21, 2016.

 

Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims walk to the holy city of Kerbala, ahead of the holy Shi'ite ritual of Arbaeen, in Najaf, on November 19, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Alaa Al-Marjani *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ARBAEEN-IRAQ, originally transmitted on Nov. 21, 2016.

Shiite Muslim pilgrims walk to the holy city of Karbala, ahead of the holy Shiite ritual of Arbaeen, in Najaf, on Nov. 19, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Alaa Al-Marjani *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ARBAEEN-IRAQ, originally transmitted on Nov. 21, 2016.

 

Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims gather as they commemorate the Arbaeen, in Kerbala, Iraq, on November 21, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Alaa Al-Marjani *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ARBAEEN-IRAQ, originally transmitted on Nov. 21, 2016.

Shiite Muslim pilgrims gather as they commemorate the Arbaeen, in Karbala, Iraq, on Nov. 21, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Alaa Al-Marjani *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ARBAEEN-IRAQ, originally transmitted on Nov. 21, 2016.

About the author

Sally Morrow

Sally Morrow joined Religion News Service in March 2012 as Photo/Multimedia Editor. She is a photographer and editor based in Kansas City. Morrow has worked as a multimedia editor and photographer at Newsday, The Des Moines Register, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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Yonat Shimron

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