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Ziyara of Imam al-Husayn (a)

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The darih of Imam al-Husayn (a)

Zīyārat al-Imām al-Ḥusayn (a) (Arabic:(زیارة الامام الحسین (ع) is the visit (ziyara) to the Holy Shrine of Imam al-Husayn (a) in order to show one's respect and honor to Imam al-Husayn (a) and acquire spiritual blessings. In the Shiite culture, it is one of the most supererogatory worships recommended to be performed on various religious occasions, such as Ashura, Arba'in, 'Arafa, Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha and Thursday nights. Despite restrictions made by governments, Shiite Imams (a) always encouraged Shiites to visit the shrine by mentioning the virtues of Karbala and the place of al-Ha'ir al-Husayni. In various hadiths, the afterlife rewards and effects of such a visit as well as the manners of the visit have been elaborated.


According to some hadiths, the place in which Imam al-Husayn (a) was martyred was of great respect even in the periods before the emergence of Islam. According to a hadith, when Imam 'Ali (a) was returning from the Battle of Siffin, he had a stay in Karbala and cried for the future catastrophe in there.

It is said that the first visitor of Imam al-Husayn's (a) grave was Jabir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansari who went to Karbala together with 'Atiyya al-Kufi. According to Sayyid b. Tawus in his Luhuf , Lady Zaynab (a) and other Captives of Karbala arrived in there on the same day. Some scholars take 'Ubayd Allah b. Hurr al-Ju'fi to be the first visitor of the grave.

In the Umayyad period, people visited the grave despite restrictions made by the Umayyad rulers. 'Uqba b. 'Amr al-Sahmi—the Arabian poet—visited the shrine in late 1st century A.H. (early 8th century) and composed an elegy for Imam al-Husayn (a). In spite of the Umayyad restrictions, Imam al-Husayn's (a) shrine was never destroyed during this period, but some Abbasid caliphs, such as Harun al-Rashid and Mutawakkil al-'Abbasi, repeatedly destroyed the shrine. In order to wipe out the shrine and the grave and prevent people from visiting the place, Mutawakkil ordered his forces to plow the land and submerge it with water. On the contrary, during the governments of Al-i Buya, Jala'iris, Safavids and the Qajar, essential measure were taken to develop, reconstruct, and decorate the shrine.

Ibn Batuta (d. 703/1303) referred to the visit to Imam al-Husayn's (a) mausoleum and the feeding of the visitors in a corner of the shrine. Ibn Sabbagh (d. 855/1451) also referred to the frequent visit to the place by people in the 9th/16th century.

Ziyarat al-Imam al-Husayn (a) in Hadiths

According to many hadiths from the Holy Prophet (s) and the Imams (a), one of the most recommended and virtuous practices is the visit of Imam al-Husayn (a) in Karbala; the time from which the visitor departs to Karbala through the time in which they return do not count as parts of their lives. Here are some effects and rewards of visiting Imam al-Husayn (a)'s shrine:

  • The same reward as that of visiting God is His 'Arsh
  • God's being proud of the visitors of the shrine
  • The pray of the Holy Prophet (s) and Imams (a) for the visitors
  • Having a good outcome
  • The increase in one's livelihood
  • Longevity
  • Prevention of dangers
  • Forgiveness of one's past and future sins
  • God's response to one's praying
  • Angels' praying for the visitor
  • A huge divine reward

In his Mafatih al-jinan, al-Shaykh 'Abbas al-Qumi cites that Imam al-Mahdi (a) recommended Sayyid Ahmad Rashti three times to recite Ziyara Ashura. There are many anecdotes by Shiite scholars vis-à-vis the effects and features of visiting Imam al-Husayn (a), and some books are written in this regard.

According to hadiths, in exchange to what one has spent to visit Imam al-Husayn's (a) shrine God will give them thousands of cities in the Heaven, in addition to returning it to them in this world. And if one cannot visit the shrine, then if they financially help others to visit the shrine, they will receive rewards greater than what they paid in this world and will receive a reward as huge as the Uhud Mount in the afterlife.

According to some reports, Imam al-Sadiq (a) and Imam al-Hadi (a) sent others to visit Imam al-Husayn's (a) shrine and pray there when they were sick.

Obligation of Ziyara

There is section in some collections of hadith under "the obligation of the Ziyara of Imam al-Husayn (a)". This implies that the authors of such collections took the Ziyara to be obligatory. Al-Shaykh al-Mufid in his Al-Mazar al-kabir and al-Hurr al-'Amili in his Wasa'il al-shi'a are among such scholars. The author of al-Hada'iq al-nadira also held the obligation of visiting Imam al-Husayn (a)'s shrine.

Going to The Ziyara on Foot

There are 21 hadiths cited in the book, Nur al-'ayn fi l-mashy ila Ziyara qabr al-Husayn (a) (a book concerning the virtues of going to the Ziyara of Imam al-Husayn (a) on foot), that encourage Shiites to go to the Ziyara on foot. Here are some of the rewards of each step of such a visit: doubling the rewards of one's previous good deeds, elimination of some sins, increase of one's spiritual degrees, the reward of a hajj and an 'umra, the reward of jihad alongside the Holy Prophet (s) or an Imam (a), and the reward of a martyr whose blood is shed for the sake of God.

In different hadiths, different rewards have been mentioned for each step of such a visit, such as one reward and the elimination of one sin, ten rewards and the elimination of ten sins, one thousand rewards and the elimination of one thousand sins, and one hundred thousand rewards and the elimination of one hundred thousand sins. This difference might be explained in terms of the difference in the difficulty of the travel and one's psychological states.

Al-Shaykh al-Ansari revived the tradition of going to the ziyara of Imam al-Husayn (a) on foot. He traveled from Najaf to Karbala on foot. Likewise Mirza Husayn Nuri went to Karbala on foot every year, and Sayyid Mahdi Bahr al-'Ulum always attended the mourning processions of Tuwayrij. Shaykh Ja'far Kashif al-Ghita' also went to Karbala on foot every year, and Ayatollah Mar'ashi Najafi went to Karbala on foot twenty times. In recent years, many Shiites go to Karbala on foot on Sha'ban 15 and more particularly on Arba'in. (See: Arba'in procession.)

Special Manners of The Ziyara of Imam al-Husayn (a)

There are manners for the ziyara of the infallibles (a), but there are special manners particular to the ziyara of Imam al-Husayn (a), including:

  • Fasting on the three days before the travel,
  • To avoid eating delicious and colorful foods and to be content to simple foods,
  • Going to the ziyara with a sad facial expression,
  • To avoid wearing perfumes and rosewater,
  • Going to the ziyara with messy hair, face and clothes, like people who are mourning,
  • Going to the ziyara on foot.

Various prayers have been recommended during the visit to Imam al-Husayn (a)'s shrine: two rak'as of prayers in which Sura Yasin and Sura al-Rahman are recited, four rak'as of prayers (two prayers with rak'as each) in which Sura al-Tawhid and Sura al-Kafirun are recited, and two rak'as of prayers in which Sura al-Rahman and Sura al-Mulk are recited, four rak'as of prayers (two prayers with two rak'as each) in each of which Sura al-Hamd is recited fifty times and Sura al-Tawhid is recited fifty times. There are special supplications that are recommended to be recited after some of these prayers.

Special Days for The Ziyara

It is recommended to visit Imam al-Husayn (a)'s shrine every time one can do so. According to a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a), it is recommended that a rich person visits Imam al-Husayn (a)'s shrine twice a year and a poor person once a year. However, there are some special days on which it is particularly recommended to visit the shrine:

  • Thursday night and Friday
  • The Rajab month, especially its 1st and 15th days
  • Imam al-Husayn (a)'s birthday (Sha'ban 3 according to the most commonly held view)
  • All days of the Ramadan month, especially Ramadan 15 and the last decade of the month
  • The first and the last nights of the Ramadan month
  • The day of Ashura

Ziyara From a Distance

Ziyara of Imam al-Husayn (a) from a distance, like that of other Infallibles (a), is highly recommended. According to a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a),

'Alqama, a narrator of the ziyara Ashura, asked Imam al-Baqir (a): "What is the reward for one who lives in a city far from Karbala and cannot go there on such a day [the day of Ashura], but visits the shrine from a distance?" The Imam (a) replied:

According to the introduction of the first ziyara of Imam al-Husayn (a)'s ziyaras in Mafatih al-jinan, someone asked Imam al-Sadiq (a): "I frequently remember Imam al-Husayn (a); what should I say at such moments?" The Imam replied:

One part of this ziyara goes like this: "Peace be upon you, O' Aba 'Abd Allah! Peace and divine mercy and blessings be upon you!" There is a longer ziyara from a distance in the book, Kamil al-ziyarat.

It was common among Shiites to recite "ziyara Ashura" or ziyaras of specific days from a distance. They are sometimes recited in mosques in groups.

Ziyaras of Imam al-Husayn (a)

In the book, Kitab-i jami'-i Ziyarat-i ma'sumin (The comprehensive book of the zirayas of the Infallibles (a)), there are 26 ziyaras of Imam al-Husayn (a) that can be recited at any time and 33 ziyaras that should be recited at specific times. They include ziyara Ashura, ziyarat al-Warith, and ziyarat al-Nahiyya al-Muqaddasa. By al-Ziyara al-Jami'a al-Kabira one can visit all Imams (a) from a distance. Most of these ziyaras are available in Mafatih al-jinan.

Ziyara of Imam al-Husayn (a) in The Contemporary Period

For a so long time, many pilgrims visited Imam al-Husayn (a)'s shrine. When Ba'this dominated Iraq, they pursued the policy of violently oppressing mourning ceremonies for Imam al-Husayn (a). In Saddam Hussein's 30-year rule, the policy was widely executed, and all mourning ceremonies for Ahl al-Bayt (a) were suspended. After Saddam's fall, such ceremonies went to a new stage: many people from Iraq and other countries visit the shrine, especially in a procession on foot to the shrine on Arba'in.

See also