According to rahyafte (the missionaries and converts website): “Arbaeen shows the potential numbers of devotees who, if they were only better educated, housed, and supported, could become a huge force for global transformation,” Rebecca Masterton on the occasion of Arbaeen, 40 days after Ashura, the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (AS).
Following is the full text of the interview:
IQNA: Every year, millions of people from across the world undertake an 80-km walk between the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala to mark Arbaeen. What is your take on this pilgrimage?
Masterton: The walk from Najaf to Karbala, since the fall of Saddam Hussein, has become for many an act of devotion to God and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his family. It is gradually becoming better known by news outlets and Western ‘travel influencers’.
Twenty years after the invasion of Iraq, the country remains in a critical state. Many of those who either walk from Najaf to Karbala or who serve the pilgrims are struggling on the edge of poverty at other times of the year. Considering that Iraq is an oil-rich nation, more needs to be done internationally to improve people’s living conditions and employment opportunities. Hopefully, the walk from Najaf to Karbala will draw attention to that. It is hard to make a pilgrimage to Karbala and yet see the suffering of people who have often sacrificed the men in their family in the fight against Daesh.
The Journey of Passion: Arbaeen Trek Promotes Unity among Muslims, Humanity
IQNA: As you know, the Arbaeen Walk is the largest annual peaceful gathering which is in fact a mark of protest against all forms and manifestations of terrorism, fascism, imperialism, despotism, and oppression. What do you think? What does Arbaeen teach Muslims?
Masterton: One cannot doubt the devotion of even those who can’t afford to eat, to the family of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Young and old share their love for Imam Hussein (AS) and respect the sacrifice that he made. Arbaeen shows the potential numbers of devotees who, if they were only better educated, housed, and supported, could become a huge force for global transformation.
Mainstream Media’s Neglect of Arbaeen: A Missed Opportunity to Raise Awareness about Shia
IQNA: Monitoring Western media, in particular the British and the US ones, in the span of the past ten years, shows that they have substantially paid little attention to the Arbaeen pilgrimage, which is regarded as the world’s largest annual public gathering on earth. It seems that the Arbaeen Walk has turned into a nightmare for enemies. Why?
Masterton: I don’t think that Arbaeen has turned into a nightmare for enemies. I think they would pay more attention to it if the Shia were a real force for global transformation. Arbaeen is considered to be of little importance because it is not seen as any kind of challenge to the current status quo. It is known that those who take part are often poor and powerless and have little say in the real politics of the world.
Tips for Healthy, Safe Arbaeen Trek
IQNA: The Arbaeen Walk is a reaffirmation of pledge to uphold the principles exemplified by the ‘master of challengers’ in Karbala. One of the main principles was unity and resistance against the global arrogance. What are your thoughts on this?
Masterton: Hopefully, the lovers of Imam Hussein (AS) will be able to overcome the corruption and cultural destruction of their lands, but that will require proper education and financial support, the rebuilding of homes and roads, and a mature approach to global affairs. We pray that this happens soon.
Dr Rebecca Masterton has graduated with a BA in Japanese Language and Literature; an MA in Comparative East Asian and African Literature and a PhD in Islamic literature of West Africa, in which she critiqued the effects of secularism and colonialism upon traditional Islamic teachings on the self, from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Dr Masterton has been teaching for nearly fifteen years through different media, including one-to-one tuition; short courses at Birkbeck College, University of London; BA and MA programs at the Islamic College in London, both in-house and on-line; and on-line classes for the Islamic Institute for Postgraduate Studies (Damascus and Birmingham). She has also lectured widely at conferences both in Europe and the United States. Currently, she is developing a series of online short courses on Islam and the humanities at Online Shia Studies.