Around 5000 Muslims held their 31st Arbaeen procession on Park Lane organised by the Hussaini Islamic Trust with colourful flags, large gold and silver replica shrines, chanting and beating breasts as a symbol of mourning.UK. 15th January 2012
Around 5000 Shi'ite Muslims held their 31st Arbaeen procession in London today commemorating the sacrifice made by the grandson of Mohammed, Imam Hussain, killed with his family and companions at Kerbala in 680AD. Arbaeen takes place 40 days after Ashura, the day commemorating the martyrdom and marks the end of the traditional 40 days of mourning. After prayers and recitations at Marble Arch they paraded along Park Lane in a ceremony of mourning.
Imam Hussain is seen by Shia Muslims as making a great stand against the oppression of a tyrant and representing the forces of good against evil. Husain and his small group of supporters were hugely outnumbered but chose to fight to the death for their beliefs rather than to compromise. Their stand is a symbol of freedom and dignity, and an aspiration to people and nations to strive for freedom, justice and equality. Among many who have admired the stand taken by Hussain are Ghandi, Charles Dickens and historians Edward Gibbon and Thomas Carlyle
Arbaeen is also said to commemorate the return of the wives and families of those killed - who were marched away as captives to Damascus after the massacre - back to Kerbala mourn the dead after their release the following year.
Millions now attend the annual Arbaeen event in Kerbala though it was banned while Saddam Hussein was in power. The Hussaini Islamic Trust UK first organised this annual procession since 1982, making it the oldest Arbaeen/Chelum Procession of Imam Hussain in the west. It was the first annual Muslim procession in Central London and is still one of the larger annual Muslim processions in the UK. It is held on the Sunday closest to Arbaeen and attracts Muslims from all over the UK..
Today's procession included three large gold and silver replicas of the shrines of Karbala; known as Shabbih, they are over 10 feet high and the largest in Europe. There was also a decorated and blood-stained white horse or Zuljana representing the horse of Imam Hussain, a cradle remembering his 6 month old child Hazrat Ali Asghar who was also murdered and a ceremonial coffin. Throughout the event there were people coming up to revere these, laying their hands and sometimes their faces on them
The day started at Marble Arch with prayers and recitation which were followed by speeches and chanting before the procession set off. This continued as the procession made its way down Park Lane. Most of those taking part beat their chests as a token of mourning in a symbolic rather manner, but as the procession made its way down the road some of the men became very physical, and a few soon stripped to the waist and beating themselves with enough vigour to produce swollen red areas of skin and in a few cases some slight bleeding.
The women marched in a tightly packed separate group at the rear of the march, held back by a number of women stewards behind the last of the three Shabbih. Like the men they chanted and made gestures of mourning. Although they were almost all dressed in black, many of them were carrying placards, standards or flags, and some had some brightly coloured embroidery and headscarves.
The procession made its way down Park Lane for around half a mile along one lane of the south-bound carriageway, then turned into the north-bound road to make its way back to Marble Arch, but I left them at the halfway point.