I was lucky to have been invited by Sayed al Shohada previously but never for Arbaeen. This year I was invited along with my family. Initially, you have some plans and coordination but you don’t know what to expect on this trip. I had gone to Iraq for ziyarah before, but when all your everyday life consumes you, you may not pay as much attention. The first time I went to ziyarah it had its own specialness but this time, I thought it will be another ziyarah just with walking. 

It’s bad to say, I thought of it as another trip, when we got to Mashad first, it really changed our perspective. When you spend 4 days with Imam Ali ibn Musa, even if you’re a stone, you would be affected. It was great that we were able to start there. 

I’m not a very spiritual person but when you enter the dessert from Najaf to Karbala, you see your surroundings, some people are sitting amongst friends, and chatting, enjoying themselves, and another place others are praying, others are reading supplications, some are walking, some are cooking, some are passing out tea – no one is just sitting around, Everyone had a purpose. You may think it’s not spiritual the person sitting around with their friends, or the person cooking is doing something spiritual but when we started the trip, it hit me that even though it looks worldly, but because it’s done in the tent of Imam Hussain, on the way to Karbala from Najaf, for Arbaeen, then it changes. The intention is important. You might be studying, you have to go to work, you have to make a living, one person may do it so that they have something to eat, but another person may for a second change their intention and make the act spiritual. I’m saying this because even the chatting we did with friends, and those friends we made along the way, it felt different. The chat on this path is different, it brings you closer to Allah. Because our intentions were different. 

I had heard a speech from Sheikh Panahian, and I didn’t understand what he was saying but it became clear to me on this walk. His point was that the governance of Imam Zaman (ajtfs) will be just like this. An environment that if at the very least you’re not helping, you’re not harming anyone else, but most often people were helping each other by cooking, cleaning, mending shoes, giving massages, I mean everyone is helping each other. SHeikh Panahian said that Imam Zaman’s governance will be like this. There will be no poverty, no hunger, why? Because the intentions are clear and the hearts are purified. And you were able to see this on the walk. 

There were many memories from the trips, ones that made you laugh, ones that made you cry, but the last thing I want to highlight is that brotherhood with our fellow travel mates, the people we walked with, many of them I didn’t know, even the ones I thought I knew, when you walk with them on this path, you have a real sense of brotherhood. Your feelings change for them. They have a different place in my heart. We struggled together, it’s tough, I’m not gonna lie, but it’s tough regardless of how generous our hosts were, it’s still not your own bed, and there’s a lot of hardship. In the end, this struggle we went through together created a connection between us. I thought to myself if a couple, or friends, or brothers, and even the larger society if they just struggled together for a while, then so many of our problems will be fixed. I’m emphasizing togetherness here as important so that you have a sense that the others’ problems are yours, on this trip, if someone said, “Oh my leg hurts,” someone else would immediately offer to take their backpack and carry it. If someone said, “I’m thirsty,” someone else would rush and get them water. There’s a lot of hardship but when we are together and we go through them together it creates that sense of brotherhood and we create a society that is fit for the governance of Imam Zaman. 

I really think this trip is a trip that every Shi’a must experience at least once in their life. I think many of our troubles with regards to Islam and even the Imam of our time, will be solved.