Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

After Iran Government Deprived them of Hajj, 1 Million Iranians Head to Karbala | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Muslim pilgrims pray around the holy Kaaba during their final circling at the Grand Mosque during the annual hajj pilgrimage in Mecca October 6, 2014. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

Baghdad- Iraq’s Interior Minister announced receiving one million Iranians who came on the occasion of the Day of Arafa to Karbala, the city that is considered holy to Shi’ites. Shi’ite clerics said that “this visit on the Day of Arafa is not a duty or a replacement to Hajj but a favorable act.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan announced in a statement that one million Iranians entered Iraq through Zurbatiyah to perform Arafa visit in Karbala that lies 108 km south of the capital Baghdad.

Cleric Haidar al-Ghurabi also stated to Asharq Al-Awat that Arafa ritual is not new. It is part of the Shi’ite rituals that go back to centuries, since the era of the imams. “This has nothing to do with any political struggle among countries whatsoever,” added Ghurabi.

He continued: “According to Shi’ite clerics, those who visit Imam Hussain on the Day of Arafa, and who are not able to perform Hajj, are rewarded equally as Hajj performers but this does not mean that Arafa visit is an alternative to Hajj. Anyone who says that is an ignorant.”

Ghurabi stressed that Kaaba is the most sacred site on earth. Yet, if people were able to perform Hajj in Makkah, they wouldn’t have visited Imam Hussain. But since not all people can go to Makkah, they visit Karbala to get an equal reward as Hajj performers.

Speaking on the same topic, Shi’ite cleric Raheem Abu Ragheef told Asharq Al-Awsat that “visiting Imam shrines is not a duty but a favorable act. Those who carry out Arafa visit are rewarded and those who don’t are not considered to be breaching the sharia.”

He added that Hajj has no political dimension but a mere religious one.