Over October half-term, the Children’s Islamic Library held a Najaf to Kerbala ‘walk’ for children ages 4 to 10. It was a beautiful few hours and the buzz in the hall was noticeable as children made their way from ‘Najaf’ to different mawkebs and finally arrived at ‘Kerbala’ in a moving procession. Below are the details!
Najaf: To set the children of on their journey towards Kerbala we got the children to visualise Najaf while gazing at a large poster (A1) of the golden dome of Imam Ali. We discussed who Imam was and why we would aspire to be like him. With that in mind, the children were encouraged to think about one good deed they could do regularly in honour of their walk. They left the city of Najaf in their groups taking out Sadaqa (which they were asked to bring with them) for their onward and upward journey.
Each group was assigned a ‘group leader’ (older children who were helpers for the day!), who helped guide them from mawkeb to mawkeb. The group leaders also talked to them about the walk, asking them if they were tired, and pointing out the various posters showing the distance to Kerbala, and psyching them up for their arrival to Imam… all in all, making the children feel like they were truly on the walk.
Flag Making Mawkeb: The children made flags for Imam Hussein using black card and bamboo sticks. With flourescent markers they wrote Ya Husayn on it, and decorated it with different crafty materials. They were encouraged to raise their flags high during their walk to symbolize their love and alliance with our Imam.
Taboot Making Mawkeb: Here the children learn what a taboot was, and how it was a symbol and a representation meant to be an emotional symbol it was. The children then all had a chance to actually make the taboot themselves.
Massage Mawkeb: Here, the children learnt how people beg to give zawwaar a massage to help their weary bodies.They learnt how to give of themselves unconditionally, just like the people in Iraq, who treat their guests with immense hospitality. The children had a lot of fun learning how to give themselves and others, a massage as well as the importance of resting and supporting others, in order to help themselves and others’ progress further. They were taught about pressure points and how to give a good massage, and then were encouraged to give each other a massage. Those that didn’t want to, gave themselves a massage instead!
Marsiya Mawkeb: At this mawkeb, the children took a break from all their ‘walking’ and sat down to remember Imam Husayn (as) through marsiyas. Books were on hand and the mawkeb leader helped them choose familiar marsiyas so that they could all take part.
Date Making Mawkeb: After melting blocks of pitted dates in a microwave, each child was given a small amount of dates and cornflakes to mix with their hands and roll into balls. As they did so, we talked about how dates are mentioned 20 times in the Holy Qur’an, and the different scientific benefits of dates! The children were so quick to volunteer their own thoughts and experiences about eating dates: “They make you strong” “Dates give you energy” “I love dates!” “My dada eats dates everyday” “My mummy and papa eat dates in Ramadhan”.
All the chatting, squeezing, squashing and rolling date balls worked up a good appetite and made for a brilliant sensory experience! We remembered to give thanks to Allah for the food we have and started with ‘Bismillah’. Most of the children were really keen to eat their date balls and all was quiet as they enjoyed the fruits of their hard work. Others immediately said ‘I don’t like dates’ but were brave and had a little taste anyway mashaAllah! Some of the little zawwaar took their date balls home to share with mums and dads.
Sherbet Making Mawkeb: The zawwar were welcomed and it was explained to them that they would be making sherbet, an energising drink made from milk and rose syrup (for those allergic to milk, oat milk was provided as an alternative). We briefly touched upon the benefits of drinking milk. While the children were mixing their drinks, they were asked to recite surahs on it, and just before drinking their sherbet they were encouraged to say Bismillah and make the intention for Allah to help and give them the energy to complete their walk towards Imam Hussain.
Rest Mawkeb: Here the children were encouraged to take a break and rest their weary legs. They were told how it is an honour for people to provide a resting place for the zawwaar. We had lots of books on Kerbala, Imam Husayn (as), etc for them to peruse as they rested.
Maatam Mawkeb: At this mawkeb, the children recited maatams and remembered Imam Husayn (as) through their azadari. Children took turns to wave a flag as they all recited. Their maatam filled the hall with the remembrance of Aba Abdillah!
First Aid Mawkeb: Here, we treated all the Zawwars with contemporary medicine as well the all important Quranic Medicine. During our research we were AMAZED to find out how many common illnesses could be cured by the different Suras from the H.Quran. There are also Asmaul Husna that can be recited, but we focused on the Suras this time. Download the sheet of illnesses/cures here.
All Zawwars were given some yummy skittles as pain killers which they accepted without hesitation, except the really good ones who said they weren’t allowed by their mummies. Please find the cheat sheet we used. Please visit www.QFatima.com for lots of inspiration and resource.
Kerbala: After all the stations were completed, we gathered the children together and got them ready to raise their flags and walk together as they entered ‘Kerbala’, while listening to a maatam. As they entered, they faced a poster of Kerbala and spent a moment reflecting how it is Allah who gave them the energy and ability to witness this beauty. To Him belongs all praise and thanks and with this in mind, they all went into sajde e shukr.
Before taking their final few steps towards Aba Abdillah, they discussed how when we love someone, we want to be like them. If we love Aba Abdillah, how can we be like him? Can I be the first to say salaam, can I forgive when someone makes a mistake, can I lend a helping hand? The children took a moment to reflect and wrote their own personal pledges (examples were given to them below) to Imam on a little slip with the magic ink of their fingers.
With our pledges in one hand and our flags in the other, we recited a ziyarah and then we completed our walk towards the shrine (the poster) with chants of labbayk ya husayn! Labayk Ya Husayn!
Finally: The children then got a chance to reflect and write down one thing they loved most about doing the Najaf to Kerbala walk!
Having recently come back from doing the walk, I thought it might be useful to share some resources and practical tips that will Inshallah help the trip go smooth and also have the kids benefit as much as possible!
After having recently come back from the Arbaeen walk/Ziyarat, I thought it might be helpful to put a few handy hints together for those who go in the future – both with and without kids!
Things to pack for the walk:
The bare minimum is always advised! Snacks are abound, but here are some things that came in handy:
Tissues/Wipes – a travel pack
A small anti bac, cream, essential meds
V light bathroom slippers – sounds odd, but this saves a lot of hassle and dirt as you have to wear your shoes to the bathrooms at the mawkibs
Face cloth – will come in handy if you need to have a quick shower at the mawkib
Your own mohr/turbah – again, saves time and energy looking for some
Hat/Sunglasses/small suncream – for women visors are great. They do sell them there but it’s probably easier to take one with you rather than spend time looking there.
Disposable poncho for unexpected showers are handy
Ipod/phone with downloaded lectures/Quran/Nauhas with earphones to listen to on the walk
Tasbih counter – to do dhikr
If you have kids who will not be able to use the Easter toilets, then disposable seat covers might be a good buy. Just pls don’t thrown them down the toilet as the flush systems are not very good and will get clogged up.
For kids suffering from allergies/asthma, a mask is a good idea.
High vis jackets for them to wear, or even to pin on the back of their bagpacks is a good way to keep them visible. Alternatively make them wear a bright top. Always have a pre-agreed mawkib for where you will meet in case you get separated if you have older kids.
For older kids who might want to go ahead on their own, one family brought a walkie talkie set which was ingenious and allowed the parents not to worry too much if they were not in sight!
A wrist link might be a good idea for younger kids.
The group you are going with will usually give out lanyards or cards with hotel and contact no details, but it’s also a good idea to make sure they have full ID attached to them also.
If you like tea, please do take a very light reusable cup! There is a lot of wastage of disposables and you can make a difference by filling your own cup at the mawkibs or during the walk. They will also come in VERY handy at the hotels!
For fussy eaters, small milk carton and cereal boxes are handy for breakfast.
Things for the haram:
The best investment we made was foldable thin shoes which came in a small bag that you could store away in your purse when entering the haram, rather than having to go put your shoes in the storage.
For kids, workbooks and journals are great to keep them occupied. You might not have the time to sit and work too much at the haram, but they also come in handy for the hotel for when it’s too busy to go out. Also, if going to the haram, trying going to the higher levels which are big halls and usually have much more space than near the zarih area.
Today’s inspiration comes in the form of these amazing videos – depicting Arbaeen and the the Najaf to Karbala walk, which many people are blessed to be going on in the next few weeks, Inshallah.
Definitely one to watch with your children, and inspire them with the unbelievable hospitality and generosity of those who wish to serve for Imam Husayn (as). Hopefully they may even come in handy in school/madressa classrooms, this movie gives a glimpse into the journey that Bibi Zainab, the 4th Imam and others faced in the aftermath of Kerbala: https://www.shiatv.net/video/d968459b6342c01498b8
Here is a good overview of the walk.It covers all the important points and emphasised the beauty, generosity and selflessness of the walk.:
This is a beautiful look at azadari in sign language (click on Watch on FB):
This is how the Martyrdom of Imam Hussain عليه السلام commemorated in SIGN LANGUAGE in Iran.#LabbaikYaHussain 🖤#YaHussain
With millions walking from Najaf to Kerbala, one Madressa re-created the walk for the children…here are the planning details (with some pictures of the final outcome) for those of you who would like to recrate this in your own centres:
*Here is another example of the N2K Simulation also*
“This day we will commemorate Arbaeen and the importance of the ziyarah of Imam Husayn (as). We will simulate the walk from Najaf to Karbala and the format will be similar to the one we used for our practical Hajj event. There will be stations and young students, chaperoned by girls/boys from the senior classes will visit the stations, till they arrive in Karbala (assembly room). Here we will have a presentation for all the students about the importance of Ziyarah of this great Imam, the special etiquette of the visit, and how honorable that part of the earth is – All through ahadith and ziyarat Waritha.
Children will go to the stations in batches. There will be signs along the way (pole numbers) indicating how far along the journey students are. The anticipation will increase at every station. To those who are waiting to walk or have walked already, we will show personal testimonies from youtube on the projector so students can get an idea of what the experience has been like for those who have done the actual walk. We hope that in batches we will be able to compete the walk in a more or less cascaded fashion.
The main focus of this event will be on the preparation, anticipation and etiquette of ziyarat. The preparation part will be discussed in assembly before the walk commences so that students know that this journey is to be made in a somber mood.
Walk is to be followed by a play based on a real life experience by a group of zaereen. Theme of the play revolves around the value and status if the zawwar of Imam Husayn(as). The play is to be short but impactful. Needs 6 actors and a narrator.
End with Salaah.
1. Introductory talk 2. Walk to ‘Karbala’ 3. Presentation on the importance of the ziyarah of Imam Husayn(as) 4. Play 5. Salaah
Introductory Talk Focus on the preparation and etiquette of this special visitation before commencing Explain the route: Najaf to Karbala over a distance of 80km Highlight some choose to walk from their own towns within Iraq such as Basra despite longer distance. Hadith on the importance and reward of ziyarah
Walk to ‘Karbala’ Divide the students into groups consisting of a mixture of age groups (3 students form each class) with one of the senior students acting as the group leader. Group leaders will be responsible for group members guiding the group through the stations to ‘Karbala’. All groups start and end at the same points but do not visit all stations together.
Throughout the walk one can have latmiyah playing in different languages to enhance the atmosphere and feeling. Maybe better to have these playing on mobiles/ipods/ipads placed at different points along the walk rather than one loud sound.
Examples of latmiyah:
12 minutes allocated to each station.
Display road signs and poles numbers along the way to show the students how far along they are… milestones of 20, 40, 50, 60, 70 and 80km for example.
1. Food • Dates (enough for all kids) • Tea- room temperature sweet Iraqi tea on display in small istekans for show and if students want to taste they can be served in small disposable cups from large thermos • Rice, curry and khubus- Rice in a platter for show with some curry on the side? Khubus/ Arabic flat bread cut into pieces to serve Give out rice & curry in foil containers to take away & eat for lunch?
2. Massage • Students can select their massage partners (girl with girl and boy with boy). Teacher can demonstrate how the feet are massaged using pressure points. After one round they can switch over and masseur can receive the massage next. • Props include: creams, oils, massage rollers
3. Rest/Sleep • Using large cushions, pillows and bed sheets create cushioned areas within the mawkib for resting with blankets as covers. The students can use to this time for contemplation and reflection. Teachers can discuss the purpose of the walk with the students, reflecting on the journey passed and the internal excitement for the remainder.
4. Medical • Students can pair up to assist one another • Props include: plasters, alcohol wipes, swabs, needle less syringes, stethoscope, gloves, masks, torch, optical equipment for eye examinations etc • Conduct general health check on students • Flu, aches, pains, cuts, bruises, broken noses • Remind students that Doctors and other healthcare professionals also volunteer their time and efforts out of love of Imam Husayn(as) expecting nothing in return.
5. Snack • By counting snack/lunch/break, as a station within the event itself will ensure that time is saved and walk not disrupted. Teachers may need to monitor the flow of students here and increase time allocation as required.
6. Video • At this station, students will watch videos that depict the actual walk to Karbala. Videos that show men, women, children of all ages and health conditions; elderly in wheelchairs, with walking sticks, ladies carrying babies (point out difficult to walk long distance carrying a baby in arms), people on crutches, walking barefoot.. etc. Individuals of all nationalities and walks of life. How this reflects situation in Karbala, where Imam Husayn(as) had men, women and children of all ages.
7. Additional services provided to the zawwar include: shoe repairs, bag repairs, wheelchair/pushchair repairs and phone chargers! These can be incorporated into above stations or expanded upon.
At each step can emphasise that the services provided to the zawwar of Imam Husayn(as) are purely out of his love.
Highlight at each point that all the people on this journey have a giving attitude a complete reverse of human psychology under circumstances where there is some element of competition for resources. This clip demonstrates that perfectly:
When the zawwar return with so much of awe and the excitement and are asked what impressed them the most. They remember the true love of Imam Husayn (as), the sincere respect of the pilgrims that love translates into and the unparalleled enthusiasm and desire these Iraqis have in their hearts to serve the pilgrims. After all no one opens the doors of their houses to welcome strangers who come from distant lands and don’t speak the same language. To this the most appropriate poster I took a picture of was that of the flags of many nations bordering the words: “Al Husayn Yajmaoona”. “Husayn brings us together”
Presentation on the importance of Ziyarah of Imam Hussayn (as)
The following points were covered during the presentation:
Importance and reward of this visitation during Arbaeen but through out the year as well.
-Hadith that states for every step you take towards the grave of Al-Husayn(as) angels accompany you: “Whoever visits the grave of Imam Husayn (a.s.) thrice a year shall remain safe from indigence. It is emphasized that one should visit his grave with sincerity and eagerness. Then the one who goes to his grave with eagerness, he is among the favored slaves (of Allah) and will remain under the standard of Husayn bin Ali (a.s.). And the one who visits him for the sake of Allah, Allah will forgive his sins similar to a newly born, and the Angels will accompany him in his journey”- Imam Hassan (as)
“If one of our Shia goes for Imam Husayn (a.s.) Ziyarat, then he will not return but all his sins will be forgiven. For every step that he or his mount takes, 1,000 virtues are written for him, 1,000 sins are forgiven and his status is elevated by 1,000 degrees” Imam Jaffer Sadiq (as) (Reference Kamil al-Ziyarat, pg 134)
– Visiting the grave of Imam Husayn (a.s.) is obligatory upon every believer Imam Muhammad al Baqir (a.s.) told Muhammad bin Muslim that, “Direct our Shi’ah to visit the grave of Husayn bin Ali (a.s.), for it has been made obligatory by Allah, the Mighty, the Sublime, upon every believer who considers Husayn (a.s.) to be his Imam”.
Why do we perform this pilgrimage to Karbala during Arbaeen? How did this tradition start? What about those than cannot travel to Iraq? How can they perform ziyarat?
Reciting Ziyarat from home Which Ziyarats are attributed to Imam Husayn (as)? -Ziyarat Ashura
-Ziyarat Nahiya Heartfelt narration by our 12th Imam Muhammad Mahdi(as) on the events of the tragedy of Karbala
“But as I have been hindered by the course of time, and (Allah’s) decree has prevented me from helping you, and as I could not fight those who fought you, and was not able to show hostility to those who showed hostility to you, I will, therefore, lament you morning and evening, and will weep blood in place of tears, out of my anguish for you and my sorrow for all that befell you…” Imam Muhammad Mahdi(as)
-Ziyarat Waritha How is this ziyarat linked with Imam Husayn(as)? Inheritance in the form of blood lineage but also in the form of a vicegerent of Allah(swt)
Prophet Adam (as)- Father of Humanity and Imam Husayn(as) stood for humanity at each step of his mission
Prophet Nuh (as) – Imam Husayn(as) wiped evil off the earth, his revolution lives on today
Prophet Ibrahim(as)- Imam Husayn (as) showed us how to break the idols within us, that come between us and Allah (swt) affecting our relationship with Him.
Prophet Musa (as)- Imam Husayn (as) toppled the Firaun of his time.
Karbala is a piece of heaven on earth -The angel Gabriel narrated to Prophet Muhammad (saw): “Karbala, where your grandson and his family will be martyred, is the one of the most blessed and the most sacred land on Earth and it is one of the valleys of Paradise” (Reference: Kamill al-Ziyarat. pg. 545)
-“Between the grave of Husayn and heaven is a passage of angels”- Imam Jaffer Sadiq (as) (Reference: Biharul Anwar 52, 325, 40)