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Karbala

16 Sep 2018 National Radio TV of Afghanistan

Karbala (Arabic: كَرْبَلَاء‎, Karbalā’, Persian: کربلاء) is a city in central Iraq, located about 100 km (62 mi) southwest of Baghdad, and a few miles east of Lake Milh.[2][3] Karbala is the capital of Karbala Governorate, and has an estimated population of 700 thousand people (2015).

The city, best known as the location of the Ma’rakat Karbalā’(Arabic: مَعرَكة كَـربَـلَاء‎, Battle of Karbala) in 680 CE, or the Masjidayn(Arabic: مَـسـجِـدَيـن‎, two mosques) of Imam Husayn and Abbas,[4][5] is considered a holy city for Shi’ite Muslims in the same vein as Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. Tens of millions of Shi’ite Muslims visit the site twice a year, rivaling Mecca as a place of pilgrimage.[6][7][8][9] The martyrdom of Imam Husayn ibn Ali is commemorated annually by millions of Shi’ites.[10][11][12][13] Up to 8 million pilgrims visit the city to observe ‘Āshūrā’ (Arabic: عَـاشُـورَاء‎, “Tenth Day” {of the month of Muharram}), which marks the anniversary of Imam Husayn’s death, but the main event is the Arba‘īn (Arabic: أَربَـعِـيـن‎, 40th day after Ashura), where up to 30 million visit the holy graves. Most of the pilgrims travel on foot from all around Iraq and more than 56 countries.[14][15]

Etymology[edit]

There are many opinions among different investigators, as to the origin of the word “Karbala”. Some have pointed out that “Karbala” has a connection to the “Karbalato” language, while others attempt to derive the meaning of word “Karbala” by analyzing its spelling and language. They conclude that it originates from the Arabic word “Kar Babel” which was a group of ancient Babylonian villages that included Nainawa, Al-Ghadiriyya, Karbella (Karb Illu. as in Arba Illu [Arbil]), Al-Nawaweess, and Al-Heer. This last name is today known as Al-Hair and is where Imam Imam Hussain ibn Ali’s grave is located.

The investigator Yaqut al-Hamawy had pointed out that the meaning of “Karbala” could have several explanations, one of which is that the place where Imam Hussain ibn Ali was martyred is made of soft earth—”Al-Karbalat”.

According to Shi’ite belief, the archangel Gabriel narrated the true meaning of the name Karbalā’ to Muhammad: a combination of karb (Arabic: كَـرب‎, the land which will cause many agonies) and balā’ (Arabic: بَـلاء‎, afflictions).”[16]

Battle of Karbala

Karbala’s prominence in Shia traditions is the result of the Battle of Karbala, fought on the site of the modern city on October 10, 680 AD (10 Muharram 61 AH). Both Imam Hussein ibn Ali and his brother Abbas ibn Ali were buried by the local Banī Asad tribe, at what later became known as the Mashhad Al-Hussein. The battle itself occurred as a result of Husain’s refusal of Yazid I‘s demand for allegiance to his caliphate. The Kufan governor, Ubaydallah ibn Ziyad, sent thirty thousand horsemen against Imam Hussein as he traveled to Kufa. The horsemen, under ‘Umar ibn Sa’d, were ordered to deny Imam Hussein and his followers water in order to force Imam Hussein to agree to give an oath of allegiance. On the 9th of Muharram, Imam Hussein refused, and asked to be given the night to pray. On 10 Muharram, Imam Hussein ibn Ali prayed the morning prayer and led his troops into battle along with his brother Abbas. Many of Hussein’s followers, including all of his present sons Ali Akbar, Ali Asghar (six months old) and his nephews Qassim, Aun and Muhammad were killed.[18]

In 63 AH (682 AD), Yazid ibn Mu’awiya released the surviving members of Imam Hussein’s family from prison. On their way to the Mecca, they stopped at the site of the battle. There is record of Sulayman ibn Surad going on pilgrimage to the site as early as 65 AH (685 CE). The city began as a tomb and shrine to Hussein and grew as a city in order to meet the needs of pilgrims. The city and tombs were greatly expanded by successive Muslim rulers, but suffered repeated destruction from attacking armies. The original shrine was destroyed by the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mutawakkil in 850 but was rebuilt in its present form around 979, only to be partly destroyed by fire in 1086 and rebuilt yet again.

Early modern[edit]

Like Najaf, the city suffered from severe water shortages that were only resolved in the early 18th century by building a dam at the head of the Husseiniyya Canal. In 1737, the city replaced Isfahan in Iran as the main centre of Shia scholarship. In the mid-eighteenth century it was dominated by the dean of scholarship, Yusuf Al Bahrani, a key proponent of the Akhbari tradition of Shia thought, until his death in 1772,[19] after which the more state-centric Usuli school became more influential.

The Wahhabi sack of Karbala occurred in 21 April 1802 (1216 Hijri) (1801[20]), under the rule of Abdul-Aziz bin Muhammad the second ruler of the First Saudi State, when 12,000 Wahhabi Muslims from Najd attacked the city of Karbala.[21] The attack was coincident with the anniversary of Ghadir Khum event,[22] or 10 Muharram.[23] This fight left 3,000–5,000 deaths and the dome of the tomb of Husayn ibn Ali, grandson of Muhammad and son of Ali bin Abi Talib,[23] was destroyed. The fight lasted for 8 hours.[24]

After the First Saudi State invasion, the city enjoyed semi-autonomy during Ottoman rule, governed by a group of gangs and mafia variously allied with members of the ‘ulama. In order to reassert their authority, the Ottoman army laid siege to the city. On January 13, 1843 Ottoman troops entered the city. Many of the city leaders fled leaving defense of the city largely to tradespeople. About 3,000 Arabs were killed in the city, and another 2,000 outside the walls (this represented about 15% of the city’s normal population). The Turks lost 400 men.[25] This prompted many students and scholars to move to Najaf, which became the main Shia religious centre.[26] Between 1850 and 1903, Karbala enjoyed a generous influx of money through the Oudh Bequest. The Shia ruled Indian Province of Awadh, known by the British as Oudh, had always sent money and pilgrims to the holy city. The Oudh money, 10 million rupees, originated in 1825 from the Awadh Nawab Ghazi-ud-Din Haider. One third was to go to his wives, and the other two thirds went to holy cities of Karbala and Najaf. When his wives died in 1850, the money piled up with interest in the hands of the British East India Company. The EIC sent the money to Karbala and Najaf per the wives’ wishes, in the hopes of influencing the Ulama in Britain’s favor. This effort to curry favor is generally considered to have been a failure.[27]

Mosque in Karbala (1932)

Karbala’s development was strongly influenced by the Persians, who were the dominant community for many years (making up 75%[citation needed] of the city’s population by the early 20th century). The Kammouna family were custodians of the shrines for many years and effectively ran the city until it fell under the control of the British Empire in 1915. While the Kammouna family surrendered rule over to the British and sought to work for and with the British, many notable Karbala clans continues to oppose the foreign invasion. One such clan is the historically well-known Karbala clan of Awad who has been inhabitants of the city for some 500 years.[28] They, alongside others, fought directly against the British. According to the writings of Gertrude Bell,[29] some of the Awad clan’s sheikhs were banished after the control of the city for many years before returning to re-establish their land and community prestige.[30] The Awad Clan has historically been noted as one of the only clans in Karbala to actively oppose the British control and remain an influential family in the city to this day.

The association of the city with Shia religious traditions led to it being treated with suspicion by Iraq’s Sunni rulers. Under Saddam Hussein‘s rule, Shia religious observances in the city were greatly restricted and many non-Iraqi Shia were not permitted to travel there at all.

In March 1991, the city was badly damaged and many killed when a rebellion by local Shia was put down with great force by Saddam‘s regime. The shrines and surrounding houses, cemeteries, and hospitals became riddled with machine gun fire and military shelling. By April 1991, Saddam Hussein began an intense demolition project around the shrines in order to create a concrete perimeter. This “sanitary zone” created a wide open space in between and around the shrines. The shrines were rebuilt by 1994.[31] After the United States Military Forces invaded Iraq in 2003, the administration allowed for foreign Shia pilgrims to an unrestricted Ashura pilgrimage in decades. Tens of thousands of Shia Muslims from other countries visited US embassies to get visit visas to attend Ashura in Karbala. The 2004 pilgrimage was the largest for decades, with over a million people attending from all over the world but mainly Iraqis. It was marred by bomb attacks on March 2, 2004, now known as the Ashoura massacre, which killed and wounded hundreds despite tight security in the city.

A big Shia festival passed off peacefully amid fears of possible violence that brought thousands of troops and police into the city. Hundreds of thousands of Shia pilgrims who had come together to celebrate the Shaabaniya ritual began leaving the southern city after September 9, 2006 climax ended days of chanting, praying and feasting. Heavy presence by police and Iraqi troops seemed to have kept out suicide bombers who have disrupted previous rituals.

On April 14, 2007, a car bomb exploded about 600 ft (180 m) from the shrine, killing 47[32] and wounding over 150.

On January 19, 2008, 2 million Iraqi Shia pilgrims marched through Karbala city, Iraq to commemorate Ashura. 20,000 Iraqi troops and police guarded the event amid tensions due to clashes between Iraqi troops and Shia which left 263 people dead (in Basra and Nasiriya).[33]

Original Link: https://rta.org.af/eng/2018/09/16/karbala/

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