The Ziyarat in Iraq – a slap in the face for Daesh

It’s a form of pilgrimage which millions undertake to pay their respects to members of the Prophet’s family and this year I’m joining them in Iraq.

I’m writing this from a waiting area in our hotel in Khadhimiya just outside of Baghdad, Iraq the centre of so much upheaval and one of the key nations fighting back against Daesh.

Passing a security checkpoint this morning in Khadhimiya

Throughout Iraq there are highly revered members of the Prophet’s family (Ahlul Bayt) buried and year on year pilgrims vist to pay their respects out of love and devotion.

A slap in the face for Daesh

Visiting the sites from Najaf to Kerbala is hugely important for many Muslims and it is a direct slap in the face for Daesh who seek to destroy this rich heritage and source of pride for billions worldwide. Security across the sites is heightened as Daesh frequently try to target Muslims making their journey to the sites. Visitors pass through several stages of security checks in the most popular areas.

Later this evening on the route to Samarra we passed close to Iskhandariya which a couple hours later saw 30 children die in a Daesh suicide bomb attack during a football tournament. Another reminder that the largest group to suffer at the hands of Daesh are Muslims.

The sites are more than just heritage, they are a constant reminder that Daesh in its historical and current shapes and forms have continuously failed in their quest to destroy and subjugate.

During ziyarat, pilgrims spend time reading or listening to talks about the lives of the Ahlul Bayt (Prophet’s family), all of whom went through great hardship, struggled against the extremists and oppressors of their time and were ultimately killed for upholding their values of peace, equality and justice.

In these stories is a constant reminder that whilst our sufferings feel large they are minuscule in comparison to the hardship of the Prophet and his family. Pilgrims discuss the lengths they’ve gone to to be able to be visit the holy mosques and all say it’s worth the struggle and sacrifice to be able to show their respect and admiration.

Safe havens for all

Christians taking part in Arbaeen Ziyarat

Even more upsetting for Daesh is the fact that in places such as Najaf, Imam Ali’s shrine has become a safe haven for Christians and Muslims of all denominations. In Kerbala whilst walking towards the shrine of Imam Hussein you are likely to be walking side by side with Christians, Yazidis, Zoroastrians and Sabians.

This is Daesh’s worst nightmare, an inclusive society marching hand in hand, driven by love and not afraid of the consequences. From the Prophet’s time till today the likes of Daesh have tried and failed to obliterate this message of inclusiveness. History shows they will never succeed.

I feel honoured to walk alongside people from across the world who flock in their masses to visit the Prophet’s family and defy Daesh.

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