What would drive an individual or a family to voluntarily take time off from work or school to travel thousands of miles to Iraq, a country in upheaval and turmoil? In short, the answer is love. It is the love for a man who died more than a thousand years ago.  It is the love for none other than Imam Hussain, peace be upon him. This love is what collectively attracts more than 24 million people, from every location on Earth, to gravitate toward his grave every year on the day known as “Arbaeen” in the second month of the Islamic calendar.  Arbaeen marks the 40th day after which Imam Hussain (p), the grandson of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), was murdered.  Murder, however, does not begin to describe grotesque and heart-wrenching way in which Imam Hussain (p), some of his family members, and companions were slaughtered.

Rather than focus on these details, which are tragic and full of sorrow,  one should not lose sight of the message of Imam Hussain (p) for which he was targeted and mercilessly killed. After all, why else would so many people flock to his grave every year and for what other reason would people commemorate this event every year? Humans naturally are drawn to those who possess the manifestations of God’s qualities in some way. Characteristics such as justice, forgiveness, compassion, love, strength, grace, humility, piety. When we see this in others, we organically are drawn towards them.  Not only did Imam Hussain (p) possess these beautiful manifestations of God but he also acted on them.

Currently the world is wrought with corrupt and unjust leaders, who thrive on hate, inequality, injustice, and oppression. Life was not so different during the time of Imam Hussain (p) either.  However, he chose to do something about it. He refused to accept this tyrannical way of governing and left his home, with his family at his side, to help the people who were at the mercy of a system of oppression. This is a message not just reserved for Shia Muslims, for these principles are universal.

This year, the event of the day of Arbaeen holds even more significance. The current global climate of hatred, bigotry, and aggression have culminated in similar corrupt leadership. We turn toward Imam Hussain’s (p) message even more so now to answer these questions for ourselves, what are our duties as citizens? What will give us hope in humanity again?

The answer lies in one word, giving.  Imam Hussain (p) gave, or more so sacrificed, everything he had for his love of God and everything good that manifested itself from that.

Giving our time, expertise, patience, support, kindness, empathy, forgiveness, humility, love, charity and our grace to our families, communities, neighbors, friends, and family are small ways we can oppose the current climate of hate.  And what of those who do not have a voice, who are vulnerable to the cruelties of this world?  We must not forget them. We must continue to support programs and charities that help support the vulnerable, those who the world has forgotten.  Love and giving is a universal message. A positive way to make small changes to the people and the world around us.

This Arbaeen, make a contribution to support orphans of war-torn regions in honor of the sacrifice of Imam Hussain (p).