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In the Name of God بسم الله
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Gotham

I Love Imam Hussain, I Just Don't Love Karbala

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Someone has asked me what it’s like living here, in Karbala. There are some things that I am about to say that will upset some of you, but I feel like many people overly romanticize this place and don’t see what is going on beyond their hotel door when going to visit. Through my experiences here, I intend to give perspective on this issue. 

 

I’ve been here, in Karbala for the past two months. My husband is a seminary student here, and I came in the middle of March to live with him until the summer. Our living conditions, even for a poor family in the U.S, was sub-par: Until two weeks ago I was not able to talk to my family on skype because we had no internet connection, had no air conditioning, the cold water ran hot, I had to wash all of the laundry by hand, and we couldn’t afford most foods because we were trying to save money (we lived on his stipend from the seminary, which was barely enough).

 

Going outside and dealing with verbal harassment from boys and men alike has been tough. And because too many men here have no respect for women, I cover my face with a niqab when I go out so they won’t bother me. This only works if my eyes are covered as well. It is not safe to go out at night for women, so I avoid it as much as possible.  

 

Really, you can say all you want about how amazing it is here and how spiritual you felt but you were probably in a hotel with food ready to eat and a nice place to sleep, and you probably just visited the shrines and did ziyarat and left. All of the amenities of life make the experience a really good one for most people that come here. But when you stop and see the real problems here, like the ridiculous amount of poverty and lack of proper sanitation, and how misogynistic men and women alike are, then it no longer feels like the best moment of your life, even though it should be. 

 

 

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Her post totally makes sense. I haven't been to Karbala in recent times but based on my other ziyarat experiences I know exactly what she has to deal with every day even though I am a male. Every time I visit such holy cities I find myself feeling distracted and disgusted at the state of our people rather than focusing on the whole spiritual experience of the visit itself.

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:( Thats sad to read. I havent visited yet, but hope to one day inshAllah. Im used to hearing positive stories about peoples experiences at the shrines and the giving and good naturedness at arbaeen etc, i havent heard so much about this side of things, although i know electricity and internet connection can be unreliable. Out of the things she listed i think the lack of air conditioning would be the most challanging for me. I know how hot it can get there and i take after my mum and gran for my heat intolerance. I have slightly low blood pressure so once it starts getting into the 80's and beyond i can feel quite ill. I could deal with obnoxious men as long as harrassment didnt get physical, then i'd risk being deported >.>

Edited by Ruq

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Been there twice recently and I agree with some of the issues she points to. Obviously as Zawwar we love it there but of course our experience is limited to the ziyaraat places, hotels, airports etc. A local friend of mine from Najaf did bemoan to me regarding falling standards of morality, civil etiquette etc. 

 

Having said that, I feel with education and right social structure and guidance, Iraq has what it takes to become a good place overall. They have vibrant economy (with oil, and religious tourism) and they celebrate and revere role models like Mohammad wa Aalay Mohammad. I just hope and pray that somebody in the religious and political leadership there is watching and working on fixing some of the fundamental problems that they face.

Edited by abbas110

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:( Thats sad to read. I havent visited yet, but hope to one day inshAllah. Im used to hearing positive stories about peoples experiences at the shrines and the giving and good naturedness at arbaeen etc, i havent heard so much about this side of things, although i know electricity and internet connection can be unreliable. Out of the things she listed i think the lack of air conditioning would be the most challanging for me. I know how hot it can get there and i take after my mum and gran for my heat intolerance. I have slightly low blood pressure so once it starts getting into the 80's and beyond i can feel quite ill. I could deal with obnoxious men as long as harrassment didnt get physical, then i'd risk being deported >.>

 

You know you have to wear the cultural innovation of hijab there right :lol:

Edited by Hazyn

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It seem's more of balaa. Am not that suprised about what she stated and I havent been there. I think it's a great shame that zaairain have to go throu that. I dont think any amount of education can change some people. Most of them will remain as they are even if the biggest sayad come's and tell's them that what their doing is wrong,it will not change most of them...

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If one is moving from the West to places like contemporary Iraq or any other place disturbed by recent wars and civil strife it is obvious that they will have to make do with living standards much worse than they are used to in their developed countries, even if in those countries they come from hand-to-mouth income group. Power and gas problems, internet, bad roads, low safety levels, and general lack of functioning infrastructure is to be expected.

 

Expression of hyper-masculinity directed at women in public places is a problem common to all Muslim countries and it is really shameful the degree to which our societies have degenerated in their casual misogyny. Saying those men are "not following the religion" is a very lazy explanation and doesn't explain anything. There are some unpalatable anthropological truths which many of us don't want to hear because it challenges our entrenched notions about gender relations.

 

Short term visitors know about this. They are there on pilgrimage and feel the full force of their spirituality in nearness to the shrines of the Imam and other shuhada. It doesn't mean they are romanticising Karbala or any other place of religious significance. No one comes back saying it is a heaven because it has great living standards and peace and prosperity; it's heaven because it is Karbala: it is the place where Imam Hussain were martyred along his family,and that's precisely what makes Karbala a piece of heaven. So I'm a bit perplexed as to what the writer is getting at?

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If one is moving from the West to places like contemporary Iraq or any other place disturbed by recent wars and civil strife it is obvious that they will have to make do with living standards much worse than they are used to in their developed countries, even if in those countries they come from hand-to-mouth income group. Power and gas problems, internet, bad roads, low safety levels, and general lack of functioning infrastructure is to be expected.

 

Expression of hyper-masculinity directed at women in public places is a problem common to all Muslim countries and it is really shameful the degree to which our societies have degenerated in their casual misogyny. Saying those men are "not following the religion" is a very lazy explanation and doesn't explain anything. There are some unpalatable anthropological truths which many of us don't want to hear because it challenges our entrenched notions about gender relations.

 

Short term visitors know about this. They are there on pilgrimage and feel the full force of their spirituality in nearness to the shrines of the Imam and other shuhada. It doesn't mean they are romanticising Karbala or any other place of religious significance. No one comes back saying it is a heaven because it has great living standards and peace and prosperity; it's heaven because it is Karbala: it is the place where Imam Hussain were martyred along his family,and that's precisely what makes Karbala a piece of heaven. So I'm a bit perplexed as to what the writer is getting at?

People assume that Karbala must be an amazing city to live in because it's Karbala. They think that, although the people who live there are poor, everyone is good and kind, and that one walks away feeling touched and grateful for having the opportunity to live there.

When people come for Ziyarat, they tend to romanticize everything, including the people of Karbala. All the descriptions of the city that I have read always portray the residents as poverty-stricken angels. This is not realistic. There must be good people there, but obviously not all of them are. Everyone seems to overlook the crime that goes on, as though Shias couldn't possibly be guilty of any of it. The author is just giving the perspective of someone who's actually lived there, though she hasn't lived there for very long and can't even speak Arabic, and contrasting it with the perspective of a tourist who has come to visit a few sites.

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Im from iraq and ive never really romanticized Karbala, infact Samarra and Baghdad are the two locations I romanticize given their history. 

 

Karbala is the location of Imam Hussain's (as) shrine, its a personal spiritual journey. Its significance shouldnt be associated with material gain, this is the faulty logic of many unfortunately. Karbala has never had the fountains, exquisite gardens and monumental palaces of the old Baghdad and Samarra. Its significance is other-worldly.  

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