If you have ever had the honor of visiting many of our religious pilgrimage sites, you have seen most if not all of these. Why am I just focusing on the negative parts?
I am simply trying to be realistic. Most of us are used to pretty comfortable lives. Even though we live in Qom now, my kids are quite accustomed to a routine and a relatively easy life, Alhamdulillah. (However, they are pros at the squatters now!)
But I know what some parents, especially in the West, are thinking. Take kids across the Atlantic to Iraq? Iran? Saudi Arabia? Syria? Why would I want to torture myself?? I don’t even take them to the shopping mall.
No it’s not easy, but taking kids on a ziyarat (visitation) trip is actually a good way to teach them about our Holy Prophet (sawa) and his beloved family, and a good way to teach them about learning to overcome obstacles. And isn’t it our job as parents to instill that love? Sure you can teach your kids through stories and art, etc. But what better way to create that connection than to show them the beauty of praying at the shrines, or seeing the love for them from other visitors?
We had the privilege of being able to go to Iraq for Arba’een this year as a family. We walked (and also rode the bus) from Najaf to Karbala, and while it was difficult, nothing could teach us the feelings of that beautiful experience, except through the actual physical labor of it.
Sure we had whining some days and there were plenty of hot days, but when we were in the shrines of Imam Husayn (as) and his dear brother Hadhrat Abbas on the day of Arba’een, I cannot even put into words the love and beauty I witnessed.
There was no violence, no fear, no hate. Just pure love. Tears. Prayers. Light. Hope. And more than anything that I could explain to my kids about this, they witnessed it themselves. For the first time my kids had no questions. They saw. They saw the love for Imam Husayn (as). They saw the sadness of Karbala. They finally realized what I mean when I always say, "See how many people love Imam Husayn (as)? See the beauty of his ultimate sacrifice?”
All during the walk from Najaf from Karbala my kids saw little ones like them handing out water, tissue, tea, fruit, etc. They were given gifts from random people who would pat their heads proudly at these little lovers of Imam Husayn (as). At one point I remember it was hot and there were some men who would spray mists of water at the people walking. My eldest ran to him and after getting all wet, started walking again and just said, "I hope another guy comes and does that again.” No sooner had she mentioned this, another man was standing in the middle spraying. I smiled at her and said, "See? If you walk toward Imam Husayn with a pure intention, Allah will make it easier for you. He answered your request.”
How can we expect our children to feel a love for our honorable AhlulBayt if we don’t make an effort to show them? We save money for trips to other places. We bear the difficulties of travel in other situations. In fact I remember someone made a trip to Disney World and mentioned crowds and heat, and jokingly remarked that they were ready for Hajj after dealing with all that. Kids are very resilient, and with the right intention, Allah will make the trip easy for us. I remember being very concerned about certain bathroom situations (just holes in the ground) or sleeping arrangements in the mawkebs (the tents or buildings on the road to Karbala for the visitors) during Arbaeen. Imagine big halls and no rooms. Literally a big slumber party with strangers. But my eldest sat down and said, "It’s not so bad. It could be worse.” I thanked Allah (swt) from the bottom of my heart.
May Allah help us all in teaching our kids the beauty and importance of the AhlulBayt (s) and give us the opportunity to visit their holy shrines.