Sunday 20th of September 2020

Eloquent Defiance at Kufa

Eloquent Defiance at Kufa

The next day the members of the Prophet's family were made to leave for Kufa to be presented to Ibn Ziyad. Among the prisoners were Zaynab (p.b.u.h.), her sister Umm Kulthum (p.b.u.h.), other women of the Bani Hashim, Imam Zayn ul-Abidin (p.b.u.h.), three young sons of Imam al-Hasan (p.b.u.h.) and other daughters of Imam al-Hussain. When, on their way, they reached the battlefield, a heart-rending sight met their eyes. The bodies of the martyrs lay naked on the burning sand, covered with dust and blood. The enemy had not buried them, although they had buried their own dead. Seeing this scene of carnage, Imam Ali (p.b.u.h.) was so affected that he appeared to be on the verge of death himself. Noticing his state, Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) said to him, "O you who are a reminder of my grandfather and father. What has happened to you for I see that you are about to lose your life." He replied "Dear Aunt, how can I be otherwise when I see that the bodies of my father, uncle, brothers and cousins are lying on the ground neglected while their clothes have been removed and there is no arrangement for shrouding and burying them." Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) then also openly lamented the murder of her beloved brother and their imprisonment. Umar ibn Sa'd had entrusted the severed heads of Hussain (p.b.u.h.), his sons, and other martyrs, to different tribal chiefs so that on the way people would see that various tribes had taken part in the battle and none would dare to interrupt their march. The captives were made to ride on camels without saddles, their faces unveiled for all the world to see, while ahead of them their captors gleefully carried the chopped off heads of their loved ones impaled on spears. Kufa was then regarded as the principal city of Islam.Imam Ali (p.b.u.h.) had made it his capital during his caliphate and here Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) and Umm Kulthum had once lived respected and loved. Now they came to this city of their memories as captives. It was night when they arrived at the city, and the palace of Ibn Ziyad was shut, so they were made to camp outside. When he was informed of their arrival the next day he ordered that a great function should take place to which all would be invited without distinction. The head of Imam Hussain (p.b.u.h.) was to be placed on a gold tray near the court chair, and the heads of the other martyrs were also to be displayed. The people of Kufa were told that some tribe had committed aggression against the Muslims, but the Muslims had secured victory and because of this there was to be a celebration. Festively dressed and in anticipation of joyful celebrations the people poured into the streets and market place and the music of victory was heard as the captives arrived. But there were a few who guessed the truth, and they looked on with downcast eyes. One woman, on recognizing Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) and her retinue of unveiled women, ran into her house and brought them all head covers and sheets with which to cover their bodies. But they were not allowed to preserve their modesty and the enemy guards snatched them away. When Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) saw some of the men and women who had realized what had really happened weeping and wailing she bade them be quiet and spoke to them with piercing eloquence and insight, "Praise be to Allah and blessings be on my grandfather Muhammad and his purified and chosen progeny." "So now, O people who deceive, forsake and contrive, it is you who weep. May Allah not stop your tears and may your chests burn incessantly with the fire of grief and sorrow. Your example is that of a woman who assiduously prepares a strong rope and then untwines it herself, wasting her own hard labour." "You swear such false oaths which bear no truthfulness at all. Beware that you have nothing except vain talk, false pride, mischief, malice, evil, rancor, falsehood, and sycophancy. Beware that your position is that of slave-maids and purchased girls who are but the meanest beings." "Your hearts are full of enmity and rancor. You are like the vegetation that grows on filthy soil and is yet green, or like the mortar applied unto graves." "You should know that you have perpetrated a very morbid deed and that have prepared evil provision for your next life, because of which Allah's anger is against you and His wrath would fall upon you." "Now you are crying aloud and wailing over my brother! Yes, cry, because it behaves you to cry. Yes, weep profusely and laugh less, because you have earned the shame of killing the Imam of the age. The stain of his blood is now on your clothes and you cannot remove it, nor can you secure acquittal from the charge of killing the son of the last Prophet of Allah, the Chief of the youths in Paradise. You have killed a person who was your support, the knower of the Sunnah and the ultimate arbitrator at the time of your mutual disputations. He was the basis of your talks and actions. He was your place of refuge in the event of hardship." "Know that you have been guilty of the most heinous crime in the world and have prepared the worst provision for the Day of Judgment. Curses are upon you and may destruction overtake you. Your efforts have gone wasted and you have been ruined. You have transacted a losing trade. You have become the victim of Allah's wrath and have fallen into ignominy and degradation." "O people of Kufa, woe upon you. Do you realize which piece of Muhammad's heart you have severed, which pledge you have broken whose blood you have shed and whose honor you have desecrated? You have certainly committed such a crime because of which the sky may fall down on the earth, the earth may crack and mountains crumble to pieces. By killing your Imam you have committed a singularly evil act of rebellious behavior and heedlessness towards dignity. In view of all these acts would you wonder if blood should rain down from the sky? In any case you should mind that the chastisement of the Next World will be severe. At that juncture there will be no one to help you. Do not regard the time and opportunity given you by Allah as small and unimportant, and do not be satisfied with it because if Allah is not quick in acting it does not imply that He is unable. For Him there is no fear that the time of vengeance is passing away. Allah is certainly keeping watch over you." People wept, putting their fingers in their mouths and biting them. Without appealing to sentiments of pity, she exposed to them the reality of their selves and their evil deeds. The eyes that had previously been raised in expectation of celebration were now downcast with shame by the truthful force of her speech. Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) entered the government palace with which she was so familiar. In the great audience hall her father had dispensed justice during his caliphate. Her sons had played there and her brothers had been accorded great respect by the people there. Although she was shabbily dressed, and her head was uncovered, she entered with awe-inspiring dignity and took her place in silence. Ibn Ziyad was amazed at her boldness and enquired who she was. Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) did not reply, and it was left to one of her slaves to inform him of her identity. Enraged because of her apparently haughty behavior, Ibn Ziyad addressed her, "Allah be praised! Your brother and your kinsmen are dead and their false claims have come to naught." Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) replied, "It was Allah's wish that they should be martyred, and they met their deaths bravely. If this was your heart's desire then you must indeed be content today. But you have killed those whom the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.&h.h.) held upon his knee when they were children, and, whose play filled him with joy. Soon you will stand with them before Allah and they will demand justice. Beware the day of reckoning." And it seemed to all that heard that she spoke with the voice of Imam Ali (p.b.u.h.), her father. Angrily, Ibn Ziyad turned to a young man and enquired who he was. The youth replied, "I am Ali, son of Hussain." Ibn Ziyad was amazed that he was still alive, and ordered that he should be killed. But Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) intervened and said that if the boy was to be killed then she should be killed with him. Ibn Ziyad was moved by her love and allowed the young Imam to live. Chains were then put around him, and a ring around his neck; then he was permitted to remain with the women. The family of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.&h.h.) were then kept prisoner in a house near the central mosque. There they were kept locked in and under guard, and none save slave-maids were able to visit them. The day after their arrival Ibn Ziyad wrote to Yazid informing him about the killing of Hussain (p.b.u.h.) and the capture of his womenfolk. Yazid replied that the captives be sent to him in Damascus along with the heads of the martyrs. After about a month and seven days in Kufa they were made to set off for Damascus with a large escort of horsemen and footmen of the army so that none should intercept their journey. With their steely-hearted escort the caravan left Kufa on the eighteenth day of Safar. The women suffered untold hardships on their journey to Damascus, which was no less than six hundred miles away. Their journey took them through many villages and towns, among them Karbala, Ba'albeck, Musal and Hums. They were made to travel unveiled, on unsaddled camels like slaves, and the heads of the men folk were carried on spears before them. In some of the towns crowds flocked to jeer at them, but if it happened that they were to pass through some place where the people were friendly towards the family of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.&h.h.), they came out to fight the Yazidites. They therefore were very often forced to take other routes involving long diversions, and the camels were made to run faster so as to cover the extra distance. The captives were harshly treated by their escort, and many of the children perished from the rigors of the journey. After about twenty-eight days, on the sixteenth of Rabi' ul-Awwal, the caravan reached Damascus.

The Defeat of the Umayyad Empire

When they reached the outskirts of Damascus they were made to halt. Yazid was informed of their arrival and he fixed a date for their entry into the city. On the morning of the appointed day, the members of the family of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.&h.h.) were led into Damascus. They were tied with ropes and herded together like goats. If anyone stumbled she was whipped. The city streets had been decorated and the sound of music filled the air. People came out in throngs wearing festive clothes and rejoiced when they saw the procession, preceded as always by the heads of the martyrs. Bearing themselves with dignity and self-respect, the prisoners were paraded through Damascus. Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) even cast aside the offerings of food that some of them out of compassion offered them. The son of an enemy of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.&h.h.) who had waged war with Imam Ali (p.b.u.h.) was among the crowds. When he saw Imam Zayn ul-Abidin (p.b.u.h.) he jeeringly asked him who was now victorious. In reply the Imam said: "If you wish to find out who has been victorious, do so when it is time for prayer and the Adhan and Iqama are recited." In this manner the captives were paraded until the afternoon when they reached the palace of Yazid. There he was seated on his throne and was much pleased when he saw the forty-four bound captives arriving. The head of Hussain was then brought to him on a golden tray. He struck the Imam's teeth with his stick and said: "O Hussain! You have paid the price of your revolt." When Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) and her companions saw this show of arrogance they burst into tears and there were many present who were ashamed. But Yazid carried on gloating over his victory. He said to his subjects: "My ancestors who were killed at Badr have been avenged today. Now it is clear that the Bani Hashim had just staged a play to gain power and there was never any divine revelation." Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) however was not afraid. She drew herself up and boldly said for all to hear: "Praise is to Allah, the Lord of the worlds and blessings on my grandfather, the Chief of divine prophets." "O Yazid, Allah says, and his word is true, that: 'Then evil was the end of those who did evil because they rejected the communications of Allah and used to mock them' [30:10]." "O Yazid, do you believe that you have succeeded in closing the sky and the earth for us and that we have become your captives just because we have been brought before you in a row and that you have secured control over us? Do you believe that we have been afflicted with insult and dishonor by Allah and that you have been given honour and respect by Him? You have become boastful of this apparent victory that you have secured and you have started feeling jubilant and proud over this prestige and honour. You think that you have achieved worldly good that your affairs have become stabilized and our rule has fallen into your hands. Wait for a while. Do not be so joyful. Have you forgotten Allah's saying: 'The unbelievers should not carry the impression that the time allowed to them by us is good for them? Surely we give them time so that they may increase their evil deeds, and eventually they will be given insulting chastisement' [3:178]." "O son of freed slaves, is this your justice that you keep your own daughters and slave maids veiled while the daughters of the Prophet of Allah are being paraded from place to place exposed." "You have dishonored us by unveiling our faces. Your men take us from town to town where all sorts of people, whether they be residents of the hills or of riversides have been looking at us." "The near as well as the remote ones, the poor as well as the rich, the low as well as the high - all casting their glances at us while our position is such that there is no male relative of ours to render s help or support." "O Yazid, whatever you have done proves your revolt against Allah and your denial of His Prophet (p.b.u.h.&h.h.) and of the Book and Sunnah that the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.&h.h.) brought from Allah. Your deeds should not cause amazement because one whose ancestors chewed the livers of the martyrs, whose flesh grew up on virtuous people, who fought against the Chief of divine prophets, who mobilized parties for fighting against him and drew swords against him, should conspicuously excel all Arabs in unbelief, sinfulness, excesses, and enmity against Allah and His Prophet (p.b.u.h.&h.h.)." "Remember that the evil deeds and sinful actions that you have committed are the result of unbelief and old rancor you bear because of your ancestors who were killed in Badr." "One who cast his glance of enmity, malice and rancor upon us does not lag behind in practicing enmity against us. He proves his unbelief, declares it with his tongue and jubilantly proclaims: 'I have killed the sons of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.&h.h.) of Allah and made his progeny captive,' and wishes that his ancestors had lived to see his achievement and to have exclaimed, 'O Yazid, may your hands not lose their strength, you have wreaked good vengeance on our behalf.'" "O Yazid, you are striking the lips of Imam Hussain with your stick in front of this crowd while these very lips used to be kissed by the Prophet (p.b.u.h.&h.h.) of Allah, and yet your face reflects pleasure and happiness." "By my life, by killing the chief of youths of Paradise, the son of the chief of ArabAli (p.b.u.h.)and the shining sun of the progeny of Abd ul-Muttalib, you have deepened our wound and uprooted us completely." "By killing Hussain bin Ali (p.b.u.h.) you have gained nearness to the state of your unbelieving ancestors. You proclaim your deed with pride and if they were to see you they would approve of your action and pray that Allah may not paralyse your arms." "O Yazid! If you had heart enough to take account of your nefarious deeds, you yourself would surely wish your arms to be paralysed and severed from your elbow and you would wish that your parents had not given birth to you because you would know that Allah has become displeased with you. Allah, Grant us our rights. Avenge those who have oppressed us." "O Yazid! You did what you wished, but remember that you have cut your own skin and your own flesh to pieces. Soon you will be brought before the Holy Prophet. You will be overburdened with the weight of your sins committed by shedding the blood of his progeny and by dishonoring his family. The place to which you will be taken will be before all the members of his family. The oppressed will be avenged and the enemies will be punished." "O Yazid ! It is not seeming for you to swell with joy after slaying the Prophet's progeny. 'Reckon not those who are killed in Allah's way as dead; nay, they are alive and are provided sustenance from their Lord; rejoicing in what Allah has given them out of His grace' [3:169-170]." "Allah is sufficient to deal with you. The Messenger of Allah is your antagonist and Jibra'il is our support and help against you." "Those who have made you the head of state and burdened the Muslims with your leadership will soon find out what awaits them. The end of all tyrants is agony." "O Yazid. I speak not to you thus to warn you of the severe chastisement in store for you so that you should be regretful for you are one of those whose hearts are hardened, souls are rebellious and whose bodies are busy in Allah's disobedience while they are under the curse of the Prophet of Allah. You are from among those in whose heart Shaytan has made his abode and has been breeding young ones." "How amazing it is that the virtuous people, sons of the divine prophets and vicegerents are killed at the hands of liberated slaves, evil-doers and sinners. Our blood is shed by their hands and our flesh serves as food for them. We feel grieved for those whose bodies are lying unshrouded and unburied in the battlefield, wounded with arrows." "O Yazid, if you consider our defeat as your achievement then you will have to pay its price."
"Allah commits not injustice to His servants. Our reliance is on Allah. He alone is our Relief and place of Protection, and in Him alone do we repose our hope." "You may contrive and try however much you can. By Him who honored us with revelation, the Book and Prophethood, you cannot achieve our status, nor reach our position, nor can you affect our mention, nor remove from yourself that shame and dishonor that is now your lot because of perpetrating excess and oppression on us. Your word now is weak and your days are counted. Beware of the day when the announcer would announce the curse of Allah on the oppressors and the unjust." "Praise is to be for Allah who gave good end to His friends and granted them success in their aims, and thereafter called them back to His Mercy, Pleasure and Bliss, while you hurled yourself into evil and mischief by committing injustice against them. We pray to Allah to favour us with full recompense through them and grant us the good of Khilafa and Imama. Surely Allah is Kind and the Most Merciful over His creatures." Among the gathering was a red haired Syrian who saw Fatima Kubra, daughter of Imam al-Hussain and asked Yazid to give her to him. When the girl heard this she clung to Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) and started to weep. She feared that now after the loss of her father she was to be made a slave girl. Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) was not afraid. She turned to Yazid and told him that he had neither right nor authority to give the young girl away like that, at which he bristled, retorting that he could do so. Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) riposted, "You are abusing me because of your authority and power." At this Yazid was shamed into silence. To the Syrian she said: "My the curse of Allah be upon you. May hell be your eternal abode. May your eyes be blinded and your limbs paralysed." Immediately paralysis gripped the man and he fell to the ground dead. Yazid was so enraged with Zaynab bold defiance of his authority that he might have ordered her killed had not Abdullah ibn Umar ibn al-Aas intervened and begged that no notice be taken of her harsh words since she had suffered much grief and hardship and was broken-hearted. Imam Zayn ul-Abidin (p.b.u.h.) would also have suffered death at the hands of Yazid on account of his fearless speech, had not Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) saved his life by begging Yazid to slay her also along with the boy. Yazid was moved by her love for the boy and spared his life. But death nevertheless took its toll. Sakina, daughter of Imam Hussain, died in captivity in Damascus at the age of four and was buried there. Through Zaynab's bold and fearless speeches and from the word that spread as a result of their journey, people came to know of the events of Karbala and their hearts were stirred. The continued captivity and humiliation of the family of the Prophet of Allah was bringing their cause to the attention of an ever increasing number of people. Word came to Yazid that there was turmoil and unrest in the realm and he decided to release the captives. When it seemed to him that the Ahlul-Bayt had been adequately humiliated, and upon the urgings of certain people who were alert to the public's growing dissension upon learning the truth, Yazid sent for Imam Zayn ul-Abidin (p.b.u.h.). He informed him of his impending release and asked if he wished for anything. The youth said he would have to consult his aunt Zaynab (p.b.u.h.). Arrangements were made and she arrived, properly veiled. She asked, "O Yazid, since the day our leader and our chief Hussain was butchered we have not had any opportunity to mourn for him." A large house was therefore provided for them in the residential sector of Damascus and here Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) held her first gathering for the mourning and remembrance (majlis-e-aza) of Imam Hussain. The women of the Quraysh and Bani Hashim arrived clad in black, with their heads uncovered, weeping wretchedly. Imam Zayn ul-Abidin (p.b.u.h.) sat on the carpet of Imam Hussain and then Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) told the women of Syria what had befallen them. They shed tears and mourned. They had not known about the events of Karbala and Kufa, but when they went home they told their men folk. Gradually illusions of Yazid's good intentions were dispelled. It was fear of revolt that caused Yazid to release the members of the family of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.&h.h.).

Return to Madina

Yazid gave them the choice of remaining in Damascus or returning to Medina. When Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) decided to return to Medina he called Nu'man bin Bashir, who had been a companion of the Holy Prophel (p.b.u.h.&h.h.), and ordered him to make suitable arrangements for their journey. A contingent of horsemen, foot-soldiers and adequate provisions were made available. Gaily decorated litters with velvet seats were provided, but Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) ordered that these should be covered in black so that people would know the travelers were in mourning. When the citizens of Damascus came to know that the members of the Holy Prophet's family were leaving, the women came to the house they were staying in for a last farewell. Many people accompanied the caravan for part of the journey and then returned to their homes with heavy hearts. During the journey Nu'man bin Bashir showed the travelers every consideration and respect.
Whenever they stopped, the tents of the men were pitched a mile away from those of the women so that the women could move unhindered and unobserved by strangers. Gatherings of mourners were held wherever they stopped and many people came, listened and learned the truth. The travelers returned to Medina via Karbala. When they reached Karbala they found Jabir ibn Abdullah al-Ansari and some of the chiefs of Bani Hashim were already there for they had come to pay homage at the grave of Imam Hussain. It is related that the journeyers had brought the severed head of the chief of martyrs with them from Damascus and that in Karbala it was rejoined with his body by his son Imam Zayn ul-Abidin (p.b.u.h.). A great majlis was held before they resumed their journey. When the time came to leave Karbala, Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) wanted to remain near her brother's grave till the day of her death. But Zayn ul-Abidin (p.b.u.h.) pleaded with her not to leave them and reluctantly she agreed to return to Medina. Wherever the caravan stopped on its way to Medina a majlis-e-aza' was held. When the city was in sight Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) bade the women alight from their camels and pitch their tents. Black flags were raised. On learning of their arrival the people of Medina came out in droves, and once again Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) recounted to them the events at Karbala and the hardships of their subsequent captivity. After some time Imam Zayn ul-Abidin (p.b.u.h.) asked the women to ready themselves for entering Medina. Then they entered the city on foot, with black flags raised aloft. Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) went straight to the grave of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.&h.h.) where she prayed and told him of the massacre of his beloved grandson. Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) had returned altered, her hair white, and her back bent. Although upon her return she had been reunited with her husband, she did not live long after the tortuous trials she had to bear. The exact date and place of her death is not clear but it is probable that she died in the year 62 A.H. some six months after her return.


It was her destiny to proclaim to the world the sacrifices made by Imam Hussain and the other members of the family of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.&h.h.) for the cause of Islam. She exposed the evil deeds of Ibn Ziyad and Yazid with courage and fearlessness. Had it not been for her the sacrifice of Karbala might have faded into oblivion. She endured physical pain and mental torture with fortitude and was a source of strength to all around her. The sorrow and grief she expressed was an outpouring of her intense humanity. Never did she rebel against the destiny decreed by Allah. The strength of her submission was divine, yet her lamentation poignantly human. The spirit of Zaynab (p.b.u.h.) will live forever. Her courage, forbearance, and submission will continue to inspire those who hear her story for all time to come.


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