Captives’ Journey to Kufa:
On the following day, Omar ibn Sa’d and his soldiers buried the bodies of all their soldiers who were killed in the battle. Afterwards, the members of the Holy Prophet’s family and other women and children were chained and placed on bare camel backs to travel to Kufa to be presented to the Governor, Obaidullah ibn Ziyad (popularly known as Ibn Ziyad). While on their way, they passed through the battlefield to witness a heart-rending sight. It was the bodies of the martyrs, cut, wounded, without heads, laying on the sand, dusty and bloodied. The enemy had not buried them, oh yes, although they had buried their own dead. The scene of carnage was such that Imam Zainul Abideen was on the verge of death himself. Noticing his state, Zainab 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:
“Oh Aunt! how can I be otherwise when I see that the bodies of my father, uncles, brothers and cousins are lying on the ground neglected, while their clothes have been pilfered, and there is no arrangement for shrouding and burying them.”
Zainab then openly lamented over the murders of her beloved brother and family along with his brave companions, as well as the survivors’ sufferings and the imprisonment.
Omar ibn Sa’d had entrusted the severed heads of Al-Husain, his sons, and the 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 riding on camels without saddles, their faces unveiled for all to see, while ahead of them their arrogant captors were carrying the severed heads of their loved ones atop spears.
The terrifying journey and heat of the desert exhausted them. When they reached Kufa they were forced to march through public roads and its streets. Suddenly the camel on which Sakeena and Zainab were seated stopped near a house. Zainab’s eyes fell on Sakeena and immediately knew that she had something to say. She asked Sakeena and Sakeena answered, “Oh aunt, I want to request you for something but it is impossible for you to fulfill”. When Zainab insisted, Sakeena replied, “Oh aunt, I am so parched I do not think I can endure my thirst anymore”. Sakeena’s words were heard by women who, from the tops of their houses, could see the holy caravan march clearly. Among these women, a kind lady got up immediately from the crowd and rushed home to bring water for Sakeena. But when she came near the camel she said to Zainab that she wanted the thirsty child to pray for her when she tasted the water. Upon hearing this, Zainab prevented Sakeena from tasting the water and said to her, “Oh! Sakeena, first fulfill this lady’s request.” Zainab then asked the lady what did she want Sakeena to pray for. The lady answered, “My first wish is that my children may never be orphans like you. Please pray for me, oh dear child, because I see that you are an orphan and I am aware that God always listens to the prayer of an orphan.” Sakeena raised her hands and prayed for the lady.
Then Zainab asked the lady about her second wish. The lady answered, “My second desire is to visit Medina. Please pray to God to give me the opportunity to visit the holy city.” On hearing the name of Medina, Zainab asked the lady why she wanted to go to Medina. The lady answered, it was to visit the Prophet’s grave and to meet Fatima bint Muhammad. Zainab replied, “But don’t you know Fatima bint Muhammad is no longer alive?” The lady answered, “So what? I have also served her daughters, Zainab bint Ali and Umm Kulthoom bint Ali. I want to go to Medina to have my last chance and honor to meet them.” Then Zainab asked her one final question.
“Oh Mu’mina (believer), if you see Zainab bint Ali would you recognize her?” The woman answered immediately, “Of course I would.” Zainab then revealed her grieving face and cried, “Then your prayer has been answered. Behold Umm Habiba, it’s me Zainab bint Ali, then why don’t you recognize me? Don’t you recognize us all?” and they cried!
The captives resumed their journey to Kufa. Wherever they stopped, Zainul Abideen and Zainab discovered that the masses knew little about the events of the previous days in Karbala. So, they took the opportunity to inform the people that they were the very family of the Holy Prophet, and how the governor Ibn Ziyad had dealt them the most demeaning and inhumane treatment.
As tough as it was, Zainab and Umm Kulthoom couldn’t help but compare the seat of power in the palace of Kufa, as it was theirs during the Khilaafah of Ali, their father, and now it is in the hand of the tyrannical Ibn Ziyad. They are now as captives, no less. How painful it was, and what a mere 20 years’ difference can make!
It was nighttime when they arrived in Kufa, and the palace of Ibn Ziyad was shut, and the captives were forced to camp outside the palace. When Ibn Ziyad was informed of their arrival the next day, he commanded to invite any of Kufa residents to attend without distinction. The head of Imam Al-Husain was placed on a tray near the court chair, and so were the heads of the other martyrs.
In anticipation of joyful celebrations, the citizens of Kufa poured into the streets and market place while 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, upon recognizing Zainab surrounded by a group of unveiled women, ran into her house and brought them head covers and sheets with which to cover their bodies. But the enemy guards took them away, not allowing them to preserve their modesty.
Among the onlookers there were some who truly knew what had actually happened, they cried in alarm and wept. Zainab with tears in her eyes, asked them to be quiet and listen. She spoke loudly with piercing eloquence and meaningful insight, she said:
“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 labor.”
“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 smooth talk. 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 you 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 behooves 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 Prince of the Youthful in Paradise. You have killed a person who was your support, the knowledgeable 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 nexus of refuge in the event of hardship.”
“Oh people! Know that you have been guilty of the worst crime in the world and have prepared the worst provision for the Day of Judgment. Curses be 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 disgrace 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 the most evil act of rebellion and heedlessness. 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 were moved, stirred emotionally, and without appealing to sentiments of pity, Zainab exposed to them the reality of their selves. Their eyes that looked forward to celebrate were now downcast with guilt by the truthful force of her distinct style and eloquent speech.
Zainab along with her entourage entered the government palace with which she was quite familiar. In its audience hall, her father, (Imam Ali) had dispensed justice during his Khilaafah 20 years ago, and her sons had played there and her brothers had been accorded great respect by the people there. By now, although she was shabbily dressed, and her head was uncovered, she entered with awe-inspiring dignity and took her place in silence.
Ibn Ziyad, the governor, was taken aback at her appearance, and enquired who she was. Zainab ignored him, and it was left to someone else to inform him of her identity. Enraged at her defiant attitude, Ibn Ziyad addressed her, “Allah be praised! Your brother and your kinsmen are dead and their false claims have come to naught.” Zainab replied:
“It was Allah’s wish that they should be martyred, and they met their deaths valiantly. If this was your heart’s desire then you must indeed be content today. But you have killed those whom the Prophet (pbuh) 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.”
It seemed to all, that Zainab spoke so forcefully that her voice resembled the voice of her father, Imam Ali.
Taken aback, the arrogant and vindictive Ibn Ziyad turned to Zainul Abideen (who was still sick), and he asked: “What is your name?”
Zainul Abideen answered, “Ali, son of Al‑Husain.” Ibn Ziyad retorted, “Was not Ali Ibn Al‑Husain slain by Allah?” Imam Zainul Abideen answered, “My brother’s name was the same as mine, and he was slain by Ibn Ziyad’s soldiers.”
Ibn Ziyad retorted to intimidate him, “But Ali was killed by Allah.” Zainul Abideen then quoted the Holy Quran”
الله يتوفى الانفس حين موتها والتي لم تمت في منامها فيمسك التي قضى عليها الموت ويرسل الاخرى الى اجل مسمى ان في ذلك لايات لقوم يتفكرون
meaning Allah does not kill. This silenced Ibn Ziyad, but angered him to the boiling point so much so as to order Zainul Abideen be put to death. Zainab interceded immediately screaming in a daring manner, “Then kill me with him if you so wish.”
Imam Zainul Abideen retorted, “Do you threaten me with death, Ibn Ziyad? Don’t you know that for us (Ahlul Bayt) to be slain is our tradition, and that martyrdom is an honor from Allah?” Ibn Ziyad was silenced, he retracted.
Having heard an advice to do otherwise, and considering the giddying events of the day before, Ibn Ziyad became sorely deflated, thus he rescinded his command. Thus in this manner Ali, son of Al-Husain, was saved. He was then shackled and to be with the women in detention. Thus, this family of the Prophet (pbuh) was kept as detainees in a house near the central mosque, under guard, and no one except the slave-maids were allowed to visit them. They were kept there for several weeks. The gruesome events of Karbala would occupy the mind of all of them with the deepest pain, and it encouraged them even more to carry on the fight for the message of Imam Husain in the days ahead. This was especially true of Zainab and Zainul Abideen .
The day after the captives arrived in Kufa, Ibn Ziyad wrote to Yazid informing him about the killing of Al-Husain and his companions and the capture of his womenfolk who will be sent to him. Of course the message would take several weeks to arrive, then several weeks for a reply to arrive, since the message has to be carried over more than 700 miles each way.
In Medina there was no news about the events of Karbala, but people were apprehensive, as if feeling there is something dreadful impending. It was some time after Ashuraa when Yazid sent a messenger, Abdul Malik, to Medina to inform its governor Amr ibn Said al-Aas that Al-Husain ibn Ali and his companions had been killed in Karbala. The Governor, more conscious of the mood of the people, said that he himself could not make the news public, but that Abdul Malik, if he so wished, could make the public announcement. Accordingly, the following day Abdul Malik announced the news after the morning prayers. The news shocked every body, it was jarring, and it shook everyone at his very core. There was an uproar and such an intense weeping from the homes of Banu Hashim, that women of Ahlul Bayt came out screaming: “What will you say when the Prophet asks you: ‘What have you done with my family after I left them?’” Every afternoon the supporters of Ahlul Bayt, men and women would gather at Jannat al-Baqii for remembrance of the tragedy of Karbala. The mourning was so loud that the weeping and wailing could be heard from far away.
To be continue….