It was after ‘asr on the day of Ashura. Imam Husayn lay dead. The earth had trembled! Furaat had broken its banks! From the camp of the family of the Holy Prophet such lamentation arose as had never been heard before!
Yazid’s army had brutally murdered our Imam, his sons, his brothers, his nephews, his companions. No one was spared. Amongst the male adults there remained only our fourth Imam, Imam Zain ul ‘Abideen, who lay unconscious in his tent with his young son Muhammad hovering around him, weeping.
One would think that even the devil would halt himself in exhaustion after so much evil. But that was not to be!
Umar Sa’ad received a letter from ibn Ziyad. The governor of Kufa instructed that they should not be satisfied with the death of Husayn. His body must be subjected to the ultimate insult of being trampled by the hooves of horses. And this was done to the grandson of the Holy Prophet!!
As the sun was setting in the horizon, the soldiers rushed to Imam Husayn’s camp in search of booty. They looted every tent. Every lady, and every girl was stripped of her veil. Fatimah’s daughters were left bare-headed. Bibi Sakina’s ear-rings were pulled off her ears, splitting her ear lobes. When the little girl pleaded for her veil to be left untouched, she was slapped.
Surely they would stop now? But they did not. They set fire to all the tents. Humayd Ibn Muslim describes how he saw a little girl with her dress on fire, her ears bleeding, running from the scene of carnage. He says: “I ran after her. I took her by hand. Put out the fire in her dress. I wiped the blood off her ears. She looked at me and said, “You seem like a kind person, are you a Muslim?” I told her I was. She thought a while and then said, “Can you please show me the way to Najaf?” I asked, “Why do you want to go to Najaf at this hour and in this state?” She said, “I want to go and complain to my grandfather Ali ibn Abi Talib about how they killed my father.” Realizing that she was Husayn’s daughter, I took her back to her aunt Zainab.”
As the night descended, Bibi Zainab gathered all the ladies and children, in to one small space in between the gutted tents. Imam Zain-ul ‘Abideen lay on the ground surrounded by these widows and orphans. There was no fire, no light. Only the moon cast its dull light.
Umar Sa’ad asked Hurr’s widow to take some food and water to the ladies and the children. As she neared to where they were resting, Bibi Zainab recognized her. She stood up, went towards Hurr’s widow and offered her condolences for the death of Hurr. This gesture on the part of Bibi Zainab, who had suffered so much, lost so many, and carrying so much grief in her heart, is a lesson in Islamic akhlaq which the world should never be allowed to forget.
Bibi Zainab took the jug of water. She went to Bibi Sakina who had fallen into a fretful sleep.
Gently she stroked the girl’s dishevelled hair. Bibi Sakina opened her eyes. Bibi Zainab said, “Here is some water, Bibi Sakina. Please drink a little. You have been thirsty for so long!” On hearing the word ‘water’ Bibi Sakina cried out hopefully, “Has my uncle Abbas come back?” When she was told that Hurr’s widow had brought the water, she got up, went to Hurr’s widow, thanked her and then asked Bibi Zainab: “Have you all drunk water?”
Bibi Zainab shook her head. Bibi Sakina asked, “Why then do you ask me to drink water?” Bibi Zainab said, “Because, my dear, you are the youngest.” Bibi Sakina replied, “No! no! Asghar is the youngest!” Bibi Sakina took the jug of water, ran towards where Asghar lay buried, crying “Wa Asghara! Wa Asghara!”
This was how the homeless spent their night in Karbala’. This was Shaam al-Gareeba, the night of the homeless. They had lost everything. Their men had died. Their children had been killed. In this desolate desert our fourth Imam, the women and the remaining children are huddled where only a few hours before had stood their camp. Hazrat Abbas, Hazrat Qasim and Hazrat Ali Akbar had taken turns to guard the camp. Now Bibi Zainab and Bibi Kulthoom lay awake to make sure that Imam Zain ul ‘Abideen and the children were not attacked.
Suddenly, Bibi Zainab notices that Bibi Sakina has disappeared. She is alarmed. She looks around but Husayn’s darling daughter is not to be seen. Bibi Zainab slowly walks to the battle field. She comes to where Hazrat Abbas lay.”Abbas! Abbas! My dear brother, have you seen Sakina?” There is silence! She makes her way to where Husayn’s headless body lay. There, hugging her father, she finds Bibi Sakina, deep in sleep!!