CARAVAN OF THE CAPTIVES



O. n the 11th of Mohurrum, 61 Hijri the plundered caravan of Ahle Bait started its journey to Kufa. This caravan of the captives was taken to from one city to another in the most dreadfully grievous and piteous condition. Such a distressed caravan had never before been seen.

The soldiers of Ibne Ziyad’s army carried the heads of the martyrs atop lances with arrogance and aplomb, boasting of their might. When they finally reached Kufa at night, the gates of Ibne Ziyad’s palace were closed.

This caravan comprised of two small sons of Hasan Bin Ali, who escaped slaughter due to their tender age. Their third brother, Hasan Musanna, had with innumerable injuries fallen down in the bloody field. He too was with the caravan. Besides them, amongst the children of Husain, was his ailing son, Zainul Abedin, who escaped the jaws of death by the determined effort of his aunt Zainab. In the offsprings of genealogy of Imam Husain he was the only son, who was saved from being martyred.

Along with Zainab, was her sister Umme Kulsoom and Sakina, daughters of Husain. There were other purdah

nasheen ladies of Bani Hashim who were imprisoned and made captives. They spent the night in the same open plain where the battle had raged in the day.

On the 11th of Moharrum when the despoiled caravan proceeded towards Kufa, they passed through the battle field strewn with the agonising sight of dead bodies of the martyrs: unwashed, uncovered and besmeared with blood and dust, while those killed amongst Yazeed’s army had already been buried with full Islamic rites. Noticing this heart breaking sight, Ali bin Hussain was moved to such distress that Zainab called out, “O beloved, reminder of the dear departed ones, how is it that you seem to be on the verge of collapse?” And Ali bin Hussain replied, “How can I endure looking at my father, uncles, and brothers, indeed all my relatives lying dead, bathed in their blood, their dead bodies unprovided with shrouds and graves and lying uncared for?” Zainab, while consoling her nephew at this critical moment could not help remonstrating to her grandfather, PBUH.

“O Mohammad! The angels of the sky pay salutation and blessings to you and this is Husain, lying on the ground covered with blood on the hot sand, parts of whose body have been torn into pieces, scattered in the dust and these are your daughters who have been rounded up as captives! O Mohammed! These are your children who have been martyred and are strewn on the ground. Warm winds are throwing sand and clouds of dust on them.” After listening to Zainab’s lamentation, all the ladies and friends of the caravan started crying uncontrollably. All the friends and even enemies started shedding tears.

The grieving caravan reached Kufa thus: Hussan’s head raised on a spearhead, his noble forehead bearing the mark of supplication having placed his pious head on the ground for


years and years in adoration of God and the pure ladies of his family riding on camels without saddles, their faces bereft of veils and heads deprived of chadars, facing the multitude of hostile strangers. Ahead, their captors gleefully carried the severed head of their loved ones.

At the head of caravan was the ailing Ali ibne Hussain, protector of the ladies and orphaned children followed by Zainab and her sister Kulsoom. Imagine the strength of their courage, spirit and firmness of their purpose as they braced themselves to face the ignomity of being captives amidst the overpowering surging crowd of jeering enemies.

Thus, while waiting, Zainab’s mind swept back to her glorious past. Once, not very long ago, Zainab and Umme Kulsoom’s father Hazrat Ali Ibne Ali Talib was the Caliph and his capital city was this very same Kufa. She and her sister were princesses of the palace. The noble ladies of Kufa used to consider it a great honour if they could get a chance to meet them. Today, they had come, once again, to the city of their dreams, this time as captives. Undoubtedly, for them, this was a calamitous loss of trust, respect and esteem traditionally enjoyed by them. She and other ladies of the family were shorn of their headgear, their hair disheveled unkempt, covered with dust and their hands tied unceremoniously with rough ropes. Night had fallen when they arrived in the city. The doors of the palace were closed. They were made to camp outside the city.

It is said that a person who was carrying the head of the revered leader took it to his house and kept it in a corner and told his wife that he had brought the entire wealth of the world for her. This is the head of Husain which is in your house.

She shivered and shouted, “Curse be on you. People bring gold and silver and you have brought the head of son of the daughter of Messenger of God’s? By God! I will never live with you in this house.” After saying that, she stormed out of the house weeping and wailing.

Ibne Ziyad was informed about the arrival of the prisoners next day. He ordered a huge function to be organized to which all and sundry were to be invited without distinction. The people of Kufa were blatantly misinformed. They were told some tribes had committed grievous aggression against Muslims. They had been thoroughly vanquished and this was the reason for the grand celebrations.

Festively dressed in anticipation of joyful celebrations, people merrily poured into the streets and market place. The triumphant sound of trumpets and cymbals resonated in the air as the captives arrived. To make a tamasha of the prisoners of Karbala, the markets were specially decorated and beautified. Huge crowds of spectators were invited to witness the lamentable exhibition of the enslaved Ahle Bait. When the plundered caravan reached the bazaar it was bursting with pitched noise. Nothing could be heard.

Even a heart of stone would have melted at the sight of the ravaged friendless caravan of Mohammed’s family drearily passing through Kufa. From some places lamentation and from others shrieks were soon heard. There were a few who looked on with down cast eyes. The women of Kufa had soon torn their clothes and were shrieking, lamenting, and wailing. All the spectators on beholding the prisoners were crying bitterly, inconsolably. The plundered caravan of the members of Prophet’s household was thus finding its gloomy way towards the palace. One woman upon recognizing Zainab and her retinue of unveiled women ran to her house and

brought them headcovers with which to cover their bodies. But they were not allowed to preserve their modesty and guards violently snatched them away.

Zainab could not endure to see those same kufians weeping who had not helped her father and her brother and had surrendered her cousin Muslim bin Aqeel to Ibne Ziyad. They had called her brother Husain by fraud and deceit. By the time he arrived, they had sold their conscience in the hands of Yazeed.

Of course, Zainab could not endure the sight of the Kufis. They were directly responsible for murdering Husain and his children. They were now offering condolences to her. She could not stop herself from weeping and crying, “We, the daughters of the Messenger of God PBUH have been made prisoners by you all.” She remembered how her father used to condemn the abysmal lack of loyalty of the people of Kufa and often used to be annoyed by their behavior towards them. Zainab in her mind’s eye cast a glance on the far off battle ground of Karbala where the bodies of her martyred relatives were strewn in the jungle unattended, whence there was not a drop of water and not a blade of grass. She again looked at the Kufians weeping copiously and she gestured them to become quiet. The Kufians in repentance and shame lowered their heads. Now, Zainab turned towards the large gathering and started addressing it.

“Praise be to Allah and blessing be upon my grandfather Mohammed the messenger of Allah PBUH and his purified and chosen progeny.”

There are significant points concerning her sermon. The first point is that the speaker is a captive woman who is surrounded by the victorious soldiers and high ranking a

a a officers. She speaks fearlessly, notwithstanding that the enemy’s anger may cause a cruelly terrible backlash upon the captives. Furthermore, since the people of kufa knew Imam Ali (a.s.) and the exalted position of his children, Syed a Zainab’s sermon compellingly reminded the people of Kufa of Hazrat Ali and reinforced her message in such a compelling manner, that people of Kufa could now finally understand the full import of such a tragedy.

“O people of Kufal Are you crying on our condition? May your weeping never stop. Your condition resembles that of the woman who twists her rope with great strength then, she herself breaks it. You also have broken your covenant and returned to infidelity. Yes, by God you must weep more and laugh less. You have adopted sin, shamelessness and deceit as your manners and customs. You swear falsely in which there is no trace of sincerity or truth. Now you can not wash this treason and remove it. Beware that your only possession is boasting arrogance, malice and grudge. Remember that you have embarked on a dastardly mission. You have prepared a despicable provision for the hereafter. Now you can not wash this blemish and remove it. How will you wash the blot of the murder of the son of the last Messenger of God PBUH? That son who was the towering pillar of spiritual light. The leader of the young man of Paradise. He represented the evident proof of guidance. He was the beacon of light to illumine for your paths. He was the haven of shelter, guidance and protection. Aah! How badly you have treated him. It is ascertained that you have committed a grievous crime. Are you surprised that blood has fallen from the sky? It proves the extreme annoyance of God to you,

“O Kufis, do you know whose blood you have shed? Whose son you have torn into pieces? Whose venerated 132 – The Lion Heart Lady of Karbala

lineage you have made veil less? You have committed such a terrible crime that it appears, soon sky and earth will get cleaved and mountains will be torn into pieces.”

“O people of Kufa, this is not disgrace in which you find us, it is because of shame and agony of your actions, the actions of infidels. The hearts of the distressed will never forgive.”

Remember that the torment of the hereafter will be dreadful. There will be no one to help you. Do not regard time and opportunity given to you by God as small and unimportant. And do not be satisfied with it because if Allah is not quick in acting, it does not apply to him that he is unable. For him, there is no fear that the time of vengeance is passing. He will strike when He will. He is keeping a watch on you.”

“God is enraged with you and his wrath and fury will descend on you soon. Your hearts are full of enmity and rancor. You are like vegetation which grows on filthy soil and is yet green, or like mortar applied on grave.’

A person who had himself heard the oration of Hazrat Zainab said, “God is my witness, I have never heard such an elegant, polished address in my life. It appeared as if she was speaking in the accent and pronunciation of Ali. By God she had not finished her lecture that men were lamenting, wailing weeping and caused to agitate. They were not in their senses, whatever was in their hands fell down.” After that Zainab turned her head away from them and she rejoined the other captives of the family of the Prophet.

When she reached the palace, Zainab was almost overpowered by extreme grief and felt suffocated. She knew each and every corner of the palace. During the period of Hazrat Ali’s Khilafat, this was his abode in the universe.

eyes filled with tears, but she resisted the feeling of humiliation. When she was passing through the sprawling ground, her eyes fell on fields in which twenty years ago her son Aun and Mohammed used to play. That was a time when her brothers Hasan and Husain commanded honour and respect in the hearts of people. She with utmost courage tried to control herself. When she reached the vast hall and saw Ubaidullah sitting in the place which her father used to occupy, she kept her right hand pressed against her heart so that it may not burst.

She was going again to the palace after having lost her father, brothers and other dear relatives. At that moment she wanted to relieve herself of the torment by crying but how could she ever in her life, go in the presence of the tyrant weeping and crying? Now Obaidullah Ibne Ziyad had directed Hussains survivors to attend his durbar. The members of Prophet’s family were, therefore, made to stand as prisoners.

Today as never before she needed the courage and strength to guard her honour, nobility of her family and retain the majesty of her lineage.

She could discern that she must equip herself with the eminence which was in keeping with her status as the Aqeela Bani Hashim and granddaughter of the Prophet PBUH. Her deportment should be appropriate and worthy of her exalted lineage when appearing before Obaidullah. (In these tragic grievous and trying times she must start her role) Although Zainab was wearing a torn dress, she entered with great dignity and grandeur and without paying attention to the insolent ruler, she sat down. Natural eminence and dignity could not be concealed. There was an aura around her. The attention of Ubaidullah was especially diverted towards this

dignified exalted lady. He inquired “Who are you”? She did not reply.

He repeated the same question not once twice but thrice, but Zainab considered him too wretched and base and did not deign to reply. Finally, one of the maid servants answered while he was still repeating his question again and again.

“She is Zainab, daughter of Fatima.”

Ibne Ziyad who was drunked with success and victory addressed her, “A thousand thanks are to the God who disgraced and dishonoured you and murdered your menfolk. It belied your traditions and the lie is obvious, i.e. it has shown the hollowness of the prophethood.” “

Zainab looked at him with a glance which was full of contempt and scorn and said.

“We have to thank the benevolent God who gave us excellence because of Hazrat Mohammed and made us chaste, clean and undefiled from every imaginable impurity and uncleanliness. Of course, the adulterer is put to shame and disgraced, the unchaste is exposed in his lie. We thank God that we are not one of them on the contrary they are others”.

“How do you find the treatment meted out to your family by God?”

“It was the will of God that they be martyred. They very valiantly went to their resting place. Very soon, God the great and supreme, will make you stand at the place for interrogation and our people will petition God for justice.”

These words humiliated the tyrant and he felt trifled. But in order to heal himself of the wounds which Zainab’s word had inflicted he hastily said,
“God has granted me salvation by the murder of your selfwilled and defiant brother and similarly willed relatives.”

Zainab controlled her tears and said, “Yes, you have certainly put my kith and kin to death and have driven out the family members of the Messenger of God out of their houses. You have cut the branches and roots of our family. If this has healed your heart, then you have healed yourself.”

The Son of Zaid said tauntingly, “This woman talks in rhythm prose like her father.”

“How can I have anything to do, with rhythmic speech? I am in no condition to think of rhyming. It was the voice of my heart which escaped my lips.” Zainab returned the reply.

Son of Ziyad deflected his gaze away from Hazrat Zainab, glanced at the other captives and locking eyes with Ali Ibne Husain and asked,

“What is your name?”

He replied, “I am Ali Ibne Husain.”

Son of Ziyad was surprised and asked, “Has Ali Ibne Husain not been murdered by God?”

Ali remained quiet.

Son of Ziyad again inquired, “Why this silence?”

Ali said, “I had a brother whose name was also Ali, you people murdered him.”

Ali remained quiet but son of Ziyad wanted a reply. Ali recited this ayat from the holy Quran

“Allah takes away the souls at the time of their death.” The Quran Para -24 Surat Zumr Ayat 42, Para 4 Surat Ale Imran)

Son of Ziyad shouted and said, “Woe to you! By God! You are also one of them who should be murdered.” He turned his attention towards his soldiers and asked, “Is this boy an adult? By God, I think this boy is an adult!” Then he gave the orders for his murder. Zainab encircled his neck with her hands and said.

“O son of Ziyad, you are crossing the limit. Even now you are not tired of sipping our blood. You have not spared any one amongest us. I will not leave him until you murder me along with him.” Zainab’s anguished restlessness forced the cruel tyrant to relent and ordered Ali Ibne Hussain to be spared.

a Son of Ziyad broodingly looked at them for a while and then told those who were present in his court. “Such strong feelings of affinity are surprising. By God, in my opinion she wants with all her heart to be murdered along with him.”

“Leave the boy so that he can remain with his relatives.” The sick young man who would triumph over death said with great composure. “Son of Ziyad! Do you not know that it is our way to get slain and that martyrdom is our distinction?” This composed reply echoed in the hall of audience of Obaidullah Bin Ziyad and was heard with awe by everybody. Obaidullah felt ashamed and dismissed the court.

Next day, the son of Ziyad ordered the sublime head of Husain be placed on the lance’s point and be circulated in the city of Kufa. Hands of Ali Ibne Husain were put in handcuff and a yoke was put in his neck. He followed the heads on foot.

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