Journeys of Tears”published by the Wessex Jamaat
Dawn breaks out on the desolate sands of Kerbala. What was the battle field yesterday, is a stretch of desert covered with the bodies of the slain.
In the corner where there had stood Imaam Hussain’s camp the mourning widows and orphans have completed their morning prayers. Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen is in sijdah glorifying Allah. Umar Sa’ad walks over with a few soldiers and orders the women and the children to be tied with ropes as captives. There is a renewed wailing. Our fourth Imaam consoles them. He himself is put under heavy chains.Yezid’s soldiers spend the day burying their dead. The bodies of the grandson of the Prophet of Islam and the other martyrs are left unattended. Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen pleads to be allowed to bury but all his pleas go unheeded.
Another night in Kerbala followed by another dawn! The prisoners remain tied. Our Imaam suffers the discomfort of the chain. His wrists and ankles are bruised. On the morning of the 12th Muharram the enemy brings unsaddled camels upon which the women and children are made to mount. A huge procession is being prepared.
At the head of the procession is Umar Sa’ad followed by the officers. Then a few foot soldiers carrying lances upon which are mounted the heads of the martyrs. In their midst is our fourth Imaam, chained and shackled. Then the camels carrying the women and children as prisoners. Shimr and the rest of the infantry bring up the rear. The journey to Kufa begins.
Yes, the tale of Kerbala is a tale of five sad journeys! Now begins the third journey of tears. We look at the travellers. Some of those who had set out on that first journey, from Mecca to Madina, can be seen but the rest can not. No! They also can be seen if we look around! They are lying slaughtered on the sands of Kerbala.
Who is the hero and who is the heroine of this third journey ? We see the hero, hand-cuffed, chained, exhausted with the long illness and the great suffering, our Fourth Imaam, Zain ul ‘Abideen. And the heroine? Yes we see the lady. She is bare-headed. Her face full of pain and yet reflecting courage and the strength of her spirit! She knows that for the sake of Sakina and the other ladies she can not possibly give in to her grief and sorrow. Yes, it is Bibi Zainab!
Umar Sa’ad cruelty is not exhausted. He decides to lead the procession past where the bodies of the martyrs lie. As the camel carrying Bibi Zainab goes past the body of Imaam Hussain she can no longer contain her pain and anguish, and turning her face to Madina she cries out: “Ya Muhammad, The angels in heaven send their blessings upon you! Look, here lies your beloved Hussain, so humiliated and disgraced, covered with blood and cut into pieces. Here are we your daughters taken captives by Yezid!”
Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen walks over to Bibi Zainab. “Dear Aunt, have patience. Your sacrifices for Islam have only just begun.”
Ibne Ziyad, the Governor of Kufa, had declared a holiday. The city was decorated with flags and pennants. People had been told that the rebels who wanted to attack their city and murder them had been defeated at Kerbala and that their women were being brought into the city as prisoners. Those who believed this, and many did, came out to line the city streets through which the procession was to pass so that they might mock and jeer at the prisoners. Big crowds had gathered everywhere. There was a holiday mood. The procession slowly entered the city and began to move towards the Governor’s palace. People jeered and shouted at the prisoners. There were a few, however, who guessed the truth. When they saw Imaam Hussain’s head, and saw the misery and grief of the widows and orphans, they began to shed tears. The majority were ignorant. They believed, or found it convenient to believe, the lies which Umar Sa’ad had told them. As the procession neared the palace, the crowds thickened. Most of the people who gathered around the Governor’s palace were those who worked for Yezid or supported him. The jeering and insults grew louder. The face of Bibi Zainab was red with anger. She stood up on the camel, looked at the crowd and in a loud and clear voice said:
“Praise be to Allah and blessings upon my grandfather Muhammad, His beloved Prophet!! Woe unto you, O people of Kufa! Do you know whom you have killed? Do you know what pledge you have broken? Do you know whose blood you have shed ? Do you know whose honour you have defiled?”
There was a stunned silence. Then a gentle sound of people crying! There was a blind old man in the crowd. He had been a companion of Hazrat Ali. When he heard Bibi Zainab’s voice, he cried out, “By Allah, if I had not known that he had died, I could have sworn that what I just heard was the voice of my master Ali ibne Abu Taalib.” Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen went up to him and said, “Oh Shaikh! This is not Ali but his daughter Zainab binti Ali! She is the daughter of Fatimah, the beloved daughter of the Holy Prophet. “The sound of weeping from the crowd grew louder. But as Bibi Zainab continued. Immediately there was a hushed silence:
“And well may you weep, O people of Kufa! The crime which you committed against your Prophet was so great that the skies shook, the earth trembled, and mountains crumbled down! You have killed your Imaam, and by doing so lost your shelter against hardship, evil and kufr! His blood stains your souls. Nothing can protect you from the anger of Allah for having killed the son of the last of His prophets!”
People could no longer control their wailing. Umar Sa’ad was frightened and quickly led the prisoners into the palace.The prisoners were brought before ibne Ziyad. Shaikh al-Mufid (A.R.) reports that ibne Ziyad sat on his throne and in front of him was the head of Imaam Hussain. He frequently poked the face with his cane. An old companion of the Holy Prophet, Zayd bin Arqam, was in the court and when he witnessed this indignity being inflicted on the head of Imaam he cried out, “Take your cane away from those lips ! By Allah I have seen the lips of the Apostle of Allah on those lips !”
Ibne Ziyad was livid with rage. He retorted, “O old man ! How dare you interrupt our celebrations of the victory of our Imaam, Yezid ibne Muawiya. Because of your age I spare your life. Leave my court immediately.”
Ibne Ziyad then pointed at Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen and asked: “Who is this young man?” “He is Ali ibnal Hussain,” replied Umar Sa’ad. “”Why is he alive?” asked ibne Ziyad.and added, “Kill him straight away!”
Bibi Zainab rushed forward and planted herself in front of Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen. “You will have to kill me first!” She said looking at ibne Ziyad with such defiance, determination and anger that ibne Ziyad got up and walked away ordering that the prisoners be locked up.
KUFA TO SHAAM
Bibi Zainab’s speeches had stirred Kufa. The people of Kufa were filled with remorse. There was unrest in the city. In the market place they were whispering: ‘What have we done? How could we invite the Prophet’s grandson and then desert him to be mercilessly butchered at Kerbala? How can we permit the Holy Prophet’s grand daughters be paraded in the streets like slaves? What have we done?’
Ibne Ziyad feared that the people of Kufa might rise against him. He ordered that the prison be strictly guarded. No one was allowed to visit them. Only the most trusted guards were allowed in or around the prison.In the mean time messengers ran between Kufa and Damascus. Although at first Yezid had ordered that the captives be detained at Kufa until he had completed all the arrangements for their entry into Shaam (Damascus), because of the mood in Kufa, Ibne Ziyad was anxious to have the prisoners out of Kufa as soon as possible. It was agreed that they be taken to Shaam.
Once again the prisoners were assembled and a procession left Kufa. But this time the departure was kept secret from the people of Kufa and took place at night.
So began the fourth journey of tears! It was a long and difficult journey. Who was the hero and who was the heroine of this journey through the Iraqi and the Syrian deserts? Was it Bibi Rubaab, who from her unsaddled camel kept on staring at Ali Asghar’s cradle loaded on another camel carrying the goods looted from Hussain’s camp during the Shaam-e-Gareeba? Was it Sakina who now sat mournfully on her mother’s lap staring at the ‘alam of Hazrat Abbas and her mashk still tied to the ‘alam, and who kept whispering: “I am not thirsty, Uncle, I am not thirsty!” Was the hero Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen who was made to walk all the way, the hot chains eating into his flesh?
Some times our Fourth Imaam would faint. His captors however knew no pity. They would flog him if he slowed down or fainted. On these occasions Bibi Zainab would intervene to stop the Imaam from being flogged to death.
This was the journey of which the hero was the valour of Hazrat Ali which ruled the heart of Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen and the heroine was the sabr of Fatimah Zahra which inspired Bibi Zainab.
The journey from Kufa to Shaam was a long one. It took over twenty days. The women and the children were exhausted. Their suffering was great! Quite often the children would faint under the scorching desert heat and fall off the camels. The mothers would scream. Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen and Bibi Zainab would go looking for the children. Sometimes they would find them by the road side barely alive and there were occasions when they were discovered too late. Our fourth Imaam would dig a grave to bury the dead child. An historian revisiting this route a few years later discovered a large number of small graves on the way side!
Some Zakirs narrate the following story:
Once Bibi Zainab looked at the camel on which Sakina was riding. Sakina was not there! She looked at all the other camels, Sakina was nowhere to be seen. She panicked. Where could Imaam Hussain’s darling daughter be? She asked Shimr to untie her to that she could go and look for Sakina. At first Shimr responded with his whip. Unmindful of her own pain she kept on begging. Shimr untied her with the warning that if she did not return soon he would flog Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen to death. Bibi Zainab ran in the direction from which they had travelled. Some distance away she saw an elderly lady holding Sakina affectionately, kissing her cheeks and wiping away her tears. She could hear Sakina telling the lady how her uncle Abbas had gone to fetch her water and how he had never returned. When Sakina saw her aunt she explained that she had fallen off the camel but the kind lady had looked after her. Bibi Zainab turned to the lady and said, “May Allah reward you for your kindness to this orphan!” The lady replied, “Zainab, my dear, how can you thank your own mother? Do you not recognize me?” As the lady lifted her face, Bibi Zainab saw that it was Fatimah Zahra!!
When the caravan reached the outskirts of Damascus Omar Sa’ad sent a message to Yezid that they had arrived. Yezid ordered that the caravan remain where it was until the morning. He wanted the people of Shaam to line the streets to look at the captives and witness his victory. In the meantime the streets through which the captives were to be marched were being decorated with flags and pennants.
Bibi Zainab had conquered Kufa. Now Shaam had come and was waiting for her!
THE COURT OF YEZIDWhen at long last the caravan reached the outskirts of Damascus, a message was received by Umar Sa’ad that the prisoners were not to be brought into the capital until Yezid had completed all the preparations.
Yezid invited all the ambassadors, foreign dignitaries and leading citizens to his court. People were ordered to line up the streets. Musicians were asked to play music and dancers were told to dance in the streets. Such were the festivities organized by the Khalifah for the entry of the grandson and the grand daughters of the Holy Prophet of Islam into what had become the metropolis of the Islamic Empire !!
Surrounded by the dancers, the musicians and the jeering crowds of the citizens of Damascus the prisoners were led toward the palace of Yezid. The ladies who had never stepped outside their homes without their heads and faces being covered, had been forced to travel from Kerbala to Kufa, and Kufa to Shaam bare headed and with their arms tied with a single rope. If any one of them stumbled, she was whipped. Never in the history of Islam had prisoners been treated with disrespect, let alone the cruelty meted out to the members of the Holy Prophet’s house-hold. And now, this ultimate insult of being led into the court of Yezid like a herd of cattle!
Bibi Zainab seemed to be drawing strength from some divine source. She wiped away her tears. Drew her hair over her face so as to hide as much of her face from the staring crowds as she could. Other ladies did the same. Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen straightened himself. Exuding dignity and confidence, he maintained his position behind the bearer of the lance upon which was mounted his father’s head. Such was the jostle of the multitude thronging the streets that it took them more than twelve hours to traverse the short distance between the city gates and the palace.
They entered the palace and were made to stand in front of Yezid. The tyrant was dressed in his best finery. Imaam Hussain’s head was formally presented to him by Umar ibne Sa’ad. Yezid, with a cup of wine in one hand, ceremoniously accepted the ultimate symbol of his victory and commanded Umar Sa’ad to call out the names of the prisoners..
And then, in his drunken arrogance, Yezid recited a few couplets which enshrine a diabolical confession, a confession that explains the history of the division in Islam and the motives not only his but of his father and grand father in accepting Islam ! He said:
“If my venerable ancestors who fell at Badr fighting Muhammad had witnessed how the supporters of Muhammad’s faith were thrown into confusion with thrusts given with my spears, they would be blessing me today. The Banu Hashim played a trick to win power. There was never any wahi to them nor did they receive any revelation. Today the souls of my ancestors and friends killed by Muhammad at Badr will rest in peace !”
The raison d’etre of the Umayyad dynasty was vengeance against Islam, a sanguine continuation of Uhud where Yezid’d grand-mother had been only partially successful in her determination to have Ali and Hamza killed in retaliation for the deaths of her father and brother at Badr!! Yezid never believed in Islam, and yet the system forced upon the people after the death of the Holy Prophet had resulted in this worst of all the hypocrites becoming the Khalifah of the Holy Prophet and the Ameer-ul-Mu’mineen of the ummah !!
Yezid looked at the prisoners lined up in front of him. He said: “It has pleased Allah to grant us victory! Look how He has caused the death of Hussain and humiliated his family!” He then recited an ayah of the Holy Quraan which means ‘Allah grants honour to whom He pleases and brings disgrace upon whom He pleases.’
There were over seven hundred dignitaries sitting in the Court. They smiled and nodded approvingly. Bibi Zainab could stand it no more! She was filled with wrath. How dare this unclean man say such things? How dare he with his najis tongue recite from Holy Quraan ? How dare he make mockery of the family of the Holy Prophet? In a loud and clear voice Bibi Zainab said:
“O Yezid! Do you think that it is Allah who has caused you to commit all these foul deeds? Do you blame the Rahman and the Rahim for the oppression we have suffered? Do you blame Allah for the death of the beloved grand son of his most beloved Prophet? How dare you make these false accusations against the Almighty? No, Yezid, it was not Allah! It is you, with your insatiable ambition and greed for wealth and power, who are the only cause of the suffering inflicted not only upon the household of the Holy Prophet but on Islam itself!
Do not forget what Allah has said in the Holy Book: Let not the unbelievers take it that the respite We give them would do them any good. We allow them time in order that they might continue to indulge in sin to their hearts’ content. Indeed a humiliating punishment has been kept ready for them.
Do you think that by killing the grandson of the Holy Prophet and bringing us to your palace as prisoners, you have scored a victory against Islam? No, Yezid, no ! Hussain with his blood has made sure that tyrants like you will not be able to use Islam as a toy to carry out their evil designs. The victory is not yours. The victory is of Hussain! The victory is of Islam!”
Yezid was stunned! The people present there could not but be moved by what this courageous lady had to say. This lady, who had seen and experienced great suffering, dared today defy the very man who had inflicted those sufferings. Who was she? They asked one another. When they learnt that she was the grand daughter of the Holy Prophet, their hearts began to fill with admiration!
In an effort to save the situation Yezid turned towards Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen and said: “Well you can tell us who has been victorious. Imaam looked at him and replied:
“Yezid, final victory can only belong to those on the right path. Let us look at you and look at Hussain. My father, whom you got killed so mercilessly, was the grandson of the Holy Prophet who had said that “Hussain is from me and I am from Hussain”. He was born a Muslim and all his life he upheld the laws and principles of Islam. You are the grandson of Abu Sufiyan and Hinda, who most of their lives fought Islam and the Holy Prophet!”
Yezid was now greatly embarrassed. To silence the Imaam he asked his muezzin to recite the adhaan. When the Muezzin cried out ‘ASH-HADU ANNA MUHAMMADAR-RASOOLILLAH’ Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen, addressing Yezid, said, “Yezid speak the truth! Was Muhammad my grandfather or your grandfather!”
Yezid ordered the prisoners to be moved to a prison. This was not a prison. It was a dungeon! Only a part of it had any sort of ceiling. The rest was open to the sky. An iron grill surrounded the place so that no one could get in or out.
Bibi Zainab reports that the place was so cold at nights that no one could have proper sleep. During the day, it got hot like an oven. It is here that our fourth Imaam, still under chains, the ladies and the children spent many days of great agony and discomfort.
BIBI SAKINABibi Sakina was the youngest daughter of Imaam Hussain. She was a vivacious child, full of love and happiness. Everyone loved Sakina. She was also a very religious girl. She enjoyed reading the Holy Quraan and never missed her prayers. From the age of two she took great care to make sure that her head and face were properly covered when in public.
Sakina was Imaam Hussain’s most beloved child. Our Imaam was often heard to say, “A house without Sakina would not be worth living in!” She always had a sweet and cheerful smile and a very friendly nature. Other children sought her company as much as the grown ups did. She was very generous and always shared whatever she had with others.
There was a special bond between Hazrat Abbas and Sakina. He loved her more than he did his own children. If Sakina requested for anything, Abbas would not rest until he satisfied her request. There was nothing that Abbas would not do to make Sakina happy.
During the journey from Madina to Mecca and then Mecca to Kerbala, Abbas was often seen riding up to the mehmil in which Sakina sat to make sure that she had everything she wanted. Sakina loved her uncle just as much. While in Madina she would, several times a day, visit the house in which Hazrat Abbas lived with his family and his mother, Ummul Baneen.
Like any other four-five year old when Sakina went to bed at night she wanted to spend some time with her father. Imaam Hussain would tell her stories of the prophets and of the battles fought by her grand-father Ali. She would rest her head on her father’s chest and Hussain would not move from her until she fell asleep. When from the second of Muharram the armies of Yezid began to gather at Kerbala, Hussain said to his sister Zainab, “The time has come for you to get Sakina used to going to sleep without my being there !”. Sakina would follow her father at night and Hussain had to gently take her to Zainab or Rubaab.
At Kerbala when from the seventh Muharram water became scarce Sakina shared whatever little water she had with other children. When soon there was no water at all, the thirsty children would look at Sakina hopefully, and because she could not help them she would have tears in her eyes. Sakina’s lips were parched with thirst.
On the Ashura day, she gave her Mashk to Hazrat Abbas. He went to get water for her. The children gathered round Sakina with their little cups, knowing that as soon as Hazrat Abbas brought any water, Sakina would first make sure that they had some before taking any herself. When Sakina saw Imaam Hussain bringing the blood drenched ‘alam she knew that her uncle Abbas had been killed. From that day on Sakina never complained of thirst.
Then came the time when the earth shook and Sakina became an orphan! But even then she always thought of the others first. She would console her mother on the death of Ali Asghar and when she saw any other lady or child weeping Sakina would put her little arms around her.
Yes Sakina never again asked anyone for water. Bibi Zainab would persuade her to take a few sips, but she herself would never ask for water or complain of thirst!!!!
From the time when Imaam Hussain fell in the battle field, Sakina forgot to smile! Kufa saw her as a sombre little girl lost in thought. Quite often she would sit up at night. When asked if she wanted anything, she would say, “I just heard a baby cry? Is it Asghar? He must be calling out for me!”
Knowing that her weeping upset her mother, Sakina would cry silently and quickly wipe away her tears! In the prison in Shaam she would stare at the flock of birds flying to their nests at sunset and innocently ask Bibi Zainab, “Will Sakina be going home like those birds flying to their homes?”
Then one dreadful night Sakina went to bed on the cold floor of the prison. For a long time she stared into the darkness! The time for the morning prayers came. Sakina was still lying with her eyes wide open. Her mother called out: “Wake up, Sakina! Wake up, it is time for prayers, my child!” There was only the painful silence! Our fourth Imaam walked up to where Sakina lay. He put his hand on her forehead. It was cold! He put his hand near the mouth and the nose. Sakina had stopped breathing. In between sobs Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen said:
“INNA LILLAHI WA INNA ILAYHI RAAJI’OON!”How was Sakina buried ? Zainab held the still child as Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen dug a grave in the cell. As the grave was being filled up after the burial the mother let out a scream! How could anyone console Bibi Rubaab? What could they say? They huddled around her, and the prison walls began to shake with the cry: “YA SAKINA, YA MAZLOOMAH!!” Bibi Rubaab put her cheek on Sakina’s grave and cried out:
“Speak to me, Sakina! Only a word, my child! Speak to me!!”AZA-E-HUSSAIN IN SHAAMThe tragedy of Kerbala had begun to arouse great sympathy for the Ahlul Bait in Hejaaz and Iraq. Even in Damascus some people began to ask whether it was necessary to inflict so much sufferings on the members of the family of the Holy Prophet.
When the charming little Sakina died and the people of Damascus came to learn about the death of the little girl whom they had seen and come to admire, they began to talk openly about Yezid’s cruelty. Yezid feared that the people might rise against him. He was now anxious to get rid of the prisoners.
He called Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen and told him that he was prepared to free them, and compensate them for the death of the martyrs. He also asked the fourth Imaam whether they wanted to remain in Damascus or return to Madina. Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen replied that he would consult his aunt Zainab.
When Imaam spoke to Bibi Zainab she was grief stricken at the audacity of Yezid in offering compensation. She said, “Tell Yezid to talk of compensation with the Holy Prophet. We would certainly return to Madina. But first Yezid should provide a house so that we may hold mourning ceremonies for the martyrs in Damascus. We shall then go to Madina via Kerbala to visit the graves of the martyrs.”
Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen conveyed the message to Yezid who after some hesitation agreed. In asking for a house to mourn the martyrs in Damascus, Bibi Zainab scored a major victory over Yezid. When the house was made available the ladies held aza-e-Hussain for seven days in the very city which was the capital of Yezid who had murdered Imaam Hussain. The women of Damascus poured in to offer their condolences and Bibi Zainab and the other ladies would tell them of how the martyrs had been killed, how they had been denied water, how young children had been crying al-atash, how Imaam had taken Ali Asghar and pleaded for a few drops of water and how the baby had been slain. These tales so moved the ladies of Damascus that they would break into sobs and begin wailing and beating their chests.
Thus in the very house of the murderer Bibi Zainab laid the foundation of aza-e-Hussain. This is so much like the story of Hazrat Musa (a.s.). Firaun orders all the male children of Banu Israel to be put to death. Allah’s miracle is that his Prophet of wahdaniyyah finds refuge in the palace of the very Firaun who had plotted to kill him !
These majlises have continued to this day. Every Muharram Shiahs all over the world gather together to mourn the tragedy which took place more that 1350 years ago. These majaalis have a great meaning for us. Firstly, they mean that we love our Imaam and grieve for the suffering to which he was subjected. Secondly they mean that year after year we protest against all that Yezid stood for. We make a solemn promise to Allah never to follow Yezid’s foot-steps. In whatever country we may be, we have to remember that taking alcohol or any kind of drugs, is Yezid’s way. To keep ourselves ignorant of Quraan or Islamic way of life, is Yezid’s way. To oppress anyone, is Yezid’s way. To indulge in any un-Islamic activity, is Yezid’s way. We can not mourn Hussain and follow Yezid !!
SHAAM TO MADINA
After seven days of majaalis in Damascus, Bibi Zainab asked Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen whether they could now proceed to Kerbala. Preparations for the journey began. Mehmils with black curtains were arranged for the ladies.
Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen and Bibi Zainab helped the ladies to mount the mehmils. Suddenly Bibi Zainab noticed that Bibi Rubaab was missing. For a moment there was a panic but soon Bibi Zainab said, “I know where Rubaab is !” Accompanied by Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen Bibi Zainab went to the prison. There, with her face on Sakina’s grave, was Bibi Rubaab. Bibi Zainab said to her, ‘Rubaab, let us go home!’ ‘Home?’ replied Bibi Rubaab, ‘My husband lies at Kerbala, my Asghar lies there also. At least he has his father to look after him. Who will look after my Sakina? Khuda Hafiz, Bibi. You go, I will stay here.’
Bibi Rubaab is the lady whose world had been totally shattered. It was after great persuasion she got up to go, She walked slowly to the door supported by Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen, all the time looking at the grave. Finally she said “Khuda Hafiz my Sakina !!”
So began the fifth and the last journey of tears. This was to take them first to Kerbala and then back home to Madina. How different is this journey from that first journey from Madina to Mecca? How many had left Madina and how many are going back? Where are all those children who at every stop would gather around Hazrat Abbas? There were over fifty children in the caravan then. Now barely twenty are returning to Madina. The rest lie in Kerbala or along the route Kerbala to Kufa and Kufa to Shaam.
And where is Sakina with her chatter and smile? She is on everyone’s mind. Zain ul ‘Abideen tearfully says farewell to the prison were lies buried his darling sister.
Of course, unlike during their journeys from Kerbala to Kufa and Kufa to Shaam, this time the ladies are not bare headed nor are they mounted on unsaddled camels. They are at last going to Madina but that very thought frightens them. Bibi Zainab thinks: ‘What shall I say when they ask where is everyone?’ Bibi Rubaab every so often screams out: “Oh Sakina! Oh Asghar! What shall I say to Fatimah Sugra?”
Who then is the hero and who is the heroine of this journey? Yes, this journey has no hero and heroine. It has memories, fears, night-mares and tears. Few words are said. The thoughts which crowd in every mind are too heart rending to be spoken out.
They arrive at Kerbala!You can well imagine of the suffering of Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen, Bibi Zainab and all the ladies when they arrived at Kerbala. Every grave had a lady weeping for the one buried there, every grave save two. Zainab spent all her time on Hussain’s grave and it was young Muhammad Baqir who wept on the graves of Aun and Muhammad.
Bibi Zainab took out a tiny bundle. She lovingly opened it and placed Sakina’s earrings on the grave saying: “Brother, do forgive me ! This is all that is left of your darling Sakina !!” The ladies were weeping and wailing and Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen was consoling them. He knew that a very difficult situation was yet to come! The first meeting with Fatimah Sugra!
The journey to Madina was slow. When the city came within sight from the hills surrounding Madina, Bibi Kulthum was heard to recite a poem which means:
“Oh the city of our grandfather, the Holy Prophet, how can you accept us at all? We were so many when we left you, only to return having at Kerbala lost them all!”Bibi Zainab went up to Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen and said, “My son, pray that Allah grant me courage to face Sugra! How shall I answer her questions?” Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen replied, “May Allah grant you the patience of Fatimah Zahra and the courage of Ali.”
Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen instructed the companions who were with him to go to Madina and erect two huge tents on the outskirts of the city. Very early on the following morning they entered the tents. Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen sat in one, and the ladies in the other. Now a messenger was sent to tell the people of Madina that Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen and the daughters of Ali had arrived. The people ran from their houses to the two tents.
The people of Madina had, of course, already heard of the tragedy of Kerbala. They did not, however, know of all the details or that young children had also been killed. The men of Madina came to Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen and the ladies went to the tent where Bibi Zainab and the other ladies were. There was so much weeping and wailing that it could be heard miles away.
Suddenly someone spotted Fatimah Sugra coming. She was supported on one side by Umme Salmah and on the other by Ummul Baneen. Bibi Zainab prayed to Allah for courage. she put on her chaadar and went out to meet Sugra. Neither could utter a word. Bibi Zainab put her arms around Fatimah Sugra and brought her inside the tent. Sugra looked around searching every corner. “Where is my sister Sakina?” she cried, “Sakina come over, let your older sister embrace you and give you condolences!” At this there was renewed weeping and wailing. Who could possible have the courage to tell Sugra where Sakina was?
Oh God! Sugra now looked at the lap of Bibi Rubaab, She did not find there whom she was looking for! Then she looked at the lap of each of the other ladies. She could not see what she was looking for. Then she looked outside lest the young child she was looking for had crawled out! Frightened of what Sugra might ask, Bibi Zainab asked for Imaam Zain ul ‘Abideen to come over. Our fourth Imaam came. He put his arms around Sugra. In between sobs he said, “Sugra, Oh my dear sister, have patience! Asghar is lying in a grave in Kerbala.”
Fatimah Sugra stared at her elder brother in absolute disbelief! And then she screamed and fell unconscious!!
We have discussed accounts of how each martyr fell, how even young children eagerly gave their lives to save Islam. We have looked at the misery and suffering of the women and the children. We have talked of the five journeys of tears.
We must now revisit the message of Imaam Hussain. Unless we undertake this journey and make sure that the message of our Imaam for ever remains with us to guide us through our lives, those five journeys of grief and suffering of the martyrs and the captives can not possibly have any meaning for us.
The tears we shed and the maatam we perform will be little more than hypocrisy if we allow ourselves to forget the message of Kerbala until next ‘ashra-e-Muharram. If we do so we shall be guilty of having insulted the martyrs in such a manner that our Imaam will never forgive us.
We must remember that mourning for the martyrs is not a ritual we have to perform. We do so out of love for them and to keep their memory alive so that people everywhere in every age will remember what our Imaam lived and died for.
From the day he left Madina on the 28th Rajab in 60 Hijrah, at every stage, our Imaam made his mission clear. He left no doubt as to his intentions. It was not to fight Yezid to get the throne of the empire over which the khalifah ruled. Imaam’s mission was to reawaken the spirit of Islam and rekindle the Islamic conscience which was nearing extinction by the conduct of Muawiya and Yezid. Justice and morality were gradually being destroyed by the greed for land and power of those who had become rulers. Where Quraan insists that distinction can be accorded by piety alone, aristocracy based on nepotism and blood relationship was reigning the social order.
Let us look at some of the statements by Imaam Hussain. Before leaving Madina Imaam Hussain made a will and handed it over to his brother Muhammad Hanafiya. In this will Imaam wrote: “My mission is to reform the muslim community which I propose to do by AMRAL BIL MA’ROOF AND NAHYA ANIL MUNKAR, inviting them to the good and advising them against evil. It is not my intention to set myself as an insolent or arrogant tyrant or a mischief maker”.
In Mecca a man came to him and said he was a Shiah of Ahlul Bait. Imaam looked at him and said: “My friend, never claim to be one of our Shiahs lest Allah, on the Day of Judgement, raise you with the liars. No one can be our Shiah except a person whose heart is free of deceit, malice or hatred towards others and free of corruption. If you are not such a person you can claim to be our admirer or supporter but never our Shiah.”
Imaam Hussain has defined what being a Shiah means. Can we honestly say that we are Shiahs of Ahlul Bait? Being a Shiah means having a pure mind and soul, free of greed, malice, jealousy, deceit. It means keeping away from back biting and other habit of putting down others. It means having a thirst for knowledge. It means living our lives justly, humbly and being true to ourselves and others.
In Mecca Imaam addressed a large group of scholars who had come for pilgrimage. He exhorted them to do amr bil ma’roof and nahya anil munkar and not to pander to the philosophies of the rulers who paid them to keep away from truth. This was a long and powerful speech reminding the scholars of their duty to inculcate Islamic concience and not to mislead the masses who trusted them
In a letter which he addressed to the people of Kufa Imaam wrote: “An Imaam is one who judges by the Holy Quraan, upholds justice, professes the religion of truth and dedicates himself to obeying Allah and His Prophet.”
When Hur and his army stopped Imaam’s caravan from going to Kufa, and Hur told Imam that his order from ibne Ziyad was to ask Imaam for Bai’at to Yezid, Imaam refused to declare Bai’at to someone who was only serving his own ends and not of Islam. Hur said that such an attitude would cost Imaam his life. Imaam replied: “Are you threatening me with death? Death is many thousands of times better than the dishonour of Bai’at to an enemy of Islam. Do you not see that truth is not being practised and falsehood is not being prevented? I see death as a blessing and life with tyrants as the most disgusting state one can be in.”
At Kerbala, facing the army of Yezid, Imaam Hussain addressed them as follows:”Remember that when you see a ruler who does what has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, who indulges in sins, who oppresses the people he rules, and you do nothing to stop such a ruler, before Allah you are as guilty as he is.” He went on to add: “My parents did not raise me to submit myself to an evil tyrant. I am your Imaam and it is my duty to tell you that you have surrendered the freedom of your mind to the evil ways of Yazeed. If you do not care for Islam, and do not fear the day of judgement, at least do care for that precious gift from Allah, the freedom of your spirit!!”
When Umar Sa’ad called upon the army to attack and kill Imaam Hussain he said: “Death is better that disgrace and disgrace is better than the fire of hell.”
From all these sayings of Imaam Hussain, from the ceremonies of mourning in which we have taken part during the ‘ahra-e-Muharram, from all the majaalis we have heard and the literature we have read, what are the specific lessons for the youths of the Shiah Ithnasheri Community?
This question has to be answered by the youths themselves. But surely it can not be anything to do with the form of aza-e-Hussain. The form will always remain culture bound and any comparison between the form in one country with the form in another country is an exercise in futility. We have to remember that aza-e-Hussain has tripartite objectives:
- (1) Demonstration of personal grief. This is an issue which has by very definition to remain a matter of personal choice and every community has to ponder over it and decide upon the form acceptable to it having regard to its geographic location and its composition.
- (2) The dissemination of Hussain’s message to the indigenous population. Where such population is Muslim of other persuasions, processions and public maatam have proved very effective. In the west, there is a need to explore other avenues such as-
- a) Hussaini Blood Bank;
- b) Visiting hospital patients with small gifts in the name of the martyrs,
- c) Food drive for the homeless, the poor, the aged and those in the homes,
- d) Distribution of literature explaining the message of Kerbala.
- (3) Finally, and most important, a personal commitment by each one of us to make every effort to get rid of those evil qualities within us which could prevent us from claiming to be the Shiahs of Hussain ibne Ali. Supposing every Muharram we forswear one evil habit like drug addiction, back-biting, arrogance, mischief making or any other un-Islamic habit, what a strong and powerful community we would be, and how sincere our maatam and tears would seem to us!