fter the great tragedy of Karbala had come to pass, the Ahl e Bait (A.S) suffered their toughest test on their way to Kufa and eventually Damascus. The honor of the family of the Holy Prophet (A.S) was desecrated by the barbaric soldiers of Yazid's army. At Karbala, they had left no stone unturned in disrespecting the noble bodies of the companions of Imam Hussain (A.S). Eventually, all of them were beheaded and all heads were put on spears and made part of the departing caravan. Alas! All members of this pure household were made to trek barefoot, chained, shackled, and taken on camels without saddles, due to which many of the children fell off the camels and the women were not allowed to even stop and help their children. The graves of these children can still be seen in the desert of Iraq and Syria.
Imam Sajjad (A.S) was 23 years old and severely sick at this time. He was made to walk a large part of the distance between Karbala and Kufa, and then Damascus. Even when he was not walking, he was put on a camel without saddle. Instructions were given that the caravan should be taken through the longest route to cover the remotest villages and towns so that the martyrs’ heads and the barbarity with which they were treated, might instill terror in the common man. In big towns and cities, Yazid’s soldiers convened huge congregations in the central mosques. Speakers were arranged to denounce and curse Imam Ali (A.S), Imam Hasan (A.S) and Imam Husain (A.S) branding them as traitors and enemies of Islam.
The caravan passed through several cities, towns, and villages on its way to Damascus, the seat of Yazid. When the caravan reached the gates of the palace, they were told that Yazid would only receive them on the next day, and until then the captives were to be kept standing at the gate. In the morning, Yazid took his own time to decorate himself with finery and until noon, the captives were made to stand under the hot sun in front of the palace gate, which came to be known as ‘Babul Sa’ah’. When, finally, the captives were ushered in, the court was filled with over seven hundred people including several representatives from other states. Yazid was sitting on his gilded throne, full of arrogance and the liquor he had consumed. Ibn Sa’d identified the captives to Yazid as Zainul Aabidin the son, Zainab and Umm Kulthoom as sisters, Ruqayya and Sukayna as daughters, and Layla and Rabab as the widows of Hussain (A.S).
To take out his frustration, Yazid took a baton and started striking the lips of Imam Husain’s severed head that was kept in a golden platter, while saying, “These are the very lips which Mohammad kissed. How delighted would be my forefathers to see it lying here near my feet and receiving strokes with this baton, as a revenge for the defeat they suffered in (the battles of) Badr and Hunayn at the hands of Mohammad and Ali. (the Banu) Hashim only played a game to get power. No angel descended nor did any revelation come down.”
Abu Barzah al-Aslami said, “I have seen the Prophet (P.B.U.H) kissing these very lips. The Prophet (P.B.U.H) said, ‘Hasan and Husain are the masters of the youth in the paradise’. May Allah curse and throw into hell whoever causes any pain to them.” On hearing this, Yazid ordered his soldiers to throw out Abu Barzah.
Yazid later recited a verse from the Quran which reveals that the Lord of the world gives sovereignty to whomsoever He wills and disgraces whomsoever He wills. Yazid then said, “Why do you blame me? It was on account of God’s Will that I am the Caliph and it was He who willed that Hussain should be slain and you should stand a prisoner before me. Had your father the wisdom to accept me as the religious ruler, he would have avoided all the suffering to himself and his family.” Enraged by these verses, Lady Zainab (a.s) replied,
“You are a bigot and a hypocrite that you twist the meaning of the verses of the Qur’an. You are either ignorant or willfully suppress the verse which reveals that God has declared to Abraham that He will never make an oppressor as an Imam. God has given ample time for the tyrants, but that does not mean that He has approved the tyranny or has let the tyrant go unpunished. You are also ignorant that God has given you independence to choose between right and wrong and has promised reward for those who do good and eternal chastisement for those who prefer the evil of worldly pleasures. Are you not aware ,that God’s retribution is reserved for a time when, after death, you will stand alone, spell bound and helpless before Him and that your own tongue will be witness against you? The Quran prohibits bloodshed and creation of discontent and chaos. For what crime my brother was slain? Did he fail to perform his religious obligations? Had he killed any one that he was killed in retaliation for him? Had he deprived you of any property or appropriated your land? Had he brought any changes in Islam? Was he guilty of permitting what was prohibited and prohibiting that which was permitted? Have none of you here heard the verses of the Quran and the traditions of the messenger of Allah where he (the Prophet) asked of you, in recompense, to love and respect his progeny?”
Yazid was dumbfounded at this oration. Imam Zainul Aabidin (a.s.) then addressed the gathering saying:
“All praise is due to Allah for Whom there is neither any beginning nor any end, for He is Eternal. O People, God has granted us six things and favored us with some more. We have been granted wisdom, clemency, magnanimity, oratory, courage, and love for us in the hearts of the faithful believers. We have been favored with the advent of a Prophet from among us, as-Siddeeq (the truthful one; Imam Ali), at-Tayyar (Ja’far), the Lion of God (Hamza), and the two Masters of the youth of Paradise (al-Hasan and al-Husayn).
Whoever recognizes me knows who I am. Let me tell those who do not know me that I am the son of Mecca and Mina. I am the son of Zamzam and as-Safa. I am the son of the one who carried the Rukn (the Black Rock) in his mantel. I am the son of the best of all persons who ever donned the Ihram (consecration) and made the Tawaf (circumambulation) and the Sayee (the trotting between Safa and Marwa during the Hajj). I am the son of the best among those who ever performed the Hajj and recited the Talbiya (the compliance to the call of Allah). I am the son of the one who rode on the Buraaq (the means on which the Prophet had gone to the Heavens) and was accompanied by Gabriel to the Sidratul Muntaha (the farthest Lote-tree that none can reach), closer to the Lord to a distance of a bow or still less. I am the son of the one who led the angels in their prayers. I am the son of the one to whom the Supreme One revealed what He wished, during the Meraj (night ascension).
I am the son of the one who defended and shielded the Messenger of Allah in (the battles of) Badr and Hunain. I am the son of the one who never disbelieved even for the twinkling of an eye. I am the son of the best of all believers. I am the son of the one who is the best among all the vicegerents of prophets. I am the son of the foremost among believers, the Commander of the Faithful. I am the son of the radiant beacon (Noor) who guides all Jihad and killers of renegades, deviators and those who spread the Ahzab (parties). I am the son of the most valiant, and the most steadfast one. Such was Ali ibn Abi Talib, the father of the grandsons of the messenger of Allah; Hasan and Husain. I am the son of the immaculate Fatima az-Zahra, the principal of all women. I am the son of Khadijatul Kubra. I am the son of the one whose blood was made to flow on the sand. I am the son of one who was slaughtered in Karbala. I am the son of the one for whom the jinn mourned in the darkness of the abyss and the birds filled the space with their lamentations."
Yazid upon hearing ordered the calling of the prayers to disrupt the Imam's speech. When the caller of Azan cried, ‘Allaho Akbar’, Imam Zainul Aabidin (a.s) said, ‘Unbound is God’s Majesty and unbound is His Glory’. When the caller cried, ‘I testify that there is no God but Allah’, the Imam said, ‘Verily I testify that God is One without a second and He has no participants.’ When the caller cried, ‘I testify that Mohammad is the messenger of Allah’, Imam Zainul Aabidin (a.s) said, “O Mu’azzin stop for a moment.” He then turned towards Yazid and asked him, “O Yazid, tell these people here, whether Mohammad is my grandfather or your grandfather.” Not finding an answer, Yazid suddenly rose and slunk away, instructing the guards to confine the captives in a dark small dungeon which had only walls but no roof over it, where the tyrant wanted to torture the captives. From the roofless dungeon, Sakina watched the birds flying. She asked innocently whereto the birds were flying. Lady Zainab (A.S) replied that they were going to their homes. Yearning to go back home, Sakina cried bitterly.
The Ahl e Bait (A.S) were held prisoners in Damascus for a year. During this year, some prisoners died of grief, most notably Sakina. The people of Damascus began to frequent the prison, and Zaynab and Ali ibn Hussain used that as an opportunity to further propagate the message of Hussain and explain to the people the reason for Hussain's uprising. As public opinion against Yazid began to foment in Syria and parts of Iraq, Yazid ordered their release and return to Medina, where they continued to tell the world of Hussain's (A.S) cause.
May God's curse be on the enemies of Ahl e Bait (A.S). Ameen!