When they were near Damascus, Umm Kulthum sent a message to al-Shimr asking him to let them enter the city from the least crowded highway, and to take the heads out so that people might be diverted by looking at them rather than looking at the women. He escorted them as they were in a condition from which skins would shiver and senses quiver.
Al-Shimr instead ordered his men to take the captives for display before onlookers and to place the severed heads in their midst.1
On the first day of Safar, they entered Damascus2 and were stopped at the Clocks Gate.3 People came out carrying drums and trumpets in excitement and jubilation.
A man came close to Sukayna and asked her, “What captives are you all from?” She said, “We are captives belonging to the family of Muhammad (S).”4
Yazid was sitting at a surveillance outpost overlooking the mountain of Jayrun. When he saw the captives with the heads planted atop the spears as their throng came close, a crow croaked, whereupon he composed these verses:
It is due to these verses that Ibn al-Jawzi and Abu Ya’li, the judge, as well as al-Taftazani and Jalal al-Suyuti permitted cursing Yazid and labelling him as kafir.6
Sahl Ibn Sa’d al-Sa’idi came close to Sukayna daughter of al-Husayn (‘a) and asked her, “Is there anything I can do for you?”
She asked him to pay the man who was carrying the head some money and to ask him in return to stay away from the women so that people would be distracted by looking at the head instead of looking at the women. Sahl did so.7
An elderly man came near al-Sajjad and said, “Praise be to Allah Who annihilated you and Who granted the governor the upper hand over you!”
At such a juncture, the Imam poured of his own kindness over that poor [ignorant] man who was brainwashed by falsehood in order to bring him closer to the truth and to show him the path of guidance.
Such are the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a): their light shines over those whom they know to be pure of heart and pure of essence and, as such, who are ready to receive guidance.
He (‘a), asked the man, “Have you read the Qur’an, O shaikh?” The man answered al-Sajjad in the affirmative. “Have you read,” continued al-Sajjad, “the verse saying, ‘Say: I do not ask you for a reward for it [for conveying the Islamic Message to you] except that you treat my kinsfolk with kindness,' (Qur’an, 42:23), the verse saying, ‘And give the [Prophet's] kinsfolk their due rights,'(Qur’an, 17:26), and the verse saying, ‘And be informed that whatever you earn by way of booty, for Allah belongs the fifth thereof and for the Messenger [of Allah] and for the [Prophet's] kinsfolk' (Qur’an, 8:41)?”
The man answered by saying, “Yes, I have read all of them.” He (‘a) then said, “We, by Allah, are the kinsfolk referred to in all these verses.” Then the Imam (‘a) asked him whether he had read the verse saying,
“Allah only desires to remove all abomination from you, O Ahl al-Bayt, and purifies you with a perfect purification” (Qur’an, 33:33).
“Yes” was the answer. Al-Sajjad (‘a), said to him, “We are Ahl al-Bayt whom Allah purified.” “I ask you in the Name of Allah,” asked the man, “are you really them?” Al-Sajjad (‘a), said, “By our grandfather, the Messenger of Allah, I swear that we are, without any doubt.”
It was then that the elderly man fell on al-Sajjad's feet kissing them as he said, “I dissociate myself before Allah from whoever killed you.” He sought repentance of the Imam (‘a) from whatever rude remarks he had earlier made. The encounter involving this elderly man reached Yazid who ordered the man to be killed.8
Before they were brought to Yazid's court, they were tied with ropes. The beginning of the rope was around the neck of Zayn al-’Abidin [‘Ali son of Imam al-Husayn (‘a), also called al-Sajjad, the one who prostrates to Allah quite often], then around the necks of Zainab, Umm Kulthum, up to all the daughters of the Messenger of Allah (S).
Whenever they laxed in their walking, they were whipped. This went on till they were brought face to face with Yazid who was then sitting on his throne. ‘Ali Ibn al-Husayn (‘a) asked him, “What do you think the reaction of the Messenger of Allah might have been had he seen us looking like this?” Everyone wept. Yazid ordered the ropes to be cut off.10
They were lined up on the stairs to the gate leading to the [Umayyad Grand] mosque as was their custom with all captives, and the sacred head was placed in front of Yazid who kept looking at the captives and reciting these verses:
Then he turned to al-Nu’man Ibn Bashir and said, “Praise to Allah Who killed him [al-Husayn].” Al-Nu’man said, “Commander of the faithful Mu’awiyah used to hate killing him.” Yazid said, “That was before he rebelled. Had he rebelled against the commander of the faithful, he would have killed him.”11
Yazid turned to al-Sajjad (‘a) and asked him, “How did you, ‘Ali, see what Allah did to your father, al-Husayn?” “I saw,” answered al-Sajjad (‘a), “what Allah, the One and Only God, the most Exalted One, had decreed before creating the heavens and the earth.” Yazid consulted those around him as to what to do with al-Sajjad (‘a), and they advised him to kill him.
Imam al-Sajjad, Zayn al-’Abidin (‘a), said, “O Yazid! These men have advised you to do the opposite of what Pharaoh's courtiers had advised Pharaoh saying: ‘Grant him and his brother a respite.' The ad’iya’13 do not kill the prophets' sons and grandsons.” This statement caused Yazid to lower his head and contemplate for a good while.14
Among the dialogue that went on between both men is Yazid quoting this Qur’anic verse to ‘Ali Ibn al-Husayn (‘a):
“Whatever misfortune befalls you is due to what your hands commit” (Qur’an, 45:22).
‘Ali Ibn al-Husayn (‘a) responded by saying, “This verse was not revealed in reference to us. What was revealed in reference to us was this verse:
‘Whatever misfortune befalls the earth or your own selves is already in a Book even before we cause it to happen; this is easy for Allah, so that you may not grieve about what you missed nor feel elated on account of what you receive' (Qur’an, 57:23). 15
We do not grieve over what we missed nor feel elated on account of what we receive.”16 Yazid then cited the following verse by al-Fadl Ibn al-’Abbas Ibn ‘Utbah:
Al-Sajjad (‘a) sought permission to speak. “Yes,” said Yazid, “provided you do not utter verbal attacks.” He (‘a) said, “I am now standing like one who ought not verbally attack anyone, but tell me: How do you think the Messenger of Allah (S) would have felt had he seen me looking like this?” Yazid ordered him to be untied.18
Yazid ordered the person who used to recite the Friday khutba to ascend the pulpit and to insult ‘Ali and al-Husayn (‘a), which he did. Al-Sajjad (‘a) shouted at him saying, “You have traded the pleasure of the creature for the Wrath of the Creator, so take your place in the fire [of hell].”19
He asked Yazid saying, “Do you permit me to ascend this pulpit to deliver a speech that will please Allah Almighty and that will bring good rewards for these folks?” Yazid refused, but people kept pleading to him to yield, yet he was still relentless.
His son, Mu’awiyah II, said to him, “Permit him; what harm can his words cause?” Yazid said, “These are people who have inherited knowledge and oratory20 and are spoon-fed with knowledge.”21 They kept pressuring him till he agreed.
The Imam (‘a) said:
“All Praise is due to Allah for Whom there is no beginning, the ever-Lasting for Whom there is no end, the First for Whom there is no starting point, the Last for Whom there is no ending point, the One Who remains after all beings no longer exist. He measured the nights and the days.
He divided them into parts; so, Blessed is Allah, the King, the all-Knowing... O people! We were granted six things and favoured with seven: We were granted knowledge, clemency, leniency, fluency, courage, and love for us in the hearts of the believers.
And we were favoured by the fact that from among us came a Prophet, a Siddiq, a Tayyar, a Lion of Allah and of His Prophet (S), and both Masters of the Youths of Paradise from among this nation. O people! Whoever recognizes me knows me, and whoever does not recognize me, let me tell him who I am and to what family I belong: O people! I am the son of Mecca and Mina; I am the son of Zamzam and al-Safa; I am the son of the one who carried the rukn on his mantle; I am the son of the best man who ever put on clothes and who ever made tawaf and sa’i, of whoever offered the Hajj and pronounced the talbiya.
I am the son of the one who was transported on the buraq and who was taken by Gabriel to sidrat al-muntaha, so he was near his Lord like the throw of a bow or closer still. I am the son of the one who led the angels of the heavens in the prayers.
I am the son to whom the Mighty One revealed what He revealed. I am the son of the one who defended the Messenger of Allah (S) at Badr and Hunayn and never disbelieved in Allah not even as much as the twinkling of an eye.
I am the son of the best of the believers and of the heir of the prophets, of the leader of the Muslims and the noor of those who offer jihad and the killer of the renegades and those who deviated from the straight path and who scattered the ahzab and the most courageous one, the one with the firmest determination: such is the father of the grandsons of the Prophet (S), al-Hasan and al-Husayn (‘a), such is ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib (‘a).
I am the son of Fatima al-Zahra’ (‘a), the Head of all Women, the son of Khadija al-Kubra. I am the son of the one with whose blood the sand mixed. I am the son of the one who was slaughtered at Karbala’. I am the son of the one for whom the jinns wept in the dark and for whom the birds in the air cried”.
Having said this much, people's cries filled the place, and Yazid feared dissension, so he ordered the mu'aththin to call the athan for the prayers. The latter shouted: Allahu Akbar! The Imam (‘a) said: “Allah is Greater, more Magnanimous, and more Kind than what I fear and of what I avoid.” The prayer caller now shouted: Ashadu an la ilaha illa-Allah! He (‘a) said, “Yes, I testify with everyone who testifies that there is no god besides Him nor any other Lord.” The caller shouted: Ashahadu anna Muhammadan rasul-Allah!
The Imam (‘a) said to the prayer caller, “I ask you, by Muhammad, to stop here till I speak to this man,” then he turned to Yazid and asked him, “Is this great Messenger of Allah (S) your grandfather or mine? If you say that he is yours, everyone present here, as well as all other people, will come to know that you are a liar.
And if you say that he is mine, then why did you kill my father unjustly and oppressively and plundered his wealth and took his women captive? Woe unto you on the Day of Judgment when my grandfather will be your opponent.”
Yazid yelled at the prayer caller to start the prayers immediately. A great deal of commotion now could be heard among the people. Some people prayed whereas others left.22
Yazid ordered al-Husayn's head to be brought to him. He put it in a gold washbowl.23 The women were behind him. Sukayna and Fatima stood and tried anxiously to steal a look at it as Yazid kept hiding it from them. When they did see it, they burst in tears.24 He then permitted people to enter to see him.25 Yazid took a rod and kept hitting al-Husayn's lips with it26 saying, “A day for a day: this day is [in revenge] for Badr”.27 Then he cited these verses by al-Hasin Ibn al-Hamam:28
Yahya Ibn al-Hakam Ibn Abul-’As, brother of Marwan Ibn al-Hakam, who was sitting near him, recited these verses:
Having heard and understood them, Yazid hit him [with the iron rod still in his hand] on his chest saying, “Shut your mouth, motherless man!”29
Abu Barzah al-Aslami said, “I bear witness that I saw the Prophet (S) kissing his lips and those of his brother al-Hasan (‘a) and say to them: ‘You are the Masters of the Youths of Paradise; may Allah fight whoever fights you; may He curse him and prepare hell for him, and what an evil refuge it is!'”
Yazid became angry and ordered him to be dragged out of his court.30
A [Christian] messenger sent by Caesar was present there; he said to Yazid, “We have in some islands the hoof of the donkey upon which Jesus rode, and we make a pilgrimage to it every year from all lands and offer nathr to it and hold it in as much regard as you hold your sacred books; so, I bear witness that you are wrongdoers.”31
This statement enraged Yazid who ordered him to be killed. The messenger stood up, walked to the head, kissed it and pronounced the kalima. At the moment when that messenger's head was cut off, everyone heard a loud and fluent voice saying: La hawla wala quwwata illa billah! (There is neither power nor might except in Allah).32
The head was taken out of the court and hung for three days on the mansion's gate.33 When Hind daughter of ‘Amr Ibn Suhayl, Yazid's wife, saw the head on her house's door34 with divine light emanating from it, its blood still fresh and had not yet dried, and it was emitting a sweet fragrance,35 she entered Yazid's court without a veil crying, “The head of the daughter of the Messenger of Allah (S) is on our door!”
Yazid stood up, covered her and said, “Mourn him, O Hind, for he is the reason why Banu Hashim are grieving. [‘Ubaydullah] Ibn Ziyad hastily killed him.”36
Yazid ordered the heads to be hung on the land's gates and on the Umayyad Mosque, and his order was carried out.37
Marwan [Ibn al-Hakam] was very happy about al-Husayn (‘a) being killed, so he composed this poetry:
Then he kept hitting al-Husayn's face with a rod as he was repeating these poetry lines:
Historians record that a Syrian looked at Fatima daughter of ‘Ali (‘a)38 then asked Yazid to give her to him to serve him. This daughter of the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) was terrified; she clung to her sister Zainab and said, “Serve him?! How could I do that?!” Zainab said to her, “Do not be concerned; this shall never happen at all.” Hearing her, Yazid said, “It could if I would!” She said to him, “Not unless you renege from our religion.”
He answered her by saying, “Those who reneged from the religion are your father and your brother.” Zainab said, “By Allah's religion and the religion of my grandfather do I swear that it was through my father and brother that you and your father received guidance, had you been a Muslim at all.”
He said to her, “You lie, you enemy of Allah!” She, peace be upon her, toned down her language and said to him, “You are an Amir over the destiny of people; you oppressively taunt and subdue others.”39 The same Syrian repeated his plea to Yazid who now rebuked him and said, “May Allah grant you a fate that will put an end to you!”40
She reacted to these lines by stating the following:
“All Praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. Allah has blessed His Messenger and all His Messenger's Progeny. Allah, Glory to Him, has said the truth when He said,
“Then the end of those who committed evil was that they disbelieved in Allah's Signs and they were ridiculing them” (Qur’an, 30:10).
Do you, O Yazid, think that when you blocked all the avenues before us, so we were driven as captives, that we are light in the sight of Allah and that you are superior to us? Or is it because you enjoy with Him a great status, so you look down at us and become arrogant, elated, when you see the world submissive to you and things are done as you want them, and when our authority and power became all yours? But wait! Have you forgotten that Allah has said,
“Do not regard those who disbelieved that We grant them good for themselves? We only give them a respite so that they may increase their sins, and for them there is a humiliating torment”? (Qur’an, 3:178).
Is it fair, O son of taliqs, that you keep your free and slave women in their chambers and at the same time drive the daughters of the Messenger of Allah (S) as captives with their veils removed and faces exposed, taken by their enemies from one land to another, being viewed by those at watering places as well as those who man your forts, with their faces exposed to the looks of everyone near or distant, lowly or honourable, having none of their protectors with them nor any of their men?
But what can be expected from one [descended from those] whose mouths chewed the livers of the purified ones and whose flesh grows out of the blood of the martyrs? How can it be expected that one who looks at us with grudge and animosity, with hatred and malice, would not hate us, we Ahl al-Bayt (‘a)? Besides, you, without feeling any guilt or weighing heavily what you say, recite saying:
How dare you hit the lips of Abu ‘Abdullah (‘a), the Master of the Youths of Paradise? But why should you not do so, since you stirred a wound that almost healed and all mercy is removed from your heart when you shed the blood of the offspring of Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his Progeny, and the stars on earth from among the family of ‘Abd al-Muttalib?
Then you cite your mentors as if you speak to them... Soon shall you be lodged with them, and soon shall you wish you were paralyzed and muted and never said what you said nor did what you did.
O Allah! Take what belongs to us out of his hands, seek revenge against all those who oppressed us, and let Your Wrath descend upon whoever shed our blood and killed our protectors! By Allah! You have burnt only your own skin!
You have cut only your own flesh! You shall come face to face with the Messenger of Allah, peace of Allah be upon him and his Progeny, bearing the burdens of the blood which you have shed, the blood of his offspring, and of his sanctities which you violated, the sanctities of his women, his kinsfolk, his flesh and blood, when Allah gathers them together and seeks equity on their behalf.
“And do not reckon those who are slain in the Way of Allah as dead. Nay! They are living with their Lord, receiving their sustenance” (Qur’an, 3:169).
Allah suffices you as your Judge and Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his progeny, as your opponent, and Gabriel as your foe. All those who instigated you to do what you did and who put you in charge so that you might play havoc with the lives of the Muslims: how evil the end of the oppressors is and which of you shall have the worst place and will be the least protected?
Although calamities have forced me to speak to you, I nevertheless see you small in my eyes and find your verbal attacks great, and I regard your rebuke too much to bear, but these eyes are tearful, and the chests are filled with depression.
What is even strangeer is that the honoured Party of Allah is being killed by the taleeq party of Satan. Such hands are dripping with our blood; such mouths are feeding on our flesh, while those sacred and pure corpses are offered as food to the wild beasts of the desert and are dirtied by the brutes.
If you regard us as your booty, you shall soon find us as your opponents, that will be when you find nothing but what your hands had committed, and your Lord never treats His servants unjustly. To Allah is my complaint, and upon Him do I rely.
So scheme whatever you wish to scheme, and carry out your plots, and intensify your efforts, for by Allah, you shall never be able to obliterate our mention, nor will you ever be able to kill our inspiration, nor will your shame ever be washed away. Your view shall be proven futile, your days numbered, and your wealth wasted on the Day when the caller calls out, “The curse of Allah be upon the oppressors.”
All Praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, Who sealed the life of our early ones with happiness and forgiveness, and that of our last with martyrdom and mercy. We plead to Allah to complete His rewards for them and grant them an increase and make succession good for us; He is the most Merciful, the most Compassionate. Allah suffices us, and how great He is!
Yazid responded to her speech by first quoting this poetic verse:
Anyone who is familiar with Yazid and with his misguidance cannot be surprised at all to hear him asking with a big mouth the Syrian jackals around him: “Do you know where Fatima's son came from, and what prompted him to do what he did and fall into the pitfalls of what he committed?” They answered in the negative.
Said he, “He claims that his father is better than my father, that his mother Fatima (‘a) daughter of the Messenger of Allah (S) is better than mine, that his grandfather (S) is better than mine, and that he is more worthy than me of taking charge. As regarding his saying that his father is better than my father, my father had asked Allah, the Great, the Sublime, to arbitrate between them, and people know best in whose favour He ruled.
As regarding his saying that his mother is better than mine, by my life, Fatima (‘a) daughter of the Messenger of Allah (S) is better than my mother. As regarding his saying that his grandfather (S) is better than my grandfather, by my life, nobody who believes in Allah and in the Last Day can find anyone among us equal to the Messenger of Allah But he speaks with a little understanding of what he says and has not read the verse saying,
‘Say: Lord! Owner of the domain! You grant authority to whomsoever You please, and you take the authority from whomsoever You please; You exalt whomsoever You please, and You abase whomsoever You please' (Qur’an, 3:26),
and he did not read the verse saying,
‘Allah grants His domain to whomsoever He pleases' (Qur’an, 2:247).”44
The speech quoted above, which Zainab delivered, shook the very foundations of Yazid's court, and people started discussing with one another as to what extent they had been misled, and in what valley of abyss they had been hurled.
Yazid had no choice except to get the women out of his court and to lodge them at a house of ruins that could not protect them against any heat or any cold. They remained there weeping and wailing, mourning al-Husayn (‘a)45 for three days.46
One day, al-Sajjad (‘a) went out for a walk. Al-Minhal Ibn ‘Umar met him and asked him, “How have you received the evening, O son of the Messenger of Allah (S)?” “We have received the evening,” the Imam (‘a) answered, “like the Israelites among the people of Pharaoh: they kill their sons and take their women captive.
The Arabs brag before the non-Arabs saying that Muhammad (S) was one of them, while Quraish boasts before the rest of the Arabs of Muhammad (S) belonging to it. We, his Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), are now homeless; so, to Allah do we belong, and to Him shall we all return.”47
Al-Minhal is quoted as saying, “While he was thus talking to me, a woman came out after him and said, ‘Where are you going, O best of successors?' He left me and hurried back to her. I inquired about her, and I was told that she was his aunt, Zainab (‘a).”48
On p. 313, Vol. 2, of Al-’Iqd al-Farid (by Sayyid Muhammad Riďa al-Asterbadi al-Hilli), where Yazid's reign is discussed, the author says, “When the head was placed in front of him, Yazid cited what al-Hasin Ibn al-Hamam al-Mazni had said.” He quoted the second verse [in the above English text, the last couplet]. Ibn Hajar al-Haythami al-’Asqalani, on p. 198, Vol. 9, of his book Mujma’ al-Zawa’id, quotes only the second verse.
On p. 61, Vol. 2, of his book Maqtal al-Husayn, al-Khawarizmi contents himself by simply saying that they stood on the steps of the mosque's gate. These verses are cited by al-Amidi on p. 91 of his book Al-Mu’talif wa al-Mukhtalif. Then he traces the lineage of the poet al-Hasin Ibn Hamam Ibn Rabi’ah, citing three verses, including these couplets, from a lengthy poem. On p. 151 of Al-Shi’r wa al-Shu’ara’, three verses are cited which include this couplet. On p. 4 of Al-Ashya’ wal Nada’ir, where immortalized ancient poems and those composed during the time of jahiliyya are cited, only the second verse is quoted. On p. 120, Vol. 12, of the Sassi edition of Abul-Faraj al-Isfahani's voluminous book Al-Aghani, thirteen lines are quoted, including this couplet.