Caravan of Captives

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Timeline of the Battle of Karbala
Rajab 15 Death of Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan
Rajab 28 Departure of Hussain ibn Ali from Medina.
Sha'ban 3 Arrival of Imam al-Husayn (a) to Mecca.
Ramadan 10 Arrival of Letters of the Kufians to Imam al-Husayn (a)
Ramadan 12 Arrival of 150 letters from Kufa
Ramadan 14 Arrival of the letter from leaders of Kufa
Ramadan 15 Departure of Muslim b. 'Aqil from Mecca toward Kufa.
Shawwal 5 Arrival of Muslim b. 'Aqil to Kufa.
Dhu l-Hijja 8 Departure of Imam al-Husayn (a) form Mecca
Dhu l-Hijja 8 Uprising of Muslim b. 'Aqil in Kufa
Dhu l-Hijja 9 Martyrdom of Muslim b. 'Aqil
Muharram 1 Asking for help of Ubayd Allah b. al-Hurr al-Juʿfi and 'Amr b. Qays in Banu Maqatil
Muharram 2 Arrival of Imam (a) to Karbala
Muharram 3 Arrival of Omar Ibn Sa’d with 4,000 people to Karbala
Muharram 6 Habib b. Muzahir's asking for help of Banu Asad
Muharram 7 Banding of water by 'Umar b. Sa'd
Muharram 7 Muslim b. 'Awsaja al-Asadi joined Imam (a)
Muharram 9 Arrival of Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan to Karbala
Muharram 9 Shimr's Safe conduct for Umm al-Banin's children
Muharram 9 Announcing of the Battle by 'Umar b. Sa'd and Imam's (a) asking for a delay
Muharram 10 Events of Ashura
Muharram 11 Moving the captives towards Kufa
Muharram 11 Burial of martyrs by Banu Asad
Muharram 12 Burial of a few member of martyrs
Muharram 13 Arrival of captives to Kufa
Muharram 19 Moving the captives from Kufa towards Syria
Safar 1 Arrival of the captives to Syria
Safar 20 Arba'in
Safar 20 Return of Ahl al-Bayt (a) to Karbala
Safar 20 Moving from Karbala toward Medina (in some accounts)

Caravan of Captives includes those members of Ahl al-Bayt and families of martyrs of Karbala who were captured after the martyrdom of Imam Hussain at the battle of Karbala. They were taken to Ibn Ziad’s court in Kufa and then to Yazid’s court in Damascus. On this journey, the fiery sermons of captives, in particular sermons of Zaynab and Imam Sajjad, spread the true message of Imam Hussain’s uprising and wakened the unaware souls of people. These brave speeches turned the gathering of Yazid in favor of Ahl al-Bayt.

Captives of Battle of Karbala[edit | edit source]

There is disagreement among historians about the names and exact numbers of captives. However, some sources reported 61 women among the captives.

Male Captives[edit | edit source]

Ali ibn al-Hussain who was twenty-three years old.[1] He was placed on a lean camel without a saddle, and he was worn out by sickness.[2] His son [the later Imam] al-Baqir [3], who was two years and a few months old,[4] accompanied him. Among the children of Imam al-Hasan taken captive were: Zayd, Amr, and al-Hasan II. The latter was captured after he had killed seventeen men. He received eighteen wounds, and his right arm had been cut off. Asma’ ibn Kharijah al-Fizari intervened to get him freed because his mother was also Fizari, so Ibn Sa'd left her husband take him.[5]

Other male captives included two sons of Ja'far b. Abi Talib, 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas b. Ali, Qasim b. 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far, Qasim b. Muhammad b. Ja'far, Muhammad al-Asghar b. 'Aqil, 'Uqbat b. Sam'an (Rabab's servant), servant of 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Abd Rabbih al-Ansari, Muslim b. Ribah (servant of Imam Ali), and 'Ali b. 'Uthman al-Maghribi.

Female Captives[edit | edit source]

Imam Ali's daughters: Zaynab, Fatima, Umm Kulthum. Daughters of Imam al-Hussain: Sukayna, Fatima, Ruqayya, and Zaynab. Imam al-Hussain's wife: Rabab. Other female captives included Umm Muhammad (Fatima the daughter of Imam al-Hasan, the Imam al-Sajjad's wife and Imam al-Baqir's mother), and Fakiha the mother of Qarib b. 'Abd Allah b. Urayqit. Umm al-Hasan, Khadija the wife of Abd al-Rahman b. Aqil, Umm Hani the wife of Abd Allah al-Akbar b. Aqil.

Moving Towards Kufa[edit | edit source]

After the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, Ibn Sa’d stayed one more day at Karbala to bury the dead bodies of his army, leaving the corpses of the Master of the Youths of Paradise and those of his Ahl al-Bayt and companions unwashed, unshrouded, and unburied. [6]

In the afternoon of 11th of Muharram, Ibn Sa'd left for Kufa with the women, the children, the bondmaids, and the surviving family members of al-Hussain’s companions. They included twenty women whom they mounted on camels without saddles.

Passing by Martyrs[edit | edit source]

Umar b. Sa'd's army moved the Caravan of Captives toward the battlefield and passed them by the bodies of martyrs. Passing by the martyrs, women started weeping, crying and hitting their faces. Zaynab cried out: O Muhammad! Here is al-Hussain in the desert covered with blood, his limbs cut off! Here are your daughters taken captive and your offspring slaughtered!" These words caused friends and foes alike to weep[7], even the horses’ tears ran on their hooves.[8] Then she put her hands under his sacred body and lifted it as she supplicated saying, "O Lord! Do accept this sacrifice from us."[9]

Sukayna hugged the body of her father al-Hussain and kept telling him how she had heard him saying:

شیعتی ما أنْ شربتم عَذْبَ ماء فاذکرونی

أو سمـعتم بغریـب او شهید فاندبونی

O my Shi'as! Whenever of water you drink

Never from mentioning my name should you shrink.

And whenever you are a stranger on a sojourn

Or see a martyr, me should you remember and mourn

Entering Kufa[edit | edit source]

After the day of Ashura, an eye witness account, reported by historians, reveals: “In Muharram the year 61 A.H., I came to Kufa at the same time Umar ibn Sa'ad’s army brought 'Ali ibn Hussain and the women of Ahl al-Bayt to Kufa. People came out of their houses to see them and when the women saw the Ahl al-Bayt ladies riding on camels without respect and with insufficient covering, they started crying and slapping their heads and chests.” The eye witness said: “I heard 'Ali ibn Hussain with a very weak and shaken voice, while the illness took all his energy, his neck and hands restrained by chains saying: “These women cry; then how did they kill us.”[10]

In Kufa[edit | edit source]

When the Caravan of Captives entered Kufa, people gathered to see the caravan. Before the captives entered Ibn Ziad’s palace, Sayyida Zaynab stood in the strongest victorious stance and started to waken unaware souls and dead hearts. Sermon of Zaynab in Kufa was so moving that people started crying. In this sermon, Zaynab admonished people of Kufa for breaking their oath of allegiance to Imam Hussain and their dereliction of duty in helping Imam. In addition to Zaynab’s sermon, Imam Sajjad also delivered a speech before people. It is said that Sermon of Imam Sajjad in Kufa left a great influence on Kufans. Many started crying and mourning over the martyrdom of Imam Hussain. Others decided to take revenge.

It is also reported that ʿObayd-Allah b. Ziad ordered Ali ibn Hussain’s execution but left him alive at the entreaty of his aunt, Zaynab. He was taken with the women to Yazid in Damascus.

Moving Towards Damascus[edit | edit source]

There are various reports about the route of the caravan from Kufa to Damascus. However, some sacred places which have been claimed to may indicate the probable route of the Caravan of Captives.

  • al-Hannana Mosque: It is located in the north of Najaf. It is related that Imam Hussain’s head was kept there as heads of Martyrs of Karbala were taking from Karbala to Kufa.
  • Maqam Ra's al-Hussain in Mosul: It is related that people of Mosul gave gifts and food to the army of ibn Ziad but did not let them to enter the town. Thus, they halted at one farsakh away from the town and placed Imam’s head upon a stone. A drop of blood fell from the head upon the stone. Later, Maqam of al-Hussain was erected there.
  • Maqam Ra's al-Hussain in Nusaybin: It is located in Turkey. It is related that Imam Hussain’s head was kept there and a drop of blood dripped there.
  • Masjid al-Nuqta: It is located near Aleppo, in Syria. It is related that the Caravan of Captives stopped near Aleppo and one drop of blood fell from the sacred head of Imam Hussain above which a mausoleum called Mashhad al-Nuqta [mausoleum of the drop] was erected.
  • Mashhad al-Saqt: It is located three hundred meters from Mashhad al-Nuqta, near Aleppo. According to Shi’ite tradition, it is the place where one of Imam Hussain’s widows had a miscarriage.
  • Maqam al-Hussain in Homs: It is also included in the list of places where hosted the sacred head of Imam Hussain as the Caravan of Captives moved from Kufa to Damascus.
  • Maqam Ra's al-Hussain in Damascus: It is located near Umayyad Mosque.

Ibn Shahr Ashub, in his Manaqib says that one of the excellences of Imam Hussain are the marvels which have manifested from the place of his head from Karbala until Asqalan, and in between them in Mosul, Nusaybin, Hamah, Hums, Damascus and other places.

Entering Damascus[edit | edit source]

Shaikh Kaf’ami, Shaikh Bahai and Muhaddis Kashani narrate, that on the first day of the month of Safar, the head of Imam Hussain was brought into Damascus. It is related that when the Karbala captives arrived in Damascus, an old man came close to Imam Sajjad and told him: “Praise be to Allah who annihilated you and gifted our Amir with victory!”

Imam Sajjad in answer to him said: “Old man do you read the Qur’an?”

The old man answered: “Yes I do.”

Imam Sajjad said: “Have you read this verse:

(قُلْ لَا أَسْأَلُکُمْ عَلَیْهِ أَجْرًا إِلَّا الْمَوَدَّةَ فِی الْقُرْبَىٰ)

"I don't ask of you any reward for it but love for my near relatives."

The old man answered: “Yes I have.”

The Imam said: “Old man, we are (القربى ) the family.”

Then he asked: “Did you read this verse:

(وَ آتِ‌ ذَا الْقُرْبَى‌ حَقَّهُ‌)

"And give to the near of kin his due."

The old man answered: “Yes I did.”

The Imam said: (القربى ) also means us.”

The Imamasked: “Did you read this verse:

(القُربى ولذِی و للرسُولۡ خمسُه للّهِ فأ نۡ شی ءۡ من غنِمنُم  أ نما واعلموا)

"And know that whatever thing you gain, a fifth of it is for Allah and for the Messenger and for the near of kin."

The old man said: “Yes.”

The Imam said: “We are the family of the Prophet”

And again the Imam asked: “Old man did you read this verse:

(إنما یرید الله لِیُذهبَۡ عنکُمُۡ الرجسَۡ أهلَۡ البیتِۡ و یُطهّرکُم تطهیراۡ )

"Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O people of the House! And to purify you and to get rid of impurities through you[11] "

The man answered by saying, “Yes, I have read all of them.” He then said, “We are the Ahl al-Bayt whom Allah purified.” “I ask you in the Name of Allah,” asked the man, “Are you really them?” al-Sajjad, said, “By our grandfather, the Messenger of Allah, I swear that we are, without any doubt.”

It was then that the elderly man threw his turban on the ground and held his hand to the sky as he said, “I disassociate myself before Allah from whoever killed you.[12]

In Damascus[edit | edit source]

Yazid ordered Damascus to be decorated before Caravan of Captives reached the town. Arrival of Caravan of Captives at Yazid’s court was the climax of a journey which turned to be a way of spreading the message of Karbala. According to historical sources, the sacred head of Imam Hussain and the women of Ahl al-Bayt were brought to Yazid's court, tied with ropes. The rope was tied around the neck, hands and legs of Zain al-’Abidin, and around the necks of Zaynab, Um Kulthum, binding all the daughters of the Messenger of Allah. Then, they were brought face to face with Yazid who was (from the pride of his selfishness) repeating these verses of al-Hasin Ibn al-Hamam:

“We were splitting heads of men held by us as dear.[13]

But they to unkindness and injustice were more near.”

Ali Ibn al-Hussain responded by saying:

(مَا أَصَابَ مِن مُّصِیبَةٍ فِی الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِی أَنفُسِکُمْ إِلَّا فِی کِتَابٍ مِّن قَبْلِ أَن نَّبْرَأَهَا ۚ إِنَّ ذَٰلِکَ عَلَى اللَّهِ یَسِیرٌ لِکَیْلَا تَأْسَوْا عَلَى مَا فَاتَکُمْ وَلَا تَفْرَحُوا بِمَا آتَاکُمْ وَاللَّهُ لَا یُحِبُّ کُلَّ مُخْتَالٍ فَخُورٍ)

“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.”

At that time Yazid become very angry and then the Imam quoted this verse:

(وَمَا أَصَابَکُمْ مِنْ مُصِیبَةٍ فَبِمَا کَسَبَتْ أَیْدِیکُمْ وَیَعْفُو عَنْ کَثِیرٍ)

“Whatever misfortune befalls you is due to what your hands commit.

Historic records from Fatima, daughter of Imam Hussain are as follows: When we sat in Yazid's court a Shamian looked at me then asked Yazid to give me to him to serve him. I thought they were allowed to do that so I was terrified and I clung to my Auntie Zaynab who knew this could not happen and she told me: “Do not be concerned.” And she turned her head and said to the Shamian: “I swear to God you are lying; neither you nor your prince is allowed to do this.” Hearing her, Yazid said in anger: “You’re lying - I could if I wanted to!” She said to him, “I swear God never gave you such permission, not unless you renege from our religion.” He became enraged and said: “You dare to answer me like this; those who reneged from the religion are your father and your brother.” Zaynab said, “By Allah's religion and the religion of my grandfather, 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 didn't know how to reply so he said, “You liar, you enemy of Allah!” She, toned down her language and said to him, “You are an Amir over the destiny of people; you oppressively taunt and subdue others.” Yazid was embarrassed from this talk and became silent, then the same Shamian repeated his plea to Yazid, who now rebuked him and said, “May Allah grant you a fate that will put an end to you!”

Sermons of Captives at Yazid’s Court[edit | edit source]

Sermons of Zaynab and Imam Sajjad at Yazid’s court left a great impression on audience. Yazid’s intention was to insult the family of Imam Hussain and boast about his victory over Imam Hussain. However, the fiery sermons of captives revealed the true message of Karbala and turned the gathering of Yazid’s court in favor of Ahl al-Bayt.

Zaynab’s Sermon at Yazid’s Court: It is related that when the identity of the heads of Martyrs of Karbala was explained to Yazid, among captives a woman rose and started complaining. Yazid asked: "Who is this arrogant woman?" Another woman rose to answer and said: "Why are you asking them? Ask me. I am the granddaughter of Muhammad. I am the daughter of Fatima." People at the court were impressed and amazed by her bravery. After introducing herself, Zaynab delivered a powerful speech resembling sermons of his father, Imam Ali. While cursing Yazid’s companions, she emphasized the fate of oppressors and complained to god about wrongdoings’ of Yazid and his oppression.

Imam Sajjad’s Sermon at Yazid’s Court: In his speech, Imam Sajjad first introduced himself and then recounted the events leading to the martyrdom of Imam Hussain. After this sermon, those who figured out the truth began to cry and gathered around Imam Sajjad.

Returning to Madina[edit | edit source]

Yazid became so afraid of rumours and trouble that he ordered No'aman b. Bashir to take the ladies of the Ahl al-Bayt and the remainder of the Prophet's family back to their homes in Madina and his fear was so great that he ordered him to take them back during the night. However, the exact date of departure of captives from Damascus was not clear.

Source[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Misab az-Zubairi, Nasab Quraish, p. 58.
  2. Ibn Tawoos, Al-Iqbal, p. 54.
  3. Muhammad Hassan ash-Shaban Kurdi al-Qazwini, Riyad al-Ahzan, p. 49. al-Mas'udi, Ithbat al-Wasiyya, p. 143.
  4. al-Mas'udi, Ithbat al-Wasiyya, p. 143 (Najaf edition). According to p. 203, Vol. 1, of Abul-Fida’‘s Tarikh, Vol. 1, p. 203, he was three years old.
  5. al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 10, in the chapter discussing the offspring of Imam al-Hassan. According to p. 28 of Isaf ar-Raghibeen, commenting on a footnote in Nar al-Absar, and also according to p. 8 of Al-Luhuf by Ibn Tawoos, he treated him at Kufa, and when he healed, he transported him to Medina
  6. al-Khawarizmi, Maqtal al-Husayn, Vol. 2, p. 39.
  7. al-Maqrazi, Khutat, Vol. 2, p. 280. According to the authors of both Maqtal al-Husayn and Al-Luhuf, the mourning was even on a much larger scale.
  8. al-Khawarizmi, Maqtal al-Husayn, Vol. 2, p. 39. Shaikh LutfAllah ibn al-Mawla Muhammad Jawad al-Safi al-Gulpaigani, Al-Muntakhab al-Athar fi Akhbar al-Imam at-Thani Ashar (usually referred to as simply Al-Muntakhab), p. 332.
  9. al-Birjandi al-Safi, Al-Kibrit al-Ahmar, Vol. 3, p. 13, citing Al-Tiraz al-Muthahhab.
  10. Al-Amali by Tusi :91, al-Amali by al-Mufid :321, al-Ihtijaj by al-Tabarsi, 2:29.
  11. Holy Qur'an, al-Ahzab', 33:33.
  12. Maqtal al-Khawarizmi, 2:61, Ibn Tawus fi al-Luhuf fi Qatli al-Tufuf:100, Maqtal al-Muqaram :449 from Tafsir ibn Kathir al-Alusi, Lawa’aj al-Ashjan 219, Kitab al-Futuh 5:130.
  13. Shaykh al-Mufid, Kitab al-Irshad 2:119- 1, Waq'at al-Taff by Ibn Mikhnaf: 168&271, Ibn ‘Abd Rabbih al-Andalusi, al-‘Iqd al-Farid 5:124, Maqatil al-Talibain: 80.