The Road to Sham
After the plunder and massacre at Karbala, the Ahlul Bayt (A) of the Prophet (S) were subjected to harrowing tribulations by Yazid's forces on their way to Sham (Syria). Indeed these afflictions surpassed those meted out at Karbala in their intensity as well as their hostility. It left the members of Imam Hussain (A)'s household completely scarred for the rest of their lives.
Sayyid Ibne Taoos (r.a.), the great traditionalist, has recorded in his 'Iqbal' that in the latter half of the Day of Ashura, soon after Imam Husain (A) was martyred, the ladies of his household encountered nerve-racking bereavement and trauma. They were taken captives by Yazid's barbarians. In captivity, they were engaged in the mourning and lamenting for their loved ones. They were subjected to such intense humiliation and abasement in that latter half of Ashura, that Ibn Tawoos could never adequately capture that suffering on paper.
Imam Sadiq (A) recounts from his father, Imam Baqir (A), who inquired from his father Imam Sajjad (A), in what condition had Yazid (the accursed) summoned him ?
Imam Sajjad (A) replied:
"I was made to mount a lame camel that was without any saddle. Imam Hussain's severed head gazed at us from atop the lance. Our ladies trailed us mounted on mules. Yazid's sentries held guard on the rear side. Raised lances and spears hovered threatening around us. If one of us dared to shed even a single tear (in grief), he/she was subjected to agonising prodding of lances in the head. This was until we reached Damascus and one of the Syrians announced our arrival thus, 'O people of Sham, these are the prisoners from the accursed clan!'" (We seek refuge in Allah) !!
Abdullah b. Rabeeah narrates:
"I was present in Damascus in Yazid b. Muawiyah's court when Imam Hussain (A)'s household were brought to Sham. Zuhair b. Qais entered the court. Yazid exclaimed, 'Woe to you! What news have you got for me?' Zuhair answered proudly 'I bring glad tidings of Allah's conquest and triumph. Hussain (A) along with eighteen members of his family and his sixty companions confronted us ... we surrounded them and attacked them with our daggers and lances. They scurried for shelter like pigeons. They scattered for refuge with panic. All this in as much time taken as to slaughter a camel or of the afternoon siesta. Till we decimated every single one of them, down to the last rebel. We plundered their corpses, not sparing even their clothes. We dyed their dress with their blood. We ground their faces in the earth so that the sun could cast its blazing heat on them. So that they would be left at the mercy of storms and gales. So that the predators of the desert would linger around them.' Having heard this, Yazid dismissed him without any reward. Ubaydillah b. Ziyad then summoned Imam Hussain (A)'s head to be advanced. He then summoned the children and the ladies of Imam (A)'s household. And ordered that Imam Sajjad (A) chained in iron fetters and escorted by Makhfar b. Thalabah Aaezee and Shimr b. Zil Jawshan (may Allah curse both of them). They accompanied Imam (A) till he joined those who had the holy head of Imam Hussain (A). Imam (A) walked in studied silence, not conversing with either of his escorts till they reached Damascus."
Both Shiite and Sunni historians have recorded that when the carriers of Imam Hussain (A)'s head reached their first destination, they began drinking alcohol in their euphoria. They were gazing at Imam (A)'s holy head with regalement and gratification, when a palm emanated off a wall clutching an iron pen, and wrote a few words in blood : "Are the murderers of Hussain (A) hopeful of the Prophet's (S) intercession on the Day of Judgement?" On witnessing this, they were petrified and quickly left that place.
Sibt b. Jauzi has reported from Ibne Sireen in his 'Tazkeratui Khawaas' that a stone relating to an era that preceded the Prophet's proclamation (be'sat) by five hundred years, was discovered on which some words in the Syrian dialect were engraved. Its Arabic translation was similar to the aforementioned tradition.
Sibt b. Jauzi has recorded a tradition from Abu Muhammad Abdul Malik b. Hisham Nahvi: "On their way to Sham, at every halt, Yazid's army had the practice of removing Imam Husain (A)'s head from the chest (which was specially made for his head). They then placed his head aloft the lance. At one of their halts at a church, they removed Imam (A)'s head from the chest as was their practice, raised it atop the lance and guarded it. They inclined this lance against the church. A lone Christian priest inhabited this church. At around midnight, this priest witnessed an amazing spectacle. He saw a ray of light extending from Imam (A)'s head to the skies. Amazed, he then inquired from Yazid's men, 'Who are you?' They responded, 'We are Ibne Ziad's soldiers.' The priest then sought the identity of the severed head. They replied that it was the head of Husain b. Ali b. Abi Talib, son of Fatima, daughter of the Prophet. Amazed, he requested, 'Will you let me keep this head for the night's duration in exchange for ten thousand dinars? I will return it (when you are ready to leave this place)?' They acquiesced and handed over Imam (A)'s head to that priest in exchange for the agreed amount. The priest, then cleansed Imam (A)'s head and applied fragrance to it. He held the head closely and wept for the entire night. In the morning, he confessed to Imam (A)'s head:
"I have nothing remaining with me save my life. I bear witness that, there is no God except Allah and Muhammad (S) is His Messenger and I am your slave."
Later, he abandoned the church and devoted the rest of his life to the service of the Ahlul Bait (A). Indeed this incident of the Christian priest's guidance by Imam Hussain (A) without a word transpiring from Imam (A)'s severed head, bears articulate testimony to the Holy Prophet (S)'s declaration'
"Certainly Hussain is the beacon of guidance and the ark of deliverance."
Yazid's men proceeded with Imam (A)'s head. On approaching Damascus, they resolved to distribute those dinars (given by the priest) as Yazid was likely to deprive them of it. When they opened those bags containing the dinars to their shock and dismay they discovered that the dinars had transformed into worthless coins. Inscribed on one side was :
"Do not consider Allah to be unaware of what the evildoers perpetrate."
And engraved on other side was
"Soon the evildoers shall find out where their hearts are inclined"
Disillusioned, they were forced to dump those bags in the river. ('Seeratun Nabi' by Ibne Hisham)
Sayyed (r.a.) recounts from Ibne Lahseeah, (of which only the necessary portion we shall mention over here), who relates, "I was circum-ambulating (doing ta'waaf) the Holy Ka'aba when I overheard a person beseeching with the Almighty Allah thus, 'O my Lord! I am expectant of (Your) forgiveness although I know You will not forgive me.' When I tried to console him, he disclosed to me the entire episode thus:
'I was among the fifty individuals who took Imam Husain's head to Sham. On the way all, save me, drank alcohol in revelry and celebration. At night, I witnessed awesome lightning. I beheld the various Prophets viz. Hazrat Adam (A), Hazrat Nuh (A), Hazrat Ibrahim (A), Hazrat Ismail (A) and Hazrat Muhammad (Ss.) descending from the skies. Accompanying them was a group of angels ushered by Jibraeel (A) and Mikaeel (A). Prophet Muhammad (S) took the chest with Imam's head and began wailing uncontrollably. All his companions consoled him. Jibraeel (A) told the Prophet (S), 'Allah has ordained me to obey you unconditionally. If you wish I can decimate your nation.' The Prophet (S) declined Jibraeel's offer and said, 'Our nation's decision will be taken on the Day of Judgment.'
Thereafter, the angels advanced menacingly towards us so as to kill us. I cried, 'Peace! Peace! 0 Messenger of Allah!' The Prophet looked at me in disgust and said, 'Go away! May Allah never forgive you!'
Abu Mikhnaf has chronicled in his 'Manaaqib' that when Imam Hussain's head was brought in front of Yazid, it emanated a fragrance so sweet and enchanting, so as to surpass all other fragrances.
Sayyed ibne Taoos (r.a.) has narrated a tradition that, when the ladies of the Imam (A)'s house were approaching Damascus, Janabe Umme Kulsum (S) approached the accursed Shimr requesting him, 'When you take us into the city, please take us past the gate that has few spectators.' However, Shimr displaying his malevolence, did exactly the opposite. He made the ladies pass through the most crowded gates of Damascus and positioned them at the steps of the Masjide Jaame'a where usually, the common criminals were made to stand.
Zaid has narrated from his forefathers who in turn recounted from Sahl b. Sa'ad thus, '...in of one my sojourns to Sham, I was surprised to see festivities abounding among its residents, akin to Eid. On seeking the reason (for such festivities) from the people, I learned that the rejoicing was on account of Imam Hussain, whose head was brought to Sham and the ladies of his house, who were held as captives. I waited awhile till I saw the flags and standards, one behind the other ... and I saw some women mounted on camels devoid of any saddle. I approached the first camel of that procession which incidentally was that of Sakina b. Husain (S). I introduced myself and sought any demands that she might have. She requested that all the severed heads be sent forward, preceding her. I accosted the guardians of the heads and offered them three hundred dinars so they took the heads ahead of Janabe Sakina (S). (Bihar al Anwar and Manaaqib)
It has been reported that the Ahlul Bayt (A) were detained at the gates of Sham for three days, as if they were an adornment for the city that no eye had ever witnessed in the past. Then about five lakhs from Sham's populace greeted them playing the tambourine and drums. However, the fact is that all these sufferings and more, are very evident for Imam-e-Zamana (A). He, in his divine knowledge, aware of every vivid detail and every minute aspect of Karbala.
Every Shia's most ardent desire is to find Imame Zamana (A) in the precincts of Imam Hussain's shrine. And to say "Ameen" when Hazrat (A) beseeches Allah beneath the dome of Imam Hussain (A)'s shrine, for his early reappearance. Allah (the Mighty and the Glorified) responds to Imam (A)'s invocations. Only then will Janabe Zahra (S) find solace and the Prophet's word will come to pass. And we attain martyrdom under Imam (A)'s banner.