كربلاء العراق واحد و ستين سنة هجرية
Karbala, Iraq 61 AH
Whenever Zaynab closed her eyes, she saw her brother’s lifeless, headless body.
The Umayyads had stabbed her brother over thirty times. After he was dead, a man named Sinan ibn Anas, who was rumored to be slightly insane, had taken off his head.
The Umayyads ripped the clothes off Husayn’s dead body searching for wealth and plunder. But they found nothing. Her brother had very few personal possessions.
But the humiliation was not yet over.
The Umayyad commander, Umar ibn Sa’d, ordered ten riders to trample Husayn’s body. They rode over him three times at full speed.
Zaynab could do nothing. She had lost two sons and most of the men in her family. She had cried everything she had and yelled and screamed and cursed at the Umayyads until her voice was hoarse.
Now she was back in the tent. Husayn’s second oldest son, Zaynul Abideen, too sick to partake in the battle, lay with his head on her lap.
Perhaps that was a mercy, Zaynab thought. For certainly, had Zaynul Abideen been healthy, he would have been out there with his father.
Zaynab heard the Umayyad soldiers laughing and yelling as they pulled down the tents, searching for plunder.
She heard the women of Banu Hashim screaming as the soldiers chased them down and tore the clothes from their backs.
She heard the officers’ futile efforts to exert some control over the soldiers.
But inside the tent, it was dark and quiet. All she heard was the labored breathing of Zaynul Abideen. He was awake and aware, but too sick to move. She imagined he felt the same way she did, knowing that his entire world had been destroyed in a matter of moments.
Harsh sunlight flooded the tent as the opening flapped open and several Umayyad soldiers stepped inside. They squinted their eyes trying to adjust to the darkness in the tent.
They were led by Shamir ibn Dhi al-Jawshan, the man who gave the final order to kill Husayn. When he saw Zaynab and Zaynul Abideen, he took out his sword and walked towards them.
“Shouldn’t we kill this one also,” he asked, jabbing his sword at the boy.
Zaynab was about to unleash a tirade of curses on him when one of the soldiers spoke up.
“No!” the soldier said. “By Allah, are we here to kill little boys?”
“We’ve killed many boys today, Humayd,” Shamir retorted.
“This one is sick and helpless,” said Humayd. “Killing him would be murder.”
At that moment, Umar ibn Sa’d entered the tent.
“What’s going on here?” he asked.
“We’ve found one of the enemy hiding in here,” said Shamir.
Umar looked at Zaynul Abideen then at Zaynab. “Put that sword away, you fool,” Umar snapped at Shamir. “Leave this boy alone and get your men out of here.”
Shamir reluctantly sheathed his sword. “This ‘boy’ is the enemy’s son. He will want revenge one day. It’s best you take care of him now.”
“What’s best is that you obey your commander,” Umar replied. “Now go outside and get your soldiers under control. Order your men to return everything they’ve taken.”
Umar ibn Sa’d turned and stormed out of the tent. Shamir cast a final, evil glance back at Zaynab and her nephew, then silently followed his commander.
Humayd was the last to leave. He looked at Zaynab, then lowered his head.
“My apologies for the tragedy your family suffered today,” he said quietly. “I wish it had turned out differently.”
“May Allah reward you, good man,” said Zaynul Abideen. “Allah protected me from evil through your words.”
دار الإمارة الكوفة واحد و ستين سنة هجرية
The Governor’s Palace, Kufah, 61 AH
He had called an assembly of the Ashraf and noblemen of Kufah. He wanted them to witness the fall of their hero and the humiliation of the rebels.
Part of him was thrilled. He had overcome a serious threat to the regime. He had emerged victorious over the rebels. He had destroyed the enemy and proved that Allah’s favor was with Banu Umayyah.
Another part of him was worried. He did not believe the threat was over. The people of Kufah were silent and subdued. But that was because they were afraid.
They were afraid of the Umayyad military. They were afraid of Ubaydullah. They were afraid of death.
But what would happen when they were no longer afraid?
The city had simmered with a quiet anger ever since he had executed Muslim ibn Aqeel. No doubt some of them were plotting ways to express that anger.
“Where is the rest of him?” he asked.
“We buried his body along with the others at Karbala,” a soldier responded.
Ubaydullah grunted and stared at the head again. The eyelids were half closed, the skin had grayed and the hair was caked with dirt and blood. And the mouth hung open with a small grin.
That grin bothered him. Husayn had mocked Ubaydullah and his father while he was alive, and that grin made it seem like he was mocking them in death also. Ubaydullah wanted to wipe that grin off his face.
For some reason, he was afraid to touch Husayn’s face with his bare fingers. Instead, he used his new cane to try and turn down the corners of Husayn’s mouth.
“Take that away from his mouth!” someone yelled from the audience.
Ubaydullah looked up, shocked and embarrassed.
“Who said that?” he snapped.
A man, stooped and bent with age, leaning on a walking stick, stood up from the audience. Ubaydullah recognized him as Zayd ibn Arqam, one of the Prophet’s oldest living companions.
“By Allah! I’ve seen the Messenger of Allah kiss those lips!” Zayd ibn Arqam shouted.
“Have you lost your mind, old man?” Ubaydullah asked.
“A slave has given authority to a slave,” Zayd responded. “You Arabs will be the slaves after today.” He waved a shaky finger at the stunned audience.
“If you weren’t so old and senile,” said Ubaydullah, “I’d have your head.”
Zayd ibn Arqam jabbed his finger at the audience. “You Arabs have killed the Son of Fatimah at the behest of the Son of the Bastard. He will kill you too. He will kill the best of you, and make the worst of you slaves. The Arabs have become a humiliated people. And this humiliation will destroy you.”
دمشق واحد و ستين سنة هجرية
Damascus, 61 AH
“Ameerul Mumineen!” shouted the Umayyad messenger. “I bring you good news of victory. The usurper, Husayn ibn Ali, came to us with eighteen of his clan and sixty of his Shia. The governor, Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad, ordered us to meet them on the battlefield. We gave them the option to surrender or fight, and they chose to fight. We attacked them as the sun rose and surrounded them on every side. Our swords met their heads and they began to flee like doves into the hills and hollows. By Allah, Ameerul Mumineen, we chased them down and did not give them any quarter. It was only a short time before we had slaughtered them, left their bodies naked and dusty in the sun, and their women crying, and made them food for the vultures.”
The man was an aspiring poet and he probably expected some reward from the Caliph. He will be disappointed, thought Yazid ibn Muawiyyah.
Seated in the assembly room were several Syrian noblemen. They were some of Yazid’s closest advisors.
To his right, were the severed heads from the men of Banu Hashim, including Husayn’s. Ubaydullah had them sent to Damascus along with the survivors from Karbala.
Yazid breathed slowly as he glanced over Husayn’s head. He had known Husayn and had fought by his side years ago when Muawiyyah was Caliph. Yazid had led an expedition to Constantinople and both Husayn and Ibn Zubayr had been under his command.
“By Allah, if I had fought you Husayn, I would not have killed you. Take these away,” Yazid ordered the poet. “And tell them to bring in Husayn’s family.”
A few minutes later, Husayn’s family was ushered into the great hall before the Caliph. Their faces were stony and silent, full of despair and shock.
The poet proudly announced their arrival. “I present to Ameerul Mumineen, these vile profligates.”
“Your mother gave birth to something viler,” Yazid said. “Get out of my sight.”
The poet scampered away and Yazid sat down on a pile of pillows and cushions. He waved for the members of Banu Hashim to sit as well.
“Come forward, cousin,” he gestured to Zaynul Abideen, Husayn’s only surviving son. “May Allah curse Ibn Ziyad for what he has done. I would never have killed your father.”
Zaynul Abideen said nothing. He just stared forward, looking somewhere beyond Yazid’s face.
“But, your father was a rebel. He severed our ties of kinship and tried to take what is rightfully mine. And you see how Allah has treated him.”
Zaynul Abideen responded by reciting a verse from the Quran. “No misfortune strikes the earth or yourselves unless it is written in a book before We bring it into existence.”
Yazid smiled at the young man. “Very good,” he said, impressed. “Now it’s my turn.”
Yazid cleared his throat. “Say: Whatever misfortune has struck you is because of what your hands have earned, and He excuses much.”
When Zaynul Abideen did not respond, Yazid ordered his servants to prepare fresh clothes, food, and sleeping arrangements for the survivors. While they were waiting, Yazid addressed the audience.
“This is dreadful,” he began. “Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad is no true kin of mine. Banu Umayyah and Banu Hashim both come from the Quraish. No true Umayyah would have done this to his own family.”
“Ameerul Mumineen,” came an earnest voice.
Everyone looked up to see a scrawny, red-faced man standing. Yazid thought he was a noble from one of the weaker Syrian families.
“Please, give me that one as my wife.” He pointed towards Fatimah, Husayn’s daughter. She could not have been more than thirteen years old.
“Never!” Husayn’s sister Zaynab cried out. She positioned her body in front of Husayn’s daughter as if to protect her. “Not on my life will someone like you ever marry my niece. And he,” she pointed to Yazid, “cannot give away my family!”
Yazid blinked in surprise. Truthfully, he had no intention of letting this man marry Husayn’s daughter. But who was this woman to say what he can and cannot do? Once again, Banu Hashim was overstepping their bounds.
“By Allah, hold your tongue woman,” snapped Yazid. “If I wished for him to marry that girl he would.”
Zaynab rounded on Yazid, her face furious and unafraid. “Wallahi, never! Allah would never let you force my family to do anything like that. You would have to leave Islam and enslave us in order for you to do that.”
“How dare you talk to me like that!” Yazid yelled. “It is your father and your brother who have left Islam.”
“You and your father and your grandfather have been guided because of the sacrifices of my father and my grandfather. My family dragged your family into the truth kicking and screaming.”
No one had ever spoken to Yazid like this before. He did not even know how to respond.
“You liar!” he spurted. “You enemy of Allah!” He tried to sound angry but he could hear the weakness in his voice.
Zaynab was not done. “Look at how you’ve abused your authority. You’ve defiled my family’s honor. You’ve acted unjustly. You’ve oppressed believing men and women without cause.”
Yazid fumbled for some response. He could have her arrested or beaten or any number of things. But doing so would only damage his reputation and create more divisions.
The room went awkwardly silent. Husayn’s family looked at Zaynab with pride.
The Syrian nobles looked at Yazid with nervous fear.
The silence was broken by the red-faced Syrian. “Ameerul Mumineen, if you would consider giving me the young girl – “
“Shut up!” Yazid shouted at him. Then he dismissed the room.
المدينة المنورة إثنين و ستين سنة هجرية
Medina, 61 AH
Abdul Malik ibn Marwan joined the assembly in the Prophet’s Masjid. They were listening to an announcement from Amr ibn Zubayr, the captain of the Shurta of Medina.
At thirty-five years, Abdul Malik was not an important member of Banu Umayyah. His father, Marwan ibn al-Hakam, former secretary to Caliph Uthman ibn Affan and former governor of Medina, was much more influential.
Abdul Malik’s grandfather, Hakam ibn Abi al-Aas, like most of Banu Umayyah, had initially opposed Prophet Muhammad. And when the Muslims finally conquered Mecca, the Prophet exiled Hakam from the city.
Years later, while serving as Uthman’s secretary, Marwan convinced the Caliph to pardon his father. This was one of many things that turned popular opinion against Caliph Uthman.
It was just after sunrise and the city was still mourning Husayn’s death. The events of Karbala had reached Medina two weeks ago and had sent shockwaves through the Arabian Peninsula.
Though Abdul Malik felt Husayn was at fault, he disagreed with Ameerul Mumineen’s response. Yazid should have never sent Ubaydullah after Husayn.
Everyone knew Ubaydullah was a crueler version of his father Ziyad ibn Abihi. And everyone knew Ziyad ibn Abihi was a bastard who lied about his lineage for political gain.
For Ameerul Mumineen to unleash that pretender’s son on Banu Hashim was rash and foolish.
Before long, the people of Medina were writing to Abdullah ibn Zubayr in Mecca, offering him their pledges if he would claim the Caliphate.
Ameerul Mumineen responded by appointing Amr ibn Zubayr, Abdullah Ibn Zubayr’s half-brother, as the new captain of the Shurta in Medina.
Amr ibn Zubayr hated Abdullah ibn Zubayr and immediately launched in investigation of those who pledged to him.
His Shurta fanned out across the city, arresting anyone suspected of supporting Ibn Zubayr.
They were dragged to the governor’s palace, interrogated, and flogged sixty lashes.
Within two weeks, open support for Ibn Zubayr had subsided. But Abdul Malik knew this was because Ibn Zubayr’s supporters had learned to keep quiet, or had fled to Mecca.
Nonetheless, Amr ibn Zubayr declared victory and announced his intentions of capturing his half-brother.
“We’re going to march to Mecca,” Amr ibn Zubayr announced to the audience, “arrest my brother, and bring him back to Ameerul Mumineen in chains.”
An old companion named Abu Shurayh, who had grown up in Mecca, stood up. “I beg you, do not attack Mecca. It is a sacred city. I heard the Messenger of Allah say that Allah has only permitted fighting in Mecca for one hour of one day and that was the day of its conquest.”
“Sit down, old man,” Amr ibn Zubayr had said. “I know all about Mecca’s status. I will attack my brother there and I will defeat him. And whoever hates it, well that’s just too bad.”
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