The Fourth Journey - Kufa to Shaam
Bibi Zainab's speeches had stirred Kufa. The people of Kufa were filled with remorse. There was unrest in the city. In the market place they were whispering: 'What have we done? How could we invite the Prophet's grandson and then desert him to be mercilessly butchered at Karbala’? How can we permit the Holy Prophet's grand daughters be paraded in the streets like slaves? What have we done?'
Ibn Ziyad feared that the people of Kufa might rise against him. He ordered that the prison be strictly guarded. No one was allowed to visit them. Only the most trusted guards were allowed in or around the prison. In the mean time messengers ran between Kufa and Damascus. Although at first Yazid had ordered that the captives be detained at Kufa until he had completed all the arrangements for their entry into Shaam (Damascus), because of the mood in Kufa, Ibn Ziyad was anxious to have the prisoners out of Kufa as soon as possible. It was agreed that they be taken to Shaam.
Once again the prisoners were assembled and a procession left Kufa. But this time the departure was kept secret from the people of Kufa and took place at night. So began the fourth journey of tears! It was a long and difficult journey.
Who was the hero and who was the heroine of this journey through the Iraqi and the Syrian deserts? Was it Bibi Rubaab, who from her unsaddled camel kept on staring at Ali Asghar's cradle loaded on another camel carrying the goods looted from Husayn's camp during the Shaam al-Gareeba? Was it Bibi Sakina who now sat mournfully on her mother's lap staring at the 'alam of Hazrat Abbas and her mashk still tied to the 'alam, and who kept whispering: “I am not thirsty, Uncle, I am not thirsty!” Was the hero Imam Zain ul 'Abideen who was made to walk all the way, the hot chains eating into his flesh?
Some times our Fourth Imam would faint. His captors however knew no pity. They would flog him if he slowed down or fainted. On these occasions Bibi Zainab would intervene to stop the Imam from being flogged to death.
This was the journey of which the hero was the valour of Hazrat Ali which ruled the heart of Imam Zain ul 'Abideen and the heroine was the sabr of Fatimah Zahra which inspired Bibi Zainab.
The journey from Kufa to Shaam was a long one. It took over twenty days. The women and the children were exhausted. Their suffering was great! Quite often the children would faint under the scorching desert heat and fall off the camels.
The mothers would scream. Imam Zain ul 'Abideen and Bibi Zainab would go looking for the children. Sometimes they would find them by the road side barely alive and there were occasions when they were discovered too late. Our fourth Imam would dig a grave to bury the dead child. An historian revisiting this route a few years later discovered a large number of small graves on the way side!
Some Zakirs narrate the following story: Once Bibi Zainab looked at the camel on which Bibi Sakina was riding. Bibi Sakina was not there! She looked at all the other camels, Bibi Sakina was nowhere to be seen. She panicked. Where could Imam Husayn's darling daughter be? She asked Shimr to untie her to that she could go and look for Bibi Sakina. At first Shimr responded with his whip. Unmindful of her own pain she kept on begging.
Shimr untied her with the warning that if she did not return soon he would flog Imam Zain ul 'Abideen to death. Bibi Zainab ran in the direction from which they had travelled. Some distance away she saw an elderly lady holding Bibi Sakina affectionately, kissing her cheeks and wiping away her tears. She could hear Bibi Sakina telling the lady how her uncle Hazrat Abbas had gone to fetch her water and how he had never returned. When Bibi Sakina saw her aunt she explained that she had fallen off the camel but the kind lady had looked after her. Bibi Zainab turned to the lady and said, “May Allah reward you for your kindness to this orphan!” The lady replied, “Zainab, my dear, how can you thank your own mother? Do you not recognize me?” As the lady lifted her face, Bibi Zainab saw that it was Fatimah Zahra!!
When the caravan reached the outskirts of Damascus Omar Sa'ad sent a message to Yazid that they had arrived. Yazid ordered that the caravan remain where it was until the morning. He wanted the people of Shaam to line the streets to look at the captives and witness his victory. In the meantime the streets through which the captives were to be marched were being decorated with flags and pennants.
Bibi Zainab had conquered Kufa. Now Shaam had come and was waiting for her!
When at long last the caravan reached the outskirts of Damascus, a message was received by Umar Sa'ad that the prisoners were not to be brought into the capital until Yazid had completed all the preparations.
Yazid invited all the ambassadors, foreign dignitaries and leading citizens to his court. People were ordered to line up the streets. Musicians were asked to play music and dancers were told to dance in the streets. Such were the festivities organized by the Khalifah for the entry of the grandson and the grand daughters of the Holy Prophet of Islam into what had become the metropolis of the Islamic Empire!!
Surrounded by the dancers, the musicians and the jeering crowds of the citizens of Damascus the prisoners were led toward the palace of Yazid. The ladies who had never stepped outside their homes without their heads and faces being covered, had been forced to travel from Karbala’ to Kufa, and Kufa to Shaam bare headed and with their arms tied with a single rope. If any one of them stumbled, she was whipped. Never in the history of Islam had prisoners been treated with disrespect, let alone the cruelty meted out to the members of the Holy Prophet's household. And now, this ultimate insult of being led into the court of Yazid like a herd of cattle!