Al-Ahram Weekly Online   5 - 11 June 2008
Issue No. 900
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Snap shots

"OH PEOPLE of Kufa! Oh deceitful and reneged people! Do you weep? So let tears not be dried and let groans not be finished." With these words she addressed the gathered crowds of Kufa. Mohamed El-Hebeishy attempts to understand more of the life of one of Islam's most prominent women.

They say that she was forced to walk from Karbala to Kufa unveiled, a most disgraceful act lacking the least of dignity, especially when you take into consideration that the woman in question is actually the Prophet Mohamed's granddaughter. That's not all. Sayeda Zeinab witnessed the death of her brother, Al-Hussein, along with two of her sons in one of the most notorious massacres, the Battle of Karbala. It was not just a battle like thousands upon thousands of other battles that have stained the history of mankind. The Battle of Karbala is the definitive turning point that reshaped Islam once and for all, marking the birth of Sunnis and Shias. A massacre rather than a battle, the Umayyad's mighty army of 4,000 had mercilessly slaughtered Al-Hussein's army of 72. Even the children they didn't spare, slaying 51 innocent souls.

The third daughter of Fatima Al-Zahraa and Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (the last of the Four Guided Caliphates) was pardoned by the victorious vicious Umayyad Caliphate Yazid Ibn Muawiyah after attending to his court in Damascus. From this point historians fall into disagreement on what exactly happened next. Did she go back to Medina or did she die in Syria? Some actually believe she sought asylum in Egypt, governed at the time by Musalimah Ibn Mukhaled Al-Ansari. Whichever story might be true, Sayeda Zeinab did not survive in anguish for long, believed as it is that she died circa 682 AD.

With over 30 titles bestowed upon her, Sayeda Zeinab is one of the few religious figures in history who have more than one mausoleum built for them. Aside for what we commonly know as Al-Sayeda Zeinab Mosque in Cairo, there is the shrine dedicated for her in Damascus (pictured), a marvellously beautiful Iranian-in-style mosque located in the suburbs of the Syrian capital. It is considered one of the most important and emotional sites of pilgrimage for Shia.

photo: Mohamed El-Hebeishy

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