Visual Ziyarat of Bibi Zaynab/ Zainab binte Ali, Damascus (6 minutes, HD Video)

For those not familiar with Zaynab binte (daughter of) Ali, I respect her for her commitment to truth and justice even after she was taken prisoner of war after the defeat of her brother Husayn in the battle of Kerbala on October 10th, 680 CE (10th day of the first month of Muharram in the Islamic Calendar 61 years after Hijra). Husayn, the grandson of the Holy Prophet of Islam, and the son of Imam Ali and Fatima, refused to swear allegiance to an unjust Khalif (King) Yezid  who did not respect the individual, social and religious rights of his people. Armed with only 72 men, and accompanied by his family, he stood up against army of thousands. Even after three days of siege where water was cut off , he refused to surrender and walked peacefully to death knowing that what he did was right and necessary. Amongst the dead included his 6 month old child who was killed when Husayn requested for water for his 6 month innocent child, his 18 year old son Ali Akber, his brother Abbas, the commander Hur of the enemy army who joined Husayn at the last minute knowing it was the right thing to do, his friend Habib ibne Mazahir, and the sons of Zaynab, Awn and Muhammad who were teenagers at the time. His sister, Zaynab, along with many others, was taken a prisoner. Even in chains, she eloquently spoke out against the injustice of Yezid. She was also mystical. When taunted by Yezid about the fate of her family and friends in Kerbala, she said she saw nothing but beauty. In that she was right-the worst crises brought out the best in men, women, and children who stood by justice and moral perfection till the end. Fearing a revolution, Yezid released the family of Imam Husayn. Zaynab spread the message of the fearless struggle for freedom and justice till the end of her days. Yezid was overthrown shortly after the tragedy of Kerbala. The message of Husayn which resonates with me is: “Even if you do not have a religion, at least be free in your world”. Mahatma Gandhi said of Husayn “I learnt from Hussain how to achieve victory while being oppressed.”

Zaynab is buried in Damascus, Syria.  I call her the door to Ali. There is a sense of peace and calm at her monument. I could feel the peace and her powerful presence. I consider her to be a Saint and she has my love and adoration. Yezid’s palace remains in a sorry state of decay, his legacy is that of a tyrant and there is no monument or grave to mark his demise that visitors to Damascus may witness.


“If you do not have a religion,

or fear resurrection (to be judged for your deeds),

then at least be free in your world”

These are the words of Husayn ibne Ali and are a call to freedom in the most universal sense.

I have not known any human being who has been more free than Husayn or whose call for freedom was more powerful.

He was a man who was saintly without giving up his humanity (while refusing to accept the unjust leadership he pleaded for water for his six month old child ), and human being who loved without attachment. He pursued what was right and fought for social, political and economic justice against the 6th Khalif (Ruler) of the Muslim world more than a thousand years ago. He sacrificed more than any man I know as a father, husband, brother, cousin, friend, comrade and individual. He was a free man in that he did what was right and was not bound by what he knew would be a terrible consequence for himself, his family and comrades in refusing to recognize an unjust leadership: death for those who fought with him, imprisonment, poverty and desolation for those who survived. Yet I know of no man who was blessed with the company of better human beings than him: his family, friends and lovers stood by him till the end.

Husayn was beheaded after the battle fought in the lands of Kerbala on the tenth day (Ashura) as he made his last prostration. But not before the commander of the enemy army responded to his call, and chose to be free by doing what was right, abandoning the “winning team”, and joining the cause of justice. This man was aptly named “Hur”, meaning free. Husayn’s sister, Zaynab, was taken as a prisoner after his death but even in chains she stood by justice and when mocked by the enemy she said she only saw beauty.

There was shortly thereafter a revolution leading to the overthrow of the despot Khalif Yezid.

The slogan for many that know Husayn and wish to follow in his path of freedom and justice is “Every day is Ashura, every land is Kerbala”.

I commend the story of Husayn to all lovers of freedom.