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The Funeral and Remembrance Rites of the Family of Husayn (a.s.) at Karbala

There is no doubt that Karbala' witnessed the first funeral and remembrance for al-Husayn which took place immediately after his martyrdom. These must have been rites which were predominantly of a family nature, made up of the women and young girls from the family of 'Ali, wives, daughters and sisters of Imam al-Husayn and the Hashimites from the Talibid part of the family, who had been martyred with him. In the nature of the situation, they would also have been joined by the wives of the martyrs who were not Hashimites. However, the latter's numbers appear small in proportion to the number of 'Alid women. 1

We consider that these funeral and remembrance rites occupied a relatively long time. As far as we can estimate, they began after the death of al-Husayn as a martyr after mid-day on 10th Muharram, continued throughout the night and ended in a distressing way in the afternoon of 11th Muharram. That was when the leaders of the Umayyad army gave the orders for the long sad journey to Syria and prepared the camels to carry the prisoners.

The hearts of those grief-stricken women and girls must have been torn asunder with torment and distress. They were being told to depart and leave behind the bodies of their beloved and blessed dead which had been thrown on the sand without being buried.

'Umar ibn Sa'd had buried his own dead but he showed no concern about burying the martyrs. On the contrary, he ordered that the body of al-Husayn should be trampled on by horses' hooves.

For this reason, we are inclined to accept the reports which tell of some of the soldiers and leaders in the Umayyad army using violence to separate some of the women from the bodies of their dead. Among these is the report about Sakina, daughter of Imam al-Husayn. She had embraced the body of her father and would not leave it until a number of bedouin Arabs gathered round her and pulled her away from it. 2 Indeed we are inclined to accept the general evidence for these kinds of reports because the nature of things seems to require the reality of what they tell.

We consider that these funeral and remembrance rites were held, for the most part, in the open air on the field of battle (after the burning of the tents) 3 under the sun as it shone over them for the rest of 10th Muharram, then under the frail light of the stars of that night which was weighed down by the grief of those women whose hearts were overflowing with torment and distress. The Hashimite women and the others must have been tormented with worry about the begrimed bodies of the martyrs in the sand as they mourned and wept for them. We think that the greatest mour- ning must have taken place around the body of al-Husayn.

These were certainly funeral and remembrance rites which took place in the most degrading and distressing situation, from which rose the quivering keening of these women, far from home with their children. They were thirsty, hungry and terrified at the sight of their husbands, sons, fathers and brothers Iying dead.

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1. Cf. Abbas al Qummi, Nafs al Mahmun, where he mentiond that the number of women from the families of al Husayn and his followers was twenty. There is no early text with regards to this problem.

2. Ibn Tawus, al Luhuf, 56

3. Ibn Nama, Muthir al Ahzan.

Adapted from the book: "The Revolution of al-Husayn (a.s.)" by: "Shaykh Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Din"

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