After the supreme sacrifice had been accepted and our Imam Hussain (as) had been martyred, a gloomy silence hung over the battlefield of Karbala.
Every now and then the silence would be broken by the sound of drum-beating to celebrate victory. Not content with spilling the innocent blood of Imam Hussain (as) and his companions, Amr ibne Sa”ad, the commander of Yazid”s army, ordered the horses to be shod afresh and then run over the bodies of the dead Muslims. Although some people from his army objected to this gross disrespect to the dead, he managed to enforce this horrible action. Having trampled over the bodies of the martyrs, the enemy next turned their attention to the defenseless camp of Imam Hussain (as).
Yazid”s soldiers marched into the camp where they subjected the grief-stricken ladies to further torment and indignity. They had expected to find luxurious articles in the tents of the family of the Rasulullah (S.A.W), but all they found were simple items and clothes, some of which had been stitched by Bibi Fatima (as) with her own hands. The ruthless soldiers snatched away these few possessions of sentimental value. They were angry at the lack of booty, and they took the veils off the struggling ladies forcing them to expose their hair and faces. This humiliation was almost too much to bear.
Not satisfied with this, the enemy set fire to the tents. The terrified ladies gathered their children and rushed from tent to tent, trying to escape the burning flames. One young child was seen rushing out of a tent with her clothes on fire. One of the enemy soldiers, seeing her pitiable condition came forward and put out the flames. The child looked at him, surprised at the unexpected kindness. Tearfully, the little child asked him, “O Shaikh, do me one more kindness and tell me the way to Najaf.” The soldier was very surprised at this unusual request, and replied, “Najaf is far away from here. Why do you want to know the way there?”.
The child said with heartbreaking innocence, “I want to go to the grave of my grandfather Imam Ali (as) and complain about what your people have done to us – how our men were butchered and how our ladies have been whipped. I want to tell him how the earrings were snatched from my cousin Sakina”s ears, leaving her earlobes torn and bleeding.”
Bibi Zainab (as), who had been left in charge of the camp by Imam Hussain (as), was at a loss as to what to do. She went to the seriously ill Imam Ali Zainul Abideen (as). He lay unconscious on the ground after the enemy had even robbed the mattress on which he lay. She shook him urgently to ask his advice. He was burning with fever but with a great effort he replied that it was compulsory on them to save their lives and he asked her to get everyone out from the burning tents into the open.
Soon the raging fires subsided leaving only one tent standing, although it was also damaged by fire. The ladies and children salvaged whatever they could of their few belongings and huddled together in that little shelter waiting for nightfall.
The night following the day of Ashura is known as Shame Ghariba. It was the night when the exhausted, hungry and tired families of Imam Hussain (as) and his companions sat in loneliness, each thinking about the loved ones they had lost in the unjust battle on that day.
Due to the illness of Imam Ali Zainul Abideen (as), Bibi Zainab (as) realised that she would have to take care of the small group of women and children herself. She called her sister Bibi Umme Kulthum (as) to help her and they decided to count all the children to see that none had gone missing in the confusion of the fire. To her horror and dismay Bibi Zaynab (as) found that Bibi Sakina (as), the beloved daughter of Imam Hussain (as), was not there.
The two ladies searched everywhere for the young girl but in vain. Finally, in desperation, Bibi Zainab (as) went to the place where the body of her brother Hussain (as) lay and cried, “O my brother, Sakina, who you left in my care, is nowhere to be found. Where shall I look for her in this wilderness?” Just then, the moon came out from behind a cloud and Bibi Zainab (as) saw that little Sakina (as) lay on her father, sleeping on his chest like she always used to. She shook the child awake and said, “My child, how did you find your father”s beheaded body in this darkness?”
The little girl replied innocently, “I wanted to tell my father about what the people had done to me. I wanted to tell him how Shimr had robbed the earrings that my father had so lovingly given me. I wanted to tell him how he had ripped them from my ears leaving my earlobes torn and bleeding. I wanted to tell him how the beast had mercilessly slapped me when I cried in pain. When I was running aimlessly in the desert I thought I heard my father”s voice telling me he was here. I followed the voice and I found him lying here. I told him everything and then I felt like sleeping on his chest the way I always did, for the last time. So I kept my head on his chest and slept till you came.”
Bibi Zainab (as) took the little child”s hand and led her back to the camp where her mother Bibi Rubab waited anxiously. She had just returned the exhausted child to her mother when she noticed that a group of people were advancing towards the camp carrying flame torches. She thought that some soldiers had returned to loot them and she hurried to stop them from disturbing the children who had finally gone to sleep despite their hunger and thirst.
However, it turned out that the arrivals were a group of ladies, the wives of some of the enemy soldiers. They were led by the widow of Hur, who had joined Imam Hussain”s (as) army from the enemy camp.
Hur”s widow said, “Dear lady, we have been asked to bring food and water for the children and bereaved ladies of your camp.” She continued sadly, “I am the widow of Hur who died fighting for your brother. When the soldiers of Amr ibne Sa”ad realised that all of you would perish of hunger and thirst, and that they would not be able to take you back to Yazid according to his command, they sent me to bring food and water to you.”
Bibi Zainab (as) offered her condolences at the death of Hur and apologised that they had not been able to offer him much hospitality. This remark prompted Hur”s widow to say, “My lady, I do not know how to offer you condolences, because you lost not one, but 18 members of your family.”
Bibi Zainab (as) supervised the feeding of all the children and ladies. She then took a broken sword in her hands and began going around the camp ensuring that the small group was safe from any further disturbances during that night.