On this, a day after the heartrending tragedy of Ashura and the martyrdom of Imam Husain (AS), his companions, his brothers, his nephews, and two of his sons, the survivors of the massacre, that is, his only surviving 23-year old son and successor Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS), along with the noble ladies and children of the blessed household of the Prophet of Islam, were taken in chains and fetters to the court of the tyrannical governor of Kufa, Obaidollah ibn Ziyad. The caravan of captives was led by Hazrat Zainab (peace upon her), the indomitable daughter of Imam Ali and Hazrat Fatema Zahra (peace upon them).
As night befell the battlefield of Karbala on Ashura, the 10th of Moharram, Omar ibn Sa'd, the commander of the Omayyad forces, ordered the horsemen to trample the blessed body of the noble grandson of Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny). The tragedy became catastrophic. The decapitated head of Husain (AS) along with the heads of his companions, including the tiny head of his infant son Ali Asghar, were distributed among the criminals, as gifts to be carried to the criminal governor of Kufa for rewards. Ibn Sa’d gave state funeral with military honours to the dead Omayyad soldiers, while the corpses of the members of the Prophet’s Household were left exposed to the sun, wind and sands, without shroud or burial. It was only on the 3rd day of the tragedy that men of the Bani-Asad tribe who were living not far away from the battlefield buried them. The criminals, not yet satisfied with all this, took as captives the noble children and women of the Prophet's household, in addition to the Imam's sick son and successor, Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS). At the front of the sad procession were heads of the martyrs mounted on lances. The question is that: could these heartless beasts who committed the goriest murder and that of the most pious and noble person of their age, be called human beings? Definitely not! No doubt, the immortal saga of Imam Husain (AS) acts as a catalyst in every age and era, inspiring the seekers of justice and freedom to stand steadfast against tyrants and oppressors
It was now the task of Hazrat Zainab (peace upon her) to carry the mission of her martyred brother to the enemy camp so that the message of truth would continue to live on. Despite the ordeals and sorrows, she exercised the highest form of self-control to accomplish her task. The women and children were in sorrow because of the events that had transpired, but let it not be assumed that their grieving was a hindrance to their mission. They mourned with legitimate reason for the Imam and this mourning led to purposeful action. They were entrusted with a precious mission, and without them, the lives of their martyred men would have been lost in vain if the Muslim community at large did not wake up. When leaving Karbala for Kufa, Hazrat Zainab (peace upon her), on seeing the corpse of her brother, turned towards Medina and addressing her grandfather, lamented:
“The angels of the sky shower blessings on you, but here is Husain lying in the wilderness robbed of his turban and cloak and with his limbs dismembered while your (grand)daughters are made captive. To God we complain; O’ Mohammad! This is Husain whose head severed from the back of his neck lies exposed to the easterly wind pouring sand upon him, killed by the sons of adulteresses. Ah, what grief you have suffered O Aba Abdillah (Husain).”
On the entry of the caravan of captives in the city of Kufa, where Hazrat Zainab (peace upon her) used to be the leading lady in the time of the caliphate of her father Imam Ali (AS), she delivered a resounding sermon in the most eloquent manner that made people still unaware of her identity, dumbstruck. When the unsuspecting Kufans who had turned out to witness what appeared to them to be a scene of amusement, threw dates towards the captives as sadaqa (or alms), the granddaughter of the Prophet could no longer keep silent. She said in a commanding tone: “We are the daughters of the Messenger of God, alms-taking is certainly forbidden for us.” The effect was electrifying on the crowd and tears rolled down their eyes. They froze into silence, and even horses and camels stopped neighing and whinnying. A narrator says that he had never heard anyone deliver such a highly eloquent speech and it made him recall the matchless eloquence of Imam Ali (AS). After praising God and sending blessings on the Prophet and his infallible progeny, she reprimanded the Kufans for their weak faith and double crossing. She questioned the reason for their tears now when it was because of their treachery the Ahl al-Bayt have suffered and the tears of the blessed household have never stopped flowing. She likened their tears to moonlight that falls on a grave but has no benefit for the buried corpse. She said, the Kufans because of their dubious traits invited Imam Husain (AS) and then deserted him to be tragically martyred, thereby earning for themselves divine wrath.
“May your tears never stop,” she said in her highly eloquent speech likening the treacherous Kufans to a woman who after toiling to weave the thread undoes her endeavours herself. She reprimanded them for their sedition and sycophancy and said they resembled the grass that grows in unclean soil that even animals are unwilling to smell. She told them that their crime of inviting Imam Husain (AS), betraying him to the forces of Yazid and participating in the shedding of his innocent blood will remain till the Day of Resurrection as an ugly blot upon them, since they have badly hurt the soul of Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny). She warned the deceitful Kufans that if today blood has fallen from the sky because of the martyrdom of Imam Husain (AS), tomorrow they should be prepared for the more grievous punishment of afterlife. Hazrat Zainab (peace upon her) would have continued this highly eloquent sermon of her if her nephew Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) had not stepped forward and requested her to have patience. In the court of Kufa when the tyrannical governor Ibn Ziyad tried to mock her and insult Imam Husain (AS), she boldly said that she had not seen anything humiliating for the Ahl al-Bayt, except the beauty of God’s decree. In this way she ashamed the perpetrators of the tragedy and exalted the mission of the martyrs in the way of God in order to safeguard Islam and all humanitarian values.