The Lonely Grave of Zayd al-Shahid (‘a), the Grandson of al-Husayn (‘a)
By: Agha Shabbir Abbas
As the month of Safar has begun, it is important to remember and reflect upon the many events that took place in this month especially pertaining to the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a). One particular event that took place on the first (or second) of this month was the martyrdom of Zayd (122 AH/740 CE), the son of Imam ‘Ali b. al-Husayn [Zayn al-’Abidin] (‘a) and brother of Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (‘a). In life, he along with his nephew Imam Ja’far al-Ṣādiq (‘a) are known as the pioneers of fiqh, having a list of countless students including the likes of Abu Hanifah. Many of the Sādāt, or descendents of Muhammad (s), claim lineage from him; of which the largest community resides in South Asia (Pakistan, Afghanistan, India) known as Sādāt-i-Barha, who trace their ancestry to descendents of Zayd al-Shahid from Wāṣit (Iraq) who migrated eastward towards the end of the 10th Century. It is interesting to note that Zayd al-Shahid’s mother, Jaydah, was also from South Asia and was commonly known as al-Sindiyah (The Sindhi Woman).
Zayd al-Shahid, following the footsteps of his noble grandfather Imam al-Husayn (‘a), unsheathed his sword to combat the forces of tyranny and oppression, and like his grandfather he too faced a much larger enemy on the battlefield but yet stood his ground till the last drop of blood from his blessed body moistened the parched earth of Iraq. His life mirrored that of his grandfather’s in many respects, and in one such way was that the martyrdom of both was prophesied by the holy Prophet (s):
“…وقد أخبر رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وآله) عن شهادته، فقد روى الإمام الحسين (ع) أن رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وآله) وضع يده على ظهري وقال: يا حسين سيخرج من صلبك رجل يقال له زيد يقتل شهيدا، فإذا كان يوم القيامة يتخطى هو وأصحابه رقاب الناس ويدخلون الجنة…” (ليالي بيشاور)
“…The Prophet prophesying Zayd’s martyrdom, as narrated by Imam al-Husayn: “The Holy Prophet put his sacred hand on my back, and said: ‘O Husayn, it will not be long until a man will be born among your descendants. He will be called Zayd; he will be killed as a martyr. On the day of resurrection, he and his companions will enter heaven, setting their feet on the necks of the people…””
Hence, among the revolutionaries from the Ahl al-Bayt (s) the names of al-Husayn (‘a) and his grandson Zayd b. ‘Ali (‘a) [and their followers] are the foremost, it is through their sacrifices that the path taken by the Islamic community was rectified. Zayd al-Shahid (‘a) saw that justice was not being implemented, that the Umayyads were again crossing all boundaries in their evil and debauchery. Like his grandfather, he too was invited by the people of Kufa; but on receiving word of rebellion, the Umayyads like those of past, imprisoned and executed the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) en masse and bribed the leaders of Kufa such that very few men came to Zayd al-Shahid’s assistance. On the outskirts of Kufa, Zayd and his party of 2-300 men fought fiercely for two days, against an army of thousands; they fought valiantly but Zayd and most of his men fell.
The surviving followers of Zayd al-Shahid secretly buried his body, and a magnificent structure exists at that location today in Iraq, however the savage Umayyads found his place of burial, exhumed his blessed body, sent the head to Damascus to the accursed Hisham b. ‘Abd al-Malik and crucified the remains for all to see in Kufa, and later on burned his body in a fire and scattered his ashes in the Euphrates. No part of this great martyr’s body survived other than his head, and after being released to his family no one knows for certain where it is buried, but there are two locations Cairo and in al-Karak Governate in Jordan. The location in Cairo seems to not be the actual burial site, but instead a site of devotion like the maqāmāt of Sayyidah Zaynab (s), Imam al-Husayn (‘a), and other members of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) also in Cairo; built by the Fatimids so that Ziyarah can be made from a distance.
The location in Jordan may very well be the actual burial place; according to certain traditions it has been recorded that after his family members received his head in Damascus it was being brought back to Madinah, and on the way there it was buried, and al-Karak lies in between Damascus and Madinah. The writer of this post was given an opportunity to visit this purported gravesite in the Spring of this year (2017), and what was seen was quite tragic. Not only is the maqām not found on any map, practically no Jordanian knew where the gravesite was, likewise they too had little to no idea who Zayd b. ‘Ali (‘a) was nor who his blessed father and grandfather were. Myself and my classmates, had to literally search throughout the quite large al-Karak Governate to find this maqām; and after exhausting much time and energy, in a small village called Rabbah, in an abandoned field strewn with litter, home to dogs and other animals, we found the ruins of the final resting place of the blessed head of Zayd al-Shahid (‘a).
It broke my heart then, and it breaks my heart today that this great-grandson of Muhammad (s), who gave everything he had for the religion of Islam, was rewarded in such a way by the Muslims, that not even a grave-marker is to be found where he is buried nor the small plot of land allotted to him is kept clean. Other than a handful of elders in the village of Rabbah, the entire village was ignorant to the blessed maqām in their midsts; and thus the grave is lonely to the extent that no lovers and no reciters of ṣalawāt or fātiḥah are to be found.
After having visited the maqām, I have added it to Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/YYKkzPL7zLt
I sincerely urge all those who travel to the Middle East, especially to Iraq for Ziyarat of Karbala and Najaf, to please try and take a flight that makes a stop in Jordan, and then take a short one hour taxi to Rabbah in order to visit the blessed maqām and once there to perform the Ziyarat and then help pick up some of the trash, and verily our loyalty to the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) demands us to do as such. It should be unbearable to the heart for the lovers of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) to know that the gravesite of Zayd b. ‘Ali (‘a) is in such a state.
Lastly, all those who read this post, I urge you to contact representatives of the Jordanian government and to voice your complaints. As the Royal Family of Jordan proudly displays their Hāshimi and Sādāt ancestry, they should be held accountable otherwise their ancestral pride means little.