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The Khutba of Maulatuna Zainab in the Court of Yazeed in Shaam

6 December 2014

On the solemn occasion of Imam Husain SA Chehlum, we present a paper on the Khutba (oration) delivered by Maulatuna Zainab AS in the court of the Umyyad caliph Yazeed.  Maulatuna Zainab delivered this heart rending khutba after Ahle Bayt were driven as prisoners from Karbala to Kufa and then Shaam, the Umayyad seat of power. The khutba of was presented with translation and annotation by Shz. Dr. Tahera baisaheba at Columbia University, New York, in February 2013. Presented here is a short excerpt, the full translation and annotation is presented on fatemidawat.com

Zaynab stepped forward to challenge Yazīd’s actions, denouncing him in an excoriating khutba. The text of her speech commences as follows (and this is in [Shz Tahera bs’s] translation):

God and his messenger spoke truth, O Yazīd: “Evildoers will attain an evil end, because they have rejected and ridiculed God’s signs.” 

This is a quote from the Qur’an, and with such a beginning, Zaynab grounds her arguments that will follow firmly in the Sacred Book.

Do you think, Yazīd, that because we [she means here the womenfolk from the family of the Prophet, after Karbala] have been forced to traverse the wide spaces of the earth, under the open sky, driven as prisoners are driven—do you think that it shows our littleness in God’s eyes and your honor? Do you think this happened because you are so important to Him? 

In the following lines, she uses Arabian camel metaphors to portray Yazīd’s glee at this moment that he sees as a moment of triumph for the Umayyad clan:

You raise your nose and look around yourself gay and happy when you see this world gathered to you, all its affairs, like a herd of camels, flocking to you. Beware! This is but a respite, these are the few moments you can breathe easy, before the punishment descends. God has said [and this is another quote from the Qur’an] “Let disbelievers not think that our giving them a respite is a good thing for them, indeed we give them a respite so that they may increase in trespass; and a crushing punishment awaits them.” 

This section of the khutba evokes for us the drama playing out at the Umayyad court. Zaynab stands as a prisoner in front of Yazid, while he sits in all his pomp and might on a caliphal throne, surrounded by guards and attendants. “raising his nose, and looking around himself gay and happy." On the face of things, Zaynab is totally in Yazid’s power; he has already killed Husayn and many of her kin, and subjected her and her sisters and nieces to abject suffering. He could potentially do even more harm. But she is not cowed. Her words express conviction that she is on the side of truth, that there will be a reckoning for the oppressor, and that God is with her always.

O son of Freedmen, [Freedmen or ṭulaqāʾ is a derogatory term, referring to those members of the Quraysh tribe who remained committed enemies of Islam until forced to capitulate upon the Muslim conquest of Mecca, and these freedmen included Yazid’s grandfather Abu Sufyan] [Is it justice, O son of Freedmen] that you veil your wives and concubines, while you drive forward the Messenger’s daughters [like captured slave women], having torn off their veils and hoarsened their voices [with weeping]. They grieve, as speeding camels carry them forth, and their enemies herd them from town to town, unguarded without any protector (walī), undefended, all kinds of people addressing them to their face? How do we stop those who look at us with coveting and rancor, with hatred and malice! 

Zaynab sets up a telling contrast here, between the honor accorded to the harem of the Umayyad ruler, and the shame and misery heaped by him on the daughters of the man he acknowledges as the Prophet of God. There could also be a direct reference here to the incident with Husayn’s young daughter Fatima al-Kubra. One of Yazid’s Syrian followers asked Yazid to give her to him, and Zaynab is said to have come to her rescue and protected her honor.

The full text of the paper is presented here.