Sukayna bint Husayn

This article is about Ruqayyah bint Al-Husayn. She is not to be confused with Sakinah (Fatima al-Kubra) bint Husayn.
Ruqayyah bint Al-Husayn

Born 20 Rajab, 56 AH (676 ACE)
Died 13 safar, 60 / 61 AH (680 / 681 ACE)[1]
Damascus, Al-Sham
Burial Sayyidah Ruqayyah Masjid, Damascus
Father Al-Husain ibn ‘Ali
Mother Rubab bint Imra’ al-Qais

Sakinah (Arabic: سـكـيـنـة, "Calmness, Peace of Mind"), née Ruqayyah bint Al-Husain (Arabic: رقـيـة بـنـت الـحـسـيـن)[2] (20 Rajab, 56 AH – 5 Rabi' al-thani, 60/61 AH; 676–680/681),[1] was the daughter of Al-Husayn ibn 'Alī (Arabic: الـحـسـيـن ابـن عـلي) and Rubab bint Imra’ al-Qais ibn ‘Adī bin Aws (Arabic: إمـرئ الـقـيـس ابـن عـدي بـن أوس).[3] Her brothers included ‘Ali Zaynul-‘Abidin, ‘Ali al-Akbar, and ‘Ali al-Asghar. Her sisters included Fāṭimah aṣ-Ṣughrá and Fāṭimah al-Kubrá.

The other Sakinah

Mosque-cemetery complex of Bab al-Saghir, Damascus, Al-Sham, having the grave of Fatimah al-Kubra.
Grave of Fatimah al-Kubra in Bab al-Saghir, Damascus.

It is believed that there are three daughters of Imam Al-Husain who went along with him in Karbala’, namely Fatemah al-Kubra‚bibi khuwala bint e imam hussain and Ruqayyah. Ruqayyah was the four-year-old daughter; the elder was Fatemah al-Kubra, also called 'Sakina'. Another daughter of Al-Husain, that is Fatemah al-Sughra, was apparently left behind at Al-Medinah at that time, due to an illness.[4][5][6][7]


Sayyidah Ruqayyah was born on 20th of Rajab, 56 AH. Her early years were said to have been spent in Medina. She was the most beloved daughter of Imam Al-Husain the grandson of the Islamic Nabi (Arabic: نَـبِي, Prophet) Muhammad. When she went to bed at night, she would want to spend some time with her father, and used to sleep on his chest every night. Al-Husain was often heard saying that a house without her would "not be worth living in." He would tell her stories of her great-grandfather, and of the battles fought by her grandfather, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib.

There was also special bond between Sakinah and her paternal uncle, Al-‘Abbas. He loved her more than he did his own children. If she requested anything, he would not rest until he had fulfilled her request. During the journey from Al-Medinah to Mecca, then from Mecca to Karbala’, Al-‘Abbas was often seen riding up to the mehmil (a special saddle made for women) in which she sat, to make sure that she had everything she wanted. Sakinah loved her uncle just as much. While in Al-Medinah, she would several times a day visit the house in which Al-‘Abbas lived with his family and his mother, Ummul Banin.

She accompanied her father when he traveled from Mecca to Al-Kufah in Al-‘Iraq. On the 2nd of Muharram, 61 AH (680 CE), Al-Husain and 72 of his family members and companions were forced to camp in the plains of Karbala’ by Yazid's army of 30,000 men. Yazid ibn Mu‘awiyyah was the practical Caliph who desired religious authority by obtaining the allegiance of Al-Husain, but the Imam would not give up his principles. On the 10th of Muharram, also known as ‘Ashura’, the Imam's household was attacked, some of his companions were killed, and the survivors were made captives. The survivors included the Imam's sisters, wives, and daughters, including Sakinah, relatives of companions of the Imam, and his son, ‘Ali Zaynul-‘Abidin, who did not participate in the battle, due to an illness.

In Karbala’

On the 2nd of Muharram, Yazid's army began to gather at Karbala’. Al-Husain said to his sister Zaynab, "The time has come for you to get Sukainah used to going to sleep without me." Sakinah would follow her father at night, and Al-Husain had to gently take her to Zaynab or Rubab.

On the 7th of Muharram, by the order of Yazid, the army prevented Al-Husain from getting water from the Euphrates. The water became scarce in the camp of Al-Husain. Sakinah shared whatever little water she had with other children. When soon there was no water at all, the thirsty children looked at her with their eyes full of hope. The situation got so bad that her lips were parched with thirst. But soon, Sayyedah Sakinah came out holding a dried up mashq (Arabic: مـشـق, water bag), leading 42 other children, each holding a dry water bag. The children were shouting as if in chorus, "Al Atash, Ya ammahu!" (The Thirsty, O uncle!). She walked up to Al-‘Abbas and told him that the children had all come to her asking for water. He could see that thirst, aggravated by the scorching heat of the desert, was squeezing their young lives out of them. Al-‘Abbas went to Al-Husain and requested his permission to go and get water for Sukainah and the other children. Al-Husain rejected his request once again, saying to him that he was his army's commander, and that because of that, he could not go and fight. Al-‘Abbas used Sakinah's request to gain Al-Husain's permission, and then Al-Husain agreed. Then Al-‘Abbas put Sakinah's mashq on the ‘alam (Arabic: عـلـم, flag), mounted his horse, and rode up to Al-Husain.

When Al-‘Abbas went to get the water, the children gathered around Sakinah with their little cups, knowing that as soon as Al-‘Abbas brought water, she would first make sure that they had some before taking any herself. Sakinah was standing next to Al-Husain, with her eyes also fixed on the ‘alam of Al-‘Abbas. Al-‘Abbas reached the river bank, fighting Yazid's men who tried to block his way, killing anyone with his spear who tried to stop his progress. Thousands of Yazid's men avoided Al-‘Abbas while he was going towards the river, and the whole army of Yazid disappeared because they were scared of Al-‘Abbas – his bravery was well known among the Arabs. As he bent down to fill the mashq, the ‘alam disappeared from sight. Sakinah was frightened and looked at her father, who said, "Sayyedah Sakinah, your uncle ‘Abbas is at the river bank." She smiled and said, "Al-Hamdu Lillah" (Arabic: الـحـمـد لله, The Praise is for Allah), and called out for all the children to welcome Al-‘Abbas.

With the water bag filled, Al-‘Abbas wanted to get the water to the anxiously waiting children as quickly as possible. Seeing him gallop towards the camp of Al-Husain, Umar ibn Sa'ad shouted from the enemy ranks that if even a single drop of water reached Al-Husain's camp, it would be impossible to fight them on the battlefield. When arrows were coming from all sides, Al-‘Abbas had only one thought in his mind, how to protect the water bag. He lost both his arms during the attack, trying to save the water bag. The ‘alam fell onto the ground. Sayyedah Sakinah could not see it any longer. She looked at her father, but he turned his face away. Sakinah began to tremble with fear and her eyes filled with tears. She raised her hands and prayed, "O God! Do not let them kill my uncle ‘Abbas, I will not ask for water again," and ran inside the tent to her mother.

The forces of Yazid, among whom was Shimr, came to the tents. They looted all the belongings of Al-Husain and his supporters, including the ladies' hijabs. When Sakinah cried for her father, instead of comforting her, Shimr slapped her face and pulled the earrings from her ears, leading them to bleed. Fire was set to the tents, and Sakinah's dress was somewhat affected by it. The ladies and children ran from one tent to another. Sakinah ran to the battlefield screaming: "Father, where are you? Father, father, speak to me, father."

As the night descended, since Al-Husain's head was cut off by Yazid's army, Zaynab took it on herself to protect the women and children. She gathered all the women and children into one small space in between the gutted tents. ‘Ali Zaynul-‘Abidin lay on the ground surrounded by the widows and orphans. Eventually, there was no fire and no light, except for that of the moon. However, Zaynab noticed that Sakinah was missing. She asked Rubab, but even she did not know where Sukainah was, so they panicked, and ran out of the tents looking for her. Eventually, in desperation, Zaynab went to the place where the body of Al-Husain lay, and cried, "O my brother, Sayyedah Sakinah, 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 Zaynab saw Sakinah lying on her father's body, sleeping on his chest as she always used to. She shook the child awake and said, "Oh, Sayyedah Sakinah! How did you recognize your father? A person can be recognized by their face or the clothes they wear. Your father is beheaded and his clothes are covered with red scars of blood." Sukainah 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, "Ilaiya Ilaiya Sakinah." 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."[8]

Zaynab took the jug of water and went to Sakinah, who had fallen into a fretful sleep, and stroked her uncombed hair. Sakinah opened her eyes. and Zaynab said, "Here is some water Sukainah, please drink a little. You have been thirsty for so long." On hearing the word 'water', Sayeda Sakina cried out hopefully, has my uncle ‘Abbas come back? When she was told that Hurr's widow had brought the water, she got up, went to Hurr's widow, thanked her, and then asked Zaynab, "Have you all drunk water?" Zaynab shook her head. Sakinah asked, why then do you ask me to drink water? Zaynab said, "Because, my dear, you are the youngest." Sakinah replied, "No, Asghar is the youngest."

Journey from Karbala’ to Damascus, via Al-Kufah

The next day, the caravan of the captives was made to start traveling towards Al-Kufah. ‘Ali Zaynul-‘Abidin, regardless of being ill, was bound in heavy chains and forced to walk barefooted as the women, including the granddaughters of Muhammad, were forced to sit on bare backs of camels, with their necks and hands tied tightly with ropes. The people in the caravan suffered the tortures of the journey, and when they reached Al-Kufah, they were forced to march through its public roads or streets. Suddenly, the camel on which Sakinah and Zainab were stopped near a house. Zaynab's eyes fell on Sakinah and immediately knew that she had something to say. She asked her, and Sakinah answered, "I want to ask you for something, I know my dear aunt, that at this moment it is impossible for you to fulfill it." When Zaynab insisted, Sakinah replied, "O my dear aunt, my throat is so dry, I do not think I can endure my thirst anymore." Her words were heard by the women who had climbed on top of the houses so that they could see the holy caravan march clearly. Among these women, a sympathetic woman immediately got up from the crowd and rushed home to bring water for Sayeda Sakina.[8]

From Al-Kufah, the next phase of the journey was to take the prisoners to Yazid's capital, that is Damascus in Al-Sham. Sukainah was tied with a rope on a bare camel. At one point in the journey, Sayeda Sakina fell from her camel. The caravan did not stop. No one, apart from her family members, noticed the fall of Syeda Sakina. After this incident, the army changed the formation of the holy prisoners. Ali ibn Hussain was already tied with chains on his neck and feet; the army tied his son, Muhammad al-Baqir, on Ali's back, and then the same rope was tied onto his sister, Sayeda Sakina's, neck, so that Ali could not stand straight. If he had stood straight, the rope would have strangled Sayeda Sakina.

Even at these times of hardship and misery, Sayeda Sakina always thought of others first. She consoled her mother on the death of Ali Asghar, and when she saw any other woman or child weeping, Sayeda Sakina would put her little arms around her. In those days, it used to take 32 days on a camel to reach Damascus, but the family members of Hussain were taken in such a way that it only took them 16 days to reach there.[9]

Yazid thought that he had won his throne, and imposed torments upon women and children and companions of the Imam. However the Imam's relatives, Zaynab, ‘Ali Zaynul-‘Abidin, Fatimah al-Kubra, and others delivered sermons, and argued their case in front of Yazid's entire court.[8][10]

Death and aftermath

An Iranian child in Mourning of Muharram with red Headband written "O Ruqayyah".

In the dungeon, Zainab tried to console Sayyedah Sakinah and said that she would soon meet her father. One night, when Sakinah was asleep, she woke up crying and started to look for her father everywhere. All the women tried to console her so that she would stop crying, but she continued: "O my dear aunt, Where is my father? A few minutes ago I was with my father, and he kissed me and said that "My dear Sakinah you will soon be with me." But where is my father now?" At this, all the women started to cry, and the crying was heard by Yazid at his court. Yazid sent the severed head of Al-Husain to the prison, and when Sakinah received the head of her father, she started to cry even more and held it very tight and asked her father: "Who cut off my father's head, who martyred my father, why are we held as captives?"[11] With these words of sorrow, Sakina was quiet. Everyone thought that Sakinah had finally gone to sleep again, but she had died, at the age of four or five.[1]

Her body was buried in the dungeon. Zaynab held the still child as ‘Ali dug a grave for his sister in the dungeon. Her clothes were burnt in Karbala, and due to injuries, had intermingled with her flesh. Therefore, she was buried in the same burnt, ripped clothes in the dungeon of Syria. As the grave was being filled after the burial, the mother let out a scream. All of the women huddled around her, and the prison walls began to shake with the cry, "Ya Sakina, Ya Mazloomah!" (O Sakina, O Oppressed one!). Then Yazid decided to release them from prison, allowing them to return to Al-Medinah.[12][13] Rubab would nevertheless come to her grave, placing her cheek on it and cry out, "Speak to me Sakinah. Only a word, my child, speak to me."[9]

Centuries later, an ‘Alim (Arabic: عـالـم, Scholar) had a dream in which Sakinah asked him to move her body from the grave to another site, due to water pouring into her grave. He and some people opened the grave, and saw that ground water was indeed entering the grave, besides that her body was still intact. Sakinah's body was moved from its original burial place, the dungeon, and reburied where her Masjid is now located.[14][15]

Shī‘ite view

The story of Sakinah is one of the many emotional and highly affecting stories that Shī‘ī Muslims tell of Al-Husayn and his martyrdom at the hands of Yazid's troops. The Battle of Karbala’ and the subsequent events at the court of Yazid are explained and mourned annually during the commemoration of 'Āshūrā’. Sakinah suffered from fatigue and thirst on the forced march to Damascus, and later from cold and starvation in Yazid's dungeon.[1]

Family tree of Sukaynah

Ibrahim (Abraham)
Ishmael Is-haq (Isaac)
‘Adnan (b.122 BC)

. . . . . .

Ya‘qub (Jacob)
Abdul Mutallib ‘Isa (Jesus) Musa (Moses)
‘Abdullah (d.570 AD) Abu Talib (d.620AD)
Muhammad (d.632AD)
Fatimah (d.11 AH) ‘Ali (d.661 AD)
Al-Husain (d.680AD)
Sakinah / Ruqayyah (d.680AD)

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 "3". Nafasul Mahmoom. Qum: Ansariyan Publications. 2005. pp. 388–389.
  2. Arne, Ambros; Stephan, Procházka (2004). A Concise Dictionary of Koranic Arabic. Wiesbaden: Ludwig Reichert Verlag. p. 136. ISBN 3-89500-400-6.
  3. Shaykh Abbas Qummi. Nafasul Mahmoom. p.298.
  4. Archived October 16, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. Archived February 21, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. Archived October 23, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. "(A.S.) Network". Retrieved 2015-06-02.
  8. 1 2 3 Archived February 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. 1 2 "The Fourth Journey - Kufa to Shaam | The Journey of Tears | Books on Islam and Muslims". 2013-10-28. Retrieved 2015-06-02.
  10. Nafs ul Mahmoom by Sheikh ‘Abbas Qummi, Behar ul Anwaar, Vol I by ‘Allamah Sayyad Mohammad Baqir Majlisi and others.
  11. "Welcome to". Retrieved 2015-06-02.
  12. Madelung, Wilferd. "ʿALĪ B. ḤOSAYN B. ʿALĪ B. ABĪ ṬĀLEB". ENCYCLOPÆDIA IRANICA. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  13. Donaldson, Dwight M. (1933). The Shi'ite Religion: A History of Islam in Persia and Irak. BURLEIGH PRESS. pp. 101–111.
  14. 'Summary of the Tragedy of Sayyeda Ruqayya', Booklet at Ruqayya Mosque, 2008
  15. "Syria". Retrieved 2016-10-14.


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