Sukayna bt. al-Imam al-Husayn (a)
Sukayna (Arabic:سکینة) (b. ? - d. 117/735) was the daughter of Imam al-Husayn (a). Her mother was Rabab bt. Imri' al-Qays. Her mother and she were present in Karbala. After the event of 'Ashura', she along with other women of Ahl al-Bayt were taken as captive to Kufa and Damascus.
|Sukayna bt. al-Imam al-Husayn (a)|
|Father||Imam al-Husayn (a)|
|Mother||Rabab bt. Imri' al-Qays|
|Birth||? (maybe before 51/671)|
|Demise||According to the majority of sources: Rabi' I 5, 117/April 4, 735|
|Place of Burial||Bab al-Saghir Cemetery, Syria|
Birth and Lineage
Sukayna bt. al-Husayn b. Ali b. Abi Talib (a) was the daughter of Imam al-Husayn (a) and Rabab bt. Imri' al-Qays. Although she was characterized younger than Fatima, the other daughter of Imam al-Husayn (a). in early historical sources; there is no report about her exact birthday. However, it can be concluded from the report, in which Hasan al-Muthanna asked Imam al-Husayn (a) to marry him one of his daughters and in response Imam let him choose Sukayna or Fatima, that she was an adult woman and in the right age for marriage when Imam al-Husayn (a) started his journey toward Karbala.
|Family tree of Ahl al-Bayt (a)|
Name and Title
Her name is "Amina" (آمنة) or according to some reports "Amina" (اَمینة) or "Amima" (اَمیمة). However, she is mostly known by her title Sukayna, which was given to her by her mother, as she was so calm, tranquil and in peace (Sukayna is a derivative of "Sukun" meaning "Peace.")
Some sources reported that she married her cousin (son of her father's brother) Abd Allah (Abu Bakr) b. al-Hasan. Qadi Nu'man al-Maghribi said that she married Abd Allah b. al-Hasan, but before consummation, he was martyred in Karbala. However, these reports contradicts with that of al-Shaykh al-Mufid and some other historians that Abd Allah b. al-Hasan had not reached puberty in Karbala.
Imam al-Husayn's Affection to Her
Imam al-Husayn (a) liked her and was very affectionate to her. It is reported that Imam al-Husayn (a) has expressed his affection to her and her mother by composing a poem, which is translated as following: "By your life! I do like a house, in which there are Sukayna and Rabab. I love them and give all my properties [for them] and no blamer has the right to blame me."
Presence in Karbala
Historians and biographers mentioned her name in various occasions in Karbala. According to a report, on the day of 'Ashura', when Imam al-Husayn (a) came to women tents for bidding farewell, he said to women of Ahl al-Bayt: “Be patient and put on your long clothes (chadors). Get ready for affliction, and be reassured that Allah is your protector; he will guard you against the evil of the enemy, turn your mishap into good, chastise your enemy with all sorts of torment, and compensate you for this tragedy with a plethora of bounties and dignity. So do not complain, and do not utter that which may degrade your lofty prestige." Then Imam (a) bade farewell to each of his family members. He went to Sukayna, who had sat in the corner of the tent and was weeping. He asked her to be patient, hugged her, wiped her tears and read her a poem translated as following: "O, my dear Sukayna! Know that after me your weeping is prolonged. [So my daughter] do not burn my heart by your sorrowful tears as long as I am alive. O, the best of women! Weeping is more suitable for you after my martyrdom.” In another report about Imam al-Husayn's last farewell, Imam (a) came to women tents and said calling the women of Ahl al-Bayt: "O Zaynab, O Umm Kulthum, O Fatima and O Sukayna! My salutation be upon you!"
After the event of Ashura', Sukayna along with other members of Ahl al-Bayt were taken as captives. They were taken to Kufa and then to Damascus. Throughout this journey, she along with other captives informed people about the tyranny of Umayyad and the horrifying act they did to descants of the Prophet (s) in Karbala. It is reported that on the day after 'Ashura' and when Ahl al-Bayt were biding farewell to pure bodies of martyrs of Karbala, Sukayna hugged his father's headless body and mourned. She spoke with her father and wept until a group of soldiers from Umar b. Sa'd's army took her away from her father by force and dragged her to other captives. Sukayna and other members of Ahl al-Bayt passed very hard and difficult times in captivity. However, the day that they entered Damascus was the hardest and most painful day. Describing the entrance of the caravan of Ahl al-Bayt to Damascus, Sahl b. Sa'd al-Sa'idi, a companion of the Prophet (s), reported: “On the day that captives entered Damascus, I saw a man holding a spear with a head, whose face looked liked the Prophet (s), at its point. After the spearman there was a girl on a bareback camel. I hurried to her and said, “O, my daughter! Who are you?” she said, “Sukayna bt. al-Husayn.” I said, “Can I do you any favor? I am Sahl b. Sa'd, who has seen your great grandfather and heard his speech.” She responded, “O, Sahl! Could you tell them to move away these heads from us so by looking at these heads the people would not look at women of Ahl al-Bayt?” ”Sahl said that I went to the man who was carrying Imam al-Husayn's pure head by a spear and told him, “Could you do me a favor? and in return I will give you forty dinars [or four hundred dinars].” He said, “What do you want?” I said, “Take this money and move forward and keep this head away from these women.” He accepted, took the money and moved the head away from the women.”
Return to Medina
After captivity, Sukayna and other members of the caravan returned to Medina. There are not many authentic and reliable reports about her life in Medina until her demise. Her conversation with 'Uthman's daughter is perhaps one of the few reliable reports of this period. It is narrated that once Sukayna and 'Uthman's daughter were present in a gathering. Uthman's daughter boasted that “I am a daughter of the martyr.” Sukayna did not respond until the time of Adhan. When mu'adhdhin (reciter of Adhan) said, “I witness that Muhammad is the apostle of God,” Sukayna asked her: “Is that your father or mine?” Uthman's daughter felt embarrassed and said, “I will never boast in front of you.” Evidently, after returning to Medina, she along with other members of Ahl al-Bayt did their best to inform people of the brutality and oppression of Umayyad especially in the tragedy of Karbala. Her lament poems about martyrs of Karbala, especially Imam al-Husayn (a) proves this. Therefore, the government could not stand their residence in Medina and eventually she and her aunt, Lady Zaynab (a), were exiled to Egypt. According to some reports, Sukayna, her sister (Fatima) and some other women from Ahl al-Bayt accompanied lady Zaynab to Egypt. They arrived there on the last days of Rajab and Maslama b. Khalid, the governor of Egypt, and other people welcomed them warmly.
Abu l-Faraj al-Isfahani ascribed to her that she composed romantic poems and held poem gathering, in which poets read their poems in her presence and would accept her judgment about the best poem.
However, this report is not reliable, as Abu al-Faraj has narrated it from Zubayr b. Bakkar who was an enemy of the descendants of Imam Ali (a) and even all Banu Hashim. He made up false reports about Ahl al-Bayt to the point that they wanted to kill him; so, during the caliphate of Mutawakil, he fled from Mecca and settled in Baghdad. Moreover, there is 'Umar b. Abi Bakr al-Mu'mili among the narrators of this report. He is so weak (Da'if) according to Rijali scholars that even some Sunni scholars refused his narrations and said that he is “a blight of blights”.
Even Abu al-Faraj mentioned the improbability of this report and said, “A similar gathering to what was reported to be held by Sukayna bt. al-Husayn was held by an Umayyad woman, and I do not tell her name to anyone as long as I live.”
Furthermore, many poems which are attributed to her are not composed by her, rather by Sukayna bt. Khalid b. Mus'ab al-Zubayri, whose meetings and relations with 'Umar b. Abi Rabi'a, who was a poet, is well-known.
Having similar name with Sukayna bt. Khalid b. Mus'ab, 'Umar b. Abi Rabi'a's wife, and, sometimes deliberate, confusion between them, resulted in made-up stories about her like what Abu l-Faraj has reported.
It has also been ascribed to her that she has married several times. What makes this odder is that some of her husbands were among the enemies of Ahl al-Bayt and their Shi'a. It has been reported in Sunni Hadiths that after the tragedy of Karbala, when Sukayna returned to Medina, she married Mus'ab b. Zubayr and gave birth to a girl named “Fatima.” After that Mus'ab was killed, she married 'Abd Allah b. 'Uthman b. 'Abd Allah b. Hakim b. Hizam b. al-Khuwaylid and gave birth to a son named “'Uthman.” After him, she married Ibrahim b. 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Auwf; but they divorced because of a letter form Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik, the governor of Medina. Then she married Asbagh b. 'Abd al-'Aziz b. Marwan and afterward remarried Ibrahim b. 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Auwf. These Sunni reports suffers from various problems, two most important of which are:
- No Shi'a historians have reported that she had a child or married to anyone, except than 'Abd Allah b. al-Hasan. These reports have been narrated by Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani and narrators like him who were very close to Umayyad. How could these reports be true about Sukayna, whom Imam al-Husayn (a) described as, “Sukayna is mostly engrossed in Allah so she is not suitable for men.”
- Some of these marriages are completely impossible. For instance, Mus'ab b. Zubayr was a great enemy of Ahl al-Bayt and their Shi'a. He had killed many Shi'a including Mukhtar b. Abi 'Ubayda al-Thaqafi.
However, in Shi'a sources, Sukayna did not marry any men in her life after that her only husband, 'Abd Allah b. al-Hasan was martyred. Considering this, the stories about her holding poem gatherings or marrying several times are just false reports with a purpose of insulting and humiliating her or as an evidence for their fake claim that descendants of Ali had very good relations and ties with their enemies.
Spiritual and Scholarly Characteristics
Sukayna was one of the eminent, most intelligent and most virtuous women of her time. She was so virtuous and spiritual that Imam al-Husayn (a) said, “Sukayna is mostly engrossed in Allah …” In Rijal, she is considered as a reliable hadith narrator. She has narrated hadiths from his father, and narrators such as, Salma 'Ammat Ya'la, Fa'id al-Madani, Sukayna bt. Isma'il b. Abi Khalid and Sukayna bt. Qadi Abi Dhar have narrated hadiths from her. She was also so eloquent in Arabic and composed many lament poems about his father, Imam al-Husayn (a).
There are various reports about the place of her demise. According to majority of sources, she passed away on Rabi' I 5, 117/April 4, 735, in Medina during the government of Khalid b. 'Abd Allah b. al-Harith or Khalid b. 'Abd al-Malik. Based on Sunni reports, Khalid b. 'Abd Allah performed Salat al-Mayyit on her body and she was buried in al-Baqi' cemetery. On the other hand, some said that when Sukayna married Asbagh b. 'Abd al-Aziz b. Marwan, they headed to Egypt but she passed away in Damascus. Therefore, there is tomb by her name in the cemetery of Bab al-Saghir in Damascus. However, some said that she arrived in Egypt and passed away and was buried there.
- Iṣfahānī, ‘’Maqātil al-ṭālibīyyīn’’, vol. 4, p. 192; Ibn Athīr, ‘’al-Kāmil fī l-tārīkh’’, vol. 4, p. 94.
- Ibn Athīr, ‘’al-Kāmil fī l-tārīkh’’, vol. 4, p. 86; Ṭabarī, ‘’Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk’’, vol. 5, p. 464.
- Abū l-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī, ‘’al-Aghānī’’, vol. 21, p. 79; Mufīd, ‘’al-Irshād’’, p. 366; Ibn Ṣabbāq, ‘’al-Fuṣūl al-muhimma’’, vol. 2, p. 751.
- Abū l-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī, ‘’al-Aghānī’’, vol. 21, p. 79; Ibn al-Jawzī, ‘’al-Muntaẓam’’, vol. 7, p. 175.
- Balādhurī, ‘’Ansāb al-ashrāf’’, vol. 2, p. 195.
- Maghribī, ‘’Sharḥ al-akhbār’’, vol. 3, p. 180-181.
- Mufīd, ‘’al-Irshād’’, p. 465.
- Ibn Ṭāwūs, ‘’al-Luhūf’’, p. 134; Baḥrānī, ‘’al-ʿAwālim al-Imām al-Ḥusayn’’, p. 303.
- Khwārizmī, ‘’Maqtal al-Ḥusayn’’, p. 60-61; Majlisī, ‘’Biḥār al-anwār’’, vol. 45, p. 127-128.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from سکینه دختر امام حسین (ع) in Farsi Wikishia.