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Ruins of Damascus

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The ruins of al-Sham is a place in Damascus in which the Captives of Karbala were accommodated by Yazid b. Mu'awiya. According to sources of hadiths, the place did not have a ceiling and its walls were flimsy. The martyrdom of Ruqayya occurred in this place. The Ruins of Syria (Arabic: خَرِبَة الشَّام, Kharibat al-Shām, Farsi: خرابه شام, Kharābi-i Shām) refers to a place in Damascus where the captives of Karbala resided by Yazid b. Mu'awiya after the Event of Karbala and the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a). With regards to this place, there are several different historical reports.

There is a disagreement and difference of opinion with regards to the duration of time that the captives of Karbala resided in the Ruins of Syria. Due to this, one cannot accurately determine a specified duration (for their stay).

According to sources of hadiths, the place did not have a ceiling and its walls were flimsy. In some accounts, it has been reported that Yazid placed them in the ruins of a house in which they were not protected from the heat and cold, and further, in which the walls were destroyed. In some hadiths, it has been narrated that they remained in the ruins for so long that their skin was peeling from their faces. In other narrations, it has been said that the chains and shackles were removed from the necks of the sick on Safar 20.

The martyrdom of Ruqayya occurred in this place.

Naming and Location

Yazid b. Mu'awiya accommodated the Captives of Karbala in ruins in Damascus. In the literature of Ashura, the place is referred to as Ruins of al-Sham. According to al-Shaykh al-Mufid, the Captives were accommodated in a house adjacent to Yazid’s Palace.

The Description in Hadiths

The Ruins of al-Sham is described in some hadiths, such as not having a ceiling and having flimsy walls.

Moreover, according to a conversation between Minhal b. 'Amr and Imam al-Sajjad (a), cited by Sayyid Ni'mat Allah al-Jaza'iri, the house did not have a sunshade, and could not protect the Captives from cold and heat. Some Captives said that Yazid had sent them to the Ruins so that it would fall over their heads and kill them.

Captives of Karbala in the Ruins

It is suggested by some hadiths that the Captives of Karbala were in terrible conditions in the Ruins. They were bothered by the sunshine, and as a result, their face skins were peeled. They recited elegies and cried for Imam al-Husayn (a) in the Ruins. According to some hadiths, Yazid had appointed guards on the Ruins who did not know Arabic.

In Hadith Literature

  • 'Imran b. 'Ali al-Halabi has said: I heard that Imam al-Sadiq (a) said: "When Imam al-Sajjad (a) and the family of the holy Prophet (s) were brought to Yazid, they were placed in ruins where the walls were unstable. One of them said: 'They have put us in these ruins so that it collapses on our heads.' One of the guards heard this, and in Coptic, said: 'Look at them, they are scared that the walls are going to collapse on them and this is better than if they were to be taken outside tomorrow, and their necks were to be beaten-- one after the other.' Imam al-Sajjad (a) said: 'With God's permission, neither of these two will happen,' and this is what came to pass.
Minhal saw Imam al-Sajjad (a) in a state such that he was leaning on a cane and his legs were like two straws with blood pouring from his blessed legs. Further, his noble face was yellow in color. Because he (Minhal) asked about his state, he (the Imam (a)) said: 'Such is the state of a person who is the prisoner of Yazid b. Mu'awiaya. Until now, the stomachs of our women have not been filled with food and their heads have not been covered, and they mourn and recite eulogies all day and night.' And after saying parts of the narration from Tafsir al-Qummi (which has already been narrated), he (the Imam (s)) says: 'Never was there a time where Yazid asked for us that we didn't think he wanted to kill us, and that he was calling us for this reason. "Inna li-Allah wa inna ilayh raji'un": Surely we belong to Allah, and to Him we will return. (Istirja' Verse)' Minhal said: 'Where are you going now?' He (a) said: They have given us a residence that doesn't have a roof and where the sun is beating down on us; we don't see any good weather there. Right now, because my body felt weak, I came outside to rest for just a moment and was going to return (immediately) in consideration for the womenfolk.' Then, while I was still speaking with the Imam (a), I saw that the cries of a woman became louder and she was calling for the Imam (a), saying 'Where have you gone, Oh the light of my eyes!' This woman was Lady Zaynab (a), the daughter of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a).
  • In Muthir al-Ahzan, it says: Yazid gave the captives of Karbala residence in which they were not protected from the heat or the cold, such that it ripped the skin of their bodies and yellow puss would pour from it.
  • Imam al-Sajjad (a) said: When they kept us in the Ruins of Syria, we faced several types of difficulties and pain. One day, I saw that my paternal aunt, the Lady Zaynab (a), had set a pot on top of the fire. I said, 'Oh my dear aunt, what is this pot for?' She said "The children are hungry, I wanted to pretend that I was cooking for them so that they might relax a little."

From Historians

Historians and those who have written Maqtal for Imam al-Husayn (a) have described this place in a few different ways. Amongst them, a number agree that such a place existed, and others deny its existence.

Those Who Believe in Its Existence

  • After the sermon of the Lady Zaynab (a) in the court of Yazid, which instigated a movement against him, Yazid was obliged to give shelter to the Ahl al-Bayt (a) in ruins that did not even have a rooftop. They stayed there for three days and mourned the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a).
  • In some books, it has been narrated that the Ahl al-Bayt resided in a ruined house in Syria and Yazid's intent was that the house would collapse on them and that they would die from this.

Those Who Deny Its Existence

  • Al-Shaykh al-Mufid has narrated that: "Yazid gave orders that the family of Imam al-Husayn (a), along with Imam al-Sajjad (a), would stay in the detached house that was connected to his own house (ie. behind Yazid's green castle)."
  • In Muhammad Hadi Yusufi Garawi's opinion, due to the social status and respect that the general population had for the Ahl al-Bayt (a), Yazid was not able to keep them in the Ruins of Syria, and as such they did not reside in such a place.

Duration of Their Stay

There is a difference of opinion in terms of how long the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and the caravan of captives stayed in the Ruins of Syria. This difference of opinion is such that one cannot determine a specific time-frame for the duration of their stay. In some narrations, it has been said that Yazid gave them residence in these ruins, and that they were not protected from the heat and the cold. Further, it is said that it was imminent that the walls of these ruins would collapse. Further, in other narrations it is said that they stayed so long in the ruins that the skin of their faces was peeling. Moreover, in other narrations it has been written that on the twentieth of the month of Safar, the shackles and chains were removed from the necks of the sick.

As such, if we are to follow the opinion of historians, the prisoners entered Syria on the Safar 1/November 3, and the martyrdom of Ruqayya was on the Safar 5/November 7. From this, we can conclude that Ruqayya was in the ruins for four days. Others have said ten days, some have said forty days, and some have even postulated that it was as long as six months. With meticulous research and referring to various books and sources, an educated guess would be that the caravan of prisoners stayed in the Ruins of Syria for approximately one week.


Events of the Ruins

When the Captives of Karbala stayed in the Ruins of al-Sham, some events took place, including the following:

Martyrdom of Ruqayya

According to some sources, one of Imam al-Husayn’s young daughters died in the Ruins of al-Sham. On these sources, she had longed for her father. Yazid commanded that Imam al-Husayn’s head be taken to her. She held her father’s head in their arms and cried until she died. Some later sources referred to the girl as “Ruqayya”. The shrine attributed to Ruqayya is famously built in this place.

Sakina’s Dream

According to some sources, on the fourth day of their stay in Damascus, Sakina had a dream. According to Ibn Nama al-Hilli, she dreamt of the Prophet Muhammad (s), prophets Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus visiting Imam al-Husayn in Karbala, while the Prophet (s) had grabbed his beard with his hand, sometimes falling on the ground and then standing up. Fatima (a), Eve, Asiya, Maryam, and Khadija were also there, while Fatima al-Zahra had put her hand on her head, sometimes falling on the ground and then standing up. In the dream, Sakina approached al-Zahra and started to cry. Fatima al-Zahra told her, “Dear Sakina! Stop crying. Your moans are burning and breaking my heart. This cloth has your father’s blood on it. I will not put it aside until I meet God”.

Passing of the Daughter of Imam al-Husayn (a)

One of the most important events that took place in the Ruins of Syria was the passing of the daughter of Imam al-Husayn (a), who passed away after speaking with the severed head of her father. This event, although it is extremely well-known, cannot be found in any primary source.

Mourning of Yazid's Wife

Yazid gave the order that the women of Banu Umayya should change their clothes and wear black. The first place where official ritual mourning ('Azadari) took place, and where black clothes were worn to commemorate Imam al-Husayn's (a) martyrdom, was in Yazid's palace. Al-Khwarazmi, in his Maqtal, writes: The women of Banu Ummaya mourned and commemorated the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a) for three days and nights.

See Also


  • The material for writing this article is mainly taken from خرابه شام in Farsi WikiShia.