Sayyid al-Shuhada'

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Sayyid al-Shuhadāʾ (Arabic: سید الشهداء), meaning the Master of Martyrs, is the epithet the noble Prophet (s) gave to his uncle, Hamza b. 'Abd al-Muttalib, who was martyred in the Battle of Uhud and mutilated. This is also one of the most famous epithets of Imam al-Husayn (a).

Epithet of Hamza

The polytheists martyred Hamza in the Battle of Uhud and mutilated him.[1] Since then, he was called Sayyid al-Shuhada' by the Prophet (s).[2]

In most of the books of narration and history, he is referred to as Sayyid al-Shuhada',[3] but other epithets have been used to refer to him, such as Master of Martyrs of Heaven,[4] Master of the First and Last Martyrs except for the Prophets and their successors,[5] Best of Martyrs,[6] The Supreme of Martyrs,[7] God and His Prophet's (s) Lion.[8]

Imam 'Ali (a), in the Six-Member Council, Imam al-Hasan (a), Imam al-Husayn (a) in the Event of 'Ashura', and Muhammad b. Hanafiyya in his sayings and arguments have always allured to Hamza's high position by referring to him with this epithet, which shows that Hamza had reached such a position to be called Sayyid al-Shuhada'. It was a source of pride for Banu Hashim and the Ahl al-Bayt (a) ever since.[9]

السَّلامُ عَلی عَمِّک حَمزة سَیدِالشُّهَداء: Peace on your uncle, Hamza, the Master of Martyrs.
  • and in the Ziyarah text of Hamza, we read;
السَّلامُ عَلَیک یا عَمَّ رَسولِ اللّهِ وَ خیرَ الشُهَداء: Peace on you oh uncle of God's messenger, and best of Martyrs.[10]

Epithet of Imam al-Husayn (a)

This epithet was given to Imam al-Husayn (a) after his martyrdom as well. However, even before his martyrdom, some narrations by the Prophet (s) refer to him as Sayyid al-Shuhada'.[11]

It seems that this epithet became widely popular for Imam al-Husayn (a) during Imam al-Sadiq's era. One of the female companions of Imam al-Sadiq (a), an Iraqi woman called Umm Sa'id Ahmasiyya, had decided to visit the graves of the martyrs of Medina, when Imam al-Sadiq (a) asked her, "Why don't you visit the grave of the Sayyid al-Shuhada' of your own [town]?" Umm Sa'id, thinking that Imam al-Sadiq (a) is referring to Imam 'Ali (a) asked, "Who do you mean by Sayyid al-Shuhada'?" He replied, "Sayyid al-Shuhada' is al-Husayn b. 'Ali (a)."[12]

Explaining how both Hamza and Imam al-Husayn (s) have received the Sayyid al-Shuhada' epithet, Mulla Salih Mazandarani says that Hamza was the Sayyid al-Shuhada' of his time, whereas Imam al-Husayn (a) is the absolute Sayyid al-Shuhada'.[13] After Hamza's martyrdom, Lady Fatima (a) made a Misbaha from his grave's soil and used every knot to say a dhikr in her prayers. Now Shi'as make Misbahas from Imam al-Husayn's (a) soil (see: Turba).[14] Regarding the distinct quality of a Misbaha made from Imam al-Husayn's (a) soil, as compared to Hamza's soil, Imam al-Sadiq (a) says, "A Misbaha made of Imam al-Husayn's soil is blessed with the rewards of dhikr for only being onto one's hand even if he (the holder) himself is not uttering anything ."[15]

Epithet of Other Personalities

Beside Hamza and Imam al-Husayn (a), others have been referred to as Sayyid al-Shuhada' such as St. George the Prophet (a),[16] Bilal al-Habashi,[17] Ja'far b. Abi Talib,[18] and Mihja' b. 'Abd Allah, the first martyr of the Battle of Badr.[19]

In addition, the Prophet (s) has said that the next Sayyid al-Shuhada' after Hamza is the one who would go to an oppressive leader to enjoin him to the good and forbid him from doing the evil and is killed for doing so.[20]


  1. al-Waqidi, al-Maghazi, 1966, vol. 1, p. 290; al-Ya'qubi, Tarikh-i ya'qubi, vol. 2, p. 47
  2. See: al-Tabari, Dhakha'ir al-'uqba, p. 176; al-Sifadi, al-Wafi bi-l-wafayat, vol. 13, p. 170
  3. See: al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf, vol. 2, p. 394; al-Shaykh al-Saduq, al-Khisal, vol. 2, p. 412,555; al-Shaykh al-Mufid, al-Irshad, p. 37
  4. al-Shaykh al-Saduq, al-Khisal, vol. 1, p. 575
  5. Kitab-i Sulaym b. Qays, 133-134; al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Kamal al-din, p. 263-264
  6. Kitab-i Sulaym b. Qays, 133; al-Shaykh al-Tusi, al-Ghayba, p. 191; al-Tabari, Dhakha'ir al-'ugqba, p. 176
  7. al-Kufi, Tafsir Furat Kufi, p. 101; al-Shaykh al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 450
  8. al-Waqidi, al-Maghazi, vol. 1, p. 290; al-Shaykh al-Saduq, al-Khisal, vol. 1, p. 203-204; al-Shaykh al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 224
  9. See: Nahj al-balagha, Letter. 28; al-Tabari, Tarikh, vol. 5, p. 424; al-Shaykh al-Saduq, al-Khisal, vol. 1, p. 320; al-Shaykh al-Mufid, al-Irshad, vol. 2, p. 97; al-Shaykh al-Tusi, al-Amali, p. 546, 554, 563-564
  10. Ibn Qulawayh, Kamil al-ziyarat, p. 62
  11. Ibn Qulawayh, Kamil al-ziyarat, p. 142, 148
  12. Ibn Qulawayh, Kamil al-ziyarat, p. 142, 217-220; al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Thawab al-a'mal, 97-98
  13. Mazandarani, Sharh-i usul kafi, vol. 11, p. 368
  14. al-Tabrisi, Makarim al-akhlaq, p. 281; Najashafi, Jawahir al-kalam, vol. 10, p. 404-405
  15. al-Tabrisi, Makarim al-akhlagh, p. 281
  16. San'ani, Tafsir al-Qur'an, vol. 3, p. 5, 150; Ibn 'Asakir, Tarikh madinat Dimashq, vol. 64, p. 192
  17. al-Hiythami, Majma' al-zawa'id wa manba' al-fawa'id, vol. 9, p. 300
  18. Muttaqi al-Hindi, Kanz al-'Ummal, vol. 11, p. 661, vol. 13, p. 332
  19. al-Tha'labi, al-Kashf wa al-bayan, vol. 7, p. 270; Baqawi, Tafsir al-Baqawi, vol. 3, p. 460
  20. See: Jassas, Ahkamm al-Qur'an, vol. 2, p. 43; al-Tabari, Dhakha'ir al-'uqba, p. 176


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