A Short History of Maulatona Shehrebanu AS, the Princess of Persia and the Pious Mother of the Imams AS

A short history of Maulatona Shehrebanu AS, the Princess of Persia and the Pious Mother of the Imams AS

Maulatona Shehrebanu AS, the daughter of the last Sassanid ruler Yazdegerd III, was Imam Husain’s SA respected consort and the pious mother of Imam Ali Zain al-Abideen AS and all the Imams in his progeny. As recorded in ‘Uyun al-Akhbar by Syedna Idris Imaduddin RA, her nikah with Imam Hussain AS took place after the Muslim conquest of Persia. Following an intense war and an unending stalemate, Muslim forces had emerged victorious at the battles of Qadasiyyah and Nahawand owing to the timely engagement of Ameer al-Mumineen AS. In his ʿAshara Mubaraka mawaʿiz, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA had explained that Ameer al-Mumineen SA had gone to Persia at the behest of Rasul Allah SAW to explicitly escort Maulatona Shehrebanu AS, who had accepted the Islamic faith, back to Madina.

Ameer al-Mumineen AS arranged Maulatona Shehrebanu’s AS accommodation at his own residence and treated her with great deference and honour. Although others showed an interest in her hand in marriage, Ameer al-Mumineen AS called Imams Hasan AS and Husain AS and asked which of them would wish to marry the Princess. Their response was that Maulatona Shehrebanu AS should marry whomever she pleases. Hearing this, she pointed to Imam Husain AS and their marriage was arranged.

According to Muntazaʿ al-Akhbar, the nikah was performed by Huzaifa al-Yaman at the direction of Ameer al-Mumineen AS. Despite the happiness of the occasion and the joy witnessed upon Ameer al-Mumineen’s AS radiant countenance, he was shortly thereafter seen shedding tears. His companions enquired as to the dual display of joy and sorrow. Ameer al-Mumineen SA responded, ‘Although I have brought Sherebanu here with great respect and dignity, I am reminded of what is to befall her in Karbala and the atrocities that her depraved enemies will commit against her; I remembered this and could not help but cry.’

Maulatona Sherebanu AS travelled to Karbala with the rest of the Ahl al-Bayt AS. After the shahaadat of Imam Hussain AS, as has been narrated by Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS, the wretched Shimr set the camps of Ahl al-Bayt AS on fire and approached Maulatona Sherebanu AS with the evil intent of plundering treasures he believed she carried with her from Persia. Maulatona Sherebanu AS retaliated saying that she had distributed all her possessions to the poor and her only possession had been an old chador of Maulatona Fatema AS which too had been looted as the camps were being pillaged. She exclaimed that they had already taken her true treasure from her by slaying Imam Husain SA, Ali Akbar AS and Ali Asghar AS in the battlefield.

Persecuted and tormented, the Ahl al-Bayt AS returned to Madina from Damascus without Imam Hussain AS, his Ahl al-Bayt AS and his ashaab who were mercilessly slaughtered in Karbala. In Madina, Imam Ali Zain al-Abideen AS would often retreat to the desert for days on end, grieving over the tragedy of Karbala and the shahaadat of his beloved father Maulana al-Imam al-Husain AS. Concerned for his well-being and seeing his increasing frailty, Maulatona Shehrebanu AS suggested that they seek solace at her mother’s home in Persia. As narrated by Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS, they left Madina and made their way to Persia. Once within the borders of her ancestral home, Maulatona Shehrebanu AS sent for her mother informing her of all that had transpired in Karbala. She described the atrocities committed against them in Karbala and on the merciless journey they were forced to make, unveiled through the cities and bazaars of Sham to the court of Yazid. She told her mother she was too ashamed to enter her mother’s city wary that the people will pity the return of the bride in such a miserable state. Deeply distressed by Maulatona Banu’s AS disclosure of her harrowing condition, her mother rushed to see her outside the city and embraced her beloved daughter and grandson upon seeing them. Imam Ali Zain al-Abideen AS and Maulatona Shehrebanu AS retold the tragedy of Karbala and wept incessantly until Banu AS lost consciousness. When she woke, she recited a few couplets from Persian poetry describing her sorrowful state:

My heart is alight with the fires of sorrow. If I attempt to recount my pain, my tongue is set ablaze, yet if I remain quiet, the very marrow within my bones is set afire.

Maulatona Shehrebanu AS continued to sob uncontrollably and once more fell to the floor unconscious. Shortly after, in the presence of her mother and her son, Imam Ali Zainul Abedin AS, Maulatona Shehrebanu AS passed away.

The Princess of Persia, whom Ameer al-Mumineen Maulana Ali ibn Abi Talib AS escorted to Madina with such dignity and care, returned to her homeland, having been imprisoned and persecuted, bereft of her loved ones and filled with agony and grief.