The noblest of her time in mind, character, and beauty. A soul pure like her lineage. Sukaynah bint al Hussain. Imam al Nawawi says, “Sukaynah bint al Hussain is recounted amongst the noblest of women. Generosity and honour inherited from her forefathers.”
She was born in the 47th year after the hijrah and was named Aminah, after her grandmother Aminah bint al Wahab. This young girl was nourished in the shade of the house of prophethood, whilst still a child her mother gave her the name Sukaynah which took to her so well that she was then known only by it.
In the latter portion of her life she had become occupied in teaching the Muslims, a way of returning the favour of acquiring the knowledge of the sages. She had a keen interest in poetry and was a master in the sciences of jurisprudence and language.
Her mother was Rabab bint Imru’ al Qais al Kalbiyah. Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu had married her due to her many good qualities. A son, ‘Abdullah, was born to her after which Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu adopted the teknonym Abu ‘Abdullah. They were blessed with a second child through this union whom we speak about now, Sukaynah. Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu showed great love and affection to Sukaynah and her mother Rabab. He would go out of his way in ensuring their comfort. He was once ridiculed at the extreme care he showed to them upon which he said:
تكون بها سكينة والرباب
|لعمرك انني لاحب داراً|
|وليس للائمي فيها عتاب||
احبهما وابذل جل مالي
حياتي أو يغيبني التراب
ولست لهم وان عتبوا مطيعاً
I swear I love the home; that Sukaynah and Rabab live in.
My love and wealth are spent on them; there’s no place in our happiness for misplaced criticism,
Nor am I one to accept such; this is how I shall live and die.
As Sukaynah grew up she became a noble woman of society contributing in meaningful ways to the growth of a pure and literate culture. She had become a narrator of ahadith after memorising many narrations. Her lineage paved the way for her acquisition of knowledge just as it inculcated in her sublime character.
Sukaynah travelled with her father to Iraq and witnessed the incident of Karbala’. As the army of five thousand descended upon them and their fate was all but sealed, Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu gathered his daughters and instructed them not to involve themselves in the practices of the ignorant times upon his likely martyrdom. Sukaynah sobbed at the advice of her resolute father as she knew their time together was not for much longer. Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu turned his attention towards her and said:
منك البكاء إذا الحمام دهاني
|سيطول بعدي يا سكينة فاعلمي|
|لا تما دام مني الروح في جثماني||
لا تحرقي قلبي بدمعك حسرة
تأتينه يا خيرة النسوان
إذا قتلت فأنت أولى بالذي
You shall live long after me Sukaynah; your tears will announce my burial.
Do not break my heart by your tears now; as long as my soul remains in my body.
If I am killed than you are the most likely; to follow me, O best of women.
When the battle raged with just seventy on the side of Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu facing the odds of five thousand under the instruction of ‘Ubaidullah ibn Ziyad, it wasn’t long that they were surrounded and picked off one at a time till Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu himself was martyred. Sukaynah looked on at this gruesome massacre with patience and bid farewell to her father with the following:
ريب المنون فما أن يخطىء الحدقه
|ان الحسين غداة الطف يرشقه|
|لا تبـك ولدا ولا أهلا و لا رفـقه||
يا عين فاحتفلي طول الحياة دماً
قيحا و دمعا و أثريـهـما العلـقه
لكن على ابن رسول الله فانسكبي
Hussain the following morning lay graceful; fate’s uncertainty would not miss him.
O eye, flow with tears of blood forever; not crying over a child, family or friend.
Rather over the beloved of Rasulullah, pour forth; your tears and blood from the pores of your body.
Sukaynah was a pious woman, adorned with modesty and knowledge together with intelligence and deep understanding. Al Dhahabi says, “She was astute and dignified.” She had attained glory from all angles, in character and physical attributes, in noble descent and lineage, and in knowledge and faith. Her cousin, ‘Abdullah ibn Hassan al Akbar married her and was martyred with her father at Karbala’ before having consummated the marriage. Mus’ab ibn Zubair then proposed to her who Ibn Kathir describes as the most handsome of men with a heart courageous like none other, together with being enviably generous.
Mus’ab ibn Zubair held a special place in the heart of Sukaynah and when he fell into war with ‘Abdul Malik ibn Marwan and she sensed his end was near she cried at his loss before his death. The historians have noted that Sukaynah was with Mus’ab ibn Zubair in the battle that claimed his life. When he was martyred she went searching for his body amongst the dead and only recognised him by the colour on his cheeks. She looked at him, crestfallen, and said, “How excellent a husband you were. You are the embodiment of the poem of ‘Antarah:
بالقاع لم يعهد ولم يتثلم
|وخليل غانية تركت مجندلا|
|ليس الكريم على القنا بمحرم||
فهتكت بالرمح الطويل إهابة
I have left a beauty to lay on the ground; without promise nor word,
And a lengthy spear has pierced his side; for even the noble are not bidden upon the spear.
She eulogised him with the following:
يري الموت الا بالسيوف حراما
|فان تقتلوه تقتل الماجد الذي|
|الي القوم حتي اوردوه حماما||
وقبلك ما خاض الحسين منية
If you’ve killed him, you’ve killed an honoured man; who saw fit only to die at the sword.
Before you they did not leave Hussain too; till they had him laying on a bier.
After the martyrdom of Mus’ab ibn Zubair she intended travelling to Madinah. The people of Kufah came to her and prayed for her well-being. Sukaynah said to them:
By Allah! You people killed my grandfather [‘Ali], father, uncles, and husband. You rendered me an orphan whilst young and made me a widow in my old age. May goodness not come to your city and may you reign be wretched.
She then left and headed towards Madinah.
Sukaynah would take pride in her noble lineage and would do so in a most eloquent and witty manner. The daughter of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu once whilst sitting with her said, “I am the daughter of the martyr.” Sukaynah remained silent and did not respond. A while later when the call to prayer was given and the words ‘I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah’ were uttered, she turned to the daughter of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu and said, “Is that your grandfather or mine?” Flabbergasted the reply was, “I shall never entertain the thought of boasting above your stature again.”
The incidents of her life that has reached us speaks volumes of the importance she showed to her noble lineage, always taking pride in Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam being her grandfather. Once whilst travelling for the Haj with her co-wife Aisha bint Talhah, she heard the following from Aisha who was travelling with sixty conveyances laden with carriages.
O Aisha, with sixty conveyances, you will continue traveling like this as long as you live.
Sukaynah countered her by saying:
Aisha, this is your co-wife saying, if it weren’t for her father yours would not be guided.
Aisha, out of respect at the mention of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam held back and did not say anything.
What should be noted is that taking pride did not hinder her worship or cause her to become lax in fulfilling the commands of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. Her qualities of exertion in worship and abstinence are well documented as she knew that lineage alone cannot do much if actions are lacking. Her taking pride was merely a way of subduing anyone who wanted to boast above her.
She lived till eighty some-odd years and reached the end of her life in the city of Madinah. Ibn Khallikan dates her demise to, Thursday the 25th of Rabi’ al Awwal, the year 118 A.H.
At her demise Khalid ibn ‘Abdullah ibn al Harith ibn al Hakam was the governor of Madinah. He gave the instructions to wait for him as he will perform the funeral prayers. He left for the Baqi’ graveyard but only managed to get in by midday. Fearing decomposition before the funeral rites could take place, he purchased camphor for her at the cost of 30 gold coins. He then advanced Shaybah ibn Nassah to perform the prayers due to his superiority.
NEXT⇒Ali ibn al Hussain
 Tahdhib al Asma wa al Lughat, vol. 1 pg. 167.
 Wafayat al A’yan, vol. 2 pg. 394.
 Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, vol. 8 pgs. 209/210
 Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, vol. 5 pg. 263
 Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, vol. 5 pg. 262
 Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, vol. 8 pgs. 317
 Kitab al Aghani, vol. 16 pg. 167.
 Wafayat al A’yan, vol. 2 pgs. 396/397.
 Shaybah ibn Nassah was the freed slave of Umm Salamah and the judge of Madinah. See Tahdhib al Kamal, vol. 12 pg. 608.
 Tabaqat ibn Sa’ad, vol. 8 pg. 475; Tarikh Dimashq, vol. 69 pg. 217.Back to top