The Story of al-Arba'in (40th Day after the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS))

The moon was almost setting, casting its dying rays on the waters of the rivulet Al Quma and the few tents that were pitched on its banks. Beside these tents, there were a few graves, which were scattered over some distance, providing the only landscape, which the lunar beams could light up dimly.

The stillness of the night was almost suffocating. The only noise that could be heard for miles around was the chirping of the night insects and the monotonous rippling of the waters of the stream, which recounting the mournful events of the day that had seen the death of those who lay buried in the nearby graves.

Suddenly there was a stir one of the tents, as if somebody had been awakened from his sleep. The flap of the tent was lifted and an old man, walking with a bent back and supporting himself in a staff, came out of it followed by a young person who apparently was his valets or orderly. Slowly he advanced towards the other tents and, standing a few paces away, shouted for the inmates of the other tents to come out.

Apparently the old man was speaking with a tone of authority as, hearing his voice the other persons sleeping in the tents rushed out showing obvious concern for his safety and welfare. He seemed to their leader or chieftain as they reverentially addressed him with bent heads.

One of these persons, who perhaps was closer to him, a friend if not a blood relation and quite advance in age, came hurriedly to where the old man was standing and said: O' Jaber (r), what is the matter with you that you woke up so early before the break of dawn? May Allah bless you and your noble revered father, we all felt frightened by the thought that some illness had come to you some pain had awakened you from your sleep. Pray tell us the cause of your perturbation, if it is not connected in any way with your health.

The old man was no other than Jaber Ibn Abdullah Ansari (r). He had on hearing about martyrdom of Imam Hussain (a.s) and his companions and the imprisonment and humiliation of the surviving members of his family hastened towards Karbala with his devoted friends and follower. He had heard that bodies of the martyrs of Karbala were left without any burial.

On reaching Karbala, he saw that the Bani Asad who were having their nomadic camps some distance away from Karbala have covered the bodies with sand to protect them from ravages but no proper burial had been given to the martyrs. Jaber (r), with the help of his friends prepared the graves of the martyrs.

Jaber Ibn Abdullah (r) explained to his friends and companions that the reason why he had awakened them so early that morning was that in his dream he had seen the Holy Prophet who had told him the captives caravan, comprising Ali Zainul Abedeen (a), his infant son Muhammad al Baqir (a), Hussein (a)'s sisters were to reach Karbala that morning. The Prophet had asked him to go forward to greet them and to convey to them his salaams and condolences. He told his friends that he had awakened after this and he wanted them to accompany him so that they could go forward to receive the caravan and play hosts to the family of the Prophet (s).

By this time the first streak of dawn was visible on the eastern horizon. One of the entourage of Jaber (r) recited the call to prayers and all offered their morning prayers and thanked Almighty Allah for giving them the opportunity of being nor only the first pilgrims at the graves of the martyrs of Karbala, but also the first ones to greet the family of the prophet (s) on their return visit to the land rendered scared by the Holy blood of the martyrs.

As soon as they finished the prayers than they saw a cloud of dust rising in the distant horizon, indicating the approach of a caravan. Jaber (r) and his friends rode their mounts to receive and welcome the Prophet (s)'s family. As soon as they were at a hailing distance, they got down from their steed and, with profound respect offered their salutation to Imam Ali Zainul Abadeen (a).

Jaber went over to the imam and holding the bridle of his horse respectfully led him towards his camp on the banks of the river with the rest of the caravan following them. He told the Imam about the purpose of his visit to Karbala what he had seen and heard during his halt there, and what he had done. He also respectfully enquired from Imam Zainul Abadeen (a) about treatment meted out to him and the ladies of the prophet (s)'s family. When this question was put to him the Imam wept silently for quite some time and then softly replied:

"O' Jaber it is a story of sufferings which will be written in blood and tears for future generations to read! What suffering shall I recount to you, which we endured after the tragedy here? The defy description".

When the women of the family of the Prophet saw the graves of their dear ones, they fell one by one from their camels, overcome by grief and sorrow. Each one rushed towards the grave of her son, brother, father or husband. Each lady poured her heart over the grave of her dearest departed relation, narrating all the sufferings she endured. Zaineb (a) darted straight towards grave of Hussain (a).

Zaineb (a) was heard to say on Imam Hussain (a)'s grave: "My beloved brother, I have returned to you but without Sakina (a), whom you had at the time of departing entrusted to my care. My dearest brother, your beloved Sakina (a) bore all the suffering mutely and with fortitude till she could no longer endure them and surrendered her soul to her Maker. Forgive me my dear brother, if I faltered in any way in fulfilling the mission you entrusted to me."

This incident occurred 40 days after the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. Ever since that incident, the followers of Imam Hussein commemorate that incident each year by gathering and remembering the tragedies that Imam Hussein and his family went through on the day of Ashura and the 40 days following Ashura.