Shahrbano, the princess of Persia and mother of Imam Zain al-Abedin (A.S.)
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
Shahrbano, the princess of Persia and mother of Imam Zain al-Abedin (A.S.) was a virtuous lady, who born as a princess was reduced to the state of a war captive. But then by the Grace of God rose to a much higher status than being the daughter of a mere king, to become the wife of an Infallible Imam, the mother of an Infallible Imam, the grandmother of an Infallible Imam and subsequently the ancestress of several more Imams, the last of whom being the Lord of the Age, Imam Mahdi (may God hasten his reappearance).
She was none other than Shahrbano, the princess of Persia, who wedded Imam Husain (AS), the younger grandson and 3rd Infallible Successor of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), and gave birth to Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS).
She was the daughter of the Last Sassanid Emperor of Iran, Yazdegerd III. She was of the lineage of Khosrow Anushirvan the Just in whose reign Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) was born in Medina. A statement attributed to the Prophet says: I was born in the days of the just King, Kasra Anushirvan. Kasra is Arabic for Khosrow. In short, when the Persian Empire collapsed and the people of Iran accepted the truth of Islam, almost en masse, Shahrbano found herself a captive. As a prisoner of war she, along with her sister and other ladies, was taken to Medina, the city of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA).
Here, the group was presented before the self-styled caliph. In her native Persian she bemoaned her fate, at which the caliph who could not understand her language, thought she was cursing him, and became angry. The Commander of the Faithful, the Prophet’s rightful Heir, Imam Ali (AS), happened to arrive at this moment, and on seeing her, he rebuked the caliph for his uncouth behaviour, telling him that noble ladies, even of a different religion and ethnicity, should not be treated in such a manner. The Imam, who as the chosen of God, was acquainted with all languages, calmed Shahrbano, and to her surprise spoke to her in flawless Persian. She felt relieved, and the Imam told the caliph to allow her to choose a consort from among the Muslims. Shahrbano, on surveying the gathering, felt enlightenment deep down in her heart on seeing the radiant visage of Imam Husain (AS).
Shahrbano was married to Imam Husain (AS), and thus the holy bond of matrimony between the noblest of the Arabs and the noblest of the Iranians was sealed. For her part, Shahrbano’s sister choose Mohammad bin Abu Bakr – who was brought up by Imam Ali (AS) – as her husband. She was indeed a picture of piety, prudence and patience. The fruit of the blessed union was the birth after several years, of Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS). As mentioned in the volume 46 of the book “Bihar al-Anwaar”, the famous poet Abu’l-Aswad al-Du'ali, who was among the companions of the Commander of the Faithful, recited the following verse:
“Indeed, there is a son (born) between Kasra and Hashem.
He is more noble than him to whom charms were entrusted.
He is the light, and the place of his secret is the Light of Allah.
He is the Source of the Fountain of Imamate.”
It is also mentioned in books of history and hadith that poets would refer to Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) as “Ibn al-Khiyaratayn” which means the son of the two best communities.
Imam Ali (AS) after testing the wisdom of his daughter-in-law, Shahrbano, had given her tidings of being the mother of the noblest of persons of his age. Imam Husain (AS) highly respected Shahrbano, who before the solemnizing of the nuptials formally embraced the truth of Islam, although she was a monotheist since birth and not a fire-worshipper.
The Imam taught her the Islamic spiritual teachings to the extent that she soon forgot the luxuries of her past life as a princess, and preferred the simplicity of life with the Prophet’s grandson in Medina to the palaces of Mada’en or Ctesiphon and the meadows of Kabul. Shahrbano, however, was not destined to live long. She was actually spared the sufferings of her husband and son in Karbala.
When Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) was still a child this noble lady passed away in Medina and was laid to rest in the Prophet’s city. After her death, the Imam’s sister, Hazrat Zainab (SA) took the responsibility of bringing up Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS). Thus, by being the mother of the 4th Infallible Imam, Shahrbano became the ancestress of 8 more Infallible Imams, the last of whom, Imam Mahdi (AS) will reappear in the end times as Qa’em al-Mahdi to cleanse the world of all vestiges of corruption and oppression by establishing the global government of peace and justice. Amen