Lady Zainab (a) Hitting Her Head

by admin

It is reported in Bihar al-Anwaar that in the aftermath of Karbala when the women were taken captive and taken to Kufa, the head of Imam Hussain (a) was paraded in public. Lady Zainab (a) was travelling in a carriage and upon seeing the head of her brother she hit her head on a pole of the carriage, which caused it to bleed.

This event is given as a justification for Tatbir because a great personality like Lady Zainab (a) hit her head and caused it to bleed thus proving the merit of doing Tatbir. The main problem with this narration is that it is mursal (having an incomplete chain of narrators) and it is not considered authentic; this has been attested by numerous Shia scholars.

A statement on Ayatullah Lankarani’s website on this narration:

We did not discover an authentic narration regarding the mentioned incident. In fact, Muhaddeth al-Qummi (Sheikh Abbass al-Qummi, compiler of Mafatih Al-Jinan) refuted/rejected it in the book ‘Muntaha al-Amaal’ whereby he said: “This narration, although Allamah Majlisi transmitted it in Bihar al-Anwaar, however, the source of his transmission is the two books of Muntakhab al-Turayhi and Nur al-ayn. The status of these two books is clear to the people of hadith (i.e. those knowledgeable in the science of hadiths).” Based on the aforementioned, there is no sanad (chain of transmission) for this narration that can be relied on.


It must be noted that Ayatullah Lankarani was one of the highest ranking scholars of the modern age and Shaykh Abbas al-Qummi is regarded as one of the greatest Shia scholars in history. He is also an expert on the history of Ashura and its aftermath.

The following question was sent to the office of Grand Ayatullah Makarem Shirazi:

There is a narration which says that Lady Zainab (a) hit her head on a pole and it began to bleed. This is used to justify Tatbir. Is it authentic?

The reply:

The authenticity of this narration is not proved for us; even if we accept that, it cannot be a religious argument for Tatbir and those intentional actions which vilify Islam.

The evidence.

Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Muhri a representative of Ayatullah Seestani and the head of the Shia Scholars Congregation in Kuwait, said the following about this narration:

“.. the narration of Sayeda Zainab (a) hitting her head is not authentic, and it is very far (not even realistic) for her to bleed her head.”

Given below are a few more reasons to doubt the authenticity of this narration, and to show that it cannot justify blood flagellation even if we assumed its authenticity:

1, Its scarcity in the books of history.
2, The fact that there is no record of the act being performed by her (a) again. If it was a meritorious act then why was it not performed again?
3, It seems to contradict a famous hadith where Imam Hussain (a) tells Lady Zainab (a) not to scratch her face, tear her clothes and so on, after he is martyred.
4, The act was not performed by any of the Imams (a) or any of the other members (male or female) of the household, either when this incident is supposed to have taken place or after it.
5, It is not normally possible to make one’s head bleed by hitting it on a pole, unless severe force is applied or sharp edges are used. Even today’s blood flagellators use blades to make their heads bleed. Thus the narration is describing something that cannot really happen.
6, According to some knowledgeable people the act of hitting her (a) head may not have been intentional but may have been an accident.

The main source for this narrative is the book Bihar al-Anwaar. However some promoters of Tatbir also quote this narration from many other non-primary sources which take it from Bihar al-Anwaar. It is dishonest to quote a non-primary source alongside the initial source in order to make it look like the narration was reported by many primary sources. Blood shedding propagandists sometimes cite Bihar al-Anwaar as a reference for this narration and then also present a list of other books which take the narration from Bihar al-Anwaar, so that it looks like the narration has many primary sources!