For the Shiah Muslims, Damascus has a very significant meaning. In this city, the family of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was humiliated, tortured and brutalized. The city has witnessed the sorrow as well as the endurance of the grandsons and granddaughters of Prophet Muhammad PBUH.
According to the Shiah tradition, after the battle of Karbala’ and martyrdom of Imam Hussein AS in 61 Hegira (680), the surviving family members of Imam Hussein marched from Karbala’ in the present day Iraq to Shams (Damascus) on foot as captives of Yazid, the caliph of Umayyad. Imam Hussein was mutilated, his body parts were left in the Plain of Karbala’. The head of Imam Hussein AS was brought to Damascus as an evidence for Yazid that Imam Hussein AS had been killed.
When the family of the Prophet entered Damascus, the city was decorated, parties were thrown to welcome these ‘prisoners’. They were brought to Yazid’s palace, which is now part of the Umayyad mosque.
In the palace, the prisoners were gathered in front of Yazid. The sister of Imam Hussein AS, Sayiddah Zaynab, made a very eloquent sermon to argue with Yazid. It has become a historical sermon for Shiah Muslims. The entire family of Imam Hussein AS was imprisoned again in Damascus. The head of Imam Hussein was believed to be first buried in the site by the current courtyard of Umayyad Mosque.
In the southern suburb of Damascus, there is a mosque called Sayiddah Zaynab Mosque, according to the Shiah tradition, it is the grave of Sayiddah Zaynab who is also called the heroine of Karbala’.