Religious Shrines in Lebanese Bekaa (Part I)


Prepared by: Qabas Society for Reserving Religious Sites in Lebanon


Allah Al Mighty distinguished exclusively some spots on earth. We find that Allah Al Mighty ornamented Mecca with the Holy Kaaba, and other spots are likewise divinely renowned. However, what demands extensive contemplation is that the Arab Peninsula along with the Middle East is the place of descent of prophets and from there the divine light illuminates. So, it is normal that religious shrines and monuments whether for prophets of Allah Al Mighty or pious men or their close companions are scattered everywhere in that area. In this reportage, we will display to the readers, the main religious landmarks in Lebanon and especially in Bekaa.

Sayyeda Khawla the Daughter of Imam Hussein (PBUH (11th Century A.H. – 17 Century A.D.)

Sayyeda Khawla the Daughter of Imam Hussein Shrine

The following morning, the point of departure was from Ras al Ain Greenfield towards Damascus; so it was on Muharram 28 as we predict. In an attempt to read events, we may say that the procession passed – without the least doubt – through the markets of the city to get provided with the necessary supplies; consequently, it is indispensable to pass near the town’s famous fortress. This necessitates passing through Damascus Gate on its Southern entrance. However, it seems an unexpected event took them by surprise and impeded their procession, and they lingered for a while. What would you say this event was?

The popular memory of the residents of Baalbek talk about two  important monuments outside the walls of the town which have to do with the Husseini procession; they are the Shrine of Sayyeda Khawla the daughter of Imam Hussein (PBUH) and the Shrine of Sayyeda Safieh the daughter of Imam Hussein (PBUH).

 Who is the Owner of the Shrine?

Modern historians mention scripts about the Shrine of Sayyeda Khawla the daughter of Imam Hussein (PBUH) in Baalbek. They add that she was a small girl about six years old who died on the left side of the road to the South of the city. Alouf says: “The Shrine of Khawla is for Shia Muslims (Loyal followers of Hussein); she is the daughter of Hussein bin Ali bin Abi Taleb (PBUT). It was said that when Ahlulbeit were taken as prisoners at the time of the Umayyads, and they were brought to Damascus. They passed by Baalbek, and she died there and was buried there. In the place of her shrine there is a very ancient cypress tree”1.

The daughters of Imam Hussein (PBUH):

These sources mentioned four views as per the number of daughters of Imam Hussein (PBUH):

A They are two – Fatima and Sukeyna. This saying is adopted by a number of authorities on top of them come Sheikh Mufeed and Sheikh Tabrasi.

B They are three – Fatima, Sukeyna, and Zeinab. This saying is adopted by several authorities including: Tabari Imami, Ibn Shahr Ashoub, and Sayyed Mohsen Ameen Al Ameli.

C They are four. This was reported by Allamah Arbili, Ibn Sabbagh Al Maleki from Sheikh Kamaluddine bin Talha (died in 654 A.H.). They are: Fatima, Sukyna, Zeinab, and he did not name the fourth.

D They are more than five daughters, and this was adopted by Al Qudouzi Al Hanafi and Al Marashi Al Najjafi2.

Going back to the daughters of Imam Hussein (PBUH), they were at least five – taking into consideration the repetition of some of their names; we have counted the following names:

1 – Fatima, the Greater: Her mother is Um Ishaq the daughter of Talha bin Obeidullah al Taimi; she is other than Fatima, the Younger who is better known as “Alila” or “the sick”.

2- Fatima the Younger: She is known as “Alila” and her mother is Um Ishaq Taimieh.

3- Sukeyna: Her name is Amina, and it is also said Umaimah and Aamin. Sukeyna is a nickname given to her by her mother Rabab, the daughter of Umru’ Qaiss.

She was born about 42 A.H. in Madina, and she witnessed with her father Al Hussein (PBUH) the battle of Karbala. She was among the womenfolk captives of the Household of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUT). She met in Damascus the Companion of the Prophet Sahl bin Saad.

4 – Zeinab: Her mother is Shahzanan or Shahrbanu the daughter of Yazderjerd bin Shahrayar Al Sasaniya. Her siblings to both her mother and father are Imam Zein al Aabideen (PBUH) and Um kulthoum. She was eloquent, well-spoken, and a narrator whom her nephew Martyr Zaid bin Ali bin Al Hussein (PBUT) quotes, and she is elder than her sister “Um Khulthoum”.

5 – Um Khulthoum: Her mother is Shahzanan the daughter of Yazdjard Sasaniya. She witnessed the battle of Karbala and the martyrdom of her father Imam Hussein (PBUH). She had a story with the horse of her father. She was taken as a captive, and she addressed the people of Baalbek with the well-known speech. She is the sister of Imam Zain al Aaabideen and Zeinab for their mother and father3.

6- Safieh: She was mentioned in recent resources. She witnessed the battle of Karbala. Her ears were pierced by Al Akhnas bin Zaid after he trampled the holy body of Imam Hussein with the hooves of horses and smashed his ribs and swept a rug from under Ali bin Al Hussein and turned him and threw him on his face4.

7 – Ruqayya: She is a small girl which had not become an adolescent yet. Her mother is Rabab the daughter of Umru’ Qais.

8 – Aatika: She was mentioned in a recent script: “O Um khuthoum! O Sukayna! O Ruqayya! O Aatika! O Zeinab….! Her name was also mentioned in the journey of Ibn Batuta when he talks about Kufa Mosque saying: “In a graveyard outside the mosque are the tombs of Aatika and Sukayna the daughters of Imam Hussein”.

As such we see that the historic sources that talked about the life of Imam Hussein (PBUH) and his wives and children did not mention the name “Khawla” among his daughters, unless this name was an attribute to one of his known daughters. Moreover, not mentioning this name can’t be understood as mere negligence, carelessness or silence because we are not talking about the daughter of an unknown or ordinary personality; we are rather talking about the daughter of Imam Hussein the son of Ali and Fatima (PBUT). Going back to the name “Khawla” among Ahlulbeit (PBUT), we find that two females were known by this name:

1 – Khawla the wife of Imam Hassan (PBUH).

2 – Khawla the wife of Imam Hussein (PBUH). She is Khawla the daughter of Yazderjerd bin Shahrayar Al Sasaniya. She was the daughter of the King of Persia. She was taken as a captive along with her sister by Muslims when they conquered Persia. When Imam Ali (PBUH) saw her, he wedded her to his son Imam Hussein (PBUH). Among her names are Shahzanan, Jihan Banu, Sulafa, Khawla, and Khuweila as it was said.

She witnessed the battle of Karbala with her husband Imam Hussein (PBUH), and after this event no reports were made about her. Her death and resting place are unknown5.

It seems that mysterious hands sought to fabricate reports on her death. Some said she died while giving birth to Imam Ali bin Hussein (PBUT). Another view was quoted by Ibn Shahr Ashoub without contemplation. He said: “They brought along the womenfolk as captives except for Shahrbanu who threw herself in the Euphrates.”6

If we take for granted the validity of the name of the shrine in BaalbeK – the Shrine of Sayyeda Khawla – then its reference to Khawla the wife of Imam Hussein (PBUH) is more adequate than its reference to the supposed daughter of the Imam. Still this is opposed by the fact that the corpse found in the Shrine of Sayyeda Khawla is for a girl who is not more than six years old. This carries us to the probability that the shrine is for the daughter of Khawla and the daughter of Imam Hussein (PBUH). That means she is the daughter of Imam Hussein from Khawla.

The Discovery of the Shrine (Eleventh Century A.H)

Sayyeda Khawla the Daughter of Imam Hussein Shrine

This is the story of the discovery of the Shrine of Sayyeda Khawla as related by the memory of the people. The residents could see lights descending on that spot which was planted with fruitful trees irrigated by Ras al Ain water. The orchid was owned by a man from Jari family. One night he saw in his dream a solemn small girl telling him: “I am Khawla, the daughter of Imam Hussein.  I am buried in your orchid”. She specified for him the place and ordered him to divert the water from her grave. She told him: “Divert the brook (of Ras al Ain water) from my grave because the water is harming me”. That’s because the water was stagnant. However, the man did not take notice of that. Thus he saw her a second, a third, and a fourth time in his dream. Terrified by this dream, he rushed to contact the chief of the Hashemite Mortada Family in Baalbek and related the dream to him. The chief and the attending residents went to the place and the specified spot was dug. No soon, they were before a grave that entombs a small girl who was still as soft and tender. They took away the stones and got out the blessed body and moved it away from the path of the brook. They build over the grave a small dome to mark it.

No soon the news was circulated and the devotees of Ahlulbeit (PBUT) started coming to visit the place. Since then, the spot became a destination people visit, and Mortada Family decided to bury their deceased by the side of her shrine and supervised the site7.


The Shrine of Nabi Sheath (PBUH)    (HebatullahThe Gift of Allah)

The Shrine of Nabi Sheath (PBUH)

In the Mideast of Bekaa Valley on the western versant of the Eastern Lebanese Mountain Range a town was built and its houses gathered around the Shrine of Nabi Sheath – or Sheath, the Prophet of Allah, and thus it came to have his name and became known by his name: The Town of Nabi Sheath. It is 70 km away from the Lebanese capital, Beirut, and 20 km away from Baalbek.

His Status:

Ameer Al Mu’mineen Ali Bin Abi Taleb (Peace be upon him) said: The Prophet of Allah (Peace be upon him and his Household) said that Allah Al Mighty appointed a Wassi (successor) for every prophet. He appointed Sheath the successor of Adam, Yusha’ the successor of Moses, Shamoun the successor of Issa, and Ali my successor.

It is also mentioned in the Holy Site Ziyara (Ziyarat Nahiyah Muqaddassah): “Peace be on Sheath the Vicegerent of Allah and His Chosen one”.

The Shrine of Nabi Sheath (PBUH)
His Biography:

He is the Prophet of Allah Sheath the son of Adam (Peace be upon them). His name is Sami which means “the alternative”. He was born after the killing of Habeel, thus he was known as “the Gift of Allah”. He got married to a maid from Heavens; her name was “Najla”. He lived 912 years; it was also said that he lived 1040 years. It was said that he was the first to plant palm trees, cultivate seeds and speak of wisdom. He was the most handsome among the sons of Adam (Peace be upon him) and the best among them. Furthermore, he looked most like Adam who loved him dearly. Adam wrote his will and entrusted it to Sheath.

Allah Al Mighty revealed to him 50 booklets. Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him and his Household) said: “Allah Al Mighty revealed on Sheath 50 small portions of the Scriptures”.

Prophet Sheath (Peace be upon him) was ordered to transfer Prophethood to his son Anoush, to take rule and lead his congregation following the teachings of his father without the least alterations. Prophethood has transferred to Qenin after him then to Mihla’il, then to Akhnoukh – meaning Idriss (Peace be upon him) – until it reached the Prophet of Allah Noah (Peace be upon him). As such mankind are named after Noah the son of Sheath the son of Adam (Peace be upon them).

His Shrine:
The Shrine of Nabi Sheath (PBUH)

The construction of the holy burial site goes back for hundreds of years. It was mentioned in several historic scripts and explorers’ books.

It was mentioned in the endowment of Khawaja Mohamad al Fassi which goes back to 518 A.H. that he granted his properties to the Shrine of Nabi Sheath (Peace be upon him), and he offered the revenues to constructing and serving the burial site. Moreover, the shrine comprises a rock with the following carved on it: “In the year 1012 A.H., the blessed Shrine of Nabi Sheath was constructed at the expenses of a religious bountiful woman may Allah forgive her and her parents”.

The site was rehabilitated by Hajj Hassan Hamadani who resided along with his children around the shrine. Other people followed them; as such the town became populated and held the name of the owner of the shrine.

In 1995, the ancient shrine was demolished and reconstructed on the hands of benevolent people from the residents of the town in cooperation with Jihad al Binaa and the support of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The shrine now comprises the holy tomb surrounded by several arches coated by al Kashi.

The shrine kept its old minaret, and a new minaret was constructed by Sayyed Ali Musawi the father of the Martyr Sayyed Abbas Musawi.

Ras Imam Hussein  (The Head of Imam Hussein) MosqueRas al Ain

The Procession in Ras al Ain:
Ras Imam Hussein (The Head of Imam Hussein) Mosque

Abu Mahnaf said: “They arrived in Baalbek and wrote to its ruler that the head of Imam Hussein (PBUH) is with them. The ruler ordered the bondwomen to beat the drums and raise the banners, and hit the horns. They festively drank wine and spent their night drunk”.

Um Kulthoum said: “What is the name of this town?” they told her: Baalbek. She then said: May Allah wade their greenery. May Allah never make their water become fresh. May Allah never raise the rule of the tyrants over them. They said: “Was Earth full of justice and honesty, nothing would have befallen them except oppression and injustice”. They stayed that night there. Next morning they left and reached the hermitage of the monk at night…”8

In another narration: “Um Khulthoum said: What is this town called? They said: Baalbek. She said: May Allah never make their water become fresh, may their goods always be expensive, and may tyrants always rule over them”.

It seems that the leaders of the procession mounted the Holy Head of Abi Abdullah Al Hussein (PBUH) on the southern bank of the water fountain near Hamadan Gate. With time Muslims turned that place to a mosque.

Ras al Ain Mosque:
Ras Imam Hussein (The Head of Imam Hussein) Mosque

No historic documents refer to Ras al Ain Mosque before 676 A.H. / 1277 A.D., – the year in which Alzaher Bibars renewed it. However, it is known among the residents of the city that originally a monument was built in this scene where the womenfolk’s captives rested in their way from Homs to Damascus.

It is noteworthy that the most ancient historic document in which Ras Al Ain area in Baalbek is mentioned talks about the presence of Imamite Shia in it and related signs were mentioned in history books which have Shiite aspects such as names: Shamseddine bin Muqqaddam, Mohammad bin Haidar, the Shiite Alladdine al Wadaie – and they are personalities who lived before alZaher Bibars by hundreds of years. Moreover, the name of the supervisor of Baalbek and the name of the constructor of the mosque is Abbass. Furthermore, the name “Ali” is carved in a marvelous architectural style above many mosque doors. All of these evidences make us suppose that the ancient Shia from among the residents of Ras al Ain were the true builders of the mosque.

Ras Imam Hussein (The Head of Imam Hussein) Mosque

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