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Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Published on 2nd March, 2003

Zuljanah - A Brief Introduction

By Hurulein Teja

Artists impression of Zuljana. (file photo)




Zuljanah is associated with the name of God and with the Holy Prophet (‘s).

The original name of Zuljanah was Murtajiz who was purchased by our Holy Prophet ('s). Muslims revere everything which is associated with the Holy Prophet ('s) such as his shoes, sticks, turban etc., so is it possible that they should misbehave towards his horse? 

As the enemies of the Holy Prophet ('s), the Ahlulbayt ('a) and the antagonists of the Azadari were always against it, they were busy deriding and opposing the processions of Zuljanah. The Shia use Zuljana in the procession of Karbala and the enemies of the Holy Prophet ('s) and the Ahlulbayt ('a) and the antagonists of the Azadari always act against the procession of Zuljanah and busy themselves with deriding and opposing the processions.

In accordance with the Islamic point of view, idol worship and polytheism are symbols of the kufr yet acknowledge other examples where animals are celebrated in Islamic history such as:


  • A ram from paradise was sent for sacrifice in the place of Prophet Ismail ('a) and thus the latter was saved. To commemorate this grand occasion, thousands of animals are sacrificed every year and nobody speaks but follows it.

  • The She Camel of Aisha, on which she rode to lead the Battle of the Camel is commemorated by Hedjazis and Egyptians in a very grand manner. They heavily decorate it and perform a procession toward Mecca with extreme pomp and pageantry. They walk with respect in the procession with all the soldiers, chiefs and erudites and even kiss the She Camel and the saddle.

So then why only at the time of the processions of Zuljanah or Karbala is there opposition against the Holy Prophet’s ('s) and his grandson’s ('a) faithful horse? The Muslims or their Maulvis might have a point to ponder if they think about the verdict in respect of the dromedary of Aisha, or see the idols or go against divine orders.

“Intend they to put out the Light of God with their mouths! 
But God will perfect His Light, though averse may be the disbelievers”
Ref. Pooya Ahmed Ali Translation.


History of Zuljanah

The Holy Prophet ('s) bought Zuljanah from an Arab named Haris. Directly after the transaction of the purchase was over, the Arab demanded the payment once again. The Holy Prophet ('s) said:

“I’ve already paid you once so why do you demand it again?”

The Arab argued and told the Holy Prophet ('s) to bring witnesses to prove his payment but the Holy Prophet ('s) told him that there was nobody present at the time of payment except for the two of them.

The Holy Prophet proceeded to say, “So how can I bring to you a witness?”

Suddenly a companion name Hazima came there when he came to know about the matter. He affirmed that the Holy Prophet ('s) had made the payment and that he was his witness, but the Holy Prophet ('s) told him that he was not present at the time of payment so how could he conform the matter?

Hazima replied:

“Oh Prophet my parents be sacrificed for you, we confirm everything you said, your prophethood, the descent of archangel Gabriel, the divine decrees and all other things. So it is impossible for us to imagine that you are lying for such a trifling matter. That is why I declare with confidence that you have paid”.

The Holy Prophet ('s) was pleased with the faithfulness of Hazima and said:

"Oh Hazima, from now onward your one witness will be considered equal to two witnesses"

From that time Hazima was given the title “Os Zul- Shahdatain” (a man of double testimony).

So the Arab repented and waived his false claim.

Now the question arises as to why the Holy Prophet ('s) validated the witness of one person while the Sheriat recommends two?

The answer to this question is first that the claimant himself accepted his fault and waived his false claim, so according to a Persian proverb, "mudda-ee-soost gawah choost", the plaintiff was weak and hence the first argument against the claim becomes null and void. Hazima’s conformation was also appropriate in its place because a Prophet is always right and Hazima conformed it as a strong witness. He was pleased with the sincerity and faithfulness of his companion and praised him. So how can a Muslim doubt such a truthful man? Once the Prophet (‘s) chooses someone we can’t doubt it and no Muslims should doubt the Prophet’s (‘s) words or faith.

Next Reason for Zuljanah being known as the Holy Prophet’s ('s) Horse


There must be some mystical significance in the event which occurred during the purchase of Zuljanah. It was divine will that the news of the quarrel of the Arab and the title bestowed upon Hazima should spread among the Muslims as the purchase of Zuljanah was made public and in effect, the declaration that the horse was that of the Holy Prophet ('s) made clear. The divine knowledge was that a gigantic task was to be fulfilled by Zuljanah and it should act as an argument against those who had gathered to slay Imam Hussain ('a).

The reason for naming the horse as Murtajiz was that the sound of his neighing was very loud and sweet which distinguished him from other horses. The Holy Prophet ('s) himself used to ride this horse.

Miracles about Zuljanah


When Imam Hussain ('a) was a mere child and was learning to crawl, he used to go frequently to the stable of Zuljanah and look at him. Once the Holy Prophet ('s) said that his grandson ('a) was looking curiously at the horse as if some mysterious conversation was taking place so he said:

“My dear Hussain, do you want to ride the horse?”

And he replied:

“Yes Grandfather, I do.”

The horse was saddled on the order of the Holy Prophet ('s) and the Imam ('a) came near to him with a wish to ride, so suddenly the horse sat on the ground and the Imam ('a) mounted on him.

In this incident two points are proven as a miracle:  

How did the horse know that a little boy wanted to ride as nobody directed him to sit down for his rider? It is proven that the horse had a divine inspiration for it to sit low for the Holy Imam ('a) to mount and position himself astride in the saddle. The horse sat as a token of respect, obedience and love for him and so the noble horse followed the divine decree and pleased God, the Holy Prophet ('s) and 3rd Imam ('a).

Secondly, the child going near a horse expressed his desire to mount him. Usually children fear big sized animals and keep away but here the miracle of the Imam’s ('a) childhood becomes manifest. The Imam ('a) knew one day he had to ride this noble beast in his last battle at Karbala.

All the companions who were present saw the incident and were pleased to see the Imam (‘a) mount the horse, the horse too was considerate for his rider. When the Holy Prophet ('s) saw this coincident a serious of tears began to flow on his cheeks. At once the meeting transformed into a sad gathering and the companions also began to weep. One of them asked the Holy Prophet (‘s):


'Today it is the occasion of festival seeing your grandson on horse back of this horse but why are you weeping?”

The Holy Prophet (‘s) replied:

"You are not aware of what I foresee. The scene becomes alive before my eyes as this grand "Muratjiz" has borne my dear grandson on his back with care by stooping down on his four legs. A day will come when my grandson will not be able to keep himself in the saddle due to his extremely wounded condition and this very horse "Murtajiz" will then dismount my grandson on the burning sand of the Desert of Karbala with the same consideration, stooping on his four legs and sitting on the ground as he has just done here.” 

Hearing this sad narration all the companions began to weep loudly.

The Holy Imam Hussain ('a) is quoted as having said on the day of Ashurah:

"Wilt thou my dear Zuljanah kneel down a little to enable me to roll myself down to the ground? I know thou hast also been hungry and thirsty along with me. Pardon me my dear Zuljanah, for Hussain is helpless. May the Lord bless thee."

The faithful animal, which was itself hungry, thirsty and wounded, spread its legs in such a way that the godly soul, one of the most brilliant stars of the heaven of divinity, slid himself down. Ref. “Hussain, The Saviour Of Islam”, by S.V. Mir Ahmed Ali, pg. 186-187.

Now the Holy Prophet (‘s) himself narrated the sad event of Karbala to his companions. He himself wept and made others weep. It is essential to express practical sympathy towards the Holy Prophet (‘s), to console him and to follow the Sunnah of Azadari. So those who criticize this noble custom of our Holy Prophet (‘s) are cowards and idolatry closes their eyes, which prove the facts. This tradition has been repeatedly affirmed in many narrations of the Holy Imams (‘a).

Scientific minded people and the pretending philosophers can question the possibility of how a horse of Zuljanah’s age could perform the duty in Kerbala in the state of hunger and thirst. As the maximum life of a horse is thirty years, how could Murtajiz in Karbala perform his duty in his old age?

Murtajiz was bought on 9AH when he was 4 yrs old, so according to this estimate, he must have been 55yrs old on the day of Ashura. So even if such an old horse was still to live to that age, he must be quite useless for this duty. We can reply to that question by proposing that it is sheer folly to compare the age limit of the present day with that of 1300yrs ago because formerly human beings used to enjoy a life span of 300 - 400 yrs while the average age of human life at the present is less than 100yrs.

The second reason to consider is that the Arab historian Damesna quotes Jahiz in his Hayatul Haywaan that the lifespan of an Arab horse is as long as ninety years and its youth extends up to forty years. Therefore, according to master horse men the year of a horse’s life is of eighteen months, thus sixty solar years count as forty years in horse’s life and thus in 61AH the age of Zuljanah, according to the lunar calendar, must be 55 years. This makes Zuljanah quite young. This argument will convince those who do not believe in religion and who are in search of scientific answers.

But for the believers they know and believe that the divine leaders also have power to work in miracles, so even a dead horse can become alive again. Indeed Zuljanah has been given such an excellent merit that his name will always remain fresh in this world.

His remembrance is still commemorated by bringing out a commemoration of him in Muharram in many cities and villages of the Indo - Pakistan subcontinent. According to God's wishes, Zuljanah was in Karbala so we take out processions of Juloos representing Ashoora to spread the message of Imam Hussain ('a). Following the traditions of carrying Alam flags and banners, we also keep Zuljanah in the processions.

Juloos Procession - First Incident



Here is a story of Oudh province India.

Juloos ProcessionIn the town of Behrich usually on tenth Muharram, a horse was usually brought out to represent Zuljanah. Once this horse become ill and a defect developed in his foot.


A Sunni Muslim began to treat and nurse that horse to be well again before Ashura but those who used to a carry out the procession were unaware of the horse and brought another horse in the Azakhana. But the Sunni man brought them the original horse telling them that he was quite healthy for the procession.

The people of Azakhana refused the proposal thinking that he was not fully well and removed him. While they were taking him away he was crying inside his heart he was pleading:


”Please do not take me away from here. It is my right to replace Zuljanah."


But people could not read the feelings of the dumb animal. They not only disappointed him but they unknowingly killed him, had they tried to be considerate to the poor animal then he would have been saved.

When the horse reached the place where he was customarily kept, his condition become worse.  He began to shed tears and groan in a melancholic tone as if he was invoking Imam Hussein ('a).


“O master help me these people deprive me from my old right'.


Then the Sunni man tied him to his house but the disappointed horse shunned food and drink and remained in a state of disgust and melancholy.

On the day of Ashura, the Azadaris led the other horse in the procession on the very evening that the condition of that horse worsened to such an extent that he died. Hundreds of Shias, Sunnis and Hindus of that locality witnessed this event.

There are many stories of Zuljanah. It must happen that we all follow the old traditions of commemorating our Ashura and taking out Juloos and in olden times there must be many events taking place and so we follow up to now. But it true if you keep any animal that animal should also have that feeling of Zuljanah. That’s why in Indo-Pak they feed that horse from an infant.


Juloos Procession - Second Incident


This was narrated by Sadaats of an Indian village named Barahara.

Once they used to carry out the procession of Zuljanah through an unusual route, there was a horse of a Maulvi Sahib on our usual route where womenfolk of the village gathered at that horse to observe the procession of Zuljanah. The women folk came to know that the procession had changed its route and became very disappointed and the locality resounded with their breast-beatings and lamenting:

"Now let us see what happened to the procession."

On the other road the procession was going on and suddenly the horse stood still.

After much struggle the horse refused to move. People were puzzled by the behaviour of the horse. At last some one from the procession suggested:

"Leave the bridle free and see what the horse does."

The bridle was left free and horse began to run and people also ran after him. Passing the narrow and zigzag bi-lanes the horse reached the Maulvi Sahib where the womenfolk gathered and stood amidst them with eye shedding tears. The animal’s automatic action had a profound effect on the hearts of the people and they surrounded the horse and began to weep and beat their chest with more fervour and vigour.

The site was a very emotional one.

In the same manner as Murtajiz had given the tidings on the martyrdom of Imam Hussein ('a) to the Ahle-Bait ('a), this horse stood between the ladies and the scene as such that the tragedy of Karbala was being repeated.

Certainly this event exhibits the merit of Zuljanah that will never be manifested by any other horse. As this anticipation has never been seen before it is unknown how the horse knew to direct itself towards the house of Maulvi Saheb and stand there among the womenfolk with nobody having directed him? It was none else than Almighty Allah (swt) wanting the customs of Azadari preserved in this world insh'Allah by infusing the miraculous automatic action in the horse to gratify the aggrieved hearts of the women.



  •  Pooya Ahmed Ali Translation of the Holy Quoran

  • "Hussain, The Saviour Of Islam", by S.V. Mir Ahmed Ali, pg. 186-187.

  • "The  Book Of  Light, Knowledge and Truth", by Marhum Haji Gulamali Ismail (Haji naji)

    The author requests that readers recite al-Fatihah for Marhum Haji Gulamali Ismail

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