Publication Date: 
Thu, 2012-02-23 23:46

Her actual name was Amatul Aziz (like Abdul Aziz for boys). She was daughter of Jaafer, brother of Caliph Mahdi and her mother Salsal was the sister of Khaizran, wife of Caliph Mahdi. Thus, she was connected to Haroon Al-Rasheed from her mother as well as father's side. She was very brilliant, beautiful and fond of learning. She learned the Holy Qur'an, Hadith and Arabic literature with due interest. She also showed great interest in literature and science and allocated funds inviting tens of poets, scientists and literary figures to Baghdad. It is said that her palace “sounded like a beehive” as she employed one hundred women maids who recited the Holy Qur'an day and night. Wherever she went in the palace the verses of Holy Qur'an were echoing. 
She sponsored a group of Ulema for promoting Islamic learning. She lived during and after the time of Imam Al-Shafe'i. She was married to Haroon Al-Rasheed in 165 AH (781 AD), who was the fifth Abbasid Caliph and ruled for 23 years (786-809). Queen Zubaida was a very devout Muslim and never missed a prayer. She also performed Haj many times, often making the 900-mile trip from Baghdad to Makkah on foot with her husband.
Zubaida got a son named Mohammed Al Amin. He was six month younger to his step brother Ali Al-Mamoun whose mother was a concubine named Marajel. Zubaida pleaded for the nomination of her son Amin as the crown prince though Caliph Haroon preferred Mamoun because of his intelligence and scholarship. Finally, Haroon decided not to infuriate his wife and appointed her son as crown prince and Al Mamoun as crown prince to the new crown prince, and also appointed his third son Al Kassim as a third crown prince.
As expected, Al Amin started to mess things up from his first days in power, after the death of his father. Eventually, his conflict with his brother escalated and it ended after fierce battle, in which he was killed. His mother overcame her sorrow and tragedy and wrote to Al Mamoun “I congratulate you as the new caliph. I have lost a son, but he was replaced by the son that I did not give birth to.”
These words moved the new caliph as Mamoun was also raised by Zubaida when his mother died after three days of his birth. He rushed to her and swore that he did not order the killing of his brother. Zubaida lived for 22 years after the death of her husband. Caliph Mamoun gave her full respect and comfort and consulted her in important matters. She died at the age of 67 in 216 A.H.
Her biggest achievement was the planning and execution of a road project from Baghdad to Makkah. There was a path that existed before but she saw the pilgrims dying with thirst and losing the way because of desert and sandstorms. To solve this problem, Zubaida planned to build a well-demarcated route with buildup walls and shelters to protect the travelers from shifting sands and harsh weather conditions. Her engineers moved in the direction of Qibla and drew a map of over 1200 km. The road was divided into more than 40 stations for shelter of huge caravans of pilgrims with their animals. Deep wells, water pools, guest houses, mosques and police posts were erected to provide comfort and security to the pilgrims. High minarets were raised to locate the place and in the night towers were lit with fire to guide the caravans to the right direction.
All these structures were so strong that they remained intact for centuries. The result was that Darb Zubaida served for more than 1,000 years for million of pilgrims from Iraq, Fares, Khorasan and Kurdistan. Though about 1,300 years have passed, some of the wells and pools of this route can still be identified.
Darb Zubaida started from Baghdad and passing through Kufa, Najaf, Qadsiya, Mughiatha, Thalabia, Feedh and Samera reached  Naqra where it bifurcated for Madina through Al-Akhakia. The main route to Makkah continued through Mughaith, Beir-Ghifari, Al-Saleelah, Birka-Zabda and reached Mahad Dhahab (Gold mines). Later crossing through Safinah, Ghamrah, it reached Meeqat named Zat-Irq, and later passing through Bustan reached Makkah.
Darb Zubaida also mobilized the cultural and commercial activity in the region. Pilgrims exchanged their ideas, delivered sermons, told historical stories and reached commercial dealing during the night halts. This route remained active for six months every year for Haj traffic and for the rest period served the locals and traders. It is said that Zubaida spent 1,700,000 mithqaal on this project which is equal to 5,950 kg of pure gold costing billions of dollars today.

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