Hazrat Zainab (S.A.), who universalized and immortalized the tragedy of Karbala
By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
The 5th of the month of Jamadi al-Awwal, the day when in the year 6 AH, Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) was blessed with his first grand-daughter. Please stay with us for a special feature on the life and times of Hazrat Zainab (peace upon her), the immortal Heroine of Karbala, the daughter of Hazrat Fatema Zahra and Imam Ali (peace upon them), and the valiant sister of Imam Husain (AS).
Her birth anniversary is celebrated every year in the Islamic Republic of Iran as the Day of Nurse, because of her role in nurturing Islam back to life after the tragedy of Karbala. But Zainab (SA) was no ordinary woman. In fact, she was faith personified. When she was born, her grandfather, the Prophet was out of town, and in respect of him, the proud parents of the baby girl, did not give her any name until he came back. When he returned to Medina, Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), as usual first and foremost went to the house of his immaculate daughter, Hazrat Fatema (peace upon her). He took the baby girl in his arms and said that God has commanded him through the Archangel Gabriel to name her Zainab. It was no ordinary name. As a matter of fact, it is a compounded term of two Arabic words, that is, Zain and Ab, which means Ornament of the Father. Indeed, Zainab (SA), when she grew up, became such a worthy ornament of Imam Ali (AS) that her sermons in the court of the tyrant Yazid after the tragedy of Karbala, shook Damascus to its very foundations and brought to the audience the memories of the One and Only Commander of the Faithful.
Today when her sprawling gold-plated holy shrine has become deprived of pilgrims from all over the world, because of the US-backed terrorism against the government of Syria, let us reflect on her peerless personality in this brief radio programme.
It is said the immortal saga of Karbala would have remained incomplete if not for the endeavours of Hazrat Zainab (SA). Here was a sister who refused to let the mission of her martyred brother be confined to the epic Day of Ashura as the cowardly enemies of humanity had planned. Imprisonment did not dampen her spirits. She not just carried the message of Imam Husain (AS)to Kufa and made the Iraqis rue their betrayal of the Prophet’s grandson; neither did she allow the dungeons of Damascus and the jam-packed court of the tyrant Yazid to drown the eloquence of her sermons that eventually apprised the Syrians of the treason of the Omayyads against Islam. Nor was she content to merely lighten the burden of her bleeding heart on return home to Medina at the outpouring of grief of the people of Hejaz shocked by the tragedy that befell the Prophet’s Household. With the veil of hypocrisy ripped off the ungodly visage of the accursed ruler, whom she rightly called yabna at-tulaqa (son of freed slaves) in front of the whole court filled with foreign dignitaries as well including the Byzantine ambassador who happened to be a descendant of Prophet David (AS) and was shocked at what the Muslims had done to the grandson of their own Prophet, the granddaughter of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) brought about a revolution transcending continents.
In fact, Hazrat Zainab (SA) along with her nephew, Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS), not only internationalized the tragedy of Karbala but as was the goal of her martyred brother universalized and immortalized it for the salvation of humanity, so that mankind in every age, era or geographical place could sift truth from falsehood by contemplating on the uprising of Imam Husain (AS). Thus, when any conscientious mind turns to the Epic of Ashura and the traumatic aftermath of history’s greatest tragedy, it will acknowledge that Islam and all humanitarian values, without the least doubt, are also indebted forever to the lady whose indefatigable role earned her the title of Sharikat al-Husain or partner in the mission of Imam Husain (AS).However, in order to have a proper perspective of the multi-dimensional personality of Hazrat Zainab (SA) one has to understand that she did not emerge spontaneously on the scene of Karbala or at the scenarios schemed unsuccessfully by the avowed enemies of the Ahl al-Bayt in Kufa and Damascus, where the noble womenfolk and children of the Prophet’s Household were paraded behind the severed heads of their dear ones mounted on lances. As a matter of fact, Karbala and the two centres of power in Iraq and Syria merely provided the fitting climax to a fruitful life of almost six decades that started with her blessed birth during the days of the Prophet and ended in mournful martyrdom some four years after the heroic sacrifice of her brother. Thus, although it is beyond our ken to fully gauge the pride of place in the history of human civilization of a lady, whose real merits only God Almighty, His Last and Greatest Prophet and the Infallible Imams know, we could at least have the honour of paying our humble homage to Hazrat Zainab (SA) by studying her eventful life ever since the day she opened her eyes in the abode of Divine Revelation, and by reflecting on the aura of spirituality surrounding her family and her own self.
She had a flawless genealogy. Her inimitable qualities stood out right from the days of her grandfather the Prophet and throughout the imamate of her father, brothers and nephew. Hazrat Zainab (SA) was married to her first cousin, Abdullah (AS), the eldest son of her uncle Ja’far at-Tayyaar (AS), who inherited all characteristics of his martyred father and also greatly resembled the Prophet in appearance and manners. The Prophet prayed to God to ensure the eternity of the descendants of Ja’far and for the progress and prosperity of Abdullah.
Hazrat Zainab (SA) was the mother of four children – three sons and a daughter – named Aun, Mohammad, Ali and Umm Kulsoum respectively. The first two achieved martyrdom in Karbala on the Day of Ashura after displaying their valour which made even the enemies recall the prowess of their grandfathers, Ja’far at-Tayyaar and Imam Ali (AS). It is said that when she saw her brother Hazrat Abbas (AS) admiring the jihad of her sons, she told him that their fighting prowess is indebted to his expert training, at which Imam Husain (AS) said: “O Zainab (SA) it is the effect of your blood since these youths are nobly descended on both sides (najeeb at-tarafayn).” The Imam meant to say that valour was their inheritance since the blood of Ja’far at-Tayyaar and Imam ‘Ali (AS) flowed through their veins. After a spirited show of strength the two youths unable to bear the thirst and hunger of three days were surrounded on all sides by the cowardly enemies and were brought down from their horses to the scorching sands of Karbala. They called on Imam Husain (AS) and he dashed forth to drive away the hordes of Yazid only to find that the souls of his sister’s sons had left the body for the ethereal heaven. Aun and Mohammad had thus achieved immortal martyrdom by sacrificing their life for the cause of their uncle Imam Husain (AS) and Islam.
Ali, the youngest son of Hazrat Zainab (AS) who was not present in Karbala, became famous by the epithet az-Zainabi. He married Lubabathe daughter of the Prophet’s cousin Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas and his progeny known as Saadaat az-Zainabi has multiplied and spread around several countries today. HazratZainab’s (SA) daughter Umm Kulsoum was married to her first cousin Qasem the son of her father’s younger brother Muhammad ibn Ja’far at-Tayyaar. Last but not the least, it should be noted that to Hazrat Zainab (SA) goes the credit of laying the foundation of the life-inspiring mourning ceremonies for the Martyrs of Karbala that the faithful have continued to hold ever since in the months of Muharram and Safar in order to keep alive the pure and pristine principles of Islam, as revealed by God to her grandfather, as expounded to the faithful by her father and as preserved for posterity by her brother with his lifeblood on the Day of Ashura.