Hadrat Zainab bint Ali(A.S.): Sharikat al-Husayn (Associate in the Mission of Imam Husayn(A.S.))
It was five years after the Muslims had accompanied the Prophet (S.A.W.) and his family in the migration (Hijrah) to Medina, when the Holy Prophet's daughter, Hadrat Fatima (AS), gave birth to a little girl.'
When her father, Imam Ali (A.S.), saw his daughter for the first time Imam Husayn (A.S.), who was then almost three years old, was with him. The boy exclaimed in delight,
"O father, Allah has given me a sister."
At those words Imam Ali (A.S.) began to weep, and when Husayn (A.S.) asked why he was crying so, his father answered that he would soon come to know.
Fatima (A.S.) and Ali (A.S.) did not name their child until a few days after her birth, for they awaited the Prophet's return from a journey so that he could propose the name.
When finally the baby girl was brought before him he held her in his lap and kissed her. The Angel Jibra'il came to him and conveyed the name that was to be hers, and then he began to weep. The Prophet (S.A.W.) asked why Jibra'il wept and he answered, "O Prophet of Allah. From early on in life this girl will remain entangled in tribulations and trials in this world. First she will weep over your separation (from this world); thereafter she will bemoan the loss of her mother, then her father, and then her brother Hasan. After all this she will be confronted with the trials of the land of Karbala and the tribulations of that lonely desert, as a result of which her hair will turn grey and her back will be bent."
When the members of the family heard this prophecy they all broke down in tears. Imam Husayn (A.S.) now understood why earlier his father had also wept. Then the Prophet (S.A.W.) named her Zaynab (A.S.).
When the news of Zaynab's birth reached Salman al-Farsi, he went to Ali (AS) to congratulate him. But instead of seeing him happy and rejoicing he saw Ali (AS) shed tears, and he too was apprised of the events of Karbala and the hardships that were to befall Zaynab (AS).
One day, when Zaynab (AS) was about five years old, she had a strange and terrible dream. A violent wind arose in the city and darkened the earth and the sky. The little girl was tossed hither and thither, and suddenly she found herself stuck in the branches- of a huge tree. But-the wind was so strong that it uprooted the tree. Zaynab (AS) caught hold of a branch but that broke. In a panic she grabbed two twigs but these top gave way and she was left falling with no support. Then she woke up. When she told her grand father, the Prophet (S.A.W.), about this dream he wept bitterly and said, "O my daughter. that tree is me who is shortly going to leave this world. The branches are your father Ali and your mother Fatima Zahra, and the twigs are your brothers Hasan and Husayn. They will all depart this world before you do, and you will suffer their separation and loss."
Zaynab (AS) shared with-her brothers and sister the extraordinary position of having such examples to look up to, emulate and learn from, as her grand father, the Prophet of Allah (S.A.W.) her mother Fatima (AS), daughter of the Prophet, and he'r father Imam Ali (AS), cousin-brother of the Prophet. In the pure environment that enveloped her she absorbed the teachings of Islam that her grandfather imparted, and after him her father. Here too she learnt to master all household skills with great proficiency.
She had barely attained the tender age of seven when her beloved mother passed away. Her mother's death had closely followed her cherished grand father's passing away. Some time later Imam Ali (AS) married Umm ul-Banin, whose devotion and piety encouraged Zaynab (AS) in her learning.
Whilst still a young girl she was fully able to care for and be responsible for the running of her father's household. As much as she cared for the comforts and ease of her brothers and sisters, in her own wants she was frugal and unstintingly generous to the poor, homeless and parentless. After her marriage her husband is reported as having said,"Hadrat Zaynab(A.S.) is the best housewife."
From very early on she developed an unbreakable bond of attachment to her brother Imam Husayn (AS). At times when as a baby in her mother's arms she could not be pacified and made to stop crying, she would quieten down upon being held by her brother, and there she would sit quietly gazing at his face. Before she would pray she used to first cast a glance at the face of her beloved brother.
One day Fatima (AS) mentioned the intensity of her daughter's love for Imam Husayn (AS) to the Prophet (S.A.W.). He breathed a deep sigh and said with moistened eyes, "My dear child. This child of mine Zaynab would be confronted with a thousand and one calamities and face serious hardships in Karbala."
Zaynab (AS) grew into a fine statured young woman. Of her physical appearance little is known. When the tragedy of Karbala befell her in her midfifties she was forced to go out uncovered. It was then that some people remarked that she appeared as a 'shining sun' and a 'piece of the moon'.
In her character she reflected the best attributes of those who raised her. In sobriety and serenity she was likened to Umm ul-Muminin Khadija, her grandmother (AS); in chastity and modesty to her mother Fatima Zahra (AS); in eloquence to her father Ali (AS); in forbearance and patience to her brother Imam Hasan (AS); and in bravery and tranquility of the heart to Imam Husayn (AS). Her face reflected her father's awe and her grandfather's reverence.
When the time came for marriage, she was married in a simple ceremony to her first cousin, Abdullah ibn Ja'far Tayyar. Abdullah had been brought up under the direct care of the Prophet (S.A.W.). After his death, Imam Ali (AS) became his supporter and guardian until he came of age. He grew up to be a handsome youth with pleasing manners and was known for his sincere hospitality to guests and selfless generosity to the poor and needy.
Together this young couple had five children, of whom four were sons, Ali, Aun, Muhammad, and Abbas, and one daughter, Umm Kulthum.
In Medina it was Zaynab's practise to hold regular meetings for women in which she shared her knowledge and taught them the precepts of the Deen of Islam as laid out in the Holy Quran. Her gatherings were well and regularly attended. She was able to impart the teachings with such clarity and eloquence that she became known as Fasihah (skillfully fluent) and Balighah (intensely eloquent).
In the thirty-seventh year A.H. (after Hijrah), Imam Ali (AS) moved to Kufa to finally take up his rightful position as khalifah. He was accompanied by his daughter Zaynab (AS) and her husband. Her reputation as an inspiring teacher among the women had preceded her. There too women would throng to her daily sittings where they all benefitted from her erudition, wisdom and scholarship in the exegesis of the Qur'an.'
The depth and certainty of her knowledge earned her the name given to her by her nephew, Imam Ali Zayn ul-Abidin (AS), of 'Alimah Ghayr Mu'allamah, 'she who has knowledge without being taught'.
Zaynab (AS) was also nicknamed Zahidah (abstemious) and 'Abidah (devoted) because of her abstemiousness and piety. She found little of interest in wordly adornments, always preferring the bliss and comfort of the Next World over that of this world. She used to say that for her the life of this world was as a resting place to relieve fatigue along a journey. Humble and of high morals, her main concern was to strive to please Allah and in doing so she avoided anything which was the least bit doubtful.
Hadrat Zaynab(A.S.) the Fragrance of Holy Ahl-ul-Bayt
Who was Zaynab? Why do we look up to her? She was the granddaughter of Prophet Muhammad and Khadija, the daughter of Fatima az-Zahraa and Ali, the sister of the Youths of Paradise, Hassan and Hussein, and the beloved aunt of Imam Ali Zayn al Abideen. With such a blessed family, Zaynab had such perfect examples to look up to.
A narration says that Zaynab's characteristics represented each of her family member: in her seriousness and calmness she was Khadija; in her modesty and pureness her mother Fatimah; in her meaningfulness, her father Imam Ali; in her restraint and capacity to endure, her brother Imam Hassan; and in courage and lion-hearted, her brother Imam Hussein.
Prophet Muhammad(S.A.W.) said to Fatima
"My dear child, this child of mine, Zaynab, would be confronted with a thousand and one calamities and face serious hardships in Karbala."
We have been aware of her actions and speeches through a dramatic event in her life: The Massacre of Karbala. We were able to see how she reflected the light of Ahl-ul-Bayt, and her love for them. Imam Hussein and Zaynab actions' during afflicted times showed us what they really stood for and meant. Imam Hussein gave his life for the sake of Islam, and Zaynab was there to stand up to his words, to defend them, and carry it on with the symbolism of her patience.
After the tragic battle of Karbala, no one was left (accept her weak nephew), to stand up to the oppression and speak the truth. In this case for Zaynab, it was an obligation for her to stand up to the tyranny Yazid.
Now knowing the life of Zaynab and the tragedies of Karbala that she went through, how many of us are actually thankful for today? Thankful in knowing that she stood up and spoke out to make sure there would be a tomorrow for Islam, Ahl-ul-Bayt, and so we could have the honorable title as Shia. Always remember how Zaynab stood up to the enemies with the characteristics of Ahl-ul-Bayt in her.
All those who have visited Damascus will vouch that the shrine of Sayyedah Zainab(A.S.) stands as a succor for citizens of the Syrian capital like that of her grandfather Prophet Muhammad(S.A.W.) for the people of Madinah. At the sight of her sprawling mausoleum, heads are lowered in obeisance, while hearts are filled with reverence. Lips begin to move fervently with the phrase: "Peace upon you O' (grand) daughter of the Prophet of Allah and Khadija. Peace upon you O' daughter of of the Commander of the Faithful and Fatima az-Zahra. Peace upon you O' sister of the Youths of Paradise, Imam Hasan and Imam al-Husayn. Peace upon you O' Zaynab ..."
The standard salutation for this great lady is long and full of eloquently moving phrases that stand as firm testimony to her role in preserving the values of life and Islam. Those interested are advised to read her ziyarat-namah in the original Arabic along with the translation in order to have a proper perspective of the Heroine of Karbala, whose birth anniversary (5th Jamadi al-Awwal) is celebrated in Islamic Iran as Nurse Day.
But it would be a gross injustice and disrespect for the lady Zaynab(A.S.) if we were to limit her struggle to the mere duties of a paramedic who takes care of the patients and helps them in their recovery.
Nay! The Prophet's grand daughter was a paragon of virtue in every sphere, to the extent that she is often called Sharikat al-Husayn (Associate in the Mission of Imam al-Husayn(A.S.)). The fact that her nephew, Imam Zayn al-Abedeen(A.S.), referred to her as "O' Aunt! You are a savant without having learned from anyone," speaks volumes of the wisdom and knowledge of the lady whose eloquent sermons in the courts of Kufa and Damascus, brought back memories of her illustrious father, Imam Ali(A.S.).
No nurse has ever been called Aqeelatuna (Our Wise Lady) by her community as Zaynab(A.S.) was addressed by the Bani Hashem. Likewise, no nurse, however committed, will sacrifice her own sons for any cause. Yet Zaynab did. And when she was informed by her brother that both the youths, Aun and Muhammad, had drank the elixir of martyrdom for the sake of Islam, she prostrated on the field of Karbala in thanksgiving to the Almighty Allah, for having bestowed her such favors.
This is not to degrade the profession of the paramedics, who ought to learn the tenets of faith first before calling themselves humanitarian. And if they do, in Zaynab(A.S.), they will certainly find a model par excellence to mold their life upon and attain salvation in the hereafter. After the tragedy of Karbala when she was taken as captive along with the children and womenfolk of the Prophet's Household to the court of the tyrants, she did not feel the least subdued. It was her indomitable spirit, which shook the bases of tyranny to their very foundations and made a terrified Yazid release the Ahl ul-Bait.
The first thing she did was to hold the mourning ceremony for the martyrs of Karbala in Damascus in order to enlighten people of the mission of Imam al-Husayn(A.S.)- A mission against political injustice and social corruption which the libertine Yazid had tried in vain to obliterate.
Zaynab(A.S.), thus institutionalized the commemoration of the tragedy of Ashura which the faithful have continued to observe ever since during the months of Muharram and Safar. In this way she nursed Islam and humanitarian values back to life.
Hadrat Aun and Muhammad
Aun and Muhammad were the sons of Bibi Zainab. They had not accompanied Bibi Zainab when she left Madina with Imaam Hussain A.S. Just before Imaam Hussain started his journey from Mecca, Hazrat Abdullah ibne Jaffer brought his two sons to Mecca and handing them over to Imaam Hussain said, "Ya Imaam, since you have decided to go and will not allow me to come with you, please take my two sons with you. Aun will represent his maternal grandfather Hazrat Ali A.S. and the other will represent his paternal grandfather Hazrat Jaffer-e-Tayyaar".
Aun and Muhammad were quite young. It is reported that Aun was about thirteen and Muhammad was a year or two younger. They had learnt the art of fencing from their uncle, Hazrat Abbas.
On the night before Ashura Bibi Zainab said to them, "My sons, tomorrow there will be a battle. I can not ask you to fight because you are young. But if anything happens to Imaam Hussain, while you are still alive, I will be filled with shame." Both the boys stood up and said "Mother, we have the blood of Ali and Jaffer in our veins.
Our grand fathers were warriors whose fame will always be remembered. Do you think we can possibly shame them? More over we are the pupils of Uncle Abbas. Mother, unless you forbid us and stop us from fighting, we shall go to the battlefield and show the enemies of Islam how bravely the children of Islam can fight. All we want from you is a promise that you will never weep for us. Or souls will never rest in peace if you grieve for us after we are gone".
Tears of joy and pride flowed down Bibi Zainab's eyes as she embraced her two boys. In the morning during the general attacks from the enemy, Aun and Muhammad fought side by side with Ali Akber, Qasim and Hazrat Abbas. Every time either of them succeeded in felling an enemy, he would look proudly at Hazrat Abbas who would smile and nod his approval. Imaam Hussain would not, however, give the two boys permission to go for single combat. They were very disappointed.
They came to their mother for help. Bibi Zainab sent someone to request Imaam Hussain to come to her tent., When the Imaam came Bibi Zainab said, "Hussain, at the battle of Siffeen Abbas was only eight years old. When he saw someone trying to attack you, he rushed into the battle field and killed the man. Do you remember how proud our father Ali was? Today I too want to be proud of my sons. I want to see them go out there and defend Islam. Will you not allow me that privilege?" Imaam Hussain stood there in silence. He looked at his sister.
He saw the disappointment on her face. He saw tears forming around her eyes. He put his arms around the two boys and led them to their horses. He kissed them and then helped them mount. "Go," said Imaam, "Go, and show the world how those as young as you can fight the injustice and oppression of Yezid!" Then he turned round and lifted the curtain of the tent. The boys raised their hands and said "Fi Amaani-llah, mother!" Bibi Zainab replied, "Bismillah my sons. Allah be with you!"
The two boys rode out into the battlefield. They fought bravely. At one point Umar Sa'ad asked, "Who are these two youngsters? They fight like I have seen Ali ibne Abu Taalib fight." When he was told who they were he ordered his soldiers to give up single combats and surround and kill the boys. Aun and Muhammad were attacked from all sides. Soon they were over-powered and brutally killed. Imaam Hussain and Hazrat Abbas carried the two young bodies to a tent and laid them on the floor. Imaam walked to Bibi Zainab's tent. He found her in sijdah praying, "Ya Allah, I thank you for accepting my sacrifice. My heart is filled with pride because my two sons have given their lives for your religion."
Hadrat Zainab(A.S.) speaks in the court of Yazid bin Mu'awiyah
After the massacre of Imam Husayn bin 'Ali (a.s.) and his companions at Karbala, the forces of Yazid bin Mu'awiyah took the children and women of Husayn's caravan as prisoners. They were taken from Karbala to Kufa and from Kufa to Damascus, the capital and stronghold of Umayyid power. In Damascus, the women and children were presented into the court (darbar) of Yazid. Yazid had assembled all the dignitaries and officers of his capital for that occasion. When the prisoners where brought in, they saw that Imam Husayn's head was at the foot of Yazid's thorn.
Yazid was joyfully reciting some poems in which he openly rejected the Prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) and called on his ancestors (who were killed by the Muslim army in the battle of Badr) to witness the revenge which he had extracted from the family of the Prophet. It was under such an emotionally charged circumstances that Zaynab bin Ali, the courageous daughter of a courageous father, stood up and gave a very moving speech in response to Yazid's statements.
In the name of Allah the, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Universe, Allah's blessings be on His Messenger's Family altogether. Allah says: "Then the end of those who do evil deeds is that they reject the verses of Allah and ridicule them". (Quran 30:10)
Oh Yazid! Do you think that by making us prisoners in such a way that we are being taken from one place to another in humiliation - do you think that by this you have humuliated us in the sight of Allah and have earned respect for youeself?! This apparent success of yours is the result of grandeur of your might and lofty status for which you are proud….
You feel that you have conquered the whole world and your affairs are organised and that our domain is now under you control… And are you forgetting that Allah has said: "Surely those who have bought unbelief at the price of faith shall do no harm at all to Allah, and they shall have a painful chastisement". (Quran 3:177)
Then Zaynab reminds Yazid that his grandmother and other relatives came into the fold of Islam only after the fall of Mecca at the hands of the Muslims. Since Mecca was taken without any war or bloodshed, legally the entire inhabitant could have been made the slaves of the Prophet. But the Prophet, out of his mercy, declared to the people of Mecca that 'I release you from the bonds of slavery, you are free.'
In other words, Zaynab wanted Yazid to remember that his ancestors were the 'freed slaves' of her grandfather. Look at the courage of Zaynab! Standing as a prisoner in the court of Yazid, she does not hesitate to remind him of his reality.
Is it justice, O son of the freed slaves!, that you provide your ladies and slave-girls with hijab, whereas the daughters of the Messenger of God are held prisoners? You have insulted them by taking away the covers; you have exposed their faces to the enemies -- from one city to another.
Everyone irrespective of his high or low status stares at their faces. These ladies do not have their gents or protectors with them.
Then Zaynab reminds the audience of the origins of Yazid: his grandmother, Hind (the wife of Abu Sufyan), had ordered her slave after the battle of Uhud to cut open the chest of Hamzah, the Prophet's uncle, and chewed upon his liver to 'quench' her anger for death of her father and brother who were killed in Badr.
But, of course, how can we expect protection from him whose mouth spits out the heart of the pious people, whose flesh has grown from the blood of martyrs? And why should he not hate us who is jealous of us and shamefully say: 'I wish my ancestors had seen me today; they would congratulate me and pray that my hand would never be weak'.
He is saying this while, he is hurting [with his cane] the teeth of Husayn, the leader of the Youths of Paradise. Why should he not say these things -- he who has cursed his feelings and sores by spilling the blood of Muhammad's family, the stars of the family of 'Abdul Muttalib. You call your ancestors hoping that they will answer you. You will be put together with them and then you will regret and say had my tongue become dumb so that I would not have said what I said.
O Allah! Give us our right, and avenge those who have oppressed us; and send your anger upon those that spilled our blood and killed our protectors By Allah! O Yazid, by killing 'Husayn you have not torn but your own skin and you have not cut but your own flesh. You will be brought to the Prophet with the crimes of spilling the blood of his children and humiliating his family. "The oppressors will know when the time changes [against them].
lt was her destiny to proclaim to the world the sacrifices made by Imam Husayn and the other members of the family of the Holy Prophet [s.a.w.] for the cause of Islam. She exposed the evil deeds of Ibn Ziyad and Yazid with courage and fearlessness. Had it not been for her the sacrifice of Karbala might have faded into oblivion. She endured physical pain and mental torture with fortitude and was a source of strength to all around her. The sorrow and grief she expressed was an outpouring of her intense humanity. Never did she rebel against the destiny decreed by Allah. The strength of her submission was divine, yet her lamentation poignantly human.
The spirit of Zaynab (A.S.) will live forever. Her courage, forbearance, and submission will continue to inspire those who hear her story for all time to come.
The following ziyarat (verbal salutation) for Bibi Zaynab (A.S.) is traditionally recited to obtain divine blessing while visiting her shrine (in this case, in Damascus, Syria). It can also be recited at any other time in remembrance of the example of courage and submission that she presented to the world, particularly on the acknowledged days of her birth, death, and during the month of Muharram.
Peace be upon you, O' daughter of the Chief of prophets.
Peace be upon you, O' daughter of the Master of the sanctuary and the banner.
Peace be upon you, O' daughter of him who was made to ascend to (highest) heaven and reached the station of two bows' length (to Allah) or even closer.
Peace be upon you, O' daughter of the Leader of the pious.
Peace be upon you, O' daughter of the support of the sincere friends (of Allah).
Peace be upon you. O' daughter of the Leader of the Deen.
Peace be upon you, O' daughter of the Commander of the faithful.
Peace be upon you, O' daughter of him who struck with the sword of two blades.
Peace be upon you, O' daughter of him who prayed towards the two qiblahs [Jerusalem, then Mecca].
Peace be upon you, O' daughter of Muhammad, the chosen.
Peace be upon you, O' daughter of Ali, the content (with the decree of Allah).
Peace be upon you, O' daughter of Fatima, the radiant.
Peace be upon you, O' daughter of Khadija, the elder.
Peace be upon you, O' righteous one, pleasing (to Allah).
Peace be upon you, O' learned, rightly guided one.
Peace be upon you, O' generous, noble one.
Peace be upon you, O' pious, pure one.
Peace be upon you, O' you who were thoroughly tested by sufferance like Husayn, the oppressed.
Peace be upon you, O' you who were kept far from your home.
Peace be upon you, O' you who were held captive in cities.
Peace be upon you, O' daughter of the greatest endeared friend of Allah.
Peace be upon you, O' sister of the glorified friend of Allah.
Peace be upon you, O' aunt of the revered friend of Allah.
Peace be upon you, O' sister of misfortunes, Sayyida Zaynab, and may the mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you.