The Deputy of Hazrat Zahra (S.A.)
By: Seyyed Ali Shahbaz
“At’ani aj’alaka misli kun li akun lak (You model yourself on Me so that I become yours).”
The above phrase is part of a Hadith Qodsi, which all Muslims unanimously state to be the words of Almighty Allah expressed through Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) – the most perfect of all human beings.
No wonder, the Holy Qur'an presents the Last and Greatest of all Messengers as the "Excellent Exemplar" for all those "who look forward to Allah and the Last Day, and remember Allah greatly." (33:21).
The faithful have always tried to tread the path of the Prophet on their way towards obtaining the Divine Promise of salvation, but, in the light of the above-mentioned Hadith, except for Imam Ali (AS), and his sons, Imam Hasan (AS) and Imam Husain (AS) – as well as the 9 other Infallible Imams – none have ever achieved the exalted status where the Prophet would say: I have become yours.
Indeed, for the benefit of true believers, in the various aspects of life the Ahl al-Bayt perfectly mirror the spotlessly unsullied figure of the Prophet. Several ayahs of the Holy Qur'an are undeniable proof in this regard. For instance, in this same Surah Ahzab (33:33), Allah vouches the pristine purity of this select group that revolves around the peerless personality of the noblest lady of all time, the paragon-par-excellence for all virtuous women, Hazrat Fatema az-Zahra (SA).
Ever since, virtuous women in every age and geographical area have endeavoured to emulate the Lady who is without doubt the Pride of the Virgin Mary and have achieved salvation, but none of them have risen to the position where Hazrat Fatema (SA) would say: I have become yours, or, you are my deputy – except in the case of her own perfectly impeccable elder daughter, whose birthday we celebrate today on the 5th of Jamadi al-Awwal.
She was named Zainab (SA). According to lexicons, it means a worthy ‘Ornament of her Father’. Since her name is a derivative of the compounding of two Arabic words: ‘zain’ (Ornament) and ‘al-Ab’ (of the Father), the prefix ‘al’ is dropped in such cases.
Right since childhood, she was the embodiment of faith and virtue,
This total devotion to God Almighty that she displayed during her entire life, even in the most adverse conditions, was present in her since birth, and flowered on various occasions through different traits including generosity.
For instance, she was hardly four or five years old when her father brought a guest to the house in those days of severe economic hardships in Medina and asked her mother whether there was some food to spare. Hazrat Fatema Zahra (SA) replied there was just one piece of bread for Zainab (SA) to eat after she gets up from sleep. The little girl who it seems had already woken up, asked her mother to give her share of the food to the guest. This selfless trait of going without food was displayed later in life during imprisonment in the aftermath of the tragedy of Karbala when Hazrat Zainab (SA), the caretaker of the widows and orphans, would use to give her share of the meagre food to the youngsters.
She was also the embodiment of knowledge ever since childhood, Once when she asked her father, Imam Ali (AS), whether he loved all his children, he replied in the positive, saying: “Awlaaduna akbaaduna (our children are lobes of our livers).” She then raised up the question that how could two types of love gather in a single heart, i.e. the love of Allah and the love of children. As a smiling father looked affectionately in anticipation of her reply, and later kissed her on the forehead, the little girl said: “I understand, love is exclusively for God while affection is for us (the children).”
Hazrat Zainab (SA) was patience personified, to the extent that she was virtually as perfect as her incomparable mother. It was not for no reason that she is unanimously acknowledged as Na’ebat az-Zahra or Sani-e Zahra (Deputy of Hazrat Zahra). The Arabic word na'eb for deputy, means a representative with full authority in the complete sense of the term. In other words the deputy should be as exalted as the one who is being represented, and should be fully qualified to deputise in that particular field.
In order to understand the meaning of her epithet we have to cast a glance at the life of Prophets and Saints from Adam till Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and their Deputies and Legatees (awsia pl. of wasi), who are immune from any major or minor sin, whether deliberate or inadvertent, and are also free of any mean characteristic or deficiency of character.
Thus, it becomes clear that Hazrat Fatema az-Zahra (SA) needed an immaculate deputy to demonstrate to the women of all time the greatness of Islam and the practical meaning of piety, virtue and feminine rights. This is the fact that the Heroine of Karbala set a lasting example of flawlessness.
She had reached such a state of perfection that she was not only Na’ebat az-Zahra but also a deputy of her brother Imam Husain (AS) following his martyrdom. Shaikh Saddouq writes in this regard: “Kaanat Zainab laha niyabata khassa an-il-Husain wa kaan-an-naas yarja’ouna alayha fi’l-halaal wa’l-haraam hatta bariun Zain al-Abedin min marazahu (Zainab [SA] had a special deputation on behalf of [Imam] Husain [AS]. People used to refer to her in [jurisprudential] matters related to the sanctioned and forbidden until [her nephew, Imam] Zain al-Abedin [AS] recovered from his illness.)”