Birthday of Hazrat Zainab (SA)
Salaam and congratulations to you all on a very auspicious day. Today, Saturday, the 12th of January, happens to be the 5th of the Islamic month of Jamadi al-Awwal, the day on which in the year 6 AH, a noble girl was born in a blessed household.
She grew up into an Immaculate Lady of outstanding virtue, to the extent that when circumstances demanded she patiently endured terrible adversities for the sake of humanity and humanitarian values, which have earned her immortal fame. She was none other than Hazrat Zainab (SA), the grand-daughter of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), who nursed Islam back to life after the calamitous tragedy of Karbala. Her auspicious birthday is thus celebrated in the Islamic Republic of Iran as Nurse Day to honour the brave Iranian Muslim ladies, who treaded her path to provide valuable behind-the- frontlines-support for Iran's Muslim combatants during the 8-year the US had imposed in the 1980s through Saddam. But don't get the wrong notion that the Prophet's granddaughter had anything to do with the profession of the paramedics. True, her diligent care for her sick, bedridden 23-year old nephew, Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS), in the equally tragic aftermath of Karbala, restored him to health and she also provided solace to the orphans and widows, but the real task of Hazrat Zainab (SA) was to nurture Islamic teachings and demonstrate their practicability in society. She did this in such a unique manner that till this day Islam and Muslims are indebted to her brilliant sermons which she delivered in the state of captivity that continue to inspire posterity to greater heights, as today the brave Muslim women of Bahrain, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, and other places reeling under brutal oppression, are doing.
Please stay with us for an exclusive feature on the impeccable daughter of such peerless parents, as Imam Ali (AS) and Hazrat Fatema Zahra (SA).
“You are by the grace of God a scholar, unschooled by anyone and a sage by connation.”
This phrase is indeed the fitting tribute to Lady Zainab (SA) by her nephew, Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS), the son and successor of her martyred brother, Imam Husain (AS). It is acknowledgement of her dynamic personality that continues to transcend history and historical developments, otherwise we would not have been celebrating her birthday today despite the passing of a millennium and four centuries. Here, it would be interesting to note that her name, which is Arabic for “Ornament of the Father”, was neither chosen by her parents nor by her grandfather, the Almighty's Last and Greatest Messenger. In fact, as the Prophet told the proud parents the name "Zainab" for the newborn girl was from God Himself and was conveyed through the Archangel Gabriel. No wonder, Hazrat Zainab (SA), spent her life in the unsullied enclosure of virtue and infallibility without any blemish, thereby setting a lasting example of flawlessness that on each and every occasion, even under the most adverse conditions, displayed the realities and finer points of God-given intelligence and knowledge which the most erudite scholars are unable to comprehend.
She was hardly five years old when she suffered a double blow of tragedy when her dear mother, Hazrat Fatema Zahra (SA) was martyred, within three months of the Prophet’s departure from the world. The loving father, Imam Ali (AS) instilled in her the finest qualities of virtue.
When Hazrat Zainab (SA) came of age, she married her first cousin, Abdullah, the eldest son of her paternal uncle, Ja'far at-Tayyar, who was the first-ever Muslim to undertake migration for the sake of protecting and propagating Islam – to the court of King Negus (Najashi) of Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia). On his return from Abyssinia, when Ja'far was martyred in the Battle of Mu'ta against the Byzantine aggressors in what is today known as Jordan, Abdullah was brought up by the Prophet. As a result he greatly resembled the Prophet in manners. The Prophet had prayed to God to grant prosperity in Abdullah's affairs, and history bears witness that he never suffered loss in his trade activities and earned fame as Bahr al-Joud (Sea of Bounty) and Manarat as-Sakhawa (Minaret of Generosity). But the greatest honour for him, for which he was thankful to God all his life, was his marriage to Hazrat Zainab (SA). He greatly respected the Prophet's granddaughter as the Aqeelat al-Bani Hashem or the Wise Lady of the Hashemite Clan. When the fateful journey of Imam Husain (AS) commenced in 60 AH, Abdullah allowed her to accompany her brother along with two of his sons, Aoun and Mohammad, who were eventually martyred in Karbala in defence of humanitarian values, leaving their middle-aged mother the gargantuan task of nursing Islam back to life with her young nephew, standing steadfastly beside her in captivity.
In fact, she and Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS), not only internationalized and universalized the tragedy of Karbala, but as was the goal of her martyred brother, they 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 equally traumatic aftermath of history’s greatest-ever 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).
It is also not for no reason that the Heroine of Karbala, who salvaged Islam, is rightfully called “Sani-e Zahra” or second only to the noblest lady of all time, her mother, Hazrat Fatema Zahra (SA). Her patience, her sufferings and her martyrdom were prophesied by her grandfather. It is said that when she was born, the Prophet took her in his arms and while pressing the newborn to his cheek cried incessantly until his beard was soaked with tears. Asked by his daughter the reason of grief, he said: (the archangel) Gabriel has just informed me that after you, she will suffer great afflictions.
Groomed her father, the Gateway of the City of Knowledge, Hazrat Zainab (SA), grew into an extremely knowledgeable and wise lady, since in Islam, the pursuit of knowledge is not confined to men, but women are also urged to acquire it. Unlike other creeds and cultures, Islam restored woman to her natural status in society with emphasis on learning so that literate and knowledgeable mothers could properly groom their children, the future hope of the society. Thus Hazrat Zainab (SA) was immune from any ignorance and possessed God-given knowledge with certitude.
In Kufa, during the caliphate of Imam Ali (AS), she assumed the role of educating ladies and was known for her excellent explanation of the ayahs of the holy Qur’an. No wonder, later in life, no less a personality than her nephew Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) says about her: “You are by the grace of God a scholar unschooled by anyone and a sage by connation.”
Twenty years later in 61 AH, when the caravan of the noble captives was taken through Kufa, the former capital of her illustrious father, Hazrat Zainab (SA), the teacher of the Kufan women that she once was, brought tears to the eyes of every onlooker and made them repent of their cowardice in deserting the Prophet’s Household.
In Kufa, during her captivity following the heartrending tragedy of Karbala, when the tyrannical Omayyud governor, Obaidollah ibn Ziyad tried to mock at the heads of martyrs by saying that this was the Will of God against all those who rise against the rulers, Zainab (SA) retorted that the Almighty had bestowed her household with the glories of faith and martyrdom against infidelity. She was so content with Divine Will that she boldly said that whatever she had seen in Karbala was nothing but beautiful. Part of her sermon reads:
“O son of Ziyad, we are the sisters of Husain (AS), the grand daughters of Mohammad whom you acknowledge as your prophet. You and the other henchmen of Yazid have, for the sake of worldly gains, flouted all the principles of Islam, have desecrated the dead bodies of the martyrs, despite the fact that it is strictly forbidden by religion, and subjected to us to the worst kind of ill treatment, although the Prophet had enjoined on all believers to treat the captives and particularly the women and the children with sympathy and consideration. Today you are gloating over your success and rejoicing; today you are thinking that you can insult and humiliate us to your heart’s content because there is nobody to say a word to you on our behalf, because you see us in this helpless condition with no one to befriend us, none to protest against the treatment you are meting out to us. But O’ tyrant, let me warn you that you will find your success ephemeral and very soon the wrath of God will descend on you and on those whose cause you are espousing. Very soon the nemesis will overtake you and all the others who have ruthlessly killed my brother and other members of my family without the least compunction simply because they stood steadfast in their belief; because they refused to surrender their principles or compromise their ideals; because they refused to accept Yazid, whose stooge you are.”
Her sermons unnerved the tyrant and he sent the caravan of the noble captives towards the Omayyud capital, Damascus. Here also, Hazrat Zainab (SA) she gave a remarkable display of her faith, virtue and knowledge, as could be gleaned from her memorable sermons that finally forced Yazid to release the noble household and allow them to return to Medina.
Upon release, the noble lady laid the foundations of the mourning ceremonies for the Martyrs of Karbala – ceremonies that continue to inspire the faithful in the months of Muharram and Safar.
It was thus the sister’s patience that made the message of the brother resound with glory in the courts of the perpetrators of history’s most heart-wrenching tragedy and ensured that as long as the martyrdom of Imam Husain (AS) will be commemorated, the name of Zainab (SA) will also shine with radiance.
Soon Yazid and the Omayyuds were cast into the dustbin of history. As for Hazrat Zainab (SA) and the Prophet’s Household, her sprawling shrine in Damascus and the pilgrims that throng it day and night, is proof indeed of the righteousness of the cause of Imam Husain (AS).
Now we understand why dedicated youths from around the world, including Iran, assembled in Damascus over the past few years at the risk to their life in order to defend the sanctity of the shrine of the Prophet’s granddaughter from the mischief of takfiri terrorists.