The Life of Lady Zaynab
To throw light upon the fragrant memories and to work with perseverance to obtain the details of such memories are the two things that cast good manners, virtues, and acquaintance with the conduct of the past personalities who were characterized by high merits, piety, righteousness, and decency on the souls.
Thus, the noble, deep-rooted character of Lady Zaynab should not be overlooked. She possessed all that points towards her immaculate majestic, dignified, and distinguished origin. She also possesses renowned bearings in the fields of perseverance upon principles, courage, eloquence, and whole-heartedness besides asceticism, chastity, piety, holiness, and magnanimity.
On that account, it is necessary for seekers of merits and fact-finders to take from her precious life account and please their ears by listening to her admirable memoirs so as to gain from the fragrance of her personality, which is a model of self-discipline, knowledge, and aspiration.
Let us now refer to a brief presentation of the life of Lady Zaynab.
Lady Zaynab enjoyed the most exalted lineage since she ramified from the tree of prophecy and Imamate and combined all the elements of honor and dignity. The family of Imam Ali (a) has been the most elevated one over the entire history in the field of struggle against wrong and in adapting the issues of human rights. The sons and descendants of Imam Ali (a) have provided hundreds of martyrs for this sake of these issues.
Lady Zaynab’s grandfather, from the maternal side, was Prophet Muhammad (S) exploded the springs of knowledge and wisdom on this earth, founded the features of civilization and development, constructed a noble society controlled by justice and law, smashed the customs, and superstitions of pagans and the savage tribal society that prevailed in the Arab Peninsula. He called for worshipping of the One Creator, and brought to his nation abundant goodness. Indeed, Almighty Allah sent Prophet Muhammad (S) as a mercy for humankind. From this great personality, Lady Zaynab inherited the value for standing in defense of the right and striving to elevate the Word of Allah.
Her grandmother, from the maternal side, was Khadijah who supported Islam in its darkest days. She struggled for sake of Allah in the best-ever way, and spent her entire fortune for the sake of her religion. She therefore has been one of the two supports on which Islam relied for its existence. The Prophet (S) used to appreciate his loyal wife and her situation in her life and after her death.
From this great grandmother, Lady Zaynab inherited the highest moral standards and perseverance on principles. Copying her grandmother, she supported her brother, Imam al-Husayn (a), in his revolution and supplied elements of eternity to his great uprising.
Lady Zaynab’s father is Imam Ali Amir al-Muminin (commander of the faithful believers): chief of the prophets’ successors, leader of the pious ones, and head of the worshippers. Ali was the representative, successor, and heir of Prophet Muhammad (S). His merits are innumerable and his striving for the sake of Allah are incomparable. He was the most knowledgeable, the most self-possessed, the most magnanimous, the most generous, the most ascetic, the most courageous, the most reputable, the best worshipper, the most loyal, the most faithful, and the most pious among Muslims.
Historians have recorded unanimously that Lady Zaynab followed her father in behavior, knowledge and conduct. She, too, positively adopted all of her father’s goals and efforts for the sake of supplying Islam with sustenance. Hence, she, along with her brother Imam al-Husayn (a), could thwart the infidel plots of the Umayyad that were aimed at wiping out Islam and replacing it with the pre-Islamic customs.
Lady Zaynab’s mother was Lady Fatimah al-Zahra (a), the Veracious who was a copy of her father in adoration of Allah, piety, self-discipline, knowledge, virtue, clemency, veneration, and the other features of perfection. Her father named her as the Chief of the Women of the World1. For these reasons, her father directed the best words of laudation and respect to his daughter who was the ideal woman on this earth. Such was the mother, educator, and instructor of Lady Zaynab who had been nourished with all aspects of human perfection.
Let us also refer briefly to the grandfather and grandmother of Lady Zaynab from the paternal side.
Abu Talib, father of Imam Ali (a), was a protector of Islam as he defended Prophet Muhammad (S) so bravely and suffered unbearable torments in this course. Only under the guardianship of Abu Talib could Prophet Muhammad (S) propagate his divine mission and spread its principles fearlessly. With the demise of his protector, the Prophet (S) expressed his great loss and grief. He therefore called that year as ‘year of grief’. After the demise of Abu Talib, the enemies of the Prophet (S) agreed on assassinating him, but Allah saved and ordered him to flee to Yathrib and let his cousin, Ali, sleep on his bed to make the plotters believe that he was still there.
From this great personality, Lady Zaynab drew the best lessons to act for defending the principles.
Lady Zaynab’s grandmother was Fatimah bint Asad - an example of faith and purity. On her hands, the Prophet (S) was brought up and treated so kindly and tenderly since she used to take care of him rather than her sons and bestow upon him with all colors of sympathy and love. Hence, she was highly respected by him; when she departed life, he dressed her in his own shirt and laid her down in the grave himself as an expression of his great love for her. From this grand mother, Lady Zaynab received the best lessons of love and support for the sake of religion and its legal leaders.
We, also, should not neglect the fact that Imam al-Hasan and Imam al-Husayn (a) participated in developing the unparalleled personality of their sister, Lady Zaynab, since she spent a long part of her life in their custody. The merits and virtues of the two Imams are too many to be contained here. As a result, the Prophet (S) called them ‘Chiefs of the Youth of Paradise.’2
Lady Zaynab imitated the morals and ethics of Imam al-Hasan (a) who was known for his composure and liberal approach in addition to his high moral standards. As he had noticed that his grandfather and parents took great care of Zaynab, Imam al-Hasan also encompassed her with much love and compassion and preferred her to the other harem of the Prophet’s household.
Imam al-Husayn’s relation with his sister Zaynab has been the melody of seekers of human perfection. She could occupy his feelings and bring emotions from the genuineness of her estimation, elevation of her ethics, and high moral standards. She was the most dependable person in the sight of Imam al-Husayn (a) who used to take her counsel in all of his affairs. She accompanied him in all the stages of his revolution.
Without Lady Zaynab’s struggle, efforts, and honorable situations, the revolution of Imam al-Husayn (a) would have been lost. As an example of Lady Zaynab’s great standing in the sight of her brother Imam al-Husayn (a) is that when he bade her the last farewell on the day of Ashura, he asked her to mention him in her Night Prayer.3
Through the second part of this book, we will refer to sections of the unmatched relation between Imam al-Husayn (a) and his sister, Lady Zaynab.
The life of the Prophet’s family was flourishing with the existence of the two Imams al-Hasan and al-Husayn (a) who occupied their grandfather’s heart completely. Their patents, too, were highly delighted when they saw their two sons and as they saw the Prophet’s love for them. Once, he (S) expressed his love for these two sons by saying:
هَذانِ رَيْحَانَتَايَ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا.
“These two are my only basils that I take from this world.”4
In the midst of this delightful atmosphere, Lady Fatimah al-Zahra became pregnant for the third time. Everybody, including the Messenger of Allah (S), was waiting for the new baby.5
With further delight and pleasure, Lady Fatimah gave birth to a baby girl who was to exceed all Muslim women in fields of faith, honor, chastity, and perseverance to the principles. The Ahl al-Bayt and the Prophet’s companions received the news of the birth of Lady Zaynab with gladness.
Imam Ali (a) hurried to take his newborn, kissed her frequently, and held the Shariite ceremonies of newborns. The Imam (a) recited azan6 in his newborn’s right ear and iqamah7 in the left. Hence, the first voice that penetrated the newborn’s hearing was her father stating:
Allahu Akbar —Allah is the Greatest…
La ilaha illa (a)llah —there is no god but Allah.
These great words found a strong ground in the inner self of Lady Zaynab. They, later on, became the most significant elements of her personality. In the future, she would adopt the calling to the true application of these words for which she would encounter horrible adversities.
As soon as he was informed about the news of the giving birth of this newborn, the Prophet (S) hurried to his daughter’s house, embraced the newborn to his chest warmly, and began to weep. It was a surprise for the mother, Fatimah al-Zahra, to see her father’s tears drop on his face, “What for are you weeping for, father?” she asked.
“Fatimah,” said the father (S) with sad tone, “you should know that this daughter would have to suffer horrible misfortunes and tragedies after your and my demise.”8
At that time the Prophet (S) had perceived the horrifying hardships that would afflict this granddaughter. Naturally, Fatimah al-Zahra (a) participated in her father’s grieving at this time. Then when the close friend of the Ahl al-Bayt, Salman, came to congratulate on the occasion, he found the household immersed in grief and unhappiness. Hence, he also participated in that ceremony of consolation9.
The blessed mother carried her newborn to the father and asked to choose a name for her.
“I will not precede the Messenger of Allah in such a matter,” answered the father modestly. He then took the newborn and asked him to choose a name for her.
“I will not precede my Lord in such a matter,” answered the Messenger of Allah modestly.
From the Heavens then ascended Archangel Gabriel to say to the Prophet, “This newborn’s name is ‘Zaynab’10. Almighty Allah has chosen this name for her.”11 She was also given the nicknames - ‘Ummu-Kulthum’ or ‘Ummu-al-Hasan’12.
Epithet is a word or phrase expressing a quality or attribute regarded as characteristic of the person or thing mentioned. Epithets, then, depict one’s mental attitude and traits regardless of being good or bad.13 Thus, Lady Zaynab had many epithets that expressed aspects of her personality.
The Arabic Aqilah means a noble woman, who is honored among her people and is venerated in her house, by virtue of her wisdom.
Lady Zaynab was such an honorable and virtuous lady that all her descendants have been called Banu al-Aqilah—sons of the Noble and Wise woman.
During the journey of Imam al-Husayn (a) from Medina to Karbala, Lady Zaynab was the Chief Lady of the harem and was obeyed and respected by everybody.
It is to add that she was also called ‘Aqilatu Bani Hashim - the Wise woman of the Hashemites,’ and ‘Aqilat ut-Talibiyyin - the Wise woman of the sons (and descendants) of Abu Talib.’
For her supreme knowledge, Lady Zaynab was called al-Alimah – the Woman of Knowledge. Historians have confirmed that she was an authority for Muslim ladies who used to refer to her for their religious affairs. Of course, she received such knowledge from her grandfather, parents and brothers who were the sources of knowledge for the Islamic ummah. Furthermore, Lady Zaynab has had similar epithets, such as ‘al-Arifah’ — the Knower of Reality’, and ‘al-Muwathaqah - the Reliable one.’
Lady Zaynab was recognized also as being distinguished worshipper among Muslim ladies. She committed herself to all the recommended rites of Islam to the degree that even on the most horrible night of her life – i.e. the night of the tenth of Muharram, 61 AH - she offered the supererogatory prayers. Thus, she was called Abidatu Ali - Ali, The Most Worshipping woman of Ali’s household’.
In all aspects of human perfection, Lady Zaynab preceded everybody and occupied the leading position. She therefore is called ‘al-Kamilah - the Perfect woman.’
Because of her great jihad, her service to Islam, and steadfastness for the sake of Allah, Lady Zaynab’s virtue has exceeded all limits and, therefore, she was proudly conferred with the epithet of ‘al-Fadhilah —the Virtuous Lady.’
Just like her mother who is known as the Senior Veracious, Lady Zaynab was so veracious that she gained worthily the epithet of ‘al-Siddiqah al-Sughra - the Junior Veracious Lady’.
As she had to suffer different and innumerable misfortunes all over her lifetime, Lady Zaynab was called Umm al-Masaib – Mother of misfortunes.
Let us refer to some of these misfortunes that she saw in a period of about a month:
- She saw al-Hurr ibn Yazid force Imam al-Husayn to stop and put down camp in a desolate place.
• She saw the Imam’s with a few companions in comparison to the great numbers in the enemy’s army.
• She saw most of the Imam’s so-called partisans abandon him and join his enemies.
• She saw the women of the household fear and worry when they had to camp in Karbala.
• She saw the enemies deprive her people and her of water.
• She had to take care of the children and women while they were crying out of thirst.
• She had to witness her brother’s feelings of disappointment and loneliness.
• She had to witness the martyrdom of her two sons, as well as the other relatives and companions who were martyred one by one. The martyrdom of al-Abbas however was the most disastrous for her.
• She saw how Imam al-Husayn (a) was without any supporter or helper, while he was seeking help.
• She saw the head of Imam al-Husayn (a) cut off and then being raised on spearheads.
• She saw the enemies attack her brother’s caravan and women, trying to set fire to the tents.
• She had to gather the children and women who dispersed and fled to everywhere in that desert.
• She had to pass by the dead and severed body of her brother while gathering the women and children of the family.
• She had to ride on lean, unsaddled camels and to help the children and women to mount on such animals.
• She had to exert all efforts for taking care of her ill nephew and consoling him.
• She had to go through the scenes of being made captive, then being driven from one town to another while people were looked at them as rebels.
It is narrated that the Holy Prophet (S) once said, “To weep for the misfortunes of Zaynab is as same as to weep for her brothers; al-Hasan and al-Husayn.”14
Historians and narrators have had different opinions about the year of Lady Zaynab’s birth. Some have referred to the fifth year after Hijrah,15 others to the sixth, and a third party to the ninth. The last opinion however is inaccurate,16 and the first is the most acceptable.
Lady Zaynab was brought up at the hands of Prophet Muhammad, Imam Ali, and Lady Fatimah the Veracious (a). In other words, she was brought up in the lap of the divine prophesy, spent her early life in the house of the divine mission, suckled the milk of the most perfect woman of all ages, and was nourished at the hands of the Commander of the Faithful Believers. Hence, she enjoyed a divine upbringing and spiritual education. She was garbed in the garments of elevation, eminence, chastity, and decency. After the demise of Prophet Muhammad (S) and his daughter Fatimah (a), Imam Ali married Umamah17 who took care of Lady Zaynab perfectly since this lady was known for her piety and submission to the Lord.
Lady Zaynab, hence, was raised up with the most exalted colors of education, honor, dignity, mercy, and compassion. She learnt many things that composed her perfect personality, from the behaviors of her parents and brothers.
For instance, whenever she visited her brother Imam al-Husayn, he would stand up as a sign of reverence and respect for her. Whenever she wanted to visit the holy tomb of her grandfather, her father and two brothers used to accompany her. They used to extinguish any lights there so that nobody could see her.18
She was really the inheritor of Imam Ali’s values, moralities, and ethics. To the scholars and narrators of Hadith,19 Lady Zaynab enjoyed a high position. They, therefore, used to refer to Imam Ali, during the Umayyad regime, which had banned any mention of the Imam’s name, by saying ‘Father of Zaynab reported…’
From early life, Lady Zaynab was marvelous in her intellect and wisdom. She had learnt the holy Quran by heart as well as the Prophet’s sayings regarding Islamic laws, rules of education, and principles of ethics. She had also memorized the famous, confounding speech of her mother - Lady Fatimah al-Zahra (a), which she delivered in the Prophet’s Masjid protesting against Abu Bakr’s usurpation of the Islamic ummah’s leadership, which was the right of Imam Ali according to the instructions of Almighty Allah and Prophet Muhammad (S). She had objected to the confiscation of Fadak as well because the Holy Prophet (S) had given it to her as gift within earshot of all Muslims. She narrated her mother’s speech in addition to many other narrations, when the Muslim women visited her in her final times.
Her father, too, greatly admired her sharp wit. One day, she asked him, “Father, do you love us?” He answered, “Of course I do, daughter. I do love you because you are the fruit of my heart.” She replied politely, “Father, love is exclusively for Almighty Allah, while it is compassion which is for us.”20
As he was teaching her the numbers, he asked, “ Say: one.” She said, “one.” As he asked her to say “two,” she kept silent. “Why do you not say: two?” asked her father. She answered, “A tongue which pronounces ‘one’ cannot say ‘two.’”21 When he heard this great answer, he kissed and embraced her.22
She also used to say:
مَنْ أَرَادَ أَنْ لا يَكونَ الخَلْقُ شُفَعَاءَهُ إلى اللهِ فَلْيَحْمِدْهُ. أَلَمْ تَسْمَعْ إلى قَولِهِ: سَمِعَ اللهُ لِمَنْ حَمِدَهُ. فَخَفِ اللهَ لِقُدْرَتِهِ عَلَيْكَ، وَاسْتَحِ مِنْهُ لِقُرْبِهِ مِنْكَ.
“Anyone who intends not to have any other intercede for him or her before Allah should praise Him. Listen to His saying: ‘Allah listens to anyone who praises Him.’ Hence, one should fear Allah for He has authority over them, and should feel shy of Him for He is very close to them.”23
This statement in fact indicates that she was so virtuous and perfectly connected to Allah.
Moreover, she represented her brother, Imam al-Husayn (a) whenever he was absent. Hence, Muslims used to refer to her in the questions concerning Islamic laws. It was because of her extensive knowledge that Imam Zayn al-Abidin (a), Abdullah ibn Jafar, Lady Fatimah daughter of Imam al-Husayn, Muhammad ibn Amr, and Ata ibn al-Saib used to quote her sayings.24
In Kufa and during her father’s regime, Lady Zaynab had special sessions to which Muslim ladies came to listen to her precious lectures on Islam and exegesis of the Holy Quran. She was thus the trustworthiest reference from whom Muslim ladies took advice regarding questions about Islam, moral instructions, and general ethics.
For her tremendous virtue too, Abdullah ibn Abbas25 frequently asked her to answers the questions that he had ignored. He also proudly reported, a good number of narrations on her authority. In this regard, he would say:
حَدَّثَتْنَا عَقِيلَتُنَا زَيْنَبُ بِنْتُ عَلِيٍّ...
“Our Aqilah26 (i.e. the Wise Lady), Zaynab daughter of Ali narrated to us that… etc.”
One of the reports that he related on the authority of Lady Zaynab was Lady Fatimah al-Zahra’s famous speech in the Prophet’s Masjid.
Lady Zaynab also represented Imam Zayn al-Abidin (a) during his illness. About her, he (a) said:
إِنَّهَا عَالِمَةٌ غَيْرُ مُعَلَّمَةٍ.
“She is so knowledgeable herself that she does not need to be taught by somebody else.”27
Finally, she was the most eloquent speaker in Islam; she could stir the emotions of enemies, divide the public opinion, and provoke the public against the ruling regime of Umayyads when she delivered her famous speeches in Kufa and Damascus. In fact, these speeches hint at her precious cultural and literate fortunes.
In addition, as a reason behind her peculiar scholarly capacity the following may be mentioned as key points:
She was always pious and observant towards the Almighty Allah’s commandments and instructions. By being God-fearing and pious one achieves knowledge and notable learning. This is clear in Almighty Allah’s saying:
. عَلِيمٌ شَيْءٍ بِكُلِّ وَاللَّهُ ۗ اللَّهُ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ ۖ اللَّهَ وَاتَّقُوا
“And be careful of (your duty) to Allah, Allah teaches you, and Allah knows all things.” (2:282)
Lady Zaynab was so God-fearing and pious that she dedicated a good time of her daily activities to her Lord; she was immersed in praising and glorifying Him during this time. At nights when sounds calm and eyes sleep, she used to turn her face and heart towards her Lord with tearful eyes, fearful heart, and hopeful mind to say confidently:
يَا مَنْ لَبِسَ العِزَّ وَتَرَدَّى بهِ وَتَعَطَّفَ بالمجَدِ وَتحَلَّى بهِ، أسْألُكَ بمِعَاقِدِ العِزِّ مِن عَرشِكَ وَمُنتَهى الرَّحمْةِ مِن كِتابِكَ وَبِاسمْكَ الأعْظَم وَجَدَّكَ الأعْلى وَكَلِماتِكَ التَّامَّاتِ الَّتي تمَّتْ صِدقاً وعَدلاً أنْ تُصَلّيَ عَلى محَمَّدٍ وَآلِ محُمَّدٍ الطَّيّبين الطَّاهِرينَ وَأنْ تجَمعَ لي خَيرَيِ الدُّنيَا وَالآخِرَةِ.
O You Who dresses and adorns Himself with valor! O You Who deigns and dons Himself with glory! I implore to You by the seats of might in Your Throne, by the utmost of mercy in Your Book, by Your Grandest Name, by Your most High Majesty, and by Your Perfect Words that have been accomplished truly and honestly, (I implore to You) to send blessings upon Muhammad and the family of Muhammad and to arrange for me the good of both this world and the world to come.
Lady Zaynab was well known for her unparalleled intelligence, apposite opinion, and wisdom. Her words were carefully chosen and brought together as beads in a necklace and her opinions were to the point. She was the ideal of eloquence and expressiveness. Allah gifted her the utmost of knowledge, morality, composure, religiousness, and ethics. This is not strange since she was the granddaughter of the Holy Prophet, the daughter of the model parents of Islam, and the sister of the two Chiefs of the Youths of Paradise. In her grandfather, Lady Zaynab takes pride saying:
ومَن كَجَدّي النّبيَّ العَرَبيّ الهاشمِيّ القِرشِيّ الّذي اصطَفاهُ اللهُ تَعالى وَاختَارَه لِيُبَينَ للنّاسِ طَريقَ الحيَاةِ مِن خَير وشَرٍّ في أسْلوبِه العَذِب الجَميلِ وعِبارَتِه الطّلية المُمتِعَة الّتي تَفيضُ رِقَّةً وَحناناً وعَطفاً وإشْفاقاً.
“None is like my grandfather; the Arab, the Hashemite, and the Qurayshite Prophet who has been selected by Allah, the Elevated, for guiding people about good and evil tracts in the path of life, and he did it with such a handsome approach and pleasant, articulate statements full of softness, tenderness, sympathy, and compassion.”28
The couple that was most knowledgeable in Islam - her father and mother, had taught her. So it was natural that a student of such personalities will also be intelligent and knowledgeable.
About Lady Zaynab’s acumen and sagacity, let us listen to the following narration recorded by Ibn Humayd in his book entitled al-Musnad, and al-Yafii in Mirat al-Zaman:
One day, Imam al-Hasan and Imam al-Husayn were discussing some of their grandfather’s sayings, “The Halal is obvious and the Haram is also obvious, but between these two there are many dubious matters most of people ignore. To avoid such dubious matters is acquittal for the religion and the honor, while to fall in such dubious matters is plunging into the Haram. A shepherd who grazes about a shelter will decisively pasture in it. There is a shelter to every kingdom, and the shelter of Allah is in avoiding what He deems unlawful. There is also a single part in each one’s body; when this is good, the whole body will be so, and when this part is bad, the whole body will be so. This is the heart.”29
Commenting on this statement, Lady Zaynab said:
Listen to me, Hasan and Husayn! Your grandfather, the Messenger of Allah, has acquired the ethics from the Lord. It is Almighty Allah Who disciplined him so perfectly. In this regard, the Prophet says, ‘My Lord has disciplined me, and He has done so perfectly.’
None is like my grandfather; the Arab, the Hashemite, and the Qurayshite Prophet who was selected by Allah, the Highest, to guide people towards their path of life with its good and evil branches, and he did this with such a handsome approach and pleasant, articulate statements full of softness, tenderness, sympathy, and compassion.
The Halal is obvious and the Haram is also obvious, but between these two, there are many dubious matters. Accordingly, the religion is of three degrees; Halal, Haram, and dubious matters. The Halal is what Allah, the Exalted, has deemed lawful by way of a text in the Holy Quran or through the explanations of the Prophet, such as the legality of trade and rendition…
The Haram is whatever Allah has deemed unlawful in the Holy Quran. It is also the contrary of the Halal.
The dubious matter is everything that is not known to be Halal or Haram.
A faithful believer who intends to achieve happiness in this world and bliss in the world to come must perform all that which Allah has made incumbent, follow the path drawn by the Holy Quran, take my grandfather, the Prophet, as an example, and go away from the dubious as much as one can.
To avoid the dubious matters is acquittal for the religion and the honor and also purity for both. It also achieves sincere obedience to the Lord.
أَلَا لِلَّهِ الدِّينُ الْخَالِصُ
“Now, surely, sincere obedience is due to Allah alone. (Quran; 39:3)”
For those who follow the lines of the dubious matters, it is not safe as their feet can slip and, thus, they might commit an unlawful deed. There is a shelter beside each that one possesses. However the refuge of the King-of-All becomes available by avoiding what He deems as unlawful. The Holy Prophet says, ‘Avoid the unlawful and you will be the most pious.’
Allah the Exalted has put in every human being a minute gem - a part of his entirety; when it is good, the whole body is good, pure, and clear from filth, impairments, and acts of disobedience towards the Lord of the Worlds. This is the heart. If one’s heart is sound, he will be attentive to the affairs of his religion and the principles of its law, and will see real happiness in remaining steadfast with the lights of the guidance of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah. Those who follow this straight path and these divine instructions will be among the winners on the Day of Resurrection.
Our life is in fact only a stage among many stages that lead either to Paradise or to Hell. Death will be the end, and no blame can fall after it. Nothing is after this world except Paradise or Hell.”
As she finished, Imam al-Husayn said to her, “How great are you! You are surely from the tree of prophecy and in the core of the Divine Message.”
She once said:
“My grandfather has decided for us (i.e. women) rights that are incumbent upon our husbands in the same way as he has decided rights for our husbands that is incumbent upon us.” In this regard, the Holy Quran says:
. حَكِيمٌ عَزِيزٌ وَاللَّهُ ۗ دَرَجَةٌ عَلَيْهِنَّ وَلِلرِّجَالِ ۚبِالْمَعْرُوفِ عَلَيْهِنَّ الَّذِي مِثْلُ وَلَهُنَّ
And they have rights similar to those against them in a just manner, and the men are a degree above them. (2:228)
My noble Grandfather also said:
“A woman who offers the five obligatory prayers, observes fasting on the month of fasting, guards her chastity, and obeys her husband shall have the choice to enter Paradise from any gate she likes.”
Ibn Asakir, in his al-Tarikh, records the following:
After she arrived in Egypt, Lady Zaynab once was overcome with an indisposition. The chiefs of Egypt decided to fetch her a physician, but she refused saying:
“We are not among those who hope for this world or for perpetuation in it. We belong to the Household of Prophecy and the most desirable meeting for us is the meeting with our Lord. A physician, however, cannot change one’s decided term of death.”
Ibn Humayd, Abu Asim, and Ibn Abu Shaybah narrated that Abdullah ibn Abbas has said:
Once, Lady Zaynab recited Allah’s saying:
ۚ مَعَكَ الَّذِينَ مِنَ وَطَائِفَةٌ…الْمُزَّمِّلُ أَيُّهَا يَا
O you who are wrapped up in your garments… and (also) a party of those with you. (73:1… 20)
She then commented:
“Thanks to Allah, we are included with this party (of those who are with the Prophet).”
The public addresses of Lady Zaynab, on more than one occasion, are evidence for eloquence and rhetoric. These addresses changed the public opinion against Yazid and the Umayyad State and showed the real purpose of Imam al-Husayn’s revolution. Later on, these addresses will be referred to in detail.
Lady Zaynab enjoyed a peculiar rank in the world of mysticism. In this regard, Allamah al-Burghani says:
“Lady Zaynab’s spiritual rank is very nigh to that of the Immaculate Imams…”
Al-Rawandi, in al-Tiraz al-Mudhahhab, says:
“In addition to her high spiritual rank, Lady Zaynab comes after her mother in virtue, high merit, peculiarity, majesty, knowledge, infallibility, chastity, illumination, light, honor, and splendor.”
Muhammad Rida al-Isfahani, in Jannat al-Khulud, records:
“Lady Zaynab was the one nearest to her parents in eloquence, asceticism, management, and courage. After the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn, she was the custodian of her family members and, furthermore, the Hashemites.
Ibn Anbah, in Ansab al-Talibiyyin, says:
“Lady Zaynab is distinguished by her innumerable merits, elevated attributes, praiseworthy characters, admirable habits, remarkable esteem, and manifest virtues.”
When Lady Zaynab attained maturity, famous celebrities competed with each other for asking for her hand. Her father, however, refused all of them.
Abdullah son of Jafar son of Abu Talib also asked for her hand. He was one of the noblest men of the Hashemites and one of the most generous men of the Arabs. Besides, Imam Ali (a) loved him very much. He therefore responded to him and accepted to give him Lady Zaynab in marriage.
Abdullah’s father was Jafar who is described as the most similar to the Holy Prophet (S) in morality and nature.30 He was one of those who preceded others in embracing and defending Islam. He emigrated twice — once to Abyssinia and then to Medina, and was well known for his pity and sympathy to the poor and paupers. Like his brother Imam Ali, Jafar was very much respected by the Prophet of Allah (S) who housed him next to his Masjid because he recognized Jafar’s strong faith and the will to sacrifice himself for the sake of Islam.
In the eighth year after Hijrah, the Prophet (S) appointed Jafar as the commander of the Muslim army in their campaign at Mutah. In this battle, Jafar was martyred after his two arms were severed because he held fast on the pennon. The Holy Prophet (S) had then said about him:
“Allah the Exalted shall give Jafar two wings with which he will fly in Paradise everywhere he wishes, instead of his two severed hands.”
Jafar therefore is named ‘Dhul-Janahayn’ (the two-winged). The martyrdom of Jafar was one of the most difficult misfortunes that the Prophet (S) had to encounter. Hence, he (S) said:
“Weeping should be ceaseless for Jafar and his like.”31
Abdullah’s mother was the great lady Asma bint Umays. She was among those who embraced Islam early. Accompanying her husband, she migrated to Abyssinia where she gave birth of Abdullah, Awn, and Muhammad. She then immigrated to Medina. After Jafar’s martyrdom, Asma was married to Abu Bakr and gave birth of Muhammad who is one of the most celebrated men of Islam. When Abu Bakr died, Imam Ali Amir al-Muminin married her, and she gave birth to a boy called Yahya.32
Asma adhered sincerely with the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and had a strong connection with Lady Fatimah al-Zahra (a). She reported about sixty hadiths directly on the authority of the Holy Prophet (S).
She acted as a tender mother for Imam al-Hasan, Imam al-Husayn, and Lady Zaynab as soon as she entered Imam Ali’s house as a wife. They therefore appreciated her nice treatment, and tenderness. She was thus an example of chastity, purity, and loyalty to the Ahl al-Bayt (a).
Abdullah ibn Jafar was such a person that none, including his enemies, could hide admiration for his unparalleled personality. Muawiyah ibn Abu Sufyan had said about him that, “Abdullah ibn Jafar is worthy of all honor. He preceded everyone else to perform the noble deeds and qualities.”33
He was loyal to the Ahl al-Bayt in general and Imam al-Husayn in particular, though he did not join the Imam’s caravan to Karbala. Historians have recorded that Abdullah held the biggest obsequies for the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn, though his two sons were also martyred in the same time. During that ceremony, one of the slaves said to him, “We have suffered long because of al-Husayn!”
As he heard this statement, Abdullah threw a sandal on that slave out of his rage and said, “Son of the condemned one! How dare you say such a thing about al-Husayn? By Allah I swear, had I been with him, I would not have left him before I would be killed there. To me, he is undoubtedly more favored than my two sons are. What makes my misfortune easy is that they were killed with him without any complaint or impatience. Thanks to Allah, if I could not support al-Husayn during his battle, my two sons did.”34
Abdullah ibn Jaffar was also well known for his generosity about which narrators have reported many marvelous stories. It was because of the Prophet’s supplication to Allah for him that he was among the richest people of Medina. Besides, he was so virtuous. He reported many narrations on the authority of his uncle, Imam Ali Amir al-Muminin (a), and his two cousins, Imam al-Hasan and Imam al-Husayn (a).
Lady Zaynab gave birth to four sons and a daughter: Awn, Ali al-Zaynabi, Muhammad, Abbas, and Lady Ummu-Kulthum.
Awn was virtuous and well mannered. He accompanied his (maternal) uncle, Imam al-Husayn (a), to Iraq. In the battle of Karbala, Awn fought very bravely and brought pride to his father, Abdullah, and grandfather, Jafar. After a brave round of fighting, Awn was attacked by the vicious Abdullah al-Tai and killed by him.35
Ummu-Kulthum, daughter of Lady Zaynab, was famous for her beauty, chastity, and personality. She was highly respected by all people in general and the Hashemites in particular. As an attempt to curry favor with the Hashemites so as to find himself a respectful position in the Muslims’ view, Muawiyah ibn Abu Sufyan sent a missive to his governor in Medina, Marwan ibn al-Hakam, ordering him to ask the hand of Ummu-Kulthum, daughter of Lady Zaynab, for his son, Yazid.
Marwan ibn al-Hakam knew that Imam al-Husayn (a) would surely refuse and thwart the matter. He therefore postponed it as he looked for a proper opportunity. He seized the opportunity of Imam al-Husayn’s travel and hurried to Abdullah ibn Jafar who understood the whole matter. He said to Marwan that he should wait until Imam al-Husayn (a) would come back from his journey.
When the Imam was back, Abdullah rushed to him informing of the whole story. The Imam became very angry; he rejected completely that his niece would become the wife of the sinful, lewd grandson of Abu Sufyan. He therefore hurried to his sister, Lady Zaynab, and asked her to bring her daughter, Ummu-Kulthum, before him. When the daughter came, the Imam told that her cousin al-Qasim, son of Muhammad ibn Jafar, would be the worthiest of marrying her. The mother welcomed, the daughter accepted, the father showed no rejection, and the Imam gave her away with significant gift.
They kept the matter secret until the wedding night came. On that night, the Imam invited many personalities including Marwan ibn al-Hakam who thought that the invitation was held for announcing the Imam’s acceptance of Yazid’s marriage to his niece, Ummu-Kulthum. Yet, he was disappointed when the Imam declared the marriage of al-Qasim to Ummu-Kulthum. Marwan reported the matter to Muawiyah who as a result, harboured malice against the Imam.36
- 1. Fatimah al-Zahra (a), the Veracious was praised not only by Prophet Muhammad (S) but also by everyone who lived in her time. Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, in his al-Isabah, records that Aishah, the Prophet’s wife had said: “Nobody is preferred more than Fatimah except Prophet Muhammad (S)”. Abdullah ibn Abbas has said, that it is recorded in the previous reference book that - “The best women of Paradise are four: Khadijah, Fatimah, Mary, and Asiyah - the Pharaoh’s wife.”
Al-Bukhari in his al-Sahih and Muslim in his al-Sahih, record the following: Al-Musawwir ibn Makhramah has quoted the Prophet (S) to say, “Fatimah is a part of me. Whatever hurts her is certainly hurtful to me and whatever pleases her is certainly pleasing to me.”
Ali (a) reported the Prophet’s addressing to Fatimah: “Fatimah, most surely Allah is pleased when you are pleased and enraged when you are enraged.”
Finally, reference books of Islamic history and narration are full of reports relating the elevated standing of Fatimah al-Zahra, the Veracious (a).
- 2. See Yanabi ul-Mawaddah; 196.
- 3. See Zaynab al-Kubra, 60.
- 4. See Kanz al-Ummal; 7/110, al-Bukhari’s al-Sahih; Chapter: Kitab al-Adab, Majma al-Zawaid; 9/181, and Ibn Asakir’s at-Tarikh; 13/39.
- 5. Although some historians say that the first female child of Lady Fatimah al-Zahra was Ruqayyah, nicknamed Ummu Kulthum, most of historians have proved Lady Zaynab was Lady Fatima’s first she-baby. As evidence it is cited that during the reign of the Umayyad State when the Ahl al-Bayt and their partisans were persecuted, anyone who wanted to relate something to Imam Ali, he would say, “Father of Zaynab said so-and-so.” This is because Zaynab was the elder daughter, and the enemies did not recognise this nickname. See Ibn Abu al-Hadid, Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah.
- 6. Azan is the call to prayer.
- 7. Iqamah is the prefatory statements of the ritual prayer.
- 8. See At-Tiraz al-Mudhahhab, 38
- 9. See Batalatu Karbala; 21.
- 10. In Arabic, the word ‘Zaynab’ is a name of a handsome, fragrant tree (see Ibn Manzhur’s Lisan al-Arab, vol. 6 p.88).
- 11. See Zaynab al-Kubra, 16-7.
- 12. See Zaynab al-Kubra, 17.
- 13. Excerpted from the Oxford Talking Dictionary, copyright © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc.
- 14. See Jafar al-Naqdi, Zaynab al-Kubra; 32.
- 15. Hijrah is the migration of Prophet Muhammad (a) and his family and companions from Mecca to Medina in 622 A.D; the Muslim era reckoned from this history.
- 16. Shaykh Jafar al-Nadir, in his Zaynab al-Kubra, p.18, refutes the narrations that Lady Zaynab was born in the ninth year of the Hijrah. He says: “Despite the variation in narrations, Lady Fatimah al-Zahra, the Veracious (a) died in the tenth or eleventh year of the Hijrah. If Lady Zaynab was born in the ninth year of the Hijrah, then when was Ummu-Kulthum, her sister, born, and when was al-Muhsin, the third son of Imam Ali, born?
On this account, it is understandable that Lady Zaynab was born in the fifth year of the Hijrah.” Besides, Shaykh al-Naqdi has referred to other facts proving this opinion.
- 17. Umamah is the daughter of Zaynab stepdaughter of Prophet Muhammad (S). Implementing the will of Fatimah al-Zahra, Imam Ali married Umamah after the demise of Lady Fatimah. It is also worth mentioning here that Umamah was greatly respected by Prophet Muhammad (S).
- 18. See at-Tabarani’s al-Mujam al-Kabir as related to Yahya al-Mazini
- 19. Hadith is the body of traditions concerning the sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad (S).
- 20. see Zaynab al-Kubra; 53.
- 21. This means that one who believes honestly in the oneness of Almighty Allah must never betake another as god.
- 22. See Rayahin al-Shariah, vol. 3 p.54, and Hajj Abd-ul-Hadi al-Shehristani’s Yanabi al-Rahmah (3), p.8. Ibn Asakir, Ibn Mandah and Ali Mullah al-Qari have also recorded this.
- 23. See Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin al-Amili, Ayan al-Shiah; vol. 7, p. 140.
- 24. See Baqir Sharif al-Qarashi’s al-Sayyidah Zaynab.
- 25. Abdullah ibn Abbas is regarded as a grand authority of the Islamic ummah for his knowledge of Hadith and Islamic laws.
- 26. Abdullah ibn Abbas used to say ‘our Aqilah’ because he belonged in kinship to Prophet Muhammad (S).
- 27. See al-Tabirsi’s al-Ihtijaj, p. 166.
- 28. See Musa Muhammad Ali, al-Sayyidah Zaynab, 69.
- 29. This hadith is recorded by al-Bukhari in his al-Sahih.
- 30. See Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, al-Istiab fi Marifat al-Ashab; vol. 1, p. 242
- 31. See Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Usd al-Ghabah fi Marifat al-Sahabah; vol. 1, p. 289
- 32. See Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Usd al-Ghabah fi Marifat al-Sahabah; vol. 5, p. 271
- 33. See Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Usd al-Ghabah fi Marifat al-Sahabah; vol. 5, p. 171
- 34. See Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari Tarikh al-Umam wa al-Muluk; 4:357.
- 35. See Shaykh al-Mufid, al-Irshad, p. 268.
- 36. See Zaynab Aqilatu Bani Hashim; 27