The history of Karbala is a history in which both men and women have played important roles. In this history each have their own roles but with the difference that the men kept to their limits and the ladies their own.
And this is the miracle of Islam because it does not want one to become the buyer of hell. The world of today should also accept that men and women have their own limits. If not today, this fact would be accepted in the future.
Imam Al-Husayn (A) had taken his family members along to Karbala because he wanted that the character of women should also be adorned and displayed in this permanent history. He wanted Lady Zaynab (s.a.) to play the role of a leader in the making of this history, remaining in the limits of female gender and not to cross the limits at any point.
Lady Zaynab’s (s.a.) character began to show soon after the Asr of Ashura. Now she was seen as the leader of the Imam’s family members because Imam Al-Sajjad (A), the only man alive, was severely ill and she was taking care of him.
It was Ibn Ziyad’s order that no male members of Imam Al-Husayn’s (A) progeny should be left alive. Thus, a number of attempts were made to slay Imam Al-Sajjad (A) but the enemy said, “He would die on his own. Why to kill him?”1 It was Divine will, which wanted to keep the progeny of Imam Al-Husayn (A) alive forever.
Imam Al-Husayn’s (A) family members were taken captives on the 11th of Muharram and made to mount animals (camels or donkeys or both) with wooden saddles. They were not allowed to keep a cloth on that saddle because the army of the oppressors wanted to make them suffer the most. The family members said, “For the sake of Allah, take us through the battle ground (so that we may bid farewell to our dear ones who are martyred).”2
Only Imam Al-Sajjad’s (A) legs were tied to the abdomen of his mount because he was ill while others sat loose on their mounts. When the reached the battle ground they all let themselves fall from their mounts.
When Lady Zaynab (s.a.) reached the body of Imam Al-Husayn (A), she saw him in a state she had never seen before. She saw that her brother’s body was lying unshrouded and he was beheaded. Eventually, she addressed the beheaded body, “May I be sacrificed for you, O brother! You suffered calamities and departed from this world. You passed away from this world thirsty.” After that she wept so much that by Allah the enemies as well as the friends cried.3
Even though the first mourning assembly (Majlis) in memory of Imam Al-Husayn (A) was established by Lady Zaynab (s.a.), she was never careless about her responsibilities. Looking after Imam Al-Sajjad (A) was one of her responsibilities. Thus, she used to glance at his face occasionally.
When she saw that Imam Al-Sajjad (A) was not able to control himself seeing the beheaded body of Imam Al-Husayn (A) unshrouded, she felt that he too would depart from this world out of pain. She immediately left the body of her brother, came to him and said, “O son of brother! Why are you in such a state?
It seems that your soul would depart from the body.” Imam Al-Sajjad (A) replied in a thin voice, “Auntie! Why wouldn’t I feel pain seeing my near and dear ones lying martyred?” Lady Zaynab (s.a.) then consoled Imam Al-Sajjad (A).4
Umm Aiman was a great lady. She was apparently a slave-girl of Lady Khadijah (s.a.) and was freed later on. After being freed, she lived in the Prophet’s house. The Holy Prophet (S) used to respect her much. She spent a long time in the house of the Holy Prophet (S). She narrated a tradition of the Holy Prophet (S) to Lady Zaynab (s.a.).
Hearing this tradition, Lady Zaynab (s.a.) went to her father, the Commander of the Faithful to confirm it. These were the last days of he caliphate of the Commander of the Faithful. Lady Zaynab (s.a.) said, “O father! I have heard this tradition from Umm Aiman.” Then she repeated that tradition to her father.
Hearing the tradition, the Commander of the Faithful said that Umm Aiman had narrated correctly.5
Lady Zaynab (s.a.) comforted Imam Al-Sajjad (A) and narrated this tradition to him when he could not control himself seeing the martyred bodies of his near and dear ones. In that tradition it is mentioned that the incident of Karbala has a significance associated with it.
Hence, seeing the circumstances, he should not think that his father is killed and it is all over. ‘No my nephew, no; It is the tradition of our grandfather that the place where Imam Al-Husayn (A) is lying martyred6 would be the grave of Al-Husayn tomorrow, which would be circumambulated by our followers.’
If the philosophy of martyrdom is explained Al-Husayn’s mausoleum would become the Qibla of Muslims.
Just like today, it was the 11th of Muharram in Karbala. Ibn Saad stayed back in Karbala to have his dead soldiers buried but the bodies of Imam Al-Husayn (A) and his companions were left unshrouded. The Imam’s family members were arrested (i.e. on the eve of the 12th Muharram) in Karbala and taken to Kufa.
The distance between Karbala and Kufa was about twelve parasang (approx. 36 miles). They had planned that the prisoners should be made to enter Kufa accompanied by beating of drums of victory of Yazid to display his power. In this way, their mean minds had planned to deliver the last strike to Ahl al-Bayt (A) of the Prophet (S).
They are being taken in such a condition that Lady Zaynab (s.a.) had not slept since the Ashura eve. The holy severed heads of the martyrs mounted on spears were sent to Kufa in advance.7 I don’t know what time of the day it was (according to a tradition, two or three hours had passed since the sunrise of 12th Muharram). As soon as the prisoners entered the city, the heads of the martyrs were brought forward to welcome them.8 The state of the Imam’s family at this moment cannot be described in words.
Just imagine! The daughters of Ali (A) and Fatimah (s.a.) are seen at the gates of Kufa. People are watching the events. This is the same Kufa which was ruled by Imam Ali (A). Ali’s daughter, Zaynab (s.a.) had a distinctiveness and individuality (Zaynab (s.a.) in the market of Kufa?!) as proved by her eloquent sermon.
It is narrated that the aggrieved Lady Zaynab (s.a.) selected a suitable time for her speech and signaled. It is recorded that there was so much noise everywhere that one could not hear a word. However, as soon as she signaled, there was pin drop silence as if people had stopped breathing and clock-bells stopped ringing.9 Even riders stopped by (obviously, if the riders stop the mounts would stop automatically).
Lady Zaynab (s.a.) delivered a sermon regarding which the narrator says: “By Allah, I have not seen a woman (Khafra) who has greatness of womanhood and dignity overflowing from her speech”.10
The word ‘Khafrah’ is most important in this statement, which means a dignified woman. As it was told about her speech, it means, “By Allah, I have not seen a woman who has greatness of womanhood and dignity overflowing from her speech.” It would not be an exaggeration to say that Lady Zaynab (s.a.) had a mixture of Imam Ali’s (A) courage and dignity of womanhood in her speech.
Imam Ali (A) was called the Commander of the Faithful twenty years before in Kufa and ruled there for about five years. Imam Ali (A) had delivered numerous sermons from the pulpit of Kufa. The people had not forgotten the way of Ali’s speech because it was matchless. Thus, the narrator says that when Lady Zaynab (s.a.) delivered a sermon, it seemed as if Ali (A) has come to life once again and Ali’s soul was speaking from Zaynab (s.a.)’s body.
The narrator says that when Lady Zaynab’s (s.a.) brief sermon11 was over, he saw that everybody was biting their nails.
It was as if Lady Zaynab (s.a.) had displayed the character of women as desired by Islam. That is, Islam wants a woman to have her personality full of dignity, chastity and purity.
On the basis of this, women have also fulfilled their responsibility remaining within their limits as much as the effective role played by men in making the history of Karbala. As if the history of Karbala, which has passed through the stages of human perfection has come into being through the partnership of both, men and women.
There is no power and might except by Allah the High and the Mighty.
- 1. Irshad, Shaykh Al-Mufid, Pg. 242; Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 61.
- 2. Lohoof, Pg. 132; Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 58.
- 3. Lohoof, Pg. 134; Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 58; Maqtal al-Husayn, Muqarram, Pg. 307.
- 4. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 179; Muntahai ul-Amaal, Vol. 1, Pg. 718.
- 5. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 183.
- 6. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 179; Kamiluz Ziaraat, Pg. 259.
- 7. Muntahai ul-Amaal, Vol. 1, Pg. 718
- 8. Ibid, Pg. 728.
- 9. Amali, Shaykh Al-Mufid, Pg. 198; Lohoof, Pg. 146; Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 108-162.
- 10. Amali, Shaykh Al-Mufid, Pg. 198; Lohoof, Pg. 146; Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 45, Pg. 108-162. 11
- 11. The translation of this eloquent sermon of Lady Zaynab (s.a.) is present at the end of this book.