Zainab (as), A Brief Look At Her Life
Born at: Medina on 5th Jamadi ul Awwal
Fathers Name. Hazrat Ali-Al-Murtaza (AS)
Mother's Name: Janab e Fatema Zahra (AS)
The following ziyarat
(verbal salutation) for Bibi Zaynab (AS) 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, Oh
daughter of the Chief of prophets.
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of the Master of the sanctuary and the
Peace be upon you, Oh 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, Oh daughter of the Leader of the pious.
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of the support of the sincere friends (of
Peace be upon you. Oh daughter of the Leader of the Deen.
Peace be upon you. Oh daughter of the Commander of the faithful.
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of him who struck with the sword of two
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of him who prayed towards the two qiblahs
[Jerusalem, then Mecca].
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of Muhammad, the chosen.
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of Ali, the content (with the decree of
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of Fatima, the radiant.
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of Khadija, the elder.
Peace be upon you. Oh righteous one, pleasing (to Allah).
Peace be upon you, Oh learned, rightly guided one.
Peace be upon you, Oh generous, noble one.
Peace be upon you, Oh pious, pure one.
Peace be upon you, Oh you who were thoroughly tested by sufferance like
Husayn, the oppressed.
Peace be upon you, Oh you who were kept far from your home.
Peace be upon you, Oh you who were held captive in cities.
It was five years after
the Muslims had accompanied the Prophet (PBUH&HF) 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
(AS), saw his daughter for the first time Imam Husayn (AS), 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
(AS) began to weep, and when Husayn (AS) asked why he was crying so, his
father answered that he would soon come to know.
Fatima (AS) and Ali (AS)
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
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 (PBUH&HF) asked why Jibra'il wept and he
"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
(AS) now understood why earlier his father had also wept. Then the
Prophet (PBUH&HF) named her Zaynab (AS).
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 (PBUH&HF), 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 (PBUH&HF) 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,
"Zaynab is the best
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
One day Fatima (AS)
mentioned the intensity of her daughter's love for Imam Husayn (AS) to
the Prophet (PBUH&HF). He breathed a deep sigh and said with moistened
"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
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 (PBUH&HF). 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
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.