Zainab bint Ali(A.S.): Sharikat al-Husayn (Associate in the Mission of
It was five years after
the Muslims had accompanied the Prophet (S.A.W.) 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 (A.S.), saw his daughter for the first time
Imam Husayn (A.S.), 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 (A.S.) began to weep, and when Husayn (A.S.)
asked why he was crying so, his father answered that he would soon come
Fatima (A.S.) and Ali (A.S.) 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 name.
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 (S.A.W.)
asked why Jibra'il wept and he answered,
"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 (A.S.) now understood why earlier his father had
also wept. Then the Prophet (S.A.W.) named her Zaynab (A.S.).
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 (S.A.W.), 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
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 (S.A.W.) her mother Fatima
(AS), daughter of the Prophet, and her 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
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,
"Hadrat Zaynab(A.S.) is the best housewife."
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 beloved brother.
One day Fatima (AS) mentioned the intensity of her daughter's love for
Imam Husayn (AS) to the Prophet (S.A.W.). He breathed a deep sigh and
said with moistened eyes,
"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
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 (S.A.W.). 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
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 eloquent).
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
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
Hadrat Zaynab(A.S.) the Fragrance of Holy Ahl-ul-Bayt
Who was Zaynab? Why do we look up to her? She was the granddaughter of
Prophet Muhammad and Khadija, the daughter of Fatima az-Zahraa and Ali,
the sister of the Youths of Paradise, Hassan and Hussein, and the
beloved aunt of Imam Ali Zayn al Abideen. With such a blessed family,
Zaynab had such perfect examples to look up to.
A narration says that Zaynab's characteristics represented each of her
family member: in her seriousness and calmness she was Khadija; in her
modesty and pureness her mother Fatimah; in her meaningfulness, her
father Imam Ali; in her restraint and capacity to endure, her brother
Imam Hassan; and in courage and lion-hearted, her brother Imam Hussein.
Prophet Muhammad(S.A.W.) said to Fatima
"My dear child, this child of mine, Zaynab, would be confronted with a
thousand and one calamities and face serious hardships in Karbala."
We have been aware of her actions and speeches through a dramatic event
in her life: The Massacre of Karbala. We were able to see how she
reflected the light of Ahl-ul-Bayt, and her love for them. Imam Hussein
and Zaynab actions' during afflicted times showed us what they really
stood for and meant. Imam Hussein gave his life for the sake of Islam,
and Zaynab was there to stand up to his words, to defend them, and carry
it on with the symbolism of her patience.
After the tragic battle of Karbala, no one was left (accept her weak
nephew), to stand up to the oppression and speak the truth. In this case
for Zaynab, it was an obligation for her to stand up to the tyranny
Now knowing the life of Zaynab and the tragedies of Karbala that she
went through, how many of us are actually thankful for today? Thankful
in knowing that she stood up and spoke out to make sure there would be a
tomorrow for Islam, Ahl-ul-Bayt, and so we could have the honorable
title as Shia. Always remember how Zaynab stood up to the enemies with
the characteristics of Ahl-ul-Bayt in her.
All those who have visited Damascus will vouch that the shrine of
Sayyedah Zainab(A.S.) stands as a succor for citizens of the Syrian
capital like that of her grandfather Prophet Muhammad(S.A.W.) for the
people of Madinah. At the sight of her sprawling mausoleum, heads are
lowered in obeisance, while hearts are filled with reverence. Lips begin
to move fervently with the phrase: "Peace upon you O' (grand) daughter
of the Prophet of Allah and Khadija. Peace upon you O' daughter of of
the Commander of the Faithful and Fatima az-Zahra. Peace upon you O'
sister of the Youths of Paradise, Imam Hasan and Imam al-Husayn. Peace
upon you O' Zaynab ..."
The standard salutation for this great lady is long and full of
eloquently moving phrases that stand as firm testimony to her role in
preserving the values of life and Islam. Those interested are advised to
read her ziyarat-namah in the original Arabic along with the translation
in order to have a proper perspective of the Heroine of Karbala, whose
birth anniversary (5th Jamadi al-Awwal) is celebrated in Islamic Iran as
But it would be a gross injustice and disrespect for the lady Zaynab(A.S.)
if we were to limit her struggle to the mere duties of a paramedic who
takes care of the patients and helps them in their recovery.
Nay! The Prophet's grand daughter was a paragon of virtue in every
sphere, to the extent that she is often called Sharikat al-Husayn
(Associate in the Mission of Imam al-Husayn(A.S.)). The fact that her
nephew, Imam Zayn al-Abedeen(A.S.), referred to her as "O' Aunt! You are
a savant without having learned from anyone," speaks volumes of the
wisdom and knowledge of the lady whose eloquent sermons in the courts of
Kufa and Damascus, brought back memories of her illustrious father, Imam
No nurse has ever been called Aqeelatuna (Our Wise Lady) by her
community as Zaynab(A.S.) was addressed by the Bani Hashem. Likewise, no
nurse, however committed, will sacrifice her own sons for any cause. Yet
Zaynab did. And when she was informed by her brother that both the
youths, Aun and Muhammad, had drank the elixir of martyrdom for the sake
of Islam, she prostrated on the field of Karbala in thanksgiving to the
Almighty Allah, for having bestowed her such favors.
This is not to degrade the profession of the paramedics, who ought to
learn the tenets of faith first before calling themselves humanitarian.
And if they do, in Zaynab(A.S.), they will certainly find a model par
excellence to mold their life upon and attain salvation in the
hereafter. After the tragedy of Karbala when she was taken as captive
along with the children and womenfolk of the Prophet's Household to the
court of the tyrants, she did not feel the least subdued. It was her
indomitable spirit, which shook the bases of tyranny to their very
foundations and made a terrified Yazid release the Ahl ul-Bait.
The first thing she did was to hold the mourning ceremony for the
martyrs of Karbala in Damascus in order to enlighten people of the
mission of Imam al-Husayn(A.S.)- A mission against political injustice
and social corruption which the libertine Yazid had tried in vain to
Zaynab(A.S.), thus institutionalized the commemoration of the tragedy of
Ashura which the faithful have continued to observe ever since during
the months of Muharram and Safar. In this way she nursed Islam and
humanitarian values back to life.
Hadrat Aun and Muhammad
Aun and Muhammad were the sons of Bibi Zainab. They had not accompanied
Bibi Zainab when she left Madina with Imaam Hussain A.S. Just before
Imaam Hussain started his journey from Mecca, Hazrat Abdullah ibne
Jaffer brought his two sons to Mecca and handing them over to Imaam
Hussain said, "Ya Imaam, since you have decided to go and will not allow
me to come with you, please take my two sons with you. Aun will
represent his maternal grandfather Hazrat Ali A.S. and the other will
represent his paternal grandfather Hazrat Jaffer-e-Tayyaar".
Aun and Muhammad were quite young. It is reported that Aun was about
thirteen and Muhammad was a year or two younger. They had learnt the art
of fencing from their uncle, Hazrat Abbas.
On the night before Ashura Bibi Zainab said to them, "My sons, tomorrow
there will be a battle. I can not ask you to fight because you are
young. But if anything happens to Imaam Hussain, while you are still
alive, I will be filled with shame." Both the boys stood up and said
"Mother, we have the blood of Ali and Jaffer in our veins.
Our grand fathers were warriors whose fame will always be remembered. Do
you think we can possibly shame them? More over we are the pupils of
Uncle Abbas. Mother, unless you forbid us and stop us from fighting, we
shall go to the battlefield and show the enemies of Islam how bravely
the children of Islam can fight. All we want from you is a promise that
you will never weep for us. Or souls will never rest in peace if you
grieve for us after we are gone".
Tears of joy and pride flowed down Bibi Zainab's eyes as she embraced
her two boys. In the morning during the general attacks from the enemy,
Aun and Muhammad fought side by side with Ali Akber, Qasim and Hazrat
Abbas. Every time either of them succeeded in felling an enemy, he would
look proudly at Hazrat Abbas who would smile and nod his approval. Imaam
Hussain would not, however, give the two boys permission to go for
single combat. They were very disappointed.
They came to their mother for help. Bibi Zainab sent someone to request
Imaam Hussain to come to her tent., When the Imaam came Bibi Zainab
said, "Hussain, at the battle of Siffeen Abbas was only eight years old.
When he saw someone trying to attack you, he rushed into the battle
field and killed the man. Do you remember how proud our father Ali was?
Today I too want to be proud of my sons. I want to see them go out there
and defend Islam. Will you not allow me that privilege?" Imaam Hussain
stood there in silence. He looked at his sister.
He saw the disappointment on her face. He saw tears forming around her
eyes. He put his arms around the two boys and led them to their horses.
He kissed them and then helped them mount. "Go," said Imaam, "Go, and
show the world how those as young as you can fight the injustice and
oppression of Yezid!" Then he turned round and lifted the curtain of the
tent. The boys raised their hands and said "Fi Amaani-llah, mother!"
Bibi Zainab replied, "Bismillah my sons. Allah be with you!"
The two boys rode out into the battlefield. They fought bravely. At one
point Umar Sa'ad asked, "Who are these two youngsters? They fight like I
have seen Ali ibne Abu Taalib fight." When he was told who they were he
ordered his soldiers to give up single combats and surround and kill the
boys. Aun and Muhammad were attacked from all sides. Soon they were
over-powered and brutally killed. Imaam Hussain and Hazrat Abbas carried
the two young bodies to a tent and laid them on the floor. Imaam walked
to Bibi Zainab's tent. He found her in sijdah praying, "Ya Allah, I
thank you for accepting my sacrifice. My heart is filled with pride
because my two sons have given their lives for your religion."
Hadrat Zainab(A.S.) speaks in the court of Yazid bin
After the massacre of Imam Husayn bin 'Ali (a.s.) and his companions at
Karbala, the forces of Yazid bin Mu'awiyah took the children and women
of Husayn's caravan as prisoners. They were taken from Karbala to Kufa
and from Kufa to Damascus, the capital and stronghold of Umayyid power.
In Damascus, the women and children were presented into the court (darbar)
of Yazid. Yazid had assembled all the dignitaries and officers of his
capital for that occasion. When the prisoners where brought in, they saw
that Imam Husayn's head was at the foot of Yazid's thorn.
Yazid was joyfully reciting some poems in which he openly rejected the
Prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) and called on his ancestors
(who were killed by the Muslim army in the battle of Badr) to witness
the revenge which he had extracted from the family of the Prophet. It
was under such an emotionally charged circumstances that Zaynab bin Ali,
the courageous daughter of a courageous father, stood up and gave a very
moving speech in response to Yazid's statements. In the name of Allah
the, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Universe, Allah's blessings
be on His Messenger's Family altogether. Allah says: "Then the end of
those who do evil deeds is that they reject the verses of Allah and
ridicule them". (Quran 30:10)
Oh Yazid! Do you think that by making us prisoners in such a way that we
are being taken from one place to another in humiliation - do you think
that by this you have humuliated us in the sight of Allah and have
earned respect for youeself?! This apparent success of yours is the
result of grandeur of your might and lofty status for which you are
You feel that you have conquered the whole world and your affairs are
organised and that our domain is now under you control… And are you
forgetting that Allah has said: "Surely those who have bought unbelief
at the price of faith shall do no harm at all to Allah, and they shall
have a painful chastisement". (Quran 3:177)
Then Zaynab reminds Yazid that his grandmother and other relatives came
into the fold of Islam only after the fall of Mecca at the hands of the
Muslims. Since Mecca was taken without any war or bloodshed, legally the
entire inhabitant could have been made the slaves of the Prophet. But
the Prophet, out of his mercy, declared to the people of Mecca that 'I
release you from the bonds of slavery, you are free.'
In other words, Zaynab wanted Yazid to remember that his ancestors were
the 'freed slaves' of her grandfather. Look at the courage of Zaynab!
Standing as a prisoner in the court of Yazid, she does not hesitate to
remind him of his reality.
Is it justice, O son of the freed slaves!, that you provide your ladies
and slave-girls with hijab, whereas the daughters of the Messenger of
God are held prisoners? You have insulted them by taking away the
covers; you have exposed their faces to the enemies -- from one city to
Everyone irrespective of his high or low status stares at their faces.
These ladies do not have their gents or protectors with them.
Then Zaynab reminds the audience of the origins of Yazid: his
grandmother, Hind (the wife of Abu Sufyan), had ordered her slave after
the battle of Uhud to cut open the chest of Hamzah, the Prophet's uncle,
and chewed upon his liver to 'quench' her anger for death of her father
and brother who were killed in Badr.
But, of course, how can we expect protection from him whose mouth spits
out the heart of the pious people, whose flesh has grown from the blood
of martyrs? And why should he not hate us who is jealous of us and
shamefully say: 'I wish my ancestors had seen me today; they would
congratulate me and pray that my hand would never be weak'.
He is saying this while, he is hurting [with his cane] the teeth of
Husayn, the leader of the Youths of Paradise. Why should he not say
these things -- he who has cursed his feelings and sores by spilling the
blood of Muhammad's family, the stars of the family of 'Abdul Muttalib.
You call your ancestors hoping that they will answer you. You will be
put together with them and then you will regret and say had my tongue
become dumb so that I would not have said what I said.
O Allah! Give us our right, and avenge those who have oppressed us; and
send your anger upon those that spilled our blood and killed our
protectors By Allah! O Yazid, by killing 'Husayn you have not torn but
your own skin and you have not cut but your own flesh. You will be
brought to the Prophet with the crimes of spilling the blood of his
children and humiliating his family. "The oppressors will know when the
time changes [against them].
Adapted from: The Right Path, Vol.1 No.4, 1993
Translated with commentary by S.M. Rizvi