On the 5th of the 5th month of the 5th Hijri, after the completion of the Panjatan, a daughter was born in the house of Ali and Batool. Such a daughter that she was a source of pride for a man like Ali.
If you search through history you will find very little about Bibi Zainab before the tragedy of Karbala, when she was at the age of 55. There are vague accounts of Bibi teaching Tafseer-e-Quran but no detail about her actual teachings. Apart from this there are a small number of narrations attributed to her such as about the going of Bibi Fatima to Masjid-e-Nabavi to demand her rights to Fadak. A large part of Hazrat Zainab’s life is veiled in secrecy just as Bibi herself was veiled. This character of Bibi shows the upbringing and nurture of Hazrat Fatima to her children.
Yahya Mazni says: “For 12 years I lived as a neighbour of Hazrat Abdullah, yet not once did I see the shadow of any lady, nor did I ever hear an echo of the voice or footsteps of Bibi Zainab.“ It is this same Zainab who came forward in a new light on the eve of Ashura. She protected the message of her grandfather, upheld the justice of her father, defended the rights of her mother, carried the banner of Islam after her brothers and rescued the Imam of the time from the burning camps. Her sermons in Kufa and Shaam were of utmost perfection leaving the sermons of her father behind.
To realise the true personality of this great lady it is essential to look at the calamities and tragedies that she faced. Her ability to withstand these great anguishes led her to being known as Ummul-Masaib (the mother of grief). If we look at ourselves, we would not be able to tolerate just a single one of those woes which Bibi had to endure.
Which of her many heartaches can we narrate? Leaving her homeland. Separation from her husband. The dangers of facing the enemy. Hunger and thirst. The loss of loved ones. Sleepless nights and the most distressing the loss of her Chador. Bibi saw the ark of Hussain drowning in a sea of thirst and brought it to shore.
Allah says: “Those who convey the message of Allah and fear Him, do not fear anyone except Allah.” Janabe Zainab acted on this to the full, shouldering the responsibility of conveying this message, tolerating difficulties whilst doing so. In her actions, she left behind a legacy of patience and the upholding of truth. She taught that with strong faith and remembrance of Allah any difficulty can be undertaken, any crisis can be tackled without losing heart.
Bibi Zainab had two great missions to reveal the truth. One was to show the true face of Yazid and his followers, and the other was to uncover who the Ahlulbayt really were and what their importance was. At every step of her long journey she fulfilled these two missions, ready to abandon everything to accomplish them. After her sacrifices, Bibi became a verification of the following words of Allah; “Those who believed and migrated and strived hard in Allah’s way with their possessions and their lives are far higher in rank in Allah’s view. They are those who achieved salvation.”
In countless occasions in the past, the servants of God have faced great barriers to spread the word of Allah. Ibrahim faced the burning fires of Namrud, but continued to raise the voice of truth. Musa accepted having to flee his homeland, but carried on the message, “There is no God but Allah.” The seal of the Prophets, withdrew from the holy city of Mecca, but the cries of “Say there is no God but Allah. You will succeed.” continued on through the ages.
When the nation of Muhammad lost their way, the world heard the echoes of the truth, the message of the prophets from the mouth of Hussain, the son of Ali and Fatima. Imam Hussain preserved the message of the Prophets, from the first to the last, and became Waarisul Ambiya (the inheritor of the prophets). In the past, it was the sacrifices of Hajra, the support of Khadija, the assistance of Fatima that kept the message of those servants of God alive.
For Hussain, it was none other than that great lady, Janab-e- Zainab who became the saviour of his message. This daughter of the household upon whom Allah had bestowed the mantle of purity in Surah Ahzab, sacrificed her cloak to protect the withered tree of Islam from the fierce gales of disaster. In the face of calamities, she appeared a mountain of strength.
A valuable lesson which can be learnt from the actions of Bibi Zainab, as she was paraded unveiled, through the streets of Shaam and Kufa, is that those who place their full trust in Allah will receive the help of Allah, in some form. As Allah says in the Quran, “And do not lose heart, and do not grieve, for you shall have the upper hand if you are true believers.” (3:139)
In the midst of troubles, Bibi never lost trust in Allah. Her praise for him remained strong. Each sermon began with “All praise be to Allah.” Regardless of the difficulties she faced, her faith remained firm. When Ibne- Ziyad asked her in the courts of Kufa how she regarded the shameful defeat Allah had made her brothers face, Zainab replied, “I have never seen anything but good for Allah.”
The spirit of Zainab (A.S.) will live forever. Her courage, forbearance, and submission will continue to inspire those who hear her story for all time to come. She will remain a beacon of light, a role-model, for men and women alike, till the day of judgement. We must try to gain as much inspiration as possible, and try to live our lives, in submission to Allah, and with full trust in Him, like this brave lady did.
She became a benefactor of Hussain, and she was not afraid to sacrifice everything she had for the sake of Islam, like Hazrat Asiya in the time of Firawn. Allah took into account Hazrat Asiya’s sacrifices, and said in the Quran, “Paradise, and save me from Pharaoh and his works; save me from the transgressing people."
In the same way, those who follow the examples of great personalities, such as Asiya and Bibi Zainab, will be rewarded. As Allah says in the Quran, “Verily the angels descend on those who say ‘Allah is our Lord’ and then remain steadfast saying: Do not fear, nor grieve. Receive the glad tidings of the garden which was promised to you.” (41:30).
Salutations to Lady Zainab, whose patience and firm spirit broke the tyrant’s will. We must learn from the lessons of Bibi Zainab, and take care that our faith is not only on our lips, but embedded in our hearts, and embodied in our lives and characters. Lady Zainab’s example will live on forever, to inspire those who believe.