Date of Birth, Family members and Relationship
There is divergence of opinions about the date of birth of Sayyida Zainab (sa) / Hazrat Zainab Kubra (sa). Some say it was 5th in the month of Jamadi Al-Awwal of Islamic calendar, and others say it was 1st in the month of Shabaan, in the 6th Hijrah year 625 AD.
Sayyida Zainab (sa) is the elder daughter of Imam Ali (as) and Hazrat Fatima Zahra (sa), and eldest granddaughter of Prophet Muhammad (saw) and Ummul Momineen Hazrat Khadijah (sa). She was the third child of the family i.e. she was born after Imam Hussain (as). She is the sister of Imam Hasan (as) and Imam Hussain (as), Sayyid Shabab ul Jannah. Her younger sister is Hazrat Umm-e-Kulsoom (sa).
Naming the Child and meaning of Zainab (Adornment of her Father)
It was five years after the Muslims had accompanied Prophet Muhammad (saw) and his family in the migration (Hijrah) to Medina from Makkah, when Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) daughter, Hazrat Fatima Zahra (sa), gave birth to a little girl. When her father, Imam Ali (as), saw his daughter for the first time Imam Hussain (as), who was then almost three years old, was with him. The boy exclaimed in delight, “O father, Allah (SWT) has given me a sister.” At those words Imam Ali (as) began to weep, and when Imam Hussain (as) asked why he was crying so, his father answered that he would soon come to know.
At the time when Hazrat Fatima Zahra (sa) gave birth to Sayyida Zainab (sa), Prophet Muhammad (saw) was not in Medina. When Sayyida Zainab (sa) was born, Hazrat Fatima Zahra (sa) told Imam Ali (as), “Since my father is on the trip and is not present at this moment, you choose a name for this child.” Imam Ali (as) said, “I will not precede your father (in naming this child); wait until he [Prophet Muhammad (saw)] returns. Then he will name this child whatever he prefers best.”
Three days later Prophet Muhammad (saw) returned from his trip and like all other times, he first went to Hazrat Fatima Zahra’s (sa) house to greet them. Imam Ali (as) told Prophet Muhammad (saw) about the newborn baby and how they waited for his return, to name this baby.
Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, “even though Fatima Zahra’s (sa) children are my children, I will wait for a revelation because this matter is with Allah (SWT).” At this moment Gabriel (Jibreel) descended and said, “O Messenger of Allah, the Lord sends his regards upon you and says, “Name this child ‘Zainab’ because we have written this in a preserved tablet (Lauh-e-Mehfooz).”
Then Prophet Muhammad (saw) asked them to bring the newborn baby. He held her close to his chest, kissed her, and named her Zainab. Afterwards he said, “My will to the people, to those who are present and to those who are absent is to keep the respect for this child, for she truly resembles Khadijah.”
Then Gabriel (Jibreel) began to weep. Prophet Muhammad (saw) asked why Gabriel (Jibreel) wept and he answered, “O Messenger 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 Hussain (as) now understood why earlier his father had also wept.
Note: The name Zainab is derived from the two root words “Zain” and “Ab”, which means the Adornment of her Father.
Birthday of Sayyida Zainab (sa) is observed as Nurse’s Day in Iran
Nurse a word full of meaning, a word that is a correct and accurate definition of friendship, generosity, sacrifice and forgiveness. A nurse does not distinguish between night and day. As an angel, she appears at the bedside of the sick, stroking their head. A nurse spends her life on people. The moment of a patient’s release from a hospital is the sweetest moment in a nurse’s life. If her patient suffers, a nurse shares in the suffering. In certain situations, a nurse shows such benevolence toward her patient that the patient’s closest kin are not prepared to render such service.
A nurse’s occupation is not an ordinary one. Nursing is a sacred and valuable profession. A nurse does not work for money or material benefits, for the wages she receives do not compensate of her untainted labors. When a nurse sees that her patient’s life is in danger, she forgets everything and becomes selfless. Birthday of Sayyida Zainab (sa) is observed as Nurse’s Day in Iran.
At the height of the Islamic month of Muharram, in the year 61, after Hijrah, on the night of Ashura, when the devilish enemy set the Ahlul Bayt’s (as) tent on fire and drove the children to the desert in the night, Sayyida Zainab (sa) tended women and children in a half-burnt tent, shared in their sorrow with patience and endurance, and nursed the feverish patient of Karbala, Imam Sajjad (as). Perhaps the endurance, love and sacrifice of a nurse at the bedside of the sick is a manifestation of the patience, endurance and boundless sacrifice of Sayyida Zainab (sa).
Therefore, it is appropriate that observing and honoring this toiling stratum of society have named the auspicious birth of the Lady of Islam named ‘Nurse’s Day’. Sayyida Zainab (sa) was the founder of the struggle and achievements of martyrs, one who was able to cast to the wind the empty and chimerical desires of Yazid son of Muawiya and his followers, and not only preserve Islam, Prophet Muhammad (saw), and the blood of Imam Hussain (as) in our memories, but bring a thousand messages of bravery, resistance and struggle for human rights to her descendants.
She is a model of resistance and sacrifice; in the rebellion of Ashura and in the most turbulent conditions, she nursed the injured in the best possible manner, one of the most beautiful manifestations of nursing.
When a nurse is a model, with special characteristics gathered within her, it is as if she were the protector of moral values, law abidance, the protector and executor of our higher duties, sympathetic, kind, conscientious, independent, shouldering responsibility, hard-working and untiring.
Sayyida Zainab (sa) was not only a nurse for women and children. She nursed those who had suffered in body and soul, those whose clothing and skin had burned in the frightening tent fire at dusk on Ashura, those who had suffered mentally, those who had heard rejoicing in their miseries. This nursing began at dusk on the day of Ashura and continued to Kufah, Karbala and Medina.
An important lesson one can learn from this strange life full of vicissitudes is that no difficulty prevented Sayyida Zainab (sa) from carrying out her responsibilities – not the death of her dearest kin, not her physical and mental sufferings.
Sayyida Zainab (sa) and her dream at young age [Hazrat Zainab Kubra (sa)]
One day, when Sayyida Zainab (sa) 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. Sayyida Zainab (sa) caught hold of a branch but that broke. In a panic she grabbed two twigs but these too gave way and she was left falling with no support.
Then she woke up. When she told her grandfather, Prophet Muhammad (saw), 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 Hussain. They will all depart this world before you do, and you will suffer their separation and loss.”
Sayyida Zainab (sa) was only five or six when her grandfather, Prophet Muhammad (saw) passed away. Just six months later, she lost he mother, the Prophet’s daughter, Hazrat Fatima Zahra (sa). When on her death bed, Hazrat Fatima Zahra (sa) said: “My dear, do not leave your brothers alone, take good care of them, be a loving sister and be so kind to them as if you were a mother to them.” Sayyida Zainab (sa) followed her mother’s advice as long as she lived.
It is important to note that both Hazrat Fatima Zahra (sa) and Hazrat Zainab Kubra (sa) lost their respective mothers at the age of only five years old. Hazrat Umm-e-Kulsoom (sa) was four years old at the time of her mother’s martyrdom.
Two devotions in one Heart can not exist; Love for the sake of Allah (SWT)
The Fitra (A soul that was inspired with the faculty of knowing what is evil and what is good) of each person constantly yearns to reach perfection. In order to reach the degree of perfection however, one should seek to find the means of approach to the Allah Almighty. The first step in seeking closeness to Allah (SWT) is to gain knowing of Allah (SWT). One of the great persons who have gained this knowing and closeness to Allah (SWT) after the fourteen Infallibles – Prophet Muhammad (saw), Hazrat Fatima Zahra (sa), and the Imams (pbut) – is Hazrat Zainab Kubra (sa). Though we cannot fully describe her status and knowledge about Allah (SWT), we will only touch on a few cases to illustrate this knowledge.
She was famous for her knowledge during her childhood ages. Once she asked her father Imam Ali (as): “Do you like me?”
Imam Ali (as) replied, “Yes.”
Then she continued, “There are two affections – the love of Allah (SWT) and the love for children – that overflow the heart of every believer. Thus the base of this affection is that the actual and main affection is for Allah (SWT), and the sympathy and compassion is for the children. And this affection (to the children) is based on this main affection to Allah.”
Imam Ali (PBUH) confirmed her and praised her. This degree of knowledge in this young period of her life is a proof for her deep inward knowing of the creator.
Another case is on the day of Ashura, when she offered her young son to Imam Hussain (as) to fight in the battle of Karbala, she said, “If fighting in war (Jihad) was allowed for women, I would have sacrificed thousands of (my) lives for the Lord!” What wisdom and courage Hazrat Zainab Kubra (sa) has to sacrifice her young son in the way of Allah (SWT). It is clear that her patience and devotion derives from the wisdom she has in knowing Allah (SWT) and His Hujjah – chosen representative of Allah (SWT) – Imam Hussain (as).