Salaam everybody and heartiest congratulations on a very auspicious day. It is the 5th of the month of Jamadi al-Awwal which happens to be the birth anniversary of a very virtuous lady. It is the day marked in the Islamic Republic of Iran as "Day of Nurse" in honour of this immaculate lady who nursed Islam and humanitarian values back to life. In other words, it is the birthday of the Heroine of Karbala, who is none other than Zainab (SA), the sister of Imam Husain (AS) and the granddaughter of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA).
She was born in Medina, either in 5 or 6 AH. According to ShaikhBahaud-Din al-Ameli, at the time of her birth the Prophet was not in Medina and when Hazrat Zahra (SA) asked Imam Ali (AS) to name their newborn daughter, he said it is for the Prophet to decide. On his return, as was his habit, the Prophet first went to his daughter's house, where he was given tidings of the birth of a radiant granddaughter and asked to name the baby girl. He smiled and said it is God Almighty Who would choose the name. Archangel Gabriel descended the very moment saying, the name of the girl in the Eternal Tablet (Lowh al-Mahfouz) is Zainab, meaning Ornament of the Father. After naming the newborn, the Prophet took her in his arms and pressing his cheek to her cheek cried incessantly until his beard was soaked with tears. On being asked by his daughter the reason of grief, he said: (the Archangel) Gabriel has just informed me that after you she will suffer from great afflictions. HazratFatema (SA) cried as well and inquired her father about the divine reward for those who would shed tears on Zainab's (SA) sufferings. He said, they would receive the same reward reserved for those who mourn Imam Husain (AS).
It is said that HazratZainab (SA) greatly resembled her maternal grandmother, the Prophet's loyal, the Mother of True Believers, Hazrat Khadija (SA).She grew up in the atmosphere of faith, love, and affection of the Abode of Divine Revelation. She was five or six years when the Prophet passed away, and in the next three months, the little girl became an orphan when her mother, HazratFatema (SA) was tragically martyred. Nonetheless, she grew up under the care of her loving father, Imam Ali (AS), along with her two Immaculate Brothers, Imam Hasan and Imam Husain (peace upon them). She was much attached to her brother Husain (AS) since childhood to the extent that not a day would pass when HazratZainab (SA) would not see him. So great was the affection and mutual respect between the siblings that when she married her cousin Abdullah ibnJa'far at-Tayyar (AS) with the same simple dowry of her mother, the first condition stipulated by her father in the marriage deed was that the husband will allow the wife to visit her younger brother every day either during daytime or at night. The second condition was that if Imam Husain (AS) was forced to leave Medina, 'Abdullah should permit Zainab (SA) to accompany her brother. It was the habit of Imam Husain (AS) to stand to his feet whenever HazratZainab (AS) entered his presence. This was not merely brotherly regard but a confirmation of the sister's exalted status in terms of piety and knowledge. The behaviour brought memories of the Prophet's habit of standing up whenever his daughter Fatema Zahra (SA) would visit him.
According to narrators, once when the two-year old Zainab (SA) while seated on the lap of her father was asked by him to pronounce the numeral 'one' (wahed in Arabic), she repeated it with deep enthusiasm. When asked to say 'two', the toddler, in order to demonstrate to coming generations the faith of all members of the Blessed House, including grandfather Hazrat Abu Taleb (AS), in the indivisible monotheism (towheed) of God Almighty, said: "How can a tongue that has just now pronounced wahed, say ithnain, when there is no god but Allah (la ilahail-Allah)!" This is yet another proof of her God-given knowledge that Imam Ali (AS) actually intended to demonstrate to people of all time through the young Zainab (SA). The Imam kissed the forehead of his daughter, embraced her and said: "May my life be ransomed for you."
In another instance, the little Zainab (SA) asked her father whether he loved all his children. Imam Ali (AS) replied in the positive way, saying: "Awlaadunaakbaaduna(which means our children are lobes of our livers)." She then raised up the question that how could two types of love gather in a single heart, i.e. the love of God and the love of children. As a smiling father looked affectionately in anticipation of her reply, and later kissed her on the forehead, the little girl said: "I understand, love is exclusively for God while affection is for us (the children)."
This total devotion to God Almighty that HazratZainab (SA) displayed during her entire life even in the most adverse conditions was present in her since childhood and flowered on various occasions through different traits including generosity. She was hardly four or five years old when her father brought a guest to the house in those days of severe economic hardships in Medina and asked her mother whether there was some food to spare. HazratFatema Zahra (SA) replied there was just one piece of bread for Zainab to eat after she gets up from sleep. The little girl who it seems had already woken up, asked her mother to give her share of the food to the guest. It could be said that the worship, piety and abstinence of HazratZainab (SA) were on parity with her parents and her grandfather Prophet Mohammad (SAWA). She used to spend the nights in reciting the Holy Qur'an and offering prayers. Throughout her life never did she once leave tahajjud or the late midnight prayer, even during journeys and the period of captivity in the aftermath of Karbala when she and the other members of history's greatest tragedy were forced to ride on bareback camels and confined to dungeons. The famous words of Imam Husain (AS) before he rode out to court martyrdom bear testimony in this regard. While bidding farewell to everyone in the encampment, he turned to her and said: "O Sister! Don't forget me during the late midnight prayer)." Her nephew Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) says that never did HazratZainab (SA) neglect tahajjud and the daily nawafel (the supererogatory prayers), and used to perform them while seated because of the hardships of captivity during which the noble captives were bound with ropes and given very little to eat. At times she used to go without food for days by feeding the children with her share of the meagre meals. This is proof of her lofty spiritual status.
The dynamic played by HazratZainab (SA) throughout her life, especially in Karbala, Kufa, Damascus, and Medina, not just ensured that she was the brilliantly virtuous ornament of the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (AS) and her mother, HazratFatema Zahra (SA), but the immortally impeccable ornament for believers for all time, all over the world. She stood against heavy odds. Despite witnessing the tragic martyrdom of her brothers, nephews, and even two of her owns sons, she remained steadfast, by assuming charge of the caravan of captives of the widows and the orphans, never letting them feel depressed and never allowing the enemy to oppress them. When the tyrannical governor of Kufa, ObaidollahIbnZiyad mocked at the heads of the martyrs of Karbala and tried to ridicule the noble captives by saying, how Godhas humiliated them, HazratZainab (SA), who was the epitome of patience, praised God Almighty, and said boldly: I have not seen anything but the beauty (of God). She removed frustration and despondency, and in Damascus, in the court of the tyrant Yazid, she unmasked hypocrisy by delivering the famous sermon, whose phrases are outside the scope of this brief radio programme. This is the reason we commemorate her birthday as the "Day of Nurse" in the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is to build the spirit of faith and selfless service in the way of God, in order to remove despondency, uphold ethereal values, and promote virtues in society. HazratZainab (SA) thus immortalized and universalized the message of Imam Husain (AS) in the aftermath of the heartrending tragedy of Karbala by institutionalizing the life-inspiring mourning ceremonies of the months of Moharram and Safar.