Today, every year the 15th of Rajab revives memory of a great lady to whom Islam will always remain indebted. She was not just the granddaughter of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) and the Immaculate Daughter of such noble parents, as Imam Ali and Hazrat Fatema Zahra (peace upon them), but, as the sister of the Greatest Martyr of all times, Imam Husain (AS), she played an immortal role in keeping alive forever the values of the heartrending tragedy of Karbala for the benefit of humanity.
Now we have an exclusive feature on Hazrat Zainab (peace upon her), who was martyred this day in Damascus.
The greatness of Hazrat Zainab (peace upon her) was both acquired and inherited. If it was her firm faith in God Almighty, coupled with proper understanding and practical adherence to His Revealed Word, the holy Qur’an, in addition to the precedents set in society by Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) and his First Infallible Successor, Imam Ali (AS) that inspired her to acquire greatness of character; greatness was in her genes as well. Divine Providence decreed that Zainab (SA), the Heroine of Karbala, should inherit greatness from all sides – from her Infallible Parents, Imam Ali and Hazrat Fatema Zahra (peace upon them), from her Immaculate Maternal Grandparents, Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) and Hazrat Khadija (SA) and from her Impeccable Paternal grandparents, Hazrat Abu Taleb and Hazrat Fatema bint Asad (peace upon them) – the couple that was the caretaker of both the orphaned Prophet and early Islam. In addition to this flawless pedigree that ensured lasting greatness, Zainab (SA) was not just the consanguineous sister of the Leaders of the Youth of Paradise, Imam Hasan and Husain (peace upon them), but she also had another great brother, the standard-bearer of Karbala, Hazrat Abu’l-Fazl al-Abbas (AS) – in addition to being the aunt of such a great nephew as Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS).
Her greatness does not stop here, since Hazrat Zainab (SA) was the wife of a man of exceptionally great character like Abdullah ibn Ja’far – the eldest son of her Martyred Uncle, Ja’far at-Tayyaar. Her husband inherited all characteristics of his great father and also greatly resembled the Prophet in appearance and manners. The Prophet had great affection for Abdullah and had taken personal custody of him and his siblings following the martyrdom of Ja’far in what is now Jordan, as is evident by the hadith: “I am their guardian in the world and the hereafter.” Abdullah was regarded as one of the gentle, generous, munificent and brave persons of his times to the extent that people used to call him Bahr al-Joud (or Sea of Bounty) and Manarat as-Sakhawa, which meansMinaret of Generosity. No doubt the result of this blessed union were four great children – three sons and a daughter – named Aun, Mohammad, Ali and Omm Kulsoum. The first two achieved martyrdom in Karbala on the Day of Ashura after displaying their valour which made even the enemies recall the prowess of their grandfathers, Ja’far at-Tayyaar and Imam Ali (AS).
In view of this greatness of Hazrat Zainab (SA), it was the habit of Imam Husain (AS) to stand to his feet whenever she 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 a narration, once when Imam Husain (AS) was reciting the Holy Qur’an and his sister Hazrat Zainab (SA) entered the house, he stood up out of respect for her. Perhaps this was meant to show the world not only the dignity reserved by Islam for virtuous women, but also the prime position of Hazrat Zainab (SA), who was second only to her peerless mother, Hazrat Fatema Zahra (SA). It would be repetitive to dwell on her role in Karbala and its aftermath, especially in the court of the tyrant Yazid, whose hypocrisy Hazrat Zainab (SA) unmasked through her eloquent sermon, just as her great mother had exposed the fallacy of the self-styled caliph in Medina on the usurpation of the political leadership of Imam Ali (AS). Alas, such a great lady, who held the first ever mourning assembly for Imam Husain (AS) in Damascus itself, by recounting to the people of Syria the blasphemy and brutality of the Omayyads against the Ahl al-Bayt, was martyred this day in a cruel manner.
It is narrated that a few years after her return home to Medina, when circumstances compelled her to travel again to Syria, Hazrat Zainab (SA) decided to visit the tree in the garden outside Damascus where in 61 AH the head of Imam Husain (AS) had been briefly hung by the perpetrators of the tragedy of Karbala, while the Omayyads were bedecking the city to mock and humiliate the captives of the Prophet's Household. Here she was struck the fatal blow by a malicious enemy, who on learning of her identity decided to kill the Prophet's venerable grand-daughter. Thus, while she sorrowfully reflected on the blood-stained sight of the severed head of her brother under that tree, the cowardly assassin struck a deadly blow on her head with a pickaxe, as a result of which her soul flew to the ethereal heavens. Hazrat Zainab (SA) was laid to rest in this place where soon a grand mausoleum grew over her blessed tomb. Today, it beckons pilgrims from all over the world, while there is no trace of the graves of the Omayyads in Damascus. Despite the fact that Syria is in a state of turmoil, created by the US, Israel, Turkey, and certain Arab reactionary regimes, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the mausoleum of the Prophet’s granddaughter, continues to serve as inspiration for the beleaguered people of Syria. According to reports, Sunni Muslims and even Christians displaced from the their homes and hearths by the western backed terrorists, have flocked to the safety of the shrine of Hazrat Zainab (SA), to acquire the characteristics of patience, faith, and resolve from this great lady. At the same time, the people are determined to defend her mausoleum against the possibility of attacks by the cowardly terrorists, who masquerade as Muslims when like Yazid and the Omayyads they have no connection to Islam.
Here is an interesting piece of poetry by Iran’s English language poet, Dr, Hassan Najafi on this great lady.
The day of Ashura passed at such a great cost,
Now the catastrophic evening of the travelers – all lost.
Zainab is left alone
With children in sorrow drown.
Tents burnt, heat of flames, of sun, of sand
Children scared, long for a kinder land.
Awed neither by power, nor by years obscured,
Hard is the lot, her injured nerves endured.
Preserved through time the scenes of Karbala impart
Each word of Zainab’s tortured heart,
By length of toil, a brightest perfection she
Exceptionally brave, and just in all did she.
Drest by martyrdom the Martyrs' smile
And blood flows fresh at opening of Martyrs' file.
More than all in the highest grade blest
O Martyrs! Come! Take your Empire in our breast!
Full many a gem of purest ray serene
Now gone to Eternity leaving their blood evergreen,
Husain’s voice the winds still preserve,
We answer him in Iran, in heavens paradise reserve.
In your grief lament we
O Daughter of Zahra and Ali
From field to field
But you did never yield
And blood too behind you shield
The martyrs alive, thanks to your fortitude
You acted in Zahra’s grace, in Ali’s attitude
Although a captive, you vanquished the court
The martyrs sought in you a fort
Your shrine reflects your glory
Brings your heroism to memory,
There is no trace of your enemy
In Damascus your shrine evokes the name of Ali.
As your mother did in the caliph’s court, you too did
You exposed the true identity the hypocrites long hid
Your oratory made history
Peaks of eloquence, tract of Ali