Zaynab bint Ali (RA) was the daughter of Hazrat Ali (RA) & Hazrat Fatimah (RA) and the first granddaughter of the Prophet (SAW). To this day, Zaynab (RA) is recognized as an exceptional figure of sacrifice, strength and piety. Through her extraordinary handling of the wretched trials she endured, we can see her courage, forbearance, patience and submission to the decree of Allah. Zaynab (RA) is partly credible for rescuing the prophetic legacy from being eclipsed by the ever-present shadows of kufr (denial of Truth), and for this, we must forever remember her and take inspiration from her story.
Zaynab (RA) was born in Medina a few years after Prophet (SAW)’s hijrah to Medina. Like her elder brothers, Hasan & Husayn (RA), Zaynab (RA) was named by the Prophet (SAW) after the angel Jibra’il (RA) came to him and conveyed her name. However, while revealing her name, Jibra’il (RA) started to weep. When asked by the Prophet (SAW) why he was weeping, Angel Jibra’il (RA) revealed that she would face a life full of trials, tribulations, hardships and losses. The name Zaynab means ‘the adornment of her father’.
It is narrated that in appearance, she resembled both her father, Ali (RA) and her grandfather, the Prophet (SAW). Her character reflected the best attributes of those who raised her. She had gained loyalty and soberness from her grandmother, Khadijah (RA), modesty and chastity from her mother, Fatimah (RA), persuasiveness from her father, Ali (RA), patience, bravery and forbearance from her brothers, Hasan & Husayn (RA).
Along with her siblings, Zaynab (RA) had extraordinary role models to look up to and learn from. Growing up in such a pure and pious environment, she not only absorbed the teachings of Islam but also mastered household skills. Zaynab (RA) lost her mother at the age of six and following her mother’s wish, Zaynab (RA) became a motherly figure for her brothers. Thus, the siblings developed a special bond and relationship. From such a young age, Zaynab (RA) took great care of her father’s household, her siblings and she was generous to the poor and homeless.
Modesty Through Teaching
In Medina, Zaynab (RA) initiated a practice where she would host regular meetings for women in which she would share her knowledge of the Holy Qur’an and educate the women on the principles and commandments of Allah (SWT) outlined in the Holy Qur’an. Using the eloquence, clarity and persuasiveness she gained from her father, she was able to pass on the teachings of the Holy Qur’an so well that she was given names such as ‘Fasiha’ (skillfully fluent) and ‘Baligah’ (intensely eloquent). Her gatherings were very well attended and liked by the women around. Women who attended her meetings had benefitted from wisdom and knowledge of the Holy Qur’an. Through these teachings, she had gained the reputation of a remarkable teacher and woman so much so that her nephew had given her the name, ‘Alimah Ghayr Mu’allamah’ (she who knows without being taught).
Furthermore, Zaynab (RA) devoted her life to please Allah (SWT) and avoided worldly adornments. In doing so, she was given the names ‘Zahidah’ (abstemious) and ‘Abidah’ (devoted) as a result of her high morals, humbleness and modesty.
Modesty Through Bravery
Zaynab (RA) is most acknowledged for her crucial role in the events of Karbala in which she fought with bravery, steadfastness and courage. She was named the Queen of Karbala. Zaynab (RA) stood up against the atrocities of Yazeed alongside her brother, Husayn (RA). During the Battle of Karbala, she witnessed the torment and loss of her children, nephews, companions and more importantly her beloved brother, Husayn (RA). Nonetheless, she braved through and ensured she was not weak because, after the merciless assassination of Husayn (RA), Zaynab (RA) had to become the pillar for the other Muslim women and children.
There are numerous accounts during the events of Karbala in which Zaynab (RA) stood up against oppression and injustice. She was bold, fierce and unafraid to speak up against the oppressors. At a time when she was in pain and agony from all the loss she witnessed, Zaynab (RA) did not back down, rather she set an example of how powerful the voice of a lady can raise against wrongs. She broke the stereotype of Muslim women not being allowed to raise their voices because in those moments, had she not been defiant enough to raise her voice, she along with the other prisoners of Karbala would not have been released by Yazeed. Zaynab (RA)’s bold and fearless speeches against evil had eventually spread to the people around, acknowledging them of the events of Karbala and stirring empathy in their hearts. As a result, the oppressors were humiliated and the prisoners were eventually released. She endured a great amount of pain and torture both physically and mentally, but she did not collapse nor showed any vulnerability, rather she emerged as the most courageous female politician with her heroic stances.
Modesty Through Sacrifice
Zaynab (RA) is the epitome of sacrificing for others and the sake of Allah (SWT). She was given the name ‘Umm al-Masaib’ (Mother of Misfortunes) because of the innumerable sufferings she endured in her lifetime. Right from her childhood, she lost her grandfather and her mother. She then witnessed the martyrdom of her father and the suffering of her brother, Hasan (RA) who was poisoned. Then came the tragic events of Karbala where she sacrificed two of her sons to rescue Islam, witnessed the martyrdom of her brothers, children, nephews, companions and their children. Lastly came the torture she went through during her captivity. Despite all of her grief, Zaynab (RA) did not rebel against Allah (SWT) nor question him, her submission to Allah (SWT)’s decree was so great that she looked at all the martyred bodies and asked Allah (SWT) to accept their humble sacrifice for him. Nonetheless, after having lost so much, Zaynab (RA) continued to lead and support her people.
It is narrated that, on the night of Ashura, when the enemy set the Ahlul Bayt on fire, Zaynab (RA) was nursing women and children in a half-burnt tent. Even during the most turbulent times, she was nursing the injured in the best possible manner. She conducted the most beautiful manifestations of nursing. She nursed those who had suffered in body and soul, those whose clothing and skin had burned and those who suffered mentally. No amount of torment, loss or grief stopped Zaynab (RA) from carrying out her responsibility and duty to help others. She was an impeccable leader filled with resilience, patience, endurance and boundless sacrifice.