The Forgotten Tabi'at (Series)

Inspiration from the Life of Zainab Bint Ali

Zainab bint Ali’s Birth

Five years after Hijrah, Fatima (RA) gave birth to a baby girl.

It is narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) predicted the events and circumstances of Zainab’s entire life. He forsaw the role she would play in delivering Islam.

Fatima (RA) and Ali (RA) asked the Prophet (PBUH) to name the child. The Prophet answered: “I will not go in advance of my Lord in this matter.” He then declared that the child should be named ‘Zainab’, meaning ‘the embellishment of the father’.

There is an array of opinions surrounding the date of birth of Zainab (RA). While some say it was the 5th day of Jamada Al-Awwal, others say it was the 1st day of Shabaan. But what we all know to be true is that Zainab bint Ali was blessed with the noblest lineage; a notably knowledgeable and pious family.

She was the daughter of Ali bin Abi Talib (RA) and Fatimah bint Muhammad (RA). She was the granddaughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the sister of Hassan (RA) and Hussain (RA).

In her character, she depicted the greatest qualities of those who raised her.

In “serenity and thoughtfulness,” she was like Umm ul-Muminin Khadija, her grandmother (RA).

In “innocence and bashfulness,” she was like her mother Fatima Zahra (RA).

In “fluency and expressiveness,” she was like her father Ali (RA).

In “leniency and fortitude,” she was like her brother, Hassan (RA)

and in “courage and repose of the heart,” she was like Hussain (RA).

Her face reflected her father’s admiration and her grandfather’s esteem.

Her Early Years

According to Nishwa Gardezi, Zainab developed a long-lasting bond of devotion to her brother Hussain (RA). In her mother’s arms, she would cry out her lungs and could not be pacified. But upon being held by her brother, she would keep quiet, gazing with pleasure at his face.

Her mother, Fatima (RA) mentioned the intensity of Zainab’s love for her brother Hussain (RA) to the Prophet (PBUH). He heaved a deep breath and said with eyes watering with tears, “My dear child, this child of mine Zainab would be confronted with a thousand and one calamities and face serious hardships in Karbala.

Abdullah ibn Abbas reported that Ali (RA) was once teaching his daughter how to count. He asked her, “Say: ‘one.’ Zainab (RA) replied “One.” He then asked her “Say: two”. To this, she was quiet. Upon inquiry by her father about her silence, Zainab (RA) said, “A tongue which pronounces ‘one’ cannot say ‘two'”. Her father hugged and kissed her as a gesture in acknowledgement of her belief in the Tawhid of Allah (SWT).

It is also reported that when Zainab (RA) was about five years old, she had a strange and terrible dream. When she woke up, she immediately went to narrate the dream to her grandfather, the Prophet (PBUH).

He wept bitterly and said, “O, my daughter. The tree in your dream is me who will soon depart this world. The tree’s branches are your father Ali and your mother Fatima. And the twigs you held on to are your brothers Hassan and Hussain. They will all leave you behind in this world, and you will suffer their loss and detachment.

Little was known of Zainab (RA)’s physical appearance while growing up. However, when the tragedy of Karbala befell her in her mid-fifties she was forced to go out uncovered. Then people, obviously stunned by her beauty, exclaimed she looked like a ‘shining sun’ and a ‘piece of the moon’.

Her Family

Upon attaining maturity, many sought Zainab for marriage, desiring to be joined with the family of the Messenger of Allah. However, Zainab (RA) married her first cousin, Abdullah ibn Ja’far.

He was the noblest man of the Hashimites and one of the most generous men of the Arabs. They had five children, four sons and one daughter; Awn, Ali, Muhammad, Abbas, and Umm-Kulthum.

As she increased in age, she became vastly knowledgeable on Islam. She also became an advocate for women in a time where there really was no such thing.

Her intellect was seen to be extremely vivid. The capacity to which she absorbed information can only be described as outstanding. To her merit lies the memorisation of the Holy Qur’an, the sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) on adab and Islamic ethics, as well as rules of education.

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About Wardah Abbas
Wardah Abbas is a Lawyer who chose to pursue a career in writing. She’s passionate about Islam and has a particular interest in green and wholesome living. When she’s not writing, spending time with her family or bonding with a book, she can be found in the kitchen, whipping up edible ingredients into luscious skincare. Find her blogging at greenmuslimblog.com or visit her website at wardahabbas.com