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The Forgotten Tabi'at (Series)

Inspiration from Life of Zainab Bint Ali

She would hold gatherings for women in which she would very concisely convey her knowledge. Among many subjects, she taught Islamic Law and the Tafsir of the Qur’an. Women used to converge to take Islamic lessons from her and imbibe her manners and values.

She became known for her ability to teach. Although by marriage she was very wealthy, she lived modestly and gave generously to charity. Zainab delivered her classes to groups of women she identified as the ones to pass knowledge to the next generation.

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Her world was a place of travel where only that which was necessary for the journey to the hereafter should be taken. She was a woman of piety and had a deep love for worshipping Allah, spending her nights in prayer and her days fasting.

For these, she was bestowed with several titles such as Al-Aqilah, the noblewoman, Al-Aalimah, the knowledgeable woman, Al Fasihah, the skillfully fluent, Al Kamilah, the perfect and Aminatu al-Allah, the faithful of God.

Her Courage

Although she had been famous for being an incredible teacher and advocate for women, her most famous act occurred on the day of Ashura where she not only watched her own brother Hussain (RA) brutally murdered, but watched her two sons Aun and Muhammad die.

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Her brother Husain (RA)’s body was trampled upon by his enemies’ horses, his head was severed, and even the tattered cloth with which he had hoped to preserve his modesty was snatched off him.

Yazid’s army barged into the camps, plundered what they could and set the tents on fire. They beat the women with their swords, snatched away their veils and took them as prisoners.

Upon the martyrdom of her brother alongside her two sons, she raised her hands up to her Lord and said: “O my Lord! Accept our humble sacrifice to You.”

When she, alongside other prisoners were brought before the governor of Kufah, Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad, He was irritated by her dignified demeanour even in the face of defeat. He snapped at her saying, “Who is this woman?”

Her slave girl responded, “This is Zainab, daughter of Fatimah, daughter of the Messenger of Allah.”

With a mocking sneer, Ibn Ziyâd said, “Praise be to Allah who humiliated and killed you all.”

Eyes wide with anger, Zainab responded, “Rather, praise be to Allah Who honoured us with His prophet and thoroughly purified us from filth! It is only the morally-corrupt who are humiliated by Allah and the depraved who are disproven, and those are not us, O Ibn Ziyâd!”

Equally angered, Ibn Ziyâd asked her, “How do you find what Allah has done with your family?”

“Staunch and devoted as ever,” she responded: “They were granted death and as a result, they have gone to their resting places. Allah will bring about a gathering between them and you, and you will disagree with each other before Him on the day of reckoning.”

Her Defiance Against Oppression

Zainab functioned as a model of defiance against oppression and other forms of injustice. When her nephew, Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin, was sentenced to death by Ibn Ziyad, she threw herself over him in a protective embrace yelling “By God, I will not let go of him. If you are going to kill him, you will have to kill me along with him.” 

Moved by Zainab’s action, the captors spared Zayn al-Abidin’s life, only because he was the only surviving son of Husayn at the Battle of Karbala.

As a prisoner, her bravery and advocacy for freedom continued . She led the women and children and condemned oppression through a speech in the palace of her capturer.

When a Syrian in Yazid’s court demanded that he be given one of the prisoners, Fatimah, the daughter of Al - Husayn (RA) ,  a very beautiful young woman, Zainab countered by asserting that the Syrian man was not worthy and did not have that type of authority.

“This is neither your right nor his!” she declared to Yazîd.

Angered in turn, Yazîd snarled, “You have lied. This is certainly my right, and if I wanted to [give her to him], I would.”

“No, by Allah!” Zainab swore, “Allah has not granted you permission to do this unless she renounces our faith and takes another religion.”

“How dare you direct such speech toward me!” Yazîd exploded. “Your father and your brother are the only ones who have left our religion!”

“It is through the religion of my father, brother, and grandfather that you, your father, and your grandfather were guided,” Zaynib parried. She paused, and then issued a scathing retort, “You, a commander who has authority, are vilifying unjustly and oppressing with your authority.”

After finally returning home to Medina, she became known as “As-Sabira” -  the patient one. Rather than sitting idly, painfully watching her loved ones die and thrown into prison, she instead set out to travel the world, championing the cause of Islam and fighting for freedom. She is even said to have caused a reawakening in the Muslim Ummah.

Zainab bint Ali is a woman in whose veins ran the blood of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH); a metaphor for the defiance of the oppressed against the oppressor, the victory of truth against falsehood.

It is through her extraordinary handling of all these trials that she endured that we have caught glimpses of the untold depths of her courage, forbearance, patience and submission to the decree of Allah (SWT).

Her Death

Zainab bint Ali (RA) died in the year 62 AH.  According to some sources, she died of illness during a journey with her family from Medina to Damascus in Syria, at a location known as “Zaynabia”. Others suggest she was assassinated by Yazid’s soldiers while being extradited from Cairo in Egypt

From her story, life, and legacy, we can take inspiration for when we begin to feel helpless in the eyes of oppression.

She shows us that there is always a way to change the world around us and to always remain brave and steadfast in our views regardless of the backlash we may receive. We can educate those around us, we can stand up and fight, and most importantly, we can use our words to give mighty blows to the enemy.

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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