by: Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah. Adapted from: http://english.bayynat.org.lb/FridaySpeeches/ke_10072009.htm
Sayyeda Zainab (a.s.): Born of infallible parents
Fatima Az-Zahra' (a.s.) was the supreme model of the Muslim women. She was infallible in her mind and spoke only the truth; infallible in her heart, which had no place except for good, and infallible in her life, which was driven by spiritual values that neared her to Allah. She was the educated intellectual who stood in the Prophet's Mosque where she delivered that speech, which showed the strength of her stances, the broadness of her knowledge and the conclusiveness of her arguments. She was the student of Allah's Messenger and the companion of Imam Ali (a.s.), filling her age with knowledge, guidance and morals.
Her daughter Sayyeda Zainab(a.s.) was much like her mother having lived with her as a child and with her father as a young woman and then with her bothers, the two Imams; Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein. This made her mind full of knowledge and her heart full of devotion to Allah and dedication to His cause.
When we remember the mother and the daughter, we find them role models not only for women but for men as well, because all their actions and sayings were based on faith. Sayyeda Zainab represents the woman who, according to her biographers, was a virtuous lady; very strong in her arguments, very firm in her stands and very courageous before challenges.
Zainab (a.s.) was Al-Hussein's (a.s.) companion; her heart was filled with love to her brother, because it was filled with the love of the Message her brother carried. She left her husband and cousin, Abdullah Bin Ja'afar, in Al-Madina and came to Karbala with her two sons. Then, she took care of Al-Hussein (a.s.)'s family and the families of his companions. She also looked after her nephew, Ali Bin Al-Hussein (a.s.), who was very sick. She used to sit with Imam Al-Hussein (a.s.), asking him about the developments and how the war was going. She once heard him saying a poem, from which she understood that he was going to die. Seeing how deeply sad and shaken she was, the Imam tried to confront her and asked her to be strong saying: "My dear sister! I swear upon you that in case I die, you shall not tear your clothes, nor scratch your face, nor curse anyone for me or pray for his death."
Willpower and patience not weeping and lamenting
The Ashoura story narrators, who say that Zainab (a.s.) beat her forehead with the edge of the Mahmal (a wooden box put on the back of the camel) until blood spilled from under her veil, are not actually telling the truth, since Zainab (a.s.), who assumed leadership after the martyrdom of Imam Al-Hussein, was firm and strong. She remained steadfast before the tragedy that befell her, although this tragedy is one of the most difficult and brutal tragedies that might befell people. Yet, she felt responsible for the Imam's wives and children, including the sick Imam Zein Al-Abideen (a.s.), who became her Imam following the martyrdom of his father. She was strong before the tyrants and never showed a sign of weakness, especially in Kufa, where she gave her address, rebuking those who did not support Imam Al-Hussein (a.s.) in a very strong and passionate way that they burst into tears.
When Sayyeda Zainab (a.s.) was brought to the palace of Ibn Ziyad, he said to her: "Praise to be Allah who disgraced you, and revealed your sayings as false". Sayyeda Zainab (a.s.) immediately thwarted his conspiracy by replying: "Praise be to Allah who has honored us with His Messenger, and purified us from impurity. The one who is disgraced is certainly the libertine, and the one who lies is the lewd; and we are not such people." He said: "How did you find the way Allah treated your brother and your family?" Sayyeda Zainab (a.s.), with a tone full of pride and power, indicating her faith and submission towards Allah, answered: "I saw nothing but good... They rushed towards their graves (with honor). But know that Allah will judge between you and them, and He will call you to account, and in another account she is said to have added: "So be worried about the winner at the day (either it will be you or them). O son of Marjanah! May your mother be mournful for you." These few statements were so powerful that as the historians mention, they made Ubaydullah Ibn Ziyad so angry that he decided to kill Sayyeda Zainab (a.s.). He, however, ceased to do as Amr Bin Huraith calmed him down. Then, Zainab said: "You have gone far more than enough, killing our men and enslaving our women... If all this aims at avenging, then you have avenged". And she was the one who saved Imam Zein Al-Abideen from getting killed by Ibn Ziyad... for she was a courageous woman who was not afraid of this tyrant, but she stood up to him and defeated him with her strong words.
It is reported that Fatima Bint Ali said: "a Shami (Syrian) with reddish complexion stood and said: "Amir-al Mo'mineen (Commander of the Faithful), please hand over this girl to me", pointing towards me. At that time, I was a good looking and tender-aged girl. I shuddered with horror and clutched my sister's dress; she was older and more mature than me and knew well that this could never happen. She said loudly: "You are a mean fellow, neither you nor he (Yazeed) has any right to do that!" Angered by her courage and boldness, Yazeed retorted: "You are babbling a lie! I have every right; I can do it right now, if I wish to!" Zainab replied: "No never! God has never given this right to you. Of course, the matter would be different if you get out of our religion and embrace some other religion. Yazeed got all the more enraged with this reply and quipped: "Your father and your brother have already got out of the religion". Zainab, unhesitatingly retorted: "You, your father, your grand-father have been guided by Allah's religion, my father's religion, my brother's religion and my maternal grand-father's religion". Yazeed shouted back: "Oh enemy of God, you are a liar"! Zainab replied: "You have assumed ruler ship through oppression; you abuse people with tyranny and suppress God's creatures". Fatima Bint Ali continues to say: "Perhaps he felt somewhat ashamed hearing all these invectives, because he did not utter a word to her after that".
And we turn to her speech at Yazid's palace where she stood like her mother and her father to the extent that those who were listening imagined that they were listening to a speech delivered by Imam Ali. She said: "All those who put you in charge, due to which you are a playing havoc with the lives of the Muslims, will know for certain how evil the end of the oppressors is and which of you shall have the worst place and will be the least protected? Although calamities have forced me to speak to you, I see you trivial in my eyes and find your verbal attacks great and regard your rebukes too much to bear, but the eyes are tearful, and the chests are filled with depression. What is even stranger is that the honored Party of Allah is being killed by the Party of the "Released Ones". If you regard us as your booty, you shall soon find us as your opponents - that will be when you find nothing but what your hands had committed. And your Lord never treats His servants unjustly. To Allah is my complaint, and upon Him do I rely. So, scheme whatever you wish to scheme, and carry out your plots, and intensify your efforts, for, by Allah, you shall never be able to obliterate our mention, nor will you ever be able to kill the revelation (that was revealed to us), nor will you ever exalt our position, nor will your shame ever be washed away. Your view shall be proven futile, your days limited in number, and your wealth wasted on the Day when the caller calls out: The curse of Allah be upon the oppressors. (11:18). All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, who sealed the life of our early ones with happiness and forgiveness, and that of our last ones with martyrdom and mercy."
The role model leader
This speech clearly indicates that Zainab (a.s.) was quite versed in religion to be able to deduce the correct position relying on Quranic verses, rebuking Yazid and reminding those around him of the Message of her grandfather and the right Islamic positions. We can also see that she was of a strong personality. She did not tremble before Yazid's tyranny and strength. She adopted her father's stance who said: "If all the Arabs joined together to fight me, I would not run away". She was the daughter of Ali (a.s.) and the sister of Al-Hussein (a.s.) and Al-Abbass, whose dignity and courage were remarkable, which enabled her to overcome all the schemes to which Yazid and Ibn Ziyad resorted, in order to humiliate her.
In short, she was the leader who carried the banner of the Husseini revolution following the martyrdom of her brother; otherwise, that revolution would have died. Zainab (a.s.) has sacrificed just as Imam Al-Hussein (a.s.) had sacrificed before her, and explained to the world the meaning of the Husseini revolution. That is why when we remember Al-Hussein (a.s.) and Zainab (a.s.), we understand how the Husseini revolution started by the infallible Imam and the woman who lived the spirit of infallibility, although she was not necessarily infallible.
Therefore, Zainab (a.s.) was the steadfast, enduring and bold woman. The picture which is sometimes portrayed of her as a weak, defeated and disgraced woman is surely not true.
Thus, she is but a role model to all believers, in the situations that require strength and courage before the tyrants and oppressors, so that we would not be defeated by our own cowardice, before we are defeated by the enemy. Moreover, when the Muslim woman is strong with her Islamic spirituality, she can defeat them in the toughest situations and she can compensate for any other points of weakness.
Peace be on Sayyeda Zainab (a.s.) the day she was born, the day she died, and the day she will be brought back to life.