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Remembering Zaynab bint Ali on International Women's Day: A woman who defeated falsehood with truth
Haider | 08 Mar 2018

8th March is the day when the world celebrates International Women's Day with its first observation taking place on 28th February 1909 in New York in the name of "National Woman's Day" organized by the Socialist Party of America.

Women were fighting for their rights across the world and different programs were held on different dates. In 1914, the first time Women's Day was observed on 8th March in different countries of the world. In 1975, United Nations called the year 1975 International Women's Year and 8th March was officially accepted as International Women's Day by the United Nations and since then, it is celebrated as such. The International Women's Day signifies civil awareness regarding the women, their rights, indiscrimination, suffrage etc.

World today is celebrating this important day. When I look back into history I found few very important lady figures that had changed the course of history by their sheer brilliance and standing up against the oppressors and tyrants of their time. They not only fought for their rights but for their nations too and Zainab bint Ali is shining among all those ladies like illuminating Star. She faced harshest conditions and tribulations which most of us can't even think of during the Umayyad caliphate.

A brief history of Zaynab bint Ali (s.a.)

She was the daughter of Ali ibn AbiTalib (a.s.) and Fatima (s.a.) and was their third child after Hasan (a.s.) and Husain (a.s.).  She was the granddaughter of Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w.w.) and Khadija binte Khwailid (s.a.). She was named by Prophet himself. Her parents didn't name her until the Prophet returned from his journey. She learnt about Islam and its intricacies from her grandfather, father and mother. She got married to Abdullah ibn Jafar who was raised by Prophet (s.a.a.w.) after the martyrdom of his father Jafar ibn AbiTalib commonly known as Jaffar al Tayyar among Muslims.

According to Muna Haeri Bilgrami, "In her character she reflected the best attributes of those who raised her. In sobriety and serenity she was likened to Umm ul-Mu'minin Khadija, her grandmother [a.s.]; in chastity and modesty to her mother Fatima Zahra [a.s.]; in eloquence to her father Ali [a.s.]; in forbearance and patience to her brother Imam Hasan [a.s.]; and in bravery and tranquillity of the heart to Imam Husayn [a.s.]. Her face reflected her father's awe and her grandfather's reverence."

Karbala was the event which changed not only her fate bust also the fate of Islam and the Prophet's family.  She was in her mid-fifties when Umayyad caliph Muawiya ibn Abusufyan died and named his debauched and alcoholic son Yazid as his successor making him the caliph of Muslims. Yazid forced his governors to either take the pledge of allegiance from Husain ibn Ali (a.s.) or his head to be sent to Yazid. On such harsh demand by a crooked ruler, Husain (a.s.) declared that he would preferred to be martyred rather than pledging allegiance to a person like Yazid. The family of Prophet (s.a.a.w.) left Madina and then Makka and finally reached Karbala where all men except Ali ibn Husain (a.s.) including his children were martyred. Women of the Prophet's family were handcuffed, chained and forced to move from one place to another. When the caravan reached Kufa people had gathered to witness the plight of captives.

She said, "So now, Oh people who deceive forsake and contrive, it is you who weep. May Allah not stop your tears and may your chests burn incessantly with the fire of grief and sorrow. Your example is that of a woman who assiduously prepares a strong rope and then untwines it herself, wasting her own hard labour." "You swear such false oaths which bear no truthfulness at all. Beware that you have nothing except vain talk, false pride, mischief, malice, evil, rancour, falsehood, and sycophancy. Beware that your position is that of slave-maids and purchased girls who are but the meanest beings. Your hearts are full of enmity and rancour. You are like the vegetation that grows on filthy soil and is yet green, or like the mortar applied unto graves. You should know that you have perpetrated a very morbid deed and that have prepared evil provision for your next life, because of which Allah's anger is against you and His wrath would fall upon you." [From book on Zainab by Muna Haeri Bilgrami]

She was the most courageous lady I have ever heard or read about. She stood and challenged the whole Umayyad dynasty like a lioness and proved her mettle in the courts of Ubaidullah ibn Ziyad, the governor of Kufa. One should remember that it was the army under Ibn Ziyad which had massacred her whole family in jungle of Karbala on the order of Yazid ibn Muawiya. She entered in court of crooked and tyrant governor with breathtaking dignity and remained silent when Ibn Ziyad enquired about her instead her maid responded. Ibn Ziyad got enraged because of his insult which he felt and said, "Allah be praised! Your brother and your kinsmen are dead and their false claims have come to nought."

She responded back, "It was Allah's wish that they should be martyred, and they met their deaths valiantly. If this was your heart's desire then you must indeed be content today. But you have killed those whom the Holy Prophet [s.a.w.w.] held upon his knee when they were children, and, whose play filled him with joy. Soon you will stand with them before Allah and they will demand justice. Beware the day of reckoning." [From book on Zainab by Muna Haeri Bilgrami]

When Ibn Ziyad observed her bold counter narratives he ordered to prison them all and after few weeks the prisoners were sent to Damascus where thrown of Umayyad dynasty was established.  Family of Prophet (saww) was paraded in Damascus so that people of Syria can have a laugh on their plight and after parading they have been brought to court of Yazid ibn Muawiya where he was seated on thrown with his companions. The severed Head of Husain ibn Ali (as) was brought to him and debauched ruler started playing with the head using his stick and gloated about his victory.

Yazid rejoicing over his victory said to his subject, "My ancestors who were killed at Badr have been avenged today. Now it is clear that the Bani Hashim had just staged a play to gain power and there was never any divine revelation."

 Zainab binte Ali [sa] however was not afraid of him or his worldly powers. She came forward with power of conscience and truth and said for all to hear, "Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds and blessings on my grandfather, the Chief of divine prophets."

"O Yazid, Allah says, and his word is true, ?Then evil was the end of those who did evil because they rejected the communications of Allah and used to mock them' [30:10]."

"O Yazid, do you believe that you have succeeded in closing the sky and the earth for us and that we have become your captives just because we have been brought before you in a row and that you have secured control over us? Do you believe that we have been afflicted with insult and dishonour by Allah and that you have been given honour and respect by Him? You have become boastful of this apparent victory that you have secured and you have started feeling jubilant and proud over this prestige and honour. You think that you have achieved worldly good that your affairs have become stabilised and our rule has fallen into your hands. Wait for a while. Do not be so joyful. Have you forgotten Allah's saying: 'The unbelievers should not carry the impression that the time allowed to them by us is good for them? Surely we give them time so that they may increase their evil deeds, and eventually they will be given insulting chastisement' [3:178]."

"O Yazid, whatever you have done proves your revolt against Allah and your denial of His Prophet [saww] and of the Book and Sunnah that the Holy Prophet [saww] brought from Allah. Your deeds should not cause amazement because one whose ancestors chewed the livers of the martyrs, whose flesh grew up on virtuous people, who fought against the Chief of divine prophets, who mobilised parties for fighting against him and drew swords against him, should conspicuously excel all Arabs in unbelief, sinfulness, excesses, and enmity against Allah and His Prophet [saww]."

 "Remember that the evil deeds and sinful actions that you have committed are the result of unbelief and old rancour you bear because of your ancestors who were killed in Badr. One who cast his glance of enmity, malice and rancour upon us does not lag behind in practising enmity against us. He proves his unbelief, declares it with his tongue and jubilantly proclaims: 'I have killed the sons of the Prophet [saww] of Allah and made his progeny captive and desires that his ancestors had lived to see his achievements.[From book on Zainab by Muna Haeri Bilgrami]

This is a long sermon where she stood her ground and spoken like well trained orator not only having knowledge of Quran and Sunnah but of worldly affairs too. She rebutted the claims made by Umayyad ruler Yazid ibn Muawiya with flamboyant sermon and confidence & dignity of her family. I haven't seen a single lady whose whole family have been murdered by enemies' army and has been made captive with rest of ladies and children of family with only one male relative alive from the dark-time of Karbala. She along with his family members had been forced to go from one city to other in scorching heat of Arab desert without proper food and shelter. After all that tormenting experiences, she stood up in court of Yazid and forced the drunkard, debauched, tyrant ruler to remain silent. Her eloquent sermon reminded presence of her father to people of Syria whoever had listened him.