“Ante be-hamdillah, alematun ghaira mu’allema, wa fahmatun ghaira mufahema (You are by the grace of God a scholar unschooled by anyone and a sage by connation)”
The above words are the famous tribute of an impeccable nephew for his peerless aunt whose personality continues to transcend history and all historical developments. Otherwise we would not have been celebrating her birthday today despite the passing of a millennium and four centuries.
Born on the 5th of Jamadi ath-Thaani, her name literally means “Ornament of her Father.” It was a name which was neither chosen by her immaculate parents nor by her grandfather, the Almighty’s Last and Greatest Messenger.
In fact, as Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) told the proud parents – his daughter Hazrat Fatema (SA) and his son-in-law, Imam Ali (AS) – the name “Zainab” for the newborn girl was from God Himself and conveyed through the Archangel Gabriel.
Those who are doubtful of their own existence despite the manifest signs of the One and Only Creator in the wide world around us, are advised to browse the pages of history, sincerely and earnestly, if they wish to cure themselves of their devilish disease of scepticism.
The picture that emerges is a crystal clear one, of an entire life spent in the unsullied enclosure of virtue and infallibility without any blemish, thereby setting a lasting example of flawlessness that on each and every occasion, even under the most adverse conditions, displayed the realities and finer points of God-given intelligence and knowledge which the most erudite scholars are unable to comprehend.
This is not surprising in view of the fact that if she had the Leaders of the Youths of Paradise, Imam Hasan (AS) and Imam Husain (AS), as her brothers, her husband was also no ordinary person, and neither were her children.
Hazrat Zainab (SA), the embodiment of knowledge and action to the extent that she was virtually as perfect as her incomparable mother, was married to her first cousin, Abdullah, the eldest son of Imam Ali’s (AS) elder brother Ja’far at-Tayyar, the first-ever Muslim to undertake migration for the sake of protecting and propagating Islam – to the court of King Negus (Najashi) of Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia).
Abdullah was brought up by the Prophet following the martyrdom of Ja’far in the Battle of Mu’ta (against the Byzantine aggressors in present day Jordan), after his return to Arabia from Abyssinia. As a result he greatly resembled the Prophet in manners. The Prophet had prayed to God to grant prosperity in Abdullah’s affairs, and history bears witness that he never suffered loss in his trade activities and earned fame as Bahr al-Joud (Sea of Bounty) and Manarat as-Sakhawa (Minaret of Generosity).
But the greatest honour for him, for which he was thankful to God all his life, was his marriage to Hazrat Zainab (SA). He greatly respected the Prophet’s grand-daughter as the Aqeelat al-Bani Hashem or the Wise Lady of the Hashemite Clan. When the fateful journey of Imam Husain (AS) commenced in 60 AH, Abdullah allowed her to accompany her brother along with two of his sons, Aoun and Muhammad, who were eventually martyred in Karbala in defence of humanitarian values, leaving their middle-aged mother the gargantuan task of nursing Islam back to life with her young nephew, Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) standing steadfastly beside her in captivity.
In fact, Hazrat Zainab (SA) along with Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS), not only internationalised the tragedy of Karbala, but as was the goal of her martyred brother, immortalized it for the salvation of humanity, so that mankind in every age, era or geographical place could sift truth from falsehood by contemplating on the uprising of Imam Husain (AS).
Thus, when any conscientious mind turns to the Epic of Ashura and the equally traumatic aftermath of history’s greatest-ever tragedy, it will acknowledge that Islam and all humanitarian values, without the least doubt, are also indebted forever to the lady whose indefatigable role earned her the title of Sharikat al-Husain or partner in the mission of Imam Husain (AS).
It is also not for no reason that the Heroine of Karbala, who salvaged Islam, is rightfully called Sani-e Zahra or second only to the noblest lady of all times, her mother, Hazrat Fatema az-Zahra (SA).