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zainabintali
To start off Ramadan, I thought the most appropriate woman to highlight would be Zainab bint Ali Ibn Abi Taleb, Prophet Mohammed’s  first female grandchild. Her story is one that is clouded with obstacles and hardship and it is how she dealt with these situations that distinguished her among the people.

You see it is not really who you are but what you do that sets you apart. She was the grandchild of the prophet, an honor that is so incredible and that most of us would just take it and sit back and feel privileged. It’s like when you are born into a very rich family and you inherit a large fortune. You will already have your name in the history books as the child of these rich people and you already have the fortune. However, it is what you do with the inheritance that elevates you from being just a name in that book to having your own chapter.

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Zainab was the daughter of Ali ibn Abu Talib and Fatima Al Zahra bint Mohammed . She was the sister of Al Hassan and Al Hussein. Zainab was born the same year that her aunt, Zainab (RA), passed away. When Fatima gave birth to her, she told Ali to name her. He refused, saying that the Prophet  should name her. They took the baby to the Prophet  and he named her Zainab, after the daughter he had just lost.

Zainab grew up in a household that was so full of love. Her parents had an incredible marriage and she would hear her father recite poetry to her mother. This provided her with a solid foundation and a stable early childhood.

Zainab resembled her grandmother Khadejah (RA) most in character just as her mother, Fatima, also resembled Khadejah (RA) and the Prophet  in character. Remember how loving Khadejah (RA) was while still being strong? Remember how Fatima was like a mother to her older sisters because she had those same traits? Zainab was the same way, and what she did throughout her life was evidence to that.

At the age of 7, Zainab’s blessed childhood received a bit of a jolt when her mother passed away, only 6 months after the shock of the passing of her beloved grandfather . Before Fatima (RA) passed away, she gave two requests to her daughter. The first one was that she should be like a mother to her brothers, even though they were older. The second was that she should be a mother to the Umma (people) of Mohammed  (kuni ummun la ummet Mohammed ). So at the age of 7, Zainab experienced the extreme hardship of losing her mother and grandfather and carrying on the responsibility of her family and community.

Zainab took her mother’s advice very seriously. By the age of 10, she used to cook and invite all the poor in her village to eat. By the age of 15, she split up her parent’s house and made a home that was an orphanage and a refuge for the poor and weak. That wasn’t enough for Zainab though. She wanted to reach more people so she asked her father to buy her a house in Madinah which she made into a home for orphans, the elderly and weak, and women. Even at the age of 15, Zainab was an advisor to her father and her brothers. They would refer to her advise about many political issues.

Zainab married Abdullah ibn Jafar ibn Abu Talib, the son of Asma bint Omays and Jafar ibn Abu Talib. When he came to ask for her, Zainab said she would marry him on two conditions: 1. That he doesn’t prevent her from fulfilling her mother’s requests and 2. That he opens her a home for the old and weak in Kofa, where she was going to be living with him. Abdullah agreed to her terms right away.

Zainab had three children with Abdullah- Mohammed, Fatima and Ali. Even as a mother and wife, she continued to run her shelters and help any disadvantaged people. She was also still an advisor to her father and used to advise him on political and military issues. She advised her father to move the Caliphate from Madinah to Iraq to be closer to the war and she advised her brother Hasan to surrender to Mouwiyah. Her advice was held very high in their opinions.

At the age of 35, Zainab experienced her second difficult shock when she lost her father and then her brother Hassan months later. Zainab and her family had moved back to Madinah at this time. Hussein was going to go to Carbala so Zainab went to her husband and asked him if he was also planning to go. He said he wasn’t. She told her husband that she could not leave her brother, as she wanted to keep her promise to her mother. Abdullah told her that she could go and he would watch older kids. She then took her son Ali with her and set out with her brother.

The night before the battle, Zainab and Hussein sat in a tent together. Hussein said to his sister, “If I die tomorrow, help my family be patient and help the people of Mecca and Madinah be patient.” Zainab broke into tears. “I lost my mother, my father, my brother and my grandfather. Don’t make me think about your death,” she said. “We are all going to die Zainab. There is nothing permanent except Allah.”

On the day of the battle, Zainab stayed behind to take care of Zain Al Abedeen, Hussein’s son, who was sick. Her son Ali went with his uncle to fight. She stood around the edge of the battle watching when she saw a group surround her brother. She started to yell, “Would you dare kill the son of the daughter of the Prophet ! Would you dare kill the son of the daughter of the Prophet (PBUH)!” But while she was worried about her brother, she had no idea that her son was being killed. Her son Ali as he was fighting his last fight and was yelling for his uncle to help him out, “Uncle Hussein! Uncle Hussein!” However, Hussein was not able to come as he was surrounded and the boy could not defeat those that were fighting him and he was killed.

Hussein immediately ran to him as soon as he could and held the body of his nephew and cried. “My heart breaks over my dear nephew who cried for my help and I couldn’t help him.” He carried the boy over to his poor mother Zainab and went back to battle where he too lost his life. Zainab was left after that battle without her brother and youngest son. How strong she had to be!

At the end of the battle, still carrying Zain Al Abedeen, Zainab found herself face to face with her brother’s killer, Ibn Ziad. He looked at her and smirked and said, “Did you see what I did to your brother?” Zainab just looked at him and said calmly, “Know oh Ibn Ziad that this Dunya (life) is one day and the Day of Judgment is 50,000 years. And you and Hussein will stand in the hands of Allah…And you have lost your dunya (life) and your akhira (afterlife).”

Ibn Ziad became very angry and said to her, “I have killed your brother!!!!” Zainab remained calm and said, “And I choose to be patient and rely on the word of Allah. The fate of those who are very patient is that they do not have to go through hisab (they are not judged) on the Day of Judgement. I am complete with the though that I don’t have to go through hisab and you will be standing between the hands of Allah. (Inama yawafa al saberoona ajarahum bghairi hisab. Yakfeeni an la uhasab youm el kiyama wa takef anta thaleelan bain yadai Allah). ”

Ibn Ziad could not believe that he was being outspoken by a woman. He called for someone to bring a sword so he could kill the young boy in her arms. “Who are you?” he asked. “I am Zain al Abedeen,” replied Zain. “And why have you not died with your father?” asked Ibn Ziad. Zain replied that he was sick. Ibn Ziad then ordered for the boy to be killed. Zainab immediately held the boy tighter and said, “If there is a sword going through this boy its going to have to go through my body first!”

Ibn Ziad, who was already intimated by Zainab and her words, immediately backed off. But he took Zainab and Zain as captives to Syria to the Calipha Yazeed ibn Moawiya who cried when he heard what happened and told her that this is not what he ordered and he was sorry and shocked. He sent Zainab back home to Madinah. When she arrived in Madinah, she found the people standing on either side of the road crying and found her husband in tears over their son. To help calm him down, Zainab told him a hadith of her grandfather  for people to say when they are in distress:

اللهم إني عبدك ابن عبدك ابن أمتك ناصيتي بيدك ماضٍ فيَّ حكمك عدلٌ فيَّ قضاؤك أسألك بكل اسم هو لك سميت به نفسك أو أنزلته في كتابك أو علمته أحداً من خلقك أو استأثرت به في علم الغيب عندك أن تجعل القرآن ربيع قلبي ونور صدري وجلاء همي وذهاب غمي

“Allahumma inni abduka ibn abdika ibn amatija nasyati bi yadika, mada fiyya hukmuka, adlun fiyya qada’uka. As’aluka bi kulli ismin huwa laka sammayta bihi nafsaka aw anzaltu fi kitabika aw ‘allamtahu ahadan min khalqika aw ista’tharta bihi fi ilm il-ghayb indaka an taj’al al-Qurana rabee’ qalbi wa noor sadri wa jala huzni wa dhihab hammi”

O Allah! I am your slave , son of your slave, son of your maidservant; my forelock is in Your hand, Your command over me is forever executed and Your decree over is just. I ask you by every name belonging to You which You have named Yourselves with, or revealed in Your Book, or You taught to any of Your creation, or You have preserved in the knowledge of the unseen with You, that You make the Quran the life of my heart and the light of my breast, and a departure for my sorrow and a release for my anxiety.

Zainab would pray and cry and pray and cry. She was so strong and reliant on Allah but she was exhausted emotionally. She told the people of Madinah how her brother died and that is actually how the Muslims knew the story because no one else from the Prophet’s  family made it through except her. Yazeed ibn Muawiya, the Caliph, started to worry that she would turn the people of Madinah against him, so he told Zainab and her family to leave Madinah. He told them to go wherever they wanted but they must leave Madinah. So Zainab (she is 52 at this time) and her family packed and cried as they left their beloved city and went to Egypt.

The people of Egypt love the Prophet’s  family so they came out in crowds to welcome her and they gifted her a large beautiful house to live in. However Zainab being the person that she is, took a small room for her family and opened up the rest of the house for orphans and the needy, old and weak.

Zainab passed away a year after moving to Egypt. She is just another incredible role model for us Muslim women today.

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Here is why I said that she is someone I want to emulate this Ramadan:

*I have heard many people complain that our religion defines a woman’s role as being a wife and a mother and because of how much good deeds a woman receives in this role. But here is a story about a sister and the roles of a sister. Zainab was a mother and wife but her story is more about what kind of sister and daughter she was. For Muslim women married or not married, your role as a sister is so great. This role is so important that Fatima chose it to be her dying wish that her daughter learn about how important being a sister is.  Look at the elevation Islam gives to a woman no matter what her situation is. If you are married but have no children, you have the great example of Aishah. If you are married with children you have the great example of Khadijah. If you are not married, you have the great example of Zainab bint Ali who glorifies the role of the daughter and the sister in Islam. No matter what your situation is, you are so honored in our religion and you have an important role to play.

*It’s very important to note that Hassan, Hussin, and Ali’s most trusted advisor was a women-Zainab. What more can you say about the importance of a woman’s opinion when some of the greatest men in our history looked to a woman for advice?

*Don’t you love how Abdullah put Zainab’s needs first? He knew her passion was to help people and he supported her in that. When she needed to help her brother, he told her he would watch the children so she could do what she needed to do. What a great husband! Another thing to note is that Abdullah was a very successful businessman and he became very rich. However, they used their wealth to do good and Zainab was able to help more people because of it. It reminded me of a duaa that I heard the other day:

.يارَبْ إذا أعطيتني مَالاً فلا تأخذ سَعادتي

وإذا أعَطيتني قوّة فلا تأخذ عّقليْ

وإذا أعَطيتني نجَاحاً فلا تأخذ تَواضعْي

وإذا أعطيتني تواضعاً فلا تأخذ اعتزازي بِكرامتي

يارَبْ عَلمّنْي أنْ أحبّ النَاسْ كَما أحبّ نَفسْي

وَعَلّمني أنْ أحَاسِبْ نَفسْي كَما أحَاسِبْ النَاسْ

وَعَلّمنْي أنْ التسَامح هَو أكْبَر مَراتب القوّة

وَأنّ حبّ الانتقام هَو أولْ مَظاهِر الضعْفَ

يارَبْ لا تدعني أصَاب بِالغرور إذا نَجَحْت وَلا باليأس إذا فْشلت

بَل ذكّرني دائِـماً أن الفَشَل هَو التجَارب التي تسْـبِق النّجَاح

يارَبْ إذا جَرَّدتني مِن المال فاتركْ لي الأمل

وَإذا جَرّدتني مِنَ النجَّاح فاترك لي قوّة العِنَاد حَتّى أتغلب عَلى الفَشل

وَإذا جَرّدتني مَن نعْمة الصَّحة فاترك لي نعمة الإيمان

يارَبْ إذا أسَأت إلى الناس فَاعْطِني شجَاعَة الاعتذار

وإذا أسَاء لي النَّاس فاعْطِنْي شجَاعَة العَفْوَ

وإذا نَسيْتك يَارَبّ أرجو أن لا تنسَـاني مَنْ عَفوِك وَحْلمك

فأنت العَظيْم القَـهّار القَادِرْ عَـلى كُـلّ شيء

لئن سألتني يا رب عن ذنبي يوم القيامة لأسألنك عن رحمتك

و لئن سألتني يا رب عن تقصيري لأسألنك عن عفوك

** أني أحبك **

فاجْعَلْني عَبْداً إِمَّا طَائِعاً فَأَكْرَمْتَهُ

وَإِمَّا عَاصِياً فَرَحمِتَهُ

Oh Allah, if you make me rich, do not deprive me of happiness.

If you grant me strength, do not take away my mind.

If you make me successful, do not deprive me of modesty.

If you make me modest, do not deprive me of my pride and dignity.

Oh Allah, teach me to love others as much as I love myself.

Teach me to judge myself before I judge others.

Teach me that tolerance is the greatest strength.

And that vengeance is the first sign of weakness.

Oh Allah, if you grant me success, do not blind me by vanity.

Do not make me despair if I fail.

Please let me always remember that failure precedes success.

Oh Allah, if you deprive me of my wealth, do not let me despair.

If you take away my success, give me the strength to overcome failure.

If you deprive me of good health, do not deprive me of faith.

Oh Allah, if I hurt others, give me the strength to apologize.

If people hurt me, give me the strength to forgive.

If I am oblivious to Thee, do not deprive me of Your Forgiveness and Patience.

Oh Allah, You are the All-Powerful, All-Merciful and All-Capable. Ameen.

*Another thing to think about was that Zainab had what we could call a career in social work. She ran these shelters and helped people in the community. She had to balance that with taking care of her house and her family. No different than many of us today.

*The more Zainab went through, the more she gave. Then she suffered some more and gave some more. Her way of dealing with her pain was to help others alleviate theirs and in my opinion that is the most healthiest way to get through a hard time.  She could have become bitter from losing so many loved ones but instead she kept her heart soft. This is something that we should learn from. If you are going through a hard time, donate, volunteer, do something positive. If nothing but to see that there are other people who are worse off than you and it will help you appreciate your blessings and see your problems as something small and easy to deal with.

*Look at how young Zainab was when she started to help. Walah I always say we underestimate our youth. Imagine how much her character, leadership skills and self esteem were built when she was able to manage and help so many people at such a young age. What can your kids do? What can you do? There is no age to start. And you don’t need money either. Think outside the box. When you take one step towards Allah he will come running to you.

* “And I choose to be patient and rely on the word of Allah.” Zainab’s situation and her reaction when she lost her brother and son in the war made me think of all the extraordinary mothers and sisters and daughters in Syria. In Palestine. Of all the Muslims in Burma. In Bahrain. In Somalia. And all over the world where Muslims are suffering.

May Allah give them the patience of Zainab and may Allah alleviate their pain. Allah has such a great reward for those who are patient. They are all in our duaas.  If you know someone in those countries, remind them of the duaa that Zainab reminded her husband.

اللهم إني عبدك ابن عبدك ابن أمتك ناصيتي بيدك ماضٍ فيَّ حكمك عدلٌ فيَّ قضاؤك أسألك بكل اسم هو لك سميت به نفسك أو أنزلته في كتابك أو علمته أحداً من خلقك أو استأثرت به في علم الغيب عندك أن تجعل القرآن ربيع قلبي ونور صدري وجلاء همي وذهاب غمي

“Allahumma inni abduka ibn abdika ibn amatija nasyati bi yadika, mada fiyya hukmuka, adlun fiyya qada’uka. As’aluka bi kulli ismin huwa laka sammayta bihi nafsaka aw anzaltu fi kitabika aw ‘allamtahu ahadan min khalqika aw ista’tharta bihi fi ilm il-ghayb indaka an taj’al al-Qurana rabee’ qalbi wa noor sadri wa jala huzni wa dhihab hammi”

O Allah! I am your slave , son of your slave, son of your maidservant; my forelock is in Your hand, Your command over me is forever executed and Your decree over is just. I ask you by every name belonging to You which You have named Yourselves with, or revealed in Your Book, or You taught to any of Your creation, or You have preserved in the knowledge of the unseen with You, that You make the Quran the life of my heart and the light of my breast, and a departure for my sorrow and a release for my anxiety.

“Amr Khalid-With the Tabbiyin-8- Lady Zainab.” YouTube. YouTube, 08 Aug. 2011. Web. 15 July 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNeCIxbnhGo>.

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Comments

  1. […] reaction to her pain and loss was to give back more, in the same way that Zainab bint Ali dealt with her pain. It seems that this message is being sent to us over and over again. And at this […]

  2. I remember the episode of Amr Khaled, all his programs are great ! Thanks for reminding this story

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