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Demise and Mausoleum of Janabe Zainab al-Kubra (s.a.)

Janabe Zainab al-Kubra (s.a.) was a reflection of Janabe Zahra (s.a.), associate of Imam Husain (a.s.) in his responsibilities of Imamat, supporter to Imam Zain al-Abideen (a.s.), the pioneer of Azadaari, the protector of the magnanimous Islamic Shariat, the inheritor of Haider and Ja’far, the ornament of Abbas and Aqeel, the aunt of Akbar and Asghar, mother of Aun and Muhammad and the mother of all sufferings! The time for her to depart had arrived after having endured all the calamities which neither the heavens could bear nor the earth, neither mountains had that capacity nor oceans had the depth to tolerate such tribulations but never did she bring utter a word of complain; rather, she was always thankful (to Allah). When the accursed Ibn Ziyad asked her about the events in Karbala, “What do you feel about whatever happened to your family?” She retorted:

“I have not seen anything but goodness. Allah ordained martyrdom for some people and they ascended towards their resting places willingly. Allah will gather them (on the Day of Judgement) and you will argue with them. The matter will be decided there. Then you will see who is honored and successful. O Son of Marjanah! May your mother weep over you!”

When all responsibilities were fulfilled, the news of martyrdom of Imam Husain (a.s.) and his faithful companions broke out among the masses, mournful gatherings were established in Kufa, Syria, Karbala and Madinah, the foundation of Azadari were strongly laid, the time to meet the Lord of the Kingdoms and Heavens had arrived. The appointed time of joining her forefathers and brothers beneath the Divine Empyrean was finally here. Crushed under calamities yet possessing unbending will of Mount Tur, the blessed soul of Janabe Zainab (s.a.) carried by the noblest divine angels reached the highest grades in heaven in the presence of the family of Prophethood and Messengership. When the pure soul of Janabe Zainab (s.a.) would have reached them and when her grandfather, parents and brothers would have inquired about her sufferings, upon hearing her response, the condition of the five infallibles (a.s.) would be unimaginable.

There are various records concerning the demise of Janabe Zainab (s.a.). A question often posed is – why is there a contradiction in the dates of births and martyrdom? The reply to this is –

  1. The way a birth date or the date of passing away is registered these days, there was no such system earlier. The date on which information about the birth or death was circulated was assumed to be actual date. It is quite possible that the definite date would be much prior to it.
  2. Enemies of Ahle Bait (a.s.) were dominant in those days. There was a strict ban on narrating anything about Ahle Bait (a.s.); rather, punishments were imposed. Those who were harboured by the rulers would narrate these unwillingly and obviously they wouldn’t report the correct dates.
  3. More often than not, people from the Ahle Bait (a.s.) would be victims of oppression by the tyrant rulers. Since the news of death would be accompanied by revealing the injustice of the oppressors, such information was not commonly relayed.
  4. Despite these difficulties and restrictions, virtues of Ahle Bait (a.s.) and more so the information about their sufferings and tribulations being so commonly known are not short of any miracle.

There are two records mentioned about the demise of Janabe Zainab (s.a.) in history. In Arabic books and as per the calendar published and circulated by the office of his eminence Grand Ayatullah Syed Ali Sistani (may Allah grant him long life) and the Islah Calendar, the date recorded is 15 Rajab, 63 or 65 A.H. Islah has one more date recorded as 6 Jamaadi al-Awwal, 65 A.H. However, the Khoja calendar mentions the date as 16 Zilhajj. Nevertheless, differences in the dates do not impact the actual death and its grief.

Mourning of Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) on the Death Anniversary of Janabe Zainab (s.a.)

The author of the book ‘Khasaais-e-Zainabiyyah’ Ayatullah Syed Noorullah Jazaaeri has narrated the following incident on the authority of Shaikh Muhammad Baqir Naaeni, the author of ‘Al-Kibreet al-Ahmar’:

“When I was studying in the Islamic Seminary of Najaf, I saw a very pious and devout Syed who didn’t know to read and write. One day during his visit to the mausoleum of Ameerul Momineen (a.s.), he saw a Turkish pilgrim engrossed in recitation of the Holy Quran at every corner of the shrine. This left a deep impression on that Syed and he said to himself, ‘this Turk is reciting the Holy Quran in such a beautiful manner. This is the book of your ancestor Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and you are deprived of it yourself. Post this the Syed utilized some of the remaining part of his day in offering water to the pilgrims of the holy shrine and some part in learning to read and write. After toiling hard, gradually he reached a stage where he was attending the final lessons (Dars-e-Khaarij) of Ayatullah al-Uzma Mirza Muhammad Hasan Shirazi (exp. 1313 A.H.) and himself attained the level of Ijtehaad.

That pious and devout Syed recounts: Once I saw Hazrat Vali-e-Asr Saheb al-Zaman (a.t.f.s.) in my dream; he was crying. I went into his holy presence, was privileged to offer salutations to him and inquire from him the reason for his grief and weeping. Hazrat (a.t.f.s.) replied: This day my aunt Zainab (s.a.) left the world. On this day, angels organize a mourning gathering for Janabe Zainab (s.a.) and they wail by recounting her sermons. They will continue to weep over her till I do not go and personally console them.”

[Zainab al-Kubra by Syed Abul Qasim Deebaji, p. 220]

It is evident from this incident that mourning the death of Janabe Zainab (s.a.) is extremely dear to Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) and the angels.

Scholars have recorded the demise of Janabe Zainab (a.s.) to be in 62 A.H. Some have also mentioned 65 A.H. which means she was alive for only one year or maximum 4 years after the event of Karbala. It is quite obvious that a lady who had witnessed the entire tragedy of Karbala with her own eyes, seen the mutilated bodies of her sons, brothers and nephews, observed the dismembered body of Imam Husain (a.s.) drenched in mud and blood, how could she have ever been at peace! When our hearts are restless just by listening to the tragedy after a thousand years and it becomes difficult for us to bear it patiently, give a thought to the condition of that loving sister. Perhaps the tragic scenes of Karbala would always hover around her eyes with an ocean of tears ceaselessly welled up her eyes. One solitary distress is enough to break a person, what can one say about the grief of 18 members of the Bani Hashim.

The Holy Shrine of Janabe Zainab (s.a.)

There are three views concerning the shrine of Janabe Zainab (s.a.):

  1. Buried in Baqi, Madinah
  2. Buried in Cairo, Egypt
  3. Buried 7 km from Damascus, Syria which is famously known ‘Sayyedah Zainab’ today

The proof to support the first view is that after returning from Karbala, when Janabe Zainab (s.a.) entered Madinah, the city of her grandfather Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), she remained there till her last breath and did not go anywhere.

Had her grave been in Madinah, the traditions of Ahle Bait (a.s.) would have alluded to this. Like other infallibles in Jannat al-Baqi, there would be some signs and mention of her grave as well.

Supporting the second view, it is said that after returning from Karbala, Janabe Zainab (s.a.) used to constantly narrate about the calamities befalling her brother Imam Husain (a.s.) and the atrocities of the accursed Yazid. This resulted in development of a sense of anger, anguish and revolt against Yazid among the common people. The governor of Madinah, Amr Ibn Saeed al-Ashdaq, informed Yazid of this. Yazid wrote back to him and ordering her separation from the people and exile her into some other city away from Madinah. When political pressure mounted upon Janabe Zainab (s.a.) and it was difficult for her to remain in Madinah, she left for Egypt and stayed there until her demise. The people of Egypt respected her a lot and as per her will, they recited her funeral prayers in the grand mosque and buried her in her house itself.

All we can say in this regard is that there is no reliable historical evidence of her grave being in Egypt. The shrine in Cairo belongs to Zainab Bint Yahya al-Mutawwaj Ibn Hasan al-Anwar Ibn Zaid Ibn al-Hasan Ibn Ali Ibn Abi Talib (s.a.) and not Zainab al-Kubra (s.a.).

Moreover, the famous historian Ibn al-Ansaari has enlisted the renowned shrines in Egypt in his book ‘al-Kaukab al-Yasaarah’ but has not included Janabe Zainab (s.a.) in that list while 11 other women by the name Zainab have been referenced in it. Therefore, had Janabe Zainab (s.a.) been buried in Cairo then it would have surely been mentioned.

The evidence of the third view being true is that firstly, the shrine in Damascus has an ancient history associated to it. Secondly, the grand-daughter of Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (a.s.) and the daughter-in-law of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (a.s.) Syeda Nafisa Bint Hasan Ibn Zaid Ibn Hasan Ibn Ali (s.a.) traveled for the pilgrimage of this shrine in Syria. Thirdly, numerous historians have reported that when the dome of this shrine was demolished in 1302 A.H. the governor of Damascus began developing this shrine with the help of a few Syrian businessmen. During the reconstruction, human sized slab of stone was discovered upon which was engraved:

“This is the grave of Zainab Bint Ali Ibn Abi Talib… this is the place of her demise and this is the same place where she was buried when she came to Syria for the second time.”

[Zainab al-Kubra by Abul Qasim Deebaji, p. 230]

Fourthly, had the blessed grave and noble shrine of Janabe Zainab (s.a.) not been in Damascus, fanatics like the Wahhabis and ISIS (Daaesh) would not have bombarded it. These enemies of Ahle Bait (a.s.) troubled them not just during their lifetime but even after their demise, they have continuously attacked their shrines thereby proving their deep rooted hatred for them (a.s.).

Fifthly, Emphasis and Support by Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.)

Marhoom Janab Muhammad Reza Siqaazadeh in the preface of his book ‘Al-Khasaais al-Zainabiyyah’ has narrated this incident on the authority of Marhoom Ayatullah Ziya Iraqi (whose students include prominent Maraaje’) that a believer from Qateef (Saudi Arabia) traveled to Mashhad al-Moqaddas to visit the shrine of Imam Reza (a.s.). All his provisions were stolen in the journey. He was roaming about lonely and upset in the wilderness. When he was surrounded by calamities, he raised a cry for help to the Master of the worlds Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.), pleaded and sought mediation from him. Suddenly, he was blessed with a visit by an illuminating personality. He handed over some money to him and said, “You will reach Saamarraa with the help of this. In Saamarraa, go to our representative Haaj Mirza Hasan Shirazi and tell him that he has some of our monetary rights. Tell him to grant you a sufficient amount with which you can visit my grandfather Imam Ali Reza (a.s.).”

That believer narrates: Since I was so distressed at that time, I just didn’t pay any attention to who that Syed was and where did he come from. However, I did seek clarity from him that if Haaj Shirazi inquired from me about you, what should be my response?

He replied: You tell him that I am Syed Mahdi. You and Mulla Ali Kuli Tehrani were in Syria this summer and were blessed with the pilgrimage to the shrine of my aunt Janabe Zainab (s.a.). There was a sea of visitors who had strewn too much grain to the pigeons. At that time, both of you removed your respective cloaks and were sweeping the courtyard of the shrine and collecting all the scattered grains in one corner. Thereafter Mulla Ali Kuli Tehrani picked up the grains and was stepping out of the shrine. I stood there observing you both.”

The believer from Qateef recounts that the moment I narrated this incident to Mirza Hasan Shirazi, his condition changed. He embraced me, kissed my forehead, honored me and gave me enough provisions to reach Khorasan.

After a few days, that believer went to Tehran and met Mulla Ali Kuli Tehrani. He narrated the incident to him too. He too confirmed it but expressed his grief over the fact that Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) sent a message to Mirza Shirazi and did not consider him worthy of it.

[Zainab al-Kubra, pp. 231 – 233]

Apart from this, all those instances, blessings and miracles which are consistently manifested in the shrine of Janabe Zainab (s.a.) are proof in themselves that her mausoleum is in Syria.

O Allah! Grant us the opportunity of visiting the shrine of Janabe Zainab (s.a.) and other shrines of Ahle Bait (a.s.). Bless us with their intercession and their esteemed company on the Day of Qiyamat. Aameen!