Janabe Zainab (s.a.) on the Day of Aashuraa

Allah’s Will

Allah the Almighty says: Call upon Me and I shall answer you. Prophets, Messengers and their deputies (peace be on them all) kept appearing one after the other to remove the grievances of the distressed ones. This practice continues till date and will continue till the Day of Judgment, in some way or the other. The pivotal or central point of this protracted era was the day of Aashuraa. It is an institution which has established itself as a guiding force and is responsible for the existence and safety of the Divine system. On the other hand, it functions as a lighthouse which will unvaryingly help humanity at every step, acting as a saviour so that on the day when deeds will be accounted for, in words of the renowned poet Allamah Iqbal:

“May I bite the dust if I have a complaint against Allah, there is nothing left to be justified.”

Political Vendetta for acquiring Power

What! Will You appoint a Caliph on the earth, who will cause bloodshed in it?” This was the voice that stood out from the gathering of the angels when Allah had announced the appointment of Hazrat Adam (a.s.). The Satan, while opposing the move said, “I am better than him.” This came from the one who had superseded other celestial beings in the worship of his Lord. Any knowledgeable or thoughtful person cannot controvert the audacity of the Satan, who stood up to Allah, the Creator of the worlds. Allah, Just that He is, decided to give the Satan respite till an appointed time in which he would misguide and instigate the creation. As a consequence of Allah’s unbounded mercy, the Satan was dismissed from the Divine Presence.

Since Qaabeel, who along with the Satan played with Haabeel’s dead body for hundred years, the rights of the innocent ones have been exploited through political machinations. It wasn’t just in the dark ages when horses would trod in rivers of blood, now it is bombs and poisonous gasses which are pulling down or setting alight houses of the defenseless ones. Innocent children, if they are still alive, are clinging on to the chest of their mothers.

In the pre and post Karbala era (by which I mean the day of Aashuraa), it is the Prophets, Imams and their followers, who have faced oppression and have always unflinchingly countered the evil forces and will continue to do so.

The day of Aashuraa is a manifestation of Allah’s Glory, which was the soul of the messages delivered by the truthful guides and for centuries gone by till the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.), it will shine brightly like the sun due to the prayers of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.a.). Let’s look at it briefly. Briefly because Karbala was declared as a place of submission and satisfaction due to two personalities — Imam Husain (a.s.) the grandson of the Last Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Janabe Zainab (s.a.) — who was the inheritor of Janabe Fatima Zahra (s.a.), Janabe Aasiyah, Janabe Maryam and Janabe Hawwa (peace be upon them all).

The character displayed by Janabe Zainab (s.a.) on the day of Aashuraa is a paradigm set for all the women of Islam, a standard which is simply incomparable. Not exaggerating but every moment of her life on that particular day — her resolve, bravery, patience, guardianship, staying within Islamic boundaries, preaching religious responsibilities, immaculateness, infallibility, respectability, dignity and every praiseworthy quality present in a divinely appointed guide, was demonstrated by her in the face of absolute disheartening adversity. It is a divine benchmark for all the women of the world, which has been written with light from the blood of Allah (Imam Husain (a.s.)), on the pages of fatal thirst.

Unfortunately, people with good articulation, intellect, insight and strong memory though dwelling within the boundaries of Islam feign ignorance about Karbala, even though the truth is as clear as the daylight. Thick veils of fanaticism have obscured rationality and common sense, and for that the resolve and roles played by women in nationwide struggle has not been well documented. An Aligarh University writer has written extensively on the brave ladies in Islam. In religions other than Islam, one can find thousand examples. One of the biggest tragedies of Islam is that the justice friendly activists of Bani Hashim — the paragons of bravery, epitome of patience and independence, gloriously generous, self-sacrificing — have been victims of bigotry by the orators.

Thus replying to this, the late Parwana Rudaulvi has given a befitting retort by writing the book Karbala ki bahadur khawateen (The Brave Ladies of Karbala).

Saani-e-Zahra, Janabe Zainab (s.a.) was the leader of such ladies who actively and wholly assisted and helped her brother in his mission in the afternoon of Aashuraa and post it, till the night of Aashuraa, shielded and protected the Imam of the time, Imam Zainul Aabedeen (a.s.) all by herself. On one hand was her outspoken purity and chastity and on the other saving 38 orphans of martyrs. A poet has summed it up beautifully in these words, “Zainab (s.a.) was at times Abbas (a.s.) and at times Lion of Allah, Ali (a.s.).”

Dear readers, the trying circumstances faced by the progeny of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) on the day of Aashuraa are gut-wrenching as to how Janabe Zainab (s.a.) fortified the forlorn.

Poet Josh Maleehabadi has given a glimpse of this heartrending view in a poem.

“There was a heat wave, the sun was beating down

A sea of red and yellow was twisting and turning restlessly

Thirst, heat, turmoil, a fearful anxiety

This state of Muslims and the family of Abu Turab

For what crime did you mete out the punishment to them?

Did Fatima (s.a.) raise them for this day?

This was the moment of examination which had arrived for Imam Husain (a.s.) when the divine voice would say “return” and at this point of time the persona of Janabe Zainab (s.a.) was scripting history every moment, which has been described by Josh Maleehabadi:

“When the sun was descending post noon

The joy of worship was thriving in the Master’s heart restlessly

Someone came running from the tents and caught hold of the rein

Imamate succeeded in the assembly of Prophets

The musk blood was spilled on the thirsty sands

The blood from Islam’s heart started to flow on earth.”

In the above stanza, the God-given bravery and courage of Janabe Zainab (s.a.) emerges in entirety. It was Janabe Zainab (s.a.) who had helped her brother mount his horse at the time of farewell. The battle took place, Imam Husain (a.s.) fought and Janabe Zainab (s.a.) witnessed the battle. And when Imam Husain (a.s.) was tested in the battlefield, strikes and blows from his sword had forced the Kufans and Syrians to retreat. Had Janabe Zainab (s.a.) not been a witness to this fight, then in a packed courtroom of Syria she wouldn’t have given Shimr (may Allah’s infinite curse be on him) a befitting and crushing riposte. “What are you saying O accursed one! When my brother Husain (a.s.) had attacked, you and your entire army crashed into the walls of Kufa?” This too is a discussion about the war which qualifies as a one-sided battle. Has it ever happened that Imam Husain (a.s.), who was thirsty for three days, attacked a traitorous army said to be a minimum 30,000 to a maximum 120,000 in number, with a sword and there was no one in the tents barring one sister who was the leader and refuge of the group. Let us glance upon on how the dawn of Aashuraa broke and how its evening unfolded.

The Day of Aashuraa

Let us see what role Janabe Zainab (s.a.) played from the dawn of Aashuraa till dusk. The kind of trials and tribulations she patiently withstood, no human can even imagine, let alone endure it.

Dawn had set in and the sun was spreading its rays on earth. The prayer call given by Janabe Ali Akbar (a.s.) had already graced the atmosphere. The loyal companions had finished offering their morning prayers behind their Imam. Janabe Saeed (a.s.) had ensured that the worshippers had completed their prayers by taking countless arrows on his chest after which, he breathed his last due to the wounds he suffered.

It came to a point when Imam (a.s.) had started to get busy. In words of a poet:

At times he lifted the dead bodies, at times he wept

Husain was busy doing this all day

On this day the special elements of Islamic culture upheld their values and the entire culture manifested itself. Here, the character of Janabe Zainab (s.a.) shines brightly which we present in a nutshell.

Janabe Zainab (s.a.) and Islamic culture

There are two areas on which the fundamentals of Islamic culture stands. One part is concerning hijab, and other about the behavior of men outside their homes which has various facets. For example, Islam has laid down the culture and tradition of marriage, business, borrowing and lending, agriculture and other economic and social functionalities of men separate from that of women. Both genders carry out their duties in their own respective fields based on the guidelines drawn by Shariah (religious codes).

It is an extensive topic which has been well-documented and manifested but its summary is that the entire Islamic way of life, individually and collectively, has been constitutionalized, based on the pure life and traditions of the Seal of Prophets, Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and the Holy Quran. Moreover, under its aegis is the area of women’s actions, home making, upbringing of children, staying socially connected with other women, promoting religious knowledge within them, etc.

Then, responsibilities of men outside the confines of homes have many activities regarding society, economics and different fields. One categorical difference between Islam and other religions is that Islamic laws and government laws are cut from the same cloth. In other faiths, religion has been separated from governance. For further details one can refer to the works of scholars who specialize in the field of research and analysis. For the followers of Shia faith, Tauzeeh al-Masaael is a comprehensive code of conduct.

The Day of Aashuraa

In the light of these thoughts there are certain questions that spring to mind and when answers to it are provided, it provides solace to the heart.

  1. Does the battle of Karbala come across as a perennial battle?
  2. Was it a one-sided battle?
  3. Did the fleet of lancers, archers, infantry, cavalry or the leaders of Yazeed’s (l.a.) army draw the battle lines?
  4. What was the plot behind deploying guards at the river first?
  5. There were only soldiers in Yazeed’s (l.a.) army, it was organized, arms were procured, one platoon backing the other.
  6. There were no women, children nor youngsters of bright upbringing found in Yazeed’s (l.a.) army.


  1. The battle of Karbala: Imam Husain (a.s.) entered Karbala with a caravan. There is no historical evidence present that Imam Husain (a.s.) had come with a premediated intentions to wage a war.
  2. Day of Aashuraa: This affable group of Bani Hashim was projected as warriors who had no intention to fight i.e. in this ploy of one-sided battle the entire Islamic way of life was pitted against the marauders of Islam whose aim was that if Imam Husain (a.s.) was defeated, Islam would become a victim of dirty politics, a feeling which was testified by a dying Amr ibn Aas in form of his poem titled Qasidah al-Juljuliyah (refer al-Ghadeer by Allamah Amini r.a.).

A caravan led by Imam Husain (a.s.) was stopped, and on the day of Aashuraa, Imam Husain (a.s.) left a universal imprint of the Islamic way of life to the world and the light of Islam started to spread.

Janabe Zainab (s.a.)

There has been no such instance in history and there will never be. A powerful army was left so frightened by a small group of warriors that after plundering Madinah (the incident of Hurrah), the forces of Yazeed (l.a.) did not dare to even look towards the locality of Bani Hashim. Imam Husain (a.s.) through his Islamic culture, which he had inherited from the Prophets (a.s.), fought so valiantly with this huge army that expert scholars were left dumbfounded when it came to understanding Imam Husain’s (a.s.) determination. Karbala is the manifestation of the manner in which his grandfather (s.a.w.a.) had established the Islamic way of life. Let us examine a couple of factors. Outside the tents, in the battleground Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) was following closely, waiting for Imam’s orders. On the other hand, the pure and chaste women and approximately 38 innocent children were dying of thirst. Their lips had turned purple, their faces were swollen but every one of them awaited Janabe Zainab’s (s.a.) orders. Just like Hazrat Abbas (a.s.), Janabe Umme Kulsoom (s.a.), too, was obeying Janabe Zainab’s (s.a.) commands.

From dawn till noon, the faithful companions had embraced martyrdom for their master. Their mortal remains were arranged in an orderly manner. No history book or report says that any of the ladies stepped out of the tents in bewilderment complaining about the dreadful circumstances. This organization, this system, this spirit of self-sacrifice was due to the character, truthfulness, teachings and affability of Janabe Zainab (s.a.).

As the sun journeyed from dawn to noon, the young men from Bani Hashim, about whom Mir Anees says:

The light of all their faces were in the highest celestial sphere

A bouquet of 18 suns was lying on the ground

One after the other they were martyred and not even Ali Asghar (a.s.) was spared.

He dug up a small grave, buried Asghar in it,

Shabbir stood up, dusting the edges of his cloak.

It came to a point that the afternoon sun started to spit fire. Imam Husain (a.s.) was left alone. The unwell Imam Sajjad (a.s.) was in a state of prostration. At times he would get into a state of unconsciousness. Children, who were estimated to be 38 in number, had empty water-skins in their hands. They would at times shut their eyes due to weakness and at times ask for water in their frail voices. It is not possible to describe the condition of those pious and chaste ladies when the animals, too, were left half-dead.  In these circumstances, to take stock of every tent, take care of children, to advise patience, Janabe Zainab (s.a.) was the in charge of the tents.

For instance, when the trampled remains of Janabe Qasim (a.s.) came into the tent, she grabbed hold of his mother, Umme Farwah’s arms in support. When Ali Akbar’s (a.s.) dead body arrived, she diverted Imam Husain’s (a.s.) attention by sharing the unbearable grief. She took care of Janabe Sakina (s.a.) when the severed arms of flagbearer Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) were brought in the tents. If looked at closely, Janabe Zainab (s.a.) was a manifestation of Allah’s Divine Power. There’s not a single sign which suggests that Janabe Zainab (s.a.) and Janabe Umme Kulsoom (a.s.) violated the Shariat while displaying their resilience.

One can gauge Janabe Zainab’s (s.a.) courage, resilience, and the support she provided Imam Husain (a.s.) through this couplet articulated by Mirza Dabeer.

When Husain (a.s.) left for the battle at noon

There was none who could hold still the rein of the horse

Sakina was dusting off the ends of the cloak

Husain (a.s.) stood quietly with his head bowed down

There was no support for the King of Karbala

It was only his sister who helped her brother mount the horse

One cannot imagine the growing responsibilities Janabe Zainab (s.a.) had to deal with following the martyrdom of Imam Husain (a.s.). Provisions were looted, tents were burnt down. The guardian of shariat, Janabe Zainab (s.a.) was heard asking the Imam of her time: “O the Imam of the time, should we die in the (burning) tents or come out?” Imam (a.s.) gave orders to exit the tents. All the womenfolk, led by Janabe Zainab (s.a.) came out of the tents. The sun had set and the evening of loneliness took over. The daughter of Ali (a.s.), along with Janabe Umme Kulsoom (s.a.) guarded the noble ladies and children.

That evening of Aashuar, the speaking battleground

The universe veiled with that sorrow

The tyrants had arranged for lights in their own tents

In the battleground, the light of grandson of Prophet lay extinguished.

This is Janabe Zainab (s.a.). This is her amazing character. For the everlasting system of shariat, a prostration in thanksgiving at every moment of grief, this is her personality.

Finally, there is a message. Today, if the character of Janabe Zainab (s.a.) can be adopted as a guiding light for our great and dignified ladies in matters of shariat, then our society will be successful in front of Imam (a.s.). O Allah! Hasten the reappearance of the one who will avenge the blood of Imam Husain (a.s.).