Zaynab: The Tree That Rose

Zaynab, a name that means both a father's adornment or beauty as well as a rose bearing tree, was the name of the daughter of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (May Allah be Pleased with Him) and the sister of Imam Al-Husayn (May Allah be Pleased with Him). This daughter of Fatimah (Peace & Blessings Be Upon Her) shines out as a paragon of speaking truth to power in the aftermath of the tragic events of Karbala. Our Prophet (Peace & Blessings Be Upon Him and His Family) and her grandfather advised us that the best form of struggle was "a word of truth in front of a tyrannical ruler" (Ahmad). In a time like ours it becomes an imperative to reflect upon the words of her famous sermon in front of the tyrant of her era, as we continue to struggle to find our communal voice.

When Yazid said the following:

"I wish my forefather at Badr had witnessed
How the Khazraj by the thorn annoyed,
They would have Glorified and Unified Allah
Then they would make Tahleel and say in elation:
"May your hands, O Yazid, never be paralyzed:"
We have killed the master of their chiefs
And equated it with Badr, and it was so, indeed
Hashim played with the dominion so indeed
No news came, nor was there a revelation revealed.
I do not belong to Khandaf of I do not
Seek revenge from Ahmed's children
For what he to us had done"

Zaynab (sa) reacted to these lines and delivered the following speech:

All Praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. Allah has blessed His
Messenger and all his Messenger's progeny. Allah, Glory to him, has said
the truth when he said, "Then the end those who committed evil was that
they disbelieved in Allah's signs and they were ridiculing them."(Quran,
30:10) Do you, O Yazid, think that when you blocked all the avenues
before us, so we were driven as captives, that we are light in the sight
of Allah and that you are superior to us? Or is it because you enjoy
with Him a great status, so you look down at us and become arrogant,
elated, when you see the world submissive to you and things are done as
you want them, and when our authority and power became all yours? But
wait! Have you forgotten that Allah has said, "Do not regards those who
disbelieved that we grant them good for themselves? We only give them a
respite so that they may increase their sins, and for them there is a
humiliating torment"(Quran 3:178)?

Is it fair, O son of Taleeq, that you keep your free as well as slave
women in their chambers and at the same time drive the daughter
of the Messenger of Allah as captive with their veils removed and faces
exposed, taken by their enemies from one land to another, being viewed
those at watering places as well as those who man your forts with their
faces exposed to the looks of every one near or distant, lowly or
honorable, having noen of their protectors with them nor any of their
men? But what can be expected from one whose mouths chewed the livers of
the purified ones and whose flesh grows out of the blood of the martyrs?
How can it be expected that one who looks at us with grudge and
animosity, with hatred and malice, would not hate us we Ahl-ul-Bayt(a.s)?
Besides you without feeling any guilt or weighing heavily what you say,
you recite saying:

"Then they would make Tahleel and say in elation: May your hands, O
Yazid never be paralyzed!"

How dare you hit the lips of Abu-Abdullah, the Master of youth of
paradise? But why should you not do so, since you stirred a wound that
almost healed, and since all mercy is removed from your heart, having
shed the blood of the offspring of the Muhammad, peace and blessing of
Allah be upon him and his progeny, and the stars on the earth from among
the family of Abdul-Muttalib? Then you cite your mentors as of you speak to
them… soon shall you be lodged with them, and soon shall you wish you
were paralyzed and muted and never said what you said or did what you

O Allah! Take what belong to us out of his hands, seek revenge against
all those who oppressed us, and let your Wrath descend upon whoever shed
our blood and killed our protectors! By Allah! You have burnt only your
own skin! You have cut only your own flesh! You shall come face to face
with the Messenger of Allah, peace of Allah be upon him and his progeny,
bearing the burden of blood which you have shed, the blood of his
offspring, and of his sanctities which you violated, the sanctities of
his women, his kinsfolk, his flesh and blood, when Allah gathers then
together and seek equity on their behalf. "And do not reckon those who
are slain in the Way of Allah as dead. Nay! They are living with their
Lord, receiving their sustenance"(Quran 3:169).

Allah suffices you as your judge and Muhammad, peace and blessing of
Allah be upon him and his progeny, as your opponent, and Gabriel as your
foe. All those who instigated you to do what you did and who put you in
charge so that you might play havoc with the lives of the Muslims, how
evil the end of the oppressors is and which of you shall have the worst
place and will be the least protected? Although calamities have forced me
to speak to you, I nevertheless see you small in my eyes and find your
verbal attack great, and I regard your rebuke too much to bear, but these
eyes are tearful, and the chests are filled with depression. What is
even stranger is that Taleeq party Satan is killing the honored party of
Allah. Such hands are dripping with our blood; such mouths are feeding
on our flesh, while those scared and pure corpses are offered as food to
the wild beast of the desert and are dirtied by the brutes. If you
regard us as your booty, you shall soon find us as your opponents, that
will be when you find nothing but what your hands had committed, and
your Lord never treats His servants unjustly. To Allah is my complaint,
and upon Him do I rely. So scheme what ever you wish to scheme, and
carry out your plots, and intensify your efforts, for by Allah, you
shall never be able to kill our inspiration, nor will your shame never
be washed away. Your view shall be proven futile, your days numbered,
and your wealth wasted on the Day when the caller calls out, "The curse of
Allah is upon the oppressors" (Qura'n 11:18). All praise is due to
Allah, Lord of the worlds, who sealed the life of our early ones with
happiness and forgiveness, and that of our last with martyrdom and
mercy. We plead to Allah to complete His rewards for them and grant them
an increase and make succession good for us; He is the most Merciful,
the most Compassionate. Allah suffices us, and how great He is!


1. Balāghatun Nisa', Abul Fazl Ahmad bin Abi Tahir, (208- 280 A.H.)
2. Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid. al-Irshad. p. 479 (Trans IKA Howard)


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