Karbala begins with Ashura

Zainab Karbala savior III.png

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Karbala does not end with Ashura. It begins with Ashura. Hussain ibn Ali’s (as) ordeal is over. The master of the martyrs has returned to his Lord, well pleased.

He chose death with dignity than life with humiliation. He gave blood to revive human values, to uproot despotism, to pave the ground for Islamic awakening and social reformation.

Zainab bint Ali’s (sa) ordeal has just begun. She will be paraded through the crowded markets of Kufa and Shaam, manacled and chained, along with other female members and children of the holy household. 

Zainab (sa) is no ordinary woman. She is the daughter of Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) and Fatima bint Mohammad (sa). She is Fasihah (skillfully fluent), Balighah (intensely eloquent) and Alimah Ghayr Mu’allamah (who has knowledge without being taught).

Her mission is equally important, to reveal the truth, to unmask the tyrants, to be an eloquent tongue of her brother’s blood.

Martyrs gave blood and now survivors have to convey the message of that blood to future generations. Zainab’s (sa) mandate is heavier than her brother’s mandate. If blood has no message, it remains unspoken in history.

As Dr. Ali Shariati reminds us, those who died committed a Hussainic act, those who remain must perform a Zainabic act. Hussain (as) is the martyr of Karbala and Zainab (sa) is the messenger of Karbala, the savior of Karbala. We have to choose either blood or the message, to be martyr like Hussain (as) or messenger like Zainab (sa).

The caravan Hussain (as) led from Medina to Karbala was led by Zainab (sa) from Karbala to Shaam. When the caravan halted in Kufa, Zainab courageously confronted the people of Kufa who had betrayed her brother.

“O people of Kufa! Do you know whose heart you have burned, what blood you have shed, and what sanctity you have violated? You have done a monstrous deed, something for which the heavens are about to split asunder and so is the earth, and for which the mountains crumble. You have done something most defaced, duskiest, most horrible as much as the fill of the earth and of the sky.”

When the caravan reached Yazeed’s court in Damascus, Zainab (sa) stood up and spoke with the valor and eloquence of her father. Her speech shook the foundation of Yazid’s empire.

“O Yazid! I swear by Allah that I do not fear anyone except Him and do not complain to anyone but Him. You may employ your deceit and trickery, but I swear by Allah the shame and disgrace you have earned by the treatment meted out to us cannot be eradicated”.

She protected the ailing son of her brother when the tents were set ablaze by the soldiers of Yazid. She consoled little children like Roqayya and Sukaina when everything that belonged to them was forcibly snatched away. Zainab was crestfallen with grief but she stood firm because the mandate given to her was heavy and she knew her responsibilities well.

Zainab wrote and recited marsiyas (poetic elegies) that jolted people out of their slumber and eventually led to the decline and fall of Yazidi empire. Today, nobody remembers Yazid, Ibn Ziyad, Umar Saad or Shimr. And everyone remembers Hussain  Abulfazl Abbas, Ali Akbar, Qasim, Asghar. Zainab is the savior of Karbala, who redefined patience and resilience.

Zainab (sa) kept alive the movement of Karbala and inspired future generations to unmask Yazids and Ibn Ziyads of their time.

Her courage, steadfastness and resilience gives sense of hope and optimism to those who believe in the righteousness of their cause, like the women in Kashmir, women in Yemen, women in Palestine, women in Syria, women in Afghanistan. They are the flagbearers of Zainab (sa) who have kept alive her legacy of resistance and resilience.

اسلام على قلب زینب الصبور و لسانها الشکور


About Zafar Mehdi
Maverick journalist, irreverent rebel, travel freak, cricket junkie, reluctant fundamentalist, student of life, dreamer, believer.

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