Who was Zaynab? Why do we look up to her? She was the granddaughter of Prophet Muhammad and Khadija, the daughter of Fatima az-Zahraa and Ali, the sister of the Youths of Paradise, Hassan and Hussein, and the beloved aunt of Imam Ali Zayn al Abideen. With such a blessed family, Zaynab had such perfect examples to look up to.
A narration says that Zaynab's characteristics represented each of her family members: in her seriousness and calmness she was Khadija; in her modesty and pureness her mother Fatimah; in her meaningfulness, her father Imam Ali; in her restraint and capacity to endure, her brother Imam Hassan; and in courage and lion-hearted, her brother Imam Hussein.
Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said to Fatima
"My dear child, this child of mine, Zaynab, would be confronted with a thousand and one calamities and face serious hardships in Karbala."
We have been aware of her actions and speeches through a dramatic event in her life: The Massacre of Karbala. We were able to see how she reflected the light of Ahl-ul-Bayt, and her love for them. Imam Hussein and Zaynab actions' during afflicted times showed us what they really stood for and meant. Imam Hussein gave his life for the sake of Islam, and Zaynab was there to stand up to his words, to defend them, and carry it on with the symbolism of her patience.
After the tragic battle of Karbala, no one was left (accept her weak nephew), to stand up to the oppression and speak the truth. In this case for Zaynab, it was an obligation for her to stand up to the tyranny Yazid.
Now knowing the life of Zaynab and the tragedies of Karbala that she went through, how many of us are actually thankful for today? Thankful in knowing that she stood up and spoke out to make sure there would be a tomorrow for Islam, Ahl-ul-Bayt, and so we could have the honorable title as Shia. Always remember how Zaynab stood up to the enemies with the characteristics of Ahl-ul-Bayt in her.
All those who have visited Damascus will vouch that the shrine of Sayyedah Zainab (A.S.) stands as a succor for citizens of the Syrian capital like that of her grandfather Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) for the people of Madinah. At the sight of her sprawling mausoleum, heads are lowered in obeisance, while hearts are filled with reverence. Lips begin to move fervently with the phrase: "Peace upon you O' (grand) daughter of the Prophet of Allah and Khadija. Peace upon you O' daughter of of the Commander of the Faithful and Fatima az-Zahra. Peace upon you O' sister of the Youths of Paradise, Imam Hasan and Imam al-Husayn. Peace upon you O' Zaynab ..."
The standard salutation for this great lady is long and full of eloquently moving phrases that stand as firm testimony to her role in preserving the values of life and Islam. Those interested are advised to read her ziyarat-namah in the original Arabic along with the translation in order to have a proper perspective of the Heroine of Karbala, whose birth anniversary (5th Jamadi al-Awwal) is celebrated in Islamic Iran as Nurse Day.
But it would be a gross injustice and disrespect for the lady Zaynab (A.S.) if we were to limit her struggle to the mere duties of a paramedic who takes care of the patients and helps them in their recovery.
Nay! The Prophet's grand daughter was a paragon of virtue in every sphere, to the extent that she is often called Sharikat al-Husayn (Associate in the Mission of Imam al-Husayn(A.S.)). The fact that her nephew, Imam Zayn al-Abedeen (A.S.), referred to her as "O' Aunt! You are a savant without having learned from anyone," speaks volumes of the wisdom and knowledge of the lady whose eloquent sermons in the courts of Kufa and Damascus, brought back memories of her illustrious father, Imam Ali (A.S.).
No nurse has ever been called Aqeelatuna (Our Wise Lady) by her community as Zaynab (A.S.) was addressed by the Bani Hashem. Likewise, no nurse, however committed, will sacrifice her own sons for any cause. Yet Zaynab did. And when she was informed by her brother that both the youths, Aun and Muhammad, had drank the elixir of martyrdom for the sake of Islam, she prostrated on the field of Karbala in thanksgiving to the Almighty Allah, for having bestowed her such favors.
This is not to degrade the profession of the paramedics, who ought to learn the tenets of faith first before calling themselves humanitarian. And if they do, in Zaynab (A.S.), they will certainly find a model par excellence to mold their life upon and attain salvation in the hereafter. After the tragedy of Karbala when she was taken as captive along with the children and womenfolk of the Prophet's Household to the court of the tyrants, she did not feel the least subdued. It was her indomitable spirit, which shook the bases of tyranny to their very foundations and made a terrified Yazid release the Ahl ul-Bait.
The first thing she did was to hold the mourning ceremony for the martyrs of Karbala in Damascus in order to enlighten people of the mission of Imam al-Husayn(A.S.)- A mission against political injustice and social corruption which the libertine Yazid had tried in vain to obliterate.
Zaynab (A.S.) thus institutionalized the commemoration of the tragedy of Ashura which the faithful have continued to observe ever since during the months of Muharram and Safar. In this way she nursed Islam and humanitarian values back to life.
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of the Chief of prophets
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of Fatima, the radiant
Peace be upon you, Oh pious, pure one.