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{{Infobox descendant of Imam
{{Infobox descendant of Imam

Revision as of 12:37, 9 October 2016

Descendant of Imam
Al-Sayyida Zaynab (a)
حرم حضرت زینب.jpg
Shrine of Lady Zaynab (a), Damascus, Syria
Epithet 'Aqilat Bani Hashim, al-Kamila, al-Fadila
Father 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a)
Mother Fatima al-Zahra (a)
Birth Jumada I 5, 5 or 6/626 or 627
Place of Birth Medina
Spouse(s) 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far b. Abi Talib
Children 'Ali, al-'Abbas, 'Awn, Muhammad
Demise Rajab 15, 62/April 2, 682
Place of Burial Damascus
Age 57

Zaynab bt. ʿAlī (Arabic: زینب بنت علي) is the daughter of Imam Ali (a) and the Lady Fatima al-Zahra' (a). She was born in Medina in Jumada I 5, 5 or 6/October 5, 626 or September 25, 627. 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far was her husband.

She and her two sons accompanied Imam al-Husayn (a) in the Event of 'Ashura' where her two sons were martyred and she was taken as captive to Kufa and then to Damascus. Her sermons in Kufa and Damascus (in front of Yazid) are very famous. She passed away in 62/682.

Birth, Name, Title, and Lineage

She is the daughter of Imam 'Ali (a) and the Lady Fatima al-Zahra' (a).[1] Her most famous name is Zaynab, which literally means "a scenic tree"[2]. Zaynab is also a compound of two words "zayn" (adornment) and "ab" (father), meaning the adornment of the father.[3]

She was born in Jumada I 5, 5 or 6/October 5, 626 or September 25, 627 in Medina.[4]

According to several hadiths, the Prophet (s) named her Zaynab. It is said that Gabriel brought this name from God to the Prophet (s).[5]

When the Prophet (s) held her for the first time, he kissed her and said, "I advise the present and the absent of my Umma to honor and respect this girl as she looks like Khadija."[6]

Many titles have been reported for her such as 'Aqilat Bani Hashim (wise woman of Banu Hashim), 'Alima Ghayr Mu'allama (the scholar without being taught), al-'Arifa, al-Muwaththaqa (trustworthy), al-Fadila, al-Kamila (complete), 'Abida Al 'Ali (worshiper of the family of 'Ali), al-Ma'suma al-Sughra, Aminat Allah, Na'ibat al-Zahra' (representative of Zahra'), Na'ibat al-Husayn, 'Aqilat al-Nisa', Sharikat al-Shuhada', al-Baligha, al-Fasiha, and Sharikat al-Husayn.[7]

Due to the hardships she suffered during her life (demise of the Prophet (s), sufferings of her mother and her martyrdom, martyrdom of her father, Imam 'Ali (a), her brother, Imam al-Hasan (a), the Event of Karbala, martyrdom of her brother, Imam al-Husayn (a) and her two sons and her other relatives, going to Kufa and Damascus as a captive) she was titled as Umm al-Masa'ib (lit, mother of tragedies, referring to the numerous miseries she was inflicted with).[8]

Family tree of Ahl al-Bayt (a)
'Abd Allah
Lady Fatima
Imam Ali
Umm al-Banin
Imam al-Husayn
Imam al-Hasan
Lady Zaynab
Umm Kulthum
Abd Allah
Umm Kulthum
'Abd Allah
'Abd Allah
Imam al-Sajjad
'Ali al-Akbar
'Ali al-Asghar
Imam al-Baqir
Imam al-Sadiq
'Abd Allah
'Ubayd Allah
Imam al-Kazim
Umm Farwa
'Abd Allah
Imam al-Rida
Imam al-Jawad
Imam al-Hadi
Imam al-'Askari
Imam al-Mahdi

Husband and Children

Zaynab married 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far al-Tayyar (her cousin) in 17/638. She gave birth to four sons named: 'Ali, 'Awn, al-'Abbas and Muhammad, and one daughter named: Umm Kulthum.[9] Muhammad and 'Awn were martyred in Karbala.[10]

Mu'awiya asked to marry Yazid to Umm Kulthum but Imam al-Husayn (a) married her to al-Qasim b. Muhammad b. Ja'far b. Abi Talib (Umm Kulthum's cousin).[11]

Characteristics, Virtues, and Merits

Knowledge and Eloquence

Her utterances and sermons, which are full of demonstrations from Qur'an, in Kufa and the court of Yazid, show how knowledgeable she was. She has narrated hadiths from her father, Imam 'Ali (a), and her mother, Lady Fatimat al-Zahra (s).[12] Muhammad b. 'Amr, 'Ata' b. Sa'ib, Fatima bt. al-Husayn, and other narrators have narrated hadiths from her.[13]

During the residence of Imam 'Ali (a) in Kufa, Zaynab held sessions on exegesis of Qur'an for women of Kufa.[14]

Her sermons reminded the audience of the sermons of her father, Imam 'Ali (a). Her sermons in Kufa, in front of 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, and in the court of Yazid are very similar to those of Imam 'Ali (a), and the Fadakiyya sermon from her mother Fatima (a).[15]

It is narrated that Imam al-Sajjad (a) told her, "O, aunt! … You are, thanks to God, a scholar without been taught ..."[citation needed]


She spent her life for worshiping and prayers even at nights. She gave so much of her time to worshiping acts that she was titled as "'Abidat Al 'Ali" (the female worshiper of the family of 'Ali).[16]

On the 10th and 11th eve of Muharram 61/October 680 and after the martyrdom of her brothers, her children, and many of her relatives she did not abandon her acts of worship.

Fatima bt. al-Husayn (a) said, "In eve of Ashura, my aunt (Zaynab) was worshiping, praying and crying for all the night."[17]

It is narrated that Imam al-Husayn (a) told her at his last moment on the day of 'Ashura, "O, my sister! Do not forget me in your night prayers."[18]

Hijab and Modesty

It has been narrated, "Whenever Zaynab wanted to go to Masjid al-Nabi to the Prophet (s)'s tomb, she went at night, and Imam 'Ali (a) had told Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a) to accompany her. Imam al-Hasan (a) walked in front of her and Imam al-Husayn (a) behind her. When they reached the Prophet (s)'s tomb they extinguished the light on the tomb so that no one can see her."[19]

Yahya al-Mazini said, "I was Imam 'Ali's neighbor in Medina for a long time. By God! I never saw Zaynab nor heard her voice."[20]

Patience and Resistance

In the day of 'Ashura when she saw her brother's bloody body, she said, "O, Allah! Accept this humble sacrifice from us."[21]

She rescued Imam al-Sajjad (a) from death several times, one of which was in the court of 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad after that Imam al-Sajjad (a) debated with him, he ordered to kill the Imam (a), but Zaynab (a) put her hand around Imam's neck and said, "As long as I am alive, I do not let you kill him."[22]

In the Tragedy of 'Ashura

In 'Ashura Day

Al-Shaykh al-Mufid has narrated from Imam al-Sajjad (a), "In the eve of a day that my father was killed, I was sitting and my aunt was nursing me. My father went to his tent... and started repairing his sword while reading this poem,

"O, days! Fie upon your friendship!, How many of your fellows and seekers, are killed in mornings and evenings?, and the days are not content with substitutes (other than the lives of people). The Majestic (Allah) is in charge of this affair, and every living creature will go through this path (will die).

He repeated this poem two or three times until that I understood what he meant, I choked up but I kept silent and knew that tragedy has been sent down, but my aunt, like other women who are prevailed by their tender hearts, could not control herself. She jumped towards him with uncovered head dragging her clothes on the ground, and said, "Oh what pain! May demise deprive me of life! Today my mother, Fatima, my father, 'Ali, and my brother, al-Hasan died. You are the successor of the bygone ones and the last of the remainder." Imam al-Husayn (a) looked at her and said, "O, My dear sister! Do not let Satan take away your patience." then his eyes overflowed with tears and added, "If the bird is left alone, it will sleep."

Then she said, "Oh, woe! Do they take your soul by force? This hurt my heart more and is more painful to me." Then she slapped her face and tore her clothes and fell on the ground losing consciousness. Imam (a) went to her and sprinkled some water on her face and told her, "O, my dear sister! Be content with Allah's will and know that the inhabitant of the earth will die and the inhabitant of heavens will not remain and everything will perish except Allah who has created all the creatures by His omnipotence and will resurrect them, they will return to Him and He is Single and the Only One. My father was better than me, my mother was better than me, my brother was better than me, and for me and for every Muslim there is good exemplar in the Prophet of God."

He consoled her with this and other thing and said, "O, my dear sister! I put you under this oath and please do not break it: never tear a piece of your clothes (as a sign of your sorrow) for me, never slap your face (for mourning) for me, and never invoke woe and perdition when I was slain." Then he accompanied her to my tent and went to his companions."[23]

In 'Ashura evening when Zaynab saw Imam al-Husayn (a) fallen on the ground and he was surrounded by his enemies who intend to kill him, she came out of her tent and shouted at 'Umar b. Sa'd (the commander of the enemy's army), "O, Ibn Sa'd! Is Abu 'Abd Allah (Imam al-Husyan) being slain while you are watching?"[24]

He did not reply and Zaynab cried, "Oh for my brother! Oh for my master! Oh for my household! Would God the heavens had fallen upon the earth! Would God mountains had been made to crumble on plains!"[25]

And when she came to his brother's body, she said, "O Allah! Accept from us this sacrifice."[26]

Then she face toward Medina and started addressing the Prophet (s), "Oh, Muhammad! These are your daughters! They are being taken captives! Your children are slain! The zephyr is blowing on their bodies! And this is al-Husayn, whose been slaughtered from back! His turban and cloak being plundered."[27]

"May my father be the ransom for the one whom the army plundered. May my father be the ransom for the one whose tents were taken down..."[28]

Her sayings made friends and enemies cry and wail.[29]

In Kufa

After 'Ashura, the captives were taken to Kufa. They were circled around the city tragically.

As they entered Kufa, Zaynab delivered a sermon, which influenced the people who had come to see the captives.

Bashir b. Khuzaym al-Asadi said, "On that day, I looked at her. By Allah, I have never seen any proud and modest woman with that eloquence, it was as if she was talking with 'Ali's tongue. She told people to be silent. People became silent, even the bells on the camels stopped jiggling."[30] After that she finished the sermon, Kufa was filled with emotions and sadness. Some people were nipping their fingers (as a sign of regret and being shocked). After her sermon, there was a possibility of uprising and riot against the government, thus, the captives were taken to Dar al-Imara (governing palace) to 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad.[31]

Zaynab spoke and debated with Ibn Ziyad, the governor of Kufa, in his palace. (see: Debate of Lady Zaynab (a) with 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad)[32]

Her arguments enlightened people and left Umayyads in disgrace. Then 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad ordered to imprison them. The sermon of the lady Zaynab and the utterances of Imam al-Sajjad (a), Umm Kulthum, and Fatima bt. al-Husayn in Kufa and Dar al-Imara followed by the protests of 'Abd Allah b. 'Afif al-Azdi and Zayd b. Arqam encouraged the people of Kufa and prepared the grounds for a revolution against the government, because people were very regretful and were trying to remove the dishonor of what they have done to the household of the Prophet (s). They finally gathered around Mukhtar and revolt against Umayyad Dynasty.[citation needed]

In Damascus

After the tragedy of Karbala, Yazid b. Mu'awiya asked 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad to send the caravan of captives along with the heads of the martyrs of Karbala to Damascus.

Yazid's government was very strong at that time in Syria, as the people were bombarded with false information about the household of Imam 'Ali (a) and fake virtues and merits of descendants of Abu Sufyan. So it is not surprising that "when the household of the Prophet (s) entered Damascus, people had worn new clothes, decorated the city, musicians were playing songs and the city was filled with happiness."[33]

However the sermons delivered by Imam al-Sajjad (a) and Lady Zaynab (a) changed the conditions in a very short time. They informed people about the tyranny of Umayyads and the horrifying act they did to descants of the Prophet (s) in Karbala. In a short while the enmity of the people of Damascus toward Ahl al-Bayt (a) changed to friendship and affection.

Yazid who thought that killing of Imam al-Husayn (a) will help consolidate his governing position in Islamic world, realized that it was actually reducing from his popularity and weakening his authority.

In Yazid's Court

Yazid had prepared an unprecedented ceremony in his court. He had invited all the elite officials, noblemen, and army commander of Umayyads. In the presence of the captives, he recited blasphemous poems, talked about his victory and interpreted some verses of the Qur'an in support of his actions.[34]

The holy head of Imam al-Husayn (a) was put before Yazid who disrespected it by hitting on it with a stick he had in hand. Meanwhile he recited these poems, which show his deep enmity and hatred of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and Islam: "I wish my forefathers who were killed at Badr had witnessed, the worry of Khazraj from unsheathed swords. They would have been very happy and delighted, and would have said: "O Yazid! May your hand never be paralyzed". We have killed the masters of their chiefs and equated it with Badr, and it has been so, indeed. The Banu Hashim played with the dominion, while no news from the Heaven had come, nor was there anything revealed. I am not a descendant of Khunduf if I will not seek revenge from Ahmed's descendants for what he did to us!"[35]

Reacting to these verses, Lady Zaynab uprose against him and delivered an eloquent sermon which proved the rightness of Imam al-Husayn (a) and the wrongdoing of Yazid. Her logical sermon influenced the attendance very much in a way that Yazid preferred to react gently and avoid harsh decisions.[36]

He consulted about the captives with Umayyad officials. Although some of them suggested killing the captives, Nu'man b. Bashir advised him to deal with them mildly and gently.[37]

Due to the enlightening of Zaynab, Yazid had to blame 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad for martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a) and cursed him.[38]

Yazid allowed the captives to mourn for some days in Damascus. Umayyad women, including Hind, Yazid's wife, joined Ahl al-Bayt (a) in the ruin (where the captives where held), they kissed hands and feet of Ahl al-Bayt (a) and mourned for three days.[39]

Finally the captives were returned to Medina with respect and reverence.[40]


Lady Zaynab (a) passed away on Sunday, Rajab 15, 62/April 2, 682.[41] Some reported that she passed away on Rajab 14.[42]

There are 3 reports about her resting place:

  • Zaynabiyya: It is widely believed that she was buried in Zaynabiyya, a southern suburb of Damascus, Syria, where nowadays her shrine is.
  • Maqam of Lady Zaynab (a): Some historians said that she was buried in Egypt. They added that she was reminding the people of Medina about what happened in Karbala, thus the governor of Medina, who was afraid of Lady Zaynab (a) and her actions, wrote a letter to Yazid and asked for help. Yazid ordered him to exile her from Medina to wherever she wished. Consequently, Lady Zaynab (a) along with Fatima (a) and Sukayna (a), the daughters of Imam al-Husayn (a), were exiled to Egypt and after 11 months and 15 days she passed away and was buried there. Her shrine in Egypt has been renovated several times and now is a ziyarah site. From the beginning of the month of Rajab (the month that Lady Zaynab passed away in) to 15th of that month, Egyptians hold a ceremony everyday by reciting the Qur'an and supplications in her shrine.


  1. Ibn 'Asakir, A'lam al-nisa', p. 189-190
  2. Jubran Mas'ud, al-Za'id, vol. 1 p. 924
  3. Al-Zubaydi, Taj al-'arus, vol. 2 p. 60
  4. Mahallati, Rayahin al-shari'a, vol. 3 p. 33; Muhammadi Ishtihardi, Hadrat-i Zaynab, p. 17
  5. Al-Qurashi, al-Sayyida Zaynab, p. 39; Ilahi, Zaynab-i kubra, p. 29; Arfa', Hazrat-i Zaynab, p. 7
  6. Al-Dibaji, Zaynab al-Kubra, p. 15
  7. Al-Jaza'iri, al-Khasa'isat al-Zaynabiyya, pp. 52-53
  8. Al-Amin, A'yan al-Shi'a, vol. 7 p. 137
  9. Ibn 'Asakir, A'lam al-nisa', p. 190; Mahallati, Rayahin al-shari'a, vol. 3 p. 41
  10. Al-Mufid, al-Irshad, vol. 2 p. 125
  11. Al-Amin, A'yan al-Shi'a, vol. 7 p. 137
  12. Ibn 'Asakir, A'lam al-nisa', p. 189
  13. Ibn Abi l-Hadid, Sharh nahj al-balagha, vol. 16 p. 210; Al-'Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi'a, vol. 1 p. 13-14; Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 7 p. 107
  14. Al-Tabari, Dala'il al-imama, vol. 3; Mahallati, Rayahin al-shari'a, vol. 3 p. 57
  15. Arfa', Hadrat-i Zaynab, p. 88
  16. Al-Naqdi, Zaynab al-kubra, p. 61
  17. Mahallati, Rayahin al-shari'a, vol. 3 p. 62
  18. Mahallati, Rayahin al-shari'a, vol. 3 p. 62; Al-Naqdi, Zaynab al-kubra, p. 61
  19. Dastghiyb, Zindigani-i hadrat-i Zaynab, p. 19
  20. Muhammadi Ishtihardi, Hadrat-i Zaynab, p. 99
  21. Fayd al-Islam, Khatun-i du sara, p. 185
  22. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 45 p. 117
  23. Al-Mufid, al-Irshad, vol. 2 pp. 93-94
  24. Nazari Munfarid, Qissa-yi Karbala, p. 371
  25. Ibn Tawus, al-Luhuf, pp. 159, 161
  26. Fayd al-Islam, Khatun-i du sara, p. 185
  27. Abu Mikhnaf, Waq'at al-Taff, p. 259; al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 45 p. 59
  28. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 45 p. 59
  29. Abu Mikhnaf, Waq'at al-Taff, p. 259; al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 45 p. 59
  30. Sadiqi Ardistani, Zaynab-i qahraman, pp. 227-228
  31. Sadiqi Ardistani, Zaynab-i qahraman, p. 246
  32. Abu Mikhnaf, Waq'at al-Taff, pp. 299-300; Al-Mufid, al-Irshad, p. 353; al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 45 p. 117
  33. Muhammadi Ishtihardi, Hadrat-i Zaynab, pp. 327-328
  34. Muhammadi Ishtihardi, Hadrat-i Zaynab, p. 248
  35. Abu Mikhnaf, Waq'at al-Taff, pp. 306-307; Ibn Tawus, al-Luhuf, p. 213
  36. Ibn Tawus, al-Luhuf, p. 221; Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 45 p. 135
  37. Ibn Tawus, al-Luhuf, p. 221; Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 45 p. 135
  38. Al-Mufid, al-Irshad, p. 358
  39. Abu Mikhnaf, Waq'at al-Taff, p. 311
  40. Ibn 'Asakir, A'lam al-nisa', p. 191
  41. Al-Qazwini, Zaynab al-kubra, p. 591
  42. Al-Qurashi, al-Sayyida Zaynab, p. 298
  43. Al-Amin, A'yan al-Shi'a, vol. 7 p. 140-141


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