There is not enough information about the childhood and the youth of Zainab (PBUH); however, after some decades she comes out, and the striking event of Karbala shows her to us. As Tabari mentions in his history, Hamid Ibn Muslim is one of the people who had witnessed Zainab (PBUH) in Karbala. He depicts this great lady as, “Just as a woman who shined like the sun, she came out from the tents. I asked, ‘who is she?’ They replied, ‘she is Zainab, the daughter of Fatimah, the daughter of prophet of Allah.” (1)
If we want to know more about the personality of Zainab (PBUH), we should wait until the events reveal her courage and patience, and illustrate her to us, as the most excellent example of courage, greatness, and confrontation against injustice. That is when the resistance and patience of Zainab (PBUH) against Yazid Ibn Mu’awiyah surprises the historians.
Ibn Hajar (Asqalani) in his book “al-Isabah”, depicts Zainab (PBUH) with words such as “The wise lady, perceptive, insightful”.(2) In his description of Zainab(PBUH), he points to the case of the impudence of the Shami man, in the court of Yazid, and the reaction of Zainab (PBUH), as he writes, “The reply of Zainab to Yazid shows the wisdom, and confidence of heart and spirit of this lady.”(3)
The people of that time, in Karbala and in the court of the governor of Kufah, and in the court of Yazid Ibn Mu’awiyah, heard statements from Zainab (PBUH)that surprised everyone in eloquence and articulacy; just as it surprises us today, and all testify her excellence and her magical speech giving. (4), (5)
After the end of the speech in Kufah, Ali Ibn al-Hussain (PBUH) turns to Zainab (PBUH) and says, “Dear aunt, thanks to Allah, you are knowledgeable without study, and perceptive without being taught…” (6)
Also, Ibn Teifour in his book “Balaghat al-Nisa”, quotes from a narrator that, “After the martyrdom of Hussain (PBUH), I entered Kufah … and I saw Zainab. I swear to God that I have not seen any reserved and fluent woman as her. She addressed the people just as she was speaking from the tongue of Ali ibn Abi Talib (PBUH)”. (7)
This is the description of Zainab (PBUH), as we have seen in Karbala, and as her youth shows, because we hear that she looked liked her mother in kindnessand having a sensitive heart, and looked like her father in knowledge and piety.
Based on some narrations, Zainab (PBUH) used to hold a scholarly session, which when the women needed to learn about the points of religion attended to learn. (8)
There were highlighting characteristics in Zainab (PBUH) that no woman at her time possessed, therefore she is known as the wise woman of Bani Hashim. When Ibn Abbas, the companion of the Great Prophet (PBUH&HP), wanted to quote from her, said “our wise lady, Zainab the daughter of Ali said as such...” (9)
The fame of Zainab (PBUH) with that title was to an extent that when they said “the wise woman”; everyone knew that they mean Zainab (PBUH). Her children, as well, were proud of this title, and they were known as the children of the wise lady.
1. Tarikh Tabari, vol. 4, p. 340 and 341, published under supervision of “Mu’assisah al-A’lami Le al-Matu’at” in Beirut
2. Al-Isabah, vol. 8, p. 167, Daar al-Kotob al-Ilmiah, Beirut, First Publication, 1415 A.H
3. Al-Isabah, vol. 8, p. 167, Daar al-Kotob al-Ilmiah, Beirut, First Publication, 1415 A.H
4. If we go into a more detailed analysis of history, we realize that the truth is yet far beyond to reach. A lady who has managed the sufferings of Karbala, and still defends the message and the movement of Karbala, and while being captured, and in the castle of a killer like Yazid, addresses him as “I swear to Allah, you, the enemy of Allah, and the son of His enemy, I look down on you”, is hard to put in plain words. Therefore the statements of Zainab (PBUH) in the castle of Yazid, or the governor of Kufah, not only shows the eloquence and articulacy, but also reveals her confidence of heart, belief, courage, and opposing the injustice of that lady.
5. In order to read some parts of the sermons of Lady Zainab (PBUH) in the courts of Ibn Ziad, the governor of Kufah and Yazid in Shaam, you may refer to the occasion letters titled as “An Eloquent Lady” and “The Hero of Patience”.
6. Ihtijaj Tabarsi, vol. 2, p. 205 – Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 45, p. 164 quoting from Ihtijaj
7. Balaghat al-Nisa, vol. 1, p. 11 – Nathr al-Durr, vol. 1, p. 268
8. Rayahin al-Shariah, Dhabihullah Mahallaati, vol. 3, p. 75, al-Khasa’is al-Zainabiah, Noor al-Din Jazaayeri, p. 27
9. Maqatel al-Talibin, p. 60
10- The author of this book, lady Dr. Aisha Bint al-Shaati, is one of the top-level writers of Arab, and the daughter of one of the Sunni clergymen of Egypt. Although this book is written in a nice and influencing way, but still is not free from some historic mistakes. Therefore Late Ayatullah Sayyid Reza Sadr has pointed to some of them in his translation. Hence we suggest using this book with research, attention, and consultancy with the scholars.