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The Lady Zaynab (S) and her Fight against the Concept of Predestination

After the tragedy of Karbalā, Yazīd’s agents began to use the Jabrīyah ideology, and publicized his apparent victory against Imam Husayn (‘a) as being the will of God.

To these ends, ‘Ubaydullah ibn Zīyād gathered the people at Kūfah’s main mosque, so that there, they could be told of what had taken place. He gave himself an aura of religiosity and began to say to the people: ‘I praise God who made the truth victorious and aided Amīr al-Mu’minīn (Yazīd) and his companions, and killed the liar, the son of the liar![1]

Imam ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn (‘a) and the Lady Zaynab (‘a), who were aware of the aim of Ibn Ziyād’s words, severely attacked him and did not allow him to attain his objectives. In addition, they held Yazīd and his companions as responsible for their criminal actions.

Lady Zaynab (‘a), while wearing the worst of her clothing and surrounded by her servants and the women of her family, quietly came in to the gathering that was being held and sat down in a corner. ‘Ubaydullah saw her and asked: Who is this woman who has entered and is surrounded by these other women? The Lady Zaynab (‘a) did not answer him. ‘Ubaydullah again repeated himself. One of the servants then replied: She is Zaynab (‘a), the daughter of Fatimah (‘a), who is the daughter of the Prophet of Islam (ṣ). ‘Ubaydullah then faced her and said: I praise God who disgraced your family, killed them, and showed that what you said were all lies.[2]

The Lady Zaynab (‘a) answered him with these words: I praise God who holds us honorable through the medium of his Prophet (ṣ) (who is from our family) and who kept us clean from corruption. No one besides a corrupt person can be disgraced, and no one but an evil doer will lie, and we are not of the evil doers, others are! (meaning that you and the people surrounding you are). And praise is exclusively Gods.[3]

Ibn Zīyād then said: Did you see what God did with your family? The Lady Zaynab (‘a) replied: I saw nothing but beauty. They were people whom God had destined to be killed and they obeyed him and went towards their resting place. Soon you and the ones around you will have to face God (on the Day of Judgment) and they will complain against you to God and ask for his justice. Then, tell me who will be victorious on that day; may your mother grieve for you oh son of Marjānah!

Ibn Zīyād became angry at Zaynab’s (‘a) straightforward and biting remarks; he was further incensed with the naming of his ill reputed grandmother (Marjānah) and began thinking of taking actions against her. One of the individuals who was present there by the name of ‘Amrū ibn Ḥārith, said to Ibn Zīyād: ‘Commander! This is a woman and no one brings a woman to account for her words.’

Ibn Zīyād once again addressed Zaynab (‘a) and said: ‘God cooled my heart by the killing of your mutinous brother Husayn and the rest of your rebellious family.’ Zaynab (‘a) replied: ‘I swear by my life that you killed my elder, you cut the tree of my life, and you tore up my roots. If this is a cause for your healing, then may you have found your cure.’ Ibn Zīyād, who was affected by these words, responded with anger and derision, and said: ‘This here is just like her father, a giver of sermons; I swear by my life that your father was a poet and he would give speeches with rhythm and prose.’ Zaynab (‘a) replied by saying: ‘Is now a time for poetry?’[4]

Ibn Zīyād wished to show that whoever is outwardly defeated on a military battlefield has become degraded and disgraced, and if someone is on the path of truth, they would never be defeated. Zaynab (‘a), who knew from which standpoint Ibn Zīyād was speaking from, destroyed the ground that he was standing on. With her words, she announced that the criterion of ‘virtue and honor’ was the searching for and the seeking of the truth, not that of external power. Zaynab (‘a) announced that a person who is killed in the way of God can never be disgraced; a disgraced individual is he who is oppressive, unjust, and has become deviated from the path of truth.

‘Ubaydullah ibn Zīyād expected Zaynab (‘a), who had been through so much and had seen her nearest and dearest of family members slaughtered before her, to act submissively and meekly in front of him. He expected tears, weakness, and entreaties; yet Zaynab (‘a) showed him no signs of weakness, and made him choke on the words that he had spoken, thereby breaking his arrogance and conceit.[5]


[1] Shams al-Dīn, Muḥammad Mahdī, Assessment of the Husseini (a) Revolution (Thawrat al-Husayn), translation by Mahdī Pīshvā’ī, Second Print, Qum, Tawhīd Publications, p. 137-140.

[2] الحمدلله الذى فضحكم و قتلكم و أكْذب اُحدوثتكمْ

[3] Shaykh Mufīd, al-‘Irshād, Qum, Manshūrāt Maktabah Baṣīratī, p. 244. (انما يفتضح الفاسق و يكذب الفاجر و هو

[4] غيرنا و الحمدلله] Sayyid ibn Ṭāwūs, Al-Lūhūf fī qatl al-ṭufūf, Qum, Maktabah al-Dāwarī, p. 68

[5] Taken from the text: Sīrah Pīshvāyān, Mahdī Pīshvāī, Mu’asasah Imam Sadiq (‘a), Qum, 1390 Shamsī Qamarī, 23rd Edition, p. 194.

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