Zeinab al-Kubra (s.a.) is a prominent role model in history and shows the significance of a woman’s presence in one of the most important events in human history. Blood gained a victory over the sword on the day of Ashura, and Zeinab al-Kubra (s.a.) was the cause of that victory.
This was because the forces of righteousness were apparently defeated in a military fight in Karbala, but Zeinab al-Kubra’s (s.a.) behavior was the factor that turned this apparent defeat into a permanent and decisive victory. That victory was due to the role she played after the day of Ashura. That is a very important point. The event proved that women are not on the periphery of history. It proved that women can have a central role in important historical events. This has been pointed out in several places in the Holy Quran as well. But Zeinab al-Kubra (s.a.) is a recent example and does not belong to ancient times. The story of her life is a tangible event. She played a brilliant role, making the enemies – who had apparently won the battle and slain all their opponents – feel humiliated in their own base. She branded them with permanent disgrace and turned their victory into a defeat. That was what Zeinab al-Kubra (s.a.) did. She proved that it is possible to turn feminine morality and modesty into glory and a great jihad.
The greatness of Zeinab al-Kubra’s (s.a.) movement is reflected in what is left of her sermons. Her unforgettable sermon in Kufa’s marketplace was not just an ordinary speech. It was not just the personal opinion of an important figure. Her sermon was a great and beautifully-worded analysis of the Islamic community’s situation at that time. The sermon included the most profound Islamic concepts. See how strong her character was. Her brother – her Imam and leader – had been martyred in a desert just two days before. Her dear ones, her children, and many other people had been martyred. She and tens of other women and children were taken captive on the same day. They were paraded in different places. Some of the people who were watching them were cheerful and some were shedding tears. Zeinab (s.a.) suddenly started her great mission in that critical situation. She spoke like her father did when he was delivering a sermon to his people during his rule. She spoke with the same tone. She spoke using the same kind of words Imam Ali (a.s.) would use. She was equally eloquent and precise, and her words were equally profound. “O plotters and pretenders, maybe you yourselves were starting to believe that you were following Islam and the Holy Prophet’s household, but you failed miserably in the test. You proved to be blind in the fitna. Do you pledge allegiance while you are planning a conspiracy? You can do nothing but engage in shifting allegiance, hypocrisy, flattery, self-humiliation, and empty talk. Your actions were different from your words. You became arrogant and wrongly thought that you were pious. You thought you were still revolutionary. You thought you were still the followers of the Commander of the Faithful. But the truth was something else. You were not able to deal with the fitna. You were not able to save yourselves. You ruined everything you had done before. Because of your lack of insight, your lack of knowledge of the situation, and your inability to distinguish right from wrong, you ruined everything you had built. You look faithful and you keep making revolutionary claims, but deep down you are empty and weak.” Zeinab al-Kubra (s.a.) presented a deep analysis of her society’s pathologies.
She spoke firmly and eloquently in that difficult situation. It was not the case that she had an audience sitting in front of her and listening in silence. She was not speaking the way an orator would speak to his audience. She was surrounded by the enemies, holding spears in their hands. There were also some ordinary people there – the same people who gave up Moslem to Ibn Ziad, the same people who wrote letters to Imam Hussein and then broke their allegiance to him, the same people who hid in their homes exactly when they were supposed to stand up to Ibn Ziad. Among the people there were also some individuals who were not courageous enough to do what they should have done, and they were watching Imam Ali’s daughter in tears on that day. Zeinab al-Kubra (s.a.) was faced with this motley and unreliable crowd, yet she spoke in a firm manner. She was an exemplary woman in history. Such women cannot be considered weak. This faithful feminine nature may reveal itself in difficult conditions. She is a role model for all great men and women in the world. She presented a deep analysis of the problems facing the revolution started by the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) and Imam Ali (a.s.). She said, “You could not distinguish between right and wrong in the fitna. You were unable to fulfil your duty. As a result, they severed the head of the Holy Prophet’s (s.w.a.) grandson and put it on a spear.” We can understand the greatness of her character when we consider such things.
Zeinab (s.a.) played an unparalleled role on the way to Karbala with Imam Hussein (a.s.), on the day of Ashura with all those hardships, and after Imam Hussein (a.s.) had been martyred. It is impossible to find a similar figure in history. Later on, numerous events took place – during her captivity, in Kufa, and in Sham. Because of these great selfless efforts, Zeinab al-Kubra (s.a.) gained a prominent position before Allah the Exalted, and this is something that we cannot describe.
In the Holy Quran Allah, the Exalted mentions the names of two women as perfect examples of faith. God also mentions the names of two women as examples of infidelity. “Allah sets forth, for an example to the unbelievers, the wife of Noah and the wife of Lut: They were (respectively) under two of our righteous servants” [The Holy Quran, 66: 10]. These two women exemplify infidelity. That is to say, Allah the Exalted mentions women, not men, as examples of both infidelity and faith. “And Allah sets forth, as an example to those who believe the wife of Pharaoh” [The Holy Quran, 66: 11]. He mentions the wife of Pharaoh and Mary as two perfect examples of faith. “And Mary the daughter of Imran” [The Holy Quran, 66: 12].
A brief comparison between Zeinab al-Kubra (s.a.) and the wife of Pharaoh would show the greatness of Zeinab al-Kubra’s (s.a.) position. In the Holy Quran, the wife of Pharaoh has been recognized as the example of faith for both men and women until the end of time. But just compare the wife of Pharaoh – who had faith in Moses’ prophethood and had been enchanted by his guidance – with Zeinab al-Kubra. When she was tortured by Pharaoh – according to narrations and historical texts, she passed away due to the torture she suffered – she was frustrated by the physical pain. She said, “O my Lord, build for me, in nearness to You, a mansion in the Garden, and save me from Pharaoh and his doings.” [The Holy Quran, 66: 11] In fact, she was praying for her death: “And save me from Pharaoh and his doings.” This was while her problem was only the physical torture. Unlike Zeinab al-Kubra, she had not suffered the loss of several brothers, two children, and many of her relatives and nephews. She had not watched her dear ones go to the battlefield where they were supposed to be killed. Asiah – the wife of Pharaoh – did not have to endure the psychological pains that Zeinab al-Kubra went through.
On the day of Ashura, Zeinab al-Kubra watched many of her dear ones go to the battlefield to get martyred. She watched Hussein ibn Ali (a.s.), Abbas, Ali Akbar, Qasem, her children, and other dear ones go to the battlefield. After they were martyred, she went through all those pains: The invasion of the enemy, disrespect, and the responsibility to take care of the surviving children and women. Is it possible to compare the enormity of this tragedy with physical pain? But when she was faced with these difficulties, Zeinab al-Kubra did not tell God to save her. She did not say, “O my Lord, save me.” On the day of Ashura, she said, “O God, accept this from us.” While the shredded body of her brother lay in front of her eyes, tells God, “O God, accept this sacrifice from us.” When she was asked to describe what she had seen, she replied, “I did not see anything but beauty.” All those tragedies were beautiful to Zeinab al-Kubra because they were from and for God – because they were supposed to promote the word of God. See how different this position, this patience, and this love of justice and truth are compared to Asiah’s position described in the Holy Quran. This shows the greatness of Zeinab’s position.
This is the nature of actions that are carried out for the sake of God. Therefore, Zeinab’s actions are currently a model, and her name and achievements will remain until the end of time. The permanence of Islam and the divine path and continuation of this path by God’s servants are based on what Hussein ibn Ali (a.s.) and Zeinab al-Kubra (s.a.) did. That is to say, as a result of the great patience, resistance, and endurance of hardships, you see that religious values have gained a lot of ground in the modern world. All these human values, which are consistent with human nature in different schools of thought, are rooted in religious values. These values have been promoted by religion. That is the nature of efforts for a divine cause.