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The Essential Woman


Contents:

Important Note
Copyright
The Author’s Note

Chapter 1: An Ode’s to Man’s Inspiration
Chapter 2: Sleeping with Ignorance
Chapter 3: A Perfect Reflection of Perfection
Chapter 4: The Hardest Times
Chapter 5: Power of Pain in Action
Chapter 6: The Zenith of Humanity
Chapter 7: A Salute for the Essential She

Readers’ Comments
















Not for Sale

The author has written this book after being overwhelmed by the
lives of the two most remarkable women the world will ever know, Lady
Fatima and Lady Zaynab. She publishes The Essential Woman
independently, without recourse to any kind of financial assistance
whatsoever. It is her Hadiya to Lady Fatima and Lady Zaynab, that for as
long as she lives, God Willing, she will publish it herself and distribute it
for free. The Essential Woman does not belong to her. Lady Zaynab has the
sole ownership and it is her Grace and Power that runs this title. Anita Rai
is just an instrument of Her Holiness, and she intends to publish and
distribute at least 72,000 copies of this book in her lifetime. After her
death, her progeny will continue to pay this homage.

The Essential Woman is not and will never be for sale.

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© 2003, 2005 by Anita Rai.

All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of
Anita Rai.

Published by: ANITA RAI

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The Essential
Woman







by
Anita Rai



The Author’s Note


My dear ones,

I have been asked to introduce The Essential Woman with some
information about how I came to write this book. The story really has its
beginnings in a serial of dreams. As I am writing this note, the days have
begun to grow longer and warmer here in London. It means that now we
have more light than in the cold, dark, foggy, and indifferent months of an
English winter. And light is the driving force in my book. I know what you
are thinking. No, it is not a coincidence. There is no such thing as
coincidence and nothing happens by accident. All is as it must be.

Every author is at some point asked, “Where did you get your ideas
for this book?” Well, I got mine the very moment I knew I will never
recover from the sheer impact of one look at the face of Muhammad, the
Prophet of Islam. He looked at me and I could not help but respond to the
immense grace with as much grace as I could muster up. He came to me
on more than a few occasions, and even spoke to me. And in every single
of these visitations and many others, in which his household members too
have visited me, my soul has experienced a deluge of Light. These
singularly powerful images of embodied peace and commitment are the
sources of ‘my ideas’.


I started working on two books simultaneously. While the other was
equally busy spinning enlightening ideas through my mind, I settled for
this one to be completed first. Now, to know the why of it, you have to read
the other one as well. However, I am not inclined to leave your curiosity
completely unappeased. I want you to know that while my whole being
was whole-heartedly engrossed in the making of the other book, I was
simply overtaken by the two most remarkable women the world will ever
know. My heart knew that Muhammad would be nothing, but pleased
with my decision to write the book meant as a dedication to these two
women, only to be followed by ‘An Affair of the Heart’, in dedication to his
gracious self.

The Essential Woman and An Affair of the Heart are not fictions.
They are literature, shaking hands with history. Without the wish to
sound pedantic, this powerful combination, quite often than not results in
creating very interesting prose. Such works are incomplete without their
heroes or heroines. I found my heroines. And I have written this book as a
humble tribute to their spirit. I can only hope that you will enjoy it as
much as I enjoyed writing it.

One last word. Look out for my third book called, ‘Kurukshetra, Calvary.
And Karbala. Dates with Destiny’ and my fourth book called, ‘Ghadeer.
Government of the people, for the people, by God’. Please visit my official
website www.anitarai.com. And needless to say, I need your prayers.
 
God bless.

ANITA RAI

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“They talk about a woman’s sphere, as though it had a limit.
There’s not   a place in earth or heaven, there’s not a task
to mankind given… without a woman in it.”

Kate Field







Chapter 1


INTRODUCTION
An Ode to Man’s Inspiration


Kathleen Krull’s ‘Lives of Extraordinary Women’ (2000) makes an
effort to turn the spotlight on twenty most influential women in history,
from queens to warriors. The book covers Cleopatra to Isabella I and Tz’u-
hsi to Eleanor of Aquitaine, Joan of Arc to Cherokee leader Wilma
Mankiller, Elizabeth I, Victoria, Eleanor Roosevelt, Golda Meir, Nzingha,
Eva Peron and more. However, though she talks about female rulers and
female rebels, the well behaved and the not so well behaved, the beloved
and the notorious, the book’s greatest weakness is the lack of presenting
any appropriate role-model material. There is no single example in this
book, which shows that women’s potential is unlimited. My limited
knowledge tells me that there are so many women to honour - women
whose contributions have touched every aspect of life, making it
meaningful, rewarding, safer, freer, beautiful and worth living.

As a child I was terribly impressed by Mary - the mother of Christ,
Florence Nightingale, Lakshmibai - the Queen of Jhansi, Khhana - the
brilliant astronomer of the Later Vedic age of India, Gargei-the exceptional
scholar belonging to the Vedic Age, who put to shame those of the other
sex on numerous occasions by her incredible learning, (those were the
times when knowledge flourished in India and was patronised, and
polytheism was less rampant) Sister Nivedita - the American Hindu
missionary, Queen Razia Sultana, Elizabeth I of England, Jahanara - the
beloved and brave daughter of Shah Jahan, Mother Teresa, Mrs Annie
Besant, Joan of Arc and those many women unknown to history but
known to me intuitively - women who have always contributed in a very
big way to the achievements of human-kind. Probably they are the ones
Virginia Woolf was implying when she said, “I would venture to guess that
Anon, who wrote so many poems without singing them, was often a
woman”. Anon is short for ‘anonymous’.  Hundreds of proverbs that have
come down to us today, pearls of wisdom, wit, and dazzling insight, are
mostly attributed to someone anonymous,  that ‘anonymous’ is often a
woman.

I was eleven when I saw the play called Anne Frank’s Diary. I was so
moved by it that I started to read the book almost immediately. She said,
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before
starting to improve the world.” What an absolutely delightful thought!
Almost fifteen years after watching the play, I intend to write this book in
order to make a modest attempt at improving the world. I want to talk to
mothers and I want to talk to sisters, who are my contemporaries, friends,
and companions of fate. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “When I think of
talking, it is of course with a woman. For talking at its best being an
inspiration, it wants a corresponding divine quality of receptiveness, and
where will you find this but in a woman?” Thank you Mr. Holmes for such
a thoughtful compliment.


Our quality of receptiveness is indeed a divine gift. That is why we
are mothers. We receive and we give so much more. A new bride simmers
with hopes and dreams, and her thoughtless husband marauds everything
under the zeal of lust; she receives pain and humiliation, but ends up
giving pleasure to her uncouth possessor. We receive the pains of
labour, new life is born. We receive with complete understanding and
compassion what our children have to say. We always listen, our
children talk to us. Most of the time we receive no approval - not even
mere acknowledgement - from our fathers, our husbands, our brothers,
even our children, but still we keep the hearth and the home safe and
warm. But once in a long while a man comes along who gives compliment
to the women. Compliments are accidental, as we hardly get any. Holmes
is such a man. So, as one of this wonderfully complimented sex, how can I
not hold the same opinion as he, and maybe even a notch higher. I want
to talk to the women. But I also want to talk to my brothers because it was
one of them who said, “There’s a woman at the beginning of all great
things” (Alphonse de Lamartine). Eve. Remember? However, this book is
not meant in the least to be, a lecture, a discourse, cold theorising, vain
preaching, or in today’s consumerist culture, selling. I just wish to share
my feelings, perceptions, ideas, and thoughts with you. This is just… you
know, a heart to heart.

When you teach a man, you teach an individual, but when you teach
a woman, you teach a family, you teach a nation, you teach the world. In
his essay called ‘On the Education of Women’, Daniel Defoe writes, “The
whole sex is generally quick and sharp. I believe, I may be allowed to say,
generally so: for you rarely see them lumpish and heavy, when they are
children; as boys will often be. If a woman be well bred, and taught the
proper management of her natural wit, she proves generally very sensible
and retentive.
And, without partiality, a woman of sense and manners is the finest
and most delicate part of God’s creation, the glory of her Maker, and the
great instance of His singular regard to man. His daring creature: to whom
He gave the best gift either God could bestow or man receive. And 'tis the
sordidest piece of folly and ingratitude in the world, to withhold from the
sex the due lustre which the advantages of education gives to the natural
beauty of their minds.

A woman well bred and well taught, furnished with the additional
accomplishment of knowledge and behaviour, is a creature without
comparison. Her society is the emblem of sublimer enjoyments, her person
is angelic, and her conversation heavenly. She is all softness and
sweetness, peace, love, wit, and delight. She is every way suitable to the
sublimest wish, and the man that has such a one to his portion, has
nothing to do but to rejoice in her, and be thankful.” (This paragraph is
significant as it describes beautifully the person this book is all about. She
is much more than this. But for the start the reader is invited to etch a
woman with the above characteristics in their minds in order to enable
themselves to begin thinking of her.)

Defoe continues, “On the other hand, suppose her to be the very same
woman, and rob her of the benefit of education, and it follows:
If her temper be good, want of education makes   her soft and easy.
Her wit, for want of teaching, makes her impertinent and talkative.
Her knowledge, for want of judgment and experience, makes her
fanciful and whimsical.
If her temper be bad, want of breeding makes her worse; and she
grows haughty, insolent, and loud.
If she be passionate, want of manners makes her a termagant and a
scold, which is much at one with Lunatic.
If she be proud, want of discretion (which still is breeding) makes
her conceited, fantastic, and ridiculous.
And from these she degenerates to be turbulent, clamorous, noisy,
nasty, the devil!”
Sounds familiar? We all have seen both the types. While we have a
love-hate relationship with the former,   we have done hardly anything
proactive regarding the reformation of the latter.

Till now both the male and the female reader is confused as to the
orientation of my temperament in this book. They are not sure what to call
me - a feminist,      a liberal, a radical, a traditionalist, an oppressor, or an
oppressed? Well what can I say? I’m just a woman. And I am happy that
way. Why won’t the world let us be just ourselves? I have had my fill of all
the extinct, dormant and active theories, idiosyncrasies, and junks on the
status of women and the hype surrounding the women’s rights and
liberation and emancipation and finally empowerment. The other day, one
of my friends told me, “You know, my fiancé is such a strong feminist.” I
just stared at her while she kept mouthing her misgivings about the
consequences, if her feminist fiancé happened to dislike her new hairstyle.
She robbed me of my power of speech. Lord. Women! That brings me back
to my subject.

Marx said, “Anyone who knows anything of history knows that great
social changes are impossible without feminine upheaval. Social progress
can be measured exactly by the social position of the fair sex.” And Lady
Jane Wilde said, “We have now traced the history of women from Paradise
to the nineteenth century and have heard nothing through the long roll of
the ages but the clank of their fetters.” These two quotations as a matter of
fact will help initiate the personality I wish to talk about mostly during the
course of this book. The reader’s mind has already started to sketch an
outline of this woman from the paragraph of Defoe’s essay, quoted earlier.
Now, the woman I will specifically talk about makes both the above said
quotations true. And while talking about her we indeed do hear the loud
‘clank of her fetters’. But there is a big difference between Lady Wilde’s
fettered women and this woman. Lady Wilde’s women are the scores of
those who have never been independent, who have always been
oppressed, who have never tasted freedom, who are eternally persecuted
and doomed. Through the long roll of the ages and till date women are the
only exploited group to have been idealized into powerlessness. Most of
them have never woken up into the uninhibited dawn from under the
painful burden of their shackles. The continual nerve-gritting sound of
their chains dragging along with their tired feet is the utmost evidence of
how shallow and crippled our civilization really is. We should be mortally
ashamed.

The woman of my book was born gloriously free, her birth welcomed,
celebrated and cherished by her joyous parents, grandfather, brothers, the
whole family, and the whole community actually. She enjoyed an equal
upbringing in terms of education, attention, love, affection, respect and
status with her brothers. Her father took her consent before she got
married. She led an independent and powerful life, free in her speech,
expression, thoughts, choices, opinions, and decisions. Throughout her
life she had the enormously enviable privilege of having, keeping and
using her maiden name, i.e., her real name all through her life - a
phenomenon very rare even today, and if found anywhere is a matter of
endless discussions. All this, a millennium and a half ago. No, don’t pinch
yourself. It is as true as the fact that the day follows the night.

The March 1972 Equal Rights Amendment reads thus: “Equality of
rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States
or any state on account of sex.” This Amendment was passed in Congress
but has since failed to be ratified by the June 30, 1982 deadline. It had
only been ratified by 35 of the 38 necessary states required by law.
Consequently it has yet to become an Amendment to the American
Constitution. So, while women in the western world (i.e. in the USA and
Canada and Great Britain) had still not achieved the right to vote or obtain
the ownership of property even up to World War I, this woman grew up
enjoying all the rights mentioned above and more, which is not surprising
given the fact that her maternal grandmother was the most prominent
business magnate of her time in Arabia.

I feel deep sorrow for those of my sex who have been bound and are
still being bound by fetters. I sympathise with them completely. I try to do
everything in my power to alleviate their misery and sadness.     And this
makes me even more thankful to the Lord Almighty that although I did not
escape my share of discouragement, deprecation, discrimination, betrayal
and other related depressant situations inevitable in any society and the
Hindu brahmanical society is no different, today I am what I have always
wanted to be. A female. I would not be otherwise even if I had a choice. I
am an individual in my own right. It has been a long and hard up-hill
climb. I am not saying I have reached my destination, but I have found my
way and I am pursuing it with everything I have. I hope it is worth the
tears, the heartache, the difficulties and the struggle. But when I think of
this woman, who was chained and fettered by a so very cruel nation and in
a so very unfortunate age, I feel devastated.

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Chapter 2

Sleeping with Ignorance


Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,   but that we are
powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

[Our Greatest Fear from Marianne Williams’ ‘A Return to Love: Reflections
on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles” ’, 1992.].



Before revisiting a few well-known wounds from the worn out pages
of history, which is necessary for the logical progression of the book, I
wanted to share the predominant message of this poem with my friends,
which is that we are sadly unaware of how powerful we really are. I hope,
as we move ahead we will gain this crucial awareness and by the time we
turn the final page we will know exactly how powerful we can be, and how
much might the Almighty has meant for us.

Encyclopaedia Britannica - ‘The very word “woman” etymologically
meaning a wife (or the wife division of the human race, the female of the
species Homo), sums up a long history of dependence and subordination,
from which the women of to-day have only gradually emancipated
themselves in such parts of the world has come under “Western
civilization.” Though married life and its duties necessarily form a
predominant element in the woman’s sphere, they are not necessarily the
whole of it; and the “woman’s movement” is essentially a struggle for the
recognition of equality of opportunity with men, and for equal rights of sex,
even if special relations and conditions are willingly incurred under the
form of partnership involved in marriage. The difficulties of obtaining this
recognition are obviously due to historical causes combined with the
habits and customs which history has produced.’ So, the story of women is
essentially one of discrimination, oppression, and injustice.

The Britannica also says, ‘In the Mosaic law divorce was a privilege
of the husband only, the vow of a woman might be disallowed by her
father or husband, and daughters could inherit only in the absence of
sons, and then must marry in their tribe. The guilt or innocence of a wife
accused of adultery might be tried by the ordeal of the bitter water.
Besides these instances, which illustrate the subordination of women,
there was much legislation dealing with, inter alia, offences against
chastity, and marriage of a man with a captive heathen woman or with a
purchased slave. So far from second marriages being restrained, as they
were by Christian legislation, it was the duty of a childless widow to marry
her deceased husband’s brother. In India subjection was a cardinal
principle. “Day and night must women be held by their protectors in a
state of dependence,” says Manu. The rule of inheritance was agnatic, that
is, descent traced through males to the exclusion of females.       The
gradual growth of strtd/iana (STREEDHANA), female wealth or property of
a woman given by the husband before or after marriage, or by the wife’s
family, may have led to the suttee, for both the family of the widow and the
Brahmans had an interest in getting the life estate of a woman out of the
way. Women in Hindu law had only limited rights of inheritance, and were
disqualified as witnesses.’

I am sure Moses being a prophet of God, could never have made
such mean and unfair laws. This is not an uncommon case of innovations
in the original religion.  And of Manu, if ever any lawmaker of this name at
all existed, he disgusts me, because he is responsible to a large extent for
the torture and persecution the Hindu women go through and have had to
suffer for millennia. If he were alive now, he would have been tried in the
International Court of Law for crimes and conspiracies against human
rights.

The following reference is a crucially decisive element in the chosen
orientation of this book.    Catherine Beecher said “…Woman has been but
little aware of the high incitements which should stimulate to the
cultivation of her noblest powers. The world is no longer to be governed by
physical force, but by the influence which mind exerts over mind…Woman
has never wakened to her highest destinies and holiest hopes. The time is
coming when educated females will not be satisfied with the present
objects of their low ambition. When a woman now leaves the immediate
business of her own education, how often, how generally do we find her,
sinking down into almost useless inactivity. To enjoy the social circle, to
accomplish a little sewing, a little reading, a little domestic duty, to while
away her hours in self-indulgence, or to enjoy the pleasures of domestic
life - these are the highest objects at which many a woman of elevated
mind, and accomplished education aims. And what does she find of
sufficient interest to call forth her cultivated energies, and warm
affections? But when the cultivation and development of the immortal
mind shall be presented to woman, as her especial and delightful duty,
and that too whatever be her relations in life; when by example and
experience she shall have learned her power over the intellect and the
affections, …then we shall not find woman, returning from the precincts of
learning and wisdom, to pass lightly away the bright hours of her
maturing youth. We shall not so often see her, seeking the light device to
embroider on muslin and lace… but we shall see her, with the delighted
glow of benevolence, seeking for immortal minds, whereon she may fasten
durable and holy impressions, that shall never be effaced or wear away.”
(Lucretia Mott, Discourse on Women, 17 December, 1849.).

For the moment I would concentrate on a particular extract from the
above quotation “Woman has been but little aware of the high incitements
which should stimulate to the cultivation of her noblest powers. The world
is no longer to be governed by physical force, but by the influence which
mind exerts over mind…Woman has never wakened to her highest
destinies and holiest hopes.”

Throughout the history recorded by human prejudice and humane
flaws, we have had to look hard to find female role models who made an
impressive dent in the contours of the world. It is not so much that history
has been unable to produce exemplary women, as wisely said by Robert
Graves, “If I were a girl, I’d despair. The supply of good women far exceeds
that of the men who deserve them”, but they have been so slimly
recognized or remembered. This is somehow an echo of Virginia Woolf’s
comment, quoted earlier.        The woman of my book was not only aware
of, but lived the high incitements, which should stimulate to the
cultivation of her noblest powers. She particularly emphasized and
ensured that the world is no longer to be governed by physical force, but
by the influence which mind exerts over mind. As soon her slowly
unfolding story will show, how much she has contributed to this factor of
the influence which mind exerts over mind, and how dearly she paid for
bequeathing this gift of refinement and elevation of the human mind to us.
Here is a woman who was wide-awake to her highest destinies and holiest
hopes. Beecher’s quote shows that she was unfortunately unaware of the
existence of this woman. Otherwise, the knowledge that one such
preceded her long before the dark middle ages would not only have
delighted her enormously, but would also have made her immensely
proud of her sex and its potential power. This again goes to prove the
nepotism of history, which in this case is not only sexual and political, but
also ideological.

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Chapter 3

A Perfect Reflection of Perfection


Approximately seven kilometers to the southeast of the capital of
Syria, Damascus, there is a shrine. And its minarets, which are visible
from a long distance, tell us that this is where rests Zaynab, daughter of
Fatima and Ali, and the eldest of the two granddaughters of Muhammad,
the Prophet of Islam.

We must bear in mind an unalterable fact: that is, despite the efforts
of numerous biographers, very little actual recorded historical fact is
available about Zaynab. Even the exact dates of her birth, death, marriage,
or number of children, cannot be ascertained with complete certainty. The
reader most certainly is recollecting what I’ve said earlier about the
recorded history of man. After Fadaq (the land gifted to her by her father,
the Prophet) was seized from her by the people in power at that time,
Fatima, accompanied by a group of women, went to the Mosque and
delivered a speech there. I would like to start the remembrance of
Zaynab’s life with the following extracts from her mother’s speech, the
only daughter of Prophet Muhammad, and the wife of Ali, the vicegerent
and successor of the Prophet of Islam. Extracts of this speech has been
obtained from Odeh A. Muhawesh’s  ‘Fatima the Gracious.’


“Praise be to Allah for that which He bestowed (upon us); and thanks
be to Him for all that which He provided; from prevalent favors which He
created, and abundant benefactions which He offered and perfect grants
which He presented; (such benefactions) that their number is too much
too plentiful to compute; bounties too vast to measure…I too bear witness
that my Father, Muhammad, is His slave and Messenger, whom He chose
prior to sending him, named him before selecting him, and selected him
before sending him; when creatures were still concealed in that which was
transcendental, guarded from that which was appalling, and associated
with the termination and non-existence. For Allah the Exalted knew that
which was to follow, comprehended that which will come pass, and
realized the place of every Event.

Allah has sent him (Muhammad) (P.B.U.H) as perfection for His
commands, a resolution to accomplish His rule, and an implementation of
the decrees of His Mercy. So he found the nations to vary in their faiths,
obsessed by their fires, worshipping their idols, and denying Allah despite
their knowledge of Him. Therefore, Allah illuminated their darkness with
my father, Muhammad (P.B.U.H), uncovered obscurity from their hearts,
and cleared the clouds from their insights.           He revealed guidance
among the people; so he delivered them from being led astray, led them
away from misguidance, guided them to the proper religion, and called
them to the straight path.

Allah then chose to recall him back in mercy, love and preference.
So Muhammad (P.B.U.H) is in comfort from the burden of this world, he is
surrounded with devoted angels, the satisfaction of the Merciful Lord, and
the nearness of the Powerful King. So may the praise of Allah be upon my
father, His prophet, trusted one, the chosen one from among His
creatures, and His sincere friend, and may peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him.

After saying so, Fatima turned towards the crowd and said:
Surely you are Allah’s slaves at His command and prohibition; you
are the bearers of His religion and revelation; you are Allah’s trusted ones
with yourselves; and His messengers to the nations. Amongst you does He
have righteous authority; a covenant He brought unto you, and an heir He
left to guard you; That is the eloquent book of Allah; The truthful Quran;
The brilliant light; The shinning beam; Its insights are indisputable, its
secrets are revealed; Its indications are manifest; and its followers are
blessed by it. (The Quran) leads its adherents to goodwill; and hearing it
leads to salvation; with it are the bright divine authorities achieved, His
manifest determination acquired, His prohibited decrees avoided; His
manifest evidence recognized; His satisfying proofs made apparent, His
permissions granted, and His laws written. So Allah made belief to be
purification for you from polytheism.

He made: Prayer an exaltation for you from conceit. Alms a
purification for the soul and a (cause of) growth in subsistence. Fasting an
implantation of devotion. Pilgrimage a construction of religion. Justice a
harmony of the hearts. Obeying us (Ahlul Bayt) management of the nation.
Our leadership (Ahlul Bayt) safeguard from disunity. Jihad (struggle) A
strengthening of Islam…

O People! Be informed that I am Fatima, and my father is
Muhammad (P.B.U.H). I say that repeatedly and initiated it continually; I
say not what I say mistakenly,   nor do I do what I do aimlessly. Now hath
come unto you an Apostle from amongst yourselves; it grieves him that you
should perish; ardently anxious is he over you; to the believers he is most
kind and merciful. Thus, if you identify and recognize him, you shall
realize that he is my father and not the father of any of your women, the
brother of my cousin* [Ali (P.B.U.H)].

Thus, he propagated the Message, by coming out openly with the
warning, and while inclined away from the path of the polytheists, struck
their strengths and seized their throats, while he invited (all) to the way of
his Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; He destroyed idols, and
defeated heroes, until their group fled and turned their backs. So night
revealed its dawn; righteousness uncovered its genuineness; the voice of
the religious authority spoke out loud; the evil discords were silenced; The
crown of the hypocrisy was diminished; the tightening of infidelity and
desertion were united, so you spoke the statement of devotion amongst a
band of starved ones; and you were on the edge of a hole of fire; (you were)
the drink of the thirsty one; the opportunity of the desiring one; the fire
brand of him who passes in haste; the step for feet; you used to drink from
the water gathered on roads; eat jerked meat.

You were despised outcasts always in fear of abduction from those
around you. Yet, Allah rescued you through my father, Muhammad
(P.B.U.H); after much ado, and after he was confronted by mighty men the
Arab beasts, and the demons of the people of the Book, who, whenever
they ignited the fire of war, Allah extinguished it; and whenever the thorn
of the devil appeared, or the mouth of the polytheists opened wide in
defiance, he (P.B.U.H) would strike its discords with his brother (Ali,
P.B.U.H) who comes not back until he treads its wing with the sole of his
feet, and extinguishes its flames with his sword.

Ali is diligent in Allah’s affairs, near to the Messenger of Allah. A
master among Allah’s worshipers, setting to work briskly, sincere in his
advice, earnest and exerting himself (in service of Islam); while you are
calm, gay, and feeling safe in your comfortable lives, waiting for us to meet
disasters, awaiting the spread of news, you fell back during every battle,
and took to your heels at times of fighting. Yet, when Allah chose His
prophet from the dwell of His prophets, and the abode of His sincere
(servants); The thorns of hypocrisy appeared on you, the garments of faith
became worn out, the misguided ignorant(s) spoke out, the sluggish
ignorant came to the front and brayed. The he camel of the vain wiggled
his tail in your courtyards and the Devil stuck his head from its place of
hiding and called upon you, he found you responsive to his invitation, and
observing his deceits. He then aroused you and found you quick (to
answer him), and invited you to wrath, therefore; you branded other than
your camels and proceeded to other than your drinking places. Then while
the era of the prophet was still near, the gash was still wide, the scar had
not yet healed, and the messenger was not yet buried.

A quick undertaking as you claimed, aimed at preventing discord
(trial); surely they have fallen into trial already! And indeed Hell surrounds
the unbelievers. How preposterous! What an idea! What a falsehood! For
Allah’s Book is still amongst you, its affairs are still apparent; its rules are
manifest; its signs are dazzling; its restrictions are visible, and its
commands are evident. Yet, indeed you have cast it behind your backs!

What! Do you detest it? Or according to something else you wish to
rule? Evil would be the exchange for the wrongdoers! And if anyone
desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah) it never will be
accepted from him; and in the hereafter he will be in ranks of those who
have lost. Surely you have not waited until its stampede seized, and it
became obedient. You then started arousing its flames, instigating its coal,
complying with the call of the misled devil, quenching the light of the
manifest religion, and extinguished the light of the sincere prophet. You
concealed sips on forth and proceeded towards his (the prophet’s) kin and
children in swamps and forests (you plot against them in deceitful ways),
but we are patient with you as is we are notched with knives and stung by
spearheads in our abdomens. Yet - now you claim - that there is not
inheritance for us!

What! Do they then seek after a judgment of the days of ignorance?
But how, for a people whose faith is assured, can give better judgment
than Allah? Don’t you know? Yes, indeed it is obvious to you that I am his
daughter.

O Muslims! Will my inheritance be usurped? O son of Abu Quhafeh!
Where is it in the Book of Allah that you inherit your father and I do not
inherit mine? Surely you have come up with an unprecedented thing. Do
you intentionally abandon the Book of Allah and cast it behind your back?
Do you not read where it says: “And Sulaiman inherited Dawood”? And
when it narrates the story of Zakaria and says: “So give me an heir as from
thyself; (One that) will inherit me, and inherit the posterity of Yaqoob”
And: “But kindred by blood have prior rights against each other in the
Book of Allah” And: “Allah (thus) directs you as regards your children’s
(inheritance) to the male, a portion equal to that of two females” And: “…If
he leaves any goods, that he make a bequest to parents and next of kin,
according to reasonable usage; this is due from the pious ones.” You claim
that I have no share! And that I do not inherit my father! What! Did Allah
reveal a (Quranic) verse regarding you, from which He excluded my father?
Or do you say? These (Fatima and her father) are the people of two faiths;
they do not inherit each other? Are we not, me and my father, a people
adhering to one faith? Or is it that you have more knowledge about the
specifications and generalizations of the Quran than my father and my
cousin* (Imam Ali)? So, here you are! Take it! (ready with) its nose roped
and saddled! But it shall encounter you on the Day of Gathering; (thus)
What a wonderful judge is Allah, a claimant is Muhammad, and a day is
the day of Rising.

At the time of the Hour shall the wrongdoers lose; and it shall not
benefit you to regret (your actions) then! For every message there is a time
limit, and soon shall ye know who will be inflicted with torture that will
humiliate him, and who will be confronted by an everlasting punishment.

Fatima then turned towards the Ansars and said:  O you people of
intellect! The strong supporters of the nation! And those who embraced
Islam; What is this shortcoming in defending my right? And what is this
slumber (while you see) injustice (being done towards me)? Did not the
messenger of Allah (P.B.U.H), my father, used to say: “A man is upheld
(remembered) by his children”? O how quick have you violated (his orders)!
How soon have you plotted against us? But you still are capable (of helping
me in my attempt), and powerful (to help me in that which I request and
in my pursuit of it). Or do you say: Muhammad (P.B.U.H) has perished;
surely this is a great calamity; Its damage is excessive, its injury is great,
Its wound is much too deep to heal, The earth became darkened with his
departure; the stars eclipsed for his calamity; hopes were seized;
mountains submitted; sanctity was violated, and holiness was encroached
upon after his death. Therefore, this, by Allah, is the great affliction which
is the like of it; nor will there be sudden misfortune (as surprising as this).
The Book of Allah, excellent in praising him - announced in the courtyards
(of your houses) in the place where you spend your evenings and
mornings; A call, A cry, A recitation, and (verses) in order: It had previously
come upon His (Allah’s) Prophets and Messengers; (for it is) a decree final,
and a predestination fulfilled; “Muhammad is not but an Apostle: Many
were the apostles that passed away before him. If he died or was slain will
ye then turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the
least harm will he do to Allah; but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly
reward those who (serve Him) with gratitude.”

O you people of reflection; will I be usurped the inheritance of my
father while you hear and see me?     (and while) You are sitting and
gathered around me?     You hear my call, and are included in the (news of
the) affair? You are numerous and well equipped! (You have) the means
and the power, and the weapons and the shields. Yet, the call reaches you
but you do not answer; the cry comes to you but you do not come to help?
(This) While you are characterized by struggle, known for goodness and
welfare, the selected group (which was chosen), and the best ones chosen
by the Messenger (P.B.U.H) for us, Ahlul-Bayt. You fought the Arabs,      
bore with pain and exhaustion, struggled against the nations, and resisted
their heroes. We were still, so were you, in ordering you, and you in
obeying us. So that Islam became triumphant, the accomplishment of the
days came near, the fort of polytheism was subjected, the outburst of
fabrication subsided, the flames of infidelity calmed down, and the system
of religion was well ordered. Thus, (why have you) become confused after
clearness? Conceal matters after announcing them? Turned on your heels
after daring? Associated (others with Allah) after believing? Will you not
fight people who violated their oaths? Plotted to expel the Apostle and
became aggressive by being the first to assault you? Do ye fear them? Nay,
it is Allah Whom ye should more justly fear, if you believe?

Nevertheless, I see that you are inclined to easy living; dismissed he
who is more worthy of guardianship (Ali, P.B.U.H.); you secluded
yourselves with meekness and dismissed that which you accepted. Yet, if
you show ingratitude, ye and all on earth together - yet, Allah free of all
wants, worthy of all praise. Surely, I have said all that I have said with full
knowledge that you intend to forsake me, and knowing the betrayal,
which your hearts sensed. But, it is the state of the soul, the effusion of
fury, the dissemination of (what is) the chest and the presentation of the
proof. Hence, here it is! Bag it (leadership and) put it on the back of an ill
she camel, which has a thin hump, with everlasting grace, marked with
the wrath of Allah, and the blame of ever (which leads to) the Fire of (the
wrath of) Allah kindled (to a blaze), that which doth mount (right) to the
hearts. For, Allah witnesses what you do, and soon will the unjust
assailants know what vicissitudes their affairs will take!! And I am the
daughter of a Warner (the Prophet, P.B.U.H) to you against a severe
punishment. So, act and so will we, and wait, and we shall wait.”

Does this speech in any way seem, relative, incomprehensible,
distant, irrelevant or foreign, given a gap of almost fifteen hundred years?
Does the fact that it was delivered by a woman in any way diminish the
intensity, the charisma, the passion, the pain, the power, the inspiration,
the honesty, the integrity, the eloquence, the dignity and the substance of
a person who has been wronged beyond measure? Undoubtedly, the most
tragic event of Fatima’s life was the demise of her father. She was very
concerned about the future of the society, and the direction the Islamic
affairs were taking after this incident. Fatima began a campaign of political
activism and advocacy, because on one hand the question of leadership
and the future of Islam and on the other, the unity of the Islamic society
were at stake. This speech is, in spirit and content, a political lecture.
Fatima determinedly adopted a strategy of promoting awareness in order
to inform the people of her concerns, as the daughter of the Prophet. This
speech shows that Fatima displayed her political insight and concern. It is
evident that she fulfilled her role in the highest level of decision making in
the society of her time. She was an independent individual in her own
right, not just the wife of Ali, who himself is an unquestionable authority
on Islam. Both were extremely worried given the immediate political
trends in Islam, and opposed this trend, which began after the demise of
Muhammad. Fatima believed in decisive advocacy and open opposition.

Fatima used to allocate the income of Fadaq to poor and
downtrodden families. The way Fatima managed Fadaq, it became a major
economic resource. Fatima and Ali spent the income from Fadaq for the
welfare of the society. So, in effect, they introduced the system of welfare
in the economy. Fatima was summoned to the court within the mosque to
justify her claims to Fadaq. For Fatima, Fadaq symbolized her economic
rights and the economic rights of women in Islam. Her lecture comprises of
the remembrance and the unity of God; the role of the Prophet; principles
of Islamic edicts; an intensive analysis of the current trends and
developments in the Islamic society; her right of inheritance to her father’s
property, including Fadaq; the responsibilities and commitments of a true
Muslim. Fatima obviously sought to revive the ideals and fundamentals of
Islam, which she found to be distorted and manhandled. Therefore, this
speech is much more than a philosophical discourse in defending her
rights to inheritance. The speech is emblematic of women’s rights of
political freedom, their rights of freedom of expression for personal and
social well being, and most importantly their economic rights. This speech
not only gives us a taste of the depth and vastness of her knowledge, but
also is a witness of her analytical capabilities in exposing the then political
undercurrents and in proving and confirming the correctness of her
position. Fatima’s speech transcends the constrictions of time, place, and
context, and appears as vibrant and as moving as when actually delivered.

In Fatima is Fatima, Dr. Ali Shariati writes, “There is only one
person buried in the Ka’ba, the ‘House of God’ and that is a woman, a
slave Hajra, the second wife of Abraham and the mother of Ismail. Fatima
spent her life in struggle, resisting poverty and difficulties. Her father was
forced to spend three years in a valley with his family when his tribe
imposed economic and social sanctions against his message of Islam. After
the migration to Medina, her new life as a married woman begins but she
continues to face the same hardships and difficulties that she encountered
since childhood. We learn of Fatima as a Muslim female child who defends
her father against the elders of her tribe. Fatima is the one who, holding
her fathers’ hand, accompanies him into the bazaar, listens to his debates
and walks with him to her home; Fatima, the Muslim woman, who stands
at the door and defends her husband and her home when usurpers try to
burn it down. Fatima tells the newly elected Caliph that he has displeased
God and God’s Prophet by not listening to the Prophet’s advice and taking
his own interests to heart. Fatima, who when she finds injustice and
oppression speaks out with the totality of her being, not fearing the
outcome of her words for she knows she speaks with the tongue of Truth.”

The woman of my book, Zaynab, is the daughter of this Fatima. It is
not difficult to comprehend the kind of cradle Zaynab grew up in, which
was rocked by the hands of Fatima; what Zaynab must have absorbed into
her being and her veins, when the milk of Fatima nursed her; what
Zaynab’s soul was imprinted with, when Fatima looked lovingly into her
eyes; what Zaynab’s mind was affected with, when the voice of Fatima
spoke to her, caressed her, taught her, lulled her to sleep, prayed for her.
Zaynab - the daughter of such a mother, such a woman, such a wife, such
a daughter, such an educator, and such an activist! Someone of our
generation would think that it is incredibly hard and threatening to grow
up in the shadow of such a mother. Well, for Zaynab it was different. She
thought herself to be extremely fortunate that she grew up looking up to
such high standards set for her by Fatima and that she successfully
measured up to them, matched them in her own distinctive way and
excelled herself in meeting the expectations her family, and especially her
mother, had of her. What she has done has surpassed every other woman
known to man, from before the dawn of civilization to this very day, and till
the moment of time when nothing will be. Zaynab - the reflection of
Fatima. Zaynab - the mirror image of Fatima. Zaynab - the woman with the
soul of Fatima. The beauty of Fatima blooms in Zaynab. Or one can say,
the essence of Fatima breathes in Zaynab.

Top
















Chapter 4

The Hardest Times



I wanted to quote Fatima before I would actually start to narrate the
information on Zaynab’s life that I have so far come across, because there
are another two speeches at the heart of this book, which were delivered
by Zaynab. What Zaynab has managed to accomplish is incredible and
wonderful. Now, that you know what and how could Fatima speak, you
would find it very natural and believable when you find Zaynab speak. It
runs in their genes. But you would not believe when you see what
preceded the speech of Zaynab. Before I go further, I wish to the Almighty
that no one should go through what Zaynab went through, and that no
one should be put through what she was put through, especially a woman,
the most sublime of His creation.

In 5 A.H (after hijrat - after the year of migration from Mecca to
Medina) Zaynab was born. Hussain, her brother who was three years old
then, was delighted and said to Ali, “O father, God has given me a sister.”
His father started crying, and when asked by Hussain for its reason, was
told that he would soon come to know of it. Zaynab’s parents did not name
her immediately as they wanted Muhammad to name her and he was
away from   the city.

At his return, the Prophet held his eldest granddaughter in his lap
and kissed her. Gabriel, the angel, came to him and conveyed the name
that was to be Zaynab and began weeping. Muhammad asked him of the
reason of his crying, and was told, “O Prophet of God, from early on in life
this girl will remain entangled in tribulations and trials in this world. First
she will weep over your separation (from this world); thereafter she will
bemoan the loss of her mother, then her father, and then her brother
Hassan. After all this she will be confronted with the trials of the land of
Karbala and the tribulations of that lonely desert, as a result of which her
hair will turn grey and her back will be bent.”

When Muhammad’s family heard of this prophecy, they burst into
tears. Now Hussain understood the reason why his father wept earlier.
Muhammad named his granddaughter Zaynab. One day, when she was
about five years old, Zaynab saw a strange dream. She saw that a
turbulent storm rose in the city and it cast the earth and the sky into
darkness. And the little Zaynab was tossed from place to place, and
suddenly she found herself stuck in the branches of a huge tree. But the
storm uprooted the tree. Zaynab caught hold of a branch. It broke. She
caught hold of another. It broke. In panic she grabbed two twigs. These
two broke. Zaynab started falling. There was no support.

She woke up. When Muhammad heard this from her, he wept
bitterly. He said, “O my daughter, that tree is me who is shortly going to
leave this world. The branches are your father Ali and your mother Fatima,
and the twigs are your brothers Hassan and Hussain. They will all depart
this world before you do, and you will suffer their separation and loss.”

Zaynab was barely seven years old when Fatima passed away, soon
after the Prophet himself. While still a young girl, Zaynab was fully capable
of running her father’s household. She cared more for the comforts of her
brothers and sisters than herself. She was extremely generous to the poor,
the orphans and the needy. After her marriage, her husband is reported to
have said, “Zaynab is the best housewife.”

From very early in her life, Zaynab had an unusually strong bond
with her brother, Hussain. Sometimes while as a baby her mother would
not be able to pacify Zaynab, she would be so immediately if Hussain
would hold her. Zaynab would look at Hussain’s face before she prayed.
Fatima spoke to Muhammad about Zaynab’s intense love for Hussain. The
Prophet sighed deeply and with moist eyes said, “My dear child, this child
of mine, Zaynab, would be confronted with a thousand and one calamities
and face serious hardships in Karbala.”

Zaynab married her first cousin, Abdullah, the son of Ali’s brother,
Jafar. After the death of Jafar, as long as Muhammad was alive, Abdullah
grew up under his personal supervision, and afterwards Ali became his
guardian and supporter. Zaynab’s husband was a handsome young man of
knowledge, courage, generosity, and pleasant manners. Zaynab and
Abdullah had five children; four sons - Ali, Aun, Muhammad, and Abbas;
one daughter, Umm Kulthum.

Zaynab held regular classes, where she shared her knowledge with
other women, and taught them her grandfather’s religion, Islam. Her
meetings were well attended by the women. Zaynab soon came to be
known as Fasihah (skilfully fluent) and Balighah (intensely eloquent) for
her quality to impart knowledge with exceptional clarity and eloquence. In
37 A.H. Ali moved the government seat from Medina to Kufa, when he
finally became the fourth Caliph. Zaynab and Abdullah also accompanied
him. Her reputation, as an inspiring teacher had preceded her. And
women of Kufa started benefiting from Zaynab’s erudition, wisdom, and
scholarship in the exegesis of the Quran. It was this depth and accuracy of
knowledge, which earned her the name Alimah Ghayr Mu’allamah (she
who has knowledge without being taught), given to her by her nephew, Ali
Zayn-ul-Abidin, the eldest son and successor of Hussain.

On 19 Ramadan in 40 A.H. Ali went to the central mosque of Kufa
for prayers. Soon after the call to prayers, Zaynab heard a heart-rending
cry. The noise and cries were coming nearer to her home and she knew
that they were bringing her the news of her father’s assassination. The
assassin was Ibn Muljim who struck Ali a fatal blow deep in his head while
he was in the state of devotional prostration. His followers carried him
home on their shoulders wrapped in a blanket. On 21 Ramadan, just after
two days of the attack, Ali breathed his last. Hassan, his eldest child said,
“Tonight such a great man has died with whose good conduct no one in
the past or in the future can compare. He fought holy wars side by side
with the Holy Prophet, and made his life a shield for him. The Prophet
used to make him a standard bearer of the army while the angels Jibra’il
walked on his right and Mika’il on his left. He never came back from any
war without victory. At the time of his death he left nothing save seven
hundred dirhams with which he had intended to provide the people of his
house a servant.”

Even after being the brother and the vicegerent of the Prophet, the
only son-in-law of the Prophet, and the Caliph of the Islamic world for
almost five years, Ali’s household remained incapable of securing the
service of a domestic servant, which even a common citizen can afford.
There is a lot in this house that would seem otherwise strange, if not
properly studied and understood. A bereaved Zaynab returned with her
husband to Medina. Approximately ten years later, she lost Hassan, who
was another victim of the greedy and power-lusty Umayyads. Muawiya was
determined to convert the Caliphate into hereditary kingship, which would
facilitate in retaining the seat of power within the Umayyads. He could
only achieve this by securing allegiance of the Muslims for Yazid, his son.
Hence, he eliminated Hassan by feeding him poison from the hands of one
of Hassan’s wives.

The responsibility and the right of leadership of the nation passed
on to Hussain, the younger brother of Hassan. But everything was done to
hamper the situation. Within six years of Hassan’s death, Muawiya started
to persuade, cajole, tempt, bribe, threatens, and even eliminate people to
compel them to swear allegiance to Yazid. The people did so willingly or
unwillingly. Only five men refused to give allegiance to Yazid. Hussain was
one of them. Muawiya failed to pressurise Hussain, who opposed the
oppressive and unethical regime of the Umayyads. If the rule of Mu’awiya,
the son of Abu Sufian, the Prophet Muhammad’s most bitterly adamant
enemy in Mecca, had been offensive to some good Mulims, the accession of
Yazid, a drunkard and a lecher who openly ridiculed and flouted the
fundamentals of Islam, was an outrage. In Kufa the people began to stir
once more and soon letters and messengers were arriving in Medina,
urging Hussain to come to Kufa and assume leadership there. In 60 A.H.
the Bani Hashim (the clan of Abu Talib, Muhammad, Ali, Hassan and
Hussain, descendants of Hashim) were confronted with the issue of Yazid’s
Caliphate. Yazid refused to be as patient as Muawiya. The day after his
father died, Yazid wrote to Walid ibn Utha ibn Abu Sufian, the governor of
Medina, instructing him to pursue Hussain, Abdullah ibn Umar, and
Abdullah ibn Zubair, and force them to swear allegiance to him. Hussain
refused. At the behest of the oppressed people of Kufa, who led him to
believe that there were many of them who wanted to oppose the tyranny of
the transgressing Umayyads, he decided to go to Kufa.

Because of the pressure from Walid, Hussain moved from Medina to
Mecca. He sent his cousin Muslim ibn Aqil as his emissary to Kufa to
assess the situation. Despite some encouraging reports from Muslim,
Hussain was warned by some of his followers against going to Kufa as the
Kufians had earlier proved to be weak and fickle in their support for Ali
and Hassan.

But Hussain decided to leave for Kufa with his family. Zaynab learnt
of Hussain’s decision and requested her husband to allow her to
accompany him in his proposed journey. Abdullah apprised Zaynab of the
danger and hardships associated with this journey. Zaynab told him, “My
mother did not leave me behind to watch from afar as recreation the day
when my brother is all alone, surrounded by enemies with no friend or
supporter. You know that for fifty-five years my brother and I have never
been separated. Now it is the time of our old age and the closing period of
our lives. If I leave him now, how shall I be able to face my mother, who at
the time of her death had willed, ‘Zaynab, after me you are both mother
and sister for Hussain’? It is obligatory for me to stay with you, but if I do
not go with him at this time, I shall not be able to bear the pain of
separation.” Abdullah who, because of his illness, was unable to
accompany Hussain, gave Zaynab his permission to do so. He sent two of
his sons, Aun and Muhammad, with her. Zaynab left with Hussain and his
family for Kufa. After the first day of their journey, they camped at
Khuzaymiyyah to spend the night. As Zaynab was taking care of Hussain’s
comforts, he said to her, “What will come to pass has long since been
decreed.” After they resumed their journey, they found their way
obstructed by Hur ibn Yazid Riahi at Ruhayma. Sakina, the youngest
daughter of Hussain saw this and informed Zaynab of the situation.
Zaynab wept and said, “Would that the enemy killed all of us rather than
slay my brother.” Hussain came to know of Zaynab’s distress and went to
see her in her tent. She told him, “O my brother, talk to them. Tell them
about your closeness to the Holy Prophet and of your kinship with him.”
Hussain replied, “O sister, I spoke to them at length.  I tried to convince
them but they are so immersed in misguidance and obsessed with greed
that they cannot set aside their evil intentions. They will not rest till they
have killed me and seen me rolling around in my blood. O sister, I advise
you to patiently endure the forthcoming troubles. My grandfather, the
Holy Prophet had told me of my martyrdom, and his foretelling cannot be
untrue.”

On the 2nd of Muharram, Hussain’s party reached Karbala. But the
people who had originally invited and begged him to come to Kufa were no
longer standing by him. Yazid appointed Ibn Ziyad, the governor of Kufa
for the task of subverting the plans of the Kufians and to cunningly
eliminate any one showing support for Hussain. When the task was
successfully done, troops were sent to meet Hussain at Karbala.

Hussain’s side had their tents pitched. At night, while cleaning his
sword, Hussain was reciting couplets foretelling his martyrdom. His son
Zayn-ul-Abidin listened to him in sorrowful silence. Zaynab heard
Hussain’s recitation. She went to his tent and prayed that death would
overtake her. Zaynab asked Hussain, whether she might be killed in his
place. When she heard him say ‘no’, she lost consciousness. When she
regained it, Hussain said, “Everything is mortal. The final word lies with
God and to Him is the return. My father and grandfather were better men
than I but where are they now? Their example is the standard for me and
for all Muslims.” After saying this Hussain tried to console her and took
her to the tent of Zayn-ul-Abidin. Zaynab was however, unable to find any
solace. Hence, she came to be known as Baakiyah (the one who weeps).

On the eve of 10th of Muharram, Hussain addressed his followers,
who comprised of both friends and family - the Ansar and the Bani
Hashim. He knew that this was going to be a battle unto death. Therefore,
he relieved them of all obligations to remain by his side. He told them that,
were they to avoid getting involved in this battle and return to safety, their
decision would not be grudged.  There was not any doubt in anyone’s
mind of the impending slaughter. How hard it is to remain calm and
engage one’s thoughts only in prayers, all the while knowing that one is to
lose inevitably everyone and everything in the monstrous hands of one’s
own people? Zaynab has shown the world that this crisis too can be
surmounted by sheer faith in the Power of God, and in total submission to
His Will for the establishment of truth.

Umar ibn Sa’d, on the insistence of Shimr, prepared to attack the
handful of Hussain’s men. As soon as Zaynab heard the battle cries of the
approaching enemy troops, she ran to Hussain’s tent. There, she found
that he had fallen asleep while cleaning his sword. She stood there
watching him. Hussain woke up. He saw that Zaynab was watching him
silently. He told her that he just had a dream and he saw his grandfather,
his father, his mother, and his elder brother telling him that he would
soon join them. When he saw that this has distressed Zaynab very much,
he said to her, “The blessings of God are upon you. Do not worry about the
troubles these wretched people will cause.”

The sun of the 10th of Muharram came up to attest the truth in
Margaret Mead’s saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful
committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that
ever has.” Hussain went into the tent of his successor Ali Zayn-ul-Abidin,
who was lying ill, as he was too weak to join his father in his battle.
Zaynab was looking after him. Hussain bade him goodbye and said, “My
son, you are the best and purest of my children. After me you will be my
successor and deputy. Take care of these women and children during
captivity and the rigors of travel. Console them. My son, convey to my
friends my Salaam and tell them their Imam has been killed away from his
home, who was thirsty and hungry, and that they should mourn for me.”
He told Zaynab and the other women that, “Take heed and remember that
this my son is my successor and Imam and is to be obeyed by everyone.”
He turned to Zaynab, and said, “After killing me my enemies would take
off the clothes from my body. Therefore, please bring me some old and
tattered garment to wear so that they might not undress me and leave me
naked.” Zaynab did what was asked of her.

Zaynab brought her sons, Aun and Muhammad to Hussain and said
to him, “O my dear brother, if women were permitted to fight I would have
courted death to save you. But it is not allowed. Therefore, please accept
the sacrifice of my two sons.” The mindless massacre raged on the whole
day. One by one, Hussain’s sons, brothers, kinsmen, friends, and
supporters were martyred on the battlefield. None died an easy death.
They were all practically butchered. Zaynab’s sons met with the same fate.
She accepted it with absolute fortitude. Neither did Zaynab come out of
her tent, nor did she loudly lament as she did not want to cause grief or
embarrassment to her brother. But when the corpse of Ali Akbar, the
second son of Hussain was brought in the tent of the women, Zaynab was
in deep anguish.  She rushed out of her tent and clasped his body crying,
“O my son, would that I had become blind, or had been buried beneath
the ground so as not to have seen this day.”

As the enemies stopped Muhammad’s family’s access to water, the
water store had finished almost four days ago. Usually it is said that
Hussain and his party did not have any water to drink for three days. But I
would like to correct this as the water reserve finished on the 6th of
Muharram, and from the 7th of Muharram any possible supply was
stopped. So, as the battle took place on the 10th of Muharram and went
on till sunset, Hussain and his people were thirsty for more than four
days. When Hussain was taking his final leave from the women, Zaynab
asked whether he could try to get a little water for his dehydrated six-
month old son Ali Ashgar, as his mother’s milk had also dried up. Hussain
took the baby in his arms and went to request Umar ibn Sa’d for a little
water for him. But Umar- ibn-Sa’d and his troops gave much more than
that to the baby. They shot an arrow that pierced the child’s neck and
Hussain’s shoulder. Hussain came back to the tent with the body of his
dead son. Zaynab wept as she pressed the tiny body to her chest.

The last person to go out in the battlefield was Hussain. This means,
Hussain was thirstier than any of his warriors. He kept the extreme of pain
and discomfort for himself. He was so heavily and numerously wounded
that there was not a part of his body that remained unscathed. He stopped
his sword because it was time for him to pray. His enemies attacked him
from all sides with swords and spears. When Zaynab saw this from her
tent, she went out on the battlefield, and said to Hussain, “O my brother,
my master, would that the sky fell down on the earth and the mountains
toppled to the ground.” Then she turned to Umar ibn Sa’d and said,   “O
Sa’d, Hussain is being butchered and you are only watching.” Hearing this
his eyes filled with tears but he made no reply. Zaynab addressed the
others in the enemy army: “Is there no Muslim among you who could help
the grandson of the Prophet of God?”

Hussain bent his head on the ground in prostration. Shimr lifted his
severed head. There was no fight left. The troops had only one thing to do
trample and mince Hussain’s body under the hooves of their horses, and
loot him so much so that even the tattered piece of cloth, which he hoped
would preserve his modesty was snatched away. When Hussain’s head was
cut off, Zaynab heard Gabriel proclaim: “Beware, Hussain has been
murdered in Karbala.”

She rushed to Zayn-ul-Abidin and told him of the tragedy that had
just occurred. At his asking Zaynab raised the curtain of the tent for him
to look towards the battlefield. When he saw that his father’s head was
held on the point of a spear, he started crying and exclaimed, “My aunt,
my father has been killed, and with him the spring of generosity and
honour too has come to an end. Inform the women and ask them to
conduct themselves with patience and forbearance. Let them be prepared
for plunder and captivity.”

The enemy stormed into the women’s tents and Umar ibne Sa’d
ordered them to loot. They stole what they could and set the tents on fire.
They beat the women with their swords and whips and snatched away
their shawls (chadar). Zayn-ul-Abidin’s bedding was ripped from beneath
his body and he was left lying weak and shaking. Sakina’s and Fatima’s
earrings were wrenched from their ears, causing them to bleed profusely.
They were slapped so hard and so often by Shimr, that their cheeks
started to bleed. After the battle there were more than one hundred
children and almost fifty women present in Karbala. And amidst this
carnage Zaynab was the only one to take care of all of them, including her
ill nephew.

While the tents were being devoured by fire,  Zaynab gathered the
women and went to get Hussain’s ill son. Shimr had come to kill him after
finding that there was still one man alive on Hussain’s side. Zaynab threw
herself on Zayn-ul-Abidin’s body to protect him. Thus, she stopped Shimr
from carrying out his satanic intentions. Zayn-ul-Abidin was too weak to
move. His tent was burning. Zaynab lifted him in her arms and carried
him out. Out of sheer terror most of the women and children had fled here
and there into the open desert. Zaynab started looking for them amidst the
slaughterhouse of dead bodies, chopped limbs,    streaming blood, severed
heads, raging fire, choking smoke, scalding tears, benumbing grief, and
hostile darkness. As night fell Zaynab gradually collected them all and
assembled them in one place. But she could not find Sakina, the youngest
daughter of Hussain. Distraught with worries Zaynab went where
Hussains’ beheaded and trampled body was lying in the dark battlefield.
Sakina was lying on Hussain’s chest, clinging to his body.

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Chapter 5

Power of Pain in Action


The day after the infamous slaughter took place in Karbala, the
members of Muhammad’s family were made to leave for Kufa to be
presented to Ibn Ziyad. Among the captives, were Zaynab, her younger
sister Umm Kulthum, other women of the Bani Hashim, Zayn-ul-Abidin,
three young sons of Hassan, the daughters of Hussain, and the female
friends and followers. When on their way, they reached the battlefield of
Karbala, they saw that the bodies of the martyrs lay naked on the burning
sand, covered with blood and dust. The enemy did not bury them, while
they buried their own dead. Seeing this Zayn-ul-Abidin was so
traumatized that he appeared on the verge of death himself. On observing
this, Zaynab said to him, “O you who are reminder of my grandfather and
father. What has happened to you for I see that you are about to lose your
life.” He replied, “Dear Aunt, how can I be otherwise when I see that the
bodies of my father, uncles, brothers and cousins are lying on the ground
neglected while their clothes have been removed and there is no
arrangement for shrouding and burying them?” Then Zaynab could not
hold back her cries and lamentation at the murder of Hussain and their
captivity.

Umar ibn Sa’d had entrusted the severed heads of Hussain, his
sons, and the other martyrs, to different tribal chiefs so that on the way
people would see that various tribes had taken part in the battle and none
would dare to interrupt their victory march. The captives were made to
ride on camels without saddles, without any shawl or veil, while ahead of
them the captors carried the chopped off heads of the martyrs hoisted on
spears.

They arrived in Kufa at night. They were made to camp outside as
the palace of Ibn Ziyad was shut. In the morning he was informed of the
arrival of the victors and the prisoners. He ordered for the arrangement of
a big function of celebration to be held, to which all and sundry were to be
invited. The head of Hussain was to be placed on a gold tray near the court
chair, and the heads of the other martyrs were to be displayed as well.        
The Kufians were told that some tribe had committed aggression against
the Muslims, but the latter had won. The function was being held to
celebrate this victory. Everyone arrived in festive clothes. In joyful
anticipation, the crowd poured into the streets, and bazaars. The music of
victory was played when the captives were being brought there. A few
among the crowd guessed otherwise and they had their eyes cast down.
There was one woman there who recognized Zaynab, and her retinue of
women. She ran into her house and brought them all shawls and sheets
with which to cover their bodies. But the guards snatched them away.

Zaynab saw this. She saw that some of the men and women who
finally realized what had happened were crying and wailing. She bade
them to be quiet with a single regal gesture of her hand. And then she
spoke. Zaynab spoke with the flame of Fatima and the eloquence of Ali.
You can see for yourself the resemblance of Zaynab’s speech to that of
Fatima’s, quoted earlier in Chapter 3. Zaynab’s speech is a rational and
political follow-up of Fatima’s. The things, which displeased and hurt
Fatima, the very things of which she warned the Muslims - her
contemporaries and their progeny, and the things she vehemently
objected to, the things which she protested against fervently; they all took
place heedless of her caution, resulting in the holocaust - Karbala and its
aftermath.

“Praise be to Allah”, she began, “and blessings be on my grandfather
Muhammad and his purified and chosen progeny. So now, O people who
deceive, forsake and contrive, it is you who weep. May Allah not stop your
tears and may your chests burn incessantly with the fire of grief and
sorrow. Your example is that of a woman who assiduously prepares a
strong rope and then untwines it herself, wasting her own hard labour.
You swear such false oaths, which bear no truthfulness at all. Beware that
you have nothing except vain talk, false pride, mischief, malice, evil,
rancour, falsehood, and sycophancy. Beware that your position is that of
slave-maids and purchased girls who are but the meanest beings. Your
hearts are full of enmity and rancour. You are like the vegetation that
grows on filthy soil and is yet green, or like the mortar applied unto
graves.”

“You should know that you have perpetrated a very morbid deed and
that have prepared evil provision for your next life, because of which
Allah’s anger is against you and His wrath would fall upon you. Now you
are crying aloud and wailing over my brother! Yes, cry, because it behoves
you to cry. Yes, weep profusely and laugh less, because you have earned
the shame of killing the Imam of your age. The stain of his blood is now on
your clothes and you cannot remove it, nor can you secure acquittal from
the charge of killing the son of the last Prophet of Allah, the Chief of the
youths of Paradise. You have killed a person who was your support, the
knower of the Sunnah and the ultimate arbitrator at the time of your
mutual disputations. He was the basis of your talks and actions. He was
your place of refuge in the event of hardship. Know that you have been
guilty of the most heinous of crimes in the world and have prepared the
worst provision for the Day of Judgement. Curses be upon you and may
destruction overtake you. Your efforts have gone wasted and you have
been ruined. You have transacted a losing trade. You have become the
victim of Allah’s wrath and have fallen into ignominy and degradation.”

“O people of Kufa, woe upon you. Do you realise which piece of
Muhammad’s heart you have severed, which pledge you have broken,
whose blood you have shed and whose honour you have desecrated? You
have certainly committed such a crime because of which the sky may fall
down on the earth, the earth may crack and mountains crumble to pieces.
By killing your Imam you have committed a singularly evil act of rebellious
behaviour and heedlessness towards dignity. In view of all these acts
would you wonder if blood should rain down from the sky?” Here it must
be noted that the incident of Karbala took place in 685 AD of the Christian
Calendar. And it is recorded in the Anglo Saxon Chronicles: “685. This
year there was in Britain a bloody rain, and milk and butter were turned
into blood.”

Zaynab continued, “In any case you should mind that the
chastisement of the Next World will be severe.  At that juncture there will
be no one to help you. Do not regard the time and opportunity given to
you by Allah as small and unimportant, and do not be satisfied with it
because if Allah is not quick in acting it does not simply imply that He is
unable. For Him there is no fear that the time of vengeance is passing
away. Allah is certainly keeping watch over you.” The crowd gathered all
around her and wept with remorse.

Zaynab had no wish to appeal to their petty sentiments of pity.
Rather she exposed to them their own selves and their misdeeds. Zaynab’s
firebrand speech made the people so ashamed of themselves that all the
prior sense of fun and joyous celebrations was now the farthest from their
minds.

Zaynab entered the government palace, which was so familiar to her.
It was here that she saw her father mete out justice during his Caliphate.
It was here that she saw her sons and the other children of the household
play. It was here that she saw her brothers and the rest of the family being
held in great regard by the people. But the circumstances have changed so
much. Her present condition was a world apart from the ones she could
hardly ever forget. Although she was shabbily dressed, her constitution
undergoing hunger, physical exhaustion and pain, not to mention the
furnace of agony and sorrow in her heart, and her head was uncovered,
Zaynab entered with awe-inspiring dignity and quietly took her place. Ibn
Ziyad was amazed at her bold personality and enquired who she was.
Zaynab did not think it was necessary to reply to his question. It was left
to one of her slaves to inform Ibn Ziyad of her identity. Enraged because of
her apparently haughty behaviour, Ibn Ziyad said to her, “Allah be
praised! Your brother and your kinsmen are dead and their false claims
have come to naught.” Zaynab replied, “It was Allah’s wish that they
should be martyred, and they met their deaths bravely. If this was your
heart’s desire then you must indeed be content today. But you have killed
those whom the Holy Prophet held upon his knees when they were
children, and, whose play filled him with joy. Soon you will stand with
them before Allah and they will demand justice. Beware the day of
reckoning.”

And it seemed to all that heard her speak that she was speaking
with the voice and in the style of her father. Angrily, Ibn Ziyad turned to a
young man among the prisoners and enquired of him. The youth replied,    
“I am Ali, son of Hussain.” Ibn Ziyad was taken aback by the fact that he
was still alive, and ordered his execution. But Zaynab intervened and said
that if the man was to be killed then she should be killed with him. Ibn
Ziyad was shamed by her love and the order was not carried out. Hussain’s
son was bound with chains, and an iron ring was fastened around his
neck. After this he was permitted to remain with the women.

The family of Muhammad was then imprisoned in a house near the
central mosque. They were locked in and strictly guarded, and none
except slave-maids were able to visit them. The day after their arrival Ibn
Ziyad wrote to Yazid informing him about the killing of Hussain and the
capture of his womenfolk. Yazid replied that the captives be sent to him in
Damascus along with the heads of the martyrs. After about a month and
seven days in Kufa they were made to set off for Damascus with a large
escort of horsemen and footmen of the army so that none should intercept
their journey. On the 18 of Safar the caravan left Kufa with its
stonehearted escorts. The women suffered untold hardships on their
journey to Damascus, which was no less than six hundred miles away.
Their journey took them through many villages and towns, among them
Karbala, Ba’albeck, Musal and Hums. They were made to travel unveiled,
on unsaddled camels like slaves, and the heads of the martyrs were
carried on spears before them. In some of the towns, crowds flocked to jeer
at them, but if it happened that they were to pass through some place
where the people were loyal towards the family of the Prophet, they came
out to fight the Yazidites. They therefore, were very often forced to take
other routes involving long diversions, and the camels were made to run
faster so as to cover the extra distance. The captives were treated very
cruelly. Many of the children perished from the rigors of the journey.
When we are talking about captives you have to always remember that
they consisted of women, small children and only one man, the eldest son
of Hussain, who was not only chained and fettered but was being cruelly
beaten up and whipped.

After about twenty-eight days, on the sixteenth of Rabi-ul-Awwal,
the caravan reached Damascus. When they reached the outskirts of
Damascus they were made to halt. Yazid was informed of their arrival and
he fixed a date for their entry into the city. On the morning of the
appointed day, the members of the family of Muhammad were led into
Damascus. They were tied with ropes and herded together like cattle. If
anyone stumbled she was whipped. The city streets had been decorated
and the sound of music filled the air. How must have these decorations,
laughter, and fun-filled music pained Zaynab! One cannot even begin to
imagine. People came out in throngs wearing festive clothes and rejoiced
when they saw the procession, preceded as always by the heads of the
martyrs. The prisoners bore themselves with dignity and self-respect,
when they were paraded through Damascus. Zaynab rejected even the
offerings of food that some of the people offered the prisoners out of
compassion.

The son of an enemy of the Prophet who had waged war with Ali was
among the crowds. When he saw Zayn-ul-Abidin, he jeeringly asked him
who was now victorious. In reply Zayn-ul-Abidin said: “If you wish to find
out who has been victorious, do so when it is time for prayer and the
Adhan and Iqamat are recited.”

In this manner the captives were paraded in the bazaars and amidst
the crowd from morning to afternoon and then they reached the palace of
Yazid. He was seated on a throne and was very happy when he saw the
forty-four bound captives arrive. The head of Hussain was then brought to
him on a gold tray. He struck Hussain’s teeth with his stick and said: “O
Hussain! You have paid the price of your revolt.” When Zaynab and her
companions saw this barbarously insensitive action they burst into tears
and many present in the court felt genuinely ashamed. The prisoners were
tied up in a single rope. All the while outside and inside Yazid’s palace,
Zaynab could not stand straight as whenever she would try to do so, the
rope would pull and strain around Sakina’s neck, causing her enormous
pain. Sakina’s neck was at the level with Zaynab’s tied arms. She kept
herself bent. It was the only way she could reduce the degree of pain on
the little girl’s neck. And till the day she died, Zaynab could never
straighten her back.

Indifferent to the pain, suffering, sorrow, guilt, and uneasiness in
the atmosphere, Yazid carried on gloating over his victory. He said to his
subjects: “My ancestors who were killed at Badr have been avenged today.
Now it is clear that the Bani Hashim had just staged a play to gain power
and there was never any divine revelation.” Yazid wanted to frighten the
prisoners. Yazid did not know Zaynab.

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Chapter 6

The Zenith of Humanity
 
This was the moment Zaynab had been reared, geared, and
prepared for, all through her life. The entity of her being was anchored on
this moment of Time.   This was the moment of Truth. Only through truth
can untruth be vanquished. I would urge my readers to recollect the
saying of Lady Jane Wilde quoted earlier in Chapter 1. I am going to
rearrange and reshape it in the following manner: We have now traced the
history of women from Paradise to the 21st century and despite the clank
of their fetters, have heard and seen on a few remarkable occasions
through the long roll of the ages, absolutely magnificent celebration of
truth, emblazoned with faith and sincerity of purpose.  

This was the moment Eve had waited for, this was the moment
Adam had waited for; this was the moment Heger had waited for, this was
the moment Abraham had waited for; this was the moment Mary had
waited for, this was the moment Jesus had waited for; this was the
moment Amina had waited for, this was the moment Abdullah had waited
for; this was the moment Fatima- bint-Asad had waited for, this was the
moment Abu Talib had waited for; this was the moment Fatima-bint-
Muhammad had waited for, this was the moment Ali-ibn-Abu Talib had
waited for; this was the moment Khadija had waited for, this was the
moment Muhammad (P.B.U.H) had waited for, this was the moment
Zaynab had waited for, this was the moment Abdullah ibn Jafar had
waited for. And this was the moment Hussain was waiting for. Zaynab was
ready to fulfil her end of the Hussain-Zaynab partnership deal.

Zaynab drew herself up bravely in front of the most notorious man of
all time, who puts to shame even the likes of Nero and Hitler. She
delivered her speech in front of the greatest terrorist the world will ever
see. Zaynab began boldly and loudly for all to hear (I am at my wit’s end in
trying to understand that after all she has undergone how in the name of
God, did she have the stamina to remain bold and composed?): “Praise be
to Allah, the Lord of the worlds and blessings on my grandfather, the Chief
of divine prophets. O Yazid, Allah says, and his word is true, that: ‘Then
evil was the end of those who did evil because they rejected the
communications of Allah and used to mock them’ [30:10].”

“O Yazid, do you believe that you have succeeded in closing the sky
and the earth for us and that we have become your captives just because
we have been brought before you in a row and that you have secured
control over us? Do you believe that we have been afflicted with insult and
dishonour by Allah and that you have been given honour and respect by
Him? You have become boastful of this apparent victory that you have
secured and you have started feeling jubilant and proud over this prestige
and honour. You think that you have achieved worldly good and that your
affairs have become stable and our rule has fallen into your hands. Wait
for a while. Do not be so joyful. Have you forgotten Allah’s saying: ‘The
unbelievers should not carry the impression that the time allowed to them
by us is good for them.

Surely we give them time so that they may increase their evil deeds, and
eventually they will be given insulting chastisement’ [3:178].”

“O son of freed slaves, is this your justice that you keep your own
daughters and slave maids veiled while the daughters of the Prophet of
Allah are being paraded from place to place exposed.” You have
dishonoured us by unveiling our faces. Your men take us from town to
town where all sorts of people, whether they be residents of the hills or of
riversides have been looking at us. The near as well as the remote ones,
the poor as well as the rich, the low as well as the high  all casting their
glances at us while our position is such that there is no male relative of
ours to render us help or support.”

“O Yazid, whatever you have done proves your revolt against Allah
and your denial of His Prophet, of the Book and Sunnah that the Holy
Prophet brought from Allah. Your deeds should not cause amazement
because one whose ancestors chewed the livers of the martyrs, whose
flesh grew up on virtuous people, who fought against the Chief of divine
prophets, who mobilized parties for fighting against him and drew swords
against him, should conspicuously excel all Arabs in unbelief, sinfulness,
excesses, and enmity against Allah and His Prophet (P.B.U.H). Remember
that the evil deeds and sinful actions that you have committed are the
result of unbelief and old rancour you bear because of your ancestors who
were killed in Badr.”

“One who cast his glance of enmity, malice and rancour upon us
does not lag behind in practicing enmity against us. He proves his
unbelief, declares it with his tongue and jubilantly proclaims: ‘I have killed
the sons of the Prophet (P.B.U.H) of Allah and made his progeny captive,’
and wishes that his ancestors had lived to see his achievement and to have
exclaimed, ‘O Yazid, may your hands not lose their strength, you have
wreaked good vengeance on our behalf’. O Yazid, you are striking the lips
of Imam Hussain with your stick in front of this crowd while these very lips
used to be kissed by the Prophet (P.B.U.H) of Allah, and yet your face
reflects pleasure and happiness.”

“By my life, by killing the chief of youths of Paradise, the son of the
chief of Arabs, Ali and the shining sun of the progeny of Abd-ul-Muttalib,
you have deepened our wound and uprooted us completely. By killing
Hussain ibne Ali you have gained nearness to the state of your unbelieving
ancestors. You proclaim your deed with pride and if they were to see you
they would approve of your action and pray that Allah may not paralyse
your arms.”

“O Yazid! If you had heart enough to take account of your nefarious
deeds, you yourself would surely wish your arms to be paralyzed and
severed from your elbow and you would wish that your parents had not
given birth to you because you would know that Allah has become
displeased with you. Allah, Grant us our rights. Punish those who have
oppressed us.”

“O Yazid! You did what you wished, but remember that you have cut
your own skin and your own flesh to pieces. Soon you will be brought
before the Holy Prophet. You will be overburdened with the weight of your
sins committed by shedding the blood of his progeny and by dishonouring
his family. The place to which you will be taken will be before all the
members of his family. The oppressed will be avenged and the enemies
will be punished.”

“O Yazid! It is not seeming for you to swell with joy after slaying the
Prophet’s progeny. ‘Reckon not those who are killed in Allah’s way as
dead; nay, they are alive and are provided sustenance from their Lord;
rejoicing in what Allah has given them out of His grace’ [3:169-170]. Allah
is sufficient to deal with you. The Messenger of Allah is your antagonist
and Hadrat Jibra’il is our support and help against you.”

“Those who have made you the head of state and burdened the
Muslims with your leadership will soon find out what awaits them. The
end of all tyrants is agony.”

“O Yazid. I speak not to you thus to warn you of the severe
chastisement in store for you so that you should be regretful; for you are
one of those whose hearts are hardened, souls are rebellious and whose
bodies are busy in Allah’s disobedience while they are under the curse of
the Prophet of Allah. You are from among those in whose heart Satan has
made his abode and has been breeding young ones.”

“How amazing it is that the virtuous people, sons of the divine
prophets and vicegerents are killed at the hands of liberated slaves, evil-
doers and sinners. Our blood is shed by their hands and our flesh serves
as food for them. We feel grieved for those whose bodies are lying un-
shrouded and unburied in the battlefield, wounded with arrows.”

“O Yazid, if you consider our defeat as your achievement then you
will have to pay its price. “ Allah commits no injustice to His servants. Our
reliance is on Allah. He alone is our Relief and place of Protection, and in
Him alone do we repose our hope.”

“You may contrive and try however much you can. By Him who
honoured us with revelation, the Book and Prophethood, you cannot
achieve our status, nor reach our position, nor can you affect our mention,
nor remove from yourself that shame and dishonour that is now your lot
because of perpetrating excess and oppression on us. Your word now is
weak and your days are counted. Beware of the day when the announcer
would announce the curse of Allah on the oppressors and the unjust.”

“Praise be to Allah who gave good end to His friends and granted
them success in their aims, and thereafter called them back to His mercy,
pleasure and bliss, while you hurled yourself into evil and mischief by
committing injustice against them. We pray to Allah to favour us with full
recompense through them and grant  us the good of Khilafat and Imamat.
Surely Allah is Kind and the Most Merciful over His creatures.”

Among the gathering was a red haired Syrian who saw Fatima
Kubra, daughter of Hussain and asked Yazid to give her to him. When the
girl heard this she clung to Zaynab and started to weep. She feared that
now after the loss of her father she was to be made a slave girl.       Zaynab
turned to Yazid and told him that he had neither right nor authority to
give the young girl away like that,     at which he bristled, retorting that he
could do so. Zaynab riposted, “You are abusing me because of your
authority and power.” This silenced Yazid. To the Syrian she said: “May
the curse of Allah be upon you. May hell be your eternal abode. May your
eyes be blinded and your limbs paralyzed.” Immediately paralysis gripped
the man and he fell to the ground dead.

Yazid was so enraged with Zaynab’s brave defiance of his authority
that he might have ordered her killed if it had not been for Abdullah ibn
Umar ibn Aas intervention who begged Yazid that no notice be taken of
her words since she had suffered much grief and hardship and was
heartbroken. Zayn-ul-Abidin would also have suffered death at the hands
of Yazid on account of his fearless speech, had not Zaynab saved his life by
asking Yazid to slay her along with him. Yazid was moved by her love for
Hussain’s son and spared his life. Death nevertheless knocked. Sakina
who was four at that time, died in captivity in Damascus and was buried
there.

By Zaynab’s bold demeanor throughout this tormenting phase and
through her soul-stirring fervent speeches, whenever possible in their
journey, people came to know of the true events of Karbala. The continued
captivity and persecution of the family of the Prophet was bringing their
cause to the attention of an increasing number of people. Yazid was
getting information that there was turmoil and unrest in the realm. So, he
had no choice but to release the captives. He sent for Zayn-ul-Abidin. He
informed him of his impending release and asked if he wished for
anything. The youth said he would have to consult Zaynab. Arrangements
were made and she arrived, properly veiled. She asked, “O Yazid, since the
day our leader and our chief Hussain was killed, we have not had any
opportunity to mourn for him.”

A large house was provided for them in the residential area of
Damascus and here Zaynab held her very first majlis-e-aza (gathering to
remember and mourn Hussain). The women of Bani Hashim arrived clad
in black, with their heads uncovered, weeping. Zayn-ul-Abidin sat on the
carpet of Hussain. Zaynab told the women of Syria what had befallen
them. They shed tears and mourned. They had not known about the
events of Karbala and Kufa, but when they went home they told the men.
It was the fear of revolt and possible civil war that caused Yazid to release
the members of the family of the Prophet.

Yazid gave them the choice of remaining in Damascus or returning
to Medina. When Zaynab decided to return to Medina he called Nu’man
ibn Bashir, who had been a companion of Muhammad, and ordered him to
make suitable arrangements for their journey. A contingent of horsemen,
cavalry and adequate provisions were made available. Gaily decorated
litters with velvet seats were provided. But Zaynab ordered that these
should all be covered in black so that people would know the travellers
were in mourning.

When the citizens of Damascus came to know that the members of
the Prophet’s family were leaving, the women came to the house they were
staying in for final farewell. Many people accompanied the caravan for part
of the journey and then returned to their homes with heavy hearts.

During the journey, Nu’man ibn Bashir showed the travellers every
consideration and respect. Whenever they stopped, the tents of the men
were pitched a mile away from those of the women so that the women
could move unhindered and unobserved by strangers. Gatherings of
mourners were held wherever they stopped and many people came,
listened and learned the truth. The travellers returned to Medina via
Karbala. When they reached Karbala they found Jabir ibn Abdullah Ansari
and some of the chiefs of Bani Hashim were already there for they had
come to pay homage at the grave of Hussain. It is told that the journeyers
had brought the severed head of Hussain with them from Damascus and
that in Karbala it was joined with his body by his son. A great majlis was
held before they resumed their journey. When the time came to leave
Karbala, Zaynab wanted to remain near Hussain’s grave till the day of her
death. But Zayn-ul-Abidin pleaded with her not to leave them. Zaynab
gave in with reluctance.

Wherever the caravan stopped on its way to Medina, a majlis-e-aza
was held. When the city was in sight Zaynab bade the women alight from
their camels and pitch their tents. Black flags were raised. On learning of
their arrival the people of Medina came out in droves, and once again
Zaynab recounted to them the events at Karbala and the hardships of their
subsequent captivity. After some time Zayn-ul-Abidin asked the women to
prepare themselves for entering Medina. They entered the city on foot,
with black flags raised aloft. Zaynab went straight to the grave of the
Prophet, where she prayed and told him of the massacre.

Zaynab came back to Medina as an altered woman, physically and
emotionally. Her hair had turned white, and her back was bent. I do not
have the audacity or the words to describe her altered emotional state.

Although upon her return, she had been reunited with her
husband, she did not live long after the tortuous trials she had to bear.
The exact date and place of her death is not clear but it is probable that
she died in the year 62 A.H. some six months after her return.
Chapter 7

A Salute for The
Essential She


Rabindranath Tagore wrote:

In anger we slew him,
With love let us embrace him now,
For in death he lives again amongst us,
The mighty conqueror of death.

The world came to know of Hussain, his sacrifice and his mission
through his spokeswoman, Zaynab. In Zaynab, Hussain had a perfect
comrade. It was Zaynab who established Hussain’s ideals drenched with
his blood, forging a new bond between the brave and the conscientious of
all races and all nations. It was Zaynab who exposed the evil deeds of
criminals like Ibn Ziyad, Shimr, and Yazid with courage and fearlessness.
Had it not been for Zaynab, the Message of Karbala and Islam itself would
have been wiped away by the evil designs of politics and greed. Zaynab
endured physical pain and mental torture with unforeseen fortitude and
was a constant source of strength and succour to everyone around her.
Every time there is a call for prayer from any mosque anywhere in the
world, the Muslims should remember this unparallel woman and bow
down in gratitude.

Shariati says, “We see a dream appeared to Joan of Arc, a sensitive
and imaginative girl, for her to fight in order to have the king returned. For
centuries, her dream has given the inspiration of freedom, sacrifice, and
the sense of revolution and courage to the enlightened, aware and
progressive French people. Whereas Zainab, the sister of Imam Hosein,
who takes a heavier mandate, the mandate of Hosein in her Ali-like hands,
continues the movement of Karbala, which opposed murders, lying, terror,
and hysterics. She continues the movement at a time when all of the
heroes of the revolution are dead and the breath of the forerunners of
Islam has ceased in the midst of our people, when commanders of the
Islam of Muhammad … are gone. But she has been turned into ‘a sister
who mourns’.”

The perception of Zaynab as a woman, who only mourns, is such an
incomplete and unfair profile - one hugely deficient in substance. Zaynab
is the woman who pre-demonstrated the saying of Eleanor Roosevelt: “You
gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you
really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think
you cannot do.” Only that Zaynab did the things, which she knew she
could do. Events like Karbala and Zaynab’s trials remain as wounds in our
consciousness, reminding us of battles, yet to be fought and tasks still to
be accomplished. This book salutes a woman who wept, but who made
sure that the work would go on - a woman who is courage personified - a
woman who is tenderness personified - a woman who mourns but has
mastered the discipline necessary for the accomplishment of any task, for
the attainment of any goal - a complete woman whose strength lies in her
gentleness, presence of mind, forbearance, essential sensitivity,
determination, intellectual integrity, and compassion.

Friends, while there is bondage anywhere, we ourselves cannot be
free. While there is oppression anywhere, we cannot sit back. While there
is rampant discrimination on grounds of sex, religion, and ethnic origins,
we cannot afford to stop and stare. Every day,       in every country, in
every continent, women become victims of all kinds of exploitation. These
women do not lose their dignity, though. A woman and her dignity are
inseparable. One dies with the other. What these women really lose are
their minds. What these women feel is inexplicable. One has to suffer
likewise to know how terrible it is. What can you possibly say to these
women? How do you suppose you can penetrate the impregnable darkness
of their bruised psyche? What words of comfort can you aspire to choose
for them? What can you say or do to them so that their pain, their hurt,
their frustration and their shame at being exploited, become barely
bearable?

Shame, unfortunately and inevitably, is the first emotion to surge in
a woman’s mind after being victimized. This particular nature of emotion
should be assigned to the lot of the oppressor and not the oppressed. But
this is a natural consequence of being ‘pushed back into the veil’ or of
being ‘obstructed from coming out of the veil’. A woman’s integrity,
chastity, and modesty are her invaluable assets. These are her divinely
endowed ornaments. These are the elements that nourish the strength of
character - her pride and joy. No wonder, she is so beautiful. And it is
equally beautifully expressed in the following words by Karl Wilhelm Von
Humboldt: “If it were not somewhat fanciful to suppose that every human
excellence is presented, as it were, in one kind of being, we might believe
that the whole treasury of morality and order is enshrined in the female
character”. Understandably Von Humboldt is in awe of the beauty of a
woman. But I will differ with him by a few few degrees. It is not at all
fanciful to suppose that every human excellence is presented in the female
being, and that the whole treasury of morality and order is enshrined in
the female character. Mr. Von Humboldt would you persist in disagreeing
with me if I show you the realization of your ‘fanciful’ supposition in the
form and person of Zaynab? It is true that we are the best listeners, but we
sometimes tend to have the knack for rendering people speechless. We
have inherited this, even if in a small percentage, from Zaynab, though a
lot of us are not aware of her life and contribution. It is therefore vitally
important that we start questioning ourselves why do we then lack the
urge to practice it more often.

Of course a woman should in no way jeopardize her beauty. As Janis
Joplin says, “Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.”
Nevertheless, this does not justify in any conceivable way the transfer of
‘guilt’ and ‘shame’ from the oppressor to the oppressed. The concept of
‘pushed back into the veil’ puts the total burden of moral and ethical
liabilities on the shoulder of the woman. This goes to prove that man is
a weak creature who hardly has any control or command over his
‘hunter’ instincts, and has yet to develop and polish his mental
faculties. So, a woman who is a fine creature has to pay for the
crudeness and clumsiness of man and has to indefinitely wait behind
the superficial refuge of a veil, to enable him to evolve into the creature
as originally intended by the Almighty. By doing this she is not only
fooling herself with the notion that her waiting will bear fruits, but she is
keeping man from even making the efforts to be a better, wiser, and finer
creature, and is encouraging him to maintain the status quo. In fact, a
stubbornly rigid imposition of a veil code reconfirms the mistaken and
perverse notion of man that the body of a woman is temptation
incarnate and not much more than an object for fulfilment of the same.
It pampers his twisted thoughts and paints the woman permanently with
the wrong colour. All the moral jargon and sense of modesty injected into
the system of the woman since her childhood do not form even a
preliminary part of the man’s educational curriculum. Moreover, her
training is so overdone that she grows up to be the guilty victim.

In the essay, ‘ Social degradation of women - a crime and a libel on
Islam: The un-Islamic Indian-style Purdah System (hijab) is a case of
Religious Overkill!’ by Marmaduke Pickthall in 1927, it says: “Women
have equal rights with men before the Shari’ah, and the Qur'an
proclaims that they are equal with men in the sight of God. In the Holy
Qur'an, God says: “I suffer not the work of any one among you, whether
male or female, to be lost. One is from the other.” [Qur'an 3:195]

The heathen Arabs thought women were a separate and inferior
race. The Qur'an reminds them that they are all one race, one
proceeding from the other, the man from the woman and the woman
from the man.

There is no text in the Qur'an, no saying of our Prophet, which can
possibly be held to justify the practice of depriving women of the natural
benefits which Allah has decreed for all mankind (i.e. sunshine, fresh air
and healthy movement). And there is no text in the Qur'an, or saying of
our Prophet which justifies her life-long imprisonment in her home.
This imprisonment, in turn, has lead to death by consumption or anaemia
to thousands of women…the veiling of the face by women was not
originally an Islamic custom…”

‘Veil’ is the symbol of the dignity of a woman. It is not merely a
piece of cloth to cover her head or face. A woman does not need to hide
behind a veil, in order to get respect from the opposite sex. She is not a
criminal or a coward. And she has nothing to be ashamed of. Veil is the
philosophy of dignity. A woman’s clothing, her dress, her style, her poise,
her smile, her words, her laughter, her sense of humour, her sense of
compassion, her grace, her gait, and her attitude only makes her what she
essentially is - beautiful. A right-minded, educated, well-mannered, well-
behaved, well-spoken, and enlightened woman cannot be other than well
dressed or properly dressed. A respectful woman neither can and nor will
ever do anything to mar or damage her essence. A true lady cannot
compromise her lofty stature by clothing herself disrespectfully or in such
ways that do not become her position as the daughter of Eve.

Breeding is all that counts. A well-bred woman is bound to think
well. Her words, her knowledge, her deeds, her disposition, her clarity, her
carriage, her sincerity, her talents, and not her veil, speak for her. A veil
can easily and conveniently cover one who is illiterate, ignorant, and weak
- one who lacks confidence to face the world - one, who is essentially
flawed. What is important is the qualification of the mind, and the
influence, which mind exerts over mind. Those systems that make a fuss
about the veil are chauvinistically programmed by patriarchy, and
psychologically enslaved by pre-Islamic Arabic tradition, unaware of real
Islam. It is the prerogative of a woman to decide when, where and how
will she wear ‘her’ veil. She can go for the spiritual veil, which protects
her pure and good heart by repelling any misguided invasion of her ideals
and principles. Her luminous face itself tells you what a good heart she
possesses.

The physical wearing of the veil does in no way protect the
woman who wears it as a shield from wrong or evil influence. For, from
behind the veil she can see and observe everything and she is the one
in control of the activities in the recesses of her mind. So, whom does
the veil protect? As the woman is able to see everything, it is the man
who cannot see her. So whose protection are we talking about and
concerned with here? Man? Hence, he can enjoy not only God’s gifts like
fresh air, sunshine, raindrops, mist, and fog, on his face, and his head but
he has the added bonus of protection from the woman. Therefore, we can
infer that the woman is the real danger in a man’s world, the sight of
whose head and face will irrevocably corrupt the mind and soul of a
man. The woman wears a veil to protect man from himself and not from
her. Restricting the idea of the veil into mere physicality is in fact
degrading the very concept of the veil. So, are we supposed to understand
that a man needs to avoid a woman’s countenance in order to keep the
society, in truth himself clean and sinless? Why is he never told to
confront rather than avoid? Rationality says that avoiding is not a solution
or an end in itself. It is just a cowardly and apparently easier way of
stalling things while confrontation needs courage, righteousness, honesty,
and integrity. Man has had his ways for far too long, while the weight of
the veil grows heavier on the woman. He has to accept and shoulder his
responsibilities. He has to defeat his baser instincts and stop burdening
the woman not only with his callousness but his unfair demands on her
to carry the load of his fickleness and weakness. Just by burdening the
other sex he cannot hope to have dealt with the persistent problem and
wash his hands off. He has a problem, and it is he who has to deal with it.
And as always, we are there to help, support, soothe, and suggest.

Zaynab tells us that the greater part of a woman’s success or failure
depends on her disposition and not her circumstances. Zaynab’s veil was
snatched away by a bunch of kids of Satan. Her circumstances changed,
deteriorated. Her disposition remained unchanged, rather strengthened.
Snatching of a woman’s veil constitutes of an attack on her rights and her
freedom. It is a mean way of demeaning her and trying to ‘put her in her
place’. Snatching of a woman’s veil does not simply constitute of a physical
action of taking away a clothing accessory, but it constitutes of insulting
the essential woman - of attempting to degrade womanhood. And such
hands should be exemplarily punished as shown by Mukhtar, who made a
superb effort of avenging Hussain’s martyrdom and the consequential
sufferings of the members of the Prophet’s family.

What can we possibly tell the abused, the beaten, the wronged, the
exploited, the molested, the discriminated, the bargained, the bartered,
the genitally mutilated, the betrayed, the burnt alive, the raped, the
ravaged, the broken and the hurt so as to ensure that the cinder of hope
does not die away? Is it enough or morally right to tell them that they are
no exception, that life and fate have always raped women, that our
civilization is a sham in which the predator-prey factor is still not
prehistoric? I’m afraid not. We have to stop eluding ourselves with the
‘oppressed’ mindset. We have to stop our sisters from seeing themselves
as ‘damaged goods’. We have to make them understand that no one can
make us feel inferior without our consent. We have to abandon the
feeling of ‘abandonment’. So, how do we do this? We tell them of Zaynab.

They need to know Zaynab - her circumstances, her pain, her
torment, her grief, her sorrows, her determination, her fortitude, her
willpower, and her ultimate victory despite Karbala-the event and the
place where the term ‘holocaust’ in its truest meaning was coined. Zaynab
walked on red-hot charcoals of barbarism in its worst form - one in which
men took off their masks of civilization and played havoc in naked frenzy -
one that makes human flesh creep with horror and disgust. And Zaynab
emerged stronger and indomitable; so strong that she can inspire all of us
irrespective of our stations and situations in life. Only the story of Zaynab
can give all our sisters consolation and if I may say it, the hope and the
will to carry on. In her, they can find a kindred spirit. In her, they can see
a guiding angel. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in the U.S. to
become a physician said, “For what is done or learned by one class of
women becomes, by virtue of their common womanhood, the property of
all women.” Zaynab’s qualities and achievements are ours. We cannot
instil courage, uprightness, fearlessness, determination, and fortitude in a
few days. It takes years to achieve a small percentage of it. But we have to
start it at some point, somewhere. And if a girl is armed with all these
forces, her life will become a little less harsh. What we need to do is to
arrange for the right way of thinking from early childhood. Because right
thinking leads to right action. And right thinking can only emerge from
emotionally uncluttered, realistically unprejudiced and psychologically
liberated environment.

Zaynab proves another common perception wrong, which says that
women embarrassingly lack the       quality of unity. After the massacre at
Karbala, Zaynab led single-handedly led, the one-hearted and one-spirited
front of women through the thick of tribulations to victory. Zaynab also
proves wrong the fact that men have the power to dominate women.
Neither Ibn Ziyad nor Yazid was man enough to discourage, dominate or
overpower Zaynab. She was simply not to be cowered or dominated. One
wonders, why the hell then do we succumb to these conventional flaws
and submit to all sorts of humiliation. The answer lies in the psychology of
second-classness. We accept without much fight what society says about
us. Even when some of us come to understand that we women, as
individuals, are not second-class, we still accept society’s assessment of
our kind - a phenomenon psychologists refer to as internalized aggression.
From this stems the desire to be the only woman in the board, in the
executive committee, in a research team, in the judges panel, in an
academic department or any other part of the so-called ‘man’s world’. From
this also stems the inclination to put down our sisters - a crisis - a curse -
a catastrophe.

Today, women are in need of spiritual cohesion. With souls, minds
and psyches eroded by the shifting sands of unreliable trends of modern
culture, now more than ever, women need one another. It is such a shame
that women are underestimated and misunderstood, especially by other
women. Because of the role of women over so many centuries in so many
different cultures, they have been excluded from what have been called
public affairs; for that very reason they have concentrated much more on
things close to home and they have kept far more in touch with the true
realities, the realities of giving birth and love. To begin to have that kind of
real courage being realized into the bigger world scenario, women must
begin to breach the barriers, which divide them. We have the power to rule
the world. Why don’t we do it? Perhaps we are afraid. Perhaps division in
our ranks or classes, competition for available men, or striving for an
impossible standard of external beauty ignoring the one that really
matters, that of the heart and the mind, have worn our sisterhood thin. We
are divided on the surface of this planet, by physical barriers, emotional
barriers, ideological barriers, barriers of prejudice and hatreds of every
kind. It is feasible that what we have undergone down the ages has
programmed us to unnecessarily compete with each other. This is why
even when we admit that we are oppressed, one insists that she is more
oppressed than the rest. Such indulgence provides nothing but an empty
ego-boost, and that too at the cost of real solutions, growth, and
development. So, what can we do to simplify the ego drives and re-
empower ourselves? I say re-empower as now we have the example of a
powerful woman like Zaynab. I would not call her empowered, as none
had to empower her, or for that matter she did not need or wait for anyone
to empower her. She simply unlocked her potential power.

I cannot help but quote Dr. Shariati here: “If an ordinary person
mourns for Imam Hosein on the anniversary of his death (ashura) … and
still knows Hosein in an oblique way and misunderstands Karbala, who is
responsible? If a woman cries with her whole being, if the recollection of
the name of Fatima and Zainab burns her to her bones … and yet, if she
does not thoroughly know Fatima and Zainab, who is responsible? Neither
this man nor this woman knows one line of their words. None of them
have read one line about their lives. They can only recall Fatima beside
her house at the moment when her side was struck and they only know
Zainab from the moment when she leaves the tents to go gather the bodies
of the martyrs. They only know her from the morning of the day of Ashura
up until noon, from then on they lose her. Their awareness of Zainab ends
the day when her work and great mandate, the legacy of Hosein, just
begins. Their knowledge of Zainab ends here.” The fact that we have
‘pushed back’ the contexts, the circumstances, the hardships, the
struggles, and their overcoming these into ignorance, is responsible for our
ignorance.

Therefore, we must learn to connect with the past events. Zaynab
abides where there is a fight against wrong. We must connect with
Zaynab, the essential Fatima. In that we will have our answers. In ‘Who is
the Enemy?’ Roxanne Dunbar writes: ‘Women have every ‘right’ to be
completely outraged when they become aware of the kind of outright and
subtle oppression they suffer and that their sisters throughout the world
suffer. They have every ‘right’ to be outraged at the indifference of men at
their plight, their willingness to reap advantages until it is no longer
possible. But just as might does not make right, nor does right make right.
That is, one does not then have the right to play the same game with the
tables turned. If one does this, one is playing society’s game, for that is
what this society is all about: absorption is its game.

It seems to me that we have grossly misunderstood revolutionary
philosophy. We have extracted what is ‘useful’ to our preconceived notions
of revolution, and left the basis, the way of thinking, behind. What does
Mao mean when he says, “To get rid of the gun, one must pick up the
gun?” He is speaking to people (a peasantry) who have attained a
revolutionary consciousness to some degree; a revolutionary war was being
fought. Obviously the context to such a statement is the key, yet the
command is extracted and misused.

Society (Western) programs us to linear thinking. We can choose
between its way or the opposite (Mary McCarthy said we have the choice
in an American hotel to have the air-conditioning on or off, but we cannot
open the window). And we fall right into the trap. Within that linear logic,
we misinterpret every valuable bit of information that may come our way,
not to speak of whole ideologies.’

So, how can we women, interpret ‘correct’ thinking as an
internalized, creative, knowledge-based, and dialectical analysis of every
aspect of reality, including ourselves? The voice of women, the voice of
those most closely involved in bringing forth new life, has not always been
listened to when it pleaded and implored against injustice and oppression.
So, how can we make ourselves heard? We have Zaynab to show us that
we can do this by joining compassion with intellect. Because compassion
recognizes human rights automatically, it does not need a charter.
Compassion won’t let us be oppressed or endure the oppression of any of
our sisters. When we will connect with each other through Zaynab, we will
unite.

When we will let ourselves be joined through the common spirit, the
common power point of the Essential Fatima, women all over the world will
form circles of power and strength. The resulting spiritual and emotional
fabric is multicoloured, multi-textured, vibrant and alive. Each one of us
will make and contribute a strand, which when joined together will
produce an immensely powerful network capable of withstanding the
storms and earthquakes, the starvation and calamities, that the heaves
and the moves, the seizures and the shakes, the hits and the hurts, but
will never be able to destroy the essential woman.

I have said in the introductory chapter, that I am talking not only to
my sisters, but also my brothers, fathers, and friends. I hope that I have
held your attention till now. You have seen how Zaynab and Hussain
formed the perfect comradeship and achieved what they initially set for.
Here, I will borrow Susan B. Anthony’s words to underline this fact of
utmost significance:

“The day will come when men will recognize woman as his peer, not
only at the fireside, but in councils of the nations. Then, and not until
then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the
sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race.”

You have watched Hussain do so. Hussain has already launched this
comradeship in the most brilliant way on the platform of his Mission,
Karbala, that shall God Willing, result in the highest development of the
race. Zaynab has already established the firm foundations in an impossibly
powerful way. They have managed to do this a millennium and half ago,
you guys just have to take it from there. In between them, Zaynab and
Hussain have ignited the torch of the ideal union between the sexes for all
posterity to light their candles with.

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Readers’ Comments

Dear Anita,
This is Fatima. I am Fareeda’s daughter.            This morning
my mother received two copies of your first published book, ‘The Essential
Woman’, which she is very grateful for. She is in the process of still
reading it,
whereas I have already finished reading it! I loved it!
I just couldn’t put it down until I had read it all. I realized so
much after I read your book, for example, that in Islam woman do actually
have completely equal rights as men do in everyday life and that woman
can stand up to men and not be scared or afraid of them, just like Bibi
Zaynab showed. And also that there is such a big lesson that we can learn
from her and what she went through. I was amazed that even though I go
to many majaalis regularly, the knowledge that I acquired from your book I
have never obtained from any majlis!
Thank you so much for sending this book to my mother. I
definitely benefited from it as I’m sure my mother will too.

Thank you
Take care
Fatima from UK


RESPECTED ANITA,

Salaam,
Last night I finished your first book which my aunt got from one of
her friends. I was so moved that I cried all night. My own sorrows died
down. I was a brave girl in the morning. Keep it up and please write more
books.
          The cover page is perfect and your command on English is
superb. How come being a Muslim girl (not Shia) I did not know all this.

Love,
Sabiha from Pakistan


My dear Anita,
When I was a young girl the majaalis           I attended always
portrayed Fatima and Zaynab - their lives, how they treated their slaves,
how much respect their men folk showed them, how the Prophet gave
Fatima the freedom to choose her life partner, etc. I was very lucky to have
the privilege of attending those majaalis. These ladies were homely
women, not university graduates, but they realized that telling the young
audience about the life and character of these remarkable women would
leave an impact upon our young impressionable minds.
I am very pleased that you are getting a very good response. I
was greatly impressed by your research and the fluency of your language.
You have great command over this language. What has really touched my
soul is the love you have for the Prophet’s family.
I would like to wish you great success for this book and the
next one.

Love you,
Mahe' Talat Abidi.
from UK


Dear Anita,
 I have just completed your book “The Essential Woman” and must
say it was a commendable job.
Though being a Shia Muslim, who frequently attends majalis, and
religious discourses, which dwell on the life of Bibi Zaynab (s.a.), I had
never thought of her from the viewpoint revealed by you. Our perception of
Zaynab (s.a.) as a woman who mourned and bore the trails and tortures of
the brutal event of Karbala, was indeed an incomplete one.
She as projected by you is the Sublime woman  who with huge
amount of determination, sensitivity, intellectual strength, presence of
mind, and fortitude exposed the satanic and evil deeds of the oppressive
notorious rulers of her time. Her soul stirring fervent speeches served the
flame to keep the light of true Islam alight.
I now know Bibi Zaynab (s.a.) as an activist,            a crusader, and
an extremely strong woman.
You have set for us an ideal in Zaynab. Thank you tremendously for
broadening our horizons and enabling us to understand this great
personality. You have indeed presented our beloved and courageous
Zaynab as a model for humanity. May Allah reward you for this invaluable
effort and may He give you the Taufeeq to continue this work. Lastly I wish
you great success for your forthcoming book too.

Yasmin Virani
Mumbai, India
30 July 2003.





Dear Anita,
 My name is Hoda Bazargan. I am originally from Iran, but I live in
the States.
I received your book “The Essential Woman” which totally touched
my heart and made me e-mail you. Before I carry on writing I would like to
thank you for sending me the book and also for writing such a wonderful
book. Reading such things from a non muslim was something unique for
me that shook me inside and outside.
I envy you for the fact that your are so special that you got to dream
about Ahlul Bayt, and me a muslim,   born shia athna ashari, who lived
her life as a muslimah never got to dream about them.
One thing that I am curious about is what made you write such a
book about Hazrat Zaynab (sa)? In shia-press article where I actually read
about you writing this book, I figured that you are not a muslim. But when            
I received your book I started crying for the fact I found you are a true
muslim even though I don’t know who exactly you are but your words
spoke for you. Wallah! I envy you and love you truly for speaking the truth,
and I wish I could do the same.
May Allah’s blessing be upon your soul and may Lady Fatima and
Ahlul bayt reward you in Yom-al-Qayamah.

Truly yours
Hoda Bazargan
US
13 July 2003.




Hi Anita,
   Wanted to tell you that a few days ago I finally got down to read
your book. Then I could not wait to finish it in one go.
It is an amazing book! it is the first time I have read in detail about
the incidents of Karbala and understood the Shias' point of view of
mourning on the 9th and 10th of Muharram.
I wish I could personally meet you and congratulate you on your
efforts put into writing this book. Well, your book has given me a new and
better understanding of women, of a woman having her own identity.
Thanks for the book.
Best regards
Abdullah Akhtar.
Karachi, Pakistan
12 October 2003.


Dear Anita,
  I finished reading your book yesterday. In fact,  I couldn’t put it
down once I started it. What an inspiration!
I felt so empowered. This is the book I have been waiting for. Finally  
A book written by a woman about the two greatest women of our time. I
had read Ali Shariati’s Fatima is Fatima in my teens but this is the book
for women of my generation set in our times. Thank you for your work.
Your points are salient and a reawakening. I cannot but tell you how
thirsty the youth of my generation is for literature like this. keep it up.
Sincerely
Zainab
USA
5 August 2003.




Dear Anita,
        Salaam Alaikum! I have been reading         “The Essential
Woman” and have learnt so much from the book.  I have been listening to
majlises for the past 35 years of my life and haven’t heard anything like
this. Only of late our young Maulanas are trying to change the traditional
Muharram majlises by including other topics. It is absolutely true what
Shariati says that we only know the life of Lady Zaynab on the fields of
Kerbala to Damascus, nothing more, nothing less. I have always wanted to
read the actual speech by Bibi Zaynab in the courts of Yazid and I got it
from this book.
Thanks Anita.

With my sincere duas
Ismat Abdulla
UK
24 November 2003.

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