For those not familiar with Zaynab binte (daughter of) Ali, I respect her for her commitment to truth and justice even after she was taken prisoner of war after the defeat of her brother Husayn in the battle of Kerbala on October 10th, 680 CE (10th day of the first month of Muharram in the Islamic Calendar 61 years after Hijra). Husayn, the grandson of the Holy Prophet of Islam, and the son of Imam Ali and Fatima, refused to swear allegiance to an unjust Khalif (King) Yezid who did not respect the individual, social and religious rights of his people. Armed with only 72 men, and accompanied by his family, he stood up against army of thousands. Even after three days of siege where water was cut off , he refused to surrender and walked peacefully to death knowing that what he did was right and necessary. Amongst the dead included his 6 month old child who was killed when Husayn requested for water for his 6 month innocent child, his 18 year old son Ali Akber, his brother Abbas, the commander Hur of the enemy army who joined Husayn at the last minute knowing it was the right thing to do, his friend Habib ibne Mazahir, and the sons of Zaynab, Awn and Muhammad who were teenagers at the time. His sister, Zaynab, along with many others, was taken a prisoner. Even in chains, she eloquently spoke out against the injustice of Yezid. She was also mystical. When taunted by Yezid about the fate of her family and friends in Kerbala, she said she saw nothing but beauty. In that she was right-the worst crises brought out the best in men, women, and children who stood by justice and moral perfection till the end. Fearing a revolution, Yezid released the family of Imam Husayn. Zaynab spread the message of the fearless struggle for freedom and justice till the end of her days. Yezid was overthrown shortly after the tragedy of Kerbala. The message of Husayn which resonates with me is: “Even if you do not have a religion, at least be free in your world”. Mahatma Gandhi said of Husayn “I learnt from Hussain how to achieve victory while being oppressed.”
Zaynab is buried in Damascus, Syria. I call her the door to Ali. There is a sense of peace and calm at her monument. I could feel the peace and her powerful presence. I consider her to be a Saint and she has my love and adoration. Yezid’s palace remains in a sorry state of decay, his legacy is that of a tyrant and there is no monument or grave to mark his demise that visitors to Damascus may witness.