Every now and then, the Hijri and Gregorian calendars intersect in a way that is an opportunity for reflection and realisation. This year, the first ten days of Muharram fall in Women’s month, bringing together our identity as Muslims, as women and as South Africans.
As South African women, we know the role of our mothers and grandmothers in the Apartheid struggle. They acted as leaders, activists and changemakers, taking a firm stance against the injustices and as support and scaffolding for their husbands, fathers, and brothers.
As Muslim women, we remember the Battle of Karbala, the plight and persecution of the beloved sahabiyah (female companions) and members of the Ahlul Bayt (prophetic household). These women bravely protected their faith and their families, becoming role models for all, remembered centuries after their deaths.
Sayyidah Zaynab Al Kubrah stands out like a lighthouse in stormy seas. Not only in this intersection of Muharram and Women’s month, but in Islamic world history. Sayyidah Zaynab is the epitome of grace and courage. A true candle, burning itself to give light to others.
She is the granddaughter of the Messenger SAW. Her parents are the Queen of Jannah, Sayyidah Fatima Az Zahra, and fourth rightly guided caliph, Sayyiduna Ali. Her brothers, Imam Al Hasan, and Imam Al Husayn, are the leaders of the youth of Jannah, may Allah ta’ala be pleased with them all. Growing up in the noblest of families, she continues to be a source of hope, inspiration and gratitude for us today.
We can learn many lessons from her life, and she exhibited many beautiful qualities we should aspire to emulate. Five of these qualities are especially important for us, as women today, facing challenges of the 21st century:
Courage, it is said, is not the absence of fear, but the victory over it. Sayyidah Zaynab faced many hardships and challenges. Not only did she lose her closest relatives in a short space of time, but their deaths were a result of violence and tyranny. Despite the overwhelming grief and fear she must have faced, she stood firmly, her feet planted in the foundations of her faith.
We may find ourselves in a position where a trial or challenge leaves us feeling helpless and hopeless. It is in moments like these where we can take strength from the women of the prophetic household. They showed us how that true courage comes from knowing and loving Allah ta’ala and relying on Him.
Remaining steadfast in a world that is changing, in a world of illusions and distractions, is one of the most underrated qualities. Sayyidah Zaynab paved the way for the Muslim women coming after her, showing us patience, perseverance and steadfastness. She remained firm in her belief, holding onto the message and example of her grandfather, our Prophet SAW, without any hesitation or apology.
Being consistent in our worship, actions and prayers is not something that always comes easy. If we find ourselves in a ‘spiritual slump’, we should start with small consistent good deeds and build up from there. We need to make an intention to want to be firm in our faith and ask Allah ta’ala to keep us steadfast.
As a mother, an aunt, a sister, and a daughter, Sayyidah Zaynab shows us how to embody compassion in all our actions and words. Many times, we associate compassion with softness. Sayyidah Zaynab showed us, in her dealings with beloved nephew, Ali Zainul Abideen (May Allah be pleased with him), that true compassion is sometimes shown through kindness with firmness.
In the face of adversity, Sayyidah Zaynab stood with the truth. She stood firm on the truth and was unafraid of her opposition. She knew that when one is armed with the Qur’an and the authentic Prophetic Sunnah, there is nothing to fear.
Through all the difficulties and challenges, Sayyidah Zainab possessed great wisdom and foresight. She understood her context well, and stood up for what she believed, what she knew was right. Wisdom is not just based on knowledge and information. It is being able to disseminate that knowledge at the right time, in the right way. The foundation of wisdom is love. Sayyidah Zaynab showed us this in her actions and in her words.
We ask Allah ta’ala to allow us to be of those who follow in the footsteps of our beloved Mothers of the Believers, the blessed sahabiyah (female companions) and the honourable women of the prophetic household, may Allah ta’ala be pleased with them all, Ameen.