The Significant Role of the Lady Zaynab in Explaining the Revolution of Ashura According to  Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi

The Significant Role of the Lady Zaynab in Explaining the Revolution of Ashura According to Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi

The Lady Zaynab is narrated to have said to Imam al-Sajjad (a): In this land in the future, a flag will be raised over the tomb of your father, Imam al-Husayn (ʿa), which will never become old or faded. With the passing of time, it will not be damaged and no matter how much the leaders of disbelief strive towards effacing it, it will only grow in grandeur and greatness day by day.‌

The necessity of reflecting upon the essence of why the Karbala Movement has lasted for so long and will continue long in to the future is amongst the things which have been focused upon by some of the brightest minds of the Muslim community throughout history. Yet, attracting so many elites to consider this event was due to the significant role played by the family of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) after the event of Ashura. When we look at the Lady Zaynab, we find that the same woman, who could not bear to hear word of the martyrdom of her brother, was able to pick up the bloody body of her brother on the day after Ashura and say: O’ Lord! accept this sacrifice from the family of your Prophet (ṣ)!

By looking in to the messages and sermons of the Lady Zaynab in Kufah and Syria, and her methods in confronting the despotic government of Yazīd, we become better able to understand the secrets of how the message and revolution of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) has been able to spread and also endure for so long. We believe that it was the actions and words of Zaynab which allowed this movement to spread and become greater day by day in the eyes of the people. Let us look further in to this issue with help from the valuable insights of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi:

The Blossoming of the Mission of Zaynab and the Passing of the Caravan of Captives from the Battlefield of Karbala

One of the most difficult moments in the history of Karbala was the moment when the captives were being led away from the torn and bloody bodies of the martyrs.  It goes without saying that leaving Karbala in those circumstances, with the bodies of the martyrs lying unburied on the hot desert sands would have been heartbreaking for the survivors. This is particularly true in regards to the grandson of the Prophet, Imam al-Husayn (ʿa).

 It was a heart-rending scene as the bodies of the martyrs had been pummeled by the hooves of horses, and many could no longer be identified. This was a scene which would break the hardest of hearts. Yet in spite of all this, the calm and peace which existed in Zaynab made one remember the patience and perseverance of Imam ʿAli (ʿa). When we look at the words which Zaynab spoke, we find a great level of dignity, honor, and greatness which resounds in them. These words helped the survivors to overcome the difficulties of that time, as they were dragged away in chains from the bodies of their loved ones.

Naturally, the enemy was waiting for signs of the smallest amount of weakness or regret in the family of the Prophet (s). Zaynab knew this and she was resolved not to show the enemy anything like this. When she saw the bloody body of her brother, she turned towards the heavens and said:[1]  O’ Lord! Accept this sacrifice! [2] These words of hers were a great blow against the enemies and this was the beginning of their complete and utter disgrace.

The Sermons of the Lady Zaynab as a Key Element in Explaining the Ashura Revolution

It is evident that after the captives were taken to Kufah and Syria, and Imam al-Sajjad (ʿa) and Zaynab gave their well-known lectures in those cities, the situation there shifted against the Umayyad government. Yazīd quickly realized that he had no choice but to publicly express sorrow at what had taken place; he saw that he needed to renounce what his officials had done in Karbala even though he himself had been the one who had ordered it. Yazīd had no choice in this matter but to allow the women survivors to hold mourning ceremonies for Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) and his companions in Syria.

Things quickly reached the point where even the women from the Umayyad family were participating in these ceremonies and the ceremonies would last many days (sometimes as long as three days).[3] The situation in Syria was completely transformed due to the speeches of Zaynab. The seeds of revolution against the Umayyads were planted in this same place. As a result of these sermons, the Umayyads were disgraced all throughout the Muslim world and the danger which they posed against the religion of Islam was neutralized through the blessings of the blood of the martyrs and the sermons of those who spread their message (such as Imam al-Sajjad (ʿa) and Zaynab).

A Most Amazing Sermon in Kufah: The Blossoming of the Message of Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) and the Mission of the Lady Zaynab

One of the amazing elements in the story of Karbala is the fiery sermons of Zaynab. Ḥidhaym ibn Sharīk al-Asadī  has mentioned that: On that day, I looked at Zaynab, the daughter of ʿAli (ʿa) while she delivered a sermon. I have never seen a woman speak more eloquently and beautifully than her. It was as if the words of Amir al-Muʾminin ʿAli were coming out of her mouth.[4] When we examine the situation of Zaynab, we find a woman who had just seen her six brother, her two sons, and many of her other relatives slaughtered in the worst way possible. She had then been dragged in chains as a captive, treated in the worst way possible, and paraded in front of the people of various towns and cities. We would imagine that such a woman would not be able to engage even in normal speech, much less in eloquent oratory.

In this sermon delivered in the city of Kufah, Zaynab is narrated to have said the following: O’ Kufans! O’ you treacherous traitors, and disloyal ones! May your tears never cease to d r o p and may your wails never become silent…  there is nothing in you but boasting, enmity, lying, pride, and flattery…  The narrator then has mentioned that: I see Zaynab much like a lion roaring and much like a heavy storm railing; she is much like a flood censuring the disloyalty of the Kufans…  Zaynab again tells the Kufans: May the wrath of Allah envelop you and may you be in the punishment of Hell forever… may you be destroyed… may your efforts be for naught…

She then continues and says: You killed the son of the ‘Seal of Prophets’… the one who was the master of the youth of Paradise, your sanctuary and the sanctuary of your group (the Shias)…(Do you consider his killing to be something easy and simple)? Zaynab then attempted to kindle the first spark of revolution against the tyrannical Umayyads within the hearts of the people.  She mentioned the following: Do not let the reprieve that Allah has granted you make you arrogant, for he does not engage in hasty actions (and he punishes the oppressors in due time). He will not forget the revenge of the blood of the innocent; Indeed Allah is watchful of all… .  Through her words, Zaynab made the throne of the Umayyad government shake and the foundations for their destruction and the revolution against them were created by her.

Coming to Appreciate the Beauty of Ashura: The Blossoming of the Mission of Zaynab

A key element in the mission of Zaynab can be found in her recognition of the beauty of Ashura. When Ibn Ziyād looked at her with arrogance and asked her what she thought of ‘Allah’s actions’ in regards to her brother, Imam al-Husayn (ʿa), she gave him a beautiful response and said:[5] I saw nothing but beauty.  Truly, when we look at this level of bravery and dauntless courage, we are left in utter amazement at this daughter of Imam ʿAli (ʿa). Her words were delivered with so much power and eloquence that people said it was as if her father was speaking. Ibn Ziyād was left dumbfounded and unable to respond to her; his disgrace was also only just beginning.

The Most Hard-hitting Sermon in the History of Islam, Delivered in the Palace of Yazīd

Zaynab’s fiery speech in the palace of Yazīd can be considered as one of the most eloquent and hard-hitting of speeches in the history of Islam. It was as if the very spirit of Imam ʿAli (ʿa) was there speaking through her. Through her sermons, Zaynab showed that she had, indeed, inherited her father’s bravery and eloquence.  When we examine this speech, we can find seven primary issues which she spoke about. These are as follows:
1.    Zaynab first began by completely destroying Yazīd’s sense of arrogance and pride. In her eloquent sermon, she mentioned the following to Yazīd: Do not think that possessing this rule and this palace and this wealth is indicative of Allah’s favor? You are one of those whom Allah has left to themselves until their load of sins becomes heavy and it is then that he will strip them of everything and cast them in to the Hellfire!
2.    Zaynab then explains the behavior of the Prophet (ṣ) and how he treated Yazīd’s forefathers in the conquest of Mecca. The Prophet (ṣ) ended up forgiving all of them [although they were guilty of terrible crimes]. She then compared this with Yazīd’s actions in killing the grandson of the Prophet (ṣ), cutting off his head and the heads of his companions, as well as the enslavement of his family members and parading them around the various cities.
3.    In the third segment of her sermon, Zaynab reminds Yazīd of his various statements where he expresses his disbelief in Allah (swt). She uses this as proof of his faithlessness and she reminds him that he will soon j o i n his forefathers in the Hellfire.
4.    She then spoke about the lofty position of the martyrs, particularly those from the family of the Prophet (ṣ). She explained how it was an honor to have such people as her family members.
5.    She then spoke about divine justice and what was awaiting Yazīd for the various crimes he had committed. On the Day of Judgment, she said, Allah would judge against him, and the Prophet (ṣ) and his angels would be present there.
6.    She then humiliated Yazīd even further by saying: If the days have oppressed me and turned me in to a captive woman brought before you, do not think I hold any value for you. I do not see you worthy enough to even speak to and if I am speaking to you, it is because I have no choice in this matter.
7.    In the last part of her sermon, she thanked Allah (swt) for his uncountable blessings upon the family of the Prophet (ṣ). She thanked Allah (swt) for having begun their lives with mercy and felicity and having ended it with martyrdom and honor!


Resistance as the Essence of Zaynab’s Mission Concerning the Uprising of Ashura

In establishing the valuable teachings of Zaynab, including those pertaining to resistance against the tyrannical government of Yazīd, it is enough for us to narrate the following words of Zaynab towards Yazīd: Oh Yazīd, do not think that I am standing before you as a captive; it is rather below me to speak to the likes of you or to (even) stand before you. In this way, Zaynab fulfilled her mission in keeping the message of Ashura and Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) alive.

A Final Word

In conclusion, we can refer to the words of Zaynab where she consoled the son of her brother, Imam al-Sajjad (ʿa), saying to him: : In this land in the future, a flag will be raised over the tomb of your father, Imam al-Husayn (ʿa) which will never become old or faded. With the passing of time, it will not be damaged and no matter how much the leaders of disbelief strive towards effacing it, it will only grow in grandeur and greatness day by day.[6] The words of Zaynab in regards to the raising of the flag of Karbala have been fulfilled in our own era.  It is as if Zaynab has foretold of the circumstances of our own era. Today, we see large multitudes (several times larger than those attending the Ḥajj pilgrimage) going to visit Karbala.

These large crowds consist of followers of the Shia school of thought, as well as Sunnis, Christians, and the followers of other creeds. Both the manner in which these mourning ceremonies are held as well as the quantity of those attending them manifest the truthfulness of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) and the victory of the martyrs of Karbala.  In truth, Zaynab, the courageous daughter of Imam ʿAli (ʿa) foretold of this issue many centuries ago. She foretold of what would happen after Karbala and in spite of those dark and difficult moments, she could clearly see what would take place as a result of the sacrifice of the martyrs long in to the future.  


Researched and edited at editorial deputy of his eminence office



[1]. أَللَّهُمَّ تَقَبَّلْ هذا الْقُرْبانَ

[2]. Maqtal al-Husayn (ʿa) by Muqarram, p. 307.

[3]. ... فَخَرَجْنَ حَتَّى دَخَلْنَ دارَ يَزِيدَ فَلَمْ تَبْقَ مِنْ آلِ مُعاوِيَةَ امْرَأَةً إِلَّا اسْتَقْبَلَهُنَّ تَبْكِي وَ تَنُوحُ عَلَى الْحُسَيْنِ عليه السلام فَأَقامُوا عَلَيْهِ الْمَناحَةَ ثَلاثاً.  Refer to: Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī, vol. 4, p. 353. This issue has also been narrated in Biḥār al-Anwār, vol. 45, p. 142.

[4]. In Malhūf (Luhūf), his name has been mentioned as Bashīr ibn Khazīm Asadī.

[5]. ما رَأَيْتُ إِلّا جَميلًا

[6]. Kāmil al-Ziyārāt, pgs. 274 and 275; Biḥār al-Anwār, vol. 28, p. 57; and vol. 45, p. 179; Nafas al-Mahmūm, p. 210; Maqtal al-Husayn (ʿa) by Muqarram, p. 308.