“The birth of Zainab took place in the sixth year of Hijrat. It was the year in which the peace treaty of Hudaibia had been signed and the period of travails and unrest had come to an end and the treaty had consolidated the roots of Islam. Friends and companions of the Prophet PBUH felicitated him on the occasion of Zainab’s birth. The birth of a veritable flower imbibed and reflected the fragrance, manners and appearance of her mother, father and grandfather. Her birth had illuminated the hearts of the family and brought cheers and delight to the entirecommunity, but alas!, it was not destined to be so for long. A prophecy by the Prophet brought sorrow and dejection in the entire community and grief and lamentation engulfed the Ahl Bait.
Historians have recorded that at the time of birth of Zainab the heart breaking tale of Karbala and the news of the calamity that was to follow the event had been conveyed to the people by the Prophet PBUH.
The family of the Prophet was well acquainted with the tragedy yet to unfold at Karbala, fifty years before the
event. Ahmadbin Hambal in his book, Sunan Vol-I page-85 records that angel Jibreel had foretold the Prophet about the martyrdom of Hussain and Ibne Kaseer in Tarikhe Kamil narrates that the Prophet PBUH had given a handful of soil from the place of martyrdom of Hussain to Ummul Momineen Janabe Umme Salma, and had informed Hazrat Umme Salma that when this earth turns into blood it will indicate that Hussain has been martyred, Ummul Momineen had preserved that clay in a glass bottle. Later on in 61 Hijri when Hussain was martyred on the 10th of Moharrum this clay turned into blood. In this manner, people of Medina were informed about the martyrdom of Hussain.
In the same manner we learn from eminent historians about the events of 60-61 Hijri. Zuhair Ibne Qain who belonged to the sect of Usman, after completion of Haj, was heading towards Iraq. By chance, Husain and Zubair were travelling in the same direction. But at every destination he used to camp at a distance from the camp of Hussain. One day Hussain invited him for a talk. Zuhair was not pleased with the suggestion but was compelled by his wife Dilhan to go and meet him. When he returned after meeting Hussain, he told his companions that he has to part company with them, because from now onwards he was in the camp of Hussain and if any of his companions willingly wants to come with him he was welcome. He took leave of his family members and divorced his wife so that she may not face hardships and oppression after his martyrdom. He accepted the leadership and guidance of Imam Hussain and was martyred on Ashura in Karbala.
The historians have related that Hussain himself was well aware about his martyrdom, accompanying hardships and adversities right from his childhood. The tradition repeats the
same story about Janabe Zainab, Hussain’s sister also. It is recounted that when Salman Farsi visited Ali Ibne Abi Talib to congratulate the birth of Zainab, he saw that Ali was very mournful and sad. He recounted the calamity and tragedy which the new born baby will have to suffer. This brave regal warrior, the victorious standard bearer and Lion of God was crying inconsolably on the prophesied misfortune of the baby. Could this be the work of narrators who fabricate events? Can these traditions which were divine inspirations and miracles be considered a figment of imagination?
Famous European historian Donaldson in his book Aqeedatu Shia and Lance in his Fatima and daughters of Mohammed by observing afore mentioned traditions express their lack of faith and are unconvinced on the authority of tradition. They are entitled to their opinion. But majority of Muslim Historians have faith in these traditions and for them there is no possibility of doubt about them. These are not the only historians who have unswerving faith in those traditions. Our contemporary historians and authors believe in the authenticity of the narratives.
Contemporary Indian writer Mohammed Alhaj Salimeen too has written a book, Syeda Zainab. In the first part of the book he has described the event and says that it was with the tremendous grief and sorrow and with profusely weeping eyes that the new born baby was welcomed. In the beginning, he has related the prophecy of the Prophet PBUH in which he had foretold the calamities and atrocities which would befall on Zainab, then he diverts the attention of the readers towards the scene in which the Prophet was leaning his body towards his grand daughter and crying inconsolably in anticipation of the misfortune that was destined to afflict Zainab in Karbala.
How terrible would have been his distress and anxiety. How profound would be his grief on actual event?
I do not consider these traditions to be seemingly untenable. Earlier, these narrations were not fully revealed, but now when all these prophecies have been fully revealed they add poignancy and pathos to the tragic events. The shadows of grief and anguish which had cloaked the cradle gave rise to tremendous affection and sympathy for the baby.
Hazrat Zainab spent her childhood in the illustrious household under the protection of her grandfather. She was the centre of affection of her relatives, she was immersed in their love. She was the apple of their eye. When she began talking sweetly she learnt the lessons of life from her gracious, affectionate mother. When the period of her infancy came to end then she learnt the lessons of life from a pre-eminent group of counselors of whom the entire peninsula was proud
of – her grandfather, Messenger of God PBUH and her father, renowned scholar and chief of nobles and lord of exposition. Besides there were other masters of knowledge and learned Muslim jurisprudent, who were the companions of the Prophet.
We do not find any contemporaries of Janabe Zainab who had such an illustrious and pious environment for their upbringing and none who had the sublime advantage of such constant influence of learned discourse and piety. She indeed had an exalted upbringing.
It would be natural to assume that the result of such agreeable surrounding and congenial environment would have resulted in happiness. But it was not to be so as knowledge of the soul tormenting events that were to unfold later in life would sadden and distress her.
It is related that one day while she was reciting the verses of Quran she inquired about the commentary from her gracious father. After doing that, Hazrat Ali referred to the tormenting tragedy of Karbala. He was amazed when Zainab replied, “Baba Jaan I know. My mother had informed me about the event so that I may prepare for the tragic event.”
Hazrat Ali fell silent upon hearing her answer. He was terribly shaken and his heart was a flutter with overflowing love and affection for his daughter.
I have started the narrative from the period of Zainab’s infancy relating the predestined tragedy which shadowed her life right from her cradle and lasted till her death. I may now make attentive inquiry into her life.