The recent events of violence between Muslims have led towards a new focal point: the shrine of Sayyidah Zaynab (a). This occurs within the context of a simmering stand-off between two outlooks. On the one hand, the ‘takfiri’ Muslim who is intent on destroying Islamic symbols that connect the conscience of Muslims to the Messenger of Allah (s) and advent of Divine Revelation; and on the other hand, the Muslim who is in harmony with his/her surrounding context through a religious conscience and an affinity towards religious ‘symbols’—even Sufist at times. This religious conscience attracts one towards the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s), and is manifested through specific commemorations or a special attachment to the graves and shrines of companions, pure saints and the infallibles—as is the case with the Shias.
The Symbolism of Sayyidah Zaynab (a)
By the word symbolism here I do not mean figurative meaning; rather it refers to the intense moral and intellectual connotation involving the truth of this personality, and the extent of her influence upon the character of Islam and religious consciousness. Amongst these connotations are:-
First: the lineage of Sayyidah Zaynab (a) and her kinship that traces her back to the heart of the Prophet’s family. Further, she voiced a declaration and challenge—which has been repeatedly echoed by Shias throughout the ages without fail and on whose basis they form their moral stance—when she addressed Yazid with the words: “you shall neither wipe out our memory, nor eradicate our inspiration”. Through this, her personality became the iconic symbol of safeguarding the Prophetic memory and Divine revelation. Thus, any laxity or oversight towards her personality even after her death amounts to treachery toward the [Prophetic] memory and [Divine] revelation.
Second: she is a symbol of purity and chastity that remained concealed until the battle of Karbala, during which the enemies wished to taint her loftiness except that this was Divinely protected. Thus, she represents the purity and chastity of every Muslim woman, and the zeal of every Muslim man. Any attack on her is an assault on the highest expressions of religious chastity. And it is well established that whoever dies in order to protect one’s honour and in defence of the inviolable dies as a martyr in the way of Allah.
Third: she is the symbol of the ideological and jihadi continuation of the revolution of Karbala. Rather it can be said: she is the personality that transformed the massacre of Karbala into a revolutionary paradigm in the moral, political and jihadi contexts which endures to the present day. Therefore, any shortcoming or oversight towards defending this symbolism is a grave treason in religious, political and jihadi terms which cannot be tolerated by the Islamic conscience.
Fourth: she represents the sanctuary of tears, pains, patience and solitude—starting with the tears of Imam Hussain, Abul Fadhl al-Abbas, Ali ibn Hussain and all those who were in Karbala; as well as all those who drew inspiration from the path of Karbala up to the present—and in accordance with the Islamic understanding, right up to the future [Divine] Deliverance represented by the Mahdi. Thus, Shias consider that the most important aspect in the features of the uprising of the Mahdi is to answer to the call of Sayyidah Zaynab when she stood between the torn limbs of the Karbala martyrs and cried out: ‘O Muhammad, this is your Hussain in the open wilderness…’ Therefore, to protect this affiliation to her personality is to safeguard the historic and revolutionary identity for a future that shall be constructed on the basis of patience, loyalty and victory.
Fifth: for every Muslim—be one a lay-follower or a scholar, or whether one is religiously steadfast or not—Sayyidah Zaynab represents a unique Islamic blessing. She has been granted the rank of intercession and is a source of blessings, as a result of which people throng to her proximity—and from there, they raise their deepest pleas to Allah and recite their supplications. In this sense therefore, her shrine is sacred; souls are attracted to it and there they entrust their hopes.
For all these reasons, and for yet more, that specific geographic spot which has been blessed to host the shrine of Sayyidah Zaynab is not limited by mere coordinates, and cannot be understood in terms of the worldly constraints of ‘space’. It is a focal point amongst the axes of faith towards which Muslims from every corner turn to and seek to connect. Its true ‘location’ extends to the angelic realms and to souls that yearn for faith, expectation, hope and a love that encompasses might and honour…
So for those who do not know, Sayyidah Zaynab is the quintessence of the supplication, struggle and message of the reasoning of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad and his family. Any assault against her is an attack on the message of the Quran and the shariah of Prophet Muhammad … and after such there cannot be except an outright cataclysm.
When love is erased from the conscience of a human being, it only opens the way to the curse of anger and animosity. And what is Zaynab other than the love of Muhammad, Ali, Fatima, Hassan and Hussain and… those who do not know!
By Sheikh Chafiq Jeradeh
Translated by Ali Jawad