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Lady Zainab: Her Role in the Epic of Karbala

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The dear sister of Imam al-Hussain (a), Lady Zainab, played a crucial role in the epic of Karbala. There was a reason that she followed Imam al-Hussain to Karbala. This article intends to examine and analyze the role of Lady Zainab in keeping the message of Imam al-Hussain (a) alive.

Why Did Imam al-Hussain Take His Family With Him?

Many ask this serious question. Why should a man who is going to a place where he is sure he will be martyred take his family with him? Now, do you think Imam al-Hussain’s (a) family would be safe if he left them in Medina, considering how the governor of Medina was instructed by Yazid to forcefully get his allegiance from the Imam? Would it not be probable that his family would be assaulted and persecuted if left in Medina? Therefore, for their safety, the Imam took his family to Karbala, including his dear sister, Lady Zainab.

Submission to the Decree of Allah

Imam al-Hussain (a) and many others had heard narrations from the Prophet (s) that he would be killed. Therefore, Imam al-Hussain (a) did not want to escape the fate Allah had sealed for him. He said:

ان الله شاء ان یراك قتیلا، و ان الله شاء ان یراهن سبایا

Allah has willed to see me killed and has willed to see my family made captive.

Conveying the Message of Karbala to Others

If Lady Zainab and Imam al-Hussain’s family were not present in Karbala, the message of Imam al-Hussain (a) and his martyrdom would fall into oblivion. As a result, what Imam al-Hussain (a) did was a strategy to keep his cause alive and have his family cry out for his innocence and truthfulness wherever they went.

Lady Zainab: The Leader of the Women and Children’s Caravan

So we realized that the Imam took his family with him for good reasons. However, someone must have been there to lead the women and children’s caravan, especially after the martyrdom of Imam al-Hussain (a). Lady Zainab was the perfect candidate for this. She also took care of Imam al-Hussain’s son, Imam Ali ibn al-Hussain Zain al-‘Abidin (a), who was sick and could not participate in the battle.

Imam al-Hussain’s Will to Lady Zainab

Before his martyrdom, Imam al-Hussain (a) urged Lady Zainab to be patient with the afflictions that would befall her. She said, “O Hussain! You are going to be killed by force! This very much bothers me!” Then she started weeping and fainted.” Imam al-Hussain told her, “Be patient, Zainab. Know that nothing on earth remains alive, and everything shall perish but Allah.”

Lady Zainab After the Martyrdom of Imam al-Hussain (a)

After the martyrdom of Imam al-Hussain (a), the enemies attacked the tents and took the women and children of Imam al-Hussain (a) captive. They were first brought to Kufa and then Damascus. Lady Zainab’s eloquent speech in the streets of Kufa and the court of Ibn Ziyad and Yazid tipped the scales in favor of Imam al-Hussain and the message he was conveying. It was as though Lady Zainab’s father, Imam Ali (a), was speaking. Her speech was so effective that Yazid blamed Ibn Ziyad for killing Imam al-Hussain (a).


Imam al-Hussain (a) took his family to Karbala for many reasons. Lady Zainab was the most important figure among the women. Her mission was to relay the message of Imam al-Hussain (a) to the world. That is, the fight between good and evil and how the righteous would always prevail even if they were seemingly defeated. With the eloquent speeches she delivered in Kufa and Damascus, Lady Zainab was able to keep the cause of Imam al-Hussain (a) alive.

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