Karbala and the importance of women in Islam

Published: October 11, 2016

The mothers who participated in Karbala were no ordinary mothers. Their valour is unparalleled. When a mother decides to give up her son, she is not merely giving up her offspring rather she is giving away a piece of her heart, her soul, her being. PHOTO: S.PAUL

It was dusk when the dust finally settled. Desert sand glistened with blood and sweat. In the distance, a small group of women and children huddled together next to the smouldering wreckage of burnt tents. Breathless, she counted the women and children. Her heart sank as she noticed the absence of Sakina (AS). Her brother had entrusted his four-year-old daughter in her care and she was nowhere to be found.

The events of the day spiralled in front of her eyes and the impact made her stumble. Pulling herself together, she realised her responsibility. Glancing back at the dejected group of women without their veils, Bibi Zainab (AS) told herself,

“They are looking up to me now. They are counting on me.”

She called out for Sakina (AS) who still eluded her. She was so engrossed in her search that she did not realise she had stumbled into the battlefield full of battered dead bodies. Her feet refused to go on. She might find herself staring at the bodies of her sons. Quietening the mother inside her, she aroused in herself, the sister of Hussain (RA). At last she found Sakina (AS). The little girl was curled up next to the body of her father, fast asleep.

“She sleeps on his chest every day…”

The heart-wrenching thought brought tears to her eyes. Scooping her up gently into her arms, Bibi Zainab (AS) attempted to walk back. It took every ounce of courage and patience in her to ignore the precious bodies of the men of her family, her sons, her brothers, her nephews – all had been martyred brutally. It was the walk of courage that the world had never seen and will never do, till the dawn of doomsday.

Giving Sakina (AS) to her sister, the commander of this lost and scattered battalion of frightened women and children took first watch. She stood guard over them as the night darkened, brandishing the broken piece of wood as a weapon. And thus, Zainab (AS) stood and she stood upright. She stayed steadfast through the horrors that awaited her. The whiplashes, the imprisonment, the absence of her veil, the torture that her little group endured, through all of this, Zainab (AS) endured.

We hear about the biggest sacrifice that Imam Hussain (RA) made for upholding the dignity of Islam. But little do we know that his message would have been lost in the scorching heat of Karbala, if his sister had not spread it far and wide. She is normally called, “Saaniye Zahra” (the second Zahra or Bibi Fatima RA). But after Karbala, she should be called, “Hussain-e-Saani as his great sacrifice is alive today because of her relentless courage.

Karbala teaches us numerous life lessons. An extremely significant one is the role that women play in our lives. Lost under the dust of antiquated values and male chauvinism, our society has limited the role of women, deriving false interpretations from religion itself. It has led to moral decay of our social fabric which can be remedied by following the example of Karbala. The spirit of absolute sacrifice, putting others before your own interests and giving up everything dear to us when our Creator beckons, is what the glorious grandson of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) managed to do. He gave up his life, his sons, his brothers and his companions. He even sacrificed his six-month-old Asghar (RA) in Karbala so that till the end of times, nobody could point a finger and wonder if he saved something for himself.

He brought his women with him to teach the world that they aren’t any less capable than men. The mothers who participated in Karbala were no ordinary mothers. Their valour is unparalleled. When a mother decides to give up her son, she is not merely giving up her offspring rather she is giving away a piece of her heart, her soul, her being. It is a sacrifice superior to all that men have seen. But in Karbala, women hurried forward to present their sons for battle.

The sole example of Bibi Zainab (AS) stands out from the rest. She brought her two young sons to battle and gave them up for Islam. After that, she refused to even touch their bodies as they were brought to her tent.

“Main Zainab, jab Allah ki rahh mein kuch sadqa kar deti hun tou dobara murr kar uski taraf nahi dekhti!!”

(When I sacrifice something for Allah then I do not look back and worry about it.)

Her words ring through history, making it incomprehensible for us to fathom. How can a mother be this nonchalant or indifferent towards her own children? The answer lies in patience, in faith and in believing that it is for Allah Almighty that we are giving up what is most precious to us.

This is how a sister and a bereaved mother has taught all of mankind, a lesson through her example, that Islam is not about merely reciting a Kalma. Islam is about comprehending the meaning of those words and to submit one’s self to the absolute authority of the One, who is our Creator, the most Benevolent, the most Merciful.

Fatima Raza

Fatima Raza

The author is a Biosciences graduate and a student of MPhil International Relations. She aspires to be an accomplished writer someday.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Just Asking

    The describe the incident as if you were there!Recommend

  • Mir

    One of the best write ups i have ever see!Recommend

  • Karachiwala

    better to pray your farz namaz which is an obligation to rather writing about some events that has nothing to do with islam and propagating something that you yourself did not witness. utilize your skill to do good, thousands of people has written about it already….isn’t it better for you to discover something new..something related to science or art?Recommend

  • MR.X

    thats what they do..they also exaggerate stories i guessRecommend

  • MR.X

    They were great women who practised islam unlike the muslim women of today..Dont exaggerate in praise that she is saniyee-Hussain(RA) or Zahra(RA) just for the sake of women empowerment..And even on this day she is trying to bash men..shaming as feminists do “oh male chauvanists’.. Learnt some words from the west.. Please read Hazrat Alis sermon(nahj-ul-baligha) in which he said women are deficient in intelligent and religion in accordance with the saying of Prophet in sahih bukhari. So Hypocrite feminists are they ‘Chauvanists’ because according to definition it looks like you think such saying are..Though i believe them..Recommend

  • farhan

    shes got to be kidding..making it a women empowerment thing to such an extent that she is calling respected bibi Zainab ‘saani’ of Hussain(RA).Recommend

  • Hamsid

    Brilliant write up , and haters lay off , be objective than being male chauvinists , we have PLENTY of those thank youRecommend

  • Juan

    Why is it that some folks like to duck and hide on any mere mention of Karbala? I’m pretty sure one can pray and write about any stuff, Islamic or not, at the same time.

    Unfortunately these events are part of Islamic history (the grandson of the Prophet being part of the Islamic era) and despite thousands of people writing about it, the message still hasn’t come across about its importance as seen with this comment whose opinion differs from those who do view it as Islamic. By such logic no one living today really has personally witnessed any Islamic history or rituals if one was truthful and couldn’t really propagate a thing including ‘farz namaz’.

    One would think studying history, particularly Islamic history, and making positive relations, to such as women’s importance in Islam, might be utilizing skill to do good, but apparently it’s a waste of time and the author is told like a good girl to stick to science or art than to wade into something controversial for the commentator or not to his liking…..or is it just better to pray? Its clearly different standards for certain topics.Recommend

  • farhan

    All right so tell me Were Hazrat Ali(R.A) and Prophet(SAW) male chauvanists for calling women deficient in religion and intelligence??.. I believe them as a muslim do you??.. A muslim is chauvanist by definition..google chauvanism…Also in islam Men have double the right of inheritence than women ..If you like what your Prophet says then stop being a hypocrite and layoff.. or choose another religionRecommend

  • MR.X

    haha..lets see how objectively she sees this..women say being objective but they are the most emotional.Thus there logic is overlooked due to their emotionsRecommend

  • Karachiwala

    No one is ducking and hiding. And no matter what has transpired in karbala would alter islam as a religion. The only gap here is. You take 1 event of history repeat it millions and billions of time..and introduce so many bidets that the processions now looks like Hindu processions. You want to talk about misery..talk about hazrat Hamza? Prophet time in taif? Plenty of events can be talked about. But have you ever wondered where arebyou heading towards? No! Your mind and soul has been locked in rotating about 1 event. Keep writing… It will hurt no one, but you alone.Recommend

  • Juan

    Islam and it’s history are split into sects thanks to those events. It’s repeated annually, like other yearly commemorations, though spans a number of days for remembrance as others, not unlike yourself, would rather bury it. The bidet accusation made by Wahhabi or Salafi leaning individuals is yet another example of ideological and sectarian divide.

    Are you really trying to compare a siege, massacre and mass imprisonment of the Prophet’s lineage and other Muslim families in a single tragic event? Way to downplay it.

    May not be sure where I, or even you, maybe headed but I don’t think it’s as detrimental as you make it out to be.Recommend

  • Karachiwala

    Do it as it pleases you. No body downplays it.

    No matter how you put this, i do not see any difference between a Hindu Procession and Karbala procession.Recommend