Lady Zainab, daughter of Imam Ali (peace be upon them both): For those who know the story and events of Karbala and Ashura, a few seconds of thought about what the name "Zainab" means to us can go something along the lines of: bravery, courage, strength, passion, dedication, love, leader, and most prominent for most, sacrifice.
Lady Zainab was all of those things, and more, and there really cannot be enough words to describe this woman's contribution to the spreading of Islam throughout the world due to her distinct and elevated character.
When a woman stands in front of her enemy who is about to kill her nephew in order to save his life, how can we not call that bravery? When a woman holds her tears and grief for months for the sake of keeping order and stability for others, is that not dedication? When a woman loses her mother in childhood and her father not much later and vows to protect her brother no matter her situation in life, is that not sacrifice?
We find ourselves today having problems with boycotting goods which support enemies – which literally means finding an alternative to our fish sandwiches, coffee drinks, or even a few of our favorite brand names. When will we learn to sacrifice for the sake of the respect and dignity of our religion? I wonder how Islam would prevail if Allah had not ordained Lady Zainab to speak on the face of the enemies who wanted to degrade the holy teachings of our Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny). What if she simply stood quiet? What if she just cried and never spoke? What if she said, "This is too hard, I can't do this"?
If we cannot sacrifice our comfort zone in order to practice and preach the flawless code of ethics of Islam, then what is our purpose? Why are we here?
The blessed personality of Lady Zainab was an example placed before us to learn from, not only to cry over. As Islam is a religion for all times, eras, and places, we cannot say that those examples won't work "these days".
Along with the demise of Lady Zainab in the holy month of Rajab, we also commemorate the birth of the dear daughter of Imam Hussain, Princess Sakina (peace be upon them both). At such a young age, she showed us the true meaning of sacrifice and patience – have our actions shown that we follow her lead? We tell our younger ones the story of her in hopes that they too will learn to be patient when they are thirsty, calm when they are feeling burning hot, or learn to be understanding when they miss their parents or do not get their way.
But the lessons she taught us were not only for the kids. Human beings of all ages can learn to carry on with their lives even when they have lost everything – family members are killed, all physiological needs are taken away, and even worse, their dignity of their religion, her Hijab, is ripped away from them.
We can only learn from the stories of these great leaders' lives. When we are thirsty, we remember them. When we feel sad or are mourning the loss of a loved one, we remember a heartbroken daughter whose father and family members were all brutally murdered before her. When we feel it is too much to bear to keep up with our religious codes, we remember Hazrat Zainab, who did not want to leave a burning tent without her Hijab. How unfortunate that today's Muslim women are rolling up our sleeves because we cannot bear the heat, in complete forgetfulness of our Hijab.
We cannot think that these wonderful women sacrificed everything for us to just read them as stories.