One way to better appreciate the high status of Lady Zainab bint Ali (peace be upon her) is to draw a simple comparison on the striking resemblances between her life and the life of her purified mother, Sayyida Fatima Zahra (peace be upon her). The purpose of this exercise is not at all to bring the status of Lady Fatima down to anyone else; after all, Lady Fatima is the Infallible Leader of the Women of the Worlds, and she is the Hujjah (proof) over the Infallible Imams while the Imams act as Hujjah on us. Recognizing these similarities is only a humble attempt to better understand the prominent position of Lady Zainab and her high rank. After all, if a person resembles “light” in many ways, then surely that person has achieved close proximity to that light, and hence, will become a reflection of that divine light.
Sure enough, Lady Zainab was the mirror reflection of the light of Lady Fatima in her chastity and modesty. She was the imitation of her grandmother Khadija (peace be upon her) in her sobriety and serenity. She was the echo of her father Imam Ali (peace be upon him) in his eloquence. She was the carbon copy of her brother Imam Hasan (peace be upon him) in his forbearance and patience. And most certainly, she was the twin of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) in his bravery and tranquility!
We present a few of the striking resemblances which these two noble women share with each other:
Both Lady Fatima and Lady Zainab lost their mothers at a very young age.
Lady Fatima is the Kawthar to her father, and Lady Zainab is the Zain (adornment) of her father.
Just like Lady Fatima was the ‘mother of her father’, Lady Zainab grew up playing a similar role with the responsibility of looking after her brothers and tending to her father.
Both Lady Fatima and Lady Zainab had the same dowries.
Imam Ali testified that Fatima was “a good helper and wife in the way of Allah”. And Abdullah ibn Jafar testified that his wife Zainab was “the best housewife”.
Both inherited the eloquence from their fathers, delivered keynote speeches, and resembled their fathers in their demeanor.
When Lady Fatima and Lady Zainab started their well-known speeches, they signaled to their audience to be quiet, and immediately there was pin-drop silence! This fact may seem as a minor detail but it certainly points to the awe they inspired.
Lady Fatima herself described the weight of calamities which befell her as: “Calamities showered on me such that if they were placed on days, they would have turned into nights!” Similarly, Lady Zainab was afflicted with such tragedies that she is known as Umm al-Masaib(Mother of Calamities).
Just like Lady Fatima’s house was set on fire by those who oppressed her, Lady Zainab’s tents were also burned with fire.
Just like Lady Fatima experienced most calamities immediately after the death of her most beloved one, the Messenger of God (peace be upon him and his progeny), Lady Zainab experienced suffering of captivity and humiliation right after the martyrdom of her beloved brother Hussain.
Both Lady Fatima and Lady Zainab were physically abused and hurt in defense of truth by the worst of creation at their time.
Both Lady Fatima and Lady Zainab gave away their beloved two sons in the way of Allah – Hasan & Hussain and Aun & Muhammad.
Before his death, the Prophet entrusted his beloved daughter Fatima as Wadee’a (trust) to her husband Imam Ali. And before his death, Imam Ali entrusted his beloved daughter Zainab to her brother Abul Fadhl Al-Abbas (peace be upon him). Unfortunately, both valuable trusts were violated and departed this life in the worst of conditions, both physically and emotionally!
Without Lady Fatima, we would have never known about the injustice committed by some companions of the Prophet towards him and his Household. And without Lady Zainab, we would have never come to know about the Tragedy of Karbala and the oppression done unto the Holy Household.