In our daily lives today, where we are so connected to one other through social media and breaking news on the media, that it’s easy to be updated on the day to day happenings all around the globe. While there are positive things occurring constantly, most often we hear about the negative – the wars, the murders, and the oppression. In a time like ours where it seems that every Muslim country is facing hardship and every Muslim population in the Ummah is being oppressed, we simultaneously feel fired up to help but are helpless in how to start.
In Islam, we are told of the great accomplishments of those who came before us. Entire battles have been fought by vastly outnumbered Muslim armies and have come out victorious, entire migrations of civilizations have occurred to escape oppression, and yet, how can we as Muslims today even begin to emanate that courage and change? One such example we can look to is the courageous and strong Zainab Bint Ali.
As the daughter of Ali (RA) and Fatimah (RA), sister of Hassan (RA) and Hussain (RA) and granddaughter of Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.), she came from a notably knowledgeable and pious family. As she grew up in this environment, she became vastly knowledgeable on Islam and was an advocate for women in a time where there really was no such thing. She would hold gatherings for women, whom she recognized were the ones who could teach the next generation, and teach them about the beauty of Islam. She became known for her ability to teach and although by marriage she was well off, she lived modestly and gave generously to charity.
Although she was an incredible teacher and advocate for women, her most famous act occurred on the day of Ashura where she not only watched her own brother Hussain (RA) be brutally murdered, but watched her two sons Aun and Muhammad die. At the battle of Karbala, she was taken prisoner along with other women and children. As a prisoner, her courage and advocacy for freedom did not end – she led the women and children and condemned oppression through a speech in the palace of her capturer:
“So scheme whatever you may scheme, and strive for whatever you may strive, and put forth your best efforts – but, by Allah, you will never erase our mention (the family of the Prophet). ‘And are your days not numbered? And is your gang not dispersed – on that day when the caller shall call: Is not the damnation of God upon the oppressors?!’”
After finally returning home to Medina, she became known as Sabira – the patient one. Instead of sitting and taking it easy after watching her loved ones die and then being taken as prisoner, she instead decided to travel the world and advocate for Islam and freedom. She is even said to have caused a reawakening in the Muslim Ummah.
From her story, life, and legacy, we can take inspiration for when we begin to feel helpless in the eyes of oppression. She shows us that there is always a way to change the world around us and to always remain brave and steadfast in our views regardless of the backlash you may receive. You can educate those around you, you can stand up and fight, and most importantly, you can use your words to give mighty blows to the enemy.