The Sermon of Zaynab and Its Historical Background – Part 3

Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi

(Toronto, Canada)

The Atmosphere of Yazid’s Court

The court of Yazid was filled with senior officials, dignitaries of Sham, some ambassadors of foreign governments and religious leaders of other faiths. It was in such a setting that the family of Imam Husayn (a.s.) was brought in as prisoners without any veils or scarfs.

A herald was constantly announcing in the bazar as well as the imperial court that the head of a dissident is being brought who had rebelled against the caliph. The blessed head of Imam Husayn (a.s.) was presented to Yazid on a silver plate and placed in front of his throne.

Overcome with his apparent victory, Yazid started poking the blessed head of Imam Husayn (a.s.) with his stick and expressing his joy by reciting the following lines of a blasphemous poetry of ‘Abdullah binaz-Ziba‘ri:

The Hashimites staged a drama for domination

For there was no Divine news nor any revelation

Wish my ancestors killed in Badr would see

The pain of Khazraj caused by pointed spears

Yazid’s display of arrogance and blasphemous words prompted Lady Zaynab to stand up and address him in the court filled with the elite of Sham. The aura of her personality even as a prisoner and the eloquence of her speech were such that Yazid could not do anything to prevent her from speaking!

Zaynab’s Sermon

1) The Preamble

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the universe; and blessings be upon my grandfather, the chief of God’s messengers.

Indeed, Almighty Allah has spoken the truth when He said “Then the final state of those who do evil (deeds) was that they denied the signs of Allah and they used to ridicule them.” (30:10)

First comment: Zaynab puts an emphasis that the Prophet is “my grandfather;” he is from our family, from ‘Ali’s family; and not from your family, O Yazid!

Second comment: Zaynab’s mastery over the Qur’an become obvious by her selection of verses in this sermon. After praising Allah and asking for blessing upon the Prophet, she recites the first verse that is very befitting for the occasion and is fully applied on Yazid.

In other words, she is saying that O Yazid, the lines of poetry that you recited demonstrates that those who do evil deeds will eventually deny the Qur’an as a revelation and ridicule it. (The “signs of Allah”could refer to the Qur’an as well as the blessed head of Imam Husayn.)

Do you think, O Yazid, now that you have ‘seized the vastness of the earth from us and constrained the horizons upon us, and that we are being herded like the prisoners—that Allah wishes humiliation for us and honor for you?

And that in this is a great importance for you with Allah? So you are being haughty and looking around exuberantly and happily since you see that the world is in your control and its affairs are lined up for you, and our country is exclusively for you and our government is purely for you. But hold on and slow down!

Have your forgotten Almighty Allah’s words: “Let the faithless not suppose that the respite that We grant them is good for their souls: We give them respite only that they may increase in sin, and [eventually] there is a humiliating punishment for them.” (3:178)

Third comment: Lady Zaynab did not address the ruthless ruler by his common titles; rather she addressed him by his name only. This was a slap on his face!

Fourth comment: Look at the courage of the daughter of “Allah’s lion:” right in the court of Yazid, she describes his rule and government as an usurped power and claims it to be her family’s right.

Fifth comment: By quoting the verse from Chapter Three, she tells Yazid that he should not considered his apparent victory as a sign of Allah’s pleasure. They may be delay in reprisal but it will eventually come.

About the author

He was born in 1957 in a family of ‘ulamã’ in Bihar, India. He comes from a region in Bihar (Siwan District, previously known as Saran) that has produced well-known Shi‘a scholars in the Indian sub-continent. Migrated to Africa with his parents where he received elementary education in English medium school. After that for two years, he studied Arabic and Farsi with his respected father and two other ‘alims in Dar-Es-salaam, Tanzania.

In 1972, at the age of fifteen, he went to the Hawza-e ‘Ilmiya-e Qum, Iran. During his ten years stay in Qum, he studied with various teachers; and moved from the levels of muqaddimãt to sutûh (equal to graduate level in secular universities) and, finally, attended the dars-e kharij (ijtihad lectures equal to post-graduate studies) of Ayatullah al-Uzma Shaikh Wahid Khurãsãni.

In 1982, he returned to India where he stayed at Gopalpur for about a year.

In June 1983, at the invitation of the Shia Muslim Community of British Columbia, he and his wife moved to Vancouver where he stayed till June 1991 and served Shi‘a Islam through his lectures, writings, and teachings. Based on his publications and educational background, in September 1987, the Simon Fraser University (Vancouver) admitted him in the post-graduate program at Masters’ level. This was even though he had no formal degree nor was he asked to sit for any exams. In 1990 he completed his thesis; and after successfully defending the thesis, was awarded the Master of Arts degree in History in 1991.

In July 1991, he moved to Toronto and till 1996 worked as the Director of Islamic Education & Information Center providing a variety of religious services to Shi‘as in North America. During this time, he was also involved in the founding of the As-Sadiq Islamic School, a full time Islamic school from KG to Grade 8 levels. Since July 1996, he has accepted the responsibilities of the Imam-e Jum‘a and Resident ‘Ãlim of the Jaffari Islamic Center / Jaffari Community Center.

He has traveled to most cities in Canada and U.S.A.; as well as to Australia, Guyana, Trinidad, United Kingdom, Dubai, Pakistan, Tanzania and Kenya for lectures.

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