The Sermon of Zaynab and Its Historical Background – Part 2

Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi

(Toronto, Canada)

Mu’awiyah’s Political Strategy

The Umayyid government, established by Mu‘awiyah bin Abi Sufyan, was founded on two opposite strategies: propaganda and military might. And both these strategies were used with wicked shrewdness:

1. The domination over Sham was maintained by propaganda.

2. The domination of all other regions (Hijaz, Iraq, Yemen, Persia and Egypt) was maintained by military might.

For a better understanding of these two opposite political strategies, a survey of the present political strategy of the United State of America would be helpful. America’s domestic and foreign policies are based on two different strategies:

Domestic Policy: it is based on the liberal democratic system in which the public opinion is respected. Media, of course, plays a pivotal role in forming the public opinion; and, therefore, whatever party can mold the public opinion gets the majority votes. In such a democratic system, the public can even remove the President (e.g., Nixon) from the office.

Foreign Policy: the same democratic America, when pursing its own interests globally, very readily ignores the public opinion of other nations and uses its military might directly or through local dictators to impose its will.

Keeping these two different policies of America in mind, I apply that to Mu‘awiyah’s strategies: he maintained power within the country (i.e., Sham) on basis of propaganda, and he maintained power outside the country (i.e., Iraq, Hijaz, Yemen, Persia and Egypt) on basis of Sham’s military might.

In order to control the minds of the people of Sham, Mu‘awiyah had advised his son, Yazid, that whenever he would have to quell the uprisings in other countries, he should indeed use the Shami forces and once he has quelled the rebellion, he should bring the Shami forces back to their country “because if they stay [longer] in other countries, their behavior would change.”

‘Behavioral change’ actually refers to the broadening of their minds and their exposure to the real image of the family of Abu Sufyan and its continuous opposition to the Prophet of Islam until it was finally subdued in the conquest of Mecca.

Husayn’s Strategy

It was in such a context that Imam Husayn bin ‘Ali (a.s.) analyzed the Muslim world and he saw that the ummah was suffering from two problems:

(1) Inside Sham, the Muslims suffered from ignorance and misinformation; and

(2) outside Sham (Hijaz, Iraq, Persia, Yemen and Egypt), the Muslims suffered from apathy and a slumbering conscience.

Two different social ills required two different solutions: outside Sham, the ummah required “awakening;”and inside Sham, the ummah required “awareness.”

For revival of and awakening the slumbering conscience of the ummah, Husayn chose the path of martyrdom and sacrifice. For creating awareness among the people of Sham and dispelling the misinformation from them, Husayn needed the help of the women of his family who would fulfill that task when taken as prisoners to Sham.

Husayn took the responsibility of awakening the slumbering conscience of the ummah while Zaynab took the responsibility of creating awareness among the people of Sham – that is why Zaynab is known as “Sharikatu ’l-Husayn – the Partner of Husayn.

”The summary of this analysis is that Mu‘awiyah had built an “iron curtain” around Sham which blockedany idea from reaching the people, and their minds remained intoxicated with Umayyid propaganda. This“wall of propaganda” was so strong that neither ‘Ali’s sword could bring it down nor could Hasan’s peacemake a crack in it, and even Husayn’s innocent blood could not dampen its foundation. Indeed, that wall came crumbling down with the sermons of Lady Zaynab and Imam Zayn al-Abidin!

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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