By Muntadhir Abbas
22 November 2016
There is no doubt that life is a test, for
what other purpose have we been built but to endure the trials and tribulations
of this temporal world, striving for a blissful eternity and closeness to God.
God has indeed alluded to the various forms of tests we shall endure in the
Quran, which include fear, wealth, spouses and children. However, with these
challenges comes a need for patience, resilience, hope, reflection and above
all, trust in God. It is this very trust in God that allows mankind to traverse
the difficulties with inner peace and ease, and as the saying goes –
“If God brought you to it, He will bring
you through it.”
Not many can say they have been tested to
the very limits of human capacity, but Zainab, the daughter of Ali, surely can.
Allow yourself to consider the atrocities faced by this phenomenal lady, and
whilst doing so imagine how you would deal with just one of them.
She lost her grandfather, the holy Prophet,
at a very young age.
Shortly after, her mother, Fatima, passed
away as a result of injuries sustained in an attack on the family house.
Zainab had to attend to her father, Ali,
after he had been struck by a sword whilst praying, and he returned to his Lord
days after the attack.
Her brother Hassan, one of the masters of
the youth of paradise was poisoned.
At Karbala she lost two young sons who were
Her wider family, including nephews were
also butchered, as was her beloved brother, Abbas.
Finally, at Karbala, her brother – the
apple of her eye, Hussain, was massacred and his body decimated as Zainab
From Karbala, Zainab and other women and
children were forced to ride to present day Damascus, with the heads of their
beloved paraded on lances as they travelled.
Finally, on arrival to Damascus, knowing
she was of noble lineage, the onlookers in the crowded Bazar jeered and mocked
Needless to say, the events above read as a
catalogue of one’s worse nightmares, and yet Zainab experienced them all in the
space of fifty years. Yet when all was said and done, did she give up? Did she
complain and play the victim, or blame and chastise God? No, she famously
responded by saying “and in this, I have witnessed nothing but beauty.”
You and I are very quick to ‘judge God’ –
the irony as He is the Judge of the day of return, but we seldom take a step
back and try to envision the bigger picture. Sayings such as ‘there are plenty
more fish in the sea’ or ‘live to fight another day’ all enable us to wash over
whatever we may have experienced, but they do so without insight. This is where
Zainab’s formidable line stands out, and are the words of someone who has
completely submitted to God’s will, to the extent that she can see beyond the
superficial meaning of life events.
How often will you have experienced
something, perceived as a negative event in the moment, but which after a while
you thank God it happened?
I know you can think of times where this is
true, but it took reflection and patience to realise that what happened was for
the best. This does not go to say we sit back and allow a false sense of
pre-destination to take over; rather, know that God has so much love for us
that He requires us to undergo experiences that allow us to love Him back.
To use a metaphor for this two-way love,
think of yourself as gold, which only becomes more valuable the more it is
purified. Gold is required to be heated to extreme temperatures to strip away
any impurities, and likewise the human must also embrace such a process in this
Zainab bint Ali showed us that even in the
darkest of times, when emotions of pain, suffering and loneliness can overcome
us, as long as one has full trust in God, they can come out victorious and
closer to God.
It does beg the question, why did she see
beauty (in God’s plan) amidst the tragedy of Karbala?
Firstly, when one has complete trust in
God’s will, they have a resonating sense of contentment in all affairs as they
can be sure that events have a purpose or greater aim. This therefore points to
her steadfast belief in God (yaqin) and can be enveloped by the saying of her
father; “in trust (of God) lays certainty.”
Secondly, from a more relative perspective,
we ourselves may have lost a dear one and perhaps months or years later see
that this can be a source of inspiration, or a turning point to reform
ourselves. The difference here is that Zainab’s trust in God allowed her to
derive such a conclusion much quicker.
Finally, looking at her famous sermon in
the courtyard of Damascus allows an insight into her beautiful and resilient
character. You can hear it being recited in Arabic with English translations
Her name means the adornment (Zenah) of her
father (ab), and she truly reflected the linguistic prowess and courage of her
father, Ali, when she reached Damascus and spoke in front of crowds whilst
being goaded by the governor. Yet what is fascinating is the constant devout referral
to God, and the confidence she has that what she has undergone is not in vein.
This bizarre comfort after so much loss, and ability to look at events through
a completely different lens accompanied by wisdom, is down to nothing but trust
in God and His planning.
In conclusion, the next time you befall
some hardship, perhaps take a moment and be grateful it is not as severe as
that which, for example, Zainab underwent. Bring your trial back into
perspective so that it doesn’t feel like the end of the world, and let reality
help you appreciate your ability to overcome the issue.
Furthermore, know that however big or small
the test, God is the greater and He has promised to take care of us:
“Nothing shall ever happen to us except
what Allah has ordained for us. He is our Lord, Helper and Protector. And in
Allah let the believers put their trust.” – [Quran, 9:51]
And verily God is the all-Knowing.