20 August 2021 (12th night of Muharram 1443)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town

Almighty Allah (SWT) says in verse 71 of Surah Tauba (chapter 9 of the Holy Quran):

وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتُ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ ۚ يَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَيُطِيعُونَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ سَيَرْحَمُهُمُ اللَّهُ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ

The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practise regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise.

You will recall we focussed on this verse in lecture 3 in this series, specifically on the subject of Amr bil Ma’ruf wannahi anil Munkar (enjoining good and forbidding evil), which is one of the core concepts established in the Holy Quran, and the central theme in the revolution of Imam Husain (a.s) when he said that his mission is to invite people towards good and forbid evil in society.

We actually had two topics of discussion in these 10 nights pertaining to this. The one focused on our social responsibility, meaning our responsibility towards the society we live in. The second was that in order to perform our responsibility towards society, we need to enjoin good and forbid evil ie. Amr bil Ma’ruf wannahi anil Munkar.

You can see the interrelation here between both, relating to our responsibility towards society. In Islam, we are not only responsible for ourselves, but we are also responsible for the society, community and country in which we live. We discussed in detail that we cannot be indifferent.


In this discussion, I wish to explore another beautiful angle in this verse, namely that this social responsibility is shared by Mu’mineen and Mu’minaat (believing men and believing women)!

Two key issues are addressed in this verse, namely:

– Wilayat, according to our understanding in the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s), which is not simply friendship. Rather, it is a commitment which has social connotation.

– This social connection is the institution of Amr bil Ma’ruf wannahi anil Munkar, which is purely a social responsibility.

For both of these social and public related issues, the Holy Quran deliberately refers to Mu’mineen and Mu’minaat (believing men and believing women). This is different to the common trend in the Holy Quran where the pronouns are most often masculine, and women are included in this reference as well. This means that the masculine reference refers to men and women.

However, there are certain places in the Holy Quran where Almighty Allah (SWT) wishes to emphasize categorically that the issue highlighted has both men and women as equal shareholders! An example is the verse above and also verse 97 of Surah Nahl (chapter 16 of the Holy Quran):

مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا مِنْ ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنْثَىٰ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُ حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً

Whoever does good whether male or female and he is a believer, We will most certainly make him live a happy life.

We understand from this verse that Almighty Allah (SWT) wishes to ensure that there is no distinction between male and female when it comes to the criteria of good deeds (amali salih) and faith (Imaan) and rewarding of the great pure life. Indeed, they are equal partners.

There are certain places in the Holy Quran where Almighty Allah (SWT) wants to deliberately make it abundantly clear that there should be no confusion in the interpretation of the particular verses to be applied equally for men and women.

The above verse is one such fine example, where good deeds (amali salih) and faith (Imaan) is accepted from everyone. Similarly, the social responsibility of Wilayat and to act against evil in society, enjoining people towards good, is binding upon believing men and women, both.


Another area where the Holy Quran makes it categorically clear is when it uses examples of good women and bad women. However, when the Holy Quran highlights this, it does not refer to them as good and bad examples only for women. We see this in verse 11 of Surah Tahrim (chapter 66) where Almighty Allah (SWT) lists the wife of Fir’aun as a good example for the believers ie. not only women:

وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا امْرَأَتَ فِرْعَوْنَ

And Allah sets forth, as an example to those who believe the wife of Pharaoh

Conversely, in the verse before (verse 10) Almighty Allah (SWT) lists the wife of Nabi Nuh (a.s) and the wife of Nabi Lut (a.s) as bad examples for the believers:

ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا لِلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا امْرَأَتَ نُوحٍ وَامْرَأَتَ لُوطٍ ۖ كَانَتَا تَحْتَ عَبْدَيْنِ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا صَالِحَيْنِ فَخَانَتَاهُمَا فَلَمْ يُغْنِيَا عَنْهُمَا مِنَ اللَّهِ شَيْئًا وَقِيلَ ادْخُلَا النَّارَ مَعَ الدَّاخِلِينَ

Allah sets forth an example to those who disbelieve the wife of Nuh and the wife of Lut: they were both under two of Our righteous servants, but they acted treacherously towards them so they availed them naught against Allah, and it was said: Enter both the fire with those who enter.

Another fine example of women listed in the Holy Quran as role models is the queen of Sheba, and of course, Lady Mariam (s.a).


To emphasize the point with all these fine examples, the Holy Quran establishes men and women as equal partners on the issues of Wilayat (guardianship) and “amr bil ma’ruf wannahi anil munkar” (enjoining good and forbidding evil).

The practical history of Islam is witness to this fact, and challenges the negative propaganda against Islam, where it is portrayed as if Islam does not offer any socio-political role for women and confines them to domestic issues only. The history of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) is a prime example of women’s rights and position in society being given a high priority.

The Holy Quran is therefore answering to this accusation with practical examples, such as the wife of Fir’aun, for those who have Imaan (faith).

The practical history of Islam and our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) starts in its early stages with none other than the great, noble Lady Khadija al-Kubra (s.a). How can anyone dare under-estimate the highly significant role played by this distinguished woman? Then, when one moves along the line, we see none other than Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali ibn abi Talib (a.s) and Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a).


Lady Khadija al-Kubra (s.a) is a central role player in Nubuwwat (Prophethood) and there is no doubt that Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a) is the most central role player in Imamat (Leadership).

Shaheed Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr (r.a) used to say that the first person who stood firm in defending Imamat is not Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali ibn abi Talib (a.s) himself. Rather, it is Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a) who is the first person to defend the leadership of the Ahlul Bait (a.s). She is the first lady to stand openly and frankly protest at the deviation which occurred after the passing of her father, Rasulullah (SAWA).

There is no doubt, Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a) gave her life for the sake of Imamat. Look at this socio-political role that this most perfect woman played in Islam!

Now, let us move to Karbala, where this partnership of man and woman is flourishing more than anywhere else in history. We see that from the very early stages of this movement, to the fateful Day of Ashura, and also post-Ashura. We see the leading role played by women everywhere, along with Imam Husain (a.s).


Can we understand Karbala without Lady Zainab (s.a)? ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE to even IMAGINE Karbala without Zainab (s.a)! Lady Zainab (s.a) and Imam Husain (a.s) are both the leading figures in this everlasting epic of Karbala. Hence, there was a great scholar who gave the title to Lady Zainab (s.a) of “Shariqatul Husain”, meaning that Zainab (s.a) is the partner of Husain (a.s)!

Sayyeda Zainab (s.a) is therefore a prime shareholder in the movement of Karbala!

What is important to understand is that the role of Sayyeda Zainab (s.a) is not a secondary role. It is not simply a supportive role that she plays. Rather, it is a leading role. She is so crucial for Imam Husain (a.s), such that he consults her on key decisions. This explains the status of Lady Zainab (s.a) which is highly respected by Imam Husain (a.s), especially considering he is an infallible Imam!

This is her status in Karbala, and we all know the leadership role she held in the aftermath of the tragedy of Karbala, where the whole caravan of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) is under her care, in that most horrific period.

Clearly, nobody can dispute that Imam Husain (a.s) saved Islam through Karbala, and Lady Zainab (s.a) is the one who saved Karbala! The role of Lady Zainab (s.a) is an extensive discussion, but her major role is in the continuation of this movement in conveying the message of this eternal, ultimate sacrifice to the world.

The reality is that this supreme sacrifice of Imam Husain (a.s) and the martyrs of Karbala would have been concealed if the role and character of Sayyeda Zainab (s.a) was not there.

Today, we are gathering across the world in the Majlis of Aza (mourning commemorations) of Imam Husain (a.s). And it is the blessings from Sayyeda Zainab (s.a), as she is the one who established this tradition of sitting together and shedding tears at remembering the tragedy of Karbala.

We see very clearly how this movement of Aza has grown exponentially over the centuries.


Today, I came across a video clip of a Sunni orator by the name of Adnan Ibrahim. He is Palestinian and based in Austria and is a critical thinker with great respect for the stature of the Ahlul Bait (a.s).

He said something very interesting, stating that people get annoyed and frustrated by the over-emphasis on commemorating the tragedy of Karbala and the martyrdom of Imam Husain (a.s), which goes “on and on” for two months (Muharram and Safar) in Shia tradition, with great fervour.

Now, to come to the point, he retorts by saying that “for sure, had it not been for this passion displayed by the Shia towards the Ahlul Bait (a.s), then we Sunnis would not have even known the name of the Ahlul Bait (a.s)!”


We can relate to this even in our own city, where there are so many ladies by the name of Zainab, but if you ask most of them who Zainab was, that they are named after, then you will see them completely stuck and unable to answer more than one or two sentences!

The level of ignorance is astonishing, where people do not even distinguish between Hasan and Husain, thinking that it is one person! A further level of ignorance is still very common where Muslims would still send messages of Mubarak on Ashura. And then you even have those for whom 10th Muharram is simply not a big deal, and quite frankly, irrelevant to them. The day will come and go, and they won’t even know!

If this powerful mission which Zainab (s.a) led was not there, then even the names of Ahlul Bait (a.s) would not be known today, as Adnan Ibrahim so appropriately stated.

Today, because the environment is so passionate towards the Ahlul Bait (a.s), particularly in Muharram and Safar, those who want to suppress the name of Ahlul Bait (a.s) are compelled to say something about Imam Husain (a.s) and Karbala and the family of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).

Therefore, it is not only us who are thankful to Lady Zainab (s.a). Rather, the whole world should be thankful to this esteemed lady, who introduced us to the eternal sacrifice of Imam Husain (a.s).

This is Lady Zainab (s.a), as the partner of Imam Husain (a.s) on his mission of reform, inviting towards good and forbidding evil.


Of course, Lady Zainab (s.a) is the leading woman in Karbala, but there are so many other ladies who were highly influential. As a “footnote” to add here, this is again quite unique about Karbala, in that you will find lovers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) amongst the women who were associated with the most terrible men amongst Bani Umayyah!

Zainab is in Karbala, along with Umm Kulthum. Then, who can forget the wife of Zuhayr, who was the one to encouraged him to join Imam Husain (a.s) without thinking twice!

Imam Husain (a.s) even wrote letters to people all the way in Basra, Iraq for them to join him. History has recorded that a woman from Basra organized in her house the meetings of the leaders amongst the followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) to discuss these letters of Imam Husain (a.s), whereby she encouraged them to join Imam Husain (a.s)!

We all know very well about the lady who gave refuge to Muslim ibn Aqil in Kufa. Similarly, the two orphans of Muslim ibn Aqil were supported and cared for by a woman, before they were subsequently killed in Kufa as well.

And of course, the role of women reaches its peak when we see them as the main role players in Karbala. They were so instrumental and pivotal in supporting Imam Husain (a.s).


History has recorded two or three women. One of them is Haniya, the wife of Wahab, the Christian martyr. They were married 20 days before the Day of Ashura. Imam Husain (a.s) happened to meet them, together Wahab’s mother, at a resting area along his journey to Kufa.

Wahab was not there when Imam Husain (a.s) met this family, as he went far away to search for water. The mother of Wahab complained to Imam Husain (a.s) that they are very thirsty in this desert where they were camping.

Imam Husain (a.s) pointed towards the dust and suddenly water gushed out. This is again a lengthy discussion, as one can easily be led to believe that Imam Husain (a.s) was thirsty in Karbala because he could not get water, when in fact, the whole world is at his disposal!

Anyway, the water gushed, and this mother felt extremely relieved as they were all refreshed thereafter. This mother was deeply appreciative of Imam Husain (a.s). Imam Husain (a.s) could sense that these were pure hearts he met and said to the mother of Wahab that when he (Wahab) returns, she should pass an invitation to him to join the caravan of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) for their noble cause.

Wahab returned and his mother narrated the whole story. Wahab was naturally amazed, since he went so far to try and gain access to water, whereas this man (Imam Husain (a.s)) had such immense power to be able to extract water from the desert dust!

Wahab was clearly excited to visit Imam Husain (a.s), and so, the three of them (Wahab, his wife and his mother) went ahead. When they met Imam Husain (a.s), all three of them embraced Islam and decided to stay in Karbala.

We all know how bravely this Wahab fought on the Day of Ashura, to the point where he was martyred and his head tossed towards his mother. Before this, Wahab’s wife fought in the battlefield, and history has recorded her as the first female martyr in the tragedy of Karbala.

The mother of Wahab also wanted to fight, but Imam Husain (a.s) ordered her to come back.

These personalities are indeed most honourable, for their selflessness and perseverance, and are the shining stars amongst those unloyal and unreliable people of Kufa

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