Role of women in Karbala
These days we find lot of restrictions on women. In many cases they cannot even venture out of homes and are required to restrict themselves to household chores. Very few Muslim women have public roles, much less participating in tumultuous events of our times. And all this is being done in the name of Islam. However, if we cast a glance on early history of Islam we find women taking part in various events along with men. The Prophet (PBUH) had four daughters from Bibi Khadija and brought them up as model women participating in Islamic revolution.
Islam was not only a spiritual but also a social revolution. It empowered women and gave them equal rights which was just unthinkable in those days. Women could play at best a secondary role in any civilization in any part of the world. However, Islam upheld their human dignity and assigned them equal status in all worldly affairs along with men. Many women like Umm-e-Ammara even took part in various battles which the Prophet (PBUH) had to fight. In the Battle of Uhud Umm-e-Ammarah took the attack of sword on her arm and saved the life of the Prophet (PBUH).
Hazrat Fatimah, as all Muslims agree, was one of the five personalities (Panjatan) whom Muslims highly revere and Hazrat Fatima who was brought up by the Prophet (PBUH) himself in the highest values of Islam gave birth to Imam Hasan, Imam Husain along with Hazrat Zainab who played a pivotal role in the aftermath of the battle of Karbala. Hazrat Banu, many Muslims believe, was daughter of Kisra, the King of Iran who was defeated by Muslims and Hazrat Ali married her to his son Husain.
Hazrat Banu also faced the tragic events of Karbala very bravely and sacrificed her two sons Ali Akbar and Ali Asghar gladly in the way of Allah. It is important to note that when Imam Husain was leaving Mecca for Kufa (Iraq) in response to the letters he had received from many important citizens of Kufa to lead them in a fight against Yazid who had usurped Khilafat in violation of the condition laid down by Imam Hasan while abdicating in favour of Mu’awiyah, he (Imam Husain) was advised by many of his well-wishers not to take his family members with him to Kufa and go there alone as people of Kufa may betray him and side with the rulers.
However, despite the risks Imam Husain turned down the advice and took all family members including women with him. He knew, better than his advisors, that these women - his wife, his sister and his daughters - would play a very important role. The people of Kufa - those very people who had invited him to lead them in fight against Yazid and his counter-revolution - did betray him after all.
Yazid stood for all that which was against Islam. Not only his lifestyle was against that of the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions but he also tried to destroy the institute of Khilafah and Imamat and introduced reactionary institution of monarchy which was totally against the revolutionary political system introduced by Islam. Husain knew, before he left for Kufa, what was in store and he deliberately took women along with him to show to the world that women can also play very important role in saving the Islamic revolution.
And these women did play very significant role which was no less significant than those of male companions of the Imam. And the Imam was right. These women played very important role, particularly the Imam’s sister Hazrat Zainab. After the martyrdom of the Imam and his colleagues Imam Zainul Abidin and all women and children were arrested and taken to Damascus on bare camel backs via Kufa and Syeda Zainab, a brave and bold woman addressed Muslims everywhere exposing Yazid and his evil actions and un-Islamic acts and his counter-revolutionary designs.
Syeda Zainab and the Imam’s entire family was kept in prison in Damascus and when they were brought to Yazid’s court, Zainab eloquently spoke infront of all Yazid’s courtiers and thoroughly exposed him. She never shied away in exposing him, so much so that he had to release her and Imam’s entire family, and sent them back to Madina ensuring their security.
Syeda Zainab’s role was exemplary and it very well shows how bold were Muslim women and how they played important role in consolidating Islamic revolution. Today despite so much progress and spread of education still Muslim women are suppressed and in some countries like Saudi Arabia even their voice is considered ‘awrah i.e. their voice should not be publicly heard and here Zainab and other women from Imam’s family were the main speakers publicly.
Hazrat Zainab was eldest among those women and was leading entire family including Imam Zainul Abidin who was then quite sick and unable to play very active role and it was Hazrat Zainab who had to perform leadership role and she proved to be more than what was expected of her. Today women have much to learn much from Hazrat Zainab - her leadership, her public role and her oratorical skills.
It is wrong to think, as many Muslim men do, that women belong to weaker section and cannot achieve much publicly. Hazrat Zainab’s public role is very inspiring for Muslim women today and should be an example for those women who feel they are fit only for domestic chores.