Saeeda Zeynab (A.S), we honor you on this your day. A day of sadness, morning and tragedy for Muslim women, but equally, a day where we proclaim the respect, beauty and dignity that your hijaab gave us. Zeynab was the female embodiment of her father’s supreme knowledge, intellect and justice. Moreover, she was an activist, who, contrary to the shy retiring Muslimas of today, was not afraid to speak out in the court of Yazeed (may he be cursed) regarding his atrocities and injustices. She was prepared to lay down her life for the protection and preservation of hijaab. No testament to her passion for hijaab is more potent then when she approaches her imam on the night of shaam-e-ghariba, asking whether she should stay in the tent and be burnt to death, or else walk out of the tent although she was without her head covering. It was the hijaab of Zeynab that moved my soul to tears, and finally taught me to take the illuminated footsteps she took in light of the vale. Hijaab is a barrier of light, through which a woman preserves her beauty, her modesty and respect in the eyes of others. Just as a purl remains hidden in its shell, just as precious jewels are polished and hidden away in safe and secret places, the charms of a woman are guarded and raised in the eyes of the world through her vale.
Here in the west, where it is taken for granted that a woman will display her ornaments to the world, that in fact, her value is measured by how much (or how little) she shows to the world, never before has there been a greater need for hijaab. This lack of understanding regarding the vale has reached many of our countries in the east too, and it is common place to see young girls in tight trousers with sleeveless tops and a short scarf covering the back of the hair. We make a mockery of religion, of the vale of Zeynab (A.S), yet we expect tolerance and understanding from others.
Since I took on hijaab 3 years ago, I’ve faced a whole barrage of insults, aggression, amazement, bullying and more often than not, indifference from those who see me valed. The only individuals in my life who have not embraced this change are, (you guessed it!), my parents! They are ashamed to be seen out with me clothed in hijaab, and feel that I am unreasonable for expecting them to do so!
It is tough to challenge one’s parents, it is harder still to see your family, your community and all that you held dear slipping further and further away from you, simply by nature of who you are! But unless as women we start to ware our hijaab with pride, unless we begin to celebrate the freedom, justice and liberation that hijaab gives us, we will be forever oppressed and degraded by the media, the state and the establishment. What is it that prevents us from taking those to task who spit at us in the street, who create childish online surveys filled with hatred attempting to ban the hijaab? After all, isn’t it common sense that feminists were done with the clothing debate years and years ago! If we’ve accepted that a woman’s skirt can’t be too short, then do we really want to return to an age of ignorance where we can’t be clear about how long a woman’s vale ought to be?
Sure the west has allot to answer for with regards to Muslim female empowerment and identity, but in order to reclaim rights, you must have first owned and practiced them in the first place, other wise, how do you know what you want, and how can you raise the bar for future generations of women to follow. If we look back at history, Saeeda Zeynab (A.S) gave us perfection through her hijaab, through her eloquence and the fearlessness with which she defended her family and her beloved martyred brother Hussain Ibn Ali (A.S). Zeynab’s march, from Koofa to Shaam, can easily be categorized as the most successful long march in history. She could have given up, refused to walk or succumbed to the hunger, thirst, extreme exhaustion, the heat and the woonds which troubled her, or the intolerable cruelty little Sakina faced at the brutal inhumane hands of Yazeed’s army (may Allah dam each and every one of them eternally). Never the less, Zeynab soldiered on, not just for herself and for her family, but for the whole of humanity. The moment she returned to Madeena, she did not lose herself in her own grief and pain, (which would have been perfectly justified!), rather she made it her business to establish the majliss and azadari traditions that we commemorate today. Our debt to Saeeda Zeynab (A.S) is great, and as human beings we can hardly begin to redress that balance. Do we remember her and her beloved brother only in Muherram? Do we act upon the supreme lessons behind their sacrifices for us, sharing that mercy with the rest of humanity? And, as women, do we represent Zeynab through our hijaab, our words, actions and deeds? At least if you do not ware hijaab, take some time on this day to try. Close your eyes and surround yourself with the soft folds of protection a hijaab affords you. Try to perceive the entire ahlulbayte surrounding you in the form of that vale, putting a protective arm around you to shield you from the pain of this world. Hijaab elevates a woman in order that her heart and soul can be seen; the outer body is valed, while the heart is unveiled; before the creator, before the beloved, and before creation. Hijaab is more than a piece of cloth one puts over her hair, it is what sets you apart from all other women in the world, the light that raises you higher and singles you out as followers of Saeeda Zeynab (A.S). On this night as we mark this great lady’s shahadat, do not just see this as a time to cry, make some promises in your own way to this noble Saeeda, take at least one of her footsteps and make that step your life’s mission to implement, that one trembling step could be the one that takes you home to your lord. Not only will your lord run towards you, but you too will run towards him, so that your life becomes a source of acceptable worship to your creator, and a comfort to others.
I leave you with the below article; a modern day shaheeda, in honor of her vale! May Allah (SWT) bless her and grant her piece. I request you all to recite sura Fatiha for her, and may we be guided to only become a little more like this fearless and exceptionally inspirational woman.
Egypt mourns 'headscarf martyr'
Demonstration in Cairo proclaiming Marwa Sherbini the Hijaab Martyr
Marwa Sherbini is being hailed as the shahida, or martyr, of the Hijaab
The body of a Muslim woman, killed in a German courtroom by a man convicted of insulting her religion, has been taken back to her native Egypt for burial.
Marwa Sherbini, 31, was stabbed 18 times by Axel W, who is now under arrest in Dresden for suspected murder.
Husband Elwi Okaz is also in a critical condition in hospital, after being injured as he tried to save his wife.
Ms Sherbini had sued her killer after he called her a "terrorist" because of her headscarf.
The case has attracted much attention in Egypt and the Muslim world.
German prosecutors have said the 28-year-old attacker, identified only as Axel W, was driven by a deep hatred of foreigners and Muslims.
Medics were unable to save Ms Sherbini who was three months pregnant with her second child. Her three-year-old son was with the family in court when she
Axel W and Ms Sherbini and family were in court for his appeal against a fine of 750 euros ($1,050) for insulting her in 2008, apparently because she was
wearing the Muslim headscarf or Hijaab.
Newspapers in Egypt have expressed outrage at the case, asking how it was allowed to happen and dubbing Ms Sherbini "the martyr of the Hijaab".
Senior Egyptian officials and German diplomatic staff attended the funeral in Alexandria along with hundreds of mourners.
Media reports say Mr Okaz was injured both by the attacker and when a policeman opened fire in the courtroom.