Female Islamic Saints


Lalla Zaynab's Zawiya at Al-Hamil, Algeria.
Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque in Damascus, Syria.

Sayyidah Zaynab (626–663) was the daughter of Ali ibn Abi Talib and Fatimah bint Muhammad. Like her two older brothers, she was named by her grandfather Muhammad, and, being said to resemble her father, she was given a name meaning “adornment (of her Father).” She married her cousin Abdullah ibn Jaʿfar, with whom she lived modestly, spending most of their wealth on charity and teaching women the Qur’an in Media and Kufa. After the defeat and slaying of her brother, Husayn, Zaynab and her surviving family were taken as captives of Yazid’s army and taken to Kufa, Iraq. There, Zaynab gave sermons to passers-by to inform them of the tragedy of her brother, and the trials of her family. They were then taken to the palace of the governor of Kufa, where she argued with him before being taken to Damascus, where Zaynab sermonized as in Kufa. There, she confronted Yazid in his own court while he celebrated his success, with Husayn’s head on a pike. Zaynab and the other captives were permitted to mourn for three days, after which, they returned to Medina. Shi’is still gather in mourning assemblies called majâlis (singular majlis), and Zaynab is still revered for spreading the story and message of her brother and her family. It is not know definitely where she was buried, but it is speculated that she may be buried in al-Baqi cemetery, Medina, and she has two maqâmât, or shines, in Damascus and Cairo, both being places of pilgrimage.

Al-Sayeda Zainab Mosque in Cairo, Egypt.

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