The following ziyarat (verbal salutation) for Bibi Zaynab (AS) is traditionally recited to obtain divine blessing while visiting her shrine (in this case, in Damascus, Syria). It can also be recited at any other time in remembrance of the example of courage and submission that she presented to the world, particularly on the acknowledged days of her birth, death, and during the month of Muharram.
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of the Chief of prophets.
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of the Master of the sanctuary and the banner.
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of him who was made to ascend to (highest) heaven and reached the station of two bows' length (to Allah) or even closer.
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of the Leader of the pious.
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of the support of the sincere friends (of Allah)
Peace be upon you. Oh daughter of the Leader of the Deen.
Peace be upon you. Oh daughter of the Commander of the faithful.
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of him who struck with the sword of two blades.
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of him who prayed towards the two qiblahs [Jerusalem, then Mecca].
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of Muhammad, the chosen.
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of Ali, the content (with the decree of Allah).
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of Fatima, the radiant.
Peace be upon you, Oh daughter of Khadija, the elder.
Peace be upon you. Oh righteous one, pleasing (to Allah).
Peace be upon you, Oh learned, rightly guided one.
Peace be upon you, Oh generous, noble one.
Peace be upon you, Oh pious, pure one.
Peace be upon you, Oh you who were thoroughly tested by sufferance like Husayn, the oppressed.
Peace be upon you, Oh you who were kept far from your home.
Peace be upon you, Oh you who were held captive in cities.
It was five years after the Muslims had accompanied the Prophet (PBUH&HF) and his family in the migration (Hijrah) to Medina, when the Holy Prophet's daughter, Hadrat Fatima (AS), gave birth to a little girl.'
When her father, Imam Ali (AS), saw his daughter for the first time Imam Husayn (AS), who was then almost three years old, was with him. The boy exclaimed in delight,
"O father, Allah has given me a sister."At those words Imam Ali (AS) began to weep, and when Husayn (AS) asked why he was crying so, his father answered that he would soon come to know.
Fatima (AS) and Ali (AS) did not name their child until a few days after her birth, for they awaited the Prophet's return from a journey so that he could propose the name.
When finally the baby girl was brought before him he held her in his lap and kissed her. The Angel Jibra'il came to him and conveyed the name that was to be hers, and then he began to weep. The Prophet (PBUH&HF) asked why Jibra'il wept and he answered,
"O Prophet of Allah. From early on in life this girl will remain entangled in tribulations and trials in this world. First she will weep over your separation (from this world); thereafter she will bemoan the loss of her mother, then her father, and then her brother Hasan. After all this she will be confronted with the trials of the land of Karbala and the tribulations of that lonely desert, as a result of which her hair will turn grey and her back will be bent."When the members of the family heard this prophecy they all broke down in tears. Imam Husayn (AS) now understood why earlier his father had also wept. Then the Prophet (PBUH&HF) named her Zaynab (AS).
When the news of Zaynab's birth reached Salman al-Farsi, he went to Ali (AS) to congratulate him. But instead of seeing him happy and rejoicing he saw Ali (AS) shed tears, and he too was apprised of the events of Karbala and the hardships that were to befall Zaynab (AS).
One day, when Zaynab (AS) was about five years old, she had a strange and terrible dream. A violent wind arose in the city and darkened the earth and the sky. The little girl was tossed hither and thither, and suddenly she found herself stuck in the branches- of a huge tree. But-the wind was so strong that it uprooted the tree. Zaynab (AS) caught hold of a branch but that broke. In a panic she grabbed two twigs but these top gave way and she was left falling with no support. Then she woke up. When she told her grand father, the Prophet (PBUH&HF), about this dream he wept bitterly and said,
"O my daughter. that tree is me who is shortly going to leave this world. The branches are your father Ali and your mother Fatima Zahra, and the twigs are your brothers Hasan and Husayn. They will all depart this world before you do, and you will suffer their separation and loss."
Zaynab (AS) shared with-her brothers and sister the extraordinary position of having such examples to look up to, emulate and learn from, as her grand father, the Prophet of Allah (PBUH&HF) her mother Fatima (AS), daughter of the Prophet, and he'r father Imam Ali (AS), cousin-brother of the Prophet. In the pure environment that enveloped her she absorbed the teachings of Islam that her grandfather imparted, and after him her father. Here too she learnt to master all household skills with great proficiency.
She had barely attained the tender age of seven when her beloved mother passed away. Her mother's death had closely followed her cherished grand father's passing away. Some time later Imam Ali (AS) married Umm ul-Banin, whose devotion and piety encouraged Zaynab (AS) in her learning.
Whilst still a young girl she was fully able to care for and be responsible for the running of her father's household. As much as she cared for the comforts and ease of her brothers and sisters, in her own wants she was frugal and unstintingly generous to the poor, homeless and parentless. After her marriage her husband is reported as having said,
"Zaynab is the best housewife."From very early on she developed an unbreakable bond of attachment to her brother Imam Husayn (AS). At times when as a baby in her mother's arms she could not be pacified and made to stop crying, she would quieten down upon being held by her brother, and there she would sit quietly gazing at his face. Before she would pray she used to first cast a glance at the face of her beloved brother.
One day Fatima (AS) mentioned the intensity of her daughter's love for Imam Husayn (AS) to the Prophet (PBUH&HF). He breathed a deep sigh and said with moistened eyes,
"My dear child. This child of mine Zaynab would be confronted with a thousand and one calamities and face serious hardships in Karbala."
Zaynab (AS) grew into a fine statured young woman. Of her physical appearance little is known. When the tragedy of Karbala befell her in her midfifties she was forced to go out uncovered. It was then that some people remarked that she appeared as a 'shining sun' and a 'piece of the moon'.
In her character she reflected the best attributes of those who raised her. In sobriety and serenity she was likened to Umm ul-Muminin Khadija, her grandmother (AS); in chastity and modesty to her mother Fatima Zahra (AS); in eloquence to her father Ali (AS); in forbearance and patience to her brother Imam Hasan (AS); and in bravery and tranquility of the heart to Imam Husayn (AS). Her face reflected her father's awe and her grandfather's reverence.
When the time came for marriage, she was married in a simple ceremony to her first cousin, Abdullah ibn Ja'far Tayyar. Abdullah had been brought up under the direct care of the Prophet (PBUH&HF). After his death, Imam Ali (AS) became his supporter and guardian until he came of age. He grew up to be a handsome youth with pleasing manners and was known for his sincere hospitality to guests and selfless generosity to the poor and needy.
Together this young couple had five children, of whom four were sons, Ali, Aun, Muhammad, and Abbas, and one daughter, Umm Kulthum.
In Medina it was Zaynab's practise to hold regular meetings for women in which she shared her knowledge and taught them the precepts of the Deen of Islam as laid out in the Holy Quran. Her gatherings were well and regularly attended. She was able to impart the teachings with such clarity and eloquence that she became known as Fasihah (skillfully fluent) and Balighah (intensely eloquent).
In the thirty-seventh year A.H. (after Hijrah), Imam Ali (AS) moved to Kufa to finally take up his rightful position as khalifah. He was accompanied by his daughter Zaynab (AS) and her husband. Her reputation as an inspiring teacher among the women had preceded her. There too women would throng to her daily sittings where they all benefitted from her erudition, wisdom and scholarship in the exegesis of the Qur'an.'
The depth and certainty of her knowledge earned her the name given to her by her nephew, Imam Ali Zayn ul-Abidin (AS), of 'Alimah Ghayr Mu'allamah, 'she who has knowledge without being taught'.
Zaynab (AS) was also nicknamed Zahidah (abstemious) and 'Abidah (devoted) because of her abstemiousness and piety. She found little of interest in wordly adornments, always preferring the bliss and comfort of the Next World over that of this world. She used to say that for her the life of this world was as a resting place to relieve fatigue along a journey.
Humble and of high morals, her main concern was to strive to please Allah and in doing so she avoided anything which was the least bit doubtful.