Video: Sayeda Zeinab - The story of the 'Chief of Al-Diwan' (6- 62 hijri)

Amira Noshokaty , Monday 4 Sep 2023

In the heart of Historic Cairo, the mausoleum and mosque of Sayeda Zeinab (6-62 hijri), the granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad, centres the square and district that holds her name.

Sayeda Zainab mosque
Egyptians walk outside Cairo s Sayeda Zainab mosque during celebrations marking the birthday of Prophet Mohamed s granddaughter Zeinab, late on February 14, 2023. AFP


Sayeda Zeinab is known among Egyptians as Om Hashim (Hashim's mother) since she was the one who took care of the wounded and martyred members of her tribe during the battle of Karbala.

She is also known as Al-Tahra (The Pure) and as "Om El-Awagez" (mother of the disabled) because she attended to elderly and disabled women. Egyptians also know her by the title Al-Mushira (The One to Consult) and Raeisat Al-Diwan (The chief of diwan) because she opened her house for the people who sought her guidance and proclaimed her the head of her diwan of spiritual guidance.

Born in the sixth year of Hijra in Madina, this bright and beautiful girl was known for her sound mind and intellect and was often referred to as Aqilat Bani Hashem (The sound mind of the tribe of Bani Hashim).

She got married and had four boys and two girls. She became known for her gatherings on Islamic jurisprudence, where she shared her knowledge. She lived a simple, pious life until she witnessed the harshest moments in Islamic History.

In Aisha Abdel-Rahman's book titled Al-Saida Zeinab Aqilat Bani Hashim, published in 1985 by Dar El-Ketab Al-Araby, she was described as the hero of the famous Karbala battle, which occurred between the party of Al-Hussien Ibn Ali, grandson of the prophet Muhammed and Yazid Ibn Umayya. Sayeda Zeinab was spotted protecting the women, soothing the injured, and protecting the bodies of the dead. She lost her brother Al-Hussien in this battle but managed to spare the life of his son Ali Zein Al-Abdein, a child back then.

After losing this battle, her staying in Al-Madina became a real threat to the Umayyads after they seized the caliphate and killed Al-Hussien and almost all of Prophet Muhammed's descendants (Ahl Al-Bayt). Consequently, Sayeda Zeinab, the representative of the Ahl al-Bayt had to choose their exile. She chose Egypt, arriving in modern-day Cairo in year 61 of Hijra.

When she came to Egypt with her family, almost all Egyptians came out to greet her. She was greatly honoured by the Egyptian people who visited her and consulted her constantly on her premises at Qanater Al-Sibaa (The Lions Barrages ), approximately the current location of El-Sayeda Zeinab's mosque and mausoleum.

According to Ali Pasha Mubarak's series Al-Khetat Al-Tawfiqia, " Sayeda Zeinab Street was named after Sayeda Zeinab, daughter of Imam Ali, bless be upon him, because this is where her mausoleum is situated in a golden copper compartment with an embroidery silk cover underneath a high dome that is situated inside Al-Zainabi mosque near Qanater Al-Sibaa.

The mosque was renovated by Prince Ali Pasha Al-Wazir in 955. Then, it was renovated and enlarged during the reign of Prince Abdel-Rahman Katkhuda in 1173. The mosque is always full of visitors. A Hadra (Sufi ritual of praising God's presence) is held every Sunday night, and a Maqraa (A night of reading the Quran) is held every Wednesday night. The mosque also witnesses the celebration of her Moulid (her ascension) every year," reads the book.

Touched by the emotions of Egyptians, Sayeda Zeinab is said to have blessed Egypt, saying:  " O People of Egypt, you stood by us, may God stand by you, you were our refuge, may God be yours, you helped us, may God always help you out of all difficulties. "

She died in year 62 of Hijra, with conflicting stories surrounding her burial. Some say she was buried in Madina. Others say she was buried in Egypt. But the fact remains that she came to Egypt and that her presence is still felt, appreciated, and celebrated. People still refer to her for spiritual guidance.

Her annual moulid, one of the largest and most iconic, takes place on the 28th of Ragab in the Hijri year.

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