Story No. 495 – Naming the Child and meaning of Zainab (Adornment of her Father)

It was five years after the Muslims had accompanied Prophet Muhammad (saw) and his family in the migration (Hijrah) to Medina from Makkah, when Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) daughter, Hazrat Fatima Zahra (sa), gave birth to a little girl. When her father, Imam Ali (as), saw his daughter for the first time Imam Hussain (as), who was then almost three years old, was with him. The boy exclaimed in delight, “O father, Allah (SWT) has given me a sister.” At those words Imam Ali (as) began to weep, and when Imam Hussain (as) asked why he was crying so, his father answered that he would soon come to know.

At the time when Hazrat Fatima Zahra (sa) gave birth to Sayyida Zainab (sa), Prophet Muhammad (saw) was not in Medina. When Sayyida Zainab (sa) was born, Hazrat Fatima Zahra (sa) told Imam Ali (as), “Since my father is on the trip and is not present at this moment, you choose a name for this child.” Imam Ali (as) said, “I will not precede your father (in naming this child); wait until he [Prophet Muhammad (saw)] returns. Then he will name this child whatever he prefers best.”

Three days later Prophet Muhammad (saw) returned from his trip and like all other times, he first went to Hazrat Fatima Zahra’s (sa) house to greet them. Imam Ali (as) told Prophet Muhammad (saw) about the newborn baby and how they waited for his return, to name this baby.

Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, “even though Fatima Zahra’s (sa) children are my children, I will wait for a revelation because this matter is with Allah (SWT).” At this moment Gabriel (Jibreel) descended and said, “O Messenger of Allah, the Lord sends his regards upon you and says, “Name this child ‘Zainab’ because we have written this in a preserved tablet (Lauh-e-Mehfooz).”

Then Prophet Muhammad (saw) asked them to bring the newborn baby. He held her close to his chest, kissed her, and named her Zainab. Afterwards he said, “My will to the people, to those who are present and to those who are absent is to keep the respect for this child, for she truly resembles Khadijah.”

Then Gabriel (Jibreel) began to weep. Prophet Muhammad (saw) asked why Gabriel (Jibreel) wept and he answered, “O Messenger 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 Hussain (as) now understood why earlier his father had also wept.

Note: The name Zainab is derived from the two root words “Zain” and “Ab”, which means the Adornment of her Father.