by Jonathan Azaziah
No Martyrs Gallery. No Pantheon of Heroes. No Fortress of Legends. And no Hall of Revolutionaries would be complete without Sayyeda Amina Haydar al-Sadr (R.A.), known to many as Shahida Bint al-Houda. She was born on this day 82 years ago in the holy Iraqi city of Kazimiyeh, under the illuminated minarets of the shrine of her great ancestor Imam Moussa al-Kazim (A.S.), where she would visit often in her adult days to pray and meditate. She was named after the Holy Prophet Muhammad’s (S.A.W.W.) mother because her father, Ayatollah Sayyed Haydar al-Sadr (R.A.), a profound Islamic authority and one of the intellectual architects of the 1920 Great Iraqi Revolution of 1920 against the British colonizers, intended for her to be a mother of a pivotal movement–man, was he right! He died when she was only two years old.
It was her mother Umm Isma’il (R.A.), the daughter of Ayatollah Sheikh Muhammad Rida al-Yassin (R.A.), and her brother, Ayatollah Sayyed Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (R.A.), the “twin of her soul” as she called him and Iraq’s greatest Martyr in the modern age, who would teach her the religion of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.W.) from the moment their father passed. She was incandescently bright and showed an otherworldly talent for writing–which only expanded as she got older–along with abyssal Islamic insight. She loved to read as well, drawing on the commandment of Rasoulallah (S.A.W.W.) to read and deepen the knowledge-well at every turn. The little bit of pocket money that she was allotted every month was spent on books.
As she read and wrote and read and wrote some more, by just 14, Sayyeda Amina (R.A.) was already an accomplished poet and much of her work focused on resistance against tyranny, colonialism, exploitation, secularism and misogyny. She did not write poetry for poetry’s sake but because the prose flowed through her like blood and she needed to pump it out on to paper as a means of anti-oppression expression. Her memory was simply astounding and it allowed her to process massive amounts of information at even bigger speeds. It was at this tender age that she also began her work combating poverty and disenfranchisement, particularly affecting Iraqi women in the predominantly Shi’a south. Just 6 years later, as she continued amassing knowledge both on the religious and geopolitical levels, she joined Najaf’s Al-Adhwa (Lights) Magazine as a writer and became its top content producer, catapulting the popularity of the magazine into the stratosphere. She became a star of Sheikh Moussa al-Yaquobi’s (R.A.) Al-Iman Magazine too.
The Islamic Dawa Party was so impressed with her, regardless of her youth, that they asked her to head its Women’s Wing and in that capacity, she played a vital role in launching several publications within the organization. With her writings spreading all over Iraq, more and more young women felt drawn to her. Moved by their stories and struggles and compelled to do more than just articulate their suffering in print – albeit powerfully and eloquently so – she got involved with the Islamic Charity Fund Society’s Zahra Schools Network in Najaf and Baghdad–Islamic schools for girls and young women–of which she would lead into major influence and be selected to serve as headmaster in 1967, nearly 7 years after her work began.
The revolutionary government of Abdul Karim Qassem (R.A.), which had toppled the British-Zionist-backed monarchy on July 14th, 1958 and ushered in an era of Iraqi independence, was as impressed with her social impact as the Iraqi clerical establishment was with her religious mastery, which at this stage, included nothing less than expert analysis on Jihad, Martyrdom, Islamic history and Hijab. Qassem (R.A.), Shi’a on the side of his Kurdish mother, sent a delegation to one of Sayyeda Amina’s (R.A.) school sessions to inquire about her methodologies so they could be incorporated into the youth education centers and universities across the country he was building to undo the regimes of backwardness upheld by the British colonizers.
His delegation also praised her for standing against ignorance and what they deemed “Yazidi excesses”. Before they left, Umm al-Walaa (R.A.), as she was also known, gave the revolutionary women a message for the Brigadier General lovingly known as Al-Za’im, “Beware the Baath. They act not in the name of Arabism. They act not in the name of the Iraqi nation. They act as agents of Western Imperialism and Zionist Arrogance.” Needless to say, Sayyeda Amina (R.A.) couldn’t have been more correct as the Baath toppled and murdered Abdul Karim Qassem (R.A.) with Mossad-CIA-MI6 assistance in an illegal coup in early February ’63.
One part humbleness, and one part security as the Baath began clamping down hard on all Islamic activism, especially that which was coming from Najaf and Karbala, al-Sadr (R.A.) adopted the name “Bint al-Houda” to stay out of the limelight. She continued to write, using short fiction as the vehicle to convey her message and uplift Iraq’s women as well as the women of the entire Ummah. As the Sayyeda herself said, “If these short stories are knitted out of the fabric of my imagination, then they are certainly taken from the depths of present-day Muslim girls’ lives. Hence, any girl may read deeply into these stories and find incidents that she has experienced in some way, indirectly or directly.”
Baathist repression increased and she found herself spending less time in her Zahra Schools Network and more time in her home, holding educational sessions on everything from anti-colonialist resistance to prayer to akhlaq to marriage. Attacks on the whole Islamic way of life from Baathist media were also doubling in obscenity. This caused Sayyeda Amina (R.A.) to pen her famous poem about Hijab, defiantly writing, “My shyness from the Most High (SWT) is not bent/Nor does it represent/ Chains, shackles on my hands were not sent/No, not at all, nor has this veil blocked me/From any of my goals on what I want to be/” While hatred of the Baathists hit a fever pitch, so did love for Sayyeda Amina and her brother.
An unfortunately lesser-known topic of discussion about Bint al-Houda’s (R.A.) life, ideals and revolutionary mind state – and this is due to lack of Arabic-to-English translations – is her love and championing of the Palestinian cause. Like her brother and the likes of Sheikh Akram al-Kaabi and Sayyed Hashim al-Haidari today, Umm al-Walaa (R.A.) taught all of her students about the fundamental evil of ‘Israel’ and the duty of all Muslims to oppose it in word and deed. Of the usurping Zionist entity, she would say, “If Haydar (A.S.) could remove the door of Khaybar by ALLAH’s (SWT) will, then we can remove the illegitimate regime of ‘Israel’ from our region by his example.” Like Imam Khomeini (R.A.) – who Bint al-Houda (R.A.) loved, adored and followed, once describing him as the “unflickering light of Islam” whose “wisdom nourished us more than food and water” – she referred to ‘Israel’ as a “malignant growth” in the Islamic body and said that we could never be truly healthy again until we cut it out. The Kazimiyeh trailblazer also routinely chastised the Baathists as godless secularist-extremists, calling them the “best agents of the Zionist regime”. These stances strongly indicate that it was ‘Israel’ and its Washington tools that gave Saddam Hussein (L.A.) the order to liquidate her and her brother.
Everyday is Ashoura and every land is Karbala. And for every Hussein and Zaynab of an era, there is a Yazid oppressing them. Sayyed Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (R.A.) and Sayyeda Amina Haydar al-Sadr (R.A.) were the Hussein and Zaynab. Saddam (L.A.) was the Yazid. On June 13th, 1979, Bint al-Houda’s (R.A.) brother was arrested over his support for the Islamic Revolution and his role in shaping the constitution of the new Iranian Islamic Republic. The Baathist regime was deathly fearful of Iraq’s Shi’a, with Sayyed Muhammad al-Baqir (R.A.) at the helm, replicating Imam Khomeini’s (R.A.) achievement. Threats were abound, whispered from Basra to Kazimiyeh, that Al-Tikriti’s (L.A.) goons were going to assassinate the Ayatollah.
Enter Bint al-Houda (R.A.) Like Lady Zaynab al-Kubra (A.S.) herself, speaking in the Damascus courtyard of Yazid (L.A.) and exposing him in front of thousands as the drunkard, tyrant, hypocrite, degenerate and Satanspawn he was, Sayyeda Amina (R.A.) went to the maqam of Imam Ali (A.S.) in Najaf and bellowed to the people about their Marja being abducted. She slammed Al-Tikriti (R.A.) as an agent of Global Zionism and an enemy of Islam. She lambasted the people for their silence and verbally whipped them into shape, saying that if they had any love for the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.W.), Ahlul Bayt (A.S.) and the Ulema past and present who bear their banners, then they would be out in the streets in their millions. She then led a chant of “Death to the Baathist regime”, followed by “Death to America” and “Death to the ‘Israeli’ entity”. The collective peoples of Najaf, Karbala, Kufa, Hilla and elsewhere in the south heard the Sister of the Ayatollah and heeded her call.
Massive demonstrations demanding the release of Ayatollah Sayyed Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (R.A.) popped off like AK-47 bullets into the sky. Thousands turned to tens of thousands. Tens of thousands turned to hundreds of thousands. And by June 14th, there were millions of Iraqis in the streets of Iraq’s Jnoub, not only Shi’a but Sunnis, Christians and even anti-Baathist socialists too. Fearing a greater uprising ever-still, Saddam (L.A.) succumbed and let Bint al-Houda’s (R.A.) brother go. It was in that moment that she established herself as a manifestation of Lady Zaynab (A.S.) for all the ages, with nobody before her or after her even coming close to her bravery and resoluteness. When one thinks “Zaynabi”, one sees the stern face of Sayyeda Amina al-Sadr (R.A.)
The triumph would not last however because the US-Zionist-Soviet-backed Baathist regime decided at the beginning of March 1980 that all members of the Islamic Dawa Party were persona non grata and subsequently passed a law sentencing them to death. Ayatollah Sayyed Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (R.A.) issued a “martyrdom or victory” fatwa to everyone who considered him their Marja, their friend or their ally–saying that the Iraqi people, be they Sunni or Shi’a, Christian or Muslim, Arab or Kurd or Turkmen, had no choice any longer but to topple this illegitimate government or be faced with its despotism forever. Umm al-Walaa (R.A.) echoed this revolutionary call to action across her Zahra Schools Network. The stage was set for an ultimate showdown.
And on April 8th, 1980, horror unfolded. The Sadr brother-and-sister-tandem were scooped up by Al-Tikriti’s (L.A.) mukhabarat and dragged to the infamous Defense Ministry outpost on Baghdad’s Ar-Rashid Street. An inhuman… Barbaric… Demonic… And incomprehensible session of torture began, dragging on into April 9th. Baqir al-Sadr (R.A.) was beaten with stones and stabbed over and over again. His face was burnt and his beard was charred off. Both his hands and feet were crushed. Bint al-Houda’s (R.A.) hands and feet were smashed too and one of her hands was burned. Her scalp was peeled. There were lacerations across her body and many a report say she was raped prior to being murdered. Both of them were killed by an electric drill to the brain. It’s said that Bint al-Houda (R.A.) was slaughtered first so Baqir al-Sadr (R.A.) would be forced to watch the indecency and savagery imposed on his sister. Ashoura all over again. It’s also said that no matter what they did to her, and no matter how much pain she felt and how many tears flowed from her blessed eyes due to the sheer agony of the torture, she repeated the names of Ahlul Kisa (A.S.) like a broken record until the moment of her martyrdom. They would insult her, her family and Islam in the vilest ways, but Ahlul Kisa (A.S.) remained on her lips.
When asked by local media why he killed Bint al-Houda (R.A.) too, Saddam (L.A.) smugly and nefariously replied, “Have you forgotten the June 13th uprising last year? I was not going to make the same mistake Yazid (L.A.) did by sparing the life of Hussein’s (A.S.) sister Zaynab (A.S.)” A true and evil reflection of his deep-rooted anti-Shi’a sectarianism that dictated his internal and external policies. It is also a reaffirmation of the Husseini-Zaynabi character of the Sadr sister and brother. They were faced with an immeasurable pressure, a despotism beyond sickening, an agent of the most disturbed empire mankind has ever known, that of the US-‘Israeli’ Imperium, and their response was, “Hayhat minna zilla (Us? Humiliated?! Never, ever!!)” This Islamic Resistance was never understood by Saddam (L.A.) and that’s why despite his attempts to eviscerate Shi’a Islamic Liberation Theology across Iraq, it only prospered following the murder of the Sadrs. It’s also why he failed to defeat Khomeiniism. And finally, it’s why he died at the hands of the very Zio-Imperialists who created him after being found in a hole like a worm, while the Sadrs live on as the lifeblood of Mouqawamah wherever Imam Hussein (A.S.) and Lady Zaynab (A.S.) are invoked. Allahu Akbar.
Shahida Bint al-Houda, Sayyeda Amina Haydar al-Sadr (R.A.), wasn’t just a Flower but a Garden of Resistance. Her Jihad was exemplary. Her life was extraordinary. And her sacrifice was legendary. If every Soft War Officer defends Islam with just a millionth of her heroism, tenacity and commitment, Jesus Christ (A.S.) and Imam al-Mahdi (A.J.T.F.) will be back tomorrow. It isn’t enough to learn from her. We must be like her. And this goes for women ANDDDDDDDDDDD men–because Shahida Bint al-Houda (R.A.) showed more backbone in her opposition to Judaic-Dajjalic hegemony than about 90% of the Arab and Muslim males on the face of this rotting planet. Get your game up fellas. Iraq owes her a debt. As does our region. We all do. Happy 82nd Birthday once more Sayyeda Amina (R.A.), our Unmatched Heroine; our Irreplaceable Lioness; our Unparalleled Warrioress. We now chant your name with Ahlul Kisa’s (A.S.)–like we do with your exceptional brother (R.A.), your beloved Imam Khomeini (R.A.) and the Martyrs (R.A.) of Hizbullah. What a sweet, SWEET song of Islamic Resistance it is.
“Glad tidings to you, O Messenger of Allah!/Look at how the light/of righteousness has shone in us bright!/O Messenger of Allah!/We are young ladies who have refused to see the Qur’an deserted on the shelves for many a year/You obligated woman to learn/To leave the world of ignorance behind/The world that crushed the mind/So she would know the true religion and does understand/the essence of Islam, of the faith and its precious meaning for man/” ~ Sayyed Amina Bint al-Sadr (R.A.)