Sayyida Fatimah bint Muhammad (peace be upon them)
“…‘Then where do you stray?’[i] The Book of God is in your midst! Its affairs are apparent. Its rulings are manifest. Its signs are dazzling. Its prohibitions are highlighted and its commands are clear… Yet, indeed you have cast it behind your backs! Do you wish to abandon it? Or is there something else you wish to rule by? ‘How evil a substitute for the wrongdoers!’[ii] ‘Should anyone follow a religion other than Submission to God, it shall never be accepted from him, and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter.’[iii]… ”[iv]
With these intense words, a noble woman shook the very foundations of injustice. Those who appointed themselves to leadership were present. Those who – out of fear or greed – stood by and let the conspiracy unfold were also in attendance. But one righteous lady refused to be silenced by the oppression of power-mongers. Lady Fatimah’s call was ignored by many rusted hearts on that day… The echo of her message, however, has continued to resonate with sound minds throughout the ages.
After the death of Prophet Muhammad, and the dark betrayal that ensued, those who appointed themselves to political leadership usurped the land of Fadak. Not only did the illegitimate rulers deny that the Prophet had granted his daughter, Lady Fatimah, the land during his lifetime, but they also denied that she had the right of inheritance from her father.
This move by the ruling party effectively prevented the divinely appointed leader, Imam Ali, and his supporters from the influential benefits of such a profitable property. The usurpation of Fadak had become a symbol for the usurpation of political leadership. Lady Fatimah, thus, took a stand of principle in defense of justice. History would forever record her profound wisdom and integrity.
Lady Fatimah’s position was exceptionally distinct. Yes, she was the daughter of Prophet Muhammad. She was also the wife of Imam Ali, true successor to Prophet Muhammad. But beyond that, Lady Fatimah was who she was – the radiant pearl of knowledge, of piety, of virtue…and the Muslims knew it.
The Lady of the Worlds
Prophet Muhammad, the Messenger of God, emphasized the exalted spiritual station of Lady Fatimah on numerous occasions. In one of the most evident indications of Lady Fatima’s immaculate nature, Prophet Muhammad stated,
“Oh Fatimah! Indeed God is angered for your anger, and is pleased for your pleasure.”[v]
Since God is Just and Wise, He would only be angered or pleased righteously. The Prophet’s infallible words describe Lady Fatima’s anger and pleasure as indicators of God’s anger and pleasure. Therefore, Lady Fatimah must not be mistaken in her anger or pleasure, under any circumstance.
In light of this pure quality, Prophet Muhammad also said,
“Oh Fatimah, aren’t you pleased to be the Lady of the Worlds, the Lady of this Nation, and the Lady of the Faithful…?”v
Lady Fatimah is also known by another beautiful name: Az-Zahra. This name refers to the blooming glow of Lady Fatimah’s countenance. Her sincerity and devotion to God was manifest for all to see.[vi]
Glimpses of the Pearl
The magnificence of Lady Fatimah Az-Zahra cannot be encompassed by the stories of her generosity and character alone. But mentioning some of these accounts may help us gain insight into her gracious nature.
One day, a poor man came to Lady Fatimah’s door, asking for help. At that point, Lady Fatimah, her husband, and two sons had not eaten for three days. Not having any food to offer, she gave the man the necklace she was wearing and said,
“Take this and sell it… Perhaps God will give you something better in exchange for it.”
A companion of the Prophet ended up buying the necklace off of the poor man, in exchange for clothing, a horse, some food and extra money. After having satisfied the poor man, this companion told his servant, Sahm,
“Take this necklace to the Messenger of God…and you are now his servant.”
When Sahm presented the necklace to Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet said,
“Proceed toward Fatimah, present the necklace to her…and you are now her servant.”
Sahm soon relayed the Prophet’s words to Lady Fatimah. The noble Lady Fatimah Zahra took the necklace and freed Sahm from service. Sahm then began to laugh. When Lady Fatimah asked him what made him laugh, Sahm replied,
“What made me laugh was the immense blessing of this necklace! It fed a hungry man, dressed an unclothed man, satisfied a poor man, freed a slave, and then returned to its original owner!”[vii]
On another occasion, Lady Fatimah’s older son – Imam Hassan – narrated the following,
“On Friday’s eve, I saw my mother, Fatimah, bowing and prostrating in worship until the break of dawn… I heard her continue to pray for the faithful men and women – naming each one of them. But she did not ask anything for herself in prayer. So I asked,
`Oh mother, why is it that you don’t pray for yourself as you pray for others?’
‘My son! The neighbor, then the home.’”[viii]
With these words, Lady Zahra illuminates our minds with the appropriate manner to think of fellow human beings – let alone the way to act with them.
Oppression at Her Door
After Prophet Muhammad passed away, Lady Fatimah Zahra cried and grieved for him continuously. The pain of losing her beloved father and mentor was only augmented by the devious plots which defied the commands of God’s Messenger. Lady Fatimah rebuked the mischievous planners in a segment of her famous speech, when she said,
“…the thorns of hypocrisy have appeared on you! The garb of faith has worn out, those of silent perversion have spoken, those of the least merit have come to the forefront and the camel of the falsifiers has growled…”iv
The oppressors in power did not accept Imam Ali’s refusal to pledge allegiance to them – they wanted the credibility of Imam Ali on their side. They sought to force a pledge of allegiance from him. According to several historical accounts, the same group that was busy conspiring against Imam Ali, while he prepared the Prophet’s dead body, attacked the house of Lady Fatimah Zahra. When Lady Fatimah refused to open the door for such men, they threatened to burn the door down. A simple statement made by the leader of the gang gives a glimpse of the terror that followed.
Someone called out,
“But Fatimah is in there…”
Then came the dreadful shout of disregard,
Next, the intruders barged in by force, squeezing the blessed Lady Zahra between the door and the wall… As a result of this event, her child, Muhsin, was aborted, and her rib was broken. Ultimately, the tragic episode led to Lady Fatimah’s martyrdom.[ix]
In accordance with Lady Fatimah’s wishes, Imam Ali buried her secretly, in the darkness of night. The Lady of Light did not want the oppressors to walk in her funeral. To this day, the exact location of Lady Fatimah’s grave is unknown.[x]
[i] Quran 10:34
[ii] Quran 18:50
[iii] Quran 3:85
[iv] Pg. 85-86 of Alhujjatul Gharra’ Fee Thulamat Azzahraa by Sh. Ja’far Subhani
[v] Pg.17 of Alhujjatul Gharra’ Fee Thulamat Azzahraa by Sh. Ja’far Subhani
[vi] Pg. 11, Vol. 43 of Bihar Alanwar by Allamah Majlisi
[vii] Pg. 57-58, Vol. 43 of Bihar Alanwar, by Allamah Majlisi
[viii] Pg. 81-82, Vol. 43 of Bihar Alanwar, by Allamah Majlisi
[ix] Pg. 53, 56, 62, 65, 66 of of Alhujjatul Gharra’ Fee Thulamat Azzahraa by Sh. Ja’far Subhani
[x] Pg. 74, 75 of of Alhujjatul Gharra’ Fee Thulamat Azzahraa by Sh. Ja’far Subhani