What follows in this brief booklet is a commentary of three specific chapters from the Noble Qur’an which speak about the spiritual greatness and significance of the only daughter of Prophet Muhammad, Fatima Zahra.
Translated from the original Farsi work which was compiled by a Group of Muslim Scholars under the guidance of Ayatullah al-Uzma Shaykh Nasir Makarim Shirazi and other sources to complete the discussion (in certain areas as have been indicated), this publication adds merely a drop into the endless ocean of the pre-eminence of the Ahlul Bayt in the Noble Qur’an and specifically the direct and indirect mention of the leader of the women of all the Worlds, Fatima Zahra as spoken by Allah the Almighty.
Every year, millions of Muslims cry for Fatima Zahra around the world. There are a multitude of gatherings – both commemorations and mourning ceremonies in her memory.
There are observances of praise, joy, and honor for her in which her noble characteristics are remembered, and Muslims also hold rituals of lamentation where they recount - in vivid detail - the painful events of Islamic history which led to her intense grief and eventual martyrdom. The faithful even go to the extent of invoking Almighty Allah to deprive those who hurt her from His Mercy and Blessings!
Despite everything which is recalled on the pulpits throughout the world and the articles and booklets which have been published so far about this great woman, the true history of her short life and the salient features of her personality are still unknown; however with the little that the Muslims know about her, we still accept Fatima Zahra - her lofty spiritual status.
The sphere of influence of Fatima Zahra is extensive and she not only appeals and is a person of reverence for the Muslim community and whom only Muslim authors write about - rather her character, personality and visage actually transcend religion and the Muslim sphere.
In her recent work, Chosen among Women: Mary and Fatima in Medieval Christianity and Shiite Islam, Mary Thurkilll writes the following about the beloved daughter of Prophet Muhammad:
According to early medieval Christian and Shiite tradition, God chose Mary and Fatima as vessels for his sublime progeny. Mary, an obedient maiden gave birth to the God-Man Jesus; Fatima, sharing in the divine nur, held the Imamate within her womb.
Theologians clearly relied on Mary and Fatima to articulate and expand their respective orthodoxies and notions of rightness. By defining first their pure and immaculate nature, authors transformed Mary’s and Fatima’s bodies into sacred containers . Fatima also served as a sacred vessel, holding the Imam’s nur within her while simultaneously sharing it.
Fatima al-Zahra existed as the only female member of the holy family and, like her father, husband and sons, remained immaculate and infallible. Both Shiite and Christian authors also likened their holy women to an ancient container, Noah’s ark; the women’s wombs carried humanity’s true salvation.
Mary and Fatima served equally important functions in political and sectarian discourse. With such a rhetorical agenda in mind, hagiographers accented Mary’s and Fatima’s maternal roles.
These holy women, as mothers, effectively defined the limits of community and sectarian division. By symbolically adopting believers to their maternal care, Mary and Fatima damned unbelievers to hell. Hagiographers advertised their holy mothers by describing their homey miracles and domestic skill.
Both women experienced superhuman parturitions, multiplied food, and interceded for their spiritual offspring . Fatima, the mystical nexus of the holy family, rewards her adoptive kin who weep for her slain son, Husayn, and escorts women into paradise on judgment day.
Because these women (Mary and Fatima) are both powerful in their own right yet intimately connected to domestic (private) space, they can be employed by authors for a variety of purposes.
Mary and Fatima can signify both female independence and agency and submission and chastity … Whether in the seventh century or the twenty-first, Mary’s and Fatima’s charisma affords scholars and religious alike, an important symbol of community and religiosity that may be manipulated in various ways. The holy women’s attendance within the home subtly stresses the male households’ presence and dominance.
In the end, however, Mary and Fatima – chosen by God as holy vessels and chosen by men as didactic models – manage to provide moral exemplars for women, promote standards of sanctity and faith, and chastise religious and political heresy.
Within such legacies the domestic indeed complements public (masculine) authority and gains a place for feminine sanctity not easily ignored.
The Prophet of Islam who speaks nothing but what has been revealed to him or is ordered to say by the Most High, mentioned the following glowing tributes in regards to his beloved daughter, Fatima Zahra:
On the Day of Judgment, a caller will call out, ‘lower your gaze until Fatima has passed.’
I am not pleased unless Fatima is pleased.
The most beloved of my family to me is Fatima.
The head of the women of Paradise is Fatima.1
Many men have reached completion, but no women have reached completion except for four: Maryam, Asiyah, Khadijah, and Fatima.2
The verse of purification (Qur’an 33:33) was revealed concerning five people: myself, ‘Ali, Hasan, Husayn, and Fatima.3
Fatima is part of me. Whatever upsets her upsets me, and whatever harms her harms me.4
Fatima is part of me, and whoever pleases her, pleases me.5
Oh Fatima, verily God is angry when you are angry.6
These and hundreds of other Prophetic statements and numerous verses of the Noble Qur’an give us a glimpse into this great woman and oblige us to study her life and the legacy she has left behind.
It is indeed very difficult to speak about the personality of Fatima Zahra; she is the role model that Islam wants all women to follow. She is a symbol of the various dimensions of womanhood.
She is the perfect model of a daughter when dealing with her father; the perfect model of a wife when dealing with her husband; the perfect model of a mother when raising her children; and the perfect model of a passionate, strong, fighting woman when confronting her time and the oppressions in her society.
Fatima Zahra herself is a guide - an outstanding example of someone to follow, an ideal type of woman - one whose life bore witness for any woman who wishes to ‘become herself’ and to regain her own identity.
Her life was wrought with many difficulties: losing her mother when she was only five years old; being brought up by her father (the Messenger of Allah) who had the added responsibility of being the final Messenger of God; the physical aggression and mental torture which the polytheists wreaked on her family, friends and the believers; and ultimately, having to leave her birth-city of Mecca and migrate to a new home and community hundreds of kilometers to the north in the city of Medina.
Ultimately, she had to witness the death (or according to most reports, the poisoning and murder) of her father and the masses vying for political authority - leaving his lifeless body to take part in elections; followed by the rejection of her husband and his Prophetically and Divinely granted authority over the community by the majority of the Muslims; and tragically in the end, the physical attacks against her which resulted in her miscarrying the child in her womb, broken ribs and the untimely murder at the tender age of only eighteen.
Fatima Zahra lived like this and died like this - however even after her death, she began a new life in history.
The memory of Fatima Zahra grows through the love of the men and women who throughout the history of Islam, have fought for freedom and justice. Throughout the centuries, innocent people have been punished under the merciless and bloody lash of various governments.
Their cries and anger grew and overflowed from their wounded hearts and that is why in the history of all spiritually awakened and knowledgeable Islamic communities, Fatima Zahra has been the source of inspiration for those who want to reclaim their rights, for those who seek justice, and for those who resist oppression, cruelty and discrimination.
She was not just a wife to Imam Ali rather Imam Ali looked upon her as a friend - a friend who was familiar with his pains and his aspirations. She was his endless refuge, the one who listened to his secrets and the one who was the only companion in his loneliness.
This is why Imam Ali behaved towards her and her children slightly differently than the other wives that he took after his beloved’s death and the other children that he fathered.
After Fatima died, Imam Ali married other women and had children from them; but from the very beginning, he separated the children who were from Fatima, from his other children - the latter were called Banu Ali, (lit. the children of Ali) while the former were referred to as Banu Fatima (lit. the children of Fatima).
In closing, we would first like to thank the Creator, Allah for bestowing upon us the Divine providence (tawfiq) to be able to complete the publication of this work, as without His constant guidance and blessings, we would not be where we are today; and His support would not be there were it not for the intercession of Prophet Muhammad and his noble family members - whom we pray that the Most High continues to bless and raise their ranks in Paradise, and that they accept this noble publication as our humble attempt to keep alive their memory and teachings.
We would also like to acknowledge the support, encouragement and assistance of Sr. Arifa Hudda, specifically her review and careful editing of this entire book.
Last but not least, we would like to appreciate and sincerely thank the donor who generously worked to publish this book.
May Allah bless everyone and accept the intercession of Fatima Zahra for all of us for whatever little services we do in her memory.
March 21st, 2012