Story 125: Housework

After their marriage and establishment of a matrimonial life, 'Ali Ibn Abi Talib ('a) and Fatimah Zahra ('a) held counsel with the Holy Prophet (S) regarding the organization and distribution of housework. They said: "O Messenger of Allah! We would like to take counsel with you about the organization and distribution of housework."

The Holy Prophet (S) charged 'Ali ('a) with the external affairs outside the house and Zahra ('a) with the internal affairs inside the house.

Both 'Ali ('a) and Zahra ('a) were satisfied and happy that they had made the Holy Prophet (S) intervene in their private life and that the Holy Prophet (S) had also welcomed their proposition with a particular kindness and gentleness and had given his viewpoint.

Zahra ('a), in particular, manifested much happiness, for the Holy Prophet (S) had dispensed her with the internal affairs. She used to say: "I am infinitely content that the Holy Prophet (S) exempted me from dealing with the men."

From that time, 'Ali ('a) was responsible to the tasks such as drawing water from the well, providing the food, fuel and the purchase from the market.

As for Zahra ('a), she had the duties to grind the wheat and barley, to bake bread, to cook, to wash and to clean the house.

However, 'Ali ('a) gave a hand to his wife in the house work whenever he was free. One day, the Holy Prophet (S) came to their house and saw them working together.

He (S) asked: "Anyone of you who are tired can take rest so that I can take his place?"

'Ali ('a) said in reply: "O Messenger of Allah! Zahra is tired."

The Holy Prophet (S) made Zahra take rest while he (S) continued the work.

On the other hand, Zahra (‘a) shouldered external burdens whenever 'Ali ('a) was called to take part in "Jihad", the holy war or to make journey. Such was the organization going on, 'Ali ('a) and Zahra (‘a) were both carrying out their duties without feeling a need of a servant till the day when the children were born in this modest, small, clean and calm house. In this condition, the work and labour done by Zahra ('a) had naturally been enhanced.

Taking compassion on his dear wife, finding that the maintenance of house and the work in the kitchen had filled with smoke and covered with dust her garments and dresses as well as her hands had been blistered by having worked with the manual mill, and the water-bouget cord had traced on her chest because of carrying the water from the remote place, Imam ‘Ali ('a) proposed his beloved wife to go to the presence of the Holy Prophet (S) and ask for a servant.

Zahra ('a) agreed with her husband and went to the Prophet’s (S) house. Incidentally at that moment there were a group of Muslims sitting at the presence of the Holy Prophet (S) and busy talking. She ('a) could not expose her request out of modesty at the assembly and returned home.

The Holy Prophet’s (S) attention was drawn towards the coming of Zahra ('a). He (S) found out that Zahra (‘a) had something to tell him, and since the situation was inappropriate, she went back to her house.

The next day, early morning, the Holy Prophet (S) went to their house. 'Ali ('a) and Zahra ('a) were present at home. The Holy Prophet (S), after saying As-salamun alaykum and getting the answer of Alaykum as-salam O Messenger of Allah, entered the house.

The Holy Prophet (S) asked Zahra: "You came to see me yesterday and then returned. You surely had a request! Tell me!"

'Ali ('a) said in reply: "O Messenger of Allah! If you permit me I will tell why Zahra came to you. I have sent her to you, for I found that the housework had increased and I felt pity for her, on observing that the maintenance of house and the work in the kitchen had filled with smoke and covered with dust her clothes, and her hands had been blistered by having worked with the manual mill, and the water-bouget cord had made a mark on her chest. That is why I told her to go in your presence so that you would provide a servant for us to help Zahra."

The Holy Prophet (S) did not want to see the standard of living of his and of his beloved's be superior to those of the poor people living in the community and having very little facilities, for Madinah was steeped in poverty and indigence, particularly, a certain number of "Muhajirin" Emigrants, had a very hard conditions to survive.

On the other hand, he (S) was acquainted with the mentality of his own daughter, Zahra; he (S) knew that how much she was in love with the morals of worship and remembrance of the Almighty Allah which enhanced in her the energy and eagerness. Thus he (S) said: "Would you like me to teach you something better than all of that?"

"Please do so! O Messenger of Allah!"

“Whenever you want to sleep, do not forget to say thirty-three times "Subhana Allah" Glory be to Allah, thirty-three times "Alhamdulillah" Praise be to Allah and thirty-four times "Allahu Akbar" Allah is great. The effect created in your spirit by saying these words is greater than that of the servant's to help you in your housework.”

Zahra ('a) repeated happily and vivaciously three times: "I am pleased with what Allah and His Prophet (S) are pleased with."1

  • 1. Bihar, v. 10, p. 24-25.