Transcript of speech delivered by Sheikh Dr Shaheed Mathee on the occasion of commemorating the martyrdom of Lady Fatima (a.s) – second Fatimiyya at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town on 6 January 2022.
QURANIC VERSES ON INHERITANCE
Almighty Allah says the following in Surah Nisa Verses 11 to 14:
يُوصِيكُمُ اللّهُ فِي أَوْلاَدِكُمْ لِلذَّكَرِ مِثْلُ حَظِّ الأُنثَيَيْنِ فَإِن كُنَّ نِسَاء فَوْقَ اثْنَتَيْنِ فَلَهُنَّ ثُلُثَا مَا تَرَكَ وَإِن كَانَتْ وَاحِدَةً فَلَهَا النِّصْفُ وَلأَبَوَيْهِ لِكُلِّ وَاحِدٍ مِّنْهُمَا السُّدُسُ مِمَّا تَرَكَ إِن كَانَ لَهُ وَلَدٌ فَإِن لَّمْ يَكُن لَّهُ وَلَدٌ وَوَرِثَهُ أَبَوَاهُ فَلأُمِّهِ الثُّلُثُ فَإِن كَانَ لَهُ إِخْوَةٌ فَلأُمِّهِ السُّدُسُ مِن بَعْدِ وَصِيَّةٍ يُوصِي بِهَا أَوْ دَيْنٍ آبَآؤُكُمْ وَأَبناؤُكُمْ لاَ تَدْرُونَ أَيُّهُمْ أَقْرَبُ لَكُمْ نَفْعاً فَرِيضَةً مِّنَ اللّهِ إِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ عَلِيما حَكِيمًا
- “Allah enjoins you concerning your children: The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females; and if they are more than two females, then they will have two-thirds of the inheritance; and if there is (only) one, she will have the half; and as for his parents, each of them shall have a sixth part of the inheritance if he has a child, but if he has no child and his parents be his heirs, then his mother shall have the third, and if he has brothers, then his mother shall have the sixth after (the payment of) a bequest he may have bequeathed or a debt. You do not know which of your parents and your children is closer to you in usefulness. (This is) an ordinance from Allah. Verily Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.”
وَلَكُمْ نِصْفُ مَا تَرَكَ أَزْوَاجُكُمْ إِن لَّمْ يَكُن لَّهُنَّ وَلَدٌ فَإِن كَانَ لَهُنَّ وَلَدٌ فَلَكُمُ الرُّبُعُ مِمَّا تَرَكْنَ مِن بَعْدِ وَصِيَّةٍ يُوصِينَ بِهَا أَوْ دَيْنٍ وَلَهُنَّ الرُّبُعُ مِمَّا تَرَكْتُمْ إِن لَّمْ يَكُن لَّكُمْ وَلَدٌ فَإِن كَانَ لَكُمْ وَلَدٌ فَلَهُنَّ الثُّمُنُ مِمَّا تَرَكْتُم مِّن بَعْدِ وَصِيَّةٍ تُوصُونَ بِهَا أَوْ دَيْنٍ وَإِن كَانَ رَجُلٌ يُورَثُ كَلاَلَةً أَو امْرَأَةٌ وَلَهُ أَخٌ أَوْ أُخْتٌ فَلِكُلِّ وَاحِدٍ مِّنْهُمَا السُّدُسُ فَإِن كَانُوَاْ أَكْثَرَ مِن ذَلِكَ فَهُمْ شُرَكَاء فِي الثُّلُثِ مِن بَعْدِ وَصِيَّةٍ يُوصَى بِهَا أَوْ دَيْنٍ غَيْرَ مُضَآرٍّ وَصِيَّةً مِّنَ اللّهِ وَاللّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَلِيمٌ
- “And you will have half of what your wives leave, if they have no child. But if they have a child, then you shall have a fourth of what they leave after (the payment of) any bequest they may have bequeathed or a debt; and they shall have a fourth of what you leave if you have no child, but if you have a child, then they shall have an eighth of what you leave after (the payment of) a bequest you may have bequeathed or a debt. And if a man or a woman leaves property to be inherited by neither parents nor offspring, and he (or she) has a brother or a sister, then each of them two shall have a sixth, but if they are more than that, they shall be sharers in a third after (the payment of) any bequest that does not harm (others). (This is) an ordinance from Allah and Allah is Knowing, Forbearing.”
تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللّهِ وَمَن يُطِعِ اللّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ يُدْخِلْهُ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا وَذَلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ
- “These are limits (set) by Allah; and whoso obeys Allah and His Messenger, He will admit him into gardens beneath which rivers flow, to abide therein forever; and this is the great success.”
وَمَن يَعْصِ اللّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَيَتَعَدَّ حُدُودَهُ يُدْخِلْهُ نَارًا خَالِدًا فِيهَا وَلَهُ عَذَابٌ مُّهِينٌ
- “And whoso disobeys Allah and His Messenger, and transgresses His limits, He will admit him in Hell-Fire, to abide therein, and he shall have an abasing torment.”
I begin this talk with reference to these Quranic ayat in Surah al-Nisa on the allotted shares of the heirs of a person (abd/ama of Allah) who passed on in light of the centrality of mirath/waratha to the question of Fadak.
As you know, Fadak was denied to Fatima (a.s) on the basis that her father being a Nabi (sawa) did not leave any inheritance or is not inherited as is the case with all Prophets.
These ayat are legal in purport; they are discussed in fiqh and the source tashri (legislation) on inheritance in the modern Muslim state; we draw up our wills accordingly.
Fundamental to these ayat is relationship based on blood, marriage, and wala. These are required for a person to inherit from another person.
However, relationship is the outer layer of something beyond, of an ayah (a sign) that speaks to love, beauty, closeness, of existence itself.
INJUSTICE AGAINST AHLUL BAIT (A.S) HAD POLITICAL RAMIFICATIONS
In his last political testament and will al-Imam Khomeini states that we should cry
blood for all the oppression and injustice the Ahl al-Bayt (a.s) were afflicted with.
That he states it in his political testament to the citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the rest of the ummah shows the tremendous significance of what they suffered, bore and endured.
Perhaps then we can understand the deep significance of Ayatullah Wahid Khorasani’s advice that it is our responsibility to prepare everything for mourning on the 3rd day of Jumada II just like the day of Ashura.
On the 3rd of Jumada II, Fatima (as) passed on but after those in authority afflicted her with so much oppression and trials.
THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL
What then is the personal in Fadak and hence a personal tragedy for Fatima (as)?
A feminist principle that states, the personal is political. One interpretation is that political and personal issues affect one another. The personal vis-à-vis the political suggests two separate issues, the one private and the other (latter) public.
There has been much debate around this statement; which is not the concern of this talk; rather, the talk will draw on it loosely in reflecting on Fadak.
It reflects on Abu Bakr’s denying/negating Fatima’s (a.s) claim to Fadak, with his constructed argument (which then becomes a hadith) that Prophets do not leave inheritance, from the personal.
The political, i.e., the public has been discussed and argued over the centuries producing numerous writing in just the last century.
If there is sufficient time, we will come back to the political, the public, later, for after all both Abu Bakr’s negation of Fatima’s (a.s) right to inherit a father and Fatima’s (a.s) insistence on inheriting her father speak to the political, i.e., the well being of the ummah through Imamah, proper leadership which was compromised by this strange view that Prophets do not leave inheritance.
IMPLICATION OF DENIED INHERITANCE ON RELATIONSHIP OF LADY FATIMA (A.S) WITH HER FATHER
Nevertheless, back to the personal.
Our concern is the implication of Abu Bakr’s action for the relationship between a daughter and father, i.e., between Fatima (as) and Muhammad Rasul Allah (sawa) via her right to inheritance (or that the Prophet sawa gave her). A right established in al-Qur’an which Fatima duly called on when she says:
ياابن ابي قحافة افي كتاب الله أن ترث أباك ولا أرث أبي لقد جئت شيء فريا
“O son of Abi Qahafa, is it in the Book of Allah that you inherit your father while I do not inherit my father? You have certainly come with something odious”.
In our concern with the personal, two words in Fatima’s statement are fundamental, namely your father and my father; paternity and filiation (ubuwa wa bunuwah) not as a legal matter but an ethical imperative.
This is a simple and obvious statement but tremendous in its clarity and significance.
Fatima (as) is saying to Abu Bakr, you are
severing me from my father, you are negating a daughter-father relationship affirmed in the Qur’an; you are going against a social mores, what is normative in our society. I am my father’s daughter, his child, whom he brought into this world. He loved me, he cared for me; played with me, kissed me, saw me growing up, married me off, had grandchildren from me (together with Umamah daughter of Zaynab).
For your political aim (see the connection to the political), you have trampled upon the personal, not just any personal, but between parent and child.
LADY FATIMA (A.S) WAS NOT JUST ANY CHILD!
And what a child Fatima (a.s) was, a child the Prophet (sawa) called the mother of her father!
People please try to look beyond the theological/political, in fact assume it does not exist to zoom in fully on the personal/psychological.
This in order to perhaps get a glimpse into Fatima’s (a.s) pain of being severed from her father.
Already his demise was so tremendous. We know the feeling on our beloved mothers and fathers passing on. Look to the demise of our beloved Rasul in the case of Fatima (a.s) not as the Messenger of Allah, but as her father; her pain as your pain on the demise of your parent.
And then a few days later, power (al-sultah) comes and tells her that she cannot inherit her father.
INHERITANCE GOES BEYOND WEALTH
Inheritance is not just about wealth (although wealth is central to it in accordance with God’s revelation).
Inheritance affirms relationships of the womb and marriage; it has deep ethical meanings embedded in the very structure and functioning of society.
Abu Bakr’s refusal to honour Fatima’s (a.s) right to Fadak, which he could only do in his capacity as power, the ruler in authority who resorted to coercion employing a method, namely the alleged word of the Prophet (sawa) to effect compliance with his command.
Fatima (a.s) rejected it. She could do so because she knew her father as his daughter; she would have known had he said that given its tremendous significance.
Here we must again and again go back to Fatima’s (a.s) confronting Abu Bakr, how is it that in Qur’an you Uthman son of Abi Qahafah inherit your father Aba Qahafah, while I Fatima daughter of Muhammad cannot/do not inherit my father Muhammad; indeed, you have produced an odious thing.
QURAN AS PRIMARY SOURCE TO RESOLVE DISPUTE ON INHERITANCE!
It will be sufficient for us to link Fatima’s (a.s) words to Abu Bakr to specific Qur’anic passages on mirath primarily in surah al-Nisa and also al-Baqrah (and Surah Anfaal)
وأولوا الأرحام بعضهم أولي بعضٍ في كتاب الله وقال يوصيكم الله في أولادكم لذّكر مثل حظّ الأنثيين وقال إن ترك خيرا الوصيّة للوالدين والأقربين بالمعروف حقًّا على المتّقين – وزعمتم أن لا حظوة لي ولا أرث من أبي؟!
“…but blood relatives are more entitled [to inherit] from one another in the Book of Allah” (Surah Anfaal Verse 75)
and He says:
“Allah enjoins you concerning your children: for the male shall be the like of the share of two females” (Surah Nisaa Verse 11)
and He says:
“…if he leaves behind any property, he should make a bequest for his parents and relatives in kindness, an obligation for the Godwary” (Surah Baqarah Verse 180)
yet you claim that I have no entitlement and inherit nothing from my father?!
أفخصّكم الله بآيةٍ أخرج أبي منها؟
أم هل تقولون إنّ أهل ملّتين لا يتوارثان؟ أو لست أنا وأبي من أهل ملّةٍ واحدةٍ؟
أم أنتم أعلم بخصوص القرآن وعمومه من أبي وابن عمّي؟
Has Allah revealed a special verse [of the Qurʾan] for you from which He excluded my father?
Or do you say that people of two separate faiths cannot inherit from one another?
Are my father and I not upon the same faith?
Or is it that you have greater knowledge of the particular and general injunctions of the Qurʾan than my father and cousin?
However, Fatima (a.s) refers to other passages from al-Qur’an that we briefly look at; she begins again with a question concerning the Qur’an as source and authority:
و ورث سليمان داود
“And Sulaiman inherited Dawood” (Surah Naml Verse 16)
فهب لي من لدنك وليا يرثني و يرث من آل يعقوب و اجعله رب رضيا
“(One that) shall be my inheritor and the inheritor of the posterity of Jacob; and make him, my Lord, well-pleasing.” (Surah Maryam verse 6 – dua of Prophet Zakariyya for an heir)
Now from the public/political angle these passages generated much debate!
Thus, ibn Kathir argues, Sulayman was not Dawood’s only son (child) and that he rather inherited his father’s knowledge and kingship.
Likewise, Zakariyya (as) as is apparent from the ayah did not necessarily think of a child (son) from his loins but a successor (waliyan) who would then inherit not his wealth per se but that of Aali Ya’qub (Bani Isra’il) as a whole.
However, all that does not negate the personal that Sulayman was Dawood’s son and he inherited as well as would this son of Zakariyya.
There would have been a bond, a father-son relationship; in the case of our Nabi (sawa), in Allah’s wisdom it was a father-daughter relationship, beginning with the personal then with blossoming guidance for the political.
CONTEXT TO LADY FATIMA (A.S) BEING CALLED “MOTHER OF HER FATHER”
For Al-Rasul (sawa) declares Fatima (a.s) “the mother of her father” in what context, for which mission?
In the context of him persecuted, after this loving daughter wipes the blood from his face and for the mission of delivering humankind to its fulfilment, from darkness into light. Fatima (as) whose small house houses the universe itself. There is no political without the personal, the individual.
So yes, Fatima’s (a.s) relationship to al-Rasul as a mu’minah/Muslimah was also the relationship of her as daughter to him as father and that is special.
Abu Bakr’s hadith attempted so severe that relationship. So, Fatimah began from the personal, not the political.
She was saying over and over again, appealing to power and to people, Muhammad is my father, I am his daughter, please respect that.
I do not cut you of from your parent/father. I am not simply hankering after a piece of land; me claiming and demanding the land of Fadak is my proclaiming and upholding and cherishing my relationship with the man from whose loins I come from – and the womb of Khadijah.
AGITATING FOR FADAK WAS DISPLAYING OBEDIENCE TO HER FATHER!
By agitating for Fadak, I am upholding Qur’an that says in numerous places:
و وصينا الانسان بوالديه إحسانا
“And we enjoyned of man to do good to his parents” (Surah Ahqaf Verse 15)
In other words, should Fatima (a.s) not have agitated for her inheritance in the form of Fadak and whatever else the Rasul (sawa) left she would have disobeyed her father and of course Allah!
On the question of wealth: it maybe argued that Fatima (a.s) was above wealth – indeed she was.
However, wealth is not wrong; it is how we administer wealth that informs it being of benefit or a force of and for harm/destruction.
But let us ask, what would Fatima (a.s) have done with the wealth of Fadak as a piece of land with potential agricultural value, i.e., producing crops, fruit, etc.
For an answer, let us go to her spending the little she had as a person who cleaned her own house and grinded until her fingers were swollen (hence tasbihat Fatima al-Zahra); she gave away her best dress on her wedding.
The ayah 8 & 9 in Surah al-Insan states:
وَيُطْعِمُونَ الطَّعَامَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ مِسْكِينًا وَيَتِيمًا وَأَسِيرًا
إِنَّمَا نُطْعِمُكُمْ لِوَجْهِ اللَّهِ لَا نُرِيدُ مِنْكُمْ جَزَاءً وَلَا شُكُورًا
“And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive
(Saying): “We feed you for the sake of Allah alone: no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks.”
A point of clarity is in order here.
These verses were not revealed because of Ali (a.s) and Fatima’s (a.s) sadaqah; rather they are al-misdaq al-awwal of this ayah.
Ayatullah Kamal Haydari argues that Ali (a.s) and Fatima’s (a.s) actions were not the asbab al-nuzul of most verses, rather they were the first and major embodiment of these ayat after their revelation.
Fatima (a.s) would have utilized whatever Fadak produced for her fellow human beings.
Think of al-Imam Hasan (a.s) and al-Husayn (a.s) in light of this personal, beyond imams, i.e., the political. Think of how al-Rasul (a.s) kissed them as his grandchildren and him as grandpa, as tata, as oupa.
All this was at play, featuring, manifesting in Fatima’s (a.s) request, demand and agitation for Fadak. She saw her abba, her daddy, his hugs and kisses.
MODERN DAY REALITY OF FORCEFUL SEVERING OF FAMILY RELATIONS
Think of children being ripped from their parents through a denial of their financial rights.
Think of children in our world today. A vicious world of wealth and power that leave some homes without parents; with migrant labour systems that separate children from their dads and moms, here in South Africa, the Gulf States, the US, etc.
Think of what Western imperialism in its so-called mission civilisatrice did in Australia, Canada and Denmark when it took children away from their “savage” homes ostensibly to civilize them forcing English, French and Danish on them.
They denied them their linguistic, environmental and parental inheritance, of course after they plundered their resources, land and wealth.
It will not be correct to compare Abu Bakr’s refusal of Fatima’s (a.s) claim on Fadak to what Western modernity did to us colonized peoples for they differ in motive, scope and outcomes.
However, the personal speaks loudly in both and from there the tremendous political consequences and finally theological discourses. We critique the latter rooted in a past on the basis of the Qur’an with the hope and concern to state it straight in the present and for a future.
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