16 January 2021 (3rd night of Jamadi al-Thani 1442)
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Respected brothers and sisters, lovers and followers of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), and his dear, purified household and progeny, especially his daughter – our mother, our lady, our leader, Sayyida Fatima Zahra (s.a).
Once again, in these days of her hardships, difficulties, and finally her martyrdom, I would like to extend my humble condolences to her son and Imam of our time, Imam Mahdi (atfs) and also his rightful successor, the leader of the Islamic Revolution, and other Maraji’ (grand spiritual authorities) who represent him during this period of occultation. May Allah (SWT) protect all of them, Insha Allah, and also the Ummah (nation) of Islam, and the followers of truth and justice on this very sad and tragic occasion in the history of Islam.
To speak about Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a) is really not an easy task. This great personality and leader from the household of our Nabi and Rasul (SAWA) is so great, such that as time passes, we gradually realize more and more of her virtue, status, position and exemplary character.
You do not realize the altitude if you are standing close to the high peak of a mountain, but as you go further away from the mountain, you gradually realize its peak. This is really what this peak of humanity and virtue in the form of Lady Fatima (s.a) is, whom the Holy Quran calls her by the title of Kauthar.
As time passes, more and more angles of this great personality become clear, and also our need to her exemplary character and role becomes more and more, especially in the era and society we live, which is under assault and constant bombardment of ideas and ideologies which only misguide and confuse us, taking us astray from the path of truth and justice.
I would like to explore some important aspects of the personality of Lady Fatima (s.a) in this discussion.
MERIT OF LADY FATIMA (S.A) EXTENDS BEYOND A BIOLOGICAL CONNECTION TO RASULULLAH (SAWA)
When we speak about Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a) from the point of view of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), or simply put the Shia ideological perspective, then our whole approach to her is different than that of other schools of thought in Islam.
There is no doubt, all Muslims have the greatest of respect for Lady Fatima (s.a). There is also no point of dispute or disagreement amongst Muslims when it comes to the dignity, respect, position and virtue of Lady Fatima (s.a).
However, their approach to this great Lady is by virtue of being the daughter to our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), whom he loved and respected so dearly. They regard her, by virtue of this connection, as a very pious, extremely spiritually devoted lady. This is the basis for which the Ummah (Muslim nation) pays homage to Lady Fatima (s.a).
Now, when it comes to the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s), we find that Lady Fatima (s.a) is indeed the beloved, dear daughter of Rasulullah (SAWA), and indeed an extremely spiritually devoted lady. However, for us followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), there is much more to Lady Fatima (s.a) than this.
LADY FATIMA (S.A) AND HER SAINTHOOD
In the previous lecture, Haaj Bashier Rahim very beautifully drew a comparison between Lady Fatima (s.a) and Lady Maryam (s.a). I would like to add one issue to this particular discussion. According to the Holy Quran, Lady Maryam (s.a) is a divinely lady ie. she is a saint. She enjoys a very, very high position beyond this world and this saintly quality flourishes at a much higher level in the very existence of Lady Fatima (s.a).
We read in the Quranic narrative about Lady Maryam (s.a) and her interaction with Nabi Zakariyya (a.s) and the Jews of her time and the presentation of her baby Jesus (Nabi Eesa (a.s)). All of this shows that Maryam (s.a) was not really a woman of this world, as her real essence was beyond this world.
When we speak about Lady Fatima (s.a), we are also not speaking about a woman confined to this world. This point is crucial for all to understand, including our Sunni brethren, as it will help them comprehend our approach towards the Ahlul Bait (a.s) and Lady Fatima (s.a) in particular.
SPIRITUAL ELEVATION OF LADY FATIMA (S.A) MAKES HER THE BEDROCK OF THE AHLUL BAIT (A.S)
We read the following in the Ziyarat of Lady Fatima (s.a), which is recorded by our 6th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s):
“O carefully examined (lady):
ٱمْتَحَنَكِ ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِي خَلَقَكِ
Allah Who created you had tried you
قَبْلَ انْ يَخْلُقَكِ
before He created you (for this worldly life),”
What does this really mean, that Lady Fatima (s.a) was tested before she was created? It is recorded in Shi’i compilations of Hadith, that someone asked our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) “isn’t Fatima (s.a) a human being from this world”? How is it then that he is referring to her in mystical places?
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) replied, saying that Lady Fatima (s.a) is created by Almighty Allah (SWT) before He created this world! The very central existence of Lady Fatima (s.a) was before this world!
This discussion is not an easy one, because our understanding of these secrets is very limited. It is honestly beyond our reach. What we understand from these narrations from the Ahlul Bait (a.s) gives us some indication, but the truth and reality of Lady Fatima (s.a) is way beyond our comprehension. We get a glimpse of this in Surah Qadr (chapter 98 of the Holy Quran):
وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ
2. “And what will make you comprehend what the grand night is?
لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ
3. The grand night is better than a thousand months.”
Lady Fatima (s.a) is Laylatul Qadr and here the Quran is asking us what do we know about the grand night of Qadr? Understanding Lady Fatima (s.a) is clearly way beyond our power and capacity of comprehension.
ESSENCE OF LADY FATIMA (S.A) WAS PRESENT ON THE HIGHEST JUNCTURE IN MI’RAJ
In the Hadith of Mi’raj, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) narrates his heavenly ascension, where he describes him reaching the final stage and destination of his journey. He says that on this highest possible place, he discovered a tree called Shajarah-e-Tuba.
This tree had an abundance of fruit, with apples having amazing fragrance. Rasulullah (SAWA) asked from Angel Jibra’eel, that in this highest of places, the tree and fragrance from the fruit is truly unique. This Hadith, which is overwhelmingly recorded in Shi’i Hadith resources, notes the response of Angel Jibra’eel where he says that this is the Noor of Fatima (s.a) in the earth, and Mansura in the Heavens!
Rasulullah (SAWA) asked Angel Jibra’eel what this means ie. Noor of Fatima (s.a) in the earth, and Mansura in the heavens. Jibra’eel replied saying that she is being named Fatima (s.a), meaning something which restricts, in its literal sense. The reason for Fatima (s.a) being named this in the earth is because she restricts her followers in the earth from the Hellfire!
Mansura, on the other hand, means someone who is rescued and supported. The reason for Fatima (a.s) being referred to as Mansura in the heavens is because she is supported by the help of Almighty Allah (SWT) to be the intercession in the Heavens.
INTERCESSION OF LADY FATIMA (S.A) IS OUR PROTECTION FROM HELL
This is a very, very deep, meaningful Hadith. Fatima (s.a) restricts her followers in this world from going into Hell. This has a very deep meaning, and gives a very clear message that unfortunately, there will be a time that even after accepting Islam and entering the fort of salvation of Tauheed, there will be a time that due to deviation, the doors of Hell will be open and only those who are connected and following Fatima (s.a) will be able to be protected by her. Yes, Lady Fatima (s.a) will be able to stop them from going into the deviated door of Hell.
Fatima (s.a) stands openly to defend those who follow her. With her help, her followers are protected from falling in the trap of Satan.
Then in the Heavens, she is helped in the Heavens by Almighty Allah (SWT) to be the intercession, because there is nobody after our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) who has more power of intercession than our mother, Lady Fatima (s.a).
There are three personalities whose intercession is the highest:
1. Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) has the highest level of intercession;
2. Intercession of Lady Fatima (s.a) on the Day of Judgement is well documented in both Sunni and Shia compilations of Hadith;
3. Intercession of Imam Hussain (a.s), which speaks for itself.
STRATEGIC ISOLATION OF RASULULLAH (SAWA) FOR 40 DAYS BASED ON DIVINE COMMANDS
This position of Lady Fatima (s.a) is unique. To go back to the narration of Mi’raj cited earlier, Rasulullah (SAWA) ate from the apple and then descended back to earth, whereupon he was instructed to isolate for 40 days.
Interestingly, there were only two occasions where he isolated from public interaction for 40 days. The first was before the start of revelation and the second time was upon returning to the earth, after he ate from the apple in the Heavens.
He then also sent a message to his dear wife, Lady Khadija (s.a), to reaffirm that his 40 day isolation is not due to being upset with her, but rather, his isolation is due to the command of Almighty Allah (SWT). Rasulullah (SAWA) observed fasting for this 40 day period, and upon completion of this fasting period, he received grapes and dates from Heaven. Thereafter, he returned home to Lady Khadija (s.a) and it was on that night when this divinely Noor (Light) of Lady Fatima (s.a) was established in the womb of Lady Khadija (s.a).
Yes, 40 days before the revelation of the Holy Quran started, and 40 days before the Noor of Lady Fatima (s.a) was established. This is because Lady Fatima (s.a) was the carrier of 11 Qurans ie. the Imams of Ahlul Bait (a.s) from her offspring! These are all the secrets which are mentioned in this form. As I said earlier, we really do not understand the real meaning of all these explanations.
They are given to us in this symbolic form so that our minds can get closer to that reality and truth, because the real deeper secrets and reality of Fatima (s.a) are only known to Almighty Allah (SWT), way beyond our imagination.
STATUS OF LADY FATIMA (S.A) IN SUNNI RESOURCES OF HADITH
Perhaps this Hadith of Mi’raj in reference to Lady Fatima (s.a) is not present in Sunni resources, but there are numerous other Hadith which may not be as explicit, but indirectly speaking about the position and status of the highest Wilayat for Lady Fatima (s.a).
An example is the Hadith from our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) where he narrates that he would smell Fatima (s.a) whenever he was missing the fragrance of Paradise!
Then, there are also those Hadith which appear to express the deep love of father and daughter in reference to Rasulullah (SAWA) and Lady Fatima (s.a). An example is the Hadith where Rasulullah (SAWA) says that Fatima (s.a) is part of him, and whoever angers her angers him.
Then also the Hadith where Rasulullah (SAWA) says that the anger of Fatima (s.a) is the anger of Allah (SWT).
This shows that this not simply a matter of biological relationship between our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and his daughter Lady Fatima (s.a). This goes far beyond the normal love between father and daughter.
Fatima (s.a) is the carrier of the status of Wilayat beyond our comprehension!
QURAN COMMANDS US TO CALL RASULULLAH (SAWA) BY HIS RESPECTFUL TITLES
Let me draw your attention to another incident, when our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) was addressed by some of the ignorant people without any respect. They would simply call him by his first name!
This is not aligned with the etiquette and respect ascribed to Rasulullah (SAWA), where the Holy Quran and Almighty Allah (SWT) do not refer to him by his blessed first name. Unfortunately, these people use to call him in a gruff voice by his first name, until verse 63 of Surah Noor (chapter 24 of the Holy Quran) was revealed:
لَا تَجْعَلُوا دُعَاءَ الرَّسُولِ بَيْنَكُمْ كَدُعَاءِ بَعْضِكُمْ بَعْضًا
“Do not hold the Messenger’s calling (you) among you to be like your calling one to the other.”
This verse commands us to call our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) by his respectful titles. Even the Holy Quran calls him by “Yaa ayyuhal Muzzammil” and “Yaa ayyuhal Muddaththir”.
History has recorded that this verse was revealed before the well-known verse of Tathir was revealed (verse 33 of Surah Ahzab – chapter 33 of the Holy Quran).
History has recorded that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) would visit Lady Fatima (s.a) for 6 months (or 9 months according to some narrations) and upon entering her door would say “Assalaamu alaikum ya ahlibaytin nubuwwah” and after that he would read the verse of Tathir (verse 33 of Surah Ahzab – chapter 33 of the Holy Quran):
إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنْكُمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيرًا
“Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O people of the House! and to purify you a (thorough) purifying.”
Lady Fatima (s.a) would respond to this blessed greeting by saying “Wa alaikum salaam ya abata”. However, on the day that verse 63 of Surah Noor (chapter 24 of the Holy Quran) was revealed (cited earlier), Lady Fatima (s.a) did not reply this way. Instead, she replied “Wa alaikum salaam ya Rasulullah”.
This requires some reflection. Rasulullah (SAWA) became upset at hearing this from his dear daughter Lady Fatima (s.a), questioning her on why she addressed him the way strangers do. Lady Fatima (s.a) replied saying that the command of Almighty Allah (SWT) came through this verse for us to address Rasulullah (SAWA) with the respectful titles.
Rasulullah (SAWA) replied to Lady Fatima (s.a) saying that this verse was not revealed in reference to her, or her children or grandchildren. He commanded her to call him Abata (father), because it makes his heart fresh and alive and makes his Lord (SWT) happier. We can now see the indicator of the extra special truth and reality that Lady Fatima (s.a) is!
LADY FATIMA (S.A) IS THE COOLNESS OF THE EYE FOR RASULULLAH (SAWA)
Let me relay to you another heavy piece of revelation towards our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) which caused him a lot of stress. Verses 43 and 44 of Surah Hijr (chapter 15 of the Holy Quran) refers:
وَإِنَّ جَهَنَّمَ لَمَوْعِدُهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ
44. “And surely Hell is the promised place of them all
لَهَا سَبْعَةُ أَبْوَابٍ لِكُلِّ بَابٍ مِنْهُمْ جُزْءٌ مَقْسُومٌ
45. It has seven gates; for every gate there shall be a separate party of them.”
Rasulullah (SAWA) was so heavily affected by these verses when they were revealed to him, such that he immediately burst into tears profusely. This caused his companions who were with him to also cry. After a while, they all settled but Rasulullah (SAWA) continued crying from the stress of these verses.
The companions did not know what to do to bring some semblance of peace to Rasulullah (SAWA). At this point someone said that there is only one solution, and that is to bring Lady Fatima (s.a) to him. When Fatima (s.a) was brought forth, Rasulullah (SAWA) settled and said that Fatima (s.a) is the freshness of his heart and the coolness of his eye!
This is the extremely sacred relationship between our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and Lady Fatima (s.a).
LADY FATIMA (S.A) MADE A LANDMARK CONTRIBUTION TOWARDS SOCIO-POLITICAL REFORM
Now that we have elaborated on the spiritual, divine, sainthood of Lady Fatima (s.a), I wish to explore another very important angle. Lady Fatima (s.a) lived for only 18 years in this world, at the most 25 years according to some narrations. In this short period of life, we find that Fatima (s.a) was able to again establish something remarkable, which we are still stuck in understanding.
Lady Fatima (s.a) spent the major part of her short life with her father, Rasulullah (SAWA), and then a part of her life with her father, her husband and her children. Then, there was a short part of her life, at the end, which she spent only with her husband and children. These are the 3 phases of her life.
In all these 3 phases of her short life, we find that Lady Fatima (s.a) is truly “Sayyidatun nisa’il aalameen”. She was true to this divine title bestowed upon her by our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), of being the leader of the women of the world. She proved this comprehensively in her practical role in society.
This is where we see Lady Fatima (s.a) as the unparalleled leader and champion of women’s rights. Lady Fatima (s.a) presented this leadership with her practical life, as well as her sermons, short-sayings and instructions, as well as her exemplary character in interacting with other women. This is where she is “Sayyidatun nisa’il aalameen” in practical reality.
This is where we need Lady Fatima (s.a) more than anything else, especially in this challenging situation the world finds itself in today.
LADY FATIMA (S.A) EMERGED AS A BEACON DURING AN ERA OF HOSTILE SUBJUGATION OF WOMEN
We often speak about different movements advancing women’s rights, which started in the Western world and then these movements have taken on global proportions. There is absolutely no doubt that women have always been oppressed throughout the history of humanity.
This oppression was never confined to the Arabian Peninsula and Eastern cultures. It has always been a problem everywhere in the world, where women would be regarded as second-class human beings, looked upon with contempt, with no rights, no respect, no dignity and no role afforded to them.
Against this hostile backdrop, Fatima (s.a) emerges as a genuinely liberated lady, who very importantly protects her womanhood while at the same time is a very important role player in society as an agent for social change, catalyst of transformation for justice, and a woman who speaks loudly for her rights!
LADY FATIMA (S.A) AS THE UNPARALLELED LEADER FOR WOMEN’S RIGHTS
The Fatimi movement for women’s rights is the genuine movement. If one analyses feminist movements in this world, the first point to note is that their history is not more than 150 years old, after the industrial revolution.
Firstly, this feminist movement started due to the exploitation of women as cheap labourers in the industrial revolution.
Secondly, when this mass production started, it created the need for mass consumption too. This is where women were then exploited as marketing tools, to create the culture of spending and consumption. They found nothing better than the body of women to promote this culture of consumerism. Quite frankly, this materialist aspect had nothing to do with the real dignity of women.
Thirdly, because women were being used as cheap labourers and also used to promote this culture of consumerism, they also tried to break women from the family and the critical role they play in the family unit. This causes the family structure to collapse, rendering the role of women to become objects of material exploitation, for the lust of men.
This is the truth and reality!
SOUTH AFRICA’S PROTECTION OF WOMEN’S RIGHTS STILL LEADS TO RIFE GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE
According to the secular criteria, our country South Africa has the most progressive constitution. It very proudly gives women equal position and status. We also have policies in place and various bills approved by parliament, together with various institutions pushing for the empowerment of women. Now then, with this level of protection for women, why is gender-based violence against women at the highest level? Why is there a woman being a victim of rape, abuse or domestic violence every minute?
This is the outcome of this so-called feminist movement trying to liberate women. The issue is that feminist movements want to liberate women from the chains of slavery, and remove women from being second class in society, to grant them a semblance of equality with men. The biggest mistake where they continue to fall short is that they forget the quality of being a woman, thereby removing from women their womanhood!
The genuine essence and personality of being woman is removed from these feminist agendas. As a result, with all the rules and legislation and NGOs trying to advance women’s rights, we continue to see the worst crimes being committed against women in the same society!
The misinterpretation of the liberation of women is that they thought women should be promoted to work (which we fully promote too), while their womanhood is removed in the process! Yes, the space has been created for women to work, but this same workspace has become the avenue for the worst violence and abuse of women.
Where is the dignity and position of women then?
IMAM ALI (A.S) PRAISES LADY FATIMA (A.S) AS THE SPECIAL PARTNER JOURNEYING TOWARDS ALLAH (SWT)
With Lady Fatima (s.a), we see a most striking aspect being the balance in her personality. On the one hand, we see her as a sublime daughter (being the first of the three phases outlined earlier), such that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) refers to her as Ummu abiha (mother of the father)!
The second phase sees Lady Fatima (s.a) as the most noble wife of Imam Ali (a.s). Rasulullah (SAWA) asked Imam Ali (a.s) about how he finds Lady Fatima (s.a) to be as a wife. The way that Imam Ali (a.s) replied shows the role of Lady Fatima (s.a), where he describes her as being the best supporter in obeying Almighty Allah (SWT)!
There were times when Imam Ali (a.s) would return home feeling very hungry, after being away for work for a couple of days. He would ask Lady Fatima (s.a) if there is anything that he can eat. Lady Fatima (s.a) would be silent and then Imam Ali (a.s) would repeat himself, to which she responded saying that there was very little food, which she fed the children with and as a result she has also not eaten for a couple of days while Imam Ali (a.s) was out at work.
Imam Ali (a.s) got upset, asking Lady Fatima (s.a) why she did not inform him that there is not much food at home, as he would have then arranged food for them all. Now, look at the womanhood in the response of Lady Fatima (s.a), where she says to Imam Ali (a.s) that she felt ashamed to ask him for something which he would not be able to provide!
This is Lady Fatima (s.a), whom Imam Ali (a.s) informed Rasulullah (SAWA) that she did not anger him even once in his life, nor did he anger her. This is the true love and home which Lady Fatima (s.a) provided for Imam Ali (a.s).
Then coming to the third phase, namely that of Lady Fatima (s.a) as the mother, history is full of recordings of her exemplary nature towards her children, who are the leaders of the youth of Paradise! When it comes to their education, spirituality and all aspects of raising kids, we see Lady Fatima (s.a) setting the supreme example.
THE MOST CHASTE LADY FATIMA (S.A) HAS THE UNRIVALLED MORAL COURAGE TO FIGHT FOR HER RIGHTS
Fatima (s.a) is a daughter, wife, mother, and Fatima (s.a) in Taqwa sees her spending the whole night in Ibadah (acts of worship)! This same Fatima (s.a) is extremely concerned about Hijab and chastity, such that she does not want any non-Mahram to see her.
She was so concerned about that womanhood, such that one of the wishes she noted to Asma (while on her deathbed) was that after the ghusl and kafan is completed, she would like to be placed in a coffin, because she does not want the shape of her body to be visible in any form, even after she has died and already wrapped in her burial shroud (kafan)!
This is the level of concern that Fatima (s.a) has for Hijab. That being said, this same Lady Fatima (s.a) raises her voice in fighting for her rights to be honoured. So, here we learn that while she was exemplary in her role of being a mother, wife, daughter and preserved the highest standards of Hijab, she did not waver in fighting for her rights.
LADY FATIMA (S.A) WAS THE PRIME DEFENDER OF THE SACRED INSTITUTION OF IMAMATE
In the socio-political sphere of society, Lady Fatima (s.a) is ahead, even before Imam Ali (a.s). When it came to the issue of leadership and Imamate, it was Lady Fatima (s.a) who defended this authority (Wilayat) before Imam Ali (a.s).
I would like to repeat what I always say, that the whole movement of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), whose first Imam is none other than Ali ibn abi Talib (a.s), was initiated by Lady Fatima (s.a). She is the nucleus of the socio-political resistance of the Ahlul Bait (a.s).
It was Fatima (s.a) who openly spoke about the position of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) and the status owed to Imam Ali (a.s) as the leader of the Ummah (Muslim nation). It was Fatima (s.a) who launched her protest against the turn of events after the passing away of her father, Rasulullah (SAWA).
Fatima (s.a) did not remove womanhood from being a woman, while at the same time she presented the best example of contribution and involvement in society, fighting the struggles to establish truth and justice.
Fatima (s.a) paid a very hefty price for this courageous position! She paid the price of her unborn baby’s life, and then finally, her own life for the sake of truth and justice.
There is a very eloquent Lebanese Christian scholar by the name of Sulaiman Qattani, and he wrote a book about the life of Lady Fatima (s.a). I would like to end off by quoting a statement from this book, where he says that you do not need to have a muscular body to become a hero or champion. He says that you can be a weak, lonely, sick woman supported by nobody, but you can stand and challenge the whole system and shake its very foundation with your vociferous call. This makes you a champion, and follower of Lady Fatima (s.a)!
Please like and share this post