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Fatima Zahra (AS): From grief to grave, by Shaikh Ibraheem Zakzaky

By Ibrahim Usman
At the commemoration of Sayyidah Zahra (SA)’s martyrdom on 3rd Jimada Thani 1436 (23/03/2015) held at the Baqiyyatullah Hussainiyyah, Zaria, His Emminence Shaikh Ibraheem Zakzaky (H) in a two-segment lecture read out historical texts on the suffering, martyrdom and burial  of Sayyidah Zahra (SA). Excerpts:

Agony of Sayyidah Zahra (AS) after the death of her Father

After the death of her father, she spent the rest of her days crying. The greatest agony that befell Sayyidah Zahra (AS) was the separation with her father, the Prophet. The people of Medinah complained of her constant cry, and described it as disturbance to them. As a result, Imam Ali (AS) built for her a House of Sorrow in the outskirt of the city, where spent the rest of her days crying. Her sorrow and grief was so severe and intense that if it were placed on the celestial bodies, could turn to night of darkness, as she narrated.

In this regard, Imam Jafar  al-Sadiq (AS) was reported to have said that, there are five people are whose cry of agony was most intensive in history:

1.   Prophet Adam (AS), who cried for 100 years over expulsion from Jannah.

2.   Prophet Yaqub (AS), whose cry over the loss of his son led to his blindness.

3.   Prophet Yusuf (AS), whose cry while in prison made other inmates to have given him the choice of crying either in the morning or at night, as it was disturbing to them.

4.   Fatimah Bint Muhammad, whose severe cry for the loss of her Father led to her expulsion outskirt of the city.

5.   Imam Ali Zainul Abideen (AS), who cried for 40 years over the tragedy of Karbala.

While all these were happening, Fatimah’s Orchard (Fadaq) was usurped from her by the government in power. This led to her confronting them; a revolt against injustice and tyranny. Following this, she made the famous Sermon of Faqiyyah before her oppressors.

Attack on Fatimah’s house

Attack on Sayyidah Zahra’s home was carried out three times.

The Second man, Commander of the planned offensive, was reinforced with about 800 more armed soldiers that surrounded the house of Fatimah (SA). The Commander shouted: “I shall burn down the house over you unless you come out and give the oath of allegiance to the Caliph." He was told that, the daughter of the Holy Prophet (SAWA) was in the house and he replied: “So what?!” he then demanded for firewood, placed it by the door of the house, set it ablaze and busted inside. Zubair Bin Awwam was in the house, he confronted them with a drawn sword, but they overpowered him.

Without regard to sanctity of the house, the Commander busted into the room of Sayyidah Zahra (SA) and broke the door. Unaware of what was going on and without a hijab on, Sayyidah Zahra (SA) hurriedly hid behind the door. Knowing that someone was at the back of the door, and obviously Fatimah (SA), he crushed her with the broken door while carrying the pregnancy of her third child, Muhsin. Sayyidah Zahra (SA) let out a cry and called on her house help, Fiddha: “Fiddah, help me, they have crushed my baby!” Now with full knowledge that Fatimah (SA) was behind the door, he pressed harder and the nails on the door pierced through her rib cage. Sayyidah Zahra (SA) let out another cry: “O, Messenger of Allah, this is what we are subjected to in your absence!” On hearing this, he moved into the room and slapped her face! He confessed to this atrocity. According to him, the glowing light that surged from Sayyidah Zahra’s face frightened him and almost stopped him, but summoned courage to complete the task that they have started.

It was then Imam Ali (AS) came out, and the Commander shouted: “Ali is out, do not let him escape!” They grabbed Ali (AS) without headgear, put a rope round his neck, roped him like a camel and dragged him to the mosque. Despite her severe condition, Sayyidah Zahra (SA) put on hijab and with feet dragging and blood dripping from her, followed them saying, “Leave the son of my Uncle alone!” The Commander asked one Qumfuz to detain her. Qumfuz demanded what to do with her if she refused, the Commander ordered him to beat her up. When Sayyidah Zahra (SA) dragged on painfully in pool of blood, Qumfuz beat her with a whip made of thick rope! All those who had been nursing for hatred on the Holy Prophet saw it as an opportunity for vengeance and payback time. They slapped Sayyidah Zahra (SA).

Among those who joined the league were Mughira Bin Shu’bah and Marwan Bin Hakam, as recalled by Imam Hassan (AS). She kept on dragging painfully after them as they dragged Ameerul Mumineen (AS) to the mosque, Hassan and Hussain wailing after her, while the assailant tried to stop her. At last, she decided to complain before God for the offensive on them. She raised her hands up and started to invoke the wrath of Allah on them. It is reported that the ground beneath them began to tremble, despite his condition Ammerul Mumineen (AS) immediately sent Salman al-Farisy, on his behalf, to beg the daughter of the Holy Prophet (SAWA) to be merciful to the Ummah of Muhammad as did her father, as her prayer would wipe out the entire Ummah from the surface of the earth. In strict obedience and respect to her husband, Sayyidah Zahra (SA) stopped. Had she prayed, the entire Ummah of Muhammad would have been entirely wiped away.

Multi-faceted sorrow: Fatimah on her sick bed

Sayyidah Zahra’s sickness was multifaceted. She had not recovered from the loss of her father, when the offensive occurred that resulted in the loss of her pregnancy and the broken ribs. Throughout the ordeal and period of her confinement in bed, she had not complained of the broken rib, even to her husband. It was part of Sayyidah Zahra’s (SA) will to her husband that he should perform her burial bath and prayer, and should not allow her enemies to attend her burial rite. She also told him to marry another wife after him. She even chose Umaimah, daughter to her mother’s sister, whom she felt could take proper care of her children. Ameerul Mumineen (AS) fulfilled all these. Even in severe sickness, Sayyidah Zahra (SA) had not abandoned her regular devotional worship such as prayers and recitation of the Holy Qur’an.

Preparation for the final abode

Ummu Salmaa, otherwise known as Asma, wife of Abu Raafi’i (not Ummu Salamah, wife of the Holy Prophet), wife of Abu Rafi’I, assisted Sayyidah Zahra (SA­) during period of her sickness to her eventual death. Wife of the Holy Prophet, Ummu Salmaa, is being confused with Ummu Salmaa. She nursed Sayyidah Zahra (SA) during period of her sickness.

Sayyidah Zahra (SA) told Ummu Salmaa to bring her water to bath. She bathed, put on clean clothes and demanded her bed be placed at the centre of the room. She then lied down on her right side, placed right hand on her cheek and faced the Qiblah. In another narration, she asked Ummu Salmaa (Asma) to bring the remaining part of Hanun left behind by her father and placed it under her head. She also asked Ummu Salmaa to leave her alone for some time, for she wanted to communicate with God the Almighty. Asma reported that, she heard Sayyidah Zahra (SA) in a fervent communion with her Lord, the Almighty thus:

O, Allah I ask You in the name of your Prophet, Muhammad Mustafa,

And his closeness to me,

I ask You in the name of my husband Ali, the Trustworthy,

And his grief over me,

I ask You in the name of Hassan, Al-Mujtabah,

And his cry over me,

I ask You in the name Hussain, Shaheed,

And his sorrow over me

And my descendants (Fatimiyyah),

And their agony (over my departure),

For You Ever-forgiving to those who sin in the Ummah of Muhammad,

You also enter them into Jannah with your mercy,


 For You are the Best of Givers when asked,


You the Merciful above all.

When Sayyidah Zahra (SA) realized Asma was still waiting on her, she said: “Wait a moment and call out on me. If answer you, know that I am still alive. If I did not answer, then I have departed to my father” (or to my Lord, in another narration).

 It is reported that, when Asma waited for some time she called out to Sayyidah Zahra (SA), but received no reply. In bewilderment, she cried out:

“O daughter of Muhamad Mustafa! O, daughter of the best creature carried in the womb of women! O daughter of the best man that ever walked on the surface of earth…!”

She rushed into the room and uncovered the cloth on the face of Sayyidah Zahra (SA), and saw that her soul had departed her body. According to Asma, “Sayyidah Zahra (SA) died “a martyr in a period between a Maghrib and Isha”. She fell on her body, kissing it and crying: “O Fatimah, if you meet your father, extend Asma’s salaam to him”. For so much grief and sorrow, Asma tore the neck of her garment. As she went out, she met Hassan and Hussain on the way. They asked her: “Where is our mother?” She kept quiet, did not know what to tell them. She then replied that their mother was sleeping. Hassan and Hussain said it was quite abnormal for their mother to sleep at that time. They ran into the room and found their mother stretched, covered with a cloth. Hussain, uncovered her face and saw that she had departed. He turned to his brother and said to him: “May Allah bless you, my brother. Our mother is dead”. Hassan fell on her body, kissing it and crying: “O, mother, talk to me before my life is extinguished from my body”. Hussain is also reported to have held his mother’s feet, kissing it and crying: “O, mother! I am Hussain, your son. Talk to me, before my heart is wrenched and I die!” Then Asma comforted them: “O, children of the Holy Prophet, go to your father and inform him of what happened. Tell him, your mother has departed this world”. They went out crying, “O, Muhammad! O, Ahmad! The pain of your death has today been renewed with the death of our mother”. They met Ameerul Mumineen (AS) inside the mosque and broke the news to him.

When Ameerul Mumineen (AS) heard the news, he fainted. As he regained consciousness, he wailed: “O, daughter of the Prophet. Where do I receive comfort now after you have gone? It is gone with you!” According to Mas’udi, upon the death of Sayyidah Zahra (SA), Ammerul Mumineen (AS) cried a lot; his cry resembled the cry of the sick in severe pain. He is reported to have recited this elegy:

In every assembly of the beloved ones,

There is departure,

The loss in every departure,

Compared to that of death is minor,

My loss comes one after the other,

This is reason to believe,

A loved one is never immortal.

As Ameerul Mumineen (AS) entered the house, he prayed: “O, Allah! She is now alone, be her companion. O, Allah! She is deserted, be her link. O, Allah! She is wronged, be the Judge (between her and those who wronged her)”. Ummu Kulthum rushed out wailing: “O, our father! O, Prophet of Allah! It is now we lost you forever”. Wailings filled the air of Madina.

The quite funeral

As people gathered around the house after Isha’i, Abu Dharr told them that burial would be delayed. They left and came back the next morning, but were told the burial took place in the night. Ameerul Mumineen (AS) performed burial bath on her. According to Imam Ja’afar as-Sadiq, he had to because he is Siddiqah, and only Siddiq can bathe Siddiqah. None other than him could have done it.

While Ameerul Mumineen was performing the bath, he came to know of Sayyidah Zahra’s broken rib, as  his hands felt the broken rib. On realization that her rib cage was damaged, he pressed his face hard against the wall and let out a loud cry. He later told those present that, they assailants had broken her rib.

He said this prayer: “O, Allah! She is your servant and daughter of your Beloved Prophet. She is the chosen one among your creatures. Imprint her status, raise her position and link her up with your Prophet, Muhammad”. As he put on her the shroud, he called out to Hassan, Hussain, Ummu Kulthum and Fiddha to come and pay final respect to their mother before the burial. Hassan and Hussain came out and fell on her body, crying: “What an unending grief and sorrow! We have lost our grandfather and mother, Zahra. If you meet our grandfather, tell him we have become orphans after him in this world”. As they fell on her, though her soul had departed her body, her hands embraced Hassan and Hussain close to her chest. At this instance, Ammerul Mumineen (AS) heard a voice from above calling on him to immediately disengage them from her grip, as the situation was making the angels to cry. He quickly disengaged them and put on her the final shroud. Ameerul Mumineen (AS) then performed on her the final burial rite at night. Alongside him were Hassan, Hussain, Ibn Mas’ud, Ammar, Miqdad, Salman and Abu Dharr. He then buried her. As he laid her down into the grave, he prayed and concluded the rite with the Qur’anic verse: “… from it (earth) we created you, into it we will return you and from it we will raise you (back to life) someday”.

He (AS) was also reported to have said: “O Allah, there lies Fatimah, daughter of Your Prophet. You took her away from darkness into light”.

It is also reported that, when Ameerul Muminen (AS) buried Sayyidah Zahra (SA), two angels came to her and asked her:

“Who is your Lord?”

“Allah is y Lord”, she replied.

“Who is your Prophet?”

“My father, Muhammad”, she replied.

“Who is your Imam?”

“The one standing on my grave, Ali”, she replied.

Meanwhile, Imam Ali (as) made the shapes of seven or forty fresh graves in Jannat al-Baqi, so as to conceal the location where Fatima Zahra (sa) was buried.


Failed attempt to exhume Sayyidah Fatima Zahra’s grave


With much guilt that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw)’s daughter died and was buried without participation of those in authority in the funeral or the prayer rituals, and had no idea where she has been buried, they decided to take action.

Noticing that a revolt might be ignited because of the emotional atmosphere this event created, the governing party selected a group of Muslim women to dig out the graves so that they may find Fatima Zahra (sa) and perform prayers on her.

Imam Ali (as) did not fight back after the Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) death because he considered the Muslim unity and over all interests. Yet, this did not mean that he would ignore their villainous crimes against Fatima Zahra (sa) even after her death. In other words, Imam Ali (as) was asked by Prophet Muhammad (saw) to have patience, but only to a certain extent; when Imam Ali (as) received the news of the about-to-be-executed plot, he put on his fighting gear (with his double-edged sword Zulfiqar) and rushed towards Jannat al-Baqi in fury saying: “By Allah, if they moved a stone from the grave, I will put my sword on them!”.

The second man in command said to Imam Ali (as): "What is the matter, Abu Al-Hassan? By Allah, we shall dig her grave out and perform prayers on her."

Imam Ali (AS) jerked him, lifted him up, grabbed and shook him, then threw him to the ground and said: "Son of the Sawda (Black Woman)! I have abandoned my right to prevent people from forsaking their faith, but as regards Fatima’s grave, by Him in whose hand is my soul, if you and your followers attempt to do anything to it, I will irrigate the ground with your blood!"

At this point, Abu Bakr said; "Abu Al-Hassan, I ask you by the right of Messenger of Allah, and by Him Who is above the Throne: leave him alone and we will not do anything which you would not approve of." Imam Ali let go of him, and they took to their heels.

Sayyidah Zahra’s grave “unknown”

There are many traditions from both Sunni and Shi’a, regarding where Sayyidah Zahra (SA) was buried. Some say she was buried in her room, Raudha or in Baqi. This is not to say that her grave is unknown. Had her grave become known at that time, the Ummayyad would have dug her out. The fact that the exact location of her grave is still unknown, is to express the injustice meted on her while alive, and to dissuade her enemies from digging her out.

Fatima Zahra (sa) had asked to be buried at night. Her request for hiding her shrine was in fact a message she wanted to send to history: a message for the entire Muslim Ummah that would lead to hearing her sad life story, and what her constant objections were. And this in fact could be a turning point in the history of Islamic civilization.

At the end of the two segment lecture, Ziyarat on Sayyidah Zahra was recited and a final prayer.