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Fatimah Zahra: From Grief to Grave- By Sheikh Zakzaky

Ibrahim Usman
During the commemoration of Sayyidah Zahra (SA)’s martyrdom at the Baqiyyatullah Hussainiyyah, Zaria, His Emminence Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky (H) read out historical perspectives of the suffering of Sayyidah Zahra (SA) and her eventual martyrdom. Excerpts:

Martyrdom of Sayyidah Zahra (SA) came shortly after the demise of her father, The Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).There are traditions across the Islamic schools of thought that indicated the period she spent after the passing away of her father. Acceptable among them were that, she lived either 75 years or 85 years after the passing away of her father. The difference was as a result of the ancient Arabic writing of that time, which had no strokes and dots. It could read 75 and 85 years both ways. However, emphasis is more on 75 years, but martyrdom of Sayyidah Zahra (SA) is commemorated on so many dates, as the case may be.

 Fatimah Zahra (SA) was martyred

 She was martyred because of grief and injuries she sustained, which eventually led to her death. She did not die instantly, but was bedridden for some time. She suffered a lot. Her son, Imam Hassan (AS) suffered the same fate, as he was bedridden for about forty days as a result of the poison he was fed, which eventually led to his heavenly departure from this world. He was also martyred. When her father, the Holy Prophet (SAWA) passed away, her husband Ali Ameerul Mumineen (AS) was busy with the burial arrangement, and it was at that time some people gathered, as they saw it as an opportunity to hijack leadership (Caliphate). That was what they were waiting for, waiting for the Prophet to die. By the time Ameerul Mumineen (AS) concluded the burial rites with some handful of Companions, those people that gathered were heard shouting above their voices as they elected a Caliph. It was after the election they came to realize that they left the body of the Holy Prophet unattended. They came afterwards, and were ushered in groups of ten to say farewell to the Holy Prophet (AS). He died on Monday, and buried on Wednesday night.

The Caliphate rejected the Qur’an compiled by Ali (AS)

 On seeing this, Ameerul Mumineen (AS) then occupied himself with compilation of the Holy Qur’an. So expedient was the task that Ameerul Mumineen (AS) said, he refused to wear garment, except for Salat, until he finished compiling the Qur’an. The Qur’an compiled by Ameerul Mumineen (AS) was no different from the Qur’an we have today. It was the same Qur’an, but with interpretation and commentary of each verse and chapter; where it was revealed, when, why and on whom it was revealed. It was a fully loaded Qur’an with complete interpretation as taught him by the Holy Prophet (SAWA). When he presented the Qur’an to them, seeing that it contained explicit meaning, they rejected it; instead, they demanded his allegiance to the elected Caliph.

“What if I refused to give my allegiance?” Ameerul Mumineen asked them.

“We shall kill you”, they replied.

“Then know that, you will kill brother of the Prophet and servant of Allah”.

“Servant of Allah, agreed! Brother of the Prophet, no!” they responded.

Ameerul Mumineen (AS) gave up.

Later, they realized the implication of leaving the compiled Qur’an in the hands of Ameerul Mumineen, with the explicit commentary that implicates some of them. They came to him and demanded that the Qur’an be given to them for reproduction and circulation among Muslims. Ameerul Mumineen knew their plan and refused. He told them that the Qur’an will only be made public by the Imam of the Age (AF), when he re-appears. The Qur’an that will be made public by the Imam of the Age (AF) is the same Qur’an compiled by Ameerul Mumineen (AS), which contains full commentary of the Qur’an in hands today. There is no textual difference between the two, only commentary. The present Qur’an in the hands of Muslims is the same Qur’an compiled by Ameerul Mumineen (AS) with commentary, and that even Hafs style of recitation of the Qur’an being taught was from Ameerul Mumineen (AS) through his disciple and student, Sulamy. Although they twisted history and said, Sulamy was a student of Uthman, he was not and had never been to Madina while Uthman was alive. Sulamy was taught the Qur’an by Ameerul Mumineen (AS) in Kufa. Therefore the present Qur’an in the hands of people, as well as its style of Hafs recitation was from Ameerul Mumineen as taught by the Prophet through student of Ameerul Mumineen (AS), Sulamy.

 Fatimah’s appeal to conscience

In view of the above, Ameerul Mumineen (AS) went home, placed his wife Sayyidah Zahra (SA) on a donkey, flanked by her sons Hassan  and Hussain, went round every house in Medina, and made her remind them of the Prophet’s will. Sayyidah Zahra (SA) reminded them of the event at Ghadeer Khum, where the Prophet appointed Imam Ali (AS) as his successor and other issues associated with the status of the Prophet’s Household as a Trust on the people. She appealed to their conscience, and some of them became remorse. Ameerul Mumineen (AS) had earlier sought the help of some people to regain his right but they declined. Having realized their mistake people of Madina started trooping and gathering in the house of Fatimah (SA). This, the Caliphate found intolerable and feared rebellion. At a point, despite the danger sensed, the newly ‘elected’ Caliph had contemplated giving up, especially with the daughter of the Holy Prophet at the centre of the issue. The Second man was more worried and aggressive, he strengthened the Caliph on the need to take drastic action, else the Caliphate will slip away from their grip. The Caliph reminded him of unmatched strength and the weak and limited army at their disposal. The Second man allayed his fear, and without waiting for consent took some handful of men available, demanded for reinforcement to be sent and headed for Fatimah (AS)’s home, where a number of Ansar and of Ali’s supporters had assembled.

Attack on Fatimah’s house

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 as reported by his son. 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.

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. Ameerul Mumineen only came to know of the broken rib when he performed the burial bath on her that his hands felt the broken rib. On realization that her rib cage was damaged, he pressed his face against the wall and let out a loud cry. He later told those present that, they assailants had broken her rib. 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.

 Moshaf Fatimah (AS)

Angel Jibra’eel constantly visited Sayyidah Zahra (SA) to comfort her over the misfortune that befell her. He told her of events that would come to pass to the end of time, when the last Imam from her offspring would emerge and rule the world. These disclosures served as a comfort to her during the period of her sickness. These disclosures Ameerul Mumineen (AS) compiled into what is called Moshaf Fatimah. Moshaf Fatimah is not another Qur’an as some people are trying to insinuate, it is a book (Moshaf, Sahifa or Kitab) of disclosures by Angel Jibra’eel to Sayyidah Zahra (SA) of events and kingdoms that would come till the end of time.

 Preparation for the final abode

Ummu Salmaa, otherwise known as Asma (not Ummu Salamah,wife of the Holy Prophet or Asma Bint Umaysh, wife of Sayyid Ja’afar Dayyar), wife of Abu Rafi’i (a close disciple of the Holy Prophet right from Mecca) assisted Sayyidah Zahra (SA­) during period of her sickness to her eventual death. Her husband, Abu Rafi’i, is rarely mentioned in history books because he was an ardent supporter of Ameerul Mumineen (AS). He was also among those reliable escorts arranged by the Holy Prophet to escort the three Fatimahs (Fatimah Bint Muhammad, Fatimah Bint Asad and Fatimah Bint Hamza) to Madina at the time of migration. He was also among those who escorted the Holy Prophet (S) at the time of Mubahala. Those who love Ameerul Mumineen (AS) are rarely mentioned in history books, because of deep seated hatred for Ali (AS). This is why his wife, Ummu Salmaa, was hardly known in Islamic history, and she is being confused with Ummu Salama (wife of the Holy Prophet or Asma Bint Umaysh, wife of Ja’afar Dayyar). 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 (Fatimyyah),

And their agony (over my departure),

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

You also enter them into Jannah with your mercy,

 For You are the Best of Givers when asked,

You the Merciful above all.

Whe 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 deprture,

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 silent burial

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, just as how Maryam was bathed by her son Prophet Isa (AS). Although Prophet Isa (AS) was ascended before his mother’s death, and since he did not die, he was descended and performed the ghusl on his mother.

While Ameerul Mumineen was performing the bath, 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. Alongside him were Hassan, Hussain, Aqeel, 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”.

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.

Imam Ali (AS) confronts the grave diggers

Ameerul Mumineen (AS) dug and prepared between seven and forty graves in Baqi. When the prominent people of the Caliphate came to know of this, they demanded for women to dig out the graves prepared by Ameerul Mumineen (AS), for they were at loss where he buried Sayyidah Zahra (SA). They claimed they wanted to pray on her, having missed the burial prayer. When Ameerul Mumineen (AS) knew of their intention, he put on his mourning garment with his sword (Zhul Fiqar) drawn, came out with fury saying: “By Allah, if they moved a stone from the grave, I will put my sword on them!” When he confronted them, the Second man who led the army to attack Sayyidah Zahra’s (SA) house shouted: “What has come over you Abul Hassan. I swear, we will dig her out and pray on her!” Ameerul Mumineen (AS) jerked him, lifted him up and smacked him on the ground. He said, “Woe unto you son of a black woman. I let go of my right to the Caliphate for fear of people turning back away from the religion. But concerning the grave of Fatimah, if you move a stone from it, I swear by He Who holds my life in His hands; I will smear the earth with your blood”.  Sensing the inherent danger, the newly “elected” Caliph begged Ameerul Mumineen (AS) to let go of his friend. They all 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 her grave is not known is only but to express the injustice meted on her while alive, and to dissuade her enemies from digging her out. It is also reported that Ameerul Mumineen’s (AS) grave was also unknown for some time, until the time of Imam Baqir (AS). The grave of Sayyidah Zahra (SA) will only be known when her son, the last of the twelve Imams, Imam of the Age (AF), will re-emerge.

The Caliph regrets

When the first Caliph was at the point of death, he said he regretted executing three actions:

1.  Accepting leadership of the Caliphate.

2.  Ordering the attack on Fatima’s house.

3.  Ordering the burning alive of a rebel against his Caliphate.

The ordeal of Sayyidah Zahra (SA) is recorded in all history books, but people decided to keep silent over it, so as not to expose perpetrator of the atrocities against her, for so much love they have for them. Love for Sayyidah Zahra (SA) means to rejoice (spiritually and physically) over what pleases her; express anger and anguish (spiritually and physically) over what offends her. Love those who love her, hate those who hate her.