Commemorating the martydom of Lady Fatima Zahra (A)In: Ahlul-Bayt
20th Jamadiul Aakher
Zahra (radiant), Zakiyya (pure, chaste), Radhiyya (satisfied, content),
14th Jamadiul Awwal 11 AH (according to most traditions)
Fatima (A) narrates that the Prophet (S) stated:
“The example of my Ahl al-Bayt is like the example of the ark of Nuh; whoever attaches himself to them is saved, and whoever abandons them will tumble into hell.” (Musnad Fatima 482/6)
The Will of Fatima (A)
Whoever studies the life of Fatima (A) – no matter which sect he follows and which version of events he believes – will first be struck by a question. Why, while the spiritual authority of the Prophet (S) still lingered over the Muslims community, did his daughter make a will that she should be buried in the night and no companions, save a few, be allowed to be present and participate in her funeral prayer?
What had infuriated Fatima (A), about whom the Prophet’s love and respect was well known, to the extent that she distanced herself from his companions, both in the short time that she survived him, as well as in death?
Why did she not want them to pay their last respects to her or console her family? Perhaps Fatima (A) knew that, even though words and deeds might be lost in history, and different versions of events would be created, however, the bitter and unusual circumstances of the burial of the daughter of the Prophet would not be distorted or explained away easily, and would forever raise a question in the minds of future generations. In any case, what is before us is the sorrowful narrative of the anger of the daughter of the Prophet (S) at his companions, and even if we disregard its reason, it is something very instructive.
Shaykh al-Mufid narrates from Imam al-Husain (A): [During her final illness, Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet of God, asked ˋAli (A) not to reveal her illness to anyone. Ali respected her wish and nursed her himself, and Asma b. ˋUmais helped him in secret. When her death approached, she asked Ali (A) that he should be in charge of all matters relating to her funeral and bury her in the night and remove all traces of her grave.] (1)
Ibn ˋAbbas narrates: [Fatima made a will that Abu Bakr and ˋUmar should not be informed when she died, and that they should not pray the funeral prayers over her. Therefore, Ali (A) buried her in the night and did not inform them of her passing.] (2)
Shaykh al-Saduq narrates from Imam Ali (A): [When Fatima’s death approached, she called for me and said, “Will you carry out my request and will?”. I said, “Yes.” Then she said, “When I leave this world, bury me in the night, and do not allow those two men (who she named) to be present at my funeral.” When her health worsened, the women of the Muhajir and Ansar came to visit her and enquired about her condition, She replied, “By God, my condition is such that I dislike this world of yours, and am angry at your men-folk.”] (3)
Ibn Shahr al-Ashub narrates in his Manaqib: [In her will to Ali, Fatima mentioned three things: that he marry her niece Umama (4), because she loved Fatima’s children dearly; to fashion her bier in the manner that the angels had described to her; and to forbid those who had wronged her from attending her funeral, or praying over her body.] (5)
There is no doubt that the death of Fatima occurred in 11 AH. However, there is disagreement about the exact date of her death and her age at the time. In al-Kafi, Kulayni reports that she lived 75 days after the death of her father (S) and that she was 18 years and 75 days old when she left this world. (6) According to this report, Fatima (A) must have passed away on 13th Jamadi al-Ula. Ibn Shahr al-Ashub records her death date as 13th Rabiˋ al-Akhar, which is 45 days after the Prophet (S) passed away, although he himself believes that the most accurate date is 40 days afterwards.
Shaykh al-Tusi has recorded her death date as 3rd Jamadi al-Thani, 11 AH, which is 95 days after the Prophet (S) passed away. (7)
Hakim al-Nishaburi narrates from Ibn ˋAbbas:
[When Fatima fell mortally ill she said to Asma’ b. al-ˋUmais, (8) “Do you realise what a distressing time has arrived for me? (9) I must be hidden from the eyes of the people when I am carried before them.” Asma’ said, “I swear by my life, I will make a bier for you in the shape that I saw used in Abyssinia.” Fatima asked for more details, so Asma’ obtained some fresh wood and made a bier (tabut), and this was the first time such a device had been used (in Islam). Fatima (A) smiled when she saw it, and this was the first time I had seen her smile since her father had passed away. When she died, we carried her in the same bier and buried her at night. (10)]
Shaykh al-Tusi narrates from Imam al-Sadiq (A): [“The first bier mentioned in the history of Islam was that of Fatima (A) (11).” Then he has quoted a similar tradition to the one above.]
Majlisi has narrated from Imam al-Baqir (A): [Fatima was ill for 15 days before she passed away.] (12) It has also been reported from Imam al-Baqir (A) that: [Fatima’s illness began fifty days after the Prophet (S) passed away. When she realised that this was her final illness, she began to gather her affairs and she called Ali (A) and dictated to him her final wishes. Amir al-Mu’mineen (A) was severely shaken by her news, but would hasten to do whatever she requested.
Fatima said to him, “O Abu’l Hasan, the messenger of God (S) promised me that I would be the first from his Ahl al-Bayt to join him and this will definitely come to pass. So, for the sake of God, be patient and be satisfied with whatever the future holds.”] (13)
Fattal Nishaburi has reported that:
[Fatima became severely ill and this illness lasted for forty days before she passed away. When she saw signs that her death was drawing close, she called Umm Ayman and Asma’ bint al-ˋUmays (to keep her company) and sent someone to look for Ali (A). When Ali (A) arrived, she said, “O cousin! Death has approached me, and I feel that it will not be very long before I join my father. I wanted to tell you matters that are in my heart. Ali (A) told her, “Say whatever you desire, O daughter of the messenger of God!” He then asked everyone who was in the room to leave and came to sit beside her head. Fatima said, “O cousin! Ever since we have lived together you I have never lied to you or betrayed your trust. And I have never disobeyed you in any matter.” Ali (A) exclaimed, “I seek refuge in God! You are more good, more pious, more noble and more aware of God and more afraid of Him to ever give me the least cause to censure you. Your separation and parting from is very difficult for me, but what choice is there? I swear by God that you have rekindled anew the sorrow that I felt at the passing of the Prophet (S). Your death will be very difficult for me to bear. Indeed, We are from God, and to Him we will return. How painful and heartrending is this trial! I swear by God, there is no consolation for this loss and nothing can supersede it.”
After this both of them wept for some time. Then Ali (A) placed her head on his lap and said, “Tell me whatever your last wishes are. I will do whatever you ask, and give preference to you wishes above my own.”
Fatima said, “May God give you the best of rewards, O cousin of the Prophet (S)!
First, I want you to marry my niece Amama after me, because a man needs a wife, and Amama will look after my children as I would myself.” (It was for this reason that Ali (A) used to say, “There are four matters that I cannot avoid. The first is marrying Amama, daughter of Abi al-ˋAs, because Fatima had asked me do to so.)
“Secondly, I want you to prepare for me a bier which the angels have described to me.” Ali said, “Describe it for me.” Fatima described the features of it and Ali later had it constructed, and this was the first time that such a bier had been used in Arabia. It had not been seen before.
“Thirdly, I do not want any of those who have tormented me and usurped my rights to be present at my funeral, because they are my enemies and the enemies of the Messenger of God (S). Do not allow any of them or their supporters to participate in the funeral prayers over me. And bury me at night, when people are fast asleep.” Then Fatima left this world.
Soon, cries of the mourning of the people of Madina rang out. The women of Banu Hashim gathered in the house and the sound of their weeping and lamenting caused a stir in the town. They cried, “O our Lady! O daughter of the messenger of God!”
People swarmed towards Ali (A). He was sitting and Hasan (A) and Husain (A) sat opposite to him, weeping. At witnessing their weeping, the people broke down in tears also.
Umm Kulthum came out wearing a long cloak and with her face covered; she was crying, “O Grandfather, O Messenger of God! Today we have truly lost you. We will never see a trace of you anymore!”
People were sitting and mourning and waiting to accompany the body of Fatima and to pray the funeral prayers over her. At that time, Abu Dhar came out and announced, “Depart, because the funeral of the daughter of the Prophet has been delayed to later.” The people stood up and departed.
When a part of the night had elapsed, and people were asleep, Ali (A), Hasan (A) and Husain (A), accompanied by ˋAmmar, Miqdad, ˋAqeel, Zubayr, Abu Dhar, Salman, Burayda, and a few members of Banu Hashim brought out the body of Fatima and prayed the funeral prayers over her. They then buried her in the heart of night, and Ali (A) made seven more graves around her grave, so that the exact location of her grave could not be ascertained.
1 Musnad, p. 393, trad. 3, quoting the Amali of Mufeed.
2 Musnad, p. 412, trad. 18, quoting from Manaqib of Ibn Shahr al-Ashub.
3 Musnad, p. 553, trad. 2, quoting from Maˋani al-Akhbar.
4 Umama b. Abi al-ˋAs, the daughter of Fatima’s sister Zainab.
5 Musnad, p. 411, trad 16, quoting from Manaqib.
6 al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 458.
7 Misbah al-Mutahajjid, p. 554.
8 Asma’ was the wife of Jaˋfar b. Abu Talib, and had migrated with him to Abyssinia. After the martyrdom of Jaˋfar, she was married to Abu Bakr, and after his death, she was married to Amir al-Mu’mineen (A).
9 Referring to the prospect of having her body seen by the Muslims.
10 Musnad, p. 429, trad. 56, quoting from Mustadrak al-Sahihain.
11 Musnad, p. 406, trad. 9, quoting from Tahdhib al-Ahkam.
12 Musnad, p. 416, trad. 9, quoting from Bihar al-Anwar.
13 Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 4, p. 201.
Article contribution by Sheikh Abbas Jaffer