Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lady Fatima (as) the Role Model for All


Bismillah Arahman Araheem
Salaam Alaaykum wa rahmatulahe wa barakatoh
Welcome and felicitations to everyone as we meet around the occasion of the birth of the highly esteemed lady of the ahlulbayt (as), Lady Fatima Zahra (as).

Whenever we meet to discuss or listen about a member of the ahlulbayt (as), we can be so awed by the greatness of these personalities and the levels of piety they achieve that we categorize them in our hearts as people altogether unlike us – a different level of humanity that is separate from us and above us.

We can speak only Truth without any exaggeration, and the quality of their characters still stand out as the supreme achievement of mankind.

However, if we really hope to be their followers and fulfill our own missions as human beings, then we must look for ahlulbayt from a framework of understanding that they are fully human and that what they achieved in avoiding sin and doing right is also approachable by their followers, by the will of Allah swt. Keeping clean of sin, purifying one’s intentions, acquiring true piety, and benefiting humanity by one’s behavior are not accomplishments achievable only by the ahlulbayt and the prophets. In fact, the mission of the prophets has been to provide us examples to achieve these characteristics in ourselves and to awaken in ourselves the highest levels of piety possible.

Therefore, the followers need to develop the will and the discipline of self improvement - or we need to engage wholeheartedly in the jihad against the self - according to the model of the prophets, imams, and sinless humans, and we need to investigate to find out what exactly are the models that they have provided.

So this evening I will try to present some information about the model life of Fatima (as) – both to understand her as a multi-dimensional real personality, as well as to, insha’allah, be able to apply what we can to our own selves in the course of self improvement. Lady Fatima (as) is an ideal role model for both men and women
and history provides us with enough detail of her life and words that we can glean from the records several important characteristics in her that we can grow in ourselves.

Part 1

There are at least 4 sets of ayahs in the Qur’an that various commentaries from the religious scholars show refer to Lady Fatima (as). There are the verses of feeding, about the event when she and her family went hungry for 3 days because every time they prepared to break the fast someone came calling for food, the verse of Mubahalah when she went with her father to the challenge from the Christians, and the verse of purification in which ahlulbayt (as) are described as being purified from sin. All of these refer to Fatima (as) along with certain members of her family. But one short surah of Qur’an, according to some commentaries such as al-Mizan, and also a speech from Sayyid Fadlullah - is said to be about Fatima (as) in particular.

Aoothu billahi minash shaitan ar rajeem
Bismillah Arahman Araheem
Inna aTaina kal kawthar
FaSalli li rabika wanHar
Inna shani aka huwal aBtar.

“Verily We have given thee (the prophet (saw)_ the Abundance. So pray thou unto thy Lord and offer sacrifice. Verily, the enemy shall be the one cut off in his progeny.

This is Surah Kauthar. Many commentaries refer to Kauthar - or “Abundance” - as a fountain in paradise and that is probably true. But it appears also to have a second meaning of the Lady Fatima (as).

This revelation was given against the backdrop of Quraysh men claiming that the Prophet (saw) was cut off by having no surviving male heirs. But this surah explains that Fatima (as) is the abundant good through which a vast number of offspring and, in particular the imams (as), would come, while the men making their claims against the Prophet (saw) would be cut off, that is, their family lines would die out.

The Lady Fatima (as) is extremely important to know because you cannot properly mention the Messenger of Allah (saw) without mentioning her, as she came from him and was most like him of any person, and you cannot properly mention ‘Ali (as) without mentioning her, because she was his chief companion in life and they were chosen for each other by Allah swt, and you cannot mention Hasan, Husain or Zainab (as) without mentioning her as she was the secret of purity in their childhood and development of their supreme personalities. If we wish to know any of these or the following Imams (as), then we have to first know her because she is a key to all of them.

She is a role model not only for women, because being a woman was a role of her life but not her life entirely; her life entirely was that she was fully submitted to Allah swt , a true Muslimah and momeena.

Even for the children, she is an ideal role model – as she lived a short life much of what she is known for she did at a very young age – we have information about her childhood that we can learn and apply.

One day, Fatima (as) saw her father (saw) in the Holy Mosque in Makkah and some people had dumped garbage on his back while he was praying.
She was a tiny young girl and she might have felt afraid of the taunters, or embarrassed for her father. Or she might have felt sorry for herself about the loss of her mother and burden of such a life. But no, she went straight to her father in front of all the people and cleaned the trash off of him and expressed her condolences to him. She was always true to her father and his mission even from her earliest days and she was totally sympathetic and empathetic with his sufferings and his efforts to do good and obey Allah swt. As a child, she made herself a comfort to her parents and supported her father in the cause of Islam. She acted with courage for Islam even as a young girl and cared for her father so well she was known as the mother of her father. The young Fatima (as) never found time for purposeless play trying to fill empty time, because she had no emptiness – even as a child she had a mission that she adopted wholeheartedly, the same mission as her father – the mission of Islam.

We learn from Fatima (as) that even a very young child can do good, be a benefit to his or her family and community, and dedicate to a noble cause. It is not necessary to wait for adulthood to start working for justice and truth – we can do this our whole lives and if we begin as children we will be more prepared for living adult life in a good way. Lady Fatima (as) did not have to change anything about herself to begin her adult life properly because she had already spent her youth living in the right way.

Her father (saw) certainly helped her in this. She had the great benefit of being his student. When revelation was being revealed to the Prophet (saw), she used to sit as well as read along with ‘Ali (as) and listen to the revelation and teachings and their explanations. She mastered every lesson and committed to memory every tidbit of knowledge from the Prophet (saw), her father. She loved this knowledge dearly and applied it all to her life immediately. She never made any complaint about guidance from her father or any hardship she endured, for she knew it was all blessing.

When she had children of her own, whenever they came back from being out with the Prophet (saw) or their father ‘Ali (as), she asked them to tell her anything they learned – one, as a training and memory aide for them, but also because she herself did not want to miss any opportunity for learning.

She was by today’s terminology the most elite religious scholar trained from the cradle with the highest teacher. Islam has valued high religious education for all people - men, women and children. In fact, it has been emphasized for women because they are the primary educators of young children.

Fatima Zahra (as) is a wonderful role model of seeking religious knowledge and sharing her knowledge. A hadith from Imam Sadiq (as) says that the Prophet (saw) gave her some palm branch containing written knowledge and advised to learn what was on it. It said ‘Whoever believes in Allah and the Day of Judgment must not hurt his neighbor, and whoever believes in Allah and the Day of Judgment shall be generous to his guest, and whoever believes in Allah and the Day of Judgment shall say something good or be silent.’ About it, she said, “It is for me equal to Hasan and Husain! This is the inheritance of the Messenger of Allah swt.’

She wrote down knowledge and kept written knowledge, and she took the initiative to spread knowledge in the society. She used to teach Islamic lessons for the Muslimahs of the ansar and muhajroon, and she gave a sermon in the Mosque to make clear the truth.

One day a lady came to Fatima (AS) said 'I have a weak old mother who does
not know a few problems about her service (prayers). She has sent me towards
you to question you (about them). Thus Fatima answered her (questions). And
the number of her queries reached to ten and Fatima (AS) replied to all her
questions. Then she (the woman got a shamed because of the high number of
her questions. And said, 'Oh daughter of the Prophet (SAW), 'I do not put you to
more inconvenience than this.' Fatima (AS) said, 'Ask me what you do not know.
Have you ever seen a person who is one day hired to carry a heavy thing to the
roof top from the ground but for a very large some of money who would feel tired and complain about the task?
She said 'No'. Fatima (AS) said, 'I have been hired by Allah to get a wage which
if the space between the earth and sky were filled up with pearls still (That wage)
would not be more than for each of the questions I may answer you. Therefore, I
am never tired of answering questions.'

We can learn from Fatima (as) that we should have zeal for learning , that we should avidly pursue religious knowledge at every stage of our lives, that we should adapt our life immediately based upon anything we are blessed to learn, and that we should share knowledge for the benefit of people and propagation of true Islam.

There are also lessons to be learned in Fatima (as)’s marriage. The Prophet (saw) turned down several proposals for her, because he was waiting for the right match, and in her special case, for the order of Allah swt. It is important in marriage that we match a woman with a man who is her equal in intellect and piety – for Fatima (as) that could only be ‘Ali (as). A hadith tells us that “If Ali did not exist, there would have been no match for Fatima” – and she would’ve remained unmarried like Lady Masooma buried in Qom. But we also see that she married young – when a right match was available for her, her marriage was not delayed for want of money. In fact, ‘Ali (as) only owned his sword, shield and clothes when he asked for her hand in marriage. The Prophet (saw) did not tell him to go out and earn more money in order to get married, instead he asked for his shield, and this was sold for the simple, unextravagant mahr of Fatima (as).

From this we can learn that girls wanting to marry and their parents likewise should not judge a man by his wealth and job but rather by other characteristics that make him suited for her and vice versa. We see that young couples should be prepared to live a simple life and that marriage does not seem to be primarily about material comfort but about even more so about more important needs of the soul. And we see that mahr should not be set at exorbitant amounts.

In her marriage with ‘Ali (as), we find that they treated each other with great respect. Never did they make one another angry or argue with each other, and never did Fatima (as) disobey ‘Ali (as). Each was satisfied with what the other brought to the marriage and their lives, in part because they were well-matched, and in part by their own wills and effort to fulfill the rights of family and endure any hardship. The Prophet (saw) told us that the best man is the one who is best to the women in his household. ‘Ali (as) was truly best to Fatima (as), he was the spiritual leader of the household and her companion and always kind to her and helped her in the household work in addition to doing his outside work. And when she was dying and made her requests of him, he fulfilled them without complaint or question.

Although we do not see any cause for which Fatima and ‘Ali (as) may have had to pardon one another in marriage or be patient with one another, we can learn from their peaceful family life and the hadith from the ahlulbayt (as) that to achieve a good marriage one step to make is to look to our own roles as spouse and see how we can improve as much as possible. If we would want to be pardoned for minor faults, then we should do the same for our spouses and children. If we want to avoid arguments, then we should learn to control our anger, hold our tongues, keep calm and listen to our spouses and children, and be patient. If we want loving from our family, then we should be loving to them. If we want their help, then we should help them, and we should not make unreasonable demands on any of them. In essence, we see that one element of a successful married life is adopting good ethics and selflessness in the home.

As a parent, Fatima (as) was very patient with and kind to her children and looked after their education. She did not protect them from all suffering but also taught them sacrifice– sometimes they went hungry or cold same as she did, yet she looked after their needs and guided them carefully to be true Muslims, knowledgeable in Islam and with the best ethics.

Fatima (as)’s main goal in life was not family or any other worldly thing. She and her husband were raised in Islam and lived for Islam and raised their children the same way. She rebelled against her own personal needs for the furthering of Islam and doing well by her neighbors. She is called the doyenne of the women of the world, meaning she is the most senior rank amongst all women. She did not get this title merely by being daughter of the Prophet (saw) - many prophets and imams (as) have had many daughters but not all had this title. Some of our Shia scholars even say the Prophet (saw) had more than one daughter, although there is not agreement on this – but if he did, none of them were called doyenne of the women of the world but Fatima (as). It is not a title of inheritance but a title of achievement. Similarly, the sayings of the Prophet (saw) that “Fatima is part of me, whoever makes her angry makes me angry, or that Surely Allah becomes angry for the anger of Fatima and becomes satisfied if she is satisfied” were not said because she was the daughter of the Prophet (saw) or because Allah swt or the Prophet (saw) preferred Fatima (as) so much that they would side with her even if she were wrong in her anger. No, these could only be said of her because Fatima (as) only got angry for Islam, never for herself. She aligned her anger with the Prophet (saw)’s and with Allah swt’s, so that hers was the same as theirs. Thus, it would be possible to gauge if something were in line with the right path or not purely by her stance – her stance was never contrary to Islam.

This is one of the chief traits from her we should strive to acquire in ourselves: Our stance should be the stance of Islam, the stance of the Prophet (saw), the stance of Ahlulbayt (as), the stance of the Imam of Our Age (as) – there should never be a hair-widths of division between them. This requires education to know the right stance and then conviction of will and jihad against the self to make it our stance.

There are some other traits of hers that stand out as particularly noteworthy.

One is her truthfulness. Even Aisha narrated that no one was more truthful than Fatima (as). She had the name Siddiqah and was known by the people as more truthful than any other person, just like the Prophet (saw). She didn’t ever in her life bend the truth or alter her words to make things easier. She saw the truth as sacred and never promoted selfish interests over the truth. No one can even attribute a white lie to her, nothing even like lying to a telemarketer on the phone that the person he is asking for is not there.

So we should ask ourselves, are we known for being truthful and always siding with the truth even against ourselves? Many people may struggle with truthfulness because they even deceive themselves. Honesty begins with being honest to oneself!

A second trait she was known for that we can model from her is her worshipfulness. We have hadith telling us that Fatima (as) loved worship and she prayed until her feet became swollen, that she sometimes prayed all night, and that she always prayed for others. Worship was her refuge.

Maybe we will not achieve the same worship as Fatima (as), but we certainly will not if we do not make it a priority in our lives, something we find regular time for. To be successful we need to learn to find joy and tranquility in worship – removing distractions, creating a good home environment for it, and taking our time in it. And if we want our children to be worshipful, it is best that they grow up in a worshipful house, as part of a family that worships together and individually. Much of the benefit in worship comes from reflection and thought, so we need to worship so that we understand what we are saying and doing, so that it is meaningful.

Fatima (as) was also known for her extreme generosity. She prayed always for others. She gave her only food away when fasting as mentioned in the Qur’an.

Some traditions say she gave away her wedding dress because a lady didn’t have a dress, and was married in her only tattered, worn garment. When her father asked why she didn’t give the lady her older dress instead of the new one, she replied, ‘Because the Qur’an says you will not achieve piety until you give out what you love the most.”

She gave away a necklace given to her on more than one occasion. One time, the prophet (saw) sent someone to her house who was in need, and she gave him the necklace. Someone bought the necklace for a high price, solving the man’s financial problems. Then the man who bought it, Ammar ibn Yasir, gave the necklace to a slave boy and gave the necklace and the boy to the Prophet. The Prophet (saw) had him give the necklace back to Fatima (as) and he freed the slave – so by freely giving the most valuable thing she had, a man’s material problems were solved and a slave was freed, and she got it back.

She milled grain until her hands bled for her family and needy people. She suffered from a weak body and her labor to feed her family and neighbors and bring water for them took its toll on her body. Fatima (as) did not obsess over her appearance or health; she gave her all to further Islam even at the expense of her health.

Imam ‘Ali (as) helped her and even sought more help for her with a servant to share her work. She was too shy to inquire but ‘Ali (as) did, and the Prophet (saw) instead offered her something he said was better than a servant: He taught her the tasbih we do after our daily prayers. Fatima (as) accepted this happily and took hold of it and preferred it wholeheartedly. She made a tasbih from blue string with knots in it, and later, after Hamza died in battle for Islam, she made beads from the earth of his grave for her tasbih. She preferred something of benefit to her Hereafter, to her soul, to something of benefit to her worldly life – every time without fail.

At some point in her life she did have the help of Fidha, but she never saw herself as being elite to Fidha and she did equal work with her always – she never gave up labor to provide herself with ease.

She did not limit her generosity to those who were the best Muslims; she gave to anyone in need and did not inquire as to their religion or sincerity first. Even those who were against her father and Islam were not deprived of basic humanitarian aid from her.

So we can see from her life that Lady Fatima (as) was a truly selfless person, she never preferred herself to others. And further we know that she gave her all to what she was doing – she didn’t hold out anything for herself for later. She is a model of generosity and self-sacrifice for us to follow.

Some hadith tell us that, like Maryam, Fatima (as) would have food and would say, “It is from God; Verily God provides to Whomever He likes without measure,’ and the food apparently did not come from her labor or as a gift, but from Allah swt. If she was able to achieve such a thing, then it was because she truly understood tawhid. She knew without any doubt that all is from Allah swt. She knew that Allah cooled the fire for Abraham (as). She knew that Allah swt gave Zakaria a son in old age. She knew that Allah returned Moses to his mother and reunited Yusuf with his father. She knew “kun faya kun’ = Be and it is – that everything is possible by the will of Allah swt simply by His willing it. She knew this so well that she feared only Allah swt truly while most people fear various people and things in the Creation. She understood Allah swt is the cause of all causes so well that she could apply this tawhid to have what might seem a miracle.

Fatima lived the very essence of belief in tawhid. If we follow her example, our lives will be much more directed, less complicated, and with ever increasing blessings, and we might remove impossibility from our thinking.

After the Prophet (saw) died, Fatima (as) was sorely tested by seeing everything that her father had lived for being thrown away by the people. She showed people how to grieve by her sincere and loving example. She cried for the loss of the Prophet (saw) so much that ‘Ali (as) built a place for her to go – he never complained or stopped her grief.

Part 2

Before the Prophet (saw) was even buried, people were busy plotting for power and allegiance and trying to prevent Imam ‘Ali (as) from attaining his rightful position. These people had a worldly mindset – they did not fully accept the teachings and commands of the Prophet (saw). They saw what the Prophet (saw) had achieved as a kingdom of the world that they wanted to control. They tried to use trickery, cleverness, deceit, threats and force to prevent the family of the Prophet (saw) having its rights. They had to deny the rights of Imam ‘Ali (as) to the caliphate and of Fatima (as) to the administration of the land of Fadak because if they acknowledged these, then they would be negating all of their false claims to power and authority.

Fatima (as) stood like a revolutionary or activist in response to this attack on Islam. She went out with her husband to visit the people who had been tricked into giving allegiance to the wrong party and guide them to the truth, but they made excuses that it was already done and too late to fix. She voiced her arguments in sermons, defeating the arguments of the opposition– she did not back down in fear of them. She used rebuke when it would show the truth of Islam, and she was lenient and gentle when it show the truth. She proved her case with the Qur’an and hadith. Abu Bakr claimed she could not inherit Fadak due to some saying of the Prophet (saw) that no one seemed to recall but he and his supporters. But first, Fadak was given in life so it was a gift, not inheritance, yet even so she showed that the Qur’an says that Solomon inherited David, and that Zakariyyah prayed for the birth of John so that he would have an heir – so that family does inherit from prophets is proven in the Qur’an.

Some people have claimed that Fatima (as) was angry for her family and self being cheated by the people and they have tried to apply selfish, although justified, motives to her. But her words and actions make it very clear that she cared not for Fadak for Fadak, but she cared for it because it was a symbol of the authority of Ahlulbayt (as) over the people, - it was a symbol of the truth of whom Allah swt appointed to guide the people after the Prophet (saw), it was a symbol of where the path of guidance for the entire future of humanity lay. If she remained quiet, then today we might have been unable to know our Imam (as) and find a right path.

That she remained angry to her last day and the way she instructed
Ali (as ) to bury her in secret - these are as a clear message. No one could mistake the position of Fatima (as) with the Prophet (saw) and with Islam. In her last acts she made sure that everyone knew her stance – in doing so she made sure that everyone was forced to bear witness to the truth. No one could be left with any excuse for denying that Abu Bakr , Omar and the rest who sided with them or failed to respond upon seeing the truth proven had made themselves polytheists. She said to the Ansar, “Why do you deviate after clarification and commit polytheism after belief? Do you fear them? Allah is more worthy of fear is you are truly believers.”
And to the women of the Ansar, she quoted the Qur’an the meaning “Is then He who guides unto truth more worthy to be followed or he himself who goes not aright unless he is guided? What then has befallen you? How ill you judge?”

So Fatima (as) is a role model to us of when and how we should be activists, and she proved that women as well as men may be called to activism and politics for the cause of truth. Like her we should not be apathetic, we should not be activists for ourselves, but we should be activists for preserving the truth and justice, whatever and wherever it is. The methods she employed were always completely ethical but adapted to reach the audience she was speaking to. She spoke because she was in a position that the people might hear her, she did not leave the task to her husband because she was female - she took a leading role in trying to correct the matter. And she was so wise and thoughtful that she even arranged her last acts to prove the true Islam.


Fatima (as) was a woman with all the knowledge of an Imam (as) and who guided the people by example, and she is proof that men and women alike can reach the level of infallibility; through Fatima (as) Allah makes a woman a role model for men and women, because this shows that there is no difference between men and women as far as attaining to higher levels of piety – all of us, male and female, can become more pious, can emulate Fatima (as), and can be manifestations of Islam in the world.

Every example I have mentioned from her life to show that Fatima (as) is the ideal role model and that we should seek to emulate her in all matters can again be proven with a very few words from her. We have seen examples from her to follow in kindness, seeking, loving and applying knowledge, generosity, patience, marriage, parenting, striving and self-sacrifice, total dedication to Islam, worship, defeat of ego, activism and much more.

In the following few words she has summarized the religion of Islam as to how we should live and why.

She said:

Allah made the faith for you as purity from polytheism.

And (made) worship the cause of your getting distant from

And rendered alms for the purity of your soul and increase of your sustenance.

And rendered fasting for the maintenance and firmness of your

And Allah set Hajj for the consolidation and reinforcement of the

Allah executed and rendered justice for the sake of bringing harmony among people.

And (Allah set) the obedience of us (ahlulbayt), for the security of society and set Imamate as a safety from disunity.

And (Allah made) struggle against self and falsehood the honor and glory of Islam and made it the abjectness and humbleness of the unbelievers and the hypocrites.

And (Allah rendered) patience as help for getting divine reward.

And (Allah caused) commanding goodness and forbidding evil for
the amendment and correction of the public.

And (Allah made) kindness to parents as a (shield) to His wrath
and displeasure.

And Allah made joining and connecting with the kinship righteously, the cause
of lengthening of life.

And Allah made the law of retaliation for homicide as the security of blood
from being shed.

And Allah made the follow-through with oaths and vows as a medium for forgiveness.

And (Allah rendered) the correct use of weights and measure a medium for
preventing cheating.

And (Allah rendered) prohibition from intoxicants for preventing evil.

And Allah made the prohibition to accuse someone of adultery a protection
for avoiding (His) curse.

And Allah required refraining from theft for the sake of dignity.

And Allah prohibited polytheism for the sake of (bringing about) sincerity.

And finally, I offer one of her dua’as, an ideal dua for us to emulate:

If Allah swt grants us this dua, then we will follow Fatima (as). She did not take pride in herself over other people, she glorified and magnified God greatly, she was totally obedient to Allah swt always, she sought out and did the deeds that earn Allah swt’s pleasure, she shunned evil and falsehood totally, and she never doubted the Mercy and Power of Allah swt.

Bismillah arahman araheem
Allahumma sale ala Muhammad wa ale Muhammad

Oh Allah! belittle us in our eyes and glorify and magnify Your station to us. And
inspire us to Your obedience and the practices which may cause Your
pleasure, and inspire us to shun (matters) which are the
cause of Your wrath, oh the most Merciful of all!

(delivered approximately like this for Wiladat Bibi Fatima (as).

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