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The incident of the attack on the house of Lady Fatima (a)

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The incident of the attack on the house of Lady Fatima (a) (Arabic: (س) واقعة الهجوم على بيت الزهراء) refers to going of 'Umar b. Khattab and his companions in front of the house of Lady Fatima (a) to call Imam Ali (a) and other people in the house to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr. Shiite and Sunni sources have reported that in this incident, which took place after the demise of the Prophet (s) (28 Safar 11 AH/25 May 632), ‘Umar b. Khattab threatened to set the house on fire if the people of the house did not exit the house.

In the book of Sulaym b. Qays, Ithbat al-wasiyya and Tafsir al-'Ayyashi, among the first Shiite sources, it is mentioned that in this incident, which led to the breaking and burning of the door of the house, the unborn child of Fatima (a), Muhsin (a), was aborted and it later led to the martyrdom of Lady Fatima (a). Sunni sources deny burning the door and injuring Lady Fatima (a), and accused its narrators of being “Rafidi” [lit. “dissenter”].

Abu Bakr’s need for allegiance of Imam Ali (a) to strengthen the position of his caliphate and Ali’s (a) refusal to give allegiance, has been considered as one of the causes of this incident. According to Muhammad Hadi Yusufi Gharawi, a researcher in Islamic history, this incident occurred about 50 days after the demise of the Prophet (s).

According to the book of Sulaym b. Qays, and the book al-Imama wa al-siyasa, in the meeting with Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, Lady Fatima (a) recited the hadith of Bid'a” and took God as Witness that they annoyed and angered her. According to Sunni sources, Abu Bakr was quoted as saying in the last moments of his life that he wished he had not ordered the entrance to the house of Fatima (a).

Importance

The story of the attack on Fatima’s (a) house, which took place after the Saqifa incident and with the aim of taking Imam Ali’s (a) allegiance for the caliphate of Abu Bakr, and led to the martyrdom of Lady Fatima (a), has been one of the issues affecting Shiite-Sunni relations. Some of the earliest Shiite sources, such as the book of Sulaym b. Qays, Ithbat al-wasiyya, Tafsir al-'Ayashi, and Dala'il al-Imama, have reported the incident and its consequences and in contrast, Sunni sources deny setting the door of the house on fire and the abortion of Muhsin (a), and called the narrators unreliable and Rafidiyy.

On the anniversary of the martyrdom of Lady Fatima al-Zahra (a), which is called Fatimiyya Days, Shiites mourn the martyrdom of Lady Fatima (a).

The Significance of the House of Lady Fatima (a) and its Households

In a narration reported by Shiites and Sunnis, it is stated that the Prophet (s) introduced the house of Fatima (a) and 'Ali (a) as the best example of houses mentioned in verse 36 of Qur'an 24.

In Shiite and Sunni sources, the occasions of revelation of some verses from the Qur’an are considered related to the households of Lady Fatima’s (a) house (including Imam Ali (a), Lady Fatima al-Zahra (a), Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a)), including the verse “It’am” and the verse “Tathir”. In the interpretation of the verse “And bid your family to prayer…” (Qur'an 20:132), it is narrated from Abu Sa'id Khidri that when this verse was revealed, the Prophet (s) used to go to the house of Fatima (a) every day for eight months, call the households to prayer and then recite the verse of “Tathir”.

Location of the House of Lady Fatima (a)

According to Sayyid Muhsin Amin in A'yan al-Shi'a, the Prophet (s) built a house for Imam Ali (a) next to the Prophet's (s) Mosque and beside the houses of his wives. Imam Ali (a) rented another house after marrying Lady Fatima (a) and they (a) lived in it for a while. After a while, they (a) returned to the house next to the mosque and their children were born there. Ali b. Ahmad Samhudi, a Sunni scholar (d. 911/1505), considered the location of Lady Fatima’s (a) house next to the pillar of “Murabba’at al-Qabr” in the Prophet’s (s) Mosque, which is also called “the station of Gabriel”.

Causes and Pretexts

The Prophet (s) had introduced Ali b. Abi Talib (a) as his successor on the 18th of Dhu al-Hijja in 10 AH/March 16, 632, returning from Hajjat al-Wida' [“the Farewell Hajj”]. ‘Umar b. Khattab was among those who congratulated Imam Ali (a) on that day. But just after the demise of the Prophet (s), a number of the Emigrants and the Helpers in a gathering formed in Saqifa Bani Sa'ida, against the will of the Prophet (s), agreed on the caliphate of Abu Bakr and pledged allegiance to him. According to Ibn Kathir, allegiance to Abu Bakr took place before the Prophet’s (s) burial, at which time Imam Ali (a) was preparing the Prophet’s (a) body for burial.

According to Hussein Mohammad Ja’fari, the author of Tashayyu' dar masir-e tarikh, people’s allegiance to Abu Bakr was not enough for him to gain power, because Ali (a), who was the most important candidate for caliphate among the Prophet’s (a) family, as agreed by Shiites and Sunnis, as well as his close companions and Banu Hashim were not aware of the decision of the members of the Bani Sa'ida meeting. Therefore, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, fearing a serious reaction from Imam Ali (a) or his followers, called them to allegiance and used force when faced with their refusal.

One of the factors in opposing Imam Ali (a) and leaving him out of the caliphate is considered their jealousy of his many virtues. This factor is also mentioned in a narration of the Prophet (s). Also, in the narrations quoted in Shiite and Sunni sources, the Prophet (s) had predicted that some people would show their hatred against Ali (a) after the demise of the Prophet (s). According to some reports, the Quraysh’s hatred against Imam Ali (a), which was due to the killing of the chiefs of Quraysh in the Prophet’s (a) battles, such as the battle of Badr, played the most important role in this issue.

Description of the Incident

According to al-Ya'qubi, a historian of the third/ninth century, some famous companions such as Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib, Fadl b. 'Abbas, Salman al-Farsi, Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, 'Ammar b. Yasir, and Bura' b. Azib refused to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr during the Saqifa incident. Sayyid Murtada 'Askari, a historian of the 15th/21th century, quoting from the sources of the life conduct of the Prophet (s), history and hadiths, said that those who did not pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr sat with Imam Ali (a) in the house of Lady Fatima (a). Al-Tabari also named Talha and Zubayr among sit-ins.

Abu Bakr’s order to take allegiance from Ali (a) and his companions

After swearing allegiance to him, Abu Bakr turned to some of the companions who had not pledged allegiance to him. According to the book al-Imama wa al-siyasa attributed to Ibn Qutayba, he sent 'Umar and Qunfudh to Fatima’s (a) house four times to call Ali (a) and those who were in the house for allegiance. According to this report, in the first time, the men who were in the house came out after threatening ‘Umar and pledged allegiance, except for Imam Ali (a) who said that he (a) had sworn not to leave the house until he (a) had completed collection of the Qur'an. Abu Bakr sent Qunfudh to Fatima’s (a) house for the second and third times, but he also received a negative answer. In the fourth time, ‘Umar went to Fatima’s (a) house with some people and took Ali (a) out of the house and took him to Abu Bakr. According to Muhammad Hadi Yusufi Gharawi, a researcher in the history of Islam and Shiism, Abu Bakr sent people to the house of Imam Ali (a) three times and asked for allegiance. In the first and second times, Imam (a) turned down their request, and in the third time, the caliph and his followers took action.

In the book al-Ikhtisas attributed to al-Shaykh al-Mufid, it is mentioned that when Ali (a) was taken to the mosque, Zubayr, who was among those present in the house of Fatima (a), drew his sword and said, “O sons of ‘Abd al-Muttalib! Are you alive and will Ali be treated like this?!” He attacked ‘Umar, but Khalid b. Walid threw a stone at him and the sword fell from his hand. ‘Umar picked up the sword and struck it at a stone and broke the sword. According to al-Tabari, a historian of the third/ninth century, Zubayr slipped his foot when he left Fatima’s (a) house and lost his sword.

Ali (a) was taken to Abu Bakr and threatened that he (a) would be beheaded if he (a) did not pledge allegiance. It is stated in the book of Sulaym b. Qays that Ali (a) argued in that gathering and reminded the audience of the words of the Prophet (s) on the day of Ghadir and other occasions about his succession, but Abu Bakr said that he had heard from the Prophet (s) that prophethood and caliphate would not gather in the Ahl al-Bayt (a).

According to al-Shaykh al-Mufid, Imam Ali (a) did not pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr on the day of Saqifa, but there are various reports about whether he (a) pledged allegiance later or not, including that he (a) pledged allegiance after forty days or six months or after the martyrdom of Lady Fatima (a). Shaykh al-Mufid himself believed that Ali (a) never pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr. According to a report, when Ali (a) was threatened that if he (a) did not pledge allegiance, he (a) would be beheaded, Abbas, the Prophet’s (s) uncle, took Ali’s (a) hand and rubbed on the hand of Abu Bakr in order to save Ali’s (a) life, and thus they let Ali (a) go; but according to the report of al-Imama wa al-siyasa, Abu Bakr said that he would not force Ali (a) to swear allegiance as long as Fatima (a) was with him.

Imam Ali (a) said about the events after the demise of the Prophet (s):

“When Allah took the Prophet (to himself) a group of men went back on their tracks. The ways (of misguidance) ruined them and they placed trust in deceitful intriguers, showed consideration to other than kinsmen, abandoned the kin whom they had been ordered to love, and shifted the building from its strong foundation and built it in other than its (proper) place.”[1]


Fatima’s (a) Reaction

After Abu Bakr’s messengers first went to Fatima’s (a) house to take Ali (a) and his companions. Fatima (a) went to the door and said: “I do not know of any people whose presence is worse than yours. You left the body of God’s Messenger (s) with us and made your decision [about the caliphate] and did not ask our opinion and did not give us our rights.”

In the fourth time, when ‘Umar went to take Imam Ali (a), Fatima (a) shouted: “O father! O Messenger of God! How much did we suffer after you from the son of Khattab and the son of Abu Quhafa?” Some of ‘Umar’s companions were moved to hear this and returned.

According to al-Ya'qubi, Fatima (a) said to those who had entered her house by force: “I swear to God, if you do not go out, I will cry out to God for justice.” With this word of Fatima (a), all those who were in the house left. Abu Bakr Jawhari (d. 323/935) has mentioned in the book al-Saqifa wa Fadak that when ‘Umar forcibly took Ali (a) out of the house, Fatima (a) went to the door of the house and said to Abu Bakr: “How soon did you attack the family of the Messenger of God (a)! I swear to God I will not speak to ‘Umar until I meet God.” Following this news, Abu Bakr later went to Fatima (a) and interceded for ‘Umar and Fatima (a) was satisfied with him. However, according to the report in Sahih al-Bukhari, Lady Fatimah (a) was also angry with Abu Bakr, because of Fadak’s confiscation and she (a) was not satisfied with him while she (a) was alive and did not speak to him.

In Tafsir of 'Ayashi, it is also stated that when Ali (a) was taken out of the house, Fatima (a) went to Abu Bakr and said that “if you do not leave Ali (a), I will go to the grave of the Prophet (s) and I will complain to God with disheveled hair.” Imam Ali (a) sent Salman to Fatima (a) to stop her from doing so. Fatima (a) returned home when she (a) heard Ali’s (a) message.

Threatening to set fire to the house

'Umar b. Khattab went to Fatima’s (a) house by the order of Abu Bakr to take Ali (a) and his companions for allegiance. When he was confronted by refusal of the people of the house, he ordered firewood to be collected and threatened to set the house on fire with the people in it. ‘Umar’s threat of setting fire to the house has been reported in some Sunni sources such as al-‘Aqd al-farid, Tarikh al-Tabari, Ansab al-ashraf, al-Musannif, and al-Imama wa al-siyasa. According to Ibn ‘Abd Rabbih, a writer and historian of the third/ninth and fourth/tenth centuries, Abu Bakr told ‘Umar that if the people of the house refused to come out, fight them. ‘Umar, holding a fire torch, threatened to burn the house if the people of the house would not pledge allegiance. According to al-Imama wa al-siyasa, when ‘Umar made such a threat, he was told that Fatima (a) was in this house. ‘Umar replied: “Even though she (a) is at home.”

In the sources, the names of some of those who accompanied ‘Umar in this attack are mentioned, including Usayd b. Hudayr, Salama b. Salama b. Waqsh,[2] Thabit b. Qays b. Shammas Khazraji, 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Awf, Muhammad b. Muslima and Zayd b. Aslam.

Sayyid Ja'far Shahidi believes that ‘Umar’s threat to burn down Fatima’s (a) house, quoted in Ansab al-ashraf and al-‘Aqd al-farid among Sunni sources, could not be fabricated by Shiite sympathizers or their friends’ political factions because Shiites had no power in the first/seventh centuries and were a minority. Moreover, the report is recorded in western Islamic sources where Shiites were not present. Shahidi believes that those present in Saqifa were more concerned with the government than with religion.

Setting the door on fire, Injuring Fatima (a) and Abortion of Muhsin (a)

In some early Shiite sources, it is narrated that in the incident of attacking Fatima’s (a) house, they set fire to the door of the house and Fatima (a) was injured and her unborn child was aborted. In the book of Sulaym b. Qays, it is said that ‘Umar b. Khattab carried out his threat, set fire to the door of Fatima’s (a) house, entered the house and when he faced the resistance of Fatima (a), he struck her side of abdomen with a sword sheath. It is also mentioned in the book of Ithbat al-wasiyya attributed to Ali b. Husayn al-Mas'udi, a historian of the fourth/tenth century: “They stormed the house and set fire to its door, and forced Ali (a) out and pressed the Master of All Women (a) behind the door, so that Muhsin (a) was aborted.” In the report of Dala'il al-Imama, it is mentioned that Umar ordered Qunfudh to beat Fatima (a). Al-Ayashi, a Shiite narrator in the Minor Occultation period, also said that ‘Umar kicked at the door of the house, which was made of palm branches, broke it and entered the house and took Ali (a) out with his shoulders tied.

Time of the Incident

Muhammad Hadi Yusufi Gharawi, a researcher in the history of Islam and Shiism, based on some evidences, believes that the time of the attack on Lady Fatima’s (a) house was not immediately after the incident of Saqifa and allegiance to Abu Bakr, but about fifty days or more after the demise of the Prophet (s). The first evidence is that a person named Burayda b. al-Husayb al-Aslami, who had gone to Muta with Usama’s army, after returning to Medina and learning about the Saqifa incident, along with some members of his tribe, supported Imam Ali (a) and said that “if Ali (a) does not pledge allegiance, we will not pledge allegiance either.” It was after this incident that the caliph and his entourage thought of taking Imam Ali’s (a) allegiance. According to Yusufi Gharawi, considering the time of the army’s return and the events before and after it, the incident of the invasion occurred about fifty days after the demise of the Prophet (s). Another evidence is that after the usurpation of Fadak, which occurred ten days after the demise of the Prophet (s), Fatima (a) went to the mosque and recited a sermon which became known as the sermon of Fadak. Yusufi Gharawi, from the descriptions of how Fatima (a) walked on the way to the mosque (including that her walk was no different from the walk of the Prophet (s)) concluded that the attack did not take place before the time of Fatima’s (a) sermon, because with the injuries she (a) had received from the attack, Fatima (a) could not walk like that. The third evidence is that after the incident of Saqifa and the confiscation of Fadak, Imam Ali (a), along with Fatima (a) and Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a), went to the house of the Emigrants and the Helpers at night to ask them for help to take their rights. If the attack had taken place before this date, Fatima (a) would not have been able to accompany them with the injuries she (a) had received.

Consequences

Some of the consequences of the attack on Lady Fatima’s (a) house were:

Fatima’s (a) dissatisfaction with Abu Bakr and ‘Umar

In the book of Sulaym b. Qays, al-Imama wa al-siyasa, and the book Dala'il al-Imama, it is mentioned that after the incident of the attack on Fatima’s (a) house, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar tried to apologize and satisfy Fatima (a) and went to visit her. Fatima (a) did not accept to see them, but the two asked Imam Ali (a) to mediate and they met with Fatima (a). In this meeting, Fatima (a) turned away from them and reminded them of the words of the Prophet (s) that “Fatima (a) is part of my body, whoever hurts her, has hurt me” and then said, “I take God as witness that you two annoyed me and made me angry.”

Abortion of Muhsin (a) and Martyrdom of Fatima (a)

The oldest source that narrates the abortion of Muhsin (a) in the invasion of the house is the book of Sulaym b. Qays among the sources of the first/seventh century and most of later Shiite sources such as al-Ihtijaj by Ahmad b. Ali al-Tabrisi, Ghayat al-maram by Sayyid Hashim al-Bahrani and Bihar al-anwar by Allamah al-Majlisi quoted it from that book.

According to a narration from Imam al-Sadiq (a), the cause of Fatima’s (a) martyrdom was injuries she (a) received during the attack on the house.

Abu Bakr’s Regret

Some Sunni sources such as Tarikh Madinat al-Dimashq by Ibn ‘Asaker, al-Mu'jam al-kabir by al-Tabarani and Tarikh al-Islam by al-Dhahabi state that in the last hours of his life, Abu Bakr regretted doing three things and as one of them, said that he wished he had not ordered to enter the house of Fatima (a).

Sunni Views

Reports of Umar b. Khattab threatening to set fire to Fatima’s (a) house are mentioned in Sunni sources such as Ansab al-ashraf, Tarikh al-Tabari, al-'Aqd al-farid, al-Musannaf, and al-Imama wa al-siyasa, but they have denied actually setting fire to the house and injuring Fatima (a) by pressure of the door and the abortion of Muhsin (a), and accused the narrators of such reports of being Rafidi [“dissenter”]. Muhammad b. 'Abd al-Karim al-Shahristani, the Ash'arite writer of denominations of different nations (d. 548/1153), in his introduction to al-Hudhayliyyah, a Mu'tazilite sect, says that they believe that ‘Umar harmed Fatima (a) on the day of taking allegiance and caused her unborn child to be aborted. Shahristani calls this report a lie.

Khalil b. Ibak al-Safdi (d. 746/1345) in al-Wafi bil-wafayat, in introducing Ibrahim b. Sayyar known as Nazzam, one of the great Mu’tazilites, considers him inclined to Rafida and quotes him as saying that ‘Umar harmed Fatima (a) and caused the abortion of Muhsin (a).

Shams al-Din al-Dhahabi (d. 748/1347) in Sayr a'lam al-nubala, in introducing Ibn Abi Daram, the fourth/tenth century narrator in Kufa, calls him a leader, a guardian and knowledgeable, but considers his inclination toward Rafida as the cause of his unreliability and says that in the end of his life, defects of caliphs were recited to him, including that ‘Umar had harmed Fatima (a) and caused her to have an abortion. For this reason, al-Dhahabi considered him astray. Ibn Hajar 'Asqalani (d. 852/1448) also considered Ibn Abi Daram as a Rafidiyy and liar in Lisan al-mizan for quoting reports of the [caliphs’] defects including Fatima’s (a) abortion.

Notes

  1. Nahj al-balagha, Khutba 150, translated by Sayyid Ja'far Shahidi.
  2. In another narration, Salma b. Aslam b. Juraysh is mentioned.

References