Usurpation of Fadak

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The usurpation of Fadak (Arabic: حادثة فدك) is an event in Islamic history in which Abu Bakr b. Abi Quhafa usurped Fadak from Fatima al-Zahra (a), after the demise of the Prophet (s). Abu Bakr appealed to a hadith from the Prophet (s)—allegedly transmitted only by Abu Bakr—according to which prophets do not bequeath anything, but Fatima (a) replied that the Prophet (s) had given Fadak to her before his demise, appealing to Imam 'Ali (a) and Umm Ayman as her witnesses. According to Shi'a sources and some Sunni scholars, the Prophet (s) gave Fadak to Fatima (a) after the revelation of the Dhawi l-Qurba Verse[1] in which the Prophet (s) was ordered to give the Dhawi l-Qurba their [due] right.

According to a report, Abu Bakr was convinced and, thus, confirmed the ownership of Fatima (a) via a paper, but 'Umar b. al-Khattab took the paper from Fatima (a) and tore it up. Another report imply that Abu Bakr did not accept the witnesses. When she found that all her efforts were fruitless, she went to the Mosque of the Prophet (s) and delivered a sermon. In this sermon, which is known as al-Fadakiyya Sermon, she spoke about the usurpation of the caliphate, quoting Abu Bakr's own remark (according to which prophets do not bequeath anything) is in contrary to verses of the Qur'an. She deferred her dispute with Abu Bakr to the divine court on Dooms Day and questioned the companions for their silence over such an injustice.

The Fadak village was owned by the Prophet (s) during a compromise with the Jews in the Battle of Khaybar. The Prophet (s) transferred his ownership of Fadak to Fatima (a), but after the demise of the Prophet (s), it was seized by the caliphs and was handed to the next Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs. However, 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz the Umayyad caliph and al-Ma'mun the Abbasid caliph, gave back the Fadak or its incomes to the progeny of Fatima (a).

History of Fadak

Fadak was a fertile village near Khaybar,[2] in Hijaz, 160 kilometres away from Medina.[3] Jews lived there and due to its strategic location, they had built their castles around it.[4] After the Prophet (a) conquered Khaybar area and their castles during the battle of Khaybar, Jew residents of the castles and the farms sent some representatives to the Prophet (s) and consented to surrender and reconciliation and agreed to give half of the farms to the Prophet (s)[5] and anytime he (a) wished, they leave Fadak; thus, the Prophet (s) gained it without war.[6]

It is said that Fadak had many farms, gardens and palm gardens.[7] About the value of palm trees in Fadak, Ibn Abi al-Hadid (the Sunni scholar) quoted from one of great Shi'a figures, "palm trees of Fadak were as many as the palm trees of Kufa today; and it had large palm gardens."[8]

Prophet's (a) Ownership of Fadak

Hadith scholars and biographers agree[9] that Fadak was among pure properties of the Prophet (s); because, it was never conquered by war or conquest.[10] According to verses 6 and 7 of Qur'an 59[11], properties gained without war are called fay' and the Prophet (s) had the rights to give them to anyone he (s) wished.[12]

Qur'an 17:26 and gifting Fadak to Fatimah (a)

All Shi'a exegetes and a group of Sunni hadith scholars reported that when the verse "Give the relatives their [due] right,…" [13] was revealed, the Prophet (s) gifted Fadak to Fatima (a).[14] Among Sunni scholars, Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti in al-Durr al-manthur commentary,[15] al-Muttaqi al-Hindi in Kanz al-'ummal,[16] Tha'labi in al-Kashf wa al-bayan commentary, al-Hakim al-Hasakani in Shawahid al-tanzil,[17] Qunduzi in Yanabi' al-mawadda[18] and many others transmitted this report.[19] Ma'mun, the Abbasid caliph, ordered to return Fadak to the children of Fatimah (a), admitted that it was the Prophet's gift and mentioned its dedication at the time of the Prophet (s), clear and acknowledged.[20]


Until the demise of the Prophet (s), Fadak was owned by Fatima (a) and some persons worked there as agents and workers.[21] After the event of Saqifa, when Abu Bakr reached caliphate, announced that Fadak was not anyone's property and confiscated it for his caliphate.[22] Fadak's ownership was not returned to the family of the Prophet (a) during the caliphates of 'Umar[23] or 'Uthman.[24]

In addition to Fadak, the first caliph allegedly usurped the seven gardens (al-Hawa'it al-Sab'a) from Fatima (a) as well. It is said that the gardens were owned by Mukhayriq, a Jewish person who converted to Islam and willed that his gardens be given to the Prophet (s) if he is killed in a battle.[25] He was martyred in the Battle of Uhud and the Prophet (s) gave these seven gardens as well as Fadak to his daughter, Fatima al-Zahra (a).[26]

Plea of Fatima (a)

After the confiscation of Fadak, Lady Fatima (a) went to Abu Bakr and spoke to him about returning the ownership of Fadak. About the content of this conversation –which has been transmitted in historical and hadith sources with little differences– it is mentioned that when Lady Fatima (a) asked for returning the ownership of Fadak, Abu Bakr said that, "I heard from the Prophet (s) that his property should be given to Muslims after his demise and he (a) would not leave any inheritances."[27] Fatima (a) answered that, "my father gifted me this estate"-so it is not inheritance. Abu Bakr asked Lady Fatima (a) an evidence for it. According to some sources, 'Ali (a) and Umm Ayman gave testimony[28] and according to some other sources, Umm Ayman and one of the freed slaves of the Prophet (s) gave testimony.[29] According to some other sources, Imam Ali (a), Umm Ayman, Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a) gave testimony.[30] Eventually, Abu Bakr accepted and wrote an edict, so that no one encroaches on Fadak. When Fatima (a) went out of the meeting, 'Umar b. al-Khattab saw her, took the edict and torn it.[31] According to some Sunni sources, Abu Bakr did not accept the witnesses of Fatima (a) and asked two men to give testimony.[32]

The Sunni scholar, Ibn Abi l-Hadid said, "I asked Ibn Fariqi, the teacher in Baghdad, if Fatima (a) was right. Ibn Fariqi said, 'Yes.' I asked, 'then, why did not Abu Bakr give her Fadak?' He said, 'if he did so, she would claim the caliphate for her husband another day, and Abu Bakr could not reject her word, because he had accepted her word about Fadak without witnesses.'" Ibn Abi l-Hadid continues, "although, Ibn Faraqi said these jokingly, but he was right."[33]

Although historical sources have narrated the feticide of Muhsin in the event of attacking the house of Fatima (a), al-Ikhtisas attributed to al-Shaykh al-Mufid, mentioned it in the event of the objection to the confiscation of Fadak and wrote that in that event, after 'Umar asked for the edict of Abu Bakr, Fatima (a) did not give it to him and 'Umar kicked her while she was pregnant with Muhsin (a) and by that kick, Muhsin (a) was killed. Then, 'Umar slapped Fatima (a) on the face, took the edict and torn it.[34]

Plea of Imam 'Ali (a)

It is reported that after the confiscation of Fadak, Imam 'Ali (a) went to the mosque of the Prophet (s). While Emigrants and Helpers were present, he objected to Abu Bakr for the confiscation of what the Prophet (s) had given to Fatima (a). Abu Bakr asked him for a just witness to testify that Fadak is owned by Fatima (a). Imam 'Ali (a) argued that if something is in someone's hand and another person claims its ownership, the person who claims is the one who should bring evidence or witnesses; so, as Fadak was already in the hands of Fatima (a) she does not need any witness.[35]

Imam 'Ali (a) went on to recite al-Tathir Verse and Abu Bakr acknowledged that the verse was revealed about him and his family. He then asked: "if two witnesses testify that Fatima committed adultery, why would you do?" Abu Bakr said: "I would perform hadd on her". The Imam (a) replied: "you would then prefer people's testimonies to God's, and would be an unbeliever then". At this time, people cried and were scattered.[36] It is said that Imam 'Ali (a) wrote a letter to Abu Bakr as well and threatened him about the usurpation of the caliphate and Fadak.[37]

Abu Bakr's Argument

It is reported that in response to Fatima's (a) plea, Abu Bakr said: "I have heard the Prophet (s) say that 'we, the prophets, never bequeath anything and whatever is left from us is charity'".[38] In reply, Fatima (a) pointed to a verse of the Qur'an[39] in her al-Fadakiyya Sermon, taking Abu Bakr's remarks to be contrary to the Qur'an.[40] Moreover, in addition to taking Abu Bakr's remarks to contradict the Qur'an, Shiite scholars also hold that the hadith was not transmitted by anyone except Abu Bakr himself.[41] The Sunni scholar, Ibn Abi l-Hadid, has the same view.[42]

It is reported that when 'Uthman b. 'Affan became the caliph, 'A'isha and Hafsa went to him and asked him to give them what their fathers (the first and the second caliphs) used to give them. But 'Uthman replied: "I swear to God that I will not give anything to you … Did not you two, testified before your fathers … that prophets never bequeath anything? One day you made such a testimony and another day, you ask the Prophet's (s) heritage?"[43]

Al-Fadakiyya Sermon

After Lady Fatima's (a) submission of petition to Abu Bakr was fruitless, she (a) went to the mosque of the Prophet (s) and gave a sermon to the companions of the Prophet (s) to clarify the issue and take Fadak back. In this sermon, known as al-Fadakiyya sermon,[44] Lady Fatima (a) spoke about the caliphate's confiscation and rejected Abu Bakr's stance and raised this question that according to what laws he deprived her of her father's (a) heritage? Did any verse of the Qur'an say so? Then, she (a) relegated his issue to the court of God on the Judgement Day and asked the Prophet's (s) companions why they were silent about these oppression. Lady Fatima (a) openly said that what they (Abu Bakr and his companions) did was breaking their promise and at the end of the sermon, she (a) called the disgrace of their work eternal and its end in the hell.[45]

Fatima's (a) Dissatisfaction

In addition to Shiite sources,[46] Sunni sources have also reported that Fatima al-Zahra (a) was very upset at Abu Bakr and 'Umar after the event of Fadak until her martyrdom: "Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet, was upset and turned away from Abu Bakr until the end of her life".[47] There are other hadiths to the same effect in Sunni sources.[48] It is also reported that Abu Bakr and 'Umar tried to meet Fatima in order to draw her consent concerning Fadak, but Fatima (a) did not let them. They then met her with the intercession of Imam 'Ali (a). In this meeting, Fatima (a) pointed to a hadith from the Prophet (s) according to which: "Fatima's satisfaction is my satisfaction, and Fatima's anger is my anger. Thus, if someone loves Fatima, he loves me, and if someone satisfies Fatima, he has satisfied me, and if someone makes her angry, he has made me angry". At the end, Fatima (a) did not forgive them.[49]

In the Caliphate of Imam 'Ali (a)

When Imam 'Ali (a) accepted the caliphate due to insistence of the people, he did not attempt to get Fadak back to its owners. As mentioned in a narration, because both Lady Fatima (a) and Abu Bakr have passed away at that time, Imam refused to reclaim Fadak. The Imam believed confiscation of Fadak was illegal, and he left it for God to judge the confiscators.[50]

There are some reports in hadith sources, including that Imam Ali (a) himself mentioned in a sermon that, "if I ordered that Fadak should return to the children of Fatima (a), by God, people would scatter from around me."[51] Also, it is mentioned in a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a), "In this issue, Imam Ali (a) followed the Prophet (s); for on the day of the Conquest of Mecca, the Prophet (s) did not take back the house previously taken from him oppressively."[52]

In a letter to 'Uthman b. Hanif, Imam 'Ali (a) explained about Fadak and his judgment. He wrote, "Fadak was our only property, while some people were jealous of it and some were not. God is the best judge. What do I have to with Fadak or other things, when one's place tomorrow is the grave."[53]

In Later Periods

After the first three caliphs, Fadak was in the hands of caliphs during the time of Umayyads and 'Abbasids and only in some periods, was given to the descendants of Lady Fatima (a):

  1. Rule of 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz[54]
  2. Rule of Abu l-'Abbas al-Saffah
  3. Rule of al-Mahdi al-'Abbasi[55][56]
  4. Rule of al-Ma'mun[57]

After al-Ma'mun, al-Mutawakkil ordered to change Fadak's ownership to the condition before the order of al-Ma'mun. Most historical books have not mentioned anything about Fadak after the caliphate of al-Ma'mun.[58]

Analysis of Shi'a Scholars

Al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr in his book, Fadak fi l-tarikh, (Fadak in history) discusses the raising of the topic of Fadak by Fatima (a) as a political move which represents opposition of Islam and belief against disbelievers and hypocrites. He believes that Fadak is a symbol of a significant goal and a full-scale revolution against the government of that time which was founded in Saqifa by three people: Abu Bakr, 'Umar b. al-Khattab and Abu 'Ubayda al-Jarrah.[59] If Lady Fatima (a) was willing to reclaim Fadak as her heritage, she could have certainly brought a number of Shi'a Muslims in order to testify for her. According to the analysis presented by Baqir al-Sadr, Lady Fatima (a) manifested her opposition to the government in six stages:

  1. Sending her representative to Abu Bakr asking her inheritance (including Fadak and other things) and implying that Fadak was a part of her inheritance before saying that the Prophet (s) gave it to her as a gift;
  2. Direct involvement and severe conversation with Abu Bakr;
  3. Delivering a sermon in Masjid al-Nabawi, ten days after the Prophet's demise;
  4. Giving a speech to the women of Emigrants and Helpers when she was in her sickbed;
  5. A brief conversation with Abu Bakr and 'Umar stating that she was angry at them when they had come to propitiate her;
  6. Making a will that she do not want those who had oppressed her to participate in her funeral and burial.

Analyzing the al-Fadakiyya Sermon, Shahidi writes, "Obviously, she did not deliver her sermon for taking some date palms and sheaves of wheat. A household that give away the only food they have to feed the hungry, would not cry for their stomach. She wanted to keep the tradition (sunna) and the justice alive. She feared that the thoughts of the Ignorance Era, which was hidden under the cover of Islam, comes to light again; and tribal prides comes to existence."

The author of A'lam al-nisa' narrates from 'Ali b. Muhana' al-'Alawi that Abu Bakr and 'Umar kept Fadak away from Fatima (a) because they were afraid that Ali (a) would become powerful and challenge them over the caliphate.


  1. Give the relative his due, and the needy and the traveller [as well]. That is better for those who seek Allah's pleasure, and it is they who are the felicitous. (Qur'an 30:38)
  2. Ḥawawī, Muʿjam al-buldān, p. 238.
  3. Ḥawawī, Muʿjam al-buldān, p. 238.
  4. Balādīyy, Muʿjam maʿālim al-Ḥijāz, vol. 2, p. 205-206.
  5. Maqrizī, Imtāʿ al-asmāʾ, vol. 1, p. 325.
  6. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 3, p. 15.
  7. Ḥawawī, Muʿjam al-buldān, p. 238.
  8. Ibn Abī l-Ḥadīd, Sharḥ Nahj al-balāgha, vol. 16, p. 236.
  9. Ḥawawī, Muʿjam al-buldān, p. 238; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 3, p. 256.
  10. Subḥānī, Furūgh-i wilāyat, p. 218.
  11. وَمَا أَفَاءَ اللَّـهُ عَلَىٰ رَسُولِهِ مِنْهُمْ فَمَا أَوْجَفْتُمْ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ خَيْلٍ وَلَا رِكَابٍ وَلَـٰكِنَّ اللَّـهَ يُسَلِّطُ رُسُلَهُ عَلَىٰ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ ﴿٦﴾ مَّا أَفَاءَ اللَّـهُ عَلَىٰ رَسُولِهِ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْقُرَىٰ فَلِلَّـهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ وَلِذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ كَيْ لَا يَكُونَ دُولَةً بَيْنَ الْأَغْنِيَاءِ مِنكُمْ ۚ وَمَا آتَاكُمُ الرَّسُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَاكُمْ عَنْهُ فَانتَهُوا ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ ﴿٧﴾؛ The spoils that Allah gave to His Apostle from them, you did not spur any horse for its sake, nor any riding camel, but Allah makes His apostles prevail over whomever He wishes, and Allah has power over all things. (6) The spoils that Allah gave to His Apostle from the people of the townships, are for Allah and the Apostle, the relatives and the orphans, the needy and the traveller, so that they do not circulate among the rich among you. Take whatever the Apostle gives you, and refrain from whatever he forbids you, and be wary of Allah. Indeed Allah is severe in retribution. (7)
  12. Fakhr al-Rāzī, Mafātīḥ al-ghayb, vol. 29, p. 506; Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 19, p. 203.
  13. وَ آتِ ذَا الْقُرْبى‏ حَقَّهُQur'an, 17:26
  14. Ḥusaynī Jalālī, Fadak wa l-ʿawālī, p. 141.
  15. Suyūṭī, al-Durr al-manthūr, vol. 2, p. 158; vol. 5, p. 273.
  16. Muttaqī al-Hindī, Kanz al-ʿummāl, vol. 2, p. 158; vol. 3, p. 767.
  17. Ḥākim al-Ḥaskānī, Shawāhid al-tanzīl, vol. 1, p. 439-441.
  18. Qundūzī, Yanābīʿ al-mawadda, vol. 1, p. 138, 359.
  19. See: Ḥusaynī Jalālī, Fadak wa l-ʿawālī, p. 146-149.
  20. Shahīdī, Zindigānī-yi Fātima-yi Zahrā, p. 117.
  21. Ṭabrisī, al-Iḥtijāj, vol. 1, p. 91; 'Amili, Ja'far Murtida, al-Sahih min sirat al-nabi al-a'zam, vol. 18, p. 241.
  22. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 543; Mufīd, al-Muqniʿa, p. 289, 290.
  23. Bilādhurī, Futūḥ al-buldān, vol. 1, p. 36.
  24. Ibn ʿAbd Rabbih, al-ʿIqd al-farīd, vol. 5, p. 33; Ibn Qutayba, al-Maʿārif, p. 84.
  25. Ḥusaynī Jalālī, Fadak wa l-ʿawālī, quoted from: Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 1, p. 501; Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, al-Iṣāba, vol.6, p. 46; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam, vol. 2, p. 209.
  26. Ḥusaynī Jalālī, Fadak wa l-ʿawālī, p. 37-74
  27. Bilādhurī, Futūḥ al-buldān, vol. 1, p. 40-41.
  28. Ḥalabī, al-Sīrā al-Ḥalabīyya, vol. 3, p. 512.
  29. Fakhr al-Rāzī, Mafātīḥ al-ghayb, vol. 29, p. 506.
  30. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 3, p. 809.
  31. Ḥalabī, al-Sīrā al-Ḥalabīyya, vol. 3, p. 512; Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 543.
  32. Bilādhurī, Futūḥ al-buldān, vol. 1, p. 40.
  33. Ibn Abī l-Ḥadīd, Sharḥ Nahj al-balāgha, vol. 16, p. 284.
  34. Mufīd, al-Ikhtiṣāṣ, p. 185
  35. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 29, p. 124.
  36. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 29, p. 124.
  37. See: Ṭabrisī, al-Iḥtijāj, vol. 1, p. 95.
  38. Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, vol. 4, p. 79; Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, vol. 3, p. 1381.
  39. Qurʾān, 27:6; 19:5-6; 8:75; 4:11; 2:180.
  40. Majlisī Kūpāʾī, Fadak az ghaṣb tā takhrīb, p. 94.
  41. Subḥānī, Furūgh-i wilāyat, p. 242.
  42. Ibn Abī l-Ḥadīd, Sharḥ Nahj al-balāgha, vol. 4, p. 82, 85.
  43. Ḥalabī, Taqrīb al-maʿārif, p. 286; Ṭabarī, al-Mustarshid, p. 597.
  44. Irbilī, Kashf al-ghumma, vol. 1, p. 353-364.
  45. Shahīdī, Zindigānī-yi Fātima-yi Zahrā, p. 126-135.
  46. Khazzāz al-Rāzī, Kifāyat al-athar, p. 65.
  47. Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, vol. 4, p. 79.
  48. Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, vol. 3, p. 1380.
  49. Ibn Qutayba, al-Imāma wa l-sīyāsa, vol. 1, p. 31.
  50. Ibn Abī l-Ḥadīd, Sharḥ Nahj al-balāgha, vol. 16, p. 284.
  51. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 15, p. 154.
  52. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, 1403 AH, vol. 29, p. 396.
  53. Ibn Abī l-Ḥadīd, Sharḥ Nahj al-balāgha, vol. 16, p. 205-208.
  54. Ibn ʿAsākir, Tārīkh madīna Dimashq, vol. 45, p. 178-179; Bilādhurī, Futūḥ al-buldān, vol. 1, p. 41.
  55. Majlisī Kūpāʾī, Fadak az ghaṣb tā takhrīb, p. 138.
  56. however according to some accounts, Imam al-Kazim (a)'s request for Fadak was rejected by al-Mahdi al-'Abbasi.
  57. Bilādhurī, Futūḥ al-buldān, vol. 1, p. 37-38; Ḥawawī, Muʿjam al-buldān, vol. 4, p. 240.
  58. Bilādhurī, Futūḥ al-buldān, vol. 1, p. 38.
  59. Ṣadr, Fadak fī al-tārīkh, 63-66.


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