Who is Superior: Maryam or Fatima, peace with them both?
By: Allama Jafar Murtuza Amili
The question of who is superior, Maryam daughter of ‘Imran (sa) or Fatima (sa) daughter of Muhammed S, may be answered by some this way: “Such is useless knowledge. It neither benefits those who know it nor harms those who do not. It is an intellectual luxury item, or even nonsense or backwardness.” Then one may add saying, “Since there is no dispute in this regard between Maryam and Fatima, why should we dispute about it? Fatima has her merits, and so does Maryam, and we see no problem here.”
To me, I would like to say the following:
FIRST: There is no doubt that al-Zahra’ (sa) is the best of all womankind, of the early generations as well as the later ones. As for Maryam, she was the head of the women of her time. Such is narrated about the Messenger of Allah S himself as well as the Imams, peace with them9.
This proves that since she is the head of the women of Paradise, she is superior to Maryam, and Maryam is superior to such women10. Another proof of her superiority is narrated by Imam al-Sadiq (as) who has said, “Had Allah, Exalted and Glorified is He, not created the Commander of the Faithful for Fatima (as a husband), nobody else on the face of earth would have been qualified to be her husband, be he from among the descendants of Adam or from among those of anyone else.”11 This tradition proves the superiority of the Commander of the Faithful (as) as well.
SECOND: Our inquiry about the superiority does not mean that we seek to be different; rather, it is the question of someone who seeks to know more about the status of those who enjoy nearness to Allah Almighty. We are urged to seek more knowledge about them because it requires us to know more about Allah Almighty. If we differ at all, it is not dissension or animosity. Rather, it is a difference of opinion which leads us to research the truth, to increase our knowledge, and to correct what is wrong or what is misunderstood by this party or that.
THIRD: We have to realize, each according to his ability, that we have to know the minute details of all contents of the Book of Allah, and all what was said by the Messenger of Allah S and his wasis, peace with them, which they conveyed to us, if we find a way to do it at all. It is knowledge of a great deal of significance. Those who are ignorant of it will be harmed, and those who know it will be benefitted thereby. Knowing it is not confined to political, material, social or organizational matters or to our daily practice of rituals and the like.
Mankind moves on the path of perfection, a movement which he carries out willingly and energetically and through his persistent effort. He sets out in such a movement prompted by his conviction, relying on the degree of his faith.
Such conviction and faith are nourished by knowing the secrets of life and its minute details, knowledge of the domain of Allah, Glory to Him, of the secrets of creation, of knowing Allah, the praised One, of His Attributes, of Prophets and walis whom He chose from among His servants, and knowing their high status and degree of nearness to Allah, such as our knowledge that Allah, Glory to Him, is the One Who chose a name for Fatima12, that He joined her in marriage in the heavens before doing so on earth13, that she used to talk to her mother when she was in her womb14, and such things.
All such knowledge increases the purity of the soul and deepens conviction. It leads to self-knowledge that leads to knowing the Lord, Glory to Him.
It is, then, quite obvious that the status of the prophets, wasis and the walis, and the degrees of their distinction varies in sublimity and differs according to their level of knowledge of all the above.
Yet, some branches of knowledge may require introductions so that we may absorb them and qualify ourselves to properly benefit from them. It will then be necessary to be gradual in undergoing the stages of such a path, just as a first grade pupil is not usually satisfactorily capable of absorbing the material given to a student of a higher grade like a university student. Instead, he has to go through stages that will prepare him to comprehend and absorb all of that so he may benefit from it.
Whenever one gets closer to Allah, he will be more in need of new branches of knowledge which suit his new station of nearness to Allah, and he will need to be more pure, more cleansed, and to formulate his feelings and emotions, rather, all his condition, accordingly. Such a matter has its originality and reality, and it does not agree with one who says that this is knowledge which does not benefit those who know it nor harms those who do not.
If Imam al-Sadiq (as) did feel above delving into a topic like this, when he was asked about it, and when he did provide an answer, are we, then, right in feeling above an issue which the Imam addressed without having to, while he is our role model?! So, we, indeed, need to know the lofty status and the station of nearness to Allah which Fatima (sa) enjoys and knowing her superiority over other beings. We need to know that she is the head of all women of the world, of the early generations and of the last ones, and that she is superior to Maryam (sa), head of the women of her time.
We are in need of all of this because it deepens our relationship with Fatima (sa) and it permits Fatima (sa) into our hearts, incorporating her into the soul, the feelings, the emotions, so that we may be more aware of what she says or does, so we may feel what she feels, like what she likes and hate what she hates. We are in pain when her soul agonizes, and we are happy when her soul is pleased. This increases our sincerity and purity, and it increases our knowledge of the facts relevant to those who oppressed her and transgressed against her. It makes us acquainted with the magnanimity of the injustice to which she was exposed, with how bad and how ugly it was.
9. Refer to Thakha’ir al-`Uqba, p. 43; to Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’, Vol. 2, p. 126; to Al-Jawhara, p. 17; to Al-Isti`ab (as referred to in a footnote in Al-Isaba), Vol. 4, p. 376; to Tarikh Dimashq (to the section dealing with the biography of Imam Ali and researched by al-Mahmudi), Vol. 1, pp. 247-248; to Al-Majalis al-Saniyya, Vol. 5, p. 63 citing al-Saduq’s Amuli; to Al-Istu`ab and p. 56, Vol. 3, of Sharh al-Akhbar; to p. 79, Vol. 1, of Maqtal al-Husayn by al-Khawarizmi; to pp. 178-179 of Nazm Durar al-Simtayn; to Ma`ani al-Akhbar, pl. 107; to p. 182, Vol. 1, of `Ilal al-Shara’i`; to al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 43, p. 37, Vol. 39, p. 278 and p. 68, Vol. 37; and to Ibn Shahr Ashub’s Manaqib.
10. Refer to p. 459 of Al-Rasa’il al-I`tiqadiyya, citing p. 36, Vol. 5, of al-Bukhari’s Sahih and also p. 262 of Al-Tara’if, citing Al-Jam` Baynal Sihah al-Sitta, and p. 61, Vol. 1, of Mir’at al-Jinan, and pp. 19-21, Vol. 2, of Diya` al-`Alamin.
11. Refer to p. 461, Vol. 1, of Al-Kafi, to pp. 10 & 107, Vol. 43, of Bihar al-Anwar; to p. 11, Vol. 2, of Diya’ al-`Alamin (manuscript) citing `Uyun al-Mu`jizat; and to p. 48 of Kitab al-Firdaws.
12. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 43, p. 13 citing p. 178, Vol. 1, of `Ilal al-Shara’i.
13. Refer to p. 31 of Thakha’ir al-`Uqba; p. 98, Vol. 2, of Kashf al-Ghumma. Refer also to Kunuz al-Haqa’iq by al-Mannawi in a footnote on p. 75, Vol. 2, of Al-Jami` al-Saghir; and to pp. 141 & 145, Vol. 43, of al-Majlisi’s Bihar al-Anwar.
14. Al-Qazwini, Fatima al-Zahra’ Minal Mahd ilal Lahd, p. 49; al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 43, p. 2; p. 227, Vol. 2, of Nuzhat al-Majalis; and pp. 27, 38, Vol. 2, of Diya’ al-`Alamin.