Fatima al-Zahra (A.S.): Her Father’s Mother
By: Allama Jafar Murtuza Amili
One of the most strange of what we have ever heard is a statement someone made claiming that al-Zahra’ (sa) compensated the Prophet S for his mother who had died when he was still a child, and that for this reason, she was called “mother of her father.”
The same individual says the following verbatim: “The Prophet started his life complaining about having lost his mother’s love because such love could not be provided by a wet nurse or a governess... So she [al-Zahra’ (sa)]provided him with her maternal affection by embracing him, and the Messenger of Allah said to her that the gap which he had felt through the loss of his mother he could now fill through his daughter.”21
I would like to say to him that such talk is not acceptable, for we cannot agree that the Prophet (S) used to suffer from an inferiority complex resulting from losing his mother, so he needed someone to compensate him for what he had lost. Rather, it simply means that al-Zahra’ (sa) used to take care of her father like a mother taking care of her son. This does not mean that doing so was a compensation for the Prophet (S) for an emotion which he missed, nor was it to complement a shortcoming.
Can this person accept that someone else other than al-Zahra’ (sa) was able to fill that “gap” had she cared for the Messenger of Allah (S) and given him the emotion which he needed?!
Finally, “mother of her father” explains only the fact and the dimension of how Lady al-Zahra’ (sa) treated her father. It does not connote any “filling of a gap” or untying an inferiority complex in the sacred personality of the Prophet, God forbid.
Does Infallibility Force One Not to Commit Sins?!
1. The same individual says that the infallibility which manifested itself in al-Zahra’ (sa) was the result of the environment and the iman surrounding her wherein she lived and grew up because it was an environment of belief, purity, virtue and righteousness.
It is clear that this statement implies something which requires a bold and sensitive question: What if al-Zahra’ (sa) had lived in another environment, in one stained with vices and abominations?! What if someone else other than her had lived in the same environment? Will the result be the same? Some women did, indeed, live in such a stained environment, so why was the case not so?
2. Despite all of this, we find the same person talking about the “forming” of infallibility, implying endorsement of the theory saying that the Almighty “forces” some people (to be infallible), a theory the error of which has been proven and which Ahl al-Bayt (as) rejected, saying that there is neither forcing nor commissioning but something in-between.
I say that I do not wish to go into detail in making a distinction between obedience and disobedience. Rather, I contend myself with referring to the following:
FIRST: Leaving aside acts of obedience is by itself an act of disobedience. One, therefore, cannot afford to leave them out. How can he, then, have a choice in doing or not doing them, and what do you mean when you say that he has the option regarding certain acts of obedience?!
SECOND: Such a distinction lacks evidence, and nothing leads to it. Rather, it is merely judging things. Why not reverse the case and give him the option to leave aside disobedience while being obligated to do acts of obedience...?
What is noteworthy here is that when the writer had to face these questions, he resorted once to citing al-Balkhi, who says that rewards for obedience are granted out of God’s favors, not because His servant deserves them, and once to what some claim that one who deserves to be rewarded is, indeed, rewarded out of God’s favors. This, like al-Balkhi’s, is a statement unworthy of anyone’s attention due to the evidence that obedience is earned when one deserves it, not due to preference.
The evidence referred to above is this: Obedience is a hardship mandated by Allah on His servant. If there is no purpose behind it, it is then oppression, it is senseless, something too ugly to be attributed to the all-Wise One. But if there is a purpose behind it, if it comes from Him, the most Exalted One, it is false because He is not in need of anything at all. But if it is relevant to the obligated person, and if the purpose is to harm him, it would be ugly oppression. But if it is for one’s own benefit, it must have been right for the Almighty to initiate it for the benefit of His servant; obligation will then become senseless. But if it is not initiated by the Almighty, and it requires obligating so that one may be worthy of its benefit, it will then be exactly what is required.
The outcome is this: Rewards are granted because someone earns them, not because they come due to preference.
As regarding al-Balkhi’s statement, it is wrong from its foundations because he derives his conclusion from the assumption that an obligation is mandated as means to thank the Almighty for His blessing, so one does not deserve, because of it, any rewards. Rewards are granted as a favor from the most Exalted One. There is no doubt that this statement is erroneous.
What we are discussing is what is pleasant and what is ugly. Wise people consider it ugly for someone to be preferred over another by receiving a blessing, then he is obligated to thank the Giver for it without receiving any rewards for carrying out the same obligation. They consider it a shortcoming and attribute it to love for power and authority and such ugly meanings which do not come from the all-Wise One; so, we have to say that rewards are earned, deserved.
The ultimate goal is that it can be said, though this statement does not agree with what al-Balkhi says who also contradicts it and rejects it, that although Allah, Praise belongs to Him, is the Owner of everything, and His ownership makes Him the Originator in deciding the initiation of the rewards for those whom He owns for their good deeds, but, having determined this under the label of “wages,” granting them for it many times its worth, making it a divine law, it enters the circle of deserved rewards after it had not been there.
Because of the above, reason does not permit that Allah should grant those who disobey Him and withhold it from those who obey him. Had rewards been initiated out of His favors, this would have been permissible. This is similar to the case of a man who decided to grant his son a prize if he passed his school examination. If the son passes, he will demand his father to give him the prize, considering himself wronged and insulted if he does not receive it, let alone if his father gives it to his brother who did not pass.
Do Environment and Surroundings Affect Infallibility?
As regarding what is said about the effect of the environment and the surrounding atmosphere of conviction on the personality of al-Zahra’ (sa), we would like to say the following: Al-Zahra’ (sa) is the noor that was created from the fruit of Paradise; she used to talk to her mother when she was inside her womb before she was born. She is among the best of the creation of Allah, Praise belongs to Him. He chose her to be infallible22, the purified one, the selected elite one, prior to her entering the environment which some people discuss, claiming that it is the main reason for the status and prestige enjoyed by al-Zahra’ (sa).
The individual’s statement implies that had al-Zahra’ (sa) lived in another environment, one which lacks righteousness, goodness, and piety, she would then have been stamped by its particular stamp, becoming an evil and a deviated woman, and we seek Allah’s protection against making such assumptions! Is this acceptable or rational?!
I insist that the environment wherein al-Zahra’ (sa) lived was not the reason for reaching a station of nearness to Allah, nor did it formulate and crystallize her believing personality or caused her infallibility or human perfection. Rather, her sound inner self, her pure soul, her wise mind, her balanced characteristics and human perfection, in addition to the care with which Allah Almighty surrounded her, being kind to her, guiding her and granting her success, and also her own individual and voluntary effort to attain more sincerity, purity and purification so that she could reach the degrees of nearness to Allah and to achieve His Pleasure. All that produced the personality of al-Zahra’ (sa), the infallible lady, the purified one.
Infallibility does not mean the inability to do something [prohibitive]. It means the ability and the knowledge, making the right option, the strong and the effective will that works with the great mind, in addition to the divine kindness, care and support. Being a senior or a junior or the amount of bodily growth are not the criteria in the purity of the soul or the perfection of faculties and human attributes, nor is it in giving the lead to reason, or the power of reason and realization, or in vast knowledge and being worthy of attaining the stations of divinely-granted glory.
Allah granted wisdom to Yahya [John the Baptist (as)] when he was a child, and Jesus (as) spoke even when he was in the cradle thus: “Surely I am a servant of Allah; He has given me the Book and made me a prophet; and He has made me blessed wherever I may be, and He has enjoined on me prayer and zakat as long as I live and [to be] dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me insolent, unblessed” (Qur’an, 19:30-32).
Al-Zahra’ (sa) in no time had the mentality of a child, nor was she ever on the level of abilities, realizations or ambitions of a child. Ali spoke, and so did al-Zahra’, peace with both of them, at the time of their birth, and al-Zahra’ (sa) spoke to her mother before her birth. Narratives and history books, and others, of both parties, mentioned for us all of this and its likes in relevance to Ahl al-Bayt, peace with them. This proves that she and they were as such; may Allah shower them with His blessings and shower her Shi’as and those who love her till the Day of Judgment.
The Ability to Revolt against the Environment and the Surroundings
As regarding what is related to the environment and the surroundings, we do not deny their effects on one’s soul, psychology and moral code. But we say that this is not the absolute rule with all people, nor is it inevitable to the degree that one loses with it his power of will, confining him and preventing him from choosing, prohibiting him from making options, chaining him against moving in the right direction, the direction of goodness, righteousness, success and salvation.
The Holy Qur’an has made all of this clear for us in a way that leaves no room for doubt when it told us about women who were role models such as Maryam daughter of ‘Imran and Asiya daughter of Muzahim. Then it talked about others from whom we may derive admonishment and warning such as the wives of Noah and Lot.
Referring to one of the wives of the Prophet (S) to whom he confided about a very important matter and who revealed that confidential matter, adding to it something from her own self, the Holy Qur’an states the following: “Allah sets forth an example to those who disbelieve the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot: They were both under two of Our righteous servants, but they acted treacherously towards them so they (their husbands, the prophets) availed them naught against Allah, and it was said: ‘Enter, both of you, into the Fire with those who enter’. And Allah sets forth the example for those who believe the wife of Pharaoh when she said: ‘Lord! Build for me a house with Thee in the Garden and deliver me from Pharaoh and his deeds, and deliver me from the unjust people’. And Maryam, the daughter of ‘Imran, who guarded her chastity, so We breathed into her of Our inspiration, and she accepted the truth of the words of her Lord and His books, and she was of the obedient ones” (Qur’an, 66:12).
We find Him, Glory to Him, providing an exemplary conduct for those who believe, not specifically for believing women, of that of Asiya daughter of Muzahim and Maryam daughter of ‘Imran. For those who disbelieve, not specifically for disbelieving women, He provides the example of the wives of Noah and Lot. In order to explain all of this, let us say the following:
Wives of Prophets Noah and Lot (as)
What aids in clarifying what we want to explain as the meaning of the verses cited above is to observe the following matters:
1. He has pointed out in the verse how a woman stood in the face of a man. Perhaps some people see men as having a distinction over women in certain areas. This distinction provides preference and precedence in many matters.
2. Both men (prophets) are husbands, and a husband enjoys a strong position, at least in his wife’s house.
3. Regardless of the above, a husband usually is the most knowledgeable of all people, including the parents, of the conditions of his wife, of her habits, of the points of her weakness or strength, because he is practically in continuous contact with her, and she usually lives with him. Such knowledge is most clear to him and is held in the highest degree.
4. This man possesses attributes of perfection and means of power, especially in his awareness, management, mind and wisdom, in his intellectual level and the soundness of such mentality, as well as in his ability to convince, let alone other things. He actually is the pinnacle in all of that, so much so that he has deserved to be a prophet, even a messenger of Allah. One of them, namely Noah (as), is one of “ulul-’azm” who possess the highest degrees of firmness, immunity and power. Who else more than a prophet/messenger who knows the means of convincing others, its methods and tools? Or is there anyone else more than him in his acquisition of the intellectual diction or anything else needed to do so?!
5. Moreover, this woman lived in an environment of guidance, in the atmospheres of purity, cleanliness, straightforwardness, virtue, conviction, goodness and righteousness where all of this is personified as a concrete reality which could be directly felt, rather than being mere abstracts.
As regarding deviation, evil and apostasy, these will be in such an environment strange, rejected, outcast, having no freedom of movement, and they will never be accepted.
6. Both of these men/prophets (as), one of whom belongs to “ulul-’azm,” had to bear the responsibility of guiding the nation, defending it, distancing it from the slippery venues of deviation and their ills. Providing such guidance is their primary and basic responsibility, and it is everything in their lives as a guiding message. It is not something casual, such as money which can be compensated, or authority which one can live without, nor is it power nor influence, nor house management. And it is not a materialistic interest, nor is it any of life’s affairs which can be overlooked. Rather, undermining it means undermining destiny and existence, the future, this life and the life hereafter. This mission is regarded and treated as a sacred thing from the standpoint of worship and adoration.
His wife defies him although she does not possess any of what we have listed above, rebelling against him in the depth of his responsibility and in the most precious thing which he had had.
7. Such defiance was a defiance of the environment and the surroundings because it sprung up from within the environment of righteousness, conviction, goodness and guidance.
8. What increases the pain is that she defied him in something towards which he aimed instinctively, something to which his heart and conscience were tied, and so were his feelings, soul and existence.
Yet even more bitter is that she wants to be the antithesis which is not confined to mere deviation, but she tries to demolish what he was building, taking advantage of the deviating environment which could help her achieve her objective, grant her a boost and enhance her determination.
On the other hand, this matter is not confined to one source which can be regarded as incidental or as the exception to the rule, for this same matter repeated itself and involved Noah and Lot, peace with them both, whom Allah puts forth as examples for what happened to them.
Maryam (sa) Facing the Challenge
As for the challenge in the case of Maryam (sa) it, too, is harsh and bitter. It is a challenge in a matter that touches her own person and being, a most sensitive challenge for a female who regards herself as the pioneer of purity and virtue, deploring her people’s sins and deviation. It is a challenge regarding chastity and purity. It came in a way wherein she lost with it all the means of self-defense.
How can a woman bring her people her newborn then claim that she never committed a sin nor had she had a relationship with any man? She claims that she was big with child without having been touched by a man, insisting that she preserved the meaning of virtue and purity in the precise sense of the word. She accepts no other interpretation in that regard, not even one wherein a forceful action (such as rape) is applied and because of which a woman is excused.
Even when a married woman gives birth, she is shy during the first days to a high degree especially before those who knew her and whom she knew. So, how is it if she goes to her people carrying a newborn to whom she had given birth without having gotten married, insisting that she was not touched by any man at all?! Could she not expect them to think or imagine that something else must have taken place?!
Yet Maryam’s belief was not shaken, nor did she retreat, nor did she hide that infant, nor did she send him away or dissociate herself from him. Rather, she accepted and was pleased, and she persevered and tolerated everything, seeking to please Allah, Praise is His. She was rightfully the head of the women of her time, and she was quite worthy of it, because she believed in the Words of Allah, and she supplicated to Him.
As for the truthful and pure lady, Fatima al-Zahra’, peace of Allah and His blessings with her, the greatest Messenger of Allah S had said that she was better than all the women of mankind from the early generations to the last ones, including Maryam, Asiya and others despite what the latter had been through, and despite what they had to face. This informs you of how great her status is and how tremendous her trial and tribulation based on the hadith saying, “The most to be afflicted with trials are the prophets, then those who are less than them in status, then the most exemplary, and so on.”23
Deductions from the Above
Many results have become clear from what is stated above; among them are:
1. From the examples provided by Allah, it has become clear that the environment and the surroundings do not make up one’s personality although they may sometimes have an influence on him, in the absence of an aware self-supervision, when man surrenders to submission and bondage.
There is no room, then, for anyone to say that the personality of al-Zahra’ (sa) is the outcome of the environment and the surroundings wherein she lived, and we will never accept anyone’s statement that had she (sa) lived in other surroundings, i.e. corrupt ones, she, too, would have lived the realities of her corrupt environment.
2. Maryam faced the pressures of the deviated environment surrounding her regarding the most sensitive and serious issue relevant to her without having any known means to defend herself except her pure conviction and great trust in Allah, the most Exalted One. Asiya daughter of Muzahim moved around in the depth of the den of deviation and apostasy, in the midst of its surroundings, facing the most powerful man, the one with the most means of oppression, enticement, challenge, injustice, iniquity and arrogance. Both of these examples prove that there is no room to justify the deviation that results from the pressures of the environment and the surroundings or the authority, nor to succumbing to the will of the husband, etc.
3. All the above has made it clear that a woman, as well as a man, possesses a real power and strength to determine the final decision regarding any issue. This stands on the same level with the Divine call, and it can reach the highest degrees that qualify her for the most sublime status within the scope of dignity and divine care.
4. The impulse to support justice, the upholding of the laws of Allah, the acting on His commandments, the upholding of the path of guidance and righteousness..., is undoubtedly something conducive to nature and reason. To deviate from it is nothing short of lagging behind the requirements of nature, taking rational thinking lightly and sacrificing the meanings of humanity, straight-forwardness and guidance.
21. Kitab al-Nadwa, p. 58.
22. Infallibility in prophets and wasis is fixed by reason because the station of the Prophetic Mission and Imamate requires it. It is supported by narrations which may also explain its limits, scopes and other particulars.
As regarding the infallibility of al-Zahra’ (sa), it is fixed by authentic traditions of the Messenger of Allah (S) and by Qur’anic texts, and it is one of the necessities of the sect and its fixed tenets. It goes without saying that infallibility cannot be known except from such traditions because the divine orders to do or not to do are not confined to deeds of the senses but transcend them to incorporate the heart, the self, the soul, and to coining the characteristics of a human being, his feelings, emotions such as courage, generosity, jealousy, love, hatred, belief, hypocrisy, intentions and other things with which we cannot be familiar without traditions quoting the infallible person.
23. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 64, p. 200.