Is Fatima al-Zahra (A.S.) the First Author in Islam?
By: Allama Jafar Murtuza Amili
It may be said that al-Zahra’ (sa) is the first to write a book in Islam. Narrations have proven that she used to have a book to which she would refer, namely “mushaf Fatima”. Such a title proves our suggestion. This means that she had a role in writing and authoring this book. In other words, attributing the book to Fatima (sa) proves that she is its owner, just as attributing another to Ali (as) means that he is its author, as the Imams (as) have told us.
To sum up, there is no objection to saying that she is the first author in Islam.
In response to skeptics, we would like to say that attributing the mushaf to Fatima (sa) and labeling it as “mushaf Fatima (sa)” does not necessarily mean that she was the one who wrote and authored it. You may say, “This is the book of so-and-so” if the latter has some connection with that book, such as owning it. And you may say, “This is the watch of so-and-so” or his shirt, house, etc., but this does not mean that he is the one who made that watch or built or owned that house, nor is he the one who tailored the shirt, etc. A tradition says that a woman’s mosque is her home. It is also said that a woman is not supposed to leave the house without her husband’s permission although she has the right only to live in it. For this reason, it is also said “The Psalms of David,” “The Torah of Moses,” “The Bible of Jesus,” “The Du’a of Kumayl,” “The Covenant of al-Ashtar,” etc. Allah Almighty has said, “Most surely this is in the earlier scriptures, the scriptures of Abraham and Moses” (Qur’an, 87:18-19).
Does this mean that these scriptures were written by them, peace with them?! Or does it mean that they were the ones who wrote them with their own hands?!
The same inquirer has said that “Mushaf Fatima (sa)” was written during the time of the Messenger of Allah (S), and after his death in the handwriting of Ali (as) and the dictation of an angel, or it was dictated by the Prophet S; so, what does he mean when he says that there is no objection to saying that she is the first author in Islam?
The mushaf, then, was written for her and because of her, and she is the one to benefit from it; its ownership belongs to her, and it contains her will..., does all this not suffice to accurately attribute the mushaf to her (sa) without the need of her to participate in writing and authoring it? Add to this the lack of evidence proving her participation in writing it from a historical or narrative standpoint and the lack of necessity mandating proving the same. There is no need also to insist on its being inspired by her, etc.
As regarding apologizing for that by saying that what is meant is to project the image of the Muslim woman in a way which earns her admiration, this is not acceptable, for it suggests something which is not factual. Add to this the fact that the life and purity, as well as knowledge, which consecutively reported narrations have proven, especially the sermon at the Mosque, etc., of al-Zahra’ (sa)…, more than makes up for holding to an imaginary issue which has no basis of the truth; so, there is no need to mislead people by saying that she (sa) was, or she was not, an author.
Are There in “Mushaf Fatima” Judicial Injunctions?
Someone claims that “mushaf Fatima” contains judicial injunctions. He relies on a narration by Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (as) saying, “I have with me the white cipher.” I asked him, “What does it contain?!” He said, “The Psalms of David, the Torah of Moses, the Bible of Jesus, the Tablets of Abraham, peace with them all, and it contains what is permissible and what is prohibitive, and Mushaf Fatima, and I do not claim that there is any Qur’an in it. It contains what people need, so they come to us seeking it, while we do not need anyone. It even contains the whip, half the whip and quarter of the whip, even the tiny scratch on one’s cheek.”35
We say the following:
FIRST: His statement “It contains what people need” is not conjoint with the one saying, “I do not claim that there is any Qur’an in it” so that it may explain what the contents of the mushaf are. Rather, it is conjoint with the one saying, “The Psalms of David, the Torah of Moses, the Bible of Jesus, the Tablets of Abraham, ...etc.,” that is, the white cipher contains the Psalms of David, the Torah of Moses, the Mushaf of Fatima, and it contains what is permissible and what is not plus everything people need.
Another narration from ‘Anbasah ibn Mis’ab states that by the “cipher” are meant: the weapons of the Messenger of Allah, the (divinely revealed) books, and Mushaf Fatima.36
SECOND: Al-Kulayni has quoted a number of our own folks quoting Ahmed ibn Muhammed from ‘’Umar ibn ‘Abd al-’Aziz from Hammad ibn ‘Othman from Imam al-Sadiq (as) a tradition wherein he stated that an angel used to talk to al-Zahra’ (sa) and entertain her, so she expressed her concerns about that to the Commander of the Faithful (as) who said to her (sa) “If you feel any such thing, and if you hear the sound, tell me,” so I let him know, and the Commander of the Faithful (as) kept writing everything he heard till he compiled a whole book of it. Then he said, “There is nothing in it about what is permissible or prohibitive, but there is in it the knowledge of what will be.”37
Someone discussed this tradition saying, “It is supposed that the angel went to her to talk to her and to entertain her in order to cheer her up [following the loss of her most revered father (S)]; so, how could she complain about this to the Commander of the Faithful? This implies that she was not comfortable with it. It is also apparent that the Imam (as) did not know about it and that the whole issue was hearing the angel’s voice rather than seeing him.”
We say that there is no problem with seeing the angel or only hearing his voice, nor in whether or not the Commander of the Faithful (as) knew about it. This is not the focal point although proving it is quite easy, but it has nothing to do with proving or disproving anything about “Mushaf Fatima” nor in her being or not being the first author in Islam; so, there is no need to inject such a statement like that.
As regarding her concern, it was not with regard to her talk with the angel. Rather, it was due to the angel mentioning to her what will be endured by her offspring. In the book titled Al-Muhtadir, it is stated that when her Father (S) passed away, Fatima (sa) said to the Commander of the Faithful (sa) “I hear someone telling me about things and events which will happen to my offspring.” He said, “If you hear it, dictate it to me,” so she kept dictating it to him, and he kept writing it down. It is narrated that its bulk is three times the size of the text of the Holy Qur’an without containing anything of the Qur’an itself.
When he finished it, he named it “Mushaf Fatima” because she was the one who was addressed by the angels.38 The same confused person, immediately after having stated the above, mentions a tradition by Abu ‘Ubaydah containing the statement that “Gabriel used to visit her in order to console her following the demise of her father and to remove distress from her, telling her about her father and his place (in Paradise), informing her of what will happen to her offspring. He used to write all of that. Such is Fatima’s mushaf.”39
Al-Majlisi I [the first, the father] has described this narration as authentic.40
Someone passed his own judgment on this narration, labeling it as “weak and should be examined and ascertained” although apparently Abu ‘Ubaydah al-Haththa’ (shoemaker), namely Ziyad ibn Abu Raja’, is a trusted authority. We do not know why someone thought that he was al-Mada’ini, although we could not find any narration by Ibn Ri’ab from this Mada’ini, nor did he narrate from al-Mada’ini except apparently one single narration. This could be the cause of narrators being confused (about the last names of these narrators).
If the name of Abu ‘Ubaydah is mentioned, he must be al-Haththa’ ÇáÍÐÇÁ especially since Ibn Ri’ab ÇÈä ÑÆÇÈ has quoted more than one narration by him despite the fact that there was nothing serious which he could narrate from al-Mada’ini.41
What is also noteworthy is that this same individual has made a comment about this tradition saying, “It is apparently relevant to knowledge of only what will happen to her progeny, whereas the other narration talks about what is much more general to the extent that it discusses the appearance of the atheists in the year 128 A.H./746 A.D. which is what the Imam (as) read in Fatima’s Mushaf.”
We say that the whole matter is as follows: The narrative has proved that Gabriel (as) was speaking to Fatima (sa) regarding what would happen to her offspring, and it does not contain anything negating the existence of other things related to the unknown. It is obvious that confirming something does not negate other things.
Nor does the narrative contain any evidence denying the existence of other branches of knowledge or other things in the mushaf. But she wanted to point out to something which made her (sa) very concerned and which she mentioned to Ali (as) because it was relevant to what would happen to their offspring.
THIRD: There is one hadith by Habab al-Khath’ami ÍÈÇÈ ÇáÎËÚãí stating that al-Mansur once wrote Muhammed ibn Khalid requiring him to ask the people of Medina, including Imam al-Sadiq, peace with him, a question relevant to zakat. The Imam (as) answered the question, so ‘Abdullah ibn al-Hassan asked him, “Where did you get this knowledge from?” The Imam (as) said, “I obtained it from the book of our mother, Fatima (sa).”42
The individual [who is critiqued throughout this book] commented about this narrative saying, “This tradition apparently indicates that Fatima’s book, i.e. “mushaf Fatima,” contains what is permissible and what is prohibitive.”
FIRST: This tradition is weak.
SECOND: The term “Fatima’s book” also exists in a narrative by Fudayl ibn Sakrah who quotes Imam al-Sadiq (as) and it is not necessarily “mushaf Fatima” which is the focal point of the research, let alone emphatically insisting on it, then taking that for granted, for Fatima might have had other books besides the mushaf:
1. Al-Kulayni, in his book titled Al-Kafi, has quoted Ali citing his father quoting Ibn Abu ‘Omayr quoting Ishaq ibn ‘Abd al-’Aziz quoting Zurarah quoting Abu ‘Abdullah (as) as saying43, “Fatima (sa) came once to the Messenger of Allah (S) complaining about something. The Messenger of Allah (S) gave her the wide tip of a palm leaf and said to her, ‘Learn what is written on it.’ Its contents stated the following: ‘Anyone who believes in Allah and in the Last Day should not harm his neighbor, and anyone who believes in Allah and in the Last Day should be generous to his guest, and anyone who believes in Allah and in the Last Day should should say what is right or remain silent.’” 44
2. In Dala’il al-Imama, Ibn Mas’ud narrated saying, “A man went to Fatima (sa) and said, ‘O daughter of the Messenger of Allah! Has the Messenger of Allah left anything with you with which you would provide us as something of a unique interest?’ She ordered her bondmaid [Fidda ÝÖå] to bring her something which she had wrapped. When the bondmaid told her that she could not find it, Fatima (sa) said to her, ‘Woe unto you! Find it, for it is to me equal to (my sons) Hassan and Husayn.’ The bondmaid searched for it and found it wrapped. It contained the following: ‘One is not counted among the believers if his neighbor does not feel secure from his mischief. One who believes in Allah and in the Last Day does not harm his neighbor. One who believes in Allah and in the Last Day should either say what is right or remain silent. Allah loves one who is righteous, clement, above following his desires, and He hates the sinner, the miser, the argumentative and the one who incessantly asks people to help him. Modesty is an indication of good belief, and good belief is rewarded with Paradise. Vulgarity stems from obscenity, and what is obscene is in the Fire.’”45
This narrative and its precedent indicate that she (sa) was the one who wrote and authored. In the first narrative, there is evidence to the contrary because she stated that he gave her the upper wider tip of the palm leaf with writing already written on it and told her to memorize it.
3. Al-Saduq relies on Abu Nadrah who quotes Jabir in a narrative indicating that he visited Fatima (sa) to congratulate her on the occasion of the birth of al-Husayn (as) and found her holding a white tablet. He asked her about it and she told him that it contained the names of the Imams from among her offspring, and that nobody was permitted to touch it except a prophet, a wasi, or a member of the prophet’s immediate family, but it was permissible to know its contents from the outside. He looked at it and read it, then he told others what he had read.46
There is No Contradiction in Traditions about Fatima’s Mushaf
This same individual has claimed that the traditions relevant to Fatima’s mushaf contradict each other because some of them refer to its being the dictation of the Messenger of Allah and the writing of Ali47 (as) whereas others state that an angel used to visit her after the demise of her father (S) to talk to her and that Ali (as) was the one who wrote down what went on, hence it was Fatima’s mushaf.48
In response, we would like to state the following: The meaning of “contradiction” in the narratives is that each apparently belies the other; one confirms something while the other denies it, or vice versa. If there are no common grounds among them, some of them have to be eliminated if there is a reason.
The traditions which refer to “Mushaf Fatima” are not like that. There are common grounds among them. The book referred to as “mushaf” may have been called so because it combined tablets together some of which were dictated by the Messenger of Allah (S) and handwritten by Ali (as), while the other part was dictated by the angel to Fatima (sa) and handwritten by Ali (as). It was written after the demise of the Messenger of Allah (S) when that angel used to visit her and entertain her, and this mushaf also contains the will of Fatima (sa); so, examine such texts.49
To sum up, the purpose may simply be the fact that the Messenger of Allah (S) undertook the dictation of some of the contents of the book in order to prove that it is accepted and endorsed by him (as) in order to confirm the authenticity of what the book contains and its significance.
As regarding the tradition which states that Gabriel (as) was the one who entertained Fatima (sa), it does not contradict the tradition saying that an angel used to talk to her and entertain her, for this angel may be Gabriel himself50, yet al-Majlisi has described this tradition as authentic51, so refer to it.
Portraying Contradiction Differently
Someone has indicated another contradiction in the narrations that refer to “mushaf Fatima” saying, “There are two narrations saying that it is in the handwriting of Ali (as) and deals with what the angel told al-Zahra’ (sa), but the other narrations do not give such an indication. These [traditions] refer to what is permissible and what is prohibitive and to Fa tima’s will; so, one of them only has to be preferred over the other.”
We say that we have already commented on what the man has said in this regard, and let us add here our comment on his latest statement, that is, that one of them only has to be accepted in preference over the other: We say that his statement suggests that both narrations contradict each other. This cannot be accepted at all. One of them has to be eliminated while the other accepted according to the norms of preference. Such argument is not acceptable because:
FIRST: The existence of two narratives indicating that the handwriting was that of Ali (as) does not mean that the other, which is silent about this issue, denies it. It simply did not deal with it because it dealt with other fronts where there was no need to obligate anyone to mention the name of the one who wrote or who dictated.
If there are two narrations, both declaring that Ali (as) was the one who wrote the mushaf, is there even one single narration declaring that Fatima (sa) was the one who wrote and authored it?! So, why emphasize that “mushaf Fatima” was in her own handwriting although this contradicts the conclusion that it was handwritten by Ali, peace with him?!
SECOND: We do not know how there can be any contradiction among the narrations some of which have stated that the writer of the mushaf is Ali (as) while the others state that what Ali (as) wrote contained what was permissible and prohibitive, then other narrations have stated that in this mushaf there is the will of Fatima (sa)! So, the fact that both latest categories of narrations do not name Ali (as) as the writer, should they both be looked on as contradicting those that say that Ali (as) was the one who wrote the mushaf?! Where is the contradiction?! How can one be the opposite of the other?!
THIRD: When we reviewed the narrations, we found the one by Hammad ibn ‘Othman saying that “mushaf Fatima” does not contain anything about what is permissible and what is prohibitive. Then we reviewed that of al-Husayn ibn Abul ‘Ala' and found the reference to people needing such text was not relevant to “mushaf Fatima” but to the cipher. The outcome of this review is that reference to what is permissible and what is prohibitive is in neither the cipher nor the mushaf. Then we reviewed al-Khath’ami’s narration and found it discussing Fatima’s book, not “mushaf Fatima.” We have already stated that she (sa) had other writings besides the mushaf.
What we have mentioned regarding the difference in the objectives behind narrateing certain particulars is, in some of its aspects, similar to transmitting the events that took place to al-Zahra’ (sa); so, we find out that some folks threatened to burn the house...
Another narrateor transmits how the firewood was gathered...
A third transmits how a fire torch was brought...
A fourth transmits the burning of the door and the igniting of the fire...
A fifth transmits breaking the door and entering the house by force...
A sixth transmits how al-Zahra’ (sa) was squeezed between the door and the wall, and how she miscarried...
A seventh transmits how she was slapped on her cheek, or how she was hit on her hand, or on her forehead, or on her back, or on her wrist, till the mark looked like a bracelet...
An eight transmits how her rib was broken...
A ninth transmits that ‘’Umar [ibn al-Khattab] hit her...
A tenth transmits how al-Mughirah, too, hit her...
An eleventh transmits how Qunfath hit her by order of his master, ‘’Umar...
A twelfth transmits how Khalid ibn al-Walid hit her..., etc.
None of these transmissions belies the rest. Each transmits a piece of fact of what took place either because there was a reason for transmitting it or because this is what became confirmed to the transmitter as having taken place, or due to a political circumstance, etc., and there is nothing unusual in all of this.
Yet the differences among the particulars of transmission does not harm the fact that the incident did, indeed, take place; rather, it underscores it. If many do not pay attention to small details, then it is a fact that Fatima (sa) was, indeed, hit. And the transmitters differed regarding who the hitter was with the open possibility that they all may have taken part in such a horrible and abominable act. The matters got mixed up during the melee.
Such is the case regarding “mushaf Fatima,” peace of Allah with her, with one exception: The reason why there is a variety of transmission of what took place is mostly rendered to political, sectarian or other inclinations. As regarding Fatima’s mushaf, the reason is to clarify something relevant to the status of al-Zahra’ (sa) or to the significance of the mushaf attributed to her and to its authenticity, or something like that.
But we could not at all confirm the motives behind “mushaf Fatima” containing juristic injunctions, nor could we understand the reasons or the justifications for many issues stated in this regard and in other numerous and diverse issues.
35. Al-Kulayni, Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, p. 240. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 26, p. 37. Basa’ir al-Darajat, p. 150.
36. Basa’ir al-Darajat, pp. 154, 156. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 26, pp. 42, 45, and Vol. 47, p 271.
37. Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, p. 240. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 26, pp. 42, 45; Vol. 47, p. 271.
38. `Awalim al-`Ulum, Vol. 11, p. 583 (Fatima’s Musnad). Al-Muhtadir, p. 132.
39. Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, pp. 240, 241, 457, 458. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 22, p. 545. Refer to Ibn Shahr Ashub, Al-Manaqib, Vol. 3, p. 337 (published by the scholarly press at Qum, Iran).
40. Rawdat al-Muttaqin, Vol. 5, p. 342. Mir’at al-`Uqul, Vol. 3, pp. 59 and Vol. 5, p. 314.
41. There is no harm in consulting Mu`jam Rijal al-Hadith, Vol. 21, pp. 233-236.
42. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 47, p. 227.
43. Al-Kulayni, Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, p. 242.
44. `Awalim al-`Ulum, Vol. 11 (this volume deals in its entirety with al-Zahra’ (sa) p. 187. Al-Kulayni, Al-Kafi, Vol. 2, p. 667. Consult also Vol. 1, p. 285 of the same reference. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 43, p. 51. Al-Wasa'il, Vol. 8, p. 487. Al-Junna al-Waqiya, p. 508.
45. Dala’il al-Imama, p. 1. `Awalim al-`Ulum, Vol. 11, pp. 188, 620, 621 (the part relevant to al-Zahra’ (sa) in the footnotes of p. 113 there is reference to the Musnad of Fatima (A). Consult Mustadrak al-Wasa'il, Vol. 18 and Safinat al-Bihar, Vol. 1, pp. 229, 231. Al-Tabrani, Al-Mu`jam al-Kabir, Vol. 22, p. 413 where there is a slight difference in wording from the above reference.
46. `Uyun Akhbar al-Rida, Vol. 1, pp. 40, 44, 46. Al-Ikhtisas, p. 210. Al-Tasi, Al-Amali, Vol. 1, p. 297. Al-Khisal, Vol. 2, pp. 477-478. Kamal ad-Din, pp. 305, 313.
47. Refer to Basa’ir al-Darajat, pp. 153, 155, 161. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 46, pp. 41, 42, 47, 48, 49, 271.
48. Al-Kulayni, Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, pp. 41, 240, 457, 458. Basa’ir al-Darajat, pp. 157, 153, 159. Al-Khara’ij wal-Jara’ih, Vol. 2, p. 526. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 26, pp. 41, 240, and Vol. 43, pp. 79-80, and Vol. 22, pp. 545-546. Refer also to Vol. 47, p. 65. There are numerous references recorded on the footnotes of Al-Khara’ij wal-Jara’ih. `Awalim al-`Ulum (in the section dedicated entirely to al-Zahra’ (sa)), Vol. 11, pp. 483, 447 citing p. 132 of Al-Muhtadir. Diya’ al-`Alamin (manuscript), Vol. 2, pp. 38-39.
49. Basa’ir al-Darajat, pp. 157-158. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 26, p. 43. Al-Kulayni, Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, p. 241.
50. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 43, p. 79 and Vol. 26, p. 41. Basa’ir al-Darajat, p. 153. Al-Kulayni, Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, p. 241. Al-Khara’ij wal Jara’ih, Vol. 2, p. 526. There are numerous references in its footnotes. Diya’ al-`Alamin (manuscript), Vol. 2, p. 38.
51. Refer to Vol. 5, p. 342 of Rawdat al-Muttaqin. Mir’at al-`Uqul, Vol. 3, p. 59. Jala' al-`Uyun, Vol. 1, p. 183.