Hadrat Fatima Zahra (A.S.): the Manifestation of Benevolence and Self-sacrifice
The Tradition (Hadith) related below is said to be responsible for the revelation of the following Qur'anic verses:
"... and prefer (them) before themselves, though poverty may afflict them." (59:9)
It is related that:
One day a poor, hungry man came to the Prophet (SAW) to ask for some food. The Prophet (SAW) guided him to go to the homes of his wives and get something to eat. All of them had no food in their homes and thus could not offer the poor man anything. He returned to the Prophet (SAW) who then asked his companions, "who is going to invite this guest to his home'? Ali (AS) immediately offered to take the man as his guest and soon they proceeded towards Ali's (AS) home. On reaching home, Ali (AS) informed his wife Fatima (SA) that they had a guest and also enquired as to what they had at home for food. Fatima (SA) said that they had just enough food to feed the children, but that they would give priority to the poor guest. Ali (AS) then offered to turn off the lamp in the house, asking Fatima (SA) to put the children to bed. Ali (AS) thought of making the home dark so that their guest would not notice that his hosts had very little food and get embarrassed. Ali (AS) accompanied the guest on the dinner mat but the guest did not notice that Ali (AS) had not eaten, since the house was dark.
The night passed by in this manner. The guest ate comfortably and the members of Fatima's (SA) home slept hungry.
It has been confirmed by numerous exegetes of the Qur'an that the Qur'anic verse mentioned above refers to the incident that demonstrated the kindness and self-sacrifice of Fatima (SA) and her family.
Hazrat Ali (AS) is quoted to have said:
"Once we were sitting with the Prophet (SAW) of Islam when he asked: `What is the best thing for a woman?' No one could answer his question. I approached Fatima (SA) and discussed the issue with her and she immediately claimed to know the answer. According to her, the answer was, `The best thing for a woman is that she is protected from the sight of strangers such that neither does she have to see them nor do they get to see her."
I returned to the Prophet (SAW) and gave him the answer. He asked at once, "Who taught you this answer?" I told him that the answer had come from Fatima (SA). The Prophet (SAW) was delighted and said: "Fatima (SA) is my flesh and blood."
Numerous Traditions (Ahadith) have been related regarding the personality, dignity and responsibility of women. One Prophetic Tradition relates that once the Prophet (SAW) asked one of his companions, "When are women closest to Allah?" Again no one could answer this question. Fatima (SA) finally answered, saying: "When they are in their home." According to exegetes, in all probability, this answer refers to a verse from the Qur'an that says:
"And stay in your home and do not display your finery like the displaying of the ignorant of yore..." (33:33)
It needs to be emphasized here that although in the Qur'an, this verse is addressed directly to the Prophet's (SAW) wives, but it is also applicable to all Muslim women. In the same Chapter "The Allies", Allah says:
"O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over-garments that they may be known, and thus they will not be given trouble; and Allah is Forgiving, the Merciful." (33:59)
The above verse has discussed the philosophy of Hijab (Islamic dress code) for women, as a kind of protection for them from being followed, teased, disrespected and from evil and lustful eyes.
Islam considers the protection of the dignity and character of women for their happiness and sincerity. However, here we need to clarify that Islam does not advocate that women should never be allowed to see the light of the day. In fact, when we study the life of Fatima (SA), we find that she was very active in her personal and social life. At the same time, she was so careful in safeguarding her dignity and self-respect that in spite of her activities, she never intermingled with any strangers.
Not only has the presence of women not been prohibited in the areas of culture, politics, defense, etc. rather wherever necessary they are obliged to participate actively in these areas. For example, whenever the society requires the services of female doctors, nurses, teachers etc., the women in that society are obliged (wajib) to obtain the necessary skills and qualifications.
The sermons of Fatima (SA) in the Prophet's Mosque (Medina), her serving alongside Imam Ali (AS) in the Holy Wars (Jihad) and during their migration from Mecca to Medina and also the roles played by her great daughter Zainab (SA) in the Battle of Karbala, followed by her famous speeches in Kufa and Sham - all these reflect on the active and powerful roles played by these great Islamic personalities.
Hazrat Fatima's (SA) legacy to all the Muslim women of her ummah is purity of faith and character. Her vision for all Muslim women for all times to come is that they keep themselves chaste and pure like angels, as per Islamic values and ethics. One Prophetic Tradition says:
"The alms (zakat) of the beauty of a woman is her dignity and chastity."
Thus, if a woman does not guard or protect her beauty and exhibits herself to strangers, neither does she attain salvation, nor does her husband experience peace of mind and spirit.
It is to be remembered here that Islam regards women like a beautiful and delicate flower that needs to be protected from hardships and dangers. Moreover because only if a woman is well-protected and well-secure, can she offer happiness and peace to her family and home and in this way only would the society be safe, secure and progressive.
May Allah guide all Muslim women to Fatima's (SA) example - Ameen.