Hazrat Fatemah Zahra (peace be upon her) (the chief of all women in Paradise) was least interested in worldly possessions. She being a lady of exalted disposition, enjoyed great spiritual status and this was well-acknowledged by the Islamic world. She had all along remained aloof from the world and was wary of its trappings and deceit. However, after the Prophet’s (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) demise, she agitated against the government to assert her claim over Fadak.
What brought about this change in her outlook to worldly possessions after snubbing them all her life? Why after recognizing the world for what it is “more worthless than a goat’s sneeze or the bone of a pig in the hand of a leper or lighter than the wing of a fly”, did she embark on a prolonged struggle with the government over a piece of property?
What factors made her bear untold hardships, affliction, and troubles in her crusade against the government? Were a small piece of land and a few date trees worth so much trouble? After all, she was fully aware that all her efforts would eventually be in vain, and the government would not return the land to her. It is natural for conscious readers to raise such questions regarding Hazrat Fatemah Zahra’s (peace be upon her) anguished demand for Fadak.
The questions are not complex for students of Islamic history, particularly for those who have closely studied the events in the immediate aftermath of the Holy Prophet’s (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) demise. A cursory analysis of these events will provide the readers with the answers they are seeking.
The first and primary reason was that Fadak was usurped to deprive Hazrat Fatemah Zahra (peace be upon her) of her lawful property and thus financially weaken the progeny of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his holy progeny). Ameerul Momineen (peace be upon him) was already facing opposition in his claim for caliphate; by withholding the property of Fadak, an attack was being inflicted by the government to weaken him economically. It was anticipated by the government that the people would see Ameerul Momineen (peace be upon him) as financially weak and would disregard his claim to the caliphate. In the process, they wanted to dent his social and religious status. This was the very tactic adopted by the hypocrites with regard to the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) in the early era of Islam, who had imposed economic sanctions against all the companions and helpers of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny), thereby aiming to weaken him (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) and his mission.
The second reason was that the income of Fadak was substantial. According to Ibn Abil Hadeed al-Mutazali, the number of date trees in Fadak was equal to the total number of date trees in Kufa. Allama Majlisi (r.a.) quotes from ‘Kashf al-Muhajja’, the annual income of Fadak was 24,000 dinars. Another tradition says that the income was 70,000 dinars. The disparity in the amounts could be a result of fluctuation in the computation of income over the years. Obviously, such a significant amount did not escape the government’s attention, especially since the Hashimites were the beneficiaries.
The third reason was that the demand of Fadak had a direct bearing on the demand of her illustrious husband, Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (peace be upon him) for the caliphate. To substantiate this point, it is worthwhile to delve into an incident involving the renowned scholar Ibn Abil Hadeed al-Mutazali. The latter was studying at Madrasah al-Arabiyyah in Baghdad when he once asked the teacher Ali b. al-Faraqi whether Fatemah (peace be upon her) was truthful.
The teacher answered, “Of course.”
“Then why did Abu Bakr, who knew she (peace be upon her) was truthful, not return Fadak to her?” shot back the zealous student.
The teacher smiled and responded: “If Abu Bakr had conceded Fadak to Fatemah (peace be upon her) based on her pleas, she would have claimed that caliphate is the right of my husband which Abu Bakr had usurped. Under the circumstances, Abu Bakr would not have any excuse for denying Ali his right to caliphate (since he had already conceded Fatemah’s (peace be upon her) claim on Fadak). Consequently, he would be bound to accept every argument advanced by her after making this concession.”
The fourth reason was that right, if not given, should always be demanded. So, the one whose right is usurped is bound to claim his right and struggle for it, since the right is his whether he needs it or is attached to it. The right to claim a usurped property is not related to one’s piety or indifference to the world. One can be pious and aloof from worldly possessions and still claim his usurped right vociferously.
The fifth reason is that a man, however aloof he may have remained from worldly possessions, is duty-bound to spend money on religious obligations (like joining relations – Sila-e-Rahm) and other duties enjoined by Allah the Almighty. Finance is required to perform these obligations and duties, and if that money is usurped by someone, he must attempt to recover the same to perform his religious duties. Does history not confirm that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) was the most pious and God-fearing of all Muslims? Even then, to further the cause of Islam, he needed the property and wealth of Hazrat Khadijah (peace be upon her).
The sixth reason is that reason demands that one should struggle to assert his usurped right. This can give rise to one of two scenarios:
a) If his struggle bears fruit, he will get what he wanted. Thus, his objective would be achieved in his struggle.
b) If he fails in his endeavor and cannot reclaim his right, the usurper would stand fully exposed before all those who are aware of the truth. Every time people see the oppressed man, they will be reminded of the usurper regardless of his good qualities and ethics. In fact, the people will come to realize that these qualities are a façade under which the usurper oppresses and cheats people.
The seventh reason was to invite the attention of the masses toward their oppressed state. Imposters and frauds use money and influence to win the heart of the masses. But the noblemen win over the masses with their sincerity and ethics. When oppressed, such people use wisdom and exhortation to prove their point so that the people can clearly differentiate between the oppressor and the oppressed one and support the latter in his struggle against the former.
Thus, keeping in view the abovementioned factors, there was merit in Hazrat Fatemah Zahra’s (peace be upon her) crusade against the government that made her address the Muslims in Masjid al-Nabavi, the Mosque of her beloved father (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) in a bid to establish her right.
She (peace be upon her) did not go to the house of the first caliph for discussions. Instead, she selected a place that was the center for discussion and the meeting point for Muslims. She (peace be upon her) also selected the best time to go to the mosque. At that time, the mosque was filled to capacity by the Muhajireen, the Ansaar, and people of various social strata. Moreover, she did not go to the mosque alone; rather she was accompanied by a group of ladies, who surrounded her.
Before her arrival in the mosque, a curtain was suspended at a pre-determined place so that she might address the audience from behind it
These arrangements were made so that she could present her arguments without compromising on etiquette. After all, she was the daughter of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) who had proclaimed, “I am the most learned and cultured man in the whole of Arabia.” She was a role model for all Muslim women till the Day of Judgment as her father (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) had declared, “An angel informed me and gave me glad tidings that my daughter, Fatemah is the chief of all women of my nation.”