Last Sunday the Muslim world observed the martyrdom of Fatima Zahra, the daughter of the Prophet of Islam, despite many claiming that Islam is a religion which neglects the role of women. One of the greatest role-models, guides and leaders of all believers in Islam is indeed a woman. In Islam, Lady Fatima Zahra holds a unique position as the most pious woman ever, in addition to being daughter of the Holy Prophet, wife of the Imam, Ali and mother of Imam Hassan and Hussein.
The case of Fatima Zahra as one of the role-models of Islamic belief is an interesting one, for indeed many have come under the misconception that Islam is a religion which is male dominated, leaving no room for the female to excel over men. Yet the status afforded to Fatima Zahra serves as an example of how Islam does recognise that women can excel to amazing spiritual heights.
In her lifetime, she was a complete woman, being daughter, wife and mother par excellence. Her stances were stances for the right, and her sorrow was the sorrow for the truth, and her joy was the joy of the message; the depth of submission to God was manifested in the depth of her personality and she amassed within herself all the Islamic human virtues.
This is why we are intensely interested in Fatima Zahra because when we remember her we remember the message and her role, and remember Islam and the dynamic issues in which Fatima was a central figure; hence we feel that she is with us in all of our concerns and that she is alive among us.
There are people in life whose story ends when they die, because their existence is encapsulated in the span of their lives; there are others who remain alive as long as life exists, and who continue as long as their message continues and as long as there are people who are open to their message.
Fatima is placed at the pinnacle of these people, since you cannot mention the Prophet of Islam without mentioning her. She was his product and the spirit inside his body; and you cannot mention Ali (her husband) without mentioning her as she was his companion in life and suffering; and you cannot mention Hassan, Husain and Zaynab without mentioning her as she was the secret of purity in their childhood and of their personalities throughout their lives.
This is the secret of Fatima that obliges us to keep her in our minds and our hearts as a message and thought, not just the cause of tears. We cannot but open up to her with our tears, but more important than that is to open ourselves to her message because she lived all her tears and all her life for the message and never for one moment lived it for her own self.
This is the secret of all the members of the Prophet’s family: they lived for the whole of Islam and gave their lives for Islam and the message.
There is an important point about the life of Fatima Zahra: first, she managed to reconcile the life of a Muslim woman – her duties toward her husband and children and her responsibilities in the home environment – with the responsibilities of a proud and tireless activist in the face of the important political events that happened after the Holy Prophet had passed away.
She went to the mosque, delivered speeches and announced and defended her position.
On the night of her wedding, when Fatima Zahra, peace be upon her, was making her way to her husband’s home, she was wearing a new wedding dress. Historical accounts narrate that a poor woman approached her (or came to the door of the house she was in and asked for clothing to cover herself with). Rather than giving her the old dress which she had, she actually gave away her brand new wedding dress and wore her old clothes on her wedding night!
Lady Fatima Zahra used to stay late at night praying for others and not for herself, and when her son, Imam Hassan, inquired about the reason, she told him: “The neighbours come before the household members.”
This means that she was more into people’s concerns and pains than her own concerns and pains, and she sought their dreams before hers.
Reaching this high level of openness to people’s concerns before one’s own concerns, despite being burdened with several personal ones, is the utmost humanity and spirituality that one can reach.
This is the case of all the missionaries who care for people before caring for themselves, which is quite hard, knowing that many of those who carried a certain message in their movement failed once they turned this message into a means for achieving their own desires and lusts.
As we always say, we would not be missionary people if we turned the message into a profession rather than living it as a cause and a message, and we would not be missionary people if we do not love the people with whom we live in the core of this message.
However, reaching this high status requires that we educate ourselves on loving people, and then educate the others living amongst us and those to whom our voice reaches on the trait of love.
Actually, the one who holds a grudge against people in his heart will never acquire the key to their hearts, which is love that is the key to man’s humanity.
Thus, we conclude that lady Fatima’s call to women is: Be a human being and not merely a female who makes use of her femininity, and consequently, loses her humanity. Be a human being with God and with people, spiritually, mentally, and functionally. Be a missionary person who gives utmost priority to the message and not to one’s self, in the sense that you would sacrifice yourself for the sake of the message.
Thus, Islam introduces to the men and women in the world Fatima as the Lady of the Women of the Two Worlds, not because of her kinship to the Prophet, but rather because of her virtues.