By: Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)
Translated by Manal Samhat
The Doyenne of the Women of the World, Fatima Az-Zahraa (a.s.), was raised in the house of the Prophet (p), in which the revelation descended, which paved the way for her to be the first female student in the school of Muhammad (p.), as she embraced Islam with all its teachings, concepts, and laws. Ali (a.s.), too, was the first male student in this school.
While the Prophet (p.) was receiving the revelation, Fatima and Ali (a.s.) used to sit and eagerly listen to the Prophet’s (p.) explanation of the revelation, and God’s teachings and legislations. In view of that, the phrase uttered by the Prophet (p): "Had not it been for Ali (a.s.), Fatima (a.s.) would have never found a peer," refers to Fatima’s (a.s.) superior intellect which found no resonance but in Ali’s (a.s.) equivalent intellect, making them the most compatible for each other.
The following story, which was mentioned in Al Kafi by Al-Kalini who quoted Imam As-Sadiq (a.s.), implies the Prophet (p.)'s great interest in educating Fatima (a.s.). The Imam (a.s.) says: "Fatima (a.s.) came once to the Messenger of Allah complaining about something. The Messenger of Allah (p.) 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 say what is right or remain silent”. The Prophet (p.) wanted to assuage her pains by making her preoccupied with imparting the Islamic values to people. This inspires us to remain preoccupied with significant issues, in order to divert our attention from the personal ones.
Some storytellers narrate a story that would call our attention to the emphasis Fatima (a.s.) gave to education: "A man went to Fatima (a.s.) and said, ‘O daughter of the Messenger of Allah! Has the Messenger of Allah left you anything with which you would provide us as something of a unique interest?’ She ordered her maid Fedha to bring her something which she had wrapped. When the maid told her that she could not find it, Fatima (a.s.) said to her, `Woe unto you! Find it, for it is to me equal to (my sons) Hassan and Hussein.’ The maid 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 misfortunes. 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 the one who is righteous and clement, and does not follow 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 springs out of obscenity, and what is obscene is in the Fire.”
We realize how much Fatima (a.s.) respected and glorified knowledge. The emphasis lies, not in the denotations of the words, but in the connotations which nourish the individual’s intellect and experience. Moreover, we deduce that Fatima (a.s.), being a leading religious figure, used to receive men to give sermons, answer questions, and provide explanations for their inquiries.
Not only did Fatima (a.s.) write down the knowledge she received on papers and compiled it in the form of books, but she also strove to transmit this knowledge to the Islamic nation. She never waited for questions, but always took the initiative of enlightening the whole society. As mentioned by some biographers, Fatima (a.s.) used to lecture the assembled women of Al-Muhajirin and Al-Ansar; which took the form similar to Hawza study groups. Fatima (a.s.)’s sermon in the mosque, in which she revealed the underlying meanings of jurisdiction and other religious laws, stands as a living evidence of the cultural message she conveyed, and the intellectual and educational responsibility she shouldered.
Fatima (a.s.) was so concerned with knowledge, the laws and teachings of Islam, that she kept a record of whatever the Prophet (p) said directly to her, or indirectly to her husband, Imam Ali (a.s.), or her son, Imam Al Hassan (a.s.). This fact could be deduced from the aforementioned Hadiths and from several forthcoming interpretations of the so-called “Fatima’s Book.” Thus, we could fairly refer to Fatima (a.s.) as the first chronicler in Islam, and the first to record the prophetic Hadiths. Fatima (a.s.) recorded her father’s teachings in his presence and with his consent, and this brings into question what the Caliph, Omar Bin Al-Khattab, did. Omar prohibited the recording of the Prophet’s (p) teachings under the false allegation that the Islamic Tradition might be confused for the teachings of the Quran.
Fatima (a.s.) left behind a book called “Fatima’s Book”, which arose much controversy. We shall discuss the reality behind this book and express our own view, as well. First of all, we must confirm that Fatima’s Book is not another Quran different from the one we all know; and all Shiites agree on this. Some irresponsible Muslim scholars accused the Shiites of having their own Quran that is different from that of other Muslims, claiming that Imam As-Sadiq (a.s.), while referring to Fatima’s Book, described it as three times bigger than the Quran. However, these allegations are absolutely false:
First: All the stories mentioned by the Household members (a.s.) regarding Fatima’s Book definitely assert that it is not a Quran different from that of other Muslims. That is why it was referred to in certain stories as “Fatima’s Book” instead of Fatima’s Quran, as in Al Kafi’s “Kitab Az-Zakat.”
Second: We say to those who claim that the Shiites have a Quran of their own that if they visit the Shiites’ houses, dwelling places, libraries, and mosques all over the world, they would find the same Quran that they read.
Third: the whole misconception is due to a lexical variation. Lexically speaking, the Arabic term “Mus'haf” (book) does not mean Quran. The Arabic term Mushaf can mean a book, collection of pages, a volume or a collection of writings, and “Sahifah” means a page. Thus, any book with pages, including the Quran, is called a Mushaf. The word “Mushaf”, in the Islamic convention, connotes the Quran. But this convention is an external factor, and this terminology came into use a long time after the issue of Fatima’s Book.
Now that we have cleared that Fatima’s Book is not another Quran, new questions, regarding its content, are raised: Does it really include some notions regarding the future dictated by an angel and recorded by Imam Ali (a.s.)? Or is it just Fatima’s will, in addition to some jurisdictional laws, Islamic teachings and sermons?
The issue is controversial and there are several narrations answering these questions:
1- Hammad Bin Othman narrates that when he once asked Imam Al Hussein (a.s.) about Fatima’s Book: "What is Fatima's Mushaf?" The Imam (a.s.) said: "When the Prophet (p.) passed away, it caused such a degree of grief to Fatima (a.s.) that only Allah, the Most Holy, the Most High, knows its extent. Allah then sent an angel to her to offer solace and speak to her. She complained about it to Imam Ali (a.s.) who asked her to inform him whenever she finds the angel speaking to her. She then informed him when the angel came. Imam Ali (a.s.) then used to write down all what he had heard and his notes took the shape of a whole book. The Imam (a.s.) then said: "There was nothing in it of the knowledge of the lawful and unlawful matters, but it had the knowledge of things that had happened and things to happen in future."
By considering the text of the story, we can argue that the angel was supposed to offer Fatima (a.s.) comfort and solace, and help her get over her grief. However, complaining to her husband about it infers that she was not at ease with the situation. It is also apparent that Imam Ali (a.s.) was not aware of the angel’s presence, and that only Fatima (a.s.) heard the angel’s voice, but never saw his figure.
2- In another story narrated by Abu Obeida: "Jibril came to comfort Fatima’s (a.s.) soul, and he [Jibril] informed her about her father and his place and of the future events and about what will happen to her children. At the same time, Ali (a.s.) would write down everything; so this was the Mushaf of Fatima (a.s.).”
There is nothing wrong in Jibril’s descent upon Fatima (a.s.), but the knowledge he imparted is too narrow; he only spoke about her progeny, while other stories relate a broader knowledge that include particulars, such as the appearance of the heretics in 128 Hijri.
3- A third story narrated by Al Hussein Bin Abu Al-Alaa related that Imam As-Sadiq (a.s.) said: "Fatima's book; I do not claim that it is a Quran , but rather it contains what makes People need us and makes us in need of no one. It even mentions (the legal punishment for) a lashing, half a lashing, one fourth of a lashing, and the indemnity for a scratch mark."
This story implies that Fatima’s Book includes the laws of the lawful and unlawful matters.
4- It was mentioned by Habib Al-Khathaami that Abu Jaafar Al Mansour once wrote to his deputy, Muhammad Ibn Khaled ordering him to ask the people of Al Madina, including Imam As-Sadiq (a.s.), a question relevant to the Zakat. Imam As-Sadiq (a.s.) answered, so Abdullah Ibn Al-Hassan asked him: "Where did you get this knowledge from?" The Imam (a.s.) said: "I have obtained it from the book of your mother, Fatima (a.s.)."
Obviously, in this story, Fatima’s Book, also called Fatima’s Quran, includes what is religiously permissible and what is impermissible.
5- In another story narrated in Al-Kafi by Suleiman Bin Khaled, Imam Al-Hussein (a.s.) said: "Bring out Fatima’s Book, for it contains her will."
6- Thus, in several stories, it is mentioned that it was recorded by Imam Ali (a.s.) and included what the angel used to tell Fatima (a.s.)
7- Another story narrates that the Prophet (p.) dictated Ali (a.s.) the book. However, other stories narrate that Fatima’s Book is a record of her will, and a record of what is lawful and what is unlawful, thus we must take them both into consideration. The story of Hammad Bin Othman is considered of a weak Sanad because of Omar Bin Abdel Aziz Abu Hafs, also known as Zahl. Zahl was described by Al Fadl Bin Shathan as a man who relates falsehood and who is not very fond of the Members of the Household (a.s.). Al Najashi also claims that Zahl mixes between false and authentic stories, and Al Kholasa said that he is of a mixed race; Arabian and Egyptian.
The story of Abu Obeida is also weak, because it had not been documented. However, it must be noted that the story of Al-Hussein Bin Abu Al-Alaa, which also discusses what is lawful and what is unlawful, is credible.
The stories of Habib Al Kathaami and Suleiman Bin Khaled are apparently weak; however, they match what Al-Hussein Bin Abu Al-Alaa related. We tend to believe that a story is credible if there is no reason for us to distrust it.
Accordingly, Fatima’s Book is probably a book of what is lawful and what is unlawful. Even if we assume that there is no contradiction between the stories, we shall consider that it includes laws, her will and the teachings of the angel. The Religious Authority, Al Majlisi, believes that Fatima’s Book is a book of religious rulings. Accordingly, calling the book “Fatima’s Book” means that she is the writer of the book; likewise, if the book was called “Ali’s Book”, then Ali (a.s.) would have been the writer.
In the light of what we have discussed, we deduce that Fatima (a.s.) is the first female writer in Islam, and Ali (a.s.) is the first male writer.
Anyway, we do not have the book nowadays, but Imam Al-Mahdi (aj.) does. Thus, the debate about what the book includes is futile. We only adopt what the Members of the Household (a.s.) had told us about, and the same applies to other books, which are considered to be authentic, such as Al-Jafr and Al-Jami'a.