We ought to deduce several lessons from Az-Zahra’ (a.s.)’s teachings, speeches, and preaches. We would like to highlight a number of her lessons that we ought to master so that our loyalty to her be honest and our love be truthful; for love is not merely a heart beat or an overwhelming sentiment; rather, it is also a sincere commitment and practice. The following are some of the lessons that outline the life of this marvelous and great woman.
1- Devote yourself to Islam
Fatima (a.s.) calls the believing men and women to devote themselves entirely, through their minds, hearts, emotions, movements, deeds, sayings, as well as their entire life to Islam, the same way she devoted herself to Islam in spite of her short life.
Her devotion to Islam was demonstrated even as a child when she stood by the Messenger of Allah (p.) to alleviate the pains the atheists afflicted him with. Even as early as that stage, she managed to embrace him and take away his pains and concerns that she was called “the mother of her father”.
Her devotion to Islam was also demonstrated in her life with the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (a.s.), during which she took care of him and served her family and children with what pleases Allah and His Messenger.
Az-Zahra’ was also devoted to Islam by struggling for the sake of Allah with her money and hard work…she was totally devoted to Islam through her entire existence and life. This was the call of Fatima (a.s.): Devote yourself to Islam and strive to ensure that Allah’s word is the highest and Satan’s is the lowest.
Her call is that many issues are awaiting Muslims down the road, so if the issue requires struggle, then they ought to struggle; if it requires that they stand strong and unite and freeze their disagreements in spite of all history’s miseries and pains, so shall they do, keeping Islam ahead of them as the main title and big objective they ought to realize and consecrate, and not their confining sectarianisms, restricting fanaticisms, and fatal selfishness. Strive hard to call for Allah and the religion He has chosen, so that it would be the strongest, dearest, and most elevated religion by means of the thought you adopt and steps you undertake.
2- The neighbor comes before the house
Az-Zahra’ (a.s.) used to stay late at night praying for others and not for herself, and when her son, Imam Al-Hassan (a.s.), inquired about the reason, she told him: “The neighbors 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. In a tradition of Imam Ali (a.s.), he says: “If you want to remove evil from the minds of others then first give up evil intentions yourself,” for uprooting evil from one’s own heart is the first step towards uprooting it from the hearts of others, since a supreme human value calls man to live the concerns of others: “Treat people the way you like to be treated,” and: “Love for your brother what you love for yourself and hate for others what you hate for yourself,” and: “one is not considered a believer until he loves to his brother what he loves for himself.” Thus, we conclude that there exists a moral equation that is far more supreme than the one that existed before Islam, which is: you and the other; however, the other comes first and you come in the second place.
What supremacy that is and what an ascension it is to live the concerns of others and forget all about yours until you make sure that the former’s concerns were addressed? A trait that makes the Members of the House stand out, for Allah says: “And prefer (them) before themselves though poverty may afflict them,” (59:09), “And they give food out of love for it – the craving for food, i.e. in spite that they love food, they offer it; which one of the two interpretations – to the poor and the orphan and the captive: We only feed you for Allah’s sake; we desire from you neither reward nor thanks,” (76:8-9), that is, they favored the poor and the orphan and the captive over themselves, for all they seek is Allah’s satisfaction. This is the case of the Members of the House (a.s.) who lived for the sake of Allah and died for His sake as well. Actually, Imam Ali (a.s.) knew so when the Prophet (p.) told him that he [Imam Ali] will be murdered, for he said: “Would this ensure the safety and the wellbeing of my religion?” The Prophet (p.) answered him: “Yes it would,” so he (a.s.) said: “Then, it would not matter if death falls upon me or I fall to death.”
Thus – when Ibn Muljam struck him by a poisoned sword on his forehead and in spite of the excruciating pains overwhelming his body – he cried out, rejoicing his martyrdom and said: “In the name of Allah, and by Allah, and on the path of the Messenger of Allah, I have won, by the Lord of the Kaaba,” since the one who follows the path of the message would never be vulnerable to pain, for his love to Allah surpasses his pains.
Actually, this is what made Imam Al-Hussein (a.s.) bear up the situation when he was holding his baby child between his hands while he was shivering like a slain bird. Despite this utmost cruelty, he said with a glimpse of spiritual rejoice: “What makes me bear what has befell on me is that it is in the eyes of Allah,” so, as long as Allah notices me struggling and sacrificing, and immolating my children, at a time my body is full of injuries… all that does not matter as long as Allah witnesses that.
Thus, Lady Fatima (a.s.) was more into people’s concerns than her own concerns, and she used to prefer her neighbors over her own household members. She is actually giving us a practical lesson stating that man, be he male or female, ought to liberate himself from selfishness and stifling personal interests.
3- Firmness in stands
We also learn from Az-Zahra’ (a.s.)’s life steadiness in stands and forbearance in the most difficult situations, for all her sickness and pains and grief for the loss of the Messenger of Allah (p.) did not prevent her from defending righteousness with the utmost strength that Allah has provided. This enabled her to stand strong, and preach, and deliver speeches, and talk and protest on anything and with all means possible to consecrate the right of the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.). Her protest even extended until after her death, for she asked to be buried at night and prevented those who oppressed her from participating in her funeral. Thus, we ought to deduce the following lesson that if we face any personal or social problems, we ought not to make use of them as an excuse to evade our general or personal responsibilities. Moreover, despite that Az-Zahra’ (a.s.) took good care of her family and husband and raised her children, that did not prevent her from carrying out her Islamic obligations, teaching the Muslim women and men the rulings and teachings of their religion and from being an active member at all levels of Jihad and political and cultural struggle.
4- Legitimacy of the woman’s political action
As we remember Az-Zahra’ (a.s.) and her action in the Islamic reality and how she stood by the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.), and how she faced all kinds of oppression exercised against both of them, and how she addressed the women of Al-Ansar and Al-Muhajireen tribes protesting against them and reminding them of the Islamic and Quranic facts… as we remember all that, we cannot but draw the conclusion that it is legitimate for women to embark on the political work and engage in the political struggle. Az-Zahra’ (a.s.) is the infallible woman; therefore, what she does, and abides by and talks about is legitimacy per se, with all what the term “legitimacy” encompasses. Moreover, we can also deduce the legitimacy of women’s political action from the Holy Quran, for Allah, the Most Exalted says: “And (as for) the believing men and the believing women, they are guardians of each other; they enjoin good and forbid evil.” (09:71). The good encompasses all kinds of justice and right in life, whereas the evil is the complete opposite. Actually, the good is not restricted to prayer, pilgrimage, and fasting, as well as other acts of worshiping and good deeds; whereas, the evil is not restricted to drinking alcohol or confiscating the orphan’s money, as well as other forbidden acts, but rather it encompasses all kinds of oppression and falsehood in life.
Actually, the good and the evil surpass that and surpass the concept of individual movement in the Muslims’ reality, and extend to the general and social movement related to the Muslims’ general issues. As it is clear, the Holy Ayah did not restrict the duty of enjoining good and forbidding evil to men only, but to women as well, for it mentioned “the believing men and believing women” side by side on this mission; the mission of enjoining good by a challenging hand, a rebellious word, a daring heart, and forbidding evil, be it political, legislative, dogmatic or social evil, just as the mission of enjoining good requires the union of men and women together. Thus, Imam Al-Hussein (a.s.), defining the objective of his revolution said: “I rose to seek reform in my grandfather’s nation; I want to enjoin good and forbid evil.” Moreover, the Jihad of Imam Al-Hussein (a.s.) and his struggle were an act of enjoining good and forbidding evil, and we noticed how the believing men and women stood by him in Karbala and participated in this mission, just as the believing men and women, before that, in Mecca and Al-Madina supported the Messenger of Allah (p.) in all the aspects of struggle; so there was the Messenger of Allah with Khadijah, and Ali with Fatima, and Al-Hussein with Zeinab who adopted the path of her mother, Fatima, and moved from Karbala to Al-Kufa and As-Sham carrying out her duty quite perfectly and abiding by the word of her father, the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.): “The best kind of jihad is a word of truth before a tyrant ruler.”
In conclusion, Az-Zahra’ (a.s.) was a pioneer in the political and jihadi work, by her opposition, revolution, protesting, and sermons she delivered at the Mosque, the Mosque of the Messenger of Allah, and to the women of Al-Ansar and Al-Muhajireen. Thus, a Muslim woman ought to model after Az-Zahra’ (a.s.), i.e. not to be preoccupied with herself and her beauty, and give them a higher priority than carrying out her social and political duties.
5- The woman’s cultural responsibility
Fatima Az-Zahra’ (a.s.) acquired her knowledge form her father, the Messenger of Allah (p.) that she was the first female writer in the epoch of Islam. Moreover, she used to give Islamic lessons to the women of Al-Ansar and Al-Muhajireen who used to gather at her place to receive knowledge and education.
The lesson we ought to deduce is that the Muslim woman ought to dedicate her life for the sake of the call for Islam and its propagation. Therefore, she ought first to educate herself and enrich her life with diverse divine knowledge fields of Islam. Once she acquires this level, she would embark on the mission of the call for Islam and its propagation with what conforms to her Hijab, and religious commitment, and marital responsibilities, just as our Lady Fatima did her part in the best way possible. Nothing prevented her from fulfilling her role; neither the burdens of the house and children, nor the fact that her husband, the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.), was a fighter for the sake of Allah and used to accompany the Messenger of Allah from one conquest to another, and from a war to another, returning covered by wounds and blood, so she used to treat him and clean his wounds and wash his clothes and sword. None of that prevented her from fulfilling the responsibilities she shouldered, including the call for Islam, guiding the Muslim women to their religion’s teachings and rulings, as well as acquiring and offering knowledge throughout her life.
Thus, a woman out to bear the responsibility of knowledge; she ought to be responsible for what she reads and studies and apprehends, and for writing down and transmitting to others what she learns, as much as possible, just as Az-Zahra’ transmitted her knowledge to others.
We wonder: Why are not there female Muslims writers?! Actually, some of our Muslim women have great potentials that are buried, and had they sprouted, they would add to the Islamic book collections and the Islamic nation tons of useful and beneficial books.
We call on all the believing women to train themselves on writing, for any of them might find out that she is to be a great future writer. I cannot but remember the she-martyr, Bint Al-Huda, whom we knew at An-Najaf; she started to write very simple and ordinary pieces, and we even used to correct for her some of what she wrote…I remember that after I published my poem “Old Methods” in Al-Adwa’ [The Lights] Magazine in 1380 H., she sent me some poem pieces that emulated my poem, and even though she had a few mistakes, she persisted on studying and practicing on writing and progressing that she turned out to be one of the Muslim writers whom all Muslims, be they men or women, benefit from her writings.
The woman ought not to underestimate her powers or underrate her potentials, for one could not discover his dormant potentials unless he tries; if he does not, he would not discover them.
We call on all women to be engaged in the intellectual and cultural, the literary, and the political movement, and to be active at the level of the call for Allah, the Most Exalted, and to model after Az-Zahra’ in every step they take, for when we study the personality of Az-Zahra’, we would find out that she represents the legitimacy in all what she lived, went through, and embarked on.
Therefore, we ought to deduce the pros of this great lady – knowing that all what she holds is positive – in her functional life, so as to reach a level at which men and women integrate in the Islamic society, and the woman would no more be a neglected and marginalized entity at the man’s general social, political, and cultural reality, for Allah says: “And (as for) the believing men and the believing women, they are guardians of each other – at the level of cooperation, victory, and integration – they enjoin good and forbid evil.”
6- Fatima’s call to women
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 Allah 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. Therefore, you ought to learn from her how to love and give the other and what the cultural responsibility is, and how to face and oppose all kinds of oppression and deviation, let Az-Zahra’ be your role model in worship and in your morals, Jihad, giving, and altruism.
If you want to celebrate Az-Zahra’, you ought to celebrate the message she was open to throughout her life. Actually, celebrating Az-Zahra’ is not by shedding a tear, but rather by taking a stand, for her memory should not be one of grief but rather of joy of the message, that even when we grieve for her, we rejoice by her and by belonging to her, and even when we cry out for her, we smile for her. Allah wanted us to be part of the movement of the message, as one poet once said: “his eyes are filled with tears, yet he is smiling,” and so is the message; it includes joy and sadness, relief and tiredness.
Let us be part of the march of our great individuals, be they men or women. We ought to follow their missionary lead and not their personal one, even if the message was integrated in their personal entity, and vice versa.
By: Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)