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Did Umar Attack the House of Hazrat Fatimah Zahra (PBUH)?

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The Allegation

In the accounts of Islamic history, few events are as contentious and emotionally charged as the attack on the house of Hazrat Fatimah Zahra, peace be upon her, which occurred in the wake of Prophet Muhammad’s passing. This incident has long been a point of divergence between Shia and Sunni Muslims, with each group holding markedly different perspectives on the events and their implications.

From the Shia viewpoint, this episode symbolizes the gravest injustice inflicted upon the Prophet’s family. They assert that under the orders of the first Caliph, the second Caliph led an attack on the house where Fatimah Zahra, the Prophet’s daughter, resided with her children. This assault is not merely seen as an act of violence but as a betrayal of the Prophet’s legacy and a deliberate attack on his lineage.

Contrastingly, Sunni historical accounts often present a different narrative. Many Sunni scholars either dispute the severity of this event or interpret it in a way that upholds the integrity of the early Caliphs. This divergence is not just a matter of historical record but reflects deeper theological and ideological divides within the Muslim community.

Interestingly, evidence of this event is found in Sunni literature as well, indicating a certain level of acknowledgment across different Islamic sects. Among these are narrations classified as Sahih al-Sanad, suggesting their authenticity and reliability. However, it’s essential to recognize that historical accounts are often colored by the narrators’ perspectives and biases.

This historical episode’s examination and its documentation in various sources are crucial for understanding the profound and lasting impact it has had on the Muslim world. The incident at Fatimah Zahra’s house is not just a historical event but a lens through which the complexities of early Islamic history and the Shia-Sunni divide can be explored. By delving into these narratives, one gains insight into the profound emotional and spiritual reverberations that this event has had throughout Islamic history.

The Evidence


1. The Account of Juwayni

Juwayni, the teacher of Dhahabi, narrates from the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his progeny, in this manner:

One day, the Prophet, peace be upon him and his family, was sitting when Hassan ibn Ali entered. The eyes of the Prophet filled with tears upon seeing Hassan. Then, Hussain ibn Ali entered, and the Prophet wept again. Following them, Fatimah and Ali, peace be upon them, entered, and the Prophet’s tears flowed once more. When asked about the reason for his weeping over Fatimah, he said:

“When I saw Fatimah, I remembered a scene that will occur after my departure; I envisage indignity entering her house, her sanctity being violated, her right usurped, being deprived of her inheritance, her rib being broken, and her unborn child being miscarried; all the while she cries out in anguish, ‘O Muhammad!’ but no one responds to her, she seeks help, but no one heeds her cries. She will be the first of my family to join me, arriving in a state of sorrow, afflicted, grieving, and martyred. May God curse whoever has wronged her, punish those who usurped her right, humiliate those who have demeaned her, and condemn to eternal hellfire whoever struck her causing the miscarriage of her child, and let the angels say ‘Amen.”[1]

2. Ibn Abi Shaybah (died 239 AH):

 He, who was among the teachers of Muhammad ibn Isma’il al-Bukhari, states in his book ‘Al-Musannaf’:

When people pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr, Ali and Zubair were discussing and consulting in Fatimah’s house. This news reached Umar ibn al-Khattab. He came to Fatimah’s house and said, ‘O daughter of the Messenger of God! The most beloved to us is your father and then you!!! But by God, this affection does not prevent me from ordering to burn down the house if these people gather in it.’ He said this and left. When Ali and Zubair returned to the house, the noble daughter of the Prophet told Ali and Zubair, “Umar came to me and swore that if your gathering recurs, he would burn down the house. By God! He will do what he has sworn.”[2]

The chain of narrators of this report is authentic, and there are no defects in it. Interestingly, some Sunni scholars themselves have admitted the credibility of this narration. For instance, Dr. Hasan bin Farhan Maliki, a Saudi Arabian academic and researcher in education, writes about Ibn Abi Shaybah’s narration:

“At first, I thought the story of the attack was false and not authentic; but after research and investigation, I found strong chains of narrators for it, one of which is the statement of Ibn Abi Shaybah in his book ‘Al-Musannaf’; thus, this heart-wrenching event is proven with authentic chains of narrators.”[3]

3. Al-Allamah al-Baladhuri (died 270 AH):

“Abu Bakr sent for Ali to pledge allegiance. Since Ali refused to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr, Abu Bakr ordered Umar to go and bring him. Umar went towards Fatimah’s house with a flaming torch. Fatimah came to the door and said, ‘O son of Khattab! Are you the one who wants to set fire to my door?‘ Umar replied, ‘Yes! This act will strengthen what your father has brought.'”[4]

4. Ibn Qutaybah Dinawari (212-276 AH):

“Abu Bakr was after a group of people who had not pledged allegiance to him, the same individuals who had gathered at Ali’s house. Therefore, Umar was sent after them. Umar arrived and called them out, but they paid no attention and did not leave the house. Umar asked for firewood and said, “By the God in whose hand Umar’s life is, I swear that if you don’t come out, I will set fire to the house with those inside it.” They told Umar, “O Aba Hafs! Fatimah is in this house.” Umar replied, “So be it!”[5]

Another narration states: Umar, along with a large group of the Ansar and a few of the Muhajirun, came to the door of Hazrat Fatimah Zahra, peace be upon her.

…When Fatimah heard their voices, she cried out loudly, “O Father! O Messenger of Allah! What injustices we have seen from Umar ibn al-Khattab and Abu Bakr ibn Abi Quhafah after you.”[6]

Some Wahhabis dispute the attribution of the book “Al-Imamah wal-Siyasah” to Ibn Qutaybah, trying to discredit the narrations and truths he revealed in his book.

5. Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (310 AH):

“Umar ibn al-Khattab came to Ali’s house, where a group of Muhajirun had gathered. He turned to them and said, “By God, I swear I will set fire to the house unless you come out for the pledge of allegiance.” Zubair came out of the house with his sword drawn, but suddenly he slipped, and the sword fell from his hand. At this moment, the others attacked him and took his sword away.[7]

6. Al-Masudi al-Shafi’i (345 AH):

“They attacked him, set fire to his door, forcibly removed him from there, and pressed the mistress of the women against the door, causing the miscarriage of Mohsen.[8]

Taqi al-Din al-Subki in his book “Al-Tabaqat al-Shafi’iyya” lists him among the scholars of the Shafi’i school[9]; however, some Sunnis consider him a Shia due to the content of his book.

7. Ibn Abd Rabbuh (463 AH):

Ibn Abd Rabbuh writes in ‘Al-‘Iqd al-Farid’: “Abu Bakr ordered Umar ibn al-Khattab to go and bring those people out of the house and told him: If they resist and refuse to come out, fight them. Umar moved towards them with a flame he had brought with the intention of burning Fatimah’s house. Fatimah said: “O son of Khattab! Have you come to burn our house?” He replied: ‘Yes unless you enter into what the community has entered into (the pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr)…’[10].

This book is a historical and literary work, so it mentions narrations without chains of narrators. Such accounts, though not independently reliable, testify to the truths present in other narrations.

8. Ibn Abd al-Barr al-Qurtubi (368-463 AH):

Ibn Abd al-Barr al-Qurtubi says: Then Fatimah said to them: “Umar came to me and swore that if you come here again, I swear by God, he will do such and such. And I swear by God, he will do it”[11].

9. Muqatil ibn Atiyyah (505 AH):

“When Abu Bakr took the pledge of allegiance from the people by threat, sword, and force, Umar, Qunfudh, and a group were sent towards the house of Ali and Fatimah, and Umar gathered firewood and set the door of the house on fire…[12]

10. Abu al-Fida (732 AH):

He writes in his history: “Abu Bakr sent Umar to Ali and his companions to bring them out of Fatimah’s house; and said if they resist, then fight them. So Umar came towards them with some fire to burn down the house. Then Fatimah saw him and said, “Where are you going, O son of Khattab? Have you come to burn our house?” He replied, ‘Yes, unless you do what the people have done.’ So Ali came out and went to Abu Bakr and pledged allegiance to him”[13].

11. Al-Safadi (764 AH):

 “Umar struck Fatimah’s abdomen on the day of the pledge, causing her to miscarry Mohsen[14].

12. Ibn Hajar Asqalani (852 AH) and Shams al-Din al-Dhahabi (748 AH):

Ibn Hajar Asqalani in ‘Lisan al-Mizan’ and Dhahabi in ‘Mizan al-I’tidal’ writes: “Umar kicked Fatimah, which caused the miscarriage of Mohsen[15].

 However, Ibn Hajar rejects this narration due to the presence of Ibn Abi Darim in its chain and on the pretext of his Shia (Rafidi) affiliation. On the other hand, Dhahabi introduces him in ‘Siyar A’lam al-Nubala’ as “Ibn Abi Darim, an Imam, a Hafiz (memorizer of Hadith), and a virtuous person”[16].

These words indicate a very high credibility of this narrator for those familiar with Hadith sciences. Dhahabi elsewhere writes: “He is described as having memorization (trustworthiness in narration), knowledge… but the point is that he is a Rafidi (Shia)” in ‘Siyar A’lam al-Nubala’[17]. Dhahabi also states: “Muhammad ibn Hammad al-Hafiz said that he [Ibn Abi Darim] walked the path of truth throughout his life”[18].

Although Dhahabi also criticizes him for being a Rafidi and narrating this and some other narrations against the Caliphs, even referring to him as a “misguided and errant Sheikh”!!! But, can being a Rafidi (Shia) be a reason to doubt a narrator’s reliability? And can merely being a Rafidi (Shia) justify dismissing a person’s narration as false? If so, then Sunnis would have to invalidate many narrations in the ‘Sihah Sitta’ (Six Authentic Books of Hadith) because their authors have narrated many Hadiths from Rafidis (Shias), for instance:

  1. Ubaidullah ibn Musa: Dhahabi says about him: “He was known to be a Rafidi”[19]. And elsewhere he mentions: “His Hadiths are found in the books of Sihah Sitta”[20]. Al-Mizzi, the author of ‘Tahdhib al-Kamal,’ states that all authors of Sihah Sitta have narrated from him.
  2. Ja’far ibn Sulaiman al-Duba’i: Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi quotes Yazid ibn Zuray’ saying: “Ja’far ibn Sulaiman is a Rafidi”[21]. Al-Mizzi says: “Al-Bukhari in ‘Al-Adab Al-Mufrad’ and the rest of the authors of Sihah (Muslim, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i, Ibn Majah) have narrated from him in their authentic books”[22].
  3. Abd al-Malik ibn A’yan al-Kufi: Al-Mizzi quotes Sufyan saying: “He is a Rafidi”[23]. Al-Mizzi states: “All authors of Sihah Sitta have narrated from him”[24].

13. Abu Walid Muhammad ibn Shahnah al-Hanafi (817 AH):

 “Umar came to Ali’s house to set it on fire along with those inside. When Fatimah saw him, Umar told her to enter into what the entire community has entered into (the pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr)”[25].

14. Muhammad Hafez Ibrahim (1287-1351 AH):

Muhammad Hafez Ibrahim, an Egyptian poet known as the “Poet of the Nile,” has a collection of poems published in ten volumes. In his famous poem known as the “Omaria,” he refers to one of Umar ibn al-Khattab’s feats as having gone to Ali’s house and said: “If you do not come out and pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr, I will set the house on fire, even if the Prophet’s daughter is inside.”

It is interesting that he recited this poem in a major session, and the audience not only did not criticize him but applauded him and awarded him a medal of honor. In this poem, he says:

And a statement to Ali made by Umar, noble to its hearer and significant to its speaker * I will burn your house and leave no one in it if you do not pledge allegiance, even if the daughter of the chosen Prophet is inside * No one other than Abu Hafs (Umar) dared to utter such a statement in the face of the knight of Adnan and its defender[26].

15. Umar Rida Kahhala (Contemporary):

He narrates as follows: “Abu Bakr sent Umar after some people who had refused to pledge allegiance to him, including Abbas, Zubair, and Saad ibn Ubada, who had taken refuge in the house of Lord Amir al-Mu’minin Ali at the house of Hazrat Zahra. Umar came and called them to come out. They were in the house and refused to leave. Umar asked for firewood and said: ‘By the One in whose hand is Umar’s soul, either come out or I will burn the house with its occupants.’ It was said to him, ‘O Abu Hafs, Fatimah is in this house.’ He said, ‘Even if Fatimah is there, [I will burn the house].‘”[27].

16. Abdul Fattah Abdul Maqsoud[28]:

This renowned and expert Egyptian scholar has mentioned the story of the assault on the house of revelation in two instances in his book, which we refer to: “Umar said: ‘By the One in whose hand is Umar’s life, come out or I will burn the house over its inhabitants!’ Those who feared God and maintained the sanctity of the Prophet in his progeny said, ‘O Abu Hafs! Fatimah is in this house.’ And he, unhesitatingly, cried out: ‘So be it!’ Umar approached and knocked on the door, then pounded it with fists and feet to force his way in. Ali appeared. The cry of Zahra at the threshold of God rose. That cry was a plea of the Prophet’s daughter, saying: “Father! O Messenger of God…’ She wanted to turn him, who slept near her in the Lord’s paradise, away from the tyranny of one of his companions, to put the arrogant and bold transgressor in his place, remove his tyranny, and end his harshness and severity. She wished that before her eyes met him, a thunderbolt would descend and find him. When the crowd turned back and Umar wanted to flee like a startled deer from Zahra’s scream, Ali, with a throat choked with emotion and heavy sorrow, turned his eyes among them and pressed his fingers on the hilt of his sword, wanting to plunge into them in his extreme anger.”[29]

Conclusion: Analyzing the Historical Confrontation

The investigation into the historical confrontation at Fatimah Zahra’s house reveals significant findings from the analyzed documentation. First and foremost, the documents uniformly affirm that Abu Bakr, a pivotal figure in early Islamic history, issued orders to Umar ibn al-Khattab to secure allegiance from Imam Ali. The instructions explicitly mentioned the use of force if necessary, indicating a preparedness to resort to coercive measures.

Furthermore, all documents consistently report that Umar ibn al-Khattab took firewood to Fatimah Zahra’s house with the intention of burning down the door and, by extension, endangering those inside. Even when informed that Fatimah herself was within, his response, as recorded, was dismissive, indicating a willingness to proceed regardless of her presence.

The accounts unanimously affirm that Umar did indeed carry out an attack on the house. This consistent reporting across various sources highlights the gravity and the contentious nature of the event.

In terms of the differences observed in the accounts, ranging from detailed to brief narrations, it can be reasoned that this variability is influenced by the narrators’ emotional attachments to specific personalities. This attachment likely led to selective reporting or omission of certain details, reflecting the complex human aspect of historical record-keeping.

It is crucial to note that these findings are based purely on reliable Sunni sources and historians. This aspect is particularly important as it removes the sectarian lens often associated with this event and focuses solely on the historical evidence as presented. As the saying goes, “From the words of your mouth, I hold you accountable,” the analysis stands firmly on the recorded words and accounts from within the Sunni tradition, providing an unbiased examination of this significant historical event.

References:


[1] Faraid al-Simtayn, Volume 2, Pages 34 and 35.

[2] Al-Musannaf, Volume 8, Page 572.

[3] Reading in the Books of Beliefs, the Hanbali School as a Model, Page 52, Chapter: The Will of Abu Bakr to Umar for the Caliphate and the Muslim Stance on it, by Hasan bin Farhan al-Maliki

[4] Ansaab al-Ashraf, by al-Baladhuri, Volume 1, Page 586

[5] Al-Imamah wal-Siyasah – by Ibn Qutaybah al-Dinawari, edited by al-Shiri – Volume 1 – Page 30

[6] Al-Imamah wal-Siyasah, by Ibn Qutaybah, Volume 1, Page 30.

[7] History of al-Tabari, Volume 2, Page 443.

[8] Proof of the Testament, Page 143

[9] Al-Tabaqat al-Shafi’iyyah, Volume 3, Pages 456 and 457, Number 225, published by Dar Ihya al-Kutub al-Arabiyah

[10] Al-‘Iqd al-Farid, by Ibn Abd Rabbuh, Volume 3, Page 63, Egyptian print.

[11] Al-Isti’ab, by Ibn Abd al-Barr al-Qurtubi, Volume 3, Page 975; Al-Musannaf, by Ibn Abi Shaybah, Volume 8, Page 572.

[12] Al-Imamah wal-Khilafah, by Muqatil ibn Atiyyah, Pages 160 and 161, with a preface by Dr. Hamed Dawood, a professor at Ain Shams University in Cairo, Beirut edition, Al-Balagh Foundation.

[13] History of Abu al-Fida, Volume 1, Page 156, Egyptian print in al-Husseiniya Press

[14] Al-Wafi bil-Wafayat, Volume 5, Page 347

[15] Lisan al-Mizan, Volume 1, Page 268

[16] Siyar A’lam al-Nubala, Volume 15, Page 576, Number 349, Biography of Ibn Abi Darim

[17] Siyar A’lam al-Nubala, Volume 15, Page 577, Number 349, Biography of Ibn Abi Darim.

[18] Siyar A’lam al-Nubala, Volume 15, Page 578, Number 349, Biography of Ibn Abi Darim

[19] Siyar A’lam al-Nubala, Volume 9, Page 556, Biography of Ubaidullah ibn Musa, Number 215.

[20] Siyar A’lam al-Nubala, Volume 9, Page 555, Biography of Ubaidullah ibn Musa, Number 215.

[21] History of Baghdad, Volume 5, Page 372, under the biography of Ahmad ibn al-Miqdam ibn Sulaiman ibn al-Ash’ath ibn Aslam ibn Suwayd ibn al-Aswad ibn Rabiah Abu al-Ash’ath al-Ajli al-Basri, Number 2925.

[22] Tahdhib al-Kamal, Volume 5, Page 43, Biography of Ja’far ibn Sulaiman al-Duba’i, Number 943

[23] Tahdhib al-Kamal, Volume 18, Page 283, Biography of Abd al-Malik ibn A’yan al-Kufi, Number 3514.

[24] Tahdhib al-Kamal, Volume 18, Page 282, Biography of Abd al-Malik ibn A’yan al-Kufi, Number 3514.

[25] Rawdhat al-Manazir in the News of the First and Last (Margin of al-Kamil by Ibn al-Athir), Volume 11, Page 113 (Al-Halabi, al-Afandi Press, Year 1301).

[26] Diwan of Muhammad Hafez Ibrahim, Volume 1, Page 82.

[27] A’lam al-Nisa: Volume 4, Page 114.

[28] Abdul Fattah Abdul Maqsoud is considered one of the prominent Sunni scholars and writers in Egypt, known for his poetry in both classical Arabic and colloquial language. He was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1912. He pursued his university studies in Islamic history in Egypt. For a time, he was the head of the office of the Vice President (Hassan Ibrahim) and the director of the Prime Minister’s library in Egypt. He was also the founder and a member of the editorial board of the magazine ‘Al-Hadith’ in Alexandria and eventually became the head of the Prime Minister’s office (Mohamed Sedki Sulaiman) in Egypt. In addition, he was among the authors of textbooks in history, geography, and social sciences in Egypt. He has numerous publications, including ‘Ibnana Ma’a al-Rasool’, ‘Yom Ke Yom Uthman’, ‘Salibiyyah Ila al-Abad’, ‘Al-Zahra Umm Abiha’, ‘Al-Imam Ali bin Abi Talib’, ‘Al-Saqifah wal-Khilafah’, among others.

[29] Al-Imam Ali bin Abi Talib, Abdul Fattah Abdul Maqsoud, Volume 4, Pages 274-277 and Volume 1, Pages 192-193.

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3 Comments
  1. Sadia says

    Articles such as these cause hatred amongst the Muslims. While the non Muslims are rejoicing over the dead bodies of our brothers and sisters in Palestine and other parts of the world.
    Such a shame that this article is a direct disobedience of Allah’s in ayah 103 of Surah Baqarah :
    “And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided”

    1. Sayyid Abdullah Al-Musawi says

      Considering historical events as hatred is a flawed perspective. If we adopt this view, we negate the importance of learning from history, which is crucial for humanity’s progress. For instance, should we then ignore significant events like the Battle of the Camel or Siffin, where Muslims were in conflict, or the tragedy of Karbala where the Prophet’s grandson and his family were massacred? Should we also overlook the attack on Medina by Yazid, resulting in countless deaths? Islamic history, like any other, is marked by sad and tumultuous events. To follow your logic, we would have to shut our history books and naively pretend everything was peaceful. This is not just impractical, but it’s a disservice to our understanding of the past.

      Furthermore, Allah’s guidance to hold onto the rope of Allah, which includes following Muhammad and his family, highlights a path of unity and righteousness. If Muslims had adhered to this, many tragic events might have been avoided. Regardless of whether non-Muslims rejoice or not, we cannot deny these historical events that have significantly shaped our identity and development. Acknowledging and learning from these events is essential for understanding who we are and what we have become.

      Your interpretation of a single verse seems misplaced when weighed against numerous others where the Prophet explicitly asked for nothing in return for his message, except for kindness towards his family. How did the early Muslims respond to this request? Tragically, history shows that they responded with violence, leading to the massacre of his family. This stark contradiction between the Prophet’s wishes and the actions of his followers raises serious questions about their adherence to his teachings.

      Moreover, we must also consider the multitude of hadiths where the Prophet emphatically stated that no harm should come to Fatima and his household. These directives were clear and unequivocal, yet they were blatantly disregarded, as evidenced by the subsequent events that unfolded. This neglect and the resulting actions not only betrayed the Prophet’s direct instructions but also left a lasting scar on the history of Islam. It is crucial to confront these historical realities, as they offer vital lessons and insights into the complexities and challenges faced by the early Muslim community.

      Rather than striving to align with the correct side of history and engaging in deeper research, you seem to be advocating for a willful ignorance of the teachings of the Quran and the Holy Prophet. This approach is problematic as it suggests turning a blind eye to the rich, nuanced guidance these sources offer. The essence of Islamic teaching is not just in its literal text, but also in understanding and applying its wisdom in various contexts. Ignoring this aspect undercuts the very foundation of what it means to be knowledgeable and responsible in the context of our faith. It is crucial that we not only read but also deeply comprehend and reflect upon the teachings of the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet, ensuring that we honor and uphold their true meanings and intentions in our lives and communities.

  2. Sadia says

    “And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided”

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