This month we celebrate the auspicious birth of Lady Fatima(a), the daughter of Prophet Muhammad(s). Lady Fatima is a paragon of an ideal daughter, wife, and mother. She is also an epitome of a leader, a teacher, a servant of God, and a defender of Imamate. She is Laylat al-Qadr, the Night of Power, she is Kawthar, the Fountain in Paradise, she is the one with whose pleasure God is pleased and with whose displeasure He is displeased, she is the one who was tested (Mumtahana) before her creation.
It is no surprise then that her famous sermon is an exemplar of eloquence and wisdom. However, it is unfortunate that Muslims, even those who proclaim to love her, reduce the Sermon of Fadak as a speech given to reclaim inheritance. On the contrary, it is actually the most comprehensive and best reminder on the message of Islam and its principles that the Muslims have ever received after the Prophet(s). For this reason, the most esteemed scholars advised their children to study the sermon and derive lessons from it.
We do injustice by not striving to comprehend her efforts, her sermon, her goals, and her status. Consequently, we belittle the sermon itself by reducing it to a monologue regarding inheritance and Fadak a piece of land. Although it is true that during the Prophet’s life the Quranic verse was revealed to grant her Fadak, the daughter of the noble lady who sacrificed all her wealth for Islam was not requesting a piece of land. Fadak is a symbol of Imamate, and understanding Fadak is a gate to understanding Fatima.
There are a few practical lessons we can strive to implement from the section regarding the philosophy behind divine ordinances. First and foremost, one should realise that all the bounties of this world are from God, without our even asking Him. It is for this reason that God deserves praise. He did not create us out of any need, but to establish His wisdom and might. Then, along with illuminating our lives with the love of the Prophet(s) and the Ahlul Bayt(a), we should stay attached to the Qur’an. We should seek its guidance when making decisions in our lives, as acting upon the Qur’an leads to salvation.
“Faith has been set so as to cleanse you of polytheism; prayer is prescribed to keep you away from pride; charity has been prescribed to purify one’s self and results in the increase of sustenance; fasting has been prescribed so that genuineness may be reinforced; pilgrimage to Makkah has been prescribed to establish the religion; justice is prescribed to establish proper harmony in the hearts; the obligation to follow us (the Ahlul Bayt) has been prescribed to set up order in the community, and our leadership (imamah) has been prescribed to save the people from differences.”
Lady Fatima(a) explains that prayer is a means to keep us away from pride. It is interesting that the pillar of our religion, prayer, is meant to develop our humility. Hence, one key value for all Muslims is that of humility. Humility does not only benefit the individual, but the society as a whole.
According to Pelin Kesebir (2014), “Humility involves a willingness to accept the self’s limits and its place in the grand scheme of things.” Studies have shown that those who are humble are more effective leaders (Owens et al., 2011), more helpful, have higher self-control, better work performance (Megan et al., 2011), higher grades (Rowatt et al., 2006), less prejudice, and better relationships. Being humble is an essential quality which forms the basis of our relationships with others, as well as our relationship with God.
The next important action is fasting, which Lady Fatima(a) describes as a way of increasing sincerity.
When we fast, no one is aware of our action but God; therefore, fasting is done purely for Him. It is thus that fasting inculcates in us sincerity and genuineness of actions. Indeed, our actions are accepted according to the sincerity with which they are performed. As Imam al-Sadiq(a) states, “The pure action (done out of sincerity) is that which the servant does not wish to be praised for by anyone except God.”
Lady Fatima(a) also explains that alms-tax is a means of purification. The word ‘zakat’ itself means purity; thus, it refers to that which is given from something in order to purify it and increase its worth. Although it normally refers to alms-tax, traditions detail that there is a zakat for everything. Imam Ali(a) said, “The zakat of power is equity,” and Imam al-Sadiq(a) said, “The zakat of knowledge is to teach it to those who are worthy of it.”
Therefore, Lady Fatima(a) was teaching us that true Islam upholds the qualities of humility, sincerity, and purification. However, these values are not just for the individual alone, but form the foundation for a pure society. After mentioning these ordinances, Lady Fatima(a) discusses that justice is a way to establish harmony in hearts; following the Ahlul Bayt(a) brings order in the community and Imamate saves us from differences. Consequently, an individual who follows these teachings is one who prays to stay away from pride, who fasts sincerely for God, and who gives alms-tax to purify himself. It may seem that these qualities are not related to each other, but if we strive to be more sincere and humble as individuals, then this will facilitate unity and justice in our communities.
Lady Fatima(a) taught us to work on ourselves as individuals, but also as a society. Human perfection is not attained by an individual striving towards God, but humanity as a whole becoming more perfect in its journey to God. In her sermon, Lady Fatima was reminding us to remain attached to those values which represent true Islam, the message her father brought, and not to accept anything else as the message of Islam. Indeed, Imamate is the preservation of Prophethood, and she was striving to implement Imamate in society. The sermon of Fadak will always remind humanity not only of the message of Islam, but that of the daughter of the Prophet, Lady Fatima Zahra(a).