Although not all but different Arab tribes were notorious for their infanticide, especially for the practice of burying their daughters alive. This was indeed a heinous practice with multiple shapes among different people of the world. The Arab tribes who were used to this practice, according to reporters based on the Prophetic Traditions, had invented “unique” methods to get rid of their new born baby girls. A father, it is reported, to save himself from becoming somebody’s father-in-law or to save his daughter from falling into the cruel hands of violent raiders, would take the little girl to the wilderness in pretext of time pass or sport, would dig a pit, naturally as the grave of the girl who had accompanied him. Quite strange it used to be that the innocent girl would “brush off” the soil (dust) from her father’s face and clothes knowing nothing about the fact that he had actually “arranged” her death!
Amid such grave circumstances the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) had been commissioned by God to “uplift” the humanity from the depths of darkness caused by humanity’s own hands. As the human thought had “darkened,” so the words and deeds of humanity were following suit.The Arabs’ burying their daughters alive was indeed one of the layers of darkness which the Arab society was darkened with, as there were other serious crimes perpetuated against the women folk the height of which would reach when a man would lose his wife in gambling and the sons would take the wife of their father as their mutual property after the latter’s death!
So, the “reforms” (which indeed were the ingredients of the Culmination of Religion) introduced by the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) naturally included the amelioration of the condition(s) of women. No winder then that the Final Farewell Sermon of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) on the Mount of Rahmah (Jabal al-Rahmah) highlighted, after the pivotal message of monotheism (Tauhid), the conditions of women and the remedies and reforms thereof.
As such, it was a process, in a way, of the “mainstreaming” of women. In this regard, it is pleasing to note that women started to participate in all the spheres of human life. The mosque, which stands as the premier institution of Islamic devotional, educational and intellectual life, was attended by the women on all important occasions which indeed included five times Salah.
Thus all the important women of the time started contributing to the development of the emergent Muslim society. However, like men, these women emerged in the socio-religious scene of Islam as per their temperaments and aptitudes. While as some, like Sayyidah Aishah (RA) emerged as the intellectual “icons” for the Islamic society, others like Shifa (RA) bint Abdullah came to fore as administrative figures.
Sayyidah Fatimah (RA), the beloved daughter of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), however, from the very outset, contained in her sublime person, the ingredients of devotion, selflessness and contentment. Historical events testify to the fact that Sayyidah Fatimah (RA) was so much devoted to her father (the Prophet, SAW) that she would remain attached to him like a shadow. Amid all the cruelties and persecutions which the person of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) went through on the part of the Quraysh, the “tender” Fatimah (RA) stood by the Prophet (SAW).
We know the Prophet’s uncle, Abu Lahab was the staunchest adversary and inveterate enemy of Islam and the Prophet (SAW). This Quraysh leader left no stone unturned to traumatize the Prophet (SAW) and in this “work” of safeguarding the tribal highhandedness, arrogance and position, his wife, Umm-i Jamil always assisted her husband! However, quite mean and filthy were the methods employed by Umm-i Jamil to trouble the Prophet (SAW). Her “efforts” consisted of throwing filth and thorns on the paths that the Prophet (SAW) would follow. This “endeavour” of the husband-wife duo has been condemned in a befitting way in Chapter al-Lahab (no. 111) of the Qur’an.
In such circumstance, Sayyidah Fatimah (R‘A) would always try to do her best to “alleviate” the burden off the Prophet’s (SAW) noble person. Although going through such events had become a routine for the Prophet (SAW), but death of his patron-uncle, Abu Talib aggravated the situation so much so that almost everybody got emboldened to perform these inhuman acts against the Prophet (SAW).During this period in which the Prophet (SAW) had no family protection in the tribal society, an uncouth person of the Quraysh threw dirt at the Prophet (SAW) that stuck to him. When he reached home, Sayyidah Fatimah (R‘A) started brushing the dirt off him with her tender hands. While Fatimah (R‘A) was weeping on seeing the condition of her father, the latter consoled her thus: “Don’t weep O daughter; God will protect your father!” It simply means that the Prophet (SAW) didn’t tolerate the sadness of his beloved daughter, Sayyidah Fatimah (R‘A).
Among all the four daughters which the Prophet (SAW) had from Sayyidah Khadijah (R‘A), he had an extreme attachment to Sayyidah Fatimah (R‘A). Whenever the Prophet (SAW) would return from a journey, he, after praying two sections (rak‘at) in the mosque, would visit Sayyidah Fatimah (R‘A) and kiss her hand and forehead . No wonder then that when Sayyidah Aishah (R‘A) was asked by Jumai‘ ibn ‘Umayr that whom the Prophet (SAW) loved the most? She replied, “Fatimah!”
However, in spite of all this loving care of the Prophet (SAW), Sayyidah Fatimah (R‘A) did all the household chores herself. That is why her hands were blistered from constant grinding. Moreover, her neck had become sore by carrying water while as her clothes would naturally become dirty by sweeping the floor as a routine. Here, one thing is pertinent to note that majority of the Prophet’s Companions would not shy away from doing manual labour to make the ends meet. It is well known that Sayyiduna Umar (R‘A) ran a shop on alternate days with his Madinan (Ansar) brother. Sayyiduna Ali (R‘A) would water the fields of a Jew throughout long nights to fetch just a little weight of dates!
Sayyiduna Ali (R‘A), as the caring husband of Sayyidah Fatimah (R‘A), suggested her to ask the Prophet (SAW) for a servant. The response of the Prophet (SAW) to this suggestion of his beloved daughter highlights what the Apostolic Office stands for and how a Prophet is quite different from a king. This also indicates that the Prophet (SAW) had been commissioned by God to ameliorate the condition of all the sections of human society and in this scheme of things, the weaker sections (slaves, servants, etc.) had indeed got priority. So, the Prophet (SAW) replies Sayyidah Fatimah (R‘A) thus: “Fear God, Fatimah! Fulfill our obligations to the Lord, and continue with your housework. And when you go to bed at night, praise God thirty-three (subhanAllah), and glorify Him the same number of times (al-hamdu li Allah); exalt His name thirty-four times (Allah-u Akbar), and that will make a full hundred. This would be much better than having a servant.”
And, how did Sayyidah Fatimah (R‘A) exhibit contentment on hearing the reply of the Prophet (SAW), could have been expected but from her. “If that is the will of God and His Prophet, then so be it,” said Sayyidah Fatimah (R‘A) and she continued with her household work as before. May Allah be pleased with her!
(The Author is Assistant Professor Islamic Studies at GDC Kokernag. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)