Martyrdom of Sayyidah Fatimah (s): An Ideological Belief?

Some scholars say that the story of Sulaymān and his death, which Allah  has eternalized in the Holy Qur’ān, does not have a doctrinal dimension, while the story of the martyrdom of Sayyidah al–Zahrāa has a doctrinal domain, which is the attainment of the infallible to the status of martyrdom. Similarly, it is believed that what al–Zahrāa (sa) did for the sake of ‘Ali and his cause means that the defense of Imamate is a necessity among the necessities of the creed (Ḍarūrīyāt al-Dīn). As such, this scholar calls for declaring the day of the demise of Sayyidah al–Zahrāa a holiday, in which work is suspended for mourning ceremonies. The justification given is that the Day of ‘Ashūrāa (which is commemorated as a holiday) was caused by the Tragedy of the Burning Door and the injustice that befell Sayyidah Fāṭimah (sa). This scholar relies on sociological analyses to prove this. What are your observations about this?[1]

There is no doubt regarding the injustice meted out on our esteemed Sayyidah al–Zahrāa (sa) nor about her lofty position and high station with her Lord. There is no doubt regarding the necessity of reminding the public of what transpired against the Ahl al-Bāyt (a) and connecting with the Holy Household in a manner that benefits Muslims and improves their spirituality and religious adherence, God-willing. Every opportunity taken with this goal in mind is worthy and beneficial, as long as it is in concordance withn the framework of our doctrinal principles and moral/legal values.  Indeed, reminding people of the Ahl al-Bāyt’s affairs(a) also revives the realities of history that some people – especially Salafi currents – aim to obliterate, trying to close the door of discussion on these topics and criminalizing research in history[2]. However, I have some observations on the above position, despite my full appreciation and respect for the great scholar to whom you referred. They are as follows:

1. The claim is made that the story of Sulaymān and his death does not have any doctrinal dimension, while the story of the burning door has a doctrinal base; it is surmised that the attainment of martyrdom by the infallible is as foregone a doctrine as that of infallibility. This is the first time that I have encountered an idea of this kind, which espouses that an infallible’s attainment of martyrdom is a matter of religious doctrine. What we need to ascertain here is what is the basis of calling this a doctrinal position and how? Yes, it is a lofty station for the infallible, just as it would be a lofty station for a fallible, and therefore we pray to God to grant us martyrdom in His way. But its being a lofty station does not equate to its being an ideological issue, because this requires the said issue to form part of one’s core religious tenets. If this should be the case, why isn’t the infallible prayer not an ideological position as well? What about the infallible’s fasting, his solitude at night with his Lord, and his Jihād? This reasoning demands that all of this should also be entered into the belief system – notwithstanding infallibility – and I do not know what the desired consequences are in making issues such as these doctrinal. Should every reality in the life of the infallible be considered a doctrinal issue?[3] If the infallible’s attainment of martyrdom, where he goes from physical world to hereafter, is a doctrinal issue, then why isn’t the story of Sulaymān a doctrinal issue as well?! Especially since his death would negate a presumable belief in his longevity until the Day of Resurrection such that condition would be that of al-Imam al-Ḥujjah (aj). 

What is the meaning of the doctrinal position in the case of martyrdom, such that it should become like the position of infallibility? What is the evidence and basis for claiming this? What exactly are the repercussions of this belief in religion and the jurisprudential sciences? Of course, it seems that martyrdom is being claimed as a doctrinal belief for the infallible, regardless of who specifically perpetrated the murder. At this juncture, I suggest that this distinguished scholar, may God preserve him, present academic research in dissecting the term “doctrinal proposition.” What is its criterion and how do we establish it? What is the difference between a doctrinal and a non-doctrinal proposition? Perhaps we will benefit God-willing from what will be presented and be able to discuss it at the table of argumentation and calm scientific dialogue. It is natural that the claimant may not be able to explain his evidence through a merely brief thesis, so we should not burden him with what he cannot bear such that we should wrong him and ourselves by wronging him.

2. Does the act of Faṭimah defending Imam Ali’s (a) right to caliphate really prove that defending Imamate is a general creedal requirement?

Of course, I believe that the defense of the Imamate is a definitive and decisive necessity among the necessities of our jurisprudential school[4]. There is no discussion in this matter per the credal tenets of the Imamiyyah, but I pause here on the nature of the reasoning that this esteemed scholar has used to prove this issue. I do not know how he deduced such a proof from this event. Does the action of the infallible really equate to a necessity of the religion, or does it simply indicate that it was obligatory for the infallible specifically to defend it? Why doesn’t Sayyidah Faṭimah’s defense simply imply that the position of the Imamate is a great station for which souls are ransomed and that the circumstances at the time demanded it? Where is this concept of a necessary credal tenet being derived? There is a difference between saying that Sayyidah Faṭimah action serves as evidence of the necessity of defending the imamate (we believe and accept this) and between saying that her action constitutes an obligatory credal element, by virtue of the simple fact that she performed it. From the jurisprudential standpoint, these two reasonings are completely different, and I believe that the honorable scholar knows more than me than to invoke the action of the infallible in a manner which does not substantiate his conclusions; because the act of the infallible is a silent evidence that is not absolute, as the esteemed scholars of the principles of jurisprudence are well-aware[5].

3. The final deduction made in the above speech is that we are required to do on the anniversary of the death of Sayyidah Zahrāa what we do on ‘Ashūrāa, because it is the origin from which ‘Ashūrāa emerged. It is my view after reviewing the corpus of the Ahl al-Bāyt (as) that they require us to distinguish the memory of the martyrdom of Imam Ḥusayn(a) from all other sad occasions, including the anniversary of the death of the Holy Prophet (s). This is what I garner from their narrations: that they intended the memory of Imam Ḥusayn to be distinguished, while preserving the right of commemoration for all other occasions. As such, I oppose – according to my limited understanding – equating any other sad commemoration with the occasion of Imam Ḥusayn(a) martyrdom, because this contradicts the spirit of many texts that invoke Imam Ḥusayn tragedy without invoking others in the same way[6]. This implies that the cause of Imam Ḥusayn intended to have its own specificity, and it is necessary to preserve it. In any case, if the conclusion of the scholar – the author of the above words – is correct, then why didn’t the  Ahl al-Bāyt order us to commemorate Sayyidah Faṭimah’s tragedy in their hadiths, and to commemorate this memory with its title as we commemorate the memory of al-with the same strength and degree, as they commanded us to do so in dozens of texts on the issue of ‘Ashūrāa?  And why were they satisfied with generalities in the issue of reviving their calamities? Did the Ahl al-Bāyt fail, God forbid, to talk about such a matter of grave importance? Rather, how many narrations are even there to support the revival of this particular event, outside of the historical narrations clarifying its occurrence, such that we can compare it with the memory of ‘Ashūrāa pertaining to Imam Ḥusayn? Indeed, this latter event is the most important occasion of mourning for the Ahl al-Bāyt (a) mentioned in tens of texts, if not hundreds of hadiths!

The natural implication of the words by the great scholar is that we should practice what we practice for ‘Ashūrāa  in halting all commercial business for a great number of historical occurrences, simply because these were precursors to the ‘Ashūrāa incident; these should include the Battle of Nahrawān, the Battle of Ṣiffīn, and the Battle of Jamal, because these precipitated disobedience to the Ahl al-Bāyt and rebellion and confrontation against them. We should do the same for the martyrdom of Imam Ḥasan(a), the martyrdom of Imam ‘Ali (a), the Event of Saqīfah, the usurpation of Fadak, the memory of ‘Ali (a) being forced to pledge allegiance coercively, and the memory of Mu’awiyah’s announcement of the order to insult ‘Ali(a) from the pulpits, among dozens of other events that requires us to disrupt our financial, economic, and academic lives just to prove that we grieve for them. Can’t grief be combined with work to sustain oneself and learning to progress oneself? I have no doubt that this pattern that some of us are establishing today will put the Shi’a community into a dormancy. This tendency towards the aggrandization of rituals indicates (even according to sociological paradigms) that society does not desire progress as much as it desires to regress itself into the tunnel of history. We call for a comprehensive revival of the history of Islam and the Imamate, on the condition that it does not disrupt people’s lives; not because people’s lives are more important than it, God forbid, but rather because reviving their events was designed to evolve human life in this world and the Hereafter, as it pushes the Shiites to advance in their societies economically, culturally, intellectually, scientifically, academically, socially, and religiously, instead of opening the field of obstructions and establishing the culture of the many disruptions that more than one of our scholars have confronted.

4. Finally, I would hope that the enlightened folk among our esteemed scholars would focus on how to take advantage of this occasion (the demise of Sayyidah Zahrāa {sa}) to further the development of the Shi’as and Muslims, push them forward, and spread awareness among them. We should discuss on these occasions the role of women, social and political work through the role model of al-Zahrāa (sa), social and feminine duties in confronting injustice perpetrated against believing and disenfranchised people, how to advance the Shi’as in their societies where they form oppressed minorities, what their relations and strategies should be in interacting with their environment, issues of women’s education, rights, work and social relations, the issue of the importance of the family and how to combine it with social and political work, issues of hijab and chastity, and the moral and educational crisis in our Arab and Islamic societies[7]. I believe treating issues such as these is severely underrepresented on the pulpits, although not entirely by the grace of God. We must address people like this to raise their social cognizance while drawing on the values of the religion, its history, and its great personalities. We are confronted by an era in which the Salafi mentality is expanding, sweeping the world, and dominating the Muslim youth. Yet despite all our knowledge, thought, legacy, and incomparable political and social experience, we still insist on restricting al-Zahrāa by limiting her to this dimension being discussed today: the ritual and doctrinal aspect. Of course, I am not calling for us to delete this element, but we should add to it the social, political and practical aspects that can guide womenfolk today to know their historical, political, and social role…


[1] The original article can be accessed here:-

[2] In recent years, we witness the rise of different trends in religious discussions – refutations in video formats, polemics on social media platforms – wherein the sole purpose is to present one’s sect/school as the ‘owner of Truth’ while preventing others to express their views based on ijtihād in different topics.  Such trends usually cause hatred, misunderstanding, Takfīr and sectarianism which ultimately hinder in having dialogue and progress for Muslims as an Ummah.

[3]  On this notion, Shaykh Ḥobbollah has also asserted that the act of an infallible proves the permissibility of something, not even recommendation for it as the scholars of Usūl(legal theory) has established. However, if there are qara’in (contextual indicators) such as the repetition of a certain act then it would amount to the general desirability of an act which is not specified, for example the Imām praying at a time while on a journey doesn’t indicate the recommendation to pray at that specific moment(while on a journey).

[4] Some scholars claim that the belief in Imāmah is from Aṣl al-Dīn while others view it as a tenet of Shi’i/Ja’fari madhhab (school), not necessarily a tenet in Dīn like Risalah. The implications of such views are huge; in this case if Imāmah is taken as Aṣl al-Dīn then it means that if that person doesn’t believe in Imāmah either due to ignorance or different interpretations then his Islam would be in jeopardy. There also arises the difference in defining a mu’min which isn’t based on Shahdatayn but in belief in Imāmah. Sayyid Kamal al-Haydari in his Kharij lessons has elaborated that if the truth concerning Imāmah and recognizing its importance in religion a person denies then he is blameworthy. Otherwise, he is counted among mustaḍ’fīn (weak, oppressed or those who aren’t bestowed with the complete truth), whose salvation is possible due to Allah’s Mercy based on his obedience to Him. The narrations in this regard are given in al-Kāfi such as:

Or in Maʿānī al-ʾAkhbār such as:

Similar view is also espoused by Ayatullah Khomeini regarding laypeople of other sects or religions wherein he stated:-

نظير عوام المسلمين، فكما ان عوامنا عالمون بصحة مذهبهم وبطلان ساير المذاهب من غير انقداح خلاف في اذهانهم لاجل التلقين والنشو في محيط الاسلام، كذلك عوامهم من غير فرق بينهما من هذه الجهة، والقاطع معذور في متابعة قطعه ولايكون عاصيا وآثما ولا تصح عقوبته في متابعته

Just like the Muslim laymen, our laymen know that their religion is correct and that all others are false. It doesn’t even occur to them [that they may be wrong]. This is due to the indoctrination [they have had] and [also due to] growing up within an Islamic environment. The laymen of other religions are the same, and there is no difference between them in this respect. The person who is certain [of being with the Truth] is exonerated in acting upon his certainty. He is not a sinner or a transgressor, and neither will he be punished in following his certainty.  (Al-Makāsib al-Muharrama, vol.1, pg. 133).

[5] For more information on understanding the actions of infallibles and imitating them, read on here:

[6] The specific narrations on commemorating ‘Ashūrāa specifically first 10 days in Muḥarram in general in grief, adoring black cloths, Ziyarāt and the cultural phenomenon which developed over time in establishing, preserving this great tragedy of Ahl al-Bāyt(a) even by Imāms like we’ve narration about Imam Riḍa(a) commemorating it while he was in Khurasan. In contrast to this, we don’t find evidence to commemorate the istashhadāt of other members of Ahl al-Bāyt(a) with such fervor. Else, in general commemorating on the dates proven to be of their martyrdom is  recommended. Some of the general narrations are given here:-

[7] A brief analysis on how women used to perform different roles pertaining to social development:-