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Newsletter for January 2012
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Fatima is Fatima
Excerpt (I) from the Introduction to Ali Shariati's Fatima is Fatima
by Laleh Bakhtiar
...... Shariati takes us to the heart of Shi'ism - Fatima,
the beloved daughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). He describes
the woman we could not see, the one we thought we knew but only
after his guidance do we become aware of the fact that although
we related each day directly to her spirit, she had been lost as
a model for our daily lives. That is, we had an emotional
attachment to her inner essence but we had removed her form.
Shariati takes us to Fatima. He begins with the social customs
of the Arabian Peninsula before her birth where according to
custom, female children were buried alive at birth in order to
save the family from the disgrace of having an unsuitable
son-in-law. It was the revolutionary message of Islam which did
away with this custom. God reveals through the Quran that the
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had been given the abundant river of
Paradise and through that river, he shall have abundant progeny
although according to Arab beliefs at that time, a man without a
son is called 'cut-off'. How could it be? The father of a
daughter will have abundant progeny?
His wife, over 50 years old, gives birth to a daughter, Fatima. God has kept the promise to the Prophet for through her, the progeny of the Prophet multiplies. Shariati then goes on to further enumerate the honors that Islam has bestowed upon women. There is only one person buried in the Ka'ba, the 'House of God' and that is a woman, a slave, Lady Hajara, the second wife of Prophet Abraham and mother of Prophet Ismail.
Shariati then goes on to furhter enumerate the honors that Islam has bestowed upon women. There is only one person buried in the Ka'ba, the 'House of God' and that is a woman, a slave, Hajar, the second wife of Abraham and mother of Ismail. Fatima spent her life in struggle, resisting poverty and difficulties. Her father was forced to spend three years in a valley with his family when his tribe imposed economic and social sanctions aga inst his message of Islam. After the migration to Medina, her new life as a married woman begins but she continues to face the same hardships and difficulties that she encountered since childhood. We learn of Fatima as a Muslim female child who defends her father against the elders of her tribe. Fatima is the one who, holding her father's hand, accompanies him into the bazaar, listens to his debates and walks with him to her home. Fatima, the Muslim woman, who stands at the door and defends her husband and her home when usurpers try to burn it down. Fatima tells the newly elected Caliph that he has displeased God and God's Prophet by not listening to the Prophet's advice and taking his own interests to heart. Fatima, who when she finds injustice and oppression speaks out with the totality of her being, not fearing the outcome of her words for she knows she speaks with the tongue of Truth. Let us turn to her last sermon and have her own words tell us what she really believed and practiced. When Fatima was ill with the final sickness which caused her death, the wives of the Emigrants and Companions of the Prophet went out visit her to ask how she was feeling. Abu Bakr had been
elected Caliph and Ali was put aside. In reply to them, after asking for the blessings of God for her father, Muhammad, she said: "By God I am alive while I have nothing but contempt for this world. I detest your men. After I tried to show them who their real enemy was and they did not listen, I put them aside.""How ugly are the sharp edges of swords when they are broken and then play with people's efforts and struggles which so many have undertaken, destroying the fortifications, breaking spears, making devious decisions and standing on the precipice of material and personal self-desires. What a terrible future they are preparing for by causing the warth of God and thereby brining about permanent torment for themselves." ... "God says, ' If citizens are faithful and avoid wrong deeds, We will give blessings from heaven and earth to them. But they deny the truths so we captivated them for their deeds. From those who oppressed, the results of their actions will be returned to themselves. They cannot change the traditions of history.' ... "It is then that the destroyer of rights will lose and those who will come in the future will find and realize the terrible results of what the ancestors have done. So you should be satisfied with your daily affairs and live in peace prior to the storm and terrible revolts." For then, the sharp swords of the dominations of the oppressors, anarchy and the rule of tyrants will overcome you. The oppressors will enslave you. No public assets except a small quantity will remain.. They will cultivate with force what you have planted with love. At that time you will only sigh for there will be nothing that you can do because you were blind and could not see the truth. They will oblige you because you have turned your faces from the right way and you did not accept it." Why have many Muslim women been lost to either outdated forms or new imports? Why has she been exploited? Shariati tells us in the words of Hazrat Ali, "two parties are required in order to bring about oppression. One is the oppressor and the other is the one who accepts oppression.
Oppression cannot be one sided. An oppressor cannot perform
oppression in the air. Opression is like a piece of iron which
is formed by the striking of the hammer of the oppressor upon
the anvil of the oppressed." Thus, women themselves participated
in the attack upon their values by allowing themselves to be
oppressed and by not searching out their roots. With the
awareness which Shariati brings to us, our coming to know Fatima
brings about a responsibility and a commitment to those who
first ask, "Who am I" and then search out the answer in the
anthem city and genuineness of their own culture. The
responsibility and commitment grows through love and faith ...
With Fatima as our model, we learn
to fight injustice and oppression. We turn from our self to the others. We become actively involved in society's ills because she as she really was, is our symbol, our model, our heroine. This is not to deny the spiritual presence and essence of Fatima who has inspired thousands of artists, poets, writers and artisans. At one point we learn that the Prophet gave her a prayer instead of the domestic help that she had asked for. She grew from this for this nourished her spirit and strengthened her commitment to God and the people. But it is rather to complement it for as Rumi tells us, "The physical form is of great importance; nothing can be done without the consociation of the form and the essence. However often you may sow a seed stripped of its pod, it will not grow; sow it with the pod, it will become a great tree." And as every artisan knows, it is the clay itself which determines the forms that can be created. Having awoken and become aware to the real Fatima presented by Sharati, the Iranian women were able to arise and play a major role in the Islamic Revolution of Iran. They fought against oppression a nd injustice side by side with the men. Clothed in the modest dress of what Fatima might have worn, they found no impediments to their freedom to act, to fight, to resist.
An excerpt from Fatima is Fatima by Ali Shariati.
Who is Responsible? Scholars! It is they who do not perform their responsibilities in respect to the people. They should give awareness, consciousness and direction to the people and they do not do so. All our geniuses and great talents occupy themselves with philosophy, theology, Sufism, jurisprudence,
principles, literature, meanings, expression, novelties, conjugation and syntax. Through all the years of research, thought and their own scholarly anguish, they write nothing other than 'practical treatises' on how to achieve cleanliness for the ritual prayer, types of uncleanness, the rules of menstruation, and the doubts which arise in ritual prayer. They leave aside writing treatises on how to speak with people, treatises on how to communicate the religious truths and the philosophy of the pillars of the religion, treatises on how to communicate consciousness and awareness to people, treatises on the understanding of the traditions of the Prophet and the personalities of the Imams, treatises on the revolutionary purpose behind Karbala, introductory treatises on the family of the prophet and the Shi'ite movement, treatises on the expression of thoughts and treatises on the faith of the people. All of these treatises are written, but all of them are written without responsibility, without the role of a commander. They pass their responsibilities on to the ordinary speakers in the mosques, not to the mujtahids (religious leaders whose directions for the practice of the faith are followed). A country which is full of faith and love, a nation which as the Quran and the Nahjal blageh of Ali, a people who have Ali, Fatima, Hasan, Hosein, and Zainab, have a red history but a black fate. They have a culture and the religion of martyrdom, but it is dead. We see a dream appeared to Joan of Arc, a sensitive and imaginative girl, for her to fight in order to have the king returned. For centuries, her dream has given the inspiration of freedom, sacrifice, and the sense of revolution and the courage to the enlightened, aware and progressive French people. Whereas Zainab, the sister of Imam Hosein, who takes a heavier mandate, the mandate of Hosein in her Ali-like hands, continues the movement of Karbala, which opposed murders, lying, terror, and hysterics. She continues the movement at a time when all of the heroes of the revolution are dead and the breath of the forerunners of Islam has ceased in the midst of our people, when commanders of the Islam of Muhammad
and Shi'ism of Ali are gone. But she has been turned into 'a sister who mourns'.
Our people, who spend their lives in love with the Shi'ite saints and cry over the difficulties they faced, who serve them for months and years, who glorify their name, spend money, give their sincerity and their patience to them, deserve to know the real lives of each one of their Imams. Their lives should serve as examples for each one of them. Their lives, thoughts, words, silences, freedoms, their imprisonment, punishments, martyrdoms, should give awareness, life, chastity and humanness to people. But people know them only by their number, (that is, the 6th Imam, the 8th Imam, etc.). If an ordinary person mourns
for Imam Hosein and on the anniversary of his death (ashura) strikes his head with his dagger and bears the pain even with pleasure, and still knows Hosein in an oblique way and misunderstands Karbala, who is responsible? If a woman cries with her whole being, if the recollection of the name of Fatima and Zainab burns her to her bones and if knowing it is worthwhile, who would, with complete love, giver her life for them, and yet, if she does not thoroughly know Fatima and Zainab, who is responsible? Neither this man nor this woman know one line of their words. None of them have read one line about their lives. They can only recall Fatima beside her house at the moment when her side was struck and they only know Zainab from the moment when she leaves the tents to go gather the bodies of the martyrs. They only know her from the morning of the day of Ashura up until noon, from then on they lose her. Their awareness of Zainab ends the day when her work and great mandate, the legacy of Hosein, just begins. Their knowledge of Zainab ends here. Then, who is responsible? And, thus, educated and open minded boys and girls judge the situation and say, "What is the use of this religion of crying and lamentation? What can such a religion do?" What knots do all this excitement, love, lamentation and cries for Hosein, Fatima and Zainab untie for a backwards, imprisoned nation which needs awareness and commitment to negate oppression in order to seek freedom.
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