The commemoration of the martyrdom of Lady Fāṭimah az-Zahrā (ʿa) is integral to the Shīʿah faith.
Even if someone isn’t religious, they will stop and pause to attend any event in remembrance of the Lady of Light (ʿa).
The Covid-19 pandemic gave the world a lot to think about. Commemorating the tragedies of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) took a new form during the lockdown. With most of us unable to attend the mosque, we had to think outside the box and do something at home.
For some, this might have been to watch religious programs (majālis) on YouTube. Others would prepare Fātiḥah and distribute it (whilst upholding social distancing rules).
‘Fātiḥah’ is the tradition of reciting Sūrah al-Fātiḥah (the first chapter of the Noble Qurʾān) and any other Sūrah of your choice and blowing it over the food to bless it.
And for many others, it was frustrating not being able to mark periods like commemorating the tragedy of Karbala during the month of Muḥarram in the way they would like.
Covid-19 or not, our lifestyle has changed.
Today, there is a generation that struggles to connect to religion through traditional methods.
As frustrating as that is for the elders of the house, it’s important to make Fāṭimiyyah commemorations as inclusive as possible.
Let’s remind ourselves why Fāṭimiyyah commemorations are necessary before this article suggests a four-step process for getting the most out of it.
Why Commemorate The Tragedies of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa)?
Many ḥadīth or Islamic narrations emphasize commemorating the Ahl al-Bayt 1 (ʿa) and holding gatherings for their remembrance. It’s sufficient to narrate two such ḥadīth from Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa):
“O Dāwūd [a companion of the Imām (ʿa)], convey my salām to my friends and give them my message – May Allah (swt) have mercy upon a servant who when he or she is with some other person mentions about our affairs and status. In such a situation, the third among them is an angel who seeks forgiveness for them. No two persons gather to remember us except that Allah (swt) takes pride in them over His angels. Then whenever you gather, proceed with our remembrance. Because your gathering and your remembering is to enliven our affairs. And the best after us, are those who discuss our affairs and invite (others) towards our remembrance.”Biḥār al-Anwār, Vol. 1, P. 200
And in another place, the blessed Imām (ʿa) states:
“Every gathering that is organized in which Allah’s remembrance and our remembrance is missing, that gathering will be a cause of regret to its organizers.”Uṣūl al-Kāfī, The Book of Belief and Disbelief, Ḥadīth #2
Remembering the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) – both in their happiness and sadness – strengthens our bond with them and puts us into the fold of Allah’s ) mercy, inshāʾAllāh.
Why is it Important to Commemorate Fāṭimiyyah
A learned person once said there is wisdom behind why the exact date of Lady Fāṭimah az-Zahrā’s martyrdom is not known and that there are two or three proposed dates of her death. This is because Allah (swt) desired that the remembrance of the calamity she endured remains alive.
Lady Fāṭimah (ʿa) is the Noble Prophet’s (ṣ) heart and soul. He is reported to have said the following about her:
“Fāṭimah is a part of me, and he who makes her angry, makes me angry.”Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, Vol. 62, Ḥadīth #63
This is reason enough to remember her. Her rights were usurped not long after the Prophet’s death and she died in a state of anger towards some in her Ummah. As her Shīʿah, this should make us desire to remember her and examine what her struggles mean to us today, as it would please the Prophet (ṣ) and Allah (ṣ).
How to Commemorate Fāṭimiyyah in the Household
We suggest a four-step process that is inclusive and helps every family member, regardless of age and personal preferences, get the best out of this mourning period.
1. Make a Visible Change in Your House
It’s crucial that the period of Fāṭimiyyah does not pass like a regular week. There should be visible changes in the house that symbolize that it’s in mourning. This is essential for youth and small children in helping them understand that this period differs from others.
Without overwhelming yourself and the family, here are a few things you could consider:
- Limiting or ceasing to watch entertainment on the television. Drape the TV with a black cloth or, even better, an appropriate banner.
- Wearing somber clothing
- Limiting or ceasing joking around
Remember to not implement anything to the extent it overburdens someone in the house, as that will have the opposite effect. There are no specific rulings about commemorations, though they must be carried out within the parameters of what is ḥalāl (permissible) and ḥarām (forbidden). It’s whatever you can manage and, more importantly, something that helps you feel connected to the period.
With Fāimiyyah falling in the week of Christmas, small children may find it difficult to put things into practice.
They are likely used to seeing their non-Muslim friends enjoying themselves. Take this into consideration when setting any rules.
2. Learn More About This Period in History
The symbolism will help the family get in the ‘spirit’ of Fāṭimiyyah. The next step should focus on learning more about this period in history. Knowledge and understanding of the events help us to mourn deeply and gain a new level of love for the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa). This way, mourning ceases to be a repetitive ritual and becomes more of a conscious activity.
Fāṭimiyyah is a sensitive issue and there are different opinions on it. Try and learn more about the different opinions and use them to help formulate your own analysis or conclusion.
There is a reason Lady Fāṭimah (ʿ) asked for her grave to be kept secret – to prompt the ‘what’ ‘who’ ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the events.
In whatever capacity possible, read or watch to learn more about the event. You will develop a greater sense of understanding and feel empowered and more secure in your faith.
Consider having family discussions about what you’ve learned so it allows everyone in the household to benefit.
3. Set the Stage for Commemoration
The household will be better positioned to commemorate if some effort is exerted in steps one and two. We’ve established the importance of mourning from the above-mentioned ḥadīth. Once we have a good understanding of the oppression endured by the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa), we will be able to mourn on a deeper level – this is where knowledge collected by the intellect is ‘digested’ by our spiritual heart.
Consider the following mourning ceremonies.
Visit the mosque
The tradition of visiting the mosque is the oldest and most common around. As a family, attend your local mosque and listen to lectures and eulogies to help you feel sorrow for the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa).
Organize a home majlis
The large majlis format might not be for everyone. Even if the traditional majlis has been a long-standing practice, children and youth might find it helpful to commemorate it in different ways.
At home, you can choose the length and method of the majlis or gathering. Consider:
- Asking the youth members of the family to recite eulogies in any language they wish
- Set tasks. For example, give them two days to prepare a short talk about Lady Fāṭimah (ʿa) to present in front of the family.
The lives of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) is a blueprint for how we should live our lives. Set goals and objectives for each family member or, as a family unit, decide to commit to something. This could be removing a bad habit or adding good habits. Fāṭimiyyah is an opportune time for reformation.
4. What not to do During Fāṭimiyyah
There are some cultural pressures or habits people fall into, which we should try and avoid. Here are some recommendations:
Don’t put pressure on yourself or on others to cry. If you can’t cry, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad Muslim. People come with different levels of emotional quotient (EQ). EQ is a measure of our ability to be in touch with our emotions. The Imāms (ʿa) have recommended pretending to be sad and cry if we can’t actually do it, as it carries a similar reward to crying.
Chest beating is a common form of grief expression – but it’s not for everyone. Similarly, let members of the family have their own form of grief. Introverts tend to express grief inwards.
Don’t get bogged down in Shīʿāh v Sunnī polemics. Unfortunately, many Muslims (both Sunnī and Shīʿah) spend this time antagonizing each other, particularly on social media. This is not in line with the etiquette of Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ) and his noble household.
However, you decide to commemorate Fāṭimiyyah, try to keep things practical and not overbearing. Commemorating is about quality, not quantity! Don’t compare yourself to others, as everyone is dealing with their own unique circumstances.
Looking beyond Fāṭimiyyah, try to maintain consistency in marking all martyrdoms or death anniversaries (shahādah) of the noble household and celebrating them during happy occasions.
Many children and youth may think being a Shīʿah is about “being sad all the time”, which is far from the case. The Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) were positive people. Therefore, the atmosphere and activities during their birth anniversaries (wilādats) should also be unique, with celebrations, games, cake, etc.
And lastly, consider bringing Islam into your household on a daily or weekly basis. Don’t limit activities only to the big periods. Weekly Qurʾān recitations, readings and lectures build spirituality, which reaches its peak in the sacred months.
May Allah (swt) bless your household with the ability to commemorate the Noble Household with deeper understanding (maʿrifah)!
 Ahl al-Bayt is an Arabic word meaning ‘people of the house’. In this context, the Ahl al-Bayt refers to the household or family members of the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ), namely Lady Fāṭimah (ʿa), and the 12 Imāms beginning with Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) and ending with Imām Muḥammad al-Mahdī (ʿaj).