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Arif Mohammed Khan is a former Union Cabinet minister.

Fatima was called ‘the mother of her father’

ometime around AD 616, a man was offering his prayers at the house of God in Mecca. Close to him were sitting some leading persons of Meccan aristocracy. They were angrily discussing how the teachings of this man had impacted their underclass, particularly the slaves, who were now asserting their human rights and posing a serious threat to the Meccan establishment. The aristocrats decided to insult and humiliate the preacher. One of them procured the abdominal remains of a slaughtered camel and placed it between the shoulders of the devotee when he prostrated. Among the onlookers were some who resented persecution, but were in no position to protest against the rich and the powerful. They stood there as helpless spectators while the tormentors laughed and made fun of the preacher.

Soon, however, a young girl appeared on the scene, severely rebuked the tormentors and removed the intestines from the back of the preacher. The preacher was none other than Prophet Mohammed and the young girl was his daughter Fatima. History says that for the next six years, till the Prophet's migration to Medina, Fatima followed her father like a shadow and protected him bravely against heartless persecutors. When the Meccans imposed a ban on the Prophet and his family, Fatima is singled out as having endured the hard times with great dignity and patience.

Fatima is portrayed by history as a young girl moving next to her father through the streets of Mecca, braving hatred, taunts, mockery and contempt. Whenever the father was overwhelmed by his adversaries, she acted like his protective shield. With her beautiful small hands, she cleaned the garbage they threw on him and nursed the wounds they inflicted on him. She comforted him with her affectionate words and brought him back to the safe environs of their home.

The relationship between the doting father and protective daughter has become a legend in Islamic history. The enthusiasm and zeal of the daughter earned her the title of "Mother of her Father" (Umm Abiha). It is for these reasons that Islamic tradition holds her up as a model of suffering, patience, generosity, wisdom and valiant heroism, finally culminating in martyrdom.

Fatima is portrayed as a young girl moving next to her father through the streets of Mecca, braving hatred, taunts, mockery and contempt.

A study of the life of Fatima establishes one fact beyond any doubt — that her ethical and moral purity posed no obstacle in the performance of what she perceived to be her social responsibilities. If she fiercely protected her father in Mecca, in Medina she stood for her husband, who was sidelined after the death of the holy Prophet. This was at a time when many people gathered in her house to console and comfort the bereaved daughter. The new political establishment in Medina viewed these gatherings with suspicion. Maulana Shibli, in his book, Umar Farooq, has quoted from a historical report saying that at one point Hadrat Umar, standing at the gate of Fatima's house, threatened, "O daughter of Prophet, we love you more than others, but if these gatherings continue then I shall set fire and burn your house." The men inside felt apprehensive, but Fatima was undeterred. She came to the door and by sheer force of her eloquence made the threatening group retreat in haste.

Fatima received another blow when she was denied her legacy and the grazing land of the Fadak was confiscated. Her husband withdrew from public arena to devote himself to academics, but she refused to give up. She publicly pursued her cause and sharply criticised the new rulers. She lived only six months after the death of her father and told her husband to bury her during the night to ensure that her funeral was not attended by the people who made her unhappy.

Such was the first daughter of Islam, Fatima Zahra, who played an important public role and spent all her life protecting her father and defending her husband.

Now compare this with the Deoband fatwas that seek to reduce Muslim daughters into dumb dolls by imposing the veil and secluded life on them. If Fatima was the product of Islamic teachings, then these fatwas lack in religious merit and substance.

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