Umar at Fatimah's house
Umar at Fatimah's house refers to the event where Umar and his supporters went to the house of Fatimah, the daughter of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, shortly after Muhammad's death in order to get the allegiance of her husband Ali and his followers. This event, which has mentions in Shia, Sunni, and western academic books, is also claimed by Shia sources to have led to Fatimah's miscarriage of her son Muhsin ibn Ali, as well as her own death shortly after. However, the veracity of the account is disputed, with beliefs being primarily split on sectarian lines between Sunni and Shia denominations.
Succession to Muhammad
A few months prior to his death, the Islamic prophet Muhammad gathered all the Muslims who were with him and delivered a long sermon at Ghadir Khumm. It included the famous proclamation, "to whomsoever I am Mawla, Ali is also their Mawla." There have been opposing interpretations for this statement, with some views being that it was a clear designation of Ali being his appointed successor, while others see it as merely emphasising the personal closeness of Ali to Muhammad, without any political implications. Traditions go on to state that upon concluding the sermon, the Muslims were commanded to pledge allegiance to Ali. According to several sources, Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman were among those who gave the oath to Ali. However, there have been doubts regarding this event, with some evidence suggesting that Ali was not actually present during the sermon.
Muhammad died a few months after the event of Ghadir Khumm. As Ali buried Muhammad and led his funeral prayer, a group of approximately fourteen Muslims congregated at Saqifa to decide on a new leader for the community. Abu Bakr was ultimately chosen as the first Caliph, though Sunni sources claim that he had not sought the appointment himself. However, the absence of Muhammad's close relatives during this election angered Ali and resulted in his alleged alienation from the new leader.
After the gathering at Saqifa, Umar (who had been among Abu Bakr's advocates) and his supporters were allegedly sent by the new Caliph to Ali's house where Ali, Fatimah and some of their allies were gathered. Several scholars, such as Al-Tabari and Ibn Qutaybah, narrate that Umar threatened to burn the building down if Ali refused to acknowledge Abu Bakr's authority, with Al-Tabari adding that Umar's men beat Ali's friend Zubayr ibn al-Awam. According to the Al-Imama wa al-Siyasa (mistakenly attributed to Ibn Qutaybah), when Umar was informed that Fatimah was inside the house, he responded that her presence made no difference to him.
While the historian Al-Baladhuri states that the altercation never became violent and ended with Ali's compliance, and Tabari makes no mention of Fatimah's involvement, some traditions add that Umar and his supporters forcibly entered the house, resulting in Fatimah's miscarriage of her unborn son Muhsin. Twelver Shia sources state that this occurred when Umar forced the front door open, crushing Fatimah behind it and breaking her ribs. However, the Mu'tazilite theologian Ibrahim al-Nazzam narrates that, "Umar hit Fatimah (sa) on the stomach such that the child in her womb died." Alternatively, Ibn Rustam Al-Tabari states that it was a client of Umar's named Qunfudh who caused the miscarriage, having struck her with the sheath of his sword. Other traditions add that Qunfudh had her whipped or had struck her face. The Kitab Sulaym ibn Qays (attributed to Sulaym ibn Qays, but possibly a much later creation) concludes the incident with Ali being dragged out of the house with a rope tied around his neck.
Mohammad-Baqer Majlesi, writing in his Bihar al-Anwar, states that Fatimah died soon after due to injuries sustained during the altercation. The aforementioned Al-Imama wa al-Siyasa records that before her death, Fatimah said to Abu Bakr and Umar, "I take Allah and the angels to be my witness that you have not pleased me; on the other hand, you have angered me. When I shall meet the Prophet (S) I will complain about you two." According to Morteza Motahhari, she asked Ali to bury her at night to ensure that none of her enemies participated in her funeral.
The events that took place in the house have been the subject of dispute between various accounts, with the versions including violence primarily having Shia origins. Several early historical sources narrate that Fatimah's child Muhsin had died in early childhood rather than being miscarried. Al-Baladhuri, along with Al-Ya'qubi and Al-Masudi, list Muhsin among the children of Fatimah, but without any mention of a miscarriage. Similarly, the Shia theologian Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid, when writing his Kitab al-Irshad, makes no mention of violence in relation to Muhsin's death. The earliest known reference of the miscarriage during the altercation only appears in the 10th century, in Ibn Qulawayh Al-Qummi's Kamil al-ziyarat.
Other sources also add that Fatimah and Abu Bakr had ultimately reconciled, and that she died of illness, with him attending and praying at her funeral. Ali is also believed to have later willingly offered his oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr and gave a praise-filled oration during the latter's funeral. Professor Coeli Fitzpatrick surmises that the story of the altercation reflects the political agendas of the period and should therefore be treated with caution.
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They attacked Fatimah's (s.a.) house. They crushed the Chief of All Women behind the door so violently that it resulted in the miscarriage of Mohsin.
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'Fatimah's (s.a.) death resulted from being pierced by the sword which claimed (the unborn) Mohsin's life. The perpetrator of this crime was Qunfuz, who was acting on his master – Umar's explicit command…'
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Umar said: "And no doubt after the death of the Prophet we were informed that the Ansar disagreed with us and gathered in the shed of Bani Sa'da. 'Ali and Zubair and whoever was with them, opposed us, while the emigrants gathered with Abu Bakr."
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Umar came to the house of Fatima and said: "O' Daughter of the Prophet of God! I swear by God that we love no one more than your father, and after him we love no one more than you. Yet I swear by God that that won't stop me from gathering these people and commanding them to burn this house down!
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