The following are edited excerpts from Fatima (a.s.), a role model for men and women, by His Eminence, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra):
Fatima Al-Zahraa (a.s.) is one of those members of the household. She is a part of the Messenger (p), wife of Imam Ali (a.s.) and the mother of Imams Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein (a.s.). Thus, she constitutes a link between prophethood and Imamate, having inherited, in her character and linage, the traits of the Prophet (p), and having married Imam Ali (a.s.) and became a mother to the coming Imams. As mentioned by His Eminence, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra), in his book, The Infallible Fatimah (a.s.), a role model for men and women.
Q: Where does the infallibility of Lady Fatima (a.s.) stem from? What is the benefit of her infallibility knowing that she is neither a prophet nor an imam?
A: Fatima (a.s) is the mother of the infallibles (a.s.). She gave them all her effort and virtues, and amongst these is the infallibility which Allah had given her. However, the question of infallibility is a human issue which arises from Divine grace. Like the role of the Imamah as leadership, which needs infallibility as a must, Allah may give infallibility to another person, especially the woman who is prepared to be an Imam, not in the sense of the term, but as the example. We believe that women have reached the level of infallibility as has been established with Virgin Mary (a.s.) and Fatima (a.s.); but we may find some women who have not had a verse revealed regarding their infallibility, such as Lady Zeinab (a.s.) women can come near to the infallibility when they live their responsibility towards Allah and the people.
In addition, Allah, although his grace to Fatima (a.s.), wanted to tell people that women can be elevated with Allah’s bestowing and grace to the most exalted positions, and to infallibility.
Moreover, Allah wants to make the woman a role model of all people, men and women, so that men can be told that, just as they can have an infallible man as a role model, you can also have an infallible woman as a role model, because there is no difference between men and women as far as reaching the level of infallibility is concerned.
Q: Apart from the issue of infallibility, is there a difference between Fatima Al-Zahraa (a.s.) and all other women?
A: the difference is that Fatima (a.s.) possessed a degree of spiritual depth in her personality that made her a manifestation of the message. Most women with a mission have a commitment to the message which comes from outside of themselves. By contrast, for Fatima (a.s) it came from inside her mind and heart and soul, because she lived her whole life with the message and under the wing of the Messenger of Allah (p) and then opened herself up to the full vigor of the message in the house of Imam Ali (a.s.), and moved dynamically in the emotion of the message with Al-Hassan (a.s.) and Al-Hussein (a.s.). Therefore, she lived the message. This is the difference between depth and shallowness. You cannot find anything in her personal life that speaks of leisure or purposefulness. This is what makes her the ultimate role model.
Q: How did she achieve that degree of belief?
A: How and where did Fatima (a.s.) live? She lived her childhood with the revelation revealed to her father (p) day and night, and so she was sensing the atmosphere of revelation day and night. She was living with the Messenger of Allah (p) and learning something from him every day, and living his manners, spiritually and prayers day and night. She used to accompany her in his battles, and followed him in the dynamic movement of his Message, and to take from him kindness, take from him manners and ways of conduct that became manifest in her. Hence, in the house of the Prophet (p) Fatima lived the whole of his Message in spirit and in detail. We know that she was not taught by another teacher, and so the whole of her knowledge came from the Messenger of Allah (p), and she spent the whole of her upbringing at his side. In addition, Allah has bestowed upon her his grace and mercy, to complete the picture; so it was by her own effort that she learnt from the Prophet (p) with the grace of Allah.
Hence, we saw that when she moved to the house of Ali (a.s.) that she lived with him his spirit, intellect, patience, and holy struggle.
Q: Is loving Fatima (a.s.) without a practical attempt to apply the Quranic system as applied by Fatima sufficient to bring women to her on the Day of Judgment?
A: Fatima (a.s) lived with the Prophet (p), Ali (a.s), Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein (a.s.), the conscience of the Imams (a.s.) and all workers in the way of Allah. The important thing is that the woman lives Islam in the obedience of Allah and the call for His faith and work in a way that Fatima (a.s.) did, even if only to a certain percentage.