Reality and meanings of the following words quoted in a narration from Aisha (RA) in Sahih Bukhari, “Therefore Fatima left Abu Bakr and did not speak to him till she died.”
One of the most made_controversial issue of the early Islamic history is that of the allegedly unsettled row between Sayyidah Fatimah- may Allah be pleased with her- who was daughter of the Holy Prophet –may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and Sayyidina Abu Bakr –may Allah be pleased with him- who was the first caliph of Islam.
The story essentially relates to the question of Prophet’s material inheritance. We shall dwell on the details of it some other time, but in this paper we aim at answering misconceptions about a narration, rather a part of it, recorded in Sahih Bukhari and other hadith works.
The narration is found at two places in Sahih Bukhari; First in Kitab al-Maghazi and secondly in Kitab al-Faraidh. In Kitab al-Faraidh the wording is;
عَنِ الزُّهْرِيِّ، عَنْ عُرْوَةَ، عَنْ عَائِشَةَ: أَنَّ فَاطِمَةَ وَالعَبَّاسَ عَلَيْهِمَا السَّلاَمُ، أَتَيَا أَبَا بَكْرٍ يَلْتَمِسَانِ مِيرَاثَهُمَا مِنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، وَهُمَا حِينَئِذٍ يَطْلُبَانِ أَرْضَيْهِمَا مِنْ فَدَكَ، وَسَهْمَهُمَا مِنْ خَيْبَرَ، فَقَالَ لَهُمَا أَبُو بَكْرٍ: سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَقُولُ: «لاَ نُورَثُ، مَا تَرَكْنَا صَدَقَةٌ، إِنَّمَا يَأْكُلُ آلُ مُحَمَّدٍ مِنْ هَذَا المَالِ» قَالَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ: وَاللَّهِ لاَ أَدَعُ أَمْرًا رَأَيْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَصْنَعُهُ فِيهِ إِلَّا صَنَعْتُهُ، قَالَ: فَهَجَرَتْهُ فَاطِمَةُ، فَلَمْ تُكَلِّمْهُ حَتَّى مَاتَتْ
Al-Zuhri narrated from ‘Urwa that narrated 'Aisha: Fatima and Al 'Abbas came to Abu Bakr, seeking their share from the property of Allah's Messenger and at that time, they were asking for their land at Fadak and their share from Khaibar. Abu Bakr said to them, " I have heard from Allah's Messenger saying, 'Our property cannot be inherited, and whatever we leave is to be spent in charity, but the family of Muhammad may take their provisions from this property." Abu Bakr added, "By Allah, I will not leave the procedure I saw Allah's Messenger following during his lifetime concerning this property." He said: Therefore Fatima left Abu Bakr and did not speak to him till she died.
Translation and reference is the one commonly used online with the words "He said" added in the translation as required according to the original text.
Point to note, interjecting word قَالَ (i..e He said):
1- The companion narrating is Sayyidah Aisha (RA) and before the words that say Sayyidah Fatima (RA) did not speak to Sayydina Abu Bakr (RA) after that discussion is قال which means "he said" i.e. the person saying is male. It is therefore clear that Sayydah Aisha (RA) is not the one who said it.
2- It cannot be a scribal error for it is so given in multiple sources. Wording of the narration from
i) Sahih Bukhari, is given, other references are;
ii) Sahih Muslim, Hadith 4352
iii) Musannaf Abdul Razzaq, Hadith 9774
iv) Mustakhraj/Musnad/Sahih Abu A’wana, Hadith 6679
v) Tarikh al-Tabari vol.3 p.208
vi) Tarikh al-Madina of Ibn Shabbah, vol.1 p.197
Ibn Shabbah's narration has a very interesting and important variation that I will mention and highlight below.
vii) Sunan al-Kubra of al-Baihaqi, Hadith 12732
If someone disagrees with this, he must explain the word قَالَ in all these instances.
3- If at some places the narrations give the wording in question about the alleged unsorted row are given without قال "He said" (as in other instance of Bukhari) then only reasonable proposition is that they were dropped by some narrator in between. Dropping of some interjecting words is fathomable but addition of the same by multiple narrators is not, while they are all considered reliable.
In his wonderful academic work in Urdu -Ruhama-u-Baynahum- written in very friendly and non-inflammatory tone Maulana Muhammad Nafi' after referring to 15 different works of Hadith and history has stated that, he found 36 narrations with the mention of Sayyidah Fatimah's (RA) question for what she initially understood as her right from Abu Bakr (RA). 11 of those 36 that are narrated from companions other than Aisha (RA) and do not involve Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri as a narrator. None of those 11 has any word about the anger of Sayyidah Fatimah (RA). Out of the 25 that come from 'Aisha (RA) through al-Zuhri alone, 9 are such that have no indication of the kind either. The remaining 16 do have the words under consideration but as said all these come through one narrator Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri. Out of these 16, there are 6 that clearly have the قال i.e. "He said" thing mentioned above.
(He said 6 and I have enumerated 7 above because the 15 hadith collections he has considered do not include Tarikh al-Madina of Ibn Shabbah)
Shia reference for the narration with قَالَ (i..e He said) word :
In fact as the word قَالَ (i..e He said) at the specific place in the narration under consideration is there even in a Shia work, See, Sharah Nahaj al-Balaghah of Ibn Abi al-Hadid, Dar al-Jeel, Beirut, 1996 vol.8 Part. 16 p.218
Significance and further elaboration:
For this reason, asserts Maulana Muhammad Nafi’, it is apparent that these words were actually uttered by Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri and significance of this lies in the fact that he was not there when the whole issue came up. In fact he was born many years later. The reason to attribute these words to al-Zuhri is the fact of him being known to add comments of his own the narrations he reported, as pointed out by many scholars of note. Whether it is him or anyone else does not question the basic reality of the person saying these words being a male which in turn signifies that he was not even born when all those things happened.
4- The above understanding can be further strengthened by seeing the flow of wording and placement of the interjecting words like “He said” in the narration of Al-Tabari.
The narration from Tarikh al-Tabari is same as in Bukhari and in the same work it comes with that "he said" thing. In fact careful analysis of it only proves what we earlier mentioned. Here is the actual Arabic text;
حدثنا أبو صالح الضراري، قال: حدثنا عبد الرزاق بن همام، عن معمر، عن الزهري، عن عروة، عن عائشة، أن فاطمة والعباس أتيا أبا بكر يطلبان ميراثهما من رسول الله ص، وهما حينئذ يطلبان أرضه من فدك، وسهمه من خيبر، فقال لهما أبو بكر: أما انى سمعت رسول الله يقول: [لا نورث، ما تركنا فهو صدقة، إنما يأكل آل محمد في هذا المال] وإني والله لا أدع أمرا رأيت رسول الله يصنعه إلا صنعته قال: فهجرته فاطمة فلم تكلمه في ذلك حتى ماتت، فدفنها علي ليلا، ولم يؤذن بها أبا بكر وكان لعلي وجه من الناس حياة فاطمة، فلما توفيت فاطمة انصرفت وجوه الناس عن علي، فمكثت فاطمة ستة أشهر بعد رسول الله ص، ثم توفيت. قال معمر: فقال رجل للزهري: أفلم يبايعه علي ستة أشهر! قال: لا، ولا أحد من بني هاشم، حتى بايعه علي قال لا، ولا أحد من بني هاشم
'Aishah (said): Fatimah and al-Abbas came to Abu Bakr demanding their share of inheritance of the Messenger of God. They were demanding the Messenger of God’s land in Fadak and his share of Khaybar’s tribute. Abu Bakr replied, “I have heard the Messenger of God say, “Our, i.e. the prophets’ property cannot be inherited and whatever we leave behind is alms to be given in charity. The family of Muhammad will eat from it. By God, I will not abandon a course which I saw the Messenger of god practicing, but will continue it accordingly. He said: Fatimah shunned him and did not speak to him about it until she died. Ali buried her at night and did not permit Abu Bakr to attend her burial. While Fatimah was alive, Ali held respect among the people. After she died their attention turned away form him. Ma'mar: A man asked al-Zuhri, “Did Ali not give his oath of allegiance for six months?” He said: “No, nor anyone of the Banu Hashim until Ali rendered his,”
I have made two changes in Poonawala's translation. 1) Added the words "He said" in the middle of the narration as found in the original text quoted above. And towards the end I have changed it to absolutely literal replacing the final "he replied" with relevant "He said" for a rather plainer analysis.
Now this actually supports all we saw earlier about the words "He said" in Sahih Bukhari etc. Just as the last words were uttered by al-Zuhri the earlier words after "he said" are also from al-Zuhri as they are for a surety not of Aisha (RA) as she cannot be referred to as "He". The words in blue even help us know that it was actually al-Zuhri's statement to which someone mentioned by Ma'mar sought his clarity about.
The meaning of the words in question:
Besides the question on the identity of the one who uttered the words “Therefore Fatima left Abu Bakr and did not speak to him till she died” another important question is about the meaning of these words; Does this mean Sayyidah Fatima never spoke to Sayyidina Abu Bakr at all or was it only about the particular topic?
Narrations from Sahih Bukhari etc. do not clarify this point and without the clarification one tends to believe it was general. Other narrations however evidently prove it was said about only the particular issue of share in inheritance.
The wording in;
1) Tarikh al-Tabari,
2) Musannaf Abdul Razzaq (Hadith, 9774), and
3) Sahih Abu A’wana (Hadith 6679), goes as
فَلَمْ تُكَلِّمْهُ فِي ذَلِكَ حَتَّى مَاتَتْ
"And she (Fatimah- RA) did not talk to him (Abu Bakr -RA) about it until she died."
Strangely, even Maulana Muhammad Nafi’ somehow did not notice this interesting fact.
The wording of the narration in Tarikh al-Madina of Ibn Shabbah (d. 228 A.H.) is even more interesting and categorical;
عن الزهري، عن عروة، عن عائشة رضي الله عنها، أن فاطمة، والعباس رضي الله عنهما أتيا أبا بكر رضي الله عنه يلتمسان ميراثهما من رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم، وهما حينئذ يطلبان أرضه من فدك، وسهمه من خيبر فقال لهما أبو بكر رضي الله عنه: إني سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول: «لا نورث، ما تركنا صدقة، إنما يأكل آل محمد من هذا المال» ، وإني والله لا أغير أمرا رأيت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يصنعه إلا صنعته. قال: فهجرته فاطمة رضي الله عنها، فلم تكلمه في ذلك المال حتى ماتت
Al-Zuhri narrated from Urwa' that 'Aisha narrated: Fatima and 'Abbas came to Abu Bakr, seeking their share from the property of Allah's Messenger and at that time, they were asking for their land at Fadak and their share from Khaibar. Abu Bakr said to them, " I have heard from Allah's Messenger -on him be the peace and blessings of Allah- saying, 'Our property cannot be inherited, and whatever we leave is to be spent in charity, but the family of Muhammad may take their provisions from this property." Abu Bakr added, "By Allah, I will not change the procedure I saw Allah's Messenger -on him be the peace and blessings of Allah- following (during his lifetime concerning this property)." He said: Therefore Fatima left Abu Bakr and did not speak to him about this property till she died.
With all the details about the narrations from al-Zuhri mentioned above, this narration takes away whatever little effect his reports had left at least on the issue of alleged unsettled row. This means Sayyidah Fatima (RA) did not speak to Abu Bakr (RA) only on the particular topic thereafter till her death.
Narrations that prove the issue was amicably resolved:
1- Following report from Musnad Ahmad is very important;
عن أبي الطفيل، قال لما قبض رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أرسلت فاطمة إلى أبي بكر: أنت ورثت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم، أم أهله؟ قال: فقال: لا، بل أهله. قالت: فأين سهم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم؟ قال: فقال أبو بكر: إني سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول: " إن الله عز وجل، إذا أطعم نبيا طعمة، ثم قبضه جعله للذي يقوم من بعده " فرأيت أن أرده على المسلمين. قالت: فأنت، وما سمعت من رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أعلم
Narrated Abu Tufail (RA), when the Messenger of Allah -on him be the peace and blessings of Allah- died, Fatimah sent a message to Abu Bakr; 'Are you the heir of the Messenger of Allah or his family? He said: 'His family.' She said, 'So where is the share of the Messenger of Allah -peace and blessings of Allah be upon him?' Abu Bakr said: "I have heard the Messenger of Allah (saaw) saying, 'Verily when Almighty Allah feeds the Prophet (i.e. provides a source for sustenance for him) and then causes him to die, it is for his successors to manage it after him.' Therefore I wish to distribute it among Muslims." She said, 'You are more knowledgeable of what you have heard from the Messenger of Allah."
Narrations to the fact that Prophets do not leave material property as inheritance are found in Shia sources as well and reported by "Infallible Imams"
One wonders about the words of Abu Bakr (RA) to the effect that that family of the Prophet (saaw) is actually his heir and yet his refusal to give ownership to them. Considering the essence of the issue Abu Bakr (RA) might have said this for his knowledge and handling of the issue. What he meant was that what was reserved for the Prophet (saaw) cannot become property of his family after him though they can benefit from it. Another narration says;
Narrated 'Aisha:Fatima and 'Abbas came to Abu Bakr, claiming their inheritance of the Prophet's land of Fadak and his share from Khaibar. Abu Bakr said, "I heard the Prophet saying, 'Our property is not inherited, and whatever we leave is to be given in charity. But the family of Muhammad can take their sustenance from this property.' By Allah, I would love to do good to the Kith and kin of Allah's Messenger rather than to my own Kith and kin."
Also the following narration says it all;
Ali ibn Abu Tali said: I divided it (one fifth of the booty) during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him). Abu Bakr then assigned it to me. During the last days of the caliphate of Umar a good deal of property came to him.”
The report is completed in Sunan Abu Dawud where it continues as; “and Umar took out our portion. I said to him: We are well to do this year; but the Muslims are needy, so return it to them. He, therefore, returned it to them ...”
This shows that even though Abu Bakr (RA) according to the Prophetic instruction did not divide the said property to his family he left it with them to manage it as they did it during the life of the Prophet (saaw).
The key point in the narration of Musnad Ahmad is that Sayyidah Fatima (RA) on listening to the hadith from Abu Bakr (RA) said:
'You are more knowledgeable of what you have heard from the Messenger of Allah."
This shows she was satisfied as she learnt that what Abu Bakr (RA) held was on the basis of the saying of the Lawgiver himself- on him be the peace of blessings of Allah.
Narration of Ibn Sa'd through al-Waqidi:
Some people also allude to a narration from Tabaqat al-Kubra of Ibn Sa’d.
“Fatimah came to Abu Bakr and demanded her share in the inheritance. Al-Abbas came to him and demanded his share in the inheritance. Ali came with them. Thereupon Abu Bakr said, "The Apostle of God said, "We leave no inheritance, what we leave behind us is sadaqah." I shall make provisions for those for whom the Prophet had made."  On this Ali said, "Sulayman (Solomon) inherited Dawud (David),[Quran 27:16] and Zakariya said, ‘He may be my heir and the heir of the children of Yaqab (Zachariah and John the Baptist) ’"[Quran 19:6]. Abu Bakr said, "This is as this is. By God! You know it as I know." Thereupon Ali said, "This is the Book of God that speaks." Then they became quiet and retired.”
The narration comes through Muhammad bin Umar al-Waqidi whose narrations are generally not acceptable as he is graded as extremely weak and even charged of lying. For a detailed discussion about him, see the article by Syed Suleman Nadwi that we reproduced some months ago, HERE.
I even doubt the narration on the rational (diraya) account because it is hard to believe that Sayydina Ali (RA) would have referred to those two verses for material inheritance when they clearly relate to knowledge and prophethood (We defer the discussion on the verses for some other.)
Anyways even if accepted it only proves the conversation once ended there. There are other narrations that prove the later reconciliation. If we take all these together it will mean that perhaps after some deliberation thereafter the issue was resolved.
Categorical narrations on agreement:
In the same work of Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqat al-Kubra, there is also the following clear narration through much reliable chain;
أخبرنا عبد الله بن نمير. حدثنا إسماعيل عن عامر قال: جاء أبو بكر إلى فاطمة حين مرضت فاستأذن فقال علي: هذا أبو بكر على الباب فإن شئت أن تأذني له. قالت وذلك أحب إليك؟ قال: نعم. فدخل عليها واعتذر إليها وكلمها فرضيت عنه.
(Ibn Sa'd writes) Abdullah bin Numayr informed us- Ismail (bin Abi Khalid) narrated from 'Amir (al-Sha'bi) who said: Abu Bakr came to Fatima when she was ill and asked for permission to see her. Ali said, 'This is Abu Bakr on the door, if you (O Fatima) allow him (to enter). She said (to Ali); 'And you like me to (permit)? Ali said: 'Yes' Abu Bakr entered (and came to her) and pleaded with her and talked to her, therefore she became pleased with him.
I wonder what logic in the world could justify seeking evidence with report that comes though a narrator much criticized and completely "overlook" a narration with much solid chain of authorities, from the very same source.
Following is another categorical narration about the eventual agreement.
عَنِ الشَّعْبِيِّ قَالَ: لَمَّا مَرِضَتْ فَاطِمَةُ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهَا أَتَاهَا أَبُو بَكْرٍ الصِّدِّيقُ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ فَاسْتَأْذَنَ عَلَيْهَا، فَقَالَ عَلِيٌّ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ: يَا فَاطِمَةُ، هَذَا أَبُو بَكْرٍ يَسْتَأْذِنُ عَلَيْكِ، فَقَالَتْ: أَتُحِبُّ أَنْ آذَنَ لَهُ؟ قَالَ: نَعَمْ، فَأَذِنَتْ لَهُ , فَدَخَلَ عَلَيْهَا يَتَرَضَّاهَا وَقَالَ: " وَاللهِ مَا تَرَكْتُ الدَّارَ وَالْمَالَ وَالْأَهْلَ وَالْعَشِيرَةَ إِلَّا ابْتِغَاءَ مَرْضَاةِ اللهِ وَمَرْضَاةِ رَسُولِهِ وَمَرْضَاتِكُمْ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ "، ثُمَّ تَرَضَّاهَا حَتَّى رَضِيَتْ
Narrated al-Sha'bi: When Fatima became ill, Abu Bakr came to her and asked for permission to enter (and see her). So Ali said, ‘O Fatima, this is Abu Bakr asking for permission to enter.’ She replied, ‘Do you want me allow him?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ So she allowed him (to enter), and he came in seeking her pleasure, so he told her: ‘By Allah, I left my home and property and my family seeking the pleasure of Allah and His Messenger and you, O Ahlul Bayt.’ So he talked to her to please her until she was pleased with him.
Another narration of the same import is recorded in Riyadh al-Nadhra of Muhib al-Tabari with reference to Ibn al-Saman's work 'Kitab al-Mawafiqah'
Narration from Shia sources proving agreement:
Here is an excerpt from Sharah Nahaj al-Balagha of Maitham bin Ali bin Maitham al-Bahrani (d. 679 A.H.).
ان لك ما لابيك كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه و اله ياخذ من فدك قوتكم و يقسم الباقى و يحمل منه فى سبيل الله، و لك على الله ان اصنع بها كما كان يصنع. فرضيت بذلك و اخذت العهد عليه به
(Abu Bakr -RA- said to Fatima- RA): "You have the same rights as your father had. The Messenger of Allah -on him be the peace and blessings of Allah used to take provision for you from Fadak and used to distribute the rest and arrange for his ride (from it to use) in the same. I give you my word in the name of Allah that I will do as he (the Prophet) did. So she became pleased with him and had his word on this."
Summary and Conclusion:
Narrations from other Sahaba e.g. Abu Tufail's (RA) narration from Musnad Ahmad given above, show Sayyidah Fatima (RA) agreed when Abu Bakr (RA) told her the saying of the Prophet (saaw) for his contention on the issue. Narrations from Sunan al-Kubra of al-Baihaqi etc. categorically show that the issue was easily resolved.
As to the wording in Sahih Bukhari etc. we come to understand that they were actually uttered by al-Zuhri and with the above stated statistics about al-Zuhri's narrations and other reports it becomes clear that they cannot be taken as people often take.
Moreover, the narration from Ibn Shabbah etc. makes it clear that there was no talk only on the subject i.e. Sayyidah Fatima (RA) gave up asking for it as she learnt the basis of Abu Bakr's (RA) view. This is even supported by the fact that the management of the Fadak was handed over to Ahlal Bayt only as was the case during the time of the Prophet (saaw).
So the gist is the issue was amicably resolved and the Sayyidah (RA) died pleased with Abu Bakr (RA).
Indeed Allah knows the best!
 Sahih Bukhari Book 88, Hadith 718
 Ruhama-u-Baynahum, Makkah Books, Lahore, n.d. vol.1 pp. 126-13
 Tarikh al-tabari, Dar al-Turath, Beirut, 1387 A.H. vol.3 pp.207-208
 Ibn Shabbah, Tarikh al-Madina. Syed Habib Mahmud Ahmad, Jeddah, 1399 A.H. vol.1 p.197
 Musnad Ahmad, Hadith 14. Classified as Sahih by Ahmad Shakir
 Sahih Bukhari, Book 59, Hadith 368
 Musnad Ahmad, Hadith 646. Classified as Hasan by Ahmad Shakir
 Sunan Abu Dawud, Hadith 2978
 Tabqat al-Kubra, Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah, Beirut 1990 vol.8 p.22
 Sunan al-Kubra of al-Baihaqi, Hadith 12735. Imam al-Baihaqi after giving the narration comments that it is Mursal Sahih.