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May You Learn from Their Model: The Exemplary Father-Daughter Relationship of Mohammad and Fatima in South Asian Shiism

In: Journal of Persianate Studies
Author: Karen Ruffle1
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  • 1 University of Toronto
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Abstract

The special father-daughter relationship shared by Mohammad and Fatima (Fātema) is a source of inspiration and emulation for the Shia, who seek to cultivate idealized religious and ethical selves based upon their model. While Fatima and Mohammad are exceptional people who have been chosen by God to deliver and enact His message of creation, monotheism (tawhid), and the resurrection and Day of Judgment, they are also truly human beings, whose emotional and material needs resonate with everyday Shia. This essay focuses on three ways in which Mohammad and Fatima’s father-daughter relationship teaches the Shia of South Asia Islamic religious values, idealized socio-ethical norms, and proper filial relationships. First, Fatima’s earthly wedding to Ali and accounts of the minimal dowry that Mohammad provided for his daughter is frequently cast in a reformist light by South Asian Shia, who consider the adaptation of Hindu wedding practices and rituals to be contrary to the Sunna of the Prophet. Second, Fatima’s extreme poverty is a popular subject in Indo-Persian hagiographies, in which Fatima is narratively engaged to epitomize the socio-ethical ideals of charity (sadaqa), patience (sabr), and faith (imān). Third, Fatima’s impassioned speech claiming her right to inherit the orchards at Fadak is rooted in her status as Mohammad’s daughter and, more importantly, as a Muslim woman.

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