Sunteți pe pagina 1din 25

Who Is Fatima?

Gender, Culture, and Representation in Islam


Author(s): Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet
Source: Journal of Middle East Women's Studies, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Spring, 2005), pp. 1-24
Published by: Indiana University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40326855 .
Accessed: 03/02/2011 18:03

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at .
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless
you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you
may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.

Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at .
http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=iupress. .

Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed
page of such transmission.

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

Indiana University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of
Middle East Women's Studies.

http://www.jstor.org
WHO IS FATIM A?
Gender, and Representation
Culture, in Islam
Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet

"T^atima,"observedNusratAllahNuriyani, "wasoffered to thisworldbyher


-L father, theProphet Muhammad, as thecomplete exampleofwomanhood."
In fulfilling
hermaternal dutiesandupholding herreligion, Nuriyani asserted,
Fatimaperformed herobligations anddecorum,
withsteadfastness allthewhile
guarding herchastity (1945:1-2).Nuriyani, theeditorofa newlyfoundedPer-
sianjournalwithan Islamicbent,soughtsocialreform in Iranbyappealingto
thecharacter and exampleof Islam'sfirst He
family. even investedhisprivate
money to launch the journal in hiseffortto promote Islamic values in Iranian
society.Describedbyhisreadersas "young"and "zealous"abouthisreligion,
Nuriyani stroveto enhancetheappealof Islamin Iraniansociety, whichhad
undergone nearlytwo decades of secularreform oftenaimed atminimizing the
roleof religionin thecountry. As Nuriyani explained,"Today, because of the
codedpropaganda oftheenemiesof Islam,itsfollowers havefallenvictimto
lethargyintheirfaith" (1).
A'in-iIslamcoveredthemesofreligious importsuchas Islamicjurispru-
dence(fiqh)and Quranic exegesis(tafsir). Althoughthisweeklyapparently
enjoyeda shortlifespanwithlimitedcirculation - indeedin itssecondyear,
A'in-iIslamfacedthethreat ofshutdown and frequently publishedappealsto
itsreadership forsupport - thejournalnonetheless providesa rareglimpse
c
ofthepopularviewsofreligious conservativesand thelower- rankingulama
of thePahlaviera,a timewhenpublications withIslamicthemesremained
scarceand lackedstatebacking(1946).1Concernsabout prostitution and

JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN'S STUDIES


Vol.1,No. 2 (Spring2005).© 2005
2 <w JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN'S STUDIES

sexualpromiscuity, reflected in discussionsof venerealdiseaseand unveil-


ing in mid-twentieth century Iran,impelledNuriyani and intellectuals
with
a conservative leaningto relyon Islam'steachingsas a socialcorrective to
theseemingerosionof morality in Iranianpubliclife(see Kashani-Sabet,
forthcoming). Who betterthantheprophet's youngest daughter to embody
thismessageofsocialchange?As Nuriyani wrote,Fatima,despiteher"short
life,in the narrow of
society Arabia,withmeagermeans,"raisedthe"great-
estyoungmenof religion" and the"worthiest daughters and womenof the
worldbeneathherveilofchastity" (2). Fatima'sIslamicpurity contrastedwith
thesecular,unveiledimageofthemodernIranianwomanin mid-twentieth
century Iran,wheresocialillssuchas adultery and illicitsexbecameopenly
discussedin themainstream press(Ittila'at9 January1940).
The portrayal of Fatima,one of theholiestwomenin Islam,has been
moldedovertimeto fitvariousideals.As thedaughterof theprophetand
wifeof the firstShi'iteImam,Fatimahas playeda celebratedrole in the
historyand traditionof Shi'ism.Thoughthe historicaldetailsabout her
liferemaincontestedin thescholarship of earlyIslam,Shi'itelegendshave
immortalized Fatimaas an exemplarof chastity and religiosity
forwomen
(Lammens1912:133-4). Fatima's mother apparently gavebirthto heraround
theyear604 CE She marriedAli approximately twenty yearslaterand had
foursurviving children: twogirlsnamedZaynaband UmmKulthumas well
as hercelebrated sonsHasan and Husayn(Soufi1997:1-2).She died in 633
CE, but sincethere is discrepancy overherburialand gravesite,threespots
in Medinaareregarded as herresting place(Amir-Moezzi).
The lifeof Fatima,likemanyaspectsof women'sreligiousstatusin
Iran'spredominantly Shi'itesociety,has longbeenaddressedbytheologians
and scholarsbutrarelybywomenthemselves.2 Thoughtellingin itselfthat
women'svoicesareexcludedfromthebulkofthisliterature, suchan absence
createsdifficultiesin documenting women'sperceptions oftheirrolesin soci-
ety,forFatima'smemory offersa contested notionofmodelIranianwoman-
hood.Historiography on modernIraniansociety, writtenin theaftermath of
theIslamicRevolution of 1979,highlights thesustained in thelifeand
interest
legendofFatima.As Ziba Mir-Hosseini hasshownin herintellectual studyof
thecontemporary Shi'iteclericalestablishment, Ayatollah Azari-Qumi, who
servedin theCouncilof ExpertsoftheIranianParliament, depictedFatima
as the quintessenceof Islamicwomanhoodin his writings. Qumi writes,
"[Fatima]hassuchconspicuousqualitiesthatthroughout historyno one has
beenableto competewithher"(1999:56).Qumi eventracesthetradition of
FIROOZEH KASHANI-SABET e» 3

veilingwomenin chador s,orlongIslamiccoverings, to Fatima:"TheProphet's


daughter called theJews to Islamby her hejab in particular
[veil], bywear-
ing thechador. In observing she
hejab, is a perfectexample for our women"
(Mir-Hosseini 1999:56).
Othermediareinforced andpopularized theimageofFatimaas a libera-
torof modernShi'itewomen.Forexample,in theaftermath of theIslamic
Revolution,Mother'sDay in Iranwas celebrated on Fatima'sbirthday - an
overtattempt by the nascentregimeto link itsagenda on Islamic womanhood
to thesacredpersonaofFatima(Najmabadi1994:366-89). In 1980a groupof
studentsissueda statement on Women'sDay,commemorated on thebirthday
of Fatima,to stampherimprimatur on Iran'srevolutionary agenda.As the
announcement proclaimed,
Itbefits womenoftheIranian
therevolutionary tobecomemore
society
withtheImam's
acquainted women
lineconcerning andtheirmissionand
women
toinvite ofouragetostudythepositionofwomen inIslamandto
showthemhowIslamandtheIslamic revolution women....
glorifies They
should human
teach society which
andsacrifice, resulted
aboutgiving inthe
ofgreat
sacrifice martyrs ofIslam.(May8,BBC1980)
atthethreshold

Byconnecting revolutionary Islamto Fatimaand thecultof martyr-


domalreadypredominant in Shi'iteliterature,Iranianstudents stroveto lend
and
legitimacy historicity to their cause. Finally,schoolbooks publishedafter
therevolution venerated theimageof Fatimaas thequintessence of Islamic
womanhood.A briefaccountin a secondgradeschoolbookdescribedher
memory: "Fatimawasthebestwifeforherhusbandand thebestmotherfor
herchildren. ... Shehad a pleasantdisposition and strovein thepathofGod
and in veiling.She is theidealwomanof Islam"(Ta'imat-idinichaharum-i
dabistan1377:32).
Evenbeforethe politicization of Shi'ismin the modernera,Islamic
sourcesveneratedand idealizedthepersonaof Fatima,evenas theyhigh-
lightedher role in Shi'itemartyrology. Amongthe othernotablewomen
of Islam,includingthe ProphetMuhammad'swives,Khadijahand Aisha,
Fatima'shistorical roleremainsunique,ironically becauseoftheeventsthat
transpiredin Karbala (present-day Iraq) afterher death in 632-3CE As Islam
beganto spreadoutsideofArabia,theleadership of the Islamiccommunity
becamecontestedterrain.Those supporting theclaimof AH,theProphet
Muhammad'scousinand son-in-law, werereferred to as Shi'atAli,or the
partisansof Ali.3 The marriage of the Prophet's youngest daughter,Fatima,to
4 e® JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN'S STUDIES

Alifurther Ali'sclaimstoleadership
solidified oftheIslamiccommunity inthe
eyesof hissupporters. Fatima died after
shortly the Prophet'sdeath, and ite
Shi1
sourcesindicatethatin thelastyearsofherlifeFatimahad enduredsuffering
atthehandsofAli's(Sunni)rivals. According to DavidPinault(1998:70),Abu
Bakr,thefirstcaliphof Islam,impededherfrominheriting property, while
vUmar, AbuBakr'ssuccessor, in a disputewithAlioverthequestionofsucces-
sion,openedthedooroftheirhouse,hitting Fatimaandfracturing someofher
ribs.4
AfterFatima's death,hersonHusaynattempted to claimleadership ofthe
Islamiccommunity and setout to Kufa,Iraq bywayof Karbalawitha small
groupoffollowers toconfront theSunnicaliph,Yazid.5 Yetforces loyaltoYazid
captured Husayn's and
entourage, Husayn was killedin battle
at Karbala in680
CE Sincethen,Shi'itewritings haveunderscored thedivinity and martyrdom
ofHusayn.Indeed,eachyearShi'itesmournhisdeathon Ashura, andthemost
recentmanifestation of thissentiment was conveyed in southern Iraq several
monthsago,when,afterdecadesof quietismand suppression, thousandsof
Shi'itemourners tookto thestreets ofIraqto remember Husayn's martyrdom
(Agence France-PresseApril23,2003).Through Husyarís victimization, Fatima's
positionas thedevotedmother ofthisrevered andsacredmartyr hasbeenen-
hancedin Shi'itesocietyandliterature.
Western workshavealso delvedintothelifeandbackground ofFatima.
The renownedorientalists HenriLammensand Louis Massignonhaveat-
temptedto recoverthehistorical Fatimafromthelegendsthatsurroundher
(Vaglieri1965:841), but in doing theyhavemerely
so createdlegendsoftheir
own. LammensremarksthatFatimahas been the subjectof Sunniteand
Shi'itedevotionbut herrealpersonality has been buriedbeneathreligious
propaganda. Lammens'so-called"historical" biography ofFatimacontradicts
theharmonious viewoftheahi al-bayt(family oftheProphet)presented in
Shi'isources.Insteadof beingthelovingfatherand guide,Muhammadis
depictedas "abandoning" Aliand Fatimaand payingattention to theearthly
grandeur ofhisIslamicempire(Lammens1912:61-2).In addition, Lammens
notesmaritaldiscordbetweenFatimaandAli,particularly regarding theissue
ofAli'smonogamy, andAliemergesas an austerehusband.6 Lammensstates
that"hadithsrevealtheseverity ofAlitowardthemotherofhissons,"though
he providesno detailedepisodeto explainthisassertion. Although Lammens'
workfallsshortof itsintentions of offeringan authentic historical portrait
ofFatima,thedetailshe includescan be comparedto existing Shi'itelegends
on theProphet's daughter.
UnlikeLammens,LouisMassignonoffers a sympathetic description of
FIROOZEH KASHANI-SABET es 5

Fatimain his essay,"La Mubahalade Médineet l'hyperdulie de Fatima."In


thispiece,Massignon examines theoriginsoftheMubahalaincident andlinks
Fatimato it througha cosmologicalstudyof creation.Massignonconnects
Fatimato Mary,emphasizing Fatima's purity anddignity, andcriticizingLam-
mensforhis"diatribe" againstFatimaandtheahial-bayt(1955:27-33; Vaglieri
1965:841-2).Massignon's workfocuseson spiritualmatters, which,though
do
interesting, not extensively cover the major eventsin Fatima'slife.
As theworksofLammensand Massignonreveal,retrieving thelegend-
aryFatimaseemsto be a moremanageable taskthanwriting heractualbiog-
raphy.7Yetherlegends, thoughhistorically flawed, notonlycontainelements
of truthbutrevealwhyFatimahas maintained herstatusas theepitomeof
Shi'itewomanhood.Two sourcesby male Shi'itewritersofferglimpsesof
herand whatshehas represented fortheShi'itecommunity overtime.The
image of Fatima in these works providesinsight into male expectations of
Shi'itewomanhoodin Iranhistorically and illustratesthewayin whichthe
mythsof Fatimahavebeen changedin thecontemporary periodto forge
theradicalidealsof revolutionary Iran.Studying thehistoricaland mythi-
cal representations of Fatimahas enormoussocialimplications fornotjust
contemporary IranbutforthelargerIslamicworld.Now morethanever,as
themodernist moresoftheburgeoning feminist movements ofthetwentieth
centuryare beingpolitically confronted and publiclyquestionedin many
predominantly Islamic countries such as Iran, Egypt, and Turkey,
Algeria, the
rhetoricsurrounding the lifeand legend of Islam's first
holy women merits
inquiry.Becauseoftheaccessibility of Fatima'slegends,theywillbe usedto
showthewayin whichwomen'srolein Iran'sShi'itesocietyhas evolvedand
beenprescribed through Fatimaovertime.

THE RELIGIOUS CULT OF FATIMA

Written byMullahHusaynWaizKashifi, Rawdatal-Shuhada, a popular


Shi'i accountof the ProphetMuhammad'sfamily, narratesthe traditions
and travailsof theearlycommunity of Islam.The publicationdatesforthis
and otherworksof Kashifihavenotbeenestablished, thoughhe residedin
Nishapur, Mashhad (in present-dayIran) and Harat(in present-dayAfghani-
stan) in the fifteenth
century and died in AH 910/1504 CE (Yousofi 1978,
4:704).Underthe SafavidrulersofIran, reciterswould readfrom thiswork at
religious assemblies(rawzahkhanis)y and,thus,propagate and popularizethe
ideasand legendsoftheprophet's family in theShi'itecommunity (Momen
6 ^ JOURNALOF MIDDLE EASTWOMEN'S STUDIES

1985:118-9).In Rawdatal-Shuhada, Kashifihas devotedan entirechapterto


thelifeand contributions of Fatima,and throughhis account,a legendary
portrayal of Fatimacan be gleaned.The sketchdrawnby Kashifirecreates
thegloryand venerationaccordedtheprophetand theahi al-baytby the
Shi'itecommunity. BecauseKashifi's accountencapsulates a traditional
view
ofFatimaand coversthemajoreventsin herlife,itwillbecomethebasisof
thefirst partofthisarticle.8 accountwillthenbe comparedto a con-
Kashifi's
temporary -
legendofFatima theportrait depictedbyAliShari'ati in Fatima
is Fatima.Shari'ati, a revolutionary ideologuetrainedin bothWesternand
Islamictraditions, createsa freshperspective of Fatima'simageformodern
Iranianwomen.Divergences in thetwoversions willbe comparedto demon-
stratetheevolutionofthehistorical and societalfunctions ofthelegendsas
wellas to showthewayin whichIslamicmenhaveredefined Fatimato make
hera partoftheirnewreligiousand politicalbeliefsystems.
It is worthremembering thatevenbeforethefifteenth century,when
Kashifi producedthiswork,bothShi'ismand Fatimahad attainedascendancy
in variouslocales and culturesof the present-day MiddleEast,including
Egypt, where a Fatimid dynasty its
tracing lineage back to Fatimaruledfor
centuries and duringthetenthcentury, whentheBuyiddynasty controlled
partsof northern Iran.However, Kashifi's workembracedShi'ismduringa
periodof politicalinstability in theregion.Kashifi'snarration beginswith
Fatima'sbirth,and he contendsthatreligiousscholarscannotagreeon
whether herbirthoccurred beforeor after Muhammad's callto prophethood.
Kashifi, cites
however, twoscholars, Shaykh AbuMuhammadbinHisamand
ShaykhMufid,who consideredFatima'sbirthto occurafterMuhammad's
riseto prophethood. According to Kashifi,ShaykhMufid'sversionholdsthat
whenKhadijawas pregnant withFatima,Muhammadreceiveda visitfrom
Gabriel, whoannouncedthatthechildwouldbe a daughter andwouldstarta
puregeneration. Atthetimeofdelivery, KhadijaaskedthewomenofQuraysh
forhelp,but theyrefused, sinceKhadijahad marriedMuhammadagainst
theirwishesandbecame"thewifeoftheorphanofAbdullah" nd:l17).9
(Kashifi
AsKhadijawaslosinghope,fourwomen - Sara,Maryam, Kulthum, andAsieh -
appearedto assistwiththedelivery. WhenFatimawasborn,a lightemanated
fromher,illuminating thehomesin Mecca.Bythegraceof God,tenhouris
appearedfromparadise,eachcarrying a jug ofwaterfromKawsar(a riverin
paradise) to wash Fatima with theholy water.Then,oneofthewomenwashed
Fatima,placeda whiterobearoundherbody,and usedanothersheetto form
a veilforthechild'sheadbeforehandingherto Khadija(Kashifind:l18).
FIROOZEH KASHANI-SABET m 7

Thedivineandmiraculous eventssurrounding Fatima's birth- fromthe


appearanceof theholywomenof paradiseto theparticipation of houris-
underlineFatima'sprivilegedstatusas theone who has been destinedby
God to continueMuhammad's sacredline.The symbolism oflightandwater
streams through Kashifi'snarrative,accentuating thepurityand spiritual en-
lightenment of Fatima and her hallowed lineage.According to even
Kashifi,
Aisha,one oftheProphet's youngand belovedwives,acknowledged thedis-
tinctivenessofFatima:"It is saidthatwhenAishawas askedwhoamongthe
womenwasmostlikedbythemessenger ofGod,sheanswered Fatima"(118).
Whatis significant aboutFatima,then,is herpurityand specialpositionin
continuing thebloodlineof theprophet.Thus,herfunction as childbearer
wouldbecomean essentialmeasureofherlife.
Kashificonsiders Fatima'smarriage to Ali as an integral partofherlife
and legend,and he adducesseveralversionsof themarriage story, whichare
tracedbackto variouschainsof authority forauthenticity. Kashifinotesthat
Fatimamarried Aliin thesecondyearafter thehijra,whenshewaseither nine,
fourteen, or twenty. Thoughmembersof thesahàba soughtFatima'shand
in marriage, Muhammadrefused to promiseFatimato anyof thembecause
he was waitingfora revelation fromGabriel(127). Whenan angelarrived
withthismessage,Muhammadsanctionedtheearthly weddingof Ali and
Fatima.Kashifi providesnumerous hadithsto corroborate thecomingofthis
revelation.Thoughthedetailsvary,eachversionhighlights theforeordained
natureoftheweddingfromheaven(127-9).Kashifi's emphasison theblessed
marriage of AH and Fatima also underscores his desire to legitimate Ali's
leadershipand Shi'ismas theonlyacceptableand legitimate sectof Islam.
InsteadofAbu Bakr,thefirst Sunnicaliph,Ali has beenchosenbyGod and
byMuhammadforFatima,theprophet's favorite daughter, becauseofAli's
exemplary and to
piety specialrelationship Muhammad; these samequalities
alsodetermine Alias therightfulcaliphandleaderafter Muhammad's death.
Fatima'sapprovalofAli and theiramicablerelationship appearas leit-
motifsofthislegend.KashifinotesthatwhenFatimais takento Ali'shouse
afterthewedding,she criesas Muhammadpreparesto leave (130). The
prophet, perplexed byFatima'sreaction, assuresherhe hasselecteda husband
whosedecencyandpietyareunsurpassed. Kashifi comments thatwhilesome
people believeFatima criesbecause Ali is not rich, in fact
her sadnesssprings
fromhavingto leaveherbelovedfather. For, as Kashifiexplains,Fatimahas
alreadybeenaccustomed to povertyandan unpretentious lifestylewhileliving
withtheprophet.Furthermore, KashifiatteststhatwhenappeasingFatima,
8 e© JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN'S STUDIES

MuhammadpraisesAliprofusely as theholiestofMuslimsand,therefore, as
themostfitting husbandforFatima(130). This attention to Ali'svirtuous
character as wellas to Muhammad's
andspirituality, abundantadmiration for
Ali,pointsto Kashifi'sunderlying -
focus hisdesiretovalidatetheuniqueness
ofAliandthelawfulclaimoftheShi'iteImamsto theleadership oftheMus-
limcommunity aftertheprophet's death.As suggested in Kashifi'swork,the
prophet's desiredsuccessor is none other than his beloved daughter'shusband,
whomtheprophetselectswithforethought and divineguidance.
Kashifiaccentuates theotherworldliness of Fatimaand theahi al-bayt
throughout his account of Fatima's marriage.He notesthatAli is satisfied
witha mahrof400 mesqal(unitofweight)of silver - presumably a modest
sum of money - and Fatima'sgiftsconsistof twosilverarmlets, an outfit,
a mill,twopitchers, and othersimilarly usefuland economicalhousehold
items(130). Kashificitesadditionalanecdotesdisplaying theasceticism ofthe
prophet's For
family. example, someone reprimands Ali for a
marryingpoor
womansuchas Fatima,offering hisownrichdaughter to Ali;Alirefuses. As
a confirmation ofAli'sproperdecisionnotto abandonFatimaformoney, Ali
receivesa heavenlyvision,inwhicha lushparadiseis depictedand referred to
as Fatima'sjahaz,or dowry. A similarstorymentionsa fellownamedSulay-
man,who attempts to attract Ali to his daughter; Ali has a dreamin which
thedaughter of SulaymanservesFatimain heaven,a signto AlithatFatima
is superiorto Sulayman's daughter (131).
The qualitiesthatFatima,thesayyidatal-nisà\represents in Kashifi's
legend include suffering,obedience,and motherhood. ThoughKashifidoes
notarticulate thosecharacteristics, theyarethethemesofhisnarrative. The
storiesthatKashifiincludesin hisversionconcernFatimaas a dutiful mother,
wife,and daughter. In thosecapacities, shehas a historically significantrole.
OtherstoriesprovideFatimawithsomeagencyin herlifeand portray heras
activelysupporting thegrowth oftheearlyIslamiccommunity. One anecdote
aboutthechildhoodofHasanand HusayndepictsFatimaas a caringmother
and Islamicactivist. A youngJewcapturesand hidesHusayn,and Fatima,
troubled, urges Hasan to go searching forhis brother. WhenHasan locates
Husaynat theyoungJew'shouse,theJewbegsforforgiveness, particularly
fromFatima.In orderto repent, theJewconverts to Islam,alongwithseventy
members ofhistribe(119).
Fatima'scontribution in encouraging theconversion ofnon-Muslims to
Islamis depictedin anotherincidentregarding a localwedding.The prophet
convinces Fatimato attendtheopulentceremony ofa clanthatopposesand
FIROOZEH KASHANI-SABET e» 9

criticizes theprophet. Atfirst,Fatimaexpresses reservations aboutattending


thewedding, frettingoverhersimpleappearance andclothes, butMuhammad
persuadesherto attend.WhenFatimaarrivesat thewedding,she is illumi-
natedbya heavenly light,and themembers oftheceremony, recognizingher
extraordinary qualities,convertto Islam(124-6).Theseepisodesofconversion
amplify theroleand importance of Fatimaas botha follower and leaderin
theIslamiccommunity alongsideMuhammad and Ali, thoughherinfluence
and activity arelesspivotalthanthoseofthemenin herlife.Atthewedding,
Fatima,whilestillthedutiful wifeanddaughter, hasdepartedsomewhat from
hertraditional role,assuminga moreinfluential positionin theabsenceof
MuhammadandAli.
ThisaspectofFatima'spersonality, however,is eclipsedbythefrequent
depictionsof Fatimaas a weepingand emotionally fragilewoman.From
Kashifi'srendition, it seemsthatFatima'sfirstreactionto thecrisesin her
lifeis a stereotypically femalecatharsis: crying.WhenFatimais obligatedto
leaveMuhammad, shecries.AfterMuhammad's death,shecriescontinuously;
indeed,bothAli and theresidents of Medinaimploreherto restrain herself
in ordernotto exacerbate thegriefofthecommunity (135). WhenHusayn
is missing, Fatimaweepsand prays, whileHasansearchesforhislostbrother.
In another, theprophetnoticesFatimaweepingone day,and he asksherthe
reasonforherdistress. Fatimarespondsthatsheand herchildren havebeen
for
starving days, and she can no longer bearto witness the sufferingofher
children. In thispassage,Fatimarequests particularassistance from God since
"womenarenotas tolerant ofhungeras prophets are"(133). Eventually,with
heavenly intervention theprophetrescuesFatimaandherfamily fromstarva-
tion.Theseimagesof Fatimahighlight herphysicaland emotionalfragility;
without divinely intervention,Fatimais handicapped in addressing herprob-
lems.Yetthesescenesalso accentuate Fatima'shumanity. Thoughboastinga
divinelineage,Fatimastillrelieson God and theholinessof herfather, the
prophet, to overcome her travails.
The harmonyin Fatimaand Ali'smarriageis reinforced by Kashifi's
rendition ofFatima'sdeathsceneand lastwill.Throughout thissection,there
is no mentionofAliseekingotherwives.WhenFatimacites her final
will to
Ali,whichconsistsofhisforgiveness forherfaultsand hispromiseto attend
to theneedsof theirsons in herabsence,Ali reciprocates by saying,"Oh,
Fatima, I have acceptedyour will and you,too, have mercy listento my
and
will... first,ifinyourserviceanyharmwasdone [byme],pardonme..."(141).
In incorporating thisexchange, Kashifistrengthens theimagesof peaceand
10 w JOURNALOF MIDDLE EASTWOMEN'S STUDIES

loveamongtheprophet's kinand stresses similarfamily valuesin thelivesof


hislargerShi'iteaudience.
LauraVecciaVaglieri, an Italianscholarwhowrotea thoughtful synthesis
on thehistorical and mythical sourceson Fatima,has addressedtheissueof
Fatima'slegend,and in herarticleshehas includedotherdetailson Fatima's
mythical lifethataremissingfromKashifi's account.Vaglierihas drawnon
threeearlysources - theworksof Ibn Rustamal-Tabari,Husaynb. Abd al-
Wahhab,and Ibn Shahrashub - to reconstruct Fatima'straditionalShi'ite
legend.Becauseof thesimilarities betweenVaglieri's rendition and Kashifi's
account,it seemspossibleKashifihad accessto some of thesame sources
Vaglieriused forherarticle.Thereare,however, discrepancies betweenthe
twoversions. Kashifi'sadditionsandomissions provideinsight intotheevolu-
tionofthelegendand hispriorities regarding thedidacticvalueof Fatima's
legendary lifeforhisShi'iteaudience.
On accountsof birthand marriage, thetwoversionsare similar.On
physicalcharacteristics, however, Kashifiis surprisingly reticent.
According
to Vaglieri, amongthecharacteristics associatedwiththelegendary Fatima
are herpurported virginityand freedom from certain physiological factors
suchas menstruation. Vaglieri also discusses the conflictsbetween Fatima and
Ali,which werereferred to by Lammensbut expungedby Kashifi(Vaglieri
1965:843-7).BecauseKashifi's legendservesto glorify bothFatimaand the
ahial-bayt, he hasnotrecorded conflicts among themembers oftheprophet's
family;what matters to Kashifi is the and
harmony pre-eminence oftheahi
al-bayt.This idealizationis exemplified bythepervasiveinfluence of heav-
enlyforcesin thelivesof Fatimaand herfamily. SinceKashifilikelyaimed
hisworkstowarda popularaudienceaccustomed to venerating theinfallible
prophet and his equallyflawless kin (or at least at an audience encouraged
to do so), detailsdocumenting ordinary humanfoiblescouldnotmaketheir
wayintohisrendition.
Kashifi 's workis nota consciously gendered narrative,written as itwas
in thefifteenth century, and in this respect it contrasts with Ali Shari'atis
ideologicalportrayal ofthisholywoman.As shallbe seen,Shari'ati s account
lendsitselfmoreeasilyto a feminist, rather thana historical, analysisinfused
withthepoliticallanguageofhistimes.WhileKashifiwas notwriting from
thesamebipolar,gender-conscious the
perspective, qualities he stressesin
Fatimapointto hisviewsaboutwomen,particularly sincea womanas seem-
inglyperfect as theprophet's daughter managesto comeacrossas somewhat
weakandneedy.Fromthiswork,one canconcludethatKashifi didnotintend
FIROOZEH KASHANI-SABETe» n

to makeFatimaa rolemodelforwomenin thewayIslamicmodernists such


as Shari'atihaveattempted to do. Evenso, becausethecultof Fatimawas
and has remainedan integralpartof Shi'iteculture,particularly forShi'ite
women,Kashifi's work has resonances in contemporarywomen'slives,iffor
no otherreasonthantheattempt bymodernIslamicscholarsto circumscribe
thelibertiesof Shi'itewomenin thenameof Fatima.Changesin thelegend
ofFatimasincethepublication of Kashifi'sworkpointto thewaysin which
modernIslamicscholars haveattempted to revisethemythto formnewideals
ofShi'itewomanhood.

VEILINGAND THE IDEOLOGICAL CULTOF FATIMA

LittleevidenceofKashifi'sworkexistsinthepopularaccountsofwomen
fromnineteenth and earlytwentieth century Iran.In fact,Fatimararelyap-
pears in discussions of modern Iranian womanhood in theperiodunderre-
view.10Thisabsencereflects thegrowing secularism oftheQajar and Pahlavi
an intellectual
literati, trendthatembracednon-Islamicsymbolsof culture
and advancement, includinga revivalof pre-IslamicIranianthemesand
Western politicalconceptssuchas a constitution and a republic.11Similarly,
theburgeoning women'smovement adoptednon-religious symbols to convey
itsmessageof politicalactivismand inclusionof women.In a schoolbook
fromthelateQajareradesignedspecifically forgirls'schools,JoanofArc,by
virtueofherpatriotism, appearedas a more appropriate paragonformodern
Iraniangirlsthandid Fatima(Kashani-Sabet 1999). Qajar families
Yet vener-
atedthememoryof Fatimaand thefamilyof theprophetevenas modern
Iraniansdo today.'Aynal-Saltanahreported in 1893thaton theanniversary
ofFatima's birth,commemorated on 20 Jumada al-Thani,a publiccelebration
tookplaceattheAmiriyah Garden(al-Saltanah 1995/2000:564). He notedfur-
therthattheaudienceat passionplays(ta'ziyahs)consisted mostlyofwomen
(al-Saltanah1:908).Similarly,AbdAllahMustawfi recallsthesocialfunction
ofta'ziyahduringtheholymonthsofMuharramand Safar(Mostowfi trans.
Glenn1997,l:157-9).12
The conflict betweenreligionand secularism playedout in theConsti-
tutionalRevolution of 1906,whichestablished a parliament and constitution
in Iranforthefirsttime(Afary1996;Abrahamian1982).Althoughsecular
reform in Iranianpoliticallifewas achievedin theaftermath oftheconstitu-
tionalmovement, had hardlydisappeared
religiosity fromeveryday life,espe-
ciallywhere women were concerned (Mostowfi 159-160). In 1911, a British
12 a© JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN'S STUDIES

missionary in Iranobservedthat"exceptin thehighest classesPersianwomen


go abouta good deal,but always have to weara veilin thestreetor drawthe
chadarovertheirfaces"(Malcolm1911:83).Yetthefeminist discourseat the
dawnofthetwentieth century avoidedmentionofFatimaevenin discussions
concerning theveil.In 1914,MaryamMuzayyinal-Saltanah, editorof the
women'sjournalShikufah, observedthatIranianwomenshouldnotimitate
foreign women"becausetheydo notpracticeveilingand seclusionin their
religionand nationalcustoms," butshedidnotspecifically appealto Fatima's
exampleto makehercase (22:2). However,on theanniversary of Fatima's
death,she noted thatreligiousceremonies(rawzah khani)and ta'ziyah
honoredFatimain a publicdisplayof Islamism.One of thegirls'schools,
Madrasah-iTarbiyat-iNisvan,performeda "grand"and "praiseworthy"
ta'ziyah,at theconclusionof whicha studentpaid homageto mothersand
theirrolein nurturing thespiritual and intellectualmaturity oftheirdaugh-
ters(Shikufah 1914,10:3).
Womenwithdifferent politicalinclinationsalso voicedtheiropinions
on veiling,thoughat timesobliquely. Citingan interview withQueenSorayya
of the Afghanroyalfamily, RawshanakNawdust,editorof the women's
journalPayk-iSaadat-i Nisvan,addressedthehistorical significanceof the
veil,arguingthatveilinghad becomeassociatedwithseclusionthrougha
gradualprocess.Nawdustquoted the queen as assertingthatin the early
community of Islam,womenactively performed theirsocialand religious
obligationsalongside the men. Veiling,however, posed an obstacleto
had
women'seducationand advancement in themodernsocietiesof theEast
13
(1928, 4-5:121-6.). On 7 January1936,the unveilingdecreeformally
forbadeIranianwomenfromappearingveiledin public.14 Despiteenthu-
siasmfromofficialquarters,the unveilingdecreedid not receivea warm
welcomein variousregionsof thecountry. NoticesfromKashan,Khurasan,
and Kermanconfirmed the use of headgearby urban and ruralwomen
(Farhang1992:102,227,231). Laterthatyear,thereligiousmourning rituals
of 'Ashura,commemorating thedeathof Fatima'sson and thethirdShi'ite
Imam,HusaynibnAli,gaugedthesuccessoftheunveiling Veiled
legislation.
womencouldnotparticipate in publicmourning events, and clericsreceived
instructions to delivertheirsermonspeacefully to avertthepossibility ofriot-
ing(Iran National Archives 7 April1936).
The unceremonious fallof Reza Shah,thearchitect of Iran'sunveiling
program,broughtabout changesin social policy.No longerobligatedto
foregotheveil,Iranianwomenweregivena choicein donningtheheadgear
FIROOZEH KASHANI-SABET m 13

after1941,whenMuhammadReza Pahlaviaccededto thethrone, and some


womenmadethedecisionto re-veil. The absenceofFatimafromtheofficial
women'srenewalmovement oftheearlyPahlaviyearsdid notdiminishher
popularappealor significance fortheIranianShi'a.Rather, journalswithan
Islamicfocussuchas A 'in-iIslamwastedno timein recalling theexampleof
Fatimaas one to be emulatedbymodernIranianwomenand as a wayto al-
leviatesocialills,suchas venerealdisease,in mainstream Iraniansociety.
The secularizing tendencies of the Pahlavi rulingelite,however, wid-
enedthechasmbetweensocialconservatives and westernizing modernists.
Criticsof the regimesuch as Jalal-iAl-e Ahmad- whose condemnatory
1961essay,Westoxification, definedtheethosoftherevolutionary movement
-
of 1979 strove to findindigenoussymbols of culture and reform to effect
socialchangein Iraniansociety. A contemporary ofAl-eAhmad,AliShari'ati
as a
emerged leading advocate of change in women's lives.Bornin 1933,three
yearsprior to thepromulgation of theunveiling decree and considered one
oftheideologuesof the 1979Iranian Revolution, Shari'ati attended the Sor-
bonnein 1960to studysociologyand Islam.Uponhisreturn to Iranin 1965,
he wentto hishometownfora briefperiodbeforemovingto Tehranto lec-
tureat theHusayniya Ershad,a religious establishment fundedbymerchants
(Abrahamian 1988:291). western
Shari'atis education alienated himfromthe
culama, whobecamedistrustful ofShari'atis notionsofreform. His worksare
imbuedwithMarxistand existentialist leanings, drawnfromhisstudiesatthe
Sorbonne, andhistreatise on Fatimaexposessomeoftheseideological biases
(Hermansen1983:87-8).
Fatimais FatimaemergedfromlecturesShari'atideliveredin 1971at
theHusayniyaErshadon theanniversary of Fatima'sbirth(Shari'atind:5;
Hermansen88-9). On thatoccasion,Shari'atiaddressedtheidentity crisis
he perceived Iranian women to be facing and exhorted them to follow the
exampleofFatima.As thetranslator ofthiswork,LalehBakhtiar, writes, "He
[Shari'ati]criesout thequestionwhichis upon all women'slips,'Who am
I? Am I a mother? A wife?A daughter? A friend? A biologist? A chemist? A
doctor,nurse,mid-wife, laborer, writer,human being. . .? Who am I?'" (p. 5).
Thesequestionssingleout themultifarious functions of womenin society.
Throughthem,Shari'ati aimsat developing a feminine idealthatwillencom-
pass those female within
identities an Islamic context.
The portraitof Shari'atisFatimais no less of a legendthanKashifi's
idealizedsketch. Thismodern-day mythofFatima,thoughmodified, perpetu-
atessomeoftheage-oldidealsofwomanlybehaviorhighlighted in Kashifi's
14 co JOURNALOF MIDDLE EASTWOMEN'S STUDIES

descriptionofFatima.Becauseofitspolemicaltone,Shari'ati s workcannotbe
dissociatedfromitshistorical context ofpre-revolutionary Iran- a periodof
ideologicalfluxand questioning formanyIranians.Muchofhisspeculation
abouttheroleand positionof Fatimarelatesto Shari'ati s largerintellectual
concernsaboutsocialismand revolution (Yeganeh1982:48-9;Abrahamian
292-5).
In hisintroduction, Shari'ati
notesthecontribution ofLouisMassignon,
hisinstructor at theSorbonne,in studying Fatima(Hermansen91). Shari'ati
lamentsthat"her [Fatima's]real personality is not known,"eventhough
people mark her lifein ceremonies throughout theyear(24). Shari'atisaims
in thisworkaretwo-fold:to legitimate Shi'ismand to convertFatimainto
a femalerolemodel.LikeKashifi, he commendstheShi'is,who choseAli as
theirleader.His accountis replete withdigressions,suchas discussions on the
roleofthereligious scholarsand attacksagainstinstitutional SafavidShi'ism
Shari'ati29,41-46;Yeganeh49; Abrahamian 295-6).Thesedepartures point
to Shari'atislargerpoliticaland socialaims,which,thoughinteresting, are
outsidethepurviewofthisdiscussion.
Shari'atiidentifies twocategoriesintowhichpeoplefall:thetraditional-
istswho adhereto outdatedinstitutions and notionsof religionand mod-
ernistswho rejecttraditionand clingto Europeannorms.This dichotomy
is extendedto show the differences in Iranianwomen.He criticizesthe
one-sidedviewof Europeansocietypropagated in Iranto influencewomen
(Hermansen89-90). As he expounds,
Thereareonly someEuropean women whom wehavetheright
torecognize.
Itistheywhomwealways havetorefer to.Theyarethewomen introduced
throughfilms, television
magazines, andsexymoviesbywriters
whohavegiven
them sex.Theyareintroduced tousas a universal of
type European woman.
Wehavenoright togettoknow theEuropean whoattheageof16went
girl to
thedeserts
ofNubi[sic], .. Shelived
Africa.. with
thethreat
ofsickness, and
death
wildtribes..
.. Wehavenorighttoknow Mme.Curie whodiscovered
quantum
andradioactivity
orResassDu LaChappelle whoknew more about
thesanctity
ofAlithanalltheIslamic ..
scientists..
Weonlyhavetheright toknow Mme.Twiggy!(82-4).
In thispassage,itis Shari'atis
determination
to showtheexploitation of
theIranianwomenwhohavebeenborrowing thefalsevaluesof a distorted
Europeancivilization as depictedin Iranianmedia.He aimsat liberatingthe
Iranianwomanfromthesocialfetters plaguingtheEuropeanwomanbyad-
FIROOZEH KASHANI-SABET <?» 15

vocatinga return to Islamand to theimitation ofFatima,"a perfect example


ofan idealwoman,ofwhata womancouldbe and no one hasbecome"(47).
YetShari'ati recognizes thatformodernShi'itewomenitis nearlyimpossible
to becomeFatima,thoughFatimashouldnonetheless remaintheirinspira-
tion.Shari'ati laudsthesocialand intellectual achievements oftheEuropean
womenhe has mentioned,challengingIranianwomento pursuesimilar
productive endsthrougheducation(Hermansen86-90).ButtheEuropean
womanis notShari'atisideal,forthesocietyin whichtheEuropeanwoman
livescorrupts thesisinvolves
her.Shari'atis discreditingEuropeanculture as the
sourceofimitation forShi'itewomen.He fulminates againstthesexualfree-
dom in capitalist western culturesthathas transformed womenintoobjects
ofpleasure.As he explains, "Womenarepresented only creatures
as whoare
sexyand otherthanthis,nothing.... Sheis placedin advertisements and used
as propaganda forcreatingnewvalues,newfeelings and drawing attention to
newconsumerproducts"(102). ThoughShari'atiacknowledges thatnot all
Western womenarecommodities formen'sdelight, he nevertheless consid-
ersWestern societywantingin thevaluesofMuslimwomanhood,especially
whencomparing themto Fatima'slifeand legend.15
Afterlaunchinghis diatribeagainsttheWest,Shari'aticriticizesthe
closemindedness ofthereligious in theEast.ButShari'ati
traditionalists does
not oppose all religioustradition, onlytheinstitutionalist,quietistShi'ism
thathas impededtheculamain Iranfromdisseminating theteachings ofAli
and Islam.As he contends, "Insistence upon traditional valuesstands likea
watch-tower witha strongspiritagainsttheWest....Moslemsareoverflowing
withhonor,spiritualmeaning,valuesand pride.Theirhistory, people,cul-
ture,faithand religiouscharacteristics givethemindependence, greatness
and something to holdtheirheadsup highfor"(104-5).Buthe blamesthe
scholars forfailingto spreadthismessage. According womenmust
to Shari'ati,
also turnto thissamesourceofIslam,thefamily oftheprophet, forinspira-
tionand leadership(Hermansen90-1). UnlikeKashifi's, Shari'atisnarrative
is discursive and polemical.Thoughwomenarethepurported focusofthis
work, othersubjects, suchas therole of theculama, have received equaltreat-
mentand discussion.His analysisin thesecondhalfof thework,however,
addressestheroleof Fatimaand Shi'itewomenmoreconsistently thanin
previous sections.
Shari'atiarguesthehistorical oppressionof Easternwomenpartlyre-
sultedfrom"socialrulespresented to themin thenameof religion.... Even
therightsand possibilities whichIslamitselfhas givento women,havebeen
16 e» JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN'S STUDIES

takenawayfromthemin thenameofIslam"(108).ThoughShari'ati doesnot


the
specify rights to which he is referring, he ranks the stunted educational
development of womenand theiramorphoussocial identities amongthe
woes plaguingthem.Woman,Shari'atimaintains, assumesthe identity of
heroffspring insteadof shapingherindividuality: "Herhumanvalueshave
beenloweredto 'motherofthechild'... . She is calledHasan'smother"(108).
Ironically,though Shari'atihas chosen the name"Hasan"forhisexample,he
is notspecifically referring to Fatimain thispassage,thoughtheambiguity
maybe intended.Indeed,Shari'ati's analysisin thismatterseemssupported
by Kashifi'sdepiction of Fatima - a portrait that,as mentionedpreviously,
highlighted Fatima's function and significance as motherand wifeofpromi-
nentmenofreligion.
YetShari'atiassertsthatwomenthemselves also playeda partin rein-
forcing their The
subjugation. propagation by women and menof"supersti-
tious"notionsof family and patriarchy, or "father power"as Shari'atiterms
it,contributes to thesuppression ofwomen:"Allof thisoccursin thename
ofIslam...and worstofall,in thenameof'similarity to Fatima'"(109). But,
afterall,whatistheIslamandwho istheFatimathatShari'ati has attempted
to rescuefromthisweb of fabrication and falsehood?The finalsectionof
Shari'atisworkprovidesanswersto thesequestions.Havingestablished the
framework withinwhichto discusswomenand Shi'ism, Shari'atirecountsthe
earlyhistory of Islam and the story of Fatima's life. His rendition lacksthe
colorfuland imaginative detailsof Kashifi's description. Evenso,an altered,
thoughequallymythical, pictureofFatimasurfaces. Shari'atis Fatimaupholds
someofthesamevaluesofKashifi's Fatima,butShari'ati hasaddedotherat-
- traitsthatrevealand supportShari'ati
tributes s ideological biasesregarding
theidealmodernShi'itewoman.
The narrative on Fatimaembracesthemajoreventsofherlifeand the
chronology oftheearlyIslamiccommunity. One ofShari'ati s salientthemes
concernsthe"revolutionary message" of Islam and itsprophetas wellas the
revolutionary role of a
Fatima, daughter rather than a son,in carrying out
theprophet's and
message hislineof succession.Shari'ati juxtaposesIslam's
positionregarding daughters, and therefore women,withthehideboundno-
tionsofothersocieties thatdenydaughters theequality andfreedom accorded
to sons:"Yes,in thisschoolof thoughtsucha revolution tookplace.In this
religion,a womanis freedin thismanner"(135).16Fatima'suniqueposition,
then,as thesurviving heiroftheprophetis revolutionary in and ofitself.
Shari'ati this
supports argument byshowing the deferential wayinwhich
FIROOZEH KASHANI-SABET e» 17

theprophettreatshisdaughter: "In someofthehistoricdocuments, itis re-


cordedthattheProphetwouldkissthefaceand handsofFatima....Suchbe-
haviourinsuchan environment strikesa revolutionary blowto thefamilies..."
emphasison "revolution"
(135-6).Shari'ati's pointsto theactivismhe hopes
to generateamongtheShi'iteIranianwomenof his time.Furthermore, the
ideaofrevolution is linkedto hissocialistidealsand aspirations (Hermansen
92;Abrahamian 292-5).
Whendiscussing Fatima'smarriageto Ali,Shari'atidoes not focuson
the foreordained holinessof the affairbut ratheron the reasonsFatima
consciously decidesto marryAli.Previously, Shari'atihad pointedout that
afterKhadija'sdeath,Fatima,feelingresponsible forherfather, vowsnever
to marry.According theidea of marriagebecomespalatableto
to Shari'ati,
FatimawhentheprophetmarriesAisha:"Fatima,littlebylittlesensesthat
herfather's youngbridewillreplaceKhadijehand herself - notin his heart
butundoubtedly in hishouse"(155). His emphasison Aisha'sinability to re-
placeFatimaand Khadijareinforces Shari'atisaimin underlining thespecial
significanceofFatimaandherlineage.Thus,Shari'ati onceagainendorses Ali
as therightfulleaderafterMuhammad'sdeath.
Though Shari'atiomits the implausibleoccurrencesthatpervade
account,he is no lessguilty
Kashifi's ofdistortion and misrepresentation. His
narrativeis interspersed withgeneralizations and unsubstantiated anecdotes
offeredto thereaderas truth. Foremphasis, Shari'atirelatesverbatim conver-
sationsbetweentheprophetandAliin themannersimilarto thatofa rowzeh
khan.UnlikeKashifi, he makesno effort to refer to particular sourcessuchas
theQur'anor hadithsforhis assertions, eventhoughcertainhadithsareof
questionable authenticity (155-6).
As faras thedetailsconcerning Fatima'smarriage, likeKashifi, Shari'ati
highlightstheself-abnegating and penuriouslifestyle of the ahi al-bayt.He
recountsthatwhenAli toldMuhammadof his indigence, theprophetad-
visedAlito selltheswordhe had givenAliat theBattleofBadr,"andwithits
smallprice,he [Ali]shouldbeginhis life."Fatima'sdowry, consisting of"A
handmill,a woodenbowl and a cotton is
rug"(156) similarly meagerand
inconsequential.17Shari'atidoes notwantto shatter theidealizedlifestyle of
theprophet'sfamilyin his impassionedlectureon Fatima.WhileShari'ati
acknowledges Fatima'sreluctance to movetoAli'shouseafter thewedding, he
ascribesFatima'shesitation to her supreme love forand devotion to herfather,
theprophet.As in Kashifi's version,Shari'atiquotesMuhammad'seffusive
praiseofAlias "a personofthestrongest faith..."(157),thereby counteracting
18 e» JOURNALOF MIDDLE EASTWOMEN'S STUDIES

notionsthatAli'scharacter mighthavedispleasedFatima.
OnceinAli'shouse,Shari'ati depictsFatimaas a hard-working andpro-
ductivemate- notas a "womanwho sitsat homeand is good fornothing"
(113). Shari'aticomparesFatima'svirtuousindustriousness withthetrivial
existence ofthe"absurdwoman,"theconsumer, parexcellence, whochooses
to buyratherthancreate.By contrast, Fatimais a productive worker, even
though sheis the prophet'sdaughter, and what she consumes serves merely to
provideherwithsustenance:"Fatimagrindsthewheatherself. Shebakesthe
bread.Sheworksin thehouseand is seenhundredsoftimesbringing water
fromoutsideherhome"(157). Shari'atisideal,then,is inexorably linkedto
hissocialist beliefs.
TheidealFatima - andwoman- is thediligent, unpreten-
tiouslaborer.Workand Fatima'sattitudetowardworkhavebeen idealized
in Shari'atis legend,and theyserveas thepanaceaforthemoralwoesailing
modernIranand theIranianwoman,particularly womenwhohaveshunned
industriousness withinthedomesticsphere, optinginsteadforindolenceand
materialism.18
In addition,Fatima'ssuffering winsherAli'sloveand admiration: "Ali,
who knowsthegenerosity and majestyof Fatima,and morethanlovesher
formultiple reasons,knowsthedifficulties thatshehasgrownup withwhich
havemadeherweakand is thereby sorrowedbyall of theworkand labour
whichshemustperform" (157). LikeKashifi, Shari'ati
haslinkedFatima'smo-
rality to herweakness and her
suffering; self-sacrificing mannerhas received
hertheapprovaloftheleadingmenin herlife.
According to Shari'ati,
Fatimamustlearnfromtheprophet howto forge
heridentity. Ashe states,"'Becoming Fatima'is noteasy....Shehasthegreatest
responsibility in thehistory offreedom, jihadandhumanity... Fatimahasthe
of
responsibilitybeing the linkbetween prophecy and imamate" (159).19This
to the
passagebrings light contradictions inherentin Shari'atisinterpretation
ofwomen'sfreedom and rights.Whilehe statesthatFatima'smereexistence
is revolutionary,herimportance is establishedthrough hervarioustraditional
rolesas childbearer, daughter, mother, and wife.Indeed,in learninghowto
becomeherself, Fatimahas to relyon thevaluesand teachingsof a male
rolemodel: herfather theprophet.Shari'atidepictsFatimaas havinglittle
agencyin creating herownpersonality. Her restricted freedom, therefore,as
portrayed by calls
Shari'ati, intoquestion Shari'atisinterpretation ofwomen's
socialrights. IfShari'ati
intended modernwomento followFatima'sexample,
wouldtheytoohaveto succumbto theopinionsoftheirhusbandsandfathers
or Shari'atihimselfin defining theirfunction in societyand in "becoming
FIROOZEH KASHANI-SABET e» 19

themselves"? Suchan outcomewouldcontradict Shari'ati'saim in liberating


theIranianwomanfromtheyokeofsuppression, forhewillhavereplacedthe
deleterious Europeanmodelwithan equallyrestrictive traditional modelof
hisown.One wonders, then,whether thisFatimais reallyanydifferent from
thenamelesswomendescribed in theearliersectionofthebook,whoassume
theidentities oftheirchildren.
Shari'atisaccountsof Muhammad'sdeathand thesuccessioncontro-
versydepictFatimaas a grieving, thoughdetermined, woman.As in Kashifi's
work,Fatimadeeplymournstheloss of herfatherbut remainsa pillarof
supportforAlithroughout herhusband'sstruggles in upholding thetradition
of theprophet.Not surprisingly, Shari'atichastisesAbu Bakrand Omarfor
confiscating Fatima'srightful property aftertheprophet's deathin thissame
section(Sharivati 207; Yeganeh51). Perhapstheepilogueof thisworkbest
captures Shari'atis intentionsin rewriting Fatima'slegend.His toneofrever-
enceand admiration forFatimaand herstruggles resonatethroughout his
discourse. ThoughShari'atiis unableto dissociateFatima and - the modern
Iranianwoman- fromthetraditional symbolsofwife,mother, and daughter,
he nevertheless accordsFatimaan independent role.As he states,"Sheherself
is an Imam,a guide,thatis an outstanding example of someone to follow..."
(225). Althoughtheonlyroles in which Shari'ati has depicted Fatima are
thosethattieherto thehistoric menin herlife,Fatimanevertheless emerges
in themindof Shari'atias an independent religioussymbol throughout her
struggles. to
According Shari'ati, the
despitebeing daughter ofthe prophet, the
wifeofAli,and the mother of Hasan and Husayn, "none of them are Fatima.
FATIMAIS FATIMA"(226). It is thissymbolof independence, however
or
murky contradictory, that Shari'atiwishes to impart to modern Iranian
women.20
CONCLUSION
Theseaccountsof Fatima- whilewritten in distanterasand withdif-
ferentendsin mind- summarize someofthesocialidealsofShi'itewoman-
hood and theirimpacton womenin modernIran.Kashifi's mythdoes not
addresswomen'srights,but his portrayalof Fatimaas a fragilewoman,
dependent uponthedivinegracesofherfather and husband,reinforces ste-
notions
reotypical ofwoman as theweaker And
sex.21 yet, inclusion
Kashifi's
of herrolein thepropagation
of Fatimaand his recognition of Shi'ismand
thedevelopment ofearlyIslamichistoryplacesheron a somewhat moreeven
footingwith the pioneeringmen in herlife.
On the other hand, Shari'atis
20 e» JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN'S STUDIES

workillustratesthewayin whichIslamcan be reinterpreted in themodern


to or
period empower suppress Iranianwomen. Though Shari'ati
acknowl-
edges the multifariousfunctions women in
perform society, he nevertheless
glorifiesthetraditionalwomanlyvaluesthathavemade Fatimaa beloved
figurein Shi'iteculture,includingchastity, and domesticity.
religiosity, In
theserespects,therenditions ofKashifiand Shariatibecomecomplementary,
theenduranceofcertaintimelessfeminine
illustrating idealsvaluedbymale
Islamicthinkers overthecenturies.
In theaftermath ofthe1979IslamicRevolution, thesymbolsofIslamic
womanhoodin Iran havesupplantedsecularidealsof feminism. The veil,
once a markof backwardness, has been resurrectedas a signof empower-
ment.Thisarticlehasattempted to understandtheshifting symbolsofShi'ite
womanhoodthrough thepersonaofFatima.Becauseoftheirpopularity, the
myths of Fatima havebeen usedby women, malescholars, and,most recently,
politicalideologuesto definegenderrolesforwomenin IslamicIran.22 By
focusing on twopopularShi'itraditions and texts,thisessayhas attempted
to showthedifferent facesof Islamand women.Whilesomescholarshave
studiedtheQur'anicbasesforthesuppression ofMuslimwomen,thisarticle
has attempted to showthewaysin whichIslamicthinkers haveusedthecult
ofFatimato reinforce traditionalgenderrolesand to encouragefemalecon-
formityto maleperceptions ofShi'itewomanhoodin modernIraniansociety
oftheirera.

NOTES
1. It is interesting
to note,however, thatin thedaysbeforeand afterthean-
niversaryof thepromulgation of theunveiling decreeof 1936,thejournalmakesno
mentionof theunveiling decreeor thesubjectof unveiling in general.For culama
supportofthispublication, seeA'in-iIslam,12 Bahman1324/1February 1946,p. 11,
whichcitesculamafinancial contributionsto thejournal.
2. For studieson womenin modernIran,thoughnot necessarily on Fatima,
refer
to thefollowing works:ElizSanasarian,TheWomen'sRightsMovement in Iran
(New York:Praeger,1982);AfsanehNajmabadi,"Womenor Wivesof theNation?"
IranianStudies,26 (1993); Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Islamand Gender:The ReligiousDe-
batein Contemporary Iran(Princeton: Princeton Press,1999);and Haleh
University
Esfandiari,Reconstructed Lives:Womenand Iran'sIslamicRevolution (Washington:
TheWoodrowWilsonCenterPress,1997).
3. Forworkson theearlyhistoryof Islamand Shi'ismsee,R. StephenHum-
phreys,BetweenMemoryand Desire:The MiddleEastin a TroubledAge(Berkeley:
TheUniversity ofCaliforniaPress,1999);HeinzHalm,Shi'ism(Edinburgh: Edinburgh
UniversityPress,1991).
FIROOZEH KASHANI-SABET e» 21

4. For Shi'itesourceson thissubject,see Muhammadibn Yaqub al-Kulayni,


al-Usulminal-Kafi(Tehran:Intisharat-i vIlmiyah-i Islamiyah, n.d.).Anothernotable
sourceincludestheworkof famousSafavidtheologian, MuhammadBaqirMajlisi's
Biharal-Anwar, vol.43.
5. Forstudieson earlyIslamichistory, see GerhardEndress, An Introduction to
Islam,trans,byCaroleHillenbrand (NewYork:ColumbiaUniversity Press,1988).
6. On thequestionofmonogamy, seeLammens, Fatimaetlesfiliesdu Mahomet,
pp. 48-49.On Ali'sseverity as a husband,see Lammens,Fatimaet les filiesdu Ma-
homet,p. 59.Also,Vaglieri, "Fatima," p. 841,whocomments on similarpoints.
7. Foran overviewof Fatima,referto Encyclopaedia Iranica,"Fatima."Foran
excellent dissertationon thesubject,see Soufi1997.
8. In reviewing Kashifi'saccountofFatima's life,I havereferredtomostofhisob-
servations, thoushI haveleftoutsomeofthemoretrivial Dointsin Kashifi'sversion.
9. Alltranslations fromthisworkaremyown.
10. Forinstance, see thefollowing workson modernIranianwomen:Mangol
Bayat-Philipp,"Womenand Revolutionin Iran,1905-11,"in Lois Beckand Nikki
Keddie,eds.,Womenin theMuslimWorld(Cambridge:HarvardUniversity Press,
1978);Janet Afary,"On theOriginsofFeminism in Early20th-century Iran,"Journal
ofWomen'sHistory, 1 (Fall 1989):65-87;ElizSanasarian, TheWomen'sRightsMove-
mentin Iran (New York:Praeger,1982);AfsanehNajmabadi,"Womenor Wivesof
theNation?"IranianStudies,26 (1993); CamronAmin,The Makingof theModern
IranianWoman:Gender,StatePolicy,and PopularCulture,1865-1946(Gainesville:
University PressofFlorida,2002).Noneoftheseworksgrappleswiththesignificance
of Fatimain women'spopularcultureoflatenineteenth and earlytwentieth century
Iran.
11. Forstudiesof thisera,see NikkiKeddie,The Rootsof Revolution: An In-
terpretative History of Modern Iran (New Haven: Yale University Press,1981); Mirza
Aqa KhanKirmani, A'inah-iSikandari(Tehran,1906); MirzaFathAliAkhundzadah,
Maktubat-i Jalalva Kamalal-Dawlaya Sah Maktub,1285A.H./1868,(Manuscript at
theKetabkhaneh-i Melli-ye Iran, no. 1123); E Kashani-Sabet, "Culturesof Iranianness:
The EvolvingPolemicof IranianNationalism," in Iranand theSurrounding World,
editedbyNikkiKeddieand RudiMatthee(Seattle:University ofWashington Press,
2002),pp. 162-181.
12.Forrelevant works,seeAleksander Chodzko,Theatrepersan(Paris:E. Ler-
oux, 1878);LewisPelly,The MiraclePlayof Hasan and Husain,editedbyArthur N.
Wollaston(London,1879);and PeterChelkowski, Ta'ziyeh:Ritualand Dramain Iran
(NewYork:NewYorkUniversity Press,1979).
13. For morereactionon the Queen of Afghanistan, see RosalieMorton,A
Doctor'sHolidayin Iran(NewYork:Funk& WagnalisCompany,1940),pp. 294-297.
14. Forrelateddiscussionson veiling, see F. Kashani-Sabet "PatrioticWoman-
hood:The CultureofFeminism in ModernIran,1900-1941";MansourehEttehadieh,
"The Originsand Development of theWoman'sMovementin Iran,1906-1941," in
Womenin Iran from1800to theIslamicRepublic,editedby Lois Beckand Guity
Nashat(Urbana:University of IllinoisPress,2004), pp. 85-106;and CamronMi-
chaelAmin,"Propagandaand Remembrance: Gender,Education,and the'Women's
22 e® JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN'S STUDIES

Awakening' of 1936,"IranianStudies,vol.32,no. 3, (Summer1999):351-386.


15.Hermansen, "Fatimehas a RoleModel,"pp. 89-91,alsodiscussesthethemes
of thispassage.Also,Yeganeh, "Women'sStruggles in theIslamicRepublicof Iran,"
p. 49.
16.Also,Hermansen, "Fatimehas a RoleModel,"p. 92 formoreon thisidea.
17.Forotherexamplesofthepoverty ofAliand Fatima,see Hermansen, p. 92.
Also,Yeganeh, p. 51.
18. For further explanationof Shari'atisviewson womenand capitalism, see
Yeganeh, 49-50.
19.Hermansen alsocomments on thispassage,thoughheranalysis focusesmore
on theintercession motifthanmine.See Hermansen, 92-3.
20. See Hermansen, "Fatimehas a RoleModel,"p. 93. Sheinterprets thepassage
in an existentialistcontext.Also,Yeganeh, "Women'sStruggles in theIslamicRepublic
ofIran,"p. 51.
21. For an exampleof thisidea,see Ali'sspeechesin NahjulBalaghain Syed
MohammedAskariJafery, NahjulBalagha:Sermons,Letters and Sayingsof Hazrath
Ali (Karachi:KhorasanIslamicCentre,1971),p. 173.
22. In 1981on theanniversary of Fatima'sbirthday, whichwas designated as
NationalWomen'sDay,Ayatollah Khomeiniusedtheoccasionnotonlyto recognize
Fatimabutto praisethoseIranianwomenwhohad defiedthe"Westoxification" ofthe
Shah'sregime.See TabariandYeganeh, In theShadowofIslam,p. 102.

REFERENCES

Afary,Janet
1996 The IranianConstitutional Revolution,1906-1911:
Grassroots Democracy,
Social Democracy,and the Originsof Feminism.New York:Columbia
UniversityPress.
Abrahamian, Ervand
1982 IranBetweenTwoRevolutions. Princeton:
PrincetonUniversityPress.
1988 Ali Shari'ati:Ideologueof theIranianRevolution.In Islam,Politics,and
Social Movements. EdmundBurke,III and Ira M. Lapiduseds.,pp. 289-97
Berkeley:University ofCaliforniaPress.
AgenceFrance-Presse
2003 ShiitesPourintoHolyIraqiCity.April23.
A'in-iIslam
1945-aYikBanuviIslami-viBuzureva nimunah-i kamil-imadar.27 April.
1945-bTalashi-yi 'Aqidah.6 April:1.
1946 Yikkhabar-Ita'asufangiz.4 January.
AliAmir-Moezzi, Mohammad
1999 Fatima, Daughter of the Prophet. In Encyclopaedia Iranica.
eds.,AhmadAshtraf etal. NewYork:ColumbiaUniversity Press.
Azari-Qumi, Ahmad
1993 Sima-yiZan darNizam-IIslami.Qum: Dar al-'Ilm.
FIROOZEH KASHANI-SABET «9 23

BBC Summary ofWorldBroadcasts


1980 IranianMuslimStudents' Announcement on RoleofWomen.May8.
Hermansen, Marcia
1983 Fatimelias a Role Model in theWorksof Ali Shari'ati.In Womenand
Revolution in Iran.GuityNashated. Pp 87-88.Boulder:Westview Press.
IranNationalArchives,
1936 PrimeMinistry Files,File 103013,Folder9692.April.
Ittilaat
1940 Suzakva vagiriyihan.
Kashani-Sabet, Firoozeh
1999 FrontierFictions:Shapingthe IranianNation,1804-1946.Princeton:
Princeton University Press.
forthcoming The PoliticsofReproduction: Maternalism andWomen'sHygiene
in Iran,1896-1941.
Kashifi,MullahHusaynVaizand Rawdatal-Shuhada
nd KitabFurushi-yi Islamiyah. Tehran.
Khushunat va Farhang: Asnad-iMahramanah-i Kashf-iHijab
1992 Intisharat-i Sazman-iAsnad-iMilli-yiIran.Tehran.
Lammens, Henri
1912 Fatimaet les filiesdu Mahomet.Rome:SumptibusPontificii Instituti
Biblici.
Malcolm,Napier
1911 Childrenof Persia.Edinburghand London: Oliphant,Anderson&
Ferrier
MirHosseini,Ziba
1999 IslamandGender:The Religious Debatein Contemporary Iran.Princeton:
Princeton University Press.
Mirza,SalurQahraman,Aynal-Saltanah, and Ruznamah-i Aynal-Saltnah
Khatirat-i
Asatir.1995-2000.
Momen,Moojan
1985 An Introduction to Shi'i Islam:The Historyand Doctrinesof Twelver
Shi'ism.NewHaven:YaleUniversity Press.
Mostowfi, Abdollah
1997 The Administrative and Social Historyof theQajar Period,fromAgha
MohammadKhan to Nasired-Din Shah (1794-1896).NayerMostofiGlenn
trans.CostaMesa:Mazda Publishers.
Najmabadi,Afsaneh
1994 Power,Morality, and theNew MuslimWomanhood.In The Politicsof
SocialTransformation in Afghanistan, Iranand Pakistan.MyronWeinerand
AliBanuazizieds.Pp 366-89.Syracuse: SyracuseUniversityPress.
Payk-iSavadat-INivsan
1928 Urdibihisht and Tir.
Pinault,David
1998 ZaynabBintAli and thePlace of theWomenof theHouseholdsof the
FirstImamsin Shi'iteDevotionalLiterature. InWomenintheMedievalIslamic
24 «a JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN'S STUDIES

World. Gavin Hambly ed. P 70. New York:St. Martin'sPress.


Shari'ati,Ali
nd Fatima is Fatima. Laleh Bakhtiartrans.Tehran:The Shari'atiFoundation.
Shikufah
1914-a No. 22, 5 Rabival-Awal.
1914-b No. 10, 20 Jumadaal-Awal.
Soufi,Denise L.
1997 The Image of Fatima in Classical Muslim Thought. PhD dissertation,
PrincetonUniversity.
Ta'limat-idini chaharum-idabistan
1979 Hazrat-i Fatima,Banu-yi nimunah-i Islam. Tehran.
Vaglieri,L. Veccia
1965 Fatima. In Encyclopediaof Islam. B. Lewis, Ch. Pellat,and J.Schachteds.
2:841. Leiden: E.J. Brill.
Yeganeh,Nahid
1982 Women's Strugglesin the Islamic Republic of Iran. In In the Shadow of
Islam: The Women's Movement in Iran, Azar Tabari and Nahid Yeganeh eds.
Pp 48-9. London: Zed Press.
Yousofi,Gholam Hosein
1978 Encyclopedia of Islam. E. Van Donzel, B. Lewis and Ch. Pellat eds. 4:704
Leiden: E.J.Brill.