Setting Fire to the House of the Infallibles (a.s.)

Burning Door
Reading Time: 8 minutes

House under attack

1. Threatening to set the house on fire
2. Bringing Firewood and a Smouldering Rope
3. Gathering firewood to burn the house
4. Proceeding to burn down the house

For a long period of time the transmission of sensitive incidents and narrations was prohibited by the powers that were. Therefore, it is unreasonable to expect to find the complete incident of setting fire to Hazrat Faatemah’s house by those who perpetrated this heinous crime.

Apart from Bukhari and Muslim, it is unreasonable to expect even others scholar of the Sunnis to narrate such sensitive incidents. When these scholars have omitted narrations that are not even 10% as sensitive as the incident of setting fire to the house of Hazrat Faatemah (s.a.), then how can one expect to find details of the latter in their books?

Setting fire to the house of Hazrat Faatemah (s.a.) is an evident truth narrated by the scholars of the Shiah sect. All Shiah scholars, compilers, traditionalists and historians are united on this point. One who denies the incident (regardless of his stature) or creates doubts in the minds of others is not even a Shiah, let alone a Shiah scholar.

This incident has been narrated by the Sunnis in their books. We have narrated the incident and traditions from the Sunnis sources so as to leave no doubt in the minds of unbiased readers. Our primary objective is to dispel the doubts and confusions that are apparent in some of the books of the Sunnis. Another objective is to expose the conspiracy of the leading personalities of the time to grievously harm the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) household, if not eliminate them completely. What we have not narrated, what has not been clearly highlighted in the books or has been omitted knowingly by the compilers is an independent discussion by itself.

We have presented only what has been narrated unambiguously in the books of the Sunnis.

Back to TopThreatening to set the house on fire

According to some traditions:

Umar Ibn Khattaab threatened to set the house (of Hazrat Faatemah) on fire. We will first narrate from Ibn Abi Shaybah’s book Al-Musannif. It should be noted that Ibn Abi Shaybah was among the teachers of Bukhari. He passed away in 235 AH.

Ibne Abi Shaybah has recorded this incident with the chain of narrators on the authority of Zaid Ibn Aslam who narrates from his father Aslam. Aslam (Umar’s slave) relates:

حین بویع لابی بکر بعد رسول اللہ، کان علی والزبیر یدخلان علیٰ فاطمۃ بنت رسول اللہ، فیشاورونھا و یرتجعون فی امرھم.

فلما بلغ ذلک عمر بن خطاب، خرج حتّیٰ دخل علیٰ فاطمۃ فقال: یا بنت رسول اللہ! واللہ! ما أحد أحب الینا من ابیک، وما من احد أحب الینا بعد ابیک منک، وأیم اللہ ما ذاک بما نعی ان اجتمع ھؤلاء النفر عند ک أن أمر تھم أن یحرّق علیھم البیت

‘When the people paid allegiance to Abu Bakr after the Prophet’s demise, Ali and Zubair used to visit Fatemaah’s house and consult with her in the matter. When Umar learnt of this, he proceeded to Fatemaaah’s house and said – O daughter of the Prophet, by Allah there is none more beloved to me than your father. And after your father there is none more beloved to me than you. By Allah (despite this) if these people gather at your house nothing will stop me from burning your house down.[1]

The same incident is narrated in Taarikh-e-Tabari with a different chain of narrators.

اتٰی عمر ابن خطاب منزل علیؑ و فیہ طلحہ و زبیر و رجال من المھاجرین فقال: واللہ ! لأحرقنّ علیکم اولتخرجنّ الی البیعۃ.

فخرج علیہ الزبیر مصلتاً سیفہ، فعثر فسقط السیف من یدہ، فوثبوا علیہ فأخذوہ

‘Umar came to Hazrat Ali’s (a.s.) house. At the time Talhah, Zubair[2] and some muhaajir were gathered with Ali. Umar warned – by Allah if you all do not come out to pay allegiance, I will burn the house down with all its inmates. At the moment Zubair came out of the house with a drawn sword. He tripped and the sword slipped out of his hand. People fell upon him and apprehended him.[3]

We will suffice with these two references. Others scholars of the Sunnis haven’t even recorded this much. Rather they have focused more on trying to conceal this incident or downplaying its importance.

In Al-Isteeaab, Ibn Abd al-Birr has recorded this narration from Abu Bakr Bazzaar from Ibn Abi Shaybah’s chain of narrators:

ان العمر قال لھا: ما احداحب الینا بعدہ منک، ثم قال : ولقد بلغنی.انّ ھؤلاء النفر یدخلون علیک ولأن یبلغنی لأفعلنّ لافعلنّ

‘Umar told Hazrat Faatemah (s.a.) there is none more beloved to me than you after your father. Then he said I have been informed that these men are consulting you. If they do not come out of the house I will do such and such thing.’[4]

It is surprising how the same narration with the same chain of narrators on the authority of the same person is distorted to such a large extent. When the level of distortion is so high how does one expect to read a narration with the words – He set the house on fire?

Back to TopBringing Firewood and a Smouldering Rope

In this incident, there is mention of firewood and a smoldering rope being brought to the house of Hazrat Faatemah (s.a.). For e.g. Balaazari (exp. 225 AH) in his book Al-Ansaab al-Ashraaf narrates with his chain of narrators:

ان ابا بکر ارسل الیٰ علی یرید البیعۃ، فلم یبایع، فجاء عمر و معہ فتیلہ.فتلقتہ فاطمۃ علیٰ الباب، فقالت فاطمۃ: یابن الخطّاب! اتراک محرّقاً علیّ بابی؟!

قال نعم : وذٰلک اقویٰ فیما جاء بہ ابوک

‘Abu Bakr sent word for Ali to pay allegiance but Ali refused. On this, Umar with the smoldering rope reached Hazrat Faatemah’s (s.a.) house. Hazrat Faatemah (s.a.) was standing behind the door. She protested – O son of Khattaab, do you want to see my house burning. Umar replied – Yes and this is more firm and better then what your father brought (i.e. Islam).’[5]

Ibn Abd-e-Rabbeh (exp. 325 AH) writes in his book.

و اما علی و العباس و الزبیر، فقعدوا فی بیت فاطمہ حتّیٰ بعث الیھم ابو بکر لیخرجوا من بیت فاطمۃ و قال لہ:انْ ابوا فقاتلھم.

فأقبل بقبس من نار علیٰ أن یضرم علیھم الدار، فلقیتہ فاطمۃ فقالت: یابن الخطاب، اجئت لتحرق دارنا؟ قال: نعم، أو تدخلوا ما دخلت فیہ الامّۃ

‘Hazrat Ali, Abbas and Zubair were seated in Hazrat Faatemah’s house. Abu Bakr sent someone[6] to them with the order to come out of the house to pay allegiance. Abu Bakr commanded – if they don’t accept, engage them in a battle. Then Umar came with a flame so as to burn the house down along with its imamates. Hazrat Faatemah (s.a.) on seeing Umar protested – O son of Khattaab, have you come to burn my house down. Umar replied – Yes. You all must submit to what the nation has submitted.[7]

Abul Fida (exp. 732 AH) a Sunni historian has documented this incident in his book, at the end of which, he writes:

و ان ابو ا فقاتلھم، ثم قال : فاقبل عمر بشئی من نار علیٰ ان یضرم الدار

‘If they do not accept, engage them in a battle; so Umar approached the house with fire to burn it down.’[8]

Back to TopGathering firewood to burn the house

Mas’oodi records in his book:

Urwah Ibn Zubair interprets the action of his brother Abdullah Ibn Zubair. Abdullah Ibn Zubair was the one who had laid siege to the valley of Abu Talib (a.s.) and had gathered wood to set Hazrat Faatemah’s (s.a.) house on fire if its inmates refused to pay allegiance. Urwah narrates – Umar also gathered wood along with the others to burn the house to punish those who refused to pay allegiance to Abu Bakr.[9]

Urwah Ibn Zubair says – Wood was brought; another person says fire was brought. Obviously fire was brought as the firewood had already been gathered. Even if there is no narration that says that firewood was ignited, does that mean that the house was not set on fire and this is a fictitious incident?

This is a reality which is accepted by the Shiahs based on narrations of the infallible Imams (a.s.).

Back to TopProceeding to burn down the house

One statement that is very evident in books where this incident has been recorded is – Umar proceeded to Hazrat Ali’s (a.s.) house to set it on fire.

This statement is present in books like Rawzah al-Manaazir fi Akhbaar al-Awaail wa al-Awaakhir.[10] Or like Ibne Shahnah (exp. 882 AH) writes:

انّ عمر جاء الی بیت علی لیحرّقہ علی من فیہ، فلقیتہ فاطمہؑ فقال: ادخلوا فیما دخلت فیہ الٔامّۃ

‘Umar proceeded to Hazrat Faatemah’s house to set it on fire along with its inmates.

When Hazrat Faatemah (s.a.) met him Umar said – you all must submit to what the nation has submitted. The author of Al-Ghaarraat – Ibrahim Ibn Muhammad Thaqafi while narrating the incident of Saqifa narrates on the authority of Ahmad Ibn Amr Bajali from Ahmad Ibn Habeeb Aameri from Homraan Ibn A’yan and he from Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.):

واللّٰہ ما بایع علی حتیٰ رأی الدخان قد دخل بیتہ

‘By Allah Hazrat Ali (a.s.) did not pay allegiance until he saw the house was filled with smoke.[11]

It should be clear that the book compiled by a great traditionalist is not available at present; the narration with these words has been recorded by Sayyed Murtaza (r.a.) in his book Al Shaafi fi al-Imaamah[12] on the authority of this book.

On reading the biography of the great traditionalist Ibrahim Ibn Muhammad Thaqafi (exp. 280 or 283 AH), it is clear that he compiled two books Al-Saqifa and Al-Mathaalib. However both the books are unavailable for reasons unknown.

Even the scholars of the Sunnis have written about him without any objection or criticism and the only thing they have said is that he was a Raafezi (derogatory term for Shiah, means a denier of the caliphs).

Certainly, he was a Raafezi who compiled books like Al-Saqifah and Al-Mathaalib and narrated traditions in them on the authority of Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.).

This great traditionalist was endorsed by Haafiz Ibn Hajar Asqalaani which proves the correctness and the authenticity of the tradition and the chain of narrators:[13]

لما صنّف کتا ب المناقب و المثالب اشار علیہ اہل الکوفۃ ان یخفیہ و لا یظھرہ ، فقال : ای البلاد ابعد عن التشیّع، فقالوا لہ : اصفھان، فحلف أن یخفیہ ولا یحدث بہ الا فی اصفہان ثقۃً منہ بصحۃ ما أخرجہ فیہ، فتحوّل الیٰ اصفہان و حدّث بہ فیھا

When Thaqafi compiled Al-Saqifah and Al-Mathaalib the people of Kufa instructed him – Hide these books and do not expose them, He said which city is farthest from the belief of Shiaism. People said – Isfahaan.[14] He reassured them that he would not reveal the books to anyone and would not narrate any tradition from it except in Ishfahaan. Whatever is narrated in the book is reliable, all the narrators are reliable and all the traditions are authentic. He went to Ishfahaan and narrated all the incidents. Abu Noaim Isfahaani has also narrated this incident in Akhbaaro Isfahaan.

It is clear from the tradition of Imam Sadiq (a.s.) that

واللہ مابایع علی حتیٰ رأی الدخان قد دخل بیتہ

By Allah! Ali did not pay allegiance till he saw smoke had indeed entered in his house.

However, not all narrators and historians had been this explicit and faithful in their narration of the incident. Either out of prejudice or fear for their lives, they chose not to record the incident explicitly.

Those who did not record the incident in vivid detail perhaps hoped that the people in the subsequent eras would unearth the details with their intelligence and research and arrive at the truth on their own.

To demand that the incident be reproduced in all its detail is nothing but a sign of ignorance and immaturity. Worse than this is to create doubt about the incident in the minds of others on the basis of one’s own doubt and prejudice.


[1]             Al-Musannaf, vol. 7, pg. 432

[2]             It is worth noting that at the time Talhah was also in the house and Zubair was close to the Ahle Bait. Talhah, however, was from the same tribe as Abu Bakr i.e. Bani Taim.

[3]             Taarikhe Tabari, vol. 3, pg. 202

[4]             Al-Isteeaab fi Maarefah Al-As’haab, vol. 3, pg. 975

[5]             Al-Ansaab al-Ashraaf, vol. 1, pg. 586

[6]             The person to proceed was someone other than Umar. Abu Bakr then sent Umar.

[7]             Al-Iqd al-Fareed, vol. 5, pg. 13

[8]             Al-Mukhtasar fi Akhbaar al-Bashar, vol. 1, pg. 156

[9]             Muruj al-Zahab, vol. 3, pg. 86; Ibn Abil Hadeed has documented it in Sharh-o-Nahj al-Balaaghah from Al-Mas’oodi (author of Muruj al-Zahab).

[10]            This book has been published as an addendum in certain editions of Al-Kaamil of Ibne Athir. Al-Kaamil is one of the most definite books on Islamic history.

[11]            Behaar al-Anwaar, vol. 28, p. 390

[12]            Al-Shaafi fi Al-Imaamah, vol. 3, pg. 241

[13]            Lisaan al-Mizaan, vol. 1, pg. 102

[14]            Present day Isfahaan

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