The skeptic’s intent behind this line of questioning is to deny the attacks. If there had been an attack, Ali (a.s.) would certainly have avenged the killing. Since he (a.s.) did not avenge, there was no attack.
Ali (a.s.) did not retaliate based on Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) bidding to be patient in face of oppression and lack of support. He (a.s.) placed higher priority on avoiding factionalism in Islam and preventing hypocrites from gaining upper hand, rather than retaliate for a seemingly personal grievance.
Also, avenging and retaliation is from the traits of Arab jahiliyyah while Islam preaches patience and forbearance to the extent possible, with the promise of greater reward for the oppressed and greater chastisement for the oppressor.
This means the more prolonged the oppression, the greater the reward and punishment for the oppressed and oppressor, respectively. By not retaliating Ali (a.s.) and Fatima Zahra (s.a.) are oppressed till date and are being rewarded continuously and their oppressors are likewise being punished continuously.
Quran was the guiding light for the Ahle Bait (a.s.) which says:
And if you take your turn, then retaliate with the like of that with which you were afflicted; but if you are patient, it will certainly be best for those who are patient. (Suran Nahl (16): 126)
There are many instances when Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) likewise did not avenge or retaliate even for profoundly serious crimes.
- Wahshi, the killer of Hamza, was left unpunished by Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Muawiyah Ibn Mugheerah Ibn Abil Aas, the one who desecrated Hamza’s corpse was given three days to vacate Medina. Retaliation against Wahshi should have been natural for Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) who was terribly upset at seeing the mutilated corpse of his beloved uncle, but he chose patience after Allah revealed the verse at that stage:
And if you take your turn, then retaliate with the like of that with which you were afflicted; but if you are patient, it will certainly be best for those who are patient. (Surah Nahl (16): 126)
- Khalid Ibn Walid wiped out an entire tribe (Bani Jazimah) of newly converted Muslims due to an old rivalry dating to the jahiliyyah period. The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) showed his anger by repeatedly dissociating himself from Khalid’s action without punishing Khalid. Prophet (s.a.w.a.) settled the matter with blood money by sending Ali (a.s.). (Sahih Bukhari book 64, trad 368)
- In the incident of Aqabah, the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) faced a deadly attack from over a dozen hypocrites. Not only did the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) let them get away, but he did not even publicly name them – he (s.a.w.a.) identified the attackers only to Huzaifa and even then, warned him from revealing their identities. This was to prevent problems in Islamic society at a later stage. When the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was told to name the hypocrites and punish them, he (s.a.w.a.): I don’t like people to say – first Muhammad places his hand in the hands of companions, then names them as conspirators. (Majma al-Bayan v 5 p 68 under Tafseer of Surah Tauba (9): 74)So when Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) did not retaliate for an attack on him when he had all the support and the entire Muslim army behind him, it is not surprising if Ali (a.s.) likewise did not retaliate for attack on Fatima Zahra (s.a.) when he (a.s.) was alone with no supporters. In fact, non-retaliation was the natural course of action for Ali (a.s.).
- Abu Sufyan, Muawiyah, Amr Aas who for years had tormented the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) were left unpunished even when Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had the opportunity to punish them.
Likewise, the Ahle Bait (a.s.) did not retaliate, rather they have overlooked their oppressors on the Sunnah of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and for the same reasons – to avoid conflict in religion and for the divine promised of greater reward for patience:
- In the battle of Jamal, Ali (a.s.) spared Marwan who had been captured and did not even demand that Marwan pay allegiance. Imam (a.s.) also sent Prophet’s wife back to Medina. Rebelling against the caliph of the time was punishable by death, but Ali (a.s.) overlooked it.
- Ali (a.s.) did not take back Fadak (which is another objection of the skeptics) because till the time Fatima Zahra was deprived of Fadak she was an oppressed and was being rewarded and Abu Bakr was an oppressor and was being punished and Ali (a.s.) did not wish to disturb both these sequences.
- Even for his own killer Ali (a.s.) laid a rule that he was to be killed with a single stroke if he (a.s.) dies, which suggests that had Ali (a.s.) survived the fatal blow, he may have overlooked punishing Abdul Rahman. Also, he (a.s.) stressed Abdul Rahman’s body was not to be mutilated.
- Imam Husain (a.s.) did not retaliate against Ayesha and Marwan for attacking bier of Imam Hasan (a.s.) with arrows.
All these examples show that non-retaliation was the norm for Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Ahle Bait (a.s.) and just because there was no retaliation for Fatima Zahra (s.a.) killing it does not mean there was no attack.