Umar at Fatimah's house

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Umar at Fatimah's house (in Arabic حرق الدار, means the burnt house) refers to the controversial event where Umar came to the house of Fatimah, the daughter of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, in order to get the allegiance of Ali and his followers or burn her house down. This event, according to Shias, is ascribed to be the cause of Fatimah's miscarriage and eventual death.


According to the sources, following the death of Muhammad, Abu Bakr and Umar attempted to gain the shura (consensus) of the community that Abu Bakr should become the caliph (leader) over the Islamic ummah (community). According to Shi'a sources, as Ali attended the funeral of Muhammad, Abu Bakr and Umar attained the consensus of the community. As Ali was burying Muhammad, he learned that Abu Bakr had attained communal consensus. Fatimah, Ali, and their supporters maintained that Ali should be the leader over the Islamic community because of Muhammad's statement at Ghadir Khumm.[1][2]


Wilferd Madelung describes the events as follows:

Umar threatened to set the house on fire unless they came out and swore allegiance to Abu Bakr. Al-zubayr came out with his sword drawn, but stumbled and lost it, whereupon Umar's men jumped upon him and carried him off. There is some evidence that the house of Fatima was searched(futtisha). Ali is reported to have later repeatedly said that had there been forty men with him he would have resisted. To what extent force was used in other cases must remain uncertain. In general the threat of it was probably sufficient to induce the reluctant to conform. Isolated reports about the use of force against Ali and the Banu Hashim who according to al-Zhuri, unanimously refused to swear allegiance for six months are probably to be discounted. Abu Bakr no doubt was wise enough to restrain Umar from any violence against them, well realizing that this would inevitably provoke the sense of solidarity of the majority of Ab Manaf whose acquiescence he needed. His policy was rather to isolate the Banu Hashim as far as possible. Aisha's comment that the prominent people ceased to speak to Ali until acknowledged his mistake and pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr is significant. The banu Hashim thus found themselves in a situation strangely reminiscent of the boycott that the pagan Mekkans organized against them in order to force them to withdraw their protection from Muhammad.[3]

Veccia Vaglieri in her article Fatima, in the Encyclopedia of Islam chronicles the event as such:

"Fatima, a timid woman who had never taken part in political matters, found herself indirectly involved in some of the events which followed the death of the Prophet. After his election, Abu Bakr made his way with some companions towards Fatima's house, where a number of Ansar and of Ali's supporters had assembled. The newly elected Khalifa wanted to obtain the homage of these dissidents also, but Ali went forward to meet him with sword drawn, and Fatima, when her husband had been disarmed by Umar and the party was preparing to enter the house, raised such cries and threatened so boldly to uncover her hair that Abu Bakr preferred to withdraw.[4]

Vaglieri adds however, that when it came to supporting her husband against Abu Bakr, she appears so boldly that there was no question of timidity and that she is a woman of "quite different caliber".[5] There are other accounts of the same episode: Fatima saw in Umar's hand a brand, and asked him if he intended to set fire to her door because of his hostility to her.[6]

According to Denise L. Soufi:

traditions discussing her involvement in the events which took place after the death of the Prophet seem to contain some truth despite their partisan biases. This is due to the fact that the Sunnis were unable to completely suppress what was so obviously detrimental to their reconstruction of religious history: namely, that Fatima quarreled with abu Bakr over his seizure of the caliphate and the Prophet's properties, that she never forgave hime for his actions and that ther death was kept secret for some time, probably at her request, in order to prevent him from presiding over her funeral rites. What is ironic is that this small window into the character of Fatima has been downplayed or ignored by Sunnis and inflated and overemphasized by Shiis [7]

Tabari cites Abu Bakr on his deathbed saying that he wished he had never opened Fatima's house to anything, even though they had locked it as a gesture of defiance, implying that her house may have been broken into forced open.[8]

Edward Gibbon in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire state:

After the simple inauguration of Abubeker, he was obeyed in Medina, Mecca, and the provinces of Arabia: the Hashemites alone declined the oath of fidelity; and their chief, in his own house, maintained, above six months, a sullen and independent reserve; without listening to the threats of Omar, who attempted to consume with fire the habitation of the daughter of the apostle.[9]

Lesley Hazleton describes the events as follows:

«Short of actually following through on his threat and killing all of Muhammad's closest family, Omar was left, as he saw it, with only one option. If Ali would not come out, then he, Omar, would have to force his way in. He took a running leap and threw his whole weight against the door[...] Either way, some overture might have been warranted from Abu Bakr, or at least from Omar, but there was none. Indeed there was less than none. To add insult to the injury that had already been done to her, Fatima would now lose the property she considered hers(Fadak). [...]she never did recover from her miscarriage or from the bitter argument with Abu Bakr. But perhaps most painful of all in those months after the loss of her third son was the ostracism she suffered ordered by Abu Bakr to force Ali into line. [...] When she knew death was close she asked Ali for a clandestine burial [...] Abu Bakr was not to be informed of her death she said. he was to be given no chance to officiate at her funeral.»[10]

Historical sources

Ibn Abi Shayba

Ibn Abi Shayba (235 AH/ 849 CE), a prominent scholar of hadith and one of the teachers of al-Bukhari, narrates in his book al-Musanaf that:

Umar came to the house of Fatima and said: "O' Daughter of the Prophet of God! I swear by God that we love no one more than your father, and after him we love no one more than you. Yet I swear by God that that won't stop me from gathering these people and commanding them to burn this house down![11]

ibn Qutayba

Ibn Qutaybah (276 AH/889 CE) in al-Imama wa al-Siyasa writes:

Umar said: 'I swear by He who controls the life of Umar, either you come out or I will burn this house down!' The people said: 'Abu'l Hafs, Fatima is also in this house'. Umar replied: 'Even if she is...'[12]


al-Baladhuri (297 AH/ 892 CE) in Ansab al-Ashraf writes:

"Abu Bakr sent for Ali so that he can give alligance but he didn't. So Umar came [to the house] and Fatima met him at the door. She said: 'ibn Khatab you want to burn my door down?' Umar replied: 'Yes, in order to strengthen the religion your father brought.'[13]

History of al-Tabari

The historian Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (923 CE) in his Tarikh[14] writes:

Umar Ibn al-Khattab came to the house of Ali. Talhah and Zubayr and some of the immigrants were also in the house. Umar cried out: "By God, either you come out to render the oath of allegiance, or I will set the house on fire." al-Zubair came out with his sword drawn. As he stumbled (upon something), the sword fell from his hand so they jumped over him and seized him."

al-Tabari, Tarikh

The translator's commentary on this event provides the following background:

"Although the timing of the events is not clear, it seems that ‘Ali and his group came to know about the Saqifah after what had happened there. At this point, his supporters gathered in Fatima’s house. Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, fully aware of ‘Ali’s claims and fearing a serious threat from his supporters, summoned him to the mosque to swear the oath of allegiance. ‘Ali refused, and so the house was surrounded by an armed band led by Abu Bakr and Umar, who threatened to set it on fire if ‘Ali and his supporters refused to come out and swear allegiance to Abu Bakr. The scene grew violent and Fatima was furious."[15]

Sulaym b. Qays

The book Kitab Sulaym b. Qays al-Hilali, which was written by a companion of 'Ali.[16] It describes 'Umar's attack, and describes how Fatimah, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad, was injured, and allegedly beaten, in the attack, resulting in her miscarriage.[17]


The book Ithbāt al-Waṣīyyah, composed in the third Islamic century[citation needed], is attributed to the historian al-Mas'udi, but this is highly doubted.[citation needed]

The author writes:

They attacked [Ali], burned his door and took him out by force and pressed [Fatima] against the door until she miscarried Muhsin.

He also writes:

While addressing the people Abu Bakr said: “…of the three mistakes that I committed, one of them is that during my time Fatima's house was broken into..”[18]

Ibn Abd Rabboh

Ibn Abed Rabboh, in his book Al-Iqd ul-Fareed,[19] writes:

As for Ali, Abbas and Zubair, they stayed in the house of Fatima until Abu Bakr sent Umar to get them out of Fatima's house and told him: if they refuse, fight them. He took a torch to burn the house and Fatima met him and told him: are you here to burn our house? He said: yes, or you enter what the Ummah has entered (i.e swear allegiance).

Tarikh al-Ya’qoubi

“..When Abu Bakr and Umar heard the news that a party of the Ansar and the Muhajirin have gathered with ‘Ali at the house of the daughter of the Prophet, they went with a group of people and attacked the house…”[20]


Al-Shahrastani d. 1153 CE, documents in his book Al-Milal wa al-Nihal[21]

That a troublesome theologian called al-Naẓẓām (d. 231 AH) "increased his lying deception" and said:

Umar kicked Fatima's stomach on the day of allegiance until she miscarried and he yelled: "Burn her house and whoever is in it" and in it were Ali, Fatima, al-Hasan and al-Husayn.

Sunni view and historical sources supporting the Sunni view

According to Sunni books of Hadith and books of history written at the time however, this entire story did not occur. It states that Ali willingly gave oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr, though maintained a distance from him out of respect for Ali's wife Fatima, because of an argument Abu Bakr had with Fatima over her inheritance. When Fatima died 6 months later, Ali went to Abu Bakr to re-establish closer relations. It is further refuted considering that Umar married Ali and Fatima's daughter, Umm Kulthum, whom he married after Abu Bakr taking Khilafa, showing the good relations he had with Ali at the time.

Mosnad Ahmed Ibn Hanbal

After Umar and Abu Bakr achieved the Bay'ah at Saqifah when the Ansar mooted their claim to nominate one of them for the Khilafa, Fatima asked Abu Bakr for her inheritance as the prophet's daughter, mainly Khaybar and Fadak, to which he responded that the prophet Mohammed said no inheritance is claimed from prophets and all their belongings should be charity, to which she was cross and would not speak with him afterwards.[22]

Ba'Ali replied, lathry book "Ansab al Ashraf"

[23] 'Ali ibn Abi Talib came close to the end of the events at Saqifah day, and said to Abu Bakr:

"I knew that the prophet gave you the right of leading the prayer, and that you were his companion in the cave during the migration, but I had the right of being consulted, however may you be forgiven."

and reports that Ali gave his allegiance. This is also confirmed in "History of the Califs",[24] and "Al-Mustadrak".[25]

Various Historical Sunni Sources

According to original books of Hadith (speeches and traditions of the prophet), Hafiz Abu Bakr al-Baihaqi relates on the authority of Abu Sa'eed al-Khudri: 'Abu Bakr ascended the pulpit and cast a glance on the people. He did not find 'Ali among them. So he sent for 'Ali and said,

"O brother and son-in-law of the Prophet, would you like that the unity among Muslims should be torn to pieces?"

'Ali replied,

"I have no grudge or complaint, O Caliph, of the Prophet.[citation needed]"

He immediately swore allegiance to him. Al-Baihaqi adds that Ali uttered these words or this was their purport.

The historian Ibn Kathir adds in his book:[26]

"A significant aspect of this affair is that Ali took the oath of allegiance on the very first day or the day following the death of the Prophet. This is correct in point of fact since Ali never gave up Abu Bakr's companionship nor he absented himself in any congregational prayer."


  1. ^ A Dictionary of Islam: Being a Cyclopaedia of the Doctrines, Rites ... - Thomas Patrick Hughes - Google Boeken. Retrieved 2012-03-04. 
  2. ^ Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia - Josef W. Meri - Google Boeken. 2005-10-31. Retrieved 2012-03-04. 
  3. ^ Wilferd Madelung, The Succession to Muhammad, pp. 43-44
  4. ^ al-Yaghubi, ii, 141
  5. ^ "Fāṭima." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. Brill Online, 2014. Reference. 08 April 2014
  6. ^ al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-Ashraf, vol. 1 (Cairo: Dar al-Ma'arif, 1959), 586
  7. ^ Denise L. Soufi, "The Image of Fatima in Classical Muslim Thought," PhD dissertation, Princeton, 1997, p. 206
  8. ^ Denise L. Soufi, "The Image of Fatima in Classical Muslim Thought," PhD dissertation, Princeton, 1997, p. 84
  9. ^ "Chapter L: Description Of Arabia And Its Inhabitants. Part VII.". Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 5. Retrieved 2013-10-22. 
  10. ^ After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam By Lesley Hazleton, pp. 71-73
  11. ^ Ibn Abi Shayba, al-Musanaf, vol. 7 (Beirut: Dar al-Taj, 1989), 432.
  12. ^ ibn Qutayba, al-Imama wa al-Siyasa (Egypt: Maktabt al-Tijaria al-Kubra), 13.
  13. ^ al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-Ashraf, vol. 1 (Cairo: Dar al-Ma'arif, 1959), 586.
  14. ^ "مكتبة مشكاة الاسلامية". Retrieved 2012-03-04. 
  15. ^ The History of al-Tabari, Volume IX, The Last Years of the Prophet, p186-187, SUNY Press
  16. ^ "Shop - Islamic Books, DVDs, CDs and other Products". Retrieved 2012-03-04. 
  17. ^ Kitab Sulaym Ibn Qays al-Hilali, Hadith 4, p48-67 (English Translation)
  18. ^ Tarikh al-Mas’udi, Volume 1-2, p 235-236, Nafees Academy, Karachi, Pakistan (Urdu Translation)
  19. ^ "كتاب: العقد الفريد **|نداء الإيمان" (in Arabic). Retrieved 2012-03-04. 
  20. ^ Tarikh al-Ya’qoubi, Volume 2, p 199, Nafees Academy, Karachi, Pakistan (Urdu Translation)
  21. ^ "كتاب: الملل والنحل **|نداء الإيمان" (in Arabic). Retrieved 2012-03-04. 
  22. ^ Mosnad Ahmed Ibn Hanbal, Section 025
  23. ^ Balathry book "Ansar al Ashraf" origins of the honourable, part 2, page 263,
  24. ^ History of the Califs by Al-Soyouty, page 56
  25. ^ Al-Mustadrak(continuation) for Al-Hakim, part 3, page 66
  26. ^ Al-Bidaya Wan Nihaya, Ibn Kathir

Further reading