Fadak (Arabic: فدك) was a garden oasis in Khaybar, a tract of land in northern Arabia; it is now part of Saudi Arabia. Situated approximately 140 km (87 mi) from Medina, Fadak was known for its water wells, dates, and handicrafts. When the Muslims defeated the people of Khaybar at the Battle of Khaybar; the oasis of Fadak was part of the bounty given to the Islamic prophet Muhammad, who gifted it to his daughter, Fatimah (according to Shias). The Sunni view is that it was not given to anyone, but preserved for the maintenance of Banu Hashim. Fadak became the object of dispute between Fatimah and the caliph Abu Bakr after Muhammad died.
In the 7th century, the Khaybar oasis was inhabited by Arab Jews, who pioneered the cultivation of the oasis and made their living growing date palm trees, as well as through commerce and craftsmanship, accumulating considerable wealth. Some objects found by the Muslims in a redoubt at Khaybar — a siege-engine, 20 bales of Yemenite cloth, and 500 cloaks — point out to an intense trade carried out by the Jews.
The oasis was divided into three regions: al-Natat, al-Shiqq الشِّق, and al-Katiba الكتيبة, probably separated by natural diversions, such as the desert, lava drifts, and swamps. Each of these regions contained several fortresses or redoubts containing homes, storehouses and stables. Each fortress was occupied by a clan and surrounded by cultivated fields and palm-groves. In order to improve their defensive capabilities, the fortresses were raised up on hills or basalt rocks.
Muhammad’s era (629-632 CE)
Muhammad quietly led the march on Khaybar oasis on 7 May AH/ 629 CE with approximately 1500 men and 100–200 horses. Primary sources including the Sirah Rasul Allah (Biography of the Prophet) of Ibn Ishaq describe the conquest of Khaybar, detailing the agreement of Muhammad with the Jews to remain in Fadak and cultivate their land, retaining one-half of the produce of the oasis. This agreement was distinct from the agreement with the Jews of Khaybar, which essentially entailed the practice of sharecropping. Muhammad retained the revenues of the Fadak region for the poor as ṣadaqa, travelers in need, and for his family. It is not entirely clear how Muhammad managed his possession of Fadak. Ibn Taimiyya wrote in his Minhaj al-Sunnah that Muhammad appointed Amr ibn al-As as the governor of the Khaybar oasis Following the death of Muhammad, scholars disagreed as to whether Fadak was exclusively his property. Some Muslim commentators agree that following the conquest of Fadak, the property belonged exclusively to Muhammad, while several others reject this view. Various primary sources describe the acquisition of Fadak in the following way:
Half the Land of Fadak, which was given by Jews after the peace treaty, was purely the property of Rasool Allah (s). Similarly, 1/3rd of the Valley of Qari and 2 castles of Khaybar were the exclusive property of Muhammad (s) and no one else had a share of it.
The Apostle of Allah received three things exclusively to himself: Banu an-Nadir, Khaybar and Fadak. The Banu an-Nadir property was kept for his emergent needs, Fadak for travellers, and Khaybar was divided by the Apostle of Allah into three sections: two for Muslims, and one as a contribution for his family. If anything remained after making the contribution of his family, he divided it among the poor Emigrants.
Another primary account describes eleven fruit trees in Fadak, planted by Muhammad himself. Other scholars who accept the view of Fadak as belonging exclusively to Muhammad after the conquest of Khaybar include:
Upon the death of Muhmmad, his daughter Fatimah declared her claim to inherit Fadak as the estate of her father. The claim was rejected by the ruling caliph, Abu Bakr, on the grounds that Fadak was public property and arguing that Muhammad had no heirs. Sources report that Ali together with Umm Ayman (Barakah) testified to the fact that Muhammad granted it to Fatimah Zahra, when Abu Bakr requested Fatima to summon witnesses for her claim. Various primary sources contend that Fadak was gifted by Muhammad to Fatima, drawing on the Qur'an as evidence. These include narrations of Ibn 'Abbas who argued that when the Qur'anic verse on giving rights to kindred was revealed, Muhammad called to his daughter and gifted the land of Fadak to her. 
Various scholars commenting on the Qur'an, Chapter Al-Hashr, verse 7, write that the Angel Gabriel came to Muhammad and commanded him to give the appropriate rights to the “Dhul Qurba” (near kin). When asked by Muhammad, who the "Dhul Qurba" referred to, Gabriel replied "Fatima" and that by "rights" was meant "Fadak", upon which Muhammad called Fatima and presented Fadak to her.
Besides the above Quranic verses, there some authenticated references for this issue. For example, Ali Ibn Burhanu'd-din Halabi Shafi'i writes in his Siratu'l-Halabiyya, p. 39 that at first Fatimah complained to Abu Bakr about the fact that she was given the fadak as a gift by the holy prophet of Islam, as the witnesses were unavailable she was forced to allege her right based on the inheritance law. Also it is mentioned in Mu'jam Al-Buldan of Yaqut al-Hamawi, Tafsir al-Kabir of Imam Fakhru'd-din Razi, Sawa'iq al-Muhriqa of Ibn Hajar p. 21, Sharh al-Nahju'l-Balagha of Ibn Abi'l-Hadid Mu'tazali Vol 4, p. 80 that Fatima firstly claimed she was given the fadak as a gift but they rejected her witnesses and she suffered and angrily said that she would not talk to Abu Bakr and Umar again.
After the death of Muhammad
Lesley Hazleton describes the dispute between Fatimah and Abu Bakr as follows: «[Fatimah] sent a message to Abu Bakr asking for her share of her father's estate -date palm orchards in the huge oases of Khaybar and Fadak to the north of Medina. His response left her dumbfounded. Muhammad's estate belonged to the community, not to any individual, Abu Bakr replied. It was part of the Muslim charitable trust to be administered by him as Caliph. [...] There was no denying the populist appeal of the message Abu Bakr sent by denying Fatima's claim: the House of Muhammad was the House of Islam, and all were equal within it.»
When Umar became Caliph, the value of the land of Fadak along with its dates was 50,000 dirhams. Ali again claimed Fatima’s inheritance during Umar's era, but was denied with the same argument as in the time of Abu Bakr. Umar however, restored the estates in Medina to `Abbas ibn `Abd al-Muttalib and Ali, as representatives of Muhammad's clan, the Banu Hashim. During Uthman's caliphate, Marwan ibn al-Hakâm, who was his cousin, was made trustee of the Fadak. After Uthman, ‘Ali became caliph, but did not overturn the decision of his predecessor. He maintained Marwan's position as trustee of the Fadak. This was interpreted not as an act of dissimulation (taqiyya), as regardless Fadak was now under the authority of the state and therefore during'Ali's Caliphate, came under the authority of 'Ali himself, Fatima and his two sons, al-Hasan and al-Husayn. Therefore, 'Ali deemed it satisfactory that Fadak was now under the control of the Prophet's family, and did not make a formal declaration of personal possession, to avoid resurrecting the old feud, and causing disunity (fitna) regarding the decision of the first Caliph.
Sunni view of Fadak
According to Sunnis, Fadak was a piece of land, near Khaiber, where Jews lived. Fadak was conquered by Muhammad. The Qur'an says: “And that which Allah gave as spoil unto His messenger from them, ye urged not any horse or riding-camel for the sake thereof, but Allah giveth His messenger lordship over whom He will. Allah is Able to do all things. That which Allah giveth as spoil unto His messenger from the people of the townships, it is for Allah and His messenger and for the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, that it become not a commodity between the rich among you. And whatsoever the messenger giveth you, take it. And whatsoever he forbiddeth, abstain (from it). And keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is stern in reprisal. -(59: 6-7). Thus according to the Qur’an, Fai means such of properties of the unbelievers as are returned to the Muslims without war. It is not to be distributed like booty among the soldiers, but the whole of it is for Allah and His apostle. From the Sunnah and Practice of the Prophet of Islam it is evident that Muhammad himself used to manage Fai as the head of the Islamic republic.
According to Sunnis, Muhammad didn't gift Fadak to his daughter. All the narrations regarding this are weak. As far as the claim of Shias is concerned, that when the verse of Holy Quran, "And give the relative his right", was revealed, the Prophet gave Fadak to his daughter, then this argument is weak. First of all, this narration is weak because of the narrator Atiyah al-Awfi. Secondly, this verse was revealed in Makkah, and Fadak was conquered when Muslims were in Madinah. It is not possible that the verse regarding Fadak was revealed at a time when Fadak was not in the hands of the Muslims. This is not the case of the applicability of a law, it is an issue of the invalidity of a gift before it comes in the hands of a person. Moreover, Muhammad did not gave worldly things to his daughter. He even refused to give her a maid, hence it is not possible that he could give her a huge piece of land.
Abu Bakr is buried in the same house which was not supposed to be inherited. There is a serious discrepancy in the story. It is a lie that Abu Bakr denied his own daughter inheritance because she still lived in the same house and Abu Bakr and Umar are both buried in that house.
Fadak under the Umayyads (661 – 750)
Mu'awiyah, the first Umayyad Caliph did not return Fadak to Fatimah's descendants. This way was continued by later Umayyad Caliphs until Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz seized power. When Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, known as Umar II, became Caliph in 717 CE, the income from the property of Fadak was 40,000 dinars. Fadak was returned to Fatima's descendants by an edict given by Umar II, but this decision was renounced by later caliphs.Umar II's successor, Yazid ibn Abd al-Malik (known as Yazid II) overturned his decision, and Fadak was again made public trust. Fadak was then managed this way until the Ummayad Caliphate expired.
Fadak under the Abbasids (750 – 1258)
In year 747 CE, a huge revolt against the Umayyad Caliphate occurred. The Umayyad's were eventually defeated by the Abbasid army under the rule of Abu Abbas Abdullah al-Saffah (see Battle of the Zab) in year 750. The last Umayyad Caliph, Marwan II, was killed in a lesser battle a few months after the Battle of the Zab, thus ending the Umayyad Caliphate. Historical accounts differs on what happened to Fadak under the early Abbasid caliphs. There is however consensus among Islamic scholars that Fadak was granted to the descendants of Fatimah during Al-Ma'mun's reign as Caliph (831-833 CE). Al-Ma’mun even decreed this to be recorded in his (dīwāns). Al-Ma’mun’s successor, Al-Mutawakkil (847-861) recaptured Fadak from the progeny of Fatimah, decreeing it to be used for the purposes initially outlined by Abu Bakr. Al-Muntasir (861-862), however, apparently maintained the decision of Al-Ma'mun, thus allowing Fatimah's progeny to manage Fadak. What happened hereafter is uncertain, but Fadak was probably seized by the Caliph again and managed exclusively by the ruler of the time as his private property.
Fadak in literature
The dispute over Fadak was narrated in various sources, some of which became almost legendary. Among these is the tale of the famed caliph of the Arabian Nights tales, Harun al Rashid, narrated in the 16th-century work Laṭā’if al-Tawā’if The Subtleties of People, in which Harun is described as feeling regret over the denial of Fadak to Muhammad's family. Harun inquired about the boundaries of the oasis from a descendant of Fatima in order to return it to its rightful possessors. The descendent cautioned that after drawing the borders of the garden of Fadak, Harun would no longer want to relinquish it. Nevertheless, Harun pressed on. The descendant replied that the first boundary of Fadak was Aden, the second Samarqand, the third the Maghrib, and the fourth the Armenian Sea. These borders outlined virtually the entire empire of Harun. That Harun himself initiated the process of returning Fadak and was not pressed by Muhammad’s descendants reveals that in the Shi’i conception, worldly possessions are of little to no importance to Muhammad's family or to the authority of the Imams.
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- Sirat Rasulullah, Chapter 'Khaybar'
- Minhaj as-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah by Ibn Taimiyya, volume 4 page 460
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- Sunan Abi Dawood Book 19, Number 2961
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- Wafa al-Wafa, v4, p1280
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- Q Al-Hashr, 7
- Dur al-Manthur Vol. 4, page 177
- Shahid Jamal Rizvi, Syed. Khutba E Fedak Vol.1. Qum: Qur'an O Itrat Foundation. p. 55.
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- Peshawar Nights, Sultan al-Wa’adhim As-Sayyid Muhammad al-Musawi ash-Shirazi
- After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam By Lesley Hazleton, pp. 71-73
- Wafa al Wafa (vol 3 p 1000), Tarikh Abu al-Fida (vol 1 p 168)
- Holy Quran, Surah Isra, verse 26
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- As stated in Tarikh Yaqubi (2:199, 3:48), Wafa al Wafa vol 3 p 999-1000, Tarikh ul Khulafa, p 231-32
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