One of the saddest moments in the history of Islam is what transpired in the Muslim community after the demise of the Prophet (p). One incident in particular that begs explanation is the will of Lady Fāṭima (s), the daughter of the Prophet,
asking her husband Imam ‘Alī (a) to bury her in the night, allowing only a handful of close companions of the Imam, some members of Banū Hāshim and a few women to attend her funeral.
Why would lady Fāṭima, the last surviving daughter of the Prophet (p) demand such a secret burial? What point was she trying to prove? In order to understand her decision, we must look at what happened before she left this world. Immediately after the Prophet,
a group of companions decided to take the matter of leadership of the Muslim community into their own hands. This was despite the clear designation of Imam ‘Alī by the Prophet on the day of Ghadīr, as a leader for the future community.
Once a new caliphate was installed, one of the first decisions they made was to take away a garden oasis gifted to Lady Fāṭima by the Prophet known as Fadak. This garden was famous for its rich land, water wells, and dates, and was usurped from Fāṭima.
She demanded her usurped property back from the first caliph, which resulted in a confrontation and dispute, but the caliph simply did not heed her arguments. According to reliable reports, this angered Lady Fāṭima so much so that she refused to ever speak to the first caliph and left this world angry and upset at him.
Once Fadak was taken, the next priority for the new caliphate was to demand allegiance from Imam ‘Alī, in order to use his influence to quell any threat of rebellion from other potential dissidents. To do this, a large party of men were sent to the house of Fāṭima, where ‘Alī and a number of his loyal followers were present.
Lady Fāṭima attempted to prevent this group of men from barging into her house, in doing so she was severely injured in the process. the men managed to enter the house and arrest Imam ‘Alī (a).
Such open infraction of the rights of the family of the Prophet was something Lady Fāṭima could not accept. As she fell ill and eventually succumbed to her injuries, she ensured the entire Muslim community knew she was unhappy with the caliphate that was installed upon the community.
She wanted to make sure any future attempt to present her image as someone who was satisfied with the caliphate or the events that transpired could not ever be fabricated or attributed to her. In her final will to her husband, she says:
I do not want any of those who have tormented me and usurped my rights to be present at my funeral, because they are my enemies and the enemies of the Messenger of Allah. Do not allow any of them or their supporters to participate in the funeral prayers over me. And bury me at night, when people are fast asleep.