Following the demise of the Prophet, the ownership of the land of Fadak was disputed between the daughter of Prophet, Lady Fatima Zahra, and Caliph Abu Bakr. The Centre for Intra-Muslim Studies convened to discuss the issue of Fadak and the subsequent relationship between Lady Fatima and Caliph Abu Bakr. As always, the co-director of the Centre, Dr Mohammad Khalid, emphasised that the objective of the discussion is to promote understanding between the sects of Islam in a respectful and scholarly manner rather than attempt to resolve the dispute. Maulana Abdul Hamid Kusuri presented the Ahl al-Sunna perspective and Shaykh Kumayl Rajani presented the Shia view followed by an opportunity for questions and discussions.
The fertile land of Fadak was initially owned by Jewish people who later gifted the land to the Prophet as a peace offering, thereby securing their own right to continue to work on the land and share in its produce. In accordance with the Quranic stipulation in 59: 6-7, such property is known as fay’ and constitutes the Prophet’s personal property. After the death of the Prophet, Lady Fatima claimed ownership of land, which was denied by Caliph Abu Bakr. According to the mainstream Shia view, the land was sought primarily on the basis that it had been gifted to Lady Fatima during the lifetime of the Prophet, evidenced by the verse 17:26, and when this was rejected it was claimed as inheritance. Both the Shia and Sunni sources concur that Caliph Abu Bakr rejected the claim of inheritance stating that he had heard the Prophet say, “We do not inherit and whatever we leave is sadaqa (charity).” The veracity of the Caliph’s judgement as well as the subsequent relations between the two are the principal points of contention between the Sunni and Shia.
Maulana Kusuri pointed to sources which suggested that Lady Fatima was satisfied with the judgement, concluding that differences of opinion are natural, and that respect must be maintained for everyone. Furthermore, as the issue of Fadak is a managerial issue, which does not have any theological implications or pertain to religion in daily life, it is best to leave the issue to Allah and the Prophet. On the contrary, Shaykh Rajani contextualised the issue of Fadak as a part of the greater dispute regarding the caliphate and the claim of Imam Ali; thus, it had wider implications. He concluded that the preponderance of evidence, from both Sunni and Shia sources, suggests that Lady Fatima was angered and grieved for the rest of her life. This, he claimed, is the best evidence that there was a dispute that was not settled. Issues such as the subsequent management of Fadak and Imam Ali’s loss of interest in claiming the estate during his own caliphate were raised during the ensuing discussion.
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