To be able to accuse a Companion of the Prophet (sws) and in deed any person of a crime as serious as murder (let alone murdering the beloved daughter of the Prophet) one needs to have relevant and reliable evidences.
We try to examine the available evidences here:
I. Evidence in Mainstream Sources
"The accusation here is: The suspect (Umar) burned the door to the house of the victim (Fatima) and pushed it on the victim, which resulted in the miscarriage of her expected child."
Now let us look at one of the popular sources of evidence of this sort, one that is brought forward occasionally by Shia brothers:
It is recorded that Umar threatened to set the house of Fatima on fire. There is no mention that he actually did that.
Further more, the hadith is not reliable. It is narrated via Muhammad Ibn Hamid Ibn Hayyan. This is a very unreliable narrator. In the book of Tahzib Al-Tahzib we read that Bukhari says: There are concerns about his narrations. An-Nasayee says: Not reliable, has been reported that he was a liar. Al-Joozajani says: Not reliable. Al-Razi says: I have 5000 ahadith from him and will not narrate even one of them. Saleh Ibn Muhammad Al-Asadi says: I Haven't seen any one bolder to Allah Ta'Ala than him. He used to collect ahadith and forge them together. I haven't seen any one cleverer than him and Sulayman Al-Shazekuni in lying. Baihaqi says: The Imam of Hadith, Ibne Khuzayma does not narrate from him.
Based on the above we can safely conclude that the above evidence (in Tabari) is both insufficient and unreliable.
Moreover when we look further in the book of Tabari we find ahadith that conflict with the above story. Only few pages after the above record we read the following two:
· Abu Sufian asked Ali to give him his hand for Bay'at and Ali shouted at him and said we had agreed on Abu Bakr.
· When hearing about the Bay'at in Saqifa, Ali came out of his house while he was not dressed properly only to rush in doing bayat with Abu Bakr.
Please note that here I am not arguing that the above two records are reliable. All I am saying is that an unbiased mind should take all these into consideration and test all of them before any attempts for ruling a judgment.
It is not a rational approach to ignore the rest of the records in books like Tabari and only rely on those parts that suit our belief and even then without any attempts to test the reliability of what they are quoting.
I have examined a number of other sources that are usually referred to by Shia brothers (e.g. Al-Imama wa Al-Syasah, Al Iqd Al-Farid, Qurra Al-Ayn Fi Tafzil Al-Shaykhayn). In none of them have I found a record that fulfils the following conditions:
· Clearly suggesting that Umar actually burned the door or pushed the door on Fatima (RA).
· Having reliable chains of narrators (in fact the majority of these sources do not even have a chain of narrator)
· Not accompanying with conflicting records.
Based on the above I can say that there is no evidence in the mainstream sources that can support the accusation. I am more than happy to examine any other sources that might be put forward.
II. Evidence in Shia Sources
It is one of the basic rules of judgement that evidences for an accusation should not be taken from the sources of those who have accused. Having said that, and while appreciating that there are records in support of the accusation in some of the Shia sources, I would like to point out that it is very strange that in some of the more popular and old Shia sources there are no mention of the incident.
For instance the book Al-Irshad by Mufid:
According to the Shia brothers the book is one of the very reliable sources of history not only because of its author (who is one of the gurus of Shia) but also because of the closeness of the time of writing the book to the time of the presence of Shia Imams.
In his book, when it came to naming the children of Ali, (RA) initially we find no mention of the name of the miscarried infant (Muhsin).
Mufid then says:
"and in Shia there are some who say Fatima miscarried a male infant after the Prophet, who had been given a name by the Prophet, and that is Muhsin. So based on the saying of these people the children of Amir Almo'menin (Ali) will be 18 and God knows best" (Irshad p. 336 by Mufid)
It is interesting that Mufid is not approving the miscarriage and attributes the story to some of Shia. It is also interesting that even here there is no mention of the alleged attack on Fatima (RA). This is while the book of Irshad is dedicated to narrate the important incidents of the life of Shia Imams, including Ali (RA).
In Kafi, one of the four main books of Shi'ism there is again no mention of the incident in the chapter on life of Fatima. It merely says that Fatima was angry with Umar without any references to any attacks taken place.
In Kashf Al-Qumah another classical book of Shi'ism again we read that there are differences of opinion about Muhsin and that some of Shia consider him to be the son of Ali from Fatima who died because of miscarriage. Again no mention of the incident itself.
Among the Shia scholars, we have Allamah Fadhlullah who is famous for putting a question mark on the incident and calling it unlikely because of the conflicting records and also based on rationality. He was denounced severely by other Shia scholars for his opinion.
Based on the above I think no judge can conclude that the Shia sources can provide us with satisfactory evidence.
Being disappointed in finding hard evidence to rule against the suspect, let us now turn to rationality:
Ali according to Shia was the bravest of Arabs. In the Shia book Nahj Al-Balaqah we read that he has said something to the effect that he was not afraid of anything when it comes to protecting the right. I find it very strange that such an incident could take place without Ali trying to protect his wife (the daughter of the Prophet). We fail to find anything about such natural reaction by Ali.
Later we find no attempts by Ali or any of the other companions or people closed to Ali's family to bring Umar to justice.
Not only this, we even find Ali give the name of "Umar" to one of his children. I do not want to claim that Ali named his son after Umar the second Khalifa. I am well aware of the answer given by our Shia brothers implying that the naming was not after Umar the second Khalifa. However I find it very strange that someone like Ali could give the name of the murderer of his wife (the daughter of the Prophet) to his son. Ali was from the same family as the Prophet. It is narrated that the Prophet never wanted to see the face of Wahshi the killer of his uncle Hamzah even when Wahshi embraced Islam. This is a very serious issue. Today you find no Shia with the name Umar. The other two sons of Ali, Uthman and Abu Bakr were present in Karbala with Husayn and were brutally martyred in protecting their brother. Yet when you go to the mourning ceremonies of Shia brothers you will hear the story of all the Ahl Albayt of Husayn except Uthman and Abu Bakr merely because of their name. This attitude of Shia about names is very understandable and acceptable if one holds the same view that Shia hold for these companions. One wonders why Ali's attitude was not as would have been expected from any human being. How many people do we know who are happy to give the name of the murderer of their wife to their son? Any one who is slightly familiar with the culture of Arab will appreciate that this is even stranger for an Arab.
To see the further complication, we will be amazed to find that according to records in Shia books Ali gave her daughter Umme Kulthom to Umar as his wife (although some Shia brothers make some arguments to deny this). So here we have the husband of the victim not only calling his son with the name of the murderer of his wife but also giving his daughter to the murderer of his wife!
It is also very strange to think that such a huge crime has been taken place, and (not only Ali, but) none of the companions of the Prophet (sws) ever bothers to complain about it and to bring the sinner to the justice.
I think it is safe to conclude that even rationality does not support the accusation.
Now all I discussed above was in a generic form, trying to forget the personality of Umar. I think a Muslim who wants to be closer to Allah Ta'ala and have better Taqwa should even have more cautious and fear in accusing a close companion of the Prophet (sws) of such incident. Let us not forget that we are advised in the Qur'an to pray that Allah cleanse our hearts from any bad feelings about the early immigrants (i.e. Muhajerin) and Helpers (i.e. Ansar). This of course does not mean that we cannot academically challenge views or actions of any of them but at least we should be fair enough by basing our criticism on sound evidence. I can guarantee we would not criticise an ordinary man in our time of a crime as simple as theft with evidences as irrelevant and as unreliable as the ones mentioned above.