Authored by eminent scholar Shaikh Abbas al-Qummi, House of Sorrows is a translation of Baytul Ahzan Fi Masaib Sayyedatun Niswan ("House of Sorrows Relating to the Sorrows of the Mistress of the Women") – a remarkable work that seeks to acquaint the reader with the glorious birth, life and death of Lady Fatima Zahra (peace be upon her), the leader of the women of the world and the daughter of the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him and his progeny).
As the publisher states in his preface, before reading this work "one needs to first clear one's thoughts of all personal biases and 'blind love' for influential and leading figures in Islamic history, and be prepared to open the mind and heart to permit the painfully tragic events...to permeate one's heart and soul."
It is a relatively short book which can easily be read in a few sittings. The author has divided it into four chapters, briefly summarized below:
Chapter 1 presents the circumstances relating to Lady Fatima's birth, her different names and the reasons for these names being attributed to her. Beautiful examples of her kindness towards her husband and affection towards her sons are relayed.
Chapter 2 relates her virtues, status, piety and character, her relationship and connection with her father, and the specific details regarding her marriage to Imam Ali (peace be upon him).
Chapter 3 Includes incidents that took place after the death of the Holy Prophet – the state of affairs at Saqifa, vivid, horrifying recounts of the events which lead to Lady Fatima's eventual martyrdom, details of the usurpation of Fadak, her powerful sermon and discourses with Abu Bakr and Umar, and her unwavering resistance and fortitude throughout the repression and cruelty meted out to her and her family.
Chapter 4 recounts the heart-rendering anxiety and grief of Lady Fatima upon the separation of her father, further speeches and discourses with Abu Bakr and Umar, her will to Imam Ali, her martyrdom, shrouding, prayer and burial, and other events relating to her last days.
Throughout the course of this book, Shaikh Abbas Qummi has narrated the most authentic narrations of Islamic history and reliable traditions from both Shia and Sunni sources to expound on the particularly important events that took place throughout the life of Lady Fatima. As a result, the reader will at times find different explanations of the same event being presented and, occasionally, is left with a diverse collection of seemingly contradictory opinions – some of which, as the translator puts it, may not reflect the "official" Shi'a position. He stresses that it is at this point the reader should keep in mind that the author has merely presented the various opinions recorded in the books of history regarding what occurred after the death of the Holy Prophet. It is the mark of an intelligent being to carefully analyse and reflect upon all angles of a particular situation before arriving to a fair and sensible conclusion, and indeed this is precisely what the author has sought to do – at times even leaving the reader to deduce him/herself as to where the truth lies.
House of Sorrows is a must-read for all Muslims. Although it is but a glimpse of Lady Fatima's strenuous life and perfect character, the book is a nice summary of her days from beginning to end, involving enough detail to allow one to truly appreciate the difficulties and sacrifices she endured with the highest degree of patience and forbearance, and the great lessons and legacy she left behind for us.
This book can be ordered online from Islamic Publishing House.