فَاطِمَة بِنْت مُحَمَّد
Calligraphy reading “Fatimah az-Zahra”
|Died||3 Jumada al-Thani
(18 August 632)
|Resting place||Burial place of Fatimah in Medina, Hejaz|
|Spouse(s)||Ali ibn Abi Talib|
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Fatimah bint Muhammad (Arabic: فَاطِمَة بِنْت مُحَمَّد, Fāṭimah bint Muḥammad, IPA: faː.tˤi.mah ib.nat mu.ħam.mad; 615 AD/5 BH – died 28 August 632 [disputed]), commonly known as Fāṭimah al-Zahrāʾ (فَاطِمَة ٱلزَّهْرَاء), was the youngest daughter of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and Khadijah, according to Sunni Muslims, but according to Shia Muslims, their only child who lived to adulthood, and therefore part of Muhammad’s household. Her husband was Ali, the last of the Rightly Guided Caliphs and the first Shia Imam, and her children include Hasan and Husayn, the second and third Imams, respectively. She is respected and venerated by Muslims, as she was the child closest to her father and supported him in his difficulties, was the supporter and caretaker of her own husband and children, and was the only child of Muhammad to have male children live beyond childhood, whose descendants are spread throughout the Islamic world and are known as Sayyids.
Fatimah is a vital character in Islam and her name is one of the most popular for girls throughout the Muslim world. However, there is controversy between different sects regarding her political role.
Fatimah is given many titles by Muslims to show their admiration of her moral and physical characteristics. The most used title is “al-Zahra“, meaning “the shining one”, and she is commonly referred to as Fatimah Zahra. She was also known as “al-Batūl” (the chaste and pure one) as she spent much of her time in prayer, reciting the Qur’an and in other acts of worship. Besides, amongst 125 famous veneration titles, she has also been honored with the title of Umm-ul-Aaima (Mother of Imams).
- Umm Abihā (Mother of Her Father) or Am-o-Abihā
- Umm al-Ḥasanayn
- Umm al-Ḥasan
- Umm al-Ḥusayn
- Umm al-Āʾimah (Mother of Imams).
Moreover, there are many Shia narrations which have been stated from their Imams about the names and titles of Fatima. For instance, Imam al-Sadiq says: Fatima has nine names from God: 1-Fāṭima (a woman who throws herself and her followers out of the hell), 2-al-Ṣiddīqah (a woman who has never lied), 3-al-Mubārakah (a woman who is full of blessings), 4-al-Ṭāhirah (a woman who is pure, sinless and infallible), 5-al-Zakiyyah (a woman who is away from any contamination), 6-al-Raḍiyyah (a woman who suffers hardship and difficulty and is happy with the will of God), 7-al-Marḍiyyah (a woman with whom God is satisfied), 8-al-Muḥaddithah (a woman who transmits some aḥādīth [Prophetic traditions]), 9-al-Zahrah (bright and shining).
Fatimah was born in Mecca to Khadija, the first of Muhammad’s wives. There are differences of opinion on the exact date of her birth, but the widely accepted view is that she was born five years before the first Quranic revelations, during the time of the rebuilding of the Kaaba in 605, although this does imply she was over 18 at the time of her marriage, which was unusual in Arabia. Twelver Shia sources, however, state that she was born either two or five years after the first Qur’anic revelations, but that timeline would imply her mother was over fifty at the time of her birth, according to Sunni sources.
Fatimah had three sisters named Zaynab bint Muhammad, Umm Kulthum bint Muhammad, and Ruqayyah bint Muhammad. She also had three brothers named Qasim ibn Muhammad, Abd-Allah ibn Muhammad, and Ibrahim ibn Muhammad, all of whom died in childhood. While Sunnis believe Zainab, Ruqayyah, and Umm Kulthum to be the other daughters of Muhammad, Shias believe that they were actually the daughters of Hala, the sister of Khadijah, who were adopted by Muhammad and Khadijah at her death. A reason given by the Shia scholars for this belief is the hadith on the event of Mubahalah (referenced to in the Quran (3:61)), in which there is no reference to the presence of any other female apart from Fatimah.
Following the birth of Fatimah, she was nursed by her mother and brought up by her father; contrary to local customs where the newborns were sent to “wet nurses” in the surrounding villages. She spent her early youth under the care of her parents in Mecca in the shadow of the tribulations suffered by her father at the hands of the Quraysh.
Evoking the caring nature of Fatima is the account of when Muhammad, as he was performing the salat (prayer) in the Kaaba, had camel placenta poured over him by Amr ibn Hishām (Abu Jahl) and his men. Fatimah, upon hearing the news, rushed to her father and wiped away the filth while scolding the men.
At the death of her mother, Fatimah was overcome by sorrow and found it very difficult to cope with it. To console her, her father informed her about having received word from the angel Jibril that God had built for her a palace in paradise.
Many of Muhammad’s companions asked for Fatimah’s hand in marriage, including Abu Bakr and Umar. Muhammad turned them all down, saying that he was awaiting a sign of her destiny. Ali, Muhammad’s cousin, also had a desire to marry Fatimah. When he went to see Muhammad, he could not vocalise his intention but remained silent. Muhammad understood the reason for his being there and prompted Ali to confirm that he had come to seek Fatimah in marriage. He suggested that Ali had a shield, which if sold, would provide sufficient money to pay the bridal gift (mahr). Muhammad put forward the proposal from Ali to Fatimah, who remained silent and did not reject the proposal. Muhammad took this to be a sign of affirmation and consent.
The actual date of the marriage is unclear, but it most likely took place in 623, the second year of the hijra, although some sources say it was in 622. The age of Fatimah is reported to have been 9 or 19 (due to differences of opinion on the exact date of her birth i.e. 605 or 615) at the time of her marriage while Ali was between 21 and 25. Muhammad told Ali that he had been ordered by God to give his daughter Fatimah to Ali in marriage. Muhammad said to Fatimah: “I have married you to the dearest of my family to me.” Ali sold his shield to raise the money needed for the wedding, as suggested by Muhammad. However, Uthman ibn Affan, to whom the shield was sold, gave it back to Ali saying it was his wedding gift to Ali and Fatimah. Muhammad himself performed the wedding ceremony and two of his wives, Aisha and Umm Salama, prepared the wedding feast with dates, figs, sheep and other food donated by various members of the Madinan community. According to Hossein Nasr, their marriage possesses a special spiritual significance for all Muslims because it is seen as the marriage between the greatest saintly figures surrounding Muhammad. Their marriage lasted about ten years and ended when Fatimah died. Although polygamy is permitted by Islam, Ali did not marry any other woman while Fatimah was alive.
Life before the death of Muhammad
After her marriage to Ali, the couple led a humble life in contrast to her sisters who were all married to wealthy individuals. Ali had built a house not too far from Muhammad’s residence where he lived with Fatimah. However, due to Fatimah’s desire to be closer to her father, a Medinan (Haritha bin al-Numan) donated his own house to them.
For several years after her marriage, she did all of the work by herself. The shoulder on which she carried pitchers of water from the well was swollen and the hand with which she worked the handmill to grind corn were often covered with blisters. Fatimah vouched to take care of the household work, make dough, bake bread, and clean the house; in return, Ali vouched to take care of the outside work such as gathering firewood and bringing food. Ali worked to irrigate other people’s lands by drawing water from the wells. Their circumstances were akin to many of the Muslims at the time and only improved following the Battle of Khaybar when the produce of Khaybar was distributed among the poor. When the economic situations of the Muslims become better, Fatimah gained some maids but treated them like her family and performed the house duties with them.
Another reference to their simple life comes from the Tasbih of Fatimah, a divine formula that was first given to Fatimah when she asked her father for a kaneez (slave girl) in order to help her with household chores. Her father asked her if she would like a gift instead that was better than a servant and worth more than everything in the world. Upon her ready agreement, he told her to recite at the end of every prayer the Great Exaltation, Allahu Akbar 33 times, the Statement of Absolute Gratitude, Alhamdulillah 33 times and the Invocation of Divine Glory, Subhan’Allah 33 times, and lā ʾilāha ʾillā llāh once, totalling 100. This collective prayer is called the Tasbih of Fatima.
Fatimah is believed to have had a happy marital life. However, there are claims that Ali angered her when he allegedly asked for Abu Jahl’s daughter’s hand in marriage. Muhammad is said to have refused to allow the marriage unless Ali divorced his daughter, saying “Fatima is a part of my body, and I hate what she hates to see, and what hurts her, hurts me.”[a] A letter Ali wrote later to his opponent Muawiya ibn Abu Sufyan during the First Fitnah may have made reference to this proposal:
Human beings have received and will receive perfection through us. The perpetual supremacy and inherent superiority do no prevent us from making contact with human beings or with your clan, and we have married amongst you and have established family connections with your clan, though you do not belong to our class. How can you be our equal when the Holy Prophet belongs to us and Abu Jahl, the worst enemy of Islam, was from amongst you …— Written reply of Ali to Muawiya
However, Shia sources tend to dispute this event, citing speeches from Ali that deny any problem with his spouse. One such has Ali swearing to God, “I never did any act that made Fatimah angry and she never made me angry either.” These sources also acknowledge the above saying of Muhammad, but disagree with its context. The statement is instead attributed to Fatimah herself, who is believed to have used it when voicing her anger at Abu Bakr and Umar. Abu Muhammad Ordoni quotes in his book: “Among the many fabricated stories told against Ali was that he had asked for Abu Jahl’s (the chief of infidels) daughter’s hand in marriage. When this news reached Fatimah, she rushed to her father who found out the falsity of the story.” Regardless, had this proposal occurred, nothing appears to have come of it as there is no record of Ali marrying another woman during Fatimah’s lifetime.
On the battlefield
Following the Battle of Uhud, Fatimah tended to the wounds of her father and husband and regularly visited the graves of all those who died in the battle and pray for them. Fatimah, along with her husband, was also called upon by Abu Sufyan to intercede on his behalf with Muhammad while attempting to make amends following the violation of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah. Abu Sufyan also asked for Fatimah’s protection when she went to Mecca while it was under occupation which she refused under instruction from her father.
Fatimah in the Qur’an
Some verses in the Qur’an are associated with Fatimah and her household by classical exegetes, although she is not mentioned by name. According to J. D. McAuliffe, two of the most important verses include the verse of purification, which is the 33rd ayah in Surah al-Ahzab, and the 61st ayah in Surah Al-i-Imran. In the first verse, the phrase “people of the house” (ahl al-bayt) is ordinarily understood to consist of Muhammad, Fatimah, her husband Ali and their two sons (al-Tabari in his exegesis also mentions a tradition that interprets “people of the house” as Muhammad’s wives; for Ibn al-Jawzi, the order of these options is reversed). The second verse refers to an episode in which Muhammad proposed an ordeal of mutual adjuration (Mubahala) to a delegation of Christians. Fatimah, according to the “occasion for the revelation” of this verse, was among those offered by Muhammad as witnesses and guarantors.
Muslim exegesis of the Qur’anic verse 3:42, links the praise of Mary, the mother of Jesus, with that of Fatimah based on a quote attributed to Muhammad that lists the outstanding women of all time as Mary, Asiya (the wife of Pharaoh), Khadija and Fatima.
One of the significant chapters in the Quran related to Fatima is Surah Al-Kauthar. This chapter was revealed when Fatima was born in Mecca. However, it had been expressed by Muhammad’s enemies that he would be without posterity. Another considerable verse which is regarded to Fatima is verse 23th of Surah Ash-Shura: ….I do not ask you any reward for it except love of [my] relatives…. [42/23] Ibn Abbas says: when this verse revealed, I asked the Holy Prophet: who are those persons that their kindness and love is obligatory? The Prophet said: They are Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn.
It has been said by some Quranic commentators, following the first verse of Surah Al-Qadr, that the meaning [entire example] of Night (لَيْلَةِ ) is Fatima. Some traditions are also narrated from Shia Imams regarding to this matter.
Life after the death of Muhammad
Fadak 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. The Muhammad had found out that the people of Fadak had collected in order to fight the Muslims alongside the Khaybar Jews. Therefore, he sent Ali to them. The people of Fadak surrendered without a fight, and pleaded for a peace treaty in exchange for giving away half their land and wealth to Muhammad.
Unlike the ascetic who has renounced the affairs of the world, both the historical and hagiographical sources about Fatima al-Zahra document her active participation in domestic and public life. One particular event is recounted in all of the histories both Shiʿi and Sunni: the dispute over the land Fatima received from her father at Fadak…her knowledge of her legal rights and desire for justice indicate that she was a woman involved in the affairs of society”.
After the death of her father, Fatimah approached Abu Bakr and asked him to relinquish her share of the inheritance from Muhammad’s estate. Fatimah expected the land of Fadak (situated 30 mi (48 km) from Medina) and a share of Khaybar would be passed onto her as part of her inheritance. However, Abu Bakr rejected her request citing a narration where Muhammad stated that prophets do not leave behind inheritance and that all their possessions become sadaqah to be used for charity. Fatimah was upset at this flat refusal by Abu Bakr and did not speak to him until her death (however some Sunni sources claim she had reconciled her differences with Abu Bakr before she died). Shias contend that Fadak had been given to Fatimah by Muhammad and Abu Bakr was wrong in not allowing her to take possession of it.
Fadak became Muhammad’s private property, as there was no Muslim fighters involved in Fadak to share the booty with. Muhammad gave the wealth away to orphans and also used it to finance the marriage of needy young men. After Muhammad’s death, Abu Bakr confiscated Fatima’s share in Fadak that this confiscation continued in Umar up era, the reason for this work, was that Fadak had been assigned to needs and emergencies of Muhammad and now it was just accessible for the ruler of Muslims. According to Madelung, Umar’s saying about the communal property of Muslims in Fadak may be challenging since Abu Bakr made a gift from his share to his daughter Aiesha.
Attack on her house
After the gathering at Saqifa where Abu Bakr was elected Caliph, Umar (who had been among Abu Bakr’s advocates) and his supporters were allegedly sent to Fatimah’s house where Fatimah, Ali and some of their allies were gathered. Several scholars, such as Al-Tabari and Ibn Qutaybah, narrate that Umar threatened to burn the building down if Ali refused to acknowledge Abu Bakr’s authority, with Al-Tabari adding that Umar’s men beat Ali’s friend Zubayr ibn al-Awam. According to the Al-Imama wa al-Siyasa (mistakenly attributed to Ibn Qutaybah), when Umar was informed that Fatimah was inside the house, he responded that her presence made no difference to him.
While the historian Al-Baladhuri states that the altercation never became violent and ended with Ali’s compliance, and Tabari makes no mention of Fatimah’s involvement, some traditions add that Umar and his supporters forcibly entered the house, resulting in Fatimah’s miscarriage of her unborn son Muhsin. Twelver Shia sources state that this occurred when Umar forced the front door open, crushing Fatimah behind it and breaking her ribs. However, the Mu’tazilite theologian Ibrahim al-Nazzam narrates that, “Umar hit Fatimah (sa) on the stomach such that the child in her womb died.” Alternatively, Ibn Rustam Al-Tabari states that it was a client of Umar’s named Qunfudh who caused the miscarriage, having struck her with the sheath of his sword. Other traditions add that Qunfudh had her whipped or had struck her face. The Kitab Sulaym ibn Qays (attributed to Sulaym ibn Qays, but possibly a much later creation) concludes the incident with Ali being dragged out of the house with a rope tied around his neck.
The events that took place in the house have been the subject of dispute between various accounts, with the versions including violence primarily having Shia origins. Several early historical sources narrate that Fatimah’s child Muhsin had died in early childhood rather than being miscarried. Al-Baladhuri, along with Al-Ya’qubi and Al-Masudi all list Muhsin among the children of Fatimah, but without any mention of a miscarriage. Similarly, the Shia theologian Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid, when writing his Kitab al-Irshad, makes no mention of violence in relation to Muhsin’s death. The earliest known reference of the miscarriage during the altercation only appears in the 10th century, in Ibn Qulawayh Al-Qummi’s Kamil al-Ziyarat.
Other sources also add that Fatimah and Abu Bakr ultimately reconciled. Ali is also believed to have later willingly offered his oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr and gave a praise-filled oration during the latter’s funeral. Professor Coeli Fitzpatrick surmises that the story of the altercation reflects the political agendas of the period and should therefore be treated with caution.
After the Farewell Pilgrimage, Muhammad summoned Fatimah and informed her that he would die soon, and also told her that she would be the next of his household to die. After Muhammad’s subsequent passing, Fatimah was grief-stricken.
According to the Shia, her death was the result of injuries sustained after the raid of her house by Umar ibn al-Khattab. Muhammad appeared to her in a dream and informed Fatimah that she would be passing away the next day. Fatimah informed Ali of her impending death and asked him not to allow her oppressors to be involved in her ceremonial prayers (janazah prayer performed in congregation after the death of a Muslim) or take part in the burial.
Ali followed Fatima’s wishes and performed the janazah. He buried her during the night on 13 Jumada al-awwal or 3rd Jamadi-u-Thani 11 AH (632 AD), also making three false graves to ensure her real grave could not be identified. With him were his family and a few of his close companions.
But perhaps most painful of all in those months after the loss of her third son was the ostracism she suffered ordered by Abu Bakr to force Ali into line. […] When she knew death was close she asked Ali for a clandestine burial […] Abu Bakr was not to be informed of her death she said. He was to be given no chance to officiate at her funeral.
Twelver Shi’a, especially Iranians, hold ceremonies every year for 20 days in Jumada al-awwal to commemorate the anniversary of the martyrdom of Fatimah. Mourners march in procession through the streets to reaffirm their allegiance to the ideals of Fatima.
After our Master had honoured the world of the Hereafter, Fatima would neither eat nor drink and she forgot all laughter and joy. She had an apartment built for her in which she stayed by night and day, weeping her heart out for her beloved father.
She died in the year 11 AH, though the month of her death is uncertain.
Fatimah’s burial place is a disputed issue among Muslims from different sects. It is famous that Ali ibn Abi Talib buried his wife in an unknown location, because it was Fatimah’s decision. According to Madelung in The Succession to Muhammad, the secret burial was done with the aim of avoiding the presence of caliph (Abu Bakr). Different locations have been mentioned as the possible burial places of Fatimah some of which are said to be nearer to fact. Al-Baqi’, her house and between the Prophet’s tomb and his minbar are the possible places of her grave. One of the important reasons that Fatima’s grave was concealed is because of her protest against what happened regarding to the caliphate of the Holy prophet. Hence, as long as the Muslims don’t believe in what Fatima believes relating to the Holy prophet’s succession, the reason for the concealment of her grave will remain. Jafar Shahidi says: “… In any case, concealment of the prophet’s daughter indicates that she was dejected about some people and it’s clear that she wanted to declare her dissatisfaction and unhappiness”.
Fatimah was survived by two sons, Hasan and Husayn, and two daughters, Zaynab and Umm Kulthum. Controversy surrounds the fate of her third son, Muhsin. Shias and some Sunni scholars such as ibn Abi l-Hadid say that she miscarried following an attack on her house by Abu Bakr and Umar, while other Sunnis insist that Muhsin died in his infancy of natural causes.
Modern descendants of Muhammad trace their lineage exclusively through Fatimah, as she was the only surviving child of Muhammad (according to Shias; Sunni and some Shia believe Muhammad had 4 daughters). Muhammad had no sons who reached adulthood.
Fatimah’s descendants are given the honorific titles Sayyid (meaning lord or sir), Sharif (meaning noble), and respected by both Sunni and Shi’a, though the Shi’as place much more emphasis and value on the distinction.
Muslims regard Fatimah as a loving and devoted daughter, mother, wife, a sincere Muslim, and an exemplar for women. It is believed that she was very close to her father and her distinction from other women is mentioned in many hadith. After Khadijah, Muslims regard Fatimah as the most significant historical figure, considered to be the leader (Arabic: Sayyidih) of all women in this world and in Paradise. It is because of her moral purity that she occupies an analogous position in Islam to that Mary occupies in Catholic and Orthodox Christianity. She was the first wife of Ali, whom Sunnis consider the fourth Rashidun caliph, and whom the Shi’as consider the first infallible Imam, the mother of the second and third Imams, and the ancestor of all the succeeding Imams. The Ismaili Fatimid Caliphate was named after her.
Fatimah, regarded as “the Mother of the Imams”, plays a special role in the Shia sect. She is believed to have been immaculate, sinless, and a model for Muslim women. Although leading a life of poverty, the Shia tradition emphasises her compassion and sharing of whatever she had with others.
According to Mahmoud Ayoub, the two main images of Fatimah within the Shia tradition are those of the “Eternal Weeper” and “the Judge in the hereafter”. The former is through her suffering and death, which is viewed as the first tragedy of Islam. She had spent her last days mourning the death of her father and she eternally weeps at the death of her two sons, who were murdered by the Umayyads. Shias believe they share in Fatimah’s suffering by weeping for her sorrows and that the tears of the faithful console her. They also hold that Fatimah will play a redemptive role as the mistress of the day of judgement in the hereafter, as a solace for her pain.
According to Louis Massignon there are many different attitudes among Shiites and Sunnis about the Mubahalah. One of those disagreements is in terms of the approving of the verse of Quran on Mubahalah whether the verse III, 54 was with the presence of the five persons such as Fatima. According to Shia sources not only Mubahala happened with the presence of Fatima but also Fatima considered as someone who is standing back of prophet. In other words, some mystical sects refer to the symbolic role during that event. They try to interpret her as an image. This image shows a lighting matter. Some sects such as Nusayrieh believes that the Christians of Najran acknowledge to the place of Fatima as Maryam.
Iranians celebrate Fatima Zahra’s birth anniversary (20 Jumada al-Thani) as Mother’s Day. On this day, banners reading “Ya Fatemeah (O! Fatemeh)” are displayed on “government buildings, private buildings, public streets and car windows.” The Gregorian date for this changes every year: