Fatimah bint Muhammad (/
Arabic calligraphy reading Fatimah az-Zahra
|Born||615 AD, 5 BH|
|Died||3 Jumada al-Thani "disputed"11 AH|
(18 August 632 (aged 16–17))
|Spouse(s)||Ali ibn Abi Talib|
'Fatimah' is one of the most popular girl's names throughout the Muslim world.
Fatimah is a vital character in the religion of Islam. Although there is controversy between different sects of Islam regarding her political role, she is the daughter of Muhammad and is revered by Muslims.
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 strong reason given by the Shi'a scholars for this belief is the event of (Mubahala) mentioned in the Quran, in which there is no reference to the presence of any other female apart from Fatimah, however Sunnis accept that Muhammad had four daughters all from Khadijah.
There are several traditions related before and after Fatimah's birth in Shia sources which are expressed on this occasion: the glorification of God to Muhammad in the presence of Fatima in the ascension: O Muhammad! Allah gives you the good news of Fatimah from Khadījah bint Khuwaylid. "The Holy Prophet, before the coagulation of Fatima’s sperm, fasted for forty days and worshiped at nights."  After forty days of worship, Gabriel came down and said: O great Prophet! Allah bless you and orders to be ready for His great present. The Prophet said to Gabriel: “what is the gift of the Lord of all the Worlds?” Gabriel said: I have no knowledge about it; at that time Michael descended while carrying a vessel covered with fine silk and heavy brocade and placed the vessel in front of the Prophet. The great present of Allah was the existence of Fatimah to all being.
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:
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-Ā’ima (Mother of Imams).
Moreover, there are plenty of 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).
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 angel Gabriel 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 like the previous ones. 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
A humble life
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 to us from the Tasbih of Fatimah, a divine formula that was first given to Fatimah when she asked her father for a kaneez (servant 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 34 times, the Statement of Absolute Gratitude, Alhamdulillah 33 times and the Invocation of Divine Glory, Subhan'Allah 33 times, totalling 100. This collective prayer is called the Tasbih of Fatima.
The event of Ahl al-Kisa signifies a happy married life. Muhammad used to say: "Fatima is a part of my body, and I hate what she hates to see, and what hurts her, hurts me." The three most popular versions of this tradition are related by al-Miswar b. Makhrama, a Companion who was about nine years old when Muhammad died. Ali, anyhow, did not marry another woman during Fatima's lifetime. One of Ali's letter provides comparison of alleged 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..(Famous written reply of Ali to Muawiya)
In contrary with what Sunni says, in Shia literature, there are some speeches from Ali that deny any problem with his spouse. For instance, Ali has sworn to the God, " I never did any act that made Fatimah angry and she never made me angry either."
Shia acknowledge the saying of Muhammad, "Fatimah is a part of me and whoever offends her offends me", but the context of the reporting in reference to Ali is disputed, like 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."
The Shia say this statement was used by Fatimah herself when she spoke to Abu Bakr and Umar, stating that they had both displeased her.
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
Attack on her house
After the gathering at Saqifa, Umar and his supporters went to the house of Fatimah; Ali, his family (including Fatimah), and some of his supporters were in the house. Umar went to the door of Fatimah's house and said, "By Allah, I shall burn down (the house) over you unless you come out and give the oath of allegiance (to Abu Bakr)." Zubayr ibn al-Awam, who had been in Ali's house, came out of the house with his sword drawn but reportedly tripped on something, after which Umar's supporters attacked him.
Umar, who was then in front of the door to Fatimah's house, said to Fatimah, "I know that the Prophet of God did not love any one more than you, but this will not stop me from carrying out my decision. If these people stay in your house, I will burn the door in front of you." According to another narration, Umar asked for wood, and then told those inside the house, "I swear by Allah who has my soul in his hand, that if you do not come out, I will burn the house." Umar was then informed that Fatimah was inside the house, to which he responded, "So what! It doesn't matter to me who is in the house."
It is reported that when Fatimah heard the voices of Umar and his supporters threatening to attack the house, she cried out, "O father, O Messenger of Allah, how are Umar Ibn al-Khattab and Abu Bakr Ibn Abi Quhafah treating us after you and how do they meet us."
The house was then attacked. Umar and his supporters burned the door of the house; they crushed Fatimah between the door and the wall of the house, they killed Moshin, the baby in her stomach, and they forced Ali out of the house against his will. According to some narrations, a rope was tied around Ali's neck.
The historian Abul Hasan Ali Ibn al-Husayn al-Mas'udi wrote the following in his book Isbaat al-Wasiyyah:
They surrounded ‘Ali (as) and burned the door of his house and pulled him out against his will and pressed the leader of all women (Hadhrat Fatimah (sa)) between the door and the wall killing Mohsin (the male-child she was carrying in her womb for six months).
The Sunni historian Salahuddin Khalil al-Safadi wrote in his book Waafi al- Wafiyyaat that "Umar hit Fatimah (sa) on the stomach such that child in her womb died."
Umar and his companions dragged Ali away. Fatimah urged them to stop, saying, "I will not permit Ali (a.s.) to be dragged with such cruelty and injustice. Woe be upon you, O people! How soon did you usurp our rights in relation to Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.)." Umar then ordered Qunfuz to whip Fatimah. According to some narrations, Qunfuz whipped her back and her arms; according to another, he struck her face; according to another, he pushed her so hard that he smashed her ribs. According to another report, Khalid bin Walid struck Fatimah with his sword; another report states that Moghayrah Ibne' Sho'bah struck her with his sword.
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 Prophet Mohammed 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 Mohammed.
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. Mohammed 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.
Fatima fell ill soon after Muhammad's death. According to some sources, she reconciled with Abu Bakr during her illness. She died in the year 11 AH, though the month of her death is uncertain. Her death was kept secret and she was buried at night. Historical sources contain contradictory information about the exact location of her grave.
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.
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 Mohammad's subsequent passing, Fatimah was grief-stricken and remained so until she herself died less than six months later, on 3rd, Jumada al-Sani (as per Fatimid).
She passed the time sobbing and sighing and nothing could take away her grief. As soon as she had done her household chores and taken care of her husband, 'Ali, and their sons, Hasan and Husain, she would continue weeping: "O my beloved father! To whom have you left your Fatima?" Less than six months went by in this fashion until Fatima got so thin that there was nothing left of her but skin and bones.
Shia believe that Fatima died as a result of injuries sustained after her house was raided by Umar ibn al-Khattab who Shi'a believe set fire to her house. Historians claim that the door is said to have been rammed open by one of the assailants, reportedly Khalid bin Walid knocking Fatimah to the ground. This attack is said to have cracked her rib-cage whilst she was pregnant, causing her to miscarry. According to Shia tradition, Muhammed appeared in a dream and informed Fatimah that she would be passing away the next day. Fatimah informed her husband Ali of her impending death and asked him not to allow the 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.
According to some sources[who?], on the morning of her death, she took a bath, put on new clothes and lay down in bed. She asked for Ali and informed him that her time to die was very close. Upon hearing this news, Ali began to cry but was consoled by Fatimah who asked him to look after her two sons and for him to bury her without ceremony. It is further stated that her two sons were the first family members to learn of her death and immediately proceeded to the mosque to inform their father. Upon hearing the news, Ali fell unconscious. After recovering he 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. After her death, Ali followed her wishes and buried her without informing the Medinan people.
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.
Fatimah's burial place is a disputed issue among Muslims from different sects. It is famous that Ali ibn Abi Taleb 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. One of the historians[who?] in this field 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 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.The 11th century dynasty ruling Egypt at the time of the Crusades, the Fatimids, claimed descent from her.
Fatimah, regarded as "the Mother of the Imams", plays a special role in the Shia sect. She has a unique status as Muhammad's only surviving child, the wife of Ali, their first Imam, and the mother of Hasan and Husayn. The chapter of Quran on abundance (Sūrat al-Kawthar) mentions the significance of her birth and recognises her as the only surviving child of Muhammad. The Fatimid Caliphate/ Imamate is named for her. 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.
Shias greatly respect her, and her character shines as one of the bravest and most courageous in the Islamic history. Fatimah stood as the lone defender of Muhammad's declaration of Ghadeer. She put forward her arguments to prove Fadak as her right and undisputed property amongst those who had killed her unborn child Mohsin.
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". According to Shia tradition, the suffering and death of Fatimah was the first tragedy of Islam. She spent her last days mourning the death of her father. Fatimah 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. It is believed that the tears of the faithful console Fatimah. Shias hold that Fatimah will play a redemptive role as the mistress of the day of judgment in the hereafter, as a reward for her suffering in this world.
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.
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Books and journals
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- Fatima is Fatima by Ali Shariati
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