Sayyida Nafisa

Sayyida Nafisa (d. 208 AH / 830 CE), the full name As-Sayyidah Nafīsah bint Amīr al-Muʾminīn Al-Ḥasan al-Anwar ibn Zayd al-Ablaj ibn Al-Hasan ibn ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib al-ʿAlawiyyah al-Ḥasaniyyah (Arabic: ٱلسَّيِّدَة نَفِيْسَة بِنْت أَمِيْر ٱلْمُؤْمِنِيْن ٱلْحَسَن ابْن زَيْد ٱلْأَبْلَج ابْن ٱلْحَسَن ابْن عَلِي ابْن أَبِي طَالِب ٱلْعَلَوِيَّة ٱلْحَسَنِيَّة‎), was a female descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and a scholar and teacher of Islam. Having taught Sunni Imam Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi'i,[1] she is the best known female scholar of hadith in Egypt.[2]

Nafīsah bint Al-Ḥasan
نَفِيْسَة بِنْت ٱلْحَسَن
Masjid having Nafisa Mausoleum side by,Cairo .jpg
Al-Sayeda Nafeesah Mosque having Nafisah's Mausoleum by its side in Cairo, Egypt
TitleAs-Sayyidah (ٱلسَّيِّدَة)
Aṭ-Ṭāhirah (ٱلطَّاهِرَة)

762 ACE, 145 AH
Died824 CE, 208 AH
Cairo, Egypt
Resting placeCairo
SpouseIs-ḥāq al-Muʾtamin
ChildrenQāsim (son)
Umm Kulthūm (daughter)
EraAbbasid era
RegionEgypt, Northeast Africa
LineageBanu Hashim
OccupationIslamic scholar
Muslim leader
Influenced by


She was born in Mecca in about 762 CE, to Al-Hasan al-Anwar the son of Zayd al-Ablaj, son of Al-Hasan the grandson of Muhammad. She spent her later life in Cairo, where there is a mosque bearing her name.[1]

Marriage and careerEdit

She married Is-ḥāq al-Muʾtamin (إِسْحَاق ٱلْمُؤْتَمِن), son of Ja'far al-Sadiq, himself a descendant of Muhammad. She emigrated with him from the Hejaz to Egypt. She had two children, a son named 'Qāsim' and a daughter named 'Umm Kulthūm'.[3]

Her students came from faraway places, and among them was Al-Shafi'i, the man behind the Shafi'i school of Sunni fiqh. She financially sponsored his education for him.[4] Ibn Kathir in al-Bidayah wa al-nihayah reports about her the following statement:

She was a wealthy lady, did a lot of favors to the people, especially those paralyzed, those with severe illness, and to all other ill people. She was devout, ascetic, and of abundant virtue. When Imam al-Shafi'i arrived in Egypt, she did good to him, and sometimes Shafi'i led her in prayers in Ramadan.

— Ibn Kathir[2]

Influence on Imam al-Shafi'iEdit

Imam al-Shafi'i was reportedly a student of another great Imam of Sunni Fiqh, Malik ibn Anas,[5] who was a student of Imam Ja'far, like Imam Abu Hanifah.[6] It is said that al-Shafi'i, after coming to Cairo, called upon Nafisa to hear hadiths from her,[7] and that it was not possible that he was without the influence of knowledge and personality of Nafisa, since he had been a frequent guest in her house, a listener of her lectures in her mosque, and as it is reported by the historians, asked for her invocation (Duʿāʾ) and sought for blessings (Barakāt) from her.[1]

When Al-Shafi'i felt sick and afterward felt the approaching death, he immediately wrote the will in which he mentioned that Nafisa was honorably expected to read the funeral prayer (Ṣalāt al-Janāzah). After the death of the Imam, his body was carried to her house and she prayed over it. It reportedly could not be "without her popularity, fame, honor, and respect among the people."[8]

Ascetic way of life and miraclesEdit

It is reported that Nafisa has been living an ascetic way of life. Zainab, her niece, had witnessed that her aunt ate once per three days and kept an empty basket with her, each time she wanted to eat something small, she put her hand inside and found something sent from Allah. Once being moved by the way of life led by Sayyida Nafisa, Zainab asked her aunt: "You must take care of yourself." On that, she replied "How shall I take care of myself before I reach my Lord? Ahead of me are so many barriers which no one can cross except the successful ones (al-fāʾizūn, ٱلْفَائِزُوْن)."[1]

More than 150 miracles are attributed to Nafisa throughout her life and after death. After settling down in Cairo, there was a miracle of her curing the paralyzed daughter of a neighboring non-Muslim family. One day, the daughter was left in Nafisa's house when her mother went shopping in the marketplace. When Nafisa did her ablution before prayer, some drops of water touched the girl and she started to move. When Nafisa was praying, the daughter stood up and ran to the coming mother, who was shaken and overjoyed at the same moment. After that miracle, the whole family and other neighbors accepted Islam.[9]

After her death, one accident had happened. Some thieves entered her mosque and took sixteen silver lamps. They wanted to escape immediately but failed to find the doors. They were trapped as if they were in a cage. The next morning, they were found and put into prison.[9]


Her piety was renowned to the extent that people came from far and near to seek her blessings; hagiographers recount her decision to leave Egypt due to the throngs that came to seek the blessings of Ahl al-Bayt ("People of the Household (of Muhammad)"), leaving little time for prayer. However, the pleas of the governor of Egypt, As-Sirri ibn al-Hakam, and the people for her not to leave Egypt convinced her to stay. Numerous accounts are given of the miracles she performed for those who sought her aid directly or through prayer, such as curing a blind child, intervening when the Nile did not rise one year as expected, preventing a ship from sinking, helping a poor woman who spent her life spinning wool to support her family, freeing a prisoner through her intercession, and seeing people through their difficulties.[3]

Sayyidah Nafisah, Sayyidah Ruqayyah and Sayyidah Zaynab bint Ali are traditionally considered the patron saints of the madīnah (مَدِيْنَة, city) of Cairo.[10] In addition, this was one of the five mashhads sponsored for female relatives of the prophet during the Fatimid caliphate. The other four shrines were devoted to Sayyid Ruqayya, Sayyid Zaynab, Umm Kulthum, and ‘Atika.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d Imam Metawalli ash-Sha`rawi, "Nafisa at-Tahira: Rare Lady Saint of the Egyptians (excerpted from From the Light of Ahl al-Bayt: My Spiritual Experiences Unveiled)", The Muslim Magazine, As-Sunnah Foundation of America
  2. ^ a b Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa al-nihayah, sub Anno 208.
  3. ^ a b Zayn Kassam; Bridget Blomfield (2015). "Remembering Fatima and Zaynab: Gender in Perspective". In Farhad Daftory (ed.). The Shi'i World. I.B Tauris Press.
  4. ^ Aliyah, Zainab. "Great Women in Islamic History: A Forgotten Legacy". Young Muslim Digest. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  5. ^ Dutton, Yasin, The Origins of Islamic Law: The Qurʼan, the Muwaṭṭaʼ and Madinan ʻAmal, p. 16
  6. ^ "Imam Ja'afar as Sadiq". History of Islam. Archived from the original on 2015-07-21. Retrieved 2012-11-27.
  7. ^ Al-Yafii, Mir'at al jinan, ii.43
  8. ^ Inb Al-'Imad, Shadharat al-Dhahab, ii. 21
  9. ^ a b Fa
  10. ^ "The Patron Women Saints of Cairo". Ismaili Institute of Studies. Ismaili Institute of Studies. |first1= missing |last1= (help)
  11. ^ Williams, Caroline (1985). "The Cult of the 'Alid Saints in the Fatimid Monuments of Cairo. Part 2: The Mausolea". Muqarnas. 3: 39.