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Fatima Zahra

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Fatima Zahra

For other people of the same name, see Fatima (name).
Syeda Fatima bint Muhammad
Arabic: فاطمة
  • al-Siddeeqah[1]
    (The Truthful Woman)
  • al-Mubarakah[1]
    (The Blessed Woman)
  • al-Tahirah[1]
    (The Pure Woman)
  • al-Zakiyyah[1]
    (The Chaste/Innocent Woman)
  • al-Radhiyah[1]
    (The Satisfied Woman)
  • al-Muhaddathah[1]
    (The One Spoken to by Angels)
  • al-Batool[1]
    (The Chaste/The Pure)
  • al-Zahra[1]
    (The Splendid One/The Lady of Light)
  • Syedatun Nisa al-Alamin[4]
    (The Leader of The Women of The Worlds)
  • Rank Daughter of Prophet Muhammad
    During The Time of Her Father

    5 BH – 11 AH

    After the Time of Her Father 90 days 11 AH
    Born 20th of Jamad al-Akhar 5 BH[1][5]
    Birth Place Mecca, Hejaz[1]
    Ethnicity Hejazi Arab
    Father Prophet Muhammad[1]
    Mother Khadija[1]
    Brothers Tayyab & Qasim.
    Sisters Zainab, Umm Kulthum and Ruqayyah.
    Spouse Ali ibn Abi Talib



    Died 13th Jamadi-al-Awwal 11 AH (Wednesday August 5th 632 AD)
    Burial Place Unknown but in Medina, Hejaz
    Religion Islam

    Fatimah (Arabic: فاطمةFāṭimah ;[pronunciation 1] born c. 605[6][7] or 615[8] – died 633) was a daughter of prophet Muhammad and Khadijah, wife of Ali and mother of Hasan and Hussein, and one of the five members of Ahl al-Bayt.[6][7] She became the object of great veneration by all Muslims, because she lived closest to her father and supported him in his difficulties, because of the historical importance of her husband and her two sons, and because she is the only member of Prophet Muhammad's family that gave him descendants, numerously spread through the Islamic world.[6]

    For Muslims, Fatimah is an inspiring example and Fatimah is one of the most popular girl's names throughout the Muslim world.[9]

    She was involved in three significant political actions, each recorded in almost all sources. First, after the conquest of Mecca, she refused her protection to Abu Sufian; Second, after Muhammad's death, she courageously defended Ali’s cause, fiercely opposed the election of Abu Bakr, and had violent disputes with him and particularly with Umar; Third, she laid claim to the property rights of her father and challenged Abu Bakr’s categorical refusal to cede them, particularly Fadak and a share in the produce of Khaybar.[10]

    She died a few months after her father's death, and was buried in Jannat Al-Baqi', but the exact location of her grave is unknown. Many Twelver Shia Muslims believe that she died as a result of her injury caused by Umar, incurred while defending Ali against Abu Bakr.[6] Sunni Muslims, who regard Abu Bakr and Umar as revered figures, and the Zaidiyyah Shia reject this version of events.


    Fatimah was born in Mecca to Khadija, the first wife of Muhammad. 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,[11][12][13] although this does imply she was over 18 at the time of her marriage, which was unusual in Arabia.[6] Twelver Shia sources, however, state that she was born either two or five years after the first Qur'anic revelations,[8] but that timeline would imply her mother was over fifty at the time of her birth.[6]

    Fatimah had three sisters namely Zainab, Umm Kulthum and Ruqayyah and two brothers Tayyab & Qasim respectively. Shias believe that Ruqayyah and Umm Kulthum who the Sunnis believe to be the other daughters of Muhammad 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 of the presence of any other female apart from Fatimah, however Sunnis accept that Muhammad had four daughters all from Khadijah.[14]


    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.[7][15] She was also known as "al-Batul" (the chaste and pure one) as she spent much of her time in prayer, reciting the Qur'an and in other acts of worship.[7]

    Early life

    Following the birth of Fatimah, she was personally nursed, contrary to local customs where the newborn were sent to "wet nurses" in surrounding villages.[16] 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.[6]

    According to tradition, on one occasion while Muhammad was performing the salat (prayer) in the Kaaba, Amr ibn Hishām (Abu Jahl) and his men poured camel placenta over him. Fatimah, upon hearing the news, rushed to her father and wiped away the filth while scolding the men.[6][17]

    Following the death of her mother, Fatimah was overcome by sorrow and found it very difficult to come to terms with her death. She was consoled by her father, who informed her that he had received word from angel Gabriel that God had built for her a palace in paradise.[6]


    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.[6] 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).[6][7] 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.[6][18]

    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.[6][7][8] Muhammad told Ali that he had been ordered by God to give his daughter Fatimah to Ali in marriage.[19] Muhammad said to Fatimah: "I have married you to the dearest of my family to me."[7] Ali sold his shield to raise the money needed for the wedding, as suggested by Muhammad.[6] 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.[7] 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.[6] 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.[19] Their marriage lasted about ten years and ended when Fatimah died. Although polygyny is permitted by Islam, Ali did not marry another woman while Fatimah was alive.[19]

    Life before the death of Muhammad

    Main article: Fatimah marital life


    After her marriage to Ali, the couple led a humble life in contrast to her sisters who were all married to wealthy individuals.[7] 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.[6]

    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 where often covered with blisters.[20] 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.[21] Ali worked to irrigate other peoples lands by drawing water from the wells.[7] 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.[6]

    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.[22][23]

    Married life

    An indication of their special relationship is found in the fact that Ali never married another woman as long as Fatima was alive. Some Sunnis believe that Ali asks for Abu Jahl's daughter in marriage, but the Muhammad does not allow him to marry her because it would upset Fatimah, although this view is rejected by the Shia Muslims and is not considered a strong hadith by many scholars of Sunnah. 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.[24] Ali however did not marry another woman during Fatima's lifetime despite the difference in opinion among some Muslims about his proposal for Abu Jahl's daughter.

    According to Denise L. Soufi, the purpose of the narration -in which Ali asks for Abu Jahl's daughter's hand- is to denigrate Ali or to establish the Sunni orthodoxy that the fourth Khalif, i.e. Ali, is lower in rank than the earlier ones.[25]

    Ali was given the name of Abu Turab (the man of dust) by Muhammad. Although some sources explain this by linking it to the disputes with Fatimah where, instead of arguing with Fatimah, Ali would go and put dust on his head.,[26] other sources such as Ibn Hisham and Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal say this name was given to Ali before marriage.[27]

    According to the Encyclopedia of Islam, Fatimah had occasional disputes with her husband and often sought the intersession of her father who showed signs of great satisfaction upon reconciling the couple's differences. Denise L. Soufi on the other hand finds such tradition as "mere a narrative device to praise Ali". For example she says:

    ((...her complaints about Ali elicit high praise from the Prophet for him. In fact, whenever Fatima has any troubles or worries in her life, it is usually praise for Ali which is used to comfort her.))

    In her view, these traditions are kept for the purpose of the Sunni-Shia debate over the Caliphate, even though they are in contrast with what she describes the Shia picture of the marriage to be "harmonious and divinely ordained".[28]

    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 that:" I never did any act that make Fatimah angry and she never made me angry too"[29]

    Shia acknowledge the saying of Muhammad, "Fatimah is a part of me and whoever offends her offends me", however the context of the reporting in reference to Ali is disputed. "Among the many fabricated stories told against Imam Ali was that he had asked for Abu Jahl's (the chief of infidels) daughter's hand in marriage. When this news reached Fatimah (A), she rushed to her father who found out the falsity of the story."[30]

    Shia say this statement was used by Fatimah herself when she spoke to Abu Bakr and Umar, stating that they had both displeased her.[31]

    On the battlefield

    Following the Battle of Uhud, Fatimah tended to the wounds of her father and husband, and took it upon herself to regularly visit 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.[6]

    Fatimah in the Qur'an

    Some verses in the Qur'an are associated to 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 sura al-Ahzab[32] and the 61st ayah in sura Al-i-Imran.[33][34] 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).[34] 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.[34]

    Muslim exegesis of the Qur'anic verse

    Life after the death of Muhammad

    Caliphate of Abu Bakr

    For the few months that she survived following the death of her father, Fatimah found herself indirectly at the center of political disunity. Differing accounts of the events surrounding the commencement of the caliphate exist which were the cause of the Shia and Sunni split. According to the Sunnis the majority of Muslims at the time of Muhammed's death favoured Abu Bakr as the Caliph while a portion of the population supported Fatimah's husband, Ali.[6]

    Following his selection to the caliphate after a meeting in Saqifah, Abu Bakr and Umar with a few other companions headed to Fatimah's house to obtain homage from Ali and his supporters who had gathered there. Then Umar threatened to set the house on fire unless they came out and swore allegiance with Abu Bakr.[35] There is no consensus among the sources about what happened next.

    According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, some Shia sources say that upon seeing them, Ali came out with his sword drawn but Umar, Abu Bakar and their companions returned without any allegiance on the hand of Abu Bakr. Ali did not accept or reject Abu Bakr's Khilafat and also helped him in solving many state problems.

    According to Denise L. Soufi:

    "...traditions discussing her involvement in the events which took place after the death of the Prophet seem to contain some truth despite their partisan biases. This is due to the fact that the Sunnis were unable to completely suppress what was so obviously detrimental to their reconstruction of religious history: namely, that Fatima quarreled with abu Bakr over his seizure of the caliphate and the Prophet's properties, that she never forgave him for his actions and that her death was kept secret for some time, probably at her request, in order to prevent him from presiding over her funeral rites. What is ironic is that this small window into the character of Fatima has been downplayed or ignored by Sunnis and inflated and overemphasized by Shias..."[36]

    Shia historians hold that Umar called for Ali and his men to come out and swear allegiance to Abu Bakr. When they did not, Umar broke in, resulting in Fatimah's ribs being broken by being pressed between the door and the wall causing her to miscarry Muhsin which led to her eventual death.[37][38] Another Shia version of the events says that Umar sent a force led by his slave-boy Qunfud to Fatimah's house instructing them to bring Ali to the mosque. Arriving at the house, Qunfud requested permission to enter, which was refused by Ali causing Qunfud to return to Abu Bakr and Umar and relate the events, who instructed them to go back and enter the house by force if necessary. Qunfud and his men returned but were this time refused permission by Fatimah which caused Qunfud to send his men back to Abu Bakr and Umar for further instructions who told them to burn the house down if necessary in order to bring Ali to them.[6][37][38]


    Main article: Fadak

    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[39]) 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).[6] Shias contend that Fadak had been gifted to Fatimah by Muhammad and Abu Bakr was wrong in not allowing her to take possession of it.[40]

    Lesley Hazleton describes the events as follows: «Short of actually following through on his threat and killing all of Muhammad's closest family, Omar was left, as he saw it, with only one option. If Ali would not come out, then he, Omar, would have to force his way in. He took a running leap and threw his whole weight against the door[...] Either way, some overture might have been warranted from Abu Bakr, or at least from Omar, but there was none. Indeed there was less than none. To add insult to the injury that had already been done to her, Fatima would now lose the property she considered hers(Fadak).»[41]


    Following 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.[6][7] After Mohammad's subsequent passing, Fatimah was grief-stricken and remained so until she herself died less than six months later, in Ramadhan.[7] Sunnis believe that Fatimah reconciled her differences with Abu Bakr prior to her death, while Shia Muslims believe that her anger with him remained.[6][13]

    Shia and Sunni beliefs about her death diverge widely:

    Sunni scholars say she died as a result of separation from her beloved father. The Sunni scholar Shaykh Muzaffer Ozak al-Jerrahi writes: 'After our Master had honored 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 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 lambs, Hasan and Husain, she would continue weeping: "O my beloved daddy! To whom have you left your Fatima?"

    Six months went by in this fashion till Fatima got so thin that there was nothing left of her but skin and bones."

    Shia maintain that Fatima died as a result of injuries sustained after her house was raided by Umar ibn al-Khattab who set fire to the house and stormed inside. His attack is said to have cracked her rib-cage whilst she was pregnant. According to Shia tradition, Muhammad 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.[42]

    Some sources have 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 3rd Jumada al-Thani 11 AH (632), 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.[43]

    Shia, especially Iranians, hold ceremonies every year for 20 days in Jumada al-awwal and 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.

    The Sunnis state that 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. After her death, Ali followed her wishes and buried her without informing the Medinan people.[7]

    Lesley Hazleton describes Fatimah' death as follows: «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.»[44]


    Fatimah was survived by two sons, Hasan and Husayn, and two daughters, Zaynab and Umm Kulthum.[6] Controversy surrounds the fate of her third son, Muhsin. Shias say that she miscarried following an attack on her house by Abu Bakr and Umar,[45] while Sunnis insist that Muhsin died in his infancy of natural causes.[16]

    Modern descendants of Muhammad trace their lineage exclusively through Fatimah, as she was the only surviving child of Muhammad. Muhammad had no sons who reached adulthood.[46]

    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.[47][48]


    Muslims regard Fatimah as a loving and devoted daughter, mother, wife, a sincere Muslim, and an exemplar for women.[49][50] It is believed that she was very close to her father and her distinction from other women is mentioned in many hadith.[51] 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.[49][52][53] It is because of her moral purity that she occupies an analogous position in Islam to that Mary occupies in Christianity. She was the first wife of Ali, whom Sunnis consider the fourth Rashidun caliph and Shias consider the first infallible Imamah, the mother of the second and third Imams, and the ancestor of all the succeeding Imams; indeed, the Fatimid Caliphate is named after her.[54]

    Shia view

    Main article: Shi'a view of Fatimah

    Fatimah, regarded as "the Mother of the Imams", plays a special role in Shia piety. 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 'Abundance' mentions significance of her birth and recognizes her as the only surviving child of Muhammad.[55] Fatimid Caliphate/ Imamate is based on her name. Fatimid faith continue further in Ismaili/Bohras (refer Tree on right). She is believed to have been immaculate, sinless and a pattern for Muslim women. Although leading a life of poverty, the Shia tradition emphasizes her compassion and sharing of whatever she had with others.[56]

    Shias greatly respect and adore her sublime personality. In fact her character outshines as one of the most brave and courageous personality in Islamic history. Fatimah stood as the lone defender of Muhammad's declaration of Ghadeer. She forwarded her arguments to prove Fadak as her right and undisputed property amongst those who had killed her unborn child Mohsin.[57]

    According to Mahmoud Ayoub, the two main images of Fatimah within the Shia tradition is that of "Eternal Weeper" and "the Judge in the hereafter".[58] According to Shia tradition, the suffering and death of Fatimah was the first tragedy of Islam. She spent her last days mourning at 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. The tears of the faithful is also believed to console Fatimah.[59] 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.[60]

    See also

    Islam portal



    Primary sources

    • (In Arabic)

    Books and journals

    • (In Persian)

    Shia sources

    • The Life of Fatimah
    • Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah
    • Naser Makarem Shirazi
    • Ali Shariati
    • Fatima (S.A) The Gracious by Abu Muhammad Ordoni


    External links

    • Quraish against Fatimah
    • Virtues of Fatimah
    • Fatimah by Jean Calmard, article at Enyclopaedia Iranica
    • Article on Fatima az-Zahra (رضي الله عنها)
    • Lesley Hazleton

    Template:Honoured women in Islam

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