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Fatimah (c. 605 –632) was a daughter of the Islam Muhammad(pbuh) from his first wife Khadija. She is regarded by Muslims as an exemplar for men and women. She remained at her father's side through the difficulties suffered by him at the hands of the Quraysh of Mecca. After migration to Medina, she married Ali ibn Abi Talib, Muhammad(pbuh) cousin, and was mother to four of his children. She died six months after her father, and was buried in Jannat al-Baqi in the city of Medina, although the exact location of her grave is unknown. Most Shias believe that she was injured when defending Ali against the first Khalifa, and that this incident led to her early death.

She seems to have performed only three acts of political significance, each recorded in almost all sources, both Sunni and Shia, though in different versions. First, after the Conquest of Mecca she refused her protection to Abu Sufyan; after the death of the Prophet she defended Ali's cause, 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.


Fatima Al-Zahraa / Fatimah bint Muhammad (c. 605–632), the daughter of Muhammad(pbuh), was born in Mecca to Khadija, the first wife of Muhammad9pbuh). 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 Qur'anic 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.


Arabic calligraphy reading Fatimah az-Zahra.

Fatimah is given many titles by Muslims to show their admiration of her moral and physical characteristics. The most used title is "az-Zahra" (meaning "the shining one") and she is commonly referred to as Fatimah Zahra. She was also known as Umm-ul-Abeeha (Mother of her Father) and "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. 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: Sayyedih) 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 Christianity. She was the only wife of Ali, who was the fourth Caliph and whom Shias consider the first infallible Imamah (Shia doctrine), the mother of the second and third Imams, and the ancestor of all the succeeding Imams; indeed, the Fatimid dynasty is named after her.

Early life

Following the birth of Fatimah, she was personally nursed by her mother contrary to local customs where the newborn were sent to "wet nurses" in 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.

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.

The actual date of the marriage is unclear, but it most likely took place in 623, the second year of the migration, although some sources say it was in 622. Fatimah is reported to have been between the ages of 9 and 19 at the time of her marriage while Ali was between 21 and 25. Muhammad said to Fatima: "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. Muhammad himself performed the wedding ceremony and his wife, Umm Salama, prepared the wedding feast with dates, figs, sheep and other food donated by various members of the Medinan community.

Fatimah's descendants are given the honorific titles sharif (meaning noble), sayyid (meaning lord or sir) and respected by both Sunni and Shi'a, though the Shi'as place much more emphasis and value on the distinction.

Life before the death of Muhammad


After her marriage to Ali, the wedded couple led a life of abject poverty in contrast to her sisters who were all married to wealthy individuals. Fatima 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 peoples lands by drawing water from the wells which caused him to complain of chest pains.

Disagreements with Ali

Many Muslims do not regard these disagreements as true due to the fact that they go against the known personalitites of Ali and Fatimah. The hadith found in Sahih Bukhari makes the Prophet himself appear as a hypocrite as he forbids Ali to marry a second woman while he has many wives and says that his daughter cannot be with 'the daughter of the enemy of Allah' (Abu Jahl) the woman Ali was supposedly intending to marry, whilst he is married to the daughter of Abu Sufyan, his arch enemy so an enemy of Allah, however all Muslims regard the Prophet as the perfect human and he could not act like this especially since it was going against the Qur'an where a man is allowed up to four wives . Also Ali was known to be very devoted to Fatimah and loved her very much and would never hurt her or cause her to be angry. On top of this he was a very devoted companion of the Prophet and he would never do anything without his pleasure and consent, not now go against his back and arrange an engagement to someone else, this goes against logic and very much goes against the devoted character of Ali towards the Prophet and Fatimah. Ali said, after the death of Fatimah, "By Allah. I never angered Fatimah, or forced her to do something (she did not like) up to the day she died, nor did she ever anger or disobey me. In fact, when I looked at her, depression and sadness would be removed from my heart." This saying is accepted by both Sunnis and Shias. Ali and Fatimah are regarded by all Muslims as the perfect couple who had an ideal and very happy and harmonious marriage, which was blessed by Allah and the Prophet. Ali was very much agrieved by the death of his beloved wife Fatimah, and wrote lots of poetry eulogizing her. Many sayings were said by Ali after the death of Fatimah, where he speaks about her great personality and what a perfect wife she was to him.

According to the Encyclopedia of Islam, Fatimah had occasional disputes with her husband and often sought the intercedence of her father who showed signs of great satisfaction upon reconciling the couples differences. On one occasion, a member of the house of Hisham ibn al-Mughirah proposed that Ali marry a woman from their clan. Ali did not immediately reject the proposal and when word reached Muhammad he is reported to have said, "Fatima is a part of me and whoever offends her offends me."

Muhammad re-iterated his affection for Fatimah when he was made aware that Ali had proposed to a daughter of Abu Jahl. From the pulpit Muhammad pronounced, "she is indeed a part of me" and that Ali would have to first divorce Fatimah before the marriage could go ahead. This too goes against the Qur'an as divorce is the worst halal thing a Muslim can do, so the Prophet would never say his daughter should be divorced. Ali was given the name of Abu Turab (the man of dust) by Muhammad. One of the explanations for this is linked to the disputes with Fatimah where, instead of arguing with Fatimah, Ali would go and put dust on his head. This cannot be true as Abu Turab was Ali's favourite name, and it is unreasonable to think he would choose as his favourite name, the name the Prophet called him when he and Fatimah had disagreements.

This hadith is very contraversial as it goes against the very teachings of the Qur'an and the known character of the Prophet, Ali and Fatimah, who would never go against the Qur'an or cause the displeasure of Allah. Therefore many muslims reject it completely especially since it was narrated by a six year old and no one else ever narrated it or mentioned it, even though Ali had many enemies and they could have used this against him if it was true. However some muslims find it difficult to reject it since it is found in Bukhari, a book only second to the Qur'an for Sunnis, however it is known that the only thing that has never been altered or fabricated and is all true is the Qur'an.

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."

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

The following is a debate among a shia scholar and a sunnie scholar about "allegation about Ali's intending to marry Abu Jahl's daughter", as quoated in the book Peshwar Nights:

Sheikh: These hadith are correct, but it is also reported about Ali that, when he intended to marry Abu Jahl's daughter, the Prophet of Allah became angry with him and said: "Whoever grieves Fatima grieves me, and whoever grieves me is the accursed one of Allah."

Well-Wisher: We should accept or reject things using common sense and wisdom. Allah says in the Holy Qur'an: "Therefore give good news to my servants, those who listen to the word, then follow the best of it; those are they whom Allah has guided, and those it is who are the men of understanding." (39:19)

A report was narrated by your elders. Today you support their words without assessing their merits. I am obliged to give you a brief reply. First, your own ulema have acknowledged the fact that Ali was included in the "Verse of Purity" and was perfectly pure. Second, in the verse of Mubahala, Allah has called him the "self" of the Holy Prophet, as we have already discussed on previous nights. We have shown that he was also the "gate of the knowledge of the Holy Prophet of Allah" and was fully aware of Qur'anic injunctions and ordinances. He knew that Allah said in the chapter of Ahzab (the clans) of the Holy Qur'an: "And it does not behoove you that you should give trouble to the Messenger of Allah." (33:53)

Since this is true, how could Ali do or say anything that would annoy the Holy Prophet? And how can one imagine that the embodiment of virtue i.e., the Holy Prophet, would be displeased with that exalted personality who was loved by Allah? And would he be displeased for an act permitted by Allah, as He says in the Holy Qur'an: "then marry such women who seem good to you, two, or three, or four"? (4:3)

This order of nika (marriage) is of general significance and is meant for the whole community as well as for the prophets and vicegerents. And if we suppose that Amiru'l-Mu'minin had any such intention, it was permitted for him. The Holy Prophet of Allah could not resent any permissible act, nor did he use such words. Every sensible man, after careful consideration, would know that this report is one of the forged reports of the Bani Umayya. Your own eminent scholars admit this fact.

Ibn Abi'l-Hadid Mu'tazali quotes a report from his leader and teacher, Abu Ja'far Iskafi Baghdadi, in his Sharh-e-Nahju'l- Balagha, vol. I, p. 358, that Mu'awiya Bin Abu Sufyan had formed a group of companions and the 'tabi'in' (the 'second' generation which immediately followed the Prophet) for the purpose of forging hadith in condemnation of Ali. Their purpose was to make him a target of reproach so that the people would keep aloof from him. Among them were Abu Huraira, Amr Bin As, Mughira Bin Shaiba, Urwa Bin Zubair, one of the tabi'in was also with them. Abu Ja'far Iskaf has also referred to some of their fabricated hadith. Speaking about Abu Huraira, he says that he was the man who narrated a hadith purporting to show that Ali sought to take Abu Jahl's daughter in marriage during the time of the Holy Prophet. This made the Holy Prophet angry, and he said from the pulpit, "A friend of Allah and an enemy of Allah cannot be together. Fatima is a part of my body. He who grieves her grieves me. He who wants to marry Abu Jahl's daughter should seek separation from my daughter."

After this, Abu Ja'far says that this hadith is known as the hadith of Karabisi', since every baseless hadith is called 'karabisi' (literally 'a clothes-seller'). Ibn Abi'l-Hadid says that this hadith is reported in the two Sahihs of Bukhari and Muslim from Miswar Bin Makhrama az-Zahr. And Seyyed Murtaza Alamu'l-Huda, who was one of the greatest ulema of the Shias, says in his book Tanzia'u'l-Anbia wa'l-A'imma that this report was narrated by Husain Karabisi, who is known for his extreme opposition to the holy ahle bait. He belonged to the Nawasib and was one of the bitterest enemies of this exalted family. His report is not acceptable. According to hadith recorded in your own authentic books, Ali's enemy is a munafiq (hypocrite). The munafiq, according to the Holy Qur'an, is an infernal being. Therefore his report is without merit.

Besides this, the hadith condemning people who caused annoyance to Fatima, are not confined to Karabisi's statement or the forged report by Abu Huraira about Abu Jahl's daughter. There are many other hadith on this topic. Among them is one reported by Parsa of Bukhara in his Faslu'l-Khitab; one by Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal in Musnad and by Mir Seyyed Ali Hamadani Shafi'i in Mawadda XIII of Mawaddatu'l-Qurba, on the authority of Salman Muhammadi, that the Holy Prophet said: "Fatima's love is useful to us in a hundred places, the easiest of them being Death, the Grave, the Mizan (the Balance), Sirat (the bridge) and the Questioning. So, if my daughter, Fatima, is pleased with somebody, I am also pleased with him. If I am pleased with somebody, Allah is also pleased with him. If my daughter, Fatima, is displeased with somebody, I am also displeased with him. If I am displeased with him, Allah is also displeased with him. Woe be to him who oppresses Fatima and her husband. Woe be to him who oppresses Ali and Fatima and their Shias."

In 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 Hudaybiyya. 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. In the first verse, the phrase "people of the house" (ahl al-bayt) is ordinarily understood to consist of Muhammad, Fatima, her husband Ali and their two sons (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). There isn't consensus among the sources about what happened next.

Shia sources say upon seeing them, Ali came out with his sword drawn but was disarmed by Umar and their companions. Fatimah, in support of her husband, started a commotion and threatened to "uncover her hair", at which Abu Bakr relented and withdrew.) 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 sadaqa to be used for charity. Fatimah was upset at this flat refusal by Abu Bakr and did not speak to him until her death ( some Sunni sources claim she had reconciled her differences with Abu Bakr before she died).

Narration by Aisha as stated in Sahih Bukhari (Volume 4, Book 53, Number 325).

stating that Narrated 'Aisha: (mother of the believers) After the death of Allah 's Apostle Fatima the daughter of Allah's Apostle asked Abu Bakr As-Siddiq to give her, her share of inheritance from what Allah's Apostle had left of the Fai (i.e. booty gained without fighting) which Allah had given him. Abu Bakr said to her, "Allah's Apostle said, 'Our property will not be inherited, whatever we (i.e. prophets) leave is Sadaqa (to be used for charity)." Fatima, the daughter of Allah's Apostle got angry and stopped speaking to Abu Bakr, and continued assuming that attitude till she died. Fatima remained alive for six months after the death of Allah's Apostle.


Main article: Umar at Fatimah's house

Following the farewell pilgrimage, Muhammad summoned Fatimah and informed her that he would be passing away soon but also informed her that she would be the first of his household to join him.[1][2] Some days after this discussion, Muhammad died, following which Fatimah was grief stricken and remained so for the remainder of her life until she died less than five months later, in the month of Ramadhan.[1] A few sources report that Fatimah reconciled her differences with Abu Bakr prior to her death, although the majority belief affirms her anger with him until her death,[3] and maintains that Fatimah was buried in secret at her request, to prevent Abu Bakr and Umar whom she considered to be her father's true enemies from attending the funeral[4]. (see Fadak and Shi'a view of Abu Bakr)

There are two distinct views on the manner of her death between the Shias and Sunnis. Shias maintain, using Sunni sources, that Fatimah died after Umar had led a party of armed men against Ali's house in Medina and called for Ali and his men to come out and swear allegiance to Abu Bakr, who they had decided would take power in the meeting at Saqifah. Umar and Khalid ibn Walid threatened to burn the house down if they did not submit[5][6][7][8][9][10]. They broke in, resulting in Fatimah's ribs being broken between the broken door and the wall, and she miscarrying an unborn son named Muhsin[11]. According to Mas'udi, they dragged Ali out of the house and pressed Fatima between the door and the wall so forcefully that Muhsin, her unborn son, died of miscarriage[12]. According to some sources, Umar ordered the beating of Fatimah[13][14][15][16], some saying Umar personally kicked Fatimah in the stomach, causing her miscarriage[17][18][19]. Muhammad appeared in a dream and informed Fatimah that she would be passing away the next day. Fatimah informed her husband Ali and asked him not to allow those who had done injustice to her, to be involved in her janazah (prayer performed in congregation after the death of a Muslim) or take part in the burial.[20]

The next day when she died, her two sons were the first family members to learn of her death and immediately proceeded to the mosque to inform their father who, upon hearing the news, fell unconscious. When he regained consciousness, Ali, according to Fatimah's wishes, performed the janazah and buried her during the night on 3rd Jumada al-thani 11 AH (632) making out three other false graves to ensure her real grave could not be identified. With him were his family and a few of his close companions.[21]

The Sunnis, however, 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.[1]


Shia view

Fatimah, regarded as "the Mother of the Imams and all believers", 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 Hassan and Husain. 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.[22]

According to Mahmoud Ayoub, the two main images of Fatima within the Shia tradition is that of "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 at the death of her father. Fatimah eternally weeps at the death of her two sons, who were murdered by the Ummayads. Shias believe they share in Fatimah's suffering by weeping for her sorrows. The tears of the faithful is also believed to 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.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named USC-MSA-BIO
  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named EoI
  3. See:
    • "Fatimah", Encyclopedia of Islam. Brill Online;
    • "Fatimah" Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 31 Aug. 2007
  4. Sahih Bukhari 5:53:325
  5. Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, History of the Prophets and Kings, vol. 1, p.1118-1120
  6. al-Tabari, History of the Prophets and Kings, vol. 9, p.186-187
  7. Ali ibn al-Athir, The Complete History, vol. 2, p.325
  8. Yusuf ibn Abd-al-Barr, Al-Isti'ab, vol. 3, p.375
  9. Ibn Qutaybah, Al-Imama wa al-Siyasa, vol. 1, p.19-20
  10. al-Baladhuri, Genealogies of the Nobles, p.252
  11. Ibn Abu al-Hadid Sharh Nahju'l-Balagha, vol. 3, p. 351 text
  12. al-Mas'udi, Ithbat ul-wasiyyah p.123
  13. Ibn Hanbal, Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal vol. 3, p. 259
  14. Ibn Abed Rabboh, Al-Aqd ul-fareed, vol. 13, p. 5
  15. al-Mas'udi, Ithbat ul-wasiyya p. 123
  16. Ibn Qutaybah, Al-Imama wa al-Siyasa vol. 1, p. 19-20
  17. Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Lisan al-Mizan vol. 1, p. 268
  18. Salahuddin Khalil al-Safadi, Al-Wafi bil-Wafiyyat, vol. 5, p. 347
  19. al-Shahrastani, Al-Milal wa al-Nihal vol. 1, p. 57
  20. Ordoni (1990) p.?
  21. Amin. Vol. 4. p.103
  22. John Esposito (1998) , p.112

External links

  • Fatimah, article at Enyclopaedia Britannica Online
  • Fatimah by Jean Calmard, article at Enyclopaedia Iranica

Shia sources