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Fatimah ( ; c. 605 or 615 –632) was a daughter of the Islamic prophet Muhammad from his first wife Khadija. Sheis 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 Meccamarker. After migration to Medinamarker, she married Ali ibn Abi Talib, Muhammad's cousin, and was mother to four of his children. She died a few months after her father, and was buried in Jannat al-Baqi in the city of Medinamarker, 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; second, 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 Khaybarmarker.


Fatima Al-Zahraa / Fatimah bint Muhammad (c. 605–632), the daughter of Muhammad, was born in Meccamarker 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 Qur'anic revelations, during the time of the rebuilding of the Kaabamarker in 605, although this does imply she was over 18 at the time of her marriage which was unusual in Arabia. Shia sources, however, state that she was born either two or five years after the first Qur'anic revelations, but this timeline would imply her mother was over fifty at the time of her birth.

Fatimah is generally placed as the fourth of Muhammad's daughters after Zaynab, Ruqayya, and Umm Kulthum. According to some Shi'a scholars, Fatimah was Muhammad's only daughter.


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. Fatimah bint Muhammad. MSA West Compendium of Muslim Texts. 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.

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: 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 Imam, 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.

According to tradition, on one occasion while Muhammad was performing the salah (prayer) in the Kaaba, 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. On another occasion, she passed by Abu Jahl on the street who slapped her across the face. She went to Abu Sufyan, the leader of the Quraish and complained about Abu Jahl's behaviour. Abu Sufyan brought her to Abu Jahl and instructed her to slap him back which she did. When she narrated this incident to Muhammad, he had expressed satisfaction at Abu Sufyan's sense of justice.

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.


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 ibn Abu Talib, Muhammad's cousin, also had a desire to marry Fatimah but did not have the courage to approach Muhammad due to his poverty. Even when he mustered up the courage and 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 protest which Muhammad took 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. 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 told Ali that he had been ordered by God to give his daughter Fatimah to Ali in marriage. 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. However, Uthman, to whom the shield was sold, returned 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 Medinan community. According to Seyyed Hussein 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 Fatima died. Although polygyny is permitted by Islam, Ali did not marry another woman while Fatimah was alive.


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 say that she miscarried following an attack on her house by Abu Bakr and Umar, while 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. Muhammad had no sons who reached adulthood.

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. 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.

At the beginning they were extremely poor. 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 grin corn where often covered with blisters. 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. Their circumstances were akin to many of the Muslims at the time and only improved following the Battle of Khaybar when the produce of Khaybarmarker was distributed among the poor. When the economic situations of 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 Fatima", a divine formula that was first given to Fatima when she asked her father for a kaneez (servant girl) in order to help her with household chores. Her father (Muhammad) 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 to end every prayer with the Great Exaltation "Allahu Akbar" 34 times, the Statement of Absolute Gratitude "Alhamdu-LilLah" 33 times and the Invocation of Divine Glory "Subhaan Allah" 33 times, totalling 100. This collective prayer is called the Tasbih of Fatima.

Disagreements with Ali

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. 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.

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.

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 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 Quran

Some verses in the Qur'an are associated to Fatimah and her household by classical exegetes, although she is not mentioned by name. Two of the most important verses include and , J. D. McAuliffe states. 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). The second verse refers to an episode in which Muhammad proposed an ordeal of mutual adjuration (mubāhala) to a delegation of Christians. Fatima, 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 , links the praise of Mary, the mother of Jesus, with that of Fatima 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 (the Shia commentaries insists upon the absolute superiority of Fatima).

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. Shias believe that Fatimah wanted her husband Ali to be the new caliphate. However, Sunnis strongly dispute this claim.

Following his election 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. There isn't 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 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.

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. Another 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.

Although historians cannot give a precise description of the actual events, and even though the various views have been mixed with legendary accounts, it was undoubtedly a key motivation for the hatred born by the Shias towards Umar and his supporters.


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 miles 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 sadaqa to be used for charity. (Abu Bakr is the sole narrator of this quotation.) 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). 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.

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.


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. 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. It was reported that Fatimah reconciled her differences with Abu Bakr prior to her death although the majority belief affirms her anger with him until her death.

There are two distinct views on the manner of her death between the Shias and Sunnis. Shias maintain that Fatimah died as a result of injuries sustained after her house was burnt and a door was opened on her whilst she was pregnant. 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.

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.

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..


Shia view

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 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.

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. Ordoni (1990) pp.42-45
  2. See: * Fatimah bint Muhammad. MSA West Compendium of Muslim Texts. *"Fatimah", Encyclopaedia of Islam. Brill Online.
  3. Fadlallah, chapter three
  4. "Fatima", Encyclopedia of Islam. Brill Online.
  5. Parsa, 2006, pp. 8-14
  6. See: * Encyclopaedia Britannica * MSN Encarta article on Fatimah
  7. Ordoni (1990) p.32
  8. Amin. Vol. 4. p.98
  9. Ordoni (1990) p.?
  10. Ordoni (1990) p.117
  11. Tahir-ul-Qadri (2006), pp.19-24
  12. Esposito (1999) p.?
  13. Ghadanfar, p?
  14. Amin. Vol. 4. p.99
  15. M. Mukarram Ahmed, Encyclopaedia of Islam , p.389 ; Ghadanfar, p
  16. Amin. Vol. 4. p.100
  17. Armstrong (1993) p.?
  18. Ashraf (2005), pp.42-43
  19. Ordoni (1990), p.140
  20. Tasbih-e-Fatima
  21. al-Balād̲h̲urī, Ansāb, i, 403; Tirmid̲h̲ī, ii, 319, etc. From "Fatimah", Encyclopaedia of Islam. Brill Online
  22. Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal, Musnad , Cairo 1313, iv, 326; Buk̲h̲ārī, ed. Krehl, ii, 440, etc From "Fatimah", Encyclopaedia of Islam. Brill Online
  23. - Fatimah ['a] The Gracious by Abu Muhammad Ordoni Published by: Ansariyan Publications Qum, The Islamic Republic of Iran
  24. Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, Fatima
  25. Madelung, 1997, p. 43
  26. Imam Malik's Muwatta, Book 41, Number 41.2.13
  27. Amin. Vol. 4. p.101
  30. See: *"Fatimah", Encyclopedia of Islam. Brill Online; *"Fatimah" Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 31 Aug. 2007
  31. Amin. Vol. 4. p.103
  32. John Esposito (1998) , p.112
  33. Ayoub (1978) , p.40, 19
  34. Ayoub (1978), p.45-46
  35. Ayoub (1978), p.19


Books and jourals
  • (In Arabic)
  • (In Persian)


External links

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

Shia sources

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