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Fatimah

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Fatimah al-Zahra
فَاطِمَة ٱلزَّهْرَاء
Fatimah Arabic Calligraphy.svg
Fatimah's name in Islamic calligraphy
Born15 BH
(605 CE)[1][2][3][4][5][6]
Died3 Jumada al-Thani
11 AH
((632-08-18)18 August 632)[4][6]
(disputed)
Resting placeBurial place of Fatimah, Medina, Hejaz
Title
  • al-Ṣiddīqah[7] (The Truthful Woman)
  • al-Mubārakah[7] (The Blessed Woman)
  • al-Ṭāhirah[7] (The Pure Woman)
  • al-Zakīyah[7] (The Chaste/Innocent Woman)
  • al-Raḍīyah[7] (The Content Woman)
  • al-Muḥaddathah[7] (The One Spoken to by Angels)
  • al-Batūl[7] (The Chaste/The Pure)
  • al-Zahrāʾ[7] (The Splendid One/The Lady of Light)
  • Sayyidah Nisa al-Alamin[8] (Master of the Women of the Worlds)
Spouse(s)Ali
Children
Parent(s)
Relatives

Fatimah bint Muhammad (Arabic: فَاطِمَة ٱبْنَت مُحَمَّد‎, romanizedFāṭimah bint Muḥammad, IPA: [ˈfaːtˤima b.nat muˈħammad]; 605 CE/15 BH – died 28 August 632[4][5][6] [disputed]), commonly known as Fatimah al-Zahra (فَاطِمَة ٱلزَّهْرَاء Fāṭimah al-Zahrāʾ), was the daughter of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and Khadijah. According to Sunni Muslims, Fatimah was the youngest of their daughters; according to Shia Muslims, she was their only biological child who lived to adulthood.[10][11][12][13] Fatimah's husband was Ali, the fourth of the rightly guided caliphs and the first Shia imam, and her children include Hasan and Husayn, the second and third Shia imams, respectively.[10][12][14]

Fatimah is a significant character in early Islam, considered by both Sunni and Shia as the purest woman of all time and the dearest person to Muhammad.[15][16][17][18][19] It is through Fatimah that Muhammad's family line has survived and her name remains a popular choice for girls throughout the Muslim world.[20]

However, controversy surrounds Fatimah's sudden death shortly after Muhammad's demise.[21] Sunni Islam holds that Fatimah died from grief.[22] According to Shia Islam, her miscarriage and death were the direct result of the injuries that she suffered during a raid on her house, which was ordered by the new caliph, Abu Bakr, to cement his authority.[23] Fatimah and her husband, Ali, had refused to acknowledge Abu Bakr's authority[21][24][25] and held that Muhammad had appointed Ali as his successor in the Ghadir Khumm event.

Sunni and Shia agree that Fatimah's dying wish was that Abu Bakr should not attend her funeral.[26][27] She was buried under the cover of darkness and her exact burial place remains unknown to this day.[28][29][30][31][32][33][34]

Titles

Fatimah has several titles and kuniyas that often signify her moral character, mostly collected by Shia sources. The most commonly used title is al-Zahra, meaning "the one that shines" in reference to how she shined on Earth for the dwellers of skies as she prayed.[35] Al-Ṣiddīqah is another title, which can be translated as one who never lies.[36] The title al-Ṭāhirah refers to the purification verse in the Quran that removed any sin and wrongdoing from Muhammad's household.[36][37] She is also known as al-Muḥaddithah because angels spoke to Fatimah on several occasions, similar to Mary, mother of Jesus.[38][39] In multiple hadiths in Shia sources, the name Fatimah signifies that she will save from hellfire those who followed her example in life.[40] Some of her kunyas are

  • Umm Abihā, which translates to mother of her father, Muhammad, whom she lovingly cared for in times of hardships and wars,[41][42][43]
  • Umm al-Ḥasanayn, which means the mother of the second and third Shia imams, namely, Hasan and Husayn,[43]
  • Umm al-Āʾimah, which means the mother (and ansector) of all Shia imams.[43]

Birth

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,[14] during the time of the rebuilding of the Kaaba in 605,[1][2][3] although this does imply she was over 18 at the time of her marriage, which was unusual in Arabia.[10] Twelver Shia sources, however, state that she was born either two or five years after the first Qur'anic revelations,[11] but that timeline would imply her mother was over fifty at the time of her birth, according to Sunni sources.[10]

According to Sunni authors like Al-Tabari and Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, she was born when Muhammad was thirty-five years old.[44][45]

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 reason given by the Shia scholars for this belief is the hadith on the event of Mubahalah (referenced to in the Quran (3:61)), in which there is no reference to the presence of any other female apart from Fatimah.[46]

Early life

Fatimah grew up in Mecca while her father, Muhammad, and his few followers suffered the ill-treatment of disbelievers.[47][48][10] In one instance, she rushed to help Muhammad when disbelievers poured rubbish on him by Abu Jahl's orders.[47] Fatimah lost her mother, Khadija, in childhood.[47] To console Fatimah after her mother's death, Gabriel informed Muhammad that God had built a palace in paradise for Khadija.[49][10]

Marriage

Many of Muhammad's companions asked for Fatimah's hand in marriage, including Abu Bakr and Omar. Muhammad turned them all down, saying that he was awaiting a divine sign for her destiny.[50] When Muhammad's cousin, Ali, visited Muhammad, modesty prevented him from vocalizing his intention to marry Fatimah. When Ali finally disclosed his intention on his third visit, Muhammad suggested to Ali to sell his shield to pay the bridal gift or mahr.[51][50] Muhammad put forward Ali's proposal to Fatimah, who remained silent. Muhammad took this to be a sign of consent.[10] In response to complaints from some of his companions, Muhammad replied that Fatimah's marriage was arranged by divine will.[52] Muhammad also told Fatimah that, "I have married you to the dearest of my family to me."[53][54]

The marriage took place in the year 1 or 2 AH although its precise date is unclear.[55][56][57] Fatimah's age was between 9 to 18 at the time of her marriage while Ali's age was between 21 and 25.[58][59][60] It is worth noting that early marriage (after the puberty age) was valued and widely practiced in that era, as a means to encourage chastity.[61] Muhammad himself performed the wedding ceremony and they prepared the wedding feast with dates, figs, sheep and other donation by various members of the Madinan community.[62][63] Ali had built a house not too far from Muhammad's residence where he lived with Fatimah. However, later a Medinan donated his own house to them so that Fatimah would be closer to her father.[64]

According to Hossein Nasr, their marriage holds a special spiritual significance for all Muslims because it is seen as the marriage between the greatest saintly figures surrounding Muhammad.[65] Their marriage lasted about ten years and ended with Fatimah's death. Although polygamy is permitted in Islam, Ali did not marry any other woman while Fatimah was alive.[66][65]

Life before Muhammad's death

Married life

After Fatimah's marriage to Ali, the couple led a humble life. Muhammad divided the chores between Ali and Fatimah. Ali was responsible for outside work, where he remained fully at Muhammad's service to support Islam but also labored on farmlands whenever possible.[67] Fatimah was responsible for inside the house, even though Ali and Muhammad both regularly helped her with the house chores.[68][69][70][71] Nevertheless, like most Muslims, they endured dire financial hardships in the early years of Islam. A reference to their simple life comes from the Tasbih of Fatimah, which consists of "God is the greatest" and "Praise be to God" and "Glory be to God." Reportedly, when Fatimah was overwhelmed by the difficultly of chores and care for her four young children, Muhammad taught her this tasbih because they could not afford a maid. Their circumstances only improved following the Battle of Khaybar when the bounty was distributed among the poor.[72] Later on, Fatimah had a maid, Fidda, and they divided the chores equally.[73]

The location of Fatimah's house in Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina, present-day Saudi Arabia

Fatimah is believed to have had a happy marital life, which continued until her death in 11 AH. Reflecting on his marriage with Fatimah, Ali is recorded to have said that "I never angered or upset Fatimah, and she never angered or opposed me either. Whenever I was overcome with sadness or grief, looking at Fatimah eased my pains."[74] There is also a consensus that Muhammad, Fatimah's father, always held Ali in high esteem. For example, Muhammad is recorded to have said to Ali that "you are unto me as Aaron was to Moses."[75] Both Ali and Fatimah are also addressed in the Verse of Purification in Islam's holy book, Quran, as cleansed by God and free from any wrongdoing.

Against this backdrop, Mosvar Bin Mokhrameh, who must have been six years old or younger at the time of Muhammad's death,[76] later claimed that Muhammad had been publicly furious with Ali over an alleged attempt to marry Abu Jahl's daughter as his second wife.[77] Mosvar, at the time a minor, is the sole narrator of that public feud. Both the alleged public feud and the alleged marriage proposal go against the strong records of exceedingly amicable relationship between Ali, on the one hand, and Muhammad and his daughter, on the other hand.[78] Very likely, the narrator, whose hatred for Ali is well-documented,[79][80] might have had political motives for fabricating this story. Indeed, 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." In any case, Ali never married another woman in Fatimah's lifetime.

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.[10]

Life after Muhammad's death

Inheritance

Fadak was a fertile tract of land which is now part of Saudi Arabia. Situated approximately 140 km (87 mi) from Medina, Fadak was known for its water wells, dates, and handicrafts.[81][82] After their belligerent allies in Khaybar were defeated by Muslims in 7 AH, the inhabitants of Fadak pleaded for a peace treaty in exchange for giving away half of their annual revenue to Muslims.[83][84] Because the takeover of Fadak had been peaceful, this revenue belonged to Prophet, in line with the teachings of the Quran.[85][86] Aside from a small amount to support his meager lifestyle, Muhammad used all of this considerable revenue to help the poor. Shia and some Sunni sources have recorded that Muhammad later gifted his share of Fadak to his daughter, Fatimah.[66][87][88] Nevertheless, nearly all of the revenue continued to be spent on charity until Muhammad's death.[89][90][91] It is worth noting that Muhammad also worked on farmlands to provide for his family and encouraged Muslims to be self-sufficient.[92]

Following Muhammad's death and shortly after assuming power, Abu Bakr seized Fadak from Fatimah.[93] When confronted by Fatimah, Abu Bakr claimed that prophets do not leave inheritance and what they leave should be spent on charity, which he attributed to Muhammad.[94] This statement is highly contested, and Shia unanimously considers it to be fabricated, citing several contradictions of this statement with the Quran.[95] Indeed, Quran gives every Muslim the right to inherit from their parents.[96][97] Quran also says that Solomon inherited from David.[98] Both Solomon and David are venerated as prophets in Quran.[99] In particular, the Sunni and Shia view is that this Quran verse does not exclude material inheritance, e.g., kingdom or wealth.[100][101] Abu Bakr's claim excludes material inheritance and contradicts this verse of the Quran. Similarly, John inherited from Zechariah in the Quran.[102] John prays in this verse of the Quran for a son who would inherit him and please God. Here, if John had exclusively meant Zechariah to become a prophet, it would had been redundant to wish a prophet to be pleasant to God. This verse too does not exclude material inheritance and thus contradicts Abu Bakr's claim.[103] Ibn Hajar al-Haytami also admits that Abu Bakr was the sole witness to the inheritance hadith.[104]

Responding to Fatimah's objection that Fadak was, in fact, a gift from her father, Abu Bakr required Fatimah to present her witnesses.[105] Ali later pointed out that the burden of proof fell upon Abu Bakr by Islamic laws. Ali also reminded Abu Bakr of Fatimah's exalted position in Quran's purification verse, high above any sin or wrongdoing.[106][107] Nevertheless, Ali too failed to convince Abu Bakr to return Fadak to Fatimah. Lastly, Omar's claim that Fadak is a communal property of Muslims is at odds with the fact that Abu Bakr made a gift from his share to his daughter, Aisha.[108][109][110]

In protest, accompanied by a group of relatives, Fatimah delivered a speech at Masjid an-Nabawi.[111][112] This speech, which has become known as the Fadak sermon, is considered among the most eloquent in the early Islamic era.[113] The Fadak sermon appears in a number of Sunni and Shia sources, as summarized by Majlesi.[114] Sharh al-nohaj and Balaghat al-nisa are among the Sunni references that have recorded the Fadak sermon in detail.[115][113]

Discussion

After these events, Fatimah remained angry with Abu Bakr and Omar until her death, a few months after the Fadak sermon. According to Sunni sources, Fatimah never spoke again with the two, neither did she pledged her allegiance to the new caliph, Abu Bakr.[93] Both Shia and Sunni agree on Muhammad's words that "any Muslim who dies without a caliph has died a pre-Islamic death."[116] It is difficult to reconcile these words with numerous narrations from Muhammad that elevate Fatimah to be on par with Mary, mother of Jesus.[117] It is also difficult to believe that Fatimah considered anyone other than Ali as the rightful successor and caliph to Muhammad. Shia cites this argument to reject the legitimacy of Abu Bakr's rule, which Shia considers to be a power grab from Ali. Shia holds that Ali was appointed successor by Muhammad in the Ghadir Khumm event.

The purification verse in the Quran reads: "Indeed Allah desires to repel all impurity from only you, O people of the [Prophet's] household, and purify you with a thorough purification." Shia and the majority of Sunni scholars consider Fatimah as a member of Muhammad's household.[118][119] In view of this verse, Shia argues that Fatimah would have never claimed Fadak unless it belonged to her. Shia also holds that the political intention behind the takeover of Fadak was to deprive Prophet's family of their financial resources and to force them into submission. This chain of events culminated with Omar's raid on Fatimah's house.

In the patriarchal society of her time, Fatimah's actions in standing up for what she believed to be right were exceptionally courageous:

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".[120]

Attack on her house

In the immediate aftermath of Muhammad's death, a gathering of the Ansar (natives of Medina) took place at Saqifah.[121] The purpose of the meeting might have been for the Ansar to decide on a new leader of the Muslim community from among themselves, with the intentional exclusion of the Muhajirun (migrants from Mecca).[122] Nevertheless, Abu Bakr and Omar, both prominent companions of Muhammad, hastened there when they learned about the meeting. After a heated debate, Abu Bakr was elected by those gathered as the new head of the Muslim community.[123]

The Saqifah event excluded Muhammad's family, who were preparing to bury him,[124][125] and most of Muhajirun.[126][127][128] To protest this election, Muhammad's extended family (Banu Hashim) and several of his close companions gathered at his daughter's house.[129] The protesters, including Fatimah, held that Muhammad had previously announced Ali as his successor in the Ghadir Khumm event. Key figures such as Abbas and Zubayr were among the protestors.[130]

Abu Bakr responded to this protest with a heavy hand: He sent Omar with orders to use force if necessary.[130] Omar was recorded threatening to set Fatimah's house on fire, even after being told that Muhammad's daughter was inside the house. Eventually, to avoid a violent escalation, the protesters dispersed at Fatimah's request.[130][131][132] However, Fatimah and her husband, Ali, continued to resist Abu Bakr's pressure to acknowledge his authority; this conflict did not end with Omar's first attempt.[21][133]

Omar's final attempt to subdue Ali and Fatimah, and the subsequent events that soon after led to Fatimah's death, form the backbone of Shia's identity but are considered the red line of Sunni Islam. Accordingly, Shia claims that centuries of censorship has distorted and erased any evidence for these events from mainstream Sunni sources. In one reference, for example, the author chastises another Sunni scholar for not saving face for Muhammad's companions in his writings.[134] In another, the author reminds Sunni scholars to suppress any reports of conflicts among Muhammad's companions.[135] In yet another reference, the author begins with high praise for a fellow author but ends with labelling him a "wobbly old and misguided man" because he had recounted the claims about the violent raid on Fatimah's house.[136] Or, after comparing two references, we can see that Omar's threat to set Fatimah's house on fire has been deliberately removed from the former.[137][138]

With a few marginalized exceptions,[139][140][141][142][143] most records about those events are found in Shia sources, the earliest of which possibly dates back to the first century AH. Shia collectively believes that Fatimah, pregnant at the time, suffered multiple injuries during Omar's raid on her house. These injuries directly caused her miscarriage and death shortly after.[144][145][146][147][148] The mainstream Sunni view is that Fatimah died from grief, following the death of her father, Muhammad.[22]

Among various slightly different versions in Shia records, here we summarize Fatimah's own account of what happened.[149] When Omar and his aides arrived to take Ali away by force, Fatimah firmly refused to open the door. Instead, from behind the door, she repeatedly implored Omar to leave them alone and reminded them of the sanctity of her home in the Quran.[150][151][152] Unfortunately, the confrontation escalated rapidly: An enraged Omar kicked the door open, pinning Fatimah behind the door, which was aflame by now. When Fatimah continued to resist the intruders, Omar physically assaulted her with his sheathed sword and (or) a whip. Some accounts have that, at this point, Ali managed to intercept Omar before being overpowered by Omar's aides.[153]

Discussion

To see why Fatimah personally intervened, Shia points that Muslims deeply revered Prophet's daughter. In Muhammad's own words, "Fatimah is part of me, and whoever angers her has angered me."[154] In view of this, it is plausible that she saw her intervention as a last resort to both support her husband, Ali, and defuse their conflict with Abu Bakr. It is also likely that Fatimah did not expect Omar to enter the house without permission. In particular, two verses of Quran speak of the sanctity of houses associated with Muhammad's family.[155][156][157] Another verse clearly forbids all Muslims from entering a stranger's house without permission.[158]

It is worth noting that Sunni and Shia agree that Fatimah had a son named Mohsin.[159] Sunnis, however, believe that Mohsin died in childhood rather than in miscarriage.[160][161] We note that Mohsin's death in miscarriage also appears in a number of Sunni sources, but the narrators are labeled as Shia sympathisers and discredited.[136][162][163]

A related Sunni record is that Abu Bakr, on his deathbed, regretted ordering to break into Fatimah's house.[164] This appears to be a sensitive admission: When listing Abu Bakr's regrets in his own book, Abu Ubaid has removed any mention of Fatimah.[165] Shia argues that the allegations against Omar are also not out of character: Omar has a long history of violence against women in Sunni records, both before and after converting to Islam.[166][167][168][169] He was so feared that a woman miscarried merely by finding out that Omar had summoned her, in one instance during his time as caliph.[170]

According to credible Sunni sources, Fatimah never spoke again to Abu Bakr and Omar, and never pledged her allegiance to the new caliph, Abu Bakr.[21] Shia records are different here: When Abu Bakr and Omar finally visited Fatimah on her deathbed, she turned away and reminded them of Prophet's words "...whoever angers Fatimah has angered me".[154] Then Fatimah told Abu Bakr and Omar that they have angered her and that she would take this complaint to Muhammad.[171] Similar accounts also exist in marginalized Sunni sources.[172] It is worth noting that Quran paints a terrifying prospect for those who anger God's prophet.[173]

As a side note, both Shia and Sunni agree on Muhammad's words that "any Muslim who dies without a caliph has died a pre-Islamic death."[174] It is difficult to reconcile these words with numerous narrations from Muhammad that elevate Fatimah to be on par with Mary, mother of Jesus.[175] It is also difficult to believe that Fatimah considered anyone other than Ali as the rightful successor and caliph to Muhammad. Shia cites this argument to reject the legitimacy of Abu Bakr's rule, which Shia considers to be a power grab from Ali. According to Shia Islam, Ali was appointed successor by Muhammad in the event of Ghadir Khumm.

The Sunni view is that Ali eventually reconciled with Abu Bakr.[21] About their relationship, Sahih Muslim has that Ali regarded Abu Bakr as a liar, a sinner, and a traitor.[176] Shia, on the other hand, believes that Ali never pledged his allegiance to Abu Bakr, at least willingly.[177] Many years later, in his famous Shaqshaqiya sermon, Ali said about Abu Bakr and Omar that "I patiently waited [through their reign], while [the pain was like having a] thorn in my eyes and suffocating. I watched them plunder my inheritance..."[178] Shaqshaqiya sermon is part of Nahj al-Balagha, a book that collects Ali's sermons and is often considered a Shia source. One notable exception is the commentary written by the Sunni scholar Ibn Abi l-Hadid.[179]

Lastly, the Sunni view is that Fatimah died from grief, following the death of her father, Muhammad.[22][180] Sufi scholar Muzaffer Ozak writes:[181]

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.

Shia, however, holds that Fatimah died from the injuries she suffered during Omar's raid.[182] Sunni and Shia agree that Fatimah's dying wish was that Abu Bakr and Omar should not attend her funeral; Ali buried Fatemah secretly and under the cloak of darkness to fulfill her last wish.[183][184] Her exact burial place remains unknown to this day. To paraphrase Shia scholar Motahhari: Often villains rewrite the history to pose as saints, and Fatimah foresaw this threat when she asked to be buried in secret. As a result, this question has loomed large ever since: Fatimah was Prophet's daughter and extremely dear to him. Why was she buried secretly? Why do we not know where her grave is?[185]

Death

Fatimah died in 11 AH, only a few months after Muhammad's demise.[186] She was 18 or 29 years old at that time according to Shia and Sunni sources, respectively.[187][188] The exact date of her death is uncertain in Sunni sources but the prevailing Shia view is that Fatimah passed away on the third of Jumada II.[189] Sunni Islam holds that Fatimah died from grief, following Muhammad's death.[190][191] Sufi scholar Muzaffer Ozak writes:

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.[192]

Shia Islam, however, holds that Fatimah died from the injuries she suffered during Omar's raid on her home.[193] Shia collectively believes that Fatimah, pregnant at the time, suffered multiple injuries during Omar's raid. These injuries directly caused her miscarriage and death shortly after.[144][194][195][196][197]

Sunni and Shia agree that Fatimah's dying wish was that the caliph, Abu Bakr, and his aide, Omar, should not attend her funeral; Ali buried Fatimah in secret and under the cloak of darkness to fulfill her last wish.[198][199] With him were his family and a few of his close companions.[200] In Shia sources, there are glimpses of the heart-wrenching events that followed Fatimah's death, and the immense pain of Ali and their young children.[201] As a side note, Sunni and Shia agree on Muhammad's words that "Fatimah is part of me, whoever angers her has angered me."[202] Sunni and Shia also agree that Fatimah remained angry with Abu Bakr and Omar until her death.[203][204] Shia points out that the Quran paints a terrifying prospect for those who anger God's prophet.[205]

Lesley Hazleton describes Fatimah's 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.[206]

Unlike most early Islamic figures, Fatimah's exact burial place is unknown. This is highly unusual, considering that Muhammad regarded Fatimah as the purest woman of all time, according to Sunni sources.[207]

Sunni Islam holds that the two most probable locations for Fatimah's grave are al-Baqi cemetery and her home, which was later annexed to al-Masjid an-Nabawi.[208][209][210][211][212] The former location is primarily supported by Hasan's wish "to be buried next to his mother." However, this interpretation might be incorrect: The Sunni scholar Samhoodi analyzes the different claims and concludes that Hasan is buried next to Fatimah bint Asad, his grandmother (and not his mother, Fatimah).[213] In Arabic, "mother" may also refer to grandmother. Shia sources are similarly inconclusive and suggest Fatimah's home or the proximity of Muhammad's tomb as the most likely resting places for Fatimah.[214][215] The secret nature of Fatimah's burial further strengthens the view that she was buried at her home.

The hostility of early Islamic rulers towards Prophet's family perhaps forced the latter to hide Fatimah's burial place. For instance, al-Mutawakkil demolished and disrespected the shrine of Husayn, Fatimah's son, in the third century AH.[216] According to Shia sources, when Omar learned about Fatimah's secret burial, he decided to locate and exhume Fatimah's body and then re-bury her publicly. Eventually, what prevented Omar was Ali's threat to kill him.[217]

Sunni and Shia both hold that Prophet elevated Fatimah to be on a par with Mary, mother of Jesus.[218] According to Sunni records, whenever Fatimah entered the room, Muhammad would rise and sit her next to himself.[219] After Muhammad's death, what did his nation do to his daughter that she asked to be buried secretly? To paraphrase Shia scholar Motahhari, often villains rewrite the history to pose as saints, and Fatimah foresaw this threat when she asked to be buried in secret. As a result, this question has loomed large ever since: Fatimah was Prophet's daughter and extremely dear to him. Why was she buried secretly? Why do we not know where her grave is?[220]

Descendants

Fatimah was survived by two sons, Hasan and Husayn, and two daughters, Zaynab and Umm Kulthum.[10] Controversy surrounds the fate of her third son, Mohsin. Shias hold that Mohsin died in miscarriage, following Omar's raid on Fatimah's house, while Sunnis insist that Mohsin died in childhood of natural causes.[221][222] It is through Fatimah that Muhammad's family line has spread throughout the Muslim world. Fatimah's descendants are given the honorific titles sayyid (meaning lord or sir), sharif (meaning noble), and are respected by Sunnis and Shias alike.[223][224]

In the Quran

Some verses in the Quran are associated with Fatimah and her household, even though she is not mentioned by name.

Most notably, Shia and most Sunni sources tell us that the Verse of Purification clears Fatimah from any sin and wrongdoing, alongside her husband, Ali, and their two sons, Hasan and Husayn. [225][226] Another prime example is the verse of Mubahala, which describes the Mubahala event.[227] Sunni and Shia agree that Fatimah was the only woman who accompanied Muhammad in this event.[228][229][230][231][232][233][234] With Islam itself was at stake in the Mubahala event, Muhammad was expected to bring forward those who best represented Islam and its values. Fatimah was the only woman who received this unique privilege, alongside Ali, Hasan, and Husayn.[235]

Quran also recognizes Fatimah as a role model in the verse of Mawadda. Several hadiths, related by both Sunni and Shia, explain that the Mawadda verse requires Muslims to show deference and reserve their deep affection for Fatimah, Ali, Hasan, and Husayn.[236][237][238][239][240][241] Indeed, Quran instructed Muslims to love and protect Muhammad to ensure Islam's growth in Muhammad's lifetime.[5][242] Similarly, Quran required Muslims to love these four to ensure Islam's continuation after Muhammad's death and to secure Muslims' future after Muhammad's demise.

Fatimah's selfless character is portrayed in surah al-Insan. According to Shia and several Sunni sources, verse 76:8 (and inevitably also verses 76:5-22) were revealed after Fatimah, Ali, Hasan, and Husayn gave away their only meal of the day to beggars who visited them, for three consecutive days.[243][244][245][246][247][248][249] These verses commend their virtuous sacrifice and describes the rewards that await them in the afterlife. It is worth noting that Muslims endured dire financial hardships in the early years of Islam. On another occasion, Shia sources have recorded that Fatimah donated her wedding dress on her wedding night to follow the example set by verse 3:92.[250][251]

Surah al-Kauthar in the Quran is also associated with Fatimah. This surah consoled Muhammad, who grieved the death of his two young sons and patiently endured disbelievers who labeled him Abtar. Abtar was a hurtful insult in Muhammad's patriarchal society that referred to someone without any male offspring.[252] In response, surah al-Kauthar informed Muhammad that he has been granted Abundance and that his enemies will be those with no posterity. There are various views about what Abundance precisely means, e.g., an eternal pond that quenches the thirst of the citizens of Heaven.[253] Some Shia and Sunni tafsirs have interpreted Fatimah as (a crucial part of) this Abundance because it is through Fatimah that Muhammad's family line has spread across the globe. Islamic hadiths support this interpretation.[253][252][254][255]

Moreover, Quran's praise for Mary, mother of Jesus, has been echoed for Fatimah: "...Allah has chosen you and purified you, and He has chosen you above the world’s women."[256][257] Indeed, a quote attributed to Muhammad lists the outstanding women of all time as Mary, Asiya (the wife of Pharaoh), Khadija and Fatimah.[258] Another hadith, narrated both by Sunni and Shia, describes how Fatimah received heavenly provisions, similar to Mary.[259][260][261] As with Mary,[39] hadiths from Shia Imams indicate that angels also spoke to Fatimah on several occasions,[38] and that these conversations were recorded by Ali in the Book of Fatimah.

Shia hadiths indicate that Fatimah is the hidden meaning of night in verse "Indeed We sent Quran down on the Night of Ordainment."[262][263][264] Other hadiths explain that Fatimah is the hidden meaning of niche in verse "Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His Light is a niche wherein is a lamp..."[265][266]

Character

Fatimah occupies a similar position in Islam that Mary, mother of Jesus, occupies in Christianity.[258] Fatimah was married to Ali, who was the last of rashidun caliphs and the first Shia Imam, and who remains a highly polarizing figure in Islam. In the few short months that she lived after Muhammad, Fatimah was Ali's most high-profile supporter, publicly criticizing Abu Bakr's succession of Muhammad and his takeover of Fadak.[267][268][269] She actively participated in Muslim affairs, so much so that Sahih al-Bukhari has recorded that Abu Bakr's actions angered Fatimah and that she never spoke again to him until she died.[270]

Perhaps the words and deeds of God's Apostle provide the best window to Fatimah's character:

What angered Fatimah angered (God and) His Apostle, and what pleased her pleased (God and) His Apostle.[271][272] Muhammad thought of Fatimah as "part of himself" and regarded her as the purest woman of all time.[17][18][19][15] God's Apostle held no one dearer than Fatimah and her husband, Ali.[16] When leaving Medina, Fatimah was the last person that Muhammad bid farewell to, and she was the first he visited upon his return.[273] In speech and manners, no one resembled Muhammad more than Fatimah. Whenever Fatimah entered the room, Muhammad would rise for her and sit her next to himself.[274][275] God's Apostle foretold that Fatimah will be the first person to enter Heaven,[276][277] while a Shia hadith adds that Fatimah will take with her to Heaven everyone who loved her and lived righteously like her.[278]

In Muslims' view, Muhammad's extraordinary love and respect for Fatimah go far beyond paternal love because God's Apostle never spoke from his own inclination and whims.[279] Indeed, Muhammad's words about Fatimah merely reflect her position in the eyes of God. Likewise, Fatimah loved Muhammad dearly, to the extend that she was nicknamed Umm Abiha, which translates to "mother of [and caregiver for] her father."[41][42] As one example, she attentively tended Muhammad's serious wounds after the battle of Uhud, alongside her husband, Ali.[280]

Fatimah is admired for her kindness and selflessness, particularly in Shia sources. According to her son, Hasan, he once witnessed that Fatimah prayed all night for other Muslims. When Hasan asked why she did not pray for themselves, Fatimah instructed him to always prefer others over oneself.[281] Another hadith from a Shia Imam describes how patiently Fatimah answered to religious inquiries.[282] Sunni and Shia both hold that Fatimah lived a frugal and austere life,[283][284] and yet her generosity and compassion were praised by the Quran.[285] It is remarkable that Imam Mahdi, the awaited savior of humankind in Islam, considers Fatimah as his role model.[286]

The Fadak sermon, Fatimah's only public speech in her short life, is considered among the most eloquent in the early Islamic era.[287] The sermon displays Fatimah's deep knowledge of the Quran and Islam and, in particular, her comprehensive knowledge of her legal rights. Several Shia hadiths describe that God had filled Fatimah with the light of divine knowledge.[288]

Mother's Day

Iranians celebrate Fatima al-Zahra's birth anniversary (20 Jumada al-Thani) as Mother's Day.[289] On this day, banners reading "Ya Fatemeah (O! Fatemeh)" are displayed on "government buildings, private buildings, public streets and car windows."[290] The Gregorian date for this changes every year:

Year Gregorian date
2018 9 March[291]
2019 26 February[292]
2020 15 February[293]
2021 3 February[294]
2022 24 January[295]
2023 14 January[296]
2024

See also

References

Notes

Sources

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Further reading

Primary sources

Books and journals

Shia sources

Encyclopedias

Online

Fāṭimah: daughter of Muḥammad, in Encyclopædia Britannica Online, by The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Surabhi Sinha, Noah Tesch, Amy Tikkanen and Adam Zeidan

External links