Fatimah bint Muhammad
Fatimah Bint Muhammad
Fatimah was the fifth child of Muhammad and Khadijah. She was
born at a time when her noble father had begun to spend long
periods in the solitude of mountains around Makkah, meditating
and reflecting on the great mysteries of creation.
This was the time, before the Bithah, when her eldest sister
Zaynab was married to her cousin, al-Aas ibn ar Rabiah. Then
followed the marriage of her two other sisters, Ruqayyah and Umm
Kulthum, to the sons of Abu Lahab, a paternal uncle of the
Prophet. Both Abu Lahab and his wife Umm Jamil turned out to be
flaming enemies of the Prophet from the very beginning of his
The little Fatimah thus saw her sisters leave home one after the
other to live with their husbands. She was too young to
understand the meaning of marriage and the reasons why her
sisters had to leave home. She loved them dearly and was sad and
lonely whe n they left. It is said that a certain silence and
painful sadness came over her then.
Of course, even after the marriage of her sisters, she was not
alone in the house of her parents. Barakah, the maid-servant of
Aminah, the Prophet's mother, who had been with the Prophet
since his birth, Zayd ibn Harithah, and Ali, the young son of
Abu Ta lib were all part of Muhammad's household at this time.
And of course there was her loving mother, the lady Khadijah.
In her mother and in Barakah, Fatimah found a great deal of
solace and comfort. in Ali, who was about two years older than
she, she found a "brother" and a friend who somehow took the
place of her own brother al-Qasim who had died in his infancy.
Her othe r brother Abdullah, known as the Good and the Pure, who
was born after her, also died in his infancy. However in none of
the people in her father's household did Fatimah find the
carefree joy and happiness which she enjoyed with her sisters.
She was an unusually sensitive child for her age.
When she was five, she heard that her father had become Rasul
Allah, the Messenger of God. His first task was to convey the
good news of Islam to his family and close relations. They were
to worship God Almighty alone. Her mother, who was a tower of
str ength and support, explained to Fatimah what her father had
to do. From this time on, she became more closely attached to
him and felt a deep and abiding love for him. Often she would be
at Iris side walking through the narrow streets and alleys of
Makkah , visiting the Kabah or attending secret gatherings off,
the early Muslims who had accepted Islam and pledged allegiance
to the Prophet.
One day, when she was not yet ten, she accompanied her father to
the Masjid al-Haram. He stood in the place known as al-Hijr
facing the Kabah and began to pray. Fatimah stood at his side. A
group of Quraysh, by no means well-disposed to the Prophet,
gathe red about him. They included Abu Jahl ibn Hisham, the
Prophet's uncle, Uqbah ibn Abi Muayt, Umayyah ibn Khalaf, and
Shaybah and Utbah, sons of Rabi'ah. Menacingly, the group went
up to the Prophet and Abu Jahl, the ringleader, asked:
"Which of you can bring the entrails of a slaughtered animal and
throw it on Muhammad?"
Uqbah ibn Abi Muayt, one of the vilest of the lot, volunteered
and hurried off. He returned with the obnoxious filth and threw
it on the shoulders of the Prophet, may God bless him and grant
him peace, while he was still prostrating. Abdullah ibn Masud,
a companion of the Prophet, was present but he was powerless to
do or say anything.
Imagine the feelings of Fatimah as she saw her father being
treated in this fashion. What could she, a girl not ten years
old, do? She went up to her father and removed the offensive
matter and then stood firmly and angrily before the group of
Quraysh thu gs and lashed out against them. Not a single word
did they say to her. The noble Prophet raised his head on
completion of the prostration and went on to complete the Salat.
He then said: "O Lord, may you punish the Quraysh!" and repeated
this imprecati on three times. Then he continued:
"May You punish Utbah, Uqbah, Abu Jahl and Shaybah." (These whom
he named were all killed many years later at the Battle of Badr)
On another occasion, Fatimah was with the Prophet as he made;
tawaf around the Kabah. A Quraysh mob gathered around him. They
seized him and tried to strangle him with his own clothes.
Fatimah screamed and shouted for help. Abu Bakr rushed to the
scene a nd managed to free the Prophet. While he was doing so,
"Would you kill a man who says, 'My Lord is God?'" Far from
giving up, the mob turned on Abu Bakr and began beating him
until blood flowed from his head and face.
Such scenes of vicious opposition and harassment against her
father and the early Muslims were witnessed by the young
Fatimah. She did not meekly stand aside but joined in the
struggle in defence of her father and his noble mission. She was
still a young girl and instead of the cheerful romping, the
gaiety and liveliness which children of her age are and should
normally be accustomed to, Fatimah had to witness and
participate in such ordeals.
Of course, she was not alone in this. The whole of the Prophet's
family suffered from the violent and mindless Quraysh. Her
sisters, Ruqayyah and Umm Kulthum also suffered. They were
living at this time in the very nest of hatred and intrigue
against the Prophet. Their husbands were Utbah and Utaybah, sons
of Abu Lahab and Umm Jamil. Umm Jamil was known to be a hard and
harsh woman who had a sharp and evil tongue. It was mainly
because of her that Khadijah was not pleased with the marriages
of her daught ers to Umm Jamil's sons in the first place. It
must have been painful for Ruqayyah and Umm Kulthum to be living
in the household of such inveterate enemies who not only joined
but led the campaign against theft father.
As a mark of disgrace to Muhammad and his family, Utbah and
Utaybah were prevailed upon by their parents to divorce their
wives. This was part of the process of ostracizing the Prophet
totally. The Prophet in fact welcomed his daughters back to his
home w ith joy, happiness and relief.
Fatimah, no doubt, must have been happy to be with her sisters
once again. They all wished that their eldest sister, Zaynab,
would also be divorced by her husband. In fact, the Quraysh
brought pressure on Abu-l Aas to do so but he refused. When the
Qurays h leaders came up to him and promised him the richest and
most beautiful woman as a wife should he divorce Zaynab, he
"I love my wife deeply and passionately and I have a great and
high esteem for her father even though I have not entered the
religion of Islam."
Both Ruqayyah and Umm Kulthum were happy to be back with their
loving parents and to be rid of the unbearable mental torture to
which they had been subjected in the house of Umm Jamil. Shortly
afterwards, Ruqayyah married again, to the young and shy Uthma n
ibn Allan who was among the first to have accepted Islam. They
both left for Abyssinia among the first muhajirin who sought
refuge in that land and stayed there for several years. Fatimah
was not to see Ruqayyah again until after their mother had
died.< P> The persecution of the Prophet, his family and his
followers continued and even became worse after the migration of
the first Muslims to Abyssinia. In about the seventh year of his
mission, the Prophet and his family were forced to leave their
homes and s eek refuge in a rugged little valley enclosed by
hills on all sides and defile, which could only be entered from
Makkah by a narrow path.
To this arid valley, Muhammad and the clans of Banu Hashim and
al-Muttalib were forced to retire with limited supplies of food.
Fatimah was one of the youngest members of the clans -just about
twelve years old - and had to undergo months of hardship and
suffering. The wailing of hungry children and women in the
valley could be heard from Makkah. The Quraysh allowed no food
and contact with the Muslims whose hardship was only relieved
somewhat during the season of pilgrimage. The boycott lasted for
three years. When it was lifted, the Prophet had to face even
more trials and difficulties. Khadijah, the faithful and loving,
died shortly afterwards. With her death, the Prophet and his
family lost one of the greatest sources of comfort and strength
which h ad sustained them through the difficult period. The year
in which the noble Khadijah, and later Abu Talib, died is known
as the Year of Sadness. Fatimah, now a young lady, was greatly
distressed by her mother's death. She wept bitterly and for some
time was so grief-striken that her health deteriorated. It was
even feared she might die of grief.
Although her older sister, Umm Kulthum, stayed in the same
household, Fatimah realized that she now had a greater
responsibility with the passing away of her mother. She felt
that she had to give even greater support to her father. With
loving tendernes s, she devoted herself to looking after his
needs. So concerned was she for his welfare that she came to be
called "Umm Abi-ha the mother of her father". She also provided
him with solace and comfort during times of trial, difficulty
Often the trials were too much for her. Once, about this time,
an insolent mob heaped dust and earth upon his gracious head. As
he entered his home, Fatimah wept profusely as she wiped the
dust from her father's head.
"Do not cry, my daughter," he said, "for God shall protect your
The Prophet had a special love for Fatimah. He once said:
"Whoever pleased Fatimah has indeed pleased God and whoever has
caused her to be angry has indeed angered God. Fatimah is a part
of me. Whatever pleases her pleases me and whatever angers her a
He also said: "The best women in all the world are four: the
Virgin Mary, Aasiyaa the wife of Pharoah, Khadijah Mother of the
Believers, and Fatimah, daughter of Muhammad." Fatimah thus
acquired a place of love and esteem in the Prophet's heart that
was o nly occupied by his wife Khadijah.
Fatimah, may God be pleased with her, was given the title of
"az-Zahraa" which means "the Resplendent One". That was because
of her beaming face which seemed to radiate light. It is said
that when she stood for Prayer, the mihrab would reflect the
light of her countenance. She was also called "al-Batul" because
of her asceticism. Instead of spending her time in the company
of women, much of her time would be spent in Salat, in reading
the Quran and in other acts of ibadah.
Fatimah had a strong resemblance to her father, the Messenger of
God. Aishah. the wife of the Prophet, said of her: "I have not
seen any one of God's creation resemble the Messenger of God
more in speech, conversation and manner of sitting than Fatimah,
may God be pleased with her. When the Prophet saw her
approaching, he would welcome her, stand up and kiss her, take
her by the hand and sit her down in the place where he was
sitting." She would do the same when the Prophet came to her.
She would sta nd up and welcome him with joy and kiss him.
Fatimah's fine manners and gentle speech were part of her lovely
and endearing personality. She was especially kind to poor and
indigent folk and would often give all the food she had to those
in need even if she herself remained hungry. She had no cravin
g for the ornaments of this world nor the luxury and comforts of
life. She lived simply, although on occasion as we shall see
circumstances seemed to be too much and too difficult for her.
She inherited from her father a persuasive eloquence that was
rooted in wisdom. When she spoke, people would often be moved
to tears. She had the ability and the sincerity to stir the
emotions, move people to tears and fill their hearts with praise
and g ratitude to God for His grace and His inestimable
Fatimah migrated to Madinah a few weeks after the Prophet did.
She went with Zayd ibn Harithah who was sent by the Prophet back
to Makkah to bring the rest of his family. The party included
Fatimah and Umm Kulthum, Sawdah, the Prophet's wife, Zayd's wife
Barakah and her son Usamah. Travelling with the group also were
Abdullah the son of Abu Bakr who accompanied his mother and his
sisters, Aishah and Asma.
In Madinah, Fatimah lived with her father in the simple dwelling
he had built adjoining the mosque. In the second year after the
Hijrah, she received proposals of marriage through her father,
two of which were turned down. Then Ali, the son of Abu Talib,
plucked up courage and went to the Prophet to ask for her hand
in marriage. In the presence of the Prophet, however, Ali became
over-awed and tongue-tied. He stared at the ground and could not
say anything. The Prophet then asked: "Why have you come? Do
you need something?" Ali still could not speak and then the
Prophet suggested: "Perhaps you have come to propose marriage to
"Yes," replied Ali. At this, according to one report, the
Prophet said simply: "Marhaban wa ahlan - Welcome into the
family," and this was taken by Ali and a group of Ansar who were
waiting outside for him as indicating the Prophet's approval.
Another re port indicated that the Prophet approved and went on
to ask Ali if he had anything to give as mahr. Ali replied that
he didn't. The Prophet reminded him that he had a shield which
could be sold.
Ali sold the shield to Uthman for four hundred dirhams and as he
was hurrying back to the Prophet to hand over the sum as mahr,
Uthman stopped him and said:
"I am returning your shield to you as a present from me on your
marriage to Fatimah." Fatimah and Ali were thus married most
probably at the beginning of the second year after the Hijrah.
She was about nineteen years old at the time and Ali was about
twen ty one. The Prophet himself performed the marriage
ceremony. At the walimah. the guests were served with dates,
figs and hais ( a mixture of dates and butter fat). A leading
member of the Ansar donated a ram and others made offerings of
grain. All Madin ah rejoiced.
On her marriage. the Prophet is said to have presented Fatimah
and Ali with a wooden bed intertwined with palm leaves, a velvet
coverlet. a leather cushion filled with palm fibre, a sheepskin,
a pot, a waterskin and a quern for grinding grain.
Fatimah left the home of her beloved father for the first time
to begin life with her husband. The Prophet was clearly anxious
on her account and sent Barakah with her should she be in need
of any help. And no doubt Barakah was a source of comfort and
sol ace to her. The Prophet prayed for them:
"O Lord, bless them both, bless their house and bless their
offspring." In Ali's humble dwelling, there was only a sheepskin
for a bed. In the morning after the wedding night, the Prophet
went to Ali's house and knocked on the door.
Barakah came out and the Prophet said to her: "O Umm Ayman, call
my brother for me."
"Your brother? That's the one who married your daughter?" asked
Barakah somewhat incredulously as if to say: Why should the
Prophet call Ali his "brother"? (He referred to Ali as his
brother because just as pairs of Muslims were joined in
brotherhood aft er the Hijrah, so the Prophet and Ali were
linked as "brothers".)
The Prophet repeated what he had said in a louder voice. Ali
came and the Prophet made a du'a, invoking the blessings of God
on him. Then he asked for Fatimah. She came almost cringing with
a mixture of awe and shyness and the Prophet said to her:
"I have married you to the dearest of my family to me." In this
way, he sought to reassure her. She was not starting life with a
complete stranger but with one who had grown up in the same
household, who was among the first to become a Muslim at a
tender age, who was known for his courage, bravery and virtue,
and whom the Prophet described as his "brother in this world and
Fatimah's life with Ali was as simple and frugal as it was in
her father's household. In fact, so far as material comforts
were concerned, it was a life of hardship and deprivation.
Throughout their life together, Ali remained poor because he did
not set great store by material wealth. Fatimah was the only one
of her sisters who was not married to a wealthy man.
In fact, it could be said that Fatimah's life with Ali was even
more rigorous than life in her father's home. At least before
marriage, there were always a number of ready helping hands in
the Prophet's household. But now she had to cope virtually on
her own. To relieve theft extreme poverty, Ali worked as a
drawer and carrier of water and she as a grinder of corn. One
day she said to Ali: "I have ground until my hands are
"I have drawn water until I have pains in my chest," said Ali
and went on to suggest to Fatimah: "God has given your father
some captives of war, so go and ask him to give you a servant."
Reluctantly, she went to the Prophet who said: "What has brought
you here, my little daughter?" "I came to give you greetings of
peace," she said, for in awe of him she could not bring herself
to ask what she had intended.
"What did you do?" asked Ali when she returned alone.
"I was ashamed to ask him," she said. So the two of them went
together but the Prophet felt they were less in need than
"I will not give to you," he said, "and let the Ahl as-Suffah
(poor Muslims who stayed in the mosque) be tormented with
hunger. I have not enough for their keep..."
Ali and Fatimah returned home feeling somewhat dejected but that
night, after they had gone to bed, they heard the voice of the
Prophet asking permission to enter. Welcoming him, they both
rose to their feet, but he told them:
"Stay where you are," and sat down beside them. "Shall I not
tell you of something better than that which you asked of me?"
he asked and when they said yes he said: "Words which Jibril
taught me, that you should say "Subhaan Allah- Glory be to God"
ten ti mes after every Prayer, and ten times "AI hamdu lillah -
Praise be to God," and ten times "Allahu Akbar - God is Great."
And that when you go to bed you should say them thirty-three
Ali used to say in later years: "I have never once failed to say
them since the Messenger of God taught them to us."
There are many reports of the hard and difficult times which
Fatimah had to face. Often there was no food in her house. Once
the Prophet was hungry. He went to one after another of his
wives' apartments but there was no food. He then went to
Fatimah's ho use and she had no food either. When he eventually
got some food, he sent two loaves and a piece of meat to
Fatimah. At another time, he went to the house of Abu Ayyub
al-Ansari and from the food he was given, he saved some for her.
Fatimah also knew tha t the Prophet was without food for long
periods and she in turn would take food to him when she could.
Once she took a piece of barley bread and he, said to her: "This
is the first food your father has eaten for three days."
Through these acts of kindness she showed how much she loved her
father; and he loved her, really loved her in return.
Once he returned from a journey outside Madinah. He went to the
mosque first of all and prayed two rakats as was his custom.
Then, as he often did, he went to Fatimah's house before going
to his wives. Fatimah welcomed him and kissed his face, his
mouth and his eyes and cried.
"Why do you cry?" the Prophet asked.
"I see you, O Rasul Allah," she said, "Your color is pale and
sallow and your clothes have become worn and shabby." ,P."O
Fatimah," the Prophet replied tenderly, "don't cry for Allah has
sent your father with a mission which He would cause to affect
every house on the face of the earth whether it be in towns,
villages or tents (in the desert) bringing either glory or h
umiliation until this mission is fulfilled just as night
With such comments Fatimah was often taken from the harsh
realities of daily life to get a glimpse of the vast and
far-reaching vistas opened up by the mission entrusted to her
Fatimah eventually returned to live in a house close to that of
the Prophet. The place was donated by an Ansari who knew that
the Prophet would rejoice in having his daughter as his
neighbor. Together they shared in the joys and the triumphs, the
sorrow s and the hardships of the crowded and momentous Madinah
days and years.
In the middle of the second year after the Hijrah, her sister
Ruqayyah fell ill with fever and measles. This was shortly
before the great campaign of Badr. Uthman, her husband, stayed
by her bedside and missed the campaign. Ruqayyah died just
before her father returned. On his return to Madinah, one of the
first acts of the Prophet was to visit her grave.
Fatimah went with him. This was the first bereavement they had
suffered within their closest family since the death of
Khadijah. Fatimah was greatly distressed by the loss of her
sister. The tears poured from her eyes as she sat beside her
father at the edge of the grave, and he comforted her and sought
to dry her tears with the corner of his cloak.
The Prophet had previously spoken against lamentations for the
dead, but this had lead to a misunderstanding, and when they
returned from the cemetery the voice of Umar was heard raised in
anger against the women who were weeping for the martyrs of Badr
a nd for Ruqayyah.
"Umar, let them weep," he said and then added: "What comes from
the heart and from the eye, that is from God and His mercy, but
what comes from the hand and from the tongue, that is from
Satan." By the hand he meant the beating of breasts and the
smiting of cheeks, and by the tongue he meant the loud clamor in
which women often joined as a mark of public sympathy.
Uthman later married the other daughter of the Prophet, Umm
Kulthum, and on this account came to be known as Dhu-n Nurayn -
Possessor of the Two Lights.
The bereavement which the family suffered by the death of
Ruqayyah was followed by happiness when to the great joy of all
the believers Fatimah gave birth to a boy in Ramadan of the
third year after the Hijrah. The Prophet spoke the words of the
Adhan int o the ear of the new-born babe and called him al-Hasan
which means the Beautiful One.
One year later, she gave birth to another son who was called
al-Husayn, which means "little Hasan" or the little beautiful
one. Fatimah would often bring her two sons to see their
grandfather who was exceedingly fond of them. Later he would
take them to t he Mosque and they would climb onto his back when
he prostrated. He did the same with his little granddaughter
Umamah, the daughter of Zaynab.
In the eighth year after the Hijrah, Fatimah gave birth to a
third child, a girl whom she named after her eldest sister
Zaynab who had died shortly before her birth. This Zaynab was to
grow up and become famous as the "Heroine of Karbala". Fatimah's
four th child was born in the year after the Hijrah. The child
was also a girl and Fatimah named her Umm Kulthum after her
sister who had died the year before after an illness.
It was only through Fatimah that the progeny of the Prophet was
perpetuated. All the Prophet's male children had died in their
infancy and the two children of Zaynab named Ali and Umamah died
young. Ruqayyah's child Abdullah also died when he was no t yet
two years old. This is an added reason for the reverence which
is accorded to Fatimah.
Although Fatimah was so often busy with pregnancies and giving
birth and rearing children, she took as much part as she could
in the affairs of the growing Muslim community of Madinah.
Before her marriage, she acted as a sort of hostess to the poor
and d estitute Ahl as-Suffah. As soon as the Battle of Uhud was
over, she went with other women to the battlefield and wept over
the dead martyrs and took time to dress her father's wounds. At
the Battle of the Ditch, she played a major supportive role
together with other women in preparing food during the long and
difficult siege. In her camp, she led the Muslim women in prayer
and on that place there stands a mosque named Masjid Fatimah,
one of seven mosques where the Muslims stood guard and performed
their d evotions.
Fatimah also accompanied the Prophet when he made Umrah in the
sixth year after the Hijrah after the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah. In
the following year, she and her sister Umm Kulthum, were among
the mighty throng of Muslims who took part with the Prophet in
th e liberation of Makkah. It is said that on this occasion,
both Fatimah and Umm Kulthum visited the home of their mother
Khadijah and recalled memories of their childhood and memories
of jihad, of long struggles in the early years of the Prophet's
In Ramadan of the tenth year just before he went on his Farewell
Pilgrimage, the Prophet confided to Fatimah, as a secret not yet
to be told to others:
"Jibril recited the Quran to me and I to him once every year,
but this year he has recited it with me twice. I cannot but
think that my time has come."
On his return from the Farewell Pilgrimage, the Prophet did
become seriously ill. His final days were spent in the apartment
of his wife Aishah. When Fatimah came to visit him, Aishah would
leave father and daughter together.
One day he summoned Fatimah. When she came, he kissed her and
whispered some words in her ear. She wept. Then again he
whispered in her ear and she smiled. Aishah saw and asked:
"You cry and you laugh at the same time, Fatimah? What did the
Messenger of God say to you?" Fatimah replied:
"He first told me that he would meet his Lord after a short
while and so I cried. Then he said to me: 'Don't cry for you
will be the first of my household to join me.' So I laughed."
Not long afterwards the noble Prophet passed away. Fatimah was
grief-striken and she would often be seen weeping profusely. One
of the companions noted that he did not see Fatimah, may God be
pleased with her, laugh after the death of her father.
One morning, early in the month of Ramadan, just less than five
month after her noble father had passed away, Fatimah woke up
looking unusually happy and full of mirth. In the afternoon of
that day, it is said that she called Salma bint Umays who was
loo king after her. She asked for some water and had a bath. She
then put on new clothes and perfumed herself. She then asked
Salma to put her bed in the courtyard of the house. With her
face looking to the heavens above, she asked for her husband
He was taken aback when he saw her lying in the middle of the
courtyard and asked her what was wrong. She smiled and said: "I
have an appointment today with the Messenger of God."
Ali cried and she tried to console him. She told him to look
after their sons al-Hasan and al-Husayn and advised that she
should be buried without ceremony. She gazed upwards again,
then closed her eyes and surrendered her soul to the Mighty
She, Fatimah the Resplendent One, was just twenty nine years