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Leatham, Jeremy, et. al"Fatimah" Faithology, LLC. Last modified March 11, 2013. http://faithology.com/biographies/fatimah

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  • Last Updated: March 11, 2013
  • Originally Published: July 6, 2012
  • Fatimah

Introduction

Fatimah (c. 605 – 633 CE) was the daughter of Muhammad and his first wife Khadijah. Fatimah married 'Ali and actively supported and defended him. Because she is the mother of a long line of descendants directly connected to Muhammad, she is honored and revered as a sacred figure in Islam history, particularly among Shi'a. They view her husband and two sons, Ḥasan and Husayn, as proper successors to Muhammad and the first three imams of Shi'ism.

Fatimah

Fatimah is said to have been buried in the tomb of Baghi, which was demolished in 1926

Throughout her life, Fatimah was close to her father Muhammad and did what she could to support and defend him, particularly during the Meccan years before the Hijra. Shortly after that migration to Medina, Muhammad told 'Ali that he had been instructed by Allah to give his daughter to 'Ali in marriage. The two began the marriage in poverty, but they had five children, four of which survived to adulthood. Throughout it all, Fatimah remained very close to her father, nursing him all the way up to his death. She herself died only a few months after Muhammad.

Childhood

Fatimah was born to Muhammad and Khadijah approximately five years before Muhammad claimed to have started receiving revelations. Sources record little about her early years, but she shared in her father's suffering when Meccans rejected and persecuted him, especially after the death of her mother in 619. She was known as a fiercely devoted daughter, and she supported Muhammad through many of his trials. She was given the title "mother of her father," or "umm abiha" in Arabic. Probably in her late teenage years, shortly after immigrating to Medina, Fatimah married Muhammad's cousin 'Ali.

Adult Life

Muslim accounts suggest that Fatimah and 'Ali had a fulfilling marriage. Though the customs of the society allowed it, 'Ali did not marry other wives while he was married to Fatimah, either because he chose not to or because Muhammad asked him not to. Fatimah and 'Ali had four children together, two females and two males: Zaynab, Umm Kulthum, al-Ḥasan, and Ḥusayn ibn 'Ali. Her sons would go on to become the second and third imams of Shi'i Islam.

Despite Fatimah's privileged position among Muslims, her married life was marked by hardship and poverty in its early days. These circumstances combined with childbearing taxed her health, and she lived for the rest of her short life with illness. She remained her father's beloved daughter, and he continued to visit her daily. When Muhammad became ill himself, Fatimah cared for him until his death.

Later Years

After Muhammad's death, Fatimah opposed the appointment of Abu Bakr to the caliphate. She felt that her husband 'Ali was the appropriate successor, and she also had a personal dispute with the new caliph. According to Fatimah, Muhammad had promised her she would receive the Garden of Fadak, an oasis approximately fifty miles from Medina, as part of her inheritance. When Abu Bakr refused to give the property to Fatimah, arguing that prophets could not leave inheritances, Fatimah openly opposed his decision. The dispute was short-lived, however; Fatimah survived her father by only a few months.

Legacy

Today Fatimah is revered by Muslims as a role model and a major female figure in Islamic history. Many Muslims call upon her to relieve their suffering or need. Among Shi'a she is known as the "Mother of the Imams" and regarded as one of the Fourteen Pure Ones.2The Ithna Ashari division of Shi'i Islam, commonly called Twelvers, recognizes fourteen individuals as exceptional for their piety and righteousness. They include all twelve imams accepted by Twelvers, Muhammad, and Fatimah. After the death of Muhammad, Fatimah opposed Abu Bakr and 'Umar for what she felt was an usurpation of authority from her husband 'Ali. Another source of frustration was the new caliph's refusal to recognize her claims to the portion of Muhammad's inheritance she felt rightly belonged to her. Despite her disagreements, though, Fatimah largely avoided politics and is remembered for her devotion as a daughter, wife, and mother. Though she died only a few months after Muhammad, her impact on Islam has been profound. The Fatimid dynasty in northern Egypt (909 – 1171) was founded by Shi'a claiming to be direct descendants of Fatimah.