Fatimah Bint Muhammad
(2 of 3)
by Abdul Wahid Hamid
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 seek 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 (pbuh) 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 had 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 mothers 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 tenderness, 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 and crisis. Often the trials were too much for her.
Once, about this time, an insolent mob heaped dust and earth upon prophets gracious head. As he entered his home, Fatimah wept profusely as she wiped the dust from her fathers head.
“Do not cry, my daughter,” he said, “for God shall protect your father.”
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 angers me.”
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 only 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 Allah.
Aishah. the wife of the Prophet, said of her: “I have not seen any one of Gods 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 stand 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 craving 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 gratitude to God for His grace and His inestimable bounties.
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 Prophets wife, Zayds 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 .
Then the Prophet suggested: “Perhaps you have come to propose marriage to Fatimah.” “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 Prophets approval.
Another report 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 twenty 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 Madinah 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 solace 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? Is that 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 after 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 duaa, 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 the hereafter“.
Fatimahs life with Ali was as simple and frugal as it was in her fathers 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 Fatimahs life with Ali was even more rigorous than life in her fathers home. At least before marriage, there were always a number of ready helping hands in the Prophets household. But now she had to cope virtually on her own.
To relieve 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 blistered.”
“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 others. “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 times 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 times each.”
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 house 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 that 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.
(to be contd …)