Source: “Shia Islam AT A Glance” BY: Sheikh Abdul Jalil Nawee; and Shia Youth Inc. Website:


Sayeda Fatima Zahra (s.a.) was born in Mecca on 20th Jamadi-us-Sani to  Khadija (s.a.), the first wife of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). 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, during the time of the rebuilding of the Ka’aba in 605 A.D.

Sunnis scholars believe that Fatima Zahra (s.a.) had three sisters, namely Zainab, Umm Kulthum and Ruqayyah and two brothers, Tayyab and Qasim. Shias believe that Zainab, Ruqayyah and Umm Kulthum were actually the daughters of Hala, the sister of Khadijah, who were adopted by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Khadija, at her death. A strong reason given by the Shia scholars for this belief is the event of (Mubahala) mentioned in the Quran, in which there is no reference to the presence of any other female person, apart from Fatima (s.a.). Iranians celebrate Fatima Zahra’s birth anniversary (20th Jamadi us Sani) every year, which is also designated as Mother’s Day in that country. Following the birth of Fatima (s.a.), she was personally nursed, especially she was brought up by her father; contrary to local customs, where the newborn children 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.


Sayeda Fatima (s.a.) is given many titles by Muslims to show their admiration of her moral and physical characteristics. The most used title is “al-Zahra“, meaning “the shining one”, and she is commonly referred to as Fatima Zahra (s.a). She was also known as “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. Besides, amongst numerous famous veneration titles, she has also been honored with the title of Umm-ul-Aaima (Mother of Imams).


Once, while Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was performing the salat (prayer) in the holy Ka’aba, Amr ibn Hishām (Abu Jahl) and his men poured camel’s dirt over him. Sayeda Fatima (s.a.), upon hearing the news, rushed to her father and wiped away the filth while scolding the men.

Following the death of her mother  Khadija (s.a.), Fatima (s.a.) was overcome by sorrow and found it very difficult to accept the mother’s death. She was consoled by her father, who informed her that he had received word from angel Gabriel that Allah the Almighty had built for her a palace in paradise.


Many of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) companions, including Abu Bakr and Umar, asked for Fatima’s (s.a.) hand in marriage. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Fatima (s.a.) turned them all down, saying that he was awaiting a sign of her destiny.  Ali  ibn Abi Talib (a.s.), Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) cousin, also had a desire to marry Fatima (s.a.). When he went to see Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), he could not vocalize his intention but remained silent. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) understood the reason for his being there and prompted Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) to confirm that he had come to seek Fatima (s.a.) in marriage. He suggested that Imam Ali (a.s.) had a shield, which, if sold, would provide sufficient money to pay the bridal gift (mahr). Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) put forward the proposal from Imam Ali (a.s.) to Fatima (s.a.), who remained silent and did not reject the proposal like the previous ones. Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) took this to be a sign of affirmation and consent.

The actual date of the marriage is unclear, but it is estimated to have taken place in the 623, the second year of the hijra. Some sources say it was in the 622. The age of Fatima (s.a.) is reported to have been approximately 9 or 10, while Imam Ali (a.s.) was between 21 and 25. Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told Imam Ali (a.s.) that he had been ordered by God to give his daughter Fatima (a.s.) to Imam Ali (a.s.) in marriage. Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said to Fatima: “I have married you to the dearest of my family to me.” Imam Ali (a.s.) sold his shield to raise the money needed for the wedding, as suggested by Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) 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 Madinan community. According to Shia scholars, their marriage possesses a special spiritual significance for all Muslims because it is seen as the marriage between the two greatest saintly figures surrounding Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Their marriage lasted about ten years and ended when Fatima (s.a.) died at the age of approximately 19. Although polygyny was permitted in Islam, Imam Ali (a.s.) did not marry another woman while Fatima (s.a.) was alive.


After her marriage to Imam Ali (a.s.), the couple led a humble and simple life. Imam Ali (a.s.) had built a house not too far from Holy Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) residence, where he lived with Fatima (s.a.).  Fatima (s.a.) did all household work by herself. The shoulder on which she carried pitchers of water from the well to the house was swollen and the hand with which she worked the hand mill to grind grain were often covered with blisters. Imam Ali (a.s.) worked to irrigate other people’s lands by drawing water from the wells. Another reference to their simple life comes to us from the Tasbih or rosary of Fatima  (s.a.), a divine formula that was first given to Fatima (s.a.) when she asked her father for a kaneez (servant girl) in order to help her with household chores. Her father 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 at the end of every prayer the Great Exaltation: Allahu Akbar 34 times, the Statement of Absolute Gratitude; Alhamdulillah, praise be to Allah, 33 times; and the Invocation of Divine Glory, Subhan’Allah 33 times, totaling 100. This collective prayer is called the Tasbih of Fatima Zehra (s.a.).


Shia scholars acknowledge an important declaration of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), “Fatima (s.a.) is a part of me, whatever pleases her, pleases me; and whoever offends her offends me”.

The Shia scholars further say this statement was used by Syeda Fatima (s.a.) herself, in defense of her claim for her property Fadak, when she spoke to Abu Bakr and Umar, who had forceably taken her property inherited by her from her father, stating that they had both displeased her and hence had displeased the Holy Prophet (pbuh).


Some verses in the Qur’an are associated with Sayeda Fatima (s.a.) and her household by classical exegeses, although she is not mentioned by name. Two of the most important verses include the verse of purification which are the 33rd ayah, in sura al-Ahzab (Chapter #XXXIII) and the 61st ayah in sura Al-i-Imran (Chapter #III). In the first verse, the phrase “people of the house” (ahl-ul bayt) is ordinarily understood to consist of Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)Fatima (s.a.), her husband Imam Ali (a.s.) and their two sons, Hasan and Husain.  The second verse refers to an episode in which Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) proposed an ordeal of mutual adjuration (Mubahala) to a delegation of Christians. Fatima (s.a.), according to the “occasion for the revelation” of this verse, was among those offered by Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as one of the Mubahala participants.


Muslim exegesis of the Qur’anic verse III:42, links the praise of Mary, the mother of Jesus (pbuh), with that of Fatima (s.a.), based on a quote attributed to Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that lists the four outstanding women of all times as:  1) Mary (mother of Prophet Jesus (pbuh), 2) Asiya (mother of Prophet Moses (pbuh), 3) Bibi Khadija,  and  4) Sayeda Fatima (s.a.).

Following the Farewell PilgrimageHoly Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) summoned Fatima and informed her that he would die soon, and also told her that she would be the next of his household to die. After Holy Prophet Mohammad’s (pbuh) death, Fatima (s.a.) was grief-stricken and remained so until she herself died less than six months later, on 13th, Jumadi ul-awwal (or 3rd Jamadiussani) 11 A.H.


For the few months that she survived following the death of her father, Fatima (s.a.) found herself at the center of political disunity. Differing accounts of the events surrounding the commencement of the caliphate existed. These were the main causes of the Shia and Sunni split.

According to the Sunni scholars, the majority of Muslims at the time of Prophet Muhammed’s (pbuh) death favoured Abu Bakr as the Caliph while a portion of the population supported Syeda Fatima’s (s.a.) husband, Imam Ali (a.s.). Following Abu Bakr’s selection to the caliphate after a meeting in SaqifahImam Ali (a.s.) did not give his bayt or allegiance to him (Abu Bakr) and isolated himself. Shia historians state that Umar called for Imam Ali (a.s.) and his companions to come out of his (Imam Ali’s) house and swear allegiance to Abu Bakr. When they did not, Umar broke in, crashing the front door, resulting in Syeda Fatima’s (s.a.) ribs being broken by her being  pressed between the door and the wall.  This injury also caused her to miscarry her son, Muhsin, which also led to her eventual death.


Shias believe that Sayeda Fatima (s.a.) was involved in three significant political actions. First, after the conquest of Mecca, she refused her protection from Abu Sufian. Second, after Holy Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) death, she defended Imam Ali’s (a.s.) cause, fiercely opposed the election of Abu Bakr, and had violent disputes with him and particularly with Umar. Third, she laid claim to certain property rights which were given to her legitimately by her father, and challenged Abu Bakr’s categorical refusal to cede them, particularly Fadak and a share in the produce of Khaybar.


One particular event is recounted in all of the histories of both Shia and Sunni Muslims: the dispute over the land Sayeda Fatima (s.a.) received from her father at Fadak. She will be remembered for her knowledge of her legal rights and her desire for justice which indicates that she was a woman involved in the affairs of society. After the death of her father, Fatima (s.a.) approached Abu Bakr and asked him to relinquish her share of the inheritance from Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) estate. Fatima (s.a.) expected the land of Fadak (situated 30 miles (48 km) from Medina) and a share in the produce of Khybar would be passed on to her as part of her inheritance. However, Abu Bakr rejected her request, citing a narration where Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) stated that prophets do not leave behind inheritance and that all their possessions become sadaqah to be used for charity. Fatima (s.a.) was upset at this flat refusal by Abu Bakr and did not speak to him until her death. Shias contend that Fadak had been given to Fatima by Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Abu Bakr was wrong in refusing her to take possession of it. The controversy over Fadak is elaborated below.

Fadak was a fertile area with many fruit trees and farm land located in the valley of the Medina hills. It comprised of seven villages with considerable land revenue.  A peace treaty was made after the battle of Khayber according to which one-half of Fadak was to be retained by the landowners of Fadak and the other half was to be the property of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). After the Holy Prophet returned to Medina, Gabriel appeared and informed him that Allah had decreed, “Let Fadak be given to the Holy Prophet’s daughter Fatima” (s.a.).  Hence the Holy Prophet (pbuh) called Fatima (s.a.) and said, “Allah has commanded me to bestow Fadak as a gift to you” and he gave possession of Fadak to Fatima (s.a.). As long as the Holy Prophet (pbuh) lived, Fadak remained in possession of Hazrat Fatima (s.a.). She leased the land and its revenue was collected in three installments.  She used this amount for food for her and her children and distributed the rest to the poor people of Bani Hashim.

Upon the death of the Prophet (pbuh) on the 12th Rabi’awwal, 11 A.H. his daughter Fatima (s.a.) declared her claim to inherit Fadak as the estate of her father. The claim was rejected by Abu Bakr on instigation from Omar ibn al-Khattab on the grounds that Fadak was public property and arguing that the Prophet had “no heirs”.  Bibi Fatima (s.a.) had defended her claim for Fadak based on the Holy Quran and had stated that historically Prophet Sulaiman had inherited the wealth of Prophet Dawood and that the wealth was not considered property of the state and that similarly she had the right to inherit Fadak from her father, the Prophet (a.s.). Also, during Prophet Mohammed’s (a.s.) time, Fadak was his personal property, not a property of the State, hence she could inherit it, just as Prophet Sulaiman had inherited Prophet Dawood’s property.

Sources report that Ali (a.s.) together with Umm Ayman testified to the fact that Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) granted it to Fatima (s.a.) when Abu Bakr required  Sayeda Fatima (s.a.) to summon witnesses for her claim. Abu Bakr refused to accept Imam Ali (a.s.) as a witness. Various primary sources contend that Fadak was gifted by the Holy Prophet (pbuh) to Fatima (s.a.), drawing on the Qur’an as evidence. These include narrations of Ibn ‘Abbas who argued that when the Qur’anic verse on giving rights to kindred was revealed, Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) called to his daughter and gifted the land of Fadak to her.

Various scholars commenting on the Qur’an, Surat Al-Hashr (Chapter 59, verse 7), write that the Angel Gabriel came to the Prophet and commanded him to give the appropriate rights to “Thul Qurba” (near kin). When asked by the Prophet (pbuh) about who those “Thul Qurba” were referred to in that verse, Gabriel replied: “Fatima (s.a.)” and that by “rights” was meant “Fadak”, upon which the Holy Prophet (P) called Sayeda Fatima (s.a.) and presented Fadak to her.


Abu Bakr justified the usurpation of Fadak based on a well known hadith, La Nuris.  He said that he had himself heard the Holy Prophet (pbuh) say, “We prophets do not leave behind any legacy; whatever we leave as inheritance is charity” (i.e., the property of umma, the Islamic community). This statement is refuted in the book, Peshawar Nights, referred to above because Fadak was not an inheritance but a gift.  This reference also adds that the hadith La Nuris is not acceptable because the statement, “prophets do not leave behind any legacy or inheritance” is invalidated by the Quran which refers to several prophets, e.g., Prophet Dawood (David) and Sulaiman (Solomon) who had left wealth for their successors. In her defense, Fatima (s.a.) argued, “And Solomon was David’s heir (27:16)”. In her defense, she also cited the inheritance of Zakariyya in the holy Quran: “Therefore grant me from myself an heir, who shall inherit (also) of the house of Jacob” (19, 5-6). In her defense, Fatima Zehra (s.a.) cited seven sura’s from Koran to demonstrate that several prophets had granted inheritances to their progeny.

Note: The book, Peshawar Nights, adds that Abu Bakr and Umar could not respond to Fatima’s (s.a.) arguments and resorted to deception and abusive language.


During the rule of Abu Bakr, Fadak was denied to Sayeda Fatima (s.a.), which led to her protest, and her angered Khutba in front of the people at the Prophet’s Mosque.

When Omar became Khalifa, the value of the land of Fadak along with its dates was, according to some account, 50,000 dirhams. Imam  Ali (a.s.) again claimed  Sayeda Fatima’s (s.a.) inheritance during Omar’s era but was denied with the same argument as in the time of Abu Bakr. Omar, however, restored the estates in Medina to `Abbas ibn `Abd al-Muttalib and Ali (a.s.), as representatives of  Holy Prophet (pbuh)’s  clan, the Banu Hashim.

During Uthman’s Khilaafah, Marwan ibn al-Hakam, (his cousin), was made trustee of Fadak. Marwan spent  the income in wicked activities.

After Uthman, Imam Ali (a.s.) became Khalifa but did not overturn the decision of his predecessor. During Ali’s Khilaafah, Fadak was regarded to be under the control of the Prophet’s family, so the Khalifa did not make a formal declaration of personal possession in order to avoid resurrecting old feuds and jealousies and thus the avoiding of any disunity among Muslims.

Under the Umayyads (661 – 750 A.D.), Mu’awiyah, their first self-imposed ruler, the later did not return Fadak to Fatima’s descendants. This process was continued by later Umayyad Khalifas until the time of Khalifa Omar ibn Abd al-Aziz. When Omar ibn Abd al-Aziz, known as Omar II, became Khalifa in 717 A.D., the income from the property of Fadak was 40,000 dinars. Fadak was returned to Fatima’s descendants by an edict given by Omar II, but this decision was renounced by later Khalifas and may have been the cause of Omar II being killed as well.

Omar II’s successor, Yazid ibn Abd al-Malik (known as Yazid II) overturned his decision, and Fadak was again made public trust. Fadak was then managed this way until the Ummayad Khilaafah expired.

Under the Abbasi period (750 – 1258 A.D.), the last Umayyad ruler, Marwan II, was killed in a battle a few months after the Battle of the Zab of 750 A.D., thus ending the Umayyad Khilaafah. Historical accounts differ about what happened to Fadak under early Abbasid rulers. Most likely they collected its revenues and spent it as they pleased. There is, however, consensus among Islamic scholars that Fadak was returned to the descendants of Hazrat Fatima (s.a.) during Al-Ma’Moon’s reign (831-833 A.D.). Al-Ma’Moon based his decision upon review of a Committee, and even decreed his decision to be recorded in his diwans.

Al-Ma’Moon’s successor, al-Mutawakkil (847-861 A.D.), repossessed Fadak, confiscating it from the descendants of Hazrat Fatima (s.a.).  Al-Muntasir (861-862 A.D.), however, apparently maintained the decision of al-Ma’mun, thus allowing Fatima’s offspring to manage Fadak.  What happened thereafter is uncertain, but Fadak was probably seized again and managed exclusively by the rulers of the time as their own personal property.


Shia believe that Sayeda Fatima (s.a.) died as a result of injuries sustained after her house was raided by Umar ibn al-Khattab whom shi’as accuse of ‘threatening to set fire to her house. The door was supposedly rammed open by one of the assailants knocking Fatima (s.a.) to the ground. This attack is said to have cracked her rib-cage whilst she was pregnant, causing her to miscarry. According to Shia tradition, Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) appeared in a dream and informed Fatima (s.a.) that she would he passing away the next day. Fatima (s.a.) informed her husband Imam Ali (a.s.) of her impending death, and asked him not to allow the oppressors to be involved in her janazah (burial) ceremonial prayers (prayers performed in congregation after the death of a Muslim) or take part in the burial. Upon hearing the news of Fatima’s (s.a.) death, Imam Ali (a.s.) fell unconscious. After recovering, he followed Fatima’s (s.a.) wishes and performed the janazah ceremonies. He buried her during the night on13 Jumada al-awwal 11 AH (632 AD). He also made three false graves to ensure her real grave could not be identified and desecrated. With him were his family and a few of his close companions. After her death, Imam Ali (a.s.) followed her wishes and buried her without informing the Medinan people.

Sayeda Fatima (s.a.) was survived by two sons, Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Imam Husain (a.s.), and two daughters, Zanab (a.s.)and Umm Kulthum (a.s.). Controversy surrounds the fate of her third son, Muhsin. Shias and some sunni scholars such as ibn Abi l-Hadid  say that she miscarried following an attack on her house by Abu Bakr and Umar who broke the door that crushed her between the door and the wall and broke her rib cage. She passed away six months after this incident.