Amongst the Holy Five, the only name that existed prior to the advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was Fatima (as). Indeed so popular was this name amongst Bani Hashim – one of the wives of Abdul Muttalib was called Fatima as was the wife of Abu Talib – it was only a matter of time that another Fatima would join this household.
Born on 20th Jamadi II, five years after the announcement of revelation, the arrival of a daughter in the house of the greatest human being to have ever lived was a significant event, not least because of the way women were treated in the pre Islamic Arabian society. The Holy Prophet’s (saw) immense joy at the occasion underlined the importance of the new born as well as the respect that Islam gives to women.
Three importance incidents from her life stand out as examples of her centrality to the Ahlul Bayt (as) and the reason for her important role in the religion of Islam:
A number of companions and wives of the Holy Prophet (as), including Jabir ibn Abdullah al-Ansari and Aisha bint Abu Bakr, narrate that on one occasion the Holy Prophet (saw) came to the house of Fatima (as) and asked her for his Yemeni cloak as he was feeling a weakness in his body. Soon after, Hasan (as), Hussain(as) and Ali (as) also arrived at the house and joined the Holy Prophet (saw) under the cloak. Lastly, Fatima (as) also joined the rest of her family under the cloak. Finally, the Holy Prophet (as) prayed to Allah (swt) saying that these five under the cloak were “the people of his house” (Ahlul Bayt). When Jibraeel asked Allah (swt) who it was under that cloak, the Almighty responded by saying:
“It is Fatima, her father, her husband and her sons”
It may well be asked why Allah (swt) chose to introduce the Ahlul Bayt (as) through Fatima (as) and not through the Holy Prophet (saw) or Imam Ali (as). The answer may well be that since this incident took place in the home, Allah (swt) wanted to stress the importance of the woman to a household in general and the importance of Fatima (as) to this household in particular.
In the final years of the Holy Prophet’s (as) life, a delegation of Christians from Najran came to Madina. Much dialogue ensued between them and the Holy Prophet (saw), however, they were unable to bring evidence for their claim that Jesus (as) was the son of god, and after a revelation of the verse showing the similarity in the creation of Adam (as) and Jesus Christ (as), another verse was revealed:
“…come let us bring our sons and you bring your sons, we will bring our women and you bring your women and we will bring ourselves and you will bring yourselves and then we will invoke the curse of Allah (swt) upon the liars.” (Quran 3:61)
Despite the fact that the grammatical construction of the verse demands significantly more people to be present, all the commentators of the Holy Quran – regardless of which school of thought they belong to – are unanimous that the Holy Prophet (as) took with him only four members of his family: Ali (as), Fatima (as) and their two sons (as). What could be the reasoning for this?
There are a number of explanations which might be given for this:
It has been related in the commentaries of the Holy Quran that one occasion, Imam Hasan and Hussain (as) fell ill. Their parents, Imam Ali and Sayyida Fatima Zahra (as), made a vow to Allah (swt) that when their children would be cured, they would fast for three days. Some days later, Imam Hasan and Hussain (as) felt better, and thus their parents intended to fulfil their vow. When the children saw their parents fasting, they too fasted as did the maid of the house, Sayyida Fidah.
On the first day, as they sat to break their fast, there was a knock on the door. The person from behind the door called out, “I am a beggar, give me something to eat.” Imam Ali (as) rose to give his piece of bread to the beggar, and as he did so, each member of the house also gave their piece. On the second day, there was a knock again, this time the person called out “I am an orphan, give me something to eat.” Once again, Imam Ali (as) rose to offer his bread and the others followed suit. On the third day, there was a knock once more. This time the person called out “I was a captive who has just been released from prison, give me something to eat.” Just like the previous two nights, all five in the house gave their bread to him.
The Holy Prophet (saw) arrived at the house of his daughter and noticed that all of the people in the house were very pale faced due to the lack of food. When he asked Imam Ali (as), the Imam related the story of the last three days to him. The Holy Prophet (saw) told him that some verses had been revealed, amongst them:
“(Solely) for His love, they feed the wayfarer, the orphan and the captive. When they are offered the thanks they say: we require from you no reward not even thanks” (Quran 76:8-9)
While this story offers many lessons in generosity and charity, the most notable point is that in introducing the characteristics of the Ahlul Bayt (as), whether their truthfulness, their purity or their generosity, Allah (swt) chose Fatima as the centre – whether it was her house, as in the case of the revelation of verse of al-tatheer (purification) or Surat al-Insaan – or literally in the centre, as in the case of Mubahala, where the Holy Prophet was in front, with Hasan and Hussain(as) by sides, and Ali (as) was at the back, and Fatima (as) was in between them; demonstrating that she is the link between Nabuwwah (Prophethood) and Imamah (Leadership) – two divine institutions linked through a woman.
No wonder then that the Holy Prophet (saw) said:
“Fatima is the leader of the women of the worlds from the beginning of time to the end.”
Sheikh Saduq in Ma’ani al-Akhbar, pg. 110.
Sheikh Saduq in Kamaluddin, pg. 262.
Sheikh Saduq in Amali, pg. 99.
Sheikh Tusi in Amali, pg. 641.