The fifth child of Muhammad and Khadijah, Fatimah, 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.
It was the time, before the Prophet’s mission, when her eldest sister Zaynab was the last one to marry and leave the home, what made Fatimah sad and lonely.
In her mother, the lady Khadijah, and in Barakah, the maid-servant of Aminah, the Prophet's mother, Fatimah found a great deal of solace and comfort. Zayd ibn Harithah, and Ali, the young son of Abu Talib, were all part of Muhammad's household at the time.
However in none of the people in her father's household did Fatimah, an unusually sensitive child for her age, find the carefree joy and happiness which she enjoyed with her sisters.
When she was five, she heard that her father had become 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 strength 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 his side walking through the narrow streets and alleys of Makkah, visiting the Kaabah or attending secret gatherings of 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 Kaabah and began to pray. Fatimah stood at his side. A group of Quraysh, by no means well-disposed to the Prophet, gathered about him with one of them coming with the obnoxious filth and threw it on the shoulders of the Prophet, peace be upon him, while he was still prostrating.
Imagine the feelings of Fatimah, a girl not ten years old, as she saw her father being treated like this. She went up to her father and removed the offensive matter and then stood firmly and angrily before the group of Quraysh thugs and lashed out against them. Not a single word did they say to her. The 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!"
|Now a young lady, Fatimah was greatly distressed by her mother's death.|
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 defense 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.
The year in which the noble Khadijah, and later Abu Talib, died is known as ‘the year of sadness’. Now a young lady, Fatimah was greatly distressed by her mother's death. She wept bitterly and for some time was so grief-stricken that her health deteriorated. It was even feared she might die of grief.
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.
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. 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 worship.The Prophet, peace be upon him, had a special love for her; 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."
She thus acquired a place of love and esteem in the Prophet's heart that was only occupied by his wife Khadijah.
She had a strong resemblance to him; Aisha, the wife of the Prophet, said of her:
|Fatimah's fine manners and gentle speech were part of her lovely and endearing personality|
"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 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 neither 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. 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 before Ali, the son of Abu Talib, plucked up courage and went to the Prophet to ask for her hand in marriage.
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 fiber, a sheepskin, a pot, a water skin 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." 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.
The Prophet’s Daughter, But
|"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|
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 house, but now she had to cope virtually on her own. To relieve their 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 "Al 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."
(... to be continued)
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