A Brief History
On August 28, 632, Fatimah bint Muhammad, the youngest and possibly the only daughter of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, beloved by Muhammad and by Muslims throughout the world, died under disputed circumstances. Sunni Muslims claim Fatimah died because of the death of her father and her sorrow at that death, while Shia Muslims contend that Fatimah was killed due to the actions of Abu Bakr, the heir to Muhammad’s empire.
Fatimah is the most common name in the Islamic world for females, a considerable tribute to the daughter of the Prophet. Fatimah, married to Ali ibn Abi Talib and living in Muhammad’s household, was close to her father and bore the only grandsons Muhammad had that lived to adulthood, making her the key to the genetic bloodline of the Prophet. The image at this top of this article shows Muhammad marrying Fatimah to Ali, as depicted in the Siyer-i Nebi, a Turkish epic about the life of Muhammad, completed around 1388, written by Mustafa son of Yusuf of Erzurum, known as al-Darir, a Mevlevi dervish on the commission of Sultan Berkuk, the Mamluk ruler in Cairo.
When Muhammad died in 632, there was a power struggle in the Islamic world over the leadership of the religion and the empire, with the main contenders being the husband of Fatimah, Ali, and Abu Bakr, one of Muhammad’s fathers-in-law. (Since Muhammad had 13 wives, he also had 13 fathers-in-law.)
Aside from being Muhammad’s son-in-law, Ali was also a cousin of Muhammad and a military leader of Muhammad’s troops, as well as a trusted companion and adviser. Abu Bakr was likewise more than a relative by marriage. Abu Bakr was a trusted companion and the nominal second in command to Muhammad, what to many seemed to be a logical successor. Both men had their supporters, but Abu Bakr was elected Caliph and assumed rule over most of Islam. Ali was made the 1st Imam of Shia Islam, and reigned as such until he was assassinated in 661.
The Shia version of events contends that only God can name Muhammad’s successor, not an election, while obviously the Sunni faction disagrees. (Sunni is the majority faction of Muslims.) The Shia version further blames henchmen of Abu Bakr for forcing the door to Ali’s house over the objections of Fatimah, crushing Fatimah behind the door as it was forced open, resulting in broken ribs that led to Fatimah’s miscarriage of her baby and her death. Another version has Abu Bakr’s men burning down Ali’s house with Fatimah in it.
Question for students (and subscribers): How did Fatimah really die? From abject sorrow or from violence? The violence, murder, and rabid disagreement in religious history is troubling to say the least. Does this violence and discrepancy in accounts cause you any pause in your belief as to what really happened and why it happened? (This question applies to all other religions as well, as such conflict within members and leadership of the clergy is pretty much universal.) Please share your opinions on these highly emotional topics in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
al-Amili, Allama Sayyid Jafar Murtada, Yasin Publications, et al. The Tragedy of Fatima Daughter of Prophet Muhammad: Doubts cast and Rebuttals. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014.
The featured image in this article, Mohammed giving his daughter Fatima in marriage to his cousin Ali. From the Siyer-i Nebi, is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer.