Omm Kolthoum, the second daughter of Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (A.S.) and Hazrat Fatema Zahra (S.A.)
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
In the year 9 AH, a radiant granddaughter was born to Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) in Medina. Her parents, the Prophet’s Immaculate Daughter, Hazrat Fatema Zahra (peace upon her) and her Infallible Husband, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS), beamed with joy. It was their 4th child and second daughter. In fact, the second daughter in succession, following the birth three years ago of the Impeccable Zainab (peace upon her), she was also given the same name which means “Ornament of the Father”, with the suffix “as-Sughra”, in order to indicate Zainab the Younger. As was the custom among the Arabs she acquired the kunya or agnomen “Omm Kolthoum”, and till this day is famous by this name. She grew up in the blessed atmosphere of the Ahl al-Bayt along with her sister and her two brothers, Imam Hasan and Imam Husain (peace upon them), the Leaders of the Youths of Paradise. No wonder, she acquired the peerless traits of her household, whose pristine purity has been confirmed by God Almighty Himself in the holy Qur’an in ayah 33 of Surah al-Ahzaab, which reads: “Allah desires to remove uncleanness from you Ahl al-Bayt, and preserve you pristinely pure.”
Omm Kolthoum was only 2 years old when her grandfather, Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), passed away. The little girl witnessed the calamities that befell her household when her father’s right of political leadership of the Islamic state was usurped, along with her mother’s patrimony of the orchard of Fadak. In such a tender age, she had to endure the horrible sight of the falling of the burning door on her mother, Hazrat Fatema Zahra (peace upon her), when agents of the new regime stormed the house in order to force Imam Ali (AS) to give pledge of allegiance to the new rulers. As a result her noble mother suffered broken ribs, miscarriage, and finally martyrdom, making Omm Kolthoum and her siblings, orphans. In those crucial years, the bereaved Imam Ali (AS) took care of the household and with utmost care groomed the grandchildren of the Prophet as well as his other sons and daughters that were born of different mothers. On reaching marriageable age, Omm Kolthoum was wedded to her first cousin, Aun, the son of her martyred uncle, Ja’far at-Tayyar. She was 31 years old when another great tragedy befell with the martyrdom of her dear father, Imam Ali (AS), in Kufa in the blessed month of Ramadhan. An important point to note is that on the night before he was struck the fatal blow on the head by the poisoned sword of the renegade, Ibn Muljam, her father was her guest for breaking the day’s fast, and stayed for several hours that night giving valuable advises that would be the source of strength and comfort to her for the greatest ever tragedy to occur twenty years later in Karbala. Omm Kolthoum is therefore the source of some of the detailed accounts of the last days of the life of the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (AS).
Ten years later, Omm Kolthoum witnessed the martyrdom, through a fatal dose of poison, of her elder brother, Imam Hasan (AS). On being widowed at the death of her husband, Aun ibn Ja’far, she stayed with her younger brother Imam Husain (AS), and when he was forced to leave Medina, she accompanied him, all the way to Iraq, where history’s most heartrending tragedy struck the Ahl al-Bayt in Karbala. Along with her older sister, Zainab al-Kubra, she was witness to the bloodcurdling events of the Day of Ashura that saw the steady martyrdom in uneven combat of her nephews, brothers, kinsmen, loyal supporters, and finally of her revered brother, Imam Husain (AS).
The two sisters now assumed responsibility of the survivors of the tragedy, the women and children of the Prophet’s Household, especially their sick and bedridden 23-year old nephew, Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS), all of whom were dragged as prisoners to the courty of the tyrants in Kufa and Damascus. Along with Hazrat Zainab (SA), she delivered eloquent sermons to unmask the hypocrisy of the Omayyads, who thought that by massacring Imam Husain (AS) and his kinsmen, they had succeeded in erasing from public memory the dignity and reverence of the Prophet’s Household. So electrifying was the impact of these sermons on the audience that the tyrant Yazid and his regime shuddered and soon released the Prophet’s Household from imprisonment. Omm Kolthoum passed away only a short time after the tragedy of Karbala. She departed from the world some four months after the tragedy of Ashura in her hometown Medina in the year 61 AH.
Here we present glimpses of her eloquently moving sermons that jolted human conscience. On arrival as captive in Kufa when she noticed the people in joyous mood on seeing the heads of the martyrs of Karbala, she said: “What will you answer if the Prophet were to ask you? What have you done to my progeny and household after my death? Is this the recompense to which I directed you that after me you deal with my kin with such evil. Indeed I fear that a curse will come upon you like the chastisement befalling the previous nations.
On return to Medina, when the sight of the city of the Prophet appeared before her, Omm Kolthoum lamented: “O my grandfather's city, do not accept us. We mourn our brother. On camels we were carried. On rough ones we were carried. We are the daughter of Taha and Yasin. O Medina! A caravan of sorrow to you I bring. An abundant gift of tears to you I bring. O Medina! I left with the Joseph of the family of Ali, but now I return with only his bloodied shirt.”