Fatima Zahra (A.S.): The Supreme Example of a Perfect Human Being
Holy Fatima (s.a.) belongs to the noblest family ever existing throughout the whole history of mankind. Her distinguished father was the very last messenger of Allah, a personality that the Holy Koran introduces him as Oswatun Hasanah (the Best Paradigm). Mother of Holy Fatima (s.a) was a pure lady named Khadija, a godly woman with unparalleled virtues and merits, who dedicated all her wealth for the sake of promotion of Islam.
According to the Islamic calendar, Hazrat Fatima Zahra (s.a.) was born in the 20th day of Arabic lunar month Jamadi al-Thani, five years after Bi’tha (appointment of Hazrat Mohammad (s.a.) to the position of divine prophethood) and 8 years before Hegira (immigration of the Holy Prophet from Mecca to Medina).
The story of her birth is a wonderful one. The Holy Prophet (s.a.) – through a divine command – was ordered to seclude himself from contact with Khadija (s.a.) for 40 days. Despite all his love for his dear wife, the Holy Prophet (s.a.) did not go home in compliance with Allah’s order. During the whole 40-day period of his seclusion, Mohammad (s.a.) was engaged in prayers, fasting, and spiritual connections with his Lord. The Holy Prophet (a.s.) had sent a courier to Khadija to notify her of the matter and assure her that there was nothing wrong with her and that the event had happened as a result of Allah’s command.
When the seclusion stage came to its end, at the time of Iftar (while the Holy Prophet (s.a.) was preparing himself to end his fasting by eating food), he heard the familiar voice of Archangel Gabriel: “Allah sends His salaams to you! Get ready to receive the celestial gift from your Lord!” Then angels brought down a tray full of heavenly fruits for Mohammad (s.a.). Gabriel (a.s.) told him: “Eat from this heavenly dish tonight; then go to Khadija; Almighty Allah has willed to create a pure child out of this blissful food.”
Thus Fatima (s.a.) was conceived from the fruits of paradise.
Nine months passed. During her pregnancy, Khadija (s.a.) talked to the baby in her womb; a baby, who turned out to be the most supreme lady among the mankind from the very first to the last.
Finally Archangel Gabriel brought glad tidings to the Holy Prophet (s.a.): “O Messenger of God! This baby is a much dignified daughter. All your offspring and descendants shall be descended from her. She is the mother of Infallible Imams: the religious leaders who shall be your successors when the divine revelation would end (after your demise).” The Holy Prophet (s.a.) transmitted the good tidings to Khadija (s.a.) to make her heart happy with the promising news.
Some years earlier, when Khadija had married Mohammad (s.a.), the aristocratic ladies of her tribe (entitled Quraysh) left her alone and cut off their relations with her as an objection to her decision in marrying Mohammad.
When the time for childbirth approached, Khadija dispatched someone to go to the ladies of Quraysh and ask them to help her in the process of giving birth to her baby, but they refused to help Khadija even at that difficult time.
At that crucial moment, when Khadija had lost hope to receive any help from the ladies of Quraysh, she sought assistance from her Lord. By the grace of Allah, four of the most beautiful women in white dressings came to help her in that time of need. They had bowls of heavenly water in their hands. Each one began to introduce herself. The first one said, “I am your foremother, Eve”. The second one said, “I am Asiya daughter of Muzahim, Pharaoh’s wife”. The third one said, “I am Kulthum, Moses’ sister”, and the fourth one said, “I am Mariam (Saint Mary) daughter of Imran, mother of Jesus Christ; we have come to deliver your child”.
So with the help of these heavenly ladies, Fatima (s.a.) was delivered, and the brightness and brilliance of her face illuminated the sky from east to west. The four holy ladies bathed the baby with heavenly water, wrapped her in heavenly clothes, and put her on the lap of Khadija (s.a.).
The baby was named Fatima, because she and her followers shall be protected from the fire of hell.
The news of Fatima’s birth reached the Holy Prophet (s.a.). He was extremely delighted to hear the joyful news. He perceived that the divine promise of giving him the Kawthar (the Abundant Blessing) had been fulfilled.
At the same time that the birth of Holy Fatima (s.a.) had made the Holy Prophet and Khadija (a.s.) happy, the enemies of Islam became disappointed and upset as they used to call the Holy Prophet as Abtar - i.e. the one who shall be without posterity (as all his children had died due to different reasons) - but now they saw that he was given an abundant blessing through the birth of Holy Fatima (s.a.).
The love and respect of the Holy Prophet and Khadija (a.s.) for Fatima (s.a.) nullified all the wrong ideas of that day’s Arab World, who considered ‘having daughter’ as a shame for themselves.
Fatima Al-Zahra (s.a.) grew up in an atmosphere of human virtues, on the lap of a pure mother, and under the training of the Holy Prophet. She obtained all merits and spiritual qualities in its perfect shape.
The behavior of Holy Prophet toward his daughter Fatima was wonderful. In that day’s world when the most violent behaviors were shown against women and girls, at a time when ‘burying little newborn daughters alive’ was accounted as a routine act, the Holy Prophet (s.a) showed much respect to his dear daughter. Whenever Fatima (s.a) came to see the Holy Prophet (s.a.), he welcomed her, stood up to show respect to her, and even kissed her hand and made her sit at his own place.
On every occasion that the Holy Prophet (s.a) decided to go on a journey, Fatima was the last one to whom he bade farewell, and as soon as he came back from his trip, Fatima was the first one whom the Holy Prophet visited.
Imam Baqir (a.s.) and Imam Sadiq (a.s.) have related that the Holy Prophet (s.a.) never slept unless he kissed the face of Fatima (s.a.) and placed his face on hers.
A good way to know Holy Fatima (s.a) is to look through her names. Each of her names and titles is a mirror to reflect her outstanding qualities.
In a narration, Imam Sadiq (a.s.) is quoted as saying: “Fatima (s.a.) has nine names given by Almighty Allah: Fatima, Seddiqah, Mubarakah, Tahirah, Zakiyyah, Raaziyah, Marziyyah, Muhaddathah, and Zahra.”
1) Fatima; means separated and protected from ignorance and impurity, and the one who is kept away from the fire of hell; the one who is adorned with all virtues, merits, and purities; and the one who shall save herself and all her followers and lovers from the fire of hell.
2) Seddiqah; means extremely honest; this title points out the degree of Fatima’s honesty and truthfulness as one of her outstanding qualities.
3) Mubarakah; or blessed; as she was granted much blessings by Allah (S.W.T), and she herself was a source of abundant blessings. The offspring of the Holy Prophet all are descended from Fatima (s.a.).
4) Taahirah; pure and chaste; as she was purified along with other members of the Household [Ahlul-Bayt] of the Holy prophet according to verse 33 of Surah Al-Ahzab in the Holy Koran: “Verily, Allah desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O People of the House! And to purify you a (thorough) purifying…”
5) Zakiyyah; the purified soul; purified from any kind of pollution or deficiency, a quality that made her attain the highest level of spiritual evolution and perfection.
6) Raaziyah; the one who is content with Allah’s wills, surrenders herself to all that Allah (S.W.T) has predestined for her, and endures pains in the way of mission of Allah’s Messenger.
7) Marziyyah; the one, with whom Allah and His Messenger and the Holy Imam are fully satisfied because of her impeccable worship, nice moralities, good fulfillment of duties, and all her good deeds.
8) Muhaddathah; the one to whom the angels talked, the matchless lady who received some sort of divine inspirations. In this relation, Imam Sadiq (a.s.) is quoted as saying: “Fatima (s.a.) was named as Muhaddathah as an angel came to her continuously and talked to her in the same way that it (the angel) used to talk to Saint Mary. The angel told Fatima: “O Fatima! Allah (S.W.T) has selected you, purified you, and made you superior to all women throughout the world.”
9) Zahra; means luminous; as when she stood in her praying place, the angels in the heavens witnessed a glittering light, just like the starlight in the sky that glitters for the people on the earth.
The childhood period of Holy Fatima (s.a.) coincided with the most critical years of early Islam. She was only two years old when Muslims faced the hard conditions of economic siege – imposed by the infidels – and were forced to live in a confined area in Mecca, known as “She’b Abitalib”. The three-year period of living in this area was actually a terrible experience for early Muslims. The distinguished daughter of Holy Prophet (s.a.), too, passed three years of her best childhood ages under these harsh conditions. However, she still enjoyed being within the warm arms of her mother. Before long, she lost her dear mother as well. That bitter event was a spiritual shock for her at that age, and seriously hurt her delicate feelings. Afterwards, Fatima was the only companion, supporter, and source of alleviation for her father at home. Whenever the Holy Prophet (s.a.) looked at her, he summoned up the remembrance of his faithful wife, Khadija (s.a.).
The Holy Prophet (s.a.) loved Fatima so much. Sometimes he (s.a.) said: “May her father be sacrificed for her”. Thus he expressed his deep love for her dignified daughter. Sometimes he (s.a.) called her as Umme Abiha, which means the Mother of Her Father. Also in some cases the Holy Prophet (s.a.) repeated: “Fatima is a part of my body.”
Finally the Holy prophet (s.a.) emigrated from Mecca to Medina. A few days later, Imam Ali (a.s.), Holy Fatima (s.a.), and a number of other Muslim women left Mecca for Medina.
Fatima grew up and reached the age of marriage. There were many wealthy and high-ranking men who wished to marry her, but they all received the same answer from the Holy Prophet (s.a.): “I am looking forward to receiving Allah’s command on the marriage of my daughter.”
Fatima Al-Zahra (s.a) was the only match for Imam Ali (a.s.); and Ali was the only match for Fatima. That was why when Imam Ali (a.s.) proposed to marry Fatima (s.a.), the Holy Prophet (s.a.) replied: “Your marriage contract is signed in the Heavens.”
Thus, Holy Fatima (s.a.) entered the house of Imam Ali (a.s.) and started her new life. With her spiritual sincerity and perfect faith & knowledge, Fatima (s.a.) turned the house of Imam Ali into a tranquil, safe shelter for him. Whenever Imam Ali came home – tired and exhausted from the people’s unfair behaviors – Holy Fatima (s.a.) was the one who alleviated his sufferings and lessened his pains.
Ali and Fatima (may Allah send His infinite blessings upon them) had four children: Hasan, Hussein, Zainab, and Umm Kulthum.
Holy Fatima tried hard to train her children in the best way; and indeed she (s.a.) presented great personalities to the mankind’s community. The infallible descendants of Holy Fatima (s.a.) are characters from whom all people shall benefit up to the Day of Resurrection; they are luminaries whose light shall guide all truth-seeking people to the right path.
The offspring of Zahra (s.a.) became the torchbearers of guidance. Anyone who places himself/herself under their banner would attain salvation in this world and in the Hereafter. The infallible descendants of Fatima (s.a) found their place besides the Holy Koran, as the Holy Prophet (s.a.) said: “Verily, I leave among you two precious and weighty things: the Book of Allah and my Household [the Ahlul-Bayt (as)]; as long as you hold fast on these two, you shall never go astray…”
The Holy Prophet (s.a.) highlighted the status of Fatima - with regard to her faith - as follows:
“Belief in Allah has entered the heart of Fatima so deep that she makes herself free from all [worldly] involvements to worship her Lord.”
Zahra (s.a.) learnt all virtues and profound knowledge through the pure headspring of divine revelation (Wah’y). Whatever she learnt, she wrote it down in her book entitled Mushaf. Imam Ali (a.s.) said: “In Fatima’s Mushaf, not only all lawful and unlawful Islamic decrees are available, but also the whole knowledge about whatsoever event that has happened [in the past] and shall happen [in future] are recorded therein.”
Fatima Al-Zahra (s.a.) was the perfect example in Irfan (Gnosis) and Ibadah (Worshipping Allah). She used to wake up at midnights and offer long prayers so that her holy feet swelled up. Her elder son, Imam Hasan (a.s.), relates the worship of her mother as follows: “It was a Thursday night when my mother – in her worshipping place – offered prayers all night long, and I heard her praying for all Muslims and believers in her positions of prostration and bowing down before Allah. At last I asked her: O Mother! Why did you not pray for yourself? She (s.a.) replied: “My dear son! Neighbors first; then our house…”
The merits and virtues of a supreme lady like Fatima (s.a.) are too extraordinary and outstanding to be described by ordinary people. Therefore, we briefly highlight some verses of the Holy Koran, which point to the character of Hazrat Fatima Al-Zahra (peace be upon her). These verses are revealed unto the Holy Prophet (s.a) on different occasions; each of which indicates some aspects of her sanctity:
In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Verily, We granted you Kawthar (the Abundant Blessing). So, turn to your Lord in Prayer and make a sacrifice. Surely, your enemy (and not you) is the one who shall be without posterity.
Kawthar means Abundant Blessing, and it may include a broad range of concepts; however, many great Shiite scholars believe that ‘Fatima Al-Zahra (s.a.)’ is the personality who best fits the concept of ‘Kawthar’.
Before Holy Fatima was born, the enemies of the Holy Prophet (s.a.) repeatedly annoyed him by saying that he was the one who should be without posterity (as all his children had died due to different reasons). Here, in this verse, Almighty Allah (S.W.T) negates the claims of His prophet’s enemies and says: “We granted you the Kawthar”. So, we can conclude that Fatima (s.a.) is the same Kawthar (the Abundant Blessing) mentioned in the Holy Koran; as all later offspring of the Holy Prophet descended from Fatima Al-Zahra, who were (and are) the guardians of Islam. Besides the twelve Infallible Imams (a.s.) – who have an exceptional standing – if we have a look at the past history of Islam, we come across innumerable Sayyids (the offspring of the Holy Prophet and Fatima), among whom we can trace countless Islamic scholars, authors, jurisprudents, narrators, interpreters, and devoted commanders, who struggled hard to safeguard the teachings and precepts of Islam, ideologically and physically.
2- Surah Al-Insan, Verses 7-11:
"...They fulfill vows and fear a day, the evil of which shall be spreading far and wide. And they give food - out of love for Him (Allah) - to the poor and the orphan and the captive (and say): We only feed you for Allah's sake; we desire from you neither reward nor thanks: Surely we fear from our Lord a stern, distressful day. Therefore Allah will guard them from the evil of that day and cause them to meet with ease and happiness”
These verses of the Holy Koran speak of the Ahlul-Bayt (a.s.), eulogizing their selflessness and piety. These verses are good evidence for their merits and virtues. The historical occasion to which these blessed verses refer was, once Imam Hasan and Imam Hussein were at their childhood age, they fell sick and the Holy Prophet together with some of his companions visited them. He (s.a.) suggested that Ali (a.s.) should make a vow to Allah for his sons' health. Heeding the Prophet's suggestion, Imam Ali, Holy Fatima, along with their maid, Fizza, took a vow that if the boys recovered, they would fast for three consecutive days. Eventually Hasan and Hussein (a.s.) recovered, and to fulfill the vow, they also fasted along with their parents and the maid.
They all fasted for three consecutive days, but each day - at the time of breaking the fast - some needy person (as verse No. 8 indicates) appeared, and the Ahlul-Bayt gladly fed him, and themselves passed the nights without food and broke their fasting with water only.
On the fourth day, Imam Ali (a.s.) took his dear sons - Hasan and Hussein -with himself to see the Holy Prophet. When the Prophet (s.a.) observed them - trembling with hunger - he said, “It grieves me to see you in this condition”. Then, he stood up and accompanied them to their house. On entering the house, he was shocked to see the sight of his daughter Fatima, sitting hollow-eyed on her prayer mat, her stomach stuck to her back. It was then that the Archangel Gabriel came down with this Surah, saying:
"0 Muhammad, Allah congratulates you for having such a (devoted) household”, and then recited the verses of Surah Al-Insan.
All Shiite scholars unanimously agree that at least 18 verses of this Surah (Chapter) are revealed on the abovementioned occasion. These verses are considered as a great badge of honor for the Holy Ahlul-Bayt (a.s.).
3- The Verse of Tat’heer (Purity) (in Surah Al-Ahzab: Verse 33):
Verily, Allah desires to keep away the uncleanness (impurities) from you, O people of the House! And to purify you, a (thorough) purifying...
This is actually a genetic purification of the Ahlul-Bayt (as); that is, the Ahlul-Bayt (including Hazrat Fatima) are not only infallible (far from any kind of uncleanness, disobedience, error, sin, or personal whim) but also away from ‘the thought of sin’.
4- The Verse of Mubahala (Mutual Cursing) Surah Aale-Imran: Verse 61):
If anyone disputes with you in this matter - after what has come to you of knowledge - then say: Come let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, our souls and your souls; then let us earnestly pray, and invoke the curse of Allah upon the liars.
This verse points towards an epoch-making event, narrated by all historians and commentators; an event that revealed to the Muslims how near and dear the progeny of the Prophet are to Allah, the Exalted.
This event that clearly marked out the distinct status of the Ahlul-Bayt, is known in the annals of Islamic history as Mubahala, that is, invoking Allah's curse on the liars. Historians and exegetes of the Holy Koran have narrated the event as follows:
A deputation (the deputation comprised three prominent Christian leaders of Arabia) from the Christians of Najran region in Arabian Peninsula came to the Prophet of Islam to argue the merits of their faith. The Holy Prophet advanced to them arguments showing that Jesus the son of Mary was a human-being and a Prophet, and it was blasphemy to regard him as a son of God, because Allah the Exalted is high above all such human characteristics.
Although the Holy Prophet argued to the point fully and convincingly, the Christian leaders deliberately persisted in their false belief in the deity of Prophet Jesus. So Allah (S.WT.) revealed this verse. It was a challenge to the Christians, to pray and invoke Allah that the curse may overtake the party that insisted upon falsehood.
Early the next morning on the 24th of the Arabic lunar month of Dhul-Hijja, the Holy Prophet - in accordance with Allah's command - came out to the meeting grounds. The Holy Prophet (s.a.) carried Hussein in his arms and led Hasan (our sons) by his hand; they were followed by Holy Fatima (our women), behind whom came Ali (our souls) carrying the banner of Islam.
Seeing the Prophet accompanied by his immediate family, Christians were convinced that Muhammad (s.a.w.) was truthful; otherwise he would not have dared to bring his dearest of kin along. So they refrained from Mubahala (Mutual Cursing) and agreed to pay Jizya (tax) instead.
In this story, we perceive that Imam Hasan and Imam Hussein are the sons of the Holy Prophet, Fatima is his selected lady, and Imam Ali is actually his soul. These are the members of Prophet’s household, the nearest ones to him, and those who are the symbols of truth to prove the superiority and truthfulness of the great religion of Islam.
Neither pen nor tongue is able to express the merits of Holy Fatima (s.a.). Mankind cannot imagine her elevated position. What we said above was actually a drop from the vast ocean of her character. Zahra (s.a.) can be accounted as the best role model, whom has been trained in the “school of Islam”.
She was perfect in all dimensions of her personality and had achieved the zenith of human perfection. That is why she is a perfect role model for all human beings, either men or women.
Her distinguished descendant, the late Imam Khomeini (may Allah bless his soul) once said: “… Fatima Al-Zahra (s.a.) is the manifestation of all dimensions that could be imagined for a woman or for a human being. She has not been an ordinary woman, but a spiritual and celestial lady and a representation of perfect humanity, the real meaning of a perfect lady, and the ultimate example of an ideal human being. She is a heavenly creature who has appeared in this world in form of a human being. All that could be imagined with regard to mankind’s excellence is crystallized in the character of our Lady Fatima (s.a.). Had she been a man, she ascended the position of the Messenger of Allah. Spirituality, celestial qualities, heavenly moralities, and divine manifestations have been developed in the personality of Fatima, a perfect human being…”