The Birth of the Lady Fāṭimah (‘a)

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The Birth of the Lady Fāṭimah (‘a)

Question: In what year was the Lady Fāṭimah (‘a) born?
Concise answer:
Detailed answer: There is some degree of controversy amongst the Islamic historians as to the year in which Fāṭimah (‘a) was born. One group is of the opinion that she was born after the Bi‘thah and this seems to be the majority opinion and agreed upon by both schools of thought (Shia and Sunni). Another group is of the opinion that she was born before the time of the Bi‘thah and this group is entirely from the Ahl al-Sunnah. It would be useful at this point to look deeper in to both of these viewpoints:

The first opinion: The scholars of the Shia and some amongst the Ahl al-Sunnah believe that the birth of Fāṭimah (‘a) took place after the Bi‘thah. Various traditions exist which support this opinion and we will narrate only some of them in an attempt to keep this discussion as brief as possible:
 
A- Ibn Shahr Āshūb has written: Fāṭimah ZahrāÞ (‘a) as born five years after the Bi‘thah on the 20th day of Jamādī al-Thānī; this date is three years after the occurrence of the Mi‘rāj. Fāṭimah (‘a) lived alongside her father for eight years in Mecca and then they emigrated to Medina. When the Prophet (ṣ) passed away, she was 18 years and 7 months old and she lived only 75 days after the passing of her father.[1]

B- Ya‘qūbī has written in his history text: The Prophet (ṣ) married Khadījah, the daughter of Khuwaylid when he was 25 years old. He fathered the following children from this marriage: Qāsim, Ruqayyah, Zaynab, and Umm Kulthūm, and they were all born before the time of the Bi‘thah; Fāṭimah (‘a) and ‘Abdullah (who was also called Ṭayyib and Ṭāhir) were born after the Bi‘thah, during the time of Islam.[2]

C- In the text DalāÞil al-Imāmah, Muḥammad ibn Jarīr Ṭabarī has narrated the following from Imam Ṣādiq (‘a):  Fāṭimah (‘a) was born on the 20th of Jamādī al-Thānī in the 45th year and her father was the Prophet (ṣ)…[3]

D- Ḥākim has narrated from Imam Ja‘far Ṣādiq (‘a): Fāṭimah passed away when she was 21 years old and she was born when the Prophet (ṣ) was 41 years old.[4]

The second opinion: Some scholars from the Ahl al-Sunnah are of the opinion that Fāṭimah (‘a) was born before the Bi‘thah and this opinion is fairly controversial:

A- The earliest date that has been mentioned is five years before the Bi‘thah of the Prophet (ṣ) and this is the same year that the Kaaba was renovated.[5] This opinion is considered to be accurate amongst the scholars of the Ahl al-Sunnah. According to this opinion, Fāṭimah (‘a) should have been 28 years old at the time of her death.[6]

B- The latest date that has been mentioned is twelve years before the Bi‘thah of the Prophet (ṣ) and this would make her age 35 at the time of her death.[7]

C- Some have mentioned her age as being 25 when she passed away and if this was the case, then she would have been born two years before the Bi‘thah.[8]

D- Some have said that she was born six years before the Bi‘thah; this means that she was 29 at the time of her death.[9]

E- Some have mentioned the year of her birth as being seven years before the Bi‘thah; according to this date, she would have been 30 years old at the time of her martyrdom.[10]

This is just a review of various opinions that are held on this subject, and yet the question still remains as to which opinion is the most correct. There are a few points that must be discussed beforehand in order to better understand which of these dates is the more correct opinion: Firstly, the traditions from the sources of the Ahl al-Sunnah are full of contradictions and differences and this causes a situation of uncertainty. Secondly, many historical sources as well as numerous traditions have reported that some of the children of Khadījah were born after the Bi‘thah[11], and it is well known that Fāṭimah (‘a) was the last of her children. Based on this certainty, we can reject the opinions which believe that she was born before the Bi‘thah. The scholar Ibn ‘Abd al-Birr has narrated this same issue in regards to Khadījah in his book Al-Istī‘āb. Thirdly, many of the historians and narrators of tradition from the Ahl al-Sunnah have narrated that Fāṭimah (‘a) was conceived after the Prophet (ṣ) had eaten from the fruit of paradise.[12]

Similarly, Ḥākim Nayshābūrī has narrated in his book Mustadrak from Sa‘ad ibn Mālik that: The Prophet of God (ṣ) said: On the night that I was taken for the Mi‘rāj, Gabriel brought me a pear from paradise. I ate that and Khadījah became pregnant with Fāṭimah. So whenever I long for the smell of paradise, I smell the neck of Fāṭimah.[13] This tradition has directly mentioned that the birth of Fāṭimah (‘a) was after the time of the Bi‘thah; the Prophet (ṣ) went on his Mi‘rāj journey after the time of the Bi‘thah and this is not contested by anyone.

Abū Bakr Baghdādī has narrated from ‘Āishah that: I said to the Prophet of God (ṣ): Oh Prophet of God (ṣ), why is it whenever Fāṭimah (‘a) comes to visit you, you kiss her and respect her in a special way? The Prophet (ṣ) said: Indeed oh ‘Āishah! When I had gone on the Mi‘rāj, Gabriel took me to paradise and he gave me an apple from there; I ate that apple and that apple was transferred to my loins… When I came back to earth I was with Khadījah and Fāṭimah was conceived at that time. Fāṭimah is a human ‘Hūrī; whenever I long for paradise, I kiss my daughter Fāṭimah (‘a).[14]

Fourthly, a report has been narrated from Muslim which shows that the birth of Fāṭimah (‘a) was after the time of the Bi‘thah. The report mentions the following: While the Prophet (ṣ) was prostrating in prayer, Abū Jahl threw some sheep intestines on him. A person informed Fāṭimah (‘a) of what had taken place. Fāṭimah (‘a), who was only a young girl at that time, came and wiped her father’s face clean and reprimanded the polytheists for what they had done.[15] This incident happened after the passing of Abū Ṭālib, about 11 or 13 years after the Bi‘thah.  If the Lady Fāṭimah (‘a) was born five years before the Bi‘thah, then she would have been 16-18 years old at that time. If she was of such an age, then the narrator of the aforementioned tradition would not have used the phrase ‘a young girl’ in describing her.

Now one issue that is brought up is that if Fāṭimah (‘a) was born on the fifth year after the Bi‘thah, and Khadījah married the Prophet (ṣ) when she was forty years old (and the Prophet (ṣ) was 25), then it must logically follow that Khadījah would have been 59 years old when she gave birth to Fāṭimah (‘a). This is while the maximum age of conception for women is around 50 years of age and this seems to be an unlikely situation. We can answer this issue in the following way: Firstly, this is not an impossible situation and the women of the Quraysh are considered ‘YāÞisah’ at the age of 60. Secondly, the Quran has mentioned the story of Sara, the wife of Prophet Abraham (‘a), who was given the good news of the birth of Isḥāq and Ya‘qūb. At the time of this news, she was an old woman and she said out of surprise: “…‘Oh, my! Shall I, an old woman, bear [children], and [while] this husband of mine is an old man?! That is indeed an odd thing!’”[16] This shows that even in old women such a thing is not impossible.
In conclusion, the birth of the Lady Fāṭimah (‘a) was on the 20th of Jamādī al-Thānī in the fifth year of the Bi‘thah. She was married at the age of 9 and she passed away on the third of Jamādī al-Thānī in the year 11 Hijrī (she was approximately 17 days away from her 18th birthday). It is also interesting to note that there may be other motives in mentioning the birth of Fāṭimah (‘a) as having taken place before the Bi‘thah. Such motives can be divided in to two main categories: The first is that one of the virtues of Fāṭimah (‘a) was that she was conceived from the food of paradise.[17] Another miracle related to her time of birth was that she would speak to her mother while she was in her stomach.[18] Altering the date of her birth would negate the possibility of some of these things. The second possible motive is that through altering the date of her birth, her marriage with Imam ‘Alī (‘a) was nothing special and Imam ‘Alī (‘a) and ‘Uthmān were equal in this rank. Irregardless of these two points, the historical sources show us that the Lady Fāṭimah (‘a) was definitely born after the Bi‘thah and the opinions contradicting this are incorrect and invalid from a historical perspective


Footnote: [1] Manāqib Ibn Shahr Āshūb, vol. 3, p. 357.

[2] Tārīkh YaÝqūbī, translation, vol. 1, p. 375.

[3] Refer to: Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 43, p. 9: « وُلِدَتْ فَاطِمَةُ فِی جُمَادَى الْآخِرَةِ الْیَوْمَ الْعِشْرِینَ مِنْهَا سَنَةَ خَمْسٍ وَ أَرْبَعِینَ مِنْ مَوْلِدِ النَّبِیِّ(ص)...»

[4] Mustadrak, vol. 3, p. 178, hadith num. 4765.

[5] Tārīkh khamīs, vol. 1, p. 277; DakhāÞir al-Ýuqbā, p. 49; Maqātil al-ṭālibīīn, p. 48.

[6] Maqtal al-Ḥusayn (Ýa), Khawārizmī, vol. 1, p. 83.

[7] Tārīkh al-khamīs, vol. 1, p. 277; DakhāÞir al-Ýuqbā, p. 49; Maqātil al-ṭālibīīn, p. 48.

[8] Mushkil al-āthār, Ṭaḥāwī, vol. 1, p. 47.

[9] From the Maqtal of Ḥusayn (Ýa) by Khawārizmī, vol. 1, p. 83; Tārīkh al-khamīs, vol. 1, p. 278; DakhāÞir al-Ýuqbā, p. 26 and 52.

[10] Tārīkh khamīs, vol. 1, p. 278; DakhāÞir al-Ýuqbā, p. 52.

[11] Al-BadaÞ wa al-tārīkh, vol. 5, p. 16; Tārīkh al-khamīs, vol. 1, p. 272.

[12] Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 43, p. 3-6; Tārīkh al-khamīs, vol. 1, p. 277; DakhāÞir al-Ýuqbā, p. 36; and Lisān al-mīzān, vol. 1, p. 134.

[13] Mustadrak, Ḥākim Nayshābūrī, vol. 3 p. 169. Also refer to: Aḥqāq al-ḥaqq, vol. 10, p. 5; «اتانی جبرئیل بسفرجلة من الجنة فاکلتها لیلة اسرى بی فعلقت‏ خدیجة بفاطمة فکنت اذا اشتقت الى رائحة الجنة شممت رقبة فاطمة»

[14] Tārīkh Baghdād, vol. 5, p. 87; YanābīÝ al-muwaddah, vol. 2, p. 240; Aḥqāq al-ḥaqq, vol. 10 p. 5; Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 18, p. 315, 350, and 364… « نعم یا عائشه! انی لما اسری بی الى السماء ادخلنی جبرئیل الجنة فناولنی منها تفاحة فاکلتها فصارت نطفة فی صلبی، فلما نزلت واقعت‏خدیجة ففاطمة من تلک النطفة، و هی حوراء انسیه، کلما اشتقت الى الجنة قبلتها»

[15] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, p. 3, kitāb al-jiḥād wa al-sayr, hadith 107.

[16] Surah Hūd, verse 72.

[17] Mustadrak Ḥākim, vol. 3, p. 169; for further information, refer to: Aḥqāq al-ḥaqq, vol. 10, p. 12.

[18] Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 43, p. 2. Some scholars of the Ahl al-Sunnah have narrated reports in regards to Fāṭimah (Ýa) speaking to her mother while in the womb…
Published on: « 1392/12/06 »
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