Fatimah was the fifth child of Muhammad and
Khadijah. She 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.
This was the time, before the Bithah, when her eldest sister Zaynab was
married to her cousin, al-Aas ibn ar Rabiah. Then followed the marriage of
her two other sisters, Ruqayyah and Umm Kulthum, to the sons of Abu Lahab, a
paternal uncle of the Prophet. Both Abu Lahab and his wife Umm Jamil turned
out to be flaming enemies of the Prophet from the very beginning of his
The little Fatimah thus saw her sisters leave home one after the other to
live with their husbands. She was too young to understand the meaning of
marriage and the reasons why her sisters had to leave home. She loved them
dearly and was sad and lonely whe n they left. It is said that a certain
silence and painful sadness came over her then.
Of course, even after the marriage of her sisters, she was not alone in the
house of her parents. Barakah, the maid-servant of Aminah, the Prophet's
mother, who had been with the Prophet since his birth, Zayd ibn Harithah,
and Ali, the young son of Abu Ta lib were all part of Muhammad's household
at this time. And of course there was her loving mother, the lady Khadijah.
In her mother and in Barakah, Fatimah found a great deal of solace and
comfort. in Ali, who was about two years older than she, she found a
"brother" and a friend who somehow took the place of her own brother
al-Qasim who had died in his infancy. Her othe r brother Abdullah, known as
the Good and the Pure, who was born after her, also died in his infancy.
However in none of the people in her father's household did Fatimah find the
carefree joy and happiness which she enjoyed with her sisters. She was an
unusually sensitive child for her age.
When she was five, she heard that her father had become Rasul Allah, 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 str ength 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 Iris
side walking through the narrow streets and alleys of Makkah , visiting the
Kabah or attending secret gatherings off, 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 Kabah and began
to pray. Fatimah stood at his side. A group of Quraysh, by no means
well-disposed to the Prophet, gathe red about him. They included Abu Jahl
ibn Hisham, the Prophet's uncle, Uqbah ibn Abi Muayt, Umayyah ibn Khalaf,
and Shaybah and Utbah, sons of Rabi'ah. Menacingly, the group went up to the
Prophet and Abu Jahl, the ringleader, asked: "Which of you can bring the
entrails of a slaughtered animal and throw it on Muhammad?" Uqbah ibn Abi
Muayt, one of the vilest of the lot, volunteered and hurried off. He
returned with the obnoxious filth and threw it on the shoulders of the
Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, while he was still
prostrating. Abdullah ibn Masud, a companion of the Prophet, was present but
he was powerless to do or say anything. Imagine the feelings of Fatimah as
she saw her father being treated in this fashion. What could She, a girl not
ten years old, do? She went up to her father and removed the offensive
matter and then stood firmly and angrily before the group of Quraysh thu gs
and lashed out against them. Not a single word did they say to her. The
noble 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!"
and repeated this imprecati on three times. Then he continued: "May You
punish Utbah, Uqbah, Abu Jahl and Shaybah." (These whom he named were all
killed many years later at the Battle of Badr)
On another occasion, Fatimah was with the Prophet as he made; tawaf around
the Kabah. A Quraysh mob gathered around him. They seized him and tried to
strangle him with his own clothes. Fatimah screamed and shouted for help.
Abu Bakr rushed to the scene and managed to free the Prophet. While he was
doing so, he pleaded: "Would you kill a man who says, 'My Lord is God?'" Far
from giving up, the mob turned on Abu Bakr and began beating him until blood
flowed from his head and face.
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 defence 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.
Of course, she was not alone in this. The whole of the Prophet's family
suffered from the violent and mindless Quraysh. Her sisters, Ruqayyah and
Umm Kulthum also suffered. They were living at this time in the very nest of
hatred and intrigue against the Prophet. Their husbands were Utbah and
Utaybah, sons of Abu Lahab and Umm Jamil. Umm Jamil was known to be a hard
and harsh woman who had a sharp and evil tongue. It was mainly because of
her that Khadijah was not pleased with the marriages of her daughters to Umm
Jamil's sons in the first place. It must have been painful for Ruqayyah and
Umm Kulthum to be living in the household of such inveterate enemies who not
only joined but led the campaign against theft father. As a mark of disgrace
to Muhammad and his family, Utbah and Utaybah were prevailed upon by their
parents to divorce their wives. This was part of the process of ostracizing
the Prophet totally. The Prophet in fact welcomed his daughters back to his
home w ith joy, happiness and relief.
Fatimah, no doubt, must have been happy to be with her sisters once again.
They all wished that their eldest sister, Zaynab, would also be divorced by
her husband. In fact, the Quraysh brought pressure on Abu-l Aas to do so but
he refused. When the Qurays h leaders came up to him and promised him the
richest and most beautiful woman as a wife should he divorce Zaynab, he
replied: "I love my wife deeply and passionately and I have a great and high
esteem for her father even though I have not entered the religion of Islam."
Both Ruqayyah and Umm Kulthum were happy to be back with their loving
parents and to be rid of the unbearable mental torture to which they had
been subjected in the house of Umm Jamil. Shortly afterwards, Ruqayyah
married again, to the young and shy Uthman ibn Affan who was among the first
to have accepted Islam. They both left for Abyssinia among the first
muhajirin who sought refuge in that land and stayed there for several years.
Fatimah was not to see Ruqayyah again until after their mother had died.The
persecution of the Prophet, his family and his followers continued and even
became worse after the migration of the first Muslims to Abyssinia.