In Madinah, Fatimah lived with her father in the simple dwelling he had built beside the mosque. In the second year after the Hijrah, she received proposals of marriage through her father, two of which were turned down. Then `Ali ibn Abi Talib plucked up courage and went to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to ask for her hand in marriage.
At this, according to one report, the Prophet simply said, “Marhaban wa ahlan [Arabic for: welcome into the family],” and this was taken by `Ali and a group of Ansar (Muslims of Madinah) who were waiting outside for him as indicating the Prophet’s approval. Another report indicated that the Prophet agreed and went on to ask `Ali if he had anything to give as mahr (dower). `Ali replied that he hadn’t. The Prophet reminded him that he had a shield, which could be sold.
Fatimah and `Ali were thus married most probably at the beginning of the second year after the Hijrah. She was about 19 years old at the time and `Ali was about 21. The Prophet himself organized the marriage ceremony. At the walimah (the wedding banquet), the guests were served with dates, figs, and hais (a mixture of dates and butterfat). A leading member of the Ansar donated a ram and others made offerings of grain. All Madinah rejoiced.
`Ali had only a sheepskin as a bed in his humble dwelling. On his daughter’s marriage, the Prophet is said to have presented Fatimah and `Ali with a wooden bed intertwined with palm leaves, a velvet coverlet, a leather cushion filled with palm fiber, a sheepskin, a pot, a water skin, and a quern for grinding grain.
Fatimah left the home of her beloved father for the first time to begin life with her husband. The Prophet was clearly anxious on her account and sent Barakah (also Umm Aiman, the caregiver of the Prophet during his infancy) with her should she be in need of any help. No doubt Barakah was a source of comfort and solace to her. The Prophet prayed for them.
After the wedding ceremony, the Prophet sent a messenger to `Ali, commanding him not to do anything until he (peace and blessings be upon him) would come to him. When the Prophet went to `Ali’s house, Barakah came out and the Prophet said to her, “O Umm Ayman, call my brother for me.”
“Your brother? That’s the one who married your daughter?” asked Barakah somewhat incredulously as if to say, “Why should the Prophet call `Ali his brother?” The Prophet referred to `Ali as his brother because just as pairs of Muslims were joined in brotherhood after the Hijrah, the Prophet and `Ali were linked as brothers.
The Prophet repeated what he had said in a louder voice. `Ali came and the Prophet made a du`aa’, invoking the blessings of Allah unto him. Then he asked for Fatimah. She came almost cringing with a mixture of awe and shyness, and the Prophet said to her,
“I have married you to the dearest of my family to me.” (Reported by In Hajar)
In this way, he sought to reassure her. She was not starting life with a complete stranger but with one who had grown up in the same household, who was among the first to become Muslim at a tender age, who was known for his courage, bravery, and virtue, and whom the Prophet described as his “brother in this world and the hereafter.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Fatimah’s life with `Ali was as simple and frugal as it was in her father’s household. In fact, so far as material comforts were concerned, it was a life of hardship and deprivation. Throughout his life with Fatimah, `Ali remained poor because he did not set great store by material wealth. Fatimah was the only one of her sisters who was not married to a wealthy man.
In fact, it could be said that Fatimah’s life with `Ali was even more rigorous than her life in her father’s home. At least before marriage, there were always a number of ready helping hands in the Prophet’s household. But in `Ali’s house she had to virtually cope on her own. `Ali worked as a drawer and a carrier of water and she as a grinder of corn. One day she said to `Ali, “I have ground until my hands were blistered.”
“I have drawn water until I had pains in my chest,” said `Ali and went on to suggest to Fatimah, “Allah has given your father some captives of war, so go and ask him to give you a servant.”
Reluctantly, she went to the Prophet, who said, “What has brought you here, my little daughter?” “I came to give you greetings of peace,” she said. In awe of him, she could not bring herself to ask what she had intended.
“What did you do?” asked `Ali when she returned alone.
“I was ashamed to ask him,” she said. So, the two of them went together, but the Prophet felt they were less in need than others.
“I will not give to you,” he said, “and let Ahl As-Suffah (poor Muslims who stayed in the mosque) be tormented with hunger. I have not enough for their keep” (Ahmad).
`Ali and Fatimah returned home feeling somewhat dejected, but that night, after they had gone to bed, they heard the Prophet’s voice asking permission to enter. Welcoming him, they both rose to their feet, but he told them, “Stay where you are,” and sat down beside them. “Shall I not tell you of something better than that which you asked of me?” he asked, and when they said “yes” he said, “Words that Jibril taught me — that you should say, after every prayer, subhan Allah [glory be to Allah] 10 times, al-hamdu lillah[all praise be to Allah] 10 times, and Allahu Akbar[Allah is the Greatest] 10 times. And when you go to bed you should say them 33 times each” (Ahmad).
`Ali used to say in later years, “I have never once failed to say them since Allah’s Messenger taught them to us.”
There are many reports of the hard and difficult times that Fatimah had to face. Often there was no food in her house. Once the Prophet was hungry. He went to one after another of his wives’ apartments, but there was no food. He then went to Fatimah’s house and she had no food either. When he eventually got some food, he sent two loaves and a piece of meat to Fatimah.
At another time, he went to the house of Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari, and from the food he was given, he saved some for Fatimah. She also knew that the Prophet was without food for long periods of time, and she in turn would take food to him when she could. Once she took a piece of barley bread to him, and after he ate it he told her, “This is the first food your father has eaten in three days” (Ahmad).
Through these acts of kindness, Fatimah showed how much she loved her father, and he loved her.
When the Prophet would return from a journey outside Madinah, he used to go to the mosque first of all and pray two rak`ahs there. Then, he would go to Fatimah’s house before going to his wives’ houses. One time, Fatimah welcomed him and kissed his face and the between of his eyes and cried. “Why do you cry?” the Prophet asked. She said, “I see you, oh Allah’s Messenger, your color is pale and sallow, and your clothes have become worn and shabby”.
The Prophet replied tenderly, “O Fatimah, don’t cry, for Allah has sent your father with a mission that He would cause to affect every house on the face of the earth …” (Reported by Al-Hakim).
With such comments, Fatimah was often taken from the harsh realities of daily life to get a glimpse of the vast and far-reaching vistas opened by the mission entrusted to her noble father.
Fatimah eventually returned to live in a house close to that of the Prophet. The place was donated by an Ansari who knew that the Prophet would rejoice in having his daughter as his neighbor. Together they shared the joys and triumphs as well as the sorrows and hardships of the crowded and momentous Madinah days and years.
In the middle of the second year after the Hijrah, Fatimah’s sister Ruqayyah fell ill with fever and measles. This was shortly before the great battle of Badr. `Uthman ibn `Affan (Ruqayyah’s husband) stayed bedside his wife and missed the battle. Ruqayyah had died just before her father returned. One of the first acts of the Prophet on his return to Madinah was visiting his daughter’s grave.
Fatimah went with him. This was the first bereavement they had suffered within their closest family since the death of Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her). Fatimah was greatly distressed by the loss of her sister. The tears poured from her eyes as she sat beside her father at the edge of the grave, and he comforted her and sought to dry her tears with the corner of his cloak.
`Uthman later married Umm Kulthum (another daughter of the Prophet). On this account, `Uthman came to be known as dhu an-nurayn, meaning possessor of the two lights (two daughters of the Prophet).
The bereavement that the family suffered by the death of Ruqayyah was followed by happiness when, to the great joy of all the believers, Fatimah gave birth to a boy in Ramadan of the third year after the Hijrah. The Prophet spoke the words of the Adhan into the ears of the newly born baby and called him Al-Hasan, which means the beautiful one.
One year later, Fatimah gave birth to another boy, who was called Al-Husayn, which means the little beautiful one. Fatimah would often bring her two sons to see their grandfather, who was exceedingly fond of them. Later, the Prophet used to take them to the mosque and the boys used to climb onto his back when he prostrated himself in prayer. He did the same with his little granddaughter Umamah, the daughter of Zaynab.
In the eighth year after the Hijrah, Fatimah gave birth to a third child, a girl whom Fatimah named after her eldest sister Zaynab, who had died shortly before Fatimah gave birth to the new child. This Zaynab grew up and become known as the heroine ofKarbala’. Fatimah gave birth to a fourth child whom Fatimah named Umm Kulthum after her sister who had died a year before.
It was only through Fatimah that the progeny of the Prophet was continued. All the Prophet’s male children died in their infancy and the two children of Zaynab named `Ali and Umamah died young. Ruqayyah’s child, Abdullah, also died when he was not yet two years old.
Although Fatimah was so often busy with pregnancies and giving birth and rearing children, she took as much part as she could in the affairs of the growing Muslim community of Madinah. Before her marriage, she acted as a sort of hostess to the poor and destitute Ahl As-Suffah.
As soon as the Battle of Uhud was over, she went with other women to the battlefield and wept over the dead martyrs and took time to dress her father’s wounds. At the Battle of Al-Khandaq, she played a major supportive role, together with other women, in preparing food during the long and difficult siege. In her camp, she led the Muslim women in prayer, and on that place stands a mosque named Masjid Fatimah.
Fatimah also accompanied the Prophet when he made `Umrah in the sixth year after the Hijrah, following the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah. In the following year, she and her sister Umm Kulthum were among the mighty throng of Muslims who took part with the Prophet in the liberation of Makkah. It is said that on this occasion, both Fatimah and Umm Kulthum visited the home of their mother, Khadijah, and recalled memories of their childhood, memories of jihad, and memories of long struggles in the early years of the Prophet’s mission.
In Ramadan of the tenth year after the Hijrah, just before he went on his Farewell Pilgrimage, the Prophet confided the following to Fatimah as a secret not yet to be told to others:
“Every year Jibril used to revise the Qur’an with me only once, but this year he has done so twice. I think this portends my death.” (Al-Bukhari)
On his return from the pilgrimage (which was later called Farewell Pilgrimage), the Prophet did become seriously ill. His final days were spent in the apartment of his wife `A’ishah. When Fatimah came to visit him, `A’ishah would leave the father and daughter alone.
One day the Prophet summoned Fatimah. When she came, he kissed her and whispered some words in her ear. She wept. Then again he whispered in her ear and she smiled. `A’ishah saw this and asked, “You cry and smile at the same time, Fatimah? What did Allah’s Messenger say to you?” Fatimah replied,
“He first told me that he would meet his Lord after a short while, and so I cried. Then he said to me, ‘Don’t cry, for you will be the first of my household to join me.’ So, I smiled.”
Not long afterwards the noble Prophet passed away. Fatimah was grief-stricken and she would often be seen weeping profusely. One of the companions noted that he did not see Fatimah (may Allah be pleased with her) laugh after the death of her father.
One morning, early in the month of Ramadan, just less than five months after her noble father had passed away, Fatimah the resplendent one also passed away while she was only 29 years old.