An integral part of Islam is maintaining ties of kinship, and in particular, being good towards one’s immediate family. While Prophet Muhammad ﷺ loved all his children equally, he had a very special relationship with his youngest daughter, Fatima. She was born a few years before prophethood was bestowed upon him, and was the only one of his seven children to survive him. There are various aspects of the affectionate relationship between the Prophet ﷺ and his beloved daughter that are worth presenting as an example and inspiration for us today.
The Most Beloved One
Fatima and Aisha were the two most beloved individuals to the Prophet ﷺ, according to various reports. Once, Ali and Abbas came to the Prophet ﷺ, asking which of his family members was most beloved to him. The Prophet ﷺ replied, “Fatima bint Muhammad.” (Tirmidhi) The Prophet ﷺ frequently expressed his great affection for Fatima. However, his immense love for his daughter was not restricted to mere words, but it was reflected in the way he treated her and cared for her.
Meeting with Enthusiasm
In many cultures and societies, the relationship between the father and daughter is a very reserved one, involving a minimal expression of emotions. In contrast, the Prophet ﷺ and Fatima were quick to express their affection for each other. Aisha narrates regarding the two of them: “Whenever she came to him, he got up to [welcome] her, took her by the hand, kissed her, and made her sit where he was sitting; and whenever he went to visit her, she got up to [welcome] him, took him by the hand, kissed him, and made him sit where she was sitting.” (Abu Dawud) Indeed, the Prophet ﷺ and Fatima made each other feel truly welcome, and expressed genuine pleasure at seeing each other, rather than making a mere gesture of customary respect.
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Easing his Pain
Fatima was there for the Prophet ﷺ and firmly supported him through all the difficult times in his life. Once, during the early years of his prophethood in Mecca, Muhammad ﷺ was praying near the Kaaba, and was being observed by a group of disbelievers that included Abu Jahl. As the Prophet ﷺ went down in prostration, they heaped the wasted foetus of a slaughtered camel onto his back at Abu Jahl’s suggestion, and burst out laughing at this repulsive deed. Someone informed Fatima about it who was a young girl at the time. She rushed to the scene, removed the filth from her father’s back using her bare hands, and boldly confronted the disbelievers. (Muslim)
Later, in Medina, when the Prophet ﷺ sustained injuries during the Battle of Uhud, Fatima was the one who tended to his wounds. Sahl bin Saad narrates: “When the helmet of the Prophet ﷺ was smashed on his head and blood covered his face, and one of his front teeth got broken, Ali brought the water in his shield and Fatima washed him. But when she saw that the bleeding increased more by the water, she took a mat, burnt it, and the wound of the Prophet ﷺ was filled with its ashes and so the blood stopped oozing out.” (Bukhari) Hence, Fatima was there for her father at a time of extreme agony for him.
Striving for her Happiness
The Prophet ﷺ chose the most suitable life partner for Fatima, and made sure she was married at a most appropriate age. Abu Bakr and Umar, two of the Prophet’s ﷺ closest companions, successively asked for Fatima’s hand in marriage, but the Prophet ﷺ rejected both proposals on grounds that she was too young. It was narrated from Abdullah bin Buraida that his father said, “Abu Bakr and Umar, may Allah be pleased with them, proposed marriage to Fatima but the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, ‘She is young.’ Then Ali proposed marriage to her, and he married her to him.” (Nasai) Ali was a young man – hence more of her age peer – and did not have any other wife at the time. The Prophet ﷺ also ensured that Ali gave her a bridal gift (mahr) before the consummation of marriage.
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Later, when Fatima found it increasingly difficult to carry out the household chores owing to her deteriorating health, the Prophet ﷺ gifted her a slave to help ease her burden. (Abu Dawud)
Highest Regard for her Feelings
It was a norm in Arabian society for a man to marry more than one woman. However, when Ali intended to take a second wife, the Prophet ﷺ sharply rebuked his decision because of the pain it would cause to Fatima. The Prophet ﷺ ascended the pulpit in the mosque, and declared, “Banu-Hisham bin Al-Mughira have requested me to allow them to marry their daughter to Ali bin Abi Talib, but I do not give permission, and will not give permission, unless Ali bin Abi Talib divorces my daughter in order to marry their daughter, because Fatima is part of me, and I hate what she hates to see, and what annoys her, annoys me.” (Bukhari)
According to other versions of this narration, he also said, “Fatima is a part of me, and he who makes her angry, makes me angry.” (Bukhari) And, “Fatima bint Muhammad is a part of me, and I hate to see her faced with troubles.” (Ibn Majah) Thus, Ali gave up the idea of that marriage, and did not marry any other woman during the lifetime of Fatima.
Parting Tears and a Smile
During the final illness of the Prophet ﷺ, Fatima was greatly disturbed to see her father in pain. On the day of his demise, she entered his room, kissed him, and cried, “O my father, what severe agony!” (Ibn Majah) Seeing her thus agitated, the Prophet ﷺ whispered something to her that made her cry, and then something else which made her laugh. She later revealed that the first time, the Prophet ﷺ made it clear that he would soon be leaving this world, which made her cry, while the second time, he revealed that she would be the first of his family members to join him, which made her laugh. He further consoled her, saying, “O Fatima, will you not be pleased that you will be chief of all the believing women [on the Day of Resurrection]?” (Bukhari) Hence, even in his final moments, the Prophet ﷺ did not like to see his daughter in agitation, and dearly wanted to bring a smile on her face. A beautiful relationship indeed!