I first learnt of this amazing sahabiyah last year, whilst listening to another talk, and I remember thinking that’s so true, why is the wife of Abu Talib rarely mentioned when we are taught that Abu Talib took care of the Prophet ﷺ from a very early age.
Fatima bint Assad (ra) was the wife of Abu Talib and the mother of the two of the most famous sahaba Jafar and Ali ibn Abu Talib, and she herself was a great sahabiyah herself.
Tonight’s Masjid halaqa was about her – and I was genuinely happy to know this, as I feel culturally we speak about a specific set of sahaba all the time, leaving out the very many others, including some of the female companions.
The imam made us all a bit teary when describing her relationship with the Prophet ﷺ and how Fatima bint Assad alongside her husband, as a team open handedly took in the Prophet ﷺ when he was a small boy. He ﷺ spent 20 years of his life with them and was known to say that even his own mother wouldn’t have been able to give him more love than what he received from Fatima bint Assad.
We were told today that when Ali (ra) accepted Islam and later went to visit his parents (because he used to live with the Prophet ﷺ), they noticed a difference in him and asked him what had changed. He told them: (paraphrased) I believe in Allah, I believe Muhammad is the Messenger, I believe in the revelation he claims to have received, I pray with him to Allah and I have followed Muhammad as he is a Prophet. I was surprised at his parents response, bearing in mind neither of them were Muslim at the time. They said to him: We know him, if he calls you to something, it can only be good – exemplifying being supportive parents.
The Prophet ﷺ used to tell his aunt about Islam, inviting her to accept, initially she refused and even said: I would not want to die, unless I am on the religion of your uncle. They had an amazing bond as husband and wife.
She embraced Islam and underwent some very difficult times during the three years of the boycott. When the imam narrated the next part, I felt ashamed of myself, he said during the Hijra from Makkah to Medinah, Fatima bint Assad, went the whole journey on foot, a journey that took at least a week on animal back. She did this as she wanted to travel with her children. I felt ashamed because I really struggled travelling from Medinah to Makkah and from Jeddah to Medinah during my hajj and later my umrah. I thought about this great woman, and felt how selfish and self absorbed I am, when I couldn’t cope travelling in air conditioned cars, and she walked with blisters, hunger and in the heat of Arabia.
I feel these reminders are really important for us, as it helps re evaluate how we react to certain situations, and InshaAllah helps us take inspiration from such lives, because although we know that sabr and steadfastness are required of us, real examples gives those words heavier meanings.
When Ali (ra) proposed to marry the other Fatima we all know about, the Prophet ﷺ accepted with no hesitation, and the imam mentioned that in most instances, parents worry about the family and in-laws their daughters will become a part of, but in this instance, he ﷺ knew that his aunt, who would now become his daughter’s mother in law, took great care of him, she would surely take care of his daughter. This made me smile.
The imam shared little bits from the relationship the Prophet ﷺ had with Fatima bint Assad, which I’ll leave out because the post will become too long. But I do want to share what happened when this amazing lady passed away in the fourth year after hijrah.
To read the next bit, I suggest you hold yourself close, read with your heart and not your eyes, because the eyes will surely fill with water. The Prophet ﷺ sat beside his aunt’s bedside, uncovered her face and kissed her forehead, he then cried an uncontrollable cry and said: May Allah have mercy on you, my mother, you were my mother in the absence of my mother.
The Prophet ﷺ then gave very specific instructions to the women on how to give ghusl to Fatima bint Assad – making sure they knew how many times to turn the body, with exact details. He ﷺ removed his own shirt and asked them to shroud her in it. He lead her janazah, and instead of the usual four takbirs in the janazah, the Prophet ﷺ did 70 takbirs, his emotional attachment was apparent in this janazah.
He ﷺ asked senior sahaba like Abu Bakr and Umar (ra) to dig her grave. The Prophet ﷺ went inside the grave to check it, he recited Quran and made dua. When the body was lowered inside the grave the Prophet ﷺ stayed and didn’t want to leave.
When asked about the shroud, which was his ﷺ shirt, the Prophet ﷺ said: I gave my shirt today, Allah will give her the clothes of Jannah later.
When asked about his dua inside of the grave, he ﷺ said: I made dua for Allah to save her from the squeeze of the grave. Our imam, at that moment reminded us of this squeeze, telling us, that when Sa’ad Ibn Mu’adh had died and the throne of Allah had shook (if you don’t know about this sahabi, I urge you to look him up), the Prophet ﷺ had said: even Sa’ad wasn’t spared from the squeeze of the grave. He ﷺ wanted his aunt spared from it.
Usually, I share bits from the masjid halaqa, with hope of making my parenting journey better, and this mother has definitely given me things to think about, but with this reflection, the thing I left the masjid with, was the thought of the grave. My grave, when I won’t be a mum, a daughter or anything else, but myself, a destination I cannot avoid, to a place where I can only take my deeds.
These great people, who lived alongside the Prophet ﷺ, they made that living great with intentions and actions – knowing about them helps us, knowing about them is good, knowing about them pushes us, to want better for ourselves and those around us. May we see glimpses of them and reside in the eternity of beauty. But before we get there, we have work to do.