Fatima, daughter of the prophet Muhammad and his first wife Khadija, is venerated throughout the Islamic world. She married her father’s cousin ‘Ali b. Abi Talib, and gave birth to al-Hasan and al-Husayn, the only male descendants of the Prophet.
Historical sources on her life are scarce and often shaped by religio-political tendencies. Fatima is the numinous female figure of Islam, adored in religious traditions and cosmogonic myths of the Shia. As the favourite daughter of the Prophet and bearer of his baraka, she is also honoured in Sunni Islam and popular belief. Decades after its publication, Laura Veccia Vaglieri’s article in EI2 still provides useful information on Fatima in history and legend. In light of more recent research, it has become apparent that her image of the historical Fatima frequently incorporated projections of later Muslim authors. Veccia Vaglieri explicitly distances her study from Henri Lammens’ Fatima et les flues de Mahomet (1912), which underlay his article in the first edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam (1927). Contrary to the negative portrait that Lammens drew of the Prophet’s daughter, Louis Massignon portrayed Fatima exclusively as a mystically elevated figure (Massignon, Der gnostische Kult, and Mubahala). In this work, he built his position mostly on notions of minority Shia groups, as well as rituals and celebrations that are linked to Fatima. More recently, Muhammad Ali Amir-Moezzi and Jean Calmard published a valuable article providing new material regarding Fatima’s role in Shri spirituality, popular devotion, and folklore. Amir-Moezzi often touches upon Fatima’s position in cosmogony and spirituality in his works on the early esoteric doctrines of Imami Shi’ism (Divine guide; Spirituality; cf. Ayoub). Since the 1990s, early Islamic traditions have been increasingly examined from a literary point of view and with regard to the discourses that shaped them (e.g., Donner; Giinther). Denise Spellberg has shown, in Giinther). Denise Spellberg has shown, in her study of ‘A’ isha bt. Abi Bala (1994), that images of the women close to the Prophet were constructed in the light of intra-Islamic discourses and struggles for political legitimacy. Barbel Beinhauer-Kohler has published a groundbreaking, comprehensive study (2002) that analyses particularly the genesis of Sunni and Shia images of the Prophet’s daughter in light of religious-political differentiation, and also in mysticism, magic, and popular devotion. Verena Klemm’s articles (Erzahlung, Image formation) delineate literary processes of emerging Sunni and Shi`i notions of Fatima. Todd Lawson studies the reincarnation (or “return”) of Fatima—in a woman known as Tahira (Qurrat al- `Ayn), who was seen by many Babis as the reincarnation of Fatima—and her role during the rise of the Babi movement in nineteenth-century Iran. Beinhauer-Kohler and Klemm (Fatima is Fatima) also present modern receptions of Fatima, in which she functions as a role model for socially and politically conscious and committed contemporary women.
Title: Faṭima Bt. Muḥammad – Encyclopedia of Islam
Editor(s): P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs.
Length: 9 pages
Pub. Date: 13 January 2023