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Life History of Fatima al-Maʻsouma

Faṭima bt. Mūsā b. Jaʿfar, (b. 173/790 – d. 201/816) well known as Fatima al-Ma’suma (a) is the daughter of Imam al-Kazim (a) and sister of Imam al-Rida (a).

She is one of the famous Imamzadas. In 201/816, she traveled to Iran to visit her brother, Imam al-Rida (a), in Tus. However, she passed away in the middle of the way due to an illness and was buried in Qom.

She has a great and special position in the Shi’a tradition. It is narrated that the reward of the Ziyarah of her shrine is Paradise. Shiites have built a structure over her grave which is known as the Holy Shrine of Lady Fatima al-Ma’suma (a).

Birth and Lineage

There is no specific mention of Lady Fatima al-Ma’suma’s birth date in early sources; however, later history books state that she was born on Dhu l-Qa’da 1, 173/March 22, 790, in Medina. She is said to have passed away on Rabi II 10, 201/November 5, 816. Her father is Musa b. Ja’far al-Kazim (a), the seventh Shi’a Imam. When recounting the daughters of Imam al-Kazim (a), al-Shaykh al-Mufid mentions two Fatimas –the elder Fatima and the younger Fatima. Also, Ibn al-Jawzi records two other daughters of the Imam, known as the middle Fatima and the last Fatima. The mother of Lady Fatima al-Ma’suma and Imam al-Rida (a) is Najma Khatun.

Date of Birth and Demise

Rida Ustadi believes that the oldest source which mentioned the dates of birth and demise of Lady Ma’suma (a) is Nur al-afaq (published in 1334/1915)[1] written by Jawad Shah ‘Abd al-‘Azimi (d. 1355/1916).[2] Ustadi referred to different parts of this book and concluded that many of its claims including the dates of birth and demise it mentions for Lady Ma’suma (a) are forged and other books have cited them from this book.[3] Some years after the publication of Ustadi’s article, Rasul Ja’fariyan complained about mentioning these dates of birth and demise in calendars and published a summary of Ustadi’s researches. Also, Sayyid Diya’ Murtadawi emphasized the same point in an article titled as “the dates of birth and demise of Lady Fatima al-Ma’suma (a), a report on baseless documentation”. In this report, he explained fruitless efforts for finding the dates of birth and demise of Lady Ma’suma (a) and introduced the sources Jawad Shah ‘Abd al-‘Azimi referred to as fake and unreliable.

Sayyid Musa Shubayri  Zanjani mentioned the dates of birth and demise of Lady Ma’suma (a) forged and told the story of their forgery.[4] The author of Rayahin al-shari’a mentioned that the dates are invalid.[5] He claimed that he referred to the source Shah ‘Abd al-‘Azimi mentioned, but did not find anything in this regard. He also mentioned that he consulted about this issue with Shihab al-Din Mar’ashi and he too emphasized that both dates are forged and invalid[6] and that Ayatullah Mar’ashi knew the forger and about his intention.

Name and Titles

Her titles include Tahira (the pure one), Hamida (the praised one), Birra (the righteous one), Rashida (the mature one), Taqiyya (the pious one), Naqiyya (the pure one), Radiyya (the contented one), Mardiyyah (the one with whom God is pleased), Sayyida, Siddiqa (the truthful one), and Ukht al-Rida (the sister of al-Rida). She is also widely known as Karimat Ahl al-Bayt (a).


Her most famous title is al-Ma’suma. This title is taken from a narration of Imam al-Rida (a)[7] which states, “Whoever visits (the Shrine of) al-Ma’suma in Qom, it is as if he has visited me”.[8] According to another narration, she has also referred to herself as al-Ma’suma, the sister of Imam al-Rida (a).

Karima of the Ahl al-Bayt (a)

Lady Ma’suma (a) is known today as Karima of the Ahl al-Bayt (a).[9] It is said that this naming is based on a dream Sayyid Mahmud Mar’ashi Najafi, father of Ayatullah Mar’ashi Najafi had, in which one of Imams (a) called Lady Ma’suma (a), “Karima of the Ahl al-Bayt (a)” (the generous lady of the Ahlal-Bayt (a)) and advised Mar’ashi to visit her grave.[10]

Personal Merits

In traditional texts, it has been narrated that except for Imam al-Rida (a) of course, none of Imam al-Kazim’s children were at the level of Lady al-Ma’suma (a).[11] Shaykh ‘Abbas al-Qummi believes that Lady Ma’suma is the most virtuous and respected lady among the daughters of Musa b. Ja’far (a).[12] Imam Khomeini has paralleled the position of Lady Fatima al-Ma’suma (a) with that of Lady Fatima al-Zahra (a) in a forty-four line poem.


It has been reported that once a group of Shi’a entered Medina to ask Imam al-Kazim (a) some questions. At the time, the Imam was on a trip outside of Medina; therefore, Fatima al-Ma’suma (a) wrote the answers to their questions on a piece of paper and handed it to them. On their way back, they encountered the Imam (a) outside of the town. When the Imam saw their questions and the replies given by Fatima al-Ma’suma (a), he said: “May her father be her sacrifice” repeating it three times.


Based on some narrations, Fatima al-Ma’suma (a) can intercede for people before God and Shiites will enter heaven by her intercession. For instance, it is narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (a) that: “There will pass away in Qom a lady of my descendants known as Fatima, by whose intercession our Shi’as will enter the heaven.”

Moreover, her position and proximity to God has been mentioned in her Ziyarah text and she has been asked for intercession.


Lady Ma’suma (a) never married.[13] Some reasons have been mentioned for this, including:

1-Pressure in the time of the Abbasid caliph, Harun: A more likely opinion about the reason why she remained single is that during the reign of Harun al-Rashid and al-Ma’mun, Shi’as, ‘Alids and their leader, Imam al-Kazim (a), were under harsh persecution. Consequently, their social connections were severely limited and nobody dared to have relations with them.

2-Being matchless: Some believe that knowledge and spiritual perfection of Lady Ma’suma (a) was so high that she had no match for marriage.[14] On the contrary, some say that Imams (a) never forced their daughters not to marry and they believed that practicing Muslim men are a match for practicing Muslim women.

3-The will of her father: According to a report from al-Ya’qubi, it was in the will of Imam al-Kazim (a) that none of his daughters should marry[15]; however, other historians have rejected the authenticity of this report.[16]

In Imam al-Kazim’s will, the full obedience of all children to Imam al-Rida (a) is stressed, and it is explicitly stated: “None of my daughters shall marry by the leave of their half-brothers, uncles or rulers, except with a consultation and accordance to the opinion of al-Rida (a). If they do otherwise, it is as if they have opposed God and his Prophet (s) and disputed with God in his divine kingdom; for he (Imam al-Rida) is more aware of the interests of his tribe in the matter of marriage. Therefore, whomever he wants, will get married, and whomever he does not want, shall refrain from it”[17].


As a narrator, Fatima al-Ma’suma has quoted several Hadith from previous Infallible Imams (a), most notably of which are: The Hadith al-Ghadir, the Hadith al-Manzila, and hadith concerning the love for Prophet Muhammad’s Progeny (a), and the position of Imam ‘Ali (a) and his followers.

Immigration to Iran and Arrival in Qom and Demise

The author of the book The History of Qom, writes: in the year 200/815 the Abbasid caliph, Ma’mun, summoned Imam al-Rida (a) from Medina to Merv, for he wanted to appoint the Imam as his successor. Fatima al-Ma’suma (a) left Medina in 201/816 to join her brother. It has been reported that she prepared herself for the long journey after she received a letter from her brother in that regard. Al-Ma’suma (a) headed for Iran in a caravan of her relatives. Upon their arrival to Saveh, a city near Qom, they had a bloody confrontation with the enemies of Ahl al-Bayt (a) which resulted in the martyrdom of all her brothers and nephews. When she saw the bloody scene she became ill. Thereafter, she ordered her servant to take her to the city of Qom.[18]

Another historical account states that when the news of her illness reached Banu Sa’d, they decided to go to her and request her to come to Qom.[19] Musa b. Khazraj, a companion to Imam al-Rida (a), was the first to do so.[20] He went to the caravan and invited her to his house. In some later history books, the date of her arrival to Qom is recorded as Rabi’ I 23, 200/October 23, 816. Fatima al-Ma’suma settled in this house for seventeen days, spending her time in worshiping and praying. Today, the sanctuary where she prayed in the house of Musa b. Khazraj in Qom is a famous site known as Sittiyya or Bayt al-Nur (the house of light).


There is no explicit mention of the exact date of her demise in early sources; however, later historical accounts state that she passed away on Rabi’ II 10, 201/November 5, 816 when she was 28 years old. Some also have recorded the 12th of the same month (November 7).

The Shi’as held an honorable funeral for her in which they took her body to a garden owned by Musa b. Khazraj known as Babilan (current shrine).[21] Some acts of wonder have been reported about her burial. Musa b. Khazraj made a straw awning over the grave which was there until 256/870 when Zaynab, the daughter of Imam al-Jawad (a), came to visit the shrine of her aunt and built the first dome over it.



[1] Ustādī, Āshnāʾī bā ʿAbd al-ʿAzīm wa maṣādir sharḥ-i ḥāl-i ū, p. 297.

[2] Ustādī, Āshnāʾī bā ʿAbd al-ʿAzīm wa maṣādir sharḥ-i ḥāl-i ū, p. 301.

[3] Ustādī, Āshnāʾī bā ʿAbd al-ʿAzīm wa maṣādir sharḥ-i ḥāl-i ū, p. 301.

[4] Shubayrī Zanjānī, Jurʿa-eī az daryā, vol. 2, p. 519.

[5] Maḥallātī, Rayāḥīn al-sharī’a, vol. 5, p. 31.

[6] Maḥallātī, Rayāḥīn al-sharī’a, vol. 5, p. 32.

[7] Mahdīpūr, Karīma-yi Ahl Bayt (a), p. 29.

[8] Maḥallātī, Rayāḥīn al-sharīʿa, vol. 5, p. 35.

[9] Mahdīpūr, Karīma-yi Ahl Bayt (a), p. 41-42.

[10] Mahdīpūr, Karīma-yi Ahl Bayt (a), p. 41-42.

[11] Shūshtarī, Tawārīkh al-Nabī wa al-Āl, p. 65.

[12] Qummī, Muntahā l-āmāl fī tawārīkh al-Nabī wa al-Āl, p. 378.

[13] Mahdīpūr, Karīma-yi Ahl Bayt (a), p. 150.

[14] Mahdīpūr, Karīma-yi Ahl Bayt (a), p. 151.

[15] aʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī, vol. 2, p. 361.

[16] Qarashī, Ḥayāt al-Imām Mūsā b. Ja’far (a), vol. 2, p. 497.

[17] Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 317.

[18] Qummī, Tārīkh-i Qom, p. 213.

[19] Qummī, Tārīkh-i Qom, p. 213.

[20] Qummī, Tārīkh-i Qom, p. 213.

[21] Qummī, Tārīkh-i Qom, p. 213.


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