Islamic Perspectives

The Prophet’s foster mother

Fatimah bint Asad belonged to the Hashimite clan. Her grandfather was Hashim, the Prophet’s (pbuh) great-grandfather. When Muhammad was only eight years old, he lost his grandfather, ‘Abd Al-Muttalib who was looking after him after he had lost both his parents. When ‘Abd Al-Muttalib realized that he was about to die, he called his son Abu Talib and entrusted the young Muhammad to his care. Although ‘Abd Al-Muttalib had many sons at the time, he chose Abu Talib because Abdullah, the Prophet’s father, was his full brother and because he knew Fatimah to be a kindly and caring woman. She proved to be a great choice, as she looked after Muhammad as well as she looked after her own children. In order to appreciate how caring she was, we take the Prophet’s own words. When she died, he prayed for her, saying: "May God have mercy on you, mother. You were my mother after my own mother had passed away. You left yourself hungry to feed me and in rags to clothe me. You deprived yourself of the best food to give it to me. Your aim was to please God".

 When the Prophet received his divine message and was told to call on people to embrace Islam, Fatimah was one of the earliest people to respond. We know that her son, Ali, was one of the first four people to accept it. Fatimah is reported to have been the eleventh person to become a Muslim. Needless to say, her knowledge of the Prophet’s character, whom she had brought up, was sufficient for her to realize that he, who never told a lie, could not make a false claim about God.

 The Prophet was the most dutiful of people. Whenever anyone did him an act of kindness, he would repay it in the most generous way. Fatimah migrated to Madinah with all members of the Prophet’s household, except his daughter Zainab who remained with her husband. Fatimah was a widow at the time. The Prophet used to visit her at home, and would even have an afternoon nap in her home. It was not long after their settlement in Madinah that her son, Ali, married the Prophet’s own daughter Fatimah. Thus she became the Prophet’s daughter’s mother-in-law. She was very kind to her and helped her in every way she could.

 When the Prophet had something to give as a present he did not forget to give her a share, treating her in the same way as he treated his own daughter. Once the Prophet was sent a suit made of velvet. He would not wear it, as he did not like to wear luxurious clothes. He gave the suit to Ali and told him: "Make it as scarves and give it to the Fatimahs."
 Ali mentioned that he made four scarves: one for his mother, Fatimah bint Asad, one for his wife, Fatimah bint Muhammad, and one for his cousin Fatimah bint Hamzah, and the last for his sister-in-law, Fatimah bint Shaibah, Aqeel’s wife.

When Fatimah bint Asad died, the Prophet prayed for her as we have already mentioned. He took part in preparing her for burial, pouring the water over her body for her final bath. He took off his shirt and put it on her, wrapping her body with a suitable cover above it. He took part in preparing her grave. He even lay in it. He then said: “It is God who gives life and causes death. He is the One who is always alive and never dies. My Lord, forgive my mother Fatimah bint Asad her sins, grant her proof, make her entrance wide. I appeal to You by the truth of Your messengers and the Prophets before me. You are the most merciful.”

 The Prophet was asked why he did those things for Fatimah bint Asad. He answered: “Next to Abu Talib no one was more kindly to me than her. I dressed her in my shirt so that she would be given suits from heaven, and I lay in her grave so as to make her last dwelling easier for her.”
Adil Salahi

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 June 2012 on page no. 20

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