Islamic Studies Fatima
Mary Thurlkill
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 December 2009
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0025


Fatima was the daughter of the prophet Muhammad and his first wife, Khadija. The date of her birth is disputed, with 604 CE being the most commonly cited. Fatima was also the wife of Ali ibn Abu Talib and the mother of Hasan and Husayn. Sunni tradition acknowledges Fatima as the prophet’s beloved daughter and characterizes her as often impatient and ungrateful. Sunnis contrast her with the more pious and favored ʿAʾisha, the prophet’s youngest wife. Shiʿite tradition, however, elevates Fatima to an exalted status because she is the nexus of the Imamate, which Shiʿites recognize as the infallible, authoritative lineage that proceeds from ʿAli and Fatima. Because she was the matriarch of the holy family (ahl al-bayt), Shiʿite tradition imbues Fatima with miraculous traits (such as eternal purity) and advances her as an exemplary model for all Shiʿites to imitate. After its consolidation in Iran, the Islamic Republic designated Fatima’s birthday as the official Women’s Day in Iran.

General Overviews

The citations in this section include a survey of both primary and secondary texts. The primary texts are those from the classical and medieval period that relate both Sunni and Shiʿite views of Fatima and the ahl al-bayt (holy family). Because Fatima plays such an important role in Shiʿite cosmology, the list includes many more references to Shiʿism and Shiʿite Hadith collections than to Sunni ones. The secondary texts provide a survey of basic Shiʿite theology that can help the reader understand the adoration of Fatima and the ahl al-bayt. While they do not focus solely on Fatima, they provide the contextual basis for her veneration in Shiʿism.

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