One of the most important female figures for the roles of women is Fatima, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad and his first wife Khadija. Born around 604, Fatima is known as al-Zahra (the Radiant), after which the Al-Azhar University was named by Imam al-Mu’izz, who founded it in 972.
Fatima is noted by several writers as the Prophet’s most beloved and most pious daughter, and the wife of his paternal cousin Ali, the first Imam of the Shi’as. The Fatimids also derive their name from the Prophet’s daughter.
Qadi al-Numan (d. 974), the Fatimid jurist and chief missionary, reported that the union of Fatima and Ali was divinely ordained to the Prophet through angel Gabriel. Al-Nu’man also reported a number of hadiths in which the Prophet named Fatima as ‘the foremost lady of the whole community of believers’ or ‘the first of the women of Paradise.’
Fatima is also lauded as a pious intercessor. To this day her intermediation is sought by Twelver Shi’is, as shown at passion plays (ta’ziya) in praise of Fatima and her progeny.
Fatima has remained a reference figure throughout the Fatimid period (909-1171) and beyond. Her name, or her titles, are found in coins and other objects, and were reportedly mentioned in the blessings of the Ahl al-Bayt that were included in the khutba upon the Fatimid conquest of Egypt.
A rosary-like prayer known as Tasbih Fatima (Fatima’s glorification of God), is reported by Fatimid writers as consisting of three sections of thirty-three blessings or formulae, which, added to the shahada, invoke the name of God one hundred times, for which Allah will grant benefits equivalent to 1,000 good deeds.
The tasbih was given to Hazrat Fatima by the Prophet to help her in times of difficulty.
Extracts from “Women and the Fatimids in the World of Islam,” by Delia Cortese and Simonetts Calderini, Edinburgh University Press, 2006
Compiled by Nimira Dewji