Personality and Position of Umm al-Banin in Islam

Lineage and Status of Umm al-Banin

Umm al-Banin, also known as Fatimah, is the daughter of Hazam ibn Khalid ibn Rabiah, who was the brother of a well-known poet from the pre-Islamic era of ignorance (Jahiliyyah) and the owner of one of the seven major encampments. She is the descendant of Amir ibn Qalab ibn Rabiah ibn Amir ibn Sasa’ah al-Qalabi.

Her mother, Shamameh, is the daughter of Suhail ibn Amir ibn Malik ibn Jafar ibn Qalab. Her ancestors and relatives were all renowned Arab warriors during the era of ignorance, engaging in everlasting heroic epics, demonstrating exceptional courage and generosity. In describing them, Aqeel ibn Abi Talib remarked:

“Among the Arab people, one cannot find anyone braver and more valiant than the ancestors and relatives of Umm al-Banin.”

The Story of the Birth of Umm al-Banin

It is narrated that Hazam ibn Khalid ibn Rabiah was on a journey when his wife, Fatimah (Umm al-Banin), gave birth to a daughter. One night, while he was asleep, he dreamt of a figure seated on the ground, surrounded by friends and companions, holding pearls that were continuously being turned around, captivating everyone with their beauty. Suddenly, a man from the desert, riding a horse, approached him. As soon as he reached him, he greeted him, and the man responded to his greeting. The horseman then said, “How much do you sell these pearls for?”

Hazam replied, “I don’t know the price. How much will you buy them for?” The man replied, “I don’t know the price either, but I want to give them as a gift to one of the princes. In return, I guarantee you something more valuable than a dirham or dinar.” Hazam asked, “What is more valuable than a dirham or dinar?”

The man said, “I guarantee that you will have eternal proximity, status, and glory in his presence.” Hazam inquired, “Do you really bring me to such a position?” The man said, “Yes.” Hazam asked, “Will you be my intermediary in this matter?” He replied, “Yes, I will be your intermediary. So give it to me.” Hazam gave the pearls to the man. As soon as he woke up, he narrated his dream to his friends and asked them to interpret it. One of them said, “If your dream is truthful, then God will grant you a daughter whom one of the great men will seek in marriage. Therefore, you will be honored by being related to him, and you will achieve dignity and sovereignty.”

When Hazam returned from his journey, he learned that his wife, Thumama bint Suhail, was expecting. Delighted, he thought to himself, “The dream was true!” When asked about the name, he said, “Name her Fatimah, and her title shall be Umm al-Banin.”

Unfortunately, the precise date of the birth of this noble lady is not known. While history often records trivial matters in the courts of the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs, such as the color of a monkey’s collar or the description of the noise in the royal court, it has not provided much information about the life of this heroic woman. A woman whose entire life was filled with values, lofty ideals, and dignified positions.

Here, one must ask: What happened to the sermons, knowledge, heroism, jihad, patience, and resistance of a woman who spent part of her life in the household of Imamate? This is truly poignant.

In any case, perhaps we can ascertain her birth date through the birth of her eldest son, Qamar Bani Hashim, documented by historians as the year 26 AH. His honorable life lasted 34 or 38 years until his martyrdom in the land of Karbala, according to Tabarsi in his book “I’lam al-Wara.”

It is well-known that the tragic events of Ashura occurred in the year 61 AH. Beyond these details, when Imam Ali, after the martyrdom of Lady Fatimah, asked his brother Aqil to introduce him to a woman from the brave and valiant lineage, Imam Ali’s words indicate that Umm al-Banin, during that era, was a woman who had reached the age of physical and intellectual maturity. Therefore, she could be considered a suitable wife for Imam Ali. It is evident that if she were under 15 years old, Aqil would not have mentioned her. Especially since he had complete knowledge of genealogy and it was reasonable for him to choose a woman for his brother who was suitable in terms of age, capability, and dignity.

It seems unlikely that this union occurred after the year 26 AH, as her brave son Abbas was born in that year or in 23 AH.

Furthermore, it is improbable that such a woman would remain unmarried until the age of 23 or 24, given that her son Abbas was about 34 years old at the time of his martyrdom. Therefore, it is more likely that her age at the time of marriage to Imam Ali (peace be upon him) was between 17 and 21 years old. Since the conception of the first child usually occurs within a year of marriage, it can be said that her age at the time of giving birth to Abbas was approximately 18 to 22 years old. From this perspective, the approximate time of the birth of Imam Abbas can be considered between the years 5 and 9 BH.

Among some opinions, there is a belief that Umm al-Banin was around 55 years old during the events of Ashura. If this is the case, it can be said that her birth occurred around the year 6 BH. In that case, it appears that Umm al-Banin was one year younger than Imam Hussein, and he was about 18 to 22 years old at the time of Abbas’ birth. Therefore, her birth year can be considered between the years 5 and 9 BH. However, some have stated that she was around 55 years old at the time of the tragic events of Ashura (61 AH).

Upbringing and Spiritual Status of Lady Umm al-Banin

Umm al-Banin grew up in a noble and honorable family, a family considered the highest, most esteemed, and noblest, admired by the Arab dignitaries. This noble lineage embodied generosity, courage, eloquence, valor, ethical virtues, chastity, purity, authenticity, and integrity. Indeed, Umm al-Banin was an honorable woman who matured in an environment rich in faith, asceticism, and piety. Therefore, she was a woman characterized by piety, devotion, modesty, and admirable qualities.

The late first martyr, the pious jurist and God-fearing man, Muhammad ibn Maki Ameli, the author of the book “Lum’ah Dimashqiyyah” (which has long been taught in religious seminaries), said about Fatimah (Umm al-Banin):

“Umm al-Banin should be considered among the virtuous women who were knowledgeable of the rights of the Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them), sincerely devoted to following, loyalty, friendship, and love for them. In return, the Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them) also respected her and held a high position for her. To the extent that after returning to Medina, Lady Zainab went to see her and consoled her on the martyrdom of her four sons in Karbala in such a way that it seemed like congratulating her on the days of celebration!”

Similarly, Sayyid Mohsen Amin, the author of the famous book “A’yan al-Shi’a,” writes about her: “She was a poetess, eloquent, and emerged from a noble and brave Arab lineage.”

In any case, these clear indications, including her selection as the wife of Ali ibn Abi Talib, Zainab’s inquiry about her, and her honorable mention in the books of great scholars and jurists, all highlight her esteemed status and elevated position among the Prophet’s family and purity.

Umm al-Banin, the Second Wife of Imam Ali

After the martyrdom of Fatimah Zahra (PBUH), Imam Ali (PBUH) married Umm al-Banin, but it is not clear whether she was the second wife of the Imam (after Sayyidah Fatimah al-Zahra), as there are indications that Imam Ali also married Khawla bint Jaffar ibn Qais. However, historians have different views on this matter, but it is more likely that after the death of Fatimah Zahra, Imam Ali married Umm al-Banin and Khawla bint Jaffar, making the latter his fourth wife.

Abbas ibn Ali, the eldest son of Umm al-Banin, was born in the year 24 AH, and it seems unlikely that Imam Ali immediately married Umm al-Banin after the martyrdom of Sayyidah Fatimah in the year 11 AH. This assumption would require saying that Umm al-Banin experienced a state of pregnancy for more than 12 years.

The story of the marriage of Ali (PBUH) to Umm al-Banin

Imam Ali (PBUH) said to his brother Aqil, a knowledgeable genealogist familiar with the history and lineage of the Arabs, “Introduce me to a woman who comes from the lineage of brave and heroic people. I want her to bear a brave and valiant son for me.” Aqil replied, “Why don’t you consider Fatimah bint Hizam Kalabi? Her fathers and ancestors are among the bravest and most enduring men of the Arabs.”

It should be noted that the same story is also mentioned in Hakimi’s book “A’yan al-Nisa,” with the difference that Aqil ibn Abi Talib says to his brother Ali, “Brother! Why are you pursuing such a woman?” He replied, “I want to marry her to have a brave son who will help my son Hussain in the tragedy of Taff.” Then Aqil advised him to marry Umm al-Banin because she came from a lineage where her fathers and ancestors were the bravest and most enduring among all Arab tribes. Then Ali asked his brother Aqil to propose to her. Aqil went to her father (Hizam) and said to him, “I have brought you the honor of this world and the hereafter!” He asked, “What is it?” Aqil said, “I have come to ask for your daughter for my brother Ali ibn Abi Talib, and he is interested in marrying her due to the nobility and authenticity of your family lineage.” Hizam said, “No one reaches this position until I consult with her mother.” Aqil waited, and Hizam, Umm al-Banin’s father, also entered and heard that his daughter Fatimah was describing a dream to her mother.

Dream and Vision of Umm al-Banin

It is narrated that Umm al-Banin described her dream to her mother as follows:

“In my dream, I felt that I was sitting in a garden full of fruits. In it, abundant rivers were flowing, and the sky was clear with a shining full moon, and stars were spreading their light. I pondered upon the greatness of God’s creation, how He raised the sky without pillars and created this shining moon and bright stars!

Engulfed in these thoughts, suddenly it seemed to me that the moon descended from the heart of the sky and fell into my lap. It had such radiance that it dazzled the eyes. Astonished and amazed, I realized that three other bright stars also fell into my lap until their light and brilliance covered my eyes. Wonder and amazement overcame me, and suddenly I heard the voice of a caller without seeing his face, saying:

“Congratulations, O Fatimah, for these honorable blessings, Which are like three shining stars and a radiant moon. Their father is the master of all beings…”

When I heard these words, I was suddenly awakened, terrified and startled from the dream. I asked my mother, ‘What is the interpretation of this dream?’ She said, ‘My daughter, if your dream is a truthful vision, you will marry a highly noble and esteemed man, who holds a very high position in the sight of God, and people of his lineage follow and obey him. You will bear four children from him, the first of them having a face like the moon, and the other three shining like bright stars.’

When her father, Hizam, heard this, he came to them with a smile and said:

‘My daughter, your dream was true.’

The mother turned to the father and asked: ‘How did you understand this matter?’ He replied: ‘Right now, Aqil ibn Abi Talib is in our house to propose to your daughter. I have asked him to propose to a woman from a pure and noble lineage with bravery, so that she can bear a brave and valiant son for my brother Ali, to stand by him in the event of Taff in Karbala. Thus, your father has reserved you for such a day, so you should not fall short in relation to the sanctity and respect of your brother and sisters!’

After this incident, Hizam, joyful and smiling, returned to Aqil. When Aqil saw him, he asked: ‘What news?’ Hizam replied: ‘It is good to seek God’s blessings. We have accepted that our daughter becomes the wife of the Commander of the Faithful.’ Aqil said: ‘She will not be a maidservant, but rather, she will be the wife of Ali.’

The news of the marriage reached Karbala

In history, it is narrated that before the commencement of the battle between Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and his companions against the army of Umar ibn Sa’ad in the land of Karbala, either just before or shortly after the onset of the conflict, Zuhayr ibn Qayn approached Abdullah ibn Jafar ibn Aqil and said, ‘Brother, entrust this standard to me.’ Abdullah asked, ‘Have I fallen short in carrying it?’ Zuhayr replied, ‘Never, but I need it.’ Abdullah handed over the standard, and Zuhayr took it. He then approached Abbas ibn Ali (peace be upon them) and said, ‘I want to speak to you, and I expect you to fully comprehend my words.’ Abbas responded, ‘Speak; what sweetness does speech hold at this moment!’

Zuhayr then addressed Abbas, saying, ‘O Abu al-Fadl, know that when your father, Amir al-Mu’minin, wanted to marry your mother Fatimah, he sent his brother Aqil to propose for him. Aqil was well-acquainted with the Arab lineages, and he said to him, ‘Brother, I ask of you to seek the hand of a woman from a noble, pure lineage, with honorable ancestry and courage, so that she may bear a valiant and courageous son for the support and assistance of my son (Hussain) on the day of Taff. Therefore, your father preserved you for such a day. Thus, you should not fall short regarding the sanctity and honor of your brothers and sisters!’ Abbas, upon hearing these words, trembled and spurred his horse so forcefully that it broke apart. He then turned to Zuhayr and said, ‘Zuhayr, your encouragement on this day is commendable. I swear to God I will display heroism today like never seen before…’

After concluding his speech and hearing the suggestion to receive a letter of protection for himself and his brothers, Imam Abbas returned to the tent. Following this, his sister Zaynab, having heard his conversation with Zuhayr, came to meet him and said, ‘Brother, I wish to discuss something with you.’

Imam Abbas replied, ‘Sister, now is a very appropriate time for conversation.’

Zaynab said, ‘Brother, when our mother Fatimah departed from this world, our father, Amir al-Mu’minin, asked his brother Aqil to choose a wife for him. He requested that Aqil find a woman from a genuine, noble lineage—a lineage that is pure, brave, and courageous. This was to ensure that she would bear a son for him who would be brave and valiant, ready to defend his son Hussain in Karbala. So, you should know that your father has preserved you for such a day. Therefore, do not fall short, O Abu al-Fadl!’

Upon hearing these words from his sister Zaynab, Abbas was greatly pleased and overjoyed.

The Lady of Epic Valor

Undoubtedly, the remarkable stance of this heroic lady (Umm al-Banin) in accepting the guardianship of the infallible and pure progeny of the Prophet (peace be upon them) was not a random, reactive, or impulsive action, especially concerning the master of martyrs, Imam Hussain (peace be upon him). Rather, various reasons and factors gradually led her to the pinnacle of faith and sincerity, resulting in her acquiring such sublime qualities and attributes.

The most significant factors can be summarized in four main axes:

  1. Educational lesson from Umm al-Banin in the school of Amir al-Mu’minin, Ali: To the extent that Daoudi, the author of the book “Al-Umda,” refers to her as an “Alimah” (knowledgeable) in his work. Considering that, at that time, no woman other than Lady Zainab had been described with this quality. Umm al-Banin achieved high ranks and deserved the knowledge to be entrusted with many occult sciences and complex secrets. These were conveyed by Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who then passed them on to his cousin and son-in-law, Imam Ali (PBUH). Umm al-Banin acquired this knowledge through Amir al-Mu’minin, and it reached the other infallibles through him. Notably, she was aware of the events of Ashura and what would happen to her son Abbas. When Abbas was born, Ali kissed his hands, and when Umm al-Banin inquired, Imam Ali (PBUH) informed her about the severing of his hands on the day of Ashura, While striving to reach the water camp and quench the thirst of the sons of the Prophet of God (peace be upon him and his family).

Therefore, recognizing Umm al-Banin as part of the lineage of infallibility and purity makes it obligatory for us to have awareness, knowledge, affection, and obedience towards her and others. The Prophet of Islam also emphasized this:

“Whoever shows kindness to us and, at the same time, goes to meet God, will enter Paradise through our intercession. I swear by the one whose my soul is in his hands; on the Day of Judgment, no servant will benefit from his deeds unless he recognizes our right.”

He also said:

“No one enters Paradise unless he acknowledges the recognition of the Ahl al-Bayt and they, in turn, accept him. Similarly, no one enters Hell unless he denies the guardianship of the Ahl al-Bayt, and they also reject him.”

And he further stated:

“Always consider the family of your Prophet, preserve their honor, follow their way, for they will not lead you astray, nor will they lead you to destruction. So if they remain silent, you also remain silent, and if they rise, you rise. Do not precede them, or you will go astray, and do not lag behind them, or you will be doomed.”

  1. Qualifications and spiritual and mental fitness of Umm al-Banin: According to philosophers, any action in the external world does not materialize except through the realization of two issues: a) Action and b) Reaction. This means that the intended action must be carried out, and the object of that action must have the capability for it. Umm al-Banin’s personality aligns perfectly with this concept. She reached a high level of purity and dedication to the cause of Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them). Her upbringing reflected a combination of action and reaction. She was trained in the teachings of Amir al-Mu’minin, and her heart was infused with love and loyalty to the Ahl al-Bayt from her early childhood. This is evident in her reaction when Bashir ibn Hadhlam came to convey condolences for the martyrdom of her four sons. Despite her deep love for them, she turned her face away and, with an iron heart and unparalleled knowledge about the Ahl al-Bayt, spoke about her devotion to Imam Hussain and the sacrifice of her sons for his cause.

Indeed, she wept day and night for Hussain and, due to excessive sorrow, found no sleep. She went so far as to leave the transient world without gaining a distinguished position for herself, except for the realization of the two aforementioned issues (action and reaction). Umm al-Banin took illumination from the knowledge of Amir al-Mu’minin and learned sublime teachings from him. Her nobility should not overshadow the essence and depth of her faith and virtue.

  1. Good family environment and proper upbringing: Umm al-Banin was a worshiper, devout, and a lover of good and kindness. She practiced what she preached, promoting virtuous behavior and condemning vice. She belonged to a pure and honorable lineage, and her ancestors and relatives were known for their noble qualities. Furthermore, she was raised under the care and guardianship of a highly esteemed and respected father and mother. This upbringing, along with the guidance of her parents, instilled in her virtues such as modesty, chastity, and good behavior from her early years. Umm al-Banin’s environment, filled with goodness and propriety, contributed to her becoming a paragon of purity and virtue. Her commitment to righteousness, not only through words but through actions, was evident, and her devotion to the Ahl al-Bayt was deeply rooted.

It is worth noting that an unsuitable and abnormal family environment can transform a person into a ferocious beast, stripping away their humanity. The glaring example of this is the conduct of Yazid ibn Muawiya towards Imam Hussain and his companions. He committed heinous acts, brutally killing them and subjecting the women and children of the Ahl al-Bayt to captivity. Even more horrifying was the barbaric act of severing the blessed head of Imam Hussain and parading it before the eyes of all, accompanied by recitation of verses mocking the Prophet’s family. Umm al-Banin, however, was an embodiment of the opposite, as her noble lineage and virtuous family environment played a pivotal role in shaping her character.

May the sacrifice of Umm al-Banin and her unwavering dedication to the cause of Imam Hussain serve as a source of inspiration for all believers, urging them to uphold the principles of justice, righteousness, and loyalty to the Ahl al-Bayt.

Therefore, the Islamic position regarding the healthy and unhealthy family environment is that one should be cautious in the matter of marriage and choose a spouse from a healthy and noble family for the sake of their future generations, not falling for the deception of mere outward beauty. In this regard, the Prophet of God (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

‘Beware of the greenery of the wasteland.’ The companions asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah, what is the greenery of the wasteland?’ He replied, ‘A beautiful woman from a corrupt environment.’

It is evident that Umm al-Banin was an exemplary model and a high standard of nobility and authenticity in the family, as Amir al-Mu’minin (Ali) chose this honorable lady from the lineage of valiant and noble ancestors as his spouse.

4- Sense of responsibility and duty towards the religion of God: One of the reasons that made Umm al-Banin melt in love for Hussain ibn Ali (peace be upon them), become a wholehearted follower of the Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them), and attain the highest levels of sacrifice and dedication in this path, building candles from herself and her children to burn brightly in support and defense of the precious flower of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and the beloved daughter of Lady Fatimah. This was due to Umm al-Banin’s sense of responsibility towards the Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them).

In this regard, Imam al-Jawad said:

“A believer needs three qualities: divine assistance, inner admonition, and external advice.”

It must be said that this honorable lady possessed all three qualities. She utilized divine assistance and heavenly support in this path, had inner admonition in terms of her sense of responsibility towards the Prophet’s family, and benefited from the guidance and counsel of her husband, Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (PBUH), as external advice. With these qualities, she surpassed other women.

Throughout history, we have witnessed how some women treat the children of their husbands from another wife, born outside their own lineage. They create difficulties and torment for them to the extent that they cannot bear to show love for their father’s children, instead trying to sow discord and hypocrisy between them. However, Umm al-Banin did not harbor such jealousy, narrow-mindedness, and contempt. Due to her knowledge and sense of responsibility, she sacrificed all her children for the sake of the children of Fatimah Zahra (PBU). She educated them with the same principles and values, explaining the privileges of the children of Fatimah so that they would always obey them and never deviate from their ways, as vividly seen in the tragedy of Karbala.

Umm al-Banin… Towards a Successful Married Life

She was a devoted and worthy wife, a successful mother, and preferred sincere service. Therefore, she tirelessly worked in Ali’s house from the very beginning to bring happiness and prosperity to her husband’s home, as well as for her own children and the stepchildren of her husband. However, Umm al-Banin never prioritized her comfort over the well-being and tranquility of her husband and Fatimah’s children.

From the first day she entered Ali’s house, she learned that Imam Hassan and Hussain (peace be upon them) were ill. Therefore, she nursed these two nobles, staying awake at night for their recovery. She spoke to them with affection and kindness, acting as a caring and loving mother. Her joy and sorrow revolved around ensuring the well-being and complete happiness of Imam Hassan, Hussain, Zainab, and Umm Kulthum. She never delayed her prayers and always took advantage of the virtue of performing them on time. Additionally, she consistently engaged in reciting the Qur’an, supplications, and recommended prayers.

Umm al-Banin did not forget her neighbors and visited them, fulfilling their needs. Her blessed life began in Madinah and continued in Kufa. Later, she returned to Madinah to report the story of her sincere service to her husband.

Conversation of Umm al-Banin (PBUH) with the Children of Zahra (PBUH)

One could envision a dialogue between the daughters of Lady Fatima (peace be upon her) and Um Al-Banin unfolding in the following manner:

One day, Umm al-Banin noticed that Umm Kulthum, the young daughter and orphan of Zahra, was sitting in a corner of the house, lost in thought. Umm al-Banin asked, ‘My daughter, what has happened to you? What are you thinking about?’ Umm Kulthum looked at her and sighed, saying with an innocent voice:

‘Aunt, my mother Zahra used to sit in this corner, comb my hair, kiss me, recite the Qur’an to me with a melancholic and heart-touching voice, and guide us with the teachings of our grandfather, the Prophet of God (peace and blessings be upon him). She instilled faith and piety in us and filled our hearts with hope for goodness.

Aunt, why did my mother die? She was not old!’

At that moment, Umm al-Banin couldn’t hold back her tears, and words got stuck in her throat. She tried to speak with a broken voice to console the orphaned girl, but couldn’t. Finally, she threw her teary face into the arms of Umm Kulthum. The orphan girl asked again:

‘Aunt, there’s no need to say anything; I know everything. They beat my mother and pressed her between the door and the wall. We were scared to see that scene, and our mother was screaming while engulfed in flames and smoke: ‘Asma, Fizza, come to my aid; they are killing my unborn child!’

Umm Kulthum described the tragic and painful incident, and Umm al-Banin, upon hearing these events, cried hard.

‘Oh, dear aunt! If you were not here to witness what we went through and the heart-wrenching incident we endured after the departure of our grandfather, you would not understand how our mother fell ill and bid farewell to this mortal world after ninety days of suffering.

Dear aunt! Be sure that she died mourning, oppressed, and dissatisfied with the oppressors.’

Umm al-Banin, unable to contain her grief and sorrow, could not say anything but cried intensely. Umm Kulthum, still crying, looked at Umm al-Banin and said:

‘Aunt, your words remind me of my mother’s words; when we were sitting there (pointing to a corner of the courtyard), my mother repeatedly said that we would name the new baby Mohsen. But it was a boy.

Dear aunt… what I mean is that they killed him before birth!’

Umm al-Banin could not hold back her tears and, due to excessive grief, could not say anything. Instead, she comforted the orphaned girl, embraced her, and caressed her. Some time passed until Zainab entered!

‘Peace be upon you, dear aunt! Umm Kulthum! My dear, has something happened to upset both of you?’

Umm Kulthum said: No, my sister. We were reviewing the memories of our mother Zahra. Truly, she was such a great woman, and she left this world too soon. Doesn’t this incident break your heart?

Zainab: You’re right, dear sister. But God has placed a lesson and wisdom in every event, which extends throughout time, and we are a people whom God has endowed with all virtues and distanced from all vices, providing us with a special honor. So, we say what God has taught us: ‘(…Surely we belong to God, and to Him we shall return.)’ And our grandfather, the Messenger of God, instructed us accordingly. Dear sister, now rise and rely on God. Leave Aunt to her state so that she does not become more mournful and sorrowful in our home; she has heavy responsibilities, and we must be grateful to her.”

Umm al-Banin (while kissing Zainab’s hands) said:

“My life and wealth are sacrificed for you! O descendants of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and O purified ones from every impurity… I am proud to serve you wholeheartedly and elevate myself to be with you throughout my life. O honorable leaders, rest assured that I will dedicate my entire being sincerely to you, my dear ones.

Umm al-Banin… A devoted mother, for the children of Fatimah (PBUH).

Her son, Abbas ibn Ali ibn Abi Talib, was born in the year 26 AH, while before him, there were Hassan, Hussain, Zainab, and Umm Kulthum (peace be upon them), the children of Ali and Fatimah (peace be upon them). They were very happy and delighted from the birth of the infant of Umm al-Banin. The newborn had beautiful smiles, charming movements, and a face like a full moon. With his arrival, the children of Ali became lively and joyful. They played with their brother Abbas, while Umm al-Banin said to herself: My God! How fortunate I am that God has placed me in this blessed house. O God! Day and night, I thank you.

Abbas was a manifestation of beauty, grandeur, radiance, balance, and graceful movements. His mother loved him dearly, but in comparison to the children of Fatimah, she considered them undoubtedly superior to Abbas. This behavior stemmed from sacrifice, selflessness, sincerity, and loyalty, and it was due to eradicating selfishness and envy, a manifestation of which is melting in noble and superior individuals.

Umm al-Banin, an exemplary wife beside Ali (PBUH)

 The place of the incident in a small area in Kufa, Iraq, and the time, the nineteenth night of the blessed month of Ramadan, in the year 40 AH, shook the pillars of heaven and earth.

It was Imam Ali’s words when he was praying at night, gazing at the sky as if he wanted to leave this world! He said: “… إِنا لله وَإِنا إِلَیْهِ رَاجِعُونَ…” Then, while everyone in the house and his daughter Zainab heard with all their being, he added:

“وَ اللَّهِ مَا کَذَبْتُ وَلاَ کُذِبْتُ وَإِنَّهَا اللَّیلَةُ الَّتی وُعِدْتُ بِهَا”.[15]

“By Allah, I have never lied nor been lied to, and indeed, tonight is the night I have been promised.”

I do not know where Ali’s wife, Umm al-Banin, was at that moment. Was she standing beside her husband when Imam Ali recited the farewell verse? Or was she sitting on her prayer mat, reciting the night prayer and praying to God, seeking goodness and victory for her husband?

We do not know, for history remains incapable and powerless to convey many events and facts, and this is one of them. However, at the same time, in the last hours of that night, Imam Ali made a bequest to Umm al-Banin and said: Umm al-Banin! I advise you regarding my son Abbas, that he always be in harmony and compassion with his brother Hussain, and in the face of the confrontation of two armies and the onset of war, he does not leave him alone.

Then, the Commander of the Faithful moved towards the door of the house, reciting these verses and bidding farewell to his loved ones:

O Ali! Prepare yourself for death For death has come to meet you So do not be saddened and restless by death When it puts its foot in your realm

Truly, those moments were so difficult for Umm al-Banin! After Abbas, she gave birth to three more sons named Jafar, Abdullah, and Uthman. The grief and sorrow of losing her honorable, kind, oppressed, worshipful, mujahid, knowledgeable, brave, and devout husband enveloped her from all sides. She had the right; Imam Ali was the first Muslim, the closest person to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family) in terms of dedication, sacrifice, and the most knowledgeable person about the Quran and the clear religion, and the most valiant warrior in the fight against the polytheists, apostates, rebels, and sinners.

Certainly, Imam Ali was martyred with the fatal blow of the poisoned sword of Ibn Muljam and fell bathed in blood in the sanctuary of the mosque, while repeating his eternal message to humanity and saying: “فُزْتُ وَرَب الْکعْبَة، فُزْتُ وَرَب الْکَعْبَة” (By the Lord of the Kaaba, I have succeeded! By the Lord of the Kaaba, I have succeeded!). I will not see you anymore, O miserable and dark days! I have triumphed by the Lord of the Kaaba. I will not meet you again, O deceitful conspirators! You have filled my heart with filth and blood. I pray to God that my eyes will not see your despicable faces anymore. Be sure that you will not see anyone more knowledgeable than me. I swear by the Lord of the Kaaba that I have succeeded. I swear by the God of the earth and the heavens and the God of the Kaaba; the house of the honorable, where I was born with dignity and where I achieved martyrdom for the sake of its honor and dignity.

After this eventful incident, Umm al-Banin devoted her entire being to taking care of Imam Ali’s children and became so overwhelmed with grief that she became a specific and general mourner. But this grief and sorrow were born out of awareness and knowledge, not just emotions and feelings!

Faced with the severe social and political storms and the emergence of the Umayyad tyrants, she did not surrender but always remembered the words of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) about her, saying: “O Ali, whoever loves you will be with the prophets on the Day of Judgment.”

Years after the martyrdom of Imam Ali and the destructive political upheavals, once again, the caravan of the descendants of Imam Ali left Kufa for Medina. However, this time, Imam  Ali was not the leader and commander of that caravan; rather, it was his son Hassan ibn Ali (peace be upon them) who took the lead of this caravan, and the ministries were entrusted to his brothers Hussain and Abbas ibn Ali (peace be upon them). Because this caravan did not move aimlessly and without purpose; rather, each individual in it had a responsibility and a mission.

Umm al-Banin & Imam Hassan ibn Ali (PBUH)

Severe political events and the ups and downs of social, intellectual, and ideological situations, after the martyrdom of Imam Ali, faced the Hashemite dynasty with the destructive rocks of the Umayyad governments and their ruinous plots, while Imam Hassan, after his father Imam Ali, himself the undisputed champion, faced this difficult situation and heavy responsibilities.

But regarding Umm al-Banin, we only need to know that during her lifetime, she carried the grief and pain of Islam on her heart and, seeing the oppressors and the oppressed from the progeny of Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family), she wore the garment of mourning and drank the cup of sorrow, and had nothing but tears as a way of expressing her emotions.

In the seventeenth night of the month of Safar in the year 49 AH, she came to her children crying and called them, saying: Abbas! O moon of Banu Hashim and you, Abdullah; the light of my eyes. O one whose name is also the name of his honorable father, the Prophet. And you, Jafar, whose name is also the name of your uncle Jafar al-Tayyar, and you, Uthman, whose name is also the name of Uthman ibn Maz’un, the noble companion. My beloved ones! Get up. Get up because your brother, your Imam, Hassan ibn Ali, has been martyred with poison. Go to his house and do whatever your master Hussain commands.

Everyone gathered for the mourning ceremony and procession at the house of Imam Hassan, and in these final moments, Imam Hassan said to him: Brother! The incident that will happen to you in Karbala is even more painful than this. There will never be a day like your day, O Aba Abdillah. Woe and torment upon those oppressors!

At that moment, the great soul of Imam Hassan departed from his noble body, while his brother Abbas was by his side. Finally, they escorted the funeral towards the grave of his uncle, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family), which suddenly a rain of arrows, released by the treacherous and base Umayyads, was showered upon the funeral of Hassan from the side of the ungodly and vile people. Some of them hit the funeral, and some hit the mourners. Truly, what a great and painful calamity it is! The severity and cruelty of these people reached a point where, contrary to the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) advice and the clear Quranic command, they acted. So, O Muslims! What happened to the verse that said: “قُلْ لا أَسْئَلُکُمْ عَلَیْهِ أَجْراً إِلاَّ الْمَوَدَّةَ فِی الْقُرْبی” (Say, ‘I do not ask you for any payment for my preaching to you except the affection [for my near kin]’)?”

Umm al-Banin… In bidding farewell to Imam Hussein (PBUH)

 The moment of parting and bidding farewell to the caravan of Imam Hussain at the end of the sixtieth year of the Hijra, was a difficult and tragic moment. How could Umm al-Banin say goodbye to Imam Hussain and separate from Zainab and Umm Kulthum? How could she look at this caravan as it left Medina, never to return? Perhaps it would return, but without its valiant men, and perhaps, upon their return, their noble heads would be on spears! This caravan was going to change the course of history and bring a new and eternal meaning to the concepts of freedom and liberation movements.

Umm al-Banin couldn’t contain her emotions in parting with the children of Imam Ali and Lady Fatimah. Therefore, she turned to her son Abbas and said: My son! Abbas! Do not forget the advice of your father Ali, the Commander of the Faithful. You must defend these nobles. Be a supporter to your brother Hussain. You must support your sisters Zainab and Umm Kulthum, and you must fight with every fiber of your being until your last breath against the enemies of God. Hoping for a reunion, by the Pool of Kauthar, the divine fountain.

Abbas, in turn, bid farewell to his mother, Umm al-Banin, and thanked her for raising him for such a day, saying:

Mother! Do not grieve for my brothers. They are the men of life, and with love for martyrdom, they will triumph over death.

Umm al-Banin bid farewell to the children and the offspring of Imam Hussain and kissed her young daughter, Raqiyah, who was not more than three years old…

Umm al-Banin inquires about the fate of Imam Hussain In a geography as vast as the land of Karbala, the blood battle with swords concluded on the day of Ashura. Indeed, the final and complete victory came from that blood, which now flows in the veins of revolutionary generations, and whoever says otherwise, let his death be upon him!

Undoubtedly, Yazid ibn Muawiya faced a disgraceful defeat in this unequal battle, and in all aspects and at all levels, he faced a turning point in history. Even two years after this tragedy, he lost his government and reign. The victory of Imam Hussain’s blood over the sword continued incessantly and continuously in the hearts of millions of people, in the east and west of the world.

This blood is miraculous! Why shouldn’t it be so?! While the Prophet (peace be upon him) had foretold: “The love of Hussain has a heat in the hearts of the believers that will never cool down.”

Now the caravan, accompanied by captive women and children, approaches the gates of the city of Medina. However, this is the first time that captives are returning, and the flag of honor and victory is raised above their heads!

Historians have written: When the caravan, led by Imam Zain al-Abidin, approached Medina, it descended in the desert and set up tents, bringing down the women of Banu Hashim as well. While Bashir ibn Hazlam was with him, Imam Sajjad addressed him:

“O Bashir, may God have mercy on your father! He was a poet. Can you also recite poetry like him?” Bashir replied: Yes, O son of the Prophet of God. The Imam said: “Then enter Medina and mourn for Aba Abdillah…”

Bashir hurried towards Medina. As soon as he reached the Prophet’s Mosque, he chanted these verses with a mournful voice and accompanied by tears:

O people of Yathrib, you have no place here Hussain has been killed, my tears are abundant

His body is in Karbala, soaked in blood And his head is being paraded on a lance

“O people of Yathrib” refers to the residents of Medina. This is because they could no longer find tranquility in their city after the martyrdom of Imam Hussain. Eyes had to shed tears like a flowing river. His noble body was bathed in blood in the land of Karbala, and his head was being carried on a lance.

People, crying and tearing their hair, rushed out of the Prophet’s Mosque, asking Bashir for an explanation. Bashir told them: Imam Ali ibn al-Hussein and his sisters and aunts are now at the gates of the city, and I am his messenger to show you the way.

The people of Medina, crying hard, hurried to meet the descendants of the Prophet for reception, and as soon as they saw the caravan, the cries and wails of the women rose high. Immediately, they surrounded the women and daughters of Banu Hashim, and the men encircled Imam Zain al-Abidin. While every part of their being was full of tears and lamentation…

Indeed, that day was similar to the day the Prophet (peace be upon him) departed and joined the Supreme Companion.

In the midst of this, Umm al-Banin, despite her advanced age, came out of her house and was eager to find out the source of these sounds. From this point on, she wanted, above all, to inquire about the condition of Imam Hussain. For this reason, with every difficulty, she brought herself to Bashir. While her grandson Fadl, Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas’s son, was in her arms, she asked him: What news of Hussain, the master and leader? Is he alive or has he been martyred? Bashir replied in this way:

May God increase your reward and patience for the martyrdom of your son Abbas. But Umm al-Banin, still anxious, repeated her question: Tell me about my son Hussain, Bashir! You have torn my heart. Inform me about the Imam and my master, Hussain ibn Fatimah, the daughter of the Messenger of God! Bashir, unable to avoid it, said: Umm al-Banin! Know that they have also killed Hussain and thirstily severed his head from his body.

Upon hearing these words, Umm al-Banin, suddenly, saw the caravan of captives from a distance. Zainab approached her to offer condolences and solace for the martyrdom of her four strong sons. However, she continued to mourn the pain of Imam Hussain’s martyrdom. The entire city of Medina rose in grief, mourning, weeping, and lamenting. In these moments, Umm al-Banin remembered the words of Imam Ali, who quoted the Prophet (peace be upon him) as saying:

“My daughter Fatimah will be resurrected on the Day of Judgment wearing a garment stained with the blood of her son Hussein, and then she will be suspended from one of the pillars of the divine throne and will cry out: O Lord of justice! Judge between me and the killer of my son Hussain, by the Lord of Paradise, a verdict will be issued in favor of my daughter Fatimah.”

Umm al-Banin, the Messenger of Tragedy and the Martyrdom of Hussain (PBUH)

One of the remarkable and unforgettable positions of Umm al-Banin was that, according to historians, she would go to Baqi Cemetery every day. There, she would lament and mourn for the martyrdom of the sons of Fatima and their descendants, creating such a commotion that people gathered around her. Due to her overwhelming grief, those around her became sorrowful and saddened, expressing their resentment towards the Umayyad rule. This was another stage of the great movement of Ashura, promoting the message that ‘There is no land Karbala, and there is no day like Ashura. Umm Salama and Lady Zainab carried out this mission with dignity, bringing shame to the bloodthirsty enemies for everyone and for history. They were no longer concerned with anything else; their focus was on the memory of Hussain. They felt nothing, remembered nothing, and cared for nothing but Hussain. They could only recall and repeat one name: Hussain!

The Passing of Umm al-Banin (PBUH)

Indeed, Umm al-Banin endured numerous pains and sorrows throughout her life. From the moment she became the wife of Imam Ali, she witnessed the challenges of the Caliphate, the difficult and tumultuous events that occurred during the 25 years after the passing of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family). On the other hand, she witnessed the tragic events of Imam Ali’s caliphate, facing various enemies such as the Qasitin, the Marqin, and the violators of treaties. Then came the heart-wrenching incident and the physically demanding martyrdom of Imam Hussain in the place of worship. Finally, she saw how people abandoned the sons of Hassan (peace be upon them), withdrew their support, and handed over the rule to the unworthy, lustful, and corrupt son of Muawiya—Yazid. It was here that Hussain pledged allegiance to Yazid, initiating his bloody uprising from that moment on. In the end, this courageous lady received the news of the martyrdom of all her beloved ones, including the sons of Zahra and her four strong sons, which added another great suffering to her previous tribulations.

It is natural that the sum of these agonizing and soul-crushing pains made her frail and her eyes dim. Her gaze became less focused, and her eyes teary. Her soul longed to fly towards the realm of the afterlife and reunite with her beloved ones. According to the book ‘Umm al-Banin, the Lady of Arab Women,’ her passing occurred on the 18th of Jumada al-Thani or the 13th of the same month, in the year 64 AH.[19]

The sacred resting place of Umm al-Banin is located in Baqi Cemetery, in its left corner. It is appropriate for Muslims to visit her tomb because visiting this heroic and patient lady is one of the most recommended acts, especially considering that it aligns with the Prophetic tradition. Numerous accounts in the biographies state that the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) used to visit the graves of Baqi. Lady Fatima also visited the grave of her uncle Hamza, and the prominent companions visited the graves of martyrs, fathers, and brothers. May Allah grant every Muslim the opportunity to visit the resting place of this noble lady, with the hope that one day, the revered tombs of Imam Hussain, Imam Sajjad, Imam Baqir, Imam Sadiq (peace be upon them), and Umm al-Banin will have proper shrines and minarets. Muslims can then perform the pilgrimage, offering their respects.

Praying and Seeking Intercession from Lady Umm al-Banin (PBUH)

It is evident that praying and seeking intercession from Allah Almighty, first and foremost, and then from the saints, prophets, and the immaculate individuals (peace be upon them), who are positioned within the divine will, is necessary and essential for every believing Muslim, both men and women, from the perspective of religious beliefs and convictions. This is because Allah, the Almighty, has emphasized the importance of supplication in the following verse:

“Say, ‘My Lord would not care about you were it not for your supplication…'” (Quran, 25:77).

Furthermore, regarding seeking intercession to draw closer to Allah, the Quran states:

“Those they invoke seek to reach their Lord through means of closeness and hope for His mercy, and they fear His punishment…” (Quran, 17:57).

Thus, the principle of praying and seeking intercession is not only in line with sound religious beliefs but is also affirmed, leading to obedience and adherence to the great figures of the religion. This may well be the reason behind the spiritual states and the acceptance of supplications through seeking intercession at the holy shrines for the believers.

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