In his book, Muhammad’s Grave, Leor Halevi states that:
“To pray for and then bury the dead in an orderly and coordinated way, the community needed a leader. To exercise leadership in the funerals of famous women and men was a privilege and an honor. Governmental figures, religious dignitaries, and family members were interested in leading these events in part because they tended to draw large crowds. Just about anybody who counted could expect at least forty but easily over a hundred intercessors at his or her funeral, as we can deduce from traditions regarding the minimal size of the crowd needed for prayer to succeed. Notable funerals were of course far better attended. One historian was so impressed by the size of the crowd at Ibn Hanbal’s funeral in 855 that he estimated six hundred thousand intercessors. Naturally, wherever large crowds were to be found, caliphs and governors felt eager to perform. Caliph ‘Umar gathered the people to pray for Mariya the Copt (d. 637). Marwan, as governor of Medina, prayed over Hafsa (d. 665), caliph ‘Umar’s daughter [and Prophet Muhammad’s wife] after bearing her bedstead part of the way toward the grave.” (1)

However, Prof. Verena Klemm notes, “all medieval authors agree that Fatima’s death was in the year 633, but they differ concerning how many weeks or months she died after her father’s passing, and how old she was when she died. The authors give somewhat contradictory details about the following issues: who washed her after her death; who was present at the burial, obviously held at night; and where she was buried.” (2)

Considering these historical notes, one may wonder why the funeral of Fatima Zahra (the beloved daughter of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH&HP)) was so different. For example, why was she buried overnight and why are there no consensus on her place of burial? After centuries, these important questions are still shrouded in mystery. A closer examination of her final days will however shed some light on what happened to her after the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and why she chose to be buried at night.

(Painting by Hassan Rouh-Al-Amin)

1- Halevi, L. (2011). Muhammad’s grave: death rites and the making of Islamic society. Columbia University Press, p. 168)

2- Verena Klemm, Image formation of an Islamic legend: Fàtima, the daughter of the prophet Muhammad, in Ideas, Images, and Methods of Portrayal, Editor: Sebastian Günther, pp. 184-185)