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Umm Kulthum bt. al-Imam 'Ali (a)

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Umm Kulthum bt. al-Imam 'Ali
Daughter of Imam Ali (a)
سوريه قبرستان باب الصغير-حرم ام كلثوم بنت علي ع و سكينه بنت حسين ع.jpg
Bab al-Saghir cemetery, Damascus
Full Name Umm Kulthum bt. 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a)
Well-known As Umm Kulthum Kubra, Zaynab Sughra
Religious Affiliation Twelver Shi'a
Lineage Banu Hashim
Well-known Relatives Imam Ali (a), Lady Fatima (a), Imam al-Hasan (a), Imam al-Husayn (a)
Birth 6/627
Place of Birth Medina
Burial Place Bab al-Saghir cemetery, Damascus
Era Early Islam
Known for Daughter of Imam Ali (a)
Activities Present at the Battle of Karbala

Umm Kulthūm Kubrā bt. ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib b. ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib (Arabic: اُمّ کُلثُوم کُبری بنت عَليّ بن اَبيطالِب بن عَبدالمُطَّلِب) is the fourth child of Imam 'Ali (a) and Lady Fatima (a), after Imam al-Hasan (a), Imam al-Husayn (a) and Zaynab al-Kubra. According to historical sources, she married to 'Umar b. al-Khattab, the second Caliph. Some scholars believe that she attended in the Battle of Karbala and her sermons have been quoted in Maqtal books (narrative accounts of the Battle of Karbala). The ambiguity surrounding her character and denial or approval of some events happening to her is mostly because there were three or four women with the same name and kunya in the family of Imam 'Ali (a); Umm Kulthum Kubra who was the daughter of Lady Fatima (a), Umm Kulthum Wusta who was the wife of Muslim b. 'Aqil, Umm Kulthum Sughra (Nafisa), and Zaynab Sughra whose Kunya was Umm Kulthum.

Birth and lineage

Historians have different opinions about Umm Kulthum's date of birth. However, both Shi'as and Sunnis agree that 'Ali (a) and Fatima (a) had a daughter called Umm Kulthum.

It is recorded in the history that she was born in 6/627. Some historians believe that she was born at the time of the Prophet (s) or before he (s) passed away. Another disagreement between Shi'as and Sunnis is that Shi'a scholars believe that she was younger than Zaynab (a) while Sunnis believe that she was the third child of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) and older than Zaynab (a).

Family tree of Ahl al-Bayt (a)
Lady Fatima
Imam Ali
Umm al-Banin
Imam al-Husayn
Imam al-Hasan
Lady Zaynab
Umm Kulthum
Abd Allah
Umm Kulthum
'Abd Allah
'Abd Allah
Imam al-Sajjad
'Ali al-Akbar
'Ali al-Asghar
Imam al-Baqir
Imam al-Sadiq
'Abd Allah
'Ubayd Allah
Imam al-Kazim
Umm Farwa
'Abd Allah
Imam al-Rida
Imam al-Jawad
Imam al-Hadi
Imam al-Hasan al-'Askari
Imam al-Mahdi

Kunyas and Titles

Al-Shaykh al-Mufid has mentioned the names of Imam Ali's (a) children and introduced her as Zaynab Sughra whose kunya was Umm Kulthum. This Kunya was given to her by the Prophet (s) because of her similarity to her aunt, Umm Kulthum (the Prophet's (s) daughter). In many Shi'a and Sunni sources, she is called Umm Kulthum Kubra.

Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin says, "The daughters of Imam 'Ali (a) whose names or Kunyas are Umm Kulthum have been three or four".

  1. Umm Kulthum Kubra, the daughter of Lady Fatima (a)
  2. Umm Kulthum Wusta, the wife of Muslim b. 'Aqil
  3. Umm Kulthum Sughra
  4. Zaynab Sughra whose kunya is Umm Kulthum

He continues that if two last ones be the same, so there were three Umm Kulthum, otherwise there were four. In some other sources, the name of Umm Kulthum, the daughter of 'Ali (a) and Fatima (a) is mentioned as "Ruqayya Kubra" and the name of Umm Kulthum Sughra is mentioned as "Nafisa".

Husband and Children

According to the history, Umm Kulthum first married 'Umar b. al-Khattab. After his death, she married 'Uwn b. Ja'far b. Abi Talib, her cousin. When he passed away, she married his brother, Muhammad. After Muhammad's death, she married another brother of them, 'Abd al-Allah. Mas'udi believes that she had no children. Some others mention Zayd and Ruqayya as her children whose father was 'Umar. Ibn 'Inaba counts Hamida as the daughter of Muslim b. 'Aqil whose mother was Umm Kulthum, the daughter of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a). Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin says, "It means that Muslim b. 'Aqil married his cousin, Umm Kulthum. But there is no evidence that he married Umm Kulthum Kubra, so he might has married Umm Kulthum Wusta."

Marriage to 'Umar b. al-Khattab

According to historical and hadith references, and also Shi'a and Sunnite life story books, Umm Kulthum, the daughter of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a), married 'Umar, the second Caliph. They married in Dhu al-Qa'da, 17/638.

In Karbala

Some Maqtal books (narrative accounts of the Battle of Karbala) have reported the attendance of Umm Kulthum in the Battle of Karbala. In these books, she has been frequently mentioned beside Zaynab (a) and her sufferings have been quoted. Majlisi says, "After Imam's martyrdom, when the tents were burned, the earrings of Umm Kulthum, Husayn's (a) sister, were taken out forcibly". She was a narrator of the Event of 'Ashura and preached a sermon in the meeting held by Ibn Ziyad in Kufa. In his book, Ibn Tayfur has quoted a sermon from Umm Kulthum which was delivered in Kufa when the Ahl al-Bayt of the Prophet (s) were held captive. Also 'Allama Majlisi has quoted poems and speeches of Umm Kulthum in the meeting held by Ibn Ziyad.

On the contrary, some other sources indicate that Umm Kulthum who attended the Battle of Karbala was not the daughter of Lady Fatima (a). Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin says, "Imam 'Ali (a) had two daughters called Umm Kulthum, one of them was Umm Kulthum Kubra, the daughter of Lady Fatima (a), who passed away before the Battle of Karbala, and the other one, whose mother was a handmaiden, attended the Battle of Karbala and delivered a sermon in Kufa. She was the wife of Muslim b. 'Aqil".

Narrator of Hadiths

Some hadiths have been quoted from Umm Kulthum in Shi'a sources. Mamaqani has counted her as a narrator of hadiths and says:

"She was a great woman and I know her a reliable source"[1].

Most of hadiths narrated by Umm Kulthum are about the sufferings of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) of the Prophet (s).

Martyrdom of Lady Fatimah (a)

When Lady Fatima (a) passed away, Umm Kulthum, wearing a veil and shedding tears, told the Prophet (s), "O father! O the Messenger of Allah! Indeed, the time now is like when you passed away! We will have no chance to visit our mother again"[2].

Martyrdom of Imam 'Ali (a)

'Allama Majlisi writes:

Umm Kulthum said, "At the night of 19 Ramadan, I prepared two loafs of barley bread, some milk, and some salt for my father to break the fasting. After saying prayers, he (a) attended the food spread. He (a) took one look at his food and cried loudly. He (a) then said, "… O my dear daughter! If you do not take one of these two foods, swear by God, I will eat nothing …." And he (a) ate a loaf of bread and some salt"[3].

Al-Shaykh al-Mufid writes:

'Ali (a) stayed awake all the night before the day he (a) was martyred. Umm Kulthum asked him the reason. He (a) said, "I will be killed in the morning". Umm Kulthum prevented him from going to Masjid. But Imam (a) said, "Death is inevitable" and left home[4].

When Imam 'Ali (a) was martyred, she told Ibn Muljam while she was crying,

"Woe on you! Allah abased you in this world and the hereafter and you will always remain in the everlasting fire of the hell"[5].

Abd al-Karim b. Ahmad b. Tawus al-Hilli has quoted a hadith from al-Shaykh al-Saduq in which Umm Kultum talks about Imam Ali's (a) advice to his children and his funeral and burial ceremony. In one part of this hadith we read:

… Umm Kulthum said, "At the burial ceremony, the grave was split. I do not know whether my lord (father) was buried in the ground or he (a) ascended to the sky. Suddenly, I heard a voice condoling with us and saying, "May God help you in mourning for the vicegerent and proof of God upon His creation"[6].

Event of 'Ashura and the Succeeding Events

  1. Sayyid b. Tawus says:

"When Husayn (a) bade his family a final farewell, Umm Kulthum cried out, "O Aba 'Abd Allah! Woe on us after you!" Then, Imam (a) consoled her, Zaynab (a), and Rabab"[7].

  1. When the Ahl al-Bayt (a) were held captive and the people of Kufa brought food for children, Umm Kulthum cried out, "O people of Kufa! It is forbidden to give alms to the Ahl al-Bayt of the Prophet (s)"[8].
  2. There is a tradition according to which when the caravan of captives entered Syria, Umm Kulthum wanted Shimr to move the heads of martyrs away so that people would be attracted to them and would look at the captives less[9].


There are different opinions concerning when and how Umm Kulthum passed away.

  1. According to many sources, her son, Zayd, and she passed away simultaneously and one prayer was recited on their bodies.
  2. Some scholars believe that they passed away about 50/670 at the time of Mu'awiya and government of Sa'id b. 'As.
  3. Some others believe that they passed away at the time of 'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan (73/692 - 86/705).
  4. Miqrizi writes that she passed away when she was the wife of 'Uwn b. Ja'far.
  5. Ibn 'Abd al-Barr believes that she passed away at the time of Imam al-Hasan (a).
  6. Ibn Tayfur believes that she passed away after 61/680 and the Battle of Karbala.

It is said that Umm Kulthum and her son, Zayd, passed away because of illness or being poisoned.


the tomb of Umm Kulthum, Damascus, Syria

'Imad al-Din Tabari says,

"It has been narrated that Umm Kulthum, Imam Husayn's (a) sister, passed away in Syria[10].

In his travel book, Ibn Battuta has written,

"About one parasang to Syria, there is the tomb of Umm Kulthum, the daughter of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) and Lady Fatima (a)"[11].

Yaqut Hamawi writes,

"Umm Kulthum's tomb is in Rawiya (Damascus)"[12].

Ibn 'Asakir says,

"The tomb which is in Rawiya (Damascus) is not Umm Kulthum's, the daughter of Lady Fatima (a) … she passed away in Medina and was buried in Baqi' cemetery"[13].

Also some others believe that this tomb belongs to Zaynab (a), the daughter of 'Ali (a) and Fatima (a), whose kunya was Umm Kulthum[14].

See also


  1. Mamaqani, Vol.3, P.73
  2. Nisapuri, P.152
  3. Majlisi, Vol.42, PP.276-8
  4. al-Mufid, Vol.1, P.16
  5. Majlisi, Vol.42, P.289
  6. Ibn Tawus, PP.63-4
  7. Sayyid b. Tawus, P.82
  8. Majlisi, Vol.45, P.114
  9. Sayyid b. Tawus, P.174
  10. Tabari, Vol.2, P.371
  11. Ibn Battuta, Vol.1, P.113
  12. Hamawi, Vol.3, P.20
  13. Ibn 'Asakir, Vol.2, P.309
  14. Al-Bitar, Vol.2, P.50