Umm Kulthum bt. al-Imam Ali (a)

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Umm Kulthum bt. al-Imam Ali (a)
Daughter of Imam Ali (a)
Bab al-Saghir cemetery, Damascus
Bab al-Saghir cemetery, Damascus
Full NameUmm Kulthum bt. 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a)
Well-known AsUmm Kulthum al-Kubra, Zaynab al-Sughra
Religious AffiliationTwelver Shi'a
LineageBanu Hashim
Well-known RelativesImam Ali (a), Lady Fatima (a), Imam al-Hasan (a), Imam al-Husayn (a)
Place of BirthMedina
Burial PlaceBab al-Saghir cemetery, Damascus
EraEarly Islam
Known forDaughter of Imam Ali (a)
ActivitiesPresent at the Battle of Karbala

Umm Kulthūm al-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 'Umar b. al-Khattab, the second Caliph. Some scholars believe that she attended the Battle of Karbala and her sermons have been quoted in Maqtal books. 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 teknonym in the family of Imam 'Ali (a); Umm Kulthum al-Kubra who was the daughter of Lady Fatima (a), Umm Kulthum al-Wusta who was the wife of Muslim b. 'Aqil, Umm Kulthum al-Sughra (Nafisa), and Zaynab al-Sughra whose teknonym 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.[1]

It is recorded in the history that she was born in 6/627-8.[2] Some historians believe that she was born at the time of the Prophet (s) or before he (s) passed away.[3] Another disagreement between Shi'as and Sunnis is that Shi'a scholars believe that she was younger than Zaynab (a)[4] while Sunnis believe that she was the third child of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) and older than Zaynab (a).[5]

Family tree of Ahl al-Bayt (a)
'Abd Allah
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-'Askari
Imam al-Mahdi

Teknonym and Titles

Al-Shaykh al-Mufid has mentioned the names of Imam Ali's (a) children and introduced her as Zaynab al-Sughra whose teknonym was Umm Kulthum.[6] This teknonym was given to her by the Prophet (s) because of her similarity to her aunt, Umm Kulthum (the Prophet's (s) daughter).[7] In many Shi'a and Sunni sources, she is called Umm Kulthum al-Kubra.

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

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

He continues that if two last ones be the same, so there were three Umm Kulthums, otherwise there were four.[8] In some other sources, the name of Umm Kulthum, the daughter of 'Ali (a) and Fatima (a) is mentioned as "Ruqayya al-Kubra" and the name of Umm Kulthum al-Sughra is mentioned as "Nafisa".[9]

Husband and Children

According to some historians, 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.[10] Al-Mas'udi believes that she had no children.[11] Some others mention Zayd and Ruqayya as her children whose father was 'Umar.[12] Ibn 'Inaba counts Hamida as the daughter of Muslim b. 'Aqil whose mother was Umm Kulthum, the daughter of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a).[13] 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 al-Kubra, so he might has married Umm Kulthum al-Wusta."[14]

Marriage to 'Umar b. al-Khattab

According to historical books, Umm Kulthum, the daughter of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a), married 'Umar, the second Caliph.[15] They married in Dhu l-Qa'da, 17/638.[16]

In contrast, some of Shi'a scholars such as al-Shaykh al-Mufid[17] denied this marriage and Aqa Buzurg Tihrani mentioned the books which is written about its denial.[18]

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".[19] She was a narrator of the Battle of 'Ashura and delivered 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.[20] Also 'Allama Majlisi has quoted poems and speeches of Umm Kulthum in the meeting held by Ibn Ziyad.[21]

On the contrary, some other sources indicate that Umm Kulthum who attended the Battle of Karbala was not the daughter of Lady Fatima (a).[22] Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin says, "Imam 'Ali (a) had two daughters called Umm Kulthum, one of them was Umm Kulthum al-Kubra, the daughter of Lady Fatima (a), who passed away before the Battle of Karbala, and the other one, whose mother was a servant, attended the Battle of Karbala and delivered a sermon in Kufa. She was the wife of Muslim b. 'Aqil".[23]

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"[24].

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"[25].

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 his fasting. After saying prayers, he (a) approached the food. 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, I swear by God, I will eat nothing …." And he (a) ate a loaf of bread and some salt"[26].

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[27].

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"[28].

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"[29].

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 Al-Rabab bt. Imri' al-QaysRabab".[30]

  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)"[31].
  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[32].


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.[33]
  2. Some scholars believe that they passed away about 50/670-1 at the time of Mu'awiya and government of Sa'id b. 'As.[34]
  3. Some others believe that they passed away at the time of 'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan (65/684-5 - 86/705).[35]
  4. Miqrizi writes that she passed away when she was the wife of 'Uwn b. Ja'far.[36]
  5. Ibn 'Abd al-Barr believes that she passed away at the time of Imam al-Hasan (a).[37]
  6. Ibn Tayfur believes that she passed away after 61/680-1 and the Battle of Karbala.[38]

It is said that Umm Kulthum and her son, Zayd, passed away because of illness[39] or being poisoned.[40]


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[41].

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)"[42].

Yaqut Hamawi writes,

"Umm Kulthum's tomb is in Rawiya (Damascus)"[43].

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"[44].

Also some others believe that this tomb belongs to Zaynab (a), the daughter of 'Ali (a) and Fatima (a), whose teknonym was Umm Kulthum[45].

See also


  1. Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 1, p. 354; Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 8, p. 463; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 4, p. 118.
  2. Dhahabī, Siyar iʿlām al-nubalāʾ, vol. 3, p. 500.
  3. Ibn Ḥajar, al-Iṣāba, vol. 8, p. 464. Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Istīʿāb, vol. 4, p. 1954.
  4. Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 1, p. 354; Ibn Shahrāshūb, Manāqib Āl Abī Ṭālib. Vol. 3, p. 89.
  5. Dhahabī, Siyar iʿlām al-nubalāʾ, vol. 3, p. 500; Ibn Isḥāq, Sīra Ibn Isḥāq, p. 247.
  6. Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 1, p. 354.
  7. Qummī, al-Kunā wa l-alqāb, vol. 1, p. 228.
  8. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 3, p. 484.
  9. ʿAlawī, al-Mujdī, p. 17-18; Zubaydī, Tāj al-ʿarūs, vol. 15, p. 813.
  10. Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 8, p. 462.
  11. Masʿūdī, Murūj al-dhahab, vol. 1, p. 299.
  12. Bilādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, p. 190; Ibn ʿAsākir, Tārīkh madīna-yi Dimashq, vol. 19, p. 482.
  13. Ibn ʿInaba, Umdat al-ṭālib, p. 32.
  14. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 3, p. 484.
  15. Bilādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, p. 190; Kūlaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 5, p. 346; Ṭūsī, Tahdhīb al-aḥkām, vol. 8, p. 161; Ṭabrisī, Iʿlām al-warā, vol. 1, p. 397.
  16. Nuwayrī, Nihāyat al-arab, vol. 19, p. 347.
  17. Mufīd, al-Masāʾil al-sarawīyya, p. 86-87.
  18. Āqā Buzurq al-Tihrānī, al-Dharīʿa, vol. 2, 10.11, 15, 17, 18
  19. Majlisī, Biḥar al-anwār, vol. 45, p. 60.
  20. Ibn Ṭayfūr, Balāghāt al-nisāʾ, p. 23.
  21. Majlisī, Biḥar al-anwār, vol. 45, p. 112-115.
  22. Birrī, al-Jawhara fī nisab al-imām ʿAlī, p. 45.
  23. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 1, p. 327; vol. 3, p. 484.
  24. Māmaqānī, Tanqīḥ al-maqāl, vol. 3, p. 73.
  25. Niyshābūrī, Rawḍat al-wāʿiẓīn, p. 152.
  26. Majlisī, Biḥar al-anwār, vol. 42, p. 276-278.
  27. Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 1, p. 16.
  28. Majlisī, Biḥar al-anwār, vol. 42, p. 289.
  29. Ibn Ṭāwūs al-Ḥillī, Farḥat al-gharā, p. 63-64.
  30. Ibn Ṭāwūs, Luhūf, p. 82.
  31. Majlisī, Biḥar al-anwār, vol. 45, p. 114.
  32. Ibn Ṭāwūs, Luhūf, p. 174.
  33. Zubaydī, Tāj al-ʿarūs, vol. 15, p. 813.
  34. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 3, p. 485.
  35. Ṣanʿānī, al-Muṣannaf, vol. 6, p. 164.
  36. Maqrizī, Imtāʿ al-asmāʾ, vol. 5, p. 370.
  37. Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Istīʿāb, vol. 4, p. 1956.
  38. Ibn Ṭayfūr, Balāghāt al-nisāʾ, p. 23-24.
  39. Ibn Ḥabīb al-Baghdādī, al-Munammaq, p. 312.
  40. Ṣanʿānī, al-Muṣannaf, vol. 6, p. 164.
  41. Ṭabarī, Kāmil al-Bahāyī, vol. 2, p. 371.
  42. Ibn Baṭṭūṭa, al-Riḥla, vol. 1, p. 113.
  43. Ḥamawī, Muʿjam al-buldān, vol. 3, p. 20.
  44. Ibn ʿAsākir, Tārīkh madīna-yi Dimashq, vol. 2, p. 309.
  45. Bīṭār, Ḥilyat al-Bashar. Vol. 3, p. 1283.


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