Muhammad came from a poor family that had been influential in the past. His father, named Abdullah, died on a caravan journey a few months before Muhammad was born. His mother’s name was Amina and she died when Muhammad was about six years old. He was then brought up by his grandfather Abdul Muttalib, and when he died, by his uncle Abu Talib.
Muhammad belonged to the Quarraish tribe, derived from karash meaning to trade. One of his ancestors, Hashim, the son of Abd Manaf, became the collector of taxes in Mecca. Hashim, was the father of Abdul Muttalib who had three sons: Abbas, Abdullah and Abu Talib. Abu Talib was the father of Ali. Muhammad, himself was considered to belong to the Hashemote family after Muhammad’s great-grandfather.
Hamzah b. Abd al-Muttalib – Muhammad’s Uncle
Hamzah was one of the brave champions of Islam. He was chosen to head up a small band of Muslims who attacked a Quarrashi mercantile caravan but his fame as a soldier was won at the battle of Badr where he and ’Ali shared the honours.
He also took part in the siege of the Jewish tribe, the Qainaqu in Medina. Again, in the battle of Uhud, he showed acts of valour when he slew the Quarraishi leader but was soon after killed himself by the negro Wahshi who mutilated his body. According to one tradition Wahshi tore out his heart and brought it to Hind, the mother of Mu’awiyah, who buried her teeth into it.
On his death Muhammad is recorded to have said that Hamzah was “the lion of God and His Apostle”. He is known as Amir Hamzah in Persian poetry where his warlike exploits activities are celebrated.
Al ‘Abbas – Muhammad’s Uncle
Although Muhammad’s uncle he was only a few years older. According to Ibn Hisham and Tabari he was a merchant and made a large fortune. It is reported that he was responsible for supplying water to pilgrims. While Muhammad remained in Mecca he remained opposed to Muhammad’s religious movement although he did accept the responsibility of being the protector of his nephew when Abu Talib died. He joined with the opposition in the battle of Badr but some suggest that he took part against his will; the whole event of his being captured and ransomed is surrounded with embellishments as he came to accept Islam.
On his return to Mecca he protected the followers of Muhammad. When Muhammad himself, came to Mecca in 7 AH Abbas gave him his sister-in-law Maimuna as a wife. The following year, when Muhammad marched on Mecca ’Abbas joined him before his arrival in front of the city and once again affirmed his right to provide water for the pilgrims. He later fought by the prophet’s side in the battle of Hunein.
According to one tradition he used his wealth to aid the great campaign against the Byzantines and was said to take part in washing the prophet’s dead body. He died in Medina in 32 A.H./652. The Abbasid caliphs descended from his son ’Abd Allah.
Abu Talib – Muhammad’s Uncle
When the orphaned grandfather of Muhammad Abd al Muttalib died Abu Talib took on the responsibility of his guardianship which he performed faithfully and kindly throughout Muhammad‘s childhood. According to tradition Muhammad accompanied his uncle on business journeys.
When the Meccans began to oppose Muhammad on account of opposition to his religion Abu Talib refused to relinquish his responsibility. Therefore, when the Quaraish ostracised Muhammad he was able to live in the quarter of town which was inhabited by other members of the Hashimite community. It was a severe blow to Muhammad when his supportive uncle died three years before his emigration to Medina and ten years after the beginning of his prophetic mission.
Although Abu Talib remained faithful in supporting his nephew it is likely that he considered his preaching was a delusion. Party interests have left several traditions suggesting that he was converted to Islam but these appear to have been manufactured in the interest of this kindly uncle on the basis of Bukhari Volume 2, Book 23, Number 442.
Fatimah was a daughter of Muhammad through his first wife Khadijah. She was brought to Medina after the Hijra by ‘Ali or Zaid b. Haritha and married to ’Ali after the battle of Badr. They had three sons Hasan, Hussein and Muhassin, (the latter died in infancy) and two daughters Zainab and Umm Kulthum. When Abu Bakr was nominated for the Caliphate Fatima opposed him and remained a long term opponent. She appears to have been in poor health for the majority of her life.
The orthodox schools showed little interest in Fatimah for example, in the scholar and theologian Ibn Hanbal’s compilation, she is only mentioned on one page while ‘Ayesha has 250 entries, on the other hand the Shiites sought to exalt her in order to develop the Fatamid line. It is possible that Shia’ polemics were designed to promote Muhammad’s special fondness towards her for political purposes.
In the eyes of the Shia’ Fatimah represents the embodiment of all that is divine in womanhood; her birth was miraculous and her marriage to ’Ali was divinely decreed. They say it was the acute grief on the loss of her father which was instrumental in her own death. Later Sunni tradition also raises the profile of Fatima’s virtues and the Sunni’s recognise the traditions where Fatimah is called “queen of the women of Paradise next to Maryam daughter of ’Imran.” She is also called al-Batul (“the Virgin“) because she renounced the world. However, the most popular title awarded to her is Fatimatu ’z-zahra meaning “the shining one” or the “beautiful one“.