The lady Nafeesa was the daughter of Hassan (Al Anwar), son of Zaid, son of Imam Hassan, grandson of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam. Historians are unanimous in their verdict that the shrine ascribed to the Lady Nafeesa is the shrine of the daughter of Hassan (Al Anwar).
The word Nafeesa is an Arabic word. It is an adjective derived from the noun ” Nafasah”, which means purity, nobility and glory. She was named with this beautiful name because the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam loved good names for everyone. She was born in Mecca on 1st Rabi ul Awwal, 145 A.H. She spent her childhood in Madina, as her father was governor of Madina during the caliphate of Mansoor. Nafeesa used to visit the tomb of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam everyday and used to remain there for a long time.
She learnt to read and write and memorized the Qur’an in its entirely at her tender age of six. She was famous for her Qur’anic interpretation and commentary and disseminated her knowledge to both males and females. Her lessons were especially popular during her stay in Cairo.
LADY NAFEESA’S INTEREST IN HADITH
Lady Nafeesa studied different sciences. She was fond of all branches of knowledge and was taught by the famous Islamic scholar, Imam Malik, the jurist of Madina and the compiler of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam’s sayings and actions in his book, “Al Muwatta”. This book is considered as the first book of this kind, even before the famous Sahih Al Bukhari. Nafeesa studied Al Muwatta in detail and discussed all opinions and matters within it.
As Nafeesa grew up and blossomed into meritorious and pious young woman, her righteousness and nobility attracted many suitors for marriage. Numerous men approached Hassan with marriage proposal, but each one was rejected respectfu
As Nafeesa grew up and blossomed into meritorious and pious young woman, her righteousness and nobility attracted many suitors for marriage. Numerous men approached Hassan with marriage proposal, but each one was rejected respectfully by Hassan.
Ishaq Al Mutaman, son of Jafar As Siddiq also approached Hassan with the same proposal. Hassan remained quiet after hearing the proposal and Ishaq felt disappointed at his silence. He immediately went to Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam ‘s Mosque and entered into the tomb of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam. Standing near the blessed grave of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam he respectfully said, ” O Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam I asked for Nafeesa’s hand in marriage but received no response. I intended only to marry her for her righteousness and nobility.”
After this, Ishaq returned back to his house free from all worries and satisfied with whatever Allah would ordain. Hassan had a dream the same night in which he saw the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam and was advised by him to marry Nafeesa with Ishaq. Upon awakening, Hassan’s mind was made up and he immediately asked Ishaq to come to his house. Hassan narrated the dream to Ishaq and without delay, the marriage took place.
The marriage was attended by the noble families of Quraish and the family members of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam. Through this marriage, the nobility of Imam Hassan was joined with the honour of Imam Hussain. This was because Nafeesa belonged to the descendants of Imam Hassan and Ishaq was from the descendants of Imam Hussain.
Nafeesa and Ishaq were blessed with two children, Qasim and Umme Kulthoom. Ishaq later died in Madina and was buried there.
NAFEESA’S COLLECTION OF HADITH
Nafeesa was dedicated to the sayings of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam and due to this, she was famous as “Nafeesa, the knowledgeable Lady”.
She gathered the traditions of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam from her father and other family members. She was a student of Imam Malik in Madina and also learnt Hadith in Mecca. A large number of Egyptian scholars of that time learnt and propagated the traditions of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam from Nafeesa. While residing in Cairo, Imam Shafaee also heard Hadith from her.
Zainab, the daughter of Yahaya (who was the brother of Nafeesa) said, “My aunt memorized the whole of the Qur’an and she learnt its interpretation as well. She used to recite the Qur’an and concentrate on it’s hidden meanings.
During a journey to the grave of the Prophet Ibrahim, she used to cry profusely during recitation and continuously pray to Allah saying, “O Allah ! O My Lord ! Ease for me my journey to visit your friend Ibrahim. “She knew that Ibrahim was the father of the Prophets and the forefather of the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam. Ibrahim (May peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had prayed to Allah for the birth of the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam. Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallamad himself said that: ” I am the fruit of the prayers of Ibrahim.” In the Qur’an, Allah narrates the prayers of Ibrahim thus:
Our Lord ! Send amongst them a messenger of their own, who shall rehearse the signs to them and instruct them in the scripture and wisdom, and sanctify them. You are the Exalted in Might, the Wise. Surah Al Baqarah V: 129
When she arrived at the grave of Ibrahim (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), she stood next to the grave and recited all the verses of the Qur’an which mentioned the Prophet Ibrahim (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). She then proceeded to thank Allah, who had blessed her with the ability to make this journey and showered His grace and mercy upon her.
Zainab, the niece of Nafeesa, stated: ” I served my aunt, Nafeesa, for a long period. I never saw her sleeping at night, nor did I see her eating at daytime (because of fasting). She used to only eat during the days of Eid (as fasting is prohibited in those days according to Islamic Shariah).”
“As I saw her in continuous struggle, I requested her to ease the pain that she took upon herself. She sighed and told me, “Should I be kind to myself, even though ahead of me, I see many barriers blocking my path which cannot be crossed by anyone except for those who are successful.
” The pious lady was inclined towards leading a life of asceticism and embraced all hardships wholeheartedly.”
A life of asceticism was not a life of her own creation, rather contrived from the practices and sayings of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam. She was acquainted with his way of life and strove to imitate it as much as she could. She preferred a life of simplicity in order to please Allah and follow the footsteps of His beloved Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam. Her renunciation was not caused by lack of materials, dire circumstances or poverty; rather it was a conscious choice on her part.
Her father was the governor of Madina and was not lacking in materialistic wealth. However, Nafeesa chose the everlasting pleasure and comforts of the Hereafter to the temporal and fleeting joys of this world. In spite of the comfort and adornments surrounding her, she would eat very little sometimes only once in three days.
Zainab stated ” More than once I saw that she had such fruits in her possession as I had never imagined. There was no one to bring her these fruits either. When I asked her about these fruits, she merely said:
“O my Zainab, whoever is honest and righteous with Allah, the whole of the universe becomes his servant”.
Nafeesa’s renunciation of worldly desires from the physical world was partial and she did not isolate herself from the world. She married and had children, gave lessons and lecturers and continued to meet people. However, she renounced those desires which would restrict and negatively affect her devotions and prayers to Allah. Her renunciation was dictated by the lifestyle of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam.
Nafeesa used to comfort the needy and poor people. She used to tend to their needs and look after them. She was a wealthy woman, both personally and as a result of her husband’s properties. However, she used to spend her wealth in the way of Allah and give generously to those who were less fortunate than her.
It is narrated an Egyptian prince once gave her 100,000 Dirham as a sign of his repentance. He had thanked Allah for the favours bestowed upon him and wished to show his gratitude through this gift. Nafeesa took the money and distributed all of it immediately. One of her companions requested her to save a few Dirham to enable them to purchase a little food which they would use to break their fast in the evening.
Nafeesa replied, ” Here is some thread that I have spun by myself. Please sell it and purchase the food to break our fast. ” The companion did as she was told, and thus Nafeesa did not take anything from the large amount of money gifted to her. Throughout this act, Nafeesa demonstrated that she was one of those whom the Qur’an has described thus: But give them preference over themselves, even though poverty became their own lot. SURA AL HASHR verse No.9
NAFEESA’S DEPARTURE FROM MADINA
Nafeesa had spent her childhood in Madina and got married to Ishaq Al Mutaman while she was residing in Madina. However, she longed to visit the blessed shrine of the Prophet Ibrahim (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). She initially arrived in Damascus and visited the tombs of the daughters of Hazarat Ali (Razi Allahu Tala Anhu) It should be noted that some historians have opinion that the tomb in Damascus belongs to Zainab, the daughter of Umme Kulthoom and the grand daughter of Hazarat Ali (Razi Allahu Tala Anhu). Other historians claim that this tomb is actually the tomb of Zainab, the daughter of Hazarat Ali (Razi Allahu Tala Anhu) and Fatima (May Allah Bless Them Both).
ARRIVAL IN DAMASCUS
When Nafeesa arrived in Damascus, she was greeted and received by a large number of her devotees including respectable scholars of that time, who gathered to salute her and seek her prayers. This reception was also attended by Abu Salman Ad-Darrani, a famous mystic and the most famous scholar of Prophetic sayings in Damascus, Abdul Abbas Al Waleed, son of Muslim and Marwan, son of Muhammad At-Taheri. These were distinguished personalities of that era.
HER ARRIVAL IN EGYPT
Nafeesa arrived in Egypt on Saturday 26th Ramadan, 193 A.H. It was the time when Hassan son of Al Bahbah was governing the city of Al-Areesh (an Egyptian city). She was warmly welcomed by the Egyptians, who loved her even though they had never met her before. However, stories of her nobility and righteousness had reached to the people of Egypt.
An Egyptian lady named Umme Hani had a large house in the Maragha district of Cairo, and she requested Nafeesa to dwell with her during her stay in Egypt. As Umme Hani was a pious and righteous lady, Nafeesa accepted her invitation and started lodging there. During her stay here, she was frequented by a ceaseless crowd of devotees and visitors from all around Egypt.
A MIRACLE OF NAFEESA
During her stay in Maragha, a strange and wonderful incident happened with Nafeesa. It is narrated that a Jew named Abdul Saraya Ayub, son of Saber lived in the neighboring house and had a paralyzed daughter. Once the mother of the paralyzed girl came to Nafeesa and requested her to tend to the girl, while the mother went to the wash room. Nafeesa agreed to look after the girl.
Zuhr prayer approached, Nafeesa performed ablution, the paralyzed girl observed Nafeesa and treid to copy her actions. As Nafeesa was performing ablution, her used water was flowing through the courtyard of the house. The paralyzed girl washed her hands, face and feet with the used water from Nafeesa’s ablution. As a result of this, she was cured of paralysis by the blessing of Allah. Not only she was completely cured, but she managed to run towards the door quickly and she started playing.
Lady Nafeesa was engaged in her prayer at this time and did not see the small girl playing. The girl’s mother returned to the house and could not believe at her eyes. Her paralyzed daughter, who had been deemed to be incurable by many doctors, was happily playing outside the house. She could not express her happiness and feelings at this miracle of Allah. She asked about the reason for the transformation and when she was told about the ablution water, she broke into tears and proclaimed “Indeed, this religion of Lady Nafeesa’s is the true religion.”.
She entered into the chamber of Nafeesa and humbly and respectfully embraced Islam. She announced her conversion immediately and recited ” There is no God but Allah (Exalted be He), and Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam is the Messenger of Allah. ” She repeatedly thanked Allah for leading her out of the darkness of infidelity and ignorance into the light of Islam.
Later on in the evening, when the girl’s father returned home, he saw his child cured from paralysis and his happiness knew no bounds. After finding out the means through which his daughter was cured, he cried, ” Glory be to you, O Allah (Exalted be He)! Indeed you guide whosoever you like and leave unguided whosoever you intend to. O my Allah (Exalted be He)! I make you my witness that her (Nafeesa’s) religion is the true religion and no religion is a acceptable to you except Islam.
He immediately left for Nafeesa’s room and requested to see her. She spoke to him from behind a curtain and after salutations and greetings, he thanked her respectfully and asked her to pray for his guidance. She raised her eyes towards the sky and prayed to Allah for his guidance. Meanwhile, he recited ” There is no God but Allah” The news of his conversion spread like wildfire. Soon all the Jewish residents of the region numbering seventy families embraced Islam.
Abul Saraaya requested Nafeesa to shift into his new house which was located in Karubiyin Street (known as Al Hussainia now). She accepted and the house and the room in which Nafeesa used to worship is preserved till now.
Her fame and stories of her piety and devotedness spread throughout Egypt. Visitors to her new dwelling increased to an extent that even the large house of Abul Saraaya became too small to cope with the influx of visitors. It became unbearable for Nafeesa and she decided to return to Madina. However, the Egyptians could not bear her separation and requested her to change her plans. Even the governor visited her and urged her to stay. Despite his attempts at persuading her, she replied ” I am a weak woman and the gathering of people is intervening between me and my worship to Allah, so much so that even the house cannot cope with the ever increasing crowds”.
The governor requested her to move in his own house in Al Seba, which was more in size to accommodate Nafeesa’s visitors. He asked her to accept his proposal for the sake of Allah, and further suggested that she might fix visiting times for her devotees. She graciously accepted his proposal and fixed Saturday and Wednesday as days of visitation.
In Rajab, 208 A.H. She fell ill and felt her time of death was close. She wrote to her husband Ishaq Al Mutaman in Madina and no sooner had he received her letter, he set off for Cairo.
She remained ill until the first Friday of Ramadan. Her illness increased by the hour but she did not cease to fast even in that state. Her physicians advised her to break her fast in order to regain her strength, but she rejected their advice saying, “For fifty years, I have fasted and prayed to Allah (Exalted be He) to die in a state that I am in fasting. How can I break my fast now? I seek refuge with Allah. ” The physicians were astonished at her strength of will and faith and realized that she would not break her fast, they requested her to pray for them.
HER DEPARTURE FROM THIS WORLD
Zainab, the niece of Nafeesa states that as Nafeesa neared death, she began reciting Surah Al An’aam and continued recitation till she reached the verse : For them is the abode of peace with their Lord. He will be their protecting Friend because they practiced righteousness. SURA AL AN’AAM, verse no.127
It appears that the signs of her success in the Hereafter were shown to her at that stage because she could not continue any further. She lost consciousness and Zainab added, ” I pressed her to my bosom and as she was giving up her soul to her Creator, her lips were moving with the blessed words, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam is the Messenger of Allah (Exalted be He)”. These were her last words before her death.”
HER FUNERAL PROCESSION
Nafeesa died in 208 A.H., following the death of Imam Shafaee by four years. After her death, her husband Ishaq Al Mutaman decided to transfer her body to Madina and bury her in Al Baqi, but the Egyptians took him to the governor and requested Ishaq to change his plans. However, Ishaq did not agree with them. The Egyptians collected a large amount of money and offered it to him in return they wanted that Nafeesa to be burried in Egypt. Ishaq refused their requests again. However, the next morning, Ishaq came to the people of Egypt and told them to bury Nafeesa wherever they wished and there was no need for compensation. The Egyptians were astonished by this sudden change of his heart and asked Ishaq the reason of changing his decision ?. He replied, ” I dreamt of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam saying “Return their money and let them bury Nafeesa in Cairo”.Thus Lady Nafeesa was buried in Cairo.
Nafeesa had ten brothers from her father (Hassan Al Anwar), but different mothers. The mother of her brothers was Umme Salma Zainab, the daughter Al Hassan Al Musanna. Nafeesa’s mother was another lady and Nafeesa was the only child of her mother.
Hassan Al Anwar died in Egypt and was buried there. His son Zaid, Nafeesa’s half brother also died in Egypt and was buried in the same chamber as Nafeesa. It is also narrated that Yahya Al Mutaman, another brother of Nafeesa’s brothers is buried in Egypt, near Imam Al Laith, a famous Islamic jurist. However, another grave is also attributed to Yahya with the heading ” Similar to the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wasallam” upon it. Yahya was also known by the title Yahya Al Hussaini.