Muhsin ibn Ali

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Muhsin ibn Ali (Arabic: محسن بن علي), was a son of Fatima Al Zahra (the daughter of Muhammad) and Ali. Academic writers disagree on whether he was a still-born infant[1] or died in a very young age after birth.[2] In Shi'a belief, he was the unborn child of Fatimah miscarried after she was crushed behind a door during the events of Umar at Fatimah's house, when Umar and Abu Bakr attacked Fatima and Ali's house in order to force Ali into submission. Sunnis, however disagree and insist that Muhsin ibn Ali died in his infancy of natural causes.

The death of Muhammad[edit]

Muhammad died in the city of Medina in 632 CE. In the ten years between the Hijra (the flight of the small Muslim community from Mecca to Medina) to the death of Muhammad, Islam had grown by leaps and bounds. It had become the greatest power in the Arabian peninsula.

The question of who was to succeed Muhammad was thus both a religious and a political question. Shi'a Muslims believe that Muhammad had settled the question before his death, by indicating that he wanted Fatima's husband Ali as his successor during his Farewell Pilgrimage-since the practice of naming a successor was a tradition from all of the previous prophets. The majority Sunni Muslims believe that Muhammad had not made any formal arrangements, leaving it up to the Muslim community to choose their own leader—as was the practice (called shura) in the pre-Islamic, tribal times.

A small, informal gathering of Muslim notables, which Ali did not attend, as he was busy in arranging the funeral of Muhammad, ended up throwing its support behind Abu Bakr as the new leader. Ali protested this arrangement. He and his supporters refused to swear allegiance to Abu Bakr. His supporters at that time were known as the Shi'at Ali, the party of Ali.

Pressure against the followers of Ali[edit]

It is not clear how many of the early Muslims supported Ali, or how long they held out against pressure from Abu Bakr's supporters. German researcher Wilferd Madelung[3]'s book (The Succession to Muhammad, p. 43), says that Ali and another prominent Muslim, Al-Zubayr, resisted for six months.

Nor is it clear exactly how the pressure was applied. Sunni versions of the events of this time tend to say that Ali resisted for only a short time, or even deny that he resisted at all, and insist that the only pressure applied was peaceful persuasion. Shi'a sources, on the other hand, depict a lengthy, violent persecution in which roving gangs of armed bullies threatened Ali and his supporters with instant death if they did not submit to Abu Bakr.

Who is right?[edit]

The whole question of the events surrounding the Succession to Muhammad is an extremely vexing one, discussed at length in the article of that name. When both sides to the argument are marshalling competing oral traditions, or hadith, it comes down to a question of which hadith are authentic. Hadith classification into different categories of hadith (authentic, good, weak, fabricated) is part of the Hadith studies, one of the most important branches of Islamic studies. For a longer treatment of the difficulty of evaluating the sources, see Historiography of early Islam.


  • Madelung, Wilferd -- The Succession to Muhammad, Cambridge University Press, 1997.


  1. ^ Fāṭima." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. Brill Online, 2014. Reference. 08 April 2014
  2. ^ Jean Calmard, FĀṬEMA, Encyclopedia Iranica
  3. ^ Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Ismaili Studies in London

Further reading[edit]