Fatimah bint Muhammad (فاطمة Fāṭimah; born 615 AD, 5 BH – died 28 August 632 [disputed]) was the youngest daughter and, according to Shia Muslims, the only child of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and Khadijah who lived to adulthood, and therefore part of Muhammad's household. Her husband was Ali, the last of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, and her children include Hasan and Husayn, the second and third Shia Imams, respectively. She is the object of love and respect of Muslims, as she was the child closest to her father and supported him in his difficulties, was the supporter and loving caretaker of her own husband and children, and was the only child of Muhammad to have male children live beyond childhood, whose descendants are spread throughout the Islamic world and are known as Sayyids.
The tragedy of Lady Fatimah (SA) and her sufferings from Abu Bakr is mentioned in
hundreds of Sunni books and thousands of Shia books. I will mention
only the book of Bukhari being the most important book of Hadeeth among
our Sunni brothers. In the book of Bukhari, Hadeeth number 4240, it is
mentioned that Fatimah asked Abu Bakr to give her her right from what
the Holy Prophet (SAWA) left. Abu Bakr refused to give anything of
that to Fatimah (SA) so she became angry with Abu Bakr and boycotted
him and did not talk to him till she died. She remained alive after
her father for 6 months and she never spoke to Abu Bakr. This is in
the book of Bukhari itself.
It is important to know that Bukhari himself narrated a Hadeeth from
the Holy Prophet (SAWA) that Fatimah (SA) is part of me, anyone who
makes her angry makes me angry – this is in Bukhari, volume 4, page
210 in the Arabic edition.
The best role model for all women is Lady Fatima (SA). She was asked by her father, The Prophet Muhammad (SAWA): What is the best for the woman? She replied: The best for woman is not to see (Non Mahram) man, and to remain unseen by (Non Mahram) man.
Sporting activities which keep this condition and be practiced totally away from Non Mahram men is allowed, but any activities which expose the woman to be seen by Non Mahram men is not permissible.
Since this question is rather broad, I would like to suggest that you consult a biography of Fatimah al-Zahra (A), since many matters happened to her. There are some on this site, and I also rather like _The Blessed Tree_ by Shaykh M. S. Bahmanpour.
If you have any specific questions about her life, feel free to ask!
The question of how many daughters the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his Progeny) had, has come from some people, who wanted to attribute the lineage of the Prophet’s fostered daughters to the lineage of the Prophet’s real daughter.
The people in Jahiliyah (Before Islam) had the same way of thinking as these people do. The people in Jahiliyah also used to attribute the lineage of fostered children to the lineage of their guardians, and mistakenly claim they all equal children.
That’s why it is well known that Prophet’s fostered son, Zaid Bin Harithah , used to be called “Zaid ibn Muhammad” by some people, even though Zaid was never the Prophet’s son at all but son of Harithah.
It was for that very reason that Allah ordered the Prophet to get married to Zainab bint Jahsh, who was the ex-wife of Zaid. This was to correct the Jahili thinking that the fostered son is like the real son.
“O Prophet, remember when you said to the one (Zaid) whom Allah as well as you had favored: "Keep your wife in wedlock and fear Allah". You sought to hide in your heart what Allah intended to reveal; you were afraid of the people whereas it would have been more appropriate to fear Allah. So when Zaid divorced his wife, We gave her to you in marriage, so that there remains no hindrance for the believers to wed the wives of their adopted sons if they divorced them. And Allah's Command had to be carried out.”
-Surah Al Ahzab, Ayah 37
From the same origin of misunderstanding, some people claimed that the Prophet had 3 daughters prior to Fatima being born. However, this is a misconception as these 3 daughters were his fostered daughters while Fatima was his real biological daughter.
Here are some facts to clarify this misunderstanding;
1. Lady Khadijah had a sister by the name of Haala bint Khuwailid. Haala had 3 daughters whose names were Zainab, Rukhaiya & Umm Kulthum (Manaaqib aal Abi Talib, volume 1, page 162).
Even some of the historians have stated that Zainab & Rukhaiya were the daughters of Haala's husband from another wife (not Hala), but both mother and father died, so Khadijah adopted them (Al-Istigatha by Al-Kufi, volume 1, page 68).
All of the authentic evidences make it very clear that all of the Prophet’s children were born after The Bi'atha/declaration of Prophet hood (see Al Bad' Wal Tarikh البدء والتاريخ , volume 5, page 16, Nasib Quraysh نسب قريش Volume 21, Al Mawahib Al Laduniyya, المواهب اللدنية volume 1, page 196, Tareek Al Khamis تاريخ الخميس , volume 1, page 272, Majma Al Zawaid مجمع الزوائد , volume 9, page 217, Al Bidaiya Wal Nihaiya البداية والنهاية , volume 12, page 294, Al Seerah Al Halabiyyah السيرة الحلبية , volume 3, page 308)
Zainab & Rukhaiya, the fostered daughters of Khadija were married to 2 sons of Abu Lahab, then they got divorced from them. One of them eventually got married to Uthmaan.
That proves that they were not the real daughters of the Prophet because all of the Prophet’s children were born after Bi'tha/declaration of Prophet hood.
Some people claim that these 3 daughters were Khadijah’s own daughters from a previous marriage. However, this claim of a "previous' marriage is doubtful because the narrations which state that Khadijah had a husband before she was married to the Prophet, were fabricated by supporters of Bani Ummaiya in an attempt lower the status of Lady Khadijah.
The authentic evidence shows us that Lady Khadijah refused all marriage proposals from the leaders of society at that time and that she was only ever married to the Prophet, peace be upon him and all his noble family.
Many authentic historians and scholars like Ibn Shar Ashub ابن شهر آشوب , Ahmed Al Balathoreeأحمد البلاذري , Abul Qasim al Kufi أبو القاسم الكوفي , Al Mortatha السيد المرتضى in his book “Al-Shaafi” and Abu Jafar in his book “Al-Talkees”التلخيص , have confirmed that Lady Khadijah got married to the Prophet when she was a virgin.
In the well-known authentic sermon of Fatima a.s, in the Masjid of the Prophet, in front of a big number of Muslims, she said “The Prophet is my father and never the father of any other woman”. This means that she was affirming that she was the Prophet’s only real daughter.
In the book Sahih Al Bukari, volume 3, page 68, there is a clear evidence that Ali was the only son-in-law of the Prophet and Uthmaan was not.
These are a few points to confirm that Fatima a.s was the only real daughter of the Prophet.
No need to mention the emphasis of the Prophet in telling the people to be just when dealing with their daughters and sons and to treat them fairly and equally. Seeing as this is the case, why would the Prophet focus only on Fatima, in all of the Hadith that have been recorded about his gifting Fadak to her and only her? There is no mention of these other fostered daughters.
This itself is a further evidence that Fatima was the Prophet’s only daughter while the others were fostered by him and his wife Khadija.
Most of Shia ulama believe in this.
The evidences are ahadith and history.
Some Shi'a have held that she was not the only biological daughter of the Prophet (S) and some Shi'a hold that she was. Allah knows best!
Might I suggest, for further discussion, you explore the book _The Blessed Tree_ by Shaykh M. S. Bahmanpour discussing her life.
There is no single 'Sunni understanding of history'. Islamic history and its vast sources are too vast and multi-vocal for it to have one understanding on this matter. The Sunnis themselves have multiple views on the subjects even among the theological schools of the 'asharis and mu'tazila (some of the theological schools among Sunnis). However the predominant view is that she died a natural death. However the Sunni leaning historical tradition such as History of al-Tabari and the Ansab al-Ashraf of al-Baladhuri do indicate that something violent or potentially violent occurred at the hosue of Fatima (as) following the death of the Prophet. For instane al-Tabari relates that the end of the his life, the first caliph said: " I wish I did not throw open/or unveil the house of Fatima - lam akshif manzil fatima, however they ( Ali, Fatima and those in the home) had locked it down with hostile intent - ghalaquhu 'ala al-harb. So clearly something violent or potentially violent occurred as per this narration found in al-Tabaris's history under the section dealing with the final words of the 1st caliph at his death. That being said, the Sunni historical tradition for the most part do not describe her as being injured or killed as a result of that incident. However there were others such as al-Nizam, the famous Mu'atazlite theologian (who would also be considered to belong broadly to the Sunni school or at least non-Shia in a formal sense) who describes her as being injured and dying from this and he was in-fact blamed for this and condemned by later scholars for holding such a view. Thus it was a view that existed in the Muslim community.
I would like to recommend the readable and well-referenced biogrpahy _The Blessed Tree_ by Shaykh M. S. Bahmanpour which goes through much of what is recorded historically about her. It would not do justice to the subject for me to decide what is most significant and type it here!
Based on the information that I have come across, the wives of the Prophet (s) did not receive an inheritance from his estate, but rather were given a 'provision' or stipend. This was either left for them in the lifetime of the Prophet (s) or was given by Abu Bakr as the first defacto caliph.
So were the wives not entitled to any inheritance? There is an interesting narration in the Mu'jam al-Buldan of Yaqut al-Hamawi that after the demise of the Prophet (s) the wives considered sending 'Uthman (presumably bin 'Affan) to Abu Bakr as their representative to demand their eighth share. But 'Aisha, the daughter of Abu Bakr and one of the wives of the Prophet (s), opposed it and all the wives withdrew from such a demand.
This is important because had the wives been entertained in their claim for inheritance, then Lady Fatima's (a) claim to Fadak could not have been refuted on the grounds that the Prophets do not leave heirs as was claimed by the first caliph Abu Bakr.
Fadak, in any case, was a lifetime gift that the Prophet (s) had made to Fatima (a). That estate was not handed over to her by Abu Bakr despite her claims to it. This is widely documented in the hadith and historical sources.
For more details on the estate of Fadak and the politics that was at play behind it being withheld from Fatima (a) please refer to:
The name of Ahl al Bayt are not limited to Imam `Ali, Bibi Faatima, Imam al Hasan and Imam al Husayn `Alayhimu Ssalaam because Rasul Allah (Salla~llahu `Alayhi Wa Aalihi wa Sallam) is reported to have prophesied the names of the Imams from his Ahl al-Bayt that would follow. In a Hadith reported, he publicly announced them by name; and then each one of them is reported to have announced his successor.
The Twelve names that Rasul Allah Salla~llahu `alayhi wa Aalihi wa Sallam announced are:
(1) Imam `Ali ibn abi Talib (2) Imam al-Hasan ibn `Ali (3) Imam al-Husayn ibn `Ali (4) Imam `Ali ibn al-Husayn (Zayn al Aabidin) (5) Imam Muhammad ibn `Ali (al-Baqir) (6) Imam Ja`fer ibn Muhammad (al-Saadiq) (7) Imam Musa ibn Ja`fer (al-Kaazim) (8) Imam `Ali ibn Musa (al-Rida) (9) Imam Muhammad ibn `Ali (al-Jawaad) (10) Imam `Ali ibn Muhammad (al-Haadi) (11) Imam Hasan ibn `Ali (Hasan al-Askari) (12) Imam Muhammad ibn Hasan (al-Mahdi)
May Allah's Peace be upon all of them as we await the return of our Twelfth Imam, also as per prophesy from Rasul Allah Salla~llahu `Alyhi wa Aalihi wa sallam.
By virtue of the above Hadith, they too are part of the Ahl al Bayt.
Since they are the Imams appointed, they too are beyond making any sins,and therefore, Ma`sum.
As to your question of why are they sinless or what does the sinlessness mean, I think it is very important to know that their sinlessness does not mean that they are not human beings like ourselves. We are not allowed to exaggerate anything about Imams and it is our fundamental belief that they are human beings like ourselves and are bound by all the Laws and Hukm of Allah Subhanahu wa ta`ala.
They do not commit sins because they are honoured servants of Allah; and Allah Subhanahu wa ta`ala has honoured them and has given them great dignity and authority. Allah has protected them from all kinds of uncleanliness and has throroughly purified them (see Qur'an 33:33).
They have the highest perfection and are endowed with `ilm al-ladunni and chastity. They are endowed with all virtues, bravery, chastity and quality. Further, they are the carriers and transmitters of the correct Sunnah of Rasul~Allah. They are therefore our Imams. They are the guides and they have the authority after Rasul Allah(Salla~llahu `Alayhi wa Aalihi wa Sallam) in the matters in which we require help and guidance; in religious commandments, in Judgment, in legislation, in the commentary of the Qur'an and in the interpretation of the Qur'an.
For further reading in this and other issues that relate to us please see a very concise book "The Faith of Shia Islam" by Muhammad Rida al-Muzaffar. Truly Allah IS the Knowing.