Umm al-Baneen – From Demise to Martyrdom

This post is a rough translation of a post written by an Iranian researcher and scholar Mahdi Masaeli.

13 Jumada al-Thani is recognized as the day of the demise of Umm al-Baneen, the wife of Imam ‘Ali (a), the mother of ‘Abbas (r). However, books of history and hadith do not record any date for her demise – as is the case for many personalities from that era. The date seems to have been taken from the book Umm al-Banīn Sayyidah Nisā’ al-‘Arab, whose author was Sayyid Mahdī Suwayj (1349-1423 AH / 1931 – 2003 CE), a popular orator of Iraq.

In this book, he says, many people have asked him about the date of the demise of Umm al-Baneen and he himself has asked around many scholars, but that they all came to the same conclusion: there is no date of her birth or death recorded.

He then goes on to say:

Until one day I was going through a book when I recalled that the work has a poem composed on the topic of Ḥadīth al-Kisā’ and that I should try and find it. As I was trying to find the poem in that work, suddenly in the commentary that the author had written on poem itself, I found the date of the demise of Umm al-Baneen written in it. The book was handwritten on very old manuscript paper, and the date of its writing was 1321 AH / 1904 CE. The name of the book was Kanz al-Maṭālib by ‘Allāmah Sayyid Muḥammad Bāqir Qurrehbāqī Hamdānī.

The author – may Allah elevate his ranks – writes, in the book called Ikhtiyārāt, it has been transmitted from A‘mash that on the 13th of Jumada al-Thani, which happened to be Friday, I visited Imam Zayn al-‘Ābidīn (a). Suddenly, Faḍl b. ‘Abbās entered while he was crying and said, “My grandmother Umm al-Baneen has left this world. For the sake of God, look how this day has once again caused grief  for the family of the cloak!”

Later on, in a marginal note made on the book Waqā‘i al-Shuhūr wa al-Ayyām, written by Bīrjandī, I saw it was transmitted from A‘mash that the 13th Jumada al-Thani, 64 AH is the demise of Umm al-Baneen.”

Some observations on this passage:

  1. We do not know what work Kanz al-Maṭālib is and other than this passage, its name or reference is not mentioned anywhere. Its author Sayyid Muḥammad Bāqir Qurrehbāqī Hamdānī, who is being referred to as an ‘Allāmah, is also an unknown person. Regardless, even if such a book existed, it is a very late work from the 14th century hijri.
  2. This passage says that the book Ikhtiyārāt transmits this report from A‘mash. Once again, we do not know which book is being referenced here, as all the books titled Ikhtiyārāt do not have such a report mentioned in them and in fact those books have nothing to do with this subject.
  3. The author says that they saw a marginal note written in the book Waqā‘i al-Shuhūr wa al-Ayyām by Bīrjandī that her demise was on 13th Jumada al-Thani in the year 64 AH. However, once again, no one seems to have seen any book named Waqā‘i al-Shuhūr wa al-Ayyām by Bīrjandī nor has anyone described it, let alone determining who wrote a marginal comment on it.
  4. Why are all these sources and books hidden, unknown and inaccessible to scholars and researchers?

There are numerous instances where we find fabricators of hadith and historical dates attempting to hide their lies by attributing their fabrications to books and references that no one else seems to have access to, and investigating them is essentially impossible. In this case, perhaps such a work existed at one time and now it does not exist, or perhaps it did not ever exist at all.

Regardless, based on these aforementioned points, it is highly likely that the date of the demise of Umm al-Baneen was made up, but we are unsure as to who exactly is the culprit.

Some orators and storytellers on the pulpits who have no shame in fabricating and making up lies have become more and more courageous over time. Some will attribute their lies to books that either do exist, yet the stories being narrated on the pulpits do not exist in those works, or they will simply attribute it to non-existent books and authors because they very well know their audience is either incapable of researching their claims. Even if the audience could research, they will not have the time and energy to do so.

Once these stories are fabricated or attributed to a book, some later authors will come and reference that first work – which was referenced incorrectly to begin with – and in just a short time people begin claiming how there are “multiple references and sources” for so and so claim. One such story that is now being added to her demise in some communities is the poisoning and martyrdom of Umm al-Baneen. This story is simply a continuation of that initial lie regarding the date of her demise, pushed by some orators and storytellers who unfortunately occupy the pulpits. Either we as believers decide to show some degree of sensitivity to these types of lies and innovations which are then made mainstream and make the Shi’i community a laughing stock, or we can just sit and wait to see how social media, popular orators and crafty storytellers push this narrative until most of the next generation will grow up with the belief that she was poisoned and martyred on the 13th Jumada al-Thani, 64 AH.