Religious Leader and Great-Great Granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad
Hijri 145–208 (AH); Common Era 760–824 (CE)
Sayyidah Nafisa, or Lady Nafisa, was the great-great granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad. When she was first born in Mecca, her father Sayyid Hassan al-Anwar took her to the Prophet’s shrine, and afterward raised her with an extensive Islamic education. She accompanied her father to Madina, and took religious classes, visited religious sites, and engaged in numerous festivities. She memorized the entire Qur`an and learned Hadith, while studying Islamic jurisprudence in depth. Being extremely intelligent, she a became adept in explaining the Qur`an despite her young age. Later in life, she extended her knowledge to her community and provided religious instruction to women and girls. She married Isaq Ibn Ja’far went to Egypt with him, and bore two children al-Qasim and Umm Kulthum. She became renowned for her abstinence (zuhd) and piety (taqwa), for fasting the day, spending the nights in prayer and for her excessive devotion to worshiping Allah (swt). She moved from Medina to Egypt with her husband Isaq Ibn Ja’far. In Egypt she fasted all day and prayed all night and made the pilgrimage thirty times in her life. When she began to feel her death approaching, Nafisa dug her grave with her own hands inside her home. Every day she would enter the grave and worship in it, as a reminder of the coming afterlife. She used to pray all her extra prayers inside that grave. Egyptians admired her constant piety and comprehensive knowledge, and referred to her with many other names: Nafisat al-`ilmi wal-ma`rifat, (the Rare Lady of Knowledge and Gnosis) because of her knowledge of the Family of the Holy Prophet; Sahibat al-Karamat, “the Lady of Miracles”; Sayyidat Ahl al-Fatwa, “the Leading Lady in deriving rulings and verdicts”; and Nafisat al-Masriyyin, “the Rare Lady of the Egyptians”, because of the Egyptian people’s intense love for her and her love for them. A beautiful mosque stands in her name (Mosque of Sayyida Nafisa) in Cairo, Egypt.