Why the Focus on Ahlulbayt (A.S)?

Qur’anic Verse on those who Possess Knowledge

Many Muslims often cite the Qur’anic verse – repeated twice – that instructs, “Ask those who possess knowledge if you do not know.”[11] Since both Sunni and Shia commentators explain that “those who possess knowledge” refers to the Prophet, Ali, Fatima, Hasan, and Husayn,[12] hence the Shia stance has always maintained that all religious questions and interpretations of the Qur’an must be referred to them.

The Verse of Purity (Ayat al-Tatheerah)

“Allah only wishes to remove all uncleanliness away from you, Ahlul Bayt, and to purify you completely.” (c. 33:33) In his tafseer (exegesis), the reputable Sunni, al-Fakhr al-Razi uses this ayah (verse) to prove that those five individuals (the Prophet, Ali, Fatima, Hasan, and Husayn) have been purified and immune from any form of sin, both major and minor.

This ayah (c. 33:33) descended in the house of Umme Salamah, one of the wives of the Prophet, which later was referred to as the “Event of the Cloak (Hadith al-Kisa).” When the ayah was revealed, the Prophet, Ali b. Abi Talib, Fatima, Hasan, and Husayn were gathered beneath a cloak, and the Angel Gabriel directed and included this ayah to all of them. Umme Salamah was present and asked the Prophet whether she could join them too, but he softly refused her saying, “Anti ala khayr (You are from the people of good).” Therefore, the wives of the Prophet were not included as part of the “Ahlul Bayt” in this ayah, as some assume. To prove further, another wife of the Prophet, Lady Aishah narrated herself that the only people concerned in this verse were Prophet Muhammad, Ali, Fatima, Hasan, and Husayn.

Although, the beginning verses of 33:33 (ayah) address the wives of the Prophet, the ending verses (ayah) clearly do not, since they refer to “Ahlul Bayt” in the mixed (masculine and feminine) gender, rather than in the strict feminine gender, which is used when referring exclusively to the wives of the Prophet (as it was in the beginning). Since the Qur’an is written in Arabic, the language is extraordinarily rich in its linguistic composition and it uses the precise words, structure, and style to express itself clearly.

And stay quietly in your houses, and make not a dazzling display, like that of the former times of Ignorance; and establish regular prayer, and give regular charity; and obey Allah and His Messenger [in Arabic this portion is written in the strictly feminine form]. And Allah only wishes to remove all abomination from you, O members of the Family, and to make you pure and immaculate [this portion is written in the masculine form, implying its direction to a mixed gender].[13]

Nonetheless, some still argue that “Ahlul Bayt” also included others; but, according to Shia scholars (who are unanimous on this issue) and at least twenty-four prominent Sunni historical references state that this ayah refers exclusively to Prophet Muhammad, Ali, Fatima, Hasan, and Husayn. The Sunni historians include:

  1. Sahih al-Muslim, Fadhail Ahlul Bayt 2:368
  2. Al-Khasais of al-Imam al-Nisa’i, 49
  3. Sahih al-Tirmidhi, 5:30
  4. Musnad Ahmad b. al-Hanbal, 1:330
  5. Al-Sawaiq al-Muhraqah, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, 85
  6. Al-Estiaab, Ibn Abd al-Birr, 3:37
  7. Tafseer al-Qurtubi, 14:182
  8. Ahkam al-Qur’an, Ibn Arabi, 2:166
  9. Mustadrak al-Hakim, 3:123
  10. Asbaab al-Nuzul al-Wahidi, 203
  11. Muntakhib Kanz al-Umal, 5:96
  12. Al-Bukhari, Al-Tarikh al-Kabeer, 1:69
  13. Tafseer al-Fakh al-Razi, 2:700
  14. Al-Seerah al-Halabiyah, 3:212
  15. Usd al-Ghabah, Ibn al-Atheer, 2:12
  16. Tafseer al-Tabari, 22:6
  17. Tarikh Ibn Asakir, 1:185
  18. Tafseer al-Kashshaf, al-Zamakhshari, 1:193
  19. Manaqib al-Khawarizmi, 23
  20. Al-Seerah al-Dahlaniyyah, 3:329
  21. Tafseer b. Katheer, 3:483
  22. Al-Aqd al-Fareed, Ibn Abd Rabah, 4:311
  23. Masabih al-Sunnah, al-Baghawi, 2:278
  24. Al-Durr al-Manthur, al-Suyuti, 5:198

The Verse of Malediction (Ayat al-Mubahilah)

The verse known as the “Mubahilah” (malediction) proposes, “Say (O Prophet) come, let us summon our sons and your sons and our women and your women, and ourselves and yourselves, and then let us invoke the curse of God upon the liars.” (c. 3:61) The revelation is directed towards the Christians of Najran who disputed the claim of the Holy Prophet’s prophethood and the nature of Jesus (whether he was divine or a prophet).

After the revelation of this verse, a meeting was arranged between the Muslims and the Christians under the conditions of the ayah in which both sides would solemnly swear to invoke the curse of Allah upon the side that was wrong.

The Christians brought along their hierarchy of priests to the malediction, however when they arrived, they found that the Prophet had brought only himself, his son-in-law and cousin, Ali; his daughter, Fatima; and his two grandsons, Hasan and Husayn. No one else, not even his wives were present even though the ayah had said “our women and your women.”

Although confident of his prophethood, the Prophet took with him the dearest of all people to him – his family – because he wanted the Christians to witness the seriousness of the malediction by which he was even ready to put his own family at risk when it came to defending Islam and his message. Seeing that the Prophet was willing to endanger those closest to him and put them face to face with the wrath of God, the Christians became fearful. The leader of the Christians, Zamakhshari, said, “O Christians! I am beholding such faces that if God wishes, for their sake, He would move mountains for them. Do not accept their challenge for malediction, for if you do, you will all perish and no Christian will remain on the face of the earth until the Day of Resurrection.”[14]

The mutual malediction was aborted and the Christians retreated to Najran, but later returned to embrace Islam.

Status of the Ahlul Bayt

The author of Sahih al-Bukhari narrates that a group of Muslims came to the Prophet and asked him, “O Messenger of Allah, Allah has ordered us to send our prayers upon you, so how should we send our prayers upon you?” (Referring to the verse 33:56 in the Holy Qur’an where Allah says, “Indeed Allah and His angels bless the Prophet; O you who have faith! Invoke blessings on him and invoke Peace upon him in a worthy manner.” The Prophet replied, “Say, ‘O Allah, bless Muhammad and the family of Muhammad, just as you blessed Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim, and grant favor to Muhammad and the family of Muhammad, just as you granted favor to Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim; truly, You the most Praiseworthy and Noble One in the worlds.’”[15]

Sanctity of the Ahlul Bayt

In the battlefield of the Battle of Uhud, on the day when the Messenger of Allah was hit on his forehead and was injured, he raised his head in supplication and said, “The wrath of Allah increased upon the Jews when they attributed Uzayr to Him and said that Uzayr was the son of Allah; and His wrath increased upon the Christians when they attributed divinity to Jesus and said that the Messiah was the son of God; and His wrath increased upon those people who made my blood flow and those who annoy my family members.”[16]

Ahlul Bayt – According to the Prophet

The Messenger of Allah said, “The parable of my household among you is the parable of the ark of Nuh (Noah); whoever embarked upon that ship was saved, and whoever did not was drowned (Mathalu ahl al bayti fikum ka-mathali safeenati Nuh).”[17]

The Messenger of Allah said, “We are members of a family that no one can ever be compared to (Nahnu ahl baytin laa yuqassu binaa ahad).”[18]

[11] Holy Qur’an, 16:43 & 21:7
[12] Tafseer al-Tabari, 14:109; Al-Alusi, Tafseer Ruh al-Maani, 14:134; Tafseer al-Qurtubi, 11:272; Tafseer Ibn al-Katheer, 2:570; Al-Hakim, Tafseer Shawahid al-Tanzel, 1:334; Tafseer al-Thalabi
[13] Holy Qur’an, 33:33
[14] Tafseer al-Kashshaf
[15] Allahumma salli ala Muhammadin wa aale Muhammad kama sallayta ala Ibrahim wa aale Ibrahim, wa barik ala Muhammadin wa aale Muhammad kama barakta ala Ibrahim wa aale Ibrahim filaalameena innaka hamidun majeed.
[16] Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Kanz al-Umal, 10:435, hadith 30050
[17] Kanz al-Umal 6:216; Mustadrak al-Sahihayn, 2:343; Al-Tabarani, Al-Mujam al-Kabeer, 12:27; Ibn Hajar, Al-Sawaiq al-Muhriqah, 1:86
[18] Kunuz al-Haqaiq, 153; Al-Riyadh al-Nadhirah, 2:208

When Power and Piety Collide by Sayed Moustafa al-Qazwini

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