Ahl al-Bayt

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Ahl al-Bayt (Arabic : أَهْلُ ٱلْبَيْتِ, Persian : اهلِ بیت) is a phrase meaning "People of the House" , "People of the Household" or "Family of the House". Within the Islamic tradition, the term mainly refers to the family of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, [1] [2] and to a lesser extent (according to Muslims), his ancestor Ibrahim (Abraham), [3]


In Shia Islam, the Ahl al-Bayt are central to Islam and interpreters of the Quran and Sunnah. Shias believe they are successors of Muhammad and consist of Muhammad, his daughter Fatimah, his son-in-law Ali, and their children Hasan and Husayn, known collectively as the Ahl al-Kisa ("People of the Cloak"), in addition to the Twelve Imams of Muhammad's grandchildren children.

In Sunni Islam, Muhammad's Ahl al-Bayt refers to Muhammad himself; his wives; his sons Qasim, Abdullah, Ibrahim; his daughters Zainab, Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum and Fatimah; his cousin and son-in-law Ali and their two sons, Hasan and Husayn. [2] In the interpretation of certain traditions, the term may also be extended to include the descendants of Muhammad's paternal uncles, Abu Talib and al-'Abbas, or according to Malik ibn Anas and Abu Hanifa, all of the Banu Hashim. [2]


In this topic, the word ahl al-bayt is treated base on the Quranic verse, in line with the commentary. [4] To sum up, the meaning of ahl al-bayt in the Quran follows the accepted usage of the term in pre- and post-Islamic Arab society. It denotes family and blood relations as well as a noble and leading "house" of the tribe. [5]


The term Ahl signifies the members of a household of a man, including his fellow tribesmen, kin, relatives, wife or wives, children and all those who share a family background, religion, housing, city and country with him. [6] Bayt refers to habitation and dwelling, whether tented or built. It can also be roughly translated as "household". The ahl al-bayt of a person refers to his family members and all those who live in his house. Ahl al-Bayt is the polite form of addressing the members and wife of the family. [7]

In the Qur'an

The Qur'an uses the term Ahl al-Bayt many times as a term of respect for Prophet's family, and to the Prophet Muhammad's blood relations. According to the Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, "The term ahl al-bayt (the people of the house) is used in the Qur'an as a term of respect for wives, referring to Abraham's wife Sarah (Q. Quran   11:73), for example, and to the Prophet Muhammad's wives, who are declared to be purified by divine act: 'God's wish is to remove uncleanness from you' (Q.Quran   33:32–33)." [8]

According to some interpretations, the Qur'an also implicitly refers to Ahl al-Bayt in 42:23, using the term al-qurbā. [9] [ unreliable source? ] [10] [ unreliable source? ]


There has been much debate concerning which people constitute ahl al-bayt. According to the Wahhabi site Islam Question and Answer,

There are several views among the scholars ... concerning the definition of Ahl al-Bayt.

With regard to the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), the most correct view is that they are included among the members of the family of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), because Allaah says, after commanding the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) to observe hijaab (interpretation of the meaning):

“Allaah wishes only to remove Ar-Rijs (evil deeds and sins) from you, O members of the family (of the Prophet), and to purify you with a thorough purification” (al-Ahzaab 33:33]

Although there have been many disagreements, there is a consensus amongst Sunni and Shi'a Muslims that the "Ahl al-Kisa" hadith refers specifically to Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn. Mention of the ahl al-bayt, Muhammad's household, is present in a verse of the Qur'an as follows: [11]

O wives of the Prophet! you are not like any other of the women; If you will be on your guard, then be not soft in (your) speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease yearn; and speak a good word.
And stay in your houses and do not display your finery like the displaying of the ignorance of yore; and keep up prayer, and pay the poor-rate, and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O people of the House! and to purify you a (thorough) purifying.
And keep to mind what is recited in your houses of the communications of Allah and the wisdom; surely Allah is Knower of subtleties, Aware.

Sura Al-Ahzab (33), ayat 32–34. [12]

The precise definition of the term in this verse has been subject to varying interpretations. In one tradition, according to which Muhammad's companion Salman al-Farsi is included as a member, it is used to distinguish from the muhajirun (Muslim emigrants from Mecca) and ansar (Medinan converts to Islam). According to Sunni doctrine, the term includes the wives and dependants of Muhammad, as it addresses them in the preceding verse – an interpretation which is attributed to 'Abd Allah ibn 'Abbas and Ikrimah ibn Abi-Jahl, both of whom were companions of Muhammad. This is supported[ improper synthesis? ] by various traditions attributed to Muhammad wherein he addresses each of his wives as Ahl al-Bayt. [13] Further members of the household, according to the Sunni perspective, include Ali, Fatimah,Hasan and Husayn, who are mentioned in the tradition of the mantle. Some versions of this tradition recognise Umm Salamah, a wife of Muhammad, as a part of the household. Thus, according to the Encyclopaedia of Islam , "the current orthodox view is based on a harmonizing opinion, according to which the term ahl al-bayt includes the ahl al-ʿabāʾ, i.e. the Prophet, ʿAlī, Fāṭima, al-Ḥasan and al-Ḥussain, together with the wives of the Prophet." [2] According to Laura Veccia Vaglieri in Encyclopaedia of Islam "there is a story narrated in many traditions according to which Muḥammad sheltered under his cloak, in varying circumstances including the Mubahala, his grandchildren Ḥasan and Hussein, his daughter Fatimah and his son/cousin-in-law Ali; and therefore it is these five who are given the title Ahl al-Kisa or "People of the Mantle". Some have attempted to add Muḥammad's wives to the list; however, the number of the privileged is limited to these five." [14]

Other interpretations include the family of Ali, as well as the families of Muhammad's relatives such as Aqeel, Ja'far, and al-Abbas. [15] Early Islamic jurists Malik ibn Anas and Abū Ḥanīfa included the clan of Banu Hashim within the definition, while al-Shafi'i included the whole of Banu Muttalib. [2]

In Shia thought, the household is limited to Muhammad, Fatimah, Ali, Hasan, Husayn, and their descendants (altogether known as the Ahl al-Kisa); as per their deduction from the tradition of the mantle. They interpret the change in pronoun in the Qur'anic verse as showing that only the aforementioned members constitute Ahl al-Bayt. [2] Madelung writes that "this change of gender has inevitably contributed to the birth of various accounts of a legendary character, attaching the latter part of the verse to the five People of the Mantle." [16] Shias view these individuals as infallible and sinless Imams and regard devotion to them as an essential part of the religion. [2]

Shia Muslims also support this claim with a hadith mentioned in the Sunni Ṣaḥīḥ collection. Many Sunni scholars remark that the verse of purification was revealed concerning five people: Muhammad, Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn. [17]

'A'isha reported that Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) went out one morning wearing a striped cloak of the black camel's hair that there came Hasan b. 'Ali. He wrapped him under it, then came Husain and he wrapped him under it along with the other one (Hasan). Then came Fatima and he took her under it, then came 'Ali and he also took him under it and then said: Allah only desires to take away any uncleanliness from you, O people of the household, and purify you (thorough purifying)

Sahih Muslim, The Book Pertaining to the Merits of the Companions of the Holy Prophet (Kitab Al-Fada'il Al-Sahabah), Chapter 9: The Merits of the Family of the Prophet [18] The last sentence of verse 33:33. [19]

The tradition about this hadith goes from different sources to Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad. She narrated that once her father visited her home, he had fever and was not feeling well, he asked for a Yemeni cloak which Fatimah brought to him and folded it around him. Later he was joined in that Yemeni cloak by his grandsons Hasan and Hussein, who were followed by their father Ali ibn Abi Talib, who was cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad. Finally Fatimah asked the permission to enter that cloak. When all five of them joined together under the cloak, Muhammad narrated the Qur'anic verse 33:33 [19] to those under the cloak that all five of them are chosen ones, and he further stated that he wants God to keep all impurities out of reach and away from all of us. Muhammad then prayed to God to declare all five of them as his Ahlul Bayt and keep away the Najasat (impurities). God, at that request immediately sent Gabriel (Jibral) to reveal to Muhammad that all the five under the cloak are dearest and closest to God and they are Taher ("purest of the pure") without any traces of impurities. [20]

The Twelver and Ismaili branches of Shia Islam differ in regards to the line of Imamate. While the Twelver believe in a lineage known as the Twelve Imams, the Ismaili believe that the descendants of Isma'il ibn Jafar, rather than his brother Musa al-Kadhim, were the inheritors of the Imamate instead.

According to Anas ibn Malik, Muhammad, for six months straight used to pass by the door of Fatimah whenever he left for fajr prayers and said, "it is time for salat, of family of the house (Ahel al biat)! 'Surely Allah desires to remove all imperfection from you, of family of the house, and purify you completely.'" From surah Al Ahzab 33, verse 33, [19] Sunan al-Tirmidhi- Vol. 2 sahih 902

Most, but not all Shi'a believe that these A'immah to be the divinely chosen leaders of the Muslim community. [2] [21] This is based on the hadith, "People of the Cloak", where the Prophet referred to only Fatimah, Ali, Hasan, Hussain and Himself (stating that wives were not part of the Ahl al Bayt because they could be divorced and were no longer part of the household when their husband died), a hadith which many Sunni Muslims believe in. Collectively Muhammad, Fatimah and the Twelve Imams are known as The Fourteen Infallibles. [22]

In Kitab al-Kafi, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir has narrated that there will be twelve Imams from the family of Muhammad, nine from the family of Husayn ibn Ali, the last being Al-Qa'im, and they will be spoken to by angels. [23]


Muslims accord Muhammad's household a special status and venerate it. [24] This is derived from verses in the Qur'an and hadith which stipulate love towards Muhammad's relatives – though in some cases interpretations differ, an example being: "Say: "No reward do I ask of you for this except the love of those near of kin". [25] According to classical exegete al-Tabarani (260–360 AH /873–970 CE) the verse most likely refers to Muslim believers related by blood ties. Another interpretation adopted by Shia applies the verse to the ahl al-bayt; while another view interprets the verse as commanding love for relatives in general. The latter view is favored by contemporary academic scholar Madelung. [26]

Sharia (Islamic law) prohibits the administration of sadaqah (charity) or zakat (tax) to Muhammad's kin (including the Banu Hashim), as Muhammad forbade this income for himself and his family. [27] The explanation given by jurists is that these alms are considered the defilements of the people, who offer them to purify themselves from sin, hence it would be unbecoming of the kin to handle or use them. Instead, they are accorded part of the spoils of war. [28] [29] Muslims in their daily prayers invoke blessings upon them by saying: "O God, bless Muhammad and his family." In many Muslim communities, high social status is attributed to people claiming to be blood-descendants of Muhammad's household, and are labelled sayyids or sharifs . [30]

Most Sunni Sufi circles ( tariqah ) trace their spiritual chain back to Muhammad through Ali. [31] In Shia thought, Muhammad's household is central to the religion. In one version of Muhammad's farewell sermon, he is represented as saying that God has given believers two safeguards: the Qur'an and his family; in other versions the two safeguards are the Qur'an and his Sunnah (statements and actions of Muhammad). Popular Shia belief ascribes cosmological importance to the family in various texts, wherein it is said that God would not have created Jannah (heaven) and earth, paradise, Adam and Eve, or anything else were it not for them. The majority of Shia regard the heads of the family as divinely chosen Imams who are infallible and sinless. [2]

See also

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  1. Quran   33:28–40
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Ahl al-Bayt, Encyclopedia of Islam
  3. Quran   11:69–83
  4. Hadavi Tehrani, Ayatullah Mahdi (2014). Faith and Reason. ... ISBN   978-1-3126-1635-6.
  5. Mc Aulliffe, Jame Dammen (2004). Encyclopedia of the Qur'an. 4, P-Sh. Brill. p. 48. ISBN   978-9-0041-2355-7.
  6. Translation and Meaning of أهل almaany.com
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  12. Quran   33:32–34
  13. See:
    • "Ahl al-Bayt", Encyclopedia of Islam
    • Madelung (1997) p. 15
  14. "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. 8 April 2014
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  16. Madelung (1997) pp. 14–15
  17. al-Bahrani, Ghayat al-Marum, p. 126:al-Suyuti, al-Durr al-Manthur, Vol. V, p.199; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al Musnad, Vol. I, p.331; Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, al-Tafsir al-Kabir, Vol. I, p.783; Ibn Hajar, al-Sawa'iq p.85
  18. Sahih Muslim , 31:5955
  19. 1 2 3 Quran   33:33
  20. Tabari, Muhammad bin Jarir (1991). Jame al-Bayan Fi Tafsir al-Quran. 22. Beyrut: Dar al-Ma'rifah. p. 6.
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  25. Quran   42:23
  26. Madelung (1997) p. 13
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  28. Madelung (1997) p. 14
  29. A verse in the Qur'an reads: "That which Allah giveth as spoil unto His messenger from the people of the townships, it is for Allah and His messenger and for the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, that it become not a commodity between the rich among you.", (Quran   59:7)
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