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The Ahlul Bayt

The Ahlul Bayt

The best way to introduce the Ahlul Bayt to the Muslim nation is to recall what the Noble Quran says about them. Several verses of the Noble Quran refer specifically to the virtues of the Ahlul Bayt and their outstanding position in Islam. Whenever the Noble Quran refers to the Ahlul Bayt, it refers to a specific group of people who were related not only by blood, but more importantly, by ideology and faith to the Prophet. However, it does not refer to all of his blood relations, his friends or his wives.

The Verse of Purity (Taharah)

Allah only desires to keep away uncleanliness from you, O People of the House (Ahlul Bayt), and to make you as pure as possible.[70]

The prominent scholars of Islam and the narrators of the Prophetic tradition unanimously agree that Ahlul Bayt (the household of the Prophet ) which Almighty Allah uses in the above verse of the Noble Quran refers to the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, Lady Fatima al-Zahra, his cousin, Ali ibn Abi Talib, and their children Hassan and Husayn.[71] Tabarani narrates from one of the respected wives of the Prophet, Um Salamah that the Messenger of Allah once told his daughter, Lady Fatima to call her husband Ali and their two sons, Hassan and Husayn. When they came, the Messenger of Allah covered them with a cloak, put his hand on them and said, “O Allah, these are Al-e-Muhammad (the family of Muhammad), so shower Your blessings and favors upon Al-e-Muhammad just as You showered them on Al-e-Ibrahim. You are the Praiseworthy, the Glorious.” Um Salamah says that she raised the cloak to join them, but the Prophet took it from her hand saying, “You are also on the right.”[72]

Although the beginning of verse 33:33 addresses the wives of the Prophet and continues to address them up until the middle part of the verse, but upon reaching “Ahlul Bayt” it excludes them.[73] The previous and subsequent statements which are directed towards the wives of the Prophet are in the feminine pronouns and gender, but this verse referring to the Ahlul Bayt is in the masculine or mixed gender; thus it makes it clear that it is not addressed to the wives of the Prophet. However, even without the grammatical evidence, the relationship between some of the wives of the Prophet does not fit the spirit of this verse which asserts the physical, mental, and spiritual purity of the family of the Prophet Muhammad.

To emphasize that the phrase “Ahlul Bayt” in this verse refers only to five people—Prophet Muhammad, Ali, Lady Fatima, Hassan, and Husayn—narrators say that whenever the Prophet used to pass by his daughter, Lady Fatima's house on the way to the masjid for the dawn prayers he would stop there and proclaim, “Come to prayer, O Ahlul Bayt, to prayer. Allah desires to keep away un-cleanliness from you, O Ahlul Bayt, and to make you as pure as possible.”[74] Imam Anas ibn Malik adds that the Prophet did this for six months every day on his way for his morning prayers at the masjid.[75]

The Verse of Affection (Muwaddah)

Say, I do not ask from you any reward for it (preaching the message) but love for my relatives (qurba which here refers to the Ahlul Bayt[76]).[77]

When explaining this verse, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi says, “Without doubt, no one was as near to the Prophet as Lady Fatima, Ali, Hassan, and Husayn. This is a well-known fact for all the chains of narration, that these were his 'al'.” Thus, 'al' or 'ahl' refers only to the immediate family of the Prophet—namely: Lady Fatima, Ali, Hassan, and Husayn.

Some argue that Hassan and Husayn were not the sons of the Prophet because they were the sons of Imam Ali. According to old Arab custom, the mother was considered as only a means to deliver a child, but nonetheless, their direct lineage to the Prophet is through their mother, Lady Fatima al-Zahra. It has been narrated that the 'Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid asked the seventh Imam of the school of Ahlul Bayt, Imam Musa ibn Ja'far how he could attribute himself to the Prophet while he was the child of Ali and Lady Fatima - thus, how could he be related to the Prophet? The Imam then cited to him a verse that refers to the descendants of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim), “And from his progeny were David (Dawud), Solomon (Sulayman), Job (Ayyub), Joseph (Yusuf), Moses (Musa), and Aaron (Harun)—thus do We reward the good-doers—and Zachariah (Zakariyya), and John (Yahya), and Jesus (Isaa), and Elias (Ilyas)—each one of them was of the righteous.”[78] The Imam then asked the caliph who the father of Isaa (Jesus) was. Harun answered that he was fatherless. The Imam replied, “Then you can see that Allah linked him to Ibrahim through his mother, Mary and Allah did the same for us, linking us to Prophet Muhammad through our mother Lady Fatima al-Zahra.”[79]

In many instances, the Prophet refers to Lady Fatima with intense love and affection, such as when he says, “Fatima is a part of me. Her happiness is my happiness, and her pain is my pain.” The Prophet would also point towards the children of Fatima - Hassan and Husayn - and say on many occasions, “These are my sons,” or “This is my son.” That is why the community of the companions in Madina referred to both Hassan and Husayn as the 'sons of Prophet Muhammad.'

The Verse of Malediction (Mubahilah)

But whoever disputes with you in this matter after what has come to you of knowledge, then say, 'Come, let us call our sons and your sons, and our women and your women, and ourselves and yourselves, and let us beseech Allah and invoke His curse upon the liars.'[80]

This milestone event in the Islamic history has been narrated by all the historians, narrators, and commentators of the Quran. It is an event which reveals the exalted status of the Family of the Prophet. The narrations say that a delegation of Christians from Najran came to the city of Madina in order to meet with the Prophet to discuss his prophethood and the religion he was preaching. The Prophet proved to them that Jesus (Isa) was the son of Mary; he was a human being, a Prophet, and a servant of Allah as the Quran states and that regarding him as the son of God is blasphemy, since Allah, the Exalted is much higher than such human characteristics. After discussing these points extensively, the Prophet found them still deliberately persisting in their false beliefs and traditions—namely on the deification of Prophet Jesus—thus, Allah revealed the verse, which was a major challenge to the Christians, to pray and invoke upon Allah that a curse may overtake the party that insists on falsehood. Early the next morning, on the 24th of the lunar month of Dhul al-Hijjah, in accordance with Allah's command, the Prophet arrived at the meeting carrying Husayn in his arms, while holding Hassan by the hand, followed by his beloved daughter, Lady Fatima and behind them was his son-in-law and cousin, Ali ibn Abi Talib carrying the banner of Islam. Seeing that the Prophet was accompanied only by his immediate family, the Christians were convinced that he was truthful otherwise he would have never dared to bring his dearest kin along with him. The Christian delegation backed away from the malediction argument and returned back to Najran.

Zamakhshari, in his Tafsir al-Kashshaf, narrates the event as:

When this verse was revealed, the Prophet invited the Christians to the malediction, to invoke the curse of Allah upon the liars. The Christians held a discourse among themselves tmhat night in which their leader, 'Abd al-Masih stated his views. He said, “O Christians, know that Muhammad is a God-sent Prophet who has brought you the final message from your Lord. By God, no nation ever dared to challenge a Prophet with malediction but that woe befell them. Not only will they perish, but their children will also be afflicted by the curse.” Saying this—that it is better to reach a compromise with the Prophet rather than challenge his truth and perish—'Abd al-Masih advised his party to stop hostilities and retain their religion by submitting to the Prophet's terms. “So if you persist (for a confrontation) we will all perish. But if you, to keep your faith, refuse (to have a showdown) and remain as you are, then make peace with the man (the Prophet) and return to your land.” The next day, the Prophet, carrying Husayn in his arms, leading Hassan by the hand, followed by his daughter Lady Fatima, behind whom came Ali, entered the appointed place and the Prophet was heard saying to his family, “When I invoke Allah, second the invocation.” The pontiff of Najran, upon seeing the Prophet and his family, addressed the Christians, “O Christians! I am witnessing 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 would all perish and there will not remain any Christians on the face of the earth till the Day of Resurrection.”[81] Heeding his advice, the Christians said to the Prophet, “O Abul-Qasim, we have decided not to hold malediction with you. You keep your religion, and we will keep ours.” The Prophet told them, “If you refuse to hold malediction, then submit to Allah, and you will receive what the Muslims receive and contribute what the Muslims contribute.” The Christians delegates, saying that they had no desire to fight the Muslims, proposed a treaty asking for peace which the Prophet of Islam accepted.

Although other women were present in the family of the Prophet at that time, all the commentators, narrators, and historians agree that in reference to the Quranic verse, “our women” referred only to Lady Fatima al-Zahra, “our children” referred only to Hassan and Husayn, and “ourselves” referred only to the Prophet and Imam Ali.

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