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Who are the Ahl al-Bayt of the Prophet (ṣ)?

Who are the Ahl al-Bayt of the Prophet (ṣ)?

Who are the Ahl al-Bayt of the Prophet ()?

The quoted traditions affirm that the Holy Prophet () called upon all Muslims to follow his progeny, considering them, alongside the Book of Allah, as the authorities for people to refer to after his departure. He said very clearly: “The Qur’an and my progeny will never be separated from each other.”

Now, because the Ahl al-Bayt of the Prophet () who are introduced by the Messenger of Allah () as equal to the Qur’an, we realize that they enjoy the station of infallibility [‘imah] and they have access to the pure fountain of Islamic knowledge; for, if this is not the case, they will be separated from the Book of Allah (the Qur’an), whereas the Holy Prophet () says: “The Qur’an and my progeny will never be separated from each other until they meet me at the Pool [aw] (of Kawthar).”

As such, it is necessary to fully recognize the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and their outstanding attributes, which characterize only the Imāms followed by the Shī‘ah, all of whom are among the progeny of the Prophet ().

Referring to the traditions transmitted by great muaddithūn, we shall bring forth our convincing proofs in this regard:

1. After narrating the adīth ath-Thaqalayn, Muslim ibn al-ajjāj thus says:

Yazīd ibn ayyām asked Zayd ibn al-Arqam: “Who are the members of the Household of the Prophet ()? Aren’t the wives (of the Holy Prophet) included among the members of his household?”  In reply, Zayd ibn Arqam thus said:

ثمّ الدّهر من العصر الرجل مع تكون المرأة إن الله وايم لا

عصبته و أصله بيته أهل .قومها و أبيها إلى فترجع يطلّقها

“.بعده الصّدقة حُرِموا الّذين

No, by Allah, a woman lives with a man (as his wife) for a certain period; he then divorces her and she goes back to her parents and to her people; the members of his household include his own self and his kith and kin (who are related to him by blood) and for him the acceptance of zakāh is prohibited.[1]

This tradition testifies to the fact that “the “progeny of the Prophet (),” clinging to whom, like holding fast to the Qur’an, is obligatory, does not mean his wives but they, apart from the close physical affinity and spiritual attachment they have with him, have a special merit for which we consider alongside the Qur’an, authorities for the Muslims of the world to refer to.

2. The Holy Prophet () did not only describe the attributes of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) but also mentioned their number, and said that they are twelve:

Muslim narrates on the authority of Jābir ibn Samurah:

إثنىٰ إلىٰ عزيزاً الإسلام لايزال يقولوسلّم [وآله] عليه الله صلىالله رسول سمعت

.قريش من كلّهُم :فقال ؟ قال ما لأبي فقلت اسمعها لم كلمة قال ثمّ خليفةً عشر

I heard the Messenger of Allah () say: ‘Islam will keep its honor with twelve caliphs.’ Then, he said a statement which I did not hear. I asked my father, “What he () said?” Then, he (my father) replied that he () said: “All of them will be from Quraysh.[2]

Also, Muslim ibn al-ajjāj thus narrates from the Messenger of Allah ():

“.رجلاً إثناعشر ماوليهم ماضيًا النّاس أمر لايزال

“The affairs of the people will continue to be conducted (well) as long as they are governed by twelve men.”[3]

The two traditions are a clear testimony to the Shī‘ah contention that “The twelve Imāms followed by the Shī‘ah are the rightful leaders of the people after the Holy Prophet ().” This is because in Islam, the twelve caliphs who came immediately after the Messenger of Allah () are the authorities who take care of the Muslims’ affairs and the glory and splendor of Islam, are referred to no one except the twelve Imāms from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a). For, if we apply that to the four caliphs who are known as the “Rightly-Guided Caliphs” [khulafā ar-rāshidūn], we find that the other rulers—the Umayyad and ‘Abbāsid caliphs—most of whom are known for their unscrupulous characters as testified by history, are a source of Islam and the Muslims’ ignominy.

As such, the “Ahl al-Bayt”, who have been introduced by the Holy Prophet () as equal to the Qur’an and as the authority for the Muslims in the world to refer to, are the very twelve leaders from the Prophet’s progeny. They are the preservers of the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah () and the repository of his knowledge. 

3. Also, the Commander of the Faithful, ‘Alī ibn Abī ālib (‘a), says that the leaders of Muslims are from Banū Hāshim, which is another clear testimony to the soundtness of the Shī‘ah premise in their recognition of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), when he declares:

هاشم بنى من البطن هٰذا فى غرسوا قريش من الأئمّة إنّ

“.غيرهم من الولاة ولاتصلح سواهم من على لاتصلح

Surely, the Imāms (divine leaders) will be from the Quraysh. They have been planted in this line through Hāshim. It would not suit others nor would others be suitable as heads of affairs.[4]


The set of the quoted of traditions reveals two facts:

1.   Holding fast to the Ahl al-Bayt of the Prophet () and following them alongside the injunctions of the Book of Allah is obligatory.

2.   The Ahl al-Bayt of the Messenger of Allah () who have been introduced as “the counterpart of the Glorious Qur’an” and as the authority for all Muslims to refer to, have the following salient features:

a.   All of them are from the tribe of Quraysh and the clan of Banū Hāshim;

b.   They have such affinity to the Messenger of Allah () that charity [adaqah] is unlawful for them to receive;

c.   They have the station of infallibility [‘imah], otherwise they would be separated from the Glorious Qur’an, whereas the Holy Prophet says: “These two (the Qur’an and ‘itrah) will not be separated from each other until they meet me at the Pool [aw] of Kawthar.”

d.   They are twelve all in all and they are the guardians and leaders of the Muslims who succeed the Messenger of Allah () one after the other.

e.   These twelve successors of the Prophet () are the source of ever-growing glory and splendor of Islam.

Taking into account these descriptions drawn from the traditions, we realize that by his Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), the obedience to whom is incumbent on the Muslims, the Prophet () means the very twelve pure Imāms from the progeny of the Holy Prophet (), obedience and loyalty to whom the Shī‘ah take pride when exploring their jurisprudential laws. ?



[1] aī Muslim (Egypt), vol. 7, “Bāb Faā’il ‘Alī ibn Abī ālib, p. 123.

Abdul-Hamid Siddiqui (trans.), aī Muslim (English Translation), vol. 4, book, 31, hadīth no. 5923. [Trans.]

[2] Muslim, Ṣaḥī(Egypt), vol. 6, p. 2.

Abdul-Hamid Siddiqui (trans.), aī Muslim (English Translation), vol. 3, hadīth no. 4480. [Trans.]

[3] Ibid.

Abdul-Hamid Siddiqui (trans.), aī Muslim (English Translation), vol. 3, hadīth no. 4478. [Trans.]

[4] Nahj al-Balāghah (ubī āli), Sermon 144.

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