Ahl al-Bayt

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Ahl al-Bayt (Arabic: أهل البيت‎‎, Persian: اهلِ بیت‎‎) is a phrase meaning, literally, "People of the House" or "Family of the House". Within the Islamic tradition, the term refers to the family of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.[1]

In Shia Islam and Alevism, 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, Fatimah, Ali, Hasan , and Husayn (known collectively as the Ahl al-Kisa, "people of the mantle") and the Imams. There are differing opinions on the scope and importance of Ahl al-Bayt.

In Sunni Islam, Muhammad's household refers to Muhammad himself; his wives and daughters, including Fatimah; his cousin and son-in-law Ali; and their two children, Hasan ibn Ali, Husayn ibn Ali, and all the descendants of Muhammad. Sometimes the descendants of his paternal uncles, Abu Talib and al-‘Abbas are included as well.[1] Some Sunnis consider only the family up until Hasan ibn Ali and Husayn ibn Ali to be members of the Ahl al-Bayt.


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.[citation needed]

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. Ahlul Bayt is the polite form of addressing the members and wife of the family.[2]

In the Qur'an[edit]

The Qur'an uses the term Ahl al-Bayt twice as a term of respect for wives.[3] The first instance refers to Muhammad's wives,[Quran 33:33] and the second refers to Abraham's wife Sara.[Quran 11:73]

According to some interpretations, the Qur'an also implicitly refers to Ahl al-Bayt in 42:23 using the term al-qurbā.[4][5]


There has been much debate concerning which people constitute Ahl al-Bayt. 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:[6]

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.[7]

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.[8] 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, "[t]he current orthodox view is based on a harmonizing opinion, according to which the term ahl bayt includes the ahl al-ʿabāʾ, i.e. the Prophet, ʿAlī, Fāṭima, al-Ḥasan and al-Ḥussain, together with the wives of the Prophet."[1] 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-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."[9]

Other interpretations include the family of Ali, as well as the families of Muhammad's relatives such as Aqeel, Ja'far, and ‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib|al-Abbas. 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.[1]

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.[1] Madelung writes that "[t]his 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."[10] Shias view these individuals as infallible and sinless Imams and regard devotion to them as an essential part of the religion.[1]

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.[11]

'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: Thee Merits of the Family of the Prophet [12] The last sentence of verse 33:33.[13]

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[13] 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.[citation needed]

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,[13] 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.[1][14] 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.


Muslims accord Muhammad's household a special status and venerate it.[15] 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".[16] 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.[17]

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.[18] 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.[19][20] 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.[21]

Most Sunni Sufi circles (tariqah) trace their spiritual chain back to Muhammad through Ali.[citation needed] 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.[1]

Loving Ahl al-Bayt according to Sunni Islam[edit]

In Sahih Bukhari, the first caliph Abu Bakr said "Look at Muhammad through his family".[22][23]

In Sunni Siah Sitta Book Hadith[edit]

Zaid b. Arqam Stated Hadith of Messanger of Allah that, One day Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) stood up to deliver sermon at a watering place known as Khumm situated between Mecca and Medina.

He praised Allah, extolled Him and delivered the sermon and. exhorted (us) and said: Now to our purpose.

O people, I am a human being. I am about to receive a messenger (the angel of death) from my Lord and I, in response to Allah's call, (would bid good-bye to you), but I am leaving among you two weighty things:

the one being the Book of Allah in which there is right guidance and light, so hold fast to the Book of Allah and adhere to it. He exhorted (us) (to hold fast) to the Book of Allah and then said:

The second are the members of my household I remind you to the members of my family.

He (Husain) said to Zaid: Who are the members of his household? Aren't his wives the members of his family? Thereupon he said: His wives are the members of his family (but here) the members of his family are those for whom acceptance of Zakat is forbidden. And he said: Who are they? Thereupon he said: 'Ali and the offspring of 'Ali, 'Aqil and the offspring of 'Aqil and the offspring of Ja'far and the offspring of 'Abbas. Husain said: These are those for whom the acceptance of Zakat is forbidden. Zaid said: Yes.[24][25]

Ahl al-Bayt according to Shia Islam[edit]

According to most authentic traditions in collections of both Sunni and Shi’a, Ahlul-Bayt (People of the House) of the Prophet are one of the two most precious Symbols of Islam after the departure of the Prophet (S). There are numerous traditions in the collection of both schools that the Prophet (S) has reminded us to stick to these two weighty things (al-Thaqalain), namely Qur'an and Ahlul-Bayt, in order not to go astray after him.

The Messenger of Allah also informed us that these two weights are non-separable and are with each other till the day of Judgment. This requires us that for understanding the interpretation of Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (S) we should refer to those who are attached to it, namely Ahlul-Bayt.

Knowing exactly who Ahlul-Bayt are, thus becomes a very vital matter when one considers the above tradition of the Prophet (S) as well as many other traditions which unequivocally state that adherence to Ahlul-Bayt is the only way of salvation. This clearly implies that the one who follows a wrong set of Ahlul-Bayt (!!), will be led astray. Members of the Ahl al-Bayt include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Ahl al-Bayt, Encyclopedia of Islam
  2. ^ Mufradat al-Qur'an by Raghib Isfahani; Qamus by Firoozabadi; Majm'a al-Bahrayn
  3. ^ Böwering, Gerhard; Patricia Crone; Wadad Kadi; Mahan Mirza; Muhammad Qasim Zaman; Devin J. Stewart (2012-11-11). The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691134840. 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. 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. 33:32-33). 
  4. ^ "The Ahlul Bayt". Al-Islam.org. 
  5. ^ "The Quran Speaks About Ahlul Bayt". 
  6. ^ "ĀL-E ʿABĀ". 
  7. ^ Quran 33:32–34
  8. ^ See:
    • "Ahl al-Bayt", Encyclopedia of Islam
    • Madelung (1997) p. 15
  9. ^ "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. 08 April 2014
  10. ^ Madelung (1997) pp. 14-15
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ Sahih Muslim, 31:5955
  13. ^ a b c Quran 33:33
  14. ^ Madelung, 1997, pp. 13-17
  15. ^ al-Munajjid, Shaykh Muhammad. "What is the virtue of Ahl al-Bayt". http://islamqa.info. Retrieved 15 November 2014.  External link in |website= (help)
  16. ^ Quran 42:23
  17. ^ Madelung (1997) p. 13
  18. ^ al-Munajjid, Shaykh Muhammad. "Ruling on giving zakaah to Ahl al-Bayt". http://islamqa.info. Retrieved 15 November 2014.  External link in |website= (help)
  19. ^ Madelung (1997) p. 14
  20. ^ 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)
  21. ^ Ahl al-Bayt, Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim world.
  22. ^ "Hadith - Book of Companions of the Prophet - Sahih al-Bukhari - Sunnah.com - Sayings and Teachings of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم)". 
  23. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari 3713; In-book reference: Book 62, Hadith 63; USC-MSA web (English) reference: Vol. 5, Book 57, Hadith 60 (deprecated numbering scheme)
  24. ^ "Hadith - The Book of the Merits of the Companions - Sahih Muslim - Sunnah.com - Sayings and Teachings of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم)". 
  25. ^ Sahih Muslim 2408 a ; In-book reference: Book 44, Hadith 55; USC-MSA web (English) reference: Book 31, Hadith 5920 (deprecated numbering scheme)
  26. ^ "Who Are Ahlul-Bayt? Part 1". Al-Islam.org. 


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