Ahlul-Bait (A.S.) in the Holy Qur'an and the Holy Prophet's Traditions (Sunnah)
The Qur'an emphasizes the lofty position and significance of the Ahlul-Bait so as to make mankind follow their right path, consult them when their opinion differs or their faith, situation and concepts contradict.
Investigating the verse of Revelation, we will find that the Qur'an sometimes addresses them as 'Ahlul-Bait', like the Almighty's saying:
..Allah desires only to keep away uncleanness from you
O people of the House (Ahlul-Bait) and make you as pure as can be.
Holy Qur'an (33:33)
Sometimes as 'relative' (Qurba) like His saying:
...Say (O' Muhammad unto mankind): I do not ask of you any reward for it
(preaching the message)' but love for my relatives (Ahlul-Bait)...
Holy Qur'an (42:23)
The Holy Qur'an, also, focuses on their merits and their virtues through various verses without using these two terms for indicating them like its address concerning Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husein in Chapter (Dahr) and the Mubahala verse or its description of Ali in many verses like the Wilaya and Tabligh verses and other verses. It describes them as being the best among mankind, the pious and...etc.
The commentators and narrators single out the causes for the revelation of these verses and acknowledge what is meant by them, then it will be cleared for us through some samples of the interpretation of the Almighty's verses and explain the causes for their revelation:
1. The Verse of Purity (Tathir):
..Allah desires only to keep away uncleanness from you O people of the House (Ahlul-Bait)
and make you as pure as can be.
Holy Qur'an (33:33)
All exegists of the Holy Qur'an and narrators of the Prophet's traditions, unanimously agree that the word Ahlul-Bait, or the Household of the Prophet (s.a.w.) as used by Almighty Allah in the Qur'an, refers only to the following persons: The Prophet's daughter Fatima, her husband Ali and their two children Hasan and Husein (peace be upon them all). The famous exegist Suyuti in his renowned commentary 'Dur al-Manthur' cites Tabarani's narration from Umm Salama that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) once told his beloved daughter, Fatima, to call her husband Ali and two of their sons; Hasan and Husein. When they came, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) covered them with a Fadak (a place near Madina) cloak and put his hand on them, and said:
O Allah! these are the Ahl Muhammad (another version says aal (family) Muhammad,
so, shower your blessings and favours on aal Muhammad as you showered them on aal Abraham;
You are the Praiseworthy, the Glorious.
Umm Salama said that she raised the cloak to join them, but the Prophet pulled it out of her hand and said: You are (also) on the right.(1)
On many occasions Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) explained the meaning of this verse (of purity) to the Muslims and drew their attention to its significance in order to be enlightened with them (Ahlul-Bait) by following their straight path. Once, it happened that the Prophet while passing his daughter Fatima's (a.s.) house on his way to the mosque for the (lawn prayers, used to call:
To prayer, O Ahlul-Bait, to prayer; Allah desires to keep away uncleanness from you,
people of the House and make you pure as pure as can be.(2)
Anas bin Malik narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.) used to go to Fatima's house for six months whenever he went out for prayer. He used to say: To prayer, O Ahlul-Bait, to prayer; Allah desires to keep a way uncleanness from you, people of the House and make you pure as pure as can be.(3)
2. The Verse of Affection (Mawadah):
...Say (O' Muhammad unto mankind): I do not ask of you any reward
for it (preaching the message), but love for my relatives (Ahlul-Bait)...
Holy Qur'an (42:23)
The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) explicitly told the Muslims that this blessed verse refers to his Ahlul-Bait, that is; Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husein and urged them to obey and follow these illustrious personalities after him.
All commentators, traditionists and biographers said that the word 'near relatives of the Prophet' as used, here, refers exclusively to his Ahlul-Bait that is Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husein.
Fakhruddin Razi, while explaining this verse, says: ...and without doubt no one was so near to the Prophet than Fatima, Ali, Hasan and Husein. This is a well-known fact of all chains of narrations, and these are they who are his 'aal'.
Thus, it is an undisputed fact that the words Ahlul-Bait or aal Muhammad (s.a.w.) refer only to the immediate family of the Prophet; his daughter Fatima, son-in-law Ali and his two sons Hasan and Husein and no one else.
First: We have already cited some instances of the Prophet's love for his family.
Second: No doubt being his only surviving child, Fatima was intensely loved by her father. The Prophet's famous words are a testimony to this fact.
Fatima is a part of me and whoever makes her angry, makes me angry.
The traditions also confirm this and also his natural inclination towards Ali and his grandchildren, Hasan and Husein. Therefore, it becomes a duty for the Prophet's nation to follow the Prophet's traditions in respect to his Ahlul-Bait. The Almighty says:
...Say (O Muhammad say unto mankind) if you love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you...
Holy Qur'an (3:31)
3. The Verse of Malediction (Mubahala):
But whoever disputes with you (O' Muhammad) 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 our selves and your selves, then let us beseech Allah and invoke
His curse upon the liars.
Holy Qur'an (3:61)
This verse points towards an epoch-making event, narrated by all historians and commentators; an event which revealed to the Muslims the status of the family of the Prophet (Ahlul-Bait) (a.s.) (Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husein), and how near and dear they are to Allah, the Exalted.
It is narrated that a deputation* from the Christians of Najran came to the Prophet of Islam to argue the merits of their faith and also to discuss with him concerning his prophethood. The Holy Prophet advanced to them arguments showing that Jesus, the son Mary, was a human being and a Prophet, and it was blasphemy to regard him as a son of Allah, because Allah, the Exalted, is high above all such human characteristics. It was when the Prophet, having argued the point fully and convincingly, found them still deliberately persisting in their false belief in the deity of Prophet Jesus, that Allah revealed this verse. It was a challenge to the Christians, to pray and invoke Allah that the curse may overtake the party that insisted upon falsehood.
*-The deputation was comprised of three prominant Christian leaders of Arabia, Abdul-Masih, the political leader; al-Ayham in-charge of their Agro-Pastoral affairs; and Abu Hatam ibn Alqama, who was a Bishop or Pontiff.
Early the next morning on the 24th of the lunar month of Dhilhijja, the Prophet, in accordance with Allah's command, came out to the meeting grounds, carrying Husein in his arms and leading Hasan our sons by his hand, followed by his beloved daughter Fatima our women, behind whom came Ali our selves carrying the banner of Islam. Seeing the Prophet was accompanied by his immediate family and convinced that Muhammad (s.a.w.) was truthful, otherwise he would not have dared to bring his dearest of kin along, the Christians backed away from the maledictory confrontation and agreed to pay Jizya instead.
Zamakhshari says in his book 'al-Kashshaf':
That (when this verse was revealed) the Prophet asked the Christians to a Mubahala (malediction) to invoke the curse of Allah on the liars. The Christians held a discourse among themselves that night, in which their leader Abdul Massih stated his views as follows. By God, O Christians, you know that Muhammad is a God-sent Prophet, who has brought to 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 with the curse. Saying this, that it is better to reach a compromise with the Prophet, rather than challenge his truth and perish Abdul Massih 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, should refuse (to have a showdown) and remain as you are, then, make peace with the man (the Prophet) and return to your land.
Zamakhshari continues: The next day the Prophet, carrying Husein in his arms, leading Hasan by the hand; followed by his daughter Fatima, behind whom came Ali, entered the appointed place and was heard saying (to his Ahlul-Bait):
When I invoke Allah, you all say: Amen.
The pontiff of Najran on seeing the Prophet and his Ahlul-Bait, addressed the Christians:
O' Christians, I am beholding such faces that if God wishes (for their sake),
He would move mountains from their places. Do not accept their challenge
for Mubahala for if you do you would all perish and there would remain no
Christian on the face of the earth till the Day of Resurrection. Heeding his advice the Christians said to the Prophet: O Abdul Qasim, we decided not to hold Mubahala with you. You keep your religion and we will keep ours.
The Prophet told them:
If you refuse to hold (Mubahala), then submit, (accept Islam)
and you will receive what the Muslims receive, and contribute
what the Muslims contribute.
The Christians saying they had no desire to fight the Arabs, proposed a treaty asking for peace, and freed from forced compulsion to make them forsake their religion. In return they agreed to pay the Muslims an annual tribute of two thousands suits; one thousand of which to be paid in the month of Safar and the remaining one thousand in Rajab, besides thirty coats of iron mail.
Accepting the proposal the Prophet remarked:
By the One Who has my soul in His hand death was looming large over the people of Najran. (Had they dared to accept the challenge of 'Mubahala'). They would have been transformed into apes and swines, and the valley would have been set ablaze. Allah would have destroyed Najran with its people, sparing not even the birds on the treetops, and before the passing of the year the Christians would have all been dead.
Continuing his comments on the Mubahala verse, Zamakhshari lays emphasis on the position of the Ahlul-Bait by quoting the following narration from the Prophet's wife Aa'isha:
He mentioned them, Ahlul-Bait, before mentioning the word 'selves' in order to highlight their position and their proximity (to Allah), and to stress their preference to 'selves' which could be sacrificed for them. There is no stronger evidence than this regarding the merits of the Ahl-Kisa*. It is the proof of the truthfulness of the Prophet's mission, because no one however biased, has narrated that they (the Christians) dared to accept that (challenge for Mubahala)(4).
Surely this status of the Ahlul-Bait indicates the appearance of the camp of belief (represented by the Prophet (s.a.w.) and his holy family (Ahlul-Bait)) against the camp of idolatory and disbelief, because
*-Ahl al-Kasa is a term denoting those who gathered with the Prophet under the Kisa (cloak) whereupon the verse of purity was revealed. They are All, Fatima, Hasan, Husein, as has been already discussed, earlier.
those who came out to the meeting grounds were the best examples of guidance and the leaders of the nation and the purist among the selves whom Allah kept uncleanness away from them and made them pure as pure as can be. Therefore, we understand that whatever we receive from the Household of the Prophet (Ahlul-Bait) (a.s.) of their thoughts, laws, narrations, jurisprudence, interpretations, and guidance comes from this course and that they are truthful in their utterances, biography and path.
The Qur'an challenges the enemies of Islam by them and calls their enemies liars and says that they should be faced with curse and punishment. The Almighty says:
...then let us beseech Allah and in yoke His curse upon ,he liars.
Holy Qur'an (3:61)
Without their (Ahlul-Bait) truthfulness and righteousness, Allah would not give them such status and position nor would the Qur'an have uttered anything concerning them.
Fakhruddin Razi, in his 'al-Tafsiral-Kabir', gives an identical narration and after having stated what Zamakhshari has said; adds: 'Mind you, that all interpreters (of the Qur'an) and narrators (of the Prophet's traditions) are unanimous about the authenticity of this narration.
But by taking along only these four and no one else besides, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) was showing the Muslims, that the best example for women is Fatima and the best example for boys are Hasan and Husein, according to the Qur'an's wordings, which, also, delicately used the word 'our selves' for Ali, thereby pointing to his close proximity with the Prophet, and solving the question of succession once and for all.
4. The Verse of Prayer (Salat):
Surely Allah and His angels bless the Prophet; O you who believe!
Call for (divine) blessings on him and salute him with a (becoming) salutation.
Holy Qur'an (33:56)
The previous verses, of the Holy Qur'an, revealed to us as to who are the Prophet's Ahlul-Bait, their purity of character and the command for Muslims to love and obey them. This verse refers to the salutation salawat, which a Muslim is obliged to send on the Prophet and his progeny during the five daily prayers.
In this verse, the Muslims are ordered here to send blessings on the Prophet and his aal (progeny), a term exclusively reserved for Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husein and their righteous descendants. The emphasis on the Prophet's aal, in salutation, is yet another indication of their pivotal position after the Prophet. By asking the Muslims to exalt them, Allah, the Exalted, was reminding the Muslim communities that He had chosen the Ahlul-Bait, for the role of leading the Muslim nation.
In his 'Tafsir al-Kabir', Fakhruddin Razi, commenting on the above verse, narrates the following quotation from the Prophet, who was asked by some of his companions on how to send blessings upon him. The Prophet replied:
Say: 'O Allah, send blessings on Muhammad and on Muhammad's progeny as You sent blessings on Abraham and on Abraham's progeny; and send grace on Muhammad and on Muhammad's progeny, as You sent grace on Abraham and on Abraham's progeny, You are the Praiseworthy, the Glorious.'
Before giving this narration, Razi interprets the verse and comments: 'This is a proof of the Shafi'i school, because order means an obligation*; so, to send blessings on the Prophet (s.a.w.) is obligatory, at least in the Tashahhud (testimony during the prayers) if not elsewhere.'(5)
*-Famous jurists had concluded that when there is an 'order' in the Qur'an or the Traditions, then carrying it out is obligatory; unless the
Razi further argues: 'If Allah and His angels send their blessings on him (the Prophet), then what need is there for our blessings? He, himself, provides the answer: 'When we send blessings on him, it is not because he is in need of them, but, because of already having Allah's blessings, he does not even require the blessings of the angels. When we send, we send to glorify Allah, and, also, it (sending blessings) reveals our gratitude towards Allah, so that He may have compassion on us and reward us. That is why the Prophet said;
Whoever sends blessings on me once, Allah will send blessings on him ten times.
It will not be out of context, here, to cite Imam Shafi'i's famous quatrain on this subject:
O' Household of the Messenger of Allah, love for you
Is an obligation from Allah, revealed in the Qur'an.
It suffices as the greatest honour bestowed on you
That his prayer comes of nothing who does not salute you.
context tells clearly that it is a recommendation.
Suyuti, in his , Dur al-Manthur', citing Abdul-Razzaq, Ibn Abi Shaiba, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Abd ibn Hamid, Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nisa'i, ibn Maja, ibn Mardawaya, who have all narrated from Ka'b ibn Ujra, says: a man once said to the Prophet that greeting him is clear to everyone, but, how does one send blessings on him. The Prophet replied:
O Allah, send blessings on Muhammad and on Muhammad's progeny as You sent blessings on Abraham and on Abraham's progeny, You are the Praiseworthy, the Glorious.'
Suyuti has cited eighteen different narrations other than this, with slight variations, stressing that the blessings on the Prophet should include his progeny, also. The same has been narrated by compilers of all Sunan and Jawami, books quoting a number of the Prophet's companions, such as; Abdulla ibn Abbas, Talha, Abu Sa'id Khidri, Abu Huraira, Abu Mas'ud Ansari, Buraida, ibn Mas'ud, Ka'b ibn Amra, and last, but not the least, Ali ibn Abi Talib, himself. Similarly, it has been narrated byAhmad ibn Hanbal and Tirmidhi who have quoted Imam Hasan ibn Ali from the Prophet as follows:
He is a miser who, on the mention of my name to him, does not send blessings on me.(6)
Thus, all jurisprudents agree that it is obligatory for Muslims to send blessings on Muhammad (s.a.w.) and his progeny during the Tashahud (Testimony) in the five daily prayers.(7)
By analyzing this verse we easily discover the real objective behind this obligatory command; which is to revere Muhammad's (s.a.w.) pure progeny, from whom Allah has kept away all uncleanness and error, and made them pure as pure can be. The emphasis on his aal by the Prophet, is yet another indication to the Muslims of their pivotal position after him. By commanding Muslims, to send their blessings on them, Allah, the Exalted, was reminding Muslims of the Ahlul-Bait's eventual leadership. In other words, by taking them as exemplars and accepting their leadership, the Muslims would be spared from trials and controversies.
So, it is clear that Allah has not mentioned them in the prayers for nought. Had it not been for their probity that was proved time and again and for their magnanimity of character, as well as, their deep knowledge, Allah would not have ordered the Muslims to adhere to their straight course and seek blessings for them in every prayer. The very fact that this blessing should be invoked every day in each prayer a Muslim performs was but to draw the attention of the Muslim communities towards the significance of the Ahlul-Bait; which should serve as a constant reminder that it is they who are Muhammad's (s.a.w.) rightful heirs. Or to put it more clearly, anyone ignoring their status deliberately or otherwise, has no excuses, whatsover, and is deceiving his own self to be astray from Allah's command.
5. The Verse of Feeding:
The righteous truly drink of a cup tempered with camphor - A fountain from which the servants of Allah drink, making it flow in abundance. They fulfil vows and fear a day, the evil of which is widespread. And they give food, out of love for Him, to the poor and the orphan and the captive. We feed you, for Allah's pleasure only - We desire from you neither reward nor thanks. Surely we fear from our Lord a stem, distressful day. So Allah will ward off from them the evil of that day, and cause them to meet with splendour and happiness; And reward them, for their steadfastness, with a Garden and with silk.
Holy Qur'an (76:5-13)
These verses of the Holy Qur'an speak of the Ahlul-Bait, and places them at the top of preference and piety and shows them as examplars and models for mankind so that the generations are rightly guided through them and follow their right way. The historical occasion to which these blessed verses refer is the great status of Ahlul-Bait (a.s.).
When Ali, Fatima and their two sons Hasan and Husein (peace be upon them all) fasted for three consecutive days, and each day at the time of breaking the fast some needy person, as verse number eight indicates, appeared and the Ahlul-Bait gladly fed him, and themselves passed the nights without food. Allah was so pleased by the generosity of the Prophet's Household that He converted their actions into verses of the Glorious Qur'an to serve as guidance for the Muslims.
These verses not only portray the Ahlul-Bait's total submission to Allah's Will, but, also, reveal them as pure and spotless personalities; promised esteem and admiration among the dwellers of Paradise. They are shown as immaculate models of emulation so that whoever, among the Muslim communities, follows their glowing path will achieve salvation and will be assembled in their illustrious company on the Resurrection Day.
Zamakhshari, in his 'Kashshaf' commenting on this verse, narrates from Abdullah bin Abbas - that once Hasan and Husein fell sick and the Prophet, together with some of his companions, visited his sick grandsons. He suggested that Ali should make a vow to Allah for his sons' health. Heeding the Prophet's suggestion Ali, Fatima along with their maid, Fidha, took a vow that if the boys recovered, they would fast for three consecutive days.
Eventually, Hasan and Husein recovered and to fulfill the vow they also fasted along with their parents and maid. Since there was nothing in the house to eat, Ali borrowed from Sham'un, a Khaibarian Jew, three measures of barely.
Fatima grounded one measure into flour and baked it into five loaves (of bread) equal to their number, and placed these before them for breaking the fast. Just then a beggar stopped at their door and said: al-Salaam Alaikum (peace be upon you), O Ahlul-Bait of Muhammad (s.a.w.), (I am) one of the poorest of Muslims (so), feed me, may Allah feed you of the food of Paradise! So they gladly gave him all the food and slept that night, tasting nothing but water.
They fasted again the next day and at sunset as they placed the bread before them to break the fast, an orphan knocked on the door asking for food and they cheerfully fed him, themselves going without food for yet another day. On the third day of the fast, as the breaking time approached, and the food was spread, a prisoner (of war) suddenly appeared at their door and the same scenario was repeated, with the Prophet's Ahlul-Bait passing the third successive night without tasting a morsel of food. Zamakhshari continues that when dawn broke Ali holding the hands of Hasan and Husein came to the Prophet's house.
The Prophet seeing their pale countenances and noting that they were trembling from hunger, expressed dismay and at once accompanied them to their house. On entering the house, he was shocked to see the sight of his daughter Fatima, sitting hollow-eyed on her prayer mat, her stomach sunk into her back. It was, then, that the angel Gabriel came down with this verse, saying:
O Muhammad, Allah congratulates you for (the sacrifice of) your household. Then he recited the (verse).(8)
6. The Verse of Guardianship (Wilaya):
Only Allah is your Guardian and His Apostle and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay the poor-rate while in (Ruku'). And whoever takes Allah and His Apostle and those who believe as his guardian, then surely the party of Allah are they that shall be triumphant
Holy Qur'an (5:55-5)
There are other numerous verses which extoll Imam Ali's (a.s.) virtue, generosity, bravery, patience, piety, his sacrificing in Allah's way and supporting Allah's Apostle (s.a.w.) and his being the most righteous among the believers and the best among His creatures...etc. The above-mentioned verses from the Book of Allah are as examples:
Zamakhshari, in his 'al-Kashshaf', says the following about this verse:
It was revealed in favour of Ali (May Allah enlighten his face) when a beggar asked him (for alms) while he was in the position of Ruku' during prayer, and he gave away his ring (in the same position). It seems it was loose on his little finger, for he did not exert any effort in taking it off, which would have nullified his prayer.
If you ask: 'How could it be in favour of Ali (may Allah be pleased with him), when the wordings are in the collective form?' I say. The form is collective, though its instigator is a single man, because this is to encourage people to follow his example and earn a similar reward, and, also, to draw attention to the fact that the believers must be extremely mindful and benevolent, towards the poor, in as much as, if a situation could not be postponed until after the prayer, it may not he delayed till having finished it.(9)
Wahidi, in 'Asbab al-Nuzul', citing Kalbi's narration concerning the cause for the revelation of this verse says:
Surely Allah is your Guardian and His Apostle and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay the poor-rate while in prostration (Ruku').
The latter part of this verse is in favour of Ali bin Abi Talib (may Allah be gracious to him) because he gave a ring to a beggar while in Ruku' during prayer.(10)
7 . The Verse of Proclamation (Tabligh):
O Prophet proclaim what has been revealed to you from your Lord, for if you do it not you have not conveyed His message, and Allah will protect you from the (evil designs of) people...(11)
Holy Qur'an (5:67)
Perhaps the most clear portent of Imam Ali's excellence over the Muslims after the Prophet, is the above verse, which makes a decisive phase in the history of divine revelation. After creating this wide and wonderful world, the Almighty had sent an unbroken chain of prophets to guide mankind towards divine bliss. The last and the greatest link in this eternal chain was Muhammad al-Mustafa (s.a.w.), who was entrusted with the most comprehensive code of laws, capable of solving mankind's needs till doomsday. Now, there no longer was need of any new messenger.
But nonetheless, the Wise Creator cannot leave mankind's struggle of thousands of years to the whims and fancies of fallible Arabs, who had spent the greater part of their lives in idolatary and sin. Therefore, to ensure the safety of Islam and Muslims, Allah sent down this verse, appointing Imam Ali as the Prophet's vicegerent. Narrators and historians have testified to that great event.
When the Messenger of Allah left Mecca after the Hajj ceremonies all the Muslims followed him, with the intention of leaving him at a place near Juhfa which was at the crossroads for the caravans of Madinah, Egypt and Syria. On the 18th Dhilhijja,(12) a little before noon, when they reached Ghadir Khum near Juhfa, he stopped and ordered all the people ahead to come near and wait for those following(13)...When all the caravan had gathered, he called for a congregational prayer(14), and, then, he offered midday prayers in the midday heat(15), then he stood up addressing the people, and started his speech by praising and giving thanks to Him. Then he said:
O people! I am about to be called to Allah, and depart to Him. I am responsible and so are you. What do you say?
We bear witness that you have delivered the Divine Message, and tried your best to guide us on the right path, and always gave us good counsel. May Allah bless you with a good reward, they replied.
The Prophet proceeded: 'Don't you,' he said, 'bear witness that there is no god but Allah, Muhammad is His servant and Messenger, His paradise is true, His hell is true?'
O Yes! We bear witness to all this, they said,
O Allah! Bear witness, he said.
Then he said: Do not you hear?
They replied, Yes.
Then he went on saying:
'O people! I will precede you and you shall arrive at the pool (Kawther): the pool wider than the distance between Basrah and San'a and which has two goblets of silver as large as the space in which the stars are swimming.
When you shall reach me I shall interrogate you about your behaviour towards the two weighty things after my death. Then a caller called: 'mat are the two weighty things, O Allah's Messenger?' He (s.a.w.) said: The weightier one is the Book of Allah, the Mighty and Glorified, which has two bonds, one is in the hands of Allah, the Most High, and the other in your hands. So hold tight to it, don't go astray and don't change your faith. The other mighty thing is my progeny, my household. The Knower of subtleties, the Aware has told me that they will join me at the pool as soon as their life on earth expires.(16)
Then, he (s.a.w.) said:
Don't you know that I am more appropriate for authority over the believers than themselves?
Yes, O the Messenger of Allah(17) they answered. He (s.a.w.) said:
Don't you know or witness that I am more appropriate for authority over every believer than himself?
Yes, O Messenger of Allah(18), they replied.
Then, he (s.a.w.) bent down and lifting up Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.) in his hands, showed him to the vast crowd who looked on his armpits's whiteness(19) and proclaimed those famous words, which guaranteed the continuation of divine leadership:
O people! Allah is my Master and I am your master(20). for whomseover I am master, this, Ali, is his master O Allah! Befriend whoever befriends him and be hostile to whoever is hostile to him(21). help him who helps him, forsake him who forsakes him, and love him who loves him and hate him who hates him.
Then, he (s.a.w.) said:
O Allah! Bear witness.
Then, they (the Messenger of Allah and Ali) did not separate until the following verses were revealed:
...today have I perfected unto you your religion and completed upon you My blessings and approved for you Islam as your religion...
Holy Qur'an (5:3)
There are numerous other verses in the book of Allah, which elucidate the position, dignity and honour of Imam Ali; his high status among the Muslims and he (a.s.) is the best after the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.). The following verse certifies this more:
(As for) those who believe and do good, surely they are the best of people.
Holy Qur'an (98:7)
All the interpreters and narrators have testified that the above-mentioned verse was revealed in favour of Ali bin Abi Talib and Allah, the Almighty, Himself, described him as the best of people. On the revelation of this verse, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said:
O Ali, these are you and your followers.(22)
Whoever goes through the traditions of the Prophet, his daily behaviour, and his relation with his Ahlul-Bait, whose purity the Holy Qur'an, itself, has testified to, one realizes that Ahlul-Bait (Ali, Fatima, and their two sons, Hasan and Husein) had a unique role and a great responsibility in the history of the Muslim Nation. So, the Prophet's frequent stress on these four luminaries was not without meaning, nor was it mere emotional behaviour towards his family.
In fact, he was only obeying Allah's commands to prepare and guide the Muslims towards acceptance of their leadership, after his eventual departure.
Only Suyuti collected about sixty Prophetic traditions (hadiths) stressing the love towards the Ahlul-Bait (a.s.); acknowledge their leadership so as to make the Muslim Nation follow their perfect example and illuminated path; look for guidance towards them and not in blind obedience, but, by a way of discerning comparison with others.
The first step which the Prophet took towards the formal building of this blessed family was the marriage of his daughter, Fatima, (a.s.) to his beloved cousin Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.) at the Almighty's command. Thus, became implemented this blessed 'tree' which would eventually extend its shady branches over the Muslims and its historical progress. It is narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said: Allah has ordered me to marry Fatima to you.(23)
When this marriage had occured, the blessed family was formed and the two sons (Hasan and Husein) were born, the Prophet used to caress them, saying:
All sons are their fathers' as their agnation returns to their fathers, except the sons of Fatima, as I am their father and agnation.
(Narrated by Ahmad bin Hanbal in 'al-Manaqib').(24)
The Qur'an in the School of the Ahlul-Bait
A study of the narrative and the traditions that have reached us on the authority of the Ahlul-Bait and a glance at their lives and works, reveals that the message of the Holy Qur'an and the safeguarding of its letter and spirit, was the prime concern of these luminaries.
Imam Ja'fer al-Sadiq, the sixth Imam of the Prophet's infallible Household, quotes his grandfather, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) as saying:
Whoever memorizes the Qur'an and practices its teachings, will be among the ranks of the honourable and the righteous-"(25)
Narrated the forth Imam Ali bin Husein (a.s.): the Messenger of Allah (a.s.w.) said:
Whoever is given the Qur'an by Allah, but thinks that someone else is given a better thing than he is, would be belitting the great and magnifying the little."(26)
The fifth Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) is quoted to have said: The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said:
O readers of the Qur'an, fear Allah for having charged you with His Book, as I am responsible and you are responsible. I am responsible for communicating the Message, while you will be questioned about what you have been charged with the Book of Allah and my traditions."(27)
Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) said:
A believer should not die before learning the Qur'an, or trying to learn it."(28)
He is also quoted to have said:
The Qur'an is Allah's covenant to His creatures. So, a Muslim is ought to look into his covenant and read so verses of it every day."(29)
Again he (a.s.) said:
Three will complain to Allah, the Exalted: A deserted mosque where local people do not pray in it; a learned man among the ignorant; and the Scripture (the Qur'an) which is covered with dust as nobody reads it."(30)
He (a.s.) also said:
The Qur'an is alive, it never dies. It goes on as the night and the day go on, and as the sun and the moon go on...
Thus, we recognize the value and the significance of the Qur'an as seen by the Ahlul-Bait (a.s.) who not only dedicated their lives to its practical rendering, but, also, encouraged the Muslims to follow its principles, memorize it, and build their lives on its foundations.
Memorizing the Qur'an
Among the blessings of Allah on mankind is that He, Himself, has guaranteed to guard this everlasting Divine Message against any form of distortion, forgery and disfigurement, in such a way that falsehood cannot approach it from any direction.
Remarkably, the Qur'an, today, is the same text which was revealed fourteen centuries ago to the Prophet, and is free from any additions or deletions.
The religious scholars (ulama) and researchers, in the school of Ahlul-Bait, certify this great fact. We mention only what Sheikh Tabarasi (one of the prominent interpreters and great Shi'ite scholars of the sixth century A.H.) (may Allah bless him) said:
What is known among the Shi'a scholars and researchers, or what they even positively take for granted, is the rejection of the idea of any falsification."(31)
He also said:
...of such (baseless) talk about additions and deletions, in the Qur'an, is unbecoming of any interpretation. As to the additions, it is unanimously regarded to be a false assumption; and concerning deletions, a group of our people think of some alterations and deletions in the Qur'an, while the true belief of our people is to the contrary. This has been supported by (Sherif) Murtadha (may Allah bless his soul), who, extensively discoursed on it..."(32)
Sheikh al-Balaghi (may Allah glorify his status) said:
The Qur'an continues to enjoy great veneration among the Muslims, generation after generation. Everywhere you would encounter thousands of copies of the Book and thousands of those who learn it by heart. They studiously copy from one another and the Muslims recite it to one another for verification. Thousands of its copies stand as sentinels over the learners, and thousands of learners stand as sentries over the copies of the Qur'an, and thousands of them both stand as guardian over the new copies. We say thousands, while actually they are hundreds of thousands. Nay! Thousands of thousands, because no historical event received such a kind of perpetuity and unquestionable eternity as the Qur'an did, as promised by Allah, the Exalted:
Surely We have revealed the Reminder and We will most surely be its guardians.
Holy Qur'an (15:9)
Surely on Us (devolves) the collecting of it and the reciting of it.
Holy Qur'an (75:17)
Therefore, if you happen to hear dubious narratives that something of the Qur'an was distorted and some of it was lost, do not heed such talk, as scholarly researches have proved how disordered, shaky and weak their narraters are, and how contradictory they are to the Muslims..."(33)
In a chapter titled 'The Imamiya's opinion rejecting deletions in the Qur'an', Balaghi further states in his 'Tafsir'. "It is no secret that Saduq (may Allah bless him) who is known for the great care he took in what he narrated, says in his book 'Iqtiqad'. Our belief in the Qur'an, which was sent down by Allah to His Prophet, Muhammad (s.a.w.), is that it consists of all that is in between its two covers, and it is what is in circulation among the people, no more...Whoever ascribes to us that we say it was more than that, is but a liar.
Another great Shi'iti scholar, Sheikh Mufid, writes in his book 'Maqalat' that:
A group of the Imamiya say that nothing was deleted from it (the Qur'an) not even a single word, verse, chapter, but what was omitted were the notes, explanations and interpretations concerning the meanings and the truth of its revelation, which had been written by the Commander of the Faithful Ali (a.s.) on his own compilation of the Book
In 'Kashf al-Ghita fi kittab al-Qur'an', chapter eight, concerning the deletion, it is said:
No doubt that it is protected against any alteration by the Sovereign, the Almighty, as is proved by the evidence of the Qur'an and the scholars' unanimity of opinion.
Sheikh Bahauddin Amili says:
...they also differed concerning additions and deletions in it, but the truth is that the Glorious Qur'an is protected against all that, be it addition or deletion. This is proved by Allah's saying: "We surely are its guardians
Muqaddas Baghdadi, in 'Sharh al-Wafiya' says:
...the talk about deletion which is in circulation among our companions, is in contrast to the unanimous talk of non-interference in it...it is said that Sheikh Ali bin Abdul-Aali had written an exclusive book refuting the deletion theory', quoting the aforementioned speech of Saduq."(34)
The late contemporary scholar, Sheikh Muhammad Husein Aal Kashif al-Ghita', in his book 'Asl al-Shi'a wa Usuliha', says:
The Book which is (in circulation) among the Muslims is the Book which Allah had sent down to His Prophet - a miracle and challenge - and there is no deletion, distortion, nor additions in it.
Tas his is the position of the Shi'ati scholars, regarding the Qur'an now in the hands of the Muslims. It is, it was revealed to the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), and it will remain pure and unadulterated, as long as man remains on the face of the earth, guiding humanity towards virtue and happiness.
Certain dubious narrations which allegedly speak about deletions in the holy text, and, sometimes, claim of a Qur'an other than this, have been exploited by purposeful offenders and have obviously misled some people. These simple-minded souls cite the following narration from Imam Ja'far bin Muhammad al-Sadiq to support their misconstrued views:
...but by Allah (pointing to his chest) we have the weapon of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), his sword and his armour. By Allah we have Fatima's 'Mashaf' (book), wherein are not any of the verses of Allah's Book. It is a dictation of the Messenger of Allah, written by Ali with his hand."(35)
They have misunderstood the Imam, and without going into the lexical meaning of the word Mashaf thought that he was indicating a Qur'an other than the one in circulation. It was a grave mistake on the part of these people.
However, a careful scrutiny of the narrative, will help reveal the actual meaning of the word Mashaf:
By Allah we have Fatima's 'Mashaf' (book),
By looking up the word Mashaf in Arabic lexicons, we discover what Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) actually meant.
Raghib Isfahani says:
(Al-Sahifa means any flat thing such a s the flatness of the check, a leaf a page, or a sheet which is used for writing. Its plural is Saha'if or Suhuf as the Almighty says;
'Suhuf' of Abraham and Moses, and also...receiving pure 'Suhuf' (pages) wherein are all the correct books.
Holy Qur'an (87:19)
It is said that it means the Qur'an and that by using the plural Suhuf in which are 'Books', it is meant to say that they include more than what is in Allah's Books. Hence, a Mashaf is a collection of written Suhuf, and its plural form is Masahif.(36)
Therefore, the word Mashaf means any book and is not a special term for "the Book of Allah". It can mean any collection of Suhuf (leaves of paper or skin), and only in this context can the Qur'an also be called Mashaf because it is a collection of Suhuf.
The exclusive names for the Book of Allah are: Al-Qur'an, al-Dhikr, al-Furqan and al-Kitab(37), as mentioned in the holy text, itself. Allah did not call it "Mashaf", but, it were the later Muslims who named it so, after having compiled it on leaves or sheets.
Thus, it is clear that the mistake arose from the linguistic use of the word during the early days of Islam, when people did not take 'Mashaf' to mean Qur'an, as it may imply in present day usage.
A closer look at Imam al-Sadiq's narration, itself, will help clarify the misconception. He says that:
In Fatima's Mashaf there are none of the verses of Allah's Book
It obviously means that it is neither the Qur'an nor any part of it. Nor is it a divine revelation, but it is a dictation of the Messenger of Allah written in Imam Ali's handwriting.
According to some scholars 'the Mashaf Fatima' was a collection of supplications and instructions which Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) dictated for the benefit of his beloved daughter Fatima (ass.).
Principles for Understanding the Qur'an
The Qur'an is the Book of Allah Who sent it down as a Revelation to His Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).
Allah protected it (the Qur'an) against any distortion, forgery and disfigurement, additions and deletions.
Praise be to Allah that all the Muslims agree with the purity and the safety of the Qur'an, but there is a scientific problem which is the problem of understanding the Qur'an and its explanation. Most of the differences in ideological, and jurisprudental opinions belong to the difference that exist in understanding and explaining the Qur'an.
In order to give a correct explanation to the Qur'an, the Imams of Ahlul-Bait (a.s.) used to follow a scholarly method in explaining the Qur'an, these are:
1. The explanation of the Qur'an by the Qur'an, that is; some Qur'anic verses explain some others.
2. The explanation of the Qur'an by true and authentic traditions and narrations. Surely the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) explained what was in need of explanation through his sayings and actions, like the verses of prayer, paying the poor-rate (zakat), pilgrimage and various other Qur'anic concepts and laws.
3. Explaining the verses, whose explanation does not reach us from the pure Prophetic traditions (sunnah), and were not clear, because of other verses, from the linguistic understanding of the Arabic language. Indeed Allah's Book is a clear Arabic Book; what is understood from its literal meaning is an excuse upon the Muslims.
4. The explanation depends on the reason for the revelation in explaining most of the verses of the Qur'an and this should be done within the framework of the Qur'an and the Traditions in order to give their true and real meanings.