The Meaning of Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.)
Allama Husayn Ansariyan
A group of scholars nurtured by the oppressive rulers misused their socio- scientific positions to justify the legitimacy of those tyrants in order to gain something in the world.
Hence, they distorted religious facts with special enmity and bias in order to please the domineering rulers. In this regard, they have presented interpretations that have no validity from the viewpoint of the Holy Quran and narrations from the Holy Prophet. One of these distortions relate to the word Ahl al-Bayt mentioned in the Holy Quran.
Ahl al-Bayt in the Holy Quran
In verse 33 of the Quranic Chapter, the Allies (al-Ahzab), we read: Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O people of the House (Ahl al-Bayt), and to purify you with a thorough purifying. (33:33)
The pronoun - kum, meaning ‘you’ in Arabic, does not obviously refer to the wives of the Holy Prophet as misinterpreted by those biased scholars who intended to create a deviation in the Muslims’ opinion.
Although they knew that the Holy Prophet’s wives including Aishah and a group of their own scholars considered Imam Ali, Lady Fatimah, Imam Hasan and Imam Husayn and the infallible Imams (a.s.) from the offspring of Imam Husayn (a.s.) as the members of Ahl al-Bayt, their enmity with the Shiites motivated them to distort the truth to please the Abbasid and Umayyad rulers.
The Meaning Of Ahl Al-Bayt (A.S.) In Narrations
Numerous narrators have reported that the Holy Prophet has mentioned Imam Ali, Lady Fatimah, Imam Hasan, Imam Husayn and the Infallible Imams from Imam Husayn's issue as Ahl al-Bayt. Those narrators are: Ummu-Salamah, Aishah, Abu-Said Khidri, Abu-Barazah Aslami, Abul-Tamra Hilal ibn Harith, Abu-Layla Ansari, Anas ibn Malik, al-Bara ibn Azib, Thawban ibn Bajdad, Jabir Ansari, Zayd ibn Arqam, Zaynab daughter of Abu-Salamah Makhzumi, Sad ibn Abi-Waqqas, Subayh, Abdullah ibn Abbas, Umar ibn Abi-Salamah, Umar ibn Khattab and Wathilah ibn Asqa.
The most reliable books of Sunni scholars have recorded the true meaning of Ahl al-Bayt as reported by those narrators. Shiite scholars too, by relying on the Holy Quran and the said narrations, as well as their own authentic books, attach their hearts to the Ahl al-Bayt. They consider them as the true leaders and successors of the Holy Prophet. Hence obeying the Ahl al-Bayt is deemed obligatory and a means for salvation in this world and the hereafter.
We suffice to relate a few narrations here to please the heart of Ahl al- Bayt’s lovers:
Reporting Tamimi, al-Awwam ibn Hawshab said, “One day when I went to see Aishah, she had seen Allah’s Messenger calling for Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn saying: O Allah, these are the people of my House (Ahl al-Bayt). So keep away uncleanness from them and purify them with a thorough purifying.6
Jumay ibn Umayr says: One day, my mother and I went to see Aishah. My mother asked her to tell us about the Holy Prophet’s interest in Ali (a.s.). Aishah said: Among the men, Ali is the most loved by Allah’s Messenger. I have seen myself that he placed Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn under his cloak saying: O Allah, these are my Ahl al-Bayt. Keep away any uncleanness from them and purify them with a thorough purifying. I too went forward to put my head under the cloak but Allah’s Messenger kept me away! I asked: Am I not your Ahl al Bayt? He answered: you are good, you are good. 7
Reporting Umar ibn Khattab, Isa ibn Abdullah ibn Malik says: I heard Allah’s Messenger saying: O people, I am leading you and you will come to me at the pond; a pond - the expanse of which is from Sanaa to Busra and is as much as the expanse of the stars. Therein is the golden chalice. When you come to me, I will ask you about the two valuable things (thaqalain ). So be careful how you deal with them after me. The first is Allah’s Book, a rope that stretches from the heavens to the earth. So hold fast on to it. And the other is my Family (Ahl al-Bayt). Allah has informed me that the two will never separate until they come to me at the Pond…My family members are Ali, Fatimah, Hasan, and Husayn and the nine persons who will issue from Husayn and who are the beneficent Imams. My Ahl al-Bayt are my flesh and blood.8
Musa ibn Abd-Rabbih says: I heard from Husayn ibn Ali in the Prophet’s Mosque at the time of his father Ali (a.s.), saying: I have heard the saying of Allah’s Messenger: Behold! My Ahl al-Bayt are security and mercy for you. Therefore, love them for my sake and resort to them so that you will never go astray… These are Ali, my two grandsons and nine borne of Husayn who are trustworthy and infallible Imams. Behold! They are the Ahl al-Bayt and my honour - from my flesh and my blood9
Now it has become clear that the Shiites, by relying on the Holy Quran and traditions, resort to Ahl al-Bayt, accept their Imamate, follow them and declare with evident proof based on the books written by both Shiite and Sunni scholars, that the Ahl al-Bayt are none other but Ali ibn Abi-Talib, Lady Fatimah, Imam Hasan, Imam Husayn and nine infallible Imams (a.s.) from the issue of Imam Husayn.
The Necessity Of Getting To Know Ahl Al-Bayt(A.S.) In The Narrations
It is unanimously agreed in the science of logic that when ‘presenter’ is being discussed, the presenter who introduces a fact must be superior to the ‘presented’ so as to be able to present the fact as it really is. So after proving the Imamate of Ahl al-Bayt and the fact that they are the inheritors of the Prophet’s knowledge and have been inspired by Allah, we could say that who is better presenters in this universe than the Ahl al-Bayt themselves in order to make their self known? We have no option but to know the Ahl al-Bayt for getting to know their character and knowledge, for no one has an all-encompassing knowledge about them.
Getting to know Ahl al-Bayt will lead to salvation, nearness to Allah and a true understanding of Islam. In this relation, Imam Ali (a.s) has said: The happiest people are those who recognized our superiority and excellence, sought nearness to Allah through us, loved us sincerely, acted according to what we called for, and stopped doing what we have prohibited. Such people are from us and they will be with us in the eternal Paradise.10
Zara’ah says: I said to Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.): After getting to know Allah, which deed is most excellent? The Imam said: After getting to know Allah, nothing is equal to daily prayers. After prayer nothing is equal to paying the poor-rate; and after these nothing is equal to observing fasting, and after these nothing is equal to (going on) Hajj (ritual pilgrimage). Yet, the beginning and end of all is to get to know us.11
We should learn about the quality of prayer, poor-rate, fast and Hajj from the Ahl al-Bayt in whose house the Quranic verses were revealed and who are the inheritors of the Prophet’s knowledge. This learning is not possible except by getting to know their culture, teachings and injunctions.
The Holy Prophet has been reported as saying: He, who has been favored by Allah to get to know my Ahl al-Bayt and their Imamate, has certainly had all the goods gathered for him by Allah.12
Reporting Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) in the interpretation of the following verse: He grants wisdom to whomsoever He pleases, and whosoever is granted wisdom, he indeed is given a great good… (2:269)
Abu-Basir says: It (great good) is to obey Allah and to get to know the Imams.13
6. Al-Amali by Shaykh al-Saduq, 382
7. Shawahid al-Tanzil, 61/2, H. 682
8. Tafsir al-Burhan, 9/1
9. Kifayat al-Athar, 170, Bihar al-Anwar
10. Ghurar al-Hikam: 115, H. 1195
11. Al-Amali by Shaykh al-Tusi, H. 1478
12. Bisharat-al-Mustafa: 176
13. Al-Kafi, 158/1