﴿ إِنَّما يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنْكُمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَ يُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيراً ﴾
“Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O people of the House and to purify you a (thorough) purifying”1
Another verse indicating the impeccability of the Shi’ite Infallible Imams is the verse of Tatheer, which points to the inerrancy of the Prophet (saws) and his dear family: Hazrat Fatimah, God’s peace be on her, and the twelve inerrant (ma’sum) the Imams of Imamiyyiah Shi’ism.
In order to clarify the argument of the verse, let us consider the following points:
1. The word انما which means only, in the verse indicates hasr (restriction).
2. The word iradeh (will) from which the verb يريد is derived, is an ontological will, not a legislative one
3. The phrase “Ahl al–Bayt” in the verse refers exclusively to Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain, (p.b.u.th.), and the other Shi’ite Infallible Imams (p.b.u.th.). The verse does not include wives of the Prophet (saws).
4. Questions and answers concerning the Qur’anic verse.
Just as we observed in the discussion of the verse, of wilayah lexicographers maintain that the word انما indicates restriction. One can review the objections of Fakhr al–Razi included in the chapter about the objections on the verse of wilayah.
“Iradeh” in the above Qur’anic verse (translated as “desire”) is ontological, not legislative. The desire of God, the Most Exalted, is of two kinds:
a) Ontological (takweeni) desire, is a kind of desire the object of which occurs (immediately) after the desire is expressed, just like the case when God willed that fire be “ comfort and peace” to Prophet Ibrahim, and it did.
b) Legislative desire is a kind of desire which concerns man’s duties. It is evident that this kinds of desire is not integrated with the object of desire. God has willed that people perform their prayers, but many do not pray. Contrary to ontological desire, which cannot be ignored, legislative desire may be ignored.
“Desire” in the above holy Qur’anic verse is of ontological, not legislative kind. This means that God has willed that the People of the House (Ahl al–Bayt) be free from any uncleanness and defilement, including the dross of sins and disobedience (to Him). He has purified them. This wish of the Majestic God, is behind their impeccability and spiritual purity. It is not that God has willed that they keep aloof from sins, and that they purify themselves by obeying divine orders and obligations.
1. Like any obligation, legislative desire concerns what others do, whereas desire in the holy verse concerns keeping away of abomination and uncleanness which is regarded an act of God. This indicates that “desire” in the stated verse does not have legislative connotations.
2. God’s legislative desire is not intended for the removal of impurities and purification of only the family of Prophet (saws) but God has desired and demanded all people to avoid impurities and be pure, whereas desire in the verse is restricted to the family of the Prophet, which is expressed by the use of hasr at the onset of the verse of Tatheer, making clear that the object of the desire i.e. keeping away from impurity and God’s specially endowed purification has been achieved externally
3. Many reports and narrations in both Shi’ite and Sunni hadith and commentary sources bear witness that the holy Qur’anic verse praises the Prophet’s family. If the desire (stated) in the Qur’anic verse had legislative connotations, it would contain such praise.
What we learn from the holy Qur’anic verse is “the accomplishment of God’s desire” regarding the utter purification of the Household of the Prophet (saws) and keeping from them impurities. This indicates the divine impeccability (ismah), of these chosen people.
Another solid evidence supporting (the idea) that this desire has ontological connotations are the hadiths indicating the particular divine purity of the Household of the Prophet (Ahl al–Bayt). Below are two such hadiths:
1) It is stated in al–Dala–il by Hakim Tirmadhi, Tabarani, ibn Murdawayh, Abu Na’im and Beihaqi that ibn Abbas has said, “The Prophet (saws) said, ‘God has divided people into two groups and placed me in the best group. Hence, He says,
“And the Companions of the right” (56:27)
“And those of the left hand” (56:41)
And I am better than any of the Companions of the right. He then divided each of these two groups, into three and placed me in the best one. Hence, He says,
“Then (as to) the Companions of the right hand; how happy are the Companions of the right hand, and (as to) the Companions of the left hand; how wretched are the Companions of the left hand. And the foremost are the foremost” (56:8-10).
I am among the foremost and I am the best of the foremost. He then divided these three groups into tribes and families. He placed me, in the best tribe. He, therefore, says,
“And made you tribes and families that you may know each other; surely the most honourable of you with Allah is the one among you most careful (of his duty)”. (49:13)
Humbly speaking, I am the one who is most careful of my duty and most honourable (toward Allah), of all mankind. God then divided the tribes into houses, and placed me in the best one. He, thus, says,
“Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O people of the House and to purify you a (thorough) purifying”. (33:33)
So, I and my family have been purified”.2
2) “Husain ibn Zayd told me on the authority of Umar ibn Ali who reported from his father Ali ibn al–Husain (as), that ‘After Imam al–Hasan’s dear father, Imam Ali (as) had died, Imam al–Hasan (as) gave a speech in which he glorified God and said, “tonight God has taken to Him a man whom neither the early (Muslims) surpassed nor the later Muslims can surpass in good actions.
The Prophet (saws) used to give him his standards in wars and he (Ali, peace be upon him) fought with Gabriel, (the intermediary angel for God’s grace in legal matters) supporting him on his right and Michael (the intermediary angel for God’s grace in matters of the divine sustenance) supporting him on his left until God made him score victory.
He has left behind him neither gold nor silver but seven hundred dirham’s of his stipend (‘ata), with which to buy a servant for his family”. He (Imam al–Hasan -p.b.u.h.-) continued, “Those who (already) know me, know me. As for those who do not know me, I am al–Hasan ibn Ali, the (grand) son of the Prophet, and the son of his vicegerent. I am the (grand) son of the one who has brought good news, basheer.
I am the (grand) son of the one who, with God’s permission, summoned the people to God. I am the (grand) son of the divinely illuminating light (al–Siraj al–Muneer). I belong to the House, wherein Gabriel descended and whence Gabriel ascended. I belong to the House from whose members God has sent away abomination and whose members God has purified thoroughly.
I belong to the House, the love for whose members God has made incumbent on people, as He, the Most High, states, ‘I do not ask of you any reward but love for (my) near relatives; and whoever earns good, We give him more of good therein; surely Allah is Forgiving Grateful’ So, to do good is to show love towards us, the People of the House, Ahl al–Bayt”.3
It is concluded from these two hadiths that the external fulfilment of specifically divine purity of Ahl al–Bayt is nothing but their inerrancy. This illustration clearly indicates that “the desire” in the Qur’anic verse of Tatheer has ontological connotations.
The third point in the discussion on the verse is about who the Ahl al–Bayt are. Below are the two focal points:
a) The meaning of Ahl al–Bayt.
b) To whom the term Ahl al–Bayt is applicable.
When in isolation, the word Ahl means deserving. But in collocation with other words, it acquires a special meaning. For example, Ahl al–Ilm meaning the knowledgeable, Ahl al–Madina or Qariyah meaning “those living in a town or a village” and “people of the house” those residing in a house.
As for the word Bayt, it may mean residence, and it may mean lineage. It may also mean The Prophet’s Household, which is the most probable meaning. Further explanation of this meaning will follow. Thus, Ahl al–Bayt refers to those who are closely related, to the Prophet’s House and are fully aware of what goes on in it.
Now, let’s see who it externally applies to and who the People of the House (Ahl al–Bayt), are. There are three views it this regard:
First: “Ahl al–Bayt” means only the Prophet’s wives.
Second: Ahl al–Bayt, means only the Prophet, Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.), and the Prophet’s wives.4
Third: According to Imamiyyah Shi’ites, “Ahl al–Bayt” refers to the Prophet (saws), his beloved daughter Hazrat Fatimah, and to the twelve Infallible Imams, God bless them all.
Some Sunni scholars, such as Tahawi in his Mushkil al–Athar and Hakim Nayshaburi in his al–Mustadrak, take Ahl al–Bayt to mean only “the five people”.
In order to clarify who is meant by Ahl al–Bayt, we need to examine the following points:
1) The purport of the holy Qur’anic verse.
2) A review of the reports and narrations concerning this Qur’anic verse.
For examining the purport of the Qur’anic verse, it is necessary to take a look at these points:
a) Literally and traditionally, Ahl al–Bayt includes these five persons.
b) Using the pronoun عنكم, which is a plural masculine form indicates that the verse does not refer to wives.
c) There is a large number of narrations which state that Ahl al–Bayt includes the five persons. To say that the Prophet’s wives are among Ahl al–Bayt is an unfounded allegation and does not sound reasonable. One of such allegations has been put forward by Ukromah who says, “I am ready to have a contest of prayer with anyone to prove that Ahl al–Bayt exclusively means the wives of the Prophet (saws)”.5
If only Ukromah had a contest of prayer, he would have been exposed to God’s punishment! He ignores the bulk of hadiths which confirms the lofty rank of these five persons and the revelation of the verse of Tatheer.
In addition to that, a large number of Sunnis take Ahl al–Bayt to mean the wives of the Prophet (saws) as well as Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.). In order to prove their point of view the Sunnis resort to the context of some verses, for example in the verse of Tatheer the verse which precedes it and the verse which follows it concern the wives of the Prophet (saws).
(They say that) the appropriateness of the meaning of the Prophet’s wives to Ahl al–Bayt as well as the contextual clues indicate that the Prophet’s wives are included among Ahl al–Bayt.
In his commentary, Ibn Katheer, considers the contextual clue as a convincing proof for including the wives of the Prophet among Ahl al–Bayt.
Can the alleged context (siaq), apply to the verse of Tatheer? Can it be proved that the wives of the Prophet (saws) are included among Ahl al–Bayt? In order to answer this question, it is necessary to consider the following points:
First: The mere succession of two verses does not indicate that the verses belong to a structural whole (siaq) and one cannot confirm that these verses were revealed together, because forming a structural whole, requires that the verses be revealed at the same time.
For this very reason we are not certain that we can affirm the existence of (siaq). Besides, because the present arrangement of the Qur’anic verses does not correspond to the chronology of revelation of the verses, one can never be certain that the verse of Tatheer was revealed after the verses about the wives of the Prophet (saws).
If someone says: Although these verses were not revealed at the same time, they form a structural whole (siaq) because the verses and chapters were arranged on the basis of a especial position owing to spiritual link under the supervision of the Prophet (saws), and so Ahl al–Bayt consists of the wives of the Prophet as well as the five persons (p.b.u.th.).
Answer: There is no evidence (at hand to prove) that due to the particular position which the verse of Tatheer has owing to the spiritual link between the verses, the Prophet (saws) has placed this verse among the verses related to his wives for he thought it was the wisest thing.
But to consider the spiritual link as the only wise thing to do cannot be substantiated for, it may be considered as an admonition for the wives of the Prophet to observe their behaviour due to their relation with “Ahl al–Bayt, not because they are included among Ahl al–Bayt.
Second: There are some reasons which make us conclude that the context of the verse of Tatheer varies from the context of any of the verses preceding of following it. There are two separate contexts, each one is independent of the other. The reason are as follows:
a) The context of the verses about the wives of the Prophet (saws) conveys reproach (as is in the verses 28 and on) and there is no sign and praise of the wives, whereas the context of the verse of Tatheer speaks of praise and admiration. When we go through the hadiths related to the verse of Tatheer, this will be more distinct.
b) The conditions of the revelation of the verse of Tatheer are different from those of the verses concerned with the Prophet’s wives. The latter verses were revealed at a time when the Prophet’s wives demanded from him more expenses than was their due. The reader may refer to the commentaries of both the Shi’ites and the Sunnis.
We will first quote the verses concerned with the wives of the Prophet (saws) and then introduce the tradition reported by ibn Katheer concerning the conditions of the revelation of the verses.
“O Prophet! Say to your wives: If you desire this world’s life and its adornment, then come, I will give you a provision and allow you to depart a goodly departing. And if you desire Allah and His Apostle and the latter abode, then surely Allah has prepared for the doers of good among you a mighty reward. O wives of the Prophet! Whoever of you commits an open indecency, the punishment shall be increased to her doubly; and this is easy to Allah. And whoever of you is obedient to Allah and His Apostle and does good, We will give to her reward doubly, and We have prepared for her an honourable sustenance. 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 Apostle. 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”. (33:28-34)
Ibn Katheer has related on the authority of Abi Zubayr, that Jabir said, “While people were sitting opposite the Prophet’s house, Abu Bakr and Umar came and asked permission to enter (the house), which they were first denied. Then, when they were allowed to enter they noticed the Prophet (saws) sitting. Around him sat his wives. The Prophet (saws) was silent.
Umar, who wanted to make the Prophet smile, said: O! Messenger of God, I wish you had seen how I beat Zayd’s daughter (he meant his wife) when she asked for expenses.
The Prophet (saws) smiled so that his blessed teeth were visible, and said “They (my wives) are sitting around me asking for (more) payment”.
Then Abu Bakr got up, and went towards ‘A’ishah to beat her, and then Umar got up, and they addressed their daughters saying, ‘Do you want the Prophet (saws) to give you something which he does not have?” The Prophet forbad them (from beating their daughters).
Then the Prophet’s wives said, “From now on, we will never ask the Prophet (saws) for things which he does not have”. God, the Most High, revealed the verses that leave it to the Prophet’s wives to choose between remaining as the Prophet’s wives or getting divorced”.6
This is the condition of the revelation of the verses concerning the wives of the Prophet (saws) whereas the verse of Tatheer was revealed in favour of the five blessed ones of al–Aba and the Infallible Imams (p.b.u.th.). Commentary and hadith sources of both the Shi’ites and the Sunnits are replete with narrations in this regard. Some of these narrations will be presented when we deal with these traditions.
Probably there is a long period between the condition of the revelation of the verses concerned with the Prophet’s wives and that of the verse of Tatheer. So how could one take these verses to belong to a single structural whole (siaq) and justify one’s interpretation of the verse according to this idea while these Qur’anic verses belong to two separate periods.
Third: The third reason that shatters the idea of unity of context is the dissimilarity of the pronouns in the verses concerned with the wives of the Prophet (saws) and those in the verse of Tatheer.
There are twenty two plural feminine pronouns in the imperative, twenty of them in the verses preceding the verse of Tatheer and two in the verse following it, whereas in the verse of Tatheer there are two pronouns in the imperative, both of them are macular. Given this, how can we assume that these verses form one single structural whole?
Objection: In the verse of Tatheer, the phrases عنكم “from you”, and يطهركم, “to purify you” do not refer to men only; because in addition to the women, Ali, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th), are included. That is why the pronoun كم (you) is used here. In Arabic this is called taqleeb (dominance) and that is when two various genders are to be referred to the masculine gender dominates and it is used for both.
We can see in the Qur’an similar cases of using masculine pronouns to refer to the feminine gender. For example:
“They said: Do you wonder at Allah’s bidding? The mercy of Allah and His blessings are on you, O people of the house”. (11:73)
Here, Prophet Ibrahim’s wife is addressed; and the masculine plural pronoun before Ahl al–Bayt in which she is included.
b) ﴿قالَ لأَِهْلِهِ امْكُثُوا﴾
“He said to his family: Wait” (28:29)
Having mentioned Prophet Moses’ Ahl (meaning wife), the Qur’an uses the plural verb of masculine gender.
The basis of any discourse, is to associate the words with their real meanings which is a logical principle of any conversation in any language. On the basis of this principle, whenever we are uncertain whether or not a word is used in its real meaning, we should refer to its real sense.
Thus, the pronoun عنكم, which comes twice in the verse of Tatheer, which is a plural masculine pronoun in the imperative, refers to all the male members of Ahl al–Bayt, and according to external clues and hadiths, Hazrat Fatimah, peace be on her, and no other female, is definitely included among Ahl al–Bayt. Thus, the principle of “closest figurative meaning” applies to this verse.
As a contextual clue, the Qur’anic verses quoted as testimony, contains a masculine pronoun used figuratively for a feminine (noun) and a figurative usage of a word together with a contextual clue cannot prove that this can also occur without a clue. As stated before, the basic principle is to associate words with their real meanings. But where this is not possible, the “closest figurative meaning” should be observed.
Abundant traditions in Shi’ite and Sunni hadith sources, clearly tell us that Ahl al–Bayt means only the Five Pure People and that the wives of the Prophet (saws) are not included. Such narrations are so plentiful that Hakim Hasakani,7 has devoted pages 18 to 140 of his Shawahid al–Tanzeel to this issue.8
In the footnote, there is a list of some Sunnite sources containing such narrations:9
Below is a partial list of the Sunnite sources of the above–mentioned hadith.
The Companions of the Prophet, from whom these hadiths have been quoted, are:
The Commander of the Faithful, Ali, peace be on him.
1. Fatimah Zahra, peace be on her
2. Al–Hasan ibn Ali, peace be on him
3. Anas ibn Malik
4. Bara’ ibn ’Azib al–Ansari
5. Jabir ibn Abdullah al–Ansari
6. Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas
7. S’ad ibn Malik (Abu Sa’eed al–Khidri)
8. Abdullah ibn Abbas
9. Abdullah ibn Jaffar al–Tayyar
11. Umm Salamah
12. Umar ibn Abi Salamah
13. Wathilat ibn Asqa’
14. Abi al–Hamra’
In addition to the sources stated in the footnote, it is understood from the hadiths included in Shi’ite sources of hadith and Qur’an commentary and in some Sunnite sources that by “Ahl al–Bayt” it is meant the Prophet, Ali, Fatimah, and the eleven Infallible Imams of the Shi’ites (p.b.u.th.).
When we study the narrations on the verse of Tatheer recorded in Sunnite sources, and look through the Shi’ite texts we will find that these narrations can be divided into the following groups:
1. Narrations which say that “Ahl al–Bayt” means Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th).
2. Narrations which state that the Prophet (saws) placed Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.) under a kind of dress (kisa) and the verse of Tatheer was revealed. This is known as hadith al–Kisa. Some narrations also say that Umm Salamah or ‘A’ishah asked the Prophet “Am I one of them?”
3. Narrations which report that the Prophet (saws) used to call at Hazrat Ali and Fatimah’s house, (peace be upon them) every morning or five times a day and greet them and recite the verse of Tatheer.
4. Narrations indicating that the holy verse of Tatheer has been revealed in favour of the Five People, or in favour of the Five People and Gabriel and Michael.
Below are some examples of these five groups:
a) In Al–Mustadrak ‘ala al–Sahihyan, Abdullah ibn Ja’far is quoted to have said:
“When the Prophet (saws) noticed God’s mercy descending from heavens, he said ‘Call (them) to me, call (them) to me.’ Saffiyyeh asked, ‘Whom should I call, O Messenger of Allah?’ He said, ‘Call my Ahl al–Bayt: Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain.’
When they were brought forth, the Prophet (saws) covered them with his kisa, and extended his hands and said, God, these are my Ahl al–Bayt. Send Thy blessings on Mohammad and his descendants.’ At this time the Qur’anic verse: “Allah only desires to keep away the uncleaness from you, O People of the House and purify you a thorough purifying” was revealed. This narration has an authentic chain of transmission”.10
Hakim Nayshaburi, a forerunner in (science of) hadith and ilm–al–rijal, says:
“The chain of transmission of this hadith is authentic, although Bukhari and Muslim have not mentioned it in their Sahihs”.11
b) Abu Sa’id al–Khidri quotes Umm Salamah to have said, “This Qur’anic verse: ‘Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O Ahl al–Bayt and purify you a thorough purifying’ was revealed in my house.
Then, I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, am I not one of them?’ The Prophet (saws) said, ‘You are on the good path. You are one of the wives of the Prophet’. Umm Salamah (then) said, ‘Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Hussein (p.b.u.th.) are the Prophet’s Household, Ahl al– Bayt”.12
In Shi’ite and Sunnite sources of hadith and commentary there are a large number of narrations which say that the Prophet (saws) had his Ahl al–Bayt go under a covering (kisa) and the verse of Tatheer was then revealed in favour of them. Below are some examples of such narrations.
It should be noted that Hadith al–Kisa has a particularly outstanding position among the Shi’ites. This hadith is narrated by Hazrat Fatimah Zahra, peace be on her, and included in the late Bahrani’s13 book 'Awwam al–Uloom. The chain of transmissions of this hadith is ornamented with the names of great Shi’ite scholars and jurists of various epochs and it is read by the Shi’ite’s in special gathering to attain God’s blessings.
The expressions, in the above-mentioned group of reports which confirm that Ahl al–Bayt means the Five Pure People, are worth considering. They are as follows:
1. “You are on the good path”, or annexed with the expression “You are one of the Prophet’s wives”.14
2. “ Keep away, you are on the good path”.15
3. “He took it away from my hand”.16
4. He did not say, ‘You are one of (members of) the Household’.17
5. “No, and you are on the good path”.18
6. By God, he did not say, ‘Yes’.19
7. “Stay where you are; you are on the good path”.20
8. I wished he had said, ‘Yes’.21
9. Stay away from my Household.22
10. You are on the good path, but he did not include me with them23
11. By God, he did not say, ‘You are with them’.24
12. Sit where you are; you are on the good path.25
13. You are on the good path, and these are my Ahl al–Bayt.26
We will cite a narration for each of these expressions.
“Ibn Jarir, ibn Abi Hatam, al–Tabarni and ibn Murdaway state that Umm Salamah, the Prophet’s wife, has said, ‘The Prophet was in her house when Hazrat Fatimah Zahra (sa) brought food for the Prophet (saws).
The Prophet (saws) told her to call her husband, Ali, and her children al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.), to go to him. So, they went. While they were having food, the verse of Tatheer was revealed, and the holy Prophet (saws) extend his hands towards the sky and said, “God , These are my Ahl al–Bayt and my special close relatives (khassati), so take uncleanness away from them and purify them a thorough purifying. Umm Salamah said, ‘I placed my head under Khaybari covering (kisa), and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Am I with you?’ The Prophet answered, ‘You are on the good path”. He said it twice.
It should be noted that if Umm Salamah had been, according to the verse of Tatheer, among the Ahl al–Bayt, the Prophet would have clearly given her a positive answer. But his excellent attributes, praised in the Qur’an, would not allow him to explicitly give her a negative answer. Thus, the Prophet’s words, in the various hadiths, can be a clear indication that the Prophet’s wives are excluded from the Ahl al–Bayt.
“Al–Awwam i.e. ibn Hawshab quotes his cousin to have said, “My father and I went to ‘A’ishah and I asked her about Ali (as). She answered, ‘You are asking me about someone who is most loved by the Messenger of God (saws), someone whose wife is the Prophet’s daughter who is most loved by the Prophet.
I saw the Messenger of God (saws) call Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.) and put some kind of dress (thawb) on them and say, “O God, these are Ahl Bayti (my Household); take uncleanness away from them and purify them a thorough purifying”. Then, I went close to them and said, ‘O Messenger of God, am I one of your Ahl al–Bayt?’ He (saws) said ‘Keep away, you are on the good path”.27
Umm Salamah is quoted to have said, “The Messenger of God (saws) said to Fatimah, peace be on her, “Call your husband and your children to me”. Fatimah (sa) told them to go and they did. Then, the Prophet (saws) cast on them a kisa woven in Fadak, put his hand on them and said,
‘O God, these are Mohammad’s Ahl (Household), (in another version he said Al); send your blessings on Mohammad’s Household, just as you sent blessings on the Household of Ibrahim, Thou art the Praised, Glorious. Umm Salamah said, “Then I lifted the kisa to join them. He took it away from my hand and said, ‘You are on the good path”.
Umrah, the daughter of Af’a is quoted to have said, “I heard Umm Salamah say, ‘This verse: Allah only desires to keep away uncleanness from you O Ahl al–Bayt and purify you a thorough purifying was revealed in my house. At that time there were seven individuals in the house: Gabriel, Michael, the Messenger of God, Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.).
Standing at the door of the house, I said, ‘O Messenger of God, am I not one of them?’ He said, ‘ you are on the good path; you are one of the Prophet’s wives. He did not say, ‘You are one of (the members of) the Household’.28
“Attiyyah has reported on the authority of Abi Sa’id, that Umm Salamah said, ‘The Prophet (saws) covered Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.) with kisa. Then, he said, ‘O God, these are my Ahl al–Bayt (Household) who will return to You, not to the fire.’ Umm Salamah added, ‘I asked, O Messenger of God, am I with them?’ He said ‘No, and you are on the good path”.29
A’mash has quoted Hakim ibn Sa’ad to have said, “When we mentioned the name of Ali (as) before Umm Salamah, she told us that it was in his favour that the verse of Tatheer was revealed, and added that after the Prophet (saws) had placed Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.) under the kisa, the verse and Tatheer was revealed, and when Umm Salamah asked the Messenger of God, if she was one of them she heard no positive reply. She conveyed this idea when she said “By God, he did not say ‘Yes’”). He only said, “You are on the good path”.30
Shahr ibn Hawshab has quoted Umm Samalah to have said, “The Messenger of God (saws) took thawb a garment, , and put it on Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.); he then recited this verse “Allah only desires to keep away uncleanness from you O Ahl al–Bayt and purify you a thorough purifying” Umm Salamah added, ‘When I went (closer) to step in, under the garment the Prophet (saws) said, “Stay where you are, you are on the good path”.31
There is another version of the hadith which is as follows: “Keep to your own place, and you will gain good”, or as follows: “Sit where you are, you are on the good path”.32
Umrat al–Hamdaniyyeh is quoted to have said, “I went to Umm Salamah’s (house) and greeted her. She asked me ‘Who are you?’ I said, ‘I am Umrat al–Hamdaniyyeh.’ Then, Ummrah said, ‘O Mother of the Believers, tell me about the man (referring to Ali ibn Abi Talib, peace be on him) who was recently murdered, and whom some people love and others hate.’
Umm Salamah asked, ‘Do you love him or hate him?’ Ummrah said, ‘I neither love him nor hate him.’… Then, God, the Mighty and High, revealed the verse “Allah only desires to keep away uncleanness…”at a time when there was no one in the house other than Gabriel, the Messenger of God, Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.) all.
Then I asked the Messenger of God, ‘Am I (a member of the) Ahl al–Bayt? He said, “For you there is a good reward with god.” At that time I wished he had said, ‘Yes’; which was more dear to me than that over which the sun rises and when it sets.33
Abi al–Mo’addel Attiyyeh al–Tafawi reported on the authority of his father, who quoted Umm Salamah to have said, ‘The Messenger of God (saws) was in my house when the servant said, ‘Ali, and Fatimah (p.b.u.th.) are at the door’. The Prophet (saws) said (to me) ‘Get up and stay away from my Household’.
Then, Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.) entered, and the Prophet (saws) prayed (to God) sayings’ God, these are my Household, to You, not to the fire.’ Umm Salamah said, ‘O Messenger of God, and I?’ The Prophet said, “You, too”34.
It is evident that in his words, the Prophet (saws) first stated clearly that Umm Salamah was not included among the Household– but then in his prayer for keeping them away from the Fire he joined her with them.
'Awwam ibn Hawshab quoted Jami’ al–Taymi to have said, “My mother and I went to ‘A’ishah’s house. My mother asked her about Ali (as). ‘A’ishah said, ‘What do you think of a man whose spouse is Fatimah, peace be on her, and whose children are al–Hasan and al–Husain?
I saw the Prophet (saws) place a garment on them and say ‘These are my Household. O God, take away uncleanness from them and purify them a thorough purifying’. Then, I said, ‘O Messenger of God, am I one of your Household?’ He said ‘You are on the good path.’ He did not include me with them”35.
Umm Salama said, “The Messenger of God (saws) placed Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.) under the kisa. Then, he prayed, saying ‘O God, these are my Household, take away uncleanness from them and purify them a thorough purifying’. So, I said, “O Messenger of God, am I (included) among them?’ Then, Umm Salamah adds, ‘By God, he did not say, ‘you are among them’, but he said ‘You are on the good path and towards the good’.36”
Atta ibn Yasar reported that Umm Salamah, may God be pleased with her, had said, “The Prophet (saws) sent some one for Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.). When they arrived, the Prophet (S.A.) said,’ O God, these are my Household.’ Umm Salamah said, “O, Messenger of God, Am I not one of (your) Household?’ The Prophet said, ‘You are on the good path, but these are my Household. O God, my Household are more worthy.’
Having narrated the hadith, Hakim Nayshaburi said, ‘This hadith has all the conditions that make it genuine to Bukhari, but he did not mention it.’37
There are narrations which report that the Prophet (saws) used to call at Hazrat Ali and Fatimah’s house, (peace be upon them) five times a day at the praying times, and recite the verse of Tatheer. These narrations are of various types. In order to avoid lengthy details we will only refer to the headings.
Some of these narrations state that the Prophet (saws) did that for a month,38 some others say for forty days,39 still some others say for six,40 seven,41 eight,42 nine,43 ten or even seventeen months44.
It is necessary to mention two important things concerning these traditions:
1. These traditions, each of which talks about a particular period, do not (in fact) contradict each other. The difference in the period of time reported indicates the period reported by the individual Companions who were with the Prophet (saws). For instance, Abu al–Hamra once reported that the period was six months, and in another hadith, he said seven months, in another eight or ten, and still in another seventeen months.
2. Repeating this act by the Prophet (saws) for such a long period reminds us of the fact that after the literal use of the word Ahl al–Bayt, it is used technically to mean Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.) besides the holy Prophet himself (saws). This being the new application. This is a very significant point in all the traditions related to the verse of Tatheer, and hadiths of Thaqalayn and Saffinah.
There are other hadiths stating that the verse of Tatheer was revealed in favour of the Prophet (saws) Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.). Some of these traditions are ascribed to the Prophet. For example, “Abi Sa’id al–Khidri quotes the Messenger of God (saws) to have said, ‘This verse: Allah only desires to keep away uncleanness from you O Ahl al–Bayt and purify you a thorough purifying” was revealed in favour of me, Ali, Hasan, Husain and Fatimah’.45
Other traditions state that Abu Sa’id Khidri believes that the verse of Tatheer: Allah only desires to keep away uncleanness from you O Ahl al–Bayt and purify you a thorough purifying had been revealed in favour of the five people: the Messenger of God, Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.).
Also, Abu Sa’id Khidri is quoted to have said that Attiyyeh asked “Who are the Household?". Abu Sa’id answered ‘They are the Prophet, Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.).’46
Some other hadiths quote Umm Salamah to have said that the holy Qur’anic verse is in favour of the five pure people, such as the following:
“Umm Salamah said “This verse Allah only desires to keep away uncleanness from you O Ahl al–Bayt and purify you a thorough purifying’ was revealed in favour of the Prophet (saws), Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.)”.47
1) From the foregoing discussions it is clear that the word “Bayt” in “Ahl al–Bayt” does not mean “residence” because other people such as Abil–Hamra, Wathileh, Umm Ayman, and Fizzeh also lived in the same house, but none of them is regarded as a member of Ahl al–Bayt.
“Bayt” does not mean kinship either because there are some other people such as Abbas, the Prophet’s uncle, and his sons, some of whom were closer to the Prophet than Ali (as) are not included with “Ahl al–Bayt”. (There is a tradition concerning Abbas, with which we will deal in the section on questions and answers concerning the Qur’anic verse).
By “Bayt’ it is meant the Prophet’s Household, consisting exclusively of “The Five Members of al–Aba”, the members of this House, to whom the secrets of this House have been entrusted. It is worth considering Suyooti’s words48 concerning the Qur’anic verse “In houses which Allah has permitted to be exalted and that His name may be remembered in them”49 which are as follows interesting to note:
“Ibn Murdawayh has quoted Anas ibn Malik and Buraydah to have said, ‘After the Prophet (saws) had recited this Qur’anic verse: “In houses which Allah has permitted to be exalted…” someone got up and asked “What houses are these?” The Prophet (saws) said, “The Prophets’ houses”. Then, Abu Bakr got up and asked, “O Messenger of God, is Ali and Fatimah’s house (p.b.u.th.) one of them?” The Prophet said, “Yes, it is. It is one of the best of them”.
2) A deliberation upon these narrations clearly shows that there is an instance of restriction which is intended to exclude the wives of the Prophet (saws) and his other relatives such as Abbas, (the Prophet’s uncle), and his children from Ahl al–Bayt).
This, however, does not oppose other hadiths which define the Ahl al–Bayt as the fourteen infallible persons – i.e. the holy Prophet, Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan, al–Husain and the other nine Infallible Imams (p.b.u.th.) – because the verse of Tatheer has, in addition to using the phrase “to keep away uncleanness from you”, stressed (the significance) of the phrase “Ahl al–Bayt”.
The reason why hadith al–Kisa reports that (only) the five pure people have been covered with kisa and that the holy Prophet (saws) prayed for them is because at that time the Prophet’s grand family consisted of only these five people. Yet, all the infallible Shi’ite Imams including Hazrat Mahdi (as) are among Ahl al–Bayt.
The fourth Imam, Zayn al–‘Abidin (as) cites the verse of Tatheer as an evidence of his being a member of Ahl al–Bayt.50 Many traditions in both Shi’ite and Sunni sources consider Hazrat Mahdi (as) among the Ahl al–Bayt (saws).51
According to the definitely authentic tradition, hadith of Thaqalayn, the holy Prophet (saws) says about the Qur’an and Ahl al–Bayt, “…the two will never separate until they return to me by the pond (of Kawthar)”52
From this tradition it is understood that the Qur’an and Ahl al–Bayt will remain side by side until the Day of Resurrection. The tradition also indicates that the members of the Household of the Prophet are infallible, and that there will be at least one of them at all times worthy of being followed.
Some Sunni scholars support the idea inferred from the tradition of Thaqalayn that there will always be people from among Ahl al–Bayt at all times.53
Bellow is one of the traditions which interpret Ahl al–Bayt as the fourteen infallible (Imams), narrated by both Sunnis and Shi’ites.
In his Fara’id al–Simtayn, Ibrahim ibn Mohammad Jowayni has quoted a detailed narration of which we cite only the sentences which are related to the verse of Tatheer.
In this hadith, Imam Ali (as) addresses a group of distinguished men from the Immigrants (Muhajrin) and the Helpers (Ansar), reminding them of his merits and pointing to some verses of the Qur’an such as the verse of Tatheer which was revealed in favour of him and Ahl al–Bayt. He says:
“O people, you know that after God, (the Mighty and High) had revealed the verse: Allah only desires to keep away uncleanness from you O Ahl al–Bayt and purify you a thorough purifying, the Prophet (saws) gathered me, Fatimah and my children, al–Hasan and al–Husain, covered us with kisa and said
‘O God, these are Ahl al–Bayti (my Household) and whoever hurts them, has hurt me whoever displeases them, has displeased me. So keep away uncleanness from them and purify them a thorough purifying’. Umm Salama said, ‘O Messenger of God, ‘And I?’ The Prophet said, ‘You are on the good path.
This verse has been revealed in favour of me, (and my daughter), as well as my brother, Ali ibn Abi Talib, my children (al–Hasan and al–Husain) and the nine descendants of al–Husain; no one else is included with us (in this verse)’. You know these, don’t you?”
All those who were present said, “We bear witness that Umm Salamah told us the same thing and we, ourselves, asked the Prophet (saws) and he told us the same thing which Umm Salamah had told us”.54
It is appropriate now to answer some questions about the Qur’anic verse of Tatheer
It is understood from the aforementioned discussions that the desire expressed in the Qur’anic verse is ontological. It follows that the spiritual purification of Ahl al–Bay, is definite and immutable. Wouldn’t the acceptance of this idea lead to ascribing determinism to them?
God’s, ontological desire will entail determinism only if they do not have the will to act but if God has ontologically desired that the Ahl al–Bayt be kept away from uncleanness and sin on the basis of insight and knowledge, it will not lead determinism, but will affirm a free choice and negate of determinism. According to this assumption, God has not willed that they are not to do things which they do not want. God’s desire is that they are to obey (Him) by exercising a free choice. The existence of free will contests (the idea) of determinism.
Furthermore, we can say that ismah (inerrancy), means an extensive and profound insight and knowledge which an infallible person enjoys and which never lets him deviate from obeying God or think of committing sins. Enjoying such insight and knowledge will make the evil of sins so manifest that one will never seek to commit sins voluntarily, just as it is impossible for ordinary people to drink dirty water. The reason is that their insight and knowledge prevents them from doing so.
In the holy Qur’anic verse: “Allah only desires to keep away uncleanness from you O Ahl al–Bayt and purify you a thorough purifying”, the use of the two phrases “اذهاب”, “to keep away” and “تطهير”, “to purify” indicate that “uncleanness” previously existed but was removed when these words were revealed. This use of the phrases “to keep away” and “to purify” indicates that Ahl al–Bayt used to commit sins, but their “uncleanness” is then removed. They, therefore, became “pure after a time”
In this verse the word “اذهاب”, “preceded by” “عن” meaning “from” is a transitive verb which means “to keep away” uncleanness from Ahl al–Bay and this desire is pre–existent, not that the opposite state existed in Ahl al–Bayt and God removed it from them. The word “تطهير”, “purifying” does not mean “removal of not previously uncleanness, been clean”, but it refers to the pre–existence of Ahl al–Bayt’s purity”. This is similar to the idea in the Qur’anic verse,
“and they shall have pure mates”. (2:25)
The definite evidence supporting the above view, is that “Ahl al–Bayt” includes the very Prophet (saws) about whose being “Ma’sum” from the very beginning no one doubts. No one can say that he was not so before the revelation of the verse of Tatheer and became “inerrant” afterwards. When we say that the two concepts i.e. “keeping away” and “purifying” do not indicate previous “uncleanness” in the case of the Prophet (saws) the same can be said about the members of Ahl al–Bayt, otherwise the two concepts with regard to the Prophet (saws) would mean something and regarding his Household something else.
The holy Qur’anic verse contains no clue to indicate that Ahl al–Bayt enjoy this kind of purity before the verse was revealed; rather the verse indicates that this God’s desire concerns the future because the verb يريد refers to something to come.
First: The verb yurid يريد (want) does not indicate futurity, and this is clear in similar applications, as in these examples:
“God desires to explain to you, and to guide you into the ways of those before you” (4:26)
Also, “And Allah desires that He should turn to you (mercifully)” (4:27).
Accordingly, in the Qur’anic verse (in question) God’s desire does not indicate futurity but it means that God, the Mighty and High, still has this desire and it is still in effect.
Second: Including the Prophet (saws) in the desire is a confirmation of this idea, for none would say that previously God’s desire of purification did not include the Prophet, and it occurred later on. The purity of the noble Prophet (saws) is pre–existent. It is thus evident that “yuridu” is not used with regard to the Prophet in a different meaning from that of his Household.
Probably the letter “L, ل” in “ليذهب” expresses cause and the object of the verb “يريد” is the duties assigned to the noble Prophet’s family, God bless them. Then the meaning of the verse will be: in view of the particular obligations and duties assigned to you, the Household, God, the Most High, “desires” to remove uncleanness from you, and make you thoroughly pure. If so, the verse cannot be an indication of the Household’s inerrancy.
First: (To claim) that the object of the verb “desire” is omitted and unsaid opposes the rule, which leaves nothing unsaid. If there is a contextual clue, it will be possible to ignore this principle. But there is no such clue in the Qur’anic verse (under discussion).
Second: Since there are several possible views concerning the function of the letter “ل” with the verb “يذهب” (to keep away) some consider God’s “desire” to be ontological and some consider it to be legislative, the most probable one that agrees with the context is its being ontological. We already introduced some reasons for its being ontological, for example, with legislative desire” there is no need to praise this dear family, whereas we see that Prophet’s Household are highly praised in the Qur’anic verse, as in the aforementioned hadiths have clearly stated.
Therefore, in this case, the letter “ل” has special purpose; i.e. to make the verb transitive, and what follows it, is the object of the verb yuridu as can be seen in other Qur’anic verses where the verb ‘desire’ can be in the transitive form whether with or without the letter “ل”.
Now, let us consider the following examples:
﴿فَلا تُعْجِبْكَ أَمْوالُهُمْ وَ لا أَوْلادُهُمْ إِنَّما يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُعَذِّبَهُمْ بِها فِي الْحَياةِ الدُّنْيا﴾
“Let not then their property and their children excite your admiration; Allah only wishes to chastise them with these in this world’s life…”55
﴿ وَ لا تُعْجِبْكَ أَمْوالُهُمْ وَ أَوْلادُهُمْ إِنَّما يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ أَنْ يُعَذِّبَهُمْ بِها فِي الدُّنْيا ﴾
“And let not their property and their children excite your admiration; Allah only wishes to chastise them with these in this world”.56.
﴿ يُرِيدُونَ أَنْ يُطْفِؤُا نُورَ اللَّهِ بِأَفْواهِهِمْ وَ يَأْبَى اللَّهُ إِلاَّ أَنْ يُتِمَّ نُورَهُ وَ لَوْ كَرِهَ الْكافِرُونَ﴾
“They desire to put out the light of Allah with their mouths, and Allah will not consent save to perfect His light though the unbelievers are averse”.57
﴿ يُرِيدُونَ لِيُطْفِؤُا نُورَ اللَّهِ بِأَفْواهِهِمْ وَ اللَّهُ مُتِمُّ نُورِهِ وَ لَوْ كَرِهَ الْكافِرُونَ ﴾
“They desire to put out the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will perfect His light, though the unbelievers may be averse”.58 In one of the verses the verb yuridun (they desire) has been made transitive without the use of letter “ل” and in another by using the of letter “ل”
“The Household” in the verse, do not mean only five people. It includes other relatives of the Prophet (saws) too, because some traditions mention that the Prophet (saws) placed his uncle Abbas and his children under a covering, and said, “These are my Household” and prayed for them.
There are so many hadiths confirming that “The Household” includes only the five or the fourteen infallible persons, and so, the mentioned traditions are by no means valid. Besides, they are not trustworthy (for the following reasons):
In the chain of the narrators of this hadith there is the name of Mohammad ibn Yunus, concerning whom ibn Hajar has quoted ibn Habban to have said, “He fabricates hadiths. He has made up more than thousand hadiths, falsely attributing them to trustworthy people. “Ibn Adi has also accused him of making up narrations”.59
Another narrator of this hadith is Malik ibn Hamzeh, about whom Bukhari mentions in his book that he is among the weak narrators60
Abdullah ibn Uthman ibn Ishaq is another narrator of this hadith, concerning whom ibn Hajar has quoted Uthman to have said, “I asked ibn Mo’in about this narrator. He answered that he did not know him. Ibn Adi said, ‘He is not known”.
In view of the above notes, the mentioned tradition cannot challenge the (authentic) hadiths at all.
When Umm Salamah asked the Prophet (saws) if she was among the members of Ahl al–Bayt, the noble Prophet said, “You are (moving) towards the good”; in another version, “You are on the good path”, meaning: there is no need for me to pray for you because the Qur’anic verses have, from the beginning, commended you. The expression “You are on the good path” also means: you are in a better position. This does not suggest that Umma Salamah was not among the members of Ahl al–Bayt.
From the previous discussions on the context of verse, it can be concluded that the verse of Tatheer and those preceding it do does not have the same siaq (context) thus the wives of the Prophet (saws) are excluded from Ahl al–Bayt.
The word “good” in the expression “on the good path” or “moving towards the good” does not mean preference and not indicate that the Prophet’s wives are superior to the five pure people. There are some indications in these hadiths which support this idea, such as Umm Salamah’s wishing that she was joined to the Household, a position which she preferred to all that on which the sun shines.
A deliberation upon the Qur’anic verses related to the wives of the Prophet (saws) including those preceding the verse of Tatheer and what the reasons and conditions of their revelation are and those in the Surah of Prohibition makes the above mentioned point completely clear. Let us, for example see the following Qur’anic:
“If you both turn to Allah (in repentance), then indeed your hearts are already inclined (to this)”; “Perhaps should he divorce you, his Lord would grant him even better wives than you are in your stead wives better than you, submissive (to Allah), believing, pious, penitent, devout, inclined to fasting, widows and maids”. “Allah sets forth an example to those who disbelieve the wife of Nuh and the wife of Lut: they were both under two of Our righteous servants, but they acted treacherously towards them so they availed them naught against Allah, and it was said: Enter both the fire with those who enter”. (66:4, 5 & 10)
Traditions report that the Prophet (saws) prayed for his family after the verse of Tatheer was revealed. He said, “O God, take uncleanness away from them and purify them a thorough purifying”. This request of the Prophet (saws) is inconsistent with the idea that inerrancy can be inferred from the verse, because it would not be reasonable to ask God to confer inerrancy on Ahl al–Bayt if the Qur’anic verse indicated their inerrancy.
First: This supplication clearly indicates that God’s desire to purify the Household is an ontological not a legislative one, because asking God “to take away uncleanness” and (to grant) “purification” is in no way not a legislative matter and the Prophet’s supplication is certainly granted. Therefore, this supplication emphasizes the content of the verse of Tatheer.
Second: Inerrancy is a blessing granted by God to chosen people in each and every moment of their lifetime because, like other creatures, they always need God in each and every moment. One cannot assume that God’s grace given to them in one moment will make them needless of God’s blessings in other moments.
This is like the case of the Prophet’s repeatedly saying, “Guide us along the Straight Road”, asking God for guidance, although he has attained guidance in its most perfect form. It is an indication that whatever ranks a God’s servant attains, essentially he is still in need of Allah, and so his expressing the need and imploring God’s blessings is but perfection.
One’s knowledge that God’s blessings will be granted in the future does not prevent one from praying and a similar example is found in Ulu al–Albab’s supplication to which God refers here:
“Our Lord! And grant us what Thou has promised us by Thy apostles and disgrace us not on the day of resurrection; surely Thou does not fail to perform the promise (3:194)
They implore God although they know that Allah, the Mighty and High, will not fail to perform His promise to the believers.
With regard to the noble Prophet’s supplication, we notice that although “purification” and “divine protection” have already been attained and will also be granted in the future, the Prophet’s supplication indicates that in spite of the lofty rank of the Household they are always in need of Allah, whose great and invaluable bliss reaches them every moment.
Therefore, the holy Prophet’s supplicating before or after the revelation of the verse of Tatheer, does not contest their inerrancy.
Prophets’ inerrancy is necessary for safeguarding divine revelation. Why should we believe that those who are not prophets are infallible?
First: In the Shi’ites’ view, Imamate is a continuation of prophet hood, and is equal to or higher in position than prophet hood.61 Imams play the same role as that of the Prophet (saws) except that they are not revealed to. The belief of Imamiyyah Shi’ites in the inerrancy of Imam is based on intellectual (aqli) and transmitted (naqli) proofs.
Second: Having no necessary intellectual condition for the inerrancy of Imam does not justify the absence of inerrancy.
Explanation: As regards the prophet and Imam intellect is the criterion of their being, but those other than the Prophet and the Imam do not have such privilege. Inerrancy is a special divine blessing that God gives to whoever He considers good.
As for the Prophet and the Imams, there is an intellectual demonstration of their being inerrant, but regarding other than them, if there is a transmitted proof supporting their being inerrant, it must be taken for granted, and the verse of Tatheer is a proof of the inerrancy of the Prophet, Imams, and Hazarat Fatimah (p.b.u.th.) all.
In his Sahih,62Muslim has quoted Zayd ibn Arqam, one of the Companions, to have reported that the Prophet (saws) said, “I am leaving behind two precious things among you: the book of Allah … and Ahl al–Bayti (my Household)”. Zayd ibn Arqam was asked, “Who are the Ahl al–Bayt?” Are the women included with the Prophet’s Household?”
He said, “No”. When he was asked, “Who are they?”, he said, “The Prophet’s Household are those to whom paying of sadaka (the voluntary alms) is forbidden. They are: Ali’s family, Abbas’s family, Ja’far’s family and Aqil’s family”. Now, how can Ahl al–Bayt be confined to the five pure members of Ale al–Aba, or to the fourteen infallibles (p.b.u.th.)?
First: This tradition indicates that the wives of the Prophet (saws) are excluded from Ahl al–Bayt.
Second: This tradition, though reported by various transmitters, ends a Yazid ibn Hayan, who is not qualified to challenge the content of (thaqalayn) tradition and many other hadiths.
Third: Even if (he) is proved (to be qualified), we cannot consider the independent judgement of one of the Companion as a convincing argument.
Fourth: Zayd ibn Arqam has reported the tradition of Thaqalayn in different ways all of which contain the following sentence: “if you hold fast to them, you will not be misguided at all, i.e. the Book of Allah and my Ahl al–Bayt will never separate until they return to me by the pond (of Kawthar)”.
These notes which indicate Ahl al–Bayt’s leadership and their inseparability from the Qur’an, do not agree with the above mentioned interpretation quoted from Zayd ibn Arqam, according to which the Abbasid caliphs are, in spite of their oppression and tyranny, regarded among Ahl al–Bayt. This is in opposition with the content of the verse of Thaqalayn.
Some traditions report that in answer to Umm Salamah’s inquiry: “Am I among Ahl al–Bayt?” and in another version “Let me be with them”, the Prophet (saws) answered “Yes, if God wills”, and “You are among my family”. It can, therefore, be said that the term Ahl al–Bayt is not limited to five people.
In the numerous traditions previously cited, the particular term Ahl al–Bayt, includes no one other than the Five People of Ale al–Aba. It can be said that the traditions referred to in the above question which are concerned with the literal meaning of “Ahl” or “Ahl al–Bayt” include the wives of the Prophet (saws).
Mention is made here of a Sunni leading figure in fiqh and hadith, Abu Ja’far al–Tahawi, who considers Ahl al–Bayt only five people, and that the wives of the Prophet (saws) are not among those referred to in the holy Qur’anic verse. On pages 332–3 of his Mushkil al–Athar he quotes
Umm Salamah to have asked the Prophet (saws) to let her be among them ( Ahl al–Bayt). The Prophet (saws) said, “انت من اهلی, you are among my family”. Tahawi then continues: “From these traditions it can be understood that it is sometimes permissible to consider Umm Salamah one of the Prophet’s Ahl, because she is a wife of the Prophet, and his wives are his Ahl”.
Having quoted eight traditions supporting the idea that Umm Salamah is not one of Ahl al–Bayt referred to in the verse of Tatheer, al–Tahawi adds:
“It can be understood from the words of the Prophet (saws) to Umm Salamah, as we previously mentioned ,that there exists no hadith which states that Umm Salamah is one of (the members of) Ahl al–Bayt as it is meant by the Qur’anic verse recited. No one is meant by this verse other than God’s Messenger, peace be on him and his family, Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan, and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.)”.
Another possible explanation given by al–Tahawi is that by the phrase “انت من اهلی You are among my Ahl” the Prophet (saws) meant to tell Umm Salamah that she was among his family because she was following his creed, expressing the same idea in the case of the Prophet Nuh when he was told that his son was excluded from his family as in the verse, “surely he is not of your family”63 which indicates that the members of his family are those who (believe) and do good deeds.
Tahawi offers the above possible explanation after he quotes Wathileh’s report which confirms the presence of the five pure persons, their being covered with kisa, and the Prophet’s supplicating “O God, these are my Ahl al–Bayti, and my Ahl al–Bayt are most deserving”. Then, Wathileh says: I asked, “O Messenger of God, am I among (the members of) your Ahl?” The Prophet said, “You are among my Ahl”.
Tahawi continues in this way:
“Wathila, a member of Bani Layth not a Qurayshi, was farther from the Prophet (saws) than Umm Salamh whereas Umm Salamah, the Prophet’s wife, belonged to the Quraysh tribe yet the Prophet says to him, “You are among my Ahl”, meaning “because you follow the religion and have faith in me you are among my family”.
In his book al–Sunan al–Kubra, Bayhaki quotes Wathila’s narration and says,
“The Prophet seems to have used a metaphorical, not literal way when placing Wathila among the members of his family”.
Therefore, it is not a problem to say that Ahl al–Bayt has an exclusively reference.
The Qur’anic verse:
“Allah only desires…” (33:33) is similar to the verse:
“…Allah does not desire to put on you any difficulty, but He wishes to purify you and that He may complete His favour on you…” (5:6) and similar to the verse,
“…and to take away from you the uncleanness of Satan…” (8:11)
Now, if the verse of Tatheer suggests “inerrancy”, then we can attribute inerrancy to many Companions.
The first sentence comes at the end of the verse dealing with wudu (i.e.washing for the ritual prayer) and total ablution. The verse is:
“O you who believe! When you rise up to prayer, wash your faces and your hands as far as the elbows, and wipe your heads and your feet to the ankles; and if you are under an obligation to perform a total ablution, then wash (yourselves) and if you are sick or on a journey, or one of you come from the privy, or you have touched the women, and you cannot find water, betake yourselves to pure earth and wipe your faces and your hands therewith, Allah does not desire to put on you any difficulty, but He wishes to purify you and that He may complete His favour on you, so that you may be grateful”. (5:6)
In the above verse, God, the Mighty and High, having issued the command on washing for prayers, total ablution, and betaking to pure earth, says that (by legislating these laws) He does not desire to put you in any difficulty, but wishes to purify you by your washing and betaking to pure water. “Purity” in this verse has nothing to do with the ontological purity mentioned in the verse of Tatheer.
In the second verse “uncleanliness of Satan", refers to the wet dream which (a group of) Muslims had during the Battle of Badr. God, the Mighty and High, sent down rain on them. They washed themselves with it and removed the defilement.
This verse too refers to a particular purification required for removing the stain which occurred as a result of wet dream to (a number of) the Companions who had participated in the war. This purification has nothing to do with the absolute ontological purification referred to in the Qur’anic verse ot Tatheer.