Q. Who are the Ahlul-Bayt (the blessed household of Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam?
A. Love for the Ahlul-Bayt (household of Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam) has and shall always be an integral part of one’s faith. It is through this love that one shall acquire the pleasure of Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam, and through its medium, the pleasure of Almighty Allah. Thus, from amongst the edicts issued during the caliphate of Hadrat Abu Bakr, one was:
‘Protect (the rights of) Muhammad with regards to his household’
Some deviant sectors however wish to mislead the masses into believing that it is only them that love the Ahlul-Bayt, and that the Sahaba Radhiyallahu Anhum, Tabieen, Mufassireen, Muhaditeen, Fuqaha, Sufiya and the general Muslim Ummah from the death of Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam failed in their obligation towards the Ahlul-Bayt, i.e. they did not show them the love they were deserving off and did not afford them their due rights. The answer to this misconception depends upon first understanding what the phrase ‘Ahlul-Bayt’ (household members) means. Generally, if one were to inform that he is coming with his family, the host would naturally enquire as to the number and the nature of his family members, in order to make appropriate arrangements. Mere guessing could at times be detrimental, especially if the guest were to arrive with his extended family, viz. his parents, in-laws, brothers and sisters, etc. Even worse than this would be if the host now bars certain members of the guest’s household from entering, merely on the basis that he does not recognize them to be from his guest’s family. Will the guest not feel humiliated, and will he not demand that either his family be allowed in or else he too shall depart? So too, is the delicate matter of the Ahlul-Bayt. It is not for one and all to decide who should be included in this blessed household and who should be excluded. Nay, rather it is the exclusive right of Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam to pinpoint his blessed household. Thus, one needs to turn to the Noble Quraan and the Blessed Sunnah for an explanation in this regard. If we were left to ourselves define who the Ahlul-Bayt are, there would be a total mix-up, and that is exactly what we are unfortunately experiencing today in some quarters. Since the Ahlul-Bayt have been afforded great importance in Islam, it was of utmost necessity that clear indication be made regarding who they are? Without clear indication from the Noble Quraan and the authentic Sunnah, each party could easily chalk out his own Ahlul-Bayt, including and excluding members without any solid basis.
‘Many follow mere assumption, whereas in front of the truth mere assumption is of no avail’
The first addressee of the word ‘Ahlul-Bayt’ are the honourable and illustrious wives of Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam, the reason being:
a) The phrase ‘Ahlul-Bayt’ in reference to Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam appears only once in the Noble Quraan, in the verse known as Ayah-al-Takhyeer wherein the honourable wives were given permission to raise their living standards, but at the expense of having to lose their noble husband Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam, or to remain patient upon their ascetic lives, in lieu of the privilege of remaining the wives of Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam in this world as well as in the next. In appreciation of the choice that they made, (i.e. to abandon the luxuries of this world in order to enjoy the companionship of Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam in both the worlds,) Almighty Allah addressed them with two noble titles, viz. ‘O wives of Rasulullah (Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam), and O Ahlul-Bayt. (Members of the Noble Household of Nubuwwah) (Surah Ahzaab, Verse 32-34)
b) Clear mention is made in the hadith quoted by Imam Bukhari (R.A) in his Sahih that Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam would address Hadrat Ayesha Radiyallah Anha with the title ‘Ahlul-Bayt. Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam would say when entering the house of Hadrat Ayesha Radiyallahu Anha, ‘Peace be upon you, O Ahlul Bayt, and the mercy of Almighty Allah and His blessings!’ (Bukhari)
c) In the salawaat that was taught to the Ummah by Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam to be recited at the end of salaah, (as narrated by Bukhari and Muslim), Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam at times taught the dua as:
Allahumma Salli Ala Muhammad Wa Ala Aali Muhammad Kama Sallayta Ala Aali Ibraheem
Allahumma Salli Ala Muhammad Wa Ala Azwaajihi Wa Zurriyyatihi Kama Sallayta Ala Aali Ibraheem
In the first dua the meaning is ‘O Allah, send salutations upon Muhammad (Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam) and upon the family of Muhammad (Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam), and in the second dua the meaning is ‘O Allah, send salutations upon Muhammad (Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam) and upon the wives and daughters of Rasulullah (Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam).
Either of these Duas are recited in ones Salaah. One understands from this that the meaning of the second dua is exactly as the meaning of the first, thus the meaning of ‘family’ clearly refers to the wives and daughters of Rasulullah Salallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
To emphasize that the command of respect and honour is not only for the wives of Rasulullah Salallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, but for all those Sahabah Radiyallah Anhum who enjoyed a very close relationship with Rasulullah Alaihis Salaam, and who would always be found in his blessed company, Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam on various occasions gave indication to who else the word Ahlul-Bayt refers to:
a) Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam declared that Hadrat Fatimah Radiyallah Anha, Hadrat Ali Radiyallah Anhu, Hadrat Hasan Radiyallah Anhu and Hadrat Husein Radiyallah Anhu are from his Ahl (family), as well as Hadrat Wathila ibn al-Asqa’ Radiyallah Anhu, who, when he heard Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam saying, ‘O Allah, these are my Ahlul-Bayt (family)’, asked from far, ‘O Rasulullah, what about me?’ to which Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam replied, ‘and you too are from my family.’ (Sahih Ibn Hibaan)
b) A similar incident has been recorded from Hadrat Umme-Salamah, which has been narrated by Baihaqi, with an authentic chain of narrators. She narrates, the verse (O family of Rasulullah, Almighty Allah desires to purify you from all filth!) was revealed in my house. Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam then sent for Hadrat Fatimah Radiyallah Anha, Hadrat Ali Radiyallah Anhu, Hadrat Hasan Radiyallah Anhu and Hadrat Husein Radiyallah Anhu. When they arrived, he Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam said, ‘These are my family members!’ I asked, O Rasulullah, am I not from your family? Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam replied, You most certainly are! (Insha-Allah)’ (Baihaqi)
c) Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam enshrouded Hadrat Abbaas Radiyallah Anhu and his children with his shawl and said, ‘These are my family members (Ahle-Bayt).’ (Amalul Yaum Wal Laylah)
d) During the digging of the trench, as the Muhajireen Radiyallah Anhum and Ansar Radiyallah Anhum discussed with regards to which camp should Hadrat Salmaan al-Farsi Radiyallah Anhu join, since each desired having him in their group, Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam said, ‘Salmaan is from us, from the Ahlul-Bayt!’ (Al-Mu’jamul Kabir Lit-Tabraani)
e) When Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam announced the prohibition of his blood relatives (i.e. the children of Haashim and Muttalib) taking Zakaah, he addressed all with the title of ‘Ahlul-Bayt’.(Sahih Ibn Khuzaaimah)
Yazid Bin Hayyan reported, I went along with Husain Bin Sabra and Umar Bin Muslim to Zaid Bin Arqam Radiyallah Anhum and, as we sat by his side, Husain Bin Sabra Radiyallah Anhu said to him:
“O Zaid, you have been able to acquire great virtue that you saw Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam listened to his talk, fought by his side in (different) battles, offered prayer behind him. O Zaid, you have in fact earned a great virtue. O Zaid, narrate to us what you heard from Rasullah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam.” He said: “I have grown old and have almost spent my age and I have forgotten some of the things which I remembered in connection with Rasullallah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam, so accept whatever I narrate to you, and which I do not narrate, do not compel me of the same.” He then said: One day Rasullallah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam stood up amongst us to deliver sermon at a watering place known as Khumm situated between Mecca and Medina. He praised Allah, extolled Him and delivered the sermon and exhorted (us) and said: “O people, I am a human being. I am about to receive a messenger (the angel of death) from my Lord and I, in response to Allah’s call, (would bid farewell to you), but I am leaving amongst you two weighty things: the one being the Book of Allah in which there is right guidance and light, so hold fast to the Book of Allah and adhere to it. He exhorted (us) (to hold fast) to the Book of Allah and then said: The second are the members of my household I remind you (of your duties – he repeated it thrice) to the members of my family.” He (Husain) said to Zaid: “Who are the members of his household? Aren’t his wives the members of his family?” Thereupon he said: “His wives are the members of his family (but here) the members of his family are those for whom acceptance of Zakat is forbidden.” And he said: “Who are they? Thereupon he said: “Ali and the offspring of ‘Ali, ‘Aqil and the offspring of ‘Aqil and the offspring of Ja’far and the offspring of ‘Abbas Radiyallahu Anhum). Husain said: “These are those for whom the acceptance of Zakat is forbidden.” Zaid said: “Yes.” (Muslim)
Allah Ta’ala Knows Best
Mufti Ismaeel Bassa
This answer was collected from TheMufti.com, which is a fatwa portal managed by Mufti Ismaeel Bassa from South Africa.