(Continued from An Analysis of Ayat-e-Tatheer)

It is apparent from narrations of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) wives and senior companions that the Ahle Bait referred to in Surah Ahzaab (33): 33) are Ali (a.s.), Faatemah (a.s.), Hasan (a.s.) and Husain (a.s.). Reputed Sunni and Shiah scholars have documented this fact in their books.

However, certain fringe elements — obviously with ulterior motives — continue to challenge this well-established belief. They maintain that the Ahle Bait in Surah Ahzaab (33): 33 refer to the wives of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

 

Doubt 1) Ikramah’s narration in favour of the wives

Reply: Those who say the Ahle Bait referred to in Surah Ahzaab (33): 33 are the wives of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) are giving their own opinion. No justification in terms of Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) hadith or incident or a historical reference is advanced as evidence. Their belief revolves mainly around Ikramah’s narration who has related on the authority of Ibn Abbas. However, as we will see, Ikramah has expressed his personal view which cannot be the basis for interpreting the Holy Quran. Those who take the Ahle Bait as Ali (a.s.), Faatemah (a.s.), Hasan (a.s.) and Husain (a.s.) are not doing so based on a personal whim or fancy, it is based on the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) declarations narrated by the wives themselves as also senior companions. Those who take the Ahle Bait as wives are either not aware of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) assertion in this regard or have chosen to willfully neglect it.

If Ikramah has indeed faithfully related from Ibn Abbas, how does one explain the narrations on the authority of Ibn Abbas wherein he has categorically defined the Ahle Bait as Ali (a.s.), Faatemah (s.a.), Hasan (a.s.), Husain (a.s.) and counts it among their foremost virtues? Ibn Abbas’s narrations in favour of Ali (a.s.), Faatemah (s.a.), Hasan (a.s.), Husain (a.s.) as the Ahle Bait have been documented by Tafseer-e-Suyuti, Musnad-e-Ahmad, Khasais of Nisaai, Riyaaz al-Nadharah by Muhibb al-Deen Tabari, Majma’ al-Zawaaid by Haithami.

Moreover, Ikramah’s animosity towards the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) Ahle Bait — Ali (a.s.), Faatemah (s.a.) and her sons (a.s.) is well-known. This could only mean that Ikramah’s view is tainted with ignorance at best or prejudice at worst, especially since the wives who he claims are the Ahle Bait and Ibn Abbas, Ikramah’s main source, have themselves narrated incidents wherein the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has left no doubt whatsoever as to the true implication of the Ahle Bait (a.s.).

 

Doubt 2) Preceding and succeeding verses refer to the wives

Reply: Skeptics advance the preceding and succeeding verses of Surah Ahzaab (33): 33 as evidence that the Ahle Bait referred to in the verse are the wives and not Ali (a.s.), Faatemah (s.a.) and her sons (a.s.).

This argument would have had merit if the verses under question had uniformity in context and syntax. But evidently, there is a lack of consistency on both parameters which tells the seeker of truth that there must be an explanation beyond the apparent.

The verses preceding and succeeding Ayat-e-Tatheer have addressed the wives varyingly, at times even warning them from committing indecency and forbidding them from reverting to the customs of the ignorance era. This is not consistent with the tone of addressing in Ayat-e-Tatheer where Allah expresses His total pleasure with the Ahle Bait and promises to purify them from all uncleanliness.

It’s established that the wives were not free from uncleanliness — neither in the physical context (menses, etc) nor the spiritual context (some of the wives like Umm Habibah bint Abi Sufyan, although faithful accepted Islam after practicing idol-worship).

Moreover, the mode of address in the verses changes from — ‘O wives of the Prophet…’ in the preceding verses to ‘O Ahle Bait…’ indicating that the personalities addressed in the verses are different.

Just as strikingly, the syntax for Ayat-e-Tatheer is not in harmony with the preceding and succeeding verses. While all along the feminine gender has been employed, the 33rd verse of Surah Ahzaab specifically uses the masculine gender which tells the reader that the addressees in this particular verse are not the same as those in the preceding and succeeding verses.

 

Doubt 3) Ahle Bait refers to wife of Ibrahim (a.s.)

Reply: Those who consider wives as the Ahle Bait cite the 73rd verse of Surah Hud (11) as evidence that there is a precedence of a Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) wife forming part of his Ahle Bait.

It is important to note that this is not a general discussion on whether the wives of Prophets form part of their Ahle Bait. Likewise, we are also not interested in dwelling on the verse (Surah Tahreem (66): 10) wherein Allah has condemned the wives of Prophets like Nuh (a.s.) and Lut (a.s.), which obviously means that the wives are generally not the Ahle Bait and if they are, then being the Ahle Bait does not automatically become a virtue.

Here, we want to specifically address the 33rd verse of Surah Ahzaab (33) to determine whether the Ahle Bait referred to in the verse are the wives or not.

A general description on a subject cannot be used to repudiate a specific description. For example, Allah has referred to the wives of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as Mother of Believers — Ummul Momineen in the 6th verse of Surah Ahzaab (33).

In another place in the Quran — the 2nd verse of Surah Mujaadilah (58), Allah describes the mother as — ‘…those who gave them birth…’.

One cannot use the general description of the mother in Surah Mujaadilah (58): 2 to repudiate the specific description on Ummul Momineen in Surah Ahzaab (33): 6 by claiming that since the wives did not give birth to all the believers therefore they do not qualify as their mothers. The wives were Ummul Momineen specifically to dissuade the Muslims from marrying them after the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). The general description of the mother as one who gives birth remains intact.

So, it is possible that Aaeshah who did not give birth to a single believer and therefore failed the general qualification of a mother can still be the mother of the believers according to a specific qualification. It is likewise possible for Aaeshah to be the Ahle Bait of the Prophet according to a general description and not be his Ahle Bait according to a specific description as pronounced in Surah Ahzaab (33): 33 — Ayat-e-Tatheer.

Ibn Katheer, a student of Ibn Taymiyyah, has concluded likewise in his Tafseer (vol. 6, p. 370) wherein after outlining Aaeshah’s merits he has concluded regardless of everything she is not the Ahle Bait referred to in Surah Ahzaab (33): 33. As per the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) narration, Ali (a.s.), Faatemah (s.a.), Hasan (a.s.) and Husain (a.s.) are more deserving of the privilege.

Not just the wives, one finds others being included in the general description of the Ahle Bait of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Abbas, Aqeel and Jafar (all sons of Abu Talib (a.s.)) are referred to as the Ahle Bait because sadaqah (charity) was prohibited on them and their children. But even they do not qualify as the Ahle Bait referred to in Surah Ahzaab (33): 33.

At the Battle of Khandaq (Ahzaab), when both the Muhaajir and Ansaar vied for Salmaan al-Faarsi, the proponent of the Khandaq, each group claiming Salmaan for itself, the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) stepped in and proudly proclaimed that Salmaan was neither a Muhaajir nor an Ansaar, rather he was from the Ahle Bait. Salmaan was a great companion whose faith was a benchmark for other believers, but even he does not qualify as the Ahle Bait referred to in Surah Ahzaab (33): 33.

This shows that the Ahle Bait (in the general description not the specific description of Surah Ahzaab (33): 33) is not restricted to the Prophet’s relation (wives, cousins, etc). Any Muslim who leads a life advocated by the Quran and Sunnah can aspire to be from the Ahle Bait. But the fact remains no matter what level of piety and faith the person may achieve, he will never qualify as the Ahle Bait in Surah Ahzaab (33): 33; that is the sole privilege of Ali (a.s.), Faatemah (s.a.), Hasan (a.s.) and Husain (a.s.).

And peace be upon the one who follows the guidance!