Tafsir "Ahl al-Bayt" (33:33, 11:73)

GF Haddad


Regarding the primary evidence of the Book of Allah addressing the wives of the Prophet ﷺ (Sura 33) as "Ahl al-Bayt":

28. O Prophet! Say unto THY WIVES: If ye desire the world's life and its adornment, come! I will content you and will release you with a fair release;

29. But if ye desire Allah and His messenger and the abode of the Hereafter, then lo! Allah hath prepared for the good among you an immense reward.

30. O ye WIVES OF THE PROPHET! Whosoever of you committeth manifest lewdness, the punishment for her will be doubled, and that is easy for Allah.

31. and whosoever of you is submissive unto Allah and His messenger and doeth right, We shall give her reward twice over, and We have prepared for her a rich provision.

32. O ye WIVES OF THE PROPHET! Ye are not like any other women. If ye keep your duty (to Allah), then be not soft of speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease aspire (to you), but utter customary speech.

33. and stay in your [F] houses. Bedizen not yourselves with the bedizenment of the Time of ignorance. Be regular in prayer, and pay the poor due, and obey Allah and His messenger. Allah's wish is but to remove uncleanness far from you [M/F], O FOLK OF THE HOUSEHOLD, and cleanse you [M/F] with a thorough cleansing.

34. and bear in mind that which is recited in your [F] houses of the revelations of Allah and wisdom. Lo! Allah is Subtile, Aware.

It is clear that a switch from feminine to masculine with reference to the address to Ahl al-Bayt means (1) the grammatical value of Ahl is masculine and/or (2) at least one man is included with the feminine group being addressed. The latter group would thus consist in the wives of the Prophet ﷺ *together* with the Mantle (ʿItra): ʿAli, Fatima, and their children. This is confirmed by the majority of the scholars of Qur'anic commentary.

In addition, it includes the zakāt-forbidden Muttalibi families of ʿAli, ʿAqil, Jaʿfar, and ʿAbbas; while Haqqi in Ruh al-Bayan added Salman al-Farisi according to the explicit hadith "Salmanu minnā Ahl al-Bayt" as a proof that the freedman is part of a man's household, while Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Ibn ʿArabi in his Futuhat (2:126-127) explained Ahl al-Bayt in the Salman hadith as referring to each Muslim that acquires the attributes of his Master i.e. the Prophet ﷺ. The latter sense is confirmed by the narrations stating: "Do not come to me with your lineages on the Day of Resurrection! My Family is every Godwary believer" and "Every Prophet has a Family and carriage; my Family and carriage are the Believer" (ālū wa ʿiddatū al-mu'min).

In conclusion, Ahl al-Bayt has many meanings according to context, and the context of 33:33 is: first the wives of the Prophet ﷺ, then the wives together with the noble ʿItra, and Allah knows best.

Al-Razi, al-Tafsir al-Kabir (6:615): "Allah Most High quit using the feminine pronoun in his address and turned to the masculine by saying {liyudhhiba ʿankum al-rijsa = to remove uncleanness far from you [masculine plural]}, so as to include both the women of his [i.e. the Prophet's] house and the men. Explanations have differed concerning the 'Ahl al-Bayt' but the most appropriate and correct is to say they are his children and wives; al-Hasan and al-Husayn being among them and ʿAli being among them... due to his cohabitation with the daughter of the Prophet ﷺ and his close companionship with the Prophet ﷺ."

Al-Baghawi, Maʿalim al-Tanzil (2:393): "In this verse [Hud 73] there is a proof that wives are part of Ahl al-Bayt. ... (3:428) He means by Ahl al-Bayt [in 33:33] the wives of the Prophet ﷺ because they are in his house and this is the narration of Saʿid ibn Jubayr from Ibn ʿAbbas."

Al-Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil (4:374): "The Shiʿa's claim that verse 33:33 is specific to Fatima, ʿAli, and their two sons - Allah be well-pleased with them - ... and their adducing it as proof of their immunity from sin (ʿismat) and of the probative character of their consensus, is weak, because restricting the meaning to them is not consistent with what precedes the verse and what follows it. The thread of speech means that they are part of the Ahl al-Bayt, not that others are not part of it also."

Al-Khazin, Lubab al-Ta'wil fi Maʿani al-Tanzil (3:490): "They [Ahl al-Bayt] are the wives of the Prophet ﷺ because they are in his house." Then he mentions the other two explanations, namely, that they are the ʿItra or that they are the families of ʿAli, ʿAqil, Jaʿfar, and al-ʿAbbas.

Al-Nasafi, Madarik al-Tanzil wa Haqa'iq al-Ta'wil (3:490): "There is in it [verse 33:33] a proof that his wives are part of the Folk of his Household (min ahli baytihi). He said 'from you [M] (ʿankum)' because what is meant are both the men and women of his family (āl) as indicated by {wa yutahhirakum tathūran = and cleanse you [M/F] with a thorough cleansing} from the filth of sins."

Al-Tabari, Tafsir (22:7) [after citing reports explaining Ahl al-Bayt to mean the ʿItra] and al-Wahidi, Asbab al-Nuzul (p. 299 #734): From ʿIkrima concerning 33:33: "It is not as they claim, but the verse was revealed concerning the wives of the Prophet ﷺ."

Al-Zamakhshari, Tafsir al-Kashshaf (2:212): "In this [33:33] there is an explicit proof that the wives of the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - are among the People of his House (min Ahli Baytihi)."

Al-Shawkani, Fath al-Qadir (4:278-280) and al-Mubarakfuri, Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi (9:48-49): "Ibn ʿAbbas, ʿIkrima, ʿAta', al-Kalbi, Muqatil, and Saʿid ibn Jubayr said the wives of the Prophet ﷺ are specifically meant [in 33:33], and by house are meant the houses of his wives as mentioned before in the verses. While Abu Saʿid al-Khudri, Mujahid, and Qatada - it is also related from al-Kalbi - said that those meant are specifically ʿAli, Fatima, al-Hasan, and al-Husayn. They adduced the fact that the pronouns are in the masculine, but this was refuted by the fact that the noun Ahl is masculine and therefore necessitates a masculine gender as in the verse [Hud 73].... A third group stands midway between the two and includes both [the wives and the ʿItra]... A number of the verifying authorities consider this the most correct explanation, among them al-Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, and others."

Al-Jalalayn: "Ahl al-Bayt [in 33:33] i.e. the wives of the Prophet ﷺ."

Al-Sawi, Hashiyat al-Jalalayn: "It was said the verse [33:33] is comprehensive (ʿāmma) to mean the People of his House in the sense of his dwelling and these are his wives, and the People of his House in the sense of his lineage and these are his offspring."

Al-Suyuti, al-Durr al-Manthur (6:603): [after citing the narrations of the ʿItra] Ibn Saʿd narrated from ʿUrwa that he said: "Ahl al-Bayt [in 33:33] means the wives of the Prophet ﷺ and it was revealed in the house of ʿA'isha."

Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir fi ʿIlm al-Tafsir (6:378): "Then He showed their superiority over all women when He said: {You [feminine] are not like anyone [masculine] of the women} (33:32). Al-Zajjaj [the philologist] said: 'He did not say, "like any other woman" in the feminine, because the masculine form denotes a general exclusion of both male and female [human beings], one and all.'"

Ibn Juzayy, Tafsir (p. 561): "The Ahl al-Bayt of the Prophet ﷺ are his wives, his offspring, and his near relatives such as al-ʿAbbas, ʿAli, and all for whom receiving sadaqa is unlawful."

Al-Bukhari, Sahih: Hadith from Anas: The Prophet ﷺ visited ʿA'isha and, upon entering her house, said: "As-Salāmu ʿalaykum Ahl al-Bayt! wa rahmatullah." Whereupon she responded: "Wa ʿalayka as-Salam wa rahmatullah, how did you find your wives [ahlak]? May Allah bless you." Then he went around to see all of his wives and said to them exactly what he had said to ʿA'isha.

Al-Wahidi, al-Wajiz fi Tafsir al-Kitab al-ʿAziz (2:865): "Ahl al-Bayt [in 33:33] meaning, the wives of the Prophet ﷺ and the men [and women] of the People of his House."

Al-Thaʿalibi, Jawahir al-Hisan fi Tafsir al-Qur'an (2:212): "This verse [Hud 73] shows that the wife of a man is part of the People of his House (min Ahli Baytihi)... and 'the House' in Surat al-Ahzab [33:33] refers to the dwelling quarters [i.e. of the wives]."

Ibn Kathir, Tafsir (3:532) and al-Wahidi, Asbab al-Nuzul (p. 299 #733): From Ibn ʿAbbas: "This verse [33:33] was revealed concerning the wives of the Prophet ﷺ."

Ibn Jamaʿa, Ghurar al-Tibyan fi Ma lam Yusamma fi al-Qur'an (p. 421 #1201) and al-Suyuti in Mufhamat al-Aqran fi Mubhamat al-Qur'an: "Ahl al-Bayt in verse 33 are the Prophet and his wives. It was also said they are ʿAli, Fatima, al-Hasan, and al-Husayn, and it was also said they are those for whom sadaqa is unlawful [i.e. āl ʿAqil, āl ʿAli, āl Jaʿfar, and āl al-ʿAbbas]."

Al-Zarkashi, al-Burhan fi ʿUlum al-Qur'an (2:197): "The phrasing of the Qur'an [in Surat al-Ahzab] shows that the wives are meant, that the verses were revealed concerning them, and that it is impossible to exclude them from the meaning of the verse. However, since others were to be included with them it was said with the masculine gender: {Allah desires to remove uncleanness far from you [masculine plural], O Folk of the Household}. It is then known that this desire comprises all the Folk of the Household - both male and female - as opposed to His saying {O wives of the Prophet} and it shows that ʿAli and Fatima are more [specifically] deserving of this description ["Ahl al-Bayt"] than the wives."

Al-Jassas, Ahkam al-Qur'an (4:378-379): "It [the verse Hud 73] shows that the wives of the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - are of the People of his House (min Ahli Baytihi) because the angels names Ibrahim's wife as being of the People of his House, and so has Allah Most High said when addressing the wives of the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - when He said:... [33:33]. His wives are part of those meant because the beginning of the address concerns them."

Abu al-Suʿud, Irshad al-ʿAql al-Salim ila Mazaya al-Qur'an al-Karim (7:103):

"This [33:33], as you see, is an explicit verse and a radiant proof that the wives of the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him - are among the People of his House (min Ahli Baytihi), ruling once and for all the invalidity of the opinion of the Shiʿis who narrow it to mean only Fatima, ʿAli, and their two sons - Allah be well-pleased with them. As for what they claim as their proof [hadith of the Mantle], it only shows that they [the Four] are part of Ahl al-Bayt, not that other than them are excluded."

WAllahu aʿlam.

Hajj Gibril

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© GF Haddad
[Sun, 29 Oct 2000]







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