In Arabic, There are certain nouns which render the meaning of plurality. Such nouns are known in the Arabic grammar as “إسْم الجَمْع [ism jama] noun of plural” or “collective noun”. Al-Ghalaayini (2004:217) refers to the collective noun as implying the meaning of plurality, but it has no oneness in its form just in its meaning having their singulars. He also adds that collectives can be treated as singular depending on their form, and they can be treated as plural depending on their meaning.
Ahle bayt is not a proper or common noun as many people have a misunderstanding that it’s a common noun, they try to use it in the manner in which “common noun” is used. And eventually with that faulty method they end up messing the whole issue. So I would like to emphasize in clearing this misunderstanding that “Ahlebayt” is a “collective noun”, And its usage is not like that of a common noun. Because when a group is addressed with a “collective noun” regardless of their gender or number of the individuals being addressed the pronoun used for the collective noun will be “masculine plural”. The pronouns used for collective nouns doesn’t depend on the gender or number of the individuals being addressed.
Even if a group of females is being addressed with a collective noun, then the pronoun that will be used for it will be masculine plural. And even if a single female is addressed with collective pronoun then the pronoun that will be used will again be masculine plural. Importantly in the examples we are going to use, we will be emphasizing on usage of collective noun as a second noun or third noun BUT WHEN ADDRESSED IS DIRECTLY , because in quran in multiple places the word “Ahl” sometimes is not addressed directly, but the word there is his Ahl/her Ahl.
Before we start the examples let me give you a basic example to understand what was explained above.
For eg: For a proper noun which is singular masculine .
May peace be on you O’Ali,
Then in Arabic the pronoun used for the noun(ali) will be “ka” i.e. singular masculine pronoun, because “Ali” is a singular masculine noun.
In Arabic it will be in this form.
Salam alai (ka) ya ali.
For a proper noun which is singular feminine .
May peace be on you O’ Fatima
Then in Arabic the pronoun used for the noun(fatima) will be “ki” which is singular feminine pronoun, because “Fatima” is a singular feminine noun.
In Arabic it will be in this form.
Salam alai (ki) ya fatima.
For collective noun:
Now here for the same statement when the noun being addressed is changed to collective noun then regardless of the gender of individuals or their number the “pronoun” that will be used for collective noun will be masculine plural. This pronoun will be same(i.e masculine plural) for a group of males if being addressed with collective noun or just a group of females if they are being addressed with collective noun or a single female if being addressed with collective noun or a single male being addressed with collective noun. For All these scenarios the pronoun used will be masculine plural, and remember this is not because of the gender or quantity of the individuals being addressed but because they were addressed with collective noun then by default the pronoun used will be masculine plural.
Suppose a “single women” is being addressed with the collective noun (ahlebayt),
For eg: Peace and blessing be upon you O, ahlebayt.
In Arabic it will be in this form.
Salam alai (kum) ya ahlebayt
The pronoun used here for the collective noun(ahlebayt) was “kum” which is masculine plural pronoun, because regardless single women is addressed with the collective noun or a group of females or a single male or a group of males , the pronoun that is used for all these scenarios will be masculine plural(kum).
Proofs and examples from classical Arabic literature that for collective noun the pronoun used is masculine plural(kum) regardless of gender or quantity of the individuals addressed.
قَالُواْ أَتَعْجَبِينَ مِنْ أَمْرِ اللّهِ رَحْمَتُ اللّهِ وَبَرَكَاتُهُ عَلَيْكُمْ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ إِنَّهُ حَمِيدٌ مَّجِيدٌ
She said: O wonder! shall I bear a son when I am an extremely old woman and this my husband an extremely old man? Most surely this is a wonderful thing. They said: Do you wonder at Allah’s bidding? The mercy of Allah and His blessings are on you(KUM), O people of the house(ahlebayt), surely He is Praised, Glorious.(quran 11:72-73)
Comment: In the verse above, the angels are addressing the wife of prophet Abraham(as), which is also evident by the phrase ‘أَتَعْجَبِينَ’ which is a singular feminine second person form. When the next construction comes with ‘أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ’, the gender changes to masculine ‘عَلَيْكُمْ’ despite the fact that the addressee is a lady, i.e. prophet Abraham (as)’s wife. Though a single lady is being addressed here but because she was addressed with collective noun(ahlebayt), the pronoun that was used for her was (kum) which is masculine plural this is the reason for the change in gender of the pronoun, which changed from feminine singular to masculine plural.
The shias who lack academic knowledge are desperate to some how reject this explanation, so they might say that masculine plural pronoun(kum) was used in the verse after singular feminine was used, because the wife of hz ibrahim(as) was pregnant. To them we reply that : Firstly, nowhere does the quran says she was pregnant , it just says that she was given a glad tiding of the birth of a child, moreover within the verse it also gives gladtidings of a grandson , no one even the most foolish shia on earth will say that someone was pregnant with that grandson at that time too, because of the glad tidings. Similarily, when Maryam ['Alaiha Al Salam] was given glad tidings of Easa ['Alaihi Al Salam] she was not pregnant at the time [Refer 3:45, 19:19-20, etc].
Secondly, the arabic word used in the verse(11:71) is ضحكت (Dahikat), Now a good portion of their(shia) scholars explained it as meaning حاضت (or menstruated).
Their scholar Al-Fayd Al-Kashani, for example, [the scholar of his Time and Age - according to them] said in his Tafseer: Al-’Ayashi from [the way of] Al-Sadiq ‘Alaihi Al salam [said: that Dahikat means] Haadhat (she menstruated), same as Al-Qumi who added that she had not had her period for a long time before.
Al-Qumi [said]: Dhahikat meaning Haadhat (she menstruated), and it (i.e. her menstrual cycle) had stopped long before that (i.e. before she menstruated that time, she had not had her period for a long time before that).
There is another Hadeeth in their book with a SaHeeH isnaad that talk about this.
في كتاب معاني الاخبار ابى رحمه الله قال: حدثنا سعد بن عبد الله عن يعقوب بن يزيد عن ابن ابى عمير عن عبد الرحمن بن الحجاج عن ابى عبد الله عليه السلام في قول الله عز و جل: «فضحكت فبشرناها بإسحق» قال: حاضت.
Here is the SaHeeH hadeeth from Al-Sadooq’s Ma`aanee Al-akhbaar that tells us that this explanation (i.e. that she menstruated) has been authentically reported from one of the Shia infallible Imams.
Thus, It actually says that she didn’t have her period for a long time before she got it this time (refer to the words of Al-Qumi mentioned above which affirms this) meaning that she was Not pregnant at the time. A pregnant women does not menstruate. Based on this, my question would be: According to these scholars and Al-Sadiq (who is infallible according to them), and the understanding they put forth, why would Sarah(as) be addressed with masculine plural pronoun(kum) ?
يَا نِسَاءَ النَّبِيِّ لَسْتُنَّ كَأَحَدٍ مِّنَ النِّسَاءِ إِنِ اتَّقَيْتُنَّ فَلَا تَخْضَعْنَ بِالْقَوْلِ فَيَطْمَعَ الَّذِي فِي قَلْبِهِ مَرَضٌ وَقُلْنَ قَوْلًا مَّعْرُوفًا وَقَرْنَ فِي بُيُوتِكُنَّ وَلَا تَبَرَّجْنَ تَبَرُّجَ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ الْأُولَى وَأَقِمْنَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتِينَ الزَّكَاةَ وَأَطِعْنَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنكُمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيرًا
O Consorts of the Prophet! Ye are not like any of the (other) women: if ye do fear (Allah), be not too complacent of speech, lest one in whose heart is a disease should be moved with desire: but speak ye a speech (that is) just. And stay quietly in your houses, and make not a dazzling display, like that of the former Times of Ignorance; and establish regular Prayer, and give regular Charity; and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah only wishes to remove all abomination from you(kum), ye members of the Family(ahlebayt) and to make you(kum) pure and spotless. (33:32-33)
Comment: Even in this quranic verse we see that, a group of females (i.e wives of prophet(saw)) are being addressed, but when they were addressed with collective noun(ahlebayt), the pronoun that was used there was masculine plural (i.e kum), So we observed a change in gender of the pronoun. As said previously that the gender or quantity of individuals being addressed as ahlebayt doesn’t effect the usage of pronoun for collective noun. That is why masculine plural pronoun(kum) was used here.
وَحَرَّمْنَا عَلَيْهِ الْمَرَاضِعَ مِن قَبْلُ فَقَالَتْ هَلْ أَدُلُّكُمْ عَلَى أَهْلِ بَيْتٍ يَكْفُلُونَهُ لَكُمْ وَهُمْ لَهُ نَاصِحُونَ
And We ordained that he refused to suck any foster mother before, so she said: Shall I point out to you the people of a house(ahli bayt) who will take care of him for you, and they(hum) will be benevolent to him? (Quran28:12)
Comment : Similarly in this verse, the phrase ‘أَهْلَ الْبَيْت’ is used clearly in the context of a lady, while the gender is masculine again ‘يَكْفُلُونَهُ’ and ‘وَهُمْ’. It is because the collective noun (ahlebayt) was used in this verse for mother of moses(as) we see a masculine plural pronoun(hum) used for a single lady.
Aqa Mahdi Puya says: The mother of Musa is referred to as Ahli Bayt, not as the wife of Imran but as the mother of Musa. Likewise Sara is referred to as Ahli Bayt in verse 73 of Hud as the mother of Is-haq.. (28:12) (From Tafseer of Pooya/M.A. Ali. )
Shia scholar says the same, but tries to find his own benefit in it. Anyways atleast he agreed that a single lady was addressed while a masculine plural pronoun was used.
And it is possible that after reading this response the shia out of frustration may discredit the scholarship of their scholars too and might try to take a U-turn with their theories , they might say that, in this verse a complete household is being addressed, not just a single lady. So to such arguments we answer from the quran itself . Because the best way to explain the Quran is, through the Quran itself. For, what the Quran alludes to at one place is explained at the other, and what it says in brief on one occasion is elaborated upon at the other.
Quran says: See how We repeat the verses that they may understand.” (6:65)
“And certainly We have repeated for mankind in this Quran, every kind of similitude, but the majority of mankind do not consent to aught but denying.” (17:89)
Its clear from quran that there was no need for a complete household, But just a single woman who could nurse the child. So why would sister of Moses(as) refer to a complete household? Moreover another verse of quran is more clear to solve the confusion that was it a complete household addressed by sister of moses(as) or just a single lady with the term “ahlebayt” ?
Your sister went to them and said, “May I show you “someone” who will nurse this child?”(sarwar shia translator, 20:40)
Even explained similarly by shia commentators:She told the men of Pharaoh whether she introduced a “woman” to them who was able to nurse the baby. The verse continues saying: (“…’Shall I direct you to one who will nurse him?’ …”) Maybe, she added that this “woman” had a pure milk so that she was sure that the child would accept it. (The Light of The Holy Qur’an by Ayatullah Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and A Group of Muslim Scholars, under explanation of verse 20:40) )
From popular Shia website, Al-Islam.org, which contains the authentic Shia Tafseer of Pooya/M.A. Ali. :When it was picked by Firawn’s family and they seemed to love the child, she appeared before them and promised to bring a good “wet-nurse” for the child.(pooya ali, tafseer al islam.org 20:40)
Similar is said in another shia tafseer i.e Tafseer namuna vol 7, page 359
Even sunni commentators explain the same:
she then said, “Shall I show you “someone” who will take care of him?”. Her offer was accepted and so she brought [them] his “mother” and he took to her breasts.(tafseer jalalayn 20:40)
She meant , “Shall I guide you to “someone” who can nurse him for you for a fee” So she took him and they went with her to his real mother.(tafseer ibn katheer, 20:40)
Quran itself answers such misunderstandings , where it clears that sister of moses(as) referred to single women “someone”… the Qur’an is its own best commentary . As we proceed with the study of the Book, we find how true this is. A careful comparison and collation of passages from the Qur’an removes many difficulties.
Thus we see here that just for a single lady plural pronoun was used because she was addressed with a collective noun(ahlebayt).
إِذْ رَأَى نَارًا فَقَالَ لِأَهْلِهِ امْكُثُوا إِنِّي آنَسْتُ نَارًا لَّعَلِّي آتِيكُم مِّنْهَا بِقَبَسٍ أَوْ أَجِدُ عَلَى النَّارِ هُدًى
When he saw a fire and said to his wife(ahli), “Wait – I have seen a fire – perhaps I may bring you an ember from it or find a way upon the fire.”(ahmed raza khan barelwi, kanzul eman , 20:10)
Commentaries for this verse:
1. Allah begins to mention the story of Musa, how revelation began to come to Him, and Allah’s speaking directly to him. This occurred after Musa had completed the time agreed upon between he and his father-in-law that he would herd sheep. He was traveling with his family, and it has been said that he was headed for the land of Egypt , after having been away from it for more than ten years. He had his wife with him and he became lost on the way during a cold, wintery night . Therefore, he settled down, making a camp between some mountain passes and mountains that were covered with snow, sleet, dense clouds, darkness and fog.(tafseer ibn katheer, for verse 20:10)
2. Here we see Moses (peace be upon him) on the road between Madyan and Egypt, close to Mount Sinai, returning with his wife after he had completed the term he had agreed with the Prophet Shu`ayb. This agreement meant that Shu`ayb would give him one of his two daughters in marriage in return for eight or ten years during which he would be his assistant. He most probably spent ten years before he felt that he could leave with his wife to return to the country where he grew up. There the Children of Israel, Moses’ people, lived in subjugation.(In the shade of quran, by sayyid qutub, volume XI , surah 20, verse 10.)
3. When he caught sight of a fire and said to his family, namely, to his wife, ‘Wait, here! — this was when he was leaving Midian, heading for Egypt — Indeed I see a fire [in the distance]. Perhaps I [can] bring you a brand from it, [bring you] a burning wick or a torch, or find at the fire some guidance’, that is, someone to guide me by showing me the [proper] route — for he had lost it in the darkness of the night (tafseer jalalayn for 20:10)
4. When the thought to return to his native place came, he set out with his wife.((tafseer ul quran by zafar hasan founder of jamia imamia) volume 3, page 243, surah 20 verse 10) [shia commentary]
فَلَمَّا قَضَى مُوسَى الْأَجَلَ وَسَارَ بِأَهْلِهِ آنَسَ مِن جَانِبِ الطُّورِ نَارًا قَالَ لِأَهْلِهِ امْكُثُوا إِنِّي آنَسْتُ نَارًا لَّعَلِّي آتِيكُم مِّنْهَا بِخَبَرٍ أَوْ جَذْوَةٍ مِنَ النَّارِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَصْطَلُونَ
a. When Moses completed the term of the contract and departed from his employer with his family, he saw a fire (on his way) on one side of the Mount (Sinai). He asked his wife, “Stay here. I can see some fire. Perhaps I will be able to bring some news of it or some fire for you to warm-up yourselves.”(sarwar, shia translator, 28:29)
b. So when Moosa completed his term and was travelling with his wife, he saw a fire in the direction of the Mount (Sinai); he said to his wife “Stay here – I have sighted a fire in the direction of the mount – perhaps I may bring you(kum) some news from it, or an ember so that you(kum) may warm yourselves.”(ahmed raza khan barelwi, kazul eman, 28:29)
c. So when Musa (Moses) completed the appointed term and set out with his wife, he saw a fire in the direction of Tur. (That was a flash of Absolute Beauty which caught his heart and fascinated him.) He said to his wife: ‘Stay (here). I have seen a fire. I may bring you some news (about Him) from that (fire in Whose pursuit I have long been wandering), or (I may bring you) some burning brand from the (febrile) fire so that you (too) may feel the burn.’ (28:29) irfan ul quran, Dr. tahir ul qadri(the favourite sunni scholar of shias)
Commentary for this verse:
So when Moses had completed the term, of his tending — of eight years, or of ten years, which is what is generally assumed — and was travelling with his family, “his wife”, with the permission of her father, in the direction of Egypt, he saw in the distance on the side of the Mount [Tūr] a fire (al-Tūr is the name of a mountain). He said to his family, ‘Wait, here; I see a fire in the distance. (tafseer jalalayn for 28:29)
(Recall that incident) when Musa (Moses) said to his “wife”: ‘I have seen a fire (or I have perceived a flash of love and liking in the fire). Soon I will bring you some news from it (for which we have been wandering in deserts and forests since long), or I bring (you also from there) some burning brand so that you (too) may feel the burn (of its heat).’(27:7) tahir ul qadri, irfan ul quran)
Commentaries for this verse:
Moses accompanied with his wife who was pregnant, and they were going from Madyan towards Egypt. On one side, the darkness of the night in the cold stormy weather of the desert, and, on the other side, the childbirth of his wife, forced Moses to search. The verses under discussion are about this event. The verse says: “ (Remember) When Moses said unto his family: ‘Verily I perceive a fire; …” “… soon will I bring you news of it, or I will bring you a flaming brand, that you warm yourselves.” This event happened by the same night when Moses was in a dark desert on the way toward Egypt, accompanied with his “wife”, Shu‘ayb’s daughter, and he lost the way. Then a terrible storm began to blow and at the same time his wife felt the pains of childbirth. Moses thought he severely needed to make a fire in order to use its warmth, but there was nothing in that desert for it. As soon as he saw the light of a flame from distance, he became happy and took it as a sign of the existence of someone or some ones there. He told them that he would go and bring them either some news from it, or a burning firebrand so that they might warm themselves by it.
It is noteworthy that Moses says he brings ‘them’ news or a flaming band, (the pronoun of which plural). This may show that there had been a child or children with him too, because his marriage bad happened in Madyan ten years before that. Or it may be for the sake that, in that horrible desert, that idea could give some further calmness to his addressees. (The Light of The Holy Qur’an by Ayatullah Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and A Group of Muslim Scholars, under explanation of verse 27:7)
Note: This shia mufassir explicitly mentions that hz musa(as) was just with his wife, but he makes some hypothetical assumptions just for sake of defending their self made arguments against verse of tatheer. And these assumptions are extremely weak because its not compulsory that if a man marries a woman he should have children.. take for example of hz ibrahim(as) he didn’t have children for decades of his marriage. And its not necessary that if the children were born they should have survived until hz musa(as) started the journey. So such assumptions are simply illogical. However we will refute his assumptions from his own master, the books which the shias themselves consider very authentic, here is Tafseer from Majmua al bayan, it states:
قال الزجاج: العامل في إذ أذكر أي أذكر في قصة موسى إذ قال لأهله أي امرأته وهي بنت شعيب
Al-Zajaaj said: remember in the story of Musa when he told his Ahl (إذ قال لأهله) meaning his Wife and she was the Daughter of Shu’aib (tafseer majmua al bayan, surah naml verse 7)
In the verses above (28:29) (20:10) and (27:7) which are describing a same incident in different chapters of quran, Masculine plural pronoun(kum) was used to address wife of hz musa(as). Though majority of translators translated word “ahl” as family in these verses, but the shia translator muhammed sarwar as well as couple of sunni translators like ahmed raza khan barelwi and the favourite sunni scholar of shias Dr. tahir ul qadri specifically translated the word ahl as wife. And these scholars of Arabic language didn’t find it odd or weird translating that “ahli” refered in the verse as wife of hz musa(as) though a masculine plural noun (kum) was used to address her. This is because they were aware of the rule were are discussing here.
And even the shia commentators of quran like Shaykh Abu Ali Fazl ibn al-Hassan ibn al-Fazl al-Tabarsi about whose tafseer its said: “Tafseer Majma ul Bayan”, that is considered to be an authentic commentary by the Shi’a Ithna Ashari[Mazahib-ul-Islam, Page 447, Allamah Najam-ul-Ghani Rampuri.
It unequivocally states that : In the story of Musa when he told his Ahl (إذ قال لأهله) meaning his Wife and she was the Daughter of Shu’aib (tafseer majmua al bayan, surah naml verse 7)
Moreover zafar hasan a shia scholar and sunni commentators of quran ibn katheer, suyuti and sayyid qutub explicitly mentioned that hz musa(as) was traveling with his wife. And these masters of Arabic didn’t find it weird to mention in their works that “Ahl” in this verse was wife of hz musa(as). All these scholars surely would have noticed the verses before translating or writing its commentary that the verses contain a masculine plural pronoun(kum) and if they had any doubt then it was easy for them to just mention that hz musa(as) was traveling with his family(ahl), not namely mentioning his “wife” , but we find all these shia as well as sunni translators and commentators who had a great command over Arabic language mentioned that hz musa(as) was with his wife without any hesitation though a masculine plural noun was used to address “ahl” in the verse.
Though we know that there are some recent tafseers from shia scholars which say that, hz musa(as) had two sons too along with his wife (which isn’t backed by any authentic Islamic historical proof, but which is taken from Christian sources whose reliability is not accepted by muslims and which goes against their classical tafseer considered authetic by them) with whom hz musa(as) was traveling. But our main intention here for bringing this proof is not to argue along with whom hz musa(as) was traveling because its their choice whether to follow corrupted christian sources or their own tafseer which is considered authentic among them. But the main reason to mention this proof is to show our readers that, a number of shia as well sunni scholars who mastered in Arabic language without any doubt translated “ahl” in that verse as wife though a masculine plural noun(kum) was used there. Or mentioned in there commentaries that hz musa(as) was with his wife what all he said was to his wife. So if some of the shias out of fear of accepting the truth and because of their biasness want to challenge the scholarship of these shias as well as sunni scholars then its their wish. And if this seems to be a weak proof to them, then we would like to say them that , we just used this proof as a backup for rest of the five examples we are going to give in this article.
The next two examples from authentic narrations(ahadees) of prophet(Saw), just to show the usage of collective noun in Arabic literature.
قال أنس: وشهدت وليمة زينب. فأشبع الناس خبزا ولحما. وكان يبعثني فأدعوا الناس. فلما فرغ قام وتبعته. فتخلف رجلان استأنس بهما الحديث. لم يخرجا. فجعل يمر على نسائه. فيسلم على كل واحدة منهن “سلام عليكم. كيف أنتم يا أهل البيت؟” فيقولون: بخير. يا رسول الله ! كيف وجدت أهلك ؟ فيقول “بخير
Anas(ra) said: I also saw the wedding feast of Zainab, and he (the Holy Prophet) served bread and meat to the people, and made them eat to their heart’s content, and he (the Holy Prophet) sent me to call people, and as he was free (from the ceremony) he stood up and I followed him. Two persons were left and they were busy in talking and did not get out (of the apartment). He (the Holy Prophet) then proceeded towards (the apartments of) his wives. He greeted with as−Salamu ‘alaikum to every one of them and said: Members of the household(ahlebayt), how are you(kum)? They said: Messenger of Allah, we are in good state ‘How do you find your family? He would say: In good state. (sahi muslim Bk 8, Number 3328)
Similar narration is present in Sahih Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 316 : Narrated Anas: A banquet of bread and meat was held on the occasion of the marriage of the Prophet to Zainab bint Jahsh. I was sent to invite the people (to the banquet), and so the people started coming (in groups). They would eat and then leave. Another batch would come, eat and leave. So I kept on inviting the people till I found nobody to invite.
Then I said, “O Allah’s Prophet! I do not find anybody to invite.”
He (the Prophet) said, “Carry away the remaining food.” Then a batch of three persons stayed in the house chatting. The Prophet left and went towards the dwelling place of Aisha and said, “Peace and Allah’s Mercy be on you(KUM), Ya Ahlel Bayt (O the people of the house)!”
She replied, “Peace and the mercy of Allah be on you too. How did you find your wife? May Allah bless you.”
Then he went to the dwelling places of all his other wives and said to them the same as he said to Aisha and they said to him the same as Aisha had said to him.
Comment: here we see that , just a single lady is being addressed as ahlebayt, but still the pronoun used is (KUM) which is masculine plural noun was used and as explained previously its because the single lady was addressed with collective noun(ahlebayt). Also to note is that, when prophet(saw) in this narration addressed his wife with collective noun(ahlebayt) he used the pronoun for it as (kum), but when the wife of prophet(Saw) replied him she used the pronoun as ( ka) which is singular masculine, because she did not address him with collective noun.
وثبت عن فاطمة -رضي الله عنها- أنها رضيت عن أبي بكر بعد ذلك، وماتت وهي راضية عنه، على ماروى البيهقي بسنده عن الشعبي أنه قال: (لما مرضت فاطمة أتاها أبو بكر الصديق فاستأذن عليها، فقال علي: يافاطمة هذا أبو بكر يستأذن عليك؟ فقالت: أتحب أن آذن له؟ قال: نعم، فأذنت له فدخل عليها يترضاها، فقال: والله ما تركت الدار والمال، والأهل والعشيرة، إلا إبتغاء مرضاة الله، ومرضاة رسوله، ومرضاتكم أهل البيت، ثم ترضاها حتى رضيت)- السنن الكبرى للبيهقي 6/301-
When Fatima became ill, Abu Bakr came to her and asked for permission to enter. So Ali said, ‘O Fatima, this is Abu Bakr asking for permission to enter.’ She answerd, ‘Do you want me to give him permission?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ So she allowed him (to enter), and he came in seeking her pleasure, so he told her: ‘By Allah, I only left my home and property and my family seeking the pleasure of Allah and His Messenger and you(KUM), O Ahlel Bayt.’ So he talked to her until she was pleased with him.” (Sunan Al-Bayhaqi)
This Hadith is narrated by Bayhaqi in al Sunan al Kubra (6:300-301) and Dala’il al-Nubuwwa (7:273-281) who said: “It is narrated with a good (hasan) chain.” Muhibb al Din al-Tabari cited it in al Riyad Al Nadira (2:96-97 #534) and Dhahabi in the Siyar (Ibid). Ibn Kathir states it as Sahih in his Al Bidayah and Ibn Hajar in his Fath Al Bari.
Comment: In this narration too we see that when hz Fatima(ra) was addressed, and only she was being addressed until she was pleased but what to notice here is that when she was addressed with collective noun (i.e ahlebayt) the pronoun that was used was masculine plural(kum) though she was the single lady who was being addressed.
Reason we are emphasizing on the usage of collective noun and why it is very important to understand?
The reason is that many shia scholars have completely misunderstood verses of quran and some of them not only misunderstood but they made blunders just because of the misunderstanding in this issue. They concluded that the verses of quran , like ayat e tatheer(33:33) are not in the proper order in which it should have been, and they were deliberately placed in the place where it is present now, which in short means there have been tahreef done in quran. And the main reason for this view of theirs is because in verse (33:33) masculine plural pronoun(kum) was used. And as the gender changed from feminine(while addressing to wives of prophet(saw)) to masculine they were confused and eventually concluded that the verse itself is not in the proper order.
Here are some examples:
The Tafseer e Farman Ali is relied upon heavily by the Shia. It is a translation of the Quran along with commentary by Farman Ali. The book is used by Answering-Ansar and hence there should be no question about its authenticity in the eyes of the Shia. In the commentary of verse 33:33, this Shia Tafseer reads: “If we take out this verse (of purification) from the middle, and then we read the verse (addressed to the wives) from the beginning to the end, we then find no fault in it and it looks better in this form. From this, it is clear that this verse (of purification) does not belong to this place and it was added deliberately for some special purpose.”
(source: Tafseer e Farman Ali, Commentary on Verse 33:33)
In the commentary of verse 11:73, this Shia Tafseer reads: In the verse before this one, Hadhrat Sara (as) was addressed with the present feminine singular form and in this verse she was addressed with the singular masculine present form, which clearly shows that the people who are addressed in this verse are not the same people and this verse was inserted here without any (justifiable) reason.”
(source: Tafseer e Farman Ali, Commentary on Verse 11:73)
The Shia scholar, Sayyid Mujtaba Musavi Lari, in the Shia book “Imamate and Leadership” quotes Allamah Sharaf al-Din (Kalimat al-Ghurra’, p.213) as follows:
“Although we are convinced that no distortion has taken place in the verses of the Noble Qur’an and that our heavenly Book has not been tampered with in any way, it is by no means clear that the arrangement and recension of the verses is precisely that in which they were revealed. For it is quite possible that the ‘purification verse’ concerning the People of the House was revealed separately and then, when the verses of the Qur’an were being assembled, was placed in the middle of the verses relating to the wives of the Prophet, either in error or deliberately.”
The “Khateem al-Muhhaditheen” al-Majlissi says a similar thing in “Bihar al-Anwar”
“It is possible that the purification verse was added at this part (of the verse) claiming that it was referring to the wives, or they added in the verses addressing the prophet’s wives, to suit their religious needs…Even if we accept that there was no tampering (by the Companions) in the order (of the verses), we say there are many narrations which discuss the removal/canceling of Quranic verses. [Maybe there were verses before and after the verse of purification and they were removed]; if these verses were not removed before and after the verse (of purification), we would see the apparent link between them.”(source: Bihar al-Anwar, pp.234-235
The great Shia Mufassir of this era, Tabatabai, writes: “The verse (of purification), in accordance to the (order of) revelation, was initially not a part of the verse about the Prophet’s wives and had no link to these verses, but rather it was later added between these verses either by the Prophet, or after his death when the Quran was compiled.”(source: al-Mizan, Vol.16, p.321,)
Question: Did Uthman reorder some of the verses to be in line with the politics of that time, for example did he take part in placing the verse of Tatheer between the verses that are speaking about the wives of the Prophet in Surah Al-Ahzab?
The answer of Al-Sayid Ali Al-Milani
Yes, we believe that the location of the verse of Tatheer, and the verse: ([On] This day I have perfected for you your religion), and others like it is from the action of those people
And there are many, thus we request the readers to concentrate in understanding the usage of collective noun in Arabic grammar , because if its not understood then they are bound to make mistakes like the shia scholars above committed.
Another reason for such change in gender of the pronoun
If the above explanation doesn’t seem to be satisfactory to shias then there is another way of explaining them the reason for sudden change in gender of pronouns from feminine to masculine, and this is held by some scholars of Ahlesunnah.
The verse was revealed to the Prophet (saw) and was referring to his wives, and thus the term Ahlel Bayt was used, in reference to the Prophet and his wives. It should be clear that the Messenger of Allah(saw) was the head of his household(ahlebayt), even Bukhari has narrated from Abu Bakr(ra) that he said: “Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) should be considered to belong to his Ahlul Bayt.” (Ibn Hajar in Sawaaiqul Muhriqa, pg. 228). And there are even narrations where prophet(Saw) included himself Among the “Ahlebayt”, for eg: Ibn Adi mentions in his book from Abu Saeed Khudri that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “One who hates us, the Ahlul Bayt, is a hypocrite.” (Zakhairul Uqba, pg.180). So, in order to include him, it was incumbent to use the article “ Meem” that denotes talking about a group of men. For he was a man and a leader of his household, thus necessitating the usage of the collective masculine tense. If there is even one male in a group of females, then the collective masculine tense becomes necessary. Its not that if there are women out numbering men then a feminine pronoun should be used, no! even if there is a single man present in group of females then a masculine plural pronoun becomes necessary. As we know that women are some times included even when people are addressed with masculine noun. Like (يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا)(O you who believe!) (33:69)
For more explanation of this, we should refer to the verse wherein Allah talks about Prophet Ibraahim (Pbuh).
“ They said: Do you wonder of Allah’s decree? The grace of Allah and His blessings on you, oh ye people of the house ! For He is indeed worthy of all praise, full of glory.” Quran 11 : 73
Since Abraham was also included in his family, the Holy Qur’an addressed his wife using musculine plural of men with the article ”Meem” as it is customary in the Arabic grammar. For the plural of men is applied even though there is only one man in the group of females according to the classical Arabic. So, if there is even one male in a group of females, then the collective masculine tense becomes necessary.
If Allah was purposefully switching tenses and this so clearly showed Allah’s intention, why then do the Shia Ulema(as shown above) argue that there had been Tahreef bit Tarteeb (i.e. tampering in the order of verses) of the Quran? How was Allah purposefully switching tenses when it was supposedly the Sahabah who manipulated the Quran’s order and it was they who decided the order, not Allah? This, to us, does not make any logical sense. How can the Shia further two contradictory claims, on the one hand claiming that the Sahabah may have purposefully placed the purification verse in the middle of the verses to the Prophet’s wives, and on the other hand claiming that this was Allah who was purposefully switching tenses to prove some point?
Thus, these were the reasons because of which you find the sudden change from feminine pronouns to masculine plural pronouns, and People who are familiar with Quran to some extent, know that such a change is not a weird-thing, and it has been applied to several places in Quran as well as some authentic narrations as we have proved above.
Answering some of shias
a sharp change of addressee is not a weird-thing, and it has been applied to several places in Quran. For instance we read in Quran:”O Joseph! pass this over and (O wife of Aziz!) ask forgiveness for your sin, for truly you have been at fault.”(Quran 12:29)
In the above verse, “O wife of Aziz” has not been mentioned and the address to Joseph (AS) looks to continue. However the transition of the address from masculine gender to feminine gender clearly shows that the second sentence is addressing the Aziz’s wife and not Prophet Joseph (AS).
We have already given sufficient proof that what was the reason for the sudden change in gender of the pronouns. But the ones who are biased may not consider it sufficient to remove their misconceptions. But at the end of the day we have proved the actual and most important argument of shias (i.e the change in gender of pronouns in 33:33) from the proofs of classical arabic literature.
And the example they used in not at all a proof in their favor because if you read the whole passage from where they quoted the verse, you can easily find out that for whom the feminine pronoun was used. And it is nothing out of context. Its a part of the story. The women who is referred there for whom the feminine pronoun was used is not alien to the passage if you refer the verses (12:23-32) you can easily make out that the one who was addressed with feminine pronoun was the lady who was addressed in the initial and later verses of the same chapter. How will it appear to shias if someone comes up and says that the one being addressed there with feminine pronoun was not the one who was addressed in the initial verses? Will they not mock the one who holds this view, because its apparent from the context itself that the one who was addressed with feminine pronoun was the very same lady, and views other than that are wrong.
So why don’t they do the same for the verse 33:33, because the whole passage is for the wives of prophet(Saw) (who too are Ahlebayt atleast in general sense according to shias) the initial and later verse of 33:33 address the wives of prophet(saw), then why is it that they think the ones who were not even mentioned in the whole surah(ahzab) are suddenly addressed even without a noun but a pronoun.
As we have said that wives of prophet(Saw) according to shias are ahlebayt in general atleast, then why did Allah put the verse of quran in the middle of the passage where wives of prophet(Saw)(who too are general ahlebayt) were being addressed. And even with usage of pronoun not even a noun, so if this was revealed for Ahle kisa who are nowhere even mentioned in the whole chapter then how can the shias claim that book of Allah is easily understandable. Allah has mentioned it many times in the Quran that it is a Book of clear guidance, and that it is written in an easily understandable form. Allah Almighty says in the Quran: “These are the signs of the clear book.” (12:1) How clear is the Quran if an unbiased reader will think that it is the Prophet’s wives who are being referred to but in reality it is supposed to be Ali’s family(ra) ? What prevented Allah from simply ending this confusion and instead clearly saying “O cousin of the Prophet and his family” instead of “O wives of the Prophet?” Why this confusion? Why did Allah place this verse of purification in the middle of commands directed towards the Prophet’s wives? Wouldn’t this mean that this is far from a clear book but rather it is a cryptic and confusing book?
But if you see this from a correct perspective then you will easily understand that it was for wives of prophet(Saw) and the change in gender of pronouns was nothing weird as we have proved from other examples from quran.
Feminine pronouns are used in the whole passage, before and after, for the wives but here in the middle all of a sudden the plural masuline is used and why does immediately after this verse does it revert back to the feminine AGAIN?
Reply 1: The Qur’an is the book which is not arranged in chronological order, rather, after Allah had completely revealed the Qur’an to the Prophet (pbuh), he(saw) was instructed to arrange each verse and chapter in the place we find them today. For example “Read [O Muhammad!] in the name of your Lord who created. (96.1) He created man from a clot” , we find that the first verse revealed was placed in 96th chapter, and the last verse revealed was , “Al yawma akmaltu lakum dinakam wa atmamtu alaikam ni’mati wa raditu’ lakumul islama dinan”,” which means “Today I perfected your religion for you and completed my favor to you and have chosen for you Al-Islam as your religion.” (5:3) , which is in the third verse of the 5th chapter. Thus we find that the Qur’an is not arranged in chronological order, rather, after God had completed revealing the Qur’an to the Prophet (pbuh), he was instructed to arrange each verse and chapter in the place we find them today. There is consensus that it was Prophet Muhammad who identified the place of each verse within its chapter. There are a number of hadiths in the Musnad of Ahmad bin Hanbal (164-241 H / 780-855 CE), Sunnan of at-Tirmithi (209-279 H / 824-892 CE), and other hadith sources that state that the Messenger used to tell the recorders of the revelation in which chapters to place newly revealed verses.
So the above question can be answered by saying that the verse of tatheer was not revealed in serial order with the verses before and after it , it was revealed seperately as evident from various ahadees and those verses which were before and after tatheer were already revealed but prophet(Saw)commanded verse of tatheer to be placed in that position. That is why we find the verses before it and after it in feminine form. YET it did not change anything because we know that the masculine forms that were used in tatheer were because of the collective noun AHLEBAYT(as mentioned by al-samarkandi (d. 375 AH)) in tafsir bahrul ulum) and since the wives were addressed with that , it isn’t strange from the grammatical point of view and It is evident from various other examples from arabic literature (11:73) etc.
So the biggest argument shias had was why was such a change from femine to masculine in the initial part of the verse. Which led some of them to think that the verse of tatheer was deliberately placed in place where it is found now by some evil sahaba. But in our article we have dealt this reason for a sudden change from feminine to masculine in a detailed manner providing several proofs from Quranic verses (11:72-73 , etc) and authentic arabic literature. So now the argument that why again the gender changes back to feminine should not be a concern, as we have already explained the reason behind it.
Reply 2: We have already answered the reason why the change in gender of the pronouns took place from feminine to masculine, as the similar thing happened in (11:73) . Regarding the query that why did the gender of pronouns again changed back to feminine gender, then another answer to it is, because when the word “Ahlebayt” was used even prophet(Saw) was included since messenger of Allah(saw) was the head of his household(ahlebayt) and even Bukhari has narrated from Abu Bakr(ra) that he said: “Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) should be considered to belong to his Ahlul Bayt.” (Ibn Hajar in Sawaaiqul Muhriqa, pg. 228). Thus if the same gender would have been continued then the commands in the verse(34) which were given to wives of prophet(Saw) would have been applied to prophet(Saw) also. So, inorder to prevent that the verse again switched to its normal manner in which it was addressing the wives of prophet(Saw).
Word ‘Ahl Al Bayt’ is collective noun, So pronoun attached with noun depends upon number of persons addressed as well as their gender.
ahlihinna(4:25) their family 3rd person feminine plural possessive pronoun
ahlihi (4:25) his family 3rd person masculine singular possessive pronoun
ahlihā(4:25) her family. 3rd person feminine singular possessive pronoun
ahlika(12:25) your wife 2nd person masculine singular possessive pronoun
ahlikum(12:93) your family 2nd person masculine plural possessive pronoun
In all these examples the collective noun is not being addressed directly rather a person to whom the family belongs is being addressed. So the gender of the pronoun is related to them.
Let us explain in a different manner, In the examples that were provided, the one who is being refered on that person depends the usage of pronouns.. Suppose We say: bring your(female) family(ahl)sister;.. (your) in this example is for female , thus the pronoun that will be used will be in accordance to that sister not her family. And the person who knows basic grammar though it be english, will never raise such arguments.
Now let us show you the flaws in your theories from the example you used yourself:
ahlika(12:25) your wife 2nd person masculine singular possessive pronoun
In this example as you said ahl here is wife.. then you didn’t realize that the pronoun used was MASCULINE.. why? its just because what we have explained here.
Allah knows the best.
Article written by Ibn Ahmed Alhindi.