Definition of “Ahlel Bayt” from linguistic perspective

Definition of “Ahlel Bayt” from linguistic perspective.

In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful.

Arabic grammarians whether sunni or shia  are unequivocal in identifying the wives of a man as his Ahl/Ahlebayt(household).

In the classical Arab book of language “Lisan al-`Arab” volume 11 page 28, We read:

حكى سيبويه في جمع أهل أهلون وسئل الخليل لم سكنوا الهاء ولم يحركوها كما حركوا أرضين فقال لأن الأهل مذكر۔ لسان العرب ج 11 ص 28۔

Translation: Seebaweih said about the plural of Ahel: Ahloun, and al-Khalil was asked: why did they make Taskeen on the letter “Haa” of the word Ahel and did not make Tahreek for it like the word Ardeen? He replied: Because the word Ahel is masculine.

And in the same volume on page 29:

أهل المذهب: من يدين به۔ وأهل الإسلام: من يدين به۔ وأهل الأمر: ولاته۔
وأهل البيت: سكانه۔ وأهل الرجل: أخص الناس به۔ وأهل بيت النبي، صلى الله عليه وسلم: أزواجه وبناته وصهره، أعني عليا، عليه السلام، وقيل: نساء النبي، صلى الله عليه وسلم، والرجال الذين هم آله۔

Translation: Ahlul-Madhab: those who follow the Madhab. and Ahlul-Islam: those who believe in Islam. and Ahlul-Amr: the Wulat. and Ahlul-Bayt(Household): are those who live in it(House). and Ahlul-Rajol (Ahel of a man): are those who are closest to him. and Ahlul-Bayt of the Prophet(saw) are: his wives, his daughters, his brother in law, I mean `Ali peace be upon him, it is also said: The wives of the Prophet(saw) and the men who are from his Aal.

Al-Fayrooz Al-A’abadi says in Qamoos Al-Muheet: “Ahl Al-Amr is its rulers, Ahl Al-Bayt is its dwellers, Ahl Al-Mathhab (sect) is its who believe in it, Ahl Al-Rajul is his wife, and Ahl Al-Nabi is his wives, his daughters, and his son-in-law i.e. Ali may Allah be pleased of him.”Al-Zubaydi says in Taj Al-Aroos (The Bride’s Crown): “Ahl Al-Mathhab is its believers, Ahl Al-Rajul is his wife and children, and this is how the verse: “and was travelling with his family” is explained as his wives and family. Ahl Al-Nabi is his wives, daughters, and his son-in-law Ali. It was said that the descendant of a man is Ahl Al-Rajul

Ahl and Aal are the same in meaning. However, Ibn Manzur said in Lisan al-`arab, AAl is nobler in usage. Note that in Arabic a man’s “aal” denotes his wife, and that is also one of the meanings of a man’s “ahl.” See Lisan al-`arab under both entries, where it is also said that “AAl” means “ahl” in all the senses of “family,” relatives,” and “wives.”

The term “ahl” signifies the members of a household of a man, including his fellow tribesmen, kin, relatives, wife (or wives), children, and all those who share a family background, religion, housing, city, and country with him. “Ahl” and “aal” are both the same term with the exception that “aal” is exclusively used for human beings and should come before the family name, but such a condition is not existent in the case of “ahl“.

Bayt” refers to habitation and dwelling, including tents and buildings both. The “ahlalbayt” of any person refers to his family members and all those who live in his house (c.f. “Mufradat al-Qur’an” by Raghib Isfahani.

Note: We encourage our readers to verify this defintion by picking up any Arabic dictionary. There are three words to look up: Ahl, Bayt, and Ahl-Al-Bayt. Let us reproduce what one such Arabic dictionary has to say, although the results will no doubt be virtually identical in any other dictionary.

Ahl: collective noun; relatives including wives, children, brothers, sisters, and other kinsmen, and sometimes used to refer to fellow tribesmen

Bayt: noun; house; place of residence

Ahl-Al-Bayt: collective noun;  those people in relation to a man who live in his house, especially his wives and unmarried children that live in his house and are provided for by him.

Common Usage of the Term “Ahl-Al-Bayt”

Today, if we ask an Arab friend to come to our house with his Ahl-Al-Bayt, the default is that he will come to our house with his wife and children who are staying in his house. He might bring his married children or he might not. He might even bring a friend if the friend is a permanent resident of his house. But primarily, an Arab will understand from this that he should bring his wives, since this is the central and primary definition of the phrase “Ahl-Al-Bayt”.

An Arab will be extremely shocked if he finds that by Ahl-Al-Bayt we meant his cousin, married children, and grandchildren, all of whom live in another house. He will be extremely shocked that we do not mean his wife who lives in his Bayt. This is because for any Arab, the word Ahl-Al-Bayt (which literally means those staying in the house) includes the wife (or wives) of a person. This was in no way any different at the time of the Prophet. It is the same in all Arab countries. If we look at any popular book of Arabic words we will find that in the definition of Ahlel Bayt, wife is included. We would thus like to ask the Shia scholars  why they propagate a different definition of the word Ahlel Bayt? Why should it be that the Prophet’s wives are not part of Ahlel Bayt but rather the Infallible Imams are? In our opinion, this defies logic. In conclusion, Ahl al-Bayt has many meanings and according to context of 33:33 is: first the wives of the Prophet , then due to supplication of Prophet(Saw), Ahle Kisa(people of Cloak) are included.  Allah knows best.


Scholarly Opinion

Shia scholars:

Grand Ayatollah al-Kho’i Says Wife is Part of a Man’s “Ahl”:Grand Ayatollah al-Kho’i, the former leader of the Hawzah of the holy city of Najaf, wrote in his book “Sirat al-Najat” that the wife is a part of a man’s “Ahl”. It should be noted that “Sirat al-Najat” is a very famous book which is referenced on many times. Is it not clear from this that the Prophet’s wives are a part of his “Ahl”?

Does this not expose the hypocrisy of the Shia leaders when they include their own wives in their Ahl, but they then rip the Prophet’s wives out of his Ahl?

Q: There is a command to convey the Haqq (Truth) to one’s “Ahl” as well as to forbid them from the evil things, so in this command, who is “Ahl”? And is one’s wife included in this, and is this command (to convey the truth) applicable to one’s wife?

Answer by al-Ko’i: Yes, the wife is part of the “Ahl”, and this command is in regards to her too. And Allah knows best. (source: Sirat al-Najat, by Grand Ayatollah al-Kho’i, p.426)

Shia tafseer too agrees that in literal sense wives are from ahlebayt:

Question: Considering the fact that in the above verse (11:73), the angels addressed Abraham’s wife using the phrase Ahl- ul- Bayt, and since, naturally, everyone’s wife is considered as part of one’s household, why is it then that in the verse of Tathir in the Sura Al Ahzab, No. 33, verse 33,(1) the wives of the Prophet Muhammad(p.b.u.h.) are not included in his household?‏

Answer: Regarding only the literal meaning of the word, it would be natural for the word Ahl- ul- Bayt to include reference to one’s wife.(The Light of The Holy Qur’an volume 7, section 7, under title “Ministry of Lot ” page 276, (Ayatullah Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and A Group of Muslim Scholars )

Sunni scholars:

Question:(Are) the Ummaahatul Momineen (Mothers of the Believers) part of Nabi (s)’s Ahlay Bait or not? What (do) the Ulama of Ahle Sunna wal Jama say about that?

Answer by Shaykh Gibril F Haddad:Yes, the Mothers of the Believers are definitely part of the Ahl al- Bayt of the Prophet.

Shaikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid says: “With regard to the wives of the Prophet…they are included among the members of the family of the Prophet (saw).” This is the majority opinion of the Ulema.


From Logic and Common Sense

Ahlel Bayt means the family of a man living in his house. If we were to ask any Shia who is a part of his own family, he would most definitely include his mother (or his spouse) in his response. Mothers and wives are the basic foundation of a family. If we were to ask an unbiased third party as to who the family of Muhammad(saw) was, the first names they would mention would be the Prophet’s wives. What is interesting to ponder is that, wives of Prophet(saw) were not allowed to re-marry after the death of Prophet(saw), the reason is because they are his wives even after his death in this world and even in Paradise, this relationship did not end.

There is absolutely no logic in calling the Infallible Imams many of  those who were not even present in the incident of  kisa(blanket) to be part of Ahlel Bayt and then deny that the Prophet’s wives are part of Ahlel Bayt. Surely, the Prophet’s wives have a much greater right to be part of Ahlel Bayt than people who did not even live in the house(bayt) of the Prophet(saw).

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 `Ali being among them, due to his cohabitation with the daughter of the Prophet (saw) and  him being the one from whose children progeny of Prophet(saw) is traced.”

May Allah’s (swt) blessings be upon His Messenger, his household, and his companions.

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