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The Meaning of Ahlul Bayt

Adopted from the Book : "Shi'ism; Imamate and Wilayat" by : "Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi"

"Ahlul Bayt" literally means people of the house and it refers to the family or children of a person. In Islamic terminology, it refers to the family of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).

What is the basis of the importance given to the Ahlul Bayt of the Prophet? Is there anything about it in the Qur'an and the saying of the Prophet ? Or is this and old Arab tribal concept with no basis in Islamic sources? The Qur'an and the hadith have a lot to say about the Ahlul Bayt, However, before we even go to the Qur'an, a clarification on the concept of Ahlul Bayt is necessary.

The term "family of the Prophet" can be applied on three kinds of relationships :

* Those who are related to the prophet by blood or marriage ties only.

* Those who are related to the prophet by soul and spirit only.

* Those who are related to the prophet by blood or marriage ties as well as by soul and spirit.

When the Qur'an or the Prophet uses the term "Ahlul Bayt", it could not be the first or the second group.

The first group is only physically related to the Prophet but not spritually, like the son of the Prophet Nuh or the wife of Prophet Lut or Abu Lahab, the Prophet's uncle. Allah clearly says to Prophet Nuh about his son:"Innahu laysa min ahlik ---He is not your family." (11:45-46) That is, he is not one of your spiritual family; he is only physically related to you. Lut's wife and the Prophet's uncle, Abu Lahab, both are counted as people of the Hell-Fire.
The second category is considered "Ahlul Bayt" only in a metaphorical sense, not in the real meaning; for example, Salman al-Farsi about whom the Prophet said, "Salman is from us, the Ahlul Bayt," This leaves us with the third group.

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