According to Shi'a and many Sunnis, “ahl al-bayt” in the verse of Tathir (33:33) is a special title that includes Prophet Muhammad (s), Ali (a), Fatimah (s), al-Hasan (a) and al-Husayn (a). This interpretation has been narrated in Shi'a hadiths and some Sunni hadiths.
Although the verses before and after the verse of Tathir (literally means purification) are addressed to the wives of the Prophet (s), exegetes do not consider the verse of Tathir to be related to the wives of the Prophet (s). It is mainly because the verses addressing the wives of the Prophet (a) contain the threat of divorce, punishment and the order to stay at home, while the verse of Tathir is associated with honor and respect. Moreover, the pronouns in these seven verses are feminine, while the two pronouns in the verse of Tathir are masculine.
In addition, some believe that if the wives of the Prophet (s) had this honor to be an instance of “ahl al-bayt” in this verse, it should have been mentioned by them or at least by those who were related to them, while none of these people have mentioned this virtue for them.
Text of the Verse
|﴾||اِنَّما یُریدُ اللهُ لِیُذهِبَ عَنکُمُ الرِّجسَ اَهلَ البَیتِ وَ یُطَهِّرَکُم تَطهیرًا
Indeed Allah desires to repel all impurity from you, O People of the Household, and purify you with a thorough purification.
Lexical and Idiomatic Meaning of Ahl al-Bayt
“Ahl” literally means intimacy with belonging and dependence. “Bayt” means house, a place where a person takes shelter. However, the combination of “ahl al-bayt” in Muslim culture, both Shi'a and Sunni, has gained a specific meaning that is more limited than the literal meaning and only includes specific people. Shi'a consider “ahl al-bayt” in the Qur'an to be a special title referring to the five figures of “Ashab al-Kisa'”.
The Seven Verses about the Wives of the Prophet (s)
The verse of Tathir is among the seven verses that state some rules for the wives of the Holy Prophet (s). Thus, the verses before and after the verse of Tathir are about the wives of the Prophet (s) and address them. The exegetes, however, consider the verse of Tathir not to be related to the Prophet's wives, for the following reasons:
- The verses addressing the wives of the Prophet (s) has a reproaching language. In these verses, the Prophet's wives were threatened with divorce, punishment, and ordered to stay at home. While the verse of Tathir is associated with honor and respect.
- All the pronouns that refer to the wives of the Prophet (s) are feminine, while the two pronouns in the verse of Tathir are masculine and show that this part of the verse refers to different people.
- Some scholars believe that if the wives of the Prophet (s) had been meant by “ahl al-bayt,” it would have been such an honor for them that they or their relatives would have taken pride in it. But there is no report of any of the Prophet's wives claiming this title or being proud of it. Mu'awiya was proud of being the brother of Umm al-Mu'minin (his sister, Umm Habiba, was the Prophet's wife) and if his sister was an instance of “ahl al-bayt,” he would have surely mentioned it.
Sunni Scholars' Viewpoint
Many Sunni scholars have confirmed that “ahl al-bayt” means the five figures of Ashab al-Kisa'.
- Al-Wahidi, the famous Sunni scholar, maintains that the verse of Tathir is about the Prophet (s), Ali (a), Fatima (s), al-Hasan (a), and al-Husayn. He believes that no one is shared in this title.
- Suyuti narrates from Sunni narrators that after the Battle of Jamal, ‘A'isha was asked about Ali (a). She replied, “are you asking me about someone who was the most beloved person to the Prophet (s) and the husband of the most beloved person to the Prophet (s)? I, myself, saw that the Prophet (s) gathered Ali, Fatima, al-Hasan, and al-Husayn under a cloth and said, ‘O Allah, these are my family and the closest people to me, repel all impurity from them, and purify them with a thorough purification.'”
This story is narrated from ‘A'isha in the following books: Sahih al-Muslim, Mustadarak al-Bayhaqi and Sunan al-Bayhaqi. Most Shi'a exegetes, however, have narrated this incident from Umm Salamah and believe that the verse of Tathir was reveled in her house.
- This article is mainly taken from "مقصود از اهلبیت در آیه تطهیر" on Persian wikipasokh.