Love for the Ahlul-Bayt (household of Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam) has and shall always be an integral part of one’s faith. It is through this love that one shall acquire the pleasure of Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam, and through its medium, the pleasure of Almighty Allah. Thus, from amongst the edicts issued during the caliphate of Hadrat Abu Bakr, one was:
‘Protect (the rights of) Muhammad with regards to his household.’
Some deviant sectors however wish to mislead the masses into believing that it is only them that love the Ahlul-Bayt, and that the Sahaba Radhiyallahu Anhum, Tabieen, Mufassireen, Muhaditeen, Fuqaha, Sufiya and the general Muslim Ummah from the death of Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam failed in their obligation towards the Ahlul-Bayt, i.e. they did not show them the love they were deserving off and did not afford them their due rights. The answer to this misconception depends upon first understanding what the phrase ‘Ahlul-Bayt’ (household members) means.
Generally, if one were to inform that he is coming with his family, the host would naturally enquire as to the number and the nature of his family members, in order to make appropriate arrangements. Mere guessing could at times be detrimental, especially if the guest were to arrive with his extended family, viz. his parents, in-laws, brothers and sisters, etc. Even worse than this would be if the host now bars certain members of the guest’s household from entering, merely on the basis that he does not recognize them to be from his guest’s family. Will the guest not feel humiliated, and will he not demand that either his family be allowed in or else he too shall depart? So too, is the delicate matter of the Ahlul-Bayt. It is not for one and all to decide who should be included in this blessed household and who should be excluded. Nay, rather it is the exclusive right of Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi wa Sallam to pinpoint his blessed household.
Thus, one needs to turn to the Noble Quraan and the Blessed Sunnah for an explanation in this regard. If we were left to ourselves define who the Ahlul-Bayt are, there would be a total mix-up, and that is exactly what we are unfortunately experiencing today in some quarters. Since the Ahlul-Bayt have been afforded great importance in Islam, it was of utmost necessity that clear indication be made regarding who they are? Without clear indication from the Noble Quraan and the authentic Sunnah, each party could easily chalk out his own Ahlul-Bayt, including and excluding members without any solid basis.
The first addressee of the word ‘Ahle-Bayt’ are the honourable and illustrious wives of Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, the reason being:
a) The phrase ‘Ahle-Bayt’ in reference to Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam appears only once in the Noble Quraan, in the verse known as Ayah-al-Takhyeer wherein the honourable wives were given choice of raising their living standards at the expense of having to lose their noble husband Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, or remaining patient upon their ascetic lives in lieu of the privilege of remaining as the wives of Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam in this world as well as in the next. Every one of them chose to forsake the world in favour of being the wife of Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam. In appreciation of the choice that they made, Almighty Allah addressed them with two noble titles, viz.
‘O wives of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), and O Ahlul-Bayt. (Members of the Noble Household of Nubuwwah) (Surah Ahzaab, Verse 32-34)
b) Clear mention is made in the hadith quoted by Imam Bukhari (R.A) in his Sahih that Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam would address Sayyidah Ayesha Radhiyallahu Anha with the title ‘Ahlul-Bayt.
Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam would say when entering the house of Sayyidah Ayesha Radhiyallahu Anha, ‘Peace be upon you, O Ahlul Bayt, and the mercy of Almighty Allah and His blessings!’ (Bukhari)
c) In the salawaat (durood) that was taught to the Ummah by Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam to be recited at the end of Salaah, (as narrated by Bukhari and Muslim), Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam at times taught the Dua as:
Allahumma Salli Ala Muhammad Wa Ala Aali Muhammad Kama Sallayta Ala Aali Ibraheem
Allahumma Salli Ala Muhammad Wa Ala Azwaajihi Wa Zurriyyatihi Kama Sallayta Ala Aali Ibraheem
In the first Dua the meaning is: ‘O Allah, send salutations upon Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) and upon the family of Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam).
In the second Dua the meaning is: ‘O Allah, send salutations upon Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) and upon the wives and progeny of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam).
Either of these Duas are acceptable for recitation. One understands from this that the meaning of the second Dua is exactly the same as the first, thus the meaning of ‘family’ clearly includes the wives and children of Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam.