The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Love Allah because He has treated you with beneficence. Love me because you love Allah, and love my family because you love me!” (Tirmidhi, al-Manaqib, 31/3789).
Love and friendship
Love and friendship grow out of feeling and acting together. The more things are shared between people, the more friendship and love they feel. Love manifests fully when the lover sees his or her attributes in the beloved.
Allah the Almighty loves those servants in whom He sees His beautiful attributes, and He allows them to come closer to Him. Hadrat Jacob loved his son Hadrat Joseph most dearly of all his twelve children because he saw the reflection of his own feelings, thoughts, skills, and qualities in Joseph. Among Muslims, those in whom the qualities of the Prophet (pbuh) were reflected most clearly, and were therefore most beloved, are his family members, the people of the Prophet’s household.
The Prophet’s Household had the privilege of closely witnessing the beauty of his face, the eloquence of his words, and the decency of his behavior. They were especially dear to the Prophet (pbuh) for he trained them himself, both in acts and in attitudes.
These glorious People of the House paid a heavy price, heart and soul, throughout their lives in their worthiness of the Prophet’s love. They passed through the path of suffering where the Prophet (pbuh) had gone before. People do pay the price of their loves, particularly those who love dearly, and the heaviest price paid in this transient world is the price of loving Allah. The Household were the most privileged payers of this price. Great was their commitment, and great was their spiritual ecstasy.
The Household of the Prophet (Ahl al-Bayt)
Ahl al-Baytmeans the People of the House – that is, the house of the Prophet, the Glory of Existence. They are the honorable people who were educated most directly by the Prophetic wisdom and morality. They are the masters of the Muslim community, a monument of sincerity and commitment to the Prophet (pbuh).
The term Ahl al-Bayt, the Household,is primarily used for the family members of the Prophet (pbuh), and in this sense includes the Prophet (pbuh) and his extended family – Ali, Ja`far,`Aqil, `Abbas and their families – may Allah be pleased with them all. As it is an obligation for Muslims to pronounce the formula calling Allah’s benediction upon the Prophet (pbuh), so also it is an obligation for us to pay homage and express love for the Household.
It is a natural for lovers to love whatever reminds them of their beloved. Such love may even extend to the beloved’s belongings, habits, and familiar places. When we love somebody, we remember the one we love whenever we observe similar style and behavior in other people, and so we invite such people into our circle. The intensity of this phenomenon depends upon the intensity of our love. If we love someone deeply, that person’s way of dressing, sitting, or walking finds a place in our heart. Muslims’ fondness for visiting the honorable robe of the Prophet (pbuh) or clippings of his blessed beard is a particular example of this effect of love.
Love of Allah is the zenith of love. Next in dignity is love of the Prophet (pbuh), our master, for whom the universe was created in the beginning. Those who take the love of the Prophet (pbuh) deeply into themselves also love his Household, and follow their honorable ways.
Zayd ibn Arqam said: “One day, the Prophet (pbuh) addressed us while standing by the fountainhead called Hum somewhere between Mecca and Medina. He first praised Allah the Almighty and gave us some counsel saying, ‘O people! I too am a human being. And the envoy of my Lord, the angel Gabriel, will come for me soon. I will accept the invitation of my Lord and go. I am leaving two important things with you. The first is the Book of Allah, which is the glorious guide leading you to the right path. Follow it earnestly.’ The Prophet (pbuh) gave us some more advice about following the Qur’an, and then continued, “I also leave with you my household. Fear Allah and show respect to my household! Fear Allah and show respect to my household!’”
The listeners asked Zayd who the members of the Household were, and whether the wives of the Prophet (pbuh) were included among them. Zayd answered, “His wives are also the Household. Yet the crucial members of the Household are Ali, `Aqil, Ja`far, and the family of `Abbas, who are all forbidden to take alms.” (Muslim, al-Fada’il al-Sahabah, 36).
Salman is one of us
In addition to the biological members of the Prophet’s Household, there are also its spiritual members. Salman al-Farisi , though a foreigner, so naturally manifested the character of a Muslim that the people of Mecca and Medina both claimed Salman as a member of their respective communities. Upon hearing their discussion of Salman, the Prophet (pbuh) exalted his position, saying: “Salman is one of us, one of my household.” (Ibn Hisham, III, Waqidi, II, 446-7; Ibn Saad, IV, 83; Ahmad, II, 446-7; Haythami, VI, 130).
This statement of the Prophet (pbuh) shows that the basic condition for being counted among the Household is commitment to Islam and a pious life. The door is open for others, outside the relations of blood and marriage, to become members of the Prophet’s Household – and this is the highest position a Muslim can reach.
The story of Mu`adh ibn Jabal, who is renowned for his commitment, is a good example. One day, the Prophet (pbuh) accompanied Mu`adh to the outskirts of Medina. He was sending him off to Yemen to serve as governor. Hadrat Mu`adh was riding, while the Prophet (pbuh) was walking. He gave him some advice, and then said, “Mu`adh! Perhaps you will not see me again. Perhaps you will visit my tomb when you return!” Hearing this, Mu`adh began to weep. “Don’t cry!” the Prophet (pbuh) said. Then he turned toward Medina and remarked: “Among the people, those who are closest to me are those who fear Allah and are most committed in their faith.”
Elsewhere the Prophet (pbuh), the honor of the universe, again specified the basic condition for affiliating with him by saying that “My associates are those who are most committed in their faith.” (Abu Dawud, al-Fitan, 1/4242). Another such example is `Usamah ibn Zayd . One day Ali and `Abbas came to the Prophet (pbuh) asking whom he loved most among his Household. The Prophet (pbuh) said he loved Fatimah, his beloved daughter, most. They said, “O Messenger! We are not asking about women.” The Prophet (pbuh) replied, “Then the dearest to me among my Household is `Usamah ibn Zayd, who got the blessing of Allah the Almighty and mine as well.” (Tirmidhi, al-Manaqib, 40/3819)
The great transmitter of Prophetic traditions, Hakim al-Tirmidhi, reported that the Friends of Allah of later times are believed to be among the Household, spiritually though not biologically, as they are in constant remembrance of Allah, and the Prophet (pbuh) was sent by Allah to establish His remembrance in human hearts. (Hakim al-Tirmidhi, al-Kitab al-Khatm al-Awliya’, p. 35-6).
Thus we need to have the love and fear of Allah take root in our hearts, and to be in union with Allah and the Prophet (pbuh) all the time, so that we may join the spiritual circle of the Household. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “People are together with whoever they love.” The clear sign of such a position can be observed in one’s acts and devotions.
Manners of the Household
The Prophet (pbuh) wished the members of his Household, whom he loved dearly, to live a life of commitment in order to be a good example for humanity. He always channeled them toward living a simple, humble, and gentle life, which is the way that leads to salvation in the Hereafter. He always warned them that “the real life is the life of the Hereafter.” (Bukhari, al-Riqaq, 1). By this warning he hoped to wean them away from even allowable worldly acts, so as to encourage them to more commitment and to a more present awe of Allah. He was not apprehensive that they might develop an inclination toward the affairs of this world.
The Prophet (pbuh) had a special love for his daughter Fatimah. No father could express more love than the Prophet (pbuh) did toward Fatimah. We are, therefore, of the opinion that naming a daughter Fatimah will bring blessing to a family and draw it closer to the Prophet (pbuh).
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Fatimah is part of me. Anyone who upsets her, upsets me, and anyone who pleases her, pleases me.” He also announced the good news that she would be counted one of the most virtuous women in Paradise.. Yet on the other hand, he warned her not to rely on being his daughter, and to be aware of the Day of Judgment. “O Fatimah! Follow ways which will save you from Hellfire! I do not have the power to save you, but I will be connected to you because you are my kin.” (Muslim, al-Iman, 348, 351).
The Prophet (pbuh) loved Hadrat Fatimah so much that he wanted the next world for her more than this one. He urged her to engage with worldly life in only the most modest way, and to give away her extra belongings in charity. He always warned her against any inclination toward worldly desires, but encouraged her in things of the spirit.
One day the Prophet (pbuh) saw Fatimah wearing a necklace. He said nothing, but Hadrat Fatimah, who was a sensitive and delicate person, upon seeing his face, immediately understood his thought. She immediately went out and sold the necklace and distributed its price, though she herself needed that money. The Prophet (pbuh) was very happy when he learned what his daughter had done. (Nasa`i, al-Ziynat, 39).
Hadrat Fatimah was physically weak and fragile. Housework would tire her, and fire-making and cooking were difficult. Sometimes sparks would burn her dress while she was blowing on the fire, and she was troubled by the heavy dust raised when she cleaned the house. Her hands would bruise when she turned the millstone to make flour.
Once some prisoners of war were brought into the presence of the Prophet (pbuh). Hadrat Fatimah (r.ha) asked the Prophet to assign one of them as a housemaid, to help her with the housework. The Prophet (pbuh) rejected the idea. “O Fatimah! Fear Allah! Perform the obligatory duties Allah the Almighty has enjoined in full commitment, and do your part in the family. Make your night prayer when in bed by reciting subhan Allah (“exalted is Allah”) 33 times, alhamdu lillah (“praise be to Allah”) 33 times, and Allahu akbar (“Allah is greater”) 34 times – a hundred all together. That will be better for you than having a housemaid.” Hadrat Fatimah replied in great commitment and resignation, “I am truly content with Allah the Almighty and His Messenger!” So, the Prophet (pbuh) did not assign a housemaid for his daughter whom he loved so much. (Abu Dawud, al-Kharaj, 19-20/2988).
Another narrative on this event reports that the Prophet (pbuh) declared,: “I swear by Allah that I cannot assign a housemaid to you while the poor devotees outside my gate (Ahl al-Suffah) are tying stones against their bellies to stave off hunger. I am going to spend the ransom I will get for these captives on the Ahl al-Suffah ” (Ahmad, I, 106).
The Prophet (pbuh) accustomed his daughter Fatimah to a humble style of life because she would be the spiritual mother of the Household and of their noble successors – Abdul-Qadir al-Gaylani, Baha’uddin al-Naqshbandi, Ahmad al-Rifa`i, and many more Friends of Allah – as well as serving as a model for Muslim women.
As another example of how the Prophet (pbuh) spiritually trained his family, we might examine the 33rd chapter of the Qur’an. Surah Ahzab says:
O wives of the Prophet! you are not like other women. Be on your guard, be not soft in (your) speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease yearn; but speak a word that is good. And stay in your houses, and do not display your finery like the displaying of the ignorance of yore. Keep up prayer, and pay the poor-rate, and respond to Allah and His Messenger. O People of the House! Allah only desires to keep away uncleanness from you, and to purify you a (thorough) purifying. (Ahzab, 33/32-33)
For six months after this revelation, on the way to the mosque each day for morning-prayer, the Prophet (pbuh) would stop by the door of Hadrat Fatimah and call out, :“O People of the House! Wake up for prayer! ‘Allah only desires to keep away uncleanness from you, and to purify you (thorough) purifying’” (Tirmidhi, al-Tafsir, 33/3206).
Again, on nights when they might not be able to wake up for midnight prayers by themselves due to weariness, the Prophet (pbuh) would wake Hadrat Ali and Hadrat Fatimah by knocking on their door.
Anas ibn Malik (r.a) said, “I have never seen anyone as gentle toward family members as the Prophet (pbuh) was.” Such a statement also means that no one could educate family members as effectively as the Prophet (pbuh) did. The Prophet (pbuh) taught his family to live in full submission to Allah and to be examples to others in this regard. As the Prophet (pbuh) was trained directly by Allah the Almighty and became the master of all Messengers of Allah, so the members of his family who were trained directly by him became the masters of all humanity.
The Household was, in truth, made up of people of the heart who melded together around the Prophet (pbuh) sent as a mercy to the universe. As the morning wind carries the perfume of the rose garden , so the Household, who grew up under the spiritual training of the Prophet (pbuh), in maturity transmitted his spirituality with great sincerity and submission. As one candle may light countless candles, so these candles of blessing have borne the glory of the Prophet (pbuh) to generation after generation.. Those who are fortunate enough to be lit by any of these candles tastes the pleasure of reaching the source of light, Muhammad (pbuh).
Thus the spiritual essence of all Sufi lineages born of Hadrat Ali and Hadrat Abu Bakr (r.a) must be traced through Ja`far al-Sadiq, the Imam of the Household. Hadrat Imam al-A`zam, the founder of the Hanafi school of jurisprudence, was a prominent student and spiritual child of Ja`far al-Sadiq. Imam al-A`zam tells how he spiritually benefited from Ja`far al-Sadiq: “I would have perished if it had not been for the last two years through which I spent time with Ja`far al-Sadiq.”
So the Household has become an exceptional instrument for the transmission of the character and personality of the Prophet (pbuh) through the ages.
Love of the Prophet’s Household
Allah says in the Qur’an:
…O People of the House! Allah only desires to keep away uncleanness from you, and to purify you a (thorough) purifying. (Ahzab, 33/33).
So, as this verse clearly tells, it is Allah Himself who vindicates the Household.
The Prophet (pbuh) loved his family members dearly and also wished his community to love them. He said, “Love Allah because He has treated you with beneficence. Love me because you love Allah, and love my family because you love me!” (Tirmidhi, al-Manaqib, 31/3789).
Abu Bakr (r.a) who fully identified himself with the Prophet (pbuh), was also exemplary in expressing respect toward the Household. He would urge the people, “Have love for the Prophet (pbuh), and behave decently to him!. I swear by Allah that the kin of the Prophet (pbuh) are dearer to me than my own kin.”
Love of the Household is so important that we pray for its members, along with the Prophet (pbuh), in the recitation that accompanies our five daily prayers. This displays the importance of the Household’s position in religion. What other set of relatives ever merited such respect?
Imam Shafi`i, the founder of one of the four major schools of jurisprudence, said, “O Household of the Prophet! Love for you is an obligation enjoined in the Qur’an by Allah. The prayer of the one who does not praise you is not acceptable. This should be sufficient for honor!” (Muhammad al-Farsa, al-Fasl al-Kitab, p. 522).
The murder that shook the heavens
The murder of Hadrat Husayn (r.a) , the grandson of Muhammad (pbuh), whom the Prophet (pbuh) loved dearly, kissed kindly, and even put on his shoulder while praying, is one of the greatest atrocities in the history of Islam. This notorious event is still a trauma in Muslim consciousness. All who were involved in this murder received the wrath of Allah.
This atrocious killing was so detested in the Muslim world that the name of the caliph of the time, namely Yazid, has been used by Muslims through the ages as an insult. All Muslims, no matter what denomination or school they follow, have always felt grief for the savage killing of Hadrat Husayn (r.a). So there is no reason for enmity, and there should be no enmity, between Sunni and Shi`a Muslims on account of the killing of Husayn (r.a). Yet some provocative troublemakers act as if a basic estrangement exists. Muslims of the two sects should never behave like enemies. Today all Muslims should join together more than ever. As Allah says in the Qur’an
The believers are but brethren… (Hujurat 49/ 10).
Being involved in unreasonable controversies brings no benefit. It harms the unity of the Muslim community and hurts the blessed souls of the past. Sectarian fanaticism, whenever it has arisen among Muslims, has always created damage. Even small frictions offer an opportunity to those who profit from the division the Muslims. Thus it is our duty to be vigilant at all times, not to fall into the trap of disunity, and to keep away from unnecessary arguments.
In order to be successful in this we must establish a third point of common commitment along with the Qur’an and the Prophet tradition, and that is the love of the Household. Such love, which is enjoined by the Prophet (pbuh) as well, is a quality that all Muslims should cultivate.
The Ottomans always paid tribute to the Household, and also honored the entire blood lineage of the Prophet (pbuh). They regarded the service of the Household so highly that an office called Naqib al-Ashraf (Chief of the Descendants of the Prophet) was established in the Ottoman Empire to protect the dignity of the Household.
We, descendants of blessed ancestors, should enliven our hearts with the love of the Qur’an and of the Household, so that we may be worthy of the love of the Prophet (pbuh). We should take the Prophet (pbuh) as an example in our acts and words. Let us identify with him and his ahl al-bayt.
O Lord! Please let us have a share of the spirit of the Prophet (pbuh), of his Household and Companions, and of the Friends of Allah!
. Ahmad, V, 235; al-Haythami, al-Majmu`a al-Zawa;id, Bairut 1988, IX, 22.
. Muslim, al-Fada’il al-Sahabah, 93-96.
. Ahmad, I, 293.
. See also Bukhari, at-Tafsir, 26/2; Tirmidhi, at-Tafsir, 27/2.