Ahl al-Bayt

Family of the Islamic prophet Muhammad

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Ahl al-Bayt (Arabic: أَهْل ٱلْبَيْت, lit.'people of the house') refers to the family of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, but the term has also been extended in Sunni Islam to apply to all descendants of the Banu Hashim (Muhammad's clan) and even to all Muslims.[1][2] In Shia Islam, the term is limited to Muhammad; his daughter Fatima, his cousin and son-in-law Ali, and their two sons, Hasan and Husayn. A common Sunni view adds Muhammad's wives to those five.[3]

While all Muslims revere the Ahl al-Bayt,[4][5] it is the Shia who hold the Ahl al-Bayt in the highest esteem by regarding them as the rightful leaders of the Muslim community. The Twelver Shia also believe in the redemptive power of the pain and martyrdom endured by the Ahl al-Bayt, particularly by Husayn.[2][4]


When ahl (أهل) appears in construction with a person, it refers to his blood relatives but the word also acquires wider meanings with other nouns.[6] In particular, bayt (بَيْت) is translated as habitation and dwelling,[7] and thus the basic translation of ahl al-bayt is 'the inhabitants of a house' (or a tent).[6] That is, ahl al-bayt is literally translated to '(the) people of the house' and to 'household' in the absence of the definite article al-.[6]

Other prophets

The phrase ahl al-bayt appears three times in the Quran and in relation to Abraham (11:73), Moses (28:12), and Muhammad (33:33).[6] For Abraham and Moses, their ahl al-bayt in the Quran is unanimously understood by commentators as referring to their family.[6] Merit is also a criterion of membership in a prophet's ahl al-bayt in the Quran.[7] That is, pagan or disloyal members of the families of the past prophets are not excluded from God's punishment.[1][8] In particular, Noah's family is saved from the deluge, except his wife and one of his sons, about whom Noah's plea was rejected according to verse 11:46, "O Noah, he [your son] is not of your family (ahl)."[9]

According to Madelung, families of the past prophets are given a prominent role in the Quran.[10] In particular, after the past prophets, their kin are selected by God as the spiritual and material heirs to the prophets.[11] Jafri is of the same opinion.[12]

Who are the Ahl al-Bayt?

21°25′30″N 39°49′48″E / 21.42500°N 39.83000°E / 21.42500; 39.83000 (Bayt al-Mawlid / Makkah Al Mukarramah Library)), which is also known as Bayt al-Mawlid, because it is believed to stand on the spot where Muhammad was born.
Medina, which became the home of Ahl al-Bayt, after their migration from Mecca. Pictured in the background is the tomb (marked by the Green Dome) and mosque of Muhammad. In the foreground is Al-Baqi Cemetery, wherein Al-Hasan and other relatives are buried.
After the deaths of Muhammad and Fatimah in Medina in 11 A.H. or 632 C.E., a number of their descendants or relatives, including Al-Husain and Ali, migrated to places like Iraq, and were martyred there. Pictured in the background is the place in Najaf where Ali is commonly believed to have been buried, after his assassination in the neighbouring city of Kufa in Iraq.