What is the reply if Sunnis claim that all the wives of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.)

 إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنْكُمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ

"Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, 0 people of the House!"

(Al-Ahzab, 33:33)

Q: What is the reply if Sunnis claim that all the wives of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.)

were part of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) as mentioned in the above verse?

A: The above quoted Verse of Purification is a part of verse 33 of Surah Ahzab and the whole verse reads:


وَقَرْنَ فِي بُيُوتِكُنَّ وَلَا تَبَرَّجْنَ تَبَرُّجَ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ الْأُولَىٰ وَأَقِمْنَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتِينَ الزَّكَاةَ وَأَطِعْنَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنْكُمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيرًا


"And stay in your houses and do not display your finery like the displaying of the ignorance of yore; and keep up prayer, and pay the poor-rate, and obey Allah and His Apostle. Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from yo11, O people of the House! And to purify you a (thorough) purifying. "(Al-Ahzab, 33:33)

The first part of the verse is an address to the wives of the Prophet and the last applies to the household (Ahlul Bayt) of the Prophet and they are only Muhammad, Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husain (a.s.) and that is why the masculine pronoun is used.


Though this verse is placed with the addresses to the wives of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.), it was revealed separately and independently in the apartment of Umme Salma and there are evidences of this in narrations.


In Ghayatul Maraam, 41 traditions from Sunni sources and 34 traditions from Shia sources are quoted according to which this verse was revealed separately and that it is related especially to the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) and that the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) are also the five persons. For example, here is a tradition from Sunni sources:


Ibne Sabbagh Maliki, in Fusoolul Muhimma and Asbaabun Nuzool narrates through his own chains of narrators that Umme Salma said: Once the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) was in the apartment of Fatima (a.s.) when he said: Call Ali and your two sons. When they arrived, and sat down and when the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) himself also was seated having a piece of Khybari cloth on it.


Umme Salma said: I also was in that apartment and near them all. Then the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) took the Khybari sheet and covered those persons saying: 0 Allah, these are My Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) and especially mine. So keep away filth from them and cleanse them. Umme Salma said: Putting my head in, I said:


O Messenger of God: I am also with them you. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w. s.) said: You are good and towards good. At this moment, this verse was revealed:


إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنْكُمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيرًا


"Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, 0 people of the House! and to purify you a (thorough) purifying. "(Al-Ah'zab, 33:33)

In the narration of Abu Naeem it is like this: Umme Salma said: 0 Messenger of Allah: Am I not from the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.)? The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) said: You are in the right direction and you are from the wives of the prophet. 2


The word of Rijs in this verse means spiritual uncleanness and diseases of the heart like infidelity, polytheism, hypocrisy, pride, self-conceit, jealousy and similar other mean characteristics and the source of all of them is narrowness of heart and ignorance about reality.


Thus cleansing of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) by the Almighty Allah means that Allah granted them spaciousness of heart, expansion of spirit, greatness of soul, purity of conscience, enlightenment about truth, seeking of truth and submission before truth in a manner that they will never voluntarily indulge in any sin, not go astray and never revolt against His commands. Same is the meaning of infallibility, which is a pre-condition of prophethood and Imamate.


Thus the verse of purification defines the position of infallibility and is related only to Ahlul Bayt (a.s.). The Imamites and many Sunni scholars agree on this meaning. As against this, some earlier narrators like Akrama and Urwah bin Zubair and a number of Sunni scholars say that the verse of purification, like earlier verses, includes all the wives of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.).


In reply, we say that people like Akrama, Maqaatil and Urwah etc. are not reliable, because as mentioned by a number of great Sunni scholars, they were enemies of Amirul Momineen. (a.s.) and it is alleged that they did not desist from lying. Also, to refute what they say, it is enough to state that two wives of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.): Umme Salma and Ayesha, as per some narrations, have testified that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) excluded his wives from the scope of this verse.


As regards the saying of Sunni commentators that since this verse is joined with the addresses to wives of the Prophet, the context shows that they should be included in the application of purification. In reply, we say that firstly, after the abovementioned testimony of the two holy wives, their claim becomes irrelevant and secondly, context can be a proof when there is no contradiction between the former and latter sentence either in words or in meaning. Such contradiction is seen here. In the first address, the pronoun is plural female whereas in the verse of purification, it is male plural. This was about the words. As regards the meaning, in the first part there is a tone of warning and wrath whereas in the verse of purification, which is addressed to the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) there is mercy and respect. This is a clear difference.


Thirdly, as said earlier, more than 70 narrations testify that the first address is to the wives of Prophet and the verse of purification is related to Ahlul Bayt (a.s.), that is, to the holy five, viz. Muhammad, Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husain (a.s.).


Also there is consensus that the two verses were revealed separately.


Sayyid Abdul Husayn Dastghaib



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