Āyat al-Iṭ'ām (Arabic: آية الإطعام) is verse number 8 of Sura al-Insan which was revealed with respect to Amir al-Mu'minin (a) and his family. According to some hadiths and the views of Shi'a and some Sunni exegetes of the Qur'an, Imam 'Ali (a), Fatima al-Zahra (a), Imam al-Hasan (a), Imam al-Husayn (a) and their servant, Fidda, fasted for three consecutive days, and in all the three days at the time of iftar (breaking the fast), they gave their food to a poor person, an orphan, and a prisoner, while they stayed hungry themselves.
"They fulfill their vows and fear a day whose ill will be widespread (7) For the love of Him, they feed the needy, the orphan and the prisoner (8) [saying] 'We feed you only for the sake of Allah. We desire no reward from you, nor thanks (9)" (Qur'an 76:7,8,9)
Context of the Revelation
Some Sunni exegetes of the Qur'an have confirmed that al-It'am Verse was revealed with respect to Ahl al-Bayt (a). 'Allama Amini in his book al-Ghadir, has mentioned 34 Sunni scholars who appealed to mutawatir hadiths to the effect that the verse was revealed with respect to Ahl al-Bayt (a) and points to a significant virtue of Imam 'Ali (a), Fatima (a), Imam al-Hasan (a), and Imam al-Husayn (a). According to Shi'a scholars, 18 verses of Sura al-Insan (or the whole sura) were revealed with respect to Ahl al-Bayt (a).
Ibn Taymiyya, the leader of Wahhabism, believes that the verse was revealed in Mecca and is irrelevant to Ahl al-Bayt (a). This view is contrary to views of many Sunni scholars, and some scholars have rejected it.
The Story of the Revelation
Al-Zamakhshari, a Sunni exegete of the Quran, writes:
- Ibn 'Abbas is quoted as saying that Hasan (a) and Husayn (a) were sick. The Prophet (s) went to visit them together with some of his companions. They told 'Ali: "O Abu l-Hasan! You had better vow for the health of your sons". 'Ali (a), Fatima (a), and Fidda vowed to fast for three consecutive days if the boys were healed. When they were healed, 'Ali (a) borrowed three "mans" [equal to 18 kilograms] of barley. Fatima (a) ground, and baked bread with, one third of the barley. At the time of iftar, a beggar went to their house and said: "O the household of Muhammad (s), I am a poor Muslim person; please give me a food. May God give you heavenly foods." They preferred him to themselves and gave the bread to him, breaking their fast with water. They fasted the next day. When they brought the bread at night, an orphan went to their house. They gave their food to him again. On the third day, a [newly released] prisoner went to their house. Again, they gave their barley food to him. In the morning, 'Ali took the hands of Hasan (a) and Husayn (a) and they went to the Prophet (s). When he saw them, he found that they were shivering from hunger. He said: "I am saddened by seeing you in this condition". He went to their house together with them, and saw Fatima (a) while worshiping with her stomach diminished and her eyes hollowed. He was saddened by seeing her. Then Jibril went down to the Prophet (s) and said: "God congratulates you for having such a household". He then recited the above verse.
Some exegetes of the Qur'an take the story to have occurred in one day, rather than 3 days. They said that the verse was revealed with respect to 'Ali (a). He did something for a Jew and received some barley as a wage. He took the barley to his house. They ground one third of it and made food with it. When they wanted to have the meal, a poor person went to their house, and 'Ali gave him the food. They then ground another third of the barley and made food with it. When the food was made, an orphan went to their house, and they gave it to him. When they made the last remaining part of the barley, a polytheist prisoner went to them, and they gave the food to him too.
- See: Rūḥānīnīyā, Frūgh-i Ghadīr, p. 146; Anṣārī, Ahl al-Bayt, p. 173; Daylamī, Irshād al-qulūb, vol. 2, p. 136.
- Makārim Shīrāzī, Barguzīda-yi tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 5, p. 350.
- Ibn Taymīyya, Minhāj al-sunna, vol. 7, p. 174-186.
- Ibrāhīmīyān, "Barrasī wa naqd-i dīdgāh-i Ibn Taymīyya", p. 160-162.
- Zamakhsharī, al-Kashshāf, vol. 4, p. 670.
- Baghawī, Maʿālim al-tanzīl, vol. 5, p. 191-192.
- Anṣārī, Muḥammad ʿAlī. Ahl al-Bayt: Imāmtuhum wa ḥayātuhum. Qom: Majmaʿ l-Fikr al-Islāmī, 1422 AH.
- Baghawī, Ḥusayn b. Masʿūd al-. Maʿālim al-tanzīl fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān. Edited by ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Mahdī. Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ l-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 1420 AH.
- Daylamī, Ḥusayn b. Muḥammad al-. Irshād al-qulūb. Translated by Hidāyat Allāh Mustarḥamī, Tehran: Kitābfurūshī-yi Būzar Jumharī (Muṣtafawī), 1338 Sh.
- Ibn Taymīyya, Qāsim b. Muḥammad. Minhāj al-sunna al-nabawīyya fī naqḍ kalām al-Shīʿā al-qadrīyya. Edited by Muḥammad Rashād Sālim, Riyadh: Jāmiʿat al-Imām Muḥammad b. Suʿūd al-Islāmīyya, 1406 AH.
- Ibrāhīmīyān, Farāmarz. 1394 Sh. "Barrasī wa naqd-i dīdgāh-i Ibn Taymīyya darbāra-yi shaʾn-i nuzūl-i sura-yi hal atā". Majala-yi Sirāj-i Munīr 18: (153-182).
- Makārim Shīrāzī, Naṣir. Barguzīda-yi tafsīr-i nimūna. Edited by Aḥmad ʿAlī Bābāyī. Fifth edition. Qom: Intishārāt-i Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmīyya, 1387 Sh.
- Rūḥānīnīyā, ʿAbd al-Raḥīm. Frūgh-i Ghadīr. Qom: Mashhūr, 1386 Sh.
- Zamakhsharī, Maḥmūd b. ʿUmar al-. Al-Kashshāf ʿan ḥaqāʾiq ghawāmiḍ al-tanzīl wa ʿuyūn al-aqāwīl fī wujūh al-taʾwīl. Qom: Nashr al-Balāgha, 1415 AH.