Al-Thiql al-aṣghar (Arabic: الثقل الاصغر) refers to the Ahl al-Bayt (a) of the Prophet (s). In hadith al-Thaqalayn, the Prophet (s) called the Ahl al-Bayt (a) "al-thiql al-asghar". This hadith has been transmitted in different wordings and with different chains of transmission. In eleven versions, the Ahl al-Bayt (a) are mentioned as "al-thiql al-asghar".
"Thiql" means "a heavy burden". "Thaqal" refers to anything valuable and precious.
In the words of the Prophet (s) and other Imams (a), "al-thiql al-asghar" refers to the Ahl al-Bayt (a).
In hadith al-Thaqalayn, the Prophet (s) said,
"I leave among you two valuable reserves: a greater reserve and a smaller reserve. The greater reserve is the Book of my God and the smaller one is my 'Itra which is my Ahl al-Bayt (a). Maintain my honor about them, for if you adhere to them, you will never go astray".
Sermon of Ghadir
In the sermon of Ghadir, the Prophet (s) said,
"O People, I leave among you two valuable things; and if you cling on to them, you will never go astray". The people who were present there asked, "what are those two valuable things?" He (a) answered, "the greater one is the Book of God, the Qur'an, and the smaller one is my 'itra and the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and these two will never separate until they meet me upon the Pond of Kawthar."
The Speech of Imam Ali (a)
Imam Ali (a) has referred to this issue twice:
- When describing himself, he (a) said, "I acted upon the al-thiql al-akbar, i.e. the Qur'an and left al-thiql al-asghar among you."
- In his advice to Kumayl, he (a) said, "O Kumayl, we are al-thiql al-asghar and the Qur'an is al-thiql al-akbar. Al-Thiql al-akbar is a testimony for al-thiql al-asghar and al-thiql al-asghar is a testimony for al-thiql al-akbar; each of which is a companion for the other and they never separate until they meet God Almighty, and He will judge between these two values and His servants."
The Wisdom behind Describing Ahl al-Bayt (a) as al-Thiql al-Asghar
In Shi'a beliefs, the Qur'an is the word of God and the standard for the truth and the Prophet (a) and the Ahl al-Bayt (a) came to deliver and explain the Qur'an. Thus, the Qur'an is the principle and al-thiql al-akbar and the Ahl al-Bayt (a) are its interpreter and al-thiql al-asghar. About the cause of naming the Ahl al-Bayt (a) as al-thiql al-asghar, 'Abd Allah Jawadi Amuli wrote:
"Although the pure Ahl al-Bayt (a), with regards to their spiritual positions and in the spiritual realm are not lower than the Qur'an in the eyes of great scholars of religion such as the author of Jawahir al-kalam and Kashif al-Ghita; and, the great word of Imam Ali (a) saying that, "God has no sign greater than me" is a proof for this claim; but, with regards to the apparent realm and in teaching the teachings of religion, the glorious Qur'an is al-thiql al-akbar and those great personalities are al-thiql al-asghar. In this world, they also sacrifice their bodies for saving the Qur'an."
Regarding this issue, some contemporary scholars have written that:
"This word of the Prophet (a) is relative to the understanding of people. The Qur'an is heavier for people with regards to their understanding than the Ahl al-Bayt (a); because, the Qur'an is the silent book and the Ahl al-Bayt (a) are the spoken book of God. Being greater and lesser for the Qur'an and the Ahl al-Bayt (a) with regards to each other is not about the essences of these two values. Just as the heaviness of the Qur'an and the Ahl al-Bayt (a) are mentioned with regards to people, being mentoined as greater and lesser are regarding people as well, not because of the formers' essences."
- The material for this article is mainly taken from ثقل اصغر in Farsi Wikishia.