Al-Taṭhīr verse (Arabic: آيَةُ التَّطهير) is a part of verse 33 of Sura al-Ahzab in which God has repelled all the impurities from the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and Shi'a theologians and scholars refer to this verse as a proof for the infallibility of Imams (a).
إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّـهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنكُمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيرًا
Indeed Allah desires to repel all impurity (Rijs) from only you, Ahl al-Bayt (People of the Household), and purify you with a thorough purification.
|— Qur'an 33:33|
Occasion of Revelation
- See also: Hadith al-Kisa'
It is reported in some narrations that the above verse was revealed in the house of Umm Salama, wife of the Holy Prophet (s); and 'Ali (a), Fatima (a), al-Hasan (a), and al-Husayn (a) were there at the time of revelation of the verse. Then, the Holy Prophet (s) covered 'Ali (a), Fatima (a), al-Hasan (a), and al-Husayn (a) with his Kisa' (cloak) on which he was sitting and then stretched his hands towards the sky and said, "O God! These four are my Ahl al-Bayt; clean them of any impurities!" Umm Salama asked the Holy Prophet (s) if she was included in the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and the Holy Prophet (s) answered her, "you are among the Holy Prophet's (s) wives and you are on a good path."
Argument from the Verse
With regard to how Aya al-Tathir implies the purity of Ahl al-Bayt (a), it is said that the word, "innamā" (إِنَّما), denotes exclusiveness, as lexicographers have stipulated. Thus, the verse shows that God exclusively wills to purify Ahl al-Bayt (a). Given Arabic grammar, the verse involves some other emphases as well. Moreover, "al-rijs" (الرِجسَ) or impurity is used with a definite article (al-) and thus it connotes any type of impurity, be it mental or practical, such as polytheism, kufr (infidelity), nifaq (hypocrisy), ignorance, and sins. Thus, the verse rejects the existence of all these kinds of impurity in Ahl al-Bayt (a).
Meaning of Rijs
Commentators have different opinions regarding the meaning of Rijs. They have suggested various meanings for this term including "sin", "mischief", "polytheism", "doubt", "low desires", etc. Shi'a commentators have regarded "cleansing of Ahl al-Bayt (a) from impurities" to mean "infallibility from sins and having the opportunity of obedience."
Members of Ahl al-Bayt
Commentators have different opinions on to whom the term Ahl al-Bayt (a) refer. Many companions of the Holy Prophet (s) such as Anas b. Malik, Abu Sa'id al-Khudri, Umm Salama, Aisha, Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas, 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far, and 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas have considered 'Ali (a), Fatima (a), al-Hasan (a), and al-Husayn (a) the only members of the Ahl al-Bayt (a). There are narrations from other Shi'a Imams (a) confirming this opinion.
Another opinion is that the Ahl al-Bayt (a) referred to the Wives of the Holy Prophet (s) since the context of the verse is about them. Hadiths with such implications have been narrated from 'Ikrima mawla Ibn al-'Abbas and Muqatil b. Sulayman.
A third opinion attributed to Zayd b. Arqam, the companion of the Holy Prophet (s), suggests that the Ahl al-Bayt (a) are those whom are prohibited by God to receive zakat and they are relatives of the Holy Prophet (s) including Al 'Ali, Al 'Aqil and Al Ja'far and by Tathir in the verse under discussion, clearing them from reception of sadaqa [charity] and zakat is meant.
There are different traditions in the Musnad Ahmad b. Hanbal, all of which refer to the fact that the Holy Prophet (s) had mentioned Fatima (a), her husband (a), and her two sons as the reference for al-Tathir verse. He also narrates in Fada'il al-sahaba that for six months, when the Holy Prophet (s) was passing by the house of Fatima (a) while going to the mosque for Fajr prayer, he (s) used to call them saying, "O the Ahl al-Bayt (a), Prayer! Prayer! O Ahl al-Bayt (a)! Surely God wants to repel any impurities from you and cleanse you."
The wording of the verse is in agreement with the first opinion above saying that 'Ali (a), Fatimah (s), al-Hasan (a), and al-Husayn (a) are the Ahl al-Bayt (a), because if the Ahl al-Bayt (a) were the wives of the Holy Prophet (s), then the pronouns in the verse had to be feminine ('ankunna, عنکُنَّ; and yutahhirakunna, یُطَهِّرَکُنَّ) instead of masculine ('ankum, عنکم; and yutahhirakum, یُطَهِّرَکُم).
There would be a question why there is something said among the duties of the wives of the Holy Prophet (s) which does not relate to them, and the answer is that such style of speaking has been practiced by eloquent Arabs and we find numerous cases in the Holy Qur'an where some sequential verses talk about different issues, also there are hadiths that such verses had been revealed in different times, but have been put beside each other at the time of compiling the Holy Qur'an.
That the verse has been revealed about Ashab al-Kisa' has been narrated so repeatedly that it has reached the level of tawatur.
In addition, there are hadiths from Imams (a) of Shi'a that the Ahl al-Bayt (a) also include other Imams of Shi'a (a).
In his commentary on the al-Tathir verse, Ibn Kathir, a Sunni scholar, mentions a narration from Imam al-Hasan (a) who has been saying on the pulpit, "we are the Ahl al-Bayt (a) about whom God has revealed this verse [al-Tathir verse]." He also narrates that Imam al-Sajjad (a) answered a man from Syria, "We are meant by the Ahl al-Bayt (a) [in this verse]."
- Al-Tirmidhi, Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Vol.5, P.699; Ibn Babawayh, Ma'ani l-akhbar, Vol.2, P.403
- Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, Vol.2, P.761
- The material for this article is mainly taken from آیه تطهیر in Farsi WikiShia.
- Ahmad b. Hanbal. Fada'l al-sahaba. Ed. Wasi Allah b. Muhammad 'Abbas. Mecca: Jami'a Umm al-Qura', 1403/1983.
- Ibn Babwayh. Ma'ani l-akhbar. Qum: 'Ali Akbar Ghaffari.
- Al-Tirmidhi. Sunan al-Tirmidhi. Ed. 'Abd al-Wahhab 'Abd al-Latif. Beirut: Dar al-Fikr.