Al-Tathir Verse

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Al-Tathir Verse
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NameAl-Tathir Verse
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AboutInfallibility of Imams
Related Versesal-Mubahila Verse

Al-Taṭhīr verse (Arabic: آيَةُ التَّطهير, lit. the Verse of Purification) is a part of verse 33 of Sura al-Ahzab (Qur'an 33) 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).

Shia Islam


Occasion of Revelation

It is reported in some narrations that the above verse was revealed in the house of Umm Salama, wife of the 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 Prophet (s) if she was included in the Ahl al-Bayt (a)? The Prophet (s) answered her, "You are among the Prophet's (s) wives and you are on a good path."[1]

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" (Arabic: 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" (Arabic: 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, infidelity, hypocrisy, ignorance, and sins. Thus, the verse rejects the existence of all these kinds of impurity in Ahl al-Bayt (a).[2]

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.[3] Shi'a commentators have regarded "cleansing of Ahl al-Bayt (a) from impurities" to mean "infallibility from sins and having the opportunity of obedience."[4]

Members of Ahl al-Bayt

Sunni View

Commentators have different opinions on to whom the term Ahl al-Bayt (a) refer. Many companions of the 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 Imams of the Shi'a confirming this opinion.[5]

Another opinion is that the Ahl al-Bayt (a) referred to the Wives of the 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.[6]

A third opinion attributed to Zayd b. Arqam, the companion of the 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 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.[7]

There are different traditions in the Musnad Ahmad b. Hanbal, all of which refer to the fact that the Prophet (s) had mentioned Fatima (a), her husband (a), and her two sons as the reference for al-Tathir verse.[8] He also narrates in Fada'il al-sahaba that for six months, when the 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."[9]

Shi'a View

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 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).[10]

There would be a question why there is something said among the duties of the wives of the 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 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 Qur'an.[11]

That the verse has been revealed about Ashab al-Kisa' has been narrated so repeatedly that it has reached the level of tawatur.[12]

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).[13]

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]."[14]

See Also


  1. Tirmidhī, Sunan al-Tirmidhī, vol. 5, p. 699; Ṣadūq, Maʿānī l-akhbār, vol. 2, p. 403.
  2. Rāḍī, Sabīl al-nijāt, p. 7.
  3. Ṣadūq, Maʿānī l-akhbār, vol. 2, p. 138.
  4. Mufīd, al-Masāʾil al-ʿukbarīyya, p. 27; Shūshtarī, al-Ṣawārim al-muhriqa, p. 147-148; Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 16, p. 313.
  5. Ibn ʿAṭīyya, al-Muḥarrar al-wajīz, vol. 13, p. 72; Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr al-Qurʾān, vol. 3, p. 799.
  6. Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr al-Qurʾān, vol. 3, p. 798; Shawkānī, Fatḥ al-Qadīr, vol. 4, p. 278.
  7. Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr al-Qurʾān, vol. 3, p. 799; Shukānī, Fatḥ al-Qadīr, vol. 4, p. 278; Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, vol. 2, p. 1874.
  8. Ibn Ḥanbal, Musnad Ibn Ḥanbal, vol. 1, p. 331; vol. 4, p. 107; vol. 6, p. 292.
  9. Ibn Ḥanbal, Faḍāʾil al-ṣaḥāba, vol. 2, p. 761
  10. Qurṭubī, al-Jāmiʿ li-aḥkām al-Qurʾān, vol. 14, p. 183; Husaynī Ṭihrānī, Mihr-i tābān, p. 290-292.
  11. Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 8, p. 560; Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 16, p. 311.
  12. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 16, p. 311; Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 8, p. 155-157.
  13. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 423. Tabrisī, al-Iḥtijāj, vol. 2, p. 34.
  14. Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr al-Qurʾān,1419 AH, vol. 6, p. 371.


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