Āl Allah (آل الله) or the Household of God is an attribute of Ahl al-Bayt (a) cited in hadiths, which is also used by Shiite orators and poets in reference to Ahl al-Bayt (a). The use is a metaphorical indication of the high status of Ahl al-Bayt (a) for God, without literally implying that they are God's household. Moreover, the Quraysh were also called Al Allah on account of their custodianship of the Ka'ba.
Al Allah literally means a household which belongs to, or is otherwise attributed to, God. “Al” (آل) is derived from the word “ahl” (اهل) which means family, household, followers, and relatives. The word appears in the Qurʾan, such as Al ʿImran, which means the family of ʿImran, including Mary (a) and Jesus (a). “Al Lut” means the family of Prophet Lot (a), and “Al Firʿawn” which means the followers and the army of the Pharaoh. According to the rule of the Arabic language, “al” when used as a genitive modifier for “Allah” counts as an honorific genitive construction; that is, it implies the dignity or greatness of what modifies God as a genitive case, and by no means it implies any familial relation with God.
There are hadiths according to which Imams of the Shi'a possess special knowledge in virtue of the fact that they are “Ahl sirr Allah” (people of God’s secrets), “Al Allah” (God’s household), and “warathat al-anbiyaʾ” (heirs of the prophets). Accordingly, orators and poets use the term “Al Allah” to refer to Ahl al-Bayt (a):
As to the attribution or association of Shiite Imams to God, it has been said that the use is indicative of their dignity and greatness, rather than their kinship with God. They are associated with God in that they are at the highest degrees of proximity to God. Moreover, the Quraysh tribe were characterized as “All Allah,” as well as “jiran Allah” (God’s neighbors), and “sukkan Allah” (residents of God). According to Mansur b. Husayn Abi, a fifth-century Shiite scholar, the event of Army of Elephants added dignity and honor to the Quraysh, which was why they came to be called “Ahl Allah.”
- Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān, vol. 15, p. 376.
- Ṭabāṭabāʾī, Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥusayn al-. Al-Mīzān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān. Qom: Daftar-i Intishārāt-i Islāmī, 1417 AH.