Ahl al-bait

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Ahl al-bait ( Arabic أهل البيت 'People of the house', Turkish Ehli Beyt ) is a term used in pre- and early Islamic times to describe the ruling family of an Arab tribe or community. In early Islamic times, for example, this term was used for the Umayyad family . In later times the Abbasids also referred to the term. Today it is used almost exclusively for the family or the descendants of the Prophet Mohammed , whereby the limit of this group of people is drawn differently depending on the direction of study and denomination.

The three imams ʿAlī ibn Abī Tālib with his sons Hasan ibn ʿAlī and al-Husain ibn ʿAlī (from a Qajar manuscript)

Use of the term in the Koran

The term Ahl al-bait occurs three times in the Koran .

  • Verse 73 of Surah Hud refers to Abraham and his wife. “They said: 'Are you wondering about the decision of Allah? Allah's grace and blessings are upon you, O people of the house . Verily, He is worthy of praise, glorious. '”- 11:73
  • Verse 12 of Surah al-Qisas refers to the people of Moses . “And before that we had denied him nurses. Then she (his sister) said: 'Shall I lead you to people of a house who will take care of him in your place and be kind to him?' ”- 28:12
  • “God wants to take away the uncleanness from you, people of the house , and purify yourselves completely.” - 33:33

While in verses 11:73 and 28:12 it is clear who belongs to the "Ahl al-bait", the group of people in verse 33:33 is judged very differently. One view shared by both Shiite and many Sunni scholars is that the term refers to the Ahl al-Kisa ʾ, i.e. H. refers to Mohammed , ʿAlī , Fāṭima , Hasan and Husain .

Sunni interpretations

For the Sunnis today at least all of the Prophet's wives, his daughter Fatima , her husband Ali ibn Abi Talib and the sons from this connection, Hasan and Husain , belong to the Ahl al-bait , but the limit of membership has already been drawn much more generously.

Shiite and Alevi interpretations

With the Shiites and Alevis, for whom the prophetic family plays a prominent role (especially because of the imamate ), the group of people is rather limited. In addition to Mohammed, the Twelve Shiites only count Fatima, Ali, Hasan and Husain - i.e. the Ahl al-Kisa (according to a well-known tradition, the Hadith al-Kisa ) - and their direct descendants to the Ahl al-bait . According to their belief, these are essentially the " Fourteen Infallible ". According to Ayatollah ʿAbd al-Husain Dastghaib (d. 1981), “love for the Ahl al-bait” ( mawaddat-i ahl-i bait ) is one of the most important duties imposed by God ( farāʾiż-i ilāhīya ).

The Zaidite Shiites use the term Ahl al-bait for their imams from the descendants of Muhammad. Both with them and with the Muʿtazilites the consensus of the Ahl al-bait is valid as a valid argument.


  • I. Goldziher, C. van Arendonk, AS Tritton: Art. “Ahl al-Bayt”, in: The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition , Vol. I, pp. 257b-258b.
  • Moshe Sharon: "Ahl al-bayt - People of the House", in: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 8 (1986) 169-184.
  • Moshe Sharon: “The Umayyads as ahl al-bayt”, in: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 14 (1991) 115–152.
  • Mary Elaine Hegland: Art. "Ahl al-Bayt", in: John L. Esposito (ed.): The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. 6 Vols. Oxford 2009. Vol. I, pp. 74a-76b.

Individual evidence

  1. See Sharon: "The Umayyads as ahl al-bayt". 1991.
  2. See Goldziher, van Arendonk, Tritton: Art. "Ahl al-Bayt". P. 258a.
  3. See ʿAbd al-Ḥusain Dastġaib: Zindagānī Fāṭima Zahrā. Kānūn-i tarbijat, Šīrāz, 1982. p. 39.
  4. See Bernard Weiss: Studies in Islamic Legal Theory . Leiden 2002. p. 344.
  5. See Devin Stewart: Islamic Legal Orthodoxy. Twelver Shiite Responses to the Sunni Legal System . Salt Lake City 1998.