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Why Love for The Prophet's Family is Essential

Islam emphasises the profound respect and love for the Prophet Muhammad; may Allah bless him and grant him peace. This deep reverence is not just a sentiment but is reflected through actions and commitments. Central to this devotion is the concept of upholding the Prophet's rights. A vital aspect of this is the love and respect for his family, which is considered one of the highest forms of honouring the Prophet.

In an act of devotion and gratitude, the Ansār of Madina wanted to manifest their love and appreciation towards the Prophet; they gathered their wealth together and presented it to him. Allah then revealed a verse that guided them towards a more meaningful expression of their love and appreciation. The verse conveyed: "Say: I seek no reward from you. Instead, show love to my relatives."[1]

This message underscored that while material gifts were appreciated, true repayment for the blessings bestowed upon them by the Prophet - including recognition of Allah, guidance, salvation from the Fire, purification, intercession, entrance into Paradise, spiritual elevation, and the love of Allah - could be best expressed through love and kindness towards the Prophet's family. This directive elevated the act of showing love to the Prophet's relatives as an expression of gratitude and devotion.

The scholars of the Quran have related that the Companions asked the Prophet which relatives they were required to love. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, replied, "Alī, Fāṭima and their two children," meaning the Imams Ḥasan and Ḥusayn, may Allah be pleased with them all.

This love for the Prophet's family, the Ahl al-Bayt, was not a personal request from the Prophet as a caring father but a Divine directive. The Prophet's role transcended personal desires, as emphasised in the Quran: "And he does not speak from his desire, it is but a revelation inspired."[2] 

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, further emphasised their excellence in various hadiths, including one reported by Tirmidhi, where he stated, "I am leaving within you that which if you hold on to after me you will never stray: The Book of Allah, and my relatives—my family (itratī wa Ahlu Baytī). They will not separate until they return to me at the Reservoir."

The distinction of the Ahl al-Bayt was Divinely ordained, as indicated in another verse where Allah ordained that the Ahl al-Bayt would be purified thoroughly, setting them apart from others: ‘Allah only wants to remove all filth from you, O Ahl al-Bayt, and to purify you completely.’[3] This purification was not only of physical or moral nature but also spiritual, granting the Ahl al-Bayt a unique standing. They were not just family members of the Prophet but spiritual inheritors and disseminators of Divine Love and Tawhid, the Oneness of God, as taught in the Quran.

A portrayal of this Divine inheritance may be seen and noted in the Sufi Paths, where most of the founders are, in fact, from the progeny of the pure, Sayyida Fatima. From their example, we find that when calamity occurs, the Ahl al-Bayt are at the forefront in removing it from the Ummah. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, indicated this attribute when he said, "Stars are a security for the people of the heavens and my Ahl al-Bayt are a security for my nation."

The Ahl al-Bayt and the Companions

The noble Companions understood the importance of connecting with the family of the Prophet. They understood the unique position the Ahl al-Bayt had been spiritually granted because of their link with the Messenger of Allah. Hence, to the utmost degree, they manifested this love (mawadda) and reverence to the Ahl al-Bayt. Sayyidina Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "By the One Who holds my soul in His Hand, it is more beloved to me to maintain the kinship of the Messenger of Allah than that of my own!"

When Sayyidina Umar bin al-Khaṭṭāb, may Allah be pleased with him, managed the finances when he was the Caliph, he placed the Prophet’s family at the top of the list. He also preferred al-Ḥasan and al-Ḥusayn over his son, Abdallah. He would grant them each ten thousand dirhams. Abdallah asked him, "Why have these two young men been preferred over me when you know of my precedence in Islam and my hijra?" Sayyidina Umar replied, "Woe to you, O Abdallah, bring me a grandfather like their grandfather, a father like their father, a mother like their mother and a grandmother like their grandmother!"

The Ahl al-Bayt and the Scholars

Distinguished scholars demonstrated their love and reverence towards the family of the Prophet, such as Imam Abū Ḥanīfa, who spent two years in the company of Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq and said, "Had I not spent two years with Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, I would have been destroyed."

Imam al-Shafi'ī expressed his love for the Ahl al-Bayt through his poetry and his frequent visits to Sayyida Nafīsa, the great-granddaughter of Imam Ḥasan, seeking blessings and supplication from her.

In the face of severe trials imposed by the Abbasid Caliph Abu Ja'far al-Mansūr, Imam Mālik exhibited remarkable forbearance and compassion, showing forgiveness for each hardship. His actions were influenced by his respect for the Ahl al-Bayt, to which Abu Ja'far was connected through Sayyidina Abbās. Similarly, the esteemed Sufi Saint Imam Junayd, known for being a pivotal figure in the Sufi tradition, to whom all the chains of the Sufi paths are connected, received his spiritual opening because he honoured an elderly man from the Ahl al-Bayt.

History is replete with instances illustrating the profound esteem and reverence that eminent scholars have consistently held for the Ahl al-Bayt. This deep-seated love and veneration for the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family and grant them peace, reflects their sincerity and devotion to him and is a testament that the tradition of loving the Ahl al-Bayt was established during the life of the Messenger of Allah.
[1] Sura al-Shūrā:23
[2] Sura al-Najm:3
[3] Sura al-Ahzāb: 33

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