The reality, however, is that a person’s lineage and birth has no bearing on his rank and station on earth in the eyes of Allah. The only criterion which decides a person’s rank and station is a person’s Taqwa(piety). The Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) spoke well of the Ahlel Bayt and Ahlel Kisa (People of the Cloak) not because they were related to him, but rather because these people had great Taqwa. The Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) knew them personally and he experienced their dedication to Islam first-hand. As such, the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) could vouch for them. The Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) also complimented his Sahabah (Companions), the Ansar (Helpers), Muhajiroon (Immigrants), and many other groups of people. When the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) complimented the Muhajiroon, he did not do so simply because they were part of a certain Meccan tribe, but rather because they had great Taqwa. The same holds true for the Ansar, the Sahabah, and anyone else.
The Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) used Ahlel Bayt as a description to denote that these family members had great Taqwa. For example, if a person has a very pious uncle, he would say “my uncle has Taqwa; you should respect my uncle!” This does not mean that he has selected his uncle simply because he is a biological uncle, but rather because the uncle has Taqwa. Had his uncle been a sinful and distasteful person then he would have said that he has no relation to his uncle. Likewise, we are respecting the Ahlel Bayt not simply because they are related to the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم), but rather only because they had a great deal of Taqwa.
The Quran repeatedly holds each individual responsible for his or her own conduct. The actions of one soul cannot affect another, neither positively nor negatively. To do so would go against the egalitarian spirit of Islam, and would instead be a reflection of Jahiliyyah custom in which people thought they would be saved based on their familial connections as opposed to their Taqwa.
The Quran declares that on the Day of Judgement everyone’s familial connections will be cut off: “so now all relations between you have been cut off” (Quran, 6:94)
And then Allah says: “one soul shall not avail another” (Quran, 2:48) And again: “one soul shall not avail another” (Quran, 2:123)
The Quran categorically states that no soul shall have an effect on another: “no soul benefits except from its own work, and none bears the burden of another” (Quran, 6:164)
And again, Allah repeats it “that no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another–And that man shall have nothing but what he [himself] strives for” (Quran, 5:38-39)
As well as: “that every soul delivers itself to ruin by its own acts” (Quran, 6:70)
The Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) declared that people were born inherently equal “except by piety and good action (Taqwa). Indeed the best among you is the one with the best character (Taqwa). Listen to me. Did I convey this to you properly?… Each one of you who is here must convey this to everyone not present.” (Excerpt from the Prophet’s Last Sermon as in Baihiqi)
Islam came and destroyed this concept of hereditary rank. The Quran declares that people are created inherently equal and differ only based on their Taqwa (piety): “Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is he who is the most righteous of you.” (Quran 49:13)
It is our hope that it has become clear that the Shia who believe in this are going against the Quran when they think that the Prophet’s family will be judged by another criterion or by a special lenience simply because they are the Prophet’s family, or that they will be automatically exalted based on something other than merit. They argue that Ali (رضّى الله عنه) had more of a right to the Caliphate than Abu Bakr (رضّى الله عنه) because he was related to the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) and the leadership could only be from a certain lineage of people [a concept not unfamiliar in the modern day context of the KKK and other discriminatory belief systems which raise people based on birth to a certain group as opposed to merit]. The Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) has condemned this attitude in no uncertain terms, calling it nothing less than a remnant of the pre-Islamic Time of Jahiliyyah (Ignorance).
The Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) said: “There are indeed people who boast of their dead ancestors; but in the sight of Allah they are more contemptible than the black beetle that rolls a piece of dung with its nose. Behold, Allah has removed from you the arrogance of the Time of Jahiliyyah (Ignorance) with its boast of ancestral glories. Man is but an Allah-fearing believer or an unfortunate sinner. All people are the children of Adam, and Adam was created out of dust.” [At-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud]
The Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) said further: “Undoubtedly Allah has removed from you the pride of arrogance of the age of Jahilliyah (ignorance) and the glorification of ancestors. Now people are of two kinds. Either believers who are aware or transgressors who do wrong. You are all the children of Adam and Adam was made of clay… If they do not give this up (i.e. pride in ancestors) Allah will consider them lower than the lowly worm which pushes itself through dung.” [Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi]
The Prophets and their Families
After all, Prophet Muhammad (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) was born of a family who were Mushriks (polythiests) so how can lineage possibly mean anything? Prophet Nuh (عليه السلام) had a son who was destined to Hell-Fire and his example is mentioned in the Quran, showing that not even if a person’s father is a prophet does this mean anything. Prophet Ibrahim’s father was a Mushrik and Ibrahim (عليه السلام) will disown him on the Day of Judgement. We see that ties of blood relation sever and the only real familial connection is through Taqwa. The Prophet Muhammad’s uncles were blood-related, but do we say that Abu Lahab and Abu Jahl will get any special privelage because of this?
People should not be accorded special rights simply because they were born to the right womb. People should be judged based on their Taqwa, not their birth. Bilal (رضّى الله عنه) was a slave, born to a slave woman, and today he is remembered as one of the noblest of Sahabah–despite his “lowly birth.” On the other hand, both Abu Jahl and Abu Lahab were from the same bloodline as the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم), and yet they are the two people for whom Allah has promised Hell-fire.
To take it even one step further: today, there are descendants of Abu Jahl and Abu Lahab who are highly religious Muslims, and will Insha-Allah enter Paradise. Would it be proper and just of Allah to limit the greatness of such people simply because they come from a certain stock, and not another? Then why is it that the Shia say such things against the progeny of Yezid, as if the progeny of Yezid had any say in being born of his loins!
The point is simple: who a person is born to should not decide his status in the eyes of Allah or in the religion of Islam. It should only be one’s Taqwa which dictates a person’s station and rank. This is why it is discomforting that the Shia trace Imamah via the Prophet’s bloodline just like a hereditary kingship. Why didn’t Allah Almighty simply make all the prophets to be like a hereditary kingship? He instead chose from amongst the people the best of character and the ones with the most Taqwa. Prophet Musa (عليه السلام) came from people who were slaves, and yet his rank was raised far above the king of the country, Pharaon. In the words of Martin Luther King: people should be judged based upon the content of their character and nothing else. This is what defines a person’s rank on this earth.
The Ayatollahs will oftentimes retort that Prophet Ibrahim (عليه السلام) asked for his progeny to be leaders. However, it should be noted that his sons were the ancestors of the entire Semite race and the only ones alive in the entire region. This argument is equivalent to saying that Allah chose Prophet Adam’s family (عليه السلام) and exalted them as leaders, and then using this as evidence against the idea that Allah judges only upon merit. Furthermore, we should all make du’a that our progeny is pious; this in no way means that we are saying our progeny is superior to the progeny of other people.
Prophet Muhammad (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) is not the best because of his birth, but only because he was the best in Taqwa. And the Ahlel Bayt and Ahlel Kisa were complimented by the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم)not because of their birth but because the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) knew of their great Taqwa. Why should the Prophet’s family be exalted just by virtue of being his family? Should they not be exalted for their righteousness, their piety, and their Taqwa?
And even if we take the view that the family of the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) should be exalted above all others, then why is one section preferred above all others? Uthman’s father (رضّى الله عنه) was the Prophet’s second cousin, making Uthman (رضّى الله عنه) a nephew of the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم). If the lineage of the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) is to be exalted above all others, then why is Uthman’s side of the family (رضّى الله عنه) neglected in this adulation? If this is countered by the fact that Ali (رضّى الله عنه) was the husband of Fatima (رضّى الله عنها), the daughter of the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم), then what about Uthman (رضّى الله عنه)? The Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) gave Uthman (رضّى الله عنه) two of his daughters in marriage. Does that not mean that Uthman’s lineage (رضّى الله عنه) has twice the right to be exalted above Ali’s lineage (رضّى الله عنه)? No, this is contrary to the egalitarian spirit of Islam. Birthright does not mean anything. Only Taqwa does.
Today, so many Shia claim to be “Syedi.” How exactly does one inherit the title of Syed? Just because the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) called one person to be Syed, this does not mean that all his progeny magically become Syed as well. The Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) gave the title of Siddeeq to Abu Bakr (رضّى الله عنه); does this mean that all of his progeny are also magically Siddeeq (i.e. truthful)? A person does not inherit such qualities or titles, but rather he/she must work for them and strive for them with their own actions and deeds.
Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid (رحمه الله) says:
“The idea that there are “sayyids” or “walis” (“saints”) whom Allaah has singled out from among mankind for some favour, or that they have a status which other people do not share, is an idea which is based on the Magian belief that Allaah is “incarnated” in people He chooses from among mankind. The Persians used to believe this of their kings (Chosroes), and that this spirit moved from one king to another, through his descendents. This Magian (Zoroastrian) idea spread to the Muslims via the Raafidi Shi’ah, whose origins are Magian – so this idea was introduced to the Muslims. This idea says that Allaah selects some of mankind, to the exclusion of others, for this status, which is the status of imaamah and wilaayah. So they believe in this idea with regard to ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib and his descendents, and they add other positions to that, such as sayyid…They said that as this sayyid or wali has this position and status, then they know better what is in our best interests, so we should entrust our affairs to them, because they are better than us, and so they are more entitled…There can be no doubt that this is obviously a misguided notion.”
And perhaps the greatest irony of all is the fact that many of the people who claim to be “Syedi” today are of Iranian or Pakistani ethnicity. How can these people realistically claim descent from the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) who was Arab? Their skin is not the same color as the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم), their facial structure is from another race altogether, and even their DNA would attest to the fact that they are anything but descendants of the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم)! And why is it that we find very few people in Arabia who claim to be Syedi, and yet every third person claims this rank in Iran and Pakistan?
The unfortunate truth is that these Syedis are misguided. The reasoning is simply that the position of “Syed” is respected in these lands and “being a Syedi” is in vogue, while anybody can easily claim to be Syedi. We find that in Iran there are many Ayatollahs who claim to be Syedi and thus they are exalted because of this. In Pakistan, many of the “saints” claim to be Syedi and they are thus exalted by the incredulous people for this. Historically, the Shia leaders have exploited the masses by collecting Khums (religious tax) from their followers, all because they are “Syedi.” This is no doubt exploiting the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) and his family, all for materialistic gain.
It would be more accurate to say that Iranians are the descendants of fire-worshippers and Pakistanis are descendants of Hindu pagans. Likewise, most Arabs are the descendants of idol-worshippers, including the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) himself. The writer of this article is most likely the descendant of a Hindu pagan, but he does not think that Allah would judge him any differently had he been born to another lineage!
Indeed, to cogitate that the Ahlel Bayt or Ahlel Kisa are special because of their familial connection as opposed to their Taqwa is to, in fact, diminish the status of the Ahlel Bayt.
To conclude, yes we must respect the Ahlel Bayt and Ahlel Kisa. But this is not because they are born of a certain lineage, but rather because they had a great deal of Taqwa. We reject all those who claim to be superior based on their lineage.
Furthermore, anyone who is pious and a believer becomes family to the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم). Allah says in the Quran: “The believers are nothing else than brothers.” (Quran, 49:10) In Islam, family is based not on blood but rather on faith. We are brothers and sisters in the Deen, and if our blood-relatives are of another faith, then they are not family in the eyes of Islam; faith is the marker for who is part of our family. Those who convert to Islam and who are pious are adopted into the Muslim family.
The evidence for this can be seen by the fact that even the supposedly lowly slaves were declared to be Ahlel Bayt. It was narrated that Mihraan, the freed slave of the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم), said: the Messenger of Allah said: “We are the family of Muhammad… the freed slave of a people is one of them.”(Narrated by Ahmad, no. 15152).
Anyone who is pious is included in the Ahl of Islam, the brotherhood and sisterhood of the Ummah. It is transmitted by at-Tabarani and al-Hakim that in one incident some people spoke very lowly about Salman al-Farsi. They spoke of the inferiority of Salman’s Persian ethnicity, and upon hearing this the Messenger of Allah (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) declared, “Salman is from us, the Ahlel Bayt.” And with that did the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) destroy the Jahiliyyah concepts of discrimination based on one’s birth. Suddenly, the Persian Kisra (King) became the most despicable whereas the lowly Muslim slave Bilal (رضّى الله عنه) became one of the highest in rank.
It was not the intent of the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) to make a dynasty of rulers after him, nor did he mention this in any authentic report. On the contrary, the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) stated that the most eligible to claim a right to the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) are the most pious, regardless of their descent or the place they lived in.
The Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) turned to Medinah and said: “Those Ahlel Bayt of mine think that they have the most right (to me) and it is not like this. Rather those who have the most right to me from amongst you are the pious, whoever they are and wherever they are.” [Narrated by Ibn Abi Asim 2/689 and Al-Tabarani 20/121]
In another Hadith, the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) condemns people of the future who would lay claim to power based on familial descent from the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم): “a man from the people of my house, who will assert that he belongs to me, whereas he does not, for my friends are only the God-fearing.” [Narrated by Abu Dawuud # 4230 and Ahmad # 5892 and others]
The Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) has shown that the true relationship to him is that of piety and religion and not of biological descent. Had the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) indeed set a dynasty of rulers from his offspring, this would have cast doubt to the Prophet’s truthfulness and sincerity in conveying Allah’s word and then the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) would have been like other kings who were after this Dunya (materialistic world) and founded kingdoms with dynasties from their offspring. Indeed, the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) even forbade his progeny from inheriting wealth from him!
It is outside of our capabilities and inclinations to force people to leave concepts which the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) himself condemned in the strongest of manner, but it should be noted, however, that this method of exaltation will not be seen as something praiseworthy by the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) or his family, but rather they will view it as an abomination, much like a white person of good moral standards would find it offensive if someone else declared him superior simply because he was white. Most white people look down on Neo-Nazis, despite the fact that the Neo-Nazis are “praising” the white race. Likewise, the Prophet’s lineage will look down on those Shia who are “praising” them in such an exaggerated manner and based on criteria other than their merit.
Certain people may rationalize this discrimination by saying “Allah is God and God can do anything.” However, it is not God who is discriminating. Allah is clear in the Quran, in which He definitively states that Taqwa is the only criterion. If individuals decide to engage in discrimination based on birthright, then they should do it on their own accord and stop justifying it using Allah as an excuse. Thus, in our view it is unacceptable that the Shia reject the first Caliph on the basis of his lineage, and it is this bigotry that the Shia faith is based upon. It may be the case that this notion of discrimination was propagated by Abdullah ibn Saba and the Saba’ites, the founders of the Shia movement; ibn Saba was Jewish and he may well have carried over the notion of a chosen group of people, a concept of Judaism. This idea would then have been fostered by the Persian converts to Shi’ism who often came from Magian backgrounds.
We ask Allah to shower His Infinite blessings upon the Ahlel Bayt, the Ahlel Kisa, the Sahabah, the Muhajiroon, the Ansar, and the believing Muslims!