Al-Mawadda Verse | 42:23

Al-Mawadda Verse

Al-Mawadda verse (Arabic: آية المودة) (the Love Verse) is a part of the Quran 42:23 (Sūrah Ash-Shūrā) which shows the high status of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and considers the reward for the mission of the Prophet (s) nothing except the love of the Ahl al-Bayt (a).

... قُلْ لَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا إِلَّا الْمَوَدَّةَ فِي الْقُرْبَىٰ...

Qu‍‍l L‍‍ā 'As'aluku‍‍m `Alayhi 'A‍‍j‍‍rāan 'Illā A‍‍l-Mawaddata Fī A‍‍l-Qurbā

... Say, "I do not ask you any reward for it except love of [my] relatives"...

— Quran 42:23

Meaning of Keywords

"Mawadda" means "to love"1 and "Qurba" means blood relatives2.

Occasion of Revelation

All Shia and most of Sunni exegetes have narrated from Ibn Abbas that after the Prophet's (s) migration to Medina, Ansar (helpers) had discussions about the Islamic government.

They decided to go the Prophet (s) and say,

"We will submit to you all our small wealth and facilities if you have any financial needs for the progress of Islam and the management of the newly-established Islamic society.

In any way you take and use it would be our honour."3

That was when al-Mawadda verse was revealed to the Prophet (s)

- to mention the love of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) as the reward for the Prophet's (s) mission, not any material or worldly reward.

The Prophet communicated the verse to the Muslims and thereafter said,

Today onwards you should have love for my family.”

 The Ansar left the presence of the Prophet while submitting to this order of Allah and His Messenger.

However, a group of hypocrites accused the Prophet, saying that this verse was not a divine revelation; rather, it was a fabrication by the Prophet with the aim of subjugating the Muslims to the rule of his family after him.

Consequently, the following verse was revealed,

“Do they say, ‘He has fabricated a lie against Allah’?

If so, should Allah wish He would set a seal on your heart, and Allah will efface the falsehood and confirm the truth with His words;

- indeed He knows well what is in the breasts.” (42:24)

The Holy Prophet immediately sent for them and recited this verse to them.

The Ansar were disappointed with what happened and broke into tears.

Thereafter, this verse was revealed:

“It is He who accepts the repentance of His servants, and excuses their misdeeds and knows what you do.” (42:25)

Again, the Prophet (s) sent for them and gave them the glad tidings that Allah accepts the repentance of those who repent and answers their supplication.21

Relatives

There are different exegetical views about who or what "Qurba" refers to:

=> Some exegetes, or allegedly most of them, hold that the verse is addressed to the Quraysh:

Since the Prophet (s) fought the gods (idols) of the Quraysh, God ordered the Prophet (s) to ask them at least not to be hostile to him because they are his relatives.4

Thus, "qurbā" is a gerund which means being a relative, rather than relatives themselves,5 and the phrase, "al-mawadda fi l-qurbā", means kindness (to the Prophet) because of being relatives.

=> According to other exegetes, the verse is addressed to Ansar:

They gave some money to the Prophet (s) as a reward, but he refused the offer.

Thus, the verse tells them that the Prophet (s) did not want any money from them; his only reward being their kindness to his relatives among them (through his mother, Amina).6

=> Others maintain that the verse is addressed to the Quraysh or all people, and "relatives" in the verse refers to their own relatives:

Thus, the verse means that the Prophet (s) did not want any rewards except their kindness to their own relatives (family ties or Silat al-rahim).7

=> Others suggest that "qurbā" refers to closeness to God, and "al-mawadda fi l-qurbā" consists in loving God through closeness to Him (by obedience):

Thus, the verse means that the Prophet (s) did not want any rewards except loving God by being close to Him.8

Shiite scholars have responded to, and rejected, these 4 suggestions.

=> Others hold that "al-mawadda fi l-qurbā" means love of the Prophet's (s) relatives, that is, his Ahl al-Bayt (a):

There are many hadiths in Sunni as well as Shiite sources in which the verse is interpreted in this way. Such Mutawatir hadiths in both sources support this view.9

Based on several reasons, Shia scholars believe that the intended meaning of "relatives" in this verse is "the Ahl al-Bayt (a)" i.e. Alī (a), Fatima (a), al-Hasan (a) and al-Husayn (a).10

Also, al-Allāma al-Hillī considers al-Mawadda verse to be the 4th verse proving the Imamate of Alī (a) and quoted from Ibn Abbas that when al-Mawadda verse was revealed, the Prophet (s) was asked,

"O the Messenger of God (s)! Who are the relatives, whose love is incumbent upon us?"

and the Prophet (s) answered,

"Alī (a), Fatima (a), al-Hasan (a) and al-Husayn (a)".11

Ibn Hanbal (the Sunni founder of Hanbali School) has narrated this hadith from Ibn Abbas, too.12

Related Hadiths

Zayn al-Abidin (a) was asked about the meaning of al-Mawadda verse and Imam (a) answered, "the intended meaning of the verse is loving us, the Ahl al-Bayt (a)."13

It is narrated from Imam al-Baqir (a) that the intended reference of al-Mawadda verse is the Infallible Imams (a)."14

Ja’far al-Sādiq (a) says,

"al-Mawadda verse is revealed about us, the Ahl al-Bayt (a), Aṣḥāb al-Kisa."15

Hakim al-Haskānī, one of the Sunni scholars has mentioned 7 traditions in the commentary of the verse, suggesting that

"al-Qurba" referred to Alī (a), Fatima (a), al-Hasan (a) and al-Husayn (a).16

Also Ahmad b. Hanbal narrated that, when "al-Mawadda verse" was revealed, companions of the Prophet (s) asked him,

"O the Messenger of God (s)!
Who are your relatives, whose love is incumbent upon us?
"

and the Prophet (s) answered,

"Alī (a), Fatima (a) and their two sons" and he (s) repeated this three times.17

In his commentary on Ihqāq al-Haq, Sayyid Shihāb al-Dīn Marʿashī Najafī has enumerated up to 50 great Sunni scholars who have included hadiths about al-Mawadda verse in their books through numerous chains of transmission.18

Also al-Sayyid Hāshim al-Baḥrānī has mentioned 17 hadiths from Sunnis and 22 hadiths from Shiites about this verse in his book Ghāyat al-marām wa ḥujjat al-khiṣām.19

Reason for the Obligation of Loving Ahl al-Bayt

A careful consideration of hadiths from the Prophet (s) in Shiite and Sunni sources

to the effect that people should consult Ahl al-Bayt (a) in order to understand the Quran as well as the principles and ancillaries of Islam, such as Hadith al-Thaqalayn and Hadith al-Safīna,

- leaves no doubt that love of Ahl al-Bayt (a) is obligatory as a reward for the Prophet (s) in order to make people consult them to understand the religion.

Thus, the love of Ahl al-Bayt (a) is in continuity with Prophethood, and thus, the verse is not contradictory to other verses according to which there is no reward for Prophethood.

Thus, although love of Ahl al-Bayt (a) is taken to be a reward, it is indeed in the interest of people, rather than Ahl al-Bayt (a).20

  • 1. Ibn Manzūr, Lisān al-Arab, under the word "ودد".
  • 2. Ibn Manzūr, Lisān al-Arab, under the word "قرب".
  • 3. See: Ālūsī, Rūh al-maʿānī, vol. 13, p. 30.
  • 21. Tabarsī, Majma al-bayān, vol. 9, p. 29.
  • 4. Tabarī, Jāmi al-bayān, vol. 25, p. 15.
  • 5. Zamakhsharī, al-Kashshāf, vol. 4, p. 219.
  • 6. Ālūsī, Rūh al-maʿānī, vol. 13, p. 30.
  • 7. Ālūsī, Rūh al-maʿānī, vol. 13, p. 31.
  • 8. Ālūsī, Rūh al-maʿānī, vol. 13, p. 31-32.
  • 9. Tabarsī, Majma al-bayān, vol. 9, p. 48.
  • 10. Tabarsī, Majma al-bayān, vol. 9, p. 48.
  • 11. Allāma al-Hillī, Nahj al-Ḥaq, p. 175.
  • 12. Ibn Hanbal, Faḍāʾil Amīr al-Mū’minīn Alī b. Abī Ṭālib, p. 295.
  • 13. Kūfī, Tafsīr al-Furat al-Kūfī, p. 392.
  • 14. Kulayni, al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 413.
  • 15. Hākim al-Haskānī, Shawāhid al-tanzīl, vol. 2, p. 213.
  • 16. Hākim al-Haskānī, Shawāhid al-tanzīl, vol. 2, p. 189-196.
  • 17. Allāma al-Hillī, Nahj al-Ḥaq, p. 175.
  • 18. Shūshtarī, Iḥqāq al-ḥaq, vol. 3, p. 2-18, footnote. 2.
  • 19. Baḥrānī, Ghāyat al-marām, vol. 3, p. 230-244.
  • 20. Tabātabāʾī, al-Mīzān, vol. 18, p. 46.