Al-It’ām Verse | 76:7-9

1. Al-It’ām Verse

Āyat al-It’ām (Arabic: آية الإطعام) is verse of Quran 76:8 (Sūrah al-Insān) which was revealed with respect to Amir al-Mū’minīn (a) and his family.1

According to some hadiths and the views of Shi'a and some Sunni exegetes of the Quran,

Imam Alī (a), Fatima al-Zahra (a), Imam al-Hasan (a), Imam al-Husayn (a) and their servant, Fidda, fasted for 3 consecutive days,

and in all the 3 days at the time of Iftār (breaking the fast), they gave their food to a poor person, an orphan, and a prisoner, while they stayed hungry themselves.

يُوفُونَ بِالنَّذْرِ وَيَخَافُونَ يَوْمًا كَانَ شَرُّهُ مُسْتَطِيرًا ﴿٧﴾ وَيُطْعِمُونَ الطَّعَامَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ مِسْكِينًا وَيَتِيمًا وَأَسِيرًا ﴿٨﴾ إِنَّمَا نُطْعِمُكُمْ لِوَجْهِ اللَّـهِ لَا نُرِيدُ مِنكُمْ جَزَاءً وَلَا شُكُورًا

They are those who keep their vows and dread the Day of widespread terror,/ 7/

who feed the poor, the orphan and the captive for the love of Allah,/8/

saying: We feed you for the sake of Allah Alone;
we seek from you neither reward nor thanks,/9/

/Quran 76:7,8,9/

2. Context of the Revelation

Some Sunni exegetes of the Quran have confirmed that al-It’ām Verse was revealed with respect to Ahl al-Bayt (a):

Allāma Amini in his book al-Ghadir, has mentioned 34 Sunni scholars who appealed to Mutawatir hadiths to the effect that the verse was revealed with respect to Ahl al-Bayt (a) and points to a significant virtue of Imam Alī (a), Fatima (a), Imam al-Hasan (a), and Imam al-Husayn (a).

According to Shi'a scholars, 18 verses of Quran 76 (or the whole Sūrah) were revealed with respect to Ahl al-Bayt (a).2

Ibn Taymiyyah, the leader of Wahhabism, believes that the verse was revealed in Mecca and is irrelevant to Ahl al-Bayt (a).3 This view is contrary to views of many Sunni scholars, and some scholars have rejected it.4

3. The Story of the Revelation

Al-Zamakhsharī, a Sunni exegete of the Quran, writes:

Ibn Abbas is quoted as saying that Hasan (a) and Husayn (a) were sick.

The Prophet (s) went to visit them together with some of his companions. They told Alī:

"O Abu l-Hasan! You had better vow for the health of your sons".

Alī (a), Fatima (a), and Fidda vowed to fast for 3 consecutive days if the boys were healed. When he was healed, Alī (a) borrowed 3 "mans" [equal to 18 kilograms] of barley.

Fatima (a) ground it, and baked bread with 1/3 of the barley.

At the time of Iftār, a beggar went to their house and said:

"O the household of Muhammad (s), I am a poor Muslim person; please give me a food. May God give you heavenly foods."

They preferred him to themselves and gave the bread to him, breaking their fast with water.

They fasted the next day. When they brought the bread at night, an orphan went to their house. They gave their food to him again.

On the 3rd day, a [newly released] prisoner went to their house. Again, they gave their barley food to him.

In the morning, Alī took the hands of Hasan (a) and Husayn (a) and they went to the Prophet (s).

When he saw them, he found that they were shivering from hunger. He said:

"I am saddened by seeing you in this condition".

He went to their house together with them, and saw Fatima (a) while worshiping with her stomach diminished and her eyes hollowed. He was saddened by seeing her.

Then Jibrā’īl went down to the Prophet (s) and said:

"God congratulates you for having such a household".

He then recited the above verse.5

Some exegetes of the Quran take the story to have occurred in one day, rather than 3 days:

They said that the verse was revealed with respect to Alī (a):

He did something for a Jew and received some barley as a wage. He took the barley to his house.

They ground 1/3rd of it and made food with it. When they wanted to have the meal, a poor person went to their house, and Alī gave him the food.

They then ground another 3rd of the barley and made food with it. When the food was made, an orphan went to their house, and they gave it to him.

When they made the last remaining part of the barley, a polytheist prisoner went to them, and they gave the food to him too.6

  • 1. See: Rūḥānīnīyā, Frūgh-i Ghadīr, p. 146; Ansārī, Ahl al-Bayt, p. 173; Daylamī, Irshād al-qulūb, vol. 2, p. 136.
  • 2. Makārim Shīrāzī, Barguzīda-yi Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 5, p. 350.
  • 3. Ibn Taymiyyah, Minhāj al-sunna, vol. 7, p. 174-186.
  • 4. Ibrāhīmīyān, "Barrasī wa naqd-i dīdgāh-i Ibn Taymīyya", p. 160-162.
  • 5. Zamakhsharī, al-Kashshāf, vol. 4, p. 670.
  • 6. Baghawī, Ma‘ālim al-Tanzīl, vol. 5, p. 191-192.