Al-Tathīr Verse | 33:33

Al-Tathīr Verse

Al-Tathīr verse (Arabic: آيَةُ التَّطهير) is a part of verse 33 of Quran 33 in which God has repelled all the impurities from the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and Shi'a theologians and scholars refer to this verse as a proof for the Divine appointment of Imams (a).

إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّـهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنكُمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيرًا

Indeed Allah desires to repel all impurity (Rijs) from only you, Ahl al-Bayt (People of the Household), and purify you with a thorough purification.

— Quran 33:33

Occasion of Revelation

It is reported in some narrations that the above verse was revealed in the house of Umm Salamah, wife of the Prophet (s); and Alī (a), Fatima (a), al-Hasan (a), and al-Husayn (a) were there at the time of revelation of the verse.

Then, the Holy Prophet (s) covered Alī (a), Fatima (a), al-Hasan (a), and al-Husayn (a) with his Kisa (cloak) on which he was sitting and then stretched his hands towards the sky and said,

"O God! These four are my Ahl al-Bayt; clean them of any impurities!"

Umm Salamah asked the Prophet (s) if she was included in the Ahl al-Bayt (a)?

The Prophet (s) answered her,
"You are among the Prophet's (s) wives and you are on a good path."1

Argument from the Verse

With regard to how Āyāt al-Tathīr implies the purity of Ahl al-Bayt (a), it is said that the word, "innamā" (Arabic: إِنَّما), denotes exclusiveness, as lexicographers have stipulated.

Thus, the verse shows that God exclusively wills to purify Ahl al-Bayt (a).

Given Arabic grammar, the verse involves some other emphases as well:

Moreover, "al-Rijs" (Arabic: الرِجسَ) or impurity is used with a definite article (al-) and thus it connotes any type of impurity, be it mental or practical, such as polytheism, kufr (infidelity), nifāq (hypocrisy), ignorance, and sins.

Thus, the verse rejects the existence of all these kinds of impurity in Ahl al-Bayt (a).2

Meaning of Rijs

Commentators have different opinions regarding the meaning of Rijs:

They have suggested various meanings for this term including "sin", "mischief", "polytheism", "doubt", "low desires", etc.3

Shi'a commentators have regarded "cleansing of Ahl al-Bayt (a) from impurities" to mean "infallibility from sins and having the opportunity of obedience."4

Members of Ahl al-Bayt

Sunni View

Commentators have different opinions on to whom the term Ahl al-Bayt (a) refers.

Many companions of the Prophet (s) –

such as Anas b. Malik, Abu Sa’īd al-Khudri, Umm Salamah, Aisha, Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas, 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far, and 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas

- have considered Alī (a), Fatima (a), al-Hasan (a), and al-Husayn (a) the only members of the Ahl al-Bayt (a). There are narrations from other Shi'a Imams (a) confirming this opinion.5

Another opinion is that the Ahl al-Bayt (a) referred to the Wives of the Prophet (s) since the context of the verse is about them:

Hadiths with such implications have been narrated from 'Ikrima Mawla Ibn al-Abbas and Muqātil ibn Sulaymān.6

A 3rd opinion attributed to Zayd b. Arqam, the companion of the Prophet (s), suggests that the Ahl al-Bayt (a) are those whom are prohibited by God to receive Zakat

and they are relatives of the Prophet (s) including Al Alī, Al Aqīl and Al Ja'far

and by Tathīr in the discussed verse, clearing them from reception of Sadaqah [charity] and Zakat is meant.7

There are different traditions in the Musnad Ahmad b. Hanbal, all of which refer to the fact that the Prophet (s) had mentioned Fatima (a), her husband (a), and her two sons as the reference for al-Tathīr verse.8

He also narrates in Faḍāʾil al-sahāba

that for 6 months, when the Prophet (s) was passing by the house of Fatima (a) while going to the mosque for Fajr prayer, he (s) used to call them saying,

"O the Ahl al-Bayt (a), Prayer! Prayer! O Ahl al-Bayt (a)!
Surely God wants to repel any impurities from you and cleanse you."9

Shi'a View

The wording of the verse is in agreement with the 1st opinion above saying that Alī (a), Fatimah (s), al-Hasan (a), and al-Husayn (a) are the Ahl al-Bayt (a),

because if the Ahl al-Bayt (a) were the wives of the Prophet (s), then the pronouns in the verse had to be feminine ('ankunna, عنکُنَّ; and yutahhirakunna, یُطَهِّرَکُنَّ) instead of masculine ('ankum, عنکم; and yutahhirakum, یُطَهِّرَکُم).] 10

There would be a question why there is something said among the duties of the wives of the Prophet (s) which does not relate to them,

and the answer is that such style of speaking has been practiced by eloquent Arabs and we find numerous cases in the Quran where some sequential verses talk about different issues,

also there are hadiths that such verses had been revealed in different times, but have been put beside each other at the time of compiling the Quran.11

That the verse has been revealed about Aṣḥāb al-Kisa has been narrated so repeatedly that it has reached the level of Tawatur.12

In his commentary on the al-Tathīr verse, Ibn Kathir, a Sunni scholar, mentions a narration from Imam al-Hasan (a) who has been saying on the pulpit,

"we are the Ahl al-Bayt (a) about whom God has revealed this verse [al-Tathīr verse]."

He also narrates that Imam Zayn al-Abidīn (a) answered a man from Syria,

"We are meant by the Ahl al-Bayt (a) [in this verse]."13

  • 1. Tirmidhi, Sunnan al-Tirmidhi, vol. 5, p. 699; Ṣadūq, Maʿānī l-Akhbār, vol. 2, p. 403.
  • 2. Rāḍī, Sabīl al-nijāt, p. 7.
  • 3. Ṣadūq, Maʿānī l-Akhbār, vol. 2, p. 138.
  • 4. Mufīd, al-Masāʾil al-ʿukbarīyya, p. 27; Shūshtarī, al-Ṣawārim al-muhriqah, p. 147-148; Tabātabāʾī, al-Mīzan, vol. 16, p. 313.
  • 5. Ibn Atīyya, al-Muḥarrar al-wajīz, vol. 13, p. 72; Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr al-Qurān, vol. 3, p. 799.
  • 6. Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr al-Qurān, vol. 3, p. 798; Shawkānī, Fatḥ al-Qadīr, vol. 4, p. 278.
  • 7. Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr al-Qurān, vol. 3, p. 799; Shawkānī, Fatḥ al-Qadīr, vol. 4, p. 278; Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, vol. 2, p. 1874.
  • 8. Ibn Hanbal, Musnad Ibn Hanbal, vol. 1, p. 331; vol. 4, p. 107; vol. 6, p. 292.
  • 9. Ibn Hanbal, Faḍāʾil al-Sahāba, vol. 2, p. 761
  • 10. Qurtubī, al-Jāmi li-Aḥkām al-Qurān, vol. 14, p. 183; Husaynī Tihrānī, Mihr-i tābān, p. 290-292.
  • 11. Tabrisī, Majma al-bayān, vol. 8, p. 560; Tabātabāʾī, al-Mīzān, vol. 16, p. 311.
  • 12. Tabātabāʾī, al-Mīzan, vol. 16, p. 311; Tabrisī, Majma al-bayān, vol. 8, p. 155-157.
  • 13. Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr al-Qurān,1419 AH, vol. 6, p. 371.