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Question: What should the Ahl As-Sunnah stance be on the Ahl al-Bayt, and how does it differ with

the Shi'a assertion of Ismah (infallibility), how much love should we bestow on them and is their maqam higher than the sahabah? Answer by Shaykh Sayyid Muhammad al-Yaqoubi: Glory be to Allah; prayer and salutations are due to His Messenger Sall Allah-u alayhi wa sallam. The descendants of the Prophet Sall Allah -u alayhi wa sallam through his two grandsons Sayyiduna alHasan and Sayyiduna al-Husayn radiya Allah-u anhuma are parts of the family of the Prophet Sall Allah -u alayhi wa sallam known in Arabic as (Aal al-Bayt). The major reference to the rights of the family of the prophet Sall Allah-u alayhi wa sallam is in the Quranic verse, {Say, I do not ask you for any reward for IT [the Qur'an] except friendship to my kin}. In addition to this verse there are several hadith that speak loudly of the rights the Prophet Sall Allah-u alayhi wa sallam laid upon us concerning his family. These rights vary from love and respect to financial rights in the Public Funds. Love and respect for the family of the Prophet is one of the features that distinguished the path of Ahlus sunnah for centuries. The books of Fiqh, history and biographies have countless examples of the relationship between the Ulema and Aal al-Bayt. The great Imam sidi Ahmad Zarruq wrote in his Qawaid at -Tasawwuf a principle on the love for the family of the Prophet; ash-Shaykh al-Akbar Muhyideen Ibn Arabiy wrote a beautiful section in his Me ccan Revelation on Aal al-Bayt; both elaborated on the special high rank of Aal al-Bayt and their special merit on the Day of Judgment. Al-Qadi Iyad rahimahu Allah quoted the various hadiths that compel Muslims to the rights he Sall Allah -u alayhi wa sallam has upon us concerning his family. A good reference on this subject is ash -Sharaf al-Muabbad li-Aali Muhammad by Shaykh Yusuf an-Nabhaaniy [recently rendered into English by Sayyid Arfan Shah Bukhari]. On how much love we should have for them let me quote for you this story that happened with me: One of the greatest Ulema and men of Allah now in Damascus* is Shaykh Saleem al-Hammamiy who is 100 years of age, (at least). He is known for his extreme love for the family of the Prophet Sall Allah-u alayhi wa sallam. Upon one of my stays in Damascus in the beginning of this year (2002), I met him a few times during several dinners held by his sons, he told me twice that he wanted to see me alone. So, I went to visit him; in his room he gave a gift (a lot of money) and wanted me to give him my word that I would consider him part of our family by saying (Saleem is one of us the family of the Prophet); he added that this will give him one hope for survival on the Day of Judgment. When two scholars meet in a party, the scholar of Aal al-Bayt is always foremost. Niqabat al-Ashraaf was a special administration that handled the register, birth, death, genealogies and financial rights of Aal al-Bayt. Naqeeb al-Ashraaf was the official title of the head of that administration. Formally, half a century ago, when the Mufti and Naqeeb al-Ashraaf met, the latter takes precedence over the former, e.g. Naqib al-Ashraaf on the right-hand side of the president and the Mufti on the left-hand side. Ahlus sunnahs love and respect for Aal al-Bayt is immense and strong but not extreme so that it kept them within the tenets of the Deen. The extreme love the Shias had for Aal al-Bayt led them to believe that they are impeccable, a position they have held for centuries. In some of their most recent writings some prominent shii leaders make it possible that some of the Imams of Aal al-Bayt may reach levels higher in ranks than some prophets, which contradicts the Islamic dogma which states that messengers and then prophets are the best of all humanity with no single exception. We love the family of the Prophet Sall Allah-u alayhi wa sallam for his sake, for the blood that runs in their veins, or if we may put it in modern scientific terms, for the genes they inherited from him. It is sometimes difficult to stimulate this love for Aal al-Bayt when people see the majority of them as ordinary people, less righteous than others, have no knowledge of the deen, with some of them even getting far off the deen so they question the whole principle. Had we loved them for their own sake we would be excused if we disrespect them when they transgress; but we love them above all for the sake of their grandfather, and whether they are righteous or sinful, they are his descendants and he is still their grandfather. This is why one of the Algerian scholars, Shaykh Ashour al -Khanqi, a devotee to the family of the Prophet Sall Allah-u alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam wrote a book on this issue under the title: al -Ithaaf bifadli Usaatil- Ashraaf. I came across the title of this book several years ago and was very much interested in the life of the author; feeling compelled to be grateful to him on behalf of the living members of the family of the Prophet Sall alayhi -u alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam but the book, in its lithographic one hundred year old edition is as rare as a manuscript. Two years ago, I visited Princeton Library in my search of some manuscripts on hadith and went to its Arabic printed stocks and thought, not knowing where to start the search, I wondered how to find any rare book. To my surprise, I walked between the shelves and picked up one volume, the very first and it was this book on Aal al-Bayt. *Shaykh Saleem returned to his Lord earlier this year. May Allah show him mercy.