Ahkām concerning the ahlal-bayt

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Although Islamic law generally identifies all free Muslim males as equal members of society, irrespective of race or ancestry, a peculiar exception is made for those who claim patrilineal descent from the Arab chieftain Hāshim b. Abd Manāf, the greatgrandfather of the Prophet Muhammad. Drawing on hagiography and hadīth, Sunni and Shi'i authors ascribe special nobility, privileges and customs to members of the clan of Hāshim. Jurists also incorporated their adoration of and respect for the Prophet's family into their views of Islamic law. In particular, since the Prophet Muhammad was revered as an individual who was pure (tāhir, zakī), some jurists held that Hāshimids possessed the same purity. The Prophet's identities as an Arab and as a Qurashī also conferred certain legal privileges on members of these groups. After noting parallels to other high-status groups in early Muslim society, I examine more than a dozen laws that classical Sunni and Twelver Shi'i jurists characterized as specific to the Prophet's progeny and Household (ahl al-bayt).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-184
Number of pages40
JournalIslamic Law and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Ahl al-bayt
  • Alids
  • Arab customs
  • Hāshimids
  • Laws specific to Muhammad
  • Quraysh
  • Shi'ism
  • Sunnism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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