Ahl’ul-Bayt denotes the members of a family living under the same roof. In the technical sense, it covers the entire members of the Blessed Prophet’s family, as well as his extended family; hence the families of, first and foremost, the Prophet of Allah (s.a.s), and then of Ali, Jafar, Aqil and Abbas.
Just as praying for and sending greetings (salat’u salam) to the Noble Prophet (s.a.s) is a duty for all Muslims, so is respecting and adhering to the Ahl’ul-Bayt with love. It is impermissible for the Ahl’ul-Bayt to receive alms (zakat). Seeing on one occasion the little Hasan (r.a) take a piece of date from the pile reserved for zakat in the Treasury to his mouth, the Blessed Prophet (s.a.s) quickly made him spit it out and said:
“Don’t you know that Muhammad’s family does not receive zakat?” (Bukhari, Zakat, 57; Ahmad, I, 200)
Recounting the following is Zayd in Arqam (r.a): “One day, by the Hum Creek between Mecca and Medina, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.s) stood and gave us a talk. After praising and glorifying Allah, he gave us some advice, which he followed up by saying:
‘People…! I, too, am but a man. Soon the messenger of my Lord will come and I will accept his invitation and leave. I leave you two important things. One of them is the light and guide that takes one to the truth, which is the Quran. Stick to it and do not let go!’
He then gave some advice regarding holding fast to the Quran and adhering to it. He then continued with the words:
‘And I leave you my Ahl’ul-Bayt. Fear Allah and show them respect! Fear Allah and show them respect!’”
Zayd ibn Arqam (r.a) was then asked as to who exactly Ahl’ul-Bayt was and whether or not the Prophet’s (s.a.s) wives were also included.
“His wives are also included”, replied Zayd.
“But his real Ahl’ulBayt are those for whom alms are impermissible even after the Messenger of Allah (s.a.s).”
“And who are those?”
“They are the families of Ali, Aqil, Jafar and Abbas.” (Muslim, Fadail’us-Sahabah, 36)
The Blessed Prophet (s.a.s) has stated:
“Love Allah for having showered you with His blessings. Love me for the love of Allah. And love my Ahl’ul-Bayt for the sake of my love!” (Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 31/3789)
Again, one day holding his dear grandchildren Hasan and Husayn by the hand, the Blessed Prophet declared:
“Whoever loves me, them and their parents shall be in my company on the Day of Judgment.” (Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 20/3733)
The Companions had great love and respect for the family and relatives of the Blessed Prophet (s.a.s).
Naturally, one nurtures feelings of affection not only for the beloved but, to the extent of the love felt, also for his or her friends and moreover every little thing that helps remind of the beloved, like the clothes worn, foods eaten, and so forth. The deeper the love grows, the deeper it permeates everything that surrounds the beloved. The Companions would let their love bursting forth from the depths of their hearts for the Blessed Prophet (s.a.s) show with various acts, like holding the stirrups of a horse or a camel a relative of the Blessed Prophet (s.a.s) was to mount.
Profoundly conscious that on the Day of Judgment all other ties of blood would be severed except for the bond one had with the Blessed Prophet (s.a.s), they were eager to marry one of his relatives to reinforce their bond of love with a bondship of kin.
The descendants of the Noble Messenger (s.a.s) today survive in various parts throughout the Muslim world. The term Sayyid is used in reference to those to have descended through the line of Husayn (s.a.s), and Sharif for the descendants of Hasan (r.a).
The Ottomans referred to sayyids as amir, and the turban they wrapped around their heads as amir turbans. Women of the Noble Prophet’s (s.a.s) lineage would also carry a green mark on their hijabs. Serving the Ahl’ul-Bayt was considered by the Ottomans a duty, to the point where they even found an official institution for the purpose.
Officials exclusively entrusted with the duty of seeing to this service were called naqib’ul-ashraf, also chosen from among the members of the Ahl’ul-Bayt. Among the various aspects of their needs the naqib’ul-ashraf dealt with included registering their lineage, births and deaths included, preventing them from entering any old profession, distributing among them their share of taxes and spoils and precluding their women from marrying men not their equal.
Being successors of the children of the Blessed Prophet (s.a.s) and owing to the honor of the duty they carried out, the naqib’ul-ashraf were given the one of the highest official ranks, second behind the Caliph in protocol. The naqib’ul-ashraf would be the first to officially pledge allegiance to the sultan upon his ascension to the throne and pray for his wellbeing, only after which the remainder of the protocol would follow.
Priority of congratulation during eids also belonged to the naqib’ul-ashraf, for whom the sultan would rise to greet during the proceedings of both eids. A sayyid or a sharif found guilty of committing a crime or acting in an unacceptable manner would be dealt with by the naqib’ulashraf, if in Istanbul, or by the official head of a district, if elsewhere.
Before the actual punishment, the official would remove the green turban from their heads and kiss it; and eventually restoring it once the punishment came to an end.