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History Ahl al-Bayt
So far as the language is concerned, there is no limit. All the descendants of Ali (a.s.) and Fatima (a.s.) or all Bani Hashim may be included in this word. But when it comes to the interpretation of the Ayat of "Purity" (Ayat-e-Tatheer), Ahadith have clearly shown that it does not include anybody except the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), Bibi Fatimah (a.s.) and 12 Imams (a.s.).
Ahlul-Bait means Bibi Fatimah and 12 Imams (a.s.). The "Panjatan'' have more "Fadhilat" than the rest, because the Prophet (s.a.w.) is the supreme most of all creatures of Allah, and Hazrat Ali (a.s.) is his "Nafs': which means 'like him in almost all things (with exception of prophethood and the specialities of the prophethood)'. Bibi Fatimah (a.s.) has a position below her father and husband but above all other Imams. And these 5 Holy personalities were directly included in the Ayats of "Tat-heer;' "Mubahila'' and "Mawadaat". And Hazrat Ali, Imam Hasan, Imam Husain and 12 Imam (Peace be on them all) have "Fadhilat" over remaining 8 Imams. But it is not good for us to ponder too much on these matters. For us, all have equal authority; and if among themselves one is superior to the other, it has nothing to do with our own duties towards them.