The Noble Five (Aal al-Aba / Panjtan) and the Naqshbandi masters

Āl al-ʿabā (آل العبا) or Ahl al-Kisāʾ (اهل الكساء), in Persian/Urdu: Panjtan Pāk (پنجتن پاک) is a Islamic term, literally meaning the people of the cloak, that refers to the five purified and exalted souls that include the excellencies the Messenger of Allah ṣall-Allāhu ʿalaihi wa-sallam, Sayyidunā Imām ʿAlī al-Murtaḍā, Sayyidah Fātimah az-Zahrāʾ, and their two sons Imām Ḥasan and Imām Ḥusain raḍiyAllāhu ʿanhum.

Although the household of the Prophet includes many other dignitaries, these five figures are given special regards by virtue of the following Ḥadīth:

قَالَتْ عَائِشَةُ خَرَجَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم غَدَاةً وَعَلَيْهِ مِرْطٌ مُرَحَّلٌ مِنْ شَعْرٍ أَسْوَدَ فَجَاءَ الْحَسَنُ بْنُ عَلِيٍّ فَأَدْخَلَهُ ثُمَّ جَاءَ الْحُسَيْنُ فَدَخَلَ مَعَهُ ثُمَّ جَاءَتْ فَاطِمَةُ فَأَدْخَلَهَا ثُمَّ جَاءَ عَلِيٌّ فَأَدْخَلَهُ ثُمَّ قَالَ ‏{‏ إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنْكُمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيرًا‏}

ʿAʾisha reported that Allah’s Apostle (ﷺ) went out one norning wearing a striped cloak of the black camel’s hair that there came Ḥasan bin ʿAlī. He wrapped him under it; then came Ḥusain and he wrapped him under it along with the other one (Ḥasan). Then came Fatima and he took her under it, then came ʿAlī and he also took him under it and then said:
“Allah only desires to take away any uncleanliness from you, O people of the household, and purify you (thorough purifying).” [Ṣaḥīḥ al-Muslim, chapter on merits of Ahl al-Bayt]

There are other Ḥadīth as well in the Sunni literature that refer specifically to these five noble souls. Following Ḥadīth mentions their virtues.

عَنْ زَيْدِ بْنِ أَرْقَمَ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ لِعَلِيٍّ وَفَاطِمَةَ وَالْحَسَنِ وَالْحُسَيْنِ ‏ “‏أَنَا حَرْبٌ لِمَنْ حَارَبْتُمْ وَسَلْمٌ لِمَنْ سَالَمْتُمْ”‏.‏

Narrated Zaid bin Arqam that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said to ʿAlī, Fātimah, Al-Ḥasan and Al-Ḥusain: “I am at war with whoever makes war with you, and peace for whoever makes peace with you.” [Jāmiʿ at-Tirmidhī, Kitāb al-Manāqib]

There are numerous other Ḥadīths about the merits of Ahl al-Bayt and specifically the four mentioned ones. However, this short article is about the devotion of the Naqshbandi masters to The Five, so below I present short epistles from history and teachings of the masters of this noble order.

Shah Naqshband and the Āl al-ʿAbā

The great Sufi master and founder of the Naqshbandī order, Sayyidunā Khwāja Bahāʾ ad-Dīn Naqshband al-Bukhārī quddisa sirruhū was a true lover  of these pure five souls. He has expressed his devotion to them in a number of verses in which he lauds and supplicates them and seeks their intermediation in the spiritual and material issues. Following verses show his utmost faithfulness to the Āl al-ʿAbā specifically.

يا رب بمحمد و علی و زهرا
يا رب بحسین و حسن و آل عبا
از لطف برآر حاجتم در دو سرا
بی منت مخلوق ما علی الاعلی

“O Lord! By the sake of Muḥammad and ʿAlī and Zahrā,
O Lord! By the sake of Ḥusain and Ḥasan, the people of the cloak,

By (your) grace, fulfill my needs in the two worlds,
Without (my) pleading to the creatures, (provide me) from the best of the best.” [3]

These short verses can be recited as a wazīfa by job-seekers and the poor. The transliteration is provided below for anyone who desires to do so:

Yā Rabb Ba-Muḥammad o ʿAlī o Zahrā,
Yā Rabb Ba-Ḥusain o Ḥasan o Āl-i ʿAbā,
Az Luṭf bar-ār Ḥājatam Dar Do Sirā,
Be Minnat-i Makhlūq Mā ʿAl-al-Aʿlā.

Another beautiful verse of Shāh Naqshband that shows how he regarded the blessed grandsons of the Prophet is the following:

یا رب برسالت رسول الثقلین
یا رب بخزا کنندۂ بدر و حنین

عصیانِ مرا دو حصه کن در عرصات
نیمے بحسن بخش و نیمے بحسین

“O Lord! By the sake of the prophethood of Prophet of all the worlds!
O Lord! By the sake of the victorious leader of Badr and Hunain!
Divide my sins in two halves on the day of Judgement,
Forgive half by the sake of Hasan and other half by the sake of Husain!” [3]

Imām Rabbānī and the Āl al-ʿAbā

The great master and reviver of Islam Sayyidunā Imām Rabbānī Mujaddid Alf-i Thānī Shaykh Aḥmad Fārūqī Sirhindī quddisa sirruhū was a true devotee of the Āl al-ʿAbā. He was a faithful servant and extreme lover of The Five. He would often send cooked food to the friends and send its reward specifically to the noble Panjtan. Later, he was commanded by the Messenger of Allah ṣall-Allāhu ʿalaihi wa-sallam to send the reward to the Mothers of the Believers in addition to The Five. [Maktūbāt, letter 2-36]

He writes in one of his letters addressed to :

“The household of the Prophet ṣall-Allāhu ʿalaihi wa-sallam also possess this same Nisbah (connection) to the Prophet ṣall-Allāhu ʿalaihi wa-sallam. But the manifestation of this exalted connection is more distinct in Ḥadrat Murtaḍā, Fātimah and Ḥasnain (Ḥasan and Ḥusain), may Allah be pleased with them.” [Maktūbāt, letter 3-110]

The term Nisbah (connection) in the above quote refers to a special connection between two entities such that reference to one becomes reference to the other. It is exemplified by a Ḥadīth that dignifies the Ṣaḥābā with the following words: “Whoever loves them, loves them because of my love; and however hates them, hates them due to hatred with me.

Imām Rabbānī considers the Āl al-ʿAbā the spring of spirituality and fountainhead of Islamic sainthood (walāyah). He mentions this in one of his letters addressed to Shaykh Nūr Muḥammad Tihārī:

“And the second route (to the nearness of God) is related to the nearness of walāyah (friendship). Aqṭāb, Awtād, Abdāl and Nujabā and common Awliyā (saints) all have attained with this route. And the Path of Sulūk refers to this route. In fact, the well known Jazbā (divine attraction) is also included in this, and Tawassuṭ (intermediation) and Ḥailūlah also stand in this route. And the master of the achievers with this route and their chief and fountainhead of their Faiḍ is the excellency ʿAlī Murtaḍā, and this magnificent position is held by him. In this station, it seems as if both the feet of the Prophet ṣall-Allāhu ʿalaihi wa-sallam are over his blessed head. And her excellency Fātimah and their excellencies Ḥasnain (Ḥasan and Ḥusain) also share this station with him. I believe that Ḥadrat Amīr (ʿAlī) was the refuge and resort of this station before the elemental formation (birth), as he is after the elemental formation. And whoever receives Faiḍ and guidance in this path, receives it through him, because he is closest to the endpoint of this path and the center of this path belongs to him. When the era of Ḥadrat Amīr (ʿAlī) ended, this majestic position was handed over to the Ḥasnain accordingly. And after them, this position was handed over to the rest of the Twelve Imams in order.” [Maktūbāt, letter 3-123]

Writings of Sufi masters about Āl al-ʿAbā

Unfortunately, some extremist factions in Sunnis, inspired by the ideology of Khawārij, have denied the special dignity of the Panjtan (The Five), and accused those who have high rewards for them as Shia. In eighteenth century Sindh, some people claimed that whoever calls them The Noble Five (panjtan pāk) is a Rāfiḍī (extremist Shia). This claim was refuted and corrected by one of the greatest Islamic scholars Makhdūm Muḥammad Hāshim Thattvī Sindhī, who wrote an article about this and titled it as:

خلاصة النفحات الباهرة في جواز القول بالخمسة الطاهرة

In this work, he proved the validity of calling these five noble souls Āl al-ʿAbā (Khamsat at-Ṭāhirah in Arabic, meaning The Purified Five). Makhdūm Hāshim was not just a scholar but a master of the Qādrī and Naqshbandī Sufi Paths and a venerated Muslim saint.

The accusation of being a Shia against Sunni scholars is not so new. The greatest Sunni Imāms such as Abū Ḥanīfa and Shāfiʿī were also blamed with the sin of their love. Unfortunately, today there are factions inside Sunni Islam who consider themselves Sunni Muslims and even claim to follow Sufism, yet they do not venerate the Five, rather accuse those who do so of being Shia.

I end this article with a beautiful verse of the great Sunni scholar Imām Shāfiʿī raḥimahuAllāh, who was accused by Khawārij of being Shia due to his extreme love and faithfulness of the Household of the Prophet. His reply in the following verse clearly tells the Sunni position that the love of the Household is not Shi’ism, but rather true Sunni’ism. He said:

إن كان رفضًا حبّ آل محمد
فليشهد الثقلان أني رافضي

“If the love of the members of the House of the Prophet is Rafḍ (extreme Shi’ism), then let mankind and the Jinns testify that I am a Rāfiḍī (extreme Shia).”


[1] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Muslim, by Imām Muslim

[2] Jāmiʿ at-Tirmidhī, by Imām Īsā Tirmidhī

[3] Rubāʿiyāt-i Khwāja Naqshband (Urdu): collected verses of Shāh Naqshband, compiled and translated by Muḥammad ­Ṣādiq Qusūrī, Al-Madīnah Publications, Lahore. June 1997.

[4] Maktūbāt Imām Rabbānī (Persian), Urdu translation by Sayyid Zawwār Husain Shāh.

[5] Khulāṣat al-Nafaḥāt al-Bāhirat Fī Jawāz al-Qawl Bi’l-Khamsat at-Ṭāhirah (Persian), by Makhdūm Muḥammad Hāshim Thattvī Sindhī (d.1174H). Translated in Sindhi by Mawlānā Muḥammad Idrees Dāhirī Naqshbandī. Hyderabad, Pakistan, 2000.


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One Response to The Noble Five (Aal al-Aba / Panjtan) and the Naqshbandi masters

  1. Muhammad hadab says:

    May Almighty Allah bless the writer with Jannatul Firdous aameen

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