How was the relationship between the Ahl-Bayt, particuarly the Imams from Ahlul Bayt or the top authority with the Ahl-Sunnah and those popular among them. Was it hostile, normal or friendly?

The reason I ask this question is to know the level of severity of relationships between the two groups, which eventually resulted in the division of the Ummah into two sects. Were there any hard-to-reconcile-with differences in the first place or some minor issues that eventually grew over time.

I expect more examples in the answers to narrow a seemingly broad question.

Both Sunni and Shia viewpoints are welcome. But, as understandable, the agreed-upon facts/events carry more weight in such conflicting issues.

  • don't u think it's a little too broad? Commented May 1, 2015 at 19:11
  • yes, a little. But that is why I asked for the prominent examples that could give an overview of the situation, and did not ask for course of events in chronological order. Commented May 2, 2015 at 16:57
  • 2
    The extent of the historical Sunni-Shia differences and conflicts is broad and sophisticated enough to make it hard to summarize in any reasonable length answer. But you can start learning from Wikipedia's Shia-Sunni relations, and these Q&As that provide a closer look at some differences. Ideological and legal features of Shiism. The Status of Ahlulbayt members in Shiism,
    – infatuated
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 9:56
  • 1
    ...and these posts on some important Shia historical narratives What does shia mean by taqiyya/, The Battle of Jamal
    – infatuated
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 9:56
  • dear you can't solve all those disputes of the past today, my sincere advice would be, stop worrying about those, and spend some time in remembering Allah, as you won't be asked about the deeds of those of the past. I hope you don't mind. But today, be friendly with everyone who has the tag "Muslim" that would be far more than enough. Commented May 12, 2015 at 20:11

2 Answers 2


The following answer does not intend to hurt the feelings of our dear brothers and sisters of Ahle Sunna as we are all followers of the same religion.

Ayatollah Sayed Ali Sistani, the great Shia Marja in Iraq, said,

“Shiites should defend Sunnis’ social and political rights before defending their own rights, and we call [everyone] for unity. As I have said before, Shiites should not call Sunnis their brethren, but their ‘souls.’”

Unfortunately, the following is early Islamic history:

The situation was hostile from the beginning. After the death of the Holy Prophet his Ahl-ul–Bayt (Ali ibn Abi Talib, his wife Fatima bint Muhammad and their two children Hassan and Hussain) were treated very badly by the authorities who took power, even though the Prophet had demanded his ummah to show love for his family.

  1. Many historians (e.g. al-Tabari, al-Andalusi, Ibn Abil Hadid, al-Baladri, Sharestani, Ibn Qutaybah) reported about Umar b. al-Khattab’s attempt to burn the house of Fatimah al-Zahrah to force Ali ibn Abi Talib to give allegiance to Abu Bakr.

Those who refrained from giving the bayah (allegiance) to Abu Bakr were Ali, Abbas (the uncle of the Prophet), Zubayr b. al-Awam (cousin of the Prophet) and Sa’d b. Ibadah. As for Ali and Abbas, they sat in the house of Fatima until Abu Bakr sent Umar to take them out of the house of Fatima, and he (Abu Bakr) said to him (Umar), “If they refuse, then fight them.” Thus, he (Umar) came with a torch of fire to engulf the house on them and upon arriving, he encountered Fatima. She said,“O Ibn al-Khattab, did you come to burn our house?” He said, “Yes, unless you enter into what the ummah entered into.”[Meaning paying allegiance to Abu Bakr]

al-Andalusi, Al-Aqd al-Farid, 4; 259

Ibn Abil Hadid reports that Fatimah said:

“O Abu Bakr, how fast you launched your strike on the family of the Prophet after the death of the Prophet. By Allah, I will never speak to you until I meet Allah!”

Sharh Nahjul-Balaghah, 2; 119

In fact, Fatimah did not talk to Abu Bakr until she died, as al-Tabari, al-Bukhari and al-Muslim have reported.

But threatening to burn the house was not all. In this assault on the household of the Holy Prophet, Fatimah al-Zahrah was injured and lost her unborn son Muhsin.

The prominent Sunni scholars mention the names of the individuals who took part in the attack on the home of the Ahl-ul-Bayt: Ubayd b. Hubayr, Thabit b. Qays, Muhammad b. Muslim, Khalid b. al-waleed, al-Mugheera b. Shu’bah, Abu Ubaydah b. al-Jarrah, Sa’d Mawla Abi Ubaydah, Ma’adh b. Jabal, Qunfud, Uthman, Abd al-Rahman b. Auf, Ziyad b. Ubayd, Mu’awiyah b. Abu Sufyan , and Amr b. al-Aas.

Later ahadith appeared, which try to justify the assault by saying that an opposition group gathered in the house of Fatimah, planning to act against Abu Bakr. But none of the prominent Sunni historians have mentioned this.

  1. Furthermore Ahl-ul-Bayt were restricted in their economical means by usurping the land of Fadak from Fatimah which was given to her by her father. The first as well as the second caliph refused to give Fadak back to her even though she employed various means to prove her entitlement. Shia scholars do not accept the hadith on which Abu Bakr based the confiscation of Fadak from her as it goes against the teachings of the Qur’an.

  2. Power was in the hands of people who opposed the right of leadership of Ali ibn Abi Talib. In order to legitimise their leadership they started an intense opposition and character assassination towards Ali.

For forty years, the leadership who bore deep animosity towards Ali, forced mercenary speakers to ascend the pulpit and curse him in addition to the daughter of the Holy Prophet and their children, Hasan and Hussain. If anyone ventured outside of this jurisdiction and tried to mention the virtues of Ali, they were warned that that was a crime punishable by death.


Later on in time the hatred against Ali resulted in the Battle of Jamal, where for the first time, Muslims fought against one another and more than 20 000 Muslims lost their lives. After this bloodshed, Muawi’yah took arms against Ali in the battle of Siffeen with more than three times the casualties than in the battle of Jamal. When Muawiyah took the caliphate, he arranged the killing of the first grandson of the Prophet, Hassan ibn Ali.

50 years after the death of the holy Prophet, his grandson Hussain ibn Ali was mercilessly butchered together with his male family members and companions on the command of the son of Muawiyah, Yazid ,who was the tyrant ruler over the Muslim umma of that time.

So this was the relationship between Ahl- ul-Bayt and the top authorities of Ahl Sunna in the early years.

  • At this time they quote there were neither what people call ahl as-sunnah nor shi'a! And these quotes are narrations from scholars who didn't witness any of these events and narrated or collected reports about them at least 3 centuries later when there actually was a rupture between Muslims. And they only show that these scholars have done a big effort to collect stories of the different sides of the story which is what we may now may call academic honesty!
    – Sassir
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 11:51
  • @Noor, well done for such helpful/complete answer which can be helpful. Actually, it was informative for me. Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 9:17

Well 1st i think there is a difference between sunni and shia view of ahl-ul-Bayt (beginning on who are included in ahl-ul-Bayt). And as far as i know most sunni people have a big respect for ahl-ul-Bayt and try their best to treat them well.

Now, if you mean by early days the time of the rightly guided Caliphs then at that time there was AFAIK no difference between Muslims, so all were (called) Muslims and one could only speak about a separation after the killing of 'Othman ('Uthman) ibn 'Affan, for the first time as a result of the Battle of Siffin because of the arbitration which lead to the formation of the Kharijites.

If you mean the first 3 centuries here are some examples from the acceptance, honor and respect for each other between Sunni scholars and Ahl-ul-Bayt!

Al Imam Shafi'i for example wrote/recited a poem about them:

يا آل بيت رسول الله حبكمُ * فرضٌ من الله في القرآن أنزله

يكفيكم من عظيم الشأن أنكمُ * من لم يصلِّ عليكم لا صلاة له

O Family of Allah’s Messenger! To love you is an obligation *

Which Allah ordained and revealed in the Qur’an.

It is enough proof of your immense glory that *

Whoever invokes not blessings upon you, his prayer is invalid.

translation from (here)

Apparently Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Sufyan at-Thawri and Imam Malik (certainly) where students of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq and you will find ahadith (hadiths) in the sahih books which were narrated by him (as part of the narrator chain) 12 ahadith (hadiths) have been arranged in Muwata' al-Imam Malik, 17 in sahih Muslim and 143 in the whole 9 most reliable Books (The sahihs of al-Bukhari and Muslim, the sunan of abi Dawod, at-Tirmidhi, ibn Majah and an-Nasa-i, Muwatta' Malik, the musnads of Ahmad and ad-Darimi) and their are other narrations in the compilations of at-Tabarani and ibn Hebban.
Also note that the ahadith and reports describing what to do in hajj have all been transmitted from Jafar as-Sadiq (read in al-Muwatta' 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).

و يقول مالك بن أنس : اختلفتُ إلى جعفر بن محمد زماناً فما كنت أراه إلاّ على إحدى ثلاث خصال : إما مصلّياً و إما صائماً و إما يقرأ القرآن ، و ما رأيته قط يُحدِّثُ عن رسول الله إلاّ على الطهارة ، و لا يتكلم بما لا يعنيه ، و كان من العلماء العبّاد و الزهاد الذين يخشون الله و ما رأت عين و لا سمعت اُذن و لا خطر على قلب بشر أفضل من جعفر بن محمد الصادق علماً و عبادة و ورعاً

Malik said:
(my own hard translation, please read it with care)
" I used to see Ja'far ibn Mohammad for a time and i never seen him doing something else then theses three: either praying, or fasting or reading the Quran, and i have never seen him narrating from the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) without tahara, and he never talked about something which didn't concern him, he was one of the scholars which were known with their i'bada, zohd who fear Allah, and no Eye has seen, or Ear has heard or any human could imagine somebody better then Ja'far ibn Mohammed as-Sadiq in his knowledge, I'bada and fear of God

So his knowledge has been acknowledged by sunni scholars and there are books about his narrated ahadith (hadiths) And both abu Hanifa and Malik supported the Mohammad an-Nafs-az-Zakiyya محمد بن عبد الله بن الحسن بن الحسن بن علي بن أبي طالب (the Pure Soul) when he opposed and revolted against the Abbasids.

Al hafidh a Dhaby الحافظُ الذهبي in his siyar (biography's السير ) said about the 12 Imams (my own fast and hard translation, to be read with care):

  1. Ali' (May Allah be pleased with him) فَمَوْلاَنَا الإِمَامُ عَلِيٌّ : He's one of the 4 Khoulafa' ar-Rashidyn, who will enter Janah, whom we love the strongest love, but we don't pretend neither him nor Abu Bakr to be ma'som infallible.
  2. And his two Sons Al-Hassan and Hussain وَابْنَاهُ الحَسَنُ وَالحُسَيْنُ :: are the grandsons of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and the sovereigns of the youth of the people of Janah if they had been declared khalifa they would be the worth it.
  3. Zayn al-'Abdiyn وزَيْنُ العَابِدِيْنَ: A man with a high rank, a sovereign of the righteous (workers) scholars, worth to be regarded as an Imam, has counterparts, others used to do fatwa more then him, while he is a known narrator (with many hadihts)!
  4. And also his son Abu Ja'far وَكَذَلِكَ ابْنُهُ أَبُو جَعْفَرٍ البَاقِرُ: also was a sovereign, Imam, Faqih and worth being a khalifa.
  5. And also his son Ja'far as-Sadiq: with a big importance (rank), one of the Imams of knowledge, would have been a better khalifa then Abu Ja'far al-Mansor (Abbasid).
  6. His son Musa وَلَدُهُ مُوْسَى: with a high rank, good scholar, would have been a better khalifa then Harun (Ar-Rashid), but there where equivalent Man in eminence and superiority.
  7. his son 'Ali ibn Musa ar-Rida وَابْنُهُ عَلِيُّ بنُ مُوْسَى الرِّضَا: with a high rank, with knowledge and eloquence, whit a big acceptance, therefore declared by al-Ma'mum as his heir apparent for his grandeur, died on 203 a.H.
  8. And his son Mohammad al-Jawad ابْنُهُ مُحَمَّدٌ الجَوَادُ: one of the sovereign of his people, but he didn't gain the rank of his fathers in knowledge and fiqh.
  9. And also his son named Al-Hadi وَكَذَلِكَ وَلَدُهُ المُلَقَّبُ بِالهَادِي: a noble and grand
  10. And also his son Al-Hassan ibn 'Ali Al-Askary May Allah be pleased with them
  11. What he wrote about the 12th Imam "Abu al-Qassim ibn Al-Hassan Al-'Askary" is too long (in some points not nice if not harsh words adressed to shi'a) to difficult to translate and should be if possible read in the link below

And this is a Sira of Imam Ja'afar as-Sadiq from Sunni perspective.

I would like to add that lately around 'ashura' i read an Article of a Moroccan Journalist, where he stated that one of the characteristics of the love and tribute for Ahl-ul-Bayt by Moroccan people is beside that they received and welcomed Idris ibn Abdullah after his flight from the Battle of Fakhkh and honored him the fact that they never used to name a son Mo'awiya!

  • [+1] The point that Sunni people subscribe to Ahl-ulbayt's eminence is a very primary point being neglected or blinked at in my shi'i society. It is being propagated that being a Sunni means being against Prophet's -p.b.u.h- Ahl-ulbayt's virtues, merits and excellence. Sunnism is treated and approached in a fashion as if Sunni people consider Ahlulbayt -p.b.u.t- out of the scope of faith and righteousness, merely because they believe Ahlul-bayt were not immune to commitment of fault.
    – Itsme
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 13:31
  • By "early days," I take period up to the end of rightly-guided-caliphate. This answer is a little outside that scope? The question itself is seriously flawed as it assumes "sunnism" to be a singularity prevailing in that era. If at all, we can talk of proto-Sunni tendencies. I wonder how one can answer the question without doing a crash-course on history/nature of Sunnism.
    – user549
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 9:19
  • @Shoaib i added that in my Answer, but early days is a wide and broad term
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 9:33

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