Sayyid and Non-Sayyid Marriages from a Qur’anic Perspective

‘When they are told, ‘Come to what Allāh has sent down and [come] to the Apostle,’ they say, ‘Sufficient for us is what we have found our fathers following.’ What, even if their fathers did not know anything and were not guided?’ (5:104)

The era that predates the illumination of the Arabian Peninsula with the light of Tawhīd is referred to as ‘the Age of Jāhiliyyah’. The mission of the beloved of Allāh had always been to take humanity out of the darkness of ignorance and into the light of truth. Regarding the purpose of the revelation of the Qur’ān, Allāh states: ‘[This is] a Book We have sent down to you that you may bring mankind out from darkness into light, by the command of their Lord, to the path of the All-Mighty, the All-Laudable’ (14:1)

It is important to understand that the Lord who revealed the Qur’ān is the same Lord Who gave man reason. Thus the Scripture addresses man as a being that possesses reason and severely rebukes him for not applying it.

‘Indeed the worst of beasts in Allāh’s sight are the deaf and dumb who do not exercise their reason’ (8:22)

It is the ability to reason that distinguishes man from other forms of creation. When it comes to discerning truth from falsehood, man is expected to exercise his reason. Clinging on to ancestral beliefs, traditions, and practices blindly demotes man to a sub-animal level. Because, while possessing the crown of humanity that is Al-`Aql [1] he disregards it and refuses to wear it.

Today, we are faced with what the Leader terms ‘Modern Jāhiliyyah’. While the illuminating Qur’ān has called man to exercise his reason for a thousand years, much of humanity still fails to do so. One of the greatest woes of today’s world is the presence of ignorance in an Ummah that claims belief in God, His prophets and the Revealed Scriptures… while many of it’s beliefs and practices stand in utter defiance to Divine teachings. Indeed, one of the greatest causes of pain to the beloved of Allāh was – and remains to be – the abandonment of Divine guidance on the part of those attributed to him:

‘And the Messenger has said, ‘O my Lord, indeed my people have taken this Qur’ān as [a thing] abandoned’‘ (25:30)

One clear example of an instance that undoubtedly wounds the heart of the beloved of Allāh is the innovated taboo of Sayyid/Non-Sayyid marriages that plagues some Muslim Shī`ah communities. This is in reality part of a wider problem that exists in the Ummah at large: racial prejudice. This sense of superiority based on race, colour and lineage is a plague that existed amongst the Bedouin Arabs one thousand four hundred years ago. The Messenger of Allāh made his utmost effort to eradicate this ignorant trend of thought from the minds and hearts of humanity. But the reality is that this disease continues to thrive in the Ummah fourteen centuries later. For ‘Muhammad is not but a messenger. [Other] messengers have passed on before him. So if he was to die or be killed, would you turn back on your heels [to unbelief]?’ (3:144)

Man is a being destined for greatness. Honoured by the Lord of the worlds at the very onset of his creation – ‘Certainly We have honoured the Children of Ādam…’ (17:70) – he has been made to be exclusively His. Love for the Divine names is embedded in the fabric of his being. Thus as greatness, magnificence and majesty are from His names, man subconsciously seeks these qualities in his journey through life. This quest is in no way evil or condemnable. What is condemnable, however, is man’s failure to recognize the Exclusive Owner of All Greatness and Majesty; and for him to ignore the reality that it is only servitude to Him that makes man truly great.

‘…Yet all might belongs to Allah and His Apostle and the faithful…’ (63:8)

True superiority is achieved through man’s free will. The beliefs man chooses to have, the decisions he chooses to make, and the character he chooses to form. It is these that raise or demote man in the eyes of Truth. Yet blind hearts choose to ignore the balance of truth, replacing it instead with the scales of ignorance. For when one finds himself devoid of human virtues acquired through immense struggle and patience, he is forced to change the very measure of greatness, in a desperate attempt to fake superiority and authority. How similar this is to the story of the peacock, which flaunts its colourful wings to sway the onlooker’s attention from its inadequate, skinny legs!

If it were not enough for the true scale of superiority to be a matter accepted by human reason, the Qur’ān too confirms this. When Ibrāhīm – the symbol of Tawhīd – was granted the sublime station of Leadership and Authority, he asked whether this blessing would be conferred upon his progeny. The Qur’ānic narrative brings our attention to the reality that it is through man’s effort, not ancestry, that he is granted superiority.

When his Lord tested Abraham with certain words and he fulfilled them, He said, ‘I am making you the Imām of mankind.’ Said he, ‘And from among my descendants?’ He said, ‘My pledge does not extend to the unjust.’ (2:124)

The Sayyids of today’s era have tens of generations between themselves and the purified progeny of the prophet. However, what does the Qur’ān mention regarding a direct descendent of one of the greatest prophets of all time?

‘And it [the ark] sailed along with them amid waves [rising] like mountains. Noah called out to his son, who stood aloof, ‘O my son! ‘Board with us, and do not be with the faithless!’

 He said, ‘I shall take refuge on a mountain; it will protect me from the flood.’ He said, ‘There is none today who can protect from Allāh’s edict, except someone upon whom He has mercy.’ Then the waves came between them, and he was among those who were drowned’ (11:42-43)

God had promised Noah that he would save his family from the flood. Yet Noah witnessed his very own son perish in the waves. Had Allāh failed to keep His word? Or is there a secret in this story that much of mankind still fails to understand?

Noah called out to his Lord, and said, ‘My Lord! My son is indeed from my family. Your promise is indeed true, and You are the fairest of all judges.’

 Said He, ‘O Noah! Indeed, He is not of your family. Indeed, he is [personification of] unrighteous conduct. So do not ask Me [something] of which you have no knowledge. I advise you lest you should be among the ignorant.’ (11:45-46)

The story of the son of Noah is a lesson for all mankind. From a true perspective, it is man’s actions that connect and relate him to another and not his blood. This point is also alluded to in the verse that, in no uncertain terms, states: ‘The faithful are indeed brothers…’ (49:10)

Yes, it is the bonds of faith acquired through righteous actions that truly relate one to the believers… and at their head, their leader: the blessed messenger. If these examples were not enough, the Qur’ān provides more. The most intimate relationship man enjoys is not that with his offspring, but that with his spouse. This is also the very first human relationship that God has created, preceding man’s presence on the earth as we know it.

If being descended from the beloved of Allāh, with thirty generations in between, is an antecedent of superiority, then surely those who enjoyed the most intimate of relationships with him directly – his wives – are the most superior of all people. Yet the Qur’ān once more severs this ignorant trend of thought. Rebuking two of the wives of the prophet, after one of them betrayed his trust, it states: ‘It may be that if he [the prophet] divorces you his Lord will give him, in [your] stead, wives better than you…’ (66:4)

The Arabs of the Age of pre-Islāmic Ignorance – like many Muslims of today’s Age of Modern Ignorance – would boast and take great pride in their ancestry and blood relations. Being married to the prophet – who was also the absolute ruling authority of Muslim society – was indeed a cause for pride and honour. However, Allāh harshly reminds the occupiers of that position that they are not to be deceived and self-conceited for this favour that has been conferred upon them. For indeed, just as the bond between the son of Noah and his immaculate father was cut by his impious actions, this union can also be severed due to theirs.

The Qur’ān also brings forth another striking parable in this regard. It places two examples of individuals whose blood ties related them to a purified prophet in opposition to another whose circumstances were extremely different. Yet which of these were destined for greatness?

‘Allāh cites an example of the faithless: the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. They were under two of our righteous servants, yet they betrayed them. So they did not avail them in any way against Allāh, and it was said [to them], ‘Enter the Fire, along with those who enter [it].’

 Allāh cites an example of the faithful: the wife of Pharaoh, when she said, ‘My Lord! Build me a home near You in paradise, and deliver me from Pharaoh and his conduct, and deliver me from the wrongdoing lot’ (66:10-11)

Allāh as an example specifically singles out the wife of the Pharaoh –the personification of arrogance and defiance in the face of God – for all believing men and women. What honour is possibly greater? For it is man who determines his own destiny with the decisions that he makes. And his blood ties and relations do not raise or demote him. Neither do they determine his reality.

Regarding the wives of the Prophet, Allāh says: ‘O wives of the Prophet! Whoever of you commits a gross indecency, her punishment shall be doubled, and that is easy for Allāh.

Being a descendent of the beloved of Allāh brings about greater responsibility. A Sayyid or Sayyidah must realize that, by the honour received on account of that title, he or she is eating off the prophet’s tablecloth. If Muslims of all denominations, persuasions, and walks of life have shown great reverence to the beloved’s descendants throughout the centuries – and indeed continue to do so – this reverence is in reality a show of their love and devotion to the beloved himself. If the Markab [1] of a king is honoured, it is on account of it’s owner, and not on account of it’s being a Markab.

How ugly it is, then, that a Sayyid or Sayyidah dishonours the Owner of the Tablecloth at which he is or she is seated. As the Qur’ānic examples vividly clarify, one’s impious actions invalidate even the strongest of blood relations to the men of God. The headache that some Muslim families – who value their ignorant cultural norms and traditions more than the Qur’ān and Prophetic tradition – cause when it comes to choosing a spouse is undoubtedly a dishonour to the one whom they claim to follow. How can knowing that Allāh has revealed a criterion for choosing a spouse – piety and good character – only to throw it aside to replace it instead with that which one’s ignorant forefathers and traditions dictate… be an honour to Allāh’s beloved? How can selling the guidance of the Qur’ān for misguidance be a cause for the prophet’s pleasure – something that is not even taken into consideration in many Muslim marriages, while the pleasure of every impious relative and acquaintance is considered sacred?

Many a time when a young believing Muslim or Muslimah intends to follow the prophetic example and marry a pious believer, the issue of being a Sayyid or Sayyidah is considered the criterion instead of the person’s piety and character. This is ironic because the very meaning of being a Sayyid or Sayyidah is being a descendent of the very prophet who abolished this ignorant trend of thought (making the sole distinction between men to be by virtue of piety, character and conduct). How unmannerly for some of his proud descendants to revive it… in his name! Truly it is not those who claim enmity to the beloved and his household who wounded their hearts… but rather those who claimed their love and friendship.

If anything, the blessing conferred upon him or her aught to increase a Sayyid or Sayyidah in gratitude and humility. A believer is clever and as such always uses that which is at his disposal to his advantage. A believing descendent of the prophet must use his ancestry as a motivation to become a perfect reflection of the Chosen One. He or she must aspire to embody the values that he endeavoured to enshrine in human conscience, while simultaneously striving to eradicate the ideals of ignorance, firstly from his own being, then from humanity at large.


[1] Al-‘Aql: reason, intellect

[2] Markab: that which is ridden upon; in the case of an ancient king or ruler, it would probably be a horse

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By Sayyid Haidar Hasanain

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