In verse 42:23, the Prophet (peace be upon him & his family) is commanded to say: I do not ask you any reward for it except love of my near relatives.
The thing which he does not ask any reward for is conveying the message of Islam and calling people towards it. The same statement has been related from a number of prophets who came before him. For example: I do not ask you any reward for it; my reward lies only with the Lord of all the worlds. (26:109)
Elsewhere the Prophet is commanded:
- Say, “I do not ask you any reward for it.” (38:86)
- Say, “Whatever reward I may have asked you is for your own good. My reward lies only with God….” (34:48)
- Say, “I do not ask you any recompense for it. It is just an admonition for all the nations.” (6:90)
- Say, “I do not ask you any reward for it, except that anyone who wishes should take the way to his Lord.” (25:57)
The verse 6:90 shows that the reason he asks no reward is because his call is an admonition for all nations while verse 25:57 means “answering the Prophet’s call by your own free will”.
The verse under discussion (42:23), makes the reward for conveying his message, the love of his near relatives. Commentators have offered different explanations of this verse.
Someone has suggested that the statement “love of my near relatives” is addressed to the Quraysh and the reward mentioned is their love for the Prophet because of the family connection. Allamah Tabataba’i responds to this as follows:
“Something can only be called a ‘reward’ if it is being offered in return for some work that has benefitted the one giving it… So it makes no sense for the Prophet to ask the Quraysh for any reward while they were denying him and disbelieving in his message.”
After mentioning other explanations of the statement “love of my near relatives” and responding to them, Allamah says, the explanation that the statement means the love of the Prophet’s near relatives, namely the progeny from his household, is further supported by mutawatir traditions from both sects (Sunni and Shia) that consider love and loyalty to the Prophet’s household, a religious obligation. This is because, making their love the Prophet’s reward for conveying God’s message was only to guarantee that people would refer to them because of the preeminent religious knowledge. So the command to love them as a reward for the Prophet conveying his message had no purpose behind it save ensuring that this message would endure and continue after the Prophet. So this verse does not contradict the other verses which negate the asking of any reward.
Towards the end, Allamah says:
The meaning of the verse becomes: “I do not ask you any reward for it except that God has enjoined you to love the faithful, amongst whom are my near relatives. I consider your love for my relatives worship, and I consider it a reward for my conveying this message to you.”– Allamah Tabataba’i (al-Mizan Ar. Volume 18)