Ahlul Bayt - Hadith al-Safinah: Analysis
Just like hadith al-Thaqalayn, this hadith clearly proves that Ahlul Bayt are the only people the Ummah needs to hold fast to in order to remain on the path of guidance. Abandoning and ignoring them will lead to misguidance. It also shows that Ahlul Bayt's actions, sayings, interpretations and decisions will never contradict the Quran and are to be followed. They are the true caliphs of the Muslims, the true successors of the prophet. How can they be ruled by someone when they are superior to all??

As stated above, Hadith al-Safina is in perfect alignment with Hadith al-Thaqalayn. They both mean the same thing, and that guidance and salvation are only achieved by adhering to Ahlul Bayt, follow them and obey them. Otherwise, you will stray off. So whether you reject the Hadith or not, this fact remains unchanged. Guidance is only achieved by adhering to the most knowledgeable and not the least! There are many other Hadith from the prophet that are also in perfect alignment with Hadith al-Thaqalayn and Hadith al-Safina.

One can derive several points from Hadith al-Safina:
  1. Ahlul Bayt are the path to salvation
  2. Those who don't follow the path of Ahlul Bayt will perish (or stray according to Hadith al-Thaqalayn)
  3. We must obey and hold fast to them in order to walk the path of salvation
  4. Ahlul Bayt are the true source of knowledge, which they inherited from their master the prophet. They must be so in order to be our salvation.
  5. The facts that they are the path of salvation after the prophet just as the prophet has been during his lifetime, that everyone must obey them and follow them just as the nation obeyed and followed the prophet, and that they hold the knowledge of the prophet, prove that they are superior to all people after the prophet just as the prophet was superior to all people during his time. In other words, they are the best people after the prophet.
  6. We must love them. Otherwise, how can we walk the path of salvation.
  7. They are infallible as Hadith al-Thaqalayn proved it as well.
  8. They are the line that separates transgression from faith. If you follow them, you will be successfull and saved and if you don't follow them, you will stray off the straight path.
  9. If Ahlul Bayt are our salvation, then one of them must exist at any point in time, till the end of time. As long as we exist, one of them must always be present among us to guide us and keep us from straying. This is exactly what Hadith al-Thaqalayn proves as well. So who is the Imam from Ahlul Bayt in our time??
Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Muslim ibn Abul Fawares al-Razi recorded in his book, al-Arbae'en Fi Fada'il Ameer al-Mu'mineen, a great narration which combines Hadith al-Thaqalayn and Hadith al-Safeena, both of which complete and explain each other:
The prophet said: "I am leaving among you the Book of Allah and my progeny my Ahlul Bayt. They are the Khalifatan (my two successors) after me. One of them is greater than the other...If you hold fast to both of them, you will never stray. They will never separate from each other until they meet me at the fountain on the Day of Resurrection. Do not speak ahead of Ahlul Bayt or you will perish and do not diminish them or you will be lost. They are among you like the ark of Nuh, whoever embarks in it is saved and whoever misses it will perish. And they are also like the gate of Hatta of Bani Israeel, whoever enters through the gate will be forgiven. Are not my Ahlul Bayt the security of my Ummat? If they are gone, then my Ummat will get what they were promised. Allah has protected them from any deviation and has purified them from all immoral actions and has elevated them from all the worlds. Allah made it mandatory to love them and has commanded that we love them. They are the witnesses upon all servants in this world and the Day of judgement. They are the people of the Wilayat who show the path of guidance. Allah made it mandatory upon us to obey them whether we agree we them or differ from them. Whoever holds fast to them will walk (the right path) and whoever set himself away from them will perish. Are not the members of the guiding progeny the advovates of religion and the Imams of the Muttaqeen and the masters of the Muslims, and the leaders of the believers and the protectors of all the worlds and all creation, who have distinguished between doubt and certainty and have come with the Truth?"
وقال النبي صلّى الله عليه وسلّم : إني تارك فيكم كتاب الله وعترتي أهل بيتي ، فهما خليفتان بعدي ، أحدهما أكبر من الآخر سبب موصول من السماء إلى الأرض ، فإن استمسكتم بهما لن تضلوا ، فإنهما لن يفترقا حتى يردا علي الحوض يوم القيامة ، فلا تسبقوا أهل بيتي بالقول فتهلكوا ولا تقصّروا عنهم فتذهبوا ، فإن مثلهم فيكم كمثل سفينة نوح من ركبها نجا ومن تخلّف عنها هلك ، ومثلهم فيكم كمثل باب حطة في بني إسرائيل من دخله غفر له ، ألا وإن أهل بيتي أمان لأمتي فإذا ذهب أهل بيتي جاء أمّتي ما يوعدون ، ألا وإنّ الله عصمهم من الضلالة وطهّرهم من الفواحش واصطفاهم على العالمين ، ألا وإنّ الله أوجب محبّتهم وأمر بمودتهم ، ألا وإنّهم الشهداء على العباد في الدنيا ويوم المعاد ، ألا وإنّهم أهل الولاية الدالّون على طرق الهداية ، ألا وإنّ الله فرض لهم الطاعة على الفرق والجماعة ، فمن تمسك بهم سلك ومن حاد عنهم هلك. ألا وإن العترة الهادية الطيبين دعاة الدين وأئمة المتقين وسادة المسلمين ، وقادة المؤمنين وأمناء العالمين على البرية أجمعين ، الذين فرّقوا بين الشك واليقين وجاءوا بالحق المبين

This great narration summarizes all the points I have made. Whether you argue that the narration is unauthentic or not, it does not matter. What matters is the content which is supported by all the authentic Hadith agreed upon by the Imamiya and the Sunni scholars. But of course, the Nawassib will reject this narration as they have rejected and misinterpreted many others.

Here is another powerful narration from Abu Mansur Shahradar al-Dilami in Musnad al-Firdaws:
Abu Sae'ed al-Khudri narrated that the prophet said: "O my companions, my Ahlul Bayt are like the ark of Nuh and the gate of Hattat in Bani Isra-eel. So hold fast to my Ahlul Bayt after me, the rightly guided Imams from descendance, and you will never stray (if you do so)." The prophet was asked: 'How many are the Imams after you?' The prophet answered: "twelve and they are from my Ahlul Bayt - or he said - from my progeny."
عن أبي سعيد الخدري ، قال : صلّى بنا رسول الله صلّى الله عليه وسلّم الصلاة الأولى ثم أقبل بوجهه الكريم علينا فقال : يا معاشر أصحابي إنّ مثل أهل بيتي فيكم مثل سفينة نوح وباب حطة في بني إسرائيل ، فتمسكوا بأهل بيتي بعدي الأئمة الراشدين من ذريتي ، فإنكم لن تضلوا أبدا ، فقيل : يا رسول الله كم الأئمة بعدك؟ قال : اثنا عشر من أهل بيتي ـ أو قال ـ من عترتي

Do you see how all these Hadith complete and strengthen one another other?? Do you see how they perfectly fit together with a clear message?? Do you see how the prophet commanded his companions, all of them, to hold fast to them? What have some of the companions done instead just after the demise of the prophet???

Here is another wonderful and powerful Hadith recorded by Sulayman al-Qanduzi in Yanabee'e al-Mawwadat:
al-Hamweeni recorded it through the subnarrator Sae'ed ibn Jubayr who heard it from ibn Abbas who heard the prophet say: "O Ali, I am the city of wisdom and you are its gate and the city cannot be accessed except through its gate. He has lied who claims to love me while he hates you because you are from me and I am from you, your flesh is from my flesh and your blood is from my blood, your spirit is from my spirit, your innerself is from my innerself and your openness is from my openness. You are the imam of my Ummat and you are my vicegerent. He is happy whoever obeys and he will suffer whoever disobeys you. He will win whoever befriends you and he will lose whoever is hostile to you, he will be victorious whoever stayed by your side and he will perish whoever abandons you. You and the Imams from your son are like the ark of Nuh, whoever embarks in it is saved and whoever remains behind will drown. You are all like the stars, whenever one star disappears, another one appears until the Day of resurrection."
أخرجه الحمويني عن سعيد بن جبير عن ابن عباس قال : قال رسول الله صلّى الله عليه وسلّم : يا على أنا مدينة الحكمة وأنت بابها ولن تؤتى المدينة إلاّ من قبل الباب ، وكذب من زعم أنه يحبني ويبغضك ، لأنك مني وأنا منك لحمك من لحمي ودمك من دمي ، وروحك من روحي وسريرتك من سريرتي ، وعلانيتك من علانيتي ، وأنت إمام أمتي ووصيي ، سعد من أطاعك وشقي من عصاك وربح من تولاك وخسر من عاداك ، فاز من لزمك وهلك من فارقك ، ومثلك ومثل الأئمة من ولدك مثل سفينة نوح من ركبها نجا ومن تخلّف عنها غرق ، ومثلكم مثل النجوم كلما غاب نجم طلع نجم إلى يوم القيامة

Sayyed Muhammad Saleh al-Kashafi al-Hanafi al-Tirmidhi (book: Manaqib al-Murtadawi) as well as Sulayman al-Qanduzi in Yanabee'e al-Mawwadat reported the following narration:
It has been narrated from Ali that the prophet said: "Whoever desires to embark in the ark of salvation and hold fast to al-U'urwat al-Wuthqat (the firmest handle) and to the cord of Allah must take Ali for Wali after me and must be the enemy of his enemy, and must take for imam the Imams from his son as they are my successors and my vicegerents and the Hujaj of Allah (the proofs) on the creation, after me, and the leaders of my Ummat...their parties is my party and my party of the party of Allah, while the party of their enemies is the party of Satan."
روي عن امير المؤمنين علي بن ابي طالب أنه قال : قال النبي صلى الله عليه وآله : من أحب أن يركب سفينة النجاة ويستمسك بالعروة الوثقى ويعتصم بحبل الله المتين فليوال عليا بعدي وليعاد عدوه وليأتم بالائمة من ولده فانهم خلفائي وأوصيائي وحجج الله على الخلق بعدي ، وسادات أمتي وقائد الاتقياء إلى الجنة ، حزبهم حزبي ، وحزبي حزب الله ، وحزب اعدائهم حزب الشيطان

There are many more Hadith which are in line with and support Hadith al-Safina and its underlying implications. For instance, let's look at the different forms of Hadith al-Nujum, some of which were presented in the chapter of Ahlul Bayt under the title 'More virtues':
My Ahlul Bayt are the like stars, whichever you hold fast to you will be guided.
أهل بيتي كالنجوم بأيهم اقتديتم اهتديتم

I need to spend some time on this particular hadith due to the position of some scholars about it:
  1. Some scholars have rejected this hadith because of Nubaytt ibn Shareett the alleged liar, as they label him. For instance Imam Muhammad Taher ibn Ali al-Hindi al-Fattini said in his book Tadhkirat al-Mawdua'at that this hadith is from the Nabeett the liar:
    My Ahlul Bayt are the like stars, whichever you hold fast to you will be guided.
    أهل بيتي كالنجوم بأيهم اقتديتم اهتديتم من نسخة نبيط الكذاب

    al-Qadi al-Shukani said the same thing in his book al-Fawa-id al-Majmua'at Fil Ahadeeth al-Mawdua'at. Abul Hasan Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Iraq al-Kannani recorded this hadith in his book Tanzeeh al-Shareea'at al-Marfua'at A'an al-Ahadeeth al-Shaneea'at al-Madua'at (chapter 1, section 3, #33), which means he considered the hadith as outrageous.

  2. The problem with their verdicts is that this Nubaytt ibn Shareett was a companion, who according to Ahlul Sunna, are all righteous!! These scholars are poised to verbally send the Shia'a to hell for criticizing any companion while they have no problem treating Nubaytt ibn Shareett a liar!

  3. ibn Abdul Barr said in his book al-Istia'ab in the section about the biography of his father:
    Shareett ibn Anas ibn Malik ibn Hilal al-Ashjae'e witnessed Hujjat al-Wida'a with the prophet and he heard his sermon, and his son was with him, and both of them are among the companions
    شريط بن أنس بن مالك بن هلال الأشجعي، شهد حجة الوداع مع النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وسمع منه خطبته، وكان ردفه يومئذ ابنه نبيط بن شريط، وكلاهما مذكور في الصحابة

    He also wrote in the same book:
    Nubaytt ibn Shareett...heard the sermon of the prophet in Hujjat al-Wida'a and he was riding behind his father, and he is considered a Kufi.
    نبيط بن شريط ... رأى النبي صلّى الله عليه وسلّم وسمع خطبته في حجة الوداع ، وكان رديف أبيه يومئذ ، معدود في أهل الكوفة

  4. ibn Hajar said in his book al-Issabat (chapter 3, letter sheen, #3897):
    Shareett ibn Anas ibn Malik ibn Hilal al-Ashjae'e is the father of Nubaytt, and they both have come companionship to the prophet. ibn al-Sakan said: he has some companionship and a narration and he is counted from among the people of Kufa, and Ahmad narrated from the route of Nubaytt ibn Shareett who said: I was riding behind my father on Hujjat al-Wida'a when the prophet gave his sermon, so I put my hand over the shoulder of my father and I heard the prophet said: Your blood and properties are considered Haram among yourselves (you are not allowed to fight each other)...
    al-Baghawi and ibn al-Sakan recorded this narration in a different form, Nubaytt ibn Shareett narrated from his father Shareett ibn Anas, and ibn al-Sakan said: he did not narrate from the prophet except this hadith. ibn Mundah narrated from the route of Wakee'e that he heard Salamat ibn Nubaytt say: My father and grand-father are from among the companions of the prophet, and from the route of Abdul Hameed al-Hammani from Salamat who said: My father, my grand-father and my paternal uncle were from among the companions of the prophet, and this is also what Ahmad recorded in his book al-Zuhd through al-Hammani.
    شريط ـ بفتح أوله ـ ابن أنس بن مالك بن هلال الأشجعي والد نبيط ، وله ولنبيط صحبة. قال ابن السكن : له صحبة ورواية ، وهو معدود في الكوفيين ، وروى أحمد من طريق نبيط بن شريط قال : إني رديف أبي في حجة الوداع إذ تكلّم النبي صلّى الله عليه وسلّم ، فوضعت يدي على عاتق أبي فسمعته يقول : إن دماءكم وأموالكم عليكم حرام. الحديث ، وأخرجه البغوي وابن السكن من وجه آخر فقال : عن نبيط بن شريط عن أبيه شريط بن أنس. وقال ابن السكن : لم يرو عن النبي صلّى الله عليه وسلّم غير هذا الحديث ، وروى ابن مندة من طريق وكيع : سمعت سلمة بن نبيط يقول : جدّي من أصحاب النبي صلّى الله عليه وسلّم. ومن طريق عبد الحميد الحماني عن سلمة قال : كان أبي وجدي وعمي من أصحاب النبي صلّى الله عليه وسلّم. وهكذا أخرجه أحمد في كتاب الزهد عن الحماني

    In the same book, chapter 6, Letter Nun, #8689:
    Nubaytt Shareett ibn Anas ibn Malik ibn Hilal al-Ashjae'e, resided in Kufa, and he was mentioned in the narration of his father Shareett and he has one narration from the prophet...
    ibn Abi Hatem said: he has some companionship (to the prophet), and he remained alive after the prophet for some time.
    نبيط بن شريط بن أنس بن مالك بن هلال الأشجعي، نزل الكوفة، وقع ذكره في حديث والده شريط وله رواية عن النبي صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم وعن سالم بن عبيد روى عنه ابنه سلمة ونعيم بن أبي هند وأبو مالك الأشجعي، قال ابن أبي حاتم: له صحبة، وبقي بعد النبي صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم زمانا


  5. al-Dhahabi wrote in Tajreed al-Sahabat:
    Shareett ibn Anas ibn Malik ibn Hilal al-Ashjae'e is the grand-father is Salamat (ibn) Nubaytt and Nubaytt is a companion as well.
    شريط بن أنس بن مالك بن هلال الأشجعي ، جد سلمة نبيط ولنبيط صحبة أيضا. ب

  6. ibn Atheer wrote in Asadul Ghabat:
    He narrates from the prophet, and his son Salamat also narrated from him. Abul Qasem ibn Ali from a chain of transmission leading to Abu Abdul Rahman al-Nisa'i from Amru ibn Ali from Yehya ibn Sufyan from Salamat ibn Nubaytt from his father who said: I witnessed the messenger of Allah give a sermon on a red camel at A'arafat before the prayer...
    يروي عن النبي صلّى الله عليه وسلّم ، روى عنه ابنه سلمة ، أخبرنا أبو القاسم يعيش بن علي بإسناده إلى أبي عبد الرحمن النسائي ، أخبرنا عمرو بن علي ، حدثنا يحيى بن سفيان عن سلمة بن نبيط عن أبيه قال : رأيت رسول الله صلّى الله عليه وسلّم يخطب على جمل أحمر بعرفة قبل الصلاة خرجه الثلاثة

  7. ibn Hajar al-A'asqalani said in Taqreeb al-Tahdheeb:
    He is a young companion
    صحابي صغير

  8. al-Suyuti (in al-Durr al-Manthur) recorded a narration from Nubaytt ibn Shareett al-Shajae'e and said Radiyallah A'an-hu (May God bless him) as is the practice when we refer to a companion or a Tabee'e:
    وأخرج ابن عساكر عن أحمد بن إسحق بن إبراهيم بن نبيط بن شريط الشجعي رضي الله عنه قال: حدثني أبي عن أبيه عن جده رضي الله عنه أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم صلى

    Furthermore, in al-Jami'i al-Sagheer (chapter 3, #4351), al-Suyuti considered a narration from Nubaytt ibn Shareett Hasan:
    4351 - الذكر نعمة من الله، فأدوا شكرها
    [باللسان والأركان والجنان... (أي إذا أنعم الله على أحدكم بنعمة ذكره، فليشكرها بأن يستعمل لسانه بذكر الله، وجسده بأعمال الخير، وقلبه بالمراقبة والخشوع، وهكذا. دار الحديث)]ـ
    التخريج (برموز السيوطي): (فر) عن نبيط بن شريط
    التخريج (مفصلا): الديلمي في مسند الفردوس عن نبيط بن شريط
    تصحيح السيوطي: حسن

    So clearly, al-Suyuti does not consider him a liar!

    Another scholar who said May God bless him is Imam Abdul Wahab al-Sha'arani in his book Kashful Ghummat A'an Jamee'e al-Ummat in one of his narrations:
    وقال نبيط بن شريط الأشجعي رضي الله عنه: مر النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم بقبر أبي أحيحة

  9. al-Abadi in A'awn al-Ma'abud Sharh Sunan Abi Dawud also acknowledges that Nubaytt ibn Shareett and his father were companions of the prophet:
    -(أنه رأى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم واقفاً بعرفة الخ): وفي النسائي: يخطب على جمل أحمر بعرفة قبل الصلاة. قال المنذري: وأخرجه النسائي وابن ماجه عن سلمة بن نبيط ولم يقولا عن رجل من الحي، وذكره البخاري في التاريخ الكبير كذلك، وأبوه هو نبيط بن شريط له صحبة ولأبيه شريط صحبة رضي الله عنهم. ونبيط

  10. ibn Hajar al-Asqalani wrote in Tahdheeb al-Tahdheeb that Uthman al-Dirami asked ibn Mue'en about Nubaytt ibn Shareett and he responded that he was the father of Salamat and he is trustworthy:
    د تم س ق أبي داود والترمذي في الشمائل والنسائي وابن ماجة نبيط بن شريط الأشجعي الكوفي روى عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وعن سالم بن عبيد وأنس بن مالك وعنه ابنه سلمة ونعيم بن أبي هند وأبو مالك الأشجعي قال بن أبي حاتم نبيط بن شريط الأشجعي الكوفي والد سلمة بن نبيط له صحبة وهو نبيط بن جابر من بني مالك بن النجار زوجة النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم الفريعة بنت سعد بن زرارة وبقي نبيط بعد النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم زمانا قال عثمان الدارمي سألت بن معين عن نبيط بن شريط فقال هو أبو سلمة ثقة وكذا قال بن أبي حاتم

So clearly, many of the Sunni scholars have accepted Nubaytt ibn Shareett. Why then treat him as a liar??

Do you remember the fabricated narration about the companions being like the stars?
Verily, my Companions are like the stars (nujum) in the sky; whichever of them you follow, you shall be guided rightly.
أصحابي كالنجوم بأيهم اقتديتم اهتديتم

Do you see how the fabricators have substituted Ahlul Bayt with the companions?? We have seen similar attempts on other authentic Hadith, if you recall. So tell me, who is more likely to be likened to the stars?? Ahlul Bayt who are the second of the Thaqalayn and our path to salvation, or the companions who disagreed about many issues and who turned against each other and who cut the throats of one another and many of which turned against Ahlul Bayt?? Let your rational give you the answer!

Here is a another form of Hadith al-Nujum which is also well accepted among the Sunni scholars except for those who enjoy belittle the virtues of Ahlul Bayt:
Imam Ali narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: "The stars are security for the inhabitants of the heavens, and if the stars go away (i.e. become non-existent), the inhabitants of the heavens will be destroyed. And my Ahlul-Bayt are security for the inhabitants of the earth, and if my Ahlul-Bayt go away (i.e. all die), the inhabitants of the earth will be destroyed.
وفيما كتب إلينا أيضاً ، يذكر أن يوسف بن نفيس حدثهم قثنا : عبد الملك بن هارون بن عنترة ، عن أبيه ، عن جده ، عن علي قال : قال رسول الله (ص) : النجوم أمان لأهل السماء ، إذا ذهبت النجوم ذهب أهل السماء ، وأهل بيتي أمان لأهل الأرض ، فإذا ذهب أهل بيتي ذهب أهل الأرض

Here is what al-A'allama al-Sheikh Ali ibn Sultan Muhammad al-Qari said in his book Mirqat al-Mafateeh Sharh Mishkat al-Massabeeh about Hadith al-Safeena:
This means that whoever does not enter the ark, like the Khawarij, will perish immediatly, and whoever enters the ark but did not acquire guidance from the stars of the companions, like the Rawafidd, will stray and will fall into the darkness without any way out. This is what Ahmad recorded through Anas: 'The scholars on earth are like the stars of the heavens. They are the source of guidance at night on the land and at sea...' And this is supported by what Ahmad recorded in the chapter of the Manaqib (virtues) of Ali that the prophet said: 'The stars are security for the inhabitants of the heavens, and if the stars go away, the inhabitants of the heavens will be destroyed. And my Ahlul-Bayt are security for the inhabitants of the earth, and if my Ahlul-Bayt go away, the inhabitants of the earth will be destroyed.'
وتوضيحه أن من لم يدخل السفينة كالخوارج هلك مع الهالكين في أول وهلة ، ومن دخلها ولم يهتد بنجوم الصحابة كالروافض ضل ، ووقع في ظلمات ليس بخارج منها ، هذا ورواه أحمد عن أنس مرفوعا : " إن مثل العلماء في الأرض كمثل النجوم في السماء يهتدى بها في ظلمات البر والبحر ، فإذا انطمست النجوم أوشك أن تضل الهداة " . ويؤيده ما أخرجه أحمد في المناقب عن علي قال : قال رسول الله - صلى الله عليه وسلم - : " النجوم أمان لأهل السماء فإذا ذهبت النجوم ذهب أهل السماء وأهل بيتي أمان لأهل الأرض فإذا ذهب أهل بيتي ذهب أهل الأرض . اهـ .

As you can see, this scholar has accepted Hadith al-Safeena and has acknowledged that it is supported by Hadith al-Nujum. However, somehow he added that those who enter the ark without holding fast to the companions will also stray! Where did this come from?? Is this part of Hadith al-Safeena?? Hadith al-Safeena applies to all the companions who are to hold fast to Ahlul Bayt! The prophet commanded his companions to hold fast to Ahlul Bayt. He did not command the companions to adhere to one another, which will be ludicrous!! Besides, we have already proven that the narration 'my companions are like stars' is a lie concocted to put out the light of Ahlul Bayt. Anyone who adheres to Ahlul Bayt does not need to adhere to anyone else!

Here is another similar narration recorded by al-Muhheb al-Tabari in Dhakha-ir al-Uqba:
It has been said that they are the security for the Ummat of Muhammad. Iyyas ibn Salmat from his father that the prophet said: the stars are the security to the inhabitants of the heavens and my Ahlul Bayt are the security to the nation.
ذكر أنهم أمان لأمة محمد صلّى الله عليه وسلّم : عن أياس بن سلمة عن أبيه قال قال رسول الله صلّى الله عليه وسلّم : النجوم أمان لأهل السماء وأهل بيتي أمان لأمتي ، أخرجه أبو عمرو الغفاري

Imam Ali himself reported that Ahlul Bayt are the most knowledgeable:
المصفح العامري روى عن علي قال أخبرنا يزيد بن هارون قال أخبرنا فضيل بن مرزوق عن جبلة بنت الصفح عن أبيها قال قال لي علي يا أخا بني عامر سلني عما قال الله ورسوله فإنا نحن أهل البيت أعلم بما قال الله ورسوله قال والحديث طويل (ص 241)
Reference:
     al-Tabaqatul kobra, by ibn Sa'ad (طبقات الكوفيين. ومن هذه الطبقة ممن روى عن علي بن أبي طالب عليه السلام);


Here is another tradition which conveys the same message about the undoubtful and God-given knowledge of Ahlul Bayt:
Ibn al-Abbas narrated that the messenger of Allah said: "Whoever wishes to live and die like me, and to abide in the Garden of Eden after death, should acknowledge Ali as WALI after me, and take his WALI (i.e., Imams after him) as WALI, and should follow the Imams after me for they are my Ahlul-Bayt and were created from my clay and are gifted with the same knowledge and understanding as myself. Woe unto those who deny their virtues and those who disregard their relationship and affinity with me, for my intercession shall never reach them."
من سره أن يحيى حياتي ويموت مماتي ويسكن جنة عدن التي غرسها ربي فليوال عليا من بعدي وليوال وليه، وليقتد بأهل بيتي من بعدي، فإنهم عترتي، خلقوا من طينتي، ورزقوا فهمي وعلمي، فويل للمكذبين بفضلهم من أمتي، القاطعين فيهم صلتي، لا أنالهم الله شفاعتي.

Let's ponder on this hadith and see how it is in harmony with many other similar hadiths. First of all, this hadith clearly shows that whoever follows the path of Ahlul Bayt are in the right path and those who don't will certainly stray off. In fact this hadith is similar to hadith al-Thaqalayn:

The messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) said: "I am leaving for you two precious and weighty Symbols that if you adhere to BOTH of them you shall not go astray after me. They are, the Book of Allah, and my progeny, that is my Ahlul-Bayt. The Merciful has informed me that These two shall not separate from each other till they come to me by the Pool (of Paradise)."
حدثنا علي بن المنذر الكوفي أخبرنا محمد بن فضيل أخبرنا الأعمش عن عطيه عن أبي سعيد والأعمش عن حبيب ابن أبي ثابت عن زيد بن ارقم قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم:
"اني تارك فيكم ما إن تمسكتم به لن تضلوا بعدي؛ أحدهما أعظم من الآخر؛ كتاب الله حبل ممدود من السماء الى الأرض وعترتي أهل بيتي ولن يتفرقا حتى يردا على الحوض فانظروا كيف تخلفوني فيهما". هذا حديث حسن غريب.‏

So according to both hadiths, clinging to Ahlul Bayt is the only way to guidance and truth. Once we divert from them, we move from light to darkness. This is indeed the true Sunnah of the prophet. Here is another hadith which also re-emphisizes how important and relevant Ahlul Bayt are to our salvation:

The Prophet (PBUH&HF) said about Ahlul-Bayt: "Do not be ahead of them for you will perish, do not turn away from them for you will perish, and do not try to teach them since they know more than you do!"
فلا تقدموهما فتهلكوا ولا تقصروا عنهما. فتهلكوا ولا تعلوهم فإنهم أعلم منكم.

In order to protect the Ummah from straying off after the demise of the prophet, Allah has made Ahlul Bayt a beacon for every Muslim to remain on the right path. This unconditional order to cling to Ahlul Bayt in order to remain on the straight path is really the key here. Once this concept has been accepted, many of the differences between Sunnis and Shia will desappear. For instance, after such conviction is established, what will your stand be with regards to the discussion between Abu Bakr and Fatima regarding her inheritance? Who spoke the truth during that heated conversation: Fatima who is from Ahlul Bayt or Abu Bakr? After such conviction, it becomes clear that Ahlul Bayt always speak the truth and do not make false claims. They are after all the people that Allah removed all uncleanness and purified a perfect purification.

What do all the hadiths tell us about the knowledge of Ahlul Bayt? Can anyone teach them? Can anyone challenge them? Can anyone prove them wrong? Let us see what the prophet said about the knowledge of Imam Ali for instance (references are found in the sections talking about the virtues of Imam Ali):

It is also narrated that: The Prophet (PBUH&HF) said: "There is amongst you a person who will fight for the interpretation of the Quran just as I fought for its revelation." The people around him raised their heads and cast inquisitive glances at the Prophet (PBUH&HF) and at one another. Abu Bakr and Umar were there. Abu Bakr inquired if he was that person and the Prophet (PBUH&HF) replied in the negative. Then Umar inquired if he was that person and the Prophet (PBUH&HF), replied "No. He is the one who is repairing my shoes (i.e., Ali)."

Abu Said Khudri said: Then we went to Ali and conveyed the good news to him. He did not even raise his head and remained as busy as he was, as if he had already heard it from the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF)."

"Ali is with the Qur'an and the Qur'an is with 'Ali, the two shall not separate until the meet me at the Fountain of Kauthar"

"O Allah! turn the haqq with Ali wherever he ('Ali) turns"

I am the city of knowledge, and Ali is its gate.

It is also reported that Ali inherited the knowledge of the prophet just like other prophets inherited the knowledge of their precedents:

Ali said: `O Messenger of Allah! My soul has expired, and my spine has been broken, having seen what you have done for your companions while leaving me alone. If this is a sign of your anger with me, then I complain only to you and beg your pardon.' The Messenger of Allah said: `I swear by the One Who sent me to convey the truth about Him, I have not spared you except for my own self. You are to me like Aaron to Moses, except there will be no Prophet after me. You are my Brother, heir and companion.' 'Ali (as) asked him: 'What shall I inherit from you?' He (pbuh) answered: `Whatever Prophets before me left for those who inherited them: the Book of their Lord, and the Sunnah of their Prophet. You will be my companion in my house in Paradise together with my daughter Fatima. You are my Brother and Companion.' Then he, peace be upon him and his progeny, recited the verse: `They are brethren seated conveniently facing each other'

It is reported that in his last moments, the prophet called upon Ali and taught him thousand chapters, and every one of them opened another one thousand chapters:

Imam Ali said: "The Messenger of Allah at that time (before his last breath) taught me one thousand chapters (Bab) of knowledge, every one of which opened for me one thousand other chapters."

Has not Imam Ali advised the Muslims to ask him anything they wished:

"Ask me anything you like before I leave you. Ask me about the Holy Book (The Qur'an) since I know about every verse in it - whether it was revealed in the night or during the day, on a plain field or in the steep mountains. By Allah, no verse of the Holy Qur'an was revealed but I know about what it was revealed, where it was revealed, and about what person it was revealed. Allah Almighty has endowed me with an eloquent tongue and a wise mind"

Abu Bakr and Umar could not survive their caliphate periods without the knowledge of Ali as they have themselves admitted:

Sa'id al-Musayyib reported: Abu Bakr said: "May Allah never put me in a situation where I can not have access to Abul Hasan (i.e., Ali) to solve a problem."

What about Umar?

Sa'id al-Musayyib reported: "Umar Ibn al-Khattab used to beg God to preserve him from a perplexing case which the father of al-Hasan was not present to decide." Furthermore Umar said: "If there was not Ali, Umar would have perished."

Please follow this link to read more narrations proving the same point.