Family = أَهْلٌ and آلٌ

There are two commonly used words in classical Arabic for “family“, namely أَهْلٌ (ahl), and آلٌ (aal), . These can also be used derivatively to mean “people” or “followers”. The difference between the two is that آلٌ is only used with reference to someone who has nobility or a high rank. So we say آلُ مُحَمّدٍ the family of Mohammed (upon whom be peace), or آلُ الْخَلِيْفَةِ the family of the Caliph, but we wouldn’t say آلُ الْخَادِمِ the family of the servant; instead we would have to say أَهْلُ الْخَادِمِ . In addition, آلٌ can only be used in possessive constructions with proper nouns which refer to rational beings, and cannot be used in such constructions with indefinite nouns, or places, or times. So we can say آلُ قُرَيْشٍ the people of Quraysh, but we would have to say أَهْلُ الْمَدِيْنَةِ the people of Medina.