- This article is about the historical event in the 9/631. For the verse about the incident, see al-Mubahala Verse.
Mubāhala (Arabic: مُباهَلَة) means cursing and damning each other. Two people or two parties, who believe they are right, supplicate before God and ask Him to curse the liar so that everyone knows who is right. Thus, the Prophet (s) suggested Christians of Najran to do mubahala and they accepted; however, on the day they had agreed upon earlier, they refused to do mubahala since they saw that the Prophet (s) came with closest members of his family, who were his daughter, Fatima al-Zahra (a), his son-in-law, Imam 'Ali (a), his grandsons, Hasan (a) and Husayn (a), and thus Christians understood his truthfulness. This way the Prophet (s) became victorious in this event.
The occasion of the Prophet's (s) mubahala with Christians of Najran is not only a sign for the truth of the Prophet's (s) claim [i.e. inviting to Islam] but also showing the position of his family members since he introduced them alone among all his companions and relatives. Therefore, that event is among the merits of the Ahl al-Bayt (a). The encounter of mubahala happened on Dhu al-Hijja 24, 9/631. However, some have reported it on 25th.
When the Prophet (s) wrote letters to rulers of different countries and religious centers, he (s) also wrote a letter to the Bishop of Najran, in which he (s) asked the people of Najran to accept Islam. Christians decided to send a delegation to Medina to talk to the Prophet (s).
The delegation included a group of more than ten noblemen of the people of Najran led by three people who were 'Aqib, Sayyid, and Abu Haritha who came to Medina. The delegation talked with the Prophet (s) in the mosque of the Prophet (s). After both parties insisted on their rightfulness, they decided to end the dispute through mubahala; therefore, they decided to prepare for mubahala the other day outside Medina in the desert.
The morning of the day appointed for mubahala, the Prophet (s) went to Imam 'Ali's (a) house, took the hand of Imam al-Hasan (a), held Imam al-Husayn (a) up in his other arm and asked Imam 'Ali (a) and Lady Fatima (s) to come with him out of Medina for mubahala. When Christians saw the Prophet (s), Abu Haritha asked who were those coming with him? And he received the answer: "the one walking before him is his cousin and son-in-law and most beloved person to him; those two kids are his grandsons and the lady with him is his beloved daughter."
The Prophet (s) sat on his knees for mubahala. Then Sayyid and 'Aqib asked their sons for mubahala. Abu Haritha said: "I swear to God that he has sat like prophets used to sit for mubahala", and returned. Sayyid asked him, "where do you go?!" Abu Haritha answered, "If Muhammad (s) was not right, he would not dare to come for mubahala like this, and if he (s) engages in mubahala with us, even one Christian would not remain alive before this year finishes!" In another narration, he said, "I see faces, that if they ask God to pull out a mountain, indeed it will be pulled out. So, do not engage in mubahala, otherwise, you would be dead and not even one Christian will remain alive."
Then, Abu Haritha came to the Prophet (s) and said, "O Abu l-Qasim! Let us not do mubahala and make peace with us on something we can afford to do." Then, the Prophet (s) made peace with them with the condition that they pay 2 thousand Hillas every year, which every Hilla was 40 Dirham, and also the condition that if Yemen engages in a war, they lend 30 shields, 30 spears and 30 horses to Muslims and the Prophet (s) is responsible for returning them. This way, the Prophet (s) wrote the peace treaty and the delegation returned.
Later, the Prophet (s) said, "I swear to God, who my soul is in His grasp, that death of the people of Najran had become close and if they engaged in mubahala with me, they surely would turn into monkeys and pigs and their whole land would burn and they would burn and God would destroy all the people of Najran and even birds would not remain on their trees and all Christians would die in less than a year." Shortly after the delegation returned to Najran, Sayyid and 'Aqib came to the Prophet (s) with gifts and converted to Islam.
Surely the ones the Prophet (s) took with himself to mubahala were Imam 'Ali (a), Fatima (s), Hasan (a) and Husayn (a); however, about how it happened, who came from Christians' side, who came to the Prophet (s) and what did they talk about are issues which are differently narrated in historical reports.
Mubahala happened on Dhu l-Hijja 24, 9/April 3, 631. It has also been reported on 21st of the same month. Al-Shaykh al-Ansari says that 24th of Dhu al-Hijja is the more famous account and considers performing the ghusl recommended on this day. In Mafatih al-jinan, Shaykh 'Abbas Qumi has mentioned the recommended practices for this event on 24th of Dhu al-Hijja including the ritual bath and fasting.
- Main article: al-Mubahala Verse
فَمَنْ حَاجَّكَ فِيهِ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَكَ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ فَقُلْ تَعَالَوْا نَدْعُ أَبْنَاءَنَا وَأَبْنَاءَكُمْ وَنِسَاءَنَا وَنِسَاءَكُمْ وَأَنْفُسَنَا وَأَنْفُسَكُمْ ثُمَّ نَبْتَهِلْ فَنَجْعَلْ لَعْنَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَى الْكَاذِبِينَ
Shi'a and Sunni exegetes agree that this verse refers to the debate and mubahala happened between Christians of Najran and the Prophet (s) and in that debate they insisted that Jesus (a) is one of the Trinity and did not accept the Qur'an's account which said that Jesus (a) was the pious servant of God and his prophet (s); so that the Prophet (s) suggested that they do mubahala.
In addition to Shi'a exegetes, Sunni exegetes (al-Zamakhshari, al-Fakhr al-Razi, al-Baydawi, etc.) also said that the word "abna'ana" (our sons) in this verse refers to Hasan (a) and Husayn (a) and the word "nisa'ana" (our women) refers to Lady Fatima (a) and the word "anfusana" (our souls) refers to Imam 'Ali (a); thus, these four people together with the Prophet (s) make the Ahl al-Kisa' (the people of the cloack), and according to al-Zamakhshari and al-Fakhr al-Razi, in addition to this verse, the Tathir verse (33:33) was revealed, following that verse to respect them more and to cleanse them:
"Indeed Allah desires to repel all impurity from you, O, People of the Household, and purify you with a thorough purification." (33:33)
Mentioning the Event of Mubahala as Proof
Mentioning the event of mubahala as a proof of the merits of Ahl al-Bayt (a) can be seen in the speeches of Imam 'Ali (a), Imam al-Hasan (a), Imam al-Husayn (a), other Imams (a), companions of the Propeht (a), and scholars. Here, we mention three examples:
By Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas
Sa'd said: "While I remember three things, I would not curse him; and if any of those happened about me, I would love it more than having red-haired camels." Then, he mentions those three merits of Imam 'Ali (a), the third of which is that when the verse revealed to the Prophet (s), (al-Mubahala verse), he (s) called 'Ali (a), Fatima (a), Hasan (a), and Husayn (a) and said: "O, God, these are my Ahl al-Bayt (a)!"
By Imam al-Kazim (a)
Harun told Imam al-Kazim (a): "How do you claim that you are the progeny of the Prophet (s), while the Prophet (s) had no progeny! Since the progeny is made only through sons not daughters and you are children of his daughter."
Imam al-Kazim (a) said: "Allow me not answer this!"
Harun said: "O, son of Ali (a), you may tell me your argument; and you O, Musa (a), are their (Shi'a's) leader now -I have been told so!-; And I would not allow you not answer what I ask, unless you bring a proof from the Qur'an and you sons of 'Ali (a) claim that there is nothing in the Qur'an unless you know its interpretation and you refer to the verse "We have not omitted anything from the Book." (6:38) and so, you regard yourself needless to analogy or scholars' opinions."
Imam al-Kazim (a) said: "Do you allow me to answer?"
Harun said: "Say"
Imam said: "I seek the protection of Allah against the outcast Satan, In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the Most-merciful."
"And We gave him Isaac (Ishaq) and Jacob (Ya'qub) and guided each of them. And Noah (Nuh) We had guided before, and from his offspring, David (Dawud) and Solomon (Sulayman), Job (Ayyub), Joseph (Yusuf), Moses (Musa) and Aaron (Harun) —thus do We reward the virtuous— (84) and Zechariah (Zakaria), John (Yahya), Jesus ('Isa) and Elijah (Ilyas), —each of them among the righteous (85)" (6:84-85)
Imam continued: "Who was the father of Jesus?"
Harun answered: "Jesus did not have a father."
Imam (a) said: "Then, God joined him to the progeny of prophets only through [the Virgin] Mary (a) and has joined us the same way through our mother Fatima (s) to the progeny of the Prophet (s). Should I continue?"
Harun said: "Say"
Then, Imam (a) recited the al-Mubahala verse and said, "No one has ever said that the Prophet (s) took anyone other than Ali b. Abi Talib (a), Fatima (a), Hasan (a) and Husayn (a) under the Cloak, when he was going to mubahala; thus, by "our sons", the Qur'an meant Hasan (a) and Husayn (a), by "our women", the Qur'an meant Fatima (s) and by "our soul", the Qur'an meant Ali b. Abi Talib (a)." (Therefore, in the al-Mubahala verse, God referred to Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a) as the sons of the Prophet (s) and this is the most obvious reason that the Ahl al-Bayt (a) are the progeny of the Prophet (s).)
By Imam al-Rida (a)
Imam al-Rida (a) said, "his merit in mubahala", Then, Imam (a) recited the al-Mubahala verse and said: "the Prophet (s) called Hasan (a) and Husayn (a) who were his sons and Lady Fatima (s) who is the reference for "women" in this verse and Imam 'Ali (a) who is the "soul" of the Prophet (s) in the word of God. And it is known that no one in creation is higher than the Prophet (s), then according to the word of God, no one should ever be higher than the soul of the Prophet (s)."
Then, al-Ma'mun said: "God has brought the expression "our sons" in plural form while the Prophet (s) brought only two of his sons and also "our women" is plural while the Prophet (s) only brought only his daughter; thus, why should not we say that calling "our souls" would also mean only the Prophet (s) himself; therefore, the merit you mentioned about Imam 'Ali (a) would become void."
Imam al-Rida (a) said: "Your argument is wrong, because a caller calls someone other than himself, like when a commander commands someone other than himself, and it is not alright if someone calls himself in reality while also no one can actually order himself. And since the Prophet (s) did not call any man in mubahala other than Imam 'Ali (a), then it is confirmed that he is the soul God referred to, in His Book and ordered about it there."
Then, al-Ma'mun said, "With the answer, the question destroyed".
- Jawharī, al-Ṣaḥāḥ, under the word "Bahala".
- Zamakhsharī, al-Kashshāf, vol. 1, p. 368.
- Qummī, Muntahā l-āmāl, vol. 1, p. 182-184; Mufīd, Al-Irshād, vol. 1, p. 166-171.
- Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 2, p. 310; See: Ibn Saʿd, Al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, p. 392.
- Ibn Shahrāshūb, al-Manāqib, vol. 3, p. 144.
- Maybudī, Kashf al-asrār, vol. 2, p. 147.
- Anṣārī, Kitāb al-ṭahāra, p. 48-49.
- Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān, under the verse 61 of Quran 3; According to Ṭabāṭabāʾī this hadith is mentioned in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ Tirmidhī and in the book Faḍāʾil ʿAlī by Abu l-Muʾayyad al-Muwaffaq b. Aḥmad, al-Ḥilya by Abu Naʿīm and Farāʾid al-samṭayn by Ḥimawī Shāfiʿyī.
- Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān, p. 229-230.
- Mufīd, al-Fuṣūl al-mukhtārih, p. 38.
- Ibn Athīr, ʿAlī b. Muḥammad. Al-Kāmil fī l-tārīkh. Beirut: Dār al-Ṣādir, 1965.
- Ibn Shahrāshūb, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī. Manāqib Āl Abī Ṭālib. Najaf: al-Maktaba al-Ḥaydarīyya, 1376 AH.
- Anṣārī, Murtaḍā al-. Kitāb al-ṭahāra. Qom: Kungira-yi Jhahāni-yi Buzurgdāsht-i Shaykh-i Aʿzam Anṣārī. [n.d].
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