By Kaniz Fatma, New Age Islam
17 April 2021
Is the Mubahalah Still Permissible for Muslims When Extremely Needed
1. An introduction to Mubahalah
2. Background of the Event of Mubahalah
3. Legal Applicability of Mubahalah
‘Mubahalah’ is derived from the Arabic word ‘bahlah’ which means “to curse”, “invocation of God’s curse”, “mutual prayer”, “mutual imprecation”, “withdrawing mercy from one who lies or engages in falsehood”, “scarcity of water”.
In Islamic terminology, this term refers to a particular form of resolving religious disputes. When the argumentations from both the groups fail to resolve any religious dispute, they jointly pray to God Almighty to cast His curse on whichever of the two parties is false. Thus, during the Mubahala both the parties use the phrases, such as “curse be on the liar” or “the divine wrath be on the liar” to indicate that whoever is the liar shall face the evil consequences whereas the truth will become evident before the people. Invocation done in this way is known as ‘Mubahalah’.
The history of Mubahala in Islam goes back to what is known as “the event of Mubahala” referred to in the Quran. Allah Almighty commanded His Prophet (Muhammad peace be upon him) to call on the Christians of Najran to invoke God’s curse upon those who are liars to determine who are truthful.
Allah says in that verse, “The example of Eisa (Jesus) with Allah is like that of Adam; He created him (Adam) from clay and then said to him, “Be” – and it thereupon happens! Therefore, say to those who dispute with you (O Prophet Muhammad) concerning Eisa (Jesus) after the knowledge has come to you, “Come! Let us summon our sons and your sons, and our women and your women, and ourselves and yourselves – then pray humbly, thereby casting the curse of Allah upon the liars!” (3:60-61)
The background of these verses is that in the ninth year of Hijra, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have sent a letter to Abdul Haris Ibn Alqama, the official representative of the Roman Church and Grand Bishop of Najran, inviting the inhabitants of that area to accept Islam. In response to that letter, a Christian delegation was sent to the Prophet and they discussed the belief about Hazrat Jesus.
The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) preached to them that Hazrat Jesus is a Prophet who was granted revelation by God Almighty and asked them to embrace Islam. The Christians refused to embrace Islam and continued to prove the godhood of Hazrat Jesus (peace be upon him). It was the moment that this verse of Mubahala was revealed.
In this verse, they were challenged to place the curse of God upon those who are liars, and the two sides agreed to meet the next day. But the Christians consulted among themselves and decided that, since they wished to remain Christians, it would not be good for them to enter into this challenge. They feared the curse of God upon themselves if Muhammad was a true prophet (peace be upon him). It is reported that the Prophet himself came out the next day with his daughter Sayyidah Fatima, Sayyiduna Ali and their two sons, Hasan and Husayn for the Mubahalah. Looking at this, a Christian priest Shurahbil said to his two comrades, “look, you already know that he is a Prophet of Allah and getting into the Mubahalah with a Prophet means certain death and destruction for us. So, find out some other way to get out of this fix”.
In another report, it is mentioned that the Christian delegation said, “We seek refuge in God”. Thereafter the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the Christians of Najran came to an agreement that the Najranis would become a treaty-holding people, remaining Christian and running their affairs.
The Sunni scholars of Islam hold the view that doing Mubahala is permissible only for those who are sure of their truth and only when it is truly needed.
However, there is controversy about whether this is still permissible or was specifically meant for the Prophet (peace be upon him). According to Allama Alusi, Imam Abd b. Humayd has narrated that when Hazrat Ibn Abbas differed with a person on a matter; he invited him to do Mubahala and recited this verse (3:61). From this narration, it is inferred that doing Mubahala is still permissible. (Ruh al-Ma’ani vol. 3, p.190, published by Daru Ihya al-turath al-Arabi, Beirut)
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