Mubahala literally meaning 'mutual prayer' (Arabic: مباهلة Cursing) or Li’an (Arabic: لعان). In Islamic tradition it refers to a form of resolving religious disputes. When two sides of the argument can't come to a conclusion about which side is right, they start to pray to God for truth to be revealed by the cursing of the wrong side. Since curse means 'moving someone far away from the divine mercy' and moving far away from mercy is being close to divine wrath—therefore, the essence of the meaning is: Wrath be on the liar. As such, whoever is the liar shall face the evil consequences whereupon the truth will become evident before the disbelievers as well. Many times Mubahala is a kind of ordeal which instigation or call to the ordeal may be more important than execution of it.
In the Qur'an
Surely, the case of Jesus, in the sight of Allah is like the case of Adam. He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be", and he came to be.(59) The truth is from your Lord. So, do not be of those who doubt.(60)
So if someone argues with you in this after what has come to you of the knowledge, say, "Come, let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves, then pray and invoke the curse of Allah upon the liars."(61)
This is, indeed, the true narration. And there exists no god but Allah. And Allah is surely the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.(62)
So, should they turn back, Allah is all-aware of the mischievous.(63)
Incident of Mubahala
According to hadith collections, it is narrated that during the 9th–10th year after hijra an Arab Christian envoy from Najran (currently in northern Yemen and partly in Saudi Arabia) under the leadership of their chief priest Abd al-Masih came to Muhammad at Medina to ask him about his views about Jesus because the Christians themselves were divided into four different beliefs in regards to Jesus' relationship with God:
- Jesus is God.
- Jesus is the son of God.
- Jesus is one of a trinity or
- God is far from what they attribute to Jesus.
After the Christians disliked Jesus' miraculous (fatherless) birth to Adam's creation, Muhammad responded, "He (God) created him (Jesus) from dust, then said to him: "Be", and he was". Muhammad continued, "The truth comes from Allah alone; so be not of those who doubt. If anyone disputes in this matter with thee, now after full knowledge hath come to thee, say: Come, let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves, then pray and invoke the curse of Allah upon the liars."  This, was Muhammad's call for mubahala. The Christians consulted each other and refused to accept Muhammad's response to not deify Jesus, to say Jesus was merely mortal, created by God and not God himself. Together with Muhammad, the two sides scheduled the mubahala for the following morning. Before dawn of the next day, Muhammad sent a close companion, Salman al-Farisi, to construct a shelter for the people who Muhammad was going to take with him. It was uncommon for Mubahala to include families of the parties involved but when included, the family causes the process to become more effective. Because Muhammad brought only select members of his family, carrying Husayn in his arm with Hasan holding his hand, followed by Fatima and concluding with Ali. Muhammad declared, Lord these are the People of my House, Ahl al-Bayt and covered his family with a cloak. The leaders of the Christian group recognized the gravity of the situation, prophethood of Muhammad and Muhammad's confidence in the outcome of the incident. The Christian leaders became frightened and advised their followers to pull out of the Mubahala stating that, "By God! He would not have come with them (the Ahl al-Bayt) if he was afraid that the proof would be against him. Therefore, be warned against the contest of prayer with him. By God! If it was not for the position of Caesar (the Byzantine emperor), I would submit to him. But (now) make peace with him on what can be agreed between you and him. Return to your land and think about it yourselves." The Christians took the advice of Priest Abd al-Masih and formed a peace treaty with Muhammad, the Christian proposal being you remain on your religion, while we remain on our religion and Muhammad's proposal forcing the Christians to pay Jizya, a levy on free non-Muslims under Muslim rule. The Christians continued, asking Muhammad to send with them a trustworthy man to aid them in judging monetary disputes amongst themselves. Muhammad agrees and appoints 'Abu 'Ubaydah bin Al-Jarah out of a large group of willing and hopeful contenders.
Al-'Aqib and Saiyid, the rulers of Najran, came to Allah's Apostle with the intention of doing Lian one of them said to the other, "Do not do (this Lian) for, by Allah, if he is a Prophet and we do this Lian, neither we, nor our offspring after us will be successful." Then both of them said (to the Prophet), "We will give what you should ask but you should send a trustworthy man with us, and do not send any person with us but an honest one." The Prophet said, "I will send an honest man who Is really trustworthy." Then every one of the companions of Allah's Apostle wished to be that one. Then the Prophet said, "Get up, O Abu 'Ubaida bin Al-Jarrah." When he got up, Allah's Apostle said, "This is the Trustworthy man of this (Muslim) nation."Sahih Bukhari 006.060.371
Family of Muhammad present at Mubahala and the Quranic text
- "Our sons": Hasan and Husayn, the grandsons of Muhammad, sons of 'Ali and Fatima. Because at the time of occurrence of the Mubahala Muhammad had no children besides Fatima, let alone a son; Hasan and Husayn are included in "sons/children" because children of one's daughter are regarded as one's own children too.
- "Our women": Fatima, daughter of Muhammad and Khadija, wife of 'Ali and mother of Hasan and Husayn. "Women" could have meant wives but the Prophet viewed Fatima as the most superior female Muslim and brought her instead.
- "Ourselves": Muhammad and Ali ibn Abi Talib
- "The self" or "The soul": Ali, the son-in-law and cousin of Muhammad.
This event causes some scholars to conclude the power and superiority of 'Ali especially when it comes to his right of imamate and immediate successorship following Muhammad. It also supports the Shia belief in the people part of the Ahl al-Bayt, while also supporting the belief that only these members of the Ahl al-Bayt are spiritually pure. Theologically, Shi'is also emphasize the significance of the cloaking of the Ahl al-Bayt as highlighting their primal rights on the leadership of the community of the believers, their principle of legitimacy.
Commenting on the Bukhari hadith, Ibn Hajar says: "Some of the benefits of this hadith is that one can do Mubahala with an opponent if he insists after losing the argument.... What is known by experience is that one who takes part in Mubahala to support falsehood will not survive its first anniversary."
- Surah al-'Imran
- Quran 3:61
- Surah Al-Imran
- Tafsir Ibn Kathir
- 3:59-61 Surah 'Al-Imran
- Shia responds
- Surah al-imran
- Shia responds
- Surah 'Al-Imran
- Ibn Kathir
- Sahih Bukhari :: Book 5 :: Volume 59 :: Hadith 663
- Shia responds
- Fath al-Bari, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, 8/59.
- Zad al-Ma'ad, Ibn al-Qayyim, 3/643.