Event of Mubahala

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The Event of Mubahala was a meeting and debate between the Islamic prophet Muhammad and a Christian delegation from Najran (present-day Yemen), over the course of several days during the month of Dhu'l-Hijja, 10 A.H. (March, 632 A.D.).

The effort of the meeting was to clarify the core differences between the two religions. When the issue of the divinity of Christ was discussed, and the Christians refused to deny their faith, a mubahala (prayer asking God to curse the liar) was demanded by Muhammad regarding the impasse.

After the Christians deliberated, their decision was to not participate by invoking a curse on Muhammad and others present, but instead stay at peace and offer tribute in return for protection.

According to Islamic tradition, this event is considered a victory over Christianity.


Al-Mubahalah' (Arabic: المباهلة‎‎) is derived from the Arabic word 'Bahlah' (curse). The invocation of a curse is an ancient Arabic tradition attempting to distinguish a truth from a lie by praying God curse the liar.[1] The Quranic verse containing mubahala is one of the most controversial Quranic verses.[1] The mubahala tradition was traditionally common among the Semitic tribes with references to it in pre-Islamic writings.[1] The term 'mubahala' can mean withdrawing mercy from one who lies or engages in falsehood.[2]

In Islamic tradition, it refers to ancient Arabic ceremonies of mutually and formally calling God's curse down upon whichever of the two parties was not speaking truthfully.[a][3][4] The event of Mubahala is an instance of the Quran's critique of a central Christian doctrine; God on earth as Christ (Incarnation). From this historical event, Muslims were to continue challenging and criticizing major points of the Christian faith with Christians defending and defining their doctrines and practices.[3][5]


In the ninth year of Hijra, Muhammad is said to have written a letter[b] to Abdul Haris Ibn Alqama, the Grand Bishop of Najran who was the official representative of the Roman Church in the Hijaz, and invited the people of that area to embrace Islam. In response to that letter the Christians sent a representative deputation to Muhammad[6]

Between the 21st to 25th of Dhu'l-Hijja 10 A.H. / 22nd to 26 March 632 A.D. (specific dates contested),[7][8] the delegation from Najran arrived to meet Muhammad and company. Besides other discussions of religion and theology, the discussion between them had turned to the subject of Jesus, the Messiah, and the question of what is the truth concerning him. Muhammad preached to them and requested them to accept Islam. The Christians, however, were not convinced and responded with their explanations of Christ being divine.[3]

Because of the Christian's refusal to accept Muhammad's demand to acknowledge his prophetic message of Jesus, the call to invoke a curse was initiated by Muhammad with the Christians initially agreeing.[1]

Verse of Mubahalah[edit]

According to the traditional account, after being unable to resolve the conflict over who Jesus is, the following verses are believed to have been revealed to Muhammad.[5][6]

Surely the case of Jesus is like the case of Adam. He created him out of dust, then he said to him, "Be', and he was. This is the truth from thy Lord, so be thou not of those who doubt. Now whoso disputes with thee concerning him, after what has come to thee of Knowledge, say to him 'Come, let us call our sons and your sons, and our women and your women, and our people and your people; then let us pray fervently and invoke the curse of Allah on those who lie.[c]

Historical commentary[edit]

Various testimonials (Hadith) and historical recollections regarding the specifics of the event are described in a myriad of ways:

Muhammad recites the verses to them, and after lengthy discussions which have been presented in detail in Ibn Hisham's sirah,[d] no agreement was reached on the position and standing of Jesus. At the end of the discussions, the Prophet demands the two sides engage in Mubahala.[12][13] The Christians returned to the place they were staying. Their leader al-Sayyid, al-'Aqib advised them saying: "If he challenges us with his people, we accept the challenge for he is not a prophet; but if he challenges us with his family in particular we don't challenge him, for he is not going to put forward his family unless he is truthful."[6] It was on the morning of 24th Dhul Hijjah that Muhammad emerged at the appointed time. He brought only selected members of his family, carrying Husayn in his arm with Hasan holding his hand, followed by Fatima and Ali. [e][14]

He offered to do the Arabic tradition Mubahala, where each conflicting party should cover themselves, and together all parties ask God sincerely to destroy and inflict with curses on the lying party and their families.[f] The Christians consulted each other and Abdul Haris lbne Alqama, the greatest scholar among them, talked them out of carrying out the Mubahala.[g]

The Christians refused, so Muhammad gave them two alternatives: either to convert to Islam or to pay Jizya, a tax on free non-Muslims under Muslim rule. The Christians agreed to pay tribute and asked Muhammad to send with them a trustworthy man to aid them in judging monetary disputes amongst themselves. Muhammad is said to have agreed and appointed 'Abu 'Ubaydah bin Al-Jarah out of a large group of willing and hopeful contenders.[6]


Controversy between the Shiite and Sunni branches of Islam exists regarding the verse of Mubahala:

According to Al-Mizan by Allamah Tabatabaei, a Shia scholar, the first "us" in this verse has a different import from the plural pronouns used in "our sons", "our women" and "our near people". The former refers to the both Islam and Christianity sides, while the other three "our"s refer to the side of Islam only. This way, a meaningful short sentence implies a longer sentence equal in meaning. Based on Madelung interpreting the term our sons as the two grandsons of the prophet is reasonable and consequently the parents, Ali and Fatimah, may be included in this verse.[15]

The members of the Muhammad family who were expected to participate this event is not modified in some of the Sunni sources while some others mention Fatima, Hasan and Husayn as the participants. Meanwhile, some of the Sunni sources are in agreement with Shia belief saying that Ahl al-Kisa, including Ali, participated the occasion.[8][15][16]

Shia scholar Tabatabaei has mentioned in his Tafsir al-Mizan that al-Ma'mun had asked Ali al-Ridha several questions, one of which was as follows:

- "What is the proof for the Caliphate of your grandfather, Ali ibn Abi Talib?

- "The verse of our selves," The Imam replied.

- "If there were not our women," al-Ma'mun said

- "If there were not our sons," the Imam said.

Tabatabaei says: "The Imam argued on the strength of the word, ourselves. He meant that God had made Ali like the person of the Prophet. (And who could have more right to succeed the Prophet than his own person?). al-Ma'mun said, 'If there were not our women.' He wanted to say that the reference to 'women' indicates that the word 'ourselves' means 'our men', and as such it would not show any excellence. The Imam replied, 'If there were not our sons.' That is, if 'ourselves' referred to the men, then why should the sons be mentioned separately? They would have been included in 'our men'."

As an argument[edit]

Mubahala provided an opportunity for Muhammad to introduce the Ahl al-Bayt (People of the House), who were also given the title Ahl al-Kisa (People of the Mantle) afterward.[17] Shias believe this authentic hadith proves whom the Quran is referring to when it mentions the "Ahl al-Bayt", namely only Ali, Fatimah, and their descendants.[18] This event causes some scholars to conclude the power and superiority of Ali - especially when it comes to his right of Imamah and immediate successorship following Muhammad.

In such debates, each side brings forward the most informed men. In the case of the Christians from Najran, tradition states they were surprised when they saw Muhammad's family ("Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husayn") accompanying Muhammad.[19] It is seen as one of the merits of Ahl al-Bayt and is widely used by the Shia to prove that Muhammad, Ali ibn Abu Talib, Fatima, Hasan, and Husayn are Ahl al-Kisa and most prominent among his Ahl al-Bayt.

Eid al-Mubahalah[edit]

Eid al-Mubahalah is an annual Muslim commemoration of Mubahila.[20] It takes place on 24 Dhu al-Hijjah.[21]According to Louis Massignon there are many different attitudes among Shiites and Sunnis about the Mubahalah. One of those disagreement is in terms of the approving of the verse of Quran on Mubahalah whether the verse III, 54 was with the presence of the five persons such as Fatima. According to Shia sources not only did Mubahala happen with the presence of Fatima, but Fatima was considered as someone who was on the forefront of the religion of Islam. In other words, some sects believe there was a symbolic role during the event of Mubahala. Some sects such as Nusayrieh believe that the Christians of Najran recognize the place of Fatima as the place of Maryam mother of Jesus. [22]


َAccording to Sidney H. Griffith it is interesting to note in this connection that while the Quran invokes malediction and curse, it nevertheless also on the face of it, once the adversaries would have staked their lives and those of their loved ones of their own steadfastness in faith, leaves the judgment between the two parties in this matter in the hand of God.[5]

Parts of the Quran are interpreted as forging a continuous dialogue between Muslims and Christians, in the same time, however, it assumes that the dialogue between Jews, Christians, and Muslims will sometimes take the form of arguments about religion, for one passage says, "Do not dispute with the People of the Book save in the fairest way;[h] Except for those who are evil doers." And say: "We believe in what has been sent down to us and what has been sent to you. Our God and your God are one and to Him we are submissive."[i][5]

Archeologist and historical linguist, Dr. Mohammed Maraqten, states regarding how ancient Arabic practices fashioned Islamic throught:

The curses in the inscriptions of pre-Islamic Arabia are not only very important for an understanding of maledictory practice in the ancient Near East, but provide information on the religious thought in ancient south Arabia and illuminate the background for the use of curses in Islam...In the Quran, God is relentless in cursing unbelievers and evildoers, and the term la'ama is attested many times. In this, ancient Near Eastern curse traditions seem to have been carried over into the Islamic ethical system.[23]

A quote from Tafsīr Muqātil ibn Sulaymān, I, pages 281-282:

At this point, then, the ‘Āqib gives his response to the challenge, evidently speaking to his fellow Christians out of earshot of the prophet of Islam. “We will not produce anything through his trial of cursing (mulā‘ana),” he reasons. “By Allāh, if [Muḥammad] is lying, cursing him won’t do any good. If he is truthful, then Allāh will destroy the liars by the end of the year.”[24]

The traditional Islamic date for Muhammad's death was three months after the Event of Mubahala; 13 Rabi I 11 A.H. (8 June 632 A.D.).[25]

Fatimah, youngest daughter of Muhammad, died six months after the event; 3 Jumada al-Thani 11 A.H. (18 Aug, 632 A.D.).


  1. ^ See Louis Massignon, La Mubahala de Medine et I'hyperdulie de Fatima, in Louis Massignon, parole donnee (paris: Editions du Seuil, 1983), 147-67
  2. ^ The text of the said letter runs as follow: "In the name the Lord of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob … I invite you all to worship God instead of worshiping His creatures, so that you may come out of the guardianship of the creatures of Allah and take place under the guardianship of Allah Himself…"[6]
  3. ^ Quran, 3:59-61
  4. ^ As-Sirah an-Nabawiyyah, an edited (though not copied) version of Ibn Ishaq's original work.[9][10] It is now considered one of the classic works on the biography of Muhammad.[11]
  5. ^ It was uncommon for Mubahala to include families of the parties involved but when included, the family causes the process to become more effective.[6]
  6. ^ Ibn al-Qayyim says: "It is part of Sunnah when arguing with people of falsehood—when they insist on falsehood regardless of arguments and proofs—to call them to Mubahala." See Ibn al-Qayyim, Zad al-Ma'ad Vol.3 p.643
  7. ^ He addressed his people saying: "By Allah! You are well-aware, O Christians, that Muhammad is a prophet sent by Allah, and that he has brought to you the decisive word about your Companion (Isa). By Allah! Whenever a nation has entered into imprecation with a prophet, their elders have perished and their youngsters have died. And if you do it, we shall surely perish; but, if you turn down, for the love of your religion and (want) to remain on what you have at present, then make peace with the man and go back to your towns."[3][6]
  8. ^ For useful discussion of this Quran passage, see Jane Dammen McAuliffe, "Debate with them in the better way": The Construction of a Qur'anic Commonplace." In Aspects of Literary Hermeneutics in Arabic Culture: Myths, Historical Archetypes and Symbolic Figures in Arabic Literature. Beiruter Texte und Studien, edited by A. Neuwirth, S. Gunther, M. Jarrar, 163–188. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1999.
  9. ^ Quran, 29:46


  1. ^ a b c d Mamouri, A. (Fall 2007). "A HISTORICAL EXAMINATION OF THE VERSE MUBAHALA AND ITS KALAMI REFLECTIONS". Shiite Studies. 5 (3(19)): 85 to 100. Retrieved 26 Apr 2017. 
  2. ^ Massignon, Louis (1378). Mubahala dar Medina (in Persian). Translated by mahmoodreza Eftekhar zadeh. Tehran: Resalate Ghalam Publication. 
  3. ^ a b c d Muhammad Saed Abdul-Rahman (29 October 2009). Tafsir Ibn Kathir Juz' 3 (Part 3): Al-Baqarah 253 to Al-I-'Imran 92 2nd Edition. MSA Publication Limited. pp. 126–. ISBN 978-1-86179-679-0. 
  4. ^ Eduardo Campo, Juan (February 1, 2009). Encyclopedia of Islam. Checkmark Books. p. 124. ISBN 978-0816077458. 
  5. ^ a b c d Griffith, Sidney H. (April 4, 2010). The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the World of Islam. Princeton University Press. pp. 160–162. ASIN 0691146284. ISBN 9781400834020. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Zayn, Samih Atif (1379). Mohammad (s) dar Medina (in Persian). Translated by Masoud Ansari. tehran: Jami. pp. 1091–1103. 
  7. ^ Bill, James; Williams, John Alden (25 Aug 2003). Roman Catholics and Shi'i Muslims: Prayer, Passion, and Politics. University North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press; Revised ed. edition. ISBN 0807854999. 
  8. ^ a b Ahvaziyan, K. (5 June 2016). "SAFI AL DIN HILLI'S EHTIJAJ IN GHADIRIYAH POEMS AGAINST IBN MOTEZ'S BA'IYEH". Journal of Fundamental and Applied Sciences. 8 (3(S)): 1268. Retrieved 26 Apr 2017. 
  9. ^ Ul-Hasan, Mahmood (2005). Ibn Al-Athir: An Arab Historian : a Critical Analysis of His Tarikh-al-kamil and Tarikh-al-atabeca. New Delhi: Northern Book Center. p. 71. ISBN 9788172111540. 
  10. ^ Wessels, Antonie (1972). A Modern Arabic Biography of Muḥammad: A Critical Study of Muḥammad Ḥusayn. Leiden: Brill Publishers. p. 1. 
  11. ^ Lapidus, Ira M. (2002). A History of Islamic Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 18. ISBN 9780521779333. 
  12. ^ Walbridge, Linda S. (August 6, 2001). The Most Learned of the Shi`a. Oxford University Press. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-19-534393-9. 
  13. ^ Tajddin, Mumtaz Ali. "AYAT AL-MUBAHILA". Ismaili.NET - Heritage F.I.E.L.D. 
  14. ^ Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, Sahih Muslim, Chapter of virtues of companions, section of virtues of Ali, 1980 Edition Pub. in Saudi Arabia, Arabic version, v4, p1871, the end of tradition #32 and Sahih al-Tirmidhi, v5, p654
  15. ^ a b Madelung, Wilferd (15 October 1998). The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-64696-3. 
  16. ^ Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari. Tafsir al-Tabari vol. XXII. pp. 5–7. 
  17. ^ Datoo, Bashir A. (1 November 2007). Perspectives on Islamic Faith and History: A Collection of Analytical Essays. TTQ, INC. ISBN 978-1-879402-17-1. 
  18. ^ Tabataba'i, Sayyid Muhammad Husayn (1973). al Mizan fi tafsir al-Quran. Beirut. p. 311. 
  19. ^ Linda S. Walbridge Adjunct Professor of Anthropology Indiana University (6 August 2001). The Most Learned of the Shi`a : The Institution of the Marja` Taqlid: The Institution of the Marja` Taqlid. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-534393-9. 
  20. ^ Encyclopedia of Islam - Juan Eduardo Campo - Google Books. Books.google.co.in. 2009. ISBN 9781438126968. Retrieved 2014-01-29. 
  21. ^ Know Your Islam By Yousuf N. Lalljee, p.107
  22. ^ http://www.persee.fr/doc/ephe_0000-0002_1942_num_55_51_17495#ephe_0000-0002_1942_num_55_51_T1_0011_0000
  23. ^ Maraqten, Mohammed (1998). "Curse Formulae in South Arabian inscriptions and some of their Semitic parallels". 28: 189. Retrieved 26 Apr 2017. 
  24. ^ Nickel, Gordon (2006). ""We Will Make Peace With You": The Christians of Najrān in Muqātil's Tafsīr" (PDF). Universidad de Córdoba, Servicio de Publicaciones: 179. Retrieved 26 Apr 2017. 
  25. ^ Elizabeth Goldman (1995), p. 63, gives 8 June 632 CE, the dominant Islamic tradition. Many earlier (primarily non-Islamic) traditions refer to him as still alive at the time of the invasion of Palestine. See Stephen J. Shoemaker,The Death of a Prophet: The End of Muhammad's Life and the Beginnings of Islam, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.

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