Event of Mubahala

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Event of Mubahala
Madina trip 154.jpg
DateDhul-Hijjah, 10 A.H. / October 631 C.E.
LocationMedina, Hejaz, Arabia

The Event of Mubahala (Arabic: حَدِيْث ٱلْمُبَاهَلَة, romanizedḤadīth al-Mubāhalah) was a meeting between the Islamic prophet Muhammad and a Christian delegation from Najran (present-day Saudi Arabia), in the month of Dhul-Hijjah, 10 AH (October 631 CE,[1] October 631–32,[2] October 632–33),[3] in which Muhammad called for invoking a curse to reveal who was lying about their religious differences.

The initial effort was to invite the Najrani Christians to Islam and the acknowledgement of Muhammad as a prophet. During religious discussions of similarities and differences, the topic of the divinity of 'Īsā (Jesus) arose.[a][4]

The Christians refused to accept Muhammad's teachings about Christ and refused to deny their beliefs. Muhammad suggested invoking a mubahalah (prayer curse) on their refusal, and he included his family in the call to invoke a curse.[b][5]

The event is commemorated annually on 24 Dhu al-Hijjah by the Shia, and it is an inceptual argument for them in proving that the Ahl al-Kisaʾ (People of the Cloak) are the Ahl al-Bayt (People of the Household [of Muhammad]) mentioned in the Quran.[6]


Al-Mubahalah (ٱلْمُبَاهَلَة) is derived from the Arabic word bahlah (Arabic: بَهْلَة, lit.'curse'), with bahala بَهَلَ) being a root verb meaning "to curse". Al-Bahl (Arabic: ٱلْبَهْل, lit.'The Curse') is used also to mean a scarcity of water. The term mubahalah can also mean "withdrawing mercy from one who lies or engages in falsehood".[7]

In the Quran, the mubahalah (invocation of God's curse) was mentioned as a decisive solution to the dispute over Jesus between the Christians of Najran and Muhammad. Allah ordered Muhammad to call on the Christians to invoke His curse (mubahala – verse 3.61) upon those who are intentionally unjust in their claim to determine who was telling the truth.[8]

The Quran's verse of mubahala is one of the most controversial verses because of the debate with Christianity and more so the division between Shi'ites and Sunnis within Islam. Praying for God to curse the liar regarding religious disputes is an ancient Arabic tradition.[c][4][9] Mubahalas were common among Semitic tribes and were found in writings that existed prior to Muhammad's preaching of Islam.[10]

The event of the Mubahalah is an instance of the Quran's critique of Christians doctrine of God on earth as Christ (Incarnation). From that historical event, Muslims were to continue debating major points of Christianity, with Christians defending and defining their doctrines and practices.[4][11]


In the ninth year of the Hijrah, Muhammad is reported to have sent a letter[d] to Abd al-Harith ibn Alqama, the Grand Bishop of Najran, the official representative of the Roman Church in the Hejaz, and invited the people of the area to embrace Islam. In response to the letter, a delegation was sent to Muhammad.[12]

Between 21 and 25 of Dhu'l-Hijja 10 AH / 22 to 26 March 632 AD [specific dates contested],[13][14] the delegation arrived, and discussions of religion and theology began, with the subject eventually turning to Jesus the Messiah, and the question of defining what and who Jesus really is compared to what he is actually understood to be for each party. Muhammad preached that Jesus is a human being granted revelation by God and requested them to accept Islam. The Christians, however, were not convinced and responded with their explanations of Christ being divine.[4]

Because of the Christians' refusal to accept Muhammad's demand to acknowledge his message of Jesus, which is at odds with the Christians' view of Jesus' divinity as the Son of God, the call to invoke a curse was initiated by Muhammad for God to disclose the truth in a practical manner.[10]

According to tradition, after they were unable to resolve the conflict over who Jesus is, the verse of Mubahalah (Quran 3:61) was revealed to Muhammad:[11][12] We include the Mubahalah verse and its previous two verses.

Quran 3:59–60
Text Translation
إِنَّ مَثَلَ عِيسَىٰ عِندَ ٱللَّهِ كَمَثَلِ ءَادَمَ ۖ خَلَقَهُۥ مِن تُرَابٍ ثُمَّ قَالَ لَهُۥ كُن فَيَكُونُ. ٱلْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّكَ فَلَا تَكُن مِّنَ ٱلْمُمْتَرِينَ Indeed, the example of Jesus in the sight of Allah is like that of Adam. He created him from dust, then said to him, “Be!” And he was! This is the truth from your Lord, so do not be one of those who doubt.
Verse of Mubahalah Quran 3:61
Text Translation
فَمَنْ حَآجَّكَ فِيهِ مِنۢ بَعْدِ مَا جَآءَكَ مِنَ ٱلْعِلْمِ فَقُلْ تَعَالَوْا۟ نَدْعُ أَبْنَآءَنَا وَأَبْنَآءَكُمْ وَنِسَآءَنَا وَنِسَآءَكُمْ وَأَنفُسَنَا وَأَنفُسَكُمْ ثُمَّ نَبْتَهِلْ فَنَجْعَل لَّعْنَتَ ٱللَّهِ عَلَى ٱلْكَـٰذِبِينَ Now, whoever disputes with you ˹O Prophet˺ concerning Jesus after full knowledge has come to you, say, “Come! Let us invite our children and your children, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves—then let us sincerely invoke Allah's curse upon the liars.”

Traditional narrative from hadiths[edit]

According to Ibn Hisham's sirah, Muhammad recited the verses of Mubahalah to the Christians, and after lengthy discussions,[e] no agreement was reached on the position and standing of Jesus. At the end of the discussions, Muhammad demanded for the two sides to engage in a Mubahalah.[18]

The Christians returned to where were staying. Their leader, As-Sayyid Al-'Aqib, advised them by 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 do not challenge him, for he is not going to put forward his family unless he is truthful".[12]

The morning of the 24th of Dhul-Hijjah, Muhammad emerged at the appointed time. It is reported that he brought only selected members of his familyby carrying Al-Husayn in his arm, with Al-Hasan holding his hand, followed by Fatima and Ali ibn Abu Talib.[f][19] Tradition states that the Christians were surprised when they saw Muhammad's family accompanying him, and they decided not to invoke a curse upon him and the others. They instead asked for peace by offering Muhammad tribute in return for protection. Islamic sources offer various explanations of the outcome. Some narratives suggest that the Christians would have perished by the end of the year if they had entered the imprecations.[g][5][h][20]

Muhammad offered to do the Mubahalah by asking each conflicting party to cover themselves with a cloak and for all parties to ask God sincerely to destroy and inflict with curses on the lying party and their families.[i] The Christians consulted one another, and Abdul Haris lbne Alqama, a scholar among them, talked them out of carrying out the Mubahala.[j]

The Christians refused and so Muhammad gave them two alternatives: convert to Islam or pay the 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 among themselves. Muhammad is said to have agreed and appointed Abu Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah from a large group of willing and hopeful contenders.[12]

Accounts of Christians' response[edit]

The earliest Islamic testimonials (hadiths) and histories report different details regarding the dialogue between the Christians and Muhammad and what some of them have been brought in afterward:

Ibn Ishaq reports in his Sirat al-Nabi that the delegation's leader is convinced of Muhammad's prophethood and advises cursing Muhammad would be a disaster.[k]

In Muqatil, the Christian leader simply says that in any scenario, cursing Muhammad would be disastrous[l] and that if Muhammad is a true prophet, Allāh will destroy the liars by the end of the year.[20]

Al-Tabari reports uncertainty among the Christians and that according to Amir al-Shabi, after the Christians initially accepted the mubahalah, they later sought advice from a wise man in their group, who rebuked them and convinced them not to invoke the curse.[m]

Ibn Sa'd provides no details of the dialogue aside from the Christian leader responding to Muhammad: "We think it proper not to curse you. You may order us as you like and we shall obey you and shall make peace with you".[n][21]


Regarding the participants in the Event of Mubahala, Madelung argues that abnāʾanā (Arabic: أَبْنَائَنَا, lit.'our sons') in the Verse of Mubahala (Quran 3:61) must refer to Muhammad's grandchildren, Al-Hasan and Al-Husayn. In that case, he continues, it would be reasonable to include in the event their parents, Ali and Fatimah, as well.[22] Of those present on Muhammad's side, Shia traditions are unanimous that nisāʾnā (Arabic: نِسَائَنَا, lit.'our women') refers to Fatima, and that anfusanā (Arabic: أَنْفُسَنَا, lit.'ourselves') refers to Ali.[23] In particular, since the verse uses the phrase anfusanā for Ali and Muhammad, the Shia hold that the former enjoys the same authority as the prophet.[24] In contrast, most Sunni accounts by al-Tabari do not name the participants of the event, and some other Sunni historians agree with the Shia view.[22][25][26]

Some accounts about the event add that Muhammad, Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husayn stood under Muhammad's cloak, and the five are thus known as the ahl al-Kisa (lit.'family of the cloak').[27][28] Madelung writes that their inclusion by Muhammad in the significant ritual must have raised the religious rank of his family.[22] A similar view is voiced by Lalani.[29] At the mubahala, Muhammad is reported to have defined the ahl al-bayt (lit.'people of the house' [of Muhammad]) as Ali, Fatima, and their two sons, according to Shia and some Sunni sources, including the canonical Sahih Muslim and Sunan al-Tirmidhi.[30]

Modern understanding[edit]

According to Sidney H. Griffith, it is noteworthy that in this passage, the Quran leaves the judgment with God once the two parties "would have staked their lives and those of their loved ones on their own steadfastness in faith".[11]

Parts of the Quran are interpreted as forging a continuous dialogue between Muslims and Christians, but at the same time, it assumes that the dialogue between Jews, Christians, and Muslims sometimes takes the form of arguments about religion, as one passage says, "Do not dispute with the People of the Book save in the fairest way;[o] 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."[p][11]

The archeologist and historical linguist Dr. Mohammed Maraqten states on how ancient Arabic practices fashioned Islamic thought:

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'ana is attested many times. In this, ancient Near Eastern curse traditions seem to have been carried over into the Islamic ethical system.[31]

The summary from Muqatil's Tafsir explains the event of Mubahala was less about the confrontation with the Najran Christians but more about the authority of Muḥammad and his claim of prophethood. As explained in the Muqatil's exegesis, the divinity of Jesus was less of a precedent despite the legend of the confrontation between Muhammad and the Christians. According to Gordon Nickel, the effort instead, as described in the Tafsir, was to determine the Jewish community of Madina and the Najrani Christians to be subordinate to Muhammad's honor.[20]

According to Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i in Tafsir al-Mizan, Muhammad said that the Christians escaped being turned into monkeys and pigs, and all of Najran would have perished within a year of the mubahala.[q][5]

Id al-Mubahalah[edit]

The ʿĪd al-Mubāhalah (عِيْد ٱلْمُبَاهَلَة) is an annual Shi'ite Muslim commemoration of the Mubahalah. It is always on nearly the same day (24 Dhu al-Hijjah) of the Islamic calendar, but the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year because of differences between the two calendars; the Islamic calendar, the Hijri calendar (AH), is a lunar calendar, and the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar. This date is shown for a selection of years, according to the Calendar Centre of Geophysics institute of Tehran University, in the table below:

Islamic year Gregorian date in Iran
1440 26 August 2019[32]
1441 14 August 2020[33]
1442 3 August 2021[34]
1443 23 July 2022[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Christians believe that Jesus is divine, the Son of God and one of the three persons of God.
  2. ^ Traditionally, it was uncommon for a mubahala to include families members of the parties involved. According to an Islamic theological perspective, if family members are included, the process becomes more effective.
  3. ^ See Louis Massignon, La Mubahala de Medine et I'hyperdulie de Fatima, in Louis Massignon, parole donnee (paris: Editions du Seuil, 1983), 147–67
  4. ^ The text of the said letter runs as follow: "In the name the Lord of Ibrahim (Abraham), Is-haq (Isaac and Ya'qub (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…"[12]
  5. ^ As-Sirah an-Nabawiyyah, an edited (though not copied) version of Ibn Ishaq's original work.[15][16] It is now considered one of the classic works on the biography of Muhammad.[17]
  6. ^ It was uncommon for Mubahala to include families of the parties involved, but the family then causes the process to become more effective.[12]
  7. ^ So the Prophet [Muhammad]... said, "...and the year would not have ended for all the Christians but they would have perished."
  8. ^ "If [Muhammad] is truthful, then Allāh will destroy the liars by the end of the year."
  9. ^ 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
  10. ^ 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".[4][12]
  11. ^ See Surat al-Nabi, II, p. 422.
  12. ^ See Tafsir, VI, pp. 282.
  13. ^ Ibn al-Qayyim "What have you done? If Muhammad is a prophet, and he invokes Allah against you, Allah would never anger him by not answering his prayers. If, on the other hand, he is a king, and he were to prevail over you, he would never spare you." See Jami al-Bayan, VI, p. 478.
  14. ^ See Gordon Nickel, "'We Will Make Peace With You': The Christians of Najari in Muqatir's Tafsir" Collectanea Christiana Orientalia 3 (2006), pp. 171–188. The earliest Muslim sources offer a diversity of details of the discussion that occurred among the Najran Christians in response to Muhammad's challenge. In Ibn Ishaq, the leader of the Christians is convinced of Muhammad's prophethood and thus advises the delegation that cursing Muhammad's would be disastrous. Surat al-Nabi, II, p. 422. In Muqatil, the leader simply says that in any scenario, cursing Muhammad would be disastrous. Tafsir, VI, pp. 282. Al-Tabari also transmitted a tradition that indicates ambivalence: according to 'Amir al-Sha'bi, the Christians of Najaran initially accept the mubahala challenge. But when they seek the advice of a wise man from their deputation, he rebukes them: "What have you done? If Muhammad is a prophet, and he invokes Allah against you, Allah would never anger him by not answering his prayers. If, on the other hand, he is a king, and he were to prevail over you, he would never spare you". Jami al-Bayan, VI, p. 478. Ibn Sa'd did not give details of the deliberations but had the leader respond to Muhammad, "We think it proper not to curse you. You may order us as you like and we shall obey you and shall make peace with you".
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Quran, 29:46
  17. ^ So the Prophet made agreement with them on these conditions. And he said, "By Him in Whose hand is my soul! Surely destruction had almost descended on the people of Najran. And if they had entered into imprecation they would have been transformed into monkeys and pigs, and there would have erupted in the valley a conflagration of fire engulfing them all: and surely Allah would have annihilated Najran and its inhabitants even the birds on treetops; and the year would not have ended for all the Christians but they would have perished."


  1. ^ Tritton, A. S. (2012). "Ahl al-Kisāʾ". Encyclopaedia of Islam (Second ed.). Brill. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  2. ^ Madelung, Wilferd (1996). The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-1073-9357-8. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  3. ^ Daftary, Farhad (2008). "Ahl al-Kisāʾ". Encyclopaedia of Islam (Third ed.). Brill. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e Muhammad Saed Abdul-Rahman (29 October 2009). Tafsir Ibn Kathir Juz' 3 (Part 3): Al-Baqarah 253 to Al-I-'Imran 92 (2 ed.). ISBN 9781861796790.
  5. ^ a b c Tabatabaei, Muhammad Husayn. "Tafsir al-Mizan, SURAH AALE IMRAN, VERSES 61–63". Tawheed Institute Australia Ltd. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  6. ^ Tabataba'i, Sayyid Muhammad Husayn (1973). al Mizan fi tafsir al-Quran. Beirut. p. 311.
  7. ^ Massignon, Louis (1378). Mubahala dar Medina (in Persian). Translated by mahmoodreza Eftekhar zadeh. Tehran, Iran: Resalate Ghalam Publication.
  8. ^ Berjak, Rafik (2006). "Mothers of the Believers". In Leaman, Oliver (ed.). The Qur'an: an encyclopedia. Routledge. ISBN 9781134339754. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  9. ^ Eduardo Campo, Juan (1 February 2009). Encyclopedia of Islam. Checkmark Books. p. 124. ISBN 978-0816077458.
  10. ^ a b Mamouri, A. (Fall 2007). "A HISTORICAL EXAMINATION OF THE VERSE MUBAHALA AND ITS KALAMI REFLECTIONS". Shiite Studies. 5 (3 (19)): 85–100. Archived from the original on 20 September 2017.
  11. ^ a b c d Griffith, Sidney H. (4 April 2010). The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the World of Islam. Princeton University Press. pp. 160–162. ISBN 978-1-4008-3402-0.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Bill, James; Williams, John Alden (25 August 2003). Roman Catholics and Shi'i Muslims: Prayer, Passion, and Politics. University of North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-5499-9. Archived from the original on 27 April 2017.
  14. ^ 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. doi:10.4314/jfas.v8i2s.275. Archived from the original on 16 September 2017.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Wessels, Antonie (1972). A Modern Arabic Biography of Muḥammad: A Critical Study of Muḥammad Ḥusayn. Leiden: Brill Publishers. p. 1.
  17. ^ Lapidus, Ira M. (2002). A History of Islamic Societies. Cambridge, England, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-5217-7933-3.
  18. ^ 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. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-19-534393-9. Archived from the original on 18 May 2016.
  19. ^ 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 No. 32 and Sahih al-Tirmidhi, v5, p654
  20. ^ a b c Nickel, Gordon (2006). ""We Will Make Peace With You": The Christians of Najrān in Muqātil's Tafsīr". Universidad de Córdoba, Servicio de Publicaciones: 179. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  21. ^ Nickel, Gordon (2009). ""A Common Word" in Context: Toward the roots of polemics between Christians and Muslims in Early Islam". academia.edu. ACTS Seminaries (British Columbia, Canada). Retrieved 6 May 2017.
  22. ^ a b c Madelung 1997, p. 16.
  23. ^ Mavani 2013, pp. 71–2.
  24. ^ Mavani 2013, p. 72.
  25. ^ Momen 1985, p. 14.
  26. ^ Bar-Asher & Kofsky 2002, p. 141.
  27. ^ Momen 1985, pp. 14, 16–7.
  28. ^ Algar 2011.
  29. ^ Lalani 2006, p. 29.
  30. ^ Momen 1985, pp. 16, 325.
  31. ^ Maraqten, Mohammed (1998). "Curse Formulae in South Arabian inscriptions and some of their Semitic parallels". Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies. 28: 189–200. JSTOR 41223625.
  32. ^ "Calendar center of Geophysics institute of Tehran University, 1398 Calendar" (PDF) (in Persian). Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  33. ^ "Calendar center of Geophysics institute of Tehran University, 1399 Calendar" (PDF) (in Persian). Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  34. ^ "Calendar center of Geophysics institute of Tehran University, 1400 Calendar" (PDF) (in Persian). Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  35. ^ "Calendar center of Geophysics institute of Tehran University, 1401 Calendar" (PDF) (in Persian). Retrieved 12 June 2016.


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