The morning of 24th Dhul Hijjah 10AH. October 631, Madina, Hijaz.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.O Allah! Send your blessings to the chief of Your Messengers and the Last of Your Prophets, Muhammad (S), and his pure and cleansed progeny.
Should anyone argue with you concerning him, after the knowledge that has come to you, then say: ‘Come! Let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, our souls and your souls, then let us pray earnestly and call down Allah’s curse upon the liars’. (Qur’an 3:61)
This verse refers to the famous event of ‘al-Mubahala ‘ which took place in the year 10 A.H between the Prophet (S) and the Christians of Najran and which is mentioned in all well-known books of traditions, tafsir (exegesis) and history by Muslim scholars.
Najran was a fertile land located in the northern mountainous region of Yemen about 20 Km from Sana’a. About 40,000 Christians inhabited the land divided into 73 small towns. They were idol worshipers historically just like the Arabs, but a priest named Phemion (Faymiyun), a builder by profession, preached Christianity in the area of Najran and soon all the population converted to Christianity and Najran became a important center for the Christians. They also constructed a church and named it ‘Ka’ba-e-Najran’. They prayed and offered various offerings there which resulted in an annual income of about two hundred thousand Dinars which was used for the priest who lived and studied there.
After the conquest of Makkah, when Islam started spreading rapidly and the warring groups came under the flag of Islam, the Holy Prophet (S) started sending emissaries to the tribes who had not yet accepted Islam. In 10 A.H. a similar message was sent to the Christians of Najran and they were offered either to accept the teachings of Islam or live in the protection of Muslims and pay the Jizya tax.
The Prophet of Islam (S) had written a letter to Abu al-Harith 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.
After deliberations, the Christians finally decided to send a mission to Madina and have a dialogue with the Muslims. A delegation of Christians headed by al-‘Aqib and Abu al-Harith started off for Makkah. Abu al-Harith was regarded as the greatest Bishop and scholar of the Christian world of the time and al-‘Aqib was the biggest strategist and negotiator of the time. When the delegation reached Madina, the people were impressed by their lavish dressing and pomp and show since it was the first time that a delegation had arrived in such a manner..
In the al-Tafsir of ‘Ali bin Ibrahim al-Qummi it is narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (AS):
‘The Christians of Najran came (as a delegation) to the Messenger of Allah…. they rang the hand-bells and prayed; the Prophet’s companions objected: “O Messenger of Allah! This in your mosque”? He (S) said: “Leave them (to pray as they like)”.
When they finished, they came to the Prophet (S) and said: “To what do you call”? He (S) said: “To bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that I am the Messenger of Allah and that ‘Isa (Jesus) (a.s) is created a slave (of Allah), and he used to eat, drink and relieve himself”.
They said: “Then who was his father”? The revelation was then revealed to the Messenger of Allah (S) saying: “Say to them – what do you say about Adam, was he a created slave (of Allah), who would eat, drink, relieve himself and cohabit”? So the Prophet (S) asked them and they replied: “Yes”. He (S) asked them: “Then who was his father”? They could not answer, so Allah revealed:
Verily, the similitude of Jesus with Allah is as the similitude of Adam; Allah created him out of dust, then said to him, ‘Be’, and he became (3:59)
till the verse:
And should anyone argue with you concerning him, after the knowledge that has come to you…. and call down Allah’s curse upon the liars. (3:61)
The Messenger of Allah (S) said: “So challenge me: if I am telling the truth the curse falls on you, and if I am a liar the curse falls on me”. They said: “You have been just”.
They agreed on a date for ‘mubahala’ (mutual imprecation). [The term ‘Mubahala’ is derived from its Arabic root ‘bahlah’ meaning ‘curse’. Thus the act of al-Mubahala means that each of the two parties invokes the curse of Allah on the other if the latter is untruthful].
When they returned to the places they were staying in, their leaders al-Sayyid, al-‘Aqib and al-Ahtam said: “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”.
In the morning, they came to the Messenger of Allah (S), and there with him were the Commander of the Faithful (Ali a.s), Fatimah, al-Hasan and al-Husayn (a.s), so the Christians said: “Who are those”? The people replied: “This is his cousin and successor and son-in-law, and this is his daughter Fatimah, and these are his grandsons, al-Hasan and al-Husayn”.
When the Christian delegation saw a woman, two children and only one man with the Prophet (S), they were frightened and worried and said to the Messenger of Allah (S): “We will pay you whatever pleases you so excuse us from the ‘mubahala’”. Then the Messenger of Allah (S) made a settlement with them for them to pay the Jizya and they left.’
“So they came to the Messenger of Allah; and he had come out in the morning carrying al-Husayn in his lap, holding the hand of al-Hasan, with Fatimah walking behind him and ‘Ali was behind her; and he was saying: ‘When I pray, you say “Amen” ‘. Then the Bishop of Najran said: ‘O Christians! Surely I see the faces that if they ask Allah to remove a mountain from its place, He would surely remove it. Therefore, do not do imprecation, otherwise you will perish, and there will not remain any Christian on the face of the earth, upto the Day of Resurrection’.
“Then they said: ‘O Abu’l-Qasim! We have decided that we should not enter into imprecation against you; and that we leave you on your religion and we remain on our religion.’
He said: ‘Well, if you refuse imprecation, then accept Islam – you will have (the rights) which (other) Muslims have, and on you shall be (the duties) which are on them.’ But they refused. So (the Prophet) said: ‘Then I shall fight you.’ They said: ‘We do not have strength to fight against the Arabs. But we shall make peace with you that you will not fight against us or frighten us; nor will you turn us away from our religion, on the condition that we shall pay to you every year two thousand robes – one thousand in Safar and one thousand in Rajab and thirty coats of mail, (of) common (quality), made of iron.’
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 tree tops.