Thursday, January 03, 2008

Eid Mubahila Mubarak

I have linked above a decent article about the event of Mubahila, and quoted below.

The Eid is marked here tomorrow, insha'allah with ritual ablution, fasting, and prayer.

The event of Mubahila is rather a strange event to me, and worthy of pondering.

"In the early days of Islam, Najran was a large centre of people who had changed from idol worship to Christianity. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w) had sent letters to the heads of different countries inviting them to Islam. One such letter was addressed to the Christians of Najran. It read as follows:

'In the Name of the God of Ibrahim, Ishaaq and Ya’qub. This letter is from Muhammad, the Prophet and Messenger of Allah to the Asqaf (Bishop) of Najran.

Praise be to the God of Ibrahim, Ishaaq and Ya’qub. I invite you to worship Allah instead of (His) servants. I invite you to come out of the rule of the servants of Allah and into the rule of Allah Himself. If you do not accept my invitation, then you should (at least) pay Jizya (tax) to the Islamic State (so that your lives and properties may be protected), otherwise you are warned of a danger.'

By using the names of the ancient Prophets (a.s), the Holy Prophet (s.a.w) wanted to let the Christians of Najran know that the belief in One God he was teaching was the same as that preached by the previous Prophets Ibrahim, Ishaaq and Ya’qub (a.s), in whom they also believed. It is also mentioned that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w) included the following verse of the Holy Qur’an in the letter:

“Say, (O Muhammad), “O people of the Book (Bible), come to an agreement between us and you; that we shall worship none but Allah, and that we shall claim no partner to Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords besides Allah.” And if they turn away, then say, “Bear witness that we are Muslims (those who have surrendered to Allah)”. (Quran 3:6)

The letter invokes what is common between them - belief in the same God at some level. It appeals to reason and is truly an invitation for coming together, without compromise of the deen.

"When this message was delivered to Abu Haris, who was the Asqaf and leader of the Church, he read it carefully and then appointed a committee of some religious and wise people to decide on the matter.

One of them, who was an experienced and intelligent person, advised that a group representing the people of Najran should go to Madina to study the claim of Prophethood by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w).

60 people, considered to be the most wise and knowledgeable from the people of Najran, were elected. They were led by three of their religious men. The group arrived in Madina and entered the mosque wearing silken clothes, golden rings and crosses around their necks. On seeing them dressed in this fashion, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w) was disturbed and he ignored them. They realised that something was wrong but were unsure as to what to do.

On the advice of Imam Ali (a.s) the delegation of Najran changed their style of dress to simple clothes and removed their ornaments. They then returned to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w) who received them with a warm welcome. Before they entered into a discussion, they requested for permission to say their prayers and this was granted. They were put in one part of the mosque where the could pray with ease and comfort. Then the following conversation took place:

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w):
I invite you towards the belief of Tawhid and the worship of One God and submission to His will. (Then he recited verse 64 of Surah Aali Imran.)

Christians Fathers:
If Islam means faith in the One God of the Universe, we already believe in Him and follow His Commands.

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w):
Islam has a few signs and some of your actions show that you have not accepted true Islam. How do you claim worship of One God when you worship the cross and do not abstain from eating pork and believe that God has a son?"

We see the Christian ruler was not a hasty person and sought advice of wise people. When the wise people went, they dressed ostentatiously, perhaps to show their status in their religion. I am reminded of the robes of the Catholic clergy I see when I watch mass on cable TV. The Prophet (saw) didn't rebuke them or behave harshly, but in the end they understood his issue and came as themselves without show. Then they had a genuine discussion about tawhid. I think it is interesting that Prophet (saw) said they worship the cross. What does that mean? Is it that they took the symbol as a totem and attributed improper importance to it? Or is it that they took what the cross represents - the crucifixion and the beliefs associated with it - as their deen, separating the God into parts? Or both?

"A Christian Father:
Certainly he [Isa (a.s)] was the son of God because his mother Mary [Maryam (a.s)] had given birth to him without marrying anyone in this world. Therefore obviously his father is the God of this Universe. We also believe in Jesus [Isa (a.s)] as God because he used to bring the dead back to life, cure the sick and create birds from clay and make them fly. All this points to the fact that he is God.

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w):
No, he was the servant and creature of God, and placed in the womb of his mother Maryam (a.s). All his power and strength was granted to him by God.

At this time, angel Jibraeel (a.s) brought the following verse of the Holy Qur’an from Allah :

“Surely the example of Isa to Allah is like that of Adam; He created him from dust, and then said to him, ‘Be!’ and he was”. (Quran 3:59)"

To me, this was one of the most significant ayahs in Qur'an when I was reading it, trying to find my way, to understand the message God has delivered to us and how we should believe and how we should act. I was doubting the divinity of Isa (as), but I was rather afraid to hastily leave that belief aside, since the doctrine of Christianity tied my fate in the Hereafter - between heaven and hell - to my acceptance of him as God in flesh or son of God - and his sacrifice the only opportunity for being saved. For Christianity said we could not merit salvation on our own, so we had to accept the blood sacrifice as the only alternative. I know not all Christians believe alike, but this is the overriding teaching of the Christian denominations today.

When I read this ayah, I had sudden, beautiful clarity. I understood the nature of Jesus (as) and was able to vanquish my fear and embrace what my reason told me.

"This meant that if Isa (a.s) could be called the son of God because of the fact he was born without a father, then Adam (a.s) deserved this title more, because he was born without a father or mother. The Christian Fathers could not reply to this argument but they continued to argue out of obstinacy. Then the following verse of the Holy Qur’an was revealed:

“And whoever argues with you in this matter after what has come to you of knowledge, then say,
(Quran 3:61)"

So it seems that when the discussion changed to no longer be fruitful, the Prophet (saw) ceased, not allowing the matter to be dragged into arguing, wrangling, or egoistic debate.

Instead, he essentially invited them to ask God to show them who was truthful in a means they all might understand and accept as definitive. The method causes people to take caution about what they say to evaluate do they really mean it and know it or are they just arguing and wanting to be right, deceiving themselves - because now a real consequence is attached.

"The Holy Prophet (s.a.w) produced this verse before the Christians and declared the challenge of “Mubahila”, which means to [invoke] curse on one another. The Christians consulted each other and announced their acceptance of the challenge. Then they returned to their camp."

Again the challenge was an invitation that the other party was free to turn away from. But they must have believed they had truth on their side or that the Prophet (saw) was likely a fraud, so that the curse would have no real effect.

"It was agreed between the two parties that the contest would take place the next day in the open desert outside the city of Madina. On the 24th of Zilhaj 9 A.H, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w) came out for Mubahila. He held Imam Husain (a.s) in his arms and he held Imam Hasan (A) by his hand. Bibi Fatima (s.a) came behind him, while behind her came Imam Ali (a.s). The Holy Prophet (s.a.w) said to them, “when I pray you should say Ameen.”

In obedience to the verse of Mubahila sent by Allah , the Holy Prophet (s.a.w) had brought Imam Hasan (a.s) and Imam Husain (a.s) as his “SONS”, Bibi Fatima (a.s) as his “WOMEN” and Imam Ali (a.s) as his “SELF”.

I think the Christians most likely were not expecting that the Prophet (saw) would show up with very few people, and among them a woman and children. They learned that it was his own family, and they became quite concerned, because they then realized that the Prophet (saw) was very sincere, willing to bring curse on his own family. So it caused them to think even harder about what they claimed or believed and about who the Prophet (saw) was.

So then one of them said,

"'Oh you people of Najran, if you contest with Muhammad in this prayer of invoking curses on the liars, then I warn you that all of you will be destroyed and not a single soul will remain on this earth. I feel that it would be better to surrender to them and obey them.'"

They saw the Ahlulbayt (as) and recognized their sincerity and believed in the power of their prayers. Thus, they changed their minds about participating in the challenge and instead decided to enter a peace treaty with the Muslims - an annual offering of specified goods (garments) in exchange for protection from enemies of the Christians, and an agreement to send a specified military supply aid should the Muslims ask for it. The Christians agreed not to deal in usury and were free to follow their own beliefs. A few of the Christians came back from Najran to join the Muslim religion and Muslim people, but most kept the Christian faith.

This event is notable for many reasons. It provides an example for emulation of dealing in disagreements and treaties and treating people of differing faiths with respect and fairness, as well as in inviting people to the deen. Further, it served as a demonstration of how people could witness the piety of the Prophet (saw) and Ahlulbayt (as) visibly and understand their proximity to the Creator in their following the Right Path. Why do we mark this day in celebration? Maybe there is a great deal to learn from it and adopt into our own selves. And surely it is a happy occasion when the rights and status of all were duly recognized.

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