Tabarra of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Critics of tabarra have these key objections against the practice of cursing / abusing / reviling personalities sacred to others. In their view, such cursing and reviling must be avoided as it:

  1. exposes us to violence from the opponents, particularly so because we are in a minority
  2. goes against the high ethical standards of Allah, Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Ahle Bait (a.s.)
  3. goes against the Noble Quran which commands Muslims ‘And do not abuse those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest exceeding the limits they should abuse Allah out of ignorance.’ (Surah Anfal (6): 108)
  4. goes against traditions that prohibit naming the accursed; at the most we can make a general reference instead of specific names
  5. sows discord and divides people

Let us see if this criticism against tabarra stands scrutiny in the light of the Noble Quran and reliable Sunnah. For the purpose we have listed specific instances when the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has challenged his adversaries in a manner that can only be described as tabarra.

1. Rebuking Amr Ibn Abd Wudd
2. Cursing with names
3. Insulting the Quraish, their gods and their dead
4. Cursed Abu Sufyan on seven occasions
5. Cursed Amr Ibn Aas 70 times
6. Tabarra in the sermon of Ghadeer
7. Tabarra from Khalid Ibn Walid
8. Urging companions to practice tabarra with promise of divine help
9. Cursing the rebels of the Jamal battle
10. Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was targeted by enemies for his tabarra

Back to Top 1. Rebuking Amr Ibn Abd Wudd

In the battle of Ahzab, when Amr Ibn Abd Wudd taunts the Muslim forces, the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) addressed his companions:

Who will take on this dog?

  • Tafseer al-Qummi (r.a.) v 2 p 183
  • Tafseer al-Safi v 4 p 175

By addressing Amr Ibn Wudd thus, the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has only followed the example of the Quran, which likewise addressed Baalam Baoor:

…so his parable is as the parable of the dog…(Surah Aaraaf (7): 176)

Back to Top 2. Cursing with names

Imam Sadiq (a.s.): Surely the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) used to curse the enemies in Qunoot of prayers with their names and names of their forefathers and their relatives and Ali (a.s.) did likewise after him (s.a.w.a.).

  • Wasail al-Shiah, vol. 6 p. 283 H. 7,979 narrating from al-Kaafi of al-Kulaini (r.a.), Chapter 17, H. 3 from Chapters of Prostration and Mustatrafaat al-Saraair of Muhammad Ibn Idris al-Hilli (r.a.)

The first martyr (Shaheed-e-Awwal) Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Makki (r.a.) in his book – Al-Zikra (p. 84) writes:

‘It is permitted to pray for believers with their names and also curse the apostates and hypocrites (with names), because the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) prayed in Qunoot for the nation by naming their notable ones and likewise cursed the others by naming their notable ones. As it has been narrated that he (s.a.w.a.) said: O Allah deliver Al-Waleed Ibn al-Waleed and Salamah Ibn Hishaam and Ayyaash Ibn Rabee’ah and the weak believers and intensify your punishment on Muzar and Re’l and Zikwaan.’

  • Mustadrak al-Wasaail, vol. 4 p. 411, H. 5,038

Back to Top 3. Insulting the Quraish, their gods and their dead

Two incidents are particularly noteworthy in highlighting the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) stand against the Quraish, their gods and their dead.

Even when he (s.a.w.a.) was in Mecca, when Islam and Muslims were still considered weak, the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) did not hesitate to take on the Meccans and their gods. So much so that the Quraish infidels complained to Abu Talib:

Your nephew deceives the people, reviles our gods, corrupts our youths, and sows divisions among us.

Abu Talib (a.s.) addressed the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) after they had gone: O my nephew, the people came over and requested me to restrain you from insulting them.

The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) replied – O my uncle, I cannot disobey Allah’s command in this matter.

After this, Abu Talib (a.s.) never restrained the Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

  • Tafseer al-Qummi v 1 p 377-380, v 2 p 228

Abu Jahl addressing the Quraish:

…amongst us is Muhammad Ibn Abdillah (s.a.w.a.)…who claims to be a divine prophet and that he bears news of the unseen. He has attributed us with foolishness, reviled and degraded our gods, corrupted our youths, and sowed division among our people, he declares that our departed ancestors are in hell and nothing can be more troublesome for us than this.

  • Tafseer al-Safi v 2 p 294 under Surah Anfal (8): 30
  • Tafseer al-Burhan v 2 p 680 under Surah Anfal (8): 30
  • Behar al-Anwar v 19 p 49

All objections against tabarra listed earlier are answered in this incident.

The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has shown the true interpretation of Surah Anfal (6): 108) ‘And do not abuse those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest exceeding the limits they should abuse Allah out of ignorance.’

If it was indeed as some people claim, then the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) should not have done what he did. This means there is an interpretation of this verse that is very different from the tabarra critics claim.

Other points that are clear from such incidents:

  • Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was practicing tabarra in Mecca where the strength of Muslims was insignificant and this tabarra could have exposed them to great danger
  • He (s.a.w.a.) was not willing to abandon tabarra when the Quraish applied pressure
  • Tabarra was a divine command and not a personal agenda of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.)
  • The tabarra led to discord in Mecca

Back to Top 4. Cursed Abu Sufyan on seven occasions

In an assembly of enemies like Muawiyah, Amr Ibn Aas, Mughairah Ibn Shobah, etc, Imam Hasan (a.s.) declared:

I implore you for the sake of Allah, do you deny that the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) cursed Abu Sufyan on seven occasions…

  • Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah v 6 p 290-291
  • Al-Ehtejaaj v 1 p 274-275
  • Al-Khesal v 2 p 397-398 (with variation)
  • Behar al-Anwar v 44 p 77-78

It is notable that out of the seven occasions of cursing, two of the occasions were AFTER Abu Sufyan accepted Islam viz.

on the Day of Hunain which was after victory of Mecca, when Abu Sufyan and Muawiyah accepted Islam to save their lives and were hence called ‘Tulaqa’ i.e. released from bondage

on the occasion of the Aqbah attack when Abu Sufyan with a group of hypocrites attempted to kill the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) 

Back to Top 5. Cursed Amr Ibn Aas 70 times

Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) laments:

It is astonishing that the unworthy people of Syria accept what Amr says and confirm it when his talks and his lies and his lack of fear of Allah, has reached that stage where he is accusing the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) when the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has cursed him 70 times and has cursed his companions towards whom he is called people, at many places. This is when he had said 70 verses in which he had abused Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a). At the time the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) beseeched Allah:

‘O Allah I do not recite verses nor do I consider them permissible. You curse Amr Ibn Aas and your angels curse him for every verse, such a curse that remains in his descendants until the Day of Judgement.

  • Kitab al-Sulaim v 2 p 737
  • Behar al-Anwar v 33 p 224

Back to Top 6. Tabarra from Khalid Ibn Walid

When Khaid Ibn Walid mercilessly killed newly converted Muslims:

  • The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) denounced him by raising his hands and repeating:

‘O Allah! I distance myself (tabarra) from Khalid’s actions’!

  • -Sahih al-Bukhari book 64, trad 368, book 93, trad 51
  • -Sunan al-Nesai book 49, trad 27

Back to Top 7. Tabarra in the sermon of Ghadeer

Even in the sermon of Ghadeer, the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) final and most crucial address to the Muslims, he (s.a.w.a.) did not hold himself back from tabarra as these excerpts show:

Cursed is one who opposes Ali (a.s.), blessed with mercy is one who follows him,

Accursed and again accursed, under wrath and again under wrath, is he who rejects this saying of mine (on Ali’s Mastership) and does not agree with it.

Certainly, Jibrail has informed me that Allah has said: ‘Anyone who bears enmity against Ali and refuses his authority, for him shall be My curse and My wrath.’

  • Al-Ehtejaaj v 1 p 56-66

Back to Top 8. Urging companions to practice tabarra with promise of divine

Not only was the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) always on it, he (s.a.w.a.) even urged others to practice tabarra.

Al-Bara Ibn Azib:

On the day of Quraizah siege, Prophet (s.a.w.a.) urged Hassan Ibn Thabit, his personal poet:

Recite satirical (defamatory) verses against them for Jibrail is with you.

  • Sahih Bukhari v 5 book 59 trad 449
  • Sunan Nesai 8,236 8,237 5,980
  • Al-Musannaf 26,545, 26,543

Evident from the references, even the Ahle Tasannun record incidences of tabarra and consider it as part of Islam.

Back to Top 9. Cursing the rebels of the Jamal battle

Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) informed:

…surely the companions of Jamal were cursed by the tongue of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)…

  • Al-Kafeah p 24-25
  • Tarf min al-Amba p 464
  • Behaar al-Anwaar v 32 p 196-197

Back to Top 10. Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was targeted by enemies for his tabarra

Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) narrates that when the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) once recited Surah Lahab in prayers, people informed Umme Jamil, sister of Abu Sufyan and wife of Abu Lahab that ‘Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) has cursed you in his prayers and he condemns you.

She was enraged at this and she came out looking for the Prophet saying: ‘If I see him, I will abuse him.’ (Allah forbid)

  • Ithbaat al-Hodaat v 1 p 341
  • Tafseer al-Burhan v 5 p 789

The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was openly cursing the enemies even in prayers despite knowing that the enemy would take offense and target him in the same manner.

But that did not stop the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) from tabarra.

After all when Allah has cursed Abu Lahab and his wife openly in the Holy Quran, why should the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) refrain himself in this regard?

Interestingly, not only was the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) practicing tabarra for events in his lifetime, he even cursed perpetrators for a crime that was going to be committed many years later.

Clearly, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was particular in distancing himself from the enemies, their gods and their dead ones and to show his and Allah’s displeasure he took recourse to tabarra. Given that the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) acts according to divine revelation and not on his whims, tabarra of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is in fact tabarra of Allah.

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