The Verse of Imprecation (Mubahila)
Source: Peshawar Nights
Well-Wisher: Of course, our first argument is from the Qur'an, which is the strongest Divine evidence, namely the Verse of Imprecation (Ayah-e-Mubahila) in which Allah says: "And to him who disputes with you therein after the knowledge has come to you, say 'Come, let us summon our sons and your sons, and our women and your women, and ourselves and yourselves and then let us invoke and lay the curse of Allah upon the liars.'" (3:60) Your notable ulema, such as Imam Fakhru'd-Din Razi, Imam Abu Ishaq Tha'labi, Jalalu'd-Din Suyuti, Qazi Baidhawi, Jarullah Zamakhshari, Muslim bin Hujjaj, and many others, have written that this holy verse was revealed on the Day of Imprecation, which was the 24th or 25th of Dhu'l-Hijja in 9 AH.
When the Holy Prophet invited the Christians of Najran to Islam, they selected their most learned men like Seyyed, Aqib, Jasiq, Alqama, etc., numbering more than 70 and sent them to Medina with 300 of their followers, to meet the Holy Prophet and learn what Islam was. They entered into scholarly discussions with the Holy Prophet and were non-plussed by his cogent reasoning. He proved the truthfulness of his mission from their own reliable sources and said that Jesus, himself, had through various signs predicted his (Muhammad's) arrival, and the Christians were awaiting the fulfillment of the prophecies of Jesus according to which such a man would appear riding a camel from the Faran hills (in Mecca) and would emigrate to a place between 'Ayr and Uhud (which was Medina). These arguments strongly impressed the Christians, but their love of worldly position kept them from admitting the truth. Then the Holy Prophet informed them of Allah's command, which they agreed upon as the means of settling the discussion and for distinguishing between the truthful and the liars.
THE HOLY PROPHET'S ARRIVAL
FOR THE IMPRECATION
According to their mutual understanding, the next day the entire party of the Christians, including more than seventy of their scholars, waited outside the gates of Medina for the Holy Prophet. They expected him to come with pomp and circumstance and a large number of comrades to over-awe them. But when the gates opened, the Holy Prophet came forth with a young man on his right, a dignified woman on his left, and two children in front of him. They remained under a tree, facing the Christians. Asqaf, the most learned man of the Christians, asked who those persons were who had come out with Muhammad. He was informed that the young man was his son-in-law and cousin, Ali Bin Abi Talib, the woman was his daughter, Fatima, and the two children were his daughter's sons, Hasan and Husain.
Addressing the Christians, their leader, Asqaf, said: "Look there, how confident Muhammad is! He has brought with him his nearest kindred, sons and dear ones, to this spiritual contest of imprecation. By God, if he had any doubt or fear about his stand, he would never have selected them. Now it is not advisable to enter the contest against them. Had we no fear of the Emperor of Rome, we would have embraced the faith of Islam. It would be expedient to compromise on their terms and return home." All of them agreed with him. Accordingly, Asqaf sent a message to the Holy Prophet, saying: "We do not want to contest with you, but would like to make peace with you." The Prophet accepted their proposal.
The agreement was written by the Commander of the Faithful. The Christians agreed to pay an annual tribute in the form of 2,000 coats of mail, each worth about 40 dirhams (A dirham was equal to 1/2 ounce of gold), and 1,000 mithqals of gold (a mithqal was equal to 1/6 ounce). Half of this was to be paid in the month of Muharram and half in Rajab. The agreement having been signed by both parties, the Christians returned to their homes. While they were on the way, one of their scholars named Aqib said to his companions: "By God, you and I know that this Muhammad is the same prophet of God who was the expected one, and whatever he says is from God. I swear by God that whoever has contended with a Prophet of God was ruined, and none of their young or old remained alive. Surely, if we had contended with them, all of us would have been killed and no Christians would have survived in the world. By God, when I looked at them I saw faces which, if they invoked God, would have moved mountains."
Hafiz: What you have said is quite true and is accepted by all Muslims, but it has no bearing on our topic, namely, that Ali was spiritually united with the Holy Prophet.
MERITS OF ALI, FATIMA, HASAN AND HUSAIN
PROVEN BY THE VERSE OF IMPRECATION
Well-Wisher: I argue from the word 'ourselves' in this holy verse, since from this even many questions are resolved. First, the cause of truth preached by the Holy Prophet is proved. That is, if he had not been on the side of truth, he would not have dared to come out for the contest nor would the great Christians have run away from the field of Mubahila. Second, this even proves that Hasan and Husain were sons of the Prophet of Allah, as I have already mentioned in my talk on the first night.
Third, it proves that the Commander of the Faithful, Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husain were spiritually the most exalted persons of the whole of creation and the most beloved ones of the Holy Prophet, as even the bigoted and fanatic ulema of your sect, like Zamakhshari, Baidhawi, and Fakhru'd-Din Razi, and others have written in their books. Particularly Jarullah Zamkhshari, writing about this holy verse, gives explanatory details about the gathering of these panjetan ('five bodies') and says that this verse is the strongest proof of the excellence of the Ashab-i-Ayba, the five persons who had gathered under a blanket with the Holy Prophet.
Fourth, it shows that the Commander of the Faithful, Ali, surpassed all other companions of the Holy Prophet in merit and rank, because Allah has called him in this holy verse the soul of the Prophet. Obviously, the word "ourselves" does not mean the Holy Prophet's own self, because to summon means to summon somebody else; a man is never asked to summon himself. Hence the word refers to somebody else who is like the Prophet's own self or soul. And since, according to the unanimous view of reliable commentators and traditionists of both sects, no one else except Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husain were present with the Holy Prophet at the imprecation, the phrase in the holy verse, "our sons and your sons, our women and your women" refer, respectively, to Hasan and Husain and Bibi Fatima and the other person, who could be identified as "ourselves" in the holy group was the Commander of the Faithful, Ali. Hence, this word "ourselves" proves the unity of self between the Prophet Muhammad and Ali.
Since actual unity of two souls is impossible, Allah's calling Ali the 'self' of the Prophet Muhammad means an assumed unity of the two selves.
You are well aware that basically it is better to identify a word with a near assumption that with a distant one, and the nearest assumption means association in all merits excepting those which have been excluded by some particular reason. And we have already told you that it is the Holy Prophet's special prophethood and the granting of Wahi (Revelation) on him which are peculiar to him. Hence, we do not consider Ali his associate in regard to these two characteristics. But according to this holy verse, Ali shares with the Holy Prophet in all other merits, and assuredly the All-Gracious Allah endowed Ali through the Holy Prophet with all His blessings. This in itself proves the union of their souls, which we wanted to establish.
Hafiz: Why do you insist that the verse does not mean the summoning of his own 'self'? Why isn't this supposition better than the other assumption?
Well-Wisher: I hope you will not waste time in illogical talk and digress from the course of justice. In fact justice demands that when we have settled a point, we should move forward. I did not expect a man of your rank and learning to indulge in such a false argument. As you know yourself and according to all men of learning, one self is identified with another self by way of assumption. Among literary men it is common to claim an assumed association, as I have stated earlier. It is often seen that one person says to another: "You are my own life and soul." Particularly in the language of hadith and narratives, this relationship has often been stated about the Commander of the Faithful, Ali, and every such narration taken separately is a proof to establish the truth of my point of view.