Complete Tafseer from Agha Mahdi Pooya regarding Surah Aal’Imran – Ayat 61 (3:61)
This verse refers to the well-known event of mubahilah mentioned in every book of history, traditions and Tafseer written by Muslim scholars.
The Holy Prophet was sending invitations to all to accept the true religion of Allah. Tribe after tribe, region after region, was coming into the fold of Islam. One such invitation was sent to the Christians of Najran, a town in Yemen, in the 9th year of Hijra. A deputation of 60 scholars came to discuss the matter with the Holy Prophet. Abdul Masih, the chief monk, asked him as to who was the father of Isa, thinking that the Holy Prophet would accept God as the father of Isa. Verse 59 of this surah was revealed and presented to the Christians as a reply but they did not listen to reason. Then this verse was revealed to call them to a spiritual contest by invoking the curse of Allah on the liars - mubahilah. The Christians agreed to this contest.
Early next morning, the 24th of the month of Dhil hijjah, the Holy Prophet sent Salman to the selected site, outside the city area, to set up a shelter for those whom he would take with him, as his sons, women and selves.
A large number of companions assembled in the masjid, making themselves available for the selection. On the opposite side of the field, selected for the contest, the Christians, with their selected men, women and children appeared on the scene.
At the appointed hour, a huge crowd, standing in wait, saw the Holy Prophet coming in, Imam Husayn in his arms, Imam Hasan holding his index finger, walking beside him, Bibi Fatimah Zahra, close to his heels and Imam Ali just behind her-as his sons, women, and selves. It should be noted that although there was provision for "women" and "selves" the Holy Prophet selected one "woman" and one "self"-Fatimah and Ali, because there was no woman and no man among his followers at that time who could be brought into the contest of invoking the curse of Allah on the liars. They alone were the truthful ones (see commentary of al Tawbah, 9:119).
The Holy Prophet raised his hands to the heaven and said: "O my Lord! These are the people of my house".
The chief monk looked up and down at the faces of the Pure Five (Panjatan Pak), from whom emanated a radiant and brilliant glow; and this sight filled him with awe and anguish. He cried out aloud:
"By Jesus! I see the faces that if they turn upward to the heavens and pray, the mountains shall move. Believers in Jesus of Nazareth, I tell you the truth. Should you fail to come to some agreement with Muhammad, he, along with the godly souls with him, shall wipe out your existence for ever, should they invoke the curse of God on you."
The Christians saw the wisdom of their chief and readily agreed to arrive at a settlement. As there is no compulsion in religion (Al-Baqarah, 2:256), the Holy Prophet gave them complete freedom to practice their faith. He also agreed to protect their lives and possessions; and for this service the Christians consented to pay a nominal fee (Jizya). It was an extraordinary manifestation of the glory of Islam; therefore, the followers of Muhammad and al-Muhammad celebrate this unique blessing of Allah (bestowed on the Ahl ul-Bayt) as a "thanksgiving" occasion of great joy and comfort.
Many Muslim scholars, commentators and traditionists whom the ummah acclaim with one voice, have given the details of this event with following conclusions:
1. The seriousness of the occasion demanded absolute purity, physical as well as spiritual, to take part in the fateful event.
2. Only the best of Allah's creations (the Ahl ul-Bayt) were selected by the Holy Prophet under Allah's guidance.
3. It, beyond all doubts, established the purity, the truthfulness and the sublime holiness of the Ahl ul-Bayt.
4. It also unquestionably confirmed as to who were the members of the family of the Holy Prophet.
(References:- Mahmud bin Umar Zamakhshari in al Khashshaf; Fakhr al Din al Razi in Tafseer Kabir; Jalal al Din al Suyuti in Tafseer Durr al Manthur; Tafseer Baydawi; Tafseer Nafsi; Tafseer Ibna Kathir; Sahih al Muslim and Sahih al Tirmidhi.)
A very large number of Muslims (and also non-muslims) witnessed the contest and came to know that Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn were the "Ahl ul-Bayt" addressed in verse 33 of al Ahzab, known as ayah al tat-hir or the verse of purification.
In this verse, the divine command allows the Holy prophet to take with him "sons", "women" and "selves"; therefore, had there been "women" and "selves" worthy to be selected for this symbolic contest, among his companions, he would certainly have selected them, but as it was seen by one and all, only Fatimah and Ali (and their two sons) were chosen, because none of the anxiously waiting companions (among whom were the three caliphs and the wives of the Holy Prophet) was truthful or so thoroughly purified as to deserve selection for an event which was divinely decreed in order to also make known the true successors of the Holy Prophet.
The word anfus is the plural of nafs which means soul or self. When used in relation to an individual, it implies another being of the same identity with complete unity in equality; therefore, one is the true reflection of the other in thought, action and status, to the extent that at any occasion or for any purpose, any one of them can represent the other. Even if the word nafs is interpreted as "the people", it is clear that Ali alone is "the people" of the Holy Prophet.
After the departure of the Holy Prophet, within a year, the symbolic event of mubahilah was ignored by his followers. The house of Fatimah was set on fire. A well-known companion kicked the door of her house which fell on her. The injury caused by the falling door finally killed her. In view of the following saying (Sahih Bukhari-Vol. 2, page 206) of the Holy Prophet her killer stands condemned for ever:
"Fatimah is my flesh and blood, whoso causes suffering to her in fact causes suffering to me. He who has pained me in fact has pained Allah; and, indeed, he is a disbeliever", said the Holy Prophet in the light of verse 57 of al Ahzab (33:57).
It happened when a large crowd under the leadership of the above said companion came to arrest Ali ibna abi Talib, the nafs of the Holy Prophet, his brother, his vicegerent and his successor, who was deprived of his rightful mission to administer the affairs of the ummah, after the Holy Prophet, so as to enable some to distort and corrupt the true religion of Allah and utilize its name to enforce tyranny, injustice and ignorance of the pagan days. Finally Ali was killed in the masjid of Kufa when he was praying the fajr salat.
Imam Hasan was killed by a deadly poison administered by a woman hired by Mu-awiyah bin Abu Sufyan. Imam Husayn, along with his friends and relatives, was killed in the desert of Karbala, by the army of Yazid bin Mu-awiyah, and the ladies and the children of the house of the Holy Prophet were held captive, taken from town to town, tortured and harassed. The body of the martyred Imam was left unburied for several days. The perpetrators of this tyranny and injustice were those who had seen with their own eyes Imam Hasan and Imam Husayn going to the contest with the Holy Prophet as his sons on the day of mabahilah.
The followers of the Ahl ul-Bayt are on the path of truth, and their enemies are the upholders of falsehood, but strangely so, those who follow the true path are described as dissenters, and on this basis have been harassed, persecuted and killed by those who denied, belied and ignored not only the ayah al mabahilah and ayah al tat-hir but also many such verses of the Qur’an and clear traditions of the Holy Prophet. The followers of the Ahl ul-Bayt have been suffering death and destruction on account of their adherence to the true path, at the hands of the enemies of the Holy Prophet and his holy Ahl ul-Bayt, yet they never give up their faith because neither they longed for worldly possessions nor they feared death and destruction, in the true tradition of their Imams.