A book by the highly-regarded ancient Islamic biographer and a prominent imam of the second most popular Islamic School of thought (madhabs), the Maliki school.
The judgements concerning those who think
the Prophet imperfect or curse him
The proof of the necessity of killing anyone who
curses the Prophet or finds fault with him
The Qur’an says that Allah curses the one who harms the Prophet in this world and He connected harm of Himself to harm of the Prophet. There is no dispute that anyone who curses Allah is killed and that his curse demands that he be categorised as an unbeliever. The judgement of the unbeliever is that he is killed.
Allah says, “Those who harm Allah and His Messenger, Allah has cursed them in this world and in the Next, and has prepared for them a humiliating punishment.” (33:57). He said something similar about those who kill the believers. Part of the curse on them in this world is that they are killed. Allah says, “Cursed they will be. Wherever they are found, they are seized and all slain.” (33: 61) He mentions the punishment of those who fight, “That is humiliation in this world for them.” (5:45) “Killing” (qatl) can have the meaning of “curse”. Allah says, “May the conjecturers be killed!” (51:11) and “May Allah fight them! How they are perverted!” (9:30) i.e. may Allah curse them.
This is because there is a difference between their harming Allah and His Messenger and harming the believers. Injuring the believers, short of murder, incurs beating and exemplary punishment. The judgement against those who harm Allah and His Prophet is more severe – the death penalty.
Allah says, “No, by your Lord, they will not believe until they have you judge between them in what they disagree about.” (4:65) He removes the badge of belief from those who find an impediment in themselves against accepting the Prophet’s judgement and do not submit to him. Anyone who disparages him is opposing his judgement.
Allah says, “O you who believe, do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet and be not loud in your speech to him as you are loud to one another lest your actions fail.” (49:3). Such an action only comes about through disbelief and the unbeliever is killed.
Allah says, “When they come to you, they greet you with a greeting which Allah never greeted you with.” Then He says, “Jahannam is enough for them, an evil homecoming.” (58:9)
Allah says, “Among them are those who harm the Prophet and say that he is all ear,” (9:61) and, “Those who harm the Messenger of Allah have a painful punishment.” (9:63)
Allah says, “If you ask them, they will say, ‘We were only plunging and playing.’ Say, ‘What, were you then mocking Allah, His signs and His Messenger? Make no excuses. You have disbelieved after your belief.“‘ (9:67-68) The commentators say, “You have disbelieved” refers to what they have said about the Messenger of Allah.
We have already mentioned the consensus. As for the traditions, al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali related from his father that the Messenger of Allah said in respect of this matter, “Whoever curses a Prophet, kill him. Whoever curses my Companions, beat him.“
In a sound hadith the Prophet commanded that Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf be killed. He asked, “Who will deal with Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf? He has harmed Allah and His Messenger.” He sent someone to assassinate him without calling him to Islam, in distinction to other idol-worshippers. The cause of that lay in his causing harm to the Prophet. That indicates that the Prophet had him killed for something other than idol-worship. It was for causing harm. Abu Rafi,’ who used to harm the Messenger of Allah and work against him, was also killed.
Similarly on the Day of the Conquest, he ordered the killing of Ibn Khatal and his two slavegirls who used to sing his curses on the Prophet.
In another hadith about a man who used to curse the Prophet, the Prophet said, “Who will save me from my enemy?” Khalid said, “I will,” so the Prophet sent him out and he killed him.
Similarly the Prophet commanded that a group of unbelievers who used to injure and curse him, like an-Nadr ibn al-Harith and ‘Uqba ibn Abi Mu’ayt, be killed. He promised that a group of them would be killed before and after the conquest. They were all killed except for those who hurried to become Muslim before they were overpowered. Al-Bazzar related from Ibn ‘Abbas that ‘Uqba ibn Abi Mu’ayt cried out, “O company of Quraysh, why is it that I alone among you am to be killed without war?” The Prophet said, “For your disbelief and your forging lies against the Messenger of Allah.”
‘Abdu’r-Razzaq mentioned that a man cursed the Prophet, causing the Prophet to say, “Who will save me from my enemy?” Az-Zubayr said, “I will.” He sent az-Zubayr and he killed him.
It is related that a woman used to curse the Prophet and he said, “Who will save me from my enemy?” Khalid ibn al-Walid went out and killed her.
It is related that a man forged lies against the Prophet and he sent ‘Ali and az-Zubayr to kill him.
Ibn Qani’ related that a man came to the Prophet and said, “Messenger of Allah, I heard my father say something ugly about you, so I killed him,” and that did not distress the Prophet.
Al-Mujahir ibn Abi Umayya, the Amir of Yemen, reported to Abu Bakr that a woman there in the time of the Riddachanted curses against the Prophet, so he cut off her hand and pulled out her front teeth. When Abu Bakr heard that, he said to him, “If you had not done what you already did, I would have commanded you to kill her because the hadd regarding the Prophet is not like the hadd regarding others.”
Ibn ‘Abbas said that a woman from Khatma satirised the Prophet and the Prophet said, “Who will deal with her for me?” A man from her people said, “I will, Messenger of Allah.” The man got up and went and killed her. He told the Prophet who said, “Two goats will not lock horns over her.”
Ibn ‘Abbas said that a blind man had an umm walad who used to curse the Prophet. He scolded her and restrained her, but she would not be restrained. That night she began to attack and revile the Prophet, so he killed her. He told the Prophet about that and he said he had shed her blood with impunity.
In the hadith of Abu Barza as-Aslami it says, “One day I was sitting with Abu Bakr as-Siddiq and he became angry at one of the Muslim men.” Qadi Isma’il and other Imams said that the man had cursed Abu Bakr. An-Nasa’i related it as, “I came to Abu Bakr and a man had been rude and answered him back. I said, ‘Khalif of Allah, let me strike off his head!’ He said, ‘Sit down. That is not for anyone except the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.’
Qadi Abu Muhammad ibn Nasr said, “No one disagreed with him.” So the Imams take this, as a proof that anyone who does anything that might anger, harm or curse the Prophet in any way should be killed.
There is also the letter of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz to his governor in Kufa. He had asked his advice about killing a man who had cursed ‘Umar. ‘Umar wrote back to him, “It is not lawful to kill a Muslim for cursing anyone except the Messenger of Allah. Whoever curses him, his blood is lawful.”
Harun ar-Rashid asked Malik about a man who had reviled the Prophet and he mentioned to him that the fuqaha’ of Iraq had given a fatwa that he be flogged. Malik became angry and said, “Amir al-Mu’minin! There is no continuation for a community after it curses its Prophet! Whoever curses the Companions of the Prophet is to be flogged.”
I do not know which of those Iraqi fuqaha’ gave Harun ar-Rashid that fatwa. We have already mentioned that the school of the people of Iraq is that he be killed. Perhaps they were among those who were not known for knowledge or those whose fatwas were unreliable or idiosyncratic, or it is possible that what the man said was not taken to be a curse and there was a dispute as to whether or not it was a curse or he had retracted it and repented of it. None of these things were mentioned to Malik at all. However, the consensus is that anyone who curses him is to be killed as we have already stated.
That he is to be killed can be deduced by reflection and consideration. Anyone who curses or disparages the Prophet has shown clear symptoms of the sickness of his heart and proof of his real convictions and belief. That is why most of the ‘ulama’ judge him to be an apostate. This is what is transmitted by the people of Syria from Malik, al-Awza’i, ath-Thawri, Abu Hanifa and the people of Kufa.
The other position is that it is not a proof of disbelief, and so the person in question is killed by the hadd-punishment but he is not adjudged to be an unbeliever unless he persists in his words, not denying them nor refraining from them. To be judged an unbeliever, his statement must either be a clear statement of disbelief, like calling the Prophet a liar, or originate from mocking words and censure. His open avowal of what he said and lack of repentance for it is an indication that he finds it lawful and this constitutes disbelief, so there is no disagreement that he is an unbeliever. Allah says about people like this, “They swear by Allah that they did not speak. They said the words of disbelief. They disbelieved after their Islam.” (9:76)
The commentators said that this refers to the statement, “If what is said by Muhammad is true, we are worse than monkeys.”
It is said that it refers to what one of them said, “Our likeness with respect to that of Muhammad is only as the words of the one who says, ‘Feed your dog and it will devour you.’ When we return to Madina, the mighty will drive out the weaker.”
It is said that even if the one who says this conceals it, the same judgement applies to him as to the heretic and he is killed because he has changed his deen. The Prophet said, “Strike off the heads of all who change their deen.”
Because upholding the Prophet’s honour is an obligation owed by his entire community and anyone who curses a free man of his community is given a hadd-punishment, the punishment of someone who curses the Prophet is that he is to be is killed because of the immensity of the worth of the Prophet and his elevation over others.