Umayyad tradition of cursing Ali

Umayyad tradition of cursing Ali

The Umayyad tradition of cursing Ali was performed in state-controlled mosques from 657 to 717 CE.

Muawiyah I, after the stalemate of the Battle of Siffin, began the custom of including a curse against Ali from the pulpit in Damascus. As he consolidated his position he mandated this "through all the west" ("while in the east and in al-Kufa they cursed Muawiyah").[1]

People who chose death over cursing Ali include:

Umar II put an end to the practice.[2]



Several hadiths recall the practice under Muawiyah:

Ibn Ishaq, a 8th century Sunni Islamic scholar reported similarly:

When Mu'awiya went for Hajj, he held the hand of Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas and said to him: 'Oh Abi Ishaq! We are the people who abandoned Hajj because of wars until we almost forgot some of its laws, so we performed Tawaf (circumambulation) to imitate your Tawaf'. When they completed (the Hajj), he (Mu'awiya) entered upon him (Sa'd) in a conference room and sat with him on his sofa, then he (Mu'awiya) mentioned `Ali Ibn Abi Talib and cursed him. He (Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas) said: 'You brought me to your house and made me sit on your sofa and then you have begun to curse `Ali?'[5]

Ali ibn al-Athir, a 13th century Sunni Islamic scholar writes:

Marwan the architect of Umayyad dynastic rule, clearly recognized the importance of cursing as a tool of the government. He told 'Ali's grandson Ali ibn al-Husayn privately: 'No one [among the Islamic nobility] was more temperate (akaff) towards our master than your master'. The harmless son of al Husayn asked him: 'Why do you curse him then from the pulpits? 'He answered: 'Our reign would not be sound without that (la yastaqimu l-amru illa bi-dhalik)[7].

The hadiths also recall that the practice continued under the sons of Marwan:

The future Umar II was Marwan's grandson and governed Medina 706-12 CE.

Sunni Denials

Some Sunnis have historically denied that the Umayyads cursed `Ali. Imam al-Nawawi: "The ulamas said: Any hadith that appear to refer to intra-Sahaba enmity is interpreted figuratively. In this hadith [Muslim 31.5915] there is nothing that states that Mu`awiya actually ordered Sa`d to curse `Ali, but he only asked him for the reason why he refrained from cursing him: was it Godwariness? in which case, well done; or fear? etc. It may be that Sa`d was observed among a group that cursed `Ali, but he himself abstained from it although unable to reprimand them, then they were subsequently reprimanded, and Mu`awiya asked him this question. Another possible interpretation is: What prevented you from proving `Ali wrong in his opinion and ijtihad, and tell people the rightness and correctness of our position and ijtihad?"

These denials, in light of the Sunni witnesses and also the Christian witnesses, are dismissed by Western scholars and Shi`ites.

  1. ^ Palmer, Andrew (1993). "Extract from the Chronicle of 1234" (in English). The Seventh-Century in the West-Syrian Chronicles. Translated Texts For Historians. 15. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. p. 184. ISBN 0-85323-238-5. 
  2. ^ Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 31, 5924 (Siddiqui numeration: [1])
  3. ^ Sahih Muslim, 31:5915
  4. ^ Sahih Sunan Ibn Majah by Albani #98
  5. ^ Translation of Ibn Kathir, Al Bidayah wa al Nahayah, Volume 7 page 341, Chapter: The virtues of Ali; from Abû Zurʿa al-Dimashqî < Aḥmad b. Khâlid al-Dhahabî. This is also in al-Masʿûdî, Murûj al-Dhahabi, from Abû Jaʿfar Muḥammad b. Jarîr al-Ṭabarî < Muḥammad b. Ḥumayd al-Râzî < Abû Mujâhid. This latter version goes on to append the hadith Muslim 31.5915.
  6. ^ (Online Arabic version)
  7. ^ Baladhuri, AnsabII, 184-5 and ; Ibn Asakir, 'Ali, III, 98-9
  8. ^ Sahih Muslim, 31:5924

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