Cross My Heart and Hope to Die A Diachronic Examination of the Mutual Self-Cursing (mubāhala) in Islam

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Rana Mikati



This article examines the development of the ritual of mubāhala, a category of oaths and mutual self-cursing, during which two individuals seek to confirm the veracity of their creedal position by appealing to God’s curse upon them. Based on a prophetic precedent embedded in Q 3:61 and reported as a challenge purportedly employed by the Companions Ibn Masʿūd and Ibn ʿAbbās, I argue that the practice of resorting to mubāhala in the Sunni tradition goes through two main phases of reinvention and legitimation before its reappearance in the contemporary Muslim world. The first phase belongs to the anti-Monist controversies of the seventh to ninth/thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, while the second appears among reformist scholars starting in the late eighteenth century.

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