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What is the Meaning of Cursing (Laʻn)in the Qurʿān?

Many people say that cursing (laʿn) has been mentioned in tens of verses in the Qurʿān and they argue that this is evidence for the religious legality of cursing as well as a striking rebuttal to those who claim that it is forbidden or disliked. Does the cursing mentioned in the Qurʿān yield such a result?

In the language of the Arabs, cursing (laʿn) means expulsion from mercy due to displeasure. So the cursed one (malʿūn) is the one who is expelled from the mercy of God and the one who has evoked God’s anger. Linguistically, a cursed man is also called laʿīn, as is the woman. A man is cursed by his family if they banish and expel him; he is cursed, in exile. This is something that is agreed upon by everyone as far as I know. As some linguists mention, when cursing comes from people, its meaning is to insult or to revile or to supplicate for the cursed person to be expelled from God’s mercy.

These are some of the statements of the linguists about cursing:

  1. a) al-Farāhīdī:

“Cursing (اللّعن): affliction. The mulaʿan (المُلَعّنُ): the afflicted, the laʿīn, the reviled, the insulted. I cursed him (لَعَنْتُه): I insulted him. God cursed him (لَعَنَهُ اللّه): He banishes him. Laʿīn (اللَّعِينُ): what is made in the farm in the shape of a man’s body (i.e scarecrow). Laʿna in the Qurʿān (واللَّعْنَةُ في القرآن): punishment. The phrase[1] أبيتَ اللعن: may you be kept safe from being insulted and cursed. Laʿna (اللّعنة): supplicating against someone.”[2]

Notice how he places supplication (duʿāʾ) in the last linguistic uses of the word.

  1. b) al-Jawharī[3]:

“Cursing: expulsion and banishment from goodness. Laʿna (اللّعنة) is the noun. The plural male form is liʿān (لعان) and plural female form is laʿnāt (لعنات). The man is called laʿīn (لعين) and malʿūn (ملعون); the woman is also called laʿīn. Laʿīn: deformed. The laʿīn man (scarecrow): something which is placed in the middle of the farm to ward off wild creatures … al-Mulāʿana and al-Liʿān: al-Mubāhala[4] … A luʿana man: he curses the people a lot. Luʿna: someone who is cursed by the people.

  1. c) Ibn Fāris[5]:

“The word laʿn is comprised of the letters lām, ʿayn and nūn, which signifies the meaning of expelling and banishing. Allah cursing Satan means He has expelled him from goodness and heaven. A world is at times called laʿīn, an exiled man is called laʿīn, a man who is luʿanah is someone who is cursed by people, as luʿnah means excessive cursing…

Al-laʿīn: someone who everyone curses, such as a mulʿan pronounced as muʿẓam, and Satan and one who is metamorphosized, one who brings bad omens, one who is always sworn at, a scarecrow, one who is has been destructively ashamed. The phrase أبيت اللعن means: [may you be kept safe] from being cursed. Talāʿun means: to exchange swear words, and to mock one another.”

  1. d) Ibn Manẓūr[6]:

“Cursing means to be expelled and banished from goodness. It is said: it is expulsion and banishment from God, and insulting and supplication from the creation. Laʿna (اللّعنة) is the noun. The plural form is liʿān (لِعانٌ) and laʿnāt (لَعَناتٌ). He cursed him (لَعَنه), he curses him with a curse (يَلْعَنه لَعْناً) : he expelled him and banished him. The man is called laʿīn (لَعِينٌ) and malʿūn (مَلْعُونٌ). And the plural form is malāʿīn (مَلاعِين).

  1. e) al-Fīrūzābādī[7]:

Laʿna-hu is like the verb manaʿahu – meaning: He banished him and expelled him, such a person is laʿīn and malʿūn, the plural is malāʿīn, and the nouns are: laʿān and laʿānīyah and laʿnah with a fatḥa. Luʿnah with a ḍammah is someone who is cursed by people…”

Therefore, when we refer to the dictionaries, we find that cursing (laʿn) is used to mean:

  1. Expulsion and banishment—this is the original meaning for it, as has been acknowledged by all, as far as we know.
  2. Supplication (duʿāʾ) by people for the expulsion and banishment [of someone]. As is clear, this is a branch of the first meaning, and is what is commonly meant among the people today when we say laʿn be upon such and such. Thus, the people’s intended meaning today is to supplicate for someone’s expulsion from mercy.
  3. Insulting, reviling and using rude language. This is what opens up the association between cursing and insulting in some cases

The fundamental problem is that the meaning of cursing as a supplication for expulsion from mercy has deeply taken root in the Arabic and legislative circulation of the word laʿn today. It has made cursing—meaning the action of expulsion itself—alien to our minds, despite it being the original meaning used by the Arabs. Therefore, we must pay close attention to this issue before we read the Qurʿānic texts so that we do not project what has become linguistically common [today] on the Qurʿānic texts in place of the meaning used at the time of revelation. Linguistically, if another person is expelled from the house after a fight and anger, it is said: they ‘cursed’ him (لعنه), even though they never verbally used the word ‘curse’ (laʿn) on their tongue. Similarly, if an institution expelled some of its employees following problems and disputes, then linguistically: It ‘cursed’ them—despite the fact that what has become common among us today considers such uses of the word to be strange, since we do not use them in our lives. Rather, when we say the owner of the house ‘cursed’ him, our minds turn to the idea that the owner said ‘may God curse you’ while this is not the exclusive meaning of the word nor even the primary meaning. On the contrary, the primary meaning of cursing is expulsion from mercy, to be ostracised and the infliction of God’s anger.

Many have relied upon the verses of the Qurʿān in which the word laʿn and its derivatives have been mentioned—the foremost of them being Muḥaqqiq al-Karakī (d. 940) in his famous book Nafaḥāt al-lāhut fi laʿn al-jibt wa al-ṭāghūt (Breath of divinity concerning the cursing of witchcraft and false deities)—to establish a culture of cursing in Islam as permissible, if not obligatory.

When we come to the Qurʿānic verses, we find that the use of the term cursing (laʿn) and its derivatives can be arranged into two groups:

Group One

The verses which inform that God has cursed the disbelievers or the oppressors or that he will curse them or that He always curses them—whether the expression ‘curse’ (laʿn) is used or not. This group of verses has no relation to the permissibility or impermissibility of cursing another human in the sense of verbally saying something like ‘curse you’, ‘may God curse you’ or ‘may God curse so and so’ etc. This is because whenever God curses the disbelievers he does not say ‘O God curse them’ or ‘curse you’. Rather, God puts them in hell or deprives them of success in this world for example. So the actual action of placing them in hell itself, for example, is the curse of God for this disbeliever. Therefore, the cursing of God is different from our famous notion of cursing, for ours may be a supplication and request to God to curse someone. However, God’s curse is the actual expulsion of someone from His mercy itself and the actual subjecting of someone to punishment and affliction itself in this world or the hereafter or in both of them together.

The majority of the verses in the Qurʿān pertaining to cursing belong to this group, such as:


﴿إنَّ اللَّهَ لَعَنَ الْكَافِرِينَ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ سَعِيرًا﴾

Truly God curses the disbelievers and prepares for them a blazing flame (33:64)

The anger of God is upon the disbelievers and he expelled them from His mercy and prepared for them the hellfire to be therein expelled. Therefore, the hellfire is an expression of their expulsion and the anger they have evoked.


﴿يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ آَمِنُوا بِمَا نَزَّلْنَا مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا مَعَكُمْ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ نَطْمِسَ وُجُوهًا فَنَرُدَّهَا عَلَى أَدْبَارِهَا أَوْ نَلْعَنَهُمْ كَمَا لَعَنَّا أَصْحَابَ السَّبْتِ وَكَانَ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ مَفْعُولً﴾

O you unto whom the Book has been given! Believe in what We have sent down, confirming that which is with you, before We blot out faces and turn them backwards, or curse them as We cursed those [who broke] the Sabbath. And the Command of God shall be fulfilled. (4:47)

This verse clearly shows that God threatens that whosoever does not believe in what was revealed to Muḥammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him, before it is too late, will receive the same fate as those who broke the Sabbath, those who turned into apes and swines. So how did God curse those who broke the Sabbath? He sent torment upon them and transformed them into apes and swines. He did not supplicate against them or say ‘God curse you’ for example. The Qurʿān has explained their story for us, describing how the anger of God descended upon them and how they were, thereby, expelled from His Mercy and Kindness. Therefore, the meaning of the verse is: beware before my expulsion and anger reaches you as it reached those who broke the Sabbath, whom I transformed into apes and swines.


﴿فَبِمَا نَقْضِهِمْ مِيثَاقَهُمْ لَعَنَّاهُمْ وَجَعَلْنَا قُلُوبَهُمْ قَاسِيَةً يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ عَنْ مَوَاضِعِهِ وَنَسُوا حَظًّا مِمَّا ذُكِّرُوا بِهِ وَلَا تَزَالُ تَطَّلِعُ عَلَى خَائِنَةٍ مِنْهُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِنْهُمْ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاصْفَحْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ﴾

Then for their breaking of their covenant, We cursed them and hardened their hearts. They distort the meaning of the Word, and have forgotten part of that whereof they were reminded. Thou wilt not cease to discover their treachery, from all save a few of them. So pardon them, and forbear. Truly God loves the virtuous. (5:13)

So God cursed them due to their breaking of the covenant—namely, he removed them from His Mercy, hardened their hearts and deprived them from success as a recompense for what they did. How different is this from the kind of cursing we practice as humans when we say ‘O God curse so and so’?! And is there any rational, intellectual or legal (sharʿī) connection between God inflicting His anger upon a people, then hardening their hearts, and us cursing them and using such phrases regarding them?!


﴿إنْ يَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِهِ إِلَّا إِنَاثًا وَإِنْ يَدْعُونَ إِلَّا شَيْطَانًا مَرِيدًا (١١٨) لَعَنَهُ اللَّهُ وَقَالَ لَأَتَّخِذَنَّ مِنْ عِبَادِكَ نَصِيبًا مَفْرُوضًا﴾

They call upon only females in His stead; they call upon none but a defiant Satan, (118) whom God has cursed, who said, “Assuredly I shall take of Thy servants an appointed share (4:117-118)

So God cursed Satan when he descended His anger upon him and expelled him from His Mercy with the following statements:

﴿قَالَ فَاخْرُجْ مِنْهَا فَإِنَّكَ رَجِيمٌ (٣٥) وَإِنَّ عَلَيْكَ اللَّعْنَةَ إِلَى يَوْمِ الدِّينِ﴾

He said, “Go forth from it! Surely thou art outcast, (35) and surely the curse shall be upon thee till the Day of Judgment!” (15:34-35)

﴿قَالَ فَاخْرُجْ مِنْهَا فَإِنَّكَ رَجِيمٌ (٧٨) وَإِنَّ عَلَيْكَ لَعْنَتِي إِلَى يَوْمِ الدِّينِ﴾

He said, “Go forth from it! Surely thou art outcast! (78) And surely My Curse shall be upon thee till the Day of Judgment.”

So Satan is permanently expelled from God’s mercy, His pleasure and from Paradise. He is banished from goodness and righteousness, and has incurred God’s anger. And God will delay His greatest punishment until the Day of Judgement. How different is this from the kind of cursing that is a linguistic human act?! And what is the connection between God’s right to do this to Satan and us when we curse Satan himself?!


﴿قُلْ هَلْ أُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِشَرٍّ مِنْ ذَلِكَ مَثُوبَةً عِنْدَ اللَّهِ مَنْ لَعَنَهُ اللَّهُ وَغَضِبَ عَلَيْهِ وَجَعَلَ مِنْهُمُ الْقِرَدَةَ وَالْخَنَازِيرَ وَعَبَدَ الطَّاغُوتَ أُولَئِكَ شَرٌّ مَكَانًا وَأَضَلُّ عَنْ سَوَاءِ السَّبِيلِ﴾

Say, “Shall I inform you of something worse than that by way of recompense from God? Whomsoever God has cursed and upon whom is His Wrath, and among whom He has made some to be apes and swine, and who worship false deities, such are in a worse situation, and further astray from the right way.” (5:60)

So the worst of people are those whom God has cursed, for He expelled them from His mercy, they incurred His anger and He made them into apes and swines, placing them in the worst of situations and standings.


﴿وَنَادَى أَصْحَابُ الْجَنَّةِ أَصْحَابَ النَّارِ أَنْ قَدْ وَجَدْنَا مَا وَعَدَنَا رَبُّنَا حَقًّا فَهَلْ وَجَدْتُمْ مَا وَعَدَ رَبُّكُمْ حَقًّا قَالُوا نَعَمْ فَأَذَّنَ مُؤَذِّنٌ بَيْنَهُمْ أَنْ لَعْنَةُ اللَّهِ عَلَى الظَّالِمِينَ﴾

The inhabitants of the Garden will call out to the inhabitants of the Fire, “We have found that which our Lord promised us to be true. Have you found that which your Lord promised to be true?” They will respond, “Yes.” Thereupon a herald shall proclaim in their midst, “The curse of God be upon the wrongdoers!” (7:44)

After this dialogue and greater immorality and oppression from the disbelievers, someone came who announced and taught that God’s anger has descended upon the wrongdoers. Therefore, all of these verses are informational reports (ikhbārāt) and do not contain any legislative imperatives. Nor do they exhort the people to curse the disbelievers or the wrongdoers with this verbal supplicatory cursing which we use today. Rather, they report and inform that God has cursed them or that someone has reported that God has cursed them. Take careful notice of this in order to ensure that the jurisprudential reasoning will be robust.


﴿وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَى عَلَى اللَّهِ كَذِبًا أُولَئِكَ يُعْرَضُونَ عَلَى رَبِّهِمْ وَيَقُولُ الْأَشْهَادُ هَؤُلَاءِ الَّذِينَ كَذَبُوا عَلَى رَبِّهِمْ أَلَا لَعْنَةُ اللَّهِ عَلَى الظَّالِمِينَ (١٩) الَّذِينَ يَصُدُّونَ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَيَبْغُونَهَا عِوَجًا وَهُمْ بِالْآَخِرَةِ هُمْ كَافِرُونَ (٢٠) أُولَئِكَ لَمْ يَكُونُوا مُعْجِزِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَا كَانَ لَهُمْ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مِنْ أَوْلِيَاءَ يُضَاعَفُ لَهُمُ الْعَذَابُ مَا كَانُوا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ السَّمْعَ وَمَا كَانُوا يُبْصِرُونَ (٢١) أُولَئِكَ الَّذِينَ خَسِرُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ وَضَلَّ عَنْهُمْ مَا كَانُوا يَفْتَرُونَ (٢٢) لَا جَرَمَ أَنَّهُمْ فِي الْآَخِرَةِ هُمُ الْأَخْسَرُونَ﴾

And who does greater wrong than one who fabricates a lie against God? It is they who will be brought before their Lord, and the witnesses will say, “These are the ones who lied against their Lord.” Behold! The curse of God is upon the wrongdoers, (19) those who turn from the way of God and seek to make it crooked, and who disbelieve in the Hereafter. (20) Such as these cannot thwart [aught] on earth, and they have no protector apart from God. For them the punishment will be multiplied. They were not able to hear; neither did they see. (21) They are those who have lost their souls, and that which they used to fabricate has forsaken them. (22) There is no doubt that in the Hereafter they shall be the greatest losers. (11:18-22)

The verse shows how clearly these people deserve the curse of God, His anger, their expulsion from His mercy and multiplied punishment. Rather, if we accept that the sentence ‘Behold! The curse of God…’ is not God’s speech, Sublime is He, in the first instance and that it is, in fact, a supplement to the words of the witnesses, who are the Angels or others on the Day of Judgement, then it is reporting their words on the Day of Judgement—and this has no relation to the legal ruling concerning our saying of this phrase with regard to others in this world, since there is no correlation between the two matters.


﴿وَأُتْبِعُوا فِي هَذِهِ الدُّنْيَا لَعْنَةً وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ أَلَا إِنَّ عَادًا كَفَرُوا رَبَّهُمْ أَلَا بُعْدًا لِعَادٍ قَوْمِ هُودٍ﴾

And they were pursued by a curse in this world, and [shall be] on the Day of Resurrection. Behold! Truly ʿĀd disbelieved in their Lord. Behold! Away with ʿĀd, the people of Hūd! (11:60)

Yes, they suffered the divine curse in this world through the infliction of a punishment upon them and the termination of their continued existence in life—this curse will pursue them in the hereafter also. This is what the verse yields: declarative sentences reporting the state of the people of ʿĀd and that God cursed them in this world when He sent fierce winds upon them, and that He will curse them in the hereafter by placing them in the blazing hellfire.


﴿وَأُتْبِعُوا فِي هَذِهِ لَعْنَةً وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ بِئْسَ الرِّفْدُ الْمَرْفُودُ﴾

And they were pursued in this [world] by a curse, and [shall be] on the Day of Resurrection. Evil indeed is the gift that will be offered them! (11:99)

The state of this verse is completely the same as the previous verse, so we won’t repeat the discussion.


﴿وَاسْتَكْبَرَ هُوَ وَجُنُودُهُ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَظَنُّوا أَنَّهُمْ إِلَيْنَا لَا يُرْجَعُونَ (٤٠) فَأَخَذْنَاهُ وَجُنُودَهُ فَنَبَذْنَاهُمْ فِي الْيَمِّ فَانْظُرْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الظَّالِمِينَ (٤١) وَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَدْعُونَ إِلَى النَّارِ وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ لَا يُنْصَرُونَ (٤٢) وَأَتْبَعْنَاهُمْ فِي هَذِهِ الدُّنْيَا لَعْنَةً وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ هُمْ مِنَ الْمَقْبُوحِينَ﴾

And he and his hosts waxed arrogant upon the earth, without right, and they thought they would not be returned unto Us. (40) So We seized him and his hosts, and cast them into the sea. So behold how the wrongdoers fared in the end. (41) And We made them imams calling unto the Fire. And on the Day of Resurrection they will not be helped. (42) And We caused them to be pursued by a curse in this world. And on the Day of Resurrection they will be among the repugnant. (28:39-42)

This verse is also like the previous two verses, so we won’t prolong the discussion. Contrary to what some have said, there is no evidence in these three verses to suggest that the intended meaning is the pursuit of the people’s curse upon them until the Day of Judgement. Rather, it is only a possibility and it is more likely that their curse is the punishment that they suffered in this world, just as they say: ‘a curse pursued so and so’, or in other words, the curse afflicted him and his affair was terminated. Not to mention the frequency of possibilities present here prevents the deduction that the Qurʿān used the word cursing in its linguistic sense, so the text presents multiple possibilities [of its intention], none of which are preferred over the other. This is the case in pretty much all of the verses [relating to the use of the word].


﴿وَقَالُوا قُلُوبُنَا غُلْفٌ بَلْ لَعَنَهُمُ اللَّهُ بِكُفْرِهِمْ فَقَلِيلًا مَا يُؤْمِنُونَ﴾

And they say, “Our hearts are wrapped.” Rather, God has cursed them for their disbelief, for little do they believe. (2:88)

This is also an informing sentence which reports that God expelled them from His mercy due to their disbelief, for He hardened and sealed their hearts. Therefore, there is no relation between this verse and the matter of legislative imperatives which yield the permissibility or recommendation or obligation of cursing, even with regard to the disbeliever.


﴿مِنَ الَّذِينَ هَادُوا يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ عَنْ مَوَاضِعِهِ وَيَقُولُونَ سَمِعْنَا وَعَصَيْنَا وَاسْمَعْ غَيْرَ مُسْمَعٍ وَرَاعِنَا لَيًّا بِأَلْسِنَتِهِمْ وَطَعْنًا فِي الدِّينِ وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ قَالُوا سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا وَاسْمَعْ وَانْظُرْنَا لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُمْ وَأَقْوَمَ وَلَكِنْ لَعَنَهُمُ اللَّهُ بِكُفْرِهِمْ فَلَا يُؤْمِنُونَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا (٤٧) يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ آَمِنُوا بِمَا نَزَّلْنَا مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا مَعَكُمْ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ نَطْمِسَ وُجُوهًا فَنَرُدَّهَا عَلَى أَدْبَارِهَا أَوْ نَلْعَنَهُمْ كَمَا لَعَنَّا أَصْحَابَ السَّبْتِ وَكَانَ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ مَفْعُولًا (٤٨) إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَنْ يُشْرَكَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَلِكَ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ وَمَنْ يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ افْتَرَى إِثْمًا عَظِيمًا (٤٩) أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ يُزَكُّونَ أَنْفُسَهُمْ بَلِ اللَّهُ يُزَكِّي مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَلَا يُظْلَمُونَ فَتِيلًا (٥٠) انْظُرْ كَيْفَ يَفْتَرُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ الْكَذِبَ وَكَفَى بِهِ إِثْمًا مُبِينًا (٥١) أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا نَصِيبًا مِنَ الْكِتَابِ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْجِبْتِ وَالطَّاغُوتِ وَيَقُولُونَ لِلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا هَؤُلَاءِ أَهْدَى مِنَ الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا سَبِيلًا (٥٢) أُولَئِكَ الَّذِينَ لَعَنَهُمُ اللَّهُ وَمَنْ يَلْعَنِ اللَّهُ فَلَنْ تَجِدَ لَهُ نَصِيرًا﴾

Among those who are Jews are those who distort the meaning of the word, and say, “We hear and disobey,” and “Hear, as one who hears not!” and “Attend to us!” twisting their tongues and disparaging religion. And had they said, “We hear and obey” and “Listen” and “Regard us,” it would have been better for them and more proper. But God cursed them for their disbelief, so they believe not, save a few. (47) O you unto whom the Book has been given! Believe in what We have sent down, confirming that which is with you, before We blot out faces and turn them backwards, or curse them as We cursed those [who broke] the Sabbath. And the Command of God shall be fulfilled. (48) Truly God forgives not that any partner be ascribed unto Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whomsoever He will, for whosoever ascribes partners unto God has surely fabricated a tremendous sin. (49) Hast thou not seen those who deem themselves pure? Rather, it is God Who purifies whomsoever He will, and they shall not be wronged so much as the thread of a date stone. (50) See how they fabricate lies against God! That suffices as a manifest sin. (51) Hast thou not considered those who were given a portion of the Book, who believe in idols and false deities, and say of those who disbelieve, “These are guided more rightly than those who believe.” (52) They are those whom God has cursed, and whomsoever God curses, thou wilt not find for him any helper. (4:46-52)

There are three uses for the word cursing here in this verse:

  1. a) The first use is completely like the previous verse so we won’t repeat the discussion.
  2. b) The second use is like the discussion presented about verse number 2, so we won’t repeat it either.
  3. c) The third use is also evidently to relay information and it contains two expressions—that whomsoever God curses, expels from His mercy, and inflicts punishment upon, then you will not find anyone to help him. This is an evidence that affirms that cursing here is a divine act that no one can stop.


﴿إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُؤْذُونَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ لَعَنَهُمُ اللَّهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآَخِرَةِ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ عَذَابًا مُهِينًا﴾

Truly those who affront God and His Messenger, God has cursed them in this life and the Hereafter, and has prepared for them a humiliating punishment. (33:57)

This is also reporting information that God cursed these people who abused God and His Messenger, and that He expelled them from His mercy in this world just as He expelled them from it in the hereafter. It was the peak of expulsion, added to by the humiliating punishment that awaits them. Therefore, their expulsion means that they will not enter Paradise, exactly like Iblīs’ (Satan) expulsion from it.


﴿فَهَلْ عَسَيْتُمْ إِنْ تَوَلَّيْتُمْ أَنْ تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَتُقَطِّعُوا أَرْحَامَكُمْ (٢٣) أُولَئِكَ الَّذِينَ لَعَنَهُمُ اللَّهُ فَأَصَمَّهُمْ وَأَعْمَى أَبْصَارَهُمْ﴾

Were you to turn away, would you perchance work corruption upon the earth and break your family relations? (23) They are those whom God has cursed, making them deaf and blinding their sight. (47:22-23)

This is also evidently informing that the divine curse is in this world through the veiling and hardening of their hearts. Their hearing and sight becoming inactive is a metaphor for their lack of interaction with telling the truth, due to the hardening of their hearts and the concealing in their souls, and its meaning has become obvious according to the aforementioned.


﴿وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ يَدُ اللَّهِ مَغْلُولَةٌ غُلَّتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَلُعِنُوا بِمَا قَالُوا بَلْ يَدَاهُ مَبْسُوطَتَانِ يُنْفِقُ كَيْفَ يَشَاءُ وَلَيَزِيدَنَّ كَثِيرًا مِنْهُمْ مَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِنْ رَبِّكَ طُغْيَانًا وَكُفْرًا وَأَلْقَيْنَا بَيْنَهُمُ الْعَدَاوَةَ وَالْبَغْضَاءَ إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ كُلَّمَا أَوْقَدُوا نَارًا لِلْحَرْبِ أَطْفَأَهَا اللَّهُ وَيَسْعَوْنَ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَسَادًا وَاللَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُفْسِدِينَ﴾

The Jews say, “God’s Hand is shackled.” Shackled are their hands, and they are cursed for what they say. Nay, but His two Hands are outstretched, He bestows as He wills. Surely that which has been sent down unto thee from thy Lord will increase many of them in rebellion and disbelief. And We have cast enmity and hatred among them till the Day of Resurrection. As often as they ignite a flame for war, God extinguishes it. They endeavor to work corruption upon the earth. And God loves not the workers of corruption. (5:64)

This verse also informs that, because of what they said about God, Exalted is He, and because they accused Him of stinginess, He expelled them from His mercy and banished them from goodness. And God made it clear that the revealed verses increased them in disbelief, and that they will fall into enmity and hatred till the Day of Judgement, and that God extinguishes their flame and other than that also.


﴿إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَرْمُونَ الْمُحْصَنَاتِ الْغَافِلَاتِ الْمُؤْمِنَاتِ لُعِنُوا فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآَخِرَةِ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ (٢٤) يَوْمَ تَشْهَدُ عَلَيْهِمْ أَلْسِنَتُهُمْ وَأَيْدِيهِمْ وَأَرْجُلُهُمْ بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (٢٥) يَوْمَئِذٍ يُوَفِّيهِمُ اللَّهُ دِينَهُمُ الْحَقَّ وَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْحَقُّ الْمُبِينُ﴾

Truly those who accuse chaste and heedless believing women are cursed in this world and the Hereafter, and theirs shall be a great punishment (24) on the day their tongues, their hands, and their feet bear witness against them as to that which they used to do. (25) On that Day God will pay them their just due in full, and they will know that God is the Manifest Truth. (24:23-25)

This verse is also declaring that whomsoever slanders chaste believing women is cursed in this world and the hereafter, and that he will see what God will do to him in this life and the next too. It is possible that the intended meaning of ‘cursed’ (لُعِنُوا) is that others said ‘O God curse them’, however, considering that, linguistically, the action of cursing primarily indicates expulsion and not a supplication for expulsion, it is necessary to ascribe the word to the action of expulsion—in other words, they were ‘expelled’—unless there is evidence indicating that the intended meaning is verbal cursing in the sense of a supplication. Even if it indicates verbal cursing, it is not indicative of who is identified as the cursing agent, so it could be the Angels and therefore the verse would not be an ijtihādī evidence for the legality of cursing in relation to us humans. This is why the jurists do not permit the slanderer to be cursed if he is Shīʿī for example; because he is a sinful Shīʿī and the popular opinion among the jurists is that it is not permissible to curse a Shīʿī, even if he is sinful.


﴿لَئِنْ لَمْ يَنْتَهِ الْمُنَافِقُونَ وَالَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ مَرَضٌ وَالْمُرْجِفُونَ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ لَنُغْرِيَنَّكَ بِهِمْ ثُمَّ لَا يُجَاوِرُونَكَ فِيهَا إِلَّا قَلِيلًا (٦١) مَلْعُونِينَ أَيْنَمَا ثُقِفُوا أُخِذُوا وَقُتِّلُوا تَقْتِيلً﴾

If the hypocrites do not desist, and likewise those in whose hearts is a disease, as well as those who spread false rumors in the city, We shall surely spur thee against them; then they will not be your neighbors therein, save for a short while. (61) Accursed! They will be seized wheresoever they are found and utterly slain. (33:60-61)

According to the linguistic connotation, this verse means that these people will not be your neighbours in Madīna, save for a short while. In fact, they are expelled, so wherever they are found, they will be seized and utterly slain. Therefore, cursing here fits perfectly with the lack of their security in Madīna. In other words, God will incite you against them and you will expel them from Madīna, and they will no longer be your neighbours after that. Rather, there is worse than that, they will be slain. So this verse has no relation to the conception of cursing that we circulate today, even if it was mentioned by some exegetes. In fact, it is related to the action which results in the expulsion of the hypocrites from Madīna al-Munawwara, or more precisely, threatening to expel them.

This is the first group of verses pertaining to cursing in the Qurʿān and it is clear in its declarative significance in relaying information without stating, or indicating, a legal (sharʿī) position on cursing. We’ve said that God’s use of the word cursing (laʿn) here doesn’t yield the conclusion that our use of the word towards others is permissible or forbidden or obligatory. Because it is a linguistic use of the word with the meaning of expulsion [from mercy]. God’s action towards something does not equate to the permissibility that I supplicate against someone that God does that action to him. For God may punish a believing father for a sin he has committed but that does not mean it is permissible for me to curse my believing father for this sin, and to supplicate for his expulsion from God’s mercy—despite the fact that he may deserve this in reality in the knowledge of God—unless there is evidence that allows me to do so. This is why the Qurʿān has mentioned that it is forbidden to seek forgiveness for those who have committed shirk while nothing has been mentioned about seeking their punishment after that in these verses. Yes, for the one who we are certain is in hell right now, we can say—linguistically and in the manner of relaying information—that he is cursed (malʿūn) and this is not a supplicatory curse. Likewise, verbalising Qurʿānic verses—in a manner of recitation and relaying information—is not a legalisation of cursing in an insulting or supplicatory fashion. For these are two different pretexts, and it is for this reason that a difference of opinion has occurred among the jurists regarding whether it is permissible for me when reciting Sūra al-Fātiḥa to intend to supplicate when reciting ‘Guide us to the straight path’ in addition to the Qurʿānic recitation of the verse or not? This means that the Qurʿānic pretext is different from the supplicatory pretext, so the same is true here.

In summary: it seems to me that the declarative (ikhbārī)[8] texts of the Qurʿān which are from the first group have no connection, neither directly nor indirectly, to the issue of cursing that is conventional today.

Group Two

This is the group of verses which could possibly indicate cursing in its widespread meaning today, which I call ‘verbal supplicatory cursing’, and they are the following several verses:


﴿وَقَالُوا رَبَّنَا إِنَّا أَطَعْنَا سَادَتَنَا وَكُبَرَاءَنَا فَأَضَلُّونَا السَّبِيلَا (٦٨) رَبَّنَا آَتِهِمْ ضِعْفَيْنِ مِنَ الْعَذَابِ وَالْعَنْهُمْ لَعْنًا كَبِيرًا﴾

They will say, “Our Lord! Truly we obeyed our leaders and elders, and they caused us to stray from the way. (68) Our Lord! Give them a twofold punishment, and curse them with a great curse.” (33:67-68)

This verse is clear in that a group of people in the hellfire will ask God, Exalted is He, to curse the group that led them astray in the temporal world and deviated them from the straight path. This is a clear verbal supplicatory curse without any doubt, however it does not yield the permissibility of cursing in this world or determine a ḥukm taklīfī[9], since the verse is not in the context of stating a temporal legal ruling. So cursing in the temporal world may be prohibited. But nevertheless, God informs us that these people in the hereafter will say this, so what is the connection between the two issues, knowing that if we accept the indication [of a legal ruling on cursing] then it is specific to the misguided with regard to those who misguiders and not absolute and unrestricted; and specific to non-Muslims as is evident from the context of these verses; and specific to the permissibility of cursing, not its recommendation or obligation. This is because the most that the verse indicates is that it is permissible for these people to curse those people, not that this is obligatory upon them or recommended etc.


﴿قَالَ ادْخُلُوا فِي أُمَمٍ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ مِنَ الْجِنِّ وَالْإِنْسِ فِي النَّارِ كُلَّمَا دَخَلَتْ أُمَّةٌ لَعَنَتْ أُخْتَهَا حَتَّى إِذَا ادَّارَكُوا فِيهَا جَمِيعًا قَالَتْ أُخْرَاهُمْ لِأُولَاهُمْ رَبَّنَا هَؤُلَاءِ أَضَلُّونَا فَآَتِهِمْ عَذَابًا ضِعْفًا مِنَ النَّارِ قَالَ لِكُلٍّ ضِعْفٌ وَلَكِنْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ﴾

He will say, “Enter the Fire among communities of jinn and men that have passed away before you!” Every time a community enters, it curses its sister, till, when they have all successively arrived there, the last of them will say of the first of them, “Our Lord, it was they who led us astray; so give them a double punishment in the Fire.” He will say, “For each of you it shall be doubled, but you know not.” (7:38)

The most that can be said about this verse is similar to what was presented in the previous verse, so we won’t repeat the discussion.


﴿إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَمَاتُوا وَهُمْ كُفَّارٌ أُولَئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ لَعْنَةُ اللَّهِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ (١٦٢) خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا لَا يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَلَا هُمْ يُنْظَرُونَ﴾

Indeed, those who disbelieve, and die disbelievers, upon them shall be the curse of God, the angels, and mankind all together. (162) Therein they shall abide: the punishment shall not be lightened for them, nor shall they be granted respite. (2:161-162)

It is clear that this verse is talking about their state after their death. Namely, that the curse of all mankind falls upon these people on the Day of Judgement. Notice the Iʿrāb position on the word ‘khālidīn’, and the preceding and subsequent context in the same verse do not yield more than that. In fact, if it was just us and this verse, then it would not be known that the intended meaning is a verbal curse. Rather, it may mean that God expels them from Paradise, and the Angels drive them away, berate them and expel them from mercy. Likewise, all of mankind does this to them in the hereafter—for the inhabitants of Paradise reject them; in fact, the inhabitants of Hell reject them—in reference to the fact that they will lack access to any proximity to goodness, salvation, and Paradise etc. How far is this from the discussion concerning the legality of cursing in this world at Qurʿānic textual level?! What is the relation of this verse to the subject then?! For the verse is not in the position of establishing a legal ruling on cursing them, but it is rather in the position of declaring and informing that their fate is the curse of God, the angels and mankind, and this will be the situation on the Day of Judgement.


﴿كَيْفَ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ قَوْمًا كَفَرُوا بَعْدَ إِيمَانِهِمْ وَشَهِدُوا أَنَّ الرَّسُولَ حَقٌّ وَجَاءَهُمُ الْبَيِّنَاتُ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ (٨٧) أُولَئِكَ جَزَاؤُهُمْ أَنَّ عَلَيْهِمْ لَعْنَةَ اللَّهِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ (٨٨) خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا لَا يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَلَا هُمْ يُنْظَرُونَ﴾

How shall God guide a people who have disbelieved after having believed, having borne witness that the Messenger is true, and the clear proofs having come to them? And God guides not wrongdoing people. (87) They are those whose recompense is that upon them shall be the curse of God, the angels, and mankind all together, (88) abiding therein; the punishment shall not be lightened for them, nor shall they be granted respite (3:86-88)

This verse is like the previous verse, talking about recompense, hellfire and eternal abode, so we won’t repeat the discussion. The most that can be derived is the cursing of these people by all on the Day of Judgement; it is difficult to generalise more than that. How far is this from the legal and functional worldly ruling in this issue?!


﴿وَالَّذِينَ يَرْمُونَ أَزْوَاجَهُمْ وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُمْ شُهَدَاءُ إِلَّا أَنْفُسُهُمْ فَشَهَادَةُ أَحَدِهِمْ أَرْبَعُ شَهَادَاتٍ بِاللَّهِ إِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ (٧) وَالْخَامِسَةُ أَنَّ لَعْنَةَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ إِنْ كَانَ مِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ (٨) وَيَدْرَأُ عَنْهَا الْعَذَابَ أَنْ تَشْهَدَ أَرْبَعَ شَهَادَاتٍ بِاللَّهِ إِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ (٩) وَالْخَامِسَةَ أَنَّ غَضَبَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهَا إِنْ كَانَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ﴾

And as for those who accuse their wives and have no witnesses but themselves, then the testimony of one of them shall be four testimonies, swearing by God that he is among the truthful, (7) and the fifth shall be that the curse of God be upon him if he is among the liars. (8) And the punishment shall be averted from her should she give four testimonies, swearing by God that he is among the liars, (9) and the fifth that God’s Wrath shall come upon her if he is among the truthful. (24:6-9)

This verse is used to deduce [a ruling] by some here, and it seems to me that it is a deduction that is strange and not clear at all. The most that the verse—which is talking about the jurisprudence of Mulāʿana—indicates is that he who accuses his wife of zinā (unlawful sexual intercourse) and has no witness but himself, must have four testimonies that he is truthful in what he claims, then testify a fifth testimony that the curse of God be upon him if he is lying; and the same for the woman, i.e the accused wife does the opposite of this, to avert herself of the punishment of zinā, by having four testimonies that he is lying in what he says, then testifying a fifth that the wrath of God be upon her if the husband is being truthful in his claim. This is why the verse uses the expression ‘wrath’ here and ‘curse’ there. This affirms what we said and what the linguists said in that cursing (laʿn) originally [meant] expulsion in the face of displeasure and anger. Consequently, this verse indicates that a human cursed himself in a discretionary manner in a specific situation of a specific judicial nature. And there is not an equivalent for it in Islamic, Qurʿānic, judicial jurisprudence at all. So how could we take away the permissibility of a human cursing himself in a situation other than this, from this verse?! Rather, how could we take away the permissibility of a human cursing another human from this?! Let alone deriving its obligation or recommendation.


﴿وَقَالَ إِنَّمَا اتَّخَذْتُمْ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ أَوْثَانًا مَوَدَّةَ بَيْنِكُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ثُمَّ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يَكْفُرُ بَعْضُكُمْ بِبَعْضٍ وَيَلْعَنُ بَعْضُكُمْ بَعْضًا وَمَأْوَاكُمُ النَّارُ وَمَا لَكُمْ مِنْ نَاصِرِينَ﴾

And Abraham said, “You have taken idols apart from God on account of affection between you in the life of this world. Then on the Day of Resurrection you will disown one another, and you will curse one another; your refuge will be the Fire, and you will have no helpers.” (29:25)

However we interpret this verse, whether with cursing as an act or as a verbal supplication, this verse reports information that they will do this to each other in the hereafter. How far is this from us ruling that it is permissible in this world for the Muslim to curse the disbeliever or to curse another Muslim? Rather, the verse is expressing the poorness of their situation on the Day of Judgement, wherein they reject one another or supplicate against one another. Is it understood from this tragic and eloquent picture that the Qurʿān here seeks to rule—even if by an binding indication—that it is permissible to curse them in this world, or that it is recommended or obligatory?! Do the jurists conclude this from such a verse?! Even if this conclusion was correct, it is specific to the worshippers of idols or the disbelievers in general as is evident, and the permissibility of cursing other than them cannot be derived, let alone its recommendation.


﴿إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَكْتُمُونَ مَا أَنْزَلْنَا مِنَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَالْهُدَى مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا بَيَّنَّاهُ لِلنَّاسِ فِي الْكِتَابِ أُولَئِكَ يَلْعَنُهُمُ اللَّهُ وَيَلْعَنُهُمُ اللَّاعِنُونَ﴾

Truly those who conceal what We have sent down of clear proofs and guidance—after We made it clear to mankind in the Book—are those who are cursed by God and cursed by the cursers (2:159)

It may be imagined that this verse suggests the existence of cursers in the sense of the widespread cursing that is common today. However this meaning is unclear. For if we appeal to the linguistic indication, then it means that God expelled them from His mercy. Likewise, there are also those who expel and curse; they exercise the act of expelling them from mercy—this may be from the angels. The verse may have the Day of Judgement in mind. Yet, even if it indicated the verbal supplicatory act [of cursing], it would be specific to those who conceal the religion and clear proofs, not general. It also does not clarify the limits of cursing, but rather, the ascertained minimum (al-qadr al-mutayaqqan) may be that it is [limited to] non-Muslims. This is because it took place in the context of the People of the Book. In summary, the most that can be derived from this verse is that there are some individuals whose identities we don’t know—they may be from the angels—who exercise the act of cursing for those who conceal the religion. And there is no evidence that this cursing is a verbal supplication. In fact, it may be an actual curse through the impact of their expulsion from divine mercy. So how can we use this verse to deduce the permissibility of cursing, let alone its recommendation?!


﴿لُعِنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ عَلَى لِسَانِ دَاوُودَ وَعِيسَى ابْنِ مَرْيَمَ ذَلِكَ بِمَا عَصَوْا وَكَانُوا يَعْتَدُونَ (٧٩) كَانُوا لَا يَتَنَاهَوْنَ عَنْ مُنْكَرٍ فَعَلُوهُ لَبِئْسَ مَا كَانُوا يَفْعَلُونَ﴾

Those who disbelieved among the Children of Israel were cursed by the tongue of David and Jesus son of Mary. That was because they disobeyed and used to transgress. (79) They would not forbid one another from the wrong they committed. Evil indeed is that which they used to do. (5:78-79)

This verse may [refer to] cursing in the sense of a supplication for [someone’s] expulsion from mercy, and it may be that they were expelled by these two prophets physically via the tongue. For when you say ‘leave the gathering’ to someone, you curse them with your tongue. So if we overlook the problems of these two possibilities, the most that can be derived from this verse is that it is declaring and reporting information about the cursing, by these two prophets, of the Children of Israel because of their disobedience, after their description in the beginning of the verse as ‘those who disbelieved’. Thus, it does not indicate anything broader than the cursing of the disbelievers. Moreover, the cursing by the tongue of David doesn’t necessarily mean that he said: ‘O God curse them’. Rather, it may mean that he said: ‘O God inflict a punishment upon them’, exactly as it took place with other prophets who cursed their people with different expressions. Namely, they turned to God in supplication to inflict punishment upon them and expel them from His mercy, as the Qurʿān narrates to us in the story of Noah, peace be upon him, so this is nothing new and different. In fact, on the contrary, the verse declares that the content of the supplication is a curse, because it is a supplication for punishment and expulsion from mercy. In conclusion, the most that can be derived from this verse is a curse was issued by prophets against some of the disbelievers among the Children of Israel. Based on [the principle of] the presumption of continuity (istiṣḥāb)[10] of the law on our behalf, it may be possible to prove the permissibility of cursing the disbelievers with this verse. However, it is not possible to prove the permissibility of cursing others, such as Muslims. In addition, since the verse is reporting (ikhbār) the occurrence of this cursing, it does not clarify its origin, so it may be after despairing about their guidance, as in the case of Noah. Therefore, we can’t extract an unrestricted (iṭlāqī) indication from it such that we can rely on it to clarify the general legal position on cursing. For it suggests the permissibility of cursing some of the disbelievers and not all of them in general, unless we take the subsequent explanatory context.


﴿وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لَكَ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ أَحَاطَ بِالنَّاسِ وَمَا جَعَلْنَا الرُّؤْيَا الَّتِي أَرَيْنَاكَ إِلَّا فِتْنَةً لِلنَّاسِ وَالشَّجَرَةَ الْمَلْعُونَةَ فِي الْقُرْآَنِ وَنُخَوِّفُهُمْ فَمَا يَزِيدُهُمْ إِلَّا طُغْيَانًا كَبِيرًا﴾

And [remember] when We said unto thee, “Surely thy Lord encompasses mankind.” We did not ordain the vision that We showed thee, save as a trial for mankind, and the Accursed Tree in the Quran. And We inspire fear in them, but it increases them in naught but great rebellion. (17:60)

This verse indicates that there is a tree, no matter what it is—is it the tree of Adam which he was commanded to stay away from and became expelled [due to], such that the tree became a trial for him and for humanity. Or does it refer to the Tree of Banī Umayya which is indicated by some narrations among both the Sunna and the Shīʿa. Or does it refer to the tree of Zaqqūm springing out at the bottom of Hell, as many exegetes believes, which is devoid of all goodness and has nothing in it except evil, and hence accursed for this reason. Or does it refer to the disbelievers, or does it refer to the Jews specifically, or is it other than that which the exegetes have said—that there is an Accursed Tree in the Qurʿān and here:

  1. a) Sometimes, we refer the preposition phrases (al-jār wa al-majrūr) in the Qurʿān to the ism al-mafʿūl which is ‘accursed’ (الْمَلْعُونَةَ), so the meaning becomes: the tree that was cursed in the Qurʿān, and thus the exegetes were bewildered and lost in searching for this curse in the Qurʿān. Some of them even deemed this evidence of the distortion of the Qurʿān, since they pointed out that there is no tree, which God has said is accursed, in the Qurʿān which is in our hands.
  2. b) Other times, we refer it to the verb (جَعَلْنَا), so the meaning would be: we did not place the Accursed Tree in the Qurʿān except as a trial, meaning that we did not mention this Tree—which is accursed in and of itself—in the Qurʿān except as a trial. Therefore, there is fundamentally no cursing of this tree here in the Qurʿān—rather the tree is intrinsically cursed—however the tree itself is mentioned, not the cursing of the tree, so pay close attention. I don’t want to go into the exegesis of this verse, because the discussion would take us too long, and thus I only take the possible interpretations which relate to the subject of our discussion only (excluding the estimated interpretation that many have chosen which is: the tree is cursed to eat from, and it is the tree of Zaqqūm).

In the first proposition, the Qurʿān is cursing this tree, and the cursing of the Qurʿān must be a verbal curse. If we interpret the tree [as referring to] Banī Umayya, then their tree becomes cursed in the Qurʿān, and it is possible to understand from that—by joining the verse to the Ḥadīth—that it is permissible to curse Banī Umayya, but nothing more than that is understood and neither [is it permissible] to curse anyone outside of Banī Umayya except with some other evidence. This is based on the presumption that the intended meaning of the tree is Banī Umayya and not the other possibilities. And this is based on the presumption of the correlation between the Qurʿān cursing someone and us cursing them.

However, in the second proposition, there is fundamentally no tree that has been cursed in the Qurʿān. Yes, there is a tree that God cursed and expelled, however it was not verbally cursed in the Qurʿān. As such, it is difficult to derive a legal ruling then from this verse in relation to cursing. Rather, this verse becomes like the verses of the first group which are of a purely narrative and declarative (khabarī) nature.


Therefore, there isn’t a single verse in the Qurʿān which relates to the legal (sharʿī) ruling on the issue of cursing (laʿn), except the final two verses from the second group to the extent that we have outlined, and not more than that. For in the furthest assessment—regardless of what we have clarified about some debates on this—they suggest the permissibility of cursing some of the disbelievers, not its recommendation, let alone its obligation. As for cursing Banī Umayya, the evidence for it is not purely Qurʿānic. Rather, it is through the ḥadīth that clarifies to us that the intended meaning of this Accursed Tree is the tree of Banī Umayya. So whosoever accepts these aḥādīth can rely on this information as composite evidence from the Book and Sunna together, not a pure Qurʿānic evidence as is obvious. Thus, the cursing of other than the disbeliever (in certain places) is not mentioned in the Qurʿān. Consequently, to derive the permissibility of cursing in any other scope, it is necessary either to refer to aṣl al-barāʾa, when there is no prohibitory evidence—in which case it only suggests its permissibility without recommendation or obligation—or to refer to other evidences from narrations and ḥadīths. And proving the initial permissibility or recommendation [of cursing] is not confined to the texts that mention the word cursing (laʿn). Rather, it is possible to refer to texts whose content contains the notion of cursing. For example, the Imam used to say ‘O God don’t forgive the sin of so and so’ or ‘O God make him taste the heat of hellfire’, as it has actually been mentioned in some narrations. Thus, these must also be included in the texts on cursing in order to [holistically] discover the legal (sharʿī) position from their entirety as well as its limits within the framework of evidence of the Noble Sunna, while taking into account the rules of ḥadīth criticism, the criteria for its authenticity and the extent to which contradictory evidence exists—the details of which you can refer to in its own suitable place.

This study originally written by Shaykh Haidar Hobbollah in Arabic and translated into English by Shayan (Shayan is an MPhil student in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge, interested in Islamic thought, theology and intellectual history).



[1] An expression used by pre-Islamic (jāhilīyya) Arabs to greet Kings

[2] al-Farāhīdī, Kitāb al-ʿAyn, vol. 2, pp.141-142.

[3] al-Jawharī, al-Ṣiḥāḥ, vol. 6, p.2196.

[4] Meaning to curse one another. See al-Jawharī, al-Ṣiḥāḥ, vol. 4, pp.1642-1643 under (بهل); See al-Ṭabāṭabāʾī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān, Chapter 3, Verses 61-63 for more on the event of Mubāhala.

[5] Ibn Fāris, Muʿjam Maqāyīs al-Lugha, vol. 5, pp.252-253.

[6] Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān al-ʿArab, vol. 13, p.387.

[7] al-Fīrūzābādī, Qāmūs al-Muḥīṭ, vol. 4, p.267

[8] Meaning those verses that merely narrate information and facts

[9] A legal ruling pertaining to a duty or responsibility; either obligatory, recommended, permitted, disliked or prohibited.

[10] Istiṣḥāb, or the ‘presumption of continuity’ is one of the four major ‘procedural principles’ in uṣūl al-fiqh (legal theory) that are used to determine what legal obligations an individual has in a situation of doubt. According to the principle, the individual assumes that the previously existing situation continues until proven otherwise.

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