The Ruling of Cursing a Fāsiq

Often, a believer is seized by his desire to defend the faith, when he is presented in his daily life with violation of the sanctity of Islamic law by the fāsiqūn [1] and others. The majority of the time, his tongue is taken up with cursing the one who violates these sacred limits, along with making du‘ā against that person. And this cursing is done in order to cure the anger in his chest which he is faced with due to his inability to change their actions or to reprimand them for doing so, except for launching his tongue into the curse which was previously mentioned.

So, is it allowed for the obedient Muslim to curse the one who causes pain by disobeying Allah?

This question is answered in this treatise, in the following parts:

Part One: The definition of cursing, linguistically and technically

Part Two: The general ruling of cursing

Part Three: The ruling of cursing a virtuous believer

Part Four: The ruling of cursing the fāsiqūn, without specifying an individual

Part Five: The ruling of cursing an individual fāsiq

Part Six: Discussion, Weighing the Opinions, and Conclusion

Part One: The definition of cursing, linguistically and technically

Cursing, linguistically:

The original meaning of cursing in the Arabic language: Expulsion as a matter of indignation, or repulsion and exclusion from good, which are both the same in meaning. However, the meaning may differ depending on the one who is pronouncing the curse:

• If the curse is from Allah the Exalted in the hereafter, then it refers to punishment and torment.

• If it is from Allah, glory be to Him, in this world, then it refers to being cut off from His mercy and the success that He gives.

• If it is from a person, then it refers to an invocation against someone else.

• It could come from a person, with the meaning of an insult to someone else.

That which particularly relates to this treatise is a person cursing another person, either meaning an invocation against someone that they be excluded and expelled from the mercy of Allah, according to the most severe meaning, or simply as an insult, according to what was mentioned by Ibn Mandhūr, but in a manner suggesting that it was not authentic.

The technical definition of cursing.

In Al-Mufhim by al-Qurtubi, he says:

It (i.e., cursing) is, according to Islamic law: Being far from the mercy of Allah the Exalted and the recompense of His Hellfire and punishment.

Ibn ‘Ābdiīn defined it, narrating from al-Quhustāni[2] , saying:

According to Islamic law, with regard to the non-Muslims: Being expelled from the mercy of Allah, and with regard to the believers: Falling from the level of the righteous.

Part Two: The general ruling of cursing

In order to know the general ruling of cursing and the ruling of it being pronounced on the tongue of a believer, we cite some of the texts found in this regard:

1. Ibn Mas‘ūd said that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“…A believer is not a person who frequently curses others.”

2. Abu Hurayra said that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“It is not befitting for a righteous person to frequently curse others.”

3. Abu ad-Dardā’ said that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“Those who curse will not be witnesses, nor intercessors, on the Day of Judgment.”

4. Abu Barza al-Aslami said:

“Whilst a female servant was riding on a camel, carrying some of the people’s things, and she recognized the Prophet (pbuh), and the mountain way became narrow, she said [to the camel]: ‘Go on, Go on, O Allah curse it!’ The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “No camel which has been cursed should accompany us.”

5. Ibn ‘Abbās said that the wind was pulling at a man’s lower garment, during the time of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), so he cursed the wind. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“Do not curse it, for it is commanded and subjugated, and whoever curses something that does not deserve it, the curse returns upon him.”

From these hadīth, we can extract the following rulings:

1. That a great deal of cursing is not from the characteristics of the righteous believers.

2. That is not permissible to curse riding animals.

3. That cursing is something very dangerous. If a person curses any single thing, and that thing is not deserving of being cursed, the curse returns to him, so it is necessary to be extremely cautious in this matter.

Part Three: The ruling of cursing a virtuous believer

The meaning of a virtuous believer here is one that does not set about doing forbidden things, as far as we can see, and is not known for openly committing sins. In order to clarify the ruling of cursing him, we cite the following texts;

1. Allah the Exalted said:

And those who harm believing men and believing women for [something] other than what they have earned have certainly born upon themselves a slander and manifest sin. [3]

2. Thābit bin ad-Dahhāk said that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“Cursing a believer is like killing them.”

3. ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr said that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“Indeed, from the major sins is for a man to curse his parents…”

4. Salama bin al-Akwa’ said:

“If we saw a man curse his brother, we used to hold the opinion that he has committed a form of major sin.”

The following can be extracted from these texts:

1. That cursing a Muslim who has not committed an apparent wrongdoing is a great sin.

2. That cursing a virtuous Muslim is a crime, equal to the crime of killing them.

3. That cursing a virtuous Muslim is sin from the major sins .[4]

Many scholars transmitted ijmā’ [scholarly consensus] that it is forbidden to curse a virtuous believer:
An-Nawawi said:

“Know that cursing a virtuous Muslim is forbidden by consensus of the scholars”

Ibn Taymiyya said:

“Consensus is established that it is forbidden to curse an individual from the people of virtue.”

Part Four: The ruling of cursing the fāsiqūn, without specifying an individual

Many texts have come to us allowing cursing the fāsiqūn without mentioning a particular individual; those who are described with blameworthy characteristics according to Islam, like disbelief, oppression, lying, and other things whose prohibition is confirmed. These are some of the texts in this regard:

1.

So let the Curse of Allah be on the disbelievers.[5]

2.

Unquestionably, the curse of Allah is upon the wrongdoers.[6]

3.

Then supplicate earnestly [together] and invoke the curse of Allah upon the liars [among us].[7]

There are dozens of other āyāt in the Quran in this regard. As for the Sunna, there are also many ahādīth which clarify the permissibility of cursing those who acquire some of the attributes of disobedience and evil-doing. From these narrations:

1. Ibn ‘Umar said:

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “Allah has cursed the woman who attaches false hair, and the woman who has this done, and the woman who tattoos and the woman who gets a tattoo.”

2. Abu Hurayrah t reported that the Prophet (pbuh) said:

“The thief is cursed. He steals an egg and so his hand is cut off, or he steals a rope and so his hand is cut off.”

3. Ibn ‘Umar said:

“The Prophet (pbuh) cursed the one who mutilates a [living] animal.”

4. Ibn ‘Abbās said:

“The Prophet (pbuh) cursed the men who make themselves resemble women and the women who make themselves resemble men.”

5. Jābir bin ‘Abdullah said:

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “Allah has cursed the one who receives usury and the one who pays it, the witnesses to the contract, and the one who writes the contract for it; they are all equal.”

6. ‘Ali bin Abi Tālib said:

I heard the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) say: “Allah has cursed the one who sacrifices to other than Allah; Allah has cursed the one who shelters a criminal; Allah has cursed the one who curses his parents; Allah has cursed the one who alters the landmarks [8].”

These are in addition to many other narrations in which the perpetrators of major sins are cursed generally according to their description, not against one particular person. These characteristics reach more than eighty in number.

The following rulings can be extracted from these texts:

1. The āyāt inform us of the permissibility of cursing without cursing a specific person, rather due to a particular characteristic, whether the cursed are from the disbelievers or not.

2. In the ahādīth we find the permissibility of cursing the disobedient from amongst the Muslims, without mentioning a specific person.

For details on this, we leave it to Imam al-Ghazāli, since he came to an excellent and beneficial conclusion as to the ruling.
Imam al-Ghazāli said:

“The characteristics which call for cursing are three: Disbelief, innovation and evil-doing. In each of these three, cursing is of three levels:
Firstly: Cursing according to the most general of characteristics, such as saying: ‘May Allah’s curse be upon the disbelievers, the innovators, and the evil-doers’.
Secondly: Cursing according to the characteristics which are more specific, such as saying: ‘May Allah’s curse be upon the Jews, the Christians, and the Magi, and upon the Qadariyya, the Khawārij and the Rāfida, and upon the fornicators, the oppressors, and those who devour usury’.
All of this is permissible. However, there is danger in cursing the innovators, since the knowledge of innovation is obscure, and there is no narrated text defining it. Therefore, the ordinary people should be forbidden from doing so, since this calls to replying in kind and creates conflict between the people and corruption.
Thirdly: Cursing a specific individual; this is disputable.”

3. The matter of the permissibility of cursing the disobedient without mentioning specific people is something which the scholars have no disagreement about. Al-Haythami reported scholarly consensus on the matter, saying:

“As for cursing which is not against specific individuals, but is only designated by a certain characteristic, such as ‘May Allah curse those who lie’, this is permissible by scholarly consensus.”

Ibn al-‘Arabi – the Māliki scholar – preceded him in transmitting the consensus, saying:

“As for cursing the disobedient generally, this is permissible by scholarly consensus.”

Part Five: The ruling of cursing an individual fāsiq

This is the main point of the treatise. The scholars disagreed about it, forming two groups. This is a presentation of the details of their opinions in this matter:
The First Group
The majority of scholars of the Hanafi, Māliki, Shāfi‘i and Hanbali schools of thought, took the position that it is impermissible to curse a particular fāsiq. Here are some of their quotes:
In Hāshiyat ibn ‘Ābdiīn by Ibn al-‘Arabi:

“It is not permissible to curse an individual when there is no proof that they will die upon disbelief, even if they are a reckless evil-doer.”

In Ahkām-ul-Qur’ān by Ibn al-‘Arabi:

“As for the individual sinner, it is not permissible to curse him, by agreement [of the scholars].”

In Az-Zawājir by Ibn Hajar al-Haytami:

We do not have any legitimate purpose whatsoever which makes cursing a Muslim permissible, then there is the matter of the prohibition of cursing if it is against an individual, since it is not permissible to curse an individual, even if he is a disobedient evil-doer.

In Minhāj-us-Sunna by Ibn Taymiyya:

As for what he reported from Ahmad, the authentic quote from Ahmad, from the narration of Sālih [9] is that he said when upon being asked: “Do you not curse Yazīd [bin Mu‘āwiya]?” He replied: “When have you seen your father curse anyone?” and it is also authentically reported from him that when Al-Hajjāj and similar tyrants are mentioned to a man and he wants to curse, he should say: “Unquestionably, the curse of Allah is upon the oppressors” and he detested that an individual be cursed by name.

These people used the following as a proof for their opinion:

1. ‘Umar bin Al-Khattāb said that a man at the time of the Prophet (pbuh), called ‘Abdullah, was known by the nickname ‘donkey’ and he used to make the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) laugh. The Prophet (pbuh) had ordered him whipped for drinking alcohol. One day he brought him and ordered that he be whipped. A man from the people said: “O Allah curse him! How often he is brought here!” The Prophet (pbuh) said:

“Do not curse him. For by Allah, I know only that he loves Allah and His Messenger.”

The proof in the text is that the Prophet (pbuh) forbade them from cursing the one who repeatedly drinks alcohol, and informed them that he loves Allah and His Messenger, and in another narration:

“Do not help the devil against your brother.”

Thus confirming the sanctity of brotherhood, and this necessitates the forbidding of cursing. Similarly, this is understood from helping the devil overcome a fāsiq, who we have been told to pray for his guidance, not for him to be expelled from the mercy of Allah, so that the devil becomes successful because of it. All of this is when the word ‘curse’ refers to being excluded from Allah’s mercy.

2. Ibn Taymiyyah said in explaining the meaning of the previous hadīth:

“The Prophet (pbuh) forbade cursing this individual who used to repeatedly drink alcohol, explaining the reason that he loves Allah and His Messenger, despite the fact that the Prophet (pbuh) cursed the one who drinks alcohol, in a general sense. This proves that it is permissible to curse something generally, but not to curse an individual person who loves Allah and His Messenger. And it is well known that every believer must love Allah and His Messenger.”

3. Praying against a Muslim that they be excluded from Allah’s mercy contains a great danger. Its meaning is to pray to Allah that he makes that fāsiq stay firm upon his evil-doing, which is something which is impermissible, because the person praying is content with the other’s disobedience, and being content with disobedience and evil-doing is not permissible.

4. That which has preceded in the second part about the danger of cursing and that doing it regularly is not from the characteristics of the believers, and that if the slave curses something which is not deserving of being cursed, the curse returns to them, and that if the person remains silent from cursing someone in which he doesn’t miss out on anything good, then being silent is more deserving.

5. That the permissibility of cursing a particular disobedient individual is connected to two matters: Firstly, confirmation that the person is from the defiantly disobedient oppressors for whom cursing them is permissible. Secondly, confirmation that the person died while remaining in that state. These two matters are very difficult to ascertain, since for the sin which is deserving cursing, the reason which makes it so may be invalidated by something which overcomes it, such as repentance, or good deeds which erase it, or troubles which expiate it, and from what source can a person know whether these things have happened or not?!

6. That most of the Muslims are not free from committing sins and injustice against others. Therefore, if the door is opened for cursing the fāsiq, it would be valid to curse most of the dead Muslims, and Allah, the Exalted, has ordered us to pray for blessings upon the dead Muslims, not to curse them. Similarly, the Prophet r forbade insulting the dead.

The Second Group

On the other hand, a group of the scholars held the opinion that it is permissible to curse an individual fāsiq, according to the following breakdown:

1. The permissibility of cursing the individual fāsiq, yet it being disliked to do so. This is the well known opinion reported from Al-Imām Ahmad, as Ibn Taymiyyah mentioned. This was the position of Al-Imām Al-Bukhari when he entitled the chapter containing the hadīth of the one who was nicknamed ‘donkey’ and drank alcohol, saying:

“The chapter of what is disliked of cursing the drinker of alcohol, and that [the drinker of alcohol] is not outside of the religion.”

2. The permissibility of cursing the individual fāsiq, as long as the prescribed punishment has not been carried out. But if the prescribed punishment is carried out, it is not permissible to curse him. It is an opinion which Al-Qādi ‘Iyād narrated but did not favour. Al-Qurtubi narrated it and did not mention who’s opinion it was, although he seemed to favour it, since he said:

“[One or more] of the scholars mentioned a difference in the matter of cursing the disobedient individual, saying: The Prophet (pbuh) only said: ‘Do not be helpers of the devil against your brother’ with regard to Nu’aymān, after the prescribed punishment had been carried out, and it is not correct to curse the one who has had the punishment carried out on them. As for the one who the punishment has not been carried out on, it is permissible to curse them, whether they are named and designated or not, since the Prophet (pbuh) did not curse anyone except for the deserving of being cursed, while they remain in that state which deserves cursing. Therefore, if they repent from it and leave it, and the prescribed punishment purifies them, then there is no curse which is directed towards them. This is clarified by the Prophet’s statement (pbuh): ‘If a slave girl of yours fornicates, let him scold her according to the prescribed punishment and not rebuke her.’ So, this hadīth, along with its authenticity, is a proof that rebuke and cursing can only take place before the prescribed punishment is carried out, and before repentance, and Allah knows best.”

3. The permissibility of cursing the one who is famous for their fisq and is outspoken in doing so, especially if their harm is clear and their oppression of the Muslims obvious. Al-Hāfidh Ibn Hajar mentioned this opinion in Al-Fath.

4. The unrestricted permissibility of cursing the individual fāsiq. This is the opinion of some of the Shāfi’īs [10] and some of the Hanbalis [11], and it is attributed to al-Hasan al-Basri [12].

The proof of those who allowed cursing an individual fāsiq:

Those who allowed the cursing an individual fāsiq used the following proofs as evidence for their opinion:

1. Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“If a man calls his wife to bed [for intercourse] and she refuses, and he sleeps while angry with her, the angels curse her until morning.”

The proof in the text is that the hadīth contains the cursing of an individual woman, since the pronoun in “curse her” is specific to the woman which refuses her husband’s advances, and this must involve describing her in some way, either by her name, such as “O Allah curse such-and-such a woman who refuses”, or by indicating her, such as “this woman who refuses.” The angel in this case is the curser and they are infallible, and following the example of one who is infallible is permitted, and the matter of discussion is regarding the permissibility of cursing the individual whilst they are present.

2. Jābir bin ‘Abdullah said that the Prophet (pbuh) came across a donkey that had been branded on its face, and said:

“May Allah curse the one who branded it.”

The proof in the text is even more explicit than that which preceded it, with regard to cursing the individual, since the curse of the Prophet (pbuh) was directed towards the person who branded the donkey.

3. The permissibility of Al-Li’ān [13] between the two spouses. This contains cursing an individual.

4. The permissibility of Al-Mubāhalah [14] , which also contains cursing an individual.

A group of the scholars tried to reconcile the opinion of those who allowed cursing an individual fāsiq and those who prevented it, by saying that those who permitted it only intended the customary meaning, or one of the linguistic meanings, namely a general insult, or expulsion from the level of the pious, or emphasizing harshness in the matter, as was mentioned by Ibn Hajar Al-‘Asqalāni, and Ibn Hajar Al-Haytami, and Ibn ‘Ābidīn, and that which they mentioned would be valid and would end the conflict in opinions between the two groups, if it were that the scholars of the opinion that it is permissible to curse the individual fāsiq had specified that they intended the meaning of a general insult and that they didn’t mean expulsion and exclusion from the mercy of Allah. However, they did not mention this in any of the books which transmitted their opinions!

Part Six: Discussion, Weighing the Opinions, and Conclusion

According to what has preceded, the problem in cursing an individual fāsiq remains.
That which appears to me to be correct, after all of the evidences and opinions which have preceded:
The permissibility of cursing the fāsiq who is outspoken in his disobedience, despite being disliked to do so, however with the following conditions:

1. That the action which deserves cursing be a heinous sin, so it is not permissible to curse the one who does small sins by mistake, or the one who perseveres upon them, yet his obedience is greater than his small sins, since cursing is not authentically reported, except for the one who does the major sins.

2. That the fāsiq openly commits this sin and does not conceal it, since evil towards the people is apparent from him, as well as causing corruption in the religion. As for if he does a major sin in secret, and no one sees it other than one or two people, it is not permissible to defame him by cursing him, because of the opposition in this to the Islamic principle of concealing the faults of others.

3. That the person does not curse a great deal, so that they do not fall into that which is prohibited in cursing.
This choice of opinion is based on the following:

1. The authenticity of cursing the woman who sleeps after having rejected her husband’s advances, and the one who brands the donkey on its face, and the permissibility of cursing in the case of Al-Li’ān, as well as in the case of Al-Mubāhalah between two arguing parties. All of this suggests the permissibility of cursing an individual, and those who prohibited cursing an individual did not reply to the presence of texts cursing these individuals, in a satisfactory manner. Except perhaps what Al-Haytami replied, saying that the Prophet (pbuh) cursing individuals comes under the hadīth: “O Allah! I am a bringer of glad tidings, so whichever of the Muslims I curse or insult, make it a purification and a reward for him.” This answer is somewhat unsatisfactory, since even if it applies to the one who branded the donkey, it does not apply to the one who rejects her husband’s advances, just as it does not apply to Al-Li’ān and Al-Mubāhalah.

2. That Al-Li’ān contains the explicit wording of a curse, and it is deserved by either the husband or wife. Nobody has said that the liar in this case who deserves the curse is a disbeliever, or that the truthful of the two who has directed a curse to their Muslim partner has fallen into a sin in something which they are truthful about, in fact something which they are ordered to do, because it is an invocation against a husband or wife that they be expelled from the mercy of Allah, and here is the cornerstone, whether in the issue of Al-Li’ān or any other sin which deserves a curse, and it will be explained in the third paragraph:

3. That there is no conflict between cursing an individual fāsiq and the general Islamic rights of the Muslims; of brotherhood, compassion, and sincere advice. In this regard Shaykh-ul-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah says:

“Those from Ahl-us-Sunnah who held it permissible to curse the individual fāsiq say: It is permissible for me to invoke blessings upon him and to curse him, since he is deserving of reward and deserving of punishment, so invoking blessings upon him is due to his deserving of reward, and his being cursed is due to his deserving of punishment. A curse is being far away from mercy, and invoking blessings upon him is a reason for mercy, so he is shown mercy in a way, and kept away from it in another way.”

4. That the Prophet (pbuh) forbade cursing the virtuous Muslim, and forbade cursing the one from whom the major sin of drinking alcohol was apparent, explaining the reason for forbidding his being cursed that he loves Allah and His Messenger. This is proof that the one who does not treat the sin by being irreverent and outspoken is not to be cursed.

Conclusion of the Treatise

From that which has preceded, one can conclude the following results:

1. That a great deal of cursing is not from the characteristics of the pious, no matter whether this cursing is directed towards a person who deserves it, or doesn’t deserve it, or an animal, inanimate object, or anything else.

2. That cursing a Muslim who has not done a major sin and has not openly committed wrongdoing is forbidden by consensus of the scholars.

3. That cursing the fāsiqūn and the people of sin, in a general way, is permissible by consensus of the scholars, as well.

4. The permissibility of cursing a fāsiq who openly commits major sins which are apparent in their evil and causing corruption, although this is disliked.

5. That praying for the guidance of a fāsiq is more appropriate than cursing them.

1 Translator’s Footnote: Singular: Fāsiq, plurals include Fāsiqūn, Fussāq and Fasaqah; a person guilty of Fisq. Fāsiq is sometimes translated as ‘a defiantly disobedient Muslim’. Linguistically, it refers to “one who goes out from obedience to Allah”, and its technical definition is: “One who is known for doing a major sin, or for persisting upon a minor sin.” See Fat`h-ul-Mughīth (1/287). I have primarily continued with the use of the Arabic word because of its popular use amongst the people and the lack of a simple English term which properly conveys the meaning.

2 Muhammad al-Quhustāni, Shams-ud-Dīn, died 95 AH, was a Hanafi scholar of fiqh and a mufti in Bokhara. He authored several books, including Jāmi’-ur-Rumūz

3 The Quran, Sura al-Ahzāb [33]:58.

4 See: Al-Mufhim by al-Qurtubi (6/579), when he said: “Cursing a believer is from the major sins, since the Prophet r said: ‘Cursing a believer is like killing him’.”

5 The Quran, Sura al-Baqara [2]:89.

6 The Quran, Sura Hūd [11]:18.

7 The Quran, Sura Āli ‘Imrān [3]:61.

8 Translator’s Footnote: i.e., changes a landmark which defines the border of someone’s land in order to unlawfully acquire land that does not belong to them.

9 Sālih bin Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal, Abul-Fadl, (203-66AH) was the oldest of the children of Imam Ahmad. His father used to pray for him a great deal. He was made judge of Asbhān and then Tarsus. He was trustworthy, devout, pious and generous. (See Al-Maqsad al-Arshad fī Dhikri Ashāb al-Imām Ahmad by Ibn Muflih)

10 Namely Sirāj Al-Bulqeenee. This opinion of his was mentioned in Fath ul Bāri 9/206, Al-Futūhāt Ar-Rabbāniyyah 7/61, Rūh-ul-Bayyān by Al-Alūsee 18/128, Az-Zawājir by Ibn Hajar Al-Haytami 2/60.

11 Namely Abul Faraj Ibn Al-Jawzī. See: Al-Ādāb Ash-Shar’iyyah by Ibn Muflih 1/303, and see: Minjāj-us-Sunnah 4/569.

12 See the previous two sources.

13 Translator’s Footnote: Al-Li’ān is described in Surah An-Nūr: “And those who accuse their wives [of adultery] and have no witnesses except themselves – then the witness of one of them [shall be] four testimonies [swearing] by Allah that indeed, he is of the truthful. * And the fifth [oath will be] that the curse of Allah be upon him if he should be among the liars. * But it will prevent punishment from her if she gives four testimonies [swearing] by Allah that indeed, he is of the liars. * And the fifth [oath will be] that the wrath of Allah be upon her if he was of the truthful.” [The Quran, Sura an-Nūr 24:6]

14 The previous reference, 3/416. Al-Mubāhalah means mutual cursing: “It is that a group of people come together if they disagree about something and they say: ‘May Allah’s curse be upon the oppressor from us’” An-Nihāyah by Ibn Al-Athīr, (1/167).