The Prophet’s illustrious life was drawing to an end. Subsequent to the Farewell Hajj, in the presence of a significant crowd, Imam Ali, was declared the vicegerent of the Prophet, and the true religion of Islam was perfected, with an accomplishment of completion, sealed with the announcement of the Wilayat of Ali ibne Abu Talib.

The Prophet had invited leaders from across the globe, towards the religion of Islam, with one of his invitations reaching the Christians residing in Najran. On receiving this invitation, in order to determine whether the claim of Prophethood was one of truth or if it was engulfed in falsehood, sixty representatives of Najran, arrived in Madina.
 
In the presence of the Prophet, they were informed of three messages by the Seal of the Prophets. They were:

  • The Oneness of God, as testified by Muslims in the Kalima
  • The Prophethood of H. Muhammed
  • The belief that Prophet Isa was the servant of God, and His messenger, opposed to the belief that Jesus was the son of God.  “Surely the likeness of Isa is with Allah as the likeness of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, Be, and he was.” (3:59)

This verse explains that the likeness of Isa with Allah is as the likeness of Adam. Therefore, as the Christian church argues, if Isa was a son of God because he was born without a father, Adam deserved more to be God or son of God as he came into being without a father and a mother. Allah makes this apparent in this verse.

Despite this sound proof, the Christians stubbornly refused to believe that Jesus was not the son of God. Therefore, the Holy Prophet, invited them to participate in the event of Mubahila, to invoke the curse of Allah upon the liars. The Christians readily agreed.

The purpose of Mubahila was not to present the virtues of the Ahlulbayt, but to show the Christians the matters regarding religion which had led them away from the truth. Yet the actions of the Prophet, bringing Bibi Fatima, Imam Ali, Imam Hassan and Hussain, was to demonstrate to  history that in matters of Tawhid, Nabuwwat, and the Quran, one should turn towards the Panjatan for guidance, and to consolidate  the meaning of the verses of the Holy Quran. Who else to turn to in such matters than the ‘Quran-e-Natiq’, Imam Ali a.s.? Yet, in the events following the Prophet’s demise, the people turned away from the hidden message of Mubahila, and by doing so, rejected the actions of the Holy Prophet.

Yet the Prophet’s action was an order of Allah “call our sons and your sons and our women and your women and ourselves and yourselves” (3:61). This was a evident declaration that in the matter of Prophethood and the Quran, Muslims have need of the authority of the ‘Five Pure Ones’, to clarify the meaning of the Holy Quran for those who did not comprehend. A few months after this event, the demise of the Holy Prophet occurred. On 24th of Zilhajj, it became manifest that in the absence of the Prophet, in matters of religion, the people should turn towards none other than the Panjatan.There are more than 60 references in Ihqaq-ul-Haq, further explaining the relevance of this ayat, regarding the virtues of the Panjatan-e-Pak. The lengthy discussion of this ayat alone forms the basis of extensive commentary. The following is found in the commentary of Agha Pooya:

This verse refers to the well-known event of mubahilah mentioned in every book of history, traditions and tafsir written by Muslim scholars.The Holy Prophet was sending invitations to all to accept the true religion of Allah. Tribe after tribe, region after region, were coming into the fold of Islam. One such invitation was sent to the Christians of Najran, a town in Yemen, in the 9th year of Hijra. A deputation of 60 scholars came to discuss the matter with the Holy Prophet. Abdul Masih, the chief monk, asked him as to who was the father of Isa, thinking that the Holy Prophet would accept (God as the father of Isa. Verse 59 of this surah was revealed and presented to the Christians as a reply but they did not listen to reason. Then this verse was revealed to call them to a spiritual contest by invoking the curse of Allah on the liars mubahilah. The Christians agreed to this contest.

Early next morning, the 24th of the month of Dhilhijjah, the Holy Prophet sent Salman to the selected site, outside the city area, to set up a shelter for those whom he would take with him, as his sons, women and selves. A large number of companions assembled in the masjid, making themselves available for the selection. On the opposite side of the field, selected for the contest, the Christians, with their selected men, women and children appeared on the scene.

At the appointed hour, a huge crowd, standing in wait, saw the Holy Prophet coming in, Imam Husayn in his arms, Imam Hasan holding his index finger, walking beside him, Bibi Fatimah Zahra, close to his heels and Imam Ali just behind her-as his sons, women, and selves. It should be noted that although there was provision for "women" and "selves" the Holy Prophet selected one "woman" and one "self"-Fatimah and Ali, because there was no woman and no man among his followers at that time who could be brought into the contest of invoking the curse of Allah on the liars. They alone were the truthful ones. (see commentary of al Tawbah: 119).
The Holy Prophet raised his hands to the heaven and said:
"O my Lord! These are the people of my house".
The chief monk looked up and down at the faces of the Pure Five (Panjatan Pak), from whom emanated a radiant and brilliant glow; and this sight filled him with awe and anguish. He cried out aloud:
"By Jesus! I see the faces that if they turn upward to the heavens and pray, the mountains shall move. Believers in Jesus of Nazareth, I tell you the truth. Should you fail to come to some agreement with Muhammad, he, along with the godly souls with him, shall wipe out your existence for ever, should they invoke the curse of God on you."

The Christians saw the wisdom of their chief and readily agreed to arrive at a settlement. As there is no compulsion in religion (Baqarah 256), the Holy Prophet gave them complete freedom to practise their faith. He also agreed to protect their lives and possessions; and for this service the Christians consented to pay a nominal fee (Jizya). It was an extraordinary manifestation of the glory of Islam; therefore, the followers of Muhammad and ali Muhammad celebrate this unique blessings of Allah (bestowed on the Ahl ul Bayt) as a "thanksgiving" occasion of great joy and comfort.

Many Muslim scholars, commentators and traditionists whom the ummah acclaim with one voice, have given the details of this event with following conclusions:
(1) The seriousness of the occasion demanded absolute purity, physical as well as spiritual, to take part in the fateful event.
(2) Only the best of Allah's creations (the Ahl ul Bayt) were selected by the Holy Prophet under Allah's guidance.
(3) It, beyond all doubts, established the purity, the truthfulness and the sublime holiness of the Ahl ul Bayt.
(4) It also unquestionably confirmed as to who were the members of the family of the Holy Prophet.
(References:- Mahmud bin Umar Zamakhshari in al Khashshaf; Fakhr al Din al Razi in Tafsir Kabir; Jalal al Din al Suyuti in Tafsir Durr al Manthur; Tafsir Baydawi; Tafsir Nafsi; Tafsir Ibna Kathir; Sahih al Muslim and Sahih al Tirmidhi.)

A very large number of Muslims (and also nonmuslims) witnessed the contest and came to know that Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn were the "Ahlul Bayt" addressed in verse 33 of al Ahzab, known as ayah al tat-hir or the verse of purification.

In this verse, the divine command allows the Holy prophet to take with him "sons", "women" and "selves"; therefore, had there been "women" and "selves" worthy to be selected for this symbolic contest, among his companions, he would certainly have selected them, but as it was seen by one and all, only Fatimah and Ali (and their two sons) were chosen, because none of the anxiously waiting companions (among whom were the three caliphs and the wives of the Holy Prophet) was truthful or so thoroughly purified as to deserve selection for an event which was divinely decreed in order to also make known the true successors of the Holy Prophet.

The word anfus is the plural of nafs which means soul or self. When used in relation to an individual, it implies another being of the same identity with complete unity in equality; therefore, one is the true reflection of the other in thought, action and status, to the extent that at any occasion or for any purpose, any one of them can represent the other. Even if the word nafs is interpreted as "the people", it is clear that Ali alone is "the people" of the Holy Prophet.

After the departure of the Holy Prophet, within a year, the symbolic event of mubahilah was ignored by his followers. The house of Fatimah was set on fire. A well-known companion kicked the door of her house which fell on her. The injury caused by the falling door finally killed her. In view of the following saying (Sahih Bukhari-Vol. 2, page 206) of the Holy Prophet her killer stands condemned for eternity:
"Fatimah is my flesh and blood, whoso causes suffering to her in fact causes suffering to me. He who has pained me in fact has pained Allah; and, indeed, he is a disbeliever", said the Holy Prophet in the light of verse 57 of al Ahzab.

It happened when a large crowd under the leadership of the above said companion came to arrest Ali ibna abi Talib, the nafs of the Holy Prophet, his brother, his vicegerent and his successor, who was deprived of his rightful mission to administer the affairs of the ummah, after the Holy Prophet, so as to enable some to distort and corrupt the true religion of Allah and utilise its name to enforce tyranny, injustice and ignorance of the pagan days. Finally Ali was killed in the masjid of Kufa when he was praying the fajr salat. Imam Hasan was killed by a deadly poison administered by a woman hired by Mu-awiyah bin Abu Sufyan. Imam Husayn, along with his friends and relatives, was killed in the desert of Karbala, by the army of Yazid bin Mu-awiyah, and the ladies and the children of the house of the Holy Prophet were held captive, taken from town to town, tortured and harassed. The body of the martyred Imam was left unburied for several days. The perpetrators of this tyranny and injustice were those who had seen with their own eyes Imam Hasan and Imam Husayn going to the contest with the Holy Prophet as his sons on the day of mabahilah.

The followers of the Ahlul Bayt are on the path of truth, and their enemies are the upholders of falsehood, but strangely so, those who follow the true path are described as dissenters, and on this basis have been harassed, persecuted and killed by those who denied, belied and ignored not only the ayah al mabahilah and ayah al tat-hir but also many such verses of the Quran and clear traditions of the Holy Prophet. The followers of the Ahl ul Bayt have been suffering death and destruction on account of their adherence to the true path, at the hands of the enemies of the Holy Prophet and his holy Ahl ul Bayt, yet they never give up their faith because neither they longed for worldly possessions nor they feared death and destruction, in the true tradition of their Imams.

Aqa Mahdi Puya says:
(1) When reason and facts failed to convince the opponents, the medium of mubahilah (prayer to curse the liars) had to be used. It was a test of the truthfulness of the persons chosen to establish the truth and carry out the divine mission.
(2) The nearest and the dearest have to be exposed to danger.
(3) The nearest and the dearest of a prophet (who has devoted himself and whatever belonged to him to Allah and has been purified from all likes and dislikes based upon self interest, mundane desires and carnal passions) must naturally be of his class and quality in devotion and purification.
(4) According to verse 46 of al Ahzab the Holy Prophet was a summoner unto Allah by His permission; therefore, it was not his choice but Allah's will to summon a certain class of people to invoke the curse of Allah on the liars.
(5) Right from the commencement of his mission to the last moment of his departure from this world, the Holy Prophet called only Ali on all important occasions.
(a) He called the ten year old Ali at the time of making known his mission.
(b) At the time of inviting his tribe to the worship of one Allah, it was the thirteen year old Ali who gave answer to the call of the last prophet of Allah.
(c) At the time of migration from Makka to Madina, he called Ali and asked him to lie down on his bed to face his enemies, who had planned to kill him during that night, and Ali wholeheartedly agreed to give his life to save the messenger of Allah.
(d) It was Ali, who was designated, as his executor of wil1, to return the deposits entrusted by the residents of Makka to the al-amin prophet after the Holy Prophet migrated to Madina.
(e) In the battle of Badr, Ali was asked by him to fight and repulse the hordes of enemy soldiers when many of his companions were quietly watching the fighting from a safe distance.
(f) In the battle of Uhad, when the enemy had an upper hand and the danger to the Holy Prophet's life was imminent, because all his companions had run away from the battlefield and disappeared, it was Ali who stood by the Holy Prophet and brought to naught all the plans of the enemy.
(g) In the battle of Khundaq, Ali was called, as the embodiment of faith to fight against the incarnation of disbelief, Amr bin Abdwud, to win victory for the disheartened Muslims.
(h) In Khaybar, when all the companions of the Holy Prophet tried and failed to subdue the enemy, Ali was called to come to the rescue of the deficient and depressed Muslims and conquer the fort of Khaybar single-handedly.
(i) At the time of going to Tabuk, the Holy Prophet designated Ali, as his vicegerent, to take charge of the affairs in Madina, saying that Ali was to him as Harun was to Musa.
(j) Ali was called to preach the verses of al Barat which contain complete disassociation from idolatry, because only he or the Holy Prophet, according to the command of Allah, were competent to convey them to the people (on account of exact similarity or equality between the two). So Ali went to Makka and relieved Abu Bakr who had earlier been sent to do this job.

Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn, the four thoroughly purified members of the chosen group, were the "selves" of the Holy Prophet, but Hasan and Husayn, the two sons of Ali, as abna-ana (sons), and Fatimah, the wife of Ali, as nisa-ana (women) and Ali himself as anfusana (selves) came out to represent the party of Allah. In Sahih Muslim it is mentioned that at the time of coming out from the canopy, the Holy Prophet looked skyward and said:
"O my Lord, these are my Ahl ul Bayt."
Even Ibna Hazm, a staunch advocate of the Umayyid point of view, has stated that at the time of mubahilah, only Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn came out with the Holy Prophet to take part in the contest.

The enemies of the Ahlul Bayt, true to their policy of ignoring the matchless symbolic glory of the Ahlul Bayt, either have not referred to this event at all, or, in order to play down its fundamental role in determining the true faith, have made evasive attempts to give misleading meanings to some of the words of this verse, such as saying that in Arabic literature nisa has not been used for daughters. It is obvious that their knowledge about the Quran is very limited. In verses 7 to 11 of al Nisa, nisa has been used to refer to daughters. Moreover, Fatimah, in addition to her relationship to the Holy Prophet as his daughter, was also chosen as the wife of Ali, who is the self or soul of the Holy Prophet, in which case the significance of anfusana becomes more subtle, because no wife of the other constituent of anfusana (the Holy Prophet) was found competent to take part in the spiritual contest. In verse 5 of al Tahrim, the almighty Allah says that if the Holy Prophet divorces his wives, the Lord will give him in their stead, wives better than them, which implies that there were women better than his wives, but there was none better than the "pure five", or even equal to them, who could be chosen to become one of the glorious group selected for the mubahilah in spite of the latitude accorded by the plurality permitted by the all-wise Allah. Please refer to the commentary of verse 33 of al Ahzab to ascertain that Ummi Salimah and A-isha so much desired to be taken under the blanket but were refused by the Holy Prophet.

If the bat (a flying mammal) does not like the sunlight, never shall the beauty of the sunshine become dim. Likewise, if the enemies of the Ahlul Bayt try to distort the facts of history, they shall never be able to tarnish the ever bright source of enlightenment and glory which shall radiate its divinely endowed splendour till eternity. In spite of the fact that one woman, one man and two boys were chosen, the plural number is used here, because in this holy house, males and females of the class of this divinely chosen group were born to face the challenge of falsehood in the same manner and style. In Karbala, when falsehood incarnate, in its utmost wickedness, challenged the truth from Allah, Imam Husayn, the surviving member of this group, along with the souls, sons, wives and daughters of this holy house, brought down the curse of Allah upon the liars and their followers, and thus truth won an everlasting victory over falsehood.

In the light of Ahzab: 33, Ali Imran: 61 and Tawbah: 119, Ali ibna abi Talib has said:
I am the sidiq al akbar (the greatest truthful). I am the faruq al azam (the greatest distinguisher between truth and falsehood). He who claims any of these titles (other than me) is the greatest liar.
There was no genuine sidiq al akbar among the Holy Prophet's companions (save Ali), otherwise he would have been selected to accompany him at the time of mubahilah.

Ali was ten years old at the commencement of the Holy Prophet's mission and thirteen at the time of dawat al ashira, and on the occasion of mubahilah, Imam Hasan was six and Imam Husayn was five years old, yet the Lord commanded his messenger to select them for His cause and purpose as He had found in these particular children that which He had noticed in Isa, because of which He bestowed prophethood on him and gave him the book and the wisdom when he was but a baby in the cradle. Although, ordinarily, intellectual maturity, which does not develop fully in children, is essential to shoulder any kind of responsibility, there are persons who are exceptions to the common rule of nature, among whom are the chosen individuals of the house of Ibrahim-Musa, Yahya, Isa, Muhammad, Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn.

The word anfusana (plural of nafs) is used here with reference to the Holy Prophet who summons his "selves" for the spiritual contest. Whoever is identical, physically and spiritually, with the Holy Prophet, is his self or soul. No living being, human or celestial, has ever been exalted to this highest distinction save Ali ibna abi Talib. Whenever the Holy Prophet said something about his companions he did not mention the name of Ali. If asked, "What about Ali?" he used to reply: "You asked about the people, you did not ask about my nafs" Once he told Burayda: "O Burayda, do not oppose Ali, verily, he is of me and I am of him. I and Ali are from the one and the same source, whereas all other people belong to different roots." At the time of sending Ali to preach the first verses of surah al Barat, after cancelling the assignment given to Abu Bakr, the Holy Prophet had told the astonished companions: "I have been commanded by Allah that either I should deliver these verses or he, who is from me and I from him, should be entrusted to recite them to the people." Even Bukhari, who did not want to narrate, as far as possible, any tradition which glorifies Ali, had to helplessly record this event in the chapter of "Manaqib".

As has been said earlier, anfusana also covers Bibi Fatimah (as nisa-ana) and Imam Hasan and Imam Husayn (as abna-ana). Every participant of the contest is the self (or soul) of the Holy Prophet. There are several authentic traditions according to which the Holy Prophet had said:
Fatimah is from me. Whoever annoys her annoys me, or provokes her, provokes me. She is the chief of the women of the worlds. Husayn is of me and I am of Husayn. Hasan and Husayn are the (divinely commissioned) Imams, be they active or silent.
They have been clearly described by the Quran and the Holy Prophet as the people of the house- Ahl ul Bayt. They have been exalted to the highest distinction, beyond the reach of any living being human or celestial.

According to some commentators, the term sahabi (a companion who had heard and saw the Holy Prophet) does not include minors. It is immaterial whether the term sahabi isapplicable to Hasan and Husayn or not because they are the people of the house (Ahl ul Bayt) whose glory and excellence, as made known through ayah al tat-hir and ayah al mubahilah (and other verses of the Quran), are so exalted and sublime, that no sahabi can ever dream of achieving a fraction of the same. A true sahabi ishe who loves them, and the degree of his love and attachment with the Ahlul Bayt defines his nearness to Allah and the Holy Prophet. All sorts of people, good and bad, sincere and hypocritical, were among the companions of the Holy Prophet.