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LA'N, LA'NAH

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

(la'n or la'nah means cursing, normally consists of an expression of disapproval or displeasure and an invocation of malediction upon the object of the curse. Curses are often uttered by calling the curse and wrath of God upon someone, or by an invocation in the passive voice where the agent is not always specified, for example: may God's curse be upon him; may he be cursed. Curses are often expressed by verbs with an optative sense, with "to curse, damn" (la'ana) appearing most frequently in the Koran. Other verse which may be read as curses are: "May God fight against them!" (9:30, 63:4), "May their hands be tied and may they be cursed for what they have said!" (5:64), "May the hands of Abu Lahab perish, and may he perish as well!" (111:1). The passive qutila (may he be killed!) occurs five times (51:10, 74:19,20; 80:17:85:4). The accusative absolute understood to modify a suppressed verb may also express a curse: "May perdition befall them" (fa-ta'san la-hum), and may (God) make their actions vain!" (47:8), "May the denizens of hell-fire be far removed (from mercy)!" (fa suhqan li-ashabi l'sa'ir) (67:11), May the wrongdoing folk be far removed!" (fa-bu'dan lil-qawmi l-zalimin) (23:41). The noun wayl (woe, misfortune) also appears in such frequent curses as "Woe to the deniers on that day!" occurring ten times in the 77th sura. God most often performs the act of cursing. He has cursed Satan (4:118), enemies of the faith, such as unbelievers, apostates, hypocrites and those who conceal God's signs (2:88,159' 3:8, 9:6, 33:64) as well as perpetrators of specific legal infractions, such as Sabbath breakers, murderers and those who accuse innocent women for adultery (4:47, 93; 24:23). The divine curse is sometimes associated solely with eternal damnation (4:93, 33:64, 48:6). An incident of cursing in the Islamic history occurred when one of the Prophet's Companions called Khubayb, who had been captured and condemned to death by the disbelievers in Mecca, called out just before he was executed, "O God, count their number and slay them one by one, and let none of them remain alive."

The general rule that the scholars upheld, is that no one, including parents and relatives, whether alive or dead, may be abused by cursing. Maqdisi writes that someone asked the Prophet to call the curse of God upon the polytheists (mushrikun), to which the Prophet said, "I have not been sent to curse. I have been sent only as a mercy." (al-Adab al-Shariyyah, Cairo, 1928, 1, 303).

Maqdisi quotes Abul Hussain al-Basari as having held that cursing is forbidden whether the victim is a particular person or a group of people (Ibid. 1:306). It is thus concluded that cursing a particular individual, even a disbeliever, is unlawful and must be avoided. Sharabasi writes in Min al-Adab al-Nabawiyyah (Cairo, 1971, p. 238) that during the Prophet's period, there was a Muslim known as Nuayman, who used to drink wine and was known for his comic nature. There are reports that he was punished for the wine-drinking more than once and, knowing of this, one of the Companions denounced Nuayman's conduct and cursed him, saying, "May the curse of God be upon him for his frequent deviations." This evoked the following response from the Prophet, who obviously ignored Nuayman's failing on account of his other virtues: "Do not become an ally of Satan against your brother. Do not say this for he loves God and His Prophet." It clearly substantiates the principle that no one, not even an offender, may be cursed or insulted, regardless of whether or not the person in question is guilty or misconduct. Maqdisi (1:312) writes Ibn Abbas as relating that when a man cursed the wind in the presence of the Prophet, he was told "curse not the wind for it is ordained (to take its course). When a person inappropriately curse something, the curse returns to him."


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