Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Question: Is it wrong to invoke the curse of Allah upon disbelievers? Is it wrong to call the people of the book disbelievers in general? Are there specific cases of disbelief among them?
Answer: In the name of Allah, Most Merciful.
Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh
It is permitted to curse the unbelievers and the sinful in general, though not specifically, except those about whom it is certainly known that they died in a state of disbelief.
Ibn Abidin states in his Radd al-Muhtar [al-Hashiya]:
“The reality of cursing (la`n) is to distance from Mercy, which cannot be for other than an unbeliever (kafir).
“Because of this, it is not permitted to curse a particular individual, unless it is known that they died in a state of disbelief, with proof. [It remains impermissible to curse an individual person] even if they were openly corrupt, like Yazid, according to the relied upon scholarly opinion.
As for Iblis (Satan), and the likes of Abu Jahl [f: who we know are in the Fire], it is permitted to curse them.
“It is also permitted to curse non-specific individuals, such as wrongdoers and liars, because what is understood is these people as a category, and it necessarily includes those who shall die in disbelief. In such cases, the purpose of cursing would be to show that such a trait is a trait of unbelievers, in order to warn and keep people away from it. One may not intend to curse everyone of such a group, because if cursing one particular individual, such as a given wrongdoer, is not permitted, then how would cursing every single oppressor be allowed?” [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, 3.416, K: al-Talaq, B: al-Raj`a]
As for cursing a particular believer, it is a major sin, as mentioned by Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami in his work on major sins. [Haytami, al-Zawajir `an Iqtiraf al-Kaba’ir, 2.93]
The Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace)
As for cursing the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), this is even more grave, and the one who openly does so deserves condemnation, reprimand and even punishment.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, in a rigorously authenticated hadith, related by both Bukhari and Muslim, “Do not insult my companions, for, by Allah, if any of you gave gold the extent of Mount Uhud in charity, you would not reach even a handful or even half a handful [of what they did].” [Bukhari, Muslim, and others]
So What About Mu`awiya?
The position of Sunni Islam is that it is impermissible (haram) to denigrate Mu`awiya (Allah be pleased with him), because, as Imam `Illish al-Maliki (Allah have mercy on him) said, quoting Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani (Allah have mercy on him):
“It is not permitted to denigrate Mu`awiya, because he was a major Companion. It is not permitted to curse Yazid nor to declare him an unbeliever, for he is one of the believers [f: and the Sunni position is that works alone, however grave, do not make one an unbeliever, but rather disbelief itself, or that which entails explicit disbelief]. Rather, we assign his affairs to Allah; if He wills, He will punish him, as stated by Ghazali, Mutawalli, and others.
“Imam Ghazali and others [f: including the top Hanafi imams, as recorded in Ibn Abidin’s Radd al-Muhtar] stated, ‘It is impermissible (haram) for preachers and others to transmit the killing of Husayn (Allah be pleased with him) and to talk [at length] about it… for it can stir up dislike for the Companions and their denigration, and they are the greatest notables of this religion, from whom the imams took the religion by transmission, and we took it from these imams through understanding. Thus, the ones who denigrate them are themselves denigrated, and only denigrate themselves and their own religiousness.’ This is the end of the meaning of what the great hadith master Ibn Hajar [al-Asqalani] said.” [`Illish, Fath al-`Aliyy al-Malik, 2.353]
A person is either a believer (muslim) or a disbeliever (kafir). Simple. The People of the Book do not believe in that which Allah has made it obligatory to believe in since the sending of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), so they are disbelievers (kafirs) too.