Published on 21st
Hassan Made Peace ..Why Did Imam Hussain Fight?
Ayatollah Dr Sayyid Fadhil H Milani
Approximately fifty years after
the death of the Holy Prophet ('s), Muawiya bin Abu Sufiyan took
his last breath halfway through the month of Rajab in the year
60AH corresponding to 680CE. He held the Islamic Caliphate for
about twenty years. Towards the end of his life he had managed to
obtain the oath of allegiance from the people for his son Yazid
for the office of Caliph. When Yazid became Caliph, he instructed
the Governor of Madin, Walid bin Utba, to take the allegiance from
Hussain bin Ali ('a), Abdallah bin Zubair and Abdallah bin Omar,
who had not acknowledged him as heir apparent during the time of
Muawiya. However, with Yazid’s character being so publicly
unislamic, it was simply impossible for them to do so.
The historian Masudi states:
“Yazid was a pleasure- seeking person. He was a man who kept
beasts of prey. He had dogs, monkeys and panthers. He always
arranged wine-drinking parties … In the Muslim ummah, Yazid was
like Pharaoh among his subjects, but not so, because Pharaoh was
more just to his subjects than Yazid. The injustice, intrepidity
and impiety of Yazid also penetrated into the Muslim ummah.”
The sins committed by Yazid were
also committed by his favourites and they adopted his ways and
During the period of his
caliphate, music became current in Mecca and Madina, and ascribed
to all kinds of amusements and fun. The people began to beg and to drink
wine openly. The man who claimed to be the successor to the Holy
Prophet ('s) conducted himself in a way, which authorised the
ummah to breach the sacred cannons of Islam. If in such a climate
which prevailed, the grandson of the Holy Prophet ('s) were to
acknowledge Yazid as a legitimate Caliph of Islam, he would
have helped Yazid achieve his publicly declared stand “There was
never any revelation to Muhammad ('s) and no book was
revealed.” The natural consequence would have been total
annihilation of Islam.
('a) therefore did
not accede to the demand of the Governor of Madina to make the
oath of allegiance to Yazid and decided to leave the graveside of
his grandfather, for Mecca. At the time of his departure he made a
testament to his brother Muhammad bin Al-Hanafiya in which he
"This movement of mine is not on
account of stubbornness, rebellion, worldly passions or
instigation by Satan. It is also not my object to create trouble
or to oppress anyone. The only thing which invites me to this
great movement is that I should reform the affairs of the
followers of my grandfather, eradicate corruption, undertake
enjoining to do good and restraining from evil, and follow the
tradition of my grandfather, the Prophet of Allah and my father
This is the brief illustration of
Imam Hussain’s objectives, which ended up with the great
sacrifice he made to rescue the religion of his grandfather
Muhammad ('s). However, was this movement in contradiction to
Imam Hassan’s peace with Muawiya?
The simplest answer to the above
question can be found when we examine the characteristics of the
followers of both Imams. We find a similar example in their
father’s life, the commander of the faithful, Imam Ali ('a).
“Then I began to reflect upon
whether I should attack with a lone hand, and endure a blinding
darkness, one in which the mature becomes senile, the young turn
grey .. I considered patience to be the wisest course.”
patience as being wisest decision when no one would assist him in
his mission, and the same applies to Imam Hassan’s case. Muawiya
was an active opponent of Islam. He was forced to accept Islam at
the time of Mecca’s conquest. The malicious efforts of the Aby
Sufiyan family along with their wealth and diplomacy did a lot to
prevent the spread of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula.
When the Muslims captured Syria
from the Byzantines, at the time of the second caliph, Muawiya was
appointed as the governor of Syria. Upon seizing power, Muawiya
took advantage of the rich public treasury to buy powers and
influence people. He started killing the opponents and critics
including Hijir ibn Usai Al-Kindi.
('a) called Muslims to
fight and challenged the corruption and tyranny of Muawiya. He
asked them to camp near Nukheela; however, Muawiya managed to
bribe Imam Hassan’s cousin Ubaidallah ibn Al-Abbas, to betray
the Imam and separate him from the Imam’s camp with 8000
soldiers. Upon lack of help, there was no choice left other than a
Ashurra was not a personal
conflict, nor a power struggle, but rather the challenge between
truth and falsehood. This battle was meant to liberate people from
two forms of slavery, one imposed by the self, which was the loss
of faith, and the other one imposed by the rulers.
('a) sacrificed his
life along with 72 other believing men, all for the sake of Truth.
The rise and advent of Islam are attributed to Prophet Muhammad
('s), whilst the continuity and stability of his faith is
attributed to his grandson, Imam Hussain Ibn Ali ('a).
In his mission, Imam Hussain
emphasised on various Islamic concepts, some of which are
thinking independently and being just in one’s judgements. Not
closing one’s eyes and following others blindly.
On the Day
of Ashurra, Imam Hussain ('a), addressed Yazid’s troops “O
followers of Abu Sufiyan, if you are not following the teachings
of Islam then, as freemen, be broadminded and independent of
judgement. What is the basis for fighting me?"
Understanding of Death
Few people welcome death. The Holy
Qur’an challenges the Jews for not desiring death in view of
their alleged special relationship with Allah. Imam Hussain
extended our comprehension of death. He spoke about it under three
written for everyone which none can escape. In the
speech of Imam Hussain ('a)
he said. “Death adorns life just as
necklace adorns a beautiful woman"
dignity is preferable to life with humiliation.
Death for the cause of Islam is martyrdom and a great
farewell to his relatives in Madina, Imam Hussain ('a)
said: “Whoever joins us will be martyred but whoever remains behind
will miss the victory."
preference to hell. In a dialogue between Imam Hussain ('a)
the Ummayyad commander Umar ibn Sa’d, two differing viewpoints
were expressed; Ibn Sa’d which regarded hell as preferable to
disgrace, and Imam Hussain’s who said ‘death before
Dishonour’ and ‘Disgrace in preference to Hell’. Embarrassment
on earth has a shorter span than an eternity in hell.