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Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Published on 21st April, 2002

Imam Hassan Made Peace ..Why Did Imam Hussain Fight?

By Ayatollah Dr Sayyid Fadhil H Milani

 

 Yazid ibn Muawiya

  Imam Hassan's Decision

  Imam Hussain ('a) Refuses Allegiance

  Peace Treaty with Muawiya

  Was Imam Hussain's Action a Contradiction

  Ashurra

 

Yazid ibn Muawiya

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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 manners.

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.

Imam Hussain ('a) Refuses Allegiance

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Imam Hussain ('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 declared:

"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 Ali."

Was Imam Hussain's Action a Contradiction

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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.”

Imam Hassan's Decision

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Imam Ali ('a) justifies his 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.

Peace Treaty with Muawiya

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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.

Imam Hassan ('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 peace treaty.

Ashurra

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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.

Imam Hussain ('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 ('a) emphasised on various Islamic concepts, some of which are described below:

Broad Mindedness

This means 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?"

A Wider 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 ('a) extended our comprehension of death. He spoke about it under three different headings:

  1. Death is 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"

  2. Death with dignity is preferable to life with humiliation.

  3. Death for the cause of Islam is martyrdom and a great honour

In his farewell to his relatives in Madina, Imam Hussain ('a) said: “Whoever joins us will be martyred but whoever remains behind will miss the victory."

Disgrace in preference to hell. In a dialogue between Imam Hussain ('a) and 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.

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