Shīʿa Islam: History and Doctrines / Ayatullāh Jaʿfar Subḥānī
Ḥasan, the first child of ʿAlī and Fāṭima, was born on March 4, 625 AD in Medina. His birth happened in the fasting month of Ramadan. The name Ḥasan was chosen by the Prophet. This name was not famous among Arabs of that time. (Mufīd, Irshād) Imam Ḥasan was seven when his grandfather passed away. Shortly after, he lost his mother. Ḥasan and his younger brother Ḥusayn consoled themselves in the arms of their father, ʿAlī. From his youth, Imam Ḥasan was full of knowledge and he used to answer people’s questions. (al-Kāfī) ‘Ḥasan b. ʿAlī had unique virtues and moral qualities. He was patient, great, humble and kind,’ writes Suyūṭī. (Tārīkh al-Kulafāʾ)
During his life time, Imam Ḥasan donated all his properties for the sake of God twice. Moreover, he divided his properties three times into two parts, keeping one for himself and donating the rest for the sake of God. (Tārīkh Yaʿqūbī)
Imam Ḥasan and battles
Imam Ḥasan was brave and valiant. He did not know fear. At the Battle of the Camel, his father gave him the mission to go to Kufa and call people to take up arms. The governor of Kufa refused Imam Ḥasan’s invitation. In spite of this, Imam Ḥasan managed to mobilize 9,000 people from Kufa to participate in the war. (Akhbār Ṭiwal) Imam Ḥasan fought alongside his father in the war and dealt devastating blows to the enemy.
He was on the frontline not only in the Battle of the Camel, but also in the Battle of Ṣiffīn for which he called on people of Iraq to combat the Syrian forces. Ḥasan and Ḥusayn were in the midst of the battle, but their father asked other soldiers to prevent them from launching further forays in order to protect the bloodline of the Prophet. (Nahj al-Balāgha)
After the martyrdom of Imam ʿAlī in 661 AD, Imam Ḥasan took the podium and delivered a sermon about his father’s virtues. People of Kufa pledged allegiance to Ḥasan as the successor to his father. This was how Imam Ḥasan took the reigns of power. He administered their affairs for six months and issued directives to governors. With the announcement of the martyrdom of ʿAlī in Syria, Muʿāwiya led an army against Kufa to try and overthrow Ḥasan.
The question here is to know why Imam Ḥasan opted for a negotiated settlement with the enemy while his brother, Ḥusayn, chose to fight. Numerous books have been written on this subject. It is important to know that Imam Ḥasan never accepted peace. In fact, peace was imposed on him. The circumstances of that time obliged the Imam to accept peace. Anyone in his place would have agreed to peace too. Had the Imam chose to fight, Islam and Shi’ism would have been harmed.
The Roman Empire, which had suffered crushing blows from Muslims, was seeking an opportunity to invade the Islamic territory. As soon as Rome learnt about military deployments by Imam Ḥasan and Muʿāwiya, it decided to lead a strong army into the Islamic country. In the face of such sensitive conditions, Imam Ḥasan – whose duty was to safeguard Islam – had no option but to agree to peace in a bid to protect Islam from this threat.
Yaʿqūbī writes: ‘Muʿāwiya returned to Syria after signing a treaty with Imam Ḥasan. He received a report about the Roman Empire’s intention to invade the Islamic country. At that time, the Islamic government was not able to counter the Roman Army. Muʿāwiya had to pay 100,000 dinars a year to the Romans.’ (Tārīkh Yaʿqūbī) This historical document shows that in case of any confrontation between Imam Ḥusayn and Muʿāwiya, the Roman Empire would have emerged winner. This threat was dispelled thanks to Imam Ḥasan’s foresight. To that effect, Imam al-Bāqir says: ‘Had the Imam Ḥasan not accepted peace, Islam would have faced a tremendous danger.’ (Biḥār al-Anwār)
Imam Ḥasan had other reasons for accepting peace with Muʿāwiya. Firstly, the followers of Imam Ḥasan – who had been his father’s followers – had had no respite from fighting. They were always on a war footing. Therefore, the Imam’s troops was exhausted. Upon hearing news of Muʿāwiya Army’s move towards Kufa, Imam Ḥasan called on his followers to be steadfast and prepared to sacrifice in the face of the enemy. But after the Imam concluded his sermon, everyone was silent and nobody agreed. Some followers of the Imam described people of Iraq as fearful and fake heroes. (Maqātil al-Ṭālibiyyīn)
The allies of Imam Ḥasan finally managed to bring together several thousand people in Nukhayla. The Imam had to deliver a new speech to encourage some others to join him. One can easily see that fatigue and low morale dominated his soldiers and such an army could never win a war. The second point is that Imam Ḥasan’s men were poorly mobilized and organized and there were divisions among them. The main elements of the Imam’s forces were as follows:
The faithful followers of Imam ʿAlī and Imam Ḥasan ; They were ready to give their lives in the battle.
Khawārij; They had joined Imam Ḥasan not for his own sake, but due to their enmity with Muʿāwiya. They were really hostile to both sides.
Opportunists; They were seeking their material benefits and they were ready to defect and rise up against Imam Ḥasan if it served their personal interests.
Capricious individuals who were still undecided about their cooperation with Imam Ḥasan.
Tribal elements who had to joined Imam Ḥasan’s side because their tribal chiefs had done so. They were in fact following their tribal chiefs.
The important question here is if such a divided army could fight in the battle. Certainly not! Such a war would have no other result but defeat and death for the faithful followers of Imam Ḥasan. The Imam preferred battle with Muʿāwiya but he had to accept peace. In his last speech, Imam Ḥasan told people that Muʿāwiya had offered an unfair proposal to him. ‘If you are ready to die for God we have to battle him with our swords but if you want a life of ease then we have to accept his proposal,’ the Imam said. The troops shouted. ‘Life! Life!’ In this way, they revealed their true intentions. Suppose that Imam Ḥasan was commander of Syrian army and Muʿāwiya was Iraq’s. Could Muʿāwiya do anything other than what Imam Ḥasan did? Had Muʿāwiya killed Imam Ḥasan, a wave of fury would have grown against the Umayyad rule. Imam Ḥasan’s agreement to peace let people know rebels as they were. It was known to people during the reign of Muʿāwiya that the Umayyad rulers wanted the government for their own interests and not for promoting Islam.
After the Umayyad’s intentions were revealed for all to see, Imam Ḥasan’s brother – Ḥusayn – managed to lead a revolution. Ḥusayn lost his life in the battle to show people the true character of their Umayyad rulers.
The text of Imam Ḥasan’s peace agreement with Muʿāwiya
The peace agreement signed between Imam Ḥasan and Muʿāwiya is an example of the Imam’s endeavours for realizing the sacred ideals of Islam. The articles contained within the treaty show that the Imam sincerely wanted to safeguard the ideals of Islam. The peace treaty is as follows:
‘Authority shall be handed over to Muʿāwiya provided that he acts according to the Book of God, the Prophet’s tradition and the tradition of the righteous Caliphs.
Authority shall be for Imam Ḥasan after Muʿāwiya. If something were to befall him, authority should be for his brother Ḥusayn. Muʿāwiya has no right to entrust it to anybody else.
Muʿāwiya shall abandon cursing Imam ʿAlī, both in prayers and in other settings, and shall not mention ʿAlī except in a good manner.
Muʿāwiya shall see to it that the five million dirhams of the treasury of Kufa is spent in the way Imam Ḥasan deems right. Muʿāwiya shall distribute one million dirhams among the sons of those who were killed while fighting for ʿAlī in the Battle of Camel and the Battle of Ṣiffīn, and should spend that money from the taxes of Darabgard.
People shall be safe wherever they are: in Syria, Iraq, Hijaz, Yemen, etc. Muʿāwiya shall give security to the people of all races. He must bear their slips, should not seek revenge for past deeds, nor should he punish the Iraqis for their past hostility. The Companions of ʿAlī shall be given security wherever they are, Muʿāwiya shall not expose the Shīʿa of ʿAlī to any harm. The Companions and the Shīʿa of ʿAlī shall be given security over their lives, their properties, their women, and their children. Nor shall Muʿāwiya pursue them for a certain thing, nor should he expose them to any evil.
And then, at the end of the agreement, Muʿāwiya solemnly pledges that he will accomplish all the contents of the agreement and takes God as witness to the treaty, which was also confirmed by the dignitaries of Syria.’ (Ṣulḥ al-Ḥasan, Shaykh Rāḍī Āl-Yāsīn)
A trick used by both the Umayyads and the Abbasids who succeed them was to spread false news in a bid to change public mood vis-à-vis the family of Imam ʿAlī. That is why rumours are heard against Imam Ḥasan who had been to Ḥajj pilgrimage on foot for 25 times. The Imam was rumoured to have married and divorced a large number of women; these rumours were mainly spread by courtiers in the Umayyad dynasty.
Muʿāwiya tricked Imam Ḥasan’s wife Judaʿ into poisoning to death her husband in exchange for marrying her to his son Yazīd. The wife was easily tricked by Muʿāwiya and poisoned the Imam. Muʿāwiya was happy with the martyrdom of Imam Ḥasan who was the biggest obstacle to his plans. (ʿAqd al-Farīd)