SHAFAQNA – It is impossible to disassociate Imam Hussain’s legacy from that of his brother: Imam Hassan, and his father: Imam Ali, the First Imam of Islam and greatest companion and Lieutenant of the Prophet Muhammad. Appointed as the Leader of the Believers – not to be confused with Muslims, Imam Ali was always the Keeper of Tradition. He was himself Tradition enacted, the one man the prophet saw as his natural heir, his brother, and his son.
It was love which united the Prophet Muhammad and Imam Ali, it was their love for the Divine, their love for each other and their unshakable piety which made them a light onto nations. The prophet’s legacy is his tradition. His tradition lived, and continue to live through AhlulBayt. Denying such a connection has been the work of the tyrants of our times – across the ages tyrants have worked to disassociate the House from Islam, so that, they, could claim legitimacy for themselves and deny the only legacy we were told to hold on to and never disunite.
Islam is not whole if divorced from the House. How good is the Word without the Wisdom of our Imams? What is knowledge without wisdom, but a dangerous weapon?
Muharram is also a call to wisdom, measure, true piety and humility. There is no shame in admitting our limitations and imperfections.
Righteousness does not come easy to us; we need just leadership to keep us from faltering. Leadership was offered to us by our prophets across the ages … and yet we systematically chose away, claiming in our folly to know better.
Following the martyrdom of Imam Ali, Imam Hassan attained to the caliphate. At this time Muslim society had assumed a peculiar form. Its strength had been divided almost evenly, and if Imam Hassan had continued fighting against Mu’awiyah neither of the two parties could have expected victory without severe bloodshed. The result of such a fighting would have been disastrous for Muslims. Hence, Imam Hassan decided to carve a different way and offer respite to his people. If he had persisted in fighting – which he could have justified by arguing his legitimacy, Imam Hassan would have opened up the Islamic world to the Eastern Roman Empire and the Khawarij within the Islamic territories.
If those 400,000 or 500,000 Muslims had attacked one another on that day and fighting with Mu’awiya had continued, God knows what calamity would have befallen Muslims.
Imam Hassan retired from the caliphate to safeguard the future of Muslims within their new dominion. His selfless act of leadership allowed for dangerous dynamics to be averted. His decision does not however mean that Imam Hassan surrendered to Mu’awiyah and recognized him as the caliph or the Commander of the Faithful.
One of the conditions of the Peace Treaty between Imam Hassan and Mu’awiyah reads as follow: “Hassan ibn Ali makes Peace on the condition that he will not be under an obligation to call Mu’awiyah, the Commander of the Faithful”.
It meant that he did not recognize Mu’awiyah to be the caliph and the Commander of the Faithful. Those who think that by retiring, Imam Hassan surrendered to Mu’awiyah should remember Ibn Athir narration: “After Hassan ibn Ali retired and Mu’awiyah became the caliph, Farwa ibn Nawfal Ashjaie Kharij, who had deserted the Khawarij earlier along with five hundred men and gone to the city of Zur said: “Now there is no doubt about the fact that we should fight against Mu’awiyah’s administration. As Mu’awiyah has come at the helm of affairs and become the caliph we must wage war against him”.
They, therefore, marched towards Iraq and reached the palm-grove of Kufa. By then Imam Hassan had left Kufa, and was on his way to Medina. When Mu’awiyah came to know that the said Khariji had revolted along with his five hundred men, he wrote a letter to Imam Hassan, possibly with the ambition to strengthen the Peace Treaty, and assert his own rule over the Muslim community.
He wrote: “I understand that Farwa ibn Nawfal Khariji is proceeding to Kufa along with five hundred men. I, therefore, direct you to go and fight against him and ward him off, and after you have vanquished him there will be no objection to your proceeding to Medina”.
Imam Hassan received Mu’awiyah’s letter when he arrived at Qadisiya. He sent him the following reply: “O Mu’awiyah! You have appointed Hassan ibn Ali to go like one of your officers and to ward off a rebellious Khariji. I, Hassan ibn Ali, have retired, in the interest of the Muslims, from the caliphate, which is my right. If I had wished to fight against one of the people of the Qibla [with a Muslim], whoever he might be, and to which ever sect he might belong, I would have fought against you in the first instance”.
The Imam meant to say that he desisted from fighting against Mu’awiyah in spite of the latter’s being deviated from Islam as compared with all others. It will be observed that the Imam did not say: “I have recognized you as the caliph”.
He continued: “I let you go and did not fight against you”. And possibly a better interpretation of the words “I let you go” may be this: ‘I have set you at liberty in the field of politics and have myself retired only in the interest of Islam and to avoid the bloodshed of the Muslim i.e. I considered it futile that these two forces of Islam which are evenly balanced should fight and kill and weaken each other and be annihilated, and the external and internal enemies should take undue advantage of this situation ‘.
After the martyrdom of Imam Hassan, Imam Hussain did not also rise up in arms against Mu’awiyah during the last ten years of his rule (49 -60 AH) and he did not undertake any campaign against him – the campaign, which he considered necessary during the regime of Yazid. However, he continuously criticized and reprimanded Mu’awiyah and denied his rightfulness to the caliphate in the same manner in which his brother Imam Hassan had done.
After the martyrdom of his brother Imam Hussain wrote the following letter to Mu’awiyah:
“O Mu’awiyah! Are you not the same person who killed Hujr ibn Ady and his pious friends unlawfully? They were the persons, who condemned heresy and ordered the people to do good and restrained them from evil. You killed them cruelly after granting them security and making firm promises and covenants with them. By doing so you defied Allah and considered the Divine covenants to be frivolous. Did you not kill Amr ibn Humuq Khuzaie, who was one of the distinguished companions of the Holy Prophet? He was the man whose face had worn out and whose body had grown thin on account of excessive worship. You killed him after granting him security and holding out promises of safety to him. If such promises had been held out to the desert deer, they would have come down to you from the hills with perfect confidence.
Are you not the man who associated Ziyad, the son of an unknown father, with your father Abu Sufyan and called him your brother, as Ziyad ibn Abu Sufyan, and supposed that he is the son of Abu Sufyan although the Holy Prophet has said: “The child belongs to the man on whose bed (i.e. in whose house) he is born and the woman giving birth to the child is married to him and the adulterer is to be stoned to death as commanded by Allah. And then you have appointed Ziyad to rule over the Muslims so that he may kill them and amputate their hands and feet and hang them on date-palm trees. Allah be praised!
O Mu’awiyah! It appears that you are not a member of the Muslim community and the Muslims have no connections with you. Fear Allah and beware of the Day of Judgment, because Allah has a document from which nothing, whether small or big or good or bad, is omitted and everything is taken into account. You must remember that Allah does not forget these acts of yours, that is, you kill people on mere suspicions and false accusations and have made a boy, the ruler of the Muslims, who drinks wine and plays with dogs.
“O Mu’awiya! I see that you have destroyed yourself, spoiled your faith and made the Muslim ummah helpless”.
This was the manner in which Imam Hassan and Imam Hussain, the two sons of the Holy Prophet addressed and wrote letters to Mu’awiyah ibn Abu Sufyan and called him to account.
By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna