Were the Policies of Imam Hasan (as) and Imam Husayn (as) Different?
Author: Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn at-Tabataba\'i
These two honorable Imams (as) are brothers and the sons of \'Ali (as) and Fatimah (as). According to the ahadith the Holy Prophet (S) had deep affections towards these honorable grandsons whom he called his own sons. The Holy Prophet (S) was not able to endure their slightest pain and dissatisfaction and used to state: \"These two sons of mine are Imams and leaders, be they rising or sitting\". The terms \'rising\' and \'sitting\' are used ironically and signify taking charge of superficial khilafah and rising to fight with the enemies of Islam and non-acceptance of superficial khilafah and rising against it. He added. \"Hasan and Husayn are the two leaders of the youth of the Heaven.\"
On the basis of his honorable father\'s will, al-Imam al-Hasan (as) was chosen for khilafah. The people also promised their allegiance to him. He ruled as a khalifah in Islamic countries, excluding Syria and Egypt, which were under the reign of Mu\'awiyah, and conducted the affairs just as his great father did.
In the period of his ruling, al-\'Imam al-Hasan (as) mobilized an army to put an end to the trouble of Mu\'awiyah, but he finally discovered that the hearts of the people were lured by Mu\'awiyah and that the leaders of his own army had correspondence with Mu\'awiyah and were waiting for him to issue an order to kill or arrest the Imam (as) and surrender him to the enemy. For this reason, the Imam (as) had to agree to the peace offer.
Al-\'Imam al-Hasan (as) entered into peace negotiations with Mu\'awiyah under specific terms, but Mu\'awiyah did not keep up his promise and, after the conclusion of the peace agreement, he went to Iraq and ascended a pulpit in the presence of the Muslims and said: \"I was not fighting with you for the cause of religion, so that you would recite salat or observe sawm; rather I wanted to rule over you and now I have achieved my goal\" Mu\'awiyah added: \"I disregard all the promises that I have made to al-Hasan.\"
After the peace treaty, for nine and a half years, al-Imam al-Hasan (as) lived under the domination of Mu\'awiyah in a gloomy atmosphere and under the most bitter and unpleasant conditions. The Imam (as) had no life security even in his own house. Finally, at the instigation of Mu\'awiyah, the Imam (as) was poisoned by his wife (Ja\'dah) and became martyred.
After the martyrdom of al-\'Imam al-Hasan (as), his honourable brother, al-\'Imam al-Husayn (as), succeeded him by the order of Allah and according to the will of his brother al-Imam al-Hasan (as) He began to guide and lead the people, but the conditions and circumstances were similar to those existed at the time of al-Imam al-Hasan (as). With his full control over the situation, Mu\'awiyah had seized all the work potentialities available to al-\'Imam al-Husayn (as).
Mu\'awiyah died after about nine and a half years and the position of khilafah, which had turned into monarchy, was transferred to his son, Yazid.
Unlike his father, Yazid was a young man intoxicated with conceit and displayed interest in revelry, obscene acts, and lack of discipline. As soon as this proud young man took the rein of the affairs of the Muslims he ordered the governor of Madinah to ask al-\'Imam al-Husayn (as) to promise his allegiance to Yazid or else send. the Imam\'s head to him.
When the governor proposed the subject of allegiance to al-\'Imam al-Husayn (as), the Imam (as) asked for some time and left Madinah overnight for Makkah along with his companions. He sought refuge in the sanctuary of Allah which is an official haven in Islam. But after residing in Makkah for a few months, he realized that Yazid would by no means leave him alone and that he would definitely be killed if he did not promise his allegiance to Yazid.
On the other hand, during this period, the Imam (as) had received several thousand letters from Iraq promising their cooperation and assistance and inviting him to rise against the oppressors of Banu Umayyah.
By observing the prevailing general conditions and circumstances and the symptoms al-\'Imam al-Husayn (as) realized that his movement would not have an outward progress. Nevertheless, having denied his allegiance, he decided to offer his sacrifice and get killed with a decision of his uprising, al-\'Imam al-Husayn (as) left Makkah for Kufah with his companions in the course of his travel, he encountered the massive troops of the enemy in Karbala (nearly 70 km away from Kufah).
While travelling, the Imam (as) invited the people to assist him and informed his companions of his decision to be killed giving them the option to stay with him or to leave him. Therefore, from the day they encountered the troops of the enemy, no one had remained with the Imam (as) other than only a few people who were devoted to him and who were willing to give their lives for the cause . As a result, they were easily surrounded by the large number of enemy soldiers. They were even prevented from having water. In such a situation, al-\'Imam al-Husayn (as) was compelled to choose between offering his allegiance to Yazid and his martyrdom.
Al-\'Imam al-Husayn (as) did not resign himself to his allegiance to Yazid and became prepared to be killed. A day came when he fought the enemy from morning to evening along with his companions. In this battle, he himself, his children, his brothers, his nephews, his cousins, and his companions, who were totally about 70 people, were martyred. Only his honorable son, Al-\'Imam \'Ali al-Sajjad (as), who was unable to fight due to serious illness, survived.
After the martyrdom of al-\'Imam al-Husayn (as), the enemy troops plundered his properties, took his family as prisoners, and took them from Karbala to Kufah and from Kufah to Damascus along with the decapitated heads of the Martyrs.
In the process of this captivity, al-\'Imam \'Ali al-Sajjad (as) in his sermon delivered at Damascus and also Zaynab al-Kubra, in her addresses delivered in public gatherings in Kufah, in the court of Ibn Ziyad, the Governor of Kufah, and in the court of Yazid in Damascus, unveiled the truth and revealed the oppression and cruelty of Umayyads to the people of the world.
In any case, this movement of al-\'Imam al-Husayn (as) against the oppression, tyranny and indiscipline - which ended with the bloodshed of al-\'Imam al-Husayn (as), his children, his relatives and his companions together with looting of his property and imprisonment of his women and children - is a special event with its important characteristics and details, which has no parallel in the pages of history of world movements. It can definitely be said that this event serves as the basis for the survival of Islam. Had this event not taken place, Umayyads would have totally wiped off Islam.
Were the Policies of Al-\'Imam Al-Hasan (as) and Al-\'Imam Al-Husayn (as) Different?
Although these two great leaders are, according to the explicit statement of the Holy Prophet (S), rightful Imams, their policies apparently seem different. Some have even said that the difference of opinions of these two brothers was so great that one of them, having 40 000 combatants, accepted the peace offer, while the other, with only 40 friends and companions (other than his relatives) fought the enemy and lost all of them including his suckling child for this cause.
However, close investigation proves the contrary, as we see that al-\'Imam al-Hasan (as) lived for about nine and a half years during the reign of Mu\'awiyah and did not oppose him overtly. After the martyrdom of his brother, al-\'Imam al-Husayn (as) also lived for about nine and a half years during the reign of Mu\'awiyah and never thought of rising in rebellion against him and did not challenge him.
Hence, the main cause of this superficial difference in the policies of the two Imams (as) lies in the difference of opinion between Mu\'awiyah and Yazid, rather than the difference of opinion of these two great Imams (as). The policy of Mu\'awiyah was not based on lack of discipline and restraint and he did not deride the religious precepts by its overt opposition.
Mu\'awiyah called himself a \"companion\" of the Holy Prophet (S) and the \"writer of Revelation\". Through his sister (who was the wife of the Holy Prophet (S) and who was Umm al-Mu\'minin (the mother of the believers), Mu\'awivah was called \"Khal al-Mu\'minin\" (the maternal uncle of the believers) and was greatly favored by the Second Caliph in whom the common people had total confidence and special attachment.
Furthermore, Mu\'awiyah, in a majority of cases, had appointed the Companions of the Holy Prophet (S) who were respected and honored by the people (such as Abu Hurayrah,\' Amr al-\'As, Samrah, Yusr, Al-Mughirah ibn Shu\'bah, and others) as governors of provinces and had put them in charge of the key positions of the country. These governors used to work for the favourable opinions of the people towards Mu\'awiyah.
Many ahadith were fabricated and narrated among the people regarding the virtues and the religious immunity of the Companions of the Holy Prophet (S) and that they were not questionable for whatever they did. Thus whatever Mu\'awiyah did, if corrigible and justifiable at all, it was rectified and justified by these authorities; otherwise, by giving a great deal of hush-money, he prevented his opponents from complaining.
Where these means and methods did not work, thousands of innocent people comprising of Shi\'ahs (friends) of \'Ali (as), other Muslims, and even a great number of the Companions of the Holy Prophet (S) were killed by these collaborators, partisans, and \"companions\" of Mu\'awiyah.
Mu\'awiyah pretended to be right in whatever he did and accomplished everything with a special patience and forbearance. With a particular gentleness and flexibility, he attracted the kindness and obedience of people. Sometimes, he even heard the curse of people on him and sensed their enmity, but he responded with cheerfulness and forgiveness and thus pursued his policy in this way.
Apparently, he paid respect to al-\'Imam al-Hasan (as) and al-\'Imam al-Husayn (as) and sent them valuable gifts and souvenirs. On the other hand, he publicly announced that whoever narrates a hadith concerning the virtues of the Ahl al-Bayt (as), will have no security of life, reputation, and property; but whoever narrates a hadith concerning the virtues. Prophet (S) will receive a of the Companions of the Holy reward.
He gave orders to the orators and preachers to curse al-\'Imam \'Ali (as) from pulpits used for addressing Muslims. By the order of Mu\'awiyah, his hirelings killed the supporters of al-\'Imam \'Ali (as) wherever they could find them. They went along in this matter to such an extent that they killed a large number of people who were the enemies of al-\'Imam \'Ali (as), accusing them of having friendship with the Imam (as).
It becomes clear from the above description that the rise of al-\'Imam al-Hasan (as) would only have ended to the detriment of Islam and would have had no effect other than the martyrdom of the Imam (as) and his supporters. And even it was not unlikely that, in this case, Mu\'awiyah might have got killed al-\'Imam al-Hasan (as) through the friends and relatives of the Imam (as) and then, in order to pacify public opinion, Mu\'awivah would have rent (torn) his shirt and mourned for the Imam (as) and, in seeking vengeance (for this bloodshed), he would have tried to take his revenge by killing the Shi\'ahs, as he later did while dealing with the case of \'Uthman.
But the political trend of Yazid had no resemblance with that of his father. He was a self-admiring and undisciplined youth. He had no logic: other than force. He gave no importance to public opinion.
During his short-term rule, Yazid at once revealed the damages which were secretly inflicted on Islam. In the first year of his rule, Yazid put the family of the Holy Prophet (S) to the edge of the sword. In the second year of his rule, he ruined the city of Madinah and allowed his troops to transgress upon the honor, life, and property of the people for three days. In the third year of his rule, he destroyed Ka\'bah.
Owing to the above reasons, the movement of al-\'Imam al-Husayn (as) was imprinted on the minds of the people and its effect grew more profoundly and publicly day by day. In the beginning, this movement manifested itself in the form of bloody revolutions. Finally, it attracted a great number of Muslims as the supporters of truth and reality and as the supporters of the Ahl al-Bayt (as) of the Holy Prophet (S).
It was because of this reason that Mu\'awiyah, in his will to Yazid, had strongly recommended that Yazid should leave al-\'Imam al-Husayn (as) alone and not bother him; but would the drunkenness and self-admiration of Yazid permit him to differentiate between his benefit and his loss?