Before discussing the character of our second Imam (as), al-Hassan al-Mujtaba (as), we need to cast some light on the character of his opponent by going back to history books and reviewing what kind of person he was:
Mu'awiyah son of Abu Sufyan was born out of wedlock in 602 A.D. during the jahiliyya, the time of ignorance, the period that preceded Islam. His mother, Maysun, was one of his father’s slave-girls. Maysan had a sexual intercourse with one of Mu'awiyah’s slaves and conceived Yazid by him. Mu'awiyah, in total disregard for Islamic or traditional Arab traditions, claimed Yazid as his son. A testimony to this fact is the well-documented tradition of the Prophet (ﺹ) wherein he said, “The murderer of my [grand]son al-Hussain is a bastard.” This tradition is quoted on p. 156, Vol. 1, of Kanz al-Ummal of al-Muttaqi al-Hindi. The stigma of being a bastard applies actually not only to Yazid but also to both Shimr ibn Thul-Jawshan and Ubaydullah ibn Sa'd, the accomplices about whom the reader will read later; all of these men were born out of wedlock.
Mu'awiyah played a major role in distorting the Islamic creed by paying writers to tailor design "traditions" to serve his interests and support his deviated views. He installed himself as ruler of Syria in 40 A.H./661 A.D. and ruled for twenty long years till his death at the age of seventy-eight. Shortly before his death, which took place in the month of Rajab of 60 A.H./May of 680 A.D., he managed to secure the oath of allegiance to his corrupt and immoral son Yazid as his successor. He did so by intimidation once and once by buying loyalty and favours, spending in the process huge sums of money that belonged to the Muslims. The weak-minded majority of the Muslims of his time swore allegiance to him. This proves that the majority does not necessarily have to be right. Imam al-Hussain (ﻉ), together with a small band of devotees to the cause of truth, refused to bow their heads to the oppressive forces, hence this tale of heroism.
Mu'awiyah declared himself "caliph" in Syria when he was 59 years old and assumed authority by sheer force. He was not elected, nor was he requested to take charge. He did not hide this fact; rather, he bragged about it once when he addressed the Kufians saying, "O people of Kufa! Do you think that I fought you in order that you may establish prayers or give zakat or perform the pilgrimage?! I know that you do pray, pay zakat and perform the pilgrimage. Indeed, I fought you in order to take command over you with contempt, and Allah has given me that against your wishes. Rest assured that whoever killed any of us will himself be killed. And the treaty between us of amnesty is under my feet."
Mu'awiyah’s rule was terror in the whole Muslim land. Such terrorism was spread by many convoys sent to various regions. Historians have narrated saying that Muawiyah summoned Sufyan ibn 'Awf al-Ghamidi, one of the commanders of his army, and said to him, "This army is under your command. Proceed along the Euphrates River till you reach Heet. Any resistance you meet on your way should be crushed, and then you should proceed to invade Anbar. After that, penetrate deeply into Mada’in. O Sufyan! These invasions will frighten the Iraqis and please those who like us. Such campaigns will attract frightened people to our side. Kill whoever holds different views from ours; loot their villages and demolish their homes. Indeed, fighting them against their livelihood and taking their wealth away is similar to killing them but is more painful to their hearts."
Another of his commanders, namely Bishr ibn Arta’ah, was summoned and ordered to proceed to Hijaz and Yemen with these instructions issued by Mu'awiyah: "Proceed to Medīna and expel its people. Meanwhile, people in your way, who are not from our camp, should be terrorized. When you enter Medīna, let it appear as if you are going to kill them. Make it appear that your aim is to exterminate them. Then pardon them. Terrorize the people around Mecca and Medina and scatter them around."
During Mu'awiyah’s reign, basic human rights were denied, not simply violated. No one was free to express his views. Government spies were paid to terrorize the public, assisting the army and the police in sparing no opportunity to crush the people and to silence their dissent. There are some documents which reveal Mu'awiyah’s instructions to his governors to do just that. For instance, the following letter was addressed to all judges: "Do not accept the testimony of Ali’s followers (Shi'as) or of his descendants in (your) courts." Another letter stated: "If you have evidence that someone likes Ali and his family, omit his name from the recipients of rations stipulated from the zakat funds." Another letter said, "Punish whoever is suspected of following Ali and demolish his house." Such was the situation during the government of Mu'awiyah, Yazid’s infamous father. Historians who were recording these waves of terror described them as unprecedented in history. People were so frightened, they did not mind being called atheists, thieves, etc., but not followers of Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib (ﻉ), Prophet Muhammed’s right hand, confidant and son-in-law.
Another aspect of the government of Mu'awiyah was the racist discrimination between Arabs and non-Arabs. Although they were supposed to have embraced Islam which tolerates no racism in its teachings, non-Arabs were forced to pay khiraj and jizya taxes that are levied from non-Muslims living under the protection of Muslims and enjoying certain privileges, including the exemption from the military service. A non-Arab soldier fighting in the state’s army used to receive bare subsistence from the rations. Once, a dispute flared up between an Arab and a non-Arab and both were brought to court. The judge, namely Abdullah ibn amir, heard the non-Arab saying to his Arab opponent, "May Allah not permit people of your kind (i.e. Arabs) to multiply." The Arab answered him by saying, "O Allah! I invoke You to multiply their (non-Arabs’) population among us!" People present there and then were bewildered to hear such a plea, so they asked him, "How do you pray for this man’s people to multiply while he prays for yours to be diminished?!" The Arab opponent said, "Yes, indeed, I do so! They clean our streets and make shoes for our animals, and they weave our clothes!"
Imam al-Hussain’s older brother, Imam al-Hassan (ﻉ), was elected in Medīna on the 21st of the month of Ramadan, 40 A.H./January 28, 661 A.D. as the caliph, but his caliphate did not last long due to the terrorism promoted by Mu'awiyah who either intimidated, killed, or bribed the most distinguished men upon whom Imam al-Hassan (ﻉ) depended to run the affairs of the government. Finally, Mu'awiyah pushed Imam al-Hassan (ﻉ) out of power after signing a treaty with him the terms of which were, indeed, honourable and fair, had they only been implemented. Finding his men too weak or too reluctant to fight Mu'awiyah, Imam al-Hassan (ﻉ) had no alternative except to sign the said treaty with a man whom he knew very well to be the most hypocritical of all and the most untrustworthy. Since there are too many ignorant folks who dare to blaspheme and cast doubt about the integrity of Imam al-Hassan (ﻉ), we have to review the terms of that treaty and leave the reader to draw his own conclusion; those terms, in brief, were:
1) Mu'awiyah shall rule according to the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (ﺹ) in the territories under his control.
2) Mu'awiyah shall have no right to nominate his successor.
3) All people in Syria, Iraq, Hizaj and Yemen shall lead their lives safely and securely.
4) The lives and properties of the followers (Shi'as) of Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib (ﻉ), wherever they may be, shall remain safe and secure.
5) Mu'awiyah shall not try, openly or secretly, to harm or to kill Imam al-Hassan (ﻉ) son of Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib (ﻉ), his brother Imam al-Hussain (ﻉ), or any other member of the family of the Prophet (ﺹ), nor shall they be threatened or terrorized.
6) The abusive language, the cursing of Imam Ali (ﻉ) during prayer services (ordered by Mu'awiyah and continued after his death for a long period of time) at the Grand Mosque of Damascus shall be stopped.
Mu'awiyah had ordered all Imams who led congregational prayers not to descend from their pulpits before cursing Ali (ﻉ), a practice which they labeled as "Sunnah." It is documented that one such Imam forgot once to curse Ali (ﻉ), whereupon people shouted at him that he had violated the Sunnah. Those who prayed at home and who forgot to curse Ali (ﻉ) after their prayers felt obligated to repeat them, being convinced that such cursing was an integral part of the compulsory prayers without which they would not be accepted by Allah... Such abominable blasphemy continued from the year when Othman was killed, that is, 35 A.H./656 A.D. till it was terminated by orders of the only righteous Umayyad caliph, namely Omer ibn Abdul-Aziz, one year after his becoming caliph, that is, in 100 A.H../718 A.D., for a total of 62 years. Historians say that the public actually did not stop cursing Ali (ﻉ) even then but continued to do so for at least 18 more years, extending the total to 80 years... Omer ibn Abdul-Aziz was killed in 101 A.H./719 A.D. after having ruled for only two years and five months because he was fair and just and, most importantly, because he was sympathetic to the Prophet’s family (Ahl al-Bayt); peace and blessings of Allah be with him.
Shortly after concluding the said treaty, Mu'awiyah lured Imam al-Hassan’s wife, Juda daughter of al-Ash'ath ibn Qays, into poisoning her husband with the promise that he would marry her off to his son and heir apparent Yazid. Juda killed her husband who died on Safar 28, 50 A.H./March 30, 670 A.D. She was cursed by the Almighty with an embarrassing ailment for which nobody could find any cure. Mu'awiyah, as expected, did not fulfill his promise.
Having succeeded in getting Imam al-Hassan (ﻉ), Imam al-Hussain’s older brother, killed, Mu'awiyah sent letters to one of his Umayyad relatives, namely Marwan ibn al-Hakam, a cousin of Othman ibn Affan and bearer of his seal, a seal which he used quite often for his own gains and even without the knowledge of the aging caliph, instructing him to obtain the oath of allegiance for his son Yazid as his (Mu'awiyah’s) successor. By the way, the Umayyads succeeded in making this same Marwan caliph in 64 A.H./683 A.D., and his government lasted for seventeen months till it ended in 65 A.H./684-85 A.D. when he died at the age of 63 and was buried in Damascus. Marwan, accordingly, delivered a speech following the prayers and concluded it by saying, "The commander of the faithful (meaning Mu'awiyah) is of the view that he chooses his son Yazid to succeed him as your ruler following in the footsteps of Abu Bakr and Omer ibn al-Khattab..." He was at that moment interrupted by Abdul-Rahman son of first caliph Abu Bakr. "Nay!," Abdul-Rahman ibn Abu Bakr shouted, "You mean in the footsteps of Kisra (Khosro, emperor of Persia) and Caesar (emperor of Rome)! Neither Abu Bakr nor Omer appointed their sons or relatives as their successors...!"
In 51 A.H./671 A.D., Mu'awiyah performed the pilgrimage then went to Medīna where he called to his presence Abdullah son of second caliph Omer ibn al-Khattab. His father, Omer , succeeded Abu Bakr as the caliph in 13 A.H./634 A.D.; he remained caliph for ten years till he was killed by a Persian slave in the month of Thul-Hijja, 23 A.H./November 644 A.D. He was succeeded by Othman ibn Affan who ruled for eleven years (till 35 A.H./656 A.D.). Mu'awiyah said to Abdullah ibn Omer, "O son of Omer ! You used to tell me that you never liked to sleep one night without knowing who your Imam (here the word means "ruler") is, and I warn you against spreading the seeds of dissension among the Muslims or corrupting their views." Abdullah praised Allah then said, "There were other caliphs before you who had sons who were not inferior to yours, yet they did not decide to do what you have decided to do regarding your son. Rather, they let the Muslims make their own choice. You warn me against dissension, and I am not an advocate of dissension. I am just one of the Muslims, and if they are unanimous regarding an issue, I will then add my voice to theirs." Having said so, Abdullah left. Then Muhammed, son of first caliph Abu Bakr, referred to above, was presented before Mu'awiyah. The latter started his rhetoric but Abdul-Rahman interrupted him by saying, "All you want to say is that you wish we obey your son after obeying Allah, and this, by Allah, we will never do. And, by Allah, we shall settle this issue by mutual consultation among the Muslims; otherwise, we will treat you as you were treated at the dawn of Islam...!" Then he, too, stood up and left.
Yazid son of Mu'awiyah was born in 17 A.H./645 A.D. and inherited his father’s post in 60 A.H./680 A.D. He ruled for only three years and one month then died in mid-Rab'iul-Awwal of 64 A.H./December 14, 683 A.D. at the young age of 38. He was a playboy, a drunkard, and a man who used to enjoy seeing animals fight. He used to play with animals. Monkeys were dressed in gold-embroidered multi-colored clothes and trained to dance for him, and he had salaried "officials" to look after his animal collection. Such collection included monkeys and race dogs. He was fond of gambling and wine drinking, and he demonstrated disrespect towards the Mosque of the Prophet (ﺹ) and towards the Ka'ba itself, causing very serious damages to its structure as the reader will come to know in a later part of this book. He forced women to take their veils off and killed thousands of innocent people and encouraged the rape of women, girls, and children during the uprisings that took place in Hijaz, particularly in the Harra incident, details of which will follow. In short, Yazid did not have one iota of respect for Islamic tenets or moral ethics. Strange enough, there are some ignorant Muslims who sing his praise, justify and defend his barbaric conduct...
This much gives the reader an idea about what type of persons Abu Sufyan, Mu'awiyah, and Yazid were. Now let us review the brief biography of their opponents.
May the Almighty guide our steps and yours to what He loves and prefers, Allahomma Aameen, Wassalamo Alaikom.
Yasin T. al-Jibouri
Ibn Abul-Hadid, Sharh Nahjul-Balagha شرح نهج البلاغة, Vol. 16, p. 15.