This survey of the unique revolution of Imam Hussain (p.b.u.h.) is analytical
in essence. The purpose of this essay is to give a qualitative rather than
quantitative account. It has dealt with the causes, policy and results of this
eternal revolution. This is done in the hope of unveiling the startling aspects
of the revolution’s message, which is often neglected in its traditional
In being confronted with this event, many questions need to be answered. First,
why did this revolution take place? What were its implications and procedures?
And what were its conclusive results? The answers may provide a guiding light on
which people would formulate their judgments. Although the following account is
only a person’s viewpoint which is not necessarily the complete answer.
Nevertheless, it is based on the most popular and trustworthy authorities on the
The answers of the above questions are by no means easy, because they involve
analysis of the prevailing conditions before and after the revolution. Indeed
comprehensive answers would require volumes in order that one may be satisfied.
Not to mention the stormy and turbulent events of the time, which add
substantial difficulties in the way of objective research work.
To understand Imam Hussain’s personality and the collective culture of the
society, a summary of Islam’s view of life is necessary.
The Islamic Message
Islam is a philosophy of life. It gives reasons and a set purpose for living.
Furthermore, it defines the best ways to secure progress and happiness. This is
done by elevating the spiritual side and satisfying the material needs of
Islam considers man as a viceroy of God on earth. This status is a fine one, but
it is also critical for the requirements must be satisfied. Thus, he is in an
envied position, and consequently his acts and behavior are expected to conform
with the high level he is occupying. The Islamic concepts and laws are
inseparable parts of the Islamic ideology. They are the practical expression of
Islam in society and life in general. These concepts and laws are essentially
concerned with harmonizing people’s relationships among themselves, with other
beings, and above all with the Creator.
The basic Islamic outlook to this life is that of an introductory course. This
worldly life is viewed as a prelude to another eternal life. Therefore, this
world is a preparatory stage for people in order to attain the spiritual level,
which permits them to enter Paradise. The other side of the picture is the
horror of Hell for people who misuse the powers at their disposal. Hence,
success and failure are not measured with this worldly or materialistic
supremacy. The Islamic measure differs from materialistic standard by accounting
for the life hereafter. The satisfaction of God is the sublime aim, which
surpasses all other inclinations and wishes. This is by no account neglecting
materialistic supremacy, but putting it in its rightful place. It is with the
satisfaction of God that Muslims seek materialistic supremacy.
Who is Imam Hussain (as)?
Imam Hussain’s life and status in the Islamic history are formidable. Indeed, it
is not of obscurity but because of the vitality and the significance of his
contributions. The following account is only a very brief record of his
He was one of two sons of Imam Ali and Fatimah, the daughter of the Holy Prophet
(p.b.u.t.). His father, Imam Ali, needs no introduction. The least known of him
as to be acknowledged by the far and near and by his foes and admirers. He was
openly declared by the Prophet as the Commander of the faithful’s. Needless to
mention his knowledge, bravery, steadfastness, brotherhood to the Prophet,
justice and piety.
Fatimah was the dearest daughter to her father (p.b.u.t.). Al-Turmudhi narrated
through Usamah ibn Zaid that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said, “The dearest member of
my family to me is Fatimah”. She was declared by the Prophet as the master of
all women in the whole world. She and her husband were members of the family who
were signified for their qualities and roles. They are examples of interest to
Muslims, men and women. Their role was an extension of the Prophet’s role in the
sense of leading the great cultural transformation from the darkness of an
infidel’s culture to the brightness of heavenly light.
Historians recorded the birth of Imam Hussain as an exciting event for the
Muslims at Madina and especially to the Prophet of God. He was even concerned
with the name given to his grandson, ‘Hussain’. And the news flared up in the
sky, the Muslims congratulated each other for the new child whom the Prophet
considered as his own son. Thus the Prophet once declared, “Hussain is of myself
and I am of Hussain. O, God be pleased with those who please Hussain”. This
statement was not accidental or the result of emotional strains as it is wrongly
This declaration came from a responsible wise leader, the Prophet of God who
would never commit a mistake during the performance of his Prophetic task. He
was delivering the Islamic Message and informing people of those who will act as
springs and guardians for this Message in the future. Emotions and sentiments
are not loose in a Muslim’s life, but are controlled by Islamic concepts and
ideals. There is always a criterion for like and dislike which evolves from the
deeply rooted Islamic concepts.
Although Abu Lahab was the Uncle of the Prophet, his infidelity made him cursed
till the Day of Judgment. The Prophet of God made another statement, which
leaves no doubt of Imam Hasan’s and Imam Hussain’s role. He (p.b.u.h.) said, “Hasan
and Hussain are the masters of youth in Paradise”. This was presented as a
credential to the Muslim nation in order to hold firm to their leaders.
At a certain time the Muslims at Madina felt the Islamic Message’s glory and
good results. So that they intended to reward the Prophet for his effort in
guiding them. The gift they presented to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) was some gold,
which they had collected. The Prophets answer came in the following verses,
which were revealed during this incident. “Say: ‘No reward do I ask of you for
this except being kind to those of kin” (23/42).
AI-Kashaaf narrated that when this verse was revealed, people asked the Prophet
“O Prophet of God, who are these of kin which this verse makes their respect
obligatory upon us?” The Prophet answered, “They are Ali, Fatimah, and their two
sons”. However, this did not imply disrespect for other Muslims, companions or
the rest of kin to him.
Looking objectively at the message of the verse it will indicate first of all
reluctance to accept material reward. If a reward was not suitable then it
cannot be restricted to material only. Hence, the verse was indicating respect
to some specific people, not because they are his relatives as such. But the
real reason behind this respect was to safeguard the Islamic Message. The role
they assumed to play in the Islamic history required such respect in order to
enable them to perform their task.
Al-Hakim narrated through Abu Saaid Al-Khidri that the Prophet said, “He who
dislikes us, we the family, God will place him in Hell”. This implies those who
dislike Islamic conduct and life.
Jabir narrated that the Prophet in his speech after performing the last
pilgrimage, said, “O people I am leaving the book of God and my family (Itrah)
for guidance. If you hold fast to them, surely you will never go astray”. This
Hadith was narrated through some twenty different sources of trusted chains of
narrators. Muslim in his Sahih quoted some of them.
Another striking Hadith obtained through Abu Dhar where he quoted the Prophet
saying, “O people, let my family act as a head of a body of you, and as eyes of
a head among you”.
The last few Hadiths are impressive in many respects. First they were narrated
by different sources of different inclinations which add to them extra weight.
Secondly the same content of all indicates the consistency of the event.
Imam Hussain as already stated, was one member of the family of the Prophet. He
was brought up in the Prophetic guidance where he received the direct concern of
the Prophet. The ideal atmosphere where he had grown up with his grandfather,
father, mother and elder brother was the highest level ever attained.
Thus he acquired wisdom, generosity, bravery, and piety. He occupied outstanding
posts during his father’s reign in the Islamic State. During the terror and
corruption which swept the Muslim World at the hands of the Umayads, he was the
sole hope of the Muslims to restore the establishment of the Islamic laws which
would bring them prosperity, peace and happiness of the two worlds. He never
failed the Muslims, but acted as expected of a great ideological leader and
discharged his duty to the best.
Who is Yazid?
Yazid was the son of Muawiya Ibn Abu Sufyan, from the family of Umayyah, one of
Quraish’s families. Abu Sufyan was acting as the chief adversary in the
infidel’s campaign against Islam. Muawiya’s mother, Hind, ate the liver of Hamza,
the Uncle of the Prophet because of her burning hatred and beast hood. Muawiya
too was an active opponent to Islam. Indeed, Abu Sufyan’s family was performing
the strategic, financial and boosting morale in the infidel’s campaign against
the Muslims. Their efforts, wealth and diplomacy were of great burden on
preventing the spread of Islam among Arab tribes.
Time had lapsed and Mecca was suddenly besieged with enormous forces of the
Muslims. The unbelievers at Mecca were struck with seeing the Muslim fighters
who had caught them unprepared. Thus, the infidels had no choice but to abandon
their arrogance, which had prevented them from accepting God’s sovereignty.
During this incident, historians recorded some peculiar stories about Abu
Safyan’s family. However, there is one thing certain that they accepted Islam
unwillingly, and they were treated in a special way for that. For instance, they
were given extra donations in order to gain their hearts towards Islam. But
whether this generosity had any influence to produce a change in their
materialistic thinking is a different matter. Indeed subsequent events revealed
no change in their way of thinking and life.
Yazid was brought up in a family whose atmosphere was electrified with emotions
of its dead who fought Islam. Besides seeing those Muslims who killed them
receiving full honor and respect by the whole society. Not to mention the wasted
wealth, injured pride and stripped privileges of their family. However, Yazid
had some unique qualities in the adverse sense. He was known as a playboy during
his youth. Historians recorded him being drunk, committing adultery and in
general leading a very corrupt life. Some even quoted Yazid saying, “The family
of Hashim staged a play to get a Kingdom. Actually there was neither news from
God nor a revelation”. Even if we discarded this extreme, there is no escape
from facing the rest of his shameful deeds and horrifying crimes. Not to mention
his illegal claim to rule the Muslim World, or misusing Muslim’s money, or
intrusion upon people’s dignity and lives.
Origins of Deviation
How did Muawiya ascend the ruling stage, and even dare claiming the succession
of the Prophet? What happened to the Muslim World to be silent at the assumption
of power by an ignoble person like Yazid? Indeed, it is astonishing to witness
the indifference and irresponsibility shown by the vast majority of Muslims.
Islamic values and ideals were as if totally alien to the society. What has
happened to the dynamic forces, which had awakened the world? The Prophet’s
voice had not yet died away regarding the responsibility of Muslims. He once
said, “He who sees a cruel governor, violating God’s laws, breaking His
Covenant, acting in contract to the Tradition of the Prophet, doing mischief and
intruding upon people’s rights, then does not try to change that governor
through action or speech, God has promised him a suitable place in Hell”.
We all may wonder over the causes of deviation, which led to this deplorable
situation. We know for sure that Islam is a perfect and practical religion.
Islam is no doubt assured of guiding the Muslims to a stable and prosperous
life. However, the question of deficiency in the Islamic Massage, or the way it
was conducted by the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) has no place. Therefore, the only
possible errors are confined to the subsequent status of the Muslims, their
handling of affairs, and their conformity to the Islamic laws; besides the
natural obstacles encountered in the sequence of events.
This topic is so large that it cannot be dealt with in this short review.
Nevertheless, it is inevitable to have a few glances at it. It is well known
that the Islamic State extended its borders to vast areas embracing huge
populations. The short time of conquest made its cultural assimilation near to
impossible. Besides the language difficulties and primitive means of
communications and propagation. Many Arab tribes had even fought against Islam
after the Prophet’s departure to the next world, who were under the political
influence of Islam.
It is needless to say that any real and thorough cultural transformation needs
time as a basic factor. A complete transition from one culture to another might
require generations before the new culture is firmly established. The second
factor in determining any cultural change is the presence of the ideological
leadership. The kind of leadership, which has a deep insight into the message
and potentially ready to sacrifice for its success. Naturally, the ideological
leader is expected to conform by the message’s orders otherwise, the aim of his
presence would not be realized.
It is indeed eye-catching in Islamic history the many incidents and Hadiths
which encourage Muslims to follow and proclaim the leadership of Imam Ali after
the Prophet. For instance, in Tafseer Abi Ishaq Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim
Al-Nisabouri Al-Thaalabi who died in 337 A.H. gave a commentary on the following
“Your guardians are God, His Prophet, and the believers who pray and give alms
while prostrate to God. Regarding those who disobey God, His Prophet and the
believers, the party of God are the victors ” (5:58,59) He quoted Abu Dhar Al-Ghifari
stating, “I heard the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) With these ears or would be deaf, and
saw him with these eyes or would be blind;” the Prophet once said, “Ali is the
leader of the best believers, and the killer of unbelievers, victor who supports
him, and weak who doesn’t ” Abu Dhar added, One day we were praying with the
Prophet, a beggar had entered the mosque.
The beggar was requesting people for help but none helped him except Imam Ali.
While Imam Ali was offering his prayer, he donated his silver ring by pointing
his finger to the poor man and the latter took it filled with joy. After this
incident the Prophet prayed humbly to God and said, “O God, my brother Moses
asked You, O my God, expand my breast; ease my task for me; and remove the
impediment from my speech, so that they may understand what I say; and give me a
Minister from my family, Aaron, my brother; add to-my strength through him, and
make him share my task, that we celebrate thy praise without stint, and remember
thee without stint.
And You answered: ‘Granted is thy prayer, O Moses’. “O God I am your servant and
Prophet. Expand my breast; ease my task; and give me a Minister from my family,
Ali, my brother; add to my strength through him, and make him share my task”.
Abu Dhar concluded: “By, God, as soon as the Prophet completed his prayer the
trustworthy Gabriel came with the following verses: “Your guardians are God, His
Prophet and the believers who pray and give alms while prostrate to God . . .!”
(5:58, 59). Ibn Sinan narrated this incident in Sahih AI Bukhari. Ibn Abbas
narrated this story in Asbab Al-Nizol by Imam Wahidi. All interpreters of Kanz
AI-Umaal held the same opinion of the cause of the revelation of this verse.
On different occasions, the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) told Imam Ali, “You are to me as
Aaron was to Moses, but there is not Prophet after me”. The consistency of
narrations leave no room for doubt that Imam Ali was chosen by God and His
Prophet to be the ideological leader after the Prophet’s departure. A noteworthy
point is the number and variety of people who confirmed the authenticity of
these stories. Perhaps the most outstanding occasion, which sank into people’s
memories, is the Prophet’s speech during his last pilgrimage. In a large
congregation of Muslims he declared, “He whoever I am his master, Ali is his
master too. O God assist whoever supports him and disgrace those who have enmity
towards him”. Indeed, these are only a few quotations, which Imam Ali had from
God and the Prophet.
Hence it can be safely concluded that Imam Ali’s exclusion from his assigned
duty marked the first major mistake. The inevitable consequences were a slow
deviation, which ended up in a turbulent stream of events, which no one was able
to exercise control over.
Abu Bakr’s reign lasted two years or so, which was an eventful epoch. The
dangers besieging the Muslims were so great that the very existence of the
Muslim community was put between two brackets. But that danger was eliminated by
the many sacrifices of Muslims in lives and substance.
Umar ibn Al-Khattab was appointed by Abu Bakr as the Caliph, and the former
ruled for ten years. His reign is particularly important because of the vast
changes and events, which took place during his time. The conquest of vast areas
brought enormous wealth to the Muslims. But the way this wealth was handled had
created complex problems, which forced Umar to admit their grave consequences.
Indeed, he tried to reform the laws but it was too late to act for he was
Umar ibn Al-Khattab was the first person in charge of Muslim affairs to start
uneven donation of rations among Muslims. He used to prefer some people to
others for various reasons, which generated social classes and sparked off
enmities and rifts in the Muslim society. The laws were not in conformity with
the Tradition of the Prophet or even with Abu Bakr’s procedure. Umar was sad
when he saw the unrest and rifts in the Muslim community and declared, “I was
informed that people have distinct gatherings. When two sit together they talk
of the different groupings and separate entities. By God that is harmful to your
religion, honor and unity”. Realizing the causes of this social phenomenon he
added, “I used to allure people in order to gain their goodwill by preferring
some to others. But if I lived this year, the distribution of wealth will be
even among all people as the Prophet and Abu Bakr used to do.”
A rather serious measure taken by the Caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattab was his
appointment of six nominees to the Caliphate post. This, it is believed had
induced a desire in every one of the nominees to ascend one day to this powerful
and honorable position. Thus it was a matter of time for everyone and they were
engaged in preparing the ground for their ascent.
Uthman ibn Affan was chosen by Abdul Rahman ibn Auf to be the next Caliph, after
being turned down by Imam Ali. Imam Ali refused to accept the Caliphate post
because Abdul Rahman ibn Auf put a condition, which meant retaining the status
quo and preventing any radical change. The vast majority of Muslims resented
Uthman’s policies. His monetary policy was the focus point of resentment,
because he donated large amounts of money to his relatives while the rest of the
people were left empty handed ( Muroj Al-dhahab 2/241 by Al-Masaudi Al-Ansab and
Al-Ashraf [5/25, 28,48,52] by Al-Baladhiri). Indeed, the governors who were
assisting in administering the country had neither ability nor piety. It is
believed that they were appointed because they were of kin to him.
For instance, Al-Waleed ibn Aqabah ibn Abi Muaeet was appointed to govern Kofah.
Al-Waleed was reputed to be a drunkard and people were very dissatisfied with
his behavior. People’s pressure was tremendous that Uthman had to yield and
finally replaced him by another one. The new governor was Saaid ibn Al-As who
had the famous statement “Iraq is Quraish’s garden, we take or leave of it
whatever we like” (Muroj Al-dhahab 2/346 by Al-Masaudi). Muawiya was governing
Damascus and Jordan during the reign of Umar, Uthman added to his state Hams,
Palestine, and Jazera. Egypt’s governor was Abdullah ibn Abi Sirah. All the
previous governors are Uthman’s relatives.
The most striking feature of this bunch of rulers was their contempt for
people’s rights and dignity. They simply looked at the whole Muslim country as
their private property, as it is shown in Al-Waleed’s statement.
Moreover the principal treasury at Madina was not utilized in its rightful ways.
Many Muslims like the treasurer’s trust, Ammar ibn Yasir, Abu Dhar and similar
distinguished companions objected strongly against Uthman’s monetary policies.
Uthman’s reply to those people was, “We take from the treasury whatever we want
in spite of some people’s objections”.
These policies were not only foreign to Islamic conduct and ideals but caused
tremendous sufferings and hardships to the majority of Muslims. Responsible
Muslims played their role in warning Uthman against these deviations but their
advice was in vain. Thus, the situation reached its danger point one day and
exploded which resulted in Uthman’s murder. This act of violence as I believe
could have been avoided by using some peaceful method.
The chaotic conditions and the deterioration of the Muslims material and social
status forced them to rethink their past, present and future. Perhaps it was
like a film passing in their minds, reminding them of events which were
connected with their presence. It is normally the last incident and last speech,
which remain alive in people’s memories. Indeed, it was the Prophet’s famous
speech in Khum during his last pilgrimage, which was recalled. Muslims
remembered that significant event where there were more than one hundred
thousand Muslims present and the Prophet went briefing the Islamic message to
them. In the middle of that anxious crowd, listening carefully to every word
i.e. (p.b.u.h.) uttered, and watching every sign he made. The Prophet took Ali
ibn Talib’s hand and raised it while saying “O, people whoever I am his master,
then Ali is his master too. O, God, assist those who support him and disgrace
those who do not”.
Thus the Muslims found their way out suddenly after the cloud of events
disappeared. They hurriedly went to Imam Ali (p.b.u.h.) calling him to perform
his assigned duty. But the abnormal situations existing at the time did not make
his task easy. Indeed, the very acceptance of his duty during such situations
was not healthy. Imam Ali’s reply to the Muslims was negative. He (p.b.u.h.)
said, “Leave me aside and seek someone else”. We are heading at a subject which
has many facets and various colors, neither the hearts would rise to, nor the
minds would be firm upon. The horizons are black and gloomy while reason is
You should know that my acceptance means what I know will be applied and obeyed.
I shall not conform to one’s ideas or listen to others rapprochement. On the
other hand, leaving me aside means I am one of you, listening and conforming to
whom you have appointed for your affairs. “I am better a minister than commander
for you”. In this speech, perhaps, he (p.b.u.h.) wanted to gauge people’s
interests and determination. Moreover, he showed his disinterest for power and
ruling if that means an aim by itself. But the vast majority of Muslims were
determined to see the Prophet’s words and will implemented. They left no choice
to Imam Ali but to accept his rightful role of being the ideological leader to
the Muslim community.
Imam Ali’s Reform
The major problems, which were confronted at the time, were the existence of a
corrupt and incompetent administration, unjust social privileges, and wide
financial gap between the rich and the poor. Thus, Imam Ali’s reforms covered
these three major fields.
1. Administration: All previous governors were instantly expelled from their
posts. And the following people were put in charge, Uthman ibn Haneef for Basrah,
Sahl ibn Haneef for Syria, Qais ibn Saad ibn Ubadah for Egypt, and Mousa Al-Ashari
for Kofah. It is noteworthy that all the mentioned governors were not from
Quraish tribe. This was bitterly taken by Quraish who were accustomed to rule
and get the lion share of money and authority. It is not out of place to mention
that the new governors were not only known for their piety and good conduct, but
possessed sound administrative abilities. However, it must be taken into account
that the conditions in which they were operating and the unstable situation of
that period gave them no chance to manifest fully their talents. But, still the
marks, which they left in the society, were so deep that they survived and
remembered for generations.
2. Protection of Rights: The rights of Muslims whether social or financial were
carefully observed and protected. Thus Imam Ali (p.b.u.h.) declared “O people, I
have the same rights and obligation as the rest of you” Therefore, he cut the
way of every intruder who wanted to exploit his position or kinship or religious
reputation. Imam Ali again stated, “It should be known that whoever is an
immigrant (Muhajir) or a supporter (from Ansar) who accompanied the Prophet (p.b.u.h.),
and think he is better than others for his companionship, then his goodness will
be rewarded by God in the Hereafter. Every person who believes in God and His
Prophet is entitled to the same rights and obligations. Money belongs to God,
which must be divided equally among people. No-one will get a greater share than
others, those pious people would get their reward in the Hereafter”.
3. Fiscal and Monetary Policy: The extravagant monetary policy of Uthman which
accumulated the wealth among his relatives and associates, had seriously
imbalanced the society. However, Imam Ali (p.b.u.h.) had to take some drastic
measures against the existing unnatural imbalance in the society. Thus he warned
all people, “I shall follow the Prophet’s Tradition and execute whatever he had
commanded, hence, every gift which Uthman gave, or God’s money which he donated
will be returned to the treasury. Nothing will cancel its belonging to the
treasury even if it was married with, or distributed in the wide country.
Justice must be implemented. If someone feels hard to accept justice then
injustice is harder to accept”.
Moreover, he condemned prodigals who run after the pleasures of this life only
while disguising in religious masks. In this respect Imam Ali said, “There are
some people whom life has absorbed completely. They have built many houses, made
rivers, rode beautiful horses, and took to themselves slave women, which brought
disgrace upon them. Whenever I prevent them from indulging in bad deeds and give
them no more than their rights, they turn angry and object furiously. They say,
“Ali ibn Abi Talib has prevented us our rights”.
However these new policies irritated the Quraishite. They no longer enjoyed
their garden of Iraq and the rest of the Muslim country. Even what they have
already gained was endangered of restoration to the Muslims treasury. Therefore,
Imam All’s policies were aiming at stripping them completely of their social
privileges, financial status and authority. Quraish was not pleased with the new
regime and worked continuously to hinder the stabilization of the new authority.
Dissents and wars were launched successively shaking the whole State,
economically, socially, politically and morally. Meanwhile, the poles of Quraish
who were campaigning against Imam Ali’s rule, realized that they were fighting
Islam again. It was not Imam Ali as a person they were fighting, but it was the
ideals and policies, which he (p.b.u.h.) had advocated. Thus the Umayyads who
accepted Islam under various conditions but belief found that their
materialistic thinking cannot reconcile with Islamic values. Hence, they decided
to distort Islamic values and ideals, since opposing Islam openly was fatal, as
they had experienced previously. So Muawiya had ordered the formation of a
committee to fabricate Hadiths and distort the interpretation of Quran.
Five years had lapsed which were full of violent events. The camel’s war in
Basrah, Siffin war against Muawiya, Nahrawan war against Khawarij, and many
other campaigns, which were continuously on the move. Thus the opposition was
able to feed unrest practically in every part of the Islamic State, which shook
the authority of the new administration.
Imam Ali (p.b.u.h.) was murdered at Kofah mosque, and Muawiya was given access
to rule the whole country. The circumstances in which Muawiya assumed power will
be discussed later.
The following points are the main features of his rule:
1. Authority: Muawiya assumed authority by sheer force. He did not hide this
fact and put it plainly in his address at Kofah. He said, “O people of Kofah, do
you think I fought you to establish prayers or giving alms (Zakat) or perform
pilgrimage?” He continued, “I know you pray, pay alms, and perform pilgrimage.
Indeed, I fought you in order to command you with contempt, and God has given me
that against your wishes. You must be certain that whoever has killed any of us,
and then he will be killed. And the contract between us of amnesty is under
these feet of mine”.
2. Terrorism: Muawiya’s rule was terror in the whole Muslim land. This terrorism
was spread by sending many convoys in various regions of the country. It was
narrated that Muawiya summoned Sufyan ibn Auf Al-Ghamidi, one of his army
commanders, and said, “This Army is under your command, proceed along the river
Euphrates till Heet. Any resistance in the way should be crushed, and then
invade Anbar. After that penetrate deep into Madaain. O Sufyan, these invasions
will frighten the Iraqis and please those who like us. Such campaigns would
attract frightened people to our side. Kill whoever having different opinions
from ours, loot their villages and demolish their houses. Indeed, the War
against money is similar to killing but is more painful to their hearts”.
Another commander, Basar ibn Artat, was summoned and ordered to proceed towards
Hijaz and Yemen. Muawiya instructed him, “Proceed to Madina and expel its
people, Meanwhile, people in the way who are not from our camp should be
terrorized. When you enter Madina, 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 Madina and scatter them”.
3. Islamic Concepts and Laws: During Muawiya’s reign even basic human rights
were denied to people. No one is free to express his opinion. Spies were
employed to terrorize people, besides the army and police who spared no
opportunity to crush people and silence their voices. There are some documents,
which reveal Muawiya’s instructions to his governors. For instance, the
following letter was addressed to all judges. “Do not accept the witness of
Ali’s followers or his descendents in courts”. Another letter stated “If you
have evidence that some person likes Ali and his family, then omit his name from
the rations of Zakat”. Another letter continued, “Punish whoever is suspected to
follow Ali and bring his house down”. Such was the situation of Muawiya’s rule.
Historians who were recording these waves of terror described them as
unprecedented in history. People were so frightened that they did not mind being
called atheists, thieves, but not followers of Imam Ali.
Another facet of Muawiya’s rule was the discrimination between Arabs and
non-Arabs. It is an established fact that non-Arabs during Muawiya’s reign were
treated as third class citizens. Although they embraced Islam but still had to
pay Kharaj and Jizyah! Non-Arab soldiers in the state armies used to fight for
bare subsistence level. Once a dispute between an Arab and a non-Arab was
presented to a court. The Judge was Abdullah ibn Amir. During the procedure, the
non-Arab sadly remarked to his opponent. “May God does not multiply people of
your kind” (meaning Arabs). The Arab answered him light heartedly. “O God,
increase their population among us”(meaning non-Arabs). People who were present
asked the Arab in a state of bewilderment “How do you pray for their increase
while he prays for your decease?” The Arab answered, “Yes indeed, they clean our
streets, make shoes for our animals, and weave our clothes”.
Perhaps the most dangerous mischief, which Muawiya had embarked upon, was the
fabrication of Hadiths. When he was facing Imam Ali (p.b.u.h) as an adversary,
he found his case a hopeless one. His past was dark and shameful, while that of
Imam Ali was glorious and shining. In order to sustain his campaign and boast
his followers, Muawiya had to attract some weak character companions, and
employed them to fabricate Hadiths. Naturally, his aim was to boast his
campaign, challenge adversaries, and legalize his claim to rule. Muawiya’s order
was not to let any Hadith or incident in favor of Imam Ali but to fabricate a
similar one and attribute it to Uthman, Umar and Abu Bakr. The second phase of
this psychological warfare was to put Hadiths in Muawiya’s favor. The third
phase was to silence people and keep them calm at what he did whether in
wronging Muslims or his violation of Islamic laws.
This trend of fabrication of Hadiths, was constituting a grave danger to the
integrity of Islam. Hadith is considered as the second source of Islamic
legislation after Quran. Therefore, it was very important to divert this danger.
The exposition of this trend to the Muslims at large was very vital. This was
done by disgracing those who embarked upon this terrible mischief and nurtured
it. Thus, Imam Hussain’s revolution as I can see it.
Few samples of the fabricated Hadiths are the following. Through Abu Hurairah,
the Prophet said “God has trusted three for his revelation: myself, Jabriel and
Muawiya “. I wonder what God was doing for the revelation when Muawiya was part
of the infidel’s camp. Again, Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet had given
Muawiya an arrow and told him “Take this arrow until we meet in Paradise”. What
a lucky arrow to enter Paradise. Abdullah ibn Umar claimed that the Prophet said
“You will see greed after me, and things which you would disagree with” People
asked “O Prophet of God, then what do you order us?” The Prophet said, “Do the
governor’s right and ask God for yours”. Another fabricated Hadith said to be
narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar “Endure what you do not like of your governors,
because if you separate from the group (Jamaa) one foot and then died, you would
have died as an unbeliever”.
These fabricated Hadiths are not only principally contradicting the Quran and
other verified Hadiths but are calling Muslims to be slaves of their rulers.
This was exactly what the Ummayad’s were aiming at.
4. Appointing Yazid: Muawiya was not ruling as an individual, but was
representing a way of thinking different in nature from that of Islam. However,
he was not content to leave the ruling stage without making sure that it was
properly looked after. His pragmatic and materialistic mind drove him to prepare
the crowning of his son, Yazid. Although he made many promises that he would not
contemplate installing Yazid. The conditions at the time were not suitable
because still there were Muslims who were politically conscious and wanted to
see the restoration of Islamic laws and values. Hence, Muawiya had a difficult
job to perform before leaving this world. Indeed, he tried his best far buying
allegiance to his son of Army commanders, chiefs of tribes and distinguished
personalities. But, his efforts failed with many, and he left general
instructions of the way to deal with them.
Imam Hasan’s Policy
Wars and internal strife during five long years caused tremendous strain among
people. Imam Ali’s speeches at Kofah were manifesting this phenomenon clearly;
People were tired of wars, because they were worn out economically. The murder
of Imam Ali was disastrous in the political sense. Imam Ali and Muawiya
symbolized the apparent dispute between the two parties. The murder of Imam Ali
(p.b.u.h.) gave Muawiya a stronger hand in the political field, since his
opponent had disappeared from the stage.
Although Imam Hasan assumed power after his father, his authority was not
established. Thus, some Iraqi tribes defected to Muawiya’s camp when the latter
promised them high donations and animated their hopes of success and good
reward. However the scene in Kofah was hopeless, the majority of people were
longing for peace. They did not realize at the time the price of peace they were
wishing. Nevertheless the political scene required nothing but wise manipulation
and patience. The Iraqis and the rest of the Muslim World seemed to be in need
of direct experience with the Umayyad rule. Imam Hasan (p.b.u.h.) gave them this
chance in order to polarize them permanently against the Umayyads. Besides, in
such conditions, the most daring, Islamically conscious would get killed. Imam
Hasan wanted to spare such people from being killed and utilize them for a
The task, which the purity of Islam depended upon, and the existence of Islamic
ideals and practices in the society. Those people were entrusted with the
propagation of Islamic concepts, unveiling the un-Islamic character of the
Umayyads and expose their deviation to the society.
Thus Imam Hasan’s answer to Hijr ibn Uday Al-Kindi came “I found people wishing
to reconcile and disliked war. I did not want to go through something, which
they disliked. I reconciled especially for the sake of our followers to be
spared from being killed. However, I have only postponed the war, and God has a
surprise every day”.
It is noteworthy that Imam Hasan’s move was politically sound. He actually
scored many points against Muawiya in that incident. First, he showed his keen
concern for Muslim’s lives and well being. Secondly, he displayed his integrity
and disinterest in power if that meant an aim as such. Thirdly, he respected the
contract while Muawiya broke it as soon as it was signed. Fourthly, the very
conduct of Muawiya’s ruling and his clique exposed the seriousness of his danger
and put people in continuous struggle against his power. Thus, Muawiya’s
religious mask was stripped off, and at least, responsible people had no doubt
about his real character. Therefore the danger of his deeds was partly
Muawiya was busy preparing the instalment of Yazid as his heir in ruling the
Muslim world. In writing to Imam Hussain he found no pleasant answer to his
demands. Thus, Muawiya reminded his son to beware of Imam Hussain. Yazid took
his father’s advice and promptly wrote to his governor at Madina, Al-Waleed ibn
Atabah to secure recognition from Imam Hussain. But Al-Waleed’s efforts were in
vain. Imam Hussain’s reply was definite and direct. He said “We the family of
the Prophet, the essence of the message and the visiting place of angles . . .
While Yazid is a corrupt, drunkard, murderer and fostering his sins. A person
like me cannot obey a person like him”.
His father arranged Yazid’s ascent to power. Thus all the power at his disposal
was transferred to Yazid. And the latter used every means to obtain submission
for his unholy policies of oppression and aggression. Therefore, Yazid had no
legal right whatsoever in his claims and demands. On the contrary, he was
responsible for many illegal deeds, which demand scorn and required punishment.
The Revolution’s Motives
The motives for revolution were numerous. Some were direct grievances of the
general people while others were ideological. The following were the most
1. There were many defects and drawbacks but the most urgent one was the attempt
to distort Islamic concepts and ideals. This aspect was of extreme importance
and preoccupied the minds of responsible Muslims at the time. The fabrication of
Hadith was all too common, which had a poisonous effect on the lives of Muslims.
This, was giving the Umayyads for a while a free hand to carry out their inhuman
deeds and policies. The mask of religion, which they used to hide their
un-Islamic conduct, was extremely dangerous. In the long run, this could have
changed Islamic concepts of ruling and inverted social ideals. Thus, stripping
off this mask and exposing the true Umayyad’s picture was of utmost necessity.
2. The State’s structure was built on an un-Islamic basis. Quraish was born to
rule, Arabs were second-class citizens, and non-Arabs constituted the base of
the society’s pyramid. That was the general social picture of the Muslim world
under the Umayyads dynasty. Freedom of thought and expression were denied, when
one dared to express an opinion contrary to that of the Umayyad’s, prison became
his home, his property was robbed, and even his life was at stake.
3. The Umayyads considered the Muslim world to be their own property. The alms (Zakat)
and other Islamic dues were collected, but no one knows or can question where
that money went. Large gifts and donations were given to few cruel governors and
tribal chiefs in order to secure their allegiance. Large sums of money were
wastefully spent on racing, gambling, winemaking, and buying slave women to
entertain high-class people in power. Hence, the majority of Muslims were left
near starvation level while the ruling group all enjoyed the social and material
4. The Muslims had apparently got used to the un-Islamic rule of the Umayyads as
time passed by. Their resistance slackened and some people began adjusting
themselves to the new conditions. Hence, the revolutionary spirit of Islam began
to disappear gradually from Muslim’s lives and thoughts. Therefore, a new
stimulant to their souls was necessary to activate their lives and try to
restore, Islamic conduct to the society.
The Revolution’s Procedure
Imam Hussain made no doubt of his intentions to fight the regime of the Umayyads.
The speeches he delivered at Mecca were consistent. Besides, the will which he
entrusted to his brother Mohammad ibn Al-Hanafia who remained at Madina. That
will, in fact, was a formal declaration of the revolution. He (p.b.u.h.). Wrote,
“I am not campaigning for unwillingness to accept righteousness, or having
intent to do mischief and suppress people. Indeed, I have decided to reform my
grandfather’s nation. I want to enjoin what is right and forbid dishonor. People
who accept my call for being right, and then God is the Master of righteous
people. Those who reject my call, and then I shall be steadfast till God passes
His Judgment. Indeed, God is the best Judge”.
During his travels to Karbala, he never ceased calling people to strive for the
Islamic ideals of social justice and government, and to wage war against
deviation from Islamic conduct. In his speech (p.b.u.h.) at Karbala, he quoted
the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) saying “He who sees a cruel governor violating Gods law,
breaking his covenant, acting in contrast to the Tradition of the Prophet,
mischievous and suppressing people, then he does not try to change that ruler by
action or speech; indeed God has promised with an appropriate place in Hell”. “O
people those Umayyads have pledged allegiance to the Devil and left God’s
obedience. They have spread corruption, suspended the application of Islamic
laws, and taken to themselves Muslim’s wealth. Besides forbidding what is
permitted and allowing what is forbidden.”
Imam Hussain’s speeches were aiming directly at stripping the religious mask of
the Umayyad’s regime. He was, introducing himself to people and explaining his
message to the nation. Indeed, the personality of Imam Hussain and his religious
reputation was beyond question or doubt. Therefore, no wonder of carrying such a
great task while many distinguished people were not ready to raise a finger.
Any objective study of this great revolution will show that something unique
about its procedure and results. The leader predicts his own death before even
setting a foot in the march! But, he goes on carrying out all necessary
preparations for his campaign. Imam Hussain’s address to the people at Mecca was
this: “O people, as if my body be cut to pieces by spears and wolves between Al-Nawawees
and Karbala. … There is no question of the day, which was already written.
God’s satisfaction is our aim, we the family of the Prophet”.
The way Imam Hussain and his Companions fought was a glorious record of bravery
and nobility. They were only seventy fighting men against thousands of the
Umayyad’s Army. Even with this imbalance of fighting power, the Umayyad’s Army
used the most vicious and ignoble methods in fighting this tiny camp. The
Umayyad’s Army went to the extent of preventing them drinking water and kept
them for three days tortured in the burning heat of the desert. But, the firm
faith of Imam Hussain and his followers in their cause was never shaken. Thus
they set an ever-shining torch of Jihad against deviation from Islamic conduct
and smashed the myth of the Umayyads of keeping allegiance to deviated regimes.
The Revolution’s Results
What had Imam Hussain’s revolution meant in history? Some people, who are not
familiar with its motives, innocently inquire about its results. Others have
even questioned its wisdom that striking at a mighty force like the Umayyad’s
was fatal. Although the revolution’s motives were already discussed, but a brief
review of the changes in the Muslim World after Imam Hussain’s revolution is
appropriate at this stage.
1. Murdering Imam Hussain (p.b.u.h.) the grandson of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) was
a great shock to the whole Muslim world. This is not to mention the way he was
murdered or the treatment given to his family who had the highest esteem and
respect of all Muslims. Consequently, all Muslims dissociated themselves from
the Umayyad’s deeds and policies. Indeed, who want to share in the certain curse
upon those who murdered the family of the Prophet? Thus, this revolution had
done the task of unveiling the Umayyad’s un-Islamic character to the general
public and left no doubt in any person’s heart about the Umayyad’s substance.
Therefore, the concepts, which the Umayyad’s were propagating in order to
distort the ideals of Islam, found no listening ear any longer. Hence, diverting
the Umayyad’s mischief of changing Islamic concepts and ideals.
2. Imam Hussain’s revolution set a lively example as to the duty of Muslims in
such conditions. It had deeply penetrated people’s hearts, and produced great
pains for not doing their Islamic duty. This feeling, which pained people all
the time transformed into repentance and then to an open revolt against the
Umayyad’s regime. Thus, the revolution provided the stimulant to move their
spirit and set it in a dynamic movement. Indeed, the Islamic movement was put to
a new gear throughout the rest of the Islamic history. A series of revolutions
manifesting Imam Hussain’s revolutionary spirit and reforms emerged at
successive intervals. Tawabeen’s revolution took place immediately after
Another revolution at Madina was aiming at doing away with the Umayyads deviated
regime. Al-Mukhtar Al-Thaqafi filed another revolution, which stormed the
Umayyad’s regime in Iraq. He was able to punish all principal collaborators in
the campaign against Imam Hussain in Iraq. Mitraf ibn AI-Mughira’s revolution
against Hajjaj and Abdul Malik was another result. However, there were a chain
of revolutions in all parts of the Muslim world which eventually had done away
with the Umayyad’s regime. Imam Hussain’s revolution was the principal slogan of
the revolutionaries against the Umayyad’s.
The Abasides came and soon their conduct was exposed as not that which the
family of the Prophet were advocating. They realized that the revolution results
were stolen and before they could do anything, the main personalities, which
carried the revolt through, were treacherously eliminated by murder, poison and
The attempts to restore Islamic conduct were never ceased throughout Islamic
history. Bitter experiences and intermittent material failures are natural
results of struggle. Most important is the triumph of the Islamic spirit against
intimidation and attempts to obscure its shining face and glory. A ceaseless
revolution in Muslim lives is a reality, which the enemies of Islam failed to
extinguish. The secret key of this blessed revolution lies in the firm faith in
God. The unshakable conviction, which puts material supremacy and gain in an
inferior position to God’s satisfaction. Imam Hussain demonstrated these ideals
when the Muslims were in need of such an example most.
The revolution of Imam Hussain was not solely for changing a government. If it
was so, then it would be wrong to call it a revolution. Imam Hussain was
advocating a drastic change in the social set up, the economic and political
structures, and refining Islamic concepts from foreign ideas, which had crept
into Muslim’s minds and thoughts. In other words, Imam Hussain wanted to change
the life of Muslims to be in conformity with Islamic laws and ideals. Indeed,
this explains one main reason for why Imam Hussain was let down by the tribes of
Kofa after being promised support, and his call was ignored by the rest of the
Muslim world. Hence, a revolution means a drastic change in one’s life or the
collective life when applied to a large scale.
Source: Al-Hassanain Network