In the pre-Islamic period everything had the mark of ignorance; thus the person who used to be most powerful and mighty as well as most artful in deceit and deception, had the full authority and people showed respect and regard out of fear of oppression and tyranny.
In the pre-Islamic period, the leadership of Mecca and Arabian Peninsula was under the control of Abu Sufyan and Umayyad family. Therefore, Muawiah and his brother Yazid the First, Abu Jahl, Abu Lahab and his other supporters, were the in-charge of the affairs in Mecca and other areas of Arab land.
When Islam emerged as a religion and the darkness of Jahilliya (pre-Islamic paganism) receded, everything changed and the values and norms were reversed. The downtrodden gained prominence and the superior and high ranking people lost their hold. The reversal of norms brought about a change in the status of people.
Thus chiefs and lords went into oblivion and everyone who was humane, was promoted to high positions, and became respectable. In this manner, the Prophet (peace be upon him and his pure family), his family and his pious companions ascended the seat of power.
After this massive revolution and after the victory of Allah’s party and true believers, and the downfall of Jahilliyah and polytheism, Abu Sufyan together with Banu Umayya was compelled to accept the leadership of the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him and his pure family) after the victory over the city of Mecca. But the evil aspirations remained in their heart, as did remain their deep enmity against the Prophet, his family members, and believers.
After the Prophet (peace be upon him and his pure family)
When the Prophet (peace be upon him and his pure family) breathed his last and departed from this world, Abu Sufyan with his party of infidels and hypocrites remained calm, as their hypocrisy was safe from being exposed.
They made their best attempts to ensure that the financial and political power should not go into the hands of the People of the House, and they tried that no one should have monopoly over these powers except them. Their efforts bore fruit. Thus, Muawiah alone held his sway over Damascus, Hummus, Palestine and Jordan and amassed wealth and power, becoming famous in the whole of Islamic world.
After Othman’s killing and appointment of Imam Ali, the son-in-law and cousin of the Prophet and father of the two Imams Hasan and Hussain, as Caliph, the hypocrites and proponent of falsity became vociferous about their enmity and differences again and pulled out their swords against Imam Ali (peace be upon him) in the wars of Jamal, Siffin and Nahrawan. These were the occasions when the enemies of Islam, the hypocrite followers and inheritors of Jahilliyah joined Muaawiah bin Abu Sufyan.
Between this ebb and flow of war and the dispute between Ali (peace be upon him) and Muaawiah, a group of fools assembled who thought that they could relieve people of their problem and reform affairs of Muslims, and they concluded that the problem which the Muslims were suffering from was due to a dangerous trinity consisting of Muaawiah, Amr Ibn al-Aas, and Imam Ali (peace be upon him), and there was no solution to save Muslims except getting rid of these three all at once. Due to their evil intentions, Imam Ali (peace be upon him), the just and pious leader, was martyred, and a door of opportunities was opened for others.
Period of Imam Hasan (peace be upon him) In those days, when the leadership and administration was in the hands of Muaawiya’s supporters, Imam Hasan (peace be upon him) assumed the Caliphate. He had to face the worst kind of leaders occupying their offices at that time; most of them from Banu Umayyah who were awaiting these posts for a long time, so that they could usurp the wealth of God like the way a camel eats the spring plants.
During those days, Imam Hasan’s (peace be upon him) Caliphate was spread over a large part of the Islamic world, including Persia, Khurasan, Yemen, Hejaz, Kufa and Iraq. These were territories where the unrest and disturbance prevailed, albeit people there showed allegiance to him.
From the very first day of his Caliphate, the Imam could feel that Muaawiah is harbouring bad intentions for him and preparing for war. He sent a number of his messengers to the governors of cities and states asking them to be prepared for war, as he also sent a letter to Muaawiah, a letter in which he put his argument for him and advised him and made him understand the consequences of his deeds.
He also mentioned in the letter his right and eligibility for the Caliphate. He stated that love of Islam and the unity of Muslims calls for avoiding war and shunning all differences. Here, he also asks him to follow the rule of reason and obligations of allegiance, and warned him from harbouring bad intentions which may lead him to destruction and disorder and differences of the Muslim Ummah.
Finally, he threatened him with war if he did not comply, until Allah decided the matter between them. Alas! How distant Muaawiah was from these suggestions? The man did not conceive anything but being in the authority and power and for attaining that, he could do anything, no matter how wrong his actions were and how far he was from the truth. Instead of paying heed to the Imam’s advice, this dictator secretly dispatched his spy to the governors and leader promising and luring them with wealth and grants, posts and positions, if they deserted the Imam and joined him.
Many prominent people of the time accepted Muaawiah’s offers and temptations and violated their pledges to the legal Imam. Some of them joined Muaawiah’s camp openly, while some others proposed to capture the Imam and made him a captive. But Muawiah who was shrewd and artful, asked them pretend allegiance until the battle begun, and then turn against him and desert him.
Many months passed, during which Muawiaah bought over many tribal leaders by his wealth and gifts, who were used to accepting the wealth and bribes and were always ready to betray their self, religion and conscience. Those leaders felt that the path of Imam was the path of his Father, the Commander of Faithful (peace be upon him) and the other path was the path of booty and huge profit. Thus, they chose him and compromised with their religion for the falsity of this world at the cheapest price!!
The choice between religion and world
Muaawiah moved with a big army towards Kufa, the stronghold of Imam (peace be upon him). The Imam on his part was trying to engage Kufa into Jihad, thus facing all kind of sufferings and problems, as very few people were ready for that and were divided into factions. Each faction had different point of view and opinion and an army of such divided people is an army which cannot participate in a serious war and true Jihad.
The Imam (peace be upon him) appointed his cousin Ubaidullah bin Abbas to lead his army and Ubaidullah being from Quraish, all the commanders of army and leaders of tribes respected him and followed his instructions. He was among the first ones who pledged allegiance to Imam Hasan (peace be upon him). Apart from that, his heart was full of hatred and animosity for Muaawiah who killed his family members.
Imam sent Ubaidullah against Muaawiah with an army that consisted of twelve thousand men. He himself moved with a big army to Madain and set up his camp there as a part of the plan to achieve victory over Muaawiah’s large army.
Muaawiah had not forgotten the bitterness of the Siffin war, and the memories of Imam Ali’s supporters (peace be upon him) with swords sent a chill down his spine. So, he decided to resort to trick and ploy in this war. He sent secretly a delegation to Ubaidullah offering him one million dirham if he accepted to retreat from this war, on the condition that he will get half of the amount in his camp if he goes there and the remaining half in Kufa.
Ubaidullah remained confused for days, as he knew that very few people responded to Imam’s call, while Muaawiah was leading with a huge army and thought that army of Muaawiah was by all means going to win, then why should there be any hesitation? Moreover, the offer was very alluring.
Finally Ubaidullah took a shameful decision and in the middle of that night withdrew with a group of prominent people of the army and its leaders and headed towards Muaawiah’s camp... he chose to sell his God, his Prophet, his Imam and his religion for very cheap price, only to earn a bad name that will remain forever. People gathered for the Dawn prayer and waited for Ubaidullah to lead them in the prayer, as it had been decided earlier that they would move after the prayer for battle, but their waiting was of no avail.
Ubaidullah did not turn up for the prayer... and finally the fact was unveiled. They listened to a person from the camp of Sham telling loudly: O' people, disperse and go back to your homes, as Ubaidullah and his men are in Muaawiah’s camp and they have preferred conciliation over war, there is no good in fighting with brothers.
Ubaidullah was the next man in line after Imam in administering the army and the betrayal of this “great” man and popular “jurist” made the people weak, while many others were deceived by the false call for peace and they started getting dispersed in many directions. A group of Imam’s devoted supporters felt ashamed of the ploy and attempted to bring back the people who were feeling nervous and reunite them, but their efforts failed and a minority with true belief remained firm on its stand and its members presented themselves for death, for the cause of truth and they sent to Imam a message asking him to help them with people.
The weak people, who withdrew from war, were heading towards Madain, spreading rumours on the way that Muaawiah’s army got victory over the vanguard of Imam. This news became a pretext for those who had gone with the Imam hypocritically and unwillingly and an excuse for their withdrawal and return to Kufa. The story repeats itself, the story of Khawarij with Chief of the Believers (peace be upon him), the story of those who not only leave and desert the Imam of their time, but they also kill him.
How surprising then is the fact that they claim that they are the protectors of Islam and truth and whereas in reality they create the opportunity for the enemies of Islam and the truth. The same story repeats itself today... in the form of a greater trial, in which the classification is done accurately. The hypocrites and weak people went back to their homes in an abject condition, while the true devoted friends remained firm with pride and self esteem, and the path of martyrdom before them was clear and straight and direct.
The difficult choice
None but only two options remained with the Imam - either to fight and sacrifice those devoted sincere friends or to submit to the conditions of the agreement and endure the pain – a very hard choice. But this could save those pious people from being useless killed and he (peace be upon him) chose to cease the war on certain conditions - the sons of Ali chose what their father - peace be upon him - had chosen twenty five years back, and unwillingly was forced to abstain from war.
This day was – and truth must be spoken – the most disappointing and bitter day in the history of Muslims. It was very easy for Imam to order to continue the war, to fight with his friends till they were martyred. He was Imam Ali’s son (peace be upon them both) and not the one who feared death.
Yet, he knew quite well that he would not be killed and his family would go before him to be killed, and likewise his family would not be killed as their supporters would embrace death before them. This fighting and killing would be of no use in making the Muslims aware of the real situation, because the true picture of differences between him and Muaawiah was still not clear for many people. This was what Muaawiah was thinking and wishing. During his regime in Sham, he claimed to the people and made them believe that he was the protector of sanctuary of Islam and people believed, as they were still unaware of his betrayal to Islam and Muslims, and the fact that he was trying to ensure his own as well as his family’s interests on the pretext of protecting Islam.
This was the fundamental difference between the two men. Thus, if Imam Hasan (peace be upon him) was killed then, people would never know the fact. In this manner, on the darkest days of Muslims' history, at a time when even the blood of martyrs was of no use in waking up the Muslims from their slumber, Imam Hasan (peace be upon him) accepted the conciliation and gave a chance for another day to come, when people will know the reality of Muawiah and the reality of differences. At that moment, they will be ready for war and martyrdom, and this will happen only after they become aware of the reality.
The Imam accepted the reconciliation after he put Muaawiah under an obligation in which he admitted many realities, which became a source for increasing the awareness among people. This was what Imam Hasan (peace be upon him) was intending.
Muawiah promised that he would not appoint his crown prince, as he does not enjoy this right, and should leave the Shiites on their own and will not harm them or kill them. He will also stop his supporters from abusing Chief of the Believers (peace be upon him) and give Imam Hasan (peace be upon him) the tax which was his right, besides many other things. The agreement was concluded and signed and the war stopped. Imam, his family, and his friends returned to Kufa.
Imam Hasan’s (peace be upon him) friends felt disappointed and frustrated, some of them even wished that they should have died and have not seen this day. Many protested against the acceptance of reconciliation by Imam. Some even used indecent language. But Imam Husain (peace be upon him) was the only one who accepted this reconciliation and never raised any objection, surrendering to his brother Imam’s (peace be upon him) verdict and agreeing to his right action.
As a matter of fact, many of the people did not consider a vital issue, and that their opposition to Imam was actually the opposition of holy Quran, which informs us about the infallibility of the People of the House (peace be upon them). What they decide about the conciliation or war, or command or prohibition were sacred and preordained matters.
Objection to that was disobedience to the Prophet of Allah, as he says: “Hasan and Husain are Imams whether they stand or sit”. However, people made hasty decisions without vision and thinking. Had they considered it, they would have known that the Prophet meant that Hasan and Husain (peace be upon them) are Imams whether they carry out the revolution and war or abstain from that and reconcile; as standing symbolises revolution while sitting points to withdrawal.
After his success, Muaawiah headed towards Kufa, the stronghold of the Chief of the Believers and his companions. There he stood on the platform of its great mosque, filled with pride and haughtiness, and started using abusive language. Then he chided the heads of tribes by violating the agreement that he signed with them, and began identifying them by name and pointing fingers, leaving them in a state of humiliation and embarrassment.
This is what comes out of betrayal. The people who betrayed Imam (peace be upon him) did not even get the meagre consideration from Muawiah. Imam and his family headed after these incidents towards Yathrib, where they settled down, and Banu Umayyah took over the governance of Kufa. Ziad ibn Abih and later his son assumed Ali’s place and his platform.
Those who cited excuses to justify their stands against the rule of the Chief of the Believers Ali (peace be upon him) and rejected to accept the rule based on justice and godliness of his son after him, were forced to bow their heads to the blood stained swords. They realised, albeit late, the value of the advices they did not heed to. They also realised what problem they have landed themselves into. They were repentant, but delayed repentance was useless.
That deviated lot continued to manifest their disobedience for baseless reasons and frivolous excuses during the five years of Imam Ali’s governance (peace be upon him) and some months of his son’s government. They were now licking their wounds and allowed Muawiah freehand to do whatever he liked, without even a single word of objection.
Hence, no longer did Zubair nor Talha disobey or resort to mutiny, nor Khawarijites incited blind and reckless disturbance and riot. As for the hypocrites, it was a free run to them. In that dark period of history, only the companions of Ali resisted the government of injustice and oppression, and sacrificed themselves for this cause. As for the mercenaries, bribe takers, they crawled prostate while showering praises for the governors, not missing the opportunity to abuse Ali (peace be upon him) and saying words for him which can only come from such people. How easy it is for believers to stand in the face of tyrants of the history, but to stand against a deity who is worshiped by many is extremely difficult.
Breach of Commitment
Finally, when Muawiah realised that his end was near, he feared that after him the Caliphate might go to Imam Hasan (peace be upon him) and all his efforts of the entire life would go in vain when the People of the House would retain their rights. That indeed would be the greatest problem. He decided to poison Imam Hasan (peace be upon him) and executed his plan by killing the Imam who was poisoned by his wife, thus breaching all commitments or agreements he had pledged with him.
Imam’s killing filled the heart of Marwan bin al Hakam al Amawi with joy who was the enemy of Allah and His Prophet. Many others were also overjoyed for example Aaisha bint Abi Bakr bin abi Quhafah. They even did not hesitate from striking his coffin with arrows at the time of escorting him (peace be upon him) to the final resting place.
Subsequently, Muaawiah got engaged in executing his plan and took pledge for his son, Yazid the drunkard, first from the people of Sham and then from people of Mecca and Medina. Thus, he ensured the continuance of the rule of Bani Umaiyyah without any resistance in the name of Jihad with Talha and Zubair’s family.
Doesn’t today resemble that past, as the people came between the Imam and his right today, just as they did in the past with his father? In both instances the fruits borne by their deeds were disgraceful and shameful. Imam Hasan (peace be upon him) made all his efforts to lead them to true path and make them aware, but he knew well the meaning of Allah’s words to his Prophet: “You cannot guide whom you like, but Allah gives guidance to whomsoever He wishes, for He best knows the followers of the right path.”
He knew that Prophet had a mission to complete, and that was to convey the message of his God to people, whether they liked to believe or not. In the similar fashion, Imam also had a duty, and that was to guard the Prophet’s way of life and to protect Islam with appropriate means. This was what Imam (peace be upon him) did; he adopted a way which unveiled the hidden realities to them and mentioned all that the danger to Islam was lying in the delusion of people from false appearances of the governors and leaders, who pretend to follow Islam, but actually did the opposite. He taught them that the protection of Islam and preserving the unity of Muslim require their patience, as he endured many times the usurping of his rights.
He patiently endured excess of his companions who addressed him saying: O degrader of believers; but he bore patiently as he knew that his patience was for the cause of Allah and for the dignity of Muslims, so there was no harm in that as long as it sows the seeds of revolution against oppression, the revolution of his brother Imam Hussain (peace be upon him).
His period and his conciliation was part of the revolution led by Imam Hussain (peace be upon him). The saying of their grandfather, the honest Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) for them is apt for him and his brother (peace be upon them): “Hasan and Husain are Imams whether they stand or sit.”