For an ordinary student of the Evolution of Islam, the events that occurred in the life of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH), and after his death, had been described and interpreted by scholars, so-called scholars, and charlatans in a way that puzzles and confuses. The next issue is the belief in the infallibility of the Prophethood where none can dare to question the motives and modus operand of the steps taken by him or at his behest or in his name except for the good.
As a historical figure, one can either be famous or infamous. Scholars of Shia Islam and Sunni Islam both have had made genuine efforts to analyze his life and achievements. In this article, this scribe would take up only the period that followed in the decades soon after the Prophet (PBUH) left this world.
I shall not take up the issue of the legitimacy of KHILAFAT or successions as there are contradictory claims all backed by very powerful arguments on both sides about Imam Ali’s (AS) right to be his Immediate Khalifa. It has never been settled, and this dispute would carry on until the Day of Judgment.
But after Khilafat-e-Rashedah, how Amir Muwaiyah bin Abu Sufiyan usurped the powers of the Head of the Ummah, by hook and crook, and transformed the “Khilafat’ into “Mulukiyat” is a subject that had been discussed in every century. And in the last century, great scholars like Moulana Abu Lal Moudoodi, Dr. Taha Hussain have expressed their views very clearly.
The earlier scholars like Ibne Khateer, just to name, had written volumes about it. I will quote an observation here:
“In 50 AH / 670 AD, Al-Hasan ibn Ali, the most fortunate in the line of succession died. This allowed Amir Mu’awiya to circumvent the terms of the peace treaty he had already agreed to. After listening to advice from some of his followers and supporters he appointed his son Yazid as his heir and sent word to the Muslim settlements to receive their oath of allegiance (bay’ah).
Ibn Katheer al-Dimashqi explains Mu’awiya’s move in his book “The Beginning and the End” by saying: “He believed him to have worldly brilliance, the knowledge of warfare of the sons of kings, and thought that no other man is better to be the Caliph”.
Despite the opposition of a group of companions of the prophet such as Hussein bin Ali and Abdullah bin Zubair, but they were forced to remain silent after they were threatened with death, according to the “History of the Prophets and Kings” of Ibn Jarir al-Tabari.
In 60 AH / 679 AD, with the death of Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan, these differences erupted, and appeared on the political scene, after Yazid demanded that his opponents pledge allegiance to him. Al Hussein and Ibn al-Zubayr refused and left Madina heading for Mecca away from the powerful grip of the Umayyads.”
End of the Quote
It is also authentically narrated in the historical references that in his last days, Amir Muawiya had warned Yazid that he should be careful about how he would handle four persons; Imam Husayn (a.s.), Abdullah bin Umar, Abdullah ibn az-Zubair, and Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr, who opposed his succession. When Mu’awiya died in Syria, his son Yazid staked his claim as the successor of the head of the Islamic State. Yazid appointed his kin and his henchmen as Governors of various provinces. He appointed his cousin al-Waleed bin Utbah bin Abu Sufyan as the Governor of Medina. Al-Waleed himself showed respect to Imam Husayn (AS) and didn’t cause any harm to Imam. At the meeting, al-Waleed read out the first part of the letter demanding Imam Husayn’s allegiance, and then he gave the letter to Imam Husayn (AS) to read the later part which contained the command to kill him.
Marwan accosted the Imam and said, “I advise you to swear allegiance to Yazid and reap the benefits.”
And here is what the history recorded the response of The Imam (a.s.):
“It is because of us God opened up creation. It is due to us that creatures get their sustenance, and it is due to us that life continues. The likes of me do not pay allegiance to the likes of him (Yazid). You want me to swear allegiance to Yazid who is an infidel and immoral person. No wonder it is you who is supporting Yazid, for it is you, Marwan, whom the Prophet (S) had banished for sedition and mischief.” Imam Husain refused to surrender to the threats nor was he trapped by flattery.
Imam Hussain (a.s.) was faced with two options; he had either to capitulate to the demands of Yazid or to leave Medina to prevent bloodshed. He left Medina in the morning, two days before the new moon of the month of Sha’ban in the year sixty of Hijra. Imam Hussain (AS) followed the highway from Medina to Mecca,
From this narrative, I shall leapfrog to the Message of Imam Hussain (as) for the sake of brevity and to keep the focus on the main issue –“Tyrants, Bigots, and Killers”
It is important if we take into consideration what were those principles that Imam Hussain (as) had stood for.
There were issues of Character of Yazid bin Muawiyah apart from the major issues of the legitimacy of his succession. Yazid was Muslim but name only; he was ostensibly pretending to be a Muslim for political gains, and just to stay in power. He had openly derided the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and Islam. He was a debauch and a drunkard of vile nature. Yazid, by descent or by himself, never possessed any noble qualities. His grandfather had plotted and carried out several strategic plots to kill the Prophet in the earlier period of Islam. His grandmother was Hinda who had chewed the martyr Hazrat Hamza’s liver. His mother was Maysoon, a Christian planted by the Christians to avenge the defeat conceded by them when they were confronted by the Prophet (PBUH) at the event of Mubahala.
The famous Historian Nicholson wrote, “The slaughter of Husayn does not complete the tale of Yazid’s enormities. Medina, the Prophet’s city, having expelled its Umayyad governor, was sacked by the Syrian army, while Mecca itself, where Abdullah bin az-Zubayr had set up as rival Caliph was besieged, and the Kaaba laid in ruins’.
The pertinent point is personality and character of Yazid was never in dispute among Muslims.
The message of Imam Hussain (AS) is:
“Fighting unto death for truth is more honorable and valuable than submitting to the wrong way.”
From the beginning until his end, Imam Hussain (AS.) had staunchly opposed the debauch and tyrant Yazid. He preferred to sacrifice himself and his near and dear fellows rather than to surrender before him. The tragedy of Karbala taught humanity a lesson. The story of Karbala is the most painful tragedy, humanity has ever faced. Yet, the remarkable (though appalling) events in Karbala appeared like a great revolution that shook the foundation of Islamic culture. The battle of Karbala was a battle between humanity and oppression that Karbala turned into a triumph. The tragic event became the guide, that always reminds Muslims to practice Islam honestly and sincerely, to do what is right as a Divine obligation irrespective of consequences, and fear no one except Allah.
Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) was an embodiment of universal mercy and Muslims are the greatest beneficiaries of this universal mercy.
From Imam Hussain (AS) to Yazid, from Gandhi and Godse, the characters arguably fall into either camp as they had a role to play and they played to the hilt. But they will certainly be remembered more for the roles they played and the legacies they have left behind.
The famous Islamic scholar Allama al-Barazanji in his book ‘Al-Isha’ah’ and Ibn Hajar in as-Sawa’iq record that when Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal’s son asked his father about cursing Yazid, he replied, “How can Yazid not be cursed when God himself has cursed him.”
At page 254 of Preface to History (Muqaddimat at-Tareekh) is mentioned, ‘the fact that the Islamic scholars are united in admitting the irreligiousness of Yazid and they hold that such a person can not be an Islamic ruler and that any action taken against him can not be construed as impermissible.
In recent times, some writers inspired by Saudi Wahabi Doctrines, have attempted to support Yazid on the ground that Yazid was not personally involved in the slaying of Imam Hussain (AS) or responsible for the subsequent events that took place. They hold that Ibn Ziyad and Ibn Sa’d were solely responsible for the horrible deeds…They even consider Yazid as the Commander of the Faithful [Ameerul Mo’minin]. They have conspired to legitimize Yazid’s oppressive and tyrannous rule to downplay Imam Husain’s sacrifice and martyrdom by declaring Imam Husain (AS) to be a militant against the established rule.
Likewise, Nahuram Vinayak Godse is gaining popularity in some quarters these days.
He was a nationalist BIGOT who assassinated Father of the Nation on January 30, 1948, when he visited the then Birla House in New Delhi for a prayer meeting. Godse had fired three bullets at Gandhi’s chest from a close range, ensuring his demise. Godse chose not to escape, was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. He was born into a Konkani Brahmin family from Baramati, Pune. He was inspired by nationalist ideals and chose to join the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS.
Godse joined as a ground-level worker of RSS who later had become the editor of a Marathi daily called Agrani – Hindu Rashtra. Godse argued that he was unhappy about Gandhi’s support for the Muslim community and blamed him for the partition of India and the formation of Pakistan. As for killing Gandhi, Godse said he felt, “Indian politics in the absence of Gandhiji would surely be proved practical, able to retaliate, and would be powerful with armed forces. No doubt, my own future would be totally ruined, but the nation would be saved from the inroads of Pakistan.”
His hanging took place on November 15, 1949.
Thomas Jefferson is reported to have said: “I have investigated and prosecuted dictators and their henchmen for most of my professional life. I have studied their lives, personalities, their rise to power, and how they governed once achieving that power. The one common theme in their theories of governance is fear. It is easier to govern and dictate to citizens through fear.”
“Never surrender before a tyrant” is what the martyrdoms of Great Men of history like Imam Hussain and Gandhi Ji inspire us. In the twenty-first century, mankind is pushing back and trying hard to hold dictators, tyrants, and thugs accountable. With the advent of modern international criminal law, mankind created international courts and tribunals, which include a permanent International Criminal Court, to seek justice for victims of those who rule by fear.
I feel enough literature is available in all languages around the world about Mahatama Gandhi and his contribution to uplift Humanity, and this article is more about Imam Hussain (AS). I shall conclude it with what Gandhi Ji had said about Imam Hussain (AS):
“If I had 72 companions like Husain, I would have freed India in 24 hours, from British. The progress of Islam does not depend on the use of the sword, but on the supreme sacrifice of Imam Hussein, I learned from Hussein, how to achieve victory whilst being oppressed.”