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The Tragedy of Karbala in a Nutshell

For those who are in search for a detailed treatise which answers most of the questions of the tragedy of Karbala may read it by clicking the following links:

Karbala – A ‘Bloody’ Conspiracy and the Secrets Behind it [Part 1]

[Part 2] Karbala – The ‘Bloody’ Conspiracy and the Secrets Behind it

In the Name of Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

The substance of the article is an endeavor to reveal the real background of the tragedy of Karbala and to lay bare the events leading to a series of tragedies in the Islamic history. The tragedy taken in a distorted perspective has led to tremendous confusion about the conflicts of the Companions of the Holy Prophet ﷺ. It gave rise to a separate sect in Islam, the Shi´ah. It is necessary for every Muslim to be aware of the real background of the events in order to avoid distorted concepts about the Companions of the Holy Prophet ﷺ, as it is a part of our faith to show due respect to them all and consider everyone of them free from perversion of intention in their actions.

In The Name Of Allah, The Most Merciful & The Beneficent

On the 10th of Muharram Al-Haraam, 61 A.H., a most abominable and tragic event occurred in the desert of Karbala that resulted in the martyrdom (shahadah) of Hussain Ibn Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu), the grandson of our Prophet ﷺ and the son of his daughter, along with most of the members of his family and their supporters. It should be borne in mind that this tragedy did not take place all of a sudden like a bolt from the blue. It was in fact the manifestation of the plot of Saba’iyyah which had claimed the life of Uthman (Radhiyallahu anhu), the third Caliph and the son-in-law of the Prophet ﷺ twenty-five years earlier. Caliph Uthman´s (Rashiyallahu anhu) martyrdom took place on 18th of Dhu Al-Hajj, 36 A.H. [Read more: Martyrdom of ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan (Radhiyallahu Anhu) & the Role Of the Saba’iyyah]

We must not overlook the fact that the struggle between the forces of good and evil is a continuous process which never ends. In the history of mankind, evil has reigned supreme most of the time whereas the triumph of good has been sporadic and short-lived. Another well-established fact is that the evil forces, even if subdued and subjugated, never acknowledge total defeat. On the contrary, they become submissive for a while and lay low, waiting for an opportunity to strike back. Often the evil forces, when subdued, go underground but never abandon their struggle to cause rift and strife among their opponents. The Prophet of Islam ﷺ brought about an incomparable and unprecedented revolution in the history of mankind, a unique miracle for all times, and established a state and government to dispense justice to the people over a vast tract of the globe. In the words of the Qur´an:

…the Truth came and the falsehood vanished… [Al-Isra 17:81]

But toward the end of the Prophet´s revolution, the evil forces put on a disguise and lay low, waiting for the right moment for a counter-attack. Thus, immediately after the demise of the Prophet ﷺ, insurgencies raised their ugly heads against the Islamic state. False prophets and defiants of Zakat challenged the central authority and waged wars against the state of Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah. These were the counter-revolutionary forces, determined to disintegrate the newly established Islamic state; but through resolute and prompt action, Abu Bakr Siddique (Radhiyallahu Anhu), the first Caliph, defeated them and consolidated the achievements of the Prophet´s ﷺ Islamic Revolution. It was a great service to Islam rendered by the first Caliph who had a short but glorious reign.

In the next twenty years which include the reigns of ‘Umar (Radhiyallahu anhu) and Uthman (Radhiyallahu anhu), the second and third Caliph of Islam, many more countries were conquered under the banner of Islam and the Muslim empire extended over a vast expanse of the globe, comprising Iraq, Syria, Iran on one side and a large part of North Africa including Egypt and Morocco on the other. But the historical process has its immutable laws. As the Revolution of the Prophet ﷺ was challenged by the reactionary movements on the Arab land, the same happened with the conquests of those two Caliphs. The first target of these reactionaries was the person of ‘Umar (Radhiyallahu anhu) who was assassinated by Abu Lulu Feroze, a Parsi slave from Iran. [Read More: The Last Days of ‘Umar Ibn Khattab (Radhiyallahu Anhu)’s Life and His Assassination]

It was purely an Iranian plot hatched by Hurmuzan, an Iranian general, who thought that if Umar (Radhiyallahu anhu) was removed from the scene, the empire of Islam would fall like a house of cards. But by the grace of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala), it survived the calamity. Abdullah Ibn Saba, a Jew from Yemen, under the garb of a Muslim, took his sojourn at Madinah. He had all the trappings of an expert plotter and the Jewish cunningness at intrigues, an attribute of his clan. He planted subversive ideas among the people. He pleaded for the usurped rights of the house of the Prophet ﷺ, carried out a propaganda campaign against Caliph Uthman (Radhiyallahu anhu) and incited the people to revolt. He declared Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) to be the rightful successor to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and dubbed Uthman (Radhiyallahu anhu) as a usurper. He told people that every Prophet has a wasee and Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) is the wasee of Prophet Mohammad ﷺ and, therefore, entitled to be the caliph after the Prophet ﷺ . He also preached the divinity of Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu), thus striking at Tauheed, the very root of Islam. The Iranians, who had embraced Islam only a few years before, were taken in by this propaganda because they had a long history of kingship and hero-worship. They were familiar with the divine rights of kings, and hero-worship was diffused in their blood. They readily accepted these ideas and became their champions. Similarly Abdullah Ibn Saba floated another viewpoint related to the second appearance of Prophet Isa (Alayhis salaam). He argued that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, who is the best amongst the prophets of Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala, would also appear with Christ, for the contrary would imply that he is inferior to Prophet Isa (Alayhis salaam). This was the same argument used by the Qadianis in later years, who invented the notion of the death and burial of Prophet Isa (Alayhis salaam) in Kashmir. They argued that it was illogical for Prophet Muhammad ﷺ to have died and for Prophet Isa (Alayhis salaam) to be alive in the heaven. Unsophisticated and illiterate Muslims saw a point of adoration in it for Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and fell an easy prey to that sort of propaganda.

Abdullah Ibn Saba travelled all over the Muslim lands and set up his propaganda centers at Basra and Kufa, but his attempts failed in Damascus. Then he went to Egypt where he formed a party of his supporters. Consequently, the last two years of Caliph Uthman´s (Radhiyallahu anhu) reign were filled with machinations, intrigue, and turmoil all over Muslim territories. It culminated in the most unjustified murder (martyrdom) of Caliph Uthman (Radhiyallahu anhu) who was the ruler of a vast empire and had tens of thousands of soldiers under his command but refused to shed the blood of Muslims in self-protection. Governors of provinces from all over the empire besought the Caliph to allow them to send troops to quell the uprising and to protect his person from the rebels who had surrounded his residence, but he remained strict and steadfast in his decision. It is perhaps a unique and unprecedented episode in the entire history of mankind that a very powerful man, like the Caliph Uthman (Radhiyallahu anhu), refused to use authority for his personal safety and let himself be assassinated. May Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala shower His blessings on him.

The murder of Habeel (son of Adam) by his brother Qabeel is perhaps an incident comparable to Caliph Uthman´s (Radhiyallahu anhu) assassination. When Qabeel declared his intention to kill Habeel, the latter announced his resolve, in the words of the Qur´an:

Even if thou stretch out thy hand against me, I shall not stretch out my hand against thee to kill thee; lo! I fear Allah the Lord of the worlds. [Al-Ma´ida 5:28]

So, Habeel was assassinated by his brother and that was the first act of homicide in the history of mankind. It was a totally unjustified murder in which the victim refused to offer resistance as in the assassination of Caliph Uthman (Radhiyallahu Anhu). For such an act, Allah Ta’ala has declared His reward and punishment in the Qur´an:

For that cause We decreed for the children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter of corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and saveth the life of one person, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind… [Al-Ma´ida 5:32].

Before Caliph Uthman´s (radhiyallahu anhu) assassination, Abdullah Ibn Salam (Radhiyallahu anhu), a Jewish scholar who had converted to Islam, addressed the rebels surrounding the residence of the Caliph in these words: “O people! beware of murdering a caliph of a Rasool (Messenger of Allah) for, I am a scholar of Torah and I tell you that Allah avenges the murder of His prophets and the murder of the deputies of his prophets (caliphs). There has hardly been any murder of a prophet which Allah has not avenged by inflicting death on seventy thousand people and the murder of a caliph by inflicting death on thirty five thousand people.” Now it is on record that, after the martyrdom of Hadrat Uthman (Radhiyallahu anhu), the conflict and strife among the Muslim continued for almost five years. Civil war broke out and three major battles — Jamal, Siffeen and Nahrawan — were fought, causing eighty-four thousand deaths of Muslims at the hands of other Muslims. Many a pious and good Muslims were slain by the sword of fellow Muslims. Amongst them were eminent Companions like Talha, Zubair, Ammar Ibn Yasir and many more (radhiyallahu anhum). Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu), the fourth Caliph, also sacrificed his life in this strife. Ameer Mu´awiya (Radhiyallahu anhu) was also attacked but survived. Amr Ibn Al-Aas (Radhiyallahu anhu) survived a murder attempt due to an alibi; his proxy was killed instead. The schism and strife among the Muslims caused by Abdullah Ibn Saba and his followers claimed countless valuable lives.

An instance from the authenticated record of the battle of Jamal is narrated here to illustrate how Muslims fell victims to the traps laid by the Sabaiyyah. After the occupation of Basra, Umm Al-Mumineen Aisha (Radhiyallahu anha) received a message from Caliph Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) for talks and negotiation. It should be remembered that she was never a claimant for the caliphate. Her only demand was that the murderers of Uthman (Radhiyallahu anhu) must be punished immediately. Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) offered to accept her demand if his hands were first strengthened by a declaration of allegiance to him by her group. Both the armies of Aisha and Ali (Radhiyallahu anhum) were facing each other and camping on the battle field when these negotiations started. The news of this negotiation reached Abdullah Ibn Saba and Malik Ibn Ashter Nakhey (May Allah’s Curse be on them). They immediately pursued their nefarious plot to undermine the peace talks. Accordingly, under the cover of darkness, they, along with some of their followers, mounted an attack on Umm Al-Mu’mineen Aisha´s (Radhiyallahu anha) camp and the rumour was spread that the attack was made by the forces loyal to Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu). At the same time, they sent the word to Ali´s (Radhiyallahu anhu) camp that Umm Al-Mu’mineen Aisha´s (Radhiyallahu anhu) forces had initiated the attack. Consequently the opposing armies clashed with each other with all their might, leaving thousands dead on the battle field. It is a very painful part of Muslim history that no investigation to discover the truth in time was ever successful. The same thing happened at the battle of Siffeen. When a stage for peaceful negotiations was set, the Sabaiyyahs undermined it and a new scion of dissidents, the Khawarij, appeared on the scene, opening another front for the warring factions.

During the reign of Caliph Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu), the Muslim empire did not exit as a single state under one central authority but broke up into various power centers. Ameer Mu´awiyah (Radhiyallahu Anhu), the governor of Syria, demanded avenge of Uthman´s (Radhiyallahu anhu) murder. “The assassins of Uthman (Radhiyallahu anhu) are in your camp and they are your advisers. I will not declare allegiance to you unless they are punished,” he insisted. It should be borne in mind that Ameer Mu´awiyah (Radhiyallahu anhu) did not put forward his claim to the Caliphate and was contented with the governorship of Syria. Whether his demand and pressure on Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) was justified or not is an open issue, and everyone is entitled to have an opinion.

Caliph Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) was killed by a Khariji, and his son Hassan (Radhiyallahu anhu) accepted the allegiance of the people at Kufa, a big army base. It appeared that another conflict was in the making. Hassan Ibn Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu), leading a forty thousand strong contingent, marched to Medinah where he had to confront Ameer Mu´awiyah (Radhiyallahu anhu), the governor of Syria, who faced him with a huge army. A small squad was leading the army of Hassan (Radhiyallahu anhu). It was rumoured that the squad had a clash with the enemy and suffered a defeat. The persons responsible for spreading this rumour were never identified. Upon hearing the rumor, the Kufi forces revolted against Hassan (Radhiyallahu anhu) and not only looted his camp but also manhandled him. He had to take refuge in Chosroes´ palace. But this incident shook the confidence of Hassan Ibn Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) in his Kufi supporters; he therefore sent a word to Ameer Mu´awiyah (Radhiyallahu anhu) for peace talks. Ameer Mu´awiyah (Radhiyallahu anhu) not only accepted the offer but also sent a blank cheque, so to say, for a settlement in accordance with the terms of Hassan (Radhiyallahu anhu), who laid down the following conditions:

The tax collections from the province of Ahwaz shall be paid to Hassan (Radhiyallahu anhu).

A grant of two million dirham shall be paid annually to Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu), his younger brother.

Banu Hashim shall be preferred in the distribution of allowances and grants.

A general amnesty shall be declared for all who took part in the battle.

Ameer Mu´awiyah (Radhiyallahu anhu) accepted all these terms and peace was restored in the sprawling empire. Strife and civil war came to an end and the state was unified under one central authority as he forced allegiance from all the dissidents. Hassan Ibn Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu), commenting on the transfer of authority, said, “If Mu´awiyah  was the rightful successor to the Caliphate, he has received it and if I had that right, I, too, have passed it on to him; so the matter ends there.”

This was in accordance with the prophecy of the Holy Prophet ﷺ about Hassan (Radhiyallahu anhu) when he had said, “Through my son Hassan, Allah will bring about peace between tow warring factions of Muslims.”

It was an honour bestowed on Hassan Ibn Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) by Allah Ta’ala, but the Saba’iyyah were highly indignant at his peace move. They called him names and taunted him with the words “Ya Aar Al-Mu’meneen” (O, Shame for the believers!) and “Ya Mozill Al-Mu’mineen” (You, the debaser of the Believers!). Ostensibly they were his supporters, but in fact expressed their utter resentment at his action for peace making which ushered in an era of twenty years of unity and tranquility in the Muslim empire.

Muslims belonging to Ahl Al-Sunnah Wal-Jama´ah (the Sunni sect of Islam) do not include Ameer Mu´awiyah´s (Radhiyallahu Anhu) reign in Al-Khilafah Al-Rashidah (the period of Rightly Guided Caliphate). But Ameer Mu´awiyah´s (Radhiyallahu Anhu) twenty years reign is still considered to be the best period in the entire Muslim history after Al-Khilafah Al-Rashidah, because during his reign all the functions of a Muslim state — maintenance of peace, dispensation of justice, struggle for the supremacy of Islam, dissemination of the Word of Allah Ta’ala — were performed admirably well. The reign of Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz (Rahimahullah) is also considered a glorious era of Islamic history, but it should be borne in mind that Ameer Mu´awiyah (Radhiyallahu anhu) — who was not only a Companion of the Holy Prophet ﷺ but also a scribe of Divine Revelation — stands much higher in rank and status than Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz (Rahimahullah) because the latter was a Taba´yee (a companion of the Companions of the Prophet) and not a Sahabi. It is the common belief of the Sunnis that however pious a person may be, he cannot be rated equal to the lowest among the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ.

Hassan Ibn Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) lived for ten years during the reign of Ameer Mu´awiyah (Radhiyallahu anhu), and after the peace agreement between the two, they had a very close and friendly relationship. However, Hassan (Radhiyallahu anhu) was poisoned to death, most probably by the same group who were enraged at his armistice with Ameer Mu´awiyah (Radhiyallahu anhu). By no stretch of imagination this heinous deed can be ascribed to Ameer Mu´awiya (Radhiyallahu Anhu) who had no grudge against Hassan (Radhiyallahu anhu). [Read More: Who Poisoned Hadhrat Hasan (Radhiyallahu Anhu)?? ]

Before we discuss the nomination of Yazeed as a successor to his father, it would be appropriate to understand some basic and relevant issues. Firstly, the differences in belief (aqeedah) and juristic interpretation (fiqh) among the various sects of the Muslim Ummah have been grossly exaggerated. The Sunnis have no disagreement regarding belief, and have only some minor differences over the interpretation of the Shari´ah. In fact, there are only two sects in Islam (within the context of this topic), i.e,. Sunni and Shi´ah, because they differ over beliefs as well as over the interpretation of Shari´ah. There are certain differences which do not cause the parting of ways. For instance, opinions about historical events and personalities can be overlooked. Similarly, the Sunnis believe Abu Bakr (Radhiyallahu anhu) the best among the entire mankind after the prophets of Allah, yet this does not constitute any basic article of faith of a Muslim. However, the concept of the Infallible Imamate maintained by the Shi´ahs is unacceptable because it strikes at the very root of the concept of Prophethood. Only the prophets were continuously guarded against and protected by Allah from any sin, and with the termination of Prophethood the privilege of infallibility has been taken away by Allah Ta’ala from all the progeny of Adam. The door of personal judgment (Ijtihad) is open while the door of Divine Revelation (Nabuwwah) has been closed forever.

Ijtihad, the exercise of personal judgment within the framework of the guidance provided by the Qur´an and the Sunnah (the sayings and doings of the Prophet) is a privilege vouchsafed to every Muslim who is well-versed in the teachings of Islam. The possibility of an error of judgment can never be ruled out because to err is human. But any judgement or decision made in good faith and with a clear conscience has a reward for the judge, regardless of the correctness of the judgment. That is the belief of the Muslim Ummah. In the light of this principle, we can judge the actions of all the caliphs of Islam to be without malice and can hold any opinion we like provided it is not derogatory to their status as the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ.

Now let us look at the issue of Yazeed´s nomination by his father, Ameer Mu´awiyah (Radhiyallahu anhu), as an heir-apparent to the caliphate. According to authentic historical records, it was done on the advice of Mughira Ibn Shu´ba (Radhiyallahu anhu), who was a very intelligent and far-sighted Companion of the Holy Prophet ﷺ. He argued that on the death of Ameer Mu´awiyah (Radhiyallahu anhu), the issue of his succession, if remained uncertain, might plunge the Ummah once again into a war as had happened in the pre-Mu´awiya period; hence it was advisable to nominate a person to wield authority in the event of Ameer Mu´awiyah´s (radhiyallahu anhu) death. He also suggested the name of Ameer Mu´awiyah´s son Yazeed for the job. Now it is open to question whether this decision was justified or not, but no aspersions should be cast on Ameer Mu´awiya (Radhiyallahu anhu) or Mughira (Radhiyallahu anhu) who arrived at the conclusion with a clear conscience and in good faith. Both occupy venerable positions in the order of merit of the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ . Mughira (Radhiyallahu anhu) was one of those who swore allegiance to the Prophet ﷺ under the tree (on the occasion of Baiy´ah Al-Ridwan) and Allah Ta’ala has commended all of them who took part in that (Al-Qur´an: Al-Fath 48:18). He remained a faithful friend and supporter of Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) throughout his life. But much water had flown under the bridge since Ali´s (Radhiyallahu anhu) times and he could apprehend danger in the absence of most of the influential Companions of the Holy Prophet ﷺ who had left this world by then (60 A.H.). The new generation did not have that sense of responsibility or moral embellishment as the old had. In view of such arguments, they took a decision counter to the democratic spirit inculcated by the Prophet ﷺ among his followers. Nevertheless, they cannot be condemned as having ulterior motives of their own, apart from the good of the Ummah, because the Sunnis believe in the diction which asserts:

All Companions of the Prophet were just.

We can differ with the Companions, but we cannot malign them as mala fide.

Now look at the other side of the picture. Many prominent dignitaries among the Muslims including the three Ibad Allah — i.e., Abdullah Ibn Zubair (Radhiyallahu anhu), Abdullah Ibn Umar (Radhiyallahu anhu), Abdullah Ibn Abbas (Radhiyallahu anhu) as also Hussain Ibn Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) and Abdur Rahman Ibn Abu Bakr (Radhiyallahu anhu) — not only disapproved of Yazeed´s nomination but also declared it against the spirit of Islam. The historic comment of Abdur Rahman Ibn Abu Bakr (Radhiyallahu anhu), when he was asked for allegiance to Yazeed´s heirship, is well worth taking note of. He said, “Now instead of acting upon the Prophet´s ﷺ and the rightly guided Caliphs´ tradition, do you want to adopt the tradition of Caesar and Chosroes?” Also, the fact cannot be overlooked that, except these five prominent Muslims, many others, including a large number of the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ, swore allegiance to Yazeed´s nomination. All these people cannot be maligned and declared mala fide. Some may even allege that Ameer Mu´awiyah (Radhiyallahu anhu) bought their loyalties. If we accept this premise, by the same token it can also be alleged that Hassan Ibn Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) too was bought over, and the Shi´ahs consider Hassan (Radhiyallahu anhu) to be an Imam Masoom (an infallible guide or leader). Obviously this is not the right course of thought and argument because, if pursued to the logical conclusion, it would tarnish many illustrious names among the Muslims. The only right conduct for us could be to absolve all those who supported Yazeed as well as those who opposed him of all blame because they all acted according to their convictions and for the good of the Muslim Ummah.

Now let us examine the stand which Hussain Ibn Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) took in the situation. As said earlier, he sincerely believed that the nomination of Yazeed to the heirship of the Caliphate would destroy the spirit of democracy and republicanism nurtured and developed so assiduously during the Prophet´s era and afterward, and that it would lead to hereditary kingship which was repugnant to the original political teaching of Islam. He therefore resolved to oppose this with all the resources at his command. The bag load of communications, sent to him by the people of Kufa, not only approved of his stand but also promised support and loyalty to his cause. Kufa was a military base and a very strategic city situated at the crossroads to Iran and Syria. He thought that if the people of Kufa supported him, as their letters written to him indicated, it would be possible to effectively neutralize the change being brought about in the body politic of the Muslim Ummah. So he argued and resolved to act for that cause. Abdullah Ibn Abbas (Radhiyallahu anhu) also shared his thoughts but he opposed Hussain´s (Radhiyallahu anhu) going to Kufa because he knew the Kufis better and warned him not to repose his confidence in their loyalty. The Kufis had earlier betrayed Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) and his son Hassan (Radhiyallahu anhu). Abdullah Ibn Umar (Radhiyallahu anhu) and Abdullah Ibn Zubair (Radhiyallahu anhu) also had similar opinions about the Kufi character and vehemently besought Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu) not to depend on their words would be against him; “Under the slightest pressure or pecuniary coercion the Kufis would change their loyalties,” the three Ibad Allah warned Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu). But he appeared to have taken a firm decision. So he brushed aside all their pleadings and warnings, and decided to proceed to Kufa, placing his confidence in Allah Ta’ala. For he acted in the true spirit of Allah´s and the Prophet´s ﷺ command:

So when you have decided (on a course of action) repose your confidence in Allah [Aal-e-Imran 3:159].

It may be argued that Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu) committed a mistake in the assessment of the situation, but no insinuations about his intentions can be entertained. He had no lust for power or avarice for wealth. This is the common belief of the Ahl Al-Sunnah Wal-Jama´ah (the Sunnis). They do not consider him, like all non-Prophets, to be infallible; at the same time they do not doubt his integrity either.

When the nomination issue was deliberated upon in Madinah, Abdullah Ibn Zubair (Radhiyallahu anhu) went over to Makkah and so did Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu), because some prominent Muslim were of the opinion that Makkah would be the best place as a stronghold or base for launching a campaign for building up public opinion against Yazeed´s heirship. However, before any significant work could be done in this regard, Ameer Mu´awiyah (Radhiyallahu anhu) died and Yazeed took over the reigns of government. Now Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu) received heaps of letters from the Kufis pledging their loyalty and support to him if he mounted an attack against Yazeed´s forces. He sent his cousin Muslim Ibn Aqeel (Radhiyallahu anhu) to Kufa to find out facts. Soon he received an affirmation of the loyalty of Kufis from his cousin and he started preparations for a journey to Kufa. Abdullah Ibn Umar and Abdullah Ibn Abbas (Radhiyallahu anhum) pleaded vigorously against his plan and entreated him to at least leave women and children in Makkah if he was determined to proceed to Kufa. But Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu) ignored their suggestions. On the way he received the report of Muslim Ibn Aqeel´s (Radhiyallahu anhu) death at the hands of Yazeed´s men and the apathy and indifference displayed by the people of Kufa at this incident, and also the news that the Kufis had shifted their loyalties to Yazeed, pledging support to him against Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu) and his followers.

Now Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu) was in a dilemma: should he continue his journey towards Kufa or return to Makkah? The Arab tradition of avenging the murder of their man, at all costs, was too strong for him to resist. Besides, the close relatives of Muslim Ibn Aqeel (Radhiyallahu anhu), who were accompanying Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu), declared their resolve to punish the assassins and continue their march. For Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu), it was below his dignity to abandon them and return to Makkah. So, he decided to continue his march to Kufa. Meanwhile, the two young sons of Abdullah Ibn Jaffer Tayyar, a cousin of Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu), arrived with their father´s message: “For God´s sake, don´t go to Kufa.” However, Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu) continued his journey with these two boys joining his camp and arrived at the desert of Karbala. Ibn Ziyad, the governor of Kufa, arrived there with one thousand soldiers under his command and offered one option to Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu) in accordance with the instruction from Yazeed: “You can neither go to Kufa nor return to Makkah, but you can go any where else you want.” Obviously, the only course open for Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu) was to Damascus, the capital. It is very unfortunate that he turned down the offer and continued his sojourn at Karbala trying to win over the support of Ibn Ziyad´s men because in his addresses to the Kufis under Ibn Ziyad´s command, he mentioned the persons by name who had written letters to him pledging loyalty and support and pleaded with them to honor their pledges. The Kufis disowned their letters and denied their authorship.

Meanwhile, a reinforcement of four thousand soldiers, under the command of Amr Ibn Sa´d, arrived at Kufa from Damascus. Amr was the son of Sa´d Ibn Abi Waqas (Radhiyallahu anhu), the conqueror of Iran, and was also related to Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu) for whom he had all the sympathies. Talks of reconciliation continued but the Kufis, fearing reprisals in case of a reconciliation, forced their leader Ibn Ziyad to toughen his attitude. Realizing this, Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu) placed three options before them: “Allow me to return to Makkah safely, or allow me to proceed to the frontiers of the Muslim empire so that I may continue my campaign against non-Muslims, or allow me a safe passage to the capital, Damascus, where I may settle the issue with Yazeed in person.”

The conspirators, however, succeeded in undermining the reconciliation talks and forced Amr Ibn Sa´d to corner Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu). “Either surrender unconditionally or get ready for war,” they demanded. Obviously an unconditional surrender by Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu) was a tall order and a challenge to his honor and dignity. He was constrained to fight the enemy though heavily outnumbered and under-equipped. Thus, the Saba’iyyah conspiracy that sabotaged the peace talks just before the battles of Jamal and Siffeen was successful once again, and Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu) and all his camp followers were slain mercilessly on the sands of Karbala. However, all of them displayed unflinching courage and valour on the battle-field.

In apportioning blame for this tragedy, fictitious stories have been fabricated about the disagreements between Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) and Uthman (Radhiyallahu anhu). In fact, there were no disagreements between the two, who respected and loved each other like brothers. It is again the Sabaiyyah elements who concocted bogus stories and phony events to cover up their own heinous acts of perfidy in this drama of strife and partisan-politics forced on the Muslims. No attempt has ever been made to unmask their ugly faces and instead their version of these episodes has been accepted as authentic, resulting in deep malignity against the highly venerable and illustrious personalities of the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

From the assassination of Uthman (Radhiyallahu anhu) right up to the tragic event at Karbala, one can easily discern the hidden hand of Sabaiyyah agents who successfully plotted against the solidarity of the Muslim Empire and plunged in into senseless bloodshed. The entire blame must be placed on them, where it rightfully belongs, and the fair names of the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ , who are all adool (scrupulously just), must be exonerated from the calumny and ignominy to which they have been exposed through the malicious propaganda of the Sabaiyyah.

It would be worthwhile to mention here two instances of fair play and God-fearing conduct of Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) and Yazeed. When Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) defeated Umm Al-Mu’mineen Aisha (Radhiyallahu anha) at the battle of Jamal, he treated her with the same reverence and decorum to which she was entitled as one of the “Mothers of the Believers.” He conducted her and her retinue of ladies and gentlemen with all the respect and security to Madinah. This amply demonstrates that there was no personal enmity or malice between the two. Again, when the battle survivors, ladies, and children from Hussain´s camp of Karbala arrived at Damascus, Yazeed treated them with due regard and respect and expressed his sympathies with them. He also expressed his sincere condolences at the needless bloodshed and said, “Had Ibn Ziyad not gone to such an extent, I would have been pleased with him even then.”

The two martyrdoms, that of Uthman (Radhiyallahu anhu) and of Hussain (Radhiyallahu anhu), have caused agony in the hearts of the Muslim Ummah and have cast their gloomy shadows over its fourteen hundred year history. The have caused dissension and fighting among the Muslims who have fallen into the trap of those who sowed the seeds of discord and shifted the blame to the most respected persons of the Ummah. It is, in fact, the triumph of those intriguing elements who were jubilant over their accomplishment. Now, we are at each other´s throat and hurl bad names and odium on the very honorable personalities of Islam. Some people consider names of Yazeed and Shimer a symbols of profanity and an anathema while some others use Amr Ibn Sa´d´s and Ameer Mu´awiyah´s (Radhiyallahu anhu) names as expletives. May Allah guide such people to the right course and protect us from sharing their company or views and give us the wisdom and strength to heed Prophet´s warning:

Beware of expressing opinions about my Companions and, after I am gone, do not use them for your own ends; for whosoever will love them would do so because of their love for me and whosoever would have rancor against them, would do so because of their rancor against me. 

Did ʼAmir Muʻāwiyah (radhiyallahu anhu) curse or order the cursing of ʻAlī (radhiyallahu anhu)

By Shaykh Mumtāz al-Ḥaqq Mālik
Edited byʻAbd Allāh al-Afrīqī 

Shīʻahs [and many amongst the Sunnī’s] are led to believe that ʼAmīr Muʻāwiyah (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) started the despicable innovation of cursing and ordering the cursing of ʻAlī (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) – (Na’audhubillah) Allāh forbid!

There is absolutely no authentic proof found in Sunni sources to support this idea. This is purely a Shiʻah accusation against a noble Companion of Rasūl Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʻalayhi wasallam), a scribe of revelation (waḥy), the uncle of believers, ʼAmīr Muʻāwiyah (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu).

The only Ṣāḥīḥ narration in Sunnī literature is that by Saʻd ibn ʼAbī Waqqaṣ (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu), one of the ʻAsharah Mubasharah, as reported in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim. Shīʻahs often misquote this ḥadīth to prove their point. The actual ḥadīth is,

حَدَّثَنَا قُتَيْبَةُ بْنُ سَعِيدٍ، وَمُحَمَّدُ بْنُ عَبَّادٍ، – وَتَقَارَبَا فِي اللَّفْظِ – قَالاَ حَدَّثَنَا حَاتِمٌ، – وَهُوَ ابْنُ إِسْمَاعِيلَ – عَنْ بُكَيْرِ بْنِ مِسْمَارٍ، عَنْ عَامِرِ بْنِ سَعْدِ بْنِ أَبِي وَقَّاصٍ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، قَالَ أَمَرَ مُعَاوِيَةُ بْنُ أَبِي سُفْيَانَ سَعْدًا فَقَالَ مَا مَنَعَكَ أَنْ تَسُبَّ أَبَا التُّرَابِ فَقَالَ أَمَّا مَا ذَكَرْتُ ثَلاَثًا قَالَهُنَّ لَهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَلَنْ أَسُبَّهُ لأَنْ تَكُونَ لِي وَاحِدَةٌ مِنْهُنَّ أَحَبُّ إِلَىَّ مِنْ حُمْرِ النَّعَمِ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ لَهُ خَلَّفَهُ فِي بَعْضِ مَغَازِيهِ فَقَالَ لَهُ عَلِيٌّ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ خَلَّفْتَنِي مَعَ النِّسَاءِ وَالصِّبْيَانِ فَقَالَ لَهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ أَمَا تَرْضَى أَنْ تَكُونَ مِنِّي بِمَنْزِلَةِ هَارُونَ مِنْ مُوسَى إِلاَّ أَنَّهُ لاَ نُبُوَّةَ بَعْدِي ‏”‏ ‏.‏ وَسَمِعْتُهُ يَقُولُ يَوْمَ خَيْبَرَ ‏”‏ لأُعْطِيَنَّ الرَّايَةَ رَجُلاً يُحِبُّ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَيُحِبُّهُ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَتَطَاوَلْنَا لَهَا فَقَالَ ‏”‏ ادْعُوا لِي عَلِيًّا ‏”‏ ‏.‏ فَأُتِيَ بِهِ أَرْمَدَ فَبَصَقَ فِي عَيْنِهِ وَدَفَعَ الرَّايَةَ إِلَيْهِ فَفَتَحَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَلَمَّا نَزَلَتْ هَذِهِ الآيَة{‏ فَقُلْ تَعَالَوْا نَدْعُ أَبْنَاءَنَا وَأَبْنَاءَكُمْ‏}‏ دَعَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَلِيًّا وَفَاطِمَةَ وَحَسَنًا وَحُسَيْنًا فَقَالَ ‏”‏ اللَّهُمَّ هَؤُلاَءِ أَهْلِي ‏”‏ ‏.‏

Saʻd ibn ʼAbī Waqqaṣ (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) said, “Muʻāwiyah ibn ʼAbī Sufyān (radhiyallahu anhu) said (to him) , “What prevents you from making sabb of ʼAbū Turāb (ʻAlī (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu))?” So He (Saʻd) said, “Because I remember three things Rasūl Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʻalayhi wasallam) said about him. So I will never make sabb of him. Even one of those things would have been more dear to me than red camels…” to the end. (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim)

The above narration is about a meeting between ʼAmīr Muʻāwiyah (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) and Saʻd ibn ʼAbī Waqqaṣ (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu), which occurred at Ḥājj after ʻUthmān (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) had been martyred and ʻAlī (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) had been appointed Khalīfah. ʻUthmān’s (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) killers were amongst the supporters of ʻAlī (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu).

Muḥammad ibn ʼAbī Bakr had come with them and brought them to assassinate ʻUthmān (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu). This was due to a grudge he had with ʻUthmān (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu). When Muḥammad ibn ʼAbī Bakr grabbed ʻUthmān’s beard to push and throw him down, ʻUthmān (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) said to him, “If your father saw this, he would not have been happy.”

These words of ʻUthmān (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) shook Muḥammad ibn ʼAbī Bakr and he left ʻUthmān (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) and stepped back. The others who had come with him jumped on ʻUthmān (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) and martyred him. ʻUthmān’s (radhiyallahu anhu’s) wife tried to intervene and was also hurt in this struggle. She later testified to the whole event and the role of Muḥammad ibn ʼAbī Bakr that he had brought the killers with him but then did not take part in the eventual killing.

Muḥammad ibn ʼAbī Bakr’s mother ʼAsmāʼ bint ʻUmais (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhā), after the death of ʼAbū Bakr (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu), married ʻAlī (raḍiyallāhu ʻanhu). So Muḥammad ibn ʼAbī Bakr was his step son.

When ʻUthmān’s (radhiyallahu anhu) wife identified Muḥammad ibn ʼAbī Bakr as a culprit and the killers were known to him as he came with them, so when ʼAmīr Muʻāwiyah (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) and the other Ṣaḥābah demanded prompt justice for the killing of ʻUthmān (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) and ʻAlī (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) felt unable to deliver that justice promptly, ʼAmīr Muʻāwiyah (raḍhiya -llāhu ʻanhu) blamed ʻAlī (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) for this apparent inability to deliver justice for ʻUthmān (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu). Especially as well because the killers were among the supporters of ʻAlī (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) and known to his step son, Muḥammad ibn ʼAbī Bakr.

ʼAmīr Muʻāwiyah (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) then lobbied some of the senior Ṣaḥābah for this. Saʻd ibn ʼAbī Waqqaṣ (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) was amongst the few most senior Ṣaḥābah alive as he was from amongst the ʻAsharah Mubasharah and one of the six members of the committee appointed by ʻUmar (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) to choose the Khalīfah after him and he was also amongst those who had initially appointed ʻUthmān (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) and then ʻAlī (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) to be Khalīfah as well. Hence, Saʻd ibn ʼAbī Waqqaṣ (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) was a powerful figure and a very senior Ṣaḥābī.

When ʼAmīr Muʻāwiyah (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) met him at Hajj , he questioned him, مامنعكانتسباباتراب “What prevents you from making sabb of ʼAbū Turāb? “

Sabb in Arabic does not mean curse. Although it generally means to swear but it also means to blame someone. If ʼAmīr Muʻāwiyah (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) had wanted Saʻd (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) to curse ʻAlī (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) then he would have said, مامنعكانتلعناباتراب “What prevents you from cursing ʼAbū Turāb?” But he does not say that. ʼAmīr Muʻāwiyah (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) only questioned Saʻd (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu), that, “What prevents you from making sabb of ʼAbū Turāb?” He did not force him to do so. When Saʻd (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) replied that he can’t and won’t, and gave his reasons, ʼAmīr Muʻāwiyah (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) stopped, did not pressure him and left him. From this it is clear that there is no compulsion of cursing ʻAlī (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) from ʼAmīr Muʻāwiyah (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu).

The entire issue has been exaggerated and misunderstood. The reality is as explained above. ʼAmīr Muʻāwiyah (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) only wanted Saʻd (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) to blame ʻAlī (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) for not being able to deliver justice for ʻUthmān (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu).

In any case , if ʻAlī (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) was ever cursed by ʼAmīr Muʻāwiyah (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu), then why did Ḥasan and Ḥusayn (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhum) give him allegiance, visit him and stay with him, and accept his gifts? Would anybody behave that way towards someone who cursed their father and especially if that father was ʻAlī (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) and the children were the likes of Ḥasan and Ḥusayn (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhum). Secondly, from the many sons and grandsons of ʻAlī (raḍiyallāhu ʻanhu), did none of them have the courage and respect to stand up in honour of their father and grandfather, if and when ʻAlī (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) was being cursed?

If the Shīʻah version of ʻAlī (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) being cursed had any truth, then it leaves the entire ʼAhl al-Bayt and descendents of ʻAlī (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) as being unable and unwilling to stand up in defence of the honour of their noble father and grandfather, which cannot be defined as a virtuous character trait.

If ʼAmīr Muʻāwiyah (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) used to curse and ordered the cursing of ʻAlī (raḍhiyallāhu ʻanhu) and this evil practice supposedly continued for many years, then we ask:

Where were the Shīʻahs of ʻAlī  during all of this period? Did they simply not exist? Were they not faithful and loyal to ʻAlī at all?

And Allāh – Most High – knows best!