Thursday, December 4, 2014

It was the Mistake of Imam Hussain

December 4, 2014                           
By Saeed Qureshi

The massacre of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Hazrat Muhammad, and some of his family members and companions at Karbala is one of the most grievous and heart wrenching incidents in the Islamic history spanning over 15 centuries of the Muslim calendar. 

Imam Hussain was killed with indescribable and utmost savagery during the caliphate of Yazid bin Muawiyya of Ommyad dynasty. His martyrdom along with his associates in the desert of Karbala created an unbridgeable cleavage between the Sunnis and the Shias that continues to this day.

The Shia entity started shaping up after the choice of Hazrat Abu Bakr as the first successor caliph of the prophet. Hazrat Ali the cousin brother of the prophet could not be chosen during the nomination or election of the first three caliphs. The assassination of the third caliph Hazrat Usman led to two devastating battles. 

The first battle was between Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Aisha the youngest wife of the prophet.  The Second was between Hazrat Ali and the governor of Syria Muawiyya son of Abu Sufyan. Those battles were in fact between two hostile tribes over the arrest of the murderers of Hazrat Usman. Later the claim of caliphate between Hazrat Ali and Muawiyya led to more devastating hostilities.
These battles remained inconclusive in favor of either contender despite loss of the tens of thousands of Muslims on both sides. Therefore, the choice of the caliph was decided through a ruse of arbitration that Muawiyya won and thus technically he was proclaimed as the sole caliph of Islam.  Hazrat Ali and his followers did not accept the arbitration and the rivalry continued unabated with two caliphs ruling at the same time.

Hazrat Ali died in 661 AD at the hands of an assassin in Kufa mosque. That event reinforced the position of Muawiyya and he could now crush any opposition to his position of a caliph and that is what happened. After Hazrat Ali’s death, the mantle of caliphate fell upon the shoulders of his elder son Imam Hassan. Hazrat Hassan was elected by a unanimous vote in Kufa.

But in a battle to be fought against Syrian army commanded by Muawiyya, the Iraqis true to their treacherous character abandoned the Imam and rather turned against him. Instead of fighting against Muawiyya, the Iraqis broke into Imam’s camp and plundered his belongings. They even wanted to hand Imam over to Muawiyya. 

That seditious treatment of Iraqis had dejected the Imam to such an extent that he agreed to enter into a covenant with Muawiyya. Through that covenant Imam Hassan had agreed that Muawiyya can retain the caliphate but after his death the mantle of caliphate would be passed on to Imam’s younger brother Hazrat Imam Hussain. Imam Hassan thereafter, retired with his family to Medina with a pension from Muawiyya. He died soon after through poisoning at the prime age of 41.

Instead of abiding by the covenant, Muawiyya, towards the fag end of his life, started maneuvering to get the nomination of his son Yazid as his successor. In direct breach of his pledge with Imam Hassan, Muawiyya nominated his son Yazid as his successor. In order to pursue this goal Muawiyya used intimidation, coercing, cajoling and bribing to get oath of fealty for Yazid. After the death of Muawiyya in 60 AH (680 AD), Yazid ascended to the throne. The Omayyad dynasty ruled for 82 years.

Now this is all history. Let us analyze that decision of Imam Hussain to proceed to Kufa with a mission to overthrow the well entrenched dynasty of Ommyad, who were traditional rivals of the tribe of Banu Hashim.

In the light of the treaty signed between Imam Hassan and Muawiyya, Imam Hussain was to become the next caliph. With the appointment of Yazid, Imam Hussain moved to challenge the caliphate of Yazid which he thought was usurpation of his right and violation of the covenant between Imam and Amir Muawiyya.  He was prompted by a load of requests and countless communications from the Iraqis to come to Iraq and to remove Yazid with their support.

The sagacious and experienced elders in Medina counseled Imam Hussain to not be beguiled or influenced by the galore of invitations from the Iraqis on the grounds that previously they had betrayed both his elder brother and father. They reminded him that as a result of their betrayal, Hazrat Ali lost the nearly won battle of Sufyan. 

Thereafter, he was martyred in Kufa mosque by a Kharji presumably planted by the Omayyad caliph. They also reminded him about the treason of the Iraqis demonstrated with Imam Hassan again when when he declared his caliphate and Muawiyya marched to invade Iraq.

Imam Hussain disregarded all such sane advice and traversed to Kufa. By disregarding the advice of the prudent, sagacious and sincere individuals some of whom were the companions of the prophet, Imam Hussain embarked upon a course of defeat and destruction. It was only after reaching Karbala that Hussain perceived the treachery of the Iraqis as there was neither the promised army nor the common people to welcome him.

As a result the tragedy of Karbala took place in which Imam Hussain and the male members of his family and followers perished. From the males only Imam Hussain’s one sick son Zainul Abideen survived. Undoubtedly, the massacre of Karbala was the result of the betrayal of Iraqis and Imam Hassan’s blind faith in the promises of the Iraq.

One should acknowledge that Imam Hussain’s challenge to Yazid was not to revive Islam but to get his right of caliphate which he thought was legitimate in consonance with Imam Hassan’s covenant and because of the usurpation of the right of the close members of prophet’s family as the real successors for being from his bloodline.

 Imam Hussain should have been convinced that if his elder brother and even illustrious father couldn't stand before the might of the Ommyad, how he could defeat them with a small force of the Kufans even if they had rallied behind him to fight.

It is equally debatable how Islam was revived or took a new lease of life with the tragedy of Karbala. Primarily it was a conflict for caliphate or precisely for power. The dynasties of both Banu Ommyad and Abbasid remained in power for another 600 years (661-1258 AD). Both these hereditary dynasties were essentially Islamic. 

These dynasties expanded the sway of Islam around the world and during these dynasties not only that Islam flourished but enormous input was fed into the advancement of Islamic culture and way of life.

Nevertheless, with the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the Shia sect was firmly established with its religious and spiritual center in Iran. Thus the division of Islam into two rival sects was solidified. We can witness that the Sunnis and Shias can never reconcile on their interpretation of Islam that in fact had fractured the unity of Islam.

Even if Imam Hussain had come to power he could not rule in peace. The peace would have remained jeopardized because of the opposition from other contenders. The supporters of the first three caliphs whom Shias oppose would have opposed the Shias regimes as the Shias have been opposing the Sunni regimes.

We should not ignore the fact that under siege of the Syrian army and absence of the Kufans support, Imam Hussain in sheer desperation offered three conditions to call off his march to Kufa.  These conditions were tantamount to virtual surrender or subjugation and these were aimed at averting the eventual dreadful end.

Yet the Syrian army commanders were aware of the zero bargaining position of Imam Hussain. They wanted to take them to Ubaidullah bin Ziad who was a heartless butcher of Kufa and a sworn enemy of Banu Hashim. Before the arrival of Imam Hussain, 

He brutally killed Imam Hussain’s cousin, Muslim bin Aqeel and his little sons. Imam Hussain preferred to die in the battlefield than tortured and killed by Ibne Ziad. Thus one of the noblest and righteous members of Prophet Muhammad’s family perished in utter helplessness.

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