Written By: Syed-Mohsin Naquvi

In the first of the articles on the Life and Times of Imam Hasan bin Ali, I presented a general overview of the details as found in some of the most authentic books of our history of that period.

Many readers have expressed their doubts on this or that episode. That is the whole idea of reading and writing of history. You take what has come down to us through historians. Then you analyse it in view of the circumstances under which that history was written. You then evaluate the various reports and draw your own conclusions.

From that point of view, the passages quoted below are very significant. The author, Husain M. Jafri, has looked at some of the most authentic Sunni historians and their reports as preserved in their own writings, and then analysed them. He presents the reports and his analysis for our readers. The excerpt is from Chapter 6 of the book.

The name of the book is: The Origina and Early Development of Shia Islam, published by Longman, London, 1976. The book is based on Jafri’s Ph.D. thesis.

In the following passages, Jafri presents the details of Imam Hasan being hailed as the Khaleefa of Muslims after the assassination of Imam Ali in the 40th year of Hijra, in Koofa.

Thank you.


Syed-Mohsin Naquvi


Hasan bin Ali Becomes the fifth Khaleefa of Muslims After the Prophet

During the last year of `Ali’s caliphate, Muawiya b. Abi Sufyan, the governor of Syria and the main challenger of `Ali, managed to bring a large part of the Muslim empire under his control. He also had the authority vested in him, though under doubtful and ambiguous circumstances, by `Amr b. al-As at the arbitration of Adruh after the battle of Siffin.

Nevertheless, he could not claim for himself the title of Amiral-Mu’minin while `Ali was yet alive. `Ali was still the legitimate caliph chosen by the community at large in Medina; this was not publicly repudiated by the community as a whole, nor was the declaration of Abu Musa al-Ash’ari deposing `Ali and that of `Amr b. al-`As installing Mu`awiya accepted by the Muhajirun and the Ansar. Thus, despite all his military and political successes, Mu`awiya could do no more than style himself only as Amir. 1 With `Ali’s assassination, the road was finally cleared for the realization of the ultimate goal of Mu`awiya’s ambitions. The very favourable circumstances that prevailed in the form of the impotence of Medina and the remnant of the pious section of the community and the vacillating nature of the Iraqi supporters of `Ali’s successor Hasan, coupled with the characteristic
shrewdness of Mu`awiya, made it easier for him to complete the task he had initiated after the death of `Uthman: the seizure of the caliphate for himself and his clan.

Hasan, the elder son of `All and Fatima, was acclaimed as caliph by forty thousand people in Kufa immediately after the death of his father. 2 We are told that at the battle of Siffin (Safar 37/July 657), less than three years before his death, `Ali had in his army seventy Companions who fought for the Prophet at Badr, seven hundred of those who renewed their allegiance to Muhammad (bay`at ar-ridwan) at the time of the treaty of Hudaybiya, and another four hundred from other Muhajirun and Ansar. 3 Many of them were still residing in
Kufa with `Ali as he prepared for a final encounter with Muawiya. They must have participated in the election of Hasan and must have accepted him as the new caliph, otherwise our sources would have recorded their opposition to his succession. To this there is no testimony at all. The people of Medina and Mecca seem to have received the news with satisfaction, or at least with acquiescence. This is evident from the fact that not a single voice of protest or opposition from these cities against Hasan’s accession can be located in the sources.
Two major reasons can be advanced for this attitude. First, at the time of `Ali’s death almost all the distinguished Companions of the Prophet from among the Muhajirun were dead. Of the six members of the Shura appointed by `Umar, only Sa`d b. Abi Waqqas was still alive; the other members of the leading elite of the community had also died. Among the younger nobility such as `Abd Allah b. al-`Abbas, ‘Abd Allah b. az-Zubayr, Muhammad b. Talha, and `Abd Allah b. `Umar, none could match Hasan, the elder and dearest grandson of the prophet. The people of Medina still remembered that ardent love and affection which the Prophet had showered upon his grandsons: that he interrupted his sermon and
descended from the pulpit to pick up Hasan, who had stumbled over his long tunic and fallen down while entering the mosque ; 4 that he allowed his grandchildren to climb on his back while he was prostrating himself in prayer. 5 There are numerous accounts describing extraordinary favours being bestowed by Muhammad on his grandsons; these are preserved not only by the Shi`i sources, but are overwhelmingly transmitted by the Sunni works as well. 6 Hasan is also unanimously reported to have resembled the Prophet in appearance. 7 Secondly, the people of Mecca and Medina naturally could not be expected to be pleased to see Mu`awiya, the son of Abu Sufyan, the representative of the clan of Umayya, become their leader. It was Abu Sufyan who had organized the opposition to Muhammad and had led all the campaigns against him. The Umayyads in general, and the Sufyanids in particular, did not acknowledge Muhammad until the fall of Mecca; their Islam was therefore considered to be of convenience rather than conviction. Mu’awiya, for his part, depended on the support of the Syrians, whom he had consolidated behind himself, and to whom he had been attached for close to twenty years as governor of the province, and on the support of his large and powerful clan and their clients and allies who swarmed around him. It was therefore natural, under the circumstances, that the inhabitants of the holy cities, who formed the nucleus of the Islamic Umma, would not oppose Hasan’s caliphate, especially since the alternative was the son of Abu Sufyan and Hind. As for the people of Iraq, the eldest son of ‘Ali was the only logical choice, though not all of his supporters were motivated by the same feelings or attachment to the same cause. To a great number of them Hasan’s succession meant the continuation of ‘Ali’s policy against the rule of Mu’awiya and against the domination of Syria over Iraq. To some others, Hasan was now the only person worthy of leading the community on religious grounds. Whether motivated by merely political or by religious considerations, however, it cannot be denied that the Iraqis acclaimed Hasan as caliph on the grounds that he was the grandson of the Prophet through ‘Ali and Fatima. Hasan’s spontaneous selection after the death of ‘Ali also indicated Iraqi inclinations, though in vague terms, towards the legitimate succession to the leadership of the community in the line of ‘Ali. It seems that the people of Iraq, even at that early period, were quite clear in distinguishing the line of the Prophet through Fatima from other members of the Hashimite clan, otherwise they would have chosen, for example, ‘Abd Allah b. al-‘Abbas, who was a cousin of the Prophet, was senior in age to Hasan and was experienced in affairs of state, having been ‘Ali’s governor in Basra. 8 Hasan’s close relationship to the Prophet is frequently referred to as the reason for the special consideration of the people for him.
Following the custom established by Abu Bakr, Hasan made a speech on the occasion of his accession to the caliphate. In this speech, reported in many sources with varying lengths and wordings, Hasan praised the merits of his family and the special rights and unmatched qualities of his father. He emphasized his own intimate relations with the Prophet, described his own merits and claims, and quoted the verses of the Qur’an which exalt the special position of the Ahl al-Bayt. 9 Qays b. Sa`d b. ‘Ubada al-Ansari, an ardent supporter of ‘Ali and a trusted commander of his army, was the first to pay homage to him. The forty thousand troops of Iraq who had sworn allegiance to ‘Ali on the condition to die for him (`ala’l-mawt) readily hailed Hasan as their new caliph. 10 Apparently expressing his own sentiments as well as those of the Iraqi army, Qays tried to impose the condition that the bay`a should be based, not only on the Qur’an and the Sunna of the Prophet, but also on the condition of the war (qital) against those who declared licit (halal) that which is illicit (haram). Hasan, however, succeeded in avoiding this commitment by saying that the last condition was implicitly included in the first two. The more militant among the Iraqis, eager to fight against Mu’awiya, were not in favour of exclusion of the third condition from the terms of the bay’a, but they nevertheless paid their allegiance to him. 11 Later events would demonstrate that Hasan was perhaps from the very beginning quite apprehensive of the fickle-mindedness of the Iraqis and their lack of resolution in time of trials; and thus he wanted to avoid commitment to an extreme stand which might lead to complete disaster. He was moreover a peace loving man of mild temper who hated to see the shedding of Muslim blood. 12 However, according to the majority of the sources, the oath of allegiance taken by those present stipulated that: “They should make war on those who were at war with Hasan, and should live in peace with those
who were at peace with Hasan.” 13 Hasan’s acclamation as caliph by the Iraqis, and a tacit approval, at least an absence of protest or opposition, from the Hijaz, Yemen, and Persia, were a great cause of alarm to Mu’awiya, who had been working for the office since the death of ‘Uthman and who, after five years of ceaseless struggle, at last saw a clear path to undisputed authority since ‘Ali was no longer alive. He lost no time in taking action.
First of all, as soon as the news of Hasan’s selection reached Mu’awiya, he denounced the appointment, and both in speeches and in letters announced his firm decision not to recognize Hasan a caliph. 14
Notes to Chapter 6

1 Tabari, II, p.5
2 Tabari, II, pp. I if.; Mas’udi, Muruj, II, p.426; Tanbih, p.300;
‘Iqd, IV, p.361; Ya’qubi, II, pp.214 f; Dinawari, pp. 216 f.; Isti’ab.
I, p. 385; Usd al-Ghaba, II, p.14
3 Ya’qubi, II, p. 188. According to Ibn Sa’d, VI, pp.4, 370 early
Sahaba immediately moved into Kufa and settled there as soon as
‘Umar b. al-Khattab founded the garrison city.
4 Usd al-Ghaba, II, p.12; Tirmidhi, II, p. 306; Musnad, V, p.354;
Hadid, Sharh, XVI, p.27
5 Musnad, II, p.513
6 The standard works of tradition usually devote a separate
chapter to the special merits of Hasan and Husayn (Bab Manaqib
al-Hasan wa’l-Husayn).
7 Ibn Habib, Muhabbar, p. 46; Bukhari, Sahih, II, pp.175, 198;
Usd al-Ghaba, II, p.13
8 According to Abu’l-Faraj al-Isfahani, Maqatil at-Talibiyin,
p.52, ‘Abd Allah b. al-‘Abbas himself was the first to advance
Hasan’s nomination and invite the people to pay homage to him
as the caliph after the death of ‘Ali. See also Hadid, Sharh, XVI,
pp.3’ f.
9 Dinawari, p. 216; Maqatil, p.52; Hadid, Sharh, XVI, p.30
10 Tabari, II, p. I; Usd al-Ghaba, II, p.14; Hadid, loc. cit.; Isti’ab,
I, p. 383
11 …
12 ibid.
13 Ibn A’tham, IV, p.148; Tabari; II, p.5; Hadid, Sharh, XVI,
14 Maqatil, pp.52 f.; Hadid, Sharh, XVI, pp.25 f.

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Source: almujtaba.com

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