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From Maskin to Mada'in

Ubaidullah b. Abbas was quickly advancing towards Maskin with twelve thousand soldiers in the vanguard brigade. While passing through a place called "Shami" near Qadisiya, he continued his advance till he reached Maskin after crossing over the Euphrates. There he faced the Syrian army which had already arrived.

The next day the Syrian ruler Moawiya ordered a number of armed units under the command of Basar b. Abee Artat to attack the vanguard brigade of the Imam (as). Ubaidullah and his men fought them off bravely and defeating them before sunset, forced them to retreat to the Syrian camp. At that moment Moawiya realized that Imam Mujtaba (as) was very serious about an armed struggle against him. So, by the night fall, he started planning his cunning tactics.

Moawiya sent his special envoy Abdel Rahman b. Samrah, b. Habib b. Abde Shams to the vanguard brigade, with the following message:

"A number of representatives of Hasan (as) have come to me with his letters in which he has offered peace to me. I have come towards Iraq with the same intention and I have ordered my soldiers not to engage you. You should also not harm them till the issues are settled between me and Hasan (as)."

Ubaidullah and his colleagues refused to believe the message, considering it to be based on falsehood and deception, and abusing Abdel Rahman b. Samrah, sent him back. 1

After that Moawiya tried to bribe Qais b. S'ad, the deputy commander. Moawiya sent him one hundred thousand Dirham and suggested that he should either support him or leave the army of Imam (as). Qais returned the Moawiya, saying: "Does Moawiya want to deceive me in my religion?" 2

On being disappointed from Qais, Moawiya sent his special envoy Abdel Rahman b. Samrah to Ubaidullah. He requested special meeting with him and swearing, tried to convince him that Imam Mujta ba (as) had offered peace to Moawiya. Simultaneously, he offered Ubaidullah one hundred thousand Dirham. The historian Abul Faraj Isphahani quotes the following text of the message that was sent to Ubaidullah:

"No doubt Hasan (as) has written to me about peace and he is going to hand over the rule to me very soon. So, if you obey me now, you will be treated like an officer, otherwise you will be treated like an ordinary soldier. If you accept my offer now, you will be given one hundred thousand Dirham, half of which I am sending in haste as cash, while the balance will be given to you on reaching Koofa."

The historians write that Ubaidullah b. Abbas fell a victim to this conspiracy and deserting the army and leaving the command, he joined Moawiya the same night. 3 According to Y'qubi and Balazari he was not alone in deserting the army but the majority of the vanguard brigade which is said to have numbered eight thousand, also deserted with him. 4

Some versions mention that after Ubaidullah's desertion, the majority of the leaders and well known personalities of Iraq, coming under similar influence, had joined the army of Moawiya. It cannot be denied that a majority in the vanguard brigade (nearly two thirds) had earlier or later joined the forces of Moawiya. 5

The circumstantial evidence shows that apart from Ubaidullah b. Abbas and Qais b. S'ad, Moawiya had tried to bribe other leaders in the Iraqi army as well. But the main reason of his success was that all of them, including Ubaidulah, had become frightened. They knew Moawiya very well and their national and religious status and interests would not at all allow them to bow to Moawiya. Moawiya had offered cash only to Ubaidullah while others had been given only verbal promises. Without getting any cash, why did they trust the verbal promise?

If their attitude is analysed, lack of leadership and the fear of Moawiya and his army was the main reason for the same. There is no doubt that against a well organized and armed force of sixty thousand, a disorganized force of twelve thousand, all of whose soldiers could not even be trusted, was no match. Moreover, they were facing not an ordinary person but one like Moawiya. The leader of the faithful Hazrat Ali (as) had warned his Persian governor in the following words to beware of Moawiya:

"Undoubtedly sometimes Moawiya attacks a person from the front, sometimes from back, while on other occasions from right or left. So, you should remain very alert to his moves." 6

However, it cannot be denied as well that the soldiers in the vanguard brigade were the best soldiers in the army of Imam Hasan (as). These included a large number of the Shi'a of his father and his own who included a number of the Companions of the Holy Prophet (saww). They included the devotees of "Shurta al Khamees" who had vowed to fight till death and, according to historians, Moawiya was fearful of them. The tried and experienced Generals like Qais b. S'ad, S'aeed b. Qais, S'as'ah b. Saohan and Adi b. Hatim as well were in the army of the Imam (as) from whom Moawiya was afraid. About these very people Imam Mujta ba (as) had stated that every one of them was equal to an army and that they were from amongst the most trusted ones of the leader of the faithful. In addition, Imam Mujtaba (as) had more than once advised the commander to treat them with courtesy and kindness. The other persons, though they were not as firm in faith and bravery, yet if the leadership had trusted them and had, following the instructions of the Imam (as), not allowed them to go astray and would have maintained their trust, then there was no chance for Moawiya to sow seeds of discord among them or for them to fall prey to his cunning moves. But when they saw the leadership itself getting involved, then they lost hope from the army of the Imam (as) and started to offer faithfulness to Moawiya. They did not fully trust Moawiya but this way they hoped that their lives and those of their tribe would remain safe. The main person responsible for this "lack of trust" was Ubaidullah b. Abbas. It was the moral responsibility of the commander to take Qais b. S'ad and S'aeed b. Qais into confidence, to consult them according to the instructions of Imam Hasan (as), and to solve the problems taking into account their honesty and ability. Though some historians have defended him, writing that he deserted the army after finding out the policy of Imam Hasan (as), history provides no evidence that Ubaidullah verified what Moawiya had said. It is possible that up to the last moment he considered Moawiya's words as false but due to his poor and limited thinking he found himself in the midst of honour and disgrace. He might have worried that his subordinates were likely to leave him and by accepting the offer of Moawiya, he could protect his future. Otherwise, if he fell into the hands of the commanders of Moawiya, they would disgrace him. With this thought, his faith was shaken, he got frightened and fell pray to the very first move of conspiracy.

Early morning when the soldiers assembled for morning prayers as usual and learnt that their commander along with two thirds of the army had joined the army of Moawiya, they were amazed and at first they not believe it. In accordance with the earlier instructions of the Imam (as), Qais b. S'ad took over the command of the army. After leading the prayers, he gave a remarkable sermon in which he cursed Ubaidullah and called him 'coward' and 'traitor'. This way he succeeded in restoring the morale of the remaining soldiers. His speech had such a profound effect on the soldiers that they thanked God on a coward like Ubaidullah leaving the army and vowed to fight till death under the command of Qais b. S'ad. Their number has been mentioned as four thousand. 7

This would show that only these persons in the vanguard brigade were the true devotees of the Imam (as). It was their true faith and sincerity that they withstood such a big shock and were thus considered as honest and devoted soldiers of the Imam's (as) vanguard unit.

After the breach of trust by Ubaidullah, Moawiya did not doubt the success of his negative policies. He started a dual campaign of propaganda and rumour in the two parts of the army of Imam Mujtaba (as), i.e. in the vanguard unit and in the army at Madain. Ubaidullah was not only the commander of the vanguard brigade and the cousin of the Imam's father, but he was also considered to be very close to Imam Hasan (as). When a person like him could do what he did, then what complaint can there be about others!

So, after him, breach of trust, treachery, betrayal of religion, deserting the army and rebellion became a daily routine. He is directly responsible for all that. He was the first person who, performing the role of 'Mir J'afer', brought down the Hashemi caliphate and created the atmosphere which enabled the army of the Imam (as) to fall prey to the conspiracy of the enemy. History will never forgive him for such a crime!!

The agents of Moawiya on the one hand spread rumour in the army at Madain that Qais b. S'ad had made peace with Moawiya and had joined him, while on the other hand, in the army at Maskin they said: "Imam Hasan (as) is planning peace with Moawiya." 8

Moawiya thought that after Ubaidullah and other officers, the vanguard unit would now be having a defeatist tendency and would not have the guts to fight. So he sent some units under the command of Basar b. Artat to finish off the remaining soldiers. Qais b. S'ad, with four thousand forces, bravely fought out the onslaught by Basar and again forced him to run. The next day he again attacked with a large army of twenty thousand who were fully armed. This time also, after a bitter fight, he was defeated. Many soldiers had died on both sides in this encounter but Basar had not been successful. During the war, he shouted at the Iraqi army, saying: "Your leader Hasan (as) has made peace. So, why are you bent upon committing suicide?"

The soldiers of the vanguard unit had become used to such rumours. So, they ignored Basar and continued to fight with courage and determination, giving hard blows to the Syrian army. Intervening, Moawiya also tried a number of times to stop the fight but was unsuccessful. He sent a number of messages to Qais b. S'ad, frightened, threatened him and once he even called him a Jew, son of Jew. Qais b. S'ad was a very steadfast person. He ignored the threats of Moawiya and had only one answer to all his offers and proposals:

"By God you will not meet me except facing me on the battle front."

Qais b. S'ad continued the war, thus following the policy of the Imam (as). He also gave detailed replies to the communications from Moawiya. In one reply he wrote: "O Moawiya you and your ancestors are known as the idolaters of Makkah. You embraced Islam willy nilly. Neither your faith is old nor is your malice new. We are the scions of religion while you have gone out of it and are its enemy."

Moawiya wanted to send another threatening message to Qais b. S'ad but Umroo b. 'As advised him not to do so, saying that Qais b. S'ad might give a stronger reply. 9

After the study of reliable historical records there remains no doubt that Moawiya, despite all his cunning and political blackmail, did not succeed in defeating the damaged vanguard unit, which was now under the command of Qais b. S'ad. Qais, through his intelligence and with the support of his devoted, faithful and steadfast soldiers, was keeping the army of Moawiya engaged. He had not only kept the fully armed Syrian army involved in war but had, to some extent, gained an upper hand over it. However, that does not mean that he had no problems. Though he had successfully countered all the conspiracies of Moawiya, yet the main cause of his worries was the fact that he was not aware of what was happening to the army of Imam (as) at Madain and its central leadership there. He was worried about the welfare of Imam Hasan (as) and was not aware of the problems that the Imam (as) was facing, while all sorts of rumours had been spread in the army. During these uncertain conditions, a news was received that:

"Imam Hasan (as) was attacked with a dagger on his thigh and he is seriously ill while the soldiers, deserting him, have run away."

One can imagine what effect the news might have had on the companions of the (as) Imam during the crisis situation. Qais b. S'ad was aggrieved on hearing the news. He was a very experienced and mature general and, as always, did not allow his army men to be adversely affected by the news. Planning the attack on the army of Moawiya, he did not give a chance to his soldiers to think about the news. Consequently, he nullified the enemy's conspiracy. He successfully attacked the army of Moawiya a number of times and inflicted heavy physical and material losses on it. In these attacks some of his soldiers also lost their lives. Before night fall both the armies separated and Moawiya sent the following message to Qais b. S'ad:

"O man! on what basis are you fighting me and are bent on losing your life? We have reliably learnt that your supporters have dethroned your Imam (as). He has been attacked on his thigh so severely that he was close to death. In the circumstances, till learning the truth you should refrain from attacking us."

After this communication from Moawiya, Qais stopped the attacks on the army of Moawiya and awaited an authentic report from Madain. 10

1. Ibne Aseer - 'Al Kamil fee al Tareekh', Beirut, vol. 2, p.446; Husain Dayar Bakari - 'Tareekh al Khamees', vol. 2, p.390; Hafiz Zahbi, 'Al A'bar, vol. 1, pp.34-35; Tabari - 'Tareekh al Tabari', vol 3, p. 166; Ibne S'd - 'al Tabaqaat al Kubra', vol. 8,p.76, under publica tion; Dr.Abdus Salaam Tarmanini - 'Ahdaas al Tareekh al Islami', vol.1, p.420; Abdul Aziz Salim - 'Tareekh al Daulatal Arabia,vol .2, p.337; Suyuti - 'Tareekh al Khulafa', Qum, p. 191; Husain Mohammad Ja'fari - 'The Origins and Early Development of Shia Islam', p.149; Husain Dayar Bakari - 'Tareekh al Khamees', vol. 2, p.390; The references have been quoted under No. 29; Baqar Qarshi - 'Hayat al Imam al Hasan bin Ali', Najaf; Matba' al Aadab', 1973, vol 2, p.245; For further information refer to Baqar Qarshi - 'Hayat al Imam al Hasan bin Ali, vol. 2, p.405; Ibne A'sam - 'al Futooh', vol. 4, p.159; Taha Husain - 'Islamiyaat, al Fitnatul Kubra - Ali-o-Nubuvah', p.979; 1Balazari - 'Ansaab al Ashraaf', Beirut, Darut T'aruf lil Mutboo'at, 1977, vol. 3, p.36.

2. Yaqubi - 'Tareekh-e-Yaqubi, Beirut, Dar Sadir, 1960, vol. 2, p.214.

3. Abul Faraj - -Maqatil al Talibeen', Najaf, Maktaba al Haidar iya, 1965, vol. 1, p.42; Ibne Abee al Hadeed, 'Sharhe Nahjul Balagha', Cairo: Dar Ahya al Kutub al Arabia, 1962, vol. 16, p.42; Balazari - 'Ansab al Ashraaf', vol. 3, pp.37-38; Yaqubi - 'Tareekh-e-Yaqubi', vol.2, p.214; Hashim M'aroof, - 'Seerat al Aimma Asna Ashar', Beirut, Darul T'aruf, 1977, vol. 2, p.570; Baqar Qarshi - 'Hayat al Imam al Hasan bin Ali', Najaf, Matb'a al Adaab, 1973, vol 2, p.94; Sheikh Mufeed - 'Kitab al Irshad', Tehran, Intisharat-e-Ilmiah, vol. 2 p.9; Tabari - 'Tareekh al Tabari', Beirut: Daarul Kutub al Ilmiah 1988, vol 3, p. 168.

4. Balazari - 'Ansab al Ashraaf', vol. 3, p.38; Yaqubi - 'Tareekh-e-Yaqubi', vol.2, p.214; Raazi Aale Yasin - 'Sulhul Hasan, p.147.

5. Ibne Abee al Hadeed, 'Sharhe Nahjul Balagha', vol. 16, p.22; Ibne A'sam - 'Al Futooh, Hyderabad: Daira al Maa'rif al Usmania, 1971, vol. 4, p.157.

6. Raazi Aale Yasin - 'Sulh-ul Hasan', Qum, Manshooraat al Razi, 1994, p.142;

7. Ibid.

8. Yaqubi - 'Tareekh-e-Yaqubi', vol.2, pp.214-215; Baqar Qarshi - 'Hayat al Imam al Hasan bin Ali', vol 2, p.98; Abu Maskooya - 'Tajarib al Umam', Tehran, Dar Sarosh, 1987, vol. 1, p.386.

9. Ibne A'sam - 'Al Futooh', vol. 4, p.156; Abul Faraj - 'Maqatil al Talibeen', vol.1, pp.42-43; Balazari - 'Ansab al Ashraaf', vol. 3, pp.39-40; Ibne Aseer - 'Al Kamil fee al Tareekh', Beirut: Dar Ahya ul Turas, 1989, vol. 2 p.448; Tabari - 'Tareekh al Tabari', Beirut: Daarul Kutub al Ilmiah 1988, vol 3, pp. 166-168; Ibne Abee al Hadeed, 'Sharhe Nahjul Balagha', vol. 16, p.43.

10. Ibne A'sam - 'Al Futooh', vol. 4, pp.156-157 and the previous reference.

Adapted from the book: "Imam Hasan and Caliphate" by: "Qurrat-ul-Ain Abidiy"

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