In some of his letters to his governors and appointed stooges, Mu‘awiyah wrote, “Some of the people of Kufah have written to me asking me for their protection and the protection of their near ones.”5
At the same time, Imam al-Hasan (as) was calling on the people of Kufah to go to war and confront the army of Sham. However, Imam al-Hasan’s (as) soldiers and followers consisted of people with various beliefs that can be divided into a number of groups:
They were the same people who mutinied against Imam ‘Ali (as) and went to war with him.
Such people were present among the soldiers of Imam al-Hasan al-Mujtaba (as), and can be divided into two groups:
a. Those who did not attain to their earthly desires and aspirations by remaining loyal to the government of Kufah, so they set their covetous eyes on the government of Sham under the leadership of Mu‘awiyah ibn Abu Sufiyan,
b. Those who were opposed to Imam ‘Ali (as) and held grudges against Imam al-Hasan’s (as) father.
This group consisted of people who were drowned in clan and tribal prejudice, and it was for this reason that they joined the army of Imam al-Hasan (as) rather than for Islamic goals.
Another group of people who took part in Imam al-Hasan’s (as) army were those who lacked any aim or purpose in life. In other words, they joined Imam al-Hasan’s (as) army just because they saw other people enlisting.
There was one sincere group among the followers of Imam al-Hasan (as). This group recognized and acknowledged the rightful status of Imam al-Hasan (as). They followed his orders without complaint or misgiving.
These were the real Shi‘ahs who were religious and devoted to their Imam (as). They were ready to sacrifice their lives for Allah following Imam al-Hasan’s (as) orders. These were, however, outnumbered by the other irresolute groups.
Imam al-Hasan al-Mujtaba (as) was aware of the sensitivity of the circumstances; he knew that the large numbers of Mu‘awiyah’s army and their sacrifices for him for worldly gain were apt to vanquish the Imam’s small and disloyal army. At the same time, Mu‘awiyah was aware of the weak points of Imam al-Hasan’s (as) army and how to infiltrate it.
That is why Mu‘awiyah ibn Abu Sufiyan suggested the peace plan to Imam al-Hasan al-Mujtaba (as); the aim was to weaken the spirit of the Imam’s (as) army right from the start so as to reduce their enthusiasm.
Because Imam al-Hasan (as) was also well-aware of Mu‘awiyah’s deceit and previous tricks, he initially sent an army of twelve thousand soldiers under the command of ‘Ubayd Allah ibn ‘Abbas to confront Mu‘awiyah’s army. Imam al-Hasan’s (as) army encountered Mu‘awiyah’s army at a place called “Maskan”.
The Imam (as) was aware of signs of sedition which had begun to appear inside his own army as a result of Mu‘awiyah’s stratagems to attract his soldiers’ attention by sending spies to create conspiracies inside Imam al-Hasan’s (as) army by bribing the soldiers.
For the sake of weakening the spirit of Imam al-Hasan’s (as) army, some people started spreading false rumors and hearsay that the Imam (as) had accepted Mu‘awiyah’s suggestion for peace. They cynically asked, “Why then should we fight against Mu‘awiyah’s army?”6
Turmoil and confusion arose inside Imam al-Hasan’s (as) army. Signs of division began to appear. Some confirmed as true the news that Imam al-Hasan (as) had accepted peace while others dismissed the news as false.
Finally, through various intrigues and the payment of great sums of money, and by issuing threats, Mu‘awiyah was able to corrupt the aides and commanders of Imam al-Hasan al-Mujtaba (as).
In his letter to ‘Ubayd Allah ibn ‘Abbas, Mu‘awiyah wrote, “Al-Hasan has written a letter to me suggesting peace. He has entrusted the caliphate to me. If you become one of my followers, I will appoint you to be a governor. If you do not follow me, you will remain an ordinary person.” Mu‘awiyah ibn Abu Sufiyan sent this letter together with a million dirhams for ‘Ubayd Allah ibn ‘Abbas.7
In his wars against his enemies, Mu‘awiyah always knew the weak points of his enemies and penetrated them from there.
When ‘Ubayd Allah ibn ‘Abbas thought about the situation, he accepted Mu‘awiyah’s invitation and joined Mu‘awiyah’s army by night. When morning arose, Imam al-Hasan’s (as) army found themselves without a leader and commander. Imam al-Hasan (as) appointed another commander from the tribe of Kindah.
He sent him with four thousand additional soldiers to combat and encounter the army of Mu‘awiyah. When they reached a place called “al-Anbar”, Mu‘awiyah sent five hundred thousand dirhams for this new leader and promised him the governorship of certain cities under Mu‘awiyah’s rule. This new commander too defected and joined Mu‘awiyah’s army together with two hundred people from his clan.
Imam al-Hasan (as) appointed a third commander from the tribe of Murad to go and lead the army into war against Mu‘awiyah ibn Abu Sufiyan. He, too, acted treacherously and defected like the previous commanders and joined Mu‘awiyah’s side. He did this after ferverntly swearing before Imam al-Hasan (as) that he was not going to be deceived by Mu‘awiyah’s tricks. Nevertheless, he was seduced by Mu‘awiyah and he, too, betrayed Imam al-Hasan (as).8
Imam al-Hasan (as) made a very firm stand and insisted on fighting against Mu‘awiyah, but he knew at the same time that this was not going to end in the best interests of Islam and the Muslims. He could foresee that a continuation of such a state of affairs was going to end in self-slaughter and suicide for Bani Hashim and the few dedicated Shi‘ahs he had. He had the duty to protect Islam and the Muslims.
In order to test and prove the weaknesses of his own army, Imam al-Hasan (as) made a speech in which he said, “Beware! Mu‘awiyah has invited us to something which is devoid of glory and equity. If you have made up your minds to die, then let us encounter him with the sword and apply Allah’s law on him. However, if you prefer to stay alive, I will agree and make peace with him for your sake and good pleasure.”9
The people shouted from all corners that they preferred life. They called out, “Sign the peace agreement!”
It was after making this speech that Imam al-Hasan (as) knew the real intentions of his army and found them to be weak in spirit. A majority of them preferred a peaceful life to fighting against Mu‘awiyah.
5. Ibid., vol. 16, p. 38.
6. Ibid., p. 42.
8. A‘yan al-Shi‘ah, vol. 4, p. 22.
9. Ibn Athir, Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, vol. 3, p. 204.