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Imam Hussein’s revolt, the causes - Part 3

Let us examine which of the following two matters came first and consequently had precedence over the other. Did the Imam’s rejection of the Umayyad’s call to him to endorse Yazid as Caliph come first, i.e. prior to the Kufans’ invitation to him to come to Kufa and form an Islamic government? It goes without saying that the former came first for demanding Imam Hussein’s swearing of allegiance to Yazid was made immediately after the demise of his father, Mu’aawiyah.

The messenger, who brought the news of Mu’aawiyah’s death to the governor of Medina, brought with him a letter containing a demand that Imam Hussein, and some other personalities, endorsed the succession of Yazid to the caliphate. It is quite probable that the Kufans did not know then of the news of the demise of Muaawiyah.

Historical events lend support to this theory. That is, many days had elapsed on Imam Hussein’s rejection of the demand from him to swear allegiance to Yazid before he was forced under pressure to leave Medina and embark on his opposition movement there and then, i.e. 27th Rajab on the way to Mecca, [in a sort of self-imposed exile]. He arrived in Mecca on 3rd Sha’ban. He received the letters from the Kufans on 15th Ramadhan. [In the Islamic Hijri Calendar, those three months run consecutively, thus, Rajab, Sha’ban, and Ramadhan.].

That is, a month and a half after the Umayyad’s made their intention of demanding the Imam to swear allegiance known, and his subsequent flat rejection of the demand. Imam Hussein stayed in Mecca for forty days. Accordingly, he did not reject the Umayyad’s call for him to endorse Yazid as Caliph because of the Kufans’ appeals to him to head to Kufa to form the next Islamic government. He made his position manifestly known that he would not give in to Yazid, even if not a foothold in the entire globe was left for him. This is the second reason for the rising of Imam Hussein (A.S).

The third pillar of the Imam’s rising is the upholding of the Islamic duty of “enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil”?. The Imam (A.S) started his dissident movement from Medina determined to shoulder the responsibility of this duty. However, even if he was not asked to pay allegiance to Yazid and there was no invitation for him to go to Kufa to set up a rival caliphate there, he was resolved that it was his duty to uphold that tradition, not least because corruption was about to take a stranglehold over the Islamic world then.

To recap, in each one of the three aspects of his revolt, the Imam (A.S) had had a particular issue to address and a duty to discharge. As regards the first aspect, it was his decision to refuse the Umayyad’s demand to endorse Yazid’s succession to the caliphate. Regarding the second facet, he responded positively to the appeal of the Kufans for him to set up a rival caliphate in Kufa. In relation to the third aspect, he took the necessary action to take on the corrupt ruling establishment. Thus, he can be safely branded a revolutionary.

So, when we dub Imam Hussein’s revolt as multifaceted, this is clearly manifested in the required positions he took vis-a-vis the three different issues. For example, the Imam’s duty towards pledging allegiance to Yazid was downright rejection; and should he have agreed to the proposition of Ibn Abbas to choose a self-imposed exile in the mountains of Yemen, such rejection would have materialized.

Thus, his was a personal decision, i.e. it was not incumbent on him to ask others to team up with him on this point. As for the Kufans’ appeal, there was no choice left for him but to respond to it, so long as they remained faithful to their word. If they broke it, the Imam would be absolved from any undertaking, as the issue of caliphate, [and who the caliph should be], would be no more, i.e. it would cease to remain a religious duty.

Yet, why did the Imam continue on that path? This is indicative of the fact that his religious obligation was not confined to the contentious issue of caliphate. The Kufans’ appeal proved to be a blip, as the news of the killing of Muslim bin Aqeel, his cousin and emissary to the Kufans, reached him while en route to Kufa, Iraq.

Another development was that the Imam met before his arrival al-Hur bin Yezid ar-Riyahi, [during which it was revealed that the Kufans had changed their mind and no longer supported him in his bid to become caliph with their help]. So, with the Kufans’ appeal falling through, the Imam had become free from any obligation. To make it absolutely plain to them, he reminded them that he would return from where he came, in that he came to them in response to their appeal.

This, though, did not mean that he had changed his mind regarding the caliphate of Yazid, which he still was adamant that he did not approve of. As far as he was concerned, his position of not recognizing Yazid as caliph was irreversible, hence the reference to not giving in to the ruling establishment’s demand, even if all routes were closed in his face. What other options did he have? The answer is his upholding the principle of “enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong”?.

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