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Selection of the Leader

The researchers complain that a factual, analytical and critical study of the struggle between Imam Hasan (as) and Moawiya, as presented by history, has not yet been undertaken. Thus, a chapter on the early Islamic period remains dark, vague and unclear. A similar view has been expressed by the well known German orientalist J. Wellhavsen. While analysing the period of Imam Mujtaba (as), he writes:

Events are recorded with confusion and fragmentation and that it is, therefore, difficult to place certain details of the episode in precise chronological order." 1

The researchers are justified in their comment, as those trying to analyse the events during the period of Imam Hasan (as) come across many such different, confused statements about the events and contradictory narrations. Similar variation is also observed about the leadership of the vanguard brigade. From the occurrences after reaching Maskin, it seems that the difference is quite significant.

Some historians have written that the command of the vanguard brigade that Imam Hasan (as) had ordered to go to Maskin in the northern Iraqi area to check the advance by Moawiya, was given to Qais b. S'ad b. Abadah Ansari. The following historians have recorded it as such: 2

Ibne A'sam - 'Al-Futooh',

Hafiz Zahbi - 'Tareekh al-Islam-o-al-'abar,

Dayar Bakari - 'Tareekh al-Khamees',

Ibne Hajar 'Asqalani - 'Alasabah fee Tamayyaz al Sahaba'

Ibne Khaldoon - 'Tareekh ibne Khaldoon'

Abu Ali Maskooya - 'Tajarib al Umam'

Two versions have been given in 'Tareekh-e-Tabari'. According to Zahri's narration, Ubaidullah b. Abbas, the cousin of Imam Mujtaba's father (i.e. his uncle) was in command of the vanguard brigade, while according to Moosa b. Abdel Rahman's narration, the command was given to Qais b. S'ad. 3

The historian Ibne 'Asakir too, in his well known book 'Tareekhe Madinate Damishq' mentions two different versions. According to him, only Abul Safar has mentioned the name of Qais b. S'ad as the commander of the vanguard unit, while others have mentioned Ubaidullah b. Abbas as the commander. 4

On the other hand, we also come across the historical records wherein it has been mentioned that though the leadership was given by Imam Mujtaba (as) to Ubaidullah b. Abbas, Qais b. S'ad was appointed as his assistant and adviser. The following historians support this version:

Yaqoobi - 'Tareekh-e-Yaqubi'

Ibne Kaseer - 'Al bidayah val Nihayah' Balazari - 'Ansaab al Ashraaf'

Abul Faraj - 'Maqatil al Talibeen'

Sheikh Mufeed - 'Kitab al Irshad'

Ibne Abee al Hadeed - 'Sharhe Nahjul Balagha'

Ibne Aseer - 'Al Kamil fittareekh'

From the historical evidence available, it is not difficult to decide that initially the commander of the vanguard unit was Ubaidullah b. Abbas, but later the command was officially as signed to Qais b. S'ad. We will quote only two sources here:

(1) The war command of Imam Mujtaba (as) in which he ordered Ubaidullah to take the command of the vanguard brigade and appointed Qais b. S'ad and S'eed b. Qais as his advisers.

(2) The letter from Ubaidullah b. Abbas or Qais b. S'ad to Imam Hasan (as), after taking over the command of the vanguard brigade, in which they have mentioned the crisis faced by the leadership. 7

From a historical point of view, the authenticity of the two documents and their accuracy is proved. However, the misunderstanding by some that Qais was the commander of the vanguard brigade, was due to the main role played by Qais b. S'ad. For sure, during the caliphate of Hazrat Ali (as) he had been the commander-in-chief of a very important brigade - 'the Shurta al Khamees' (the Thursday Soldiers). Imam Mujtaba (as) had also not appointed Ubaidullah b. Abbas as the sole commander, but he had appointed Qais as his assistant and next in command. Due to later events, when Qais got the command, he was at the centre of all the events, which caused the historians to consider him as the commander of the vanguard brigade.

Some historians have raised objection that Imam Mujtaba (as) appointed Ubaidullah as the commander. In this respect, the following extract from 'Tareekh-e-Tabari' etc., needs attention:

"When Hazrat Ali (as) was martyred and the Iraqi people paid allegiance to Imam Hasan (as) as the caliph, it became evident that Imam Hasan (as) was not in favour of war. But he wanted to make a bargain for himself with Moawiya before making any agreement. Imam Hasan (as) knew that Qais b. S'ad would not agree with this view of the Imam (as). Therefore, he dismissed him and appointed Ubaidullah b. Abbas as the commander of the army." 8

Two conclusions can be drawn from the above historical extract: 1) Imam Hasan (as) did not want a war; (2) Before taking any decision about the consequences of peace, he wanted to extract something from Moawiya.

As far as the stand taken by Imam Mujtaba (as) about the war is concerned, we have already explained it in earlier chapters and no doubt remains about the same. Yet, we would like to make a brief comment.

Imam Mujtaba (as), just like his father, considered it his prime duty to fight the rebellious group and he considered himself to be the rightful claimant and heir to the caliphate, but due to a number of problems, which have earlier been mentioned, he did not want to start the war himself in the given disturbed conditions. But that did not mean that he did not want to fight even a defensive war! That is why, as soon as he got the information about Moawiya's advance, he made the declaration of war and started large scale propagation for the same. His sermon in the Koofa mosque about readiness for war and his taking the limited army to the camp in 'Nakhaila' outside the city, the same day, is a clear proof that he was taking appropriate steps for war. Reliable historical records show that it was not Imam Mujtaba (as) but the people who were reluctant to fight and disappointed their Imam. If Imam Mujtaba (as) was really inclined towards peace from the beginning, he would neither have threatened Moawiya with the consequences nor would have stuck to his firm stand till the end. Rather, he could have easily replied to Moawiya's offer of peace at some appropriate moment and would have presented him with his own conditions! 9

Moreover, the above extract was from Zahri's narration and it reflected his own ideas. Researchers complain that he was partial. We will discuss this aspect in detail in subsequent chapters. Similarly, we will reply to the second conclusion referred to above, while discussing the 'peace treaty'.

1. S.H.M. J'afari - 'The Origin and Early Development of Shia Islam', Qum, Ansarian Publications, p.137.

2. Ibne A'sam - 'Al Futooh, Hyderabad: Daira al Maa'rif al Usma nia, 1971, vol. 4, p.154; Dayar Bakari - 'Tareekh al Khamees', Beirut, Moassasah Sh'aban, vol. 4 pp. 389-390; Ibne Khaldoon, 'Tareekhe Ibne Khaldoon', Beirut, Moassasah A'la mi, 1971, vol. 2, p. 186; Abu Ali Maskooya - 'Tajarib al Umam', Tehran, Dar Sarosh, 1987, vol. 1, p. 386; Hafiz Zahbi, 'Tareekh Al Islam, Beirut, Darul Kutub al Arabi, 1987, 'Ahde Khulfae Rashideen', p.6; Ibne Hajar Asqalani - 'Al Asabah fee Tamayyaz al Sahaba; Egypt, Matb'a Mustafa Mohammad, 1939, vol. 1 p.329.

3. Tabari - 'Tareekh al Tabari', Beirut: Daarul Kutub al Ilmiah 1988, vol 3, p. 164-65.

4. Abdul Qadir Badran, 'Tahzeebe Tareekhe Damishq al Kabir' Beir ut, Darul Ahya al Turas, 1987, vol 4, p.223.

5. Y'aqoobi - 'Tareekh-e-Y'aqoobi, Dare Sadir, vol.2, p.214; Ibne Kaseer, 'Albidayah val Nihaya', Beirut, Maktaba al M'arif. 1974, vol.8, p.14; Balazari - 'Ansaab al Ashraaf', Beirut, Dar al Ta'ruf lil Mat bu'at, 1977, vol. 3, p.33; Abul Faraj - 'Maqatil al Talibeen', Najaf, Maktaba al Haidariya, 1965, vol.1, p.40; Sheikh Mufeed - 'Kitab al Irshad' Tehran, Intisharat-e-Ilmiah, vol. 2 p.9; Ibne Abee al Hadeed, 'Sharhe Nahjul Balagha', Cairo: Dar Ahya al Kutub al Arabia, 1962, vol. 16, pp.22, 40; Ibne Aseer - 'Al Kamil fee al Tareekh, Beirut: Dar Ahya al Turas, al Arabi, 1989, vol. 2.

6. See earlier references.

7. Ibne Abee al Hadeed, 'Sharhe Nahjul Balagha', vol. 16, pp.22; Sheikh Mufeed - 'Kitab al Irshad'vol. 2 p. 9; Ibne A'sam - 'Al Futooh, vol. 4, p.157.

8. Tabari - 'Tareekh al Tabari', vol 3, p.165; Abu Ali Maskooya - 'Tajarib al Umam', vol.1, p. 385.

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

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