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The Distinct Roles of Imams Hasan and Husayn (a.s.)

It is reported that Rasulollah 15 salla-llahu-alayhi-wa-aalih said, “Hasan and Husayn are both Imams whether they rise up or not 16”.


(The roles of) Imam Hasan and Imam Husayn alayhum-as-salam were planned and devised by Allah Almighty, and in turn by Rasulollah sallallahu- alayhi-wa-aalih, so they facilitate the salvation of generations to come until the day of judgement. This was not because they were simply two Imams and Caliphs [successors] of Rasulollah, for this is a forgone conclusion, but because these two Imams were two models and exemplars for every single individual who wanted to rescue their peoples and countries from the yoke of tyranny of the despots at whatever time they be and in whichever country.

A hadith is reported that Allah Almighty, via Jibra’el alayhis-salam, sent twelve “envelopes” to Rasulollah salla-llahu-alayhi-wa-aalih each of which was sealed by the Almighty to be distributed to the twelve Imams.

Each of these contained the instructions as to the Imams’ roles and duties, which they needed to execute in turn. This is a short and known hadith that needs at least fourteen sessions to discuss certain aspects of each Ma‘soom and circumstances of the environment he was living in, and how each Imam dealt with the situations he faced. Amongst these Imams are Hasan and Husayn alayhum-as-salam. Here we wish to briefly outline how precise the divine plan was and how perfectly the Imams executed the plan, and this is apart from the fact that they are Ma‘soom, or according to our beliefs Imams and successors to Rasulollah salla-llahu-alayhi-waaalih.

The conclusion that we want to arrive at is whether we can make use of the circumstances and conducts of these two Imams in accordance with the hadith that “al-Hasan and al-Husayn are two Imams whether they rise up or not”? That they are not only Imams – leaders – for their own times only, but they remain Imams or leaders for generations to come until the day of judgement. There are three topics that we need to consider:

1. How society produces tyrants?
2. The character and psychology of a tyrant,
3. How to counter the tyrant?


15. Rasulollah meaning the Messenger of Allah, is one of the titles of Prophet Muhammad salla-llahu-alayhi-wa-aalih.

16. What is meant by this hadith is that an impeccable Imam is leader for the Muslims under every and all circumstances and conditions; whether he officially assumes the office of leadership or not, or whether he revolts against a tyrant or not.

Adopted from the book : "Husayn; the Sacrifice for Mankind" by : "Imam Muhammad Shirazi"

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