The Motives and Aims which the Revolution Implanted in Popular Consciousness
The efforts of the Umayyads to frustrate the activity of the revolution in the nation are represented by two tendencies:
The First Tendency:
Among the realities of the history of the revolution of al-Husayn is that Yazid ibn Mu'awiya had the primary responsibility for what had happened at Karbala'. He received the dreadful result with happiness and joy. He did not show any opposition to the methods which Ibn Ziyad employed to deal with the revolutionaries. Rather he was at one with him through issuing directives about the nature of this method. When, however, the consequences of the crime were revealed, he attempted to shirk the responsibility for them.
'Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad admitted to Musafir ibn Shurayh al-Bakri in a conversation between them: 'Yazid indicated to me that either al-Husayn was killed or I was. I chose to kill him.'
The historians have reported: When the head of al-Husayn was brought to Yazid, the position of Ibn Ziyad became high in his estimation. He loaded him with blessing, made gifts to him and was pleased with him for what he had done. It was not much later when he learnt of the people's abhorrence for the act, and their cursing and reviling it that he regretted the killing of al-Husayn.
He said to al-Numan ibn Bashir al-Ansan: 'Praise be to God who killed al-Husayn."
This reality prompted those in charge of the Umayyad regime to make efforts aimed at removing the responsibility for the suppression of the revolution by the savage method which had been used at Karbala' from the Umayyad regime and from Yazid, and putting the responsibility for that on specific adherents of the regime and essentially on 'Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad. In that way the spirit of hostility and indignation was directed against one man, and not against its great symbolic figure and its leader, Yazid ibn Mu'awiya.
The researchers will find some traces of this tendency in some of the reporters. Among them is Ibn Hajar al-Haythami who went so far as to claim that Yazid was not pleased that al-Husayn was killed and had not ordered that to happen.
It appears that the practical efforts made on this course were concentrated on Iraq and the Hijaz, and not the Syrian area, for there the Umayyads had laid down that 10th Muharram should be a day of festival, of happiness and of rejoicing.
This attempt failed, and public opinion did not absolve Yazid and his regime of the crime, even though-after the Shi'ite tendency had become stronger and had expressed itself by carrying out the slogans of al-Husayn-some of the later men of religion utilized this Umayyad attempt to absolve Yazid and would not allow anything bad to be said about Yazid. Public opinion, however, was against this attempt. Therefore no success was ordained for it and it did not leave any mark in popular consciousness. Rather in this popular consciousness, Yazid ibn Muawiya remained the symbol of a great and hideous crime.
The Second Tendency
The second tendency was to distort the revolution. Because of that it was more serious than the first tendency.
This tendency shows itself in two forms within the framework of the texts which have come to us.
First of all, it is the portrayal to public opinion of al-Husayn as some one seeking a worldly kingdom. Thus, his aim in his revolution was not one which was universal, religious and Islamic but only a personal aim. When he despaired of achieving his objective, he showed himself ready to submit and surrender.
The manifestation of this is reflected in the account in which it is reported that al-Husayn said to ' Umar ibn Sa'd: 'Come with me to Yazid so that I may put my hand in his hand.' The evidence for the falseness of this report is the proof which many historians report from ' Uqba ibn Sim an. The latter was the servant of al-Rabab, the wife of Imam al-Husayn, and one of the few men who survived the slaughter at Karbala'. Therefore he is an eyewitness. He said: 'I accompanied al-Husayn from Medina to Mecca and then from Mecca to Iraq. I did not separate from him until he was killed. I heard all the conversations he conducted with the people right up to the day of his death. By God, he did not give them any reason for what the people are telling each other about him saying that he would put his hand in the hand of Yazid, nor that they should let him go to one of the frontier-posts of the Muslims. He said, "Leave me and I will return to the land from which I came, or leave me and I will go in this broad land until we see what the decision of the people comes to." However, they would not do so.'
The fact that this attempt had met with some degree of success had made 'Uqba ibn Sim'an say: '... He did not give them any reason for what the people are telling each other ...'
It seems, however, that this attempt failed to achieve any success worth mentioning after eyewitnesses applied themselves to disproving and refuting it.
Secondly, the tendency showed itself in the portrayal to public opinion of al-Husayn and his followers as Kharijites, or as sinners who had rebelled against the constitution and constitutionality as represented by Yazid ibn Muawiya: they have revolted against their Imam, renounced their allegiance and spread discord on the umma.
Ibn Ziyad, from the time he arrived in Kufa and took charge of the suppression of the movement of Muslim ibn 'Aqil, had attempted to leave an impression in the minds of the people that the movement was the handiwork of the Kharijites and the Harurites.
There is no doubt that the efforts made to give the revolution of al-Husayn this characteristic became more serious and intense in order to produce reactions in the masses.
This attempt did not succeed in winning credibility with the masses. Instead of putting the revolution of al-Husayn outside constitutionality, the Umayyad regime, in its entirety, was put outside constitutionality, and increasing numbers of people rejected it after the extent of its distance from the truth in its claim to represent Islam became understood through the effect of the revolt of al-Husayn.
The growth of the Shi'ite entity after the Umayyads, the prominence of the Shi'a in political attitudes which were opposed to the political system, and the 'Abbasid recourse to nourishing juristic and theological tendencies which were opposed to any Shi'ite tendency produced a sectarian situation which prompted some jurists, traditionists and theologians to gratify the impulses of fanatical rulers and some fanatical extremists among the general body with despicable sectarian ideas. These ideas were recorded and clearly and decisively exposed by the important jurists, traditionists and theologians. Among these despicable sectarian ideas was the attempt to give a quality of constitutionality to the conduct of Yazid and the Umayyad regime against the revolution of al-Husayn, and to take away any quality of constitutionality from al-Husayn's revolution. In what follows, we will mention some of these attempts.
Among these ideas is the idea of Abu Bakr ibn al-'Arabi, in his book, al-'Awasim min al-Qawasim, where he said of al-Husayn: 'No one went against him (i.e. al-Husayn) except by using their ability to understand. They only fought him because of what they had heard from his grandfather, the master of apostles, who had informed them about the corruption of the situation and warned them against entering into discords. His statements about that are numerous. Among them is that he said: "There will be lamentations and lamentations. Strike down anyone who wants to divide the authority of this umma, while it is united, whoever they may be." The people only went out against him with this or its like in their minds.'l5
Ibn al-Jawzi has stated in his book, al-Sirr al-Masun: 'Among the common beliefs which have prevailed among a group of those who associate themselves with the Sunna is that they maintain that Yazid was in the right, and al-Husayn was in the wrong in revolting against him ... Only a non-Shi'ite who was ignorant of the practice of the Prophet, would be inclined to such a view and would think that he could anger the Rafidites (i.e. the Shi'a) by that.'
Al-Shawkani has said: 'Some scholars have gone too far and judged that al-Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet, should have been content with the drunkard who was violating the sanctity of the sacred law, Yazid ibn Muawiya. May God curse them. How strange are such statements when they are laid bare. Rocks would split apart at hearing them.'
These ideas reflect a hostile attitude towards the revolution of al-Husayn in the popular consciousness of an insignificant group of Muslims. This attitude grew out of the efforts of the Umayyads and their propaganda apparatus. Soon, however, it was an attitude which had lost its supporters in Muslim circles, and there was no longer anyone who held it. The scholars and leaders of thought used to record it merely for the purpose of recording their rejection and revulsion of it. Among those who have done so in the modern era is Shaykh Muhammad 'Abduh, when he wrote: 'When one finds in the world a just government which maintains the sacred law and an unjust government which paralyses it, it is necessary for every Muslim to support the former ... In this category is the revolt of Imam al-Husayn, the grandson of the Apostle, against the leader of tyranny and injustice, who had gained control of the government of the Muslims by force and deceit, namely, Yazid ibn Mu' awiya, may God desert him and may God desert those Karamiyya and haters of 'Ali who supported him.'
This attitude began to be recorded as past dead history to arouse scorn and amazement at the rigid mentalities of men who were incapable of originality in though that they took refuge with strange ideas for their attitude. Perhaps that might achieve some of the commotion for them, which they imagined to be the fame which their sinews burned, in vain, to attain. As a result of their blind desire for the spreading of their reputation, they fell into the same sort of quagmires in which the supporters of Yazid wallow.
The true attitude, which still throbs with life, is the attitude which has, from the year 61 and still is even now, put its roots deep in the popular consciousness of all the Muslims in general and of Shi'ite Muslims in particular. It is the necessity, dedication and inspiration of the revolution. It is the attitude which is necessary for every free man and every man who thinks, who has become aware of the real nature of al-Husayn's revolution.
The revolution of al-Husayn has won its war against Umayyad distortion and has entered firmly and deeply into popular consciousness. On the one hand, that is because of its truth and purity. On the other hand, it is because of the efforts of Shi'ite leadership-and that is what we will explain in what follows.
Against Umayyad attempts aimed at frustrating the effect of the revolution on the umma-attempts which as we have already seen failed desperately-there were the efforts of the Shi'ite leadership aimed at activating the effect of the revolution in the umma.
Before entering into a discussion of the details of the Shi'ite leadership's efforts in this field, we must know the motives which impel this leadership to adopt this attitude in the course of Islamic history.
Will we find these motives in the emotions of love and hatred? Will we find them in a personal attitude towards the Umayyads through considering them as a family who were hostile to the Hashimites because of historical interventions?
On this basis, the Hashimites would have been motivated and would have motivated their Shi'a, to gratify the feeling of hatred which they bore against the Umayyads.
Or do we find the motives in the political advantages of the Hashimites in terms of the fact that the Umayyads had competed with the Hashimites for government after Umar ibn al-Khattab and beaten them to it? Then they would have been motivated, and would have motivated their Shi'a, against the Umayyads in order to pursue government as being a political authority which would consolidate the dominion of one family of Quraysh over the fate of the Muslims at the expense of another family of Quraysh.
If we deal with this problem superficially, there is scope for imagining that emotional or political motives, or both, were the things which impelled the Shi'ite leadership to strive to activate the effect of the revolution on the umma. The scope for imagining this is vast, for this is the kind of thing which accords with human nature at every age.
Any objective and deliberate study of this problem, however, will confirm to us the superficiality of the explanation, based on emotion and advantage, for the motives of the Shi'ite leadership in their attitude. It would also reveal other motives which were the basic instigation for the Shi'ite leadership to adopt this attitude towards al-Husayn's revolution.
When we examine the attitude of the Commander of the faithful, 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, towards the Caliphs who preceded him, we find that he relinquished his personal emotions and interests and the interests of his family in order to support the state and mission of Islam. If he had wanted to serve his own interests and emotions, he could have brought about a harmful political struggle within the state, which may have enabled him to gain power. He did not do that, however, not because he was unable to stir up such a struggle, but only because he preferred the interest of Islam in the political unity of the Muslims.
After the incident at the Saqifa, he refused to respond to the call by Abu Sufyan, which was supported by al-'Abbas ibn 'Abd al-Muttalib and in which he urged him to resist the decision taken in the meeting at the Saqifa. He answered: 'The safety of the religion is something which we love more.'
Similarly he announced his acceptance of the result which came from the consultative council, even though he registered his disapproval of it, for he said: 'I submit to what the affairs of the Muslims have submitted, even while there is only injustice against me, in particular, in them.'
When he was invested with the caliphate, and his political rivals split the unity of the Muslims through their rebellion in Mecca, and then in Basra, he was compelled to struggle in order to preserve the unity of the Muslims by the peaceful means which his opponents refused to respond to. They forced him to fight against them in order to preserve Islamic unity.
When he brought the rebellion to an end and started to build the model state, the Umayyad party under the leadership of Mu'awiya ibn Abi Sufyan revealed its intentions aimed at destroying the unity of the Muslims and at changing Islam into an institution which served the interests of a class of exploiters at the expense of the interests of the umma.
At this point 'Ali b. Abi Talib struggled for a long time by peaceful means to attain a framework, which would preserve the unity of the Muslims and which would enable him to realize his dream of building a just state. He failed, however, because of his opponents' persistence in their separatist attitude. Then the Imam was forced to enter into war to protect the unity of the Muslims and to preserve Islam from the fraudulent interpretation of its principles.
He constantly declared his aims in embarking on this struggle.
Imam 'Ali was martyred and the struggle went on.
Imam al-Hasan ibn 'Ali assumed authority after his father. He declared that he would adhere to the aims, for which Imam 'Ali had striven, and made strenuous efforts to safeguard the political unity of the Muslims through negotiation but he had no better fortune in this matter than his father. Indeed his opponents became more resolute in their attitudes as a result of their realization of the weakness of his position through the spreading of a defeatist spirit among the leaders of Iraqi society at that time.
After despairing of gaining any benefit from negotiations, he attempted to follow the policy of Imam 'Ali to protect the unity of the Muslims by force of arms. He discovered, however, that he was in a desperate situation and that new considerations in society made it impossible for him to engage in a successful war. Therefore he chose to preserve the unity of the Muslim under the auspices of the authority of his political rival, Mu'awiya, after having made the most prudent provisions possible for all the Muslims.
He chose to do this against his personal and family interests and feeling. Otherwise, he would have been able, by taking certain measures, to have remained in his position and embarked on a long-term war which would have been in his personal and family interests but would have brought dire consequences to the Muslims.
As a result of his conduct as a principled statesman, and not as an opportunistic politician, he faced severe and painful Shi'ite opposition which the leaders of his followers proclaimed according to their feelings. Yet he endured them patiently and began to explain to these men that he had taken this painful position with regard to himself personally out of his anxiety for them and the general body of the Muslims.
When Imam al-Hasan ibn 'Ali died as a martyr through the deception of his rival, Mu'awiya, Imam al-Husayn remained for a long period during the reign of Mu'awiya, inactive and quiet, not calling for a revolution because of his concern for the unity of the Muslims. Nonetheless he would have been able to raise a large number of people against Muawiya, who was hateful to him and contradicted his own interests and his family's. However, he did not, even though he did not refrain from criticizing the policies and excesses of Muawiya.
When, finally, he did rise up against Umayyad rule as will be accomplished by their transformation from their past form to the form put forward in the slogans of the revolutionaries when they embarked on their revolution. In the case of failure, the consequence will lead to the existing regime intensifying measures of repression in order to strengthen its foundations and make the conceptions which it applies to society more deeply- rooted in terms of policy, the economy, society and other matters of ordinary life.
On rare occasions, failure of the revolution may lead to the existing regime changing some of its conceptions or altering some of its institutions to respond, in some measure, to some of the slogans of the revolutionaries, when it seems that there is something in that which will help its existence and supremacy, which will subdue the growing popular hostility to it, and which deprive its opponents of their propaganda weapons.
The skeleton of the revolution are the material events which occur in time and place. This is what general history is concerned to record. Since, however, these events are stripped of their relation- ship with the general mentality of the nation and their emotional effect on the umma and the way in which it understands them, they have no significance and no meaning. Then they are something dead with no life and movement in them. Thus the events, in this respect, do not have any meaning to a man of thought. They may be an entertaining story but they are not, in this respect, anything more than that.
The flesh, sinews and blood of the events are the manifestations of their reflections in the general mentality of the umma and the reactions which the occurrence of the revolution produced in the effects, it was known that his revolution was one of self-sacrifice which would not lead him to any effective political support. It was only drawing the attention of the umma to the danger, setting it towards confronting that danger and releasing in it the power of the revolution and the spirit of refusal by compelling the government to maintain some regard for the principles of Islam in its policies, even at a minimal level.
The consideration of the problem of the motives of the Shi'ite leadership, and at their head the Imams of the Holy Family, to strive to release the rays of al-Husayn's revolution in the umma in the light of this fact, will show us that these motives were not emotional, arising out of the Hashimites' hatred of the Umayyads, nor based on self-interest, arising out of the struggle for government in terms of worldly domination. The proven history of the Imams of the Holy Family-as we have seen demonstrates that this was not their idea. It, further, establishes that their lives were a continuous chain of sacrifices for the public good. They were only overcome by their Umayyad rivals in the political battles because, in their dealings with the umma, with their rivals and with their supporters, they always followed principles and standards which rose out of their feelings of Islamic responsibility of the first degree.
It is sufficient, here, to mention, in addition, to the proven history, that Imam Zayn al-'Abidin 'Ali ibn al-Husayn who himself, witnessed the atrocity of Karbala', and lived it, hour after hour, with all its pain and sorrow, used to pray for the frontier fighters, the soldiers of the Umayyad regime, who had perpetrated the crime of Karbala', captured him with his aunts, sisters and other womenfolk, and imprisoned him.
That prayer of Imam Zayn al-'Abidin was only because of his consciousness of the role of the armies of the frontier in defending Islamic society from its enemies, even though that army also used to protect the regime of the Umayyads.
The motives of the Imams of the Holy Family and the other Shi'ite leadership sprung out of the fact that the revolution of al-Husayn-in terms of representing a defense of the essence and qualities of Islam and in terms of its aim to require the regime to be faithful in applying Islam to the life of the nation-that revolution, for both reasons, had to be spread and made influential in the minds of Muslims, so that, by keeping it alive, it would be a constant incentive to a Muslim to be watchful and critical. Thus, when revolution becomes a necessity in order to preserve the unity of the Muslims and the integrity of the application of Islam, he will arise. In this way his association with its principles and slogans is assured so that it attaches him to Islam, and he does not deviate from it, nor does he turn away from its guidance.
From this starting point, we shall study the manifestation of the escorts of the Shi'ite leadership and at their head the Imams of the Holy Family, to release the rays of al-Husayn's revolution to the furthest extent and the widest scope in the life of the umma.
Adapted from the book: "The Revolution of al-Husayn (a.s.)" by: "Shaykh Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Din"
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