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The incident at Madain - cause and the responsible factors

As stated earlier, Imam Mujtaba (as) had sent a vanguard unit of twelve thousand soldiers towards Maskin so that they could restrict the movement of the enemy, while the Imam (as) himself had marched to Madain with the rest of the army and camped there. During that period, as Moawiya had reached Maskin and skirmishes between the vanguard unit and the Syrian soldiers were continuing, Imam Hasan (as)'s tent was attacked and whatever was in it, was looted. While the Imam (as) was passing through the area of Sabaat and moving towards the city, a Kharijite attacked him with a dagger injuring him in the thigh. The incident at Madain is a tragic one in the Islamic history as the grand son of the Holy Prophet (saww) was attacked by his own men.

Though the history does not record any doubt about the incident itself, yet there is considerable difference of opinion about the cause and the factors responsible for the same. Some prominent historians like Abul Faraj Isphahani and Ibne A'sam Koofi write that Imam Hasan (as) gathered his army soon after reaching Madain and suddenly decided to address them. In the address he declared that unity and agreement among the Muslims was better than disunity and dissension, and knowing that his army was against peace, he emphasized the need for peace with Moawiya and advised them not to oppose his decision for it. At this the Khawarij and others who were strongly in favour of war got enraged. So, they accused Imam Mujtaba (as) of (God forbid) being a non-believer and attacked his tent which resulted in his being injured with the dagger.

The historian Dinavari writes that Imam Mujtaba (as) was marching towards the northern areas of Iraq when at Madain he noticed that his army was showing signs of weakness and was wavering, which implied that they had lost the zeal to fight. Therefore, at Madain, he decided to stop the march and to address them. The incident occurred as a result of that address.

Shaikh Mufid writes that Imam Mujtaba (as) wanted to test his soldiers and to differentiate between friend and foe before the war with the Syrians, as he was not sure how far his army men would obey him. The analysis by these historians is vague. In this regard the basic question which has been raised by some researchers is why did Imam Hasan (as) make such war preparations, commanded the people to be ready for it and covered the long distance from Koofa to Madain, and then suddenly decided in favour of peace? 20

The other historians, among whom Tabari, Ibne Aseer, Ibne 'Asakir, Ibne Kaseer, Ibne Khuldoon, Husain Dayar Bakari and other later historians can prominently be mentioned, analyze the incident differently. While describing in detail the causes of the incident, they write that the agents of Moawiya in the army of Imam Hasan (as) had spread such rumour that the Iraqi soldiers had lost the will to fight and started deserting the army. With indiscipline and disorder all around and desertion in the army, the enemies of Imam Mujtaba (as) got a chance to attack his tent and to rob all that was in it. While the loot was still on and the Imam (as), riding a horse, had gone towards Madain with his trusted followers, a Kharjite attacked him on the way. As an example, these historians write that the rumour of Qais bin S'ad having been killed was spread in the army.

It cannot be denied that in the difficult circumstances, such rumours proved very effective in making the Iraqis fearful and upset and it is not unlikely that hearing the news of the death of such a well known person as S'ad they ran away, realizing that after Qais bin S'ad there was none else who could successfully challenge Moawiya. They very likely felt that now Moawiya with his army, would attack Madain and would either make them prisoners or kill them.

The historian Y'aqoobi has elaborately preserved the details of the propaganda. He writes that Moawiya sent a three man delegation for negotiations with Imam Hasan (as). The delegates, while leaving the camp of Imam Hasan (as) after negotiations, spread the false news in the army of Imam Hasan (as) that he had agreed to their offer of peace, which caused the said incident.

The writer Dinavari also supports the fact of such news being spread and mentions how Abdullah bin A'mir, a well known leader of the Syrian army, on the one hand spread fear in the minds of the Iraqi army, while on the other tried to convince them that Moawiya did not want war. 21

There is no shortage of evidence to prove that the real reason for the incident of Madain was not the sermon of the Imam (as), as mentioned by Abul Faraj and others, but it was to the defeatist tendency of the Iraqis, their weakness and the false propaganda of the Syrians. A majority of the original sources of history show that even after the incident of Madain, Imam Hasan (as) agreed to peace only after he was convinced that his army was no more prepared to fight for him. In this regard those reliable sources should also be referred to wherein the historical sermon of Imam Mujtaba (as) has been quoted, which was given after the incident of Madain when he was recuperating. In that sermon he had explained his attitude towards peace with Moawiya and had left the choice of peace or war with the soldiers, and only when the soldiers raised slogans in favour of peace, had he agreed for the same.

On the basis of these arguments we do not accept the conclusion drawn by Abul Faraj and Ibne A'sam etc. and do not consider the explanations given by Dinavari and Sheikh Mufeed sufficient, as it was not the first occasion when the Imam (as) had seen the Iraqi army's performance in war. Imam Mujtaba (as) had been watching the behaviour of this army since the days of his father and he could very well distinguish between fried and foe. Moreover, the Iraqi army had not only shown signs of weakness and surrender in Madain as stated by Dinavari, but it had started to give a defeatist impression right from the time of the Imam's (as) declaration of war in the central ('Jame') Mosque at Koofa.

As far as the question of camping at Madain is concerned, we have indicated in earlier chapters the reason for it being declared as the army garrison. Briefly, the Imam (as) was facing a shortage of personnel in the army and he expected support and more supplies from Madain. Moreover, Madain could prove to be a very important strategic location from a defensive point of view. Earlier, S'ad bin Abee Waqaas had fought the Qadisiah battles declaring Madain as the central strategic location.
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20 . Husain Mohammad Ja'feri, 'The Origin' ... p.142.

21. Dinavari, 'Al Akhbar al Tawaal', Cairo, Dar Ahya al Kutub, 1960, p.217.

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