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Origins of the uprising of the people of Medina

The uprising by the people of Medina occurred in 63 AH. Besides being an uprising against Yazid’s authoritative reign and Bani Umayyah’s tyrannical sultanate, it was more a peoples’ uprising against government policies. The uprising of the people of Medina was a popular and self-perpetuating social movement rooted in the people’s unanimous rejection of the rule of Yazid and Bani Umayyah.

The group of the Helpers [ansar] had chosen ‘Abd Allah ibn Hanzalah to be their army commander and leader in the confrontation with Bani Umayyah and the Quraysh appointed ‘Abd Allah ibn Matih to be their commander.4

This revolution and uprising was caused by various factors, some of which we will now discuss:

Religious sentiments

Medina has always been an exceptionally important city because it is the city of Allah’s Prophet (S) and the land where the divine message grew, developed and flourished. It is the land where divine knowledge and wisdom where introduced. It was in Medina where the Prophet’s way of life was explained and people were instructed regarding it.

Medina is the land where people learned Qur’anic commentary and interpretation of the divine message from the Holy Prophet (S) himself. The Prophet’s (S) distinguished companions, including the Helpers [ansar] and the Immigrants [muhajirin], had lived there since the Holy Prophet’s (S) time. After the Prophet’s (S) death, some of his most renowned companions preferred to stay in that city because of the fond memories they held about Allah’s Prophet (S).

It is evident why the people of Medina had a fervent inclination towards Islamic tenets and stronger religious sentiments than the people of Sham; they were more familiar with the Prophet’s (S) conduct [sunnah] and that of his successors and companions. It was for this reason that they were able to discern the wrong ways of Bani Umayyah earlier than others.

It was the people of Medina who previously were the first to voice their objections to ‘Uthman ibn ‘Uffan. Now, these same people were experiencing the rule of a raw inexperienced youth called Yazid ibn Mu‘awiyah. He knew absolutely nothing about politics and failed to uphold the sanctity of the tenets of religion. Accordingly, their disapproval and protest against Yazid sprang up.

‘Uthman ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Sufiyan, the governor of Medina, had sent a group of men consisting of Immigrants and Helpers to meet with the caliph in Damascus, so they could present their grievances to Yazid and so Yazid could bestow gifts upon them to silence them.5 During this meeting, not only did Yazid fail to win them over to his side, but his ignorant behavior proved his incompetence to them.6

When they returned to Medina, they explained what they had seen from Yazid. They gathered in the Holy Prophet’s (S) Mosque and started shouting to the people, “We have come from meeting a person who is depraved of religion, drinks wine, plays the tambourine and spends the night with base men, slave girls and female singers and as a result has abandoned prayer.”7

The people asked ‘Abd Allah ibn Hanzalah what news he had brought from the caliph. He replied, “I am coming from meeting a man whom, I swear by Allah, I would have fought if no one were present except my sons.” The people said, “We have heard that Yazid has given you money and gifts.”

‘Abd Allah answered, “It is true, but I accepted his money and gifts only for the purpose of using it to acquire and prepare an army against Yazid himself.” In this way, ‘Abd Allah started inciting and instigating the people against Yazid and the people responded positively to his calls for an uprising.8

Suyuti writes, “The reason for the uprising of the people of Medina was that Yazid had exceeded all bounds and every limit in committing sins.”9

Notes:

4. Tabaqat al-Kubra, vol. 5, p. 106; Tarikh Tabari, vol. 4, p. 368.

5. Tarikh Tabari, vol. 4, p. 368; Al-‘Aqd al-Farid, vol. 5, p. 135.

6. Al-Futuh, vol. 3, p. 179.

7. Tarikh Tabari, vol. 4, p. 368; Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, vol. 6, p. 233.

8. Ibid.

9. Tarikh al-Khulafa’, p. 209.

Adapted from: "The Uprising of Ashura and Responses to Doubts" by: "‘Ali Asghar Ridwani"