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Imam ‘Ali’s (as) reproach of the people of Kufah

In order for us to understand the conditions of the people of Kufah, the people who pledged allegiance with Imam al-Hasan al-Mujtaba (as), it is important to refer to Imam ‘Ali’s (as) words about them, because he lived with them for many years and was their leader.

1. Addressing the people of Kufah, Imam ‘Ali (as) said,

    «الحمد لله على ما قضی من أمر، وقدّر من فعل، وعلى ابتلائي بکم أيتها الفرقة التي اذا امرتُ لم تطع، واذا دعوت لم تُجب...»

“I praise Allah for what He willed and destined. And I praise Him for my entanglement in the troubles created for me by you, the people of Kufah. O people! You who did not follow any of the orders which I gave! Whenever I called out to you, you did not respond positively…”1

2. Elsewhere, Imam ‘Ali (as) says,

    «... لقد کنت أمس أميراً فاصبحتُ اليوم مأموراً، وکنت أمس ناهياً فأصبحت اليوم منهيّاً، وقد أحببتم البقاء وليس لي أن أحملکم على ما تکرهون...»

“Until yesterday, I was a leader and commander, but today I am the one who is being commanded. Until yesterday, I was the one preventing people from acting in certain ways, but today I am the one who is being prevented. You love staying alive. I cannot force you take a path which you do not like…”2

3. After hearing the news that Busr ibn Artat had conqurred Yemen for Mu‘awiyah and become Mu‘awiyah’s representative and official in that land, Imam ‘Ali (as) went on the pulpit and, while complaining about his companions’ shortcomings and opposition, addressed the people in this way,

    «... انبئت بسراً قد اطلع اليمن وانّي والله لأظنّ انّ هولاء القوم سيدالون منکم باجتماعهم على باطلهم وتفرّقکم عن حقّکم وبمعصيتکم امامکم في الحقّ وطاعتهم امامهم في الباطل، وبأدائهم الى صاحبهم وخيانتکم، وبصلاحهم في بلادهم وفسادکم، فلو ائتمنت احدکم علی قعب لخشيت ان يذهب بعلاقته، اللّهم انّي قد مللتهم وملّوني وسئمتهم وسئموني، فابدلني بهم خيراًً منهم، وأبدلهم بي شرّاً منّي...»

“News has reached me that Busr ibn Artat has gained predominance over Yemen. I swear upon Allah! I knew that very soon the people of Sham were going to prevail over you because they are united in their support of that which is wrong while you are disunited in defending that which is right. You have disobeyed your Imam every time he ordered you to do what was right, while they have obeyed their leader when he ordered them to commit what was wrong.

They are loyal to their leader while you are treacherous! They are busy trying to build and improve their cities, while you are busy corrupting and destroying yours. You have sunk so low in corruption that I fear to entrust a wooden water carrier to anyone of you because you might steal its leather cord.

O my Lord! I have made these people tired with my incessant advice and counsel, and they too have made me tired with their unceasing disobedience. They have lost their patience with me, and I have lost my patience with them, too. I am heartbroken. O my Lord! Change these people for me with better ones, and change me for them with a worse one…”3

4. When he was inviting the people to move towards Sham, he said,

    «أفٍّ لکم لقد سئمت عتابکم، أرضيتم بالحيوة الدنيا من الآخرة عوضاً، وبالذلّ من العزّ خلفاً، اذا دعوتکم الي جهاد عدوّکم دارت أعينکم کأنّکم من الموت في غمرة ومن الذهول في سکرة...»

“Damnation and curses be upon you O people of Kufah! I am tired of reproaching you. Do you prefer the transient life of this world over the everlasting one of the hereafter? Instead of self-respect and honor, have you chosen a life of misery and abjectness? I invite you to fight in jihad against the enemies, but your eyes are turning in circles because of fear. It seems that fear of death has hijacked your intellects. Like drunken people who have lost their minds, you are bewildered and disoriented…”4

We understand from these statements that Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) was displeased with the contravention of his soldiers and followers. These are the same people who would later pay allegiance to Imam al-Hasan (as) and choose him to be the one in charge of their affairs.

We will now summarize some of the negative circumstances and conditions that existed at the time:

a. A spirit of despotism, mutiny and freedom-seeking existed among the people.

b. Both Imam ‘Ali (as) and his soldiers were tired and impatient of each other.

c. Some of Imam ‘Ali’s soldiers were inclined towards the government of Sham (the government of Mu‘awiyah ibn Abu Sufiyan) because of hatred and animosity that they held against Imam ‘Ali (as).

d. The presence of the Khawarij among Imam ‘Ali’s (as) soldiers was another negative factor because they had taken steps that were to the detriment of the Islamic army.

Imam al-Hasan al-Mujtaba (as) inherited such an army; an army that had behaved treacherously with his father. In such sensitive times, what else could Imam al-Hasan (as) have done?

How was he supposed to handle both the irresolution of his own soldiers and the open enemy under the leadership of Mu‘awiyah ibn Abu Sufiyan? Under such circumstances, can it be said that Imam al-Hasan al-Mujtaba (as) accepted truce and signed an armistice because of negligence of duty or was it because of lack of loyal and obedient followers?

It is clear that Imam al-Hasan (as) was compelled by the circumstances which prevailed at the time to make peace.

Notes:

1. Ibn Abi al-Hadid, Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah, vol. 10, p. 67.

2. Ibid., vol. 11. p. 29.

3. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 332.

4. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 189.

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