Questions on Ashura (3)
One of the frequently asked questions on Ashura is: Why did the Prophet's elder grandson, Imam Hassan (AS) make peace with Muawiyah but his younger brother Imam Hussein (AS) didn't accept peace with Yazid and staged an uprising?
Shia scholars believe that both Imam Hassan and Imam Hussein (Blessings of God upon them) were pursuing the same goal but the conditions of the Muslim society had changed greatly from the time of the second Imam to the time of the third Imam. In view of this, the ulema and Muslims believe that if Imam Hassan were in the time of Imam Hussein, he would surely decide and act as Imam Hussein decided and acted. This was evident during the 10-year misrule of Muawiyah after the martyrdom of Imam Hassan in which Imam Hussein didn't launch any movement or uprising.
Three factors were effective in Imam Hussein's uprising which were different in the time of Imam Hassan (AS).
First, the oppressive and corrupt regime demanded allegiance from Imam Hussein (AS). Yazid sent a letter to Marwan, his fellow Umayyad kinsman, saying “Seize Hussain and his associates in order that they give the oath of allegiance. Act so fiercely that they have no chance to do anything before giving the oath of allegiance”.
The oath of allegiance with Yazid was tantamount to acceptance of his caliphate as the vicegerent of the Prophet. It was clear that the Imam's answer was negative. This, while Muawiyah had never demanded the oath of allegiance from Imam Hassan. Indeed, one of the articles of the treaty had emphasized that Muawiyah should never ask for allegiance. None of the historians has claimed that Imam Hassan or anyone of the Ahl al-Bayt or even Shias took the oath of allegiance with Muawiyah.
The second factor affecting Imam Hussein's uprising was the announcement by 18,000 people of Kufa that they were ready to assist the Imam in his struggle against Yazid. The Kufans were fed up with 20 years of oppression and injustice by Muawiyah. Hence, when they learnt that his son, Yazid who was notorious for every immoral act, was going to succeed Muawiyah, they wrote a letter to Imam Hussein and invited the Imam to assist him. being informed of this, Yazid changed the ruler of Kufa and sent Ubayd-ullah ibn Ziyad to break the will of the people through intimidation and temptation. Finally, the diabolical policies of Yazid and Ibn Ziyad made the Kufans betray their Imam. Imam Hussein (AS) knew that the people of Kufa were lacking the adequate steadfastness and insight to defend and help him; however, their letters of invitation and announcement of readiness in fact sealed the argument for Imam Hussein. So, if the Imam hadn't accepted their invitation he would have been criticized in history for neglecting such a situation for reformation of circumstances and toppling the corrupt caliph.
The third factor that urged Imam Hussein (AS) to stage his fateful uprising was the element of "Bidding what is good and forbidding what is evil". This is an obligatory act in Islam. During the time of Imam Hassan (AS), Muawiyah sent him a blank sheet with his signature on it, saying that, "Whatever condition Hassan ibn Ali sets I will accept and I will act according to Islam."
Although Imam Hassan (AS) knew that Muawiyah would never act according to the pact, it was necessary for the Muslim community to reach insight. Muawiyah would pretend to be Muslim and would keep religious codes on the surface. But the lapse of time unmasked his hypocrisy and his anti-religion and power-thirsty nature was revealed to all. During his 20-year misrule, he acted opposite to the peace treaty he had concluded; never acted according to Islam; transformed the Islamic laws; dissipated the public property of Muslims and shed sacred bloods. His contradiction to Islam and the articles of the peace treaty culminated in proclaiming his licentious son Yazid as his successor and the caliph of the Islamic Ummah and trying to get the people's oath of allegiance for him. The immorality of Yazid was so evident for Muslims that nobody could conceal it. Thus, Imam Hussein had to rise up against this manifest corruption. He referred to a hadith from the Prophet which reads, "Whoever sees an oppressive ruler making permissible what God has forbidden, breaking the divine covenant, opposing the practice of the Messenger of God and behaving unjustly among God's servants; but doesn't oppose the ruler with word or action; it deserves that God put him in the place of that oppressive ruler."
In view of this, Imam Hussein launched his uprising with 72 companions.