Exposing the Savagery of Tyrants
The peace of Yazid was wine, aba-qays (his pet monkey), playing with dogs and monkeys, adultery and licentious, despising and disdaining all civil moral values. Chroniclers mention that when Mo'awiyah was very ill on his deathbed, Yazid did not give the slightest care about his father, and in a nearby village he was drinking wine and playing with his dogs. (This is recorded in Morawwij al-Thahab). He was unbothered about the entire situation, to the extent that he was absent from his father’s deathbed, not giving any value to his father, or to his successorship, so the conduct of Yazid during peacetime had become well known to the people.
It was Yazid's war that needed to be exposed. One of the subtlest measures that Imam Husayn alayhis-salam took was to send his cousin and representative Muslim ibn Aqeel alone to Kufa. Some people are very surprised by this action of Imam Husayn alayhis-salam. They are also very surprised about another broad measure the Imam took which was inviting his companions to leave him if they wished, rather than gathering them - as military leaders would do in such circumstances. Imam Husayn alayhis-salam invited his companions to leave him up to the eve of Ashura. This may seem very odd at surface. “Does he want to fight a battle tomorrow with the support of only about seventy companions?”
“Yes he does, he knows exactly what he is doing”. In fact if he were to do otherwise, we would have asked, “Why Imam Husayn alayhis-salam went into battle – with say 10,000 companions – when he knew that he was going to be killed in any case?”20 The Umayyad government was strong and covered a vast area stretching from the former Soviet Union to the middle of Africa. It was this gigantic government that Imam Husayn alayhis-salam decided to stand up against. Imam Husayn alayhis-salam wanted to fight the tyrant Yazid, and we said earlier that Yazid was 20 This is given the fact that some reports state that the army of Yazid consisted of more than 100,000 men. So if Imam Husayn alayhis-salam went into battle with the support of 10,000 companions he would be killed, and the savagery and barbarity of Yazid would not be shown, whereas when he went into battle with the support of some seventy companions he and his companions were killed but then Imam Husayn alayhis-salam brought out the barbarity and savagery of Yazid.
vicious and barbaric in war, immoral and untrustworthy in peace, such that it is clear and it does not need further clarification. In the process of exposing Yazid lies a lesson that must be noted. How to stand up to savagery and how does viciousness appear? Vicious savagery and brutal barbarity appears when the opponent numbers few, but it does not appear when there is a large and significant opponent standing before it. A poet states in his poem in al-Seyouti and I fear the wolf when I pass it by alone Wolf is savage but when does its viciousness appear? It appears when you are alone on your own, but if you were with a group, the ultimate viciousness of wolf would not become apparent. If Imam Husayn had more than ten thousand fighters with him to fight the Umayyad, the latter would not be able to do what they did with Imam Husayn alayhis-salam and Yazid's viciousness would not have been exposed, even though Yazid would still have killed Imam Husayn and his followers. If Muslim ibn Aqeel had gathered one thousand men with him, ibn Zeyaad would not be able to hang Muslim upside down. It becomes apparent when the number of the reformist opponents is few, but if the number were high, this would strike fear in the heart of the tyrant. You can see how Yazid, twenty days after Ashura and before everyone present in his court, manoeuvred when he realized that many people have gathered around Imam (Zayn al- Abidin)21 in his support. He said, I did not do this! (i.e. the savage killing of Imam Husayn alayhis-salam and his family members and followers).
So Imam Husayn alayhis-salam knew exactly what he was doing when he went to Karbala with so few followers and supporters. This was his plan, so that he could reveal every bit of savagery and brutality of the tyrant rulers. In future generations you the reformist may say that this despot is brutal and I cannot confront him. Imam Husayn alayhis-salam would say to you, if you see any brutality you can stand up against it, since I confronted a brutal tyrant and I resisted him. If it were not for Imam Husayn alayhis-salam and the kind of action and stance he took, it would have been said, “perhaps if Imam Husayn alayhis-salam had seen such brutality, he would not have resorted to confronting and resisting”. But this is not the case. Imam Husayn alayhis-salam in a carefully devised plan, and with amazing precision, revealed all the brutality and savagery in 21 He is the son and successor of Imam Husayn alayhis-salam.
the heart of Yazid. In doing so he became the leader and model for all those in future generations who would face a tyrant like Yazid.
Therefore the statement of Rasulollah salla-llahu-alayhi-wa-aalih, "Hasan and Husayn are two Imams whether they rise up to lead or not" is not limited only in the sacred sense, and Rasulollah salla-llahu-alayhi-waaalih does not only want to show that they are two pious Imams, with knowledge and wisdom so that we could learn the Islamic law from – even though this is true. Rasulollah salla-llahu-alayhi-wa-aalih is also pointing to their distinct role they had to play. Some people are surprised why there are so few hadith about Fiqh22 from Imams Hasan and Husayn alayhum-as-salam. Their role was not to expand on Fiqh, but facing up to the tyrants of these kinds. Imam Sadiq alayhis-salam had the role of teaching the Islamic Fiqh. Why? Because he was opposed in particular by those who used the tools of Fiqh. So the role of Imam Sadiq alayhissalam was that of a Faqih, and he revealed his Fiqh knowledge.23 We stated earlier that we need at least fourteen sessions, so that in each session we can talk about the role of each of the Ma'soomeen alayhum-assalam starting from Rasulollah salla-llahu-alayhi-wa-aalih, and Fatima al- Zahra alayhas-salam through to the last of the twelve Imams alayhum-assalam.
In these sessions we could prove that how each one of the fourteen Ma'soomeen is a leader and teacher forever. That the role of the reformistin the future generations would be like that of Rasulollah salla-llahualayhi- wa-aalih, or Fatima al-Zahra, or Imam Ali, or Imam Hasan, or Imam Husayn, or any other Imam until that of Imam Mahdi, may Allah hasten his reappearance. Therefore a reformist must follow the example of that Ma'soom whose role is similar to his, and any role or conduct the reformist may need, it should be according to this model, otherwise the reformist would be in the wrong.
We pray to Allah that he guides us to what He loves and pleases.
22 Fiqh is Islamic law or jurisprudence.
23 Imam Sadiq alayhis-salam is the sixth caliph or successor of the holy prophet Muhammad salla-llahu-alayhi-wa-aalih. In his role as the sixth Imam, Imam Sadiq taught extensively the various branches of Islamic sciences including Fiqh or Islamic law. It is recorded that at a given time he had more than four thousand students, one of was Abu Hanifa who went on to form “Hanafi” sect. Imam Sadiq alayhis-salam taught for more than forty years. Because of the detailed and numerous teachings presented by Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq alayhis-salam, and recorded by his trusted students, the Shi‘a draw on those teachings rather than anyone other than members of the Ahl-ul-Bayt alayhum-as-salam. For this reason the Shi‘a are also referred to as Ja‘fari after adhering to the teachings of Ja‘far al-Sadiq.