Hasan B. Ali B. Abi Taleb
Hasan B. Ali B. Abi Taleb, was the eldest surviving grandson of the Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima, and second Imam of the Shi’a after his father Ali. Both Shi’ite and Sunni sources report numerous al-Hasan’s virtues. He is also one of the People of Cloak and, in Twelver Shi’ite belief, one of the fourteen Infallibles.
After martyrdom of Imam Ali, al-Hasan became the Imam and received the backing of the Kufans. Refusing to accept al-Hasan’s Caliphate, Muʿawiya launched a military expedition against him. Al-Hasan was plagued by defections from his army mainly from Kharijites who tried to assassinate Imam. Finally, Imam al-Hasan accepted the peace treaty and abdicated the caliphate to avoid bloodshed with the condition that Muʿawiya should rule according to the Qur'an and the Sunna of the Prophet and should not appoint any successor for himself, and that no one, including the Shiites, should be persecuted. On 5 Rabiʿ I 50/2 April 670, he was martyred by poisoning.
Birth and Early Life[edit | edit source]
According to traditional sources, he was born on 15 Ramadan 3/2 March 625 A.D and was brought up in the Prophet’s household until the age of seven, when his grandfather died. Muhammad slaughtered a ram for the poor on the occasion of his birth, as he did later for his brother Hussain. He chose the names of both his grandsons. Fatima shaved their heads and gave silver as heavy as the weight of their hair, as alms.
There are numerous reports illustrating the great love and tenderness of the Prophet toward his grandsons, which he did not conceal in public. He is described as carrying Hasan on his shoulders, seating him on his knees, kissing him on his belly, allowing him to ride on his back as he was prostrating himself in prayer, and interrupting his sermon in order to caress him when Hasan climbed the pulpit to join him. Widely reported was Muhammad ’s statement that his two grandsons would be the lords of the youth (sayyeda Shabab) of Paradise. Hasan later remembered prayers Muhammad had taught him and other statements and acts of the Prophet, such as his removing a date belonging to the alms (sadaqa) from his grandson’s mouth while explaining that partaking of alms was not licit for any member of his family.
Life Under the first four Caliphs[edit | edit source]
Hasan ibn Ali is mentioned as being among those present at the battles of the Camel and Siffin, but not as a prominent participant. In a testament dated 10 Jomada I 39 / 2 November 658, Ali put Hasan in charge of his land endowments (sadaqat) in Arabia, to be succeeded by Hussain if he were to survive him. 
Caliphate[edit | edit source]
When Ali was murdered on 19 Ramadan 28/28 January 660, Hasan received the backing of the Kufans despite suspicions that he might surrender rather than carry out his father’s war plans. Hasan was prepared to sacrifice the rights of the Family of the Prophet for the sake of the peace and unity of the Muslim community, while at the same time he recognized that he would have to negotiate an honorable peace with a general amnesty for his supporters. After two months of inactivity he sent Muʿawiya a letter summoning him to pledge allegiance since, as the grandson of the Prophet, he was more entitled to reign. 
Aware of Hasan’s pacifist disposition, Muʿawiya answered that he recognized the excellence of the Prophet’s family and would readily follow his summons were it not for his own superior experience in governing. He asked Hasan to accept his authority to rule, in which case he would cede the succession to him after his own death, and he promised Hasan the present contents of the treasury of Iraq, to be followed by the revenue of any province of Iraq he might choose, as well as consultation in all matters of government.
Confronting Muʿawiya Army[edit | edit source]
When Hasan failed to reply, Muʿawiya sent a more threatening letter and mobilized his army to invade Iraq. Hasan now also mobilized to meet the threat. He sent a vanguard under ʿObayd-Allah b. Abbas to Masken in order to block the advance of the enemy and followed them with the main army. The choice of Obayd-Allah, who had been reprimanded by ʿAli for abandoning his governorship of Sanʿaʾ without a fight, reflected Hasan’s continued hope to avoid battle and to reach a peaceful settlement.
At Sabath near al-Madaʾen, Hasan gave a sermon to his army revealing his pacifist inclination. This provoked a mutiny among his men; his pavilion was overrun and looted, and Ibn Jaʿʿal al-Azdi pulled the tunic off his shoulders, leaving him undressed, clinging to his sword. Order was restored by loyal tribesmen of Rabiʿa and Hamdan. As the army moved on, however, at Mozlem Sabath, al-Jarrah b. Senan al-Asadi, a man with Kharijite convictions, attacked him, accusing him of having associated partners with God as his father Ali had done. He cleft Hasan’s thigh with a pick-axe before being overpowered and killed. Hasan was carried to al-Madaʾen, where he was lodged with the governor Saʿd b. Masʿud al-Taqafi until his wound had healed. 
At Masken, Muʿawiya sought to persuade the Kufan vanguard to surrender, claiming that Hasan had sought a truce. They refused, but ʿObayd-Allah b. Abbas deserted at night on a promise of a million dirhams. The warlike Qays b. Saʿd took command and blocked the Syrian advance.
Peace Treaty[edit | edit source]
Muʿawiya now initiated serious negotiations. After an exchange of high-level envoys, he committed himself in a witnessed letter to cede power after his own death to Hasan and to grant him a million dirhams annually in addition to the land tax of Fasa and Darabjerd, for which Hasan could send his own tax-collectors. On reading the letter Hasan commented that Muʿawiya was trying to appeal to his greed for something which he, if he desired it, would not surrender to him. He instructed his envoy to tell Muʿawiya that if he granted safety to the people he would pledge allegiance to him. Muʿawiya now sent him a blank sheet with his seal at the bottom, inviting him to stipulate whatever he wished. Hasan wrote that he was surrendering the reign to Muʿawiya on the basis that he acts in accordance with the book of God, the Sunna of His Messenger, and the conduct of the righteous caliphs. Muʿawiya would not be entitled to appoint his successor, but an electoral council (shura) would be set up for this task. Everyone would be safe, wherever they were, with respect to their person, property, and offspring. Muʿawiya would neither seek to harm Hasan openly or secretly nor intimidate any of his companions.  Hasan relinquished his control of Iraq in Rabiʿ II 41/August 661 after a reign of seven months.
The truce secured, Muʿawiya moved with his army to Kufa. At the public surrender ceremony he demanded that Hasan rise and apologize. After first declining, Hasan reminded the people that he and hussain were the only grandsons of the Prophet Muhammad. Muʿawiya had contested a right that belonged to Hasan, who ceded it to him in the best interest of the community, in order to spare their blood. In his own speech Muʿawiya disowned all his previous stipulations and promises to Hasan and others, which were made merely in order to extinguish the fire of rebellion and to cut short the war. His aim had been to seek revenge for the blood of Othman, and anyone failing to pledge allegiance within three days would not be pardoned. Hasan chose to return to Medina with his family. As he reached al-Qadesiya, Muʿawiya sent after him demanding that he fight a band of Kharijites who had taken up arms against the new ruler. Hasan declined, stating that he had abandoned the war against Muʿawiya for the sake of the reconciliation of the community, and would not fight for him. 
As Muʿawiya came to realize that Hasan would not give active backing to his regime, relations between them deteriorated. Hasan rarely, if ever, visited Muʿawiya in Damascus. Although he is reported to have accepted gifts from the caliph, the bulk of Muʿawiya ’s gifts to the Banu Hashem went to Hasan’s cousin, Abd-Allah b. Jaʿfar, who had no political ambitions nor any following and would spend the money on poets, musicians, and singers. At the same time Hasan was denounced to his face by a few of his father’s most ardent supporters as having humiliated the faithful by surrendering to Muʿawiya. Many, however, still put their hopes on his succession to the caliphate after Muʿawiya ’s death. Umayyad propaganda began to insinuate that Hasan was plotting to seize the caliphate.
Death and Aftermath[edit | edit source]
Hasan died, according to the most reliable reports, on 5 Rabiʿ I 50/2 April 670.  The early sources are nearly unanimous that he was poisoned. While most accuse his wife Jaʿda, daughter of the Kinda chief al-Ashʿath b. Qays, of the crime, others mention his wife Hend bt. Sohayl b. Amr of Amer Qoraysh. Usually Muʿawiya is identified as the instigator. Hasan is reported to have refused the identification of the suspect and introducing her to Hussain lest the wrong person be killed in revenge. Muʿawiya would naturally be suspected of having a hand in a murder that removed an obstacle to the succession of his son Yazid which he was promoting, and, in any case, he did not try to hide his pleasure on news of Hasan’s death.
Hasan’s burial nearly provoked fighting. He had instructed Hussain to bury him with his grandfather, but if there were opposition to that threatening bloodshed, to bury him next to his mother in the cemetery of Baqiʿ al-Gharqad. The Omayyad governor, Saʿid b. al-ʿAṣ, did not interfere, but Marwan b. al-Hakam, who had been deposed the year before, swore that he would not allow Hasan to be buried next to Muhammad with Abu Bakr and Omar as long as Othman was buried in al-Baqiʿ, and informed the caliph. Hussain summoned the helf al-fozul, a defensive alliance of several clans of Quraysh, to back the right of the Banu Hashem against the Banu Omayya.
As the parties were about to start fighting, Muhammad b. al-Ḥanafiya and others prevailed upon Hussain to heed Hasan’s desire to avoid bloodshed and to bury him next to his mother. The funeral prayer was led by Saʿid b. al-ʿAṣ. Muʿawiya eventually rewarded Marwan for his stand by reappointing him governor of Medina.  Hasan’s tomb became a pilgrimage site, especially for Shiʿites, and later a dome was built over it, one of the highest in the cemetery. It was twice, in 1806 and 1927, destroyed by the Wahhabis.
References[edit | edit source]
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
- Baladori , Ansāb al-ašrāf, II, ed. M. F. al-ʿAẓm, Damascus, 1996, pp. 366-402; V, ed. S. D. F. Goitein, Jerusalem, 1936, index s.v.
- Šams-al-Din Ḏa-habi, Siar aʿlām al-nobalāʾ, ed. Š. al-Arnaʾuṭ, Beirut, 1981-88, III, pp. 245-79.
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- Muhammad Ibn Šahrāšub, Manāqeb Āl Abi Ṭāleb, Najaf, 1376/1956, III, pp. 141-205.
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- Wilferd Madelung, The Succession to Muḥammad, Cambridge, 1997, esp. pp. 311-33, 380-87 (requires partial revision in light of Ibn Saʿd’s recently published vita of Hasan).
- Bāqer Majlesi, Beḥār al-anwār, Tehran, 1376-94/1956-74, XLIII, pp. 237-364; XLIV, pp. 1-173.
- Shaikh Mofid, al-Eršād, ed. K. Miāmawi, Tehran, 1377/1957-58, pp. 169-79; Engl. trans. I. K. A. Howard, Kitāb al-Irshād, London, 1981, pp. 279-95.
- Moojan Momen, An Introduction to Shiʿi Islam, New Haven, 1985, pp. 26-28. Ṭabari, index s.v.