THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN WHICH THE
IMAM (A.S.) LIVED AND HIS MARTYRDOM
It was stated earlier in this unit that Imam Zainul Abidin (A.S) lived at a time when political position in the Islamic World was very bad for the Imam (A.S) and for those who loved 'Ahlul Bayt' of the Prophet. In this chapter we shall briefly see how bad the Government was.
THE RULERSHIP OF MUAWIYA BIN ABUSUFYAN
Imam Zainul Abidin (A.S) did not have to deal directly with Muawiya although he lived under his rulership for over ten years. This was because Imam Hasan (A.S) and later Imam Husain (A.S) dealt with Muawiya. However, the Imam had to go through all the difficulties that Muawiya created first for Imam Hasan (A.S) and then for Imam Husain (A.S).
THE RULERSHIP OF YEZID BIN MUAWIYA
In the earlier part of Yezid's rulership Imam Husain (A.S) dealt with Yezid directly. After the martyrdom of Imam Husain (A.S) on 10th Muharram A.H. 61, Imam Zainul Abidin (A.S) became the direct target of Yezid's cruelty and ill-treatment. He became a prisoner. He was chained and taken first to Kufa and then to Damascus.
The Imam's greatest enemies were Ibne Ziyad (The governor of Kufa) and Yezid. They were very unhappy to see Imam alive. They did not understand why he was not killed in Kerbala. You will remember that Ibne Ziyad had given orders to kill the Imam in Kufa but Hazrat Zainab had stopped him from doing so. Such orders were also given in Damascus by Yezid. There the public stopped Yezid from carrying out his orders of killing the Imam (A.S).
Yezid set the Imam (A.S) free in A.H 62 after a great pressure from the public. He was looking for another small excuse to go after the Imam (A.S). The Imam (A.S) therefore had to keep away from politics and work to spread true Islam from the quietness of his home. This was a very wise step. For as we shall soon see, all those who raised their heads against the rulers at this time were brutally killed and their missions destroyed. For example, the Muslims of Medina rose against Yezid in A.H 64 under the leadership of Abdulla Bin Hanzalah .They paid a heavy price; for this Syed Amir Ali describes this in his book "A SHORT HISTORY OF THE SARACENS" in the following words:
"...The noblest companions of the Prophet, both Ansar and Muhajerin, perished in that disastrous fight... The Public Mosque was turned into a stable and the shrines were demolished... Its best men were killed or fled for safety into distant countries. The few who were spared had to acknowledge themselves slaves of Yezid..."
Indeed amongst the thousands of people of Medina killed included 700 who had committed the whole Qur'an to memory 12000 married women and 1000 virgin girls were rapped. 1000 illegitimate children were born.
However, Imam Zainul Abidin (A.H) was saved from this because he took no part in this rising. Those who managed to go to him too were saved. In this way, he kept 55 the Mission of Islam alive at a time when all others were made to bow down to Yezid.
What happened in Medina would have happened in Mecca too. For after punishing the People of Medina, Yezid's army went to Mecca to punish Abdullah ibne Zubair who had made himself the ruler of Mecca. The people of Mecca closed the doors of the city. Before Yezid's force commanded by Hasin Bin Namir could break into Mecca, Yezid died in A.H 64. Hasin therefore returned to Damascus. Ibne Zubair was left to rule Mecca - for the time being for as we shall soon see, the Ummayas were to return at a later date in A.H. 73 and punish him too.
THE RULERSHIP OF MERWAN AND HIS FAMILY
When Yezid died, his son Muawiya became the next ruler. But he was a pious person and he was not happy with what his father and, grandfather did. He was not even ready to rule. He died within six months of his father's death. His younger brother Khalid was too young to rule. As a result, Merwan Bin Hakam succeeded in becoming the next ruler in A.H. 64.
At this time the Muslims of Kufa rose against Merwan. These Muslims were called "TAWWABUNS". They were under the leadership of such a pious and sincere person as Sulaiman Surd Khizai. They fought against the government of Bani Umayya to take revenge of Imam Husain's Martyrdom. Unfortunately, they were defeated and most of them killed by Merwan's Army in A.H. 65.
Soon after that, Merwan died from the hands of his wife who was Yezid's old wife and Khalid's mother. She had married Merwan on the promise that he would help Khalid be the ruler. She killed him when he did not fulfil his promise.
THE RULERSHIP OF ABDUL MALIK BIN MERWAN
Merwan was succeeded by his eldest son Abdul - Malik in A.H. 65. He ruled for about twenty two years. Before becoming the ruler he was a pious person. When people came to inform him that he had become the ruler, he was reading the Qur'an. He closed the Qur'an and addressing the Qur'an he said, "O Qur'an! from now onwards we are going to take separate ways - I will be on my own and you too be on your own. Our ways will never meet."
True to his words, he changed completely. He turned to all the pleasures of the world including drinking wine. His main interest in life was to rule. Anyone who came on his way was killed. For example, when he found that his uncle, Amr Bin Said Bin Abul Aas, was becoming a threat to his kingdom, Abdul Malik killed him with his own hands!
Abdul Malik's announced his policy from the Mimbar saying, "I am not weak like Uthman or tricky like Muawiya or stupid like Yezid. I will bring down with my sword the head of any one who raises it against me!" And he carried out this policy throughout his life as a king. We are giving only two examples below.
Mukhtar Bin Abu Ubayda rose in Iraq in A.H. 65. He took Kufa and put to death all those who had taken part in the Murder of Imam Husain (A.S) and his followers in Kerbala. Abdul Malik sent an army under the command of Ibne Ziyad (who had by then earned the title of "THE BUTCHER" for killing of Imam Husain (A.S)) to fight against Mukhtar. Mukhtar proved successful. But soon after that Mukhtar was killed in a separate battle with Musab Bin Zubair, who had come to kill Mukhtar on behalfofhis brother Abdullah who too claimed to be the ruler of the Muslims at Mecca.
With Mukhtar out of his way, Abdul Malik sent an army that killed Musab and then went to kill Abdullah Bin Zubair in Mecca.
Abdullah Ibne Zubair in the meantime was busy fighting battles against the Khwarjis in Iraq and in Persia. Earlier on, Ibne Zubair had Imprisoned Imam Zainul Abidin's uncle, Muhammad Hanafia, in Mecca on the suspicion that Muhammad Hanafia was Mukhtar's agent. Only a last minute effort by Mukhtar's people saved Muhammad Hanafia.
The Muslim world therefore was in such a confusion that in the year 71 A.H. during Haj season there were four groups at Arafa, each claiming to be the RIGHTFUL LEADER OF THE MUSLIMS. First, there was the group of Abdullah Ibne Zubair. Then there was Abdul Malik's group. The third group was of the Khwarijs and the last group claimed their leader to be Muhammad Hanafia. These were in fact the groups that were fighting against each other. Notice that no group claimed to stand for Imam Zainul Abidin (A.S).
Whereas these groups were busy fighting and killing each other, Imam Zainul Abidin spent his time spreading the Message of true Islam through ways which were free from polities but which were very effective.
In A.H 73, Abdul Malik sent a huge army to Mecca under the command of Hajjaj Bin Yusuf. Ibne Zubair w as killed without any mercy shown to him.
Hajjaj Bin Yusuf then was made the Governor of Hijaz, Iraq and Persia (Karman, Khuramsha). He was enemy number one of the Prophet, Imam Ali (A.S) and other members of their family. His cruelty is described by Syed Amir Ali in his Book "A SHORT HISTORY OF THE SARACENS" in these words, "Whilst Governor or Hijaz, Hajjaj had cruelly oppressed the inhabitants of Medina and ill-treated the surviving companions of the Prophet. At one time he thought of rasing the city to the ground. In the course of his long government over Iraq, he put to death nearly 150,000 men, many for false charges, some of them the best of the Arab Race. At the time of his death 50,000 people of both sexes were found rotting in his prisons and cursing the tyrant" It goes without saying that Imam (A.S) must have been closely watched by both Abdul Malik and Hajjaj for a small cause for which he, too, could be severely punished like others. Indeed, by some accounts, Imam (A.S) too was imprisoned for a short time by Abdul Malik. But then the life style of the Imam was so much in prayers that Abdul Malik had to free him fearing that his own people would turn against him if he harmed the Imam (A.S).
Having ruled with Iron-hand for about 22 years, Abdul Malik at last died in A.H. 86 at an Age of 62 years. His last two acts of cruelties before his death were: First, to deny his brother Abdul Aziz of rulership, second to make sure that Hajjaj continued to commit his crimes against Muslims.
THE RULERSHIP OF WALID BIN ABDUL MALIK
He ruled for over nine years. The Sunni Historians Masudi and Ibn Athir describe him as a cruel and bad king.
He openly drank wine.
He continued using the services of Hajjaj and let him continue with his killings. On the advice of Hajjaj he removed Omar B in Abdul Aziz as Governor of Medina because Omar ruled with kindness and gave shelter to those running away from Hajjaj's cruelty.
He gave high Government posts to Christians who ruled by breaking laws of Islam. For example, his Governor in Kufa, Khalid, constructed a church for his mother just behind the Mihrab of a mosque and he used to tell people that, "A sensible person does not memorise the Qur'an."
Walid's worst crime was that, he ordered the Governor of Medina to kill Imam Zainul Abidin (A.S) by poisoning him. This order was carried out and the Imam (A.S) was martyred on 25 Muharram 95 A.H.
WHY WAS THE IMAM (A.S) MARTYRED?
It should have become clear by now that all the rulers from the Bani Umayya took over rulership by force. The first ruler of the Bani Umayya was Muawiya. He became Caliph only by force. So did his son Yezid. The house of Merwan, too, became rulers by force. For the same reason that Abu Sufyan hated the Prophet (S.A.WW), and Muawiya and Yezid hated Imam Ali (A.S) and his children, Merwan and his children hated our other Imams. These rulers knew that the Rightful persons to lead the Muslim were the Imams from the house of the Prophet. They always feared that people might one day open their eyes and put these Imams to power. These rulers therefore killed the Imams one after the other thinking that by so doing they would succeed in killing Islam and then rule in any way they liked.
Having looked at the way things were, we cannot but say that it Was only through miracle that Imam Zainul Abidin could live 35 years after the events of Kerbala. He was surrounded on all sides by his enemies. Yet he succeeded in teaching true Islam every moment of his life.
Several things enabled the Imam to esc-ape the immediate death from the hands of his enemies these are.
1. The Martyrdom of Imam Husain (A.S) and the im prisonment of Imam Zainul Abidin (A.S) turned the whole public against Yezid. Any harm done to the Imam could cause trouble for Yezid. So Yezid not only set the Imam free from the prison but gave special instructions against giving any trouble to the Imam.
2. The Imam's method of preaching Islam was such that it did not upset the Government. Who could worry from a person who either wept for his killed relatives or prayed to his Creator? The Government did not realise how effective these methods w ere until when it was too late.
3. The Imam's pure character and his great knowledge earned him so much respect even to those important people in Government like Zuhri that to cause any harm to him would be to invite opposition from the public.
4. The Government was all the time busy dealing with those people like the Tawwabun, Mukhtar and other who wanted to overthrow them by force. There was no time left to turn to Imam Zainul Abidin (A.S)
When the Government of Walid had made itself strong from all threats, it now turned to the Imam. Walid now regarded Imam as a danger to his Kingdom for two reasons. First, the Imam's reputation as a man of pure manners was rising day by day. This made the corruption and bad living of the ruler look worste.
Secondly, the ruler began to fear that Imam's growing popularity could result in people turning to him and help him overthrow the corrupt ruler.
Walid's fears must have become stronger when he heard of how the Imam was given a better treatment than Hasham at Kaaba. He therefore gave strict instructions to his Governor to end the life of Imam (A.S).
THE IMAM IS MARTYRED
The Governor of Medina got the Imam poisoned. The Imam left this world on 25th Muharram 95 A.H. At that time his age, he was 57 years. He was buried in the graveyard of Baqi in Medina next to his uncle Imam Hasan (A.S).
It is reported from Imam Jaffer Sadiq (A.S) that at the time of his death Imam Zainul Abidin (A.S) had left special instructions concerning his camel which the Imam (A.S) used to take with him on his journey to Hajj. The Imam had told his family that his death would affect the camel very badly. After his death the camel should be left on its own to do what it pleased. The camel was therefore set free. It went straight to the grave of the Imam and started shedding tears. It remained in this condition till it died.
Such was the love of even animals to Imam Zainul Abidin (A.S).
With the passage of time a modest but beautiful Mausoleum was build to house the Imam's grave. Unfortunately, in A.D. 1926. the Wahhabi King of Saudi Arabia, destroyed the Mausoleum.
Muslims who go to the graveyard of Baqi cannot help cry when they see the poor condition in which the grave of the Imam is today.