When one studies the life of Imam Hasan (AS), the Prophet’s grandson, he is overwhelmed by the oppression the Imam had to face, such as the secret burials of his mother and father, the lack of loyalty from his troops, the multiple attacks and injuries he suffered from his own army and Muawiyah’s army, the accusations from his own Shias for accepting the peace treaty with Muawiyah, the poisoning and the betrayal by his wife, and his own burial in which the people launched arrows at his body. This oppression continued after his martyrdom through the many rumors spread to degrade the Imam, and continues to this day with his barren shrine.
The Prophet's Grand Son
Imam Hasan (AS) was born on the 15th of the month of Ramazan in the 3rd year of Hijri in Medina. He was the first born of Imam Ali (AS) and Lady Fatimah (SA) and the first grandchild of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). After his birth, the angel Gabriel revealed to the Prophet, “O’ Prophet, Ali to you is like Haroon was to Musa, thus, name this child the name of Haroon’s son Shubbar, which in Arabic is translated to Hasan.” The Holy Prophet performed some rituals for the newborn, such as whispering the Azan in the baby’s ear, sacrificing two sheep, shaving the baby’s head, and paying silver equivalent to the weight of the baby’s hair to charity.
With his Grandfather (the Holy Prophet)
The Holy Prophet had a special place in his heart for both of his grandsons, Imam Hasan and Imam Hossein, who are, according to the verse of Tat-heer (Purification) [33:33], a part of his household, and are purified. The Prophet encouraged all of the believers to love and respect his household, as the verse [42:23] from the Holy Quran states, “I do not ask you for any reward except love for (my) kin.” The Prophet had said, “Hasan and Hossein are the leaders of the youth of paradise” and are Imams whether they are sitting or standing, implying that they are leaders over people whether they are at peace, or at war against injustice.
Mubahilah (Cursing of the Untruthful)
The Christians of Najran refused to accept Islam after discussing Christian beliefs with the Holy Prophet, but were willing to do Mubahilah (or cursing of the untruthful). To the surprise of the Christians, the Holy Prophet did not bring an army or his companions, instead, he brought his family, Imam Ali, Lady Fatimah, Imam Hasan, and Imam Hossein. After seeing them, the Christians felt discouraged from doing Mubahilah. It was then the verse of Mubahilah [3:61] was revealed, calling Imam Hasan and Imam Hossein the sons of the Holy Prophet.
Martyrdom of Lady Fatimah (SA)
Lady Fatimah, the only daughter of the Holy Prophet, was martyred within a few months after the demise of the Holy Prophet. In an attempt to forcefully gain allegiance for the first caliph from Imam Ali, her house was attacked and Lady Fatimah was fatally injured, which caused the miscarriage of her baby and her eventual passing. Imam Hasan and Imam Hossein witnessed this injustice and were present in the hidden, nighttime burial of their mother.
During the Caliphate of Imam Ali (AS)
During his father’s caliphate, Imam Hasan always accompanied him and was his right hand. Imam Hasan was a brave and courageous warrior in the battles of Jamal, Siffin, and Nahrawan. He also advised people and delivered wise speeches during several occasions. The people witnessed his wisdom and great leadership skills.
Battle of Siffin
During the battle, Imam Hasan and Imam Hossein were fighting so courageously that Imam Ali called them back from the battle so that the progeny of the Prophet would be saved. On the other side, seeing Imam Hasan’s courage, Muawiyah tried to influence the Imam and offered him governorship, which was clearly rejected by the Imam.
Martyrdom of Imam Ali (AS)
When Imam Ali was on his deathbed, he appointed Imam Hasan to take care of his personal affairs and introduced him as the next Imam to the Shias. Imam Hasan, Imam Hussein, and a few others buried Imam Ali secretly at night in fear of revenge and insults from his enemies. The progeny of the Prophet had to face many atrocities, causing Imam Hasan to witness both his mother and father being buried secretly at night.
After Imam Ali’s hidden burial, Imam Hasan delivered a sermon in the Mosque of Kufa to announce the martyrdom of his father from the strike of a poisonous sword. In this sermon, Imam Hasan remembered and mourned for Imam Ali. He then introduced himself as the progeny of the Prophet and described the greatness of the Prophet’s household for God. The people, who were already grieved by the loss of their leader, Imam Ali, and feared Muawiyah’s revenge for the Battle of Siffin, readily pledged allegiance to Imam Hasan. The Khawarij also pledged allegiance on the condition of war against Muawiyah, but the Imam only accepted unconditional allegiance. The Khawarij had no choice but to agree. After Imam Hasan was selected democratically, messengers were sent out to other parts of the government, and they all paid allegiance to the Imam.
Beginning of Caliphate
When Imam Hasan became the leader, he needed some time to settle the matters of the new government. Similar to the customs of the Prophet and Imam Ali, Imam Hasan advised his opponent, Muawiyah, by sending him a letter and inviting him to pledge allegiance. Muawiyah continued his conspiracy and propaganda against Imam Hasan. He ordered his agents in Kufa to kill the Imam and blamed the Khawarij for causing turmoil in Kufa. An archer attempted to kill the Imam while he was leading the prayer in the Mosque of Kufa, but failed, causing only a minor injury to the Imam’s neck. Muawiyah sent his troops wearing the uniforms of the Imam’s army to attack villages and cause unrest so that the people would doubt the Imam. Muawiyah also tried to deceive and bribe tribal leaders who had pledged allegiance to the Imam by offering them wealth so they would change sides, or at least remain isolated during any war.
Preparation for War
Muawiyah gathered an army of around 60,000 men by joining the Egyptian forces under the leadership of Amr ibn al-As. Muawiyah, who was well prepared for war, advanced his army towards Kufa. The Imam called the people of Kufa to the mosque and gave a sermon to notify them of Muawiyah’s invasion. He asked for immediate recruitments for the army. After the Imam’s sermon, no one from the audience responded. A few of the Imam’s companions could not tolerate everyone’s silence and delivered a roaring speech. They encouraged the people to accept the call of the Imam. It was then that the people started joining the army and the Imam was able to gather around 40,000 men.
The Imam first sent 4,000 troops under the command of Hakam Kendi to stop the progression of Muawiyah’s army. Muawiyah, however, bribed Hakam with gold and a promise of leadership, which convinced him to join Muawiyah with 200 of his men. The Imam then sent 12,000 warriors under the command of Ibn Abbas towards the war’s frontier. Shortly after, the Imam followed the troops and went to Madain with his army to recruit more troops.
Preparing Grounds for Peace
Muawiyah wanted to overcome the Imam at the least expense. To deceive the people, he introduced himself as a peaceful leader and spoke about Muslim unity. He accused the Imam of advocating for war. His spies simultaneously propagated unrest within the army of the Imam. They spread rumors that the Imam’s army in the other location had accepted peace with Muawiyah. These rumors were effective, and at night, Ibn Abbas, the army’s leader, joined Muawiyah. This caused a great division within the army, and 8,000 of the Imam’s troops subsequently joined Muawiyah’s forces.
Muawiyah sent negotiators to the Imam’s base, and when they returned, they spoke positively about the Imam’s character, pretending that the Imam is looking to make peace with Muawiyah. This caused great confusion among the people who wanted war with Muawiyah, including the Khawarij, who then invaded the Imam’s tent and stole everything. In another incident, one of the Khawarij attacked the Imam with a dagger and cut his thigh so deeply that it reached his bone.
Accepting the Treaty
This chain of events led to turmoil within the army of the Imam and the people were no longer united. They started leaving the Imam’s army and joining Muawiyah group by group. Muawiyah did not want to carry the shame of killing Imam Hasan, as Imam Hassan was the closest blood relative of the Prophet at the time, and he was democratically elected to be the caliph by the people. He sent a negotiator to the Imam, who brought an offer for a peace treaty which would have any conditions requested by the Imam.
Despite being deeply injured, the Imam delivered a speech to his army to fulfill his responsibility, telling them that Muawiyah had offered a peace treaty. He said, “If you want God to be pleased with you, you must fight Muawiyah. But if you want the life of this world, then accept Muawiyah’s treaty.” The troops responded by saying, they wanted this world so the Imam accepted the peace treaty with specific conditions.
Although the conditions of the peace treaty vary in historical resources, the main conditions put forth by the Imam are as follows: 1. Muawiyah must follow the Holy Quran, the customs of the Prophet and the righteous caliphs, 2. Muawiyah should not appoint any successor after him, 3. Muawiyah must provide security for all of the people, including the lovers and followers of Imam Ali and Imam Hasan. He must provide safety and protection for the lives, wealth, and family of the followers of Imam Ali and Imam Hasan, 4. Muawiyah must stop cursing Imam Ali from the pulpit.
Migration to Medina
After the treaty, the Imam migrated back to Medina. During his return, he received a letter from Muawiyah seeking his support against a group of the Khawarij who had revolted against him. The Imam declined any support and responded by saying, “If I rise for war, you are my first opponent.” Although the Imam was forced by the circumstances to accept the treaty with Muawiyah, the cold war between them continued. On several occasions, the Imam confronted Muawiyah for insulting Imam Ali and Imam Hasan in his speeches. During his life in Medina, the Imam led the Shias and used all opportunities to guide and lead the people. The Imam was a symbol of piety in the society and he performed Hajj 25 times barefoot. He was so generous that on multiple occasions, he donated all or half of his entire wealth in the way of God.
After years of being in power, Muawiyah decided to take allegiance for his son, Yazid, as his successor. However, he saw the Imam as a barrier due to the conditions of the treaty. He did not want to directly kill the Imam, so he deceived one of the Imam’s wives, Ju’da, with the promise of wealth and marriage to Yazid. Ju’da, encouraged by her father who was in support of Muawiyah, poisoned the Imam. When the Imam was poisoned, he told Imam Hossein that they had given him poison on past occasions, but that it was fatal this time. In his will, the Imam requested to be buried near the Prophet, his grandfather. If the burial near the Prophet was not possible, he wanted to be buried by his grandmother, Fatimah bint Asad, in the Baqi’ cemetery as he did not want even a single drop of blood to be spilled during his burial.
Crowds of Muslims came for Imam Hasan’s burial. They took his holy body towards the tomb of the Prophet, but were stopped by the troops of Marwan ibn al-Hakam, a prominent Umayyad. Aisha, one of the Prophet’s wives, also joined in the opposition. There was a conflict between the crowd and the troops, which led to the Imam’s body being hit by many arrows. Imam Hossein then directed the crowd towards the Baqi’ cemetery by reminding them of Imam Hasan’s will to not have any blood spilled during his burial.