(Adapted from: Al-Noor, Vol 3, No. 32, Sha'aban/Ramadhan, 1414 A.H. - February, 1994 A.D. pp 8-9)
Imam Hassan al-Mujtaba (a.s.) was the second Apostolic Imam of the Shia' Muslims. The Holy Prophet particularly loved the son of Imam Ali Ibn Abu Talib (a.s.), the successor to the Prophet Muhammad, Imam Hassan (a.s.). He was born on the 15th of Ramadhan in the city of Madinah in 3 AH. The Prophet himself gave the name Imam Hassan (a.s.). On his birth, the Prophet uttered the azan in Imam Hassan's (a.s.) right ear and the Iqamah in his left. He then proclaimed that this first grandson would stop the bloodshed among the ummah.
During his lifetime, people noticed that the Prophet showed much affection towards Imam Hassan (a.s.). Once the Holy Prophet found himself in Sujud (prostration) and he extended this. When he completed his prayer someone asked him why he had extended the time in prostration. The Prophet replied that Imam Hassan (a.s.) was playing on his shoulder and he did not want to upset his grandson's enjoyment.
An Arab Bedouin once saw the Prophet kissing Imam Hassan (a.s.) and asked him why he showed all this love and affection towards the child. "I have over ten children", said the Bedouin, "and have never kissed any of them". The Prophet replied, "What can I do for you when your heart is cut like a stone".
Through his love for Imam Hassan (a.s.) the Prophet gave a practical example of love and kindness towards children. Today, perhaps it is more important than ever to show kindness and affection towards children and to raise them in an atmosphere that will result in a stable environment and create a better society.
Imam Husayn (a.s.) was not much younger than Imam Hassan (a.s.) in terms of age and had very high respect for Imam Hassan (a.s.) both in private life and in public. In private life, once Imam Hassan (a.s.) and Imam Husayn (a.s.), along with a near relative, found themselves in the desert. An old Bedouin couple served them food and drink when they needed it. The thankful Imam Hassan (a.s.) and Imam Husayn (a.s.) told the couple that if they ever found themselves in Madinah they should ask about them, the grandsons of the Prophet, and, Inshallah, both men would be at their service.
It subsequently transpired that this couple found themselves in Madinah and without money. They were badly off and remembered the words of Hasan and Husayn. So they enquired of them and decided to visit them. Imam Hasan gave an amount of money and then instructed the couple to go to Husayn to receive further help. They did so. Husayn gave them a little less and when later it was enquired of him as to why, he replied, "I neither want to be equal in generosity to Hasan nor above him". This is the level of respect Husayn had for his elder brother. In public and political life, when Imam Hasan agreed to solh with Muawiyah, history does not mention any objection from Husayn to whatever Hasan decided. Husayn recognized Hasan not only as his brother but, also as the Infallible Imam.
The period of Hasan's Imamate lasted ten years. On the 21st of Ramadhan in the 40th Islamic year, Imam Hasan read the sermon announcing the death of his dear father, Imam Ali. At the same time he announced, in accordance with Divine Will, his own leadership both as temporal leader of the Muslim realm and as the second Infallible Imam. However, in resistance to him the people of Damascus vainly accepted the leadership of Muawiyah, a scornful enemy of the Prophet Muhammad and his progeny. Muawiyah was a product of the forces that aligned themselves till eternity as the enemies of Islam. He was also the father of the cruel despot, Yezid, who was responsible for the slaughter of the Prophet's kith and kin on the bloodstained plains of Karbala. Muawiyah was a clever politician, having gained prominence through treachery, lies and deceit, as well as through nepotism shown by some of the earlier caliphs. Now that he was in power he intrigued against Imam Hasan to the extent that the people began to be persuaded by the false propaganda against the Prophet's pure household.
Imam Hasan rose against the might of the Umayyad dynasty but was let down by his own disparate and disunited forces. At the same time he had to contend with intrigue within his own army to the extent that a group known as the Khawarij spread false rumors that created doubt in people's minds about the position of the Holy Family. Thus, Hasan was forced to accept a treaty with Muawiyah in order to save Islam. If Hasan had not accepted this proposal, however disdainful, the clear line between those who are sincere and those whose very existence is based upon lies and deceit would not have been known. The blood of Hasan and the Muslims would have been shed in vain. Thus, Imam Hasan showed that the Islam of the Umayyads would be one of tyranny and have no relation to the true Islam of the Prophet, his household and their followers. Imam Hasan said, "The Arabs were at my will and would have done as I pleased, but for the sake of pleasing Allah and saving the descendants of Muhammad I did not claim the Caliphate".
After the treaty, Muawiyah formed a vast assembly in Nakhlieh and Kufa where he invited the heads of the various families to an audience. Muawiyah gave himself away even with his opening words: "People! Know that the religious community after the passing away of the Prophet was not ordained by him to have any differences unless false groups gain predominance over the followers of the truth". Muawiyah realized that he had condemned himself and lost composure. He then said, "It is only this community which has not had to face such a situation ... I swear by God that I did not begin war with you so that you would pray, fast, go on the pilgrimage to the House of God and pay the poor due...I only warred with you in order to rule over you..." Thus Muawiyah admitted that he was only interested in worldly gain and rank and did not care either for his own spiritual welfare nor for the spiritual welfare of his subjects. He stated, "I will not be faithful to any of the conditions or promises I have made to Hasan ibn Ali. The blood which has been spilled is in vain and the treaty is under my feet". Muawiyah then entered into a tirade against the Prophet, Imam Ali and the descendants of the Holy Family. The people in the audience were visibly alarmed having realized too late that they had committed a great error in siding with a dictator. The evil schemer, Omar ibn Aas, persuaded Muawiyah that in order to quell the increasing unease among the audience he should allow Imam Hasan to the pulpit. The Holy Imam addressed the throng, explaining to the masses in clear and unequivocal terms the wrongs that had been done and the lofty status of the Holy Family that would remain till eternity.
"I know you better than you know yourselves and reflect better for you, and my opinions and views are more correct than yours. Come, and do not go against my orders and do not reject my opinion and judgment ... O people! Know that there is intelligence and sagacity in piety and chaste conduct and foolishness and ignorance in debauchery. Only he who keeps Allah in mind can know himself to be intelligent. He who dwells in sin is not using the power of his intellect and with his own foolishness has made himself unfortunate and has given up the opportunity ... I swear by God that if you searched the east and the west of the world you will find no man except myself and my brother, Husayn, whose grandfather is the Prophet of God and you know that the Lord of the Worlds guided and illumined humanity through the light of the knowledge and excellence of my grandfather. If the leader of Islam had not been the world would have no light. So you were saved from deviation and being lost (in the wilderness) by his efforts and by way of him gained knowledge of your ignorance, and Allah made you dear through his grandeur after you were the object and pawn of this and that. You were a small people who had no value in society. God, through the example of my grandfather, and His Grace, gave you greatness ... Muawiyah has usurped my undeniable rights and disputes with me concerning the duty which God and the Prophet wanted for me. What a great injustice has been done to the society of humans. He has sworn men to deviation ... I have reflected that the fate of Islam lies in my putting out this seditious fire and not allowing the thinking of Muawiyah and his colleagues to rule over the Muslims forever. Rather than let oppressors and traitors pass injustice and tyranny on the people in the name of religion let me burn right here and now and be annihilated. But let the seditious fire and corruption in the name of religion be put out forever ... I saw it in the best interests to change a hot war into a cold one and thus gave certain conditions for the ending of hostilities. In this manner I made a treaty with Muawiyah. For your welfare and the securing of the greatness of Islam I saw that the shedding of blood at this time would not have a desirable effect and your blood will be wasted and it is better that we save this clean blood till I can, with that warm and precious blood, save our religion from the hands of the vile ... Then, teach the people of the world this lesson of immortality ... This God-ordained action of mine is a test and a trial for you, that you may benefit from in the future ... Muawiyah has told you that I consider him qualified to be the Caliph and am not myself prepared for this post. How he has lied! We, the family of the Prophet, according to the words of God and the Prophet are the most preferred to rule over the people as the Almighty has vouchsafed our chastity in the surah of Purification (a reference to the Quranic chapter). But, from the moment that the Holy Prophet returned to God we have been the targets of injustice and oppression, our rights have been continuously usurped, our properties and belongings have been subject to the whims and desires of the oppressor, and that which the Holy Prophet had left for our mother was unjustly taken away from her.
I swear by the Almighty that if on the day the Prophet passed away the people had gone to the door of the house of my father, the Leader of the Faithful, and obeyed the order of God and the Prophet concerning his right to rule, the heavens would have sent their blessings and the earth would not have withheld its endless benefits from them...
Imam Hasan made a number of comparisons with regard to his situation. He said, "My noble father, because he asked people for their assistance and they did not respond, and did not honor their allegiance to him, also retired and went into seclusion and waited for an opportune time. God did not reprove Aaron when people did not follow him and he went into silence. In the same way, when the Prophet Muhammad could not bear the unbelieving Quraysh any longer and took refuge in a cave in order to save his life and the heritage of Islam, God did not reprove him but showed him His Grace. In the same way, my father and I, when people turned their backs on us and the community became completely insolent and disobedient we were forced to retire in order to save the canons and permanency of Islam, and have waited for a new opportunity to arise".
The Imam then said, "Muawiyah! You have not remembered well my noble father. Know that I am Hasan, son of Ali, and you are Muawiyah, son of Sakhar. My mother was Fatema and your mother Hinda. My ancestor is the Prophet of God and your ancestor Utbah. My ancestor is Khadijah and yours Fatilah. May whichever one of us whose name and identity is more base and whose origin and tribe more disgraceful and whose past history more wicked and who has been a greater unbeliever and hypocrite be estranged from the Mercy of God and have His curse upon him".
Imam Husayn too bore life with patience and adversity. Indeed, he witnessed a time when anyone who praised the Prophet and his family was instructed by Muawiyah to undergo the severest tortures. Thus Madinah became a prison for the friends and followers the Shia' - of the Prophet's family. Many ordinary people simply acquiesced with Muawiyah's orders either out of fear or indifference. The rule of dictatorship and fear had truly begun. All the rights of the Prophet's family were taken away. They were dispossessed. But the shining light of Truth could not be extinguished for it was carried by Imam Husayn, the third apostolic Imam and successor to Imam Hasan who followed his elder brother in every respect. Eventually, the time did come.
"I want to introduce you to a friend. In my opinion he is the most valuable of all the people and the only thing that has managed to find a place in heart is that this life and the existing life and the existing world are small things in his eyes. He has not given himself up to his stomach so as to eat whatever he wishes and to hoard whatever he acquires. He is a man who has ridden himself of ignorance and does not put his hands on any action unless he has weighted it and is sure that he will profit from it. He does not complain of his situation nor take pride in his opportunities. He never brags or shows off concerning the work he does and whatever it was his duty to perform he performs and does not talk about it. When tasks are offered to him and he is not sure which one is more suitable for him he studies the matter carefully and then drops that task which is in his preference and does the other. Until the matter is proven to him and he realizes the actuality of it he never talks about it." Imam Hassan (a.s.)