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The Origins of the Shi'ahs - Part 2

The Origins of the Shi'ahs - Part 2

The Shi'as too continued to follow their leader; the spirit of the time demanded that differences should be ignored. For this very reason, they did not try to establish themselves as a sect during the regime of the first caliphs. Of course 'Ali's friends silently observed the modus operandi of every ruler and the changing conditions till at last the nation itself selected 'Ali (a.s.) took the seat of the caliphate, Mu'awiyah revolted and sent out a large number of forces to Siffin.

A group of the "sahaba" (companions) remained from the very beginning with 'Ali (a.s.). The rest of the companions also sided with the Holy Imam. Eighty prominent companions, like 'Ammar ibn Yasir, Khuzaymah Dhu 'sh-Shahadatayn and Abu Ayub al-Ansari, nearly all of whom were either Badri (from the battle of Badr) or 'Aqb (Bay'atu 'l-Aqbi -the pledge of 'Aqbi), joined 'Ali's party. Most of them sacrificed their lives for the Holy Imam (a.s.).

The fighting continued however, and Mu'awiyah's intriguings also increased. When Hadhrat 'Ali (a.s.) was martyred, the ruler of Damascus gave a sight of relief. Islam disappeared from Mu'awiyah's royal courts and he began to revive all the tyrannical traditions of the past kings.

'Ali's (a.s.) pious way of life, devout manners and exalted character contrasted sharply with Mu'awiyah's corrupt morals and his dealings with 'Amr b. al-'As, with the Governorship of Egypt, Yazid and his depostic caliphate, and ZIyad ibn Abih and his activity agaist Islam. Mu'awiyah's nororious over-indulgence and passion for revelry clearly demonstrated the depraved condition of his mind and of the court surrounding him. We have thus before us the simple way of living taught by Islam, and on the other side the pomp and vanity of the son of Abu Sufyan. Mu'awiyah's kingly aspirations were fulfilled with the hard-earned money of the Muslims.

The dining cloth of the Amawi palace was always laid with the daintiest of foods. The vizier, Abu Sa'id al-Mansur ibn al-Husayn al-Abi (died 422 A.H.) recorded an event in his work "Nathr ad-Dur". He writes: "Ahnaf ibn Qays used to say that one day when he went to Mu'awiyah, the latter put before him such a large variety of food that it was difficult to count the different dishes. He was bewildered when Mu'awiyah extended towards him one of the dishes when he did not recognise. He asked what it was. The answer was ... the stomach of duch failed with sheep's brain, fried in pistachio oil and sprinkled with spices." Ahnaf said that on hearing this he began to weep. Mu'awiyah said: "Why do you weep?" He replied: "At this time 'Ali (a.s.) has come to my mind. One day I was sitting with the Holy Imam (a.s.); the time for breaking the fast approached. The Imam (a.s.) ordered me to stay. Meanwhile a sealed bag was brought. I asked: "O Imam, what does it contain?" The Ima (a.s.) said: "Powered barely". I said: "Was there any fear of theft, O Amiru 'l-Mu'minin, or is it because of financial stringency that it has been sealed?" "It is for none of these reasons," he said, "the reason for this care is only the thought that my sons al-Hasan (a.s.) and al-Husayn (a.s.) might mix this powered barely with butter or olive oil." Again I asked: "Is butter or olive oil unlawful?" The Holy Imam said; "It is not unlawful, but for the true Imams it is necessary that they remain attached to the ranks of the poor, so that indigence and want may not make the poverty-stricken rebellious." Mu'awiyah said: "Ahnaf, you have reminded me of a person whose supreme merits are difficult to be denied." in az-Zamakhshari's "Rabi' al-Abrar", and in other compilations, many such events are related.

Mu'awiyah's bad nature was inextricably linked with these unlawful actions; he had an inner desire to reach the height of wickedness. So he broke all the promises that he had made to Imam al-Hasan (a.s.) and in the end had the Prophet's grandson poisoned. As a result of this state of affairs and these events, the Muslims began to look at Syria's politics with scorn and contempt; the true believers realised that Mu'awiyah was only a man of this world, and he himself acknowledged this truth. In az-Zamakhshari's "Rabi' al-Abrar", the following statement is narrated from the ruler of Syria: "Abu Bakr wanted to keep aloof from the world and the world kept aloof from him. 'Umar tested the world and the world tested him. As to 'Uthman, he took hold of the world and the world also madly pursued him; and I at every step tried with my heart and soul to make it a bed of roses. The result was that I became of the world and the world became mine."

Gradually, the people's opinion was changing; the close companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.) were letting the ordinary Muslims know about the superior merits, virtues and character of 'Ali (a.s.) and his descendants, which they had seen with their own eyes. Who cannot be moved when he recalls the sight of the Prophet of God (s.a.w.) lifting his loving grandson onto his back and saying: "What do you think of your mount, it is not the best mount; and as for you, you are the best rifers." And do not these words, full of the purity of revelation, "al-Hasan and al-Husayn (a.s.) are the leaders of the youth of Paradise", demand to be known by all. Truth has a right to spread, and those who have a sense of truth in them are desirous of spreading it. The result of this desire for truth was that the common Muslims began inclining towards Shi'ism and opportunities were created for the advancement of this sect.

The greatest cause of the advancement of Shi'ism, however, was that bloody event which revolutionized the Islamic world. This painful event of 61 A.H. which is known as the tragedy of Karbala' was the most momentous of its kind. The effects of the martyrdom of al-Husayn (a.s.) were felt by all, even those living in the most distant regions of the Muslim territory. Companions like Zayd ibn Arqam, Jabir ibn 'Abdillah al-Ansari, Sahl ibn Sa'd as-Sa'idi and Anas ibn Malik survived Karbala'. The pain they felt had no bounds, and, remembering their duty towards, and love for, the Prophet and his progeny, they intensified their efforts to make known the superior merits of Ahlu 'l-bayt (a.s.). The Umayyad tyrants pursued them and these remaining sahaba were finally also victims of the sword and poison. But the cry of the oppressed is not made in vain. These events were not such that the nation of the Muslims were unaware of them. Indeed, they keenly observed them, with the result that a great many groups of people began to declare their love for 'Ali (a.s.) and his descendants; the numerical strength of the Shi'as increased dramatically. With the same rapidity with which the tyranny of Banu Umayyah was increasing, the love for Ahlu 'l-bayt was also increasing in the hearts of the common people. The descendants of the Umayyids tortured and tyrannized to the extreme, but every action has its reaction. It is related that Shu'abi said to his son: "Oh my son, the world cannot harm the values which religion has brought, but those things which were made and adorned by the world can all be destroyed by religion. Just reflect upon 'Ali (a.s.) and his affairs. Did the ascendants of the Umayyids ever relinqish their oppression? They concealed the merits of Ahlu 'l-bay. They tried to hide the realities of the situation and never left off singing the praises of their ancestors. But all their plans were reversed: the Umayyids were humbled to dust and the name of Al Muhammad grew brighter and brighter". Though Shu'abi was known as an enemy of 'Ali (a.s.), these words of truth came from his tongue and have been preserved in history.

Az-Zamakhshari in his "Rabi' al-Abrar" reports this statement of Shu'abi: "Our condition was very perplexing -if we loved 'Ali (a.s.) there was fear of murder, and if we became enemies of him, our ruin was certain."

The troubles and worries for the Ahlu 'l-bayt did not cease when the Sufyani throne came under the control of the Marwanid ruler 'Abdu 'l-Malik. 'Abdu 'l-Malik was a monster of a man by whose order Hajjaj razed the Holy House of the Ka'ba to the ground and mercilessly put the residents of that sacred place to the sword; having killed 'Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr in the Mosque of al-Haram, he desecrated the holy place and finally killed his cousin Sa'id ibn Ashdaq, who had been his former ally.

We must ask ourselves whether the perpetrator such heinous crimes be called a Muslim. What should we think of his being called "Khalifatu 'l-Muslimin" (the Caliph of the Muslims)?

In truth, the entire government of the Marwanids was run on the same lines, and, with the exception of 'Umar ibn 'Abdu 'l-'Aziz, every ruler showed the same outrageous tendencies. Thereafter followed the rule of the rule of the 'Abbasids. During their period the height of tyranny far exceeded that of the Marwanids. A poet of that time said: "We would have preferred to suffer the Marwanids oppression forever. May the justice and equity of the 'Abbasids go to hell."

How mercilessly the blood of the descendants of the Prophet (s.a.w.) was spilled, what strange ways were adopted to annihilate them! The literature of that time presents us with a picture of life at that time. The poets have, in different ways, described the tyrannical acts of these people. How true indeed is the picture drawn by a poet of al-Mutawakkil's age who says: "God be my witness that, if the descendants of the Umayyids have so cruelly martyred the grandson of the Prophet (s.a.w.), these 'Abbasids, who call themselves the descendants of the Prophet's uncle, in no way lag behind the Umayyid family in oppression and tyranny. Just see, these tyrants have even demolished the grave of al-Imam al-Husayn. The Banu 'Abbas are repentant, however, for they feel regret over one thing, that they did not take part in spilling the spotless blood of al-Imam al-Husayn (a.s.) along with Banu Umayyah; they have tried to make amends by pulling down the grave of the Imam (a.s.)." These are just a few examples of the character of Banu Umayyah and the Marwanid and 'Abbasid kings.

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