AL-HASAN SUCCEEDS 'ALI. ABDICATES IN FAVOUR OF MU'AWIYA
40-41 A.H. / 661 A.D
WHEN they had committed 'Ali, we know not where, to his last home, Al-Kufa did homage, as it were by common consent to Al-Hasan, his eldest son. But Al-Hasan was a poor-spirited creature, more intent on varying the charms of his ever-changing harim than on the business of public life, and altogether unworthy his descent as grandson of the Prophet.
It was now Mu'awiya's opportunity for asserting his title to the whole Muslim Empire. Already he was recognized as Caliph throughout Syria and Egypt. Al-Hasan had at command the army of 40,000 prepared by his father, but he had no stomach for the war. Sending forward his vanguard of 12,000 men, under the brave and faithful Keis, to meet the enemy, he himself followed irresolutely; and, with the bulk of his army, rested at Al-Medain amidst the luxurious gardens of the old Persian court. While thus ignobly holding back, the report gained currency at Al-Medain that Keis had been defeated and slain. An émeute ensued. The troops rose mutinously upon the Caliph. They rushed into his sumptuous pavilion, and plundered the royal tents even to the carpets. A project was set on foot to seize his person, and, by delivering him up to Mu'awiya, thus make favourable terms. The faint-hearted Caliph, alarmed at the outbreak, took refuge in the Palace of the Chosroes, a more congenial residence than the martial camp; and, trusting no longer to his fickle aud disloyal people, sent letters of submission to Mu'awiya. He agreed to abdicate and retire to Medina
on condition that he should retain the contents of the treasury of Al-Kufa, five million pieces, in addition to the revenues of a Persian district; and that the imprecation against his father should drop from the public prayers. Mu'awiya granted the first request; as for the second, he consented that no prayer reviling 'Ali should be recited within hearing of the son. The truce was ratified accordingly.
And so, after a brief and inglorious reign of five or six months, Al-Hasan, with his household and belongings, quitted to Al-Kufa for Arabia. The people wept at his departure. But Al-Hasan left them without regret. They were a race, he said, in whom no trust could be reposed, and who had set purpose neither for evil nor for good.
Keis, whose ability and prowess were worthy of a better cause, remained for some while longer in the field. At length, having obtained terms for all who had been fightingon the side of 'Ali, and there being no longer any master now to fight for, he laid down his arms and did homage to Mu'awiya.
Thus, at last, Mu'awiya was able to make triumphal entry into Al-Kufa. Having there received the homage of the Eastern provinces, he returned to Syria sole and undisputed Caliph of Islam. The year is called the Year of Union (jama'a). Damascus thenceforth was the capital of the Empire.
The imprecations against the memory of 'Ali, his house, and his adherents, still formed part of the public service; and so indeed, they continued to do throughout the Umeiyad Caliphate, except during the Caliphate of 'Omar.
The short-lived Caliph retired to Medina, where, with ample means to gratify his ruling passion, he passed his time in ease and quietness, giving no further anxiety to Mu'awiya. He survived eight years, and met his death by poison at the hand of one of his wives. It was a not unnatural end for "Al-Hasan the Divorcer." 'Alid tradition, indeed, would have us to believe that the lady was bribed to commit the crime, and thus exalts the libertine to the dignity of "Martyr." But Mu'awiya had no object in ridding himself of his harmless subject; and the jealousies of Al-Hasan's ever-changing harim afford a sufficient and a likelier reason. Of his brother Al-Hosein there will be more to tell.
The Caliphate: Its Rise, Decline, and Fall [Table of Contents]
Answering Islam Home Page