Imam Al-Hasan Ibn Imam Ali  (a.s.) – Part #3

Source: “Shia Islam AT A Glance” BY: Sheikh Abdul Jalil Nawee; and Shia Youth Inc. Website:
Early Life :

Imam Ḥasan ibn Imam Ali (a.s.) was the second Shiite Imam, succeeding his father Imam Ali (a.s.) and preceding his younger brother, Imam Husayn ibn Ali (a.s.). He was the elder son of Imam Ali (a.s.) and Holy Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) daughter, Fatima (s.a.). Muslims respect him as the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and a member of Ahlul-Bayt (a.s.). Imam Hasan (a.s.) was born in the year 625 AD and grew up in Medina with his parents.  Both Shia and Sunni Muslims consider Imam Hasan (a.s.) to belong to the Ahlul-Bayt (literally: People of the Holy Prophet’s House),  to the Ahlul-Kisa (literally: People of the Cloak), and participants of the Event of Mubahala. It is said that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) slaughtered a ram for the poor on the occasion of Imam Hasan‘s (a.s.) birth, and chose the name “Hasan” for him. Fatimah (s.a.) shaved the child’s head and gave the weight of his hair in silver as alms.

There are many narrations showing the love and respect of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) toward his grandsons, including the statements that his two grandsons would be the lords of the youth (sayyedā šabāb) of Paradise and that they were Imams, divinely chosen, and also his prediction that Imam Hasan (a.s.) would make peace between two factions of Muslims. During the year 10AH, Hasan was only about 6 years old when he participated in the event of Mubahala.

Imam Hasan As 5th Caliph:

Imam Hasan ibn Ali (a.s.) served his father Imam Ali (a.s.) during the Battle of Siffin. After Imam Ali (a.s.) was assassinated and following the custom established by Abu Bakr, Imam Hasan (a.s.) made a speech at the mosque of Kufa praising the merits of his family and quoting the verses of the Quran which exalt the special position of the Ahl-ul Bayt, and said “I am of the family of the Prophet from whom God has removed filth and whom He has purified, whose love He has made obligatory in His Book when He said: “Whosoever performs a good act, We shall increase the good in it. Performing a good act is love for us, the Family of the Prophet”.  Qays ibn Sa’d was the first to give allegiance to him and then stipulated the conditions on which the Bay’at should be based: 1) on the Quran, 2)  on the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, and 3) on the condition of the war (Jihad) against those who declared lawful (Halal) that which is sinful (Haram). Imam Hasan (a.s.), however, tried to avoid the last condition by saying that it was implicitly included in the first two.

There was not a significant difference between the idea of Imamate, or divine right, expressed by each Imam designating his successor and other ideas of succession at first. Imam Ali (a.s.), before he died, had, on several occasions, expressed his idea that “only the Prophet’s Ahlul Bayt (the members of the house) were entitled to rule the Community”; and Imam Hasan (a.s.), whom he had appointed his inheritor, must have been the obvious choice, as he was also chosen by the people as the 5th Caliph.

It is said that one day the Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid questioned the seventh Shiite Imam, Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.), saying why he had permitted people to call him “Son of Allah’s Apostle,” while he and his forefathers were Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) daughter’s children. And that “the progeny belongs to the male ((Imam Ali (a.s.)) and not to the female (Fatimah (s.a.))”. In response, Imam al-Kadhim (a.s.) recited the verses, Quran, 6:84 and Quran, 6:85, and then asked, “Who is Jesus’s father, O Commander of the faithful?”. “Jesus had no father.” said Harun. Imam Al-kadhim (a.s.) argued that God in these verses had ascribed Jesus to the descendants of the prophets through Mary; “similarly, we have been ascribed to be the descendants of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) through our mother Fatimah (a.s.),” said Imam al-Kadhim (a.s.). It is related that Harun asked Imam Musa  al-Kadhim (a.s.) to give him more evidence and proof. Imam Al-Kadhim (a.s.) thus recited the verse of Mubahala arguing that “None claims that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) made someone enter under the cloak when he challenged the Christians to a contest of prayer to God (mubahala) except Imam Ali (a.s.), Fatimah (a.s.), Imam Hasan (a.s.), and Imam Husayn (a.s.). So in the verse: “Our sons” refers to Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Imam Husayn (a.s.).

Mu’awiya Refuses Allegiance To Imam:

As soon as the news of Imam Hasan‘s (a.s.) selection reached Mu’awiya, who had been fighting Imam Ali (a.s.) for the caliphate, he condemned the selection, and declared his decision not to recognize Imam Hasan (a.s.) as the Caliph. Letters exchanged between Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Mu’awiya before their troops faced each other were to no avail. However, these letters, which are recorded in Shia books, provide useful arguments concerning the rights of his Caliphate. In one of his long letters to Mu’awiya, summoning him to pledge allegiance to him, Imam Hasan (a.s.) made use of the argument of his father, Imam Ali (a.s.), which the latter had advanced against Abu Bakr after the death of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Imam Ali (a.s.) had said: “If Quraysh could claim the leadership over the Ansar on the grounds that the Prophet (pbuh) belonged to Quraysh, then the members of his family, who were the nearest to him in every respect, were better qualified for the leadership of the community.”

Mu’awiya’s response to this argument was irrelevant. For Mu’awiya, while recognizing the excellence of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) family, further asserted that “ he would willingly follow Imam Hasan‘s (a.s.) request were it not for his own superior experience in governing:”…You are asking me to settle the matter peacefully and surrender, but the situation concerning you and me today is like the one between you [your family] and Abu Bakr after the death of the Prophet…I have a longer period of reign [probably referring to his governorship], and I am more experienced, better in policies, and older in age than you. …if you enter into obedience to me now, you will accede to the caliphate after (my death)”.

There was further correspondence between Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Mu’awiya with no result so the negotiations stalled.  Mu’awiya summoned all the commanders of his forces in Syria, Palestine, and Transjordan, and began preparations for war. Soon after he marched his army of sixty thousand men through Mesopotamia to Maskin, on the Tigris boundary of Mosul towards the Sawad. Meanwhile, he attempted to negotiate with Imam Hassan (a.s.), sending the young heir letters asking him to give up his claim.

As the news of Mu’awiya’s army reached Imam Hasan (a.s.), he sent someone to his local governors ordering them to get ready to set out, and then addressed the people of Kufa with a lukewarm war speech: “God had prescribed the jihad for his creation and called it a loathsome duty. There was no response at first, as some tribal chiefs, paid by Mu’awiya, were reluctant to move. Imam Hasan‘s (a.s.) companions scolded them (tribal chiefs), asking whether they won’t answer to the son of the Prophet’s daughter? Turning to Imam Hasan (a.s.) they assured him of their obedience, and immediately left for the war camp. Imam Hasan (a.s.) admired them and later joined them at al-Nukhayla, where people were coming together in large groups.

Imam Hasan (a.s.) appointed Ubayd Allah ibn al-Abbas as the commander of his vanguard of twelve thousand men to move to Maskin. There he was asked to hold back Mu’awiya’s advance until Imam Hasan (a.s.) arrived with the main army. Ubayd Allah was advised not to fight unless attacked and should consult with Qays ibn Sa’d who was appointed as second in command, if he (Ubayad Allah) were killed.

Imam Hasan‘s (a.s.) Sermon and its Aftermath:

While Imam Hasan‘s (a.s.) vanguard was waiting for his arrival at Maskin, Imam Hasan (a.s.) himself was facing a serious problem at Sabat near al-Mada’in, where he gave a sermon after morning prayer. In the sermon he declared that he prayed to God to be the most sincere of His creation to His creation; that he bore no resentment nor hatred against any Muslim, nor did he want evil and harm to anyone; and that “whatever they hated in community was better than what they loved in schism”. He was, he continued, looking after their best interests, better than they themselves; and instructed them not to disobey whatever orders he gave them.

When Ubayd Allah arrived with the Kufan vanguard at al-Maskin where Mu’awiya had already reached, the latter sent an envoy to tell them that he had received letters from Imam Hasan (a.s.) asking for an armistice and that he asked the Kufans not to attack until he finished his negotiations with Imam Hasan (a.s.). Mu’awiya’s claim was untrue; since because of his larger military force, he had good reason to think that he could make Imam Hasan (a.s.) to give in. The Kufans, however, insulted Mu’awiya’s envoy and reviled him. Thereafter, Mu’awiya sent the envoy to visit the commander Ubayd Allah in private, and swore to him that Imam Hasan (a.s.) had requested Mu’awiya for a truce, and that Muawiya was offering Ubayd Allah 1,000,000 dirhams, half of which to be paid at once, the other half in Kufa, provided he went over to him. Ubayd Allah accepted the bribe and abandoned at night to Mu’awiya’s camp. Muawiya was extremely pleased and fulfilled his promise to him.

Next morning the Kufans waited for Ubayd Allah to emerge and lead the morning prayer. Then Qays ibn Sa’d took charge and, in his sermon, severely denounced Ubayd Allah, his father and his brother, from whom nothing good had ever come. The people shouted: “Praise be to God that He has removed him from us; stand up with us against our enemy. Believing that the abandonment of Ubayd Allah had broken the spirit of his enemy, Mu’awiyah sent Busr with a troop to make them give up. Qays attacked and drove him back. The next day Busr attacked with a larger troop but was kept back again. Mu’awiyah now sent a letter to Qays offering bribes but Qays replied that he “would never meet him except with a lance (a long arrow shaped weapon).  Suddenly, the news of the riot against Imam Hasan (a.s.) and of his having been wounded arrived, however, both sides abstained from fighting to wait for further news.

Imam Hasan (a.s.) Agrees To A Truce:

Muawiyah who had already started negotiations with Imam Hasan (a.s.), sent high-level envoys, while committing himself in a witnessed letter to appoint Imam Hasan (a.s.) as his successor and give him whatever he wished. Imam Hasan (a.s.) accepted the offer in principle and sent Amr ibn Salima al-Hamdani al-Arhabl and his own brother-in-law Muhammad ibn al-Ash’ath back to Muawiya as his negotiators, together with the envoys of the latter. Muawiyah then wrote a letter saying that he was making peace with Imam Hasan (a.s.) on the basis that Imam Hasan (a.s.) would inherit the reign after him. He swore that he would not seek to harm him; and that he would give him 1,000,000 dirhams from the treasury (Bayt al-mal) annually, along with the land tax of Fasa and Darabjird; to which Imam Hasan (a.s.) was to send his own tax agents to collect it. The letter was witnessed by the four envoys and dated in August 661.When Imam al-Hasan (a.s.) read the letter, he commented: “He is trying to appeal to my greed for a matter which, if I desired it, I would not surrender to him. Then he sent Abd Allah ibn al-Harith, whose mother Hind was Mu’awiya’s sister, to Muawiya, instructing him: “Go to your uncle and tell him: If you grant safety to the people I shall pledge allegiance to you.” Thereafter, Mu’awiya gave him a blank paper with his seal at the bottom, inviting Imam Hasan (a.s.) to write on it whatever he desired. Imam Hasan (a.s.) who was reluctant to engage in bloodshed of Muslims decided to agree to a truce in the interest of public peace and safety. He would surrender the reign over the Muslims to Mu’awiya on the basis that “Mu’wiya would act and abide by the four major conditions of the truce as described below:

  1. That Mu’awiya would follow the holy Qur’an and the tradition of the Holy Prophet.
  2. That Mu’awiya would stop abusing Ali ibn Abu Talib which he had enforced even from pulpits of the Mosques.
  3. That Mu’wiya would give protection of life, property, and honor of Shias, the devotees of Imam Ali.
  4. That Mu’wiya would not appoint any one as his successor to the throne.

The agreement was testified by Abd Allah ibn al-Harith, and Amr ibn Salima and transmitted by them to Muawiyah for him to take recognition of its contents and to confirm his acceptance. Imam Hasan (a.s.), thus, surrendered his control of Iraq in Rabi II 41 AH/August 661 AD after a reign of seven months.

Surrender Ceremony at Kufa:

After the peace treaty with Imam Hasan (a.s.), Mu’awiya set out with his troops to Kufa, where, at a public surrender ceremony, Imam Hasan (a.s.) rose and reminded the people that he and Imam Husayn (a.s.) were the only grandsons of Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). And that he had surrendered the reign to Mu’awiyah in the best interest of the community: “0 people, surely it was God who led you by the first of us and Who has spared you bloodshed by the last of us. I have made peace with Mu’awiya, and I know not whether this be not for your trial, and that ye may enjoy yourselves’ declared Hasan”.

In his own speech Mu’awiya told them, the reason why he had fought them was not to make them pray, fast, perform the pilgrimage, and give alms, because they had been already doing those. In fact he had fought to be their commander and leader (Amir), and God had bestowed him that against their will. According to some sources, he also said “The agreement I made with (ImamHasan (a.s.) is null and void. It lies trampled under my feet.” Then he shouted: “God’s protection is dissolved from anyone who does not come forth and pledge allegiance. Surely, I have sought revenge for the blood of Uthman, may God kill his murderers, and have returned the reign to those to whom it belongs in spite of the rancor of some people”.

Retirement to Medina

In the nine-year period between Imam Hasan‘s (a.s.) abdication in 41 H/660 AD and his death in 49 H/669 AD, Imam Hasan (a.s.) retired in Medina trying to keep aloof from political involvement for or against Mu’awiya. In spite of that, however, he was considered the chief of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) house by the Banu Hashim and the partisans of Imam Ali (a.s.), who pinned their hopes on his final succession to  Mu’awiyah.

Occasionally, however, Shiite, mostly from Kufa, went to Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Imam Husain (a.s.) in small groups, and asked them to be their leaders, a request to which they declined to respond. Imam Hasan (a.s.) has been quoted as commenting, “If Mu’awiya was the rightful successor to the caliphate, he has received it. And if I had that right, I, too, have passed it on to him; so the matter ends there.”  Madelung has quoted Al-Baladhuri, as saying that Imam Hasan (a.s.), on the basis of his peace terms with Mu’awiya, sent his tax collectors to Fasa and Darabjird. The caliph had, however, instructed Abdullah ibn Aamir, governor of Basra, to incite the Basrans to protest that this money belonged to them by right of their conquest. And that they chased Imam Hasan‘s (a.s.) tax collectors out of the two provinces. According to Madelung, however, that Imam Hasan (a.s.) would send tax collectors from Medina to Iran, after just having made plain that he would not join Mu’awiya in fighting the Kharijites, is entirely incredible. In any case, as Muawiyah came to know that Imam Hasan (a.s.) would not help his government. Relations between them became worse. Imam Hasan (a.s.) rarely, if ever, visited Mu’awiya in Damascus.

Family Life:

It is related that Imam Hasan (a.s.) spent most of his youth in “making and unmaking marriages”, so that “these easy morals gained him the title mitlaqthe divorcer, which involved Imam Ali (a.s.) in serious enmities”.  Even though he married several times, according to his grandson Abdullah ibn Ḥasan, he never exceeded the four wives  limit allowed by the law. Imam Hasan (a.s.) had 15 sons and 9 daughters. Many of these children died in their early years. It is said that most of these marriages had a political intent in his father’s interest to maintain peaceful and religious relations with different tribal chiefs. One of his daughter Fatima married Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s.) and became mother of the 5th Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.). Imam Hasan‘s(a.s.) one son Qasim participated in Battle of Karbala and got martyred along with 72 other devotees in 61 AH.

IMAM Poisoned By Wife Jo’da:

The early sources are nearly in agreement that Imam Hasan (a.s.) was poisoned by his wife, Ja’da bint al-Ash’at at the instigation of Mu’awiya and died in the year 670. Imam Husain (a.s.) is said to have refused to name his suspect to Imam Husain (a.s.) for fear that a wrong person be killed in revenge. He was 38 years old when he abdicated the reign to Mu’awiyah who was at the age of 58 at the time. This difference in age indicates a serious obstacle for Mu’awiya, who wanted to nominate his son Yazid as his heir-apparent. This was not possible due to the terms on which Imam Hasan (a.s.) had abdicated to Mu’awiya; and considering the big difference in age, Mu’awiyah had not hoped that Hasan would die before him. Hence, Mu’awiya would naturally be suspected of having a hand in a killing Imam Hasan (a.s.) to remove an obstacle to the succession of his son Yazid.

Imam Hasan‘s (a.s.) burial was another problem which was expected to lead to bloodshed. Imam Hasan (a.s.) had instructed his brothers to bury him near his grandfather, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), but if they feared evil, they were to bury him in Al-Baqi’ cemetery. The Umayyad governor, Saʿid b. al-ʿĀṣ, did not interfere, but Marwan I swore that he would not permit Imam Hasan (a.s.) to be buried near Prophet Muhammad with Abu Bakr and Umar. As the parties were about to fight, Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah reminded Imam Husayn (a.s.) of Imam Hasan (a.s.) who made it conditional, saying “unless you fear evil”. “What evil could be greater than what you see?” Said Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah. And so the body was carried to Al-Baqi’  Marwan now joined those carrying the coffin and, when questioned, he said he gave his respect to a man “whose forbearance weighed mountains”.



Apology:   Last week, in Part #2 it was inadvertently stated Imam Al-Hasan (a.s.) as third Imam instead of the second Imam. Shia Youth Team regrets the error. Should you notice any error or discrepancy, please notify Shia Youth Team by email: [email protected]. Thank you.

Next week’s installment – The Third  Imam Al-Husain (a.s.) in Part #4.

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