Al-Husayn, Yazid, Karbala & contemporary relevance

In Shahr Muharram, we see exaggeration among the Muslims in two manners.  One extreme pertains to those who get caught up in superstition such as thinking that getting married in Muharram is bad luck or those who cut and whip themselves during mourning ceremonies.  Another extreme pertains to those who say that the history of Karbala should be buried and that some even go into praising Yazid bin Mu’awiyah bin Abi Sufyan, the tyrant whose army martyred Al-Husayn bin Ali (SA) and his companions.

First, let’s take a look at why Yazid was not fit to be given allegiance to by Al-Husayn.  Yazid was illegitimately appointed to be the khalifah by his father Mu’awiyah in violation of a peace agreement made by him and Al-Hasan bin Ali (SA), Al-Hasan being the rightful khalifah after his father’s martyrdom.  One narrative of the treaty is that Mu’awiyah was to allow the Muslims to make shuraa as to who was to be the khalifah after him.  Another is that Mu’awiyah was to transfer the khalifah back to Al-Hasan or Al-Husayn upon his death.  In either case, it’s clear that Mu’awiyah broke his written agreement when appointing Yazid to be khalifah, which started the trend within Bani Umayyah of appointed kings, who were all unjust except for the just khalifah Umar bin Abdil Aziz (RH).  Hence, a clear reason for Al-Husayn refusal for giving Yazid allegiance was based upon a broken trust, which was violated upon the Ummah.

Regarding Yazid being a man who drank wine and left making regular prayers, there are a number of narrations, which attest to these two, which would make him unfit to be khalifah.  It is clearer that a reason for him having been unfit was his action of terrorizing the People of Al-Madinah when seeking allegiance from them through Walid bin Uqbah.  Sahabah and their children were killed in the process.  As if foretelling this issue, the Prophet (SAWS) said, “Whosoever spreads injustice and frightens the People of Al-Madinah, may the curse of Allah, His Angels and all the people be upon such a person.” This is narrated by Ahmad bin Hanbal in his Musnad and ibn Kathir in Al-Bidayah wan Nihayah.  Bin Hanbal found Yazid to be of such low moral character that he refused to write down any hadith narrated through him.

It must be understood that Yazid’s hostilities were not simply against Al-Husayn, but against the Prophet (SAWS) himself and his living sunnah. It’s narrated in numerous books of tafsir that when the Sahabah asked who are those which Allah (SWT) mentioned in surah 42, ayah 23, “Say [Oh Muhammad]! I ask no reward from you except that you show love to my close kin,” he (SAWS) said this is Fatimah (SA) and her two sons, meaning Al-Hasan & Al-Husayn.  It’s also narrated in authentic hadith that the Prophet (SAWS) brought Ali (KW), Fatimah, Al-Hasan and Al-Husayn together then stated, I’m at war against whoever is at war with you, and I’m at peace with whoever is at peace with you.”  Thus, anyone who was hostile with Al-Husayn was in fact showing direct hostility towards the Prophet (SAWS).  Also, it was Al-Husayn who kept alive in practice the living sunnah pertaining to Yazid of “The best jihad is a word of truth to a tyrannical leader.”

Loving Al-Husayn in Al-Islam is an obligation, and not loving those who fought against himself is also an obligation.  None should show love for Yazid.  Ibn Al-Qayyim clearly said that it is from the sunnah not to love Yazid.  Such was articulated by other scholars such as ibn Hajar and As-Suyuti.

The tragedy of Karbala is not simply an historical event.  It has contemporary implications regarding what is our standard of justice, who is fit for us to take our understanding of the sunnah from and what are the practical standards for those who are to be entrusted with the affairs of the Muslims.  If we are to make a comparison, it should be clear that the three items mentioned are more the right of those who have character closer to Al-Husayn than those who have character like Yazid.

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