4) Imam al-Hasan

Al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlīi b. Abi Ṭalib (b. 3/625 – d. 50/670), known as Imam al-Hasan al-Mujtaba, was the second Imam of the Shi’a (40-50/661-670), the fifth caliph of the Muslim community for seven months, and regarded by some Sunnis as the last of the Rightly Guided Caliphs.

Al-Hasan b. Ali (a) was the first child of Ali (a) and Fatima (a) and the first grandson of the Prophet (s). It is reported that the Prophet (s) chose the name al-Hasan for him and that he greatly loved him. The first seven years of al-Hasan’s life were during the lifetime of the Prophet (s). He was present in the Allegiance of Ridwan and in the story of Mubahala between the Prophet (s) and the Christian delegate from Najran.

Shiite and Sunni sources contain numerous reports of al-Hasan’s virtues. According to these reports, he was one of the People of the Cloak, about whom the Verse of Purity (Qur’an 33:33) was revealed. The verses 76:8, 42:23, and 3:61 were also revealed about him, his parents, and his brother. He gave all his wealth to charity twice, and because of such acts of generosity, he came to be called “The Generous One of the Family of the Prophet (s)”. He went to hajj twenty-five times barefoot.

During the revolt at the end of Uthman’s caliphate, he was tasked by Imam Ali (a) to protect the house of the caliph. During the caliphate of Imam Ali (a), al-Hasan (a) moved with his father to Kufa and was one of the commanders of his army in the battles of Jamal and Siffin.

On Ramadan 21, 40/January 28, 661, and after the martyrdom of Imam Ali (a), al-Hasan (a) became the Imam and successor of his father. More than forty thousand men pledged allegiance to him on the same day. However, Mu’awiya did not accept his caliphate, and launched a military expedition against him. Imam al-Hasan (a) sent an army under the command of ‘Ubayd Allah b. ‘Abbas to confront Mu’awiya’s army. The Imam (a) himself headed to Sabat with a group of soldiers. Mu’awiya tried to spread rumors among the Imam’s (a) troops to prepare the ground for a peace treaty. At the same time, one of the Kharijites tried to assassinate Imam al-Hasan (a), which resulted in the Imam’s (a) injury. The Imam (a) was taken to Madain to receive treatment. Simultaneously, a group of Kufan chiefs wrote a letter to Mu’awiya and promised him to either kill al-Hasan (a) or to surrender him to Mu’awiya. Mu’awiya sent their letter to Imam al-Hasan (a) and proposed a peace treaty to the Imam (a). Seeing no other choices before him, Imam al-Hasan (a) accepted the peace treaty and abdicated the caliphate with the condition that Mu’awiya should rule according to the Qur’an and the Sunna of the Prophet (s) and should not appoint any successor for himself, and that no one, including the Shi’as, should be persecuted. Mu’awiya did not abide by any of these conditions later. The peace treaty with Mu’awiya led to the dissatisfaction of a number of the Imam’s (a) companions, so much so that some of them called the Imam (a) the Humiliator of the Believers.

The Imam (a) returned to Medina after the peace treaty in 41/661 and remained there until the end of his life. In Medina, he was as a religious and scholarly authority and had a high social status.

When Mu’awiya decided to introduce his son Yazid as his successor and demanded that people pledge allegiance to him, he sent one-hundred thousand dirhams to Ja’da bt. al-Ash’ath, Imam al-Hasan’s wife, to poison the Imam (a). She did so and Imam al-Hasan (a) was martyred forty days after he was poisoned. According to a report, the Imam (a) had requested to be buried next to the grave of the Prophet (s), but Marwan b. al-Hakam and a group of the Umayyads did not let that happen. Thus, he was buried in al-Baqi’ cemetery.