Sunday, 2 November 2014

Imam Sibth ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) on Yazid ibn Mu'awiyah

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ


Imam Shams ad-Din Yusuf ibn Qizughli (r.a.) was better known as Sibth ibn al-Jawzi, and was the grandson, through his mother’s side, of the great twelfth-century Hanbali theologian and jurist, Imam Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.).  He was raised in Baghdad during his earlier years, where he studied with his grandfather and other senior scholars.  He moved to Damascus around 1202 CE, where he joined the service of the Ayyubid Sultans of Syria.  It was around this time that he abandoned the Hanbali school in favour of Hanafism.

One of the many fields in which he excelled in, was history.  His monumental historical work, Mir‘at az-Zaman, much like his grandfather’s al-Muntazham, is a wonderful work of history and contains a wealth of information.  One of the most interesting facts about Imam Sibth ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) are his strong Alid tendencies, leading some of his later biographers to describe him as Shi’ite.  These tendencies are nowhere clearer than in his work Tadzkirat al-Khuwasw al-Ummah fi Khaswa’isw al-A’immah.  This work is essentially a narrative of the historical and religious importance of ‘Ali ibn Abi Thalib (k.w.) and his descendants.  The specific section translated here is taken from that particular work and is part of a broader project to make available in English different perspectives on Karbala from medieval Muslim sources.  As can be seen, Imam Sibth ibn al-Jawzi’s (r.a.) perspective on Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah is uncompromising and is particularly notable for the details that he provides about the latter’s actions against the people of Makkah and Madina.  Although the section dealing with the history of Karbala itself occupies nearly 50 pages and is not translated here, it is notable that a substantial amount of the work is devoted to making a case for the permissibility of the cursing of Yazid.

In many ways, as can be seen from the translation below, this section reads almost like a commentary on Imam Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi’s (r.a.) treatise, ar-Radd ‘ala al-Muta‘aswib al-‘Anid al-Mani‘ min Dzamm Yazid, in which the author provides elaborate proofs for why it is permissible for the believer to curse Yazid ibn Mu‘awiyah.  It is unsurprising for a major Sunni figure such as Imam Sibth ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) to speak negatively about Yazid.  The following is adapted from the translation of the section on Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah:

It was narrated by the scholars of history that Shaykh Hasan al-Baswri (q.s.) said, “Mu‘awiyah had four major flaws, each of which constituted a very serious offense: his illegitimate seizure of the imamate and granting himself absolute authority without consultation from the Muslim community; his declaring Ziyad [ibn Abihi] to be his brother; his murdering [the companion] Hujr ibn ‘Adi and his companions; and his appointment of an individual such as Yazid as the caliph of the Muslims.”

It is also said that Mu‘awiyah (r.a.) himself declared, “If not for my affection for Yazid, I would have exercised more discretion.”  This was with regard to selecting a successor.

Imam Sibth ibn al-Jawzi’s (r.a.) grandfather, Imam Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) stated in his ar-Radd ‘ala al-Muta‘aswib al-‘Anid al-Mani‘ min Dzamm Yazid, “An individual asked me about my views on Yazid ibn Mu‘awiyah.  I replied that he need not concern himself with that.  He then asked if it is permissible to curse him.  I stated that the pious scholars of the past, including Ahmad ibn Hanbal, permitted this, with the latter making statements that far exceeded that of mere cursing.”

Imam Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) wrote, “I asked Ahmad ibn Hanbal about Yazid ibn Mu‘awiyah, and he replied that he was the one who performed such infamous deeds.  I asked what it was that he had done.  ibn Hanbal said that he had plundered the city of Madina and massacred its inhabitants.  I asked if it was permissible to narrate hadits from him.  ibn Hanbal responded that it was impermissible to do so and added that not a single good deed should be narrated about Yazid and that no one should ever write down a hadits attributed to Yazid.”

Imam Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) narrated from Qadhi Abi Ya‘la ibn al-Farra’ (r.a.) in his al-Mu‘tamad fi al-Uswul, with a chain of narration extending to Imam Swalih ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal (r.a.) that the latter said, “I related to my father that a certain group of people associate us with Yazid and claim that we love him.  He responded, ‘O my son, how can that be when it is impossible for anyone who truly believes in God to love Yazid.’  So I asked him why he does not curse him, to which he replied, ‘O my son, when did you see me cursing anything or anyone?  However, why should one not curse the one who was Cursed by God Almighty in His Book.’  I asked my father where Yazid is Cursed in God’s Book.  He responded, ‘In the verse:


Then, is it to be expected of you, if ye were Put in authority, that ye will do mischief in the land, and break your ties of kith and kin?  Such are the men whom Allah has Cursed, for He has Made them deaf and blinded their sight.(Surah Muhammad:22-23)”

And is there any form of corruption and evil greater than murder?’”

And in another narration, when Imam Swalih (r.a.) asked him this question, he responded, “O my son, what shall I say about an individual whom God has cursed in His Book,” and he mentioned the same verse.

Imam Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) wrote in his aforementioned book about cursing Yazid, just as Qadhi Abi Ya‘la (r.a.) did in a book.  They mentioned the various individuals who deserved to be cursed, among whom, was included Yazid.  They wrote that the one who has hesitations about cursing Yazid is one of three types of people: one who is unaware of the permissibility of doing so; an outright hypocrite; or an ignorant individual basing himself upon the hadits of the Prophet (s.a.w.) that proclaims that ‘a believer is not one who curses.’”

Regarding the last category, Qadhi Abi Ya‘la (r.a.) stated, “This hadits is in reference to cursing the one who is not deserving of being cursed.’  And he mentioned the Qur’anic verse:


Then, is it to be expected of you, if ye were Put in authority, that ye will do mischief in the land, and break your ties of kith and kin? (Surah Muhammad:22),

He said this was originally Revealed as a reference to the hypocrites from among the Jews.

Imam Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) responded to this point in ar-Radd ‘ala al-Muta‘aswib. “This was narrated by Muqatil ibn Sulayman in his tafsir.  The majority of ahadits experts; including al-Bukhari, Waqi’, as-Saji, as-Sa‘di, an-Nasa’i and ar-Razi; have agreed that he was a liar whose narrations are unacceptable.”

Imam Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) also said, “Ahmad interpreted the verse as referring to the Muslims, so how can we accept that the statement where he allegedly stated that it was revealed about the hypocrites?  And if it is said that the Prophet (s.a.w.) stated that ‘the first army that shall raid Constantinople will have its sins Forgiven,’ with Yazid being among those who participated in the earliest raid on the city, then we affirm that the Prophet stated that, ‘The Curse of God is upon anyone who harms my city,’ and the second hadits abrogates the first.’”

Here, I must state that there is more than enough evidence from Hafizh ibn Katsir (r.a.) and elsewhere that Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah first led an army there in 52 AH, the year Abu Ayyub al-Answari (r.a.) passed away.  By that time, Mu’awiyah (r.a.) had already sent sixteen expeditions.  Another version of the hadits says it would be the first army to enter, or to conquer Constantinople.  That honour, then, belongs to the Ottoman ruler, Sultan Muhammad II (r.a.), in 1453 CE.

Imam Ahmad (r.a.) stated in his Musnad, that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Whoever harms the people of Madina with oppression has harmed God Himself and the Curse of God, the angels, and all the people will be upon that person, and God shall not accept from that person, a single good deed or act on the Day of Resurrection.’”

Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) recorded that ‘Aishah (r.a.) stated that she heard from Sa‘d that he heard the Prophet (s.a.w.) state, ‘The one who harms the people of Madina will be completely annihilated just as surely as salt dissolves in water.”

Imam Muslim (r.a.) also narrated a hadits of similar meaning, with the variation, “Verily, the one who approaches the people of Madina with the intent to harm them will be melted in Hellfire just as lead is melted.”

There is absolutely no difference in opinion about the fact that Yazid harmed the people of Medina, enslaved its population, slaughtered its inhabitants, and plundered the city, following the Battle of al-Harrah in 683 CE.  This incident arose when several of the people of Madina went to Damascus to see Yazid b. Mu‘awiyah after al-Husayn (r.a.) had been killed.  At his court, they witnessed him drinking wine, using musical instruments, and playing with dogs.  As a result, when they returned to Madina they openly cursed him, rebelled against his authority and expelled his governor, ‘Utsman ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Sufyan.  They stated, “We have returned from the presence of a man who has no religion, a drunkard who abandons prayer!” and gave their allegiance to ‘Abdullah ibn Hanzhalah (r.a.).

ibn Hanzhalah (r.a.) declared to the people: “Verily we have not rebelled against Yazid until we feared that God would Rain Down His vengeance from the heavens.  This is a man who engages in forbidden sexual union with mothers, daughters and sisters, drinks wine, abandons prayer and murders the descendants of the prophets…”  When news of this reached Yazid, he sent a large Syrian army against Madina under the leadership of his general, Muslim ibn ‘Uqbah al-Murri.  He ransacked the city of Madina for three days, murdered ibn Hanzhalah (r.a.) and massacred the notables of the city.  For three whole days, his army subjected the city to a sack, plundering its wealth and raping its women.  According to Imam ibn Sa‘d (r.a.), Marwan ibn al-Hakam incited Muslim ibn ‘Uqbah against the people of Madina.  When Yazid learned of this, he expressed his gratitude to Marwan, elevated his position and was very beneficent towards him.

In his book, al-Harrah, Shaykh Abu al-Ḥasan al-Mada’ini (r.a.) related from Imam az-Zuhri (r.a.) that those killed on the day of al-Harrah included over 700 notable people belonging to Quraysh; the Answar; the Muhajirun; and the mawali, the non-Arab Muslims.  This is in addition to 10,000 less renowned individuals, whether slaves, free men, or women, who were massacred.  The blood flowed through the streets of the city to such an extent that it reached the very walls of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) tomb and filled the holy sanctuary and mosque.  According to Mujahid (r.a.), “The people sought refuge in the sanctuary of the tomb and pulpit of the Prophet’s mosque, but were still cut down by the swords.”  The incident of al-Harrah occurred in Dzu al-Hijjah, 63 AH, August 683 CE; and occurred about three months before Yazid’s own death.  The latter’s soul was taken from him suddenly and violently, while his soul was still in a state of oppression, and there are various prophetic traditions and subtle allusions from the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) that discuss the nature of the death of tyrants.

Imam Abu al-Hasan al-Mada’ini (r.a.) related from Umm al-Haytsam bint Yazid (r.a.), who said, “I witnessed a woman from Quraysh circumambulating the Ka‘bah before embracing and kissing a dark-skinned man who had approached her.  I asked her who he was in relation to her and she responded, ‘This is my son from the day of al-Harrah.  His father forced himself upon me and then I gave birth to the child.’”

Imam Abu al-Hasan al-Mada’ini (r.a.) also narrated from Abi Qurrah (r.a.) who said, “Hisham ibn Hasan said that over 1,000 unmarried women gave birth after al-Harrah,” implying the extent of the rape.  Others have asserted that the more accurate estimate is over 10,000 unmarried women.

Shaykh ash-Sha‘bi (r.a.) said, “Yazid had explicitly ordered the sacking of Madina and was well-pleased with it, and expressed his gratitude to Marwan ibn al-Hakam for encouraging it.  He then ordered his army led by Muslim ibn ‘Uqbah to attack Makkah.  Muslim died along the way and was replaced by al-Husayn ibn an-Numayr, who attacked the Ka‘bah with catapults, destroyed its walls, and burned it.  For this we proclaim: May the Curse of God be upon Yazid!”

Imam Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) said, “The most despicable thing [about Karbala] was not that ibn Ziyad ordered the killing of al-Husayn, that he sent ‘Umar ibn Sa‘d and Shimr to carry out the deed, nor even that he ordered the heads to be carried off to him.  Verily, what is truly despicable were Yazid’s own actions, especially his poking of al-Husayn’s head with his staff, his carrying off of the Prophet’s family on the backs of camels in the manner of captives, and his attempt to give Fathimah bint al-Husayn to the man in his court who demanded her for himself!  Moreover, his recitation of the infamous verses of ibn al-Zub‘ari, ‘I wish my forefathers at Badr were here to witness…” and his sending the head of al-Husayn to Madina in order for it to be displayed publicly as if he were a Kharijite rebel are just as deplorable!  Yet, even Kharijites and rebels are given the dignity of being shrouded in cloth, prayed over, and buried!  Yazid’s statement that he had the right to enslave [the Ahl al-Bayt], as is evident from his treatment of Fathimah bint al-Husayn is itself sufficient proof that he should be cursed!  If Yazid was not driven by pre-Islamic inclinations and hatreds, he would not have disrespected the head of al-Husayn by poking and mocking it; rather he would have allowed it to be shrouded in cloth, prayer over and buried in dignity; he would also have shown due respect to the family of the Prophet and treated them well.”

Further proof for Yazid’s hatred and vile behaviour can be seen in his summoning ibn Ziyad to Damascus after Karbala and bestowing upon him illustrious gifts and large sums of money, elevating his status, granting him access to his women and making him his intimate boon-companion.  One night, after becoming drunk, Yazid ordered his slave-girl to sing but before she began, he recited the verses:

“Pour me a drink that will satisfy my innermost soul!
And fill a large cup like it for ibn Ziyad.”
Verily, he is my most intimate companion and I trust him absolutely!
For he realised my deepest goal and struggle!
He killed the Kharijite, the treacherous rebel al-Husayn,
And terrified my enemies and those who envy!”

Imam ibn ‘Aqil (r.a.) said, “Among the many things that reinforce the fact that he was a disbeliever and an apostate, and not merely someone who should be condemned and cursed, are his poetic verses in which he makes his irreligion quite plain.”

There are many other such poems that can be found in his collection of poetry, and as a result, this community should feel nothing but shame for having endured his governance over them.  As Imam Abu al-‘Ala’ al-Ma‘arri (r.a.) said, referring to that disgraceful fact:

“The days have witnessed the most abominable and reprehensible acts;
I am therefore not shocked by any strange occurrence or facts.
Was it not your Quraysh that murdered al-Husayn?
Was it not Yazid who once as your caliph reigned?”

When Imam Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) publicly cursed from the pulpit of the mosque in Baghdad, in the presence of the Abbasid Caliph, an-Naswir and the senior religious scholars, a small group of uncouth individuals stood up and left the gathering, at which point, he said:


…Ah!  Behold!  How the Madyan were Removed (from sight) as were Removed the Tsamud! (Surah Hud:95)

Several of Imam Sibth ibn al-Jawzi’s (r.a.) teachers had informed him about that day.  A group of scholars in Baghdad had asked his grandfather, Imam Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.), about Yazid.  He responded, “What do you say about a man who ruled for three years, in the first he murdered al-Husayn, in the second he sacked Madina for three days, and in the third he assaulted the Ka‘bah with catapults until it was destroyed?”

They said, “Verily, we curse him!”

Imam Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) said, “So curse him!”

Imam Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) said in his ar-Radd ‘ala al-Muta‘aswib, “In various prophetic ahadits, individuals who have not even done one-tenth of the evil that Yazid has done are cursed.”  He then went on to mention the prophetic traditions narrated by Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) and Imam Muslim (r.a.) in this regard.  Thus, it is clear that even individuals who committed lesser sins than Yazid, such as drinking alcohol or dealing in interest, are cursed.  How much more grievous then are Yazid’s actions, ranging from his murder of al-Husayn (r.a.) and his family to sacking Madina to assaulting the Ka‘bah with catapults until its walls were destroyed, to say nothing of his verses of poetry which make it clear that he was a disbeliever.  Whosoever desires to read more in this regard should consult Imam Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi’s (r.a.) ar-Radd ‘ala al-Muta‘aswib.


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