1902 Encyclopedia > Hasan and Hussein

Hasan and Hussein

HASAN AND HUSEIN, the sons of Ali ibn Abu Tälib, cousin and son-in-law of Mahomet, and heroes of the passion play performed annually throughout India and Persia by Shiah Mahometans in the month of Moharram. Their relationship to the prophet is important to the under-standing of their histor}', and may be seen from the follow-ing table :—

==TABLE ==

The office of guardian of the kaabeh or temple of Mecca, and chief of the tribe of Koreish, which was vested in Abd Menaf, would have descended to Abd Shems, his eldest son, had it not been given to Hashini, the second, in reward for some military successes, and this circumstance caused a bitter enmity between the two families. When Mahomet died, AH claimed the right to the office of caliph (Jchalifeh, " vicegerent" or " successor "), but found formidable rivals in Abu Bekr, the father of Ayesha the prophet's favourite wife, 'Omar, another of his fathers-in-law, and 'Othman, the only member of the rival house of Ommaiyeh who had joined the Muslim ranks. Ayesha, whom All had mortally offended by listening to a charge of incontinence which had been made against her, made common cause with the Ommaiyides, and strenuously opposed All's accession. A compromise was effected by the election of Abu Bekr; on his death 'Omar was made caliph, and when he in turn died, 'Othman was elected, as Ali refused to subscribe to the con-ditions imposed upon him that he should govern in accord-ance with the "traditions" as well as the Koran. These " traditions " are the whole body of ceremonial laws and cus-toms by which the imperfect code of the Koran was sup-plemented ; they are derived from ancient Arab and even Jewish usage, although to give them a proper sanction and force they have been attributed to Mahomet himself, who is supposed to have enunciated them at different times as separate ahdclith (singular, liadith); and the tracing of them through the various authorities to the prophet himself is still a most important branch of Muslim theology.

The "traditions" are spoken of collectively as the Sunneh, whence the name Sunni, given to that sect of Mahometans who follow them, and it was to this that 'Ali refused tc subscribe. 'Othman on his accession displayed an unblush-ing partisanship for his own, the Ommaiyide, family, and appointed Mo'awiyeh, a bitter enemy of the Hashimi family, governor of Syria. 'Othman was assassinated in 655 A.D.. and All was then unconditionally elected caliph. He immediately recalled Mo'awiyeh, who refused to obey, and, supported by the influence of the implacable Ayesha, claimed the caliphate for himself. A severe struggle between the two parties ensued, and Ali was at first successful, but was at length compelled by intrigue to submit his claims to arbitration, instead of following up his military advantages. A number of his followers, about 12,000, taking umbrage at this, deserted him, thus originating the sect of Kharejiyeh or "Separatists," who reject the lawful government estab-lished by public consent. A conspiracy of three of these deserters resulted in the murder of Ali, who was slain at the door of a mosque in Kiifa, and buried at a spot about 5 miles from that town. A magnificent mausoleum was afterwards erected over his tomb, which became later on the site of the town Meshed Ali, " All's shrine," one of the great places of resort for Shiah pilgrims. On All's death his eldest son Hasan was elected caliph, but resigned the office in favour of Mo'awiyeh on condition that he should resume it at the latter's death. Mo'awiyeh, however, who wished his own son Yezid to succeed him, caused Hasan to be foully murdered by his own wife eight years later. Yezid succeeded his father, on the latter's death, without opposition or election, and the Ommaiyide dynasty became thus firmly established on the throne. The partisans of All's family were, however, far from content, and Husein, All's surviving son, was secretly invited to Kiifa to place himself at the head of the party, and revolt against Yezid. Prompt measures were taken by the caliph, who had obtained timely warning of the movement. 'Obeidallah, a vigorous officer, was appointed governor of Kiifa, seized upon Husein's envoy, Muslim, and one Hani in whose house he had been concealed, and when the populace assembled and clamoured for thei". release he caused them to be beheaded and their heads to be cast down among the crowd. Husein was I intercepted on the borders of Babylonia by Harro, with a company of horse, who told him he had orders to bring him alone to Kiifa, but allowed him to proceed by what route he chose without losing sight of him. A horseman met them on the road with secret orders from 'Obeidallah to lead Husein into an open and undefended place, and halt until Amer, the commander of the Syrian army, arrived with his forces. This happened the next day, and Husein and his small escort were surrounded by 4000 horse, and slaughtered, after a stubborn resistance, on the plain of KerbebA by the banks of the Euphrates, under peculiarly tragic circumstances, his little son Abdallah, and his nephew, a beautiful child, both being murdered in his arms. This took place on the 10th of Moharram 61 A.H. (680 A.D.), and is commemorated during that month by the Shiahs in India and Persia, a long miracle play being performed, the scenes of which are carried on from day to day, and cul-minate in carrying out the tabut or coffins of the martyrs to an open place, generally the cemetery, or in sea-side places to the sea-shore.

The cause of All and his family was warmly expoused by the Persians, who had been forced to embrace Islam, but who regarded the Sunneh or Semitic law with especial repugnance. The party were known as Shiahs, " Secta-rians;" and as the quarrel between them and the Sunnis thus perpetuates the old enmity between Jew and Gentile, between the Semitic and Aryan races, it has produced an irreparable breach in Islam.

The passion play of Hasan and Husein has been published in English by Sir Lewis Pelly (London, 1879,2 vols. 8vo) from the dicta-tion of native teachers and performers of the drama. (E. H. P.)

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-19 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries