Story of First Power Usurpation in Islam

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

Story of First Power Usurpation in Islam

The first time the authority was usurped in Islam occurred when Mu’awiyah took the Baya’ah for his son Yazid by force; subsequently Yazid assumed the authority and took the Baya’ah by force. The first man to incite the perpetration of such a crime and to be instrumental in this act was al-Mughirah Ibnu Shu’bah. He was appointed as governor over al-Kufah after the matters had settled for Mu’awiyah. He then learnt that Mu’awiyah had been planning to remove him and replace him with Saeed Ibnul A’as, so he headed for Damascus to meet Mu’awiyah and said to him: “O Amir of the Believers, you are aware of what the Ummah has suffered in terms of Fitnah, and dispute and death is due on you; and I fear that if something were to happen to you, people would again undergo what had happened after the murder of Uthman. So assign to the people an outstanding person so that they take refuge in him, and make that person your son Yazid.”

Mu’awiyah liked the idea and started thinking about espousing what al-Mughirah had suggested to him. When his wife Fakhita Bintu Qurata heard of this she said to him: “Al-Mughirah wants to make an enemy from within yourself who wishes your death every day by suggesting this to you”. Mu’awiyah was troubled by what he heard but he ignored it and set about preparing people to announce the idea to the masses and to take the Baya’ah for Yazid. He started scheming for this secretly at first by summoning al-Dahak Ibnu Qays al-Fahri and saying to him: “When I sit at the pulpit and finish some of my preaching and talk, ask me for permission to stand up. When I give you permission, praise Allah (swt) and mention Yazid and say about him what he deservedly expects from you in terms of excellent praise; then implore me to appoint him as my successor, because I have thought about it and I have already decided to appoint him.”

He then summoned Abdul-Rahman Ibnu Uthman al-Thaqafi, Abdullah Ibnu Masa’adah al-Fazari, Thawr Ibnu Ma’an al-Salami and Abdullah Ibnu Isam al-Ash’ari, and ordered them to stand up once al-Dahak had finished and corroborate his statement and to call for the Baya’ah of Yazid. At that time, the delegations from all the provinces gathered in Damascus at Mu’awiyah’s quarters, including the delegation of Iraq headed by al-Ahnaf Ibnu Qays. When Mu’awiyah sat at the pulpit and finished some of his preaching, with the crowd gathered and attentive, al-Dahak stood up and performed what he had been ordered. Then Abdul-Rahman Ibnu Uthman al-Thaqafi, Abdullah Ibnu Masa’adah, Thawr Ibnu Ma’an and Abdullah Ibnu Isam all stood up and performed what they had been ordered. They in turn said what had been prearranged and upon this Mu’awiyah said: “Have you all decided on what we have mentioned?” They said: “We have all decided.”

He then asked: “So where is al-Ahnaf?” Al-Ahnaf responded, so Mu’awiyah asked him: “Do you not want to speak?” Upon this al-Ahnaf stood up and delivered a speech. To quote from what he said: “Make sure you know to whom you hand the authority to after you, so disobey the command of those who order you; do not be fooled by those who advise you but care not about you; and you look after the community; you should know better about the righteousness of obedience. Besides, the people of Hijaz and the people of Iraq will not accept this and will not give their Baya’ah to Yazid as long as al-Hassan is still alive.”

Upon this al-Dahak became infuriated and stood up for a second time to speak; he launched a scathing attack on al-Ahnaf and on the people of Iraq and then sat down. Al-Ahnaf stood for a second time to respond to Mu’awiyah with fiercer wording than the one he was attacked with. To quote from what he said: “You know that you did not conquer Iraq by force and did not triumph over it due to slackness, but because you gave al-Hassan Ibnu Ali from the oaths of Allah which you are well aware of, that he would succeed you in power after your departure. So if you fulfil your promise, then you will be loyal, but if you betray your promise, you should know by Allah that al-Hassan has behind him some excellent knights, strong arms and sharp swords; if you were to betray him by as much as a hand span, you will find behind him a fathom of support. You do know that the people of Iraq have not liked you since they despised you, nor have they despised Ali and Hassan since they loved them, and nothing to the contrary has descended on them from the heavens. The swords they brandished against you on the day of Siffeen are still on their shoulders and the hearts with which they despised you are still between their ribs; and by Allah al-Hassan is dearer to the people of Iraq than Ali.”

Upon this Mu’awiyah stood up and delivered a speech in response to al-Ahnaf but not in a direct manner; he merely described those who seek to cause fitnah and those who criticise and suspect others; he implicitly warned them but did not mention neither al-Ahnaf nor what he had said. He merely contented himself to mentioning some general criticism in an implicit manner. Upon this al-Ahnaf stood up again and spoke. To quote from what he said: “You should know that you would have no valid excuse before Allah if you placed Yazid before al-Hassan and al-Hussein; you do know who they are and what they stand for.”

This was the first round of this attempt; when Mu’awiyah witnessed this unyielding stance from al-Ahnaf, which reflected the stance of the people of Iraq. He then made Istikharah and refrained from mentioning the Baya’ah to Yazid.

In the year 50 after Hijrah (AH), Mu’awiyah came to Medina. He was met by the people and when he settled in his home, he sent for the four Abadilah: Abdullah Ibnu Abbas, Abdullah Ibnu Ja’afar Ibnu Abi Talib, Abdullah Ibnu Omar and Abdullah Ibnu Zubayr. He ordered his usher not to allow anyone to enter until they have left. When they sat down Mu’awiyah addressed them; to quote from what he said to them: “I have aged, my bones became weak, my demise has drawn near and I am on the verge of being summoned and I have to comply; I have thought about making Yazid my successor to rule over you. I see him as an acceptable choice for you. You are the Abadilah of Quraysh and its elite, as well as the sons of its elite. I was only dissuaded from summoning Al-Hassan and al-Hussein because they are the sons of their father Ali, despite of my good opinion of them and my tremendous affection towards them. So please give the Amir of the Believers a positive answer, may Allah have mercy on you.”

Then the four men spoke one after the other and they all rejected his request. As for Ibnu Abbas, he did not express his rejection frankly but let his words demonstrate his rejection; the other three gave their answers frankly and boldly. To quote from what Ibnu Abbas said: “You spoke and we listened; you said and we heard. Allah the Almighty, whose Names are sacred, chose Mohammed (saw) for His Message, and chose him for His Revelation; He honoured him ahead of all His creatures; so the noblest of people are those who are honoured by him and the most deserving of this matter are those closest to him; yet the Ummah has to concede to her Prophet because Allah chose him for her. He (swt) chose him with His knowledge and He is the All-Knowing and All-Expert; and I seek Allah’s forgiveness for me and for you.”

Also, to quote from what Abdullah Ibnu Ja’afar said: “Fear Allah o Mu’awiyah; you have become a guardian and we are a guardianship; so look after your guardianship because you will be asked about it. As for what you said about my two cousins and your reluctance to invite them here, by Allah you failed to do the right thing; you are not allowed to do this except through them. You do know that they are a pedigree of knowledge and nobleness; so it would not matter what you say. I seek Allah’s forgiveness for me and for you.” Abdullah Ibnul Zubayr said to Mu’awiyah: “Fear Allah o Mu’awiyah and be fair to yourself. This is Abdullah Ibnu Abbas the cousin of the Messenger of Allah (saw), and this is Abdullah Ibnu Ja’afar, also the cousin of the Messenger of Allah (saw), I am Abdullah Ibnul Zubayr, the son of the paternal aunt of the Messenger of Allah (saw) and Ali has left behind Hassan and Hussein; and you do know who they are and what they are; so fear Allah o Mu’awiyah and you are the judge between us and yourself.” To quote also from what Abdullah Ibnu Omar said: “Indeed this Khilafah is not a Hercules-style nor a Roman-style nor a Chosroes-style ruling system, in which the sons inherit from their fathers; if it had been like this I would have taken over after my father; by Allah he only included me in the six nominees of al-Shurah on the basis that al-Khilafah was not a precondition; it is rather specifically within Quraysh for whoever is competent from among them, the Muslims would choose for themselves as being the most pious and the most suitable.”

Once they finished speaking, Mu’awiyah spoke in an attempt to corroborate his request; to quote from what he said: “Indeed this matter was within Bani Abd Manaf because they are the family of the Messenger of Allah (saw). When the Messenger of Allah (saw) departed, people appointed Abu Bakr and Omar though they had no pedigree in ruling matters or anything else. However, they fared well. Then the authority returned to Bani Abd Manaf and is still among them until the Day of Judgement.” After this decisive session, Mu’awiyah ordered the journey back and desisted from mentioning the Baya’ah for Yazid. He kept in touch and stayed on friendly terms with those Sahaba and maintained the grants he used to pay to them. He then departed to al-Sham and kept completely silent over the Baya’ah for Yazid.