A group of Muslims seek to exonerate Yazid b. Muawiyah of all his crimes. As a matter of fact, these Muslims do not even acknowledge the crimes and for the most evident crime of killing the son of Allah’s Prophet” Imam Husain b. Ali (a.s.), they are quick to gloss over it with the most weird claims including the ridiculous one of Shias themselves having killed Imam Husain (a.s.)!
To such Muslims, it is fitting to point out that not every crime perpetrated by Yazid is easy to sweep under the carpet. Although no crime can parallel the killing of Imam Hussein (a.s.), Yazid is responsible for many crimes that are evident even to the most biased historian and no one doubts even for a moment that Yazid is the perpetrator of these crimes. If the most biased historian was to ignore Imam Hussein’s (a.s.) killing under one pretext or another, there is no way for him to ignore Yazid’s other crimes. The incident of Harrah is one such crime and all Muslims regardless of their sect are unanimous that the responsibility for Harrah lies at the doorstep of Yazid b. Muawiyah.
But first an interesting comparison to underscore Yazid’s antecedents.
Who is most despicable, Yazid or Firaun?
Yazid is often referred to as the Firaun of the Islamic nation. But this comparison is not entirely fair to Firaun. Yazid was far worse than Firaun and he dared to commit some of the most heinous crimes in the history of mankind that even Firaun hesitated from committing.
A very interesting incident that occurred in Yazid’s court highlights how he was far more wretched than Firaun. After the incident of Karbala, the women of Imam Hussain’s (a.s.) household were brought in Yazid’s court devoid of their veils. Along with the women was Allah’s Proof ” the son of Imam Hussain (a.s.)” Imam Zainul Abedeen (a.s.). Yazid began gloating over his success in front of his courtiers and sought to belittle the exalted status of Imam Hussain (a.s.) and his father ” Ameerul Momineen (a.s.). However, Zainul Abedeen (a.s.) despite being fettered in heavy chains and shackles was not intimidated and gave a fitting reply to Yazid’s taunts. This sparked off a dialogue between Yazid and Zainul Abedeen (a.s.) in which Imam (a.s.) as expected, held the upper hand and crushed Yazid’s arguments with utter disdain. This did not go down well with Yazid and he turned to his advisors to counter Zainul Abedeen (a.s.). His advisors advised him to condemn Zainul Abedeen (a.s.) to death.
When Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.), who was merely two years and some months old at the time, heard this suggestion made by Yazid’s advisers, he addressed Yazid’s. They have recommended to you as opposed to the recommendation of the courtiers of Firaun. When he (Firaun) asked their opinion regarding Prophet Moosa (a.s.) and Prophet Haroon (a.s.), they said: Give respite to him and his brother, while these people recommend that you should kill us, whilst there is a reason for this.
Yazid was confused with this argument and sought the reason for Firaun’s benevolence towards Prophet Moosa (a.s.) and Prophet Haroon (a.s.) in this matter.
Imam Baqir (a.s.) clarified, The reason why Firaun did not kill Moosa (a.s.) was because he (Firaun) was of legitimate birth, while a Prophet and his children are only slain by the illegitimate ones. When Yazid heard Imam’s (a.s.) explanation he became silent and hung his head in shame. (Nafasul Mahmoom, Section 13, from Isbaat al-Wasiyyah of Masoodi)
It is apparent that Yazid was subdued by Imam Muhammad Baqir’s (a.s.) arguments and his silence only affirms his guilt. His sending the captives back to Madinah’ is further admission of this guilt. What is ironical however is that even though Yazid had accepted that he was wrong in slaying the son of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), he still finds widespread support from his ardent fans who 1,400 years after Karbala insist on affixing his name with the reverential suffix May Allah be pleased with him’ something that is reserved for the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) choicest companions like Hazrat Salman Muhammadi (r.a.), Hazrat Abu Zarr Ghaffari (r.a.), Hazrat Miqdaad (r.a.), etc.
Yazid’s reign lasted for three years and nine months. In a short period of just 45 months, Yazid perpetrated crimes that would make even the most oppressive tyrants’ shudder. In the very first year of his reign (61 AH), he dispatched a huge army to murder the son (according to the verse of Mubaahelah) of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) “Imam Husain (a.s.). The army was given explicit orders to show no mercy to Imam Husain (a.s.), to cut all water supply to his tents, to surround him and his women, to kill the men mercilessly, to take the women captive and parade them on the streets without their veils.
Yazid stands exposed
After Imam Husain’s (a.s.) martyrdom, news of Yazid’s transgressions spread far and wide. The people of Madinah dispatched a delegation to Syria to get first-hand information of Yazid’s offenses. As was expected the delegation was disgusted with Yazid’s corrupt ways and returned to inform the Medinites of his innumerable vices “alcoholism, chess addiction, seeking entertainment with singing girls, dogs and monkeys, indulging in intercourse with mehram women (mother, sister), abandoning prayers, and topping all this by murdering the grandson of their beloved Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
The Medinites were appalled to hear that the Caliph of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) nation indulged in such unmentionable indecencies. They began cursing Yazid openly and finally drove out his governor ” Usman b. Muhammad b. Abi Sufyan, along with Marwan b. Hakam and other members of Bani Ummayyah from Medinah. They appointed Abdullah b. Hantala as the governor and gave him their allegiance.
Obviously, a man of Yazid’s status and tyrannical temperament would not take such a rebellion lying down. He immediately dispatched a large army towards Madinah under the command of Musrif b. Aqbah Muri (also called as Mujrim). When Musrif approached Madinah, he camped at a place called Harrah-e-Raqim (Sangistaan), which is at a distance of one mile from the mosque of Suroore Ambiya. Seeing Yazid’s army camped outside their city, the Medinites came out to fight the army. Yazid’s army was equipped with lot of ammunition and overwhelmed the Medinites in every department. Consequently, the Medinites were no match against this army and a large number of them were killed in the ensuing battle. The accursed Marwan b. Hakam was constantly inciting Yazid’s army to attack the Medinites. Finally the Medinites realized that they could not successfully counter the army and retreated to Medinah and sought shelter in the shrine of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
Madinah under attack
However, Musrif was not satisfied at overcoming the Medinites in battle. Being Yazid’s associate, he wanted to complete their humiliation and wished to be remembered in history for this. So he entered Madinah with all pomp and splendour at the head of his massive army. This incident became famous as the incident of Harrah and occurred in Zilhajj 63 A.H., three months before Yazid’s death.
On entering the city of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) “Medinatun Nabi, Musrif perpetrated such adversities that indeed he and his master, Yazid, will be remembered in history for a very long time. On entering Medinah, Musrif and his army showed utter disdain for the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) shrine, which was only to be expected from Yazid’s henchmen. They entered the revered shrine of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) along with their horses. They used the shrine as a horse-stable. As in a stable, their animals urinated and excreted in the holy shrine. The animals even littered the strip between the pulpit of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his grave, which according to traditions is a garden from Paradise.
However, they were not content with defiling the shrine of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). They were intent on unleashing their tyranny and oppression on the Medinites in a most inhuman manner. They set about doing this most systematically. Musrif and his army began butchering the Medinites mercilessly. In this regard, they did not make any discrimination between the Muhaajireen and the Ansar, the companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), women and children. They killed whoever got in their way. We have outlined below a historical record of their butchery from various sources, Shiite as well as Ahle Sunnah.
Rape, murder and plunder
Madaini narrates from Zohri that Yazid’s army killed 700 famous Medinites from the Quraysh, Muhajireen and Ansar. In addition to these, they also massacred 10,000 other unknown Medinites, including women, children and men” both free men and slaves.
Abul Faraj narrates “200 from the progeny of Abu Taalib (a.s.) were martyred. Two of these were the children of Abdullah b. Jafar” Abu Baqr b. Abdullah b. Jafar and Aun-e-Asgar b. Abdullah b. Ja’far. Aun-e-Akbar was martyred in Karbala along with Imam Husain (a.s.).
Masoodi narrates ” Jafar b. Muhammad b. Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) was also slain in the incident of Harrah. Apart from the progeny of Abu Taalib (a.s.), several from Bani Hashim were massacred viz Fazl b. Abbas b. Rabiyyah b. Haaris b. Abdul Muttalib, Hamzah b. Abdullah b. Nawfal b. Haaris, Abbas b. Utbah b. Abi Saeed. In addition to these, 4,000 other known personalities were slain from Quraysh and Ansar. Many other unknown and ordinary Medinites were also killed.
Musrif also made the wealth, honour and women of the Medinites permissible for his men for three days. In this period, his men did as they pleased. They looted the houses of the Medinites and ravaged their daughters and women. They did not follow any law except that of Yazid and considered permissible everything under the sun and even raped women inside Masjidun Nabawi” the most sacred mosque for Muslims after Masjidul Haraam.
Madaini narrates “After the incident of Harra, there were 1,000 women who gave birth to children whose fathers were not known and these were referred to as the children of Harrah. According to another report there were 10,000 such women. As per a report in Akhbaar al-Daul, Yazid’s men raped 1,000 virgin girls.
Shaikh Sulaiman Balkhi Naqshbandi in Yanabiul Mawaddah writes “The Medinites were subjected to a course of tyranny and oppression for several days. It was impossible for any Medinite to enter Masjidun Nabawi. To the extent dogs used to enter the Masjid and urinated on the venerated pulpit of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) on which he (s.a.w.a.) narrated many a sermon and revelation.
Ibne Hajar also reports about dogs defiling Masjidun Nabawi. Then he narrates how Musrif forcibly took oath from the Medinites on behalf of Yazid and in this manner tried to complete their humiliation and disgrace. Those who rejected his invitation were killed immediately.
Imam Zainul Abedeen (a.s.) rescues Medinites
Only Imam Zainul Abedeen (a.s.) and Ali b. Abdullah b. Abbas managed to avoid giving oath to Musrif. The reason behind Ali b. Abdullah b. Abbas escaping the oath was that his maternal relatives were present in Musrif’s army and they interceded with Musrif on his behalf. Imam Zainul Abedeen (a.s.) avoided the oath by embracing the grave of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and reciting the supplication:
“O Lord of the seven heavens and of those things on which they cast their shadow! O Lord of the seven earths and of those things that they support! O Lord of the Great Throne! I seek refuge in You from his evil. I beseech You to grant me goodness and safeguard me from his wickedness.’
After reciting this supplication, Zainul Abedeen (a.s.) went towards Musrif. Until then Musrif was filled with rage and hatred for Zainul Abedeen (a.s.) and was cursing Imam’s (a.s.) infallible forefathers (a.s.). However, when he glanced at Imam (a.s.) he was so overwhelmed with fear and awe for Imam (a.s.), that he began trembling and rose out of respect and honour for Imam (a.s.). He seated Imam (a.s.) beside himself and asked him (a.s.) to state his needs so he could fulfil them. Imam (a.s.) interceded on behalf of several Medinites and Musrif did not harm them out of Imam’s (a.s.) reverence and honour.
Many Muslims have adopted a diplomatic and face-saving stand on cursing Yazid. At least where killing of the Prophet’s son (according to the Verse of Mubaahelah) Imam Husain (a.s.) is concerned, they advance a range of excuses exonerating Yazid of the crime. In a last-ditch attempt they claim that the matter is not very clear and assuming silence (as opposed to cursing) is a more prudent.
While these excuses are untenable and the subject matter of another article, the door on cursing Yazid will never shut as Imam Husain’s (a.s.) murder was not his only crime. As we have seen in this article, Harrah was another stigma on Yazid that cannot be washed away with the biggest ocean of excuses. Because even if these Muslims belittle Imam Husain’s (a.s.) status by considering his killing to be insignificant, do they dare to make the same concession regarding the violation of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), his shrine, his city, his companions and other members of his nation?
Opinion of Sunni scholars
We have listed the view of renowned Sunni scholars on Yazid’s role in Harrah and merit in cursing him:
1)Ibne Kaseer, the renowned Ahle Sunnah scholar and student of Ibne Taymiyyah in Al Bidaayah wa al Nihaayah (Urdu), vol 8 pg 1,146, records:
Yazid committed a major sin by ordering Muslim b. Utbah to make Medinah permissible (Mubaah) for three days. This was a most horrible mistake. Many companions and their children were slaughtered. We have already mentioned that he had Ubaidullah b. Ziyaad kill the grandson of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) Husain and his companions and in those three days numerous heinous acts were perpetrated in Medinah about which nobody knows except Allah. Yazid wanted to secure his governance but Allah did against his wishes and punished him. Surely Allah killed him likewise. Allah established His grip over the oppressor’s towns, no doubt His grip is intense.
Likewise, Ibne Kaseer writes in Al Bidaayah wa al Nihaayah (Urdu), vol 8 pg 1,146:
Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said whoever perpetuated injustice and frightened the residents of Medinah, the curse of Allah, His Angels and all people is on such a person.
2) Amro b. Bahr al-Laysi (exp. 255 H) deemed Yazid to be an accursed. Popularly known as Al-Jaahiz, he stated in his book Al-Risaalah al-Haadiyah al-Ashar, pg 398:
The evil deed which Yazid committed by killing Hussain and took the daughters of Allah’s messenger as slaves and hit the lips of Husain’s (head) with the stick and scared the people of Medinah and destroyed the Kaabah, shows that he (Yazid) was rough, stone-hearted, Naasibi, possessed bad thoughts, venom, hatred, hypocrite, was out of the pale of faith, a transgressor and an accursed, and who ever forbid cursing the accursed is himself an accursed person.
Yazid’s role in Harrah and in terrorizing its citizens is more evident than the midday sun. This makes him worthy of being cursed till the Day of Judgement. No excuse and pretext is acceptable.
And for those who continue to resist cursing him even after this, there is the book of Sibt ibne Jauzi titled appropriately:
Al-Rad ala al-Mutassib al-Aneed al-Maane min Zamme Yazid’
Rebuttal to the stubborn fanatic who refrains from cursing Yazid’
Duty of the Muslims
Today, when visitors go to Medinah, they witness a spotless Masjidun Nabawi in all its splendour and glory. However, they must recollect the dreadful incident of Harrah. When they see the shrine of our beloved Prophet (s.a.w.a.), his pulpit, the strip between the shrine and the pulpit, the mosque flooring, the imposing walls, they must call to their minds the ruthless murder, rape and looting that the walls and flooring, the shrine and the pulpit have witnessed. They must remember Yazid who appointed Musrif on this mission and made all this possible.
Instead of glossing over this crime and other more heinous crimes Muslims must distance themselves from Yazid because those who are pleased with an action are like the perpetrators of the action. Instead of worrying about defending Yazid, these Muslims must be worried about their own hereafter. Why align oneself with an accursed person and assume the burden of his crimes when it is far easier and rational to criticize him and share no blame for his crimes and in this way please Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
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