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FaithHistory

Who is Hasan ibn Ali?

Learn more about the life and legacy of Hasan ibn Ali, the eldest grandson of the Prophet.

Learn more about the life and legacy of Hasan ibn Ali, the eldest grandson of the Prophet.

Hasan ibn Ali is the eldest grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). He is the first child of Ali ibn Abi Talib and Lady Fatima, and his brother is Hussain ibn Ali.

Imam Hasan is not talked about as much as Hussain due to the latter’s supreme sacrifice at Karbala and the events that unfolded around that yet Imam Hasan’s life deserves attention and awareness.

The Birth of Hasan ibn Ali

Hasan ibn Ali was born either in the second or third year after the hijra in the holy month of Ramadan. The Prophet named him Hasan, which is the Arabic translation of the name of Prophet Harun’s (as) son Shibr. He was the first ever Muslim to be called Hasan. His father, Ali, mentions his appearance as being of similar to the Prophet:

Al-Hasan was like Allah’s Apostle from his head to his chest.”

[Tirmidhi]

When Anas bin Malik recalled Hasan, he exclaimed:

No one was more similar to the Prophet than al-Hasan bin Ali.”

[Fada’il al-Sahaba]

His Childhood

Imam Hasan spent much of his time with the Prophet and learnt his mannerisms and etiquette. The Prophet is famously known for standing up and showing respect when the funeral of a Jew passed by him, thus setting the precedent that a Muslim must show respect to members of other faiths. Similarly, Imam Hasan did the same, even when some of the companions had forgotten about this sunnah:

A funeral passed by Al-Hasan bin ‘Ali and Ibn ‘Abbas. Al-Hasan stood up but Ibn ‘Abbas did not/ Al-Hasan said: ‘Didn’t the Messenger of Allah stand up for the funeral of a Jew?’ Ibn ‘Abbas said: ‘Yes, then he sat down.”‘

[Sunan an-Nasai]

Arabs in that time were particularly known for their strong memory. That’s how many could remember the verses of the Quran despite being unable to write. As a four-year-old, Imam Hasan remembered ahadith from his grandfather. One of the many teachings of his grandfather recalled by Imam Hasan was:

Leave that which fills you with doubt for that which does not fill you with doubt. That is because evil suspicion and good is tranquility.”

[Al-Yaqubi]

Major Events in the Life of Hasan ibn Ali

As Imam Hasan grew up, he would witness the highs and lows of Islam, from the conquest of Mecca to the passing of his grandfather and mother in the span of six months. He also took part in wars alongside his father and brother, including the Battle of the Camel, against Aisha, the Battle of Siffin, against Muawiya and the Battle of Nahrawan, against the Khawarij.

Hasan ibn Ali’s personality and profile and much of what history has recorded about him are after the death of his father. Here is a summary of the key events in his life.

Muslims choose Imam Hasan as their Fifth Caliph

When Ali ibn Abi Talib was martyred, his caliphate also came to an end. A majority of Muslims pledged allegiance to Imam Hasan, citing there is nobody better for the position than him:

None is more beloved to us nor has anyone more right to caliphate than him (Hasan).”

[Maqatil al-Talibiyyin]

Muawiya Rejects Imam Hasan’s Caliphate

Muawiya, who at the time was governor of Syria, refused to accept Imam Hasan’s caliphate and wanted it for himself. Muawiya wanted to go to war with Imam Hasan to decide the affair. The war did not transpire for many reasons, including:

  • Muslims were tired of war after Jamal, Siffin etc.
  • Muawiya bribed certain people from Imam Hasan’s army [Ibn abi al-Hadeed].

The Peace Treaty

As Imam Hasan did not have an army to fight, he opted to engage in a peace treaty with Muawiya. There were approximately11. Here are the key ones:

  • Muawiya would become caliph as long as he acted according to the Quran and Sunnah.
  • Muawiya cannot appoint a caliph after him. The caliphate would go to Imam Hasan and, in his absence, to Hussain.
  • Muaqiya should treat all citizens equally and not based on grudges, tribal rivalry etc.
  • Muawiya would not curse Ali ibn Abi Talib.
  • Muawiya would not plot against Imam Hasan or his family.

Why Did Imam Hasan Want to Fight Muawiya?

Until fighting became impossible as his army grew rebellious, bribed and became small in numbers, Imam Hasan wanted to fight Muawiya. This wasn’t because Imam Hasan wanted power. It was to avoid Muawiya having any authority in Islam as he would openly sin and innovate (introduce bidah):

  • Reciting the azan and iqamah before Eid prayer, where the Prophet forbade this [Al-Sharani, Ibn al-Hadeed].
  • Perfuming himself when in a state of ihram, which is forbidden [An-Nasai]
  • Wear silk. Silk is forbidden for men. [Ibid]
  • Bribery. For instance, he would bribe people who sided with Ali ibn Abi Talib in the battles and wars [Al-Kamil]
  • Seize people’s property without paying for it [al-Yaqubi]
  • Fabricating hadith. There is a lengthy text explaining how Muawiya would introduce fake traditions [Tatheer al-Jinan]
  • Cursing Ali ibn Abi Talib [Sahih Muslim]

Imam Hasan wanted the ummah to return to the teachings of the Prophet before the above-mentioned innovations became normalised and distorted religion. Much like the previous Abrahamic faiths.

After the peace treaty was signed, Imam Hasan spent the rest of his life teaching religion in the different areas of the Islamic empire, including Kufa, Medina and Damascus.

Muawiya ended up breaking each condition of the treaty. The details are outside the scope of this article.

The Merits of Hasan ibn Ali

Imam Hasan picked up many character traits from his grandfather. Some of which are the following.

Generosity

If someone were in need, Imam Hasan would not turn them down, saying:

I feel shame that I refuse the request of a beggar while I beg to Allah.”

[Noor al-Absar]

Economically Boosting His Citizens

Charity is obviously a noble act. But what is better is helping someone become self-sustainable. As the popular saying goes: feed a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach him how to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.

Similarly, Imam Hasan would help the poor in society become self-sufficient. One instance of this was when he bought a slave from his owner as well as the garden the slave worked on and gifted ownership of the garden to the ex-slave, thus allowing him to become a landowner where he can grow and sell produce. [al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya].

Humility

Imam Hasan would perform Hajj 25 times in his lifetime. Each time he walked to the Kaaba by foot, saying:

I feel shame of my Lord when I do not go on foot to His House!”

[Ayan]

Avoiding Attachment to the World

Imam Hasan did his best to avoid getting attached to the world, as it’s the root of all evil. He would attempt to eat simple food, dress modestly and frequently remind himself the world is a deception [Bihar, ibn Asakir, ibn al-Sabbagh].

The Death of Hasan ibn Ali

Hasan ibn Ali was martyred in 50AH. He was poisoned by his wife Ja’dah at the instruction of Muawiya. The details of the event can be found in the book of the historian Masudi.

The Legacy of Hasan ibn Ali

The legacy of an individual is often defined by what others think of him, and who better to comment than the Prophet?

Rewards for Loving Imam Hasan

The Prophet said took Imams Hasan and Hussain by the hand and said:

Whoever loves me and loves these two, and their father and mother, he shall be with me on my level on the Day of Judgement.”

[Tirmidhi]

Imam Hasan Guaranteed Paradise

The Prophet guaranteed paradise for Imam Hasan. Not because he is his grandson, but because the Prophet had foreknowledge, Imam Hasan would go on and live an exemplary life that would merit paradise. It would be against the justice of God to grant paradise to someone solely based on familial ties with a prophet. As an example, Nuh’s (as) son was not saved due to his disbelief, showing God only judges by actions and beliefs rather than the association:

Al-Hasan and Al-Hussain are the leaders of the youth in Paradise.”

[Tirmidhi]

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