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Al-Hasan ibn ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib (الحسن بن علي بن أﺑﻲ طالب)‎ (15 Ramadān, 3 AH – Seventh or Twenty-eighth of Safar, 50 AH) was the grandson of Muhammad, son of Ali ibn Abi Talib (final Rashidun Caliph and first Shī‘ah Imām) and Fātimah Zahrā (daughter of Muhammad). He is an important figure in Islām as he is a member of the Ahlul Bayt (the household of Muhammad) and Ahlul Kisā, as well as being a Shī‘ah Imām, and one of The Fourteen Infallibles of Twelvers.

His birth and family life

In both Sunni and Shī‘ah sources, it has been narrated that upon the birth of his grandson in 3 AH, Muhammad[PBUH] was asked by the angel Gabriel to name him as al-Hasan - a name that had not yet been used in the pre-Islāmic period. Muhammad[PBUH] also honoured his grandson by reciting the Adhān in his right ear, the Iqāmah in his left ear, and sacrificed a ram in his name. Hasan ibn Ali and his younger brother, Husayn ibn Ali, are said to have been greatly beloved by their grandfather. There are numerous Hadiths (oral traditions) that affirm this claim. There are also Hadiths which states that Hasan ibn Ali and Husayn ibn Ali are the leaders of the youth in paradise. Muhammad also said that Hasan and Hussain are Imams, whether they sit (agree to a peace treaty) or stand (go to war). Shi'ahs and Sunnis believe that Hasan ibn Ali is one of the five persons included in the Hadith of The Cloak.anddd

Life of Hasan ibn Ali during the times of his father

As a growing youth, Hasan saw the active role of his father, ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib, in the battlefield defending Islām, as a preacher to a vast congregation of believers on the occasion of Hajj, and as a missionary of Islam to Yemen. After the death of his grandfather, Muhammad, he saw his father having retreated to a passive role in the matters of the state during the period of the first three caliphs. However, whenever he saw it necessary, Ali ibn Abi Talib never refrained from giving his opinion to the caliph of the time on matters of the practice of faith. He had also seen that the caliphs, in turn, respected Ali ibn Abi Talib for his overall knowledge, and consulted him on many occasions as the need arose.

When the third caliph was murdered by a mob of agitated demonstrators in his palace in Mad'mah, and Ali ibn Abi Talib was elected to lead the Muslim nation, Hasan ibn Ali took active part in assisting his father in many ways. He went to Kufa and successfully raised the first army of believers against the dissenting Muslims. He participated actively in the battlefields of Basra, Siffin, and Nahrawan alongside his father, and demonstrated his skills as a soldier and as a leader.

Before he died, Ali ibn Abi Talib appointed Hasan to lead the nation of believers and to be their Imam after him. The people also chose him to be their Caliph. Hasan played positive role in Khilafa.

The Caliphate

Upon the death of Ali ibn Abi Talib in Kufa a new caliph was chosen. As Ali declared in many occasions that just Ahlul Bayt of Muhammad were entitled to rule the Muslim community the choice was restricted to Hasan and his brother Husayn ibn Ali. Thus Kufi Muslims pledge allegiance(Bay'ah) to his eldest son Hasan without dispute.

This threatened Muawiya, who had been fighting Ali for the caliphate. Muawiyah summoned all the commanders of his forces in Syria, Palestine, and Transjordan to join him in preparation for war. He also attempted to negotiate with Hasan, sending the young heir letters asking him to give up his claim. If he could persuade Hasan to renounce his claim to the caliphate, then Muawiyah would certainly avoid the undesirable consequence of killing fellow Muslims, and would further support his claim to the caliphate. If Muawiyah was forced to defeat Hasan in battle, Muawiyah would gain absolute power, but questions regarding his legitimacy would linger.

Negotiations stalled, and Muawiyah marched against Hasan ibn Ali with an army claimed to number sixty thousand fighters. Hasan ibn Ali also marched his army of forty thousand towards Muawiyah. The two armies faced opposed near Sabat.

During this period of suspense, Hasan is reported to have given a sermon in which he proclaimed his hatred of schism and appealed to his men to follow his orders even if they did not agree to them. Some of the troops took this as a sign that Hasan was preparing to surrender; they rebelled on him and attacked him. Hasan was wounded, but his loyal soldiers surrounded him in protection and managed to kill the mutineers. Another one of Hasan’s commanders, Ubayd Allah Ibn Abbas, deserted him and joined Muawiyah’s forces.

According to other sources, a group of unidentified men spread rumor of a clash between small squad of Muawiyah and Hassan ibn Ali's forces and that squad of Hassan ibn Ali's army has been defeated. This rumor caused anger in some supporters of Hassan ibn Ali and upon Hassan ibn Ali's will to avoid further bloodshed, they revolted against him, looted his camp and also manhandled him causing Hassan ibn Ali to take refuge in Chosroes' Palace. Shaken by the incidence, Hassan ibn Ali sent word to Emir Muawiyah for peace talks.

The two armies fought a few inconclusive skirmishes. Hasan, distressed that the result of a battle would mean a loss of many men and a lack of people to go back and partake in caring for the people. Muawiyah also had his concerns with forcing a battle and because of that he sent two men from Banu Quraish to Hasan ibn Ali in order to negotiate a settlement with Hasan ibn Ali and his followers. Hasan ibn Ali, foreseeing the events that were to transpire, and to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, finally negotiated a settlement with Muawiyah. With regards to the negotiation, the Prophet had prophesied earlier, saying, "It is this grandson of mine, on whose hands the two great armies from amongst the Muslims will stop fighting."

  • According to Sunni scholars, Hasan ibn Ali stipulated that Muawiyah should follow the Qur'an and the Sunnah, allowing a shura for the caliphate to be held after his death, and refrain from any acts of revenge against Hasan ibn Ali’s followers. Many authors have also mentioned that Emir Muawiyah accepted all the conditions attached to the peace treaty which were:
  1. all tax collection from the province of Ahwaz shall be paid to Hassan ibn Ali,
  2. an annual grant of two million dirhams shall be paid to Hassan ibn Ali, and
  3. a general amnesty shall be declared for all of those who took part in the battle.
  • According to Shi’ah scholars, Hasan ibn Ali further stipulated that the caliphate should be returned to him after Muawiyah's death, if Hasan ibn Ali was still alive, and in case if he dies before that then the caliphate should be given to his younger brother, Hussain ibn Ali.

Muawiyah proceeded to Kufa and demanded that the Muslims there swear allegiance. He also asked Hasan ibn Ali to join him and support him in the fight against the rebellious Kharijites. Hasan ibn Ali is claimed to have written him in response: "I have abandoned the fight against you, even though it was my legal right, for the sake of peace and reconciliation of the nation. Do you think that I shall then fight together with you?"

Was he a Rashidun Caliph?

Most caliph chronologies do not include Hasan ibn Ali. Hasan ibn Ali claimed the Rashidun Caliphate only briefly and was recognized by a half of the Islamic empire. Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan forced him to resign. However, a handful of the older Sunni Muslim historians, such as Suyuti, Ibn al-Arabi, and Ibn Kathir accept Hasan ibn Ali as the last Rightly Guided Caliph before the ascension of Muawiyah. Twelver Shi'a Muslims also regard Hasan ibn Ali as one of the twelve infallible Imām.

Retirement to Medina

Marwan I, who was the personal secretary to the third caliph, and had fought against Ali ibn Abi Talib during the Basra, was now the governor of Medina. He took personal pleasure in discharging Muawiyah's wishes to slur the reputation of Hasan ibn Ali and his father. Needless to say that the life of Hasan ibn Ali in Medina after the peace treaty was not peaceful at all. In addition to the relentless taunts and abuse slung at him by Muawiyah, Hasan ibn Ali had to endure the anger of his supporters for having relinquished the Caliphate to the lifelong enemy of himself and that of his father before him. They had failed to appreciate that Hasan ibn Ali had given up his right in the larger interests of Islam, and to avoid further bloodshed of the Muslims.

On the hand, Sunni Historians, hold a view that this treaty had great benefits that were reaped by Muslim Empire for twenty years because of unity, tranquility and avoidance of bloodshed through another civil war by the one wise act of Hassan ibn Ali.

Hassan ibn Ali has been quoted on commenting on the matter transfer of authority:

"If Muawiya was the rightful successor to the Caliphate, he has received it and if I had that right, I, too, have passed it on to him; so the matter ends there." This was in accordance with the prophecy of the Prophet Mohammad about Hassan when he had said, "Through my son Hassan, Allah will bring about peace between two warring factions of Muslims."


Muawiyah wished to pass the caliphate to his own son Yazid ibn Muawiyah, and saw Hasan ibn Ali as an obstacle to his plans. And thus Muawiyah plotted to kill Hasan ibn Ali. He secretly contacted Hasan ibn Ali's wife Ja'da bint al-Ash'ath ibn Qays, and instigated her to poison her husband. Ja'da did as Muawiyah suggested, giving her husband poison mixed with honey. Madelung (pp. 331-333) notes other traditions suggesting that Hasan ibn Ali had been poisoned by another wife, the daughter of Suhayl ibn Amr, or perhaps by a servant. Madelung also cites the early historians (Baladhuri, Waqidi, etc.) who recounted these traditions. Madelung, who is more accepting of Shi'a traditions than most Western academic historians, believes that Hasan ibn Ali was poisoned and that the famous early Islamic historian Muhammad suppressed the tale out of concern for the faith of the common people. (Madelung pp. 331-332)

Shi'ahs believe that Ja'da was promised gold and marriage to Yazid. Seduced by the promise of money and power, she poisoned her husband, and then hastened to the court of Muawiyah in Damascus to receive her reward. Muawiyah reneged on his promises and married her to another man

Hasan ibn Ali died in Medina on Safar 28, 50 AH. He is buried at the famous Jannatul Baqee‘ cemetery across from the Masjid al-Nabawi, the Mosque of the Prophet.

Burial of Hasan

Hasan ibn Ali, before his death, asked to be buried next to his grandfather, Muhammad. However, Marwan prevented Hasan ibn Ali's his right. Marwan requested Aisha to allow his relative Uthman ibn Affan to be buried beside the Prophet if she allows Hasan ibn Ali to be buried there. On the contrary, Aisha was aware of Marwan's treachery from the past so she refused to accept his plan, and further did not allow anyone else to be buried beside the Prophet. Hasan ibn Ali's family was thus forced to bury him elsewhere, and so they buried him in Jannatul Baqee‘.

Sunni view

Sunni Muslims honor Hassan ibn Ali as righteous and pious because he is from the Ahlul Bayt. Certain early Sunni scholars are of the opinion that Hassan was the Fifth Rightly Guided Caliph because of his appointment by Ali ibn Abi Talib However, the Kharjites or Sabayees (referring to a group founded by Abdullah Ibn Saba) who have been described as engaged in conspiring against Muslims since Prophet Mohammad's death were indignant of the peace agreement, started to taunt Hassan ibn Ali and called him names with words "Yo Aar Al-Momineen" (0,Shame for the believers!) and "Ya Mozill Al-Momineen " (You, the debaser of the Believers!).

Shi'a view

Muawiya was successful in deceitfully gaining the absolute power he had aspired for. He was not interested in the functions of preaching piety or theology. He was interested in expanding his sphere of influence in the territories already conquered by the Muslims, and was actively engaged in further conquests to the north and north west of Syria. In utter violation of the terms of the Treaty with Hasan ibn Ali, Muawiyah decided to name his son Yazid to succeed him after his death. He knew that Yazid lacked all qualifications to be a caliph for the Muslims and to represent Muhammad. He also knew that Hasan ibn Ali, being a true representative of Muhammad, would oppose the nomination of his son. Consequently, he decided to eliminate the opposition.

Muawiyah solicited the services of Marwan I, a son-in-law of Uthman ibn Affan, who was the governor of Medina at that time. With a promise for a reward, Marwan approached one of the wives of the Imam, Ju'da binte al-Ash'ath ibn Qays to poison Hasan ibn Ali. He was successful, and Hasan ibn Ali died as a result of this plot.

Before Hasan ibn Ali died, in accordance with the Will of Allah, named his brother, Hussain ibn Ali to be the next Imam. He expressed his wish to his brother to bury his body near to the grave of his grandfather, Muhammad. This caused an armed opposition by the governor of Medina. Under a shower of arrows, the funeral procession of Hasan ibn Ali had to withdraw and be diverted to Jannat al-Baqi, the general graveyard of Medina, where he was buried.

Shi'ahs hold Hasan ibn Ali in a very high positive view, like the Sunnis, except that Shi'ahs regard Hasan ibn Ali as their second Imām. Both Sunnis and Shi'ahs regard him as a martyr. According to Shi’ahs Hasan ibn Ali married four women:

  1. Umm Ishaq bint Talha ibn `Ubayd Allah.
  2. Hafsa bint 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr.
  3. Hind bint Suhayl bin `Amru.
  4. Ju'da bint al-Ash'ath ibn Qays, whom Muawiyah I tempted to kill Hasan ibn Ali. So she killed him with poison.

A few words of Masaib (Shia sect)

On the 28th of Safr in 50 A.H., Imam Hasan visited the grave of his mother and his grand father. When Imam Hasan returned to his home in the evening, he knew of the intentions of Jada binte Ashas. He asked her to bring milk and do what she had in her mind. As soon as Imam Hasan drank a little bit of the milk, the poison started making its effect and the pieces of his liver came out of his mouth.

Seeing this, his other wife Umm Farwa – the mother of Hazrat Qasim - rushed towards him. It was already night and she was very worried. She asked Qasim to go and inform the sisters of Imam Hasan. Qasim was only about 3 or 4 years so he said how would I tell them what had happened so Umm-e-Farwa told him that his condition would tell all the story. She tore off the dress of Qasim, took off his little turban and poured mud in his hair. Then asked him to go to the nearby house of Zaynab and Umm Kulthum.

The daughters of Imam Ali were preparing for the namaz-e-shab when Qasim knocked the door. When they saw him in this state, they started weeping and asked him what had happened. Qasim told them that his father is in his last moments in this world. They were the daughters of Imam Ali so they knew what had happened. They hurriedly reached the house of Imam Hasan. Imam asked Umm Farwa to hide the milk pot so his sisters would not see his blood in it. Daughters of Imam Ali said please don’t hide the pieces of our brother from us, we have come to collect them in our hijab and would preserve them.

Imam Hasan gathered all his relatives and appointed Imam Hussain as the next Imam by the will of Allah. He asked Imam Hussain to try to bury him next to the Prophet Mohammad but if that were not possible then not to harm anyone and bury him in Jannatul Baqi. He breathed his last in the night of 28th Safar.

Imam Hussain took out the funeral of his brother with some of his companions but for the first time in history the janaza of a muslim was returned back without burial and the slain body of Imam Hasan was riddled with arrows. Both the brother Imams had arrows in their destiny – the only difference was that arrows were in the body of Imam Hasan but Imam Hussain’s body was on arrows.

All brothers and sisters of Imam Hasan then sat together to take out the arrows one by one weeping and shouting aloud – wa Muhammada, wa Hasana, wa musibata; Ala lanatullahe alal quamiz zalimin. Sayalamul lazina zalamu ayya munqalabi yanqaliboon. Inna lillahe wa inna ilehe rajeoon.

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