Chapter 11 : IMAMATE AND CALIPHATE
The massacre of the Prophet's grandson at Karbala on the orders of Yazid, on the 10th Muharram 61 AH / 680 CE , brought consolidation to the Shi'i identify. The Shi'i or Shi'at ul-Ali meaning 'Partisans of Ali' were Muslims who accepted that Prophet Muhammad had commanded them to obey his son-in-law Ali, and consequently the Prophet's descendants through Ali and his daughter Fatima, as their Imam or Leader and Mawla or Master, after him. Those who did not accept or were not aware that Prophet Muhammad had proclaimed Ali as his successor and believe instead that the choice of leadership had been left entirely to the people, became known as the Sunnis.
The rulers of the Muslim lands throughout the Muslim history, had generally been purely political figureheads, despite their title as Caliphs or Successors of the Prophet (pbh) which should have implied a religious function as well . In the case of Yazid, notorious for his open display of contempt for Islamic teachings, the Caliphate lost all its religious connotations.
The death of Husayn, the most prominent tabi'un or second generation after the Prophet, paved the way for another prominent tabi'un, 'Abd Allah b. az-Zubayr to declare his caliphate in 61H / 678 CE.
After killing Husayn, the Umayyads begun to realize the respect and regard which the progeny of the Prophet commanded among the majority of the Muslims. The Imamate in the mean
time passed to the next descendent of the Prophet (pbh), Ali b. al-Husayn, who would later be known as Zayn al-'Abidin meaning 'The ornament of the pious'. At Karbala, Ali b.al-Husayn being severely ill and bedridden was not among the fighting men and was not killed. Together with the other captives, Yazid eventually released him to Medina.
Due to the unpopularity of Yazid and his irreligious conduct, the people of Medina rose against Yazid in 62H / 681 CE. Yazid sent an army led by Muslim b. 'Uquba and defeated the Medinese in the Battle of Harra. Imam Zayn al-'Abidin, went outside the city to remain neutral. Medina was sacked and looted and its people forced to declare themselves slaves of Caliph Yazid.
The event of Karbala stirred religious and moral sentiments especially among the Kufans who had zealously urged Husayn to come to Iraq but subsequently failed to stand up with him in the hour of trail. They began organizing themselves under the name of the Tawwabun or penitents and began to recruit supporters to seek revenge for the blood of Husayn as expiation of their negligence.
Al-Mukhtar b.Abi Ubayda ath-Thaqafi also appeared in Kufa contemporarily, to enlist support behind Muhammad b.al-Hanafiya to revenge the blood of Husayn. Failing to obtain the endorsement of Imam Zayn al-'Abidin, Mukhtar announced the Imamate of Muhammad al-Hanafiya instead, despite also not having Muhammad al-Hanafiya's consent. The Tawwabun refused to join Mukhtar because as Ali's son by another wife, not by Fatimah Zahra, the Prophet's daughter, al-Hanafiya was
not regarded as a descendant of the Prophet (pbh).The pleasure seeking Caliph Yazid died unexpectedly in 64 H / 683 CE. His son, Mu'awiya II, it is said, was imposed the Ummayad Caliphate but disfavored it and died after six months. The Caliphate then passed onto the hands of Yazid's governor in Medina, the old Marwan b.al-Hakam, nephew of the third Caliph Uthman and who, together with his father, had been externed by the Prophet (pbh) from Medina. He had also fought against Ali at the Battle of Jamal.
The ascension of Marwan led to a bloody conflict in Syria between the tribal groups of Kalb and Qays leaving the Ummayad capital, Damascus in chaos. After just nine months and eighteen days, Marwan was killed by his wife and the Ummayad Caliphate transferred to his son Abu al-Malik. The quick successions deteriorated Umayyad control of the territories. Rebellion broke out in Iraq leading to the expulsion of the Umayyad 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, who had been responsible for the massacre of the Prophet's household at Karbala, from Basra and his deputy, 'Amr b. al-Hurayth from Kufa. Responding to local request, 'Abd Allah az-Zubayr, who had already declared himself the Caliph in the Hijaz, reconsolidate his power by sending his governor 'Abd Allah b. Yazid al-Ansari, to Kufa. Soon, Ibn Zubayr established his power in Iraq, southern Arabia and in the greater part of Syria.
In the weakened position of the Umayyad, 4,000 Tawwabun headed to Syria to face 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad and his Syrian army of 30,000. After three days in 65 H / 684 CE, at 'Ayn al-Warda, near the Syrian border, the majority of the Tawwabun fulfilled their pledge to sacrifice their lives in the name of Husayn.
Although he maintained his quiescent policy like his grandfather Ali for the sake of Muslim unity during the Caliphates of Abu Bakr, Umar and 'Uthman, Imam Zayn al-ĎAbidin made known the truth to the people concerning his position as the rightful Imam and Mukhtarís proclamation of Ibn al-Hanafiya as an usurpation of his rights.
The Imamís quiescent policy did not stop Caliph Ibn Zubayr though, who was in power for nine years, from holding the Imam in Mecca under his supervision. Caliph Ibn Zubayr also imprisoned Ibn al-Hanafiya at 'Arim. The period of Imam Zayn al-'Abidin saw growing interest in Medina in Prophetic traditions and the learned circles of lawyers and scholars held the Imam in high esteem.
Restricted by Ibn Zubayr and the successive Ummayad Caliphs who wrestled back Hijaz after Ibn Zubayr's death at the battle against Hajjaj, the Ummayad viceroy in Iraq, in 73 AH / 692 CE, Imam Zayn al-'Abidin spent his time in worship and was known for his long postrations. For this he was also called Imam Sajjad. His contribution to the Muslim community was his
Imam Zayn al-'Abidin in 86 AH/ 705 CE succumbed to poison administered by Caliph al-Walid, who had succeeded his father Abu l-Malik. He was buried in the cemetery of al-Baqi in Medina. By the time of his death, Imam Zayn al-'Abidin had attracted a number of devoted followers and had laid the foundation of the legitimist group of the Shi'a latter to be known as the Imamiah.