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Accusations Against Mu'awiyah

Adil Salahi

Arab News, 6/1/04

History is full of reports that circulate widely, over a long period of time, and they gain wide acceptance as true, even though their veracity is extremely suspect. Often such reports have an element of truth in them, but they suffer from much exaggeration, addition or omission. Careful examination should be enough to make us reject them out of hand. There are too many such allegations against Mu'awiyah. Therefore, when scholars try to explain the truth they are often accused of being biased. Yet judgment in such matters should be based on the truth and how it can be established, rather than the level of circulation of such reports. Justice Ibn Al-Arabi refutes some of these reports. As usual, we first quote some of what he says, before adding some explanation where it is merited.

"Scholars have spoken about giving the leadership to one who is of a lesser degree when others who are better than him are present. This question is not as fundamental as the masses make it to be. We have explained this elsewhere."

This is a question of Fiqh which Ibn Al-Arabi raises here, but he is content with a very short answer, stating that scholars have approved of the appointment of a ruler when there is in the community people who are clearly better than him to run the affairs of the community. He refers to his explanation of the issue in his other books.

In his annotation of Ibn Al-Arabi's book, Al-Khatib discusses the question and makes clear that the overwhelming majority of scholars agree that it is permissible to choose a ruler when there are better people in the community, as long as the one appointed fulfils the conditions for government. They stress that pledging loyalty and allegiance to him is perfectly valid. The fact that there are better or more qualified people does not detract from the validity of his choice and appointment. Al-Khatib cites several scholars, including Ibn Hazm and Al-Mawardi.

A more problematic question is the execution of Hujr ibn Adiy by Mu'awiyah. Justice Ibn Al-Arabi has this to say about the case:

"It is said that Hujr ibn Adiy, a companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who was renowned for his goodness, was killed in captivity on the basis of allegations by Ziyad. Aishah, the Prophet's wife, sent to Mu'awiyah concerning him, but her message arrived after he had been killed. To this we reply that all of us know that Hujr was killed, but some of us claim that he was unjustly killed while others say that Mu'awiyah was right. Some may claim that an execution is an unjust killing unless proof is established that the person killed had done something to warrant his execution. This is not so. An execution by the ruler is taken as lawful in the first place. Anyone who claims that it is unjust has to provide proper evidence to support his claim. Had the execution of Hujr ibn Adiy been an act of blatant injustice, Mu'awiyah would have been cursed in every Muslim home. Yet we see in Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasids who have had no love for the Umayyads, mosques with gates on which it is written, 'the best people after God's Messenger are Abu Bakr, then Umar, then Uthman, then Ali, then Mu'awiyah the maternal uncle of all believers. (May God be pleased with them all).'

"Hujr's case is said to have started when he objected to some actions by Ziyad, the governor of Kufah, and he threw stones at him and declared that he had no allegiance to him. He wanted to start a rebellion against him. Mu'awiyah, therefore, considered him to be spreading corruption. Aishah, the Prophet's wife, spoke to Mu'awiyah about Hujr when he went on pilgrimage, but he said to her: 'Leave me alone with Hujr until we meet in front of God on the Day of Judgment.' All Muslims should in fact do that, leaving the matter to God to judge between them, when they stand in front of Him alongside the Prophet whose companions they were. Why should anyone interfere in this case now?"

Al-Khatib provides the background of this case, mentioning that Hujr ibn Adiy was a man of many virtues. Some people consider him to be a companion of the Prophet, while Al-Bukhari and others say that he belonged to the next generation of successors, i.e. tabieen. He was clearly on Ali's side in the battles he fought. When Ziyad was governor of Kufah under Ali's rule, Hujr did not object to anything he did. But later Ziyad was confirmed as governor by Mu'awiyah, and it was then that Hujr had his objections.

While what Al-Khatib says may be historically true, it assigns motives to someone who is acknowledged as a man of much goodness. We should not be doing that. We should always give people the benefit of the doubt, and where an action may be explained with good motives, we must confine ourselves to such good motives.

Al-Khatib also quotes a report by Ibn Sireen, a much respected scholar of the tabieen generation, which says that when Ziyad was a governor of Kufah, he gave a speech before Friday prayer and he went on for a very long time. Hujr then sought to cut him short by calling for the prayer to start. Ziyad paid no attention to him and continued with his speech. At this point Hujr and other people took some pebbles and threw them at Ziyad who later complained to Mu'awiyah, arguing that such behavior could lead to corruption. Mu'awiyah wrote to Ziyad asking him to send Hujr over to him. He then sentenced Hujr to death.

People argue for and against Mu'awiyah's action. Some argue that no government in history would have tolerated such behaviofsr, stoning the governor in public, because he took a standpoint different to one's own. Others say that Mu'awiyah should have maintained his attitude of tolerance and won Hujr over with kindness. Al-Khatib says that Mu'awiyah had qualities of patience, forbearance, and tolerance similar to those of Uthman, but he was also keenly aware of the troubles that Uthman faced when his kindness allowed his opponents too much leeway. Besides, Mu'awiyah realized that the situation in Kufah could easily become volatile once more.

Al-Khatib adds a footnote in explaining what we have quoted from Ibn Al-Arabi, saying that Ibn Al-Arabi lived for sometime in Baghdad and saw what was written on the gates of its mosques. As for Mu'awiyah being the maternal uncle of all believers, this refers to the fact that his sister, Ramlah bint Abu Sufyan, was a wife of the Prophet, and all the Prophet's wives are described in the Qur'an as mothers of the believers.



Earth, a planet hungry for peace


The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers (Ran Cohen, pmc, 5/24/03).


The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers in the West Bank, like a Python. (Alquds,10/25/03).

Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah's.