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YEZID I., THE SON OF MOAWIYAH, THE SECOND CALIPH OF THE HOUSE OF OMMIYAH, AND THE SEVENTH AFTER
Hejirah 60-64. A. D. 679-683.
YEZID, the son of Moawiyah, was inaugurated caliph on the new moon of the month Rejeb, of the sixtieth year of the Hejirah, which coincides with the seventh day of April, in the year of our Lord six hundred and eighty.* born in the twenty-sixth year of the Hejirah, according to which account he was thirty-four (lunar) years old when he was saluted emperor. He was forthwith acknowledged lawful caliph in Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Persia, and all the other Mohammedan countries. But the cities of Mecca and Medina, and some others of Chaldea, refused at first to submit themselves to him. Among the great ones none but Hosein and Abdallah the son of Zobeir opposed his succession, and they disputed the caliphate with him to their death.
He confirmed all his father's lieutenants and officers in their appointments. The governor of Medina was Walid the son of Otbah; of Cufah, Nooman the son of Bashir; of Bassorah, Obeidollah the son of Ziyad; of Mecca, Abdallah Amrou. After his accession, the object he had most at heart was to bring in those that had opposed his nomination as his father's heir and successor. With this view, he wrote the following letter to Walid governor of Medina. "In the name of the most merciful God. From Yezid emperor of the faithful to Walid the son of Otbah. Moawiyah was one of the servants of God, who honoured him and made him caliph, and extended his dominions, and established him. He lived his appointed time, and God took him to his mercy. He lived beloved, and died pure and innocent. Farewell. Hold Hosein, and Abdallah the son of Ammar, and Abdallah the son of Zobeir, close to the inauguration without any remission or relaxation." Walid, upon the receipt of this letter, sent for Merwan the son of Hakem, and consulted him on the contents of it. Merwan advised him to send for Hosein and Abdallah, and tender them the oath before they were apprized of the caliph's death; and if they refused to take it,
MS. Hunt. No. 495. Abulfeda.
then at once to strike off their heads. But either this scheme was not so closely concerted but the parties concerned received some private intelligence of it, or else they had themselves suspicion of it. Whichever way it was, Walid's messenger, who found them at the mosque, was sent back with this answer, That they would come presently." After a short deliberation, Hosein went to the governor's house, attended with a number of his friends and domestics, whom he placed about the door, with orders to rush in if they should hear any disturbance. The governor, having acquainted him with Moawiyah's decease, invited him to swear allegiance to Yezid. He answered, "That men of his distinction did not use to do things of that nature in private; neither did he expect that he would ever have desired it of him; that he thought it better to wait till, according to the custom upon such occasions, all the people were met together, and then do it with one accord. Walid consented. But Merwan, who easily saw through this excuse (as indeed the governor did too), said to Walid, "If he does not do it now, before he goes away, there will be a great deal of blood shed between you and him; wherefore hold him close, and do not let him go out till he hath owned his allegiance; but if he will not, strike his head off." Hosein leaped out, and having first reproached Merwan for his advice, went to his own house. Merwan swore to the governor that he was never like to see Hosein any more. The governor told him he did not trouble himself about it; adding, that he had everything he desired in this world, and as for the next, that he did not believe that that man's balance would be light who should be guilty of the murder of Hosein. It is an article of the Mohammedan faith, that at the last day there shall be a balance, supported by the divine power, that shall extend to the utmost limits of heaven and earth, in which the most minute actions of mortal men shall be weighed, and he whose evil deeds outweigh his good ones shall be damned; on the contrary, he whose good deeds overbalance his evil ones, shall be saved. For this reason Walid said, "That his balance, who should kill Hosein, would not be light," meaning that wherein his evil deeds were put. Then Walid sent for Abdallah the son of Zobeir, who put him off for a space of four and twenty hours; and, in the meantime, taking along with him all his family
and his brother Jaafar, departed for Mecca. Walid sent a party of horse to pursue him, but to no purpose. Whilst Walid was thus taken up with Abdallah, he had little time to take notice of Hosein, who, whenever he sent for him, put him off with an excuse, and in the meantime made all the preparation he could in secret to follow Abdallah. He left none of all his family behind him except his brother Mohammed Hanifiyah, who, before they parted, expressing the most tender affection and concern for him that can be imagined, advised him by no means to venture himself in any of the provinces, but to lie close either in the deserts or the mountains, till his friends were gathered together in a considerable body, and then he might trust himself with them. But if he was resolved to go into a town, he could not be so safe anywhere as in Mecca: where, if he met with the least appearance of anything to alarm him, he should immediately withdraw and retire to the mountains. Hosein, having thanked him heartily for his sincere advice, made the best of his way to Mecca, where he met with Abdallah.
Yezid, not well pleased with Walid's remissness, removed him from the government of Medina, and gave it to Amrou, a very proud man, the son of Saïd, who was governor of Mecca. He gave Amer the son of Zobeir, who mortally hated his brother Abdallah, a commission to march against him. Abdallah engaged him in the field, routed him, and put him in prison, where he kept him till he died.
Now though Abdallah seemed to have interest sufficient to carry his point, and had beat down all opposition before him, and the Medinians had openly declared for him, so that his fame was spread round about the country, yet Hosein's glory so far outshone his that he had no chance of being the choice of the people, so long as he was alive. Hosein, both upon the account of his near relationship to Mohammed, and his own personal qualifications, was reverenced above all men alive. Moawiyah, so long as he lived, treated him with the utmost respect. And when Hasan had resigned in favour of Moawiyah, the caliph used often to invite both him and his brother Hosein, always receiving them with the utmost courtesy, and never failing to dismiss them with noble presents. After Hasan's death, Hosein frequently sent to Moawiyah, and paid him a visit once every year. He also joined with
his son Yezid in his expedition against Constantinople. Hosein was the hopes of all the Irakians; never were people more overjoyed than they were at the death of Moawiyah, whom they had all along detested as a tyrant and usurper. They thought that now there was a period put to their slavery, and they should be under the gentle government of a man that was sprung of an almost divine race. The Cufians were so impatient, that they sent message after message to him, assuring them that if he would but make his appearance amongst them, he should not only be secure of his own person, but in consideration of the esteem which they had for his father Ali, and his family, they would render him their homage and services, and acknowledge him for the only lawful and true caliph. They assured him that there was no manner of difficulty in the matter; all the country being entirely devoted to him, and ready to expend in his cause their lives and fortunes. The messengers they had sent, one after another, came to him at last in a body, pressing him with the utmost vehemence, to do what he himself had little aversion to; only he thought it the part of a prudent man, in an affair of so great consequence, and attended with so much hazard, to use a little caution and circumspection. Accordingly, he sent his cousin Muslim into Irak, to feel the pulse of the people, and see whether or no they were so unanimously in his interest as had been represented; and ordering him, that if he found things favourable, to head a body of them, and beat down all opposition that should be made. Besides he gave him a letter to the Cufians to the same purport. Muslim left Mecca and passed through Medina, from whence he took along with him a couple of guides, who led him into a vast desert, where there was no road; one of them perished with thirst, and the other soon after died of the colic. This unprosperous beginning seemed ominous to Muslim, and discouraged him to that degree, that having reached a spot where there was water, he refused to proceeed in his journey, till he should receive further instructions from Hesein, to whom he despatched a messenger. Hosein ordered him, by all means, to go on to Cufah, and act pursuant to the directions he had already received. When he came to Cufah, he communicated his business privately to such as he could trust, and the matter was so cautiously whispered about, tha:
they reckoned themselves secure of eighteen thousand adherents before Yezid's deputy Nooman had heard of it. Muslim, satisfied with this success, did not defer to acquaint Hosein with it. He wrote to him, and told him that every thing was made plain and easy for him now, and that nothing was wanting but his presence. Upon this notice, Hosein set out upon his journey from Mecca to Cufah.
Nooman at last received information of the increasing popularity of Hosein, and the forwardness of his party. Surprised and concerned, he immediately made a speech to the people, exhorting them to a peaceful behaviour, and to avoid all manner of strife and contention. He assured them that for his own part he would not be the aggressor, nor meddle with any person, unless he was first insulted or provoked; nor would he take up any man upon suspicion. But at the same time he swore by that God, besides whom is no other, that if they revolted from their Imam (Yezid), and withdrew their allegiance, he would fight against them as long as he could hold a sword in his hand. Upon this one of the bystanders told him that this was a matter that required stirring, but that he talked like one of the weak ones. He answered, that " 'He had rather be one of the weak ones in obedience to God, than one of the strong ones in rebelling against him." With those words Nooman came down. News of the whole was carried to Yezid, who sent immediately and removed Nooman from the lieutenancy of Cufah, and gave it to Obeidollah, the son of Ziyad, together with that of Bassorah, which he had before. This he did at the instance of Sarchun, the son of Moawiyah; for before that time he was not affected well towards Obeidollah, probably because his father, Ziyad, was against his being declared heir to Moawiyah.
Upon this appointment Obeidollah went from Bassorah to Cufah. He rode into the town in the evening, with a black turban on (which was Hosein's dress), and as he passed along and saluted the crowd, he was re-saluted by the title of the son of the apostle, they imagining it had been Hosein, of whose coming they were in hourly expectation. But to their no small grief and mortification, they were soon undeceived, when some of Obeidollah's retinue bid them stand off, and make room for the Emir Obeidollah. With his retinue,