Q: What is the Sunni view on Aashura, the martyrdom of Hazrat Hussein radhiallahu anhu, and the status of Yazid from a Sunni Muslims point of view? I have noticed Shia Muslims placing a large emphasis on the martyrdom of Hazrat Hussein radhiallahu anhu. Also was the leadership of Yazid just? Was Hazrat Hussein radhiallahu anhu the rightful leader of the ummah at that time?
A: The Sunni view of Aashūra: Aashūra is the word used to refer to the tenth day of Muharram. This has always been a sacred day according to all Scholars. The sacredness of Aashoora existed since the time of Nabi Moosa alayhis-salaam, for it was on this day that Allah Ta’ala granted him salvation from Fir’oun and his army. It is said that Nabi Moosa alayhis-salaam fasted on this day out of thanks to Allah. (Zaadul-Ma’aad) According to the Holy Companion Ibn 'Abbas (Radhiallaahu Ánhu), the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) said, “We are more closely connected to Musa (Alayhis salaam) .............. so he consequently instructed the Muslims to fast on the day of Aashūra. (Abu Dawood)
It is also reported in a number of authentic traditions that in the beginning, fasting on the day of Aashūra was obligatory for the Muslims. It was later that the fasts of Ramadhan were made obligatory and the fast on the day of Aashūra was made optional. (Sunan Abu Dawud)
However, the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) used to fast on the day of Aashūra even after the fasting in Ramadhan was made obligatory. (Bukhari and Muslim)
From the above it is clear that Aashūra was sacred long before the martyrdom of Hazrat Husain (radhiyallahu anhu); hence, it is incorrect and contrary to Islamic Aqeedah to believe that the shaahadat or martyrdom of Husain (radhiyallahu anhu) had anything to do with the sacredness of this day. Instead, Allah Ta’ala chose this great day for the death of his beloved servant.
The martydom of Husain (ra): Islam has never taught or encouraged mourning the death of anyone, except the mourning a widow has to observe for her deceased husband. Rasoolullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) emphasized this point as follows: “He is not from our group who slaps his checks, tears his clothes and cries in the manner of the people of jahiliyyah” (Sahih Bukhari) It is therefore, haraam and totally un-Islamic to observe any type of mourning on the day of Aashūra, or anytime during the month of Muharram, especially the mad, wild actions of people who beat and bludgeon themselves as part of their Muharram/Aashūra ritual. These are baatil practices and acts of deviation that have nothing to do with Islam.
Even Sayyiduna Husain (Radhiallaahu Ánhu), shortly before his demise, had advised his beloved sister Sayyidah Zainab (Radhiallaahu Ánha) not to mourn over his death in this manner. He said, “My dear sister, I swear upon you that you, in case I die, shall not tear your clothes, nor scratch your face, nor curse anyone for me or pray for your death”. (Ibn Kathir vol. 4 pg. 24)
Yazid’s leadership: Yazid was the son of a great Sahaabi, Sayyiduna Mu’aawiya (radhiyallahu anhu). However, Yazid himself was an unjust and impious ruler. He was certainly not entitled to rule an Islamic state. When Hazrat Mu’aawiya passed away, being the heir apparent to the Khilafat, he automatically assumed control of the Islamic state. Yazid was indeed a Muslim of proper aqeedah, but he committed flagrant violations of Allah’s Laws. For this reason our Ulema maintain that Yazid will be dealt with by Allah as He Deems fit, like Allah Ta’ala would deal other sinners. He shall be held responsible by Allah for oppression and violation of rights, and may be forgiven or punished for major sins of a personal nature that he had committed. This is a matter that only Allah can decide on. Allama ibni Katheer (rahmatullahi alayh) summed up the view of the Ahlus-Sunnah on Yazeed in a very balanced way. He states in his famous historical work, Al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah:
People have different views on Yazeed. Some love him and hold him in high esteem; these are the Nawaasib, a sect from Syria. As for the Rawaafidh (the Shiah) they curse him and falsely attribute to him many evils. They also accuse him of heresy. However, he was not guilty of that (heresy). A third group are those who neither love him nor curse him, because they know that he was not guilty of reneging from Islam as the Shias claim, and also because there were terrible events that occurred in the Muslim world during his time (for which he was to blame). The worst and most devastating of these was the killing of Husain bin Ali at Karbala, as well as the massacre of Harra in Madinah. As for the death of Husain, it was not on the instructions of Yazeed, nor was he aware of this. It is also likely that he neither approved nor condemned Husain’s killing. Al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah vol.6, pg. 256
Hazrat Husain’s uprising: It must be born in mind that Harrat Husain was not a leader at the time when Yazeed ruled. The reason for Imam Husain’s coming to Karbala was to challenge the leadership of Yazeed and oust him from that position. That meant that he would automatically take over the Khilafat. He came to Karbala on the insistence and persuasion of the people of Kufa, and on the promise that he would be their new leader. Had Husain (radhiyallahu anhu) been a Khalifa or a Ruler at that stage, there was no need for him to confront Yazeed personally. He would have dispatched his army, as Kings and Khalifas normally do when going to battle. It is now history that when he arrived at Karbala, all the well-wishers and claimants to his love had totally deserted him (Innaa Lillah wa Innaa Ilayhi Raji’oon)
Allama Thafar Ahmed Thanwi (RA) writes in his magnum opus, I’laa-us-Sunan that the Ahlus-Sunnah believe Hazrat Husain was fully in his rights to take up arms in an attempt to overthrow Yazeed. However, a miscalculation of the sincerity and royalty of his followers resulted in apparent failure to achieve this objective. In this sense, Hazrat Husain was on haqq and fully on the right course.
The above is basically the view of the Ahlus-Sunnah wal Jama’ah on these matters.
And Allah Ta’ala knows best
Mufti Siraj Desai