MUHARRAM SERIES – Who was Yazid?

The villain of our story, our Muharram series would not be complete if we were to fail in giving Yazid the ink his actions bought him. A grand criminal of war, Yazid let holy blood flow …

To quench his arrogance and quiet his greed, it is the blade he brought to the holy household of the prophet. It is the very legacy of God’s last prophet this tyrant attempted to disappear so that his name would survive the test of time.

Yazid made a claim on power that was never his. Yazid waged a war of infamy and division on the Muslim community … to this very day the wedge he drove in between communities is being felt. The gap which was laid bare in the plain of Karbala has yet to heal. Maybe our collective failure to follow in the footsteps of our Imam allowed for such a tragedy.

Imam Hussain fought so that we would not have to. He fought so that the tradition of the prophet would be returned and once more observed. His blood was spilled, and his strength spent so that we would learn of courage, and loyalty.

Have we learnt? Can we say today that we have mourned our Imam’s sacrifice fully?

Yazid’s character has been too a matter of deep contention. Many have argued to the sincerity of his faith … many have been those attempting to justify his decision to murder Imam Hussain by implying that the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad had acted in rebellion of the rule of law … History will judge them.

History has already judged Yazid.

Mas’udi wrote: “Yazid was a pleasure-seeking person. He was a man, who kept beasts of prey. He had dogs, monkeys and panthers. He always arranged wine-drinking parties. One day after the martyrdom of Imam Hussain while he was sitting in such a party, Ibn Ziyad was seated on his right side, Yazid turned to the cupbearer and recited two couplets which are translated below:

“Give me a cup of wine which should satiate my bones. Then give another such cup to Ibn Ziyad, the man who is my confident and who has strengthened my position and the foundation of my caliphate”.

Yazid meant to say that Ibn Ziyad by killing Imam Hussain had strengthened the foundation of his caliphate.

Thereafter Mas’udi wrote about the injustice and oppressions committed by Yazid and then said: “In the Muslim ummah [community] Yazid was like Pharaoh amongst his subjects” and then he wrote: “It is not so, because Pharaoh was more just to his subjects”.

He added: “The injustice, intrepidity and impiety of Yazid also penetrated into the Muslim ummah”. The sins committed by Yazid were also committed by his favourites and they adopted his ways and manners.

During the period of his caliphate music became current in Mecca and Medina, and all sorts of amusements and funs began to be used. The people began to drink wine openly. It is also the more surprising that the man, who claimed to be the successor to the Holy Prophet and occupied the seat of the caliphate, had a pet monkey, which was named Abu Qays. Yazid used to bring it in his drinking parties and he spread a mattress for it. He also mounted it on the back of a she-ass, and made it participate in the horse-race. One day Abu Qays won the race. The monkey was then dressed in red and yellow silken clothes and cloak, and an embroidered cap was placed on its head”.

How many Yazid have since held to the reins of power? How many times have we allowed for our community to be led away from Islam’s purest traditions?

Muharram’s lessons will continue to elude us unless we learn to stand behind our Imam.

By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna

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