After ascending the imperial throne in the year forty-first Hijrah, Mu'awiyah Ibn Abu Sufian decided to make of 'Ali ('a), with the help of mass media and creation of the hostile slogan, the most contemptible man all over the Islamic world of those days.
He implemented all different means of propaganda. On one hand, he prevented the divulgation of the virtues of Imam 'Ali ('a) by using the sword and bayonet and did not let anyone open his mouth to call to mind a tradition or a narration in his favour, on the other hand, he hired certain opportunists with exorbitant amount of money so as to forge some prophetic traditions against Imam 'Ali (‘a).
But all that did not suffice to quench Mu'awiyah's thirst, he used to say: "I must act in a way that the children will grow up in rancour towards 'Ali and the old will die in animosity against 'Ali."
The last idea which came to his mind was to make malediction and execration of Imam 'Ali ('a) a popular and religious slogan in all over the vast Islamic territory. He still ordered that the malediction of 'Ali ('a) be concluded to the Friday Sermon over the pulpits of Mosques. This order was put in practice.
After Mu'awiyah, the other Ummayad Caliphs followed his idea so as to humiliate to extremes the descendants of the Imam ('a) and to extirpate forever the aspiration of Islamic Caliphate from their hearts. The generations who were born from that time onwards fell into the habit of this slogan and unconsciously repeated it.
This habit had such an effect upon the poor and simple minded that, once, a man intercepted Hajaj by complaining so: "My family expelled me and named me 'Ali. I ask you to help me and change my name!!"
Hajaj changed his name and said: "Seeing that you have chosen a good means (abhorrence towards 'Ali) for asking help. I will entrust you with so-and-so position. Go and undertake it!"'
The propaganda and the slogans had made their effect. But who knew that a small incident would abolish effects of the propaganda over which the usurpers had laboured for half-century and the truth would be unveiled from behind so many thick curtains.
Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz, of the Ummayad clan, was busy playing with the children of his age when he was a child. As usual, the key-word and the old story of his playmates was the malediction of 'Ali Ibn Abi Talib. The children, busy playing, laughing and leaping about, repeated the malediction of Imam 'Ali under the small pretext!!
Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz also joined with them hand in hand, acting in concert. At the same time, his teacher who was a pious, religious and clairvoyant man, incidentally passed by them. He heard with his own ears his beloved student curse 'Ali. But the teacher did not say anything, made his own way and went to the Mosque. The time was creeping so that they would attend the class. Umar went to the Mosque to attend the class.
Fixing his eyes on Umar, the teacher began to pray and long-lasted his prayer. Umar felt that the prayer was a pretext and the question was concerning to something else. There might be a matter of an offense. He waited till his teacher achieved his prayer. After the prayer, the teacher looked at him with great indignation.
Umar asked: "'Could you please explain the cause of your offense?"
"My son! Have you cursed 'Ali today?"
“Since when you have come to understand that Allah, after being satisfied with the people of Badr, may flare up at them and they must be worthy of cursing.”
"Was ‘Ali counted among the people of Badr?"
"To whom then belongs Badr and its glory? Does it not exclusively belong to 'Ali?"
“I shall promise not to repeat these words anymore.”
“Take an oath!”
This child fulfilled his promise and oath. He had in mind the logical and amicable words of his teacher, and from that day he never uttered the malediction of 'Ali but the anathema of 'Ali always reached his ears in the market, streets and from the pulpits of the Mosques. He saw the people all uttering that as habitual words.
It lasted for many years until another incident drew his attention and changed his mind entirely, his father was the governor of Madinah. According to the prevalent tradition, his father was performing the Friday-prayer, delivering the Friday-prayer sermon before the prayer and concluding his sermon with the malediction and blasphemy of 'Ali ('a) in conformity with the habit established by Ummayads.
To his surprise. Umar noticed that his father, while delivering the sermon, spoke eloquently on different subjects and expressed himself easily and elaborately but when he came to curse 'Ali Ibn Abi Talib ('a), he started stammering while uttering these words. He thought that his father had hidden something in his heart which had made him unable to express it and had influenced inevitably on his way of speaking.
One day, he put the matter before his father, asking him: "Dear father! I have noticed when you start delivering your speech, you elaborate it with an infinite eloquence in all the subjects, but when you come to the conclusion concerning the malediction of this man, it seems that you lose your ability and start stammering."
"My son! Have you noticed it?"
"Yes father! That is absolutely obvious in your speeches."
“Dear son! I am content to tell you that if these people sitting at the foot of my pulpit know what your father knows about the virtues of this man, they will desert us and will follow his descendants.”
Umar who has borne in his mind the words of his teacher since his childhood and heard officially this confession of his father was severely impressed. He pledged his words before Allah to annihilate this hideous and baleful habit which was the vestige of the dark days of the reign of Mu'awiyah if he acquires the power one day.
The year ninety-nine of Hijrah arrived. From the time when Mu'awiyah had made this ugly habit widespread, sixty years elapsed. In those days Sulayman Ibn Abdul Malik was the Caliph who fell seriously ill. Aware of being at the pang of death, he designated Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz as his successor for some certain interests though according to his father's last testament he was supposed to designate his brother, Yazid Ibn Abdul Malik, as the Crown Prince.
Sulayman died, his testament was read in the Mosque and it raised the surprise of all. When Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz, sitting at the bottom of assembly, heard the testament made in his name, he said:
إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ
“……..'Verily we belong to Allah, and certainly unto Him shall we return'." (Surah Al-Baqarah, 19:156).
Then a number of people held his armpit and seated him on the pulpit, and the people swore allegiance at his hand with their own free will.
One of the first measures taken by Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz was the prohibition of malediction of 'Ali ('a). He issued an order that, instead of the anathema of 'Ali ('a), in the sermon of Friday-prayer, the following noble verse be recited:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَآءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَي وَيَنْهَي عَنِ الْفَحْشَآءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
“Verily, Allah enjoins justice and kindness (to others) and giving (the right of) the kindred, and forbids lewdness, and evil and insolence; He admonishes you so that you might remember.” (Surah An-Nahl, 16:90).
Poets and orators praised this measure of Umar's too much and immortalized his name.1
- 1. The commentary of Ibn Abil Hadid, v. 2, p. 464. Al-Kamil of Ibn Asir, v. 4, p. 154.