Hatred toward Shia Muslims & followers of Imam Ali with Examples from The History of Islam
Recently a human rights organization named Shia Rights Watch was able to list the term Anti-Shi’ism in Urban and Merriam Webster dictionaries as mean of introducing a definition for a marginalized crime, which has been taking place for a long time. The term is defined, prejudice against or hatred toward Shia Muslims, which includes a huge amount of grievances and calamities that Shia Muslims have been facing throughout history. Unfortunately, due to political agendas and corrupt means of legitimacy and containment, the notion of anti-Shi’ism has been on the rise, and many innocent Muslims are paying the price with their lives. However, this type of brutality against Shia Muslims is rooted in Islamic history and many of the historical Islamic figures have been praised and even glorified for their genocides against Shia Muslims.
Ever since the death of Prophet Mohammad and marginalization of Imam Ali, who was the rightful successor of the Prophet, the followers of Imam Ali have been labeled as rejecters and outlaws. They faced persecution and sever punishments for their faith and during certain periods, Shia Muslims were prisoned and killed for the simplest reasons such as their names and affiliations. A person named Ali, Ja’afar, Hassan, Hussein or Sajjad was subjected to capital punishment and death, which forced many Shia Muslims to migrate and flee their home towns to remote destinations and mountains. In addition, many Muslims chose to hide their identity and faith in the public, which meant they would act and pray like a random Sunni Muslim to save their lives and prevent persecution.
Therefore, this article would present the names of some commanders and rulers who are known to be the most brutal against Shia Muslims, and mainstream Islamic history has glorified them as heroes and noble men.
Obeidallah Ibn Ziyad
This man was the governor of Basra and Kufa during the era of Yazid Ibn Mu’awiya (the second king of Umayyad dynasty). Yazid decided to force certain individuals to give their allegiance and for this purpose he chose to take a coercive measure against them. However, when Yazid found out about the intention of Imam Hussein to travel to Kufa, he sent his notorious governor Obeidallah Ibn Ziyad to Kufa to stop Imam Hussein. Ultimately, Yazid decided to send an army and kill Imam Hussein in a famous battle, which is known as Battle of Karbala on the 10th day of Muharram (the first month in lunar-Islamic calendar).
Ibn Ziyad was known for his hatred toward Imam Ali and his followers and anyone affiliated with the family of Imam Ali. Therefore, when he became the governor of Kufa, he imprisoned majority of Shia Muslims, who were the followers of Imam Ali and Hussein. Finally, Ibn Ziyad led the army of Yazid in Karbala and committed the most horrific crime of history and killed Imam Hussein and his seventy two companions, in the most vicious way. The army captured the women and children of Imam Hussein and his companions as well and paraded them throughout the countries in a degrading manner.
Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf Al-Thaqafi
This man might be the only historical figure who has been criticized and degraded by all Islamic sects, due to his crimes against Muslims in general. However, Hajjaj was known for his absolute loyalty to the Umayyad Caliph Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan, and he considered any individual, who would reject the authority of the caliph as an infidel, and therefore deserves to be killed. Hajjaj’s hatred toward the followers of Imam Ali and Shia Muslims was publicly known to everyone, including the caliph himself, which encouraged the caliph to send Hajjaj to Kufa, for the purpose of crushing any uprising that might arise. After crushing all the oppositions in Arabian Peninsula, Hajjaj was sent to Iraq as governor of Kufa, which was known as an unstable place, due to high numbers of Imam Ali followers (Shia Muslims).
History has not presented a specific number for Hajjaj’s crimes, but they are believed to be in thousands, and they were mostly killed for their faith or opposing the corrupt and brutal Umayyad caliph. Hajjaj is cursed in some historical narrations for his crimes against some of the most pious and respected figures of that time, like Sa’eed Ibn Jubair, Kumail Ibn Ziyad and many other companions of the Prophet and Imam Ali.
Known as Aron in western literature and Alun in Indo-Chinese literature, Haroon was the fifth ruler in the Abbasid dynasty that ruled the Muslim Empire after the collapse of Umayyad dynasty. He is considered the most famous king of this dynasty and the city of Baghdad was established during his reign. The sixth and seventh Imams of Shia Islam, Imam Ja’afar Al-Sadeq and Imam Musa Al-Kadhem lived during his period, and they were put under tremendous amount of pressure and oppression.
The era of Haroon is known to be the hardest for Shia Muslims in history, as he initiated the forceful migration of Shia Muslims to remote destinations and imprisoned thousands of them. His guards and commanders innovated several brutal ways to torture and kill Shia Muslims, which are narrated in numerous historical resources. Haroon was known for his glorious palaces, which were built on the bodies of innocent Shia Muslims killed in his prisons. In addition, Kufa and surrounding areas witnessed the elimination of thousands of Shia Muslims by throwing them in water wells and sealing the wells. Haroon’s biggest crimes against Shia Muslims was the imprisonment of their Imam, Imam Al-Kadhem for seventeen years in some of the most notorious prisons of that time. Ultimately, Haroon ordered Sendi Ibn Shahek (Notorious Prison Guard) to poison the Imam and through his body on one of Baghdad’s bridges.
He is the tenth Abbasid caliph, who was known for his hatred toward the holy household of the Prophet and Shia Muslims. During Mutawakel’s era, Shia Muslims were banned from visiting the shrine of Imam Hussein and heavy taxation and tariffs were enforced for this purpose. However, when Mutawakel witnessed the insistence and determination of Shia Muslims to visit the grave of their third Imam, regardless of heavy taxation, he ordered his guards to chop of one hand of each visitor to Karbala (Shrine of Imam Hussein). This decision of Mutawakel did not prevent the Shias from visiting the grave of their Imam, and the insisted on continuing with their pilgrimage toward Karbala. Therefore, Mutawakel raised the bar and ordered that from each ten people visiting the grave of Imam Hussein, one of them must be killed, which did not have noticeable results as well. Ultimately, Mutawakel ordered nine people out of ten must be killed, for the purpose of visiting the grave of Imam Hussein, which still did not prevent Shia Muslims.
Mutawakel’s hatred toward the holy household of Prophet Mohammad was so evident and public that led him to reroute the Euphrates toward the grave of Imam Hussein, and demolish the grave. Historians narrate that when Mutawakel rerouted the Euphrates toward the grave of Imam Hussein, the water would come near the grave and circle it, which was miraculous. For the purpose of torturing and killing the Shia Muslims and terrorizing them, Mutawakel appointed one of his most brutal commanders named, Ibrahim Al-Yazdaj in that region.
Saladin (Salah Al-Deen Al-Ayoubi)
Saladin or Salah Al-Deen in Arabic is founder of the Ayoubi Dynasti, who is respected by many western and mainstream Sunni historians, is one of the most brutal murderers, who killed thousands of Shia Muslims in Egypt and other places. Saladin is famous for his noble conduct with Kind Richard (Lion’s Heart) and how he acted nobly with the crusaders in Jerusalem. However, this king did not show any nobility and mercy with Shia Muslims and killed them in cold blood.
The end of Fatimid dynasty was on his hand, and in order to convert Egypt to Sunni Islam, Saladin is used the most brutal coercive approach a ruler can use against his subjects. Egyptian resources from that era suggest that Saladin killed over one hundred thousand Egyptian Shias and forced their families to convert and embrace Sunni Islam. To Shia Muslims, Saladin and his ear are considered a reign of pain and sorrow, due to the tremendous and vicious crimes this man committed against Shia Muslims. In addition, Saladin is held responsible for the loss of thousands of books in Cairo, which were kept in the famous Cairo Library. He ordered his army to burn down the library and demolish any sign and remaining for the Shia Islam literature in that country.
Although in modern political definitions Saddam Hussein is considered a secular dictator, but his actions and policies were primarily targeting the Shia majority of Iraq and led to their sever marginalization and persecution. The crimes of Saddam Hussein should not be thrown on the burden of Sunni Muslims of Iraq, as there are numerous victims among Sunni Muslims of this country. However, Saddam Hussein knew the Shia majority of his country would ultimately rise against his and reject his rule and tyranny. Therefore, he drew many of his family members and Sunni tribes around him and appointed them in high governmental positions and gave them authority to ravish and slaughter the oppositions, who were mostly Shia Muslims.
Saddam Hussein, used deadly and lethal weapons against his population in 1991 revolution in Southern Iraq, and the mass graveyards are still being found until this day, which show how innocent men, women and children were buried alive. He demolished entire cities and bombed the Shrines of Shia Imams in Karbala and Najaf. Saddam Hussein executed several Shia scholars and jurists and ordered his general to commit several genocides in Southern Iraq to deter the Shia Muslims from ever rising against him again.
History is filled with genocides and crimes against Shia Muslims, which have not been disclosed to the world. The intention of Shia Muslims was not different than anyone else during all times, as they were only seeking to live a peaceful life and practice their faith freely. Unfortunately, the Muslims Empires and dynasties were not capable of accepting such a simple notion, and physical elimination and slaughtering was their only answer to the existence of any Shia group.
In addition, many Shias have not been able to study their history and deliver it to the world to witness the amount of oppression they had to face during different eras. Therefore, Shia Muslims are obligated to use different methods such as: writing, mass media, certification, Museums and art to register these genocides and keep them as a resource for the future generations to observe and learn from.