What is the wisdom behind Hz. Husayn and his relatives being martyred in Karbala and caliphate not continuing with Ahl al-Bayt?

The Details of the Question

What is the wisdom behind Hz. Husayn and his relatives being martyred in Karbala and caliphate not continuing with Ahl al-Bayt?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

In this article, we will mention the reasons why caliphate did not continue with Hz. Husayn and the reasons why he was killed.

If we try to classify superficially and generally various understandings, madhhabs and schools that emerged with the purpose serving the religion of Islam and making the religion dominant over life in the history of Islam, we will see that they adopted two main methods of serving Islam. The first one is the understanding that targets the individual, that is based on individuals and that does not find it necessary to grab the material power in order to make the religion dominant over life; the second one is the understanding that targets power, that brings politics in the foreground on behalf of the religion, in other words, that tries to shape the substructure by getting hold of “the state”, which is regarded as the superstructure.

That “the Makkan verses” of the Quran that were first sent down are about belief and ethics, the definition of “greater and lesser jihad” by the Prophet (pbuh), his refusing the offer by the polytheists to become their administrator in the first years of  introducing Islam by not thinking of benefitting from the position and advantages of being an administrator in the duty of conveying the message of Islam and guiding people show that the way of the Prophet (pbuh), Ahl al-Bayt and hence Hz. Hasan is the method of service that takes the individual to the foreground.

We understand from the advice of Hz. Hasan at his deathbed to his brother Hz. Husayn that Hz. Hasan knew that caliphate would not be left to Ahl al-Bayt. In his advice, he told his brother about his thought that Allah would not bring prophethood and caliphate together in them (Ahl al-Bayt); he wanted to explain why he made peace with Umayyads; he also wanted to prevent his brother from taking any action after him. (1)

The answer given to the question why Ahl al-Bayt did not have the caliphate and sultanate in the sense of power and authority though they deserved it more than others did by Badiuzzaman Said Nursi is very significant in that it sheds light on the issue.  

"Worldly rule is deceptive, and the Prophet’s (UWBP) Family had been appointed to preserve the decrees of the Qur’an and the truths of Islam. Not to be deceived by power, the one who was to hold it and the caliphate had to be as sinless as a prophet, or as purehearted and unworldly as the Four-Rightly Guided Caliphs, ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz or the Mahdi of the ‘Abbasids..."

After that, he shows the caliphate of Fatimis, the government of Muwahhidin and the State of Safawi as example and expresses that worldly sultanate was not good for Ahl al-Bayt, that it made them forget their original duty, that is, maintaining the religion and serving Islam, and that they served Islam and the Quran in a bright and perfect way when they abandoned sultanate:

"Of the poles of sainthood descended from Hasan, especially the Four Poles (2) and above all ‘Abd al-Qadir Gilani, and the Imams of Husain’s line, especially Zayn al-‘Abidin and Ja‘far al-Sadiq, each became like a spiritual Mahdi, dispelled wrongdoing and spiritual darkness, and spread the light of the Qur’an and the truths of belief. In so doing each showed that he was a true heir of his noble forefather." (3)

Badiuzzaman Said Nursi answers a question about Hz. Ali related to his relative failure in terms of politics compared to the caliphs before him despite his extraordinary power, perfect intelligence and high qualifications as follows from the viewpoint of wisdom as follows:   

"That blessed person was deserving of weighty duties other than politics and rule. If he had been completely successful in politics and government, he would have been unable to acquire fully the meaningful title of King of Sainthood. Whereas he won a spiritual rule far surpassing the external, political Caliphate, and became a Universal Master; in fact, his spiritual rule will continue even until the end of the world."(4)

The fact that a great majority of the people of truth kept away from power beginning from the period of Hz. Muawiya and that being close to power and the palace caused the value of scholars to fall in the eye of the ummah is expressed with the following saying: "Being close to the sultan is destructive fire". Badiuzzaman Said Nursi does not associate many scholars and literary men’s being close to administrators with the ambition caused by their intelligence with thriftiness and dignity, criticizing them elegantly. (5)

It is possible to see a clear example of not approaching the people of power who represent the state by the people of truth in the attitudes of the four madhhab imams. All of those imams were oppressed by the current power when they lived. Abu Hanifa was against Umayyad sultans and he was imprisoned and tortured when he rejected the duty of being the chief judge during the period of Abbasids. Imam Malik was tortured by Abbasid sultan Mansur due to one of his ijtihads, which was not in compliance with the expectation of dominant power. Imam Shafii did not get on well with the people in power; after a short imprisonment, he had to go to Egypt, which was regarded as a distant province then, to study. It is known that Ahmad b. Hanbal was tortured severely in the palace of Ma'mun and that he died due to the effect of those tortures. (6)

It is possible to find many examples in the history of Islam showing that a great majority of both Sufis and scholars did not approach administrators very much so as to maintain the honor of ilm (knowledge/science) and so as not to be controlled by politicians. Some of them are as follows: 

Ibrahim b. Adham, the sufi, abandoned the sultanate he had but he became the sultan of hearts of millions of people even centuries after his death.  

What made Imam Ghazzali "Hujjatuul-Islam" was not becoming the head of the famous Nizamiya Madrasah but returning to his hometown by abandoning this duty and keeping away from the administrators of his time. He wrote tens of works including "İhyau Ulum'd-Din", "Kimya as-Sa’adah", "Ayyuhal Walad" in this period of seclusion. His statement, which is narrated to have been stated by him after his life of seclusion and while teaching people, is very famous: "In the past, I used to teach people the ilm that made them attain ranks and positions but now I teach them the ilm that make them abandon ranks and positions." (7)

Similarly, that no recordings showing that Mawlana Rumi, who lived in Konya, the capital city of Anatolian Seljuks, had a close relationship with the sultan exist can be shown as an example regarding the issue. (8)


1. Bahaüddin Varol, Ehl-i Beyt Gerçeği, Şamil Publications, İstanbul n.d., p. 258
2. Seyyid Abdulkadir-i Geylani, Seyyid Ahmed-i Bedevi, Seyyid Ahmed-i Rufâi, Seyyid İbrahim Desuki (Osmanlıca-Türkçe Büyük Lûgat, Türdav Publications.)
3. Badiuzzaman Said Nursi, Mektubat, p. 100-101.
4. Bahaüddin Varol, Ehl-i Beyt Gerçeği, Şamil Publications, İstanbul n.d., p. 57
5. Badiuzzaman Said Nursi, Lem'alar, 19. Lem'a, 7. Nükte.
6. Metin Karabaşoğlu, Devletçilik: Bir Zihniyetin Anatomisi, Köprü Periodical, Issue 58, p. 14.
7. İbrahim Kâfi Dönmez, "Gazzali", TDV İslam Ansiklopedisi, Vol. 13, İstanbul 1996, p. 493.
8. Karabaşoğlu, ibid, p. 14.

(Hikmet HOCAOĞLU, Köprü Periodical, Issue 91, 2005)

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