Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (A.S.): Leader of the Youth of Paradise

On the 15th of the holy month of Ramadan, the small mud house occupied by the Commander of the Faithful and Sayyida Fatima Zahra (peace be upon them) witnessed the birth of its first child. Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (peace be upon him) was born in Medina in the third year after Hijrah. His Islamic training was led by the two champions of Islam: the Prophet Muhammad educated him for eight years; his father, Imam Ali, was also his mentor for over 25 years. Despite being from the blessed lineage of the last Prophet and carrying the most sublime of virtue and worship, Imam Hasan was subjected to the worst slander and smear campaign cause by those who claim to be loyal to his grandfather (peace be upon him and his progeny).

Imamate:

The demise of the Holy Prophet was followed by an eventful era when the Islamic world (under the false ruling bodies) came in the grip of the fever of expansionism and conquest. But even under such a revolutionary phase, Imam Hasan kept devoting himself to the sacred mission of peacefully propagating Islam and the teachings of the Holy Prophet along with his great father Imam 'Ali. The martyrdom of Imam 'All on the 21st Ramadan marked the inception of Imam Hasan's Imamate. The majority of Muslims pledged their allegiance to him and finalized the formality of bay'ah (oath of allegiance). No sooner had he taken the reins of leadership into his hands than he had to meet the challenge of Mu'awiyah, the Governor of Syria, who declared a war against him. In compliance with the Will of Allah and with a view to refrain from causing the massacre of Muslims however, he entered into a piece treaty with Mu'awiyah on terms (though not totally respected and carried out by Mu'awiyah), yet saved Islam and stopped a civil war. But this peace treaty was never meant as a surrender by him of the permanent leadership to Mu'awiyah. It was meant only as an interim transfer of the administration of the Islamic kingdom, subject to the condition that the ad- ministration would be surrendered back to Imam Hasan after Mu'awiyah's death and then it would in turn be inherited by Imam Husayn. Having relieved himself of the administrative responsibilities, Imam Hasan kept the religious leadership with himself and devoted his life to the propagation of Islam and the teachings of the Holy Prophet in Medina.

Heir of the Prophet's Nobility
During the time in which the Prophet was suffering from the same illness that would later claim his life, Lady Fatima went to visit Him along with Imams Hasan and Hussain. "Apostle of God," she said, "these are your two (grand)sons. Give them something as an inheritance." The Holy Prophet replied, "As for al-Hasan, he has my form and my nobility. As for al-Hussain, he has my generosity and my bravery."
Just as his father and grandfather had served the poor and needy, Imam Hasan carried on this tradition and was widely recognized for his generosity and mercy towards those less fortunate. During his Imamate, the Imam refused to have his meals until he was certain the widows, orphans, and deprived of the community had eaten before him. On occasion, a beggar would approach the Imam during his meal, and characteristically, the Imam would give his meal to the beggar, leaving himself hungry.

The Leaders of the Youth of Paradise
Among the countless merits of the Second Imam was the title granted to him and his brother Imam Hussain: the Leaders of the Youth in Paradise. This epithet was designated to them by Prophet. According to various traditions from the Shia and Sunni sects, the Prophet's companions one day noticed him being overjoyed and happy. When they inquired as to why was so delighted, he replied, "How could I not delight when Jibraeel has already come to me and brought me news of Hasan and Hussain being masters of the youths of paradise?" (Silsilat al-Ahadeeth al-Saheeha, ch. 2 p. 444; Tareekh Ibn Asakir, ch. 13 p. 209)
The excellence of Imam Hasan is found in the many lofty and divine positions awarded to him and deservingly so. He is among the Twelve Imams to whom Allah made obedience obligatory and purified from sins. Imam Hasan was among the five people the Prophet covered with his cloak (Hadith Kisa). He also helps make up one of the two most worthy and praised items the Prophet left us before he passed away: the Holy Qur'an and Ahlul Bayt. Imam Hasan is one of those whose love Allah deemed as a reward for the message of Islam brought forth by the Holy Prophet.

His Piousness and Contentment:

Imam Hasan had the worldly possessions at his disposal and could have well enjoyed a luxurious life, but he utilized all of it in the betterment of the condition of the poor. He was so courteous and humble that he never hesitated to sit along with the beggars in the lanes and on the thoroughfares of Medina to reply to some of their religious queries. Through his cordial attitude and hospitality he never let the poor and the humble feel inferior to him when they visited his abode.

 

Pearls of Wisdom by Imam Hasan
Despite the efforts of the enemies of Ahlul Bayt to slander and demean the pure personality of Imam Hasan by accusing him of false and ungodly actions, the truth of his character is apparent. Imam Hasan strived during his lifetime to preserve Islam and protect Muslims from the devious measures of the caliphate of his time.
He left his followers with traditions that serve to guide us away from falsehood and darkness and into truthfulness and knowledge. A small selection of the prized and exalted quotes by Imam Hasan: "The greatness of those who came to know His greatness lies in their modesty. The dignity of those who came to know His glory lies in their humbleness. The security of those who came to know His power lies in their submission to God."
"O servants of God! Do have God fearing, and do know that God enables God fearing persons to overcome trials and to succeed in their affairs. He will also smooth the path of right for God-fearing people."
"The most preferable adornment is graceful manners."

 

Martyrdom:

Mu'awiyah's malice against Imam Hasan led him to conspire with the Imam's wife Ja'dah, the daughter of Ash'ath. She was made to give the Imam some poison which affected his liver. Imam Hasan thus succumbed to Mu'awiyah's fatal mischief and attained his martyrdom on 28th Safar 50 AH. His funeral was attended by Imam Husayn and the members of the Hashimite family. His bier while being taken for burial to the Holy Prophet's tomb was shot at with arrows by his enemies, (under direct supervision and consent of 'A'ishah), and it had to be diverted for burial to the Jannatu 'I-Baq;' at Medina. His tomb was demolished along with others on 8th Shawwal 1344 (21st April 1926) by the Saudi rulers when they came to power in .Hijaz. The terms of the peace treaty were soon violated, but earned only a short-lived glory for Mu'awiyah. Its aftermath proved disastrous and doomed the fate of his son Yzid and dealt a fatal blow to the entire family of Umayyads. After the death of Mu'awiyah, Imam Husayn emerged as the insurmountable mountain of truth and determination. In the gruesome tragedy of Karbala', by sheer force of numbers, and by isolating the seventy-two members of Imam Husayn' s party and stopping them from even getting water to drink for three days, Yazid succeeded in annihilating the seventy-two persons including members of the Imam's family who were with him. This dastardly success of Yazid was, however, short-lived. The Muslims turned against him on learning of the heinous act he had committed and this resulted in the downfall of Yazid and the extinction of the Umayyad power from the face of the earth.

 

References:
Akhlaq al-Aimma: Morals of the Imams
Al-Husayn Ibn 'Alee by Ibn al-Adeem, p.35
Kitab al Irshad, pp. 279 - 289