The Role of Aisha in the Controversial Burial of Imam al-Hassan (a)
*** Please note that the following accounts about Aisha are from Sunni historical books***
Before his martyrdom, Imam Hassan al-Mujtaba (peace be upon him) had expressed his desire to be laid to rest beside his grandfather, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family), or to reaffirm his allegiance to him, as he was the most deserving and the primary heir to his legacy. Nevertheless, when he was martyred, and his trustee, Imam al-Hussain (peace be upon him), sought to fulfill this request, Aisha intervened. Riding a mule from her home, she arrived at the sacred chamber, leading a band of Banu Umayyah ruffians to obstruct al-Hassan’s (peace be upon him) burial near the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family).
Aisha claimed that the house was hers and declared she did not want anyone she disliked to be interred there. She then commanded that the funeral procession of the Prophet’s grandson (peace be upon him and his family) be showered with arrows, even joining in herself. This act nearly sparked a war, threatening to unleash further bloodshed. As a result, Imam al-Hussain (peace be upon him) was compelled to redirect the funeral procession to al-Baqi cemetery, where his brother (peace be upon him) was ultimately buried, in accordance with his wish to prevent any blood from being spilled during his funeral and burial, regardless of the circumstances.
Many historical texts recount this famous incident, scattered throughout the sources of both factions. Among them is the account by Ibn Abdul Barr: “When al-Hassan died, they wanted to bury him in the house of the Prophet (peace be upon him), but Aisha refused! She mounted a mule and gathered people! Ibn Abbas said to her, ‘It seems you want it to be called the Day of the Mule, just as it was said the Day of the Camel?’ She replied, ‘May God have mercy on you; that day has been forgotten!’ He said, ‘No day is more memorable than that throughout time.’ [Bahjat Al-Majalis by Ibn Abdul Barr, p. 34]”
Al-Masudi narrates: “Imam al-Hussain (peace be upon him) had resolved to bury Hasan with the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family). However, Aisha opposed this and mounted her mule, rallying people against him and inciting them. When al-Hussain (peace be upon him) saw this, he buried al-Hassan in al-Baqi cemetery next to his mother. As she was returning to her house, a member of the Banu Hashim clan – reported to be Ibn Abbas – confronted her and said, ‘Is it not enough that there was the Day of the Camel, and now there is to be the Day of the Mule? One day on a camel, another day on a mule, standing out against the veil of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family). You want to extinguish the light of Allah! By Allah, His light will be perfected, even if the disbelievers dislike it. To Allah we belong and to Him is our return.’ She replied to him, ‘Get away from me, woe to you!’ [Al-Masudi’s Ithbat al-Wasiyya, p. 173]”
One of Aisha’s relatives attempted to mitigate her guilt, claiming that Marwan ibn al-Hakam and the Banu Umayyah were on the verge of fighting Banu Hashim that day to prevent the burial of al-Hassan (peace be upon him) besides his grandfather (peace be upon him and his family). Aisha, fearing bloodshed, joined the opposition. Al-Mada’ini narrates from Hisham ibn Urwah – who, as mentioned, was Aisha’s nephew – who said: “At the time of his death, al-Hassan said: ‘Bury me next to the tomb of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family), unless you fear that this may cause harm.’ When they wanted to bury him, Marwan ibn al-Hakam said: ‘Uthman is not buried in the courtyard of the Prophet’s Mosque, so why should al-Hassan be buried here?’ The Banu Hashim and Banu Umayyah gathered, with people supporting both sides, and they came armed. Abu Hurairah said to Marwan: ‘Would you prevent al-Hassan from being buried in this place when I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family) say: al-Hassan and al-Hussain are the masters of the youth of Paradise?’ Marwan replied: ‘Leave us alone! The teachings of the Messenger of Allah have been lost since only you and Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri preserved them! You only converted during the days of Khaybar!’ Abu Hurairah said: ‘You’re right, I converted during the days of Khaybar, but I stayed close to the Messenger of Allah and never left his side. I asked him questions, and through that, I learned who he loved and disliked, who he brought close and distanced, who he approved of and rejected, who he cursed, and who he prayed for.’ When Aisha saw the weapons and the men, and feared that the situation would escalate and blood would be shed, she said: ‘This house is my house, and I do not permit anyone to be buried in it!’ Imam al-Hussain (peace be upon him) insisted on burying al-Hassan next to his grandfather. Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah said to him: ‘My brother if he had instructed us to bury him there, we would have done so or died trying. However, he made an exception, saying: ‘Unless you fear harm.’ What greater harm is there than what we are in now?’ So, they buried him in al-Baqi cemetery.” [Sharh al-Nahj by Ibn Abi al-Hadid, vol. 16, p. 14]
In a melancholy light, one observes the narration, as recounted by Aisha’s nephew, striving to absolve her in a manner not corroborated by other accounts from diverse sources. These alternative narrations depict Aisha as the architect, agitator, and leader of this sorrowful campaign, much like her role in the Battle of the Camel. One day astride a mule, another on a camel.
Regrettably, even if Hisham’s account were accurate, it would still incriminate Aisha, for she chose to stand with the Banu Umayyah rather than the Banu Hashim, siding with those who opposed the burial of the Prophet’s beloved grandson (peace be upon him and his family) next to him. Why did she not, with a heavy heart, support Banu Hashim and confront the Banu Umayyah, proclaiming, “This house is mine, and I shall not permit you to prevent al-Hassan from being laid to rest here with his grandfather!”? Such a stance could have brought solace and averted further bloodshed.
Alas, it seems that Aisha’s “endeavors for reconciliation” only materialized at the expense of the Ahlul Bait (peace be upon them) and Banu Hashim, while providing succor to the family of Abu Sufyan and Banu Umayyah, deepening the sadness surrounding these events.
Our hearts are weighed down with the knowledge that Aisha was indeed the driving force behind this unjust and hostile campaign, a conviction that is only deepened by the numerous, sorrowful narrations from the infallible Imams (peace be upon them) and their companions on this matter. These detailed accounts paint a somber picture of Aisha, Marwan ibn Al-Hakam, and the Banu Umayyah’s criminal roles, in stark contrast to the opposition’s more ambiguous narrations, which nevertheless point a finger of blame at Aisha as the leader of the campaign, as previously mentioned.
The Shooting of the Confine
Al-Dhahabi and Ibn Asakir narrated – with the latter’s phrasing – a testimony from Imam al-Hassan (peace be upon him) by Hassan ibn Muhammad ibn Al-Hanafiyya: “Marwan sent word to Muawiyah informing him of al-Hassan’s death, and that they intended to bury him next to the Prophet, but swore that they would never allow it to happen as long as he was alive! When al-Hussain ibn Ali arrived at the Prophet’s grave (peace be upon him), he ordered: ‘Dig here.’ Sa’id ibn al-Aas, the commander refused and would not stand between them. Marwan then called upon the Banu Umayyah, rallying them and arming them. He declared: ‘This will never happen!’ al-Hussain responded: ‘O son of Zarqaa! What business do you have with this? Are you a guardian?!’ Marwan insisted: ‘This will never happen, nor will it be allowed as long as I am alive!’ al-Hussain then cried out, swearing by the alliance of the Fudul. The Banu Hashim, Taym, Zahra, Asad, and Banu Ja’unah from the Banu Layth tribe, all armed themselves. Marwan raised a banner, and al-Hussain ibn Ali raised a banner as well. The Hashimites proclaimed: ‘He will be buried next to the Prophet (peace be upon him).’ The two sides started shooting arrows at each other!” [Siyar A’lam Al-Nubala by Al-Dhahabi, Vol. 3, p. 276, and Tarikh Dimashq by Ibn Asakir, Vol. 13, p. 291]
As for Fath al-Din al-Hanafi, he confirmed the prevention of al-Hassan’s (peace be upon him) burial next to his grandfather (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) and that this prevention also involved the stoning of his funeral procession. He said: “Know that it is proven that the funeral procession of al-Hassan was pelted with stones and other objects, and he was prevented from being buried.” [Fulk al-Najat by Fath al-Din al-Hanafi, p. 55]
As we observe these narrations and similar accounts from Sunni historians, they substantiate the occurrence of a spear-throwing confrontation during the funeral procession of the esteemed grandson (peace be upon him). Yet, these narrations refrain from disclosing the extent of the damage inflicted upon the noble procession by the spears, as well as who initiated the assault and emboldened others to join. The sole rationale for this reticence is an endeavor to obscure Aisha’s involvement. It is evident that she was the first to launch an arrow, followed by the Banu Umayyah and their Syrian troops, resulting in the venerable funeral procession being struck by a staggering seventy arrows!
Ibn Shahrashub narrated from Ibn Abbas, describing the events that transpired at the time: “They hurled arrows at his funeral procession until it was struck by seventy arrows!” [Al-Manaqib by Ibn Shahrashub, Vol. 3, p. 204]
Al-Shahid al-Tustari mentioned that Aisha “rode on a mule along with Marwan and a group of her followers to oppose the burial, leading to the confrontation between her and Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him), as previously mentioned. Consequently, the funeral procession of al-Hassan (peace be upon him) was bombarded with arrows, some of which even reached his noble body!” [Al-Sawarim al-Muhriqa by al-Shahid al-Tustari, p. 161]
Hence, it was Aisha who encouraged them to assault the dignified funeral procession, an action that unveiled her degradation, misconduct, and hostility towards the master of the youth of paradise. Even Marwan himself, who was immersed in disbelief and wrongdoing, did not initiate such an act, nor did any of the adversaries of the Ahlul Bait (peace be upon them) in that situation, including the army of the people of Sham in Medina. Aisha, however, openly proceeded with her actions, revealing her complete contempt for the principles of Islamic law. The law prohibits such actions even if the deceased was a disbeliever. So how could she do this to the very essence of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him and his family)?