Abu Hasan al-Tabari (d. 1110) on Yazid b. Mu’awiya (d. 683)

Abū al-Ḥasan ‘Alī al-Tabarī, known as Al-Kiyā al-Harrāsī, was an important Iranian Shafi’i jurist and Ash’ari theologian who lived in the early Seljuk period. He was one of the most prominent students of Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwaynī (d. 1085), with whom he studied in Nishapur. He held the position of chief judge during the reign of Malik-Shah (r. 1072–1092) and was one of the most important professors at the Nizamiyya madrasa in Baghdad, the most prestigious learning institution in the Sunni Muslim world. In addition to being a prominent jurist and a senior theologian, he was also a master of prophetic traditions (hadith) and many of the most prominent muhaddithun of Baghdad studied under him. The following fatwa that he issued against Yazīd b. Mu‘āwiya is preserved by Ibn Khallikān (d. 1282) in his Wafayāt al-A‘yān (Biographies of the Notables). Ibn Khallikan was himself a Shafi’i jurist and historian from Irbil in Mesopotamia. As a young man, he studied in Aleppo and Damascus and met the renowned historian and chronicler Ibn al-Athir (d. 1233). He served as chief judge (qādī al-qudāt) of the Shafi’i madhab in Damascus during the Mamluk period. His famous aforementioned work is a monumental biographical dictionary which contains invaluable information about hundreds of Muslim scholars, princes, and poets. It also preserves many important documents—fatwas, epistles, poems etc.—which would otherwise have been lost to the modern historian. The following fatwa, in which Abū al-Ḥasan ‘Alī al-Tabarī, gives a short answer to a question about the permissibility of cursing Yazīd, is one such document.


“Al-Kiyā al-Harrāsī [Abū al-Ḥasan ‘Alī al-Tabarī, d. 1110] was once asked about his opinion about Yazīd b. Mu‘āwiya. He replied: “Yazīd is not considered from among the Companions since he was born in the caliphate of ‘Umar [b. al-Khaṭṭāb, r. 634–644], may God be pleased with him. As for the opinions of our early scholars on this issue, Ahmad [b. Ḥanbal] has two opinions: one that Yazīd should be only implicitly cursed and another in which he asserts that he should be openly cursed. Mālik [b. Anas] and Abū Ḥanīfa each have two identical positions on the matter. As for myself, I have only one position and that is that Yazīd should be openly cursed. How can I say anything else when it is well known that Yazīd played backgammon, hunted with leopards, and was addicted to alcohol? His poetry in praise of wine is notorious, and this is an example:

‘When the wine-cup gathered my companions, and the musicians sang to encourage the joys of love

I bade them to fully enjoy the pleasures and delight, for even things which last the longest must end’”

He [al-Kiyā al-Harrāsī] wrote a long response before turning over the letter and writing on the back: “If I had any additional space, I would have written an even lengthier response that would have exposed all the infamies of this man. Signed by so-and-so [‘Alī b. Muhammad].”

[Abū al-‘Abbās b. Khallikān (d. 1282), Wafiyāt al-A’yān wa Anbā’ Abnā’ al-Zamān (Beirut: Dar Sader, 1972 ) edited by Ihsan Abbas, Vol. 3: 287–288]


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