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Marwan bin Hakam : The Accursed Tree

The Almighty Allah has identified enemies of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his Ahle Bait (a.s.) in His Book. He distinguished right from wrong and oppressors from the oppressed. Yet, the supporters of tyranny did not pay heed. Which is why perhaps, the Holy Quran has reiterated: “Do you enjoin others to do good and neglect your own self while you read the Book (Quran), then don’t you have any wisdom?” 

(Surah Baqarah: 44) 

Why don’t you utilize your intellect”? has been asked thirteen times in the Holy Quran. Similarly “so that you may perceive”, and “they don’t perceive” have been repeatedly mentioned in the Majestic Quran.   The Almighty Allah has declared in the same book that. “And the dream which has been shown to you is in fact a source of trial for the people And similarly the accursed tree (mentioned) in the Holy Quran.”  

Who is accursed? Ibne Jurair Tabari, Ibne Abi Hatim, Ibne Marduwiyeh, Salabi, Ibne Asaakir and Baihaqi have related from Hazrat Husain bin Ali (a.s.), Suhail bin
Sa’ad Ibne Umar and Saeed bin Musaiyyab that ‘One day the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) dreamt that Hakam bin al-Aas’s, (from Ummayyid lineage) sons are jumping like monkeys on his (Prophet’s) pulpit. This dream aggrieved him so much that he did not laugh for the rest of his life. 

(Tafseer-e-Tabari, 15/ 77, Al-Durrul-Mansur, vol.4 pg. 191)

From other prominent exegesis of Sunnis, it be­comes obvious that the accursed tree denotes the descendants of Bani Umayyah. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) saw Hakam bin Al-Aas the father of Marwan caricaturing him. Hakam was the uncle of Caliph Usman. Hakam was externed from Medina at the behest of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).  

Hakam bin Al-Aas bin Unrmaiyyah bin Abdus-Shams Al-Quraishi was the uncle of Usman and father of Marwan. According to a statement of Ibn Sa’ad, he embraced Islam at the fall of Mecca and chose to reside in Medina . But due to his misdemeanors, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) externed him from Medina and ordered him to stay in Taef. But Usman recalled him in his tenure of caliphate. 

(Al-Isaaba fi tameez al-Sahaba by Ibn Hajar Asqalani, vol.1 pg. 325)

 Ibn Abdil Birr has stated the reason for his externment from Medina . The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) used to have his confidential meetings with his close companions. Hakam somehow managed to learn the essence of the secret discussions and made it public. Besides, he also used to mimic the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Once he was also caught by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in the act.

(Al-Istiaab by Ibn Abdil Birr, this book was published as a marginal note with Al-Isaaba hence vide Al-Isaaba vol.1 p. 317/ 318)

  When Hakam was externed from Medina , Marwan was hardly 7 or 8 years old. He left for Taef along with his father. Even during the reign of Abu Bakr and Umar, he was not allowed to enter Medina. But defying the norms of both his predecessors, Usman recalled him. Moreover, he appointed Hakam’s son Marwan as his advisor.  

The renowned scholar of the Indian subcontinent, Abul Ala Maududi has written that ” …It was highly difficult for the people to accept that the son of this chastised man deserved to be an advisor of the caliph and was preferred over venerable com­panions of the time. Especially when Marwan’s father was alive and was capable of influencing the government affairs.” 

(Khilafat wa Mulukiyat, p. 110-111)

The Curse of Ayesha, the daughter of Abu Bakr was also sick and disgusted with the mischief of Marwan. For instance, once she remarked, “O Marwan! I testify that you the one whose father Hakam was cursed by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) while you  were still in his loins” 

(Al-Istiaab, vol.2, pg 318)  

About the verse of ‘the accursed tree’ Suyuti has quoted Ayesha that she addressed Marwan thus, “I have heard the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) saying about your father and grandfather that “You are the ac­cursed tree”

(Tafsire-Durrul-Mansur, vol. 4, pg. 1919)

 According to another narrative, Ayesha told Marwan, “God cursed your father while you were still in his loins, hence you too are included among the accursed

(Tafseere-Qurtubbi, p. 390, Tafseere-Kabir, vol.2, p. 238)

 Ibn Abi Hatim has related from Ba’adli bin Murrah that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)
said: “The accursed tree denotes Hakam and his offspring”. 

(Durrul-Mansur, vol.4 pg. 191).  


Following are some of the incidents from the life of Marwan which will expose his mischievous scheming. These glimpses will also raise ques­tions for just and right minded people that whether such men deserved to rule the Islamic nation? 

Qazi Zainul Abedin Sajjad Meeruthi wrote on p. 117-118 in the third section of his book Tarikhe-Millat, “Usman appointed Marwan as his scribe and secretary and his royal seal was in the latter’s custody. It was he who had signed the death ordinance (on behalf of Usman) for the Egyptians who had come to complain to Usman. Marwan placed Usman’s seal on the letter and the consequent development led to Usman’s assas­sination”.

  Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri writes about the letter which Marwan wrote about Muhammad bin Abi Bakr’s appointment to the governorship of Egypt that “Usman
appointed Muhammad bin Abi Bakr as Egypt’s governor and instructed his scribe Marwan, to write that when ‘Muhammad bin Abu Bakr comes to you accept him’. Marwan (out of mischief) wrote “kill him”. This caused a major flare-up”.

(Khilafat wa Mulukiyat wa Ulama-e-Ahle-Sunnat p. 82-83)

 Maulana Abdul Shakoor Lucknowi, who is known as Imam among Sunnis, writes about the incident of the Muhammad bin Abi Bakr that “When the writing (of the letter) was identified, it was found to be written by Marwan…. But Usman refused to conduct any inquiry or take any punitive action against Marwan despite the demand of the Companions. For, Marwan was his close relative and moreover his own ‘lenient’ nature did not allow Usman to use his authority and hurt Marwan’. (Khulafae-Rashedeen pg. 198).  

A learned teacher of Deoband, Maulana Muhammad writes in the monthly journal of the Seminary, “Even this incident is recorded in bold letters in authentic history that ….. the famous mischief-monger of Umayyad clan, taking advantage of Usman’s old age and senility, not only awakened the strong sentiment of their clan but declared an open front against Bani Hashim!’ 

(Mahname Darul-Uloom, Deoband, De­cember, 1965)

 Some short-sighted writers like Maulana Zafar Ahmed Usmani not only tried to defend Marwan bin Hakam in his book ‘Barate-U   smani’ (pg.38) but also eulo­gized Marwan. He has also mentioned him with holy words like ‘May Allah be pleased with him’.

  On the contrary, the verdict of Shah Abdul Aziz Dehlavi is: The love of Ahle Bait is a part of obligation of the faith and not from the traditional necessities. The love of Ahle Bait entails that Marwan should be abused and cursed. Espe­cially since he misbehaved with Imam Husain (a.s.) and his holy household and was inimical to them. In view of such immoral acts, one’s soul detests this man who has satanical characteristics in him”. 

(Fatawae-Azizi, Kamil, pg. 380-381).  

A keen analysis of the verdict reveals that

(1) According to Muhaddis Dehlavi, love of Ahle Bait is part of faith and without their love, faith will not be regarded complete.

(2) Detesting the enemies of Ahle Bait and remain­ing aloof from them, is the real love of Ahle Bait.  

Marwan and Karbala

The first person to implement the nefarious designs of Yazid, was Marwan. It was he who suggested to kill Imam Husain (a.s.). Following are the historic incidents
which led to the catastrophe of Karbala.  

After the death of Muawiya in 60A.H., the first move of Yazid was to write a letter to the governor of Medina, Walid bin Utbah, asking him to extract allegiance from
Imam Husain (a.s.), Abdur Rahman bin Abi Bakr, Abdullah bin Umar and Abdullah bin Zubair on his behalf. And if they refuse to comply, they should be beheaded and their heads dispatched to Yazid. Walid, on receipt of the letter, sent for Marwan who counseled that everyone of them will pay allegiance except Imam Husain (a.s.) with whom Walid should deal very strictly. At this Walid sent for Ibn Zubair and Imam Husain (a.s.), both of whom were in the Masjid. Imam Husain (a.s.) said that he had a dream last night in which he saw that Muawiya had died and Yazid wants to extract allegiance from him. Before Imam Husain (a.s.) could leave the Masjid, another messenger came saying that Walid was waiting for you. Imam Husain (a.s.) replied that he will meet Walid in a while. Then he went to his house and garnered thirty brave fighters of Bani Hashim and went to visit Walid. The Hashmite youth as per the instruction of Imam (a.s.) waited outside the palace. Walid received Imam (a.s.) with due honor, informed him about Muawiya’s death and mentioned about Yazid’s allegiance. Imam (a.s.) replied that it is a serious business and he will express his viewpoint in front of a gathering. Walid asked him to visit him the next day. Even as Imam Husain (a.s.) was answer­ing Walid’s proposition, Marwan butted in saying that if Imam Husain (a.s.) is left off today, then Walid will never be able to get him and a massive blood-shed will occur. Marwan reiterated, “Coerce him to pay allegiance now and if he refuses, then behead him instantly.” This infuriated Imam Husain (a.s.) and he roared, “How dare you talk of killing me. You are a pathological liar and a sinner.” Saying this, he walked out of the court.   Some of the historians have recorded the dialogue between Walid and Imam Husain (a.s.) more elabo­rately. Kamil in his history, Ibn Shahre-Ashob in his Manaqib and Tabari have related the dialogues with minor differences. Some of them have written that when Marwan tried to pressurize Imam Husain (a.s.) into paying allegiance, Imam Husain (a.s.) said. “We have come from God and unto Him shall we return. If the likes of Yazid can become caliph, then one should bid adieu to Islam. I have heard my grandfather (the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as saying that caliphate is forbidden for the progeny of Abu Sufyan”. The atmosphere got vitiated and the exchanges became more and more vitriolic. The youth of Bani Hashim who all had become restive by now, barged into the courtroom and a bloody skirmish became imminent. It was only by the intervention of Imam Husain (a.s.) that the youths were pacified. Then they all left the courtroom and returned home. 

(Nafasul Mahmoom, p. 30-31).

 Marwan’s epithet was Abdul Malik, he was the first man from Bani Hakam bin Abil-Aas. Hence his descendants are referred to as Bani Marwan. He was born in Mecca in the second year of hijrat. He chose Medina as his base during the reign of the third caliph. After the killing of Usman, he along with Talha, Zubair, and Ayesha went to Basra. He supported Muawiya in the battle of Siffin. In 42 A.H., Muawiya appointed him the governor of Medina. When Abdullah bin Zubair externed him from Medina, he went to Syria and remained instrumental in many a
mischievous turmoil in Medina and Syria. He was still in Tadmir when Yazid’s son Muawiya attained the throne of caliph­ate. Marwan who by now had become too old went to a place called Habiah near Houren and staked his claim for caliphate. In 64 A.H., the people of Jordan did pay allegiance to him. Then he went to Syria and from there he went to Egypt again. He appointed his son Abdul Malik as the governor of Egypt and left for Damascus. .

Since Marwan was unusually tall and had an uneven body, he was nicknamed Khabte-Batil (the thread of evil). About Marwan’s death it is said that while he was sleeping, his wife smothered his face with a pillow and held onto it until he breathed his last.

(Lughatnama of Dehkuda pg. 228, 220/431)

 The author of Muntahal Adab has written in Section Meem p. 1185 that though Marwan was born during the time of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a), he could not have the honor of meeting him.

December 7, 2020