|The martyrdom of Imam `Ali (PBUH) in 41 AH led to the caliphate of Imam Hasan (PBUH). A few months later the caliphate was taken over by Mu`awiyah b. Abi Sufyan. Thus the era of the first caliphs came to a close with the coming to power of the first Umayyad ruler. The relatively peaceful transition of power to Mu`awiyah, together with his reign of 20 years brought, a period of political stability to the Muslim world which, in turn, contributed to the creation of an atmosphere of worldliness among the ordinary people and the ruling class. The thrust of the social and economic conditions of the time laid the ground for the spread of injustice on the part of the rulers and immorality throughout the society as a whole. The situation reached its peak after the coming to power of Mu`awiyah’s son Yazid (reigned 60 – 64 AH).
Imam Hasan (PBUH), the second Shi`ite imam (imamate 41 – 50 AH) stepped down from caliphate voluntarily (41 AH) and his followers did not attempt to mount an armed opposition against the Umayyads, a situation that continued until the death of Mu`awiyah, during the imamate of Imam Husayn (PBUH) (imamate 50 – 61 AH). However, the propagation of Shi`ite teachings by the scholars of the school and their emphasis on the need to fight against injustice and corruption prompted Mu`awiyah to, occasionally, breach his agreement with Imam Hasan (PBUH), according to which he promised not to harm a single one of the Shi`ites of Imam `Ali (PBUH), and to kill the likes of Hajar b. `Uday and `Amr b. Hamaq. The Shi`ite struggle against injustice and immorality reached its crescendo in the rising of Imam Husayn (PBUH) against Yazid in 61 AH. The struggle resulted in the Imam’s martyrdom and gave birth to the greatest religious epic in the history of Islam.
The tradition of armed rising against oppression and corruption was carried on in the coming decades by the members of Ahl al-Bayt (the members of the Prophet Muhammad’s household) (PBUT) such as Zayd, the son of the fourth Shi`ite imam Zany al-Abidin (PBUH). In fact, armed struggle came to be considered as a fundamental tenet of the Zaydi branch of Shi`ism. A similar view existed among a group of the Shi`ites of Kufah who recognized Muhammad b. Hanafiyyah (a non-Fatimite descendent of Imam `Ali (PBUH)) as imam. This served as a pretext for Mukhtar, who was one of the scholars of Iraq with an affinity for Imam `Ali (PBUH), to enlist for his cause the support of the Shi`ite community, a development which led to the formation of the short-lived sect of Kaysaniyyah. The mainstream of Shi`ism – with its Imami leader, Imam Zayn al-Abidin `Ali b. Husayn (PBUH) (imamate 61 – 95 AH) – was against armed insurrection, but it, one the less, continued to advocate a position of anti-materialism and fight against corruption and debauchery (H D 7:229).
The most controversial group of the 1st century AH was the Muhakkimah. In spite of the existence of the two opposing tendencies of armed rising and qu`ud (quietism), the whole movement was of one voice regarding the need for combating immorality. Throughout the period of 37 – 65 AH the movement was split between the moderates (Qa`adah) who advocated dissimulation (taqiyyah) and a passive stance towards oppressive regimes and the more firebrand Muhakkimah who supported armed insurrection. In fact, in the reign of Ziyad (45 – 53 AH) Iraq housed a large population of the Qa`adah who lived under peaceful conditions and even managed to receive gifts and positions in government. Ziyad’s overall policy towards the Muhakkimah was to punish those who resorted to forceful methods of opposition and to leave alone others who adopted a position of qu`ud.
Though the main body of scholars and supporters among the Muhakkimah hailed from Kufah the movement’s main hub of activity soon transferred to Basra. Abu Bilal Mardas b. Adiyyah (killed 61 AH) was among the prominent leaders of the movement and was respected by all branches of Muhakkimah. He advocated dissimulation and was vehemently opposed to armed confrontation (ist`rad). In spite of the existence of a wide array of tendencies among the members of the movement it is impossible to draw clear lines among them before 64 AH. Thus the “early Muhakkimah” would appear as an apt collective title for the members of the group as a whole. As regards their beliefs, they considered their enemies as apostates and subscribed to general views on imamate. However, very little is known about the beliefs of the early Muhakkimah and much of what later came to be deemed as their exclusive views date from the later history of the movement.