it is well known that the Household of the Prophet tried hard to preserve the rites of islam, to call Muslims to restore its glory, to unify their beliefs, and that they also strived to maintain the brotherhood of Islam and to remove malice and enmity from the hearts of the Muslims.
We cannot ignore imam Ali's dealings with his predecessors to the khilafah. He treated them with consideration although he believed that they had taken what was his right. He agreed with them and kept his peace with them, and refrained from expressing his opinion about his own right to the khilafah in public until after he had attained to it. Then he called together the remaining followers of the Prophet (those who were still alive and who had been present on the day of Ghadir when the Prophet had appointed All as his khalifah), so that they could bear witness to his appointment to the khilafah.
He never withheld his opinion about what was helpful or in the interests of Islam and the Muslims, and he often said:
I was afraid lest I should not help Islam and the Muslims, and that they would fail.
He said and did nothing against the position, power and authority of the khulafa', but kept himself to his house and remained silent, despite the fact that he saw what they were doing.
He acted thus for the sake of Islamic interests, up to the point where he was famous for his admirable qualitites. The second khalifah Umar ibn Khattab, said many times: "I would never encounter a difficulty without Abu al-Hasan being there to contribute to its solution."And "If it were not for 'Ali, Umar (himself) would have perished."
History cannot forget the way Imam Hasan (A.S.) dealt with Mu'awiyah. He made peace with him, because he realised that if he continued to fight, the light of the Qur'an and just government would be extinguished, and moreover the name of Islam would vanish for all time, the Divine shari'ah would be lost and the Imams that were to come would be obliterated. So he chose to protect the edifice of Islam and its name. For this reason, he made peace with Mu'awiyah, who was a resolute enemy of the religion and of Muslims, and who hated Imam Hasan and his followers. He knew that Mu'awiyah would deal unjustly with him and his companions, and, although he could have counted on his family and followers to fight for their rights and defend themselves, he believed that the highest interests of Islam were above all these things and more important than them.
It was for the same reason that the third Imam, Husayn, the Holy Martyr, rose up against the Banu Ummayah; for he realised that if they continued in their vicious ways without anyone taking arms against them and proclaiming their wicked intentions, they would eradicate Islam and its glory. Thus he wished to point out their oppression and iniquity for posterity, so as to expose their evil plans against the Prophet's religion. Naturally, events turned out as had been predicted. If it had not been for his holy campaign, Islam would have been recorded as a religion of the past, and it would have been thought a false religion.
In completing his holy campaign, following through and pursuing his sacred aim against iniquity and oppression, the Shi'a revive and remember the tragedy at Karbala every year and in various ways, as the Imams have commanded.
We should obtain a better and clearer understanding of how the Descendents of the Prophet tried hard to preserve the glory of Islam if we study the behaviour of Imam Zayn al-'Abidin towards the Umayyid kings, despite the fact that his family had been killed and that his reputation had been destroyed by them. He was continually despondent and heart-broken over the murder of his father and family by the Umayyids at Karbala, but, in spite of these things, he always prayed that the armies of the Muslims would be victorious, and secretly asked Allah to keep the Muslims in safety and to ensure the increase and glory of Islam. He propagated knowledge of Islam, and by means of prayer alone he taught his followers how they should ask Allah for victory for the Muslims. He said in his famous du'a' for the guardians of the frontiers of Islam:
O Allah! Send down peace upon Muhammad and his Family, increase their numbers, sharpen their swords, protect their homes, preserve their country, cause friendship to spread among them, improve their conduct, provide them with sustenance and the means of livelihood, help them, bestow on them patience, teach them the ways of cleverness...
(and then after calling for the wrath of Allah on the unbelievers)
OAllah! In this way strengthen the people of Islam, protect their lands, increase their property, let the soldiers of Islam be free from fighting that they might worship Thee privately.
Let nothing be worshipped over the whole of the earth but Thee. Let no-one prostrate himself before anyone but Thee.
Thus he continued his du'a' (it is one of his longest), telling of the duties of the Muslims armies, how they must behave and be of good character and have good equipment. It contains teachings on the Holy War (jihad), showing its purpose and its results, warning Muslims to keep clear of their enemies, instructing them how to deal with their attacks and defend themselves. It also contains instructions on their obligations, such as continual remembrance of Allah, avoidance of unlawful things and keeping the jihad pure for Allah.
Likewise, other Imams have dealt with the kings of their times, although they were being tortured and cruelly and severely maltreated by these kings with many kinds of suffering and pain. When they realised that an Islamic government was not going to be re-established, they tried their best to teach the religion to the people, pointing out to them the excellence of Islamic knowledge. No insurrection which happened either through some of their family or through others during these times was ordered by them; on the contrary, these were in opposition to their explicit orders, because they made the utmost effort to protect the government of Islam. No-one, not even the Abbasid khulafa' tried harder than them to protect it.
It is enough just to look at the advice of Imam Musa ibn Ja'far (A.S.) to his followers:
I charge you to obey your king and not to lose your strength through disobedience. If he is just, ask Allah to protect his life; if he is an oppressor, ask Allah to reform him. For your interests are identical with his interests. Verily, a just king is really like a father wish for him what you wish for yourselves, and do not wish for him what you do not wish for yourselves.
This is one of the best sayings on the subject of the protection of a king by his people: "wish for him what you wish for yourselves, and do not wish for him what you do not wish for yourselves.
Compare with this the great offence some writers who are contemporary with us have committed. They have spoken of the Shi'a as a hidden destructive group, as a band of revolutionaries and avengers. Now, it is correct that every Muslim who obeys the teachings of the Household should, from the moral point of view, despise oppression and oppressors, keep clear of them and their evil deeds, feel repugnance and contempt for them and their fellows and helpers and dislike them all. The Shi'a have had these feelings engrained in their souls from generation to generation. However, they are not rebels. Nor do they like to stir up trouble or foment insurrection against a rebellious government which says that it is an Islamic government, neither secretly nor openly.
The teachings of the Imams do not allow them suddenly to take the life of someone who is a Muslim, or to betray him, although his beliefs may differ from theirs. But, according to their teachings, a Muslim who professes tawhid and the nubuwwah of Mubammad (S.A.) is to be respected; his blood, his property and his family is secure. "It is not right to take the property of a Muslim except by his leave." All Muslims are brothers to each other, and to each of them belong the rights of brotherhood.
The Faith of shia Islam; Muhammad Rida al-Muzaffar