A famous statement from Imam Hassan says:
"The ruin of people lies in three things: arrogance, greed and envy. It was due to arrogance that Satan deprived himself of God’s mercy. It was greed that caused Adam to be expelled from the garden. It was envy the source of evil that made Cain kill his brother Abel."
What a beautiful piece of advice indeed. It reminds us to be sincere and cautious in our life. Lets cast a brief glance at the life of the great man who expressed such dynamic phrases. He was the doyen of truth and knowledge. He was born in 3 AH in Medina. The Prophet as per the message conveyed by the archangel Gabriel, named him "Hassan", which means excellent and is the Arabic equivalent of Shabar, the name of Aaron’s elder son.
Once the Prophet’s companions had gathered around him near Mount Hera when Imam Hassan who was just a toddler joined them. The holy Prophet cast an affectionate look and then addressing the gathering said: Beware Hassan is the reviver of Sunnah or practices. His deeds are the same as mine. Blessed is the one who is cognizant of his rights and respects him for my sake. Respect him for my sake.
Imam Hassan (AS) bore a striking resemblance to the Prophet in manners and appearance. He was the picture of humbleness, patience and generosity. Three times in his brief life of 47 years he gave away in charity half of his entire possessions for the sake of God, thus earning the title Kareem Ahl al-Bait for his great munificence. No person ever disclosed his problems to Imam Hassan (AS), but he was provided all sorts of relief and succor.
Once when a person came to the Imam, before saying anything, the Imam gave him money. The man was deeply surprised and the Imam smiled and said: "We are the people who instill hopes in hearts." We donate before a demand is made so as to spare any embarrassment for persons in need. During the lifetime of the Prophet, he along with his younger brother, Imam Hussein (AS), used to frequently accompany the Prophet to the mosque.
Whatever he heard from the Prophet, he would recount to his mother Hazrat Fatema Zahra (peace upon her) on returning home. It was the habit of his father Imam Ali (AS) to ask him different questions in public so that the people would become aware of the God-given knowledge of Imam Hassan (AS). No doubt, a famous Hadith from the Prophet calls Imam Hassan and Imam Hussein (peace upon them), as "Leaders of the Youth of Paradise."
Imam Hassan (AS) was around 8 years old when the Prophet left the mortal world. At the age of 37 years following the martyrdom of his father Imam Ali (AS), he became the 2nd divinely appointed successor of the Prophet. Imam Hassan (AS) was known for his farsightedness and used to make judicious decisions at sensitive junctures. The people pledged allegiance to him as caliph in Kufa but not all of them were sincere Muslims.
There were many who paid only lip service to Islam and were easily swayed by the anti-Islamic propaganda of the crafty rebel governor of Syria, Mu’awiyah ibn Abu Sufyan. Imam Hassan (AS) noticed there were very few self-sacrificing persons among his companions, since each of the groups that had pledged political allegiance to him as the caliph, pursued specific objectives.
The Imam knew that such people lacked the stomach to stand up for justice. Soon the propaganda of Mua’wiyah deceived most of them, and they started putting pressure upon Imam Hassan (AS) to make peace with the rebel. The Imam pointed to them the folly of dealing with hypocrites but they did not listen. Many of them started deserting the Imam after accepting bribes from Mua’wiyah. Some even started plotting against the life of Imam Hassan (AS).
The Imam sensed the sensitivity of the situation and in order to preserve the pure and pristine principles of Islam and the Sunnah of the Prophet, he decided to enter into truce with Mua’wiyah. After signing the treaty, although on certain terms and conditions, Imam Hassan (AS) relinquished political rule and retired to his hometown Medina. His right of caliphate had been usurped but no one could take from his the God-given spiritual right of imamate.
In Medina, he strengthened the intellectual base of Muslims and guided people towards enlightenment. He promoted moral virtue in society while Mua’wiyah broke all terms and conditions he had made with the Imam in acquiring the caliphate. The people of Iraq realized the folly they had made by turning their backs on the righteous successor of the Prophet but it was too late now. The Omayyuds had imposed their tyrannical rule on the Muslims that would remain forever an ugly blot.
There was a chaos and exploitation everywhere. In Medina, however, Imam Hassan (AS) continued his cultural and social activities to keep alive the Islamic sentiments of the people. This was anathema to Mua’wiyah and he contrived to harm the Imam but he could not do open bodily harm in view of the position of the Prophet’s progeny and the vivid memories in public minds of the exemplary rule of social justice Imam Ali (AS).
Finally in 50 AH, through a traitor in the house, he had a fatal dose of poison administered to the Prophet’s elder grandson, as a result of which the liver of Imam Hassan (AS) was badly cut and he coughed up its bloodstained pieces. It was a tragic spectacle. Medina was a picture of profound grief, and on Safar 28, on the 39th anniversary of the passing away of his grandfather the Prophet, Imam Hassan (AS) left world for his heavenly abode. He attained martyrdom and when his body was prevented from burial beside the Prophet, he was laid to rest in the Baqie Cemetery.