Please enlighten us on who was Yazeed ibn Mu`aawiyah? He was once the Caliph of Muslims? In which era did he live and was he considered righteous?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.
Yazid`s full name is Yazid ibn Muawiyah ibn Abu Sufyan (Radhi allahu an Muawiyah wa Abi Sufyan). His father was Muawiyah (may Allah be pleased with him) and his mother was Maysoon. His father, Muawiyah, and his grandfather, Abu Sufyan, (may Allah be pleased with them both) were blessed with the companionship of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Yazid was born in Shawwal 25 or 26 or 27 (AH) during the reign of the third rightly-guided Caliph Uthman ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) and passed away when he was approximately 40 years of age on Thursday, 14th Rabi al-Awwal 64 (AH). He is buried in Damascus and his funeral prayer was led by his son, also named, Muawaiyah.
Yazid was appointed by his father Muawiyah (may Allah be pleased with him) to be a Caliph after his demise and thus Yazid ruled after his father`s demise from Rajab 60 (AH) till his death. He is reported to have had great leadership skills and knowledge.  He was honoured in the year 49 or 50 AH to perform Hajj after being in the first army to wage a war to conquer the city of Qustuntiniyyah (Constantinople, present-day Istanbul) regarding whom Allah`s Messenger (peace be upon him) gave glad tidings.
He met and lived amongst the Sahaba and narrated Prophetic traditions too. He is described as handsome, long-haired and tall. He had fifteen sons and five daughters from different wives.[NB: The brief life, events revolving around him, and incidents pertaining to him can be read in Al-Bidayah wa an-Nihayah, 4: 625-636, Dar al-Ma`rifah, Beirut]
However, in relation to the righteousness and innocence of Yazid bin Muawiyah (Radhi Allahu an Muawiyah), Imam Ibn Kathir (may Allah have mercy on him) states:
وقد أورد ابن عساكر أحاديث في ذم يزيد بن معاوية كلها موضوعة لا يصح شيئ منها وأجود ما ورد ما ذكرناه على ضعف أسانيده وانقطاع بعضه والله أعلم
Paraphrase: The entire collection of reports condemning Yazid bin Muawiyah (Radhi Allahu an Muawiyah) are weak or fabricated.
There are many conflicting narrations regarding Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah. Some narrations describe him as being addicted to dancing, wine and music. (Al-Bidayah wa ‘l-Nihayah11:659) He was also accused of leg’Alizing adultery. Some regard him responsible for the martyrdom of Husayn (Allah be pleased with him). Based on these narrations, some ‘ulamaregarded it permissible to curse him and even passed the verdict of kufr (disbelief) on him.
There are however, other narrations that describe him as a pious and learned leader. He is also praised for his night prayers. He was very disheartened at the martyrdom of Husayn (Allah be pleased with him) and he also cursed the killer. Based on these narrations, there are ‘ulama who hold him in great esteem.
A third group of ‘ulama prefer silence and hand over his matter to Allah. This is the view of the vast majority of ‘ulama including the (majority of the) ‘ulama of Deoband. (Aap Ke Masa’il Aur Unka Hal 1:171)
Ibn al-Salah (Allah have mercy on him) mentions: “The people have divided in three groups with regards to Yazid. One group loves him and (accepts him) as a leader. Another group criticises and curses him. (The third) group is moderate towards him. They do not (accept him) as a leader, nor do they curse him. They treat him (as they treat) all other kings and leaders (besides the Khulafa al-Rashidin and their likes). This group is on the correct part.” (Aap Ke Masa’il Aur Unka Hal 1:172 with reference to Ma’arif al-Sunan 6:8)
The reason for this stance is that many reports condemning Yazid are weak, especially in view of the fact that many senior Sahabah (Allah be pleased with them) took allegiance to Yazid. Yazid’s love for the family of Husayn (Allah be pleased with him) is also recorded in many narrations. Consider the following:
‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with him) and groups from the household of Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) did not break their allegiance nor pledge to anyone else after pledging to Yazid, as Imam Ahmad narrates (with a chain) to Nafi’ who said : “When the people retreated from Yazid bin Mu’awiyah, Ibn ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with him) gathered his children and family and called out; ‘Verily we have pledged allegiance to this man on the pledge of Allah and His Messenger, and verily I have heard Allah’s messenger say: “On the day of Qiyamah, a flag will be erected for a person who deceives. It will be said: ‘This is the deception of a certain person. And verily the greatest deception besides associating partners to Allah is that a person pledges to another on the pledge of Allah and his messenger, and then breaks his pledge.’” None of you should retreat from Yazid in this matter nor should you exceed any bounds. That will then be a decisive criterion between me and him.” Imam Muslim and Tirmidhi also narrated this on the authority of Sakhr bin Juwayriyyah (R.A) and Imam Tirmidhi has graded it as hasan and sahih. Abu ‘l-Hasan ‘Ali bin Muhammad bin ‘Abdullah bin Abi Sayf al-Mada’iny narrates (this incident) from Sakhr bin Juwayriyyah from Nafi’ from Ibn ‘Umar. (Al-Bidayah wa ‘l-Nihayah 11:652)
‘Ali bin Husayn (Allah have mercy on him) mentions: “We entered Damascus on our return from Kufa. Many people had gathered at the door of Yazid. I was taken to him and (found him) seated on a bed. By his side there were people from Sham, and Hijaz who were all silent. I was at the head of my family (therefore) I saluted (first). Yazid asked: “Who of you is ‘Ali bin Husayn?” I responded to him. He commanded that I be brought closer to him so much until my chest was just above his bed. Thereafter he said: “Know well, if your father came to me so that I could join ties with him and fulfil his rights (I would have gladly done so) but Ibn Ziyad, may Allah’s curse be on him, was too fast.” I responded: “Oh Amir al-Mu’minin, we are overtaken with dissension.” Yazid replied: “May Allah remove this dissension.” I submitted: “Our wealth has been snatched. Make a note that it should be returned to us.” He immediately recorded it down. Thereafter Yazid said: “Stay by me so that I can fulfil your needs and show kindness to you.” I answered that Madinah is much more beloved to me. Yazid retorted: “Being close to me is better for you.” I submitted: “My family is scattered. We would gather them so that they can be thankful to Allah for this bounty.” Thereafter, he equipped and provided for us more than was taken from us to such an extend that he also gave clothes and (other) equipment and sent with us messengers to Madinah. He also allowed that we stop wherever we desire.” (Mukhtasar Tarikh Dimashq 1:3754)
‘Allamah al-Baladhuri narrates that Muhammad bin ‘Ali bin Abi Talib – famously known as Ibn al-Hanafiyyah – once came to bid farewell to Yazid when departing from Damascus after spending some time with him. Yazid said to him (and he always honoured him): “Oh Ab ‘l-Qasim, if you had seen any bad quality in me (inform me so that) I can reform. And I can practice on the advice you give me.” Ibn al-Hanafiyyah responded: “By the oath of Allah, if I saw any evil in you it would be incumbent on me to prohibit you and inform you of the truth for the pleasure of Allah because Allah has made it binding on the people of knowledge to speak the truth and not conceal it. However, I never saw any evil in you”. (Ansab al-Ashraf 5:17)
In the above narrations, the brother of Husayn (Allah be pleased with him), Ibn al-Hanafiyyah (Allah have mercy on him), testifies that he never saw Yazid perpetrating any evil. In another narration he denies that Yazid ever drank wine, omitted prayers or exceeded the laws of the Qur’an. Ibn al-Hanafiyyah also talks of Yazid’s perpetuity on salah, his love for good, his thirst for knowledge and attachment to the Sunnah.
Hafiz Ibn Kathir (Allah have mercy on him) has related in Al-Bidayah wa ‘l-Nihayah (11:653) that Muhammad bin Muti’i and his companions came to Muhammad bin ‘Ali bin Abi Talib, known as Ibn al-Hanafiyyah and desired that he removes Yazid (from the post of a leader). Ibn al-Hanafiyyah blatantly refused. Ibn Muti’i remarked: “Verily Yazid consumes wine, omits prayers and trespasses the laws of the Qur’an.” Ibn al-Hanafiyyah responded: “I never found him to be how you mention. Instead I stayed by him and found him punctual on prayers, pursuing good, asking matters of din and steadfast on the Sunnah.” To this they said: “He did this only to impress you” Ibn al-Hanafiyyah answered: “What was there for him to fear or have hope in me that he had to show so much humility? Should I inform you of the reality of your accusation that he used to drink wine? If I inform you, you (would realize) you are his partners. If I don’t inform you it would not be permissible for you to bear testimony on what you don’t know.” They said: “This news (of Yazid’s evil) is true, even though we did not see him personally (carry out any of those evils).” Ibn al-Hanafiyyah responded: “Allah does not accept that from those bearing testimony.” Then he recited the verse ‘…except those who bear testimony to the truth knowingly.’ And said: “Therefore I have nothing to do with what you say.” Thereupon Ibn Muti’i and his companions remarked: “Perhaps you dislike someone besides yourself to be the leader. We would make you our leader.” Ibn al-Hanafiyyah replied: “I do not regard it permissible for me to fight for what you want from me-not as a leader nor as a follower.” “But you fought with your father” They interjected. “Bring me the likes of my father so I can fight for what he fought.” Responded Ibn al-Hanafiyyah. “So command your sons Abu ‘l-Qasim and Qasim to fight with us.” They instructed. Ibn al-Hanafiyyah responded: “If I were to command them I should fight myself.” They said: “At least support us so that people can be encouraged to fight.” Ibn al-Hanafiyyah shouted: “Glory be to Allah! Should I command people with something I won’t do and I am not even pleased with? In that case I won’t be faithful to Allah with regards to His servants.” “In that case we’ll force you.” They threatened. Ibn al-Hanafiyyah retorted “In that case I’ll command people to fear Allah and not please the creation at the cost of the anger of the Creator.” And then he left for Makkah.
These narrations show the love and respect Yazid had for the Ahl al-Bayt. The family of Husayn (Allah be pleased with him) are the ones that exonerated Yazid from the evil’s that were attributed to him.
Yazid was also outstanding in his knowledge. Ibn ‘Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) praised him for this.
Mada’ini relates that Ibn ‘Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) came to Mu’awiyah (Allah be pleased with him) after the demise of Hasan bin ‘Ali (Allah be pleased with him). Thereafter Yazid entered and sat next to Ibn ‘Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) to console him. When Yazid got up, Ibn ‘Abbas remarked: “When the Banu Harb departs, the ‘ulama of the people depart.” (Ibn Kathir 11:642)
Layth used to give him the title of Amir al-Mu’minin
Abu Bakr ibn al-Arabi (Allah have mercy on him) says: “If it is objected that Yazid was addicted to wine, we’ll say: This is not accepted unless you bring two witnesses, so who would bear witness for you? In contrast, liable people bore testimony to Yazids good reputation.”
Yahya bin Bukayr relates that Layth used to say: “Amir al-Mu’minin Yazid passed away on such a date…” So he called Yazid ‘Amir al-Mumineen’ years after their rule and dominance. Had Yazid not deserved this title according to Layth, he would merely say ‘Yazid died’.”(Al-‘Awasim min al–Qawasim 153)
It is also not authentically proven that Yazid had any thing to do with the martyrdom of Husayn (Allah be pleased with him).
Ibn al-Salah says: “It is not authentic according to us that (Yazid) commanded that Husayn (Allah be pleased with him) be martyred.” (al-Khulasah fi bayan rayi Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah fi ‘l-Rafidha 1:151)
The last words uttered by Yazid were;
اللهم لا تؤاخذني بما لم احبه، ولم ارده، واحكم بيني و بين عبدالله بن زياد
“Oh Allah do not take me to task for what I don’t like, and I didn’t intend (i.e. the martyrdom of Husayn (Allah be pleased with him)), and judge between me and ‘Abdullah bin Ziyad.”
Thereafter he said;
أمنت بالله العظيم
“I belief in Allah, the Glorious”
And with this he passed away. (Al-Bidayah wa ‘l-Nihayah 11:659) This proves his death with iman.
In view of the above mentioned narrations, the ‘ulama of Deoband have adopted a cautious view and refrained from condemning Yazid. The general principle of Shari’ah is to hold a good opinion about a fellow Muslim brother and also to invoke Allah’s mercy for Muslims in general.
Mufti Rashid Ahmed Saheb (may Allah have mercy on him), in Ahsan al-Fatwa [6: 215], states:
حاصل یہ کہ یزید سے متعلق حسن ظن کے درجہ میں مطاعن سے کف لسان اور توقف ہی اسلم واحسن ہے
Paraphrase: In conclusion, to remain silent in regards to Yazid is the most suitable and best approach.
And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best
Hanif Yusuf Patel
Student Darul Iftaa
Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.
 [Al-Bidayah wa an-Nihayah, 4: 625, Dar al-Ma`rifah, Beirut] [Tahzib at-Tahzib, 11: 360, al-Faruq al-Hadithiyyah, Cairo; Lisan al-Mizan]
 روى المدائني أن ابن عباس وفد إلى معاوية بعد وفاة الحسن بن علي ، فدخل يزيد على ابن عباس وجلس منه مجلس المعزي ، فلما نهض يزيد من عنده قال ابن عباس : إذا ذهب بنو حرب ذهب علماء الناس
 Al-Bidayah wa an-Nihayah, 4: 625-636, Dar al-Ma`rifah, Beirut
 [Al-Bidayah wa an-Nihayah, 4: 630, Dar al-Ma`rifah, Beirut]
 [Ahsan al-Fatawa, 6: 215, H. M. Saeed Company]