Here is my second post on the ‘Interfaith topic’ – which is a repost of my last year post on another Forum.
The Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenie, in his 1996 muharram khutba (reported in 'Jordan Times) said:
The spirit of Ashura is not to weep and beat one’s chest once a year. Imam Hussein (as) rose against a tyrant ruler Yazid. Now if one look around, one finds numerous Yazids among every Muslim country. Fighting against these Yazids will make you the shi’an-e-Hussein.
"The revolution that Imam Al-Hussein made was not a rebellion against a legal ruler; it was a revolution against a tyrant dictator, Yazid Ibn Mu`awiyah, who deprived the Ummah of its right to choose its rulers [by succeeding his father to the caliphate]. Besides, he was notorious for being corrupt and dissolute. The majority of the Sunni scholars and others agreed to that, and Ibn Hajar mentioned so in his book As-Sawa`iq Al-Muhreqah. By his revolution, Imam Al-Hussein's aim was not at all to support the Shi`ites, though the tragedy of Karbala’ (the place where Imam Al-Hussein was martyred) was a turning point in the history of the Shi`ites, for since then they were no longer a mere political group supporting the People of the House (Prophet Muhammad's descendents), but rather they became an independent school that had its own beliefs, jurisprudents, social organizations and system of rule.
The aim of Imam Al-Hussein behind such a revolution, as he declared it, was: "To reform the nation of my grandfather (Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him).” This would imply putting an end to all kinds of corruption and deviation from the right path so that the nation could be united again. Uniting the nation would not be achieved in the existence of corruption; Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), is reported to have said: "My Ummah would not unite in supporting corruption."
Al-Hassan (Al-Hussein's brother) was eager to regain the unity of the Muslim Ummah, so he made conciliation with Mu`awiyah and conceded the caliphate to him for that purpose. Al-Hussein did seek the same aim but in a different way, for the circumstances (under which he made the revolution) were different.
Here, I would like to refer to the fact that Muslims at that time were not divided into Sunnis and Shi’ites in the way it is known nowadays. Anyway, all Muslims then believed that transferring the caliphate from Mu`awiyah to his son Yazid by means of inheritance was unlawful and that Al-Hussein, being a pious, honest and courageous person, was worthier of being the caliph then. However, they did not go to fight with him against Yazid's army. Besides, those who sent for Al-Hussein and urged him to go to war against Yazid let him down and did not fight with him. The senior Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) advised Al-Hussein not to go to war, but Allah's Will was that he would go and the tragedy of his martyrdom would take place to remain a disgraceful stain on our glorious history….”