He is Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiya ibn Abī Sufyān, commonly known as Yazid I. He was the second Caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate (and the first one in Islamic history through inheritance). Yazid was appointed by his father Muawiyah I and ruled for three years
He was selected the next in control after the death of his father by his father right in his life time. He (his father) even ensured that bay'a (oath of allegiance) was taken by the great leaders around him for the son before he died. That was how Yazid became the next in control after his father, Muawiya.
According to some sources Muawiyah warned his son Yazid against mistreating al-Husein ibn Ali (Allah be pleased with them both), grandson of the prophet (PBUH). His final warning to Yazid was that he should be careful in order not to meet God with his blood (i.e. blood of ah-Husein), lest he would be amongst those that would perish; telling his son to defeat Hussein, who was surely preparing an army against him, but to deal with him gently thereafter as Hussein was a descendent of Muhammad; but to deal with Abdullah al-Zubair switfly, as Muawiyah feared him the most.
The appointment of Yazid was unpopular in Madina either. Narrated by Yusuf bin Mahak:
Marwan had been appointed as the governor of Hijaz by Muawiyah. He delivered a sermon and mentioned Yazid bin Muawiyah so that the people might take the oath of allegiance to him as the successor of his father (Muawiya). Then 'Abdur Rahman bin Abu Bakr told him something whereupon Marwan ordered that he be arrested. But 'Abdur Rahman entered 'Aisha's house and they could not arrest him. Marwan said, "It is he ('Abdur Rahman) about whom Allah revealed this Verse: 'And the one who says to his parents: 'Fie on you! Do you hold out the promise to me..?'" [al-Ahqaf: 14] On that, 'Aisha said from behind a screen, "Allah did not reveal anything from the Qur'an about us except what was connected with the declaration of my innocence (of the slander).
Upon succession, Yazid asked Governors of all provinces to take an oath of allegiance to him. The necessary oath was secured from all parts of the country. Husein bin Ali, grandson of the prophet (PBUH), and Abdullah bin Zubayr (grandson of Abu Bakr) refused to declare allegiance. Yazid sent Marwan, a soldier in his army, to assist in this task. Al-Tabari recorded that Yazid's only concern, when he assumed power, was to receive the oath of allegiance from the individuals who had refused to agree with Muawiyah's demand for this oath of allegiance for his son Yazid. Muawiyah had summoned the people (i.e., the Islamic shura or council) to give an oath of allegiance to him that Yazid would be his heir. Yazid's concern was to bring their attitude (of this refusal) to an end. Yazid's paternal first cousin Waleed bin Utbah bin Abu Sufyan was the Governor of Madinah, where Husayn bin Ali and the Hashimite family resided as did Abdullah ibn Zubayr. Yazid had sent his fellow Umayyad kinsman, Marwan bin al-Hakam (who served as a vizier to Muawiyah and now to Yazid), to Waleed bin Utbah bin Abu Sufyan with the following message:
Seize al-Husain, Abdullah bin Umar (son of Umar), and Abdullah bin Zubayr to give the oath of allegiance. Act so fiercely that they have no chance to do anything before giving the oath of allegiance. Peace be with you.
Unfortunately, after a lengthy narration, Abdullah bin Umar and Abdullah bin Abbas gave their oath and advised al-Husein to do the same as they saw no good in the blood of Muslims being shed over mere worldly throne of vanity. However, al-Husein refused while he and Abdullah bin Zubayr headed for Makkah differently. From there al-Husein moved to Kufa after receiving huge number of letters calling him to come over, as they were ready to support and fight with him.
It would be recalled that both Yazid and Hussein had been involved in the siege of Constantinople a few years earlier. Hussein was in the army that laid siege to al-Qustanteeniyyah (Constantinople) under the command of Muawiyah's son Yazeed in 51 AH. After the peace treaty with Muawiya, Hussein would frequently visit Muawiya with his brother and he would show great hospitality in return. Following Hasans death, Husein would travel to see Muawiya every year and in return Muawiya would show great hospitality. When the governor of Kufa, Ibn Ziyad sent the head of Husein to Yazeed. The Servant of Muawiya bin Abu Sufyan is reported to have said: "When Yazeed came with al-Husain's head and placed it in his hands, I saw Yazeed crying and he said: 'If there had been any relationship between Ibn Ziyad and al-Husain then he would not have done this (referring to Ibn Ziyad).'"
Yazid's army had defeated al-Husein bin Ali and killed him in Karbala. In his quest to overpower Ibn Zubayr and put an end to the uprising against his rule, Yazid committed more grave blunders. Yazid sent armies against Ibn Zubayr by invading the Hijaz, desecrated the sanctity of Madina and committed huge atrocities therein; followed with the invasion of the Sacred Makkah. But the sudden death of Yazid ended the campaign and threw the Umayyads into disarray with civil war eventually breaking out.
Abdullah bin Zubayr consolidated his power by sending a governor to Kufa. Soon, he expelled Yazid's army totally from Iraq. But then ran into trouble with the Kharijites in Iraq who were very extreme in their views.
Yazid's son Muawiya II did not want to associate himself with the policies of his father Yazid. Muawiya II chose to abdicate rather than assume the responsibility of conducting what would likely be a bloody military campaign in Mecca. In Damascus Marwan then became the ruler and then his son Abdul Malik bin Marwan.
Ibn Zubayr was finally defeated by Abdul Malik bin Marwan, who sent al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf to reunite the Islamic empire. Hajjaj defeated and killed Ibn Zubayr on the battlefield, beheading him and crucifying his body, reestablishing the Umayyadas control over the Islamic Empire.
Yazid was killed by his own horse after it lost control, his remains were never confirmed to have been found. Yazid died at the age of 36 after ruling for three years and was succeeded by his son Muawiyah II. Yazid was buried in Damascus. Although it is thought that his grave no longer exists, few believe that it is located in a small street near the Umayyad Mosque without any mark or distinction.
Opinions evaluating Yazid
People about Yazid have taken to three different opinions as follows:
Some scholars have went to an extreme to regard Yazid as a just, noble, religious and administratively efficient ruler and that his nomination by his father Muawiya as Caliph was proper. He had participated in various wars against the Byzantines in the time of his father. He was a brave man fond of hunting.
The second opinion also went the other extreme. It is the view of most Islamic scholars during the Abbasid Caliphate and those who bought their opinion. This group regard Caliph Yazid I as a tyrant who was directly responsible for three major historical atrocities in standard Islamic history: The Karbala massacre of the Hashimite caravan of Husayn ibn Ali, the pillage and plunder of the city of Madinah (by Yazid's general Ibn Uqbah al-Murri) in which over 10,000 Muslim citizens were slaughtered and Muslim women were indiscriminately raped, and the siege of Mecca in which Yazid's commander Ibn Numayr ordered his troops to catapult fireballs to the Kaaba.
However, the third group has taken to the middle course. They neither consider Yazid a devil Tayrant as worse as being painted by the Shiites, the Abbasid scholars and those with their opinions nor are they exonerating him from the atrocities committed in his reign. The group that exonerates him from the atrocities are not being fair, because some of these atrocities actually took place with his direct command, even though they might have ended in a manner not as envisaged by him. Those that tagged him evil and all sort of bad names did that majorly for two reasons:
The Abbasids scholars did so to justify their taking over powers from the Umayyads and thus anything to discredit the Umayyads was welcome.
Some others, like the Shiites did so to support their selfish and mostly fabricated beliefs that require heart touching fables to gain support from all and sundry.
In any case, Yazid remains a Muslim who never proclaimed disbelief in Allah and His Messenger (PBUH). What happened was also an insurgency and revolt against the ruling powers. And therefore, Yazid is to be treated like every other Muslim who has gone to meet his Lord, the Only One to give him his rightful judgment. He participated in some unique wars being debated today and so on. No matter the misconducts of a Muslim in his life time, we are not allowed to talk bad about them after death. May Allah forgive every one of us and the dead Muslims and grant us His Paradise.