In the Qurʾān, fitnā and its derivatives appear several times. The most common meaning for this word is ‘persecution’ or ‘trials’.

In Islamic History, the term fitnā has been used to describe the ‘sedition’ which was seen in the civil wars which took place in the first 40 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad (s) amongst the companions.

This is a controversial usage because it considers the losing parties to have committed sedition. For example, the ‘first fitna’ is used to refer to the actions of Imam Ali (ʿa) in defending his right to leadership after the death of the 3rd Khalifah, up until Imām Ḥasan’s (ʿa) peace treaty with Muawiya. 

The title ‘second fitnā’ is given to a period of multiple uprisings during the time of the Khalifah Yazid I, including that of Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa). 
Shi’ah Muslims, therefore, do not use the term fitnā in this way because they consider their Imām’s actions to be in line with the will of Allah and the Prophet (ṣ), and standing against tyranny.