The origins of the Shia/Sunni division - Part I
Pledge of loyalty (Bai'at) to the former Khalifahs:
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) had taken pledge of loyalty on
the hands of all the three past Khalifahs. However he was late in taking
pledge at the hand of Hadrat Abu Bakr (R.A.).
The reason why he was late in taking pledge on
the hands of Hadrat Abu Bakr (R.A.) was the serious illness of his beloved
wife, Hadrat Fatima (R.A.) and that he was busy in collection of the Holy
Qur'an. It is mentioned in the famous history book, Tabaqat ibn Sa'd: When
Hadrat Abu Bakr (R.A.) enquired of Ali (R.A.) why he was so late in taking
pledge of loyalty and whether he disliked his "Khilafat", Ali (R.A.)
replied, "I do not dislike your leadership but the fact is that I had
taken an oath after the death of the Holy Prophet not to put on my sheet
(i.e. not to engage in any work) except for performing Salat until I have
collected all the parts of the Holy Qur'an." The Hadrat Ali (R.A.) took
pledge of loyalty on the hand of Abu Bakr and helped him throughout his
Khilafat. He was very active during the time of Hadrat Umar and also married
his daughter, Umm-i-Kulthum to him. In the matter of Hadrat Uthman's election
he voted in his favour as has been mentioned before.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was one of the very important
members of "Shura" (Advisory Council) during the time of the first
three Khalifahs. He was also the great jurist (Mufti) of Medina during the
time of past Khalifahs. He was among the panel of six persons who had to
select the Khalifah amongst themselves after Hadrat Umar (R.A.). Hadrat
Uthman had great regard for him and consulted him in all the matters. His
sons were the main guards at Uthmanís residence when the rebels laid siege
to his house.
Thus we conclude that Hadrat Ali (R.A.) gave his
fullest possible support to all of his predecessors.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) as the fourth Khalifah:
The insurgents' shameful act of assassination of
the Khalifah could never have been imagined by Hadrat Ali or any other
eminent Companion at Medina. It came as a total surprise to Hadrat Ali (R.A.)
whose two sons, Hasan and Husain (R.A.) were guarding the gate of Uthmanís
residence. The insurgents after climbing the back wall of the residence had
assassinated the Khalifah. The assassination of Hadrat Uthman was really due
to creation of faction among the Muslim Community which was the goal of ĎAbdullah
Bin Saba and his followers (the insurgents), and they achieved it.
After the assassination of Hadrat Uthman, the
insurgents virtually controlled the Capital, Medina for several days. The
Muslims were frightened and sat behind closed doors. After the assassination
of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) an unprecedented calamity had fallen on the Muslims
and for three days, Medina was without any government.
Afterwards the insurgents approached Hadrat Ali (R.A.)
to be the Khalifah. Egyptians led by Ibn Saba and Ghafqi were the main group
of insurgents behind the proposal for the Khilafat of Hadrat Ali (R.A.)
Hadrat Ali first declined to bear the responsibility of this great office.
But the insurgents pressed him to accept it. As a matter of fact Hadrat Ali
wanted to approach Hadrat Talha and Hadrat Zubair (R.A.) who were included in
the panel of the six persons appointed by Hadrat Umar (R.A.) to select a
Khalifah. He wanted to take pledge of loyalty (Bai'at) at the hands of any of
these two gentlemen. But at the end, pressed by the threats of the regicides
he decided to put the matter before Muslim public in the Mosque of the Holy
Prophet(Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam). Most of the Companions in Medina
considered him, to be the fittest person for "Khilafat" after
Hadrat Uthman (R.A.). He then agreed to take the responsibility and gave his
On 21st Dhul-Hijjah 35 A.H. pledge of loyalty
took place at the hands of Hadrat Ali (R.A). First of all the leading
insurgents took the pledge of loyalty on his hands, followed by the general
public, at Medina. Hadrat Talha and Zubair (R.A.) did not want to take a
pledge (Bai'at) until the case of Hadrat Uthman assassination was decided.
Before that Hadrat Ali had offered the office of Khilafat to both of them but
they had declined. However under the threats of insurgents they took the
pledge of loyalty at Hadrat Aliís hands, on the condition: "You (i.e.í
Ali) have to decide matters according to the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah (ways of
the Holy Prophet) and would punish the guilty according to Islamic Law."
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) agreed to their conditions. Hadrat Sa'd bin Waqqas said
that he would take pledge when all the Muslims had done so. Following
Companions did not take pledge at the hands of Hadrat Ali (R.A.): Muhammad
bin Muslimah, Usamah bin Zaid, Hassan bin Thabit. Ka'b bin Malik, Abu Sa'id
Khudri, Nu'man bin Bashir, Zaid bin Thabit, Mughirah bin Shu'bah and
'Abdullah bin Salam. Most of the members of Banu Umayyah (Uthman's family)
also did not take pledge of loyalty at Hadrat Aliís hands. Some of such
persons who did not take Bai'at went to Syria.
However the majority of the Muslims in Medina
took pledge at the hands of Hadrat Ali. According to "Ahli Sunnah wal
Jama'ah", Hadrat Ali was the most suitable and the fittest person for
Khilafat after Hadrat Uthman (R.A.). If some of the Companions did not take
pledge on his hands, because of the political situation of that time, it did
not mean that his Khilafat was not accepted by the Muslim majority. Besides
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) nobody including Hadrat Mu'awiyah (R.A.) claimed to be the
Khalifah at that time. The difference between them was the question of
punishment to the assassins, which took the shape of various battles. As it
would be seen afterwards Hadrat Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) declared his Khilafat
only after the death of Hadrat Ali (R.A.). Hadrat Ali was declared to be the
Khalifah not only by the insurgents but by the Muslim public as well
including the leading Ansar (Helpers) and Muhajirin (Emigrants). This could
also be noticed with the fact that in the first battle which took place
between Hadrat Ali and Hadrat 'Aisha (and her group) about 800 of those
Companions who had participated in the Treaty of Hudaibiyah were with Hadrat
Ali besides other Companions. As a matter of fact Hadrat Ali was the most
popular figure at that time and was the most appropriate person to be the
Disobedience of Abdullah bin Saba and
On his third day as the Khalifah, Hadrat Ali
asked all the Sabaites (insurgents) to return to their places. Some of them
started to go back but a party headed by Abdullah bin Saba did not obey the
Khalifah pretending all the while to be his friends. In the history of Islam
this was the first incident of disobedience of a Khalifah. Their aim was to
be with him in order to create mischief as it would be observed later.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.), faced a very difficult
situation. His three main problems were:
(i) To establish peace in the State and to set
right the deteriorating political situation.
(ii) To take action against the assassins of
Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) who had gone underground after he took the office.
Actually some of them were among the persons who requested Hadrat Ali (R.A.)
to take office of the Khilafat, but neither he nor any other Muslim at that
time knew the real assassins. It was the hardest job at that time to find out
the real assassins because the persons who recognised them had already left
Medina, and those among the Sabaites, who were present there did not tell
Hadrat Ali the truth. All of the Sabaites told Ali (R.A.) that they did not
want to assassinate Hadrat Uthman, that was done only by some of the wicked
persons whom they did not recognise. Some time, therefore, was required to
investigate the matter and that was possible only after peaceful atmosphere
was restored in the state which, unfortunately, never occurred during the
caliphate of Hadrat Ali as the situation continued to worsen.
(iii) The third problem was the attitude to be
adopted towards those Companions (R.A.) who would not pledge loyalty at the
hands of Hadrat Ali unless he either handed over the assassins to them or
punish them according to Islamic Law. Though we cannot criticise the
sincerity of their intention but in fairness to Ali, it has to be said that
it was rather an impossible job for Ali (R.A.)to fulfil their demands
immediately in that situation.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was a very straight-forward man
who considered the "Khilafat" (Caliphate) as a great trust. His aim
was to establish peace in the State which should be the first aim of every
good ruler in such a place where certain elements try to destroy the order.
According to leading Islamic Jurists it is quite right for a Muslim ruler to
delay the cases of murder etc. in order to establish peace in an Islamic
State (as mentioned by Qadi Abu Bakr Ibn al-Arabi in his book "Ahkam-ul-Qur'an'?.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was quite right in his decision to tackle the assassins on
restoration of normally. The Majority of the Muslims, specially Ahli Sunnah
wal- Jamaíah had agreed with him on this point.
The events which took place during the caliphate
of Hadrat Ali in the form of various battles will be discussed in the light
of the above facts.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) seeks to ascertain the
names of Hadrat Uthman assassins:
After assuming office, Hadrat Ali (R.A.) tried to
find out the assassins of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.). He called Marwan bin al-Hakm,
the chief secretary of Hadrat Uthman, who was present, in the house at the
time of assassination, but he had already left for Damascus along with a
number of Banu Umayyads.
The only other witness was Hadrat Nailah, wife of
Hadrat Uthman (R.A.). But she was a housewife who used to live under "Hijab"
(Pardah) in accordance with Islamic custom and as such she could not tell the
names of the persons present at that time except the-features of some of
them. She could only name Muhammad bin Abi Bakr who had entered the house but
as stated before he had left the house before Hadrat Uthman assassination.
Moreover Muhammad bin Abi Bakr took an oath (in accordance to Islamic Law)
that he was not an assassin and he had left the house as soon as Hadrat
Uthman (R.A.) recognised him and said, "0 my dear nephew, if your father
(Abu Bakr) were alive you would have not committed this." Hadrat Nailah
gave her evidence in favour of Muhammad bin Abi Bakr and had confirmed that
he was not one of the assassins. In spite of his efforts Hadrat Ali could not
locate the assassins.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) dismisses the
In the opinion of Hadrat Ali (R.A.) the governors
appointed by Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) were basically responsible for all the
events. They did not pay much attention to check the subversive activities of
the insurgents. So he dismissed all the governors appointed by Hadrat Uthman
(R.A.). Some of the Companions did not agree with Hadrat Ali (R.A.) on this.
Among such persons were Hadrat Mughirah bin Shu'bah and Hadrat Ibn Abbas (R.A.).
They advised Hadrat Ali not to take such a hasty action. According to them it
was not wise to dismiss them unless they pledged loyalty to Hadrat Ali,
because Uthmanís assassination could be an easy excuse for them to refuse
the pledge of loyalty to Hadrat Aliís. Hadrat Ali did not listen to their
advice because he believed that expediency should not be the guiding factor.
Hadrat Mughirah bin Shu'bah (R.A.) was totally against Aliís action. He
left Medina and went to Mecca.
He appointed Hadrat 'Abdullah bin 'Abbas as the
governor of Yemen; Uthman bin Hanif as the governor of Basrah; Ammarah bin
Hassan of Kufa, and Qais as the governor of Egypt. Hadrat Sahl Bin Hanif was
asked to take charge of governorship of Syria from Hadrat Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.).
When the governors went to take charge they were
faced with difficulties. Egypt was one of the provinces in favour of Ali (R.A.)but
when the new governor, Qais reached there the public was divided in three
groups. Some of them accepted him but others demanded that the assassins must
be punished first. There was a third group, belonging to Sabaites and the
insurgents, who demanded that the assassins must not be punished in any case.
Same difficulty was faced by the newly appointed governor of Basrah. A group
of people was in favour of the insurgents while the other was against them.
While the governor of Kufa was on his way a spokesman of Kufis came and asked
him to return to Medina because they did not want to change their governor
Hadrat Musa Ashíari (R.A.) in any case. So Hadrat Ammarah bin Hassan(R.A.),
the governor designate, returned to Medina. The new governor of Yemen, Hadrat
Abdullah bin Abbas did not face any difficulty because Ya'la, the old
governor had already left Kufa for Mecca before Hadrat Ibn Abbas reached
there. When Hadrat Sahl bin Hanif, the governor designate of Syria, reached
Tabuk (the out-post of Syria), Amir Mu'awiyah's cavalry men stopped him from
proceeding any further and asked him to go back to Medina. Thus Kufa and
Syria were the two provinces which had openly flouted Hadrat Aliís
Hadrat Ali sent his special messengers to Kufa
and Syria. The governor of Kufa, Hadrat Abu Musa Ash'ari (R.A.) sent a
satisfactory reply and assured Hadrat Ali of his loyalty to him. Not only
this he also wrote to him that he had already taken pledge of loyalty for him
from the people of Kufa.
The case of Hadrat Mu'awiyah (R.A.) was entirely
Hadrat Amir Muawiyah's demand for
After the assassination of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.)
his family except his wife Nailah, reached Damascus and told Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.)
the details. They also carried with them the blood stained shirt of Hadrat
Uthman (R.A.) and the chopped off fingers of his wife Hadrat Nailah. Amir
Mu'awiyah, a kinsman of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) was shocked on hearing the news,
and when it was made public, all the Muslims of Syria were greatly perturbed.
Hadrat Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) was a great statesman and was in Syria for about
20 years. He hung the blood stained shirt and the chopped off fingers of
Hadrat Uthman's wife on the "Mimber" (pulpit) of the Jami' Mosque
of Damascus because of which the Syrian Muslims got inflamed. This was the
situation of Syria when Sahl bin Hanif, the governor designate of Syria was
forced to return to Medina from Tabuk.
On receiving the special messenger from Hadrat
Ali, Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) did not reply for about three months and detained
the messenger. Then he sent his own messenger to Hadrat Ali (R.A.) in Rabi'ul
Awwal, 36 A.H. The messenger handed over the letter to Hadrat Ali addressed
as "From Mu'awiyah to Ali". When the letter was opened it was a
blank paper on which only "Bismilla-Hir-rahmanir Rahim "(In the
name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful) was written. Hadrat Ali (R.A.)
was amazed to see the letter, which was in fact, an insult to the office of
the "Khalifah". The messenger also told Ali (R.A.) that 50,000
sheikhs of Syria were bemoaning the death of Hadrat Uthman and were
determined to fight until the assassins were handed over to them. Hadrat Ali
replied, "O Allah! You know it well that I am free from any charge of
Uthmanís assassination. I swear by Allah that the assassins have escaped .
The Sabaites pretending to be friends of Hadrat
Ali, tried to create another disturbance by trying to kill the messenger, but
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) did not allow it. However exchange of hot words took place
between them and the messenger.
Amir Mu'awiyah's reply was a clear indication of
his intention. The matter was not going to be settled without force.
Therefore Hadrat Ali decided to use force against Mu'awiyah (R.A.) and
started preparations for it. Hadrat Ali's elder son, Imam Hasan (R.A.) was a
man of rather mild temper. He requested his father to give up the Khilafat
and not to think of fighting against Muslims (i.e., to start a civil war).
But there was no other way and Hadrat Ali (R.A.) had to handle the situation
with an iron hand in order to keep the provinces under the centre as they
were since the time of Hadrat Abu Bakr (R.A.).
This was the first time in the history of Islam
when the Muslims were preparing to fight against each other. As a Khalifah
Hadrat Ali was quite right in his decision. Not to pledge loyalty was an open
revolt against his authority and he had to deal boldly with any type of
internal rebellion. Hadrat Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.), as a matter of fact, was
over-excited on the tragic assassination. The family of Uthman (R.A.) which
had reached there after the assassination was also a cause of this attitude.
Moreover some of the Sabaites, whose only aim was to divide the Muslim
community, had reached Syria and incited the Muslims against Hadrat Ali. They
were playing double role. On the one side a group of them was with Hadrat Ali
(R.A.) to stir him up against Muíawiyah; (R.A.), while on the other side
some of them went to Syria only to inflame the feelings of Muslims over
there. Under such conditions Mu'awiyah (R.A.) had no alternative but to
insist upon his demand for punishment of the assassins before pledging
loyalty to Hadrat Ali (R.A.).
Hadrat 'Aisha's demand for chastisement
While Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was preparing for war
against Amir Mu'awiyah another difficulty arose. After the assassination of
Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) some members of his family went to Hadrat Aisha (R.A.)
who was in Mecca to perform the Hajj. They and a number of Medinites informed
her about the tragedy while she was on her way from Mecca to Medina after the
Hajj. Hearing the news of assassination of Hadrat Uthman she returned to
Mecca and appealed to the people over there to avenge the death of Hadrat
Uthman (R.A.). Hundreds of people including the governor of Mecca came out at
'Aisha's call. The governor of Yemen, Ya'la bin Munabbah also joined her in
Mecca. Among Banu Ummayyads who joined Hadrat ĎAisha in Mecca were Sa'id
bin ĎAs, Walid bin ĎUqbah and Marwan bin Hakam.
In the meantime Hadrat Talha and Zubair (R.A.)
demanded Hadrat Ali to punish the assassins. He told them, "Please wait.
I will do my duty as soon as conditions allow me." Hadrat Talha and
Zubair were not satisfied with Hadrat Aliís reply and left Medina for Mecca
to join Hadrat Aisha (R.A.). They had not correctly assessed the delicate
situation in Medina. The city was not free from the grip of Sabaites and
there was a general feeling against Umayyads in the public. Hadrat Ali (R.A.)
was anxious to restore peace first so that the assassins could be punished.
In Mecca Hadrat ĎAisha (R.A.) started to march
to Medina at the head of about two thousand men with the object of dealing
with the assassins. Hadrat ĎAbdullah bin Zubair was also there. They also
asked him to join but he declined to do so and remained neutral.
When Hadrat ĎAisha was about to march to
Medina, proposals came to visit Basrah first to collect more supporters. She
decided to go to Basrah.
Hadrat ĎAisha goes to Basrah:
While Hadrat 'Aisha was on her way to Basrah more
people joined her in the way. By the time she reached Basrah, there were
three thousand men under her flag.
The governor of Basrah, Uthman bin Hanif
(appointed by Hadrat 'All), sent some men to find out the object of her
visit. She and other Muslims told them that they wanted to tell people of
their duty towards the late Khalifah so that proper action would be taken to
punish the assassins. The messenger of the governor asked Hadrat Talha and
Zubair for what reason they were breaking the Bai'at on the hands of Hadrat
Ali. They told them that the pledge (Bai'at) was taken from them at the point
of sword, and that they would have kept the pledge if Hadrat Ali had avenged
The governor of Basra decided not to allow them
to enter the city till he got help from Hadrat Ali. He called a public
meeting and asked people to fight against them. In the meeting some people
favoured the governor while some of them supported Hadrat 'Aisha, Talha and
Zubair. The supporters of Hadrat Ali (R.A.) and the governor came out to
Hadrat 'Aisha takes over Basra:
Hadrat 'Aisha gave a stirring speech before the
Muslims. It was so impressive that half of the supporters of the governor
left him and joined Hadrat 'Aisha. Seeing this she tried to settle the matter
peacefully instead of fighting. But there were same agents of Abdullah bin
Saba (Sabaites) specially his famous disciple, Hakim bin Hublah, who did not
allow any settlement. He attacked Hadrat 'Aisha's army before the governor
gave him permission to do so.
The fight took place but no result came out till
the evening. In the meantime the governor got instructions from Hadrat Ali to
resist Hadrat 'Aisha's army if they did not agree to pledge loyalty to him.
Then a furious battle took place in which Uthman bin Hanif, the governor, was
defeated and captured. Hakim bin Hublah and some of his followers were
killed, and Basra was occupied by Hadrat Aisha and her supporters.
March to Basrah:
The capture of Basrah by Hadrat ĎAisha (R.A.)
made the situation very grave. The Islamic state was really on the verge of
serious civil war. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) never wanted to start war against the
Muslims but the internal situation at that time compelled him to do so. War
The Khalifah, therefore, postponed his march to
Syria for the time being in order to set things right in Iraq. He decided to
march on to Basrah. A number of Ansar and other Companions were not in favour
of Hadrat Ali (R.A.) leaving Medina, instead they asked him to send his army.
When Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was leaving Medina, Abdullah bin Salam (R.A.) took
hold of his camel and said, "0 Amirul-Mu'minin (Leader of the believers)
don't leave Medina. If you leave it at this moment, you would never come back
and the Capital would be changed." But he decided to go ahead with his
mission because of the seriousness of the situation.
Some of the Companions remained neutral and did
not join Hadrat Ali (R.A.) even though he asked them to do so. Among such
persons were: Abdullah bin Umar, Muhammad bin Muslimah, Sa'd bin Waqqas and
Usamah bin Zaid (R.A.)
Hadrat Ali started for Basrah towards the end of
Rabiíul Awwal, 36 (A. H.) i.e. Nov. 656 A.D. Abdullah bin Saba and his
followers were accompanying Hadrat Ali.
Help from Basrah:
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) asked Abu Musa Ash'ari to send
help but he got no response because Hadrat Abu Musa (R.A.) dreaded a civil
war. Therefore Hadrat Ali (R.A.) sent his eldest son, Hasan (R.A.) to Kufa
who addressed the people and pleaded for Ali (R.A.). The people were stirred
on the appeal and about nine thousand men marched on to join Ali (R.A.).
Ali (R.A.) seeks peace:
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) assured all the people
accompanying him that he would try his best to avoid blood-shed and to set
the things right peacefully. On reaching Dhi Oar, a place near Basrah, Hadrat
Ali, with his characteristic aversion to blood-shed sent his cousin 'Abdullah
bin Abbas and Qa'qa bin Amr (R.A.) to negotiate peacefully with Hadrat 'Aisha,
Talha, and Zubair (Rid. A.) who were preparing to face Hadrat Ali (R.A.) with
a big army.
The messengers of Hadrat Ali (R.A.) assured
Hadrat 'Aisha, Talha, and Zubair (Rid. A.) that Hadrat Ali would avenge the
assassins of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) as soon as peace was established in the
state. Hearing this they were satisfied and there were hopes for a peaceful
But in the army of Ali (R.A.) there were Abdullah
bin Saba and his henchmen to whom peace was fatal. At the possibility of
peaceful settlement they were much disturbed. They met in a secret council
and whispered to each other that Ali (R.A.)was prepared to avenge the death
of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.). They were determined to make the peaceful settlement
a total failure. They sent their agents to Basrah to incite the Muslims
population by saying that if Ali (R.A.) entered Basrah he would enslave all
the inhabitants and would kill all the youths. The Basrites, therefore, must
check and fight him back.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) hoping for a peaceful
settlement, marched towards Basrah to talk personally with Hadrat Talha and
Zubair (R.A.). The two armies were facing each other. Hadrat Ali gave an
address to Basrites in which he said, "I am but your brother........I
will avenge Uthman's assassins," Hadrat Talha, Zubair and Basrites were
fully satisfied with what Hadrat Ali (R.A.) told them. Ali (R.A.) also
returned to his camp very satisfied. He gave strict orders to his men not to
fight in any case, and prayed all the night to Allah.
But Ibn Saba and his henchmen had planned
otherwise. In the darkness of night they made a sudden attack on Hadrat 'Aisha's
army. Hadrat Talha and Zubair were startled by the sudden attack and said
that Ali (R.A.)could not desist from shedding Muslim blood and he has ordered
a night attack. On the other hand Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was shocked when he was
told by Sabaites that Talha and Zubair had taken them by surprise. He also
remarked in the same way that they did not stop from taking the blood of
Muslims. According to Tabari the following Sabaites were the leaders behind
this plan: Ashtar Nakh'i Ibn Sauda, Khalid bin Muljam, Alba bin Haitham and
Shuraib bin Aufa. Ibn Saba was the ring leader.
The Battle of Camel (Jamal):
Soon a full scale war started. Hundreds of
Muslims fell on each side. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was greatly pained at the
situation. He tried to stop the battle but the battle had already flared up.
In the dawn the troops of Hadrat 'Aisha (R.A.)
apprised her of the situation and suggested that she should mount on a camel
in Hijab (Pardah) so that the situation might ease. But it worked the other
way and Basrites thought tfiat Hadrat Aisha came in the field to fight with
them. During the fight Hadrat Ali reminded Talha and Zubair(R.A.) the words
of the Holy Prophet: "One day you (Talha and Zubair) will fight Ali
wrongly." They remembered the saying and left the battlefield but when
Talha was leaving the field somebody rained arrows on him and he was killed.
When the fight did not come to an end Hadrat Ali
(R.A.) ordered one of his men to cut the hind legs of the camel on which
Hadrat 'Aisha was mounting in a "howdah". The order of Hadrat Ali
was carried out and the camel fell on its forelegs. Hadrat 'Aisha was taken
out of the "howdah" with due respect. The battle came to an end in
favour of Hadrat Ali (R.A.). Hadrat Aisha (R.A.) was sent with due respect to
Medina escorted by her own brother, Muhammad bin Abi Bakr. In this battle
about ten thousand Muslims on both sides lost their lives. Hadrat Ali (R.A.)
felt deeply moved because of the loss of Muslim blood. Hadrat Zubair who had
already left the field after remembering the Holy Prophet's saying was going
to Mecca. He stopped in a valley to perform his Salat, but was slain by a
man, named Amr bin Jarmoz while he was busy in his Salat. When Hadrat Ali
came to know, he rebuked the murderer by saying: "I have seen him fight
for the Prophet of Allah several times. I give the murderer the news of
After the battle he took pledge of loyalty from
the people of Basrah and appointed Hadrat Abdullah bin Abbas as the governor
of Basrah. He gave general amnesty to all those who fought against him
including Marwan bin Hakam and other persons of Banu Umayyah family. The
address which Hadrat Ali (R.A.) gave at Jami' Mosque of Basrah before the
Bai'at (pledge of loyalty) moved the Muslims, and they were convinced that
Ali (R.A.) was a just Khalifah.
Change of Capital:
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was very much grieved on seeing
the disrespect of the "Haram" (Forbidden Place) of Medina when the
insurgents laid siege to the late Khalifah's house and then assassinated him.
He wanted to change the Capital to save Medina from future political
disturbance. After staying for a few days at Basrah, Hadrat Ali (R.A.) went
to Kufa. There he was given a warm welcome. He got more supporters at Kufa
and thought it to be a more suitable place as the Capital of his Khilafat.
Therefore in Rajab 36 A.H., he decided to transfer the capital from Medina to
Hadrat Aliís Final Invitation to Hadrat
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) now turned his attention
towards Hadrat Mu'awiyah (R.A.). He was then ruling over the whole Islamic
State with the exception of Syria. The peace minded Hadrat Ali (R.A.) wanted
a peaceful settlement. He, therefore, wrote a letter to Hadrat Mu'awiyah (R.A.)
asking him to take pledge of loyalty at his hand in the interest of Islam and
the unity of the Muslims. But Hadrat Mu'awiyah again demanded of him to
avenge Hadrat Uthmanís assassins first.
The show of Hadrat Uthman's blood-stained shirt
and the chopped-off fingers of his wife, Hadrat Nailah, was still going on in
the Jami' Masjid of Damascus. The powerful Syrians had rallied round Hadrat
Mu'awiyah. On the other hand Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was still unable to overcome
the insurgents. When Hadrat Amir Mu'awiyah's messenger came to Hadrat Ali to
put the demand to hand over the assassins, 10,000 men of Hadrat Aliís army
said with one voice: "All of us are the assassins of Uthman (R.A.)."
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) then said to the messengers, Hadrat Muslimah, "You can
see for yourself the situation. I am still unable to find out the real
assassins." But Hadrat Mu'awiyah was determined not to give up his
demand. Hadrat Ali (R.A.), finding no other way, was compelled to declare war
against Hadrat Mu'awiyah (R.A.).
The Battle of Siffin:
The above situation forced Hadrat Ali (R.A.) to
march out against Syria. In the beginning there was not much response for
Hadrat Aliís call. But when Hadrat Ali explained the position to the
Muslims, a large army gathered around Hadrat Ali and 50,000 Muslims came out
under his banner to fight the Syrians. When Mu'awiyah (R.A.)came to know
about Hadrat Aliís advance, he too proceeded with a vast army and occupied
a better position in the field. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) encamped at Siffin, and
Amir Mu'awiyah on the other side of Siffin.
Hadrat Aliís intention was not to shed Muslim
blood in vain. He therefore again tried and sent a deputation of three men on
peace mission to Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.). Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) again demanded
that the assassins of Hadrat Uthman must be slain before any compromise can
be reached and that he was demanding this as a "Wall" (next of kin
of a murdered person) of Hadrat Uthman. The demand was again refused by
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) on the ground that he was not able to locate the real
assassins and it would need some time, and that the Pledge of Loyalty must be
taken without any condition.
In the month of Dhul Hijjah 36 A.H., Hadrat Ali (R.A.)
ordered his troops to take positions. But there seemed unwillingness to fight
on both the sides. Muslims were facing Muslims. However in the beginning
fighting began with single combats followed by light encounters of single
battalions. Thus the whole month of Dhul Hijjah ended without any big fight.
When the moon of Muharram appeared Hadrat Ali and Mu'awiyah made a truce for
one month. During this time he again got an opportunity for renewed peace
talks. Hadrat Ali(R.A.) sent another mission led by 'Adi bin Hatim Tai to
Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.). But this time Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) took it as a
threat and refused to recognise Hadrat Ali (R.A.) as the Khalifah unless he
avenged Hadrat Uthman's assassination. In this way the last attempt proved to
On the evening of the last day of Muharram, 37
A.H. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) gave orders to his army to attack the Syrian forces
because they had been given enough time to think. The war started the
following morning. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) gave strict orders that no person should
be killed if he left the field or ran away. Women and old people would be
secure. Hadrat Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) also gave the same order to his army.
The war started on Tuesday 1st Safari, 37 A.H. On
the first day a battalion of Hadrat Aliís army, led by Ushtar fought with
the Syrians led by Habib bin Muslimah. On the second day another battalion
led by Hashim bin 'Utbah from Hadrat Aliís side fought with the Syrians led
by Abul A'war Salama. On the third day the battalion from Hadrat Ali side was
led by Hadrat Ammar bin Yasir and the Syrians were led by 'Amr Bin As (R.A.).
During the battle Hadrat Ammar bin Yasir (R.A.) was martyred but no result
came out. The martyrdom of Hadrat 'Ammar bin Yasir, however, proved that
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was right because of the following Hadith mentioned in
Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi and other authentic books of Hadith: According to
this Hadith the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi we Salaam) said, "'Ammar
bin Yasir would be killed by a group of rebels." Since Hadrat 'Ammar (R.A.)
was fighting in favour of Hadrat Ali, and was killed by the army of Hadrat
Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.), Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was in the right and his opponents
were the rebels.
For seven days the battle continued in this way.
A new battalion used to fight from each side under a new commander. On the
8th day the whole army of Hadrat Ali (R.A.) clashed with that of Amir
Mu'awiyah (R.A.). A fierce battle was fought but with no end in sight.
According to most of the historians, Hadrat 'Ammar bin Yasir was martyred on
that day. However no result came out till the evening. The death of Hadrat 'Ammar
bin Yasir was a shock to Hadrat Ali (R.A.). The battle went on the whole
night. At one time Hadrat Ali reached the tent of Hadrat Mu'awiyah and
challenged him to fight personally with him instead of shedding Muslim blood,
the winner would be the Khalifah. But Hadrat Mu'awiyah (R.A.)did not accept
the challenge because Hadrat Ali was a noted warrior of Arabia.
On the second day of the battle Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.)
was about to lose the battle. But, Amir Mu'awiyah was a shrewd person and had
been the governor of Syria from Hadrat Umar's time. He had with him Hadrat
Amr bin 'As (R.A.), the conqueror of Egypt and a recognised statesman of
Arabia. Seeing the impending defeat he consulted Hadrat 'Amr bin 'As (R.A.)
who advised Amir Mu'awiyah to give orders to the troops of the front ranks to
fasten the Holy Qur'an to their lances as a sign that war would cease and
that the decision would be referred to the Holy Book.
Seeing copies of the Holy Qur'an on lances,
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) recognised it as a clever move of the enemy but a good many
men of his army did not share his view and stopped fighting. Being helpless
he ordered his troops to stop fighting.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) sent his envoy to Hadrat
Mu'awiyah (R.A.) to find out what he meant by making the Holy Qur'an a judge.
Hadrat Amir Mu'awiyah told him that he wanted an arbitration through judges,
one from his side and the other from Hadrat Aliís side, and that both the
parties should abide by the decision of the judge. Had rat Ali accepted it.
He tried to make Hadrat Abdullah bin Abbas as the arbitrator from his side,
but some of his followers objected to it on the ground that he was related to
Hadrat Ali. They proposed the name of Hadrat Musa Ash'ari (R.A.). Hadrat Ali
accepted their proposal and he was appointed as the arbitrator of Aliís (R.A.)
side. Hadrat Mu'awiyah appointed 'Amr bin 'As (R.A.) as the arbitrator from
his side, and none of his followers questioned his choice although he was
related to Amir Mu'awiyah. This shows that the followers of Hadrat Mu'awiyah
were more united than the followers of Hadrat Ali. There were many Sabaites
in Hadrat Aliís camp and they were the real cause of such differences.
Whenever they saw the Muslims uniting they tried to create confusion with the
aim of disuniting them.
In case the two arbitrators could not come to an
agreement, the decision was to lie with eight hundred men (four hundred from
Hadrat Aliís camp and four hundred from Hadrat Mu'awiyah camp) and it would
be settled by the majority. A place named Dumat-ul-Jandal, in between Syria
and Iraq, was proposed for the talks. Both the judges with 800 would go there
to finalise their award by the month of Ramadan, and to make it public. A
temporary agreement was signed on 13th Safari, 37 A.H. between Hadrat Ali and
Hadrat Mu'awiyah. The two armies then left for their homes leaving about
90,000 men dead in the field of Siffin, which number exceeded the total
Muslim casualties in all the Islamic battles against the non-Muslims by the
"Khawarij" or Dissenters:
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) who was almost winning the
battle against Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) marched back from Siffin with a sense of
loss. There was a tremendous loss of Muslim lives in Siffin. Never before in
the history of Islam had the loss of Muslim blood been so heavy. Hadrat Ali
after all wanted a peaceful solution, although the price was heavy.
When Hadrat Ali announced the agreement before
his troops, formed of various tribes. Two brothers of the Tribe of 'Anza
stood up and opposed appointment of Arbitrator ("Hakam" or Judge)
between the two parties for Allah's commandments were with them in the form
of the Holy Qur'an which is the best "Hakam". Other people also
followed this example and a good many people were against the arbitration.
According to them the Arbitration was against the spirit of Islam. Some of
these men requested Hadrat Ali to throw away the agreement but he said,
"I did not want any agreement at that stage but you forced me to do so.
When 1 gave my word of honour, you are forcing me to give them up. I would
never do it." The followers of Hadrat Ali split into two groups. One
group stood by the agreement while for the other the arbitration was un-lslamic.
The second group, which was opposing arbitration,
was known as Kharijites ("Khawarij" in Arabic). By the time Hadrat
Ali returned to Kufa, their number reached 12,000. They did not stay with
other Muslims in Kufa; instead, they encamped at Harorah and appointed Sheith
bin Rabi'i as their commander-in-chief, and 'Abdullah bin Kawa as their Imam
to lead Salats. They announced their policy which was as follows:
"The Bai'at (Pledge of Loyalty) is only for
Allah, and He alone is to be obeyed. To spread good and forbid evil according
to the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah is our foremost duty. There exists neither
a Khalifah nor an Amir. Both Ali and Mu'awiyah are in error. Mu'awiyah in
error because he did not accept Ali while Ali is in error because he agreed
on arbitration. After gaining power, we will set up a social order based on
Allah's Book (i.e. the Holy Qur'an)."
Ali (R.A.) sends his emissary to "Khawarij":
After returning to Kufa Hadrat Ali sent 'Abdullah
bin 'Abbas to remove the misunderstanding of the Khawarll (Dissenters).
Instead of returning to the right belief, they started a lengthy argument
with him. Seeing this Hadrat Ali himself went to them. He gave them all the
assurances that the arbitration would only be accepted if it was based upon
the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah. He was successful in his efforts after a
great difficulty, and the "Khawarij joined him again temporarily.
Source: The Islamic Scholar: The most
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