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Related: The origins of the Shia/Sunni division - Part II
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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 consent.

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 fourth caliph.

 

Disobedience of Abdullah bin Saba and other Sabaites:

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 governors:

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 authority.

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 different.

 

Hadrat Amir Muawiyah's demand for assassins:

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 of assassins:

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 Uthmanís assassination.

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 fight.

 

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 was unavoidable.

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 settlement.

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 hell-fire."

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 Kufa.

 

Hadrat Aliís Final Invitation to Hadrat Mu'awiyah:

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 be fruitless.

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.

 

Arbitration:

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 time.

 

"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.

 

Please Read:

The origins of the Shia/Sunni division - Part II

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