The origins of the Shia/Sunni
division - Part II
Verdict of the Arbitrators:
The two arbitrators thought over the matter for
six months then met at the frontier town of Dumat-ul-Jandal in Sha'ban, 37
A.H. (Jan. 658). Each of them was having four hundred men with him. The
commander of men from Hadrat Ali’s side was Shuraih bin Hani, and the Imam
Hadrat 'Abdullah bin 'Abbas. The four hundred men from Mu'awiyah's camp were
under Surjil bin Samah. Besides these some neutral Companions like 'Abdullah
bin Umar, 'Abdullah bin Zubair, and Sa'd bin Waqqas were also present there.
Hadrat 'Amr bin 'As, the judge appointed by
Hadrat Mu'awiyah, was a famous statesman and diplomat of Arabia. On the other
hand Abu Musa Ash'ari, the judge from Hadrat Ali’s side, was a simple
Muslim, unacquainted with diplomatic tactics. In the beginning a discussion
between the two judges took place. A scribe was ordered to write down the
points of agreement during the discussion. They reached on the following
agreement after a long discussion:--
"All and Mu'awiyah both withdraw their
right for the Khilafat. The Muslims should appoint a third person as their
According to some historians the discussion was
not recorded and the agreement was reached verbally. However they could not
reach an agreement on the choice of the most suitable person to be approved as
the Khalifah in place of Hadrat Ali or Hadrat Mu'awiyah.
After the agreement Hadrat Amr bin 'As asked
Hadrat Abu Musa Ash'ari to make it public by announcing it in the mosque
before the Muslims. Hadrat Abu Musa (R.A.) announced: "We have agreed
that neither Ali nor Mu'awiyah would be considered as the Khalifah. You may
elect any other man you think fit." After this Hadrat Amr bin 'As (R.A.)
stood up and said, "I do not consider Ali fit for the Khilafat, but in my
opinion Mu'awiyah is fit for it." The statement of Hadrat Amr not only
showed the split of opinion between the Arbitrators but also meant one sided
decision according to which Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was supposed to lose his power
but not Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.).
Hearing the statement of Amr ibn As (R.A.)
there was a big uproar. The result of the arbitration was a mere confusion. In
this way the arbitration proved to be a futile and the hopes of peace were
gone. Both the parties left the place in great disgust. The acceptance of such
arbitration, really proved to be disastrous to Ali. Hadrat Ali lost the case
before it opened.
When Ali (R.A.)heard the result of the
arbitration he said, "The judgement is not based upon the Holy Qur'an and
the Sunnah which was the condition for arbitration. Therefore it cannot be
accepted." He then delivered a lecture in the Jami' Masjid of Kufa and
asked the Muslims to prepare to attack Syria.
Split in Muslim Community:
As soon as the "Khawarii " knew the
result of arbitration they again separated and this time rose in an open
revolt. A new group was thus created in the history of Islam which proved to
be more dangerous than any other group existing before then.
As it has been discussed in connection with the
assassination of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.), the Muslim community was divided into
four main groups viz, Uthmanis, Shi’an-i Ali, Marhabah and Ahl al-Sunnah wal
Jama'ah. Marhabis were absorbed in other groups. The remaining three groups
were still existing. Now the fourth group of Kharijites ("Khawarij was
formed. Before proceeding further let us see the main beliefs of these groups:
(i) Uthmanis: They were
now confined to Syria under the banner of Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.). They demanded
that until the assassins of Hadrat Uthman were punished or handed over to
them, they would not accept the Khilafat of Hadrat Ali. But after the so
called judgement of the arbitrators, they totally rejected the Khilafat of
Hadrat Ali and took Bai'at (Pledge of Loyalty) at the hand of Amir Mu'awiyah
after declaring him as the Khalifah. It would be discussed in more detail
(ii) Shi'an-i Ali (or Shia's):
They called themselves as the friends of Ali (R.A.) in the beginning but later
on they developed their own beliefs and considered Hadrat Ali as "Wasi"
i.e. Administrator of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam), and the
only fit person for the Khilafat. They not only criticised and condemned Amir
Mu'awiyah (R.A.) but also Umar, Abu Bakr, and Uthman (R.A.) and discarded the
authority of the first three Khalifahs. However they did not criticise the
first two Khalifahs openly during the time of Hadrat Ali (R.A.). As years
passed this group became an exponent of a separate school of thought in
Islamic Law and Jurisprudence and they wrote their own books of Hadith,
History of Islam and Commentaries of the Holy Qur'an based upon their beliefs.
They disagreed with most of the works produced by Sunni Scholars.
(iii) Ahl-i-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah:
The majority of the Companions, and Muslims at the time were not only in
favour of Hadrat Ali but all the preceding Khalifahs i.e. Abu Bakr, Umar and
Uthman (R.A.). They believed that the "Right Path" was to follow the
Sunnah of the Holy Prophet .(Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam) and the traditions
of his pious Jama'ah (i.e. all the Companions), especially the first four
Khalifahs who set examples to solve various problems according to the Holy
Qur'an and the Sunnah. This group was in great majority not only at that time
but in all the periods of Islamic History.
They fully supported Hadrat Ali (R.A.) during
his Khilafat. According to them Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) was not right in not
accepting Hadrat Ali authority. But they considered that mistake based upon
"ljtihad". After all, he was a pious Companion and the sincerity of
a Companion must not be questioned. Hadrat Shah Waliullah, in his famous book,
Izalar-ul-Khafa writes: Amir Mu'awiyah(R.A.) was an excellent Companion of the
Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam).Do not criticise or condemn him
otherwise you would be committing a "Haram"(unlawful) act because in
a Hadith the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam) said: Do not
criticise and condemn my Companions. I swear by Allah, Who holds my life, gold
equal to mountain Uhud, spent by you for the sake of Allah, cannot be equal
even to the handful of grains spent by a Companion. (Abu Da'ud). According to
a number of Ahadith, it is forbidden for a Muslim to criticise a Companion.
In a number of Ahadith the virtues of Hadrat
Mu'awiyah (R.A.) have been mentioned. Once the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi
we Salaam) prayed for Amir Mu'awiyah as follows: "O Allah, make him a
Muslim who would be on Your Guidance and such a Muslim who may guide
others." Ibn Sa'd says that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we
Salaam) prayed for Amir Mu'awiyah as follows: "O Allah, give him the
knowledge of the Book (i.e., the Holy Qur'an)and make him ruler(king) of the
countries, and save him from the punishment (of the Hereafter)." Moreover
Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) was one of the scribes of the Revelation (i.e., the Holy
Qur'an) during the time of the Holy Prophet.
It is necessary, therefore, that we must not
question his sincerity. Due to political conditions at that time, he was
strict in his demand of chastisement of the assassins of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.).
Most of the historians agree on this point that he did not declare himself a
Khalifah during the life of Hadrat Ali although people took Bai'at on his
(iv) The "Khawarij':
The Khawarij were more political group than theological. They accepted the
authority of Hadrat Abu Bakr and Umar (R.A.) but denounced Hadrat Uthman, Ali,
and Mu'awiyah (Rid. A.). They said that the "Hakam" (Arbitrator or
Judge for the dispute between Hadrat Ali and Mu'awiyah) was against the
principles of Islam. Only Allah had to be obeyed through the Holy Qur'an and
not the Hakam. They also formulated a number of other beliefs as well. In the
later period of Islamic history this group became almost extinct.
The Kharijite Trouble:
The "Khawarij " set up their centre
at Nahrwan and began to preach their cult. Many people gathered around them
and they gained sufficient strength. They were very harsh to those who
differed from them and regarded such Muslims as rebels against Islam and
murdered them. Loyalty to the Khalifah was a great crime in their eyes and
they called it "the cult of personality".
The Khariljites seemed to be very pious as far
as their appearance was concerned. They used to offer long Salats, wore simple
dress and were honest in their dealings. But they were misguided in beliefs
and killed all those who said that they were the followers of the Khalifah.
After the failure of arbitration Hadrat Ali (R.A.)
wanted to march to Syria but the Kharijite movement diverted his attention. It
was a great danger not only to the Muslim unity but to the Islamic beliefs and
practices as a whole. It was an urgent need to wipe out such a movement in its
early stage. Therefore he set out for Nahrwan, the centre of "Khawarij"
instead of Syria.
Reaching there Hadrat Ali tried to negotiate
with them peacefully. He sent some prominent Companions to persuade Khariii
leaders but they did not listen to them. Then Hadrat Ali asked them to hand
over such people who have murdered innocent Muslims. He told them that he
would leave the rest if they handed over the murderers. To this he replied to
the Khalifah, "All of us are murderers and we want to murder all of your
followers. We would never stop from this."
The stage reached when there was no other way
than to fight with them. Before declaring war against them Hadrat Ali declared
that those who would be loyal to him or those who left Nahrwan and did not
fight would be given amnesty. On his appeal 3000 Kharijites repented and again
took Bai'at at his hands. The rest did not move from their position.
The battle began. A fierce fight took place.
Kharijites fought desperately but were defeated. Most of their leaders were
slain. After the battle Hadrat Ali searched the slain body of the man about
whom the Holy Prophet had prophesied, and had given some of the signs which
were, really the forecast of Khariiite trouble. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) found the
body with all the signs told by the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we
Salaam) and remarked, The Holy Prophet was very true in his prophecy."
Unwillingness to march to Syria:
After the battle at Nahrwan Hadrat Ali (R.A.)
wanted to march on to Syria but his men were in no mood for that. They asked
for some rest when he was encamping at Nakhila, some miles away from the
Capital. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) allowed them to take some rest over there but they
started to slip away to their homes, and only a few of them were left with
him. Seeing the situation Hadrat Ali was also forced to return to Kufa.
After some time Hadrat Ali again asked the
Kufis to march on to Syria. He gave a stirring address in the Jami' Masjid of
the Capital but the leaders of Kufa did not show any inclination. Despite many
efforts Hadrat Ali was not successful in raising another army against the
Loss of Egypt:
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) appointed Qais bin Sa'd (R.A.)
as the governor of Egypt. He took pledge of loyalty from the Egyptians for
Hadrat Ali (R.A.). The inhabitants of the town of Khartaba were not loyal to
Hadrat Ali. He left them alone on the condition of a peaceful conduct. Some
friends of Hadrat Ali, who were having an eye on the governorship of Egypt,
started to doubt loyalty of Qais to Hadrat. They told Hadrat Ali that Qais was
more sympathetic to Hadrat Mu'awiyah and must be sacked.
When Hadrat Mu'awiyah noticed that the position
of Qais was doubtful in the eyes of Hadrat Ali, he declared him as his man.
Hearing this Hadrat Ali (R.A.) dismissed him and appointed Muhammad bin Abi
Bakr as the governor of Egypt. Muhammad bin Abu Bakr was a young man and was
not able to control the Egyptians in a tactful way. He forced the people of
Khartaba to pledge loyalty for Hadrat Ali and remained busy with them for a
long time. In the meantime the battle of Siffin took place but he was so busy
with the internal affairs of Egypt that he could not send any army to help
Hadrat Ali (R.A.).
After the battle of Siffin Hadrat Ali appointed
Malik bin Ushtar as the governor of Egypt. Ibn Ushtar was a strong man, but he
could not join his duty and passed away in the way. Muhammad bin Abi Bakr,
therefore, continued as the governor of Egypt.
After the award of the arbitration, the Syrians
declared Hadrat Mu'awiyah as their Khalifah and took Bai'at on his hands.
According to a number of historians, Amir Mu'awiyah did not declare himself as
the Khalifah during the life of Hadrat Ali (R.A.). However he tried to extend
his control over the Islamic state after the award. The first step was to send
his army under the command of Hadrat 'Amr ibn 'As to attack Egypt. Muhammad
ibn Abi Bakr, the governor of Egypt wrote to Hadrat Ali for help. But before
he got any help 'Amr ibn 'As (R.A.) reached Egypt with six thousand men. Ten
thousand inhabitants of Khartaba also joined his army. They easily beat back
two thousand men of Muhammad bin Abi Bakr. He himself took shelter in a house
but was caught and slain. In 38 A.H. Hadrat Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) became the
master of Egypt. He appointed Hadrat Amir ibn 'As as the governor.
Unrest in Basrah and Iran:
Hadrat 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas (R.A.) was the
governor of Basrah controlling the whole of Persia and other parts of the
Islamic State in the East. Basrites were pro-Ali but there were Uthmani (pro-Mu'awiyah)
elements as well over there. In 38 A.H. Hadrat Abdullah ibn Abbas went to Kufa
to pay a visit to the Khalifah. Abdullah ibn Hadrami, and Uthmani (pro-Mu’awiyah)
was in Basrah in those days. In the absence of Ibn Abbas he saw his chance and
incited the people to avenge the assassination of Hadrat Uthman. He got
support and was able to raise an army which invaded Basrah. The governor's
deputy, Ziyad ibn Abi Sufyan, could not face him and fled. Hearing the rising
Hadrat Ali sent Jariah ibn Qudamah who belonged to Bani Tamim tribe. He went
to Basrah with fifty people and negotiated with Basrites, most of whom were
from Bani Tamim tribe. He was successful in his mission and the rebellion was
put down. Ibn Hadrami and seventy of his followers shut themselves in a house
which was burnt by pro-Ali Basrites.
When the people of Eastern Persia and Kirman
heard the burning of Ibn Hadrami they refused to pay Kharaj Revenue in
protest. However their rising was put down by police action.
After consulting with 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas (R.A.),
Hadrat Ali appointed Ziyad ibn Abi Sufyan as the governor of Basrah to control
Persia and other Eastern parts of the State.
Pro-Mu’awiyah parties invade various
After the award, Uthmanis tried to create
general unrest in the country. During the year 39 A.H. strong parties were set
out from Syria. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) tried to stir his friends in Kufa but they
would never come out at Ali’s call. Neither they were prepared to fight the
Syrians again nor they tried seriously to check the invading parties of
One of such parties went to 'Ain al-tamr under
the command of Nu'man ibn Bashir but he was defeated by Ali’s governor,
Malik ibn Ka'b. Another party of six thousand men under Sufyan ibn 'Auf went
to Ambar and Mada'in (Midian). They killed the officer in charge of Ambar.
Hadrat Ali sent Sa'id ibn Auf with an army but they ran away. Another party of
three thousand men under Dahak ibn Qais came as fairest as the neighbourhood
of Basrah. Hadrat Ali sent four thousand men under Hajar ibn 'Adi. A fight
took Place in which 19 Syrians (Uthmanis) were killed. Rest of them ran away
in the darkness of the night.
In the same year (i.e., 39 A. H.) Had rat 'A ii
sent his deputy ibn 'Abbas, to lead Hajj. Amir Mu’awiyah also sent his
deputy, Yazid ibn Sanjar to lead the Hajj. A tussle between the two men took
place. At the end it was settled that a third person, Shaibah ibn Uthman ibn
Abi Talha, would lead the Hajj. In this way Hadrat Ali lost this symbol of
Khilafat as well.
Hadrat Ali’s hold weakened day by day. His
most effective and eloquent speeches could not arouse his friends to action.
Each day that passed witnessed the Khalifah growing more and more helpless.
A number of other incidents between pro-Mu'awiyans
and pro-Alis also took place in the same year the details of which are ignored
Loss of Hijaz and Yemen:
Hijaz and Yemen were still under the control of
Hadrat Ali (R.A.). In the year 40 A. H., Amir Mu'awiyah sent Busr ibn Abi
Artat with three thousand men to Hijaz. First of all he went to Medina. The
governor of Medina, Abu Ayyub was not able to check the Syrians and he left
for Kufa. Busr took pledge of loyalty from the Medinites forcibly for Amir
Mu'awiyah (R.A.), and exclaimed, "Had Mu'awiyah not forbidden me, I would
not have left a single adult in Medina alive."
After taking over Medina, Busr reached Mecca
and occupied it unopposed. There too he took the pledge of loyalty from the
Meccans for Amir Mu’awiyah forcibly.
From Mecca Busr went to Yemen. At that time
Hadrat 'Ubaidullah ibn 'Abbas was the governor of Yemen. Hearing of the Syrian
army he fled to Kufa. Busr occupied San'a, the capital of Yemen and killed two
little sons of Ubaidullah. He also slew a number of Ali’s supporters in
Hearing the cruelty of Busr Hadrat Ali sent
Jariah ibn Qudamah with two thousand men. But before he reached Yemen, Busr
fled to Syria. He also sent Wahb ibn Mas'ud with another two thousand men to
Hijaz. Jariah ibn Qudamah, after establishing Ali’s rule in Yemen, was
advancing to Mecca. As soon as he reached the Holy city, he received the news
of Hadrat Ali’s assassination which ended his campaign.
According to Ibn Jarir at the end of the year
40 A.H. a treaty was signed between Amir Mu'awiyah and Hadrat Ali, on the
request of Amir Mu'awiyah to avoid blood shed among the Muslims. Under that
treaty Syria and Egypt remained under the control of Amir Mu'awiyah and the
rest of the state under the control of Hadrat Ali. Thus the conflict between
the two parties ended. This civil war which ended to the detriment of Hadrat
Ali was the end of Islamic democratic rule.
But according to some other historians, no
treaty took place between Hadrat Ali and Mu'awiyah. While Hadrat Ali (R.A.)
was preparing to attack Syria, (for which he had issued an ordinance
compelling each and everyone under him to march to Syria) he was assassinated.
The civil war did not allow Hadrat Ali (R.A.)
to launch Jihad (Holy War) and the Islamic Empire saw no further extension.
However some parts of Sistan (near Kabul) were conquered during this period.
According to some histories Muslims made a naval attack on Kohan (near Bombay,
India) in the year 38 A.H
Assassination of Hadrat Ali (R.A.):
After the battle of Nahrwan the "Khwarij"
had gone underground. As a matter of fact they were as much against .Hadrat
Ali (R.A.)as they were against Hadrat Mu'awiyah (R.A.). They were still
working against the Khilafat and they were greatly disgusted with the civil
war that seemed endless.
To end this state of affairs, they worked out a
dangerous plot. According to them Muslims were divided because of differences
between Hadrat Ali and Amir Mu'awiyah. They also disliked 'Amr ibn 'As and
considered him as chief planner for Amir Mu'awiyah. They decided, therefore,
to assassinate all the three of them. It was planned that the three
personalities would be struck at the same time on the same day.
Three persons, appointed to assassinate Ali,
Mu'awiyah, and 'Amr ibn 'As (R.A.) were Abdur Rehman Muljam, Bark ibn
'Abdullah, and 'Amr ibn Bark respectively. Early hours of the 17th of Ramadan,
40 A.H., was fixed for the assassination.
After the Fajr Salat of the 17th Ramadan in :he
year 40 A.H. (661 A.D.) the three appointed Kharljis struck the three men.
Amir Mu'awiyah escaped with a scratch, Hadrat Amr ibn 'As did not turn out for
the Imamat because he was sick that day, thus was unhurt, but Hadrat Ali (R.A.)
was mortally wounded with the poisoned sword of Ibn Muljam. He passed away in
the evening of Ramadan 20, 40 A.H.
Ibn Muljam was caught by the people after he
had struck Hadrat Ali. Hadrat Ali asked the Muslims to slay him if he died. At
the same time of his death Hadrat Ali called his sons and advised them to
serve Islam and to be good with the Muslims. When somebody asked him should
the Muslims take pledge of loyalty at the hands of his elder son, Hadrat
Hassan, he replied, "I leave this decision to the Muslims." He also
advised people not to kill any person other than the assassin to avenge him.
He was sixty three years old at the time of his
death and had ruled for four years and nine months as the Khalifah.
According to a number of historians his real
grave is not known because his son Hadrat Hasan took out his body from the
grave after he was buried because of the fear of Kharijis and buried him at an
Period of his Khilafat:
The period of Hadrat Ali’s Khilafat extending
to four years and about nine months, was marked by civil war. His rule was
characterised by a series of revolts for the first time in the history of
Islam. He was elected as the Khalifah in the most critical period of Islamic
history. The martyrdom of Hadrat .Uthman was an extraordinary event about
which the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam) had already prophesied.
Hadrat Ali was in a very difficult situation. On the one hand the assassins
and the insurgents were creating endless trouble for him, and on the other
hand Banu Umayyah (Uthman's family) fled to Syria and incited Amir Mu'awiyah
to stick to his demand for avenging HADRAT Uthman’s assassins. Hadrat Ali
faced these problems and difficulties with extraordinary courage and presented
before us an exemplary character. He never had full support even from his
friends in Kufa but still remained firm in his position.
As it has been described before, he could never
locate the real assassins of Hadrat Uthman and this could not be achieved
until peace was established. Therefore his first task was to create an
atmosphere of peace in the state. But the Sabaites (insurgents) never wanted
peace. They worked on both sides. On the one side they made it difficult for
Hadrat Ali to find out the assassins, and on the other hand they sent their
agents to Syria to incite the people (especially Umayyads) against Hadrat Ali.
Their main aim was to let the Muslims fight among themselves so that they
might prosper. Although Hadrat Ali knew all this but he was unable to take any
firm action because of the civil war.
The third problem faced by Hadrat Ali (R.A.)was
the Kharijite movement. They were extremists and misled a number of innocent
Muslims. They did not hesitate to use sword against persons who do not agree
with them. They developed many beliefs foreign to Islam, although they
appeared to be very pious but very politically, they were corrupt. Hadrat Ali
dealt with them with an iron hand. He realised that if they were not wiped out
in the beginning they would mislead future generations. He was successful in
destroying their strong hold. However some of them, who escaped, went
underground but they were never in a strong position.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) tried his utmost to unite the
Muslims and bring them back on one platform but he was not successful. The
tragic death of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) signal for blood shed among the Muslims.
The Companions were not to be blamed for it at all. This was caused by
anti-Islamic elements in the form of Sabaites, ('Abdullah ibn Saba and his
followers). Historical facts bear it out that Abdullah ibn Saba became the
greatest enemy of Islam. It was he who shattered the unity of Muslims forever.
After completing their mission the Sabaites made a pretence of being Ali’s
friends but they never helped him nor the cause of Muslim Unity. No sooner had
Hadrat Ali assumed Khilafat than a group of the same miscreant Sabaites who
had brought about the cold-blooded assassination of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) began
to demand due retribution for the murder of the Khalifah and started to incite
Muslims only to create division among them. Thus they played a double role. A
group of them showed themselves as friends of Ali and another group (much
smaller than the first) went to Syria and other parts of Islamic State to
incite the Muslims against Hadrat Ali (R.A.).
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) faced all these problems with
courage and never lost heart. He was a man of strong will power and
determination and was quite right in his decisions.
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