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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 Khalifah."

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 later on.

(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 hand.

(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 Syrians.

 

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 parts:

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 Uthmanis.

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 here.

 

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 Yemen.

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.

 

Victories:

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 unknown place.

 

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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