Khalifa Ali bin Talib

Birth of Ali

Parentage

Ali was the son of Abu Talib, a prominent Quraish chief and custodian of the Holy Kaaba. Abu Talib was so called because he was the father of “Talib”, the eldest brother of Ali. The real name of Abu Talib was Abd Manaf. He was however more popularly known by his surname than by his real name. Abu Talib was the son of Abdul Muttalib. Abdul Muttalib was also a surname, his real name being Shaybah. Abdul Muttalib was the son of Hashim. Hashim was a great man of the line, and his descendants came to be known as Hashimites.

The mother of Ali was Fatima. She was the daughter of Asad who was a son of Hashim. Fatima was a cousin of Abu Talib. Thus both the father and mother of Ali were Hashimites, and that was a great honor.

Ancestry of Ali and the Holy Prophet

The Holy Prophet was the son to Abdullah who was the son of Abdul Muttalib. Abdullah and Abu Talib were real brothers. Abu Talib was thus the real paternal uncle of the Holy Prophet of Islam. Ali was the first cousin of the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet and Ali had a common grandfather Abdul Muttalib.

Abdul Muttalib was the son of Hashim who was the son of Abd Manaf who was the son of Qussay who was the son of Murrah, who was the son of Kaab, who was the son of Luayy, who was the son of Ghalib, who was the son of Fihr, who was the son of Malik who was the son of Nadr, who was the son of Kananah. Beyond Kananah the ancestry extended to Ismail, and Ibrahim, who flourished some 2500 years earlier.

Date of birth

The exact date of the birth of Ali is not known with any degree of certainty. According to traditions, Ali was born on the thirteenth of “Rajab” in the 28th year of the Elephant Era. The Elephant Era according to the annals of Arabia commenced when Abraha the Christian Viceroy of Yemen invaded Makkah with the intention of destroying the Kaaba, and shifting the center of pilgrimage to Yemen. The invasion failed and the Christian army had to beat a retreat without achieving its object. That marked the retreat of Christianity from the heartland of Arabia and paved the way for the rise of Islam. The Holy Prophet of Islam was born in the Year of the Elephant. According to scholars the Year of the Elephant corresponds to the year 571 of the Christian era. On this basis, the year of the birth of Ali would have to be placed around 599 or 600 C.E. Anyhow Ali was at the junction of the two centuries, the sixth and the seventh.

Birth of Ali

Ali was born under unusual circumstances. On the thirteenth of the holy month of “Rajab”, Fatima, the mother of Ali, visited the Kaaba for performing the pilgrimage. During the course of the pilgrimage while circumambulating the Kaaba, Fatima felt the pangs of childbirth. She retired to a secluded place in the precincts of the Holy Kaaba, and there Ali was born. Ali had thus the unique honor of being born in the House of God. This unparalleled honor has endowed Ali with a halo of sanctity, which has become the subject of many legends. A hundred years later, Zain-ul-Abidin a grandson of Ali (son of Husain) met as Arab woman at Najaf who told him that her grandmother had helped on the occasion of the birth of Ali. She narrated that according to the account of her grandmother, the child was beautiful, a smile played on his lips, it did not cry like other children, and its birth did not cause any pain to his mother.

The Name

Fatima wanted to name the child “Asad” after the name of her father. Abu Talib wanted to name him Zaid. When the mother and the child came home, the Holy Prophet, and Khadija came to see the newborn child. Since his birth, the child had not opened his eyes, and that worried Fatima and Abu Talib. As the Holy Prophet took the child in his lap he opened his eyes. The first person that Ali saw after his birth was the Holy Prophet. When the Holy Prophet was asked whether he approved of the child being named as Asad or Zaid, he said that as the child was born in the House of God, he should be named Ali, the word Ali being a derivative of Allah. Ali had thus the distinction of being named after Allah. No person before him had ever been so named. The name acquired further sanctity as it was proposed by the Holy Prophet.

Years of Childhood

The Holy Prophet and Ali

The Holy Prophet was a posthumous child, and he was born after the death of his father Abdullah. He lost his mother Aamina when he was hardly six years old. Thereafter he became a ward of his grandfather Abdul Muttalib. He lost his grandfather when he nine years old. The Holy Prophet next lived with his Uncle Abu Talib who a real brother of his father. In the house of Abu Talib, the Holy prophet was well cared for. Abu Talib loved the Holy Prophet more than his own sons. Fatima the wife of Abu Talib gave the Holy Prophet the love of mother. The Holy Prophet accompanied Abu Talib on his trade journeys. It was under the loving care of Abu Talib and Fatima that the Holy Prophet grew into manhood. At the age of twenty-five, some time around 596 C.E., the Holy Prophet married a rich lady Khadija and shifted to her house. There was not much distance between the two houses and the two families visited each other frequently. The Holy Prophet cold never forget the love that Abu Talib and Fatima had born for him. Even after his marriage, the Holy Prophet regarded himself as a member of the family of Abu Talib. In this context, it is probable that the Holy Prophet and Khadija would have rejoiced at the birth of Ali and would have some function to celebrate the occasion.

Life in the desert

No detailed account of the early years of the childhood of Ali is available, and where the source books are silent the story has been reconstructed on the basis of the laws of plausibility and probability. It was a custom of the Quraish of Makkah that they entrusted their new born sons to the care of foster parents belonging to the tribes of the desert, and it was in the open air of the desert that the young sons of the Quraish were bred during the first few years of their childhood. We know that the Holy Prophet spent the first five years of his childhood with his foster parents in the desert. We do not know who the foster parents of Ali were. Ali had a strong constitution, and after the Holy Prophet, he was the most eloquent person among the Quraish. This provides evidence to the effect that like the Holy Prophet, Ali spent the first few years of his childhood in the desert. It appears that the necessary arrangements in this behalf were made by the Holy Prophet, and he paid for the maintenance of Ali in the desert.

Induction of Ali as a member of the family of the Holy Prophet

As the Holy Prophet had arranged for the stay of Ali in the desert, it appears that on return from the desert, the young Ali was brought to the house of the Holy Prophet, and he arranged some function to mark the occasion which was attended by Abu Talib and his family, and other close relatives. The Holy Prophet had looked after the young Ali since his birth and he developed a great liking for him. It was against this background that the Holy Prophet requested Abu Talib that Ali be entrusted to his care, and be allowed to live with him as a member of his family. Abu Talib agreed as he felt that the Holy Prophet would look after Ali in a much better way than he could.

Most of the writers have expressed the view that the Holy Prophet took over the responsibility for the maintenance of Ali to provide financial relief to Abu Talib whose financial position had grown weak. It is difficult to accept this view. Abu Talib was a Quraish chief and he enjoyed reputation as such and commanded great influence. Like the other Quraish he undertook trading activities. There is no evidence to the effect that he was involved in any financial difficulty. Abu Talib had really any financial difficulty, the Holy Prophet who was in affluent circumstances could have supplemented the financial resources of Abu Talib by providing financial assistance as a son would help a father in old age. The truth of the matter is that Ali was entrusted to the Holy Prophet, not because of any financial considerations, but because the Holy Prophet had developed a liking for the child, and wanted to have him by his side. In entrusting Ali to the care of the Holy Prophet, Abu Talib did not part from Ali. Ali visited the house of his parents every day, and he was as much a member of the house of Abu Talib as that of the Holy Prophet. Indeed the house of the Holy Prophet was an extension of the house of Abu Talib, and the young Ali lived with the Holy Prophet as a younger brother would live with an elder brother without any break with the paternal house.

The Umayyads versus the Hashimites

It appears that most of the accounts of the period were written when the Umayyads had wrested power from the Hashimites. Because of the rivalry between the Umayyads and the Hashimites, most of the writers during the Umayyad period tried to create the impression that the Hashimites were not good managers, and that the financial position of Abu Talib had deteriorated because of his inefficiency. This view is uncharitable. The Muslims are under great obligation to Abu Talib for his guardianship of the Holy Prophet and for his support of Islam, and such views which cast an indirect aspersion on Abu Talib have to be rejected because of the bias of the writers.

Ward of the Holy Prophet

Biographical study

Ali became the ward of the Holy Prophet at the age of five. No account is available from the source books about the life of Ali during this period. As Ali came to be attached to the Holy Prophet during this period, we can derive help from the life of the Holy Prophet in order to undertake a biographical study of Ali. There are three turning points in the life of the Holy Prophet. The first turning point was his marriage with Khadija in 596 C E. when he was twenty-five years old. The second turning point was the call to prophethood in 611 C.E. when he was forty years old. The third turning point was the migration to Yathrib in 622 C E. when he was fifty-one years old. The life of the Holy Prophet is thus divisible into four periods. The first period of 25 years extends from 571 to 596 C. E the second period of 15 years extends from 596 to 611 C.E. The third period of 11 years extends from 611 to 622 C.E. The fourth and the last period covering ten years extends from 622 to 632 C.E. We have sufficient details about the third and fourth periods. A few details are available about the first period, but there are practically no details in any source book pertaining to the period from 596 to 611. These were the formative years preliminary to the call to prophethood, and in order to get a complete picture of the life of the Holy Prophet we will have to reconstruct the life story of the Holy Prophet during this period on the basis of further research. The law of plausibility and probability will also have to be pressed into service to set the narrative in proper perspective. As Ali became the ward of the Holy Prophet, during this period we cannot reproduce an account of the life of Ali during this period from any source book. We will have to undertake an exercise in the reconstruction of the biography of Ali during this period.

The house of the Holy Prophet

When Ali came to live with the Holy Prophet that was some time in the year 604 C.E. By this time eight years had passed since the marriage of the Holy Prophet and Khadija. At the time the Holy Prophet was thirty-three years and Khadija was forty-eight years old. During these eight years, Khadija had given birth to seven children. Out of these three were sons and four were daughters. All the three boys died during infancy. The girls survived. These were Zainab, Ruqayya, Umm Kulthum and Fatima. There were no more births thereafter. All the source books that have come down to us are silent as to the activities of the Holy Prophet during this period. We know that Khadija was a rich lady and when the record is silent about any business activity of the Holy Prophet that tends to create the impression that the Holy Prophet depended on the wealth of his wife. The Holy Prophet being the greatest of all men of all times, and a personification of perfection in all spheres of human activity could not be supposed as living on the wealth of anybody else, howsoever close. Years later in a verse of the Holy Quran, Allah said, “Were thee not poor, and did We not enrich thee?” A person who depends on the wealth of another person cannot be regarded as a rich man. The test of richness is that such richness should be on his own account and because of his own efforts. We know that the Holy Prophet was a skilful Manager, and a man endowed with such qualities could not be expected to sit idle. We know that the Holy Prophet was known as “Amin”. This means that he was a banker, and a person who practiced banking must necessarily be a rich man. The Holy Prophet undertook some trade journeys before his marriage, and such journeys proved to be profitable from the business point of view. There appears to be no ground to believe that the Holy Prophet stopped all business activity after marriage. On the other hand, the plausibility is that he undertook such activities on a still bigger scale. It appears that during this period, the Holy Prophet headed a trade organization whereof his wife and some other friends were partners. We can thus conclude that when Ali came to live with the Holy Prophet, he found in the house of the Holy Prophet, all the comforts that are found in the house of a rich man.

Education of Ali

As the Holy Prophet was rich, it is certain that on taking over the responsibility for the maintenance of Ali, the Holy Prophet made the best possible arrangement for his education. Later in life, Ali came to enjoy reputation for being the most learned man of his age in Arabia. This points to the fact that the Holy Prophet took particular care in educating Ali, Ali was a precocious child, at an early age he came to master knowledge which others could hardly understand.

Trade journeys

Though there is no record to show that the Holy Prophet undertook any trade journeys during this period, there are strong plausible grounds to hold that the Holy Prophet was very active in business enterprises, and that he undertook at least one or two journeys every year. These journeys were generally undertaken to Yemen and Syria. There are indications that the Holy Prophet undertook some sea voyages as well and visited Egypt and Abyssinia. We know that when the Holy Prophet was a child, he accompanied his uncle Abu Talib on trade journeys. Against this background, we would not be far from the truth to hold that the young Ali often accompanied the Holy Prophet on such trade journeys. These journeys were highly educative and contributed a good deal to the broadening of the outlook of Ali.

Ali and the Kaaba

Ali knew that he was born in the Kaaba. He had, therefore, a fond attachment for the Kaaba. Some time in 605 C.E. the Quraish reconstructed the Kaaba. A dispute arose about the placing of the Holy Stone as each section of the Quraish wanted to have this honor for itself. It was ultimately decided that on the appointed day whosoever was the first to enter the Kaaba should decide as to how the dispute was to be resolved. On the appointed day the Holy Prophet was the first to enter the Kaaba. He decided that the Holy Stone should be placed in a mantle, and this mantle should be upheld by a representative of each section of the Quraish. The stone was carried in this way to the place where it was to be fixed in the wall. There the Holy Prophet lifted the stone from the mantle and fixed it at the appropriate place in the wall. Young Ali was present in the Kaaba on this occasion and he watched the proceedings with great interest. Ali felt a sense of pride at the association of his family with the Kaaba. He himself was born in the Kaaba, and his guardian had presided at the ceremony of laying down the Holy Stone. The Kaaba was verily the House of God, but he wondered why it was studded with over three hundred and sixty idols made of stone. The people worshipped these idols and slaughtered animals at their altar. He young Ali wondered why these deaf and dumb idols were worshipped and propitiated when they were not capable of conferring any benefit or inflicting any wrong on the people.

Ali and the Holy Prophet

At this impressionable period of his life, the young Ali was most impressed with the personality and character of the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet was the paragon of virtues, and the personification of human perfection. The Holy Prophet, Abu Bakr, and some other friends often met at the house of the Holy Prophet. The young Ali listened attentively to such talks. From these talks the young Ali gathered that the Holy Prophet was in quest of a new order of things. Ali resolved in his young mind that in any adventure in the discovery of a new order of things, he would stand by the side of Muhammad (peace be on him). He came to know from Abu Talib how a Christian monk in Syria had prophesied many years ago that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was destined to be a prophet of God. He heard from Khadija that her dream signified that great destiny awaited Muhammad (peace be upon him),and that he was to be a great leader of men and the savior of humanity. The young Ali anxiously longed to see that day when such dreams would be realized. He moved by a strong determination that as and when Muhammad (peace be upon him) was lifted to the status of prophethood he, as the ward of the Holy Prophet, Ali regarded the Holy Prophet not merely as a brother or a guardian, but as his guide and preceptor. Availing of the company of the Holy Prophet, the young Ali took pains to acquire most of the attributes, which were the distinguishing features of the character of the Holy Prophet. It was a result of this training received because of close association with the Holy Prophet that Ali in due course grew to be the alter ego of the Holy Prophet.

Conversion to Islam

Turning point in history

The year 611 C.E. was a turning point in the life of Muhammad (peace be upon him) for it was in this year that he was commissioned as a prophet of God to communicate the message of Islam to mankind. It was a turning point in the life of Ali for in this year he was converted to Islam. This was a turning point in the history of Islam. In fact it was a turning point in the history of mankind. It marked the end of the age of ignorance, and the dawn of a new era of enlightenment.

The call to Prophethood

Just as the clouds appear before the rain, thus Muhammad (peace be upon him) had some indications before hand of the things to come. He had frequent dreams, in some dreams he saw himself flying to the heavens in the great void of space. In some dreams he saw the stars bow to him. In some dreams he heard the trees, the rocks and the ether inanimate objects calling to him. In some dreams he saw himself standing at the summit of a mountain, and calling to the people assembled below in the valley. These dreams foretelling of some great things to come motivated Muhammad (peace be on him) to contemplate and meditate. To seek enlightenment through contemplation and meditation, Muhammad (peace be on him) sought the solitude of a cave in Mount Hira, some distance away from the city of Makkah. Muhammad (peace be on him) spent long hours in the cave absorbed in thought and meditation. When the stay in the cave extended to a long time Ali brought food for Muhammad in the cave. Ali kept watch on the cave and patrolled the neighborhood. One day in the year 611, the angel Gabriel appeared in the cave, and gave Muhammad (peace be on him) the tidings that God had commissioned him as a prophet and charged him to communicate the message of God to the people. The visitation of the angel, an unusual occurrence was a novel experience which upset Muhammad (peace be on him) and made him highly nervous.

Converts to Islam

When the Holy Prophet returned home he was highly agitated and most nervous. He told of the occurrence in the cave to his wife Khadija. She consulted her cousin Waraqa b Naufal who was versed in religious lore. Waraqa said that the angel who had appeared before Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the same angel who had appeared before Abraham, Moses and other prophets. Waraqa added that the visiting of the angel was a great event, and she should rejoice that her husband had been chosen by the Almighty God as His Messenger. When Khadija told Muhammad (peace be on him) what Waraqa had said, Muhammad (peace be on him) said that the burden of prophethood would be too heavy for him to bear, and he did not know who would accept conversion to the new faith at his hand. Khadija consoled him and said that the Almighty who had chosen him as His Messenger would Himself guide him in fulfilling His mission of prophethood. Khadija offered herself as the first person to owe allegiance to Muhammad (peace be on him) as the prophet of God. When Ali came to know of the conversion of Khadija he hastened to offer his allegiance to the Holy Prophet. Ali was the first among the youth to be converted to Islam. In some books it is written that when Muhammad (peace be upon him) invited Ali to the new faith, he showed some hesitation and said that he would consult Abu Talib in the first instance. This version of what happened is far from the truth. There was no hesitation on the part of Ali in accepting the truth. Ali had indeed been longing for the day when the call from the Almighty would come and when the call came he was so much overwhelmed with joy that there could be no question of any hesitation. The acceptance of the new faith on the part of Ali was spontaneous and without any hesitation, for Ali had the firm conviction that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the true prophet of God.

Early years of Islam

During the first three years, Islam remained a private affair and no attempt was made to proclaim Islam publicly. The message of Islam was during this period conveyed privately to his friends by the Holy Prophet. Among the persons outside the family of the Holy Prophet, Abu Bakr was the first to be converted to Islam. Abu Bakr in turn brought some of his friends to the fold of Islam. Those who accepted Islam persuaded their friends to accept Islam. In this way the chain came to be extended, and the progress of Islam though not spectacular was quite satisfactory. The early Muslims prayed in secluded glens, or other solitary places. On one occasion Abu Talib happened to see the Muslims praying behind the Holy Prophet in a glen out side Makkah. Ali was one of the congregation. Abu Talib asked Ali as to whom they were praying, and what was the religion they had adopted. Ali told his father that they were praying to Allah, the Lord of the world and the universe. There was no god but Allah and Muhammad (peace be upon him) was His prophet. Abu Talib pondered for a while and said, “If Muhammad has become the prophet, hold fast to him for he cannot but be right. I know that his elevation to prophethood was expected many years ago”. When the Holy Prophet and Ali visited the house of Abu Talib, they had a more detailed discussion about the new faith. Abu Talib was sympathetic, but as he was one of the tribal chiefs he could not abandon the faith of his forefathers. He warned the Holy Prophet that he would have to face the opposition of the Quraish. He promised that though he would not accept the new faith, he would stand by him through thin and thick, and he would enjoy his full support. Fatima the wife of Abu Talib was more sympathetic. She said that she had mothered Muhammad, and Muhammad (peace be on him) was not the man to make a false claim. She observed that it was yet too early for her to make a decision whether she was going to accept Islam or not. Jafar, a brother of Ali put a few questions to the Holy Prophet, who answered them satisfactorily. Jafar wanted some more time to consider over the matter.

Invitation to Banu Hashim

After three years of the call to prophethood, the Holy Prophet received the command of God that he should publicly proclaim the message of Islam, and that he could make a beginning with his relatives, belonging to the house of Banu Hashim. The Holy Prophet invited the Hashimites, about forty men, to a feast. After the feast the Holy Prophet gave an account as to how he had been visited by the angel Gabriel who had conveyed to him the orders of Allah commissioning him as His prophet. He said that there was no god but Allah, and that he was His Messenger commissioned to call the people to the faith. He added that the members of the house of Hashim should feel proud that this honor had come to one of them. Waxing eloquent the Holy Prophet said that in the task of promoting the new faith he needed their support. He posed the question, “Who out of you would support me in this task? A silence fell on the guests and no one uttered a word. Young Ali thereupon rose to say, “Holy Prophet, I will be your support”? The Holy Prophet looked approvingly at young Ali, and thanked him for his support. The Holy Prophet posed the same question for the second and third time but, no one out of the guests promised any support. Each time the young Ali rose to offer his support in unequivocal terms. Abu Talib had already assured the Holy Prophet of his protection and he did not consider it advisable to make a public declaration of his support or protection at that stage. He, however, felt happy at the courage shown by the young Ali. He felt that there was something extraordinary in the new faith, which had motivated young Ali to the demonstration of such courage in public. Abu Lahab a step uncle of the Holy Prophet took a hostile attitude. He ridiculed the new faith, and felt sorry that his nephew had lost his sense, and was suffering from some hallucination. He wanted the guests to disperse. The Holy Prophet felt very unhappy at his failure to win the support of the Banu Hashim. Though disappointed the Holy Prophet was not daunted. He knew that the course of the Truth could not be anything but rough and that in order to fulfil his mission he should prepare himself to face difficulties. After his disappointment with the Banu Hashim the Holy Prophet decided to make a public declaration of his faith. One day he mounted the hillock, Mt Safa, and called the people to come and listen to him. Ali was by the side of the Holy Prophet. In response to the call a large crowd gathered at the foot of the hill to listen to the Holy Prophet. Addressing the people, the Holy Prophet said: “O people, if I tell you that on the other side of this hill there were the forces of an enemy coming to attack you, would you believe me”? They said, “Yes, we would believe in you, for you are known to be truthful. ” Thereupon the Holy Prophet said, “if I tell you that there is no god but Allah, and I am His prophet, would you believe me. ” The people made no reply and the crowd dispersed. The people steeped deep in ignorance were not yet in the mood to know the Truth. As the Holy Prophet and Ali came down from the hill they felt that they would have to carry a great struggle in the cause of their mission before any results could be achieved.

Battle Between the truth and falsehood

The crisis

The public proclamation of Islam by the Holy Prophet led to a great crisis. The people were not prepared to accept any change in their age-long beliefs, and the Holy Prophet was not inclined to relax or spare any effort in the fulfillment of the great mission that had been entrusted to him by God. Thus began a battle between truth and falsehood. It was an extraordinary battle in the annals of mankind. In this battle waged under the command of the Holy Prophet, Ali was the right hand man of the Holy Prophet and was always in the forefront of the struggle. As in the subsequent battles fought between the Muslims and the pagans in the conventional style, Ali proved to be a warrior of extraordinary valor whose sword put hundreds of the unbelievers to death. It appears that at this stage during the second decade of seventh century when the stage was set for a conflict between truth and falsehood, Ali received some sort of military training which stood him in great stead in the following years of his life, marked by open warfare between the Muslims and the pagans.

The Muslim Community

In spite of the fact that at the feast held by the Holy Prophet in the honor of the men belonging to the house of Banu Hashim. No one had responded to his call, some members of the family were attracted to the new faith. These included Jafar, his wife Asma, and Hamza Jafar was a brother of Ali, and Hamza was an uncle of the Holy Prophet and Ali. It appears that Ali played an important part in the conversion of Jafar and his wife who were particularly attached to Ali. When the Holy Prophet gave the call at Mt. Safa, and invited the people to the new faith, they had refused to listen to him. In spite of that, some persons were attracted by the new faith, and they offered allegiance to the Holy Prophet regardless of what the other people said. By 615 C.E. in spite of untoward circumstances and unfavorable conditions about one hundred persons, men and women had joined the fold of Islam and the Muslim community had come to acquire particular identity of their own.

The Quraish in action

The growing strength of the Muslim community stirred the Quraish to action. They launched a vilification campaign against the Holy Prophet, Islam and the Muslims. In uncouth verses the Quraish poets ridiculed the Holy Prophet and his faith. Ali was a poet and it appears that he composed some verses highlighting the truth about Islam. The Quraish made a crude and undignified attempt towards the character assassination of the Holy Prophet. Some said that he had gone mad and had lost his senses. Some said that he was the victim of some hallucination. There were others who said that he was a wizard or a “Kahin.” Some said that he was the victim of some “Jinn”. When all attempts of vilification and character assassination failed, the Quraish made preposterous demands as a proof for the veracity of the Holy Prophet. They said that if the angel appeared to him, he should show them the angel. They said that if he was the beloved of God he should ask God to turn the rocks of Makkah into gold. They wanted that he should show them some miracle. He should get the desert of Arabia converted into an oasis. Some said that if he was a prophet, and knew of things not known to others, he should show them the spots where treasure was buried under the earth. The Holy Prophet maintained that the Holy Quran was his miracle, and he challenged the unbelievers to produce anything like that. When all the tactics of the Quraish proved abortive, they resorted to physical force. They persecuted the Muslims and subjected them to great hardships. When the persecutions of the Quraish became unbearable the Holy Prophet ordered his followers to migrate to Abyssinia. About eighty Muslims including women migrated to Abyssinia. About two dozen Muslims, including Abu Bakr and Ali, were left in Makkah, and this included the Holy Prophet and the members of his family. Thus to all intents and purposes, the Muslims evacuated Makkah.

Migration to Abyssinia

The source books that have come down to us do not throw sufficient light on the wisdom of migration to Abyssinia. It was the year 615 C.E. and by this time Ali had come of age. Ali was an embodiment of courage and bravery. When the Quraish subjected the poorer sections of the Muslims to hardship, Ali asked the permission of the Holy Prophet to retaliate, and fight against the Quraish who used force against the Muslims. There were some other young men among the Muslims who were of the same view as Ali, and who were prepared to fight against the Quraish, and die for the defense of Islam. The Holy Prophet felt that with such a meager number of Muslims, any headlong-armed conflict between the Muslims and the Quraish was likely to be against their interests. The migration to Abyssinia was undertaken not because of the fear of the Quraish, it was undertaken to restraining the Muslims from open war with the Quraish. The Holy Prophet also felt that if the Muslims established a settlement outside Arabia that would help in the promotion of Islam in other parts of the world. A Muslim settlement along the borders of Arabia was likely to be a source of strength to the Muslims in Arabia. The Muslims who migrated to Abyssinia were likely to have better opportunities for economic betterment and that would work to the advantage of the Muslim community as a whole. That would also help the Muslims in Arabia strengthen their trade relations with Abyssinia. The Quraish were alive to these advantages that were likely to accrue to them as a trestle of the migration of a batch of the Muslims to Abyssinia. Accordingly the Quraish sent a delegation to Abyssinia to prevail on the Negus of Abyssinia to expel the Muslims from his country. The Negus invited the Muslims to his court and asked them to explain what was the faith they had adopted. Jafar, the brother of Ali, acting as the spokesman of the Muslims presented such a splendid picture of Islam that the Negus was much impressed, and he refused to oblige the Quraish.

The discomfiture of the Quraish mission to Abyssinia gave a great setback to the cause of the Quraish. They had failed to convince the Negus of the genuineness of their cause. On the other hand, the Muslims had succeeded in impressing the Negus and he had agreed to patronize them. Thus in the first round of the battle between the truth and falsehood, falsehood suffered defeat while the truth scored a victory. Although we are not very definite as to what role Ali played in the battle, but there are strong grounds to believe that he played an important part in winning the battle.

Social boycott of Banu Hashim

The miracles of the Holy Quran

Exasperated at the failure of their mission in Abyssinia, the Quraish stepped up their opposition to the Holy Prophet and his mission. The Holy Quran served as shield for the Muslims, and in order to break up this line of defense of the Muslims, the Quraish launched an attack against the Holy Quran. They levied the charge that the Holy Quran was not a revealed book, it owed its authorship to a Christian Jabir. Allah Himself refuted the charge by pointing out that Jabir was not Arab, and he was not proficient in the Arabic language. A challenge was given to the Quraish that if they maintained that the Quran was a work of human authorship, they should produce something like that. The Quraish were unable to accept the challenge and thus, attack on the Quran failed.

In the meantime, the Holy Quran showed its miraculous aspect in many ways, and came to the help of the Muslims when things had become difficult for them. One day, Umar a fiery youth among the Quraish and an inveterate enemy of the Muslims girded his sword and came out of his house with the intention of putting an end to the life of the Holy Prophet. In the way he met a friend who advised him to take care of his sister and her husband first who had become Muslims. At the house of his sister, Umar heard some verses of the Holy Quran, which moved him to such an extent that he hastened to the house of the Holy Prophet not with a view to killing him, but to owe him allegiance. The conversion of Umar to Islam proved to be a matter of great asset to the Muslims and a setback for the Quraish.

Al Tufail b Amr of the Daus tribe having heard of the Holy Prophet came to him at Makkah. Al Tufail was an eminent Arabic poet. The Quraish met Al Tufail, and put pressure on him not to see Muhammad (peace be on him) as he was a wizard and a sorcerer. Al Tufail said that he was a poet and after hearing the verses of the Holy Quran he would be in the position to judge how far the Quran was genuine or otherwise. He saw the Holy Prophet, heard some verses of the Holy Quran and was so much impressed that he lost no time in conversion to Islam.

A delegation of a dozen Christians from the interior of Arabia, having heard of the advent of the Holy Prophet, came to Makkah with a view to seeing the Holy Prophet. The Quraish tried to prevail upon them not to see the Holy Prophet as according to their assessment he was an imposter. The Christians said that they would be able to judge this issue for themselves after they had seen the Holy Prophet. They saw the Holy Prophet, heard the Holy Quran, were impressed and were converted to Islam.

Maneuvers of the Quraish

The Quraish failed miserably in their attack on the Holy Quran. In view of their defeat on this front, the Quraish changed their strategy, and adopted new maneuvers. They whipped up their persecution campaign on the one hand, and offered inducements to the Holy Prophet on the other hand. They offered him the crown of Makkah in case he desisted from his activities. The Prophet was neither daunted by the persecution campaign of the Quraish, nor was he attracted by their inducements. He declared that even if all the wealth of the world was offered to him, he would not falter in the fulfillment of the mission entrusted to him by God. By 616 the Quraish felt the ground slipping under their feet. Their mission to Abyssinia had failed. Their attack on the Holy Quran had failed. Their campaign of persecution had failed to overawe the Holy Prophet. Their inducements had been turned down scornfully by the Holy Prophet. The Quraish failed to prevail any Muslim to return to his previous faith. On the other hand some remarkable conversions had been made to Islam. Islam had spread outside Makkah, and pockets of the Muslims had come to be established in other parts of Arabia.

Social boycott of Banu Hashim

Because of their repeated failures, the Quraish became desperate. They felt that now the only way before them was to kill Muhammad (peace be on him . The Holy Prophet enjoyed the protection of his tribe Abu Hashim, and as long as such protection was there Muhammad (peace be on him) could not be killed according to the tribal code, for any such murder would have precipitated tribal warfare. The Quraish approached Abu Talib, the head of the Banu Hashim, to prevail upon Muhammad (peace be on him) to desist from his teachings. Abu Talib consulted the Holy Prophet whether he could accommodate the Quraish in any way. The Holy Prophet expressed his resolution in strong terms that he would not fail or falter in the performance of the mission that had been entrusted to him by God. Thereupon the Quraish asked Abu Talib to withdraw the protection of Banu Hashim from Muhammad (peace be on him). Abu Talib consulted the Holy Prophet again, and tried to prevail upon him to compromise with the Quraish in some way, which could avert the crisis. The Prophet told his uncle that he could withdraw his protection from him if he liked, but he could not compromise in any way in the matter of the mission entrusted to him by God. Abu Talib felt unhappy on the growing rift between the Muslims and the Quraish, but he assured him that he would not abandon him, whatever might come. Abu Talib accordingly told the Quraish that he could not withdraw his protection from Muhammad (peace be on him). Thereupon the Quraish decided to enforce social boycott against Banu Hashim. An agreement was drawn up which was signed by the representatives of all the sections of the Quraish except the Banu Hashim. The agreement provided that the Quraish would neither marry their daughters to the Banu Hashim, nor marry the daughters of Banu Hashim. It was also provided that they would neither sell anything to nor buy anything from the Banu Hashim. The document was hung on the Kaaba. The Holy Prophet and the Banu Hashim moved to a glen outside Makkah and there remained in a state of semi-captivity for a period of two to three years. Thereafter the social boycott was lifted, and the Banu Hashim returned to their homes in Makkah.

Consequences of the social boycott

The accounts of the social boycott available in the source books that have come down to us are incomplete, and do not present a true picture of the actual state of affairs. We know that during this period the Banu Hashim lived in a glen outside Makkah. The point to be determined is whether the Banu Hashim were driven to this glen by the Quraish, or did the Banu Hashim move there out of their own accord. In the boycott instrument the Quraish were not required to drive the Banu Hashim out of their homes in Makkah. It appears that the Banu Hashim shifted to the glen, which belonged to Abu Talib out of their accord for reasons of safety, and with a view to living together in a time of crisis. The boycott was only against Banu Hashim. Abu Lahab and his wife who were Banu Hashim did not join the other members of the Banu Hashim. It appears that all other families of the Banu Hashim sided with the Holy Prophet even though they had not accepted Islam. An important issue in this connection is, whether Abu Talib had become a Muslim by the time the boycott was enforced. In this biography of the Holy Prophet Ibn Ishaq quotes some verses composed by Abu Talib with reference to the boycott. A translation of these verses is available in Guilluiman’s Life of Muhammad. Addressing the Quraish, Abu Talib says: “Did you not know that we have found Muhammad a prophet like Moses described in the oldest books”. When the boycott was lifted, and the boycott document was torn Abu Talib composed some more verses, which provided: “The deed was torn up, and all that was against God’s wish was destroyed”.

A person giving expression to such thoughts as these could not be any one other than a Muslim. It appears that Abu Talib would have accepted the new faith, but he could not make an open declaration, because he felt that people would say Abu Talib has professed Islam out of the fear of death.

Most of the writers refer to this event as a siege. It is doubtful whether this was in fact a siege. According to the agreement of boycott there was no stipulation for siege. The ban was only on marriage and purchase or sale of goods. This did not include any siege. This did not restrict the movements of Banu Hashim either. According to most of the accounts that come down to us, the impression is created that the Banu Hashim in the glen were starved and they were forced to subsist on the leaves of trees. This is not the correct presentation of facts. The boycott was enforced against Banu Hashim alone. Many Muslims still lived in Makkah proper, and there were no restrictions on their purchase or sale of goods. If the Muslims of Makkah purchased provisions from the market, and supplied them to the Banu Hashim in the glen they could do so for there was no term in the agreement of boycott that no one was to be allowed to supply any article of food and drink. Hardship was certainly involved in the segregation of the Banu Hashim in the glen outside Makkah, but the Holy Prophet being a great man was resourceful enough to overcome such hardships. In any proper account of Islamic history the emphasis should not be on the hardships inflicted by the enemies of Islam, the emphasis should be as to how the Muslims overcame such hardships and defeated the enemy at his own game. Under the leadership of the Holy Prophet the Banu Hashim met the ordeal of the social boycott successfully. The social boycott failed to achieve the purpose for which it was intended, and once again in the battle between the truth and falsehood, the Quraish met a reverse, and the Muslims scored a victory.

Ali

In the accounts of this period that have come down to us there is no mention of Ali. By this time Ali had come of age. He was well educated, highly intelligent, most enterprising and brave. It is difficult to believe that if the accounts make no mention of Ali, the inference is that he was idle and had nothing to do. When Abu Talib decided to espouse the cause of Muhammad (peace be on him), Ali most probably played an important part in prevailing upon Abu Talib to take the decision he did. We know that when the Holy Prophet migrated to Yathrib, he entrusted the responsibility for winding up the business in Makkah to Ali. In the accounts that have come down to us the Holy Prophet is shown as a good manager and businessman, but in the accounts of the post-prophethood period there is no account of any business activity on the part of the Prophet. The writers of the period apparently harbored the delusion that any business undertaking was repugnant to prophethood. An impression is tried to be created that in the post-prophethood period the Holy Prophet undertook no business and depended on the wealth of his followers, Abu Bakr, Othman and others. This is an erroneous presentation, for Islam is not a religion for the next world alone, it is a religion for this world as well. To abstain from business may be the Christian or the Buddhist concept of piety, but that is not the Islamic concept of prophethood. The Holy Prophet is the greatest man of all times and such a man perfect in every way cannot be without independent sources of income. It appears that when Ali came of age, the Holy Prophet entrusted the responsibility for running the business to Ali. It appears that during the period of the social boycott Ali continued to run the business of the holy Prophet (SAW). The boycott agreement merely restricted the sale or purchase by the Quraish; it did not and could not apply to business transactions elsewhere. It appears that Ali undertook business journeys during this period, and the necessary provisions procured from outside Makkah were duly supplied to the Banu Hashim in the glen.

Year of Sorrow

The Holy Prophet and the Quraish

The troubles of the Holy Prophet and the Muslims did not come to an end with the end of the social boycott. Frustrated at the failure of the boycott, the Quraish were in a sullen and hostile mood, and they began to think of the adoption of more stringent measures which could bring the Muslims to their knees. In the meantime Abu Talib fell sick. He was already eighty years old and the strain of the confinement during the boycott had proved too heavy for him and had undermined his health. The malady grew worse, and when no hope was left of his survival, a deputation of the Quraish visited him at his deathbed. They said that as he was going to depart from the world, out of regard for him they were inclined to offer terms of peace to Muhammad. Abu Talib summoned the Holy Prophet to his presence, and the Quraish were asked to name their terms. They said that if Muhammad desisted from maligning their faith and criticizing their gods, they would let him alone to have his own way without any interference by the Quraish. The Holy Prophet said that the way of the Quraish was the way of many gods, while his way was the way of the Oneness of God “hereunder there is no god but Allah, and all other gods are false. As the two ways crossed each other no agreement could be reached between the parties. The Quraish, thus foiled, began to prepare for another major offensive against the Holy Prophet and the Muslims to be launched after the death of Abu Talib.

Bequest of Abu Talib

Before his death, Abu Talib recorded a bequest, and had it hung in the Kaaba According to “Rauza-tu’s-Safa”, this bequest reads as follows: “O thou people of Quraish! Thou art the chosen race of God, and the best in the world. In my dying behest I will ask you to be kind and well disposed towards Muhammad because he is a trustee from among the Quraish, and most truthful from amongst the whole population of Arabia. He has in his person all those things, which compel me to leave a will in his favor. He has tidings to reveal which your heart accepts although for fear your lips do not respond to confirm the call of your heart. I find that the half-barbarians of the Arabian desert, in contrast to you, respond to the call and obey his orders and verily these are the people who will be exalted in this world and the hereafter. Mark me when I say that your chiefs will be dishonored, and stiff necked though they now are, they will soon be humbled. I see the entire country has sincerity and enthusiasm for his message, and the people have widened their hearts to receive that love. In short they are willing to follow and obey him. O thou Quraish! It is high time that you should befriend him, support him and follow him in the path that he treads. I swear by God that only those who desist to follow him who are not destined to reform, and only those will follow in his footsteps who are destined to be great, pious and noble. If there is some respite or delay in my death, and I survive a few more days I will support his cause. As far as it lies within my power I will protect him from the evils of the enemy.” This bequest was written by Ali and was dictated by Abu Talib.

Death of Abu Talib

Abu Talib did not live long after the recording of his bequest. The Quraish felt annoyed at the bequest, and said that Abu Talib had lost his senses in old age. When Abu Talib died there was rejoicing in the camp of the Quraish. Ali composed elegiac verses on this occasion. Some of these verses read: “Abu Talib is no more. His passing away is a great loss. He was the protector of the poor and the weak. Whenever there was a famine, He liberally aided those in distress. Whenever there was a difficulty he resolved it. He could distinguish the truth from falsehood. He was generous, kind hearted and sympathetic. Men of his caliber are rare. A vacuum has been created because of his death. The Quraish are happy at his death. They have forgotten that man is mortal and no one can tarry in this world for long. Because of their mental deficiencies the Quraish have made plans to destroy the Muslims, but we will teach them a lesson. It will be a war to the finish. Either they will destroy us; Or we will destroy them. ”

Death of Khadija

A few days after the death of Abu Talib, Khadija also passed away. The deaths of Abu Talib and Khadija marked the end of an epoch. Abu Talib had been more than a father to the Holy Prophet. In spite of the strong pressure of the Quraish, he had protected the Holy Prophet to the last, and had left a bequest in his favor. Abu Talib was of course the father of Ali, and although Ali lived with the Holy Prophet, he was not denied the paternal love of Abu Talib.

Khadija had been for the Holy Prophet more than wife. She placed all her wealth which was considerable at his disposal. She gave him love. She was the mother of his children. She supported him through thick and thin. She was indeed the first person to be converted to Islam. To Ali she had been more than a mother.

The passing away of Abu Talib and Khadija created a great vacuum in the life of the Holy Prophet. He felt very lonely and disconsolate. His grief was so intense that the Muslims called the year “619 C. EL,” the year of the deaths of Abu Talib and Khadija as the “Year of Sorrow. ”

Ali shared this grief with the Holy Prophet. In heart-rending verses he mourned the deaths of Abu Talib and Khadija. He said: both my eyes weep, weep for that chief of the Bateha valley whose name was Abu Talib; and weep for that flower of womanhood whose name was Khadija. The woman first to accept Islam and first to pray. Both Abu Talib and Khadija were pure souls. Their passing away has created a great void. At the pain of their separation I spend the whole night in weeping. They helped the Holy Prophet. They were a source of strength to Islam. After them the world has been plunged into darkness. From God they came and to God they have returned; may their souls rest in peace.

Farewell to Makkah

Turning point

The Holy Prophet’s ascension to the Heavens, proved to be a turning point in the life story of the Holy Prophet, and as such in the history of Islam. It had its repercussions on the life of Ali. After this momentous event in the annals of mankind, the clouds began to lift, and things became easier for the Holy Prophet and for that matter for the Muslims. The tribes around Makkah who had heretofore refused to listen to the Holy Prophet, now came to be divided among themselves and some persons out of them accepted the new faith. To overcome the grief and the irreparable loss because of the death of Khadija, the Holy Prophet married an elderly lady Sauda. She was a good housewife, she looked after the house of the Holy Prophet with proper care. She looked after the young daughters of the Holy Prophet with great affection, and consoled them in their grief at the loss of their mother. In 621 C.E., a delegation from Yathrib came to Makkah and they accepted Islam. The Jews of Yathrib observed that according to their scriptures that was the time for the advent of a new prophet. After the end of the social boycott, the Muslims stepped up trading activities. It appears that at this time while the Holy Prophet devoted his attention to religious affairs, Ali concentrated his attention at the management of the business affairs. The traditional accounts of the period that have come down to us create the impression that by this time the economic resources of the Holy Prophet had dried up, and neither he nor Ali had any source of income. This view cannot be accepted for an ideal prophet could not neglect this aspect of his activity. In the conduct of business the Holy Prophet entrusted this responsibility to Ali and he discharged this responsibility with due diligence. Heretofore the Holy Prophet had avoided any armed conflict with the Quraish. A state akin to cold war prevailed between the Quraish and the Muslims for a period of over ten years. In 622 C.E. the people of Yathrib invited the Holy Prophet and his followers to migrate to Yathrib and live in their midst. They promised their full support to the Holy Prophet and his followers. The Holy Prophet directed his followers to migrate in batches to Yathrib. By the beginning of the month of September in 622 C.E. all male members of the Muslim families had left Makkah for Madina except the Holy Prophet, Abu Bakr, and Ali.

The Quraish plot to assassinate the Holy Prophet

The migration of the Muslims to Yathrib caused a great stir in the Quraish camp. They felt that if the Muslims gained strength in Yathrib, they would be a source of great danger for the Quraish. The Quraish held a council of war under the leadership of Abu Sufyan and Abu Jahl. The Quraish felt that as long as Muhammad lived, be it in Makkah or elsewhere, he would continue to be a great challenge for the Quraish. The Quraish took cognizance of the fact that in spite of their hostility, Islam was fast spreading in various parts of Arabia. They viewed the process of the growth of Islam with great concern and alarm. They held that in the circumstances their safety lay in the assassination of Muhammad (peace be on him). The Quraish resolved that Muhammad (peace be on him) should be assassinated before he could proceed to Yathrib. The Council of war decided that the young men belonging to all sections should surround the house of Muhammad at night, and assassinate him when he came out of his house in the morning by falling on him in a body, and putting an end to him with the blows of their daggers.

Frustration of the Quraish plot

The Holy Prophet was forewarned of the Quraish plot by Allah. It was revealed that if the unbelievers plotted Allah could frustrate their plot and Allah was the best planner. The Holy Prophet asked Ali to sleep on his bed that night. Thereafter he was to wind up business in Makkah and come to Yathrib. After the departure of other Muslims to Yathrib, Abu Bakr had sought the permission of the Holy Prophet to migrate to Yathrib. Muhammad (peace be on him) had asked him to wait for it was possible that he might have a good companion for the journey to Yathrib. Abu Bakr was, however, asked to keep ready for the call to migrate might come any moment. That day before the Quraish youth could come to besiege his house the Holy Prophet left for the house of Abu Bakr and gave him the tidings that the time for their migration to Yathrib had arrived. At night in the cover of darkness the Holy Prophet and Abu Bakr left Makkah for Yathrib. They did not take the direct road to Yathrib. They moved in the opposite direction, and took refuge in a cave in Mt. Thaur some five miles south of Makkah. In the house of the Holy Prophet at Makkah, Ali locked the doors from inside and lay on the bed of Holy Prophet. He covered himself with the mantle which was the cover of the Holy Prophet. At night the youth of the Quraish surrounded the house according to plan. Peeping inside the house, they saw the bed occupied and felt satisfied that the Holy Prophet was sleeping there as usual. The Quraish youth kept the vigil throughout the night and they felt assured that during the night no one entered the house, nor went out of it. When the day dawned and the door of the house was opened, it was Ali and not the Holy Prophet who had to face the brunt of the fury of the Quraish at the frustration of their plan. “Where is Muhammad?” asked the Quraish, and Ali replied that he had left for Yathrib. When their plan was thus thwarted the Quraish youth were very furious, but Ali faced them boldly without showing any sign of fear. In utter disgust and disappointment the Quraish youth dispersed to carry the tale of the failure of their plan to their leaders Abu Sufyan and Abu Jahl. Once again in the battle between the truth and falsehood, the truth triumphed. That was the closing scene of the drama that had been played at Makkah during the period 611-622 C.E. During this period of eleven years, all the maneuvers that the Quraish had adopted ended in their failure and defeat. Ali remained in Makkah for a few days, and when he had settled all accounts and wound up business he took farewell of Makkah, and took the road to Yathrib. It was not a flight as some writers tried to present, it was a march on the road to the fulfillment of destiny. With the migration of the Muslims from Makkah the war between the Quraish and the Muslims was not over. It meant that such a war was now to be carried on a wider front to the increasing advantage of the Muslims, and the ultimate surrender of the Quraish.

Analysis of the events during the period 620-622 C.E.

When we objectively assess and analyze the events that took place during the three years covering the period 620-622, we notice certain facts which have not been given due coverage in the traditional accounts that have come down to us. The event of the Holy Prophet’s ascension to the heavens was too novel and strange to be believable even by the Muslims. The way success came to the Muslims immediately after the ascension establishes the truth of the extraordinary event. The plan chalked out by the Quraish to assassinate the Holy Prophet was a close secret and the way the plan came to naught shows that the Holy Prophet enjoyed the protection of God. The way Ali asked his life for the sake of the Holy Prophet shows his great love and devotion to the Holy Prophet. How he faced the Quraish youth thwarted in their plan shows his unusual courage and strength of character. A question may be asked that when the Holy Prophet had already escaped from his house where was the need of Ali lying on the bed of the Holy Prophet and risking his life. This was necessary to prevent the pursuit of the Holy Prophet. If the Quraish had come to know that night that the Holy Prophet had left Makkah for Yathrib, an immediate pursuit by the Quraish would have been dangerous for the Holy Prophet. By a delay of twelve hours in the pursuit the Quraish lost the track of the Holy Prophet and could not catch him. In the traditional accounts that have come down to us, an impression is created that the entire project was financed by Abu Bakr and that the Holy Prophet was penniless at the time of migration. This impression is erroneous for evidence is available to the effect that out of the two camels that Abu Bakr had purchased for the journey, the Holy Prophet actually paid for the cost of one camel. The way Ali was left in Makkah to settle accounts shows that the Holy Prophet had some business undertaking in Makkah which was managed by Ali. This shows that at the time of migration neither the Holy Prophet nor Ali were resourceless. In some accounts it is stated that Ali traveled from Makkah to Yathrib on foot obviously because he had little money. This is not correct. There was no monetary difficulty either in the case of the Holy Prophet or Ali.

Early Days in Madina

Life in Madina

Ali arrived in Yathrib renamed as Madina-tun-Nabi or Madina in the honor of the Holy Prophet towards the close of September in the year 622 C.E. The Holy Prophet welcomed him to Madina, and appreciated his services for risking his life for him at Makkah in facing the fury of the Quraish. The Holy Prophet was glad to note that the task allotted to Ali at Makkah had been properly and satisfactorily done by him.

The world of Madina was quite different from the world of Makkah. At Makkah the Muslims were a persecuted people; at Madina they were the masters of their destiny. At Makkah they were surrounded by enemies; at Madina they were in the midst of friends. The life at Madina marked a break with the past. The days of trials, tribulations and tortures were over and the Muslims were now set on the path of fulfillment. The Muslims were now to build a new society and a new common wealth.

The climate of Makkah was dry, but the climate of Madina was damp. The landscape of Makkah was marked by barren rocks, and stony wastes; the landscape of Madina was market by agricultural fields, gardens, and groves of date palms. The change in the physical scene affected the health of the emigrants, and some of them including Abu Bakr fell sick. Ali withstood the climatic change without being affected in health. He spent most of his time in nursing the sick and helping them in adjusting themselves to the new environments.

Brotherhood between the emigrants and the Muslims of Madina

The Madinites felt honored to have the Holy Prophet and his companions in their midst, and in order to insure the comfort and well being of their friends from Makkah they were prepared to undergo any sacrifice themselves. Under the electrifying influence of Islam, the Madinites came to develop such traits of character which are unique and without a parallel in the annals of mankind.

The emigrants from Makkah were not to adjust themselves to the changed physical environments alone, they had to adjust themselves to changed social environments as well. To bring about such adjustment and rehabilitation the Holy Prophet established a fraternity among the Muslims from Makkah and those of Madina whereunder each emigrant was paired with a resident of Madina of the corresponding status. For their selflessness and help in the rehabilitation of the emigrants from Makkah in the society of Madina, the Madinites came to be known as “Ansars”-helpers. The brotherhood that was established in Madina during this period shows to what heights men can rise when they are motivated by some noble purpose. The bonds established as a consequence of this brotherhood surpassed the ties of blood relationship.

According to the accounts that have come down to us the Holy Prophet paired all emigrants except Ali with the Ansar. According to some traditions quoted by Arman Sarhadi in his book Ali b Abu Talib, Ali felt great disappointment in being passed over in the process of pairing. It is stated that Ali went weeping to his house where he was consoled by his wife Fatima. Later the Holy Prophet paired Ali with himself declaring that Ali was to him what Haroon was to the prophet Moses.

It is difficult to believe in the veracity of this tradition. By this time Ali was still unmarried, and it is prima facie untrue that his wife Fatima consoled him. Ali was a man of great courage who could face any ordeal, and he was not the man to weep because he was not paired with any Ansar. At this time Ali was a member of the family of the Holy Prophet. Ali had not acquired an independent identity of his own so far apart from being a member of the family of the Holy Prophet and the question of pairing him with any Ansar did not arise.

Implications of the pairing of the Holy Prophet and Ali

The pairing of the Holy Prophet and Ali was a matter of great significance, and it had deep implications and repercussions. In the various source books that have come down to us, no light is thrown on such implications. We will, therefore, have to undertake an exercise on our own account in spelling out the underlying implications. In the process of brotherhood-formation every emigrant from Makkah was paired with an Ansar of Madina. The Holy Prophet was himself an emigrant from Makkah, and the question that arises for consideration is: why did the Holy Prophet not pair himself with any Ansar of Madina ? To be paired with the Holy Prophet was a great honor, and many Ansars coveted this honor. If the Holy Prophet had shown preference for some particular Ansar that would have been a cause for jealousy on the part of the other Ansars who equally coveted the honor. In Madina the status of the Holy Prophet was that of a ruler, and if he had shown preference for some particular Ansar, that would have been a cause of heart burning for the other Ansar. The Holy Prophet did not pair himself with any Ansar because of his impartiality.

A consequence of the pairing of the emigrants and the Ansars was that the emigrants shared with the Ansar their income and property. If the Holy Prophet did not pair with any particular Ansar the question is what was the source of income of the Holy Prophet in Madina? When the Holy Prophet in order to maintain his impartially did not choose to have a share in the income and property of a particular Ansar, it implies that he had his share in the income and property of all Ansars. It is a common practice with religious fraternities that each person belonging to the fraternity contributes a certain percentage of his income to the common fund of the fraternity which is places at the disposal of the head of the fraternity. It appears that the Ansars of Madina constituted some common fund of similar nature and placed it at the disposal of the Holy Prophet. Presumably some property was also placed at the disposal of the Holy Prophet the income whereof could be utilized to meet his expenses as well as other common needs. The emigrants from Makkah were traders, and in Madina as well they undertook trading activities. Indeed Madina offered more trading opportunities than Makkah. The Holy Prophet ran some sort of business at Makkah which was managed by Ali. It appears that the same business was continued in Madinah. As the Holy Prophet had to devote a good deal of his attention to the affairs of the State, the responsibility for running the business enterprise rested a good deal on Ali. The Holy Prophet and Ali were already cousins and the brotherhood constituted signified that the ties between the Holy Prophet and Ali became still closer and stronger, and they shared each other’s property.

Masjid-i-Nabwi

In 623 C.E. the Holy Prophet decided to build a mosque in Madina which was to be a prayer house as well as a community center. The Holy Prophet asked the Muslims to offer their services in labor as well as capital towards the construction of the mosque. Ali was the first person to offer his services as laborer. He shoveled the earth when the foundations were being laid and later carried on baskets of brick and mortar which he passed on to the masons. Ali composed some verses for the occasion, and he recited them as he worked as a laborer. Some of these verses which have been preserved are: “Whoever builds a mosque and works whether sitting or standing puts up with the pain of labor, while others shirk work for fear of dust and pain. Both of these verily cannot equal each other”. As the other Muslims labored they chanted: “There is no life but the life of the next world, O God have mercy on the Muhajireen and the Ansar”. Within a few months the mosque was completed. It was square in form, and each side measured fifty yards. The mosque faced towards the north, and had three gates on each of the remaining three sides. Adjoining the mosque apartments were constructed for the household of the Holy Prophet. Ali also had an apartment in the mosque. The mosque was a monument of simplicity. The walls were made of mud bricks and the roofs were supported by trunks of palm trees. The apartments for the household were hung with blankets of camel hair as doors. The courtyard in each case was hardly six to seven paces in length, and the length of the rooms did not extend ten paces.

Battle of Badr

Background

When the Muslims established themselves in Madina, and succeeded in acquiring strength, the Quraish of Makkah fumed and fretted at the success of the Muslims. Fearing lest Islam might be accepted by the tribes in the immediate neighborhood Of Madina, the Quraish heavily bribed these tribes not to be moved by any overtures by the Muslims. Some of the missionaries sent by the Holy Prophet to these tribes were murdered. The Jews of Madina had expected that the Prophet they were looking for would be a prophet of the Jews and would promote the Jewish faith, but when the Holy Prophet began to preach Islam which was an improvement on the Jewish faith, they became hostile to the Muslims. The Quraish of Makkah incited the Jews of Madina to create difficulties for the Muslims in Madina. In Makkah the Muslims were traders. In Madina the people who accepted Islam, and came to be known as “Ansar” were agriculturists. All trade in Madina was in the hands of the Jews. When the Muslim emigrants tried to undertake trading activities in Madina, they had to face competition and hostility of the Jews. The Holy Prophet realized that in the circumstances the Muslims would have to wage a war against the Quraish and the Jews on the economic front. The caravan route from Makkah to Syria ran close to Madina. There were some danger points on the route where the caravans could be ambushed by a small force. The Holy Prophet decided that in order to break up the trade monopoly of the Quraish, their caravans should be ambushed by the Muslims at strategic points.

The Quraish caravan

In the winter of 623 C.E., Abu Sufyan, the Quraish leader, led a trading caravan to Syria. This caravan was to return in the spring of 624 C.E. In the first week of March, Ali and Zubair b Awwam were commissioned by the Holy Prophet to undertake a reconnoitering exercise, and bring intelligence about the movements of the caravan of the Quraish. Ali and Zubair brought the intelligence that the caravan was nearing Badr. The Holy Prophet held a council of war, and after taking the pros and cons of the case into consideration, it was decided that the Muslims should make an attempt to ambush the caravan. A force of 313 persons was raised, and they marched to Badr some eighty miles from Madina.

Abu Sufyan, the leader of the Quraish caravan, was an astute man. He apprehended that the Muslims would try to ambush the caravan. He accordingly sent a message to the Quraish of Makkah that they should send a force to escort the caravan. The Quraish raised a force one thousand strong fully equipped, and they marched at great speed to meet the caravan.

When the Muslims reached Badr they found that the caravan of the Quraish had already crossed the danger point, and could no longer be ambushed. The Muslims felt frustrated that their prey had eluded them. God, however, assured the Holy Prophet that a better prize was in store for them.

The caravan of the Quraish marched to Makkah at great speed and they met in the way the force that had come to their assistance. Abu Sufyan desired that as the danger of the ambushing of the caravan by the Muslims was over the force should return with the caravan to Makkah. Abu Jahl who commanded the Quraish force said that it was a good opportunity for them to attack the Muslims and annihilate them. The caravan under Abu Sufyan proceeded to Makkah, and the Quraish force confident of their strength and superiority rushed forward for a clash with the Muslims.

The battle ground of Badr

When Abu Jahl came to know that the Muslims had assembled at Badr, he advanced to Badr. When the Muslim force came to know that the Quraish force was advancing to Badr they occupied the wells in the valley, and encamped in the rocky part of the valley. When the Quraish reached Badr they occupied that part of the valley which was plain. The Muslims had not come prepared for a full-fledged war, they had merely intended an ambush and a minor show down. Now a full-fledged battle was forced on them. That was to be the first armed conflict between the Muslims and the Quraish. There were heavy odds against the Muslims the Quraish force was three times the force of the Muslims in strength. The Quraish force was fully equipped, while the Muslim force was ill equipped. The Quraish could fight on horseback while the Muslims had to fight on foot. Greater part of the night before the battle was spent by the Holy Prophet in prayers, the Holy Prophet prayed: “O Lord I beseech you to fulfil the promise that you have given to me. O Lord, if you allow this band of the Muslims to perish, there will be none to worship you on the earth. ” Abu Bakr and Ali kept watch over the Holy Prophet by turn. Allah assured the Holy Prophet that He would not allow the Muslims to perish, and that He would help them in their war against the unbelievers.

The battle

When the day dawned the two forces met in battle array. The Quraish raised boastful cries highlighting their superiority, skill, and richer resources. The Muslims were in a humble mood, and invoking the aid of God they raised the shouts “Allah-o-Akbar” Allah is great. That was the first battle to be fought by the Muslims, and they had no previous experience of war. The Holy Prophet, however, exhibited the qualities of a great military General. He marshaled the Muslim forces in a superb way, and arrayed them in such manner that they could contend against the larger force of the enemy. The previous night it had rained. That worked to the advantage of the Muslims for the rocky ground under their feet became firmer, while the ground under the feet of the Quraish became muddy and slippery. The Holy Prophet divided the Muslim force in a number of commands, each under a Commander. One unit was placed under the command of Ali and he was given the flag by the Holy Prophet.

As a prelude to the battle proper, three warriors, Utba, Shaiba, and Al Walid stepped out of the ranks of the Quraish, and challenged the Muslims to duel in single combat. In response to this challenge three Ansars stepped out of the ranks of the Muslims to fight the duel. The Quraish taunted the Muslim emigrants, and wanted them to come forward to cross swords with them if they had any trait of chivalry about them. Thereupon Ali was the first to step forward from the ranks of the Muslims to accept the challenge of the Quraish. He was followed by Hamza and Ubaida b Harith. In the contest that followed Ali killed Al Walid; and Hamza killed Shaiba. In the duel between Ubaida and Utba, Ubaida was mortally wounded. Ali and Hamza rushed to the help of Ubaida and cut off the head of Utba. Thereupon with a cry of rage three Makkans darted to assail Ali and Hamza. All the three Makkans fell dead before the blows of the swords of Ali and Hamza.

Exasperated at the death of its six warriors in single combat, the Quraish led the charge, and tried to break through the ranks of the Muslims. The Muslims stood fast at their posts, and when the fury of the Quraish force was spent, the Muslims launched a counter attack, and forced the Quraish to fall back. The ground was muddy and slippery and in the confusion that followed many Quraish slipped in the mud when the Muslims availing of the advantage thrust their swords in their bodies. Miraculously the battle ended in the favor of the Muslims. Over seventy persons from among the Quraish fell dead on the battlefield. All the leaders of the Quraish who held the command were killed. Over seventy persons were taken prisoners. A large booty fell into the hands of the Muslims. Ali was most conspicuous in performing prodigies of valor. According to traditions he killed twenty-one persons. Two brothers of Ali Talib and Aqueel fought on the side of the Quraish. Out of these Talib was killed and Aqueel was taken prisoner. When the booty was distributed Ali got an armor, a sword, and a camel.

Significance of the baffle of Badr

In its dimensions the Battle of Badr was one of the most insignificant battles, but in its significance it proved to be one of the most momentous battles in the history of mankind. The battle became a turning point in the history of Islam. If the Muslims had lost the battle, that would have been the end of Islam as the Holy Prophet himself feared. The Muslim victory in the battle established the truth of Islam. The battle humbled the pride of the Quraish. It cast a pall of mourning over Makkah for almost every family among the Quraish lost some dear one in the battle. The Quraish who had persecuted the Muslims for over eleven years had now to lick up their own wounds. The battle became the beginning of the end of paganism in Arabia. The tribes who had under the influence of the Quraish refused to listen to the message of Islam now felt the need of winning the favor of the Muslims. With the defeat of their allies, the Jews of Madina were forced to rethink of their relationship with the Muslims. Because of the booty that the Muslims received at the battle, the economic condition of the Muslims in Madina improved. The battle adversely affected the economic conditions of the Quraish firstly because of the loss that they suffered at the battle, and secondly because the trade route to Syria became unsafe for them. The great significance of the battle was that it assured the Muslims that a great destiny awaited him. The Holy Prophet felt happy that God had fulfilled His promise with him. The battle proved to be a landmark in the life of Ali for thereafter he came to be acclaimed as the greatest and the bravest warrior among the Muslims. Because of his bravery in the Battle of Badr, Ali won from the Holy Prophet the title of “Haider-i-Karrar” the warrior whom no body could beat.

Marriage of Ali

Fatima

When the Holy Prophet migrated to Yathrib he left his family at Makkah. When the Muslims had settled in Yathrib (renamed Madina) the Holy Prophet and the other Muslims called their families to Madina. At the time of migration, Sauda an elderly lady was the only wife of the Holy Prophet whom he had married after the death of Khadija. About a year after his arrival in Madina, the Holy Prophet married Ayesha, a daughter of Abu Bakr.

By this time, Fatima, the youngest daughter of the Holy Prophet had come of marriageable age, and the Holy Prophet had to consider the question of her marriage. Abu Bakr waited on the Holy Prophet, and asked for the hand of Fatima. The Holy Prophet made no answer. Thereafter Umar asked for the hand of Fatima and the Holy Prophet maintained silence. In the Arabian society of the day, the disparity in the age of the bride and the bridegroom did not matter. The Holy Prophet married Khadija when he was twenty-five and she was forty, fifteen years older than him. Later the Holy Prophet, when over fifty, married Ayesha yet within her teens. When the Holy Prophet did not respond to the requests of Abu Bakr or Umar he was not bothered about the age question; his silence was due to the fact that he had to wait for the guidance of God which was wont to get in all matters of importance affecting his person.

After the Battle of Badr, Ali made his suit. The Holy Prophet told Ali that he would give his reply after consulting Fatima. The Holy Prophet consulted Fatima, and she maintained silence signifying her assent. In the meantime the Holy Prophet received the revelation that God approved of the marriage of Fatima with Ali. When Fatima the mother of Ali called on the Holy Prophet to press the suit on behalf of Ali, the Holy Prophet was pleased to announce his acceptance.

Preparation for the Marriage

According to the accounts available in the source books, Ali had no money to meet the expenses of the marriage. He had to sell his armor to raise the necessary funds. Othman who enjoyed reputation for his wealth agreed to purchase the armor for five hundred dirhams. After the transaction had been completed, and the amount had been paid, Othman presented the armor to Ali as a marriage gift saying that the armor would be more useful for a warrior like Ali than for a trader like him. Ali was reluctant to accept the gift, but Othman prevailed to accept it in the name of God, for thereby it would serve the cause of Islam in fighting against its enemies. That made Ali accept the gift with many thanks. When Ali told of the transaction to the Holy Prophet, the Holy Prophet praised the conduct of Othman and prayed for him.

The Marriage Khutba

On the day fixed for the marriage, the Muslims assembled in the mosque, and the Holy Prophet delivered the Khutba solemnizing the marriage. The Holy Prophet said that all praise was due to God who should be extolled for His various bounties; who should be worshipped for His power and majesty and who should be obeyed for His omnipotence. The Holy Prophet observed that it behooves the people to seek refuge God for fear of His wrath. Dwelling on the might of God, the Holy Prophet said that His are the ordinances which prevail in Heaven and earth. He is the One who by His might ordained the existence of all creation. Through His commandments He gave us the power of discrimination. He honored us giving His religion, and commissioning Muhammad as His Prophet. Referring to the importance of marriages in human society the Holy Prophet said that undoubtedly the Almighty Lord made matrimonial alliances as the means of a fresh relationship which is a fundamental necessity and a just affair which is made incumbent on all and sundry, and through which creation is linked. The Holy Prophet observed that verily Allah is He Who has created human beings from a drop of blood. For this end He has created the relations of the in-laws. Surely God is Omnipotent. His decrees are enforced according to His decisions. His judgements decree the fate, and every fate is governed by an appointed time. Every appointed time is pre determined. Over and above this, God can obliterate or keep intact whatever He likes. The original record of all this is with Him. After these introductory remarks the Holy Prophet declared:

“Now in obedience to the Will of God I perform the marriage ceremony of Fatima with Ali, and ask you to bear witness that I have given Fatima in marriage to Ali against a dower of 400 pieces of silver coin. May God create love between the pair, bless them, purify their offspring, make their progeny a mine of wisdom, and a source of God’s blessing and solace to the believers in faith. ”

The Holy Prophet ended the Khutba by asking for the forgiveness of God for himself and for the Muslims.

Ideal Marriage

According to all accounts that have come down to us, the marriage of Ali and Fatima was an ideal marriage. It was a union of two great souls. Hafsa, a daughter of Umar and later a wife of the Holy Prophet wrote some verses highlighting the greatness of the pair. She said: Fatima is superior to womankind in the world; she is the lady whose face shines as the full moon; she is the bride whose groom excels all in Scholarship.

According to some authors Ali was twenty-one years old at the time of marriage, while Fatima was sixteen years old. According to my research the date of the birth of Ali is to be placed around 599 C.E. and on this basis he was 24/25 years old at the time of marriage. Fatima was born around 604 C.E. and on this basis she was 19/20 years old at the time of marriage. There appears to be a tendency with the writers of old to under estimate the ages of persons particularly women. In most of the books, for example, it is said that at the time of her marriage with the Holy Prophet, Ayesha was a child barely nine years old. Ayesha was more or less of the same age as Fatima or very nearly so, and was well within her teens at the time of her marriage.

Undoubtedly the marriage of Ali and Fatima was an ideal marriage as the marriage was performed by the Holy Prophet in accordance with the will of God, it could not be anything but an ideal marriage. As an ideal marriage it should have been a happy marriage. In this context two aspects of the case need special consideration. One is the economic factor and the other is the temperamental factor.

The economic aspect of the matter is that all writers of old are unanimous on the point that Ali was very poor. In his book Ali, the Superman, Dr. Ata Mohyuddin observes that Ali was extremely poor, and the young couple were obliged from the first, to live from hand to mouth. It is observed that often days passed without any fire being lit in their hearth. It is further observed that his bed sheet was so small, that if he covered his head, his legs remained uncovered, and if he covered his legs his head was exposed the account provides that Fatima had to work too hard. She did not have the wherewithal to wash her clothes which were blackened and soiled on account of dust and dirt. The shoulder on which she carried pitchers of water from the well was swollen, and the hands with which she worked the handmil1 to grind corn were often covered with blisters. There is a story that she requested the Holy Prophet to give her a maid slave to assist her, but he turned down the request. According to another story Ali hired himself as an ordinary manual laborer. One day he hired himself as a laborer to draw water from the well for a date per bucket. He drew sixteen buckets when his hands were blistered. He was given sixteen dates which he took to the Holy Prophet and both of them had their meal of these dates. I have long pondered over the question of the poverty of Ali and even the Holy Prophet. It appears to me that such accounts are highly exaggerated, and remote from the truth. I have prayed to God to show me light whereby I could ascertain the truth. Islam is not a religion for the next world alone; it is a religion for this world as well. Islam does not favor accumulation of riches and the hoarding of wealth, but it does not commend poverty either. It stands for the middle course marked neither by richness nor by poverty. The Holy Prophet before an ideal Prophet had to set an example in this respect. As such while the Holy Prophet could not be very rich, he could not be poor either. Islam stands for simplicity and austerity but simplicity and austerity are not another name for poverty. How could Allah permit his beloved to starve. When the Muslims migrated to Madina, Ansars shared all their resources with the Muslims. Under the circumstances how could the Ansar permit Ali and Fatima the beloved daughter of the Holy Prophet to live from hand to mouth on the verge of starvation. Ali and Fatima were after all human beings, and how could they be happy when they had to starve for days. When selecting husbands for their daughter even ordinary persons take steps to insure that their daughter is married in a family which is quite well off. This is a parental obligation, and it is unbelievable that the Holy Prophet would have married his beloved daughter to a person who had no source of income. The Holy Prophet married his two daughters to Othman, one after the other, and Othman was the richest person among the Quraish. The Holy Prophet could not discriminate between his daughters by marrying two daughters to a very rich man, and marrying the daughter whom he loved most to a man who was extremely poor. Ali was the greatest warrior of the age. He was also the greatest jurist, grammarian and scholar of the age. When the Muslims set up a polity at Madina it was an obligation on the part of the State to provide means of sustenance for Muslims according to their qualifications and utilize their services in the interests of the State. Under the circumstances the accounts that Ali was very poor are not correct.

It appears that there were some temperamental differences between the husband and wife. Ali is said to be hot tempered while Fatima was cool-headed. It is related that one day Ali picked up a quarrel with Fatima, Fatima felt aggrieved and she went to the Holy Prophet to complain of the conduct of Ali. Ali followed her and hid himself behind a wall to listen what transpired between the Holy Prophet and Fatima. The Holy Prophet advised Fatima to have patience and submit to her husband. When Ali saw the Holy Prophet later, the Holy Prophet counseled him to be kind to his wife. Due to the wise counsels of the Holy Prophet, both Ali and Fatima succeeded in making adjustments which insured mutual happiness. Hasan, their first child was born in 625 C.E. and Husain, the second child was born in 626 C.E. The Holy Prophet had great love for Hasan and Husain and treated them as his own sons.

The Bani Qainuqa

The Jews in Madina

When the Holy Prophet and the Muslims migrated to Yathrib there was a considerable number of Jews in the city. Some time in the first century of the Christian era, the Romans expelled the Jews from Palestine, and some of the tribes of the Jews found refuge in Yathrib. The Jews were moneylenders. They lent money to the people of Yathrib at exorbitant rates of interest. Because of their wealth the Jews dominated the economic scene in Yathrib. The indigenous people of Yathrib belonged to two main tribes, the Aus and the Khazraj. The two tribes fought among themselves, and they had also to contend against the growing influence of the Jews. It was with a view to counter balancing the influence of the Jews that the people of Yathrib invited the Holy Prophet and the Muslims to come and live in their midst.

When the Holy Prophet proclaimed his prophethood in Makkah, and the news traveled to Yathrib, Jews confirmed that according to their sacred books that was the time for the advent of a prophet. When the Holy Prophet came to Yathrib, the Jews found in him all the signs of prophethood that had been foretold in their books. The Jews regarded themselves as the chosen people of God, and that made them think that all Prophets must necessarily belong to their race. When Jesus Christ who was not a Jew proclaimed his prophethood, the Jews denied his prophethood and had him executed. The Jews of Yathrib had thought that the Prophet of Arabia would be subservient to them. When the Holy Prophet adopted an independent policy, and declared that Islam was an improvement on the Jewish faith, the Jews developed an attitude of an animosity to Islam.

Animosity of the Jews

The Holy Prophet followed with regard to the Jews the policy of ‘live and let live’. He promulgated a charter of rights whereunder the Jews were guaranteed freedom to worship without any interference. It was undertaken that the two communities would live on terms of mutual friendship, in any attack on the Muslims, the Jews were to help the Muslims. When the Holy Prophet established a polity and the Muslims acquired strength, the Jews came to regard the growing strength of the Muslims as a menace to their influence. They accordingly launched a campaign of vilification against Islam. A Jewish lady Asma wrote pungent verses ridiculing and vilifying Islam and the Holy Prophet. She was warned by the Muslims to refrain from her nefarious activity, but when she persisted, a Muslim stabbed her to death. Abu Afaq another Jewish poet wrote venomous satires and lampoons ridiculing Islam. He met the same fate as Asma and was assassinated by a Muslim young man. The Jews perverted the verses of the Holy Quran and gave them ominous meanings. The Prophet enjoined the Muslims to spend in the way of Allah. The amounts thus were to be a loan against Allah who would repay it many times the original amount. Islam forbade the charging of interest. That adversely affected the interests of the Jews. Most of the Quraish emigrants who were traders in Makkah undertook trading activities in Madina as well. That broke the monopoly of the Jews in trade. Finhas a Jewish rabbi held out that the God of the Muslims was poor who asked of loan from the people, but the God of the Jews was rich Who needed no loan and who had made the Jews rich. He maintained that they did not need God, but God needed them. He observed that the dependence of God on the Jews was manifest from the fact that He had given interest to the Jews, but had denied it to the Muslims. The rabbi came across Abu Bakr who took him to task for his sacrilege. Abu Bakr slapped the rabbi on the face and said that were it not for the treaty between the Muslims and the Jews, he would have cut off the head of Finhas, the enemy of Allah. During this period many verses of the Holy Quran were revealed exposing the perfidy of the Jews. It was pointed out that the Jews had gone on rejecting the signs of God, and slaying His messengers, and they were transgressors.

Ali and the Jews

In the original accounts that have come down to us there is no mention of the activities of Ali with reference to the Jews. The silence of the authorities in this respect does not mean that Ali was inactive, and he took no part in the cold war that prevailed between the Muslims and the Jews. The Jews boasted of their superior knowledge and argued that as Muhammad (peace be upon him) was illiterate he could not be a prophet of God. Ali was the most learned scholar among the Muslims, and it appears very probable that Ali met the arguments of the Jews at intellectual level, and exposed their perfidies and transgressions during the course of history. Ali was a prominent poet as well, and we will not be far from the truth when we say that Ali composed verses vindicating Islam. Islam is a missionary religion, and when the Muslims had established a polity at Madina, they took steps to convert the unbelievers and the people of the Book to Islam. As Ali was the most eloquent person among the Muslims, excepting the Holy Prophet, it appears that Ali played a prominent role in propagating the message of Islam. In spite of the general hostility of the Jews to the Muslims, Ali succeeded in converting some of the Jews to Islam. The Holy Prophet as the Head of the State, had to adjudicate on disputes among the people, including the Jews. Because of his great learning and vast legal knowledge, Ali assisted the Holy Prophet in settling the disputes. Certain persons in Madina had accepted Islam for considerations of self-interest and expediency. Such persons led by Abdullah b Ubayy owed nominal allegiance to Islam. These hypocrites and dissemblers aimed at the subversion of Islam from within. The Holy Prophet made Ali responsible for keeping a watch on the activities of the hypocrites. The Jews aided and patronized the hypocrites in violation of the terms of the agreement between the Muslims and the Jews.

Bani Qainuqa

The Jews of the Bani Qainuqa tribe were the first to violate the terms of their agreement with the Muslims. These Jews had a walled stronghold outside Madina. When the Holy Prophet called upon these Jews to respect their agreement with the Muslims, their leader adopted a defiant attitude and said: “O Muhammad! Do you take us to be akin to the Quraish whom you can defeat. We are a different and a tougher people. If you cross arms with us you will know for yourself what we are.” In spite of the offense given by the Qainuqa Jews, the Holy Prophet kept quiet and decided to bide his time for an actual confrontation. A crisis developed soon after the Battle of Badr. A Muslim lady visited a goldsmith’s shop in the Banu Qainuqa quarters. A Jew rogue crept up behind her, and pinned her skirt to her bodice. When the lady after the disposal of her business in the shop walked unwittingly into the street, her skirt fell exposing her nakedness. Some Jews collected and began to jeer at the Muslim lady. A Muslim came that way and he fell upon the Jews with his sword. He killed the rogue who had done the mischief. He was on the point of killing another Jew when he himself was killed.

When the Holy Prophet came to know of the happening, he asked the Bani Qainuqa to pay compensation for the wrong done by them, and give adequate assurance of good conduct in the future. Banu Qainuqa defied the warning, and prepared for war. This exhausted the patience of the Holy Prophet, and he ordered punitive action against Banu Qainuqa. The Holy Prophet gave the flag to Ali, and a Muslim force led by Ali marched to the quarters of Bani Qainuqa, the Jews shut themselves in their stronghold, and the Muslims besieged the stronghold. Ali blocked all routes from where any help could come to Bani Qainuqa from outside. Thereafter the Muslims tightened the siege. Despairing of any help from without the Bani Qainuqa surrendered after a fortnight. Under the Jewish law all males among the Bani Qainuqa could be beheaded, and their females and children could be sold as slaves. The Holy Prophet took a lenient view, and merely ordered their expulsion from Madina. The property of Banu Qainuqa was confiscated. As a gesture of good will to the “Muhajireen”, the Ansars decided to forego their share. The confiscated properties were distributed among the “Muhajireen” including Ali. Even if it is held that the financial position of Ali was weak in any way, his financial position definitely improved after the operations against Bani Qainuqa, for as a result of this battle he came to own a good deal of property. It was the first battle to be fought under the independent command of Ali. In this battle, Ali gave a good account of his generalship.

The Battle of Uhud

Extension of the Battle of Badr

The Battle of Uhud was an extension of the Battle of Badr. Smarting under the ignominy of their defeat at Badr, the Quraish of Makkah assembled a large army of 3,000 persons, and marched to Madina to avenge their defeat at Badr. The force was led by Abu Sufyan. The force included every adult among the Quraish. The force was fully equipped with war weapons. The force was accompanied by a considerable number of women. They sang songs to inspire the warriors. They said that if the Quraish won the battle, they would throw open their arms to embrace them, but in case they were defeated, their women would turn away from them. The Quraish were confident that this time they would win and teach the Muslims a lesson.

The Holy Prophet’s preparation for the battle

When the Holy Prophet came to know of the intentions of the Quraish of Makkah, he held a council of war. He was personally of the view that in view of the strength of the enemy the proper course for the Muslims was to remain in Madina and let the enemy besiege the city. The idea was that if the enemy besieged the city its force would have to be dispersed in a number of sectors, and the Muslims could strike a blow at the enemy where the enemy’s concentration was the weakest. The younger element among the Muslims, however, insisted that the battle should be fought in the open at some distance away from Madina. Their argument was that the enemy should not be allowed to approach Madina at any cost. Though the Holy Prophet believed that the defensive strategy proposed by him was the best in the circumstances, yet in deference to the enthusiasm for the young men to keep the enemy away from Madina, he agreed to meet the enemy in the open outside Madina. The Muslims could assemble a force of one thousand persons only. When the Holy Prophet gave the order for the march to the battlefield, three hundred hypocrites led by Abdullah b Ubayy withdrew and went to their homes. The Holy Prophet was thus left with 700 persons only and this was one fourth of the strength of the enemy.

The Battlefield

Uhud, a few miles from Madina was a great stretch of barren rock rising out of the desert without any growth of vegetation. The Holy Prophet commanded the Muslim warriors to take up their position at Uhud on the rising ground. A band of archers took up position on an adjoining mound behind the main position. The archers were commanded not to abandon their posts under any circumstances, without the approval of the Holy Prophet.

The Duel

As usual the battle began with a duel. Talha bin Abi Talha the standard bearer of the Quraish stepped forward, and challenged the Muslims to a single combat. Ali the standard bearer of the Muslims stepped forward to accept the challenge. Talha b Abi Talha was an expert swordsman among the Quraish, and it was the common belief that no body could beat him. As Talha stepped forward he boasted of his prowess. Talha was the first to attack Ali. Ali warded off the attack on his shield. Talha was wearing a coat of arms. Ali aimed his blows at the legs of Talha. The legs were severed and Talha fell dead. Then another brother of Talha, Abu Shaiba stepped forward to seek a duel with a Muslim warrior. He was done to death by Hamza. Thereafter the third brother, Said b Abi Talha rushed waving his sword and seeking vengeance for his two brothers. He was killed by Saad b Abi Waqas. The murder of the three brothers one after the other made the Quraish furious. Their flag was next held by Irtas b Sharjeel a formidable man. He challenged the Muslims saying that he who coveted death should step forward to measure swords with him. Ali met the challenge, and killed Irtas. Thereupon Asama b Zaid dashed at Ali, with a view to striking a blow at him, before he could adjust himself after killing Irtas. Ali moved his sword right and left and struck a mortal blow on his assailant who reeled and fell down dead. After the death of six warriors from among the Quraish one after the other, no other warrior of the Quraish could dare challenge a duel with the Muslims.

The battle

After the duels, the battle began. The Quraish charged with great force, but the Muslims held fast. Then in a counter attack the Muslims broke the enemy’s line, and the Quraish fell back. At this stage, the contingent of the Muslim archers, contrary to the instructions of the Holy Prophet left their position in order to plunder the camp of the retreating Quraish. Khalid b Walid who was still a non-Muslim and was commanding a contingent of the Quraish cavalry rushed with his contingent, and occupied the position vacated by the Muslim archers. That exposed the Muslims to an attack from the rear as well as from the front. That changed the course of the battle. The defenses of the Muslims were broken, and in the confusion that followed many Muslims were martyred. Hamza an uncle of the Holy Prophet fell fighting. His dead body was desecrated by the Quraish as a mark of their fury against the Muslims. Hinda the wife of Abu Sufyan, the leader of the Quraish ripped the dead body, took out his liver, and chewed it. It was a barbarity which an unscrupulous woman like Hinda alone could practice. Among the Muslims who were martyred was Mas’ab b Omair. He bore some physical resemblance to the Holy Prophet, and seeing his dead body the Quraish shouted that Muhammad (peace be on him) had been killed.

In the confusion that followed, the Holy Prophet was wounded, and he fell in a pit over the dead bodies of his followers. Ali charged the Quraish with unprecedented fury, and killed many men of the enemy. He received no less than sixty-one wounds. When the Quraish continued shouting that the Holy Prophet had been killed, and Ali could no longer see the Holy Prophet where he was stationed, he rushed to the spot where the Holy Prophet lay wounded. He took the Holy Prophet from out of the pit, and with the aid of other companions including Abu Bakr and Umar escorted the Holy Prophet to a safer place. Ali fetched water in his shield, and dressed the wounds of the Holy Prophet, taking no heed of the wounds that he himself had received in the battle. As in the meantime, the Quraish continued shouting that the Holy Prophet had been killed, and no contradiction was made from the Muslim camp. The Muslim warriors engaged in combat with the Quraish were demoralized. They felt that if the Holy Prophet had been killed, there was no point in fighting the battle. At this juncture, at the instance of the Holy Prophet, Umar shouted back at the Quraish to say that the Holy Prophet was very much alive. On regaining consciousness, the Holy Prophet charged Ali to launch a counter attack against the Quraish. Ali rallied the Muslim, exhorted them to fight for the glory of Islam, and fell upon the enemy with the ferocity of a lion. Ali broke into the lines of the enemy, and caused great havoc in the ranks of the enemy. So great was the slaughter caused by Ali in the ranks of the enemy that his sword broke down. Thereupon the Holy Prophet sent Ali his own sword, and with this sword Ali caused further havoc among the ranks of the Quraish. He held the flag in his right hand, and when his right hand was wounded he held the nag in his left hand. Ali drove back the enemy. Because of the prodigies of valor performed by Ali, the Quraish could not take advantage of the victory that they had won at an earlier stage of the battle. Abu Sufyan accordingly commanded the Quraish to return to Makkah. He, however, shouted in a boastful mood that the Quraish had taken the revenge for their defeat in the Battle of Badr. Abu Sufyan declared that the Quraish would soon have another confrontation, when the Muslims would be annihilated.

When after the battle Ali returned to the camp his entire body was covered with so many wounds that Umm Salim and Umm Atiya, the Muslim nurses, did not know how to dress the wounds of Ali. The Holy Prophet washed and dressed the wounds of Ali himself, and said that God in whose cause Ali had received the wounds would heal them. Ali said, ”

May God grant me the patience to bear this suffering. It was indeed a favor of God that He gave me the courage to stand and fight in spite of these wounds, and not to leave the field”. For his marvelous bravery, the Holy Prophet conferred on Ali the appellation “Asad Allah”, the lion of God.

Assessment of the Battle of Uhud

The Battle of Uhud is an important battle in the annals of Islam. In the early stage the battle went in favor of the Muslims, but because of a tactical mistake made by the archers, the tide of the battle was reversed, and the Quraish came to have the upper hand. The Muslims were thoroughly demoralized and practically lost the will to fight. It was at this stage that Ali took the command and prevented the Quraish from taking advantage of the victory that they had won earlier. The battle that would have otherwise ended in the annihilation of the Muslims concluded as a drawn battle. The Quraish could gain no booty; they could not make any Muslim a captive. True, many Muslims died as martyrs, but the casualties in the ranks of the Quraish were larger still.

Ali played the role of a hero in the battle. His services were highly appreciated by the Holy Prophet and the Companions. Some Muslim poets composed verses in the honor of Ali. Extolling his bravery one of the poets said: “There is no sword better than the sword of Ali; and there is no young man superior to Ali.”

There is some controversy about the number of unbelievers killed by Ali at the Battle of Uhud. According to some accounts the number was about two hundred. According to more conservative accounts the number was about two dozen. We need not enter into any controversy about the number of persons killed. The basic point is that Ali played the role of a great hero at the Battle of Uhud, and he succeeded in averting a crisis which was fraught with great danger for the Muslims.

Banu Nadeer

Banu Nadeer

The Banu Nadeer were a Jewish tribe who had their settlement outside Madina. The Holy Prophet had given them a charter of freedom and they were expected to be loyal to the Muslims. They however indulged in activities prejudicial to the interests of the Muslims. Kaab b Ashraf a notorious poet of the tribe composed lampoons satiring Islam and the Holy Prophet. He visited Makkah and wrote elegies commemorating the death of the Quraish who had fallen in the Battle of Badr. Kaab was killed by a Muslim young man and the Jews felt bitter at his death. Another Jew of Banu Nadeer, Abu Raafi’ Sallarn incited the Arab tribes of Sulaim and Ghatfan to rise against the Muslims.

The tragedy of Bir Maunah

In 625 C.E., one of the chiefs of the tribe of Kilab, Abu Bara Aamir requested the Holy Prophet to send Muslim missionaries to propagate Islam among the tribe. The Holy Prophet sent seventy Muslim missionaries with the chief. The party halted at a place Bir Maunah, and sent a Muslim, Haram b Mathan, along with the letter of the Holy Prophet to Aamir b Tufail, the principal chief of the tribe of Kilab. Aamir b Tufail killed Haram, and marched with an army to Bir Maunah. He assassinated all the Muslim missionaries except one, Amr b. Umayyah by name. Aamir b Tufail released Amr b Umayyah according to his mother’s vow to free a slave. On his way back to Madina, Amr b Umayyah killed two persons belonging to the tribe of Banu Amar considering them to be enemies. As a matter of fact, the Holy Prophet had given the tribe amnesty. When the case was brought to the notice of Holy Prophet, he agreed to pay indemnity to the tribe for its murdered persons.

The Holy Prophet’s visit to Banu Nadeer

According to the terms of the treaty that the Muslims had made with Banu Nadeer, they had to pay a share of the indemnity. In order to collect such share, the Holy Prophet with ten companions including Abu Bakr, Umar and Ali went to the settlement of Banu Nadeer. The Jews received the Holy Prophet with due courtesy and asked him to sit while they would bring their contribution. The Jews secretly contrived one of them to climb the wall, and from there throw a big stone on the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet perceived their game. He got up from the place, and returned to Madina without bothering to collect the share due from Banu Nadeer.

Expedition against Banu Nadeer

At the treacherous conduct of Banu Nadeer, the Holy Prophet sent an ultimatum to them that as they had violated their agreement with the Muslims, they should evacuate their settlement within ten days. The Banu Nadeer were incited by other Jewish tribes, and the hypocrites in Madina to accept the challenge of the Muslims and give them a fight. After the expiry of the period of ultimatum, Holy Prophet led a force to the Jewish settlement. The Jews shut themselves in their citadel and the Muslim camp was set up outside the fort. The Jews archers shot arrows which struck the Holy Prophet’s camp. The camp was shifted to a safer place, and the safety arrangements were tightened by Muslims. The Holy Prophet appointed Ali on intelligence duty. One day Ali received the intelligence that a party of the Jews led by Urwa b Anis, a renowned warrior among the Jews was to fall on the Muslims that night. Their plan was to steal into the Holy Prophet’s camp, and pierce him with arrows. Ali kept the watch hidden in a safe place. When at nightfall the party appeared Ali foil on them and sliced off Urwa’s head. Ali, thereafter fought single handed with the followers of Urwa till some warriors from the Muslim camp joined him, and all Jews were exterminated. Under the orders of the Holy Prophet, the severed heads of Urwa and his followers were hung outside the citadel of the Jews.

The Banu Nadeer had expected help from other Jews and the hypocrites of Madina. The Holy Prophet blocked all ways from which any help could reach the beleaguered Jews. The siege dragged on for eleven days, and when no help came from outside, the Banu Nadeer lost heart and surrendered. According to the Jewish law, all male members of the Jews could be killed and their women and children could be enslaved. The Holy Prophet took a lenient view. They were required to evacuate the settlement and migrate to Syria or elsewhere. They could carry movable property with them except arms. The Jews accepted these terms and they migrated to Syria. The immovable property left by them was distributed among the Muhajirs. In the operations against the Banu Nadeer, Ali played a conspicuous role. It was his action against Urwa and his followers that demoralized the Jews and led to the ultimate victory of the Muslims.

Battle of the Ditch

Background

The Battle of the Ditch was an extension of the Battle of Uhud as the Battle of Uhud was an extension of the Battle of Badr. The Quraish suffered defeat at the Battle of Badr. Battle of Uhud was fought by the Quraish to take revenge of their defeat at the Battle of Badr. The Battle of Uhud proved to be indecisive. The Quraish were therefore, still suffering from the ignominy of their defeat at the Battle of Badr. The Quraish allied themselves with some Arab tribes of the desert and succeeded in mustering a force ten thousand strong.

Defense of Madina

When the Holy Prophet came to know of the war preparations of the Quraish, he held a council of war. It was felt that in view of the large strength of the forces of the enemy it would not be possible for the Muslims to face the enemy in the open. The Muslims had a bitter experience of the Battle of Uhud, and it was not proper to repeat the mistake. It was accordingly necessary to adopt a new strategy to face the enemy. Salman Farsi, a companion who hailed from Persia suggested that a ditch be dug around Madina for the purposes of defense. This advice was accepted by the Holy Prophet, and it was decided that in the impending battle, the Muslims should remain on the defensive.

The Ditch

Madina had natural defenses on three sides. Only the fourth side was vulnerable to attack. It was decided that a ditch should be dug on this side. The site for the ditch was demarcated by the Holy Prophet. All male adults of the Muslim community in Madina were mobilized to dig the ditch. The labor force was divided into batches and each batch had a leader. Each batch was required to dig a ditch ten yards long. Ali led one batch. The Holy Prophet, Ali and all other companions worked day and night as laborers to dig the ditch. The Muslims labored to the rhythm of a war song they sang:

By God, had not Allah guided us, we would not have been on the right path. We would not have given any Sadaqa nor offered prayer. May Allah bestow on us confidence and calmness of mind. May He make our steps firm to face the enemy. The enemy has risen against us and seeks our destruction. Allah, we seek your protection. There is no welfare except that in the next world; Allah, shower your grace on the Ansars and the Muhajjirs.” These verses were composed by Ali.

These verses inspired the Muslims to action, and the entire stretch of the ditch was completely dug within twenty days. The ditch was five yards deep and five yards broad. Each batch of the Muslims who had dug the ditch was required to stand guard over the ditch in their part of the sector. In each sector there were archers who shot arrows to keep the enemy away from the ditch.

The Battle

The forces of the Quraish and the Arab tribes arrived beating drums, and raising shouts boasting, of their strength and invincibility. When they reached Madina, and found that a ditch intervened between them and Madina. They were confused as the Arabs were not used to ditch warfare. They set up their camps at some distance from the Ditch. Thus began the siege of Madina. The enemy made several attempts to cross the ditch, but the Muslim archers kept them at bay. The enemy approached the Jews of Banu Quraiza in Madina to help them in crossing the ditch. The Banu Quraiza were heavily bribed. They threw some dead animals in that part of the ditch where the Muslim defense was not very strong. Due to the treachery of the Banu Quraiza, some warriors of the Quraish led by Amr b Abdwoud managed to cross the ditch. Brandishing his sword, Amr challenged the Muslims to a duel in single combat; Amr was a formidable man who enjoyed the reputation of being equal to a thousand men in physical strength. Ali rose to accept the challenge. The Holy Prophet bade him sit down. Amr repeated his challenge for the second time, and Ali rose up once again to accept the challenge. The Holy Prophet once again asked Ali to sit down. Amr gave the challenge for the third time and Ali stood up again to accept the challenge. This time the Holy Prophet let Ali accept the challenge. When the duel began Ali appeared to be no match for Amr. Amr confident of his physical strength said to Ali that he did not want to kill him. Ali retorted that he intended to kill him. Amr succeeded in inflicting some wounds on Ali, but each time Ali aimed a blow, Amr successfully avoided the blows of Ali. When it appeared that the end of Ali was imminent, something miraculous happened. Amr imagined that some one was going to stab him in the rear. He turned his head. It was for a moment, but Ali took full advantage of the opportunity, and with a blow of his sword cut off the feet of Amr. Amr fell down, and Ali stabbed him to death. Thereupon Usl the son of Amr fell upon Ali. Ali was now as ferocious as a lion. He killed Usl with one stroke of his sword. Thereafter Naufal attacked Ali. Ali charged with full force, and while retreating Naufal fell in to the ditch, Ali jumped after him in the ditch and killed him there. Ikrama b Abu Jahl who had crossed the ditch along with Amr did not dare face Ali. He along with all other men who had crossed the ditch withdrew, and after again crossing the ditch found refuge in their camp. Ali was the hero of the day. It came to be felt that if Ali could overthrow Amr who was believed to be equivalent to a thousand men, Ali would be a man equivalent to ten thousand men. When the sister of Amr came to know that her brother had been killed she inquired from the people as to who had killed him, and when she came to know that Ali had killed him, she said that verily Ali was the bravest man among the Quraish.

Flight of the Quraish

The death of Amr at the hands of Ali demoralized the Quraish and their allies. The men of the Banu Ghaftan came to feel that some supernatural power was helping the Muslims. The Holy Prophet sent his agents to work with the confederates and give them the message of Islam. The leader of Banu Ghaftan accepted Islam, and withdrew his contingent from the battlefield. The game of the confederates was to draw the Muslims into the open and defeat them. The Muslims under the command of the Holy Prophet did not fall into the trap. As the siege lengthened, the Arabs of the desert became weary of the prolonged struggle. Under these circumstances more Arab tribes left for their homes. The confederates also began to suffer on account of the scarcity of food and fodder. It was nature that struck the final blow at the confederates. One midnight, a strong storm lashed the countryside. Rain and fast blowing winds overturned the tents of the confederates and extinguished their fires. The Muslims were safe in their houses in Madina, but the confederates who had to bear the brunt of the fury of the storm, rain and hail were unnerved. Losing all hope of victory Abu Sufyan the Quraish leader mounted his camel and ordered a retreat. Thus miserably foiled, the great coalition which had appeared so invincible at the outset suffered a great reverse. The battle ended in the triumph of Islam. That raised the morale of the Muslims, and they came to believe that Islam was the truth against which the forces of falsehood could not maintain a stand. The Muslim victory in the Battle of the Ditch was due to the superior generalship and organizational skill of the Holy Prophet and the prodigies of valor on the part of Ali. The Battle of the Ditch struck the last nail in the coffin of the Quraish of Makkah. Thereafter the Quraish lost their initiative, which now passed on to the Muslims.

Campaign Against Banu Mustaliq

Banu Mustaliq

In 627 C.E., Jewish tribe of Mustaliq which had its settlement at some distance from Madina entered into alliance with the tribe of Banu Khuza’a, and both agreed to make common cause against the Muslims. The Holy Prophet deputed the emissary to contact the Banu Mustaliq and report about the true state of affairs. The emissary reported that the Banu Mustaliq were in a hostile mood and were planing invasion of Madina. The Holy Prophet thereupon led a Muslim force to the territory of Banu Mustaliq. Ali bore the standard as usual.

The Holy Prophet gave the Banu Mustaliq the option to submit but they chose to fight. The battle began duel between Qattada the leader of Banu Mustaliq and Ali. In a few rounds Ali killed Qattada. Thereafter another Jewish leader Malik confronted Ali. Ali killed in no time. After the death of Malik his son crossed swords with Ali with the intent to avenge the death of his father. There after the tribe lost the will to fight. They laid arms and agreed to pay tribute.

Ayesha and her Necklace

While returning from the campaign against Banu Mustaliq an incident took place which cast its shadow on the future course of Islamic history. Each time the Holy Prophet went on a campaign, one or two of his wives accompanied him, and the decision was always taken by the drawing of lots. On the Banu Mustaliq campaign, Ayesha accompanied the Holy Prophet. She traveled on the back of a camel in a closed litter. On the way to Madina the returning army followed by its long procession of supplies, captives and thousands of beasts after travelling throughout the night broke camp at dawn. Ayesha left her litter to satisfy a natural need and returned to her camel. Back in the litter she noticed that she had lost her necklace of Yemenite agates. Returning in her footsteps she sought the necklace for some time, and at last finding it, returned to the caravan. But the spot was deserted and the caravan had left. The camel rider seeing the litter closed, and thinking that it was occupied had placed it on the camel and departed with it. Ayesha called aloud but no one responded to her call. She decided to lie there covering herself hoping that some one would come to fetch her. Soon she fell asleep. “We belong to God and to Him we return” fell on the ears of Ayesha and she awoke with a start. A young man stood there holding a camel by its tether. The young man Safwan bin Muattal following the army in the rear noticed a young woman sleeping in the desert, and upon approaching her recognized her as the wife of the Holy Prophet. Ayesha quickly covered herself with a veil, Safwan adjusted the camel’s saddle-girth, and made it kneel. Ayesha mounted the camel. Holding the beast by the bridle, Safwan took the road to Madina. After a long and tiring journey, Ayesha caught up with the army at noon. The arrival of Ayesha attended by a young man caused some rumors in the camp.

Back in Madina, the calumnies of the slanderers gained publicity. Safwan swore that in his lifetime he had never touched a woman. Ayesha fell sick. She realized that the behavior of the Apostle of God towards her had changed. She went to the house of her father. Amidst sobs, Ayesha asked her mother “Mother, what story are the people relating about me”. Her mother replied, “do not be distressed. By Allah, there is not a handsome and noble woman whom her husband loves, but has other wives besides her, that such tales are bandied about”. This did not console the young lady. She knew no rest, and her tears did not cease to flow. The Holy Prophet consulted his friends about divorcing Ayesha. Umar said that he was certain that the hypocrites were speaking lies. He added, “By reason of God not allowing a fly to settle upon your blessed skirts, because it alights also on impure things, how then God would not preserve you and your name from a worse defilement”. The other Companions advised the Holy Prophet to keep his exalted mind at ease, for they were certain that God would cause the innocence of the young lady to become manifest. Ali was of the view that there was no dearth of women for the Holy Prophet and Ayesha could be divorced even though she was innocent.

The Revelation

One day, Ayesha was sitting in the house of her parents and was weeping when the Holy Prophet appeared all of a sudden, and after the usual salutation spoke to his wife, “O Ayesha if you are innocent, God will come to your help; if you are guilty repent, and ask forgiveness”. Ayesha said that she had to wait till God cleared her of the insinuation for He alone was her witness. Before the Holy Prophet could leave the house of his father-in-law, the signs of divine revelation manifested themselves on the Holy Prophet. His mother-in law placed a cushion under his head and covered him with a Yemeni cloak. When the revelation was over, drops of perspiration trickled down his face. He smiled and said, “Glad tiding to you Ayesha, God the Most High has exculpated you, and borne witness to your innocence”. Ayesha thereafter returned to the house of the Holy Prophet and those who had slandered were punished.

Bitterness between Ayesha and Ali

This incident led to some bitterness between Ayesha and Ali. Ali had not levied any charge against Ayesha. He only said in a casual way that she could be divorced even if she was innocent. The grievance of Ayesha was that Ali should have defended her like Umar. The Holy Prophet had great love for Ayesha and that became a matter of some jealousy with others. It appears that even Fatima had some grouse on this account. The Holy Prophet offered her the advice: “If your father loves a person, why should you not love that person as well.”

Banu Quraizah

The Jews settlements in Madina

There were originally three settlements of the Jews in Madina namely those of Banu Qainuqa, Banu Nadir, ant Banu Quraizah. Every settlement was a stronghold, The Holy Prophet gave them a charter of freedom, whereunder they enjoyed autonomy in the administration of their affairs. The Jews entered into agreements of alliance with the Muslim community and undertook to help the Muslims in the event of any attack on Madina. The Jews, however, did not honor such agreements, and the Muslims had to take punitive action against them. After Battle of Badr, action had to be taken against the Banu Qainuqa. They were expelled from Madina and they migrated to Syria. After the Battle of Uhud, action had to be taken against Banu Nadir. They were expelled from Madina and they migrated to Khyber.

Banu Quraizah

At the eve of the Battle of the Ditch there was only one settlement of the Jews in Madina, namely that of Banu Quraizah. They assured the Muslims of their loyalty, and entered into a fresh agreement whereunder they bound themselves to help the Muslims in the event of any attack on Madina. When the Battle of the Ditch began, they assured the Muslims that they would stand by them. They, however, avoided active assistance on one pretext or the other. In the course of the battle they acted treacherously. Huyayy b Akhtab the leader of Banu Nadir who had been expelled by the Muslims from Madina approached Banu Quraizah and prevailed upon them to cast in their lot with the Quraish and their confederates who were fighting against Islam. Banu Quraizah were heavily bribed by the Quraish and they undertook to assist the confederates in their action against the Muslims. The Holy Prophet sent Sa’ad b Muadh the chief of the Aus tribe to them to prevail upon them to bide by the their agreement which they had made with the Muslims. Confident of the victory of the confederates, the Banu Quraizah adopted a hostile attitude and declared that they knew of no treaty with the Muslims. At the stage it was not possible for the Muslims to take any action against the Jews, and the Holy Prophet chose to be quiet. It was because of the treachery of Banu Quraizah that some of the Quraish warriors were able to cross the ditch and challenge the Muslims to duel. When Ali killed Amr in single combat, and all the Quraish warriors who had crossed the ditch were forced to retreat, the Holy Prophet decided to keep a greater watch on the movements of the Banu Quraizah. When the Battle of the ditch began, the Holy Prophet shifted the women and children of Muslim families to safer quarters. The game of the Quraish was to have access to this quarter and carry away Muslim women and children as captives. Banu Quraizah undertook to help the Quraish. One day the Jews sent a spy to procure intelligence about the quarter where the Muslim women and children were lodged. Safia, an aunt of the Holy Prophet, saw the spy. She stealthily stole behind the spy, and struck a mortal blow at his head with a pole that she carried in her hand. Thereafter the Muslims strengthened the guard at the quarter. The Muslims had expelled the Banu Nadir from Madina after the Battle of Uhud and their leader Huyayy b Akhtab was a non-grate person for the Muslims. Banu Quraizah gave asylum to Huyayy who was an archenemy of the Muslims. During the course of the Battle of the Ditch, Banu Quraizah, at the instance of Huyayy, created difficulties for the Muslims.

Operations against Banu Quraizah

The Banu Quraizah had expected the Battle of the Ditch would end in the defeat of the Muslims, and that they would be duly rewarded by the confederates for the services rendered to their cause. When the Battle of the Ditch ended in the discomfiture of the Quraish and their allies, the Banu Quraizah felt themselves stranded and exposed to the wrath of the Muslims. Soon after the Battle of the Ditch, the Holy Prophet sent a small force under the command of Ali to the Jewish quarter. Ali contacted the leader of the Jews Ka’b b Asad, and brought home to him the point that as they had violated the terms of their agreement with the Muslims, and were guilty of high treason they could no longer be allowed to live in Madina. They were advised that they should lay down arms and migrate elsewhere. The Jews ridiculed the proposal and abused the Holy Prophet and the Muslims. Ali tried his best to make them see the light of reason and migrate elsewhere in their own interest. When Ali did not succeed in prevailing upon the Jews to migrate from Madina on their own account, he reported the matter to the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet thereupon ordered a military operation against the Jews. The Holy Prophet handed the war banner to Ali and the Muslim force-marched to the quarter of the Jews under the command of Ali. The Jews shut themselves in their citadel and the Muslim force besieged them. Banu Quraizah had expected that the Quraish and the Jews of Khyber would come to their assistance, but as the days passed on no help came, and things became difficult for them with the prolongation of the siege. On the Sabbath Day, Ka’b b Asad the leader of the Banu Quraizah told his people that things were getting difficult for them from day to day, and that it would not be possible to withstand the siege for long. He placed three proposals before his people. The first proposal was that they should be converted to Islam, and should accept Muhammad (peace be on him) as the Prophet of God. His people turned down the proposal, and said that they would never accept Islam. K’ab said that the next alternative was that they should kill their women and children, and thereafter fall upon the Muslims, and either kill them or be killed. His people said that they would not kill their women and children, Ka’b said that as it was be Sabbath Day the Muslims would not be expecting any attack from them. His third proposal was that they should attack the Muslims on the Sabbath Day. The Jews said that their ancestors who fought on the Sabbath Day were converted to apes and that therefore they would not fight on the Sabbath Day lest they might also be turned into apes.

End of Banu Quraizah

The siege lasted for twenty-five days. On the last day, Ali carried the citadel by assault. All Jews were taken captive, and Ali offered his midnight prayer in the courtyard of the citadel. In spite of their defeat the Holy Prophet was inclined to offer the Jews easy terms, more or less the terms which had been previously offered to Banu Qainuqa and Banu Nadir. The Jews, however, desired that Sa’ad b Muadh the leader of the Banu Aus be appointed as the arbitrator. The Holy Prophet accepted the proposal, and Sa ad was asked to suggest terms that should be offered to the Jews. Sa’ad asked the Jews whether they would like the terms to be offered to them under the Islamic law or the Jewish law. They said that as they were Jews and not Muslims, they would like the Jewish law to be applied to their case. Sa’ad consulted the Jewish rabbis, and asked of them the question, “If in a battle against the Muslims you would have won, and taken the Muslim men and woman captive, how would you have treated the captives under the Jews law?” They said that in that case they would have killed the men and sold the women and children as slaves. Thereupon Sa’ad gave his verdict that all male adults of the Banu Quraizah should be killed and their women and children should be sold as slaves. On hearing this verdict, the Jews were stunned and a pall of mourning fell upon them. It was a harsh sentence, but for all that happened the Jews were themselves to blame. They were guilty to high treason, and they had to face the consequences of their misconduct. Even then if they had thrown themselves on the mercy of the Holy Prophet, they would have escaped with a lighter punishment. Instead of asking for terms from the Holy Prophet they sought the verdict of an arbitrator of their own choice. Again they had opted for the Jewish law, and the sentence awarded was in conformity with such laws. The verdict was carried into effect. Over two hundred male Jews were executed. The Holy Prophet commissioned Ali to supervise the process of execution. About six hundred Jews comprising women and children were sold as slaves. The property of the Jews was confiscated and distributed among the Muslims. Details about such property are not available, but as the Jews were a rich people, this property both movable and immovable must have been considerable, and the share of each Muslim would have been sufficient to make him well to do. That would have considerably improved the financial position of Ali, and in this context, the oft-repeated accounts of the poverty of Ali or the Holy Prophet cannot be accepted. As over six hundred Jews were sold as slaves, Fatima would have got a slave girl to work for her. In the Battle of the Ditch or in the military operations against Banu Quraizah, Ali played the most important part. It was Ali who killed the “Hazar Mard” of the Quraish in a duel. It was Ali who carried the citadel of Banu Quraizah by assault. Details about the exploits of Ali are not available in the accounts that have come down to us.

Operations Against Banu Sa’ad

Conspiracy of the Jews

After the expulsion of the Jews of Bani Qainuqa and Bani Nadeer from Madina ,the policy of the Jews was to incite the Arab tribes to revolt against the Muslims. The Bedouin tribes of Banu Sa’ad and Banu Bakr which lived in the neighborhood of Khyber and Fidak were already hostile to the Muslims. The Jews incited them to attack Madina. They promised to provide them with arms and transport. Intelligence was brought to the Holy Prophet that these tribes were mustering a force and planned to attack Madina. The policy of the Holy Prophet was to strike before the enemy could strike and thus wrest the initiative from the enemy.

Ali’s operations

Ali was commissioned by the Holy Prophet to undertake an expedition against the Banu Sa’ad and Banu Bakr. It was not to be a regular battle it was to be a tactical raid to be carried with utmost secrecy, with a view to springing a surprise on the enemy. Ali had a small force of a hundred persons with him. The force did not march in battle array, the party traveled as a caravan of traders in order to avoid suspicion. A series of forced marches conducted at night to conceal the movements brought the party in close proximity to Fidak, some distance from Khyber. Here they came across a scout of the enemy. He was taken captive. He volunteered to lead Ali and his men to the camp of Banu Saad and Bakr provided he was given amnesty. Ali gave him the amnesty, and the scout led Ali and his men to Fidak where the forces of Banu Sa’ad and Banu Bakr were camping oblivious of any danger. Ali and his men made a surprise attack on the enemy. The attack was so unexpected, sudden and furious that the forces of the tribes could not take a stand and were scattered after suffering heavy losses. So intense was the slaughter that the tribes laid down arms and sought for terms. The tribes undertook to remain faithful to the Muslims and offered a tribute of 100 camels and 2000 goats. Ali and his men returned triumphant to Madina where the Holy Prophet appreciated their services. One fifth of the booty was placed at the disposal of the Holy Prophet as state share, and the rest of the animals were distributed among the men who had participated in the foray.

Some points about the operations

In the various accounts that have came down to us, there is some confusion about this operation. In some accounts Banu Sa’ad and Banu Bakr are stated to be Jews. This does not appear to be correct. They were Arab tribes who were pagans. In some accounts it is said that Fidak was conquered as a result of these operations. This is not correct. Fidak was conquered a year later after the conquest of Khyber. In the Atab annals this operation is referred to as Sariya Fidak. The term Sarya is used to denote the operations in which the Holy Prophet did not participate in person. Such operations which were led by the Holy Prophet himself were known as Ghazwas. The Sarya-i-Fidak neutralized the Arab tribes of Banu Sa’ad and Banu Bakr and paved the way to the Hudaibiya pact of the Muslims with the Quraish of Makkah.

Treaty of Hudaibiya

Journey to Makkah

In 628 C.E. six years had passed since the Holy Prophet and his companions had left Makkah the city of their birth. During this period of six years the Muslims had fought three battles against the Quraish, the battles of Badr, Uhud, and the Ditch. After the Battle of the Ditch, the Quraish had lost the initiative which now came to rest with the Muslims. In view of this changed position, the Holy Prophet decide to visit Makkah with a view to performing the Hajj. During the Hajj season, the Holy Prophet along with his companions including Ali started for Makkah to perform the Hajj. When the Quraish of Makkah came to know that the Muslims were coming to Makkah, they sent Khalid b Walid and Ikrama b Abu Jahl with two hundred horsemen to intercept the Muslims and prevent their entry into Makkah. The Muslims came to know of the intention of the Quraish at the early stages of the journey. The Holy Prophet consulted his companions whether they should return to Madina or continue their journey to Makkah. The consensus of opinion was that they should go ahead and if the Quraish chose to fight, they would also fight; otherwise, not. Instead of following the direct route to Makkah, the Muslims followed a less frequented way full of rough rocks through the ravines of Mudniya. After a weary march, the Muslim caravan comprising one thousand men reached Hudaibiya on the lower side of Makkah, and within the sacred territory for the purposes of the pilgrimage.

The Pledge

The Muslims encamped at Hudaibiya, and here Urwa b Masud, a son-in law of Abu Sufyan, came to see the Muslims on behalf of the Quraish. He talked in diplomatic language and tried to impress that the Quraish were strong, and would not allow the Muslims to visit Makkah. He also insinuated that at the time of crisis, the followers of the Holy Prophet were likely to leave him. Thereupon Abu Bakr flared up and said: “May God curse you; how dare you think that we will abandon the Holy Prophet. Rest assured, we will stand by him, whatever the cost, and will fight for him to the last.” While talking, Urwa in the usual Arab way pushed his hand too close to the beard of the Holy Prophet. A companion who stood near warned him “Keep your hands away from the beard of the Holy Prophet for the hand that touches the sacred beard would be cut.”

When Urwa returned to Makkah, the Holy Prophet sent Othman with him to assure the Quraish that the Muslims merely wanted to perform the Hajj and they had no intention of fighting against the Quraish. When Urwa returned to the Quraish, he gave his impressions about the Holy Prophet and the Muslims in the following terms: “O people of the Quraish I have seen kings, but by God I have never seen any king as I have seen Muhammad amongst his companions. If he makes his ablutions, they would not let the waterfall on the ground; if a hair of his body falls they pick it up. They will not surrender him for anything in any case, do what you may”.

Othman met the Quraish leaders, but they adopted delaying tactics. When Othman took long to come, a rumor got current in the Muslim camp that Othman had been killed by the Quraish. Thereupon all the Muslims took the pledge that they would fight against the Quraish to seek revenge for the murder of Othman.

The Treaty

When the Muslims were poised to take up arms and attack Makkah, Othman returned to the Muslim camp with Suhail b Amr, an eminent citizen of Makkah, whom the Quraish sent to negotiate a treaty with the Muslims. Suhail was notorious for his hostility to Islam. He was one of the principal persecutors when the Holy Prophet declared his mission. He had fought in the Battle of Badr and had been taken captive. He was later ransomed. After a lengthy discussion, the Holy Prophet and Suhail came to terms and agreed to execute a treaty. Ali was commissioned to draft the treaty. The Holy Prophet dictated that it was a treaty between Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah, and the Quraish. Suhail objected to the preamble on the ground that the Quraish did not acknowledge him as the prophet of God and as such the reference to his prophethood should be omitted. Ali did not agree to omit the relevant words. Thereupon the Holy Prophet omitted these words himself. According to the treaty of Hudaibiya, truce was declared between the Muslims and the Quraish for ten years. If any tribe wished to enter into treaty with the Muslims it could do so, and whoever wished to enter into a treaty with the Quraish was likewise free to do so. If any one from the Quraish came to the Muslims and was converted to Islam he was to be returned to the Quraish. On the other hand, if a Muslim sought refuge with the Quraish, he was not to be delivered to the Muslims. It was further stipulated that the Muslims would withdraw that year without performing the Hajj, but they would be free to perform the Hajj the following year when they could stay in Makkah for three days.

Muslim reaction to the treaty

Prima facie the pact was loaded in favor of the Quraish and most of the Muslims were critical of its terms. Abu Bakr and Ali, however felt that the Holy Prophet knew things better than what his followers could comprehend, and that what appeared to be disadvantageous to the Muslims might ultimately turn to their advantage. Umar waited on the Holy Prophet, and gave expression to his dissatisfaction with the terms of the treaty. The Holy Prophet assured him that whatever he had done was under the command of God, and that the terms which appeared to he against the interest of the Muslims would turn out to their favor. While on the way back to Madina, God sent a revelation that the treaty was a victory for the Muslims. As subsequent events showed this treaty was in fact a prelude to the conquest of Makkah. In later years some one asked Ali as to how the treaty of Hudaibiya was a victory for the Muslims when the terms thereof were apparently in favor of the Quraish. Ali pointed out that during the previous seventeen years the Quraish had been waging a war against the Muslims sometimes cold, sometimes hot. Their aim was to crush Islam. When by the treaty of Hudaibiya the Quraish agreed to a truce for a period of ten years, it amounted to a confession of their failure. Heretofore the Quraish had exercised a pressure on the tribes of the desert not to ally themselves with the Muslims. By the treaty both the Muslims and the Quraish could have allies from amongst the tribes. This was a subtle point fraught with grave consequences. As things took shape later, it was such alliances that paved the way for the conquest of Makkah by the Muslims. It was stipulated that a Muslim who sought refuge with the Quraish was not to be returned to the Muslims, but someone from the Quraish who sought refuge with the Muslims was to be returned to the Quraish. Apparently the stipulation was against the Muslims, but it was really not so. When a Muslim were to seek refuge with the Quraish, it would obviously be a case of apostasy, and there was no advantage in pressing for the return of a person who had ceased to be a Muslim. When a man from the Quraish sought refuge with the Muslims, and was later returned to Quraish, there were two possibilities. If his faith in Islam was strong, he would still remain a Muslim, and was likely to cause the conversion of other people to Islam.

If on the other hand his faith was not strong, it would be a good riddance for the Muslims. Moreover by this time the stage of the conversion of individuals was over. The Holy Prophet was now looking forward to mass conversions, and in this context there were not likely to be many cases of individuals seeking shelter with the Muslims or the Muslims seeking shelter with the Quraish. The treaty of Hudaibiya indeed set the stage for the expansion of Islam to the peninsula of

Battle of Khybar

The Khyber

About a hundred miles from Madina on the route to Syria was an important settlement of the Jews called the Khyber. Literally “Khyber” means a fort, and the place was so named because it consisted of a series of forts. There were six or seven forts, and each fort was occupied by a different section of the Jews. It was an oasis in the desert, and was conspicuous for its fields and groves of date palms. It was an important market as well. After their expulsion from Madina, most of the Jews of Banu Qainuqa and Banu Nadir took refuge in Khyber. In the Battle of the Ditch, the Jews of Khyber had helped the Quraish. When after the Battle of the Ditch, the Jews of Banu Quraizah were executed, the Jews of Khyber vowed vengeance, and they planned an invasion of Madina on a large scale. They were seeking an alliance with the Quraish. In the meantime by the treaty of Hudaibiya, the Quraish had made a truce with the Muslims and were no longer free to join the Jews in an attack on Madina. That was the first advantage that accrued to the Muslims as a result of the treaty of Hudaibiya. After the neutralization of the Quraish, in any conflict between the Muslims and the Jews, the initiative now came to lie with the Muslims. Taking full advantage of this favorable situation, immediately on return from Makkah after signing the Hudaibiya pact, the Holy Prophet led a Muslim force to Khyber.

The battle

The Jews were caught in surprise at the appearance of the Muslim force. The Prophet asked them to submit. They ridiculed the offer and said that their forts were impregnable, and that they would teach the Muslims bitter lesson. They shut themselves in their forts and the Muslims besieged them. The first battle took place on the fort called Naim. The Muslim force was commanded by Muhammad b Muslimah. The battle was fierce. The Muslim Commander was martyred, but the fort was captured. In the following days they captured other small fortresses. The main fort of the Jews was Qamus, and it was regarded as impregnable. The siege dragged on for twenty-one days, but the Jews held out. The Holy Prophet sent a force under the command of Abu Bakr to overpower the Jews, but the mission did not succeed. The Holy Prophet changed the Commander every day, but the fort proved to be a hard nut to crack. With the failure of successive missions, the Holy Prophet said that the following day he would entrust the command to a person who was the beloved of Allah as well as His Prophet, and who would conquer the fort. The following day when the Muslim forces assembled to lead the attack, all were anxious to know as to who was to have the honor of commanding the Muslim forces, and winning the victory that day. The honor fell to the lot of Ali. The Holy Prophet put the armor on Ali with his own hands. He handed him the standard, and after praying for the victory of the Muslims, the Holy Prophet commanded the Muslims forces to attack the fort in the name of God. As the Muslim forces came close to the fort, the Jew warrior Marhab emerged out of the fort, and challenged Ali to a duel. Marhab also known as Abu Ablit and Antar enjoyed reputation as a great warrior equivalent to a thousand men. Marhab sang the battle song: “I am Abu Ablit; My name is Antar. I am armed to the teeth. My home is Khyber. I am a lion whom none can face. ”

Ali accepted the challenge with the battle song: “I am Ali, the lion of God. I fight in the name of God. Be prepared for your doom. He awaits you.” The day, Ali appeared to be endowed with unusual extraordinary power. He killed Marhab in no time. Thereafter another Jewish warrior Rabih b Abu Aqiq stepped forward to challenge Ali. Rabih charged at Ali, but he missed the mark. Thereafter Ali charged at his adversary with the speed of lightning and severed his head with the stroke of his sword. Thereafter another Jew warrior stepped forward. He sang as he rushed at Ali: “I am Yasir I am a ferocious lion. None can escape my claws. In reply, Ali said: “O Infidel, your death calls you. I invoke the aid of God and strike the heads of those who come to oppose me ” Yasir aimed a blow at Ali, but Ali warded off the blow with great dexterity. Then Ali attacked and Yasir fell dead. The death of three successive Jew warriors unnerved the Jews and they ran back to shut themselves in the fort. Before the Jews could shut the gate of the fort, Ali struck at the gate and uprooted it. Thereafter the Muslim force rushed inside the fort and massacred the Jews who resisted them. Ali performed prodigies of valor and killed a large number of the Jews. The Jews could not withstand the onslaught of the Muslims for long. Soon their resistance broke down and they laid down arms and sued for terms. Thus the fort which was regarded as impregnable fell before the might of Ali. According to legend, Ali exhibited supernatural strength that day and was most ferocious than the fiercest of lions. Verily, he was the “Lion of Allah”.

Victor of Khyber

As Ali returned to the Muslim camp, the Holy Prophet went forward to greet him, and hailed him as the Victor of Khyber. There was great rejoicing in the Muslim camp at this great victory. As a result of the victory, in accordance with the Jewish law, all male Jews could be executed. The Jews pleaded for mercy and undertook to pay one half of the produce of their lands to the Muslims as annual tribute. The Holy Prophet took a lenient view. He accepted the terms offered by the Jews and a treaty was executed accordingly. The Jews undertook to remain faithful to the Muslims and accepted their dominance.

A prominent Jew lady, Zainab held a feast in the honor of the Holy Prophet and his companions. At the dinner the Holy Prophet first took a morsel of meat and after chewing it threw it aside saying that the meat was poisoned. A companion Bashr ate a good deal of meat and he died on the spot. The feast ended in confusion. Zainab was put to explanation and she admitted her guilt. She pleaded that she had poisoned the meat thinking that if Muhammad (peace be On him) was a false prophet, the world would get rid of him.

Accounts differ about the fate of Zainab. According to one account, she became a Muslim and was pardoned. According to another account she was executed.

Conquest of Fidak

After the conquest of Khyber, the Muslims marched to Fidak, another Jewish settlement, not far from Khyber. Having seen the fate of the people of Khyber, the people of Fidak did not choose to fight. They agreed to execute a treaty of peace with the Muslims on the same terms as had been agreed upon in the case of the Jews of Khyber. As Fidak had fallen without fight, the annual tribute therefrom was earmarked as the private purse of the Holy Prophet. After meeting the household expenses of the Holy Prophet the proceeds were to be utilized for the welfare of the widows, the orphans, the needy, the distressed and the wayfarers.

Consequences of the Battle of Khyber

The Battle of Khyber was another turning point in the annals of Islam. It had far reaching consequences. The Muslim rule was no longer confined to Madina and its immediate environments. It came to be extended to other parts of Arabia and the Jews who had been so hostile to the Muslims had become the subjects of the Islamic state. The Quraish could no longer bank on the support of the Jews. If we study the events that took place one after the other we can discern the Hand of God directing the course of things in favor of the Muslims. The Hudaibiya pact which was apparently unfavorable to the Muslims paved the way to the conquest of Khyber, and the conquest of Khyber paved the way to the conquest of Makkah. Ali was the Victor of Khyber. The exploits of Ali at Khyber have attained the dimensions of legends. History is however silent as to how Ali was rewarded for his services. The amount of the tribute from Khyber was sufficiently large and Ali as the Victor of Khyber must have got a lion’s share thereof. Because of his fraternity with the Holy Prophet, Ali had his share in the tribute from Fadak as well. All these resources would have made him sufficiently rich, and all accounts that dilate on the poverty of Ali appear to be far from the truth.

Conquest of Makkah

Banu Khuza’ah

According to the terms of the treaty of Hudaibiya, the Arab tribes had the option to be allied with the Quraish or the Muslims. In pursuance of this option, the Banu Bakr joined the Quraish, and their enemies the Banu Khuza’ah allied themselves with the Muslims. Incited by the Quraish, the Banu Bakr attacked the Khuza’ah, looted their property and killed their men. Even when the Banu Khuza’ah sought the sanctuary of the Kaaba, they were chased and put to death. The Banu Khuza’ah sent a deputation to Madina, and wanted the Muslims to come to their aid according to the terms of their treaty with them. The Holy Prophet assured the Banu Khaza’ah that the Muslims would fulfil their obligation to them. The Holy Prophet thereupon sent a message to the Quraish making three alternative demands. The first alternative was that the Banu Bakr and the Quraish should pay blood money for the victims of Banu Khuza’ah. The second alternative was that the Quraish should terminate their alliance with Banu Bakr. The third alternative was that the treaty of Hudaibiya should be considered to have been abrogated. In a fit of arrogance, the Quraish replied that they would neither pay blood money, nor terminate their alliance with Banu Bakr, and that in the circumstances they were prepared to consider that the Hadaibiya pact had been abrogated.

The Hudaibiya pact

The life of the Hudaibiya pact did not exceed two years. It was a short period, but nevertheless much had happened during this period which had added to the strength of the Muslims, and correspondingly weakened the position of the Quraish. After the conquest of Khyber the material sources of the Muslims had considerably increased. After the discomfiture of the Jews, many Arab tribes joined the Muslims as their allies. The Muslims were now in a position to raise a sufficiently large army. The Quraish soon realized that they had imprudently abrogated the treaty of Hudaibiya. Abu Sufyan, the Chief of the Quraish, rushed to Madina to seek the renewal of the treaty of Hudaibiya. Umm Habiba a daughter of Abu Sufyan had accepted Islam and was a wife of the Holy Prophet. Abu Sufyan wanted his daughter to intercede with the Holy Prophet in his behalf. He sought the help of Abu Bakr, Umar and Ali as well. The Holy Prophet met Abu Sufyan with due courtesy, and brought home to him the point that if the Quraish wanted peace they should accept the suzerainty of the Muslims as the Jews had done. Abu Sufyan was not agreeable to this and the negotiations failed. Abu Sufyan returned to Makkah, a disappointed man. During his stay in Madina he had come to realize that the Muslims had become a power, and the position of the Quraish visa a vis the Muslims had become difficult.

March to Makkah

After Abu Sufyan had left Madina, the Holy Prophet ordered preparations to be made for a foray. The Holy Prophet mustered a force ten thousand strong and took the road to Makkah. Having reached in the neighborhood of Makkah, the Muslims encamped at Marr al Zahran. When at night fire was lit in the Muslim camp it appeared as if the whole of the desert was on fire. That alarmed the Quraish. Abu Sufyan realized that it would be futile for the Quraish to resist the Muslims. He visited the Muslim camp and was converted to Islam. That was the end of the Quraish opposition. The following day the Muslim army marched triumphantly into Makkah. The various contingents of the Muslim army marched into Makkah through different gates. Ali held the banner of Islam. The triumphant entry of the Muslims in Makkah marked the vindication of the truth of Islam. The city which eight years ago had treated the Muslims cruelly, and driven them to seek refuge with strangers in Madina now lay at the feet of the Muslims. In the hour of triumph, the Holy Prophet forgot every evil suffered, and forgave every injury that had been inflicted on him. He granted general amnesty to the people of Makkah.

Destruction of the idols

The triumph of the Muslims was the triumph of Allah and the defeat of the idols. The Holy Prophet visited the Kaaba along with his companions. The Holy Prophet with the stroke of the stick held in his hand broke the idols that lay in the lower cavities of the walls. As the stones were destroyed one by one, the Quraish looked on aghast at the massacre of their gods, while the Holy Prophet recited the verse from the Quran: “Say, the Truth has come and falsehood gone. Verily, falsehood is ever vanishing.”

The more important idols, including that of Hubal, the god of war were placed higher up in the cavities of the walls beyond the reach of the hand or stick. The Holy Prophet asked Ali to ascend on his shoulders, and destroy the idols which were placed higher up. Ali hesitated to ascend the shoulders of the Holy Prophet, but when the Holy Prophet repeated the command, Ali complied and destroyed all idols. According to legend, Ali is reported to have said that while standing on the shoulders of the Holy Prophet he felt that his hand could reach to the heights of the Heaven.

Address to the people

To the people assembled in the Kasba who witnessed the destruction of the idols; the Holy Prophet addressed as follows: “There is no god but Allah. He has no associate. He has today made good His promise that He had held to his bondman and helped him in fulfilling his mission. With the triumph of truth every claim of privilege, whether that of blood or property is abolished except that of the custody of the Kaaba and of supplying water to the pilgrims. Bear in mind that for anyone who is slain the blood wit is one hundred camels. O people of Quraish, God has abolished from you all pride of the time of ignorance, and all pride in your ancestry, because all persons are descended from Adam, and Adam was made of clay.” Then the Holy Prophet, turning to the people said: “O Ye, Quraish, what do you think of the treatment that I should accord you?” They said, “Mercy, O Prophet of Allah. We expect nothing but good from you.” Thereupon the Holy Prophet declared, “I speak to you in the same words as Joseph spoke to his brothers. This day there is no re-proof against you, go your way for you are free.” This announcement was received with great joy and applause.

Banu Jazima

Having destroyed the idols of the Kaaba, the Holy Prophet sent out small expeditions to the neighboring settlements to destroy the idols in the local temples. There after a number of expeditions were sent to the neighboring tribes to call them to Islam. The Holy Prophet issued instructions that the tribes who accepted the call were not to be harmed. Khalid b Walid was sent to the tribe of Banu Jazima. The tribe accepted the call and declared themselves as Muslims, but Khalid b Walid who had an old feud with the tribe asked the men to lay down arms and then had them killed. When the Holy Prophet came to know of this he felt much annoyed. He raised his hands towards heaven and said “O Lord I am not responsible for what Khalid has done.” The Holy Prophet sent Ali with a good deal of money to smooth the feelings of Banu Jazima. Ali paid indemnity for the blood that had been shed. He treated them generously, expressed great regrets at what had happened and assured them of the good will of the Muslims. Ali lived in the midst of the tribe for some time, and educated them in the Islamic way of life. Ali performed the mission entrusted to him with great credit, and returned to Makkah when the Banu Jazima were fully satisfied.

The Battle of Hunain

Tribes of Hawazin and Thaqueef

After the fall of Makkah, the Holy Prophet sent a mission to the neighboring tribes of Hawazin and Thaqueef, inviting them to accept Islam. They rejected the invitation and chose the warpath, boasting that they were not cowards like the Quraish of Makkah. The two tribes along with their allies mustered in considerable strength at Autas a few miles to the east of Makkah on the way to Taif. The coalition was led by Malik b Auf, a fiery commander of considerable skill.

The pass of Hunain

When the Holy Prophet came to know of the hostile intentions of the tribes he decided to take action against them on a cold day of February 630 C.E. The Muslim forces under the command of the Holy Prophet set out from Makkah. The Muslim army consisted of 12,000 men fully armed. Out of these 10,000 men were from Madina, while 2000 were the Muslim converts of Makkah. It was a large force, and some of the Muslims felt proud of their strength. In order to reach Autas, the Muslim army had to pass the narrow pass of Hunain, some ten miles north east of Makkah. It was narrow defile, leaving little room for the army to pass through except in single file. As the vanguard of the Muslim army entered the defile, a rain of arrows fell on it let loose by a group of archers of the hostile tribes who lay hidden in the precipitous rocks. Taken unaware the advance guard of the Muslim army fled in panic. There was considerable confusion. The camels, horses, and men ran into one another to seek cover. As the advance guard retreated precipitately from the paste, the rest of the army which had still to enter the pass, fled in panic in various directions.

The Battle of Hunain

The Holy Prophet stood firm at the place where he was at some distance from the mouth of the pass. Only a dozen companions stood by the side of the Holy Prophet; all other men fled for safety. The men who stood around the Holy Prophet included Abu Bakr, Umar, and some members of the Hashimites. Seeing that the Holy Prophet having been abandoned by his men could easily be overcome, the hostile tribesmen descended from the heights of the mountains and rushed towards the site where the Holy Prophet stood surrounded by a dozen persons. Under the instructions of the Holy Prophet, Abbas shouted at the top of his voice “O Muslims, come to the Holy Prophet of Allah”. The call was heard by the Muslims and they returned to fight. As the forces of the tribes advanced boasting of their initial victory, and satirizing the Muslims for their cowardice, the Holy Prophet threw a handful of dust against the enemy. The Holy Prophet exhorted his men to be stout hearted and not to get nervous. By the time the forces of the tribes arrived, most of the Muslims were ready for combat.

Out of the ranks of the enemy, Abu Nadhul a giant of a man very tall and well built stepped forward and challenged the Muslims to a duel. Ali accepted the challenge. With the speed of lighting, Ali struck at the camel on which Abu Nadhul was riding. Abu Nadhul fell from the beast and before he could recover from his fall, Ali was at his head, giving him blows after blows with his sword. Soon Abu Nadhul was killed. Thereafter the battle began. In the hand to hand fighting, the tribes were no match for the Muslims. They lost ground and they had to retreat. It was now their turn to pass through the defile when the Muslims rained arrows at them. As many as seventy men of the enemy were killed while passing through the defile.

Confrontation at Autas

The Holy Prophet posted a contingent to guard the pass, and led the main army to Autas on the other side of the defile in pursuit of the enemy. In the confrontation at Autas, the tribes could not withstand the onslaught of the Muslims. Finding the resistance useless, the tribes broke the camp and retired to Taif. Immense booty fell in the hands of the Muslims. This included 24,000 camels and 4000 Oqiyahs of silver. The number of persons taken captive exceeded six thousand.

The siege of Taif

The siege of Taif

From Autas, the Muslim forces set out for Taif. The people of Taif were a proud people with traditions of bravery. They were a rich people and considered themselves to be superior to all other tribes in Arabia. Sometime in 619/620 C.E., when the Holy Prophet was persecuted by the Quraish of Makkah, he had visited Taif to seek refuge. The people of Taif had maltreated the Holy Prophet and had turned him out of their city. Now the tables were turned. The people shut themselves in the fort and could not face the Muslims in the open. The Holy Prophet decided to lay a siege to the city. The Muslim catapults began to throw stores in the fort, but this did not lead to any tangible result. The Muslims tried the Tetsudou device whereunder a group of soldiers shielded by a cover of cowhide advanced to set fire to the gate. The enemy threw red-hot scraps of iron on the Tetsudou which made it ineffective. The siege dragged on for two weeks but still there was no sign of the fall of the fort. The Holy Prophet had other business to attend, and he could not afford to remain at Taif for long. The Holy Prophet raised the siege and returned to Makkah.

Operations of Ali

The Holy Prophet commissioned Ali to undertake operations against the tribes in the neighborhood of Taif who were feudatories to Taif. Ali began his operations by destroying the idols in the temples in the neighborhood of Taif. The principal god of the people was Al lat, and when Ali destroyed this idol, he was involved in a skirmish with the men of Banu Khusbam. Shahab, the leader of Banu Khusham and a formidable man enjoying reputation as a great warrior challenged Ali to a duel. Ali killed Shahab. With the murder of their leader Shahab and the destruction of their god Al lat, the men of Banu Khusham were unnerved. They laid down arms and accepted Islam. The other tribes in the neighborhood of Taif were similarly subdued and converted to Islam.

Conversion of the people of Taif to Islam

With the conversion to the tribes around Taif to Islam, the position of the people of Taif became precarious when Ali advised them to accept Islam, they agreed to send a deputation to Makkah to wait on the Holy Prophet. The deputation agreed to accept Islam, but they wanted that a respite should be allowed to them to continue to worship their idols for some time. They begged for a respite for one year, and reduced the period of grace to six months, three months, and one month. The Holy Prophet rejected the demand outright on the ground that he who had accepted Islam could no longer worship the idols. The deputation next asked for exemption from prayers. This demand was rejected on the ground that there could be no faith without prayers. Thereupon the deputation urged, “then at least give us exemption from the payment of Zakat”. The Holy Prophet rejected the demand on the ground that Zakat was a compulsory levy. The Holy Prophet made the deputation bear in mind that Islam was a matter of faith; if one had faith in Islam he had to accept all that Islam had enjoined. There could be no compromise in the matter of the injunctions of Islam. The Holy Prophet made them realize that it was open to them not to be converted to Islam, but once they accepted Islam, they had to strictly follow all the commandments of Islam. The deputation understood the position, and accepted Islam for themselves and for the people of Taif whom they represented.

Return to Madina

With the conversion of the people of Taif to Islam, the mission of Makkah was completed. The Holy Prophet and his companions performed the “Umrah”, and thereafter returned to Madina. Eight years earlier the Muslims had escaped from Makkah and oppressed people, now they were the masters of Makkah, Madina, and a greater part of Arabia. That was verily a positive proof of the truth of Islam. Thus God fulfilled all the promises that He had made with His prophet.

Campaign Against Banu Tai

Hatim Tai

Banu Tai came into prominence under their chief Hatim Tai. Hatim Tai made a great name for himself for his generosity and munificence. Poets and minstrels sang of his unprecedented exploits of generosity. Many romantic tales got current in Arabia highlighting his golden deeds. He acquired fame as a great hero of Arabia; a veritable symbol of selflessness, charity, and generosity. Hatim was a contemporary of the Holy Prophet, but no occasion rose for Hatim to meet the Holy Prophet. According to the assessment of the Holy Prophet, Hatim had the attributes of a Muslim, and if Islam had been offered to him he would have accepted it. Hatim died before Islam began to spread in Arabia.

Adi

Hatim was succeeded by his son Adi. Adi tried to follow in the footsteps of his father. He tried to be generous and munificent but he could not attain that fame that had been earned by his father. Adi was very religious in his own way, and was very particular in the worship of idols in the local temple. When Islam came to spread to the neighboring tribes, Banu Tai showed a hostile attitude to Islam. Thereupon the Holy Prophet sent an expedition to Banu Tai under the command of Ali.

Flight of Ad

When Ali reached the territory of Banu Tai, Adi could not make up his mind to face the Muslims in battle. He quietly escaped to Syria with a few followers, leaving his clansmen to their fate. Ali overpowered the Hanu Tai and returned to Madina carrying in his train a large number or men and women of Banu Tai as captives. These included Sufana, a daughter of Hatim. At Madina, the Holy Prophet set Sufana at liberty because of the consideration for her father, the illustrious Hatim. Sufana had some attributes of her father. She said that she was the daughter of a man who ransomed prisoners, fed the poor and helped those in distress. As the daughter of such a man she could not accept her liberty unless her clansmen were also freed. The Holy Prophet out-hatimed Hatim, and set all prisoners of Banu Tai free. That impressed Sufana a good deal. She felt that the Holy Prophet was a great man and the religion that he preached was the true faith. She felt that to be generous to others and yet to worship idols who were incapable of doing any harm or good was inconsistent. One who professed to be generous should necessarily worship such Being who was Almighty, Omnipotent, and Sustainer of all mankind. When Sufana left Madina she was already a Muslim at heart. Sufana proceeded to Syria, and told her brother of the generous treatment that Banu Tai had met at the hands of the Holy Prophet. Adi visited Madina and accepted Islam. He had lessons in Islam from Ali. Thereafter the entire tribe of Banu Tai accepted Islam.

Christians of Najran

Christians tribes

When Islam began to spread there were some tribes which professed Christianity. After the expedition to Tabuk some Christian tribes were converted to Islam. Some Christian tribes chose not to change their faith, but they accepted the suzerainty of the Muslims and agreed to pay them an annual tribute.

Christians of Najran

There was a large Christian community in Najran. In 631 C.E., The Holy Prophet invited them to accept Islam. In response, they challenged the Holy Prophet to a Mubahila. The Mubahila was an ancient way of ascertaining the truth. In a religious contest, each of the disputing parties was required to take a solemn oath that they were right and true, and called on God to wreak His vengeance on them if they lied. It was believed that in such cases, the liar was visited by the wrath of God and was destroyed. The Holy Prophet accepted the challenge and asked the Christians of Najran to send a deputation to Madina.

The Christian deputation

A deputation of the Christian priests headed by their chief Aqib accordingly arrived in Madina. They were dressed in fine silken robes, and wore golden rings on their fingers. When dressed thus, they waited on the Holy Prophet in the mosque, the Holy Prophet did not pay any attention to them, and did not even return their salutation. Greatly puzzled they left the mosque, and upon meeting Othman complained to him that the Prophet of Islam had invited them to Madina, but he had paid no attention to them when they had visited him in the mosque. Othman took them to Ali, he told them that indifference of the Holy Prophet was due to the fact that they were dressed in silk finery, and were loaded with jewelry. He advised them to cast off their jewelry and be dressed in simple cotton robes. When they had changed their dress, Ali took them to the Holy Prophet in the mosque.

Dispute with the Christians

This time, the Holy Prophet welcomed them and made them sit near him. He told them that when they had first come to him, he had turned his head away because Satan accompanied them with finery and jewelry. Thereafter the Holy Prophet entered into the discourse with them, and the talk centered round the personality of Jesus Christ. The Christians wanted to know what was his opinion about Jesus Christ. The Holy Prophet said that like other Prophet he was a Prophet of God. The Christians next asked whether he regarded Jesus Christ as a son of God. The Holy Prophet said the God is far above having a wife or a son, and as such Jesus is not a son of God. The Christians then posed the question: if Jesus had no father and his mother Mary had not sinned, what then is the status of Jesus if he is not the son of God. The Holy Prophet said that they would have their answer the following day. At night the Holy Prophet had a revelation about the true nature of Jesus. When the Christians met the Holy Prophet the following day, he told them that the likeness of Jesus with Allah is as the links of Adam. Adam was born without a father and so was Jesus born without a father, but neither Adam nor Jesus was the son of God.

The Mubahila

At this reply of the Holy Prophet, the Christians priests felt stranded, but to keep up appearances, they desired that a Mubahila be held. The Christians named five priests who were to take part in the Mubahila. The Holy Prophet nominated five persons who were to take part in the Mubahila on behalf of the Muslims. These included the Holy Prophet himself, Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husain. The Holy Prophet did not dominate any of his wives in this behalf. The nomination was confined to such persons who had blood relation with him. The Holy Prophet declared that the Mubahila would be held the following day. At night, the Christians could get no sleep. They felt that truth shone in the eyes of the Holy Prophet and to invoke the curse of God with people like these would invite destruction for the Christians. The following day when the Christian priests waited on the Holy Prophet, they said that they had neither the conviction to profess Islam, nor the strength to enter into any disputation or fight with the Muslims. They said that while maintaining their own faith, they would accept the dominance of the Muslims and pay an annual tribute. The Holy Prophet accepted the offer, entered into a treaty with them, and allowed them to return to Najran. The way in which the Christians gave the challenge of Mubahila in the first instance, and then backed out of it, was a confession of failure on the part of the Christians, and their acknowledgment of the supremacy of Islam as a faith.

Banu Zabada

Umar b Madi kurb

The Banu Zabada was an Arab tribe who had their settlement a few miles west of Madina. The tribe had accepted Islam and they had a mosque in their settlement. The chief of the tribe was Amar b Madi Kurb. Amar had a blood feud with Ushus Khusee, the chief of a neighbor tribe. The tribe of Ushus Khusee had also accepted Islam. In the days of ignorance, Ushus Khusee had killed the father of Amar. Amar burnt with the urge to seek vengeance from Ushus for the murder of his father. As both the parties had accepted Islam, the case was brought to the Holy Prophet for arbitration. After hearing the case, the Holy Prophet decided that after the acceptance of Islam, the question of seeking vengeance in the case of any blood feud which had prevailed in the days of ignorance did not arise. The judgment hurt Amar. He, and at his instance his tribe abjured Islam, and raised the standard of revolt. In a rebellious mood, Amar killed Harith b Ka’b the chief of a tribe which had accepted Islam. The aggrieved tribe brought the high handedness on the part of Amar and Banu Zabada to the notice of the Holy Prophet.

Action against Banu Zabada

On receiving complaint against Banu Zabada, the Holy Prophet ordered punitive action. The Holy Prophet appointed Ali as the Commander of the expedition to be led against the rebellious tribe. Ali led a Muslim force to meet the rebels. When the two forces confronted each other in battle array, Amar b Madi Kurb stepped forward from the ranks of Banu Zabada, boasted of his lineage and his skill as a warrior, and challenged Ali, the Commander of the Muslim force to a single combat. Ali stepped forward and raised the shout of A11ah-o-Akbar. The shout of Ali was more ferocious than the roar of a lion, and it struck terror in the hearts of the enemy. When the duel began, Amar aimed blows at Ali who skillfully avoided all blows. Then it was the turn of Ali to strike at his adversary. The charge of Ali was so forceful that Amar reeled under it and fell on the ground helpless. Ali bade him rise up, and take the sword. Amar rose from the ground, but he was too nervous to fight. He took to his heels and fled from the battlefield. The flight of their leader demoralized the force of Banu Zabada and it laid down arms without fight. Ali returned victorious to Madina, and in his train followed a large number of captives. According to traditions the men of Banu Zabada said that as they faced the Muslims on the battlefield, it appeared to them that some super natural power was aiding the Muslims. The men of Banu Zabada repented and were re-converted to Islam. Later Amar also appeared before the Holy Prophet, offered repentance, and was reconverted to Islam.

Expedition to Tabuk

Wars between the Byzantines and the Persians

In the course of history, wars between the Byzantines and the Persians had been fought every now and then. In these wars sometimes the Persians had the upper hand and sometimes the Byzantines had the upper hand. In the early years of the seventh century the Persians defeated the Byzantines. As the Christians were monotheists, the pagans of Arabia hailed the victory of the Persians over the Christian Byzantines. At that time the Holy Prophet prophesied that within ten years the tables would be turned, and the Byzantines would defeat the Persians. This prophecy was fulfilled, and in the later twenties of the seventh century the Byzantine emperor Heracleus inflicted a crushing defeat on the Persians. It was at this stage of the Perso-Byzantine conflict that Islam rose into power. The Byzantines could not view the growing strength of Islam with favor. It was accordingly apprehended that after defeating the Persians the Byzantine emperor Heracleus would invade Arabia. After the conquest of Makkah when Islam came to spread throughout Arabia, the invasion of Arabia by the Byzantines appeared to be imminent. It was rumored that the Byzantine emperor was mustering a large army in Syria to invade Arabia.

Expedition to Tabuk

To forestall any invasion of Arabia by the Byzantines, the Holy Prophet decided to undertake an expedition to Tabuk on the borders of Syria. The hot season had set in, and the season was unfavorable to the undertaking of any expedition. It was the harvesting season, and the people were generally loath to leave their homes and go to the war. In spite of these difficulties the Holy Prophet was able to raise an army of thirty thousand men. To finance the expedition, the Holy Prophet invited voluntary contributions, and the Companions subscribed liberally to the cost of the war.

Ali as Governor of Madina

The expedition to Tabuk was led by the Holy Prophet himself. In his absence from Madina, the Holy Prophet appointed Ali as the Governor of Madina. As such Ali did not participate in the expedition. The hypocrites spread the rumor that Ali had been left at Madina because he did not bare the courage to face the Byzantines. This cut Ali to the quick, and while the Muslim force was still at Jorf, a few miles from Madina, Ali visited the camp and apprised the Holy Prophet of what the hypocrites were saying. The Holy Prophet told Ali that he was to him what Prophet Haroon was to Prophet Musa. Just as Prophet Musa had appointed Haroon to look after his people during his absence, thus he had appointed Ali to look after Madina during his absence. The Holy Prophet pointed out that as the hypocrites were able to do any mischief, he had to appoint a member of his household to look after his household during his absence. Trouble could be expected from the tribes, and it was necessary that the administration of Madina was left in the hands of a person who could be a source of awe for the enemy. Fully satisfied Ali returned to Madina. He summoned Abdullah b Ubayy, and told him in plain words that if he or any of his followers tried to indulge in any mischief or spread any false rumor he would cut off their heads. That struck terror in the hearts of the hypocrites and they refrained from doing any mischief. Ali maintained law and order with a stern hand. He looked after the needs of the households of the Holy Prophet effectively.

The Tabuk Campaign

The Muslim army reached Tabuk after a weary march. Contrary to expectations there was no Byzantine force at Tabuk to meet the Muslims. On coming to know of the advance of the Muslim army, the Byzantines withdrew their army well within Syria. The Muslims achieved their object without firing a shot. The strategy of the Muslims was purely defensive, aimed at keeping the Byzantines army away from the borders of Arabia. The Byzantines who had at one time threatened to invade Arabia were no longer in the mood to measure swords with the Muslims. This was a moral victory for the Muslims. The tribes in the border region who had heretofore offered allegiance to the Byzantines transferred their allegiance to the Muslims.

Holy Prophet’s address at Tabuk

At Tabuk, the Holy Prophet delivered a classical address which has passed into history. He said: Verily, the most veracious discourse is the Book of Allah. The most trustworthy stronghold is the word of piety. The best of religions is the religion of Islam. The best of precedents is the precedent of Muhammad. The noblest speech is the Invocation of Allah. The finest of the narrative is the Quran. The best of the affairs is that which has been firmly resolved upon. The worst in religion are those things which are created without sanction. The best of the ways is the one bidden by Prophets. The noblest death is the death of a martyr. The most miserable blindness is waywardness after guidance. The best of the actions is that which is beneficial. The best guidance is that which is put into practice. The worst blindness is the blindness of the heart.

Return from Tabuk

On return from Tabuk, the Holy Prophet was glad to see that during his absence Ali had maintained law and order satisfactorily and the hypocrites were in a chastened mood. The hypocrites had constructed a mosque, and they asked the Holy Prophet to perform the opening ceremony of the mosque. The Holy Prophet consulted Ali, who was of the view that a separate mosque for any section of the Muslims should not be patronized. Later, the Holy Prophet had a revelation advising the Holy Prophet against the patronage of the mosque. The Holy Prophet ordered the demolition of the mosque. Ali supervised the demolition of the mosque. Soon after, Abdullah b Ubayy, the leader of the hypocrites died. Thereafter his followers repented, and joined the fold of Islam as true Muslims. Ali played an important part in suppressing the activities of the hypocrites.

The Declaration of Discharge

Abu Bakr as Amirul Hajj

In 631 C. E the Holy Prophet sent from Madina, a delegation of three hundred Muslims to perform the Hajj. Abu Bakr was appointed as the leader of the delegates. Abu Bakr had thus the honor of being the first ‘Amir-ul-Hajj” in the history of Islam

The Revelation

Some time after Abu Bakr and trio party had left for the Hajj, the Holy Prophet received revelation about the regulation of the Hajj, and the ordering of relationship between the Muslims and the infidels. It is related that when the revelation came some one suggested to the Holy Prophet that he should send news about the revelation to Abu Bakr. The Holy Prophet said only a man of his own house could proclaim the revelation.

Ali

The Holy Prophet summoned Ali, and asked him to proclaim the revealed verses to the people on the day of sacrifice when they assembled at Mina. Ali went forth on the Holy Prophet’s slit-eared camel, and soon overtook Abu Bakr and his party. When Ali joined the party, Abu Bakr wanted to know whether he had come to give orders or to convey them. Ali said that he had not come to replace Abu Bakr as “Amir ul-Hajj”, and that his mission was merely to convey a special message to the people on behalf of the Holy Prophet,

Declaration of Discharge

At Makkah on the occasion of the Hajj, Abu Bakr presided at the Hajj ceremony while Ali read the verses of the revelation which came to be known as the Declaration of Discharge. According to the Declaration it was provided that henceforward the Muslims were discharged of all obligations that they had undertaken with the non-Muslims. All treaties or agreements with them were to be no longer effective. Henceforward the non-Muslims were not to be allowed to visit the Kaaba or perform the Hajj. New rules for the performance of the Hajj were proclaimed. No one was to circumambulate the Kaaba naked. Polytheism was to be no longer tolerated a grace period of four months was laid down and thereafter all agreement with the non-Muslims were to stand as abrogated.

Importance of the Declaration

The Declaration of Discharge was really the declaration of the victory of Islam, the victory of the truth over falsehood. The battle between the truth and falsehood began in 611 C.E., with the proclamation of the prophethood of the Holy Prophet. This battle was waged for twenty years in one form or the other. It came to an end with the Declaration of Discharge signifying the ultimate victory of Islam from the day this proclamation was made. A new era dawned in Arabia. Henceforward Islam alone was to be the faith of the Arabs.

Ali’s claim to the caliphate

In some quarters, an argument is advanced to the effect that as on this occasion the declaration of discharge was read by Ali, while Abu Bakr was the Amir ul Hajj. This established the precedence of Ali over Abu Bakr, and as such when on the death of the Holy Prophet, Abu Bakr became the Caliph in disregard of the claim of Ali he was a usurper. I will discuss this aspect of the matter in detail in a later part of the book. Here we may pause to consider two questions, firstly why was the proclamation read by Ali when Abu Bakr was the Amir ul Hajj, and secondly whether this established the precedence of Ali over Abu Bakr and others in the matter of caliphate. The revelations emanating from God were particularly sacrosanct, and these had to be proclaimed to the people either by the Holy Prophet himself or by some member of his house in whom he had particular confidence. The choice of Ali to read the proclamation was not relevant to the question of succession. The question of succession had to be considered in the context of other considerations. This did not establish the precedence of Ali over Bakr for Ali did not replace Abu Bakr as Amir ul Hajj. Ali’s role was merely confined to the delivering of a special message. This established the precedence of Ali over other Hashimites with whom the Holy Prophet had blood relations. Ali was the first among the Hashimites to profess Islam, and among the Hashimites he remained closest to the Holy Prophet.

Banu Ramla

Banu Ramla

By 631 C.E. most of the tribes in the neighborhood of Madina had accepted Islam. The people of the Banu Ramla tribe still held out against Islam, and they had become a source of menace to the Muslims. They lived in a rugged country in the inaccessible defiles of the mountains at some distance from Madina. They waylaid caravans and after plundering them would retire to their strongholds in the mountains. They would even raid the city of Madina and after plundering the people sought shelter in the mountains.

Campaigns against Banu Ramla

The Banu Ramla tribe created a law and order problem for Madina and in 631 C. E the Holy Prophet decided to take punitive action against the tribe. The Holy Prophet sent an expedition against the tribe under the command of Abu Bakr. The Muslim army penetrated deep into the mountains without meeting any resistance. One night as the Muslim soldiers lay asleep in their camp, the Banu Ramla people made a surprise attack on the Muslim camp and killed many Muslims. The Muslim army had to withdraw in a state of confusion. Thereafter the Holy Prophet sent another expedition under the command of Umar. This expedition fared no better, and the Muslim army had to retreat after suffering losses. A third expedition under ‘Amr b Al Aas also failed in achieving its object.

Expedition under Ali

After the failure of three expeditions, the Holy Prophet ordered the fourth expedition under the command of Ali. In the earlier expeditions, the Muslim army had failed to reach the stronghold of the tribe, and had to withdraw without actual confrontation with the tribe. Ali changed the tactics. Instead of following the established route, Ali led the Muslim army along mountainous tracks, where they hid themselves during the day, and advanced during the night. Ali succeeded in beating the Banu Ramla at their own game. After several nights march the Muslim army reached the stronghold of the tribe, and made a surprise attack on the enemy. The mountainous tribe could never imagine that the men of the plains could ever penetrate through the depth of the mountains and reach their stronghold. In the confrontation that followed many persons of the tribe were killed, and they were ultimately forced to surrender. Ali returned triumphant to Madina carrying an immense booty, and a large number of prisoners. Heretofore all battles that the Muslims had fought had been fought in the plains. The battle against Banu Ramla was the first battle that the Muslims had to fight in mountainous terrain. The Muslims had no experience of fighting in hilly tracts, and as such the first three expeditions undertaken by the Muslims against the people of the hills failed. The people of the hills were expert in guerilla warfare. They could hide in the mountain recesses and fall upon the Muslims in surprise at all odd hours. By these tactics the Banu Ramla warriors prevented the Muslims from reaching their main settlement in the hills. Ali was the first Muslim General to score a victory in a mountainous territory. When Ali returned triumphant to Madina, the Holy Prophet and the Muslims welcomed him a few miles outside the city. The Holy Prophet appreciated the services of Ali in superlative terms. According to the Shiite traditions, the Holy Prophet addressed Ali on this occasion in the following terms: “O Ali ! If I were not apprehensive that the Muslim community would exaggerate your deeds like the Christians who extolled the achievements of Jesus Christ by ascribing divinity to him. I would have narrated the superiority of your character today in such a way that wherever you went, the people would have worshipped the very dust of your feet”.

Mission to Yemen

Khalid b Walid’s mission to Yemen

After the Conquest of Makkah, the tribes around Makkah and Madina accepted Islam. It was now the turn of the remoter parts of Arabia to be introduced to Islam. The Holy Prophet sent missions to various parts of Arabia. One of such missions under Khalid b Walid was sent to Yemen to invite the Yemenites to Islam. Khalid b Walid was a soldier and a swordsman, but not a scholar or a preacher. He was a late convert to Islam, and in spite of his enthusiasm did not have that depth in the understanding of Islam which could attract others to Islam. The Yemenites were proud of their ancient civilization and culture, and could not believe that anyone from the interior of Arabia, always regarded by them as a backward area, could be a source of enlightenment for them. The Jews and the Christians had their high powered missions in Yemen. Some of the people of Yemen were Christians and some of them were Jews. The Christian priests and the Jewish Rabbis had a strong hold on the people of Yemen and in spite of his best efforts for over six months, Khalid bin Walid was not able to make any headway in Yemen. The Holy Prophet recalled Khalid b Walid from Yemen.

The mission of Ali

The Holy Prophet thereafter commissioned Ali to proceed to Yemen. A force of three hundred soldiers assembled at Quba outside Madina. The Holy Prophet tied the turban on the head of Ali with his own hands, and handed him the standard. The Holy Prophet prayed to God to enlighten the mind of Ali, to make his tongue eloquent, to make his talk impressive, and to make his conduct a source of attraction for others. Although Ali proceeded to Yemen at the head of a force, he was commanded not to use force. The force was only meant for defense in the case of any attack. It was a voyage of enlightenment. People were to be converted to Islam not by an appeal to arms but by an appeal to their hearts.

Strategy of Ali

On reaching Yemen, Ali realized that the people of Yemen were very much under the influence of the Christian priests and Jewish Rabbis, and unless such priests and Rabbis were effectively tackled, there was little likelihood of any success with the common men. The Christian priests and Jewish Rabbis were proud of their religious knowledge. They challenged Ali to a debate. Ali was used to fighting duels with his adversaries in the case of battles, now he had to fight an intellectual duel. The first challenge came from a Christian priest renowned for his learning and piety. A public debate was held. The Christian priest advanced arguments in favor of the perfection of Christianity, and of Jesus Christ being the son of God. It was observed that in such circumstances there could be no question of another faith. Ali smashed these arguments one by one. He quoted from the Christian scriptures wherein Jesus Christ had himself spoken of the advent of a prophet after him. Ali took pains to explain that Islam acknowledged Jesus Christ as a prophet, but did not regard him as a son of God. He maintained that Islam was a perfected form of all previous religions. The debate lasted for several days and at last Ka’ab admitted the superiority of Islam and was converted to Islam. With his conversion many Christians were also converted to Islam.

The Jewish Rabbis felt concerned at the success of Islam. They challenged Ali to a public debate. This debate lasted for several days, and ended in the victory for Islam. Some of the Jewish Rabbis accepted Islam, and following them many Jews accepted Islam. Thereafter Ali spread his men throughout the length and breadth of Yemen to carry the message of Islam to the people. When the people came to know that their priests and rabbis had accepted Islam, they lost the will to resist Islam and accepted the new faith willingly. Within a few months most of the people in Yemen were converted to Islam. These people came to look to Ali as a great hero.

The Farewell Pilgrimage

The Pilgrimage

Early in 632 C.E. in the Hajj season, the Holy Prophet decided to proceed to Makkah to perform the “Hajj”. The pilgrimage was planned on a large scale, Messengers were sent to all parts of Arabia calling upon the Muslims to assemble at Madina for the purposes of the pilgrimage. In response to this call, over one hundred thousand Muslims gathered at Madina to proceed to Makkah to perform the Hajj.

The Caravan

After all arrangements had been completed, a caravan of over one hundred thousand Muslims fired with their enthusiasm for Islam, started for Makkah to visit the House of God and offer their submission to God. It was a remarkable sight, like which the people of Arabia had not seen before. The Holy Prophet rode at the head of the caravan. All his wives accompanied him. Ali rode by his side. He was accompanied by Fatima,

Dhul Hulaifa

At Dhul Halaifa on the outskirts of Makkah, the Holy Prophet and all his followers put on the Ihram – the pilgrim’s garb. The Holy Prophet gave the signal call “Labbayyak Allah hummah Labbayk” – “Here I am at your service O Lord!” This was repeated by all the one-larch persons in the congregation. The entire valley came to ring with the sound, the Muslims calling on their Lord, submitting to Him, and placing themselves at His disposal.

Makkah and Mina

The party reached Makkah on the fourth of Zul Hajj after a journey of nineteen days. After a stay of four days in Makkah, the pilgrims left for Mina on the 5th of Zul Hajj, and passed the night there. The following day the pilgrims proceeded to Arafat.

Farewell Address

After mid-day prayers on the 9th of Zul Hajj at Arafat, the Holy Prophet delivered the historic “Hajj Khutba” which has come to be known as the farewell address. After giving praise to God and thanking Him for the bounties that he had conferred on the Muslims, and had crowned their efforts in the cause of the Truth with success. the Holy Prophet said: “O People, listen carefully to my words for I may not be among you next year, nor ever address you again from this spot. O People, just as you regard this month as sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as sacred. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one, so that no one may hurt you. Usury is forbidden. Satan has despiated in leading you astray in big things, so beware of his maneuvers in tempting you in small things. Women have rights over you as you have rights over them. Be good to them. You may soon have to appear before Allah and answer for your deeds. So beware. Do not go astray after I am gone. O People, no prophet will come after me, and no new faith will be born. Worship your Allah. Say your prayers. Keep fast during the month of Ramdhan. Give of your wealth in charity. All Muslims, free or slaves have the same rights and the same responsibilities. None is higher than the other unless he is higher in virtue. Feed your slaves as you feed yourself. Do not oppress them. Do not usurp their rights. All distinctions between the Arabs the non-Arabs, the black and the white are abolished. All Muslims are brothers. Do good. Be faithful to your trusts. Be kind to the orphans. Remember God. Know that while man being mortal is bound to die, God being immortal will live for ever.” Having spoken these words, the Holy Prophet turned his face to the Heaven and said: “Be my witness O Allah, that I have conveyed your message to Your people. ” Thereupon the people corroborated saying, “Yes, O Prophet of Allah, you have done so, and done it magnificently. ”

The Revelation

After the Holy Prophet had delivered the address, Allah revealed to him the verses: “This Day have I perfected for you, your faith, and completed My blessings upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as religion. ” All other prophets including Moses and Jesus Christ had to leave their unfulfilled mission to their successors. The Holy Prophet of Islam alone had the unique distinction of seeing the successful fruition of his mission during his lifetime.

Reaction of the Companions

As the Companions including Ali heard these verses about the perfection of the faith, they wept because they felt that the mission of the Holy Prophet having been completed, He was apt to depart to meet his Lord.

After the farewell address, the party left Arafat in the evening and passed the night at Muzdalifa. The following day they went to Mina, and sacrificed the animals. The Holy Prophet sacrificed 63 animals, one for each year of his life, and these were shared by Ali. The men then shaved their heads, and the ceremony of the Hajj was completed. Thereafter the pilgrims left for Madina. On the return journey while the Companions were happy that their faith had been perfected, they were overwhelmed with grief at the thought that such consummation implied that the Holy Prophet was soon to depart from their midst.

Khum Ghadir

The Revelation

On the way to Madina the caravan of those who had participated in the farewell pilgrimage spread over several miles. When the Holy Prophet reached the valley of Khum some midway between Makkah and Madina, the Holy Prophet received the following revelation: “O Messenger of God, make known what has been revealed to you from your Lord, for if you do it not, you will not have conveyed His message. Allah will protect you from mankind. Lo, Allah guides not the unbelieving folk.”

Calling a halt near a pond Ghadir, in the valley of Khum the Holy Prophet sent men to call all persons of the caravan who had gone ahead or lagged behind to assemble there to hear the command of the Holy Prophet.

Address of the Holy Prophet

When all people, over one hundred thousand in number had assembled at the pond in the Khum valley, the Holy Prophet addressed them. The exact text of the address is not available. There is a good deal of controversy about the contents of the address, and both the Sunnis and the Shias have their own versions of the address.

According to the Sunni writers, the Holy Prophet said that after him the Muslims would have to face hard times. He wanted them to remain united and to obey those in authority. He said that he was the last of the prophets and there was to be no prophet after him. He observed that God had given him superiority over all those who inhabit the world, and they include all the past and future generations. The Holy Prophet observed that God had given him the keys of His treasures, and He had asked him to confirm the solemn pledges which He had made with them, God had confided His secret to him, and had given him help so that he had been enlightened. Thus he had made the beginning, and thus he would set the final seal. He added that no one could derive power except from Allah. He wanted mankind to fear God. He exhorted the Muslims not to wage war except in the name of God and in the cause of Islam. He continued that after him there would be people who would accuse him of falsehood but ultimately the truth would prevail for he did not invite the people to anything else but towards God.

The Controversy

There is a good deal of controversy about the Holy Prophet’s address at Khum Ghadir. But the fact is that the sayings of the Holy Prophet are a continuation of his life-long message and struggle in the light of the teachings of the Holy Quran the final Word of Allah. Whatever is compatible with it is only to be accepted.

Death of the Holy prophet

Illness of the Holy Prophet

A short time after returning from the Farewell Pilgrimage the Holy Prophet fell sick. The poison which the Jewess had given to him at Khyber had slowly penetrated into his system and began to show its effect. The Holy Prophet felt that having fulfilled the mission entrusted to him by God, his earthly life was to end, and he was to meet his Master. One night when he had some respite the Holy Prophet accompanied by Ali went to the graveyard, and there prayed for the souls of his companions who had fallen in the Battle of Uhud. Then he returned to the apartment of his wife Maimuna. The exertion because of the visit to the graveyard had its effect, and the fever became violent. The Holy Prophet assembled all his wives and told them that on account of his sickness, it would not be possible for him to visit each wife in turn. He wanted their permission to stay in the apartment of Ayesha till he recovered. All the wives agreed to the proposal, and the Holy Prophet supported by Ali and Abbas moved to the apartment of Ayesha. The Holy Prophet directed that during his illness, Abu Bakr should lead the prayers.

The Holy Prophet’s Address

A day later the fever subsided and the Holy Prophet took a bath. Refreshed by the bath he felt some relief, and went to the mosque to offer the noonday prayer. At the conclusion of the prayer, the Holy Prophet took his seat on the pulpit to address the congregation. The Holy Prophet said: “There is a servant whose Lord has given him the option between the life on this earth, and the life hereafter in nearness to his Lord, and the servant has chosen the latter.”

Thereupon tears trickled down from the eyes of the companions and they said, “Holy Prophet, how can we live without you”.

The Holy Prophet continued: “O People! It has reached me that you are afraid of the approaching death of your prophet. Has any previous prophet lived forever among the people to whom he was sent, so that I should live forever among you. Behold, I am about to go to my Lord. You too will go there sooner or later.”

After the address, the Holy Prophet retired to the quarter of Ayesha. The exertion had its effect, and the fever became violent again. The night following the seventh of June 632 C.E. lay heavy on him. He was overheard praying constantly to Allah for His blessings, the morning of the eighth June brought some relief, when the fever and pain somewhat subsided. Moving the curtain he saw the Muslims offering their prayers. The Holy Prophet supported by Ali walked to the mosque. The people made way for him, opening their ranks as he stepped forward. Abu Bakr stepped backward to vacate his seat for the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet told Abu Bakr by a motion of his hand to continue to lead the prayers.

After the conclusion of the prayers, the Holy Prophet took his seat on the pulpit. He said that he had heard that the people were objecting to send an expedition to the Syrian front under the command of Usama. He observed that their objection was not valid as Usama was fit to lead the expedition to avenge the death of his father. He exhorted the people to do what was lawful and to refrain from doing that which was unlawful. He said that he had not made lawful except that which God had declared lawful nor he had prohibited anything but that which God had forbidden.

The Muslims were happy to see the Holy Prophet in their midst. They felt that the Holy Prophet had recovered, and that there was no danger to his life. Thereafter the Holy Prophet returned to the apartment of Ayesha. The exertion had its effect. The condition of the Holy Prophet grew worse, and within a few hours he passed away.

The faithful assembled in the mosque. There was an air of uneasiness in the atmosphere. There was a whispering that the Holy Prophet of Islam was dead. There were suppressed sobs and sighs. What would happen to the Muslims when the great prophet was to be no longer in their midst was the thought that disturbed everybody. All eyes were turned to the quarter of Ayesha. The faithful had the fond hope that the door of the chamber would open any moment, and the Holy Prophet would emerge with his face radiating divine light.

In the courtyard of the mosque, Umar moved among the people and said: “Who says that the Holy Prophet is dead. I testify that he is alive and has gone to Allah like Moses, and would return to us after some time.” Then Abu Bakr came and addressed the people, saying: “Listen to me, ye people. Those of you who worshipped Muhammad know that he is dead like any other mortal. But those of you who worship the God of Muhammad know that He is alive and would live forever.” Thereafter Abu Bakr quoted the following verses from the Holy Quran: “Muhammad is but a Messenger. Messengers of God have passed away before him. What if he dies or is killed. Will you turn back upon your heels? And whosoever turns back upon his heels will by no means do harm to Allah.”

And Allah rewarded the Thankful

The effect of the address of Abu Bakr was eletrica1. It appeared as if the people did not know of this verse of the Holy Quran until Abu Bakr had recited it.

According to the will of the Holy Prophet Ali and Abbas washed the body of the Holy Prophet and prepared it for burial. The Holy Prophet was buried in the chamber of Ayesha, where he had died. Ali was overwhelmed with grief at the death of the Holy Prophet. He expressed his grief in heart reading verses. He said: “May my parents be sacrificed on you, O Messenger of God, with your death things have come to an end which could not end thus with the death of any other person. The process of prophethood has come to an end. News of the Unseen have ceased, Revelations from Almighty have ceased. You gave a message of hope to the people. You showed them the right path. You are the savior of humanity. You established a new order. You established equality among the people. You ushered in a revolution. You were a guide when alive; you would be a guide even after death. If you had not ordered patience in hour of grief I would have shed tears of blood from my eyes. The entire world is dark without you. Your passing away is a great loss but we resign ourselves to the will of God. From God you came, and to God you have returned, May your soul rest in peace in proximity to God.”

The Caliphate of Abu Bakr

Election of Abu Bakr as the Caliph

After the death of the Holy Prophet when his body was still to be buried, the Ansars met at Saqifa Bani Sauda to urge that the successor to the Holy Prophet should be chosen out of them. When the Muhajireen came to know of this gathering, Abu Bakr, Umar, and some other Quraish leaders attended the meeting. The Ansars demanded that the Caliph should be elected out of them. When the Quraish made a counter claim, the Ansars suggested that one Amir be elected from among the Ansars, and another Amir from among the Muhajireen. The Muhajireen contended that such dual caliphate would lead to disunity in the ranks of the Muslims which would be against the interests of Islam. After a good deal of discussion, the Ansars gave way and Abu Bakr from among the Muhajireen was elected as the Caliph.

Ali’s reaction to the election of Abu Bakr

In Nahj-ul-Balagha we come across certain passages which indicate the reaction of Ali to the election of Abu Bakr as the Caliph. When the meeting at Saqffa Bani Saada was brought to the notice of Ali by some one, Ali asked him as to what did the Ansar ask for. He was told that the Amir should be elected from them, and if the Muhajireen also desired the office, one Amir might be elected from the Ansar and one from the Muhajireen. Thereupon Ali said, “Was it not brought to their notice that the Holy Prophet had willed that after him the Ansar should be well treated, and if they made any lapse it should be overlooked. Ali was asked how did this will establish that the Caliph was not to be elected from among the Ansars. Ali said that if the Ansar were to have the caliphate there was no point in asking those in power to pay due regard to the Ansars did not arise. Ali then inquired as to what argument the Muhajireen had advanced in support of their claim to the caliphate. He was told that the Muhajireen based their claim on the ground that they belonged to the tree to which the Holy Prophet belonged. Thereupon Ali said, “What a pity that they look to the tree, but overlooked its fruit”. The implication was that the Muhajireen should have offered the caliphate to him and not to anyone else.

In a passage in Nahj-ul-Balagha, Ali is said to have expressed his reaction to the election of Abu Bakr in the following terms: “The son of Abu Qahafa has assumed the mantle of the caliphate forcibly although he knew that I was essential for the caliphate as the handle is for the grinding stone which moves it. In Islamic learning I excel everyone else, and the caliphate should have come to me as a matter of course. At this disregard of my right I became confused. I began to think whether I should assert my claim, or whether I should practice forbearance and patience after a good deal of thinking I decided to adopt the later course”.

Offer of allegiance to Ali by 1bn Abbas and Abu Sufyan

After Abu Bakr had been elected as the Caliph, Ibn Abbas and Abu Sufiyan approached Ali and offered him allegiance as the Caliph. Ali did not accept the offer on the ground that this would create dissentions among the Muslims. From a passage in Nahj-ul-Balagha wherein Ali is reported to have expressed his feelings at this stage in the following terms: “If I say something about the caliphate the people would say that I am ambitious for power. If I remain silent there are people who would say that I am afraid of death. I have suffered many wrongs. The people should have known that the son of Abu Talib is as much fond of death as the infant is fond of the milk of its mother. My silence is because of the secret which I alone knew. If I reveal the secret you will tremble and shudder as the strings binding a vessel shake when the vessel is lowered in the well.”

Property of Fidak

After the conquest of Khyber, the Jews of Fidak a neighboring settlement had surrendered without say fight. They were offered the same terms as the Jews of Khyber. The Holy Prophet took over the property of the Jews at Fidak in his personal custody. The income from the property was earmarked by the Holy Prophet for meeting his household expenses, and for looking after the needy and the wayfarer. After the death of the Holy Prophet, Ali lodged a claim before Abu Bakr for the transfer of the property of Fidak to them. Abu Bakr did not accept the claim on the ground that according to a tradition of the Holy Prophet, prophets leave no inheritance, and whatever they leave belongs to the community as a whole. Abu Bakr declared that the property in question would remain in his custody but he would utilize the income therefrom for the same purposes as was the practice of the Holy Prophet. As a part of the income would be earmarked for meeting the expenses of the household of the Holy Prophet. Fatima and Ali would have their due share. This decision did not satisfy Fatima and Ali.

Activities of Ali during the caliphate of Abu Bakr

From the source books that have come down to us, we do not have a proper account of the activities of Ali during the caliphate of Abu Bakr. Unfortunately most of the accounts that are available are colored because of sectarian and partisan considerations. It appears that Ali did not take the oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr for some time and he remained aloof from the state politics. It appears that after the death of Fatima, Abu Bakr tried to console Ali in his grief, and win over his goodwill. It appears that Ali took the oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr some time after the death of Fatima and got reconciled to him. When Abu Bakr died, Ali in the funeral oration highly praised Abu Bakr. This shows that in the later part of the caliphate of Abu Bakr the relationship between Abu Bakr and Ali was cordial. Ali however did not take any part in the apostasy wars that were fought during the caliphate of Abu Bakr. It appears that Ali during the period confined his activities to domestic affairs and religious pursuits.

Fatima Zahra

Death of Fatima

Fatima took the death of the Holy Prophet to heart, and she passed away in early 633 C E, barely six months after the passing away of the Holy Prophet. She was only twenty-nine years old at the time or her death. Her marriage lasted for a short period of eight or nine years only. During this period she gave birth to five children, three sons and two daughters. Her three sons were Hasan, Husain, and Mohsin. Mohsin died during infancy. Hasan was about seven years old while Husain was about six years old at the time of her death.

Ali’s grief at the death of Fatima

Ali was much grieved at the death of Fatima. Her passing away so soon after the death of the Holy Prophet was a great blow for Ali. He felt disconsolate. He poured his grief in the following elegiac verses: “Afflicted as I feel with many a worldly disease. Verily, men in this world would suffer as long as they live in this vale of tears and sorrow. Verily, after the demise of the Holy Prophet, Fatima’s loss has shown, that friends do not last forever. ” In this hour of grief, Ali addressed the soul of the Holy Prophet in the following terms: “O Messenger of God please accept my greetings, and the greetings from your daughter who has hastened to join you. O Prophet of God my patience has been exhausted at her death. I am most distressed and disconsolate. At your death I suppressed my grief with great difficulty. I laid you in the grave with my own hands. Verily, from God you came and to God you have returned. We all belong to God and to Him we have to return. Fatima was a trust with me, which has now been taken away from me. My state of affairs will be told to you by your daughter. Please do inquire about me from her. Much time has not elapsed to your death, and the memory of your passing away is very much alive with me. I pay my greetings and respects to you. As I can expect relief in my distress only from you. If I move away from your grave, it will not be because of any indifference on my part and if I stay here, it will not be so because of having lost confidence in the promise that God has made to those who are patient.” Ali used to visit the grave of Fatima frequently, and used to write verses to express his grief. On one occasion he wrote: “O thou grave, to thee I resort for paying homage to thee. “O thou, the repository of my beloved Thou answer me not. “O thou beloved tomb, what ails thee Thou respondeth not to my supplications. Art thou, out of humor, Because of the love that I bear thee. ”

Married life of Ali and Fatima

The married life of Ali and Fatima did not extend beyond nine years. It was a happy union. Nevertheless there were differences between the pair occasionally. Once, after having quarreled with Fatima, Ali went to the mosque, and lay on bare earth. That made the Holy Prophet call Ali by the appellation of Abu Turab, Father of the earth. At one time, Ali entertained the idea of marrying a daughter of Abu Jahl. Fatima complained to the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet felt annoyed, and while addressing the people in the mosque he said that verily Fatima was part and parcel of him. If Ali wanted to marry the daughter of Abu Jahl, it was open to him to do so, but he should divorce Fatima in the first instance for the daughter of the Prophet, and the daughter of Abu Jahl could not live under the same roof. Thereupon Ali dropped the idea of marrying the daughter of Abu Jahl. There were some temperamental differences between Ali and Fatima, and the Holy Prophet always controlled Fatima to fall in line with the wishes of her husband for after her father he was the best of men.

Fatima Zahra-assessment

Fatima Zahra is regarded as one of the four perfect women of all times, the other three women being: Asiyah the wife of the Pharaoh of Egypt who mothered Moses; Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ; and Khadija the first wife of the Holy Prophet of Islam, and the mother of Fatima Zahra. One day Fatima inquired of the Holy Prophet why she was called Fatima. He said that it was so, because fire would not touch her soul. She was also called ‘Batool”, because she devoted herself all out to Allah and fervently followed the dictates of the Holy Prophet (pbub). Fatima resembled the Holy Prophet in countenance, in elegance of speech, and in general deportment. Whenever Fatima paid a visit to the Holy Prophet, he would kiss her on the forehead, and would make her sit on his seat. He would say, “Fatima is part of me, and whoever angers her angers me, and whoever injures her injures me. ” It was the customary for the Holy Prophet that when he went on a journey the last person of whom he took leave was Fatima, and when he returned from the journey the first person he would see was Fatima. When the Holy Prophet was about to die, Fatima visited him. The Holy Prophet whispered to her something that made her weep. Then he again whispered something and Fatima laughed. She was asked what made her weep and laugh in succession. She did not disclose the secret but later. After the passing away of the Holy Prophet. Ayesha asked her about it and she said that she had wept on being informed of the impending end of the Holy Prophet, but laughed on his assurance that she was to join him soon.

When the Holy Prophet died, the whole world became dark for her. She wept and mourned the death of the Holy Prophet in pathetic verses She said: It is not wondrous that whoever smells the fragrance of Muhammad’s tomb will never smell another perfume. Destiny hurt me with bereavement. So sad, and so dark, that if it had fallen on the days they would have been turned into eternal nights”.

Ali’s Oration on the Death of Abu Bakr

Ali’s Oration

When Abu Bakr died in 634 C.E., Ali delivered an oration which was not only a faithful summing up of the character and personality of Abu Bakr, but was also a masterpiece of oratory. The speech has been preserved, and quoted hereunder in full Mercy of God on you O Abu Bakr! You were an affectionate Companion and friend of the Prophet of Allah, a source of joy to him, and who knew his secrets, and enjoyed the privilege of being consulted by him. You were the first person to embrace Islam. You had the purest faith, and your belief in Islam was unshakable. Of all, you feared Allah most, and you were the source of the greatest advantage to his faith. You had been with the Prophet more than any one else, and your love for Islam was superior to others. A blessing to the Companions, you were the best of associates, master of many virtues, excelling others in accomplishments, and superior to all in position. You resembled the Holy Prophet more than any other person in the uprightness of character and conduct and in kindness and excellence. Your rank was noble, and your position sublime and you enjoyed the greatest confidence of the Prophet. May God reward you for your services to Islam and the Prophet. For the Prophet you were like his very sight and hearing. You corroborated the truth of his message at a time when everybody belied him; and so you were called “As-Sadiq’ (the veracious) by Allah in His revelations. He says, ‘The one who came with the Truth and the one who corroborated the truth. The One who came with the Truth was Muhammad, and the one who corroborated the Truth was Abu Bakr. You supported him when others had deserted, and you remained firm in helping him in misfortunes when others had withdrawn their support. In the days of hardship you were his best companion; you were the second of the two, and his companion in the Cave. You were the person on whom God conferred tranquillity of mind. You were the only companion of the Prophet in his migration to Madina, and you were his Caliph among his followers, and in the religion of Allah. You discharged the functions of the Khilafat in a most excellent manner at a moment when the people had taken to apostasy, and exhibited much firmness in enforcing the commands of Allah as had never been exhibited by the Khalifa of any other prophet. You rose to the occasion when your colleagues showed lassitude, and you became bold when they exhibited weakness. You were strong when they were weak. You retained your adherence to the ways of the Prophet when others had deviated from them. You were his true Caliph with no dispute or difference, although this gave offense to hypocrites, and umbrage to the infidels. You stuck to the commands of Allah when others showed cowardice. You remained firm when others went astray. You had the lowest voice, and the highest distinction. Your conversation was most salutary, and your reasoning was forceful. Your silence was longest in duration, and your speech was most eloquent. You were bravest among men, You were well informed about matters. Your action was most dignified. You were the leader of the believers. You came towards the faith when others were away from it. Indeed you acted 1ike a kind father to the believers, and your filial affection made them your children. You bore the heavy burden which they could not, and you preferred to do what they had omitted. You preserved that what they had lost. You taught them what they knew not. You took the risk when they were helpless. You did not lose patience, when they were inpatient. You redressed the grievances of those who asked for justice. They turned to you for guidance, and you guided them to success. They got through you what they had never dreamt of. For the infidels you were a source of terrible punishment and great fear. For the believers you were all kindness, affection and protection. You fed in the atmosphere of piety, you attained its noble reward, and won in superiority. Your argument was never weak and your judgment was never faulty. You were never guilty of cowardice, and your heart was never crooked or misdirected. You were like a rock which stands firm in the face of hard blows of dashing winds and waves. You were as the Prophet of Allah has said, the most generous of men in friendship and in giving money. Again as he said, you were weak in body, but strong in enforcing the commands of Allah. You were humble in your manners, but dignified in the estimation of God. You were great in the eyes of men, and you commanded respect with them. No one could even as much as wink at you, nor could any one taunt you. You were kind to all and partial to none. The weak and the humble were strong with you as you made secure their rights. The strong were weak and humble with you as you made them surrender the rights of others. No matter those who were near you, and those who were far from you were all equal. Those who obeyed and feared Allah were nearest to you. Your dignity lay in righteousness, truth and benevolence. Your word was imperative and definite. Your command was mild and cautious. Your judgment was fair and wise. You extirpated evil and made way for the Truth clear. You solved difficulties. You extinguished the fires of evil and discord. You brought moderation to the Faith, strength to belief, firmness to Islam and the Muslims, and triumph to the command of Allah. You were a source of grief to the infidels. Because of your extraordinary qualities, you have created difficulties for your successors who would have to work hard to maintain the standards set by you. Evidently, you attained a high position in doing good. You are far above mourning and lamentation. Mourning for you is great in the Heaven. Your death has broken the back bone of the people, and we recite the verse ‘From God you came, and to God you have returned’. We submit to what has been ordained by Allah, and are ready to obey His commands. By Allah never shall the Muslims suffer after the death of the Prophet, a calamity greater than your death. You were a source of honor, protection and support to the Faith and for the believers you were a stronghold and a place of refuge. For the hypocrites you were all strictness and terror. May Allah take you near to your Prophet, and may He not deprive us of the fruits of your efforts and may we not be misled after you. We recite once again ‘From God you came and to God you have returned’. May your soul rest in peace!”

The Caliphate of Umar

Nomination of Umar as the Caliph

On his death bed, Abu Bakr nominated Umar as his successor. Ali not only took the oath of allegiance to Umar but also married his daughter Umm Kulthum to Umar, and quite contrary to the biased allegations, perfect cordiality prevailed between Ali and Umar. Ali held the office of the Chief Justice. He acted as the principal Counselor of Umar. He acted as Chief Secretary as well. The services of Ali were highly appreciated by Umar. In these circumstances the views expressed in some quarters that Umar was the worst enemy of Ali is far from truth and cannot be accepted.

Battle of Yermuk

During the time of Abu Bakr the Muslims captured a greater part of Syria including Damascus. When Umar became the Caliph the Byzantines made strong preparations and concentrated a very large army at Yermuk with a view to expelling the Muslims from Syria. The Muslims had to evacuate Damascus, and the cities in Northern Syria with a view to facing the Byzantines in battle at Yermuk in Southern Syria. It was a critical state of affairs for the Muslims. At this juncture Umar was of the view that he should himself go to Syria to command the Muslim forces. Umar sought the advice of Ali on the point. Ali advised in the following terms: “God is the protector of the Muslims. He guards their secrets. God helped the Muslims when they were few in number, and could not face the enemy. God defended them when they could not defend themselves. When God helped the Muslims in the early years, we can depend on His help even now when we have gained in numbers. God is alive, and would never die. We are fighting in His cause. And we should have perfect faith that He would help us. If you yourself go to fight against the Byzantine and God forbid are defeated, that will cause a great confusion, and would demoralize the Muslims. That would create a precarious situation for the Muslims in the areas bordering Syria. The proper course for you would be to remain in Madina, and direct the operations from there. You may place a seasoned general in command of the Muslim forces in Syria. God willing, the Muslims would be victorious. ” Umar acted on the advice of Ali, and the Muslims won an astounding victory at the Battle of Yermuk.

Conquest of Jerusalem

After the Battle of Yermuk, the Muslims won other battles in Syria and the Byzantines were forced to evacuate Syria when the Muslim forces attacked Jerusalem. The Lord Bishop of Jerusalem proposed to surrender Jerusalem in case Umar the Caliph of the Muslims came to take over the city himself. Some of the companions of Umar advised that the Caliph should not go to Jerusalem, and the Christians after having been defeated could not dictate terms. When the advice of Ali was sought he said: “I had advised you not to go to Syria when the war was imminent for in the case of defeat that would have led to demoralization on the part of the Muslims. Now that God has rewarded the Muslims with victory, and the Christians desire that the Ca1iph should come himself to get the surrender of Jerusalem, I would advise that the Caliph should go to Jerusalem, for he will be going there as a victor. The presence of the Caliph of the Muslims in Syria would add to the prestige of the Muslims and would be instrumental in converting the Christians to Islam. Jerusalem is not merely sacred to the Christians; it is sacred to the Muslims as well. It was from Jerusalem that the Holy Prophet ascended the Heavens, and the sanctity of the place demands that its occupation should be take a by no one other than the Caliph of the Muslims.” Umar accepted the advice of Ali, and personally west to Jerusalem to obtain the surrender of the city.

Ornaments of Ka’aba

In the Holy Ka’aba there were many ornaments which had been gifted by the devotees from time to time, and embellished the walls of the House of God. Umar was of the opinion that all such ornaments should be removed from the Holy Ka’aba. And used for the purposes of the State. Umar sought the advice of Ali, who advised as follows:

When Makkah was conquered, the Holy Prophet demolished the idols in the Holy Ka’aba, but he did not touch the ornaments which embellished the walls of the Holy Ka’aba. If there had been anything objectionable to the decoration of the walls of the Holy Ka’aba, the Holy Prophet would have removed them. As he did not do so, it means that there is no objection to such ornamentation now if such ornaments are removed, it would mean that you are depriving the House of God of something to which the Holy Prophet had not objected. I would not advise you to do anything of which the Holy Prophet was aware but chose to take no action. ”

Umar accepted the advice of Ali and let the ornaments remain in the Holy Ka’aba.

The Hijri Era

In the time of Umar it was felt that the Muslims should have a calendar of their own. The question that arose for consideration was as to from which event such era of the Muslims should begin. Many suggestions wore made in this connection. When Umar sought the advice of Ali he advised as follows: “The migration is a turning point in the history of Islam. Prior to migration, the Muslims were a persecuted people, and they had to struggle for survival. It was only after the migration that the Muslims came into their own and were able to establish a polity which became a starting point for the consolidation of Islam. In the defense of Islam, the Ansars have played an important role, and as such the new era should be such wherein both the Muhajirs and the Ansars can share. As such the new Muslim calendar should begin with the Hijra, the day when the Holy Prophet first set his foot in Madina.”

Umar accepted the advice of Ali, and the Muslim calendar had its start with the migration of the Holy Prophet to Madina.

Counsels of Ali in Judicial Matters

Umar frequently consulted Ali in judicial matters and the advice given by Ali was invariably followed. Once some persons while in the state of “Ihram” ate eight eggs of ostriches. The point that arose for consideration was as to how these men should atone for the wrong they had done. Umar sought the advice of Ali. Ali advised that these persons should mate eight camels with eight she camels, and their offspring should be sacrificed.

Once a mad woman was found guilty of adultery. Umar was inclined to punish the woman by being stoned to death. Umar sought the advice of Ali. He said that a mad person who had no control over the senses could not be declared guilty. The woman was accordingly let off.

A woman gave birth to a child six months after her marriage, She was accused of adultery. The case was referred to Ali. Ali advised that as there was no evidence of adultery the woman could not be punished merely on the ground that she had given birth to a child six months after the marriage. Ali observed that according to the Holy Quran the period from conception to the weaning of the child had been stated at thirty months, and at another place the period of the weaning of the child after birth had been stated to be two years. This means that though the normal period for the birth of a child is nine months, in some cases a child can be born after six months as well.

In the Shari’ah there were no specific orders for punishment in the case of drinking. The usual practice heretofore was that men found guilty of drinking were awarded forty lashes. It was found that this punishment was not deterrent. Umar sought the counsel of Ali. Ali observed that in the case of calumny a punishment of eighty lashes was prescribed. When a man drank he lost his senses and could indulge in calumny. Ali advised that for drinking the punishment should be the same as for the offense of calumny that is eighty lashes. This advice was accepted, and it was laid down that henceforward the punishment for drinking would be eighty lashes.

In view of the soundness of his judicial opinions, Ali was held by Umar to be the best judge. Umar paid the highest tribute to Ali when he said, “But for Ali, Umar would have been lost”.

Claim to Property

In the time of Abu Bakr, Ali and Fatima had lodged a claim for the Holy Prophet’s property at Fadak. Abu Bakr had not accepted the claim on the ground that according to a tradition of the Holy Prophet, prophets have no heirs. In the time of Umar, Ali lodged a claim again for the Holy Prophet’s property in Fidak and Madina. Umar upheld the decision of Abu Bakr with regard to the property at Fadak. He however transferred the Holy Prophet’s property in Madina to Ali. Umar held that in Madina, the Holy Prophet had fraternized with Ali, and as such Ali had a share in such property. The property in Madina was transferred to Ali on the condition that after keeping his share, Ali should spend the rest of the income from such property in the way the Holy Prophet used to do. Umar held that the case of the Prophet at Fadak was different. It belonged exclusively to the Prophet and was marked for public purposes in which Ali had no fraternal share.

Ali’s observations on the death of Umar

When Umar passed away, Ali mourned his death in the following terms: “May God bless the soul of Umar. He made things straight. He cured the malady. He enforced the Shari’ah. He established law and order. He was noble, virtuous, and free from faults. He availed of what was good of the caliphate and avoided what was evil thereof. He obeyed God, and served His cause well. After his passing away the people have taken to different paths where those who have strayed cannot find the way, and those who have followed the straight way cannot long keep it.”

Ali During the Caliphate of Othman

Election of Othman as the Caliph

At his death bed, Umar nominated a board of six members consisting of Zubair b Awwam, Saad b Abi Waqas, Abdur Rahman b Auf, Talha b Ubaidullah, Ali b Abu Talib and Othman b Affan. During his lifetime, the Holy Prophet had given tidings of Paradise to ten persons. The six persons nominated by Umar were the survivors of the original ten persons who had been given the tidings of Paradise during their lifetime. The four persons out of the blessed ten who had died by this time were Abu Bakr, Umar, Ubaidullah b Jarah and Saeed b Zaid. These six persons were required to elect one of themselves as the Caliph. When the board met, it ran into difficulties in electing the Caliph. Out of the six members, Zubair withdrew his candidature in favor of Ali. Talha withdrew his candidature in favor of Othman and Saad b Abi Waqas withdrew his candidature in favor of Abdur Rahman b Auf. This left three candidates in the field. Out of these three candidates Abdur Rahman b Auf decided to withdraw, leaving two candidates namely Othman and Ali. Abdur Rahman was appointed as the arbitrator to choose between the remaining two candidates, namely Othman and Ali. Both Othman and Ali undertook to abide by the decision of the arbitrator. Abdur Rahman b Auf deliberated over the matter, considered the relative merits of the candidates and also consulted the Companions. After such consultation, Abdur Rahman formed the impression that the majority of the people favored the election of Othman. Contacting the two candidates separately he put to them the question whether they would follow in the footsteps of the previous Caliphs. Ali said that he would do so as far as possible subject to his best judgment in the light of the Quran and Sunnah. Othman replied to the question in the affirmative without any reservation. Thereupon Abdur Rahman gave his verdict in favor of Othman who was acclaimed as the Caliph, and the people ordered the oath of allegiance to him. Ali offered the oath of allegiance to Othman. In Nabj-ul Balagha’ there is a short statement of Ali which shows his reaction to the election of Othman. Ali is reported to have said. “All know that in the matter of the Caliphate, I am more qualified and deserving than any other person. Even though my claims have been ignored I will be motivated by considerations of selflessness in the interests of the solidarity of the Muslim Ummah. I acknowledge the new Caliph in the interests of the Muslim community, regardless of whatever hardships I may have to endure.”

Activities of Ali during the caliphate of Othman

During the caliphates of Abu Bakr and Othman, Ali held the dual offices of Chief Justice as well as Chief Secretary. Othman conferred the office of the Chief Secretary on his cousin Marwan. Ali remained as the Chief Justice. He continued to be a member of the Majlisi-Shura. The accounts that have came down to us are mostly silent about the activities of Ali. In the various history books we come across the judgments that Ali delivered during the caliphate of Umar, and marvel at the highly developed sense of judgment of Ali. I have not come across any judgment delivered by Ali during the caliphate of Othman though Ali is said to have held the office of the Chief Justice during this period. Although the Hashimites and the Umayyads belonged to the same stock, there was rivalry between the two houses. After the death of Abdul Muttabb, power passed on to Umayyads who enjoyed greater wealth. When the Holy Prophet declared his mission, the Umayyads led the Quraish in hostility against the Holy Prophet and the Muslims. The Umayyads accepted Islam after the conquest of Makkah in 680 C.E. thereafter the Umayyads acknowledged the superiority of the Hashimites. This position lasted for a short period of two years only as the Holy Prophet died in 632 C.E. Abu Bakr and Umar who were elected as the Caliphs thereafter did not belong either to the Hashimite or Umayyad section of the Quraish. Othman was an Umayyad and during his caliphate the Umayyads gained in power at the cost of the Hashimite. There is a passage in Nabj-ul-Balagha wherein Ali complains that the Umayyads were withholding from him what was his due as the camelman withholds the like of the she camel from her young one. It appears that during the caliphate of Othman, Ali led a more or less retired life, and did not take any active part in politics. By this time Ali had four wives and a number of children. During this period Ali devoted most of his time to religious exercises and domestic activities. After the death of the Persian emperor Yezdjurd his daughters were taken captive, and brought to Madina. When put to open auction the oldest princess slapped the auctioneer on the face. Ali advised that it was not proper that such distinguished persons should be put to open auction. The proper line of action was that the standard price should be faced, and whosoever paid the amount should get the princess. Ali purchased two princesses. He married one of them to his son Husain and the other to his step son Muhammad bin Abu Bakr. This shows that by this time the financial condition of Ali had considerably improved.

Abu Dhar Ghifari

Othman known by the epithet of “Ghani” was a rich man. Umar had placed restrictions on the purchase of lands by the Arabs in conquered territories. Othman removed these restrictions, with the result that the Arabs became big landlords. Islam stood for an egalitarian society wherein all people were equal politically as well as economically. On account of the liberal policies adopted by Othman, a moneyed class sprang up which took to a luxurious way of life. Men of this class built palatial buildings in Madina. In Syria the Governor Muswiyah a cousin of Othman adopted a princely way of life. In Damascus Abu Dhar Ghifan an eminent Companion vehemently criticized the luxurious way of life of Muawiyah and the men around him. Muawiya complained to Othman, and Othman asked Muawiyah to send Abu Dhar Ghifari to Madina. In Madina Abu Dhar Ghifari criticized Othman for his economic policies. Othman shifted Abu Dhar Ghifari to the interior of the desert at some distance from Madina. When Abu Dhar Ghifari left Madina, Ali addressed him in the following terms: “Abu Dhar, you have suffered because of your good will for God. Therefore you should hope for His mercy. Those people are afraid of you because of their love for the world, You are afraid of these people because of your faith. Give the world to the people for which they are afraid of you, Escape from them with the thing of which you are afraid of them. Withhold your faith from them, and do not covet what is dear to them as compared with faith. In the Hereafter, verily you will stand to profit while they will be at loss. O Abu Dhar bear in mind that the people may or may not like you, but you should not abandon what you deem to be the Truth. These people will befriend you only when you befriend their world. That will be a great price for you to pay. Therefore there should be no regret when they turn you out of their world. A better Hereafter awaits you.”

The Revolt

During the first six years of the caliphate of Othman, the process of foreign conquests went apace, and the people were satisfied. During the later part of the caliphate of Othman, the process of foreign conquests came to a grinding halt and discontentment began to mount among the people. The government of Othman was accused of nepotism, corruption and inefficiency. A crisis was reached in 656 C.E. when the malcontents from Egypt, Kufa, and Basra marched to Madina to demand the redress of their grievances. A body of the mal-contents approached Ali and requested him to bring their grievances to the notice of the Caliph. Ali visited Othman and said: “O Caliph, the people bid me expostulate with you, yet what can I say to you, son-in-law as you were of the Holy Prophet and his bosom friend, and you already know what I know. The way lies plain and wide before you, but perhaps your eyes are closed and you cannot see it. If blood is once shed it will not cease to flow till the Day of Judgment. The right will be blotted, and treason would rage like the foaming waves of the sea.”

Ali observed that the complaint of the people was that the Caliph had appointed his close relatives to the highest offices under the State. Othman stated that if he had appointed some of his relatives they were competent people who had delivered goods. He added that Muawiyah had been appointed as the Governor of Syria by Umar and not by him. Ali said that Umar kept the Governors under strict control but under him the Governors had become independent and they were doing what pleased them. Othman promised that he would make the necessary amends.

Inquiry into Complaints

Othman deputed special emissaries to go to the provinces and inquire into the complaints of the people. Muhammad b Muslima was deputed to Kufa, Usama b Zaid to Basra, Abdul Rahman b Umar to Syria. and Ammar b Yaser to Egypt. Muhammad b Muslima; Usama b Zaid and Abdul Rahman b Umar reported that the complaints of the people were frivolous, and there was nothing wrong with the administration. Ammar b Yaser formed the view that the complaints of the people were genuine, and instead of returning to Madina he chose to stay in Egypt. On the occasion of the Hajj in 655 C.E. Othman asked those who had any grievance to come to Makkah when their complaints would be looked in. He asked the Governors of the various provinces to come to Makkah well prepared to meet the charges leveled by the people against the provincial administration. No complaints were made on the occasion of the Hajj keeping in view the sanctity of the occasion. When Othman returned from the pilgrimage the mal-contents from various provinces gathered in large numbers in Madina. These people contacted Ali, Talha and Zubair. Othman approached Ali to use his influence with the mal-contents to disperse. Ali approached the people, and they complained that the previous instructions issued by the Caliph to the Governor of Egypt had no effect, and they would not disperse unless the Governor was removed. Thereupon Othman agreed to pass orders for the removal of Abdullah b Abi Sarh the Governor of Egypt. This satisfied the mar-contents end they dispersed.

Assassination of Othman

After a few days the rebels returned to Madina again. They said that they had caught a slave of the Caliph who was carrying a letter to the Governor of Egypt asking him to execute the ring leaders of the rebels. The rebels brought this letter to Ali, who took it to Othman. Othman acknowledged that the letter bore his seal, but he denied all knowledge about the contents of the letter. According to one account the letter was in the handwriting of Marwan, Secretary to the Caliph. The letter remained a mystery, but the Caliph undertook to dismiss the officials at fault within three days. No action was taken within the stipulated period, and on the following Friday, Othman addressed the congregation. The Caliph criticized the rebels for having revolted against his authority and held that thereby they had invited the wrath of God, and in the Hereafter they would be doomed to hell. That led to a great uproar. The rebels threw stones at Othman who was wounded and was carried home in an unconscious state. Ali visited the Caliph, and tried to avert the crisis. The crisis deepened and the rebels blockaded the house of the Caliph. The siege lasted for some days. A rumor was circulated that the Caliph has asked the provincial governors to send some troops to Madina. When the rebels came to know that troops might soon arrive in Madina, they broke into the house of the Caliph and assassinated him. That was a tragedy too deep for tears which cast a dismal shadow on the subsequent history of Islam.

Election of Ali as the Caliph

Anarchy

After the assassination of Othman, a state of anarchy came to prevail in the affairs of Madina. There was no government. The rebels let loose a reign of terror, and the peaceful citizens of Madina chose to remain indoors. The rebels were divided into three groups, namely the Egyptians, the Kaufmanns, and the Basrites. Although they had made common cause in the Assassination of Othman they differed among one another on other points. After four days, the rebels decided to return to their homes, but they felt that in their interests it was necessary that the new Caliph should be chosen before they left Madina. In the matter of the election of the Caliph, there were differences among the rebels. One group favored the election of Ali, another group favored the election of Talha and yet another group favored the election of Zubair. It appears that at this stage, the people of Madina themselves hat lost the initiative, and they were completely at the mercy of the rebels. Among the rebels themselves there was no outstanding leader whose opinion could prevail. Things were in a state of complete confusion.

No Candidate for Election

The Egyptians waited on Ali, and requested him to accept the office of the Caliph. He declined the offer and said that someone else should be elected as the Caliph. He assured them that whosoever was elected as the Caliph he would pay allegiance to him. Some prominent companions of the Holy Prophet also waited on Ali, and tried to persuade him to accept the office. Ali thanked them for their regard of him, but did not agree to accept the office. On the refusal of Ali, the rebels contacted Zubair and Talha, and offered them the caliphate. Like Ali, they also refused to accept the office. The rebels next approached the Ansars, and requested them to choose a Caliph from among themselves. They too refused the offer. They were of the opinion that in the presence of Ali, no one else deserved to be elected as the Caliph. The rebels waited on Ali again, and tried to persuade him to reconsider his decision. He maintained his previous decision and persisted in declining the offer. The rebels next approached Saad b Abi Waqas, Saeed b Zaid, and Abdullah b Umar to accept the caliphate. All of them refused to accept the office. There was now a complete deadlock in the matter of the election of the Caliph. The rebels thereupon gave the ultimatum that unless the people of Madina chose the Caliph within the next twenty-four hours they would be forced to take some drastic action.

Election of Ali

In order to resolve the deadlock, all the Muslims assembled in the Prophet’s mosque. The people raised slogans in favor of Ali. The leader of the Egyptian rebels took the stage. He said they had risen against the caliphate of Othman because the administration had become loose, and the grievances of the people had piled up. He added that it was necessary that the Muslims should choose a new Caliph in succession to Othman, and the man they should choose for the office should be conspicuous for his learning, bravery, piety and nearness to the Holy Prophet. He observed that Ali was the only person who fulfilled these qualities. Thereafter he went to Ali, requested him to stretch his hand. When Ali stretched his hand the people rushed to offer allegiance to him. This process went on for several hours, and the people vociferously welcomed the election of Ali as the Caliph.

The Dissidents

Although Ali was elected by an overwhelming majority there were some persons who abstained from offering him their allegiance The Umayyads by and large abstained from participating in the process of election. After the assassination of Othman most of them had escaped to Syria. The few Umayyads who were still in Madina remained in their homes. Saad b Abi Waqas did not offer any allegiance, but he assured Ali that he had no ill will against him, and his failure to take the oath of allegiance should not be construed as an act of any disloyalty to him. Abdullah b Umar abstained from offering allegiance, but he assured Ali that no harm could be expected from him. The men of “Ahl-i-Safa” of the Sufi bent of mind abstained from offering allegiance as they were not interested in politics. Talha and Zubair remained absent. There is some difference in the account pertaining to the allegiance of these two companions. According to one account they did not offer any allegiance to Ali, and slipped away from the city at the time when the other people had gathered in the mosque. According to another account, the rebels fetched Talha and Zubair to the mosque, and made them offer allegiance to Ali. According to one account the hand that Talha offered in allegiance to Ali was maimed and disfigured because of wounds received in the various wars. This was regarded as a bad augury by some of the persons assembled in the mosque.

Address of Ali

After his election, Ali addressed the people. He said that he had no intention to accept the office of the Caliph, but as the office had been forced on him he would do his best to discharge the duties of the office according to the commandments of God and the traditions of the Holy Prophet. He pointed out that a generation had passed since the demise of the Holy Prophet, and during this period the Muslim polity had come to be plagued with dissension and discord. He observed the events that had culminated in the assassination of Othman were most deplorable and regrettable. He said that it would be his endeavor to purge Islam of all the evils from which had come to suffer in the past. He made it clear that towards this end he would have to administer law and order with a stern hand. He warned all concerned that he would tolerate no sedition and found guilty of subversive activities would be dealt with harshly. He advised the people to mend their ways and behave as true Muslims. Ali was not the man to mince words. He felt disgusted with the state of political affairs and spoke in strong bitter terms.

Helplessness of Ali

The caliphate of Ali had a shaky start. In spite of his determination to set things right, Ali soon found that he was helpless, and was the prisoner of forces which he could not control. When after his inaugural address, Ali was about to retire to his house, the rebels approached him and said: “O Caliph, beware that we are the people who would pursue things to the bitter end. We can turn things upside down and wreck regimes.” Ali asked them not to indulge in such vainglorious boasts and should return to their camps. The rebels chose to remain quiet, but Ali could very well see a look of defiance in their eyes.

As Ali came home, he felt very unhappy. The caliphate had taken very long to come, and when it came, it came in the wrong way. The caliphate had come to him as the gift of the rebels and he could not take any action against them. On the other hand he was so helpless at the outset of his caliphate that he could not do anything against the wishes of the rebels.

At his house his son Imam Hasan, and his cousin Abdullah b Abbas advised him to leave Madina and retire to some place of safety in the desert. Their view was that he should let things settle down and in course of time the people would themselves come to him and assure him of their loyalty. There was a good deal of weight in what Abdullah b Abbas and Imam Hasan said, but Ali could not make up his mind to fall in line with the action proposed by them. Ali a man conspicuous for his valor thought that it would be an act of cowardice on his part to run away from the office which he had once accepted. He said that he would face the situation, however grim, in complete trust in God.

The Caliphate Issue

The Controversy

Unfortunately, after the death of the Holy Prophet, the caliphate issue became a source of controversy among the Muslims, and has led to sectarian differences thereby adversely affecting the solidarity of the Ummah. There is a school of thought which holds that Ali alone had the right to succeed the Holy Prophet, and that the three Caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar, and Othman were usurpers. Another school of thought which commands majority does not subscribe to this view. We may examine some salient aspects of the issue.

Right to succeed

The basic point for consideration is, whether any right in fact accrued to Ali to succeed the Holy Prophet. It may be recalled that when Abu Bakr was deputed by the Holy Prophet as “Amir-ul-Hajj” (the Leader of the Pilgrimage), and the verses of the Holy Quran entitled “Declaration of Immunity” were revealed subsequently, Ali was commissioned to proceed to Makkah to announce these verses to the people assembled on the occasion of the pilgrimage. Abu Bakr remained the “Amir-ul-Hajj”, and he presided over all the ceremonies connected with the Hajj, but the verses about the “Declaration of Immunity” were announced by Ali. It was later clarified by the Holy Prophet that a divine message had to be communicated to the people either by himself personally or by a member of his family. That brings out the point that while a divine message could be communicated by a member of the household of the Holy Prophet alone, any other office could be held by any other person. As the Holy Prophet was the last of the prophets, and there was to be do prophet after him that was the end of the divine mission. As the divine mission came to an end with the death of the Holy Prophet the grounds with reference to which Ali could claim preference in the matter of succession ceased to exist.

Will of the Holy Prophet

We have next to consider whether the Holy Prophet made any will about his succession. Everything about the activities of the Holy Prophet including the minutest details is fully documented. No will of the Holy Prophet is on record, and as such it is a fact that the Holy Prophet made no will. 1t is alleged in some quarters that before his death the Holy Prophet had expressed the desire to record his will, but Umar frustrated the attempt by declaring that the Holy Quran was enough for them. Ayesha refuted this allegation and observed that the Holy Prophet did not express any desire to record his will.

It may be recalled that oven during his illness the Holy Prophet attended the mosque on two occasions, and addressed the people. On one occasion he reprimanded the people for their objection to the command of an expedition against Syria by Usama b Zaid. If the Holy Prophet in spite of his illness could advocate the causes of Usama’s command, he could have advocated the cause of the successor of Ali as well, if he had so desired.

Another point that arises for consideration in this respect is whether the failure to record the will was an omission or was it deliberate? The Holy Prophet did not pass away suddenly; he had ample time to settle his affairs before his death. Even at the Farewell Pilgrimage three months before his death, he knew that his end was near. He had been sent by God to complete his mission. If the nomination of a successor was to be a part of the divine mission with which he had been entrusted, he would have nominated a successor to complete his mission. As he did not nominate a successor, and as his mission had been completed, it means that the nomination of a successor was no part of his mission. After him, whosoever was to succeed him was to be temporal ruler only, and the right to choose such ruler vested in the people this means that the Holy Prophet did not nominate his successor deliberately. Obviously the intention was that the people should elect their leader themselves. Allah Himself declared that He had chosen Islam as the religion for the people, and the Muslims were the best of community. It cannot, therefore, be said that what happened in the matter of succession was an omission on the part of the Holy Prophet or disinterestedness on the part of Allah (God forbid).

Will of Allah

It is our faith that all that happened had the sanction of Allah and was in accordance with His Will. This is evident from the fact that during the caliphate of Abu Bakr and Umar, extensive conquests were made which changed the course of history. It was nothing short of a miracle that the Arabs of the desert overpowered the mighty kingdom of Persia in the east, and the empire of the Byzantines in the west. This would not have been possible if the blessings of God were not with the regime, which had come to be established after the death of the Holy Prophet. When God favored these Caliphs, it hardly lies in the mouth of anyone to say that they were usurpers.

Islamic Concept of office

According to the traditions, the Holy Prophet said in definite terms that he who seeks an office does not deserve it. It is, therefore, difficult to believe that Ali coveted the office of the caliphate at any stage. There are some passages in Nahj-ul-Balagha which show that Ali did not covet the office, but he held that the caliphate was his right. There is ample evidence in Nahj-ul-Balagha to the effect that Ali felt embittered at the election of Abu Bakr, Umar, or Othman. According to one passage, Ali is reported to have said that the son of Abu Qahafa (Abu Bakr) had worn the mantle of the caliphate forcibly although he knew that he (Ali) was as essential for the caliphate the handle is necessary for moving the grinding stone. There is some confusion on the point whether Ali considered himself to be the most deserving person to be the caliph. If the Holy Prophet had nominated Ali as his successor he would have automatically become the Caliph, and question of election by the people would not have arisen. As the Holy Prophet had made no nomination, the caliph had necessarily to be chosen by the people. Where the choice vested with the people, it was for the people to elect whosoever they deemed fit, and no person can claim to have the right to be chosen. In the circumstances, the position of Ali vis a vis the caliphate is vague. it is not clear on what basis it can be held that Ali had the right to be elected as the Caliph, and that if any other person had been elected as the Caliph, his right had been usurped.

Relationship of Ali with his predecessors

It appears that Ali did not take the oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr immediately. He however took the oath after some time. In his oration at the funeral of Abu Bakr, Ali spoke in glowing terms about Abu Bakr both as man and a caliph. When Abu Bakr nominated Umar as his successor Ali did not feel happy at the nomination. He, however, took the oath of allegiance to Umar. Ali even married his daughter to Umar, and the relationship between Ali and Umar was throughout cordial. When Othman was elected as the caliph Ali took the oath of allegiance to him. When Ali offered allegiance to his predecessors the implication is that he acknowledged their caliphate, and waived his own right to the caliphate even if he had any claim. When Ali himself acknowledged these Caliphs, it is not clear how does it lie in the mouth of anyone to say that these Caliphs were usurpers.

Nature of the issue

In our study of the issue of the caliphate, we have to consider the question of the nature of the issue. That question to be considered is whether the election of the Caliph is a religious or a political issue. The commandments of religion are contained in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah. There is no mention about the Ca1iph in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah. In the Holy Quran the word “Caliph” has been used with reference to Man in general when he is said to be the Caliph of God. This means that the people in general are the Caliph of God. The Caliph to be the Head of the State is a political functionary only. Political issues must necessarily be limited to the milieu in which they arise, and political issues cannot be kept alive for indefinite period. In Islam the State and the Church are not separate. This merely means that in an Islamic State the political affairs would be administered in accordance with the injunctions of Islam. It does not mean that every political issue would become a religious issue. A religious issue must be directly based on the Quran and the Sunnah, and any political issue cannot become part of religion. Election of a functionary is for a limited period, and when that period is over all disputes about the election come to an end. Even if it is conceded that Ali should have succeeded the Holy Prophet in preference to any other person, the controversy should have ceased with the close of the rule of the rightly guided Caliphs. To keep this political issue alive for all times and make it a ground for sectarian differences does not appear to be in accord with the spirit of Islam. Even if Ali did not get the caliphate, he did get the caliphate after all, and with his assumption of the caliphate, the controversy about the validity or otherwise about the election of the previous Caliphs should have come to an end being time barred.

Vengeance for the Blood of Othman

Cry for vengeance for the blood of Othman

After Ali had assumed office, the rebels left for their home towns. The departure of the refuels brought no peace to the city of Madina. The Umayyads who bad consolidated their position in Syria raised the cry of vengeance for the blood of Othman. The blood stained clothes of Othman, and the fingers of his wife, Naila, which had been cut by the rioters while she defended were exhibited in the mosque at Damascus. The Umayyads incited the emotions of the people to a high pitch and they declared with due solemnity that they would not rest content until the death of Othman had been avenged. The cry of the Umayyads raised in Damascus found its echo in Madina and Makkah as well, and many persons in Madina and Makkah also joined the chorus for vengeance for the blood of Othman. Talha and Zubair two prominent companions who had taken the oath of allegiance to Ali supported the call for vengeance. Even Ayesha, the favorite wife of the Holy Prophet joined the camp which raised the cry for vengeance.

Nature of the crime of the assassination of Othman

The assassination of Othman was a very tragic event in the annals of Islam. Particular sanctity is attached to the office of the Caliph, and if the Caliphs were to be murdered in cold blood as in the case of Othman, that boded ill for the Muslim polity. According to the Islamic law the heirs of a dead person have the right to claim blood money (Qasas) for such murder. It is the obligation of the State to enforce such right. In view of this legal position, the heirs of Othman had a prima facie case to claim vengeance for the murder of Othman. The law of “Qasas” applies in a normal case of murder when the person committing the murder can be apprehended. When the case is complex, and murder cannot be attributed to a particular person or persons, the law of Qasas would not apply in the conventional sense. The assassination of Othman was not a simple murder, it was in fact a revolt and coup d’etat. The natural law is that where a revolt fails, the rebels have to pay for such revolt with their lives. On the other hand where the revolt succeeds, the rebels capture power, and there is no question of taking any action against them for they are the victors, and the victors cannot be galled to account for any bloodshed that they might have caused necessary for their victory. In this case the revolt against Othman had been successful; Othman had been killed and the power had been captured by the rebels. The rebels voluntarily transferred the power captured by them to the people, and asked them to elect the Caliph. The people elected Ali as the Caliph. The people in this case exercised the power delegated to them by the rebels, and as such Ali owed his election to the rebels. In the circumstances the cry for vengeance for the blood of Othman had become infructuous and it could not be raised before Ali.

Purpose of the cry for vengeance

As in view of the circumstances referred to above, the cry for vengeance was infructuous, the purpose of the cry was really not to seek “Qasas”, but to cause confusion and create difficulties for Ali. If those who raised the cry wanted Ali to take action against the rebels, that was not possible as the revolt had succeeded, and Ali owed his election to the rebels. If the purpose of the cry was to accuse Ali of the murder it was sheer perversity for Ali was not even remotely connected with the murder. And if for the sake of argument he was involved in the murder in any way, he could not be called to account as he was himself in power. As a matter of fact those who raised the cry for vengeance were themselves responsible for the murder of Othman and they raised the cry merely to disguise their own guilt. When Othman was the Caliph all authority vested in him and Ali had no authority. As such Ali could not suppress the revolt, it was for Othman to take the necessary action. Othman, a noble soul, followed the policy of drift which culminated his assassination. As such Othman was himself responsible for his own assassination. When the house of Othman had been besieged he had in fact called for aid from the provincial governors. All the Governors including Muawiyiah delayed the dispatch of relief. That provided an opportunity to the rebels to assassinate Othman. Thus Muawiyiah was himself guilty of the murder of Othman and it did not lie in his mouth to raise the cry for vengeance and demand such vengeance from Ali. Talha who later defected from the oath of allegiance to Ali was indeed with the rebels when they besieged the house of Othman.

Alterior motive

The cry for vengeance was a mere subterfuge and the real purpose was to dethrone Ali. The rivalry between Banu Hashim and Banu Umayya existed since long. The Banu Umayya had led the Quraish of Makkah in the various battles against the Muslims. In the battles of early Islam, Ali had killed the maternal grandfather, maternal uncle and brother of Muawiyiah. Ali had killed several other men of the Banu Umayya. Ali had killed the father of Umru. The Banu Umayya thus bore a personal grudge against Ali. After the conquest of Makkah by the Muslims, the Banu Umayyah accepted Islam, and acknowledged the supremacy of Banu Hashim. When Othman became the Caliph, the tables were turned and Banu Umayyah took steps to establish their supremacy over the Banu Hashim. There is a passage in Nahj-ul-Balagha which shows that during the caliphate of Othman, the Banu Umayya withheld from Ali what was due to him just as the milkman withholds the milk of the she camel from its young one. Ali is reported to have said on the occasion that if he came into power he would deal with the Banu Umayya as the butcher removes the skin from a dead animal. As such it was the endeavor of Muawiyiah to create difficulties for Ali with a view to dethroning him from power. Othman was a capitalist and during his caliphate most of the Muslims took to the luxurious way of life in preference to the austere way of Islam. Othman had awarded capital to many persons. When Ali was elected as the Caliph, a generation-term has elapsed since the death of the Holy Prophet and a well to do class had sprung up among the Muslims. Ali was known for his revolutionary views. The well to do class among the Muslims which included Talha, Zubair, Muawiyiah and other men of Banu Umayya were afraid that under Ali their interests were likely to be adversely affected. They accordingly joined in the call for vengeance for the blood of Othman with a view to safeguarding their personal interests by creating troubles for Ali. The real aim of those who raised the cry for vengeance for the blood of Othman was to capture power for themselves by means fair or foul.

Deposition of Provincial Governors

Proposal to depose the provincial governors

On assuming the caliphate, Ali decided to depose the provincial governors appointed by Othman, and appoint new Governors in their stead. Some of the Governors like Muawiyah in Syria had been in office for more or less twenty years and had grown too powerful. Such concentration of power in a single person was fraught with danger to the body politics, and Ali felt that in the interests of the State it was necessary that there should be a change in the provincial governors. As a matter of fact one of the main allegations against Othman which had triggered off the revolt was nepotism in the appointment of Governors. Ali felt that even if Othman had any justification for the appointment of his favorites as Governors, such justification was no longer there after his death. As such a change was necessary in general interest. Because of the unfortunate revolt against Othman, the administration stood shattered in some parts of the country. For the proper rehabilitation of administration a change in personnel was essential. Ali had noticed that for some time past the Muslims had departed from the austere way of the life of Islam, and had taken to the luxurious way of living borrowed from the non-Muslims. Ali had a program for the restoration of Islam to its pristine purity. For the implementation of such program likely to have political, religious and social repercussions it was necessary that Ali should have, as the provincial heads, persons in whom he had confidence and who could be depended upon to carry out his policies into action. Ali did not wish to give the impression that he intended to victimize any particular individual; his proposal accordingly envisaged the deposition of all the existing Governors and their replacement by new men of established integrity.

Mughira b Shuaba

Mughira b Shuaba was considered to be a wise man among the Arabs. He advised Ali that he should not take the hasty step of deposing all the Governors at the outset of his caliphate. He suggested that Ali should bide his time, and he should transfer or depose the Governors after he had consolidated his own position. Ali advanced his arguments in justification of the proposal to depose the Governors. The discussion lasted for a few hours, but it proved to be indecisive. Ali did not agree with the view of Mughira. The meeting on the first day came to close with the observation that they would meet the following day and reconsider the matter. When Mughira came to see Ali the following day, he said that he had reconsidered the matter and he had come to the conclusion that provincial governors should be deposed forthwith.

Abdullah b Abbas

Abdullah b Abbas, a cousin of Ali came to see him from Makkah. Ibn Abbas was very emphatic in his counsel that Ali should not take the hasty steps of deposing the Governors. He said that with the assassination of Othman the prestige of the central government had fallen low, and it was necessary that its prestige should be re-established before any attempt was made to remove the Governors. Ibn Abbas observed that in principle Ali was right that he should have Governors who enjoyed his confidence, but in view of the unsettled conditions when the people in the provinces, particularly Syria, had yet to take the oath of allegiance to him. The proper course was that the orders for the deposition of the Governors should be held up till the people in all the provinces had taken the oath of allegiance to him. He said that Muawiyah was strongly entrenched in power in Syria, and it any orders for his deposition were passed he would defy them. Ali said that he wanted him Ibn Abbas to be appointed as the Governor of Syria. Ibn Abbas said that he could not accept the appointment, for Muawiyah would not allow him to take charge. The difficulty in this respect, was that, while Muawiyah had a force at his disposal, the central government had no force at its disposal at that stage to take the field if any provincial governor chose to defy the orders of the Caliph. Ali observed that Mughira had originally offered advice against the deposition of the Governors but on reconsideration he had favored the proposal for the deposition of the governors. Ibn Abbas said that the advice that he had offered in the first instance was based on sincerity, and he withdrew his advice because of some ulterior motives.

Orders for the deposition of Governors

In spite of what Ibn Abbas advised, Ali issued orders for the deposition of the Governors. Ali appointed Suhail b Hanif as the Governor of Syria; Saad b Ubaidah as the Governor of Egypt; Ummara b Shahab as the Governor of Kufa; Othman b Hanif as the Governor of Basra; and Abdullah b Abbas as the Governor of Yemen. When the nominee of Ali went to Basra, he was able to assume the charge, and no resistance was offered to him. Similarly there was no resistance to the new Governor in Egypt, and he assumed charge without any difficulty. Abdullah b Abbas succeeded in assuming the charge in Yemen, but the previous Governor escaped to Makkah and carried away the entire treasure with him. When the nominee of Ali for the governor of Syria reached Tabuk on the border of Syria, he was met by the Syrian force, who advised him to go back as they did not acknowledge Ali as the Caliph. Similarly the nominee of Ali to the governor ship of Kufa had to return to Madina after having failed to assume the charge of his office.

Defection of Syria and Kufa

Thus at the outset of his rule as Caliph Ali had to face a crisis. The failure of the nominees of Ali to assume charge implied a political schism in the body politics of Islam. The situation that emerged on the ground was that the Governors appointed by Ali assumed office in Egypt, Basra and Yemen, and the people in these provinces took the oath of allegiance to Ali. The people of Kufa took the oath of allegiance to Ali, but did not want any change in their Governor, and they made the nominee of Ali go back. Syria refused to acknowledge the authority of Ali. In Makkah the position was confused. In Makkah some persons offered allegiance to Ali, but the majority of the Quraish withheld their allegiance to Ali. It appears that at that stage, Ali did not appoint a Governor for Makkah, and the Governor appointed by Othman continued in office. He did not offer allegiance to Ali. Syria was definitely hostile to Ali. Kufa was not hostile, but as the people of Kufa had played a leading role in the assassination of Othman and the election of Ali, they wanted that Ali should be subservient to them. Makkah did not want to defy Ali, but it did not want to support him either. At the outset of his caliphate Ali had to force an administrative crisis in the country. Among the historians there is some controversy on the point whether in the deposition of Governors’ Ali acted rashly or otherwise. Some of the writers have taken the view that as advised by Ibn Abbas be should have bided his time and deferred the deposition of Governors. If we study the question in the light of what happened subsequently we arrive at the conclusion that there was nothing wrong in what Ali did. Muwayiah had no intention of owing allegiance to Ali and if had been allowed to carry on as a Governor of Ali, he would have been a source of greater trouble for Ali. By such deposition, Ali we able to establish his authority in a greater part of the country. If Ali had succeeded in consolidating his rule in those provinces where his nominees held the office, he could have overpowered Syria without much difficulty. Unfortunately other complications took place, and Ali had to face trouble oven in provinces where his Governors held office.

Defiance of Muawiyah

Challenge for Ali

The failure of the nominees of Ali to assume office as the Governors of Syria and Kufa was a great challenge for Ali. Musa, the Governor of Kufa, tried to temporize though he acknowledged the authority of Ali. In Syria the story was different. To start with the stand of Muawiyah was that he would acknowledge the caliphate of Ali after those who were responsible for the assassination of Othman had been brought to book. Ali sent an emissary to Muawiyah to explain to him the position. He assured him that every possible effort would be made to trace the murderers of Othman. He observed that this would need some time. He wanted the support of Muawiyah in tracing the culprits. He advised that in the meantime, Muawiyah should step aside from the office of the Governor and cooperate with the nominee of the central government in the interests of the solidarity of Islam. He pointed out that any dissentions among the Muslims at the stage would work to the advantage of the enemies of Islam.

Muswiyah detained the emissary of Ali for over three months. In the meantime he whipped up his propaganda campaign exploiting the murder of Othman. He sent his agents to Makkah, and other parts of the country to relate the story of the assassination of Othman in pathetic terms, and win the sympathy of the people. As the propaganda gathered momentum Ali came to be accused of being an accomplice in the murder of Othman. The burden of the propaganda was that as the hands of Ali were dyed with the blood of Othman he was not qualified to be the Caliph, and those who had withheld their allegiance to him were justified in their refusal to acknowledge his authority.

After three months, Muawiyah allowed the emissary of Ali to return to Madina. He said that he would be sending his own emissary with a message for Ali. The letter of Muawiyah was brought to Madina by a Bedouin chief Kabisa. The cover bore the address “From Muawiyah to Ali”. When the cover was opened, it contained a blank paper with no writing thereon. In a fit of anger, Ali asked the bearer what did that mean? Kabisa pleaded for the safety of his life before he could answer the question. Ali said that he was free to speak, and he had his promise of safety. On this assurance the messenger said: “Know you then that there are no less than 60,000 Syrians whose beards are wet with tears, and who are rallying around Othman’s bloody shirt which they have made their war standard, have armed themselves and are bent on avenging the murder of Othman”.

On hearing these words the anger of Ali knew no bounds but he controlled his anger and said, “This is pure sedition.” Someone from among the congregation shouted “Kill the Syrian messenger for his impudence,” At this Kabisa took to heels and retorted, “Four thousand chosen warriors are near at hand. Take care of your homes and hearths.” Ali said to the envoy, “Be gone, for I have promised you the safety of your life”.

Kabisa went away, but the defiant attitude of Muawiyah was a great challenge for Ali. To those of the Muslims who were present in the mosque, Ali addressed in the mosque in the following terms: “Beware! Satan has gathered his forces. His army is multiplying. By his wiles, Satan is attracting the people to him. Their propaganda is a tissue of lies. Their accusations against me are most unjust and unfair. They demand from me the right which they themselves had abandoned. They demand from me blood for blood which they themselves have shed. Their repeated demand for taking vengeance from the murderers of Othman is like demanding milk from a woman which has dried up. He who invites me to war should know that under all circumstances I will follow the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Prophet. If they refuse to abide by the injunctions of Islam the sword which helps the upholders of truth, and destroys the mischief makers would decide the issue. It is surprising that in spite of their stand on falsehood they give me the challenge of war. May God curse them. War can never frighten me to abandon the truth. I am not afraid of death. I will live for Islam and die for Islam. ”

Proclamation of Jihad

In order to meet the challenge of Muawiyah Ali ordered the raising of levies with a view to undertaking an expedition against Syria. Dispatches were sent to the various provincial governors to send reinforcements and provide whatever succor they could. Ali as Caliph issued the decree of Jihad and exhorted the people to join the campaign in large numbers for the vindication of the truth of Islam. When the Muslims of Madina gathered in the mosque, he addressed them in the following terms: “Now or never If you fail to fight you will lose power, and these accursed schismatics will destroy the solidarity of Islam. I have, however, high hopes in the mercy of God, Who will set right that which these people are bent on setting wrong.”

The appeal did not have the desired result, and the response to Ali’s call to arms in the defense of Islam was poor. Ali felt grieved at the apathy of the people of Madina to Jihad. He called a special gathering of the people of Madina in the Prophet’s mosque, and addressed them on the importance of Jihad. His speech is preserved in the collection of his writing bearing the title Nahj-ul-Balagha. He addressed the people in the following terms: “Jihad is one of the doors of heaven. God opens it for his friends. It is the dress of piety. It is a useful and beneficial armor with which the faithful should be equipped. It is a strong shield for the believers. If a man gives it up, God will make him wear the robes of disgrace and shame. He will be the victim of misfortune. He will be dishonored. Beware! I urge you to take up arms against the upholders of falsehood. I want you to attack them before they attack us. By God! Know that those who shift their responsibilities to others court ruin and disaster. Know that Muawiyah has attacked Amber with his cavalry and has killed Hasan b Hasan Balcri the chief of that place. I am told that one of his soldiers entered a house, and took away ornaments and jewels of the lady of the house. It is both surprising and heartrending. Followers of Muawiyah are misguided and mistaken, yet they are united, and though you are the upholders of a true cause, you are disunited and divided. How sad that they kill you and you cannot destroy them. They fight against you and you evade fighting. The commandments of God are being defied and sins are being committed in open daylight, and you see these things as passive onlookers. When I ask you to march in the summer season, you request me to delay the expedition till the hot season is over, when I ask you to march in the winter, you complain of excessive cold, and want me to postpone the campaign till the cold season is over. These are lame excuses. If you are afraid of the excessive heat or cold, you are apt to run away at the sight of the sword. O men, you do not deserve to be called men. By God, I am ashamed at the sight of you. May God destroy you. You have broken my heart you have made me lose my temper. You have upset all my plans through your sins and disobedience. You have always made me drink the draught of sorrow. The Quraish now say that the son of Abu Talib is undoubtedly brave, but he is ignorant of the art of war. Is there any one from amongst their ranks who was more steadfast in war than me? I have been fighting in wars when I was barely twenty years old and now I am sixty. I do not know what should I do with you, for suggestions and plans are of lime value to men who do not act upon them.”

From the historical accounts and the biographies of Ali that have come down to us, it is not very clear what exactly happened which made Ali address the people of Madina in such strong and bitter words. Reading between the lines of the speech of Ali, it seems that he felt annoyed with the attitude of the people of Madina, and he even reproached and cursed them. It appears that Ali had a plan for an immediate attack on Syria. But the plan did not materialize as adequate response from the people of Madina was not forthcoming. From the account of Tabari it appears that Ali had in fact given an order for the march to Syria. He had handed over the war standard to his son Muhammad b Hanifa. He had appointed Abdullah b Abbas, Umar b Abi Salma, and Abu Laila b Umar b Al Jarah as his Generals to command the various wings of the army. Ali was to lead the army in person and he had appointed Qatam b Abbas as the Governor of Madina during his absence. The people of Madina were loath that the Muslims should fight among themselves, and before the army of Ali could march to Syria many persons chose to withdraw. In the circumstances for one reason or the other, the expedition to Syria was delayed, and this delay worked to the advantage of Muawiyiah and the disadvantage of Ali. Things became further difficult when Ali had to face another crisis, namely the defection of Talha and Zubair who had sworn allegiance to him.

Defection of Talha and Zubair

Talha and Zubair

Talha and Zubair were two eminent companions of the Holy Prophet. Talha belonged to the Taim section of the Quraish. Talha became a Muslim at the young age of fifteen. He took part in the battles fought under the command of the Holy Prophet. He played a conspicuous part in the Battle of Uhud, and received many wounds in warding off the attacks on the Holy Prophet. He was married to a daughter of Abu Bakr. He was a magnate and was very rich. His daily income is reported to be over a thousand dirhams. He was critical of the administration of Othman and was popular with the rebels from Basra. After the assassination of Othman the rebels offered him the caliphate, but he declined the offer on account of the uncertainty of the situation.

Zubair b Al Awwam was a nephew of Khadija. His mother Safia was a paternal aunt of the Holy Prophet. He was thus a first cousin of the Holy Prophet. He fought in most of the battles of early Islam. He was a rich merchant. He was popular with the people of Kufa, and when Othman was assassinated the rebels from Kufa approached him to accept the caliphate in succession to Othman. He declined the offer because of the uncertainty of the situation. The Holy Prophet gave tidings of paradise to ten of his companions during their lifetime, and these ten included Talha and Zubair.

Talha and Zubair’s oath of allegiance to Ali

When Ali was elected as the Caliph both Talha and Zubair took the oath of allegiance to him. Accounts differ as to the circumstances under which they took the oath of allegiance to Ali. According to one account they took the oath of allegiance to Ali voluntarily and were the first persons to take such oath. According to another account they took the oath of allegiance to Ali subject to the condition that they were to share power with Ali. According to yet another account when the oath of allegiance to Ali was taken in the mosque, Talha and Zubair shut themselves in their houses, but the rebels took them from their houses to the mosque and forced them to take the oath of allegiance to Ali. Talha had received many wounds in the wars, and his hand was mangled. When Talha offered his allegiance with the mangled hand, some of the Arabs prone to omens felt that such oath with a mangled hand did not augur well for the future.

Defection of Talha and Zubair

When the oath of allegiance was taken to Ali, the state of affairs in Madina was not normal. The majority of the Muslims in Madina took the oath of allegiance, but a few persons abstained from taking the oath. These included Saad b Abi Waqas; Abdullah b Umar; Usama b said; and Muhammad b Musalama Ansari. They, however, assured Ali that they would not create any trouble for him. On such assurance, Ali did not press for their allegiance.

As the crisis in Madina deepened, and Ali gave the call for military action against Muawiyah, even the people who had taken the oath of allegiance did not respond to the call. The people of Madina were generally loath that the Muslims should fight against Muslims. Talha and Zubair met Ali and suggested to him that if one of them was appointed as the Governor of Kufa and the other was appointed as the Governor of Basra they would help in the consolidation of his rule. Ali did not accept the offer. He preferred to appoint his own men as the provincial Governors. He told Talha and Zubair that he wanted them to remain at Madina by his side as his Counselors. Frustrated in their attempt to get governorships, Talha and Zubair felt embittered. They requested Ali to permit them to go to Makkah for performing the Umra. Ali refused the permission on the ground that he wanted their presence in Madina in public interest. Thereupon Talha and Zubair escaped from Madina secretly. At Makkah, Talha and Zubair joined Ayesha. Both of them were related to Ayesha. One sister of Ayesha was married to Zubair and another sister was married to Talha.

Ali’s letter to Talha and Zubair

Ali felt much disturbed at the defection of Talha and Zubair. He felt that Talha and Zubair had defected under some misunderstanding. He decided that instead of taking any punitive action against them, an effort should be made to conciliate them. He accordingly addressed them a letter in the following terms, and sent it to them at Makkah through a special messengers:

Verily, both of you know very well that I did not approach the people to elect me as the Caliph. On the other hand it were the people who forced me to accept the office of the Caliph in the interests of Islam. Again I did not ask the people to swear allegiance to me, they did so of their own accord. Both of you also stepped towards me and took the oath of fealty. The people did swear allegiance to me neither through any dread of fear nor from any hope of worldly gain or profit. So, if you took the oath voluntarily, how can you retrace and recant? If you swore under compulsion even then you have proved the case against yourself because you outwardly rendered obedience to me and concealed your treachery from me. By God, such hypocrisy did not behoove Muhajirs of your caliber. There was a good deal of scope left for you before you took the oath, but when you had taken the oath, no margin was left to you from recanting from that holy contract which you had entered of your own accord. You say that I am the murderer of Othman. Come forward and let the people of Madina who did not take side with either of the parties, judge between you and me. Their judgment would reveal what I and you did on that occasion. You are experienced old men and it behooves you to repent of what you have done. It is bad enough that you have incurred the odium of the people of the world, but beware that, in the life to come, for such deviation from the right you will have to face hell.” This letter had no effect on Talha and Zubair. In Makkah they joined Ayesha, and raised the cry for vengeance for the blood of Othman.

Ali’s address about the defection of Talha and Zubair

In an address to the people of Madina in the prophet’s mosque Ali commented on the defection of Talha and Zubair in the following terms: You know I had refused to accept the caliphate. It was only because of your insistence that I reluctantly agreed to accept the office. I was moved to do so, because the interests of Islam demanded that some one should head the State. You all took the oath of allegiance to me. In accepting the office I had laid down the condition that I expected your unstinted loyalty and support. The oath of alliance is a sacred pact between you and the person you have elected as the Caliph. Once the oath has been taken it is irrevocable. Like all of you Talha and Zubair took the oath of allegiance to me. Now they have repudiated the oath, and taken to the wrong way. They have given no reason for this change of face. They are eminent companions of the Holy Prophet and they fully know that the oath of allegiance once taken cannot be repudiated. I was no stranger to them. They are fully aware of my antecedents, my relationship with the Holy Prophet and my services to the cause of Islam. They are Quraish and I am also a Quraish. Zubair is in fact my cousin. By rebelling against my authority, they have created dissentions among the Muslims which is a definite disservice to Islam. They have raised the cry for vengeance for the blood of Othman. The implication of this cry is that they accuse me of the murder of Othman or my involvement. The assassination of Othman is deplorable, but the imputation of any blame on me in this respect is most unjust and unfair. All that took place happened before your eyes. I was neither concerned with the administration of law and order, nor did I command any influence with the rebels. Indeed I took all measures, that I could, to protect the person of Othman. It is an undeniable fact that my sons were wounded while guarding the house of Othman. On the other hand it is well known that Talha was present among the rebels, and he did not respond to the call of Othman when he called him. It is surprising, and sheer perversion of truth that they should levy the charge of the murder of Othman against me when they themselves were the murderers. It is not merely uncharitable, it is criminal in character. As Talha and Zubair have assumed the role of rebels, they will have to be treated as such. If they do not repent, I will have no option but to take punitive action against them. I cannot allow the rebels to gather force, and create mischief. I am not like a bear which is lulled to sleep, and the hunter hunts it while it is asleep. I will lead a force against the rebels and destroy them, howsoever painful the act might be.”

Ayesha

Ayesha and Ali

Ayesha was the favorite wife of the Holy Prophet. In 633 C.E. in one of the expeditions, Ayesha accompanied the Holy Prophet. On the way back she lost her necklace, and when she went to search for the necklace in the desert where she had earlier gone for the call of nature, the caravan left in her absence. Her camel man was under the impression that she was in the litter on the camel. Later, she was picked by a camel man and brought to Madina. The mischief mongers, and the enemies of Islam made this incident the subject of calumny, and Ayesha was accused of unseemly conduct. Because of the virulent propaganda campaign waged by the evil doers, The Holy Prophet became estranged to Ayesha and she left for the house of her father. During the period of estrangement, Ali advised the Holy Prophet that there was no dearth of women, and he could divorce Ayesha, and marry some other beautiful woman. Later, Allah revealed that Ayesha was innocent and no blame rested on her. As a consequence the Holy Prophet and Ayesha were reconciled. Ayesha bore grudge against Ali for the advice that he had given to the Holy Prophet to divorce her. Ayesha was a step-mother of Fatima, the wife of Ali. Both of them were more or less of the same age, While Ayesha was the favorite wife of the Holy Prophet, Fatima was his favorite daughter resulting in a natural jealousy. Once Fatima complained to the Holy Prophet for favoring Ayesha, The Holy Prophet advised her, “Then my dear daughter, why should you not love the person whom your father loves”. This relationship came to be further strained when after the death of the Holy Prophet, Fatima and Ali claimed the estate of Fidak as an inheritance, but Abu Bakr did not accept the claim and declared the estate to be public property. After the death of Abu Bakr his wife Asma, a stepmother of Ayesha, married Ali. Ayesha felt unhappy at this marriage.

Ayesha in Makkah

When Othman was assassinated, Ayesha was not in Madina. She had gone to Makkah a few weeks earlier for performing the pilgrimage. She came to know of the assassination of Othman and the election of Ali as the Caliph when she was on the way back to Madina. She was much shocked at the murder of Othman. She felt unhappy at the election of Ali, with whom she had outstanding differences. On hearing of the news instead of proceeding to Madina, she retraced her steps, and returned to Makkah. Othman had been a popular figure among the Quraish of Makkah. When in Syria, Muawiyyah raised the cry for the vengeance of the blood of Othman, the cry was echoed in Makkah as well. The people of Makkah temporized in taking the oath of allegiance to Ali. The tendency of the people of Makkah was to wait and watch further developments. The people of Makkah had at that stage no leader with them under whose direction they could take a specific course of action.

The return of Ayesha to Makkah changed the situation. In view of the great prestige and respect that she commanded as the “Mother of the Faithful,” she soon assumed the role of a leader, and the people assembled around her in large number. During the lifetime of Othman she had been critical of his policies, but after his death she decided to espouse his cause, and join in the cry seeking vengeance for his blood. Her address to the people of Makkah is on record. She said: “O ye people! The rebels from different provinces have murdered the innocent Othman. These people levied some allegation against the Caliph at the outset, and when they could not establish the charges against him, they rebelled against him. What had been ordained as unlawful by Allah was made lawful by the regicides. They violated the sanctity of the city of the Holy Prophet in the sacred month of “Haj” when the shedding of blood is prohibited. They plundered and looted the citizens of Madina. By God, a single finger of Othman was more precious than the lives of all the regicides. The mischief has not been crushed, and the murderers of Othman have not been brought to book. It befits you now to seek satisfaction on these murderers. It is vengeance alone for the blood of Othman that can vindicate the honor of Islam. ”

The call to war

The fiery address of Ayesha was virtually the call to war. It set a match to the smoldering fire of discontent among the people. The first man to respond to the call of Ayesha was Abdullah b Aamar al-Hadhrami. He was the Governor of Makkah appointed by Othman. In view of the uncertain state of affairs in Makkah, Ali had not replaced him so far by a nominee of his own. He knew that with Ali as the Caliph he could not hold his office for long. He, therefore, placed all resources available to him as the Governor of Makkah at the disposal of Ayesha for any war that she might wage to seek vengeance for the blood of Othman. Yala b Umayya the ex-Governor Yemen who had been deposed by Ali responded enthusiastically to the call for war. On his deposition, he had brought all the treasure of the province of Yemen with him. He placed this treasure at the disposal of Ayesha for financing the war project. Abdullah b Aamar of the Umayyad section, the ex-Governor of Basra who had been deposed by Ali, also joined the confederates. All the Umayyads of Makkah, and those who had escaped from Madina after the assassination of Othman offered themselves for war service. These included Saeed b Al Aas, Mughira b Shuba, and Walid b Uqba. Talha and Zubair who arrived from Madina in the meantime also joined the confederates. Both of them were related to Ayesha. One of the sisters of Ayesha was married to Zubair and another was married to Talha. They became the right hand men for Ayesha, and the Commanders of the force of Ayesha.

The plan of war

Within a short time, Ayesha was able to set up a war organization in opposition to Ali. Though the confederates raised the cry for avenging the murder of Othman, their real aim was to dethrone Ali. After building up a war organization, Ayesha and her party had to consider where the blow was to be struck. Ayesha was personally of the view that an attack should be led on Madina as it was expedient that the malady should be uprooted root and branch. Apparently her idea was to overthrow Ali and capture power Most of her followers were of the view that it would not be advisable that the wife of the Holy Prophet should lead an expedition against the city of the Holy Prophet and violate its sanctity. The Umayyads proposed that they should proceed to Syria and join Muawiyah. This view was not favored by the non-Umayyad followers of Ayesha, as such a step was likely to shift the balance of power in favor of Muawiyah, and strengthen his claim for the caliphate. Another proposal was that they should advance to Kufa. This proposal was dropped on the ground that it was uncertain how far the people of Kufa would support the war against Ali, particularly when most of the rebels responsible for the assassination of Othman belonged to Kufa. Talha suggested that he had considerable influence in Basra, and if they advanced to Basra, most of the people there would join them. This proposal was supported by Abdullah b Aamar who had been the Governor of Basra and had been deposed by Ali. He said that be had many supporters in Basra and these people would join them in case they advanced to Basra. After a good deal of discussion and deliberation it was decided that they should in the first instance march to Basra, and should undertake further campaigns against Ali with Basra as the base. Addressing her followers Ayesha said: “A great tragedy has taken place, and the innocent Caliph of the Muslims has been assassinated by the miscreants for ulterior ends. They have captured power, and this is fraught with grave danger to the Muslim Ummah. As true Muslims, it is your bounder duty to rise to a man, and take vengeance for the blood of Othman. To seek this end let us in the first instance march to our brethren in Basra, and make that city our base for further operations. May God help us in our mission.”

Ayesha’s March to Basra

The Proclamation

Having taken the decision to open the campaign by a march on Basra, the confederates issued a proclamation in the following terms: “The Mother of the Faithful, Talha and Zubair, two eminent companions of the Holy Prophet, are leading an army to Basra and whosoever has any spark of faith in him should join the ranks to defend the faith, and fight to seek vengeance for the blood of Othman. Those who do not have the means of the journey will be provided with conveyance, arms and other necessities. It is an obligation on the part of the Muslims to rise to vindicate the truth. ”

The Army

The proclamation had a good effect and many people joined the ranks. A majority of the people of Makkah favored the confederates. A section of the population led by Abdullah b Umar decided to remain neutral and favor no party. A small section favored Ali. Al Fazal, the wife of Abbas, and an uncle of Ali sent a letter to Ali through a special messenger informing him of the plan of Ayesha.

The confederates were able to raise an army three thousand strong from the people of Makkah. Envoys were sent to the tribes who inhabited the desert on the way to Basra to join the main army on the way.

Ayesha’s address to the troops

As the troops assembled at Makkah, Ayesha addressed them. She exhorted them to fight for upholding the truth and the suppression of falsehood. She said that the assassination of Othman, the Caliph of the Muslims was a great challenge for the faithful, and they could not rest content till those guilty of the crime were brought to book and killed.

Talha and Zubair urged the troops to perform deeds of heroic gallantry which were the characteristics of Ghazis. They told them that they had left Madina and its people in a state of quandary. In Madina right had been mixed up with wrong in such a way that the people knew not in which way to turn.

Talha and Zubair made out the point that in the circumstances it was for the people of Makkah to give the lead, and teach a lesson to the traitors who had assassinated the innocent Caliph, Othman.

The confederates justified their cause on the basis of the following verse of the Holy Quran: And if two parties of the believers quarrel, make peace between them, but if one of them acts wrongly towards the other, fight that which acts wrongfully, until it returns to Allah’s command. Then, if it returns, make peace between them with justice and act equitably, for Allah loves those who act equitably. ”

The Day of tears

Ayesha mounting on a camel took command of the army, and it set off on the march to Basra. The prominent women of Makkah traveled with Ayesha for some distance outside Makkah to see her off. These included Hafsa, another wife of the Holy Prophet. Hafsa intended to accompany Ayesha to Basra, but her brother Abdullah b Umar persuaded her to return to Makkah, as in the war between the two parties of the Muslims it was expedient to remain neutral. As the women took leave of Ayesha, they wept bitterly because of the uncertainty of fortune that lay in store for the army of Makkah. Here a dead camel was sighted from which blood flew profusely. This was taken to be a bad omen indicating that as a result of the campaign they were undertaking much blood was likely to flow. According to the Arab chronicles the day of the departure of the army of the confederates for Basra came to be known as the “Day of Tears”, on account of the heavy tears shed at the time of the departure of the troops.

Desertions from the army of the confederates

The army of the confederates had hardly proceeded a few stages from Makkah when the followers of Talha and Zubair began to quarrel among themselves on the point as to who out of Talha and Zubair should become the Caliph in the event of victory. Ayesha tried to end the dispute by declaring that the issue was premature, and that at the proper time it was for the people of Madina to choose the Caliph as they had elected the previous Caliphs. Ayesha appointed a neutral person to lead the prayers. The quarrel, however, did its damage. Some of the people who belonged neither to the party of Talha, nor to that of Zubair came to feel that the war was being fought because of personal motives of Talha and Zubair. Some persons suggested that as they had taken up arms to avenge the blood of Othman it was proper that a son of Othman should be chosen as the Caliph. This suggestion was turned down by the followers of Talha and Zubair on the ground that only some veteran companion could be chosen as the Commander of the Faithful. Because of these quarrels doubts began to assail some of the people who had joined the ranks under the impression that they were going to fight in the cause of Islam. They felt uncertain as to where the truth lay. Both the sides claimed to fight for the truth and it was obvious that both of them could not be in the right at the same time. One of them was bound to be in the wrong, but it could not be said who exactly was in the wrong. On one side was the “Mother of the Faithful”, and on the other side was the “Commander of the Faithful.” In the circumstances the proper course for the faithful was not to support either party until things appeared in their true color. Saeed b Al Aas an ex-Governor of Kufa who had joined the army of the confederates thought it advisable to desert and return to Makkah. Some other persons also returned with him. In response to the battle cry “On to Basra to kill the murderers of Othman”, Saeed said. “Why go so far. The objects of your vengeance, Talha and Zubair are riding on their camels before you; kill them and return home”.

Ayesha at Hau’ab

In the way some desert tribes joined the forces of the confederates. When the cavalcade reached the watering place of Hau’ab, the dogs of the village came out, and barked at Ayesha. She inquired about the name of the place, and when she was told that it was Hau’ab, a shudder ran through her. She recalled a prediction of the Holy Prophet, who while sitting among his wives one day had said that on one of his wives the dogs of Hau’ab would bark. That unnerved Ayesha. She felt much concerned at the revelation that she was the wretched woman about whom the Holy Prophet had made the unsavory prediction. The army camped at the watering place, and Ayesha gave expression to her desire to abandon the expedition and return to Makkah. The following morning Talha and Zubair played a ruse on Ayesha. They produced some witnesses who averred that the place was not Hau’ab. They also spread a false alarm that the forces of Ali were advancing on the road from Makkah, and there was no option with them, but to hurry forward to Basra, and occupy the city before an encounter with the forces of Ali.

Destination-Basra

After forced marches the troops of Ayesha reached Basra and camped outside the city. The die was cast. Basra, heretofore a peaceful city had to face a storm, and become the theatre of an unfortunate civil war which was to lead to blood shed, and destroy unity amongst the Muslims.

Battle for Basra

Delegation from Basra

When the army of Ayesha camped outside the city of Basra, Othman b Hanif, the Alid Governor of Basra, sent a delegation from Basra to wait on Ayesha and ascertain from her the cause of her arrival there with an army. The delegation comprised two men, Imran b Husain, and Abul Aswad. Ayesha received the delegation with due courtesy, and addressed them as follows: “I swear by Almighty God that a woman of my rank and status cannot hide the truth, and no mother can conceal anything from her sons. It is well known to you that rebels from various parts of the country including Basra invaded Madina, violated the sanctity of the Holy City, and caused mischief. They shed the blood of the innocent Caliph. They stand guilty before God and His Apostle. The rebels perpetrated great atrocities on the people of Madina. I have come to Basra to apprise you of the great harm that these people have done to Islam. I have come to seek your help in wreaking vengeance for the blood of Othman. The purpose of our visit is to restore better relations between the believers in faith. We do not seek war. We want peace. Such peace must necessarily rest on the confidence of the people. At present there is a chaos in the affairs of the Muslims, we wish to set things right, and your help in this behalf is solicited. ”

Othman b Hanif prepares for war.

On return from Ayesha, Imran b Husain advised Othman b Hanif that he should not involve himself in war with Ayesha for she had talked in the language of peace, and not in that of war. Abul Aswad the other member of the delegation, who was a staunch supporter of Ali, advised Othman b Hanif that as the Governor of Ali, he should fight against the enemies of Ali. Talha and Zubair had taken the oath of allegiance to Ali, and rebelling against Ali their purpose in coming over to Basra with an army could not be based on peaceful motives.

Othman b Hanif required the people of Basra to assemble in the mosque to consider what action should be taken against the confederates. The congregation was addressed in the first instance by Qais b Al Aqd. He was critical of the arrival of the confederates. He said that if these people had come to Basra to seek protection that was absurd for they themselves came from a place where even birds were assured of safety. He added that if they had come to seek vengeance for the blood of Othman, they should know that the people of Basra had not killed Othman. He exhorted the people of Basra to take up arms, and drive away the confederates from their city. Othman b Hanif addressed the people in the following terms: “O ye people, you have sworn allegiance to Ali in the name of God, and his hand is over your hands. Whosoever recants his allegiance is guilty before men and God. I swear by God that had there been a worthier candidate than Ali for the Caliphate, he would not have accepted the burden of the office. Had the people sworn allegiance to any one else except Ali, he would have also sworn allegiance to him. In that case Ali would have obeyed the Caliph without any reservation. Remember that Ali had no ill will against any of the companions of the Holy Prophet. Both Talha and Zubair took the oath of fealty to Ali, but their aim in taking such oath was not to obey God. Instead of seeking recompense from God they seek recompense from men. Now both of them assert that they had taken the oath under compulsion, when the sword was placed on their necks. We have to see what is the opinion of the people. Where there is majority, there lies the truth of guidance. It is an open secret that the majority have elected Ali as the Caliph, and there can be no doubt that the truth is on the side of Ali. It is therefore incumbent on you to fight against those who have rebelled against the authority of the Caliph, and thereby espoused the cause of falsehood. ”

Hakim b Jabala, the Deputy Governor took a more violent stand. He exhorted the people of Basra to take up arms against the people who had rebelled against the authority of the Caliph. He added that should all the people forsake him, he would fight against the rebels single handed until he met his martyrdom fighting in the cause of the truth.

Aswad b Harith al Saadi contradicted the stand of those who had advocated war. He said that Islam was the religion of peace and all disputes between the Muslims should be resolved through peaceful means. He held out that the confederates had not come to Basra to wage war. They had come to seek the aid of the citizens of Basra in their campaign against the murderers of Othman, and in that behalf it behooved the citizens of Basra to treat them as honored guests, particularly when they were led by the Mother of the Faithful. Some other speeches were made in favor of Ayesha. That led to an uproar among the people assembled in the mosque. Some people were loud in their support for Ali, and some were loud in their support for Ayesha. The meeting in the mosque ended in a state of confusion. Those who favored Ayesha joined the camp of Ayesha. Those who favored Ali responded to the call of Othman b Hanif, and took up arms to fight against the confederates.

The Battle

Some attempts were made to negotiate peace, but such attempts failed and the armies on both the sides took themselves to the battle field. Before the battle began, the representatives of each side in the usual Arab way declaimed the righteousness of their cause. After Talha and Zubair had spoken, Ayesha addressed the people of Basra. She said that she had no intention of fighting against the people of Basra, and shedding unnecessary blood. She added that her object was to seek vengeance for the blood of the innocent Othman. He was the Caliph of the entire Muslim world including Basra and as such it was an obligation on their part to help in seeking such vengeance and bringing the murderers of Othman to task. She observed that the war was no solution of the matter and her very presence there was a positive proof to the effect that she wanted a peaceful resolution of the crisis that had overtaken the Muslims just as any mother would like any dispute between her sons to be settled peacefully and amicably. Her speech was impressive and effective. It started a good deal of argument and disagreement among the ranks of the army of Basra, and some of the persons withdrew.

In spite of some defections from the ranks of the army of Basra there was no weakening of their will to give a fight to the confederates. Jariya b Qadama, a distinguished citizen of Basra stepped forward from the ranks, and addressing Ayesha said that though the assassination of Othman was painful to the people of Basra, her discarding of the veil, and leading an army was more painful to them. He wanted her to return to Makkah or Madina, and not to meddle in politics which did not behoove her as the Mother of the Faithful. Another citizen of Basra taunted Talha and Zubair for leaving their wives and mothers at their homes and dragging the Mother of the Faithful to the battle field. Talha and Zubair were also criticized for taking the oath of allegiance to Ali and then breaking it. Another Basrite addressed Ayesha in the following terms: “Mother if you have come here of your own free will, go back to your house. If you have been brought here by force, we can conduct you to your house with honor and safety.”

By this time excitement among the warriors on both the sides reached a high pitch, and the war began with an attack on the forces of the confederates led by Hakim b Jabala the deputy of Othman b Hanif. Hakim under a mistaken notion of his loyalty to Ali, hurled abuses on Ayesha. When his own men objected to such conduct, he shot dead those who objected. Ayesha instructed her men to remain on the defensive hoping that the fury of the attack of the Basrites would soon be over and it would be possible to stop the war. When Hakim and his men penetrated deep into the ranks of the confederates, she ordered a counter charge, the battle continued till nightfall. There was considerable loss of lives on both the sides, but the loss in the ranks of the forces of Basra was much heavier.

After night fall when the forces of Othman b Hanif had retired those people of Basra who had joined the ranks of the confederates advised that at midnight the confederates should occupy that part of Basra which was largely populated by those who were opposed to the Alids. The operation was successfully carried into effect and the following day, the fight had to take place in the city of Basra itself. That put the forces of Othman b Hanif to disadvantage and many persons of these forces were killed. By the end of the day, Othman b Hanif was faced with defeat and he sued for peace.

The Truce

Negotiations for peace led to an agreement for truce. It was decided that the parties in occupation of the two parts of Basra should continue to hold their parts. As emissary was to be sent from Basra to Madina to ascertain whether Talha and Zubair had taken the oath of allegiance to Ali voluntarily or under compulsion. If the inquiry revealed that the oath had been taken voluntarily the confederates would withdraw from Basra. If the enquiry revealed that the oath had been taken under compulsion the entire city of Basra would be handed over to the confederates. Till then the parties were to maintain cease fire.

Ayesha’s Occupation of Basra

Emissary to Madina

In pursuance of the truce agreement between Othman b Hanif and the confederates, Kaab b Sur the
Qazi of Basra was commissioned to go to Madina to ascertain whether Talha and Zubair had taken the
oath of allegiance to Ali voluntarily, or under some compulsion. Kaab b Sur was originally a Christian. He
was attracted by Islam, and became a Muslim. He was a man of great learning and piety and was very
popular among the people of Basra. On arrival at the mosque, Madina he proceeded to the Prophet’s
mosque and addressing the congregation said that he had come from Basra to ascertain whether Talha
and Zubair had taken the oath of allegiance to Ali voluntarily or under compulsion. The men in the
mosque maintained silence, but Usama b Zaid stood up to say that Talha and Zubair had taken the oath
of allegiance under compulsion. At this Sahl b Hanif, the brother of Othman b Hanif the Governor of
Basra rushed with his men to beat Usama. Usama’s father Zaid was an adopted son of the Holy Prophet
and the Holy Prophet loved Usama as a grandson. During the time of Abu Bakr, Usama had led a
campaign to Syria. Some Companions came to the rescue of Usama. And they too declared that Talha
and Zubair had taken the oath of allegiance under compulsion. Kaab b Sur came to the conclusion that
Talha and Zubair had in fact taken the oath of allegiance under compulsion.

War in Basra

On return to Basra, Kaab submitted his report that Talha and Zubair had taken the oath of allegiance to
Ali under compulsion. According to the truce agreement, Othman b Hanif had to surrender the complete
control of the city of Basra to the confederates. By this time Othman b Hanif had received instructions
from Ali that he was coming to Basra with a large force and that he should hold the city till his arrival.
Othman b Hanif accordingly refused to vacate the city on the ground that the report of Kaab was not
correct. On the following Friday when the people of Basra had assembled in the main mosque, Talha
and Zubair addressed them apprising them of the terms of the truce, the report of Kaab b Sur, and the
breach of faith on the part of Othman b Hanif. The people assembled in the mosque came to be divided
into two groups. One group supported Othman b Hanif while the other group supported Talha and
Zubair. Hot words were exchanged between the two groups, and that led to an armed conflict. Swords
were freely used by both sides. The conflict lasted for several hours as a result of which many persons
were killed and the mosque was dyed with the blood of the Muslims. To the conflict, the party of Othman
b Hanif suffered heavy loss of life.

At night fall, the pro-Ayesha group attacked the house of Othman b Hanif. It was a dark and stormy
night. The guards on duty were overpowered. The mob then broke into the house and Othman b Hanif
was taken captive. The mob wanted to frill him, but under the orders of Ayesha he was imprisoned and
lodged in jail. His beard was plucked and he was tortured by the mob.

Hakim b Jabala

The following day, the pro-Ali group took the field under the command of Hakim b Jabala. Ayesha made a
proclamation to the effect that her quarrel was with the murderers of Othman only, and as such those
who were not involved in the murder of Othman should withdraw from fighting. It was also declared
that those who fought would be deemed to be involved in the murder of Othman. Kaab b Sur tried to
bring about peace between the two sides, but all efforts to bring about reconciliation between the
contending parties failed. The battle that followed proved to be a bloody one. The pro-Ali group was
outnumbered, but the men of the group fought desperately. Hakim b Jabala fought like a hero. He
raised slogans in favor of Ali, and heaped abuses on Ayesha, Talha, and Zubair. A warrior of the army of
the confederates struck Hakim b Jabala and severed one of his legs. In spite of this disability he
continued fighting and sang: “I do not mind if my leg has been severed. My hands are still there. It’s no
matter of shame for me to die. Shame lies in flying from the battle-field. Life lies in keeping honor alive. I
have lived with honor and I will die with honor.”

Hakim b Jabala died on the battle-field. With his death, his men lost heart and laid down arms. Many of
them involved in the murder of Othman had fallen in the battle. Those who survived were executed.
There were still some murderers of Othman who had not taken part in the battle. The tribes were asked
to hand over such men. They were brought to Basra and executed. In this way all the people from Basra
who were involved in the assassination of Othman were killed. Only one man escaped from such
massacre. He was Harqus b Zubair. He belonged to the Banu Saad tribe. The tribe refused to hand over
Harqus. The tribe which was heretofore pro-confederates changed their loyalties and offered allegiance
to Ali. The tribe of Abul Qais whose many persons had been executed alienated from the confederates
and transferred its loyalty to Ali. Over six hundred persons belonging to Basra or the neighboring tribes
wore executed or killed as the Qasas” for the blood of Othman.

Administration of Basra

The confederates now became the master of the entire city of Basra. The pro-Ali group evacuated the
city, and those who remained in the city recognized the authority of the confederates. Supreme
authority vested in Ayesha and Talha and Zubair acted as her Ministers. The Baitul-Mal was seized, and
the men of the pro-confederate group who had suffered loss of life or property were duly compensated.
Ayesha wrote a letter to Muawiyah in Syria informing him how the confederates had taken vengeance
for the blood of Othman. He was advised to undertake campaigns on similar lines to take vengeance for
the blood of Othman.

Ali’s March to Rabda

Ali’s plan of action

Ali’s original plan was to undertake an expedition against Syria. The implementation of the plan had to be deferred because the people of Madina had not favorably responded to his call for arms. The crisis deepened when Talha and Zubair escaped from Madina, and at Makkah, Ayesha raised the cry for the vengeance of the blood of Othman. Ali had thought that Ayesha’s call would be a mere storm in the tea-cup and she would not or could not go to the extent of precipitating war. When All came to know that Ayesha had assembled a force, and was planning a march to Basra, he felt that no further time could be lost and immediate action was called for to frustrate the efforts of Ayesha in gaining further strength. It was with some difficulty that Ali was able to raise a small force at Madina. By and large the people of Madina shut themselves in their houses, and remained indifferent to the call of Ali. The force that Ali was able to muster comprised mostly of the Sabites who had participated in the revolt against Othman. Some people of Madina who were personally devoted to Ali, however joined the ranks. Abu Qatada a leader of the Ansars, and a veteran warrior waited on Ali and offered his services. Umm Salma, a wife of the Holy Prophet came to see Ali and said that if other women were to accompany him she would be glad to accompany. She had a son Umar by a former husband and he joined the army of Ali. Ali appointed Tamam b Abbas as the Governor of Madina. He sent an emissary to Makkah to recruit whatever volunteers he could from the people of Makkah. The strength of the force that Ali was able to muster in Madina did not exceed nine hundred. At the head of this force, Ali marched out of Madina. When Ali was about to depart, Abdullah b Salam, a veteran companion of the Holy Prophet, held up the reins of the horse of Ali and said: “O Commander of the faithful, do not go out of Madina. If you once leave Madina you will not be able to return to Madina again. Madina would thereafter cease to be the capital of the Muslim world.”

The Sabite followers of Ali wanted to deal roughly with the old man, but Ali warned them not to touch the person of Abdullah b Salam for he was an eminent companion of the Holy Prophet. Ali assured Abdullah b Salam that he would soon return to Madina. That was, however, not to be. Ali never came back to Madina, and Madina ceased to be the capital of the Muslim commonwealth.

Ali at Rabda

After some forced marches, Ali reached Rabda. It was a junction from where one road led to Madina, one to Makkah, one to Kufa, and another to Basra. Here he came to know that the army of Ayesha had already reached Basra, and he had been late in intercepting the army of Ayesha half-way. Ali now felt that a battle would have to be fought at Basra. The army at the disposal of Ali was inadequate for the purpose. Imam Hasan the son of Ali advised his father not to play with fire. He said: “I fear that like Othman you will be assassinated. I have been advising you not to play with fire, but you have not listened to me.” Ali wanted him to indicate what was his advice to which he had not listened. Thereupon Imam Hasan said: “When the house of Othman was besieged by the rebels I had advised you to go out of Madina, for the assassination of Othman while you were present in Madina was not in your interest. When Othman had been assassinated I had advised you not to accept the caliphate unless deputations came to you from various parts of the country to request you to accept the caliphate. When Talha and Zubair defected, I advised you to shut yourself in your house, and leave it to the people to decide the question of the vengeance for the blood of Othman themselves. I had advised you to keep aloof from the controversy, but you did not accept my advice.” Ali said he did not leave Madina when the house of Othman was besieged for in that ease the rebels would have chased, and he would have met the same fate as had befallen to Othman. The caliphate was offered to me by the people of Madina. They alone were competent to do so, and other towns had to conform to the decision taken by the people of Madina. He explained that when he had accepted the office of the Caliph he could not shut himself in his house and evade the responsibilities of the office.

Banu Tai

From Rabda, Ali sent envoys to the neighboring tribes to seek volunteers. The Banu Tai were the first to rally to the support of Ali. During the time of the Holy Prophet, Ali had played an important role in espousing their cause, and converting them to Islam. The tribe had particular attachment for Ali, and they enthusiastically responded to Ali’s call for volunteers. Saeed b Ubaid, the chief of the Banu Tai waited on Ali and said: “O Commander of the Faithful, there are many persons who do not speak openly what is in their heart, but such is not the case with me. I have always held you in the greatest esteem. I have looked upon you as the leader both openly and inwardly, and have resolved to support you and fight against your enemies whosoever they be. I consider you to be a person of the highest merit, more worthy than any one else of this or any other age to be called a superman.”

With these words the chief swore allegiance to Ali, and thereafter the other men of the tribe also swore their allegiance. The men of the Banu Asad allied with Banu Tai also swore allegiance to Ali. Most of the other tribes in the neighborhood chose to remain neutral and not to side with any party at that stage.

Letters to Othman b Hanif, Governor of Basra

From the camp at Rabda, Ali addressed a letter to his Governor of Basra to the following effect:”

Calling God to witness I say that Talha and Zubair swore allegiance to me and then broke it. The devil has instigated them to follow a path which is not acceptable to God. These people are not afraid of God’s wrath. When they come to you persuade them to stick to the path of fidelity for which they swore at Madina. If they submit behave kindly towards them. Should they persist in their treachery fight them until God decides between us.”

Before this letter reached him, Othman b Hanif had made a truce with Ayesha, and deputed an emissary to Madina to inquire whether Talha and Zubair had taken the oath of allegiance to Ali voluntarily or under some duress. When Ali came to know of this development, he addressed another letter to Othman b Hanif in the following terms: “Talha and Zubair swore allegiance to me under no compulsion. Even if they did so under fear or compulsion, such a constraint was used on them for preserving solidarity of Islam and not for creating discard among the believers. If they recant from what they have sworn, and aim at forcing my abdication they are without any cause. If they have any other grievance besides their aspiration to the Caliphate I will be prepared to consider it.” It appears that before the second letter could reach Othman b Hanif, Basra had already been occupied by the forces of the confederates and the Governor of Ali had been overthrown.

Need for reinforcements

In spite of the accession of the tribes of Banu Tai and Banu Asad, the forces at the disposal of Ali were still too inadequate for any big show down. The crisis had deepened after the occupation of Basra by Ayesha and the confederates. To dislodge the rebels from Basra, a large army was needed, and such large force could come from Kufa alone. Ali accordingly decided to win over Kufa to his cause before proceeding to Basra.

Ali’s Missions to Kufa

Abu Musa Ashari

Before Ali could proceed to Basra, he had to tackle the problem of Kufa. The people of Kufa had played a leading role in the revolt against Othman. After the assassination of Othman, they offered the caliphate to Zubair, but on his refusal, they supported the caliphate of Ali. When Ali was elected as the Caliph, the people of Kufa took the oath of allegiance to him. Abu Musa Ashari was the Governor of Kufa appointed by Othman. When Ali deposed the Governors of the previous regime, and sent his nominee to assume the charge of the governorship of Kufa in place of Abu Musa Ashari, the people of Kufa refused to accept the new Governor, and wanted Abu Musa to continue in his office. Ali accepted the demand of the people of Kufa and allowed Abu Musa Ashari to continue as the Governor. Abu Musa Ashari took the oath of allegiance to Ali. The situation in Kufa was intriguing. Though the Kufans had taken the oath of allegiance to Ali, they believed themselves to be strong enough to act independently. In this context although Abu Musa owed his appointment to Ali, he did not deem it necessary to follow the orders of Ali in all respects.

Muhammad b Jafar and Muhammad b Abn Bakr’s mission to Kufa

When Muawiyah had raised the standard of revolt in the west in Syria, and Ayesha had led her forces to Basra in the east, Ali could afford to undertake a punitive expedition against Kufa to cut the Governor to proper size. Ali accordingly decided to win over the people of Kufa and their Governor through conciliatory means. From Rabda, Ali sent a mission to Kufa comprising Muhammad b Jafar and Muhammad b Abu Bakr. Both of them were the sons of Asma. Asma was originally the wife of Jafar an elder brother of Ali. After the death of Jafar, Asma married Abu Bakr. After the death of Abu Bakr she married Ali. The two Muhammads were thus the step-sons of Ali. About their mission to Kufa, Ali instructed his envoys as follows: “Should the people of Kufa respond to my call, tell them how I prefer them to all other people of the commonwealth. Give them the tidings that I intend to make Kufa the capital of the empire. Treat the Kufans with kindness, and ask them to come and arbitrate between us and those who have separated from us. Point out to them that I am putting up trust in them at this critical juncture. Let them come forward to help the religion of God and adopt such measures as may help to reunite the divided Muslims. ”

The envoys of Ali were received by Abu Musa Ashari coldly. He behaved as if he was not an appointee of Ali, but was the ruler of an independent country. He wanted the envoys of Ali to carry the following message to their master: “The assumption of the caliphate has placed Ali in an awkward position. Therefore, we the people of Kufa have decided not to engage ourselves in the struggle. Let it be understood that we shall not take sides, until you have rid yourselves of the murderers of Othman,”

The mission of Ibn Abbas

The stand taken by Abu Musa Ashari was preposterous. As the Governor owing allegiance to Ali, he was under an obligation to carry out the policies of Ali. He could not sit in judgment over the command of Ali. Ali, however, took a lenient view of the matter and on the failure of the first mission he sent another mission to Kufa headed by Abdullah b Abbas, an eminent companion and a cousin of Ali as well as the Holy Prophet. This mission was also received could by Abu Musa Ashari. The mission did not succeed in making Abu Musa see reason or realize his obligation to the Caliph. He asked the delegation to carry the following message from him to Ali: “The Companions of Muhammad (peace be upon him) know more of God and His Apostle than those who have not had the opportunity of meeting him. Certainly the Companions have a right over us. My humble advice to all of you is that you should not assume the air of having God’s authority with you, and should not make war on God. Let your followers who have come from Madina go back to their homes till they all agree on a unanimous decision, and they know who is to be relied upon. The present rebellion can best be epitomized in the famous saying of the Holy Prophet who predicted of the approaching time when he said, “He that sleeps is better than he who sits. He who sits is better than he who stands. He who stands is better than he who walks. He who walks is better than he who rides’. Therefore, I will give you this advice: sheathe your swords, put off your lances; cut your bow strings; and take the injured into your houses till a solution is found to the present crisis, and disturbances cease.”

Mission of Imam Hasan

The failure of two successive missions to Kufa set Ali thinking. It transpired that the missions sent heretofore had merely met Abu Musa Ashari, and he had not allowed the members of the mission see the people. He had appropriated to himself the right to speak on behalf of the people of Kufa. Ali was advised that if Kufa was to be won, a bolder line of action should be followed. After a good deal of discussion and deliberation, it was decided that an effort should be made to contact the people of Kufa direct. Among the troops of Ali, there were some persons who belonged to Kufa or commanded influence with the people of Kufa. They were sent to Kufa to contact their friends and relatives and win them over to the side of Ali. This time the mission to Kufa was led by Imam Hasan. It was felt that as long as Abu Musa Ashari was the Governor of Kufa the chances of the success of the mission were slender. Ali accordingly authorized Imam Hasan that if the circumstances in Kafa were favorable, he could depose Abu Musa Ashari and appoint a new Governor.

The agents of Ali succeeded in winning over many people to the side of Ali. These agents brought home the point that as most of the people of Kufa had joined in the revolt against Othman, the cry for the vengeance of the blood of Othman was really aimed at the massacre of the people of Kufa. It was argued that in the circumstances it was in the interests of the people of Kufa that they should side with Ali and fight against those who raise the cry for the vengeance of the blood of Othman merely as a pretext for capturing power. The argument appealed to the people, and they decided to opt for Ali.

Imam Hasan arrived at Kufa on a Friday at the time of noon day prayers, and he proceed straight away to the main mosque. The agents of Ali had brought the supporters of Ali to the mosque in large numbers. As Imam Hasan entered the mosque, he was given a standing ovation by the people. Abu Musa Ashari who was present in the mosque welcomed Imam Hasan to Kufa. Imam Hasan took the stage, and after praising God and the Holy Prophet conveyed the message of goodwill of Ali for the people of Kufa. He exhorted the people to strengthen the hands of Ali in his fight against those who wanted to sow discord among the Muslims. Some of the people raised shouts in favor of Ayesha. To these people, Imam Hasan posed the question: “Did God not enjoin upon Ayesha the duty of living quietly in her house, and leaving it to the men to fight in the battle-field until the sedition was quelled? What an irony of fate that she should command us to do her part, and has taken upon herself to do our part.”

At this stage, Zaid b Sehwan a prominent citizen of Kufa rose up to say that he had received a letter from Ayesha wherein she had advised the people of Kufa to remain in their houses and not to take part in any fight. At this Imam Hasan put the following question to the assembly: “Is it not strange that she should advise the citizens of Kufa to abstain from fighting while she is herself leading a fight against the citizens of Basra.” Abu Musa Ashari took the stage, and said that in this crisis when two parties of the Muslims were at logger heads, the best course for the people of Kufa was to remain neutral. Thereafter a long dialogue followed between Imam Hasan and Abu Musa Ashari. Imam Hasan asked Abu Musa Ashari the question: “Did Talha and Zubair not take oath of allegiance to Ali?” Abu Musa said that they had taken the oath. Then Imam Hasan asked the question, “What wrong had Ali done to justify Talha and Zubair revolt against him?” Abu Musa said that he was not aware of any reason which could justify the revolt of Talha and Zubair?” Imam Hasan next asked “If some one revolts against established authority, will such authority not be authorized to take action against those who have revolted?” Abu Musa answered the question in the affirmative. “Then on what ground you do not justify the action that Ali, the duly elected Caliph, has taken against those who have rebelled against his authority?” Abu Musa said that his ground was that it would lead to bloodshed among the Muslims. “But why should the Muslims help those who have rebelled against authority, when God has enjoined the faithful to obey those in authority?” asked Imam Hasan, and to this question Abu Musa had no reply. Imam Hasan next inquired of Abu Musa whether he had taken the oath of allegiance to Ali, and Abu Musa replied to this question in the affirmative. “You owe your office of the Governor to Ali” was the next question, and to this question again Abu Musa answered “Yes”. “Are you not under an obligation to obey the command of the Caliph, and not to do any act which helps his enemies directly or indirectly,” Imam Hasan asked, and this question was also answered in the affirmative. Imam Hasan thereafter posed the following question: “Your Caliph asks you to help him in his fight against his enemies. His enemies have asked the people of Kufa to remain confined to their houses and not to participate in the war. You also ask the people of Kufa to abstain from war. This means that by your acts you are helping the enemies of the Caliph although you have taken the oath of allegiance to him and owe your appointment to him, This is sedition.” To this Abu Musa had no answer.

At this the supporters of Ali raised the cry, “Down with the Governor. He is a traitor”. Some voices were raised in support of Abu Musa, and there was exchange of blows and hot words between the two sides. The fight between the parties spread outside the mosque. A party led by Ashtar took possession of the Governor’s House and captured the Baitul Mall, that was the end of the governorship of Abu Musa Ashari. He escaped to Makkah and under the authority delegated to him by Ali, Imam Hasan appointed Qarda b Kaab as the new Governor of Kufa.

Pro-Ali Government in Kufa

With the departure of Abu Musa Ashari from Kufa, a pro-Ali government was set up in Kufa. The new Government proclaimed their full support to Ali. The new Governor addressed the people of Kufa in the mosque, and exhorted them to enroll themselves in the ranks of Ali and strengthen his hands to enable him fight for the truth. Imam Hasan also addressed the people. He said: “Ali has sent me to you with his message of goodwill for you. Of all the people in the commonwealth he has the greatest regard for you. He intends to make Kufa the capital of the Muslim Empire. This is a great honor, but Kufa deserves it. You are the people who can distinguish truth from falsehood. The way in which you have risen in the cause of Ali is a positive proof of your love for the truth. Your Caliph needs your assistance. It is both in your interest and duty incumbent on you to help him. Can you give any reason for refusing his help? Is there any one who can reasonably accuse him of having shown any covetous inclinations, or withholding or perverting justice? Can any one amongst you say that he thrust himself into the Caliphate or that he proved himself unworthy of this dignity in any way? Beware of those rebels who pretend to have taken up arms to avenge the murder of Othman. O ye people of Kufa, the avenging of the murder of Othman is merely a pretext to dethrone the Caliph Ali. Ali was elected as the Caliph unanimously by the people of Madina. Talha and Zubair who now lead the rebels took the oath of allegiance to him. Indeed they were the first to support him. Now they are the first to forswear him. Therefore O ye the people of Kufa, it is incumbent on you to come and do what is good and forbid what is evil. Islam expects you to do your duty, and your duty lies in supporting your Caliph.”

The magnetic personality of Imam Hasan, and his inspiring address won the hearts of the people of Kufa, and they declared that they would stand by their Caliph through thick and thin. The people began to flock to the standard of Imam Hasan in large numbers, and enrolled themselves as volunteers. Within a week, a force ten thousand strong was raised from Kufa to support Ali.

Ali’s March to Basra

Welcome to the men from Kufa

When Ali came to know that his mission in Kufa had succeeded, and a force of ten thousand men from Kufa was coming to swell his ranks, he felt very happy. He proceeded one stage from ar-Rabd to welcome the men from Kufa. When he met the men from Kufa, he welcomed them enthusiastically. Addressing them he said: “Brave warriors of Kufa! You were always distinguished for your prowess and bravery. It was you who overran Persia. Your highly developed sense of love for religion and justice has always led you to help the weaker against the stronger and the right against the wrong. Unfortunately some of our brethren have chosen to follow the wrong way and sown discord among the community. I have sought your help in restoring unity among the Muslims. Those who have separated from us have no cause. They are misguided and I want them to see the light of reason. I have no intention of leading you to any sanguinary battle. You are to be the volunteers of peace, and we have to proceed to Basra on a mission of peace. I am sure your presence in such a large number will tilt the scale in favor of the right. The services of the people in the cause of peace would not be forgotten, and after the problem of Basra has been tackled, I will shift the capital from Madina to Kufa. That would greatly add to the importance of Kufa, and to the prosperity of its people.” In reply to the address of Ali, some leaders of the people of Kufa paid tribute to the greatness of Ali. They said that in view of his relationship with the Holy Prophet, his learning, his piety, and his meritorious record of service in the cause of Islam, he was the most suitable person among the Muslims to be their Caliph. They accordingly offered him their support without any reservation. They assured him that they would stand by him in thick and thin, and in peace and war.

The army of Ali

The ten thousand strong army from Kufa added materially to the strength of Ali. The force from Kufa included some veteran warriors who had distinguished themselves in the wars against Persia during the caliphate of Abu Bakr and Umar.

When the Bedouin tribes who had heretofore followed the policy of sitting on the fence saw that the people of Kufa had joined Ali in large numbers, they also decided to cast in their lot with Ali, and offered to serve in the ranks under him. When Ali had left Madina he had hardly nine hundred men at his disposal. The strength of the army with him had now risen to twenty thousand. This considerably strengthened his position, and he could confidently undertake the campaign to Basra in the raising of the army, there was, however, one point which could be a cause of embarrassment. Most of the Bedouins and the people of Kufa who had volunteered to join him were the men who had taken part in the rebellion against Othman. Indeed they were the people who were the most ardent supporters of Ali. At this juncture when Ali stood in great need of allies he could not afford to alienate the men who had volunteered to support his cause. As Ali pondered over this aspect of the matter he felt that the people who had rebelled against him after taking the oath of allegiance to him were responsible for this awkward state of affairs. If such men had cooperated with him after consolidating his rule he could have taken some punitive action against the persons who had participated in the rebellion against Othman. If the rebels were sincere in their demand for the vengeance of the blood of Othman, it was incumbent on them to have strengthened his hands. By rebelling against him they had frustrated the object which they intended to achieve. The truth of the matter was that the cry of vengeance for the blood of Othman was a mere pretext, their real purpose was to capture power. Ali was never keen to be elected as the Caliph, but now that he had been elected as the Caliph, he had to see that the sacred Office of the Caliph should not become a plaything for adventurers.

Another point that worried Ali was that as the caliph it was incumbent on him that he should avoid any blood-shedding among the Muslims. He accordingly resolved that though he would take a large army to Basra, he would avoid war, end the sheer strength of his army would act as a brake against any rash action on the part of his opponents. After weighing such pros and cons of the case, Ali broke the camp at ar-Rabda, and took the road to Basra at the head of a large army twenty thousand strong.

Camp at Dhulkan

When Ali and his troops halted at Dhulkan midway between ar-Rabda and Basra, they were joined by Othman b Hanif, the Alid Governor of Basra. The Governor had been taken captive by the rebels and lodged in the prison. Later he was released under the orders of Ayesha. Othman b Hanif was in a sorry state when he confronted Ali, half dead from the treatment that he had received at the hands of the rebels. He said, O Commander of the Faithful, you sent me to Basra with a beard, but now I return to you disgraced having none. Ali consoled him and said that his services in the cause of Islam would be recognized, and he would be compensated for the privations that he had suffered. Ali humorously remarked that he was old when he had sent him to Basra, but he had returned to him looking younger. Othman b Hanif joined the retinue, and accompanied Ali to Basra.

On the way to Basra

On the way to Basra at one of the halts, a “Kahin” met Ali. The “Kahin” said that he saw blood flowing profusely on all sides. Ali cursed him for his evil pronogstigation.

The tribes of Rabiah and Abdul Qais had originally joined the troops of Ayesha but later they withdrew their support from her and marched out of Basra to join the forces of Ali. Ali welcomed them and praised them for their ability to discern the truth.

As the troops of Ali moved forward, news were received that Basra had been occupied by the confederates, and that all the people of Basra who were suspected of having participated in the murder of Othman had been executed. Thereupon Ali is reported to have said: “Now that they have taken the Qasas, and killed the people whom they considered guilty of the murder of Othman, what more do they want in Basra? O God, rid me of Talha and Zubair.”

Camp at Basra

On reaching Basra, the troops of Ali camped outside the city. It was a large army, and the camp was spread over several miles. The pro-Alid people of Basra who had evacuated the city on its cooperation by the confederates also joined the camp. Some other tribes in the neighborhood of Basra also joined the camp. Ali instructed his men to remain at peace. According to his instructions war was not to be resorted to, until all possibilities of peace had been exhausted.

Peace Parleys

Ali’s quest for peace

Although Ali had led an army to Basra, he was averse to any armed conflict between the Muslims. He felt that those who had rebelled against his authority labored under some misunderstanding. It was his endeavor that such misunderstanding should be removed and unity should be restored among the Muslims. When his army Generals asked his instructions about beginning the war operations, he commanded that war was not to be resorted to until all possibilities of an equitable settlement through peaceful means had been exhausted. He ordered that even on the failure of the peace parleys, the first shot was not to be fired from his side. “Let the other side take the initiative in the war, if they are not inclined to listen to the voice of reason” he said.

Ali’s mission to Ayesha

In his quest for peace, Ali sent a peace mission to Ayesha. The peace mission was headed by Qa’aqa, a prominent leader from Kufa. He was a renowned warrior, and was well known for his heroic exploits in the wars against the Persians during the caliphates of Abu Bakr and Umar. The mission was instructed by Ali not to adopt a threatening or a patronizing attitude. No attempt was to be made to over awe the other side with the superior strength of the force at the disposal of the Caliphate. Ali desired that the negotiations between the parties should be a heart to heart dialogue, and every possible effort should be made to remove the misunderstandings between the parties. Ali instructed the members of the mission that due respect should be shown to Ayesha, the Mother of the Faithful. He sent a message of goodwill and great regards to Ayesha saying that in spite of the unfortunate misunderstandings that had cropped up between them he looked to her as a mother, and expected a motherly treatment from her.

The issues

The mission was received by Ayesha, Talha and Zubair with due courtesy. The message of Ali was duly delivered, and Ayesha said that she would be glad if the misunderstandings were removed and unity among the Muslims was restored. Qa’aqa inquired of Ayesha as to what were the objects before her which had prompted her to take to the field. She said that the objects before her were to seek vengeance for the blood of Othman, and to promote the cause of Islam.

Vengeance for the blood of Othman

With regard to the issue about the vengeance for the blood of Othman, Qa’aqa posed the question, “Mother, tell me, keeping God in view, whether you accuse Ali for the murder of Othman as a criminal or as an accomplice?” Ayesha said that she did not accuse Ali for involvement in the assassination of Othman; her grievance was that as Caliph, Ali had not taken any action to apprehend the murderers of Othman. Qa’aqa then asked whether such murder was the act of one man, or was it the act of a mob. Ayesha said that obviously it was the act of a mob. Qa’aqa next asked the question, “Have things settled down after the murder of Othman”. Ayesha said that the things were still very much in a state of disarray. Qa’aqa thereupon said, “If things are still unsettled, how could Ali take action against the people who were still in control of the situation, and from whom another coup could be expected?” To this question, Ayesha, Talha or Zubair had no satisfactory answer.

Qa’aqa then posed another question, “Do you know that by rebelling against the authority of Ali you have done great harm to the cause for the vengeance of the blood of Othman?” “How was that?” asked Ayesha. Qa’aqa said, “By rebelling against the authority of Ali, you have forced Ali to deal with you instead of dealing with the murderers of Othman. In this crisis, Ali had naturally to seek allies, and when you have forsaken Ali those who had rebelled against Othman have come to the aid of Ali in large numbers, because they feel that the troubles of Ali are because of them. Things have thus moved in a vicious circle, and by rebelling against Ali you have thrown him in the lap of the persons from whom you seek vengeance. By your action you have strengthened the murderers of Othman, and weakened the Muslims.” That set Ayesha thinking, and she could not know how the argument advanced by Qa’aqa could be met.

Promoting the cause of Islam

Qa’aqa then took up the question of promoting the cause of Islam. He pointed out that when the Muslims were united under Abu Bakr and Umar they made large conquests both in the east and the west. In the early years of the caliphate of Othman the process of conquests continued. When the Muslims rebelled against the authority of Othman, and came to be divided among themselves the process of conquest came to a grinding halt. He observed that the enemies of Islam were on the borders of the Muslim State ready to take advantage of any division in the ranks of the Muslims. Qa’aqa posed the question, “How can you promote the cause of Islam, if you seek to divide the Muslims for one cause or the other?” Addressing the confederates he asked, “Did you promote the cause of Islam when you killed six hundred men of Basra, and the mosque was dyed with blood? Did you thereby avenge the murder of Othman when such persons were not even remotely connected with the murder of Othman? If you killed them because rightly or wrongly you suspected them of being involved in the assassination of Othman, then is your demand for the ‘Qasas’ for the blood of Othman not yet satisfied?” Then he respectfully addressed Ayesha saying: “O Mother of the Faithful! Did God not enjoin you to sit quietly in your home? Did the Holy Prophet warn you that the dogs of Hu’ab would bark on you? Then how did you promote the cause of Islam by violating these instructions?” Addressing Talha and Zubair he said “Did you not take the oath of allegiance to Ali? If you took the oath of allegiance to Ali under some compulsion, tell us the man for whom you would have voted if you were free. Is any man more qualified, and more worthy to be the Caliph of the Muslims than Ali? Verily Ali is the best man to be the Caliph of the Muslims, and by putting difficulties in his way you do not promote the cause of Islam, you do great harm to Islam.”

Reaction of Ayesha

The arguments advanced by Qa’aqa had their way. They were most effective and impressive Ayesha asked Qa’aqa, “Then, what do you suggest ?” He said, “I suggest that instead of fighting make peace. Strengthen the hands of Ali, and when law and order is fully established the Muslims acting in concert should determine how the vengeance for the blood of Othman could be taken. ” Thereupon Ayesha said, “If that be the view of Ali as well, we agree to make peace on honorable terms. ” Qa’aqa respectfully took leave of Ayesha, and returned to Ali to report the success of his mission.

The Battle of the Camel

Negotiations for peace

When Ali came to know of the success of the Mission of his emissary Qa’aqa to Ayesha, Talha and Zubair, he felt very happy. The two armies encamped in the “Wadi-us-Saba” (Valley of the Lion) near the village of Khuraiba outside Basra, facing each other. It was decided that the following day when the two armies assembled in the valley, the terms of peace would be negotiated, and the proclamation of peace would be issued.

The following day as the two forces assembled, Ali posted a man in the center carrying a copy of the Holy Quran on his head. This was indicative of the desire on the part of Ali to decide the dispute peacefully in the light of the teachings of the Holy Quran.

Ali rode to the center of the valley, and called upon Talha and Zubair to step forward to meet him. When Talha and Zubair came forward he asked them why they had rebelled against his authority when they had taken the oath of allegiance to him. They said that they had taken the oath under duress and it was not binding. He asked them, after all, what did they want. They said that they wanted “Qasas” for the assassination of Othman. Ali said that this matter could be considered under conditions of peace. Talha and Zubair said that if Ali was prepared to take “Qasas” from the murderers of Othman, they were prepared to make peace and acknowledge Ali as the Caliph. Ali said that he would consider their demand favorably.

Turning to Zubair, Ali said: “Have you forgotten that you are my cousin, being a son of my paternal aunt? Can you not recall that at one of our sittings with the Holy Prophet, he commended me to you? The Holy Prophet at that time predicted that I was to suffer harm at your hands, and you undertook to safeguard my interests and not to forsake me,” At these words, Zabair shuddered and said “All of you have spoken the truth. I had forgotten the interview with the Holy Prophet. Now that you have reminded me of that, I will not harm your interests and would be prepared to make peace with you.”

The meeting ended in an atmosphere of goodwill from both the sides. Thereafter the two armies retired to their camps, and the general impression was that peace would be made, and war would be avoided. Emissaries were exchanged between the two sides, and by the evening the general impression was that the terms of peace had been mutually agreed upon, and that the necessary peace treaty would be executed the following day.

The Regicides

The armies on the two sides heaved a sigh of relief on coming to know that peace was to be made the following day. At nightfall the men of the two armies retired to rest with easy hearts. The case with the regicides, the persons who had participated in the assassination of Othman was however different. In the army of Ali there were two to three thousand men of Kufa, who were involved in the revolt against Othman. When the confederates had occupied Basra they had executed all such men of Basra who were involved in the assassination of Othman as “Qasas” for the blood of Othman. The regicides of Kufa apprehended that in case peace was made between Ali and the confederates the terms of the agreement of peace were likely to be that the confederates would acknowledge the caliphate of Ali, and Ali would in turn order the execution of the regicides of Kufa like the execution of the regicides belonging to Basra. The leaders of the regicides of Kufa met in conference secretly to decide what course of action they should take to save their skins. It was proposed that Ali, Talha and Zubair should be killed. This proposal was turned down on the ground that such action on their part was likely to reunite the confederates and the followers of Ali, and they would together fight not only for the “Qasas” of Othman, but for the “Qasas” of Ali, Talha and Zubair as well. Many other proposals were considered. It was ultimately decided that they should take steps to insure that the two sides were locked in battle before the peace agreement was executed. In pursuance of this plan before the daybreak the regicides attacked the army of the confederates. When this attack came to the notice of Talha and Zubair they ordered their forces to meet the attack. They said that they knew before hand that Ali did not really mean to execute an agreement of peace. When the army of the confederates made a counter attack the regicides made Ali believe that the confederates had made a surprise attack. Ali asked his forces to take up arms and beat back the attack. Ali said that he already knew that Talha and Zubair were not serious in their peace proposals.

The Battle

Before it was day break the two armies had taken the field and engaged in a life and death struggle. The regicides fought most desperately, and their attacks were resisted by the confederates. The battle accordingly took a sanguinary turn. It was a deplorable engagement, when the Muslims cut the throats of Muslims. It appeared that the injunctions of Islam had been forgotten, and the people reverted to the pre-Islamic practice of settling their disputes through the arbitration of the sword. According to chronicles when the opposing sides came together breast to breast with a furious shock the noise that was produced was like the sound of thunder. The forces of the two sides fought with the ferocity of lions and men fell on the battlefield from both the sides like the fall of autumn leaves. Talha fought bravely, and he killed many warriors of the army of Ali. He was however mortally wounded by the arrows that hit him. He was carried in an unconscious state to a house in Basra where he soon expired. By noon the tide of the battle began to turn against the confederates at this stage. Zubair is also reported to have escaped from the battlefield, and taken the road to Makkah. When Ayesha came to know of the state of the battle, she came to the battle seated in a litter on a camel. She exhorted the people to stop fighting. She posted Kasb b Sur the Qazi of Basra in the center of the battlefield with a copy of the Holy Quran on his head. He exhorted the men of the army of Ali to stop fighting in the name of God. Some men of the army of Ali were inclined to listen to the call of Kaab b Sur well known for his piety and learning. The regicides who were in the forefront of the fight cried “He is the man who reported that Talha and Zubair had not taken the oath of allegiance to Ali voluntarily. Kill him.” The regicides rained arrows on Kaab b Sur, and he fell dead. The confederates shot arrows in return killing some of the regicides. The frenzy of the combatants appeared to know no bounds the appalling carnage continued unabated, and the dead and the dying lay pilled in heaps. Ayesha seated in a litter on a camel became the main target for attack by the forces of Ali. The followers of Ayesha flocked round her camel to protect her. A devoted follower held the reins of the camel, and as any one from the army of Ali advanced to attack the camel, the man holding the reins of the camel cut him with his sword. In such duels many persons fell on both the sides. Over two dozen persons of the army of the confederates lost their heads while holding the bridle of the camel of Ayesha. The casualties in the case of the warriors of the army of Ali who dashed against the camel were much heavier. Ali felt that as long as the camel of Ayesha stood, the battle would continue. In order to end the battle, Ali directed his men to slip behind the camel and cut off its legs. Some warriors of the forces of Ali managed to slip behind the camel and cut off its legs. As the beast fell on the ground dead, it gave such a shriek that made the men shiver in their shoes. Ayesha escaped with her life although the litter in which she had been sitting was pierced with arrows. Ayesha was lifted out of the litter, and borne to a house is Basra.

End of the battle

With the fall of Ayesha’s camel, the battle ended in the victory of Ali, and the defeat of the confederates. As in this battle, the camel of Ayesha became the main target of attack. The battle came to be known as the Battle of the Camel. The loss on both the sides was considerable. Over ten thousand persons were killed in the battle. Among the dead on both the sides, there were many prominent companions of the Holy Prophet who had fought in the wars under the Holy Prophet, and the rightly guided Caliphs, Abu Bakr, Umar, and Othman.

Talha the confederate leader died because of the wounds received in the battle; Zubair escaped from the battlefield and he took the road to Makkah. He had proceeded for some distance from Basra when he came across a detachment led by the Banu Qais chief Ahnaf b Qais. Here Zubair halted to offer prayers. When Zubair prostrated himself in prayers, one of the men of Ahnaf cut off the head of Zubair with the blow of his sword. Ahnaf brought the head of Zubair to Ali hoping to be awarded for killing his enemy. At they sight of the gory head of his cousin, Ali burst into sobs and turning to Ahnaf said, “You have done a ghastly deed, and verily your lot is hell fire, Ahnaf was surprised at the remarks of Ali. Addressing Ali he said, “You are an evil judge of men. If some one delivers you from your enemies you pronounce the penalty of hell fire on him. ” Bitterly resenting what he felt to be a great injustice, Ahnaf drew his sword, and plunged it into his own breast.

Ali’s Occupation of Basra

Burial of the dead

When after the battle, Ali inspected the battlefield, he found it piled up with dead bodies and littered with severed limbs. The plain outside Basra was virtually soaked with blood. Among the dead on both the sides there were many faces familiar to Ali, and he was much grieved over their death. These included some eminent companions. Ali felt that if as a result of the battle, men of such eminence were to die, he would not have resorted to war. It was a deplorable sight that Muslims had cut the throats of Muslims, and at this tragedy no body could grieve more than Ali. As long as the battle waged, there was enmity between the two sides. After the battle there was no enmity between the dead. Ali arranged for the funeral prayers, and the burial of the dead from both the sides. Many vultures invaded the battlefield, and carried away the limbs. A vulture carried a limb to Madina, and it was found to be a severed hand containing a ring bearing the name of Abdur Rahman b Atab, an eminent companion. Ali did not celebrate the victory as an occasion of joy. He ordered the observance of mourning for three days in the memory of the dead. These three days were spent in the burial of the dead.

Treatment of the people of Basra

Some of the followers of Ali demanded that, having been defeated, the survivors should be distributed as slaves among the soldiers of the victorious army. Ali turned down the demand saying that as the Caliph of the Muslims he could not allow the Muslims to be enslaved by Muslims in a country which was “Dar-ul Islam”. The soldiers of the army of Ali desired that if they were not to be allowed to enslave the people of Basra, they should be allowed to plunder their property. Ali turned down this demand as well with great force. He held that whatever arms and equipment had been brought to the battlefield on the occasion of the battle could be treated as ‘Ghanima’ (war booty) and captured, but whatever lay in the homes of the people belonged to them, and he could not permit his men to deprive the people of Basra of their rightful belongings. Whatever booty was collected from the battlefield was distributed among the soldiers according to the Islamic law, and they were asked to abstain from seizing any property of the people of Basra by force.

Occupation of Basra

After the three days of mourning were over, Ali entered the city of Basra and occupied it. He declared amnesty for the people of Basra, and asked them to assemble in the principal mosque of the city. When all the people had assembled, Ali addressed them. He said that his heart bled at the tragedy that had overtaken the people of Basra, for this they were themselves to blame. They had taken the oath of allegiance to him, but later they were misguided to repudiate such oath without cause. He observed that particular sanctity was attached to such oath, and could not be repudiated. He narrated at length the circumstances under which Othman had been killed, and how he had been elected as the Caliph. He added that Talha and Zubair were the first to offer allegiance to him, and they were the first to repudiate it. Thereafter be explained at length how the demand for the vengeance for the blood of Othman was merely a pretext for gaining some ulterior end. As regards Ayesha he said he had the greatest respect and regard for her. There were some minor points of difference between him and her but there was hardly any justification for making such petty differences the ground for an armed conflict. It was nor worthy of a lady of her rank and status to take to arms when according to the injunctions of Islam, ladies were required to sit in their homes, and the Holy Prophet himself had warned his wives in that respect. He added that those who had led the revolt labor under some misunderstanding, and they were misguided in taking to arms. Because of such misguidance, the Muslim Ummah had suffered, and at this suffering and disaster none was more grieved than he. He said, at this moment Basra lies bleeding. My heart bleeds at the tragedy that has befallen your city.” He observed that he had granted amnesty to the people of Basra, and was prepared to forgive and forget the past, provided the people of Basra assured him of their loyalty. The speech of Ali had its effect. The spokesmen of the people of Basra regretted all that had happened, and assured Ali of their loyalty. Thereafter all the people of Basra offered allegiance to Ali. ‘Fatehah’ was offered for the souls of the dead from both the sides. Someone asked him whether he regarded the people who had opposed him and had died, as martyrs. He said that he regarded all the Muslims to whatever side they belonged and had died as martyrs, for rightly or wrongly they were of the conviction that they were fighting for cause. Ali led the prayers, and after the prayers, mercy of Allah was craved for keeping the Muslims united. Ali made the necessary arrangements for the administration of Basra. He took hold of the Baitul Mal, and compensated the people who had lost their dear ones. He made arrangements for the treatment of the wounded. It was noticed that some people of Basra who were in the forefront in opposition to Ali had escaped to seek the protection of tribes in the desert. Ali issued a proclamation that they were free to come to their homes in Basra and no action would be taken for their sins of omission or commission in the past.

Ayesha

The strain of the battle, the humiliation of her defeat, the failure of her mission, and the death of her dear ones were too much for Ayesha to bear. Although a brave woman, she took to weeping day and night and fell sick. Ali visited her frequently and tried to calm her feelings. He made arrangements that she was properly looked after and was provided all facilities. Ashtar the leader of the regicides purchased the most valuable camel in Basra and sent it to Ayesha in lieu of the camel that had been killed in the battle. Ayesha refused to accept the gift, and cursed Ashtar as the evil genius who was responsible for the troubles of the Muslim Ummah. When Ayesha recovered from her illness she expressed the desire to be sent to Madina. Ali made elaborate arrangements for her journey. A group of women from Basra accompanied her to Madina. Muhammad b Abu Bakr, a step-brother of Ayesha, was commissioned by Ali to escort her to Madina. Ali himself traveled with her caravan for one stage beyond Basra, and there saw her off, requesting her to forgive and forget, for no one could say whether they were destined to meet again or not. Ayesha reciprocated the goodwill of Ali and the two parted as friends. Back in Madina, Ayesha led a retired life and did not thereafter take part in politics. She contented herself with narrating the traditions of the Holy Prophet and in this field of scholarship, she came to be recognized as an authority.

Consequences of Ali’s victory in the battle of the Camel

Ali won the Battle of the Camel. As a result of this victory, Ali’s caliphate came to be acknowledged by the entire Muslim world except Syria. From the victory of Basra the victory of Damascus could have been one step but that was not to be. Basra could not become a stepping stone to further conquests. In the long run, Ali’s victory over Basra proved to be rave elusive than real. The carnage in Basra had been heavy. Almost every family to whichever side they belonged lost one or more dear ones. Though the people took the oath of allegiance to Ali but they did not feel happy. General discontentment continued to smolder in the hearts of the people. In normal circumstances, Ali’s victory of Basra should have strengthened his position, and overawed those who were still opposed to him. Things however did not turn that way. If peace could have been made at Basra, and Talha and Zubair had acknowledged the caliphate of Ali, the position of Ali would have been strengthened. The death of Talha and Zubair, as subsequent events showed worked to the advantage of Muawiyah. If they had been alive, Muawiyah was bound to contend against three rivals, Ali, Talha and Zubair. After the Battle of Basra he had to contend against Ali alone, and this was something in his favor. Heretofore Muawiyah had contented himself with cold war. He had abstained from taking to arms for he was afraid that such rebellion against established authority was likely to be looked by the Muslims with disfavor. The Battle of Basra sanctioned the use of the sword as an arbiter in the matter of succession to the caliphate. It provided an argument to Muawiyah that if the people of Basra could fight against Ali, so could the people of Syria.

The victory of Basra instead of proving a source of strength for Ali, proved in the long run to be a source of weakness. Most of the people had joined Ali in the hope that as in other wars they would amass wealth by plundering the defeated people. When Ali forbade such plunder, that led to discontentment, and those who had participated in the battle came to feel that nothing was to be gained by fighting for Ali. That created difficulties for Ali in recruiting men to fight against Muawiyah.

The Battle of Basra was indeed precipitated by the regicides much against the wishes of Ali. The victory of Basra made the regicides more powerful. That led to very embarrassing results for Ali. In Basra, Ayesha had executed all the regicides of Basra. That provided an argument to Muawiyah and other enemies of Ali, that he was involved in the murder of Othman for he had taken no action against the regicides and was instead protecting them.

As the peace parleys at Basra before the outbreak of the battle showed, Ali did want to take action against the regicides of Kufa as Ayesha had taken action against the regicides of Basra. Subsequent developments however made things difficult for Ali. These people, rebellious by nature, became a source of great headache for Ali. When Ali appointed his cousin Abdullah b Abbas as the Governor of Basra, these men viewed the appointment critically and said, “If every Caliph is to appoint his relatives as the Governors, why did we kill the old man Othman?” As with the passage of time the crisis deepened, those people progressively gained in power and importance, and Ali in spite of all his valor, integrity, and other notable qualities became a virtual prisoner in the hands of those “rebels”. The Battle of Basra has cast a fatal shadow across the history of Islam. It was the first civil war between the Muslims, and it set the unfortunate precedent for the Muslims to fight among themselves to seek some secular end. The Battle of the Camel served as a prelude to the massacre of Karbala a generation later. The argument of Yazid was that if Ali could take to the sword to assert his right to the caliphate, so could he when most of the people had in fact taken the oath of allegiance to him. If the people of Basra were rebels, and Ali was justified in military action against them, thus he was justified in taking action against Imam Husain who had rebelled against his authority.

Kufa, the New Capital

Kufa, the new capital

From Basra, Ali did not proceed to Madina. He proceeded to Kufa instead. When Ali had sent a mission to Kufa to get volunteers for the fight against Basra, he had promised the people of Kufa that would make their city the capital of the caliphate. After his victory of Basra, Ali declared Kufa to be the capital of the Muslim Commonwealth. When Ali had left Madina for his campaign against Talha and Zubair little did he imagine that he was not destined to visit Madina again.

After winning the victory at Basra, Ali came to feel that as he had won a victory at Basra against Ayesha, Talha and Zubair, so would he be able to win a victory against Muawiyah. For a campaign against Syria, the response from the people of Madina had been poor. As the people of Madina were religiously more advanced they were averse to side with any party for an armed conflict among the Muslims. Some eminent companions in Madina had even abstained from taking the oath of allegiance to Ali, and had preferred to follow a policy of neutrality. As such Ali felt that for any confrontation with Muawiyah, Madina could not serve as a base.

When Othman had been assassinated, the rebels had violated the sanctity of the holy city of the holy Prophet. Ali was accordingly of the view that in order to preserve the sanctity of the holy city of Madina, it was expedient that the political capital should be shifted elsewhere so that the sacred city should be spared the ordeals of facing political storms.

In the campaign against Basra, Ali had succeeded in raising a large force from Kufa. Ali hoped that after the victory of Basra, the prospects of raising a still larger force from Kufa for the campaign against Syria would be brighter. Geographically Kufa was more centrally located, and a war against Syria could be carried more advantageously with the base at Kufa instead of Madina. Those considerations prompted Ali to establish his capital at Kufa.

Characteristics of Kufa and its people

Kufa was a new colony town founded in the late thirties of the seventh century during the caliphate of Umar. It was founded as a military cantonment consequent upon the Muslim conquest of Iraq. The town was populated by the Bedouins of Northern Arabia. These tribes originally belonged to Yemen. In the ancient period Yemen was known for its highly developed culture. The Yemenites boasted that they were the people who had taken their culture to ancient Egypt. They claimed to be the fathers of Arabian culture. Their culture was tribal in character, and though they had accepted Islam their culture at all retained many features of the pre-Islamic culture of the age of ignorance.

The city of Kufa was divided into a number of quarters, and each quarter was populated by one tribe. These people were late comers to Islam. Most of them apostatized after the death of the Holy Prophet as a result of the apostasy war. During the caliphate of Abu Bakr, they were reconverted to Islam. During the caliphate of Umar they played an important part in the conquest of Persia, Iran and Syria. Umar availed of the services of the men of Kufa in the ranks of his army, but he did not confer on them higher posts of trust and responsibility. Under Othman they came to hold high army posts. As long as the process of foreign conquests continued, all things remained quiet within the country. When the process of foreign conquests came to a grinding halt, disturbances broke out within the country in the revolt against Othman, the people of Kufa had taken the main part. When after the death of Othman, Ali became the Caliph, the cry for the vengeance for the blood of Othman was raised, and things became difficult for Ali, he had to seek the help of the people of Kufa. Indeed the victory of Basra was mainly due to the support of Ali by the people of Kufa. The rebels of Kufa who had participated in the murder of Othman had favored the election of Zubair as the Caliph, but later they chose to support Ali, and fight against Zubair at Basra. As the people of Kufa were late comers to the fold of Islam, they had not fully imbibed the Islamic values, and they became notorious for their perfidy and treachery. The purer Arabs of Hijaz regarded the Kufans as the “Bedouin element,” the rabble of the Arabian stock.

Ali at Kufa

Ali reorganized the administration. He appointed Governors and administrators for various provinces and districts. He appointed Qazis for the various cities. He issued instructions requiring his officers to administer justice with a stern hand. He asked the tax collectors to be prompt in the collection of taxes. They were; however, warned not to adopt oppressive measures. He exhorted his officials to be scrupulously honest. He asked all concerned to do their duties diligently and conscientiously. He wanted that law and order should be maintained strictly. That all miscreants should be rounded up and suitably punished. He brought home to all concerned that he would not tolerate any dereliction of duty on the part of any official high or low. He emphasized the need of promoting Islamic values.

The plan of Ali was that soon after the victory of Basra when the morale of his forces was high, he should invade Syria and bring Muawiyah to his knees. Ali soon found that there were difficulties in the materialization of such plan. The Bedouins of Kufa were once again at their game of creating discontent against the established authority. In the Battle of the Camel, in spite of the victory of Ali, many persons of Kufa had been killed. There was hardly any family which had not lost someone in the battle. The people of Kufa mourned the death of such persons, and they were not inclined to risk another war. At Basra, Ali had prohibited his men to pillage Basra, enslave the Basrites or, plunder their property. The Battle of Basra had not brought any material gain to the people of Kufa, and they were reluctant to undertake another campaign, unless they were assured of some material advantage.

Ali appointed his relatives and friends as the Governors of some provinces. Ashtar, the Bedouin leader of Kufa, stirred trouble by criticizing Ali for such appointments. To the people of Kufa he said, “What benefit has accrued to us in shedding the blood of Othman for his favoritism when his successor is to indulge in the same practice?” Those who mourned for the deaths of their dear ones in the Battle of Basra posed the question, “What have we gained in fighting against the Mother of the Faithful?” Thus hardly had Ali begun his rule in Kufa when the embers of discontent began to smolder in the capital city. The irony of the situation was that Ali had hardly any military force at his disposal which he could put into the field by his order. He had to raise volunteers for any action and the people had their own moods. The initiative had thus came to rest with them, and they dictated terms subject to which they would fight. By shifting the capital from Madina, Ali could not expect much help from Madina or Makkah, and he had to depend heavily on the people of Kufa. The difficulty with the people of Kufa was that they would not fight for a cause; they could be induced to fight only for some material advantage.

The difficulties of Ali increased when trouble began in the province of Seestan. The trouble was created by the followers of Abdullah b Saba, the man who had led the revolt against Othman. The extremist section among these rebels considered that there was no fun in killing one Caliph when he was to be succeeded by another Caliph. The aim of these rebels was that they should capture power for themselves, and set up an independent state. When Ayesha had captured, she had executed all such Basrites who were involved in the assassination of Othman. Although Ali defeated the confederates yet he had taken no action to avenge the death of those Basrites. The followers of Ibn Sabah raised the cry for the vengeance for the execution of these parties. They gained ascendancy in Seestan, which province broke into open revolt, and refused to pay taxes. Ali sent a force from Kufa to put down the revolt. The force of Ali suffered defeat. Another force sent from Kufa met a similar fate. It appears that there was some treachery in the ranks of the force of Ali. Ali thereafter raised another force from Yemen, and other parts of the empire and sent it to Seestan under the command of Abdullah b Abbas, the Governor of Basra. This time the rebels were defeated, and the revolt was suppressed. The campaigns in Seestan affected the prestige of the caliphate, and proved to be a great strain on the already meager resources at the disposal of the caliphate. In the campaign against Seestan much time was lost, and this loss of time worked to the advantage of Muawiyah and the disadvantage of Ali. According to one account the trouble in Seestan was created by the agents of Muawiyah who had no scruples in making common cause with the murderers of Othman.

Qais Bin Saad Ansari

Importance of Egypt

Among the provinces of the Muslim Commonwealth, Egypt was the most important province. In the revolt against Othman the Egyptian rebels had played the lea ding role. Ali was popular among the Egyptians, and the proposal to elect Ali as the Caliph was in the first instance sponsored by the Egyptians. When Muawiyah who led the opposition against Ali was strongly entrenched in Syria, it was vital for Ali that he should have a strong hold on Egypt. In this context the question of the appointment of a Governor for Egypt was a matter of utmost importance.

Qais bin Sa’ad

During the caliphate of Othman, Abdullah b Abi Sarah was the Governor of Egypt. When the opposition to Othman gathered strength, Abdullah b Abi Sarah was overthrown by Muhammad b Hudaifa. Muhammad b Hudaifa was a cousin of Othman. When Hudaifa died, Othman took over the responsibility for the upbringing of Muhammad, and treated him as a son when Muhammad grew up he fell out with Othman and escaped to Egypt where he incited the people to rebel against the authority of Othman. In the confusion following the assassination of Othman, Muhammad b Abi Hudaifa was enticed by Muawiyah to come to Arish on the borders of Palestine where he was murdered treacherously. Muawiyah’s attempt to conquer Egypt, however, failed.

On becoming the Caliph, Ali appointed Qais b Sa’ad as the Governor of Egypt. He was a seasoned warrior and enjoyed great fame for his wisdom and diplomacy. He belonged to a distinguished Ansar family of Madina. He was proud of his lineage and was much devoted to Ali. Ali asked him to take with him some troops from Madina. Qais said that the Caliph needed the troops at Madina, and he would not like to weaken the defenses of Madina in any way. Qais left for Madina with a retinue consisting of seven persons only.

Affairs of Egypt

The affairs of Egypt were at that time in a state great disarray. By great skill and bravery, Qais succeeded in assuming the charge of the governorship of Egypt. He addressed the people in the mosque, and delivered to them Ali’s message of goodwill. He took the oath of allegiance to Ali from the people. Saddled in power, Qais sent his agents to the various parts of Egypt to obtain the oath of allegiance of the people to Ali. Such oath was subscribed to by all the people with two exceptions. In Kharbata, the Banu Adlaj led by Yazid Harith did not take the oath of allegiance to Ali. The tribe led by the chief Muslama b Mukhalled were pro-Othman and their sympathies were with the Umayyads and Muawiyah. With great tact and diplomatic skill, Qais b Saad succeeded in making a treaty of neutrality with them. They undertook that if they were not pressed to take an oath of allegiance to Ali, they would not create any trouble for the government of Egypt or the caliphate of Ali. Qais considered that to neutralize these people, was in the best interests of the caliphate, and it was not expedient to press them to take the oath of allegiance to Ali.

Intrigues of Muawiyah

The plan of Muawiyah was that with Yazid b Harith, and Miasmal b Mukhalled he would create trouble for the government of Egypt. By making a treaty of neutrality with these people, Qais denied Muawiyah the possibility of having a foothold in Egypt. Thereupon he tried to cultivate Qais. Muawiyah asked Qais to join him, and in lieu thereof he promised him and his posterity the governorship of Egypt in perpetuity. Qais spurned this offer and declared that he was loyal to Ali and could not betray him at any cost. Muawiyah changed his tactics, and tried to make Qais believe that in supporting Ali he was supporting the murderers of Othman. Qais repudiated this view. He said that he was in Madina when Othman was assassinated and it was incorrect that Ali had supported the rebels or was involved in any way with the murder of Othman.

Having failed to win over Qais to his side, Muawiyah resorted to intrigue to create suspicion between Ali and Qais. Muawiyah whipped up propaganda to the effect that Qais was his ally, and would betray Ali at the proper time for such revolt. In proof of his claim for the friendship of Qais he asserted that Qais had not suppressed the party of the Egyptians who demanded vengeance for the blood of Othman and had not taken the oath of allegiance to Ali.

The agents of Muawiyah carried the propaganda to Kufa, and when Ali came to know of these persistent rumors he began to harbor doubts about the loyalty of Qais. Muhammad b Jafar and Muhammad b Abu Bakr the step sons of Ali pressed on Ali to put Qais to test. The two young men argued prima facie that there appeared to be truth in the rumors, for Qais had in fact not taken any action against the people who had not taken the oath of allegiance to Ali, but had on the other hand tried to conciliate them. In order to test the loyalty of Qais, Ali directed Qais to take into custody the chiefs of the tribes who had not taken the oath of allegiance to Ali and who stood for vengeance for the blood of Othman.

Qais wrote back to say that it would be inexpedient to arrest the chiefs of the people. They had entered into a treaty of neutrality with him, and they were abiding by the treaty. The treaty stipulated that as long as they were not pressed to take the oath of allegiance to Ali they would not raise the cry for the vengeance for the blood of Othman. He observed that he had established law and order in the province with some difficulty, and if the chiefs were arrested that would create unrest and law and order situation. The government of Egypt would in that case be accused of breach of faith and that would provide an opportunity to Muawiyah to interfere in the affairs of Egypt. He pointed out that being the man on the spot he knew what course of action was in the interests of the Caliphate. He pointed out that he had framed his policies in the best interests of the Caliphate and any change therein at that stage would adversely affect the interests of the Caliphate. He advised Ali to review his order and not to press for any action against the people who had not taken the oath of allegiance to Ali, but were otherwise not creating any trouble for the administration. Qais added that if Ali did not agree with him it was open to him to depose him and appoint another Governor.

Deposition of Qais

The arguments advanced by Qais did not carry weight with Ali that made Ali suspicious of the loyalty of Qais. The stand taken by Qais against the orders of Ali was interpreted by Ali to be an evidence of Qais’s alignment with those who wanted to create trouble for Ali by raising the cry for vengeance for the blood of Othman. Ali deposed Qais. When Muawiyah came to know of these developments he felt happy that his plan to sow dissentions between Ali and Qais had succeeded. He invited Qais to come over to Syria after his deposition, and offered him a high office. Qais refused the offer. He held that though Ali had misunderstood him ant treated him unjustly yet this could not affect his loyalty to Ali. After deposition Qais returned to Madina. The deposition of Qais from the governorship of Egypt proved to be a great mistake. It set the stage for the occupation of Egypt by Muawiyah.

Qais and Ali

Muawiyah and his agents scored a victory where their intrigues succeeded and Qais was deposed. The next line of action on the part of Muawiyah was to win over Qais to his side. When Muawyiah failed in this object because of the unswerving loyalty of Qais to Ali, Muawyiah made further efforts to insure that Qais and Ali did not reconcile. The agents of Muawyiah in Madina tried to persuade Qais to abandon the cause of Ali, but when he refused to fall in line with them they began to taunt him for his loyalty to the man who did not appreciate his services and the way Ali had treated him. Exasperated by such taunts, Qais decided to visit Ali at Kufa, and demand a fair hearing from Ali. Ali received Qais with due courtesy. The two men had a heart to heart dialogue. As a result of these talks, Ali was convinced of the loyalty of Qais. Ali wanted Qais to remain by his side, and he appointed him as his Chief Adviser. The reaction of Muawyiah to the appointment of Qais as the Chief Adviser of Ali was expressed by him in a letter to his agent in Madina who had taunted Qais in the following words: “By taunting Qais and thereby forcing him to join Ali you have acted as a fool had you given a hundred thousand men to Ali, it would have been a lesser evil to me than to give the counsel of such a man as Qais to my enemy.”

Muawiyah

Muawiyah’s early life

Muawiyiah belonged to the Umayyad section of the Quraish of Makkah. Muawiyah and the Holy Prophet had Abd Manaf as their common ancestor. The Holy Prophet was the son of Abdullah who was the son of Abdul Muttalib, who was the son of Hashim who was the son of Abd Manaf. Muawiyah was the son of Abu Sufiyan, who was the son of Harb, who was the son of Umayyah, who was the son of Abd Shams, who was the son Abd Manaf. Hashim and Abd Shams were the two sons of Abd Manaf. The Holy Prophet was a descendant of Hashim while Muawiyah was a descendant of Abd Shams. Umayyah the son of Abd Shams was an important man of the line, and his descendants came to be known after him as the Umayyads.

Abu Sufiyan the father of Muawiyah was a Quraish magnate. When the Holy Prophet declared his mission, Abu Sufiyan was conspicuous for his hostility to the Holy Prophet and Islam. He led the Quraish army against the Muslims in the battles of Uhud and the Trench. Muawiyah’s mother was the atrocious woman who made necklaces and bracelets of the ears and noses of the Muslims slain at Uhud. She ripped the dead body of Hamza, an uncle of the Holy Prophet, martyred at Uhud, took out the liver and put her teeth in it.

It was only after the conquest of Makkah by the Muslims that Abu Sufiyan and his family including Muawiyah submitted to Islam. After conversion to Islam, Muawiyah acted for some time as a Secretary to the Holy Prophet. During the caliphate of Abu Bakr and Umar, Muawiyah and his elder brother Abu Yazid fought against the Byzantines in Syria.

Umar appointed Abu Ubaida b Jarrah as the Governor of Syria. On the death of Abu Ubaida, Abu Yazid the brother of Muawiyah was appointed as the Governor of Syria. On the death of Abu Yazid, Umar appointed Muawiyah as the Governor of Syria. When Othman who was a cousin of Muawiyah became the Caliph, he confirmed Muawiyah in his appointment as the Governor of Syria, and added some other territories to his jurisdiction.

Character of Muawiyah

Muawiyah was a typical Arab, and he had all the virtues and vices which characterized the Arabs before their conversion to Islam. As the Governor of Syria he won the hearts of the people by gifts and concessions. He was a man, tall, fair, handsome and of dignified bearing. Umar often said about Muawiyiah that he was the Caesar of the Arabs. His great personal charm, his affability, his attractive and pleasant disposition, his good manners, and his eloquence endeared him to the people. He was known to his people as “the silver tongued Amir”. His intelligence, his sagacity, his pursuit of poetry, his shrewdness, and his sense of humor made him the “beau ideal” of the people. He was proverbial for his forbearance. He was a diplomat and a politician par excellence. In wining battles he relied more on the effective use of the tongue than on the sword. He was a past master in propaganda. He was of the view that it was the end and not the mess that mattered, and in the achievement of the end, any means fair or foul could be adopted. Islam had enjoined austerity in living, but Muawiyah preferring the Byzantine way followed a luxurious way of life. He was fond of pomp, ceremony and lavish ostentation. He built costly palaces for himself. For the people of Syria used to the Byzantine way of life, there was nothing objectionable in such display of power and pelf. To the orthodox Muslims such wayward luxuriance was frivolous and profane.

Conflict between Ali and Muawiyah

After his election as the Caliph, Ali deposed Muawiyah from the governorship of Syria. Muawiyah did not accept the orders of Ali and refused to vacate office. While in all other provinces, oath of allegiance was taken to Ali, under the influence of Muawiyah no one in Syria took the oath of allegiance of his authority amounted to rebellion pure and simple. At the outset of his rule, Ali planned an action against Syria to suppress the revolt.

Things however got complicated, and instead of being resolved got tangled with the lapse of time. Muawiyah enjoyed the support of the people of Syria. Ali was thus not able to take disciplinary action against Muawiyah as the Head of a State could ordinarily take against a defiant subordinate. If Muawiyah had to be deposed, military action was necessary against the people of Syria. That obviously meant the Muslims fighting against the Muslims. This was something repugnant to Islam, and as such when Ali gave the call to arms for a military action against Syria, the response from the people of Madina was very poor. Expedition against Syria had therefore to be deferred for some reason or the other. The delay worked to the advantage of Muawiyah, as thereby he consolidated his power.

Difficulties were created for Ali, when Talha and Zubair who had taken the oath of allegiance to him defected and were joined by Ayesha. Ayesha, Talha and Zubair occupied Basra and Ali had to lead a force against Basra instead of against Syria. Ali won the victory over the confederates but this was achieved at a heavy cost. Over ten thousand persons died in this battle and their death was deeply mourned by the Muslim world. That also proved to be a drain at the limited resources at the disposal of Ali. When after the Basra campaign Ali turned to Syria, Muawiyah had become stronger, and things for Ali became all the more difficult.

Strategy of Muawiyah

The conflict between Ali and Muawiyah had its roots in history. The Hashimites and the Umayyads were cousins and there was usual rivalry and enmity between them. During the time of Abdul Muttalib the leadership of the Quraish vested in the Hashimites. After the death of Abdul Muttalib the leadership passed on to the Umayyads. When the Holy Prophet declared his mission, the Umayyads were in the forefront in opposition to the Holy Prophet. Apart from religious scruples, one of the grounds for such opposition was the apprehension of the Umayyads that if Islam gained strength, the leadership would pass on to the Hashimites. When the Muslims conquered Makkah, the Umayyads had to accept the leadership of the Hashimites. After the death of the Holy Prophet, the Caliphate was held by Abu Bakr and Umar who were neither Hashimites nor Umayyads. The third Caliph Othman was an Umayyad, and during his Caliphate the Umayyads came to be strongly entrenched in power. Indeed one of the main allegations of the rebels against Othman was that he had unduly favored the Umayyads. When after the assassination of Othman, Ali was elected as the Caliph, the Umayyads became uneasy to the transfer of power to the Hashimites. The real aim of Muawiyah was to create difficulties in the way of Ali in order to pave the way for the transfer of power to the Umayyads. The conflict between Ali and Muawiyah was really the recurrence of the old rivalry between the Hashimites and the Umayyads.

Ali, an outspoken and straightforward man, wanted to exert authority over Muawiyah for the simple reason that he had been elected as the Caliph and all authority vested in him. Pressing all his qualities as a shrewd politician into service, Muawiyah proceeded to undermine the authority of Ali by resorting to propaganda against Ali, and adopting other underhand means. He raised the cry for vengeance for the blood of Othman. He displayed the blood stained garments of Othman, and the amputated fingers of Othman’s wife Naila in the main mosque at Damascus. This display was backed up by propaganda which raised the emotions of the people to a high pitch. With all the vehemence at his command, he addressed the congregations accusing Ali of complicity in the murder of Othman. He maintained that the erection of Ali as Caliph was irregular as it was held under the pressure of the rebels who had assassinated Othman. When Talha and Zubair defected from Ali and advanced the plea that they had taken the oath of allegiance to Ali under the coercion of the rebels, that furnished Muawiyah another argument for criticizing Ali. When Talha and Zubair were killed at Basra, Muawiyah presented them as martyrs who had given up their lives in seeking vengeance for the blood of Othman. He maintained that Ali was not merely involved in the murder of Othman, he was guilty of the murder of thousands of Muslims including Talha and Zubair as well. He criticized Ali for the ill treatment of Ayesha.

Muawiyah did not rest content with carrying on propaganda against Ali, he undertook steps to weaken the hold of Ali on the territories held by him. Muawiyah was shrewd enough to see that if Egypt held fast Ali, it could stab a dagger in the back of Syria. Muawiyah therefore directed his efforts towards undermining the influence of Ali in Egypt. At that time Ali had a Governor in Egypt who was very loyal to him, and who held the province well under control. Muawiyah tried to bribe the Governor and win him over to his side. When he did not succeed in this effort, he resorted to intrigues to make Ali suspicious of the loyalty of his Governor. Under some misunderstanding Ali deposed his Governor. That weakened the hold of Ali on Egypt. In order to take advantage of this tactical mistake on the part of Ali, Muawiyah stood in need of an ally who could conquer Egypt for him. He soon found such an ally in the person of ‘Amr b Al-‘Aas known to history as the “Conqueror of Egypt”. He was the Governor of Egypt during the reign of Umar. Othman had deposed him. That created bitterness between Othman and ‘Amr b Al-Aas. ‘Amr b Al-Aas had in fact incited the Egyptians to rebel against the authority of Othman. He had gone to the extent of challenging Othman that he would raise even all the shepherds of the land against him. Muawiyah in spite of his cry of vengeance for the blood of Othman found no harm in making an alliance with a man who had in fact incited the rebellion against Othman. ‘Amr b Al-Aas in spite of his bitter opposition to Othman during his lifetime saw nothing wrong in joining the chorus for vengeance for the blood of the man in whose murder he was indirectly if not directly involved.

Muawiyah realized that if he had to go to fight against Ali, the Byzantines could take advantage of such rift among the Muslims and invade Syria. He, therefore, made peace with the Byzantines on terms favorable to them, and even agreed to pay them an annual tribute.

Muawiyah was also shrewd enough to realize that in case he had to strive for capturing power he must have a strong army at his disposal. He accordingly built a strong standing army. On the other hand, Ali had no large standing army at his disposal and for each campaign he had to raise volunteers.

Since the election of Ali as the Caliph, Muawiyah had been raising the cry for vengeance for the blood of Othman, and all the time had been trying to build up his strength. A year after the election of Ali, Muawiyah was strong enough to take the offensive against Ali.

Amr Bin Al-Aas

Amr b Al-Aas, pre-Islamic period

‘Amr b Al-Aas was a prominent member of the Banu Sahm section of the Quraish. His father Al-Aas b Wail was the chief of the Banu Sahm and was a well to do merchant who commanded great influence among the Quraish of Makkah. When the Holy Prophet of Islam announced his mission, Al-Aas was one of the prominent members of the Quraish who pressed all their influence into service to oppose the Holy Prophet and torture the Muslims. Hisham a brother of ‘Amr, however, accepted Islam in the early years of the mission of the Holy Prophet, and in spite of the pressure of his father did not recant from Islam. Hisham was one of the Muslims to migrate to Abysinnia. ‘Amr headed the delegation that the Quraish sent to Abysinnia to prevail upon the ruler of Abysinnia to turn away the Muslims from his country. The mission failed and the ruler of Abysinnia refused to oblige the Quraish. After the migration of the Holy Prophet to Madina ‘Amr took part in all the battles that the Quraish fought against the Muslims.

Conversion to Islam

After the pact of Hudaibiya, the truth dawned on ‘Amr b Al-Aas and he hastened to Madina along with Khalid b Walid where they accepted Islam. After conversion to Islam, ‘Amr b Al-Aas proved to be a great asset for Islam. The Holy Prophet entrusted him with some important missions which he fulfilled successfully; Later the Holy Prophet appointed him as the Governor of Oman. After the death of the Holy Prophet, when Abu Bakr became the Caliph he was recalled from Oman to lead campaigns against some of the apostate tribes. After the end of the apostasy wars he was commissioned to undertake campaigns in Palestine and Syria. During the Caliphate of Umar he invaded Egypt and conquered it. In the history of Islam he enjoys fame as the “Conqueror of Egypt”. Umar appointed him as the Governor of Egypt. When Othman became the Caliph, he allowed ‘Amr to continue as the Governor of Egypt for some time. Later ‘Amr was deposed and Othman appointed his foster brother as the Governor of Egypt.

Amr’s opposition to Othman

‘Amr b Al-Aas felt much grieved at his deposition. Back in Madina, ‘Amr had an interview with Othman which ended in bitterness. He began to criticize the administration of Othman in harsh terms. He played an important part in fanning discontent against the caliphate of Othman. In the revolt against Othman, the Egyptians were in the forefront and one of the grievances of the Egyptians was the deposition of ‘Amr b Al-Aas from the governorship of Egypt ‘Amr b Al-Aas made no secret of his opposition to Othman. He openly challenged Othman that he would raise the entire Muslim world against him. When the revolt against Othman gained momentum, and Madina came to be thronged with rebels from various parts of the Muslim world, ‘Amr b Al-Aas left Madina for his lands in Palestine. He was in Palestine when Othman was assassinated.

Caliphate of Ali

After the assassination of Othman, ‘Amr b Al-Aas decided to follow a policy of neutrality and watch further developments. When Ali was elected as the Caliph, ‘Amr b Al-Aas neither took the oath of allegiance to Ali nor opposed him. ‘Amr b Al-Aas had expected that Ali would offer him the governorship of Egypt. If Ali had offered him the governorship of Egypt he would have offered him allegiance. In the absence of such offer ‘Amr b Al-Aas decided to remain in Palestine and watch further developments. Ali appointed Qais b Sa’ad as the Governor of Egypt. Qais proved to be a good Governor, and he kept Egypt safe for Ali. Muawiyah succeeded in creating differences between Ali and Qais which culminated in the deposition of Qais. Amr b Al-Aas expected that Ali would in his own interests appoint him as the Governor of Egypt. When Ali appointed Muhammad b Abu Bakr as the Governor of Egypt, ‘Amr b Al-Aas despaired of any recognition from Ali. That threw him in the lap of Muawiyah.

Muawiyah and ‘Amr b Al-Aas

Muawiyah was shrewd enough to see that for any confrontation with Ali, it was necessary that Egypt should be wrested from the control of Ali. It was plain enough that if Egypt was to be with Ali, Egypt could very well thrust a dagger in the back of Syria. It was in this context that Muawiyah tried to get Qais removed from the governorship. He succeeded in this effort when Ali deposed Qais b Sa’ad and appointed Muhammad b Abu Bakr in his place as the Governor of Egypt. Muhammad b Abu Bakr was a rash impetuous young man, and Muawyiah felt sure that he would not be able to effectively control the affairs of Egypt. Muawiyah’s plan was to create disturbances in Egypt, and take advantage of such disturbances to capture Egypt. For this purpose he needed a man who commanded influence in Egypt. When he looked around he realized that the most suitable person in this behalf was ‘Amr b Al-Aas. He accordingly invited ‘Amr b Al-Aas to Damascus. When ‘Amr came to Damascus he was given an almost royal reception. The two men agreed to make common cause against Ali. Muawiyah decided to make ‘Amr the Commander-in-Chief of his forces. He was also promised the governorship of Egypt on the conquest of that province. Such alliance between Muawiyah and ‘Amr b Al-Aas was to prove a great setback for Ali. It is strange that Muawiyah fought against Ali to claim vengeance for the blood of Othman, and yet entrusted the command of his forces to a man who had actually incited the Egyptians to revolt, and had openly defied and thrown a challenge to Othman.

In Quest of Peace with Muawiyah

The task before Ali

After Ali had established his capital at Kufa, the task before him was to tackle the problem of Syria through peaceful means, if possible, and through the use of sword, if otherwise. Muawiyah had defied the authority of Ali and in the interests of the solidarity of Islam. It was necessary that Muawiyah should be persuaded to submit to the authority of Ali, and if he was not inclined to listen to reason, action should be taken against him as any government would take an action against a rebel.

As a matter of fact, Ali planned an action against Syria immediately after his election. The expedition against Syria had to be deferred as the response of the people of Madina for a war against Syria was poor. Later, complications arose when Talha and Zubair defected, and under the leadership of Ayesha the confederates occupied Basra. In the circumstances, Ali was forced to march to Basra instead of Syria. Ali won the victory at Basra, and the revolt of the confederates was successfully suppressed, though with considerable loss.

Ali had a plan to march against Syria just after his victory of Basra. The expedition had however to be deferred. Ali needed some time to consolidate his rule at Kufa. Adequate response from the people of Kufa to undertake an expedition against Syria was not forthcoming. Further complications arose when a revolt broke out in Seestan. This revolt was suppressed with some difficulty.

Envoy to Syria

After suppression of the revolt in Seestan, Ali once more turned to the affairs of Syria. By this time, a year had elapsed since the election of Ali. During this period, Muawiyah had added to his strength. He had persisted in his propaganda in the name of vengeance for the blood of Othman. Ali felt that the expedition against Syria had already been sufficiently delayed, and such immediate action to tackle the problem effectively was called for.

Although Ali had every justification to lead a military expedition to Syria forthwith, he nevertheless decided to explore the possibilities of arriving at a settlement through peaceful means in the first instance. He wanted to send an envoy to Muawiyah, and in this connection he looked for man who commanded some influence with Muawiyah. The choice of Ali in this connection fell on Jarir b Abdullah. He was the Governor of Hamdan under Othman. Ali had retained him in his office, and he had taken the oath of allegiance to Ali. He was a personal friend of Muawiyah. Ali summoned Jarir b Abdullah to Kufa, and commissioned him to proceed as his envoy to Syria and prevail upon Muawiyah to submit to the authority of Ali. Malik Ashtar the leader of the regicides advised Ali that Jarir should not be sent to Syria for he was a friend of Muawiyah, and he would promote the interests of Muawiyah, rather than those of Ali. Ashtar opted to go himself. As Malik Ashtar was involved in the assassination of Othman, Ali did not consider it advisable to send him as an envoy to Syria.

Jarir b Abdullah went to Syria. He was warmly received by Muawiyah. Jarir tried to persuade Muawiyah to submit to the authority of Ali. Ali, so argued Jarir was the elected Caliph, and in the interests of the solidarity of Islam it was necessary to maintain the unity of Ummah. Muawiyah detained Jarir, and asked him to see things for himself. In the main mosque of Damascus the blood stained shirt and the amputated fingers of Naila were displayed and as the faithful entered the mosque and looked at these relics they wept and mourned at the death of Othman. They took the oath that they would not rest content until they had avenged the murder of Othman. Jarir b Abdullah visited other cities in Syria, and everywhere he saw the people prepared for war to avenge the death of Othman.

Jarir b Abdullah returned to Kufa to report that the people of Syria were bent upon making war to avenge the death of Othman. On the failure of the mission of Jarir, Malik Ashtar said that he already knew that nothing could come out of his mission as he was Muawiyah’s man. Malik Ashtar said that if he had been sent as an envoy the results would have been different. Jarir retorted that the people of Syria would have murdered him. Ashtar said that he would have first murdered Muawiyah. Hot words were exchanged between Malik Ashtar and Jarir. Jarir felt disgusted and shifted to Syria where he was well looked after by Muawiyah.

Muawiyah’s envoy

When Muawiyah incited the people of Syria to war against Ali there were some people who were averse to the Muslims fighting among themselves. A group of such persons led by Abu Muslim waited on Muawiyah, and advised him to abstain from war. Muawiyah said that all that he wanted was “Qasas” for the murder of Othman which was a religious obligation for him. He added that if Ali took the Qasas from those who were involved in the murder of Othman, or handed over such persons to him he would be prepared to offer allegiance to Ali. Abu Muslim volunteered to go to Kufa as an envoy of Muawiyah. Muawiyah agreed and sent him to Ali as his envoy. Ali took the envoy to the mosque and there explained to the people the purpose of his mission. Thereupon all the people assembled in the mosque cried with one voice “We all are the murderers of Othman.” Turning to the envoy Ali said “You may tell Muawiyah what you have seen and heard”. Abu Muslim returned disappointed to Syria. Things had come to be tied in such knots that there appeared to be no possibility of resolving that dispute through peaceful means. On one side, the people of Syria clamored for war to avenge the murder of Othman, and on the other side, the people of Iraq held that they all were the murderers of Othman. In the circumstances, war appeared to be inevitable. Muawiyah maintained that just as the confederates under Ayesha invaded Basra to take action against such Basrites who were involved in the murder of Othman, thus he would have to invade Iraq to punish those who were guilty of the murder of Othman. The stand of Ali was that the cry for the vengeance for the blood of Othman was merely a pretext for capturing power, for in case Muawiyah was really interested in claiming “Qasas.” The proper course for him was to take the oath of allegiance to him, and then lodge a claim for “Qasas” in the usual way enjoined by law. Ali maintained that if Muawiyah persisted in his stand and refused to listen to reason there would be no option with him (Ali), but to fight against Muawiyah as he had fought against the confederates at Basra.

Letters of Ali Addressed to Muawiyah

Letters of Ali

In Nahj-ul-Balagha there are some letters which Ali addressed to Muawiyah. These letters command historical importance, and provide the background material for assessing and evaluating what happened at this critical period of Islamic history.

Finality of the election of the Caliph

Muawiyah objected to the election of Ali as the Caliph. Ali refused the objection in the following terms: “I was elected by the same electorate which had elected my three predecessors, namely: Abu Bakr, Umar, and Othman. After the election had taken place, and the people had declared allegiance to the newly elected Caliph, neither those who were present, nor those who were absent have the right to object to the election. The electorate consists of the Muhajirin and the Ansars only, and if this electorate has elected the Caliph, the election is final and is binding on the entire Ummah. In view of this legal position if anybody objects to such election, and repudiates the decision of the competent electorate, he is a rebel, and has to be treated as such. O Muawiyah, I solemnly declare that if you take a fair view of the matter without any prejudice or bias, you will realize that I am not even remotely connected with the murder of Othman. It is quite another matter that you are levying this accusation against me only to promote your ulterior purpose”.

Criticism of Muawiyah

In reply to the above letter, Muawiyah used insolent words, and maintained the accusation against Ali of murdering Othman. Ali replied to this letter in the following terms: “I have received your letter which is a tissue of lies, and which shows your evil nature. Your letter is a letter of a person, who has neither the light to lighten the dark way, nor any guide to lead him. It is the letter of a person who is obsessed with his ulterior motive, and is deliberately treading the way of perdition. Your letter is meaningless and baseless. Under the law there is only one “baiy’at” which has been held. It has attained finality and is not susceptible of any review or revision. He who objects to the “baiy’at” in fact denounces Islam.”

Delivery of the murderers of Othman

Muawiyah demanded that the murderers of Othman should be handed over to him. In reply, Ali wrote as follows:

Our community resolved to assassinate the Holy Prophet. They decided to uproot the descendants of the Holy Prophet. They made many plans to destroy us. They withheld water supply from us. They subjected us to great trials and tribulations. God, however, came to our help, and saved his religion. During this period the believers advocated the cause, but the infidels were moved by considerations of loyalty to the tribe. The practice of the Holy Prophet was that when any war was at its height, he would make his relatives face the brunt of the battle. In the Battle of Badr, Ubaida b Harith was martyred. Hamza met his martyrdom in the Battle of Uhud. Jafar my elder brother was martyred in the Battle of Mutah. I did not lag behind in these wars but martyrdom was withheld from me. It is a vicissitude of times that I have to deal with a man who cannot take even two steps with me, and who cannot claim priority over me. If any one raises a false claim, may God take care of. As regards the demand that the murderers of Othman should be delivered to you, I cannot accept the demand for you have rebelled against my authority and I have to deal with you as a rebel.”

Challenge to Muawiyah

Muawiyah gave the threat of war, and in reply Ali challenged him as follows: “O Muawiyah what will you do when this mantle of the world which you are wearing is taken off from you. The world has attracted you. It spread its net, and you have been trapped therein. The world called you, and you welcomed its call. You have forgotten that you will be summoned to a place where no shield would protect you. Thus you should desist from the course you have adopted. Prepare your account, and take steps to protect you from the disaster that is going to overwhelm you. Do not listen to the advice of those who have strayed from the right path. If you do not desist from the wrong course that you have adopted, bear in mind that I would bring to you to senses. What are you? You are merely a wayward profligate man who has been enslaved by Satan. Satan has now become your sole guide, the end all and be all of your existence. O Muawiyah tell me when were you the leader of the community, and the ruler of the people. You had no priority in Islam. Even in the age of ignorance you held no office. Seek the protection of God. Misfortune makes you tread the wrong way. Fired with ambition and greed you are proceeding on the way that leads to perdition.

You have invited me to war. Very well Keep all the men aside, and step forward to meet me in single combat. Why engage all the troops in armed conflict. Let us decide this issue by a duel, so that it may become evident as to who has gone astray and has become blind. Have you forgotten that I am the man who in the Battle of Badr killed your maternal grandfather, maternal uncle and brother. You accepted Islam as a matter of expediency and Islam is as yet not a matter of faith with you. You have declared that you have stepped into the field to seek vengeance for the blood of Othman. You know very well who were responsible for the murder of Othman. If you are in earnest in your declaration, seek vengeance from the right quarter. But I am seeing something else. I very well see that when war is brought about, you will shriek like a wounded camel. I foresee that in war afraid of the carnage your men will call me to go back of God, although they have falsified the word of God and violated the oath of allegiance that they had taken to me. ”

Partition of the Muslim state

Muawiyah suggested that the Muslim State be partitioned and Syria be assigned to him. Ali replied in the following terms: “As regards your proposal that Syria be assigned to you I cannot accept that proposal today which I have rejected yesterday. Your observation that war has eaten into the vital of the Arabs, you should bear in mind that those who fought in the cause of God have earned paradise and those who fought to secure a worldly end have already been sentenced to hell. Your statement that in the matter of military strength we both are at par, is mere presumption, and presumption cannot take the place of conviction. Also keep in mind that the people of Iraq are as much desirous of paradise as the people of Syria covet that world. Your statement that we both are the descendants of Abd Manaf is correct, but it should be remembered that the Banu Umayya are not to equal to Banu Hashim; Harb can not equal Abdul Muttalib; Sufiyan is not equal to Abu Talib, nor can falsehood equal the truth. You have forgotten that we have honor of prophethood with us. It was because of this prophethood that the powerful were humbled, and the lowly were elevated. When Islam triumphed and the people willingly or unwillingly were converts, who accepted the faith because of fear, or greed. In the circumstances the proper thing for you that you should not allow Satan to overpower you.”

Ali and his predecessors

In the letter, Muawiyah took the stand that Ali did not offer whole-hearted support to the previous three Caliphs, namely Abu Bakr, Umar, and Othman. The game of Muawiyah was the Ali should say somthing against his predecessors which Muawiyah could exploit for the purpose of the propaganda. Ali replied to this letter in the following terms: “You have told me that God chose the Holy prophet for delivering his message, and the companions accepted the message. To tell this to me who belong to household of the Holy prophet is like the carrying of the dates to Hijr which is known for the abundance of its dates. You have claimed that in Islam such and such person have precedence. This assertion is such that if it is correct you are not even remotely connected therewith, if it is not correct that would not harm you in any way. How are you concerned with the matter as to who is superior or otherwise in the matter of Islam. Your sponsoring this issue is like making the criminal the judge.

Muawiyah you are fast speeding on the road to perdition. You have transgressed all limits. Desist from your ignominy. Remember that we are the household of the Holy prophet and whom God has already tested. Have you ever thought that our clan is to supervise your clan but nevertheless the Holy prophet contracted some marital relation with household to save you from any feeling of inferiority complex. We claim precedence in Islam because we belong to the household of the Holy Prophet, and we were most devoted to him. You have alleged that I was jealous of all the caliphs preceding me, and was hostile to them. If what you say is for the sake of argument correct, I have not committed any fault for which I owe an explanation to you. You said that in making me take the oath of allegiance to the previous Caliphs I was dragged as a camel with the bridle in its nose. You have thus presented me as a person who is deprived of his right and is oppressed. By your misguided criticism you have in fact praised me. You have referred to my attitude to Othman. I must reply to this part of your letter for you are related to him. Please peep into your heart and say who set the net for his murder, you or I. Is it not a fact that you remained indifferent to his protection, while I tried my best to the last to avert the crisis. I owe you no apology when I admit that I did differ from him in the matter of his policies, and I always tried to offer him sound advice, which he did not or could not accept. You have written that for me you have nothing but sword. That has made me laugh. When did you find the descendants of Abdul Muttalib fear the sword or shrank from war when it was forced on them. Do not worry. I will soon bring my troops to face you in battle.”

Ali’s March to Syria

Ali’s army

When war between Ali and Muawiyah became inevitable, preparations for a show down were made by both the sides. Ali managed to raise an army 90,000 strong. It included men from Kufa, Iraq, Basra and Madina. Ali made Malik Ashtar the Commander-in-Chief of his forces. The army was divided into a number of commands and each command had its own commander.

In the correspondence that was exchanged between the two sides, option was given to Ali to lead the force to Syria or let the Syrian forces come to Iraq Ali opted to lead his forces to Syria. In March 657, Ali set out from Kufa at the head of his army. From Rufa the army proceeded to Madina. Here more troops joined the army of Ali. From Madina Ali set out for Syria. His plan was to march through Upper Mesopotamia and invade Syria from the north. The advance guard of the army advanced along the western bank of the Euphrates. The main army under Ali advanced up to the Tigris, and thereafter entered the Mesopotamian desert.

March through the desert

The march of the army through the desert was a great ordeal. The long trek across the desert exhausted the water supplies at the disposal of the troops, and the absence of water became an acute problem. Ali sent his scouts to inquire of the tribesmen in the desert whether there were any wells or springs in the neighborhood which could supply water to the troops. The tribesmen said that there were no wells or spring in the neighborhood.

Ali had heard that some centuries ago the Israeli patriarchs had dug wells in the desert, and he hoped to be able to find out these ancient sites. The scouts who contacted the tribes in the desert were not able to get any clue of a spring or a well in the desert. One of the scouts, however, brought back with him an old Christian hermit who said that there was indeed a cistern in the neighborhood in the past, but it had gone dry. The hermit added that according to old legends, a hidden well existed somewhere in the neighborhood, and its mouth was covered with an enormous stone, but no one knew about the actual site of the legendary well. He observed that according to popular belief no one could locate the hidden well, except a prophet or the representative of a prophet.

Miracle of the well

Ali himself proceeded on a survey of the desert. At one place Ali saw a huge stone, and he asked his men to dig at that site. Miraculously a well was discovered at the site the water supply whereof was more than enough for the needs of the troops. As the ancient well was discovered, the Christian hermit was thrilled at the miracle. Addressing Ali he said that verily he was the representative of the prophet about whose advent the scriptures had predicted. He hastened to accept Islam at the hands of Ali. He presented to Ali an old parchment belonging to Simon, a companion of Jesus Christ on which was recorded a prophesy about the advent of the last prophet. The parchment also foretold of the lifting of the stone of the well by a representative of the last prophet.

The discovery of the source of water in the desert came as a matter of great relief to the troops of Ali. It raised their morale and fortified them with the faith they were fighting for the vindication of the truth. The news of the recovery of the well in the desert impressed the tribes in the neighborhood and they joined Ali in the war against Muawiyah.

Onward to Siffin

After crossing the desert, Ali and his troops pushed on Al-Raqqa on the left bank of the Euphrates, here they had to cross the river. They asked the people of Al-Raqqa to provide them boats and build a bridge of boats for them. The people of Al Raqqa said that in the war between the Muslim people they would remain neutral and as such they could not construct the bridge for them. Thereupon Malik Ashtar the Commander-in-Chief of the forces of Ali challenged the people of Al-Raqqa that unless they provided the necessary boats and constructed the bridge for them, he would declare war against them, and order their massacre. The people of Al-Raqqa consulted among themselves and ultimately agreed to construct the bridge of boats for the army of Ali to cross the river.

After crossing the river, the troops of Ali advanced along the right bank of the river in the direction of Aleppo. Here they came across the Syrian vanguard. The Syrians did not risk a skirmish with the forces of Ali and withdrew precipitately.

At Sur-Rum, along the borders of Syria, the Alid forces had a skirmish with the Syrian guards. The Syrians suffered defeat and retreated. Thereafter the forces of Ali reached the plain of Siffin, where they found the Syrian forces under Muawiyah drawn up in strength and waiting for them.

The Battle for water

Muawiyah’s command of water supply

As the troops of Ali arrived in the valley of Siffin, it was found that the forces of Muawiyah had already occupied the best part of the valley. There was only one source of water supply in the valley, and Muawiyah had so arrayed his forces that they controlled the water supply of the whole valley, and the troops of Ali had no access to water at any place. The strategy of Muawiyah obviously was to force a defeat on Ali by exposing his troops to the rigors of thirst.

Negotiation for access to water supply

The first task of Ali was to gain an access to the source of water supply. Ali sent a letter to Muawiyah through a delegation. Ali pointed out to Muawiyah that according to the injunctions of Islam as well as according to the rules of warfare, access to water supply could not be denied to the combatants. Ali observed that any armed conflict between the two rides would lead to great loss of life on both the sides. He was therefore keen that the disputes between the two sides should be decided through peaceful negotiations. He added that he was not going to lead an attack unless all possibilities of peace had been exhausted. He brought home the point that in this context it was necessary that both the sides should have equal opportunities of access to water, and the area around the source of water supply should be declared a neutral zone. On receiving the letter of Ali, Muawiyah called his council of war. ‘Amr b Al Aas the Commander-in-Chief of the forces of Muawiyah observed that according to the rules of warfare access to water had to be provided to the combatants from both the sides. He suggested that while maintaining over all control over the source of water supply they should allow the men of the forces of Ali to obtain water for their needs at specified hours subject to terms which might be mutually agreed upon.

Abdullah b Abi Sirah, a former Governor of Egypt, and a foster brother of Othman suggested that they should adopt the tactics of delay by neither providing access to the water supply to the other side, nor refusing to do so. He was of the view that because of such delay the forces of Ali would have no option but to retreat from the valley, and when they were on a retreat they could be attacked in the rear.

Some counselors of Muawiyah held that they were seeking vengeance for the blood of Othman. The rebels had denied access to water to Othman. It was accordingly necessary that those who had subjected Othman to the rigors of thirst should likewise be subjected to the suffering. Muawiyah gave an evasive reply to the delegation that he had received from Ali. He did not refuse the demand outright, but did not accept it either. His game was to play for time. In the meantime, he sent reinforcements for his troops that guarded the source of water supply.

Battle for water

When the delegation of Ali returned from Muawiyah, Ali called for his own council of war. After deliberations it was decided that an immediate attack should be made to gain control of the source of water supply. In the action that followed there was hard fighting with lances and swords. Some persons were killed from both the sides, but ultimately the forces of Ali had the upper hand, and they dislodged the Syrians from all the points commanding access to the source of water supply.

Now the position was reversed, and Muawiyah had to approach Ali to allow the Syrians access to the source of water supply. Some of the counselors of Ali advised him to pay the Syrians in their own coin, and to refuse them access to the source of water supply. Ali overruled them saying that Islam did not permit them to stop the supply of water to their enemy. He said that he had to be guided by the Book of God, and he could not act in the way the people acted during the Age of Ignorance. While the troops of Ali maintained the over all control of the source of water supply, the troops of Muawiyah were allowed to have the water they needed at specified hours. During such hours men from both the sides came in contact, and the general feeling was that instead of resorting to an armed conflict, the disputes between the two sides should be settled through peaceful means.

Months of Suspense

The Armies

The armies that lay in camp at Siffin facing each other were the largest armies so far assembled in the history of Islam. The irony was that such large armies had not been assembled to fight against the non-Muslims in the name of God. The misfortune was that the Muslims were arrayed to fight against the Muslims and each side claimed that it had taken the field for cause. Nevertheless both the sides wished to gain the end they had in view without an armed conflict. Ali instructed his men that they should not fire the first shot. Muawiyah likewise hesitated to take the initiative in beginning the war. With such large concentration of troops at one place, absolute peace was out of question. Isolated skirmishes took place every now and then leading to loss of life on both the sides. There was however no direct clash between the armies as a whole. For over two months the armies as whole remained quiet and in a state of suspense being officially neither at war, nor at peace. Then came the month of Moharrum and during this month the hostilities were officially suspended.

Overtures for peace

During these months peace, overtures were made, and peace missions were exchanged between the two sides almost everyday. The missions that were sent by Ali to Muawiyah tried to make out the point that Muawiyah should fear God, and refrain from creating dissentions among the Muslims. He was told that as Ali had been elected as the Caliph, it was his bounden duty to owe allegiance to him. It was also pointed out that in view of his learning, piety, relationship with the Holy Prophet, services to Islam, and other extraordinary qualities of head and heart, he was the most suitable person to be the Caliph of the Muslims. The stand of Muawiyah was that the election of Ali was irregular as it had been held under the pressure of the rebels. He accused Ali of involvement in the murder of Othman. He observed that he was the cousin of Othman, and according to the injunctions of Islam it was incumbent on him to seek “Qasas” for the murder of Othman.

To the charges of Muawiyah, the emissaries of Ali maintained that the election of Ali had been elected by all the citizens of Madina. All previous regular elections of the Caliphs had been held by the people of Madina, and in the case of the election of Ali the electorate was the same. The rebels did not exercise pressure on the people of Madina to elect a particular person; their pressure was only to the extent that they should elect some person as the Caliph. The claims of all the eligible candidates were duly considered, and by general consensus, Ali was superior to all of them. In fact all other candidates had withdrawn their claims. If any, Muawiyah’s contention was that Ali’s election was vitiated because of his involvement in the murder of Othman. The emissaries of Ali observed that this accusation was false. Ali was neither directly nor indirectly involved in the assassination of Othman. As a matter of fact, Ali had tried his best to support Othman. They emphatically pointed out that to levy such a charge on a person of the caliber of Ali was sheer sacrilege. Muawiyah maintained that if Ali had supported Othman sincerely, the tragedy would have been avoided. The emissaries of Ali posed the question: You were entrenched in power in Syria, and you had an army at your disposal. You were fully aware of the difficulties of the situation. Why did you not take proper steps to defend Othman.” Muawiyah had no satisfactory reply to this question. The emissaries of Ali thereafter posed another question: “During the last days of the siege of his home, Othman had asked the provincial governors including yourself to send him aid against the rebels. Why did you and the provincial governors not send the aid. Are you then not indirectly responsible for the assassination of Othman.” Muawiyah had no answer to this question as well and that led to the exchange of hot and bitter words between Muawiyah and the emissaries of Ali.

The emissaries of Ali asked a further question: You say that if Ali had supported Othman the tragedy would have been avoided. Did Ali have any force at his disposal. If you who had a large army at your disposal could not avert the tragedy, how could Ali who had no force at his disposal avert the tragedy.” Muawiyah said that if Ali was not involved in the murder of Othman he should hand over these murderers to him. The missions sent by Ali pointed out that the proper way to ask for Qasas was that he should offer the oath of allegiance to Ali and thereafter file a claim for Qasas before him. The delegates brought home to Muawiyah the fallacy in his stand. If his demand for Qasas was genuine he should have strengthened the hands of Ali to enable him bring the murderers of Othman to book. By rebelling against the authority of Ali he had enabled the murderers of Othman seek an alliance with Ali. In such circumstances it was impossible for Ali to take action against the persons who were his allies. It was pointed out with great force that the responsibility for complicating the state of affairs devolved on Muawiyah and not on Ali, who would have himself avenged the murder of Othman if difficulties had not been created in his way.

Muawiyah suggested that a way out of the difficulty was that he should be recognized as the Caliph of Syria while Ali could continue as the Caliph of the rest of the Muslim world. Ali did not agree to this proposal as this was regarded to be repugnant to the spirit of Islam. Ali also pointed out that this proposal on the part of Muawiyah had let the cat out of the bag and betrayed his real intention. That provided a conclusive proof to the effect that the cry for vengeance for the blood of Othman was merely a pretext to capture power.

Ali sent a message to Muawiyah that if all this fuss was about the caliphate between himself and Muawiyah, why create dissentions among the Muslims and shed the blood of innocent persons? In the usual Arab way, Ali proposed a duel with Muawiyah. It was pointed out that in that way whosoever survived would be the Caliph. ‘Amr b Al Aas advised Muawiyah that the proposal of Ali should be accepted. Muawiyah hesitated to accept the proposal for he knew that Ali had so far fought hundreds of duels, and in all such duels his adversaries had been killed. Amr b Al Aas pointed out that such was the case many years ago. With the lapse of time, Ali had grown fat and unwieldy and in any personal combat he was apt to lose the balance and be overpowered. Muawiyah, however, could not make up his mind to take the risk of a personal combat with Ali and he refused the offer.

Thereafter all negotiations for peace broke down and both the sides began to prepare for war.

The Battle of Siffin

Hostilities on a limited scale

When the sacred month of Moharrum was over, and the possibilities of any settlement through peaceful means had receded, war between the two sides became imminent. Still hoping against hope, war on a full fledged scale was avoided, and hostilities began on a limited scale. A detachment from each side was led to fight each day. The battle waged for the whole day and the two detachments retired to their respective camps at nightfall. The following day other detachments took the field, and after a day long combat they retired to their camps when the night set. This process continued for a week. Losses of life occurred on both the sides, but these contests were more like tournaments than battles. After a week the patience of both the sides was exhausted, and the entire armies from both the sides took the field for a headlong clash.

The main battle

The main battle began on the 8th of Safar 37 A.H. The heralds from the army of Ali stepped forward, and shouted to the army of Muawiyah to accept the truth and acknowledge the caliphate of Ali. The heralds from the army of Muawiyah shouted, “We seek vengeance for the blood of Othman. Hand us his murderers if you are in the truth”. These calls proved ineffective, and the two armies arrayed themselves for action.

The army of Ali was divided into the three usual wings, the right wing, the left wing and the central wing. The central wing was commanded by Ali himself and this wing comprised some veteran companions of Madina. One wing comprised contingents from Kufa, and the other wing comprised contingents from Basra. The cavalry of the Kufa wing was led by Malik Ashtar while the infantry of this wing was led by Umar b Yasir. The cavalry of the Basra wing was led by Sahl b Hanif, while its infantry was led by Qais b Sa’ad.

Before the war began Ali addressed his army. He said that they were fighting in the cause of God, and the vindication of the truth. He exhorted his men to prove their worth by performing prodigies of valor. If they survived they would be Ghazis and if they fell, paradise would await them. He asked his men not to fire the first shot. The enemy should take the initiative, but when the war began they should not rest content till they had defeated the enemy. The men were enjoined not to turn their backs. They were exhorted to play the role of heroes. They were instructed not to attack any wounded person; not to cut the limbs of dead person; not to molest women; not to kill the aged and the children; and not to plunder. They were asked to be steadfast, talk less and fear God.

Before the beginning of the battle proper, according to the usual Arab practice the challenge to personal duel was given, Ali gave the challenge for personal combat with Muawiyah. Muawiyah did not accept the challenge. Then Malik Ashtar the Commander-in-Chief of the forces of Ali stepped forward, and gave a challenge for a personal duel with ‘Amr b Al ‘Aas the Commander-in-chief of the forces of Muawiyah, ‘Amr b Al Aas did not accept the challenge.

The battle

After the refusal of Muawiyah and Amr b Al ‘Aas to accept the challenge of personal combat, the two armies drawn out in battle array fought for the whole day, but neither side get the better of the other. The following day the combat was removed with greater vigor. Ali was in the center of his army with the flower of troops from Madina. Muawiyah had a pavilion pitched in the battlefield and there surrounded by his bodyguard. He watched the course of the battle. ‘Amr b Al-‘Aas with a great weight of horse charged the Kufa wing of the forces of Ali which gave way and exposed Ali to imminent peril. Ali and the men of the central wing fought bravely and repulsed the charge. Malik Ashtar the Commander-in-Chief of the forces of Ali then led a charge against Muawiyah. The pavilion of Muawiyah was surrounded by five columns of body guards ranged one after the other. Four of these five ranks were cut to pieces by Ashtar and his men. At this stage Muawiyah contemplated fight. ‘Amr b Al-‘Aas rushed to his side, and advised him not to lose heart. He said “Courage to day, victory tomorrow”. With great effort, the forces of Muawiyah beat back the attack and thereafter the two forces fought on equal terms. Feats of bravery were performed by men from both the sides leading to heavy blood shed.

On the third day the battle began again with unprecedented vigor. The Syrians pressed against the ranks of the forces of Ali, but Ashtar drove them back with a good deal of slaughter. Then ‘Ammaar b Yasir with his contingent dashed forward from the ranks of the forces of Ali and attacked the forces of Muawiyah with the ferocity of a lion. He penetrated deep into the ranks of the enemy causing great havoc. Bent on seeking martyrdom ‘Ammaar fell after he had broken the ranks of the enemy. ‘Amaar was a distinguished companion of the Holy Prophet. In the time of Umar he was the Governor of Kufa. He developed some differences with Othman. When Ali became the Caliph, Ammaar was his ardent supporter. He fought on the side of Ali in the Battle of the Camel. About him the Holy Prophet had prophesied that he would be killed by a group of godless and rebellious people. ‘Ammaar was ninety years old at the time of his martyrdom. When the people came to know of the martyrdom of Ammaar and recalled the prophecy of the Holy Prophet it demoralized the troops of Muawiyah. Muawiyah tried to keep up the morale of his people by saying that the responsibility for his death lay with Hadra1 Ali who had brought him to 6ght in spite of his old ago. The death of ‘Ammaar was a great personal loss for Ali and he felt as if one of his hands had been cut off.

The following day the war was continued causing a good deal of slaughter. As the day wore on, the position of the army of Muawiyah began worsening. Their supply of arrows was exhausted, and they began pelting the forces of Ali with stones. The Syrians next look to javelins and lances. Finally they fell on the troops of Ali with swords. The battle continued during the night as well. In the nocturnal battle Ali played the role of a hero. He stood firm as a rock, and beat back the attacks of the Syrians killing according to chronicles as many as five hundred persons with his ponderous two edged sword.

The ruse of the Syrians

In the actions so far fought, the forces of Ali had the upper hand, and the final collapse of the Syrians was well in sight. In order to avert their defeat the Syrians now resorted to a ruse. The next day when the battle began again, the Syrians hung the leaves from the Holy Quran on their lances and raised the cry, “O ye men of Iraq, should you kill us what would become of our families and should we slay you what would become of your wives and children. Let us stop this sad warfare, and resort to the decision of the Book of God.

As soon as the men of Iraq heard the appeal of the Syrians, they threw down their arms, and echoed the cry, “Let the Book of God decide between us”. Ali expostulated with his men saying that this was a nefarious device of Muawiyah to cloak his defeat. Ali warned his men not to fall into the trap, but to fight to the finish. This had no appeal for the men of Iraq. They argued that since they were fighting for the sake of God they could not refuse arbitration based on the Book of God. Ali said that of all the people in the world he would be the first to accept the decision of the Book of God, but he knew full well that neither Muawiyah nor the people around him had any knowledge of the Quran or the injunctions of Islam. They were merely exploiting the Book of God for an ulterior purpose, and it was necessary that they should be frustrated in their object. Ali exhorted the people of Iraq to continue the fighting till they were victorious.

The revolt in Ali army

The exhortations of Ali had no effect. About 20,000 men of Iraq let by Zaid b Hasan, and Mustur bin Fidki openly revolted and laid down their arms. The rebels approached Ali, and calling him no longer their Caliph, but simply Ali, declared “Ali you are appealing to the sword, and they are appealing to the Quran. Let the issue of the caliphate be deferred to the judgment of God’s Book”. They adopted a hostile attitude, and warned Ali that if he did not submit to their demand, he would meet the same fate as had befallen his predecessor, Othman.

Heartbroken at the treachery of his men, Ali exclaimed with great grief, “Alas, you are deserting me at the critical time of need. Go and join the Syrian coalition against God and His Apostle.” The rebels did not rest content with their own revolt. A large section of the army under Ashtar was still fighting, and they were having an upper hand. The rebels demanded that orders should be issued recalling Ashtar from the battlefield. The rebels went to the extent of reproaching Ali. He was accused of being an accomplice in the murder of Othman. He was accused of fighting against the Syrians to quench his thirst for self-aggrandizement. Ali threatened them with grave consequences and they threatened him in turn. The pressure of the rebels increased and Ali feeling helpless had to recall Ashtar from the front. Ashtar returned reluctantly, and a fierce altercation ensued between him and the rebels. Ashtar upbraided them as traitors, hypocrites and villains. In return they reviled him. Because of this revolt in his army, Ali had to suspend action against the Syrians, and thus the victory which was in immediate sight, evaded him. Henceforward misfortune was to stalk the steps of Ali.

Arbitration Agreement

Significance of the display of the leaves of the Holy Quran

Ali because of the treachery of his own men was no longer the master of his own will, and he had to act in accordance with the dictates of the rebels. These rebels forced Ali to depute the rebel General Ashas b Qais to inquire from Muawiyah as to what was the significance of the display of the leaves of the Holy Quran on their lances. Muawiyah said, “The significance of this display of the leaves of the Holy Quran on our lances is that we appeal from the decision of arms to the decision of the law of God. Let both sides retire from the battlefield, and refer the case to the arbitration of two umpires, one umpire to be nominated by each side. The two umpires should decide according to the Holy Quran and the traditions of the Holy Prophet as to whom the sovereignty should go. The decision of the umpires should be binding on all”. To this proposal Ashas gave his consent without consulting Ali. Ali was wroth at the acceptance of the proposal on his behalf. Ali maintained that the issue of sovereignty was not in dispute. He was the duly elected Caliph, and his right to the caliphate could not be adjudicated upon by the arbitrators. The rebels did not accept the contention of Ali. Ali in a state of utter helplessness said, “If you are not going to listen to me, then do whatever you like.”

Ash’as b Qais

Ash’as b Qais who accepted the proposal of Muawiyah was the chief of the Banu Kindi. He was converted to Islam during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet. After the death of the Holy Prophet he apostatized. In the apostasy wars conducted during the caliphate of Abu Bakr Ashas was defeated. He came to Madina, repented and was reconverted to Islam. Abu Bakr married his sister Umm Farida to him. During the time of Umar he participated in the wars against the Persians. Umar, however, did not trust him with any important office. Othman made him the Governor of a province. Ali deposed him. He came to Kufa and offered allegiance to Ali. Ali made him a General of his army the marched with Ali to Siffin and played an important part in dislodging the Syrians from the source of water supply in the Siffin valley. To start with he showed a great deal of loyalty to Ali, but later he came to waver in his loyalty. Even before the Syrians displayed the leaves of the Holy Quran on their lances, Ashas addressed the contingent of the Banu Kinda under his command in the following terms: “O ye Muslims, you have witnessed what has transpired during the course of this war, and how many Muslims have been ruthlessly killed. I have become old, but I have never seen such dreadful carnage before. Whosoever hears me, it behooves him to pass on my message to others that we ought to resolve that we will not fight from henceforth, and would refrain from killing the Muslims. By God, I am not telling you these things because I am afraid of war or because cowardice has taken hold of me. I tell you these things because I pity the Muslim women and children who will suffer, and mourn the loss of those who are killed in the battle.”

This was outright treachery. It appears treachery was in the very blood of Ashas. His daughter was married to Imam Hasan. She poisoned Imam Hasan at the instigation of Yazid, who promised to marry her in case she poisoned Imam Hasan, but refused to marry her when she had poisoned Imam Hasan on the ground that he could not trust a woman who could poison her husband.

Causes of the helplessness of Ali

The accounts of what happened at Siffin which have come down to us give no clue as to what was the cause of rebellion against Ali when victory was almost in sight. It is not plausible that this sudden development took place at the display of the leaves of the Holy Quran on their lances by the Syrians. Obviously it was the culmination of some deep set conspiracy. The exact extent of such conspiracy remains a mystery, but it appears that the treachery of most of the army chiefs of Ali was because of the bribery by Muawiyah. The army that Ali had brought to Siffin was more a motley crowd than a disciplined force, and this lack of discipline was its greatest weakness. It also appears that there was a good deal of jealousy among the Generals of the army of Ali. When Ali appointed Ashas as a General his appointment was opposed by Malik Ashtar who was the Commander-in-Chief of the forces of Ali, and these differences between the two Generals persisted during the course of the war. Ali believed in the truth of his cause to such an extent that he did not sponsor any propaganda to support such cause. On the other hand Muawiyah was a past master in making propaganda, and in this respect he outwitted Ali.

Arbitration Deed

When the arbitration deed came to be written up, an altercation between the parties began over the first sentence of the preamble about the title of the parties. The supporters of Ali insisted that he should be referred to as “Ali, the commander of the Faithful”. The other party objected to such title as they did not recognize him as the Caliph. The army chiefs of Ali who had rebelled against the authority of Ali overruled the view of the supporters of Ali on the ground that in the case of the Hudaibia pact when the Quraish objected to reference to Muhammad (peace be on him) as the prophet. The Holy Prophet agreed to the omission of such reference. The agreement that was drawn up provided for the truce between parties, and the settlement of the dispute through arbitration of two umpires, one empire to be appointed by each party. The umpires were required to give their decision in accordance with the injunctions of the Holy Quran. In the absence of any guidance from the Holy Quran, the traditions of the Holy Prophet were to be followed. The umpires were guaranteed the security of their life and property and of their families whatever the outcome of the arbitration might be. It was provided that the decision of the umpires was to be binding on all concerned. The umpires were required to give their decision within six months. They were required to meet at a neutral spot midway between Kufa and Damascus. The point to be determined by the umpires was as to whom out of Ali and Muawiyah the sovereignty was to belong. The supporters of Ali pointed out that the issue of sovereignty was not the point in dispute, the dispute was about the “Qasas” of the assassination of Othman. The rebels against the authority of Ali overruled this stand. They said that the real issue was that of the caliphate between Ali and Muawiyah, and if this issue was decided the question of “Qasas” for the murder of Othman would be automatically decided. The arbitration deed as it was finally drawn up was nothing short of a death warrant for Ali. He had however become so helpless that he had to agree to it.

The Umpires

After the arbitration deed had been drawn up, the arbiter to represent Ali had to be appointed. Ali wanted that his cousin Abdullah b Abbas be appointed as the arbiter. The rebels said that they could not accept this nomination as Abdullah b Abbas was related to him and he was apt to be partial. Ali said that in that case let Malik Ashtar be appointed as the arbiter. The rebels vetoed this suggestion as well on the ground that Malik Ashtar had participated in the war and could not take an impartial view. The rebels said that they would nominate Abu Musa Ashari a former Governor of Kufa in this behalf. Ali pointed out that he had no confidence in Abu Musa Ashari as he had deposed him from the governorship of Kufa. The rebels said that Abu Musa Ashari was known for his neutrality, and they could not agree to the nomination of any person other than Abu Musa Ashari as the arbiter. So helpless had Ali become that he had to give way on this point as well and Abu Musa Ashari was appointed as the umpire to represent Ali when Ali had no confidence in him. On the side of Muawiyah, ‘Amr b Al-Aas was appointed as the arbiter and no one objected that he had participated in the war and had developed certain prejudices.

The Kharijites

The Return March

After the execution of the arbitration agreement the forces of both the sides had to withdraw from the battlefield. Although the arbitration agreement had been forced on him Ali, as an honorable man found himself bound by the agreement. He accordingly ordered a return march for his forces. Ali left the battlefield of Siffin with a heavy heart. Victory had eluded him because of the treachery of his own men. He had been betrayed. Heavy casualties had taken place from both the sides and he mourned at the death of so many Muslims. He had lost some of his best supporters like ‘Ammaar b Yasir, and this vacuum could not be filled. He felt distressed that the Muslim Ummah had lost its unity. A generation after the death of the Holy Prophet, the people wore losing their Islamic character and were once again relapsing into the evils of the Age of Ignorance. It was heartrending for him to see that truth was being suppressed, and falsehood was getting the upper hand. It appeared to him that by subjecting him and the Muslims to such ordeals, God intended the Muslims to be put to test. Ali bowed his head to the will of God, and prayed to the Almighty to grant him the patience and the courage to face the difficulties that beset his patio. The return march was made by the shortest road on the right bank of the Euphrates. The troops that had marched to the battlefield fired with the urge to fight for the vindication of the truth were now a frustrated and disappointed people who were returning to their homes after losing much and gaining little. For such failure they reproached and accused one another when the truce was called. They had heaved a sigh of relief at the cessation of hostilities. On the way back when they reflected on the course of events which they had themselves precipitated they came to have second thoughts. It came to dawn on them that they were the victims of misfortune for which they themselves were to blame.

Back in Kufa, Ali found the city plunged in gloom and grief. Almost from every house in the city rose the shrieks of women mourning the deaths of their dear ones who had fallen in the Battle of Siffin. There was a sense of general discontentment with the people that the sacrifices that they had made had gone in vain, and the campaign to Syria undertaken at a heavy cost had proved to be an exercise in futility. The general state of administration had fallen at a low ebb. Government was faced with acute financial difficulties. The law and order position became unsatisfactory. Ali had to strive hard to restore some semblance of order. He sympathized with the families who had lost their men in the battle and assured them that such deaths would be avenged. In his sermons to the congregation in the principal mosque of the city, he exhorted the people to hold fast to the rope of God, cultivate the values of Islam, remain united among themselves, and pray to God for their ultimate victory. He took the people into confidence, and narrated at length how he had been betrayed at the Battle of Siffin. He calmed the feelings of the people, and sought their cooperation in another bid to avenge the truth.

The Khawarij

The Battle of Siffin led to the birth of the first sect among the Muslims which came to be known as the Kharjites. The term literally means separatists, seceder or outgoers. The term is based on a verse of the Holy Quran (4:101) which refers to those who leave their homes among the unbelievers. They also called themselves as the Shurat, i. e. those who sell their lives and property in return for paradise. The movement had its origin among the tribes of Banu Tamim, Banu Bakr, and Banu Hamdan. These people had participated in the revolt against Othman, and were involved in his murder. When Muawiyah raised the cry for vengeance for the blood of Othman, they allied themselves with Ali. They fought on his side in the Battle of the Camel. When Ali led his forces to Syria, these people formed an important component of the army of Ali.

As the Battle of Siffin dragged on without leading to any tangible results these people got wearied of the war. They felt that the war was in reality a struggle for power between Ali and Muawiyah. These people could boast of deep-rooted traditions of democracy, and a struggle for power was repugnant to their way of life. They accordingly came to maintain that it was not advisable for them to be a pawn in the game of king malting. When the troops of Muawiyah displayed the leaves of the Holy Quran on their lances and appealed for decision to the Holy Quran instead of arms, these people responded to the call, and forced Ali to suspend hostilities, although victory for his forces was well in sight.

Thus these people though allied with Ali directly promoted the cause of Muawiyah although he was after their blood because of their involvement in the murder of Othman. Muawiyah was shrewd enough to appreciate their gesture, and in the arbitration agreement that was subsequently drawn up there was no reference to the murder of Othman. The point of dispute to be referred for arbitration was, as to out of Ali and Muawiyah, to whom the sovereignty was to belong. On the return march, these people had second thoughts on the matter. They felt that they had committed a sin in accepting the cease fire. They became critical of the appointment of umpires. They were emphatically of the view that the view that the decision of God alone should be sought for, and it was a sin to vest the decision in the matter in human beings. They blamed Ali for his acceptance of the proposal for the appointment of umpires.

In order to support their stand, they worked out religious dogmas of their fundamental principle was ‘La Hukma illa lillah” – no decision except the decision of God. They maintained that they stood for the establishment of the kingdom of God and not of men on the earth. As God was not to rule in person, some Amir had to be appointed, but such Amir was bound to follow strictly the commands of God as revealed in the Holy Quran. The Amir could hold office as long as he observed the commands of God. When there was any dereliction on his part, he was liable to be killed. They acknowledged that they were involved in the assassination of Othman, but they justified this act on the ground that Othman had acted against the commands of God. They held that when any person committed a sin he became a Kafir, and it was necessary for him to offer repentance for re-entry in the fold of Islam. They had committed a sin in accepting the cease fire. They repented publicly and sought the forgiveness of God. They held that they alone wore true believers, and all other persons who called themselves Muslims, but did not subscribe to their views were unbelievers. They maintained that they had the right to kill unbelievers. It followed that they could not live in the midst of unbelievers. On return from Siffin they did not come back to Kufa. Instead they encamped at Harura, a few miles outside Kufa. In this way these people separated from the main body of the Muslims, and came to be known as the Kharjites. Their strength was about twelve thousand. Their leaders were Shabath b Ribi al Riahi; Abdullah b Kauwa al Yeshkuri; Yazid b Qais Al Harabi; and Abdullah b Wahab al Rasibi.

Ali and the Kharijites

As these people had formerly been the allies of Ali and had defected under some misunderstanding, Ali contacted them with a view to arriving at some conciliation with them. They criticized Ali for his acceptance of arbitration. Ali pointed out to them that he was against the acceptance of cease-fire when victory was almost in sight but he did so because of their pressure. They confessed that in putting pressure on him they had sinned, and to atone for that sin they bad offered repentance to God. They insisted that as Ali had also sinned he too should offer repentance. Ali said that he had merely made a political mistake and not committed any sin, and as such no particular act of repentance was called for. In his prayers he repented every day, and that cleared him before God. They said that it was wrong on his part to accept the verdict on human umpires instead of the decision of God. Ali pointed out that according to the agreement, the umpires were bound to give their verdict in accordance with the injunctions of Islam, and if such decision was not in accord with the commands of God as revealed in the Holy Book it could be repudiated. They demanded that Ali should lead them to the battle again to fight against the Syrians. Ali said that he agreed with them, and appreciated their offer but as he had entered into an agreement to keep peace it would not be advisable for them to take up arms for that would be against the injunction of Islam which enjoins the scrupulous observance of agreements. He assured them making God his witness that if the decision of the umpires was not in accord with the injunctions of Islam, he would lead them to war as desired by them. He observed that in the meantime they could make preparations for war, so that they should be ready to march to the battlefield as soon as there was a violation of the agreement by the other side. That apparently satisfied the Kharijites and at the instance of Ali they broke the camp at Harura and returned to their homes in Kufa.

Testament of Ali

Testament of Ali

After the Battle of Siffin, Ali wrote a detailed testament in favor of his son Imam Hasan. It is a brilliant code of counsel, which provides guidance for every Muslim. The testament is found in Nahj-ul-Balagha, and its running translation is given hereunder: “Son, I enjoin on you that you should fear God. Follow His commandments. Enliven your heart with His remembrance. Hold fast to His rope. No relationship is stronger than the relation that exists between you and God.”

The Hereafter

O son, enlighten the heart with prayers. Suppress all lust with piety. Strengthen your heart with faith. Brighten it with wisdom. Overpower it with the remembrance of death. Let it beware of its mortality. Frighten it with the vicissitudes of the times. Make it take lesson from the fate of the dead. Wander through the ruins of the settlements of the past. Ask these ruins: what did these people do, where have they gone, where they have settled now. This will make you realize that they have departed from their friends and relatives, and that they now rest in the wilderness of the graveyard where you will also have to go sooner or later. Rectify your lapses. Do not sell the Hereafter for the world. Do not speak in the state of ignorance. Refrain from unnecessary talk. Do not tread the path from which you can apprehend the danger of running astray. Withhold your step from evil for that is the way to safety.

Virtue and faith

If you will preach virtue, you will be among the virtuous. Counteract the evil with your tongue. Keep aloof from the wicked. Undertake Jihad in the way of God. In the affairs of God do not be afraid of the accusations of the evil mongers. For the vindication of the truth do not hesitate to face the storm of difficulties. Seek protection in faith.

Protection of God

In all that you do, seek the protection of God, for thereby you will be in a citadel which is strongly fortified and invincible. In seeking anything do not make any partner with God, for all bounty is in the hands of God in all matters. Pursue the right. Do not covet what is undesirable.

The elders

Son, show no lapse in the fulfillment of your obligations. Follow in the footsteps of your elders. As you see yourself today they saw themselves likewise yesterday. As you think, they also thought. Experience taught them that they should tread the right path.

Your own way

If you are inclined to follow your own way as a result of your own experience you may do so but it should be done with due care and wisdom. Do not get yourself involved in doubts and debates. Before embarking on such adventure seek the support and help of God. Step into this valley only when you are convinced that your heart is receptive, your intelligence has matured, and your intellect is sufficiently developed to distinguish the right from the wrong. Without such pre-requisites the way will be dark, and you will be liable to stray. It is necessary for the seeker of truth that he should neither stray from the right path, nor be assailed by any doubts.

Tests of God

Son, understand that He in Whose Hand is death has control over life as well. He Who brings about birth brings about death as well. He tests you by putting you to troubles. He is our final refuge. See that you do not fail in His test. Believe that the world is subject to the well-established law of God that in the world man is awarded bounty as well as subjected to trials and tribulations. The final award is made in the Hereafter of which we have no knowledge.

Resignation to the Will of God

Son, if there is anything which you cannot comprehend do not repudiate it, but you should meditate over it and attribute your failure to understand it to the limitations of your intellect. It may be appreciated that when you are born you are devoid of understanding, and knowledge comes to you steadily as you grew up. Even when grown up, it cannot be said how many things there are still, of which you are ignorant. There are things, which excite your wonder, but knowledge about them dawns on you gradually. Therefore your attachment should be to that Being who has created you, and who has given you sustenance. Your prayers should be for Him, and you should resign yourself to His Will. Son, no one has taught about God as the Holy Prophet. Make him your guide, and seek your salvation through him.

Allah is One

Son, if there had been any god other than Allah, their prophets would have also come, and they would have also established their dominions. There is, however, no sign of any such dominion. Verily Allah is one. He has no partner. He exists since eternity and will live forever. He is the first and the last. He has no beginning and no end. He is almighty, omnipotent and omniscient. Thus you should act in such way as a humble servant would act with reference to his mighty master. Remember that God has enjoined you to do good things, and refrain from bad things.

Picture of the world

Son, I have presented to you a picture of the world. I have given you an account of its insignificance. So it is for you to keep this in mind and act accordingly. The people who have tested the world do not feel distressed on leaving it they are in fact like persons who migrate from a famine struck land to land of plenty. These people bear the ordeal of the journey, and separation from friends and relatives so that they may arrive at a land where they can enjoy plenty. Their every step is a step forward bringing them closer to their destination. The people who are attached to the world cannot bear separated from it. They are like those people who leave a land of plenty for a famine struck land. Their journey would be most troublesome and their end would be most tragic.

Balance between yourself and the people

Son, make yourself a balance between yourself and the people. Whatever you like for yourself, like it for others. Whatever is undesirable to you, consider it undesirable for others as well. If you do not want to be oppressed by any one, do not oppress anybody. Treat others as you wish to be treated by them. If the people behave with you as you behave with them, consider this to be a proper state of affairs. Do not say any thing without proper knowledge. Do not say anything, which you do not like to be heard against yourself.

Self adulation

Self-adulation is a folly and a cause of destruction for self. Do not become a treasurer for others. Seek enlightenment from God and fear God alone. Son, you have before you a long and hazardous journey. During this journey, good conduct should be your greatest asset. During this journey you should not carry with you a burden larger than what is necessary. If you carry a burden which is heavier than what you can bear that will be a source of great embarrassment for you. Do as much good as you can. If while you are rich someone asks for a loan from you, give it so that it is returned to you when you are in straitened circumstances.

The journey to the Hereafter

Son, you have a steep rock to ascend. For climbing such height, a man without burden is at an advantage as compared with a person carrying a heavy burden. Thereafter there will be hell or paradise. Before reaching your destination send your goods in advance to insure a comfortable accommodation when you arrive at your destination.

Access to God

After death, no apology will avail, nor any return to the world would be possible. Have faith that He Who holds the treasures of the earth and the heavens has permitted you to ask for anything you want. Whatever you ask for, you will get. If you seek mercy you will have it. You can have free access to Him. No functionary stands in the way between you and Him. Worldly goods are of little value. They are for you; you are not for them.

Preparations for death

Son, you are born for the Hereafter. Death lies in wait for you. Howsoever you may run from it, it will overreach you. You have to fall a victim to death sooner or later. Therefore be careful lest death comes to you before you have had the opportunity to repent. In that case you will be deemed to destruction. Son, you should be well prepared so that when death comes you have no regret.

Temptations of the world

Son, do not be tempted by the world for God has revealed its worthlessness. Even the world itself is aware of its transitory nature. Those who are devoted to the world are like barking dogs and ferocious animals who fall at one another, the strong devouring the weak. Some of such beasts are tied down, and are devoid of the power to harm. Some of them run amuck like camels, which roam about causing mischief. They are devoid of intelligence. They tread the path of destruction, and are enveloped in darkness. They cannot see light. They have got themselves lost in the labyrinths of the world. They are enamoured of the world and have made it their God. The world is playing with them and they are playing with the world. They have completely forgotten the Hereafter.

Counsels to follow

Son, all your hopes cannot be realized. You cannot live for a period longer than what has been ordained for you. You have to tread the way, which was trodden by the people before you. Be moderate in your desires. Do not transgress the limits. Do not become a slave of your desires. That good is no good, which leads to evil. That wealth is no wealth, which brings dishonor. Take care that ambition and greed do not lead you to destruction. Do not seek the favor of any one for whatever is ordained for you, you will get it at all cost.

Speech and silence

Whatever harm accrues because of silence can be remedied, but whatever harm is done by speech cannot be remedied. Have you not seen that water is kept in the water skin by tying the mouth of the water skin. It is better to restrain your desires then to stretch your hand before others. A little that is earned because of honest labor is better than larger amount gained through dishonest means. Guard well your secret. Sometimes one is apt to harm himself by his own act. He who speaks more than what is necessary indulges in error.

Man and God

God is most merciful, when you violate your repentance He does not take any vengeance. When you turn to Him again He does not taunt you, nor does He take cognizance of your faults. He does not hesitate in accepting repentance. He does not make you despair of His mercy. He regards repentance as a virtue. Any dereliction minor or grave is counted as one, but every good deed is treated as ten virtues. Lie has kept the door of repentance open. He listens to your plaint. When you praise Him, He listens to you. It is He to Whom you tell your difficulties and afflictions and seek health, longevity, and the fulfillment of desires. No one other than Him can fulfil your desires. If there is any delay in the acceptance of your prayer, do not give way to despair. The acceptance of the prayer depends on your bona fides. Sometimes there is delay in the acceptance of the prayer so that you may have a greater reward. Sometimes your prayer is not accepted for what you ask for is not in your interests. Therefore you should ask for such things which are really to your advantage.

Company

Keep the company of the virtuous. Refrain from the company of the wicked. To oppress the weak is the worst tyranny. When softness becomes hardness, hardness becomes softness. Sometimes cure becomes malady and malady becomes cure. Sometimes an evil wisher does what is good for you, and a well wisher does what is harmful to you. Do not bank on false hopes for that is the capital of the dead. Intelligence is the application of experience. The best experience is that which bears a lesson. Avail of the opportunity before it turns against you.

The fate

Everyone who goes on a journey may not return. Do not waste things. Do not spoil your prospects of the Hereafter. The fate of man is previously ordained. Whatever is the decree of your destiny will come to pass. A trader is a gambler in some way. Sometimes scarcity may be more beneficent than plenty.

The times

As long as the times favor you, march with the times. Beware that ambition does not blind you, and enmity does not deprive you of your intelligence. If a friend loosens the bond of friendship, you should strengthen such bond. If he keeps distance from you, you should try to come closer to him. If he adopts a stiff attitude against you, you should adopt a gentler attitude towards him. If he makes a mistake you should find an excuse for him. Behave with a friend as if he is your master, and you are his slave. Do not befriend the enemy of your friend. Do not refrain from tendering advice to your friend even though it might be bitter. Do not give way to anger. He who is harsh with you, be kind to him. He who has a good opinion about you, see that such opinion is not falsified. Do not ignore the rights of a friend under the false notion that he is a friend, for where rights are ignored, friendship suffers. Do not despair because of the oppression of a tyrant, for by such oppression he digs his own grave.

Sustenance

Son, sustenance is of two types, one that you seek, and the other that seeks you. Thus if you do not seek sustenance it will seek you. In the world your share is to that extent which can stand you in good stead in the Hereafter. If you grieve even what you have lost, then you should grieve over everything, which you have not got. Do not be like those people who are not impressed by any advice, but are moved by accusations. A wise man takes a lesson from even an ordinary lapse.

Patience and faith

Overpower desires and suspicions by patience and faith. He who does not take the middle course strays. A friend is like a relative. A true friend is he who looks after your interests in your absence. A stranger is he who has no friend.

Words of counsel

He who leaves the path of the truth treads the dark way. He who lives within his means keeps his honor safe. The strongest bond is that which binds man to God. He who does not care for you is your enemy. When hopes are frustrated, despair becomes the way of life. Every lapse may not be noticed. Nor can every opportunity be availed of. Sometimes he who has eyes may stumble, while the blind may tread without any mishap. He who trusts the world, the world betrays him. When there is a change in the ruler, the times also change. Before undertaking a journey look at the persons who are to be your companions. Before occupying a house, look to the persons who are to be your neighbors. Take care that in your talk you do not indulge in ridiculing anyone. Do not consult women. Their intelligence is limited and their resolves lack strength. Keep them in seclusion. Let no stranger come in contact with them. Do not encourage them to take recommendations. Treat your servants well. Allot them distinct jobs, so that each servant knows his duty. Respect your clan. It is the source of strength for you.

Conclusion

Son, I entrust your world and your Hereafter to God and pray for your welfare both in this world and the Hereafter. ”

The Arbitration

Meeting of the Umpires

In pursuance of the arbitration agreement executed between Ali and Muawiyah at Siffin the two umpires Abu Musa Ashari, and ‘Amr b Al’Aas met at Dumatul Jandal midway between Kufa and Damascus in January 658 C E. Each side sent a retinue of four hundred persons to witness the proceedings. The retinue from Kufa was led by Abdullah bin Abbas and Shuraih b Mani. The empires invited some notable companions from Makkah and Madina who were known for their neutrality in the dispute between Ali and Muawiyah to come to Dumatul Jandal, Those who responded to the invitation included Abdullah b Umar; Abdullah b Zubair; Mughira b Shuba; and Abdur Rahman b Harith. Sa’ad b Abi Waqas was prevailed upon by his son to go to Dumatul Jandal, but he declined to do so, saying that he was not interested in the affair.

Arbitration Proceedings

According to the accounts that have come down to us, it appears that on the appointed day the two umpires met in camera. ‘Amr b Al ‘Aas asked Abu Musa Ashari whether he held Othman to be innocent and his murder to be a crime. Abu Musa answered these questions in affirmative. ‘Amr b Al ‘Aas next asked the question whether in the circumstances the claim of Muawiyah for “Qasas” for the blood of Othman was justified. Abu Musa said that according to the injunction of the Holy Quran such claim could be made. ‘Amr b Al ‘Aas thereafter said that he objected to the Caliphate of Ali, because he was involved in the murder of Othman. Abu Musa said that this accusation was not correct, and no proof could be given to establish his involvement in the murder of Othman. ‘Amr b Al ‘Acts said that Ali had been asked to hand over the murderers of Othman to the heirs of Othman for taking “Qasas”, but he had not done so. That implied his indirect if not direct involvement in the murder of Othman. Abu Musa said that the proper course for Muawiyah was to owe allegiance to Ali, and then lodge a claim for “Qasas” before him. ‘Amr b Al ‘Aas said that as the murderers of Othman were allied with Ali, the heirs of Othman could have no confidence in him in doing justice with regard to the claim for “Qasas”. ‘Amr b Al ‘Aas suggested that in the circumstances proper course was that Muawiyah should be made the Caliph. Abu Musa said that in the matter of the Caliphate, Muawiyah could not claim precedence over Ali. Ali was one of the earliest converts to Islam. He was closely related to the Holy Prophet. He was the most learned man of the age. His services to Islam were well known. ‘Amr b Al ‘Aas said that though Ali was superior to others in the matters of learning and piety, Muawiyah excelled others in matters of politics and statecraft. ‘Amr b Al ‘Acts argued that the Caliph was to be the Head of the State, and was primarily concerned with affairs of the world, and in this respect Muawiyah would be a better choice. Abu Musa said that in an Islamic state the interests of the world could not be given preference over the interests of Islam and, as such Muawiyah could not be preferred to Ali in the matter of the Caliphate.

‘Amr b Al ‘Aas suggested that if with regard to the basic issue about the “Qasas” for the blood of Othman, Ali could not be trusted because of his direct or indirect involvement in the murder of Othman, and Muawiyah was not to be preferred to Ali in the matter of the Caliphate then the obvious course was that they should consider the names of some neutral persons for the office of the Caliphate. To this course Abu Musa agreed, Abu Musa recalled the days of the glory of the Muslims during the Caliphate of Umar. He wished to have a caliph of the caliber of Umar. That made the two umpires consider the name of Abdullah b Umar, who was present at Dumatul Jandal, was contacted, and he refused to be a candidate for the office of the Caliph, Sa’ad be Abi Waqas was a suitable candidate, but he was not willing to be considered. The claims of Abdullah b Zubair were considered, but those were not accepted on the ground that as he had participated in the Battle of the camel be could not be considered to be neutral in the matter Some other names were considered, but their claims were turned down on one ground or the other.

That led to a state of deadlock and the two umpires could not reach a decision. But some decision had necessarily to be taken. Thereupon ‘Amr b Al ‘Aas said, “If Ali is not acceptable to us and Muawiyah is not acceptable to you, and we have not been able to arrive at an agreement about any neutral person, then what should be the way out in your considered opinion.”

Abu Musa said, “In my opinion the best course would be that we would depose both Ali and Muawiyah, and ask the community to decide the matter for themselves.” Amr b Al ‘Aas said, “Alright, you make this announcement.”

Announcement

Thereafter Abu Musa Ashari took the stage to announce the decision. Abdullah b Abbas asked Abu Musa not to be the first in making the announcement. He advised him that he should let ‘Amr b Al Aas speak first. Abu Musa did not pay any heed to the advice of Abdullah b Abbas, and announced the decision that both he and ‘Amr b Al ‘Aas had agreed that Ali as well as Muawiyah should be deposed and it should be for the community to elect whomsoever they lined as the Caliph. He observed that in accordance with this decision he deposed his candidate Ali. Thereafter Amr b Al Aas took the stage. He said that according to the terms of the arbitration agreement the umpires had to decide as to whom out of Ali and Muawiyah the sovereignty was to belong. He observed that as the umpire representing Ali had deposed him, Muawiyah was the only candidate left in the field and as such the sovereignty belonged to him.

There is some controversy as to what actually transpired between the umpires. According to the accounts that have come down to us, it is said that both the umpires had agreed between themselves that both Ali and Muawiyah should be deposed, and that ‘Amr b Al Aas went back on the agreement, and betrayed Abu Musa Ashari. This does not appear to be a correct account of what actually happened. If both the umpires had originally agreed to the deposition of both Ali and Muawiyah, and ‘Amr b Al ‘Acts went back on such agreement, Abu Musa could have taken the stage and said that as ‘Amr had violated his agreement with him his decision was of no effect. What appears to have happened is that when Abu Musa suggested that the matter should be referred to the community for the fresh election of the Caliph, ‘Amr merely asked him to make an announcement to that effect. Abu Musa was not shrewd enough to realize the implication of such announcement. It is well known that when Abu Musa was the Governor of Kufa he had advised the people of Kufa to remain neutral in the dispute between Ali and Ayes in spite of the fact that he had taken the oath of allegiance to Ali, and was legally as well as morally bound to obey the command of Ali. Ali had to depose him. Ali had to accept nomination as an umpire under pressure. Although Ali did not have full confidence in Abu Musa, he still hoped that as Abu Musa was otherwise a pious Muslim he would act in a fair and impartial way according to the injunctions of Islam. Abu Musa was in fact so much obsessed with the idea of neutrality that he suggested the stepping aside of both Ali and Muawiyah and the election of the Caliph by the community afresh. Such suggestion was not within the four corners of the agreement according to which the umpires had to decide as to whom out of Ali and Muawiyah sovereignty was to belong. The accounts that come down to us provide that as soon Abu Musa made this suggestion, Amr b Al Aas jumped up and asked Abu Musa to announce that decision. Abu Musa considered that in asking him to make his announcement, Amr had agreed with him. Actually ‘Amr had not made any agreement. He was shrewd enough to realize the implications of the suggestion of Abu Musa and wanted him to announce his suggestion. To be fair ‘Amr did not violate any agreement with Abu Musa; he merely took advantage of the weakness in the stand of the umpire of Ali. The life story of Ali is a painful story of betrayals. To other betrayals one more betrayal was added as a consequence of the arbitration proceedings.

Ali’s letter to Abu Musa

After the arbitration proceedings, Abu Musa did not have the courage to face Ali. He slipped away to Makkah and from there wrote a letter to Ali offering some sort of apology. Ali replied to this letter as follows: “Verily, many persons will be deprived of their rewards in the next world. They fall an easy prey to the temptations of the world, I am in a queer fix as regards the problem of the caliphate. A man stiff necked in his concede is at loggerheads with me. Surely, there is no one more anxious than me to keep the solidarity of the Muslims, because I strongly hope that God would reward me for these selfless services of mine in the cause of the unity of the Muslims. Abu Musa, you turned against the Right, and deserted me. Surely there is none more unfortunate than you, because you were deprived of your wisdom, and the faculty to act in the right way.”

The Battle of Nahrawan

Ali’s reaction to the Arbitration decision

The arbitration decision came as a great shock to Ali. Ali had hoped that as the umpires were to take the decision in accordance with the injunctions of the Holy Quran, they would act with a due sense of justice and fair play. The decision that was taken was neither just nor fair. It was taken in the spirit of the old Arab traditions of the age of Ignorance and was repugnant to Islamic values. The umpires were supposed to judge the relative merits of Ali and Muawiyah in the light of Islamic values and then choose one out of the two. The umpires did nothing of the sort. Abu Musa the umpire of Ali had some bias against Ali because Ali had deposed him from the governorship of Kufa, and hence wittingly or unwittingly he acted against the interests of Ali. Ali had been duly elected as the Caliph by the authorized electorate and Abu Musa had no authority to depose Ali. ‘Amr b Al-6Aas the umpire of Muawiyah was a clever man, and taking advantage of the weakness in the stand of Abu Musa, he manipulated victory for Muawiyah. The entire arbitration proceedings thus turned out to be a farce based on betrayal and trickery. It nevertheless created an embarrassing position for Ali. The arbitration agreement had provided that the decision of the umpires was to be binding on both the parties. According to the terms of the agreement, Ali was bound to accept the decision and step aside from the office of the Caliph. Ali held the office as a trust from God and he could not betray such trust on the basis of a decision, which was arbitrary, frivolous, and capricious, and therefore no decision. Ali could not, therefore, accept the decision, and the only option loft with him was to renew the war against Muawiyah who had manipulated to win power through underhand means. Ali accordingly gave call for arms and exhorted the people to join the war for the vindication of the truth and the suppression of falsehood. The people responded enthusiastically to the call, and soon an army of 65,000 strong was assembled.

The Kharijites

After the Battle of Siffin the Kharijites had separated from the community and camped at Harura a few miles from Kufa. Their stand was that Ali had made a mistake in accepting the arbitration of men Ali was asked by them to lead them to war against Muawiyah. Ali had tried to conciliate them, and assured of them that he would lead them to war in case the decision of the umpires was against the injunctions of Islam. Some sort of conciliation was brought about between Ali and the Kharijites, and most of the Kharijites returned to Kufa. The Kharijites were a restive and over sensitive people of the extremist type. The Kharijites slipped from Kufa one by one, established a settlement at Nahrawan, a few miles to the east of the Tigris near Madain. The Kharijites from Basra and elsewhere in Iraq also migrated to Nahrawan Here the Kharijites gathered in strength. They elected an Amir of their own. They were very meticulous in observing prayers and following other injunctions of Islam. They aspired to live sinless lives. They declared that they were not interested in the affairs of this world, and that they had sold their lives to win paradise in the next world. Where a Kharijite picked up a date under a date tree and ate it he subsequently cut his right hand himself on the ground that the eating of the date without purchasing it from the owner amounted to a theft. On the other hand when any Muslim indulged in any controversy with them, they invariably killed him. They held that no one except themselves was a Muslim, and it devolved on them to get rid of such people who did not agree with them. They let loose a reign of terror in the countryside and created a problem of law and order for the administration. When the Kharijites of Basra migrated to Nahrawan they met in the way some Muslims including Abdullah the son of an eminent companion Khabab. The Kharijites killed him as well as the woman who accompanied him.

When Ali was ready for a march to Syria he sent a message to the Kharijites asking them to join him in the march to Syria. Ali brought home to them the point that he had undertaken to lead them to war against Muawiyah after the decision of the arbitrators was known and now that he had repudiated the decision of the umpires and was leading a force to Syria they should 30in his ranks as originally agreed upon. The Kharijites gave an insolent reply to the invitation. They said that when they had asked Ali to lead them to war he was the Caliph of the Muslims, and it was incumbent on them to support him for thereby they were to serve the cause of God. After the decision of the umpires the position had been changed. According to this decision Ali had been deposed, and power had been vested in his rival Muawiyah. In these circumstances Ali was undertaking a campaign against Muawiyah for a personal end. They observed that as the warriors of God, they were committed to fight in the cause of God alone, and not in the cause of any particular person to secure a worldly end.

Ali felt that it was futile to argue with a fanatic people like the Kharijites. He was accordingly of the view that they should march to Syria without bothering for the assistance of the Kharijites. His army men however expressed the view that when they were to be away there was the danger that the fanatic Kharijites would terrorize and murder their families. Ali was accordingly prevailed upon to deal with the menace of the Kharijites before proceeding to Syria. Ali agreed to this view and the force that was to proceed to Syria proceeded to Nahrawan instead.

The Battle of Nahrawan

Ali marched with forces to Nahrawan. Reaching Nahrawan Ali planted a standard on the ground, and declared that those who came under the standard would have amnesty and safe conduct. Some persons deserted the Kharijite camp and were allowed amnesty and safe conduct to their houses. Thereafter Ali sent a message to the Kharijite asking them that should surrender the persons who were guilty of killing Abdullah b Khabab and other Muslims. The Kharijite refused to surrender any person, and declared that they would consider it to be a virtue to fight against Ali and his forces.

Ali marshaled his force and launched an attack against the Kharijites, with the battle cry “on to paradise,” the Kharijites rushed on their troops of Ali. The Kharijites hardly numbered four thousand, while the troops Ali numbered about fifty thousand. The Kharijites fought desperately and frantically but they were outnumbered by the forces of Ali. Out of four thousand Kharijites, only two or three dozen Kharijites escaped; the rest were killed.

Ali won a decisive victory at Nahrawan, but it proved to be a hollow and fatal victory, which diverted Ali from his main war against Muawiyah. After the victory of Nahrawan, Ali felt that the victory would raise the morale of his people. That was however, not to be the case. Ali wanted that from Nahrawan he should proceed direct to Syria. His army, however, desired that they should return to Kufa and thereafter proceed to Syria after taking some rest. Ali agreed with the wishes of his troops. The army returned to Kufa and went to Nukhails outside Kufa. The troops given leaves for two or three days and were commanded to return to camp thereafter in order to proceed to Syria. The men left the camp, but did not return to march to Syria. Ali addressed the people in the mosque, and exhorted them to join the camp. He reproached them for their disobedience and accused them of treachery. These exhortations, reproaches, and accusations had no effect on the people, and heart broken Ali had to abandon the campaign to Syria. When we reflect at the events that happened it appears that there was something wrong with the military organization. The troops lacked discipline, and instead of obeying orders from above, the troops indulged in giving orders. The troops betrayed Ali at Siffin and forced him to stop the war when the victory was almost in sight. At Kufa Ali was betrayed by his troops again when they refused to march to Syria. This naturally led to the advantage of Muawiyah. When he got the intelligence that Ali was planning a march to Syria he led his forces to Siffin. When Ali had to abandon the campaign to Syria, Muawiyah withdrew his forces from Siffin and led them to Egypt with a view to wresting that prize province from the control of Ali. Misfortune was now stalking the footsteps of Ali. Henceforward he was faced not with the loss of territories alone, he came to be exposed to the danger of losing his life as well. Though most of the Kharijites were killed at the Battle of Nahrawan, some Kharijites escaped the massacre, and these people conspicuous for their fanaticism vowed vengeance against Ali. The victory of Nahrawan thus paved the way to the assassination of Ali, for a Kharijite assassinated Ali two years later.

Ali’s loss Egypt

Muhammad b Abu Bakr

On the deposition of Dais bin Sad, Ali appointed Muhammad b Abu Bakr as the governor of Egypt. Muhammad b Abu Bakr was the son of Abu Bakr and his wife Asma married Ali and her son Muhammad was brought up by Ali. Muhammad b Abu Bakr was passionately devoted to Ali. In the revolt against Othman he had sided with the rebels of Egypt. He had entered the room of Othman and held his beard. Othman upbraided him saying, “If your father had been alive, you would not have done like this.” At this reproach Muhammad b Abu Bakr withdrew. He was not present when Othman was assassinated.

Muhammad b Abu Bakr was young and handsome. At the time of his appointment as a governor of Egypt, he was twenty-two years of age. Muhammad b Abu Bakr was popular with the young men of Egypt who had rebelled against the authority of Othman and were involved in his murder. All such person called around Muhammad b Abu Bakr, and he conferred high favors on them. In Egypt there were two parties. One party was pro-Othman. They held that Othman was innocent and those who had killed him were guilty of a crime. This party was led by Muawiyah b Hudaij as Sakuni, and Musalama b Mukhallad. They had their concentration in Kharbata in South Egypt. Qais b Sa’ad did not force these people to take the oath of allegiance to Ali. He made a treaty of neutrality with them “hereunder they undertook that if they were not pressed to take the oath of allegiance to Ali, they would remain at peace and would not create any difficulty for the state and would remain loyal to it. It was in pursuance of this treaty that when Muawiyah the Amir of Syria asked them to join him in raising the demand for vengeance for the blood of Othman, they refused to join him. In view of this treaty of neutrality, peace reigned in Egypt during the governorship of Qais b Sa’ad. Muhammad b Abu Bakr had the rashness of youth about him. He came to be surrounded by young men who had rebelled against Othman. Muhammad b Abu Bakr and the people around him considered that they were strong enough to overawe the pro-Othman party, and force them to take the oath of allegiance to Ali. Muhammad b Abu Bakr as Governor commanded these men that they should take the oath of allegiance to Ali within one month. The leaders of the pro-Othman party waited on Muhammed b Abu Bakr and said that his command was in violation of the treaty that they had executed with his predecessor. They advised him to maintain status quo for otherwise the peace of the province would he disturbed. Muhammad b Abu Bakr did not pay treed to their request, and ordered the invasion of Kharbata. In this action the forces of Muhammad b Abu Bakr were defeated, and the pro-Othman party broke into open revolt which disturbed the peace of the province.

Malik Ashtar

When news about disturbances in Egypt reached Ali, he summoned Malik Ashtar to Kufa for consultation. Malik Ashtar was the Commander in Chief of the forces of Ali at the Battle of Siffin. After the Battle of Siffin he was appointed as the Governor of Mesopotamia and was stationed at Nisibin. Ali had his consultation with Qais b Sa’ad about the affairs of Egypt. Ali realized that he had made a mistake in deposing Qais b Sa’ad from the governorship of Egypt. He, however, could not spare Qais to be reposted as governor of Egypt for he wanted him to remain at Kufa by his side as his adviser. He therefore desired Ashtar to accept the offer of governorship of Egypt and restore order. Malik Ashtar was a good military general, and he already commanded influence with the people of Egypt. When Muawiyah came to know of the appointment of Malik Ashtar as a governor of Egypt he felt much concerned. Malik Ashtar was a strong man, and Muawiyah feared that Malik Ashtar would be able to suppress the disturbance in Egypt with a strong hand, and thus frustrate his (Muawiyah’s) efforts to wrest Egypt from the control of Ali. Muawiyah accordingly hatched a conspiracy to kill Malik Ashtar before he could reach Egypt. He took into confidence the chief of Qalzaum, a town on the border of Syria and Egypt, and heavily bribed him to kill Malik Ashtar when he arrived there on the way to Egypt. When Malik Ashtar arrived at Qalzaum, the chief of the town waited on him, and provided for his stay in the city for the night. He was well looked after and served with sumptuous meals. Thereafter he was served with a cup of honey, which was poisoned. Malik Ashtar died within a few hours.

When the news of the death of Malik Ashtar reached Damascus, Muawiyah was overjoyed. He announced the news to the people from the pulpit in the main mosque of Damascus. He said that had Ali two arms. One of his arms was ‘Amar b Yasir which had been cut in the Battle of Siffin, and with the death of Malik Ashtar his second arm had also been cut off. When Ali came to know to the death of Malik Ashtar he was overwhelmed with grief. The death of his right hand, Malik Ashtar, was a grievous blow for Ali. Ali now seemed to be fighting a losing battle. He was fast losing friends and the number of his enemies was fast multiplying.

When Ali had appointed Malik Ashtar as the governor of Egypt, Muhammad b Abu Bakr felt dissatisfied at his deposition. Ali wrote a letter to Muhammad b Abu Bakr to say that he had passed the order in his interest, for he intended to appoint him as a governor of some other peaceful province where things would be easier for him. With the death of Malik Ashtar, Muhammad b Abu Bakr had to continue in office and bear the brunt of the rebellion of the pro-Othman group from within, and the attack of Muawiyah from without.

The fall of Egypt

As long as the umpires had not given their decision at Dumatul Jandal, and a true obtained between Ali and Muawiyah did not interfere directly in the affairs of Egypt. He, however, indirectly helped the pro-Othman group in Egypt led by Muawiyah b Hudaij to maintain their stand against the government of Muhammad b Abu Bakr. At Dumatul Jandal, Abu Musa Ashari declared the deposition of Ali and Amr b Al A’as declared for the sovereignty of Muawiyah. This decision, however, reached and howsoever perverse turned the tables on Ali. The implication of the decision was that, henceforward, Muawiyah was the legitimate ruler of the Muslim state, and Ali was the status of a usurper or a rebel against the legitimate authority, in accordance to propaganda of Muawiyah and ‘Amr b Al-A’as, Muawiyah had promised the governship of Egypt to Muawiyah. After ‘Amr b Al-A’as had, by a clever trick, conferred the sovereignty on Muawiyah, Muawiyah commissioned ‘Amr b Al-A’as to conquer Egypt. When ‘Amr departed at the head of on army on the expedition of Egypt Muawiyah said to him, “Amr you were the first conqueror of Egypt, go and reconquer Egypt. “The plan of the pro-Othman party was that while Muawiyah would attack Muhammad b Abu Bakr in Egypt itself, ‘Amr should lead the attack from across the borders.

When Ali had originally planned an expedition to Syria, Muhammad b Abu Bakr had a sizable force at his disposal and he could deal with an internal rebellion. When after the Battle of Nahrawan, Ali had to abandon his expedition to Syria, Muawiyah increased his pressure against Egypt. Under the change circumstances many warriors of the forces of Muhammad b Abu Bakr abandoned his cause and either joined the pro-Othman party or preferred to be neutral and keep aloof from the struggle. Muhammad b Abu Bakr was left with a small force of four thousand person only when Muawiyah and ‘Amr b Al-A’as launched their offensive. Muhammad b Abu Bakr requested Ali to send him help. Accounts in this respect vary. According to one account Ali because of the non-cooperation of the people of Kufa could not send help but it was insignificant. According to yet another account whatever reinforcement was sent arrived in Egypt, after all was over and Egypt had been captured in the name of Muawiyah. The force which Muhammad b Abu Bakr fought desperately and heroically, but they were cut to pieces by the superior forces of the enemy. After Bashr b Kinana had been killed, and further resistance became impossible, Muhammad b Abu Bakr escaped from the battlefield, and sought refuge in the ruins outside the city of Fustat. Muawiyah secured the countryside and Muhammad b Abu Bakr was taken captive and brought to Fustat. Abdul Rahman b Abu Bakr waited on ‘Amr b Al-A’as and pleaded for the life of Muhammad b Abu Bakr ‘Amr b Al-A’as send word to Muawiyah that the prisoner should be sent to him. Muawiyah b Hudaij said that he taken to arms in vengeance for the blood of Othman, and he could not show any mercy to the person who was guilty of the murder of Othman. Muhammad b Abu Bakr asked for water from his captors. He was told that he had refused water to Othman, thus no water could be allowed to him. Muhammad b Abu Bakr was mercilessly slain. His corpse was the wrapped in the skin of an ass and burnt.

Helplessness of Ali

When Ali came to know of the end of Muhammad b Abu Bakr and the fall of Egypt, his grief knew no bounds. In a latter addressed to his cousin Abdullah b Abbas, Ali mourned the death of Muhammad b Abu Bakr in heart rending terms. The loss of Egypt was a grievous blow to the prestige of Ali. Addressing the people from the pulpit in the main mosque of Kufa Ali said: “O ye people! In the hour of need you have forsaken me. Falsehood has overcome the truth, and also no one is forthcoming to take up cudgels on behalf of the truth. I have lost Egypt. I have lost a loyal son. Who will avenge his death? Is no spark of faith left in you to fight for cause? What has happened to your oath of allegiance to me when you are not listening to me? Why have you become so deaf and dumb?” Day after day, Ali ascended the pulpit, and poured out quotations from the Holy Quran and the traditions of the Holy Prophet, enjoining upon the Muslims their obligation to undertake Jihad. These harangues and exhortations had no effect on the people. Somehow they felt that the star of Ali was waning, and they were in no mood to worship the sun that was about to set. The state of the helplessness of Ali is described by Dr. Ata Mohyuddin in the following words in his book Ali the Superman: “Ali now lost heart completely, despair overwhelmed him, crippling his energies and paralyzing all initiative. He completely lost faith in human nature, and withdrew to a life of retirement. He no longer had any control over the army or over the people and presented the spectacle of a beaten man.”

Trouble in Basra

Strategy of Muawiyah

After the conquest of Egypt, the strategy of Muawiyah was that discontent should be created in the territories under the control of Ali. A vigorous propaganda campaign was whipped up accusing Ali of breach of faith in not accepting the verdict of the umpires at Dumatul Jandal, whereas according to the pact executed at Siffin such verdict was to be binding. In these territories there were already many tribes which were pro-Othman. Those tribes were bribed to carry on propaganda against Ali, and sponsor activities likely to subvert the administration of Ali in the various provinces.

Trouble in Basra

Muawiyah tried to create trouble in Basra in the first instance. After Kufa the main concentration of the Kharijites was in Basra. After the Battle of Nahrawan, the Kharijites had become the bitter enemies of Ali. The game of Muawiyah was to incite the Kharijites of Basra to create trouble for Ali. There were many persons in Basra who were originally pro-Othman, but who had to take the oath of allegiance to Ali after the Battle of the Camel. The plan of Muawiyah was to motivate such people to throw off their allegiance to Ali. The governorship of Basra was held by Abdullah b Abbas, cousin of Ali. Abdullah b Abbas was present at Dumatul Jandal when the umpires gave their verdict. This verdict was a great shock for Ali. Abdullah b Abbas had comforted Ali and had counseled him not to lose heart. He had advised Ali to stick to his office for the decision of the umpires was a farce and therefore not binding.

Thereafter the troubles of Ali continued to multiply. He had to fight against the Kharijites, and though the Battle of Nahrawan was won, it brought further difficulties for Ali. The army that he intended to lead to Syria to settle accounts with Muawiyah refused to cooperate. A great blow fell on Ali when the province of Egypt was lost. The death of Muhammad b Abu Bakr, a ward of Ali greatly distressed and grieved Ali. In order to condole the death of Muhammad b Abu Bakr with Ali, Abdullah b Abbas set out from Basra for Kufa. During his absence the charge of Basra was held by Ziyad b Abihi. Ziyad was the son of a slave girl Samia, and the name of his father was not known. Later Muawiyah acknowledged Ziyad as a son of his father Abu Sufyan from the slave girl Samia. Ziyad was a capable person and at this stage he was very loyal to Ali.

After Abdullah b Abbas had left Basra for Kufa, Muawiyah sent a contingent of 2,000 horse under the command of Abdullah b ‘Amr al Hadrami, a cousin of Othman. It was not an expedition of a regular invasion. The strategy adopted was that of peaceful penetration. The idea was to exploit the differences among the tribes in the area, flare up such dissentions and create problems for the administration of Ali. On arrival in Basra, the Syrians became the guests of the Banu Tamim, a tribe known for its sympathy to Othman. Al Hadrami told the Banu Tamim that as a result of the decision of the umpires at Dumatul Jandal, sovereignty had passed on to Muawiyah, and as such they should owe allegiance to Muawiyah. Banu Tamim accordingly took the oath of allegiance to Muawiyah. There was a sizable section of the people of Basra proper who had originally sided with Ayesha, but who were later forced to take the oath of allegiance to Ali. These pro-Othman persons joined the Banu Tamim, and took the oath of allegiance to Muawiyah. These defections weakened the position of the Alid government in Basra. In the circumstances Ziyad in charge of the government of Basra was forced to seek the protection of the Azd tribe, a tribe opposed to Banu Tamim.

Death of al Hadrami

At this stage the situation in Basra took the shape of conflict between the two tribes, Banu Tamim and Banu Azd. The Alid government had ceased to function independently and was reduced to the status of a vassal of the Azd tribe. Ziyad wrote to Ali informing him of the situation in Basra. Ali sent a small force from Kufa under the command of Abu b Dhabiah Mujashi. He belonged to the Banu Tamim, and his mission was to prevail upon his tribes to repudiate their allegiance to Muawiyah. Al Mujashi failed in his mission, and he was killed by his own tribesmen.

At the death of Mujashi, Ziyad planned military action against Banu Tamim to seek. Vengeance for the blood of Mujashi. The two tribes of Azd and Banu Tamim however entered into a truce agreement to maintain the status quo, and the military action contemplated by Ziyad could not be undertaken. Ziyad brought the state of affairs to the notice of Ali. This time Ali sent a force under Jariah b Qadamah. He also belonged to the Banu Tamim tribe. The mission of Jariah met with success and he was able to win many persons of the Banu Tamim to his side. Jariah and his men besieged the house where al Hadrami was lodged, and set it on fire. Al Hadrami and his men were burnt alive. With the death of al Hadrami, the government of Ali regained the control of Basra.

Abdullah b Abbas

Abdullah b Abbas returned from Kufa and assumed the office of the Governor of Basra. Although the government of Ali had succeeded in regaining the control of Basra, yet that was not the end of the troubles in Basra. Most of the people who had repudiated the oath of allegiance of Ali, and had taken the oath of allegiance to Muawiyah once again recanted and took the oath of allegiance to Ali. Under the circumstances the process of oath taking lost its solemnity and became a farce. The people came to change their allegiance as they would change their clothes. That bred discontentment and a sense of insecurity among the people.

Things on the Basra front acquired a sinister hue when Abdullah b Abbas the Governor of Basra defalcated the state funds. Abul Aswad in charge of the Baitul Mal at Basra brought to the notice of Ali that heavy amounts had been received in the state treasury as “Kharaj”, but these amounts had been defalcated by the Governor. Without disclosing the source of his information, Ali wrote to Abdullah b Abbas that it had come to his notice that he had defalcated heavy amounts from the state treasury. Ali pointed out that the Government was merely a trustee of the state fund and according to the injunctions of Islam, such funds could not be diverted to serve personal ends. Abdullah b Abbas wrote in reply that the report that had been made to Ali was false. He added that he was fully conscious of his duties and obligations as the Governor, and the Caliph should have no anxiety or misgiving on that score. This reply did not satisfy Ali and he asked Abdullah b Abbas to furnish detailed accounts as to the receipts and expenditure out of the state funds. Abdullah b Abbas took offense at the order of Ali requiring him to furnish accounts. He did not furnish any accounts, but instead resigned from his office, and proceeded to Makkah taking away all the state treasury with him. Abdullah had been the right hand man of Ali. He was closely related to him, and was his chief counselor. Such defalcation and desertion by his close relation and best friend came as a great blow to Ali. With the ill gotten money Abdullah b Abbas purchased some beautiful slave girls. When Ali came to know of these purchases he wrote a letter to Abdullah b Abbas bringing home to him the gravity of his crime. Abdullah b Abbas wrote back to say that if what he had done was a crime, it was not as heinous as the crime committed by Ali himself in causing the bloodshed of thousands of Muslims for the sake of personal power. That broke the heart of Ali. Such shafts of ingratitude from a close associate and dear friend made Ali feel bitter. That was a betrayal which made Ali lose faith in human character.

In most of the source books that have come down to us an account of the defalcation and betrayal of Abdullah b Abbas is given in terms what has been narrated above. There is, however, some controversy on the point.

According to some accounts when Abdullah b Abbas saw that the days of the rule of Ali were numbered and Muawiyah was likely to capture power he took away all that was in the state treasury to prevent it from falling into the bands of Muawiyah. What he did was precedented. When Ali deposed the Othmanite Governor of Yemen, and appointed Abdullah b Abbas as the Governor, the previous Governor had taken away all the state treasury with him to Makkah.

According to one account the entire story of the defalcation and desertion of Ibn Abbas is fictitious. According to this account it is held that Abdullah b Abbas was the Governor of Basra when Ali was assassinated. He held the office during the caliphate of Imam Hasan and relinquished the office only when Imam Hasan abdicated the caliphate in favor of Muawiyah. It is alleged that when the Abbasids came to power and differences developed between the Abbasids and the Alids, some Shia writers invented the story of the defalcation of Abdullah b Abbas to cast aspersions on the character of the Abbasids.

Revolt of Khurrit bin Rashid

Khurrit b Rashid

Kurrit b Rashid was the chief of the Banu Najia tribe. He belonged to Bahrain. In the Battle of Camel at Basra he was an ally of Ali. He and his men fought on the side of Ali against the Syrians. He developed differences with Ali on the occasion of the Battle of Nahrawan. According to some accounts he sympathized with the Kharijites, and got alienated from Ali because of the massacre of the Kharijites at the Battle of Nahrawan. One day after the Battle of Nahrawan he appeared before Ali, and accused him of breach of trust by first agreeing to abide by the verdict of the umpires, and thereafter going back on this undertaking and refusing to be bound by the decision of the umpires. Ali told him that he had not committed any breach of trust. The decision of the umpire was a farce and had not been taken according to the injunctions of Islam as provided for in the agreement executed at Siffin. Ali told him that if he wanted to be enlightened in the matter, he could advance arguments in support of the righteousness of the course adopted by him in repudiating the decision of the umpires. Khurrit said that he would come to Ali the next day to hear his arguments.

Flight of Khurrit

Khurrith b Rashid, however, did not keep up his word, and before the next day dawned, Khurrit b Rashid and his three hundred followers escaped from Kufa. In the way they came across two men, and asked them who they were. One of them said that he was a Jew. He was let off being a Dhimmi. The other man said that he was a Muslim. He was asked what he thought of Ali. He said that he had high opinion about Ali, and regarded him as the Commander of the Faithful. Thereupon the Muslim was hacked to pieces by the men of Khurrit b Rashid.

When Ali came to know of the flight of Khurrit b Rashid, he sent a detachment of about three hundred persons under the command of Ziyad b Khasfa in pursuit of the fugitives. Ziyad overtook Khurrit at Mazar. Ziyad asked Khurrit to surrender. Khurrit said that he would first like to have a talk with Ziyad. Ziyad allowed him to have his say. Khurrit accused Ali of the breach of trust. He said that after the decision of the umpires, Ali should have stepped aside from the caliphate, and allowed the community to elect the Caliph. Ziyad pointed out that the umpires’ decision about the reference of the issue to the community had not been accepted by the umpire of Muawiyah. Sovereignty was declared to belong to Muawiyah as a farce, and by no criteria Muawiyah could claim preference over Ali in the matter of the caliphate. Khurrit said that whatever the case he refused to acknowledge Ali as the Caliph. Ziyad said that in that case he would be forced to take punitive action against him as a rebel. Khurrit said that he was not prepared to submit, and the use of any force would be met with force. The two sides thereafter took to the sword. The battle waged for the whole of the day. Two men were killed from the troops of Ziyad, while five men were killed from the side of Khurrit. The battle proved indecisive, and the troops retired to their respective camps at nightfall. Although the casualties were not large, the number of persons who were wounded from either side was sufficiently large. When the next day dawned, it was found that Khurrit and his men had escaped during the night. Ziyad and his men thereafter proceeded to Basra. Here the scouts brought the intelligence that Khurrit and his men had proceeded to Ahwaz. Ziyad and his men halted at Basra, and sought for further instructions from Ali.

The Battle of Ahwaz

Ali appreciated the services of Ziyad and his men. He asked them to return to Kufa. From Kufa Ali sent a larger force comprising about 2,003 men under the command of Muaqil b Qais. This force proceeded direct to Ahwaz. The Governor of Basra was also asked to send a force from Basra in aid of the main force under Muaqil b Qais. In the neighborhood of Ahwaz, Khurrit was able to muster a considerable following. He incited the people not to pay taxes to the Government. Brigands and other disorderly persons also joined his ranks. A pitched battle was fought outside Ahwaz. Khurrit and his men suffered defeat and fled to Ramhurmuz. The action that took place at Ramhurmuz also ended in the reverse of Khurrit. Thereafter Khurrit escaped to Bahrain. The Alid forces pursued Khurrit to Bahrain. Here Muaqil issued a warning to the people that those who deserted Khurrit would be granted amnesty, but those who chose to fight would be allowed no mercy. Many persons availed of this amnesty and defected from Khurrit. Nevertheless many persons remained steadfast to his cause and fought desperately. In the bloody encounter that ensued Khurrit fell along with many comrades. Those who survived were taken captives and all was over with the revolt.

It transpired that during these disturbances many persons who were originally Christians but had been converted to Islam were reconverted to Christianity. They felt that Christianity was a religion of peace, but Islam was a strange religion, the followers of which cut at one another’s throat mercilessly. Muaqail gave an option to these persons to be reconverted to Islam, but those who refused were executed on the charge of apostasy. The number of captives exceeded five hundred. As these persons parted from their families their womenfolk raised heart-rending shrieks. The Alid Administrator of the city of Ardshir who belonged to the same tribe as the captives was touched at the plight of these unfortunate men. This officer, Masakala, by name offered to ransom all the captives. The amount of ransom was worked out at two hundred thousand dirhams. He paid one 1akh dirhams forthwith, and promised to pay the balance after he had collected the amounts from the persons, concerned Muaqil accordingly handed over all the captives to Masakala. Ali was happy at the suppression of the revolt of Khurrit. He appreciated the services of Muaqil and his men for the successful termination of the campaign. He was also well impressed at the action taken by Masakala on humane and compassionate grounds. Masakala realized the amount from the persons concerned but he defalcated in depositing the amount in the state treasury. When pressed to pay the amount, he escaped to Syria where Muawiyah welcomed him and gave him an office. Ali was much grieved at this betrayal. It appeared the people had lost the Islamic values which the Holy Prophet had tried to inculcate in them.

Raids of Muawiyah

Raids on Iraq

After the failure of Muawiyah’s mission in Basra, he decided to undertake raids on Iraq with a view to create a sense of insecurity among the people of Iraq in general, and the people living in the border areas in particular. Muawiyah organized raiding parties under different commanders, and these parties were commanded to undertake raids in the territory of Iraq all along the border. A party under the command of No’man b Bashir was asked to ravage Ayn Tamr. A party under Sufyan b Auf was required to operate against Hit and Anbar. The third party under Abdullah b Masa’ada al Fazari was commanded to operate in the Taima section. Another party under Zohak b Qais raided Upper Mesopotamia. The purpose of these raids was to ravage and plunder. As a result of these raids, the Syrians gathered considerable booty. These parties appeared as a whirlwind and after striking blows, and ravaging the countryside they withdrew to their territory. Ali strengthened the border security guard force. As a result of these raids, the Syrians were not able to occupy any area in Iraq, but such inroads had a considerable nuisance value, and proved to be a great drain on the meager financial resources at the disposal of Ali. Even when there were disturbances along the border, the people of Kufa remained indifferent, and they did not respond to Ali’s call to rise en masse in defense of their territories. It was with great difficulty that Ali managed to raise some force to defend the border, but its strength was very small as compared with the extent of the danger that faced the State.

Expedition to Hijaz

In the beginning of 660 C. E. near the time of the annual pilgrimage Muawiyah sent an expedition of 3,000 horses under the command of Basr b Artat to ravage Hijaz Basr was a hard hearted savage brute, cruel by nature. His mission was to win over the people of Hijaz to the side of Muawiyah. Basr began his campaign with Madina. Ali had shifted the capital from Madina to Kufa, in order to keep the war away from Madina, and thereby respect the sanctity of the city of the Holy Prophet. Ali had accordingly made no arrangements for the defense of Madina. When the force of Muawiyah appeared before Madina, the Alid Governor fled the city, and Basr occupied it without any resistance. Basr asked the people of Madina to assemble in the Prophet’s mosque. Basr ascended the pulpit, and accused the people of Madina in not coming to the kelp of their Caliph Othman, and let him be murdered in cold blood before their very eyes He made a passionate plea for vengeance for the blood of Othman. He said that he would show no mercy to the murderers of Othman. The people assembled in the mosque shed tears of repentance and mourned the assassination of Othman. Thereafter all the people of Madina took the oath of allegiance to Muawiyah. Basr deposed the Alid Governor of Madina, and appointed a new Governor on behalf of Muawiyah. Madina was thus lost to Ali.

From Madina, the Syrians proceeded to Makka. Qatam b Abbas the Alid Governor of Makkah fled the city, and the people of Makkah did not offer any resistance. Like the people of Madina, the people of Makkah offered their allegiance to Muawiyah. Those who did not take the oath of allegiance escaped from the city. Among them was Abu Musa Ash’ari, one of the umpires at Dumatul Jandal. Abu Musa Ash’ari had given his decision against Ali, but he had not favored Muawiyah either. He was pursued, and brought to Makkah where he was produced before Basr. Basr asked him why he had escaped from Makkah. He said that he had fled for his life. Basr said that if he valued his life, he should take the oath of allegiance to Muawiyah. Like the other people of Makkah, Abu Musa Ashari took the oath of allegiance to Muawiyah. Thus Hijaz web lost to Ali, and that was obviously a great blow to his cause.

Basr’s expedition to Yemen

Basr deposed the Alid Governor of Makkah and appointed a new Governor on behalf of Muawiyah. Thereafter Basr and his troops proceeded to Yemen. The Governor of Yemen was Ubaidullah b Abbas, a cousin of Ali. He made a feeble attempt to resist the invader, but then fled from the battlefield leaving the command to his deputy Abdullah Harithi. In the action that followed Abdullah was defeated and killed. Thereafter Basr entered the capital city of Yemen. He resorted to atrocities as a savage brute and is referred to by some historians as a second Nero. He killed the young children of Ubaidullah. Most of the men of Yemen who had fought against the Syrians were taken captive and killed. Like the people of Madina and Makkah, the people of Yemen were made to take the oath of allegiance to Muawiyah.

Ali’s counter attack

Ali mustered a force 4,000 strong and sent it to Yemen under the command of Jariah b Qodamah and Wuhaib b Massood al Thaqfi. On the way to Yemen the forces of Ali passed through the territory of Najran, whose inhabitants supported Muawiyah. They resisted the advance of the Alid force. In the action that followed the Najranites were defeated and killed in large numbers. When Basr came to know that the Alid force was advancing on Yemen, he could not make up his mind to risk an encounter with the Alid force. Before the Alid force reached Yemen, Basr and his Syrian troops made good their escape from Yemen and took the road to Syria. The Ali forces occupied Yemen, and restored the rule of Ali. The Governor appointed by Basr was deposed, and the Governor of Ali resumed his office. The people who had taken the oath of allegiance to Muawiyah recanted, and took the oath of allegiance to Ali again.

After restoring the law and order in Yemen, the forces of Ali marched to Makkah and then to Madina. At both the places the story of Yemen was repeated. The Governors of Muawiyah deposed and the Governors of Ali were reinstated. The people who had taken the oath of allegiance to Muawiyah recanted and took the oath of allegiance to Ali again.

Consequences of the raids of Muawiyah

As a consequence of his raids, Muawiyah was not able to acquire any territory. Because of these raids a greater part of the country was ravaged, and many persons had been killed. Basr the Commander of the forces of Muawiyah acted as a savage brute, and let loose a reign of terror. When Basr killed the young children of Ubaidullah, the Alid Governor of Yemen, and Ali came to know of this atrocity he invoked the curse of God on Basr. Back in Syria, Basr was struck with insanity. In the fits of madness that came to seize him he would shriek for his sword whereby he could kill the people. He was provided a wooden sword, and a stuffed animal skin on which to practice his skill. He wielded his sword with such mad fury that he died of exertion and the world was rid of him.

Apart from the ravaging of the countryside and the massacre of the people these raids led to the grave consequence of the demoralization of the people. The people lost the sense of values, and judgement. One day they took the oath of allegiance to one person and the other day they recanted and took the oath of allegiance to another person. Islam came to sit lightly on the people, and instead of fighting in the cause of God as enjoined by Islam, the people fought to seek worldly ends, a course repugnant to Islam.

That set both the sides thinking. According to the accounts that have come down to us, it is not clear what happened exactly after the failure of the raids undertaken by the forces of Muawiyah in the territory held by Ali. According to some authorities it was Ali who made overtures for peace. According to other authorities, it was Muawiyah who took the initiative in starting negotiations for peace. According to Tabari, the Caliphate was partitioned, and it was agreed that Muawiyah was to be the Caliph for Egypt and Syria, while Ali was to be the Caliph for the rest of the territories under the control of the Muslims. The details of such agreement are not available. It may be recalled that prior to the Battle of Siffin, Muawiyah had proposed such partition but Ali had not agreed thereto because he held such partition to be repugnant to Islam. Since then things had turned out to go in favor of Muawiyah, and according to the decision of the umpires, howsoever obtained, Muawiyah had manipulated to secure the sovereignty of the whole of the Muslim world. Muawiyah was not the man to lose the advantage that he had once secured. It appears to me that there was no regular agreement about the partition of the caliphate. The agreement was merely about a truce on the status quo basis “hereunder Muawiyah held Syria and Egypt, and the rest of the Muslim territories were under the control of Ali. This view gets support from the fact that a few months after this agreement, Muawiyah declared himself to be the Caliph for the entire Muslim world. If there had been a previous agreement for the partition of the caliphate Muawiyah could not so soon go back upon such an agreement and declare himself to be the Caliph for all the Muslim lands. According to the political thought that obtained at the time, the caliphate was indivisible and there could not be more than one Caliph. That is why in spite of the decision of the umpires in his favor Muawiyah had refrained from declaring himself as the Caliph so far. After the failure of his raids he made a truce to gain time and gather more strength. With the lapse of time the position of Ali grew weaker and that of Muawiyah grew stronger. By mid 660 C.E. Muawiyah saw that the position of Ali had become sufficiently weak and his best supporters like Abdullah b Abbas had forsaken him. At that stage be felt himself to be strong enough to declare himself as the Caliph. This declaration stunned Ali. He could not remain quiet at such declaration, and yet he was not strong enough to undertake military action against the pretender. At this stage Ali was the most distressed man, who did not know what to do. He felt that God was putting him to test, and as a true Muslim he decides to resign himself to the will of God.

Martyrdom of Ali – 661 CE

The Kharijite plot

Ali defeated the Kharijites at the Battle of Nahrawan, but that was not the end of the Kharijites. Because of the reverse met at Nahrawan they became all the more fanatic. Those who survived the disaster of Nahrawan burnt with the desire to seek vengeance for the blood of their comrades who had fallen in the Battle of Nahrawan.

After the Battle of Nahrawan, many Kharijites went to Makkah and sought sanctuary in the Kaaba. At Makkah they saw that the occupation of the city by the Syrians, the people repudiated their oath of allegiance to Ali, and transferred their allegiance to Muawiyah, later they saw that when the Syrians were driven away from Hijaz, the people of Makkah recanted from their oath of allegiance to Muawiyah, and took the oath of allegiance to Ali again. The Kharijites felt sore that in this way the sanctity of the process of oath taking was violated, and instead of establishing the kingdom of God on earth, the parties were trying to establish their own kingdoms. That was revolting to the way of thinking of the Kharijites. According to their view all those who were fighting for power had committed sin and had ceased to be Muslims. Fanatics as they were, they had the conviction that they would be serving the cause of God, if they murdered all such persons who were the principal characters in the struggle for power. They singled out three men for such murder: Ali, Muawiyah and ‘Amr b Al-A’as.

The Kharijites in Makkah met at the Kaaba, and commissioned three young men to carry the plot of murder into effect. Abdur Rahman b Maljam al Sarimi was chosen to assassinate Ali at Kufa. Barq b Abdullah was entrusted with the task of murdering Muawiyah. Amr b Bakr was assigned the task of putting an end to ‘Amr b Al-A as at Fustat. These young men whitened their swords with deadly poison. Thereafter they were required to proceed to the places assigned to them, and there wait till the seventeenth of the month of the Ramadan, when all the three assassins were to fall on their victims and kill them.

Muawiyah and his assassin

On the appointed date, Barq b Abdullah attacked Muawiyah at Damascus while he was leading the Fajr prayers. The murderer was caught red handed. His feet and tongue were cut off in the first instance. He was thereafter subjected to other tortures, and ultimately put to death.

The wound that Muawiyah received was not fatal. His physicians offered him two alternative cures, one being cautery, and other was the drinking of a draught which would neutralize the poison, but would render him impotent. Muawiyah adopted the second alternative, and he was duly cured after a few days. The Kharijite plot to murder Muawiyah thus came to naught.

‘Amr b Al-A’as and his assassin

At Fustat, the Kharijite assassin Amr b Bakr went to the main mosque on the appointed day to assassinate ‘Amr b Al” A’as. ‘Amr b Al-A’as was a child of fortune, and during his life luck favored him miraculously at critical moments. That day because of his illness due to colic pain, he did not attend the Fajr prayers in the mosque. Instead the prayers were led by his deputy Kharja b Hudhafa. The assassin had not seen ‘Amr previously, and he took Kharja to be ‘Amr. Dashing on Kharja, the assassin slew him with the stroke of the poisoned sword. Amr was caught red handed, and produced before ‘Amr. ‘Amr asked the assassin about his motive for killing Kharja. Amr said that he had really intended to kill him (‘Amr), and Kharja had been killed because he took him for ‘Amr. Under the orders of ‘Amr, the Kharijite assassin was tortured and put to death. The Kharijite plot of murdering ‘Amr b Al-A’as thus came to naught.

Assassination of Ali

Abdur Rahman b Muljam al Sarimi, the designated assassin of Ali, reached Kufa well before the appointed date. Here he fell in love with a Kharijite girl Qataum by name. According to chronicles she was an outstanding beauty. She had a face as beautiful as the moon, and her flowing jet black tresses were most captivating. Her father and brother had been killed in the Battle of Nahrawan, and she was fired with the desire to avenge their death. She agreed to marry Abdur Rahman if he could present to her the head of Ali as her dower. As he was already committed to the assassination of Ali he readily accepted the condition laid down by his beloved. At the instance of Qataum, two more Kharijites joined with Abdur Rahman in the conspiracy to assassinate Ali. One of them was Werdan, who was related to Qataum. The other was Shaubib b Bijrah who belonged to the tribe of Anjah.

On the Friday morning of the seventeenth day of the month of Ramadan, the three conspirators went to the main mosque of Kufa just before the break of dawn. Here they took up their position in the narrow passage leading to the prayer hall. A little later Ali came, the mosque when it was still dark and there was no one else in the mosque. When Ali stood to pray, Werdan struck at Ali, but missed his mark. Then Abdur Rahman struck Ali on the forehead with this poisoned sword which penetrated on the brain through the scar of an old wound. Thereafter the assassins fled from the mosque.

When the faithful assembled in the mosque for prayers they found Ali lying wounded on the prayer mat. A hunt for the assassins was made. Werdan resisted being taken captive and was killed. Abdur Rahman was apprehended and taken into custody. The third conspirator escaped from Kufa. Abdur Rahman confessed his guilt. He said that he had struck his blow at Ali in the name of God for he considered that in seeking power, Ali had sinned and was guilty of killing thousands of innocent people. Ali cursed Abdur Rahman for his misguided views. He, however, instructed his men that the assassin should be kept in custody and should not be subjected to any hardship. He observed that if he recovered from the wound, he would himself decide what punishment should be awarded to him. If he died the assassin was to lose his life. He was, however, to be killed in one stroke, and was neither to be mutilated nor made to suffer languishing death.

The wounds of Ali proved to be fatal. No antidote could be found to counter affect the poison that had penetrated into the body of Ali. The condition of Ali steadily deteriorated and he breathed his last on the 24th of January 661 C.E. From God he came and to God he returned.

Will of Ali

Before his death, Ali made his will in the following terms: “I declare in my will that except for God there is none who deserves to be worshipped. He is unique. He has no partner. Muhammad (peace be on him) is His Prophet and Messenger whom [i.e. commissioned to give the people guidance through the religion Islam. Islam is the most perfect religion and it is destined to prevail over all other faiths. All our prayers, our sacrifices, our life, our death, our everything is for God. I require all my children and family members to fear God. I wish that all of you should die in Islam. Hold fast to the faith of Islam. Remain united, for according to the Holy Prophet unity in ranks is better than prayers. Be kind to your relatives so that Allah may be kind to you. Remain steadfast in piety and resign yourself to the will of God. Never aspire to do anything which is beyond your reach. Be truthful always. Be kind to the orphans, and in their affairs fear God. Do not wait for their seeking your help. See that in your presence they should not be overcome by any care or anxiety. Be afraid of God in respect of the rights of your neighbors over you. The Holy Prophet always willed for the right of the neighbors indeed to such an extent that we were afraid lest the neighbors be declared as heirs. Follow the Quran in letter and spirit, and see that nobody takes precedence over you in the matter of the observance of the injunctions of the Holy Quran. In the matter of prayers be very particular for it is the basic pillar of Islam. As long as you are alive do not miss your prayers. Undertake Jihad with your life and property. Fear Allah in the matter of Zakat for it extinguishes the wrath of God. Fear God in respect of your regard for the companions of the Holy Prophet for the Holy Prophet made particular mention of them in his will. Be afraid of God in the matter of the poor and the needy. Make them share your wealth. Your slaves have rights on you. Fulfil your obligations. Those who disparage your religion, do not be afraid of them. If they wish to harm you, Allah will be enough to protect you. Try to live in the world in a way which may help it become better. Stop the tyrant from his oppression. Act upon the commandments of God. Face the realities of life with courage and fortitude. Do not be ruffled by the obstacles that stand in your way. Help each other in the doing of good. Do not help those who rebel or do mischief. May God be merciful to all who belong to the House of the Holy Prophet! I entrust you to the protection of God”.

Hasan’s oration on the death of Ali

Hasan delivered the following oration on the death of Ali: “O misguided men of the Banu Murad, you have killed a man who was so dear to the Holy Prophet and Allah. Your crime is most heinous. You have orphaned the Muslim community. You have deprived the faithful of their commander. You have killed a man who was an ideal man, who stood heads and shoulders above the people around him. He was the man who was the bravest man of the age. He was the most learned man of the times. His services to Islam cannot be forgotten. In the Holy Quran there are references to his greatness. There are numerous traditions of the Holy Prophet which speak of his outstanding qualities as a great Muslim. Also you killed a great man on the day when the Holy Quran was revealed. It was on this date that Jesus Christ was lifted to the heavens. Verily I swear by God in Whose Hand is my life that but for the Holy Prophet no person who has gone by, and no person who is to follow can excel Ali in the matter of virtue and faith. May his soul rest in peace.”

His burial

Ali instructed that his burial place should remain a secret. He had many enemies, and he feared lest his body might be subjected to some indignity. According to legend, the dead body of Ali was placed on a camel which was driven from Kufa. The camel stopped a few miles west of Kufa, and here the dead body of Ali was buried secretly. No tomb was raised, and nobody knew of the burial place except a few trusted persons. It is narrated that more than a hundred years later, the Abbasid Caliph, Harun-ur Rashid, went deer hunting outside Kufa, and the deer sought sanctuary at a place where the hounds would not pursue it. On inquiry as to why the place was a sanctuary, Harun-ur-Rashid was told that it was the burial place of Ali. Harun-ur Rashid ordered a mausoleum to be built on the spot. In due course, the town of Najaf grew around the mausoleum.

Fate of the assassin of Ali

Ali had willed that his assassin should not be subjected to any torture but should be killed with one stroke of the sword. The assassin was a fanatic, and instead of being remorseful at his ghastly deed and heinous crime he continued to boast of his services to Islam in assassinating Ali. That annoyed the Muslims, and contrary to the will of Ali his assassin was subjected to torture. His eyes were seared, and his limbs were cut off. Thereafter his dead body was put in a sack and burnt.

Elegy on the death of Ali

Abul Aswad Al Dusli wrote the following elegy on the death of Ali: “And now. O eye, alas for thee, come to my aid. Now weep for the Prince of the Faithful; And let Umm Kulthum weep for him with her flowing tears, for verily she has beheld death. Now say to the schismatics wheresoever they may be, may the eyes of the envious never be refreshed. In the month of fasting you have made us grieve. For the best of all men universally. You have slain the best of those that have mounted steeds and tamed them or put foot upon a vessel of those who wear and adjust sandals, and of those who read the Quran and its perspicuous verses and in him were the noblest virtues and the love of the Apostle of God of the created things. Verily the Quraish know wheresoever they were that you were the best of them in ancestry and faith. When I stood before the face of the father of Husain, I saw the radiance that shone above his eyes and before his death were happy beholding the son-in-law of the Apostle of God among us establishing the truth in which there was no thought of evil and acting equitably between enemies and kinsmen. Knowledge with him was not hidden, nor was he created among the proud of heart. The people because when they lost Ali, like unto the ostrich, bewildered in a country bare of herbage. Rejoice not, Muawiyah, son of Sufyan. For verily the continuance of the Caliphate is with us.”

Life of Ali, General overview

The Biographer and his hero

A biographer is in some way an alter ego of the hero, whose biography he writes. There is some communion between the biographer, and his hero transcending considerations of time and space in writing this biography of Ali, I have had some communion with the soul of Ali, and in some mysterious way, I had the necessary guidance in appreciating such events in the life of Ali which were otherwise obscure. Just as a lover locks the image of his beloved in his heart, thus a biographer locks the image of his hero in his heart, and he can enter into a dialogue with such image.

Biography and History

There is some difference in the approach of a biographer and a historian. A biography is usually an exercise in hero worship. A biographer is prone to paint the picture of his hero in bright colors. The approach of a historian is basically objective and constructively critical. Every hero of a biographer may not necessarily be a great man from the point of view of history. Where the hero is a great man in history, his biography has to be projected in the context of history. Ali is verily a great man of the history of mankind in general and history of Islam in particular. In undertaking this study in the life of Ali, I have to act not merely as a biographer but as a historian as well. This means that besides narrating the main events in the life of Ali, I have to examine the impact of such events on history. As such I have to subject the main events in the life story of Ali to critical examination to ascertain their causes and effects. Of course such criticism has to be constructive.

Greatness of Ali

Greatness is a phenomenon whereunder specially gifted persons endowed with extraordinary qualities appear on the world stage from time to time. History is the science which studies the phenomenon of greatness. Usually every person who scales the heights of greatness and acquires a place in history is a success from the worldly point of view. There is some peculiarity in the greatness of Ali. He is great, indeed very great, but he was not a success from the worldly point of view in the conventional sense in which the word “success” is understood. We have thus to undertake a study to probe into the causes that militated against the success of Ali from the worldly point of view in spite of his greatness. We will also have to consider how he is great when he did not succeed from the worldly point of view.

Periods in the life of Ali

The life of Ali can be divided into three distinct periods. The first period comprises the first thirty-two years of the life of Ali and extends from 600 to 632 C.E. I call this period the period of education and action. It was during this period that Ali received his education under the loving care of the Holy Prophet; imbibed the values of Islam; and acquired all the attributes that contribute to greatness. In the post-Hijri years he emerged as the greatest warrior of the age. He distinguished himself as a great warrior in the battles of Badr, Uhud and the Ditch. His crowning success was his conquest of the Khyber. In the battles he killed more men than any other single man in history. All those who fought in the duels against him were invariably killed. He came to be known as the “Lion of God”. He acted as a Justice, and acquired fame for his wise and well reasoned judgments. He acted as the Governor of Yemen, and acquired good deal of experience as an administrator. He had the honor of announcing the verses of the Holy Quran about the “Declaration of Immunity” to the people on behalf of the Holy Prophet on the occasion of the Hajj. When the Holy Prophet died, Ali was in the prime of his youth, enlightened, experienced, wise, valiant, and an embodiment of virtues. He had expected that because of his outstanding qualities and his relationship to the Holy Prophet, he would be chosen as the Caliph, He was however, passed over, and this state of affairs continued for 24 years when the office of the caliphate was held by Abu Bakr, Umar and Othman. This period constitutes the second period of the life of Ali. During this period although Ali acted as a counselor to the Caliphs he generally kept aloof from active politics. I call the period as the “Period of inaction and contemplation.” It was a period of inaction from the political point of view because he kept aloof from politics. It was the period of contemplation from the spiritual point of view, for this period was spent by Ali mostly in prayers, religious exercises and dialogues with God. The farther he went from the world, the nearer he got to God. The third period began when Ali was elected as the Caliph. This period lasted for five years only. I call this period as the period of frustration Ali found the caliphate to be a bed of thorns. During five years he had to fight three battles, the Battle of the Camel; the Battle of Siffin; and the Battle of Nahrawan. All these battles were fought against the Muslims and led to considerable bloodshed. It was a matter of the greatest shock for Ali that instead of fighting against the non-Muslims he had to fight against the Muslims. During this period, Ali had to suffer from frustration because of repeated and continuous betrayals, even by men close to him. At the outset of his caliphate, he was betrayed by the Banu Umayya, when Muawiyah defied him and accused him of involvement in the murder of Othman. He was betrayed by the people of Madina who did not respond to his call to undertake “Jihad” against Muawiyah. He was betrayed by Talha and Zubair who took the oath of allegiance to him and later defected. He was betrayed by Ayesha, his mother-in-law, who took up terms against him. He was betrayed by the people of Basra who had taken the oath of allegiance to him but later defected. At Siffin he was betrayed by his own army who would not fight when the victory was in sight. In the matter of arbitration he was betrayed by his umpire Abu Musa Ashari, who instead of defending his cause deposed him. He had to face the secession of the Kharijites who had originally fought on his side at the Battle of Siffin. He was betrayed by Khurrit b Rashid who had been his ally, but later revolted against him, and created trouble in Basra. He was betrayed by his own brother Aquil, who was not satisfied with the allowance that Ali gave him, and joined Muawiyah who rewarded him handsomely. He was betrayed by his cousin Abdullah b Abbas when he had appointed as the Governor of Basra, and who left his post after misappropriating heavy funds from the Bait-ul-Mal. The final act of betrayal came when Ali was martyred by a fanatic Kharijite.

Causes for the non success of Ali from the worldly point of view

The usual phenomenon of greatness is that men succeed in life, and because of such success they acquire greatness. The usual law is that greatness is a consequence of success. Nothing succeeds like success and nothing fails like failure. This means that if you succeed you become great, but if you fail, you are pushed aside and are forgotten. In case of Ali we come across an extraordinary exception to the law of success and greatness. Ali’s greatness is of a different species. His greatness did not flow from any success in life. Such greatness was inherent in him; it preceded his encounter with the world, and it outlived his death, although he did not succeed in his worldly life as the word “Success” is understood in the conventional sense. As a matter of fact, Ali became more famous after death than when he was alive. We may next proceed to consider the causes which militated against the success of Ali in spite of his greatness As a matter of fact the greatness of Ali was of such dimensions that he towered very high above the people around him. It was the case of Gulliver in the land of dwarfs. He was so high that he could not bend to meet the people, and the people were so low that they could not rise to meet him. As such a proper equation could not be established between Ali and the people around him, and that was the main cause why he was frequently betrayed, and why he did not succeed in the affairs of the world as the ordinary men succeed. Ali was very much in advance of his age, and the people of the age could not keep pace with him.

By the time Ali came to office, a generation had passed since the death of the Holy Prophet. During this period the Muslims had made large conquests. That had brought great wealth, and wealth had changed the life of the people. A capitalist class sprang up among the Muslims. Ali, a great Muslim of the old type wanted to enforce the austere discipline of original Islam. He himself led a very simple life, and aimed to follow in the steps of Umar. Ali, however, lacked the harshness of Umar and could not enforce the reforms he had in view. There was a gulf between Ali, and the capitalist class who wielded considerable influence. Ali was very parsimonious in the spending of public funds while, Muawiyah who himself led a luxurious life was very liberal in spending public funds. The capitalist class among the Muslims given to the worldly way of life preferred Muawiyah to Ali because of personal considerations. While Ali was more concerned with the Hereafter than this world, the people around him were more concerned with the world than the Hereafter. This difference in outlook could not be bridged, and that is why there are many betrayals in the camp of Ali. These betrayals weakened the position of Ali considerably. Ali was a man of strong principles, and he would not compromise with principles. The people opposed to him were masters of propaganda, and they did not hesitate to adopt any means fair or foul to gain their end. Ali lost she game because he would not abandon his principles at any cost.

Opposition of the Quraish

In the extension of the Muslim dominions, the Quraish had played the leading role. Ali was a Quraish, but he could not win the support of the Quraish. In his book Ali, the Superman, Dr. Mohyuddin has observed as follows about the opposition of the Quraish to Ali: “Ali hoped to establish a world-Islamic empire, a kingdom of God on earth, where peace was to reign supreme and mankind could move steadily towards perfection. That he failed so completely, is one of the enigmas of Islamic history. The student is perplexed, and indeed despondent, when he discovers that the entire tribe of the Quraish gave whole hearted support to the first two Caliphs. Abu Bakr, who belonged to the tribe of the Banu Adi, but not to their two successors, also belonged to the Quraish tribe. It is teaming indeed that they obeyed Abu Bakr and Umar blindly, but deserted Othman and Ali, whom they bitterly opposed and finally murdered. From the moment that Ali came to power, he was resisted and obstructed by the Quraishite, in spite of the fact that the aristocratic Quraish knew that Ali had noble blood in his veins, blood which had cowed in the veins of the Holy Prophet, and that in addition he had those personal traits of character, which made him unique amongst all the persons of his age. Ali’s knowledge, piety, bravery, generalship, services for the propagation of Islam, and his achievements on the battlefield for the defense of Islam, made him superior to the first two Caliphs. He was superbly equipped to fill the office of the Caliph, yet the entire race seemed to have taken up arms against him. In spite of his qualities of mind and spirit, he seems to have been sacrificed to the prevailing tribal spirit of his countrymen. Perhaps it was his superiority, more than anything else, which lead to his downfall. He knew himself to be superior to his contemporaries, and he hated the petty tribal chiefs of the Quraish who were interested only in their self-aggrandizement. What is more, he let them know his contempt for them, seldom bothering with the formalities of consulting them and frequently acting independently of them, in defiance of established custom.”

Ali, The Man

Physical appearance

Ali was of medium height. He had a superb head with a face as noble as the man himself. His nose was straight, and his mouth was beautifully formed. His eyes were most commanding, being full of light and luster. There was a note of music in his voice. There was an aura of spirituality, and a strong personal magnetism about him. In his youth, he was handsome, and full of fiery vigor. In his latter age, he became corpulent and bulky. His gray hair of the head gave way to baldness. His beard, however, remained thick and luxuriant, and he often dyed it red. He was stout, genial, charitable, meditative, reserved-a man who towered high above the people around him because of his intellectual and spiritual attainments. Ali, the man was endowed with all qualities that make a man great. He is not only great, he is regarded as a superman, an ideal man. He was a paragon of virtue. He enjoyed fame for his piety, and religious devotions. He was en embodiment of Islamic values. In his love of God and His Messenger, he was second to none. While praying to God, his absorption was so intense that he often lost consciousness. His mind was so pure that he could hold communion with God. He had learnt the Holy Quran by heart, and he could quote appropriate verses to suit every occasion. He was most truthful and honest. He most humble he was simple in his habits. He avoided display and luxury. He lived the life of an ascetic. Even when Caliph, he lived in an ordinary house. The doors of his house remained open for all at all times. He was most generous. He was most liberal in giving charity. He always came to the help of those who were distressed and involved in any difficulty. He looked after widows and orphans as if they were the members of his own household. He was a warrior, a General, and a man conspicuous for his bravery and valor. Indeed he was braver than any other man in history. He fought hundreds of duels in his lifetime, and in all such encounters his rivals were worsted. In the various battles he killed a record number of enemy. He was a skilful swordsman. His sword would never miss its mark. In the various battles that he fought he never turned his back. He was an embodiment of patience. In the Battle of Uhud he received so many wounds that the nurses were unable to dress such wounds. He bore the pain with great patience. The people around him misunderstood him, but he did not lose patience. He was most chivalrous, and forgiving. He would forgive even his worst enemies. He was a great scholar. His book Nahj-ul-Balagha is a living proof of his scholarship and erudition. There was a sense of humor about him, and sometimes he said things in a lighter vein to bring home the point he had in view. He was a master of similes and metaphors, and when bringing home a point he always illustrated it with appropriate metaphors and similes. He was a great philosopher, and there is great depth in his thoughts expressed in his writings. He was known for his wisdom. He was indeed wiser than Solomon. Most of his wise sayings have attained the dimensions of proverbs. He was a great orator. His sermons were most impressive. He was the master of rhetoric. He is regarded as the father of Islamic learning. He has left a deep mark on Islamic theology. He was the founder of Arabic grammar. He was a great poet. He was the Father to Sufism. He was the Father of Islamic jurisprudence. He was an impartial judge His famous judgements are the most valuable assets of Islamic jurisprudence. He was a skillful administrator. He introduced numerous reforms. He was an eminent political thinker, and his political thought has an air of modernity about it. The greatness of Ali as a man is multi-dimensional in character, and after the Holy Prophet he is the greatest Muslim whose memory is honored by the Muslims, all over the world.

Wives and children of Ali

The principal wife of Ali was Fatima, the favorite daughter of the Holy Prophet. During the lifetime of Fatima, Ali at one stage proposed to marry a daughter of Abu Jahl. When the Holy Prophet came to know of this proposal, he felt annoyed and declared that if Ali wanted to marry another wife, he should divorce Fatima in the first instance. Thereupon Ali abandoned the idea of marrying another wife. Fatima was the mother of three sons and two daughters. The sons were Hasan, Husain, and Mohsin. Mohsin died during childhood. The daughters were Zainab and Umm Kulthum.

After the death of Fatima, Ali married a number of wives. These were:

  1. Umm-ul-Bunian who was the daughter of Hazam b Khalid. Ali had five sons from her: Abdullah, Jafar, Abbas, Othman, and Umar. All of them except Abbas were martyred in the Battle of Karbala along with Husain.
  2. Khaula who was the daughter of Jafar Hanfiyah. She was the mother of a son known as Muhammad b HanSyah.
  3. Umm Habib who was a daughter of Rabiah She gave birth to a son Umar, and a daughter Ruqiya.
  4. Asma who was the daughter of Umais. She was in the first instance married to Jafar, an elder brother of Ali. On the death of Jafar, Abu Bakr married her. After the death of Abu Bakr she married Ali. She had two sons from Ali: Yahya and Muhammad Asghar.
  5. Laila, who was the daughter of Masud. She was the mother of two sons: Ubaidullah and Abu Bakr.
  6. Umama, who was a daughter of Abi Al Aa’s, and Zainab, an elder sister of Fatima. Her son from Ali bore the name of Muhammad Aswat.
  7. Umm Saeed who was a daughter of Urwa. She bore Ali two daughters, namely: Umm-ul-Hasan and Rumla.
  8. Muhyat was a daughter of the famous Arab poet Imra-ul-Qais. She gave birth to a daughter who died in infancy.

Ali married nine wives in all including Fatima. The number of wives at a time, however, did not exceed four. He had a few slave girls of whom Humla and Umm Shuaib bore him 12 daughters: Nafisa, Zainab, Ruqiya, Umm-ul-Kaream, Humaira, Umm Salma, Sughra, Khadija, Umm Hani, Umm Kulthum Jamana and Maimuna. Ali was, in all, the father of fifteen sons and eighteen daughters.

Distinctions of Ali

Man of many distinctions

Ali was a man of many distinctions. He owed his distinctions to his relationship with the Holy Prophet, his valor, his knowledge and his spiritual attainments.

His birth

He had the distinction of being a Hashimite both on the side of his father as well as his mother. He had the distinction of having a name which as a derivative of the name of Allah, no other person before him bore the name of Ali.

His relationship with the Holy Prophet

On opening his eyes after his birth the first person that he saw was the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet named him. As an infant he had the honor of sucking the tongue of the Holy Prophet. He was the first cousin of the Holy Prophet. He became a ward of the Holy Prophet, and was brought up as a family member of the household of the Holy Prophet. He received his training under the loving care and guidance of the Holy Prophet.

When the Holy Prophet declared his mission, Ali was the first teenager to be converted to Islam. Khadija and Ali were the first two persons to pray after the Holy Prophet. When the Holy Prophet invited the Hashimites to a dinner and asked them to aid him in his mission, Ali was the only person to respond to the call of the Holy Prophet. He risked his life for the sake of the Holy Prophet and slept on his bed when the Holy Prophet left for Madina, and the Quraish youth besieged the house with a view to killing the Holy Prophet. When the Holy Prophet left for Madina he entrusted to Ali the task to return the belongings of the people to them which they had placed in the custody of the Holy Prophet. When the Holy Prophet joined the Muhajjirs and the Ansars in fraternity in Madina, he allied himself in fraternity with Ali. The Holy Prophet married his beloved daughter Fatima Zahra to Ali. He was commissioned by the Holy Prophet to write the agreement which came to be known as the Hudaibia Pact. After the conquest of Makkah he had the unique distinction of standing on the shoulders of the Holy Prophet and destroying the idols in the Kaaba. He was entrusted by the Holy Prophet with the special mission of announcing the Quranic Surah “Al Bara’at” (Immunity) to the people on the occasion of the pilgrimage. He was the only person to whom the Holy Prophet referred to as the Maula’ of the Ummah. When the Holy Prophet proposed “Mubahala” with the Christians of Najran, he chose Ali as his “second man”. The progeny of the Holy Prophet descends through Ali. He was the only person to whom the Holy Prophet imparted “inward knowledge”. The Holy Prophet conferred many appellations on Ali such as Haidar-i-Karrar, Abu Turab, Asad-ullah, Syedul Arab etc. The Holy Prophet declared his relationship to Ali as those of Moses and Aaron. When the Holy Prophet died, Ali washed him and prepared his dead body for burial.

His valor

He participated in all the wars of early Islam fought under the command of the Holy Prophet. In all the battles, Ali was the flag bearer of the forces of the Muslims. He was the bravest man among the Muslims. For his unusual bravery he won such titles as “Asad Allah,” the lion of God, or “Haidar e Karrar” the warrior whom nobody could match. During his lifetime he killed over a thousand persons of the enemy. In the Battle of Badr alone he killed two dozen persons. He fought over a hundred duels, and in all the duels his adversaries, however strong, were killed. He was the Conqueror of Khyber.

His knowledge

He was the most learned man of his age. He was a living encyclopaedia of knowledge and learning. After the Holy Prophet he was the most eloquent person of the age. Because of his knowledge and wisdom he is known as the “Second Solomon”. His wise sayings and aphorisms have attained the status of classical proverbs. He was the first person to write a grammar of the Arabic language. Among the early Muslims he is the only person whose collections of writings have come down to us under the title of Nahj-ul-Balagha. He was a distinguished poet. He enjoys fame as the “Father of Rhetoric”. He was an authority on Mathematics. He was a master of the science of Physics. He had deep medical knowledge. After the Holy Prophet he is regarded as the greatest philosopher of Islam. He was a calligrapher and wrote a beautiful hand.

His spiritual attainments

He was the first person to learn the Quran by heart. According to commentators there are at least three hundred verses in the Holy Quran which have an implied reference to Ali. After the Holy Prophet he was the chief judge among the early Muslims. He is regarded as the “Father of Fiqh”. He is the first revivalist among the Muslims. He interpreted the doctrines of Islam and systematized them. He is regarded as the “Father of Sufism”. All schools of Tasawwuff trace their origin to him.

His Appellations

Because of his multi-dimensional greatness, and outstanding qualities, Ali is known by many appellations, and each appellation projects some particular aspect of his greatness. Some of these appellations are as follows:

  • Murtada – he with whom God is pleased.
  • Maula – the master.
  • Haidar-i-Karrar – the brave warrior against whom no one could stand.
  • Asad Allah – the lion of God.
  • Al-Ghalib – the victorious.
  • Sher-i-Yazdan – the bravest man of the age.
  • Mushldl Kusha – one who resolved the difficulties of the people.
  • Shah-i-Awlia – the king of saints.
  • Shah-i-Mominin – the king of the pious.
  • Abu Turab – Father of the Earth.
  • Amir-ul-Momineen -the leader of the faithful.
  • Amin-ul-Momineen – the trustee of the faithful.
  • Imam-ul-Muttaqeen – the leader of the god-fearing.
  • Sayyid-ul-Arab – the chief of the Arabs.
  • Al Wasi – the testamenter.
  • Al Hadi – the guide.
  • Al Zahid – the chaste.
  • Al Abid – the pious.
  • Al Salah – the reformer.

Ali in the Holy Quran

References to Ali in the Holy Quran

According to the commentators of the Holy Quran there are numerous verses in the Holy Quran which have implied references to Ali. According to the Shia commentators there are as many as three hundred verses of the Holy Quran which have an implied reference to Ali. According to the Sunni commentators, the number is much smaller. Some of the verses which according to the consensus of the commentator refer to Ali are given hereunder:

Verse 33, Sura 33

Verse 33 of Sura 33 of the Holy Quran {33:33} reads: “Allah’s wish is to remove uncleanliness far from you O’Folk of the Prophet’s household, and cleanse you with enough cleaning”. Ali is obviously included in the expression “Folk of the Prophet’s household”.

Verse 61, Sura 3

Verse 61 of Sura 3 provides {3:61}: “And who so disputes with you concerning God after the knowledge which has come to you say to him: Come, we will summon our sons, your sons, our women and your women and ourselves and yourselves. Then we will pray humbly to our Lord, and solemnly invoke the curse of Allah upon those who lie.”

This verse alludes to the deputation of the Christians of Najran who came to Madina to hold discussion with the Holy Prophet about the truth of Islam. In this verse, the reference to “Our sons, and our women” includes reference to Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husain. Verse 3, Sara Verse 3 of Sura 9 provides: And a proclamation from God and His Apostle to the people on the day of ‘Greater Pilgrimage’ that Allah is free from obligation to the idolaters and so is His Messenger. So, if you repent it will be better for you; but if you are averse, then know that you cannot escape Allah. Give tidings O Muhammad of a painful doom to those who disbelieve”. In pursuance of this verse, the Holy Prophet commissioned Ali to go to the ‘Greater Pilgrimage’ to announce the verses of the Sura of “Immunity” wherein God absolved the Muslims from all obligations under the treaties previously concluded with the idolaters.

Verse 23, Sura 42

Verse 23 of Sura 42 reads {42:23}: “Say O Muhammad to mankind: I do not ask of you any reward for it, but love for relatives, and whosoever earns good”.

According to traditions when the Holy Prophet was asked as to who were the relatives alluded to in the verse, the Holy Prophet said, “Verily, the reference is to Ali, Fatima, Hassan and Husain”.

Verse 21, Sura 45

Verse 21 of Sura 45 reads {45:21}: “Do those who commit evil deeds suppose that We shall treat them like those who believe and do good deeds-that their lives and their deaths shall be equal. No, bad is their judgment”.

According to Ibn Abbas “the doers of good” referred to in this verse refer to Ali, Hamza and Ubaydah b Harith.

Verse 17, Sura 11

Verse 17 of Sura 11 reads {17:11}: “Is he to be counted equal with those who rely on a clear proof from his Lord and a witness from Him recites it, and before it was the Book of Moses, an example and a mercy ? Such believe therein. Whoso disbelieves therein the Fire is his appointed place. So be not you in doubt concerning it. Lo, it is the truth from your Lord, but most of mankind believe it not”.

In one of his sermons, Ali said that there was hardly a man from amongst the Quraish who had not been referred to in the Holy Quran. Ali was asked to recite some verse which alluded to him. Thereupon he recited the above verse.

Verse 4, Sura 66

Verse 4 of Sura 66 reads {66:4}: “Now if both of you turn to Allah repentant it will be better for you, as your hearts are already so inclined. But if you back up each other against him, surely Allah is his helper, and Gabriel and the righteous among the believers, and furthermore all other angels too are his helpers”.

According to Ibn Abbas, the Holy Prophet said that the “righteous men” alluded to as “helper” in this verse refers to Ali.

Verse 18, Sura 32

Verse 18 of Sura 32 reads {32:18}: “Is he who is a believer like him who is an evil doer? Verily, they are not equal”.

According to Ibn Abbas “believer” in this verse refers to Ali, and ‘evil doer” refers to Walid b Utba.

Verse 54, Sura 25

Verse 54 of Sura 25 reads {25:54}: “And He it is Who created man from water, and has appointed for him kindred by blood, and kindred by marriage and your Lord is all powerful”.

According to traditions “kindred by blood” and “kindred by marriage” refers to Ali.

Verse 36, Sura 24

Verse 36 of Sura 24 reads {24:36}:”The lamp of light is lit in houses which Allah has allowed to be exalted so that His name be remembered in them. Therein He is glorified in the mornings and evenings.”

According to traditions, the Holy Prophet said that the “houses” referred to in this verse include the house of Ali and Fatima.

Verse 55, Sura 5

Verse 55 of Sura 5 reads {5:55}: “Your friend is only Allah and His Messenger, and the believers who observe prayer and pay the poor rate.”

According to traditions “believers” referred to in this verse includes a reference to Ali.

Verse 12, Sura 58

Verse 12 of Sura 58 provides {58:12}: “O ye who believe! When you consult the Messenger in private, give alms before your consultation. That is better and purer for you. But when you do not find the wherewithal, lo! Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. ”

According to traditions when this verse was revealed the Holy Prophet wanted to fix an amount, which every person who consulted the Holy Prophet should pay. Ali represented that, as the people were generally poor no amount should be fixed, and the option should rest with the person concerned to pay whatever alms he could.

Verse 181, Sura 7

Verse 181 of Sura 7 reads {7:181}: “And of those We have created there are people that guide men with truth, and do justice therewith.”

According to traditions, the reference to “people that guide men with truth” in this verse includes a reference to Ali.

Verse 57, Sura 43

Verse 57 of Sura 43 reads {43:57}: “And when the son of Mary is cited as an example, behold, the people jeer thereat”. According to traditions, the Holy Prophet is said to have told Ali one day that his example would be like that of Jesus Christ. A section of the people would love him so much that they would willingly die for him, while there would be some people who would fight against him.

Verse 29, Sura 48

Verse 29, of Sura 48 reads {48:29}: “Muhammad is the Apostle of God and those with him are firm against the disbelievers, and merciful amongst themselves. Thus see them bowing down, and prostrating themselves in prayer, seeking grace from Allah and His pleasure. Their mark is upon their faces, being the traces of prostration. Such is their description in the Torah. And their description in the Gospel is like a seed that sends forth its sprout, then makes it strong; it then becomes thick, and stands on its stem, delighting the sowers, and causing the disbelievers to burn with rage at the sight of them. Allah has promised to those of them who believe and do good works, forgiveness and a great reward.”

According to the commentary of Imam Abu Musa this verse was revealed in favor of Ali.

Verse 43, Sura 13

Verse 43 of Sura 13 reads {13:43}: “And those who disbelieve say ‘You are not a Messenger’. Say to them Sufficient is Allah as a witness between me and you, and so is he who possesses knowledge of the Book”.

According to commentators, the phrase “Whosoever has the knowledge of the Book”, alludes to Ali.

Verse 64, Sura 8

Verse 64 of Sura 8 reads {8:64}: “O prophet! Allah is sufficient for you and for such of the followers as follow you.” According to commentators the phrase “such of the followers as follow you”, alludes to Ali.

Ali, The Father of Sufism

Father of Sufism

Ali is acclaimed as the “Father of Sufism”. Most of the Sufi orders claim their descent from Ali. According to Ali Hajjweri, the rank of Ali is very high in the line up of Sufism. According to Junayd of Baghdad, Ali is the Shaykh as regards the principles and practices of Sufism.

The Holy Prophet and Sufism

The roots of Sufism lie embedded in Islam itself. There are numerous passages in the Holy Quran which are of a mystical character. The Holy Prophet of Islam (peace be on him) himself displayed mystical inclinations and he very often retired to the cave of Hirah for the purpose of devotions, meditation and contemplation. The Holy Prophet was recipient of two types of revelations, one embodied in the Holy Quran, and the other that illuminated his heart. The former was meant for all, the latter for a selected few whose hearts could be illuminated with the Divine Light. The knowledge of the Holy Prophet was thus book knowledge (ilm-i-Safina), and heart knowledge (ilm-i-Sina). Ali got this heart knowledge from the Holy Prophet. It is related that after the Ascension, the Holy Prophet awarded a mantle to Ali which led to the illumination of his heart.

Gnosis of God

According to Ali, the base of religion is the gnosis of God. He held: “The height of gnosis is His confirmation. The height of confirmation is Tauhid. The height of Tauhid is the acknowledgment of the supremacy of God in all matters. He is beyond all attributes. No particular of attribute can give an idea of His exact nature. He is not bound by anything; all things are bound by Him. He is Infinite, limitless, boundless, beyond time, beyond space, beyond imagination. Time does not affect Him. He existed when there was nothing. He will exist forever. His existence is not subject to the law of birth or death. He is manifest in everything, but He is distinct from everything, He is One. He is not the cause of anything, everything is because of Him. He is unique. He has no partner. He is the Creator. He creates as well as destroys. All things are subject to His command. He orders a thing to be and it is. Ali enjoined the severance of the heart from all things save God. Ali was asked what was the purest thing that could be acquired, and he said, “It is that which belongs to a heart made rich by God”. When Ali was asked about gnosis, he said, “I know God by God, and I know that which is not God by the Light of God. ” When asked whether he had seen God he said that verily he had seen God, for he could not worship Him unless he knew Him.

Prayers to God

When Ali used to pray, his hair would stand on end. He would tremble and say, “The hour has come to fulfil a trust which the heavens and the earth were unable to bear.” Abu Darda, an eminent companion of the Holy Prophet, said, “None in this world has excelled Ali in prayer.” While praying, so great was the intensity of the emotions of Ali that he would fall into a swoon. It is related that on one occasion, Abu Darda found Ali lying rigid on the prayer mat, and touching his cold body thought that Ali had breathed his last. Then he broke this news to Fatima. She said that Ali often became unconscious while praying. Abu Darda weeping profusely sprinkled some water on the face of Ali, and he regained consciousness. Seeing the tears in the eyes of Abu Darda, Ali said: “Why are you crying? You shed tears when you see me in this state. Imagine what will happen to me when the angels drag me into the presence of God, and I am forced to render an account of my deeds. They will bind me with fetters of iron, and present me before God and those of my friends who will happen to be witnesses will be powerless to help me. They will lament my unhappy plight, but none save God will be able to help me on that day. ”

Communion with God

Very often, Ali would sob the whole night in prayers to God, and God would reward him with a glimpse of the Inner Vision. According to Ali, the highest purpose of knowledge is the awakening of latent spiritual faculties whereby one is enabled to discover his true and inner self. It is to this inner self that God reveals Himself when the self disappears in the vision of the “All Absorbing Reality.” Ali often observed that man could have the joy and wonder of communion with God if one abandoned pride, disciplined the flesh, overcame the lust and submitted to the Will of God. He exhorted the people in his various sermons not to indulge in the gross licentiousness, which had characterized Arab society in the “Days of Ignorance.” But should instead live in piety and simplicity as enjoined by Islam. Ali said, “Man is a wave in the boundless Sea of God. As long as man’s vision is clouded by ignorance and sensuality he will consider himself a separate entity, different from God. But when the veil between him and God is lifted, he will then know what he really is, the wave will then merge with the ocean”. Ali held that enlightenment is needed so that one can first get to know himself. Only then would he get to know God. Ali held that to this end religious exercises must be practiced. Sufism for which Ali stood derived its strength from the Shariah. Ali preached that any form of knowledge which failed to show the Infinite Reality in man was useless, because it could not fill that vacuum of which the aching soul of every individual was so pathetically conscious. Ali wanted men to be virtuous as virtues purify the soul, and it is only the purified soul that can be the recipient of spiritual enlightenment. This is the doctrine of Inner Light, which was enunciated by Ali as the core of Sufi thought. Ali is accordingly acknowledged as the “Father of Sufism” and the “Prince of Saints”.

Doctrine of preference

Ali also enunciated the doctrine of preference. He stood for preferring the claims of others to one’s own claims. He gave an outstanding demonstration of this doctrine when he slept on the bed of the Holy Prophet on the night of the Holy Prophet’s migration from Makkah, when the infidels were seeking to slay him. Ali risked his life for the sake of the Holy Prophet, because of the preference that Ali gave to the life of the Holy Prophet as compared with his own life. After the death of the Holy Prophet, Ali considered that he was the most deserving person to be elected as the Caliph. When his claims were overlooked and other persons were elected as the Caliph, he offered them allegiance in pursuance of the doctrine of preference. It was this spirit of preference that motivated Ali to plunge on the thick of the battle to meet the challenge of the enemy regardless of his own personal safety. It is related that after the ascension, the Holy Prophet gave Ali a mantle, he asked him as to the use that he would make of the mantle. Ali said that he would use it to cover the faults of others. The true Sufi way lies in covering the faults of others.

Fasting

According to Ali, fasting was not a mere formality or a ritual; it was an exercise for the purification of the soul. Because of his constant fasting, Ali earned the epithets of “Qa’im-ul-Lail” (Praying most of the night without sleep), and “Sa’im-un-Nahar”, (Fasting mostly during the day). Ali held that hunger sharpens the intelligence, and improves the mind and health. Hunger involves home affliction for the body, but it illumines the heart, purifies the soul, and leads the spirit into the presence of God. One who cultivates his spiritual nature by means of hunger in order to devote himself entirely to God and detach himself from worldly ties is at a much higher level than the person who cultivates his body by means of gluttony and lust. Ali acted on the advice of the Holy Prophet, “Fast so that perchance your hearts may see God in this world”. And verily, because of his fasting and other spiritual exercises, Ali did see God in this world. The Holy Prophet had enjoined, “When you fast, let your ear, your eye, your tongue, your hand, and your every limb fast.” Ali followed this advice in letter as well as in spirit. By the discipline of fasting, Ali was able to subordinate the physical senses to spiritual requirements in such a way that they could respond only to what was pure and became dead to what was impure. Ali thus led a purified life.

Zakat

Ali held: “Of the most meritorious acts of a believer, and one of the most acceptable things to God is Zakat. It behooves everyone to give charity, because from amongst the acts of worship this is the most pleasing to God.” In his sermons, Ali exhorted the people in the following terms: “O ye people send a part of your wealth to God so that: it may stand you in good stead in the next world. Do not leave your entire wealth here so as to be a source to annoyance to you in the world to come”. In the annals of the Arabs, Hatim Tai enjoys fame for his munificence and generosity. Ali outclassed Hatim in the matter of generosity. Some of the stories of his generosity which have attained the dimensions of legends are narrated in another Chapter of this book.

Pilgrimage

Ali was born in the Kaaba. He had, therefore, a strong emotional attachment for the Kaaba. Ali observed that the Holy Kaaba was sited in a territory known for its stony wastes and wilderness where no water was available. God had ordained the Muslims to bear the hardships involved in a journey through such inhospitable land cheerfully so that these very privations might ultimately become a source of salvation. The pilgrimage is symbolic of the fact that whatever hardship one bears in the trials of life and endeavors to fulfill the will of God, he acquires goodness and righteousness by them. The darkest thing in the world is the beloved’s house without the beloved. What is really important for a lover is the beloved and not the house of the beloved. According to Ali the spirit of pilgrimage did not lie in a bare visit to the Kaaba, it lay in developing the inner vision whereby one could see God, the Lord of the Kaaba.

Jihad

Ali held that Jihad is the gateway to Paradise. He said: “God has opened this gate for His friend. It is the mantle of piety. It is the shield of faith. He who avoids it, God subjects him to disgrace”.

Ali held that Jihad did not lie in merely taking up arms in the cause of God, it comprehends incessant struggle against falsehood in all spheres of life. Jihad is the main pillar on which Islam rests.

Repentance

The first stage in the path of Sufism is repentance. Repentance is described as the awakening of the soul from the slumber of heedlessness, so that the sinner becomes aware of his evil ways and feels contrition for past disobedience. Ali repeatedly prayed for the forgiveness of God. His typical prayer was: “O God, forgive me my sins of which you are more aware than me. And if I commit these sins again, even then forgive me. Whatever promises I had made with myself to follow Your commands have not been fulfilled. I seek Your forbearance if I have sought Your proximity with my tongue, but my heart did not keep pace with my tongue, overlook my lapse. O God, forgive me for my futile talk, vain desires and lapses of the tongue”.

Detachment

Ali exhorted that while living in the world, one should not renounce the world, yet he should not have an undue attachment for the world. Detachment from the world is the means of attaining God. It is related that some one begged Ali to give him a precept. Ali said: “Do not let your wives and children be a cause of concern for you, for if they are the friends of God, He will look after His friends, and if they are the enemies of God, why should you take care of God’s enemies?”

Patience

On the mystic way, the traveler has to meet many trials and tribulations. God subjects His lovers to severe testing, and he alone can pass such tests who is patient. Ali was the personification of patience, and for his patience he won the epithet of “Job, the Second”. In the Battle of Uhud Ali received as many as sixty-one wounds so that his whole body looked like one big wound which the nurses could not dress. Ali though in mortal agony said: “May God grant me patience to bear this suffering. Is it not a favor of God that He gave me the courage to stand and fight, and not to leave the field?”

About the patience of Ali, Dr. Ata Moyudin writes as follows in his Ali, the Superman, “Ali used to say that at no time in his life had he ever known peace and tranquillity. From the time he went in infancy to the home of the Holy Prophet, it was a ferment of turbulence and turmoil. The Holy Prophet was constantly persecuted by the Makkan pagans. Then from adolescence onwards, Ali was constantly fighting in Jihad, and after the death of the Holy Prophet, he was embroiled against his wish, in the political intrigues of others. Even when elected Caliph, the implacable enemies of Islam arose and rebelled against him. Yet he bore all these afflictions with patience, thanking God that he had acquitted himself well in the tests and trials to which the Almighty had thought fit to subject him.”

Ali, The Gate of Knowledge

The learning of Ali

Ali was the most learned man of the age. He was a living encyclopaedia of knowledge. The Holy Prophet said, “If I am the City of Knowledge; verily Ali is the Gate of it”. He was the first person to have learnt the Holy Quran by heart. He possessed a prodigious memory. He was a keen observer; he was a deep thinker; he had an enlightened mind and he carried in his brain a vast storage of knowledge. He was a versatile genius and he exhibited extraordinary talents in all disciplines of knowledge. He was a master of philosophy and rhetoric. He was a distinguished poet. He was a great preacher and teacher. His knowledge extended to such disciplines as: logic, mathematics, physics, astronomy, medicine and history.

His concept of Knowledge

Ali held that the principal aim of knowledge is the inculcation of virtue, promotion of faith, and understanding of God. He held that knowledge enlivens the soul; it is health and life; it kills ignorance. He defined knowledge as the sum total of excellence. He held that the pursuit of knowledge is better than the pursuit of riches, that knowledge is the ornament of the rich and the richness of the poor and that knowledge is better than riches. He held that the learned live even after their death. He maintained that the learned are the living ones in the dead mass of ignorance. He observed that to respect the learned is to respect God. About the respect of the teacher he held that one who teaches you a letter binds you with the fetter of gratitude. He maintained that the talk of a learned man carried with it the fragrance of the garden of Paradise.

Superiority of knowledge over wealth

It is related that once ten learned men approached Ali, and wanted to know how knowledge was better than wealth. They requested that each one of them be given a separate answer. Ali answered them as follows:

  1. Knowledge is the legacy of the Prophets; wealth is the inheritance of the Pharaohs. As the Prophets are superior to the Pharaohs, so knowledge is better than wealth.
  2. You have to guard your wealth, but knowledge guards you. Therefore, knowledge is better than wealth.
  3. When knowledge is distributed it increases. When wealth is distributed it decreases. As such knowledge is better than wealth.
  4. A man of wealth has many enemies, while a man of knowledge has many friends. Therefore knowledge is better than wealth.
  5. A learned man because of his wider outlook is apt to be generous while a rich man because of his love for money is apt to be miserly As such knowledge is better than wealth.
  6. Knowledge cannot be stolen, while wealth is constantly exposed to the danger of being stolen. Accordingly knowledge is better than wealth.
  7. With the lapse of time, knowledge gains in depth and dimensions. Hoarded coins get rusty, or cease to be legal tender. Therefore knowledge is better than wealth.
  8. You can keep account of wealth because it is limited, but you cannot keep account of knowledge because it is boundless. That is why knowledge is better than wealth.
  9. Knowledge illuminates the mind, while wealth is apt to blacken it. Therefore knowledge is better than wealth.
  10. Knowledge is better than wealth, because knowledge induced the humanity in the Holy Prophet to say to God “We worship Thee as we are Thine servants”, while wealth engendered in Pharaoh and Nimrod the vanity which made them claim Godhead.

Ali The Poet

Ali as a poet

Ali was a distinguished poet. In his book Ali, the Superman, Dr. Ata Mohyuddin has assessed the poetry of Ali in the following terms: “Ali, in his poems is shown as a moralist, freely expressing the righteousness of his cause. In them, as in his sermons, he exhorts the pious to be sincere and steadfast, to refrain from doing wrong, and to stick to the faith. The poetry is neither romantic nor lyrical, but reformative. It contains no sensuous feelings or imagery and has nothing about it of the themes on which the old school of Arab poets delighted to dwell. There is no praise of women, wine, music, amusement and even of the sword. Ali’s eloquence is reserved for the praise of patriotism, humility, modesty, chastity, piety, and resignation to God’s will. Some of his verses are addressed to his followers, and are complaints about their infidelity. Others extol the virtue of loyalty to the community. Indeed he may be said to have laid the foundation of a national poetry. The style of the verses, which like Ali’s prose is racy, lively and unstilted, manes the ethical truths expounded in them much more palatable than they might otherwise have been. The literary form adopted by Ali in his verses exerted a great influence on the trend of Arabic poetry in general. These verses still retain an importance second to none in Arabic literature”.

Ali’s Dewan

There is some controversy about Dewan, or the collection of the poems of Ali. According to one school, his “Dewan”, a collection of 1500 verses and bearing the title “Anwar Oqueil”, is extant. According to another account this collection includes poems written by the followers of Ali.

Samples of the poetry of Ali

In his book History of the Caliphs, Suyuti has given some samples of the poetry of Ali. These are:

  1. “Where hearts contain despair and the spacious breast is stifled by what is within it, and cares make their abode and repose, and sorrows anchor in their habitations, and no way is seen for the dispelling of distress, and the stratagem of the cunning availeth not. There shall come to thee in thy despair a helper when the answered of prayer who is nigh shall bring. For all sorrows when they have reached their term there is linked to them an approaching joy”.
  2. “Consort not with a foolish brother, beware of him for how many a fool hath corrupted the gentle when he hath fraternized with them. A man is judged by the man with whom he consorteth for there are comparisons and similitude for one thing with another. The measure of a sandal is made when it is matched with it, and the evidence of the feeling of one heart towards another is when they meet”.
  3. “Men lust for the world and plot for it; yet, its clearness is mingled for them with impurities. They do not give thou of it thy portion according to thy wisdom when it is distributed. But men have their allotted shares according to their destinies how many there are of the wise and sagacious unprospered. While a fool has gained his wealth by errors, if it could be acquired by force and rapine falcons would sweep off with the subsistence of sparrows”.
  4. “Disclose not thy secret but to thyself for every confidant hath a confidant. For verily I have seen erring men who do not aspire to a high sense of honor”.

Ali, The Generous

Ali’s generosity

Generosity was one of the main attributes of Ali. According to Ali when someone in need asks for your help and you help him that is liberality or munificence. When you help a man in need before he asks of your help that is generosity. In Arab annals, Hatim a Bedouin is known for his generosity. According to the accounts that have come down to us, Ali out-classed him in the matter of generosity. Ali used to say “Woe to that man who spends his wealth in buying male and female slaves, but spends not his money on the free-born who, with a little alms would become enslaved in gratitude to him for ever.”

Preference for the supplicant to one’s own Deeds

Once a supplicant went to the house of the Holy Prophet to beg for food, but there was no one in the house. On being told of this by his wives, the Holy Prophet asked whether there was anyone who could give relief to the supplicant. Ali offered to take the beggar to his house. There Fatima said that there was nothing in the house except a few loaves that she had cooked for the children. She, however, gave the loaves to the supplicant saying that she would give them to the beggar, and would rather see her children go hungry. It was on this occasion that the following verse of that Holy Quran was revealed: “They prefer the supplicant to themselves even though they may be hungry themselves. And whosoever is rid of the covetousness of his own soul will be triumphant”{59:9}.

God accepted Ali’s charity

It is related that once, somebody presented 300 gold coins to the Holy Prophet, who made a present of them to Ali. On the way home, Ali saw a harlot to whom he gave one hundred coins. The next day the whole town was gossiping about Ali’s misplaced charity for giving the money to a woman of ill repute. Ali felt offended and decided that he would give another hundred coins to a worthier person this time he met a thief and he gave him one hundred coins. The people were critical of Ali squandering the money by giving it to a brigand. Ali decided that whatever money was left with him he would give it to a deserving person. This time he gave the money to a person who happened to be rich man. The people became loud in the criticism of Ali in his charity to undeserving persons. It was, however, revealed to the Holy Prophet that God had accepted the charity of Ali. The harlot after getting the money gave up her profession and decided to lead a chaste life. The thief after getting the money gave up robbery, the rich man on getting the alms felt so repentant that he distributed all his wealth among the poor.

Manifold return for chartiy

Once Fatima gave some yarn that she had spun to Ali to sell it in the market and buy therewith some provisions for cooking meals. Ali sold the yarn for a gold coin. He came across some beggars, and he distributed the entire amount among the beggars. He had gone a few steps when he came across a man with a camel who said, “Ali, would you buy the camel.” Ali said that he had no money. The man said that he could sell the camel on credit. Thereupon the man gave the bridle of the camel to Ali and disappeared. Ali had gone a few steps when another person met him and purchased the camel for a hundred gold coins. Ali thus got a hundred fold return for his charity.

A legend of the generosity of Ali

It is related that on one occasion a supplicant approached Ali and asked him to give him some bread. Ali asked his slave Qanbar to attend to the supplicant. Qanbar came to Ali and said that the bread was in a saddle bag. Ali said, “Give him the saddle bag”. At this Qanbar said that the saddle bag was on the camel. Ali said, “Give him the camel”. Qanbar said that the camel was in a row of camels. Ali said, “Give him all of the camels”.

He gave his gold ring to the beggar

It is related that at one time while the Holy Prophet and Ali were offering prayers in a mosque, a supplicant came and said, “O God, bear witness that I have asked everyone of the congregation to give me something in alms, but none has offered anything.” Ali, who was prostrating on the prayer mat at that time, held out his finger which bore a gold ring, and pointed it out towards the beggar, who took it off.

He undertook to pay the debt of a dead Muslim

Once a Muslim died in Madina. The Holy Prophet along with Ali attended the funeral. Before leading the funeral prayer, the Holy Prophet inquired whether the deceased had to pay any debt. He was told that the deceased had to pay a debt of a few dinars. The Holy Prophet desired that someone should undertake responsibility for clearing the debt of the deceased. It was Ali who undertook the responsibility for meeting the debt, and it was only then that the Holy Prophet led the funeral prayers.

He paid for the dates

One day as Ali passed through the market of Kufa he found a slave girl weeping while sitting on the roadside. Ali inquired from the girl as to the cause of her distress. She said that she had purchased some dates from a date seller, but her master had not approved of the dates and when she wanted to return the dates to the date seller he refused to accept them. Ali paid her the amount involved, and asked her to eat the dates herself.

Administrative Instruction of Ali

Administrative instructions

When Ali appointed a person to a high office, with the letter of appointment he also issued a memorandum of instructions setting out the guidelines to be followed for the purposes of administration. Some of these instructions, which are on record, are very much modern in character, and show the insight of Ali as an administrator.

Instructions to Malik Ashtar

When Malik Ashtar was appointed as the Governor of Egypt, Ali instructed him as follows:

“O Malik, let it be known to you that you have been appointed to the governorship of Egypt. All of your actions as the Governor will be open to the criticism of the people. You should do good deeds. Keep your passions under control. Your dealings with your subjects should be just and fair. Treat them affectionately and love them.

There are two kinds of subjects to be governed, firstly your brethren in Islam, and secondly the minorities whose protection has been guaranteed. Intentionally or unintentionally the people are apt to make mistakes. It will behoove you to excuse them, as you expect that God will forgive your sins. Do not be ashamed if you pardon them. Never find pleasure in punishing them. Do not be short tempered. Never say that you are Governor above them, for it breeds a feeling of inferiority in them. Should you ever take pride in your exalted office then think of the power and grandeur of God, for that is the only means to check your arrogance. Remember that God hates the cruel and the arrogant.

Be fair and just, for if you fail in it, you are a tyrant and tyrant is the enemy of God. God hearkens to the weak and the afflicted. Follow the path of moderation in your doings, and try to please your subjects.

It is the common masses who are a power in the eyes of Islam. Freely mix with the masses, and refrain from the company of the backbiters and the wicked. Be broad-minded, overlook the faults of others, and forgive them. Do not bear malice against anyone, and do not do anything which is below your dignity. The backbiters and the wicked are very cunning, never lend an ear to what they say. Do not seek the advice of a coward who will make you faint hearted. Do not take the greedy persons as your advisers, for they will make you cruel. Above all bear in mind that miserliness, cowardice, and greed ruin a person. In the selection of Ministers see that you appoint those persons who speak the truth, howsoever unpalatable it may be. Do not seek the advice of those who may flatter you to your face, for flattery breeds arrogance. Do not give an equal status to a bad and a good person. Treat a good person kindly and a bad person curtly. Remember that it is better to rule over the people by love than by fear. Always try to satisfy and please your subjects.

Try to maintain the traditions of those early Muslims who brought amity and love amongst the believers in faith and tried to reform. In no way should you depart from these traditions. Should you try to introduce innovations, you will come to grief. Always seek advice from the learned and wise concerning the reformation of the people. Your subjects are divided into different classes; some of them are soldiers who fight for God, some are Qadis, some are non-Muslims who pay Jizya, some of them are businessmen, some are craftsmen and artisans, while a few are beggars. Remember that God has fixed a share for each of them.

The soldiers serve as a fort for the subjects. They are the ornaments of the rulers, protecting religion, and maintaining peace. Take good care of them as you take care of your children. Love them and treat them kindly.

When appointing Qadis, select holy and pious persons for the post. They should neither be greedy nor make errors in their judgements. In no way should they deviate from the truth deliberately. They should not become arrogant when flattered. But alas, such persons are few. Supervise your officials who should be appointed on merit and merit alone. Appoint the officials from those families who accepted Islam the earliest for those are the people who attach more importance to the next world than to this. Give them handsome pay so that they may not be beguiled into monetary temptations. Have a good system of spies to observe their activities. And should any of these officials be found guilty of bribery, misappropriation of government funds, or any similar offense, punish him immediately. Such officials should be suspended, disgraced and dismissed. In the imposition of taxes you should see that the people are taxed according to their capacity. Try to populate those towns and places which are thinly populated. In the case of famine, failure of crops or the incidence of any other such calamity, you should remit taxes. Remission of taxes at such junctures mitigates the sufferings of the people. Such philanthropic measures will endear you to the people who will stand by you through thick and thin. Should the condition of farmers be poor, the cultivation of the land is bound to deteriorate. Should the ruler be greedy, the farmers are bound to be reduced to poverty.

Strictly supervise the work of your record keepers, who should be appointed from amongst those who are scrupulously honest, and are humble. In no case should they be negligent in the discharge of their duty, and they should carry out your orders implicitly. Enjoin the businessmen and the industrialists to be honest and kind. They are the men who increase the wealth of a nation. Of peaceful nature, they are great benefactors of the people. Extend your protection to them and encourage them to develop trade and commerce. The prices must be reasonable, and they should not be allowed to make exorbitant profits. Their weight must be correct, and the accounts kept by them should not be false. Defaulters who set such orders at naught should be punished.

Be kind towards the poor and the destitute. Fear God and help them. They need your attention and you should not neglect them because of your other official duties and activities. Show mercy to the aged and the orphans, who have no means of subsistence. Show them your generosity. Above all be humble and benevolent. When you give anything to them give it cheerfully with a smiling face. Address them kindly and do not put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Fear God and observe prayers, which should be perfect and not defective in any way. Do not be isolated from your subjects, and do not stay away from them for a long time, for if you do so, your officials will oppress the subjects. Sometimes an official may adapt unscrupulous and crooked means for self-aggrandizement. Avoid such men and do not show any favors to them. Do not show any nepotism to your relatives, and do not bestow any land on them. Be just in your dealings with everyone. If any relation of yours commits an offense, you should punish him according to the laws of God. Under no circumstances you should spare him and show him any mercy.

Should your subjects rebel against you because of your strict disciplinary measures, you should explain to them fully the critical situation, which has necessitated your adopting such measures, and try to win them over. You should always try to make peace with your enemies for peace brings happiness and prosperity. Even after the conclusion of peace, be watchful of your enemies for they are sometimes apt to deceive you. You must keep your promise to your enemy at any cost. Never violate the terms of a treaty. Neither break your promise with your enemy nor try to deceive him. Avoid bloodshed. Never kill anyone without sufficient cause. Verily on the Day of Judgment God will punish those who have shed the blood of others unnecessarily. Never consolidate your position by putting men to the sword unnecessarily and unlawfully, for it is bound to weaken the kingdom. Never take pride in your high rank. Treat the subjects kindly and you must act according to whatever promises you have made. Do the right thing at the right time in the right way. Should the people be unanimous about a particular course of action, never thrust your opinion on them. Never lose your temper and try to keep your passions under control. Always remember God and try to follow in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). Follow these instructions faithfully and sincerely.”

Instructions to Abdullah b Abbas

Ali issued the following instructions to Abdullah b Abbas, the Governor of Basra: “You should know that Basra is the place where Satan descends. It is the home of dissension. You should treat the people of Basra with kindness and remove fear from their hearts. I have come to know that you are oppressing the people of Bani Tamim. Bani Tamim are the people whose one star rises if another star sets. That was the case both in the time of ignorance and Islam. We are also closely related to them. It behooves us to strengthen those bonds. In your speech and your actions be careful and discern the right from the wrong. You are my nominee, and I am responsible for your action. I repose confidence in you, see that this confidence is not betrayed.”

Letter to Ziyad b Abiya

Ali issued the following instructions to Ziyad b Abiya, the Governor of Fars: “Beware that it is the matter of administration. Any lapse on your part is brought to my notice, I will deal with you harshly and will not spare you. Treat the path of moderation and do not waste public funds. Today remember your tomorrow. Spend only as much as is absolutely necessary. Whatever is surplus save it for a rainy day. Do not be arrogant. Do you think God would reward you for humility when you are arrogant? When you roll in luxury you will not be rewarded for poverty. A man is rewarded only for his accomplishment. One reaps what he sows.”

Instructions to the Collectors of Zakat

Ali issued the following instructions to the Collectors of Zakat: “Proceed to your duty with pious intentions and faith in God. Do not threaten any Muslim. See that you do not indulge in any act which is not liked by the people. Do not collect anything beyond what is enjoined by the commandments of God. When you reach any settlement alight at the well outside the settlement. Do not alight at the house of anyone. Thereafter enter the residential area with due decorum and dignity. Greet the people. If they do not respond to your greeting, do not mind it? Thereafter tell them that the Caliph has sent you to them to seek compliance with the commandments of God. Ask them whether anything is due from them in accordance with the commandments of God. If anyone says that nothing is due from him, do not enter into argument with him. If he accepts the liability then proceed to collect the dues with due sympathy without harassing him in any way. If Zakat is due in the shape of animals or camels do not enter the animal fold without the permission of the owner. When you enter such fold do not do anything which would annoy the owner. Do not try to create the impression that you are an officer. In assessing, divide the property in two parts and give the owner the option to retain one part. Then divide the other part into two parts and give the owner the option to retain one part. Repeat the process of division until that part which is payable in Zakat is arrived at. If the owner objects to the process of division, repeat the process to the satisfaction of the owner. Whatever is collected as Zakat, place it in the custody of a man in whose piety and integrity you have confidence. If any animal is taken in Zakat, see that it is not lame, unhealthy, or disabled in any way. When a she animal is taken see that its young one is not deprived of milk. While taking the animals to the headquarters see that they are well fed, and are not subjected to any hardship.

In doing your duty be afraid of God in your heart of hearts. Do not comply with the commandment of God in such a way that outwardly it may appear to be in conformity with the commandment of God, but inwardly it may be repugnant to such a commandment. See that what you do is in complete accord with what you say. Do not make your subordinates feel that you are an officer over them. You should not harass them in any way, and you should not make them feel inferior for under Islam all persons are equal. You can take your share out of Zakat, but bear in mind that the poor, and the destitute should first have their due share. See that no one is deprived of what is due to him. See that what is in trust with you is not misappropriated in any way. The worst crime is the betrayal of trust and disloyalty to the Imam.”

Judgments of Ali

Ali as a Judge

Ali was the most learned man of the age in Islamic law. He acted as a Judge during the time of the Holy Prophet, and the Caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar. Some of the judgements delivered by Ali are on record, and show his highly developed sense of discerning the truth, and doing justice.

The story of loaves

Once two companions went on a journey. One of them had five loaves with him, and the other one had three loaves. On the way they were joined by a stranger who shared the loaves with them. On departure the stranger gave them an amount of eight dirhams. A dispute arose between the two companions about the division of the amount. The man who had five loaves wanted to keep five dirhams for himself and give three dirhams to his companion. His companion did not accept this decision and insisted that the amount should be divided equally between them, and that each one of them should get four dirhams. The men wanted Ali to decide their dispute. While entertaining the suit, Ali asked the man who had three loaves that he should accept what his friend offered him namely three dirhams. He did not accept the offer, and wanted that the matter should be adjudicated so that due justice was done. Ali asked whether at the time of the sharing of loaves all the three persons concerned had equal share. He was told that it was so. Ali thereupon gave the judgment that the man with three loaves was entitled to one dirham while the other man who had five loaves was entitled to seven dirhams. This bewildered the man with three loaves who would not accept even three dirhams. He wanted Ali to enlighten him as to the basis of his judgment. Ali explained the position thus: “You had three loaves and your companion had five loaves. There were thus 8 loaves in all. As all the loaves were shared equally between three persons, divide each loaf into three pieces. That would make 24 pieces. Your companion owned five loaves or fifteen pieces while you owned three loaves or nine pieces. As these 24 pieces were shared equally, this means that each one of you ate eight pieces. You had nine pieces, and out of these you ate eight pieces yourself. Thus the stranger ate only one piece from your loaves. Your companion had fifteen pieces. Out of these he ate eight pieces himself leaving seven pieces which were eaten by the stranger. Thus the stranger ate one piece from you and seven pieces from your companion. It is therefore plain arithmetic that for one piece you are entitled to one dirham and your companion is entitled to seven dirhams for seven pieces.”

Dispute about a child

Once a dispute arose between two women about the possession of a child. Each woman claimed to be the mother of the child. No proof could be adduced from either side, but each woman insisted emphatically that the child belonged to her. In the absence of any satisfactory evidence, Ali was unable to decide to whom the child actually belonged. Exasperated addressing the women, Ali said that there is no satisfactory evidence had been produced and as both the women insisted on the motherhood of the child, he had no option but decide that the child be cut in two parts, and thus the child be divided among them. Hearing this decision, one of the women burst into tears and said, “My Lord, do not kill the child. You may very well award it to the other woman”. Thereupon Ali declared that she was indeed the mother of the child, and delivered the child to her.

Dispute about the custody of money

Once two friends proceeded on a journey. Before departing on the journey they kept some money in custody with a woman. She was enjoined not to return the money unless both of them came together to claim it. After some time, one of them came to the woman and said that as his other partner had died, the amount kept in custody be returned to him. He produced some sureties, and the woman returned the amount to him. After some time the other man who was reported to be dead appeared and claimed the money from the lady. She said that his other friend had taken away the money on the grounds that he had died. The man insisted on payment on the grounds that she was committed not to return the amount unless both of them were present. The dispute dragged on, and the man brought the suit in the court of Ali. Addressing the plaintiff Ali asked, “Your stand is that the money was not to be returned unless both of you were present?” The plaintiff said, “Yes, my lord, that is so”. Ali said, “Then go and bring your partner, so that the amount may be delivered to you.” The man actually wanted to play a ruse, and at this wise decision of Ali, the attempt to fleece the poor woman was frustrated.

How Ali detected the murder

Once seven persons went on a journey. After some time six of them returned, and they could give no news about the seventh man. They gave conflicting accounts about him. Sometimes they said that he had died. Sometimes they said that he had quarreled with them and left their company. The wife of the man suspected that they had killed her husband. She accordingly lodged a complaint in the court of Ali. Ali summoned the six men. Each one of them was kept in a separate room where a security guard was posted. Thereafter one of them was called to the presence of Ali. The man was charged with murder, but he insisted that he was innocent and knew nothing about the man. Thereupon Ali ordered the court crier that he should give the “Azan”. As the “Azan” sounded, the other persons segregated in the various rooms shuddered and thought that their companion had confessed the murder. Accordingly, when they were summoned and presented before Ali, they confessed their guilt. Ali accordingly ordered them to pay “Qasas” to the widow of the murdered person.

The Cow and the Ass

Once, a complaint was lodged in the court of Ali by a man that the cow of another person had killed his ass. Ali summoned the owner of the cow and asked him to offer his defense if any. He said that as a matter of fact the ass had attacked the cow first and the cow had killed the ass in retaliation. Ali asked the owner of the cow, “Where were you when the ass attacked the cow?” He said that he was driving the cow. Then he asked the owner of the ass, “Where was the ass at the time?” He said that it was tied. Addressing the owner of the cow Ali said that as the ass was tied, and the cow was untied. His plea that the ass had first attacked the cow was untenable. He accordingly decreed that the owner of the cow should compensate the owner of the ass.

Mad woman accused of adultery

Once a mad woman was brought to the court of Umar. The charge of adultery was established against her. Umar was inclined to sentence her to the penalty of being stoned to death but he deemed it necessary to consult Ali before delivering the judgment. Ali advised that the penal law of Islam was applicable only in such cases where the person concerned was in proper senses, and could be held responsible for his action. Where a person was not in proper senses, he could not be held accountable for his actions. The view of Ali was accepted and the mad woman was let off.

Child born in six months after marriage

In the time of Umar, a child was born to a woman six month after her marriage. When the case came to the notice of Umar he was of the view that it was a prima facie case of adultery and as such the woman should be sentenced to punishment for adultery. Umar referred the case to Ali. No evidence was forthcoming to the effect that the woman had any illicit liaison before marriage. Ali held that the mere fact that the child had been born six months after the marriage would not be a sufficient ground for convicting the woman. Ali pointed out that in the Holy Quran the period from conception to the weaning of the child is laid down at thirty months, and the period of the weaning of the child after birth is given as two years. This means that though under normal circumstances a child is born after nine months, a child may be born after six months under abnormal conditions. The woman was accordingly let off and absolved of the charge of adultery.

Share in the property of a deceased husband for a divorced wife

A companion had two wives. He divorced one of them. A little later he died. The divorced woman claimed a share in the property of her late husband. The suit was contested by the other wife on the grounds that the plaintiff could not claim a share as she had been divorced. It transpired that the husband had died within three months of giving the divorce, and since the divorce the divorced wife did not have more than two monthly courses. Ali accordingly awarded her a share in the property of her husband.

The man who stole his coat of mail

An interesting story is on record in a case in which Ali was himself the plaintiff. After the Battle of Siffin, Ali lost his valuable coat of mail. After some time, Ali saw his coat of mail in the possession of a Christian. When asked to return the coat of mail, the man insisted that the coat belonged to him. Ali filed a suit in the court of the Qadi of Kufa. The Qadi asked Ali to produce witnesses in support of his claim. Ali could produce his son and his slave as witnesses. The Qadi held that he could not accept such evidence as it was interested. Under the circumstances the Qadi rejected the suit of Ali. Instead of being aggrieved against the decision. Ali appreciated the integrity of the Qadi. After the judgment the Christian came to Ali and offered him the coat of mail saying that it in fact belonged to him. The man was so much impressed with the administration of justice under Islam that he hastened to accept Islam at the hands of Ali. Ali presented him the coat of mail as well as a horse. The man fought on the side of Ali against the Kharijites in the Battle of Nahrawan and was martyred.  Ali’s Conduct of Wars

Ali’s instructions for the conduct of war

Ali was a successful and skilled military general. Some of the instructions that he issued to his Generals and the army about the conduct of wars are on record, and show his great military insight.

Instructions to his son Muhammad Hanifa

At the Battle of Siffin, Ali entrusted the flag of command to his son Muhammad Hanifa. Ali issued him the following instructions: “O son, let mountains move from their places, but you should not move from the place that has been assigned to you in the battlefield. Install your feet firmly on the ground as though a nail has been driven into it. Let your one jaw of teeth rest firmly on the other jaw. Keep an eye on the rear of your enemy. Enter the battle with firm determination that you have sold your head to God. With all this, always think that success lies in the hands of God. Above all never raise your hand against the sick, women, the aged, and children. Even if they abuse you, it behooves you to give them refuge. Never mutilate the limbs of the enemy or any other person. Give decent burial to the dead bodies of your enemies.”

Instructions to the Generals of the border forces

Ali issued the following instructions to the Generals of the forces in operation in the border areas: “It is the duty of the Officer Commanding that if he has attained a high office, he should not thereby change his attitude to his subordinates. On the other hand, the greater the bounties that God has conferred on him, the greater should be his kindness to the people under his charge. It is your right on me that, except for war, I should not keep any secrets from you. It is incumbent on me that but for the matters enjoined by the Shariah, I should consult you in all affairs of the State, and should not deprive you of any of your right. If I protect your rights, it is obligatory on you that you should obey me, and should not hesitate to respond to my call for action. Do not be overawed by the difficulties that stand in the way of the vindication of Truth. If you do not act accordingly, you will lower yourself in my estimation, and you will be liable to be called to account for your lapse. You will have to face punishment on that score. Take note that I will not spare you, and will not allow you any concession. As I deal with you, you should in turn deal with your subordinates on similar lines. Such mutual understanding will keep the affairs in order.”

Treatment for the rebels

Ali issued the following instructions to a General in the matter of the treatment to be accorded to rebels: “If the rebels repent and return to obedience, then accept their repentance and do not be harsh with them. If they persist in their revolt, and are not prone to listen to reason, then suppress them with the aid of the people who are loyal to you. See that you depend only on these people who are sincere to you. Do not care for those who are in different. It is better not to own a person who is not with you whole-heartedly. It is better that such men should remain sitting and should not stand up.”

Instruction to the army

Ali issued the following instructions to the army: “When you camp in the battlefield, your camp should be at the base of a mountain, a hillock, or on the bank of a rivet or canal, so that this may insure your safety. Post guards at the top of the mountain, hillock or any other strategic place, so that the enemy may not attack you while you are unaware. Keep in mind that the vanguard of the force and its scouts are like the eyes and ears of a person. Make suitable arrangements for securing intelligence. See that there is no disunity in your ranks. When you are in camp, or on the march, behave as one body. Make proper arrangements for watch and ward during nights. Your guardsmen should remain alert. You should be watchful even in your sleep, and you should wake up and take up arms at the slightest indication of danger.”

Strategy for crisis

In the case of a crisis, Ali laid down the following strategy to be adopted: “If in a battle there is a critical time, and you have to fall back, do not forget to make such retreat a step for attacking the enemy again with redoubled force. Do not lose heart. Be stout hearted. Be prepared. Keep swords ready. Suppress voices. Maintain silence for that is the way to overcome a crisis.”

Prayers of Ali

When starting operations in a battle, Ali would pray to God in the following terms: “O God, our hearts are inclined to You. Our heads bow before You. We look to You for help. We are fighting in Your Way, against the people who are fighting for selfish ends. We seek Your aid. All victory belongs to You.”

Social and Ethical Thought of Ali

Thought of Ali

Ali was a great thinker. In his sermons, addresses, and other writings which have come down to us in the shape of his book Nahj-ul-Balagha we come across many a gem of precious thoughts. Some of these thoughts characterized by great depth are given hereunder.

Friends of Allah

Friends of Allah are they who look to its inward aspect when the ordinary people look to the outward aspect of the world, and when the other people are engrossed in the affairs of the world they get anxious about the Hereafter.

Momins and hypocrites

A Momin is he, whose neck if placed under my sword, would not think ill of me. A hypocrite is he whom even if I load with gold and silver he would not think good of me.

Faqih

A Faqih is one who would not make the people despair of the mercy of God.

Justice and mercy

The purpose of justice is to give a person what is due to him. Mercy goes a step further, and it gives a person something more than what is due to him.

The world and the Hereafter

He who seeks the world, death runs after him; he who seeks the hereafter the world runs after him.

Momin and an infidel

He who tells of his want to a Momin is as if he has requested God. He who seeks his want from an infidel is making a complaint against God.

Proximity to the ruler

He who is in proximity to the ruler is like a person riding on a lion, and there can be no knowing when the lion might overturn and devour him.

Haste

Haste is a kind of madness. One who does things in haste has to face shame, and if he is not ashamed his madness is confirmed.

Faith and faithlessness

Faith with the faithless is faithlessness before God, and faithlessness with the faithless is faith.

Philosophy

If what the philosopher says is correct, it is a cure; if what he says is incorrect it is a disease.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the Zakat of success if you wish to succeed in life, learn to forgive others.

Secret of success

Success depends on self-confidence. Self-confidence depends on due deliberation. Deliberation depends on protecting one’s secrets. He who cannot keep his secret cannot succeed.

Kinds of patience

Patience is of two kinds: Firstly patience at a thing which one does not like, and secondly patience at not getting a thing one desires.

Wealth and poverty

Wealth provides one with the facilities of home country while travelling in a foreign land. Poverty makes a person a stranger even in his homeland.

Faith

Faith lies in preferring truth to falsehood even when the truth might lead to any harm, and falsehood might lead to any advantage. And evidence of your faith is that what you say is in accord with that practice.

Momin

A Muslim is he whose face wears a smiling look even though his heart is distressed.

Perfection

Perfection consists in three things: patience in affliction; moderation in pursuit; and offer of assistance to a supplicant.

Heresy

Heresy has four aspects: Concealment of truth, waging of war against truth, going astray from the path of truth, and adoption of an inimical attitude to truth.

Seven things of the devil

There are seven things of the devil: excessive anger, excessive sneezing, excessive yawning, vomiting, bleeding of the nose, clandestine discourse and sleeping during devotional exercise.

Generosity

Generosity lies in affording relief to the needy without his asking for it. When the supplicant is assisted when he asks for it, that is liberality and munificence and not generosity.

Tauhid

Tauhid is a conviction of the heart which is above doubt.

Justice

Justice is determination against which there can be no accusation.

Broadmindedness

Learning and good dispositions go together and lead to broadmindedness.

Wealth and health

One cannot trust two things: wealth and health. One does not know when they might forsake him.

Two types of subsistence

There are two types of subsistence, one after which you run and the other which runs after you.

Truth and falsehood

There is a distance of four fingers between truth and false hood. Falsehood is that you say that you heard it from someone else. The truth is that you say that you saw it with your own eyes.

Things that are the best

Resignation to the will of God is the best policy. Knowledge is the best inheritance. Good conduct is the best ornament. The best wealth is the suppression of desires. The middle course is the best course.

Things to which nothing is better

No honor is more respectable than the sword. No religion is better than Islam. No citadel is stronger than piety. No one is a better interceder than repentance. No treasure is richer than contentment.

Success and failure

When you succeed do not feel proud. When you fail do not lose patience.

Person doomed to ignominy

Two persons are deemed to ignominy, firstly he who creates dissentions and secondly he who levies false accusations.

Three friends

Your three friends are: your friend, a friend of your friend, and an enemy of your enemy.

Three foes

Your three foes are: your foe, the foe of your friend, and the friend of your foe.

Two types of men

There are two types of men in the world: one who sells himself to the world and the world destroys him, the other is the one who ransomed himself for the world and has released himself from its captivity.

Greetings and favor

If somebody greets you, greet him in better terms. If somebody favors you confer a greater favor on him.

Humiliation

Accept death, but do not accept humiliation.

Two hungry persons

There are two hungry persons whose hunger is never satisfied: firstly he who seeks knowledge and secondly he who seeks the world.

Miser

A miser lives in the world as an indigent, and he will be called for in the Hereafter to give account as a capitalist.

Offshoots of patience

Desire, fear, and piety are the offshoots of patience.

Miserliness, patience, piety and cowardice

Miserliness is dishonor. Patience is bravery. Piety is a shield against hell. Cowardice is an inferiority complex.

The greatest and the vilest

Wisdom is the greatest treasure. Folly is the greatest poverty. Of all things pride is the vilest. The greatest excellence is good disposition.

Companies to be avoided

Avoid the company of a fool for he will harm you while trying to benefit you. Avoid the company of a liar for he will bring you near what is undesirable and remove you from what is desirable. Avoid the company of a miser for he would withhold from you what you stand in need of. Avoid the company of a libertine for he will sell you for a trifle.

Two things to be afraid of

Two things of which you should be afraid of are: firstly giving way to your lust; and secondly harboring high and far-fetched hopes.

The worst enemies

Before God two persons are the worst enemies, firstly the man who makes innovations, and secondly the man who creates dissentions.

Things that are worse

There is no distress worse than ignorance. There is no enemy worse than self-adulation. There is no worse companion than bad conduct.

Political Thought of Ali

Ali as political thinker

Ali was a political thinker. In his writings in Nahj-ul-Balagha we come across many passages which project his political thought in the context of Islam. It is surprising that such thoughts expressed fifteen hundred years ago have an air of modernity about them. One marvels at the profundity of his thought.

State and Government

Ali defined the State as “Community in action”. He defined Government as an instrument of the state charged with the responsibility of fulfilling the purposes of the state. He conceived the Islamic Ummah as an organic entity capable of possessing moral and spiritual qualities. He held that an individual cannot lead his life in isolation and has to live as a part of the Ummah safeguarding the “Haqooq-ul-Abad” (duties of individuals towards his fellow men). This can be done by developing a sense of group solidarity and loyalty, and by each person striving to live in harmony with his fellow men without encroaching upon or usurping the rights of others. Ali held that mankind, with all its faults and vices, would survive by a corporate sense of responsibility. As such good government should not be merely regulative; it should be reformative as well in its character and application.

Caplih

Ali held that the Caliph is the agent of the community charged with the responsibility to administer the affairs of the community in accordance with the injunctions of Islam. He should strive to follow in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet. He should be a pious and staunch Muslim who should follow the Shariah himself and should enforce it for others. He should be a man of knowledge and should not be ignorant. He should not be covetous or ambitious. He should be concerned more with the Hereafter than the world. He should be of good disposition. He should be sympathetic. He should not be cruel and should not oppress the people. He should have a firm hold on authority and should see that the functionaries of the state perform their duties honestly and efficiently. He should be just and should administer justice without fear or favor. He should promote the welfare of the people. He should enforce law and order with a strong hand. He should be a source of strength for the weak and a matter of terror for those who usurp the rights of others. He should defend the country against foreign aggression. He should maintain law and order within the country. He should keep a strict watch on the functionaries of the state. He should be sympathetic, and should solve the problems of the people. The people should have easy access to him and he should command their confidence. He should regard government as a trial, and should take steps to insure that when weighed in the balance he is not found wanting.

The people

Ali held that the people are the main power, and they have the right to criticize the government. The government should work for the welfare of the people and should keep them satisfied. Ali was particular that the minorities should be well cared for and their rights should be kept safeguarded. The minorities should have the freedom of worship, and they should enjoy autonomy in the administration of their own affairs. Ali held that it was the obligation of the state to look after the destitute and the distressed. He attached particular importance to the care of the widows and the orphans.

Taxation

Ali held that the people should be taxed according to their capacity. There should be no hardship or coercion in the collection of taxes. The system of taxation should be such that the people paid the taxes voluntarily as a religious obligation. The collectors should not indulge in any act which is not liked by the people. They should not collect anything beyond what is enjoined by law. Taxes should be remitted in the case of famine, failure of crops or any other calamity.

Functionaries of the State

Ali held that only such persons should be appointed as the functionaries of the state who spoke the truth, however unpalatable it might be. The functionaries of the state should fear God, and they should perform their duties with pious intentions, good faith, and the fear of God. They should be scrupulously honest. They should not oppress the people. They should be paid reasonable remuneration so that they are not beguiled into monetary temptations. There should be a good system of espionage to watch the working of the functionaries of the state at various levels. Ali held that good care should be taken of the soldiers. They should be respected and treated kindly. Only pious and holy men with fear of God should be appointed as Qadis, and they should administer justice without fear or favor in accordance with the commandments of God. They should not be greedy and should not make errors in their judgments. The businessmen and traders should be protected, and proper facilities should be provided for the development of trade and industry. Ali laid down that the government was under an obligation to insure that prices of commodities were kept at a reasonable level, and the businessmen were not allowed to make exorbitant profit. The functionaries of the state had to take steps to insure that there was no hoarding or black marketing. Ali enjoined that public funds were to be administered as a trust. Liberal allowances were to be paid to the people. The state should avoid ostentation. Public funds should not be wasted. Only as much should be spent as was absolutely necessary.

Foreign policy

Ali held that in the matter of foreign policy, the state should take steps to insure peace without and peace within. War should be avoided as far as possible. The terms of all treaties should be faithfully observed. The government should, however, remain alert and be prepared to meet any emergency. If war is resorted to it should be only in the cause of God and for the vindication of the truth. Ali held that in the case of war, let the first shot be by the enemy. Bloodshed was to be avoided as far as possible. In the enemy land the fields were not to be harmed and the fruit trees were not to be cut. The aged and the women were not to be made the victims of vengeance.

Ali’s concept of God

Ali’s concept of God

In his various sermons, conspicuous for the debt of learning, Ali has emphasized on the various attributes of God in a most masterly way. Extracts from some of his sermons are given: “All praise is due to the creator of the world whose wisdom is hidden. The various subjects of nature openly confirm his existence. He is not surpassed in strength and superiority. He is the nearest to us. No one can be nearer to us than He. His distance height has not segregated Him from His creation, and His nearness has not established His equality with His creation. He is that sublime and matchless Being in comprehending when the intellect cannot reach the bottom of His attributes, yet nothing prevents a person from comprehending Him. He is that being whose existence even an atheist feels in His heart of hearts. Undoubtedly God is free and sublime and bears no comparison with anyone, then how can anyone have the audacity to deny Him.”

God is higher and superior to all things to such an extent that even the wildest imagination cannot have a definite idea about Him. He is the beginning, which has no end. He is infinite. God is one. He has no partner. He is the first cause of everything. There was nothing before Him. He existed when nothing existed. He is unique. We can have only glimpses of his greatness. His effulgence is so dazzling that we cannot face it. Our intellect is finite and He is infinite. He is beyond description. He is Almighty. All things in the Heavens and on Earth are subject to His command.

We thank God what He has taken, for what he has given; for the kindness he has done, and what test He has taken. He is aware of all that is hidden. He knows every secret. Whatever is concealed in one’s heart is known to Him. He is omnipotent, and omniscient. None is to be worshipped except Him. He has no partner. He has no parallel. He is Mighty, Majesty, and Mercy. He is our Creator. We come from Him and we have to ultimately return to Him. His bounties are unlimited.

When did God exist

A Jew went to Ali and asked him, “When did God exist.” Ali said that God is above consideration of time and space. Creation was not, and He was. He was while there was no being. He existed without cause. He has no beginning and no end. He is subject to no limitations. He is infinite. He is the end of all soul.

The Jew next asked, “What is fate.” Ali said. “It is a gloomy road; treat it not.” The Jew repeated the question for the third time and Ali said, “It is a mystery of God which is hidden from you; do not probe into it. “The Jew insisted on a reply, and Ali asked him, “Has God created you for what he has willed, or what you have willed?” Thereupon Ali said, “Then He will do with you as He thinks fit, and that is fate.” This impressed the Jew and he was converted to Islam at the hand of Ali.

Protection of God

Once a Jew came to Ali with a view to ridiculing Islam. The Jew was very rich, and he disparaged the Islamic way of austerity. He tried to enter into an argument with Ali, and declared that if his questions were answered to his satisfaction he would accept Islam. Ali said that he would be glad to answer any question that was put to him. The Jew said, “Suppose you are standing on the roof of a high building at a dizzying height, who will protect you?” Ali said, “Of course, God will protect me”. The Jew thereupon said, “Do you feel confident that God would really protect you”. Ali said, “Certainly, it is our faith that as long as we are ordained to live, God will protect us.” The Jew observed, “If you are sure of the protection of God, would you be prepared to climb to a high building, and then jump therefrom in order to test how God protects you”. Ali said that he was not a fool to jump from a high building for nothing. The Jew said that he was not asking him to undertake the exercise for nothing, for if God actually protected of him, he would thereby get a Jew converted to Islam. Ali said that such stipulation was erroneous and fallacious. “How was that?” inquired the Jew. Ali said that God is the Master, and man is His servant. It is open to the Master to put the servant to test, but it does not behoove the servant to put the master to test. Ali added: “If we put God to any test, that means our lack of faith, and when faith is lost, everything is lost.”

The Jew said, “This means that you are afraid that if you take a jump, you will die and God will not protect you,” Ali said, “I am not afraid of death, but as a servant I cannot defy the Master. Everything in the universe is subject to the Will of God. That Will is the law, and man has been endowed with reason and intelligence to discern such law. If knowing the law I choose to defy it, I will have to suffer for breaking the law. When I deliberately break down the law laid down by the Master, I lose the right of His protection. Moreover, God protects us as long as we are ordained to live. If I take a jump and die, it would merely mean that I am ordained to do like that, it would not mean that God has withdrawn his protection.”

The argument of Ali impressed the Jew He said, “Ali, you are right. We must observe the law, and then seek the protection of the Master. We certainly lose the right of His protection when we break the law.” Thereupon the Jew was converted to Islam, and for the rest of his life he remained a true Muslim.

Counsels of All with reference to God

Some of the counsels of Ali with reference to God are:

  1. Fear God, and you will have no cause to fear anyone else. Fear of God checks the soul from committing sins, and restrains one from transgression. Shedding tears for the fear of God enlightens the heart and fortifies it against the repetition of sins. Fear of God purifies the heart.
  2. Resignation to God’s will is the cure of the diseases of the heart. Resignation to the will of God makes the greatest affliction easy.
  3. Glorify God even for little blessings. If you are grateful to God for His blessings, He will increase them.
  4. The Word of God is the medicine of the heart. A believer is thankful to God in prosperity, and patient in adversity. To repose one’s trust in God is the believer’s castle.

Ali’s prayer to God

Ali used to pray to God in the following terms: “O God, forgive my sins of which you know me more than me. And if I commit these sins again, even then because of Your munificence forgive me. If all the promises that I had made with myself to act according to Your command have not been fulfilled, kindly pardon my lapse. Moreover if I sought your proximity through my tongue, but my heart did not keep accord with my tongue even then forgive me, O God, forgive my acts of commission or omission, advertent or inadvertent. ”

Ali on the Life of the World

Life in this world, and Life in the world Hereafter

In one of his sermons, Ali counseled the people about the life in this world, and the life in the world Hereafter in the following terms: “O men of God. May God keep you happy, and shower His favors on you! You should prepare yourself for the long journey that awaits you. There are many difficulties that beset your path. Death is ever anxious to devour you. Renounce the riches of the world, and catch hold of piety. Life in this world is short, whereas life after death will be everlasting. Buy those commodities here which will stand you in good stead in the other world. Do not demean yourself before God, Who is well acquainted with your innermost feelings. Do not allow your soul to be lost in this world before death may overtake you. “O men! Cast a glance on this world from a wise man’s point of view. She turns out her guests in a short space of time. She harasses those with whom she fondles and prattles. Whatever part of life is wasted in idle pursuits can never be recalled. Its gratification and enjoyments are soon changed into suffering and pain: its embellishments and decorations are changed into deformation and impoverishment. The days of this life are numbered. Death is inevitable and is bound to come soon. After having adorned your person with good deeds, you should not pay any heed whether death catches you or you catch death. Many men buy clothes, which instead of being worn by them are used in their coffin. Many persons build houses that instead of becoming abodes become their graves. No one has lived forever in this world, and no one has invented such a medicine which may make men immune from the clutches of death. Solomon the prophet reigned with great pomp and majesty but when his time came he had to depart leaving all such pomp and glory. The world was left without him, and his palaces became a heap of ruins. Look to the case of those men who lived in impregnable citadels on the top of mountains with the most powerful army and when their time came, death ejected them from those fortified places, and put them to eternal sleep in graves. One can hear the whisper of angels over their graves. Where are those stiff necked people who boasted of their pelf and power and their crowns and thrones? Where are their royal robes? What became of those beauties whose radiance under veils dimmed the light of the sun? Where have gone those forts which were decorated with golden curtains, in front of which stood sentries for watch and ward? Do they not tell us how powerless they were? Have not the worms eaten those bodies, who a few days ago set a magnificent and sumptuous table with luxurious plates? The vicissitudes of fortune have ruined their citadels, destroyed their royal robes and reduced to dust their crowns and thrones”.

Evil of the world

In another sermon, Ali dwelt on the evils of the world as follows: “Beware! The world stands on the threshold of decay and destruction. Its mouth sounds the farewell notes of annihilation. It is uncanny and uncharitable. With great rapidity it turns its back. Alas, the world drives its inhabitants into pitfalls of destruction. Through the hands of death it drags its exasperated neighbors to annihilation. Its transparent water becomes, bitter and its sparkling spring becomes opaque in the next world. It has nothing to offer except the leavings which stick to utensils after the meal, or the wet piece of stone which is kept in the mouth to quench parching thirst. Whatever is in the world is superficial, mortal and perishable. O followers of God! Then get ready to leave this abode whose in-dwellers are destined to taste death. Take heed lest the desires and lust should overwhelm you and this transitory life should appear a long one to you and its short sojourn be taken as a long one by you. By God, if you grumble and moan like the wretched camels of burden, shed bitter tears like a pigeon and implore forgiveness of God like those monks who have renounced the world and having renounced your worldly goods and family, you come out to seek nearness to God so that He may exalt your lot or forgive some of your sins which the angels have recorded in your book of deeds. All these things will have little value as compared with the reward which awaits you if you follow my instructions. By God, if for the love of God, you melt your hearts away and for the love of His rewards and fear of His punishment your eyes shed blood instead of tears and you live in this condition till this world lasts, even then your indefatigable and untiring efforts can be of no match for the numerous blessings which God has so kindly and bountifully bestowed upon you. You can never return the thanks of the Almighty Lord for the guidance He has so mercifully shown to us.”

The World and the Hereafter

In another sermon, Ali talked about the world and the Hereafter in the following terms: “The world has turned its face, and given an indication of its impending end. The Hereafter is now becoming manifest. Beware, today is the day to activate your body, tomorrow is the day assigned for the race. Now either Paradise or Hell lies ahead of you. Is there no one among you who should repent before his death, and do some good deeds which would stand him in good stead in the Hereafter. You are living today in the world of hopes and desires, but beware that death lies in ambush. Ho who does good deeds before his death, such deeds would be a source of profit for him. His death will not harm him in any way. He who falls into error before his death will be at loss, and will come to grief. In the event of weal or woe you should act as one would act in the case of fear or terror. The truth is that there is no reward greater than Paradise, and there is no punishment severer than Hell. Beware that whom the truth does not profit, falsehood will certainly harm him. He who is not guided is doomed to destruction. Beware that you have been given the command to march. The goods that you can carry with you on your march have also been indicated. I am worried about you in two things, firstly your subservience to your lust, and secondly the excess of your longings. March to the Hereafter with such assets which can save you from punishment on the Doomsday”.

Transitory character of the World

In most of his sermon, Ali has brought out the transitory characters of the world in the following words: “All praise is for God. Do not despair of His mercy. His bounties are unlimited. There is no shame in His worship. He is God Whose mercy is ever lasting, and Whose bounties would never exhaust. Remember that the world is transitory in character, and your life is a mere sojourn. The world is doomed to destruction. It is outwardly pleasant and attractive, but inwardly hollow. See that when you depart from this world you do so with good grace, and carry with you assets which will stand you in good stead in the Hereafter. For this journey do not overload yourself with unnecessary paraphernalia. Do not covet anything beyond what is necessary. Keep in mind that the world is a tavern where no one can stay for long. Do not be enamoured of the world. Its attractions are a trap. Those who are lured by its charms get involved into an ordeal. You should keep in mind that you will have to be called to account for what you do in the world. For the wise, the world is a shadow, which may appear at one moment, and soon disappear. Fear God, and face death with a stock of good deeds. Purchase everlasting things for things which are perishable. An arduous journey awaits you. Prepare yourself for it. Be ever ready to face death, for it may come any moment. Be receptive to words of advice. God Almighty has not created you in vain, nor has He left you free to run amuck. Death separates you from this world, and Paradise or Hell in the Hereafter. Remember that your life is diminishing every moment. You should hasten cheerfully to your real destination. While alone, purchase such assets which would be a source of profit to you in the Hereafter. You should overpower your lusts. Know that desires are deceptive and death lies in ambush. Satan is after you. It is the game of Satan that death should catch you unaware, when you have not amassed the assets necessary for the journey to eternity. Against the maneuvers of Satan, seek the protection of God.

Dwelling on the same theme, in the course of other sermons, Ali said: “The world is a tavern where no one can stay for long. Such is the lure of the world that none can escape from being involved therein. The world is an ordeal and a trial. Whatever you get out of the world will be of no avail to you. It is only that which helps you for the Hereafter that can be a source of profit for you. For the wise, the world is merely a shadow which may disappear any moment, thus manifesting its unreality.

O people, what should I say about the world, which begins in grief and ends in destruction. Those who are rich and wealthy are involved in mischief, and those who are poor and needy are grieved and distressed. The world eludes him who seeks it. It runs after him, who runs away from it. He who sees it as a place of trial is enlightened; he who is lured by its charm is blinded.”

Anecdotes of Ali

He decried flattery

Once a person flattered Ali. Ali said: “Do not flatter me. I am not what you say, but I am more than what you think of me in your heart”.

He denounced praise

One day Ali delivered a sermon, which was most impressive and eloquent. Some one praised him for his sermon. He said: “Do not praise me. That would mislead me and beguile me into vainglory. Remember that all praise is for God alone.”

He would carry his own burden

One day Ali purchased some provisions in the market. It was a heavy load and he carried it himself. Many persons offered to carry the load for him. He refused the offer saying that every one should carry his burden himself.

He did not want the people to follow in his retinue

One day Ali was riding a horse. Some people followed him and began to walk in his train. He asked them why they were following him. They said that they felt elated to walk in his retinue. He said: “Go back to your business. By walking behind me you will breed feelings of inferiority in yourselves, and infect me with arrogance.”

He prayed for patience to bear suffering

At the Battle of Uhud, Ali received over a hundred wounds. In spite of these wounds he continued fighting and said: “May God grant me patience to bear this suffering. It is a favor of God that He gave me the courage to stand and fight, and not to leave the battlefield”.

His complaint against his people

One night Ali saw the Holy Prophet in a dream. He complained to the Holy Prophet that he had received much trouble from his people. The Holy Prophet said that he might invoke the curse of God on them. When it was day, be lifted his hands after the Morning Prayer and said: “O God. Give me a better people, and give these people a worse ruler then me”.

He rode on a mule instead of a horse

When going to battle, Ali used to ride on a mule instead of a horse. He was asked why he preferred a mule to a horse when the horse would carry him faster. He said that it was so he did not wish to fly from the battlefield.

He would never turn his back to the enemy

Ali always wore the armor on the front part of his body. He was asked why he did not wear the armor on his back. He said that it was because he did not want to turn his back to the enemy.

He would not seek a concession

Once Ali went to the market to purchase some cloth. He went to a shop and a shopkeeper recognizing him offered the cloth at a confessional rate. Ali refused to make the purchase.

He preferred his slave to himself

Once Ali went to the bazaar to purchase some cloth for himself and his slave. One piece was purchased at a higher price, and the other at a lower price. He gave the costlier piece of cloth to his slave and kept the cloth of inferior quality for himself.

He had no ambition for the caliphate

It is related that when on the way to Basra, Ali and his troops were camping at Rabdha, Ibn Abbas came to see him. At that time Ali was mending his shoe. Ali asked Ibn Abbas as to what would be the value of the shoe. Ibn Abbas said that the old shoe had hardly any value and its value would at the most not exceed a quarter of a dirham. Ali thereupon said, “By God, this shoe is more valuable to me than the caliphate. I have no ambition to rule.”

He freed the slave who did not respond to his call

Once Ali called his slave, but the slave did not respond to his call. He called him thrice, but the slave kept silent. Thereafter Ali went to the slave and said, “Did you not hear my call?” He said that he had heard to his call, but was at that time calling upon God who had subjected him to the humiliation of slavery. Thereupon Ali said, “I release you from slavery forthwith in the name of God.”

He saw God with inward eyes

Once Ali was asked whether he had seen God. He said that verily he had seen God because he could not worship Him without knowing Him. He was asked how he had seen Him, and he said that He had seen him with the inward eyes of the heart.

He lost consciousness while praying

Once an arrow stuck in the feet of Ali. It could not be taken out because of the intensity of the pain felt. When Ali stood up in prayers, he was so much absorbed in the devotional exercise that the surgeon pulled out the arrow without Ali feeling any pain.

He would not pay the enemy in its own coin

At the battlefield of Siffin, the forces of Muawiyah had the control over the source of water supply, and they would not allow thereto the troops of Ali. When the troops of Ali overpowered the enemy and got control over the source of water supply, Ali was advised that he should deny access of water to the enemy. He repudiated the advice saying that he would not pay the enemy in its own coins, but in the coins of Islam.

He preferred his men to himself

During the water shortage in Siffin, he refused to quench his own thirst saying that the water should be given to those of his men who were more thirsty than him.

Two wrongs cannot make a right

When, after the Battle of Siffin, Muawiyah began harassing the people by making raids into the territory adjoining Syria, the Governor of Ali, Kameel b Ziyad, suggested that he should be authorized to lead retributive expedition into Syria. Ali turned down the suggestion saying, “Two wrongs cannot make a right. Let Muawiyah take pleasure in harassing innocent people. I cannot resort to such measures.”

He was dispirited because he had no guest

One day Ali felt unusually dispirited and dejected. When asked about the reason for his unusual dejection he said that he was feeling dispirited because he had received no guest for a week.

He wore dress of coarse cloth

Ali always wore clothing of coarse cloth. When asked why did he wear such shabby dress when he was the Head of the State, he said that it was so because coarse cloth softened the heart while fine cloth hardened the heart.

He wanted to travel light

The house of Ali was bereft of the usual furniture. When asked, why he, deprived himself of such necessities when he was the ruler of a state, he said, “This life is a journey, and while on a journey one should travel light. I have booked my luggage for the destination- the hereafter.”

He would not break open the lock of the shop of God

Once, Aqueel, a brother of Ali, asked him to provide some relief for him as he was feeling sore. Ali said that when he got his usual allowance from the Baitul Mal, he would give something out of it to him. They did not satisfy Aqueel. Ali thereupon said, “Then you may break open the locks of the of the ships in the market.” Aqeel said, “Do you want me to become a thief.” Ali retorted, “Then do you want to break open the lock of the Shop of God and become a brigand instead of the custodian of the Baitul Mal.”

He was not afraid of death

In the Battle of Siffin, Ali penetrated into the front ranks of the Syrian forces without any protective armor. One after another his assailants fell before the onslaught of his sword. His son Imam Hasan objected to such neglect to protect himself. Ali said, “It is immaterial to me whether I fall to death or death fall on me. I love death as much as a suckling loves the milk of his mother.”

He did not care for the booty

In the battle Ali killed a wealthy Quraish chief Umar b Ubda, but contrary to the Arab custom, he did not mutilate his body, nor take off his costly coat of mail. When asked why he had not taken his valuable coat of mail, Ali said, “The lion who enters the battlefield either kills himself or is killed he does bother about the booty.”

He would not own the treasure in the land that he had purchased

Once Ali purchased a plot of land from a person in Madina. When the plot was dug a treasure was found therein. Ali would not except the treasure, as it did not come from a part of his transaction with the original owner. He offered the treasure to the original owner, but he did not except it. Thereupon Ali distributed the entire treasure in charity.

He undertook to clear the debt of a dead Muslim

Once the Holy Prophet attended the funeral of a dead Muslim. Before leading the funeral prayer, the Holy Prophet inquired whether the dead man had to clear any debt. He was informed that the dead man had to pay the debt of a dinar. The Holy Prophet said that before he could lead the funeral prayer some one should undertake the responsibility of clearing the debt of the dead Muslim. It was Ali who stepped forward to undertake the responsibility for clearing the debt.

He would not accept the allegiance from whom he had released

Marwan a cousin of Muawiyah was a bitter enemy of Ali. He had played a great part in inciting revolt against the caliphate of Ali. He was taken captive in the Battle of the Camel at Basra. When brought before Ali he asked for mercy. Ali released him unconditionally. Thereupon Marwan offered to pay allegiance to him, but Ali said, “I did not want his allegiance. I released him for the sake of God, and not for securing allegiance to me.”

He did not believe in the prognostication of the astrologer

When Ali led his troops against the Kharijites at the Battle of Nahrawan, an astrologer advised him not to proceed to battle as the time was not propitious. Ali refused to act on the advice saying: “All knowledge of the unknown belongs to God. I cannot accept any person as a partner in the knowledge of God.”

He would take no precaution to protect himself

During the last days of his life, when Ali was asked to take protective measures against any murderous attack, he said, “The shield of God is around my body, and nobody can harm me against the will of God. And if God wills me to be martyred, no protective measures will avail.”

People stood in the way of his right

At Basra someone said to Ali that he was ambitious for the caliphate. Ali said, “I am not ambitious, what has happened is that there are people who stand in the way of my right. To strive for the right is no ambition.”

Spacious house

At Basra, Ali went to the house of one of his companions A’ala b Ziyad. He had constructed a spacious house. Ali was critical of the spaciousness of the house. He said, “A’ala what have you gained by constructing a spacious house in the world. You should have built a spacious house for yourself in the world Hereafter.”

Renunciation, not the way of Islam

It was complained to Ali that one of his companions Asim b Zaid was undergoing devotional exercises to such an extent that he had neglected and disregarded his obligation to his wife and children. Ali reprimanded him and said that renunciation was not the way of Islam. He asked him to maintain a proper balance between his duties to God and his duties to the people.

Hosting dinner

When it was brought to the notice of Ali that one of his governors had hosted a big dinner, Ali wrote him a letter expressing his disapproval and said, “What have you gained by hosting such dinner were the wealthy are fed extravagantly, and the poor are returned out. ”

He could still wield the sword

Writing to Muawiyah, Ali said in one of his letters: “I wield the same sword with which I severed the head of your maternal grandfather, maternal uncle and brother with the same stroke”.

Similes of Ali

Similes of Ali

Ali had the peculiar skill to explain things by giving appropriate similes. In his various addresses and sermons we come across many instances of the brilliance of his expression in bringing home the truth through interesting examples.

The world

He likened the world to a serpent which was outwardly very soft skinned but poisonous from within.

Falsehood

Ali held that like toe feathers of a peacock, falsehood might look very attractive, but was as ugly as the feet of the peacock. Falsehood has no legs to stand upon.

The unbelievers

Ali compared the unbelievers to a bat which can see when it is dark, but which is blind and cannot see anything when it is daylight.

The people who did not respond to his call

When Ali exhorted the people of Iraq to respond to his call for war against Muawiyah, they did not respond to his call. He said, “You are like a pregnant woman who undergoes the ordeal of childbirth, but gives birth to a dead child.”

The tree and the fruit

When after the death of the Holy Prophet, the Quraish based their claim to the caliphate on the ground that they belonged to the same tree as the Holy Prophet, Ali said, “It is strange that they look to the tree, but neglect its fruit”.

The people of Basra

When the people of Basra who had originally taken the oath of allegiance to him, but later chose to fight against him, Ali said that these people were near the water but far from the sky.

People of the age of ignorance

Referring to the people of the age of ignorance in the pre-Islamic era, Ali said that they were like an egg which is broken in the nest.

The people of Kufa

Addressing the people of Kufa, Ali said: “When I invite you to fight, your eyes begin to move in your sockets as if you are in the agony of death. You are like the camels whose herdsmen have disappeared, and when these animals are collected on one side, they scatter on the other side”.

Mughira b Shu’aba

Mughira was regarded by the Quraish as a wise man. When Mughira favored Muawiyah, Ali said, “Mughira has profited from Islam only to the extent seeking worldly end. He is oblivious of the Hereafter”.

The people who run after the world

About the people who run after the world, Ali said: “Those people who run after the world are like beasts who fall at one another, with the strong oppressing the week.

The people who are not deceived by the world

About the people who are not deceived by the world Ali said, “Those who have understood the deceptive character of the world do not feel distressed on death. They are like the people who migrate from a famine-struck land to a land of plenty.”

Ali’s complaint against the Umayyads

During the caliphate of Othman, Ali had a complaint that the Umayyads were withholding from him what was due to him. He said, “The Umayyads are withholding what is due to me as the camel man, when milking the she camel, withholds the milk from the young one of the camel.”

Falsehood of Muawiyah

Referring to the falsehood of Muawiyah, Ali said, that falsehood had appeared in his cave as the horns on the head of a young goat.

Shedding of Sins through prayer

In a sermon Ali said that through prayer the sins of a man are shed as a tree sheds its leaves.

Cleanliness and prayers

In another sermon, Ali said: “Prayer is like a hot spring of water which flows at your door, and provides you the wherewithal for cleanliness.”

Crumbs after the meals

In a sermon, Ali said that the world had run its cause, and nothing had been left of it except the crumbs after the meals.

Heart of the people

In an address, Ali compared the people who did not respond to his call to a camel who ran away from the herd shrieking with the pain of a stomachache.

Ignorant persons

In a sermon Ali prayed for the heart of the people to melt at the mention of the Word of God as salt dissolves in the water.

Ashas b Qais

Ali said that among his companions Ashas b Qais was what Abdullah b Abi Sahi was in the time of the Holy Prophet.

Patience and faith

Ali held that patience and faith bear the same relation as in the case of a human being the head bears to the body. There can be no body without a head, and there can be no faith without patience.

Disease and sins

Ali held that disease sheds sins as the trees shed the dead leaves.

Death of the virtuous

Ali compared the death of the virtuous to the migration journey of the people from a famine-struck land to a land of plenty.

Days of life

Ali held that the days of life pass as the passing of clouds on the sky.

Devotion to the world

Ali held that those who are devoted to the world are like barking dogs and ferocious animals that fall at one another, and the strong devour the weak.

Seekers of the world

Ali compared the men seeking the world to camels which are let loose and which roam about causing mischief.

Virtue of silence

Ali advocated the virtue of silence by advancing the simile that water can be preserved in a water skin only when its mouth is tied.

Thirsty camels on a water pond

When the people flocked to him and urged him to accept their allegiance, Ali compared them to thirsty camels that flock to the water pond when their strings are untied.

The caliphate of Umar

When Abu Bakr died, and still ignoring his claims, Umar became the Caliph. Ali held that the second Caliph was like a person riding a camel whose rein if tightened would injure the camel, and if loosened would endanger the rider.

Umayyad use of the Baitul Mal

Referring to the appropriation of the funds of the Baitul Mal by the Umayyads for personal ends during the caliphate of Othman, Ali held that they ate away the public funds, as the camel eats away the grass.

Withholding the milk of the she camel from its young one

Ali had the complaint that during the caliphate of Othman, the Umayyads withheld from him what was his right line the camelman who, while milking the she camel, withholds its milk from its young one.

Handle of the grinding stone

When Abu Bakr became the Caliph, Ali held that Abu Bakr had assumed the mantle of the caliphate forcibly while he knew that he (Ali) was as essential for the caliphate as the handle is necessary for moving the grinding stone.

The simile of a sinner

Ali held that a sinner is like a person riding on an animal over which he has no control, and which is running fast to hurl him into precipice.

Drops of rain

Ali held that the injunctions of God descend like the drops of rain.

The summer clouds

When the people of Kufa did not respond to the call of Ali to rise to meet the challenge of Muawiyah, Ali said that he longed for warriors who in their action and speed should be like the summer clouds.

Goat and the lion

Addressing the people of Kufa, Ali said, “I want you to tread the path of the truth, but you run from it as the goat runs away on hearing the roar of a lion.”

Taking the thorn out of the foot with a thorn

On another occasion Ali said that the people of Kufa were like a person who picked out the thorn from his foot with a thorn.

Solution of the salt in water

With reference to the people of Kufa, Ali prayed: “O God melt their hearts as the salt is dissolved in the water.”

Bull with crooked horns

When Talha defected after taking the oath of allegiance to him, Ali likened Talha to a bull with crooked horns.

Shaking of Plants

Referring to the piety of the companions of the Holy Prophet, Ali said that they shuddered at the mention of the hereafter as the plants shake when a strong wind blow.

Pregnant women separated from the child

Addressing the people of Kufa, Ali said that they were not dependable and they were likely to leave him, as the pregnant women on childbirth is separated from the child bred in her womb.

Household of the Holy Prophet

Ali said that the simple of the household of the Holy Prophet was like stars which of one star sets another star rises.

Foaming waves of the Holy Prophet

While addressing Othman, Ali said that treason was likely to wage like the foaming waves of the sea.

Sayings of Ali

His Sayings

Ali was an embodiment of knowledge and wisdom. Some of the sayings of Ali that breathe wisdom and have attained the dimensions of aphorisms are on record. Some of these are quoted hereunder:

  • Fear God and you will have no cause to fear any one.
  • Resignation to the Will of God is the cure of the disease of the heart.
  • The word of God is the medicine of the heart.
  • Lead such a life, that, when you die, the people may mourn you, and while you are alive they long for your company.
  • The days of life pass away like clouds, so do good while you are alive.
  • Of all the follies the greatest is to love the world.
  • Opportunity is swift of flight but slow to return.
  • Pride, cowardice, and miserliness are bad for me but good for women.
  • The most happy is he to whom God has given a good wife.
  • He who knows himself knows God.
  • Do not soil your conscience for anything but heaven
  • The disease of the heart is worse than the disease of the body.
  • To fight against one’s desires is the greatest of all fights.
  • The strongest amongst you is he who subdues his self.
  • Wealth and greed are the roots of all evils.
  • Riches without faith are the greatest poverty.
  • A man’s worth depends upon the nobility of his aspirations.
  • Knowledge enlivens the soul.
  • The learned lives, although he dies.
  • The sum total of excellence is knowledge.
  • To respect the learned is to respect God.
  • Generosity hides shortcomings.
  • The wealth of a miser is as useless as a pebble.
  • Desire is one’s most inveterate enemy.
  • Those who walk on the surface of the earth shall one day be interred in it.
  • Every breath of man brings him nearer to death.
  • People are asleep as long as they are alive, they are awakened when they die.
  • Patience is the fruit of faith.
  • Virtue never dies.
  • A man’s glory from his virtue is greater than the glory of his pedigree.
  • No shelter is safer than piety.
  • A man’s behavior is the index of his mind.
  • Courtesy costs nothing but buys everything.
  • Clemency graces power.
  • Jealousy devours virtue as fire devours fuel
  • He that lends a listening ear to reproach is one of those that deserve reproach.
  • Forgiveness is she crown of greatness.
  • Carnal appetites are nets spread by the devil.
  • Every arrow does not hit the mark, nor every prayer granted.
  • Ostentatiousness spoils prayers.
  • Fear none but your sins.
  • He who praises you murders you.
  • A man who praises himself displays his deficiency of intellect.
  • Honor your parents and your sons will honor you.
  • A man is hid under his tongue.
  • The tongue of a wise man lies behind his heart.
  • The tongue pierces deeper than the spear.
  • He who purifies his heart from doubt is a believer.
  • The opinion of a wise man is an oracle.
  • To seek counsel is to go to the fountain of guidance.
  • Association with a fool is tyrannical to the soul.
  • God hastens the fall of tyrants.
  • Tyranny leads to moral cowardice.
  • A tyrant’s success is his moral defeat.
  • It is better to die than to beg.
  • When a man begs he loses his faith.
  • Hajj is the Jihad of every believer in faith.
  • A wise enemy is better than a foolish friend.
  • Silence is the best reply to a fool.
  • The best speech is one that is short and reasonable.
  • Speech is like a medicine, a small dose of which cures but an excess of which kills.
  • He that has no courage has no religion.
  • His grief is long whose hope is short.
  • The right of freedom of speech consists in speaking the truth.
  • Repentance washes away sins.
  • Folly is an incurable disease.
  • To assist the wrong is to oppress the right.
  • Sinning is a disease, repentance is its medicine, and abstinence from it a sure cure.
  • Sorrow makes a man old before his time.
  • Pride impedes progress and mars greatness.
  • To forgive is the crown of greatness.
  • He who understands humanity seeks solitude.
  • Right is the best argument.
  • Misrepresentation spoils narration.
  • As a man’s wisdom increases, so his desire to speak decreases.
  • He who seeks to do justice with men, let him desire for them what he desires for himself.
  • The greatest sin is the sin that the sinner considers to be ordinary.
  • Contentment is the asset which is never exhausted.
  • Governments are a trial for men.
  • He who fights against the truth, the truth will defeat him.
  • Finding fault in others is one’s greatest fault.
  • Haste is a species of madness.
  • Greed is perpetual enslavement.
  • He who does not know his own worth is doomed to destruction.
  • The best investment is one with which duties are performed.
  • Anger is a fire kindled, he who restrains anger extinguishes the fire; he who gives vent to it is the first to be consumed by such fire.
  • Jihad is the highway of prosperity.
  • None is more solitary than a miser.
  • Knowledge is the ornament of the rich, and the riches of the poor.
  • Knowledge is the sum total of excellence.
  • He who teaches you a letter binds you with a fetter of gratitude.
  • As long as we do not hope, we do not fret.
  • He who indulges in jokes and loose fall, loses a part of his wisdom.
  • Truth is bitter, but its result is sweet; falsehood appears to be sweet but it is poisonous in its effect.
  • Miserliness is the root of many evils.
  • Knowledge and practice are twins, and both go together. There is no knowledge without practice, and no practice without knowledge.
  • He who dissembles plays with his honor.
  • When God wants to humiliate a person He deprives him of knowledge.
  • When your power increases, decrease your desires accordingly.
  • He who listens to a backbiter loses a friend.
  • It is no justice to decide a case on mere conjecture.
  • He who does not know his own worth is deemed to ignominy.
  • He who practices thrift would never be in want.
  • He who does not know should not be ashamed to learn.
  • Patience is to faith, what head is to the body. When patience goes, faith goes, when head goes, the body goes.
  • The grace of God is the best guide.
  • A good disposition is the best companion.
  • Wisdom is the best friend.
  • Good breeding is the best inheritance.
  • There is nothing more hateful than pride.
  • Be among men like bee among birds.
  • Mix with the people with your tongue, but be separate from them in your deeds.
  • Be generous but do not be a spendthrift.
  • Do not run after the world, let the world run after you.
  • A wise man is he who does not despair of the bounty and mercy of God.
  • He who is aware of his own faults is oblivious of the faults of others.
  • What the eye sees the heart preserves.
  • The vision of the eye is limited; the vision of the heart transcends all barriers of time and space.
  • Do not be misled by appearances for these are apt to be deceptive.
  • Do not have too many irons in the fire; concentrate on one thing at a time.
  • What you do not like for your self, do not like it for others.
  • Contentment is the treasure which is never exhausted.
  • The advice of old men is dearer than the bravery of young men.
  • That knowledge is superficial which is merely on the tongue. That knowledge is real which demonstrates itself in your practice.
  • Waste of time is one’s greatest loss.
  • He who knows to keep his secret knows the way to success.
  • Foresight is the way to safety.
  • No relationship is stronger than the relationship that exists between man and God.
  • Enlighten the heart with prayers.
  • Strengthen your heart with faith.
  • Suppress all lust with piety.
  • Do not sell the Hereafter for the world.
  • Do not speak in a state of ignorance.
  • Refrain from unnecessary talk.
  • Do not tread the path from which you can apprehend the danger of running astray.
  • In the affairs of God, do not be afraid of the accusations of the evil mongers.
  • In all that you do seek the protection of God.
  • Do not covet what is undesirable.
  • If you seek the truth neither stray from the right path, nor be assailed by doubts.
  • Do not become a slave of your desires.
  • That wealth is no wealth which brings dishonor.
  • Whatever harm accrues of silence can be remedied but whatever harm is done because of speech cannot be remedied.
  • It is better to restrain your desires than to stretch your hand before others.
  • A little that is earned because of honest labor is better than a larger amount gained through dishonest means.
  • Guard well your secret.
  • He who seeks more than what is necessary indulges in error.
  • To oppress the weak is the worst tyranny.
  • Do not bank on false hopes for that is the capital of the dead.
  • A wise man takes a lesson even from a minor lapse.
  • Overpower desires and suspicions by patience and faith.
  • He who does not take the middle course strays.
  • A stranger is he who has no friends.
  • When hopes are frustrated despair becomes the way of life.
  • He who trusts the world, the world betrays him.

Assessment of Ali by Eminent Muslims

Abdullah b Masud

Abdullah b Masud used to say that throughout Arabia there was not a more impartial judge than Ali. He also said that Ali was the founder of Arabic grammar.

Abu Saeed Khudri

Abu Saeed Khudri held that he could easily detect a hypocrite by his enmity toward Ali.

Imam Hanbal

Imam Hanbal said: “Ali had numerous enemies, and all of them tried to find fault with him, but they searched in vain, and could not find any flaw in him. At long last they joined hands with Muawiyah, and declared war on Ali. When they failed to defeat him by fair means they took to treacherous and deceitful courses to defeat him.”

Ibn Athir

Ibn Athir the great biographist held: “Ali was the first caliph both of whose parents were pure Hashimites. He was so judicial minded that he could not put up with the dishonesty of his relative or friend. He was so much engrossed in piety that at the time of his marriage with Fatima, he did not possess anything save a camel skin on which he fed his camels in the day, and which he converted into a bed sheet at night. The Prophet in his table talk has not extolled any one of his companions as much as he has Ali. Surely, Ali never spoke a lie during his lifetime.”

Darema

Darema was a sharp-tongued Arab lady who was very loud in the praise of Ali and the denunciation of Muawiyah. After the death of Ali, Muawiyah summoned her to his court and inquired of her why she had supported Ali. She said that she had done so because Ali was a lover of justice, who honored the pious and sympathized with the poor.

Ibn Nadim

In his work Al Fihirist, writing about Ali, Ibn Nadim has held that Ali arranged the Chapters of the Holy Quran in the order of revelation. He exercised utmost circumspection in editing traditions.

Umar b Abdul Aziz

Umar b Abdul Aziz, the Umayyad Caliph, was asked as to whom he considered to be the most pious man in the world. He said: “Ali excelled mankind in piety. Not only did he practice its virtues, but he also tried zealously to reform his friends, associates, acquaintances, and all those who came in contact with him.”

Masudi

Masudi, the great historian, writes: “If the glorious name of being among the first Muslims, a comrade of the Prophet in exile, his faithful companion in the struggle for the faith, his intimate friend in life and his kinsman, if a true knowledge of his teachings and of the Book, if self abnegation and practice of justice, if honesty, purity and love of truth, if a knowledge of law and science constitutes a claim to pre-eminence then all must regard Ali as one of the foremost Muslims.”

Shah Wali Ullah

Shah Wali Ullah has observed: “Chivalry and strength of character, humanity and sincerity which are attributes of great men were represented in abundance by Ali. He is the father of Islamic learning, and his intellectual attainments were due to the ideal training of The Holy Prophet. He was a Hafiz, and a great authority on the Quran. He was the greatest Mujahid and jurist of his time, and one of the greatest of all times. He was one of the greatest orators of early Islam.”

Syed Amir Ali

Syed Amir Ali has assessed the achievements of Ali in the following terms: “His bravery won him the title of the “Lion of God”, and his learning that of the “Gate of Knowledge”. Chivalrous, humane, and forbearing to the verge of weakness as a ruler, he came before his time. Most of the grand undertakings initiated by Umar for the welfare of the people were due to his counsel. Ever ready to succor the weak, and to redress the wrongs of the injured, the accounts of his valorous deeds are recited with enthusiasm from the bazaars in Cairo to those of Delhi. With his dying breath he inculcated lessons of charity, love, humility and self-abnegation to his sons. He expressly ordered them that no harshness should be shown towards his murderer, who should be executed with one blow.”

Ata Mohyuddin

In his book, Ali the Superman, Dr. Ata Mohyuddin has assessed Ali in the following terms: “Ali has meant many different things to many generations, each of whom has found something to inspire it out of all the diverse wealth of his mind. During his lifetime he was thought of primarily as a warrior fighting at first in the battles of God, and later for a decade against schismatics. He was also respected for his knowledge and learning, and in later years many thought of him as a saint, but it was until after his death that the effect which he had exercised over the ethical life of his time began to be appreciated. He was the founder of a movement that aimed to rejuvenate the ethical life of the Muslims. The Arabs had begun to forsake the unity of Islam in favor of the tribal laws of the “Days of Ignorance”. Ali had to fight against the disintegrating social forces that were everywhere around him and attempted almost single handed to restore the religious policy of Islam. That he succeeded as well as he did was due to moral earnestness of his own character, and to the colossa1 store of spiritual knowledge from which he drew his strength. In subsequent ages, his ethical pronouncements which fell largely on deaf ears during his lifetime were to have an invigorating effect on the Islam he served so well. The influence of Ali was to continue to make itself felt long after his death, and to recreate earnestness among the believers. It still makes itself felt today.”

Allama Iqbal

In his poem “Asrar-i-Khudi”, Allama Iqbal has paid tribute to Ali in the following terms: Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet was a man of many qualities. He gave fresh vigor to Faith and brought honors to the community of the faithful. He developed self-disciplines and killed avarice. A person who knows and controls himself rules the world.

Assessment of Ali by Western Scholars

Philip Hitti

In his book history of the Arabs, Professor Hitti assesses the character of Ali as follows: “Valiant in battle, wise in counsel, eloquent in speech, true to his friends, magnanimous to his foes, Ali became both the paragon of Muslim nobility and chivalry, and the Solomon of Arabic tradition around whose name, poems, proverbs, sermonettes and anecdotes innumerable have clustered. He had a swarthy complexion, large black eyes, bald head, thick and long white beard, and was opulent and of medium stature. His saber Dhul Fiqar, wielded by the Prophet on the memorable battlefield of Badr, has been immortalized in the words of the verse found engraved on many medieval Arab records ‘No sword can match Dhul Fiqar, and no young warrior can compare with Ali’. The later Fidayan movement which developed ceremonies and insignia savoring of medieval European chivalry and the modern scouts movement, took Ali for its Father and model. Regarded as wise and brave by all the Islamic world, as idealistic and exemplary by many Fidayan and Derwish fraternities, as sinless and infallible by his partisans, and even held to be the incarnation of the deity by the Ghulah (extremists) among them, he whose worldly career was practically a failure, has continued to exert a posthumous influence second only to that of the Holy Prophet himself. The throngs of pilgrims that still stream to his Mashhad at Najaf and to that of his Son Husain, the Shia arch-saint and martyr at nearby Karbala, and the passion-play enacted annually on the tenth of Mohurram throughout the Shia world testify to the possibility that death may avail a Messiah more than life.”

Sir William Muir

In his book The Caliphate, its Rise, Decline and Fall, Sir William Muir has paid his tribute to Ali in the following words; “In the character of Ali, there are many things to commend. Mild and beneficent, he treated Basra when prostrate at his feet with a generous forbearance. Towards theocratic fanatics, who wearied his patience by incessant intrigues and insensate rebellion, he showed no vindictiveness. Excepting Muawiyah, the man of all others whom he ought not to have estranged, be carried the policy of conciliating his enemies to a dangerous extreme. In compromise indeed and in procrastination lay the failure of his caliphate. With greater vigor, spirit, and determination, he might have averted the schism which for a time threatened the existence of Islam, and which has never ceased to weaken it. Ali was wise in counsel and many an adage sapient proverbs have been attributed to him. But like Solomon, his wisdom was for others than for himself.

Charles Mills

In his book, A History of Muhammadanism, Charles Mills assesses Ali as follows: “As the chief of the family of Hashim, and as the cousin and son-in-law of him whom the Arabians respected almost to idolatry it is apparently incredible that Ali was not raised to the Caliphate immediately after the death of Muhammad (peace be on him). In the advantage of his birth and marriage was added the friendship of the Prophet. The son of Abu Talib was one of the first converts to Islam, and Muhammad’s favorite appellation of him was, the Aaron of a second Moses. His talents as an orator and his intrepidity as a warrior commended him to a nation in whose judgment courage was virtue, and eloquence was wisdom. But the pride and loftiness of his spirit endured not the caution inseparable from schemes of policy, and continually precipitated him into rashness. His opposition to Abu Bakr would not have ceased if Fatima had lived; but on her death, six months after that of her father, the companions of Muhammad relaxed in their friendship to his family. In the reign of Abu Bakr, Umar and Othman, dignified independence was preserved by Ali. On the invitation of the Caliphs, he assisted in the councils of Madina, but he was principally occupied in the tranquil pursuits of domestic life, and the various duties of his religion. On the murder of Othman, the Egyptians who were at Madina offered him the Caliphate. Indignant that the power of nomination should be usurped by the strangers, Ali declared that the suffrages of the inhabitants of Makkah and Madina alone could be available. The public voice soon echoed the opinion of the murderers, and the scruples of Ali were soon removed. In apprehension of the enmity of Ayesha, his relentless foe, and of the whole family of Muawiyah, he declined to receive in private the preferred allegiance of the chiefs. With his accustomed simplicity, he proceeded to the mosque clad in a cotton gown, a coarse turban on his head, his slippers were in one hand, and a bow instead of a staff, occupied the other”.

Professor Nicholson

In his book, A Literary History of the Arabs, Nicholson remarks as follows: “Ali was a gallant warrior, a wise counselor, a true friend and a generous foe. He excelled in piety and in eloquence, his verses and sayings are famous throughout the Muhammadan east, though few of them can be considered authentic. He can be compared with Montrose and Bayard in the fineness of spirit. He had no talent for the stern realities of statecraft and was overmatched by unscrupulous rivals who knew that war is a game of deceit. Thus his career was in one sense a failure; his authority as Caliph was never admitted while he lived by the whole community. On the other hand he has exerted down to the present day a posthumous influence only second to that of Muhammad himself. Within a century of his death he came to be regarded as the Prophet’s successor jure divine; as a blessed martyr, sinless and infallible; and by some even as incarnation of God. The Ali of Shiite legend is not a historical figure glorified, rather does he symbolize in pure ethical fashion the religious aspirations and political aims of a large section of the Muslim world”.

John J. Pool

In his book, Studies in Muhammadanism, John J. Pool observes as follows: “The fact is that Ali was too mild a man for the stirring times in which he lived. He was too slow to resolve and too undecided in action. At any time he preferred compromise and delay to energy and promptness, and with fatal results. The death of Ali was an epoch-making event. We come now to the parting of ways. Henceforward the Commanders of the Faithful ceased to be elected by the votes of the people of Madina or Makkah. Arabia was no longer to be the seat of temporal power. For the future, in Islam, might was to take the place of right”.

Edward Gibbon

In his book Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon observes as follows, about the assassination of Othman and the succession of Ali: “A tumultuous anarchy of five days after the martyrdom of Othman was appeased by the inauguration of Ali, his refusal would have provoked a general massacre. In this painful situation he supported the becoming pride of the chief of the Hashimites; declared that he would rather serve than reign, rebuked the presumption of the strangers and required the formal, if not the voluntary, assent of the chiefs of the nation. He has never been accused of promoting the assassination of Othman, though Persia indirectly and secretly celebrates the festivals of that holy martyr. The quarrel between Othman and his subjects was assuaged by the early mediation of Ali, and Hasan the eldest of his sons, was insulted and wounded in the defense of the Caliph”.

While commenting on the failure of Ali in matters pertaining to statecraft, Gibbon observes as follows: “A life of prayer and contemplation had not chilled the martial activity of Ali, but in a mature age, after a long experience of mankind, he still betrayed in his conduct the rashness and indiscretion of youth”.

Thomas Carlyle

In his book, On Heroes and Hero Worship, Thomas Carlyle observes as follows: “As for this young Ali, one cannot but like him. A noble minded creature, as he shows himself, now and always afterwards, full of affection, of fiery daring something chivalrous in him, brave as a lion, yet with a grace, a truth and affection worthy of Christian Knighthood. He died by assassination in the mosque at Kufa, death occasioned by his own generous fairness, confidence in the fairness of others, he said: “if the wound proved not unto death, they must pardon the assassin, but if it did, they must slay him straightaway, so that they two in the same hour might appear before God, and see which side of that quarrel was the just one.”

Dr. Heary Stubbe

In his book, An Account of the Rise and Progress of Muhammadanism, Dr. Henry Stubbe observes as follows: “Ali was of a brown complexion, a little man with a belly somewhat large, he had a contempt of the world, its glory and pomp. He feared God much, gave many alms, was just in all his actions, humble and affable, of an exceeding quick wit, and of an ingenuity that was not common. He was exceedingly learned, not only in those sciences that terminate in speculation, but those which extend to practice”.

Major Price

In his book, Memoirs of the Principal Events of Muhammadan History, Major Price observes as follows: “His virtues and extraordinary qualities have been the subject of voluminous panegyrics, and his war-line exploits from his youth upwards have been particularly celebrated in the ‘Khawer Nama’, a poem well known in the east and which may, perhaps contend in extravagance with the wildest effusions of European romance. With his acknowledged talents and magnanimity, it is, however difficult to account for the train of civil mischief and perpetual discontent which continued to disturb him through the whole of his reign. His gallant spirit was probably incapable of bonding to the ordinary shifts of political craft, and it is perhaps true that the Arabian chiefs were not yet sufficiently disciplined to see the sovereign authority quietly monopolized by any particular family”.

J. J. Saunders

In his book A History of Medieval Islam, J. J. Saunders observes as follows: “His moral qualities were respectfully recognized. He was a brave fighter, an eloquent orator, and a loyal friend. Many sayings of his are quoted to prove his mastery of proverbial wisdom, a gift highly honored among the Semites. He displayed towards his foes a patience and magnanimity expressive of a humane and generous disposition. His religion was founded on a genuine piety. He was shocked by the growing luxury and corruption of the age, and to his many doubts whether Othman was an upholder or a violator of the law may be attributed the hesitating and ambiguous attitude he adopted towards the regicides, which proved so fatal to his rule and reputation. As his temper was indolent, he drifted rather than led. He was easily outmatched by the astute and the forceful, and he lacked the commanding personality to impose his will on a turbulent society. His authority was challenged by the politic shrewdness of Muawiyah, and the furious zealotry of the Kharijites, his inability to overcome either delivered Islam to schism and grave believers were driven to see in a reunion of the empire under the Umayyads the only escape from tribal and sectarian anarchy. Yet he has been raised by a powerful sect little below that of Muhammad himself, the Shia or party of Ali laid it down as an article of faith that he was designated by God and the Prophet to be the lawful Caliph and Imam of Islam, his three predecessors being treated as usurpers, and that divine revelation continued to be interpreted by his descendants, and his supposed grave at Najaf, a sand hill on the edge of the desert six miles west of Kufa, is annually visited by thousands of devout pilgrims who curse his supplanters and rever him as the friend of God and the first of Imams”.

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