Khawarej or renegades decisively defeated at Nahrawan
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
On 9th of the Islamic month of Safar in 38 AH, the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS), decisively defeated at Nahrawan in Iraq, an army of some 2000 Khawarej or renegades who had turned away from Islam to start armed rebellion against Prophet Mohammad’s (SAWA) divinely-designated Heir.
Initially, part of the Imam’s forces at the inconclusive War of Siffeen against the rebel, Mu’awiyah ibn Abu Sufyan, these misled people, duped by the Omayyad stratagem in raising copies of the holy Qur’an on spear-points, had forced the Imam to stop the battle on the verge of victory, imposed upon him the weak-willed Abu Musa Ash’ari for the arbitration, rejected its outcome, and then broke away from the Islamic army by claiming the sword should have decided the conflict, when they themselves were the cause of the stalemate.
They numbered 12,000 and the next year when Imam Ali (AS) called upon them to join his fresh campaign against Mu’awiyah, they now not only refused but gathered in warlike manner at Nahrawan, where they butchered the governor Abdullah ibn Khabbab ibn al-Arath, and four women including a pregnant maid, whose womb they inhumanly tore to kill the fetus. At this the Imam sent Hareth ibn Murrah al-Abdi to investigate but he too was killed by the Khawarej, who now seemed intent on attacking Kufa in the Imam’s absence.
The Imam who had already set out for Syria, decided to curb this new sedition before dealing with Mu’awiyah and sent Sa\'sa\' ibn Sauhan, Ziyad ibn Nazr al-Harethi, and Abdullah ibn Abbas, to urge them to repent and return to the fold of Islam. He then personally came and explained to them their misinterpretation of events, demanding the handing over of the killers of innocent people, and offering them amnesty through the Prophet’s companion, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, who hoisted a banner for all those willing to break ranks with the Khawarej.
As many as 10,000 people came over, leaving some 2000 hardcore hypocrites led by Abdullah ibn Wahhab to oppose the Imam. The Imam had exhausted all efforts to avoid bloodshed and when these misguided elements attacked the forces of Islam they were all annihilated except for 9 who fled the battlefield towards Basra. On Imam Ali’s (AS) side only 8 persons were killed.