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Imam Ali’s Caliphate

By: Ahmad Namaee
'Ali b. Abi Talib was in the mosque when he received the news of 'Uthman's murder. He soon left for home, where he was pressed by Companions visiting him to accept the pledge of allegiance.[36][131] At first he refused, and then insisted that any pledge should be made in public in the mosque.[37][132] Talha and al-Zubayr were of the first prominent Companions who pledged allegiance.[38][133]
'Ali personally abstained from putting pressure upon anyone to do homage. When Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas was brought, and asked to pledge of allegiance, he answered that he would not do so before the people had given their pledge, but assured 'Ali that he had nothing to fear from him. 'Ali gave orders to let him go.[39][134] Then 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar was brought. He also said that he would pledge allegiance only after the people were united behind him. 'Ali asked him to provide a guarantor that he would not abscond; Ibn 'Umar refused. Now Malik b. al-Ashtar [al-Nakha'i] said to 'Ali, “This man is safe from your whip and sword. Let me deal with him.” 'Ali answered, “Leave him, I will be his guarantor. By God I have never known him other than ill-natured, as a child and as an adult.”
Ibn 'Umar's stand was, however, hostile to 'Ali. He left for Mecca to join the opposition.[40][135] 'Ali also invited Usama b. Zayd to pledge allegiance, but Usama, while assuring 'Ali that he was the dearest person to him, excused him on grounds of the commitment he had made to the Prophet (S.A.W.A.) never to fight anyone confessing, “There is no god but Allah”. When 'Ali asked Muhammad b. Maslama to pledge allegiance he, too, excused himself stating that the Prophet (S.A.W.A.) had ordered him, if there was conflict among the people, to break his sword and stay at home.[41][136]
[42][131] See Nahj al-balagha, 1: 40 (At that moment the crowd frightened me. It advanced towards me from every side like the mane of a hyena so much so that al-Hasan and al-Husayn were being crushed and both of the ends of my shoulder garment were torn).

Rebellion against the Central Caliphate (al-Jamal)
'A’isha had left Mecca after her pilgrimage happy in her belief that Talha had succeeded 'Uthman. When she reached Sarif, she met 'Ubayd b. Maslama Laythi who informed her of the succession the Prophet's cousin, 'Ali. She immediately turned back, curtained herself in the Sanctuary, accused 'Ali of jumping upon 'Uthman and murdering him, while a single finger of 'Uthman was better than the whole of 'Ali.[43][137]
Whereas 'A’isha remained in Mecca, Umm Salama the Prophet's Makhzumite widow who had performed the pilgrimage with her, after vainly warning her against joining the rebel campaign returned to Medina and gave 'Ali her backing.[44][138]
Mecca became the natural center of Quraysh opposition. 'A’isha raised the flag of revenge for 'Uthman. Talha and al-Zubayr, seeing that others had successfully resisted pledging allegiance to 'Ali quickly broke their own oaths and left without leave to join 'A’isha.
'Ali deposed 'Uthman's governor, 'Abd Allah b. 'Amir b. Kurayz, and appointed 'Uthman b. Hunayf, whom 'Umar had entrusted with the land survey of the sawad, for the government of Basra. For Egypt, 'Ali chose Qays b. Sa'd b. 'Ubada. He proposed to Qays b. Sa'd that he chooses a military guard in Medina to accompany him, but Qays declined stating that if he could enter Egypt only with a military escort he would rather never enter the country. In the Yemen, 'Ali appointed Hashimite 'Ubayd Allah b. 'Abbas governor of San'a' and Sa'id b. Sa'd b. 'Ubada, the brother of Qays, governor of Janad.
'Uthman's governors, Ya'la b. Umayya (Munya) in San'a' and 'Abd Allah b. Abi Rabi'a in Janad arrived in Mecca with much money, and Ya'la brought a large number of camels, which he had gathered in the Yemen. When Ibn Abi Rabi'a arrived in Mecca, he found 'A’isha summoning the people to revolt in order to seek revenge for the blood of 'Uthman. He ordered a seat to be placed for him in the mosque and proclaimed that he would equip whoever came forth to avenge the caliph's murder.[45][139]
Mecca was now in open rebellion against Medina. 'A’isha having given the lead, the Meccan Quraysh pinned the guilt for the murder of 'Uthman on 'Ali. Safwan b. Umayya b. Khalaf al-Juhmi, accused all Hashimite of the murder of 'Uthman. He was one of the grand old aristocrats of Quraysh and a leading enemy of the Prophet, who had fled at the time of the conquest of Mecca rather than accepts Islam and eventually the Messenger of God permitted him to stay in Mecca rather than move to Medina.[46][140] He saw a chance of getting back at the old enemy allied with the Medinan.
In the war council, which was held in 'A’isha's home, it was first suggested that they attack 'Ali in Medina. The decision to move to Basra and mobilize Basran support for the claim of revenge was influenced by the argument of 'Abd Allah b. 'Amir that he could count on strong support there and by the material means he was willing to provide.[47][141] Ya'la b. Munya contributed from the funds he had carried off from the Yemen. He gave 400'000 dirhams and provided the beasts of burden for 70 men of Quraysh. He paid eighty dinars for 'A’isha's famous camel 'Asker.[48][142]
The rebels, taking 'A’isha with them, set off for Basra. As soon as they reached al-Haw'ab, 'A’isha heard dogs barking. She asked where it was. When she knew that it was al-Haw'ab, she sighed, “Indeed we belong to Allah, and to Him we intend to return: Now I find myself the addressee to this tradition.” She added, “Once the Prophet addressing us asked which of you would go with an army to the South, and the dogs of al-Haw'ab would bark at them.” She wanted to return, but 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr made fifty men of Banu 'Amir swear that it was not al-Haw'ab.[49][143]
When the rebels approached Basra, 'Uthman b. Hunayf sent Abu Nujayd 'Imran b. Husayn al-Khuza'i[50][144] and Abu al-Aswad al-Du'ali as envoys to enquire about their intention. They met 'A’isha and her companions at Hafar Abu Musa, a watering station on the road from Mecca to Basra. Moreover, they were told that they had come to claim revenge for the blood of 'Uthman and to see that an electoral council was set up to decide on the succession.[51][145]
Abu al-Aswad told 'A’isha that the Messenger of God had confined her for protection (habis). He had ordered her to stay at home and now she had come knocking the people against each other. She answered, “Is there anyone then who would fight me or say anything different from this?”[52][146]
The Basran were preparing to fight, but the night separated them. Next morning the governor moved to attack them, and there was fierce, but inconclusive, fighting in which many was killed.[53][147]
The agreement to wait for 'Ali's arrival was clearly unfavorable to the rebels, and Talha persuaded al-Zubayr to break it and take 'Uthman b. Hunayf by surprise. On a windy and dark night, they attacked and seized him as he was leading the evening prayer in the mosque.[54][148]
'A’isha first advised them to kill 'Uthman b. Hunayf, but a woman reminded her of Ibn Hunayf's Companionship with the Prophet, she changed her mind and ordered them to imprison him. Now a Basran advised the captors to beat him and pluck his beard. Thus, they gave him forty lashes, plucked out the hair of his head, his eyebrows and eyelashes, and put him to prison.[55][149]
On the next morning, there was disagreement between Talha and al-Zubayr about who should now lead the prayer. Al-Zubayr as the older man was then given precedence, and thereafter the leadership was alternated between them day by day.[56][150] At dawn on this morning, 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr with a group of men went to the treasury, which was guarded by forty (or four hundred) Sayabija, the former slaves from Sind converted to Islam. Since they resisted, they killed all of them, including their leader, Abu Salama Zutti, a pious man.[57][151]
The general command of the Basran army was given to al-Zubayr. 'A’isha insisted that he should be acclaimed merely emir, not caliph. A decision on the caliphate would be made after the victory.[58][152]
In the exchanges before the battle, 'Ali b. Abi Talib took off his armor; approached al-Zubayr and reminded him of an incident in their childhood when the Prophet (S.A.W.A.) predicted that al-Zubayr would unjustly fight 'Ali. Remembering the incident, al-Zubayr swore that he would never fight 'Ali.[59][153] His son 'Abd Allah, however, accused him of cowardice. Al-Zubayr changed his mind again and on 'Abd Allah's advice, freed a slave in atonement for his broken oath.[60][154]
Al-Zubayr became frightened when he learned that 'Ammar b. Yasir was participating on the side of 'Ali. He remembered the famous hadith ascribed to the Prophet (S.A.W.A.) stating that 'Ammar was of the righteous and predicting that the rebel party would kill him.[61][155] He might have recognized that he was merely being used as a pawn for the ambitions of 'A’isha and Talha, who were clearly guiltier of inciting the rebellions against 'Uthman than was 'Ali. To fight a bloody battle against the Prophet's cousin, pitting Muslims against Muslims, under such circumstances must have seemed both foolish and immoral to him. His son 'Abd Allah, in contrast, stood much closer to his aunt 'A’isha and was determined to fight 'Ali in revenge for the blood of 'Uthman.
There was obviously no room for negotiation and compromise. While 'A’isha and her partisans accused 'Ali of being morally responsible for the violent death of 'Uthman, 'Ali charged Talha and 'A’isha with it. 'Ali ordered a young man of 'Abd al-Qays to raise a copy of the Holy Qur'an between the battle lines and to appeal for adherence to its rules for concord. When this man was hit by arrows and then killed, 'Ali gave the order to advance and fight.[62][156]
Al-Zubayr left the battlefield quiet early, and immediately set out on the route to the Hijaz. He first went to the mosque of Banu Mujashi' asking for 'Iyadh b. Hammad to seek his protection. He was told that 'Iyadh was in Wadi al-Siba', and he went there in search of him.[63][157] Ahnaf b. Qays was already alerted that al-Zubayr was passing by. He remarked that al-Zubayr had led the Muslims to fight each other with the sword and now he was running away home. Three men followed al-Zubayr, and 'Amr b. Jurmuz al-Mujashi'i killed him in Wadi al-Siba'. Ibn Jurmuz, sent by Ahnaf b. Qays with al-Zubayr's sword and head, was received by 'Ali, who questioned him about the circumstances under which he had killed him. 'Ali then unsheathed and looked at al-Zubayr's sword and commented that he knew it well; al-Zubayr had many a time fought in front of the Prophet (S.A.W.A.) but had come to an evil end.[64][158]
Talha was mortally wounded not much later. Marwan hit him from behind with an arrow, which pierced his sciatic vein near the knee. The wound kept bleeding profusely. Attempts to stop bleeding failed, and Talha died lying under a tree. Then Marwan turned towards Aban b. 'Uthman and told him, “We have taken care of one of the murderers of your father.” [159][65][159]
With the two leaders killed, the defeat was sealed and the armed conflict could have been haltered. The presence of 'A’isha in her camel litter spurred the army on to a supreme, though senseless, effort to defend her. Ferocious fighting centered now around her camel and litter, which were protected by the armored plate, and continued for many hours. The men holding the camel's halter were killed one after the other.
The slaughter came to a sudden halt when 'Ali called for someone to hamstring the camel. As the animal dropped with its load, 'Ali and his close companions were able to approach. 'A’isha's brother Muhammad, on 'Ali's order, cut the straps fastening the litter to the animal's body and with some helpers, carried it off. The litter looked like the spikes of a hedgehog from arrows. 'Ali banged at the litter and said, “Surely, this Humayra of Iram wanted to kill me as she killed 'Uthman b. 'Affan.” Then her brother Muhammad asked her, “Has anything hit you?” She said, “An arrow in the upper arm.” He drew her towards himself and pulled it out.[66][160]
When 'Ali faced 'A’isha, he severely reproached her for the ruins she had brought to the Muslims. It was now her turn to sue humbly for peace. “You have won the reign, Ibn Abi Talib, so pardon with goodness.[67][161] 'Ali ordered her brother Muhammad to escort her to the town then she was lodged in the house of Safiyya bint al-Harith b. Talha b. Abi Talha of 'Abd al-Dar. There she stayed for a few days. 'A’isha requested a delay, and she was granted, but after a few days, she left for Medina accompanied by a group of Basran women and some men of her choice.[68][162]
'A’isha's defeat in the Battle of Camel put an end to her political career. The memory of the horrible bloodshed taking place around her litter in which so many men close to her lost their own lives and driving Muslims to kill Muslims must have disturbed her. Remembering this terrible event, she often told, “I wish I had died years before this.”[69][163]
The losses were substantial on both sides, though more grievous in 'A’isha's camp. Quraysh paid a heavy toll, affecting most of its clans. The lowest figures of all the dead, given are 2'500 for 'A’isha's army and 400 or 500 for 'Ali's.[70][164]
Fighting Muslims opponents in a regular battle was a new experience in Islam, which the rebels initiated it. 'Ali could have treated his opponents like Abu Bakr as apostates and infidels and thus applied the common rules of warfare to them, but he ordered at the beginning of the battle that wounded and captured enemies should not be killed, those throwing away their arms should not be fought, and those fleeing from the battleground should not be pursued. After the battle, he ordered that no war prisoners, women or children, were given to be enslaved and that the property of slain enemies was to go to their legal Muslim heirs.[71][165]
Here we are not going to review the history of the early caliphate, but we hope we can explain some important events that our brother ignores them. To justify the rebellion against the Muslim community, he says that Talha and al-Zubayr were among 'the Ten Companions to whom the Prophet promised the Paradise', and they would go to the Paradise.[72][166]
Considering the verse ﴾Allah was certainly pleased with the faithful when they swore allegiance to you under the tree.﴿ (Q: 48/18), he thinks there were only ten Companions to whom the Prophet promised the Paradise and Allah was only pleased with them. Allah revealed this verse in Hudaybiya, in A.H. 6. There were seven hundred [not ten] men with the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.A.). Not one of the Muslims who were present failed to swear allegiance except al-Jadd b. Qays. On this occasion, the verse of ridhwan (Q: 48/18) came down to the Prophet.[73][167]
Of course, we are neither the porters of the paradise nor the keepers of the hell. ﴾To Allah belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. He punishes whomever He wishes, and forgives whomever He wishes.﴿ (Q: 5/40). Our brothers know well the verses ﴾And obey Allah and His Apostle, and do not dispute, or you will lose heart and your power will be gone, and be patient, indeed Allah is with the patients.﴿ (Q: 8/46) and ﴾O you who have faith! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle, and do not render your works void.﴿ (Q: 47/33).
'Ali b. Abi Talib was the Prophet's successor, his brother,[74][168] son-in-law and the second in rank to him.[75][169] Does our brother not think fighting the right Imam and the second rank to the Prophet may renders the works void? Moreover, God has not imposed holy war (jihad) on women. 'A’isha, who claimed revenge for the blood of 'Uthman, was neither an Islamic judge nor one of the 'Uthman's children or clan, the Apostle of Allah had confined her for protection (habis) and Allah had ordered her to stay in her house.[76][170]
[77][137] Ibid, 3: 18.

The Aftermath of the Rebellion
Raising the flag of opposition against the then caliph the first civil war practically initiated in Islam. 'The one community' of Islam divided into different sects. The enmity between the Muslim sects, which began during the early caliphate, has continued up to now. Muslims kill their Muslim brethren and ignore their non-Muslim enemies. The rebellion made the cursed tree in the Holy Qur'an, which the Prophet (S.A.W.A.) saw in his vision,[78][171] increase.
'Ali's victory at Basra spurred Mu'awiya to action. Soon after his arrival in Kufa, 'Ali sent Jarir b. 'Abd Allah al-Bajali, the former governor of 'Uthman in Hamadan, as an envoy to Mu'awiya with instructions to convey his letter to him and to ask him only for the reply, while indicate him to understand that 'Ali would not accept him as a governor.[79][172]
Mu'awiya dilatorily responded, “Let us consider, and I will explore the view of the people of Syria.” He immediately wrote to 'Amr b. al-'As the primary accused in 'Uthman's murder. 'Amr followed the invitation. He was sure that he could now strike a bargain, which would satisfy his own wishes. It would be Egypt for life or no deal. 'Amr swore allegiance to Mu'awiya on the basis that he would back the Umayyad in thier fight against 'Ali, while Mu'awiya would help him regain Egypt and guarantee him lifetime possession.[80][173]
The alliance between Mu'awiya and 'Amr b. al-'As constituted a formidable political force. 'Amr was a master of planning, and playing on political scenarios. Mu'awiya needed him. He knew he could trust 'Amr at this stage since 'Ali would never make a deal with him at Mu'awiya's expense.
Having gained broad allegiance in Syria, Mu'awiya hoped to draw some of the religious aristocracy in the holy cities to his side by a campaign of letters. 'Amr advised him against it but he insisted. Mu'awiya, however, could get the backing of a member of 'Umar's family without having to deceive him with false promises. 'Ubayd Allah b. 'Umar the threefold murderer, had been after his pardon, granted an estate near Kufa by 'Uthman. When 'Ali came to Kufa, 'Ubayd Allah discretely asked him for amnesty through some mediators, but 'Ali opposed his pardon.
Malik b. al-Ashtar, one of the mediators, informed 'Ubayd Allah, and he promptly fled to Mu'awiya.[81][174] He tried to induce him to accuse and denigrate 'Ali in public, but 'Ubayd Allah would not do so.[82][175] He, however, participated as one of the leaders of Mu'awiya's army in the battle of Siffin. A client warned him that Mu'awiya was intentionally exposing him to mortal danger. If he were to win, Mu'awiya would get the rule, and if were killed, he would get rid of him. His wife, Bahriyya, also told him that he would certainly be killed and this is what Mu'awiya wanted. 'Ubayd Allah insisted on obeying his emir; and he was killed.[83][176]
The Kufans were less united in their support of war. When 'Ali appealed to them, “March against the enemies of God, march against the remnants of the confederates (Ahzab), the murderers of Immigrants and the Helpers, Arbad b. Rabi'a stood up and shouted, “Do you want to make us march against our Syrian brothers and kill them for you? By God, we shall not do that.”[84][177] 'Adi b. Hatim al-Ta'i advised 'Ali to give another chance to letters and messengers before marching.[85][178]
Others were urging 'Ali to speed up his campaign before the enemy was fully prepared. 'Abd Allah b. Budayl b. Warqa' representing the Prophet's Companions, turning to people, asked, “How could Mu'awiya pledge allegiance to 'Ali when 'Ali has killed Mu'awiya's brother, Hanzala , his maternal uncle, al-Walid and his grandfather, 'Utba in a single stand?”[86][179] In Syria, the preparations for war also went ahead. Abu Muslim al-Khawalani took the bloody shirt of 'Uthman which Umm Habiba, Mu'awiya's sister had sent from Medina and toured the garrison towns in Syria with it, inciting the people to revenge.[87][180]
'Ali set out from Nukhayla probably early in Dhu al-Hijja 36/657. When his army put up their camp, they found the watering place at the Euphrates occupied by Abu al-A'war and the Syrians, who prevented them from reaching the water. They looked for another watering place nearby but could not find one. As they complained to 'Ali, he sent Sa'sa'a b. Suhan to tell Mu'awiya that he had come not wishing to fight him before proper warning, summons and argument; Mu'awiya's cavalry and foot soldiers had, however, started to fight them and now they were preventing his men from obtaining water.
He asked Mu'awiya to order his companions to give them access to the water until they had fully considered their conflict. However, if it pleased Mu'awiya, he could let his men fight it out about the water rather than the matter for which they had come. Mu'awiya consulted his advisers, and al-Walid b. 'Uqba urged him to deprive the enemy of water as they had done with 'Uthman. Al- Walid claimed that 'Uthman had been kept without cold water and food for forty days.[88][181]
'Ali did not have to rouse his men into action. After they had been without water for a day and night, al-Ash'ath b. Qays came to him asking for permission to attack and requesting that 'Ali order Malik b. al-Ashtar to join him with his equestrians. 'Ammar b. Yasir got up and shouted among the people. A great number of men came to him. Then he said, “By God, even if they defeat us and chase us as far as the palm trees of Hajar[89][182] again we are right and they are wrong.”[90][183]
Twelve thousand men volunteered, and they swooped down on Abu al-A'war and his men. Malik b. al-Ashtar had personally killed seven and al-Ash'ath five.[91][184] At first, they said they would not allow the Syrians to get water. 'Ali ordered them, however, to take their needful and return to their camp.[92][185]
For two days, the armies stayed facing each other. Then 'Ali called for Abu 'Amra and some other of his companions and told them to argue with Mu'awiya and discover his view. Abu 'Amra appealed to him not to split the unity of this community and not to shed their blood in common strife. Mu'awiya interrupted his discourse. “Why don't you recommend that to your master?” Abu 'Amra replied, “My master is not like you. My master is the one most entitled among the creation to this matter by his excellence, religion, early merit in Islam, and close kinship with the Apostle of God.” Mu'awiya asked, “What does he say then?” Abu 'Amra replied, “He orders you to fear God and to respond to the summons of your cousin to what is right. That is soundest for you in your worldly affairs and best for your end.” Mu'awiya, “Shall we allow 'Uthman's blood to be spilled for nothing? No, by God, I shall never do that.”[93][186]
There was now daily skirmishing until the end of Dhu al-Hijja. At the beginning of Muharram 37 a truce was agreed for the month in the hope that a peaceful settlement might be reached. Again, envoys went back and forth between the two camps. The discussion did not go any better than the previous time. As the sun set on the last day of Muharram, 'Ali ordered Marthad b. al-Harith to proclaim to the Syrians that they had failed to respond to his summons to the Book of God and persisted in their falsehood. The time for the battle had arrived.[94][187]
During the first seven days of Safar, prominent leaders on both sides were dispatched to fight each day, with only small retinue, as in a tournament. The all- out battle of Siffin began on Wednesday, Safar 8. The day had evidently gone well for Mu'awiya. The princes of the Umayyad family preferred to let others do the fighting in revenge for their relative. Mu'awiya asked 'Ubayd Allah b. 'Umar to take the command of his heavily armed elite, the shahba' and to lead the attack. 'Ubayd Allah b. 'Umar, surprised that he was chosen for the task, felt that some member of the Umayyad family, who were the prime claimants for revenge, would have been more appropriate.
He went ahead, however, in spite of warnings from his client and his wife and he was killed. The tide turned, and the Syrians were pushed back to their camp. Mu'awiya fled from his pavilion and sheltered in one of the tents of his army.[95][188] Elsewhere on the battlefield, that day 'Ammar b. Yasir, who was above ninety years old, was killed fighting for 'Ali. People cried the Companion of the Prophet was killed. The Messenger of God had predicted that 'Ammar would be killed by the rebel group.[96][189]
An appeal by Mu'awiya that one of his relatives seeks a duel among the Quraysh of Iraq was also met with derision by al-Walid b. 'Uqba and Marwan. Mu'awiya's brother 'Utba b. Abi Sufyan, however, proposed a duel with Ja'da b. Hubayra. 'Utba went out in the morning and called for Ja'da to come forward. They were both ready to fight. 'Utba gathered all his men and horses and came forward with a retinue of Sakun, Azd, and Sadif. Ja'da prepared with every means at his disposal. They met, and for a while, the men stood firm. Ja'da himself fought that day, but 'Utba became frightened, abandoned his equestrians, and fled speedily to Mu'awiya.[97][190]
After a crucial, but indecisive battle, fighting continued through the night, which was remembered as the night of the rumble (laylat al-harir). The fighting was now mostly by sword, and the number of dead mounted. 'Ali won the battle at that night and recovered many of the dead from his army.[98][191] When the morning came, the balance seemed to be moving in 'Ali's favor. Toward noon, some of the Syrians facing the center of 'Ali's army raised the copies of the Holy Qur'an tied to the heads of their lances.[99][192]
The fighting stopped. 'Ali exhorted his men to continue fighting. He told them that Mu'awiya, 'Amr and their chief supporters were not men of religion and the Qur'an, but were raising it for deception and fraud. From many of the Qur'an readers view, however, the appeal to the Holy Qur'an proved irresistible.[100][193] Facing open mutiny, 'Ali gave in to their demand that he recall Malik b. al-Ashtar, who had advanced far towards the Syrian camp and sensed victory nearby. Malik b. al-Ashtar refused at first to respond and had to be warned that the army would abandon him.
His reproaches to the men that they were relinquishing the battle as he was hoping for victory and allowing themselves to be deputed for worldly motives were answered with curses. 'Ali had to restore order by affirming that he had accepted that the Holy Qur'an be made the judge between the two parties.[101][194]
As the implication of Mu'awiya's proposal became evident, however, a substantial minority dissented. A group of about four thousand of men of insight and pious worshippers objected to the principle of arbitration. They evidently realized that Mu'awiya was not sincerely submitting to the Holy Qur'an but intended a game of political wheeling and dealing between two representatives of the opposing parties, which would allow him to hold on to power.
Another, smaller, group abstained from either backing or opposing the proposal. The group opposed to the arbitration came to 'Ali and demanded that he resume the war. 'Ali was in favor of this. Those in favor of arbitration, however, insisted that the proposal was only right, fair and just. The opponents of the arbitration (the Kharijites) went away in anger. Some left for Kufa before the agreement was signed. Others stayed on, saying, “Perhaps he will repent and turn back.”[102][195]
The radical opponents of the arbitration decided to choose a leader among them. They pledged allegiance to 'Abd Allah b. Wahb al-Rasibi, known as Dhu al-Thafanat, on Shawwal 10, 37. They went to Jisr al-Nahrawan, east of the Tigris and invited the Basran to meet them there. After the Kharijites left Kufa, 'Ali's followers offered him a renewed oath of allegiance on the basis that they would be friends of those he befriended and enemies for those he took as enemies.[103][196]
'Ali stipulated adherence to the Book of God and the Sunna of the Prophet in the oath. Rabi'a b. Shaddad al-Khath'ami, who had fought for him in the Battle of Camel and Siffin suggested, “On the Sunna of Abu Bakr and 'Umar.” 'Ali objected that if Abu Bakr and 'Umar had been acting on anything but the Book of God and the Sunna of His Messenger, they would have been remote from the truth. The formula of the new oath of allegiance for 'Ali matched the invocation that the Prophet (S.A.W.A) made for him at Ghadir Khumm: “O God! Be the friend of him who is his friend, and be the enemy of him who is his enemy.”[104][197]
It was about this time that 'Ali had the hadith of Ghadir Khumm proclaimed in public. He appealed to the crowd assembled on the square (rahba) in front of the mosque of Kufa asking those who had heard the words the Prophet (S.A.W.A.) at Ghadir Khumm. Thirteen Companions came forward and witnessed that they had heard the Prophet say, “O God! Be the friend of him who is his friend, and be the enemy of him who is his enemy.”[105][198]
'Ali was eager to set out on the campaign as quickly as possible, before Mu'awiya could gather all his forces. He moved north via Shahi and Dabaha to the east bank of the Euphrates and al-Anbar. He had received disturbing news about the murder of 'Abd Allah b. Khabbab b. al-Aratt, his pregnant wife and Umm Sinan al-Saydawiyya by the Kharijites. His men turned to him, pleading that they could not leave their families and property behind at the mercy of such people and they urged him to fight them first. 'Ali sent to the Kharijites demanding the surrender of the murderers. If they did so he would leave them alone until he had fought the Syrians in the hope that they would change their minds in the meantime and return to the course of right.
They answered defiantly that all of them had killed these people and all considered the shedding the blood of 'Abd Allah b. Khabbab and his wife and that of any of 'Ali's partisans as licit. 'Ali asked them by what right they considered it licit for them to leave their community, to draw their swords against their own people, to investigate their views, and to spill their blood. He gave Abu Ayyub al-Ansari a banner of safe conduct for anyone wishing to surrender. Some went to 'Ali and some left the battlefield. Others insisted on their beliefs and were ready to fight 'Ali. He gave the order to let the Kharijites attack first.
Many of the Kharijite leaders were killed. Four hundred wounded were found among the dead in the battlefield. 'Ali ordered them to be handed to their tribes for medical care. On 'Ali's side, only ten or less men were killed. 'Ali wanted to proceed immediately from al-Nahrawan to Syria. His men complained that their arrows were used up, their swords dulled, their spearheads had fallen off their lances, and urged him to return to Kufa so that they might restore their equipment and replenish their forces. Within days, his armies melted away, leaving but a few of the leaders with him. 'Ali realized that he had lost control over them and entered Kufa, abandoning the campaign.[106][199]
Mu'awiya was pleased, when they informed him that 'Ali had turned off his route to Syria in order to subdue the rebels in his own rank, and was pleased and waited for further development. He called al-Dhahhak b. Qays and instructed him to attack the Bedouin Arabs loyal to 'Ali. Al-Dhahhak crossed the desert and attacked the pilgrims returning from Mecca, and robbed them of their belongings. 'Ali appealed to the Kufans to avenge the blood of their compatriots. Hujr b.'Adi caught with al-Dhahhak near Tadmur. They fought for a while, and nineteen Syrians were killed as against two men of Hujr. In the cover of the night, the Syrians fled.[107][200] This type of ordinary attack, highway robbery, and murder now became a regular feature of the raids that Mu'awiya dispatched into 'Ali's territories, marking a new low in the character of inter- Muslim warfare.
Mu'awiya chose Busr b. Abi Artat al-'Amiri to lead a new raid into Arabia. Moving towards Medina, Busr stopped at every watering place to seize the camels belonging to the local tribes and had his men raid them while spearing their horses, along which they led. When they reached the next watering place, they would release the camels which they had and seize the fresh ones available there. As Busr entered Medina, he delivered a blistering sermon of vituperation and menaces to the Helpers, threatening them all.
From Medina, he moved on to Mecca, killing and looting on the way. While passing through the territory of the Banu Kinana, Busr chanced upon the two minor sons of 'Ubayd Allah b. 'Abbas, 'Abd al-Rahman and Qutham. He had entrusted his two sons to a man of Kinana so that they would experience life in the desert in accordance with custom among the noble families of Quraysh. When Busr seized the two boys and threatened to kill them, their Kinani guardian took his sword and went out to face Busr. Mu'awiya's general angrily questioned him, “We did not want to kill you, so why do you expose yourself to being killed?”
The man answered, “Yes, I shall be killed in protection of my guest. That will pardon me better before God and the people.” Then he struck at the captors with his sword until he was killed. Busr had the two boys led before him and slaughtered them with a knife. A group of the women of Kinana came, and one of them told the savage, “You kill the men, but what for do you kill the children? By God, it was not the practice for them to be killed either in the Time of Ignorance or in Islam. By God, surely a regime which can find strength by only killing the meek, the humble, and the tottering old, by denying mercy and cutting the bonds of kinship is a regime of evil.” Busr shouted, “By God, I wish to put the sword among you.” Though challenged by the women to do so, he refrained, recalling that his master had declared Kinana off limits for him.[108][201]
Reports of brutal savagery of Mu'awiya's general now forced 'Ali to act. Jaria b. Qudama set out from Kufa with a thousand men and recruited another thousand in Basra. Afterwards 'Ali sent another two thousand men under Wahb b. Mas'ud al-Khath'ami to join Jaria in Hijaz. 'Ali gave restrict instructions not to harm Muslims or non-Muslims protected by treaty, not to confiscate property or riding animals even if their own mounts were worn out and they were forced to continue on foot, and to perform their prayers regularly. Jaria moved quickly through the Hijaz to Yemen passing by the towns, the fortified places and stopping nowhere. He pressed on the Hadhramawt in pursuit of Busr b. Abi Artat. On his pursuit, Busr immediately fled leaving Hijaz.[109][202]
The outrages committed by Busr in his raids of Arabia produced shock in Kufa and aided 'Ali in his efforts to mount a new offensive against Mu'awiya. The Kufans blamed each other for their past inaction. A group of the nobles came to see 'Ali and urged him for the campaign to Syria. In preparation for his campaign, 'Ali had written to Qays b. Sa'd b. 'Ubada, now governor of Azarbayjan to proceed speedily to Kufa. A large number of Muslims assembled there now submitting to his command and ready to move against the mutineer the son of the mutineer ('asi b. 'asi). 'Ali was delaying departure merely in expectation of Qays' arrival.[110][203]
On Ramadhan 19, 40/January 26, 661, as he entered the mosque of Kufa to perform the Morning Prayer, 'Ali was met by 'Abd al-Rahman b. Muljam Muradi, a Kharijite from Egypt with the words, “The judgment belongs to God, 'Ali, not to you.” 'Ali b. Abi Talib was struck on the head with a poisoned sword.[111][204]
Alas, 'Ali was assassinated at a time when his fortune, after lengthy crisis following Siffin, the failed arbitration and al-Nahrwan, seemed on the ascendant. The mood in Kufa and Basra had changed in his favor as Mu'awiya's vicious conduct of war, especially in Busr's Arabian campaign, had revealed the true nature of his reign. Experience had so far shown that whenever Syrians and Iraqis met in a battle in roughly equal terms, the Syrians usually gave way, first. The Iraqis, resuming the war with the bitter resolve of outwitted political underdogs, might well have triumphed militarily this time.
The loyalist believed that he was the best of Muslims after the Prophet and the only one entitled to rule them. He died on Ramadhan 21, 40. Before his death, he advised the faithful and his sons, “O sons of 'Abd al-Muttalib, you should not shed blood of Muslims shouting the Commander of the Faithful (Amir al-Mu’minin) has been killed. Beware; do not kill because of me except my killer. See, if I die with this stroke, then strike him one stroke for his stroke and do not mutilate the man, for I have heard the Messenger of God say, 'Avoid dismembering even though it may be a rabid dog'.”[112][205]
[113][171] The Messenger of God saw in his vision that Abu Sufyan's sons or the sons of Hakam b. Abi al-'As go up his pulpit like the monkeys. He was much annoyed and God revealed this verse ﴾We did not appoint the vision that we showed you except as a test for the people and the tree cursed in the Qur'an. We deterred them, but it only increases them in great rebellion.﴿ (Q: 17/60). For more details about the Umayyads or the Hakamids as the cursed tree, see Ibn Abi al-Hadid, 9: 220; Ibn Kathir (d. 774/1373), Tafsir al-Qur'an al-'azim, ed. Muhammd Husayn Shams al-Din, Dar al-kutub 'ilmiyya, Beirut, 1419/1998, 5: 85; Suyuti, al-Durr al-manthur, 4: 191.

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