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Invasions of Syrian Army in the Domains of Imam Ali’s Caliphate

By: Rasul Ja'fariyan
It was already discussed how Imam's endeavor was focused on re-mobilization of the Iraqis for a battle against Damascus; however, those declaring readiness were few. Though Imam, in his sermons, asked people for an aid, rarely ever did they follow.
In a sermon he has stated: “I come in grips with the crowd laying disobedient when ordered and remaining silent when called. O wrong crowd! Why on earth thou keep waiting? Why thou stand still in helping divine religion? Where is thy religion that prepares thee? Where is thy fervor that outrages thee?
Cry I make and help I seek. Neither to my word thou lend an ear nor my order, thou obey until the end comes and the evility turns up. Neither a reprisal thou can join nor can thou lend a hand for an aim to stop thee leaving. Moan thou nipped and move thou never made.” [1456]
And in another sermon: “O people in diversity with distressed hearts in reversity! In bodies thou are nude, in intellect thou are dude. In knowing the Truth I cherish thee like a foster-mother. From the Truth you trotter away as goats from a roaring lion. Alas! with thee off justice the darkness I clear, uncrooked path of Truth I gear.” [1457]
“O people laying disobedient if ordered and remaining silent if called! The provided chance never thou take, the challenge never thou dare, thou reproach when likely the crowd prepared behind an Imam, thou withdraw when unwillingly involved in a hard task. O cowards! Why on earth thou keep waiting? Why thou stand still in aiding and taking back thy rights?
May thou be dead or despised! By Allah, far away from me thou shall remain if my hour comes, for thy company I hate. With thee when I am, without help really I am. Who on earth in truth art thou? Thou hast no religion to prepare thee? Thou hast no fervor to propel thee? Not a surprise rogues follow Mu'awiya when called enjoying no benefit a bit. Thee I call the survivors of Islam and piety to benefit thee a lot. On me thou turn back and with me thou art at odds… What I adore more is death to come forth”. [1458]
Addressing the people these speeches were delivered by Imam in 39 and 40. They manifest his firm will before the Qasitin (the oppressors). Mu'awiya, conscious of the prevailing state in Iraq as well as the resident's weakness, was set to undermine Imam's might and set the scene for entering Iraq through attacking on areas ruled by Imam in Hijaz and even in Iraq. He expressed his intention as follows, “The Iraqis will be overawed with such murders and plunder, the dissidents and the secessionists will become valorous and those saved of disputes will be absorbed”. [1459]
The attacks known as “Gharat” were repeated every now and then and martyred many a real Shi'ite Muslim anywhere. Abu Ishaq Thaqafi Shi'i (born in 283) has presented a list of the Gharat in his book authored in the third century under the same title. The reports of such attacks can be found in other historical sources too.
Egypt was the first attacked land. When elected as the caliph, Imam appointed Qays Ibn Sa'd Ibn 'Ubada to Egypt governorship. Nevertheless, when he left for Iraq to suppress the Nakithin, (allegiance breachers) he urged him to return from Egypt. [1460] Qays set out to Medina and then to Iraq [1461] to participate in Siffin. Subsequent to Siffin once Egypt was in unrest and an uprising against Muhammad Ibn Abi Bakr was likely, Imam determined to dispatch Malik to Egypt.
Appointed for the second time as the governor of Hijaz after Siffin, Malik received a letter to go to Egypt. As soon as Mu'awiya was informed, he wrote to the treasurer in Qulzum to remove Malik in any way possible and in exchange not to deliver the remainder of treasure. Accordingly, he martyred Malik with poisonous honey. [1462] Where he was martyred was called 'Ayn Shams.
Upon learning Malik's muder, Mu'awiya said, ”'Ali had got two arms one of which was 'Ammar cut off in Siffin and the other was Malik cut off now.” [1463]
On the other hand, when Imam heard the news, sorrow was visible on his face for a number of days stating, “What good features Allah had granted Malik! Who Malik really was! If a mountain, a great mountain he was. If a rock, a solid rock he was. O Malik! By Almighty Allah, over your demise many are grieved while many are thrilled. For such a person tears should be shed. Shall any one be ever re-born like Malik?” [1464]
Now Damascus had access to Egypt, agitated. It not only was ajacent to Damascus but also had many from among the 'Uthmanids who could back the Damascus army. In addition, it was the time to fulfill the promise Mu'awiya had given to cunning 'Amr Ibn 'As, the governorship of Egypt. Muhammad Ibn Abi Bakr was the governor in Egypt then.
'Amr Ibn 'As who had led the Arabs' army when conquering Egypt before advanced with a massive army. In a letter, he warned Muhammad to surrender if willing to remain secure. Another threatening letter was sent by Mu'awiya reading, he knew no other enemy for 'Uthman but Muhammad, so the time was ripe for a reprisal.
Writing to Imam, he enclosed the two letters with his. Imam recommended him to resist and ordered him to send Kinana Ibn Bishr (allegedly the one who hit 'Uthman on the head with a mace [1465]) to Damascus accompanied by an army but stay with another army in the city. Kinana left with two thousand soldiers and Muhammad stayed there on alert with the same number.
In bravely clashes with Damascus army, Kinana along with his troops were martyred. Muhammad who was left all alone in Egypt took refuge in a ruined place. The commander of the vanguards in the army was Mu'awiya Ibn Khudayj who traced Muhammad, beheaded him, set him inside a carcass and then burned it. [1466] It was the policy that Mu'awiya and his followers pursued in martyring the divine figures under the pretext of 'Uthman's murder.
As soon as Imam was told, he turned so gloomy that he made very pungent remarks addressing Kufa people.
In his sermon, he pointed out, “It exceeded fifty days that I seek help. After such a long period the army recruited is the least mighty one.” [1467]
It was in this very sermon when Imam declaimed, ÃáÇ Ïíä íÌãÚßã ÃáÇ ÍãíøÉ ÊÛÖÈßã¿ [1468] “Where is thy religion that prepares thee? Where is thy fervor that outrages thee? ”
When asked for what his grief was Imam responded, “He was as dear as my sons”. [1469] Suffering the loss of Muhammad Ibn Abi Bakr, one of his closest companions, as well as Egypt, Imam wrote to all Muslims in various spots recounting the agonies he had suffered since the Prophet's departure.
He, in the letter, referred to the unjust attitude that there had been concerning the Prophet's household following his departure, nation's allegiance, how Nakithin breached their allegiance, how the war of Siffin was waged and how the Kharijites stood against him. Then touching upon the excuses people made he added: “What thou nagged was Blunt art our swords and blank art our quiver. No bayonets do our spears hast and sticks at what we call spears. Let us return to get prepared with the best of horses and weapons…' I did order thee to dismount in Nukhayla, set up a camp and stay there on standby … A crowd of thee stayed with me making unjustifiable excuses and another group left me disobeying.
Neither firm were those who stayed nor returned those who left. Once noticing the camp, less than fifty soldiers I found. I headed for Kufa disappointedly but as yet, out hast thou never stepped. Why on earth thou keep waiting? A blind eye hast thou turned to that thy lands get shrunk, thy towns get occupied and my Shi'ite Muslims get slayed? Not a border guard is seen on the borders but enemy's.” Furthermore, Imam urged them to prepare against the rival. [1470]
Muhammad Ibn Abi Bakr's murder was considered as a triumph for the 'Uthmanids around the globe in Mu'awiya's view. [1471] Egypt which was now out of Imam's hand was ruled by 'Amr Ibn 'As as late as his death in 43 for three or four years who preferred the worldly life in exchange for the abiding one in the Hereafter.
Mu'awiya was hopeful about Basra as well, as Basra 'Uthmanids had written to him seeking for help. He was well aware of the grudge Basra people bore Imam 'Ali (a) for they had lost many in Jamal war.
According to Thaqafi, in order to consult 'Amr Ibn 'As Mu'awiya wrote, “Nowhere can a belligerent and invincible crowd be found as many as Basra people.” Mu'awiya called upon 'Abd Allah Ibn 'Amir Haďrami to travel to Basra to mobilize Mu'awiya's followers under the slogan of revenge for 'Uthman's murder and occupy the town. Meeting the Tamimites in Basra, 'Abd Allah talked to the 'Uthmanids having gathered.
On propounding his aim Dhahhak Ibn 'Abd Allah Hilali objected to him as saying, “Do you order us to unsheathe our swords once again (after Nakithin) and battle with one another in order to let Mu'awiya still be on the throne and you be his minister and to breach the allegiance we have sworn to 'Ali (a)? By Allah, one single day of 'Ali's lifetime spent when the Prophet alive was far much better than whatsoever Mu'awiya and his lineage have ever carried out.” Some were in 'Abd Allah Ibn 'Amir's side and some in Dhahhak's.
As a rule, the majority backed Ibn Amir other than a few like Ahnaf Ibn Qays. Between the Muďari and Yemeni Arabs there was a strife; however, Mu'awiya had previously advised 'Abd Allah to trust the Muďari ones. It upset the Azdites. At the same time Ziyad Ibn 'Ubayd who was the vicegerent of Basra governor resorted to Sabra Ibn Shayman Azdi and wrote to 'Abd Allah Ibn 'Abbas, Basra governor, in Kufa; as a result, the news of Basra spread.
On the one hand Ziyad supported by the Azdites led Friday prayer and urged then to back Amir al-Mu'minin with whom Ansar and Muhajirun were and stand against the Tamimites. On the other hand Ibn 'Amir organized an army in Basra and took the possession of some properties. The news of the Azdites' support for Ziyad and the Tamimites' for Ibn 'Amir created chaos in Kufa.
Imam was demanded by Shabath Ibn Rib'i not to let the Azdites overcome the Tamimites. Nonetheless, Mikhnaf Ibn Sulaym advocated the Azdites. Urging them to back the principles of the religion, Imam advised, “Thou should restrain from battling and insulting one another for the sake of Islam and its reputation and unite”.
Imam sent Ziyad Ibn Dhubay'a from the tribe of Tamim to Basra for hindering the Tamimites to support Ibn 'Amir. His attempt was a little fruitful. Bu while asleep at night, a number of the Kharijites attacked him and killed him running away.
Sent by Imam together with fifty of the Tamimites to Basra, Jaria Ibn Qudama met with the Shi'ite Muslims and read out Imam's letter to them. Regarding the allegiance people had sworn Imam had written: “If keep thy allegiance, if follow my advice and if obey my order, in line with the Divine Book and the Prophet's tradition I shall treat thee and the path of Truth I shall raise among thee. By Allah, no other ruler do I know to be well aware of his tradition but myself since Muhammad passed away. The gospel truth is what I tell. I intend neither to reproach the deceased nor to find fault with their deeds.”
Then Imam had added that if they breached their allegiance, he would suppress them with his army. To make up the incident of Jamal, the Azdites declared their readiness for a battle against Ibn 'Amir. After a time of being under siege, the 'Uthmanids's houses were razed to the ground at Jaria's behest. In a letter Ziyad notified Imam that a number were burned, a number who fled fell prey to swords and a number who surrendered were pardoned. [1472]
The movement led by Dhahhak Ibn Qays, a well-known commander of Damascus army, is among Damascus invasions. As reported by Thaqafi when the Kharijites revolted against Imam, 'Umara Ibn 'Uqba Ibn Abi Mu'ayt wrote to Mu'awiya: “A group of the Qur'an reciters and the devout from among 'Ali's followers have stood against him. Combating them, 'Ali has killed them. And now since his army and the inhabitants of his town have taken up arms against him, the seeds of discord are sowed among them.”
Mu'awiya, extremely delighted, sent Dhahhak Ibn Qays along with a three - or four - thousand soldier army to Iraq and ordered him to loot anywhere he went, kill any Shi'ite Muslim he noticed and then leave there promptly for another place. Dhahhak who went to Kufa not only plundered people's properties but also rushed a caravan of pilgrims and killed a number. Imam 'Ali (a) in Kufa called upon people to defend themselves.
When Imam found them that indifferent, he told them, “By Almighty Allah, I wish I had one of thee in lieu of a hundred men of thee.” Once more Imam desired to be dead! Then Imam sent Hujr Ibn 'Adi with four thousand troops to stop Dhahhak. Hujr encountered him in Tadmur and in their clash, nineteen soldiers from the rival army were killed and two people on Hujr's side were martyred. With Dhahhak's overnight escape another invasion of Damascus was ended.
In the meanwhile 'Aqil Ibn Abi Talib wrote to Imam to be kept abreast of the latest developments. Describing Dhahhak's invasion abortive, Imam referred to the injustice Quraysh had done to him and wrote: “O Allah! A calamity thou descend for Quraysh to sever their kinship with me, for those allying and usurping my right of ruling left behind by my brother, Muhammad. To the one they gave it whose neither kinship with the Prophet (S) nor record in Islam was like those of mine”. The letter indicates how Imam constantly mentioned his usurped right any chance he got. [1473]
The other invasion made by Damascus army to Iraq was the one headed by Nu'man Ibn Bashir with two thousand soldiers. He was supposed to attack on 'Ayn al-Tamr, on the outskirts of the Euphrates. He was the one and the only one from Ansar who had joined the 'Uthmanids. Although there were a number of Ansar who had balked at supporting Imam 'Ali (a), never did they join Mu'awiya.
When Malik Ibn Ka'b deployed with a hundred heard about Bashir's probable attack, he asked Sulaym for help who was the treasurer in that side of the Euphrates. Imam learning the news of Nu'man's attack on the one hand and observing the Kufiyans hesitant to rise on the other hand objected to them as uttering,”O Kufiyans! When the vanguards of Damascus army thou notice, the doors thou shut and into homes thou creep like a lizard in to its hole and a hyena in to its den. By Allah, how abject is the one whose helpers art thou!”
Sulaym sent fifty of his troops led by his son, 'Abd Allah, for Malik's aid. Damascus army afraid of the aid army upcoming fled after a short clash. Mu'awiya said his intention of sending the army had been “To jeopardize the Iraqis”. Anyhow, this attack was fruitless as well.
Following Imam's remarks it was 'Adi Ibn Hatim who accompanied a thousand people from the tribe of Tayy to Nukhayla. Another a thousand also joined him and they advanced towards the banks of Euphrates and made several attacks on southern part of Damascus. [1474]
Mu'awiya sent an army to Dumat al-Jandal to have them, obedient to neither Damascus nor Iraq, pay tax alms (statutory Islamic levy on specified items to be used for Muslims' welfare). Another army led by Malik Ibn Ka'b was sent by Imam too. A fight was started between them which lasted a whole day long. Next day Damascus army returned while Malik stayed there for ten days inviting people to help. Not being helped, he returned disappointedly as well. [1475]
One of the other invasions made against Iraq was led by Sufyan Ibn 'Awf Ghamidi along with six thousand toward Hit and then toward Anbar. Imam's adherents were few there none of whom were willing helpers except a very small number with Ashras Ibn Hassan Bakri who resisted unit being martyred.
After plundering Anbar, the invaders went back. On being informed, Imam on the pulpit of the mosque, summoned people to gather in Nukhayla and move to stop them. In the answer, nothing came up but silence. Imam left the mosque and sent Sa'id Ibn Qays Hamdani together with an eight-thousand army to stop them but they had already arrived in Damascus.
When Sa'id returned, he found Imam so seriously sick that he could in no way stand on the pulpit. Imam therefore wrote a letter complaining about Kufiyan people, sat on the platform by the mosque gate and asked Sa'd, one of his Mawalis (freed slaves) to read it out loud. “If any other option there were, never a word would I breath to blame thee …
O people, Jihad (holy Islamic war) is a portal of the Heaven portals opened to Allah's special friends, attire of piety, chain mail of solidity and a shield of inflexibility… Be informed, daily and nightly, overtly and covertly for a battle with thy foes I invited thee, to attack them before being attacked …?
Enable thou remained and disobedient thou laid until the enemy occupied thy homeland. It was Ghamidi who assaulted Anbar, slayed Ashras Ibn Hassan, plundered the weapons and massacred the righteous men. Even I heard no one stopped the man, from among thy foes, who invaded the house of a Muslim woman, under our protection, took her anklets off her ankles and her earrings off her ears.
Yet, safe and sound they returned with not a single injury. If this life a Muslim man departed ashamed and saddened of such an act, never should he be blamed for my part. Wonder! What grief I suffer and what pain I bear when in accord I find them in credal error and in discord I find thee gospel in Truth …!
O wrong crowd under the guise of right men! O gang of the foolish like the kids and the brides in bridal chambers! Allah solely knows how dejectedly I keep living amongst thee! I beg Him from thee to take me and toward Himself to ascend me…”. [1476]
These remarks could merely persuade three hundred to gather in Nukhayla. Imam's next sermons bore no fruit as well. [1477]
Prior to Hajj season in 39 AH. Mu'awiya dispatched an army to Mecca with Yazid Ibn SHajara Rahawi as the head to absorb people to Mu'awiya during Hajj period. On the other hand, Imam being told of his intention, sent a group commanded by Ma'qal Ibn Qays Riyahi to Mecca. Qutham Ibn 'Abbas who was the governor imagined that no one would defend him, so decided to leave Mecca first but they trusted its holiness and stayed.
It was Dhi l-Hajja 7th when Damascus army arrived in Mecca. To avoid clashes, the commander for whom observing the holiness of the city was allegedly significant sent a message to Qutham that both give up leading the congregational prayers and let people pick one out.
As soon as Hajj ritual terminated, Damascus army returned. Following the Damascus army, Ma'qal Ibn Qays went to Mecca and moved as far as Wadi al-Qura. They could only capture a few numbers of the fatigued ones who were exchanged later for Iraqi captives.
After the event, Imam told people: “Defeated thou hast become be this nation … for the more active they get, the more passive thou go; the harder they try, the lazier thou become. I do behold disunity among thee as unity among them…” [1478]
One of their most notorious attacks was Busr Ibn Artat's on Hijaz and Yemen. He, a ruthless criminal, was ordered by Mu'awiya to massacre 'Ali's Shi'ite Muslims anywhere he traced. Why Busr was dispatched was the 'Uthmanids living in Yemen had revolted against 'Ubayd Allah Ibn 'Abbas, the governor, after realizing weakness within Iraqi troops.
They had written to Mu'awiya seeking for help. First Busr entered Medina of which governor, Abu Ayyub Ansari, had been appointed by Imam. Having no troop he had to flee. Busr set fire to his and others' houses, secured allegiance from people by force, designated Abu Hurayra as the governor and sent him to Mecca.
Qutham Ibn 'Abbas also left there and fled. Busr then set out to Ta'if where he sent a man from Quraysh to Tabala therein many a Shi'ite Muslim resided. At his behest, all were slayed and their possessions were plundered. Mecca residents, panic-stricken, had to flee among whom were 'Ubayd Allah Ibn 'Abbas's wife along with his two sons, Sulayman and Dawud captured and both beheaded.
It is said that they were murdered in Yemen concealed in an Iranian-born man's house. Keeping on his trip, he went to Najran where he killed 'Ubayd Allah Ibn 'Abbas's father in law, 'Abd Allah Ibn 'Abd al-Muddan. This very event is very considerable in Mu'awiya's shameful political life. When Busr arrived in Yemen, 'Ubayd Allah had already left. Although a number of Shi'ite Muslims defied for a while many were martyred. Busr committed countless crimes.
He beheaded one hundred Iranian-born Shi'ite Muslims. Then he moved toward Haďramawt where allegedly numerous Shi'ite Muslims resided. He had said he would kill one out of four. Upon being informed, Imam sent Jaria Ibn Qudama with an army to follow him. When Jaria heard that Busr had gone to Mecca, he went there but he had already left. When arriving in Kufa, Jaria found Imam 'Ali (a) martyred, so he swore allegiance to Imam Hasan (a).
Imam who was extremely annoyed with the Kufiyans, pronounced a malediction, for not only had they left Imam helpless but also they never protected their wives and daughters and allowed Damascus wicked men to access them. As an instance we narrate a malediction of Imam 'Ali's here,”I saw 'Ali (a) speaking to people”, Abu Salih Hanafi, “While having the Holy Qur'an on his head, the papers of which rustling”. 'Ali was uttering, “O Allah! From whatever written in this Book they prevented me. Upon me thou bestow any what of this Book”.
O Allah! In disfavor I hold them as so they hold me and of them I hast become tried as of me they haste become so. Unlike my nature is what they force me to act, an action unknown to me as yet. O Allah! Better than them grant me helpers but worse than me to them. O Allah! Dissolve their heart like salt in water. [1479]
[1456] Futuh al-Buldan, sermon 39
[1457] Ibid sermon 131
[1458] Futuh al-Buldan, sermon 180
[1459] al-Gharat, p. 176 (Persion version
[1460] Ansab al-Ashraf, vol. II, pp 390-392
[1461] As reported by Baladhuri in Ashraf, vol. II, pp 300-301 when Qays arrived in Medina, Imam had written to Sahl Ibn Hunayf to go to Kufa Meanwhile, Marwan and Aswad Ibn Abi l-Bakhtari were active in acting against Imam in Medina They threatened Qays with murder Without a moment’s hesitation he left there for Iraq It proves that except Ansar accompanying Imam to Iraq how much Medina was against Imam
[1462] Ansab al-Ashraf, vol. II, pp 398-399
[1463] al-Gharat, vol. I, p. 264; in Ansab al-Ashraf, vol. II, p. 399 the name of Qays Ibn Sa‘d is referred to mistakenly
[1464] al-Gharat, vol. I, p. 265 (The Persion translation is adapted from Ayati’s book
[1465] Ansab al-Ashraf, vol. II, p. 401
[1466] al-Gharat, vol. I, pp 276-289
[1467] Ansab al-Ashraf, vol. II, p. 404
[1468] al-Gharat, vol. I, p. 291
[1469] Ansab al-Ashraf, vol. II, p. 404 Muhammad’s mother, Asma’ Bint ‘Umays, was first Ja’far’s wife after whose martyrdom got married Abu Bakr After Abu Bakr’s demise she married Imam ‘Ali (a), thus Muhammad was cherished in Imam’s family
[1470] al-Gharat, vol. I, pp 302-322
[1471] Ibid vol. II, p. 377
[1472] al-Gharat, vol. II, pp 373-412
[1473] al-Gharat, vol. II, pp 416-442
[1474] al-Gharat vol. II, pp 445-459
[1475] al-Gharat, vol. II, pp 459-461
[1476] al-Gharat, pp 179-181 (Persian version); Akhbar al-Tiwal, pp 211-212
[1477] al-Gharat, pp 464-503
[1478] Ibid vol. II, pp 504-516
[1479] al-Gharat p. 174 (translated by Ayati

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