Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was born some thirty years after the birth of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alaiha wa Salam). He belonged the most respectable family of Quraish, the Banu Hashim (i.e. Hashmites). His father Abu Talib was the real uncle of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam) who brought him up after the death of the Holy Prophet's grandfather. Ali’s mother was Fatimah bint Asad, who belonged to Banu Hashim. Hadrat Ali’s patronymic name was "Abul Hasan". The Holy Prophet gave him another name, "Abu Turab" which was most liked by Hadrat Ali. The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Salaam) took Ali in his childhood from his father, Abu Talib, and brought up him like his own son.
First youth to accept Islam
When the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam) started revelations Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was about ten years old. The Holy Prophet disclosed his mission before Ali and he accepted it immediately, thus he became the first youth to enter the folds of Islam. When the Holy Prophet started to preach openly, he invited all of his family members to a feast and announced his mission before them. Nobody listened to him, but young Ali stood up and said. "Though my eyes are sore, my legs are thin and I am the youngest of all those present here yet I will stand by you, 0 Messenger of Allah." Hearing this all the leaders of Quraish laughed but Ali proved his words to be true after supporting the Holy Prophet in his mission from the beginning till the end.
The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam) loved him very much. The night when the Holy Prophet was migrating to Medina, his house was surrounded by the bloodthirsty tribesmen, who had plotted to assassinate him. They were ready to kill any person who came out of the house. In such a situation, the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we Sallam) asked Hadrat Ali (R.A.) to sleep in his bed. He followed the command gladly and immediately jumped in the bed.
Although the Meccans did not accept his mission, they considered the Holy Prophet the most trustworthy man of Mecca and continued keeping their trusts (cash and gold etc.) with him. It was Ali (R.A.) to whom the Holy Prophet gave the deposits to return to the owners, when he was leaving Mecca for Medina. Ali (R.A.) migrated to Medina after returning the deposits.
Life in Medina
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was very close to the Holy Prophet, and the closeness was changed to a permanent relationship when he married his most beloved daughter, Fatimah (R.A.) to Ali (R.A.).
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) also had the distinguished honour that the progeny of the Holy Prophet continued through Hadrat Ali’s sons from Fatimah (R.A.) namely Hadrat Hasan and Husain (R.A.). The two children were the most beloved of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam).
When the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) went to the expedition of Tabuk in 9 A.H. he left Hadrat Ali in charge of Medina. On this some hypocrites remarked that the Holy Prophet did not like Hadrat Ali. On this the Holy Prophet remarked, "You are in the same position in relation to me as Aaron was with relation to Moses. But the only difference is: there is no prophet after me."
His Bravery and the "Dhulfiqar"
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was a very brave man. He participated in almost all the battles against the non-believers during the time of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam). The stories of his bravery are famous in history.
In the first battle of Islam at Badr, he was holding the flag of Islamic army. When three famous warriors of Quraish challenged the Muslims, according to Arab tradition, Hadrat Ali (R. A. ) along with Hadrat Hamzah and Abu Ubaidah (R.A.) accepted the challenge. He killed his opponent, Walid only with one thrust of his sword and cut him in two pieces. Then he helped Hadrat Abu Ubaidah (R.A.) to kill the next Quraishi warrior.
In the battle of Uhud when Hadrat Mus'ab bin ‘Umair, the bearer of the Islamic standard, was martyred, it was Hadrat Ali (R.A.) who held it up. Seeing this one of the non-believers, Abu Sa'd challenged him. Hadrat Ali attacked him and he fell down on the ground naked. Ali (R.A.) felt pity on him and left him in that condition.
In the battle of the Trench, all-Arabia fame warrior, 'Abdwood challenged the Muslims after jumping on his horse across the trench. Nobody dared to accept his challenge except Ali. The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi we Salaam) warned Ali about 'Abdwood but Ali insisted on going and fighting with him. Then the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) gave him his famous sword "Dhulfiqar" and put a turban on his head before he went to fight with 'Abdwood. A few minutes later people saw 'Abdwood’s head was cut off from his body by Ali.
The title of Asadullah
Because of his bravely Hadrat Ali was popularly called "Asadullah"(The Lion of Allah).
In the battle of Khaibar against Jews, the Muslims tried to conquer the strongest Jewish fort, Qumus, but were not successful in the beginning. Then the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi we Salaam) said, "I will give the command and the standard tomorrow to such a brave person who loves Allah and His Prophet and whom Allah and His Prophet love. Everybody was desiring to be that fortunate man. The people were rather surprised when the next morning the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alaihi we Salaam) called Ali who was sick and his eyes were sore. The Holy Prophet applied his finger, wet with his saliva, over the eyes of Ali (R.A.) and they were cured immediately. Then he gave the standard, and advised him. "First of all call them towards Islam. Even if one man is guided towards Islam because of you, it would be better than red camels."
Following the advice of the Holy Prophet Hadrat Ali invited the Jews towards Islam. Instead of accepting the Right Path they sent their commander Marhab, the great warrior of Arabia and one of the bravest men of his time. He challenged Hadrat Ali to fight. Ali (R.A.) accepted the challenge and slew him in one attack. His famous sword cut Marhab's body into two pieces.
He showed great bravery in each and every battle he fought and earned fame. He was counted as one of the great warriors of Arabia.
Ali (R.A.) the great scholar of Islam
Ali (R.A.) was not only a great warrior but a great scholar as well. The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam) said about him, I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its gate." He was one of the great jurists among the Companions. The Holy Prophet appointed him as the Qadi (Judge) of Yemen during his life time. He was a master of Arabic and his writings were as effective as his speech. More about his scholarly services to Islam would be mentioned at the end.
Special Messenger of the Holy Prophet
In 9 A.H., the first Hajj of Islam took place. Hadrat Abu Bakr (R.A.) was appointed as the leader of the Hajj group. After he left Medina revelation came to the Holy Prophet (Chapter IX. few verses in the beginning of the chapter) according to which the treaty with the non-believers had to be dissolved and they were given four month's notice. The announcement was to be made on the great day of Hajj. The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi we Salaam) asked Hadrat Ali to carry the message of Allah on his behalf. He gave Hadrat Ali (R.A.) his own she-camel, Qaswa on which Hadrat Ali rode and went to Mecca to read out the message before the crowd on the occasion of Hajj.
Excellence of Ali
There are so many virtues and services of Ali (R.A.) that it is difficult to mention them all in this short book. On many occasions the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) had prayed for him. When he sent Ali to Yemen in Ramadan 10 A.H. he blessed Ali (R.A.) with the following prayer: "0 Allah put truth on his tongue, and enlighten his heart with the light of guidance." Then he himself put turban on his head and gave the black standard.
On one occasion the Holy Prophet said to Ali, "You pertain to me and I pertain to you, " He also said, "When I am patron of anyone, Ali is his patron also." Once the Holy Prophet said, "Only a hypocrite does not love Ali and a believer does not hate him."
According to a Hadith transmitted by Imam Ahmad the Holy Prophet said to Ali, "You have a resemblance to Jesus whom the Jews hated so much that they slandered his mother and whom Christians loved so much that they placed him in a position not rightly his. Ali afterwards said, "Two (types of) people will perish on my account, one who loves me so excessively that he praises me for what I do not possess, and one who hates me so much that he will be impelled by his hatred to slander me."
Shock of the Holy Prophet's Death
The death of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam) was a great shock to Hadrat Ali (R.A.). He had attended him day and night during his illness, and after his death he gave bath to the Holy Corpse and enshrouded it.
Pledge of loyalty (Bai'at) to the former Khalifahs
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) had taken pledge of loyalty on the hands of all the three past Khalifahs. However he was late in taking pledge at the hand of Hadrat Abu Bakr (R.A.).
The reason why he was late in taking pledge on the hands of Hadrat Abu Bakr (R.A.) was the serious illness of his beloved wife, Hadrat Fatima (R.A.) and that he was busy in collection of the Holy Qur'an. It is mentioned in the famous history book, Tabaqat ibn Sa'd: When Hadrat Abu Bakr (R.A.) enquired of Ali (R.A.) why he was so late in taking pledge of loyalty and whether he disliked his "Khilafat", Ali (R.A.) replied, "I do not dislike your leadership but the fact is that I had taken an oath after the death of the Holy Prophet not to put on my sheet (i.e. not to engage in any work) except for performing Salat until I have collected all the parts of the Holy Qur'an." The Hadrat Ali (R.A.) took pledge of loyalty on the hand of Abu Bakr and helped him throughout his Khilafat. He was very active during the time of Hadrat Umar and also married his daughter, Umm-i-Kulthum to him. In the matter of Hadrat Uthman's election he voted in his favour as has been mentioned before.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was one of the very important members of "Shura" (Advisory Council) during the time of the first three Khalifahs. He was also the great jurist (Mufti) of Medina during the time of past Khalifahs. He was among the panel of six persons who had to select the Khalifah amongst themselves after Hadrat Umar (R.A.). Hadrat Uthman had great regard for him and consulted him in all the matters. His sons were the main guards at Uthman’s residence when the rebels laid siege to his house.
Thus we conclude that Hadrat Ali (R.A.) gave his fullest possible support to all of his predecessors.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) as the fourth Khalifah
The insurgents' shameful act of assassination of the Khalifah could never have been imagined by Hadrat Ali or any other eminent Companion at Medina. It came as a total surprise to Hadrat Ali (R.A.) whose two sons, Hasan and Husain (R.A.) were guarding the gate of Uthman’s residence. The insurgents after climbing the back wall of the residence had assassinated the Khalifah. The assassination of Hadrat Uthman was really due to creation of faction among the Muslim Community which was the goal of ‘Abdullah Bin Saba and his followers (the insurgents), and they achieved it.
After the assassination of Hadrat Uthman, the insurgents virtually controlled the Capital, Medina for several days. The Muslims were frightened and sat behind closed doors. After the assassination of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) an unprecedented calamity had fallen on the Muslims and for three days, Medina was without any government.
Afterwards the insurgents approached Hadrat Ali (R.A.) to be the Khalifah. Egyptians led by Ibn Saba and Ghafqi were the main group of insurgents behind the proposal for the Khilafat of Hadrat Ali (R.A.) Hadrat Ali first declined to bear the responsibility of this great office. But the insurgents pressed him to accept it. As a matter of fact Hadrat Ali wanted to approach Hadrat Talha and Hadrat Zubair (R.A.) who were included in the panel of the six persons appointed by Hadrat Umar (R.A.) to select a Khalifah. He wanted to take pledge of loyalty (Bai'at) at the hands of any of these two gentlemen. But at the end, pressed by the threats of the regicides he decided to put the matter before Muslim public in the Mosque of the Holy Prophet(Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam). Most of the Companions in Medina considered him, to be the fittest person for "Khilafat" after Hadrat Uthman (R.A.). He then agreed to take the responsibility and gave his consent.
On 21st Dhul-Hijjah 35 A.H. pledge of loyalty took place at the hands of Hadrat Ali (R.A). First of all the leading insurgents took the pledge of loyalty on his hands, followed by the general public, at Medina. Hadrat Talha and Zubair (R.A.) did not want to take a pledge (Bai'at) until the case of Hadrat Uthman assassination was decided. Before that Hadrat Ali had offered the office of Khilafat to both of them but they had declined. However under the threats of insurgents they took the pledge of loyalty at Hadrat Ali’s hands, on the condition: "You (i.e.’ Ali) have to decide matters according to the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah (ways of the Holy Prophet) and would punish the guilty according to Islamic Law." Hadrat Ali (R.A.) agreed to their conditions. Hadrat Sa'd bin Waqqas said that he would take pledge when all the Muslims had done so. Following Companions did not take pledge at the hands of Hadrat Ali (R.A.): Muhammad bin Muslimah, Usamah bin Zaid, Hassan bin Thabit. Ka'b bin Malik, Abu Sa'id Khudri, Nu'man bin Bashir, Zaid bin Thabit, Mughirah bin Shu'bah and 'Abdullah bin Salam. Most of the members of Banu Umayyah (Uthman's family) also did not take pledge of loyalty at Hadrat Ali’s hands. Some of such persons who did not take Bai'at went to Syria.
However the majority of the Muslims in Medina took pledge at the hands of Hadrat Ali. According to "Ahli Sunnah wal Jama'ah", Hadrat Ali was the most suitable and the fittest person for Khilafat after Hadrat Uthman (R.A.). If some of the Companions did not take pledge on his hands, because of the political situation of that time, it did not mean that his Khilafat was not accepted by the Muslim majority. Besides Hadrat Ali (R.A.) nobody including Hadrat Mu'awiyah (R.A.) claimed to be the Khalifah at that time. The difference between them was the question of punishment to the assassins, which took the shape of various battles. As it would be seen afterwards Hadrat Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) declared his Khilafat only after the death of Hadrat Ali (R.A.). Hadrat Ali was declared to be the Khalifah not only by the insurgents but by the Muslim public as well including the leading Ansar (Helpers) and Muhajirin (Emigrants). This could also be noticed with the fact that in the first battle which took place between Hadrat Ali and Hadrat 'Aisha (and her group) about 800 of those Companions who had participated in the Treaty of Hudaibiyah were with Hadrat Ali besides other Companions. As a matter of fact Hadrat Ali was the most popular figure at that time and was the most appropriate person to be the fourth caliph.
Disobedience of Abdullah bin Saba and other Sabaites
On his third day as the Khalifah, Hadrat Ali asked all the Sabaites (insurgents) to return to their places. Some of them started to go back but a party headed by Abdullah bin Saba did not obey the Khalifah pretending all the while to be his friends. In the history of Islam this was the first incident of disobedience of a Khalifah. Their aim was to be with him in order to create mischief as it would be observed later.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.), faced a very difficult situation. His three main problems were:
(i) To establish peace in the State and to set right the deteriorating political situation.
(ii) To take action against the assassins of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) who had gone underground after he took the office. Actually some of them were among the persons who requested Hadrat Ali (R.A.) to take office of the Khilafat, but neither he nor any other Muslim at that time knew the real assassins. It was the hardest job at that time to find out the real assassins because the persons who recognised them had already left Medina, and those among the Sabaites, who were present there did not tell Hadrat Ali the truth. All of the Sabaites told Ali (R.A.) that they did not want to assassinate Hadrat Uthman, that was done only by some of the wicked persons whom they did not recognise. Some time, therefore, was required to investigate the matter and that was possible only after peaceful atmosphere was restored in the state which, unfortunately, never occurred during the caliphate of Hadrat Ali as the situation continued to worsen.
(iii) The third problem was the attitude to be adopted towards those Companions (R.A.) who would not pledge loyalty at the hands of Hadrat Ali unless he either handed over the assassins to them or punish them according to Islamic Law. Though we cannot criticise the sincerity of their intention but in fairness to Ali, it has to be said that it was rather an impossible job for Ali (R.A.)to fulfil their demands immediately in that situation.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was a very straight-forward man who considered the "Khilafat" (Caliphate) as a great trust. His aim was to establish peace in the State which should be the first aim of every good ruler in such a place where certain elements try to destroy the order. According to leading Islamic Jurists it is quite right for a Muslim ruler to delay the cases of murder etc. in order to establish peace in an Islamic State (as mentioned by Qadi Abu Bakr Ibn al-Arabi in his book "Ahkam-ul-Qur'an'?. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was quite right in his decision to tackle the assassins on restoration of normally. The Majority of the Muslims, specially Ahli Sunnah wal- Jama’ah had agreed with him on this point.
The events which took place during the caliphate of Hadrat Ali in the form of various battles will be discussed in the light of the above facts.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) seeks to ascertain the names of Hadrat Uthman assassins
After assuming office, Hadrat Ali (R.A.) tried to find out the assassins of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.). He called Marwan bin al-Hakm, the chief secretary of Hadrat Uthman, who was present, in the house at the time of assassination, but he had already left for Damascus along with a number of Banu Umayyads.
The only other witness was Hadrat Nailah, wife of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.). But she was a housewife who used to live under "Hijab" (Pardah) in accordance with Islamic custom and as such she could not tell the names of the persons present at that time except the-features of some of them. She could only name Muhammad bin Abi Bakr who had entered the house but as stated before he had left the house before Hadrat Uthman assassination. Moreover Muhammad bin Abi Bakr took an oath (in accordance to Islamic Law) that he was not an assassin and he had left the house as soon as Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) recognised him and said, "0 my dear nephew, if your father (Abu Bakr) were alive you would have not committed this." Hadrat Nailah gave her evidence in favour of Muhammad bin Abi Bakr and had confirmed that he was not one of the assassins. In spite of his efforts Hadrat Ali could not locate the assassins.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) dismisses the governors
In the opinion of Hadrat Ali (R.A.) the governors appointed by Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) were basically responsible for all the events. They did not pay much attention to check the subversive activities of the insurgents. So he dismissed all the governors appointed by Hadrat Uthman (R.A.). Some of the Companions did not agree with Hadrat Ali (R.A.) on this. Among such persons were Hadrat Mughirah bin Shu'bah and Hadrat Ibn Abbas (R.A.). They advised Hadrat Ali not to take such a hasty action. According to them it was not wise to dismiss them unless they pledged loyalty to Hadrat Ali, because Uthman’s assassination could be an easy excuse for them to refuse the pledge of loyalty to Hadrat Ali’s. Hadrat Ali did not listen to their advice because he believed that expediency should not be the guiding factor. Hadrat Mughirah bin Shu'bah (R.A.) was totally against Ali’s action. He left Medina and went to Mecca.
He appointed Hadrat 'Abdullah bin 'Abbas as the governor of Yemen; Uthman bin Hanif as the governor of Basrah; Ammarah bin Hassan of Kufa, and Qais as the governor of Egypt. Hadrat Sahl Bin Hanif was asked to take charge of governorship of Syria from Hadrat Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.).
When the governors went to take charge they were faced with difficulties. Egypt was one of the provinces in favour of Ali (R.A.)but when the new governor, Qais reached there the public was divided in three groups. Some of them accepted him but others demanded that the assassins must be punished first. There was a third group, belonging to Sabaites and the insurgents, who demanded that the assassins must not be punished in any case. Same difficulty was faced by the newly appointed governor of Basrah. A group of people was in favour of the insurgents while the other was against them. While the governor of Kufa was on his way a spokesman of Kufis came and asked him to return to Medina because they did not want to change their governor Hadrat Musa Ash’ari (R.A.) in any case. So Hadrat Ammarah bin Hassan(R.A.), the governor designate, returned to Medina. The new governor of Yemen, Hadrat Abdullah bin Abbas did not face any difficulty because Ya'la, the old governor had already left Kufa for Mecca before Hadrat Ibn Abbas reached there. When Hadrat Sahl bin Hanif, the governor designate of Syria, reached Tabuk (the out-post of Syria), Amir Mu'awiyah's cavalry men stopped him from proceeding any further and asked him to go back to Medina. Thus Kufa and Syria were the two provinces which had openly flouted Hadrat Ali’s authority.
Hadrat Ali sent his special messengers to Kufa and Syria. The governor of Kufa, Hadrat Abu Musa Ash'ari (R.A.) sent a satisfactory reply and assured Hadrat Ali of his loyalty to him. Not only this he also wrote to him that he had already taken pledge of loyalty for him from the people of Kufa.
The case of Hadrat Mu'awiyah (R.A.) was entirely different.
Hadrat Amir Muawiyah's demand for assassins
After the assassination of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) his family except his wife Nailah, reached Damascus and told Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) the details. They also carried with them the blood stained shirt of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) and the chopped off fingers of his wife Hadrat Nailah. Amir Mu'awiyah, a kinsman of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) was shocked on hearing the news, and when it was made public, all the Muslims of Syria were greatly perturbed. Hadrat Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) was a great statesman and was in Syria for about 20 years. He hung the blood stained shirt and the chopped off fingers of Hadrat Uthman's wife on the "Mimber" (pulpit) of the Jami' Mosque of Damascus because of which the Syrian Muslims got inflamed. This was the situation of Syria when Sahl bin Hanif, the governor designate of Syria was forced to return to Medina from Tabuk.
On receiving the special messenger from Hadrat Ali, Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) did not reply for about three months and detained the messenger. Then he sent his own messenger to Hadrat Ali (R.A.) in Rabi'ul Awwal, 36 A.H. The messenger handed over the letter to Hadrat Ali addressed as "From Mu'awiyah to Ali". When the letter was opened it was a blank paper on which only "Bismilla-Hir-rahmanir Rahim "(In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful) was written. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was amazed to see the letter, which was in fact, an insult to the office of the "Khalifah". The messenger also told Ali (R.A.) that 50,000 sheikhs of Syria were bemoaning the death of Hadrat Uthman and were determined to fight until the assassins were handed over to them. Hadrat Ali replied, "0 Allah! You know it well that I am free from any charge of Uthman’s assassination. I swear by Allah that the assassins have escaped . "
The Sabaites pretending to be friends of Hadrat Ali, tried to create another disturbance by trying to kill the messenger, but Hadrat Ali (R.A.) did not allow it. However exchange of hot words took place between them and the messenger.
Amir Mu'awiyah's reply was a clear indication of his intention. The matter was not going to be settled without force. Therefore Hadrat Ali decided to use force against Mu'awiyah (R.A.) and started preparations for it. Hadrat Ali's elder son, Imam Hasan (R.A.) was a man of rather mild temper. He requested his father to give up the Khilafat and not to think of fighting against Muslims (i.e., to start a civil war). But there was no other way and Hadrat Ali (R.A.) had to handle the situation with an iron hand in order to keep the provinces under the centre as they were since the time of Hadrat Abu Bakr (R.A.).
This was the first time in the history of Islam when the Muslims were preparing to fight against each other. As a Khalifah Hadrat Ali was quite right in his decision. Not to pledge loyalty was an open revolt against his authority and he had to deal boldly with any type of internal rebellion. Hadrat Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.), as a matter of fact, was over-excited on the tragic assassination. The family of Uthman (R.A.) which had reached there after the assassination was also a cause of this attitude. Moreover some of the Sabaites, whose only aim was to divide the Muslim community, had reached Syria and incited the Muslims against Hadrat Ali. They were playing double role. On the one side a group of them was with Hadrat Ali (R.A.) to stir him up against Mu’awiyah; (R.A.), while on the other side some of them went to Syria only to inflame the feelings of Muslims over there. Under such conditions Mu'awiyah (R.A.) had no alternative but to insist upon his demand for punishment of the assassins before pledging loyalty to Hadrat Ali (R.A.).
Hadrat 'Aisha's demand for chastisement of assassins
While Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was preparing for war against Amir Mu'awiyah another difficulty arose. After the assassination of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) some members of his family went to Hadrat Aisha (R.A.) who was in Mecca to perform the Hajj. They and a number of Medinites informed her about the tragedy while she was on her way from Mecca to Medina after the Hajj. Hearing the news of assassination of Hadrat Uthman she returned to Mecca and appealed to the people over there to avenge the death of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.). Hundreds of people including the governor of Mecca came out at 'Aisha's call. The governor of Yemen, Ya'la bin Munabbah also joined her in Mecca. Among Banu Ummayyads who joined Hadrat ‘Aisha in Mecca were Sa'id bin ‘As, Walid bin ‘Uqbah and Marwan bin Hakam.
In the meantime Hadrat Talha and Zubair (R.A.) demanded Hadrat Ali to punish the assassins. He told them, "Please wait. I will do my duty as soon as conditions allow me." Hadrat Talha and Zubair were not satisfied with Hadrat Ali’s reply and left Medina for Mecca to join Hadrat Aisha (R.A.). They had not correctly assessed the delicate situation in Medina. The city was not free from the grip of Sabaites and there was a general feeling against Umayyads in the public. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was anxious to restore peace first so that the assassins could be punished.
In Mecca Hadrat ‘Aisha (R.A.) started to march to Medina at the head of about two thousand men with the object of dealing with the assassins. Hadrat ‘Abdullah bin Zubair was also there. They also asked him to join but he declined to do so and remained neutral.
When Hadrat ‘Aisha was about to march to Medina, proposals came to visit Basrah first to collect more supporters. She decided to go to Basrah.
Hadrat ‘Aisha goes to Basrah
While Hadrat 'Aisha was on her way to Basrah more people joined her in the way. By the time she reached Basrah, there were three thousand men under her flag.
The governor of Basrah, Uthman bin Hanif (appointed by Hadrat 'All), sent some men to find out the object of her visit. She and other Muslims told them that they wanted to tell people of their duty towards the late Khalifah so that proper action would be taken to punish the assassins. The messenger of the governor asked Hadrat Talha and Zubair for what reason they were breaking the Bai'at on the hands of Hadrat Ali. They told them that the pledge (Bai'at) was taken from them at the point of sword, and that they would have kept the pledge if Hadrat Ali had avenged Uthman’s assassination.
The governor of Basra decided not to allow them to enter the city till he got help from Hadrat Ali. He called a public meeting and asked people to fight against them. In the meeting some people favoured the governor while some of them supported Hadrat 'Aisha, Talha and Zubair. The supporters of Hadrat Ali (R.A.) and the governor came out to fight.
Hadrat 'Aisha takes over Basra
Hadrat 'Aisha gave a stirring speech before the Muslims. It was so impressive that half of the supporters of the governor left him and joined Hadrat 'Aisha. Seeing this she tried to settle the matter peacefully instead of fighting. But there were same agents of Abdullah bin Saba (Sabaites) specially his famous disciple, Hakim bin Hublah, who did not allow any settlement. He attacked Hadrat 'Aisha's army before the governor gave him permission to do so.
The fight took place but no result came out till the evening. In the meantime the governor got instructions from Hadrat Ali to resist Hadrat 'Aisha's army if they did not agree to pledge loyalty to him. Then a furious battle took place in which Uthman bin Hanif, the governor, was defeated and captured. Hakim bin Hublah and some of his followers were killed, and Basra was occupied by Hadrat Aisha and her supporters.
March to Basrah
The capture of Basrah by Hadrat ‘Aisha (R.A.) made the situation very grave. The Islamic state was really on the verge of serious civil war. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) never wanted to start war against the Muslims but the internal situation at that time compelled him to do so. War was unavoidable.
The Khalifah, therefore, postponed his march to Syria for the time being in order to set things right in Iraq. He decided to march on to Basrah. A number of Ansar and other Companions were not in favour of Hadrat Ali (R.A.) leaving Medina, instead they asked him to send his army. When Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was leaving Medina, Abdullah bin Salam (R.A.) took hold of his camel and said, "0 Amirul-Mu'minin (Leader of the believers) don't leave Medina. If you leave it at this moment, you would never come back and the Capital would be changed." But he decided to go ahead with his mission because of the seriousness of the situation.
Some of the Companions remained neutral and did not join Hadrat Ali (R.A.) even though he asked them to do so. Among such persons were: Abdullah bin Umar, Muhammad bin Muslimah, Sa'd bin Waqqas and Usamah bin Zaid (R.A.)
Hadrat Ali started for Basrah towards the end of Rabi’ul Awwal, 36 (A. H.) i.e. Nov. 656 A.D. Abdullah bin Saba and his followers were accompanying Hadrat Ali.
Help from Basrah
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) asked Abu Musa Ash'ari to send help but he got no response because Hadrat Abu Musa (R.A.) dreaded a civil war. Therefore Hadrat Ali (R.A.) sent his eldest son, Hasan (R.A.) to Kufa who addressed the people and pleaded for Ali (R.A.). The people were stirred on the appeal and about nine thousand men marched on to join Ali (R.A.).
Ali (R.A.) seeks peace
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) assured all the people accompanying him that he would try his best to avoid blood-shed and to set the things right peacefully. On reaching Dhi Oar, a place near Basrah, Hadrat Ali, with his characteristic aversion to blood-shed sent his cousin 'Abdullah bin Abbas and Qa'qa bin Amr (R.A.) to negotiate peacefully with Hadrat 'Aisha, Talha, and Zubair (Rid. A.) who were preparing to face Hadrat Ali (R.A.) with a big army.
The messengers of Hadrat Ali (R.A.) assured Hadrat 'Aisha, Talha, and Zubair (Rid. A.) that Hadrat Ali would avenge the assassins of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) as soon as peace was established in the state. Hearing this they were satisfied and there were hopes for a peaceful settlement.
But in the army of Ali (R.A.) there were Abdullah bin Saba and his henchmen to whom peace was fatal. At the possibility of peaceful settlement they were much disturbed. They met in a secret council and whispered to each other that Ali (R.A.)was prepared to avenge the death of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.). They were determined to make the peaceful settlement a total failure. They sent their agents to Basrah to incite the Muslims population by saying that if Ali (R.A.) entered Basrah he would enslave all the inhabitants and would kill all the youths. The Basrites, therefore, must check and fight him back.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) hoping for a peaceful settlement, marched towards Basrah to talk personally with Hadrat Talha and Zubair (R.A.). The two armies were facing each other. Hadrat Ali gave an address to Basrites in which he said, "I am but your brother........I will avenge Uthman's assassins," Hadrat Talha, Zubair and Basrites were fully satisfied with what Hadrat Ali (R.A.) told them. Ali (R.A.) also returned to his camp very satisfied. He gave strict orders to his men not to fight in any case, and prayed all the night to Allah.
But Ibn Saba and his henchmen had planned otherwise. In the darkness of night they made a sudden attack on Hadrat 'Aisha's army. Hadrat Talha and Zubair were startled by the sudden attack and said that Ali (R.A.)could not desist from shedding Muslim blood and he has ordered a night attack. On the other hand Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was shocked when he was told by Sabaites that Talha and Zubair had taken them by surprise. He also remarked in the same way that they did not stop from taking the blood of Muslims. According to Tabari the following Sabaites were the leaders behind this plan: Ashtar Nakh'i Ibn Sauda, Khalid bin Muljam, Alba bin Haitham and Shuraib bin Aufa. Ibn Saba was the ring leader.
The Battle of Camel (Jamal)
Soon a full scale war started. Hundreds of Muslims fell on each side. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was greatly pained at the situation. He tried to stop the battle but the battle had already flared up.
In the dawn the troops of Hadrat 'Aisha (R.A.) apprised her of the situation and suggested that she should mount on a camel in Hijab (Pardah) so that the situation might ease. But it worked the other way and Basrites thought tfiat Hadrat Aisha came in the field to fight with them. During the fight Hadrat Ali reminded Talha and Zubair(R.A.) the words of the Holy Prophet: "One day you (Talha and Zubair) will fight Ali wrongly." They remembered the saying and left the battlefield but when Talha was leaving the field somebody rained arrows on him and he was killed.
When the fight did not come to an end Hadrat Ali (R.A.) ordered one of his men to cut the hind legs of the camel on which Hadrat 'Aisha was mounting in a "howdah". The order of Hadrat Ali was carried out and the camel fell on its forelegs. Hadrat 'Aisha was taken out of the "howdah" with due respect. The battle came to an end in favour of Hadrat Ali (R.A.). Hadrat Aisha (R.A.) was sent with due respect to Medina escorted by her own brother, Muhammad bin Abi Bakr. In this battle about ten thousand Muslims on both sides lost their lives. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) felt deeply moved because of the loss of Muslim blood. Hadrat Zubair who had already left the field after remembering the Holy Prophet's saying was going to Mecca. He stopped in a valley to perform his Salat, but was slain by a man, named Amr bin Jarmoz while he was busy in his Salat. When Hadrat Ali came to know, he rebuked the murderer by saying: "I have seen him fight for the Prophet of Allah several times. I give the murderer the news of hell-fire."
After the battle he took pledge of loyalty from the people of Basrah and appointed Hadrat Abdullah bin Abbas as the governor of Basrah. He gave general amnesty to all those who fought against him including Marwan bin Hakam and other persons of Banu Umayyah family. The address which Hadrat Ali (R.A.) gave at Jami' Mosque of Basrah before the Bai'at (pledge of loyalty) moved the Muslims, and they were convinced that Ali (R.A.) was a just Khalifah.
Change of Capital
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was very much grieved on seeing the disrespect of the "Haram" (Forbidden Place) of Medina when the insurgents laid siege to the late Khalifah's house and then assassinated him. He wanted to change the Capital to save Medina from future political disturbance. After staying for a few days at Basrah, Hadrat Ali (R.A.) went to Kufa. There he was given a warm welcome. He got more supporters at Kufa and thought it to be a more suitable place as the Capital of his Khilafat. Therefore in Rajab 36 A.H., he decided to transfer the capital from Medina to Kufa.
Hadrat Ali’s Final Invitation to Hadrat Mu'awiyah
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) now turned his attention towards Hadrat Mu'awiyah (R.A.). He was then ruling over the whole Islamic State with the exception of Syria. The peace minded Hadrat Ali (R.A.) wanted a peaceful settlement. He, therefore, wrote a letter to Hadrat Mu'awiyah (R.A.) asking him to take pledge of loyalty at his hand in the interest of Islam and the unity of the Muslims. But Hadrat Mu'awiyah again demanded of him to avenge Hadrat Uthman’s assassins first.
The show of Hadrat Uthman's blood-stained shirt and the chopped-off fingers of his wife, Hadrat Nailah, was still going on in the Jami' Masjid of Damascus. The powerful Syrians had rallied round Hadrat Mu'awiyah. On the other hand Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was still unable to overcome the insurgents. When Hadrat Amir Mu'awiyah's messenger came to Hadrat Ali to put the demand to hand over the assassins, 10,000 men of Hadrat Ali’s army said with one voice: "All of us are the assassins of Uthman (R.A.)." Hadrat Ali (R.A.) then said to the messengers, Hadrat Muslimah, "You can see for yourself the situation. I am still unable to find out the real assassins." But Hadrat Mu'awiyah was determined not to give up his demand. Hadrat Ali (R.A.), finding no other way, was compelled to declare war against Hadrat Mu'awiyah (R.A.).
The Battle of Siffin
The above situation forced Hadrat Ali (R.A.) to march out against Syria. In the beginning there was not much response for Hadrat Ali’s call. But when Hadrat Ali explained the position to the Muslims, a large army gathered around Hadrat Ali and 50,000 Muslims came out under his banner to fight the Syrians. When Mu'awiyah (R.A.)came to know about Hadrat Ali’s advance, he too proceeded with a vast army and occupied a better position in the field. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) encamped at Siffin, and Amir Mu'awiyah on the other side of Siffin.
Hadrat Ali’s intention was not to shed Muslim blood in vain. He therefore again tried and sent a deputation of three men on peace mission to Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.). Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) again demanded that the assassins of Hadrat Uthman must be slain before any compromise can be reached and that he was demanding this as a "Wall" (next of kin of a murdered person) of Hadrat Uthman. The demand was again refused by Hadrat Ali (R.A.) on the ground that he was not able to locate the real assassins and it would need some time, and that the Pledge of Loyalty must be taken without any condition.
In the month of Dhul Hijjah 36 A.H., Hadrat Ali (R.A.) ordered his troops to take positions. But there seemed unwillingness to fight on both the sides. Muslims were facing Muslims. However in the beginning fighting began with single combats followed by light encounters of single battalions. Thus the whole month of Dhul Hijjah ended without any big fight. When the moon of Muharram appeared Hadrat Ali and Mu'awiyah made a truce for one month. During this time he again got an opportunity for renewed peace talks. Hadrat Ali(R.A.) sent another mission led by 'Adi bin Hatim Tai to Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.). But this time Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) took it as a threat and refused to recognise Hadrat Ali (R.A.) as the Khalifah unless he avenged Hadrat Uthman's assassination. In this way the last attempt proved to be fruitless.
On the evening of the last day of Muharram, 37 A.H. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) gave orders to his army to attack the Syrian forces because they had been given enough time to think. The war started the following morning. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) gave strict orders that no person should be killed if he left the field or ran away. Women and old people would be secure. Hadrat Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) also gave the same order to his army.
The war started on Tuesday 1st Safari, 37 A.H. On the first day a battalion of Hadrat Ali’s army, led by Ushtar fought with the Syrians led by Habib bin Muslimah. On the second day another battalion led by Hashim bin 'Utbah from Hadrat Ali’s side fought with the Syrians led by Abul A'war Salama. On the third day the battalion from Hadrat Ali side was led by Hadrat Ammar bin Yasir and the Syrians were led by 'Amr Bin As (R.A.). During the battle Hadrat Ammar bin Yasir (R.A.) was martyred but no result came out. The martyrdom of Hadrat 'Ammar bin Yasir, however, proved that Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was right because of the following Hadith mentioned in Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi and other authentic books of Hadith: According to this Hadith the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi we Salaam) said, "'Ammar bin Yasir would be killed by a group of rebels." Since Hadrat 'Ammar (R.A.) was fighting in favour of Hadrat Ali, and was killed by the army of Hadrat Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.), Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was in the right and his opponents were the rebels.
For seven days the battle continued in this way. A new battalion used to fight from each side under a new commander. On the 8th day the whole army of Hadrat Ali (R.A.) clashed with that of Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.). A fierce battle was fought but with no end in sight. According to most of the historians, Hadrat 'Ammar bin Yasir was martyred on that day. However no result came out till the evening. The death of Hadrat 'Ammar bin Yasir was a shock to Hadrat Ali (R.A.). The battle went on the whole night. At one time Hadrat Ali reached the tent of Hadrat Mu'awiyah and challenged him to fight personally with him instead of shedding Muslim blood, the winner would be the Khalifah. But Hadrat Mu'awiyah (R.A.)did not accept the challenge because Hadrat Ali was a noted warrior of Arabia.
On the second day of the battle Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) was about to lose the battle. But, Amir Mu'awiyah was a shrewd person and had been the governor of Syria from Hadrat Umar's time. He had with him Hadrat Amr bin 'As (R.A.), the conqueror of Egypt and a recognised statesman of Arabia. Seeing the impending defeat he consulted Hadrat 'Amr bin 'As (R.A.) who advised Amir Mu'awiyah to give orders to the troops of the front ranks to fasten the Holy Qur'an to their lances as a sign that war would cease and that the decision would be referred to the Holy Book.
Seeing copies of the Holy Qur'an on lances, Hadrat Ali (R.A.) recognised it as a clever move of the enemy but a good many men of his army did not share his view and stopped fighting. Being helpless he ordered his troops to stop fighting.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) sent his envoy to Hadrat Mu'awiyah (R.A.) to find out what he meant by making the Holy Qur'an a judge. Hadrat Amir Mu'awiyah told him that he wanted an arbitration through judges, one from his side and the other from Hadrat Ali’s side, and that both the parties should abide by the decision of the judge. Had rat Ali accepted it. He tried to make Hadrat Abdullah bin Abbas as the arbitrator from his side, but some of his followers objected to it on the ground that he was related to Hadrat Ali. They proposed the name of Hadrat Musa Ash'ari (R.A.). Hadrat Ali accepted their proposal and he was appointed as the arbitrator of Ali’s (R.A.) side. Hadrat Mu'awiyah appointed 'Amr bin 'As (R.A.) as the arbitrator from his side, and none of his followers questioned his choice although he was related to Amir Mu'awiyah. This shows that the followers of Hadrat Mu'awiyah were more united than the followers of Hadrat Ali. There were many Sabaites in Hadrat Ali’s camp and they were the real cause of such differences. Whenever they saw the Muslims uniting they tried to create confusion with the aim of disuniting them.
In case the two arbitrators could not come to an agreement, the decision was to lie with eight hundred men (four hundred from Hadrat Ali’s camp and four hundred from Hadrat Mu'awiyah camp) and it would be settled by the majority. A place named Dumat-ul-Jandal, in between Syria and Iraq, was proposed for the talks. Both the judges with 800 would go there to finalise their award by the month of Ramadan, and to make it public. A temporary agreement was signed on 13th Safari, 37 A.H. between Hadrat Ali and Hadrat Mu'awiyah. The two armies then left for their homes leaving about 90,000 men dead in the field of Siffin, which number exceeded the total Muslim casualties in all the Islamic battles against the non-Muslims by the time.
"Khawarij" or Dissenters
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) who was almost winning the battle against Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) marched back from Siffin with a sense of loss. There was a tremendous loss of Muslim lives in Siffin. Never before in the history of Islam had the loss of Muslim blood been so heavy. Hadrat Ali after all wanted a peaceful solution, although the price was heavy.
When Hadrat Ali announced the agreement before his troops, formed of various tribes. Two brothers of the Tribe of 'Anza stood up and opposed appointment of Arbitrator ("Hakam" or Judge) between the two parties for Allah's commandments were with them in the form of the Holy Qur'an which is the best "Hakam". Other people also followed this example and a good many people were against the arbitration. According to them the Arbitration was against the spirit of Islam. Some of these men requested Hadrat Ali to throw away the agreement but he said, "I did not want any agreement at that stage but you forced me to do so. When 1 gave my word of honour, you are forcing me to give them up. I would never do it." The followers of Hadrat Ali split into two groups. One group stood by the agreement while for the other the arbitration was un-lslamic.
The second group, which was opposing arbitration, was known as Kharijites ("Khawarij" in Arabic). By the time Hadrat Ali returned to Kufa, their number reached 12,000. They did not stay with other Muslims in Kufa; instead, they encamped at Harorah and appointed Sheith bin Rabi'i as their commander-in-chief, and 'Abdullah bin Kawa as their Imam to lead Salats. They announced their policy which was as follows:
"The Bai'at (Pledge of Loyalty) is only for Allah, and He alone is to be obeyed. To spread good and forbid evil according to the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah is our foremost duty. There exists neither a Khalifah nor an Amir. Both Ali and Mu'awiyah are in error. Mu'awiyah in error because he did not accept Ali while Ali is in error because he agreed on arbitration. After gaining power, we will set up a social order based on Allah's Book (i.e. the Holy Qur'an)."
Ali (R.A.) sends his emissary to "Khawarij"
After returning to Kufa Hadrat Ali sent 'Abdullah bin 'Abbas to remove the misunderstanding of the Khawarll (Dissenters). Instead of returning to the right belief, they started a lengthy argument with him. Seeing this Hadrat Ali himself went to them. He gave them all the assurances that the arbitration would only be accepted if it was based upon the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah. He was successful in his efforts after a great difficulty, and the "Khawarij joined him again temporarily.
Verdict of the Arbitrators
The two arbitrators thought over the matter for six months then met at the frontier town of Dumat-ul-Jandal in Sha'ban, 37 A.H. (Jan. 658). Each of them was having four hundred men with him. The commander of men from Hadrat Ali’s side was Shuraih bin Hani, and the Imam Hadrat 'Abdullah bin 'Abbas. The four hundred men from Mu'awiyah's camp were under Surjil bin Samah. Besides these some neutral Companions like 'Abdullah bin Umar, 'Abdullah bin Zubair, and Sa'd bin Waqqas were also present there.
Hadrat 'Amr bin 'As, the judge appointed by Hadrat Mu'awiyah, was a famous statesman and diplomat of Arabia. On the other hand Abu Musa Ash'ari, the judge from Hadrat Ali’s side, was a simple Muslim, unacquainted with diplomatic tactics. In the beginning a discussion between the two judges took place. A scribe was ordered to write down the points of agreement during the discussion. They reached on the following agreement after a long discussion:--
"All and Mu'awiyah both withdraw their right for the Khilafat. The Muslims should appoint a third person as their Khalifah."
According to some historians the discussion was not recorded and the agreement was reached verbally. However they could not reach an agreement on the choice of the most suitable person to be approved as the Khalifah in place of Hadrat Ali or Hadrat Mu'awiyah.
After the agreement Hadrat Amr bin 'As asked Hadrat Abu Musa Ash'ari to make it public by announcing it in the mosque before the Muslims. Hadrat Abu Musa (R.A.) announced: "We have agreed that neither Ali nor Mu'awiyah would be considered as the Khalifah. You may elect any other man you think fit." After this Hadrat Amr bin 'As (R.A.) stood up and said, "I do not consider Ali fit for the Khilafat, but in my opinion Mu'awiyah is fit for it." The statement of Hadrat Amr not only showed the split of opinion between the Arbitrators but also meant one sided decision according to which Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was supposed to lose his power but not Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.).
Hearing the statement of Amr ibn As (R.A.) there was a big uproar. The result of the arbitration was a mere confusion. In this way the arbitration proved to be a futile and the hopes of peace were gone. Both the parties left the place in great disgust. The acceptance of such arbitration, really proved to be disastrous to Ali. Hadrat Ali lost the case before it opened.
When Ali (R.A.)heard the result of the arbitration he said, "The judgement is not based upon the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah which was the condition for arbitration. Therefore it cannot be accepted." He then delivered a lecture in the Jami' Masjid of Kufa and asked the Muslims to prepare to attack Syria.
Split in Muslim Community
As soon as the "Khawarii " knew the result of arbitration they again separated and this time rose in an open revolt. A new group was thus created in the history of Islam which proved to be more dangerous than any other group existing before then.
As it has been discussed in connection with the assassination of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.), the Muslim community was divided into four main groups viz, Uthmanis, Shi’an-i Ali, Marhabah and Ahl al-Sunnah wal Jama'ah. Marhabis were absorbed in other groups. The remaining three groups were still existing. Now the fourth group of Kharijites ("Khawarij was formed. Before proceeding further let us see the main beliefs of these groups:
(i) Uthmanis: They were now confined to Syria under the banner of Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.). They demanded that until the assassins of Hadrat Uthman were punished or handed over to them, they would not accept the Khilafat of Hadrat Ali. But after the so called judgement of the arbitrators, they totally rejected the Khilafat of Hadrat Ali and took Bai'at (Pledge of Loyalty) at the hand of Amir Mu'awiyah after declaring him as the Khalifah. It would be discussed in more detail later on.
(ii) Shi'an-i Ali (or Shia's): They called themselves as the friends of Ali (R.A.) in the beginning but later on they developed their own beliefs and considered Hadrat Ali as "Wasi" i.e. Administrator of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam), and the only fit person for the Khilafat. They not only criticised and condemned Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) but also Umar, Abu Bakr, and Uthman (R.A.) and discarded the authority of the first three Khalifahs. However they did not criticise the first two Khalifahs openly during the time of Hadrat Ali (R.A.). As years passed this group became an exponent of a separate school of thought in Islamic Law and Jurisprudence and they wrote their own books of Hadith, History of Islam and Commentaries of the Holy Qur'an based upon their beliefs. They disagreed with most of the works produced by Sunni Scholars.
(iii) Ahl-i-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah: The majority of the Companions, and Muslims at the time were not only in favour of Hadrat Ali but all the preceding Khalifahs i.e. Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman (R.A.). They believed that the "Right Path" was to follow the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet .(Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam) and the traditions of his pious Jama'ah (i.e. all the Companions), especially the first four Khalifahs who set examples to solve various problems according to the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah. This group was in great majority not only at that time but in all the periods of Islamic History.
They fully supported Hadrat Ali (R.A.) during his Khilafat. According to them Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) was not right in not accepting Hadrat Ali authority. But they considered that mistake based upon "ljtihad". After all, he was a pious Companion and the sincerity of a Companion must not be questioned. Hadrat Shah Waliullah, in his famous book, Izalar-ul-Khafa writes: Amir Mu'awiyah(R.A.) was an excellent Companion of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam).Do not criticise or condemn him otherwise you would be committing a "Haram"(unlawful) act because in a Hadith the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam) said: Do not criticise and condemn my Companions. I swear by Allah, Who holds my life, gold equal to mountain Uhud, spent by you for the sake of Allah, cannot be equal even to the handful of grains spent by a Companion. (Abu Da'ud). According to a number of Ahadith, it is forbidden for a Muslim to criticise a Companion. In a number of Ahadith the virtues of Hadrat Mu'awiyah (R.A.) have been mentioned. Once the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi we Salaam) prayed for Amir Mu'awiyah as follows: "0 Allah, make him a Muslim who would be on Your Guidance and such a Muslim who may guide others." Ibn Sa'd says that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam) prayed for Amir Mu'awiyah as follows: "0 Allah, give him the knowledge of the Book (i.e., the Holy Qur'an)and make him ruler(king) of the countries, and save him from the punishment (of the Hereafter)." Moreover Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) was one of the scribes of the Revelation (i.e., the Holy Qur'an) during the time of the Holy Prophet. It is necessary, therefore, that we must not question his sincerity. Due to political conditions at that time, he was strict in his demand of chastisement of the assassins of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.). Most of the historians agree on this point that he did not declare himself a Khalifah during the life of Hadrat Ali although people took Bai'at on his hand.
(iv) The "Khawarij': The Khawarij were more political group than theological. They accepted the authority of Hadrat Abu Bakr and Umar (R.A.) but denounced Hadrat Uthman, Ali, and Mu'awiyah (Rid. A.). They said that the "Hakam" (Arbitrator or Judge for the dispute between Hadrat Ali and Mu'awiyah) was against the principles of Islam. Only Allah had to be obeyed through the Holy Qur'an and not the Hakam. They also formulated a number of other beliefs as well. In the later period of Islamic history this group became almost extinct.
The Kharijite Trouble
The "Khawarij " set up their centre at Nahrwan and began to preach their cult. Many people gathered around them and they gained sufficient strength. They were very harsh to those who differed from them and regarded such Muslims as rebels against Islam and murdered them. Loyalty to the Khalifah was a great crime in their eyes and they called it "the cult of personality".
The Khariljites seemed to be very pious as far as their appearance was concerned. They used to offer long Salats, wore simple dress and were honest in their dealings. But they were misguided in beliefs and killed all those who said that they were the followers of the Khalifah.
After the failure of arbitration Hadrat Ali (R.A.) wanted to march to Syria but the Kharijite movement diverted his attention. It was a great danger not only to the Muslim unity but to the Islamic beliefs and practices as a whole. It was an urgent need to wipe out such a movement in its early stage. Therefore he set out for Nahrwan, the centre of "Khawarij" instead of Syria.
Reaching there Hadrat Ali tried to negotiate with them peacefully. He sent some prominent Companions to persuade Khariii leaders but they did not listen to them. Then Hadrat Ali asked them to hand over such people who have murdered innocent Muslims. He told them that he would leave the rest if they handed over the murderers. To this he replied to the Khalifah, "All of us are murderers and we want to murder all of your followers. We would never stop from this."
The stage reached when there was no other way than to fight with them. Before declaring war against them Hadrat Ali declared that those who would be loyal to him or those who left Nahrwan and did not fight would be given amnesty. On his appeal 3000 Kharijites repented and again took Bai'at at his hands. The rest did not move from their position.
The battle began. A fierce fight took place. Kharijites fought desperately but were defeated. Most of their leaders were slain. After the battle Hadrat Ali searched the slain body of the man about whom the Holy Prophet had prophesied, and had given some of the signs which were, really the forecast of Khariiite trouble. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) found the body with all the signs told by the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam) and remarked, The Holy Prophet was very true in his prophecy."
Unwillingness to march to Syria
After the battle at Nahrwan Hadrat Ali (R.A.) wanted to march on to Syria but his men were in no mood for that. They asked for some rest when he was encamping at Nakhila, some miles away from the Capital. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) allowed them to take some rest over there but they started to slip away to their homes, and only a few of them were left with him. Seeing the situation Hadrat Ali was also forced to return to Kufa.
After some time Hadrat Ali again asked the Kufis to march on to Syria. He gave a stirring address in the Jami' Masjid of the Capital but the leaders of Kufa did not show any inclination. Despite many efforts Hadrat Ali was not successful in raising another army against the Syrians.
Loss of Egypt
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) appointed Qais bin Sa'd (R.A.) as the governor of Egypt. He took pledge of loyalty from the Egyptians for Hadrat Ali (R.A.). The inhabitants of the town of Khartaba were not loyal to Hadrat Ali. He left them alone on the condition of a peaceful conduct. Some friends of Hadrat Ali, who were having an eye on the governorship of Egypt, started to doubt loyalty of Qais to Hadrat. They told Hadrat Ali that Qais was more sympathetic to Hadrat Mu'awiyah and must be sacked.
When Hadrat Mu'awiyah noticed that the position of Qais was doubtful in the eyes of Hadrat Ali, he declared him as his man. Hearing this Hadrat Ali (R.A.) dismissed him and appointed Muhammad bin Abi Bakr as the governor of Egypt. Muhammad bin Abu Bakr was a young man and was not able to control the Egyptians in a tactful way. He forced the people of Khartaba to pledge loyalty for Hadrat Ali and remained busy with them for a long time. In the meantime the battle of Siffin took place but he was so busy with the internal affairs of Egypt that he could not send any army to help Hadrat Ali (R.A.).
After the battle of Siffin Hadrat Ali appointed Malik bin Ushtar as the governor of Egypt. Ibn Ushtar was a strong man, but he could not join his duty and passed away in the way. Muhammad bin Abi Bakr, therefore, continued as the governor of Egypt.
After the award of the arbitration, the Syrians declared Hadrat Mu'awiyah as their Khalifah and took Bai'at on his hands. According to a number of historians, Amir Mu'awiyah did not declare himself as the Khalifah during the life of Hadrat Ali (R.A.). However he tried to extend his control over the Islamic state after the award. The first step was to send his army under the command of Hadrat 'Amr ibn 'As to attack Egypt. Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, the governor of Egypt wrote to Hadrat Ali for help. But before he got any help 'Amr ibn 'As (R.A.) reached Egypt with six thousand men. Ten thousand inhabitants of Khartaba also joined his army. They easily beat back two thousand men of Muhammad bin Abi Bakr. He himself took shelter in a house but was caught and slain. In 38 A.H. Hadrat Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.) became the master of Egypt. He appointed Hadrat Amir ibn 'As as the governor.
Unrest in Basrah and Iran
Hadrat 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas (R.A.) was the governor of Basrah controlling the whole of Persia and other parts of the Islamic State in the East. Basrites were pro-Ali but there were Uthmani (pro-Mu'awiyah) elements as well over there. In 38 A.H. Hadrat Abdullah ibn Abbas went to Kufa to pay a visit to the Khalifah. Abdullah ibn Hadrami, and Uthmani (pro-Mu’awiyah) was in Basrah in those days. In the absence of Ibn Abbas he saw his chance and incited the people to avenge the assassination of Hadrat Uthman. He got support and was able to raise an army which invaded Basrah. The governor's deputy, Ziyad ibn Abi Sufyan, could not face him and fled. Hearing the rising Hadrat Ali sent Jariah ibn Qudamah who belonged to Bani Tamim tribe. He went to Basrah with fifty people and negotiated with Basrites, most of whom were from Bani Tamim tribe. He was successful in his mission and the rebellion was put down. Ibn Hadrami and seventy of his followers shut themselves in a house which was burnt by pro-Ali Basrites.
When the people of Eastern Persia and Kirman heard the burning of Ibn Hadrami they refused to pay Kharaj Revenue in protest. However their rising was put down by police action.
After consulting with 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas (R.A.), Hadrat Ali appointed Ziyad ibn Abi Sufyan as the governor of Basrah to control Persia and other Eastern parts of the State.
Pro-Mu’awiyah parties invade various parts
After the award, Uthmanis tried to create general unrest in the country. During the year 39 A.H. strong parties were set out from Syria. Hadrat Ali (R.A.) tried to stir his friends in Kufa but they would never come out at Ali’s call. Neither they were prepared to fight the Syrians again nor they tried seriously to check the invading parties of Uthmanis.
One of such parties went to 'Ain al-tamr under the command of Nu'man ibn Bashir but he was defeated by Ali’s governor, Malik ibn Ka'b. Another party of six thousand men under Sufyan ibn 'Auf went to Ambar and Mada'in (Midian). They killed the officer in charge of Ambar. Hadrat Ali sent Sa'id ibn Auf with an army but they ran away. Another party of three thousand men under Dahak ibn Qais came as fairest as the neighbourhood of Basrah. Hadrat Ali sent four thousand men under Hajar ibn 'Adi. A fight took Place in which 19 Syrians (Uthmanis) were killed. Rest of them ran away in the darkness of the night.
In the same year (i.e., 39 A. H.) Had rat 'A ii sent his deputy ibn 'Abbas, to lead Hajj. Amir Mu’awiyah also sent his deputy, Yazid ibn Sanjar to lead the Hajj. A tussle between the two men took place. At the end it was settled that a third person, Shaibah ibn Uthman ibn Abi Talha, would lead the Hajj. In this way Hadrat Ali lost this symbol of Khilafat as well.
Hadrat Ali’s hold weakened day by day. His most effective and eloquent speeches could not arouse his friends to action. Each day that passed witnessed the Khalifah growing more and more helpless.
A number of other incidents between pro-Mu'awiyans and pro-Alis also took place in the same year the details of which are ignored here.
Loss of Hijaz and Yemen
Hijaz and Yemen were still under the control of Hadrat Ali (R.A.). In the year 40 A. H., Amir Mu'awiyah sent Busr ibn Abi Artat with three thousand men to Hijaz. First of all he went to Medina. The governor of Medina, Abu Ayyub was not able to check the Syrians and he left for Kufa. Busr took pledge of loyalty from the Medinites forcibly for Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.), and exclaimed, "Had Mu'awiyah not forbidden me, I would not have left a single adult in Medina alive."
After taking over Medina, Busr reached Mecca and occupied it unopposed. There too he took the pledge of loyalty from the Meccans for Amir Mu’awiyah forcibly.
From Mecca Busr went to Yemen. At that time Hadrat 'Ubaidullah ibn 'Abbas was the governor of Yemen. Hearing of the Syrian army he fled to Kufa. Busr occupied San'a, the capital of Yemen and killed two little sons of Ubaidullah. He also slew a number of Ali’s supporters in Yemen.
Hearing the cruelty of Busr Hadrat Ali sent Jariah ibn Qudamah with two thousand men. But before he reached Yemen, Busr fled to Syria. He also sent Wahb ibn Mas'ud with another two thousand men to Hijaz. Jariah ibn Qudamah, after establishing Ali’s rule in Yemen, was advancing to Mecca. As soon as he reached the Holy city, he received the news of Hadrat Ali’s assassination which ended his campaign.
According to Ibn Jarir at the end of the year 40 A.H. a treaty was signed between Amir Mu'awiyah and Hadrat Ali, on the request of Amir Mu'awiyah to avoid blood shed among the Muslims. Under that treaty Syria and Egypt remained under the control of Amir Mu'awiyah and the rest of the state under the control of Hadrat Ali. Thus the conflict between the two parties ended. This civil war which ended to the detriment of Hadrat Ali was the end of Islamic democratic rule.
But according to some other historians, no treaty took place between Hadrat Ali and Mu'awiyah. While Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was preparing to attack Syria, (for which he had issued an ordinance compelling each and everyone under him to march to Syria) he was assassinated.
The civil war did not allow Hadrat Ali (R.A.) to launch Jihad (Holy War) and the Islamic Empire saw no further extension. However some parts of Sistan (near Kabul) were conquered during this period. According to some histories Muslims made a naval attack on Kohan (near Bombay, India) in the year 38 A.H
Assassination of Hadrat Ali (R.A.)
After the battle of Nahrwan the "Khwarij" had gone underground. As a matter of fact they were as much against .Hadrat Ali (R.A.)as they were against Hadrat Mu'awiyah (R.A.). They were still working against the Khilafat and they were greatly disgusted with the civil war that seemed endless.
To end this state of affairs, they worked out a dangerous plot. According to them Muslims were divided because of differences between Hadrat Ali and Amir Mu'awiyah. They also disliked 'Amr ibn 'As and considered him as chief planner for Amir Mu'awiyah. They decided, therefore, to assassinate all the three of them. It was planned that the three personalities would be struck at the same time on the same day.
Three persons, appointed to assassinate Ali, Mu'awiyah, and 'Amr ibn 'As (R.A.) were Abdur Rehman Muljam, Bark ibn 'Abdullah, and 'Amr ibn Bark respectively. Early hours of the 17th of Ramadan, 40 A.H., was fixed for the assassination.
After the Fajr Salat of the 17th Ramadan in :he year 40 A.H. (661 A.D.) the three appointed Kharljis struck the three men. Amir Mu'awiyah escaped with a scratch, Hadrat Amr ibn 'As did not turn out for the Imamat because he was sick that day, thus was unhurt, but Hadrat Ali (R.A.) was mortally wounded with the poisoned sword of Ibn Muljam. He passed away in the evening of Ramadan 20, 40 A.H.
Ibn Muljam was caught by the people after he had struck Hadrat Ali. Hadrat Ali asked the Muslims to slay him if he died. At the same time of his death Hadrat Ali called his sons and advised them to serve Islam and to be good with the Muslims. When somebody asked him should the Muslims take pledge of loyalty at the hands of his elder son, Hadrat Hassan, he replied, "I leave this decision to the Muslims." He also advised people not to kill any person other than the assassin to avenge him.
He was sixty three years old at the time of his death and had ruled for four years and nine months as the Khalifah.
According to a number of historians his real grave is not known because his son Hadrat Hasan took out his body from the grave after he was buried because of the fear of Kharijis and buried him at an unknown place.
Period of his Khilafat
The period of Hadrat Ali’s Khilafat extending to four years and about nine months, was marked by civil war. His rule was characterised by a series of revolts for the first time in the history of Islam. He was elected as the Khalifah in the most critical period of Islamic history. The martyrdom of Hadrat .Uthman was an extraordinary event about which the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam) had already prophesied. Hadrat Ali was in a very difficult situation. On the one hand the assassins and the insurgents were creating endless trouble for him, and on the other hand Banu Umayyah (Uthman's family) fled to Syria and incited Amir Mu'awiyah to stick to his demand for avenging HADRAT Uthman’s assassins. Hadrat Ali faced these problems and difficulties with extraordinary courage and presented before us an exemplary character. He never had full support even from his friends in Kufa but still remained firm in his position.
As it has been described before, he could never locate the real assassins of Hadrat Uthman and this could not be achieved until peace was established. Therefore his first task was to create an atmosphere of peace in the state. But the Sabaites (insurgents) never wanted peace. They worked on both sides. On the one side they made it difficult for Hadrat Ali to find out the assassins, and on the other hand they sent their agents to Syria to incite the people (especially Umayyads) against Hadrat Ali. Their main aim was to let the Muslims fight among themselves so that they might prosper. Although Hadrat Ali knew all this but he was unable to take any firm action because of the civil war.
The third problem faced by Hadrat Ali (R.A.)was the Kharijite movement. They were extremists and misled a number of innocent Muslims. They did not hesitate to use sword against persons who do not agree with them. They developed many beliefs foreign to Islam, although they appeared to be very pious but very politically, they were corrupt. Hadrat Ali dealt with them with an iron hand. He realised that if they were not wiped out in the beginning they would mislead future generations. He was successful in destroying their strong hold. However some of them, who escaped, went underground but they were never in a strong position.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) tried his utmost to unite the Muslims and bring them back on one platform but he was not successful. The tragic death of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) signal for blood shed among the Muslims. The Companions were not to be blamed for it at all. This was caused by anti-Islamic elements in the form of Sabaites, ('Abdullah ibn Saba and his followers). Historical facts bear it out that Abdullah ibn Saba became the greatest enemy of Islam. It was he who shattered the unity of Muslims forever. After completing their mission the Sabaites made a pretence of being Ali’s friends but they never helped him nor the cause of Muslim Unity. No sooner had Hadrat Ali assumed Khilafat than a group of the same miscreant Sabaites who had brought about the cold-blooded assassination of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) began to demand due retribution for the murder of the Khalifah and started to incite Muslims only to create division among them. Thus they played a double role. A group of them showed themselves as friends of Ali and another group (much smaller than the first) went to Syria and other parts of Islamic State to incite the Muslims against Hadrat Ali (R.A.).
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) faced all these problems with courage and never lost heart. He was a man of strong will power and determination and was quite right in his decisions.
Tasawwuf (Mysticism or Spiritual Science) and Hadrat Ali
The genealogical chain of "Sufis" (Islamic Mystics) ends at Hadrat Ali (R.A.) and through him it is linked to the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi was Salaam) in most of the orders. Thus Hadrat Ali (R.A.) has been considered as the great Imam of Tasawwuf (Spiritual Science or Mysticism).
As it has been mentioned in the Urdu book of the author, "Tasalsulat-i-Imdadiah", Hadrat Shah Wali-'ullah of Delhi holds the view that the genealogical chain of the great "Sufis " is linked to the Holy Prophet through all the first four Caliphs among whom Hadrat Ali (R.A.) stands like a gateway between the "Sufis" on the one hand and the first three caliphs and the Holy Prophet on the other hand. Spiritual secrets were transferred by the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam) to Hadrat Abu Bakr. From Abu Bakr (R.A.) the secrets were transferred to Hadrat Umar; and from Umar (R.A.) to Hadrat Uthman; and from Uthman (R.A.) to Hadrat Ali and from Hadrat Ali to "Sufis" through Imam Hasan Basri (R.A.) as it is believed in most of the Schools of Thoughts of Tasawwuf.
Historically there are not enough proofs that Hadrat Hasan Basri had only tutelage under Hadrat Ali. However it has been confirmed that Hasan Basri met Hadrat Ali at the age of 15. In the science of Tasawwuf training under the Shaikh ("Murshid" or "Pir" or Spiritual Guide) is not necessary and spiritual secrets can be transferred even in a single meeting from the "Shaikh to the "Murid"(the spiritual disciple). Therefore the great "Sufis" do not doubt the fact that Hadrat Ali (R.A.) transferred spiritual secrets to Hasan Basri (R.A.), from whom they were passed on to the succeeding generations.
Therefore Hadrat Ali (R.A.) and Imam Hasan Basri are the most important links in the genealogical orders ("SHAJRAHS") of most of the Schools of Thought of Tasawwuf.
Wives and Children
(a) Hadrat Ali’s first wife was the most beloved daughter of the Holy Prophet, Hadrat Fatimah (R.A.). He got three sons (Hasan, Husain and Muhsin), and two daughters (Zainab and Umm-i-Kulthum) from her. The youngest son, Muhsin died in childhood.
After the death of Hadrat Fatimah he married a number of wives from time to time:
(b) Umm al-Banin bin Hizam from whom he got 'Abbas, Ja'far, 'Abdullah and Uthman. All of these except Abbas were martyred at Karbala.
(c) Saila bint Mas'ud who gave birth to 'Ubaidullah and Abu Bakr. They were martyred at Karbala. (d) Asma bint Umais who gave birth to Yahya and Muhammad Asghar.
(e) Sahba bint Rabi'a who gave birth to Umar and Ruqayyah.
(f) Amamah bint Abil 'As: She was daughter of Zainab (R.A.), daughter of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi we Salaam). Hadrat Ali got Muhammad Aswat from her.
(g) Khaulah bint Jalfar who gave birth to Muhammad ibn
(h) Umm-i-Sa'id who gave birth to Ummul Hasan and Ramlah Kubra.
(i) Mahyah bint Ummul Qais, she gave birth to a daughter who died in childhood.
He also had a number of slave girls from whom he bore the following daughters:
Umm-i-Hani, Maimunah, Zainab Sughra, Ramlah Sughra, Umm-i-Kulthum Sughra, Fatimah, Umamah, Khadijah, Umm-i-Salama, Umm-i-Ja'far, Jamanah and Nafisah, According to Ibn-i-Jarir, Hadrat Ali had 17 daughters and 14 sons. His family continued through five sons: Imam Hasan, Imam Husain, Muhammad ibn Ali, Umar bin Ali, and 'Abbas ibn Ali.
Hadrat Ali (R.A.) followed the administrative pattern set by Hadrat Umar (R.A.) and did not make any noticeable changes. He tried to improve the administration of those places where it was not proper during the time of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.). He usually gave useful advice to his governors at the time of their appointment. When he appointed Hadrat Ka'b ibn Malik for supervision of various officers in various provinces he gave him the following instructions: "Check officers of each and every district of Iraq thoroughly so that they may not act wrongly".