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The Hijri Era

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

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

Counsels of Ali in Judicial Matters

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

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

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

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

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

Claim to Property

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

Ali's observations on the death of Umar

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

Election of Othman as the Caliph

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

Activities of Ali during the caliphate of Othman

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

Abu Dhar Ghifari

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

The Revolt

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

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

Inquiry into Complaints

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

Assassination of Othman

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

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

No Candidate for Election

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

Election of Ali

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

The Dissidents

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

Address of Ali

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

Helplessness of Ali

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

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

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

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

Right to succeed

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

Will of the Holy Prophet

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

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

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

Will of Allah

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

Islamic Concept of office

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

Relationship of Ali with his predecessors

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

Nature of the issue

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

Cry for vengeance for the blood of Othman

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

Nature of the crime of the assassination of Othman

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

Purpose of the cry for vengeance

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

Alterior motive

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

Proposal to depose the provincial governors

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

Mughira b Shuaba

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

Abdullah b Abbas

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

Orders for the deposition of Governors

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

Defection of Syria and Kufa

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

Challenge for Ali

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

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

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

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

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

Proclamation of Jihad

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

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

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

Talha and Zubair

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

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

Talha and Zubair's oath of allegiance to Ali

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

Defection of Talha and Zubair

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

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

Ali's letter to Talha and Zubair

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

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

Ali's address about the defection of Talha and Zubair

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


Ayesha and Ali

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

Ayesha in Makkah

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

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

The call to war

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

The plan of war

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

The Proclamation

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

The Army

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

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

Ayesha's address to the troops

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

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

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

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

The Day of tears

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

Desertions from the army of the confederates

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

Ayesha at Hau'ab

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


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

Delegation from Basra

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

Othman b Hanif prepares for war.

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

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

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

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

The Battle

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

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

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

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

The Truce

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

Emissary to Madina

In pursuance of the truce agreement between Othman b Hanif and the confederates, Kaab b Sur the

Qazi of Basra was commissioned to go to Madina to ascertain whether Talha and Zubair had taken the

oath of allegiance to Ali voluntarily, or under some compulsion. Kaab b Sur was originally a Christian. He

was attracted by Islam, and became a Muslim. He was a man of great learning and piety and was very

popular among the people of Basra. On arrival at the mosque, Madina he proceeded to the Prophet's

mosque and addressing the congregation said that he had come from Basra to ascertain whether Talha

and Zubair had taken the oath of allegiance to Ali voluntarily or under compulsion. The men in the

mosque maintained silence, but Usama b Zaid stood up to say that Talha and Zubair had taken the oath

of allegiance under compulsion. At this Sahl b Hanif, the brother of Othman b Hanif the Governor of

Basra rushed with his men to beat Usama. Usama's father Zaid was an adopted son of the Holy Prophet

and the Holy Prophet loved Usama as a grandson. During the time of Abu Bakr, Usama had led a

campaign to Syria. Some Companions came to the rescue of Usama. And they too declared that Talha

and Zubair had taken the oath of allegiance under compulsion. Kaab b Sur came to the conclusion that

Talha and Zubair had in fact taken the oath of allegiance under compulsion.

War in Basra

On return to Basra, Kaab submitted his report that Talha and Zubair had taken the oath of allegiance to

Ali under compulsion. According to the truce agreement, Othman b Hanif had to surrender the complete

control of the city of Basra to the confederates. By this time Othman b Hanif had received instructions

from Ali that he was coming to Basra with a large force and that he should hold the city till his arrival.

Othman b Hanif accordingly refused to vacate the city on the ground that the report of Kaab was not

correct. On the following Friday when the people of Basra had assembled in the main mosque, Talha

and Zubair addressed them apprising them of the terms of the truce, the report of Kaab b Sur, and the

breach of faith on the part of Othman b Hanif. The people assembled in the mosque came to be divided

into two groups. One group supported Othman b Hanif while the other group supported Talha and

Zubair. Hot words were exchanged between the two groups, and that led to an armed conflict. Swords

were freely used by both sides. The conflict lasted for several hours as a result of which many persons

were killed and the mosque was dyed with the blood of the Muslims. To the conflict, the party of Othman

b Hanif suffered heavy loss of life.

At night fall, the pro-Ayesha group attacked the house of Othman b Hanif. It was a dark and stormy

night. The guards on duty were overpowered. The mob then broke into the house and Othman b Hanif

was taken captive. The mob wanted to frill him, but under the orders of Ayesha he was imprisoned and

lodged in jail. His beard was plucked and he was tortured by the mob.

Hakim b Jabala

The following day, the pro-Ali group took the field under the command of Hakim b Jabala. Ayesha made a

proclamation to the effect that her quarrel was with the murderers of Othman only, and as such those

who were not involved in the murder of Othman should withdraw from fighting. It was also declared

that those who fought would be deemed to be involved in the murder of Othman. Kaab b Sur tried to

bring about peace between the two sides, but all efforts to bring about reconciliation between the

contending parties failed. The battle that followed proved to be a bloody one. The pro-Ali group was

outnumbered, but the men of the group fought desperately. Hakim b Jabala fought like a hero. He

raised slogans in favor of Ali, and heaped abuses on Ayesha, Talha, and Zubair. A warrior of the army of

the confederates struck Hakim b Jabala and severed one of his legs. In spite of this disability he

continued fighting and sang: "I do not mind if my leg has been severed. My hands are still there. It's no

matter of shame for me to die. Shame lies in flying from the battle-field. Life lies in keeping honor alive. I

have lived with honor and I will die with honor."

Hakim b Jabala died on the battle-field. With his death, his men lost heart and laid down arms. Many of

them involved in the murder of Othman had fallen in the battle. Those who survived were executed.

There were still some murderers of Othman who had not taken part in the battle. The tribes were asked

to hand over such men. They were brought to Basra and executed. In this way all the people from Basra

who were involved in the assassination of Othman were killed. Only one man escaped from such

massacre. He was Harqus b Zubair. He belonged to the Banu Saad tribe. The tribe refused to hand over

Harqus. The tribe which was heretofore pro-confederates changed their loyalties and offered allegiance

to Ali. The tribe of Abul Qais whose many persons had been executed alienated from the confederates

and transferred its loyalty to Ali. Over six hundred persons belonging to Basra or the neighboring tribes

wore executed or killed as the Qasas" for the blood of Othman.

Administration of Basra

The confederates now became the master of the entire city of Basra. The pro-Ali group evacuated the

city, and those who remained in the city recognized the authority of the confederates. Supreme

authority vested in Ayesha and Talha and Zubair acted as her Ministers. The Baitul-Mal was seized, and

the men of the pro-confederate group who had suffered loss of life or property were duly compensated.

Ayesha wrote a letter to Muawiyah in Syria informing him how the confederates had taken vengeance

for the blood of Othman. He was advised to undertake campaigns on similar lines to take vengeance for

the blood of Othman.

Ali's plan of action

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

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

Ali at Rabda

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

Banu Tai

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

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

Letters to Othman b Hanif, Governor of Basra

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

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

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

Need for reinforcements

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

Abu Musa Ashari

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

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

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

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

The mission of Ibn Abbas

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

Mission of Imam Hasan

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

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

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

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

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

source : http://witness-pioneer.org
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