The reign of Ali as Caliph

The reign of Ali as Caliph

The reign of Ali as Caliph

The reign of Ali as Caliph

The story of a man who set an example of bravery, piousness and discretion

Mohammad Shoib (Qasmi)


A brief history of Ali’s life

Before I put my pen to paper about the reign of Ali as caliph, it is of vital importance to shed light very briefly on his clan, early life, sacrifices for Islam in its early period and his cooperation extended to the three caliphs of Islam (Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman) before he assumed the responsibility of caliphate with a heavy heart.

Ali is the son of Abu Talib (the real name is Abd-e-Manaf) and Fatima the daughter of Asad. There are several authentic reports which assert that Ali was born within the enclosure of Kabah[i] ten years before our prophet Muhammad received first revelation (Besath)[ii].

Since Ali belongs to the tribe of Quraish, he inherited its characteristics and peculiarities such as hospitality, courage, bravery among many other distinguished qualities which had forced people of Arab to accept unanimously the nobility of Quraish as no tribe had ever made any effort to dispute its superiority. Banu Hashim, a clan of Quraish which Ali belongs to, is well known to hate the cruelty and oppression and showing kindness to the poor and weak of the society.

In short, the members of Banu Hashim enjoyed the excellent qualities admired by every just and fair person but in spite of their manners, morals and ethical values, they were adhering to the paganism like other tribes of Arabia.

Abu Talib, the father of Ali, had four sons: Talib, Aqeel, Jafar and Ali and had two daughters: Umm-e-Hani and Jumanah. It is well known that Prophet Muhammad (peace and mercy of Allah be upon him) was beloved to Abu Talib for he had been given to Abu Talib’s guardianship by his grandfather Abdul Muttalib on his dying day. Throughout his life, Abu Talib favored the Prophet, helped him and stood by him under every condition and in every circumstance. Fatima, the mother of Ali, also took care of Prophet Mohammad since he came under his husband’s sponsorship. Unlike Abu Talib, Fatima had embraced Islam and migrated to Madinah. Our prophet Muhammad regarded her more than mother and when she died in Madinah, he gave his own shirt to be used as shroud for her as a mark of respect. Not only this, he descended into her grave and laid himself down before she was buried[iii].

Among Ali’s brothers, Talib died in state of polytheism after the battle of Badr and Aqeel embraced Islam in the year the Holy Makkah was conquered while Jafar is one of the companions who are earliest converts to Islam and his sacrifices are immense in the service of Islam as he migrated to Abyssinia (the present-day Ethiopia) where its King “Negus” accepted islam at his hand and finally he laid down his life to please Allah the Almighty when he was martyred in the battle of “Muta” (May Allah be pleased with him).

Umm-e-Hani, the sister of Ali, was married to Hubairah (son of Amr Al-Makhzoomi) and accepted Islam and his second sister Jumanah also embraced Islam and was married to Abu Sufyan (son of Harith b. Abdul Muttalib).

Ali was married to Fatimah, the daughter of Prophet Mohammad (peace and mercy of Allah be upon him) and had two sons from her Hasan and Husain and two daughters Zainab Al-Kubra and Umm-e-Kulsoom Al-Kubra. Also, he had several sons and daughters from his other wives whom he had married after the death of Fatimah (May Allah be pleased with her).

Ali’s upbringing

Once there was sever famine in Makkah and it had become difficult for the large families to feed its members. Abu Talib also had a big family. Having a kind heart as well as great affection for his Uncle Abu Talib, Prophet Muhammad (peace and mercy of Allah be upon him) went to his uncle Abbas, the rich and prosperous man, and requested him to relieve the burden of Abu Talib at that difficult time. Agreeing the proposal, Abbas along with Prophet Muhammad approached Abu Talib and requested him to take responsibility of some of his children until condition improve therein. However, Abbas took Jafar in his sponsorship and Ali was destined to be brought up by Prophet Muhammad (peace and mercy of Allah be upon him)[iv]. Ali started to live with Prophet Muhammad and remained with him until he was honored with Prophethood. Ali was not only among the early converts to Islam but some reports assert that he occupied second position in embracing the Islam after Khadijah (May Allah be pleased with her).

Ali’s services to Islam before being Caliph:

Ali started to serve Islam from the very early period as he used to assist, guide and help each and every person who visited Makkah with the aim to get information about Islam or to search for the truth about the man called “Muhammad” who claimed to be a prophet from Allah.

Ali’s faith in Allah was stronger than a solid rock and higher than the highest mountain existed on the surface of the earth. The story of his lying on the bed of Prophet Muhammad (peace and mercy of Allah be upon him), when the satanic group of Quraish hatched conspiracy to kill him[v], is a vivid example of his faith. The list of such courageous stories in his life is long.

During the prophet’s time, Ali participated in every battle fought except for some and had been sent on several missions by the Prophet which he accomplished. Also, during the battle of Tabook, the prophet left Ali in Madinah to deputies for him in his absence. The hypocrites started to circulate a rumor that the Prophet left Ali in Madinah for he did not like to accompany him. This behavior of hypocrites worked as salt to the wound of Ali of not being accompanied by the Prophet. Therefore, he complained to the prophet, upon which he replied: “Are you not satisfied to be to me like Aaron for Moses except that there shall be no Prophet after me?” So, Ali returned back happily and Prophet went on his journey[vi]. This incident shows that Ali was held in deep affection and love by the Prophet.

Ali accompanied the Prophet when he left for Makkah for farewell pilgrimage and on the day of sacrifices, the prophet himself slaughtered 63 camels, equal to the number of years he lived, and asked Ali to slaughter the remaining 37 camels as he had brought 100 camels with him for sacrifice.

During Abu Bakr,s reign as caliph, Ali paid his services to Islam and Muslims as a sincere and truthful soldier of Islam being free from all types of tribal, clannish and political biases and remained an ardent supporter of Abu Bakr throughout his reign of Caliphate. His behavior continued to be the same during the caliphate of Umar as well as Usman as he always worked with the sole objective of getting the pleasure of Allah the Almighty and his differences with the opinions of others had nothing to do with political gains or getting superiority but they were for the sake of Ummah and Islam. (May Allah be pleased with all of them).

The Reign of Ali as Caliph

After Uthman, the third caliph, was martyred on Friday 18th Zul-Hijjah, 35 HC at the hand of rebels, insurgents and agitators who were mixtures of Egyptians, Iraqis and Bedouins from the Arabian Desert and who had no role or sacrifices for Islam as their sole intention was to divide the Muslim community as per a well-hatched plan, the oath of allegiance was taken for Ali as the next caliph because nobody in Madinah including the remaining companions of the Prophet Muhammad could think of anyone else who was able to put an end to the anarchy, restore peace and maintain law and order in the City of Prophet. Ali was never keen on being a caliph but he accepted the caliphate when he saw that nobody was coming forward to take up the reins of power as well as the companions of Prophet insisted him to take the charge of the Government.

Ali’s son Muhammad (known as Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah) says: “I was with Ali when Uthman was besieged; a person came and informed that Uthaman (the commander of faithful) had been killed. Ali stood up, so I held his hand in fear of his life. He said: “leave me” and reached the house of Uthamn, entered in and closed the door. People came, knocked the door and entered in forcefully and said to Ali: “Uthman has been killed and there must be a caliph for people and we don’t know anyone more deserving of the caliphate than you”. So, Ali told them: “it is better for me to be your vizier (counselor) than your emir (chief)”. They replied: “No, we don’t know anyone more deserving of the caliphate than you”. Ali said: “if you insist despite my refusal, then my allegiance must be in Mosque rather than in secrecy[vii]”.

Another report says: “Ali came to the mosque clad in a wrapping and a woolen turban. He had his shoes in his hand. Leaning on his bow, he ascended the pulpit and received the oath of fealty from the people. It was Saturday, 19th Dhu Al-Hijjah, 35 HC[viii].  (18th June, 656 GC).

All companions of Prophet Muhammad including early converts to Islam like Talha b. Obaidullah, Zubair b. Alawwam, Saad b. Abi Waqqas, Saeed b. Zaid, Ammar b. Yasir, Osama b. Zaid, Sahl b. Hunaif, Abu Ayyoub Al-Ansari, Mohammad bin Muslimah, Zaid bin Sabit, Khuzaimah bin Sabit pledged their allegiance to Ali.

Some reports say that Ali put some conditions regarding his oath such as his oath must be performed openly and not secretly, it should be in mosque and it should be made sure that Muslims are willing to take the oath of allegiance to him. That is why, his each and every word in his first sermon, delivered after his accession to Caliphate, asserts that he accepted the heavy burden of caliphate with a very heavy heart at that most difficult time in the history of Islam and it was not a piece of cake as some people think. In one of his addresses, Ali told the audience about all the efforts made in the way of appointing him as caliph and said: “I disliked being your caliph but you were persistent. Listen, I have no authority without you. Listen, the keys of your treasure are with me. Listen, I will not take a single Dirham without you”.

The above words of Ali reflect the principle of Shurah (consultation) and show that the oath of allegiance was not taken on the base of tribe, family, clan or commandment from Prophet Muhammad (May peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) but Ali was forced by companions of prophet to accept the Caliphate to save the Ummah as everybody was aware of the fact he had all abilities and competencies to be a caliph after Utham.

First Sermon of Ali

Ali delivered his first sermon in which he said:

“Allah has sent down His Book as the guide which elucidates the good and the evil. Allah has made many things inviolable; of these the highest is the life of Muslim. Allah has firmly integrated the rights of Muslims through tauhid (Oneness of God) and sincerity. He is (alone) a Muslim from whose hands and tongue all other Muslims are safe except that the religion and its law require any Muslim to be reproved and dealt with according to law. It is not permissible for any Muslim to put another Muslim to harm save that it becomes mandatory to do so. Make haste to discharge the obligations you owe to the commencers and the elites both. The people are in your front and the Doomsday behind you. It is approaching fast, keep yourself light so that you reach your destination.  The life of hereafter is awaiting you. Fear God in fulfilling your obligations to the creations of God and their habitation. You will be questioned even about the beasts and the land (on the Day of Judgment). I ask you again to obey Allah and keep away from His disobedience and sins. Adopt if you find anything virtuous; evade if you find an evil.

“And remember when you were few and reckoned feeble in the land, and were in fear lest men should extirpate you. How he gave you refuge and strengthened you with His help and made provisions of good things for you, that haply ye might be thankful[ix]”.  (Quran; Chapter: Al-Anfal. Verse: 26)

Saheikh Abul Hasan Ali Al-Nadwi commented on the above sermon of Ali in the best possible analysis as he wrote: “It was the most appropriate sermon delivered at the right place and right time. The commander of the faithful had invited attention towards what Muslims required to be reminded. The disastrous conditions they had brought upon themselves had been caused by losing the sense of the dignity of Muslims and inviolability of Muslim blood. The blood of Muslim had been rendered so cheat that Caliph “Uthman” had to become the victim of their insurgency. This calamity had befallen in Madina, near the grave of Prophet and his own mosque in the presence of Muslims. Therefore, it was incumbent for the successor of the departed Caliph to dwell upon on the inviolability of Muslim life and blood in his first address, urge the people to inculcate awe of God and remind them of the grave responsibility lying on all as the custodians of the dominion and authority bestowed by God on them and their obligation to all the creatures of God including the beasts and the land[x]

Pillars of Ali’s Government:

During the reign of Ali’s caliphate, the supreme authorities for the State of Ali were Quran, Sunnah and imitation of Abu Bakr and Umar in their methods. To run a state or country according to the laws of God, the first source is the Holy Quran as it contained all the laws related to the affairs of a person’s life. God said in the Quran: “Indeed, We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth so you may judge between the people by that which Allah has shown you. And do not be for the deceitful an advocate” (Chapter: Al-Nisa, Verse: 105)

The second source is the Sunnah (the method of Prophet Muhammad) as the Islamic constitution derives its principles from it. Ali said: “follow the way of your prophet as it is the best way and adopt his method as it is the best method”[xi].

The third source is to follow the footsteps of Abu Bakr and Umar as our Prophet Muhammad said: “After me, follow the footsteps of Abu Bark and Umar”. Once Ali praised Abu Bakr and Umar and among many things he said: “Only a true faithful can love them and only bad and licentious can hate them”, and “who can be like them?” Nobody can reach where they had reached (in faith and practice) without following their footsteps”, and “Listen, the one who loves me, should love them and the one who did not love them, he hated me and I have nothing to do with him[xii]”.

Rights of People to Monitor the Government:

Rights of people to ask the Government and criticize its policies with the aim to correct them are of vital importance for a country or community to flourish. That is why; the first thing which Ali had said after taking oath of Caliphate is: “Verily, it is your rule (people’s government) and nobody has any right to take it from you but the one you ordered and even I have no right without you (your consent)”

During his caliphate, Ali used to motivate the people to propagate virtues and forbid vices. One day, he delivered a speech, praised Allah the Almighty and then said: “People before you perished due to their sins as their Ulamas (religious scholars) did not prevent them from committing the sins, so they were also punished. Propagate virtues and forbid vices before the torment befall you the way it had befallen on them”.[xiii]

Justice, Equality and Freedom:

One of the principle objectives of Islam is establish a Community based on justice, equality and freedom without which no society can flourish and contribute to build the Nation. Therefore, the commander of the faithful Ali established equality and justice among people making every effort possible and utilizing all his excellent qualities and talents. Undoubtedly, the justice and equality for Ali was the mainstay to establish an Islamic community and Islamic system as there is no existence of Islam in a society where oppression and injustice are prevailing. The history recorded many events of justice of Ali which captured the hearts and dazzled the minds.

Among many incidents of justice and equality in the reign of Ali as caliph, the best example of justice witnessed by the court of renowned Qazi Shuraih narrated by the Qazi himself: “When Ali headed to fight with Muawiyah, he lost his shield. After the war ended, he returned back to Kufa. In the Market, he saw his shield in the hand of a Jew who was selling it. Ali said to him: “This is my shield; I did not sell it nor gifted it to anybody”. The Jew replied: “This is my shield and is in my possession”. However, they went to the court of Qazi Shuraih who asked Ali to produce witnesses to prove his claim. Ali presented his sons Hasan and Husain as well as his emancipated slave Qanbar for testimony. Qazi Shuraih said to Ali: “the testimony of a son in favor of his father or an emancipated salve in favor of his owner is not admissible, so produce another witness”. Ali was unable to do so and Qazi Shuraih dismissed his claim to the shield. This highest degree of justice has impressed the Jew who said: “The commander of faithful brought me to his judge and his judge pronounced against him. I bear witness that there is no god but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God. The shield is yours and it had fallen from you when you were heading to the “Siffeen” and I had taken it”. Ali gifted the shield to the Jew who later was martyred in fighting for Ali in the battle of “Al-Nahrawan”[xiv].

The freedom of people is one of the basic pillars on which the Government was established in the reigns of “Rightly Guided Caliphs” (Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali) as this principle ensured the freedom of people within the limits of Islamic Shariah. The freedom granted by Islam prevents its followers to force someone to accept Islam. Islam did not divide society into classes based on differences in family origin, rank and wealth but it has established justice and equality among people irrespective of their religion, cast, nationality and color and it cannot be done without the existence of “freedom”, transparency and fairness to all.

The principle of freedom manifested in its best shape during the reign of Ali in spite of calamities, conspiracies and wars which require from any ruler to limit the freedom of individuals and impose the “emergency” but Ali did not restrict the freedom of anybody whether he is from his rank or opponent’s and did not force anybody to remain with him and fight for him. Even, he did not stop anybody to leave him and join Muawiyah. Also, he did not restrict the freedom of companions of Abdullah Bin Masood, Obaidah Al-Salmani, Al-Rabi bin Khusaim when they refused to go with Ali and fight against Muawiyah instead he allowed them to go to some borders to fight against infidels as per their wishes. This demonstrates that how big heart Ali had in his chest and that his all differences with opponents were for the sake of Islam with the intention to get Allah’s pleasure.  The list is long and it is not the place to cover all the events of Ali’s life in regard to his principle of freedom. (May Allah be pleased with him and his family).

Market Reforms:

Ali used to roam in the markets as an ordinary person with a stick in his hand commanding people to fear Allah and selling and buying of their products with full honesty. He used to announce in the markets: “give full measure and weight” and “sell your products but don’t swear as it removes the barakah (blessing)”.

Appointment of New Governors and Their Monitoring:

Ali was well aware of the fact that people of some areas were not happy with their governors and this was exploited by the agitators. That is why, he thought to change the governors and appoint the new once to silent the opponents. Also, this was not a new trend that should be criticized but before him the first caliph Abu Bakr had removed the governors appointed by Prophet himself and Omar changed some governors of Abu Bakr as well as Uthman removed some governors appointed by Umar.

Also, Ali was closely monitoring the works of their governors by sending investigators to the far areas who would ask its residents about the works of governors there. These investigators were acting secretly and sending secret reports to Ali.

Battle of Jamal:

It is an undeniable fact that Ali’s accession to the Caliphate was at the most difficult time as the brutal murder of Uthman had shocked the Muslims. Every faithful looked worried and was in tremendous pain at the killing of their caliph. The voices started to rise from some quarters to revenge. The mutinous condition began to prevail which was the greatest danger for the stability of Madinah and its people. The third caliph had been murdered and the new caliph was not in a strong position enough to take the revenge of Uthman’s innocence blood. This is the only reason that when Talha, Zubair and many other companions of the Prophet approached Ali asking him to punish the culprits according to the Law, he replied that Uthman was not murdered by one or two but the murderers are large in number as well as they have supports of hundreds of people and it was very difficult to take revenge from all of them in a day or two. Ali viewed that all Muslims should support him and make him strong and once the Caliphate got stability, the law would take its course against the offenders.

However, when four months passed since Uthman’s murder and Ali could not take retribution from murderers because they got power and infiltrated in the army of Ali[xv], Talha and Zubair left for Makkah where they met Aisha (mother of faithful) in Rabi II, 36 AH and from there they went to Basra demanding the retribution for the murder of innocent Caliph Uthman. From the very beginning, their task and planning was as clear as day and that is to ask people to join them with the aim to tight the noose of murderers of Uthman. A big number of residents of Basra joined them.

When the news of their getting together in Basra reached Ali, he immediately departed to Iraq with around 900 persons deputizing Sahd Ibn Hunayf in Madina. On the way to Iraq, he halted at a place called “Zu Qar” near Kufa and from there he sent Ammar Ibn Yasir and Hassan Ibn Ali to Kufa to get reinforcements and they succeeded to collect around 7000 warriors from there. Moreover, an army of 2000 from the tribe Abd-ul-Qais in Basra joined the forces of Ali in addition to hundred of persons from other tribes. Now, Ali advanced to Basra with an army of around 12000 men.

On Friday 16th of Jamad-us-Saani 36 HC, the fateful battle of Jamal broke out between Ali and the forces of Aisah, Talha and Zubair (May Allah be pleased with all of them) which resulted in the victory of Ali and his Army. As for number of those who killed in the battle is concerned, there are different narrations of different scholars. Some of the scholars exaggerate the number of killed as Qatada mentioned that twenty thousand persons killed while Yaqoobi went one step further when he said that around 30000 killed from both side. The figure seems to be exaggerated because the number of martyrs in the battle of Yarmuk reached around 3000 and in the battle of Al-Qadsiya it was around 8500 and we know that these two famous and decisive battles in the history of Nations continued for several days. So, how can the figure of slain be so high in the battle of Jamal? Khalifa Ibn Khayyat listed the names of slain on the day Jamal and they were around 100 persons. So, if we double their figure, it would be two hundred. Allah knows better[xvi].

Ali was deeply saddened when he saw that people from both sides are being killed and wounded. Ibn-e-Kathir reported in Al-Baiday Wal-Nihaya that when the first round of Battle ended and Ali was watching the battle. The painful scene of people being killed and wounded from both sides hurt and grieved him. He came to his son Hasan, hugged him and said while crying: “Oh my child, would that I have died twenty years before this day”. Hasan replied: “O my father, I had stopped you from this”. Ali said: “I did not reckon that the things would turn out this way.  Is there any enjoy in life after this? What good can be expected after this[xvii]?

Ali forbade his forces to pursue the fleeing army and when some of his army men requested him to distribute the booty captured from the enemy; he silenced them by asking that who would, like Aisha, the mother of faithful, to be allocated to? After the battle was ended, Ali showed the respect to Aisha, presented her 12000 Dirhams and when she was leaving for Madina, Ali remained with her and accompanied her on foot for several miles[xviii].

A number of witnessed have reported that Aisha used to repent on her action and often said: “Would that I had died before the day of Jamal”. She wept on remembering the incident so bitterly that her head-scarf used to get wet with tears[xix].

Ali ordered that all slain soldiers from both sides be buried collectively after he led the funeral prayer. Seeing the highest level of morality displayed by Ali, people from Basra pledged their allegiance to him.

Battle of Siffeen[1] (War between Ali and Muawiyah):

The battle of “Siffeen” was the worst incident in the history of Islam as it caused the great carnage, heavy bloodshed and created a wide gulf between the Muslims.  After Uthman was brutally martyred at the hand of rioters, the mother of faithful Umm-e-Habiba asked Uthman’s family to send to her the blood-soaked shirt of Utham which he wore at the time of martyrdom and part of his beard. Then, she asked Noman Ibn Basheer to deliver the shirt, part of beard and the fingers of Naila, wife of Uthman, which were chopped off by the rioters when she was defending Uthman, to Muawiyah with a letter asking for revenge.

When Muawiyah received them, he put them on the pulpit so that all people can see them. After hearing the story of Uthman’s murder and seeing his blood-soaked shirt, chopped off fingers of his wife, people started cry and incited each other to take revenge for their Caliph. Muawiyah and people of Syria did not pledge their allegiances to Ali saying that he must punish the murderers of Uthman first and only then they will swear allegiance to Ali.

Knowing all the developments happening in Shaam, Ali sent several letters to Muawiyah but he did not get any reply. After several months, Muawiyah sent an emissary to Ali with a letter. Ali asked him: “How are the things there”? He replied: “I came from the people who want nothing but revenge” (from the murderers of Uthma). He also said:  “when I left Damascus, the shirt of Uthman was placed on the pulpit of the Mosque where sixty thousand elderly persons were weeping and lamenting the martyrdom of Uthman”.  Ali said: “O Allah you know that I have no hand in the bloodshed of Uthman”.

After knowing the situation of Syria, Ali decided to fight Syrians and started preparations for the battle.

The reports differ on the number of soldiers of Ali in the Battle but the best report is of 10,0000 while Muawiyah succeeded to mobilize around 70,000 soldiers for the battle[xx].

After both parties reached the battlefield, Ali made several efforts to prevent the war as he sent some of his officers to Muawiyah to advice him to swear allegiance to Ali but he refused saying that Uthman’s murderers should be punished or handed over first.

The battle started in the beginning of Zul-Hijjah 36 HC and continued for one month. When the new year (37 HC) started, both parties hurried to call a truce which was agreed upon for the month of Muharram during which the extensive efforts were made to reach a settlement but all in vain. When the period of truce (month of Muharram) ended, the hostilities between them were renewed and this time the fighting was more sever and destructive than before. The outstanding bravery was displayed by both parties which resulted in the killing of thousands of Muslims.

There is an incident happened when the fighting ended on the first day which shows that how Ali was thinking about the opposite Muslim party. A person from Ali’s group asked him when he finished his prayer: “what do you say about those killed from our group and from their group? He replied: “whoever killed from our or from their group and intended to get the pleasure of Allah and the hereafter will enter the paradise”. Also, in the evening he went to the battlefield, looked at the Syrians and prayed: “O Allah forgive me and forgive them[xxi]”.

Seeing the destruction, Ashas Ibn Qais said while giving a speech: “if we will not stop fighting, all Arab would perish tomorrow[xxii]”. Now people from both parties started to think that if all of them (particularly the cream of the community from each party) would die fighting each other, who would be spared to fight in the way of God to take out the humanity from darkness to light?

However, the fighting continued and Ali was about to win the war when the Syrian Army raised the Holy Quran on the point of their lances and started shouting “The Book of Allah, Let it decide between us”. Seeing the scene, a number of people from Ali’s party said to Ali to stop fighting and agree to the judgment of Allah. Ali pleaded to continue the fighting asserting that it is nothing but their trick to avoid the defeat but they did not listen to him and forced him to accept the arbitration which he accepted unwillingly and the fighting stopped. The negotiation between the two parties started to cease fighting forever, bring about peace and put an end to hostilities. They were agreed to appoint two arbitrators from each party and that the matter of Caliphate should be left to their decision. Muawiyah appointed Amr Ibn Al-Aas while Abu Musa Al-Ashari was chosen from Ali’s party. The date of arbitration was postponed to the end of the month of Ramadan  in Daumat al-Jandal.

Emergence of Khawarij:

A long agreement containing 17 clauses was signed which asserted that Ali and Muawiyah as well as the entire Islamic world must accept the decision of Umpires[xxiii]. When the agreement was read out to people, a person named Urwah Ibn Uzainah shouted: “Do you appoint arbitrators in the religion of God?” His sentence was seized immediately by a number of supporters of Ali who started to chant “Judgment belongs to God alone”.  Thus, the Khwariji sect came into existence. This sect revolted against Ali as it was against the human tribunal set up for the arbitration arguing that arbitration was a sin because the commandments of Allah were self-evident. They succeeded in spreading their propaganda and their number increased as 12000 men from Ali’s rank left him and went to a place called “Harura” and that is why they were called “Khawarij” which is translated as “those who went out”.  Ali sent Abdullah Ibn Abbas to convince them to return back to the rank of Ali and his efforts were successful to bring some of them back but majority of Khawarij were adamant.

Extremist Views of Khawarij:

When they gained strength, they assembled in the house of Abdullah Ibn Wahb Al-Rasibi who urged them to live an entirely virtues life and prepare for the life of hereafter. Also, he asked them to command good and forbid evil which was an appealing attitude to all but since they did not follow the true path of Islam and did not listen to those Islamic scholars of the time who were companions of the Prophet, they went astray despite their tough life and a lot of Ibadaat (prayers). They slipped out of the Islamic moderate path and became extremists in propagating virtues and forbidding vices. They were narrow-minded and extremely intolerant of all oppositions that they would not hesitate for a moment to kill a Muslim who refuses to adhere to their radical doctrines. Undoubtedly, their intention was noble and they were really concern about the religion, praying Salah, loving to recite the Holy Quran (Abdur Rhaman Ibn Muljam was reciting the Quran when he assassinated Ali), implementing its laws, staying away from sins but the fact is that their extremist tendencies were incompatible with Islam that calls for tolerance, peace, mercy and forgiveness.

Reasons behind Extremism of Khawarij:

Khawarij would kill anyone who did not believe in their extremist ideology in spite of their worships (Ibadah) to such an extent that their foreheads had become calloused due to prostrating and they had been malnourished from fasting continuously. In fact, the exaggeration in matters of religion and leaving the moderate method of Islam are the two main characteristics of Khawarij and those who followed in their footsteps throughout the Islamic history. This type of mentality is developed in people when they act without the true knowledge of religion or obtain knowledge of religion from those who are not well-versed in this field and  dispense religious scholars (Ulamas), criticize them (the way Khawarij questioned the religious scholarship of Ibn Abbas and Ibn Masood).  That is why, it is must for every individual of the Ummah to get knowledge from an authentic scholar (Aalim) the way we consult an expert and well-known physician when we fall ill.

Result of Arbitration:

The meeting for the arbitration held at Daumat-ul-Jandal in the month of Ramazan 37 AH. Amr Ibn Al-Aas and Abu Musa Al-Ashari (the arbitrators) discussed the matter and they concluded that in view of the existing circumstances, it would be in the interest of Muslims to depose both the rulers Muawiyah and Ali and people have to select someone else from the Muslims to be their caliph. Amr requested Abu Musa to announce their decision before the people assembled there. So, he stood up and made the announcement to depose both Ali and Muawiyah and that the new Caliph would be chosen by their elders. Now, Amr came forward and said: “you heard from Abu Musa announcing that he has deposed Ali, I, too, depose him and appoint Muawiyah as the Caliph for he is the heir of Uthman (the slain third Caliph), avenger of his blood and most deserving person for the Caliphate”. Abu Musa was shocked when he heard this from Amr and they exchanged some hot words and Abu Musa left the place and went to Makkah. It must be noted here that the above report is considered to be unauthentic by many scholars who assert that both arbitrators deposed Ali and Muawiyah and then they left the decision of appointing a new caliph to the elder companions of the Prophet.

Battle of Al-Nahrawan: (Decisive Assault against “Khawarij”)

However, after the arbitration failed to unite the Muslims and save their blood, Ali wrote a letter to “Khawarij” informing them about the arbitration’s fate and asking them to return back to his rank to fight against the Syrians. They replied in negative asking Ali to first accept that he had committed “Kufr” and blasphemy and must repent of what he had done.

In the meantime, Ali heard that the khawarij were looting and killing people indiscriminately including the killing of Abdullah Ibn Khabbab, a companion’s son, passed by the Khawarij with his pregnant wife. They captured him along with his wife and questioned him about his beliefs. When they asked what his opinion was on Ali, whom they regarded as a disbeliever, Abdullah told them that Ali was more knowledgeable than either of them and that he was the Caliph. They got furious when they heard this and killed his wife in front of him, cut her open and killed the baby, then tied him up and slaughtered him like an animal. Also, they killed an envoy of Ali who was sent to negotiate with them. Upon hearing such barbarous and heinous crimes and inhuman acts of Khawarij, Ali determined that it was necessary to deal with Khawarij and get rid of them before advancing to Syria. In the famous battle of “Al-Nahrawan” fought in the year 37 HC (659 GC), they were eradicated.  Though a few of them succeeded to fled as the  famous historian Al-Masoodi mentioned that only nine persons were able to flee from the battlefield while only 12 or 13 soldiers from Ali’s rank were martyred in the battle[xxiv]. However, their defeat fed fuel to the fire of enmity and hatred the remaining Khawarij had towards Ali to the extent that they planned to assassinate him.


The Last Days of Ali:

After crushing the Khawarij, Ali planned to go to Syria to fight against Syrians as accession of Syria to the Caliphate was of vital importance to unite the whole Ummah under one unified Caliphate. Ali’s battle against the Khawarij aimed to stabilize Iraq from inside as they were posing grave threat to the unity of Muslims and Ali feared that if he departs to Syria without getting rid of the Khawarij, they will exploit   his absence to kill his followers and establish their authority. Now, Ali determined to execute his plane of fighting against Syrians but he could not because the battle after battle such as Camel, Siffeen and Al-Nahrawan had exhausted his army (Iraqis) and weakened their vitality. In addition to that, a new sect emerged named “Sabaites” which members had exaggerated their devotion to Ali to the extent that they equated him with prophets and then promoted him to divinity. Abdullah Ibn Saba was the chief of this sect who embraced Islam with the intention to disseminate the false doctrines among Muslims to destroy their beliefs and weaken them from inside. The Sabaites started to preach their doctrines among people in Kufa. When Ali got to know about Ibn-e-Saba and his followers, he ordered to bring them and burn them but later on, he banished them to the vicinity of Madian.

But despite the several perplexing problems mentioned above, dissension within his rank, revolt against him, external aggression, internal espionages and exhaustion of his soldiers who were lacking the spirit of fighting, Ali made every effort to energize them to fight for the cause of Islam through his speeches which also depict the attitude of his army but all his efforts failed to achieve its objective of motivating them to fight against Syrians. On the other hand, Muawiyah was gaining strength and power due to the internal clashes within the rank of Ali as he was well aware of developments happening in Iraq. So, in the year 39 HC (660 GC), Muawiyah’s army entered into the provinces under the rule of Ali as well as the Syrian army attacked “Anbar” and killed its governor Hassan Ibn Hassan.

Upon hearing the news, Ali delivered a historic speech which reflects his pain for being disobeyed by his own army. In the beginning of his speech, he mentioned the reward of fighting in the way of Allah which is “paradise” in order to motivate them to fight against the Syrians. Then, he informed them that how his governor of Anbar had been slain, lots of people killed, women’s ornaments were snatched and the killers returned back laden with wealth without a single scratch on their body. In fact, every word of his speech fell on his army men like hammer strokes but knowing the prevailing conditions and the behavior of their army, he concluded his speech complaining to them about their disobedience: “By God, your disobedience has made my plans futile, filled my bosom with rage and now the Quraish have started saying that the son of Abu Talib is brave but ignorant of the tactics of the war. Allah blesses them. Is there anyone who is adept in the game of war more than me? Allah knows it that I rose for it although I was not yet twenty, and here I am having crossed sixty. But he can do nothing whose orders are not obeyed, however, wise he may be”[xxv].

The last part of his speech shows that how painful experiences the Commander of faithful was passing through which had made him sad, disgusted and embarrassed.

Can we imagine that people of Iraq started to defy a person who was the most virtuous, most worshipful, most selfless, most learned and most God-conscious man on the planet at that time or the time to come?  But it happened and happened to such an extent that Ali seemed to be fed up with his life and wished to die. He used to say: “what does stop that wretched person? What he is waiting for? Why does he not kill me”? and pointing out to his beard: “This will be dyed with blood (head’s blood)” and it ultimately happened[xxvi].

However, in the year 40 HC, after a long correspondences between Ali and Muawiyah, they reached a peace agreement to stop fighting and that Syria would be under Muawiyah while Iraq would remain under Ali and no party would interfere in the matters of another neither by army, raid nor invasion[xxvii].

 Ali martyred

The battle of Al-Nahrawan left a deep injury on the Khawarij and made them furious. They had been thinking day and night to take revenge of their beloved ones. So, three khawarij named Abdurrahman Ibn Amr (known as Ibn Muljam), Burak Ibn Abdullah and Amr Ibn Bakr hold a secret meeting to make a plane to assassinate the leaders of Muslims, particularly, Ali.

In the end of the meeting, they decided to kill Ali, Muawiyah and Amr Ibn Al-Aas as Ibn Muljam took the responsibility of killing Ali while Burak and Amr Ibn Bakr were assigned to assassinate Muawiyah and Amr Ibn Al-Aas respectively. They swore to kill their enemies or be perished in carrying out their tasks. They dipped their swords in poison so that a single stroke might be enough to kill . Also, they had agreed to execute their plan in the night of 17th Ramazan 40 HC.  The three criminals reached the places of their targets as per plane.

Ibn Muljam reached Kufa and met his Khawarij friends there but to maintain the secrecy of his plan he did not reveal it to them. On Friday night, the 17th Ramazan 40 HC, he sat under the veranda Ali used to enter the Mosque through.  When Ali came out of his house for Fajr prayer (pre-down) and was crossing the veranda, Ibn Muljam attacked him on his head with the poisoned sword chanting the Kharijites’ slogan “command is for God alone, neither it is yours nor of your companions”. The blood started oozing out of Ali’s head and flowing down until his beard got red with the blood. Ibn Muljam was immediately captured. Ali was carried out inside his house and instructed his companions about the attacker: “Life for a life, if I die, slain him and if I remain alive, I will see what to do[xxviii]

However, the injury was so serious and deep in the head that the famous Doctor of the time Uthair Ibn Amr Al-Sakooni cleared that there is zero chance of his survival. Knowing the grave condition, Jundub Ibn Abdullah asked Ali: “O commander of faithful, if we lost you (God forbid), should we pay allegiance to Hasan? Ali replied: “I don’t command you nor do I forbid you[xxix]”.

Ali’s Commandments to His Sons: (Hasan, Husain and Mohammad)

Ali called Hasan and Husain and said: “I commend to you both fear of God and that you don’t seek this world even if it seeks you. Don’t weep for anything that is taken away from you, speak the truth, show compassion for the orphan, succor those who are anxious, make preparation for the hereafter, be enemies to the wrongdoer and helpers to the wronged and oppressed, act according to the Book (Quran) and let no man’s censure affects you while you work for God”.  Then he turned to his son Muhammad Ibn Al-Hanafiyah and said: “have you learnt by heart what I have commended to your brothers”? “Yes” he replied. Ali said: “I commend the same to you and also reverence for your two brothers to whom you owe a great duty. Follow their commands and don’t decide any matter without them”. Then he said to Hasan and Husain: “And I commend him to you two for he is your brother and your father’s son and you know that your father loves him”.

He said to Hasan: “I commend you, my son, to fear of God, the holding of prayers at its appointed time, the payment of Zakat on its due date, scrupulousness in performing ritual ablution (Wudu), for there is no prayer without purification and the prayer of one who holds back the Zakat is not accepted. And I commend you to you the pardoning of sin, the suppression of anger, observance of the ties of relationship, maturity in the face of coarseness, acquiring knowledge of religion, firmness in authority, frequent mindfulness of the Quran, fulfillment of the duties of hospitality, commanding the good and forbidding the evil and keeping clear of immorality[xxx]”.

Ali dictated his last will and passed away on 21st of Ramazan 40 HC (27th January, 661 GC) after he ruled as caliph for four years, nine months and six days. Hasan, Husain and Abdullah Ibn Jafar washed his body. He was dressed in three robes for burial and his funeral prayer was led by Hasan and was buried in the state headquarter at Kufa.

Finally, the most righteous and pious person on the surface of the earth god rid of all worldly problems, difficulties, pains and worries he suffered during his reign of Caliphate fighting his adversaries, the group of his own supporters who went astray, hypocrites, the section of his army which exaggerated his position and equated him with prophets and complaining to their supports about their disobediences as he said during his sermon:

“Listen! By God in whose power lies my life, these people will overcome you not because they have taken a more righteous path than you, but because of their hastening towards the wrong and your moving at snail’s pace in my support. People are afraid of the oppression of their leaders while I fear the severity of my subjects”.


“I called you for Jihad but you did not move from your place. I warned you but you did not listen. I called you secretly as well as openly but you did not respond. I gave you sincere advice but you did not accept it”. [xxxi]

Let me conclude a painful chapter of the human history on the painful statement of Dharar Ibn Dhamurah when Muawiyah asked him that how he felt at the martyrdom of Ali? He replied: “My grief is comparable to the woman whose child has been slain in her lap”.

May Allah be pleased with all companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace and mercy of Allah be upon hi


[1] Siffeen is a village located near Al-Raqqa on western side of Euphrates

[i] Abu Abdullah Mohammad Al-Hakim Nishapuri,  Al-Mustadrak alaa Al-Sahihain, Beirut, Lebanon, Dar-Al-Kutub Al-Ilmiyah 2002 GC, Vol. 3 p 550

[ii] Ali Muhammad Al-Sallabi, Ali Bin Abi Talib – Shakhsiatuhu wa Asruhu, Damascus – Beirut , Dar Ibne Kathir for Publication & Distribution, 2007 GC,  p. 24

[iii] Shamsuddin Muhammad Al-Zahabi, Siyar Alaam-al-Nubala, Beirut – Lebanon, Al-Resalah Publishing House, 1996 GC  Vol. 2 p. 118

[iv] Abu Mohammad Abdul Malik Ibn Hesham, As-Sirahan-Nbawiyyah, Beirut – Lebanon, Dar-el-Kitab Al-Arabi, 2008 GC, Vol. 1 p. 163

[v] Abu Mohammad Abdul Malik Ibn Hesham, As-Sirahan-Nbawiyyah, Beirut – Lebanon, Dar-el-Kitab Al-Arabi, 2008 GC, Vol. 1 pp. 287-288

[vi] Abu Mohammad Abdul Malik Ibn Hesham, As-Sirahan-Nbawiyyah, Beirut – Lebanon, Dar-el-Kitab Al-Arabi, 2008 GC, Vol. 2 p. 325

[vii] Abu Bakr Al-Khallal, Kitab-us-Sunnah, Riyadh, K.S.A, Dar-ul-Rayah for Publication & Distribution, 1989 GC  Vol. 1 p. 415

[viii] Imaduddin Abulfida Ismail Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Beirut, Lebanon, Maktaba Al-Maarif, 1993 GC  Vol. 7 pp. 226-227

[ix] Abul Hasan Ali Al-Nadwi, Al-Murtaza, Damascus, Dar-ul-Qalam for Publication & Distribution, 1989 GC,  pp. 135-136

[x] Abul Hasan Ali Al-Nadwi, Al-Murtaza, Damascus, Dar-ul-Qalam for Publication & Distribution, 1989 GC,  p. 140

[xi] Imaduddin Abulfida Ismail Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Beirut, Lebanon, Maktaba Al-Maarif, 1993 GC  Vol. 7 p. 319

[xii] Ali Muhammad Al-Sallabi , Ali Bin Abi Talib – Shakhsiatuhu wa Asruhu, Damascus – Beirut , Dar Ibne Kathir for Publication & Distribution, 2007 GC,  pp. 247-248

[xiii] Ali Muhammad Al-Sallabi , Ali Bin Abi Talib – Shakhsiatuhu wa Asruhu, Damascus – Beirut , Dar Ibne Kathir for Publication & Distribution, 2007 GC,  p. 249

[xiv] Ali Muhammad Al-Sallabi , Ali Bin Abi Talib – Shakhsiatuhu wa Asruhu – Beirut , Dar Ibne Kathir for Publication & Distribution, 2007 GC,  p. 252

[xv] Mohammad Ibn Jarir Al-Tabri, Tareekh Al-Altabri  Egypt, Dar-el-Maarif, 1967 GC, Vol 4 pp. 437-438

[xvi] Ali Muhammad Al-Sallabi , Ali Bin Abi Talib – Shakhsiatuhu wa Asruhu – Beirut , Dar Ibne Kathir for Publication & Distribution, 2007 GC,  p. 485

[xvii] Ali Muhammad Al-Sallabi , Ali Bin Abi Talib – Shakhsiatuhu wa Asruhu – Beirut , Dar Ibne Kathir for Publication & Distribution, 2007 GC,  p. 481

[xviii] Imaduddin Abulfida Ismail Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Beirut, Lebanon, Maktaba Al-Maarif, 1993 GC  Vol. 7 p. 246-247

[xix] Abul Hasan Ali Al-Nadwi, Al-Murtaza, Damascus, Dar-ul-Qalam for Publication & Distribution, 1989 GC,  pp. 140

[xx] Abu Amr Khaleefa Ibn Khyaat, Tareekh Khalifa Ibn Khayyat, Riyadh (K.S.A)  Daar-e-Taiba for Publication and Distribution, 1985 GC, p. 193

[xxi] Ali Muhammad Al-Sallabi , Ali Bin Abi Talib – His personality and his reign, Damascus – Beirut , Dar Ibne Kathir for Publication & Distribution, 2007 GC,  pp. 534


[xxii] Ali Muhammad Al-Sallabi , Ali Bin Abi Talib – Shakhsiatuhu wa Asruhu – Beirut , Dar Ibne Kathir for Publication & Distribution, 2007 GC,  p. 537

[xxiii] Imaduddin Abulfida Ismail Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Beirut, Lebanon, Maktaba Al-Maarif, 1993 GC  Vol. 7 p. 277


[xxiv] Abu Amr Khaleefa Ibn Khyaat, Tareekh Khalifa Ibn Khayyat, Riyadh (K.S.A)  Daar-e-Taiba for Publication and Distribution, 1985 GC, p. 197


[xxv] Abu Uthman Amr Ibn Bahr Al-Jahiz, Al-Bayan Wal-Tibyan, Cairo – Egypt, Maktaba Al-Khanji, 1998 GC Vol. 2   pp. 53-54


[xxvi] Imaduddin Abulfida Ismail Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Beirut, Lebanon, Maktaba Al-Maarif, 1993 GC  Vol. 7 p. 324


[xxvii] Abu Jafar Mohammad Ibn Jareer Al-Tabri, Tareek Al-Tabri,  Egypt, Daar-el-Maarif, 1967 GC, Vol. 5 p. 140


[xxviii] Abu Jafar Mohammad Ibn Jareer Al-Tabri, Tareek Al-Tabri,  Egypt, Daar-el-Maarif, 1967 GC, Vol. 5 pp. 143-146


[xxix] Abul Qasim Sulaiman Ibn Ahmad Al-Tabrani, Almojam Al-Kabeer, Cairo – Egypt , Maktaba Ibn Taymiah, Vol. 1 p. 100


[xxx] Abu Jafar Mohammad Ibn Jareer Al-Tabri, Tareek Al-Tabri,  Egypt, Daar-el-Maarif, 1967 GC, Vol. 5 p. 147


[xxxi] Abul Hasan Ali Al-Nadwi, Al-Murtaza, Damascus, Dar-ul-Qalam for Publication & Distribution, 1989 GC,  pp. 173  (Referring to Nahj-al-Balagah)

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