Heroism of Imam Ali

Imam Ali -- The Hero of Islam 

 In Medina, the Holy Prophet (s) was forced to defend himself and his followers, and was thus forced to face many battles. At each and every battle, Imam Ali (a) was the hero. And it was he who fought single-handedly with famous warriors of Arabia, defeated the enemies and brought victory to Islam.

Records of these battles carry with them chronicles of his bravery, courage and chivalry. Even the enemies sang songs of his valour and gallantry. Everyone of these battles was an outcome of very grave circumstances and conditions, and combination of very serious events and dangerous forces against the safety of the Muslims and Islam. There were many such encounters, but I have briefly mentioned only five of those instances, where the events had far-reaching effects. In each of them, Ali (a) alone broke through evil combinations and carried the Muslims and Islam to a position of safety, eminence and power.

The Battle of Badr

The first of these battles was Badr. It took place in the month of Ramazan, in 2 A.H. Muslims were not prepared for a battle and could ill-afford to fight against superior forces. But Medina was being invaded and the Holy Prophet (s) was forced to defend himself and his followers. He decided to leave Medina and fight out the battle in an open field. He had only 313 Muslims who were not adequately armed for a battle, many of them were nervous of an encounter, and were suffering from inferiority complex. The Quraish had come with an army of about 1000 warriors and had frightened the Muslims even more. The battle took place and 36 Quraish were killed by Imam Ali (a), some of them were famous warriors of Quraish and most of them were the same who had surrounded the house of the Prophet (s) on the night of migration. During the encounter, he was wounded, but by his bravery and courage, he brought home to Muslims that he would act as the first line of defence for Islam, that they had no cause to sufferfrom inferiority complex and that Allah would defend them against heavy odds. Amongst Quraish, there were two sworn enemies of Islam, Abu Jahl and Abu Sufyan and in this battle, Abu Jahl was killed. Imam Ali was hero of this battle and brought the first victory to Islam in armed encounters with its enemies.

The Battle of Uhud

The second most important battle was that of Uhud. Quraish and their leader, Abu Sufyan were smarting under the defeat of Badr and had sworn to retaliate. The idolaters were burning for revenge. They made formidable preparations for another encounter and succeeded in obtaining assistance of Tahama and Kinama tribes. Abu Sufyan's wife, Hinda, mother of Muawiyah, took keen interest in all arrangements and preparations. She had written poems to excite Quraish against Islam and had organized a band of women minstrels who accompanied the army of Quraish to the battlefield. Thus they had mobilized an army of 3000 infantry and 2000 cavalry. The Holy Prophet (s) could muster on 700 Muslims to face this horde. They faced each other in the battlefield of Uhud. The battle took place on the 11th Shawwal, 3 A.H. The command of Muslim army was divided between Imam Ali (a) and Hamza, and Abu Sufyan had appointed Khalid bin Walid, Ikrima ibn Abu Jahl and Amr ibn Aas as the three commanders to command the right and left ranks and the front respectively.

The first encounter took place between Imam Ali (a) and Talha ibn Abi Talha. This encounter carries with it an incident of marvellous chivalry by Ali. Talha suffered defeat at the hands of Ali and died. He was the standard-bearer of Quraish's army. His death brought his four sons and one grandson to face Ali, and each one of them was killed by him, and other standard-bearers followed them and were in turn killed by Ali, then a general encounter took place in which Ali and Hamza carried the day and Muslims came out victorious. But eagerness for spoils threw the ranks of Muslim army into disorder. Ali (a) however tried to keep them in order, but they were out of control. Khalid bin Walid immediately attacked them from the rear and the flank, he wounded the Holy Prophet (s) with a javelin; and had also stoned hi, the face of the Prophet (s) was also wounded and he had fallen down from the horse. Khalid bin Walid started shouting with a loud voice, "The lying Prophet is slain", upon which without stopping to ascertain, the followers of Islam fled panic-stricken.

The wounded Prophet (s) was left in the battlefield with only, Ali, Hamza, Abu Dujana and Zakwan to defend him. These brave warriors fought fiercely and during this encounter, Hamza was martyred, Zakwan and Abu Dujana lay seriously wounded and Imam Ali (a) was left alone in the battlefield. He had received 16 wounds but he searched and found the Holy Prophet (s) lying wounded and surrounded by enemies under the command of Khalid who were trying to kill him. Imam Ali (a) fought against these six men, killed two of them and scattered the rest. Then he lifted the Holy Prophet (s) and carried him to a mount; and continued attacking the rallying armies of the enemy; and kept on shouting that, the Holy Prophet is alive, and calling Muslims to come back. Those Muslims who had not fled very far came back, saw the wounded Prophet (SA, saw his daughter Fatima (who had come out of Medina hearing the rumour of her father's death) attending him. The Muslims took heart and gathered again under the command of Imam Ali (a) and started fighting again and victory was gained. The most peculiar aspect of this battle was that the greed of the Muslim warriors had converted a hard-earned victory into an ignominious defeat and Ali had reconverted this defeat into a glorious victory. He thus once again saved the day, saved the face of the fleeing Muslims and the most important of all, saved the life of the Holy Prophet (s) without whom the Holy Prophet would have been killed.

Twenty eight famous warriors of Arabia were killed by Imam Ali (a) in this battle, of whom seventeen were standard-bearers of Quraish. The Holy Prophet (s) declared that the angel Gabriel was extolling Ali and had said,

"There is no braver youth than Ali and no better sword than his Zulfiqar." [22]

The Battle of Khandaq

The third momentous armed encounter of Muslims with Quraish is called the Battle of Clans (Ahzab) or the Battle of the Moat or Ditch (Khandaq). It is so called because many clans of Arabs were persuaded by Abu Sufyan to help him to annihilate Islam and the Muslims; and because when these forces invade Medina, the Holy Prophet (s) was obliged to dig a ditch around his army. This battle also proved that the Holy Prophet (s) was forced to take up arms in defence of his followers and his mission. It took place on the 23rd Zil Qada, 5 A.H.

The defeat at Uhud was a great blow to Quraish and their leader Abu Sufyan. While retreating from Uhud, he had promised that he will come back again to avenge the defeat. He instigated the clans of Bani Nazir, Bani Ghatafan, Bani Salim and Bani Kinana and also succeeded in persuading Bani Khuza'a, who till then had not sided with any party, to join their forces against Islam. Abu Sufyan was very sure of his success. He specially relied upon the fame of Amr ibn Abdiwad, who was as famous in Arabia as Rustam was in Persia. He had gathered an army of about nine to ten thousand soldiers under the command of this famous warrior.

They marched upon Medina. The Holy Prophet (s) could barely muster 2000 Muslims to face this army. For nearly a month, the armies stood facing each other and one day Amr jumped over the ditch, faced the Muslim army and challenged them for an encounter. He was accompanied by Ikrima ibn Abu Jahl, Abdullah ibn Mugheera, Zirar ibn Khattab, Nuwfal ibn Abdullah and others. His bravery, his valour and courage were so well-known in Arabia that none of the Muslims except Ali dare face him. The assemblage of famous warrior tribes and the presence of Amr ibn Abdiwad as their commanders had made the Muslims so nervous that even the Holy Quran says:

"Their eyes were petrified and their hearts were beating violently and they were thinking of running away" (Surah al-Ahzab, 33:11)

Thrice Amr ibn Abdiwad challenged them to come out and every time none but Imam Ali (a) stood up and asked the permission of the Holy Prophet (s) to face him. Twice the Prophet refused him that permission, but in the end, he allowed him, saying that, "Today faith in embodiment is facing embodied infidelity"; then he raised his hands in supplication saying, "Lord! I am sending Ali alone in the battlefield, do not allow me to be left alone, you are the best companion and the best guardian". The Muslims were so certain of Ali being killed by Amr, hence, some of them came forward to have a last look at his face.

The encounter ended in Ali's success and Amr's death. After Amr, he faced Abdullah ibn Mugheera and Nuwfal ibn Abdullah and killed them both. Thus a victory was won without any Muslim, except Ali, coming out of the ranks.

In the encounter with Amr, and the defeat and death of this great warrior, Imam Ali (a) again exhibited such a chivalrous attitude that the sister of Amr composed a poem in praise of the man who faced her brother, fought bravely against him and paid such a noble and chivalrous tribute to his victorious enemy. In it she said, "If anyone else than Ali had killed her brother, she would have wept over the infamy throughout her life, but not now". The death of Amr had completely demoralized the various clans gathered and they started leaving the army and going back to their homes. Quraish and Abu Sufyan felt that they cannot carry on the battle without the help of other clans and went back to Mecca, sad and dejected.

Thus Ali, brought an end to the hostilities of Quraish in three encounters of Badr, Uhud and Khandaq. Their best warriors were killed, their unity against Islam was crushed, their pride was humiliated and their prestige before Arab clans was lowered by him.

He further raised the status of Muslims among the haughty, merciless and wild tribes of Arabia. In all these three battles not more than sixty Muslims were killed, and he alone had killed more than seventy enemies of Islam, everyone of whom was the head of some clan or a subclan, a warrior famous for his bravery or an enemy of the Holy Prophet (s) and Islam. [23]

In their struggle for existence, Muslims had to face a very serious opposition from Jews. In the beginning they tried to help Quraish against Islam surreptitiously and then openly. But when Ali broke through the enmity of Quraish, and when the Holy Prophet (s) was forced to banish the Jews from Medina, they decided to try their fate against Islam with the help of various tribes of Bani Asad, Bani Kinana and Bani Ghatafan.

The Battle of Khaybar

Khaybar was the province, which the Jews had occupied since the times of their banishment from Palestine. It contained a few fortresses, the biggest of them was called Qamus which was on a steep hill. In these fortresses they started gathering in large number and in the end they raised an army of about ten to twelve thousand warriors and were scheming to march on Medina. Hearing these serious news the Holy Prophet (s) decided to face them at Khaybar only. He marched at the head of an army of 3000 soldiers. This battle took place in Muharram in 7 A.H.

Imam Ali (a) then was suffering from sore eyes and was left at Medina. The Muslim army succeeded in defeating the Jews in minor skirmishes but when they tried to capture the main fort of Qamus, they had to face a retreat; they could not succeed though they tried for days at a stretch. The defeats sustained there were sadly demoralizing the Muslim army. The Holy Prophet (s) had allowed every important person to command the Muslim forces day by day, but each day the result was fresh defeat, fresh demoralization, fresh boldness of Jews and increasing danger of some more clans, emboldened by the weakness and defeat of Muslims, joining hands with the Jews. There were still many such tribes who were very hostile against Islam and wanted to harm it, but the victories at Badr, Uhud and Khandaq had made them nervous. The news of the defeat at Khaybar were making them bold. "The Jews of Khaybar united by an ancient alliance with Bedouin horde of the Bani Ghatafan were incessantly working for the formation of a powerful alliance against the Muslims, and the Holy Prophet (s) knew fully well the power possessed by the desert races to harm Muslims." [24]

There was further danger of Munafiqin (hypocrites and double-dealers) staging a revolt in Medina. Prompt measures were needed to avert these evils. Only a victory could have saved the situation which was getting more and more critical day by day. The Prophet himself was ill and sadly felt the need of Ali at his side. He knew that though ill, yet Ali had not left him alone and had followed him, therefore whether ill or healthy, Ali had come to come to the succour of Muslims, Islam and the Prophet (s). When the news of the last disastrous repulse of the Muslims were brought to him, the Holy Prophet (s) said,

"Tomorrow I shall give the command (the standard) of this army to a man who is brave, who will keep on attacking, who will not run away from the battlefield, who loves Allah and His Prophet and is loved by Allah and His Prophet and who will not come back to me without success"

Next day Ali was called from his bed and was handed over the command. He took the fort by storm; killed Marhab, Antar, Murra, Harith and four other chieftains of the Jew tries in hand to hand combats, broke open the doors of the fort single-handedly, carried his army inside the fort and within four hours, he hoisted the flag of Islam on the biggest fortress of Arabia and once more, saved Islam from a disastrous end.

The news of the success so pleased the Prophet (s) that he, though ill, came out to greet the victor, embraced him, and said,

"Ali! Had I not been afraid that Muslims will start regarding you as the Christians regard the Christ, I would have said things about you which would have made the Muslims venerate you and to consider the dust of your feet as something worth venerating; but it will suffice to say that you are from me and I am from you; you will inherit me and I will inherit you; you are to me what Aaron was to Moses; you will fight for my cause; you will be nearest to me on the Day of Judgement; you will be next to me on the fountain of Kauthar; enmity against you is enmity against me; a war against you is a war against me; your friendship is my friendship; to be at peace with you is to be at peace with me; your flesh is my flesh; your blood is my blood; who will obey you will obey me. Truth is on your tongue, in your heart and in your mind. You have as much faith in Allah as I have. You are door to me. As per orders of Allah I give you these tidings that your supporters will be rewarded in Paradise and your enemies will be punished in Hell." [25]

The victory which Imam Ali (a) brought to Islam in Khaybar proved of great consequence to its mission and its followers. It gave Islam such an importance and prestige over the infidels of the Quraish who till then had complete control and sway over Mecca and who had not even allowed the Holy Prophet (s) and his followers to come for Hajj and Umra and who had forced them for the Treaty of Hudaybiya, were now obliged to surrender the city to him. Thus Mecca fell before the superior forces of Islam.

The causes of this invasion and fall of Mecca are not to be discussed here; suffice it to say that Abu Sufyan who has brought it upon all the heads of Quraish, later leaving the country and countrymen to the devil started running for his life to ensure his own and his family's security of life and property from the Holy Prophet (s) and through the meditation of Abbas (uncle of the Holy Prophet) he received the pardon sought for. The behaviour of the Holy Prophet (s) against these murderers of Muslims and the enemies of Islam was so kind and humane, that he pardoned everyone of them, a clemency and kindness which shall ever remain unparalleled in the history of mankind. After Mecca was taken over by the Muslims, the precincts of Ka'bah were cleared of all idols by the Holy Prophet (s) and Imam Ali (a), and it ceased to exist as the pivot of infidelity and polytheism in Arabia.

The fall of Mecca which took place in the month of Ramazan in 8 A.H. (January 630 A.D.) was entailed serious repercussions.

The success of Islam since the migration had brought many adherents to its fold. Those were of three types, some had seen the truth in its preaching and had accepted it sincerely and faithfully, some were such that they wanted to bask in the glory of a religion which was fast becoming a mighty temporal power and they wished to make their worldly positions good through its influence and had accepted it with those ulterior motives, while there were some whose conversion was under false impression that unless they had accepted Islam their lives and properties were not safe. The fall of Mecca had a very sad effect upon those two latter groups. They were not expecting that Abu Sufyan and Quraish would succumb so easily to the pressure of Muslim invasion. Clearing of idols from the precincts of Ka'bah and closing its doors to the infidels was a severe blow, it became more poignant when they found that their persistence and old enemy, the man whose valour and whose sword brought all these victories to Islam and disastrous defeats to their side, that is, Imam Ali (a) was the standard-bearer (commander) of the Prophet's forces on the occasion of the fall of Mecca, and along with the Holy Prophet (s), he was the man who cleared Ka'bah of its idols. There still were many polytheist clans in Arabia, to them Mecca was the center of worship, amongst them there were two powerful bedouin tribes of Bani Hawazin and Bani Thaqif. They now were joined by Bani Nasr, Bani Sa'd, Bani Hashim and Bani Hilal. Those tribes decided to stage a comeback and the hypocrites promised them to come to their aid.

The plot was arranged so quickly and so stealthily that by the time the Muslims could rejoice their victory over Mecca, there was an army of 20,000 warriors at Ta'if ready to face them. The Holy Prophet (s) marched to Ta'if at the head of an army of 15,000 Muslims. Some of them were freed slaves of Muslim conquest of Mecca and many more were they hypocrites of the types mentioned above, and there were few thousand of those Muslims who had accompanied him from Medina.

The Battle of Hunayn

The hostile tribes decided to attack the Muslim army at a point of vantage at Hunayn and selected two prominences where they concealed their archers. The Muslims were very proud of their strength and were proud of their success, but their behaviour during the encounter was shamelessly timid and cowardly. The Almighty Lord showing their attitude in this battle says:

"Allah has helped you on many occasions including the day of Hunayn; though you were proud of the number of your soldiers, they proved to be of no help. You could not find any place of shelter, and started fleeing." (Surah Tawbah, 9:25)

This encounter took place in the month of Shawwal 8 A.H. (January, February 630 A.D.). When the Muslim army marched towards the place where archers were concealed, the enemy opened the campaign with such a severe onslaught of their archery that the Muslim army could not stand it. The assault was fierce and the confusion in the Muslim ranks made the archers bolder and they came nearer and attacked from both the flanks and from the front. Muslims could not stand the attack any longer. They started deserting the Holy Prophet (s) without putting up resistance and did not bother leaving him alone. [26]

The first battalion which attacked the Muslims was the one in command of Khalid bin Waleed. He was accompanied by Bani Salim, a freshly converted Quraish of Mecca. This was followed by such a disorderly and tumultuous flight of the Muslims that only ten persons out of an army of 15,000 were left with the Holy Prophet (s). Eight of them were from Bani Hashim (Abbas and his two sons, Imam Ali (a), Aqeel and three other cousins of the Prophet). [27]

Abbas was shouting at the Muslims to come back, reminding them of the oaths of allegiance taken and promises made, but it was of no avail. Those who has accepted Islam for wealth and power or under false fears were not willing to risk their lives. They fled as fast as they could. Many of them who had carefully hidden their enmity of the rising power of Islam were happy at the defeat, they gathered around Abu Sufyan, started congratulating him, and said, "The magical spell of the lying Prophet is broken". They were wishing for the come-back of polytheism. [28]

Again it was Imam Ali (a) who saved the Holy Prophet (s) and Islam. Armies of Bani Hawazin and Bani Thaqif under the protection of their arches were rushing down the hillock, and were getting ready for a fierce onslaught. Ali (a) divided the small band of faithful Muslims in three divisions, (i) to Abdullah ibn Mas'ud, Abbas ibn Abdul Muttalib and his nephew Abu Sufyan bin Harith (ii) He assigned the duty of guarding the Holy Prophet (s) to three others, (iii) he ordered to guard the rear and he faced the onslaught with only three warriors along with him. He restlessly combated the enemy and though he was wounded he faced the commander of the hostile army, Abu Jardal in a hand to hand combat and killed him with one stroke of the sword. He attacked the enemy's rank once again, bringing the number of those whom he had slain on that day to forty. His aides had a glorious example before them, they also fought bravely and killed thirty soldiers.

The day was saved, the commander of the enemy's army was killed, their ranks were broken, they had no courage to face Ali (a) and started retreating. The sight of a powerful enemy under retreat, made the fleeing Muslims bold and they returned after a victory was won for them. [29]

During the lifetime of the Holy Prophet, Imam Ali was sent on many occasions for propagation of Islam and on many missions of mercy and peace. He carried these duties to the satisfaction of the Holy Prophet and Allah. For instance, in the words of "The Spirit of Islam", "The men of Khalid bin Walid, under the order of this newly converted warrior killed Bani Jazima Beduin. The news of this wanton bloodshed deeply grieved the Prophet and he prayed: "O Lord! I am innocent of what Khalid done". He immediately dispatched Imam Ali (a) to make every possible preparation for the outrage committed. Such mission was congenial to Ali's nature and he executed it faithfully. He made careful inquiries as to the number of persons killed, their status, and the loss incurred by their families and justly compensated. When every loss was made, he distributed the rest of the money among the kinsmen of the victims and other members of the tribe, satisfying everyone by his kindness, carrying with him the blessings of all the people, he returned to the Holy Prophet who overwhelmed him with thanks and praises.

Similarly in 8 A.H. when other missions failed to bring the powerful Yemeni tribe of Bani Hamadan to the fold of Islam, Ali (a) was sent there. Ibn Khaldun says that on the first occasion, he gathered the tribesmen, some of whom were very learned, and spoke before them of the truths which Islam preached. This sermon was so effective that some of those learned persons immediately embraced Islam. This was followed by long discussions with others, he made them realize the rationality of the doctrines of Islam. The discussions ended in the whole-hearted conversion of Bani Hamdan, who followed their learned leaders. These news so pleased the Holy Prophet (s) that he bowed down before Allah in thankfulness and thrice said: "Peace be to Bani Hamdan and to Ali!"

Again in 10th A.H. his preachings proved so effective that the whole province unitedly embraced Islam.

The Battle of Camal 

Justice Amir Ali in "The Spirit of Islam" says,

"It might have been thought that all would submit themselves before the glory, so fine and so grand. But it was not to be, Zubair and Talha, who had hoped that the choice of people might fall on either of them for caliphate, balked in their ambitious design and smarting under the refusal of the new caliph to bestow on them the Governorship of Basra and Kufa, were the first to raise the standard of revolt. They were assisted by Ummul Momineen Ayesha, who had taken a decisive part in the former elections. She was the life and soul of the insurrection and herself accompanied the insurgent troops to the field riding on a camel. Imam Ali (a) with his characteristic aversion to bloodshed, sent his cousin Abdullah ibn Abbas to adure the insurgents by every obligation of the faith to abandon the arbitrament of war, but to no avail. Zubair and Talha commenced the battle at a place called Khorayba and were defeated and killed. The battle is called the Battle of Jamal (camel) -- from Ayesha's presence in a litter on a camel. Ayesha was taken prisoner, was treated with courtesy and consideration and escorted with every mark of respect to Medina. She was sent under escort of her brother Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr." [78]

After the battle when Ummul Momineen Ayesha felt that though she had brought about this rebellion yet Imam Ali (a) was treating her with utmost courtesy and kindness, she requested that her nephew Abdullah ibn Zubair, who had been Commander-in-Chief of the rebel forces and was taken prisoner, to be forgiven and freed. Imam Ali (a) granted the request. Marvan got nervous and thought that two worst enemies of Imam Ali, (Talha and Zubair) were killed, one (Abdullah ibn Zubair) was excused and pardoned, the burden of vengeance might fall on him. He requested Imam Hasan and Imam Husain to plead for his cause, they requested for his pardon, and he was also pardoned, (year afterwards the very same Marwan made his archers shoot arrows on the dead body and bier of Imam Hasan and later he persuaded the Governor of Medina, though unsuccessfully, to immediately kill Imam Husain on his refusal to accept Yazid as the caliph). Then an order for general amnesty, peace and forgiveness was issued, every opponent was forgiven and every prisoner was released. [79]

Imam Ali's officers and commanders in this battle, besides his sons, Imam Hasan, Imam Husain and Muhamamd Hanafia, were the following companions of the Holy Prophet: Abdullah ibn Abbas, Ammar Yasir, Abu Ayub Ansari, Khuzayma ibn Thabit Ansari, Qays ibn Sa'd ibn Ubada, Ubaydullah ibn Abbas, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, Hujr ibn Adi Kindi and Adi ibn Hatim Ta'i.

The victory gave Imam Ali time to consolidate his influence in Egypt, Hijaz and Iraq. And according to Mas'udi with the honesty of purpose which always distinguished him, he disregarded all advice for temporizing. Several of his advisers counselled him to defer the dismissal of the corrupt officers previously appointed until he was himself sure of his enemies, but his hero without fear and without reproach, refused to be guilty of any duplicity or compromise with injustice and inequity. Therefore, immediately after his accession he had given orders for the dismissal of corrupt and cruel governors, for the resumption of fiefs and states which had been previously bestowed at public loss among the principle favourites of the rulers and for the equal distribution of the public revenues amongst the Arabs and non-Arabs, blacks and whites, masters and slaves, heads of clans and paupers. These orders gave great offence to those who had enriched themselves under former administrations, and his endeavours to remedy the evils, which had crept into administration, raised against him, host of enemies. No sooner the rebellion of Talha and Zubair was supressed then Muawiyah, an Umayyid by descent, who had held the Governorship of Syria, from the time of Caliph Umar, raised the standard of revolt.

Abu Sufyan, his son Muawiyah and his clan Bani Umayya had little sympathy and no faith in Islam. Mas'udi says, "When Abu Sufyan had grown old and blind, he was sitting in the mosque and there were Imam Ali (a), Abdullah ibn Abbas, and many other Muslims besides them. The Mu'azzin (the man who calls for prayers) started Azan, (the invitation for prayers) and when he reached the part "I testify that Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah", Abu Sufyan said, "Look at my cousin (meaning the Prophet), where he has placed his name." Imam Ali (a) got annoyed and said that it was done by the order of Allah. [80]

"Abu Sufyan advised Bani Umayya to treat the caliphate like a ball and to pass it on from one to another of their clan and never let the ball go out of their possession, because "I swear that there is neither punishment, nor judgement, neither the Heaven nor Hell, and neither the Resurrection, nor the Day of Reckoning". His son and his clan accepted his teachings, followed his faith, adopted his advice and obeyed his orders."

The Battle of Siffin 

 In the very beginning, Muawiyah had made fools of Talha and Zubair. According to Ibn Abil Hadid, when Muawiyah learnt that people had sworn the oath of allegiance to Imam Ali, he wrote to Zubair that he had taken the oath of allegiance for him and for Talha as his successor. The whole of Syria was ready to back them and they should try to overthrow Imam Ali's regime and accept the caliphate which was awaiting them in Damascus. Thus by exciting these two old men he got Imam Ali (a) busy with their rebellion and secured time to make his government more powerful in Syria.

Talha and Zubair by their rebellion had done a great service to his cuase, but they were no more in the world to serve his purpose any longer, he therefore gathered around him Mughira ibn Shu'bah (who had originally tried to approach Imam Ali but was repulsed by him), Marwan ibn Hakam, Walid ibn Uqba, Abdullah ibn Umar, Abu Hurayra and Amr ibn Aas. His favourite companion and adviser was Amr ibn Aas. Though Muawiyah had to pay a heavy price (Governorship of Egypt and more than one million Dinars) to purchase the fidelity and faith of Amr ibn Aas, yet the later events proved that it was the best investment that Muawiyah had made in his life. He also collected proofs that Ziyad, ibn Abiha, was actually the illegitimate son of Abu Sufyan and not the son of a slave named Ubayd. This change of fatherhood was officially (though shamelessly) proclaimed and Ziyad proudly became the legitimate brother of Muawiyah. He was Muawiyah's second best companion. With these henchmen at his back, Muawiyah staged a revolt against Imam Ali (a). The accounts of these facts have been mentioned in details by the historians. [82]

After settling Chaldea and Mesopatenisce, Imam Ali (a) was forced to march towards Syria to face Muawiyah's forces at a place called Siffin. Many Muslim historians [83] and Simon D. Aucklay in the "History of the Saracens" depicted a detailed account of this battle which was a long-drawn one. (See Explanation of Sermon 122, Nahjul Balagha)

Imam Ali (a) issued orders in details to his officers and soldiers before the battle. [84] As these orders give a clear indication of the principles and methods laid down by Imam Ali regarding Jihad (Holy War), I have breifly quoted them here:-

Never start a war yourself, Allah does not like bloodshed, fight only in defence.

Never be the first to attack your enemy, repulse his attacks but do it boldly, bravely and courageously.

Never waste your time in praising yourself and your deeds (in the battlefield by reciting epic verses) but instead extol Allah and the Holy Prophet.

Never chase and kill those who run away from the battlefield. Life is dear to them, let them live as long as death permits them to live.

Never kill wounded persons who cannot defend themselves.

Never bare a dead man for his coat of arms or dress.

Never cut nose or ears of dead men to humiliate them.

Never resort to loot and arson.

Never molest or outrage the modesty of a woman.

Never hurt a woman even if she swears at you or hurts you.

Never hurt a child.

Never hurt an old or an enfeebled person.

This battle was started on 1st Safar 38 A.H. and lasted for more than two months. During the period, about eighteen encounters took place.

"In the beginning with his usual humanity, Imam Ali (a) endeavoured to bring about a peaceful settlement. But Muawiyah was inflated with pride and wanted Imam Ali to subdue to impossible conditions. To avoid unnecessary shedding of blood, Imam Ali offered to end the quarrel by personal combat, but Muawiyah realizing who and what Imam Ali was, declined the challenge. In spite of every exasperation, Imam Ali commanded the troops to await the enemy's attack, to spare the fugitives and to respect the captives".[85]

During the encounters one Amr ibn Aas and at other time Busr ibn Abi Artat faced Imam Ali in the battlefield. They did not, until the encounter started, realize that the warrior facing them was Imam Ali. One blow was sufficient to send them down from their horses. When they found no way of escaping his sword immediately each one of them in his turn stripped himself naked and fell down turning their faces towards the earth and back towards the sky. Both the armies laughed at those life-saving antics and somebody suggested Imam Ali (a) to kill these arch-enemies. In the case of Amr ibn Aas, he replied, "I cannot kill timid dogs, he has begged for his life though in a shameless and humiliating manner, yet it is granted to him". And when Busr ibn Abi Artat behaved in the same manner, he said, "I cannot desecrate my arms with the blood of such a cowardly and shameless person".

These rebels were defeated in three successive battles and Muawiyah was ready to flee the field, when a trick of his accomplice, Amr ibn Aas, saved them from destruction. He made his mercenaries rip the Holy Quran into so many pages and to tie those pages to their lances and flags and shout for quarters. When even such pages were not available, mere rags were tied to the lances. There were some persons in the army of Imam Ali who were bribed by Muawiyah for instance, Ash'ath bin Qays and as per orders of Amr ibn Aas, they and their soldiers desisted from the battle and forced other soldiers to desist from it. They gathered around Imam Ali and called upon him to refer the dispute to arbitration. Imam Ali saw through the ruse practised by the rebels, and tried to make his soldiers realize it, but the clamour of the army led him to consent to the course granted. He then wanted Abdullah ibn Abbas to represent his side in the arbitration, (See Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 235) but again a part of the army, under instigation of Ash'ath, demanded that "A weak and old man, named Abu Musa Ash'ari, who was also secretly hostile to Imam Ali be nominated as an arbitrator from this side". [86]

There was immediate danger of serious factions arising in his own army, which might have developed in bloodshed, therefore Imam Ali acceded to the demand for Arbitration and Abu Musa was appointed as an arbitrator. Muawiyah was represented by the astute and cunning Amr. They both decided against Imam Ali, who was deprived of the fruits of victories by a group of his soldiers and faithless officers. He returned in disgust with a part of his armies and faithful followers to Kufa.

In the Battle of Siffin, one of the famous companions of the Holy Prophet (s), Ammar Yasir andanother great favourite of the Holy Prophet, Uways Qarani, fought for Imam Ali and both were killed in the battle.

The men who had been, with ulterior motives, most clamerous at Siffin for the reference to arbitration, when felt that their hopes could not be realized, repudiated the arbitration and denounced it as sinful. They openly mutinied against Imam Ali (therefore they were called Kharijiites). From Kufa, they withdrew to a place called Naharwan, which was on the border of the desert. There they assumed threatening attitude, killed some officers of the government and many respectable men as well as women and children. They refused to hear reasonable advice, to join duty or to return home. Their conduct at last became so spurious that Imam Ali was forced to attack them at Naharwan, that encounter is called the Battle of Naharwan. The majority fell fighting, a few escaped to Bahrain and Ahsa, where they formed the nucleus of a fanatical horde which later assumed various names and adopted various guises.

"Abu Musa had also retired to Medina where he subsequently received a handsome yearly stipend from the court of Muawiyah". [87]

From the day of ascension to the rulership upto the last day of his life, Imam Ali did not get a day's rest and peace. It is a wonder that despite facing the heavy odds, he could get time to introduce reforms in the government, to lay out the fundamentals of Arabic grammar, to deliver sermons on theology, on rhetorics, on philosophy of religion, on wonders of creation and nature, and on duties of man to Allah and man; to advise people in the most persuasive style; to suppress the tendencies for innovation and schism, which had crept in the minds of Muslims, or to introduce and to bring into effect the principles of Divine government.

After dealing with the revolt of Kharijiites Imam Ali had to face the problem of consolidating his control over Egypt. He had sent Qays ibn Sa'd as a governor there, but had to call him back and to send Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr instead. Unfortunately, Muhammad though brave and sincere was no match to Muawiyah and Amr ibn Aas. He was forced by Muawiyah into a battle. He wrote to Imam Ali who sent Malik Ashar for his help. But Malik could not reach Egypt, he was on the way poisoned to death by a henchman of Muawiyah. [88] Muhammad was informed of this fact. That young man faced Amr ibn Aas alone, was defeated in the encounter, was killed and by the orders of Muawiyah, his dead body was burnt and his ashes [89] were strewn. Imam Ali's words, at the news of death of Muhammad, show how he loved the young man and how the youth loved him. (See Nahjul Balagha, Saying 320 andLetter 35).

After him, Imam Ali had to send some experienced officer to Egypt. He therefore was busy with that problem when Muawiyah organized guerilla war with orders for loot, murder, arson and rape. These bands were to attack, in the form of waves after waves, the provinces of Hijaz, Basra, Ra'y and Musil. Imam Ali organized the defence of these provinces, defeated these bands and freed the country from their harassment.

It was very easy for Imam Ali to divert the minds of the masses towards foreign invasion and thus make them busy in murder and plunder. It had always been done by rulers and is even today considered as the best form of employing energies of a rising nation as well as the easiest way to form Empire and to propagate religion. But Imam Ali (a) hated bloodshed, did not believe in Imperialism, and had no faith in propagation of religion with sword in one hand and the Quran in the other. He believed Islam to be a message of peace and love and wanted mankind to be ruled on the basis of equity and justice. Therefore after strengthening one province after another, and fortifying their defences, he got busy in introducing reforms to create a benign temporal State and never seriously thought of expanding his domain.

By the time he got complete control over those problems and could organize an army to liberate Syria and Egypt from the reign of terror which had held them in its sway, the fateful month of Ramazan 40 A.H. arrived.

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References: 

 [22] "La fata illa Ali, La sayfa illa Zulfiqar". Tarikh Waqidi; Shah Ismal Hamwini; Tarikh Abul Fida; Tarikh Tabari

[23] A detailed account of this Battle is given in Izalatul Khifa, Shah Waliullah Dehlavi; Tarikh Kamil, Ibn Athir; Tarikh Tabari and Durre Manthur, Suyuti.

[24] The Spirit of Islam, Justice Syed Amirali.

[25] For details of this tradition and Battle of Khaybar, refer to: Ma'arijun Nubuwwah, vol. IV, p. 216; al-Manaqib, Akhtab Khazrami; Yanabi'ul Mawaddah, Mullah Ali Hamdani; Seerah ibn Hisham, p. 187; Tarikh Tabari.

[26] Sahih Bukhari

[27] Rawzatus Safa, vol. II, p. 137; Tarikh Ambiya, vol. II, p. 388.

[28] Abul Fida, p. 349; Rawzatus Safa, vol. II, p.136; Tarikh Ambiya, vol. II, p. 389.

[29] A detailed account of this encounter is to be found in: Rawzatus Safa, vol. II, p. 136; Tarikh Ambiya, vol. II, p. 388; Seerah Ibn Hisham, vol. II, p. 621; Kanzul Ammal, vol. V, p. 307.

[78] A'tham Kufi, p. 147; Tarikh Tabari, vol. IV, pp. 548-65; Rawzatus Safa, vol. II; Tarikh Zahabi, pp. 1-21; Tarikh Abul Fida, pp. 518-520

[79] Murujuz Zahab, Mas'udi, p. 28

[80] Murujuz Zahab, vol. VI

[81] Tarikh Khamis, vol. II, p.97

[82] Tarikh Tabari; Rawzatus Safa, A'tham Kufi; Murujuz Zahab; Tarikh Abul Fida; Kamil ibn Athir

[83] Tarikh Tabari; Rawzatus Safa, A'tham Kufi; Murujuz Zahab; Tarikh Abul Fida; Kamil ibn Athir

[84] Tarikh Tabari, vol. VI, p.577; Rawzatus Safa, vol. II, p. 425; Tarikh Abul Fida, p. 425

[85] Tarikh Tabari, vol. VI, p. 577; Rawzatus Safa, vol. II, p. 425; Tarikh Abul Fida, p. 425

[86] A Short History of the Saracen

[87] Tarikh Tabari; Tarikh Abul Fida; A'tham Kufi; Rawzatus Safa; Murujuz Zahab; Kamil ibn Athir; A Short History of the Saracen

[88] Tarikh Tabari, vol. IV, p. 521

[89] Tarikh Tabari, vol. IV, p.592

[90] The Spirit of Islam