Hazrat Imaam Ali – Karam Allah-Wajhu

Khalifa Ali bin Talib

Birth of Hazrat Imaam Ali (Karam Allah-Wajhu)


Ali was the son of Abu Talib, a prominent Quraish chief and custodian of the Holy Kaaba. Abu Talib was so called because he was the father of “Talib”, the eldest brother of Ali. The real name of Abu Talib was Abd Manaf. He was however more popularly known by his surname than by his real name. Abu Talib was the son of Abdul Muttalib. Abdul Muttalib was also a surname, his real name being Shaybah. Abdul Muttalib was the son of Hashim. Hashim was a great man of the line, and his descendants came to be known as Hashimites.

The mother of Ali was Fatima. She was the daughter of Asad who was a son of Hashim. Fatima was a cousin of Abu Talib. Thus both the father and mother of Ali were Hashimites, and that was a great honor.

Ancestry of Ali and the Holy Prophet

The Holy Prophet was the son to Abdullah who was the son of Abdul Muttalib. Abdullah and Abu Talib were real brothers. Abu Talib was thus the real paternal uncle of the Holy Prophet of Islam. Ali was the first cousin of the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet and Ali had a common grandfather Abdul Muttalib.

Abdul Muttalib was the son of Hashim who was the son of Abd Manaf who was the son of Qussay who was the son of Murrah, who was the son of Kaab, who was the son of Luayy, who was the son of Ghalib, who was the son of Fihr, who was the son of Malik who was the son of Nadr, who was the son of Kananah. Beyond Kananah the ancestry extended to Ismail, and Ibrahim, who flourished some 2500 years earlier.

Date of birth

The exact date of the birth of Ali is not known with any degree of certainty. According to traditions, Ali was born on the thirteenth of “Rajab” in the 28th year of the Elephant Era. The Elephant Era according to the annals of Arabia commenced when Abraha the Christian Viceroy of Yemen invaded Makkah with the intention of destroying the Kaaba, and shifting the center of pilgrimage to Yemen. The invasion failed and the Christian army had to beat a retreat without achieving its object. That marked the retreat of Christianity from the heartland of Arabia and paved the way for the rise of Islam. The Holy Prophet of Islam was born in the Year of the Elephant. According to scholars the Year of the Elephant corresponds to the year 571 of the Christian era. On this basis, the year of the birth of Ali would have to be placed around 599 or 600 C.E. Anyhow Ali was at the junction of the two centuries, the sixth and the seventh.

Birth of Imaam Ali ( (Karam Allah-Wajhu)

Ali was born under unusual circumstances. On the thirteenth of the holy month of “Rajab”, Fatima, the mother of Ali, visited the Kaaba for performing the pilgrimage. During the course of the pilgrimage while circumambulating the Kaaba, Fatima felt the pangs of childbirth. She retired to a secluded place in the precincts of the Holy Kaaba, and there Ali was born. Ali had thus the unique honor of being born in the House of God. This unparalleled honor has endowed Ali with a halo of sanctity, which has become the subject of many legends. A hundred years later, Zain-ul-Abidin a grandson of Ali (son of Husain) met as Arab woman at Najaf who told him that her grandmother had helped on the occasion of the birth of Ali. She narrated that according to the account of her grandmother, the child was beautiful, a smile played on his lips, it did not cry like other children, and its birth did not cause any pain to his mother.

The Name

Fatima wanted to name the child “Asad” after the name of her father. Abu Talib wanted to name him Zaid. When the mother and the child came home, the Holy Prophet, and Khadija came to see the newborn child. Since his birth, the child had not opened his eyes, and that worried Fatima and Abu Talib. As the Holy Prophet took the child in his lap he opened his eyes. The first person that Ali saw after his birth was the Holy Prophet. When the Holy Prophet was asked whether he approved of the child being named as Asad or Zaid, he said that as the child was born in the House of God, he should be named Ali, the word Ali being a derivative of Allah. Ali had thus the distinction of being named after Allah. No person before him had ever been so named. The name acquired further sanctity as it was proposed by the Holy Prophet.

Years of Childhood
The Holy Prophet and Ali

The Holy Prophet was a posthumous child, and he was born after the death of his father Abdullah. He lost his mother Aamina when he was hardly six years old. Thereafter he became a ward of his grandfather Abdul Muttalib. He lost his grandfather when he nine years old. The Holy Prophet next lived with his Uncle Abu Talib who a real brother of his father. In the house of Abu Talib, the Holy prophet was well cared for. Abu Talib loved the Holy Prophet more than his own sons. Fatima the wife of Abu Talib gave the Holy Prophet the love of mother. The Holy Prophet accompanied Abu Talib on his trade journeys. It was under the loving care of Abu Talib and Fatima that the Holy Prophet grew into manhood. At the age of twenty-five, some time around 596 C.E., the Holy Prophet married a rich lady Khadija and shifted to her house. There was not much distance between the two houses and the two families visited each other frequently. The Holy Prophet cold never forget the love that Abu Talib and Fatima had born for him. Even after his marriage, the Holy Prophet regarded himself as a member of the family of Abu Talib. In this context, it is probable that the Holy Prophet and Khadija would have rejoiced at the birth of Ali and would have some function to celebrate the occasion.

Life in the desert

No detailed account of the early years of the childhood of Ali is available, and where the source books are silent the story has been reconstructed on the basis of the laws of plausibility and probability. It was a custom of the Quraish of Makkah that they entrusted their new born sons to the care of foster parents belonging to the tribes of the desert, and it was in the open air of the desert that the young sons of the Quraish were bred during the first few years of their childhood. We know that the Holy Prophet spent the first five years of his childhood with his foster parents in the desert. We do not know who the foster parents of Ali were. Ali had a strong constitution, and after the Holy Prophet, he was the most eloquent person among the Quraish. This provides evidence to the effect that like the Holy Prophet, Ali spent the first few years of his childhood in the desert. It appears that the necessary arrangements in this behalf were made by the Holy Prophet, and he paid for the maintenance of Ali in the desert.

Induction of Ali as a member of the family of the Holy Prophet

As the Holy Prophet had arranged for the stay of Ali in the desert, it appears that on return from the desert, the young Ali was brought to the house of the Holy Prophet, and he arranged some function to mark the occasion which was attended by Abu Talib and his family, and other close relatives. The Holy Prophet had looked after the young Ali since his birth and he developed a great liking for him. It was against this background that the Holy Prophet requested Abu Talib that Ali be entrusted to his care, and be allowed to live with him as a member of his family. Abu Talib agreed as he felt that the Holy Prophet would look after Ali in a much better way than he could.

Most of the writers have expressed the view that the Holy Prophet took over the responsibility for the maintenance of Ali to provide financial relief to Abu Talib whose financial position had grown weak. It is difficult to accept this view. Abu Talib was a Quraish chief and he enjoyed reputation as such and commanded great influence. Like the other Quraish he undertook trading activities. There is no evidence to the effect that he was involved in any financial difficulty. Abu Talib had really any financial difficulty, the Holy Prophet who was in affluent circumstances could have supplemented the financial resources of Abu Talib by providing financial assistance as a son would help a father in old age. The truth of the matter is that Ali was entrusted to the Holy Prophet, not because of any financial considerations, but because the Holy Prophet had developed a liking for the child, and wanted to have him by his side. In entrusting Ali to the care of the Holy Prophet, Abu Talib did not part from Ali. Ali visited the house of his parents every day, and he was as much a member of the house of Abu Talib as that of the Holy Prophet. Indeed the house of the Holy Prophet was an extension of the house of Abu Talib, and the young Ali lived with the Holy Prophet as a younger brother would live with an elder brother without any break with the paternal house.

The Umayyads versus the Hashimites

It appears that most of the accounts of the period were written when the Umayyads had wrested power from the Hashimites. Because of the rivalry between the Umayyads and the Hashimites, most of the writers during the Umayyad period tried to create the impression that the Hashimites were not good managers, and that the financial position of Abu Talib had deteriorated because of his inefficiency. This view is uncharitable. The Muslims are under great obligation to Abu Talib for his guardianship of the Holy Prophet and for his support of Islam, and such views which cast an indirect aspersion on Abu Talib have to be rejected because of the bias of the writers.

Ward of the Holy Prophet
Biographical study

Ali became the ward of the Holy Prophet at the age of five. No account is available from the source books about the life of Ali during this period. As Ali came to be attached to the Holy Prophet during this period, we can derive help from the life of the Holy Prophet in order to undertake a biographical study of Ali. There are three turning points in the life of the Holy Prophet. The first turning point was his marriage with Khadija in 596 C E. when he was twenty-five years old. The second turning point was the call to prophethood in 611 C.E. when he was forty years old. The third turning point was the migration to Yathrib in 622 C E. when he was fifty-one years old. The life of the Holy Prophet is thus divisible into four periods. The first period of 25 years extends from 571 to 596 C. E the second period of 15 years extends from 596 to 611 C.E. The third period of 11 years extends from 611 to 622 C.E. The fourth and the last period covering ten years extends from 622 to 632 C.E. We have sufficient details about the third and fourth periods. A few details are available about the first period, but there are practically no details in any source book pertaining to the period from 596 to 611. These were the formative years preliminary to the call to prophethood, and in order to get a complete picture of the life of the Holy Prophet we will have to reconstruct the life story of the Holy Prophet during this period on the basis of further research. The law of plausibility and probability will also have to be pressed into service to set the narrative in proper perspective. As Ali became the ward of the Holy Prophet, during this period we cannot reproduce an account of the life of Ali during this period from any source book. We will have to undertake an exercise in the reconstruction of the biography of Ali during this period.

The house of the Holy Prophet

When Ali came to live with the Holy Prophet that was some time in the year 604 C.E. By this time eight years had passed since the marriage of the Holy Prophet and Khadija. At the time the Holy Prophet was thirty-three years and Khadija was forty-eight years old. During these eight years, Khadija had given birth to seven children. Out of these three were sons and four were daughters. All the three boys died during infancy. The girls survived. These were Zainab, Ruqayya, Umm Kulthum and Fatima. There were no more births thereafter. All the source books that have come down to us are silent as to the activities of the Holy Prophet during this period. We know that Khadija was a rich lady and when the record is silent about any business activity of the Holy Prophet that tends to create the impression that the Holy Prophet depended on the wealth of his wife. The Holy Prophet being the greatest of all men of all times, and a personification of perfection in all spheres of human activity could not be supposed as living on the wealth of anybody else, howsoever close. Years later in a verse of the Holy Quran, Allah said, “Were thee not poor, and did We not enrich thee?” A person who depends on the wealth of another person cannot be regarded as a rich man. The test of richness is that such richness should be on his own account and because of his own efforts. We know that the Holy Prophet was a skilful Manager, and a man endowed with such qualities could not be expected to sit idle. We know that the Holy Prophet was known as “Amin”. This means that he was a banker, and a person who practiced banking must necessarily be a rich man. The Holy Prophet undertook some trade journeys before his marriage, and such journeys proved to be profitable from the business point of view. There appears to be no ground to believe that the Holy Prophet stopped all business activity after marriage. On the other hand, the plausibility is that he undertook such activities on a still bigger scale. It appears that during this period, the Holy Prophet headed a trade organization whereof his wife and some other friends were partners. We can thus conclude that when Ali came to live with the Holy Prophet, he found in the house of the Holy Prophet, all the comforts that are found in the house of a rich man.

Education of Ali

As the Holy Prophet was rich, it is certain that on taking over the responsibility for the maintenance of Ali, the Holy Prophet made the best possible arrangement for his education. Later in life, Ali came to enjoy reputation for being the most learned man of his age in Arabia. This points to the fact that the Holy Prophet took particular care in educating Ali, Ali was a precocious child, at an early age he came to master knowledge which others could hardly understand.

Trade journeys

Though there is no record to show that the Holy Prophet undertook any trade journeys during this period, there are strong plausible grounds to hold that the Holy Prophet was very active in business enterprises, and that he undertook at least one or two journeys every year. These journeys were generally undertaken to Yemen and Syria. There are indications that the Holy Prophet undertook some sea voyages as well and visited Egypt and Abyssinia. We know that when the Holy Prophet was a child, he accompanied his uncle Abu Talib on trade journeys. Against this background, we would not be far from the truth to hold that the young Ali often accompanied the Holy Prophet on such trade journeys. These journeys were highly educative and contributed a good deal to the broadening of the outlook of Ali.

Ali and the Kaaba

Ali knew that he was born in the Kaaba. He had, therefore, a fond attachment for the Kaaba. Some time in 605 C.E. the Quraish reconstructed the Kaaba. A dispute arose about the placing of the Holy Stone as each section of the Quraish wanted to have this honor for itself. It was ultimately decided that on the appointed day whosoever was the first to enter the Kaaba should decide as to how the dispute was to be resolved. On the appointed day the Holy Prophet was the first to enter the Kaaba. He decided that the Holy Stone should be placed in a mantle, and this mantle should be upheld by a representative of each section of the Quraish. The stone was carried in this way to the place where it was to be fixed in the wall. There the Holy Prophet lifted the stone from the mantle and fixed it at the appropriate place in the wall. Young Ali was present in the Kaaba on this occasion and he watched the proceedings with great interest. Ali felt a sense of pride at the association of his family with the Kaaba. He himself was born in the Kaaba, and his guardian had presided at the ceremony of laying down the Holy Stone. The Kaaba was verily the House of God, but he wondered why it was studded with over three hundred and sixty idols made of stone. The people worshipped these idols and slaughtered animals at their altar. He young Ali wondered why these deaf and dumb idols were worshipped and propitiated when they were not capable of conferring any benefit or inflicting any wrong on the people.

Ali and the Holy Prophet

At this impressionable period of his life, the young Ali was most impressed with the personality and character of the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet was the paragon of virtues, and the personification of human perfection. The Holy Prophet, Abu Bakr, and some other friends often met at the house of the Holy Prophet. The young Ali listened attentively to such talks. From these talks the young Ali gathered that the Holy Prophet was in quest of a new order of things. Ali resolved in his young mind that in any adventure in the discovery of a new order of things, he would stand by the side of Muhammad (peace be on him). He came to know from Abu Talib how a Christian monk in Syria had prophesied many years ago that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was destined to be a prophet of God. He heard from Khadija that her dream signified that great destiny awaited Muhammad (peace be upon him),and that he was to be a great leader of men and the savior of humanity. The young Ali anxiously longed to see that day when such dreams would be realized. He moved by a strong determination that as and when Muhammad (peace be upon him) was lifted to the status of prophethood he, as the ward of the Holy Prophet, Ali regarded the Holy Prophet not merely as a brother or a guardian, but as his guide and preceptor. Availing of the company of the Holy Prophet, the young Ali took pains to acquire most of the attributes, which were the distinguishing features of the character of the Holy Prophet. It was a result of this training received because of close association with the Holy Prophet that Ali in due course grew to be the alter ego of the Holy Prophet.

Conversion to Islam Turning point in history

The year 611 C.E. was a turning point in the life of Muhammad (peace be upon him) for it was in this year that he was commissioned as a prophet of God to communicate the message of Islam to mankind. It was a turning point in the life of Ali for in this year he was converted to Islam. This was a turning point in the history of Islam. In fact it was a turning point in the history of mankind. It marked the end of the age of ignorance, and the dawn of a new era of enlightenment.

The call to Prophethood

Just as the clouds appear before the rain, thus Muhammad (peace be upon him) had some indications before hand of the things to come. He had frequent dreams, in some dreams he saw himself flying to the heavens in the great void of space. In some dreams he saw the stars bow to him. In some dreams he heard the trees, the rocks and the ether inanimate objects calling to him. In some dreams he saw himself standing at the summit of a mountain, and calling to the people assembled below in the valley. These dreams foretelling of some great things to come motivated Muhammad (peace be on him) to contemplate and meditate. To seek enlightenment through contemplation and meditation, Muhammad (peace be on him) sought the solitude of a cave in Mount Hira, some distance away from the city of Makkah. Muhammad (peace be on him) spent long hours in the cave absorbed in thought and meditation. When the stay in the cave extended to a long time Ali brought food for Muhammad in the cave. Ali kept watch on the cave and patrolled the neighborhood. One day in the year 611, the angel Gabriel appeared in the cave, and gave Muhammad (peace be on him) the tidings that God had commissioned him as a prophet and charged him to communicate the message of God to the people. The visitation of the angel, an unusual occurrence was a novel experience which upset Muhammad (peace be on him) and made him highly nervous.

Converts to Islam

When the Holy Prophet returned home he was highly agitated and most nervous. He told of the occurrence in the cave to his wife Khadija. She consulted her cousin Waraqa b Naufal who was versed in religious lore. Waraqa said that the angel who had appeared before Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the same angel who had appeared before Abraham, Moses and other prophets. Waraqa added that the visiting of the angel was a great event, and she should rejoice that her husband had been chosen by the Almighty God as His Messenger. When Khadija told Muhammad (peace be on him) what Waraqa had said, Muhammad (peace be on him) said that the burden of prophethood would be too heavy for him to bear, and he did not know who would accept conversion to the new faith at his hand. Khadija consoled him and said that the Almighty who had chosen him as His Messenger would Himself guide him in fulfilling His mission of prophethood. Khadija offered herself as the first person to owe allegiance to Muhammad (peace be on him) as the prophet of God. When Ali came to know of the conversion of Khadija he hastened to offer his allegiance to the Holy Prophet. Ali was the first among the youth to be converted to Islam. In some books it is written that when Muhammad (peace be upon him) invited Ali to the new faith, he showed some hesitation and said that he would consult Abu Talib in the first instance. This version of what happened is far from the truth. There was no hesitation on the part of Ali in accepting the truth. Ali had indeed been longing for the day when the call from the Almighty would come and when the call came he was so much overwhelmed with joy that there could be no question of any hesitation. The acceptance of the new faith on the part of Ali was spontaneous and without any hesitation, for Ali had the firm conviction that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the true prophet of God.

Early years of Islam

During the first three years, Islam remained a private affair and no attempt was made to proclaim Islam publicly. The message of Islam was during this period conveyed privately to his friends by the Holy Prophet. Among the persons outside the family of the Holy Prophet, Abu Bakr was the first to be converted to Islam. Abu Bakr in turn brought some of his friends to the fold of Islam. Those who accepted Islam persuaded their friends to accept Islam. In this way the chain came to be extended, and the progress of Islam though not spectacular was quite satisfactory. The early Muslims prayed in secluded glens, or other solitary places. On one occasion Abu Talib happened to see the Muslims praying behind the Holy Prophet in a glen out side Makkah. Ali was one of the congregation. Abu Talib asked Ali as to whom they were praying, and what was the religion they had adopted. Ali told his father that they were praying to Allah, the Lord of the world and the universe. There was no god but Allah and Muhammad (peace be upon him) was His prophet. Abu Talib pondered for a while and said, “If Muhammad has become the prophet, hold fast to him for he cannot but be right. I know that his elevation to prophethood was expected many years ago”. When the Holy Prophet and Ali visited the house of Abu Talib, they had a more detailed discussion about the new faith. Abu Talib was sympathetic, but as he was one of the tribal chiefs he could not abandon the faith of his forefathers. He warned the Holy Prophet that he would have to face the opposition of the Quraish. He promised that though he would not accept the new faith, he would stand by him through thin and thick, and he would enjoy his full support. Fatima the wife of Abu Talib was more sympathetic. She said that she had mothered Muhammad, and Muhammad (peace be on him) was not the man to make a false claim. She observed that it was yet too early for her to make a decision whether she was going to accept Islam or not. Jafar, a brother of Ali put a few questions to the Holy Prophet, who answered them satisfactorily. Jafar wanted some more time to consider over the matter.

Invitation to Banu Hashim

After three years of the call to prophethood, the Holy Prophet received the command of God that he should publicly proclaim the message of Islam, and that he could make a beginning with his relatives, belonging to the house of Banu Hashim. The Holy Prophet invited the Hashimites, about forty men, to a feast. After the feast the Holy Prophet gave an account as to how he had been visited by the angel Gabriel who had conveyed to him the orders of Allah commissioning him as His prophet. He said that there was no god but Allah, and that he was His Messenger commissioned to call the people to the faith. He added that the members of the house of Hashim should feel proud that this honor had come to one of them. Waxing eloquent the Holy Prophet said that in the task of promoting the new faith he needed their support. He posed the question, “Who out of you would support me in this task? A silence fell on the guests and no one uttered a word. Young Ali thereupon rose to say, “Holy Prophet, I will be your support”? The Holy Prophet looked approvingly at young Ali, and thanked him for his support. The Holy Prophet posed the same question for the second and third time but, no one out of the guests promised any support. Each time the young Ali rose to offer his support in unequivocal terms. Abu Talib had already assured the Holy Prophet of his protection and he did not consider it advisable to make a public declaration of his support or protection at that stage. He, however, felt happy at the courage shown by the young Ali. He felt that there was something extraordinary in the new faith, which had motivated young Ali to the demonstration of such courage in public. Abu Lahab a step uncle of the Holy Prophet took a hostile attitude. He ridiculed the new faith, and felt sorry that his nephew had lost his sense, and was suffering from some hallucination. He wanted the guests to disperse. The Holy Prophet felt very unhappy at his failure to win the support of the Banu Hashim. Though disappointed the Holy Prophet was not daunted. He knew that the course of the Truth could not be anything but rough and that in order to fulfil his mission he should prepare himself to face difficulties. After his disappointment with the Banu Hashim the Holy Prophet decided to make a public declaration of his faith. One day he mounted the hillock, Mt Safa, and called the people to come and listen to him. Ali was by the side of the Holy Prophet. In response to the call a large crowd gathered at the foot of the hill to listen to the Holy Prophet. Addressing the people, the Holy Prophet said: “O people, if I tell you that on the other side of this hill there were the forces of an enemy coming to attack you, would you believe me”? They said, “Yes, we would believe in you, for you are known to be truthful. ” Thereupon the Holy Prophet said, “if I tell you that there is no god but Allah, and I am His prophet, would you believe me. ” The people made no reply and the crowd dispersed. The people steeped deep in ignorance were not yet in the mood to know the Truth. As the Holy Prophet and Ali came down from the hill they felt that they would have to carry a great struggle in the cause of their mission before any results could be achieved.


In the accounts of this period that have come down to us there is no mention of Ali. By this time Ali had come of age. He was well educated, highly intelligent, most enterprising and brave. It is difficult to believe that if the accounts make no mention of Ali, the inference is that he was idle and had nothing to do. When Abu Talib decided to espouse the cause of Muhammad (peace be on him), Ali most probably played an important part in prevailing upon Abu Talib to take the decision he did. We know that when the Holy Prophet migrated to Yathrib, he entrusted the responsibility for winding up the business in Makkah to Ali. In the accounts that have come down to us the Holy Prophet is shown as a good manager and businessman, but in the accounts of the post-prophethood period there is no account of any business activity on the part of the Prophet. The writers of the period apparently harbored the delusion that any business undertaking was repugnant to prophethood. An impression is tried to be created that in the post-prophethood period the Holy Prophet undertook no business and depended on the wealth of his followers, Abu Bakr, Othman and others. This is an erroneous presentation, for Islam is not a religion for the next world alone, it is a religion for this world as well. To abstain from business may be the Christian or the Buddhist concept of piety, but that is not the Islamic concept of prophethood. The Holy Prophet is the greatest man of all times and such a man perfect in every way cannot be without independent sources of income. It appears that when Ali came of age, the Holy Prophet entrusted the responsibility for running the business to Ali. It appears that during the period of the social boycott Ali continued to run the business of the holy Prophet (SAW). The boycott agreement merely restricted the sale or purchase by the Quraish; it did not and could not apply to business transactions elsewhere. It appears that Ali undertook business journeys during this period, and the necessary provisions procured from outside Makkah were duly supplied to the Banu Hashim in the glen.

Year of Sorrow
The Holy Prophet and the Quraish

The troubles of the Holy Prophet and the Muslims did not come to an end with the end of the social boycott. Frustrated at the failure of the boycott, the Quraish were in a sullen and hostile mood, and they began to think of the adoption of more stringent measures which could bring the Muslims to their knees. In the meantime Abu Talib fell sick. He was already eighty years old and the strain of the confinement during the boycott had proved too heavy for him and had undermined his health. The malady grew worse, and when no hope was left of his survival, a deputation of the Quraish visited him at his deathbed. They said that as he was going to depart from the world, out of regard for him they were inclined to offer terms of peace to Muhammad. Abu Talib summoned the Holy Prophet to his presence, and the Quraish were asked to name their terms. They said that if Muhammad desisted from maligning their faith and criticizing their gods, they would let him alone to have his own way without any interference by the Quraish. The Holy Prophet said that the way of the Quraish was the way of many gods, while his way was the way of the Oneness of God “hereunder there is no god but Allah, and all other gods are false. As the two ways crossed each other no agreement could be reached between the parties. The Quraish, thus foiled, began to prepare for another major offensive against the Holy Prophet and the Muslims to be launched after the death of Abu Talib.

Bequest of Abu Talib

Before his death, Abu Talib recorded a bequest, and had it hung in the Kaaba According to “Rauza-tu’s-Safa”, this bequest reads as follows: “O thou people of Quraish! Thou art the chosen race of God, and the best in the world. In my dying behest I will ask you to be kind and well disposed towards Muhammad because he is a trustee from among the Quraish, and most truthful from amongst the whole population of Arabia. He has in his person all those things, which compel me to leave a will in his favor. He has tidings to reveal which your heart accepts although for fear your lips do not respond to confirm the call of your heart. I find that the half-barbarians of the Arabian desert, in contrast to you, respond to the call and obey his orders and verily these are the people who will be exalted in this world and the hereafter. Mark me when I say that your chiefs will be dishonored, and stiff necked though they now are, they will soon be humbled. I see the entire country has sincerity and enthusiasm for his message, and the people have widened their hearts to receive that love. In short they are willing to follow and obey him. O thou Quraish! It is high time that you should befriend him, support him and follow him in the path that he treads. I swear by God that only those who desist to follow him who are not destined to reform, and only those will follow in his footsteps who are destined to be great, pious and noble. If there is some respite or delay in my death, and I survive a few more days I will support his cause. As far as it lies within my power I will protect him from the evils of the enemy.” This bequest was written by Ali and was dictated by Abu Talib.

Death of Abu Talib

Abu Talib did not live long after the recording of his bequest. The Quraish felt annoyed at the bequest, and said that Abu Talib had lost his senses in old age. When Abu Talib died there was rejoicing in the camp of the Quraish. Ali composed elegiac verses on this occasion. Some of these verses read: “Abu Talib is no more. His passing away is a great loss. He was the protector of the poor and the weak. Whenever there was a famine, He liberally aided those in distress. Whenever there was a difficulty he resolved it. He could distinguish the truth from falsehood. He was generous, kind hearted and sympathetic. Men of his caliber are rare. A vacuum has been created because of his death. The Quraish are happy at his death. They have forgotten that man is mortal and no one can tarry in this world for long. Because of their mental deficiencies the Quraish have made plans to destroy the Muslims, but we will teach them a lesson. It will be a war to the finish. Either they will destroy us; Or we will destroy them. “

Death of Khadija

A few days after the death of Abu Talib, Khadija also passed away. The deaths of Abu Talib and Khadija marked the end of an epoch. Abu Talib had been more than a father to the Holy Prophet. In spite of the strong pressure of the Quraish, he had protected the Holy Prophet to the last, and had left a bequest in his favor. Abu Talib was of course the father of Ali, and although Ali lived with the Holy Prophet, he was not denied the paternal love of Abu Talib.

Khadija had been for the Holy Prophet more than wife. She placed all her wealth which was considerable at his disposal. She gave him love. She was the mother of his children. She supported him through thick and thin. She was indeed the first person to be converted to Islam. To Ali she had been more than a mother.

The passing away of Abu Talib and Khadija created a great vacuum in the life of the Holy Prophet. He felt very lonely and disconsolate. His grief was so intense that the Muslims called the year “619 C. EL,” the year of the deaths of Abu Talib and Khadija as the “Year of Sorrow. “

Ali shared this grief with the Holy Prophet. In heart-rending verses he mourned the deaths of Abu Talib and Khadija. He said: both my eyes weep, weep for that chief of the Bateha valley whose name was Abu Talib; and weep for that flower of womanhood whose name was Khadija. The woman first to accept Islam and first to pray. Both Abu Talib and Khadija were pure souls. Their passing away has created a great void. At the pain of their separation I spend the whole night in weeping. They helped the Holy Prophet. They were a source of strength to Islam. After them the world has been plunged into darkness. From God they came and to God they have returned; may their souls rest in peace.

Life in Madina

Ali arrived in Yathrib renamed as Madina-tun-Nabi or Madina in the honor of the Holy Prophet towards the close of September in the year 622 C.E. The Holy Prophet welcomed him to Madina, and appreciated his services for risking his life for him at Makkah in facing the fury of the Quraish. The Holy Prophet was glad to note that the task allotted to Ali at Makkah had been properly and satisfactorily done by him.

The world of Madina was quite different from the world of Makkah. At Makkah the Muslims were a persecuted people; at Madina they were the masters of their destiny. At Makkah they were surrounded by enemies; at Madina they were in the midst of friends. The life at Madina marked a break with the past. The days of trials, tribulations and tortures were over and the Muslims were now set on the path of fulfillment. The Muslims were now to build a new society and a new common wealth.

The climate of Makkah was dry, but the climate of Madina was damp. The landscape of Makkah was marked by barren rocks, and stony wastes; the landscape of Madina was market by agricultural fields, gardens, and groves of date palms. The change in the physical scene affected the health of the emigrants, and some of them including Abu Bakr fell sick. Ali withstood the climatic change without being affected in health. He spent most of his time in nursing the sick and helping them in adjusting themselves to the new environments.

Implications of the pairing of the Holy Prophet and Ali

The pairing of the Holy Prophet and Ali was a matter of great significance, and it had deep implications and repercussions. In the various source books that have come down to us, no light is thrown on such implications. We will, therefore, have to undertake an exercise on our own account in spelling out the underlying implications. In the process of brotherhood-formation every emigrant from Makkah was paired with an Ansar of Madina. The Holy Prophet was himself an emigrant from Makkah, and the question that arises for consideration is: why did the Holy Prophet not pair himself with any Ansar of Madina ? To be paired with the Holy Prophet was a great honor, and many Ansars coveted this honor. If the Holy Prophet had shown preference for some particular Ansar that would have been a cause for jealousy on the part of the other Ansars who equally coveted the honor. In Madina the status of the Holy Prophet was that of a ruler, and if he had shown preference for some particular Ansar, that would have been a cause of heart burning for the other Ansar. The Holy Prophet did not pair himself with any Ansar because of his impartiality.

A consequence of the pairing of the emigrants and the Ansars was that the emigrants shared with the Ansar their income and property. If the Holy Prophet did not pair with any particular Ansar the question is what was the source of income of the Holy Prophet in Madina? When the Holy Prophet in order to maintain his impartially did not choose to have a share in the income and property of a particular Ansar, it implies that he had his share in the income and property of all Ansars. It is a common practice with religious fraternities that each person belonging to the fraternity contributes a certain percentage of his income to the common fund of the fraternity which is places at the disposal of the head of the fraternity. It appears that the Ansars of Madina constituted some common fund of similar nature and placed it at the disposal of the Holy Prophet. Presumably some property was also placed at the disposal of the Holy Prophet the income whereof could be utilized to meet his expenses as well as other common needs. The emigrants from Makkah were traders, and in Madina as well they undertook trading activities. Indeed Madina offered more trading opportunities than Makkah. The Holy Prophet ran some sort of business at Makkah which was managed by Ali. It appears that the same business was continued in Madinah. As the Holy Prophet had to devote a good deal of his attention to the affairs of the State, the responsibility for running the business enterprise rested a good deal on Ali. The Holy Prophet and Ali were already cousins and the brotherhood constituted signified that the ties between the Holy Prophet and Ali became still closer and stronger, and they shared each other’s property.


In 623 C.E. the Holy Prophet decided to build a mosque in Madina which was to be a prayer house as well as a community center. The Holy Prophet asked the Muslims to offer their services in labor as well as capital towards the construction of the mosque. Ali was the first person to offer his services as laborer. He shoveled the earth when the foundations were being laid and later carried on baskets of brick and mortar which he passed on to the masons. Ali composed some verses for the occasion, and he recited them as he worked as a laborer. Some of these verses which have been preserved are: “Whoever builds a mosque and works whether sitting or standing puts up with the pain of labor, while others shirk work for fear of dust and pain. Both of these verily cannot equal each other”. As the other Muslims labored they chanted: “There is no life but the life of the next world, O God have mercy on the Muhajireen and the Ansar”. Within a few months the mosque was completed. It was square in form, and each side measured fifty yards. The mosque faced towards the north, and had three gates on each of the remaining three sides. Adjoining the mosque apartments were constructed for the household of the Holy Prophet. Ali also had an apartment in the mosque. The mosque was a monument of simplicity. The walls were made of mud bricks and the roofs were supported by trunks of palm trees. The apartments for the household were hung with blankets of camel hair as doors. The courtyard in each case was hardly six to seven paces in length, and the length of the rooms did not extend ten paces.

Marriage of Ali

When the Holy Prophet migrated to Yathrib he left his family at Makkah. When the Muslims had settled in Yathrib (renamed Madina) the Holy Prophet and the other Muslims called their families to Madina. At the time of migration, Sauda an elderly lady was the only wife of the Holy Prophet whom he had married after the death of Khadija. About a year after his arrival in Madina, the Holy Prophet married Ayesha, a daughter of Abu Bakr.

By this time, Fatima, the youngest daughter of the Holy Prophet had come of marriageable age, and the Holy Prophet had to consider the question of her marriage. Abu Bakr waited on the Holy Prophet, and asked for the hand of Fatima. The Holy Prophet made no answer. Thereafter Umar asked for the hand of Fatima and the Holy Prophet maintained silence. In the Arabian society of the day, the disparity in the age of the bride and the bridegroom did not matter. The Holy Prophet married Khadija when he was twenty-five and she was forty, fifteen years older than him. Later the Holy Prophet, when over fifty, married Ayesha yet within her teens. When the Holy Prophet did not respond to the requests of Abu Bakr or Umar he was not bothered about the age question; his silence was due to the fact that he had to wait for the guidance of God which was wont to get in all matters of importance affecting his person.

After the Battle of Badr, Ali made his suit. The Holy Prophet told Ali that he would give his reply after consulting Fatima. The Holy Prophet consulted Fatima, and she maintained silence signifying her assent. In the meantime the Holy Prophet received the revelation that God approved of the marriage of Fatima with Ali. When Fatima the mother of Ali called on the Holy Prophet to press the suit on behalf of Ali, the Holy Prophet was pleased to announce his acceptance.

Preparation for the Marriage

According to the accounts available in the source books, Ali had no money to meet the expenses of the marriage. He had to sell his armor to raise the necessary funds. Othman who enjoyed reputation for his wealth agreed to purchase the armor for five hundred dirhams. After the transaction had been completed, and the amount had been paid, Othman presented the armor to Ali as a marriage gift saying that the armor would be more useful for a warrior like Ali than for a trader like him. Ali was reluctant to accept the gift, but Othman prevailed to accept it in the name of God, for thereby it would serve the cause of Islam in fighting against its enemies. That made Ali accept the gift with many thanks. When Ali told of the transaction to the Holy Prophet, the Holy Prophet praised the conduct of Othman and prayed for him.

The Marriage Khutba

On the day fixed for the marriage, the Muslims assembled in the mosque, and the Holy Prophet delivered the Khutba solemnizing the marriage. The Holy Prophet said that all praise was due to God who should be extolled for His various bounties; who should be worshipped for His power and majesty and who should be obeyed for His omnipotence. The Holy Prophet observed that it behooves the people to seek refuge God for fear of His wrath. Dwelling on the might of God, the Holy Prophet said that His are the ordinances which prevail in Heaven and earth. He is the One who by His might ordained the existence of all creation. Through His commandments He gave us the power of discrimination. He honored us giving His religion, and commissioning Muhammad as His Prophet. Referring to the importance of marriages in human society the Holy Prophet said that undoubtedly the Almighty Lord made matrimonial alliances as the means of a fresh relationship which is a fundamental necessity and a just affair which is made incumbent on all and sundry, and through which creation is linked. The Holy Prophet observed that verily Allah is He Who has created human beings from a drop of blood. For this end He has created the relations of the in-laws. Surely God is Omnipotent. His decrees are enforced according to His decisions. His judgements decree the fate, and every fate is governed by an appointed time. Every appointed time is pre determined. Over and above this, God can obliterate or keep intact whatever He likes. The original record of all this is with Him. After these introductory remarks the Holy Prophet declared:

“Now in obedience to the Will of God I perform the marriage ceremony of Fatima with Ali, and ask you to bear witness that I have given Fatima in marriage to Ali against a dower of 400 pieces of silver coin. May God create love between the pair, bless them, purify their offspring, make their progeny a mine of wisdom, and a source of God’s blessing and solace to the believers in faith. “

The Holy Prophet ended the Khutba by asking for the forgiveness of God for himself and for the Muslims.

Ideal Marriage

According to all accounts that have come down to us, the marriage of Ali and Fatima was an ideal marriage. It was a union of two great souls. Hafsa, a daughter of Umar and later a wife of the Holy Prophet wrote some verses highlighting the greatness of the pair. She said: Fatima is superior to womankind in the world; she is the lady whose face shines as the full moon; she is the bride whose groom excels all in Scholarship.

According to some authors Ali was twenty-one years old at the time of marriage, while Fatima was sixteen years old. According to my research the date of the birth of Ali is to be placed around 599 C.E. and on this basis he was 24/25 years old at the time of marriage. Fatima was born around 604 C.E. and on this basis she was 19/20 years old at the time of marriage. There appears to be a tendency with the writers of old to under estimate the ages of persons particularly women. In most of the books, for example, it is said that at the time of her marriage with the Holy Prophet, Ayesha was a child barely nine years old. Ayesha was more or less of the same age as Fatima or very nearly so, and was well within her teens at the time of her marriage.

Undoubtedly the marriage of Ali and Fatima was an ideal marriage as the marriage was performed by the Holy Prophet in accordance with the will of God, it could not be anything but an ideal marriage. As an ideal marriage it should have been a happy marriage. In this context two aspects of the case need special consideration. One is the economic factor and the other is the temperamental factor.

The economic aspect of the matter is that all writers of old are unanimous on the point that Ali was very poor. In his book Ali, the Superman, Dr. Ata Mohyuddin observes that Ali was extremely poor, and the young couple were obliged from the first, to live from hand to mouth. It is observed that often days passed without any fire being lit in their hearth. It is further observed that his bed sheet was so small, that if he covered his head, his legs remained uncovered, and if he covered his legs his head was exposed the account provides that Fatima had to work too hard. She did not have the wherewithal to wash her clothes which were blackened and soiled on account of dust and dirt. The shoulder on which she carried pitchers of water from the well was swollen, and the hands with which she worked the handmil1 to grind corn were often covered with blisters. There is a story that she requested the Holy Prophet to give her a maid slave to assist her, but he turned down the request. According to another story Ali hired himself as an ordinary manual laborer. One day he hired himself as a laborer to draw water from the well for a date per bucket. He drew sixteen buckets when his hands were blistered. He was given sixteen dates which he took to the Holy Prophet and both of them had their meal of these dates. I have long pondered over the question of the poverty of Ali and even the Holy Prophet. It appears to me that such accounts are highly exaggerated, and remote from the truth. I have prayed to God to show me light whereby I could ascertain the truth. Islam is not a religion for the next world alone; it is a religion for this world as well. Islam does not favor accumulation of riches and the hoarding of wealth, but it does not commend poverty either. It stands for the middle course marked neither by richness nor by poverty. The Holy Prophet before an ideal Prophet had to set an example in this respect. As such while the Holy Prophet could not be very rich, he could not be poor either. Islam stands for simplicity and austerity but simplicity and austerity are not another name for poverty. How could Allah permit his beloved to starve. When the Muslims migrated to Madina, Ansars shared all their resources with the Muslims. Under the circumstances how could the Ansar permit Ali and Fatima the beloved daughter of the Holy Prophet to live from hand to mouth on the verge of starvation. Ali and Fatima were after all human beings, and how could they be happy when they had to starve for days. When selecting husbands for their daughter even ordinary persons take steps to insure that their daughter is married in a family which is quite well off. This is a parental obligation, and it is unbelievable that the Holy Prophet would have married his beloved daughter to a person who had no source of income. The Holy Prophet married his two daughters to Othman, one after the other, and Othman was the richest person among the Quraish. The Holy Prophet could not discriminate between his daughters by marrying two daughters to a very rich man, and marrying the daughter whom he loved most to a man who was extremely poor. Ali was the greatest warrior of the age. He was also the greatest jurist, grammarian and scholar of the age. When the Muslims set up a polity at Madina it was an obligation on the part of the State to provide means of sustenance for Muslims according to their qualifications and utilize their services in the interests of the State. Under the circumstances the accounts that Ali was very poor are not correct.

It appears that there were some temperamental differences between the husband and wife. Ali is said to be hot tempered while Fatima was cool-headed. It is related that one day Ali picked up a quarrel with Fatima, Fatima felt aggrieved and she went to the Holy Prophet to complain of the conduct of Ali. Ali followed her and hid himself behind a wall to listen what transpired between the Holy Prophet and Fatima. The Holy Prophet advised Fatima to have patience and submit to her husband. When Ali saw the Holy Prophet later, the Holy Prophet counseled him to be kind to his wife. Due to the wise counsels of the Holy Prophet, both Ali and Fatima succeeded in making adjustments which insured mutual happiness. Hasan, their first child was born in 625 C.E. and Husain, the second child was born in 626 C.E. The Holy Prophet had great love for Hasan and Husain and treated them as his own sons.

Ali and the Jews

In the original accounts that have come down to us there is no mention of the activities of Ali with reference to the Jews. The silence of the authorities in this respect does not mean that Ali was inactive, and he took no part in the cold war that prevailed between the Muslims and the Jews. The Jews boasted of their superior knowledge and argued that as Muhammad (peace be upon him) was illiterate he could not be a prophet of God. Ali was the most learned scholar among the Muslims, and it appears very probable that Ali met the arguments of the Jews at intellectual level, and exposed their perfidies and transgressions during the course of history. Ali was a prominent poet as well, and we will not be far from the truth when we say that Ali composed verses vindicating Islam. Islam is a missionary religion, and when the Muslims had established a polity at Madina, they took steps to convert the unbelievers and the people of the Book to Islam. As Ali was the most eloquent person among the Muslims, excepting the Holy Prophet, it appears that Ali played a prominent role in propagating the message of Islam. In spite of the general hostility of the Jews to the Muslims, Ali succeeded in converting some of the Jews to Islam. The Holy Prophet as the Head of the State, had to adjudicate on disputes among the people, including the Jews. Because of his great learning and vast legal knowledge, Ali assisted the Holy Prophet in settling the disputes. Certain persons in Madina had accepted Islam for considerations of self-interest and expediency. Such persons led by Abdullah b Ubayy owed nominal allegiance to Islam. These hypocrites and dissemblers aimed at the subversion of Islam from within. The Holy Prophet made Ali responsible for keeping a watch on the activities of the hypocrites. The Jews aided and patronized the hypocrites in violation of the terms of the agreement between the Muslims and the Jews.

Ayesha and her Necklace

While returning from the campaign against Banu Mustaliq an incident took place which cast its shadow on
the future course of Islamic history. Each time the Holy Prophet went on a campaign, one or two of his
wives accompanied him, and the decision was always taken by the drawing of lots. On the Banu Mustaliq
campaign, Ayesha accompanied the Holy Prophet. She traveled on the back of a camel in a closed litter.
On the way to Madina the returning army followed by its long procession of supplies, captives and
thousands of beasts after travelling throughout the night broke camp at dawn. Ayesha left her litter to
satisfy a natural need and returned to her camel. Back in the litter she noticed that she had lost her
necklace of Yemenite agates. Returning in her footsteps she sought the necklace for some time, and at
last finding it, returned to the caravan. But the spot was deserted and the caravan had left. The camel
rider seeing the litter closed, and thinking that it was occupied had placed it on the camel and departed
with it. Ayesha called aloud but no one responded to her call. She decided to lie there covering herself
hoping that some one would come to fetch her. Soon she fell asleep. “We belong to God and to Him we
return” fell on the ears of Ayesha and she awoke with a start. A young man stood there holding a camel
by its tether. The young man Safwan bin Muattal following the army in the rear noticed a young woman
sleeping in the desert, and upon approaching her recognized her as the wife of the Holy Prophet. Ayesha
quickly covered herself with a veil, Safwan adjusted the camel’s saddle-girth, and made it kneel. Ayesha
mounted the camel. Holding the beast by the bridle, Safwan took the road to Madina. After a long and
tiring journey, Ayesha caught up with the army at noon. The arrival of Ayesha attended by a young man
caused some rumors in the camp.

Back in Madina, the calumnies of the slanderers gained publicity. Safwan swore that in his lifetime he had
never touched a woman. Ayesha fell sick. She realized that the behavior of the Apostle of God towards
her had changed. She went to the house of her father. Amidst sobs, Ayesha asked her mother “Mother,
what story are the people relating about me”. Her mother replied, “do not be distressed. By Allah, there is
not a handsome and noble woman whom her husband loves, but has other wives besides her, that such
tales are bandied about”. This did not console the young lady. She knew no rest, and her tears did not
cease to flow. The Holy Prophet consulted his friends about divorcing Ayesha. Umar said that he was
certain that the hypocrites were speaking lies. He added, “By reason of God not allowing a fly to settle
upon your blessed skirts, because it alights also on impure things, how then God would not preserve you
and your name from a worse defilement”. The other Companions advised the Holy Prophet to keep his
exalted mind at ease, for they were certain that God would cause the innocence of the young lady to
become manifest. Ali was of the view that there was no dearth of women for the Holy Prophet and
Ayesha could be divorced even though she was innocent.

The Revelation

One day, Ayesha was sitting in the house of her parents and was weeping when the Holy Prophet
appeared all of a sudden, and after the usual salutation spoke to his wife, “O Ayesha if you are innocent,
God will come to your help; if you are guilty repent, and ask forgiveness”. Ayesha said that she had to
wait till God cleared her of the insinuation for He alone was her witness. Before the Holy Prophet could
leave the house of his father-in-law, the signs of divine revelation manifested themselves on the Holy
Prophet. His mother-in law placed a cushion under his head and covered him with a Yemeni cloak. When
the revelation was over, drops of perspiration trickled down his face. He smiled and said, “Glad tiding to
you Ayesha, God the Most High has exculpated you, and borne witness to your innocence”. Ayesha
thereafter returned to the house of the Holy Prophet and those who had slandered were punished.

Bitterness between Ayesha and Ali

This incident led to some bitterness between Ayesha and Ali. Ali had not levied any charge against
Ayesha. He only said in a casual way that she could be divorced even if she was innocent. The grievance
of Ayesha was that Ali should have defended her like Umar. The Holy Prophet had great love for Ayesha
and that became a matter of some jealousy with others. It appears that even Fatima had some grouse on
this account. The Holy Prophet offered her the advice: “If your father loves a person, why should you not
love that person as well.”

Ali’s operations

Ali was commissioned by the Holy Prophet to undertake an expedition against the Banu Sa’ad and Banu Bakr. It was not to be a regular battle it was to be a tactical raid to be carried with utmost secrecy, with a view to springing a surprise on the enemy. Ali had a small force of a hundred persons with him. The force did not march in battle array, the party traveled as a caravan of traders in order to avoid suspicion. A series of forced marches conducted at night to conceal the movements brought the party in close proximity to Fidak, some distance from Khyber. Here they came across a scout of the enemy. He was taken captive. He volunteered to lead Ali and his men to the camp of Banu Saad and Bakr provided he was given amnesty. Ali gave him the amnesty, and the scout led Ali and his men to Fidak where the forces of Banu Sa’ad and Banu Bakr were camping oblivious of any danger. Ali and his men made a surprise attack on the enemy. The attack was so unexpected, sudden and furious that the forces of the tribes could not take a stand and were scattered after suffering heavy losses. So intense was the slaughter that the tribes laid down arms and sought for terms. The tribes undertook to remain faithful to the Muslims and offered a tribute of 100 camels and 2000 goats. Ali and his men returned triumphant to Madina where the Holy Prophet appreciated their services. One fifth of the booty was placed at the disposal of the Holy Prophet as state share, and the rest of the animals were distributed among the men who had participated in the foray.

Some points about the operations

In the various accounts that have came down to us, there is some confusion about this operation. In some accounts Banu Sa’ad and Banu Bakr are stated to be Jews. This does not appear to be correct. They were Arab tribes who were pagans. In some accounts it is said that Fidak was conquered as a result of these operations. This is not correct. Fidak was conquered a year later after the conquest of Khyber. In the Atab annals this operation is referred to as Sariya Fidak. The term Sarya is used to denote the operations in which the Holy Prophet did not participate in person. Such operations which were led by the Holy Prophet himself were known as Ghazwas. The Sarya-i-Fidak neutralized the Arab tribes of Banu Sa’ad and Banu Bakr and paved the way to the Hudaibiya pact of the Muslims with the Quraish of Makkah.

The siege of Taif

From Autas, the Muslim forces set out for Taif. The people of Taif were a proud people with traditions of bravery. They were a rich people and considered themselves to be superior to all other tribes in Arabia. Sometime in 619/620 C.E., when the Holy Prophet was persecuted by the Quraish of Makkah, he had visited Taif to seek refuge. The people of Taif had maltreated the Holy Prophet and had turned him out of their city. Now the tables were turned. The people shut themselves in the fort and could not face the Muslims in the open. The Holy Prophet decided to lay a siege to the city. The Muslim catapults began to throw stores in the fort, but this did not lead to any tangible result. The Muslims tried the Tetsudou device whereunder a group of soldiers shielded by a cover of cowhide advanced to set fire to the gate. The enemy threw red-hot scraps of iron on the Tetsudou which made it ineffective. The siege dragged on for two weeks but still there was no sign of the fall of the fort. The Holy Prophet had other business to attend, and he could not afford to remain at Taif for long. The Holy Prophet raised the siege and returned to Makkah.

Operations of Ali

The Holy Prophet commissioned Ali to undertake operations against the tribes in the neighborhood of Taif who were feudatories to Taif. Ali began his operations by destroying the idols in the temples in the neighborhood of Taif. The principal god of the people was Al lat, and when Ali destroyed this idol, he was involved in a skirmish with the men of Banu Khusbam. Shahab, the leader of Banu Khusham and a formidable man enjoying reputation as a great warrior challenged Ali to a duel. Ali killed Shahab. With the murder of their leader Shahab and the destruction of their god Al lat, the men of Banu Khusham were unnerved. They laid down arms and accepted Islam. The other tribes in the neighborhood of Taif were similarly subdued and converted to Islam.

Conversion of the people of Taif to Islam

With the conversion to the tribes around Taif to Islam, the position of the people of Taif became precarious when Ali advised them to accept Islam, they agreed to send a deputation to Makkah to wait on the Holy Prophet. The deputation agreed to accept Islam, but they wanted that a respite should be allowed to them to continue to worship their idols for some time. They begged for a respite for one year, and reduced the period of grace to six months, three months, and one month. The Holy Prophet rejected the demand outright on the ground that he who had accepted Islam could no longer worship the idols. The deputation next asked for exemption from prayers. This demand was rejected on the ground that there could be no faith without prayers. Thereupon the deputation urged, “then at least give us exemption from the payment of Zakat”. The Holy Prophet rejected the demand on the ground that Zakat was a compulsory levy. The Holy Prophet made the deputation bear in mind that Islam was a matter of faith; if one had faith in Islam he had to accept all that Islam had enjoined. There could be no compromise in the matter of the injunctions of Islam. The Holy Prophet made them realize that it was open to them not to be converted to Islam, but once they accepted Islam, they had to strictly follow all the commandments of Islam. The deputation understood the position, and accepted Islam for themselves and for the people of Taif whom they represented.

Return to Madina

With the conversion of the people of Taif to Islam, the mission of Makkah was completed. The Holy Prophet and his companions performed the “Umrah”, and thereafter returned to Madina. Eight years earlier the Muslims had escaped from Makkah and oppressed people, now they were the masters of Makkah, Madina, and a greater part of Arabia. That was verily a positive proof of the truth of Islam. Thus God fulfilled all the promises that He had made with His prophet.

The Declaration of Discharge
Abu Bakr as Amirul Hajj

In 631 C. E the Holy Prophet sent from Madina, a delegation of three hundred Muslims to perform the Hajj. Abu Bakr was appointed as the leader of the delegates. Abu Bakr had thus the honor of being the first ‘Amir-ul-Hajj” in the history of Islam

The Revelation

Some time after Abu Bakr and trio party had left for the Hajj, the Holy Prophet received revelation about the regulation of the Hajj, and the ordering of relationship between the Muslims and the infidels. It is related that when the revelation came some one suggested to the Holy Prophet that he should send news about the revelation to Abu Bakr. The Holy Prophet said only a man of his own house could proclaim the revelation.


The Holy Prophet summoned Ali, and asked him to proclaim the revealed verses to the people on the day of sacrifice when they assembled at Mina. Ali went forth on the Holy Prophet’s slit-eared camel, and soon overtook Abu Bakr and his party. When Ali joined the party, Abu Bakr wanted to know whether he had come to give orders or to convey them. Ali said that he had not come to replace Abu Bakr as “Amir ul-Hajj”, and that his mission was merely to convey a special message to the people on behalf of the Holy Prophet,

Declaration of Discharge

At Makkah on the occasion of the Hajj, Abu Bakr presided at the Hajj ceremony while Ali read the verses of the revelation which came to be known as the Declaration of Discharge. According to the Declaration it was provided that henceforward the Muslims were discharged of all obligations that they had undertaken with the non-Muslims. All treaties or agreements with them were to be no longer effective. Henceforward the non-Muslims were not to be allowed to visit the Kaaba or perform the Hajj. New rules for the performance of the Hajj were proclaimed. No one was to circumambulate the Kaaba naked. Polytheism was to be no longer tolerated a grace period of four months was laid down and thereafter all agreement with the non-Muslims were to stand as abrogated.

Importance of the Declaration

The Declaration of Discharge was really the declaration of the victory of Islam, the victory of the truth over falsehood. The battle between the truth and falsehood began in 611 C.E., with the proclamation of the prophethood of the Holy Prophet. This battle was waged for twenty years in one form or the other. It came to an end with the Declaration of Discharge signifying the ultimate victory of Islam from the day this proclamation was made. A new era dawned in Arabia. Henceforward Islam alone was to be the faith of the Arabs.

Ali’s claim to the caliphate

In some quarters, an argument is advanced to the effect that as on this occasion the declaration of discharge was read by Ali, while Abu Bakr was the Amir ul Hajj. This established the precedence of Ali over Abu Bakr, and as such when on the death of the Holy Prophet, Abu Bakr became the Caliph in disregard of the claim of Ali he was a usurper. I will discuss this aspect of the matter in detail in a later part of the book. Here we may pause to consider two questions, firstly why was the proclamation read by Ali when Abu Bakr was the Amir ul Hajj, and secondly whether this established the precedence of Ali over Abu Bakr and others in the matter of caliphate. The revelations emanating from God were particularly sacrosanct, and these had to be proclaimed to the people either by the Holy Prophet himself or by some member of his house in whom he had particular confidence. The choice of Ali to read the proclamation was not relevant to the question of succession. The question of succession had to be considered in the context of other considerations. This did not establish the precedence of Ali over Bakr for Ali did not replace Abu Bakr as Amir ul Hajj. Ali’s role was merely confined to the delivering of a special message. This established the precedence of Ali over other Hashimites with whom the Holy Prophet had blood relations. Ali was the first among the Hashimites to profess Islam, and among the Hashimites he remained closest to the Holy Prophet.

Expedition under Ali

After the failure of three expeditions, the Holy Prophet ordered the fourth expedition under the command of Ali. In the earlier expeditions, the Muslim army had failed to reach the stronghold of the tribe, and had to withdraw without actual confrontation with the tribe. Ali changed the tactics. Instead of following the established route, Ali led the Muslim army along mountainous tracks, where they hid themselves during the day, and advanced during the night. Ali succeeded in beating the Banu Ramla at their own game. After several nights march the Muslim army reached the stronghold of the tribe, and made a surprise attack on the enemy. The mountainous tribe could never imagine that the men of the plains could ever penetrate through the depth of the mountains and reach their stronghold. In the confrontation that followed many persons of the tribe were killed, and they were ultimately forced to surrender. Ali returned triumphant to Madina carrying an immense booty, and a large number of prisoners. Heretofore all battles that the Muslims had fought had been fought in the plains. The battle against Banu Ramla was the first battle that the Muslims had to fight in mountainous terrain. The Muslims had no experience of fighting in hilly tracts, and as such the first three expeditions undertaken by the Muslims against the people of the hills failed. The people of the hills were expert in guerilla warfare. They could hide in the mountain recesses and fall upon the Muslims in surprise at all odd hours. By these tactics the Banu Ramla warriors prevented the Muslims from reaching their main settlement in the hills. Ali was the first Muslim General to score a victory in a mountainous territory. When Ali returned triumphant to Madina, the Holy Prophet and the Muslims welcomed him a few miles outside the city. The Holy Prophet appreciated the services of Ali in superlative terms. According to the Shiite traditions, the Holy Prophet addressed Ali on this occasion in the following terms: “O Ali ! If I were not apprehensive that the Muslim community would exaggerate your deeds like the Christians who extolled the achievements of Jesus Christ by ascribing divinity to him. I would have narrated the superiority of your character today in such a way that wherever you went, the people would have worshipped the very dust of your feet”.

The mission of Ali

The Holy Prophet thereafter commissioned Ali to proceed to Yemen. A force of three hundred soldiers assembled at Quba outside Madina. The Holy Prophet tied the turban on the head of Ali with his own hands, and handed him the standard. The Holy Prophet prayed to God to enlighten the mind of Ali, to make his tongue eloquent, to make his talk impressive, and to make his conduct a source of attraction for others. Although Ali proceeded to Yemen at the head of a force, he was commanded not to use force. The force was only meant for defense in the case of any attack. It was a voyage of enlightenment. People were to be converted to Islam not by an appeal to arms but by an appeal to their hearts.

Strategy of Ali

On reaching Yemen, Ali realized that the people of Yemen were very much under the influence of the Christian priests and Jewish Rabbis, and unless such priests and Rabbis were effectively tackled, there was little likelihood of any success with the common men. The Christian priests and Jewish Rabbis were proud of their religious knowledge. They challenged Ali to a debate. Ali was used to fighting duels with his adversaries in the case of battles, now he had to fight an intellectual duel. The first challenge came from a Christian priest renowned for his learning and piety. A public debate was held. The Christian priest advanced arguments in favor of the perfection of Christianity, and of Jesus Christ being the son of God. It was observed that in such circumstances there could be no question of another faith. Ali smashed these arguments one by one. He quoted from the Christian scriptures wherein Jesus Christ had himself spoken of the advent of a prophet after him. Ali took pains to explain that Islam acknowledged Jesus Christ as a prophet, but did not regard him as a son of God. He maintained that Islam was a perfected form of all previous religions. The debate lasted for several days and at last Ka’ab admitted the superiority of Islam and was converted to Islam. With his conversion many Christians were also converted to Islam.

The Jewish Rabbis felt concerned at the success of Islam. They challenged Ali to a public debate. This debate lasted for several days, and ended in the victory for Islam. Some of the Jewish Rabbis accepted Islam, and following them many Jews accepted Islam. Thereafter Ali spread his men throughout the length and breadth of Yemen to carry the message of Islam to the people. When the people came to know that their priests and rabbis had accepted Islam, they lost the will to resist Islam and accepted the new faith willingly. Within a few months most of the people in Yemen were converted to Islam. These people came to look to Ali as a great hero.

And Allah rewarded the Thankful

The effect of the address of Abu Bakr was eletrica1. It appeared as if the people did not know of this verse of the Holy Quran until Abu Bakr had recited it.

According to the will of the Holy Prophet Ali and Abbas washed the body of the Holy Prophet and prepared it for burial. The Holy Prophet was buried in the chamber of Ayesha, where he had died. Ali was overwhelmed with grief at the death of the Holy Prophet. He expressed his grief in heart reading verses. He said: “May my parents be sacrificed on you, O Messenger of God, with your death things have come to an end which could not end thus with the death of any other person. The process of prophethood has come to an end. News of the Unseen have ceased, Revelations from Almighty have ceased. You gave a message of hope to the people. You showed them the right path. You are the savior of humanity. You established a new order. You established equality among the people. You ushered in a revolution. You were a guide when alive; you would be a guide even after death. If you had not ordered patience in hour of grief I would have shed tears of blood from my eyes. The entire world is dark without you. Your passing away is a great loss but we resign ourselves to the will of God. From God you came, and to God you have returned, May your soul rest in peace in proximity to God.”

Ali’s reaction to the election of Abu Bakr

In Nahj-ul-Balagha we come across certain passages which indicate the reaction of Ali to the election of Abu Bakr as the Caliph. When the meeting at Saqffa Bani Saada was brought to the notice of Ali by some one, Ali asked him as to what did the Ansar ask for. He was told that the Amir should be elected from them, and if the Muhajireen also desired the office, one Amir might be elected from the Ansar and one from the Muhajireen. Thereupon Ali said, “Was it not brought to their notice that the Holy Prophet had willed that after him the Ansar should be well treated, and if they made any lapse it should be overlooked. Ali was asked how did this will establish that the Caliph was not to be elected from among the Ansars. Ali said that if the Ansar were to have the caliphate there was no point in asking those in power to pay due regard to the Ansars did not arise. Ali then inquired as to what argument the Muhajireen had advanced in support of their claim to the caliphate. He was told that the Muhajireen based their claim on the ground that they belonged to the tree to which the Holy Prophet belonged. Thereupon Ali said, “What a pity that they look to the tree, but overlooked its fruit”. The implication was that the Muhajireen should have offered the caliphate to him and not to anyone else.

In a passage in Nahj-ul-Balagha, Ali is said to have expressed his reaction to the election of Abu Bakr in the following terms: “The son of Abu Qahafa has assumed the mantle of the caliphate forcibly although he knew that I was essential for the caliphate as the handle is for the grinding stone which moves it. In Islamic learning I excel everyone else, and the caliphate should have come to me as a matter of course. At this disregard of my right I became confused. I began to think whether I should assert my claim, or whether I should practice forbearance and patience after a good deal of thinking I decided to adopt the later course”.

Fatima Zahra
Death of Fatima

Fatima took the death of the Holy Prophet to heart, and she passed away in early 633 C E, barely six months after the passing away of the Holy Prophet. She was only twenty-nine years old at the time or her death. Her marriage lasted for a short period of eight or nine years only. During this period she gave birth to five children, three sons and two daughters. Her three sons were Hasan, Husain, and Mohsin. Mohsin died during infancy. Hasan was about seven years old while Husain was about six years old at the time of her death.

Ali’s grief at the death of Fatima

Ali was much grieved at the death of Fatima. Her passing away so soon after the death of the Holy Prophet was a great blow for Ali. He felt disconsolate. He poured his grief in the following elegiac verses: “Afflicted as I feel with many a worldly disease. Verily, men in this world would suffer as long as they live in this vale of tears and sorrow. Verily, after the demise of the Holy Prophet, Fatima’s loss has shown, that friends do not last forever. ” In this hour of grief, Ali addressed the soul of the Holy Prophet in the following terms: “O Messenger of God please accept my greetings, and the greetings from your daughter who has hastened to join you. O Prophet of God my patience has been exhausted at her death. I am most distressed and disconsolate. At your death I suppressed my grief with great difficulty. I laid you in the grave with my own hands. Verily, from God you came and to God you have returned. We all belong to God and to Him we have to return. Fatima was a trust with me, which has now been taken away from me. My state of affairs will be told to you by your daughter. Please do inquire about me from her. Much time has not elapsed to your death, and the memory of your passing away is very much alive with me. I pay my greetings and respects to you. As I can expect relief in my distress only from you. If I move away from your grave, it will not be because of any indifference on my part and if I stay here, it will not be so because of having lost confidence in the promise that God has made to those who are patient.” Ali used to visit the grave of Fatima frequently, and used to write verses to express his grief. On one occasion he wrote: “O thou grave, to thee I resort for paying homage to thee. “O thou, the repository of my beloved Thou answer me not. “O thou beloved tomb, what ails thee Thou respondeth not to my supplications. Art thou, out of humor, Because of the love that I bear thee. “

Married life of Ali and Fatima

The married life of Ali and Fatima did not extend beyond nine years. It was a happy union. Nevertheless there were differences between the pair occasionally. Once, after having quarreled with Fatima, Ali went to the mosque, and lay on bare earth. That made the Holy Prophet call Ali by the appellation of Abu Turab, Father of the earth. At one time, Ali entertained the idea of marrying a daughter of Abu Jahl. Fatima complained to the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet felt annoyed, and while addressing the people in the mosque he said that verily Fatima was part and parcel of him. If Ali wanted to marry the daughter of Abu Jahl, it was open to him to do so, but he should divorce Fatima in the first instance for the daughter of the Prophet, and the daughter of Abu Jahl could not live under the same roof. Thereupon Ali dropped the idea of marrying the daughter of Abu Jahl. There were some temperamental differences between Ali and Fatima, and the Holy Prophet always controlled Fatima to fall in line with the wishes of her husband for after her father he was the best of men.

Fatima Zahra-assessment

Fatima Zahra is regarded as one of the four perfect women of all times, the other three women being: Asiyah the wife of the Pharaoh of Egypt who mothered Moses; Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ; and Khadija the first wife of the Holy Prophet of Islam, and the mother of Fatima Zahra. One day Fatima inquired of the Holy Prophet why she was called Fatima. He said that it was so, because fire would not touch her soul. She was also called ‘Batool”, because she devoted herself all out to Allah and fervently followed the dictates of the Holy Prophet (pbub). Fatima resembled the Holy Prophet in countenance, in elegance of speech, and in general deportment. Whenever Fatima paid a visit to the Holy Prophet, he would kiss her on the forehead, and would make her sit on his seat. He would say, “Fatima is part of me, and whoever angers her angers me, and whoever injures her injures me. ” It was the customary for the Holy Prophet that when he went on a journey the last person of whom he took leave was Fatima, and when he returned from the journey the first person he would see was Fatima. When the Holy Prophet was about to die, Fatima visited him. The Holy Prophet whispered to her something that made her weep. Then he again whispered something and Fatima laughed. She was asked what made her weep and laugh in succession. She did not disclose the secret but later. After the passing away of the Holy Prophet. Ayesha asked her about it and she said that she had wept on being informed of the impending end of the Holy Prophet, but laughed on his assurance that she was to join him soon.

When the Holy Prophet died, the whole world became dark for her. She wept and mourned the death of the Holy Prophet in pathetic verses She said: It is not wondrous that whoever smells the fragrance of Muhammad’s tomb will never smell another perfume. Destiny hurt me with bereavement. So sad, and so dark, that if it had fallen on the days they would have been turned into eternal nights”.

Ali’s Oration on the Death of Abu Bakr
Ali’s Oration

When Abu Bakr died in 634 C.E., Ali delivered an oration which was not only a faithful summing up of the character and personality of Abu Bakr, but was also a masterpiece of oratory. The speech has been preserved, and quoted hereunder in full Mercy of God on you O Abu Bakr! You were an affectionate Companion and friend of the Prophet of Allah, a source of joy to him, and who knew his secrets, and enjoyed the privilege of being consulted by him. You were the first person to embrace Islam. You had the purest faith, and your belief in Islam was unshakable. Of all, you feared Allah most, and you were the source of the greatest advantage to his faith. You had been with the Prophet more than any one else, and your love for Islam was superior to others. A blessing to the Companions, you were the best of associates, master of many virtues, excelling others in accomplishments, and superior to all in position. You resembled the Holy Prophet more than any other person in the uprightness of character and conduct and in kindness and excellence. Your rank was noble, and your position sublime and you enjoyed the greatest confidence of the Prophet. May God reward you for your services to Islam and the Prophet. For the Prophet you were like his very sight and hearing. You corroborated the truth of his message at a time when everybody belied him; and so you were called “As-Sadiq’ (the veracious) by Allah in His revelations. He says, ‘The one who came with the Truth and the one who corroborated the truth. The One who came with the Truth was Muhammad, and the one who corroborated the Truth was Abu Bakr. You supported him when others had deserted, and you remained firm in helping him in misfortunes when others had withdrawn their support. In the days of hardship you were his best companion; you were the second of the two, and his companion in the Cave. You were the person on whom God conferred tranquillity of mind. You were the only companion of the Prophet in his migration to Madina, and you were his Caliph among his followers, and in the religion of Allah. You discharged the functions of the Khilafat in a most excellent manner at a moment when the people had taken to apostasy, and exhibited much firmness in enforcing the commands of Allah as had never been exhibited by the Khalifa of any other prophet. You rose to the occasion when your colleagues showed lassitude, and you became bold when they exhibited weakness. You were strong when they were weak. You retained your adherence to the ways of the Prophet when others had deviated from them. You were his true Caliph with no dispute or difference, although this gave offense to hypocrites, and umbrage to the infidels. You stuck to the commands of Allah when others showed cowardice. You remained firm when others went astray. You had the lowest voice, and the highest distinction. Your conversation was most salutary, and your reasoning was forceful. Your silence was longest in duration, and your speech was most eloquent. You were bravest among men, You were well informed about matters. Your action was most dignified. You were the leader of the believers. You came towards the faith when others were away from it. Indeed you acted 1ike a kind father to the believers, and your filial affection made them your children. You bore the heavy burden which they could not, and you preferred to do what they had omitted. You preserved that what they had lost. You taught them what they knew not. You took the risk when they were helpless. You did not lose patience, when they were inpatient. You redressed the grievances of those who asked for justice. They turned to you for guidance, and you guided them to success. They got through you what they had never dreamt of. For the infidels you were a source of terrible punishment and great fear. For the believers you were all kindness, affection and protection. You fed in the atmosphere of piety, you attained its noble reward, and won in superiority. Your argument was never weak and your judgment was never faulty. You were never guilty of cowardice, and your heart was never crooked or misdirected. You were like a rock which stands firm in the face of hard blows of dashing winds and waves. You were as the Prophet of Allah has said, the most generous of men in friendship and in giving money. Again as he said, you were weak in body, but strong in enforcing the commands of Allah. You were humble in your manners, but dignified in the estimation of God. You were great in the eyes of men, and you commanded respect with them. No one could even as much as wink at you, nor could any one taunt you. You were kind to all and partial to none. The weak and the humble were strong with you as you made secure their rights. The strong were weak and humble with you as you made them surrender the rights of others. No matter those who were near you, and those who were far from you were all equal. Those who obeyed and feared Allah were nearest to you. Your dignity lay in righteousness, truth and benevolence. Your word was imperative and definite. Your command was mild and cautious. Your judgment was fair and wise. You extirpated evil and made way for the Truth clear. You solved difficulties. You extinguished the fires of evil and discord. You brought moderation to the Faith, strength to belief, firmness to Islam and the Muslims, and triumph to the command of Allah. You were a source of grief to the infidels. Because of your extraordinary qualities, you have created difficulties for your successors who would have to work hard to maintain the standards set by you. Evidently, you attained a high position in doing good. You are far above mourning and lamentation. Mourning for you is great in the Heaven. Your death has broken the back bone of the people, and we recite the verse ‘From God you came, and to God you have returned’. We submit to what has been ordained by Allah, and are ready to obey His commands. By Allah never shall the Muslims suffer after the death of the Prophet, a calamity greater than your death. You were a source of honor, protection and support to the Faith and for the believers you were a stronghold and a place of refuge. For the hypocrites you were all strictness and terror. May Allah take you near to your Prophet, and may He not deprive us of the fruits of your efforts and may we not be misled after you. We recite once again ‘From God you came and to God you have returned’. May your soul rest in peace!”

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.”

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.

Election of Ali as the Caliph

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.

The Caliphate Issue
The Controversy

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.

Vengeance for the Blood of Othman
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.

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.

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.”

Ayesha’s March to Basra
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.

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.

Ali’s mission to Ayesha

In his quest for peace, Ali sent a peace mission to Ayesha. The peace mission was headed by Qa’aqa, a prominent leader from Kufa. He was a renowned warrior, and was well known for his heroic exploits in the wars against the Persians during the caliphates of Abu Bakr and Umar. The mission was instructed by Ali not to adopt a threatening or a patronizing attitude. No attempt was to be made to over awe the other side with the superior strength of the force at the disposal of the Caliphate. Ali desired that the negotiations between the parties should be a heart to heart dialogue, and every possible effort should be made to remove the misunderstandings between the parties. Ali instructed the members of the mission that due respect should be shown to Ayesha, the Mother of the Faithful. He sent a message of goodwill and great regards to Ayesha saying that in spite of the unfortunate misunderstandings that had cropped up between them he looked to her as a mother, and expected a motherly treatment from her.

The issues

The mission was received by Ayesha, Talha and Zubair with due courtesy. The message of Ali was duly delivered, and Ayesha said that she would be glad if the misunderstandings were removed and unity among the Muslims was restored. Qa’aqa inquired of Ayesha as to what were the objects before her which had prompted her to take to the field. She said that the objects before her were to seek vengeance for the blood of Othman, and to promote the cause of Islam.

Vengeance for the blood of Othman

With regard to the issue about the vengeance for the blood of Othman, Qa’aqa posed the question, “Mother, tell me, keeping God in view, whether you accuse Ali for the murder of Othman as a criminal or as an accomplice?” Ayesha said that she did not accuse Ali for involvement in the assassination of Othman; her grievance was that as Caliph, Ali had not taken any action to apprehend the murderers of Othman. Qa’aqa then asked whether such murder was the act of one man, or was it the act of a mob. Ayesha said that obviously it was the act of a mob. Qa’aqa next asked the question, “Have things settled down after the murder of Othman”. Ayesha said that the things were still very much in a state of disarray. Qa’aqa thereupon said, “If things are still unsettled, how could Ali take action against the people who were still in control of the situation, and from whom another coup could be expected?” To this question, Ayesha, Talha or Zubair had no satisfactory answer.

Qa’aqa then posed another question, “Do you know that by rebelling against the authority of Ali you have done great harm to the cause for the vengeance of the blood of Othman?” “How was that?” asked Ayesha. Qa’aqa said, “By rebelling against the authority of Ali, you have forced Ali to deal with you instead of dealing with the murderers of Othman. In this crisis, Ali had naturally to seek allies, and when you have forsaken Ali those who had rebelled against Othman have come to the aid of Ali in large numbers, because they feel that the troubles of Ali are because of them. Things have thus moved in a vicious circle, and by rebelling against Ali you have thrown him in the lap of the persons from whom you seek vengeance. By your action you have strengthened the murderers of Othman, and weakened the Muslims.” That set Ayesha thinking, and she could not know how the argument advanced by Qa’aqa could be met.

Promoting the cause of Islam

Qa’aqa then took up the question of promoting the cause of Islam. He pointed out that when the Muslims were united under Abu Bakr and Umar they made large conquests both in the east and the west. In the early years of the caliphate of Othman the process of conquests continued. When the Muslims rebelled against the authority of Othman, and came to be divided among themselves the process of conquest came to a grinding halt. He observed that the enemies of Islam were on the borders of the Muslim State ready to take advantage of any division in the ranks of the Muslims. Qa’aqa posed the question, “How can you promote the cause of Islam, if you seek to divide the Muslims for one cause or the other?” Addressing the confederates he asked, “Did you promote the cause of Islam when you killed six hundred men of Basra, and the mosque was dyed with blood? Did you thereby avenge the murder of Othman when such persons were not even remotely connected with the murder of Othman? If you killed them because rightly or wrongly you suspected them of being involved in the assassination of Othman, then is your demand for the ‘Qasas’ for the blood of Othman not yet satisfied?” Then he respectfully addressed Ayesha saying: “O Mother of the Faithful! Did God not enjoin you to sit quietly in your home? Did the Holy Prophet warn you that the dogs of Hu’ab would bark on you? Then how did you promote the cause of Islam by violating these instructions?” Addressing Talha and Zubair he said “Did you not take the oath of allegiance to Ali? If you took the oath of allegiance to Ali under some compulsion, tell us the man for whom you would have voted if you were free. Is any man more qualified, and more worthy to be the Caliph of the Muslims than Ali? Verily Ali is the best man to be the Caliph of the Muslims, and by putting difficulties in his way you do not promote the cause of Islam, you do great harm to Islam.”

Reaction of Ayesha

The arguments advanced by Qa’aqa had their way. They were most effective and impressive Ayesha asked Qa’aqa, “Then, what do you suggest ?” He said, “I suggest that instead of fighting make peace. Strengthen the hands of Ali, and when law and order is fully established the Muslims acting in concert should determine how the vengeance for the blood of Othman could be taken. ” Thereupon Ayesha said, “If that be the view of Ali as well, we agree to make peace on honorable terms. ” Qa’aqa respectfully took leave of Ayesha, and returned to Ali to report the success of his mission.

Negotiations for peace

When Ali came to know of the success of the Mission of his emissary Qa’aqa to Ayesha, Talha and Zubair, he felt very happy. The two armies encamped in the “Wadi-us-Saba” (Valley of the Lion) near the village of Khuraiba outside Basra, facing each other. It was decided that the following day when the two armies assembled in the valley, the terms of peace would be negotiated, and the proclamation of peace would be issued.

The following day as the two forces assembled, Ali posted a man in the center carrying a copy of the Holy Quran on his head. This was indicative of the desire on the part of Ali to decide the dispute peacefully in the light of the teachings of the Holy Quran.

Ali rode to the center of the valley, and called upon Talha and Zubair to step forward to meet him. When Talha and Zubair came forward he asked them why they had rebelled against his authority when they had taken the oath of allegiance to him. They said that they had taken the oath under duress and it was not binding. He asked them, after all, what did they want. They said that they wanted “Qasas” for the assassination of Othman. Ali said that this matter could be considered under conditions of peace. Talha and Zubair said that if Ali was prepared to take “Qasas” from the murderers of Othman, they were prepared to make peace and acknowledge Ali as the Caliph. Ali said that he would consider their demand favorably.

Turning to Zubair, Ali said: “Have you forgotten that you are my cousin, being a son of my paternal aunt? Can you not recall that at one of our sittings with the Holy Prophet, he commended me to you? The Holy Prophet at that time predicted that I was to suffer harm at your hands, and you undertook to safeguard my interests and not to forsake me,” At these words, Zabair shuddered and said “All of you have spoken the truth. I had forgotten the interview with the Holy Prophet. Now that you have reminded me of that, I will not harm your interests and would be prepared to make peace with you.”

The meeting ended in an atmosphere of goodwill from both the sides. Thereafter the two armies retired to their camps, and the general impression was that peace would be made, and war would be avoided. Emissaries were exchanged between the two sides, and by the evening the general impression was that the terms of peace had been mutually agreed upon, and that the necessary peace treaty would be executed the following day.

The Regicides

The armies on the two sides heaved a sigh of relief on coming to know that peace was to be made the following day. At nightfall the men of the two armies retired to rest with easy hearts. The case with the regicides, the persons who had participated in the assassination of Othman was however different. In the army of Ali there were two to three thousand men of Kufa, who were involved in the revolt against Othman. When the confederates had occupied Basra they had executed all such men of Basra who were involved in the assassination of Othman as “Qasas” for the blood of Othman. The regicides of Kufa apprehended that in case peace was made between Ali and the confederates the terms of the agreement of peace were likely to be that the confederates would acknowledge the caliphate of Ali, and Ali would in turn order the execution of the regicides of Kufa like the execution of the regicides belonging to Basra. The leaders of the regicides of Kufa met in conference secretly to decide what course of action they should take to save their skins. It was proposed that Ali, Talha and Zubair should be killed. This proposal was turned down on the ground that such action on their part was likely to reunite the confederates and the followers of Ali, and they would together fight not only for the “Qasas” of Othman, but for the “Qasas” of Ali, Talha and Zubair as well. Many other proposals were considered. It was ultimately decided that they should take steps to insure that the two sides were locked in battle before the peace agreement was executed. In pursuance of this plan before the daybreak the regicides attacked the army of the confederates. When this attack came to the notice of Talha and Zubair they ordered their forces to meet the attack. They said that they knew before hand that Ali did not really mean to execute an agreement of peace. When the army of the confederates made a counter attack the regicides made Ali believe that the confederates had made a surprise attack. Ali asked his forces to take up arms and beat back the attack. Ali said that he already knew that Talha and Zubair were not serious in their peace proposals.

The Battle

Before it was day break the two armies had taken the field and engaged in a life and death struggle. The regicides fought most desperately, and their attacks were resisted by the confederates. The battle accordingly took a sanguinary turn. It was a deplorable engagement, when the Muslims cut the throats of Muslims. It appeared that the injunctions of Islam had been forgotten, and the people reverted to the pre-Islamic practice of settling their disputes through the arbitration of the sword. According to chronicles when the opposing sides came together breast to breast with a furious shock the noise that was produced was like the sound of thunder. The forces of the two sides fought with the ferocity of lions and men fell on the battlefield from both the sides like the fall of autumn leaves. Talha fought bravely, and he killed many warriors of the army of Ali. He was however mortally wounded by the arrows that hit him. He was carried in an unconscious state to a house in Basra where he soon expired. By noon the tide of the battle began to turn against the confederates at this stage. Zubair is also reported to have escaped from the battlefield, and taken the road to Makkah. When Ayesha came to know of the state of the battle, she came to the battle seated in a litter on a camel. She exhorted the people to stop fighting. She posted Kasb b Sur the Qazi of Basra in the center of the battlefield with a copy of the Holy Quran on his head. He exhorted the men of the army of Ali to stop fighting in the name of God. Some men of the army of Ali were inclined to listen to the call of Kaab b Sur well known for his piety and learning. The regicides who were in the forefront of the fight cried “He is the man who reported that Talha and Zubair had not taken the oath of allegiance to Ali voluntarily. Kill him.” The regicides rained arrows on Kaab b Sur, and he fell dead. The confederates shot arrows in return killing some of the regicides. The frenzy of the combatants appeared to know no bounds the appalling carnage continued unabated, and the dead and the dying lay pilled in heaps. Ayesha seated in a litter on a camel became the main target for attack by the forces of Ali. The followers of Ayesha flocked round her camel to protect her. A devoted follower held the reins of the camel, and as any one from the army of Ali advanced to attack the camel, the man holding the reins of the camel cut him with his sword. In such duels many persons fell on both the sides. Over two dozen persons of the army of the confederates lost their heads while holding the bridle of the camel of Ayesha. The casualties in the case of the warriors of the army of Ali who dashed against the camel were much heavier. Ali felt that as long as the camel of Ayesha stood, the battle would continue. In order to end the battle, Ali directed his men to slip behind the camel and cut off its legs. Some warriors of the forces of Ali managed to slip behind the camel and cut off its legs. As the beast fell on the ground dead, it gave such a shriek that made the men shiver in their shoes. Ayesha escaped with her life although the litter in which she had been sitting was pierced with arrows. Ayesha was lifted out of the litter, and borne to a house is Basra.

End of the battle

With the fall of Ayesha’s camel, the battle ended in the victory of Ali, and the defeat of the confederates. As in this battle, the camel of Ayesha became the main target of attack. The battle came to be known as the Battle of the Camel. The loss on both the sides was considerable. Over ten thousand persons were killed in the battle. Among the dead on both the sides, there were many prominent companions of the Holy Prophet who had fought in the wars under the Holy Prophet, and the rightly guided Caliphs, Abu Bakr, Umar, and Othman.

Talha the confederate leader died because of the wounds received in the battle; Zubair escaped from the battlefield and he took the road to Makkah. He had proceeded for some distance from Basra when he came across a detachment led by the Banu Qais chief Ahnaf b Qais. Here Zubair halted to offer prayers. When Zubair prostrated himself in prayers, one of the men of Ahnaf cut off the head of Zubair with the blow of his sword. Ahnaf brought the head of Zubair to Ali hoping to be awarded for killing his enemy. At they sight of the gory head of his cousin, Ali burst into sobs and turning to Ahnaf said, “You have done a ghastly deed, and verily your lot is hell fire, Ahnaf was surprised at the remarks of Ali. Addressing Ali he said, “You are an evil judge of men. If some one delivers you from your enemies you pronounce the penalty of hell fire on him. ” Bitterly resenting what he felt to be a great injustice, Ahnaf drew his sword, and plunged it into his own breast.

Testament of Ali
Testament of Ali

After the Battle of Siffin, Ali wrote a detailed testament in favor of his son Imam Hasan. It is a brilliant code of counsel, which provides guidance for every Muslim. The testament is found in Nahj-ul-Balagha, and its running translation is given hereunder: “Son, I enjoin on you that you should fear God. Follow His commandments. Enliven your heart with His remembrance. Hold fast to His rope. No relationship is stronger than the relation that exists between you and God.”

The Hereafter

O son, enlighten the heart with prayers. Suppress all lust with piety. Strengthen your heart with faith. Brighten it with wisdom. Overpower it with the remembrance of death. Let it beware of its mortality. Frighten it with the vicissitudes of the times. Make it take lesson from the fate of the dead. Wander through the ruins of the settlements of the past. Ask these ruins: what did these people do, where have they gone, where they have settled now. This will make you realize that they have departed from their friends and relatives, and that they now rest in the wilderness of the graveyard where you will also have to go sooner or later. Rectify your lapses. Do not sell the Hereafter for the world. Do not speak in the state of ignorance. Refrain from unnecessary talk. Do not tread the path from which you can apprehend the danger of running astray. Withhold your step from evil for that is the way to safety.

Virtue and faith

If you will preach virtue, you will be among the virtuous. Counteract the evil with your tongue. Keep aloof from the wicked. Undertake Jihad in the way of God. In the affairs of God do not be afraid of the accusations of the evil mongers. For the vindication of the truth do not hesitate to face the storm of difficulties. Seek protection in faith.

Protection of God

In all that you do, seek the protection of God, for thereby you will be in a citadel which is strongly fortified and invincible. In seeking anything do not make any partner with God, for all bounty is in the hands of God in all matters. Pursue the right. Do not covet what is undesirable.

The elders

Son, show no lapse in the fulfillment of your obligations. Follow in the footsteps of your elders. As you see yourself today they saw themselves likewise yesterday. As you think, they also thought. Experience taught them that they should tread the right path.

Your own way

If you are inclined to follow your own way as a result of your own experience you may do so but it should be done with due care and wisdom. Do not get yourself involved in doubts and debates. Before embarking on such adventure seek the support and help of God. Step into this valley only when you are convinced that your heart is receptive, your intelligence has matured, and your intellect is sufficiently developed to distinguish the right from the wrong. Without such pre-requisites the way will be dark, and you will be liable to stray. It is necessary for the seeker of truth that he should neither stray from the right path, nor be assailed by any doubts.

Tests of God

Son, understand that He in Whose Hand is death has control over life as well. He Who brings about birth brings about death as well. He tests you by putting you to troubles. He is our final refuge. See that you do not fail in His test. Believe that the world is subject to the well-established law of God that in the world man is awarded bounty as well as subjected to trials and tribulations. The final award is made in the Hereafter of which we have no knowledge.

Resignation to the Will of God

Son, if there is anything which you cannot comprehend do not repudiate it, but you should meditate over it and attribute your failure to understand it to the limitations of your intellect. It may be appreciated that when you are born you are devoid of understanding, and knowledge comes to you steadily as you grew up. Even when grown up, it cannot be said how many things there are still, of which you are ignorant. There are things, which excite your wonder, but knowledge about them dawns on you gradually. Therefore your attachment should be to that Being who has created you, and who has given you sustenance. Your prayers should be for Him, and you should resign yourself to His Will. Son, no one has taught about God as the Holy Prophet. Make him your guide, and seek your salvation through him.

Allah is One

Son, if there had been any god other than Allah, their prophets would have also come, and they would have also established their dominions. There is, however, no sign of any such dominion. Verily Allah is one. He has no partner. He exists since eternity and will live forever. He is the first and the last. He has no beginning and no end. He is almighty, omnipotent and omniscient. Thus you should act in such way as a humble servant would act with reference to his mighty master. Remember that God has enjoined you to do good things, and refrain from bad things.

Picture of the world

Son, I have presented to you a picture of the world. I have given you an account of its insignificance. So it is for you to keep this in mind and act accordingly. The people who have tested the world do not feel distressed on leaving it they are in fact like persons who migrate from a famine struck land to land of plenty. These people bear the ordeal of the journey, and separation from friends and relatives so that they may arrive at a land where they can enjoy plenty. Their every step is a step forward bringing them closer to their destination. The people who are attached to the world cannot bear separated from it. They are like those people who leave a land of plenty for a famine struck land. Their journey would be most troublesome and their end would be most tragic.

Balance between yourself and the people

Son, make yourself a balance between yourself and the people. Whatever you like for yourself, like it for others. Whatever is undesirable to you, consider it undesirable for others as well. If you do not want to be oppressed by any one, do not oppress anybody. Treat others as you wish to be treated by them. If the people behave with you as you behave with them, consider this to be a proper state of affairs. Do not say any thing without proper knowledge. Do not say anything, which you do not like to be heard against yourself.

Self adulation

Self-adulation is a folly and a cause of destruction for self. Do not become a treasurer for others. Seek enlightenment from God and fear God alone. Son, you have before you a long and hazardous journey. During this journey, good conduct should be your greatest asset. During this journey you should not carry with you a burden larger than what is necessary. If you carry a burden which is heavier than what you can bear that will be a source of great embarrassment for you. Do as much good as you can. If while you are rich someone asks for a loan from you, give it so that it is returned to you when you are in straitened circumstances.

The journey to the Hereafter

Son, you have a steep rock to ascend. For climbing such height, a man without burden is at an advantage as compared with a person carrying a heavy burden. Thereafter there will be hell or paradise. Before reaching your destination send your goods in advance to insure a comfortable accommodation when you arrive at your destination.

Access to God

After death, no apology will avail, nor any return to the world would be possible. Have faith that He Who holds the treasures of the earth and the heavens has permitted you to ask for anything you want. Whatever you ask for, you will get. If you seek mercy you will have it. You can have free access to Him. No functionary stands in the way between you and Him. Worldly goods are of little value. They are for you; you are not for them.

Preparations for death

Son, you are born for the Hereafter. Death lies in wait for you. Howsoever you may run from it, it will overreach you. You have to fall a victim to death sooner or later. Therefore be careful lest death comes to you before you have had the opportunity to repent. In that case you will be deemed to destruction. Son, you should be well prepared so that when death comes you have no regret.

Temptations of the world

Son, do not be tempted by the world for God has revealed its worthlessness. Even the world itself is aware of its transitory nature. Those who are devoted to the world are like barking dogs and ferocious animals who fall at one another, the strong devouring the weak. Some of such beasts are tied down, and are devoid of the power to harm. Some of them run amuck like camels, which roam about causing mischief. They are devoid of intelligence. They tread the path of destruction, and are enveloped in darkness. They cannot see light. They have got themselves lost in the labyrinths of the world. They are enamoured of the world and have made it their God. The world is playing with them and they are playing with the world. They have completely forgotten the Hereafter.

Counsels to follow

Son, all your hopes cannot be realized. You cannot live for a period longer than what has been ordained for you. You have to tread the way, which was trodden by the people before you. Be moderate in your desires. Do not transgress the limits. Do not become a slave of your desires. That good is no good, which leads to evil. That wealth is no wealth, which brings dishonor. Take care that ambition and greed do not lead you to destruction. Do not seek the favor of any one for whatever is ordained for you, you will get it at all cost.

Speech and silence

Whatever harm accrues because of silence can be remedied, but whatever harm is done by speech cannot be remedied. Have you not seen that water is kept in the water skin by tying the mouth of the water skin. It is better to restrain your desires then to stretch your hand before others. A little that is earned because of honest labor is better than larger amount gained through dishonest means. Guard well your secret. Sometimes one is apt to harm himself by his own act. He who speaks more than what is necessary indulges in error.

Man and God

God is most merciful, when you violate your repentance He does not take any vengeance. When you turn to Him again He does not taunt you, nor does He take cognizance of your faults. He does not hesitate in accepting repentance. He does not make you despair of His mercy. He regards repentance as a virtue. Any dereliction minor or grave is counted as one, but every good deed is treated as ten virtues. Lie has kept the door of repentance open. He listens to your plaint. When you praise Him, He listens to you. It is He to Whom you tell your difficulties and afflictions and seek health, longevity, and the fulfillment of desires. No one other than Him can fulfil your desires. If there is any delay in the acceptance of your prayer, do not give way to despair. The acceptance of the prayer depends on your bona fides. Sometimes there is delay in the acceptance of the prayer so that you may have a greater reward. Sometimes your prayer is not accepted for what you ask for is not in your interests. Therefore you should ask for such things which are really to your advantage.


Keep the company of the virtuous. Refrain from the company of the wicked. To oppress the weak is the worst tyranny. When softness becomes hardness, hardness becomes softness. Sometimes cure becomes malady and malady becomes cure. Sometimes an evil wisher does what is good for you, and a well wisher does what is harmful to you. Do not bank on false hopes for that is the capital of the dead. Intelligence is the application of experience. The best experience is that which bears a lesson. Avail of the opportunity before it turns against you.

The fate

Everyone who goes on a journey may not return. Do not waste things. Do not spoil your prospects of the Hereafter. The fate of man is previously ordained. Whatever is the decree of your destiny will come to pass. A trader is a gambler in some way. Sometimes scarcity may be more beneficent than plenty.

The times

As long as the times favor you, march with the times. Beware that ambition does not blind you, and enmity does not deprive you of your intelligence. If a friend loosens the bond of friendship, you should strengthen such bond. If he keeps distance from you, you should try to come closer to him. If he adopts a stiff attitude against you, you should adopt a gentler attitude towards him. If he makes a mistake you should find an excuse for him. Behave with a friend as if he is your master, and you are his slave. Do not befriend the enemy of your friend. Do not refrain from tendering advice to your friend even though it might be bitter. Do not give way to anger. He who is harsh with you, be kind to him. He who has a good opinion about you, see that such opinion is not falsified. Do not ignore the rights of a friend under the false notion that he is a friend, for where rights are ignored, friendship suffers. Do not despair because of the oppression of a tyrant, for by such oppression he digs his own grave.


Son, sustenance is of two types, one that you seek, and the other that seeks you. Thus if you do not seek sustenance it will seek you. In the world your share is to that extent which can stand you in good stead in the Hereafter. If you grieve even what you have lost, then you should grieve over everything, which you have not got. Do not be like those people who are not impressed by any advice, but are moved by accusations. A wise man takes a lesson from even an ordinary lapse.

Patience and faith

Overpower desires and suspicions by patience and faith. He who does not take the middle course strays. A friend is like a relative. A true friend is he who looks after your interests in your absence. A stranger is he who has no friend.

Words of counsel

He who leaves the path of the truth treads the dark way. He who lives within his means keeps his honor safe. The strongest bond is that which binds man to God. He who does not care for you is your enemy. When hopes are frustrated, despair becomes the way of life. Every lapse may not be noticed. Nor can every opportunity be availed of. Sometimes he who has eyes may stumble, while the blind may tread without any mishap. He who trusts the world, the world betrays him. When there is a change in the ruler, the times also change. Before undertaking a journey look at the persons who are to be your companions. Before occupying a house, look to the persons who are to be your neighbors. Take care that in your talk you do not indulge in ridiculing anyone. Do not consult women. Their intelligence is limited and their resolves lack strength. Keep them in seclusion. Let no stranger come in contact with them. Do not encourage them to take recommendations. Treat your servants well. Allot them distinct jobs, so that each servant knows his duty. Respect your clan. It is the source of strength for you.


Son, I entrust your world and your Hereafter to God and pray for your welfare both in this world and the Hereafter. “

Helplessness of Ali

When Ali came to know of the end of Muhammad b Abu Bakr and the fall of Egypt, his grief knew no bounds. In a latter addressed to his cousin Abdullah b Abbas, Ali mourned the death of Muhammad b Abu Bakr in heart rending terms. The loss of Egypt was a grievous blow to the prestige of Ali. Addressing the people from the pulpit in the main mosque of Kufa Ali said: “O ye people! In the hour of need you have forsaken me. Falsehood has overcome the truth, and also no one is forthcoming to take up cudgels on behalf of the truth. I have lost Egypt. I have lost a loyal son. Who will avenge his death? Is no spark of faith left in you to fight for cause? What has happened to your oath of allegiance to me when you are not listening to me? Why have you become so deaf and dumb?” Day after day, Ali ascended the pulpit, and poured out quotations from the Holy Quran and the traditions of the Holy Prophet, enjoining upon the Muslims their obligation to undertake Jihad. These harangues and exhortations had no effect on the people. Somehow they felt that the star of Ali was waning, and they were in no mood to worship the sun that was about to set. The state of the helplessness of Ali is described by Dr. Ata Mohyuddin in the following words in his book Ali the Superman: “Ali now lost heart completely, despair overwhelmed him, crippling his energies and paralyzing all initiative. He completely lost faith in human nature, and withdrew to a life of retirement. He no longer had any control over the army or over the people and presented the spectacle of a beaten man.”

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