Biography of Imam `alĪ Ibn AbĪ-tĀlib

The Battle of the Camel

The Battle of the Camel (al-jamal) is the furious battle that was fought at the beginning of the reign of `Ali (a.s) with the excuse of seeking retaliation for the blood of `Uthman. The responsibility for heavy loss of Muslim lives and the schisms that came about in the Ummah thereafter rests on the shoulders of Umm al-Mu’minin `A’ishah bint Abū-Bakr, Talhah and al-Zubayr! They stood up to claim retaliation for the blood of `Uthman. These three, however, were very much against him during his lifetime and instigated people against him. Therefore, `A’ishah used to keep the Prophet’s footwear and cloak in front of `Uthman and say that still those things have not turned into relics when you have changed his Sunnah and the Commandments. `A’ishah had a great capability of reading the minds of the masses. She adopted the method of inflaming the thinking of the people that was most effective. She knew that the people had great love for their Prophet (a.s). She also knew that they would love to set eyes on the things that touched his body. When these things came in their view, there will be a feeling of ecstasy in their minds. It happened the way she thought. When they saw these, their anger rose and they surrounded the caliph’s palace. When Umm al-Mu’minin saw that the siege was strong, despite the best efforts of Marwan ibn al-Hakam, `Abd al-Rahman ibn `Attab and Zayd ibn Thabit she left for Makkah. During her journey, as well, wherever she stopped, she went inciting the people against `Uthman. Therefore, when she reached Salsal, seven miles from Makkah, she told Ibn `Abbas, who was proceeding as the leader of the group of Hajjis, in a very forceful manner:

“O Ibn `Abbas! You have the gift of oratory and sleight of tongue. In the name of Allah, stop people from helping this person (`Uthman).Put the people in doubts about him. As it is, people’s eyes have opened. The path of truth and the tower of light have risen. People from different cities have gathered for a decisive act. You know that Talhah ibn `Ubaydullah has
control of the keys of the bayt al-mall. If the Caliphate comes to him, he will follow his cousin, Abū-Bakr, step for step!”[1]

`A’ishah, during the first six years of the caliphate of `Uthman backed him completely. But then they had misunderstandings and she started antagonizing him. The apparent cause of this hatred and opposition was that `Uthman had reduced the pension that she was getting from the previous regime. Therefore, the historian al-Ya`qūbi writes:

“There was a gulf of hatred standing between `A’ishah and `Uthman. He had reduced the pension that `Umar had fixed for her. He started giving her an amount equal to that which was fixed for the other consorts of the Prophet (a.s).”[2]

Because of the dictatorial attitude of `Uthman and his functionaries, the atmosphere was already bad when the provocative talk of Umm al-Mu’minin added fuel to the fire.

This antagonism became more furious and people started scheming against him. Particularly Talhah ibn `Ubaydullah, and the people of Banū-taym, were in the forefront of the agitation. Talhah left no stone unturned in instigating the people against him. Buladhari writes:

“Among the Companions of the Prophet (a.s) none was as aggressive against `Uthman as was Talhah.”[3]

Therefore, it was he who asked people not to supply water to `Uthman’s house during the siege. It was he who rained the arrows on the house in the darkness of the night. He instigated people against him and asked their chief, `Abd al-Rahman ibn `Udays, who was one of the attendants at the bay`at al-ridwan, not to allow `Uthman to come out of the house and prevent others from going in and coming out. When `Uthman heard about this, he said:

“O Allah! Save me from the mischief of Talhah ibn `Ubaydullah. He has instigated people against me and got me besieged!”[4]

Talhah had this attitude not only during the life of `Uthman. After his death, there was no change in the attitude. He got stones hurled at the bier and

[1] Tārīkh al-Tabarī, Vol 3, Page 434
[2] Tārīkh al-Ya`qūbī, Vol 2, Page 132
[3] Ansāb al-Ashrāf, Vol 1, Page 113
[4] Tārīkh al-Tabarī, Vol 3, Page 411

obstructed his burial in Jannat al-Baqi`. Similarly al-Zubayr, whose wife was `A’ishah’s sister, was heard telling to the besiegers:

“Kill `Uthman. He has changed your very faith.”[1]

Only these people established the cause of `Uthman’s killing. They created such an environment that resulted in his assassination. If killing of `Uthman was a crime, then these persons cannot be absolved of their involvement in the act. Because abetting a crime too is a crime. Although Umm al-Mu’minin was not in al-Madinah at the time of his killing, she had left the place only 20 days prior to the event. When she was sure that the sapling she had planted would soon bear fruit. Going away at that time was perhaps to keep herself away from al-Madinah when the actual event took place. Then she wanted to install Talhah or al-Zubayr in his place and through them, she would recover the losses she had suffered because of reduction in her pension by `Uthman. But Umm al-Mu’minin could not succeed in her plan and in her absence, the people of al-Madinah decided on the caliphate of `Ali (a.s).

Talhah and al-Zubayr were the members of the Shūra composed by `Umar. Because of that membership, they could not keep the thought of caliphate away from their minds. Their efforts for the elimination of `Uthman too were directed towards this end. But when they saw that people were insisting for `Ali (a.s) to be the next caliph, and none else was acceptable to them, they took initiative gauging the sentiment of the people. They took precedence over others to extend their hands in allegiance to `Ali (a.s). If they saw the slightest chance of getting the position for themselves, they would have tried to achieve it. But they were forced to adopt a discreet silence. At that critical moment, it was necessary for them to back one of the two groups. But they did not have the support of any of the two groups. One group was of people who were angry at the ineptitude and his style of functioning. The other group was of his friends and supporters who were drawing benefits through him. The group that was against `Uthman, had not any intention of bringing forward any one of the two persons. The reason was that they were no different from `Uthman. Therefore, if `Uthman was fond of amassing wealth, these two persons too did not have any liking for piety and frugality. They were very affluent and their avarice knew no bounds. Therefore, Talhah bought huge properties in Iraq and Sarat, constructed palaces in al-Kūfah and al-Basrah and left behind huge amount of wealth. Ibn `Abd al-Barr writes:

[1] Sharh Nahj al-Balāghah by Ibn Abil-Hadīd, Vol 2, Page 404

“When Talhah ibn `Ubaydullah was killed, in his inheritance there were 300 whole skins of animal carcasses that were filled with gold and silver.”[1]

Al-Zubayr ibn al-`Awwam too was a very affluent person and a big capitalist. Therefore, al-Dhahbi writes:

“He had one thousand slaves who used to pay him tribute.”[2]

Al-Zubayr had constructed palaces in Egypt, al-Basrah and al-Kūfah. In addition to the fleet of slaves, slave girls and camels, his wealth cannot be assessed. After giving a third of his estate to his grandson, as per his will:

“Of his four wives, each got one hundred thousand which was a fourth of the eighth part of his wealth.”[3]

Now about the other group, that was in support of `Uthman. They knew that both the persons had played their role in the assassination of `Uthman and they would not support them to reach the throne of the caliphate. Although Talhah had gained control over the keys of the bayt al-mall during the lifetime of `Uthman, neither he nor al-Zubayr succeeded in getting the caliphate for themselves.

When after evacuating the caliphate they did not succeed in the race for the succession, they wanted to be content with minor gains. The very next day of the bay`ah they demanded from `Ali (a.s) to appoint them the governors of al-Kūfah and al-Basrah. Their main purpose in taking precedence over others in owing their allegiance was that they wanted to establish their priority in the matter of appointments. But the Imam (a.s) did not want to assign them to those provinces that yielded the maximum revenues. He knew their avarice and greed. Therefore, he refused saying that he would do in their regard what he thought was best for them. He told them that their remaining close to him at the capital was very essential. They were under the impression that they had good clout in al-Kūfah and al-Basrah, and that they were instrumental in mobilizing men to stage the uprising against `Uthman, they expected `Ali (a.s) to accept their demand. They understood that in the new administration they would not get any chance to do what they wanted to do. Nor will they get the special privileges that the previous administrations provided to them. Now they started to think of other ways to achieve their ends. They now concentrated their attention towards the movements of `A’ishah.

[1] Al-`Iqd al-Farīd, Vol 3, Page 103
[2] Tārīkh al-Islām, Vol 2, Page 154
[3] Al-`Iqd al-Farīd, Vol 3, Page 104

`A’ishah wanted that after the assassination of `Uthman, Talhah should become the caliph. Thus she was aiming at settling it permanently in her tribe of Banū-taym. After her stay in Makkah she was eager to know the result of the uprising in al-Madinah. She was asking every fresh arrival from al-Madinah about the conditions there. In that time one person, by name of Akhdar, came to Makkah from al-Madinah. `A’ishah called and asked him what was the result of the siege of the caliph’s palace? He informed that `Uthman had executed the mischief mongers from Egypt and has established control over the situation. Umm al-Mu’minin’s expectation was contrary to this and she was very disappointed with the news. She said in a very disappointed manner:

“We are Allah’s and to Him do we return. Has he killed those who were demanding their rights and were raising their voices against the tyrants? By Allah we are not happy with this.”[1]

She was still in a very depressed mood when another person came and said that Akhdar’s information was wrong and that none of the Egyptians was killed and they are moving about freely in al-Madinah. To the contrary, he said, `Uthman was killed by them. Hearing this she was satisfied and said:

“May Allah keep him away from His Blessing! This is the result of his deeds. Allah is not cruel to His creatures!”[2]

Now, instead of staying in Makkah it was necessary for her to move to al-Madinah. She now thought of building up opinion in favor of the person she wanted to promote, the person of her choice as the next caliph. Therefore, she made immediate arrangements for her journey and started for al-Madinah. She had hardly traveled six miles when, at Saraf, she was met by `Ubaydullah ibn Salamah. She asked him about the situation in al-Madinah. He said that `Uthman had been killed and the people of al-Madinah have sworn their allegiance to `Ali (a.s). When she heard this, it seemed that the ground from under her feet was slipping away. And the sky turned into a cloud of smoke. Not trusting her hearing she again asked whether `Ali (a.s) was the caliph? `Ubayd replied in the affirmative and said that there was none more deserving of the position than him. Now it was difficult for Umm al-Mu’minin to control her emotions. The following words came from her mouth:

[1] Tārīkh al-Tabarī, Vol 3, Page 468
[2] Sharh Nahj al-Balāghah by Ibn Abil-Hadīd, Vol 2, Page 77

“If `Ali’s bay`ah has taken place, how much I wish the sky burst on the ground! I must get back to Makkah!”[1]

Therefore, she ordered her retinue to return to Makkah, and expressing her sorrow over the assassination of `Uthman she said:

“By Allah! `Uthman has been killed. I shall avenge his blood!”[2]

`Ubayd ibn Abi-Salamah was surprised in the sudden face of Umm al-Mu’minin and said that she used to say, again and again about `Uthman:

“Kill that Na`thal. He is an infidel!”[3]

He asked why there was the sudden change in her attitude. She replied that earlier she held that opinion. But `Uthman was repentant in his last days and her present opinion about him was correct.

The excuse of `A’ishah that `Uthman had repented was very surprising. As long as she was in al-Madinah, he had not shown any signs of repentance. Otherwise, she would not have left him at the mercy of the rebels and come away to Makkah. When she got the news of the killing of `Uthman in Makkah she had no inkling of his repentance and had even expressed her satisfaction over his killing. During the very short journey of six miles, there was no source of information which could have reported about the repentance of `Uthman. As soon as she heard of the bay`ah of `Ali (a.s) she remembered the predicament of `Uthman and knew that he was repentant of his past deeds. Even the demand of the persons besieging his palace was for him to express repentance for his past deeds and cruelties inflicted by his functionaries on the people of the realm. He was stubbornly refusing to express his repentance all the while. If he had agreed to stop the tyrannies and cruelties, there was no question of his getting killed. The truth is that when Umm al-Mu’minin was not able to give a plausible excuse for her sudden change of attitude, she made the false excuse of his repentance. But she was not able to convince `Ubayd ibn Abi-Salamah. Therefore, he said:

“O Umm al-Mu’minin! By Allah! Your excuse is very weak!”[4]

Umm al-Mu’minin wanted to reach Makkah immediately. She did not pay any heed to what `Ubayd said. When she reached Makkah people asked her the

[1] Al-Kāmil fit-Tārīkh, Vol 3, Page 105
[2] Al-Kāmil fit-Tārīkh, Vol 3, Page 105
[3] Al-Kāmil fit-Tārīkh, Vol 3, Page 105
[4] Al-Imāmah was-Siyāsah, Vol 1, Page 52

reason for returning so suddenly. She said, “`Uthman was killed for no fault of his! I shall not let his blood go in waste! I shall not go back until his blood is avenged!” People were certainly surprised at the change in her attitude, but kept quiet.

Umm al-Mu’minin started beating the drums about the innocence of `Uthman and tried to create a strong front against `Ali (a.s). When Talhah and al-Zubayr learned that `A’ishah was doing propaganda that `Uthman was innocent and was putting the responsibility on `Ali (a.s) for his killing, they sent letters through `Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr to her to run a movement and stop people from owing allegiance to `Ali (a.s). These messages further strengthened her determination and with full force, she started the campaign to demand retaliation for the blood of `Uthman. The first person to respond was `Abdullah ibn `Amir al-Hadrami who was the governor of Makkah during the reign of `Uthman. Sa`id ibn al-`As, al-Walid ibn `Uqbah and other Umayyad’s followed.

Talhah and al-Zubayr wanted to take shelter behind the claim for qisas to take revenge for their failure to get important positions in the new regime. But the environment in al-Madinah was not conducive for them. However, the movement could be successfully launched from Makkah because Umm al-Mu’minin, `Abdullah ibn `Amir, Marwan ibn al-Hakam and the Umayyads who flew from al-Madinah were there actively promoting the movement. Therefore, the two somehow spent a period of four months in al-Madinah and then decided to go over to Makkah to pursue the campaign. They told the Imam (a.s) that they wanted to go to Makkah for performing the `Umrah. He had gauged their intentions from their faces that they had an ulterior motive in going to Makkah. Therefore, he said:

“By Allah! Their intention is not to perform the `Umrah! They are bent on stealth and rebellion!”[1]

Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) did not want them to go to Makkah, but they persisted. In the end the Imam (a.s) took the bay`ah from them a second time and permitted them to go. In Makkah they started putting the blame of the killing of `Uthman on the Imam (a.s) and became active members of `A’ishah’s movement.

Some persons might think that when the Imam (a.s) knew that Talhah and al-Zubayr might break the bay`ah and attempt mischief, then why did he permit

[1] Tārīkh al-Ya`qūbī, Vol 2, Page 156

them to go to Makkah. If they were not permitted to leave al-Madinah, they would not have been able to raise an army nor the battle would not have taken place in al-Basrah. But when the other aspects of the situation are considered, then this sounds the most plausible alternative that they were allowed to go to Makkah. One alternative was to restrict them to their homes in al-Madinah. The other was to concede their original demand for the emirate of al-Kūfah and al-Basrah. But both these alternatives were impracticable. In the first case, if they were confined to their homes, it would be like punishment before committing the offence. It would then be termed as curbing the freedom of movement and speech. This would be against the norms of Islam and the Imam’s own character. During those days only the Imam (a.s) had allowed persons from Banū-Umayyah to move to Makkah without any objection. If these two were forcibly stopped from going, there would be a hue and cry from their supporters. They would say that he had allowed the others to go where they liked and was refusing permission to the two senior Companions and important members of the Shūra. Discretion required that they should not be stopped from going. As far as the other alternative of assigning to them the governorate of al-Kūfah and al-Basrah was concerned, it was very clear to the Imam (a.s) that the two neither wanted to remain under the Imam (a.s) nor they wanted to be obedient to him. If they were given the governorate, they would certainly try to declare themselves independent of the center, specially when al-Zubayr had lot of support in al-Kūfah and al-Zubayr had the backing of the people of al-Basrah. Those people wanted them to control the entire realm as the caliph. They had even expressed this desire. If they were assigned as governors, they would first find their moorings and then attempt to move ahead. With al-Zubayr in al-Kūfah, Talhah in al-Basrah and Mu`awiyah already rebellious in Syria, it would be difficult to keep the realm together.

Thus they reached Makkah with a predetermined agenda and started putting blame on Banū-Hashim in general, and `Ali (a.s) in particular, for the killing of `Uthman. A campaign for claiming the retaliation for the blood of `Uthman started gaining force. For this campaign, they needed funds. The solution came about in a manner that the deposed governor of al-Basrah arrived at Makkah with the entire wealth from the bayt al-mall. Ya`li ibn Umayyah came from Yemen with 600,000 dirhams and 600 camels. All these funds were earmarked towards the expenses for the war. Abū-Fida has written:

“Ya`li gathered all the assets and started for Makkah. He joined `A’ishah, Talhah and al-Zubayr and gave all the wealth in their keeping.”[1]

The people of Makkah too raised funds and they had sufficient finance. After the preliminary arrangements were over, there was a meeting at the place of `A’ishah. In principle, they were agreed on the battle but had to decide which place to be selected as the theatre of war. `A’ishah thought of besieging al-Madinah. But this suggestion was rejected because with the rebels there, it would not be possible to handle the campaign there. Some people suggested going to Syria. On this Ibn `Amir said:

“With Mu`awiyah in Syria, you are not needed there!”[2]

One more reason was in the way of making Syria the theater of war that being under `Uthman, Mu`awiyah did not help him. How could they, then, expect any help forthcoming from him? When he had refused to bear allegiance to `Ali (a.s), how could he accept Talhah or al-Zubayr as the caliph without any objection. Of cource, Mu`awiyah was one with them to the extent of opposing `Ali’s caliphate. But after achieving that end, he would not agree to the accession of Talhah or al-Zubayr to the caliphate. Ultimately, at the instance of `Abdullah ibn `Amir they decided on al-Basrah as the venue for the battle. One reason was that they had the support of the local population there. The other advantage was that Syria is on one side of Hijaz and Iraq on the other. If al-Basrah was made the theatre of war and Iraq was occupied, then Hijaz would be sandwiched between the two power centers. In this event it would be easy to defeat the army of Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s)

It is evident from the plan that the aim was not to claim the qisas for `Uthman’s blood. If that was the intention, they should have attacked Medina and held the persons who had carried out the assassination. In al-Basrah there was no possibility of the conspirators of the killing of `Uthman being there. Any way, after deciding on the theatre of war, they started to prepare to go for the campaign. Ya`li bought a camel of 600 dirhams from a person from the tribe of `Uraynah and presented to Umm al-Mu’minin. He made a general announcement that those who did not have the arms and other materials, they will be provided wit everything. Therefore, Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) has said about Ya`li:

[1] Tārīkh Abul-Fidā’, Vol 1, Page 172
[2] Al-Kāmil fit-Tārīkh, Vol 3, Page 106

“He was giving to every person a horse, arms and 30 Dinars to fight against me.”[1]

Talhah and al-Zubayr pressurized `Abdullah ibn `Umar to support them. But he refused saying:

“It is better for `A’ishah to sit at home and not in the canopy on the camel’s back, and for you remaining in al-Madinah would be better than going to al-Basrah.”[2]

`A’ishah asked the other consorts of the Prophet (a.s), who was staying at Makkah. after the Hajj, to endorse her stand and to accompany her to the battlefront. Hafsah agreed without any objection. Other wives of the Prophet (a.s) rejected the proposal. In the end, at the intervention of `Abdullah Ibn `Umar, Hafsah too stayed back. Ibn al-Athir writes:

“The consorts of the Prophet (a.s) planned to go to al-Madinah with `A’ishah. But when she changed her plans and was going to al-Basrah, they cut away from her. Hafsah agreed to go with `A’ishah but her brother `Abdullah ibn `Umar stopped her.”[3]

Hafsah’s agreement was not unexpected. The reason was that there were a lot of similarities in the thinking of both. Because of this, they were thought to be associated with a particular group. Therefore, Muhammad ibn Isma`il al-Bukhari writes:

“The wives of the Prophet (a.s) were in two groups. One group was composed of `A’ishah, Hafsah and Sawdah. In the other group was Ummu-Salamah and others.”[4]

All the sympathies of Ummu-Salamah were with `Ali (a.s). When `A’ishah tried to win her over to her own side, she refused to listen to anything against `Ali (a.s). She opposed the plans of `A’ishah very much and wrote to her to desist from her scheme:

“If the Prophet (a.s) had known that women can bear the hardships of jihad, he would have ordered you. Do not you remember that the Prophet (a.s) had warned you against excesses in the matter of Faith? He knew that if the pillar of

[1] Tārīkh al-Islām by al-Dhahbī, Vol 2, Page 14
[2] Al-Imāmah was-Siyāsah, Vol 1, Page 61
[3] Al-Kāmil fit-Tārīkh, Vol 3, Page 106
[4] Sahīh al-Bukhārī, Vol 2, Page 59

Faith bends, it could not be stopped through women. If it gets breached, the women cannot mend it. The jihad for women is that they keep their eyes down, gather their lapels and keep limited relationships. If the Prophet (a.s) had seen you on the camel back, going from one well to the other in the wilderness, what reply would you give him. Tomorrow you will have to go to the presence of the Prophet (a.s). By Allah, if I am told, ‘O Ummu-Salamah! Enter the Heaven! Then if I had broken the Hijab that he has made binding on me, I shall be ashamed to face the Prophet (a.s). Therefore, you must remain in the veil and stay at home!”[1]

Instead of taking a lesson from the writing of Ummu-Salamah, `A’ishah replied that she was going to arrange peace between the two warring groups and it is necessary for keeping the atmosphere peaceful. This reply was just an excuse, but the fact is well-known that she was herself an active participant in the dispute. If she had remained back at home, the dispute would not have arisen at all. If one agrees that she was going to arrange truce between two warring groups, then what was the need for the paraphernalia of war to be accumulated and carried along?

Umm al-Mu’minin (a.s), with a contingent of 700 men, marched towards al-Basrah. Enroute several persons joined the group. The numbers rose to 3,000. When the contingent reached Dhat al-`Irq, from where there is a diversion to al-Basrah, Sa`id ibn al-`As asked Marwan and some others of the same mind as to where they were heading for through the wilderness? Marwan said he knew they were going to al-Basrah and the purpose was to take revenge against the killers of `Uthman. He said:

“The killers of `Uthman, Talhah and al-Zubayr, are riding with you on camels. Kill them and return home. Why unnecessarily kill each other.”[2]

Marwan said with what face they would go home He said that they must go to al-Basrah that they were able to take revenge against all the killers of `Uthman. Sa`id, after talking with them, went to Talhah and al-Zubayr and asked if they won the battle and succeeded with their aim, who will be their choice to be the caliph? They said, “Without doubt, one of them would be chosen as the caliph.” Sa`id said that when you came out seeking retaliation

[1] Al-`Iqd al-Farīd, Vol 3, Page 99
[2] Tārīkh al-Tabarī, Vol 3, Page 472

for the blood of `Uthman, then you must make one of his sons the caliph and both his sons, Aban and al-Walid, were in the contingent as well. He warned them that if they did not do this, the people would think that you have come out in search of power and position. Talhah and al-Zubayr said in one voice:

“Can we keep aside the senior, aged, Muhajirūn, and make his you sons the caliph?”[1]

Sa`id understood that these persons had not come for the qisas and the entire drama was for personal gains. Therefore, he went away from them. Along with him went `Abdullah ibn Khalid, Mughirah ibn Shu`bah and the people of Banū-Thaqif. They all headed towards Ta’if. The remaining troops headed towards their destination. On the way something happened that shook the courage and determination of Umm al-Mu’minin momentarily. When the contingent reached a cistern of water that was named after a woman, Haw’ab bint Kalb ibn Wabrah, as the Cistern of Haw’ab, it halted there for the night. `A’ishah heard the sound of dogs barking from one direction. This was nothing unusual. But Umm al-Mu’minin had some disturbance in her mind. Nearby was the camel driver. She asked him what the name of the place was. He replied, “It is Haw’ab!” Hearing the name of Haw’ab, Umm al-Mu’minin’s limbs started shivering and shouted:

“Let me go back! Let me go back! By Allah! I am the one of the Cistern of Haw’ab!”[2]

Talhah, al-Zubayr and others were surprised in the sudden change in the attitude of Umm al-Mu’minin. They said what if the place is Haw’ab. Why are you frightened of the name? She said:

“Once the Prophet (a.s) had his wives sitting around him. I heard him say at that time, ‘Who is the one amongst you on whom the dogs of Haw’ab would bark?’”[3]

She said that she did not have any more doubt that the Prophet (a.s) was mentioning about her on that day. She insisted that she must return back from there only. When her cohorts felt that the entire campaign would collapse with her departure, they said that the camel driver was wrong in saying that the place was Haw’ab. `Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr gathered some fifty persons from the neighborhood, gave them some bribes, and asked them to tell her that the place was not Haw’ab. Al-Shi`bi says:

[1] Tārīkh al-Tabarī, Vol 3, Page 472
[2] Al-Kāmil fit-Tārīkh, Vol 3, Page 107
[3] Al-Kāmil fit-Tārīkh, Vol 3, Page 107

“This was the first false witness that was given in the annals of Islam.”[1]

Umm al-Mu’minin was still in a confused state of mind when a sound was heard from one direction:

“Hurry! Hurry! `Ali Ibn Abi-Talib is arriving!”[2]

Hearing this, there was utter confusion in the rank and file of the contingent. Umm al-Mu’minin’s thoughts turned in such a way that she neither remembered Haw’ab nor the Prophet’s words about it. Once again her spirit revived and she headed towards al-Basrah.

On the other hand Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) was thinking of organizing troops to move towards Syria when Talhah and al-Zubayr recanted from the bay`ah and the news of the impending attack by `A’ishah reached al-Madinah. The Imam (a.s) had a doubt that Talhah and al-Zubayr might hatch a conspiracy along with Mu`awiyah. But he never expected that Umm al-Mu’minin would rise against him and come out of her home against the commands of Allah and the Prophet (a.s). He was thus forced to alter his program of going to Syria to attend on this problem. The Imam (a.s) gathered the important persons of al-Madinah in the al-Masjid al-Nabawi (the Holy Prophet’s Mosque) and said that they were aware of the rebellious moves of Talhah and al-Zubayr. He wanted them to be with him that they were intercepted before they reached al-Basrah. Some persons were hesitant to confront such eminent names like Talhah, al-Zubayr and `A’ishah. And some others like Sa`d ibn Abi-Waqqas, Usamah ibn Zayd, Muhammad ibn Maslamah and `Abdullah ibn `Umar flatly refused to go. But there were persons like Haitham ibn al-Tayhan, Ziyad ibn Hanzalah, Abū-Qutadah al-Ansari etc who were guided by the spirit of siding with the truth and assured of all cooperation. Abū-Qutadah told in an emotional tone:

“O Amir al-Mu’minin! This sword was tied around my girdle by the Prophet (a.s)! For a long time it has stayed in the sheath! Now is the time to take it out against the tyrants, those who do not desist from cheating the Ummah!”[3]

Ummu-Salamah presented her son `Umar ibn Abi-Salamah to Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) and said:

[1] Tadhkirat Khawāss al-Ummah, Page 39
[2] Al-Kāmil fit-Tārīkh, Vol 3, Page 39
[3] Al-Kāmil fit-Tārīkh, Vol 3, Page 113

“I am leaving him in your care. He is dearer to me than my own life! He will be on your side in all the campaigns, until Allah makes His final Command that He will! If it were not against the command of the Prophet (a.s), I would have come with you, the way `A’ishah has gone with Talhah and al-Zubayr!”[1]

Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) appointed Sahl ibn Hunayf al-Ansari in al-Madinah and Qathm ibn `Abbas as his deputies. He started with a contingent of between 600 and 1,000 strong. In this, there were 400 persons who were present at the bay`at al-ridwan. When they reached al-Rabadhah, three miles from al-Madinah, he got the news that the opponents had already started for al-Basrah and that they were going post haste. Now there was no likelihood of stopping them on the way and there was no other alternative that subduing them through battle. Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) camped there and sent out some men to al-Madinah to fetch supplies of the arms and transport animals. To recruit more men, he deputed Muhammad ibn Ja`far and Muhammad ibn Abi-Bakr to al-Kūfah. When they reached al-Kūfah, the emir there, Abū-Mūsa al-Ash`ari, stood like a wall between them and the people and stopped them from joining saying that this is the battle for worldly power, whoever wants to go, might go! Those who want a better Hereafter must stay home. Instead of being a help to Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s), he proved an impediment. Muhammad Ibn Ja`far and Muhammad Ibn Abi-Bakr tried their best to convince him, but he was adamant. Therefore, they returned disappointed. `Ali (a.s) started from al-Rabadhah and passed through feed, al-Tha`labiyyah and Asad to reach Dhi-Qar that is equidistant between al-Kūfah and Wasit. At this place Muhammad ibn Ja`far and Muhammad ibn Abi-Bakr arrived and told the Imam (a.s) about the attitude of Abū-Mūsa. Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) sent Ibn `Abbas and Malik al-Ashtar to al-Kūfah to convince Abū-Mūsa that he should desist from misguiding those who wish to join the contingent. The two were still in al-Kūfah when the Imam (a.s) sent his son, Hasan (a.s) and `Ammar ibn Yasir. On reaching al-Kūfah they sat in the Masjid there and invited people to come to the assistance of Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s). Abū-Mūsa was informed of the arrival of Imam al-Hasan (a.s). When he came, Imam al-Hasan (a.s) told him that information has been received concerning him that he was preventing people from coming to the assistance of Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) although the purpose is to fight against and remove mischief from the Realm. He said that he had heard the Prophet (a.s) say:

[1] Ansāb al-Ashrāf, Vol 1, Page 436

“Soon a mischief will break out. Those who sit will be better than those who stand those who stand will be better than those who walk and those who walk will be better than men on horse backs!”[1]

Those persons, the opponents, are our brothers in Islam, and shedding their blood is taboo for us nor it is permissible to confiscate their assets. At this `Ammar ibn Yasir became angry and said:

“No doubt, your sitting in a room is better than your coming out!”[2]

They both started arguing with one another. Abū-Mūsa insisted that what those people were doing was a mischief and it is better to keep away from it. An argument was going out there, when Zayd ibn Sawhan read out two epistles from `A’ishah from near the entrance to the mosque. One was addressed to him and the other to the people of al-Kūfah. In the epistles, she urged them to come to her help. She also pleaded that if they could not come to her rescue, they should not also respond to the call from `Ali (a.s). After reading the epistles, he addressed the gathering:

“She was ordered to sit at home. We were ordered that we battle and fight that mischief did not raise its head! But what she had been ordered to do, she is asking us (men) to sit back at home and what we have been ordered to do (to battle) she is doing!”[3]

Then addressing Abū-Mūsa he said, “O Abū-Mūsa! If you can stop the river flowing, then ask the people not to go! It is better refrain from a thing that is beyond your control. Instead of stopping the people from going, go home and sit quietly.” But all the talk did not have any effect on Abū-Mūsa. He continued insisting that what the opponents were doing was a mischief and people should keep away from it. When Imam al-Hasan (a.s) felt that he was becoming too stubborn, he became angry and said, “Leave our mosque and go wherever you like to go!”[4]

Then he went to the pulpit and gave a sermon. He convinced people to come to the help of Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s). `Ammar ibn Yasir and Hijr ibn `Adi al-

[1] Al-Kāmil fit-Tārīkh, Vol 3, Page 117
[2] Al-Kāmil fit-Tārīkh, Vol 3, Page 117
[3] Tārīkh al-Tabarī, Vol 3, Page 117
[4] Al-Akhbār al-Tiwāl, Page 145

Kindi too appealed to the people to join. This had an effect on the people and they started in numbers to join up.

When the environment of al-Kūfah was congenial, Malik al-Ashtar headed towards Dar al-Imarah, beat up Abū-Mūsa’s slaves and evicted them. He occupied the palace. Abū-Mūsa came running to the palace and wanted to enter. But Malik stopped him from entering and said in a loud tone:

“O Abū-Mūsa! May your mother die! Get away from our palace! May Allah evict you! By Allah! You have always been a hypocrite!”[1]

Abū-Mūsa pleaded to be given a night’s respite. He was told that he had time until the Evening Prayer and that he who not be allowed to stay there in the night. Some people wanted to get into the palace and loot his belongings. But Malik stopped them and told them that they should not trouble him because he was ordered to evacuate. People did not trouble him any more. Abū-Mūsa went in the darkness of night and spent the night somewhere in al-Kūfah. In the morning, he trudged towards Syria! Now the people of al-Kūfah got ready to join the ranks in large number despite the efforts of Abū-Mūsa and the epistles of Umm al-Mu’minin. 12,000 armed men from al-Kūfah joined Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) at Dhi-Qar!

One is surprised at the mental make-up and actions of Abū-Mūsa. On the one hand, he was holding a key position in the establishment and on the other; he was promoting the interests of the opponents of the head of the state. If he considered the battle with the owners of the Camel illegitimate, he should have demitted his office at the first instance and then he could have expressed his views. When he was the functionary of the state and expressing his opinion against the instructions of the Head of the State was tantamount to disobedience His attitude indicated that he was hand in glove with the opponents of Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s). Otherwise, there was no reason that he wanted to remain in office and tried to come in the way of mobilizing the men to fight with the rebels. He tried to describe the defensive arrangements as mischief and tried to misinterpret the Prophet’s tradition to make people sit at home and give a free hand to the rebels. Did he want Talhah, al-Zubayr and their cohorts to do what they wanted without any resistance? If defensive measures against the rebels is a fitnah, then every defensive war could be termed as fitnah! Amir al-Mu’minin’s battle with the owners of the camel is one of the battles that had the express approval of the Prophet (a.s).

[1] Tārīkh al-Tabarī, Vol 3, Page 501

Therefore, Abū-Ayyūb al-Ansari says:

“The Prophet (a.s) had instructed `Ali (a.s) that he should battle with the recanters of the bay`ah (at the Battle of the Camel), the wayward (at the Battle of Siffin) and the apostates (the Khawarij).”[1]

Then the Prophet (a.s) had forecast the battle between `Ali (a.s), the righteous and oppressed, with al-Zubayr, the oppressor and aggressor:

“O al-Zubayr! You will battle with `Ali (a.s) and you will be the oppressor over his right!”[2]

About the Cistern of Haw’ab, the Prophet (a.s) warned `A’ishah:

“Beware! O `A’ishah! Lest you are the one!”[3]

In addition to these statements of the Prophet (a.s), the Holy Qur’an too clearly exhorts fighting against the rebellious:

وَإِنْ طَائِفَتَانِ مِنْ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ اقْتَتَلُوا فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَهُمَا فَإِنْ بَغَتْ إِحْدَاهُمَا عَلَى الْأُخْرَى فَقَاتِلُوا الَّتِي تَبْغِي حَتَّى تَفِيءَ إِلَى أَمْرِ اللَّهِ فَإِنْ فَاءَتْ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَهُمَا بِالْعَدْلِ وَأَقْسِطُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ.

“And if two parties of the believers quarrel, make peace between them; but if one of them acts wrongfully 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; surely Allah loves those who act equitably. (49/9)”

When the troops of Umm al-Mu’minin reached Abū-Mūsa Spring beyond the Cistern of Haw’ab, and the governor of al-Basrah, `Uthman ibn Hunayf got the news of the arrival of the heavy troops, he sent Abul-Aswad al-Du’ali and `Umar ibn Husayn to `A’ishah to inquire about the purpose of her arrival at al-Basrah. Therefore, reaching there, Abul-Aswad asked `A’ishah, “O Mother! On what purpose you have come here. For what reason you have mobilized such a huge army?” She said, “I have come to avenge the blood of `Uthman who was killed mercilessly in his own house.” Abul-Aswad said, “In al-Basrah there is none of his killers” She replied, “It is true. But I want the cooperation of the people of al-Basrah I wish to take revenge on those who

[1] Mustadrak al-Hākim, Vol 3, Page 139
[2] Al-Kāmil fit-Tārīkh, Vol 3. Page 122
[3] Tārīkh al-Ya`qūbī, Vol 3, Page 157

have killed him and are in the group of `Ali (a.s).” Abul-Aswad said, “You are the consort of the Prophet (a.s) and he has ordered you to remain within the four walls of your home. What have you to do with these battles? This activity does not suit your dignity and status that you have left behind your home and come out for battling.” She said, “Who will have the courage to come face to face with us and fight!” Abul-Aswad said, “We shall fight and the world shall see that battles are fought in this manner!”

Umm al-Mu’minin’s conviction that none will dare to fight against her was perhaps on the basis that with `Ali (a.s) only a small contingent will be there who must have accompanied him from al-Madinah and the braves of al-Kūfah, who she thought were under the influence of Abū-Mūsa, would not join him. In this event, the small contingent of the Imam (a.s) may not be able to contend with her huge army and will be forced to surrender arms. Either it will be on the basis that out of respect for the spouse of the Prophet (a.s) they would abstain from fighting with her or they will get awed with the huge numbers against them. But the events turned out contrary to her expectation. Huge numbers of fighters joined the army of the Imam (a.s) from al-Kūfah. The other thought that the men would abstain from fighting seeing the consort of the Prophet (a.s) could possibly have had effect on their thinking only if she had maintained that decorum by remaining at home and not coming out in full battle cry. When she had not herself maintained the dignity and respect of her status, how could the fighting men be expected to respect her?

After talking with `A’ishah, Abul-Aswad went to Talhah and al-Zubayr and asked them the same questions as he had put to `A’ishah. They too repeated what Umm al-Mu’minin had said that their purpose of coming there was to avenge the blood of `Uthman. Abul-Aswad asked, “Have not two of you on oath owed your allegiance to `Ali (a.s)? They said, “Yes! In conditions that a sword was hanging over our heads! There was no other alternative for us than doing the bay`ah!” Abul-Aswad understood from their attitude that they were bent on mischief and rebellion and there was no use for further discussion. He went back to `Uthman ibn Hunayf and reported about the parleys to him. He advised strengthening the fortification of the town. `Uthman ibn Hunayf assembled the people in the mosque and ordered them to keep their arms ready and remain on alert.

Umm al-Mu’minin’s army, after remaining at Abū-Mūsa Spring for sometime entered into the boundary of the al-Basrah city. It camped at al-Mirbad, the market yard for sale of camels. When the people of the city heard of the arrival of `A’ishah, Talhah and al-Zubayr, they started assembling in the al-

Mirbad. They started commenting according to each person’s point of view. One person stood up and said, “These people have come out with fear and terror from a city where even the birds are in safety. If they have come to avenge `Uthman’s blood, we are not his killers! O People of al-Basrah! Listen to me! Force them to return back from here! “At this point the supporters of Talhah and al-Zubayr hurled stones and quietened him. Jariyah ibn Qudamah took courage in his hands, moved forward, and asked `A’ishah:

“O Umm al-Mu’minin! Your sitting on that accursed camel and coming out is worse calamity than the assassination of `Uthman. For you there is a Command from Allah you must maintain respect for the Hijab, but you have come out of the curtain and have lost your respect. One, who thinks fighting with you is legitimate, may not refrain from killing you. If you have come of your own will, return home! If you have been forced to come, please seek the people’s help against those who have forcibly brought you”[1]

Umm al-Mu’minin did not take any cognizance of these words. Her attention was only on increasing her strength and taking more and more persons under her banner. It was necessary to get the people of al-Basrah under her sway. She wanted to convince them that `Uthman was killed at the instance of `Ali (a.s) and thus he had personally occupied the position of the caliph. She said that neither he had the support of the members of the Shūra nor the people’s support. With this purpose, she wanted to address the crowd. There was pandemonium all around and none was able to hear what she wanted to communicate. Effort was made to quieten the crowd and Talhah made a speech, “O People! We were the well-wishers of `Uthman from the depths of our hearts! But some foolish persons overwhelmed the wiser and assassinated him! Now we want to avenge his killing!” he was able to speak this far, when the people said, “O Abū-Muhammad (Talhah)! Your letters contrary to this kept coming to us! “Talhah could not give any reply and kept quiet. Now it was the turn of al-Zubayr. He stood up and said, “From my side no letters came to you about `Uthman.” He then talked about the circumstances under which `Uthman was killed. He blamed `Ali (a.s) for everything and used harsh words. At this point a person from the tribe of `Abd al-Qays stood up. At his standing, there was some commotion in the crowd. Some people tried to quieten him. But he did not care for the shouting and started speaking. At

[1] Tārīkh al-Tabarī, Vol 3, Page 482

the outset he talked about all the three earlier caliphates and then started talking about the caliphate of `Ali (a.s), “You people had pledged your allegiance to `Ali (a.s) without consulting us and accepted him as the caliph. What has happened now that you have turned against him? Do tell us, that we stand with you and fight! Has he usurped the booty of War? Has he taken any step against the Shari`ah? Or has he done anything that you do not like? Tell us, what wrong has he done, that we side with you? If all this is not there, then there is no sense in all the noises that you are making!” At this point, the men of Talhah and al-Zubayr jumped towards him. With the intention of lynching him. But the men from his tribe saved him. But the next day Umm al-Mu’minin’s men attacked and killed him and seventy men of his tribe. The historian al-Tabari writes:

“The next day an attack was made on him and his companions and seventy persons were killed.”[1]

After these speeches `A’ishah’s turn came. In a very pathetic manner, she described the innocence of `Uthman and the cruel manner that he was killed. And that people were very disturbed at his dastardly killing and were rising to avenge his assassination. She said, “Kill his murderers one after another and leave the matter of the caliphate to the Shūra constituted by `Umar! One who is involved in the assassination should be excluded from the Shūra” This suggestion of Umm al-Mu’minin was very meaningful. She suggests following the Shūra and very intelligently tried to turn the caliphate in the direction she wanted it to go. Only four members of the Shūra were alive at that time. They were `Ali ibn Abi- Talib (a.s), Sa`d ibn Abi-Waqqas, Talhah and al-Zubayr. `Ali (a.s), in her view, was involved in the murder of `Uthman and therefore had no right to be a part of the Shūra any more. Sa`d ibn Abi-Waqqas was not likely to come in the way of what she would have liked to happen. Since `Umar had suggested that the candidate who had the majority with him should be selected as the next caliph, automatically the candidate of her choice would win hands down! Talhah and al-Zubayr would certainly not vote for Sa`d. In that event, one of the two buddies would vote for the other and get through to the throne! The situation was such that Sa`d would be in an unenviable position of supporting one of the two! If he sided with Talhah, he would be the caliph and the same was true for al-Zubayr. Either way, that was what Umm al-Mu’minin wanted! Her wish was to remove `Ali (a.s) and install one of the two of her cohorts in the caliphate!

[1] Tārīkh al-Tabarī, Vol 3, Page 486

The crowds listened to the speech of Umm al-Mu’minin with quiet interest. But after the speech was over, they started shouting and protesting and it was a cacophony of noises. Some people said that Umm al-Mu’minin was right, and others were against her. The people of al-Basrah were divided in two groups. One group sided with Talhah and al-Zubayr and the other group was for `Uthman ibn Hunayf. They started pelting stones at each other. However, there was one group that remained quiet and was not able to decide which side to take. Thus, with the arrival of Umm al-Mu’minin, divisive tendencies arose in the families and households! Brother turned against his own brother!

Now, with the strategy of widening their sphere of influence they sent out messengers in all directions to register support. Therefore, Umm al-Mu’minin called al-Ahnaf ibn Qays, who was the chief of the tribe of Banū-Tamim, and other important persons in the neighborhood and told them that they were refraining from doing the jihad to avenge the killing of `Uthman. She asked them what reply would they give to Allah for this dereliction of their duty. She said that in their tribes, there was no shortage of men and materials to fight nor will your men turn down your call. Al-Ahnaf said, “O Umm al-Mu’minin! It was only yesterday that you were critical of `Uthman! You left nothing in cursing him! Today you are seeking qisas for his murder!” She said that he was washed away as if they do the dirt from the utensils. When he was free of all his ills, he has been killed. Al-Ahnaf said

“O Umm al-Mu’minin! I am ready to abide by the instruction that you give in a state of equanimity. But I cannot abide by the order that you give in a fury of rage!”[1]

Al-Ahnaf saved himself from siding her, but the majority of the people of al-Basrah joined ranks with Umm al-Mu’minin. Now she wanted to capture the bayt al-mall and other important places in al-Basrah before the arrival of `Ali (a.s). There she moved towards the city. `Uthman ibn al-Ahnaf was not willing to hand over the city to her without any resistance. He created barricades on the way and, as far as possible, tried to defend the city. From whichever direction the attackers tried to advance, `Uthman’s men resisted them. Some people hurled stones from the rooftops on the advancing army. But how long could they stop the onslaught of the advancing army. When `Uthman felt that he could not prevent the city any more from their depredation, he took one small unit of men and went to Talhah and al-Zubayr. He asked them what their demand was and why they were raising trouble in

[1] Al-Istī`āb, Vol 1, Page 320

the peaceful city. They said that their intention was to seek retaliation for the blood of `Uthman. He asked, was it the way of seeking the qisas? He added that they were just interested in somehow acquiring the caliphate for themselves. They replied that even if that was true, `Ali (a.s) was not more deserving of the caliphate than they were. The discussion became more heated from either side and it almost went to the extent of drawing the swords. When matters were going out of control, `A’ishah demonstrated her liking for peace and intervened between the two groups. They agreed that until Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) arrived there, no hostilities would be started and that `Uthman will continue to be in the Dar al-Imarah and there would not be any change in the administration. Only two days had gone by since the agreement, when in the darkness of night `Uthman was attacked stealthily in the Dar al-Imarah. He was taken captive, was given forty lashes and the hairs of his beard, brows and eye lashes were pulled out cruelly. Ibn al-Athir writes:

“Only two or three days had passed when they attacked `Uthman near the bayt al-rizq, took him captive, and tried to kill him. But out of fear that the Ansar might become furious, they were afraid of killing him. But they pulled out the hairs of his head, beard and eyebrows. Then they incarcerated him.”[1]

When `Uthman ibn Hunayf was kept in captivity, taking `A’ishah’s opinion about the treatment to him was felt important. Therefore, `Uthman’s son Aban was sent to her to ask whether to keep `Uthman captive or he should be killed. `A’ishah asked them to kill him. One woman who heard her say this shouted, “O Umm al-Mu’minin! In the name of Allah! Be kind on him and save his life! After all he is a Companion of the Prophet (a.s)!” `A’ishah said, “All right! Call Aban.” When Aban came back, she asked him not to kill `Uthman. When Aban heard the revised order, he said:

“If I had known that you are calling me back for this purpose I would not have come.”[2]

With the orders of Umm al-Mu’minin, `Uthman was saved from the bloodied swords of her men, but forty companions of his were murdered in cold blood. After this massacre, the bayt al-mall was attacked. The guards there, who numbered fifty, were tied with ropes. They were then slaughtered like sheep and goats. Hakim ibn Jibillah, who was an eminent person of al-Basrah, heard about this massacre and torture of `Uthman ibn Hunayf. He took with him 300

[1] Al-Kāmil fit-Tārīkh, Vol 3, Page 111
[2] Tārīkh al-Tabarī, Vol 3, Page 485

men of Banū-Bakr and Banū-Qays and proceeded towards bayt al-rizq where `Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr was distributing rations to his men. When he saw Hakim coming, he asked why he had come. Hakim asked him to give their share of the rations and to release `Uthman ibn Hunayf and to allow him to remain in the Dar al-Imarah until Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) arrived. He also added that if they had sufficient numbers, they would not have tolerated the orgy of killing committed by them. Ibn al-Zubayr said that they had avenged the killing of `Uthman. Hakim asked him whether the innocent persons they had killed were the assassins of `Uthman? Why were not they afraid of the Retribution of Allah? Ibn al-Zubayr told Hakim that however much he shouted and cried, neither he would release any ration to his men nor `Uthman ibn Hunayf be released. He added that if he recants from the bay`ah of `Ali (a.s) he could be released. When Hakim heard him, he said, “O Allah! You are Just! You must be witness to their tyranny!” Then he addressed his companions:

“I have no reservation in fighting with these tyrants. Those who have any may go away!”[1]

Saying this, Hakim unsheathed his sword and with a few companions attacked the adversaries. From that side too men came up with their swords. In the winking of the eyes, a severe battle was started and blood was being shed. During the fight, one person hit the leg of Hakim and cut it. Hakim picked up the severed leg and hit it so hard at the man that he fell down. Hakim went crawling to him, and sat on the person until that person was dead. Hakim kept fighting until his strength lasted. But how could a small group fight with a large contingent. One by one, they were all killed. Hakim, his son Ashraf and brother Ra-al ibn Jibillah lost their lives in this battle. This is remembered as the Battle of the Minor Camel that happened on 25 Rabi` II, 36 H.

After killing Hakim and his men, Talhah and al-Zubayr wanted to kill `Uthman ibn Hunayf as well. `Uthman understood from their looks that they intended to kill him. He told them that if the killed him, his brother Sahl ibn Hunayf would certainly wreak revenge against them. My brother is the governor of al-Madinah and he will search each and every relative of theirs and kill them. Hearing this, they changed their minds and released `Uthman from captivity. He left al-Basrah and at Dhi-Qar reached the presence of Amir al-Mu’minin. When he saw the pitiable condition of `Uthman ibn Hunayf, `Ali’s eyes watered. He asked `Uthman to tell him about the happening in al-

[1] Tārīkh al-Tabarī, Vol 3, Page 491

Basrah and about the atrocities of the warriors at the Battle of the Camel. Hearing the details his face turned red with anger. Immediately he ordered arranging the left, right and the front flanks of the army. On the left was `Abdullah ibn `Abbas in the lead, on the right flank he put `Umar ibn Abi-Salamah and the front flank was commanded by Ya`li ibn `Umar. The Standard of the army he entrusted to Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah. They now started moving towards al-Basrah. On the way, they halted with the tribe of `Abd al-Qays. The people of this tribe had great regard for `Ali (a.s). When they learned about the campaign for which the Imam (a.s) was going, they too joined the ranks.

When Amir al-Mu’minin’s army reached outer al-Basrah, al-Ahnaf ibn Qays, who had already owed allegiance to the Imam (a.s) after the death of `Uthman, came to his presence and said, “O Amir al-Mu’minin! I wish to say two things. If you order, I shall be with you to take part in the battle, or I shall stop the 4,000 swords that had been unsheathed against you. (a.s) agreed with his second suggestion and allowed him to go. How the Imam (a.s) northern al-Basrah and camped at al-Zawiyah. He sent some letters and messengers to Talhah, al-Zubayr and Umm al-Mu’minin. He asked them to desist from battle and bloodshed. The advice did not appeal to them. Generally, wars are destructive, but the internecine wars are the worst. The threesome did not agree to any suggestions of peaceful settlement of the dispute. When Amir al-Mu’minin’s emissaries returned disappointed, and it became evident that there was no other alternative than the battle, the troops moved forward from al-Zawiyah and camped again on reaching Qasr `Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad. The army of `Ali (a.s) was 20,000 strong and the enemy had registered the cooperation of Banū-Azd, Banū-Dubbah, Banū-Hanzalah, Banū-Salim etc on the excuse of seeking retaliation for the blood of `Uthman. This way their strength was touching the figure of about 30,000 men. When both the armies came to the battlefield, the Imam (a.s) told them about the destruction that would be cause by the battle in terms of men and material. But the numbers had gone to the heads of the two rebels. Their men started shouting the slogan, “Revenge of `Uthman” stood in rows. The Imam (a.s) too organized rows of his men opposite their rows. Instructing his men, the Imam (a.s) said, “Until the enemy starts hostilities, you should not move forward. Until they attack, you should not attack. Do not stop those who show their backs to the battlefield. Do not attack the injured and maimed. Do not cut the limbs of the vanquished opponents and do not do anything that is taboo against the dead of the enemy troops. Do not harm any females!” After advising his men, he came to the front without wearing armor riding on a horse and shouted,

“Where is al-Zubayr?” First al-Zubayr was hesitant to respond. Then he put on protective armor and helmet and came near the Imam (a.s) He said, “O al-Zubayr! Why have you come to al-Basrah? Why have you taken this step fraught with dangers?” al-Zubayr replied, “To seek retaliation for the blood of `Uthman!” The Imam (a.s) said:

“You want the qisas for `Uthman’s blood from me although you yourselves have killed him. May Allah inflict a pitiable death on those amongst us who were more aggressive and harsh with him.”[1]

Al-Zubayr could not counter this but said:

“We do not consider you capable of being the caliph nor are we ourselves capable of that.”[2]
The Imam (a.s) said that today you do not consider me capable of being the caliph, but we have always accepted you as the progeny of `Abd al-Muttalib, until your accursed son erected between you and us the wall of separation. O al-Zubayr! I ask you in the name of Allah! Have not you heard the Prophet (a.s) say that you will battle with you and me will be the oppressor against my rights?[3]

Reminded of this prediction of the Prophet (a.s), al-Zubayr said, “Yes! The Prophet (a.s) did say that.” The Imam (a.s) said, “Then! Why have you come to fight against me?” al-Zubayr replied, “I had forgotten this saying of the Prophet (a.s). I am now reminded, and, seeing `Ammar, I remember the Prophet (a.s) saying, ‘O `Ammar! A rebel group will kill you!’ Now I have decided that I shall not fight with you and I will return home.” Therefore, with a crestfallen face al-Zubayr went to `A’ishah and said, “Whatever steps I have taken, I had done that with due consideration. But my mind does not work in the matter of this campaign. Therefore, I shall not take part in the battle against `Ali (a.s) and I will go home forthwith.” `A’ishah said, “What are you talking? “`Abdullah said, “It appears that you were scared of seeing the shining swords of the sons of `Abd al-Muttalib, their fluttering standard and the death looking into your face!” al-Zubayr said, “It is not like that! But `Ali (a.s) has reminded of something that I had forgotten. For me it is better that I depart from here now!” He said this and went away from the battlefield.

[1] Tārīkh al-Tabarī, Vol 3, Page 520
[2] Tārīkh al-Tabarī, Vol 3, Page 519
[3] Tārīkh al-Islām, Vol 2, Page 151

At a distance of seven farasangs or Leagues, from al-Basrah, in the Valley of Al Saba he was killed by `Amr ibn Jurmūz. And it was proved what Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) had said when he talked of demanding retaliation for the blood of `Uthman.

This step by al-Zubayr is a proof that what he was doing earlier was wrong. It cannot be that fighting with `Ali (a.s) was right and going away withdrawing from the battle was also right. Therefore, once `Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr told sarcastically to Ibn `Abbas, “You people have fought with Umm al-Mu’minin and with the companion of the Prophet (a.s), al-Zubayr!” Ibn `Abbas retorted, “The truth is that your father brought out `A’ishah from her home and brought her to confront `Ali (a.s) in the battlefield! I ask you! Do you consider `Ali (a.s) a mu’min or not? If you consider him believer, then you have become heretics. If you consider that he was an infidel, then your father was misguided and subject to Retribution because he refused to fight with an infidel. Now it is left to you to decide who was the misguided one!”

After al-Zubayr, the Imam (a.s) wanted to talk to Talhah as well to convince him to refrain from battling. Therefore, he addressed him thus:

“O Talhah! You have brought the Prophet’s consort to the battlefield, leaving your own wife at home! Did you not pledge your bay`ah to me?”[1]

When the Imam (a.s) reminded of Talhah’s bay`ah with him, he carried the Qur’an in his hand and went round the rows of his troops saying loudly, “Who s there among you who will go with the Book to the rows of the enemy formation and invite them to follow the teachings of the Qur’an and ask them to refrain from mischief referring to the same Holy Book! But he should know that he would thus be going into the mouth of death. One youth from al-Kūfah, Muslim ibn `Abdullah Al-Mujashi`i, volunteered to go. After the Imam (a.s) made the announcement thrice, when none other than Muslim volunteered, he prayed for him and handed over the Qur’an to him. The youth went with the Book before the enemy troops and talked about the commandments of the Allah. He reminded them to act on the commands written in the Book. But none paid any heed to his voice! At that moment, `A’ishah’s slave attacked him with a sword and severed both his hands. Muslim tried to protect the Book with his chest, fell down and was martyred. The Qur’an too was damaged with a barrage of arrows. Seeing this happening, the Imam (a.s) said:

[1] Tārīkh al-Tabarī, Vol 3, Page 520

“Now there is no doubt left in the veracity of battling with these people”[1]

After this martyrdom of the valiant Muslim Al-Mujashi`i, `Ammar Ibn Yasir came near the enemy formations and addressed them, “O People! You have kept your women behind the curtains at your homes, and have brought your Prophet’s spouse to face the swords, spears and the arrows! You have come to avenge the blood of `Uthman, although you know it well who are the killers of `Uthman and on whom rests the responsibility of that act! “`Ammar said this much when there was a barrage of arrows from the enemy troops that forced him to step back. Turning to the Imam (a.s) he said, “O Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s)! What is the delay now? These people do not want to listen to anything other than battling! “Because of the soft attitude of the Imam (a.s) and his prolonged efforts to avoid hostilities had made the enemy think that in his weakness he was trying to avoid hostilities. They started raining arrows on the troops and many a chest was pierced with them. In that time, one person was brought to the presence of the Imam (a.s) who had died with the wounds from the arrows. Another person martyred with the enemy arrows was brought before him. Then `Abdullah ibn Badil brought his brother, `Abd al-Rahman, who also had died with the wounds from the arrows. The brows of the Imam (a.s) knit now and said, “We are Allah’s and to Him do we return.”

Now there was no other way than entering the battlefield. He tried his best to prevent the internecine battle taking place. All the possibilities for truce had been exhausted and, in fact, the enemy has commenced attacking. He asked for the Prophet’s armor, Dhat al-Fudūl, and wore it. On his head, he wore a black turban. He had the sword, Dhul-Faqar, in his hand. He entrusted the command of the right flank to Malik al-Ashtar and the left flank to `Ammar ibn Yasir. He gave the Prophet’s black standard, `Uqab, to Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah and asked him to go ahead. When Muhammad moved forward, a barrage of arrows stopped him. Seeing this, the Imam (a.s) took the standard from Muhammad. He now had the sword in one hand and the standard in the other. He attacked the enemy ranks with full force. He fought with such valor that everywhere there were enemy dead lying on the ground. When he returned and gave back the standard to Muhammad, he too demonstrated the same valor and killed innumerable enemy troops.

In this battle, Marwan was looking for Talhah to settle his score with him for the blood of `Uthman. He knew that the responsibility for the killing of

[1] Tārīkh al-Tabarī, Vol 3, Page 522

`Uthman rested on him as well. Besides revenge, he had a political purpose too for eliminating Talhah. Marwan knew that as long as Talhah and al-Zubayr lived, the caliphate would not return towards Banū-Umayyah. The possibility could present itself after these two stumbling blocks were removed. Al-Zubayr had already left the theatre of war. If he had stayed in the battlefield, it was quite possible that Marwan’s arrow would have targeted him as well. He got the opportunity of finishing Talhah. From behind the back of his slave, Marwan shot a poisoned arrow that pierced Talhah’s knee region. Piercing the knee, the arrow entered the flank of Talhah’s horse. The horse ran fast and fell in a ruin. Talhah breathed his last at that place. Ibn Sa`d writes:

“On the day of the Camel, Marwan ibn al-Hakam attacked Talhah, who was stationed beside `A’ishah, with an arrow that hit his knee. Then Marwan said,’ By Allah! After you, I shall not have to look for `Uthman’s assassin!’”[1]

Even after Talhah’s death and al-Zubayr’s withdrawal from the battlefield, the morale of the enemy army did not go down in any way. They remained steadfast in the arena because the main character of the drama was Umm al-Mu’minin `A’ishah. They were attached only to her and were not bothered if anyone else remained or went away. Their dedication was of such magnitude that they were picking up the droppings of her camel, crushing them between their fingers and smelling them saying that they were the droppings of their mother’s camel and they smell of musk and ambergris. They guarded the camel as they would guard the standard of the army. They kept the camel encircled all the time `A’ishah was watching from the canopy of the camel’s back the men holding the reins of the camel falling down dead with the arrows of their adversaries. With one man falling, another would take his place immediately. The rein holders were mostly from Banū-Dubbah, Banū-Najiyah and Banū-Azd and men from Quraysh, who held the rein at their turns and recited martial poetry all the while. Although the number of the rein holders was very large, only from the Quraysh 70 perished doing this duty. But the reference of a few of them is there in the books of history. One of them was the qadi of al-Basrah, Ka`b ibn Siwar. Although he wanted to remain neutral in this battle, but Talhah and al-Zubayr had asked `A’ishah to call him or personally visit him to register his cooperation. They said that if Ka`b did not come, none from the tribe of Banū-Azd would join the

[1] Tabaqāt, Vol 3, Page 223

campaign. Umm al-Mu’minin sent word through someone calling him. But he avoided the visit. In the end, she herself went to his place. She called him, but he kept quiet. `A’ishah asked, “Why are you mum? Am I not your mother?” At this Ka`b opened the door. Umm al-Mu’minin asked him to take part in the battle. In the beginning, he remained quiet. But he did yield in the end and she was successful in bringing him to the arena of the battle. Because of him, Banū-Azd too came to fight. Ka`b brought a copy of the Qur’an hanging in his neck. He held a staff in one hand and the rein of the camel in the other. An arrow came from an unknown direction and he was killed!

When the famous Arab swordsman, `Amr ibn Yasri, held the rein of `A’ishah’s camel, from the troops of `Ali (a.s), Hind ibn `Amr came forward to challenge him. `Amr gave the rein to his son and came to meet the challenge. They tried their skill of swordsmanship on each other. But in the end, Hind was vanquished and killed by `Amr. After Hind, Alba ibn Haitham and Zayd ibn Sawhan came to fight with him and both were martyred by him. When `Ammar ibn Yasir saw this, he could not bear to stay quiet. He tied a belt of the leaves of date palm around his girdle and came to the battlefield with sword in hand. `Ammar was a grand old man of 90 years and very weak when compared to his adversary. When people saw him, they thought that he would meet the same end as the persons who came out to fight with `Amr. When Ibn Yasri saw him coming with the intention of fighting, he gave the rein to `Amr Ibn Bajrah and jumped with speed towards `Ammar and attacked him with his sword. `Ammar fenced the sword with his shield. The shield was made of such material that the sword got stuck in it. `Amr tried to pull the sword out. But in that moment, `Ammar bent down and struck `Amr’s legs with his sword. Both the legs of `Amr were severed. He fell down helpless. People picked him up and brought to the presence of Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s). The Imam (a.s) ordered his execution in qisas for killing the three persons slain by him. When `Amr ibn Bajrah saw that Ibn Yasri was killed, he gave the rein of the camel to someone else and came to the arena to fight. From the other side Rabi`ah al-`Aqili came and both rushed at one other with swords in hands. Both were killed fighting with one another.

When the rein of the camel came to the hand of `Awf ibn Qatan al-Sanbi, he said that the responsibility of the assassination of `Uthman was on `Ali (a.s) and his two sons. He said that he would fight with them to avenge the blood of `Uthman. Therefore, he recited the following martial poem while coming to the arena:

O mother! O mother! I am away from home

Now I do not crave for the grave nor the shroud!
At this place only `Awf ibn Qatan will perish
If `Ali (a.s) escaped from our hands it is a certain loss!
Or if his two sons al-Hasan and al-Husayn escaped from our hands,
I shall die of that sadness and sorrow.

After this recitation, he attacked and kept fighting. At last, Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyahh slew him with his sword. He took his desire of killing `Ali and his sons (a.s) to his grave!

Among the rein holders was `Abdullah ibn Abza too. He first held the rein, then recited the following martial poem before going to the arena:

I shall fence my sword and not even care to look at Abul-Hasan

This battle is a pathetic affliction

Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) went forward and hit him with his spear. And said, “You wished to look at Ab al Hasan (a.s). Tell me, how you have found him?” He left the spear pierced in the person’s chest.

One of the well know warriors who came to the Battle of the Camel, Khabbab ibn `Amr al-Rasibi, recited the following martial poem and threw a challenge for a fight

I shall fight with my sword, and if I see `Ali (a.s), I shall attack him with my sharp, shining sword.

Malik al-Ashtar came forward and killed him with one blow of his sword.

Then came `Attab ibn Usayd who was from the elite of Quraysh. He recited the following martial poem:

I am `Attab’s son and my sword is “Walwal”

And my death is around the camel

Malik al-Ashtar attacked and killed him. He did die at the feet of the camel, but his sword did not serve him well!

One warrior of al-Basrah, `Amr ibn Ashraf al-`Atiki caught the rein of the camel in one hand and his sword in the other. Whoever came near him, he attacked reciting the following couplets:

O our mother! In our knowledge, you are the best mother

The mother feeds her children and is kind on them
Do not you see how many valiant are injured
And heads and wrists are falling severed

Al-Harith ibn Zuhayr al-Azdi came to fight with him. Both attacked each other and fell down injured with each other’s sword and died. Along with Ibn Ashraf, thirteen men from his tribe too perished fighting.

`Abdullah ibn Khalaf al-Khuza`i, an elite of al-Basrah, in whose place Umm al-Mu’minin stayed as guest on arrival there, came to the battlefield. He demanded for a combat with `Ali (a.s) reciting the following triplet:

O Abū-Turab come closer to me

Closer you come I shall be closer than that
My chest is full of anger against you

Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) came forward and with one stroke of his sword made two pieces of him.

`Abdullah ibn Hakim, who was the chief of the contingent of the Quraysh during this battle came out for combat. From the other side came `Adi ibn Hatam. He attacked `Adi and broke one of his eyes with the spear. In that condition it was difficult for `Adi to subdue his opponent. At this moment came Malik al-Ashtar and with his help the opponent was killed.

Umm al-Mu’minin used to ask every person who came to hold the reins of the camel as to who he was. In that order, `Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr came to hold the reins. She also asked him who he was. He said that he was her sister’s son, `Abdullah. Hearing his name she cried, “Pity! The womb of Asma’ is ruined!” `Abdullah was holding the reins when Malik al-Ashtar passed from the front of the camel. Both stared at each other and raised their swords. Malik hit the head of `Abdullah and injured him seriously. He too got a minor injury from him. Both the injured persons caught each other with force. Malik threw `Abdullah on the ground and sat on his chest. When `Abdullah saw that he was about to be killed, he shouted, “Kill both me and Malik”. People did not pay any heed to his words because everyone knew Malik as al-Ashtar only. If `Abdullah had said al-Ashtar instead of Malik, certainly people would have attacked him. `Abdullah was a youth and Malik was an old person. `Abdullah could somehow free himself from the grip of Malik and ran away saving his life. `Abdullah did save his life, but for his entire life he got the black mark of showing his back to the battlefield. This was a topic of gossip for long. Once someone ridiculed `Adi by asking him when he became one eyed, he said:

“When we had hit the spear at your buttocks and you ran away showing your back!”[1]

Umm al-Mu’minin was much worried about `Abdullah. When she was informed that he saved his life by running away from the battle, she took a sigh of relief! She gifted 4,000 dirhams to the person who brought this good tiding!

Al-Aswad ibn al Bukhtari too was killed catching the reins of Umm al-Mu’minin’s camel. Jundub ibn Zuhayr al-Ghamidi and `Abd al-Rahman ibn Usayd were killed by Malik. When, in the end, the reins came to the hands of Zufar ibn al-Harith, the battle became intense and row after row was finished. Everywhere rivers of blood were flowing. When Umm al-Mu’minin saw this gory scene, she threw a few pebbles towards the army of `Ali (a.s) and said, “May these faces blacken!” This was the copy of that miraculous act of the Prophet (a.s) at the Battle of Hunayn. But there the Prophet’s act was against the infidels and here Umm al-Mu’minin was fighting an unnecessary, internecine battle. The Prophet (a.s) did that under the Command of Allah through a Revelation. Here `A’ishah was fighting with Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) and the revered Companions of the Prophet (a.s).

Amir al-Mu’minin asked Malik al-Ashtar to attack the right flank of the enemy formations and Hashim ibn `Utbah to take care of the left. Both of them went with their troops with raised swords and made a severe onslaught that the feet of the right flank were uprooted. The men left their position and moved to the center of the formation. The chief of the right flank, Hilal ibn Waki` was killed by Malik al-Ashtar and the men ran to take shelter near Umm al-Mu’minin. The troops of Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) chased the fleeing men and there was severe fighting around the camel of Umm al-Mu’minin. Banū-Azd, Banū-Najiyah and Bahilah had encircled the camel to safeguard it and were taking the arrows, swords and spears on their chests. Al-Zamakhshari records the scene thus:

“The swords banging on the heads produced such a sound as the beating of clothes on the wooden plank while washing them.”[2]

Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) saw that the battle had not as yet reached the final stages. Therefore, he decided himself to enter the theatre. He stood up with a

[1] Al-`Iqd al-Farīd, Vol 2, Page 354
[2] Al-Fā’iq, Vol 1, Page 35

contingent of Muhajirūn and Ansar. Imam al-Hasan and Imam al-Husayn were on the right and the left of him. Muhammad Ibn al-Hanafiyyah was carrying the Standard in front of him. The Imam (a.s) asked him to bisect the formation and reach with the standard near the camel of Umm al-Mu’minin. Muhammad started to move, waving the flag. But from the other side there was a barrage of arrows that stopped him. The Imam (a.s) went forward. Put his left hand on the shoulder of Muhammad and took the standard from him. Now he had the Dhul-Faqar in his right hand and the standard in his left. He attacked the enemies with such ferocity that innumerable heads fell. He returned for a while amongst his men, straightened his sword and once again commenced the attack. When he wanted to commence the battle again, his companions and men pleaded with him not to expose himself to the danger of injury. Then he told Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah that battles were fought in that manner. The people said, “O Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s)! Who has the strength and skill to fight like you! Who has the strength and capability to fence the sword like you?”

This intense attack on the owners of the camel showed clear signs of their imminent defeat. Although their heads were falling continuously, they could not have thought of leaving the field until the camel was standing in their midst. Its condition too was such that there were arrows on the canopy of Umm al-Mu’minin and the saddle of the camel like the thorns on the back of the porcupine. The camel was unable to bear the onslaught and was turning round and round like the turning of the grinding wheel. When the Imam (a.s) felt that as far as the camel stood in the battleground, the battle would not end. On the other hand the people from al-Basrah were resisting others from going near it. He thought of removing the camel from the battlefield. He took youths from the tribes of Nakha and Hamdan and moved forward. Seeing the Imam (a.s), the rows were broken, and along with his companions, he reached near the camel. He told one of his troopers, Bujayr ibn Daljah al-Naqafi to go and cut the legs of the camel Bujayr went forward and struck the legs of the camel with his sword. The camel made a shrill sound and slumped on its side on the ground. As soon as the camel fell, the battle suddenly stopped. And the men started running helter-skelter. None had any idea what to do. They were trampling the injured and the dead on their way. In no time, the battlefield was sparsely occupied. Muhammad ibn Abi-Bakr and `Ammar ibn Yasir cut the belts of the camel, lowered the saddle to the ground. Muhammad ibn Abi-Bakr put his hand inside the canopy of the saddle. Umm al-Mu’minin angrily asked who it was? He said, “I am your brother whom you do not like!” She asked, “Are you the son of al-Khath`amiyyah?” He said, “Yes!” She replied,

“Thank Allah! You are living and no harm has come to you” Muhammad asked her, “Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) is inquiring if any harm has come to you?” She said, “One arrow had grazed my side, but I suffered no serious injury!” Then `Ammar ibn Yasir came near the saddle and said, “O Umm al-Mu’minin! You have seen your sons battling!” She said very angrily, “I am not your mother!”[1]

`Ammar said, “You are the mother, whether you accept or you do not!” Umm al-Mu’minin’s denial cannot be accepted right from the point of view of the Qur'anic Commandment! From the Nass Qur’an, the prophet’s wives are the mothers of Muslims, she was the mother of the Muslims, which neither the Muslims deny nor there is any way of denying it! The apparent reason for her denial is that when `Ammar took part in the battle against her, he had forfeited his right to be her son! But the battle was not between the mother and her sons. But it is not binding on the Muslims to obey the Prophet’s wives as they would their own natural mothers. They are the mothers of the Muslims because after the Prophet’s demise they were forbidden from entering into matrimony with others on account of being the Mothers of the Muslims. Such relationship was Haram for Muslims as with their own mothers. Therefore, when the verse of Hijab was revealed, some Muslims uttered that they might marry the widows of the Prophet (a.s) after his demise. Then to admonish them the following verse was revealed:

وَمَا كَانَ لَكُمْ أَنْ تُؤْذُوا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَلَا أَنْ تَنْكِحُوا أَزْوَاجَهُ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ أَبَدًا.

“And it does not behoove you that you should give trouble to the Messenger of Allah, nor that you should marry his wives after him ever. (33/53)”

This banning of matrimony with the Prophet’s widows, are different from the duties of the children towards their natural mothers, and of the mothers towards their children. For example, the children are bound to provide sustenance to their own mothers. But in the case of the mothers of the believers, such binding is not there. Nor were the mothers of the believers permitted to discard the Hijab in front of their sons—the believers. Only in the matter of the forbiddance of marriage that they were given the status of the Mother of the Believers. While it is binding on Muslims to obey their mothers, the obedience has to be subject to the commands being within the norms of Shari`ah. The Prophet (a.s) has said:

[1] Al-Kāmil fit-Tārīkh, Vol 3, Page 130

“Obedience cannot be in acts of sin and is required only in virtuous deeds.”[1]

Perhaps Umm al-Mu’minin had realized this. That her act was aggressive and the journey to al-Basrah was for an illegitimate purpose. Therefore, during her journey she was not offering qasr (shortened form) prayers. Another interpretation is that this was her attitude only during the trip to al-Basrah, and considering the trip as a journey of illegitimacy, she was offering the full mandatory prayers instead of the curtailed qasr prayers mandated during the journeys. The mandate for qasr is only in lawful circumstances. Therefore, Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani has made the following observation:

“`A’ishah was traveling with the intention of battling with `Ali (a.s) to al-Basrah and was offering all the mandated genuflections of prayers and in her opinion qasr Prayer was mandated only during journey of obedience (to Allah).”[2]

Anyway, Umm al-Mu’minin was still in the battlefield when Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) came near the saddle and tapped at its canopy with his stick. He said, “O Humayra’! Did not the Prophet (a.s) order you to follow the dictum of “Once you establish dominance, treat the dominated well!”

He ordered Muhammad ibn Abi-Bakr to erect a tent over the camel’s fallen saddle and guard it that none came near it. With the dusk, he sent her to the widow of `Abdullah ibn Khalaf, Safiyyah bint al-Harith. He ordered the carcass of the camel to be burnt. And spread its ashes to the wind. Then he said, “Allah’s curse on this animal.” He said that it was very similar to the calf, which was worshipped by Banū-Isra’il. He then recited the following verse from the Qur’an:

وَانظُرْ إِلَى إِلَهِكَ الَّذِي ظَلَلْتَ عَلَيْهِ عَاكِفًا لَنُحَرِّقَنَّهُ ثُمَّ لَنَنسِفَنَّهُ فِي الْيَمِّ نَسْفًا.

“And look at your god to whose worship you kept (so long); we will certainly burn it, then we will certainly scatter it a (wide) scattering in the sea. (20/97)”

After the end of the battle, the Imam (a.s) announced to his men that they should not chase any person fleeing. They should not harm any injured person. They should not enter homes of people to loot. Those who surrender arms, give them amnesty and protection. Those who lock themselves in their

[1] Al-Mishkāt, Page 319
[2] Fath al-Bārī, Vol 2, Page 406

homes, leave them in peace. Whatever arms and other materials they found in the battlefield was theirs. He said that on the women and the slave girls they did not have any right. On this, some objections were raised. They said how is it possible that shedding their blood was legitimate and making them slaves is not allowed. Perhaps this opinion was expressed because in the earlier period that was the practice when battles were fought with the infidels and their survivors from the battles, including women and children, were made slaves. The Imam (a.s) said that his decision is the same as that of the Prophet (a.s) after the conquest of Makkah. He said, “if you are insistent, tell me who will take charge of his mother, `A’ishah?” Hearing this silence fell on all the protesters and they realized that their demand was not just. They said, “O Amir al-Mu’minin! The decision made by you is absolutely correct.”

The Imam (a.s) stayed for three days in the field of Jamal. After the burial of the martyrs he entered the city of al-Basrah and went straight to the Masjid. After the prayer, he stood with his back against the wall on the right side. He chided the people of al-Basrah against their waywardness and said:

“You were the troops of a woman and the obedient servants of a camel! When it yelled you went saying, ‘At your service’, when it was hurt you ran away! You are people with low morals, deniers of promises and your faith is something to show off and something else in your hearts! Even the water in your land is polluted! Those who stand to pray amidst you are entangled in sin. One who left you has the Blessings of Allah.”[1]

After the Sermon, the Imam (a.s) took bay`ah from the people of al-Basrah and warned them against creating mischief. Then he came out, and with Abul-Aswad al-Du’ali and others, went to the bayt al-mall and after spot inspection ordered all the funds there to be distributed to those who participated in the battle. He ordered that every trooper must get 500 dirhams each. When the distribution was done, not a single dirham went less than the sanctioned amount for any person, nor any balance left after the entire amount was distributed! Habbah al-`Urfi says that Amir al-Mu’minin too took his share equal to that of others. After the distribution was over one person came and said that he intended to take part in the battle, but could not present himself on time and that he must get a share in the funds distributed. The Imam (a.s) gave him his share of 500 dirhams and remained empty handed!

[1] Nahj al-Balāghah

`A’ishah was still in al-Basrah. The Imam (a.s) sent Ibn `Abbas to her with the message that she must prepare for going to al-Madinah. She was told that neither she had any work in al-Basrah, nor her remaining away from al-Madinah for long was desirable. Ibn `Abbas says that he went with the Imam’s message and sought her permission to enter, but she refused him entry. He was forced to enter without permission and sat down on a rag. Umm al-Mu’minin saw him from behind the curtain and said, “O Ibn `Abbas! You have not cared for the manners prescribed by the Shari`ah and entered without my permission and came into my house and you are sitting on the rag too without my permission. Ibn `Abbas said, “we have better understanding of the norms of Shari`ah! If you have learnt these norms, it is from us. This is not your house that we have to get your permission to enter here. Your house is there, where the Prophet (a.s) had left you behind! When you are at that house, we shall not enter without your permission! I had to come here anyway to convey to you the command of Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s). He asks you to move away to al-Madinah soon. She said, “Amir al-Mu'minin was `Umar ibn al-Khattab.” He said, “I meant `Ali ibn Abi-Talib when I said Amir al-Mu’minin!” She said, “I do not accept him as the Amir al-Mu’minin.” Ibn `Abbas said, “What happens if you accept him as Amir al-Mu’minin or not. Since when you have been given the authority that if you accept one as Amir al-Mu’minin, he is, or otherwise, not! “At this Umm al-Mu’minin started crying and said, “I myself want to go away from this city soon.”

“For the reason that I dislike the place where you people live.”[1]

Ibn `Abbas said, “This is the height of not recognizing others rights. Is it the return for the fact that we have made you Umm al-Mu’minin and your father was called the siddiq. She said, “Do you want to claim superiority over me through the Prophet (a.s)?” he said, “You are only one of the nine wives of the Prophet (a.s).But because of this your slightest word is accepted as a command. We are the flesh and blood of the Prophet (a.s) and it is the same blood that is running in our veins. If you had this privilege, would you not have claimed superiority over us?” Umm al-Mu’minin kept quiet at this because she had no reply to give. Ibn `Abbas repeated the conversation to the Imam (a.s). He was very happy to hear this and recited the following Verse:

ذُرِّيَّةً بَعْضُهَا مِنْ بَعْضٍ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ.

[1] Al-`Iqd al-Farīd, Vol 3, Page 107

“Offspring one of the other; and Allah is Hearing, Knowing. (3/34)”

When Umm al-Mu’minin agreed to travel, Amir al-Mu’minin made arrangements for her travel and the expenses for the way He asked Muhammad ibn Abi-Bakr to accompany her and sent her safely on the way to al-Madinah. This journey commenced on 1 Rajab 36 H, The day was Sunday.

Amir al-Mu’minin, from the beginning to the end of this battle, set a great example searching for peace against all odds. Although he had to fight a bloody battle to curb the big mischief, he did not commence the hostilities until the enemy attacked first. Although they had, before the Imam (a.s) arrived at al-Basrah, inflicted great atrocities on the people and killed hundred of the friends of the Ahl al-Bayt. They attacked the governor of al-Basrah, `Uthman ibn Hunayf, surreptitiously in the night breaking the commitment they had made with him. They captured the bayt al-mall and bayt al-rizq and carried out almost a general massacre of the Muslims. Although the justification for severe action was already created by these heinous acts, the Imam (a.s) tried his best to affect an amicable and peaceful solution. Therefore, he talked at length with Talhah and al-Zubayr. He sent a copy of the Holy Qur’an with Muslim al-Mujashi`i to ask them to follow the injunctions of the Book. When all these efforts were ineffective, and his efforts for peace were termed as his weakness, he was left with no other alternative than fighting it out. When the hostilities started, he organized his ranks in such a manner that victory was guaranteed.

The things that Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) had exhorted his men to follow were:

1. They should not start the hostilities themselves.
  1. They should not attack any injured person.
  2. They should not chase any man running away from the arena.
  3. They should not touch anything other than those permitted as booty of war.

His men followed his commands implicitly. Until his men were getting hurt, even dying, with the barrage of arrows from the enemy, they did not start fighting. When blood started flowing in the battlefield, they did not touch the injured men of the enemy. When the enemy troops started escaping in defeat, they were not chased. They did not have a second look at the things left by the vanquished army.

Al-Daynawari has written:

“They saw gold, silver and other costly materials in the battlefield but none even looked at those things. They only took the arms and the transport animals of the enemy men who were killed during the battle.”[1]

It is the custom in the world that the victorious armies hold the officers of the vanquished army as captives on false charges of treason and rebellion. They either keep them incarcerated for long or execute them. But the Imam (a.s) rose above the spirit of revenge and did not question anyone from al-Basrah who were openly against him. He pardoned such enemies of peace as `Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr, Marwan ibn al-Hakam, al- Walid ibn `Uqbah, `Abdullah ibn `Amir with one stroke of his pen. Umm al-Mu’minin who left no stone unturned in his opposition, was treated with due respect and was sent safely to al-Madinah. He explained the subtle difference between the jihad with the Muslims and that with the infidels. His men wanted to take the women and children as slaves, according to the prevailing custom after victorious conduct of wars. He convinced them that they were not permitted to take such women and children as slaves. Instead of transferring the bayt al-mall at al-Basrah to the center, he distributed the funds equitably to all his men. Thus, he retained the spirit of the fighting men to willingly participate in the future campaigns, if required.

Umm al-Mu’minin, who for the common Muslim has the status of a scholar and adept at remembering the traditions of the Prophet (a.s), was not ignorant of the fact that she had no right to claim retaliation for the blood of `Uthman. That was the right and the duty of the establishment of the time or the successors of the victim. Neither `A’ishah was the representative of the Muslim interests nor was she one of the successors of `Uthman. Despite this, she entered into a fight with the caliph of the day and instigated a huge army of people to fight. This, despite the fact that the spouses of the Prophet (a.s) were mandated to remain within the four walls of their homes. The Holy Qur’an says:

وَقَرْنَ فِي بُيُوتِكُنَّ وَلَا تَبَرَّجْنَ تَبَرُّجَ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ الْأُولَى.

“And stay in your houses and do not display your finery like the displaying of the ignorance of yore. (33/33)”

[1] Al-Akhbār al-Tiwāl, Page 151

In obedience to this injunction of the Holy Qur’an, Umm al-Mu’minin Zaynab bint Jahsh and Umm al-Mu’minin Sawdah never went out of al-Madinah and their entire lives they followed the dictum. Some persons asked Sawdah why she was not going on Hajj. She replied that she had already performed the Hajj and that she was bound to live in the house where the Prophet (a.s) had left her behind. Therefore, after the demise of the Prophet (a.s), she never left her room. Besides this, even the ordinary Muslim women are not required by the Faith to actively participate in the warlike activities. Therefore, `A’ishah says:

“I sought the Prophet’s permission to participate in the jihad. He said, ‘the jihad for you women is performing the rites of the Hajj.”[1]

And Umm al-Mu’minin’s own saying is:

“A spindle in the hands of a woman is better than the spear in the hand of a fighter who struggles in the Cause of Allah.”[2]

Despite knowing all this, she traveled with a crowd of thousands of men from Makkah to al-Basrah and leading the troops she entered the battlefield. Although she was witnessing that thousands of children would be orphaned because of her action. Thousands of young women would be unnecessarily widowed. And the blood of Muslims will be shed at the hands of Muslims! But she never bothered about the grave consequences. The responsibility for the huge loss of lives rests mostly with her. Even in her own lifetime, the people thought so. Therefore, once Ummu-Awfa al-`Abdiyyah, hundreds of men of whose tribe died fighting on the side of `Ali (a.s), asked `A’ishah, “O Umm al-Mu’minin! What do you say of the woman who had killed her young son?” She replied, “The woman would go to the Hell!” Then she asked, “What is the order for the woman who had killed 20,000 young sons only at one place!” Umm al-Mu’minin understood the intended sarcasm! She got angry and said:

“That enemy of Allah should not be allowed to go free!”[3]

Abū-`Uthman al-Jahiz has expressed the entire matter very subtly in these words:

[1] Sahīh al-Bukhārī, Vol 2, Page 101
[2] Al-`Iqd al-Farīd, Vol 2, Page 6.
[3] Al-`Iqd al-Farīd, Vol 3, Page 108

In her act, she was like the meek and wicked cat that eats her kitten by cutting them.

Anyway, her act was nothing to boast home about. The people of her own family considered an insult for themselves. Therefore, Umm al-Mu’minin once asked her nephew, Ibn Abi-`Atiq, to provide her a mule for some work. When he got her message he told the messenger, “Go and tell Umm al-Mu’minin:

“By Allah! Until now, we have not been able to wash away the spot of the Day of the Camel! Does she want to do the Day of the Mule now?”[1]

Ibn Abi-`Atiq had said this sarcastically, “…but after the Day of the Camel, the people did see the Day of the Mule!” Therefore, when the mortal remains of Imam al-Hasan (a.s) were brought to be interred in the Prophet’s room, Marwan ibn al-Hakam and his men stood in the way fully armed and obstructed the burial. At that time, `A’ishah too was with the men of Marwan! Therefore, Ibn Abil-Hadid writes:

Abul-Faraj says that Yahya ibn Hassan the author of the book, al-Nasab, narrates that on that day `A’ishah was riding on a mule and Marwan ibn al-Hakam, Banū-Umayyah and their cohorts were tempted by her. About this someone has said, “Sometime riding a camel, and some other time a mule!”[2]

In this regard the role of Talhah and al-Zubayr is no different from that of Umm al-Mu’minin. They reached al-Basrah and in the name of qisas for `Uthman they started general massacre. And without investigating who was the criminal, and who was not, everyone was dealt with naked swords. They had no right to kill anyone because the right for qisas rests with the state and the successors of the victim only. They were neither the caliphs of the time nor next of kin to `Uthman. Then the most surprising thing is that they considered breaking their bay`ah with `Ali (a.s) legitimate and their aggressive act justifiable. For this, they were putting the blame of the assassination of `Uthman on `Ali (a.s). This despite the fact that with regard to the killing of `Uthman, what was their own attitude and what was the attitude of `Ali (a.s). Therefore, `Ali (a.s) has said:

[1] Ansāb al-Ashrāf, Vol 1, Page 421
[2] Sharh Nahj al-Balāghah by Ibn Abil-Hadīd, Vol 4, Page 17

“By Allah! Talhah, al-Zubayr an `A’ishah know it well that I am on the right and they are wrong.”[1]

If they really considered that `Ali (a.s) was involved in the killing of `Uthman, they would have raised their protests before owing their allegiance to `Ali. But neither at the time of the assassination nor during the period of the bay`ah for `Ali (a.s), they made any accusations. Muhammad ibn Asirin says:

“I do not know that someone has accused `Ali (a.s) of the killing of `Uthman. Even his bay`ah was conducted, it was finalized and after all that people started accusing him.”[2]

The chiefs of the persons who started the blame game were Talhah and al-Zubayr. They too opened their mouths when they felt that their interests were not served. This happened when the Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) refused to give them the governorates of al-Kūfah and al-Basrah. If their claim for the qisas of `Uthman was driven by the spirit of true sympathy for him, they would have raised it before the bay`ah for `Ali (a.s) commenced. They waited until much after the bay`ah and they failed in their attempts to wangle the governorships for themselves. In the light of the events, it can be told with certainty that the purpose behind all the mischief raised by the two and their cohorts was to usurp power somehow. Therefore, they recanted the bay`ah and incited others to follow suit. They told Hakim ibn Jibillah that until `Uthman ibn Hunayf did not break his bay`ah with `Ali (a.s) they would not release him from incarceration. They also said in the presence of the Imam (a.s) that they did not consider him capable of holding the position of the caliph. O an inquiry from Sa`id ibn al-`As they told in clear terms that they would not make `Uthman’s son the caliph, but one of them, Talhah or al-Zubayr, should get the caliphate. The search for power egged them on to get `Uthman assassinated, and thereafter when Amir al-Mu’minin became the caliph, they hatched a conspiracy against him. They took shelter behind Umm al-Mu’minin to create mischief demanding qisas for `Uthman’s blood. Thus, whether it was Umm al-Mu’minin or Talhah and al-Zubayr, they had no moral substance for their act nor that of Shari`ah. However important their personalities, but crime is, after all, a crime. Whoever is responsible for a crime, howsoever important the personage, there has to be punishment for the crime committed. They had taken such a nasty step that thousands of lives of

[1] Al-Istī`āb, Vol 2, Page 214
[2] Al-`Iqd al-Farīd, Vol 3, Page 93

Muslims were lost. But there is one group that tries to shelter them under the banner of companionship. They seek many excuses and, when they fail in all their attempts, they take shelter behind the excuse of khata’ ijtihadi. This excuse of khata’ ijtihadi is not only for this event, but they bring it forth to cover the aberrations of their favorites time and again. If this killing of thousands of innocents was because of error in interpretation, then analyzing the errors of interpretation of these great personalities is certainly everyone’s right! First of all, it has to be established under what rules and norms the ijtihad was made and under what norms thousands of persons were killed to avenge the blood of one man? Was there a mandate of the Holy Qur’an for such a rash act? Or there was any tradition of the Prophet (a.s) directing them towards such precipitate actions? Did they have in their support the consent of consensus before they went ahead with their hush-hush campaign? If none of these can be proved, then where is the question of ijtihad for this act?

Some of the champions of the these persons also concoct the excuse that some of the persons in the ranks of Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s), who were the supporters of the assassins of `Uthman, finding the signs of compromise between the two groups, felt that it was against their interests and, at the instigation of Ibn Saba, before dawn attacked the troops of Umm al-Mu’minin, and in the garb of the warriors at the Battle of the Camel attacked the troops of `Ali (a.s). Thus, they say, that either side thought that the other party had attacked them and had commenced the hostilities. Thus, the fighting spread and the responsibility of the battle does not go to either of the two groups!

This is a self-concocted story of those persons. It has no importance both from the point of view of narration (riwayah) nor knowledge or Higher Criticism (dirayah). This story was first recorded by Ibn Jarir al-Tabari in his famous book of history. Before al-Tabari no historian has touched on this story. But the historians who followed al-Tabari started quoting him and gave it a lot of publicity. Closing their eyes to the deeds of Talhah, al-Zubayr and `A’ishah, they put the blame for this bloody war on a fictitious character, Ibn Saba, and his band. Al-Tabari has quoted this story through Sayf ibn `Umar al-Tamimi, dead 170 H. According to all the historians, Sayf ibn `Umar was a liar according to all the eminent scholars of `ilm al-rijal (Biographers of Narrators). Therefore, Al-Dhahbi writes in Mizan al-I`tidal that Yahya says, “One shell is better than this”, Abū-Dawūd says, “That is nothing”, Abū-Hatam says, “Not worth quoting”, Ibn Habban says, “faithlessness and instigated by recanters.” Not a single scholar has approved of it and

considered it worth quoting. If there were some truth in the tradition, it would have acquired currency immediately after the event of Jamal. The first one to quote it was al-Tabari who came very much after the event. Even when it comes up, it is through a person who was known for his falsehoods. Is not it tantamount to closing ones eyes to facts by believing the narration of such a person? Anyone who studies the events of Jamal in depth will own that his narration appears out of place and concocted. The purpose definitely was to prove that the owners of the camel were not responsible for what had happened there was a mysterious and slimy person who stage managed the entire battle and remained incognito until al-Tabari’s narrator broke the story for him! But the pages of history are witness that before the battle started, several attempts were made by `Ali (a.s) to dissuade the trio from going to war! If that story has to be believed, would not the party of Jamal have said that `Ali’s men made a surprise, preemptive attack instead of trying for peace. To the contrary the three were always bent on settling the scores and, even before the arrival of `Ali’s army to al-Basrah they had killed tens of innocent persons to show their might.

In this connection the fictitious person, Ibn Saba, whom they term responsible for the outbreak of fighting, does not have a historical identity according to Dr taha Husayn, Egyptian Scholar, George Jurdac and other scholars. The person whose name appears prominently in connection with the assassination of `Uthman and the Battle of the Camel, his name is Safin the arbitration. His name is also heard at the time of the Battle of Nahrawan. In between, his name is not heard as if he had played the disappearing trick. One would like to know what happened to him after making his nightly attack. The truth is that his colorful personality was created to provide protection to the main characters of the episode. When his need did not remain, he was quietly withdrawn from the stage!

The Battle of the Camel was fought in the middle of Jumada II, 36 H (November 656 A.D.). There are different versions about the numbers killed. From the 30,000 strong army of Umm al-Mu’minin, 10000 or 17000 or 20.000 men killed. And from the 20,000 strong force of `Ali (a.s) 5000 or 1,070 martyred. Although this battle was a short duration affair, it had a long lasting effect on the feelings of the people. Therefore, after the Battle of the Camel, the flames of war rose from Syria and the swords of Muslims severed the heads of Muslims. If Umm al-Mu’minin, Talhah and al-Zubayr had not entered the battlefield, then Mu`awiyah would never have dared to challenge `Ali (a.s). But because of their activities, he got the time and opportunity to

prepare himself to confront `Ali (a.s). He got an excuse that Umm al-Mu’minin who was from the tribe of Taym, came out seeking retaliation for the blood of `Uthman, then Mu`awiyah, who himself was from Banū-Umayyah, like `Uthman, had more right to seek qisas for the blood of his kinsman. This was such a strong political excuse that Mu`awiyah produced as the cause of his fight with `Ali (a.s). Therefore, he instigated people to fight the Battle of Siffin with that excuse. Then he usurped the caliphate and assumed the title of the caliph of the Muslims. As a consequence of the Battle of Siffin the group of Khawarij (the Excommunicated) arose and the Battle of Nahrawan was fought. These battles caused such schisms amongst Muslims that could not be healed during the past 13 centuries.