Amir al-Mu’minin `Ali ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu `anhu sets out for Kufah

Different views among the Sahabah concerning the way to carry out retaliation against the murderers of `Uthman radiya Llahu `anhu
May 8, 2015
Attempts to reconcile
May 8, 2015

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Amir al Mu’minin ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu ‘anhu sets out for Kufah

The Sahabah in Madinah did not approve of ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu leaving Madinah. That became clear when ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu decided to march to Syria, to visit its people and see what Muawiyah was thinking and doing.[1]

He thought that at that stage, Madinah no longer possessed the advantages that other cities possessed, and he said:

Man, power and wealth are in Iraq.[2]

When Abu Ayub al Ansari radiya Llahu ‘anhu found out about this idea, he said to the khalifah:


O Amir al Mu’minin, stay in this land, because it is the shield that can give protection, the place to which the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam migrated. In it is his grave and his mimbar, and it is the heart of lslam. If the Arabs show obedience to you, you will be fine like the khulafa’ who came before you; if some people cause trouble to you, then send their armies against them, then if you are forced to leave, then you may leave, after exhausting all possible means of staying.


The khalifah followed the advice of Abu Ayub radiya Llahu ‘anhu and decided to stay in Madinah and send governors to provinces.[3]

A number of political developments then took place that forced the khalifah to leave Madinah, and he decided to head for Kufah so that he could be close to the people of Syria.[4]

While he was preparing to leave, news reached him that Aisha, Talhah and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhum had set out for Basrah.[5]

He asked the people of Madinah to mobilise and support him, but he encountered reluctance on the part of some of the people of Madinah because of the presence of the troublemakers in ‘Ali’s army and the way in which they were dealt with. Many of the people of Madinah thought that the turmoil was still going on, and that they should wait until things became clearer. They said:

No, by Allah we do not know what to do. This matter is not clear to us, so we are going to stay where we are until the matter becomes clear to us.

Al Tabari narrated that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu set out with his army for the purpose of confronting the people of Syria, and some of the people of Kufah and Basrah went out with him, a group of seven hundred lightly armed men.[6]

There is a great deal of evidence that many of the people of Madinah were reluctant to respond to ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu call to go out on a campaign, such as the speeches of the khalifah in which he complained about this reluctance.[7]

Many of the Sahabah withdrew after the murder of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu, as is apparent. Some of the men who had been present at Badr stayed in their houses after the murder of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu and never left until they went to their grave.[8]

Abu Humaid al Sa’idi al Ansari, who had been present at Badr, expressed his sorrow at the murder of the Khalifah ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu and said:

O Allah, I promise You that I will not smile until I meet You.[9]

They thought that leaving Madinah at that time would lead to getting embroiled in the turmoil, the bad consequences of which, they feared,[10] would cancel out what they had achieved in the past of righteous deeds and jihad with the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.[11]

What is mentioned above does not mean that none of the Sahabah joined the khalifah’s campaign; there were some who joined him, but they were few. Al Sha’bi said:

None of the Sahabah of the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam were present at the Battle of the Camel except for ‘Ali, ‘Ammar, Talhah and Zubair; if they prove that there was a fifth, then I am a liar.[12]

According to another report:

Whoever tells you that more than four of those who were present at Badr were present at the Battle of the Camel, do not believe him. ‘Ali and ‘Ammar radiya Llahu ‘anhuma were on one side, and Talhah and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhuma were on the other.”[13]

According to another report:

No one joined ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu when he marched to Basrah apart from six of the people of Badr; there was no seventh.[14]

This is what is meant by the report mentioned above, which referred only to those Sahabah who had been at Badr. Whatever the case, those of the Ansar who took part in the turmoil were few. Ibn Sirin and al Sha’bi said:

When the turmoil occurred in Madinah, the Sahabah of the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam were more than ten thousand, but those who got involved were no more than twenty men. The battle between ‘Ali and Talhah and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhum and the Battle of Siffin were called fitnah.”[15]


From the above, it is clear that the number of Sahabah who went out with the Khalifah ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu to Basrah were very few, and we cannot be certain that they took part in the Battle of the Camel; even though this battle was so fierce and so many events took place during it, the sources do not mention the Sahabah who took part in it or say that any of them were martyred or wounded.[16] One of the reports says:

Some seven hundred lightly armed men of Kufah and Basrah went out with him.[17]

These reports seem to be more in line with how things were developing at that time and more in harmony with the course of events and with the attitude of the people of Madinah, which varied between keeping away completely and reluctance to take part in any events.[18]


Advice of ‘Abdullah ibn Salam to Amir al Mu’minin ‘Ali

‘Abdullah ibn Salam, the companion of the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, tried to make Amir al Mu’minin ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu change his mind and not go out. He came to him when he had made preparations to march and expressed his fear for him. He told him not to go to Iraq, saying:

I am afraid that you may be struck by the sword.

He also told him that if he left the mimbar of the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam he, would never see it again. ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu knew these things from the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and he said:

By Allah, the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam told me about that.

The people of Basrah and Kufah who were with ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu had reached such a level of audacity that they said to him:

Let us kill him.

Killing Muslims who stood in their way or who could pose a danger to their lives with their words and deeds had become something very easy, and they did not see anything wrong with it; but ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu told them not to do that, saying:

Abdullah ibn Salam is a righteous man.[19]


What they said, and their aggressive attitude, was indicative of their lack of piety and their lack of respect towards the noble Sahabah, which the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had enjoined upon the people who came after him.


Advice of Hassan ibn ‘Ali to his father

Amir al Mu’minin ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu left Madinah, and when he reached al Rabdah,[20] he and those who were with him camped there. A number of Muslims, approximately two hundred, came to him.[21]

In al Rabdhah, his son Hassan came to him, weeping and not hiding his sorrow and dismay at what had befallen the Muslims of division and dissent. Hassan said:

I told yon, but you did not listen to me, and next you will be killed when you are alone with no one to support you.

‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu said:

You are still nagging like a little girl.[22] What is it that you told me to do and I did not listen to you?

He said:


I told you on the day that ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu was besieged to leave Madinah, so that if he was killed, you would not be there. Then I told you on the day that he was killed not to accept the oath of allegiance until the delegations from different regions and Arab tribes had each sworn their allegiance. Then I told you, when these two men did what they did, to stay at home until things settled down, so if any evil doing took place, it would be at the hands of people other than you, but you did not listen to me in any of that.


‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu said:


O my son, as for you telling me to leave Madinah when ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu was surrounded, by Allah, we were surrounded as he was surrounded. As for you telling me not to accept the oath of allegiance until the allegiance of the regions came, this matter was something to be decided by the people of Madinah, and we did not want this decision to be made by others. As for what you said when Talhah and Zubair set out, that was demeaning to the people of Islam. By Allah, I have continued to be saddened and aggrieved since I was appointed, feeling helpless and not able to achieve anything I should achieve. As for your saying that I should stay home, what about my duties? Who do you want me to be? Do you want me to be like the hyena that is surrounded, that is helpless and just yelping? If I do not pay attention to my duties concerning this issue, who will take care of that? Stop worrying about it, O my son.[23]


‘Ali’s attitude concerning this matter was clear, and no one could deter him from what he had decided to do. He sent word from al Rabdah, urging the people of Kufah to mobilise and calling upon them to support him. The two envoys were Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr al Siddiq and Muhammad ibn Jafar, but they did not succeed in their mission because Abu Musa al Ash’ari radiya Llahu ‘anhu, who was ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu governor in Kufah, discouraged the people and told them not to go out and fight in the turmoil. He told them what he had heard from the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam warning against taking part in fitnah.[24]

After that, ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu sent Hashim ibn ‘Utbah ibn Abi Waqqas, but he also failed in his mission because of the influence of Abu Musa radiya Llahu ‘anhu on the people.[25]


Request of Amir al Mu’minin ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu from the oasis of Dhu Qar for support from the people of Kufah.[26]

‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu and his army moved towards Dhu Qar and camped there, eight days after leaving Madinah, with approximately nine hundred men.[27]

At that time, he sent ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas to Kufah, but they did not respond to him. Next he sent ‘Ammar ibn Yasir and Hassan ibn ‘Ali and he dismissed Abu Musa al Ash’ari, replacing him with Qardha ibn Ka’b.[28]

Al Qa’qa’ played a major role in convincing the people of Kufah to join ‘Ali. He addressed them and said:


I am an adviser to you, and I care sincerely about you. I want you to follow true guidance, and I shall tell you something that is true … There should be no alternative but to have a leadership to organise the people’s affairs, deter wrongdoers and support those who are wronged. This is ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu who has been appointed to a position of leadership, and his message to the people is fair and just. He is only calling people to that which is best and to set affairs straight, so join him and be in the forefront of support.[29]


Hassan ibn ‘Ali had a clear effect on the people. He stood up and addressed them, saying:


O people, respond to the call of your leader. Join your brothers, because no doubt there will be many people who will support him in this matter. By Allah, it is better that this matter of leadership be taken care of by people of reason and wisdom, both in the short and long term. Respond to our call, and help us with regard to this crisis that we and you are going through.[30]


Many of the people of Kufah responded, and between six and seven thousand went out with ‘Ammar and Hassan radiya Llahu ‘anhuma. They were joined by two thousand men from Basrah, from the tribe of ‘Abdul-Qais. Then other tribes came to him until his army, when the battle began, was approximately twelve thousand strong.[31]

When the people of Kufah met Amir al Mu’minin ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu at Dhu Qar, he said to them:


O people of Kufah, you confronted the Persians and their kings, you destroyed their armies and inherited what they left behind, and you grew stronger against your enemies. I am calling you to join us in order to deal with our brothers in Basrah. If they turn back, that is what we want, but if they persist, we will try to deal with them on the basis of kindness, and we will avoid confrontation unless they wrong us first. We will never leave anything that could lead to putting things straight and achieving something good, but we will prefer it over that which could lead to evil, if Allah wills, and there is no strength except with Allah.[32]


Difference of opinion should not affect the love between people

This applies to the situation of the Sahabah during this turmoil. Even though they had differences of opinion, none of them developed any resentment against his brother. Let us read this story about an incident that took place in Kufah:


Al Bukhari narrated that Abu Wa’il said:

Abu Musa al Ash’ari, Abu Mas’ud and ‘Uqbah ibn ‘Amr al Ansari entered upon ‘Ammar when ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu sent him to the people of Kufah to urge them to join him. They said:

We have never seen anything from you that we dislike since yon became Muslim like you are hastening to take sides in this matter.

‘Ammar radiya Llahu ‘anhu said:

And I have never seen anything from you that I dislike since you became Muslim like your reluctance in this matter (supporting ‘Ali).

According to another report: Abu Mas’ud, who was well off, said:

O slave, bring me two suits and give one to Abu Musa and one to ‘Ammar.

He said:

Wear it when you go to the Friday prayer.[33]


Here we see Abu Mas’ud and ‘Ammar, each thinking that the other is wrong, yet despite that, Abu Mas’ud gave ‘Ammar a suit to wear for the Friday prayer because he was wearing travel clothes and battle dress, and Abu Mas’ud did not want him to have to attend the Friday prayer wearing those clothes.

This conduct is indicative of deep friendship, even though they each regarded the other’s attitude towards the turmoil as wrong. ‘Ammar thought that Abu Musa and Abu Mas’ud reluctance to support ‘Ali was wrong, and Abu Musa and Abu Mas’ud thought that ‘Ammar’s haste to support Amir al Mu’minin ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was wrong. Each of them had an argument of which he was convinced.

Those who were reluctant to support the khalifah thought that it was right to refrain from taking part in fighting in the event of fitnah, adhering to those ahadith concerning this, which warned against taking up arms against fellow Muslims. ‘Ammar had the same point of view as ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu with regard to fighting those who transgress the limits or commit outrages and he adhered to the words of Allah:

فَقَاتِلُوا الَّتِیْ تَبْغِیْ حَتّٰی تَفِیْٓءَ اِلٰٓی اَمْرِ اللّٰهِ ۚ

Then fight you [all] against the one that rebels.[34]

He interpreted the warning against fighting as applying to those who were transgressing against their brothers. Neither party wanted to kill the other, and both sides would try to find any reason to prevent fighting before it took place. When fighting did occur, it occurred even though both parties were reluctant to fight.[35]


Questions on the road


1. The questions asked by Abu Rifa‘ah ibn Rafi‘ ibn Malik al ‘Ajlan al Ansari when ‘Ali wanted to leave al Rabdah

Abu Rifa’ah said: O Amir al Mu’minin, what do you want? Where are you taking us?

‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu said: What we want is to set things straight; if they accept that from us and respond, all well and good.

Abu Rifa’ah said: What if they do not respond?

‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu said: We will leave them with the reason they have in their mind (their own justification for their conduct) and acknowledge their right to differ, and we will be patient.

Abu Rifa’ah said: What if they are not content with that?

‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu said: We will leave them alone as long as they leave us alone.

Abu Rifa’ah said: What if they do not leave us alone?

‘Ali radiya Llahu said: We will defend ourselves against them.

Abu Rifa’ah said: Then yes (I will join you).

He listened to that series of questions and answers, and mind was put at rest, so he said:

I shall impress you with my deeds as you have pleased me with your words.[36]


2. The people of Kufah, including al A‘war ibn Banan al Manqari, asked questions of ‘Ali

When the people of Kufah came to Amir al Mu’minin ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu in Dhu Qar, some of them asked him the reason why he had come; among those who asked these questions was al A’war ibn Banan al Manqari. ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu said to him:

I am coming to put things in order and extinguish the fire of enmity, in the hope that Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala will bring this ummah together by means of us and prevent fighting. If they respond to me, all well and good.

Al A’war said: What if they do not respond to us?

‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu said: We will leave them alone as long as they leave us alone.

Al A’war said: What if they do not leave us alone?

‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu said: We will defend ourselves against them.

Al A’war said: Do they have the same rights and duties as us?

He said: Yes.[37]


3. Abu Salamah al Da’lani, one of those asked questions of Amir al Mu’minin ‘Ali

Abu Salamah said: Do you think these people have valid grounds for their demand of vengeance for ‘Uthman, if they are seeking Allah thereby?

‘Ali radiya Llahu said: Yes.

Abu Salamah said: Is there any valid reason for you to delay that (the seeking vengeance)?

‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu said: Yes. If there is something that cannot be done, then the ruling concerning it should be based on precautions and what is in the people’s best interests.

Abu Salamah said: What is our situation and theirs if we end up fighting tomorrow?

‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu said: I hope that no one who is sincere towards Allah among us or them will be killed except that Allah will admit him to paradise.[38]


4. Malik ibn Habib asked questions of Amir al Mu’minin ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib

Malik said: What will you do if you meet these people (in battle)?

‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu said: It has become clear to us and to them that what is best is to refrain from that. If they give us allegiance, all well and good, but if they and we insist on fighting, then there is nothing we can do about it.

Malik said: If we start fighting, what is the situation of those among us who are slain?

‘Ali said: Whoever is sincere towards Allah will benefit from that, and it may be his salvation.[39]


The aim of Amir al Mu’minin ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was to set things straight and put an end to the fitnah. Fighting was not something that he was considering; if it happened, it would be because he could not help it. With regard to whoever was killed on either side, his ultimate fate would depend on his intention, regardless of whether he fought on ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu side or against him.

Thus Amir al Mu’minin confirmed that the Muslims who went out for this purpose, after the martyrdom of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu, were seeking to set things straight and put an end to turmoil, and their decision was based on sincerity. Their reward would commensurate with the sincerity of their intentions and the purity of their hearts.[40]


NEXT⇒Attempts to reconcile

[1]  lbn Hibban: al Thiqat, 2/283; al Ansar fi al ‘Asr al Rashidi, p. 161

[2]  lbn Hibban: al Thiqat, 2/283; al Ansar fi al ‘Asr al Rashidi, p. 161

[3]  lbn Hibban: ath-Thiqat, 2/283; al Ansar fil-‘Asr ar-Rashidi, p. 161

[4] Istishhad ‘Uthman wa Waq’at al Jamal, p. 183

[5]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/507

[6]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/481

[7]al Tabaqat, 3/237; al Ansar fi l-’Asr al Rashidi, p. 163

[8]al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, quoted in al Ansar fi l-’Asr al Rashidi, p. 164

[9]Tarikh al Islam fi ‘Ahd al Khulafa’ al Rashidin.

[10]al Ansar fi l-’Asr al Rashidi, p. 164

[11]  ibid.

[12] Tarikh ibn Khayyat, p. 16; Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, 8/710

[13]  al Jahid: al Uthmaniyyat, p. 175; al Ansar fi l-’Asr al Rashidi, p. 165

[14]  Kan’an: al Khilafah al Rashidah min Tarikh ibn Kathir, p. 356

[15]  ibid.

[16]al Ansar fi l-’Asr al Rashidi, p. 165

[17]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/481

[18]Al Insaf fi’ ma waqa’ah fi al Tarikh al ‘Asr al Rashidi min al Khilaf, p. 338.

[19] Musnad Ibn Abi Ya’la, 1/381. Its editors said: Its chain of narration is sound.

[20]  Al Rabdah: 204 km east of Madinah.

[21]Ansab al Ashraf, 2/45; Khilafat ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, p. 143

[22]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/482

[23]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/482

[24]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/514

[25]Khilafat ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, p. 144; A’lam al Nubala’, 3/486

[26]  Dhu Qar: an oasis belonging to Bakr ibn Wa’il, near Kufah. Mujam al Buldan, 4/393

[27]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/519-521

[28]Fath al Bari, 13/53; al Tarikh al Saghir, 1/109

[29]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/516

[30]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/516

[31]Musannaf ‘Abd ar-Razzaq, 5/456, 457, with a sound mursal chain of narrations going back to Zuhri. Khilafat ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, p. 146 the chain of narration is reliable because of corroborating evidence as ‘Abdul Hamid ‘Ali said.

[32]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/519

[33]Bukhari, Kitab al Fitan.

[34]  Surah al Hujurat: 9

[35]Al Madinah al Nabawiyyah al Ansar fi l-‘Asr al Rashidi, 2/304

[36] Tarikh al Tabari, 5/510

[37]Al Bidayah wan-Nihayah, 7/250; Tarikh al Tabari. 5/529

[38]Al Bidayah wan-Nihayah, 7/250

[39]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/52; al Insaf fi ma waqa’ah fi Tarikh al ‘Asr al Rashidi, p. 406

[40]  Dr. Hamid: al Insaf, p. 406