‘Abdullah ibn Saba’ was a Jew from Yemen and the founder of the extremist Shia faction known as the Saba’iyyah. His mother was of African origin. He had outwardly embraced Islam and then proceeded to travel to various regions of the Muslim world, with the sole purpose of inciting people to rebel against the Khalifah, thus sowing the seed of mischief and strife amongst the Muslims. He began with Hijaz and then proceeded to Basrah and Kufah. In the latter years of Sayyidina ‘Uthman’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu Caliphate he went to Damascus, but was unable to influence the people there and was subsequently forced to leave. He then proceeded to Egypt where he established a small following, to whom he would present his deviated beliefs and ideas. He would say: “I am astonished at those Muslims who believe that Nabi ‘Isa ‘alayh al Salam will return to the earth prior to Qiyamah, but they do not believe the same regarding Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, whereas the Qur’an states: “Indeed, He who has made the Qurʼan incumbent upon you will take you back to your place of return (i.e. Qiyamah)” He would assert that Muhammad salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is more entitled to this honour than Nabi ‘Isa ‘alayh al Salam. A few from Egypt accepted this belief (known as Raj’ah)
‘Abdullah ibn Saba’ fashioned this belief in such a way that people began debating and defending the belief of Raj’ah. He then went a step further and said: “Thousands of messengers came and they all had deputies whom they appointed and bequeathed should be followed, known as a wasi. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was the seal of the prophetsʼ and ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was khatam al awsiyaʼ (the seal of the deputies).
His devious beliefs did not end there but went on to proclaim: “Who is a greater oppressor than he who does not implement the bequest of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, but instead usurps the right of leadership given to ‘Ali by Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam himself, and takes control of the matters of the ummah himself?” He continued: “‘Uthman has amassed a lot of wealth which he has taken possession of unlawfully, and here is ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu, the wasi of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam who has been deprived of his right as the khalifah. It is your duty to rise up and ensure that he receives what is due to him. Begin with raising objections against your local leaders and governors. Outwardly adopt the stance of “Calling towards good and prohibiting evil”. Attract people’s attention to yourselves. Sow the seeds of revolution.”
‘Abdullah ibn Saba’ then sent his agents to various other areas and he began corresponding with the mischief mongers in those places. Secretly he was inviting the people to join him, but outwardly it seemed like he was calling towards good. He attributed faults to the governors and wrote about it to his associates in other areas. These rumours spread to such an extent, that people would remark on hearing about it: “All praise be to Allah, we are better off than them. How difficult has things become for them due to their governors.” They might have drawn upon them the garb of piety but their true agenda was malevolent.
In actual fact, these seeds of rebellion would later grow to become what is today known as Shi’ism.
These efforts culminated into close on to two thousand five hundred rebels assembling and marching on Madinah during the days of hajj, ultimately resulting in the martyrdom of Sayyidina ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu. The Sahabah of Madinah wished to forcefully expel these insurgents but Sayyidina ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu prohibited them from spilling their blood. Sayyidina Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu requested permission to dispatch an army from Syria for the protection of the Khalifah, but again ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu said that there is no need for it; it will unnecessarily burden the people of Madinah and the bayt al Mal (public treasury).
Each of these rebels were from different backgrounds and entertained different ideas. Those from Egypt were mostly criminals and hoodlums, consisting of the likes of Kinanah ibn Bashir, ‘Amr ibn Humq, ‘Umair ibn Dabi, Sowdan ibn Hamran, Aswad Tujaybi, Khalid ibn Muljam (the brother of ibn Muljam, the murderer of ‘Ali), etc. These were the murderers of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu and they wished for ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu to be appointed as the khalifah. On the other hand, those from Basrah were more in favour of Talhah radiya Llahu ‘anhu to be the khalifah, while those from Kufah were in favour of Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
It should be noted that Talhah and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu were dear friends of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu from the very inception of Islam. They pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu on the third day along with ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu. During the consultation which appointed Sayyidina ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu as khalifah, Sayyidina Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu surrendered his right to Caliphate to Sayiduna ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
After ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu had been martyred, Ahnaf ibn Qais asked the entire congregation in al Masjid al Nabawi who allegiance should be pledged to, and it was Talhah and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhuma who replied that it should be ‘Ali. When a few rebels and others wished to pledge their allegiance to them (Talhah and Zubair), they instructed them to return home, saying: “We will pledge allegiance to ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu.”
‘Abdullah ibn Budayl ibn Warqa’ al Khuza’i asked Sayyidah ‘A’ishah radiya Llahu ‘anha who he should pledge allegiance to since ‘Uthman has been martyred and she replied:
Stick closely to ‘Ali!
You might have gauged the extent of love these great personalities (‘A’ishah, Talhah and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhum) had for ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu, as is apparent from these narrations. They regarded him as the leader and the rightful khalifah after ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Their lips were moist with the praises of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
How inaccurate is it to now paint a picture of opposition and ill will existing between these three illustrious personalities and ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu; this is but one of the worst alterations and distortions of historical facts. This picture was painted by the rebels who had murdered ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu, since it was these three great personalities who were persistent that qisas (death penalty) be carried out against the murderers immediately. Qisas refers to the death penalty for a murderer, the incumbency of which is described in the Qurʼan:
كُتَبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْقِصَاصُ فِي الْقَتْلٰى
Qisas is has been made incumbent upon you in the case of murder
These three noble personalities were of the opinion that qisas be taken immediately and in so doing the murderers will be brought to justice. However, the state was not in a position to do so. The rebels had taken control of Madinah and matters were in their hands. They would not ready to submit even to ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu, but were bent on forcing him to accede to their demands. ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu even presented to his close friends, Talhah and Zubair, his excuse for not being able to carry out the qisas in the following manner:
O my brothers! I am also aware of that which you desire me to carry out, but I do not have the power and ability to do it now. Those who have mobilised these rebels have the upper hand. At the moment they are controlling us and we have no say over them.
Dawood ibn Abu Hind narrates from Imam Sha’bi rahimahu Llah:
After ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu was martyred, they approached ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu who was sitting in the market place, requesting to put forward his hand so that they can pledge allegiance to him. ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu replied:
فقال حتى يتشاور الناس فقال بعضهم لئن رجع الناس إلى مسارهم بقتل عثمان ولم يقم بعده قائم لم يؤمن الاختلاف وفساد الامة فأخذ الاشتر فبايعوه
“Wait until I discuss the issue with the people.” Some people then remarked: “If people return to their areas after ‘Uthman has been killed, and there is no leader of the Muslims in place, then there is great fear of disunity and strife breaking out.”
Ashtar then took hold of the hand of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu and all the rebels pledged allegiance to him.
What do you understand from this narration? ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu wished to consult with the Muhajirin and Ansar of Madinah, but the rebels insist on taking the lead and in doing so they would ensure the safety of their own lives first and then maintain their authority over the people of Madinah by becoming the advisors, ministers and commanders of the Khalifah. What far thinking! What a deep plot! In short, they thought that by them appointing the khalifah, the people of Madinah will not have the courage to appoint anyone else who will save the ummah from this dissension and strife as a khalifah. It will be us, i.e. the rebels, who will be in control of their affairs and we will have the final say in all matters.
It is sad to say that history is replete with their evil deeds and plots which resulted in the blood of many Muslims being spilt. What was the extent of their influence and the force they commanded? Let us examine.
They issued a threat to the people of Madinah, giving them two days in which they were to select a khalifah. If they fail to do so then ‘Ali, Talhah and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhum will be executed. This is what prompted the people of Madinah to take the pledge of allegiance on the hands of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
Molana Mu’in al Din Nadwi writes in Siyar al Sahabah (vol. 2 pg. 91) while discussing the life of Sayyidina Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu:
Even after ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was appointed the khalifah, the situation in Madinah did not return to normal and peace and safety was not established. The Saba’iyyah, who were the architects and masterminds of this revolution, were introducing new trials and turmoil at every step. The ignorant Bedouins, who were always on the lookout for such opportunities of strife and anarchy, also joined the Saba’iyyah. ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu desire was for these people return to their home towns and for the Bedouins to leave Madinah, but due to the persistence and stubbornness of the Saba’iyyah, he was not able to do fulfil it.
Thus arrived the crossroads, where each vehicle took a different path.
However, the Saba’iyyah did not allow each to traverse alternate paths, and instead were determined to ensure that these vehicles collide with each other. They placed the obstacles needed to achieve this aim. It was on account of these plots by the very same murderers of Sayyidina ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu that two major battles took place with Muslims on both sides. Here we are forced to mention the details from the books of history.
 Tarikh ibn ‘Asakir vol. 7 pg. 431, Tarikh al Tabri vol. 3 pg. 378,379, ibn Khaldun, Rijal al Kashi, Tanqih al Maqal
 Fath al Bari vol. 13 pg. 34
 Fath al Bari vol. 13 pg. 57
 Nahj al Balaghah pg. 456 translated by Jafar Hussain, Tarikh al Tabri vol. 3 pg. 458
 Fath al Bari vol. 13 pg. 54, vol. 3 pg. 455
 Tarikh al Tabri vol. 3 pg. 456
 with reference to Tarikh al Tabri pg. 3081