The outbreak of fighting

Attempts to reconcile
May 8, 2015
`A’ishah the Mother of the Believers and Amir al-Mu’minin `Ali ibn Abi Talib
May 8, 2015

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The outbreak of fighting


The role of the Saba’iyyah in the outbreak of fighting

In the camp of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu, there were some of those evildoers and rebels who had killed ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu. There were those who were not known by name, those who were known but were protected by their tribes, those concerning whom there was no evidence about their role in the murder of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu, and those who bad hypocrisy in their hearts but were not able to show it openly.[1] The followers of ibn Saba’ were eager to fan the flames of fitnah so that they could avoid justice.[2]

When the people had settled down in their camps, ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu came out, as did Talhah and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhuma. They met and spoke about that which they differed on, and they did not see anything better than reconciling and giving up war when they saw that things were becoming clearer. They parted on that note. ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu returned to his camp, and Talhah and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhuma returned to theirs. Talhah and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhuma sent word to the commanders of their army, and ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu sent word to the commanders of his army, apart from those who had besieged ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu.

The people went to sleep intending to reconcile and avoid trouble, and they did not doubt that there would be a peace deal. They were close to one another, going to meet one another, and not talking about or planning anything but reconciliation. Those who had been behind the turmoil spent their worst night ever because they felt that the end was looming for them.

They spent the entire night in discussion, and one of them said:

As for Talhah and Zubair, we know where they stand, but as for ‘Ali, we did not know where he stands until today. That was when he told the people to move on the next day, but none of those who had helped in the murder of ‘Uthman in any way were to move with them. And, by Allah, the people’s view concerning us is the same; if they reconcile, then their agreement will be to shed our blood.[3]


Ibn al Sawda’ ‘Abdullah ibn Saba’, who was the leader, spoke and said:


O people, your opportunity will be when the people (from both camps) are mixing; show kindness to them, and when the people meet tomorrow, start the fight and do not give them any time to think. The ones whom you are with will have no option but to defend themselves. Allah will distract ‘Ali and Talhah and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhum, and those with them will be distracted from that which you hate. So think about it and then disperse without making the people suspicious about you.[4]


So they agreed to start the fight secretly.

The next morning, they came when it was still dark and neighbours were unaware of what they were doing. Those from Mudar went to their counterparts from Mudar, those from Rabi’ah went to their counterparts from Rabi’ah, and those from Yemen went to their counterparts among their fellow Yemenis. They attacked them, and the people of Basrah started fighting back, each group fighting those who attacked them.

Zubair, Talhah radiya Llahu ‘anhuma and some prominent figures from Egypt came out and sent word to the right flank, who were from Rabi’ah, led by ‘Abdul Rahman ibn al Harith ibn Hisham, and the left flank, who were led by ‘Abdul Rahman ibn Usayd, while they remained steadfast in the core. They said: “What is this?” They said: “The people of Kufah attacked us this night … We knew that ‘Ali would not give up until he shed blood and transgressed the sacred limits, and that he is not going to agree with us.” Then they retreated with the people of Basrah, and the people of Basrah shot arrows at those who attacked them until they pushed them back to their camp.[5]

‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu and the people of Kufah heard the noise. The Saba’iyyah had planted a man close to ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu so that he could tell him what they wanted him to hear. When he said: “What’s going on?” that man said: “We have been taken by surprise. Some of them attacked us at night, and we pushed them back.” ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu said to his commander on the right flank: “Stay on the right flank” and he said to his commander on the left flank: “Stay on the left flank.”

The Saba’iyyah continued their efforts to keep the battle raging.[6] Despite the way the battle began, the two sides did not rush to fight until they found out what happened. ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu and those who were with him agreed not to start fighting until the other side started, so as to establish that they were the wrongdoers. Even if they engaged in fighting, they agreed that they would not kill anyone who was running away and would not finish off anyone who was wounded. But the Saba’iyyah were trying hard to instigate the fighting.[7]

On the other hand, Talhah, who was on his mount with the people rushing around him, called out: “O people, can you listen?” But they continued to rush and did not listen to him. He did not say any more than: “Woe to you, moths to the flame, and greed is killing them!”[8]

Were there any moths other than those Saba’iyyah, and was there any greed other than among them? Rather the attempts to bring about reconciliation continued until the last moment of the battle.

From this discussion, the impact of ibn Saba’, and his helpers the Saba’iyyah, on the battle becomes clear. We can also see clearly, beyond any shadow of a doubt, the keenness of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum to reconcile and unite. This is the truth which is confirmed by the texts and of which one may feel certain.[9]

Before discussing the stages of the battle, we should point out that the impact of the Saba’iyyah in the Battle of the Camel is something that all scholars agree upon, whether they called them the evildoers, thugs of the two parties, the murderers of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu, the fools or hooligans, or they referred to them clearly as Saba’iyyah.[10]

The following are some texts that confirm this:


a. It says in Akhbar al Basrah, by ‘Umar ibn Shubbah that those to whom the murder of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu was attributed were afraid that the two parties might reconcile and agree to kill them, so they started the fight between them and there happened what happened.[11]

b. Imam al Tahawi said:

The fitnah of the camel broke out against the wishes of both ‘Ali and Talhah radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, rather it was stirred up by wrongdoers against the wishes of the aforementioned.”[12]


c. Al Baqillani said:


A deal was reached, and they parted when both groups were content with the deal, but the killers of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu were afraid that they would be caught and brought to justice. So they got together and discussed the matter, and they differed concerning it; then they agreed to split into two groups and start the fight at dawn in both camps, when they were scattered throughout the camps. The group in ‘Ali’s camp would shout out: “Talhah and Zubair have betrayed us!” and the group in the camp of Talhah and Zubair would shout out: “‘Ali has betrayed us!” They succeeded in their plan, and fighting broke out. Each of the two parties was limiting itself to defending itself and trying not to let the bloodshed go beyond that. This is the correct approach on the part of both parties, showing restraint for the sake of Allah as fighting broke out and they had to defend themselves. This is what happened according to the sound reports, and this is what we believe.[13]


d. Al Qadi ‘Abdul Jabbar narrated the views of the scholars, which is that ‘Ali, Talhah, Zubair and Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anhum reached a peace deal and agreed to avoid war and to defer dealing with the issue (of murderers). Those of the enemies of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu who were in the camp did not like that, and they were afraid that the Muslims would focus their efforts on dealing with them, so they planned to disrupt that, as is well known, and that was achieved.[14]


e. Al Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al ‘Arabi said:

‘Ali came to Basrah, and the two groups came together to talk, but the people of whims and desires did not leave them alone; they hastened to shed blood, and war broke out. There were a large number of thugs who decided to start the fight so that the murderers of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu would not be brought to justice. One person in the army could spoil its plans, so what if there were one thousand?[15]


f. Ibn Hazm said:


The evidence for that is that the two armies drew close together and no fighting broke out, but when night came, the murderers of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu realised that any agreement reached by the two parties would be against them. They attacked the camp of Talhah and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhuma at night, wielding the sword against them. The people had to defend themselves, so they pushed them back until they reached the camp of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Then ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu people had to defend themselves, each group no doubt thinking that the other had initiated the fighting. There was a great deal of confusion, but no one went beyond defending himself. The evildoers and killers of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu persisted in their attempts to make the fighting continue, and each group thought that it was doing the right thing in itself. Talhah was hit by a stray arrow while he was standing, not knowing what was happening. The arrow struck a wound in his lower leg, which he had received at Uhud while defending the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. He left the battlefield and died soon after radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu left while the battle raged; he was killed after he had withdrawn from the battle, in Wadi al Siba’, which is less than a day’s march from Basrah. That is what happened.[16]


g. Al Dhahabi said: “The Battle of the Camel was stirred up by the foolish among the two groups.”[17] He also said: “The two groups had reconciled, and neither ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu nor Talhah radiya Llahu ‘anhu intended to fight; rather their intention was to bring about unity. But the thugs of the two parties traded arrows, and fighting broke out and engulfed everyone.”[18]


h. In the book Duwal al Islam it says: “Fighting broke out because of the thugs, and ‘Ali, Talhah and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhum were no longer in control.”[19] Dr. Sulaiman ibn Hamad al ‘Awdah said:


We may say the report of al Tabari, which speaks of the Saba’i role in the Battle of the Camel, is referring to the same people who are described as thugs in other reports. Even if these thuggish groups, which are referred to in other reports, did not have a direct connection to the Saba’iyyah or share the same aims and goals, it is possible that these groups became the element that Ibn Saba’ and his helpers took advantage of, which is usually the case in some movements that may be taken advantage of by some evildoers.[20]


We should not forget that the atmosphere of turmoil played a major role in these events. There can be no doubt that at times of chaos; people may not be able to see things that others can see very clearly. They may have their own justification for doing things while others can clearly see the reality of what they are doing, without any effort. The darkness of turmoil is sufficient to prevent a person thinking carefully and seeing clearly.[21]

For example, we may note that al Ahnaf ibn Qais, who is one of those who lived through the events of this battle, went out with the aim of joining ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu ‘anhu, but he was met by Abu Bakrah, who said:

O Ahnaf, go back, for I heard Rasul salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam say: “If two Muslims face one another with swords, then the slayer and the slain will be in hell.” I said – or it was said: “O Rasul of Allah, as for the slayer (his case is clear), but what about the one who was slain?” He said: “He wanted to kill his companion.”[22]


Fighting alongside ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was right and correct, and whoever was killed fighting alongside him is a martyr and will have two rewards. However, Abu Bakrah radiya Llahu ‘anhu was quoting a hadith which was mentioned in a different context to that in which ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was fighting those who were transgressing. This was his own understanding, but it was not appropriate in ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu case.

From this report, we understand that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu faced many obstacles when he fought others, including rulings such as these, which reflect piety more than the correct ruling issued for the correct situation.[23]

Al Ahnaf refused to join ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu, so he was not present with either side in the Battle of the Camel.[24]

Furthermore, Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu who was one of the main figures in the battle explains to us more about the reality of the matter:

This is the fitnah that we were told about.

His freed slave said to him:

Are you calling it fitnah when you are fighting in it?

Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu replied:

Woe to you! Sometimes we see clearly, and sometimes we do not see clearly. There was no matter in which I was uncertain where I stood except this matter, for I do not know whether I should go ahead or give up.[25]

Talhah radiya Llahu ‘anhu also referred to that when he said:

We used to be one against others, but now we are like two mountains of iron, each seeking out the other.[26]


On the other hand, the companions of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu also confirmed that there was fitnah. ‘Ammar radiya Llahu ‘anhu said in Kufah, regarding Aisha’s coming out on the campaign:

By Allah, she is the wife of your Rasul in this world and in the hereafter but Allah may He be blessed and exalted, is testing you by means of her.[27]


The first round of the Battle of the Camel

The Saba’iyyah intensified their efforts to stir up fighting, attacking the other side and inciting each side against the other. A tough battle broke out, which was the Battle of the Camel. It is called that because the Mother of the Believers Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha was in the midst of the army of Basrah during the second round, riding a camel that had been given to her in Makkah by Ya’la ibn Umayyah, who had brought it from Yemen. She set out on this camel from Makkah to Basrah, and then she rode it during the battle.

The battle took place on Friday, 16 Jamad al Thaniyyah 36 AH, in an area called al Zabuqah, near Basrah. ‘Ali was upset about what happened, and his caller called out:

Stop fighting, O people!

But no one listened; everyone was busy fighting his opponent.[28]

There were two rounds in the Battle of the Camel; in the first round, the two commanders of the army of Basrah were Talhah and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, and this round lasted from dawn until just before noon.[29]

‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu called out to his army, as Talhah and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhuma called out to theirs:

Do not kill anyone who wants to flee, do not finish anyone who is wounded, and do not chase anyone who is leaving the battlefield and giving up the fight.[30]

Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu asked his son ‘Abdullah to pay off his debt and said:

No one is killed today except the wrongdoer or one who is wronged, and I think that I will be killed wrongfully; what I am most worried about is my debt.[31]

At that point, a man came to Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu and offered to kill ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu by infiltrating his army and then killing him. Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu objected strongly to that and said:

No, none should kill a believer, for faith protects a believer from killing.[32]

Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu had no desire to kill ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu or anyone else who was innocent of the murder of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Amir al Mu’minin ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu called Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu and spoke to him kindly and gently. It was said that he reminded him of a hadith that he had heard from the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam who had told Zubair:

You are going to fight him (‘Ali) unlawfully.[33]

This hadith has no sound chain of narration, though.[34]

Some reports explain that the reason why Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu left just before the battle was because he realised that ‘Ammar ibn Yasir radiya Llahu ‘anhu was on the other side. Even though he did not narrate from the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam the hadith:

‘Ammar will be killed by the group that is in the wrong.[35]

He may have heard it from other Sahabah, because it was very well known.[36]

Some reports give as the reason for his leaving to be his doubt as to whether his stance towards this turmoil (fitnah, as he called it) was correct.[37]

According to another report that suggests his reason for leaving, Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhu reminded him of his blood ties with ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu by saying:

How would Safiyyah bint ‘Abdul Muttalib feel if you fought ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib ibn ‘Abdul Muttalib with your sword?[38]

Whatever the reasons, Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu left the battlefield and was met by ibn Jurmuz, who killed him,[39] as we shall see in detail below.

Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu was aware of his goal, which was to set things straight, but when he saw that fighting had broken out instead of peace, he left and did not fight. The words of Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhu: “You fight ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib with your sword?” implying an unspoken question: “or have you come to set things straight and bring unity?”[40]

As a result of this conversation, Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu left the battlefield and departed. Perhaps numerous, interconnected factors played a role in his decision to abandon the battlefield.

As for Talhah ibn ‘Ubaidullah radiya Llahu ‘anhu, Zubair’s second-in command of the army of Basrah, he was wounded at the beginning of the battle when he was struck by a stray arrow. It is not known who shot it, but it was a direct hit and caused him to bleed heavily. His soldiers said to him:

O Abu Muhammad, you are wounded. Go in among their houses so that you can be treated.

Talhah said to his slave:

Carry me, and look for a suitable place for me.

He entered Basrah and was placed in a house there to be treated, but his wound continued to bleed until he died in that house. Then he was buried in Basrah radiya Llahu ‘anhu.[41]


As for the report indicating that Zubair and Talhah radiya Llahu ‘anhuma urged the people to carry on fighting, and that Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu only left the battlefield when he saw that the people of Basrah were going to be defeated, this report is not sound.[42]

It is contradicted by that which is proven of the dignity and sound character of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum. It is also contrary to the sound reports stating that the army of the Camel only went out to set things straight and bring about reconciliation.

How could this alleged action of Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu be in harmony with the aim for which he left Makkah and went to Basrah, namely to set things straight among the people? In fact, the attitude of Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu was one of keenness to set things straight up to the very last moment. Al Hakim, via Abu Harb ibn Abi-Aswad al Du’ali, narrated that Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu strove to bring about reconciliation between the sides, but when the battle began and chaos prevailed, Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu left the battlefield,[43] as did Talhah radiya Llahu ‘anhu.

He had come to set things straight, not to shed blood. With regard to the killing of Talhah radiya Llahu ‘anhu, that occurred at the beginning of the battle, as was clearly stated by al Ahnaf ibn Qais.[44]

Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu departed the battlefield, and Talhah was martyred radiya Llahu ‘anhum. With the fall of the slain and wounded, the first round of the Battle of the Camel ended, and the army of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu had prevailed. ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu had been following progress of the battle and saw the slain and wounded on both sides; he was distressed and saddened by that. He went to his son Hassan and embraced him. ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu began weeping and saying to him:

O my son, would that your father had died twenty years before this day.

Hassan said:

O my father, I warned you about this.

‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu said:

I did not think that it would go this far. What good is life after this? What good can be hoped for after this?[45]


The second round of the Battle of the Camel

News reached the Mother of the Believers Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha of the fighting that had taken place. She came out on her camel, surrounded by the ‘Azdi tribes and accompanied by Ka’b ibn Sur, to whom she had given a mushaf to use to call the people to stop fighting. The Mother of the Believers advanced. She hoped that people would listen to her because of her status in their hearts, and that she would be able to stop them fighting one another and stop the fitnah that begun to spread.[46]

Ka’b held up the mushaf and went before the army of Basrah, calling to the army of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu saying:

O people, I am Ka’b ibn Sur, the judge of Basrah; I call you to the Book of Allah, to act upon it and bring about reconciliation on that basis.

The Saba’iyyah, who were in the forefront of the army of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu, were afraid that Ka’b’s effort would succeed, so they targeted him with their arrows as one man, and he died with the mushaf in his hand.[47]

The arrows of the Saba’iyyah also struck the camel and howdah[48] of Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha and she started calling out:

O my sons, Allah, Allah, remember Allah and the Day of Reckoning, and refrain from fighting!

The Saba’iyyah did not respond to her; they continued striking the army of Basrah. ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was in the rear, ordering his troops to refrain from fighting and not to attack the Basrans, but the Saba’iyyah in the forefront of his army did not respond to him; they persisted advancing, attacking and fighting. When Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha saw that they were not responding to her call and saw Ka’b ibn Sur killed in front of her, she said:

O people, curse the killers of ‘Uthman and their supporters.

Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha began to pray against the murderers of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu and to curse them, and the people of Basrah raised their voices in supplication against the murderers of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu their supporters, and they cursed them. ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu heard the supplication coming in loud voices from the army of Basrah and asked: “What is this?” They said: “It is Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha praying against the murderers of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu and the people praying with her.” ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu said: “Pray with me against the murderers of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu and their supporters, and curse them.” So the army of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu raised their voices, cursing the murderers of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu and praying against them.”[49]

‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu said:

O Allah, curse the killers of ‘Uthman in the plains and in the mountains.[50]

The fighting intensified and spread. The people fought with spears until the spears broke,[51]then they unsheathed their swords and fought until the swords broke, and finally they fought at close quarters.[52]

The Saba’iyyah directed their efforts towards hamstringing the camel and killing Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha, the Mother of the Believers, so the army of Basrah rushed to protect Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha and her camel. They fought to defend the camel, and they killed anyone who grabbed its reins. The battle raging in front of the camel was so fierce and violent that the howdah began to resemble a hedgehog because of all the arrows that had been shot at it.[53]

Many Muslims from the tribes of al ‘Azd and Banu Dabbah and young men of Quraysh were killed around the camel, after displaying unparalleled bravery and courage.[54]

Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha was very upset and frustrated. She had not wanted any fight, but fighting broke out despite her wishes, and she ended up in the midst of the chaos, calling out for it to stop, but to no avail. Everyone who took hold of the camel’s reins was killed, then Muhammad ibn Talhah (al Sajjad) came and took hold of the reins, and he said to his mother, the Mother of the Believers:

O my mother, what do you want me to do?

She said:

Be like the better of the two sons of Adam.

Meaning that he should refrain from fighting. He sheathed his sword, after having unsheathed it, and he was killed, may Allah have mercy on him.[55]

Also killed was ‘Abdul Rahman ibn ‘Itab ibn Usayd, who tried to kill al Ashtar even if it meant that he died too. He wrestled him, and they both fell to the ground. ‘Abdul Rahman ibn ‘Itab said to those who were around him:

Kill for me, Malik.[56]

Because of his hatred for him due to the prominent role he had played in inciting the people against ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu. But the people did not know al Ashtar as ‘Malik’, and his time had not yet come. If ‘Abdul Rahman had said ‘al Ashtar’, many swords would have struck al Ashtar.[57]

As for ‘Abdullah ibn Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu, he fought in an unparalleled fashion, throwing himself among the swords. He was taken from among the slain with forty-odd wounds, the most severe and last of which was inflicted by al Ashtar. Due to the latter’s hatred for ibn Zubair, he did not sit on his horse when he hit him; rather he stood up in the stirrups and struck ibn Zubair on the head, thinking that it had killed him.[58]

A large number of people were also killed from the tribes of Banu ‘Adi, Banu Dabbah and al ‘Azd. Banu Dabbah showed a great deal of courage and sacrifice for the Mother of the Believers radiya Llahu ‘anha.

Amir al Mu’minin ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu, by virtue of the wisdom, strength and military skill with which he had been blessed, realized that as long as the camel remained on the battlefield, the fighting would continue and a large number of people would be killed. The people of the camel would not be defeated or give up fighting as long as the Mother of the Believers remained on the battlefield. Her staying on the battlefield also posed a great danger to her life; the howdah in which she was sitting was bristling with arrows like a hedgehog.[59]

‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu ordered some of his troops, including Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, the brother of the Mother of the Believers, and ‘Abdullah ibn Badil, to hamstring the camel and take Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha out of the howdah and to the ground; in other words, they were to strike the camel’s feet with their swords.[60]

Her brother Muhammad and ‘Abdullah ibn Badil carried her howdah and placed it in front of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu, who ordered that she be taken into the house of ‘Abdullah ibn Badil.[61]

‘Ali’s military intuition proved to be correct; as soon as Mother of the Believers left the battlefield, the motive that was making the people of Basrah eager to fight to the death disappeared, and they turned and fled. If he had not taken this step, the battle would have continued until the entire army of Basrah, which was defending the camel, had been destroyed or the army of ‘Ali had been defeated.

When the rout began, ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu or his caller shouted out to his army, telling them not to pursue anyone who was running away, not to finish off anyone who was wounded, and not to take any booty except for equipment or weapons that had been brought to the battlefield or the camp only; they were not to take anything more that.

He also forbade them to enter the houses. Not only that; ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu also said to the people of Basrah who had fought him that if any of them found any of his property with one of ‘Ali’s companions, he had the right to take it back. A man found a group from ‘Ali’s army cooking some meat in a pot that belonged to him. He took the pot from them and threw away the meat that was in it, out of spite.[62]


The number of people killed

This intense battle led to a large number of people being killed but there are differing reports as to the actual numbers. Al Mas’udi said that these differences were due to the bias of the narrators.[63]

Qatadah stated that the number of people killed at the Battle of the Camel was twenty thousand.[64]

It seems that this is greatly exaggerated, because the number of the two armies put together was close to this or less. The Rafidi Shia Abu Mikhnaf exaggerated greatly because of his bias, and he did wrong when he thought that he was doing right. He said that the twenty thousand were from the people of Basrah.[65]

Saif stated that the number was ten thousand, half from among the companions of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu and half from among the companions of Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha. According to another report, he said:

It was said that the number was fifteen thousand: five thousand from among the people of Kufah and ten thousand from among the people of Basrah; half of them were killed during the first round and half during the second round.[66]

But these two reports are weak because of the interruptions in their chains of narration and other faults; they are also grossly overstated. ‘Umar ibn Shaibah mentioned, with his chain of narration, that the number of slain was more than six thousand, but this report is also weak in its chain of narration.[67]

Al Yaqubi exaggerated further and gave a higher figure; he put the number of slain at thirty-two thousand.[68]

This figure is highly inflated; the reasons for this overstatement include the following:

  • The desire of the enemies of the Sahabah, namely Saba’iyyah and their followers, to deepen the dispute and division among the members of the ummah who are united by the love of the Sahabah and who are following their example, after that of the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
  • The contribution of some poets and ignorant people from numerous tribes to inflating and magnifying the number, so to match the poetry that they attributed to some of their leaders and knights. In addition to that, the storytellers wanted to attract people’s attention with the exciting events of which they spoke.
  • The building of confidence for the followers of the thug’s and Saba’iyyah in order to prove the success of their plans arrangements.[69]

As for the true number of people slain in the Battle of the Camel, it is probably very small, for the following reasons:

  • The short duration of the fight. Ibn Abi Shaibah narrated with a sound chain of narration[70] that the combat started in the afternoon and that by the time the sun set, no one who had been defending the camel was still there
  • The defensive nature of the fighting, since each side was merely defending itself and doing no more than that
  • The true number of those slain at the Battle of the Camel is regarded as very low in comparison to the number of Muslim martyrs at the Battle of Yarmuk (3,000) and the Battle of Qadisiyyah (8,500), and those were battles that went on for a number of days. This is also taking into account the ferocity and intensity of those other battles which were decisive battles in the history of nations.
  • Khalifah ibn Khayyat narrated a list of those among the slain of the Battle of the Camel whose names were known; there were approximately one hundred names.[71]
  • If we assume that the total number was double that, this would mean that the number of people slain at the Battle of the Camel was no more than two hundred. This is what Dr. Khalid ibn Muhammad al Ghayth suggests is most likely, in his dissertation Istishhad ‘Uthman wa Waq’at al Jamal fi Marwiyat Saif ibn ‘Umar fi Tarikh al Tabari – Dirasah Naqdiyyah (The martyrdom of ‘‘Uthman and the Battle of the Camel in the reports of Saif ibn ‘Umar in Tarikh at-Tabari – A critical study).[72]

Is it true that Marwan ibn al Hakam killed Talhah ibn ‘Ubaidullah?

Many reports indicate that the killer of Talhah ibn ‘Ubaidullah radiya Llahu ‘anhu was Marwan ibn al Hakam.[73]

However, if one studies these reports, it becomes clear that Marwan ibn al Marwan is innocent of this accusation for the following reasons:

  1. Ibn Kathir said: “It was said that the one who shot this arrow was Marwan ibn al Marwan, and it was said that the one who shot this arrow was someone else. In my view, the latter is more likely, even though the former is a well-known view. And Allah knows best.[74]
  2. Ibn al ‘Arabi said: “They said that Marwan killed Talhah ibn ‘Ubaidullah, but how can anyone know that except the One Who knows the unseen? It was not narrated by anyone trustworthy.”[75]
  3. Muhibb al Din al Khatib said: “This report about Talhah and Marwan is a mystery; no one knows where it came from.”[76]
  4. The reason given for Marwan’s desire to kill Talhah radiya Llahu ‘anhu — that Marwan accused Talhah radiya Llahu ‘anhu of helping in the murder of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu — is invalid. There is no proof by any sound chain of narration that any of the Sahabah helped in the murder of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
  5. At the Battle of the Camel, Marwan and Talhah radiya Llahu ‘anhu were both on the same side, which was the side of those who were for putting things right among the people.[77]
  6. Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu appointed Marwan in charge of Madinah and Makkah. If it were true that Marwan had done this, Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu would not have put him in charge of the Muslims in the places that are most sacred before Allah.
  7. There is a report from Marwan ibn al Hakam in Sahih al Bukhari.[78] Bukhari is known for being very thorough and careful in accepting reports; if it were true that Marwan killed Talhah radiya Llahu ‘anhu that would have been sufficient reason to reject his reports and question his character.[79]

The call of Amir al Mu’minin ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu after the battle

As soon as the battle started to die down, the caller of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu cried out:


Do not finish off anyone who is wounded, do not pursue anyone who is fleeing, do not enter any house. Whoever lays down his weapon is safe, and whoever locks his door is safe.


His army had no right to any booty except what had been brought onto the battlefield of weapons and mounts, and nothing beyond that. The caller of Amir al Mu’minin ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu informed those who had fought him of the people of Basrah that if one of them found any of his property with ‘Ali’s troops, he could take it back.[80]

Some people thought that the army of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was going to distribute the female captives among themselves, so they spoke about that and spread that notion among the people. ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu soon surprised them when he announced:

You have no right to any female captive, and the estates are to be divided according to the law of Allah. Any woman whose husband has been killed must observe ‘iddah of four months and ten days.

They objected to that, asking:

O Amir al Mu’minin, is their blood permissible for us and not their women?

‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu said:

This is the right approach when fighting people of the qiblah (fellow Muslims).”

Then he said:

(if you insist on this then) Bring your arrows and draw lots concerning Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha, for she is the one who was leading these people!

They were shocked and said:

We ask Allah for forgiveness.


It had now become clear to them that what they were saying and thinking was very wrong. In order to please them, though, ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu gave each of them five hundred from the public treasury.[81]


Checking on the slain and praying for mercy for them

After the battle ended, ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu went out with a group of Sahabah to check on the slain. He saw Muhammad ibn Talhah (as-Sajjad) and said:

To Allah do we belong and unto Him shall we return. By Allah, he was righteous young man.

Then he sat down sorrowfully and prayed for forgiveness and mercy for the slain, and he spoke highly of them.[82]

After that, he went back to his house and saw his wife and two daughters weeping for ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu and his relatives and for Zubair, Talhah and others among their Qurayshi relatives. It was narrated that he said to them:

I hope we will be among those of whom Allah says:

وَنَزَعْنَا مَا فِیْ صُدُوْرِهِمْ مِّنْ غِلٍّ اِخْوَانًا عَلٰی سُرُرٍ مُّتَقٰبِلِیْنَ

And We shall remove from their breasts deep feeling of bitterness [that they may have]. [So they will be like] brothers facing each other on thrones.[83]

Then he said:

Who are they if not us? Who are they if not us?

And he kept repeating it until the narrator wished that he would fall silent.[84]


NEXT⇒The allegiance of the people of Basrah



[1]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/526

[2]  op. cit., 5/527; Tahqiq Mawaqif al Sahabah, 2/120

[3]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/526

[4]  op. cit., 5/527

[5]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/541

[6]  ibid.

[7]  ibid.

[8]Tarikh Khalifah ibn Khayyat, p. 182

[9]‘Abdullah ibn Saba’ wa Atharuhu fi ihdath al Fitnah fi Sadr al Islam, pp. 192, 193

[10]  op. cit., p. 194

[11]Fath. al Bari, 13/56

[12]Sharh al ‘Aqidah at- Tahhawiyyah, p. 546

[13]at-Tamhid, p. 233

[14]  al Hamadani: Tathbit Dala’il al Nubuwwah, p. 299

[15]al ‘Awasim min al Qawasim, p. 156, 157

[16]al Fasl fil-Milal wan-Nihal, 4/157, 158

[17]al ’Ibar, 1/37; al ’Awdah: ‘Abdullah ibn Saba’, p. 195

[18]Tarikh al Islam, 1/15; al ’Awdah: ‘Abdullah ibn Saba’, p. 195

[19]Tarikh al Islam, 1/15; al ’Awdah: ‘Abdullah ibn Saba’, p. 195

[20]  Al ‘Awdah: ‘Abdullah ibn Saba’, p. 195

[21]  op. cit., p. 196

[22]Muslim, 4/2213, Kitab al Fitan

[23]Al Asas fi al Sunnah wa Fiqh, Al Sirah al Nabawiyyah 4/1711,

[24]Sahih Muslim ‘ala Sharh al Nawawi, 18/10

[25]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/506

[26]  ibid.

[27]  op. cit., 5/516

[28]  op. cit., 5/541

[29]  op. cit., 5/541; al Khalidi: al Khulafa’ ar-Rashidun, p. 245

[30]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/541

[31]Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, 15/543; al Khalidi: al Khulafa’ al Rashidin, p. 245.

[32]Musnad Ahmed, 3/19; the editor Ahmed Shakir said its chain of narration is sound

[33]Istishhad ‘Uthman wa Waq’at al Jamal, p. 201. He listed the chains of narration of the hadith and judged it to be weak.

[34]Al Madinah al Nabawiyyah Fajr al Islam, 2/324; al Matalib al ‘Uliyah no. 4468.

[35]Musnad Ahmed, 1147-49, 11/38. Its chain of narration is sound. Ahmed Shakir.

[36]khilafat’’Ali ibn Abi Talib, p. 154

[37]  op. cit., p. 154; Tarikh al Tabari, 5/506

[38]Al Tabaqat, 3/110 – its chain of narration is sound; Khilafat ‘Ali, p.155

[39]Al Tabaqat, 3/10; Tarikh Khalifah, p. 186

[40]al Madinah an-Nabawiyyah Fajr al Islam, 2/248

[41]al Bidayah wan-Nihayah, 7/253

[42] Tarikh al Tabari, 5/540

[43]al Mustadrak, 3/366; Istishhad ‘Uthman; p. 200

[44]Tarikh Khalifah, p. 185; Istishhad ‘Uthman, p. 202

[45]Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, 7/521

[46]Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, 5/456, with a sound chain of narration going back to al Zuhri.

[47]Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, 7/253

[48]  A covered carriage placed on the back of the camel for Aisha to ride in [Editor].

[49]al Bidayah wan-Nihayah, 7/253

[50] Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, 15/268 with a sound chain of narration; Sunan Sa’id ibn Mansur, 2/236, with a sound chain of narration

[51]Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, 15/258 –its men are sound.

[52]at-Tabaqdat, 5/2;

[53]al Bidayah wan-Nihayah, 7/253; Tarikh Khalifah, p. 190, with a reliable chain

[54] al Bidayah wan-Nihayah, 7/254

[55]Nasab Quraysh, p. 281; Bukhari: Al Tarikh al Saghir, 1/110, with a sound chain of narration.

[56] Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, 15/228; Marwiyat Abi Mikhnaf, p. 268; its chain of narration is sound

[57]  ‘Abdul Hamid: Khilafat ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib; p. 159

[58]Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, 15/228, with a chain of narration which was classed as sound by Ibn Hajar in al Fath, 13/57, 58.

[59]  Al Baladhuri: Ansab al Ashraf, 2/43, with a chain of narration that is connected all the way to Rasul H.

[60]  Al Khattabi: A’lam al Hadith, 3/1611

[61]Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, 15/286, 287, with a good chain of narration; al Fath, 13/57

[62] Musannaf ibn Abi Shaybah, 15/286, 287, with a good chain of narration; al Fath, 13/57

[63]Muruj adh-Dhahab, 3/367

[64]  ibid.

[65]Tarikh Khalifah ibn Khayyat, 186, with a mursal chain of narration.

[66]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/542-555

[67]Tarikh Khalifah ibn Khayyat, 186; its chain of narration is interrupted, but it is reliable as far as Qatadah.

[68]Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, 7/546; Fath al Bari, 13/62

[69]al Insaf, p. 455

[70]Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, 7/546; Fath al Bari, 13/62

[71]Tarikh Khalifah, p. 187, 190

[72]Istishhad ‘Uthman wa Waq’at al Jamal, p. 215

[73]Al Tabaqat, 3/223; Tarikh al Madinah, 4/1170; Tarikh Khalifah, p. 185

[74] al Bidayah wan-Nihayah, 7/248

[75]al ‘Awasim min al Qawasim, p. 157-160

[76]  ibid.

[77] lstishhad ‘Uthman wa Waq’at al Jamal, p. 202

[78]Fath al Bari, 2/520; Istishhad ‘Uthman, p. 203

[79]lstishhad ‘Uthman wa Waq’at al Jamal, p. 202

[80]Khilafat ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, p. 168; ‘Abdul-Hamid: Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, 15/286, with a sound chain of narration.

[81]Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, 15/286, with a sound chain of narration; Ibn Hajar, 13/57

[82]Musannaf lbn Abi Shaibah, 15/261; al Mustadrak, 3/103, 104, 375. It chain of narration is reliable because of corroborating evidence; Khilafat ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, p. 169

[83]  Surah al Hijr: 47

[84]Musannaf lbn Abi Shaibah, 15/268-269; Khilafat ‘Ali, p. 169, ‘Abdul Hamid.