The rebels secretly incite the fighting

The causes which led to the Battle of Siffin
February 23, 2015
The causes which led to and the outcome of the Battle of Jamal
February 23, 2015

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The rebels secretly incite the fighting


If ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu were to have met with Talhah and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhuma in private, they would have quickly come to realise that they were not enemies to each other. Each of them only wished to uphold the commands of Allah and they all had one common enemy, namely the Sabaʼiyyah, who were set upon sowing disunity amongst the ummah. We have already quoted the words of ‘Ali (from Tarikh al Tabri and Sirat al khulafaʼ of al Khudri) when he announced after the reconciliation for the mischief mongers to separate from his army. According to all historical sources, these mischief mongers then held a secret meeting that very night, wherein they decided to split into two groups and each spend the night in opposing camps, and begin the fighting the next day. A few extracts are given below:


1) Ashtar Nakha’i, who was a commander in ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu army, said:


I swear by Allah, their discussions are revolving around one issue, their reconciliation will be upon taking our blood. Let us send Talhah to join ‘Uthman (i.e. kill him also) so that they will be pleased with us in the peace we grant them.” (It is apparent from this narration that the reports which mention Marwan ibn Hakam having fired the arrow on Talhah is false). Ibn Saba’ commented: “Talhah and his people are five thousand strong and we are only two thousand five hundred. This is not a wise move.” (We can also gauge the exaggeration with regards to the numbers present in this battle as well as the number slain, here mention is made of two thousand five hundred with five thousand on the opposite side, then reports claim that ten thousand were slain. The numbers reported increase even more drastically to five, ten, and even twenty thousand by the time they reached Siffin, where the number slain is then reported to be seventy thousand).


In Tarikh al Tabri (vol. 3 pg. 507) there is an addition:


Ashtar Nakha’i then said: “Talhah and Zubair’s position and what they desire is clear, but till now we have not understood clearly what is the policy and position of ‘Ali, so let us attack and join ‘Ali with ‘Uthman (i.e. kill him), then he will also be pleased with us in the peace we grant him. It will also create a major uproar and turmoil amongst the Muslims.”

‘Abdullah ibn Saba’ rebuked him harshly saying: “Then we will be exposed and the fact that we are the enemies of the Muslims will be open to all”. (In other words: “We need to remain secretive, since we still have a greater mission to accomplish).


2) ‘Albaʼ ibn Haytham said: “Let us leave both groups and move on our own until we appoint our own leader. ‘Abdullah ibn Saba’ remarked: “I swear by Allah! This will be exactly what they want. If this happens, they will snatch us like hawks.”

3) ‘Abdullah ibn Saba’ then spoke: “O my people (of the Saba’iyyah)! The only way to succeed in our mission is to join both sides, then tomorrow in the early part of the morning before they meet, we raise the cry of “the opposition has been treacherous” and start the battle from both sides. In this way, they will be forced into fighting and Allah will cause ‘Ali, Talhah and Zubair to wage war against each other.”


Agreement was finally reached and so they split up and spent the night in opposite camps. The following morning, at pre-dawn, they began the battle.[1]


The martyrdom of Talhah and Zubair, and the grief of ‘Ali

Both parties slept that night without any real concern, since the announcement of reconciliation had already been made, thus when battle began people were not able to protect themselves and many lost their lives in this sudden attack.[2]

[3]‘Ali reminded Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhuma of a certain hadith (the status of which needs to be verified), due to which he left the battlefield. He was performing salah when ibn Jurmuz attacked and killed him. Regrettably, ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu could not protect Talhah and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhuma from his army. When he saw the martyred body of Talhah radiya Llahu ‘anhu he gasped and exclaimed: “If only I had died twenty years before this!” He then took hold of Talhah’s paralysed hand, kissed it and said: “This is the same hand which protected Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam during the Battle of Uhud.” He then burst into tears over the bodies of his two close friends, Talhah and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhuma.’Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was then informed: “The killer of Talhah wishes to meet you (which establishes that it was one of the Saba’iyyah and not Marwan) but ‘Ali replied: “Give him glad tidings of Jahannam!” ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu then said: “O Allah! I have nothing to do with the murderers of ‘Uthman.”[4]

When ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu, in accordance to the hadith of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, gave glad tidings of Jahannam to ‘Amr ibn Jurmuz – the killer of Zubair, his cousin – ‘Amr remarked:


نقتل أعداؤكم و تبشروننا بالنار

We kill your enemies and you give us glad tidings of Jahannam!


He later committed suicide, upon which ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu said: “Verily Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had spoken the truth; that this person is destined for Jahannam (and also those who praise him).”

During the course of the battle ‘Ali, and ‘A’ishah radiya Llahu ‘anha as well, were cursing the killers of ‘Uthman and their supporters


اللهم العن قتلة عثمان و أشياعهم

O Allah curse the murderers of ‘Uthman and their supporters.[5]


‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu also recited the following verses regarding Talhah and Zubair:


وَنَزَعْنَا مَا فِیْ صُدُوْرِهِمْ مِّنْ غِلٍّ اِخْوَانًا عَلٰی سُرُرٍ مُّتَقٰبِلِیْنَ

And We will remove whatever is in their breasts of resentment, (so they will be) brothers, on thrones facing each other.


A number of soldiers surrounded the camel of ‘A’ishah radiya Llahu ‘anha in order to protect her. They too were mercilessly attacked by Ashtar Nakha’i and his people. When ‘Ali saw this, he was alarmed and commanded Ashtar to draw back. This was to no avail. ‘Ali therefore instructed that the legs of the camel be cut, causing the camel to drop, and ‘A’isha radiya Llahu ‘anha would be saved from being martyred. The people of Basrah were thereby defeated, and ‘A’ishah radiya Llahu ‘anha was saved. ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu then honourably sent her to Madinah saying: “O people this is the wife of your Nabi in this world and in the hereafter, and she will be accorded the same respect which was accorded to her before this, except for the fact that she has erred and confronted us.” Then ‘A’ishah radiya Llahu ‘anha also praised ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu and said “My difference with him was the same as that of any mother with her son.”

Outside the tent were two of the Saba’iyyah, who began criticising Sayyidah ‘A’ishah radiya Llahu ‘anha despite referring to her as “Mother”. ‘Ali ordered Qa’qa’ ibn ‘Amr to punish each with a hundred lashes.


NEXT The causes which led to the Battle of Siffin

[1] ibn Khaldun vol. 2 pg. 107

[2] 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. (Muruj al Dhahab, 3/367) Qatadah stated that the number of people killed at the Battle of the Camel was twenty thousand.(ibid) 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 among the people of Basrah. (Tarikh Khalifah ibn Khayyt, 186) 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 battle and half during the second.” 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 Shaybah 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. (Tarikh Khalifah ibn Khayyt,186) Al Ya’qubi exaggerated further and gave a higher figure; he put the number of slain at thirty-two thousand. (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, 7/546; Fath al Bri, 13/62) This figure is highly inflated, the reasons for this overstatement include the following:

  1. The desire of the enemies of the Sahabah, namely the 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 Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
  2. The contribution of some poets and ignorant people from numerous tribes to inflating and magnifying the number, so as 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.
  3. The building of confidence for the followers of the thugs and Saba’iyyah in order to prove the success of their plans and arrangements. (al Insaf, pg. 455)


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 Shaybah narrated with a sound chain of narration (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, 7/546; Fath al Bri, 13/62) that the actual combat started only 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 (3000) and the Battle of Qadisiyyah (8500), 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.(Tarikh Khalifah, 187, 190) 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 Istishad ‘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 al Tabari – A critical study) – taken from Sirah Amir al Mu’minin ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib by ‘Ali Muhammad al Sallabi

[4]ibn al ‘Asakir vol. 7 pg. 89

[5] ibn al ‘Asakir vol. 7 pg. 88, 89

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