The text of the arbitration document
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
- This is what has been agreed upon between ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib and Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan and their supporters, as they have agreed to refer to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Rasul ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam for judgment.
- In this case, ‘Ali represents the people of Iraq, both those who are present and those who are absent, and Muawiyah represents the people of Syria, both those who are present and those who are absent.
- We have agreed to accept the ruling of the Qur’an and adhere to what is mentioned in the Book from beginning to end; we will do what it commands and refrain from what it tells us to refrain from. This is the basis of our agreement.
- ‘Ali and his supporters accept ‘Abdullah ibn Qais [Abu Musa] as a representative and arbitrator, and Muawiyah accepts ‘Amr ibn al ‘As as a representative and arbitrator.
- ‘Ali and Muawiyah have taken from ‘Abdullah ibn Qais and ‘Amr ibn al ‘As a pledge to adhere to the covenant of Allah and His Rasul, to take the Qur’an as their guide and not to refer to anything else with regard to arbitration, which will be done on the basis of what is written in the Book. With regard to that which they do not find in the Qur’an, they will refer to the comprehensive Sunnah of the Rasul of Allah, and they will not accept anything that goes against it or overlook the Sunnah for some specious argument.
- ‘Abdullah ibn Qais and ‘Amr ibn al ‘As have taken a pledge from ‘Ali and Muawiyah to accept their verdict, which is based on the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Rasul. They have no right to reject that or to go against it.
- Both arbitrators are to be granted safety and security when they give their verdict. Their lives, wealth, hair, skin, families and children are safe as long as they do not transgress the limits, no matter who agrees or disagrees with them, and the Ummah should support their verdict, which is based on the Book of Allah.
- If one of the two arbitrators dies before reaching a verdict, his party has the right to appoint someone else in his place from among the people of good character and piety, on the same basis as the covenant to which his predecessor agreed.
- If one of the two leaders dies before the set time for deciding this matter ends, his group may appoint a man in his place with whose character they are pleased.
- The two parties agree, with immediate effect, to engage in negotiations and lay down their weapons.
- What we have mentioned in this document is binding with immediate effect on the two leaders, the two arbitrators and the two parties. Allah is the best of witnesses and is sufficient witness. If they transgress the limits, then the ummah has nothing to do with their verdict, and their covenant is to be rejected.
- The people are safe; their lives, families, children and wealth are safe until the end of the set period. Weapons are to be laid aside, the roads are to be safe, and anyone of either party who is absent is like those who are present in this regard.
- The two arbitrators may stay in a place in the middle between the two camps of the people of Iraq and Syria.
- No one should attend their meetings except with the approval of both arbitrators.
- The set time for reaching a verdict is the end of the month of Ramadan. If the two arbitrators decide to reach a verdict earlier, then they may do so. If they decide to delay it until the end of the specified time, they may do so.
- If they do not rule in accordance with the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Rasul by the end of the fixed time, then the two groups will resume fighting.
- The ummah is bound by the deal that is reached with regard to this matter; all of the ummah should be united against any party that inclines to evil actions and does wrong.
The contents of this document were witnessed by Hasan and Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, the two sons of ‘Ali, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas, ‘Abdullah ibn Jafar ibn Abi Talib, Ash’ath ibn Qais al Kindi, Ashtar ibn al Harith, Sa’id ibn al Qais al Hamadani, Hussain and al Tufayl the two sons of al Harith ibn ‘Abdul Muttalib, Abu Sa’id ibn Rabi’al Ansari, ‘Abdullah ibn Khabbab ibn al Aratt, Sahl ibn Hunayf, Abu Bishr ibn ‘Umar al Ansari, ‘Awf ibn al Harith ibn ‘Abdul Muttalib, Yazid ibn ‘Abdullah al Aslami, ‘Uqbah ibn ‘Amir al Juhani, Rafi’ ibn Khadij al Ansari, ‘Umar ibn al Hamaq al Khuzia’i, No’man ibn ‘Ajlan al Ansari, Hujr ibn ‘Adi al Kindi, Yazid ibn Hajiyyah al Kindi, Malik ibn Ka’b al Hamadhani, Rabi’ah ibn Shurahbil, al Harith ibn Malik, Hajar ibn Yazid and ‘Ulbah ibn Hujiyyah.
Among the people of Syria, it was witnessed by Habib ibn Maslamah al Fihri, Abu al A’war al Sulami, Bishr ibn Arta’ah al Qurashi, Muawiyah ibn Khadij al Kindi, Makhariq ibn al Harith al Zubaidi, Muslim ibn ‘Amr al Saksi, ‘Abdullah ibn Khalid ibn al Walid, Hamzah ibn Malik, Subay’ ibn Yazid ibn Abjar al ‘Absi, Masruq ibn Jablah al ‘Akki, Yusr ibn Yazid al Himyari, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amir al Qurashi, ‘Utbah ibn Abi Sufyan , Muhammad ibn Abi Sufyan , Muhammad ibn ‘Amr ibn al ‘As, ‘Ammar ibn al Ahwas al Kalbi, Mas’adah ibn ‘Amr al ‘Utbi, al Sabbah ibn Jalhamah al Himyari, ‘Abdul Rahman ibn Dhi al Kila’, Tamamah ibn Hawshab and ‘Ilqimah ibn Hakam.
It was written on Wednesday 17 Safar 37 A.H.
The famous story of the arbitration, which is incorrect for many reasons
A great deal has been said about the story of the arbitration, which was narrated by historians and writers on the basis that it was true and proven, with no doubt about it. Some narrated lengthy versions, and some summarised it; some commented on it and derived lessons from it, basing their rulings on the contents of the story. It is very rare to find anyone who examined it in a critical manner. Ibn al ‘Arabi did well when he rejected it in general terms, even though he did not go into detail. This is indicative of his strong critical sense in examining texts, because none of the texts of this arbitration story can stand up to critical academic examination. They are false for a number of reasons:
1. All of its chains of transmission are weak. The strongest chain by which it was narrated is that narrated by ‘Abdul Razzaq and al Tabari, with a chain of narration whose men are trustworthy, from al Zuhri with a missing link. They said:
Al Zuhri said: “In the morning, the people of Syria put up their mushafs and called for applying what they contained and the people of Iraq were filled with awe, at which point they appointed the two arbitrators. The people of Iraq chose Abu Musa al Ash’ari, and the people of Syria chose ‘Amr ibn al ‘As. The two armies at Siffin parted when the arbitrators were appointed. They (the two arbitrators) stipulated that what the Qur’an enjoined was to be followed and what it forbade was to be avoided, and that they would choose what was best for the ummah of Muhammad ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. They were to meet in Domat al Jandal, and if they did not meet for some reason, they would meet the following year in Adhrah.
When ‘Ali left, the Khawarij disagreed and rebelled. This was the first time they appeared as a group, and they declared war against him. The reason for their rebellion was that human beings had been appointed to decide about the ruling of Allah. They said that there is no ruling except the ruling of Allah, so they fought.
When the two arbitrators met in Adhrah, Mughirah ibn Shu’bah joined them, along with some other people. The two arbitrators sent for ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar ibn al Khattab and ‘Abdullah ibn Zubair, and they came to them with many men. Muawiyah came with the people of Syria, but ‘Ali and the people of Iraq refused to come.
Al Mughirah ibn Shu’bah said to some prominent people of Quraysh: “Do you think there is anyone out there who can tell whether these two arbitrators will agree on something or will never agree?” They said: “We do not think that anyone knows that.” He said: “By Allah, I think that I should be able to find that out from them when I speak to each one on his own and discuss it with him.”
He entered upon ‘Amr ibn al ‘As, starting with him. He said: “O Abu ‘Abdullah, tell me about what I am going to ask you. What do you think of those of us who remained neutral, for we were unsure about the matter that was clear to you, namely fighting, and we thought that it was better to take our time until we became certain and the ummah became united?” He said: “I think of you who remained neutral as being behind the righteous and ahead of the evildoers.”
Al Mughirah left and did not ask him about anything else. Then he entered upon Abu Musa and said something similar to what he had said to ‘Amr. Abu Musa said: “I think you are the wisest of people; you are what is left of the righteous Muslims.”
Al Mughirah left without asking him about anything else. Then he met with the wise people of Quraysh, to whom he had spoken earlier, and said: “These two will never agree on anything.” “The two arbitrators met and talked. ‘Amr ibn al ‘As said: “O Abu Musa, I think the first thing we should decide about is to rule in favour of those who fulfilled their promise and against those who betrayed, because of their betrayal.” Abu Musa said: “What do you mean?” He said: “Do you not know that Muawiyah and the people of Syria fulfilled their promise and came to the appointment that we made with them?” He said: “Yes.” ‘Amr said: “Write it down.” So Abu Musa wrote it down. ‘Amr said: “O Abu Musa, would you like to suggest a man to be in charge of this ummah? Tell me his name. If I agree with it, I will follow you in that; otherwise I will suggest a name and you should follow me.” Abu Musa said: “Do you want me to suggest Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan to you?” They did not end their meeting before trading insults; then they went out to the people, and Abu Musa said: “I found the likeness of ‘Amr to be the likeness of the one of whom Allah says:
وَاتْلُ عَلَیْهِمْ نَبَاَ الَّذِیْٓ اٰتَیْنٰهُ اٰیٰتِنَا فَانْسَلَخَ مِنْهَا فَاَتْبَعَهُ
And recite [O Muhammad] to them the story of him to whom We gave Our verses [proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.], but he threw them away.
Then when Abu Musa fell silent, ‘Amr spoke, saying: “O people, I found the likeness of Abu Musa to be the likeness of those of whom Allah says:
مَثَلُ الَّذِیْنَ حُمِّلُوا التَّوْرٰةَ ثُمَّ لَمْ یَحْمِلُوْهَا کَمَثَلِ الْحِمَارِ یَحْمِلُ اَسْفَارًا
The likeness of those who were entrusted with the [obligation of the] Torah [i.e. to obey its commandments and to practise its laws], but who subsequently failed in those [obligations], is as the likeness of a donkey which carries huge burdens of books [but understands nothing from them].
Each of them wrote a letter explaining his opinion to the various regions.
Al Zuhri was not present at this incident, so this report is missing a link in its chain of narration, and his reports with missing links carry no weight and cannot be taken as evidence, as determined by the scholars.
There is another chain of transmission, through which Ibn ‘Asakir narrated this report with his chain of narration going back to al Zuhri. It is also missing a link, and it includes Abu Bakr ibn Abi Sabrah, of whom Imam Ahmed said:
He was a fabricator of hadith.
Its chain of narration also includes al Waqidi, whose reports are rejected. This is the text of his report:
The people of Syria lifted up the mushafs and said: “We call you to the Book of Allah and to rule in accordance with what it contains.” This was a plot by ‘Amr ibn al ‘As. They reached a deal and wrote a document stating that they would meet at the beginning of the year in Adhrah. They appointed two arbitrators to judge between the people, and everyone was to accept their verdict. ‘Ali appointed Abu Musa al Ash’ari, and Muawiyah appointed ‘Amr ibn al ‘As. Then the people parted; ‘Ali went back to Kufah with divisions and trouble among his party. Some of his companions disagreed with him, and the Khawarij among his party rebelled against him. They objected to his appointing an arbitrator, and they said: “There is no ruling except the ruling of Allah.” Muawiyah went back to Syria with his followers in harmony and united. One year later, the two arbitrators met in Adhrah in Sha’ban 38 A.H, and the people gathered around them. There was a discussion between them in which they agreed on something in private, but ‘Amr ibn al ‘As went against it in public. He let Abu Musa speak first and declare that he was deposing both ‘Ali and Muawiyah, then ‘Amr ibn al ‘As spoke, deposing ‘Ali but affirming Muawiyah. The two arbitrators and those who were with them parted, and the people of Syria swore allegiance to Muawiyah in the month of Dhu al Qa’dah 38 A.H.
All of the chains of narration of Abu Mikhnaf are weak because of him. The first reason is that Abu Mikhnaf Lut ibn Yahya is weak and not trustworthy. He was a dishonest narrator and an extreme Rafidi.
The second reason is that Ibn Sa’d said concerning him: “He was weak.” Bukhari and Abu Hatim said: “Yahya al Qattan regarded him as weak.” ‘Uthman al Darimi said: “He is weak.” Al Nasa’i said: “He is weak.”
These are the versions of the well-known story of the arbitration and the alleged debate between Abu Musa and ‘Amr ibn al ‘As. Can proof be based on something like this, or can these reports be relied on with regard to the history of the noble Sahabah and the era of the Rightly Guided Khulafa’, the most exemplary of eras? If there was nothing wrong with these reports except some contradictions in their texts; that would be sufficient to regard them as weak. So how about if we add to that the weakness of their chains of narration?
2. This issue is very important with regard to belief and legislation. Despite its importance, it is not transmitted by any sound chain of narration. It is impossible that the scholars would unanimously ignore it, even though it is so important and there is such a great need for it.
3. There is a report which refutes these reports completely. It was narrated in brief by al Bukhari in his Tarikh, with a chain of narration whose narrators are trustworthy. It was also narrated by Ibn ‘Asakir from Hussain ibn al Mundhir, that Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu sent him to ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu, instructing him:
I have heard about ‘Amr something that I dislike; go to him and ask him about the matter concerning which ‘Amr and Abu Musa met, and what happened in their meeting.” ‘Amr said: “People talked too much about this issue, but nothing of what they describe happened. When I met Abu Musa, I said to him: ‘What do you think about this matter?’ He said: ‘I think that he (‘Ali) is one of those with whom the Rasul of Allah ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was pleased with when he died.’ I said: ‘How about me and Muawiyah? Where do we fit in?’ He said: ‘If he (‘Ali) seeks your help, then you are a good help, and if he decides not to seek your help, he can run his affairs without your help.’”
Abu Musa spoke of ‘Amr’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu piety and how he used to take stock of himself and remember the lives of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, as well as his worries about what had happened after they were gone. Abu Musa radiya Llahu ‘anhu said: ‘Amr ibn al ‘As said to me:
By Allah, if Abu Bakr and ‘Umar forsook this wealth when it was permissible for them, is it possible that they had an unfair deal and were wronged, or was it a misjudgement on their part? By Allah, they did not have an unfair deal and they were not wronged, and their decision was not based on misjudgement. By Allah, weakness only came to us because of our deeds.
4. Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu affirmed ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu superiority over him and that he was more entitled to the khilafah than him. He did not dispute with him for the khilafah or seek it for himself during ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu lifetime.
Yahya ibn Sulaiman al Ju’fi narrated, with a good chain of narration, from Abu Muslim al Khawlani that he said to Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu:
Are you disputing with ‘Ali for the khilafah or are you like him?
No; I know that he is better than me and is more entitled (to the khilafah). But do you not know that ‘Uthman was killed wrongfully, and I am his paternal cousin and next of kin, who should seek retaliation for him? Go to ‘Ali and tell him to hand over the killers of ‘Uthman to us, and I will submit to his rule.
They went to ‘Ali and spoke to him, but he did not hand them (the murderers) over to him.
This is the basis of the dispute between ‘Ali and Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, and the arbitration was aimed at resolving this matter of conflict, not choosing or dismissing a khalifah.
Ibn Hazm said concerning this matter that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu fought Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu because the latter refused to carry out his instructions in Syria, and he was the khalifah who was to be obeyed. Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu never denied ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu superiority and entitlement to the khilafah, but his reasoning led him to think that bringing the murderers of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu to justice took precedence over swearing allegiance to ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu, and he thought that he was more right to seek retaliation for the murder of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu and to speak of it than the sons of ‘Uthman and al Hakam ibn Abi l-’As, because of his age and his ability to pursue the matter. He was correct in that regard, but he was wrong with regard to giving this matter precedence over swearing allegiance to the khalifah.
Understanding the dispute on this basis — which is the reality of the dispute — highlights the extent to which the reports quoted above about the arbitration are mistaken in the way in which they depicted the ruling of the two arbitrators. The two arbitrators were given authority to issue a verdict concerning the dispute between ‘Ali and Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, but the dispute between them was not concerning the khilafah and which of them was more entitled to it; rather it had to do with carrying out a retaliatory punishment on the murderers of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu. This had nothing to do with the issue of khilafah at all.
If the two arbitrators had ignored this basic issue that they had been asked to decide about, and taken a decision concerning the khilafah instead, as the widely circulated reports claim, then what that means is that they did not solve the disputed issue and did not understand the issue of this case, and this is something that is very unlikely.
5. The conditions that must be met by the khalifah are good character, knowledge and wisdom to enable him to conduct his subjects’ affairs and take care of their interests. He should also be of Qurayshi descent. These conditions were met by ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Was allegiance to him valid or not? If it was valid – and there is no doubt concerning that – and the Muhajirin and Ansar, the decision makers, swore allegiance to him, and his opponents confirmed that to him, then the words of Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu indicate that “If the khalifah is not devoid of the qualities of a leader and those who appointed him decide to depose him; they have no right to do that according to consensus, because once a khalifah is appointed and allegiance is sworn to him, obedience to him becomes binding, and there is no option of deposing him without a reason that dictates that. A khilafah cannot be effective, and the position cannot achieve the required purpose, unless obedience is binding. If the people are given the option of deposing the khalifah because they prefer someone else, then the khalifah can never be in full control, and he will have no power or ability. The post of khalifah would make no sense at all.”
Therefore the issue is not as depicted in these reports, which suggest that anyone who does not like a khalifah may depose him. No one has the right to depose the khalifah except those who appointed him, namely the decision makers, provided that the khalifah has gone against the conditions of his appointment. Did ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu do anything to make the decision-makers decide to dismiss -him from the khilafah, when he was the Rightly Guided Khalifah, in which case it might be suggested that the two arbitrators had agreed on that? He did nothing until he died that might dictate dismissing him from his post; he did nothing except act justly, strive hard, fear Allah and do good.
6. The time when the arbitration took place was a time of fitnah, and the Muslims were in a situation of confusion despite the fact that they had a khalifah, so how would they have ended up if the khalifah was deposed? Undoubtedly the situation would have gotten worse, but the Sahabah were too wise and rational to do such a thing. Hence it is clear that this idea is invalid according to both reason and the texts.
7. ‘Umar ibn al Khattab radiya Llahu ‘anhu limited the khilafah to the members of the consultative committee, of whom there were six, and the Muhajirin and Ansar approved of that. This was a hint that the khilafah should not go beyond these six men as long as any of them were still alive. At the time of the arbitration, none of them was left except Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas who withdrew, showing no interest in any position of authority, and ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu ‘anhu, who held the position of khalifah and was the best of the six after ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu. So how could this matter of khilafah be passed to someone else?
8. The reports state that the people of Syria swore allegiance to Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu following the arbitration. The question is; what reason prompted the people of Syria to swear allegiance to Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu? The two arbitrators did not reach any conclusion, so there was no reason to attribute that action to the results of the arbitration. Moreover, Ibn ‘Asakir narrated, with a chain whose narrators are trustworthy, that Sa’id ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz al Tanukhi, the most knowledgeable of the people about Syrian affairs, said:
‘Ali in Iraq was called “Amir al Mu’minin”, and Muawiyah in Syria was called “the Amir”. When ‘Ali passed away, Muawiyah in Syria was called “Amir al Mu’minin.”
This text shows that allegiance was not given to Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu as khalifah until after the death of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu. This was also the view of al Tabari, who said, concerning the last events of the year 40 A.H:
In this year, allegiance was sworn to Muawiyah in Ayliya.
Ibn Kathir commented on this, saying:
In other words, when ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu died, the people of Syria swore allegiance to Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu as khalifah, because in their view there was no one left to dispute this position with him.
The people of Syria knew that Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu was not equal to ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu in terms of being qualified for the khilafah and that it was not permissible for him to become khalifah when it was possible to appoint ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu, whose virtue, seniority, knowledge, religious commitment, courage and all other virtues were well known to them, just like the virtues of his brethren Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhum.
In addition to that, the texts forbid swearing allegiance to a new khalifah when the first khalifah is already present. Muslim narrated in his Sahih that Abu Sa’id al Khudri said:
The Rasul of Allah ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “If allegiance is sworn to two khulafa’, then execute the second one.
9. Bukhari narrated in his Sahih that Ibn ‘Umar said:
I entered upon Hafsah and said: “You see the fitnah that is taking place among the people and I was not asked to get involved at all.” She said: “Go and catch up with them, because they are waiting for you, and I fear that you staying away from them may lead to division.”
She kept on at him until he went. After the meeting ended, Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu said:
Whoever wants to say anything concerning this issue let him raise his head, for we have more right to it than him and his father.
Habib ibn Maslamah said:
Why don’t you answer him?
So I changed the way I was sitting, and I wanted to say: “The one who is more entitled to this position than you is the one who fought you and your father for the sake of Islam.” But I was afraid to say something that might cause division and bloodshed and could be misinterpreted, so instead I talked about what Allah has prepared in paradise.”
Allah has protected you from causing any fitnah.
It may he understood that this report is referring to the time when allegiance was sworn to Muawiyah as khalifah, but it does not contain any clear indication to that effect. Some of the scholars said that this report refers to the meeting in which Hasan ibn ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu reconciled with Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Ibn al Jawzi said:
This speech was given at the time of Muawiyah, when he wanted to make his son Yazid his heir (to the khilafah).
And Ibn Hajar said that it was at the time of arbitration.
However, the apparent meaning of the text supports the first two views. The words: “I was afraid to say something that might cause division and bloodshed” are indicative of the unity that existed at the time of Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu, because at the time of the arbitration there was division and dissent, not unity and harmony.
10. The real conclusion of the arbitration. There is no doubt that the disputed issue, which the two arbitrators decided to refer to the ummah and to the members of the consultative committee, was nothing other than the point of dispute between ‘Ali and Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, namely the issue of the murderers of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu was not laying claim to the khilafah or denying ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu right to it, as has been established above. Rather, he refused to swear allegiance to him and obey his instructions in Syria, since he had authority there (in reality, if not legitimately), and what helped him was the people’s obedience to him, for he had been its governor for twenty years.
Ibn Dihyah al Kalbi said in his book A’lam al Nasr al Mubin fi l-Mufadalah bayna Ahl Siffin:
Abu Bakr Muhammad al Tayyib al Ash’ari – al Baqillani – said in Manaqib al A’immah: “The two arbitrators never reached a decision to depose ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu ‘anhu Even if they had reached a decision to depose him, he could not have been deposed unless the Qur’an or Sunnah, which were the reference points for them both, dictated that he should be deposed, provided that the two arbitrators both agreed to that, or until they could explain what dictated deposing him on the basis of the Qur’an and Sunnah. The text of ‘Ali’s letter stipulated that the two arbitrators should judge in accordance with the Book of Allah from beginning to end, and that they should not go beyond that, drift away from it, follow their whims and desires or be biased. He took the most solemn pledge from them that if they went beyond the Book of Allah, their verdict would not count. The Qur’an and Sunnah confirmed his position as khalifah and praised him, and they testified to his sincerity, good character, leadership, seniority in Islam, impressive efforts in jihad against the polytheists, closeness to the leader of the ambiya’, unique qualities of deep knowledge of rulings, wisdom and the fact that he was entitled to leadership and qualified to carry the burden of khilafah.
11. Where the meeting was held. The appointment for the meeting between the two arbitrators, as it says in the document, was to be in Ramadan 37 A.H, if nothing happened to prevent it, in a place between Iraq and Syria. The place chosen was Dowmat al Jandal, according to trustworthy reports, and Adhrah, according to other reports which are less authentic. Perhaps the fact that the two places are close to one another is the reason for the difference in the reports, as Khalifah ibn Khayyat said:
Adhrah, which is close to Dowmat al Jandal, was also mentioned. The meeting took place at the appointed time with no problems.
The place where the two arbitrators met was Dowmat al Jandal. This is contrary to what was stated by Yaqut al Hamawi, who said that the arbitration took place in Adhrah and mentioned as evidence for that some reports, which he did not actually quote, as well as some lines of poetry.
12. Was Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas radiya Llahu ‘anhu at the appointed time and place, each of them accompanied by a few hundred people who represented the two delegations, one group representing the people of Iraq and the other representing the people of Syria. The two arbitrators asked a number of prominent people from Quraysh to be present so that they could consult them and ask for their opinions, but many of the senior Sahabah, who had kept out of the fight from the beginning, were not present. The best of these was Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas radiya Llahu ‘anhu, who was not present at the arbitration; he did not want that, and he never thought of it.
It was narrated from ‘Amr ibn Sa’d that his brother ‘Umar went to Sa’d radiya Llahu ‘anhu, who was tending his sheep outside Madinah. When he came to him, he said:
O my father, are you content to be like a Bedouin, tending your sheep, while the people are disputing power in Madinah?
Sa’d radiya Llahu ‘anhu struck ‘Umar on the chest and said:
Be quiet! I heard the Rasul of Allah ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam say: “Allah loves the slave who is pious, pure and not prominent.”
Attitude of Ahlus Sunnah towards these wars
The attitude of Ahl as-Sunnah wa l-Jama’ah towards this war that took place between the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhu is to refrain from discussing what happened between them except in a manner that is befitting to them radiya Llahu ‘anhum, because deliberating about what happened among them may generate enmity, hatred and resentment against one of the two parties.
It is obligatory for every Muslim to love all of the Sahabah, to ask Allah to be pleased with all of them and to have mercy on all of them, to acknowledge their virtues and recognise their great deeds and noble character. What happened between them was based only on independent judgments (ijtihad), and they will all be rewarded, whether they were right or wrong, but the reward of those who got it right will be double that of those who got it wrong on the basis of their independent reasoning. Among the Sahabah, both the one who killed and the one who was killed will be in paradise. Ahlus Sunnah wa l-Jama’ah do not regard it as permissible to debate about the conflict between them.
Before quoting the opinions of a number of Sunni scholars explaining their attitude towards the dispute among the Sahabah, I shall quote some texts relating to the fighting that occurred among the Sahabah, to see how it was described in those texts:
وَ اِنْ طَآئِفَتٰنِ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِیْنَ اقْتَتَلُوْا فَاَصْلِحُوْا بَیْنَهُمَاۚ فَاِنْۢ بَغَتْ اِحْدٰهُمَا عَلَی الْاُخْرٰی فَقَاتِلُوا الَّتِیْ تَبْغِیْ حَتّٰی تَفِیْٓءَ اِلٰٓی اَمْرِ اللّٰهِۚ فَاِنْ فَآءَتْ فَاَصْلِحُوْا بَیْنَهُمَا بِالْعَدْلِ وَ اَقْسِطُوْا ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ یُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِیْنَ
Allah subhanahu wa ta `ala says: (And if two parties [or groups] among the believers fall to fighting, then make peace between them both. But if one of them rebels against the other, then fight you [all] against the one that which rebels till it complies with the Command of Allah. Then if it complies, then make reconciliation between them justly, and be equitable. Verily, Allah loves those who are the equitable.).
In this verse, Allah enjoins reconciliation among the believers if fighting occurs among them. They are brothers, and this fighting does not mean that they are no longer believers, since Allah calls them believers here and enjoins reconciliation among them. If fighting does take place among ordinary believers, and it does not mean that they are no longer believers, then the Sahabah of the Rasul of Allah ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam who fought at the Battle of the Camel and in subsequent battles are the first who should be included under the heading of believers that is mentioned in this verse. Before their Lord, they are still true believers, and the conflict that arose among them does not affect their faith at all because it came about on the basis of independent reasoning.
It was narrated that Abu Sa’id al Khudri radiya Llahu ‘anhu said:
“The Rasul of Allah ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “There will be a group who will go beyond the pale of Islam at the time of Muslim division, and they will be killed by the group that is closer to the truth.”
The division referred to in this hadith is the dispute between ‘Ali and Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhuma. Rasul ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam described both groups as being Muslims and connected to the truth. This hadith is one of the signs of his nubuwwah; because things turned out exactly as foretold by Rasul ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The hadith also rules that both groups were Muslims, both the people of Syria and the people of Iraq. It is not true that the people of Syria were regarded as disbelievers, as the Rawafid and ignorant folk claim.
This also indicates that the Sahabah of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu were the closer of the two groups to the truth. It is the view of Ahl as-Sunnah wa l-Jama’ah that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was in the right, but that Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu will be rewarded, Allah willing, since he acted on the basis of what he thought was correct. ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was the ruler, though, and he will have two rewards, as is proven in Sahih al Bukhari:
If the ruler or judge strives to reach a verdict and gets it right, he will have two rewards; if he strives to reach a verdict and gets it wrong, he will have one reward.
It was narrated that Abu Bakrah radiya Llahu ‘anhu said:
While Rasul ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was delivering a sermon, Hasan came, and Rasul ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “This son of mine is a leader, and perhaps Allah will reconcile two great groups of the Muslims through him.”
In this hadith, we see the Rasul’s ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam testimony that both the people of Iraq and the people of Syria are Muslim. This hadith is also a clear refutation of the Khawarij, who regarded both ‘Ali and Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, and their supporters, as disbelievers; the testimony included in this hadith is that they were all Muslims. Hence Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah used to say:
We liked it very much that he referred to the two groups as being two groups of Muslims.
Al Bayhaqi said:
He liked it because Rasul ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam called them all Muslims. This is a case of the Rasul of Allah ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam foretelling that after the death of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu, Hasan ibn ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu would hand the reins of power to Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
The hadith mentioned above refers to the people of Iraq who were with ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu and the people of Syria who were with Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan radiya Llahu ‘anhu Rasul ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam described them as being part of his ummah and also described them as all being connected to the truth and not going beyond it. He testified that they would continue to be believers and would not go beyond that because of the fighting that took place between them; they were included in the general meaning of the verse in which Allah E says:
وَ اِنْ طَآئِفَتٰنِ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِیْنَ اقْتَتَلُوْا فَاَصْلِحُوْا بَیْنَهُمَاۚ
And if two parties [or groups] among the believers fall to fighting, then make peace between them both.
We have seen above that this verse encompasses all of them, may Allah be pleased with them all. They did not become disbelievers or evildoers because of that fighting; rather their actions were based on what they thought was correct. The ruling on their fighting was explained by ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu ‘anhu, as we have seen.
What the Muslim must do with regard to what he believes about what happened among the noble Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum is to follow the way of Ahlus Sunnah wa l-Jama’ah, which means refraining from taking sides concerning what happened among them and not indulging in discussing that except in a manner that befits their status.
The books of Ahlus Sunnah are full of explanations of their sound and pure belief with regard to those who were chosen to be the Sahabah of Rasul ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Ahlus Sunnah defined their attitude towards the war that broke out among them in good terms, such as the following:
1. ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz rahimahu Llah was asked about the fighting that took place among the Sahabah, and he said:
This is blood that Allah kept our hands free from, so why should I not keep my tongue out of it, too? The likeness of the Sahabah of the Rasul of Allah ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is that of the eye; the best way to heal the eye is not to touch it.
Al Bayhaqi said, commenting on these words of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz rahimahu Llah:
This is very good, because keeping quiet about what does not concern one is the right thing to do.
2. Hasan al Basri rahimahu Llah was asked about the Sahabah fighting amongst themselves, and he said:
That was fighting in which the Sahabah of Muhammad ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam were present, and we were not; they knew, but we do not know. In the issues, on which they agreed, we follow; on the issues on which they differed, we refrain from taking a stance.
The meaning of these words of Hasan al Basri is that the Sahabah had more knowledge of what they got involved in than we do. All we have to do is follow them in that on which they were agreed, refrain from taking a stance on that concerning which they differed, and not introduce our own opinion. We may be certain that they based their actions on what they thought was correct, seeking Allah E thereby, because they were sincere in their commitment to Islam.
3. Jafar ibn Muhammad al Sadiq was asked about what happened among the Sahabah, and he replied:
I say what Allah said:
قَالَ عِلْمُهَا عِنْدَ رَبِّیْ فِیْ کِتٰبٍۚ لا یَضِلُّ رَبِّیْ وَ لا یَنْسَی
The knowledge there of is with my Lord, in a record. My Lord neither errs nor does He forget.
Imam Ahmed (may Allah have mercy on him) said, after he was asked about what happened between ‘Ali and Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhuma:
I do not say anything about them except that which is best.
It was narrated that Ibrahim ibn Ariz al Faqih said:
I was with Ahmed ibn Hanbal when a man asked him about what happened between ‘Ali and Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhuma. He turned away from him, and it was said to him: “O Abu ‘Abdullah, he is a man of Banu Hashim.” So he turned towards him and recited the verse:
تِلْکَ اُمَّةٌ قَدْ خَلَتۚ لَهَا مَا کَسَبَتْ وَلَكُمْ مَّا کَسَبْتُمْۚ وَلا تُسْـَٔلُوْنَ عَمَّا کَانُوْا یَعْمَلُوْنَ
That was a nation who has passed away. They shall receive the reward of what they earned, and you of what you earn. And you will not be asked of what they used to do.
4. Ibn Abi Zaid al Qayrawani said, in the context of his discussion about what the Muslim is obliged to believe about the Sahabah of the Rasul of Allah ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and how they should be mentioned:
None of the Sahabah of Rasul ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam should be mentioned except in the best way, and we should refrain from debating about the dispute that occurred among them because they are the most deserving of people of finding the best way of interpreting what they said and did, and of being thought of in the most positive manner.
5. Abu ‘Abdullah ibn Battah said, in his discussion on the belief of Ahlus Sunnah wa l-Jama’ah:
Moreover, we refrain from deliberating about the dispute that arose among the Sahabah of the Rasul of Allah ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. They were with him during major events, and they have precedence over others for that reason. Allah has forgiven them and has enjoined you to pray for forgiveness for them and to draw close to Him by loving them; that was enjoined on the lips of His Rasul ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. He knew what would happen between them and that they would fight; the reason they were given precedence over all other people is because all their mistakes, deliberate or otherwise, have been pardoned, and all their disputes have been forgiven.
6. Abu Bakr ibn at-Tayyib al Baqillani said:
It must be noted that with regard to the disputes that occurred among the Sahabah of Rasul ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam we should refrain from examining them and ask Allah to have mercy on all of them; we praise them and ask Allah to be pleased with them and to grant them safety (in the hereafter), victory and Paradise. We believe that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was right in what he did and will have two rewards, and that what the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum did was based on what they thought was best, so they will have one reward; they are not to be regarded as evildoers or innovators. The evidence for that is the verse in which Allah says:
لَقَدْ رَضِیَ اللهُ عَنِ الْمُؤْمِنِیْنَ اِذْ یُبَایِعُوْنَكَ تَحْتَ الشَّجَرَةِ فَعَلِمَ مَا فِیْ قُلُوْبِهِمْ فَاَنْزَلَ السَّکِیْنَةَ عَلَیْهِمْ وَ اَثَابَهُمْ فَتْحًا قَرِیْبًا
Indeed, Allah was pleased with the believers when they gave the Bay’ah [pledge] to you [O Muhammad ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam] under the tree, He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent down al Sakinah [calmness and tranquillity] upon them, and He rewarded them with a near victory,
and the words of Rasul ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam:
If the ruler or judge strives to reach a verdict and gets it right, he will have two rewards; if he strives to reach a verdict and gets it wrong, he will have one reward.
If the judge in our time will have two rewards for his effort to reach the right judgment, then what do you think about the effort of those with whom Allah is pleased and they are pleased with Him? The soundness of this view is indicated by the words of Rasul ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to Hasan radiya Llahu ‘anhu:
This son of mine is a leader, and perhaps Allah will reconcile two great groups of the Muslims through him.
The greatness of each of the two groups was confirmed, and it was ruled that their Islam was sound. Allah promised to remove the resentment from their hearts when He said:
وَنَزَعْنَا مَا فِیْ صُدُوْرِهِمْ مِّنْ غِلٍّ اِخْوَانًا عَلٰی سُرُرٍ مُّتَقٰبِلِیْنَ
And We shall remove from their breasts any deep feeling of bitterness [that they may have]. [So they will be like] brothers facing each other on thrones.
So we must refrain from debating about the conflict that occurred among them and keep quiet about it.
7. Ibn Taymiyyah said, when discussing the belief of Ahlus Sunnah wa l-Jama’ah concerning the conflict among the Sahabah:
They refrain from debating the conflict among the Sahabah and say: “These reports that mention bad conduct on their part includes reports to which things have been added, or from which things have been omitted, or which have been interpreted in the wrong way. As for those reports that are sound, they are excused for their conduct; or they based their conduct on what they thought was right, and they got it right; or they based their conduct on what they thought was right, but they got it wrong.”
8. Ibn Kathir said:
With regard to that concerning which they differed amongst themselves after the death of Rasul ‘salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam some of it happened without their intending it to, such as the Battle of the Camel; some of it was based on what they thought was correct, such as the Battle of Siffin. A decision may be mistaken, but the person is excused, even if it is wrong, he will be rewarded for it, and the one who gets it right will have two rewards.
9. Ibn Hajar said:
Ahl as-Sunnah are unanimously agreed that it is not allowed to criticise any of the Sahabah because of what happened to them, even if we know who was in the right, because they did not fight these battles except on the basis of what they believed was right. Indeed, it is proven that (the one who got it wrong) will have one reward, and the one who got it right will have two rewards.
Ahl as-Sunnah are unanimously agreed that it is obligatory to refrain from becoming too involved in examining the fitnah that occurred among the Sahabah after the murder of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu, and that we should pray for mercy for them, recognise the virtues of the Sahabah, acknowledge their precedence and spread reports of their good qualities.
 See Al Hajj 22: 25
 See: Al Watha’iq al Siyasiyyah, p. 537, 538;
 Marwiyat Abi Mikhnaf fi Tarikh al Tabari, p. 404
 Surah al A’raf: 175
 Surah al Jumu‘ah: 5
 Al Musannaf, 5/463; Marwiyat Abi Mikhnaf fi Tarikh al Tabari, p. 406
 Abu Hatim: al Marasil, p. 3; al Jarh wa al Ta’dil, 1/246
 Tahdhib al Tahdhib, 12/27; Marwiyat Abi Mikhnaf fi Tarikh al Tabari, p. 406
 Marwiyat Abi Mikhnaf fi Tarikh al Tabari, p. 406
 Tarikh Dimashq, 16/53
 Tahqiq Mawaqif al Sahabah, 2/223
 Marwiyat Abi Mikhnaf fi Tarikh al Tabari, p. 407
 Al Tarikh al Kabir, 4/2/267; Al Jarh wa al Ta’dil, 9/138
 Al Darimi: Al Tarikh, p. 238; Tahqiq Mawaqif al Sahabah, 2/223
 Al Du’afa’ wa l-Matrukin, p. 253
 Marwiyat Abi Mikhnaf fi Tarikh al Tabari, p. 408
 Al Tarikh al Kabir, 5/398
 Al ‘Awasim min al Qawasim, p. 178-180
 Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, 3/140
 Marwiyat Abi Mikhnaf fi Tarikh al Tabari, p. 409
 Al Fasl fi l-Milal wa al Nihal, 41160
 Tahqiq Mawaqif al Sahabah fi l-Fitnah, 2/225
 Al Mawardi: Al Ahkam al Sultaniyyah; Abu Ya’la: Al Ahkam al Sultaniyyah p. 20; Ghiyath al Umam, p. 79, etc.
 Ghiyaith al Umam, p. 128; Marwiyat Abi Mikhnaf fi Tarikh al Tabari, p. 410
 Al Fasl fi l-Milal wa al Nihal, 4/238
 Marwiyat Abi Mikhnaf fi Tarikh al Tabari, p. 411
 Sa’id ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz al Tanukhi, a trustworthy imam – al Taqrib.
 Tahdhib al Tahdhib, 4/60
 Tarikh al Tabari, 6/76
 Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, 8116
 al Fatawa, 35/73
 Sahih Muslim, 311480
 Sunan al Bayhaqi, 8/144
 Marwiyat Abi Mikhnaf, p. 412
 Bukhari, 5/48
 Fath al Bari, 7/466
 Marwiyat Abi Mikhnaf fi Tarikh al Tabari
 Tahqiq Mawaqif al Sahabah Fi l-Fitnah, 2/134
 A’lam al Nasr al Mubin fi l-Mufadalah bayna Ahl Siffin, p. 177
 Dowmat al Jandal: to the west of the city of al Jawf, in northern Arabia.
 Adhrah: a town on the border of Syria, near al Balqa’.
 Tarikh Khalifah, p. 191, 192
 ‘Abdul Hamid: Khilafah ‘Ali ibn ‘Abi Talib; p. 267
 Diwan Dhi al Rammah, p. 361, 362, quoted in Khilafah ‘Ali, p. 272
 ‘Abdul Hamid: Khilafah ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, p. 272
 Al Musnad, 1/168. Ahmed Shakir said: Its chain of narration is sound (3/26); Al Sulmi: Khilafah ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, p. 107
 ‘Aqidah Ahl as-Sunnah wal Jama’ah fis-Sahabah: al Kiram, 2/727; Tanzih Khal al Mu’minin Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan min adh-Dhulm wal Fisq fi Mutalibatihi bi Damm Amir al Mu’minin ‘Uthman, p. 41
 Surah al Hujirat: 9
 al ‘Awasim min al Qawasim, p. 169, 170; Ahkam al Qur’an, 4/1717
 Muslim, 745
 Bukhari ma’a Sharhihi fi Fath al Bari, 13/318
 Bukhari, Kitab al Fitan, no. 7109
 Al Bayhaqi: Al I’tiqad, p. 198; Fath al Bari, 13/66
 In Sahih Muslim it says: “There will be two groups of my Ummah.”
 Surah al Hujarat: 9
 Al Baqillani: AI-Insaf, p. 69 ; Al Tabaqat, 5/349
 Manaqib al Shafi’i; p. 136
 Al Jami’ li Ahkam al Qur’an, 16/332
 Surah Taha: 52
 Ibn al Jawzi: Manaqib al Imam Ahmed, p. 164
 Surah al Baqarah: 141
 Al Risalah ma’a Sharhiha al Thamr al Dani, p. 23
 Al Sham wa l-Ibanah ‘ala Usul al Sunnah wa l-Diyanah; p. 268
 Surah al Fath: 18
 Bukhari: al Fitan, no. 7109
 Surah al Hijr: 47
 Al Insaf fi ma yajib I’tiqaduhu wa la yajuz al Jahl bihi, p. 67-69
 Al Ba‘ith al Hathith, p. 182
 Fath al Bari, 13/34
 ‘Aqidah Ahlus Sunnah, 2/740Back to top