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Hazrat Ali and some of main events of his caliphate


Hazrat Ali and some of main events of his caliphate - Islamic History

Ali bin Abu Talib's election was carried out in very different circumstances. The snake of conspiracy that had begun to bite its venomous fangs during the Caliphate of Uthman was now an intricate web that had penetrated far and wide into all sections of Muslim society. Having staged Uthman's murder, the rebels were in a hurry to get someone elected before the people of Medina returned from Makka after Hajj.

Three electoral pressure groups were formed, but unfortunately, all were deeply infiltrated by the insurgents. The first and strongest was the Egyptian group (including Ammar bin Yasir, Muhammad bin Abu Bakr and Abdullah bin Saba), which supported Ali; the Kufans, supporting Zubair bin Awwan and the Basrans, who wanted Talha bin Ubaidullah to be Caliph. It should be remembered that the Companions of the Holy Prophet, all of them, were over and above any form of personal greed or desire for power. The Holy Prophet had warned them all of the great responsibilities of government, and the dire consequences of even unintentional failure to fulfil the same.

Ali himself was of the opinion that any of the other two be elected. On 21st ZilHajj 35AH (23rd June 656 AD) Ali was elected as the fourth rightly guided Caliph of Islam.

Ali's Caliphate

Ali assumed government at perhaps the most difficult time in the history of Islam. The capital Medina, as well as the provinces, were in the grip of terror; chaos and anarchy carefully cultivated by the insurgents, with several thousand of their alien agents in the capital that had just witnessed the brutal murder of its Caliph.

Strong cries were being raised from all quarters to punish the terrorists that had killed Uthman. Ali, on the other hand, had different priorities and gave precedence to the consolidation and reorganization of the Islamic Empire before taking action against any individual. Perhaps, he wanted to strike at the root of the conspiracy. In this regard, he issued orders for the dismissal of all provincial governors. This step proved to be counter-productive as all his nominees failed to win popular support, especially in Kufa and Syria. In these two, the appointees were unable to even enter their respective provinces.

The blend of the above unfavourable circumstances further aggravated the situation, and eventually led to the first civil wars in Islam.

Battle of Camel (Jamal)

Dissatisfied with the pace of events regarding the action against Uthman's killers, a 15,000-man army marched towards Basra in August 656 AD. The mother of the faithful, Ayesha bint Abu Bakr herself led the army and was flanked by Talha and Zubair. This army entered Basra, putting as many as six hundred rebels to death and forced its newly appointed governor, Uthman bin Hanif to flee.

In the meantime, Ali was preparing a 20,000-strong army to cope with the situation in Syria whose governor Muawiya had refused to take an oath of allegiance (Bai'yat). He diverted his attention towards Basra and met Ayesha's forces in October 656.

The negotiations began, ending in mutual agreement by December 656. This was certainly not in the favor of the rebels who had gone to such great lengths to cause infighting amongst the Muslims. A band of them masterminded an attack on Ayesha's army during the night, provoking them to retaliate against Ali's army. In the fighting that ensued, Zubair was killed in combat while Talha received fatal wounds. Ayesha's own camel was overpowered, and its legs were cut, thus giving the name "Battle of Camel (Jamal)" to this event. Ayesha withdrew to Medina, retiring from any further politics.

Ten thousand combatants lay dead from both sides in this very first civil war in Islam. This was another success for the conspirators, as it further weakened the position of the Caliph, the stability of the empire in general as well as created further discord in the Muslim community at large. After this battle, the Caliph Ali shifted the capital to Kufa.

Clash between Ali and Muawiya

Muawiya bin Abi Sufyan, the governor of Syria had been appointed by Umar bin Khattab, and ruled his province quite successfully, and was also quite popular regionally. He refused to take Bai'yt to Ali when he was elected Caliph on the grounds that the murder of Uthman be avenged, and Qisas be announced. There was a difference of opinion regarding this issue between two huge factions of Muslims, led by Muawiya on one hand and Ali on the other. Both factions included senior companions and a reasonable agreement would surely have come through. But the hidden hand of the conspirators was working to aggravate the situation to the extent that war became inevitable.

The public display of Uthman's blood-stained shirt and the attempted dismissal of Muawiya by Ali led to the Battle of Siffin.

Battle of Siffin

On May 657 AD, the armies of Ali (70,000 to 90,000) and Muawiya (slightly smaller) met at Siffin in Syria. Negotiations began and went on for many months, as the companions of the Holy Prophet were reluctant to fight amongst themselves and sought a peaceful solution. In July, the negotiations failed and fierce fighting erupted. Ali's army being superior in strength, began to gain ground and Muawiya's began to retreat. Muawiya's soldiers brought the combat to a halt by tying pages of the Quran to their spearheads.

Now a court of arbitration was set up, which was scheduled to meet in February 658. Ali appointed Abu Musa Ashari and Muawiya nominated Amr bin Al-As respectively as their arbitrators. At this point, several thousand soldiers broke away and formed a rebel army, which became known as 'Kharijites'.

The negotiations failed, and the causes are shrouded in the mysteries of time. There are conflicting reports as to who was to blame, but the hidden hand of conspirators cannot be ruled out. As Muslims, it is improper for us to take sides, as doing so would result in criticism of either one of the two blessed companions of the Holy Prophet . Therefore we move on to the next phase in history.

The rivalry between the two continued until a short-lived truce was signed in January 660, but fighting on different fronts renewed soon after. Ali, Amr bin As, and Muawiya were attacked in an assassination attempt by Kharjites on the very same night in a synchronized effort to wipe out the leadership of that time. Muawiya escaped, Amr was injured but Ali was fatally wounded.

On 19th Ramadan 40AH, Jan 661, Ali bin Abi Talib, the last of the four rightly guided, succumbed to the wounds.


Ali took charge in times of turmoil and crisis. His time was dedicated to the consolidation of the empire, and little expansion took place. The first-ever civil wars took place in his reign, and many companions were killed fighting each other. He stood firm in testing times, and he ruled by the Book of Allah and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Ty, as he had announced on his election. He finally laid down his life for the sake of Islam.

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