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Slide 1 - Ali & Mu`awiya Islamic History: the First 150 Years
Slide 2 - Session Plan The Accession of Ali The Battle of the Camel Ali & Mu`awiya The Battle of Siffin The Emergence of the Khawarij & the Death of Ali
Slide 3 - Section I: The Accession of Ali
Slide 4 - Ali’s Background Full name: Ali ibn Abi Talib ibn `Abd al-Muttalib Member of the Bani Hashim (Muhammad’s own clan) A cousin of Muhammad and his son-in-law Married to Muhammad’s daughter Fatima Father of Muhammad’s only surviving progeny, al-Hasan and al-Husayn After Fatima’s death, Ali married Khawla bint Ja’far of the Bani Hanifa tribe They had a son later known as Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya (or ‘the son of the Hanafi woman’) After the death of Muhammad and his uncle al-`Abbas, Ali became the head of the Bani Hashim clan He was thus the head of the Ahl al-Bayt (or ‘People of the House’) Muhammad’s family were seen as important (and still are) in that they were believed to carry a special kind of charisma
Slide 5 - Perceptions of Ali Ali was one of the most famous members of the early Muslim community Indeed, he was something of a heroic figure A very early convert to Islam Some sources say he was the first male to convert (at approximately 10 years of age), others that he converted after Abu Bakr Such statements are probably also part of the wider Sunni-Shii debate on the relative rankings of these two men Ali was an active warrior, taking part in all of the early battles, where he distinguished himself for his bravery Widely held to be a very wise and knowledgeable man Muhammad is reported to have said: ‘I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its door’ As with Umar, Ali had a strong reputation for justice Shia tradition depicts Ali as the first Imam after Muhammad, with a strong emphasis on his esoteric knowledge Many later Islamic movements (Sunni or Shia) see Ali as a particular role model Many sufi orders (tariqat) see him as one of their founding fathers
Slide 6 - The Accession of Ali As we saw in the last session, Ali became caliph amidst the turmoil following the assassination of Uthman Ali’s accession was thus somewhat anomalous However, he seems to have been the only realistic candidate at the time and thus received the open support of virtually all of the Medinan elite However, Tabari cites a number of reports which throw some doubt on the pledges of Talha and al-Zubayr Some state they gave their allegiances willingly, others say they did so under duress (Tabari I.3066-3069) All of the provincial governors, except Mu`aiwya, seem to have accepted Ali’s accession and thus pledged their allegiance Many members of the Umayyad clan fled to Mu`awiya in Syria News of Uthman’s murder and Ali’s accession probably reached the provinces simultaneously
Slide 7 - Section II: The Battle of the Camel
Slide 8 - The Battle of the Camel Arguing that their oath of allegiance was made under duress, Talha and al-Zubayr ask leave of Ali to make the pilgrimage to Mecca This is accepted and once there they begin to rally support against Ali They join up with Aisha (Muhammad’s widow), and then begin to amass an army Their campaign is based upon a call for vengeance for Uthman However, as we saw previously, some of our sources record that Aisha and others had helped foment the revolt against Uthman They then moved from Mecca to Basra (where Talha had large support) and from there formed an army Ali, meanwhile, had moved to Kufa The two sides met in battle shortly after, the first time Muslim had fought Muslim
Slide 9 - The Battle of the Camel In many ways, it was also the first act in a much larger civil war It was called the ‘Battle of the Camel’ because the fighting centred around Aisha’s armoured camel The result was a resounding victory for Ali Talha and al-Zubayr were killed and Aisha was sent back to Medina During this time, Mu`awiya refuses to pledge allegiance to Ali
Slide 10 - A Brief Pause Turn to the person next to you and spend a couple of minutes summarising the lecture thus far. Questions?
Slide 11 - Section III: Ali & Mu`awiya
Slide 12 - Mu`awiya’s Background Full name: Mu`awiya ibn Abi Sufyan ibn Harb ibn Umayya Mu`awiya was thus a prominent member of the wealthy Umayyad clan His father, Abu Sufyan, had led the opposition to Muhammad Mu`awiya was a late convert to Islam himself Some reports record that he acted as Muhammad’s secretary Appointed governor of Syria by Umar After Ali’s election, the Umayyad clan flee to him He is thus joined by Marwan ibn al-Hakam and Amr ibn al-`As (the conqueror of Egypt) The sources generally depict these two as being prime movers against Ali
Slide 13 - Correspondence Ali and Mu`awiya debate the issue by letter Mu`awiya refuses to recognise Ali as caliph Based mainly on his claim that Ali was involved in Uthman’s murder He argued that he was thus Uthman’s nearest and most able kinsman who sought the retaliation sanctioned by the Quran This theme runs through virtually all of Mu`awiya’s correspondence with Ali The impact of poetry Let’s look at some examples
Slide 14 - Correspondence ‘By my life, if the people were pledging allegiance to you and you were innocent of the blood of Uthman you would be like Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman, may God be pleased with them all. But you incited the Muhajirun against Uthman and induced the Ansar to desert him, so the ignorant obeyed you and the feeble became strong through you. The people of Syria [ahl al-Sham] accept nothing but to fight you until you surrender to them the killers of Uthman. If you do, there will be a shura among the Muslims. The people of Hijaz used to the judges over the people holding the right in their hands, but since they abandoned it, the right is now in the hands of the people of Syria. By my life, your argument against me is not like your argument against Talha and al-Zubayr since they pledged allegiance to you and I have not pledged allegiance to you. Nor is your argument against the Syrians like you argument against the Basrans, since the Basrans [at first] obeyed you, and the Syrians did not. As for your nobility in Islam and your close kinship with the Messenger of God and your place among Quraysh, I do not deny them’ (Pseudo-Ibn Qutayba, Imama I.166-7, quoted in Madelung, 1999, 205)
Slide 15 - Correspondence Ali counters each of these points in his response, arguing that he did not kill Uthman, though he was unhappy with his conduct He also argued that there was no one in Syria with enough seniority (in Islamic terms) to be caliph and that this was widely known He ordered his own poet to respond to Ka’b ibn Ju`ayl
Slide 16 - Correspondence ‘As for your statement: hand over the killers of Uthman, what are you in relation to Uthman? You are merely a man of Banu Umayya, and the sons of Uthman are more entitled to that than you. But if you claim that you are more powerful than they to seek retaliation for the blood of Uthman, enter under my obedience and then bring the people before me for judgement, and I shall put you and them on the road to justice. As for your distinction between Syria and Basra and between [you] and Talha and al-Zubayr, by my life, the matter there is in every way the same because it was a general pledge of allegiance in which neither a second view may be taken nor an option renewed’ (al-Minqari, Waq`at Siffin 57-9, quoted in Madelung, 206) Al-Najashi (Ali’s poet): ‘You have made Ali and his followers the equal of Ibn Hind, are you not ashamed?’
Slide 17 - Correspondence Mu’awiya: first 3 caliphs were righteous but Ali opposed them all… ‘Yet each one you envied, and against each one you revolted. We knew from your looking askance, your offensive speech, your heavy sighing, and your holding back from the caliphs. To each one of them you had to be led as the male camel is led by the wood stick through its nose in order to give your pledge of allegiance while you were loath. Then you were consumed by envy towards your cousin Uthman, who was most entitled among them to your refraining from that because of his kinship and marriage ties with you. Yet against him in secret and openly…arms were borne against him in the sanctuary of the Messenger of God, and he was killed while you were with him in the same place, hearing the frightful screams…
Slide 18 - Correspondence `…Yet you do not even try to deflect suspicion and accusation in his respect from yourself by word or act…Another matter is your giving shelter to his murderers. They are your backbone, your helpers, your hand, and your entourage. It has been mentioned to me that you disavow blood guilt for him. If you are truthful, give us power over his murderers that we may kill them for him, and we shall be the quickest people to join you. If not, there is nothing for you and your companions but the sword. By the One beside whom there is no God, we shall seek the murderers of Uthman on the mountains and in the deserts, on land and on sea, until God kills them, or our spirits join God’ (al-Minqari, Waq`at Siffin 86-7, quoted in Madelung, 211-212)
Slide 19 - Correspondence Ali’s next response is important (and somewhat lengthy) and is recorded, with some variations, by al-Minqari & al-Baladhuri… ‘You have mentioned that God chose for him helpers among the Muslims through whom He backed him and they were in their ranking with Him according to their merits in Islam. The most excellent, you asserted…were the khalifa and then the khalifa of the khalifa. By my life, their station in Islam is indeed great and the loss of them a grievous wound in it, may God have mercy on them and reward them with the best reward. You mentioned further that Uthman was third in excellence. If Uthman was indeed doing good, God will recompense him for it, and if he was doing evil, he will meet a Lord most merciful for whom no sin is too great to be forgiven…’
Slide 20 - Correspondence Ali then refers to the Qurayshi persecution of Muhammad and the earliest Muslims He then refers to the ahl al-bayt and their services to Islam… ‘Whenever matters got tough and the battle cry was sounded, he used to put the people of his house up in the front rank and protected his Companions from the heat of the lances and the sword. Thus Ubayda [ibn al-Harith ibn al-Muttalin] was killed on the day of Badr, Hamza on the day of Uhud, Ja`far and Zayd [ibn Haritha] on the day of Mu’ta. The one whose name I would mention, if I so wished, more than once sought for the sake of God the same martyrdom they sought, yet their terms were expedited, while his death was delayed…For I have not seen anyone among the people, who was more sincere to God in his obedience to His Messenger, or more submissive to His Messenger in obedience to his Lord…than these few whom I named to you, even though there was much good among the Emigrants which we recognise, may God reward them for their best of works’
Slide 21 - Correspondence Ali then refers to his relationship with Abu Bakr and Umar… ‘You mentioned my envy of the caliphs, my holding back from them, and my rebellion against them. As regards rebellion, God forbid that there was. As for my holding back from them, and my being loath of their affair, I do not apologise for that to the people, because when God took away His Prophet, Quraysh said, ‘From us an amir’, and the Ansar said, ‘From us an amir’. Then Quraysh said: ‘From us is Muhammad, so we are entitled to ‘this matter’. The Ansar recognised that and surrendered to them the reign and the authority. Yet if they deserved it through Muhammad to the exclusion of the Ansar, then the people closest to Muhammad are more entitled to it than they. If not, the Ansar surely have the greatest portion among the Arabs…’
Slide 22 - Correspondence Finally, Ali reminded Mu`awiya of his father’s support for him… ‘Your father came to when the people put up Abu Bakr as their ruler and said: ‘You are more entitled to ‘this matter’ after Muhammad; I back you in this against whoever opposes you. Stretch out your hand that I pledge allegiance to you’. But I did not do it. You know that your father said this and desired it, and I feared division among the people of Islam. Thus your father was more ready to recognise my right than you. If you recognise my right, you will come to your good senses. But if you will not, God will let us dispense with you’ (al-Minqari Waq`at Siffin 88-91; al-Baladhuri Ansab al-Ashraf II, 279-283)
Slide 23 - Towards Siffin As we can see from these passages, the attempts at negotiation failed As such, after some minor skirmishing, Ali gathered his forces and moved towards Syria Mu`awiya, likewise, began mobilising his own forces The two armies met each other at Siffin, in what is now northern Iraq
Slide 24 - Section IV: The Battle of Siffin
Slide 25 - The Battle of Siffin The subsequent battle at Siffin was one of the most important events in Islamic history In some ways, it marked the decisive fracture of the old order It also saw the first real emergence of two key groups, the Shia and the Khawarij Although the Battle of the Camel had been the first Muslim vs. Muslim conflict, Siffin was a far more serious affair Although the sources almost universally refer to it as the Battle of Siffin it was in fact a series of small skirmishes, and a major battle Due to the diffuse nature of Arab tribes, sections from most of the large confederacies fought on both sides Thus, again, Siffin proved to be very divisive Mu`awiya’s forces reached Siffin first and attempted to block access to water This caused some dissent within his own ranks and prompted a concerted attack from Ali
Slide 26 - The Battle of Siffin This attack was led by Malik al-Ashtar and al-Ash`ath ibn Qays, two of Ali’s most committed supporters This was followed by more sporadic fighting, and attempts at further negotiation All out battle began on 8th Safar 38 AH (26th July 657) Ubaydullah ibn Umar (who had joined Mu`awiya) led the initial charge and after heavy fighting was himself slain The sources report that the main battle itself was fought over three days and the outcome seems to have long been in doubt Towards the end of the battle, Ali’s forces mounted a forceful attack and almost succeeded in reaching Mu`awiya himself The traditional account states that at this point the Syrian troops began raising copies of the Quran on their lances This was interpreted as a sign for arbitration The sources state that this was Amr ibn al-As’ idea, aimed at avoiding immanent defeat Whatever the reason, the gesture was accepted and the two sides called an armistice
Slide 27 - Section V: The Death of Ali
Slide 28 - After Siffin Ali & Mu`awiya agreed to arbitration, though the sources depict Ali as very unhappy with the situation It seems as though dissent within Ali’s ranks forced him to accept the arbitration Mu`awiya by contrast seems to have been keen on the proposal At any rate, the two sides agreed to select two arbitrators who would then spend one year negotiating with each other They would then have power to settle the matter between them Mu`awiya chose Amr ibn al-As, a wily politician Ali chose Abu Musa al-Ash`ari, a former governor of Kufa and seemingly a lukewarm supporter of his The choice seems a strange one, modern authors (such as Madelung) argue that the choice of Abu Musa was forced on Ali by Kufan elements unhappy at the prospect of prolonged war
Slide 29 - After Siffin Abu Musa and Amr met on at least 2 occasions Tradition holds that the wily Amr outwitted Abu Musa According to their agreement, both men would disavow their respective patrons and then initiate a shura to choose the most suitable candidate However, at the final public meeting, Amr refused to follow Abu Musa’s lead and publicly declared Mu`awiya to be the rightful caliph Thus not only had Mu`awiya been declared legitimate, but Ali had had his own authority questioned Although it is hard to see why Ali did not disown the arbitration, it certainly did weaken his authority The meeting thus broke up in hostility and mutual recrimination Fighting soon broke out again During late 39AH – early 40AH, Mu`awiya sent a strong force under one Busr ibn Abi Artah to raid Arabia
Slide 30 - After Siffin The sources report that Busr’s raid was both effective and cruel, in that many were killed and enslaved Ali’s governors put up some token resistance but were unable to defend their provinces This raid was also a deep challenge to Ali’s authority and was combined with an attack on Egypt, which was given to Amr ibn al-As Despite these losses, the cruelty of Busr’s raid solidified support for Ali in Iraq and Medina
Slide 31 - After Siffin: the Emergence of the Khawarij Ali agreeing to arbitration caused a further split in his ranks A large group of religiously minded tribesmen seceded from his camp declaring ‘la hukm illa lillah’ Or, in English, ‘No judgement but God’s’ In other words, this group felt that Ali should not have submitted to arbitration but should have continued to fight Mu`awiya to the end After calling on Ali to repent, a large group left Kufa and went to Nahrawan The group are known by a number of names, the most common of which is al-Khawarij This means, literally, ‘those who go out’, or ‘those who secede’ Despite this act of apparent sedition, Ali at first left them alone, preferring diplomacy However, the group in Nahrawan began to attack other settlements, declaring them apostate Ali thus surrounded them, and after a failed attempt at diplomacy, destroyed them in battle
Slide 32 - The Khawarij & Ali’s Death Survivors of the massacre at Nahrawan dispersed into the countryside A group of some 400 men moved towards Kufa (from the direction of al-Mada’in) and attacked a force of 700 sent by Ali, under the command of Shurayh ibn Hani Ali himself led an army against them and eventually defeated them Ali’s main attention was, however, focused on Mu`awiya’s recent attacks on Arabia At any rate, shortly after, on Friday 17th Ramadan 40AH (26th January 661CE), Ali was assassinated in the mosque in Kufa His assassin was one Ibn Muljam, a khariji and a survivor of Nahrawan Upon attacking Ali, Ibn Muljam is said to declared ‘The judgement belongs to God, Ali, not to you’ (al-Baladhuri Ansab al-Ashraf II 487-496) Ibn Muljam was apprehended before he could flee and Ali, who was still alive, ordered him to be executed if he died Ali’s death came at a time when his fortunes seemed to be changing Despite the loss of Arabia and Egypt, Iraq had swung firmly behind him
Slide 33 - Aftermath Ali’s death created a power vacuum in Medina Ali’s eldest son, al-Hasan, was elected caliph in Kufa Hasan seems to have been a very mild man and perhaps realising that he could not match Mu`awiya, he made peace The terms of this peace meant that Hasan abdicated, thus making Mu`awiya caliph He received a pension and some sources report that he was appointed Mu`awiya’s successor Having secured his authority, Mu`awiya marched into Kufa, thereby becoming the sole caliph Although we will look more closely at Mu`awiya next time, it is worth noting a few points now Firstly, in many ways, his accession marked the end of the power of the Medinan Islamic elite Later Sunni tradition acknowledges this change when it refers to the first four caliphs as Khulafa’ al-Rashidun (‘Rightly Guided Caliphs’) Moreover, virtually all of our sources understand Mu`awiya’s caliphate as marking a transition to ‘hereditary kingship’ (mulk in Arabic) But, this is the subject of next week