ISLAM’S ROYAL FAMILY
PART 5: ALI AND MU'AWIYAH
THE FAMILY FEUD CONTINUES
The Bible, John 13:34, 35
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
The Quran 8:63 Al Anfal (The Spoils)
He it is Who has supported you with His Help and with the believers. And He has united their (i.e. believers') hearts. If you had spent all that is in the earth, you could not have united their hearts, but Allah has united them. Certainly He is All-Mighty, All-Wise.
Puddles of blood soak into the desert sands near Basra as the bodies of some 12,000 Muslims bleed into the earth. Tens of thousands more are maimed, and over the battlefield men suffer in biting agony. Ali surveys this grim scene and takes little pleasure in his first victory. He has just defeated three of Muhammad’s best loved Companions: Aisha (Muhammad’s child bride), Talha, and az-Zubayr. The two men were especially notable for Muhammad had guaranteed them entrance to Paradise and they were once contenders for the Caliphate. Yet for all their prominence their blood also colors the desert floor. These great Muslims were also cut down by fellow Muslims. Many other lesser “companions” had fallen. Despite the brutal victory Ali focuses upon a greater peril. He sees the ominous storm clouds on time’s horizon; and knows that the streams of blood now at his feet will be dwarfed by the rivers of blood yet to flow.
Chapter one of the official period of Islamic “fitnah”, or rebellion, just ended, and chapter two begins. The long underlying conflict between Muhammad and Abu Sufyan re-appeared and the grudge revived. In this chapter of the conflict, Ali - Muhammad’s son-in-law, and Mu'awiyah - Abu Sufyan’s son, play the opposing roles.
“You know a tree by its fruit”. This series of articles evaluates Islam based upon its fruit. I assert that Islam should be judged by its fruits and that some of the most accurate fruit to judge would be the words and deeds of Muhammad’s closest Companions. After all, they knew him best, they lived with him through thick and thin, they put their lives on the line over and over again for him. They memorized the Quran, knew his lifestyle (Sunnah) traditions (Hadith). If anyone knew real Islam, it was them. Therefore, judge them to determine Islam’s true quality.
We will continue to review Tabari’s Historical works. Tabari collected the historical writings of many earlier Muslims. He often presents individual accounts as a whole, so, often one account covers a period of time, and then a following account, covering the same period. Hence the accounts will overlap, and important anecdotal facets are presented in story form, and his anecdotes are not sequenced in chronological order. In this part of the series, we will primarily use Tabari’s History, volume 17
Uthman had died and Ali became the Caliph. Ali had begun to rule around 35 AH. (722 A.D.). Other prominent Muslims opposed Ali instantly. Ali’s first major battle was against a group of Muslims near Basra, and they fought what is known as “The Battle of the Camel,” named after the intensity of conflict around Aisha’s camel. Another significant challenge to his Caliphate came from Mu'awiyah. He was the powerful governor of Syria. Mu'awiyah was the son of Muhammad’s chief enemy, Abu Sufyan. This irony was not lost upon Ali.
Mu'awiyah was no novice to the religious political game. His father was a shrewd politician and he taught his sons well. Forced to convert to Islam by point of the sword, Abu Sufyan played the old adage: “If you can’t beat em, join em.”, and became a Muslim. Sufyan secured special favors from Muhammad and worked to insure his progeny obtained political power. They did. When Abu Bakr was elected Caliph, Sufyan said that the shedding of blood would be required to cleanse that mistake.
Mu'awiyah had obtained the services of capable men. His leading general, Amr al-As, had recently finished a conquest of Egypt and was Islam’s first appointed governor of a region. Amr himself was a prominent Companion of Muhammad. He was a skilled leader and general. He did not fear Ali.
The night’s sleep brought no true rest for Ali. Immediately after Muhammad’s death, Ali’s life had become one of troubles. As one problem was resolved, another rose to take its place. After Muhammad’s death, Ali demanded Muhammad’s inheritance from Abu Bakr and was rejected stoutly. Ali hated Abu Bakr. The same motive turned Ali bitter towards the next Caliph - Umar. Eventually Umar caved into Ali’s demands and went against Muhammad’s command to not distribute the wealth to family members. Ali thought himself more capable than the other so-called “rightly guided” Caliphs, but alas, Ali had not been elected or selected until after Uthman’s murder. Now, instead of being a grand event, Ali’s selection to the Caliphate was contested with controversy, death threats, and betrayal. There was no time for peace in Ali’s life. The upcoming Battle of Siffin was on the horizon.
We read in Tabari, volume 17, page 2, , that Ali appointed Abdallah b. Abbas, Muhammad’s cousin, as his deputy over Basra. (Ibn Abbas was the one who had earlier denigrated Ali in front of Umar see part 2 or Sahih Muslim, Book 019, Number 4349). Ali then proceeded to Kufa, (a garrison town which became his “home base”). There he asked for input from his counselors, and got conflicting input. Likewise, Mu'awiyah, hearing of Ali’s plans, summoned Amr and asked his advice....
Amr said, “Since you have heard that Ali is on his way, set out yourself and be sure to confront him with your views and your strategies.” Mu'awiyah replied, “In that case, Oh Abu Abdallah, prepare the men!”
Amr proceeded to work them up and to disparage the strength of Ali and his followers, saying, “The men of Iraq have split among themselves, sapped their own strength, and blunted their cutting edge. Moreover, the Basrans are opposed to Ali who had done them harm and dealt death to them. Their leaders and those of the Kufans wiped each other out at the Battle of the Camel, and Ali has set out with only a band few in number, among whom are those who killed your caliph. Fear God, lest you forfeit your right to claim vengeance and allow the blood of Uthman to go un-avenged.” (page 2).
As preparations were being made for the future conflict, Mu'awiyah shrewdly enlisted the support of many of Ali’s critics....
“He wrote to everybody he thought was afraid of Ali or had spoken evil of him and to everybody who considered the shedding of Uthman’s blood to have been a grave matter, and he asked for their help against him.” (page 3)
As Ali’s men moved towards Siffin, various towns refused to support them. Threats of death were made to force the townspeople to assist the march.
The initial series of battles occurred quickly. Ali’s vanguard encountered a force of Syrians. Ali dispatched one of his leading right hand men, Al-Ashtar, (one of the men associated with the murder of Uthman), to reinforce his vanguard. Then the initial battles began and Ali’s men were victorious.
The most significant of these initial skirmishes is called, “The Battle by the Water.” Tabari describes the setting in one of Ali’s men’s words:
When we came upon Mu'awiyah we found that he had set up camp in a flat and broad space, which he had chosen before we arrived, alongside a watering place in the Euphrates. In that area there was no other place to obtain water, and Mu'awiyah had put it under his control and sent Abu al-A’war to deny access to it and to guard it. We went farther up the Euphrates in the hope of finding some other drinking place that would do for us, but we did not and so went back to Ali. We told him about the thirst the men were suffering and that we had found no other place in which to get water but that of the enemy, and he said, “Fight them for it.” (Tabari, volume 17, page 11).
Here we are given a picture of Ali’s strong leadership and determination. His men defeated Mu'awiyah’s and gained access to the water. Ali had drawn first blood, and he and his men, (primarily Kufans and Basrans (Iraqis)), proved their mettle.
Following that there were series of dialogs and maneuvers, but nothing of note occurred. Ali appealed to Mu'awiyah to obey Him and stand unified with all other Muslims. Mu'awiyah replied that if Ali were to punish Uthman’s murderers, some of whom had joined Ali’s effort, that he would then submit to Ali. Neither side yielded so the skirmishing and war of words continued.
A key dialog took place between Ali’s messengers and Mu'awiyah. This dialog depicts what the players knew to be intrinsic to the conflict. From page 17 we read...
“Mu'awiyah, I understood your reply to Ibn Mihasn, and, by God, we are not unaware of what you intend and seek. The only way you could find to misguide the people, pervert their desires, and get from them their obedience was by saying “Your Iman was killed unjustly, and we seek revenge for his blood!” Some stupid riffraff responded to it, but we know that you delayed in giving Uthman help and that you desired his killing so that you might obtain this position that you now seek. ...”
The fighting continued on a small scale because Ali did not want a repeat of the slaughter at the Battle of the Camel (see part 4 for more details). Some days fighting was heavier than others, but by in large, no grand battles at this time were fought. Ali was hoping that Mu'awiyah would have a change of heart.
There came a special month and a truce was called. The dialogs continued but with no change. One such dialog between Mu'awiyah and Adi presents Mu'awiyah’s point of view...
Mu'awiyah replied: “It is as if you have come merely to threaten not to reach a settlement. You could not be more wrong. Adi, I am the son of Harb, (Harb means war his grandfather’s name), by God, you are one of those who raised a clamor against Uthman, one of those who killed him, and I hope that you will be one of those whom God will kill for it. How wrong you are, Adi Hatim you have resorted to force when you could not succeed by persuasion.” (page 22).
The dialogs continued but with no success. However, on pages 25 and 26, Ali makes a statement that reveals his true heart in the choosing of Caliphs other than himself, and the killing of Uthman...
“The people appointed Abu Bakr as caliph, and Abu Bakr appointed Umar after him, and those two conducted themselves well and led the community with justice. We resented their ruling over us, the family of the Messenger of God, but we excused them for that. Then Uthman ruled and did things that the people found reprehensible, so that they came to him and killed him. Afterwards they came to me who was keeping out of their concerns, and they asked me to accept the oath of allegiance....But then I was surprised to find the dissension of two of those (Talha and az-Zubayr) who had given me the oath of allegiance, (under compulsion, see part 4), and the opposition of Mu'awiyah to whom God had given neither precedence in accepting the religion nor forebears of good character in Islam. He is one of those who were set free by the Prophet, and the son of one of them, a member of those parties that persisted in enmity to God, His Prophet, and the Muslims, both he and his father until they reluctantly entered Islam.”
One sees Ali’s hurt pride in not being selected as the Caliph, and his ambivalent attitude towards Uthman’s murder. The charges against Ali for slowness or refusal to move against Uthman’s killers were true. Even at this point, with the killers at his fingertips, Ali took no action against them. Further, Ali misrepresented Talha and az-Zubayr actions by saying they had given him the oath of allegiance while he knew it was coerced. Finally, Mu'awiyah’s historical identity was not lost upon Ali. He knew clearly who he was dealing with, and what he was up against. The feud between Abu Sufyan and Muhammad was now living and breathing between Ali and Mu'awiyah.
THE TRUCE ENDS
The month of truce ended, and Ali decided that it was time to settle the conflict with battle. He announced to the enemy troops that the truce was over. The leaders on each side rallied their men and battle was joined. The battle of Siffin was actually a series of day by day battles. Each day a few battalions of troops fought, but no whole scale battle yet occurred. Usually, each side held its ground, giving a good account of itself. However, the size of the battles was growing steadily.
A notable exhortation was given by Ammar, one of Ali’s generals, concerning Mu'awiyah...
“Men of Iraq, do you wish to look on one who showed enmity to God and His Messenger and struggled against them, one who oppressed the Muslims and gave support to polytheists? But when he saw that God would make mighty His religion and grant victory to His Messenger, he went to the Prophet and accepted Islam, it seems to us, out of fear and not from desire. Then God took to Himself His Messenger and, by God, this man continued to be known for enmity to the Muslims and forbearance to the evildoer. So hold firm against him and fight him, for he will extinguish God’s light and give help to His enemies.” (pages 31 and 32).
Ammar’s speech contained half truths. Abu Sufyan did accept only out of fear: he was threatened with his life by Ibn Abbas, in front of Muhammad! It was either join Islam or lose your head! Sufyan made the politically smart choice, as many others forced to convert to Islam had done before and since. Note however, that this forced conversion was allowed by Muhammad, and known throughout the community, and still accepted. Even during his life, Muhammad allowed his faith to become polluted, for political, not spiritual gain. Muhammad’s impure motives now threatened his own family!
The battles continued day by day. At times, Ali’s men held the edge, but the day’s end prohibited any decisive conclusion.
Another notable person Ubaydallah bin Umar bin al-Khattab the son of the second “rightly guided” Caliph Umar is detailed. After Uthman was murdered, he joined up with Mu'awiyah. Now, he was leading one of Mu'awiyah’ wings and encouraged them with the following statement....
Then the Syrians turned away, but it was not long before they attacked again, and Ubaydallah b. Umar was saying: “Men of Syria! This clan of the men of Iraq are the killers of Uthman b. Affan and the supports of Ali Abi Talib. If you defeat this tribe, you will attain your revenge for Uthman, and Ali b. Abi Talib and the men of Iraq will be destroyed...” (page 61).
However, things did not go well for Umar’s son. In the words of one of Ali’s soldiers....
We mounted our horses and then went forward and contested the fight. It was not long before Dhu al-Kala was struck down and Ubaydallah b. Umar killed... (page 62).
One Muslim composed some prose about Ubaydallah’s death....
“The eyes weep only for a horseman, whose fellows fled at Siffin while he stood firm, exchanging Asma (his wife) for the swords of Wail. He was a warrior; if only the fields of death had spared him. They left Ubaydallah on the battleground, his flowing veins spitting out blood from the wound.” (page 63).
How ironic that Abu Bakr’s son was one of Uthman’s murderers, and Umar’s son fought against him. Even the sons of the so-called, “Rightly Guided” Caliphs of Islam were striving to kill each other!
Another important dialog took place between a young warrior and Hashim b. Utbah (one of Ali’s men) that illustrates Ali and his follower’s position on the murder of Uthman....
Hashim said to him: “What have you got to do with Ibn Affan? (Uthman). It was the companions of Muhammad and the sons of his companions and the qurra of the people who killed him when he introduced innovations and opposed the authority of the Book. They were people of religion and more worthy of handling the affairs of the people than are you and your companions. I do not think that the affairs of this community and of this religion have been neglected even for an instant. (page 71).
It is becoming obvious that Ali had no intention of ever punishing Uthman’s murderers... he employed them! Ali implicitly justified the murder.
THE CONCLUSION OF THE BATTLE OF SIFFIN AND THE TRUCE
The daily battles continued and Ali’s men usually had the upper hand. Ali’s men continued to gain strength and press their advantage. The situation was becoming critical for Mu'awiyah. Mu'awiyah’s General, Amr, realized that the tide had turned against him and presented Mu'awiyah with a new strategy......
When Amr b. al-As saw that the position of the Iraqis had strengthened and was afraid that it would lead to destruction, he said to Mu'awiyah, “What if I put something to you that can only increase our unity and their division?” “All right,” said Mu'awiyah. Amr said, “We will raise the masahif (pages of the Quran) and say, “their contents are to be authoritative in our dispute.” Even if some of them refuse to accept it, you will find some of them will say, “Indeed, yes, we must accept,” and there will be a division between them. If, on the other hand, they say, “Yes, indeed, we accept what is in it,” then we will have disburdened ourselves of this fighting and this warfare until an appointed time or a later occasion.” So they raised the masahif on lances and said: “This is the Book of God between us and you. Who will protect the frontiers districts of the Syrians if they all perish, and who those of the Iraqis if they all perish?” When (Ali’s) men saw tat the masahif had been raised, they said, “We respond to the Book of God, and we turn in repentance to it.” (page 78).
Amr’s ruse worked! Ali’s men became divided, and demanded that Ali negotiate. This displeased Ali....
Ali said, “Servants of God, carry on fighting your enemies, for you have truth and right on your side. Mu'awiyah, Amr, Abi Muayt, Habib Maslamah, Ibn Abi Sarh (the man who made up verses of the Quran with Muhammad’s permission), and al-Dahhak are men without religion and with Quran. I know them better than you, for I was with them both as children and as men, and they were the worst of children and the worst of men. They have not exalted them (the masahif) and they do not exalt them and do not know that it is that they contain. They have raised them up to you only to deceive you, to outwit you, and to trick you. They answered him, “If we are called to the Book of God, we are bound to respond.” Ali said to them, “The only reason I have fought against them was so that they should adhere to the authority of this Book, for they have disobeyed God in what He has commanded and they have forgotten His covenant and rejected His Book.” (page 79).
The dialog ended with Ali’s men insisting that he negotiate or they would turn against him and give him over to Mu'awiyah. Ali told them to remember this mistake because it was a terrible one, one that they would soon regret. Even al-Ashtar’s (Ali’s brave general) words of exhortation and rebuke to the rebellious men did not change their minds. They also turned against al-Ashtar.
Ali, was on the verge of a decisive victory that day, only to be outwitted by Amr and Mu'awiyah, and this near victory turned into the instrument of his troubled future and eventual death.
As the conflict in Ali’s camp became violent, he realized he had to move fast to salvage any chance of victory. Hence he compromised and agreed to the negotiations, hoping for a favorable outcome.....
“We have agreed to make the Quran an authority between us and them.” (page 81).
But things continued to get worse for Ali....
Our men said, “We are pleased and accept.” The Syrians said, “We have chosen Amr b. al-As,” and al-Ashath and those who became Khawarij afterward said, “We are content with Abu Musa al-Ashari.” Ali said: “You disobey me in the start of this business; do not disobey me now. I do not think I should grant power to Abu Musa.” But al-Ashath, Zayd b. Husayn al-Tai, and Misar b. Fadaki insisted, “We do not find anyone else acceptable: What he warned us against we have fallen into.” Ali said, “I do not consider him trustworthy. He separated from me and caused the people to abandon me. Then he fled from me until I granted him security after some months. But here is Ibn Abbas; we will give him power in that matter. They replied, “It would not make any difference for us whether it was you or Ibn Abbas....Ali said, “Do you refuse to accept anyone but Abu Musa?” and the men replied, “Yes.” Ali said, “Then do what you want.” (pages 82 & 83).
You can taste the heartbroken grief and bitterness in Ali’s words. His kingdom was collapsing before him. Falling into Amr’s ruse his trusted army turned away from him. Adding to his pain, they now demanded he appoint a dolt, Amr Musa, to be his negotiator. Ali sees the future disaster - the failure and collapse of his precious Caliphate, and he was powerless to stop it.
And still it was not over. Even as the negotiating document was being drawn up, Ali’s title, “Commander of the Faithful” was challenged. Mu'awiyah’s negotiator, Amr was sharp, and just as Muhammad was humiliated by the Quraysh at Hudaybiyya, so too Ali was humiliated...
They wrote: In the name of God, the Merciful and compassionate. This is what Ali the Commander of the Faithful had determined.” But Amr said, “Just write his name and that of his father, for he is your commander but not ours.” Al-Ahnaf said to Ali, “Do not efface the title of Commander of the Faithful, for I fear that if you erase it, the office will never revert to you... (But....) ....So it was erased.” (page 84).
Ali’s problems continued to spread. He left the battlefield, and wanted to await the outcome of the negotiations. However, the people who insisted that he appoint a negotiator had a change of heart. These people became known as the Khawarij. Now, they felt that Ali erred in appointing a negotiator, and insisted that he return and fight Mu'awiyah. They began to oppose Ali. (page 90).
THE TIME OF THE NEGOTIATIONS
The negotiations started badly. Each negotiator insulted and vilified each other by quoting Quranic passages and hurling them against each other (7:175 vs. 62:5). (page 92).
As Ali journeyed back to Kufa to await the outcome of the negotiations he encountered various people and he asked their opinions on the situation. There was serious division within his community. One of his people related the populace’s comments...
“They say: “Ali had a mighty body of support and he split it, he had a firm fortress and he razed it. How long will it take him to rebuild what he destroyed and to reunite what he sundered?””... (page 95).
Other comments and observations from his people...
“By God, Ali had done nothing. He went away and then came back without anything.”... They left for Siffin with Ali full of brotherly love and affection, and they came back with mutual hatred and enmity. (page 98).
Eventually, the Khawarij rebelled against Ali for negotiating. Ali told them that they had forced him to negotiate, and now that he had given his word, he would let the negotiations take their course. This did not satisfy them, and they stated that Ali now competed with the Syrians in unbelief. Again, Ali pointed out that they pressured him to appoint a negotiator, they said,
“You have spoken truly and it was just as you have said, but that was unbelief on our part and we have turned to God in repentance from it. Repent as we have, and we shall give you the oath of allegiance; otherwise we will oppose you.” (page 103).
Time moved forward, and the negotiations broke down completely. Amr outwitted Abu Musa and backed him into a foolish move. Musa, realizing his error, exclaimed,
“What are you doing, may God foil you? You have acted treacherously and unrighteously. You are like the dog which, if you attack it, it lolls out its tongue, or if you leave it alone, it still lolls out its tongue.” Amr responded, “And you are like the monkey which carries writings.” (pages 109, 110).
Following this the Syrians officially recognized Mu'awiyah as their Caliph. Ali prayed curses down upon Mu'awiyah and his followers. When found out, Mu'awiyah reciprocated....
Ali would stand in supplication and say, “Oh God, put a curse on Mu'awiyah, Amr, Abu al-Awar al-Sulami, Habib b. Maslamah, Abd al-Rahman, b. Khalid, al-Dahhak b. Qays, and al-Walid b. Uqbah. Mu'awiyah heard about that and when he himself made supplication, he cursed Ali, Ibn Abbas, al-Ashtar, al-Hasan, and al-Husayn (Ali’s sons). (page 110).
The pious Muslim Caliphs were calling down curses upon the other, their friends, and their family. Just as Muhammad prayed down curses upon entire villages of people, so to, these despots followed suit.
However, over time, Mu'awiyah grew stronger and Ali grew weaker. Initially, Ali had difficulty raising an army, but he persisted in raising a sufficient army and prepared to fight Mu'awiyah. His followers were loosing confidence in him and they tired of fighting wars to no gain. However, Ali had to turn from facing Mu'awiyah and deal with the rebellion of the Khawarij.
The Khawarij had earlier realized that their situation was difficult and ventured to a place where they could set up an Islamic domain as they saw fit. They plundered, tortured, and murdered other Muslims as they journeyed. Ali had to turn from attacking Mu'awiyah and instead sent a force against the Khawarijs. He destroyed them. This battle was known as “The Battle of the Canal.” This took place in 37 AH.
With the Khawarij defeated, Ali thought at long last the distractions were over. Finally, Ali was now to turn his full attention against the reprobate Mu'awiyah. Finally, Ali was going to fix that malevolent usurper once and for all. Finally, Ali was once again determined, confident, and prepared to finish the business he knew should have been finished long ago. Finally, he gave the command to march upon his last great enemy, defeat him, and give Ali the sweetness of power and dominance that he had craved for so many years...
When Ali had finished with the people of Nahrawan (the Khawarijs), he praised God and extolled Him and then said to his own men, “God has favored you and reinforced your victory, so direct yourselves immediately against your enemy.” They answered, “Commander of the Faithful, our arrows are exhausted, our swords have become blunt, the tips of our spears have fallen off, and most of them have been broken in pieces. Go back to our garrison town and let us make the best possible preparation. Perhaps the Commander of the Faithful will add to our equipment that of those of us who have died, for that will make us better fitted to confront the enemy.” .... But they neither went to do what he said nor prepared themselves. (page 135, 136).
The poor Ali! Once again, the possibility of becoming the sole ruling Caliph slipped through his fingers like water: the harder he squeezed, the less he held. Ali upbraided them as weak, undependable, cowards. Many of these were men who had fought next to him for years and suffered wounds for him. They were tired and they had no confidence in a man who somehow never seemed to get it done right and without dissension. They were tired of killing and dying all for Ali’s vainglory.
That was essentially the end of Ali’s aggressive moves against Mu'awiyah. Momentum had turned. But, there were other dangerous events going to take place in Ali’s life that would pursue him.
ABU BAKR’S SON: UTHMAN’S MURDERER
Although Ali was stymied yet again, Mu'awiyah was not finished with Ali. Instead of directly confronting Ali, Mu'awiyah went after Ali’s fingers. He turned his attention to the wealthy land of Egypt. Here, Ali had appointed Muhammad b. Abi Bakr as governor of Egypt. He was Abu Bakr’s son, the first so-called “rightly guided” Caliph, and Muhammad’s best friend. Muhammad b. Abi Bakr had been accused of leading the band of murderers against Uthman. Opportunity presented itself to Mu'awiyah and he sent a force against Muhammad b. Abi Bakr.
Remember, the significant charge many Muslims held against Ali was that he refused to punish the murderers of Uthman. In fact, they claimed that he sponsored those very murderers and gave them refuge. Muhammad b. Abi Bakr was one of those charged. Earlier accounts place him at Uthman’s house the night of the murder, abusing the old Caliph. But other accounts don’t mention him, and to this day, the Islamic community is divided over his hand in the murder.
But now, how the tables were turned! Mu'awiyah’s troops fought against Muhammad bin Abi Bakr’s and defeated him. Muhammad’s troops then abandoned him. Mu'awiyah’s men pursued Muhammad and captured him. The final scene of confrontation takes place between Mu'awiyah and Muhammad...
Mu'awiyah said to him, “I am only slaying you in retaliation for Uthman.” Muhammad asked him, What have you got to do with Uthman? He acted unjustly and rejected the authority of the Quran, and God has said, “They who do not judge with what God has revealed, they are the iniquitous.” We held that against him and killed him, but you give him merit for it, you and those who are like you. God has absolved us God willing form his sin, but you share in his offense and the enormity of his sin, and the one who uses you is just the same.
Mu'awiyah became angry, had him brought forward, and killed him. Then he cast him into the corpse of a donkey and set fire to it. (page 158).
Ultimately, Muhammad bin Abu Bakr has admitted to the murder of Uthman.
Remember how Abu Sufyan predicted that the shedding of blood would be necessary to correct the erroneous selection of Abu Bakr as Caliph? Abu Sufyan’s son just brutally killed Abu Bakr’s son.
Upon hearing of the fall of Egypt to Mu'awiyah, Ali became despondent. Once again he had sent his help too late. During the few years of his Caliphate he watched it crumble. The tide of misfortune was incoming. His people turned against him, or were indifferent to him, his strongest right hand men were killed or murdered, Mu'awiyah outsmarted him and beat him to the punch consistently. In despair, Ali wrote to Ibn Abbas....
“Now Egypt has been conquered and Muhammad b. Abi Bakr has been martyred. ... At the very start I stood among the people and commanded them to help him before the calamity should occur. I summoned them in secret and in public, over and over again. Some of them came unwillingly, some made lying excuses, and some stayed where they were. I ask God that He give me a way out and an escape from them and that He deliver me from them before long. By God, if I were not so desirous of dying in God’s cause then I would not want to remain with these people for one day....” (page 164).
MURDER OF THE CHRISTIANS
Just as Muhammad allowed the murder of Christians, so later, Ali did the same. Below are several accounts of how Ali and his men abused and murdered Christians.
Among them were many Christians who had accepted Islam, but when dissension had developed in Islam had said, “By God, our religion from which we have departed is better and more correct than that which these people follow. Their religion does not stop them from shedding blood, terrifying the roads, and seizing properties.” And they returned to their former religion. Al-Khirrit met them and said to them, “Woe unto you! Do you know the precept of Ali regarding any Christian who accepts Islam and then reverts to Christianity? By God he will not hear anything they say, he will not consider any excuse, he will not accept any repentance, and he will not summon them to it. His precept regarding them is immediate cutting off of the head when he gets hold of them.” (page 187, 188).
“I was in the army that Ali Abi Talib sent against the Banu Najiyah.... Our commander said to one of these groups, “What are you?” and they replied, “We are a Christian people who do not consider any religion to be better than ours, and we hold fast to it.” Our commander said to them, “Be off with you.” He said to another band, “What are you?” And they said, “We were Christians, but we accepted Islam, and we hold fast to our Islam.” He said to them, “Be off with you!” Then he said to the third group, “What are you?” and they said, “We are a people who were Christians. We accepted Islam but we do not think, that any religion is better than our previous one.” He said to them, “Accept Islam!” but they refused. He said to his men, “When I rub my head three times attack them and kill the fighting men and make captive the dependants.” (page 188).
But there was an old man among them, a Christian called al-Rumahis b. Mansur, who said, By God, the only error I have made since attaining reason was abandoning my religion, the religion of truth for yours, the religion of wickedness. No by God, I will not leave my religion and I will not accept yours so long as I live.” Maqil brought him forward and cut off his head.” (page 191).
“As for the Christians, we made them captive and led them off so that they might be a warning for those of the protected peoples who come after them not to refuse the jizyah (extortion tax), and not to make bold against our religion and community, for the protected people are of little account and lowly in status. (page 192)
Masqalah sent one of the Christians of the Banu Taghlib, whose name was Hulwan, to Nuaym from Syria with a letter.... Ali who took his letter and read it. He then cut off the hand of the Christian, who died. (page 195).
Despite all his self-righteousness rhetoric, at heart, Ali could be very cruel. He was infected deeply with the cancerous spirit of Islam, and it hardened his heart and caused him to lust after power. Ali was a cold blooded murderer. He could murder people without any mercy simply because he was blinded and hardened by his power. Ali could drive thousands of Muslims to their deaths fighting other Muslims, and then kick them when they tired of fighting for his cause. Ali could murder innocents simply because they were an affront to his imposition of Islam on the populace.
THE DEATH OF ALI
Things continued to deteriorate for Ali. Mu'awiyah grew stronger and more confident. He began to send large raiding parties into Ali’s territory and score victories. Ali’s people began to shrink back from the fighting, and Ali continued to burn with anger against them. The more Ali called, the more they shrank away. Even his commanders avoided heavy battle. Ali, in his rage said to them from his preaching pulpit...
“Oh people of al-Kufah, every time you hear about a troop of Syrian horsemen coming against you, each man of you hides in his house and locks the door, like a lizard in his hole and a hyena in his lair. Whoever trusts in you is duped and whoever draws you draws a useless lot. You are not real men when the summons to appear in arms is made nor trustworthy brothers with secrets.... How I have been tested through you! You are blind ones who do not see, dumb ones who do not speak, and deaf ones who do not hear.” (page 199).
Mu'awiyah was testing Ali’s strength and had realized that it was deteriorating over time. He became bolder sending a large raiding force to the Hijaz itself! This place was Islam’s birthplace and Muhammad’s home. The people in Medina were now a broken people. They did not resist the Syrian force. They were tired and without strength. These same people, a generation before had plundered and pillaged so many an Arab tribe were now humiliated, plundered, and pillaged.
Mu'awiyah’s general, Busr, took over Medina, (the first city to have an Islamic community and Muhammad’s resting place). Busr destroyed people’s homes and he told the people of Medina, “People of Medina! By God, if it were not for my charge from Mu'awiyah, I would not leave any mature man alive among you, (page 207). Busr continued to Yemen and did similar things, additionally killing Ali’s governor of the country Ubaydallah bin Abbas, and his small sons. Islam’s evil lived in all Muslims, Ali’s or Mu'awiyah’s alike. Ali’s kingdom was falling apart, and it was obvious to all.
IBN ABBAS’ BETRAYAL OF ALI
The final turn of events. Remember how Ibn Abbas and Ali cursed each other in front of the Caliph Umar in competition for Muhammad’s wealth? Now Ibn Abbas realized that Ali’s time was up. Mu'awiyah was too strong. True to form, he figured he better take the money and run....
From Tabari, volume 17, pages 209, 210:
The Circumstances of Ibn Abbas Going to Mecca and Leaving Iraq.
Abdallah b. Abbas encountered Abu al-Aswad al Duali, who said (to Abbas), “If you were an animal, you would be a camel; if you were a herdsman, you would not be able to control (your flock at) pasture and would not know how to manage them wisely on the move.
Abu al-Aswad consequently wrote to Ali: “God has made you a ruler trusted by his subjects and a pastor who takes responsibility for his flock. We have tried you and found you full of integrity and a sincere adviser to your flock. You give them booty in abundance, you abstain from seizing their worldly goods, you do not devour their wealth, and you do not take bribes in their government. Your cousin, however, has devoured what is under his authority without your knowledge, and I cannot allow that to be kept from you. So look into what is going on here, may God have mercy on you, and write to me telling me your views about what you want me to do for you. Salutations.”
Ali was no fool. He remember how Abbas lusted after Muhammad’s wealth just as he did. He also knew how Uthman fell into disrepute because of the abusive actions of his governors. Ali took action.
Ali then wrote about that to Ibn Abbas, who replied, “What you have heard is false. What I have under my authority I control in an orderly and careful way. Do not believe these suspicions. Salutations” Ali wrote back, “Tell me what jizyah (extortion tax taken from non-Muslims) you have taken, whence you have taken it, and where you have deposited it.” Ibn Abbas answered, “I understand your concern at the seizures that you have heard I have made of the wealth of men this territory so send anyone whom you wish to your province and I will make way for him. Salutations.”
Ibn Abbas then summoned his maternal uncles of the Banu Hilal b. Amir and al-Dahak b. Abdallah al-Hilali and Abdallah b. Razin b. Abi Amr al-Hilali came to him. Then all of Quay joined with him, and he carried away a considerable amount of property. ... These were monies and provisions that had been collected for the maintenance of the fighting men, and Ibn Abbas took away with him as much as he had collected. (pages 210, 211).
Some other Muslims challenged Ibn Abbas’ theft and some fighting occurred. But Ibn Abbas had a large group of men with him assisting him in the theft and those that opposed him were killed or driven off. Ibn Abbas, the future Muslim scholar of religion, was no better than a thief.
Ali’s hand picked governors, his own relatives, robbed him. The house of cards that comprised Ali’s Caliphate had hit the ground. Ali’s last sunrise was not far off.
The details of Ali’s murder are interesting, but do not need to be noted. Essentially, a man, embittered at Ali’s actions, duplicity, and failures, decided that Ali needed to die, even if it cost him his own life. He set out to kill Ali. He even gathered two accomplices. The three men waited for Ali to leave the mosque....
When he (Ali) appeared, Shabib struck at him with his sword but it hit the door post or the arch; Ibn Muljam struck him on the top of his head with his sword. (page 216).
Ali died not long thereafter. At the time of his death he was fat, balding, and short. He had ruled as Caliph for around five years. The perpetrators were caught and killed. Ali’s son, Hasan took over as temporary ruler, until an official decision would be made as to who would be the next Caliph.
When Aisha, Muhammad’s child bride at age 9, heard about Ali’s death, she rejoiced. She had deeply hated Ali for many years. Aisha said, “And she threw down her staff and settled upon her place of abode, like the traveler happy to return home.” (page 224). Aisha lived long enough to have the last laugh against the man she ostensibly hated most. Hatred in Muhammad’s own family ran deep.
“Tonight you have killed a man on a night in which the Quran came down, a night in which Jesus the son of Mary was taken up, and a night in which Joshua the son of Nun, the champion of Moses, was killed. By God, none of those who were before him are ahead of him and none of those who will come after him will overtake him. By God, if the Prophet sent him on a raid, Gabriel was at his right hand and Michael at his left.”
Gabriel and Michael deserted Ali, just as so many of his early supporters had done. In the end, no one seemed to notice Ali’s stature. When his turn finally came to be Caliph, the sweetness of power he yearned for turned foul in his mouth. Ali did not go out like a proud Muslim warrior, instead, he went out like an old, worn, abandoned lion, slowly succumbing to a pack of hyenas.
After Muhammad died everything changed. The real Ali, the true Ali, surfaced; the real Muslims, the true Muslims surfaced. Without the restraining influence of Muhammad’s rule, their real hearts were manifest. Ali was a human who had both good and bad traits. Tragically, Islam’s poison strengthened his wicked side. Ali knew how to keep the external requirements of Islam, but inwardly, he was as carnal as any despot. Ali’s Caliphate reads like a magnificent Shakespearian tragedy. From the murder of Uthman, Ali endured one calamity and misfortune after another. Ali was stained with Uthman’s murder, turned on by his friends contesting him for power, moved against by Muhammad’s most beloved wife Aisha, challenged by the son of his families enemy Mu'awiyah. Ali shed the blood of tens of thousands of Muslims to secure what he thought should have been handed to him on a silver platter, but his own soldiers cast aside certain victory because they were simpletons and easily duped, in turn they threatened him with betrayal and certain death. Rebellions, the deaths of his closest supporters continued month in and month out. Ali had no pillow of peace upon which to rest his head. Finally, he was cut down, more ignominiously than Uthman had been before him.
We’re supposed to be reviewing Islam’s spiritual fruit, right? Yet all we are seeing coming out of these prominent Muslims is war, lying, murdering, accusations, betrayal, theft, hatred, and bitterness. We see very little of “spirituality” in Ali, Mu'awiyah, Ibn Abbas, or Aisha. Instead we see a corrupt “mafia” like family. Oh yes, they obeyed the outward forms of the Islamic rituals, but, inwardly, they were as spiritually bankrupt and destitute as any criminal. These Muslims are precisely the types of people Jesus had in mind when He said to the Pharisee’s, “you look good on the outside, but inwardly you are dead.” (my paraphrase). What an empty, spiritually impoverished group of people was this Islamic Royal Family.
Let’s summarize some of the fruit we’ve seen.
Ali was Muhammad’s son-in-law. Ali’s selfish ambition drove him to almost any action to obtain this power. Instead of punishing Uthman’s murderers, he joined forces with the criminals. After pretending to not want the Caliphate, once the title was given, he clung to it with all his life’s force. He drove thousands to their deaths and injury in pursuit of that goal. Their lives were sacrificed on his alter of pride and vainglory. In the end, Ali denigrated the very troops who had fought for him for years. He showed no appreciation or thankfulness for the sacrifices that so many a Muslim had made. When he met Christians, many of whom had left Islam, because they realized it was a bankrupt religion, he murdered them.
Ibn Abbas was Muhammad’s cousin. When Ali questioned him about the management of his province, ibn Abbas lied. When ibn Abbas realized that Ali was investigating him he stole money from the people, he stole a great amount of money from the treasury, and made off with it. When challenged by some Muslims during the theft, Ibn Abbas fought and killed them. This man was to become recognized later as a great Islamic religious scholar, yet when the chips were down, he showed he had no true inward spirituality. Instead he was a liar, thief, and murderer.
She was Muhammad’s favorite wife. Later in life she narrated thousands of the traditions of Muhammad, which were to be used to establish Islamic doctrine. Yet when it came to her relative Ali, she hated him so deeply that she rejoiced at his death! There was no forgiveness, no reconciliation in their hearts. Where is the good in her heart? How does such hatred exist between the best Muslims?
IBN ABU BAKR AND IBN UMAR
Here are the sons of the first two Caliphs. Ibn Abu Bakr participated in the murder of Uthman he was one of the leaders. Ibn Umar fled to Syria as things began to heat up in the Hijaz. As time when on, these men fought against each other. How ironic. What is going on in Islam when the children of the “rightly guided” Caliphs are trying to kill each other? These children are the fruit of real Islam. And we see in them as much carnality as we see in any group of carnal people.
Jesus said in John 8:44:
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Many of the Christians who converted to Islam recognized this and returned to their former faith. Like so many people today who become Muslim, only to leave it later, they realized that they were sold a bill of goods, and once feasting on Islam, they spew it out. Islam was far more corrupt then they had realized. Instead of delivering godliness, it delivered the fruits of the flesh.
1) al-Tabari, "The History of al-Tabari", (Ta'rikh al-rusul wa'l-muluk), State University of New York Press, 1993
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