THE death of Othman caused no little stir amongst the Saracens, who were divided in their wishes as to the election of a successor. In the confusion which ensued several persons came to Ali, the spouse of the Prophet's daughter Fatima, and desired of him that he would accept the Government. To these solicitations he rejoined that he did not wish for the honour him self, but would readily bow to the choice of any person upon whom they might agree. They still insisted that no one was so well qualified as himself, whether as regarded his personal accomplishments, or his near relationship to the Prophet of Arabia. But the "Hand of God" (as Arabian historians delight to call him) was inexorable, and ultimately it was agreed that the matter should be referred to the chief inhabitants of Madina; these latter came to Ali with an appeal to his piety. "We adjure thee by God!" such was the forcible language of the religious enthusiasts of Islam. "Dost thou not consider in what condition we are? Dost thou not consider the religion? Dost thou not consider the distraction of the people? Dost thou not fear God?" Moved with these expostulations, and it may well be supposed secretly overjoyed at the prospect before him, Ali consented to comply with the wishes of his fellow countrymen; but aware that his enemies were neither few in number nor inconsiderable in influence, he prudently insisted that the allegiance
of his subjects should be publicly tendered in the Mosque, rather than in private at his own house. Accordingly, clad in a thin cotton gown, tied about him with a girdle, having a coarse turban upon his head, his slippers in one hand, and a bow in the other instead of a staff, the son-in-law of Muhammad repaired to the sacred edifice, with the view of receiving the homage of the citizens, who had elected him to the dignity of Khalif. This occurred in A.D. 655.
As soon as Ali was publicly acknowledged successor to the throne, he inconsiderately resolved to take away the governments and lieutenancies from all those persons who had been nominated by Othman, his predecessor. In vain did faithful friends remonstrate against the needless folly and perilous danger of raising up a host of enemies, ere he was well secure at his capital-in vain did they point out that it behoved him not only to be a man of courage-this could never be questioned-but a "man of conduct." Ali was deaf to all representations, and the fiat went forth ; murmurs of discontent followed the rash resolve, and a body of malcontents was speedily formed ; these at the instigation of two men of influence by name Talba and Zobair, inflamed by the malignant counsels of Ayisha, the favourite wife of the Prophet, but the bitterest and most implacable enemy of his daughter's husband-betook themselves into Syria, whither they carried Othman's blood-stained shirt-this latter they some times spread upon the pulpit, and at others raised it on high in the face of the army. While, more effectually to inflame the feelings of the people, his wife's fingers, which were cut off at the time when the venerable Khalif was murdered, were piuned upon the shirt. The people of Syria, aroused at the piteous sight, vowed vengeance against a tyrant whom they supposed to have planned the murder of their sovereign, and whom they knew to have decreed the recall of their Governor. This last-mentioned personage, the wellknown Muawiya, so famous in the annals of after years,
finding that feelings of revenge and animosity were deeply implanted in the hearts of the people under his charge, did not vouchsafe to give a reply to the messenger whom Ali had sent to Syria. At length, however, after an interval of about three' months had elapsed, the proud and aspiring recusant bethought himself that he would send an answer to the Commander of the Faithful, so he selected an attendant, and delivering him a letter, sealed with the superscription "From Muawiya to Ali," he bade him repair with his comrade from Madina to the Khalif of Arabia. Lntering the city in the evening when people were strolling in the cool, the emissaries carried the packet aloft upon a staff; they were soon surrounded by a band of inquirers, anxious to ascertain the reply of the Governor of Syria, whom they knew to be disaffected towards Ali. On reaching the Khalif, the latter seized the letter with evident tokens of anxiety, but great was his astonishment to find the missive a blank sheet of paper, not a single word of writing was visible; Irightly understanding this token of contempt and disdain he asked the messenger what news he had to convey? Whereupon the man replied that 60,000 men were in arms under the standard of Othman's shirt. The die was now cast, and destiny decreed that Ali's reign should be inaugurated with a war against the Syrians, whose animosity he had courted, and whose allegiance he had estranged. While these events, so pregnant with importance, were transpiring at Madina, a crier was parading the streets of Mecca proclaiming that " the Mother of the Faithful and Talha and Zobair are going in person to Bussora - whosoever therefore is desirous of strengthening the religion and fighting voluntarily to avenge the death of Othman if he hath no convenience of riding let him come." The people of the sacred city flocked eagerly to the standard of revolt, and upwards of three thousand warriors surrounded the litter of Ayisha, as, mounted upon a camel and animated with a spirit of unquenchable hatred to
the house of Ali, she turned her steps towards Bussora. The city, rent with factions, and divided in allegiance, offered no material resistance; and after a skirmish, in which forty of his men were slain, the Governor submitted to the Amazon leader. The implacable matron at first ordered that death should be the punishment for resistance ; but the entreaties of her companions mitigated the severity of such a bloodstained decree, and the hapless suppliant was allowed to depart with his life ; at the same time, however, he was disgraced and humiliated with the loss of his beard and eyebrows, both of which were plucked out by the roots to appease the irritated Mother of the Faithful.
But to return to Madina. Though Ali was exceedingly popular, and though it was well known that he was fairly elected, yet all his eloquence - and he was allowed to be the best orator of his age was not sufficient to stir up the people in his behalf. At length, however, one of the leaders in the town stepping forth proclaimed his readiness to unsheath his sword in the Khalif's behalf; his example was soon followed by another zealous warrior, and history proclaims that a woman in the crowd, struck by the contagion of enthusiasm, offered the services of her cousin-germain whom she considered as dearer to her than her own life. The ardour of these patriots inflamed the hearts of their fellow citizens, and Ali was enabled to march forth from the city at the head of 900 men to confront the disturbers of his kingdom now esconced at Bussora under the command of his sworn foe Ayisha. His son Hasan, seeing the hopelessness of the enterprize, endeavoured to dissuade his father from the perilous attempt, and advised him to sit "still at home." The reply was typical of the resolute warrior whose brow had been graced by destiny with a crown: "Would you have me lurk in a hole like a wild beast till she is digged out. If I do not myself look after what concerns me in this affair, and provide for my necessary defence, who will look after it?
Therefore, son, hold you your tongue!" So Ali and his party proceeded on their way.
When they had journeyed some days, the Khalif halted and despatched two messengers to Kufa, bearing a letter to his friends in that city, informing them "how much he preferred them to all the rest of the provinces, and what confidence he reposed in them in the time of his extremity," and adding "that they should keep the religion of God, and repair to him in order to make use of such means as might be proper for the reconciling of this divided people, and making them brethren again." The messengers, on arrival at the town, were surrounded with a crowd of the populace, but none demanded whence they came, or what they required: the silence was ominous. In the end some of the "hajis" or pilgrims who had visited Mecca, came to the Governor, by name Ali Musa, and inquired as to his views about going out to assist Ali. The answer would have reflected no discredit on the Oracle of Delphi :- "My opinion to-day is different from what it was yesterday. What you despised in time past hath drawn upon you what you see now. The going out and sitting still at home are two things. Sitting still at home is the heavenly way; the going out is the way of the world. Therefore take your choice." Again there ensued an ominous silence, broken only by the angry and reproachful exclamations of the messengers. Thereupon Ali Musa, waxing warm at the insults thus hurled against him, bade the men tell their master that the people of Kufa would have no dealings with a person round whose neck hung the murder of Othman.
All this while Ali was employing his time at the camp in haranguing and encouraging his people, who at his solicitation had been plentifully supplied from Madina with horses, arms, and all the necessaries of war. "Keep close to your religion." So spake the head of the Muslim faith, "and be directed in the right way; for it is the direction of your prophet. Let what
is too hard for you alone, till you bring it to the test of the Quran; and what the Quran approveth stand to, and what it disapproveth reject. Delight in God for your Lord, and in Islam for your religion, and in Muhammad for your prophet, and in the Quran for your Guide and Director." The party was now joined by the ex-governor of Bussora, who came to wait upon the "Emperor of the Faithful," the beardless face of the hapless pilgrim betokened the sufferings he had undergone, and raised at once the compassion and the ire of his generous-minded master, who unable to restrain his indignation at the perfidy of Talha and Zobair, in that "their tongues were not according to their hearts," exclaimed in tones of wrath, "My God! they shall both know that I am not one jot inferior to any of my predecessors."
Full of anxiety as to the fate of his appeal to the people of Kufa, Ali received with trembling heart the message returned by Ali Musa to the overtures of reconciliation which had been addressed to him. The answer of the Governor was fatal to the resolve of his master, who could scarcely proceed against Bussora, unless assured of the assistance of the inhabitants of Kufa, so he determined once again to try and appease the storm which was gathering around him : but his efforts were fruitless. Last of all he despatched his eldest son Hasan, who was received with the respect due to his dignity and birth. Still Ali Musa persisted in his opposition: words ran high, and no small tumult arose, some wishing to march to the assistance of Ali, others preferring to remain true to their allegiance to the "Mother of the Faithful." When at length the debate passed the bounds of moderation, and feelings were at their highest, Hasan rose up and bid the people "hearken to the request of your Emperor, and help us in this calamity which is befallen both you and us. Thus saith the Emperor of the Faithful, Either I do injury myself, or else I suffer injury. If I suffer injury God will help me, if I do injury he will take vengeance upon me. By
God, Talha and Zohair were the first that inaugurated me, and the first that prevaricated. Have I discovered any covetous inclination, or prevented justice? Wherefore come on, and command that which is good and refuse that which is evil." This appeal touched the audience to the quick, and upwards of 9,000 citizens of Kufa joined the camp of Ali; the latter received them with honour as "men of distinguished valour" who had "conquered the kings of Persia, and dispersed their forces!"
The army of Ali now consisted of not less than 30,000 men, and the heart of Ayisha sank within her as she beheld in battle array round Bussora, a host of fighting men, not materially inferior in point of numbers to those who supported her cause, led by a commander whose prowess in battle had earned for him an appellation so endeared to the consciences of Muslim historians -the "Lion of God." Nothing daunted, however, the resolute Amazon mounted her camel, and, riding in a litter shaped as a cage, was carried up and down the ranks to inspire the soldiers with somewhat of the zeal and impetuosity which filled the breast of the most heroic, the most implacable heroine of which the annals of Islam can boast. So the "day of the camel" commenced ; the contest was conducted with unassuageable fury on both sides, and for a long while the issue was doubtful. At this juncture Talha was pierced in the leg by an arrow; unable to control his horse he soon stretched his length on the field of battle, the faithfulness of his servant alone enabling his master to reach the town safe from the weapons of his enemies; but his end was approaching, and impending fate, so pious Muslims would have it believed, convicted the traitor of his sin, and on his deathbed he renewed the oath of fidelity which he had so recently and shamelessly violated. Ali, with a generous consideration for his enemy's want of faith, avowed that "God would not call him to heaven till he had blotted out the first breach of his word by this protestation of fidelity." Thus one stumbling-block was
removed from the Khalif's path. The traitor's comrade in guilt, Zobair, too, having qualms of conscience withdrew himself from the battle, and took the road towards Mecca-but he was followed by an adherent from Ali's camp, who, overtaking him, and worming himself into the dispirited intriguer's confidence, treacherously cut off the head of his unsuspecting victim as the hapless Arab was prostrating himself at evening prayers. When the Emperor of the Faithful saw the blood-stained skull of his foe he denounced the latter as a denizen of hell, an illiberality of sentiment which so shocked the susceptibilities of the assassin that, repentant of his sin he ran his own body through with a sword, and fell a corpse at the feet of his astonished master. The chief conspirators were now removed from the scene; but the struggle was not ended, and there still remained Ayisha, ever to be seen where the battle raged hottest and most severe; the centre of attraction alike for friend and foe, her litter bristled, as it were the back of a porcupine, with the arrows which were launched at the intrepid leader of her troops, and no less than three score and ten hands which lay severed on the plain, beneath the feet of the beast which bore her, betokened at once the zeal of those who held her bridle, and the fury of the contest of which she was the very life and existence. Thus the day advanced till at length her camel was hamstrung, and no longer able to take part in the fray, she remained at the mercy of her victorious enemy. Ali, however, more considerate to his defeated rival than she had been wont to be to those whom she hated and disliked, dismissed her handsomely, with a goodly equipage, and sent her in company with his two sons, Hasan and Husain, to Madina, enjoining her at the same time not to intermeddle any more with affairs of State.
The Khalif after. this eventful day encountered no further opposition, and marching into Kufa, established in that city the seat of his government. These important events occurred in A.D. 656.
Throughout all the dominions over which the
Emperor of the Faithful held sway there now remained but one region where the standard of rebellion yet floated: in Syria, Muawiya still headed a people disaffected towards Ah, and eager to revenge the blood of Othman, whereupon a messenger was sent to him bidding him pay allegiance to his sovereign ; but he refused to listen to any one save Amru, the conqueror of Egypt, who was accordingly despatched, but finding on his arrival the position of affairs, the warrior linked his fortunes with the Governor of Syria, and amidst the acclamations of the people, the traitor to his trust took the oath of allegiance to his new Lord ns Prince of the Muslim hierarchy.
When Ali was apprized of these proceedings he at first adopted gentle means to reduce the rebels to a sense of their duty, but, perceiving that his efforts were fruitless, he marched at the head of an army of 90,000 men towards the confines of Syria. Halting at Saffain, a full month (June-July, 657) was consumed in abortive efforts to settle the matter amicably; but all his attempts were fruitless, and at the end of that interval the war began, not in the usual way of a pitched battle, but rather with a series of desultory onslaughts: indeed, scarce a day passed without an engagement of some sort, and it is said that no less than ninety skirmishes took place, in which Ali lost upwards of five-and-twenty thousand of his troops, while the slain amongst the army of Muawiya amounted to little short of five-and-forty thousand. This irritating and unsatisfactory method of warfare was ill in accord with the ardent spirit of the warrior of Islam, who called out to his antagonist, "How long shall the people lose their lives between us ? come hither. I challenge you to appeal to the decision of God, and whichsoever of us two kills his man has all entire to himself." But Muawiya refused, alleging with truth, that no man had ever come forth against Ali, and lived to tell the tale. So the slaughter continued, and the Syrians were sore pushed; the crisis was serious, and it was reserved to
Amru to extricate his followers from a danger which threatened destruction. This crafty leader, seeing the impending discomfiture of his soldiers bade them hoist the Quran upon the points of their lances, and advance into battle exclaiming "This is the book that ought to decide all our differences: this is the book of God between us and you." The effect was magical-eager warriors, whose ardour no human power could restrain, at once threw down their arms, and appeared before Ali: "Will you not answer to the book of God ?" was the zealous inquiry of these zealous bigots. In vain did the Khalif point out that the whole affair was trickery and a deceit-the men were inexorable, and at the moment when victory was in his grasp, the "Lion of God" was compelled to sound a retreat. After much discussion it was determined that the difference should be settled by arbitration, and two persons were chosen to represent the contending factions. For eight months the armies remained listless and inactive; at the expiration of which time the decision was announced, in the sight of all the people from a tribunal erected for the purpose on the plain. It had been agreed between the umpires that both competitors for the throne should be deposed, and the choice of a successor left to the nation at large: accordingly mounting the rostrum the arbitrator selected to represent the interests of Ali, proclaimed that both the "Lion of God" and Miiawiya should be set aside, and, suiting his action to his words, he drew off the ring from his finger, and cast it aside, to betoken that the Khalifat had been taken from the disputants. On the other hand his companion, departing from the agreement, proclaimed that the Governor of Syria should be the successor of Othman, "after the same manner as I put this ring on my finger;" a decision in which neither of the arbitrators agreed, settled nothing, and the armies separated leaving matters just as they were when the war began. But the action of Ali in referring to the judgment of men what ought to have been determined by God alone-such was the
language of his opponents-gave great offence to some of his adherents, and there arose a body of men known as the separatists, who held aloof from his interests and established themselves in the vicinity of Baghdad, whither all the malcontents flocked, till at length their number was swelled to five-and-twenty thousand men. It was impossible to leave such a formidable array of opponents as a standing menace to his authority and power, and Ali had no alternative but to reduce them to submission; so he presented himself before them at the head of a considerable army. Ere, however, giving the order for the attack, he planted a standard without the camp, and made proclamation with sound of trumpet, that whosoever would come under it should have quarter; while if any of them desired to retire to Kufa they should find there a sanctuary. The stratagem was completely successful, and no more than 4,000 men remained true to the cause of rebellion. This handful of desperadoes, none the less, resolved to attack Ali's army; but their presumption was greater than their success, for they were cut to pieces, and but nine of them escaped to repent of their rashness. This victory, which was gained in the year of grace 658, united all the Arabians under the government of Ali, and it only remained to reduce the Syrians to obedience. For upwards of two years attempts were made to subdue the refractory Muawiya, but the efforts were spasmodic and productive of no practical results; it was not so much a matter of the sword as of intrigue, and the poisoned bowl and the forced letter not infrequently did a work which the dagger failed to accomplish. The state of things was indeed wearisome and unsatisfactory; at one time Ali's lieutenants secured a victory over their opponents, while it occasionally that one of his generals, less fortunate than his master, was routed, and his dead body tied up in that of an ass and burned to ashes. In these circumstances three of the separatists met together at Mecca, and discoursing over the troubles of their nation and country, came
to the conclusion that all the ills which had befallen the people of Islam were due to Ali, Muawiya and Amru: so they resolved that they would rid the world of such fertile springs of discord, and restore to the Muslim nation that peace and unity of which there seemed no prospect in any other direction. Poisoning their swords the three conspirators separated; the first to Kufa, the second to Damascus, and the third to Egypt.
As regards Muawiya, he was struck by the assassin, but the wound was not mortal, while Amru on the day selected for his murder chanced to be unwell, a fortunate circumstance, to which he owed his life; a substitute who had filled his place at the mosque fell dead beneath the blow which had been intended for the conqueror of Egypt. "I designed Amru, but God designeth another" was the calm and unconcerned exclamation with which the cold-blooded assassin withdrew his sword from the innocent victim of his hate.
The third conspirator, by name Abdu'r Rahman, met with better success in his deadly mission. On arriving at Kufa he happened to take up his lodgings in the abode of a woman, whose nearest relation had been slain in the battle, and who for that reason retained in her heart a strong desire to be revenged upon the author of her misfortunes. Ingratiating himself with this fiendish-minded companion, the designing villain even went so far as to offer her his hand in marriage; she in turn, eager for the blood of her enemy, readily consented, and joining with fervent ardour in the murderous plan of her pretended lover, merely stipulated that her dowry should be "3,000 drachms of silver, a slave, a maid, and Ali's head." The better to carry out her deadly purpose, and to guard against the risk of failure, she associated with her newly-arrived lover, two other men, named Wardan and Shabib. The three associates now repaired to the mosque, and pretending to quarrel amongst themselves, drew their swords but hardly were their weapons unsheathed than they all fell upon the hapless Ah, who soon lay at their feet,
struck down with a mortal wound; he lingered for a few days, and died on the 19th day of the month Ramazan, in the year of the Hijra 40 (27 January, A.D. 661), having previously given directions that the assassin Abdu'r Rahman should be detained in custody, to await the result of his murderous attack; if the blow should prove fatal, the generous Ali stipulated that one stroke should deprive the murderer of a life justly forfeited for the½ attack on the Khalif of Islam.
Thus died Ali, after a troublous reign of a little more than five years.
Among the surnames or honourable titles which the Muslims bestow upon Muhammad's son-in-law is that of Wasi, which signifies in Arabic "legatee" or "heir,"-that is, of the Prophet. His second title is "Mortaza," or "Mortazi," which being interpreted means, "Beloved by, or acceptable to God." He is also known as "Kanar," i.e., the great "Curer," and sometimes as Bakhshanda the "Pardoner." His undaunted courage and unconquerable skill in battle also gained for him the appellation, " Asad Allah al Ghalib" or "the victorious Lion of God"; but he is more commonly known as "Haidar," which also in the Arabic language signifies "Lion." The Persians for a similar reason call him "Shir-i-Khuda," "the Lion of God," and not unfrequent mention of him is made as the "Hand of God," "Shah-i-marduman," the "King of men." Faizu'l anwar, the distributor of Lights and Graces, or Miru'l mumanin, the Prince of the Faithful.
Ali was buried at Kufa ; for many decades the site of his tomb was unmarked, but in the year A.H. 367 (A.D. 977), a sumptuous monument, which the Persians generally call Gumbad-i-Faizi'l anwar (the dome of the distributor of Lights), was erected to mark the spot which contains the ashes of a man beloved by his friends and feared by his enemies-a warrior who delighted in battle, but hated diplomacy,-a Khalif who, possessing unlimited and unrestrained power, was endowed with a meekness and humility, which found
expression in the inscription which he placed on the seal of the Empire: "The Kingdom belongs to the only mighty God."
When Ali had received his mortal wound, and it was perceived that life was ebbing away, those around him inquired whom he would nominate for his successor. The son-in-law of the Prophet replied that he intended in this matter to follow the example of the Apostle of God, who died without selecting a ruler of the faithful, and that if it pleased God to favour them, lie would, undoubtedly, unite their judgments in making a good choice. In these circumstances it seemed suitable that the mantle of the father should fall upon his elder son, Hasan, who, however, inherited more of Ali's piety than his courage, while being naturally of a peaceable disposition, he was ill-fitted to rule over a monarchy which needed a firm hand and a stout sword. When the Khalif had drawn his last breath, Hasan stood up and said to the people: "You have killed a man on that same night in which the Quran came down from Heaven, and Isa (Jesus) upon whom be peace, was lifted up to Heaven, and in which Joshua the son of Nun was killed; by God! none of his predecessors exceeded him, nor will any of his successors ever be equal to him." After this harangue the speaker was inaugurated as Emperor of the Faithful. "Stretch out your hand," such was the formulary observed, "as a token that you will stand by the Book of God, and the Tradition of the Apostle, and make war against all opposers." "As to the Book of God and the Tradition of the Apostle, they will stand," was the pious rejoinder of the pious Khalif. The people then made obeisance, and stipulated that they would be subject and obedient to him, and remain at peace with his friends, and at war with his enemies. Some, however, the recollection of the Syrian war, with all its wearisome contests and indecisive
battles, filling their hearts with feelings of aversion and regret-hesitated as to this latter condition, and exclaimed: "This man will never serve you for a master, we are not for fighting." But upwards of 40,000 warriors had, in days of yore, bound themselves to stand by Ali in the matter of his dispute with the Syrians, and Hasan was persuaded, contrary to his own inclination, to put himself at the head of this body, with the view of reducing to obedience the rebel Muawiya, who, even before his rival was killed, had proclaimed himself Khalif, and who now refused to acknowledge the claims of Hasan, whom he charged with having been an accomplice in the murder of 0thman.-The contending forces met at a place called Madayn, but a tumult in his army, on which occasion he was not only treated with discourtesy, but received a wound, -revealed to Hasan the alarming circumstance that his authority was precarious, and his power slight. So, weary at heart he wrote to Muawiya, resigning to the latter a sovereignty so beset with difficulties, and so fraught with danger. In the meanwhile, the Governor of Syria, judging from the position of affairs, that Hasan might not impossibly be disposed to listen to terms sent him a sheet of paper completely blank, save in so far as it was signed at the bottom, and bade the timid-minded Imam write therein what conditions he pleased, which it was promised should be punctually and scrupulously performed. Hasan thereupon altered in his own favour the terms which he had previously proposed for Muawiya's acceptance; but his adversary, not unnaturally, preferred to adhere to the first letter, which he said truly was Hasan’s own proposal.
Ultimately it was arranged that (1) Muawiya should give up all the money in the treasury at Kufa; (2) that Hasan should receive a vast estate in Persia, and (3) that Muawiya should make no reproachful reflection upon Ali, at least in the presence of the son of the latter. These conditions being settled, Hasan and Muawiya repaired together to Kufa, where the former
made a formal abdication of the Khalifat. "O people" such was the language of the Emperor of the Faithful, "God, whose name be magnified and glorified, directed you the right way by the help of the first of our family, and bath prevented the effusion of your blood by the means of the last of us. Muawiya contended with me concerning a matter, to which I had a better pretension than him; but I chose rather to restrain the people from fighting, and surrender it to him. But even this affair also bath a time prefixed for its duration, and the world is liable to changes." So Hasan, in company with his brother Husain, retired to Madina in the enjoyment of the magnificent income of upwards of 150,000 a year, most of which he spent in deeds of charity, But he was so little attached to the things of this world, that twice in his lifetime he deprived himself of all that he had, and on three other occasions he divided half of his substance amongst the poor.
Thus passed the first half of the year 661 of the Christian era. Authorities differ as to the precise duration of Hasan's reign, but it is generally considered to have lasted about six months.
Upon his coming to Madina he was blamed by his friends for having so tamely and easily resigned ; but he answered that he was weary of the world, while the people of Kufa were, in his opinion, such a faithless and fickle nation that he could place no reliance upon their allegiance or assistance, seeing that no man ever reposed confidence in them but he was a sufferer for his rashness and folly; while never two of them concurred in their opinions and wishes; in short, they had no regard either to good or evil. So he turned away in disgust from a people whom he could neither trust nor admire.
While he was settled at Madina, it happened that the "separatists," who had occasioned his father so much trouble, raised an insurrection against Muawiya, and the latter thereupon wrote to Hasan, enjoining him to go forth against them. But the ex-Khalif desired to be excused, on the plea that he had quitted public affairs;
and that, if he had cared for fighting at all, he should have himself entered the lists with him against whom the rebellion was raised.
Though successful in his schemes, ill-feelings lurked in the bosom of the newly elected Khalif, who was anxious to secure the succession for his son Yazid, and he resolved to rid himself of an enemy whose near relationship to the Prophet attached the people to his person, while the meekness and gentleness of his disposition made amends for the absence of those traits of boldness and vigour which are so highly esteemed in a land where every one was a warrior from his youth, and where the sword and the bow graced the bosom alike of the stripling of a few summers, as of the venerable elder with snow white locks.
Sad to relate, Muauwya found an instrument to secure the accomplishment of his treacherous design in the sanctuary of the domestic circle, and the person selected to rid the world of an inoffensive and unsuspecting victim, was no other than the wife of Hasan's bosom, who, lured with the dazzling prospect of an ultimate union with Yazid, and tempted with the promise of a sum of 50,000 dirhams (somewhat over £1,000), readily consented to sacrifice the life of her lord and master. The method which she adopted for its accomplishment was not less remarkable than the consummate perfidy of the design. While yet warm from her embraces, she rubbed the body of her husband with a napkin which she had previously impregnated with poison. The deadly preparation quickly pervaded the frame of her hapless spouse, who soon lay stretched on the bed a stiffened and distorted corpse.
When the time of his death drew near, his brother Husain begged of him to say who it was that had poisoned him, and swore that judgment should over take the murderer. But the noble-hearted Hasan refused to disclose the secret. "O brother! the life of this world is made up of nights which vanish away. Let him alone till he and I meet together before God,"
was the only response which passed the lips of the murdered saint; but the expression indicated a consciousness that, in his opinion, his wife, though the instrument, was not the instigator of his death.
When Muawiya heard the glad tidings of his enemy's murder, that ambitious and unprincipled intriguer fell down on his knees with affected humility, and worshipped the Lord of Heaven, who had removed from his path the sole opponent whom he dreaded in his heart, and hated in his soul. It is at least satisfactory in the midst of this black record of treachery and guilt to find that Yazid, more prudent perhaps than honourable, refused to fulfil the promise made in his name and on his behalf. So the murderess, whose memory is to this day bitterly execrated, and her person most deeply detested, remained a widow, while the paltry sum of money which she received as the price of a husband's blood was but an insignificant reward for an act of villainy which has few parallels in the annals of infamy and crime.
Thus (Safa, A.H. 49-March, A.D. 670) died the ex-Khalif, familiarly known as Abu Muhammad, though not a few love to speak of him as Taqqi (the Pious), which latter name he derived from the many actions by which he was distinguished. Before his death, Hasan had expressed a wish that he might be interred at Madina by the side of the Prophet of Islam; but the jealousy of the implacable Ayisha prevented compliance with this desire, and an ordinary cemetery afforded the grandson of Muhammad that peace and rest in the grave of death which the implacable malignity of his foes denied him when alive, as an Earthly monarch and Ruler of men.
It had been part of the agreement between Muawiya and Hasan that, after the decease of the former the government should revert to the family of the latter:
but as years rolled on, the usurper was by no means willing that the reins of power should pass from his own branch, and he took steps to make the succession hereditary: he was successful in his efforts, and on his death -(A.H. 60 -A.D. 680) his son Yazid sat on the throne of his father; not only so, indeed, but for fourteen generations the Khalifat remained in the Ommaiya branch to which Muawiya had belonged. But the whole of these successors of the Prophet are regarded by the followers of Ali as usurpers, and are therefore excluded from the list of Imams with whose history these pages are concerned.
As soon as Yazid succeeded to the government, he sent a letter to the Governor of Madina, bidding him hold Husain and others "close to the inauguration, without any remission or relaxation." But the grandson of the Prophet managed, with various excuses, to put off the evil day when he would have had to bow down to a sovereign whose succession he disputed, and whose authority he ignored; moreover, during this interval he managed to steal away secretly and escape to Mecca, taking with him the whole of his family except one brother.
Never were people more overjoyed than were the inhabitants of Iraq at the death of Muawiya, whom they detested as a tyrant and usurper, while they sighed for th& government of Husain, who belonged to a family which they considered as almost divine; added to which his wife was the daughter of the last Sassanide King of Persia. The Kufans, in particular, were so impatient, that they sent message after message to Ali's son, assuring him that if he would but make his appearance amongst them, he should not only be secure as to his own person, but that, in consideration of the esteem which they had for his father and family, they would render him homage, and acknowledge him as the only lawful and true Khalif. Though lending a ready ear to these solicitations and importunities, he none the less deemed it prudent to despatch a messenger to feel the
pulse of the people, whose humour he somewhat mistrusted. Muslim, the person selected for this delicate and important office, at first met with great encouragement, and no less than 18,000 men flocked to the standard of his master Husain: but the lieutenant of Yazid soon found means to turn the tide of popular favour, and the hapless envoy was eventually forced to flee for his life: being ere long seized at the house of an old woman, and taken back to the city, he was afterwards carried to the top of the castle, where he was decapitated and his head and mangled body cast down on the plain beneath; which done, the former was picked up and sent as a present to Yazid.
When the messengers did not return, it should have been evident to Husain that something was amiss, and he might well have paused ere committing himself to the mercies of such a fickle and inconstant people: but he still persisted in his intention. To no effect did his friends represent to him the madness of embarking in such a desperate undertaking, suggesting that he should keep himself retired till a sufficient body of supporters was raised to ensure success. Husain was not to be moved from his intention: at length, finding all their protestations of no effect, they earnestly pressed him at least not to take the wives and children of his household, lest evil should befall them. One zealous counselor, in his eager efforts to avert a destruction which he foresaw, swore "By that God, beside whom there is no other if I knew that my taking you by the hair of the head till they came in and parted us, would be a means to detain you at Mecca, I would do it." To use the quaint words of the Arabian author who has chronicled these events, "No advice took place with Husain," who on the morning of the eighth day of Zu'l hijja in the year of the Hijra 60 (10 September, A.D. 680), set out from Mecca with a small retinue of followers. This little cavalcade had not proceeded far on their road, when they fell in with a body of a thousand horse, under the command of a chieftain named al Hurr, a page 116
man well affected to the family of Ali. To him Husain explained the object of the expedition which had been taken at the invitation of the people of Kufa; charged with the commission to bring before Obaidu'llah the Governor of Bussora as a prisoner the very man who now stood before him powerless to resist, al Hurr was moved with compassion, and bade the grandson of the Prophet choose his own road "Perhaps it may please God I may meet with something that may bring me off without my being enforced to any extremity upon your account," was the pious ejaculation of a warrior who dreaded that the blood of so near a descendant of the Apostle of God should be laid to his account. So, wheeling his charger, he departed out of the way, leaving Husain to pursue his journey unmolested. Scarce a few hours elapsed when four horsemen appeared in sight bringing the news that the nobility of the fickle city whither Husain was wending his steps, were opposed to him to a man, while as for the rest "their hearts are with you, but to-morrow their swords will be drawn against You." He now, too, learned for the first time the fate of the messenger which had been despatched to the town: the murder of this man affected him deeply, but did not deter him from continuing his march. Another faded blossom was added to the chaplet of destruction. In the still solitude of night he saw in a vision a horseman who said, "Men travel by night, and their destinies travel by night towards them;” from this he knew that the hand of death was upon him, but onward he went till they came to the fatal plain of Karbala, where a large force was drawn up commanded by Amr, a general acting in the interests of Obaidu'llah, the Governor of Bussora. A conference now took place between the two armies, but it was productive of no material results. After it became evident that it was not possible to accommodate matters in this fashion, Obaidii'llah sent one Shimar to the commander of the forces with orders that if Husain and his followers would surrender themselves they should be received, but
if not that he should fall upon them, and trample them under foot.
This offer of mercy reached Husain on the ninth of the month Muharram, as he was sitting at the door of his tent, just at the close of evening prayer, whereupon he begged that he might be allowed till morn to consider as to the answer he would return. In the night his sister came up to her brother with tears in her eyes from a foreboding of evil. "Alas for the desolation of my family!" such were her piteous cries. "I wish I had died yesterday rather than have lived till to-day: my mother Fatima is dead, and my father Ah, and my brother Hasan. Alas for the destruction that is past, and the dregs of it that remain behind." Husain looking upon the frail creature at his side began to chide her, saying, "Sister, do not let the devil take away your temper." Unable to influence him, or deter him from the fatal course upon which he had embarked, the hapless maiden, beating her face, and tearing open her bosom, fell at his feet motionless in a swoon. Hastily sprinkling his sister with cold water till she had somewhat recovered, Husain counselled her to "put her trust in God, and depend upon the comfort that comes from Him: and know that the people of the earth shall die, and the people of the Heavens shall not remain: and every thing shall perish but the presence of God, who created all things by His power, and shall make them return, and they shall return to him alone. My father was better than I, and my mother was better than I, and my brother was better than I, and I, and they, and every Musalman has an example in the Apostle of God." Leading away the terrified girl to her own apartments, he commanded his men to cord the tents close together so that the enemy might not be able to pass between them : he also caused a trench to be digged at the end of the line of tents into which they threw a large quantity of wood, so that when set on fire it would be impossible for their foes to encompass them from that direction. The rest of the night was
spent in prayer and supplication, and as the morn began to dawn, both sides prepared for battle; but the disproportion of the contending parties left no room for doubt as to the issue of the day; for while Amr was at the head of upwards of 4,000 men, Husain's band could muster no more than two-and-thirty horse-soldiers, and forty men on foot-a total of seventy-two devoted adherents. So soon as it became evident that a struggle was imminent, Husain went into his tent, and, as is customary amongst the Arabs when about to engage in dangerous and forlorn enterprises, perfumed his body with musk, an example followed by the leading men of his party. The reason of this quaint proceeding showed at once the desperate nature of the adventure in which the martyrs of Islam were about to hazard their lives, and their firm belief in the future of the cause for which they were ready to fight. "Alas!" such was the explanation which one of their number vouchsafed to an inquiring comrade, "there is nothing between us and the black-eyed girls (of Paradise) but only that these people come down upon us and kill us." Then Husain mounted his horse, and Quran in hand, invited the people to the performance of their duty; adding "0 God! thou art my confidence in every trouble, and my hope in all adversity." He next reminded them of his excellency, the nobility of his birth, the greatness of his power, and his high descent, bidding them consider "whether or no such a man as I am is not better for you: I, who am the son of your Prophet's daughter, beside whom there is no other upon the face of the earth."
While this parley was going on in front of the tent, a party of thirty horse wheeled round, as if to commence the attack. They were commanded by al Hurr, who had resolved to throw in his lot with the grand-son of the Prophet So, drawing in rein before the master whom he had elected to serve, he placed at the disposal of the latter the band which had come forth with the apparent design of hurling destruction upon
their adversaries. His submission accepted, al Hurr turned his charger towards the tents of his former friends, whom he reproached most bitterly for their treachery and perfidy. "Alas for you! you invited him till he came, and then deceived him; and this did not satisfy you, but you are come out to fight against him. Nay, you have hindered him, and his wives, and his family, from the waters of the Euphrates, where Jews, and Christians, and Sabians drink, and hogs, and dogs, sport themselves, and he is like a prisoner in your hands incapable of doing himself either good or hurt." But an arrow from the bow of Shimar put a summary end to all controversy, and the battle began in good earnest. Two warriors now stepped forth from the ranks of the Kufian army, and challenged their adversaries to single combat; but their bodies soon lay prostrate in the dust at the feet of a victorious champion from amidst Husain's little band, who slew them both in the presence of the two armies. Nor was the next who offered himself more fortunate: coming up close to the grandson of the Prophet, he muttered in the ear of the latter, words of bitterness and gall. "You are first at Hell," said the arrogant Kufian warrior. "By no means," was the rejoinder; "alas for thee, I go to a merciful Lord full of forgiveness, easy to be obeyed, but thou art more worthy of Hell." The Syrian soldier turned about, but at this instant his horse became unmanageable, and he fell off; leaving his foot hanging in the stirrup: seeing his plight, one of Husain's party stepped forth and lopped off the cavalier's right leg. Powerless and mutilated the poor wretch was dragged along the stones and his head dashed to pieces ere his friends could stop the horse in its mad career. Emboldened by these successes, the Imam's champions fought with redoubled energy, and not a soul from amongst the warriors of Kufa lived to return to the camp whence they had come forth to contend in single combat with the heroes of Karbala. In these circumstances, orders were given for a general onslaught on the desperate knot of followers
who had placed their swords and their lives at the disposal of the son of the "Lion of God." The fight raged thick and furious, but still Husain's party, whose superiority in courage made, in some degree, amends for their -inferiority in numbers, managed to repulse the enemy at all points. Seeing this, the commander of their adversaries ordered 500 archers to the front. And in a few minutes such a rain of arrows poured down upon Husain's camp, that not a man of them could remain in the saddle. So leaping down, the martyrs fought sword in -hand with a valour which nothing could withstand, and with an impetuosity which no living soul could oppose.
Amr perceiving that, thanks to the timely precaution of the Meccans, they were inaccessible save in the front, commanded his men to pull down the tents; but the soldiers told off for the duty were killed to a man. This so enraged the desperate Shimar, that, indifferent to all the rules of warfare, he struck his javelin into the tent which gave shelter to the women of Husain's household, and then, calling for a brand, proceeded to set fire to the slender house with its helpless and delicate inmates. The apostle's grandson, hearing the shrieks of the terrified females, and seeing at a glance what had occasioned their distress, was bitterly enraged
"What!" said he, "would'st thou burn my family? God burn thee in hellfire!"
It was now noon, and the time of prayer; and in the midst of his troubles and danger Husain was not unmindful of the duties which his religion imposed upon every true son of Islam. So calling together the remnant of his shattered company, the Imam, poured forth to the God of heaven a petition for succour and aid, adding to the office the "Prayer of Fear," which is never used but in cases of extremity. After the devotions were finished, the fight was renewed with redoubled energy on both sides. Fatima's son soon found himself surrounded by his foes, but the prodigious valour of his adherents, one alone of whom slew ten men as they pressed around him, kept the enemy for a while
at bay; still as soldier after soldier fell fighting like a hero, there was in the end no one left to fill the gaps. The little party was now almost cut off; while Husain's eldest son lay mangled at his feet, surrounded by the lifeless and quivering frames of many a stalwart warrior who, faithful even unto death, had "done and dared" all that mortal man could do. The Imam himself had throughout the day been in the thickest of the fight; arrows had poured round him on every side; swords had clashed before his eyes, and javelins had pierced the heart of many of his followers at his very feet; but the Martyr of Karbala seemed to possess a charmed life, and he stood on the field of battle as yet unharmed and unhurt. At length, however, the spell was broken, and the blow of a sabre clove his skull, so that his head-piece became filled with the blood which gushed forth from the wound. Casting aside the helmet which pressed his temples, he bound up his head with a turban, and continued the fight; but he soon became exhausted, so, sick in heart, and weary in body, he sat down at the door of the tent, taking in his lap his little son Abdu'llah; yet scarce had he cast the eyes of fond affection upon the innocent face which he loved with all the deepness of a tender and compassionate nature, than an arrow pierced the heart of the hapless infant, who fell on his breast a blood-stained stiffening corpse. Placing his hands beneath the wound to catch the blood which flowed in copious streams, the agonized father threw it forth towards the skies, ejaculating at the time, "O Lord! if thou withholdest help from us from heaven, give it to those that are better, and take vengeance upon the wicked." Husain now became thirsty, but while in the act of drinking, an arrow entered his mouth, and he sunk to the earth with hands uplifted, imploring that help which man could now no longer afford. At this juncture his little nephew, a beautiful child with jewels in his ears, came to embrace him; but a ruthless soldier cut off the lad's hand with a sword; whereupon, roused by the sight of this stripling,
mangled before his very eyes, the infuriated uncle, hastily muttering, "Thy reward, child, is with God; thou shalt go to thy pious forefathers," rushed once more into the ranks of the enemy, and hurled death and destruction in every direction-charging some-times to the left, sometimes to the right, till his foes fled in every direction like deer before a lion. The effect was visible and the deed heroic; but such forlorn desperation could avail nothing against the seething phalanx of the enmaddened foe, who by mere force of numbers were able to strike the undaunted swordsman a blow on the hand which partially disabled him. A second cut on the neck brought him to the ground, where, as he lay, a spear was thrust into his heart. So fell the noble and much loved Husain, the third Imam of the house of Ali. The remorseless victors, indifferent alike to the claims of humanity as of decency, gloated over the corpse with the malignity of fiends, and severing the head from the body, rode their horses over the mangled carcase already scarred with three-and-thirty wounds which it had received in the battle, till a quivering and scarce recognizable mass of flesh was all that remained of the hero whose praises poets delight to sing, and whose prowess has seldom been equalled, never surpassed, in the annals of a nation, ever "prone for the fight and eager for the fray."
A hardened wretch from amongst the hardened knot of ruffians had not shrunk from an act of barbarity which has consigned its perpetrators to eternal infamy and disgrace, seizing the head of the martyred Imam, hastened with the sickening charge to Obaidu'llah, the governor of Bussora. Finding, however, the castle shut, he carried home the blood-stained trophy to his house, and told his wife that he had brought her a great rarity. But the woman was moved with compassion at a sight so revolting to the better feelings of a tender nature. "Other men make presents of gold and silver, and you have brought me the head of the son of the Apostle's daughter. By God! the same bed shall never
hold us two any more." Such was the indignant protest of the incensed matron, who thereupon quitted the house of a man whose baseness she had learned to despise, and whose conduct she was fain to loathe. Next morning the head was taken to the governor, who treated it reproachfully, and struck it over the mouth with a stick, after which it was set up in Kufa, and subsequently carried about the streets of that city. In due course it was sent to Yazid, at Damascus; but the Khalif was moved at the ghastly sight, and expressed his regret at Husain's murder. As to the ultimate resting place of the head there is considerable difference of opinion. Some say it was sent to Madina and buried by the side of the tomb of Fatima, the mother of Husain; others incline to the view that it was interred at Damascus, in a place called the Garden Gate, whence it was eventually removed to Askalon, its last resting place being at Cairo, where a monument was erected called the "Sepulchre of Husain the Martyr." Again, some pretend that the head was interred at Karbala, and it is certainly significant that a sumptuous monument is erected at that city, which is visited to this day with great respect by devotees from Persia and other regions in which the "family of the tent" are venerated, and their memories revered.
As regards the mutilated corpse of Husain, it lay exposed on the sands of the plain for the space of three days, when the people of a neighbouring village, fearing lest they should incur the vengeance of heaven if they suffered the bodies of their fellow creatures to be longer a prey to wolves and vultures, went together and committed to earth on the spot where they found it the headless and scarce recognizable carcase of the grandson of the Prophet of Arabia.
The two titles usually given to Husain in Persia, are that of "Shahid" (the martyr,) or that of "Sayyid" (Lord), while both he and his brother Hasan are comprehended in the dual word "as Sayyidain," which signifies "the two Lords." He was killed on the tenth
day of the month of Muharram in the year of the Hijra 61, which corresponds with 19 Oct A.D. 680, an anniversary religiously observed by the myriads of pious worshippers who annually celebrate the memory and mourn the death of the Martyrs of Karbala."
When Husain lay slain on the fatal field of Karbala on that memorable day in the month of Muharram, a soldier entering the tent of the martyred hero, found therein a young lad languishing in pain and sickness. Snatching from the midst of the screaming assembly of women, the innocent and defenceless stripling, who alone of all "the family of the tent" bad escaped the massacre, the bigoted warrior, his soul deadened to all the better feelings of humanity, drew his sword to quench the flame of life which flickered in the bosom of the unfortunate youth: but a more sympathizing bystander, attracted by the shrieks which issued from the tent, reproached his comrade for his want of manliness in butchering a beardless child. "The believers," said he, "have hitherto abstained from killing the infant children even of infidels; let this child be carried to thy general that he may decide upon his fate," So the life of Ah Asghar, better known perhaps as Zainu'l Abidin, was spared, and he was led away captive to the presence of Obaidu'llah. At the 1time of the lad's arrival the Governor was busied in mocking and insulting the head of the massacred Husain; but turning suddenly in the midst of his fiendish triumph towards the new object of his adversary - he jeeringly observed to the youthful prisoner that was understood that God had slain his father. To remark the proud youth vouchsafed no reply, whereupon the merciless tormentor impetuously
demanded the reason of such silence. "I once had an elder brother, but him also the murderers have slain," was the undismayed rejoinder.
The rage of the tyrant was easily roused, and he bid his attendants fall upon the boy and despatch him: at this critical juncture Zairab, the daughter of Ali, in company with the women of Husain's family, rushing forward, implored him to spare the only representative of their wretched race, and if the victor was not yet satisfied with blood, to direct his vengeance rather against themselves, since they had no one left to whom he could be accountable. Their entreaties prevailed, and the order for this last act of savage butchery was countermanded; so for the second time the child's life was spared. The whole party were now despatched to Damascus, but the malignity of the captor is evidenced by the circumstance that the women were stripped of their clothing, and paraded through the streets exposed to the insults of a pitiless and insulting rabble! The noble soul of the youthful prisoner resented this wanton act of cruelty, and he would not vouchsafe a word to his attendants as with a chain about his neck he journeyed along in the silence of despair. Coming to the presence of the Imam Yazid, the party experienced scarcely better treatment than they had received at the hands of his lieutenant. First of all the Emperor of the Faithful proceeded in a strain of insult to reproach Ali Asghar with the misfortunes and troubles which seemed to pursue the destinies of himself, and of the family to which he belonged. On receiving from him a reply equally modest and applicable, the baffled ruler bade his son take up the discourse, if haply he might be able to incense and irritate the captive before him. The youth, however, refused to listen to the brutal commands of his father, who after sufficiently indulging his malevolent spirit turned to exhaust his spleen upon the noble minded Zainab, endeavouring to aggravate her sorrows by addressing her under the title of the daughter of the Prophet's son-in-law, and thereby
bringing to her recollection the exalted stock from which she was sprung.
When their souls had been tortured as long as he thought proper by the remarks to which, in the insolence of his power, the Imam thus compelled them to submit, he at length dismissed the captives to the apartments of his women. There they remained several days, at the expiration of which they received instructions to betake themselves to Madina. Before, however, their final departure, Yazid desired that Ah Asghar might be brought to the royal presence to receive his dismissal. The language to which the lad was compelled to submit was somewhat more gentle than might have been expected at the hands of a man who did not hesitate to stoop to the most contemptible means to vex and distress the unfortunate and hapless beings whom fate had placed in his power. "The curse of God light on thee, thou descendant of the Prophet's son-in-law! Had it rested with myself I might have been disposed to subscribe to the views of thy father; but it becomes not man to controvert the decrees of Providence; thou art now at liberty to return to Madina with the whole of thy family."
The person to whose care Yazid had committed the party of fugitives conducted himself with such civility and respect to them all the way that Fatima said to her sister Zainab, "Sister, this Syrian bath behaved himself Iso kindly to us, do not you think we ought to make him a present?" "Alas," was the rejoinder, "we have nothing to present him withal but our jewels." So they took off their bracelets, and sent them to the man, with an apology, begging of him to accept them as a token of their respect for his courtesy. He, however, modestly refused the proffered gift, generously representing. "If what I have done had been only with regard to this world, a less price than your jewels had been a sufficient reward; but what I did was for God's sake, and upon the account of your relation to the Prophet, God's peace be upon him!"
When Ali Asghar arrived at Madina he was welcomed with enthusiasm as the sole survivor left to perpetuate the race of the Martyr of Karbala the adherents, indeed, of the house of Ali soon formed a large and influential party, which endeavoured, on all occasions, to magnify the merits of Husain, in preferring an honourable death to an ignominious life. By this means they contrived to stir up the people to such a pitch of enthusiasm that the latter threw off the yoke of the house of Ommaiya, and Islam presented the strange spectacle of a divided alliance, Yazid ruling at Damascus, while the followers of the martyrs of Karbala possessed power and influence at Madina. For a while, however, the Alutes hesitated formally to refuse homage to the Ruler of the Faithful, who was passing his days in the Syrian capital, drinking wine, and minding nothing "but his tabors, his singing wenches, and his dogs;" but after an interval they broke out into open rebellion, and, repairing to the mosque, publicly renounced their allegiance. "I lay aside Yazid as I lay aside this turban," said a lad amongst the number, as, suiting the action to the word, he cast his head dress to the ground. "I put away Yazid as I put away this shoe," rejoined another, and soon a great heap of shoes and turbans proclaimed the fact that the reveller at Damascus held no sway at Madina. An army was quickly despatched to reduced the rebels to obedience, but the Aliites excavated a ditch round about the city, and made a most vigorous defence: in spite of their valour they were ultimately, however, overpowered, and for three days the city was given over as a prey to the soldiers of the conquering general. Ali Asghar, contrary to what might have been expected, was treated with the greatest respect, and escaped the general massacre of those who had hoped to re-establish the fortunes of his ill-destined house. So soon as Madina was subjected, Yazid turned his attention to Mecca, which city also exhibited signs of disaffection; but while the siege was at its height the hand of death struck down the Imam in his revels
(4 Rabiu'l awal A.H. 64 - I Nov. A.D. 682) and the holy city escaped the destruction which had been impending.
At this time the people of Kufa, bethinking themselves that they had not dealt generously with Husain, began to take steps to avenge his death upon his murderers. Accordingly circular letters were sent bidding those who were favourable to the cause to meet on the plain of Naqila, to show that they repented, and that they were "persons duly qualified for the search of excellency, and the laying hold of the reward, and repentance towards their Lord from their sin, though it be the cutting off their necks, and the killing their children, and the consumption of their wealth, and the destruction of their tribes and families." Scarce a handful of persons responded to the call, and even when two messengers had repaired to Kufa crying in the streets, "Vengeance for Husain," no more than 4,000 men could be found willing to embark upon a venture fraught with so much danger and peril. Marching all night, the little band in the morning came to Husain's burying-place, where they remained till each man of their number had prayed for pardon over the tomb of the Martyr of Karbala. "O Lord!" thus ran the language of penitence and remorse, “we have deceived the son of the daughter of our Prophet: forgive us what is past and repent towards us, for thou art the Repenter, the Merciful! Have mercy upon Husain and his followers, the righteous martyrs! and we call thee to witness O Lord! that we are the very same sort of men with those that were killed for his sake; if Thou dost not forgive him to us we must be sufferers." So soon as the party had finished their devotions they continued their journey towards Syria with the design of revenging themselves on Obaidu'llah who had caused the blood of the martyrs to flow in streams on the plain of Karbala; but that "wicked wretch" met them on the way with an army of upwards of 20,000 men, and scarce a soul of the Aliites lived to mourn over the rashness of endeavouring with but a handful of zealots
to withstand the attack of a body of troops so vastly superior in numbers and organization. While these reverses were overtaking the hapless followers of Ali on the plains of Syria, a terrible revenge was being wreaked upon the Khalif at Mecca. It happened thus : a man, by name Al Mukhtar had been struck with a cane by Obaidu'llah at the time the messengers from Husain were endeavouring to stir up the people of Kufa to declare for the grandson of the Prophet of Arabia the violence of the blow dashed the man’s eye to pieces filled with rage, the mutilated servant swore with a solemn oath that he would take vengeance on the man who had at once insulted and injured him. Being cast into prison the poor wretch found, at first, but little opportunity to put his oath into execution, though he managed at times to get letters conveyed to him in the lining of his cap; but so soon as he was released he set about the task which he had taken upon himself, and by means of indomitable energy and perseverance at length managed to secure the command of such forces as the power of Ah could muster together. Indeed, some of the party went so far as to proclaim him Khalif on condition that he would not only govern according to the contents of the Book of God, and the tradition of his Apostle, but destroy the murderers of Husain. Nothing loth, at any rate, as to the last condition, Al Mukhtar seized and killed Shimar, the man who had shot the first arrow on the memorable day of massacre on the field of Karbala. He next besieged in his house the brutal wretch who had carried Husain's head to Obaidu'llah, and when he had killed this contemptible miscreant, he burned the body to ashes and cast them to the winds of heaven. Amr, who had commanded the army sent out against Husain, met the same fate as had befallen the martvr whom he had slain, and his lifeless carcase was trampled under the foot of horses in like manner as, by his command, troops had ridden over the sacred body of the grandson of the Prophet. Another offender was bound and handed over to his
tormentors to be treated as they might think proper. "You stripped the son of Ah before he was dead," such were the taunts of the captors, "and we will strip you alive: you made a mark of him, and we will make one of you;" so they let fly a shower of arrows at him which "stuck so thick over all parts of his body that he looked like a porcupine."
But fortune had reverses in store at this juncture for the house of Ali, some of whom were seized while per-forming the pilgrimage to Mecca, and imprisoned in the holy well "Zamzam." Whilst in this sorry plight they found means to make their condition known to Al Mukhtar, who at once despatched 750 troopers to their assistance, in batches of from forty to one hundred men. These soldiers arriving at Mecca, beat off the guard, and breaking open the "Zamzam," released the imprisoned captives. Al Mukhtar now (A.H. 67=A.D. 686) found leisure to attack the city of Kufa, on which occasion he adopted an expedient as original as it was successful: making a throne, he pretended that there was something mysterious connected therewith ; accordingly it was carried into battle upon a mule, and the people, ere the contest began, knelt down before the sacred emblem and prayed for protection against their enemies. The petition was granted, and Kufa fell into the hands of a general who filled with the bitterest animosity against the race of Ommaiya persecuted all the inhabitants well disposed towards that cause ; but the severity of his actions, and the disorders of his administration, raised enemies within the city, and these lending their assistance to the army which was sent to wrest the town from its captor, the latter was slain, while the whole of his followers, to the number of 7,000 men were put to the sword. Thus died Al Mukhtar-but he had lived to fulfil his oath, and wreak his vengeance upon all those who had dipped their hands in the blood of Husain, 50,000 of whom paid with their lives the penalty of their treachery and cruelty on the occasion of the tragedy at Karbala.
What part Zainu'l Abidin took in the struggles of his followers to establish the authority and consolidate the power of the house of the "Family of the Tent" is not stated in any of the Arabian annalists who have detailed the events of the period. But he appears to have exercised, at least in name, the powers of Imam, for it is related that Muhammad Hanifa, a son of Ali by another wife, and therefore not a descendant of the Prophet, contended with him at one time for the sacred honours of the Khalifat, and insisted that the arms of the Lawgiver of Arabia should be consigned to himself as the nearest descendant of the son-in-law of Muhammad. It was determined to refer the claims to the decision of the " Black Stone" in the Temple of Mecca, which pious Muslims suppose to be one of the relics which our first parent was suffered to bring with him on his expulsion from Paradise. Accordingly, the competitors presented themselves before this celebrated monument of antiquity; the son of Hanifa first addressed his prayer that some testimony might be revealed in favour of his claims; but not a sound was heard to establish his rights, or confirm his pretensions. Zainu'l Abidin next proceeded to invoke the sacred stone, by the truth of that Being from whom it derived its miraculous properties, to pronounce which of them after Husain should be Imam. The stone, so runs the legend, thereupon declared in favour of Ali, the great grand-son of the Prophet, who was accordingly invested with the dignity of which his uncle had sought to deprive him a dignity which he retained for the rest of his days.
Regarding the date of Ali Asghar's decease there is a considerable difference of opinion, some contending that it occurred in the 75th year of the Hijra (A.D. 694), while others maintain that it did not take place till twenty years later.
Nor is there less uncertainty as to the cause of his death, which is generally attributed to poison administered at the instance of an Imam of the house of Ommaiya to
whom it may be supposed his presence was at once a source of annoyance and of danger.
He was buried at Madina near the tomb of his uncle Hasan.
This Imam is commonly known as Zainu'l Abidin, "the ornament of the servants of God," an epithet occasionally varied to Shaidu'l Abidin, "the sun of the servants of God." He is also at times, referred to by the appellation of "Sajjad,” the "ever prostrate or adoring" while the name which he not infrequently receives of Zu'l tanafat, takes its origin from the callosities on his hands and knees, resembling those of a camel these it is said, were contracted by his unremitting assiduity, in the acts of devotion. His other titles, of Abu Muhammad, and Abu'l Hasan, simply indicate that he was the father of children bearing those names. The nick name of Abu'l Qasim, "parent of liberality," may well be supposed to have been derived from his extensive charity, a virtue which endeared him in the eyes of a nation with whom generosity is a sacred duty, and hospitality a cherished privilege.
Respecting the fifth Imam, Muhammad Baqir, but little is recorded in the pages of history. He was born at Madina in the seventy-fifth year of the Hijra (A.D. 694), or as others say in the year 59 of that era (AD. 658) his mother having been Omru Abdu'llah, a daughter of Hasan; he was therefore a great great grandson of the Prophet. He died in the year 114 of the same era (A.D. 732) by poison administered at the instance of the then reigning Khalif, and was buried at Madina. The surname of Baqir, which means "abounding in knowledge," was given him in consequence of the great extent of his learning and the vast depth of his information. He is sometimes also designated by the title of
Shakir (the grateful), in consequence of his habit of thanking God on all occasions of life, while the name of Hadi, which is sometimes to be met with, signifies that he was a guide or director to watch the steps of the people committed to his care. The title Abu Jafir simply indicates that he was the father of the succeeding Imam who bore the name of Jafir.
Imam Jafaru's Sadiq was born at Madina in the year 83 of the Muhammadan era (A.D. 702), his mother having been a daughter of the son of the first Khalif Abo Bakr. According to the Orientals he was the possessor of every virtue and perfection that can exalt fallen humanity or ennoble its erring instincts; and if their testimony be entitled to credit, he appears to have been so well persuaded of his own transcendent powers, that he used to tell his followers to embrace every opportunity to urge him with their inquiries while he was within their reach, seeing that when he was gone there would be none to supply his place as an instructor and director of mankind! He died in the year A.H. 148 (A.D. 765) by poison, at the age of sixty-five, the only member of his race who was suffered to reach that comparatively advanced period of life. He was buried at Madina by the side of his predecessor. There are those who maintain that some time previous to his death Jafaru's Sadiq nominated his son Musa to the Imamat, to the prejudice of his elder brother Ismail, whom he thought proper to disinherit in consequence of his intemperate love of wine. Others, however, are of opinion that Ismail having died previous to his father, the succession devolved as a matter of course upon Musa as the next in seniority. Hence arose a schism amongst the advocates of the Imamat, the Ismailians, of whom a branch exists to this day on the western side of India, ascribing to the person from whom they are so
denominated, the seventh place in the succession of the Rulers of the Faithful. It is, moreover, the belief of this latter sect that their founder was the last of his race, and that the sacred office which he held expired with him, a doctrine of which they availed themselves to indulge in the grossest impiety and atheism. Jafaru's Sadiq (Ja'far the sincere), derives his title from the rectitude of his life, and the pureness of his devotions, while the designation Abu Abdu'llah, which is sometimes to be found in the pages of history, indicates that he was the father of a son bearing the name of Abdu'llah.
It is generally believed that the birth of Imam Musa took place at a small station between Mecca and Madina in the year of the Hijra 128 (A.D. 745),his mother having been a native of Barbary. Owing to the unfortunate circumstance that he had excited the jealousy of the celebrated Khalif Harun ar Rashid, who ruled over the destinies of the faithful A.D. 786-808, he was summoned to Baghdad by that Prince, and cast into prison, where he remained till his decease in the year 183 (AD. 799). The cause of his death is variously stated, some being of opinion that the poisoned chalice so fatal to the members of his race, was the means employed to rid the world of a dangerous rival while others incline to the view that the more barbarous method was adopted of pouring molten lead down the unhappy Imam's throat. He was buried in one of the suburbs of Baghdad. The appellation of Khazim takes its origin in the extreme clemency, combined with a wonderful power of restraining his anger, with which this Imam was gifted. But he is sometimes referred to as Salim (patient), and at others as Amin, which latter epithet indicates that he is the trusty guardian of the Faith and Tradition.
The birth of Ali Riza is said to have taken place at Madina in the year 148 of the Muhammadan era (A.D. 765). Of his life and actions nothing has been handed down to posterity, and even his decease is surrounded by a halo of obscurity and doubt, it being uncertain whether he died a natural death, or whether he was destroyed by a dish of poisoned grapes. All that is known for certain is the date of the occurrence, which happened in AH. 203 (AD. 818). He was buried at Tus, which city subsequently became known as Mashhad Ali, or sometimes Mashhad, a name signifying "place of martyrdom." Ali Riza appears to have been a man much esteemed for his abstinence, and for his assiduity in prayer; his memory is indeed at the present day much revered amongst the people of Persia, who hold that a visit to his shrine is as meritorious as eighty pilgrimages to Mecca; but this regard for the virtues of the departed saint does not appear to be shared by all those professing the faith of the Prophet of Arabia, for it is a tradition that when the golden "gumbuz" or Mausoleum, which covers the remains and perpetuates the fame of the Martyr of Mashhad, was erected by Nadir Shah, King of Persia (A.D. 1736 to A.D. 1747) the Wahhabi Arabs sent a sarcastic message to that sovereign to the effect that the treasure which he was expending on so useless a fabric would be much more meritoriously applied if bestowed to superior advantage upon themselves. The title of "kiza," signifies "resigned ;" this Imam is, too, occasionally, designated Mortaza-the approved.
Imam Muhammad Taqi, born at Madina in the 195th year of the Hijra (A.D. 810), is said to have been possessed of such unrivalled endowments of person
and mind, that the Khalif al Mamun, won by the Imam's attractions, gave the latter a royal daughter in marriage. Notwithstanding, however, this exalted connection he did not escape the fate of his predecessors, and in A.H. 220 (A.D. 835), when he had attained but twenty-five years, the poisoned bowl terminated a career which had commenced under such favourable auspices. He was buried near Baghdad by the side of his grandfather Musau'l Kazim. He is sometimes designated Abu Jafar (the father of Jafar), but more generally "Taqi," the pious. The other titles by which he is known are "Jawad" (beneficent),"Munajib" (liberal), and "Mortaza"(approved).
The birth of this venerated successor to the chair of the hierarchy is said to have taken place at Madina, about the year 212 of the Hijra era (AD. 827). He spent, however, the greater part of his days at Samra, about four-and-twenty hours' journey from Baghdad, having been conducted to that town by order of the reigning Khalif. During his stay at the city in question he devoted himself to study and prayer, hoping thereby to avoid the jealousy of the Prince into whose hands he had fallen ; but he failed, and once again poison put an end to the existence of an unfortunate member of the unfortunate house of Ali. This happened in A.H. 254 (AD. 868). He was buried at Samra, and, as in the case of his father, obtained the title of "Taqi" (pious), although he has been occasionally designated Hadi (the guide). The epithet of "Askari" may be derived from the town of Askari in Samra, where he resided, though there are some who incline to the view that it is meant merely to denote that he was the "younger" (Asghar) Imam of the name Ali. The title "Zaki" (the continent) perpetuates his piety, while Abu'l Hasan serves to show that he was the father of the succeeding Imam.
The eleventh Imam was born at Madina in the year 232 of the Muhammadan era (A.D. 846). He has been much celebrated for his extensive liberality and his munificent disposition, while he is said to have evidenced by numerous proofs the possession of very extraordinary, if not miraculous powers. But these qualities caused him to be suspected by the reigning Khalif of the Abbasides, who adopted the usual mode of ridding himself of a person, whom he deemed dangerous. So Hasanu'l Askari shared the fate of those who had gone before him, and in the year 260 of the Hijra era (A.D. 873), a draught of poison carried off the eleventh Imam of the House of Ali. The titles he bore were Zaki (pure), Khalis (saviour), Siraj (lantern); the first marks the purity of his manners ; the second was given him in the hope and expectation that he would deliver the Musulmans from the oppression of the Abbasides; while the third signifies that he illuminated the world by the light of his faith and doctrine. In common with his father, and probably for the same reason, he bears the appellation of Askari.
This person, concerning whom the Orientals entertain some extraordinary beliefs, was born at Samra in the year of the Hijra era 255 (A.D.868). His birth, so it is proclaimed, was accompanied with preternatural signs and peculiarities, while certain marks on his body testified that no ordinary mortal had been sent into the world. Of his life and career no information has been handed down, save that the Khalif at that time swaying the destinies of the Muslim Monarchy, having manifested some design against this Imam, who is known throughout the East as the Mahdi or "Pontiff," the latter made his escape in A.H. 266 (A.D. 879) into a vault or subterraneous excavation at Samra, and totally disappeared.
It is, however, an article of belief amongst an immense number of votaries that he is still living, and that, when the proper period shall arrive, he will again appear on earth and exercise sovereign sway; and they have accordingly bestowed upon him the title of Hujjat (testimony), Qaim (erect), Muntazir (expector), Sahibu'z Zaman (the universal prince). Other sectaries again are not agreed whether the Mahdi is to be in the person of this prince, or of some other individual yet unborn, of the race of Fatima, who will come into the world in the consummation of time. The Ismailians, as has previously been stated, deem that Muhammad, the fourth son of Jafar, the tenth Imam, is the Mahdi who is destined to create a formidable revolution in the West, the regions of which will long continue in subjugation to him and to his posterity. Nor are there wanting persons who profess to believe that after he had disappeared the Mahdi continued to hold a mysterious communication with his adherents, through the intervention of certain individuals successively entrusted with his confidence, a state of things which terminated in the 326th year of the Hijra (A.D. 937), when one of the name of Ali bin Muhammad, the last who enjoyed this trust, produced, a short time before his death, a paper said to have been written by the invisible or concealed Imam, charging him to adjust all his concerns with this world, for that at the expiration of six days he was to die, a prediction which is supposed to have been verified. From that period the communications in question entirely ceased, and the existence of the twelfth Imam has remained enshrouded in a mist of obscurity, which no man has succeeded in removing. At his coming, an event which preludes the end of the world, it is supposed that he will be accompanied by Jesus Christ, who at his suggestion will kill all the swine appertaining to the followers of the Cross, and make Christianity similar to the religion of Islam, so that after this period the two faiths will be merged into one homogeneous creed!
Muhammad - His Life and Doctrines with Accounts of his Immediate Successors
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