PROPHET MUHAMMAD (571-632 A.D.)The origin of the word 'Arab'
Ancestry of Muhammad
Birth of Muhammad
Marriage of Muhammad
Beginning of Ministry
Cessation of revelation
Migration to Abyssinia
The Year of Grief
Precautionary dissimulation of Abu Talib
Al-Isra and al-Miraj
Muhammad in Taif
Guardianship of Mutim bin Adi
Pledge of Aqaba
Migration to Yathirab
Construction of the Mosque
Bond of Brotherhood
Covenant of Medina
Battle of Badr
Battle of Uhud
Battle of Ditch
Treaty of Hudaibia
Battle of Khaibar
Invitation to the Rulers
Conquest of Mecca
Battle of Hunain
Osama bin Zaid
Demise of Muhammad
Muhammad and Education
ALI BIN ABU TALIB
Fourth Caliph of Islam
Battle of Camel
Kufa - a new capital
Battle of Siffin
Appointment of Arbitrators
Battle of Naharwan
Muawiya occupied Egypt
Syrians' entry into Hijaz and Yamen
Death of Ali
Wives and children
HUSSAIN BIN ALI (40-61/661-680)
Hasan bin Ali bin Abu Talib
Nomination of Yazid
Invitation of the Kufans
Hussain's departure from Mecca
Hussain at Karbala
Battle of Karbala
Wives and children
ZAYN AL-ABIDIN (61-94/680-713)
Zayn al-Abidin in Kufa
Zayn al-Abidin in Damascus
Sermon in the mosque
Zayn al-Abidin in Medina
Reactions of the Muslims
Origin and rise of the Tawwabun
Poet Farazdaq and Hisham
Wives and children
MUHAMMAD AL-BAKIR (94-114/713-733)
Estate of Fadak and Umar bin Abdul Aziz
Origin of the Zaidiyya
Imam in Damascus
Conversion of the Christian saint
Hatred of the people of Madain
Beginning of Islamic coinage
Survey of the persecutions
Imam's reply to Hisham's question
Wives and children
JAFAR SADIK (114-148/733-765)
The origin of the Kaysaniyas
The origin of the Abbasids
Abu Salama's offer
Foundation of the Abbasid Caliphate
Fall of the Umayyads
The risings of the Alids
Wives and children
Jabir bin Hayyan
Progress made by humanity in the Near East and Europe suffered a severe setback after the fall of the Roman empire, and the 6th century saw Europe almost relapse into barbarism once again. Hardly could any Christian read or write; the priestly class enforcing on their followers the motto of Pope Gregory that 'ignorance is the mother of devotion', demanded blind obedience to their dogmas. Likewise in Asia, the Hinduism, Buddhism and other cults had deteriorated, becoming mere bundles of outward forms and ceremonial worship. It was at this juncture that the greatest reformer Muhammad, the son of Abdullah bin Abdul Muttalib arose in Arabia. Through his love of knowledge and reverence for learning, mediaeval Europe once more was to become acquainted with art and science and the way was to be paved for the Renaissance. Stanwood Cobb, founder of the Progressive Education Association, states in similar vein:- 'Islam, impinging culturally upon adjacent Christian countries, was the virtual creator of the Renaissance in Europe.' (vide 'Islam's Contribution to the World Culture', World Order, 6:202,9/40)
Hitherto, the first actual use of the word Arab in history is to be found in an Assyrian inscription of 853 B.C., commemorating the defeat of a mutinous chieftain, called Gindibu the Aribi during the reign of king Shalmaneser III (858-824 B.C.). Arabs are then mentioned quite often, until the 6th century B.C. as Aribi or Arabuthat indicates a vassalage to the Assyrians. The first Greek who is accredited to have acquired some geographical knowledge was Homer, who flourished in 1000 or 800 B.C. He has referred to the Syrians under the name Arimi (the Biblical, Aram) and the Arabs under the name of Erembi. The place-name Arabia occurs for the first time in Greek writings. Herodotus (484-425 B.C,), followed by most other Greek and Latin writers, extended the term Arabia and Arab to the whole peninsula and everything in it, even including the eastern desert of Egypt between the Red Sea and the Nile. References to the Arabs, in addition, are also found in the anonymous 'Periplus of the Erythraean Sea' (between 95 A.D. and 130 A.C.). The word Saracen, first used in Greek literature too, is a transcription of an Arabic word meaning 'easterner.' As for the Arabs' use of the word, it occurs for the first time in the ancient epigraphical material originating in southern Arabia, where it is clearly used for Bedouin. In the north, the word is used firstly in the 4th century A.D., in one of the oldest surviving records of the language that became classical Arabic.
Further account of the Arabs comes in the 10th chapter of Genesis of the Old Testament, which names the descendants of Noah, whose elder son, Shem is regarded as the ancestor of the Hebrews, Arabs and Armaens, - the speakers of Semitic language. But the term Arabs is not explicitly mentioned in Genesis. It is however suggested that the 'mixed multitude' (Hebrew, erev) mentioned in Exodus (xii, 38) as having accompanied the Israelites into the wanderness from Egypt may be for Arabs. According to 'Dictionary of the Bible' (ed. by James Hastings, New York, 1898, 1st vol., p. 135), 'The employment of the name Arab for an inhabitant of any portion of the vast peninsula known to us as Arabia, begins somewhere in the 3rd century B.C., though the only trace of it in Old Testament is in the 2 ch., 21, where the Arabians that are near the Ethiopeans' would seem naturally to refer to the neighbours of the Habasha, whence there are grounds for placing in the extreme south of Yamen.' The word arabia is expressly given to this country in the Old Testament (I Kings x. 15) when describing the visit of the Queen Sheba to Sololmon, which took place 1005 B.C. We also find the word arabah in Deut. i. 7 and ii. 8. Some writers hold that the village called Arabah, situated near Tehama, may be the name for the whole peninsula, an opinion scarcely deserving the least notice.
In the Bible, the name Arab is the first word used in the second book of Chronicles (xvii, 11) to refer to nomads from the east bank of the Jordan river in the time of king Jehosophat (900-800 B.C.), such as '...and the Arabians brought him flocks, seven thousand and seven hundred rams, and seven thousand and seven hundred he- goats.'
The word arab or arabah is probably derived from a Semitic root related to nomadism. In the Arabic language, the word arab (derived from i'rab), means 'those who speak clearly' as contrast with ajam (those who speak indistincly). In Holy Koran, the word arab has never used for the country of Arabia, but characterised the residence of Ismail, the son of Abraham as an 'uncultivated land.' In the time of Ismail his place of residence had no name, therefore, it was given the name of an 'uncultivated land.' In the Old Testament, the word midbar is used for Ismail's home, meaning a desert or a barren land, which closely corresponds to the Koranic description.
The peninsula was divided by the ancient geographers into Arabia Petraea, Arabia Felix and Arabia Deserta. The Arabia Petraea corresponded to the present Hijaz and eastern Najd. Arabia Felix to Yamen and Hazarmawt and Arabia Deserta comprised the rest of the country. Arab Peninsula (jazirat al-Arab) is situated in south-west Asia, embosomed with sea waters on its three sides, i.e., the Red Sea in the west, the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman in the east, and the Arabian Sea in the south; is considered to be a largest peninsula in the world with an area of about 1,230,000 sq. miles, i.e., about one third of Europe, or almost six times bigger than France, ten times that of Italy and eight times bigger than Switzerland. Geographically it is an extention of the Sahara desert. It is divided into various parts of which Hijaz, Najd, Yamen, Hazarmawt and Oman are most important. The whole land is almost barren. The climate is extremely hot in summer and the coastal tracts are among the most torrid regions.
The historians traced the genealogy of Muhammad from Ismail, the son of Abraham. Ismail was born in 1910 B.C., and Muhammad in 571 A.D., therefore, the time elapsed between these two personages was almost 2480 years. During this period, there were seventy generations from Ismail to Muhammad. The most ancient and authentic of all the traditions of Arabia have been acknowledged without the least hesitation that the temple of the Kaba at Mecca had been constructed in 19th century B.C. by Abraham, who was assisted in his work by his son Ismail. The original name of the temple was Beth-el (House of God), but it received the general appellation of Kabaas being of a cubical form. At the time of its erection, the temple of Kaba remained in possession of Ismail, after whose death his descendants became the supreme guardians of the sacred building. His descendants for the most part, migrated to different portions of the peninsula. After another considerable interval of time, the Amalekites became the sole owners of the Kaba. On this occasion, the Ismailites and the Jorhamites united together in driving out their common foe, the Amalekites, and having succeeded in so doing, the Jorhamites became the masters of the hallowed edifice.
Ismail had 12 sons, one of them being Kaidar by name whose progeny spread over the Arabian province of Hijaz. Again, it is concured on all hands among the Arabs that Adnan, to whom Muhammad traced his descent, was also a scion of Ismail in about the fortieth generations. Further down, in the ninth descent from Adnan, there followed Nadzr bin Kinana. Another descent in the genealogical scale and then comes in the ninth place, one, Qassi by name. The supreme charge of the sacred temple then fell into the hands of Qassi in due course. Qassi established a consultative body, its meetings were held in the Kaba for decisions to be taken with regard to war, trade, tribal affairs etc. Qassi collected the scattered tribe, which gave him the title of Qoraish, the word is derived from taqreish means one who brings together to the clans. Qassi died probably in 480 A.D., and from him the charge of the Kaba descended to his eldest son, Abdul Dar, from whom the chief offices held by him were transferred to his brother, Abd Munaf.
It must be known that the principal offices in connection with the Kaba were five altogether:- 1st, Sicaya and Rifada, the exclusive privilege of supply water and food to the pilgrims; 2nd, Kiyada, the command of the army in time of war; 3rd, Siva, the right of becoming standard bearer; 4th, Hijaba, the guardianship of the temple of Kaba, and 5th, Nadwa, the right of presidency of the council. After the death of Abd Munaf, a family strife arose among his sons, on which account the offices were divided in the following order:- Hashim was invested with the charge of Sicaya and Rifada, while the descendants of Abdul Dar retained the custody of the Kaba, the presidency of the council and the right of becoming standard bearer.
When Hashim was installed to the offices, he was proved a capable and generous. He married a girl from his own family and she gave birth to his son, Asad, who in due course became the maternal grandfather of Ali bin Abu Talib, as Asad's daughter, Fatima bint Asad was Ali's mother. Hashim's second marriage actualised with a girl of Banu Najjar being noble from both sides. She gave birth to a son, called Abdul Muttalib, who later rose to be a man of great nobility and fame. Hashim died in 510 A.D., who left his dignities to his elder brother, Almutallib, after whom his nephew, Abdul Muttalib, the son of Hashim, succeeded to his paternal offices.
The Zamzam, which is a well at present in Kaba, was in days of yore, a small rill of water flowing from one of the neighbouring hills, it being the same fountain which Hagar, the mother of Ismail had discovered in the desert, and where she and her son settled. After a time, however, the water ceased gushing from its mountain source, and the little stream completely dried up. A considerable time afterwards, Abdul Muttalib had a well dug on the very spot where the spring originally was in extant. It was also in the time of Abdul Muttalib that the Yamenite king, called Abrahah invaded Mecca, but was discomfited in his attempt and compelled to make a disgraceful retreat. Since Abrahah's army had come on elephants which the Arabs had never seen before, therefore, they named the year of the event as amul feel (the year of elephant). Abdul Muttalib died in the height of his glory and left indelible marks of his greatness. Abdullah was one of the sons of Abdul Muttalib, who married to Amina bint Wahab. To this noble couple was born Muhammad, but before he was born his revered father died while on a journey.
From this land originated a great revolutionary wave called ISLAM, in the 7th century - a period of darkness when the sun of Islam rose on the horizon of the Arabian peninsula. Mecca (the Greek's Macoraba or Rabba), a town in the Arab peninsula, has been celebrated through the ages because it encircles the House of God (ka'batullah), an ancient sanctuary sacred to the Arabs.
Demoralised state is perhaps the most comprehensive phrase through which the pre- Islamic world can be concisely picturised. The whole world lay in the fast grip of paganism, savagery, debauchery, anarchy and other vices. Autocracy and despotism prevailed at an extreme in every religion. The poor were trampled down and persecuted by the rich and humanity groaned under the curse of inhumanity. Under this heavy incubus of religious was Arabia groaning when Islam suddenly and unexpectedly appeared.
The period preceding the advent of Muhammad has been designated the Dark Age by the Koran (vide 33:33 & 48:26), which epitomizes in two words. Virtually, the whole Arabia was enjoying complete independence, and the neighbouring empires of Byzantine and Iran paid no attention to Arabs who were thought to be barbaric, poor and hungry. There was no central government to enforce law and order in the peninsula. The whole Arabia was rent into innumerable petty states, each clan forming a separate and independent political unit. Each tribe had a chief of its own who would lead it in battle against a hostile tribe to vindicate its rights. Tribal prejudice was common and small incidents would lead to bitter feuds which continued for generations. But there was no law whatsoever, binding the tribe to the nation. The whole peninsula was thus like a hornet's nest.
The daily life of a Bedouin was nothing more than that of a shepherd, obtaining their livelihood from the rearing of animals, pitching their tents within certain limits and wandering in quest of water and pasture. Some, however, being more disposed to a settled life, congregated together, formed villages and the number of these still further increasingly grew into towns and cities. Their time was occupied in tillage, in the cultivation of palm tree and of other trees and plants whose fruits sustained their life.
The social condition of Arabs was deplorable as it was steeped in immorality. Human sacrifice was commonly practised. Ancient Arabs literature is stunk with wine and other strong liquors, containing a treasure of its expressions. During a state of drunkenness, acts of the most shameless vice and profigacy were indulged in by the whole assembly. Rum-shops were well decorated. Gambling was the next favourite pastime for them. Adultery was another vice to which the whole of Arabia was hopelessly wedded. The enemies were burnt alive, pregnant women had their bellies slashed, innocent babes and children were massacred. Usuary was in vogue. The women, having no right and no social respect, were the worst sufferer in the society. They were regarded as chattels and were looked with bitter contempt. A man was free to marry any number of women and could divorce as he wished. Women were deprived of the right of inheritance. The Arabs were embarrassed at the birth of daughters and sometimes, the fathers buried them alive in spite of soul-harrowing cries. It was a custom for the eldest son to take as a wives his father's widows, inherited as a property with the rest of the estate. Slavery was another curse having a firm hold on the Arab society. The masters possessed the authority of life and death over them. The worst type of obscene language was used in expressing sex-relations. Stories of love and illicit relationships were narrated proudly and with utter want of shame in verses of the most indecent kind. In sum, women were accorded no better treatment than lower animals. Robbery, pillage and murder were also of common occurrence; human blood being almost daily shed without remorse or horror. On the death of any person, the custom was to tie his camel to his tomb and suffer it to be starved to death, and this camel they called baliyah. Neverthless, the Arabs possessed certain natural virtues that marked them out in the post-Islamic age. They were the most eloquence nation, plain of speech, strong of memory, firm of determination, superb horsemen, loyal and trustworthy.
Religiously the Arabs were idolatrous. There were separate god and godess for each city, tribe and locality and were figured according to the fancy of worshippers. The Kaba alone was housed with 360 idols, each personifying a representative deity of its respective tribe. Lat was a idol fixed at Taif as the deity of Thaqif tribe. Uzza was the god of Qoraish and Kanna tribes in Mecca, and the Manat was the deity of Aws and Khazraj tribes in Medina. Among them, Hubal was regarded as a biggest, and it stood on the summit of the Kaba. Within the Kaba was placed the images of Abraham, having arrows, called azlam in his hand, and a lamb standing beside him; as well as of Ismail in the same position painted on the walls of the temple. Either a statue of Mary, having Jesus Christ in her lap, was placed on the walls of temple, or her likeness in that position was painted on the walls. Besides, the Humayr of Yamen were the sun worshippers and the Kanna worshipped the moon. Human destiny was associated with the movements of the stars. Phenomena of nature affecting the fortunes of man for good or evil were attributed to their influence.
The Jews migrated and settled in Arabia probably in 5th century B.C. They gained their foothold at Khaibar and began to propagate their faith. About the 3rd century B.C., the king of Yamen, Dhu-Nawas by name, embraced Judaism. This added fresh momentum to the Jewish movement, and in the course of time Judaism won considerable ascendancy in Arabia. But the Arab nation as a whole remained addicted to its ancestral religion of idol-worship.
The Christian missionaries also began pouring into Arabia in the 3rd century A.D., and settled in Najran. Their activities were supplemented a good deal by the political influence of the two Christian powers in the neighbourhood of Arabia, the Abyssinian to the west and the Roman empire to the north. Beyond this Christianity could make no headway and had a very little impact on the rotten society of the Arabs.
Unlike the rest of the Arabs, only the Hashimite family, the descendants of Abraham, adhered to their ancestral faith of monotheism, known as the Hanif. It was a small band of earnest men who discarded idolatry.
The corrupt morale of the Arabs reached its zenith, rather to a catastrophe of their ethical death. The whole Arab society was submerged in social evils, and life had no worth to them, neither was their conduct governed by any ethical code. Wine, gambling, slaughter and all inhuman indulgences were just synonymous to the very name of Arab.
Abdullah, the son of Abdul Muttalib, and the father of Muhammad, was then 24 years of age, affianced to Amina bint Wahab. Briefly was the wedded life of Abdullah and Amina. Shortly after the marriage her husband set out on a mercantile expedition to Yathirab, leaving the young pregnant wife who was destined to see him no more. It was their first and last parting, for on the return journey, Abdullah sickened and died before his wife was delivered. He was buried in Dar-i Nabigha, among the Banu Najjar. For the support of his widow, Abdullah left behind him no richer legacy than four camels, a flock of goats and a slave girl. Muhammad was therefore destined to be a posthumous.
Under the rocks of the Abu Kobeis, which rise eastward of Mecca over the narrow valley, stood the house of Amina, the birthplace of her only son. On the morning of Monday, April 22, 571 A.D., a grandson was born to Abdul Muttalib, who named him Muhammad (the extolled one). He gave a banquet in honour of his grandson to which he invited a number of Qoraish tribesmen and peers. When they inquired from him why he had chosen to name Muhammad, thus changing the tradition of using the ancestors' names, Abdul Muttalib answered, 'I did so with the wish that my grandson would be praised by God in heaven and on earth by men.'
'To the Arab nation' writes Thomas Carlyle in 'Heroes and Hero-Worship' (London, 1850, p. 101), 'it was as a birth from darkness into light; Arabia first became alive by means of it. A poor shepherd people, roaming unnoticed in its deserts since the creation of the world; a Hero-Prophet was sent down to them with a word they could believe.' John William Draper also writes in 'History of the Intellectual Development of Europe' (London, 1875, 1st vol., p. 329) that, 'Four years after the death of Justinian, 571 A.D., was born at Mecca, in Arabia, the man who, of all men, has exercised the greatest influence upon the human race.' According to 'The Life of Mahomet' (London, 1930, p. 171) by Dermenghem, 'Muhammad appeared on the scene at one of the darkest periods in all history, when all the civilizations, from Merovingian Gaul to India, were falling to ruin or were in a state of troubled gestation.'
Mecca, also known as Umm al-Qura (mother of towns), about forty miles from the Red Sea, lay in an arid valley, embosomed with torrid rocks. The streets were narrow and piled high with dirt and garbage. The air was heavy in Mecca and the children there grew up pale, weak and sickly. All about and around Mecca was desert, whose air was limpid. For this reason, it was a custom among the Arab gentry and nobility that the mother did not nurse their children. They would give their suckling infants into the charge of Bedouin women shortly after birth to suckle and nourish them. Abdul Muttalib assigned his grandson into the nursing care of Halima al-Sadiyyah, the daughter of Abu Dhuayb, belonging to the clan of Sa'd, near Mount Taif, situated to the east of Mecca. The little Muhammad's five years of life spent in the tents of this wandering tribe. Having nurtured for a period of five years, the wet nurse Halima gave him back to his mother, Amina, who also died after one year. Henceforward, Abdul Muttalib was both mother and father to the orphaned child. But this was not to be for long either. The old man died when Muhammad was eight. The dying Abdul Muttalib had already consigned the guardianship of Muhammad to his son, Abu Talib, who discharged the trust kindly and faithfully. His fondness for his charge equalled that of Abdul Muttalib. He made him sleep by his bed, eat by his side, and go with him wherever he walked. Tor Andrae writes in 'Mohammed the Man and his Faith' (London, 1936, p. 48) that, 'It is said of Abu Talib that he loved Mohammed greatly. He would not sleep unless the lad were at his side, and he never cared to go out without him. He noticed also that a blessing accompanied the future prophet. When Mohammed was not present, Abu Talib's family could not eat.' This tender treatment was continued until his nephew emerged from childhood. In the twelfth year of age, Muhammad travelled with his uncle in a trade-caravan to Syria. It was during this journey that Muhammad is said to have met a Christian anchorite, called Bahira. Beholding the boy, so goes the story, he could discern in his face marks of the future greatness and he advised Abu Talib to take good care of him, for he would some day be the recipient of Divine call.
Muhammad took part in the battle at the age of twenty, between the Qoraish and the Qais which goes under the name of Harb al-Fijar, i.e., a war of transgression, so called because it was fought in the sacred months when warfare was forbidden. But his part in it was not that of actual fighting, but only of handing over arrows to his uncles. After that, he participated in the alliance known as Hilf al-Fudzul, formed to vindicate the rights of the weak and the oppressed against tyranny. Each member of the alliance was bound in honour to defend the helpless against all manner of opression. The credit of taking the lead in the formation of this humanitarian organisation was due to Muhammad and his family, Banu Hashim. His early inclinations to render help to the distressed go to show that human sympathy was implanted in his very nature.
At this early age, Muhammad's integrity had already won household fame in the town of Mecca. He was commonly known as al-Amin, the trustworthy. The epithet does not imply honesty alone, but is all-comprehensive, denoting righteousness in every form. Whosoever happened to have any dealings with him at this period, never ceased to praise him all his life. It was about this time that the necessity arose for the reconstruction of the Kaba. The requisite material being all provided, the Qoraish jointly undertook the work. In the course of construction a serious dispute arose as to who should have the proud privilege of laying the Black Stone. This might have resulted in the outbreak of inter-tribal feuds, when there rose a hoary-headed man with his elderly advice to refer the matter to an arbitrator. Whoever, he suggested, should be the first to appear at the Kaba the following day, should be accepted as a judge to decide the point at issue. The proposal was unanimously agreed to. All were eagerly awaiting the next morning, when lo, to the satisfaction of all it was a personage no other than Muhammad. 'Here is al-Amin! Here is al-Amin!' all shouted in one voice. And the general confidence in him was fully justified. Taking a sheet of cloth he placed the Black Stone thereon with his own hands, and then he invited principal men from every clan to hold the sheet by the four ends and thus equally shared in the honour of lifting the stone to its position.
A high-placed widow, Khadija, who had acquired in pre-Islamic days, by her virtue the titles of Tahira (the virtuous) and Saiyyadah-i Qoraish (the princess of the Qoraish), hearing of the righteousness of Muhammad, entrusted to him the sole charge of her business. He accepted an office in the service of Khadija and was immediately placed at the head of a caravan and sent to Syria accompanied by Maysara, one of the slaves of Khadija. Before long much profit accrued to her through his honest dealings. The personal attributes and moral grace in Muhammad attracted the attention and won the admiration of Khadija. So honestly Muhammad did transact the widow's trade that she caused a proposal of marriage, which met the approval of Abu Talib. Thus was he married, at the age of twenty-five, to a widow, fifteen years older than himself.
Always tormented by and concerned with the sinful and blasphemic pursuits of his native fellows, Muhammad kept pondering over the reforms of their ethnic beliefs and savage character. Even when his people were steeped in vices and immoralities of the worst type, he was straight with pure and stainless soul. His soul could not be satisfied with its milieu. Thomas Carlyle writes, 'From of old, a thousand thoughts, in his pilgrimings and wanderings, had been in this man: What am I? What is this unfathomable thing I live in, which men name universe? What is life; what is death? What am I to believe? What am I to do? The grim rocks of Mount Hira, of Mount Sinai, the stern solitudes answered not. The great heavens rolling silent overhead, with its blue-glancing stars, answered not. There was no answer. The man's own soul and what of God's inspiration dwelled there, had to answer' (Ibid. pp. 63-4). It was indeed the spiritual self of Muhammad that solved all the problems which his thinking and inquisitive soul put to him. He had prepared his soul by years of exercises, introspection, and communion to give the answer.
For years after his marriage, Muhammad would frequently take a provision of dates and oatmeal for food and retire for days into a cave he had found at the top of a cone-shaped mountain, called Hira, some three miles from Mecca. He used to spend night after night in that solitary cave far away from all the worldly turmoils. Here he eagerly pondered and contemplated in long and lonely vigils to search after One and Only God. His periods of loneliness became more frequent and his vigils lengthened. He prayed ardently, opening his whole heart to his Creator Whom his soul longed to meet. He became so fully absorbed in the ecstacy of his devotions that he would remain for days in the mountain cavern. Often his beloved wife brought him food. This went on for a considerable length of time, till at last, in his fortieth year, a great unseen was revealed to him. The light of God was fully reflected in Muhammad. He had reached the stage of self-elevation when duality becomes non-existent and only One remains.
The earliest sources relate that the moon on that day of the eve of Ramdan enwrapped Hira. The birds were still in their nests and not a sound or movement disturbed this heavy quiet. It was though as everything were pegged to its place and nothing existed save the heavens and the earth. Tonight, a few roaming shepherds had seen Muhammad go there. Now there was no one else, only the sky and the earth and the crescent moon between them, rising sometimes aloft and sinking to the edge of the horizon. Stricken with panic Muhammad came home from Hira on that morning, strangely troubled, his great eyes dilated in wonder. 'Cover me up, Khadija, cover me up!' he said in feverish agitation. After a while, he became calmer and spoke thus, 'A strange vision appeared to me in the cave of Hira tonight. The vision said, `I am the angel Gabriel, sent by God.' Then he asked me to read. `I am unlettered', I said. Upon this he clasped me to his bosom and held me firmly. Then he let me go and asked me to read. I gave the same answer. He clasped me once again, and asked once again to read. And embracing me the third time, he chanted, `Read! in the name of thy Lord, Who created; He created man from a clot. Read! full of magnificence is thy Lord Who made the pen the vehicle of knowledge and taught man what he knew not.' Suddenly the words came alive to me; my limbs were all atremble.' Khadija was sorely worried at first, but soon regained her composure and comforted him. 'Fear not, my noble one', she said, 'but rejoice. God will not forsake you in this affair nor expose you to shame. For you are good and kind and truthful. You are hospitable to the passing stranger, you aid and comfort the poor and the lowly, and support the virtuous in righteous deeds.'
Waraqa bin Naufal was Khadija's cousin. Wearying of idolatry he was on the look-out for a true faith and had at length embraced Christianity. Probably she had heard him talk of the appearance of the Promised Prophet, the Comforter whose advent had been foretold by Jesus. As soon as she found Muhammad called to that office, she took him to her cousin, out of sympathy, of course, for the latter who had lost his eyesight and was unable to move. No sooner did Waraqa hear what inspiration Muhammad had received and how, than he spontaneously exclaimed: 'This is the very angel Gabriel that God sent down to Moses.' Hence, the foremost to profess faith in the truth of Muhammad's mission was his wife Khadija.
Edith Holland writes in 'The Story of Mohammed' (London, 1914, p. 18) that, 'It was in the desert that Abraham, journeying by the guidance of the stars, came to the knowledge of all-powerful God, far above the vain idols of man's imaginings. Moses, during his long sojourn in the wilderness, never doubted the near presence of a mighty God, a sure help in time of trouble. In later years the Prophet of Arabia, wandering among the barren hills of his native lands, saw in the wonders of nature sure signs of the greatness of the Creator, and there came upon him the conviction that 'God is One, the Eternal', that there is none like unto Him.'
We must pause here for a while to focus a key point that no formal prayers had been instituted then, no month of fasting was ordained then. The law of Islam itself had not been promulgated. The Islamic Shariah was not yet enforced. But Muhammad had reached to that lofty stage of spiritual evolution that his soul had acquired eternal bliss. His soul had realized the Truth for itself. When the evolution of his spirituality had reached a high stage by self-abnegation and self-surrender, he was chosen by God to be His messenger to His people with the message of Islam. He was commissioned to set the best example to humanity.
After the first revelation, Gabriel did not visit Muhammad for some time. This is known as the period of fatrat al-wahy or the cessation of revelation. There is great divergence of opinion as to the duration of this period. With some it was two or three years long. But the version of Ibn Abbas that it lasted but for a short time, is more reliable and corroborated by historical evidence. The story that during this period, Muhammad would go out to the tops of mountains to hurl himself headlong is sheer nonsense. According to the established criteria of the authenticity of reports, this is not reliable, for Zuhri, from whom the report has come down, belonged to a later generation. In truth, the Divine Light, after which Muhammad had been so eagerly seeking, disappeared no sooner than it had flashed upon his mind. This made him all the more restless. All the more did his heart long to hear once again the word of God. It was thus in search of what was so dear to his heart that he would go out to mountains.
At length, there came an end to the period of cessation. To Muhammad, the period looked unusually long; for it was a period of separation from One he loved with all his heart. The number of Muslims continued to grow and the conversion of some prominent men from among the Qoraish added to the strength of the small brotherhood. At the outset, the opposition of the Meccans to the message of Islam took the form of sneering and jeering at Muhammad. They did not attach much importance to the mission, thinking that it would die out in due course. It was treated with contempt and indifference unworthy of any serious attention. Resort to viloence was not yet thought necessary. Whey they passed by the believers, they would laugh and wink at them by way of derision. Sometimes they would call Muhammad an idle visionary, given to poetic fancies, destined to come to nought as a matter of course. There was something wrong with his brain, they would say. Once, when Muhammad was saying his prayers in the Kaba, lying prostrate, Abu Jahl placed the dirty foetus of a she- camel on his neck. As he used to go out of his house for prayers at early dawn, one way adopted to annoy him was that branches of prickly shrubs were strewn on his way, so that owing to darkness he should become entangled in them. Sometimes dust was thrown at him; sometimes he was pelted with stones. One day a number of the Meccans fell upon him. One, Uqba bin Abi Mu'ait threw his mantle around his neck and twisted it till he was on the point of getting strangled. But the brunt of the oppression had to be borne by those not coming of some family of note among the Qoraish, especially by the slaves, male as well as female. These were subjected to the most cruel tortures. Bilal, the Abyssinian, was tortured in a most heartless manner by his master to make him renounce Islam. His oppressor would make him lie flat on burning ground under the scorching heat of the sun at midday. Heavy slabs of stone were then placed on his chest, so that he could scarcely breathe. He lay gasping for breath and writhing with agony under the weight of the heavy stone. Notwithstanding such extremly painful torments he would loudly repeat in a state of senselessness, Ahad (One), i.e., there is but One God. Ammar's father, Yasir, and his mother, Sumayya, were persecuted in a most barbarous way. The story of their afflictions makes one's hair stand on end. Yasir's legs were tied to two camels and the beasts were driven in opposite directions. He was brutally torn to pieces. Sumayya was killed in a similar brutal but far more disgraceful manner. Lubaina was the hand- maid of Umar. The latter used to go on beating her in his pre-conversion days till he would get tired. Then he would say: 'I leave you now, not because I pity you, but because I am tired of beating you.'
For the first three years, Muhammad kept his missionary activities underground. Neither the rancor of Arab chiefs nor the antagonism of other opponents in Qoraish prevented the underground secret mission of Islam. This period of Muhammad's life is one of the noblest and greatest pages of human history. To those who did harm him, Muhammad prayed for guidance, for liberation from the yoke of vile paganism. The more they persecuted, the more patience and resolve Muhammad showed in his mission. One must not forget the deep-rooted faith of the handful Muslims at a time when the new religion was not even complete and the Holy Koran was not yet fully revealed.
But in the fourth year, Muhammad received a divine command to preach his mission to the public. In compliance, he invited his kinsmen to a feast exclusively arranged for them. Tabari (d. 310/922) in 'Tarikh al-Rusul wa'l Muluk' (ed. de Goeje, Leiden, 1879-1901, 2nd vol., p. 63) and Ibn Sa'd (d. 230/845) in 'Kitab at-Tabaqat' (ed. E. Sachau, Leiden, 1905, 1st vol., p. 171) write that after the feast was over, Muhammad addressed the participants, 'Friends and Kinsmen! I hereby declare that I have brought unto you a blessing in this world and in the world to come. I do not think there could be anyone else throughout the whole of Arabia, to come out with a better and more precious offer towards this nation than that of mine. I am commanded by my Lord to invite you all towards Him. Tell me! who amongst you will come forward to help me and to be my vicegerent? The spell of hush prevailing over the audience, was broken by impatient courage of Ali, the son of Abu Talib, who responded with enthusiasm and said, 'O Prophet of God! I am the youngest of all here, yet I beg to offer myself to stand by you and to share all your burdens and earn the great privilege of being your vicegerent.' Muhammad caused Ali to sit down. Again he put the question to the assemblage. All remained silent but Ali rose for a second time to repeat his fidelity, and was again ordered to sit down. When Muhammad repeated the same question to the congregation the third time, he got no response. Ali again stood up and repeated his fidelity on which Muhammad remarked, 'You are my brother, my collateral and vicegerent.' This evoked the hostility of the Qoraish tribe towards Muhammad and his followers. They leapt angrilly to their feet and walked out, and their murmurings and protests echoed back into the house as they passed through the coutryard into the street.
On the following day, when Muhammad went to the Kaba, he was greeted with scornful gestures. 'This is the man who claims to bring us messages from the heaven,' they shouted and began to joke at him.
When the sufferings and tribulations of the Muslims at the hands of the Meccans reached to its extreme in 615 A.D., Muhammad directed that those of them who could afford it should migrate to Abyssinia across the Red Sea, whose kings were known as the Negus (Najashi). As-Hama, the then Negus was a Christian king. Under the direction of Muhammad, eleven men and four women from among the Muslims migrated to Abyssinia. When the Meccans came to know of their migration, they were much upset and sent some men after them in pursuit, but the Muslims had a long start and could not be overtaken. This infuriated the malicious ones among the Meccans. They formed a deputation under Abdullah bin Rabi and Amr bin A'as, who went to Abyssinia with handsome presents to persuade the king to deliver the emigrants into their hands. In due course, this deputation stood in the presence of the king and listened to their representation. Then he sent for the refugees and asked them what they had to say.
Jafar, nick-named Taiyar (the flying), the son of Abu Talib and brother of Ali, acting as spokesman for the Muslims, stood forth and made reply, 'O'king, we belong to a people steeped in ignorance. Our fathers and grandfathers worshipped idols. They ate carrion and other things unclean. They gambled and fornicated and indulged in other sins. They knew no pity, nor compassion nor human sympathy. They oppressed and persecuted the weak and the helpless. They robbed and killed without compunction. For centuries our people lived thus and then God in His mercy sent us the light. From among these cruel and headstrong people, He deputed a man to be His prophet and His messenger. This man was already known to his people as the trusted one and everyone bore testimony to the purity of his conduct, the goodness of his ways and the nobility of his birth. This man spoke to us of One God and appealed to us to worship no one but Him. We listened to his appeal and accepted it. We vowed that we would renounce all false deities and idols and worship the One True God. He taught us to be honest, kind, compassionate and just, and we obeyed his teachings. This so angered our countrymen that they persecuted and tortured us in many fearful ways. These people demanded that we should renounce our new faith and once again revert to idolatry. We refused to give up our new faith and our enemies refused to give up their persecutions. When their brutalities exceeded all limits and our lives were in peril, reluctantly, we bade farewell to our mother land, and decided to emigrate.'
The king was greatly impressed, and returned the gifts brought by the leaders of Mecca, and said, 'I will not hand over to you these innocent men and women who have come to me for shelter.' Nevertheless, the disappointed Meccans hit upon another plan. Next day, they tried to incite the king, by telling him that the heretics did not believe in the divinity of Jesus. But in this too their hopes were frustrated. The Muslims confessed on the basis of Koranic verse that they did not look upon Jesus as God but as a prophet of God. The king picked up a straw and pointing to it said, 'Jesus is in fact not even this much more than the Muslims have described him to be.' Empty-handed and humbled the deputation from Mecca returned home and the leaders of Qoraish gnashed their teeth in anger.
Gradually, the number of emigrants increased in Abyssinia. Only a few days had passed in peace, when a rumour reached them that the Meccans had finally embraced Islam. On hearing this, most of the Muslims decided to return to Mecca. When they reached the city, they came to know that the report was false. The Meccans began to persecute even more severely those persons who had returned from Abyssinia. In spite of this, however, about a hundred Muslims managed to leave Mecca and settled in Abyssinia. The Meccans however did their utmost to check the tide of emigration, but all in vain.
The Abyssinian emigration gave the Meccans a conclusive proof that the Muslims were ready to run all risks, and undergo every form of hardship in the cause of Islam. They would shrink from no danger in the path of God. The Meccans did their utmost to check this tide of emigration, but all in vain. It was not until seven years after Muhammad's flight from Mecca that they rejoined their Muslim brethren at Medina.
Having failed in all their attempts to impede the progress of Islamic mission, the Qoraish of Mecca called a summit conference and pledged themselves to a policy of social boycott of the Hashimites on a large scale. This implied the severance of all social, matrimonial and commercial ties of Meccans with Hashimites. The decree was written by Mansur, the son of Akrama and the scroll hung up on the wall of Kaba, which reads: 'It has been agreed that henceforth no one in Mecca shall have any dealings or transact any business with Muhammad, the son of Abdullah, his family or his followers. No one shall sell food to them nor visit them, nor converse with them. This ban will continue until Muhammad's people hand him over to us to be treated as he deserves.'
On hearing of this, Abu Talib was thereby obliged to shift alongwith the entire family of Hashimites to a secluded valley fastness, known as Shib (quarter) of Abu Talib, on the eastern skirts of Mecca, cut off by rocks from the city except for one narrow gateway. Abu Jahl spared no pains to keep a vigilant watch to ensure that the blockade was strickly observed. When Hakim bin Hazam tried to supply some provisions to Khadija, who was closely related to him, Abu Jahl offered obstruction. But never throughout these trying times did the Hashimites waver in their resolution.
The provisions which they had carried with them were soon exhausted. For days they went without food; water was scare; infants and children almost died of hunger. The sick and the infirm breathed their last painful breath without succour or sustenance. There was much weeping and wailing in the Muslim camp but there were no betrayers. The pressure of hunger had reached its climax to such an extreme that Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas relates, 'One night I was coming out of the valley in such a condition that I was about to exhaust all my faculties. Suddenly I saw a dried hide of a camel. I picked it up, washed, baked and ground it. I kneaded its powder with some water and used it for three days.' The severity of the action of the Qoraish however did not diminish the great patience and fortitude of the Muslims.
The pitiable condition of the Hashimites continued for a period of three years, till, at length, the Qoraish were awakened to a sense of remorse on their dealings with the Hashimites. All at once it was discovered that the parchment in the Kaba, on which the decree had been written, was eaten up by termite and only the words, 'In the name of the Lord' (with which the Qoraish commenced their writings) had survived. The decree was, therefore, declared to be annulled, and was torn off, and approaching Abu Talib, the Meccan leaders requested him to come back to his original abode. Abu Talib accepted to resume his civic life alongwith all members of Hashimites. During the period Muhammad was shut up in the Shib of Abu Talib, Islam virtually made no progress outside.
In the year 619 A.D., not long after annulment of the social boycott, Muhammad suffered a great loss of Abu Talib and Khadija, who followed each other to meet their deaths within a short interval, which was a severe blow. With the death of Khadija, the lamp of Muhammad's home was extinguished. One protected him with the influence that derived from his noble rank, while the other guarded him with her material and wealth. After the death of Abu Talib and Khadija, Muhammad was immersed in deep grief, and that is why, this year is called aam-ul-huzn (the year of grief). The bereavement of his uncle and wife cast a gloom over Muhammad's life. The tragedy coincided with so many afflictions and animosities of his enemies that Mecca had become a bed of thorns for Muhammad by now onwards.
If we may have a cursory glance on the biography of Abu Talib, we will find that he supported Muhammad for full 40 years, and displayed sacrifice during last ten years of his life. The only factor which kept him so steadfast was his strong faith, which he had to keep secret in Mecca, exercising strict taqiya (precautionary dissimulation). According to 'Sirat-i Halabiya' (1st vol., p. 390), Abu Talib said to his children at the time of his death that, 'I recommend Muhammad to you, because he is the trusted one of Qoraish and truthful one of Arabia and possesses all the virtues. He has brought a religion, which has been accepted by the hearts, but the tongues have chosen to deny it on account of fear of taunts. Whosever follows him becomes prosperous of his faith. If death had given me some more time, I would have warded off all the dangers that came to him.'
Imam Jafar Sadik, according to 'Usul-i Kafi' (p. 244) had said: 'Abu Talib was like the People of the Cave, who had faith in their hearts but pretended to be polytheists.' In one laudatory poem about his nephew, Abu Talib had said, as quoted by 'Majma'ul Bayan' (7th vol., p. 36) that, 'Dont you know that we consider Muhammad to be a Prophet of Allah like Musa bin Imran and read about him in the earliest book.' In sum, it is quite true that Abu Talib had never publicly announced to embrace Islam, and this is the principal cause that the historians have doubted his faith. When a mention was made about Abu Talib, Imam Zayn al-Abidin is reported to have said, 'I wonder why people doubt the faith of Abu Talib, when a woman cannot continue her matrimonial alliance with a non-Muslim husband after she has embraced Islam, and Fatima bint Asad was amongst those women who embraced Islam at a very early stage and still remained his wife till he breathed his last.'
It was during this period that al-Isra and al-Miraj had taken place. Al-Asra means the night journey when Muhammad was reported to have taken from Mecca to the Mosque of Aqsa, the distance mosque of Jerusalem. Al-Miraj means Muhammad's ascension to heaven and his visit to paradise and hell. On the night of al-Isra, Muhammad was staying in the house of his cousin, Hind, daughter of Abu Talib, who was also called Umm Hani. Hind relates that the Prophet of God spent the night in my quarters. He recited the night prayers and went to sleep. Just before dawn, the Prophet of God awoke us and we all prayed the dawn prayer together. When the prayer was through, he said, 'O Umm Hani, I prayed with you the night prayer in this place; then I went to Jerusalem and I prayed there, and as you see, I have just finished praying with you the dawn prayer.' I answered, 'O Prophet of God! do not tell this to the people, for they will belie you and harm you.' He said, 'By God, I shall tell them.'
Those who claim that al-Isra and al-Miraj of Muhammad had taken place spiritually rather than physically, have based their arguments on the aforesaid report of Umm Hani. They also refer to another report of Aisha which says, 'The body of the Prophet of God was never missed from his bed. Rather, God caused him to travel in soul alone.' Whenever Muawiya bin Abu Sufian was asked about it, he used to answer, 'It was a true vision from God.' Those who share such a view confirm their claim with the Koranic verse, 'The vision which We have shown you is but a trial to the people' (17:60). According to the other view, al-Isra from Mecca to Jerusalem took place in body. In confirmation of this, they mention that Muhammad had related what he saw in the desert on the way hither and add that his ascension to heaven was in soul. Other hold that both al-Isra and al-Miraj were in body. As a result of this great divergence of opinion, thousands of volumes have been written on the subject.
Weighed down by the loss of his venerable protector and of his cherished wife, Muhammad determined to turn to some other field for the exercise of his ministry, because the Meccans had rejected the words of God. Taif was about 75 miles south-east of Mecca, and a famous home of Banu Thaqif. Accompanied by Zaid, he arrived in Taif, and invited at first the three brothers of Umayr family to adore One God. His words caused a storm of indignation and his voice was drowned by clamours. He was wounded by stones thrown at him, and which the faithful Zaid endeavoured in vain to ward off. They incited to ruffians of the town to ridicule him. The ruffians drove him from the town, and the rabble and the slaves too followed, hooting, reviling and pelting him with stones for a distance of three miles, until the evening, when they quitted Muhammad to pursue his way alone. Blood flowed from his both legs. He, wearied and mortified, took refuge in one of the numerous orchards, and rested under a vine.
On his return to Mecca during the night, Muhammad arrived at Nakhlah, and thence he moved to Hira. According to Ibn Sa'd (1st vol., p. 212), Muhammad sent words to Mutim bin Adi that he desired to return to Mecca, if he was assured protection. Mutim, although a non-believer, was a gentleman. He not only assured Muhammad of his protection according to Arabian custom, but called all of his sons who went to Kaba and remained on guard till he finished his religious obligations. Mutim also declared in Mecca that Muhammad was under his protection.
He was sorely stricken in heart and lived in Mecca for some time, retired from his people, preaching occasionally, but confining his mission mainly to the strangers who congregated in Mecca and its vicinity during the season of the annual pilgrimage
A ray of hope beamed in the interim in the north. At a distance of about 250 miles from Mecca was a town then known as Yathirab, and later as Medina. Its population was divided into two groups, the Jews and pagans. The pagans had two clans, Aws and Khazraj, who were generally at loggerheads with each other. Every year in the month of Rajab, the Arabs swarmed like locusts into Mecca. One day in Mecca, whilst sadly but yet hopefully working among the half-traders and half-pilgrims, Muhammad came upon a group of six men who were of Khazraj. Meeting them perchance, Muhammad led them to a declivity and recited to them the verses from Koran, enumerated the blessings of a good and pious life and beckoned them to the fold. Struck by his earnestness and the truth of his words, they embraced Islam. When they returned to their native Yathirab, they spread the news, with lightning rapidity that a Prophet had arisen among the Arabs in Mecca. The town was soon agog with stories of the new faith and its wonderful leader. So the ensuing year another twelve pilgrims came to Mecca and made their vows at the same spot which had witnessed the conversion of the former six. This is called the first pledge of Aqaba, from the name of the hill on which the conference was held. The following year, 622 A.D., the Yathirabites who had adopted the new religion repaired to Mecca. In the stillness of night, when all inimical elements appeared slumbering, these seventy-two pioneers of the new faith met under the same hill. Muhammad appeared among them, and vividly described to them the risk they incurred by adopting Islam. They replied with one voice that they adopted the religion fully conscious of the dangers that surrounding them. Thus was concluded the second pledge of Aqaba.
It was the 13th year of Muhammad's mission when the clouds had gathered fast. The Meccan chiefs centred in their Council Hall (darun-nadwa), a chamber inside Kaba, to deliberate over what might be done with Muhammad. Stormy was the meeting, for fear had entered their hearts. Imprisonment for life, expulsion from the city, each was debated in turn for Muhammad. They decided then on a final and desperate remedy, namely to murder Muhammad. Murder by one man would have exposed him and his family to the vengeance of blood. The difficulty was at last solved by Abu Jahl, who suggested that a number of courageous men, chosen from different families, should sheathe their swords simultaneously in Muhammad's bosom, in order that the responsibility of the deed might rest upon all, and the relations of Muhammad might consequently be unable to avenge it. The proposal was accepted, and forty youths were selected for the sanguinary deed. As the night advanced, and it was against the Arab sense of chivalry to kill any one within the four walls of his house at night hour. Hence, the assassins posted themselves round the Muhammad's dwelling, and watched all night long, peeping now and then through a hole in the door to make sure that Muhammad still lay on his bed. In order to keep the attention of the assassins fixed upon the bed, Muhammad put his own green coverlet upon Ali, and bade him to lie on his bed; so as to fail the scheme of his enemies, and himself escaped.
Muhammad had guessed exactly what would be the reactions of the Meccans when they found he had gone. He had, therefore, not started for Yathirab with camel. He had gone on foot with Abu Bakr to Mount Thaur, about one hour's walk from Mecca. They reached Mount Thaur while it was still dark and concealed themselves in the innermost recess of a cave in the rocky hillside. A tracking party, following the footprints of the fugitives, reached the mouth of the cave. Abu Bakr, hearing the sound of their footsteps, grieved within himself. It was a critical moment when the sword of the blood-thirsty enemy was hanging on their heads. Muhammad quieted the fears of Abu Bakr with the words: 'Do no be grieved, for surely God is with us.' For full three days, Muhammad remained in the cave.
On the third night, they came out with two camels. Quickly Muhammad mounted and followed by Abu Bakr, rode into the desert night. They took a certain Abdullah bin Uraiqi, a non-Muslim as their guide. In order to avoid the main caravan tracks, they struck a diagonal course northwest toward the Red Sea. For nearly a week the journey continued over the parched, barren, mournful wasteland. No living creatures, not even vultures or snakes, inhabited this wilderness. They first had proceeded parallel to the Red Sea until they reached a place called Usfan. From here they turned a little inland and travelled for some distance along the foot of Mount Amaj. Then they followed a route parallel to the usual route. They went past Qudayda, al-Kharrar, Thanniyya al-Marrah and Liqfa, and crossed the territories of Banu Madlijah and Banu Aslam, where they alighted for a while. Here Muhammad hired a camel to relieve his own which was exhausted by the long non-stop journey. Before they entered Kuba, they passed through such places as al-Araj, Thanniya al-Ghair and the valley of Ri'm. On the seventh morning after the start of the flight, the oasis of Kuba, a few miles from Yathirab, was sighted. This flight of Muhammad from Mecca to Yathirab (Medina) is called the Hijrah and when Muhammad entered Kuba, with it commenced the Islamic era on 1st Muharram (lunar month) of the Hijrah, or on the date corresponding to July 16, 622 C.E. in the Julian calendar. In English this is usually abbreviated in the Latin form AH (Anno Hegirae i.e., 'in the year of the Hijrah'). This Islamic calendar was introduced after 17 years during the caliphate of Umar.
On the other side in Mecca, Ali slept fearlessly whole night on Muhammad's bed. R.V.C. Bodely writes in 'The Messenger' (London, 1946, p. 113) that, 'The morning breeze whispered over the desert. The dawn came mauvely from the east and showed the assassins braced to strike. As the first white rays of the rising sun hit the flat roofs of Mecca, the door of Muhammad's house opened. The men stood ready to spring. They then held back as their astonished eyes rested on the burly figure of Ali standing on the threshold carrying Muhammad's cloak over his arms.' The assassins at first thought of killing him, but when they found him ready to defend himself, they gave up the idea and dispersed in search of Muhammad. Discomfited and unhappy, they immediately dispatched their best riders in pursuit of the fugitive. Up and down they hunted over all the tracks and passes leading out of Mecca, but found no trace of Muhammad.
Ali stayed three days at Mecca and handed back all the articles which were entrusted to Muhammad for safe custody, mostly by his enemies, secured their receipts and quitted the city in broad daylight. Ali was also assigned for safe transport of Muhammad's daughter Fatima, the daughter of Hamza, another Fatima, his own mother, Fatima bint Asad, and his aunt, that was the daughter of Abdul Mutalib, a fourth Fatima. On account of scarcity of mounts, Ali had to travel on foot, and reached Kuba with bleeding feet. Muhammad embraced him, and dressed his feet. Muhammad stayed with the clan of Umar bin Auf at Kuba for 14 days, and during which time he laid foundation of the first mosque (Arabic masjid, the English mosque through the Italian moschea) of Islam. It is of this mosque that Koran (9:109) speaks as 'the mosque founded on piety.'
The news of Muhammad's arrival at Kuba soon reached Yathirab and the city had been in eager expectation of his arrival. Each morning some people would go out on the outskirts to watch the appearance of their revered master. The tedious hours of impatient expectancy were at last over, and the illustrious visitor appeared on the horizon of Yathirab. At last the great day arrived. News was brought to Yathirab that Muhammad was on his way. He entered the city on September 22, 622. Yathirab was wearing to look of jubilation all round. People came out to greet Muhammad, clad in their gayest attire. Women climbed to the tops of their houses and sang in chorus to welcome their noble guest. Syed Waheeduddin writes in 'The Benefactor' (Lahore, 1964, p. 33) that, 'The Banu Najjar led the welcoming crowds in full armour, their weapons glistening in the sun. The whole of Yathirab lined the road in orderly rows. Young girls played on their tambourines and sang songs of welcome.' There was an unprecedented merry-making, and when Muhammad came to the group of Umar bin Awf Najjari, the well-dressed girls came out of seclusion, danced and sang to the tune of music the following ballad:
Nahno jowarun min bani Najjarin,
Janadan Muhammad min Jarin.
'We belong to the clan of Najjar, (we are) Muhammad's soldiers from the Jari.'
Each tribe, which Muhammad passed through in the city, very eagerly desired the honour of his presence and requested him to take up his abode with them. He, refusing all these offers, said that the camel, which he rode on, was inspired and would take him to the proper quarter. The camel proceeded on to the eastern quarter, and knelt down in the open courtyard of the Banu Najjar, near the house of Abu Ayub Ansari. He took up his temporary residence in his house for about seven months, until a mosque with proper quarters for himself was built in Medina.
After Muhammad's arrival in Medina, the first thing to be done was to build a cathedral mosque. It was constructed on the plot of two orphans, Sohal and Sohail, whom Abu Ayub Ansari paid the price. The ground of the plot was levelled and a mosque, 54 yards width and 60 yards in length was built over it with unbaked bricks and mud, and was roofed with palm-wood rafters. This mosque became known as the 'Prophet's Mosque' (Masjid-i-Nabwi) was free from all kinds of artificialites and was a monument of simplicity. Its walls were made of mud bricks, the roof supported by trunks of palm-trees and covered over with the leaves and twigs. The floor was strewn with gravel. In the corner of the courtyard, a sort of a platform with a shed was raised to accomodate those having no home or family. Those who lived there were known as the residents of the Suffa or Platform. This was, so to speak, a kind of seminary attached to the mosque, for these people devoted their whole time to the study of religion. Adjoining the mosque were erected two apartments for the household of Muhammad.
Five months after his arrival in Yathirab (the Jathrippa in Ptolemy and Stephan, or Jathrb in Minaean inscriptions. The old word Yathirab is found only once in the Koran, 33:13), now known as Medina, it was Muhammad's next task to find shelter and livelihood for the men who had accompanied him from Mecca. In their own home-town many of them were prosperous, but now they were all equally destitute. As a preliminary step, Muhammad enjoined the Muslims of Medina, now known as Ansar (the helpers) to adopt as brothers their co-religionists from Mecca, now known as Muhajir(the refugees), to share with them like their own kith and kin whatever they possessed, in prosperity and in want. He thus created in Anas's house a bond of brotherhood, known as 'Fraternization' (muwakhah), comprising forty-five (or according to another authority, seventy-five) pairs between the Ansars and Muhajirs. This was intended to prove that religion was a firmer basis for brotherly community than membership of the same tribe. These mandates thus resulted in a considerable extension of the Muslim community.
So strong, in short, was this new tie that it surpassed even the relationship of two real brothers.
Another important task before Muhammad was to determine and clarify the relations between the various tribes and the Muslims in Medina. The Jews were a considerable power in Medina. It appears that they were Arabs by descent, but formed a distinct unit by reason of their adoption of Judaism. They were subdivided into three clans, the Banu Qainuqa, Banu Nazir and Banu Quraiza. The other inhabitants of the town were the Aws and Khazraj, always at war with each other. Of the two chief clans of the Jews, the Quraiza were the allies of the Aws, while Banu Nazir joined the Khazraj. Now it so happened that the major portion of the Khazraj and Aws embraced Islam. So Muhammad concluded a pact with the Jews, known as the 'Covenant of Medina'(mithaq-i-Medina), whose terms were as follow:- Firstly, the Muslims and Jews shall live as one people. Secondly, each one of the parties shall keep to its own faith, and neither shall interfere with that of the other. Thirdly, in the event of a war with a third party, each was bound to come to the assistance of the other, provided the latter were the pary aggrieved and not the aggressors. Fourthly, in the event of an attack on Medina, both shall join hands to defend it. Fifthly, peace, when desirable, shall be made after consultation with each other. Sixthly, Medina shall be regarded as a sacred by both, all bloodshed being forbidden therein. Seventhly, Muhammad shall be the final court of appeal in cases of dispute.
James A. Michener writes in 'Islam: The Misunderstood Religion' (New York, 1955, p. 68) that, 'Muhammad thus became head of the state and the testimony even of his enemies is that he administered wisely. The wisdom he displayed in judging intricate cases became the basis for the religious law that governs Islam today.'
Though emigration to Medina had given Muhammad a certain amount of respite, it increased opposition to his cause tenfold. While at Mecca, the malice of the Qoraish found vent in tormenting the Muslims, but now it was bent on the latter's destruction. The Bedouin tribes, who had so far been mere spectators of the Muslims's persecutions were also stirred at the growth of Islam in Medina. The Jews, being at a distance, were also quiet so far, but now that the Muslims were their next door neighbours in Medina, they could not watch the steady growth of Islam without a sting of jealousy and they rose in opposition. Distinct from all these, and of a singular nature, another wave of opposition set in, in the camp, known in the Islamic phraseology as that of the hypocrites. These were the men who had not the pluck to come out into the open. So they joined the faith with an object of undermining it from within. A certain man, Abdullah bin Ubay, was at their head. Before the immigration of Muhammad, both Banu Aws and Khazraj, wearied by their long drawn-out mutual hostility, which had often erupted into fighting and had exacted a heavy toll of life, had decided to put an end to this state of affairs and to set up a form of administration in Medina which should have the support of both tribes and should also be acceptable to the three Jewish tribes. For this purpose, it had been agreed that Abdullah bin Ubay bin Salul, chief of the Khazraj, should be elected king of Medina. This plan had not yet been put into effect when Muhammad was invited to come to Medina. But Muhammad's presence eclipsed his personality, and he dwindled into a nonentity. He was deeply chagrined at the loss of a crown. At the outset, he offered some opposition, but beholding the rapid growth of Islam, he thought hypocrisy would be a best tool of revenge. Thus he put on the mask of Islam, and thenceforward till his last breath, he left no stone unturned to bring Islam into trouble.
Muhammad had hardly breathed a sigh of relief in Medina when he was confronted with the series of military expeditions against the fronts of the heathen Meccans. Attack was apprehended every moment from without and treachery from within. Small detachments of the Qoraish of Mecca used to go out on marauding expeditions and scour the country right up to the outskirts of Medina. Once, one such party lifted camels from the very pastures of the town.
From the start of Ramdan, a report reached to Medina that a large trading caravan of Qoraish was returning to Mecca from Syria under the leadership of Abu Sufian bin Harb, one of the most astute men, accompanied by a fifty armed guards. It has been pointed out that this richly loaded caravan constituted a grave threat to the security of Medina, therefore, Muhammad dispatched Talha bin Ubaidullah and Saeed bin Zaid, to gather intelligence about the caravan and to report back. Abu Sufian, apprehending the blockade by the Muslims, sent a fast rider to Mecca in advance to explain the situation to the Qoraish and bring adequate force for the safeguarding of the caravan.
In the interim, Muhammad dispatched small reconnaissance parties to keep an eye on the movements of the enemy as well as to approach certain tribes to secure their neutrality. It so happened that one such party of eight persons was sent out under Abdullah bin Jahash. They were given sealed instructions by Muhammad, requiring them not to open the cover, until two days had passed. When opened as directed after two days' march, it was found to contain the orders that the party should proceed to Nakhlah, between Mecca and Taif, and there keep track of the movements of the Qoraish. The party arrived at Nakhlah, and after few days, they encountered a small caravan of Qoraish on its way from Taif to Mecca. They attacked the four persons, who were in charge of the caravan, of whom one Amr bin Hadharmi, was killed, two were captured and the fourth escaped. The scouting party took over the merchandise of the caravan and made haste to return to Medina. When news reached Muhammad, he was severely reprimanded Abdullah bin Jahash for transgressing his express commands.
It may be pointed out that the sealed orders of Muhammad to Abdullah bin Jahash contained the word tarassadu, meaning 'to keep a watch' and not to lay an ambush. Margoliouth, Dr. Zwemer and other European scholars have gloated over this incident and have made it a handle for attack. But might they know that, firstly, it was against the expressed orders of Muhammad, and, secondly, even if Muhammad would have ordered Abdullah to do so, his act would have been justified by the modern international law of the West, which reads:- 'From the moment one state is at war with another, it has, on general principles, a right to seize on all the enemy's property of whatsoever kind and wheresoever found, and to appropriate thus to its own use, or to that of the captors.' (vide, 'Elements of International Law' by Henry Wheaton, London, 1936, p. 419). The death of Amr bin Hadharmi, however, provoked Qoraish and stimulated their hostile designs against the Muslims. According to Tabari, the murder of Amr bin Hadharmi was the root cause of the battle of Badr.
On the other side, when the emissary of Abu Sufian arrived in Mecca, and reported to the Meccans, a preparation was at once made to invade on Medina. Within three days, a well-armed force of over a thousand warriors set out from Mecca under the command of Abu Jahl. When they reached at Jahfah, a little half-way to Badr, an emissary of Abu Sufian brought the news that the caravan had passed through the danger zone safely and that it was not necessary to march towards Medina. On hearing this, some of them counselled that they should go back, but Abu Jahl and his party rejected the suggestion violently and proceeded towards Badr.
Badr is the name of a celebrated well and a market-place of Arabia, and is so named after a certain Badr bin Qoraish bin Mukhlad bin an-Nadr bin Kananah, who hailed from the clan of Ghaffar. The first battle thus fought between the Muslims and the Meccans about 80 miles from Medina was that of Badr. The date given for the battle is 17th, 19th or 21st Ramdan, 2 A.H./March 13, 15 or 17, 624 A.D. The Muslims, who were unprepared for the engagement, numbered only 313 men who had only three horses, seventy camels and a few swords. This small force was marshalled out of Medina, and took suitable position near a stream of fresh water at Badr. The Meccans under the command of Abu Jahl, were a thousand with 300 horses and 700 camels. Numerically the Muslim force was hardly one-third of the Meccans. Besides, the latter were composed of skilled veterans, while the Muslims had recruited even inexperienced youths.
The two ill-matched armies collided on the morning of Friday, the 17th Ramdan. Sword clashed against sword and lance broke against lance. The men confronting each other in mortal combat were no strangers. Brother fought against brother, father against son, son against father. And when the battle was at its height, Muhammad prostrated himself before his God and prayed, 'O'God, if this handful band of men perish, there will be no one left to pronounce Your word to worship You truly and selflessly. Your true faith will be destroyed. Come to the aid of Your devotees, my Lord, and give them victory.'
At the taunt of the Meccans, Ali bin Abu Talib dashed out of the Muslim ranks, glittering in breastplate and helmet. He was closely followed by Ubaida bin Harith, a paternal cousin of Muhammad, and Hamza, who wore an ostrich feather on his cuirass. They performed such outstanding feats of bravery against Shiba, Walid and Atba in a single combat, who were considered the cream of the Qoraishite power. Hamza killed Shiba, while Ali killed Walid. Ubaida was mortally wounded but, before he fell, Ali and Hamza were able to come to his rescue. Hamza hurled at Atba and, with a sweep of his sword, cut off his head. This single combat was an ominous start for the pagans, as thereby they lost three of their best warriors and commanders in the very first phase of the battle. After a fierceful and dreadful fighting, the Meccans army broke up and fled in a hurly-burly manner before the Muslims. Seventy of the bravest warriors of the Qoraish were slain, and forty-five taken prisoners. Their commander, Abu Jahl had also fallen in the battle. On the Muslim side, fourteen men were killed.
This was the first opportunity of the Muslims after their long and bitter sufferings at the hands of the Meccans to wreak vengeance on them, if they chose. But how were they treated is well illustrated by the following incident. There was one among the captives, possessed of a remarkable force of eloquence which he used to exercise unsparingly while in Mecca, to arouse opposition against Islam. He was brought before Muhammad, and it was suggested that two of his teeth should be knocked out, as an appropriate punishment, to incapacitate him from stirring agitation against Islam. 'If I disfigure any of his limbs,' replied Muhammad, 'God will disfigure mine.'
Before Muhammad returned Medina with the Muslim warriors, Zaid bin Harith and Abdullah bin Ka'b had galloped through the city on their horses, and announced the victory, mentioning the names of fallen idolatars in the field. The Muslims rejoiced to hear it and gathered in the streets, acclaiming this great victory.
In Mecca, the news of their defeat preceded the subdued army, and proclaimed their resolve for vengeance. The aggressions of the Meccans reached their climax. The traders among them set aside a portion of their profits for the expenses of war. In 3/625, three thousand Meccan warriors, of whom 700 were clad in armour, bore down on Medina under the command of Abu Sufian. Their women accompanied them in front to applaud the brave and to chide the craven-hearted. Three miles to the north of Medina, the Meccans encamped at the foot of a hillock, called Uhud. It is a massive feature lying three miles north of Medina, and rising to the height of about 1000 feet above the level of the plain. The entire feature is 5 miles long. In the western part of Uhud, a large spur descends steeply to the ground, and to the right of this spur, as seen from the direction of Medina, a valley rises gently and goes up and away as it narrows, at a defile about 1000 yards from the foot of the spur. At the mouth of this valley, and at the foot of this spur, Muhammad took the position.
Against the enemy force of three thousand entrenched below Uhud, Muhammad mustered barely a thousand men. Of this number, three hundred were led by the traitor Abdullah bin Ubay, who marched with them only a little way and then deserted. This left only 700 men, of whom only 100 were mailed combatants. Muhammad went forth to command his force. To protect his rear against a surprise attack from the pass in the Uhud hills, he selected about fifty archers to cover this pass under the command of Abdullah bin Zubayr. According to Ibn Hisham (d. 218/833) in 'Kitab Sirat-i Rasul Allah' (ed. F. Wustenfeld, Gottingen, 1860, 2nd vol., pp. 66-7), Muhammad told to the archers, 'Use your arrows against the enemy cavalry. Keep the cavalry off our backs. As long as you hold your position, our rear is safe. On no account must you leave this position. If you see us winning, do not join us; if you see us losing, do not come to help us.'
It was the morning of Saturday, 7th Shawal, 3/March 23, 625 - exactly a year and a week after the battle of Badr. The Meccans again made first inroad and once again the rout began a good number among them fled the field with the Muslims in hot pursuit. This would have been another consequent victory, but the Muslim archers posted on the adjoining mound, neglecting the injunctions of Muhammad, rashly left their places to join them in the pursuit of plunder, leaving a critical gap in Muhammad's defence. Muhammad had commanded them never to leave their position regardless of whether the Muslims plunged into the enemy camp and won, but the archers violated the orders in greed of spoils of war. The Meccan general Khalid bin Walid at once perceived their error, who made the best of this opportunity. He wheeled his squadron and launched a reinforced attack on the rear of the Muslims, causing a great havoc. This turned the scales against them and the Muslims began to flee before the Khalid's lancers, who certainly took a heavy toll of Muslim lives. M.H. Haykal writes in 'The Life of Muhammad' (Karachi, 1989, p. 265) that, 'Muslim morale plunged to the bottom, and Muslim soldiers fought sporadically and purposelessly. This chaos was responsible for their killing of Husayle bin Jabir Abu Hudhayfah by mistake, as everyone sought to save his own skin by taking flight except such men as Ali bin Abu Talib whom God guided and protected.'
Muhammad was also embosomed with the enemies, until his front teeth were broken. Ali hurled himself into the fray, and shielded Muhammad and dashed the raiders. The Meccans, tired out by a long and gruelling day, began to retreat, and in their retreat vented their rage on the Muslims dead in the field mutilating the corpses. With a final taunt to the Muslims, Abu Sufian ordered withdrawal, and both the fighting men and the baggage train moved off. For a time it seemed that they might lay another ambush the town of Medina, but they left it alone and headed for Mecca. The Meccans lost twenty eight in the battle, while seventy men were killed among the Muslims. Among the slain, the body of Hamza was found mutilated, who had been laid low by a spear thrust which pierced him. The fiend Hinda, wife of Abu Sufian, had cut open his body, and took a piece of his liver and gnawed it to quench her thirst for the vengeance of her father, Atba who was killed by Hamza in Badr. Because of this, Muawiya, the son of Hinda was called the 'son of the liver eater.'
On his return to Medina, Muhammad directed a small body of the disciples to pursue the retreating Meccans, and to impress on them that the Muslims, though worsted in battle, were yet unbroken spirit. Abu Sufian, hearing of the pursuit, hastened back to Mecca. He however sent a message to Muhammad, saying that he would soon return to exterminate him and his people.
Shortly after the battle of Uhud, a famine broke out in Mecca and its environs. When Muhammad heard of their hardships, he immediately appealed the Muslims for help. Donation poured in and when a sizable amount was collected, he sent it to Mecca. This gracious gesture made little impression on his foes, who accepted the help but refused to soften their hearts or to relent in their opposition.
The Muslims were still beleaguered on all sides by their enemies, the Jews, the Bedouin tribes and the traitors from Medina. They kept nagging the Muslims with constant raids which were stoutly repelled and petty machinations which were effectively countered. The Jewish tribes had been expelled from Medina because of their inimical and treacherous behaviours, entrenched themselves in a place called Khaibar.
The enemies of the Muslims this time created a united front. This culminated in a solemn pact of alliance among the five principal tribes. When the news of this tremendous mobilization reached the Muslims in Medina, it struck them all with panic. It was Monday, the 1st Shawal, 5/February 24, 627 when a gigantic army under the command of Abu Sufian besieged Medina. The number of this invading force is variously estimated at something between ten and twenty-four thousands, the largest single army ever mustered on Arabian soil. The Muslims had fortified Medina from three sides, but it was exposed from one side. Salman al-Faras, who knew far more of the techniques of warfare than was common in the Peninsula, advised the digging of a dry moat around Medina and the fortification of its buildings within. Following the idea of Salman al-Faras, Muhammad ordered the trenches to be dug in that open end of the city, and thus it is called the battle of Ditch (khandaq). The word khandaq is, no doubt, regarded as the Arabicized version of the Persian word kandah(dug-up). The ditch ran from Sheikhein to the hill of Zubab, and thence to Jabal Banu Ubaid. All these hills were included in the area protected by the ditch, and on the west the ditch turned south to cover the left flank of the western of the two hills, known as Jabal Banu Ubaid. Once the digging of the ditch was completed within six days, the Muslims established their camp just ahead of the hill of Sila'a. Their total strength was 3000 which included hypocrites whose fighting value and reliability were uncertain.
The invading force fell on Medina like an avalanche, where they found an impassable ditch surrounding the whole city, thus they failed to subdue the besieged. The Muslims, after transferring their women and children to securer places, manned their fortifications so well that the siege continued for over a month. Food ran out, essential supplies were exhausted, and when the pang of hunger became unbearable, the besieged warriors stilled them by tying stones to their empty stomachs. The armies were effectively separated by the trench around Medina, but known champions in arms occasionally challenged each other to single combat. One of them was a famous Arab wrestler, named Amr bin Abdud-wudd. He found a point where the ditch was narrow, and succeeded in entering it on a fast jumping horse. He strutted forth haughtily and dared the Muslims to send a man against him. Ali rode out at once and laid him low with a single stroke. Made with anger the invaders launched another furious attack to storm the trench, but were thrown back as before. Winter was approaching; the supplies of the besiegers were also running short and murmurs of discontent arose among their hordes. One night the wild wind terribly rose and soon gathered into a storm. It uprooted their tents, scattered their provisions, scared their mounts, and, what with the dark and unusual cold, spread so much terror and confusion in the camp that when the day dawned, the siege had been lifted and the invaders withdrew from the field. Each man carried as little as his camel, horse, or shoulders could bear and began to move while the storm continued to rage. The encounter at the battle of Ditch was the last time that the town of Medina ever faced an invader. After this battle, the strength of her enemies was for ever broken
In 6/628, Muhammad marched from Medina with 1400 Muslims for the purpose of performing pilgrimage in Mecca. They went unarmed, clad in the ritual dresses. When this peaceful caravan approached its destination, tidings came that the Meccans were bent on mischief, and might stop their entry into the town by force. So, Muhammad halted his followers at a place, called Hudaibia, and his men encamped round a well. From here he sent a message to the Qoraish of Mecca, saying that, 'We have come on a peaceful and religious mission. We have come only to perform the sacred pilgrimage. We desire neither bloodshed nor war, and we shall be glad if the Meccans agree to a truce for a limited period.' When the Muslim messenger was sent to Qoraish, he failed to return, so another was dispatched. The enemies killed his mount and he did not return either. Finally, Muhammad sent one of his companions, Uthman to negotiate with the Qoraish. He too was detained and to provoke the Muslims, the Qoraish engineered a rumour that he had been slain.
So Muhammad collected all his followers and asked them to swear that if God demanded of them the supreme sacrifice they would lay down their lives without demur. One by one they came and touched his hand and swore, to die willingly, if such was the will of God. This oath or pledge became famous in the annals of Islam as the Bai'at-ur- Ridwan (the pledge of God's pleasure). The Meccans heard of this and were afraid. Instead of directly attacking the pilgrim party as they originally intended, they now sent a messenger, a man named Suhail, to negotiate with Muhammad. He presented him with four demands on behalf of the Qoraish, as follows:- (a) The Muslims should return to Medina without performing pilgrimage. (b) They would be permitted to perform pilgrimage in the following year, but would not be allowed to stay in Mecca beyond three days with their traveller-arms, namely, their swords in sheathes. (c) They would not take any Muslim resident of Mecca with them to Medina nor forbid any Muslim from taking up his residence in Mecca, if he so desired. (d) If any Meccan went to Medina, then Muslims would return him to Mecca, but if any Muslim went to Mecca, he would not be returned to Medina.
The Meccans deliberately made their terms as rigorous and provocative as they could, but Muhammad refused to be provoked. As always he wanted peace not bloodshed, therefore he accepted all the terms with all the hardships and all the humiliation they implied. This treaty is known as the Treaty of Hudaibia. It was one of the most outstanding events in the life of Muhammad. According to R.V.C. Bodley in 'The Messenger' (London, 1946, p. 257), 'In point of fact, that the treaty was Mohammad's masterpiece of diplomacy. It was a triumph.' Tor Andrae writes in 'Mohammed the Man and his Faith' (London, 1936, p. 229) that, 'The self-control which Mohammed revealed at Hodaibiya, his ability to bear occasional humiliation in unimportant issues, in order to achieve an exalted goal, shows that he was a person of unique ability.'
This pact was the product of profound political wisdom and farsightedness. It was the first time after several wars that the Meccans acknowledged that Muhammad was an equal rather than a mere rebel or a runaway tribsman. It was the first time that Mecca recognised the Islamic state that was rising in Arabia. With it was terminated the struggle between the Muslims of Medina and the Qoraish of Mecca, which had extended over nineteen years, and had, after the migration, assumed the character of an armed conflict. By virtue of the truce, peace had at last been established, and the major difficulty in the way of peaceful propagation of Islam had been removed. Henceforward, Islam began to spread rapidly in the greater part of Arabia. Some estimate of the rate of this progress might be made on the basis of the number of Muslims who were present with Muhammad at Hudaibia, which was just short of 1400, and the number that accompanied him two years later during the conquest of Mecca, which was 10,000. This is eloquent testimony that the attraction of Islam lie in its spiritual power and not in armed conflict.
As soon as this pact was solemnly concluded by the two parties, the tribe of Khazao entered an alliance with Medina and that of Banu Bakr with the Meccans
In 7/629, about six weeks after Muhammad's party returned from Hudaibia, they learnt that the Jews in Khaibar were planning to make an inroad on Medina. To forestall these moves, the Muslims marched on Khaibar, about 92 miles from Medina, with 1600 men, and covered the distance in three forced marches and reached the enemy territory before dawn on the fourth morning. The two armies met at first at Natat and fought each other strongly. When Sullam bin Mishkam, the chief of the Jews was killed, Harith bin Abu Zaynab took over the leadership, and charged from the fortress of Naim, but he was soon repulsed. Five strongholds at Khaibar were reduced one by one with the exception of the strongly fortified and impregnable al-Qamus, which was under the command of Marhab, who was like Goliath of Goeth. The Muslim champions failed to conquer it despite untiring efforts. Ali was finally given the charge, who proceeded the front, and valiantly put Marhab and other Jewish champions to sword. The casualties of the Muslims in this battle did not exceed twenty, while ninety-three were killed on Jewish side.
The time had now arrived for the Islamic mission to travel beyond the confines of the Arabian peninsula. So Muhammad dispatched his messengers to all the kingdoms known to his people, to the Roman Caesar, and the emperor of Iran, the governor of Egypt and the Negus of Abyssinia, the king of Ghassan, and the chief of Yamama. The message was identical to them all and neither political nor diplomatic expedients dictated either the choice or the status of the powers addressed. Each epistle bore the impression of Muhammad's seal, with the words Muhammad, the Apostle of Allah.At the top came Allah and the bottom Muhammad and between the two Apostle. Hence, the epistle established also the fact that Muhammad looked upon Islam as a cosmopolitan religion. In case of Chritianity, universality was never claimed. Jesus himself laid no claim to such a position. He clearly said that he had come for the lost sheep of Israel. Muhammad however claimed from the inauguration of his dispensation that it was meant for the whole mankind
The Treaty of Hudaibia had been now nearly two years in force. Acting on the discretion allowed by the treaty, Banu Khazao and Banu Bakr, inhabiting Mecca and its neighbourhood, the former had become the allies of Muhammad, the latter had entered into an alliance with Qoraish. These two rival tribes had been fighting among them for a long time. Aided by a party of Qoraish, Banu Bakr attacked by night an unsuspecting encampment of Banu Khazao, and slew several of them. The Khazao were forced to take refuge in the Kaba, where they were also persecuted. A deputation of forty men from the injured tribe, mounted on camels, hastened to Medina, and spread the wrongs of Banu Bakr before Muhammad, and pleaded that the treacherous murders be avenged. Muhammad sent a messenger to Qoraish, offering three alternatives:- a) Blood-money for all the men killed be paid. b) The Qoraish should withdraw their help for the Banu Bakr. c) It should be announced that the treaty of Hudaibia has been abrogated.
Qaratah bin Umar, on behalf of Qoraish, said that only the third alternative was acceptable. After the departure of the messenger, the Qoraish regretted their reply, and sent Abu Sufian as their ambassador to get the treaty of Hudaibia renewed. Abu Sufian came to Medina, but he got no reply, and returned back to Mecca unsuccessful. Muhammad was therefore impelled to march with a force of ten thousand Muslims. The move of the army started from Medina on 10th Ramdan, 8/January 1, 630. Having no courage to resist, the Meccans laid down their arms. Muhammad triumphantly entered Mecca at the head of a formidable force after a banishment lasting for years, on 20th Ramdan, 8/January 11, 630. Many had lost their nearest and dearest at the hands of the people now completely at their mercy. All of them carried in their hearts bitter memories of cruelty, persecution and pain inflicted by their now humble enemies. Yet none thought of vengeance or retribution, and none raised his arm against a defenseless foe. Stanley Lane Poole writes in 'The Speeches and Table-Talk of the Prophet Mohammad' (London, 1882. p. 47) that, 'It was thus Mohammad entered again his native city. Through all the annals of conquest there is no triumphant entry comparable to this one.'
As soon as Mecca was occupied, Muhammad went to Kaba, and circumambulated the House of God seven times. Ibn Hisham (2nd vol., p. 412) writes that Muhammad soon turned and looked at the Qoraish. There was a hushed silence as the assembled populace gazed at him, wondering what their fate would be. 'O Qoraish!' called Muhammad, 'How should I treat you?' 'Kindly, O noble brother, and son of a noble brother!' the crowd replied. 'Then go! You are forgiven.' Muhammad now entered Kaba with Ali and saw the idols and deities arranged along its walls. In and around the Kaba, there were 360 idols which had long polutted its sanctity; being carved of wood or hewn out of stone, including a statue of Abraham holding divining arrows. Muhammad smashed these idols to pieces. When the task was finished, he felt as if a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders. The Kaba had been cleansed of the false gods; now only the true God would be worshipped in the House of God. The conqueror of Mecca ordered no celebration mark his glorious victory. Instead, the Muslims bowed themselves in genuflections of prayer and gave thanks to God
After the conquest of Mecca, the Muslims stayed in the city for two weeks when a news soon broke out that a big army had been mobilized in the valley of Hunain to attack Mecca and to undo the victory of the Muslims. This time Muhammad assembled a force of twelve thousand warriors, which included two thousand non-Muslim Meccans. Muhammad was forced to make necessary preparations for defence. He felt the necessity of borrowing money for provisions and war supplies, therefore, according to 'Masnad' (Cairo, 1895, 4th vol., p. 36) by Ahmad bin Hanbal (d. 241/855), 'He took a loan of 30,000 dhirams from Abdullah bin Rabiah, a step-brother of Abu Jahl, who was very rich.' He also wanted from Safwan bin Umayyah, who had not yet accepted Islam, to lend him the weapons of war. Safwan offered one hundred coats of mail together with their accessories. On 6th Shawal, 8/January 27, 630, Muhammad marched to Hunain to crush the powers of the four savage tribes, viz. Thaqif, Hawazin, Sa'd and Jasam. In order to reach the fertile valley of Taif, they had to pass through a narrow defile, called Hunain. It is a name of a valley running from Shara'il-ul-Mujahid, which is 11 miles east-north-east of Mecca, to Shara'i Nakhlah which is 7 miles and then runs north towards Zeima. Between the Shara'i the valley is quite wide, about 2 miles in most places, but beyond the old Shara'i it narrows down to between a quarter and a half-mile, and as it approaches Zeima, it gets narrower still. It is this second portion of the Hunain valley which is a defile, and the defile is narrowest near Zeima. Beyond Zeima the Taif route winds into the Wadi Nakhlat-ul-Yamaniyya.
When the Muslim army entered the narrow defiles overlooking the valley, Hawazin sharp-shooters, securely hidden; sent forth a murderous rain of arrows, causing havoc among the Muslims ranks, who took to a wild flight, and only a handful were left with Muhammad. At this critical moment, writes Ibn Hisham (2nd vol., p. 444), Muhammad raised his voice in a great cry, 'O Muslims! I am here! I am the Prophet of God, and no one dare doubt my word. I am Muhammad, the son of Abdul Muttalib.' But his cries were of no avail. The leading elements of Hawazin got to the place where Muhammad stood, and here Ali brought down the first infidel to fall at Hunain - a man mounted on a red camel, carrying a long lance at the end of which flew a black pennant. This man was chasing the Muslims as they fled. Ali pursued the man, and cut the tendons of the camel's hind legs with his sword. The man fell with the camel. Muhammad now moved towards the right with his handful companions and took shelter on a rocky spur. He turned to Ibn Abbas and ordered him to call the Muslims to rally around him. Ibn Abbas was of large stature who had very resonant voice, which according to some accounts, could be heard long away. He shouted: 'O'people of Ansars! O'people of the Tree (those who had taken oath of allegiance at Hudaibia)' No sooner did this inspiring call reach the ears of the retreating Muslims than they rallied again, and made a counter-attack. The tide turned at once, and the unbelievers took to flight and dispersed.
It must be known that the Muslims had counter-attacked with such reckless courage that the enemy's ranks were broken and their forces split into two. One half fled widely from the field and retreated to their homes, the other half took refuge in their fortress of Taif. Thus, the Muslims pursued the fleeing enemy to the city wall of the fortified Taif, about 75 miles from Mecca by the old route, and laid siege to the city which lasted for a month or so. It is reported that the Muslims had used for the first time the advanced siege appliances of the day, such as the dababah (a wheeled structure made of brick and stone to provide a constant cover to besiegers) and the minjaniq (ballista, a wooden structure to hurl large stones to break through fortifications) newly acquired from the Jews of Khaibar. They caused considerable loss of life to the besiegers by the advanced defensive unit of shooting arrows with fire balls of bitumen as warheads against the wooden ballista. Later, Muhammad raised the siege on the advice of a wise Bedouin. Meanwhile, the defeated Hawazin sent six of their chiefs to seek peace and beg for mercy, which was accepted. This is called the battle of Hunain, in which the enemies lost seventy of their bravest. Six thousand captives including women and children, forty thousand sheeps and goats, four thousand ounces of silver and twenty four thousand camels formed the booty of Hunain.
Returning from Taif, Muhammad halted at Je'raanah, a place beyond the outskirts of Mecca, where the entire booty of Hunain had been collected for distribution. In the division of the spoils, a large proportion fell to the share of the newly converted Meccans than to the people of Medina. Some of the Medinite Ansars looked upon this as an act of partiality and thus, there were whispers of dissatisfaction. Some of them said: 'The Prophet had rewarded the Meccans and deprived us of our share, although the blood of the Meccans is still dripping from our swords.' Other said: 'We are remembered in moments of difficulties while booty is given to others.' When their discontent reached the ear of Muhammad, he assembled the disheartened Medinite Ansars together and spoke, 'O' men of Ansar, is it not true that you were in the dark and through me God guided you towards light?' The Ansar replied, 'Verily, God and His Prophet did us a great favour.' Then he said, 'Were you not torn by enmities and hostilities among yourselves and did I not give you unity and peace?' They said, 'Verily, we are indebted to you for many favours.' Then he said, 'Were you not poor and God through me made you rich?' They said, 'Verily, God and His Prophet have been kind to us.' Then he said, 'O' men of Ansar, why you disturb your hearts because of the things of this life? Would you not prefer that the other people return to their homes with the goats and camels, while you go back to your homes with me in your midst?' On hearing his words, the Ansar wept and said that they wanted only Muhammad and nothing else.
When Muhammad summoned the nations the message of Islam, one of his letters was addressed to the governor of Ghassan, Shurahbil bin Amr, who was the ruler of this region and was the vassal of Caesar of Rome. The letter of Muhammad was carried by Harith bin Umayr, who had been killed at a place called Mauta, a village not far from Balka in Syria. The murder of the Muslim envoy by a feudatory of the Roman empire, was an outrage which could not be passed over in silence. It would have been unwise to allow the enemy any leisure to muster huge forces to fall upon the Muslims, therefore, an army of 3000 strong was forthwith mustered at the command of Zaid bin Harith to avenge the blood of his envoy Harith bin Umayr against the Ghassanid ruler in 8/629.
The Muslims suddenly found themselves in the presence of a force several times more numerous than themselves, near the village of Mauta. Zaid bin Harith seizing the banner which Muhammad had entrusted to his hands, led the charge of the Muslims, plunging into the midst of the enemy ranks until he fell transfixed by their spears. Jafar Taiyar, seized the banner from the dying Zaid and raised it aloft to command the Muslim force. The enemy closed in on the heroic Jafar, who was soon covered with wounds. When both his hands were cut off gripping the banner, he still stood firm holding the staff between his two stumps, until the Byzantine soldiers struck him a mortal blow. Immediately, the banner was caught up by Abdullah bin Rawaha, who also met death. Khalid bin Walid, newly converted to Islam, assumed control at this moment of defeat. Then, by retiring methodically, the survivors, under Khalid's leadership, withdrew from the field. When the defeated Muslims approached Medina, Muhammad and the people went out to receive them.
With the conquest of Mecca, Islam marched with galloping speed throughout the length and breath of Arabia. The neighbouring Christian states, especially the Roman empire, were watching this unprecedented, triumphant march with a great concern and anxiety.
The fate of the Muslims in the battle of Mauta also emboldened the Arabs and Romans of the frontier regions to enhance their mischief-mongering towards the Muslims. Thus, to restore the loss of prestige and to teach lesson, Muhammad marched with an army of thirty thousand from Medina to Tabuk, a well known place about midway between Medina and Damascus. He on that very occasion, appointed Ali as his caliph in Medina, and as a result, Ali did not take part in the battle of Tabuk. In the mid-Rajab, 9/late October, 630, the Muslims set out for Tabuk. This was the largest army that had ever mustered under the command of Muhammad. The army drawn up for the battle of Tabuk, known as the Jaish al-Usrah (the army of difficulty). So called because in the first place the journey had to be undertaken in the scortching heat of the summer and secondly, it was the time of reaping the harvest and ripening of fruit which made it very difficult to proceed.
Reaching the field of Tabuk, Muhammad encamped his army, where he came to know that the Romans in Jordan had withdrawn to Damascus, and dared not to come to arms with the Muslims, and therefore, Muhammad returned to Medina after a couple of days. This was the last campaign commanded by Muhammad.
When peace and order had been restored throughout the Muslim realm and the period of warfare was over and the people joined Islam in multitude, till in the course of some two years, there was one and but one religion - Islam - throughout the vast Arabian peninsula with a few Jewish and Christian exceptions here and there. The cry of Allah-u-Akbar resounded on all sides. Now it took Muhammad but two brief years, not only to bring the whole of Arabia under the banner of Islam, but at the same time to work a mighty transformation, sweeping away all corruptions and uplifting the nation to the lifties height of spirituality.
In 10/632, Muhammad set forth with a large concourse of Muslims, ranging in strength between ninety to one lac and twenty thousand bound on a farewell pilgrimage to Mecca. On his arrival at Mecca, and before completing all the rites, he addressed the assembled multitude from the top of the Jabal-ul-Arafat in words which yet live in the hearts of all Muslims. H.G. Wells writes in 'The Outline of History' (London, 1920, p. 325) that, 'A year before his death, at the end of the tenth year of the Hegira, Muhammad made his last pilgrimage from Medina to Mecca. He made then a great sermon to his people....The reader will note that the first paragraph sweeps away all plunder and blood feuds among the followers of Islam. The last makes the believing Negro the equal of the Caliph....they established in the world a great tradition of dignified fair dealing, they breathe a spirit of generosity, and they are human and workable. They created a society more free from wide-spread cruelty and social oppression than any society had ever been in the world before.' In the terminology of Hadith, this historical journey is called hajjatul wida (the farewell pilgrimage) and at times it is also named hajjatul balagha (the pilgrimage of the delivery of message). On 18th Zilhaja, 10/March 16, 632, Muhammad after performing farewell pilgrimage, halted at the plain of Ghadir Khum, where he declared Ali bin Abu Talib as his successor.
At about the middle of the month of Safar, in the 11th A.H., on Monday, Muhammad ordered his followers to make speedy preparations for an expedition against the people of Mauta in the Byzantine territory, and the sources go to say, to avenge the massacre of the soldiers, who had fallen in recent skirmishes. The next day, on Tuesday he appointed Osama to the command of the army. Osama was the son of Zaid bin Harith, who had been slain at Mauta, and was a youth of 17 or 18 years. On Wednesday, a violent inroad of headache and fever seized Muhammad, but the next morning of Thursday, he found himself sufficiently recovered to prepare a flag-staff, with his own hands, which he made over to Osama. The camp was then erected at Jorf, three miles from Medina on the route to Syria. He ordered all his followers at Medina to join it at once, not excepting even the renowned companions to join it at once. Only Ali, who was required to remain with him at Medina, was exempted. The malady, although gaining ground, did not confine Muhammad entirely to his house. He used to move into the mosque, through the door of his apartment, to lead the prayers. After about a week of his summoning the men to the Syrian expedition under Osama, he perceived that the progress to join the camp at Jorf was very slow and poor, therefore, he once again addressed the people to join the Syrian expedition. The sickness of Muhammad was increasing every day, and the Syrian expedition, weighed upon his mind, and continued saying to those around him, 'Send off quickly the army of Osama.' According to the Shiites, Muhammad was really reprimanding his companions for not joining the expeditionary force. Knowing that Muhammad's end was near, the companions were reluctant to leave Medina at such a critical time and fearful that, if they absented themselves, Ali might step uncontested. In sum, the army of Osama could not depart from Medina during the time of Muhammad.
According to the Sunni historians, the expedition under Osama was ordered by Muhammad for taking revenge of Osama's father, Zaid bin Harith who had been killed at the hands of the Byzantine force in the battle of Mauta. This view however seems hardly plausible, because the battle of Mauta took place in the year 8/629 and there is no reason why the idea of revenge did not occur earlier 2 two years and 7 months after that event. Secondly, Zaid bin Harith was not the only notable martyr of that battle. Muhammad's cousin, Jafar Taiyar was also killed in the same battle and if the expedition under Osama had been for avenging the blood of Osama's father, Zaid bin Harith, it should as well be for avenging the blood of Jafar Taiyar. But, it is learnt that not only Jafar's real brother, Ali but all other members of Banu Hashim had been expressly detained from joining the expedition under Osama. This indicates clearly that the expedition was not for avenging any one's blood. The critical examination of the sources leads to the conclusion that Muhammad aimed at keeping Ali and his faithfuls in Medina and to keep all others away from the city, so that in the event of his death, Ali could establish himself as the successor of Muhammad without opposition.
Muhammad was seriously taken ill for several days. At noon on Monday (12th Rabi I, 11/June 8, 632), whilst praying earnestly in whisper, the spirit of the great Prophet Muhammad took flight to the 'blessed companionship on high.' So ended a life consecrated from first to last to the service of God and humanity. H.M. Hyndman writes in 'The Awakening of Asia' (London, 1919, p. 9) that, '...this very human prophet of God had such a remarkable personal influence over all with whom he was brought into contact that, neither when a poverty-stricken and hunted fugitive, nor at the height of his prosperity, did he ever have to complain of treachery from those who had once embraced his faith. His confidence in himself, and in his inspiration from on high, was ever greater when he was suffering under disappointment and defeat than when he was able to dictate his own terms to his conquered enemies. Muhammad died as he had lived, surrounded by his early followers, friends and votaries: his death as devoid of mystery as his life of disguise.' His apostleship lasted for 23 years, 2 months and 21 days; or 9 years, 9 months and 8 days in Mecca and 13 years, 5 months and 13 days in Medina.
Muhammad was an embodiment or rather an institution by himself of many ethical code. No doubt, when a fair-minded person studies various aspects of the life of Muhammad as a man, head of family, a member of the society, a judge, an administrator, a teacher, a military commander and a guide, he comes to the conclusion that his all round perfection is a definite proof of his being a Divine Messenger. Muhammad made wonderful contributions for the welfare of humanity at large. First, he himself acted upon the divine message and then he asked to follow him. He established the rights of the people when rights were being usurped; he administered justice when tyranny was rampant everywhere; he introduced equality when undue discrimination was so common; and he gave freedom to the people when they were groaning under oppression, cruelty and injustice. He brought a message which taught man to obey and fear God only, and seek help from Him alone. His universal message covers all the aspects of human life, including rights, justice, equality and freedom. Edward Gibbon writes in 'The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire' (London, 1848, 5th vol., p. 487) that, 'More pure than the system of Zoroaster, more liberal than the law of Moses, the religion of Mahomet might seem less inconsistent with reason than the creed of mystery and superstition which, in the seventh century, disgraced the simplicity of the gospels.'
The European criticism seems to have lost the sense to deal with Muhammad justly. All rules of that criticism seem to be subject to the one consideration that whatever is unfavourable and damaging to Muhammad's reputation must be accepted as true. The negative views of the Europeans for Islam and Muhammad need here sufficient space to examine from its root. The readers may refer in this context a separate write-up, entitled 'The Image of Islam and Muhammad', vide Appendix I.
The tribe of Qoraish, and especially that branch of it called the clan of Sa'd, among whom Muhammad spent his childhood near Mount Taif, situated to the east of Mecca, were renowned in Arabia for the purity and eloquence of their language. William Muir writes in 'The Life of Mohammad' (London, 1923, p. 7) that, 'His speech was formed upon one of the purest models of the beautiful language of the peninsula.' Such milieu could not fail to make him a man of some refinement and good taste; and no doubt it was this which enabled him to attract to himself men much more learned than he. Muhammad preached of an inestimable value of knowledge, and brought his followers out of the darkness of ignorance to the light.
It is recounted that a man came to Muhammad and asked, 'What is ilm?' He replied, fairness (insaf). The man asked again, 'And what more?' He replied, listening (istima). The man asked, 'And what more?' The Prophet said, keeping in mind (hifz). The man asked, 'And what else?' He replied, acting (amal) in accordance with knowledge. Then the man asked, 'And what more?' Muhammad replied, spreading it (nashru-hu).
Muhammad's interest in education can also be judged from the tradition as quoted by Ibn Sa'd in 'Tabaqat' that among the Meccan prisoners taken in the battle of Badr, there were many who could not pay for their liberty; and the literate among them however were ordered by the Prophet to teach at least ten illiterate Muslim children as a ransom. Zaid bin Thabit, who later one became famous as one of the scribes of the Koranic revelations, learned reading and writing in this way. It is also worthwhile to mention that Muhammad encouraged the learning of foreign languages, and thus Zaid bin Thabit is also reputed to have learnt Persian, Greek, Ethiopian, Aramaic and Hebrew. According to H.E. Barnes in 'A History of Historical Writings'(Oklahoma, 1937, p. 93), 'In many ways the most advanced civilization of the Middle Ages was not a Christian culture at all, but rather the civilization of the people of the faith of Islam.'
The Holy Koran is no barren in this context. In Koran alone there are 704 verses in which either the word ilm or the words of the same derivation are used in the following order:- a'lam 49 times, al-ilm 80 times, a'lamu 11 times, alim 162 times, a'lim 13 times, ilman 14 times, i'lamu 27 times, ma'lum and ma'lumat 13 times, ya'lamun 85 times, ya'lamu 93 times, ta'lamun 56 times. Pen and books are essential aids of knowledge, and for them, the qalam occurs 2 times and al-kitab 230 times. In addition, a number of words related to writing, like kataba, katabna, kutiba, katib, yaktubu, naktubu are used in a number of verses. The total number of the Koranic verses using the words related to writing is 319, and the word kitab for the Koran is used on 81 different occasions. This is enough to show to what extent knowledge and the means of its acquisition are emphasised in the Koran, that had been excellently elaborated in the precious sayings of Muhammad.
Hence, it may be remembered that the advanced civilization in the Middle Ages originated by the Muslims was solely the outcome of the Koranic teachings and the recorded sayings of Muhammad in acquisition of education. Few fragments of Muhammad's teachings are also given below:-
* Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.
* The ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of martyr.
* The acquisition of knowledge is a duty incumbent on every Muslim, male and female.
* He does not die, who takes learning.
* The worst of men is a bad learned man, and a good learned man is the best.
* To listen to the words of the learned and to instil into the lessons of science is better than religious exercises.
* Acquire knowledge; it enables the possessor to distinguish right from wrong; it guides us to happiness; it sustains us in misery; it is an ornament among friends, and an armour against enemies.
* Go in search of knowledge even into China.
* Excessive knowledge is better than excessive praying.
* Whoso honours the learned, honours me.
* One learned man is harder on the devil than a thousand ignorant worshippers.
* The superiority of a learned man over an ignorant worshipper is like that of the full moon over all the stars.
* People are like mines of gold and silver. The more excellent of them in Islam are those who attain knowledge.
* Knowledge is maintained only through teaching.
* The learned ones are the heirs of the prophets. They have knowledge as their inheritance; and he who inherits it, he inherits a great fortune.
* The only cure for ignorance is to ask.
* One scholar has more power over the devil than a thousand devout men.
Abul Hasan Ali, or Ali (Lofty, Exalted), the son of Abu Talib and the cousin of Muhammad was born on Friday, the 13th Rajab in the 28th year of amul feel (the year of elephants), or 600 A.D. inside Kaba in Mecca. His mother Fatima bint Asad stayed in Kaba for three long days and as the fourth day approached, she stepped out, carrying her gem in her arms. He was brought up under the subtle care and affection of Muhammad. Ali himself cherished the memory of his childhood by saying: 'The Prophet brought me up in his own arms and fed me with his own morsel. I followed him, wherever he went, like a baby-camel which follows its mother. Each day a new aspect of his character would beam out of his noble person and I would accept it and follow it as commanded.'
Ibn Abid Hadid (d. 655/1257) quotes Ibn Abbas as relating in his 'Sharh Nahj al-Balagha' that Muhammad and Ali loved each other intensely. Muhammad was so fond of Ali that once when Ali was a young boy, he sent him out on some errand, and Ali took long time to return; he started getting worried and prayed to God, 'O'Lord, do not let me die unless I behold Ali once again.'
Ahmad bin Hanbal writes that, 'There are not as many verses and traditions in the praise of any other companion of Muhammad as there are in the praise of Ali bin Abu Talib.' Ibn Abbas says that, 'There have not descended as many verses about anybody as have revealed about Ali.' On another occasion Ibn Abbas narrates, 'Three hundred verses of the Holy Koran have been revealed in favour of Ali.' Abdullah bin Ayyash bin Abu Rabiah says, 'Ali's knowledge and insight were perfect and he was the first to embrace Islam and he has the honour of being the son-in-law of the Messenger of God. He alone had perfect ability to understand the traditions. He was very brave in fighting and very generous in charity.'
Regarding the first man to profess faith in the prophetic mission of Muhammad, the early historians seem to have created a debating issue. Ibn Hisham (1st vol., p. 245), Tabari (2nd vol., p. 56) etc. however write that Ali bin Abu Talib was the first male to accept Islam at the hands of Muhammad. While Nuruddin Ali bin Ibrahim Shafayee writes in 'Sirat-i Halabiya' that, 'Ali was like a son unto Muhammad, therefore, his faith from very start was the faith professed by the Prophet.' Masudi (d. 346/958) writes in his 'Muruj adh-Dhahab' (2nd vol., p. 283) that, 'The general conscientious of opinion amongst the Muslim historians and theologians is that Ali was never a non-Muslim or prayed before idols, therefore, the question of his embracing Islam does not and cannot arise.'
In 614 A.D. about four years after his divine call, Muhammad proceeded to summon his close relatives. Thus he prepared a banquet, a lamb, and a bowl of milk for the entertainment of forty guests of the Hashimite. When Muhammad asked the assembly, who will assist him in his mission, no answer was returned. It was only Ali on that occasion stood up to offer his services for the cause of Islam to Muhammad. Thomas Carlyle writes in 'Heroes and Hero-worship' (London, 1850, p. 77) that, 'Nevertheless, it proved not a laughable thing; it was very serious thing! As for this young Ali, one cannot but like him. A noble minded creature, as he shows himself, now and always afterwards; full of affection and fiery daring.'
During the night of Muhammad's migration from Mecca, it was indeed a most dangerous moment for Ali, when he volunteered to sleep fearlessly in Muhammad's bed. The task entrusted to him was not a small undertaking for a young man of 22 or 23 years old, but the way in which he carried it out, Ali showed an unflinching fidelity. He was called upon to deputise Muhammad at the risk of his own life, for it was highly probable that the assassins, furious at being foiled of their chief objective would kill Ali in his stead. Historian Tabari writes that, 'Ali's willingness to sacrifice his life for Muhammad is unique in the history of mankind.' Shibli Nomani writes in his 'Sirat al-Nabi' (tr. by Fazlur Rahman, Karachi, 1970, p. 247) that, 'It was a very critical moment. Ali knew that the Quraysh had planned to assassinate the Prophet, and fully realized that his bed that night was to be turned into a place of murder, but, for the Victor of Khaybar it was a bed of roses.' On that occasion a Koranic verse revealed in favour of Ali, which reads: 'And among men there is he who would sell himself to seek the pleasure of God, and God is Compassionate to His servants.' (2:207)
During the 2nd year of migration, Ali's betrothal took place with Muhammad's daughter Fatima, which had been actualized in the month of Ramdan, but the nuptial ceremonies were performed two months later in Zilhaja very simply without pomp and ostentation. Abu Muhammad Ordoni writes in 'Fatima the Gracious' (Qumm, 1992, p. 131) that, 'The Prophet asked for a jug of water; he sipped a small amount of the water and after gargling with it, placed it back in the jug. He then called for Fatima and sprayed her head and shoulders with that water and did the same thing to Ali.' According to some sources, Ali at the time of marriage was 21 years, 5 months and 15 days old, while Fatima was 15 years, 5 months and 15 days old.
Ali is said to have taken part in all the holy wars with the exception of the expedition of Tabuk, when he was left as a governor of Medina, and during that occasion, Muhammad said, 'O Ali, you are to me as Aaron was to Moses.' ('Masnad', 1st vol., p. 174) His dauntless courage, fortitude and unflinching loyalty made him the main hero of all these campaigns. It was the valour of Ali and the strength of his arms that turned the table at critical juncture on the battlefield, and it was the victories won by him that ensured the triumph of Islam over polytheism. At the battle of Badr, as had been customary in all Arabian battles since pre-historic times, the champions of each force came out of the ranks before commencement of operations. With Hamza and Obaida, Ali fought duel with the Meccan champions. In the battle of Uhud, Ali stood steadfast to shield Muhammad when the Muslims had fled from the field.
Ali's dauntless courage and valour was further seen when he killed Amr bin Abdu-wudd in the battle of Ditch, ensuing the triumph of Islam. During the battle of Khaibar, five strongholds of the Jews had been reduced with the exception of al-Qamus, whose commander was Marhab. Muhammad at first assigned Abu Bakr to lead the Muslim army to besiege the fort. R.V.C. Bodley writes in 'The Messenger' (London, 1946, p. 271) that, 'Into this Abu Bakr led a heroic attack, but he was driven back. Then Umar tried, but while he reached the mouth of the breach, he had to retire.' Thus, Muhammad declared, 'Tomorrow, I will hand over the banner of Islamic army to such a person who is an impetuous warrior and not an absconder; he befriends God and His Apostle and is also befriended by them. God is sure to grant victory on his hands.' The next morning, Ali had been given the charge to lead the assault and to fight till the Jews acknowledged submission. Ali, clad in a scarlet vest over which was buckled a cuirass of steel, proceeded to the front. He put Harith, a man of gigantic stature to the sword. To revenge the death of his brother, the Jewish champion Marhab stepped forward from Jewish lines, and challenged Ali to single combat. 'I am Marhab', he cried, 'as all Khaibar know, a warrior bristling with arms in a furiously ranging war.' Ali advanced from the Muslim ranks in response to his vainglorious challenge, saying 'I am he whom his mother named Haidar, a lion of the wilderness; I weigh my foes in a gigantic balance.' As both closed, Marhab made a thrust at Ali with his three-pronged lance, which Ali dexterously warded off, and before he could recover himself, Ali dealt him a blow with his irresistible sword, which divided his buckler, passed through his doubled turban, cleaving his head went down to his chest. Marhab fell lifeless to the ground. The Muslim warriors rushed forward in a body, and captured the citadel and the victory was decisive.
During the battle of Hunain, the Muslim army was unable to withstand the volley of arrows of the foe. Some of them shattered but Ali faced the situation boldly. He put numerous opponents to death with his sword.
Ali acted as the scribe for writing the treaty of Hudaibia. He wrote Muhammad as Messenger of God. The infidels objected to it. They wanted him to write Muhammad, the son of Abdullah. The Prophet consented to do so for the sake of peace, but Ali did not like to delete those words with his own hands. To him it was sacrilege and against the spirit of reverence. Muhammad however did so with his own hand.
Ali spent his youth in the shadow of the sword and his early manhood in wielding it. On several occasions, he fought single-handed against overwhelming odds and emerged out victorious. In the battle of Siffin, he penetrated into the front ranks of the Syrian forces, dressed only in a cotton uniform and without any protective armour. For much the same reason, Ali wore protective armour on the front part of his body only, while his back lay open and unprotected. Someone asked him, 'Are you not afraid that you will be attacked from behind?' 'God forbid', was Ali's reply, 'that I may live to see the day when an enemy would have the dexterity to attack me from the rear.' Once a soldier asked Ali why he preferred mule to a horse when going into action. Ali replied, 'A horse can gallop at a great pace, but a mule only ambles along, faltering little in its slow and steady pace. As I have neither to chase one who flies from the battlefield nor any inclination to seek safety in flight myself, I prefer a mule to horse.' His behaviour at the battles also illustrates his adherence to his code he imparted. While fighting a duel in a battle, Ali had thrown his opponent on the ground and had drawn his sword to cut off his head, when the latter spat on his face. Ali then left his enemy and sheathed his sword. Asked why he left such a dangerous foe alive, Ali said, 'I would have killed him in the way of God, but when he spat on my face, I lost my temper and his death at that juncture would have been caused from motives of retaliation rather than in the spirit of holy war.'
During the conquest of Mecca, Muhammad entered Kaba and removed 360 idols. The Meccans looked on aghast while Muhammad, with a stroke of stick held in hand, smashed the idols which lay in the lower cavities of the walls. To break those idols which were placed higher up, out of reach of either hand or stick, in particular the idol most treasured by the Meccans, that of Hubal, like a giant statue; Muhammad solicited the help of Ali. Ibn Sa'd (3rd vol., p. 13) and other compilers of Hadiths, like Tirmizi (2nd vol., p. 299) and Ibn Majah (p. 12) write that Muhammad said, 'Ascend on my shoulders and then shatter with this stick all the idols which are placed up above.' Ali placed his feet on the shoulders of Muhammad and completed the great purge. He cast down all the idols, relics of the age of ignorance, also climbed to the top of the Kaba and pulled Hubal from its place and threw it down.
In the year 9/631, Islam was firmly established throughout Arabia. There remained, however, certain isolated pockets of resistance, therefore, Muhammad next turned his attention to the large Christian community of Najran in Yamen, and invited them to accept Islam. Their response was to conduct a mubahila (imprecation), which was an old custom much used by the ancient prophets. Each of the disputant parties was required to swear a solemn oath that they were on the side of the truth, calling on God to wreak His vengeance on them if they lied. In short, mubahila was a custom to invoke the curse of God on the liar. Hence a deputation of sixty Christian priests, headed by Abu Harith bin Alqamah, the grand bishop of Najran, Abdul Massih and Ayham arrived in Medina. Muhammad had taken with him Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Hussain, making themselves as panj-tan (the blessed Quincunx), and when the Christians saw their radiant faces, they were dismayed and overwhelmed. The bishop of Najran changed his mind, and went to Muhammad, informing their inability to proceed with the mubahila, and agreed to come to the terms.
The Muslim scholars unanimously concur with the fact, says, Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal in his 'Masnad,' 'that not one of the companions of the Prophet was ever praised by God and His Prophet for his virtues and estimation as was Ali.' On one occasion when four of the Muslims complained to Muhammad concerning something that Ali had done, Muhammad was displeased and said, 'What do you want from Ali? Ali is from me and I am from Ali. He is the guardian of every believer after me.' (Tirmizi, 2nd vol., p. 298) On another occasion, Muhammad is reported to have said, 'Ali is my brother, my executor and my successor. You obey him.'
The succession to Muhammad is the key question in Shiite Islam, and a principal factor separating them from the Sunni majority. It is seen that Muhammad had nominated Ali bin Abu Talib as his successor by rule of nass (investiture) and nass wa-ta'yin (explicit investiture). During the period of the Prophethood, the designation was made by nass from time to time, whose main term was wali (helper, friend, lover, guardian or attorney), as it is said in Arabic: wali amru'l raiyya(the guardian of the subject), or wali ahad (one who succeeds to the office). In addition to the wali, different terms were used on different occasions for the succession of Ali bin Abu Talib in Holy Koran, such as Noor, Imam-i Moobin, Rasikhul fi'l Ilm, Ulil Amr, Ilmul Kitab etc. While the most frequent words used in Hadiths, denoting Ali's succession were hujjatullah (God's proof), Sayedu'l Muslimin (leader of the Muslims), Shabih Harun (like Aaron), Sahibu'l lawa (the master of the standard), Sahibu'l hanz (master of Kauthar pool), Babu'l Ilm (gate of the knowledge) etc.
The nass wa-ta'yin was made after the farewell pilgrimage of Muhammad. Accordingly, on Monday, the 20th Zilkada, 10, Muhammad received following revelation:-
'And you proclaim to the people for pilgrimage. They will come to you on foot and lean camel, coming from every remote place.'
Due proclamation was made among the Muslims to join the pilgrimage, and Muhammad himself left Medina on Saturday, the 25th Zilkada, 10 which was his farewell pilgrimage. He reached Mecca on Wednesday, the 7th Zilhaja, 10, and performed the pilgrimage. He delivered a historical sermon at the plain of Arfat. He left Mecca on 14th Zilhaja, 10 after performance of pilgrimage. His caravan reached a little before noon to a pond (ghadir), known as Khum, on 18th Zilhaja, 10/March 16, 632. It is situated about 3 miles north-west of Mecca in the heart of the desert, called Sahara'i Huja, about 3 miles from the town, al-Jahfa. Here, Muhammad received the following Koranic revelation:-
'O' apostle! deliver what has been revealed upon you from your Lord, and if not, you have not delivered His message. And surely God will protect you from men.'
The town al-Jahfa was a junction from where the routes for Medina, Egypt, Syria and Iraq radiated in different directions. On its border is a pond (ghadir) with a vast open plain, embosomed with trees and bushes, which had been swept off. Under the shade of two trees, a big pulpit for Muhammad was erected with the camel-saddles. He mounted it and placed Ali on his right. He then delivered a sermon, thanking God for His bounty and stated that he felt that he would die soon. He repeated that he would be leaving two heavy weights i.e., Holy Koran and his Ahl-al-Bait, with them. The two were inseparable. If people held both fast they would never go astray. Muhammad then asked his audience if he was not superior to the believers. The crowd answered in the affirmative. He then declared: 'Whose Master (mawla) I am, this Ali is his Master (mawla).' He then prayed, 'O God, be the friend of him who is his friend, and be the enemy of him who is his enemy.' After the sermon, Muhammad dismounted and retired to his tent. He asked Ali to accept the people's congratulation and allegiance.
It must be known that the word mawla means master, lord, guardian or one who deserves superior authority. As the words ana awla (I am superior) indicate that mawla means awla (superior). What Muhammad meant by this sentence was, God is superior in right and might to him and he is superior in right and might to the faithful and Ali is superior in right and might to all those to whom Muhammad is superior.
The most earliest source of the event of Ghadir'i Khum is Asma bint Umays (d. 38/658), the wife of Jafar Taiyar bin Abu Talib. Her report has been documented in 'at-Tarikh' (Beirut, 1960) by the historian Yaqubi (d. 284/898). Hassan bin Thabit (d. 40/661), a famous poet had vividly versified the event in his Diwan of 228 poems. Suleman bin Qays al-Hilali (d. 82/701) also is ranked among the earliest authorities. Kumyt bin Zaid (60-126/680-744) however has been considered as the most earliest authority by the German scholars, Horovitz and Goldzier. Among the prominent Companions, who had related the event of Ghadir'i Khum are Abuzar Ghafari (d. 32/653), Huzaifah al-Yameni (d. 29/650), Abu Ayub Ansari (d. 50/670), Ammar bin Yasir (d. 37/657), Salman al-Faras (d. 36/657), Abdullah bin Abbas (d. 86/705) etc. etc. Among the earliest Umayyad historians, the most famous were Ibn Shihab az-Zuhari (50-125/670-744) and Ibn Ishaq (d. 152/769).
The historians and compilers of the Hadiths between 10/632 and 300/912 were mostly under pressure of the ruling powers of Umayyads and the Abbasids, therefore, they avoided to refer the event, such as Ibn Hisham (d. 218/833), Ibn Sa'd (d. 230/845) and Tabari (d. 310/922). Nevertheless, Nisai (d. 151/768), Ahmad bin Hanbal (d. 241/855), Tirmizi (d. 279/893), Ibn Majah (d. 283/897), Abu Daud (d. 276/890) and Yaqubi (d. 284/898) had demonstrated their impartiality, whose bold assertion lends colour to this historical event. In sum, Hussein Ali Mahfuz, in his researches, has recorded with documentation in 'Tarikh ash-Shia' (Karbala, n.d., p. 77) as quoted by Dr. S.H.M. Jafri in 'Origins and Early Development of Shia Islam' (London, 1979, p. 20) that the tradition of Ghadir'i Khum has been narrated by at least 110 Companions, 84 tabi'un, 355 ulema, 25 historians, 27 traditionists, 11 exegesists, 18 theologians and 5 philosophers.
It must however be remembered that the Arabs of Northern and Central, of whom the tribe of Qoraish was dominant in Mecca. The people of South Arabian origin, Banu Aws and Banu Khazraj had settled in Medina. There had been many differences among the Arabs of North and South, socially, culturally, economically, geographically and religiously. The leader in the North was elected on a principle of seniority in age with administrative ability. In South, the Arabs were accustomed to hereditary succession in leadership. In the face of these facts, the South Arabian tribes of Aws and Khazraj had presented a healthy atmosphere for Islam in Medina. The majority of Northern Arabs were nomads, and understood Islam at least at the first stage of their acceptance of it as social-political discipline, as the Holy Koran says: 'The wandering Arabs are harder in disbelief and hypocrisy and more likely to be ignorant of the limits which God has revealed to His Prophet' (9:97). These Arabs of North have been also called 'most obdurate in hypocrisy' (9:101). Conversely, the tribes of Aws and Khazraj had understood Islam as basically religious discipline couped with a socio-political movement, and were more sensitive to religious affairs. When the Holy Prophet died in 10/632, the issue of his succession was understood to combine it both political and religious leadership. To some it was more political than religious, to others it was more religious than political. The majority who accepted Abu Bakr as their leader, had laid more emphasis on the socio-political side, disregarding the religious principle and the idea of hereditary sanctity of a certain house. This assumption is strongly supported by the words of Umar bin Khattab, who in reply to Ibn Abbas, said: 'The people do not like having the Prophethood and Caliphate combined in the Banu Hashim' (Tabari, 1st vol., p. 2769). Hence, Muhammad did not designate Ali explicitly in the start owing to the Northern Arabian custom of leaving the selection of a leader to the people. The Holy Koran however says that Muhammad's family had a prerogative over others. Neither Banu Taym bin Marra, the clan of Abu Bakr, nor Banu Adi bin Ka'b, the tribe of Umar Khattab had ever been regarded with esteem on any religious ground. But, those who laid stress on the religious principle could not accept them as candidates for succession to Muhammad. It was from Banu Hashim, and among them was only Ali bin Abu Talib for the succession.
There was an assembly hall (saqeefa), about 6 miles from Medina, belonging to Banu Sa'd, where the Arabs used to discuss their mutual problems. Upon the death of Muhammad, the Ansars and Muhajirs of Medina, numbering about 300 to 325, had assembled at Saqeefa Banu Sa'd to choose their leader. There was not a single man from Banu Hashim. Abu Bakr and Umar bin Khattab also rushed the spot during the time when the people were about to take an oath of allegiance from Abu Ubaida as their caliph. The proceeding stopped and a hot argument started among them. Historian Tabari (3rd vol., p. 198) writes, 'The Ansars or some were arguing that they would never take oath from anybody except Ali'. When the swords were about to unshield, Umar bin Khattab asked Abu Bakr to raise his hand, and took his bayt, then it was followed by Abu Ubaida and the rest of people.
Sir Thomas W. Arnold writes in 'The Caliphate' (London, 1924, p. 30) that, 'The Prophet had been at one and the same head of the state and head of the church. The paramount control of political policy was in his hands; he received the ambassadors who brought the submission of the various Arab tribes, and he appointed officers to collect dues and taxes. He exercised supreme authority in military matters and the dispatch of military expeditions. He was at the same time supreme legislator, and not only promulgated legal status, but set in judgement to decide cases, against his decision there was no appeal. In addition to the performance of these offices of administrative and political order as ruler, general and judge, he was also revered as the inspired Prophet of God and the religious dogmas he enunciated were accepted by his followers as revelations of divine truth, in regard to which there could be no doubt or dispute. At the same time he performed the highest ecclesiastical functions, and as Imam led the prayer in public worship at the canonical hours in the mosque of Medina. In all these respects, Abu Bakr was a successor of the founder of the faith - with the exception of the exercise of the prophetic function.' In sum, Muhammad administered both temporal and spiritual powers in Islam, and after his death, the temporal power came to the hands of Abu Bakr in the form of Caliphate, while the spiritual power was inherited by Ali bin Abu Talib and his descendant in the form of Imamate.
During the period of Abu Bakr's caliphate, whatever initial support there may have been for Ali's candidature melted away in the face of Ali's own refusal to advance the temporal claim. Ali reverted to leading a quiet life, almost confined to the four walls of his house. He had no choice but to reconcile himself with the existing order, since he had considered that any action would lead to the destruction of infant Islam. His compromise with the political order can be well asserted from the fact that he did not demonstrate any sort of opposing attitude publicly and continued to live in Medina. If he had quitted Medina for elsewhere, his followers supporting his cause, must have followed him, which Ali most probably did not like.
Tabari (3rd vol., pp.203-4) writes that Abu Sufian bin Harb, who endeavoured to instigate Ali with the words: 'What! It is the limit that in your presence, one of the lowliest families of Arabia should have gained the upper hand. By God, if you so desire I would fill the streets and lanes of Medina with mounted soldiers to aid you.' Ali gave him short shift reply that, 'By God, you have always been an enemy of Islam and of the Muslims.' This demonstrated how firmly Ali was resolved to place the collective interests of the community and solidarity of Islam. In spite of maintaining his passive attitude, Ali did occasionally help the caliphs. He was a valued counsellor of the caliphs, and dominated by his heroic love and sense of sacrifice for the faith and saved the caliphs from committing the serious mistakes. Umar is thus often reported to have said: 'Had there not been Ali, Umar would have perished.'
Accordingly, Abu Bakr was elected at the age of 60 years, adopting the title of khilafat rasulillah (Vicegerent of the Messenger of God), a title which was soon simplified to khalifa (whence the word caliph was coined in western languages). Abu Bakr died in 13/634 after ruling for 2 years, 3 months and 10 days. He nominated Umar, whose age at that time was 52 years, ruled for 10 years, 6 months and 4 days; and died in 23/644. The third caliph Uthman was selected at the age of 70 years, who was assassinated in 35/656 after ruling for 11 years, 11 months and 14 days. Wardi writes in 'Wu'az al-Salatin' (p. 217) that, 'It was the Umayyads who engineered the murder of Uthman, with Muawiya instigating the murder and Marwan working out the death.' Immediately after the murder of Uthman, a crowd rushed to Ali in the mosque, urging him to accept the caliphate. Eventually, Ali consented and became the fourth caliph. This implies that the temporal and spiritual powers once again joined together in Islam just 24 years, 8 month and 28 days after the death of Muhammad. Dr. Gustav Weil writes in 'History of the Islamic Peoples' (New Delhi, 1914, p. 88) that, 'Still from credible sources it is clear enough that Ali surpassed not only Muawiya but even Abu Bakr and Umar in his unfailing love of righteousness, in bravery and eloquence.'
It can be said that Ali's succession to the caliphate was approved by the vast majority of Muslims in Medina, and also in most of the provinces of the state. He was however placed in a difficult time, and the dice of fate appears to have been loaded against him. The period of four caliphs were subdivided into four distinct periods. It falls to the lot of Ali that he should pilot the bark of Islam in times of the most dangerous internecine dissensions. To maintain a proper hold of state administration under such conditions was a difficult as to keep a boat steady on stormy waters. Nevertheless, Ali displayed a high example of affection and sympathy for brother-Muslims which is without parallel.
During Uthman's caliphate, all the important governorships of the Muslim states were in the possession of the unworthy members of the Umayyad family. Ali firstly dismissed them in the state, but Muawiya the governor of Syria revolted, demanding 'revenge for the blood of Uthman'. Ali promptly announced that the names of the assassins should be reported, so that they could be executed. He had also started enquiries, but the only witness to the assassination was Uthman's widow, Naila, who deposed that Uthman had been killed by two persons whose names she did not know. Abul Ala Mawdudi writes in his 'Khilafat wa Mulukiyat' (Rampur, 1974, 3rd ed., pp. 115-17) that, 'With due respect to Aisha, Talha, Zubayr and Muawiya, one could not help saying that legally their position was untenable. It was only during pre- Islamic days that tribes started wars of vengeance. Only Usman's relatives, who were alive at the time, had the right to demand reparation. If the ruler delayed arresting the criminals, then justice could be demanded by anyone. No law or Shariahpermitted the people to declare the government illegal, because of its failure to redress grievances. If Ali's enemies did not consider him the legally elected caliph, their demand for vengeance against Ali was meaningless.' Criticizing Aisha, Talha and Zubayr, who recruited an army and marched from Mecca to Basra against Ali, crying for vengeance for Uthman's blood, Mawdudi remarks that, 'This act was illegal as they should have gone to Medina, where Ali, the criminals, and Uthman's heir lived. The war they provoked led to the slaughter of 10,000 people for the blood of one. Even more illegal was the position of Muawiya, who rebelled against the central government when he took revenge for Usman's blood. He did not make this claim in his private capacity, but in his official position as the governor of Syria. He misused the resources of his government in that cause. He was not satisfied with demanding that Ali prosecute and punish the assassins, but urged that they be handed over to him, so that he himself might execute them.' Mawdudi goes on to say that, 'Muawiya's relationship with Usman was a private matter, the governorship was not involved. He had no right to claim vengeance as a governor against the caliph to whom allegiance had been given by all the provinces except those governed by himself. Rebellion against the central government by a provincial army meant the revival of pre-Islamic tribal laws.'
After Ali had taken over as caliph, exactly what he had anticipated took place. Muawiya exercised the motives of old enmity and opposition towards Ali. The charge of Uthman's murder was trumpeted up against Ali and afforded Muawiya's excuse enough to unfurl the standard of revolt against him. Muawiya incited the Syrians against Ali to a feverish pitch by indoctrinating them with a belief in the false charge against Ali. 'In order to discredit Ali further' writes Prof. N.A. Faris in 'Development in Arab Historiography' that 'the Umayyads made the Shiite movement a conspiracy against Islam, engineered by the Jewish convert Abdallah bin Saba, who was alleged to have been an ardent follower of Ali. Both Taha Husayn and Wardi, marshalling a great deal of impressive historical evidence, deny the existence of Ibn Saba and make him the creation of Umayyad propaganda.' (cf. 'Historians of the Middle East', ed. Bernard Lewis, London, 1962, p. 441).
In the cathedral mosque at Damascus, a meeting to mourn the murder of Uthman had been convened, his blood-stained shirt was exposed to the general view from the pulpit. According to Tabari (5th vol., p. 163), 'It was during these bouts of mourning that the Syrians were told that they had to avenge Uthman's blood.' Hence, Uthman was the symbol and slogan of Umayyad aspiration in contrast to Ali, and in order to solidify his rule in Syria, he got fabrication of many hadiths. For instance, it was propagated that 'Syria is the chosen country of God and He sends those of His servants there whom He prefers to all others. O confessors of Islam, press forward towards Syria because God has chosen this country as His favouribe amongst the countries of the whole world'
Aisha had long hated Ali, and wished that, when the aged Uthman died, her own kinsman, Zubayr, should become caliph. When Uthman was assassinated, she was not in Medina, having gone to Mecca a few weeks previously to perform the pilgrimage. The news of Uthman's murder reached her when she was on the way back. She returned immediately to Mecca and incited the citizens against Ali. The fiery address set a match to the smouldering fire of discontent. The first to respond to Aisha's call was Abdullah bin Amur, the Uthmanid governor of Mecca. Those Umayyads who had fled from Medina after the ghastly murder of Uthman now also joined Aisha, and when Talha and Zubayr came over to Aisha, many more of the Qoraish clamoured to join in the rebellion. Aisha advocated march on Basra. Throwing off the veil ordained, Aisha now took command of the army. The money to equip it came from Yamen treasury, brought to Mecca by the governor whom Ali had deposed. It is however clear from the sources that in the battle between Ali and Aisha, the triumvirate was fighting for personal reason rather than for the blood of Uthman, which was a timely and convenient pretext for them.
Ali had been obliged to abandon the Syrian campaign against Muawiya, deciding instead, to use his small force against Aisha, who had hatched a rebellion. Realizing, however, that his army was by no means adequate for the task in hand, he pitched his camp at Rabaza. In the interim, Aisha occupied Basra in 35/656. Ali was a seasoned commander, born and bred in wars and famous for his skill as tactician. His ascetic life had not chilled his martial fervour and at the advanced age of sixty, he still retained the vigour of a much younger man. He took to war after a recession of 25 years only taught that the demands of duty only should be determined action and inaction, and that in matters concerning principles and duties, the importunities of emotions and claims of age should alike find no place. He was however anxious to avoid the shedding of Muslim blood by Muslims. Of his desire and pacific intention, William Muir writes in 'The Caliphate, its Rise, and Fall'(London, 1924, p. 247) that, 'But Ali's thoughts were for peace if possible. He was a man of compromise and here he was ready, in the interest of Islam, magnanimously to forget the insult offered him.'
The two armies eventually encamped in the Wadi-us-Saba (Valley of the Lion) near the village of Khuraiba outside Basra, facing each other. Aisha, on the advice of some of her followers, went so far as to mount her camel, al-Askar and that this battle is called the Battle of Camel, which took place on 10th Jamada II, 35/December 4, 656. The battle began and reached a critical stage. Ali ordered his men not to take offensive unless the enemy began to onset. He gave further stringent orders that no wounded should be slain, no fugitive pursued, no plunder seized nor the privacy of any house violated. The showers of arrows were pouring in from the Aisha's side, Ali forbade his soldiers to return the shot and bade them wait. Wherever the camel of Aisha stood, there the battle was waged most fiercely. As long as that animal was standing, Ali realized, would the battle continue. He therefore deputed one of his men to cut off its legs. The warrior slipped behind the camel, did as he was bidden, and the camel thudded to the ground. Within a very short time the bugle sounded the end of the battle.
After the battle, Ali repaired to Aisha's camp, where he treated her with greatest deference, 'For,' said he, 'respect must be shown to her because she is the spouse of the holy Prophet.' In the care of her brother, and under the command of his own two sons, Ali then sent Aisha to Medina. She was shown every deference and given forty hand-maids. Ali himself accompanied her retinue on foot for a short distance, before bidding her farewell. 'It befits your dignity', Ali said to her, 'to remain in your house and not to meddle in politics or to share the rough life of the battlefield, nor to join any party in future which may tarnish the glory of your name, or become the authoress of a second rebellion.' To this Aisha replied, 'By God! there existed no enmity between Ali and me, save a few petty domestic squabbles.' On her return to Medina, Aisha led a life of seclusion. She is said to have died in 59/678 at the age of 66 years.
The loss in the battle was very great. Some historians say that 16,796 men of Aisha's forces, and 1,070 of Ali's army were killed. During the encounter, the people of Aisha were known as asahab al-jamal (the companions of the camel), but Ali called them an-nakisun (those who broke oath), which is the derivation of Koran (48:10), wherein the word naksa means 'bayt' or an oath of allegiance. The supporters of Ali, however, became known after the battle of Camel as Shiat'i Ali(the followers of Ali).
Ali's stay in Basra was not long. Having appointed Abdullah bin Abbas as the governor, Ali repaired to Kufa in 36/657 and made it the seat of his government and the capital. The word kufa means, a spot where pebbles and sand are found in admixture, and as the site answered to this description. It will be worthwhile to mention that Kufa in Iraq was founded in the year 17/638, about three years after caliph Umar bin Khattab assumed the caliphate at Medina. It was used as a garrison town during Umar's time, where different contingents from distant places could stay and should be readily available in an emergency. The city was organised into seven tribal contingents divided into seven military districts. This grouping continued for 19 years until it underwent another change in 37/657, when Ali came to Kufa. So great was Umar's interest in Kufa that he described it as 'tower of Islam' (qubbat al-Islam), and 'the head of the people of Islam' (ras ahl al-Islam). In describing the settlers of Kufa, he according to Ibn Sa'd (6th vol., p. 7) said, 'They are the lance of God, the treasure of faith, the cranium of the Arabs, who protect their own frontier forts and reinforce other Arabs.' It may be pointed out that these epithets of honour and distinction were not accorded to any other city, such as Damascus or Basra. The selection of Ammar bin Yasir as the governor of Kufa, and Abdullah bin Masud as deputy governor to the leadership of Kufa reveals Umar's intention to replace tribal claims with Islamic claims. After Umar's death, Uthman appointed Walid bin Uqba as a governor of Kufa in 25/646. Apprehensive of Muawiya's designs against him, Ali considered Kufa suitably situated to check any encroachment in Iraq, therefore he made it his capital, as topographically it was in the centre of his dominions.
In Syria, disorder and incitement to commotion continued unabated. Uthman's shirt, besmeared with his blood and the chopped-off fingers of his wife, Naila, were exhibited from the pulpit. In this manner, Muawiya raised the entire country of Syria against Ali. Ultimately, both the parties, opposed to each other, converged on Siffin where their armies pitched their camps in 37/657. Even at this stage, Ali sent three men, viz. Bashir bin Amr bin Mahz Ansari, Saeed bin Qais Hamdani, and Shis bin Rabiee Tamini to Muawiya to induce him to settle for union, accord and coming together. According to Tabari (5h vol., p. 243), Muawiya replied that, 'Go away from here, only the sword will decide between us.'
With an army of some 80,000 strong, mainly recruited from Iraq, Ali set out from Kufa, planning to march through upper part of Iraq and invade Syria from the north. Ali, then pushed on to Raqa, on the left bank of the Euphrates. Here his troops came across the Syrian vanguard but it withdrew without engagement. The next problem was how to cross the river. Ali wanted to construct a bridge of boats, but the people of Raqa were hostile. It was only after Ali's general, Ashtar, had threatened them with death that they consented to help in building the bridge which was completed under the great difficulties. Ali's men then advanced along the right bank of the river in the direction of Aleppo. At Sur-Rum they had a brief skirmish with a Syrian outpost before they reached the plain of Siffin, where they found Muawiya's forces drawn up in strength and waiting for them.
Ali soon discovered that the Syrian positions controlled the water supply of the whole valley, and that there was no access to the river for his men. Muawiya obviously intended to use thirst to drive Ali's men to surrender. Muawiya had, however, underestimated the calibre of Ali's troops. Ali, however wrote a letter to Muawiya, which reads: 'You have fore-stalled me in pitching the stables for the horses of your cavalry. Before I could declare war on you, you have declared war on us. It was bad move on your part to cut off our supply of water. It behoves you to allow us the natural supply of water. Failing this, we will be reluctantly forced to fight with you.' On receiving this letter, Muawiya conferred with his advisers, who urged him not to yield up the advantage he had gained. Ali was therefore left with no alternative but to attack at full gallop and inflicted a crushing defeat on Muawiya's forces, and took charge of water supply. Now it was the turn of Ali's counsellors to urge control of the water supplies and for the soldiers of Muawiya to suffer the rigours of extreme thirst. But Ali ordered his men to allow the Syrians free access to the river, saying: 'Our religion and ethical code does not permit us to stop water supply, and so pay our enemy back in his own coin. I do not want to follow the way of the ignorant people.'
Ali's next step was, as usual, to try and come to a peaceful settlement. He deputed Bashir bin Amr, Sa'id bin Qais and Shabus bin Rabi, but Muawiya declined the offer to the delegates. Ali still did not give up hope but a second delegation, consisting of Adi bin Hatim, Yazid bin Qais, Ziyad bin Hufza and Shabis bin Rad, also failed to persuade Muawiya to come to an amicable settlement. For the next three months, Zilhaja, Muharram and Safar 36/May, June and July, 657, the armies remained in camps at Siffin, facing each other neither at war nor at peace. This period of negotiations lasted 110 days, during which time, the Arabian chroniclers maintain that Ali made as many overtures for peace as there were days. There was much heat in the discussions with Muawiya, and finally Ali was obliged once again to resort to arms on 8th Safar, 36/July 26, 657.
Historian Yaqubi (2nd vol., p. 188) writes that Ali had 80,000 men, including 70 Companions who participated in Badr, 70 Companions who took oath at Hudaibia, and 400 prominent Ansars and Muhajirs; while Muawiya had 1,20,000 Syrians.
During the 110 days of negotiations, no fewer than 90 skirmishes were fought. Almost every day one tribal column would engage an enemy in combat, sometimes two or more engagements would be fought in one day. Heart-broken at the amount of Muslim blood that had already been shed in vain, Ali made one last bid for peace with Muawiya, at the start of the new year, but of no avail. At long last, Ali decided on a general engagement, and thus the battle of Siffin broke out on 8th Safar, 36/July 26, 657. A fierce battle was fought between them on the whole day, and it even continued in the darkness of that night, which is known as laila'tul harir (the night of clangour). William Muir writes in 'The Caliphate, its Rise and Fall'(London, 1924, p. 261) that, 'Both armies drawn out in entire array, fought till the shades of evening fell, neither having got the better. The following morning, the combat was renewed with great vigour. Ali posed himself in the centre with the flower of his troops from Medina, and the wings were formed, one of the warriors from Basra, the other of those from Kufa. Muawiya had a pavilion pitched on the field; and there, surrounded by five lines of his sworn body-guards, watched the day. Amr with a great weight of horse, bore down upon the Kufa wing which gave away; and Ali was exposed to imminent peril, both from thick showers of arrows and from close encounter. Reproaching the men of Kufa for their cowardice, the Caliph fought bravely, his unwieldy figure notwithstanding, sword in hand, and manfully withstood the charge. Ali's general Ashtar, at the head of 300 readers of (the Koran) led forward the other wing, which fell with fury on Muawiya's Turbaned body-guard. Four of its five ranks were cut to pieces, and Muawiya, bethinking himself of flight, had already called for his horse, when a martial couplet flashed in his mind, and he held his ground.'
The following morning, the battle started up again. Edward Gibbon writes in 'The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire' (London, 1848, 3rd vol., p. 522) that, 'The Caliph Ali displayed a superior character of valour and humanity. His troops were strictly enjoined to wait the first onset of the enemy, to spare their flying brethren, and to respect the bodies of the dead, and the chastity of the female captives. The ranks of the Syrians were broken by the charge of the hero, who was mounted on a piebald horse, and wielded with irresistable force, his ponderous and two edged sword.'
Appalled by the carnage, Ali sent a message to Muawiya and challenged him to single combat, saying that whoever won should be the Caliph. In Gibbon's words, 'Ali generously proposed to save the blood of the Muslims by a single combat; but his trembling rival declined the challenge as a sentence of inevitable death.' Muawiya had indeed lost his nerve, and was about to flee from the field, a trick of his accomplice Amr bin al-A'as saved them from destruction.
At length, Muawiya made his mercenaries tie copies of Holy Koran to their lances and flags, demanding for the decision of arbitration. Tabari (6th vol., p. 46) writes that, 'The defeat started Muawiya in the face. Amr bin al-A'as, however, had a trick up his sleeve for this emergency, and it was the raising of the Koran aloft on spear-heads, and announcing, 'Brethren, this Book of God alone will decide between you and us.' It will be recalled that even before the commencement of the battle, Ali had invited Muawiya by sending his three men to turn to the Koran for a decision, but his offer was declined by telling, 'Go away from here, only the sword will decide between us.' (Tabari, 5th vol., p. 243). And now they sought the intercession of the Holy Koran to escape the unpleasant consequences of an ignominious defeat. At this Ali came forward and expostulated his soldiers, saying, 'It is an infamous stratagem and a nefarious device of Amr and Muawiya to cloak their defeat. Beware of the trick which they are playing. You should fight to a finish.' But Ali's men refused to fight. Ali, with a great expectation of victory in sight, was therefore impelled to call a retreat.
Ali's supporters during the battle of Siffin were called ahel-i Iraq, or Shiat'i Ali, while his opponents became known as ahel-i Sham, or Shiat'i Uthman and Shiat'i Muawiya. But Ali called them al-kasitun (those who act wrong), a word derived from the Holy Koran that: 'And as for the deviators, they shall be for the hell, a fuel.' (72:15), wherein the word al-kasitun means the fuel of hell-fire.
It was decided that the Syrians and the residents of Kufa should nominate an arbitrator each to decide between Ali and Muawiya. The Syrians choice fell on Amr bin al-A'as who was the rational soul and spokesman of Muawiya. Ali wanted one of his sincere followers like Malik Ashtar or Abdullah bin Abbas to be appointed as an arbitrator for the people of Kufa, but the men of his own army strongly demurred, alleging that men like these two were, indeed, responsible for the war and, therefore, ineligible for that office of trust. They nominated Abu Musa al-Ashari as their arbitrator. Ali found it expedient to agree to this choice in order to ward off bloody dissensions in his army. According to 'Asadul Ghaba' (3rd vol., p. 246), Ali had, therefore, taken care to personally explain to the arbitrators, 'You are arbiters on condition that you decide according to the Book of God, and if you are not so inclined you should not deem yourselves to be arbiters.'
When the arbitrators assembled at Daumet-ul-Jandal, which lay midway between Kufa and Syria and had for that reason been selected as the place for the announcement of the decision, a series of daily meeting was arranged for them to discuss the matters in hand. When the time arrived for taking a decision about the caliphate, Amr bin al-A'as deluded Abu Musa al-Ashari into entertaining the opinion that they should deprive both Ali and Muawiya of the caliphate, and give to the Muslims the right to elect the caliph. Abu Musa al-Ashari also decided to act accordingly. As the time for announcing the verdict approached, the people belonging to both parties assembled. Amr bin al-A'as requested Abu Musa to take the lead in announcing the decision he favoured. Abu Musa al-Ashari agreed to open the proceedings, and said, 'We have devised a solution after a good deal of thought and it may put an end to all contention and separatist tendencies. It is this. Both of us remove Ali as well as Muawiya from the caliphate. The Muslims are given the right to elect a new caliph in their places as they think best.' As soon as he sat down after giving his award, Amr bin al-A'as sprang to his feet and addressing the gather said, 'You have heard Abu Musa who represents Ali. He has deposed Ali from the caliphate. As the representative of Muawiya, I agree with him in the deposition of Ali, but I install Muawiya as the caliph.' Here, an disorderly scene ensured in which Abu Musa al-Ashari cursed Amr bin al-A'as. The Syrians hailed the trick played by Amr bin al-A'as as a great diplomatic triumph. It should be noted that the above judgement, the arbitrators did not quote any authority of the Koran or Sunnah to justify deposing Ali.
The name khariji (pl. khawarij) has been held to mean, 'seceder' or 'deserter.' They are those who have 'gone out against' (kharaja 'ala) Ali, or 'went out' and 'made a secession' from the camp of Ali in the sense of rebelling against him. Ali's decision to submit the fate of the battle of Siffin to Arbitration did not meet with the approval of his Iraqian soldiers, and about 12,000 of whom deserted and rebelled against him on the march back to Kufa, known as the Kharijis. They also came to be known as Harurites from the place where they were first encamped. Ali referred to them as al-mariqun (those who missed the truth of religion).
Seething with unrest, the Kharijis encamped at Harura, taking as their watch-word la hukma illa lillahi (The decision of God, the word of God alone), a phrase which, ever since it was first coined, has become a favourite with public agitators. The original separatists had three great leaders, namely Shabath bin Ribi al-Riahi, Abdullah bin Kauwa al-Yeshkuri and Yazid bin Qais al-Arhabi from the three principal tribes of Banu Tamim, Banu Bakr and Banu Hamdan. Anxious to prevent another outbreak of fighting, Ali deputed his cousin Ibn Abbas to negotiate a compromise. The Kharijis insisted that Ali should march forthwith against Muawiya, a demand with which Ali could not possibly comply, as he had given his word to abide by the decision of the arbitration. Months later, when Ali having been deposed off by the umpires of arbitration, he sought to raise an army against Muawiya, and expected the Kharijis to flock to his standard, but they made no attempt to join him. Repeated attempts on Ali's part to urge the Kharijis to join him met with total failure. Instead they decided to raise their own independent standard and went into camp at Naharwan, under the leadership of Abdullah bin Wahab al-Rasibi.
Naharwan was a township, situated on a canal of the same name, a few miles east of the Tigris near Madain and between Baghdad and Wasit. Here the Kharijis made extensive preparations for war. Meanwhile, Ali had managed to muster an army for a renewed campaign against Muawiya, and while he was on his way to Syria, a news of the latest outrages by the Khariji fanatics reached him. They had murdered Abdullah bin Khabbab, cutting him down in cold-blood, alongwith his wife and children. Three women of the Banu Taiy had also been put to death in a similarly cruel manner. Pregnant women had been ripped up with the sword, and the aged and impaired cruelly tortured to death.
Ali decided to relinquish Syria for a while and to take field against the yoke of the Kharijis at Naharwan. Arriving near Naharwan, Ali followed his usual method of first exploring the possibilities of a peaceful settlement, but their leader Abdullah bin Wahab al-Rasibi resolved to fight to a finish. In 37/658, Ali marshalled his forces and led the final assault against the Kharijis in the memorable battle of Naharwan, which took place in Shaban, 38/January, 659. With the battle cry, the Kharijis rushed on Ali's troops. All save nine of Abdullah's men were killed and he himself also perished. 'A little before this fight' says Simon Ockley in 'History of the Saracens' (London, 1870, p. 326), 'Ali had foretold to his friends what would be the event. 'You see' says he, 'these people who make profession of reading the Quran, without observing its commandments, will quit the profession which they make of their sect, as quick arrows fly from the bow when they are shot off.'
When Ali assumed caliphate, he had deposed the Egyptian governor, Abi Sarah in favour of the famous Ansar chief, Qais bin Sa'd bin Ubaida. This seasoned warrior of Islam, proud of his lineage and sincerely devoted to the Hashimites, was famed for his wisdom and diplomacy, qualities which were to stand him in good stead during his governorship. Muawiya tried to take Qais bin Sa'd to his side, but failed. Thus, Muawiya spread a rumour that Qais had joined the party of Muawiya. Ali had full trust on Qais, but his men wanted to appoint another governor in Egypt. Ali then appointed Muhammad bin Abu Bakr as the governor of Egypt. The ground in Egypt had certainly been prepared well in advance by Muawiya's propaganda. In the meantime, Muawiya sent 6000 soldiers in command of Amr bin al-A'as in Egypt. Realising the failure of Muhammad bin Abu Bakr, Ali now sent hasty orders to Ashtar in Iraq, appointing him the new governor of Egypt. Muawiya bribed the chief of Qulzum in whose house Ashtar would almost stay on the way to Egypt, to poison the general. So Ali lost his most staunch of all his supporters, Ashtar, not on the battlefield, but at the table of a man whose loyalty had been bought by Muawiya and who had poisoned the honey which he offered his guest. Ali had no alternative but to ask Muhammad bin Abu Bakr to continue in the office and to hang on as best he could. Ali was yet able to send 2000 crack troops under the command of Tujibite Kinana by way of reinforcement. Other authorities maintain that once again, the Kufans would do nothing to help Ali and that, after fifty days of haranguing them from the pulpit, Ali still had managed to muster only 200 volunteers. These he is said to have sent to Egypt, but the long delay had already proved fatal. Hardly had they left Kufa when the news came of the total defeat of Muhammad bin Abu Bakr's forces and his ugly death. Having fled from the battlefield, Muhammad took shelter in some nearby ruins where he was discovered by Muawiya bin Hudaija, who dragged him out and slain. His corpse was wrapped in an ass-skin and burned. The ignominious end of Muhammad bin Abu Bakr sealed the fate of Egypt for Ali. Muawiya occupied Egypt and appointed Amr bin al-A'as as his lieutenant to rule it in his name, and the newly conquered country, with its immense rich resources became incorporated in the Syrian empire.
When Egypt was lost, in one of his sermons to the Kufans, Ali summed up the loss in these words: 'O ye people! In the hour of need you have kept aloof from me, like a restive camel when it casts its burden. Lo and behold! The son of Abu Bakr falls, and with him, Egypt too.' Things hence became bleak and dreary. Alarmed by the news of Ali's depressive state of mind, his cousin Abdullah bin Abbas, the governor of Basra, set out for Kufa, hoping to rally Ali's spirit. Muawiya immediately took advantage of Ibn Abbas's absence from Basra to send an expedition of 2000 horses under the command of Ibn Hadrami. The then deputy governor of Basra, Ziyad bin Abihi, found himself unable to oppose the invader and took to flight, seeking refuge with the neighbouring tribe of Banu Azd. From here he wrote to Ali, asking for aid. Ali sent such troops as he could mustered, and with this reinforcement, Ziyad was able to give battle to the Syrians, near Basra, where he routed the enemy. Basra thus reclaimed for Ali, who reappointed Ibn Abbas as governor, but Ali's hold over the city remained precarious. The expedition to Basra was Muawiya's first attempt at invading Ali's territory and although the defeat inflicted on Syrian forces was decisive the victory for Ali was to prove only a temporary one.
In the same year of 37/659, a section of the Kharijis hatched rebellion against Ali, led by Khirrit bin Rashid of Banu Najiya. Ali attempted to appease the new rising by inviting Khirrit to come and discuss the matters with him, but Khirrit and his followers left the town in disgust and fled to Ahwaz. Here he incited the Iranians, the Kurds and the Christians to withhold payment of taxes to Ali's government. Other disgruntled warriors soon joined him and in a short time he had raised a considerable army, which invaded and occupied Fars, defeating the Alid governor who sought safety in flight. Ali now sent his Kufan general Muquil bin Qais al-Tamimi against Khirrit, who was subdued at Ramhurmuz. In all, Ali was forced to send Muquil against Khirrit twice more. In the third and last encounter, Khirrit and the 170 soldiers, who made up his personal force, were wiped out to a man. Ali appointed Ziyad, the deputy governor of Basra, to rule over Fars.
Grown fat on the resources of Egypt, the Syrians now began to cast covetous eyes on Iraq. Muawiya accordingly deputed Noman bin Bashir to ravage Ayn Tamr, Sufian bin Awf to attack Hit and Anbar, Abdullah bin Masada al-Fazari to invade Taima and Dahhak bin Qais to subdue Qutqutana. According to Yaqubi (d. 284/898) in 'at-Tarikh' (Beirut, 1960) and Waqidi (d. 207/822) in 'Kitab al-Maghazi' (ed. von Kremer, Calcutta, 1856), Muawiya himself came out with these troops to lead them towards Iraq, going as far as Tigris, before returning to Damascus. Apparently these were plundering expeditions, their ostensible aim was to harass Ali. Ali went forth himself into the field almost unattended. On this the men of Kufa, partly from shame, partly lured by promise of increased stipends, marched to the defence of their frontier. One of Ali's commanders, with a flying column, pursued the raiders back into the heart of Syria as far as Balbek; and thence turning northward, escaped by Rakka again into Iraq. On the other side, Muawiya made an incursion right across Iraq, and for some days remained encamped on the banks of Tigris. After leisurely inspecting Mosul, he made his way back to Damascus unmolested.
From the start of 40/660, Muawiya sent an expedition under the command of Busr bin Artat, to ravage the Hijaz. The main objective of this enterprise was to seize the important cities of Mecca and Medina, and so prepare the way for penetration into Yamen. Medina at this juncture, was governed by Ali's deputy, Abu Ayub Ansari, who at the approach of the Syrian invaders, could not offer any resistance, and fled from the capital. The entire city swore allegiance to Muawiya. Leaving Abu Hurrera to govern Medina, Busr bin Artat advanced to Mecca, which was at that time governed by Ibn Abbas. The inhabitants offered no resistence, and Ibn Abbas fled from the city. The Meccans like the Medinites, swore allegiance to Muawiya in a body.
From Hijaz, Busr went on through the southern parts of the Arabian peninsula until he reached the borders of Yamen. Ubaidullah bin Abbas, attempted to defend the province on Ali's behalf, but the small army which was all that he had been able to raise, was routed. At the approach of Busr, Ibn Abbas made a precipitate retreat, leaving the hazard of repelling the incursion to his deputy, Abdullah Harithi, who fought a pitched battle with Busr. Abdullah was defeated and killed. To oppose Busr in Yamen, Ali mustered 4000 men under the command of Jariah bin Kedaumah and Wauhib bin Masud, the Thaqafite from Kufa. It was now the turn to Busr to flee for his life. Scarcely had the Alid army reached the borders of Yamen, when Busr made his escape to Syria.
At this juncture, Egypt and Syria were under the occupation of Muawiya. In 40/660, Muawiya was however in Jerusalem, where he proclaimed himself the caliph of the Islamic empire. Ali was so staggered by Muawiya's claim of powers that he began to make huge preparations for an inroad on Syria, but in the interim, he had been assassinated in Kufa
Many of the Kharijis, after the battle of Nahrawan, had gone to Mecca, where they had frequent political meetings in the holy sanctuary, devising plans to avenge their relatives who had fallen in Nahrawan. Here too, they planned the murder of Ali and Muawiya, adding a third name to the list of Amr bin al-A'as. The three Meccan Kharijis, Abdur Rahman bin Muljam al-Sarimi, Burk bin Abdullah, and Amr bin Bakr volunteered to come forward. Abdur Rahman agreed to kill Ali, Burk to Muawiya, and Amr to murder Amr bin al-A'as, now the governor of Egypt. The morning of Friday, the 17th Ramdan was fixed for the execution. The three assassins poisoned their swords and separated. Abdur Rahman took the route of Kufa, Burk that of Damascus and Amr that to Egypt. The chosen day arrived and Burk bin Abdullah, in Damascus, attacked Muawiya while he was in the mosque, and wounded him in the loins. He was arrested. Muawiya ordered his men to cut off the feet of Burk and take out his tongue. He was then dragged to be further tortured and put to a cruel and ignominious death. In Egypt, Amr bin Bakr went to the mosque on the morning of 17th Ramdan to assassinate Amr bin al-A'as. In his stead, his deputy, Kharja bin Huzafa was in the mosque. Amr bin Bakr, who had never seen either of them before, slew Kharja with one stroke of his sword. He was arrested and was forthwith put to a cruel death.
Of the three assassins, it was Abdur Rahman who had the easiest task for Ali. He went to the cathedral mosque of Kufa just before the break of dawn, where he took up his position in the narrow passage leading to the mosque and waited for Ali to enter. The moment Ali set foot in the mosque, while it was still dark, the assassin attacked with the sword, but missed his aim. When Ali was in prostration, Abdur Rahman struck Ali the point of his poisoned sword and fled away. Shortly afterwards the congregation began to assemble in the mosque for the dawn prayers, and there they found Ali lying wounded on his prayer mat. Abdur Rahman was soon arrested, but no antidote could be found for the poison and Ali's condition rapidly deteriorated, and died on 21st Ramdan, 40/January 29, 661 at the age of 63 years, and bequeathed the office of Imamate to his son Hussain.
The period of Ali's caliphate lasted for 4 years and 9 months, and the period of his Imamate since the death of Muhammad was for 29 years. John J. Pool writes in 'Studies in Mohammadanism' (p. 62) that, 'The death of Ali was an epoch-making event. We come now to the parting of ways. Henceforward, the Commander of the Faithful ceased to be elected by the votes of the people of Medina or Mecca. Arabia was no longer to be the seat of temporal power. For the future, in Islam might was to take the place of right.'
His first wife was Fatima, the only daughter of Muhammad, during whose lifetime, he did not marry any other lady. By Fatima, he had three sons, Hasan, Hussain and Mohsin, who died in infancy; and two daughters, Zainab and Umm Kulsum. By his wife, Ummul Banin bint Hizam, Ali had four sons, viz. Abbas, Jafar, Abdullah and Uthman. By Layla bint Masud, he had Ubaidullah and Abu Bakr. By Asma bint Umyas, he had Yahya and Muhammad Asghar. By Umm Habiba bint Rabia, he had one son, Umar and a daughter, Ruqaiya. By Amama bint Abil Aas, he had a son, named Muhammad al-Awasat. By Khawla bint Jafar bin Qais al-Hanafiya, he had Muhammad Akbar, who was known as Muhammad ibn Hanafiya. By Umm Sa'id bint Urwa bin Masud, he had Ummul Hasan and Ramla.
It is difficult to design a portrait of the qualities and merits of Ali bin Abu Talib, for he was a paragon of virtues and fount of knowledge. He was indeed a living encyclopaedia of learning. The Sufis traced their esoteric chains back to Ali. Abu Nasr Abdullah Sarraj writes in 'Kitab al-Luma fi't-Tasawwuf' (ed. Nicholson, London, 1914, p. 129) that when Junaid Baghdadi (d. 298/910) was asked about Ali's knowledge in esoteric field, he said, 'Had Ali been less engaged in wars, he might have contributed greatly to our knowledge of esoteric things for he was one who had been vouchsafed ilm al-ladunni (i.e., spiritual knowledge direct from God).'
Ali taught to his followers that Islam is the only religion which is in harmony with intellect in its objectives and agrees with nature in its commands and prohibitions. The great revolution which Islam brought about in the domain of religion was obviously stimulated by the attitude which it adopted in regard to the supremacy of reason. He called upon the people to accept the sovereignty of intellect, and invited them to reflect and ponder over the natural phenomenon. According to Ali, Islam before everything else is the religion of reason, and not a path of blind faith, and accordingly, it requires its adherents to be wise, able and intelligent, in possessing of penetrating insight; so that they might always act in accord with the dictates of justice and truth, and build sound character. For these, Ali raised the dignity of knowledge (ilm) through his various sermons and speeches. It infers from his teachings that knowledge covers all branches, and it is not confined to the religious knowledge, otherwise, the Arabs would have stopped at the boundaries of theology alone.
Ali is attributed with having been the founder of the study of Arabic grammer through his disciple, Abdul Aswad al-Dulai; and the originator of the correct method of reciting Koran. His works have been collected by Sharif al-Razi Zul Hussain Muhammad bin Hussain bin Musa al-Musawi (d. 408/1015) into a vast compendium, called 'Nahjul Balagha' (Course of Eloquence), an anthology of his sermons, letters, discourses, exhortations, advices, judgements on penal, civil and commercial law, proposed solutions of fiscal and economic problems. It represents the best early example of Muslim writing on philosophy, theology, science and ethics. In its sanctity, the work is regarded by the Shiites as second only to the Koran.
While studying his discourses, we will know that many modern scientific theories had been expounded by Ali 1300 years ago. Shaikh Ali bin Ibrahim al-Qummi of 3rd century writes in 'Wassaffat' that once in a moon-lit night, Ali said: 'The stars that you see in the sky, all of them, contain cities like the cities of our earth, and each city is tied to a perpendicular of light, and the length of the perpendicular is a distance of two hundred and fifty years' journey in the sky.' The French scholar Mons. Xion was so impressed upon these words that he was constrained to advance his remarks that, 'A person who gave such information a thousand years ago without having recourse to any instrument or material means, cannot be having merely human eye or mind, but must have been endowed with divine knowledge, and with such a religious guide and leader, Islam must be a true heavenly religion, which stands proved by the fact that the successor of its founder possessed super human intelligence and knowledge.'
It is related that Ali asked an Egyptian astrologer, called Sarsafil, 'Tell me what is the relation of venus to the satellites (tawabi) and fixed stars (jawami)?' Sarsafil could not return answer for he knew only Greek astronomy. The Arabic word for satellites is tawabi means 'followers', and truly a satellite is a follower of the planet round which it revolves. Similarly, the word for fixed stars is jawamimeans 'gatherers' and truly a sun, or fixed star keeps all the planets revolving round it gathered together. How accurate were the terminologies of Ali?
Once a person asked Ali, 'What is the distance between earth and the sun?' Ali said, 'Suppose a horse runs day and night without any break from earth to sun, it would take 500 years to reach the sun.' While making its calculation, it should be known that the speed of an Arabian horse is normally 22 miles per hour. The horse thus would cross 95,040,000 miles in 500 years, indicating a distance between earth and the sun. It must be remembered that the same distance between the earth and sun was commonly accepted in Europe during Renaissance. The western scientists expounded the same distance during 18th century under another notion, that if a jet plane flies from earth at the speed of 10,000 miles per hour, it would reach the sun in 11 years. This method also indicates the distance of 95,040,000 miles, vide 'The Book of Knowledge' (ed. by E.V. McLoughlin, New York, 1910). The modern science however shows that when the earth is closest to the sun in the early January, the distance from earth becomes 91,400,000 miles, and when the earth is farthest in early July, the distance becomes 95,040,000 miles. It is therefore safe to conclude that the person would have asked the above question to Ali most possibly in the month of early July.
Philip K. Hitti writes in 'History of the Arabs' (London, 1949, p. 183) that, 'Valiant in battle, wise in counsel, eloquent in speech, true to his friends, magnanimous to his foes, Ali became both the paragon of Muslim nobility and chivalry and the Solomon of Arabic tradition, around whose name poems, proverbs, sermonettes and anecdotes innumerable have clustered.' William Muir was one of the admirers of Ali, who says in his 'The Caliphate, its Rise, and Fall' (London, 1924, p. 288) that, 'In the character of Ali, there are many things to commend. Mild and beneficent, he treated Basra, when prostrate at his feet, with a generous forbearance. Towards theocratic fanatics, who wearied his patience by incessant intrigues and insensate rebellion, he showed no vindictiveness.' R.A. Nicholson writes in 'A Literary History of the Arabs' (Cambridge, 1953, p. 191) that, 'He was a gallant warrior, a wise counsellor, a true friend and a generous foe. He excelled in poetry and in eloquence; his verses and sayings are famous throughout the Muhammadan East though few of them can be considered authentic.' 'As the chief of the family of Hashim' writes Charles Mills in 'A History of Muhammadanism' (London, 1817, p. 84), 'and as the cousin and son-in-law of him, it is apparently increditable that Ali was not raised to the caliphate immediately on the death of Muhammad. To the advantage of his birth and marriage, was added to the friendship of the Prophet. The son of Abu Talib was one of the first converts to Islam and Muhammad's favourite appellation of him was, the Aaron of a second Moses. His talent as an orator, and his intrepidity as a warrior, commended him to a nation in whose judgement courage was virtue and eloquence was wisdom.' According to 'History of Arabia and its People' (London, 1852, p. 307) by Dr. Andrew Crichton, 'This prince united the qualifications of a poet, an orator, and a soldier, for he was the bravest and most eloquent man in his dominions. A monument of his wisdom still remains in a collection of precepts or sentences of which 169 have been translated by Ockley.' Thomas Carlyle writes in 'Heroes and Hero-worship' (London, 1850, p. 77) that, 'As for this young Ali, one cannot but like him. A noble minded creature, as he shows himself, now and always afterwards; full of affection, of fiery daring. Sometimes chivalrous in him, brave as a lion, yet with a grace, a truth and affection worthy of Christian knighthood.'
Despite his engagements in the civil wars during his caliphate, Ali however made many reformations in the state. He was the first to realize land revenue from peasants. He exempted taxes on horse-trade to promote its trade. He included forests as a source of revenue for the first time, and necessary tax was imposed on it. He reserved a specific part in poor-rate for the poors. He codified Islamic laws for the judges, and set up courts in every province. Ali was the first to make metalled roads in the state, and constructed many forts, notably Astkhar fort. He reorganised the army, and erected military posts everywhere. He was the first to build a strong bridge on river Euphrates.
Ali's period is also acclaimed for the promotion of education, and he was the first caliph to patronise education, and as a result, about 2000 students in Kufa got free scholarship.
Abu Abdullah Hussain bin Ali was born on the 3rd Shaban, 4/January, 626 in Medina. When the news of his birth reached to Muhammad, he came to his daughter's house, and took the newly-born child in his arms affectionately, and named him Hussain. He spent his early life in the godly lap of Muhammad, who loved him too much. Among the numerous sayings of Muhammad concerning Hussain is the one to this effect that, 'I owe my being to Hussain, and Hussain owes his being to me.' (Ibn Majah, 1st vol., p. 33). It is further related that once, while sermoning in the mosque, Muhammad was interrupted all of a sudden by the cry of a boy, whose voice resembled that of Hussain. He asked to a person to enquire whether Hussain was weeping. Muhammad was soon reported that the weeping boy was a student, whose teacher had punished him due to negligence to his lesson. Muhammad sent for the teacher and said, 'Please do not punish this boy so much that causes him to weep, as his voice resembles that of my child Hussain.'
Hussain was 6 years old during the demise of Muhammad and his mother. He was married to Shahr Banu, the daughter of Yazdigard, the last Sassanid king of Iran.
Hussain's self-control and patience must indeed have been remarkable, for once when a slave-girl spilled a dish of thick soup all over the Imam's head and neck, he refrained from reprimanding her, but on the contrary, he graciously gave her freedom.
The sources acknowledge in the face of the facts that Hussain was the superlative genius of his age in learning and knowledge. 'The traditions indicating his profound knowledge,' writes Abdullah al-Alaili, 'are more than one can count. There were many complicated cases in which his judgement were astonishing even to the learned and distinguished scholars, till Abdullah bin Umar commented that Hussain was the source of inspiration of knowledge.' During his living in Medina, since the death of his father, Hussain was mostly engaged in the intellectual pursuits with his followers. It infers from the collection of his saying, as recorded by Kulaini (d. 329/941) in his 'Usul al-Kafi' that Hussain highly stressed on the application of intellect in religion. For instance, his few saying to this effect are given below:-
* Intellect is a guide to every believer. ('al-Kafi', p. 60)
* The lack of intellect and faith in no case can be overlooked and forgiven. Being without faith and religion is equal to being without peace and security. (Ibid. p. 64)
* A person devoid of intellect cannot be conceived except as a corpse. (Ibid.)
* One who has intellect has a faith. And he who has faith has a peace in paradise. (Ibid. p. 27)
* The reasoning potentiality is the chief pillar of human existence. It is a fountain spring of sagacity, comprehension, memory and knowledge. It is through reason one knows who guides him and who misguides him. (Ibid. p. 60)
Abu Muhammad Hasan, or Hasan (Handsome), the elder brother of Hussain was born in 3/625 in Medina. He was also brought up with Hussain in the household of Muhammad until the latter's death when Hasan was about 7 years old. It emerges from the extant traditions that Muhammad had a great fondness for his two grand-children. Hasan and Hussain, whom he referred to as the 'chief of the youths of paradise.' Another tradition relates, 'Both Hasan and Hussain are for me the fragrance in the world.'
Hasan was 37 years old when his father fell at the hands of the assassin at Kufa. Qais bin Sa'd was the first to swear allegiance to Hasan on the day when Ali died, and then it was followed by 40,000 Kufans, acclaiming Hasan as the fifth caliph. Tabari (2nd vol., p. 5) writes that the oath of allegiance taken by those present stipulated that, 'They should make war on those who were at war with Hasan, and should live in peace with those who were at peace with Hasan.' This sharply suggests that the oath sworn by the Kufans was purely political. Thus, as we have discussed, the temporal power that had been with Muhammad, had joined with the caliphate of Ali about 24 years, 8 months and 28 days after the death of Muhammad. When Ali died, the same powers, though remained with the Ahl-al-Bait, were separated once again. The temporal authority had gone to the hands of Hasan, and the spiritual authority was inherited by Hussain and in his Hussainid progeny.
Hasan's acclamation as caliph by the Kufans was a great cause of alarm to Muawiya, who had been working for the office since the death of Uthman. He dispatched many of his agents and spies to arouse the people against Hasan in Yamen, Hijaz, Iran and Iraq. At length, he began preparations for war and summoned all the commanders of his forces in Syria, Palestine and Trans-Jordan to join him. Not longer after, the Syrian leaders marched against Hasan with an army of 60,000 men. Muawiya's purpose of this prompt action was twofold. Firstly, by demonstration of arms and strength, he intended to force Hasan to come to terms; and secondly, if that course of action failed, he would attack the Kufan forces before they had time to consolidate their position. It was for the first reason that Muawiya moved towards Iraq at a very slow pace, while sending letter after letter to Hasan, asking him not to try to fight and urging him to come to terms. If Hasan was defeated, this would give Muawiya only power and authority; but if Hasan abdicated, this would provide Muawiya with a legal base and legitimize his authority as well. This was what Muawiya was actually trying to achieve.
Soon after, Hasan left Kufa with his main force and reached Madain, where he pitched his camp in the outskirts of the city. Qais bin Sa'd and his vanguard had already reached Maskin, facing Muawiya's army. The Syrian governor tried to bribe Qais by offering him a million dhirams if he would defect from the ranks of Hasan and join him. Yaqubi (2nd vol., p. 214) writes that Qais rejected the offer, saying: 'You want to deceive me in my religion.' Muawiya then made a similar offer to Ubaidullah bin Abbas, who accepted it and went over to him with 8000 soldiers. Qais was thus left only 4000 soldiers, waiting at Maskin for the arrival of Hasan.
While Hasan himself faced a serious situation at Madain. Some of his troops hatched rebellion against him, plundered his tent, and fell upon him. Different versions of this rebellion are given in the sources. According to Yaqubi (2nd vol., p. 115), 'As soon as Hasan reached Madain, Muawiya sent Mughira bin Shuba, Abdullah bin Amir and Abdur Rahman bin Umm al-Hakama to Hasan as his mediators. After they talked to Hasan privately, and while leaving his camp, they spread the news that Hasan had agreed to relinquish the power in favour of Muawiya, whereupon Hasan's soldiers fell upon him and plundered his tent.' Yaqubi also records that Muawiya sent his men to Hasan's camp to spread the news that Qais had made peace with Muawiya at Maskin and had come over to his side, while simultaneously he spread the rumours in the army of Qais at Maskin that Hasan had made peace with Muawiya. In this case, again, Muawiya's machinations are responsible for the mutiny in Hasan's army. Another reason of rebellion is given by Dinawari (d. 276/889) in his 'Kitab al-Akhbar at-Tiwal' (Cairo, 1960, p. 216) that when Hasan left Kufa, he reached Sabat, in the outskirts of Madain, and discerned that some of his troops were showing fickleness, lack of purpose and withdrawn attitude to the war. Hasan therefore halted at Sabat for a while, and made a following speech:-
'O people, I do not entertain any feeling of rancour against a Muslim. I am as much an overseer over yourselves as I am over my own self. Now, I am considering a plan; do not oppose me in it. Reconciliation, disliked by some of you, is better than the split that some of you prefer, especially when I see that most of you are shrinking from the war and are hesitant to fight. I do not, therefore, consider it wise to impose upon you something which you do not like.'
When his people heard the above speech, they silently looked at each other, reflecting their suspicions. Dinawari continues to write that those among them who were of Kharijite persuasion said: 'Hasan has become infidel as had become his father before him.' They suddenly rushed upon him, pulled the carpet from under his feet, and tore his clothes from his shoulder. Hasan called for help from among his faithful followers from the tribes of Rabia and Hamdan, who rushed to his assistance and pushed the assailants away from him. The disheartened and shaken Hasan found it dangerous to stay in the army camp. He rode away with his trusted men towards the White Castle of Madain, the residence of his governor, Sa'd bin Masud. He was however wounded on his way by Jarrah bin Sinan Asadi with a dagger. Hasan, bleeding profusely, was carried to the White Castle, where he was cared for by his governor.
Qais at Maskin was facing Muawiya's army and waiting for Hasan's arrival. When he heard of the attack on Hasan, Qais thought it wise to engage his soldiers in battle with the Syrians, so that they should not have a chance to brood over the situation, and become more demoralized. Thus, an encounter between the two armies took place, resulting some losses on both sides. According to Ibn Atham (d. 314/926) in 'Kitab al-Futuh' (4th vol., p. 156), the envoys of Muawiya then came forward in the battlefield and addressed Qais, saying: 'For what cause are you now fighting with us and killing yourself? We have received unquestionable word that your leader has been deserted by his people and has been stabbed with a dagger and is on the verge of death. You should therefore refrain from fighting until you get the exact information about the situation.' Hence, Qais was forced to stop fighting and had to wait for the official news about the incident from Hasan himself. But by this time, his soldiers began defecting to Muawiya in large number. When Qais noticed this large scale desertion, he wrote to Hasan about the gravity of the situation. When Hasan received the letter from Qais, he lost his heart, and immediately summoned the Iraqi leaders and nobles and addressed them, according to Ibn Atham (4th vol., p. 157) in dejection and disgust as under:-
'O people of Iraq, what should I do with your people who are with me? Here is the letter of Qais bin Sa'd, informing me that even the nobles from among you have gone over to Muawiya. By God, what shocking and abominable behaviour on your part! You were the people who forced my father to accept arbitration at Siffin; and when the arbitration to which he yielded (because of your demand), you turned against him. And when he called upon you to fight Muawiya once again, then you showed your slackness and lassitude. After the death of my father, you yourself came to me and paid me homage out of your own desire and wish. I accepted your homage and came out against Muawiya; only God knows how much I meant to do. Now you are behaving in the same manner as before. O people of Iraq, it would be enough for me from you if you would not defame me in my religion, because now I am going to hand over this affair to Muawiya.'
Soon after his plausible speech, Hasan sent word to Muawiya, informing him of his readiness to abdicate the rule. When the news reached to Qais officially, he told to his soldiers that, 'Now you must choose between the two, either to fight without a leader or to pay homage to the misled.' They replied that, 'Paying homage is easier for us than bloodshed.' Hence Qais withdrew from the field alongwith those who were still with him, and left Maskin for Kufa.
Hasan sent Abdullah bin Nawfal bin Harith to Muawiya at Maskin for the terms. Hearing this, Muawiya took a blank sheet of paper, affixed his signature and seal, and said to Abdullah to take it to Hasan and ask him to write on it whatever he wanted. Ibn Atham (4th vol., p. 159) writes that when the blank sheet had been presented to Hasan, he called his secretary, and asked him to write: 'These are the terms on which Hasan bin Ali bin Abu Talib is making peace with Muawiya bin Abu Sufian, and handing over to him the state or government of Amir al-Mominin Ali:- 1) that Muawiya should rule according to the Book of God, the Sunnah of the Prophet, and the conduct of the righteous caliphs. 2) that Muawiya will not appoint or nominate anyone to the caliphate after him, but the choice will be left to the shuraof the Muslims. 3) that the people will be left in peace wherever they are in the land of God. 4) that the companions and followers of Ali, their lives, properties, their women, and their children, will be guaranteed safe conduct and peace. 5) that no harm or dangerous act, secretly or openly, will be done to Hasan bin Ali, his brother Hussain, or to anyone from the family of the Prophet.' This agreement is witnessed by Abdullah bin Nawfal, Umar bin Abu Salama and so and so.
The agreement having been concluded, Hasan returned to Kufa where Qais joined him. Soon afterwards, Muawiya entered the city with the full force of his army. He held a general assembly, and different groups of people, one after the other, paid him homage. The speech of Hasan in Kufa delivered at the insistence of Amr bin al-A'as and Muawiya is worth noting. Abul Faraj quotes the speech in his 'Maqatil' (p. 72) which reads: 'The caliph (khalifa) is one who dedicates himself to the way of God and the Sunnah of His Prophet, and not the one who is an oppressor and aggressor; the latter is only a king (malik) who rules a kingdom (mulk), whose enjoyment is little, and whose pleasure is short-lived, leaving behind only a trace of it. I do not know if this is a trial for you and a grant of livelihood to you for a period.' It is interesting to note that if this quotation is historically correct, it might be the origin of the use of the word mulk (king) instead of khalifa (caliph) for Muawiya and his successors, used by the historians from the earliest times. There are however numerous instances, where Muawiya is recorded as saying, in reference to himself, 'I am the first king of Islam.' (vide 'Bidaya wa'n Nihaya' by Ibn Kathir, Cairo, 1939, 8th vol., p. 135). Thus, Muawiya grabbed the power and founded the Umayyad rule in Syria. He lived on a scale of royal splendour comparable only to the pomp and pageantry of the Byzantine emperors.
The extant sources specify the causes of Hasan's renunciation as love for peace, distaste for politics and its dissensions, and the desire to avoid widespread bloodshed among the Muslims. He relinquished the power in 41/661 after ruling for 6 months and 3 days, and the year of his abdication became known as the 'Year of the Community' (am al-jama'a). Tabari (2nd vol., p. 199) quotes a tradition to this effect, attributed to the Prophet, who is reported as saying: 'This son of mine is a lord (sayed) and he will unite two branches of the Muslims.'
Hasan had certainly prevented a bloody military solution of the conflict by abdicating in favour of Muawiya. His abdication had far-reaching consequences for the later development of Shiism. Now the wheel turned on reverse side, as the Uthmaniya branch, with Muawiya its head, became the central body, while the Shiat-i Ali was reduced to the role of a small opposition party.
Hasan, after his abdication in 41/661, quitted Kufa and retired to Medina and led a quiet life. His attitude could be understood from the fact that during his journey back to Medina, at Qadisiya, according to Baladhuri (d. 279/892) in 'Ansab al- Ashraf' (ed. M. Hamidullah, Cairo, 1955, 4th vol., p. 138), he received a letter from Muawiya, asking him to take part in a campaign against a Khariji revolt which had just erupted. Hasan replied that he had given up fighting in order to restore peace, and that he would not take part in a campaign at his side.
Muawiya's ambitious plans to perpetuate the caliphate in his own house and nominate his son Yazid as his heir-apparent, were not so possible, because of the terms on which Hasan had abdicated to Muawiya. To carry out his plan, Muawiya had to remove Hasan from the scene. The sources admit that the cause of Hasan's death was poison administered by one of his wives, Juda bint al-Ash'ath. Muawiya is reported to have suborned her with the promise of a large sum of money and of marrying her to his son Yazid. After she had completed the task, Muawiya paid her the promised sum of money but refused to marry her to Yazid, saying that he valued the life of his son. Thus, the death of Hasan took place in 49/669 at the early age of 46 years.
After the abdication of Hasan, Muawiya became an absolute ruler of the Islamic state, which he diplomatically acquired on the ground of Revenge of Uthman's blood, and it must be pointed out that when he became absolute ruler, neither he investigated the assassin of Uthman, nor he did care for this issue. It was mere a pretext to remove Ali from his caliphate. In sum, he succeeded to establish the Umayyad rule in Syria.
Perhaps the most important event in the history of the development of the Shiite passion was Muawiya's nomination of his son Yazid to succeed him. He could not act in this direction as long as Hasan lived, and it is significant that immediately after the news of Hasan's death, Muawiya began actively on the project that would fulfil his long desire of perpetuating the rule of his family. This was however not an easy task, and he had to move with great caution and use all devices: diplomacy, generous gifts, bribes, and finally threat and oppression.
The early Arabic traces of the first century of Islam are rich in information, mostly tinged with legends and miracles. We may safely divide the sources into two groups. The one is the Nasibi sources i.e., official Umayyad reports and sayings of their partisans, circulated chiefly during the reigns of Abdul Malik and Hisham. The second one is supported with the sayings of Umm Salmah, some companions of Muhammad and the traditions transmitted by descendant of Hussain. This version was first recorded by Abu Mikhnaf (d. 157/774), who was the author of about 32 works. Tabari (d. 310/922) provides the fullest account; the narrative of Baladhuri (d. 279/892) and Ibn Atham al-Kufi al-Kindi (d. 314/926) are almost as full. It is worth mentioning that these three historians all utilized the earlier histories of Abu Mikhnaf (d. 157/774), Madaini, Ibn al-Kalbi, Awana bin al-Hakim and Waqidi (d. 207/822). Tabari however relies almost entirely on the narrative of Abu Mikhnaf, whose importance lies in the fact that he uses the accounts of eye-witnesses such as Hamid bin Muslim al-Azdi, al-Shabi and Abdur Rahman bin Abil Kanud. We have therefore derived our informations mostly from the source of Tabari in relating the forthcoming tragedy of Karbala.
Muawiya died in 60/680 after ruling for 19 years and 3 months. With his death, his son Yazid issued orders to his governor of Medina, Walid bin Utba, to exact homage from Hussain and Abdullah bin Zubayr. In his letter to the governor, he gave strict orders that they should not be allowed to delay. Walid bin Utba accordingly summoned them in his palace. Abdullah bin Zubayr did not go and fled to Mecca. Hussain went to the palace alone. Walid read to him Yazid's letter and asked for immediate recognition of the new caliph. Hussain replied uncommittedly that the oath, in order to be valid, must be made in public and that the governor should arrange a public gathering in the mosque where he would also be present. With this reply, Hussain rose to leave the palace. Walid bin Utba paid for his lenient attitude towards Hussain, he was shortly thereafter dismissed from his post of governor of Medina.
Abdullah bin Zubayr, who reached Mecca before Hussain, had gathered people around him against Yazid, and he is reported to have been harbouring secret ambitions for the caliphate himself. But as soon as Hussain arrived in the city, the influence for Abdullah bin Zubayr's candidature melted away. The people abandoned Abdullah bin Zubayr and gathered around Hussain. In Kufa, as soon as the people received a word of Muawiya's death, they held a series of meetings expressing their support for Hussain. They sent out numerous letters and a succession of messengers, urging Hussain to come in Kufa to guide them, and release from the tyranny and oppression of the Umayyads.
The first letter Hussain received on 10th Ramdan, 60/June 15, 680; it was signed by Suleman bin Surad al-Khuzai, Al-Musayyab bin Najaba, Rifa bin Shaddad, Habib bin al-Muzahir, and Muslim bin Awsaja on behalf of the Kufans, and according to Tabari (2nd vol., p. 233), it reads:- 'We thank God for casting down the tyrannical rule of your enemy, who had usurped the power to rule this community without any right, allowed the possession of God to pass into the hands of the powerful and the rich, and killed the best men while allowing the worst of the people to remain alive. We invite you to come to Kufa, as we have no Imam to guide us; and we hope that through you, God will unite us on the path of truth. We do not go to Friday congregational prayers to pray with Noman bin Bashir, the governor of Kufa, nor do we assemble with him at the occasion of the Id. If we hear that you are coming to us, we will oust the governor from our city. Peace and mercy of God be upon you.'
Both eastern and western research alike do not lose sight of the fact that Hussain had no political ambition. His action, however, shows that from start to end his strategy was aimed at a much higher goal than simply accession to the caliphate. There is no evidence that he tried, while at Mecca, to enlist active supporters from among the people who gathered around him, or to propagate his cause among the mass of people who congregated in Mecca for the pilgrimage. There is also no evidence that he attempted to depute his emissaries to stir up any rebellion in provinces such as Yamen and Iran, which were sympathetic to the house of Ali. It must be pointed out to this effect that Hussain never mustered even a small force against the Umayyads which was an easy for him. And above all, had he acted promptly on the invitation of Kufans, while the governorship of the city was in the hands of the weak Noman bin Bashir, he might have had a fair chance of success. His speedy arrival would not only have forestalled any effective action on the part of the Umayyad government, but would also have stirred real enthusiasm among the Kufans. This was emphasized by the leaders of Kufa, when, according to Tabari (2nd vol., p. 234) they wrote, 'In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate; to al-Hussain bin Ali, from his Shia, the faithful Muslims: Further make haste, for the people are awaiting you, as they have no Imam other than you! So haste, and again haste! Peace.' In response to all these approaches, however, Hussain sent only one letter in reply. According to Tabari (2nd vol., p. 235), it reads:- 'From Hussain bin Ali to the believers and Muslims. Hani and Sa'id came to me with your letters, they being the last among your messengers and delegations to come to me. I have understood what you said and that you have invited me to come to you because you have no Imam to guide you; and that you hope my arrival there will unite you in the right path and in the truth. I am sending my cousin and the trusted one from my family to report to me about your affairs. If his report conforms with what you have written, I will soon come. But you must be clear about the fact that the Imam is only one who follows the Book of God, makes justice and honesty his conduct and behaviour, judges with truth, and devotes himself to the service of God. Peace.'
In spite of repeated appeals and hundreds of letters sent by the Kufans, Hussain did not take a hasty decision, and as a precaution, he sent his cousin, Muslim bin Aqil, to Kufa as his emissary with instructions to ascertain the truth of these representations, and report back of his survey. As soon as Muslim bin Aqil arrived in Kufa, there was held in the house of Suleman bin Surad a meeting, which for the sake of secrecy, was attended only by the leaders of Kufa. Very soon, Muslim bin Aqil quickly gathered thousand of pledges of support, and the number of people who registered their names and swore allegiance to Muslim bin Aqil in the name of Imam Hussain is variously given as 12,000 and 18,000. Soon the movement became so widespread that Muslim bin Aqil was able to preside over the public meetings from the pulpit in the cathedral mosque of Kufa. Confident of Kufan support, Muslim bin Aqil consequently wrote to Hussain to come to Kufa and assume spiritual leadership of the people. His letter was sent to Hussain by Abis bin Habib ash-Shakiri. Having been assured of the extent of Kufan enthusiasm, Hussain decided to go to Iraq.
Receiving word of Muslim bin Aqil's activities in Kufa, Yazid no longer trusting the mild-tempered governor of the town, Noman bin Bashir, and appointed his strong man Ubaidullah bin Ziyad, the then governor of Basra, to take charge of Kufa. Fully aware of the insurrection in Kufa in favour of Hussain, Ibn Ziyad rode into the city in disguise, wearing a black turban, covering his face, and surrounding himself with a small band of horsemen. According to Tabari (2nd vol., p. 241), the Kufans who were expecting Hussain's arrival, mistook Ibn Ziyad for the former, and gathered all around his horse, greeted him enthusiastically, and shouted: 'Hail to you, O son of the Prophet; we have been awaiting you.' Ibn Ziyad, quietly observing the people's enthusiasm for Hussain, entered the mosque alongwith the crowds, mounted the pulpit, and then suddenly tore the veil from his face. He delivered a terrifying speech, declaring death and unprecedented punishment for the sympathizers of Hussain, while making tempting promises for those who would prove their loyalty to Yazid. The Kufans were stricken by awe and fear, completely lost hearts, and ultimately abandoned Muslim bin Aqil. He was captured and beheaded together with Hani bin Urwa, in whose house he had stayed. This attitude of the Kufans once again demonstrated the weakness of their character and disloyalty.
While Hussain was making preparations for departure from Mecca, things took a reverse turn for him in Kufa. He however left Mecca on 8th Zilhaja, 60/September 10, 680, the same day Muslim bin Aqil had been killed in Kufa. It was the season of pilgrimage when various tribes from Iraq, Yamen, Taif and other lands were pouring in Mecca, while Hussain was going out of the town with his family. While he was heading towards Iraq, Ibn Ziyad had made Kufa a scene of terror and horror, and imposed strict martial law. He made a declaration that anyone suspected of supporting Hussain, would be hanged without trial, his house would be set on fire, and his property would be confiscated. At the same time, Ibn Ziyad blockaded all the roads leading from Mecca to Kufa, and gave strict orders forbidding anyone from entering or leaving the territory of Kufa. Hussain learned of all these strict measures from the Umayyads, but continued his journey undeterred.
Imam Hussain continued his journey till he reached Taneem, a few miles from Mecca and encamped there. He thence started and effected a junction at a place called Sifah, where according to Tabari (2nd vol., p. 242) he met the poet Farazdaq, and inquired about the conditions in Kufa. Farazdaq replied, 'Their hearts are with you, but their swords are with your enemies.' Hussain resumed his journey and reached Salabia, which he left very soon and arrived in Waqesia, where his follower Zuhair bin Qayn, alongwith his wife joined the caravan. Khuzaimia was the fifth resting place, and thence he advanced and alighted at Zubala. When he reached Ath-Thalibiya, he received word from some travellers of the executions of Muslim bin Aqil and Hani bin Urwa at Kufa. After leaving it, Hussain reached Batn Aqiq, a place few stages from Kufa; and upon learning of the strong military force stationed at Qadisiya, he changed his route to enter Kufa from another direction. Hussain bin Numayr, the Umayyad commander at Qadisiya, was informed of Hussain's change of route, and sent a detachment of one thousand troops under the command of Hur bin Yazid at-Tamimi to intercept him. When they appeared on the horizon, Hussain ordered his people to pitch their tents at a nearby place called Dhu Husm. The army of Hur soon reached Hussain. The day was very hot and Hur's army had run out of water. Hussain immediately ordered his men to give water to the Umayyad troops and their horses. Hur had a certain regard for the Imam, and even when four of the leading Kufans, who had managed to escape from the city and joined Hussain at this point, Hur did not dare to use force. Hussain explained to his adversaries the reason which had caused him to set out. According to Tabari (2nd vol., p. 298), Hussain said: 'O people of Kufa! you sent to me your delegations and wrote me letters saying that you had no Imam and that I should come to unite you and lead you in the way of God.....But if you have changed your minds, have become ignorant of our rights, and have forgotten your delegations and repeated appeals to me to come for the sake of your religion, I shall turn back.'
Then Hussain showed Hur two sacks full of letters sent by the Kufans to him, but Hur said that he knew nothing, and that he had come with the orders of Ibn Ziyad to arrest him and his party. Hussain refused to submit, but still Hur did not use force against him. It was however agreed that Hussain should keep on travelling along the Euphrates in the opposite direction from Kufa until fresh orders arrived from the governor, and that Hur would follow Hussain closely.
When they reached the district of Ninawa, a horseman arrived from Kufa, and gave a letter to Hur from Ibn Ziyad, ordering him not to allow Hussain to make halt except in a desert place without fortifications of water. Hussain, therefore, advanced a bit turning to the left when Hur's contingent stopped him from moving further and asked him to alight, adding that the Euphrates was not far from there. Hussain said, 'This is the stage of distress (karb) and trial (bala)' and got down from his horse. (vide Tabari, 2nd vol., p. 232). This place henceforward became known as Karbala, about 25 miles north-west of Kufa; where Hussain pitched his tents when it was 2nd Muharram, 61/October 2, 680.
On the 3rd Muharram, the situation deteriorated as Umar bin Sa'd arrived with the fresh Umayyad force of 4,000 men and assumed overall command on the field. Ibn Sa'd learned that Hussain now intended to return to Medina, but Ibn Ziyad, on receiving word of this development, ordered that all the 'rebels' should render homage to Yazid. On 7th Muharram, an embargo was placed on the water supply to the Imam's camp, and for that Ibn Sa'd stationed a force of 500 cavalry on the road to the river, and for three days before the massacre on the 10th Muharram, Hussain and his party suffered terribly from thirst. A daring sortie led by Abbas, the brother of Hussain, however, managed to reach the river, but succeeding in filling only a few waterskins.
Ibn Sa'd was still trying to persuade Ibn Ziyad to find some peaceful solutions to avoid shedding the blood of the grandson of the Prophet, but all in vain. Ibn Ziyad sent his final orders to Ibn Sa'd through Shimar bin Dhul Jawshan, either to attack Hussain immediately or to hand over the field command to the army of Shimar. Soon after receiving these fresh orders on the evening of 9th Muharram, Ibn Sa'd advanced with his forces towards the camp of Hussain, who sent Abbas to request for a respite of one night, which was granted. On this juncture, Hussain assembled his relatives and followers and induced them to abandon the field to his fate. According to Tabari (2nd vol., p. 319), he said:- 'I give praise to God, Who has honoured us with the Prophethood, has taught us the Koran, and favoured us with His religion. I know of no worthier companions than mine; may God reward you with all the best of His reward. I think tomorrow our end will come. I ask you all to leave me alone and to go away to safety. I free you from your responsibilities for me, and I do not hold you back. Night will provide you a cover; use it as a steed. You may take my children with you to save their lives.'
The relatives and followers of Hussain refused to leave or survive after him, and demonstrated in the same vein an unshakable devotion to the Imam, and said, 'By God, we will never leave you alone until all of us are killed and our bodies are torn to pieces. By this we will have fulfilled our duties to you.' (vide Tabari, 2nd vol., p. 322) Thus, the whole night was spent in prayer, recitation of Koran, and worship and meditation. The borrowed night ended, and the fateful morning of 10th Muharram brought with it the summons of the tragic result of the family of Ali bin Abu Talib and its handful supporters. Hussain drew up in front of the tents his small band of 72 men: 32 horsemen and 40 foot soldiers of varying ages ranging from 70 years old Muslim bin Awsaja to the 14 years old Kassim bin Hasan bin Ali. The rear of the tents was protected by setting on fire the heaps of wood and reeds. Zuhayr bin Qayn was given command of the right wing, Habib bin Mazahir al-Asadi of the left, and Abbas bin Ali was entrusted with the standard of the Hashimite house.
Tabari (2nd vol., p. 268) writes that Hussain rode on his camel, and came before his enemies and praised God and His Prophet, and related the dignity of Ahel-al-Bait, and said in conclusion, 'Tell me! do you want me killed to avenge the death of one of you whom I have killed? Or because of property belonging to you which I have expropriated? Or to avenge some wound which I have inflicted upon you?' Hussain then spoke the names of the persons, who were now in the army of Umayyads, and said to them, 'Did you not write me letters, inviting me to come in Kufa?' But they refused to accept it at that moment. Hussain soon returned to his camp.
Shortly before the fateful battle began, Hur bin Yazid, the Umayyad commander, the first who confronted Hussain and forced him to halt at Karbala, was himself now confronted by his own conscience and feelings. A great conflict arose in his mind. He suddenly spurred his horse towards Hussain's camp, and threw himself at Hussain's feet, and exclaimed: 'O son of the Prophet! here is the man who did you great injustice in detaining you at this place and causing you so much trouble. Is it possible for you to forgive a sinner like me? By God, I never imagined that these people would go so far as to shed the blood of the grandson of their Prophet. I only thought that they would accept one of three options you offered; and thus some sort of reconciliation would ultimately prevail, and in this way I would be able to retain my rank and position. But now, when all hopes for peace are gone, I cannot buy hell for this worldly gain. Forgive my mistake and allow me to sacrifice myself for you. Only by doing this I can redeem myself in the eyes of God for my sin against you.' (Tabari, 2nd vol., p. 333). Hussain embraced Hur and said, 'You are as free-born and noble (hur) as your mother named you.' Hur then spurred his horse towards the Umayyad army and condemned their sacrilegious action against Hussain. He said to Ibn Sa'd and his men, as describes by Washington Irving in his 'Lives of the Successors of Mahomet' (London, 1905, p. 211) that: 'Alas, for you, men of Cufa! you have invited the descendant of the Prophet to your city, and now you come to fight against him. You have cut off from him and his family the waters of the Euphrates, which are free even to infidels and the beasts of the field, and have shut him up like a lion in the toils.' Hur then attacked with his single power and was killed. He had thus enlisted in history as the protomartyr of Karbala.
Ibn Sa'd shot an arrow into the Hussainid camp, calling all to witness that he struck the first blow, marking an outbreak of the battle. Hence, a skirmish ensued, but the men of Hussain kept within their camp, where they could only be reached by the archers. From time to time there were single combats in defiance. It began in the morning and ended shortly after noon as both parties desisted from the fight at the hour of noontide prayer. It was in the afternoon that the battle became fiercer, and Hussain's handful supporters one after the other fell fighting in front of him, and finally it was the turn of his relatives to perish. The first to be killed was Ali Akbar, the son of Hussain, followed in quick succession by the son of Muslim bin Aqil, the sons of Aqil, three brothers of Abbas bin Ali, then Kassim, the son of Hasan; and eventually there remained only two: Hussain and his half-brother Abbas bin Ali. With broken hearts and distressed, both brothers went together and fell upon the enemy. The enraged Abbas penetrated deep into the ranks of his foes, became separated from Hussain, and was killed some distance away. Alone and weary, Hussain returned to his tents to console the terrified women and children, and to bid them farewell for the last time, and to consign spiritual authority of Imamate to his son, Ali Zayn al-Abidin. Exhausted and wounded, Hussain sat in front of the main tent, sheltering the women and children. Yet nobody dare to attack him, until Shimar ended the delay. He caused Hussain to separate from the tent, and several soldiers fell upon him and killed him, with 33 thrusts and 34 cuts to the body. Sinan bin Anas bin Amr raised his sword to make the final blow on Hussain, and cut off his head in front of the tent. Khawali bin Yazid al-Asbahi took the head into his custody. It was on the 10th Muharram/October 10, on a Friday that the pathetic tragedy in the history of Islam ended, known as the Battle of Karbala. Edward Gibbon remarks in his 'Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire' (London, 1848, 5th vol., p. 391) that, 'In a distant age and climate, the tragic scene of the death of Husayn will awaken the sympathy of the coldest readers.'
On 12th Muharram/October 12, however, when the Umayyad forces left Karbala, the people of Banu Asad from the nearby village of Ghadiriya came down and buried the bodies of Hussain and his companions on the spot where the massacre had taken place
Hussain had concluded five marriages, by which he had four sons and two daughters. His first wife was Shahr Banu, who was the mother of Ali Zayn al-Abidin. By Layla, Hussain had one son, Ali Akbar, or Ali Asghar. His third wife belonged to the clan of Kaza'a, who gave birth of a son, Jafar. By Rabab, he had a son, Ali Asghar, or Abdullah Asghar; and a daughter, Sakina. By Umm Isac, he had one daughter, Umm Fatima.
Abu Muhammad Ali bin Hussain, known as Zayn al-Abidin (ornament of the pious) and also by the titles of as-Sajjad (the prostrator) and az-Zaki (the pure), was born in Medina on 38/658. Dhahabi (d. 748/1348 ) writes in 'Tadhkiratul Huffaz' that Imam Muhammad Bakir narrated, 'Whenever my father mentioned any blessing of God, or whenever any worldly trouble was averted, or whenever he reconciled two quarrelling persons, or whenever he finished any prayer - on such occasions he used to offer prostration (sajda), therefore, he was called as Sajjad.' As for the title az-Zaki(pure), it is said that he had left to involve into worldly turmoils, and led a pious life in Medina. He would feed the hungry persons at night, from one to three hundred families; and in daytime, he would have a hundred sheep a day killed for meat, which would be distributed to the needy people. Much of his time he spent sitting on an old piece of matting, fasting all day, or eating a little barely bread. D.M. Donaldson writes in 'The Shiite Religion' (London, 1933, p. 110) that, 'One day, he claimed to get nourishment from merely the smell of food.'
It was the year of Zayn al-Abidin's birth that the edifice of Islamic solidarity was rudely shaken by a band of seceders from Ali's army, known as the Kharijis. Zayn al-Abidin was 2 years old during the martyr of Ali bin Abu Talib, and about 22 years and 6 months old during the event of Karbala. In his personal appearance, Zayn al-Abidin is described as much like Ali. He was about the same height, had reddish hair, a white face and neck, and a large chest and stomach.
Shah-i Zanan, al-Sulafa, or Harar, better known as Shahr Banu, the mother of Zayn al-Abidin was the daughter of the last Sassanid emperor Yazdigard (d. 31/652) of Iran. Tradition has it that during the caliphate of Ali bin Abu Talib, his governor at Fars, Hurais bin Jabir had sent two daughters of Yazdigard as captives to Medina, one of whom was married to Imam Hussain, called Shahr Banu, and other to Muhammad bin Abu Bakr. The popular legend relating the presence of Shahr Banu at Karbala is quite untrue, and cannot be ascertained from any known source. She however is reported to have died soon after the birth of her son, Zayn al-Abidin. In memory of his mother, Zayn al-Abidin used to utter these words: 'I am the son of the two chosen stocks (ibn al-khairatain). The Prophet was my grandfather, and my mother was the daughter of Yazdigard.'
Imam Hussain had expressly appointed Zayn al-Abidin as his successor. The most commonly reported tradition in this connection, according to 'Bihar al-Anwar' (11th vol., p. 7) by Muhammad Bakir Majlisi, is that Hussain, before leaving for Kufa, entrusted Umm Salmah bint Abu Umayyah Suhail, the widow of the Muhammad, who outlived all the wives and died in 63/682; with his will and letters, enjoining her to hand them over to the eldest of his male offspring in case he himself did not return. Zayn al-Abidin was the only son who came back and so he was given his father's will and became his nominee. According to 'Usul al-Kafi' (1st vol., p. 149), 'Verily, al-Hussain bin Ali, leaving for Iraq, entrusted the book and his will (istawda al-kitab wal wassiya) to Umm Salmah, and when his son Ali bin al-Hussain returned to Medina, she handed these over to him.' Another tradition relates (vide Kulaini's 'Usul al-Kafi', 1st vol., p. 353) that Hussain nominated Zayn al-Abidin as his successor and the next Imam of the house of the Prophet just before he went out to meet the Umayyad forces for the last encounter at Karbala.
With the exception of few incidents, the life of Zayn al-Abidin is shrouded in the political intrigues. He had however witnessed the rule of the six Umayyads caliphs, viz. Muawiya bin Abu Sufian (40-60/661-680), Yazid I (60-64/680-683), Muawiya II, Marwan bin Hakam (64-65/683-685), Abdul Malik (65-86/685-705) and Walid (86-96/705-715). He had also seen the reigns of Abdullah bin Zubayr and Mukhtar Thaqafi, but kept himself out of the vortex of politics.
When the blood-thirsty soldiers of Yazid were bent on destroying Hussain and his dear ones at Karbala, sparing neither old nor young, the survival of Zayn al-Abidin was nothing but a miracle. His severe illness had prevented him from taking up arms, and confined him to bed. According to Tabari (2nd vol., p. 367), 'The only surviving male of the line of Hussain, his son, Zayn al-Abidin, who because of serious illness did not take part in the fighting, was lying on a skin in one of the tents. The skin was pulled from under him and Shimar would have killed him, but he was saved when Zainab covered him under her arms and Ibn Sa'd restrained Shimar from striking the boy.' But the morning of 12th Muharram saw a peculiar procession leaving Karbala for Kufa. Tabari (2nd vol., p. 369) writes that, 'Seventy-two heads were raised on the points of the lances, each of them were held by one soldier, followed by the women of the Prophet's family on camels and the huge army of the Umayyads.' After reaching Kufa, the captives were presented to Ibn Ziyad. According to Tabari (2nd vol., p. 371), Zaid bin Arram, an old companion of the Prophet was present in the court, who was stricken by shock and grief to see the captives. He quitted the court of Ibn Ziyad, and the people heard him saying outside that, 'O people of the Arabs, after this day you have made yourselves home-born slaves and cattle. You have massacred the son of Fatima and your ruler, Ibn Marjana (kunya of Ibn Ziyad), who will now keep on killing your best men, and force you to do the most hateful things. You must now be ready for the utmost disgrace.'
It is however not quite clear how long the captives were detained in Kufa, but it seems that before long they had been sent to Damascus at Yazid's court. The reaction of Yazid is reported to have been different from that of Ibn Ziyad, and he regretted the haste with which his governor had acted. This seems to be contrary to all those reports which describe Yazid's explicit orders to his governor in Medina and then to Ibn Ziyad, in which he clearly ordered them to either exact homage from Hussain or behead him without delay. Ibn Kathir (d. 774/1373) writes in 'Bidaya wa'n Nihaya'(8th vol., p. 203) that, 'If Yazid had really felt that his governor had committed a serious mistake in dealing with Hussain, he would have taken some actions against him. But, Yazid did not dismiss Ibn Ziyad from his post, did not punish him in any way, or even write a letter of censure for exceeding his orders.'
One Friday in Damascus when the congregation in the cathedral mosque, accustomed to listen to the curse on Ali bin Abu Talib and his family, requested Zayn al-Abidin to address them. Taking Yazid's permission, the Imam delivered a sermon thus:- 'O people! beware of the temptation of the world which is transitory. The nations of antiquity who were stronger than you and lived longer are no more. Do you think you will live for ever? Certainly not, so try to live a virtuous life before you are removed from your house to the grave and reduced to dust. Remember, you will have to stand before God to give an account of your deeds. Woe to the wicked whose disappointment will know no bound. Woe to the proud tyrant whose repentance will then be of no avail. O people! listen I am the offspring of him on whom God showered His blessings, whom God appointed as intercessor, bestowing on him kauthar and power of showing miracles; praiseworthy, and generous sayeds, true to his words - the great Apostle of God, whose son Hussain my father, has been massacred at Karbala with inhuman atrocities and on whom angels are shedding tears. Verily, it is God's trial.' The congregation was moved - some heaved sighs, some wept when suddenly Yazid beckoned the muazzin to call for the prayers
Yazid thought it advisable not to keep Hussain's family in his capital, and finding that Zayn al-Abidin preferred a quiet and virtuous life, he made arrangement for them to return to Medina. When they reached Medina, the citizens came out for condolence. Zayn al-Abidin in a short touching speech addressed them thus:- 'Praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds. High above the highest heavens and nearer to us than to our jugular veins, knowing our inner most secrets. Verily, He has tested us by tribulations calamitous to Islam for they killed Hussain and took captive his family. Is there any one who will approve this murder? Lo! we are God's and unto Him we are returning. He will reward us for what we have suffered.'
A storm of grief and anger raged in every heart in the Muslim world because of the tragical event of Karbala, putting great deal of thrill of horror. It caused rise to a universal feeling of revulsion against the tyrants. From the start of 62/681, the people of Medina unitedly turned out the Umayyad governor, and beleaguered the Umayyad ashes in the town. Ibn Athir (d. 630/1234) writes in 'Kamil fi't Tarikh'(Beirut, 1975, 1st vol., p. 186) that Marwan bin Hakam, the sworn enemy of Ahl-al-Bait was also unable to stay safely in the city. The only person he could find to offer protection to his wife was Zayn al-Abidin, who sent her safely to Taif escorted by one of his sons. Yazid sent an army under Muslim bin Aqba to suppress the rising in Medina. According to Tabari (7th vol., pp. 6-7), 'He ordered that for three days on end, Medina should be given over to rapine and murder, and that the army might appropriate to its own use whatever it might capture including the prisoners of war.' Dinawari writes in 'Akhbar at-Tiwal' (p. 260) that the instructions to Muslim bin Aqba were given that, 'If you obtain victory over the people of Medina, plunder the town for three days without break.' The orders were carried out on the 28th Zilhaja, 63 and for three full days and nights, Medina was given over to plunder. The Umayyad forces gained such ascendancy that the remaining citizens of Medina avowed allegiance specifying that they would be the slaves of Yazid who would possess plenary powers over their lives, properties and dependents, but Zayn al-Abidin and his family were left unmolested, and when the citizens of Medina were forced to take oath of allegiance of Yazid, the Imam was exempted.
The Meccans too had been aroused against Umayyads. Abdullah bin Zubayr, the son of Asma bint Abu Bakr, who had long yearned to secure the office of caliph for himself, considered it an opportune moment to advance his interest, delivered a forcible speech, decrying the inconstancy of the Kufans, and paying rich tributes to Hussain. The Meccans became alienated from Yazid and agreed to pledge their allegiance to Abdullah bin Zubayr. After the savage massacre and ravage of Medina, Yazid's commander, Muslim bin Aqba advanced on Mecca as ordered by Yazid. On his way to Mecca in 64/683, he was picked up by death. Before his death, he had made Haseen bin Namir the head of the army. Thus, Haseen invaded Mecca and laid siege to the Kaba. Our chronicler Tabari (7th vol., p. 14) writes that, 'Not only stones but also live wood were catapulted at Kaba which caught fire.' This was Yazid's last operation after which he died in 64/683 after ruling for 3 years and a half.
After Yazid's death, the pent up feelings of revulsion entertained by the people of Iraq against Ibn Ziyad were released with such a violence that he had to flee from Basra. The climax in the exertion of disgust with Yazid was reached when his son and successor, Muawiya bin Yazid, who had been accepted as the ruler, mounted the pulpit and delivered speech. He then retired into the palace and forty days later, he left this world. Thus the office of caliph was lost to the descendants of Abu Sufian for ever, and in Syria, the old Marwan bin Hakam received the pledge of allegiance, and the office of caliph of the Umayyads was for long held by his progeny.
As soon as Yazid died, the people of Mecca rose once again, and began to hunt the Umayyad soldiers in the city. Thus, it was difficult for Haseen bin Namir and his forces to move from Mecca to Syria. They started their journey from Mecca in secret, and meanwhile they felt acute need of fodder for their horses. Tabari (7th vol., p. 342) writes that when Zayn al-Abidin knew the difficulties of the Umayyad forces, he came down from Medina with grass and foods and rescued them from starvation. Haseen bin Namir was highly impressed with the generosity of the Imam, and offered him to accept the caliphate of Damascus with his all supports. Zayn al-Abidin did not answer him, and went away after casting a smile
The tragic event of Karbala stirred religious and moral sentiment, particularly among those of the Kufans who had so zealously invited Hussain to Iraq to guide them on the path of God. But when Hussain came to Iraq they did not not stand with him in the hour of trial. Soon after the event of Karbala, the Umayyad governor Ibn Ziyad returned to Kufa from his camp at Nukhayla, the Shiites, according to Tabari (7th vol., p. 47), 'were stung with shame at their faint-heartedness. They took to mutual recrimination as they painfully realized the enormity of neglecting to go to Hussain's help, and thereby leading him to his death in their close neighbourhood, since he had come to Iraq only to their invitation.' They thought that they must make similar sacrifices to obtain God's forgiveness. They believed that they could only prove their real repentance by exposing themselves to death while seeking vengeance for the blood of Hussain. Hence they named themselves as the tawwabun (the penitents).
The movement of the Tawwabun began under the headship of five of the oldest trusted associates of Ali, with a following of a hundred diehard Shiites of Kufa. The five leaders of the Tawwabun, Suleman bin Surad al-Khuzai, Al-Musayyab bin Najaba al-Fazari, Abdullah bin Sa'd bin Nufayl al-Azdi, Abdullah bin Walin at-Taymi, and Rifa'a bin Shaddad al-Bajali; had always been in the forefront of all Shiite activities in Kufa. At the end of 61/680 they held their first meeting in the house of Suleman bin Surad. According to Tabari (2nd vol., p. 498), the first to speak was Al-Musayyab bin Najaba al-Fazari, who said: 'We invited the son of the daughter of our Prophet to come to Kufa to guide us on the right path, but when he responded to our call, we became rapacious for our own lives until he was killed in our midst. What excuse would we have before our Lord, and before our Prophet when we must meet him on the day of resurrection, while his most beloved son, family and progeny were massacred in our midst. By God, there is no other way for us to expiate ourselves for the sin except to kill all his murderers and their associates or be killed. Perhaps by doing so our Lord may forgive our sin. You must, therefore, now select someone from among you as your leader, who can organize and mobilize you under his command and proceed with the plan of seeking God's forgiveness by taking the action which has been proposed.'
Finally, Suleman bin Surad had been chosen as their leader, who also made a forceful speech in the meeting, and said: 'We used to crane our necks eagerly in looking for the arrival of the members of the Prophet's household, but when they arrived, we acted with such indifference and laxity that in our land and not far from us, the Prophet's son was put to the sword. When he raised his voice in demanding justice and help, there was none to respond to him to say, `Here I am, standing in thy service'. The man of sin made him the target of their arrows and spears, and killed him. Now if you wish to get up, rise! God's wrath has been stirred. Resolve here and now not to return to your wives and children till you have taken steps to win God's pleasure. Now that you consider sinners, prepare yourselves for sacrifice. Sharpen your swords, and straighten your spear-heads.' (Tabari, 7th vol., p. 48) He then entered into correspondence with Shiite leaders in other cities, namely Sa'd bin Hudhayfa al-Yamen in Madain and Al-Muthanna bin Mukharriba al-Abdi in Basra. The movement of Tawwabun, however, went on secretly for three years, increasing in number and strength, and waiting for an appropriate time. In the interim, Yazid died in 64/683, encouraging the Tawwabun to come out in the open. They succeeded in gaining support of 16,000 Kufans. Suleman started final preparations for action, and the penitents embarked upon a course of direct action against Yazid's rule.
In the interim, Mukhtar also spurred his horses towards Kufa, and tried to bring the Tawwabun in his mission. The main body of Tawwabun, however, refused to join Mukhtar, though at least 2,000 of these had registered their names with Suleman bin Surad did switch over to him. According to their plan, the Tawwabun raised their call for 'revenge for the blood of Hussain' (la latha'rat al-Hussain) in 65/684, and gathered at Nukhayla, a suburb of Kufa, from where they had to march against the forces of Ibn Ziyad, the Umayyad governor who had been responsible for the massacre of Karbala upon the instructions of Yazid. Only 4,000 out of 16,000 enrolled members of Tawwabun assembled at Nukhayla, where their supporters from Madain and Basra yet not arrived. Meanwhile, another 1,000 out of 4,000 had left the field. Thus Suleman led the remaining 3,000 and marched to Karbala to the grave of Hussain, where they mourned. They then proceeded to the village of Qarqisiya, the fifth stage of Karbala, and ultimately reached Ayn al-Warda, and engaged the twenty thousand Umayyad horsemen fiercely, shouting: 'Paradise! Paradise! for the Turabites.' The battle lasted for three days, in which Suleman bin Surad was killed. Finally, Rifa bin Shaddad, advised the survivors to return, and brought them to Qarqisiya after getting defeat.
An exhaustive scrutiny of the earliest sources suggests that the small number of Tawwabun survived the battle of Ayn al-Warda, went over to Mukhtar and accepted Ibn al-Hanafiya as their Imam. This is confirmed even by Imam Muhammad Bakir in one of his traditions quoted by Kashi, who said: 'After the death of Hussain, all the people apostatised except three, viz. Abu Khalid al-Kabuli, Yahya bin Umm at-Tiwal and Jubayr bin Mutim, and only later did other join them and their number increased.' ('Marifat Akhbar ar-Rijal', p. 123) These Kufans, who formed the backbone of Mukhtar's movement, called themselves Shiat al-Mahdi, Shiat al-Haqq or Shiat al-Muhammad. Consequently, a sect emerged with the name of Kaysaniya. The power of Mukhtar soon ended by his being killed with the majority of his followers, Kaysaniyas. These sectarians, some of who lived as far away as Khorasan, continued to recognize Ibn al-Hanafiya as their Imam Mahdi, who died in 81/700, who believed in his concealment and return, while the majority accepted the eldest of his sons, Abu Hashim as the next Imam, who himself also claimed to have inherited the scrolls of his father.
The famous Umayyad poet, Kuthayyir bin Abd Rehman Azza (24-105/644-723) was first to propagate that Ibn al-Hanafiya was alive on the Mount Radhwah, that he was being guarded by a lion and a tiger, that he had two rich springs of water and honey, and that he would reappear to fill the world with justice, vide his 'Diwan' (ed. by Ihsan Abbas, Beirut, 1971). Kashi also records a story about two men from the entourage of Imam Jafar Sadik, viz. as-Sarraj and Hammad bin Isa, who were known to believe that Ibn al-Hanafiya was still alive. Jafar Sadik reproached them and pointed out that Ibn al-Hanafiya was seen being buried, and his property had been divided and his widow had re-married. (Ibid)
Mukhtar Thaqafi comes from a leading family of Thaqif of Banu Hawazin at Taif. His father, Abu Ubaida Thaqafi was the commander of the army during the invasion of Iran at the time of caliph Umar, and died in the battle of Marva in 13/634. Mukhtar was born in the first year of Hijra in Taif, 622 A.D. In his youth, spent in Medina after the death of his father. Mukhtar was known to be an Alid sympathiser. Yet, according to Tabari (2nd vol.,p.520) there is a story which depicts him as anti-Shiite, based on the advice he gave to his uncle, Sa'd bin Masud at the time when Hasan, the son of Ali bin Abu Talib, was carried wounded to the White Castle in Madain. The advice was that Hasan be handed over to Muawiya to win the latter's favour. His uncle refused this advice and cursed Mukhtar.
The first man to pay homage to Muslim bin Aqil in Kufa was Mukhtar, but the tradition relates that he was imprisoned by Ibn Ziyad during the event of Karbala. He appeared in Kufa as a revenger of Hussain's blood. His mission was the same as that of the Tawwabun (the penitents) insofar as the revenge of Hussain's blood, but differed in that he intended to achieve political authority through a more organised military power. Mukhtar, therefore, tried to persuade the Tawwabun not to take any hasty action and to join him for a better chance of success. The Tawwabun refused to join Mukhtar, as they had no wish to participate in any doubtful adventure. Mukhtar also tried to propagate in Kufa that Suleman bin Surad, the leader of the Tawwabun, did not know how to organise the military warfares, nor did he has any knowledge of diplomacy.
Mukhar then turned to Zayn al-Abidin to seek his support to this effect. Baladhuri writes in 'Ansab al-Ashraf' (5th vol., p. 272) that, 'Mukhtar wrote to Zayn al-Abidin to show his loyalty to him, asking if he could rally the Kufans for him. He sent with the letter a large sum of money. Zayn al-Abidin refused this offer and declared Mukhtar publicly to be a liar who was trying to exploit the cause of Ahl-al-Bait for his own interests.' Ibn Sa'd (5th vol., p. 213) also describes that Zayn al-Abidin had publicly denounced Mukhtar's mission. Mukhtar lost all hopes of winning Zayn al-Abidin, he then turned to Ibn al- Hanafiya, the third son of Ali from a Hanafite woman. On his part, Ibn al-Hanafiya did not repudiate Mukhtar's propaganda for his Imamate and Messianic role; he nevertheless, maintained a carefully non-committal attitude and never openly raised his claims to the heritage of Hussain. Baladhuri (5th vol., p. 218) writes that, 'Ibn al-Hanafiya gave Mukhtar only a non-committal reply. He neither approved nor disapproved of Mukhtar's intention to avenge Hussain, and only warned him against bloodshed.' In the event, however, the hesitation and political inactivity of Ibn al-Hanafiya emboldened Mukhtar more and more to exploit his name for his own interest. Mukhtar propagated that Ibn al-Hanafiya was the Mahdi, and he himself was his minister (vizir) and commander (amir).
Abdullah bin Zubayr proclaimed his caliphate in 61/680 and established his power in Iraq, southern Arabia and in the greater part of Syria. When the Umayyad caliph Abdul Malik wished to stop the pilgrimages to Mecca because he was worried lest his rival Abdullah bin Zubayr should force the Syrians journeying to the holy places in Hijaz to pay him homage, he had recourse to the expedient of the doctrine of the vicarious hajj to the Qubbat al-Sakhra in Jerusalem. He decreed that the obligatory circumambulation (tawaf) could take place at the sacred place in Jerusalem with the same validity as that around the Kaba ordained in Islamic law. The famous theologian al-Zuhri was given the task of justifying this politically motivated reform of religious life by making up and spreading a saying traced back to the Prophet.
Abdullah bin Zubayr was at last killed in a battle against Hajjaj bin Yousuf in 73/692 after ruling for almost nine years. On the other hand, Mukhtar seized possession of Kufa in 66/686 and captured Mesopotamia and some parts of the eastern provinces from the Umayyads mainly in the name of the blood of Hussain. In Kufa, he continued his mission in the name of Ibn al-Hanafiya. Thus, the name of Ibn al-Hanafiya appeared for the first time four years later, when the Tawwabun were almost ready for the action. The Shiites of Kufa, especially the mawali among them, wanted an active movement which could relieve them from the oppressive rule of the Umayyads. They found an outlet only under the banner of Mukhtar, and saw a ray of hope in the Messianic role propagated by him for Ibn al-Hanafiya.
It must be pointed out here that the Shiites from Iran were not granted equal status by their Arab co-citizens in the social system of Kufa, and thus they were called mawali (sing. mawla) means 'clients', a term to indicate inferior social standing, or second-class citizens. The expression mawla at the latest stage of its evolution means the people descended from foreign families whose ancestors, or even they themselves, on accepting Islam, have been adopted into an Arab tribe, either as freed slaves or free-born aliens. Juridically there were three classes of mawali: mawla rahimin (blood relation), mawla ataqa (freed man) and mawla'l aqd (free Arab who becomes a member of a tribe to which he belongs neither by birth nor by previous affiliation as slave). Of these the first is conceivably a way of incorporating matrilineally related persons into a patrilineal society; the second type is the freedman who would often, be freed born but enslaved through capture in war; while the third type is the man who by compact or covenant voluntarily accepts the position of 'client' to a 'patron'.
One week after Mukhtar's arrival in Kufa, Abdullah bin Zubayr sent Abdullah bin Yazid al-Khatmi as governor of Kufa. While, after the departure of Suleman bin Surad, Mukhtar's activities aroused the suspicions of the nobles of Kufa, who reported the new governor to warn him against the movement, saying that it was more dangerous that of Suleman bin Surad, for Mukhtar wanted to revolt against the governor in his own city. Mukhtar was hence imprisoned, where he remained until the return of the remnant of Suleman bin Surad's followers from the battle of Ayn al-Warda. He was however released only after the request of his brother-in-law, Abdullah bin Umar and other ten influential men, on the condition that he would not engage in any subversive activities against the governor of Kufa as long as he was in power. Abdullah bin Zubayr, considering the danger of Mukhtar and his movement, appointed a new governor for Kufa, Abdullah bin Muti in 65/685, and presumably ordered him to be more cautious and prudent than his predecessors. Meanwhile, Mukhtar became enough capable and began to prepare to seize Kufa in 66/685. He stationed near Dair Hind in the Sabkha, and his army contained about five hundred soldiers. To counter him, the governor sent Shabath bin Rabi al-Tamimi with three thousand soldiers to Sabkha, and Rashid bin Iyas with four thousand soldiers from Shurta. Mukhtar sent his nine hundred men in command of Ibrahim to meet Rashid, and three hundred men in command of Nuaim bin Hubaira against Shabath. In this battles, Mukhtar succeeded and captured Kufa. Nevertheless, the circumstances eventually changed when Abdullah bin Zubayr proclaimed himself caliph in 64/683, Ibn al-Hanafiya and Abdullah bin Abbas, with their followers, refused to pay him homage on the grounds that he had not yet been unanimously recognised as caliph. In 66/685, Abdullah bin Zubayr detained Ibn al-Hanafiya and his family and threatened them with death if they did not pay homage within a specified time. Ibn al-Hanafiya sent a letter to Mukhtar, apprising him of his perilous condition. Thus, Mukhtar marshalled out four thousand men and managed to liberate to Ibn al-Hanafiya, who left Mecca for Taif. In 67/686, Mukhtar subdued Ibn Ziyad and killed him. He also hunted down the other murderers of Hussain and his followers, and slaughtered. At length, Kufa was brought under an incursion by Musab bin Zubayr with a huge army, in which Mukhtar was killed in Shawal, 67/April, 687.
The most instrumental role in boosting the dignity of Zayn al-Abidin was played by a famous poet, Farazdaq (d. 112/730). He composed numerous verses to propagate the cause of Zayn al-Abidin, the most renowned of which was his encomium (qasida) in praise of the Imam. It was the season of pilgrimage when Hisham (d.125/743), the son of the Umayyad caliph Abdul Malik and Zayn al-Abidin were trying to reach the Black Stone in the crowded Kaba. The people gave way to the Imam with respect, but Hisham had to cut a way through the crowds. This deeply offended Hisham, and in a sarcastic manner he inquired who was the person to whom the people gave preference. Poet Farazdaq, present at the scene, upon hearing this remark, spontaneously composed his famous ode, and recited it, addressing to Hisham bin Abdul Malik, which begins as follows:-
This is he whose footprint is known to the valley of Mecca. He whom the Kaba knows and the most frequented sanctuary. This is the son of the best of all the servants of God. This is the pious, the elect, the pure, the eminent. This is Ali, whose father is the Prophet, and it was through the light of his guidance, that the darkened road changed into the straight path. This is the son of Fatima, if you are ignorant of him; and with his great-grandfather the Prophethood came to an end.
Farazdaq, however, had to pay for his praise, and was imprisoned by the order of Hisham. When Zayn al-Abidin heard the misfortune of the poet, he sent him a gift of 12,000 dhirams, but Farazdaq refused to accept it, arguing that he had composed the poem purely from his religious zeal. Zayn al-Abidin, however, urged him to accept it for he could not take back what he had already given away.
Towards the end of his life in Medina, Zayn al-Abidin seems to have succeeded in gathering round himself a small group of his adherents. Among them, apart from Yahya bin Umm at-Tiwal and Muhammad bin Jubayr bin Mutim was also Jabir bin Abdullah Ansari, a famous companion of Muhammad, who took part in the pledge of Aqaba and in the oath of allegiance during the treaty of Hudaibia. Another important figure was the Kufan Sa'id bin Jubayr, a mawla of Banu Asad. The greatest Medinese jurist, Sa'id bin Musayyab regarded the Imam with highest esteem. Another great jurist, Az-Zuhri was also a great admirer and the honorific title Zayn al-Abidin (the ornament of the pious) was invested to the Imam by him.
Zayn al-Abidin died at the age of 57 years in 94/713. He lived 34 years after the event of Karbala. Ibn Hajar (d. 852/1449) in his 'Sawaik'l Muhriqah' quotes a tradition from Ibn Ishaq that there were many men in Medina, who knew nothing who provided them rations secretly, but they knew all about after the death of Zayn al-Abidin, who used to say, 'Secret alms-giving turns away divine wrath.' He used to carry on his back at night time sacks, full of loaves of bread for the poor. The traces of carrying burden were discovered on his back when his dead body was being washed for burial.
Zayn al-Abidin had seven wives by which he had 11 sons and 4 daughters. His first wife was Fatima bint Hasan bin Ali, who gave birth of Muhammad al-Bakir. His other sons were Abdullah, Zaid, Umar, Hasan, Hussain Akbar, Hussain Asghar, Abdur Rahman, Suleman, Ali Jawad and Asghar. His daughters were Khadija, Fatima, Umm Kulsum and Aliya.
His collection of prayers is known as 'Sahifa-i Kamilah' (the book of perfection), or also called 'Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya' (the scroll of Sajjad). Its collection was made by his sons, Muhammad al-Bakir and Zaid. Out of 75 prayers, 11 were lost and 8 are considered as apothyphal owing to anachronisms. In its present form, now consists of 71 prayers, and have been designed on the pattern of the Pslams of David containing 150 songs, and therefore, it is also named as 'Psalms of Ahl-al-Bait.'The prayers of 'Sahifa' also contains the notion of astronomy, the cosmos, the secrets of navigations etc. Examining the 43rd prayer, which the Imam had invocated while looking at the new moon, we will find the theory of 'rotation of moon', which reads as under:-
O thou, the obedient, toiling quick creature, who passeth through the fixed stages and moveth in the appointed orbit I believe in Him, Who illuminated with thee the darkness, and enlightened by thee the ambiguities, and instituted thee one of the signs of His sovereignty, and one of the emblems of His authority.
Once an astrologer went to Zayn al-Abidin, when Imam told him: 'I shall introduce you to a person whose journey, during the interval taken by you in coming to me, has extended to fourteen universes, of which each universe is three times as bigger as our earth, and all this has happened in spite of the fact that the person has not moved from his place.' The astronomer thereupon asked: 'Who is this personage?' Imam replied: 'It is I. If you wish I can tell you what you ate today at home, and what lies in your house.' In this tradition, however, those universes are referred to, every one of which is bigger than our earth, that is, of course nothing but our Solar System.
Abu Jafar Muhammad bin Ali, known as al-Bakir was born on 1st Rajab, 57/October 15, 677. He was about two years and half old during the event of Karbala, and assumed Imamate at the age of 37 years. He was noted for his generosity, devotion in piety and was peaceful by nature. He possessed extensive knowledge in religion matters, and because of that, according to Yaqubi, he was nicknamed al-Bakir (split open, or revealer of secret science), as it is said, 'tabaqqara al-rajulu fi'l aw fi'l mal'means 'the man became abundant in knowledge' or 'he enhanced himself in knowledge.' But according to Ibn Khallikan (1211-1282), he was so called because he collected an ample treasure or fund (tabaqqar) of knowledge. Thus, he was also called Baqir al-ulum (opener of the knowledge). Many jurists attracted by the fame of his learning. Among them were Muhammad bin Minkadir, Abu Hanifah an-Noman, Qatada bin Diama, Abdullah bin Muammar al-Laythi and Nafi bin Azraq etc.
The period of Muhammad al-Bakir is noted for the rule of the Umayyad caliph Suleman (96-99/ 715-717), Umar bin Abdul Aziz (99-101/ 717-720), Yazid II (101-105/720-724) and Hisham (105-125/724-743). He did not take part in the politics and passed most part of life calmly in Medina.
Fadak was a fertile tract in the vicinity of Khaibar under the Jewish occupation, just three miles from Medina, now the modern village of Howeyat. After the victory of Khaibar, Prophet Muhammad thought to destroy the strength of the Jews of this area, who were threat to Islam, therefore, he sent his envoy, Muhit to Yusha bin Nun, the chief of the village Fadak. The chief of the Jews preferred peace and surrendered to fighting. A peace treaty was concluded between Muhammad and the local Jews on the terms that 50% yield of Fadak would be surrendered to Muhammad each year by the Jews. It was a gift, and not a booty of war, and according to Islam, the areas which are conquered through wars are the property of all the Muslims, and the lands which fall into the hands of the Muslims without any military operation pertain to the personal property. When the Koranic verse: 'Give the kinsman his due, and the needy, and the wayfarer....' (17:26) was revealed, Muhammad called his daughter and made over Fadak to her. Suyuti writes in 'Dhurr'i Manthur' (4th vol., p. 176) that, 'Muhammad had bequeathed the ownership of the property of Fadak to his daughter, Fatima, and also executed a deed of gift in her favour, and her two sons.'
When Abu Bakr assumed the caliphate, he forfeited Fadak from Fatima. When she was informed of the usurpation of Fadak, she appeared before him and produced a legal deed of trust, and also produced the witnesses of Ali and Umm Aiman, which were totally disapproved by Abu Bakr. The confiscation of Fadak was perhaps one of the burning issues between the Shiites and Sunnites. The Umayyad caliph Umar bin Abdul Aziz, the Marcus Aureiius of the Arabs, a virtuous ruler and a God-fearing Muslim, finally handed over the property of Fadak to Muhammad al-Bakir as the sole heir of Fatima.
Like his father, Muhammad al-Bakir was politically quiescent and refrained from openly putting forward any claim. During his time, there was a rival claimant for the allegiance of the Shiites. This was his half-brother, Zaid, who advocated a more politically active role for the Imam and was prepared to accommodate to a certain extent the view-point of the majority of Muslims by acknowledging the caliphates of Abu Bakr and Umar.
Zaid had asserted a claim to the Imamate on the basis that it belonged to the descendant of Ali and Fatima, who must come forward publicly for his claims for Imamate and Caliphate. He believed that if an Imam wanted to be recognized, he had to claim his right with a sword in hand. Thus, the first Alid of the Hussainid line who rose against the Umayyads was Zaid.
The popularity of Zaid's movement overshadowed Muhammad al-Bakir's efforts to attacking only the friends and followers of Zaid. Nevertheless, he did not hesitate to contest Zaid's claim. However, al-Bakir and Zaid quarrelled over this point, for when the latter asserted that an Imam must rise against the oppressors, the former remarked: 'So you deny that your own father was an Imam, for he never contested the issue.' The disagreement between al-Bakir and Zaid had arisen when the latter incorporated the teachings of a Mutazilite, Wasil bin Ata. In the course of time, al-Bakir succeeded in winning back some of those who had gone over to Zaid. The most important of them were Zurara bin Ayan, his brother Humran, and Hamza bin Muhammad bin Abdullah at-Tayyar etc.
Zaid, by adhering to Wasil bin Ata and his doctrines, gained good support of the Mutazilites, and his acceptance of the legitimacy of the first two caliphs earned him the full sympathy of the traditionist circles. Finally, Zaid's revolt against the Umayyads took place in Safar, 122/December, 740 when he came forward and summoned the people to espouse his cause. Zaid was warned by his brother, Muhammad bin Ali bin Hussain, not to put any reliance on the people of Kufa, but Zaid did not notice his brother's warning and led the Kufans in a vain rebellion. This occurred in the reign of caliph Hisham. Yousuf bin Umar Thaqafi, the governor of the two Iraks, dispatched Abbas al-Murri with an army against Zaid. He was struck by an arrow, and died of his wound. Zaid's son Yahya fled to Khorasan and led an uprising after three years. He too was overcome, and killed in 125/743 and met the same fate as his father. Later on, the Zaidiyya recognized no designation for the Imamate, nor any strict hereditary principle. Thus the movement of Zaid however ended in failure, paved the way for other claimants and offered ready ground for a more effective revolt.
Muhammad al-Bakir was the first to establish the start of legal school of Ahl-al-Bait in view of the prevalent milieu. Kashi records for us an important tradition in his 'Rijal' (p. 289) that, 'Before the Imamate of Muhammad al-Bakir, the Shias did not know what was lawful and what was unlawful, except what they learned from the people; until Abu Jafar (al-Bakir) became the Imam, and he taught them and explained to them the knowledge (of law), and they began to teach other people from whom they were previously learning.' This tradition clearly indicates that until the time of Muhammad al-Bakir, there were hardly any differences in legal practices among the Shiites of Medina, Kufa and elsewhere. This was an earliest move in the formation of the Shiite jurisprudence.
Ibn Taus related that once caliph Hisham bin Abdul Malik visited Mecca on pilgrimage. On that occasion, Muhammad al-Bakir and his son Jafar Sadik were in Kaba, where the latter delivered the following speech:-
'I thank God Who conferred the honour of Prophethood on Muhammad and made all of us august through him. We are therefore the chosen and elected caliphs of God on earth. He who follows us is blessed. He who opposes us is unfortunate.'
Hisham's brother communicated the words of the above speech to Hisham, who at that time remained silent. He returned to Damascus and wrote to his governor of Medina to send al-Bakir and his son. Thus, both father and son went to Damascus, where they had to wait for three days in the city, and were summoned at the court on fourth day. Hisham was sitting on his throne, and there was staged a platform for arrow shooting (rami al-nushshab) in the middle. Hisham asked al-Bakir to shoot arrows, but the latter wanted to be excused on the ground that he was too weak and incapable for it. When Hisham insisted repeatedly, al-Bakir took the arrow and bow and shot. It hit the bull's eye with the first arrow. He then shot another arrow at the first arrow's target, and process continued nine times one after another. Hisham exclaimed: 'O' Abu Jafar! what a good shooting performance it is? I have never seen a perfect archer like you.' Thereupon, a religious deliberation was held between al- Bakir and Hisham, and in the course of which the former quoted authorities from the Koran and the traditions, and the caliph was silenced. Both father and son at last retired in the court and took their way back to Medina.
After leaving Damascus, they saw a huge crowd on the way to Medina. On enquiring, it was known that a crowd of Christian priests and monks had assembled to have a glimpse of a great saint. When the saint's eyes fell on Muhammad al-Bakir, he asked him whether he was one of them or not. Imam replied that he belonged to the blessed nation of Prophet Muhammad. The saint asked him many questions, which were replied to him. Muhammad al-Bakir told him that, 'The religion of Jesus Christ is true, but it is too old. While the religion of Muhammad is fresh. As the fresh food is essential for the body, so is the fresh religion for the soul.' The tradition has it that it deeply impressed the saint, who is said to have embraced Islam.
Hisham had issued a public circular to his officials that none should host al-Bakir and his son on their way to Medina, as they were the magicians from the progeny of Abu Turab. When both of them reached Madain, about seven leagues below Baghdad, occupying both banks of the Tigris; they found the people full of hatred towards them. Both of them went from one end of the town to the other, but none showed them any courtesy or sold anything to them, and closed the doors in their face. Muhammad al-Bakir soon ascended the hillock near the town, and recited loudly the verses of the Koran (11:84-95), revealed in connection with Prophet Shu'aib, and declared, 'O people, now we alone are the recipients of Divine Mercy on the face of the earth.'
It must be known on this juncture that Shu'aib was among the descendant of Abraham, who was deputed by God to guide the people of Madain and Alikah. Besides the other vices, the people were notorious in two things, in which every one of them was involved. Firstly, they were professional highway robbers. Secondly, they used to take more while measuring and gave less to the wayfarers. Shu'aib preached amendments to their evil habits and wickedness in character, but of no avail. The whole habitation was finally ruined by death and destruction.
The people of the town went up to their house-tops and listened the words of Muhammad al-Bakir. One of them was an old man, who shouted, 'Beware of the Divine wrath. This man is standing at a place, where Shu'aib stood and cursed the people, and were chastised by God.' The people were much afraid and opened their doors and apologized for their mistake.
Caliph Abdul Malik is credited to have regulated monetary system in Islamic states. By putting together the evidence from a variety of sources, one sees that an attempt had already been made during the caliphate of Ali bin Abu Talib to start the Islamic coins, which could not be continued due to the then political cataclysm in the Islamic state. Maurice Lombard writes in 'The Golden Age of Islam' (Netherlands, 1975, p. 110) that, 'The Caliph Ali was the first to attempt a reform, at Basra in 660, by introducing a Muslim dhiram with the inscriptions in Kufic script, but this attempt failed. Forty years later it was again introduced and this time it succeeded.'
The Roman gold dinar and the Iranian silver dhiram had been in circulation in the Arabian regions. One dinar weighed 4.25 grams, inscribed with the Christian symbol of cross; while a dhiram weighed 1.40 grams. The Muslim kingdoms had no currency for their own, and were entirely dependent on the foreign currency for their transactions. Abdul Malik was perplexed by the situation and called for a meeting of the grand consultative assembly, in which Muhammad al-Bakir was also invited. The proposal for minting Islamic coins had been accepted in the meeting, but when the question of its inscription arose, al-Bakir recommended for the Islamic legends on both sides of the coin, which had been also approved. Thus, the first Islamic coin was struck in 76/695 in the mint installed at Damascus. The gold coin was dinar, the silver coin called dhiram, and the copper coin was named fals. These bore Islamic inscriptions, and were standardized both in weight and metal.
It is said that al-Bakir summed up the persecutions since the demise of Prophet Muhammad to his period in these words: 'Since the death of the Prophet, the Ahl-al-Bait have continued being humiliated, inflicted with pains, maltreated, put under trials, deprived of their rights, murdered, frightened. We did not find any security for our own blood and for our friends. The liars and deniers of our rights found a good pretext for their lies in order to be in the good books of their masters and bad judges and governors in every town. They told them fabricated traditions and reported of us those things which we never said nor had we done, in order to instigate people against us. The reign of Muawiya after the death of Hasan was prime period for such activities. In every town, our friends were killed; their hands and feet were amputated on mere doubt. Whoever mentioned our names with love was imprisoned, his property confiscated and his house pulled down. These calamities got severer and increased during the rule of Ubaidullah bin Ziyad, the murderer of Hussain. Then came Hijjaj. He killed them in cold blood and arrested them on doubt. So much so that the man who declared a pagan or kafir was dearer to him than the one who called himself a friend of Ali.' ('Ad-Darajat-ur-Rafiah fi Tabaqatil Imamiya min Shiah' by Sayed Ali Khan, cf. 'Shiite Encyclopaedia' by Hassan al-Amin, 1st vol., p. 29).
In 106/725, caliph Hisham visited Mecca on pilgrimage when Muhammad al- Bakir was also in the city. Hisham found al-Bakir sitting among his followers, therefore, he sent one amazing question in the presence of al-Bakir, so that he might not give its answer and become discredited before his followers. Hisham's question was 'What will the people eat and drink on the day of judgement, till the time their reckoning is finished?' Imam replied that, 'There will be abundance of fruits and rivers on that place, from which they shall continue to avail till such time as their reckoning is finished.' Hisham had intended thereby to bring censure on al-Bakir in the open assembly. He was mighty gratified at this answer, thinking that it would provide him with an excuse for his designs. He therefore sent a counter-question that, 'Due to the fear of their accounts, how it is possible that the people will have the sense of eating.' Imam said, 'Go, and tell to Hisham that the sense of eating and drinking will be also among those people, who had been already cast into the hell. Does Hisham not read the Koranic verse, in which it is mentioned that, 'And shall call the inmates of the (hell) fire unto the inmates of the garden (of paradise), saying: Pour on us of the water or of what God hath provided you with; They shall say: Verily, God hath forbidden both to the infidels.' (7:50) On hearing this, Hisham was dumb founded and in his mind he had to admit the merits of al-Bakir.
Al-Bakir articulated the implication of the doctrine of taqiya in Shiism, and we may attribute the rudiments of its theory to him. But it was left to his son and successor, Jafar Sadik to give it a final form and make it an absolute condition of the faith.
Many leading jurists used to visit al-Bakir to discuss the legal problems. Among them were Muhammad bin Minkadir, Abu Hanifah an-Noman, Qatada bin Diama, Abdullah bin Mu'ammar and al-Laythi etc. He greatly emphasised also on the importance of knowledge and its romotion. Kulaini quotes in 'al-Kafi' (1st vol.,p. 89 and 104) that he said, 'Acquire knowledge and adorn it with forbearance and reverence. Be humble to those whom you give knowledge and also to those from you acquired it. Never be among the harsh tempered scholars. Lest you should forfeit your title because of your wrong and harsh demeanour.' He also said, 'The divine tax on knowledge is to teach it to God's creatures.'
Mirkhwand (d. 903/1498) writes in 'Rawzatus Safa' that, 'Neither the pen can write, nor the tongue can describe the merits and the traditions of al-Bakir.' Shibli Nomani writes in 'Sirat-i Numan' (Lahore, 1972, p. 28) that, 'Abu Hanifah sat for a long time at Imam Baqir's feet and acquired from him much valuable knowledge of fiqah and hadith not available anywhere else. Shiahs and Sunnis are agreed that Abu Hanifah derived much of his learning from Baqir.'
Muhammad al-Bakir died in 117/735, and was buried in the Baqi cemetery near his father's grave.
Muhammad al-Bakir had four wives, the first being Umm Farwa bint Kassim bin Muhammad bin Abu Bakr, who gave birth of Jafar Sadik and Abdullah al-Fatah. The second wife, Umm Hakeem bint Asad bin Mughira Thaqafi had two sons, Ibrahim and Abdullah. The third wife was Layla, who gave birth of Ali and Zainab. While Umm Salma was the daughter being born by the fourth wife.
Ibn Hajar writes in his 'Sawaik'l Muhriqa' (p. 120) that, 'Imam Muhammad Bakir has disclosed the secrets of knowledge and wisdom and unfolded the principles of spiritual and religious guidance. Nobody can deny his exalted character, his God- given knowledge, his divinely-gifted wisdom and his obligation and gratitude towards spreading of knowledge. He was a sacred and highly talented spiritual leader and for this reason he was popularly titled al-Bakir which means the exponder of knowledge. Kind of heart, spotless in character, sacred by soul and noble by nature, the Imam devoted all his time in submission to God. It is beyond the power of a man to count the deep impression of knowledge and guidance left by the Imam on the hearts of the faithfuls. His sayings in devotion and abstinence, in knowledge and wisdom and in religious exercise and submission to God are so great in number that the volume of this book is quite insufficient to cover them all.'
Much has been recorded about Muhammad al-Bakir's person and extraordinary qualities. Once he said, 'The height of perfection is excellence in the understanding of the religion' and 'The scholar who derives benefit from his knowledge is better than seventy thousand devotees.' He strove to impress people by his extensive knowledge on religion as well as science. Himself a student of science had once said: 'Air contains a combustible energy, and if it is isolated, and comes in our hand in its purest form; it will cause a big combustible energy that can even melt away an iron.' Firstly, he indicates an existence of oxygen in air, which constitutes approximately 20% of the atmosphere. Oxygen was first isolated by a clergyman and chemist, Joseph Priestly (1733-1804) in 1774, and independently by Karl Scheele (1742-1786) at about the same period, and it was recognised as fire-air to be the promoter of combustion. But Lavoisier (1743-1794), a French chemist was the first to demonstrate the true nature of combution as an oxidation reaction and to give oxygen its modern name. Secondly, Muhammad al-Bakir indicates its power to melt an iron. There are some 40 variants of melting an iron. The oxy-Acetylene Gas is a dominant process for welding and melting an iron, and therefore, the oxyacetylene torch was invented in 1901 by Edmund Fouche.
Abu Abdullah Jafar bin Muhammad was born, according to Yaqubi (2nd vol., p. 381) in 80/699 at Medina. Ibn Khallikan (1st vol., p. 327) and others also determine his birth from the event of Amm al-Juhaf (the year of the flood) in Mecca, which according to Tabari (2nd vol., p. 320) occured in 80/699.
According to the Arabic lexicon, jafar means 'stream'. His father had referred to him 'the best of all mankind' and 'one in charge of the family of Muhammad' (qaim al-Muhammad). He is also known by the titles of al-Sadik (trustworthy), al-Sabir(patient), al-Tahir (pure one) and al-Fazil (excellent one).
For the first 14 years of his life, he was brought up under the care of his grandfather, Zayn al-Abidin. He observed the latter's acts of clarity, his love for long series of prostrations and prayers as well as the withdrawal from politics. He spent 23 years under his father, and assumed the Imamate at the age of 34 years.
His fame for religious learning was great. According to Yaqubi, it was customary for scholars, who related anything from Jafar Sadik, used to say: 'the Learned One informed us'. Even Malik bin Anas (d. 179/795), the famous jurist of Medina, is reported to have said when quoting Jafar Sadik's traditions: 'The thiqa (truthful) Jafar bin Muhammad himself told me that ...' Abu Hanifah (d. 150/767) is also reported to have been Imam's pupil for two years. Shibli Nomani writes in 'Sirat-i Numan' (pp. 28-29) that, 'Abu Hanifah learned a great deal from Imam Baqir's son, Jafar Sadik also, which fact is generally mentioned in the history books. Ibn Taimiyyah, however, denies this on the ground that Abu Hanifah and Jafar Sadiq were contemporaries and equals, which ruled out the probability of the former being the latter's pupil. But I consider this sheer impudence and lack of comprehension on Ibn Taimiyyah's part. For all his greatness as an original thinker and master of fiqah, Abu Hanifah could not compare in learning with Imam Jafar Sadiq. The Ahl-al-Bait were the fountain-head of Hadith and fiqah and, in fact, all religious learning. `The master of the house knows best what is in it', to quote a well-known Arabic saying.' Abu Hanifah also attended many lectures of Jafar Sadik. Inspite of many differences of opinion with the Imam, he was deeply influenced by him. Donaldson goes even beyond saying that he was one of Jafar Sadik's pupils, vide 'The Shiite Religion' (London, 1933, p. 132)
The house of Jafar Sadik in Medina took a real shape of a regular academy, where a galaxy of talented scholars of jurisprudence, traditions, philosophy, exegesis and theology attended the studies. It was perhaps the first academy in Islam in respect of Islamic ideology which Jafar Sadiq founded in Medina. The concourse of the varied minds in Medina gave an impetus to the cultivation of science and literature, where a stream of unusual intellectual activity flowed towards other Islamic states, and soon led to the growth of philosophical tendencies among the Muslims.
The period of Jafar Sadik saw the most crucial time of Islamic history, both in political and religious spheres. We will cast a rapid glance at the political upheavals of the period under review. Jafar Sadik witnessed 3 years of the rule of Abdul Malik, the Umayyad ruler, 9 years and 8 months of Walid bin Abdul Malik, 3 years and 3 months of Suleman, 2 years and 5 months of Umar bin Abdul Aziz, 4 years and 1 month of Yazid bin Abdul Malik, 10 years of Hisham bin Abdul Malik, 1 year of Walid bin Yazid and 6 months of Yazid bin Walid; till finally the empire of the Umayyads ended in 132/750 by the Abbasids. It implies that the period of Jafar Sadik may be said to consist of two parts. During the first part, while the Umayyads were in power, the Imam was engaged in teaching quietly at home in Medina. During the second part, the Abbasids were in power after the fall of the Umayyads of Damascus in 132/750. The Umayyad empire was overthrown by the huge upheaval lead by Abu Muslim Khorasani, and the Abbasid caliphate came into existence with Abul Abbas as- Saffah as the first caliph. Hence, Jafar Sadik also witnessed the rule of as-Saffah (132-136/750-754) and Mansur (136-158/ 754-775). In sum, Jafar Sadik absolutely remained away from political arena.
Heretofore, we have examined that Mukhtar Thaqafi appeared in Kufa as a revenger of Hussain's blood after the event of Karbala. He failed to win support from Imam Zayn al-Abidin in his movement. He then turned to Ibn al-Hanafiya, whom he declared as an Imam and a promised Mahdi. Ibn al-Hanafiya did not repudiate Mukhtar's propaganda, and maintained a non-committal attitude, but his name became slogans for Mukhtar to gain public supports. Mukhtar was killed in 67/687, and the death of Ibn al-Hanafiya also took place in 81/700. Abu Hashim, the eldest son of Ibn al-Hanafiya however continued the mission originated by Mukhtar, and his followers then became known as Kaysaniyas. Various explanations are given to this name, but the Kaysan in question was almost certainly the man with the kunya Abu Amra, who was the most distinguished of the mawali supporting Mukhtar. The name was widely given to men of Alid sympathies during the later part of the Umayyad rule and was presumably a pejorative nickname first applied by opponents in order to discredit the group. Abu Hashim was poisoned by the Umayyad caliph Hisham, but before his death in 98/718, he quickly rushed to Humayma, and bequeathed his right to the caliphate and charge of the Kaysaniya sect to Muhammad bin Ali as he had no son.
Abbas, the uncle of Holy Prophet had a son, Abdullah, who never tried to establish his own caliphate. Abdullah and his son, Ali bin Abdullah resided in Humayma. It was the latter's son, Muhammad bin Ali to have taken the charge of Kaysaniya sect from the dying Abu Hashim. Thus, the house of Abbas inherited the party and organisation of Abu Hashim along with his claims. Muhammad bin Ali led the Kaysaniya sect, and propagated in the name of Ahl-al-Bait, declaring that the caliph should be from Alid descent and the Umayyads had no right to rule. It was mere an ostensible slogan to procure wide supports of the Alids and nourish future political ambition. Muhammad bin Ali died before attaining his objective and handed on his claims to his son, Ibrahim. He began to dispatch emissaries, starting with Khorasan, where the bulk of the Kaysaniya faction resided.
In the meantime, the newly acclaimed Umayyad calipha Marwan sought to strike at the centre of the whole movement by arresting Ibrahim. He is said to have strangled him as Yaqubi writes, by having his head put into a bag of lime until he died. But Ibrahim had two brothers, Abul Abbas and Abu Jafar Mansur, both of whom escaped to Khorasan. And very soon these two brothers returned, supported by Abu Muslim's victorious troops, to lead the insurgents in their final struggle in the West. Their way had been prepared for them in Kufa by propaganda that had been carried on for more than twelve years.
In Kufa, the local representive Abu Salama Hafs, the Kaysaniyan follower of Abu Hashim, known as Wazir-i Al-i Muhammad was very popular figure. Tabari (3rd vol., p. 27) writes that, 'When the news of the death of Ibrahim reached Kufa, Abu Salama on the suggestion and advice of some other Shias of Kufa, intended to establish the Imamate of Alids.' Accordingly, he wrote letters to Imam Jafar Sadik, Abdullah al- Mahd and Umar bin Ali Zayn al-Abidin, asking each one of them in turn to come to Kufa in person and he would support their claims of Imamate. The messenger was instructed first to contact Jafar Sadik, and only if he refused, then to go to Abdullah al-Mahd, and in case of his refusal, to Umar bin Ali Zayn al-Abidin. When the messenger presented the letter first to Jafar Sadik, the latter called for a lamp, burned the letter and said to the messenger, 'Tell your master what you have seen' (vide Ibn Tiqtaqa's 'al-Fakhri fi'l Adab as-Sultaniya', Cairo, 1966, p. 109). The messenger then came to Abdullah al-Mahd, who readily accepted the offer.
Meanwhile, things took a reverse turn for the Abbasid family. The army commanded by Abul Abbas and Abu Jafar Mansur, had come from Khorasan to Kufa, where they found the city decorated in black, the accepted colour of the Abbasids, and the people who crowded to the mosque also wore black clothes and black turbans with black banners planted in hands. Abu Salama led the prayers, after which he announced that Abu Muslim had now made it possible for the world of Islam to shake itself free from the Umayyads, and declared that it was to this end that he called upon them to recognize Abul Abbas, the brother of the murdered Ibrahim, as their rightful Imam and Caliph. Abul Abbas mounted the pulpit and made his inaugural speech, in which he named himself as as-Saffah (blood-shedder) and 'identified the glory of God with his own interest and those of his house. He named the Abbasids as the Ahl-al-Bait from whom uncleanliness was removed, and denined that the Alids were more worthy of the caliphate.' (vide Tabari, 3rd vol., p. 29). His speech was followed by a speech from his uncle, Daud bin Ali, who also emphasized that the rights of the Abbasids were legally inherited and there were but two legal caliphs in Islam: Ali bin Abu Talib and Abbas as-Saffah. He added that the caliphate would remain in the hands of the Abbasids until they passed it over to Isa bin Marium. (vide Tabari, 3rd vol., p. 31; Yaqubi, 2nd vol., p. 350 and Masudi, 3rd vol., p. 256). The excited crowd expressed their approval and gave their allegiance to Abul Abbas as the first caliph of the Abbasid caliphate in 132/750.
Marwan, the Umayyad caliph was at that time advancing towards Kufa with a huge army. He encountered the army from Khorasan at a point on the greater Zab river, and the battle of Zab lasted for two days. It was closely contested struggle, and the day was turned when Marwan's horse ran away without its rider. He managed to escape, but was eventually discovered and killed.
So fell the last of the Umayyads in 132/750. The total duration of the Umayyad rule till the time when Abul Abbas assumed the power of the Abbasid rule was 90 years, 11 months and 13 days.
The Alids were totally disappointed while seeing the Abbasids taking power in the name of Ahl-al-Bait. The first task before Abbas as-Saffah therefore was to break the alliance with the Alids who were yet strong and could be dangerous. During his short rule of less than four years, he was kept fully occupied in meeting numerous insurrections and in ruthlessly killing those Alids who were suspected. The first to pay his life was Abu Salama. Abul Abbas died in 136/754, during which period, the Alids in Medina, disorganized by the frustration of their hopes, kept quiet. But when Abu Jafar Mansur, the brother of Abul Abbas as-Saffah assumed the caliphate, the Alids embittered by the usurpation of their rights by the house of Abbas, began to voice their complaints. An-Nafs az-Zakiyya, the son of Abdullah al- Mahd openly refused to take oath of allegiance to Mansur. The traditionalists circle of Medina supported him and upheld his cause. According to Tabari (3rd. vol., p. 200), 'Malik bin Anas declared that the oath sworn to the Abbasids was no longer binding as it had been taken under compulsion.'
Soon afterwards in 137/755, Abu Muslim was lured to Iraq and murdered. In 141/758, Mansur massacred a group of the Rawandiyya who besieged his palace. Caliph Mansur thus had to face the most threatening opposition from the Alids to the newly established authority of his house. He firstly concentrated his efforts on two basic points. The first was to justify the rights of his house on religious ground. The second was to gain for his caliphate the acceptance of the Muslims. The sources agree to mention that caliph Mansur also persecuted Imam Jafar Sadik many times, but the latter retained his equanimity.
The Abbasids had also adopted a very cruel policy towards the Umayyads, and many members of the family were ruthlessly executed. Some Umayyads, however, escaped and sought refuge among the nomadic tribes, one of them being Abdur Rehman (138-173/756- 788), the grandson of Hisham. He escaped to Rah, near Euphrates, where he began to prepare for the long journey to Africa, where few other Umayyad princes had already taken refuge. On 1st Shawal, 138/March 8, 756, he entered Archidona, the capital of Regio, where he was declared an amir. Hence, he became the king of the Umayyads in the southern districts of Spain.
Returning to the thread of our main narratives, it is recounted that Jafar Sadik died in 148/765 in Medina after the Imamate of 34 years and 7 months. Upon his death the Imamate devolved upon his elder son, Ismail.
Jafar Sadik had seven sons and four daughters. His first wife was Fatima. For the first 25 years he had only two sons by his first wife, Ismail and Abdullah and a daughter Umm Farwa. His second wife was Hamida, the mother of Musa Kazim and Muhammad. Besides, Abbas, Ali, Asma and Fatima were also the children of Jafar Sadik.
The butchery of Karbala and the sack of Medina had almost led to the closing of the lecture-room of the Imams in Medina. With the appearance of Jafar Sadik as the head of Muhammad's descedants, it acquired a new lease of life.
Abu Amr Muhammad al-Kashani writes in 'Marifat Akhbar ar-rijal' (p. 249) that once Jafar Sadik was pointed out by his disciples for wearing fine apparel, a variant of clothes from Marw, while his ancestors had worn rude and simple garments. He replied that his ancestors had lived in a time of scarcity, while he lived in a time of plenty, and that it was proper to wear the clothing of one's own time.
Extremely liberal and rationalistic in his teachings, Jafar Sadik was also a scholar, a poet, and a philosopher, well grounded in some of the foreign languages; he impressed a distinct philosophical character on the Medinite school. W.Ivanow (1886-1970) writes in 'Ismailis and Qarmatians' (JBBRAS, Bombay, 1940, p. 54) that, 'Jafar Sadik chiefly emphasized the tendency of moderation and sobriety in religious beliefs, i.e., exactly the qualities which strike us so much in early Ismailism.'
And Jafar Sadik was a scientist besides. We cannot but invite attention to a fact that Jabir bin Hayyan (103/721-200/815), known as Geber, the father of modern chemistry, worked with the materials gathered by Jafar Sadik in Medina, who referred to his Lord in his writings as 'My Master' and 'A mine of wisdom.' The intellectuals in Renaissance in Europe greatly took benefits from the treatises of Jabir bin Hayyan, and these were translated into Latin, German, French and English. He is world-famed as the father of Arabic Alchemy. The word al-kimiya is usually said to be derived from the Egyptian kam-it or kem-it (the black), or some have thought, from the Greek chyma (molten metal).
According to 'The Cultural Atlas of Islam' (New York, 1986, p. 328) by Ismail al-Faruqi and Lois al-Faruqi that, 'In response to Jafar al-Sadik's wishes, he invented a kind of paper that resisted fire, and an ink that could be read at night. He invented an additive which, when applied to an iron surface, inhabited rust and when applied to a textile, would make it water repellent.' Jabir bin Hayyan defined chemical combination as union of the elements together in small particles too small for the naked eyes to see without loss of their character, as John Dalton (1766-1844), the English chemist and physicist was to discover ten centuries later. He was however first to describe the processes of calcination and reduction, improved the methods of evaporation, sublimation, melting and crystallisation; prepared acetic acid, sulphric acid, nitric acid and the mixture of the last two, in which gold and silver could be dissolved; discovered several chemical compounds, and separated antimony and arsenic from the sulphides.
One of the renowned titles of Jafar Sadik was kashiful haqaiq means 'one who reveals mysteries', and also muhaqiq means 'researcher.' The reason for investing him such titles was that he had disclosed many wonderful scientific theories then unknown to the Arab world. For instance, it is related that once Jafar Sadik said: 'God has created a planet with cold water on the seventh heaven, and other six planets have been created with hot water.' This is an explicit discovery of a planet, called Pluto. Clyde Tombaugh however discovered it photographically on January 21, 1930 at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona. The word seventh heaven signifies the most distant planet in the solar system, as its distance is 3.67 billion miles (5.9 billion km.) from the sun. Being remote in distance, the rays of the sun reach very mild, resulting the temperature as low as 360 degree F (or -218 degree C), and thus it remains frozen. On account of its coldness, Jafar Sadik expounded the creation of Pluto with cold water. He was therefore the first to report the very existence of Pluto.
In Arabic astronomy, kawakib is the general term for the luminous heavenly bodies, and thus the word al-kawakib al-sayyarah means 'the planets as opposed the stars' or it is known as al-kawakib al-thabitah. Only five planets (kawakib) were known to the Arabs in pre-Islamic period, known as al-kawakib al-khamsa or al-mutahayyira.When the Greek science had been translated (between 133/750 and 287/900) in the Arabian peninsula in the time of Jafar Sadik, the Arabian astrologers accepted the theory of six planets by adding zuhul (Saturn) in their study. Thus, the three planets below the sphere of the sun were known as 'the lower planets' (al-kawakib al-sufliyah) viz. Venus (zuhrah), Mercury (utarid) and the Moon (qamar). While the other three planets beyond the sphere of the sun were called 'the high planets' (al-kawakib al-ulwiyah) viz. Saturn (zuhul), Jupiter (mushtari) and Mars (marikh). The credit therefore, for reporting the existence of Pluto for the first time goes to Jafar Sadik when the instrument observing the heavenly bodies was not then invented.
There is also another astronomical discovery by Jafar Sadik, who once asked a Syrian astrologer, 'How much is the light of sukainah less than that of Venus (zuhrah)?' The astrologer said, 'I swear upon God that I never heard until today even the name of this planet.' This tradition most unambiguously indicates the very existence of one another planet which was also unknown then, but it had been discovered with the help of telescope by the English astronomer, William Herschel in 1781, known as Uranus. The Arabic word sukainah is derived from sukun means 'rest', and how appropriate a name it is for Uranus, which would appear from the slow and restful way in which it completes its revolution round the sun, and as a result it is called a 'fainter planet'. Jafar Sadik spoke in the same breath of two such different planets as Venus and Uranus, the former being bright and rapid, and the latter a very faint, slow moving orb.
Jafar Sadik is said to have propounded few other important scientific theories in his discourses. For instance, he once said: 'The visual rays of an object enter in our eyes, whose only one part flashes in our eyes, resulting our unability to perceive an object so easy which is far from us. The rays of an object lying at a distance can be totally entered in our eyes and we can see it very closely, provided an instrument is invented, through which the rays of a farthest object can enter in the eyes, and then the camels in the desert, grazing at a distance of 3000 yards, will be seen at a distance of 60 yards. It means that the grazing camels will be seen 50 times nearer.' This is perhaps the first correction of the theories of 'sight rays' as expounded by Euclid (330-226 B.C.) and Ptolemy (9-168 A.D.), which were supposed to radiate out of eyes onto object. Later on, the theory of Jafar Sadik had been accepted after many experiments by the renowned scientist of Fatimids period, called Ibn al-Haytham (354-429/965-1039), known as Alhazen. His acclaimed treatise on optics, namely 'Kitab al-Manazir' was translated into Latin under the title 'Opticae Thesaurus Alhazeni' in 1270 by Witelo. Afterwards, it was published by Frederick Risner at Basel in 1572. According to Ibn al-Haytham, 'It is not a ray leaving the eyes that causes sight! It is far more the form of the perceived object that radiates onto the eye and is converted by its transparent body.'
Jafar Sadik further recommended for an invention of an instrument to watch an object of a remote distance 50 times nearer. Hence, the European scientist, Roger Bacon (1220-1292) had also proposed for such instrument, bringing an object 50 times near to our sight. Later on, the Italian scientist Gailileo (1564-1642) was destined to invent the suggestive instrument, that is, telescope in 1610; whose functions absolutely based on the theory of Jafar Sadik, bringing an object visible 50 times closer to its actual distance.