History of the Saracens/Ali
ALI EBN ABU TALEB, SON-IN-LAW OF MOHAMMED, AND FOURTH CALIPH.
Hejirah 35-40. a.d. 655-661.
The unanimity of the Arabians in the profession of a common faith, however apparently complete, was, nevertheless, not strong enough to eradicate old feuds and hereditary hatreds. Telha and Zobeir, two of their leading men, and Ayesha, the youngest and best beloved of Mohammed’s wives, were Ali’s irreconcileable and implacable enemies, But Ali had married Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed, who had left no male issue behind him; and on this account he was the general favourite of the Arabians, whose first wish now was to be governed by a succession of caliphs descended from the loins of the prophet. Of this Telha and Zobeir were so well aware, that they thought it prudent to dissemble their hatred so far, as to take the oath of allegiance to Ali, who was elected on the very day that Othman was murdered, with a stedfast resolution, however, of breaking it as soon as a favourable opportunity should offer. For the men of the several provinces, who, as already related, had come together from all quarters of the empire, from Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, and Arabia, on occasion of the complaints against Othman, were resolved not to separate until they knew whom they were to look up to as their emperor. Impatient of suspense, they threatened all the candidates with death if they did not speedily agree among themselves, and fix upon some one or other.
The Cufians, Egyptians, and the greatest part of the Arabians were for Ali. A part of the Bassorians favoured Telha, but the rest supported Zobeir; threatening him, however, with death, if he did not either assume the government himself, or take care to see it conferred upon some other person. In this confusion several of the candidates came to Ali, desiring him to accept the government. Upon his excusing himself, and assuring them that he had no wish for the dignity, but was quite ready to give his consent to the election of any other person on whom their choice should fall, they insisted that there was none so well qualified as he, whether he were considered with regard to his personal accomplishments, or his near relation to the prophet. But to all their remonstrances he still replied, that he had much rather serve any other whom they should think fit to choose, in the capacity of vizier, than take the government upon himself.
Ali being thus obstinate in his refusal, and all those of the family of Ommiyah (of whom more hereafter) that had an opportunity, having in the meantime withdrawn themselves, the greater part of the men from the several provinces, who, however well satisfied they were with the murder of Othman, were highly displeased at this difficulty in the choice of his successor, assembled together, and came in a tumultuous body into Medina. Addressing themselves to the chief inhabitants, they told them that they were the proper persons to determine this controversy, adding that they would allow there one day to consider of it, in which time, if it was not concluded, Telha, Zobeir, Ali, and several others, should be put to the sword. Upon this the people of Medina came to Ali in the evening, earnestly entreating him to consider the condition of their religion. But as he still declined to accept the caliphate, and desired them to think of some other person, they said, “We adjure thee by God! dost not thou consider in what condition we are? Dost not thou consider the religion? Dost not thou consider the distraction of the people? Dost thou not fear God?” Overcome at last with these pathetical expostulations, he answered, “If you will excuse me, there shall be no other difference between you and me but this, that, whosoever you may set over me, I will prove myself one of his most submissive and obedient subjects; but if not, and I must comply with your wishes in this matter, then I will deal with you according to the best of my knowledge.” When, upon these words, they proffered to give him their hands (the form then in use among them upon such occasions), at his own house, he resolved not to accept of their allegiance in private, requiring them to go through the ceremony publicly at the mosque, in order that all parties might be satisfied, and have no just cause of complaint. For Ali was apprehensive of the intrigues of Ayesha, Telha, Zobeir, and the whole house of Ommiyah (of which Moawiyah, Othman’s lieutenant in Syria, was chief), who, he knew, would avail themselves of every opportunity to oppose and disturb his government. In the morning, therefore, he went to the mosque, dressed in a thin cotton gown, tied about him with a girdle, and having a coarse turban upon his head, with his slippers in one hand, and a bow in the other instead of a walking staff. Telha and Zobeir not being present, he ordered them to be sent for. When they came, they offered him their hands as a mark or token of their approbation. Upon this, Ali bade them, if they did do it, to be in good earnest, assuring them that if either of them would accept of the government, he was quite content, and would give them his hand in perfect sincerity. This, however, they both declined, and gave him theirs. The hand which Telha offered to Ali had been very much shattered and maimed by some wounds which he had received in the wars. One of the bystanders perceiving this (the eastern nations, being generally addicted to superstition, are great observers of omens), remarked, that it was a bad sign; that it was like to be but a lame sort of a business that was begun with a lame hand. How far that presage was fulfilled will best appear from the remaining history of Ali.
Soon after this ceremony was over, Telha and Zobeir, with some others of their party, came to Ali, and complained to him of the murder of Othman; insinuating that it ought by all means to be revenged, and proffering their service to that end. Their secret design was, if Ali attempted to punish the murderers, to take advantage of the opportunity to make a disturbance among the people, which they did not in the least question would inevitably end in the destruction of Ali and his party. Ali, who well understood their meaning, represented to them how impracticable an undertaking it would be to attempt anything of the kind against a party so considerable both in numbers and influence; desiring them to inform him what method they would propose as best suited to answer their end. They told him they knew of none. Nor he neither, he swore, unless it were the uniting of all parties together, if it should so please God: adding, that as these dissensions had their foundation laid in the times of ignorance (meaning that they were family quarrels more ancient than Mohammed’s pretence to inspiration), so the discontented would still increase; “for the devil never left the place he had taken possession of, after once he had made a beginning. In such an affair as this,” says he, “one party will approve of what you propose, a second will be of a different opinion, and a third will dissent from both the others. Wherefore, consult among yourselves.”
Ali in the meantime was very instant in courting the good will of the Koreishites, the most noble tribe of the Arabians, walking about from one to the other, and taking all possible opportunities of showing his high consideration of them. He did not fail to express the sense he entertained of their excellency, and the dependence of the welfare of the people upon their authority. For Ali was naturally anxious to secure as many friends as possible, being extremely concerned at the heats and divisions which he observed among the people, and especially at the sudden departure of the Ommiyan family. And to complete his embarrassments, Telha begged of Ali the government of Cufa, and Zobeir that of Bassorah, assuring him that if anything extraordinary should happen, they would be ready to take horse at a minute’s warning. As both places were of great importance, the one situate upon the eastern bank of the river Euphrates, the other two miles westward of the Tigris, he told them that he would consider of the matter. Other historians tell as that he put them off with a compliment, telling them that he had nobody about him of equal capacity with themselves, or so proper to consult with in those emergencies to which a newly established government was liable. This answer of his touched them to the quick, and, therefore, knowing that Ayesha was at Mecca (having gone thither on pilgrimage whilst Othman was besieged), they begged leave of him to go thither; which was granted.
As soon as Ali was acknowledged caliph, he resolved to remove the governments and lieutenancies from all those who had received their appointments from Othman, his predecessor. But Al Mogeirah, the son of Saïd, advised him to postpone the execution of this design for a little at least, till he should find himself more firmly established in his government. Ali did not approve of this counsel. Al Mogeirah made him another visit the next day, and telling him that he had changed his opinion, recommended him to fallow his own course, and to proceed in the way which he had at first proposed. In the midst of this conference between Ali and Al Mogeirah, Abdallah, the son of Abbas (who was at Mecca when Othman was killed, but upon the election of Ali was newly returned to Medina), chanced to come in, and finding Ali and Al Mogeirah together, inquired of Ali the subject of their discourse. Upon this Ali replied, that “Al Mogeirah had originally advised him to continue Moawiyah and the rest of Othman’s lieutenants in their places, till they should have come in of their own accord to do him allegiance, and he himself was fixed in his government; which I,” added he, not approving, “he has come and told me to-day that he had altered his opinion, and that I was in the right.” The son of Abbas told him “that Al Mogeirah had given him good advice the first time, but that the last was treachery. If it were followed, all Syria, he was afraid, over which Moawiyah was lieutenant, would immediately revolt. Besides,” he reminded him, “no confidence could be reposed in Telha and Zobeir, but rather there was good ground for suspecting that they would soon be in arms against him. For these reasons,” he continued, “I advise you to continue Moawiyah in his place till he submits to your government; and when he has once done that, leave it to me to pull him out of his house by the ears for you, whensoever you desire it.” This prudent counsel did not content Ali, who swore by God “that nothing should be Moawiyah’s portion but the sword.” To which Abdallah could only remark, that he was indeed a man of courage, but wanting in prudence. Ali told him that however that might be, it was his business to obey. Whereupon Al Mogeirah observed that for his part he did not acknowledge any obligation of the kind. Upon this the conference broke up, and in a short time Al Mogeirah retired to Mecca.
Of the Helpers the greatest part came in and took the oath of allegiance to Ali. The rest, consisting chiefly of Othman’s almoners, and a few of his other officers stood out, who, from this circumstance received the title of Motazeli, or separatists. Whereupon, Ali, deaf to all representations to the contrary, resolved to make a thorough reformation in all the lieutenancies. Accordingly, in the beginning of the next year, he sent out his new officers to their respective provinces. Othman, the son of Hanif, was ordered to Bassorah; Ammarah, the son of Sahel, to Cufah (he was one of the Flyers); Abdallah, the son of Abbas, to Arabia Felix (he was one of the Helpers). To Syria he sent Sahel, the son of Hanif, another of the Helpers.
When Sahel came to Tabuk, he met a party of horse, who requiring him to give an account of himself, he answered that he was governor of Syria. They told him that if any one else besides Othman had sent him, he might go back again about his business. Upon this he demanded if they had not been informed of the fate of Othman? and they replied, “Yes.” Accordingly, perceiving that there was no room for him there, he returned to Ali. In the same manner, when Kais came into Egypt, he was opposed by a party of the Othmanians, who refused to submit to Ali’s government, till justice was done upon the murderers of Othman. According to his appointment, Othman, the son of Hanif, went to Bassorah, where he found the people divided in their affections; but Ammarah receiving information that the Cufians were resolved not to part with their old governor, Musa Alashari, who had been set over them by Othman, returned to Ali with the news of their resolution. Upon Abdallah proceeding to Arabia Felix, where Yali governed by Othman’s commission, Yali resigned to him, but plundered the treasury first; and making the best of his way to Mecca, delivered the money to Ayesha, Telha, and Zobeir.
The Separatists in the meantime, that nothing might be wanting which could possibly give disturbance to Ali’s government, carried the bloody shirt in which Othman was murdered, into Syria; where they made a good use of it. At times it was spread upon the pulpit in the mosque; and at others carried about in the army. To inflame the matter still more, the fingers of Othman’s wife, which were cut off at the time that he was murdered, were pinned upon the shirt. This object, daily exposed to view, exasperated the Syrian army, who were greatly indebted to Othman’s munificence. Clamorous for revenge, they called impatiently for justice on his murderers. And they, indeed, were in good earnest; but there was less sincerity with the others who joined in the cry. For Ayesha, Telha, and Zobeir, who had always been enemies to Othman, and were, in fact; the contrivers of his death and destruction, when they saw Ali elected, whom they hated equally, if not more, made use of Othman’s real and sincere friends as instruments of their malice against the new caliph. So that from very different motives they all unanimously joined in demanding satisfaction for the murder of Othman.
As for Telha and Zobeir, Sahel having returned with his answer from Syria before they had taken their leave, Ali sent for them both, and told them that what he had cautioned them against, was now come to pass; that things already were carried to too great a height to be made up without such an expedient as should make all parties easy; that sedition was like fire, the more it burnt the stronger it grew, and the brighter it shined. Upon this they asked him to give them leave to go out of Medina, when, if the disturbance did not cease, they would, they said, be answerable for it. To which he answered, “I will contain myself as long as it is possible; but if nothing else will do, I must apply caustics.” He then wrote forthwith to Moawiyah in Syria, and Abu Musa at Cufah. Abu Musa satisfied him that all the Cufians were entirely at his service, but sent him at the same time a list of those who came at first in of their own accord, and another of those who waited to follow in the track of the majority. As for Moawiyah, he did not vouchsafe to give him one word of answer to all his messages. About three months, however, after Othman’s death, he called a messenger of his own, and delivered him a sealed letter, with this subscription, “From Moawiyah to Ali.” Having given him private instructions, he then sent him away to Medina, together with Ali’s messenger, whom he had detained all this while. The messenger, according to his directions, went into Medina in the evening, when he was like to be seen by most people (for in those hot countries the streets are most frequented in the cool of the day), and carried the packet aloft upon a staff. The people, who were well enough apprised of Moawiyah’s disaffection to Ali, thronged after him in great numbers, extremely curious to know the contents of his message. When Ali opened the letter, he found it was a mere blank, not so much as one word being written in it, which he rightly understood as a token of the utmost contempt and defiance. The messenger being asked of Ali what news, answered, that there were no less than sixty thousand men in arms under Othman’s shirt, which was set up as a standard upon the pulpit of Damascus. Upon this Ali demanded whether they required the blood of Othman at his hands? calling God to witness that he was not guilty of it, and begging his protection under so false a charge. Then turning to Ziyad, who sat by him, he told him that there must of necessity be a war in Syria; which Ziyad soon communicated to the people. Accordingly Ali set himself to prepare for war, in the meantime doing all that in him lay to encourage the men of Medina, and writing circular letters to all the provinces, to demand their assistance.
Whilst he was making these preparations, information arrived of the revolt of Telha, Zobeir, and Ayesha, who had formed a powerful faction against him at Mecca. For all the malcontents, particularly those of the house of Ommiyah, which was Othman’s family, made common cause with the deposed governors; and having at their head the prophet’s widow, who had declared openly against Ali, they assembled considerable forces, and resolved upon a war. Telha and Zobeir having acquainted the faction at Mecca with the unsettled condition of Ali’s affairs at Medina, Ayesha wished to persuade them to march thither directly, and strike at the very root. Others were of opinion that it was better to join the Syrians. However, upon consideration, Moawiyah appeared sufficiently strong to secure that part of the country without their aid. At last, however, they resolved upon an expedition against Bassorah, where Telha was represented to have a strong interest. Accordingly, the following proclamation was made about the streets of Mecca:—“The mother of the faithful, and Telha and Zobeir are going in person to Bassorah. Whoever, therefore, is desirous of strengthening the religion, and is ready to fight, to revenge the death of Othman, even if be has no convenience of riding, let him come.” They mounted six hundred volunteers upon the like number of camels; they went out of Mecca between nine hundred and a thousand strong; but the numbers who joined them in their march, soon swelled their armament to three thousand. Ayesha had been presented by Menbah with a camel, whose name was Alascar (which in the Arabic language signifies “??? the army”), which had cost its owner a hundred pieces (about fifty pounds of our money). Mounted upon this camel, in a litter, she headed the forces in their march from Mecca towards Bassorah. In their route, as they came to a rivulet called Jowab, on the side of which there was a village of the same name, all the dogs of the latter came running out in a body, and fell a barking at Ayesha; who thereupon, in great amazement, immediately asked the name of the place. Being informed that it was called Jowab, she quoted that versicle of, the Koran, which is frequently made use of in cases of imminent danger, “We are resigned to God, and to him we have recourse.” She then declared that she would not stir a step further that day, for she had heard the prophet say when he was travelling with his wives, “I wish I had known it, and they should have lodged within the barking of the dogs of Jowab.” Besides, that he had told her formerly that one of his wives should at some time or other be barked at by the dogs of this place; that she ought to take care and lodge there, because, if she went on, she would find herself in a bad condition, and in very great danger. Hereupon she struck her camel upon the leg to make him kneel, in order that she might alight, being resolved to stay there all night. Telha and Zobeir could not tell what to make of this whimsy, and knowing of what importance it was for their to hasten their march, as having very good reason to think that Ali would not be long after them, they told her, having suborned fifty witnesses to swear to it, that it was a mistake of the guide, and that that place had never been called by any such name. But all to no purpose; she would not stir. At last one of them cried out, “Quick, quick, yonder comes Ali;” upon which they all scampered off immediately, and made the best of their way to Bassorah.
The historians say that this was the first solemn and public lie that was ever told since the beginning of Mohammedanism. Whether it be so or not, is not very material; this, at any rate, is most certain, that they who made it found their account in it, for it carried them with incredible speed to Bassorah.
Othman, who was Ali’s governor in that place, made but a weak resistance. After a slight skirmish, in which he lost forty men, he was taken prisoner. They tore out by the roots his beard and eyebrows, and after a short confinement dismissed him.
One of our authors gives us a few more particulars. Ayesha, he says, wrote to Othman at Bassorah, and to the rest of the provinces, calling upon them to revenge the death of Othman; magnifying his good qualities, and applauding (as she always had done since his death) the sincerity of his repentance, and the barbarity of the murder; and inveighing against his enemies, as having violated and trampled upon the most sacred obligations. Othman sent two messengers to her. She gave them a hearing, and answered them in similar terms to her letter. When they returned and made their report the Bassorians were in confusion. Othman, helpless and timorous, dissuaded them from enterprising any thing till the arrival of the emperor of the faithful, and, having substituted Ammar in his room, withdrew to his own house. Ammar, having called the men to arms, went to the mosque to hold a consultation. Here one of the people stood up and said, “If these people have come hither out of fear, why they have left a country where a bird may be safe. If they make inquiry after the blood of Othman, we did not kill Othman; wherefore take my advice, and send them back to the place from whence they came.” Then another rose up and said, “Either they suspect us to be guilty of the murder of Othman, or they came to ask our assistance against those that did murder him, whether belonging to us or not.” This orator had no sooner begun to speak, but some of the company threw dust in his face; by which Ammar perceived that the Separatists had a faction in Bassorah, which greatly discouraged him. In the meantime Ayesha, advancing nearer, the Bassorians went out to meet her; and they that were so inclined went over to her. The rest had a parley; in which Telha began first, and harangued the people in praise of Othman; he was seconded by Zobeir, who was succeeded by Ayesha. When she had uttered what she had to say with her loud shrill voice, the Bassorians were divided, some saying she had spoken truly, the opposite party giving them the lie, till at last they came to throwing the gravel and pebbles in one another’s faces. Ayesha, perceiving this, alighted from her litter; whereupon one of the Arabs made up to her, and said, “O mother of the faithful, the murdering of Othman was a thing of less moment than thy coming out from thy house upon this cursed camel. Thou hadst a veil and a protection from God; but thou hast rent the veil, and set at nought the protection. The same persons that are now witnesses of thy quarrelling here will also be witnesses of thy death. If thou earnest to us of thy own accord, return back to thy own house; if thou earnest hither by force, call for assistance.” At the same time a young man going up to Telha and Zobeir, told them he perceived they had brought their mother along with them, and asked them whether they had brought their wives too? All this was to reproach Ayesha for her impudence in engaging in this expedition. At last both sides drew their swords, and fought till night parted them. The next day they fought again; in which skirmish, a great many being wounded on both sides, most were killed on Othman’s. When they grew weary of fighting they began to parley; and at last agreed upon this article: That a messenger should be sent to Medina, to inquire whether Telha and Zobeir came into the inauguration of Ali voluntarily or by compulsion. For there lay the whole difficulty. If they had come in voluntarily all the Mussulmans would have treated them as rebels; if by compulsion, their party thought they could justify their standing by them. When the messenger arrived at Medina, and delivered his errand, the people were all silent for a while. At last Assamah stood up and said that they were compelled. But his saying so had like to have cost him his life, if a friend of his, a man of authority, had not taken him by the hand and led him home. As soon as Ali heard this news, he wrote to Othman, and taxed the weakness of his conduct, telling him that Ayesha, Telha, and Zobeir had not rejected or set themselves in opposition to a party, but to the whole body of the people. That if nothing less than the deposing him would satisfy them, they were altogether without excuse; but if they had any other proposals to make, they might be considered on both sides. While these matters were transacting at Medina, Ayesha’s party sent to Othman to come out, and deliver up the city to them; but he answered that their demand was not conformable to the agreement, which was to stay for an answer from Medina. Notwithstanding which, Telha and Zobeir, resolved to omit no favourable opportunity, took the advantage of a tempestuous night, and got into the mosque; where, after a skirmish, in which about forty of Othman’s seen were killed, and he himself was seized. Word was immediately sent of his capture to Ayesha, with a request to know in what way it was her pleasure that he should be disposed of. The sentence she at first pronounced was death; but one of her women saying to her, “I adjure thee by God and the companions of the apostle, do not kill him,” that penalty was changed into forty stripes and imprisonment.
We will now leave Ayesha, Telha, and Zobeir in the possession of Bassorah, taking the suffrages of the people for themselves, and look back to Medina. Here Ali assembled the people, and made a speech to them, in which, after having (as is always their custom) first given due praise and thanks to God; he said, “The later end of this affair will not be rectified by any other means than those by which it was begun; wherefore help God, and he will help you and direct your affairs.” But the people did not show much zeal in responding to this call, for it is ever the case, that when opposite parties are both strongly and pretty evenly matched; most people love to stand neuter, and act the part of spectators, till they see on which side the scale will turn, rather than expose themselves to a doubtful hazard. Though Ali was much beloved, and all knew very well that he had been fairly elected; yet all his eloquence, and he was allowed to be the best orator in that age, was not sufficient to move his audience to stir in good earnest. Which Ziyad perceiving, he stepped up to Ali of his own accord, crying out, “Let whosoever will hold back, we will be forward.” Shortly afterwards there stood up two of the religious, Helpers, doctors of the law, and pronounced this sentence: “Alhucm, that is, the decision is this: ‘The Imam Othman, master of the two testimonies did not die by the master of the two testimonies.’” In other words, in short, “Ali is innocent of the death of Othman.” Which sentence formally pronounced in favour of Ali was a mighty inducement to them to engage in his quarrel. One of the Ansars said to Ali, “The apostle of God, upon whom be peace, girded me with this sword. I have kept it sheathed a long while but now it is high time to draw it against these wicked men who are always deceiving the people.” And even a woman, the mother of Salnah called out, “O Emperor of the faithful! if it would not be a sin against God, and that thou wouldest not accept of me, I would go with thee myself; but here is my cousin-german, who, by God, is dearer to me than my own life, let him go with thee and partake of thy fortunes.” Him Ali accepted, and afterwards made governor of Behhrin. And as many as nine hundred marched with him out of Medina, and at first he conceived some hopes of overtaking Ayesha and her company before their arrival at Bassorah; but learning, from information he obtained at a place called Arrabdah, that it was in vain, he rested there for further deliberation.
Here he was found by his son Hasan, who told him that he had given him his advice in three particulars, but that now as the puishment of his former refusal of it, he might expect to be murdered to-morrow without any body to help him. Upon Ali’s demanding what those particulars might be, Hasan answered, “In the first place, I advised you when Othman was besieged, to go out of the city, that you might not be in it when he should be killed. Then, secondly, I advised you not to be inaugurated till the ambassadors of the tribes of the Arabs should arrive; and all the province were come in. Last of all I advised you, when this woman and those two men went out, to sit still at home till they should be reconciled; so that if there were any mischief done, the blame might rather be laid upon some other person than yourself.” To which Ali answered: “As to your first complaint, if I had gone out of the city when Othman was besieged; that had been the way to be surrounded myself. Then as to your saying that I ought not to have been inaugurated till all the tribes had come in; you ought to know that the disposal of the government is a privilege peculiar to the Medinians or Helpers; and they were not willing to lose it. As for your last advice, that I should have sat still at home after Ayesha and Zobeir were gone forth; how could I do that in such circumstances, or who in short would? Would you have had me, like a wild beast, lurk in a hole till I should be dug out? If I do not myself look after what concerns me in this affair, and provide for my necessary defence, who will look after it? Therefore, son, hold you your tongue.”
During his stay at Arrabdah, Ali sent Mohammed the son of Abubeker, and Mohammed the son of Jaafar, to his friends at Cufah, with a letter, in which he did not so much press them to fight for him, as to come and arbitrate between him and those that had made a separation from him. He told them, “how much he preferred them to all the rest of the provinces, and what confidence he reposed in them in the time of his extremity. That they should help the religion of God, and repair to him in order to make use of such means as might be proper for the reconciling this divided people, and making them brethren again.” In the meantime he did not neglect to send to Medina, from which town he was plentifully supplied with horses, arms, and all necessaries. In his public harangues he represented to the people “the great blessing with which God had indulged them by giving them the religion, whereby those tribes were now united who formerly by their quarrels used to reduce one another to a despicable condition. That this peace continued, till this man (meaning Othman) fell into the hands of those whom the devil had set on work to make a disturbance. However it was necessary that this people, like other nations had been before it, should be divided; and we must therefore call on God to avert the present evil.” Then turning to his son he said, “Whatsoever is, is of necessity. And the time will come when this people shall be divided into seventy-three sects; the worst of which will be that, which sets me at nought and will not follow my example. You have known this and seen it; wherefore keep close to your religion, and be directed in the right way; for it is the direction of your prophet. Let alone all that is too hard for you, till you can bring it to the test of the Koran. But whatever the Koran plainly approveth that stand to firmly, and what it disapproveth reject. Delight in God for your Lord; and in Islam for your religion; in Mohammed for your prophet, and in the Koran for your guide and director.”
When they were about to march from Arrabdah for Bassorah; the son of Rephaa stood up and asked him, “O emperor of the faithful! What is it thou wouldest have, and whither wouldest thou carry us?” Ali answered, “What I would have and intend is peace, if they will accept of it at our hands, if not, we will leave them alone to their rashness, and do what is just on our part and bear with patience.” “But how,” replied Rephaa, “if that will not satisfy them?” “Why then,” says Ali, “we will let them alone so long as they let us alone; if not, the last remedy is to defend ourselves.” Upon this, one of the Ansars stood up, and told him, that he liked his discourse better than his management; but subjoined immediately with an oath, “That they would help God since he had called them Helpers.”
Soon after there came a party of the tribe of Tai to proffer their service to Ali. Their chief, whose name was Saïd the son of Obeidah thus addressed him:—“O emperor of the faithful! There are some men whose tongues are not according to their hearts; but I do not find it so with me. I have a respect for thee always, both secretly and openly, and will fight thy enemies wheresoever I meet them, for I look upon thee as a person of the greatest merit, and the most excellent qualifications of any in the age thou livest in.” Ali gave him his blessing (God have mercy upon you), and told him, that he was satisfied with his sincerity. He then removed from Arrabdah, and the tribe of Ased and some more of Tai proffered their service, but he said, they might go home, for he had Mohajerins enough for this purpose.
In the meanwhile, Ali was impatiently expecting news from his two messengers that he had sent to Cufah. But Abu Musa, who, as we have before observed, had sent him word at first, that all was well on that side the country, and acquainted him with the particulars of all that concerned him there, perceiving how the face of things had suddenly altered, and apprehensive of the success of Ayesha, Telha, and Zobeir at Bassorah, began to waver in his allegiance. So that when Mohammed the son of Abubeker, and Mohammed the son of Jaafar, came to Cufah with Ali’s letter, and stood up among the people according to his command, there was a perfect silence. We may observe here once for all, that upon such occasions, the way was, for all the people to run to the mosque, where everything was published in the hearing of all present, and every free Mohammedan had the liberty of assenting or dissenting to the matter in deliberation, according as he was influenced by his prejudice or judgment. At last, in the evening, there came some of the Hadjis, or pilgrims, and asked Abu Musa what he thought of going out? meaning to assist Ali. To which he gravely answered, “My opinion to-day is different from what it was yesterday. What you despised in time past, hath drawn upon you what you see now; —the going out, and sitting still at home, are two things. Sitting still at home is the heavenly way. The going out, is the way of the world. Therefore, take your choice.” None of the people took any notice of what he said, nor returned him any answer. But the two Mohammeds were in a rage, and gave him reproachful language. To which he answered with an oath, that the inauguration of Othman hung still both over his own neck and their master’s (meaning Ali), and as for the people, they were resolved not to engage themselves, unless compelled by absolute necessity, till they had got their hands clear of the murderers of Othman, wheresoever they were. Wherefore, he continued, you may both get back to Ali, as fast as you can, and tell him so.”
Ali was then advanced as far as Dulkhar, where his governor Othman came to wait upon him. Ali told him, that he had sent him to Bassorah with a beard, but he was come back without one. “Thy sufferings,” says Ali, “are meritorious. All mankind were satisfied in the choice of two of my predecessors, who managed agreeably both to the written law and the traditional. Then a third presided over them, to whom they submitted. At last they chose me; and Telha and Zobeir came unto the election, but did not stand to their word. What I wonder at is their voluntary submission to Abubeker, Omar, and Othman, and their opposition to me! But, by God, they shall both know, that I am not a jot inferior to my predecessors.”
As soon as Ali had received Abu Musa’s answer, he despatched Alashtar (a man of resolution, and exactly fitted for great emergencies), together with Ebn Abas, to Cufa, with large powers and instructions, to use their own discretion in rectifying whatsoever they should find amiss. When they had delivered their errand, and desired the assistance of the Cufians, Abu Musa made his speech to them:—“Friends, the companion of the apostle of God, upon whom be peace, know more of God and his apostle, than those who have not conversed with him. It is for you, indeed, to decide in this matter; I, however, will give you this my advice. It is then my opinion, that you should not assume to yourselves the authority of God, nor make war against God. Let those that are come to you from Medina return thither again, till the companions be all agreed; they know best who is fit to be trusted. ‘For this disturbance is such a one (it is a sentence of Mohammed’s), as he that sleepeth in it is better than he that is awake; and he that is awake, better than he that sitteth; and he that sitteth, better than he that standeth; and he that standeth, better than he that walketh on foot; and he that walketh on foot, better than he that rideth.’ Sheath your swords and take the heads off your lances; cut your bowstrings, and receive him that is injured into your houses, till this business is made up, and the disturbance ceased.”
Ebn Abbas and Alashtar,??? returning to Ali with this news, he last of all sent his eldest son Hasan, and Ammar along with him. Abu Musa received Hasan with respect; but when they came into the mosque to debate the matter of assisting Ali, he opposed it with the same vigour that he had done before, repeating .all along the saying of Mohammed’s, which he affirmed to have had from his own mouth, “That there should be a sedition, in which he that sat should better than him that stood,” &c. Ammar, upon this, took him up briskly, and told him that the apostle directed that speech to him, who was far better sitting than standing at any time. Still Abu Musa persisted in exerting his utmost to hinder them from complying with Ali’s proposals. When the people began to be in a tumult, Zeid, the son of Sauchan, stood up and pulled out a letter from Ayesha, commanding him either to stay at home, or else to come to her assistance, together with another to the Cufians, to the same effect. Having read them both to the people, he said, “She was commanded to stay at home in her house, and we to fight till there should be no sedition. Now she has commanded us to do her part, and hath taken ours upon herself.” This provoked the opposite party, who reproached him for reflecting upon the mother of .the faithful. The debate grew very warm on both sides, till at last Hasan, the son of Ali, rose up and said, “Hearken to the request of your emperor, and help us in this calamity which has fallen on you and us. Thus saith the emperor of the faithful: ‘Either I do wrong myself, or else I suffer injury. If I suffer injury God will help me; if I do wrong, he will take vengeance upon me. By Allah, Telha and Zobeir were the first that inaugurated me, and the first that prevaricated. Have I discovered any covetous inclination, or perverted justice? Wherefore come on, and command that which is good, and forbid that which is evil.’” This moved the audience, and the heads of the tribes spoke one, after another, telling the people, that since they had given their allegiance to this man, and he had done them the honour to send several messages to them before, and afterwards his son, to make them judges and arbitrators in an affair of such importance; that it was highly requisite for them to comply with such a reasonable demand, and go to his assistance. Hasan told them, that he was going back to his father, and they that thought fit might go along with him, and the rest follow by water. Accordingly, there came over to him nearly nine thousand in all; six thousand two hundred by land, and two thousand four hundred by water. Some say, that Ali had sent Alashtar and Ammar along with him, after his son Hasan to Cufah, and whilst they were debating in the mosque, and every one intent upon the issue, Alashtar took a party of men and seized the castle by surprise. Thereupon, having ordered some of Abu Musa’s men, whom he found there, to be severely bastinadoed, he sent them back with this lamentable news to their master Abu Musa, who was protesting with great vehemence against the supply. This successful stratagem made Abu Musa appear so ridiculous and contemptible, that if Alashtar had not interposed to prevent it, his goods would immediately have been plundered by the mob.
Ali was very easy upon the accession of these reinforcements, and went forwards to meet them and make them welcome. When they came up to him he said, “You Cufians were always men of distinguished valour; you conquered the kings of Persia, and dispersed their forces till you took possession of their inheritance. You have both protected the weak ones among yourselves, and afforded your assistance to your neighbours. I have called you hither to be witnesses between us and our brethren of Bassorah. If they submit peaceably, it is what we desire; if they persist we will heal them with gentle usage, unless they fall upon us injuriously. We on our part will omit nothing that may by any means contribute to an accommodation, which we must prefer to the desolation of war.”
Upon hearing this news from Cufah, Ayesha had her party began to be in some perplexity at Bassorah. They held frequent consultations, and seemed to be in a hopeless condition. Messages passed backwards and forwards with a view to compromise the matter; and the negotiation went so far, that Ali, Telha, and Zobeir had several interviews, walking about together in the sight of both the armies, so that every one expected that there would have been a peace concluded. Ali’s army consisted of thirty thousand men, all experienced soldiers, and if that of his enemies exceeded his in number, yet it was principally composed of raw recruits; besides that, they had not a general to command them who could in any way be a match for Ali. In one of their conferences he reproached them with their infidelity, and put them in mind of the judgments of God, who would infallibly take vengeance upon their perfidy. He asked Zobeir if he did not remember how Mohammed had asked him once if he did not love his dear son Ali; and he having answered “Yes,” that Mohammed replied, “Notwithstanding this, there will come a day when you shall rise up against him, and be the occasion of a great many miseries both to him and all the Mussulmans.”
Zobeir told him, that he remembered it perfectly well, and that if he had recollected it before, he would never have carried things to that extremity. It is said, that upon this hint he declined fighting with Ali; but that having acquainted Ayesha with the circumstances, that woman was so envenomed against him, that she would not listen to an accommodation on any terms. Others say, that his son Abdallah turned him again by asking him whether or no he was afraid of Ali’s colours. Upon Zobeir answering “No, but that he was sworn to Ali,” Abdallah bade him expiate his oath, which he did by giving a slave his liberty, and forthwith prepared, without further hesitation, to fight against Ali.
The two armies lay in order of battle on their arms opposite to one another. During the night the Cufians fell upon the Separatists. When Telha and Zobeir heard of it, they said they knew very well that Ali would never settle the matter without bloodshed; and Ali said the same of them. Thus they were of necessity drawn to a battle, which was fought next day. Ayesha, to give life and courage to her friends, mounted upon her great camel, was carried up and down the field, riding in a litter of the shape of a cage.
From this circumstance, the day whereon this bloody battle was fought is called, “the day of the camel;” and the men that were engaged on that side, “the people of the camel.” In the heat of the battle, when the victory began to incline towards Ali, Merwan said to him, “It is but a little while ago since Telha was amongst the murderers of Othman, and now he is so attached to worldly grandeur, that he appears amongst those that seek to revenge his blood;” and with those words let fly an arrow, and wounded him in the leg. His horse, which was struck at the same time, threw him; he called for help, and said, “O God! take vengeance upon me for Othman, according to thy will!” Perceiving his boot full of blood, he ordered one of his men to take him up behind him, who conveyed him into a house in Bassorah, where he died. But just before he died he saw one of Ali’s men, and asked him if he belonged to the emperor of the faithful. Being informed that he did, “Give me then,” said he, “your hand, that I may put mine in it; and by this action renew the oath of fidelity which I have already made to Ali.” The words were no sooner out of his mouth than he expired. When All heard it, he said God would not call him to heaven till he had blotted out his first breach of his word by this last protestation of his fidelity.
Mircond writes, that Zobeir being informed that Ammar Jaasser was in Ali’s camp, and knowing that Mohammed had formerly said that he was a person that was always for justice and right, withdrew himself out of the battle, and took the road towards Mecca. Being come as far as a valley which is crossed by a rivulet called Sabaa, he met with Hanaf Ebn Kais, who was there encamped with all his men, awaiting the issue of the battle, in order to join himself to the conqueror.
Hanaf knew who he was at a distance, and said to his men, “Is there nobody can bring me any tidings of Zobeir?” One of them, whose name was Amrou Ebn Jarmuz, went off immediately and came up to him. Zobeir at first bade him keep his distance; but after some discourse, growing into greater confidence of him, he cried out “Salat,” that is, “to prayers” (the hour of prayer being then come). “Salat,” repeated Amrou; and, as Zobeir was prostrating himself, took his opportunity and struck his head off at one blow with his sabre, and carried it to Ali. When Ali saw the head, he let fail some tears, and said, “Go, wretched villain, and carry this good news to Ebn Safiah in hell.” Amrou was so moved with these words, that, laying aside all respect, he said to him. “You are the ill destiny of all the Mussulmans; if one delivers you from any of your enemies, you immediately denounce him to hell. And if a man kills any one of your friends, he becomes instantly a companion of the devil.” His passion increasing into rage and despair, he drew his sword and ran himself through.
So long as Ayesha’s camel stood upon his legs, the hottest of the battle was about him. Tabari says, that no less than threescore and ten men that held his bridle had their hands cut off. Ayesha’s litter was stuck so full of arrows and javelins that it looked like a porcupine. At last the camel was hamstrung, and Ayesha was forced to lie where it fell till all was over. Ali, having got an entire victory, came to her and asked her how she did. Some historians say that there was some reproachful language exchanged between them. However, he treated her civilly, and dismissed her handsomely with a very good equipage, and commanded his two sons Hasan and Hosein to wait upon her a day’s journey. He confined her to her house at Medina, and forbade her at her peril to intermeddle any more with affairs of state. She went to Mecca, and stayed out the time of the pilgrimage there, after which she returned to Medina. As for the spoils, Ali proposed to divide them among the heirs of his men that were killed, which did not exceed a thousand. Then constituting Abdallah Ebu Abbas his lieutenant over Bassorah, he went to Cufah, where he established the seat of his government or caliphate.
This complete victory rendered Ali exceedingly powerful. He was now master of Irak, Egypt, Arabia, Persia and Khorassan. So that there was none left that could give him the least disturbance, but Moawiyah and the Syrians under his command. Ali seemed not to be apprehensive of any molestation from them after such great success, and sent a messenger to Moawiyah, entreating him to come in. Moawiyah kept putting off the messenger by different excuses, till Amrou the son of Ali, who was then in Palestine could come to him. Amrou, to his great satisfaction, found the Syrians very eager to revenge the blood of Othman, and did what in him lay to urge them on. Upon this, Amrou and Moawiyah resolved to stand it out to the last against Ali, Amrou having first stipulated for himself, that in case of success he should have the lieutenancy of Egypt, which he had conquered in the reign of Omar. This was readily promised him, and Amrou, in the presence of all the army took the oath of allegiance to Moawiyah, acknowledging him to be lawful caliph and prince of the Mussulmans. This action which had been concerted between them two, was followed by the acclamations of the people, who unanimously took the same oath.
As soon as Ali was apprised of these commotions in Syria, he made use of all manner of gentle means to reduce the rebels to a sense of their duty. But perceiving that the people of that large province had unanimously declared against him, he was convinced that it would be idle to set on foot any further negotiation; and accordingly he marched towards that country with an army of ninety thousand men.
Just upon his entrance into the confines of Syria, he was obliged to encamp in a place where there was a great scarcity of water.
Not far from his camp there was a hermitage under ground, the hermit whereof, who was a Christian, came and presented himself to him. Ali inquired of him, if he knew of a spring in the neighbourhood; the hermit told him that there was nothing but a cistern which had hardly three buckets of water in it. Ali answered, “I know, however, that some of the people of Israel, ancient prophets, formerly made their abode here, and that they dug a pit here.” The hermit said, he had been informed that there was one that was now covered up; that nobody knew the place of it; but that there was an old tradition of the country, that nobody should ever find it, and open it, but a prophet, or one sent by a prophet. Ali was not long in discovering it. Ordering his men to dig in a certain place, which he pointed out, they found first of all a stone of a vast bigness, which being instantly removed, they came to a beautiful and a most abundant spring.
Surprised at the sight of it, the hermit embraced Ali’s knees; and would never leave him afterwards. Besides, he presented the caliph with an old parchment which he said had been written by the hand of Simeon, the son of Safa (that is Simon Cephas) one of the greatest apostles of Jesus Christ; wherein there was an account given of the coming of the last prophet; the arrival of his lawful heir and successor, and the miraculous discovery of this well.
Ali, after having given thanks to God, and taken water sufficient for his army, continued his march towards Seffein, a place between Irak and Syria, where the enemies’ army was posted, consisting of fourscore thousand men. At last, both the armies advancing, they came in sight of one another, in the last month of the thirty-sixth year of the flight of Mohammed.
The first month of the next year was spent, without doing any thing but sending messengers backwards and forwards, in order to an accommodation between them, but all to no purpose. On the commencement of the next month, however, they began to fight in small parties, without risking a general engagement. It is reported, that in the space of one hundred and ten days, there were no less than ninety skirmishes between them; that the number of the slain on Moawiyah’s side, was five and forty thousand, and that on Ali’s, five and twenty thousand six and twenty of whom had been present at the battle of Beder, and were honoured with the title of Sahabah, that is, “the companions of the prophet.” Ali had commanded his men never to begin the battle first, but stay till the enemy gave the onset, nor to kill any man that should turn his back, nor to take any of their plunder, or ill use the women. Nor were Moawiyah and Amrou wanting on their side, in expressing their concern for the effusion of the blood of the Mussulmans; especially when Ammar Ebn Jasar, Ali’s general of the horse, was killed. He was about ninety years of age, and had been in three several engagements with Mohammed himself. He lived reverenced, and died lamented by all. “Do you see,” said Moawiyah, “at what a rate the people expose their lives upon our account?” “See!” says Amrou, “would to God that I had died twenty years ago.” Upon the death of Ammar, Ali took twelve thousand chosen men, and made so fierce an onslaught upon Moawiyah’s army, that all the ranks of it were broken. Then Ali called out to Moawiyah, “How long shall the people lose their lives between us? Come hither. I challenge you to appeal to the decision of God. And which of us two kills his man, let him have the whole himself.” Whereupon Amrou said to Moawiyah, “Your cousin has made you a fair proffer.” Moawiyah said it was not fair, because that Ali knew that no man had ever yet come out against him, but he had killed him. Amrou told him that his refusal would look dishonourable. Moawiyah answered, “You have, I see, a mind to enjoy the government yourself, after I am gone.
The last battle they fought at Seffein continued all night to the great disadvantage of the Syrians. Alashtar pushed them back to their camp, and Ali supported him. The victory had been complete but for the following stratagem of Amrou’s. Sending for Moawiyah in great haste, he advised him to order, his men to hoist up the Korans upon the points of their lances, and to cry out; “This is the book that ought to decide all our differences; this is the book of God between us and you.” This stratagem did not fail of the desired success; for as soon as the Irakians, who formed the chief strength of Ali’s army saw this, they threw down their arms, and said to Ali, “Will you not answer the book of God?” To which Ali replied, “As you are men of truth and honour, go on and fight your enemy, for Amrou and Moawiyah have no relation to religion nor the Koran. Alas for you! I know them better than you do; by God they have not put up these Korans, but with a design to trick us.” They persisted, however, declaring, that however that might be, it should not hinder them from being determined by the book of God. “That is it,” said Ali, “which I have been fighting to bring them to, but they have rebelled against God and his commandment.” At last they even threatened not only to desert him, but to deliver him into the hands of his enemies, if he did not sound a retreat: and some of the sectaries (an enthusiastic people, that refuse obedience to their superiors, both in things sacred and civil), declared to him, that they would serve him as the son of Affan had been served, that is as Othman, who had been murdered. Ali therefore was forced to call off Alashtar, who fell back with great reluctance and only after repeated orders to retreat; grieved at the heart, to see a glorious victory snatched out of his hands by such a stratagem.
As soon as the battle was over, a messenger being sent to Moawiyah, to demand the meaning of that action, he answered, “That it was the wish of his party that the difference should be left to the arbitration of two persons, who might determine it according to the true sense of the Koran, and the tradition of the people.” Whereupon Ashaath, the son of Kais, one of those who had the greatest credit and influence among the soldiers of Irak, and whose fidelity it was suspected had been tampered with by Moawiyah, asked Ali, how he approved of this expedient. Ali answered him coldly, saying, “He that is not at liberty cannot give his advice. It belongs to you to manage this affair according as you shall think fit among yourselves.” The army however, determined to follow it. Now the person that they nominated in Ali’s behalf was Abu Musa Al Ashari, a good honest well-meaning man, but exceedingly simple. Ali did not approve of the choice, because Musa had formerly been drawn aside, and forsaken his interest. He had rather have had Ben Abbas; but was answered, that he was his own cousin-german, and they would have none but such as should deal impartially between him and Moawiyah. He next proposed Alashtar, but they were resolved he should accept of Abu Musa. Moawiyah, on his part, nominated Amrou the son of Aas, deservedly reputed the quickest-witted man of the age. These two referees took a security signed by Ali and Moawiyah, and both the armies, in behalf of themselves and their families, by which they bound themselves to ratify and confirm the sentence of the referees, which was to be determined by the next Ramadan. This arrangement being made, Ali retired to Cufah, and Moawiyah to Damascus, leaving the command of their respective armies to one of their generals, and the authority of things relating to religion in the hands of a particular Imam. But as soon as Ali came to Cufah, twelve thousand of those that could read the Koran reproached him with his base submission to this accommodation, as having out of fear of temporal calamity submitted to the determination of men, when the Koran expressly says, that “Judgment belongeth to God alone.”
Eight months after the battle of Seffein, the two arbitrators met in a place situated between Mecca, Cufah, and Syria. There came along with them several of the Sahabah, or companions of the prophet. At this conference Ebn Abbas bade Abu Musa remember this, whatsoever else he forgot, that Ali had no blemish to render him incapable of the government, nor Moawiyah any virtue to qualify him for it. Amrou, who knew very well the genius of his partner, treated him with the utmost civility and respect, till he gained a complete influence over him, and at last made him believe that it was quite impracticable to attempt to accommodate matters, without deposing both the present competitors, and leaving the choice of a third to the people. This important article once fixed, a tribunal was erected between both the armies, from which each of the umpires was publicly to declare his opinion. Abu Musa wished Amrou to go up first, but he alleged so many reasons why he ought to yield to Ali’s arbitrators the preference, that he easily overcame all his scruples.
Accordingly Abu Musa ascending the tribunal, pronounced these words with a loud voice: “I depose Ali and Moawiyah from the caliphate (or government) to which they pretend, after the same manner as I take this ring from my finger.” Having made this declaration, he immediately came down. Then Amrou went up and said, “You have heard how Abu Musa has for his part deposed Ali; as for my part I depose him too, and I give the caliphate to Moawiyah, and invest him with it after the same manner as I put this ring upon my finger; and this I do with so much the more justice, because he is Othman’s heir and avenger, and the worthiest of all men to succeed him.”
After the publication of these sentences, Ali’s party, confounded at the unexpected issue of the arbitration, began to complain grievously of Abu Musa. He for his own part accused Amrou of not having performed the agreement between them. From complaints they came to ill language; and, in short, Abu Musa, fully ashamed of being outwitted by Amrou, and not only having good reason to fear Ali’s displeasure, but also, thinking himself hardly safe in the army, took to flight, and retired to Mecca. This Abu Musa was celebrated for the most harmonious voice that ever was heard; it is said that his common discourse was perfect melody.
The Syrians went back to Moawiyah, and wished him joy: and from this time his interests prospered daily, whilst Ali’s began to decline. The two opposite parties not only cursed one another, but carried the matter so far as to pronounce a solemn excommunication, which was always repeated when they made any harangue to the people in the mosque, and this custom continued a long time between the house of Ali and that of Ommiyah, to which Othman and Moawiyah belonged.
Before we proceed any further, we must here observe, that when the treaty of peace that followed the suspension of arms between Ali and Moawiyah was being drawn up, the secretary began with these words: “Ali, chief and commander, general of the Mussulmans, agrees to a peace with Moawiyah upon the following terms.” Moawiyah, having read these words, said, “Certainly I should be a very wicked man indeed, if I should make war upon him, whom I acknowledge to be the chief, and commander-general of the faithful.” Upon this, Amrou Ebn Al Aas said, that it was absolutely necessary to blot out that title of chief, or emperor of the faithful. On the other hand, Ahnaf the son of Kais, addressing himself to Ali, said, that he ought by no means to suffer himself to be deprived of that title. But Ali told him, that when he was formerly secretary to his father-in-law Mohammed, he had himself drawn up articles of peace between him and Sohail who had revolted against him. That upon his having entitled Mohammed, “apostle and messenger of God,” Sohail said to him, “If I had acknowledged your father-in-law for the apostle and messenger of God, I should never have had any peace to sign with him, for I should never have made war upon him.” I acquainted Mohammed with this difficulty, who answered me, “Make no scruple of blotting out that title; it does not depend upon this treaty, time will discover its truth; and .remember, that there will come a day when you shall find yourself in the same case.” Ali, therefore, gave his consent, that for that time they should omit that title, of which his arbitrator, Abu Musa, as we have already seen, had solemnly deprived him. All these things were transacted in the thirty-seventh year of Hejira, or flight of Mohammed, and of our Saviour the six hundred and fifty-seventh.
In the same year the Karegites, or Separatists, made an insurrection against Ali. The occasion of their revolt was as follows: Ali having, as already related, put his affairs into the hands of two arbitrators, some of the Irakians told him that he had done exceeding wrong; in referring to the judgment of men, what ought to be determined by God alone. Therefore they said, that instead of standing to the peace that he had made, he ought to pursue his enemies, who also were the enemies of God, without quarter. Ali answered, that having once passed his word, he was bound to keep it; and that in this he followed what the law of God prescribed. The people answered him, That there was no other judge or arbitrator between him and Moawiyah but God alone: that what he had done was a sin, and that he ought to repent of it.
Ali firmly remonstrated with them, telling them that the sin lay at their door, in showing so much inconstancy and stubbornness. They ought also to remember, that when Moawiyah caused the Korans to be carried at the head of the two armies, he had warned them that it was only a trick of their enemies, yet nevertheless they had left off fighting without his order; and that, in short, it was very wrong in them to press him to the breach of a treaty, which they themselves had obliged him to sign.
The rebels, not at all satisfied with these reasons, chose for their captain Abdallah, the son of Waheb, who appointed Naharwan (a town between Bagdad and Waset, four miles east of the river Tigris) for the place of rendezvous. To this place every one who was discontented with his government repaired. Of the malcontents, a great number came from Cufah, Bassorah, and Arabia.
Ali took little notice of them at first, his thoughts being more taken up with Moawiyah, whom he looked upon as a much more formidable enemy; but being informed that they were increased to the number of five and twenty thousand men, that they condemned all persons as impious that did not fall in with their sentiments, and that they had already put to death several Mussulmans for refusing to comply with their measures; he resolved, in fine, to exterminate a sect which tended to the subversion of the very foundations of Mohammedanism. However, he preferred to win them over, if possible, by gentleness, and to bring them back to their duty by good advice; but these means proving powerless, he employed the forcible persuasion of a considerable army, at the head of which he presented himself to their view. Nevertheless he determined to try peaceful measures once more before he had recourse to force of arms. Accordingly, planting a standard without the camp, he made proclamation with sound of trumpet, that whosoever would come under it should have good quarter; and that all who should retire to Cufah, should there also find a sanctuary.
This device succeeded well, for in a very little time the army of the Karegites dispersed itself of its own accord, and Abdallah, the son of Waheb, found himself reduced to four thousand men. However, even with this small number, the arch-rebel was resolved to signalize his bravery by a desperate attempt. Notwithstanding the inequality of his force, he boldly attacked Ali’s army. But his rashness was duly punished; he and all his men were cut to pieces, nine only excepted, which also was the total number of the slain on Ali’s side.
A little before this fight, Ali had foretold to his friends what would be the event. “You see,” says he, “these people who make profession of reading the Koran, without observing its commandments, they will quit the profession which they make of their sect as quick as arrows fly from the bow when they are shot off.”
This victory, which was gained in the thirty-eighth year of the Hejirah, having re-united all the Arabians under the government of Ali, the Syrians alone remained to be reduced. Ali was for marching against Moawiyah immediately after the victory, but some of his great men represented to him that it would be proper to give his army some refreshment, that every one might make preparation for a war, which it was plain would be more long-winded than the former. Ali followed their advice, and formed his camp at Nakila, not far from Cufah, where, that they might be the sooner in a readiness for their expedition into Syria, he made proclamation, that during the time of his encampment in that place, any one that had any business to do in town, might go for one day and return the next. The effect of this order was, that the camp was entirely forsaken, and the general finding himself left alone, was also obliged to go back to Cufah as well as the rest.
Ali, at the beginning of his caliphate, had conferred the government of Egypt upon Saïd, the son of Kais, who acquitted himself of his charge with great prudence; for there being in Egypt a numerous faction of Othman’s partisans, he knew how to accommodate himself to the time, and managed them with much address. This conduct of Saïd furnished Moawiyah with an occasion of publishing it every where that this governor was his friend, and acted in concert with him. These reports he spread abroad on purpose to raise a suspicion of him in Ali’s mind, who nevertheless had no better friend belonging to him. To promote this design, Moawiyah forged a letter in Saïd’s name, directed to himself, wherein he was made to confess that the reason why he had not attacked the party of the Othmanians, was because he was entirely in Moawiyah’s interest. This device had its desired effect, for as soon as the news reached Ali’s ears he recalled Saad from his government, and sent in his room Mohammed, the son of Abubeker, the first caliph, which was the cause of new troubles in that country; for Mohammed had no sooner set foot in Egypt than he began to chase out of it all those who pretended to have had any tie of friendship with Othman, or to preserve any respect for his memory.
His arrival, therefore, was quickly followed by dissensions and civil wars, and these disorders grew to such a height that Ali was obliged to send Malec Alashtar, who is sometimes called Malec Alashtar, to restore his authority there. But Moawiyah; who had notice of the sending of this new governor, instigated a countryman that lived upon the confines of Arabia and Egypt, and at whose house Malec Al Ashtar was to lodge on his way to Egypt, to give him poison in the entertainment which he had prepared for him.
This man, an old friend of Moawiyah’s, punctually executed his orders, and gave Malec some poisoned honey at supper, of the effects of which he died before he stirred out of the house. As soon as Moawiyah heard it, he said, “Verily God hath armies of honey!” Then he despatched Amrou Ebn Aas, with six thousand horse, to take possession of the government of Egypt in his name, who made such speed, that in a few days he came up to the capital city, where he was joined by Ebn Sharig, the chief of Othman’s party. With this combined force the two marched together to engage Mohammed, the son of Abubeker, who as yet retained the name and authority of governor for Ali. Mohammed was routed, and fell into his enemies’ hands alive, who quickly killed him, and, inclosing his dead body in the skin of an ass, burnt him to ashes. As soon as Ayesha heard of the death of her brother, Mohammed, she took it extremely to heart, and kneeled down, at the end of all her prayers, to beg a curse upon Moawiyah and Amrou. Ali too was very much concerned, and said, “We shall reckon for him before God” All this year there was a continued succession of incursions made into Ali’s territories, who was all this while daily employed in making speeches, and moving his army to go against Moawiyah, but all his eloquence made no impression upon them. Ali being informed of all this bad news, sent for Abdallah, the son of Abbas, from Bassorah, where he was governor, that he might comfort himself with his conversation, and by his advice take such resolutions as were most expedient in the present condition of his affairs. Abdallah, having first constituted Ziyad his lieutenant in Bassorah, came to Ali, and once again promised him inviolable fidelity. Moawiyah, who was always watchful to take advantage of every opportunity, was no sooner informed that Ebn Abbas had left Bassorah, than he sent one Abdallah, surnamed Hadrami, with two thousand horse, to seize that place.
Ziyad, who had not troops sufficient to stand against Abdallah, left the city to him, and sent to inform Ali of the pressing necessity he was under, and that unless speedy succours were sent him, he should not be able to keep the field. Ali promptly sent him assistance, under the command of Hareth, which arrived so seasonably that Abdallah was beaten and killed in the battle, which was fought near Bassorah. Upon this the city surrendered to the government of Ali, who immediately sent back Abdallah Ebn Abbas to take the command of it, as he had done before. This was in the thirty-eighth year of the Hejirah.
The next year passed over without any considerable adventures, for the Syrians, weary of the war, attempted nothing against the Arabians, and the Arabians had enough to do to preserve themselves. In the beginning of this year Abdallah Ebn Abbas, lieutenant of Bassorah, sent Ziyad to assume the government of Persia, which had been brought into great disorder by the dissensions between Ali and Moawiyah. Ziyad behaved himself so well in that post, and managed so much to the satisfaction of the people, that the Persians said they had never, since the days of Nushirwan, met with an administration equal to that of this Arabian. This Nushirwan was surnamed “the Just;” he was the son of Hormisdas, king of the Persians, and reigned contemporary with Maurice and Phocas. Mohammed was born in his reign, as he says himself, in the Koran, “I was born in the days of the Just king.”
The truce, however, was but of short duration, for in the beginning of the fortieth year Moawiyah began to exert himself in earnest, and sent Ebn Arthah with three thousand horse towards that province of Arabia called Hejaz, to seize its two principal towns, Mecca and Medina, with which he had secretly kept up a correspondence ever since Othman’s death, and by this means to open himself a way into Yemen, or “Arabia the Happy.” Upon his approach Ali’s two governors abandoned their respective charges, for want of forces sufficient to make a defence, and Ebn Arthah made the inhabitants take the oath of allegiance to Moawiyah. After shedding some blood at Medina, which gave the people an aversion to Moawiyah’s government, he proceeded in his march to Arabia Felix, where he put some thousands to the sword.
All this while Moawiyah was in Syria, at Damascus, and Ali at Cufah. Ali always prayed publicly for Moawiyah, Amrou, and Dehoc; Moawiyah, on the other side, prayed for Ali, Hasan, and Hosein.
Abdallah, governor of Yemen, foreseeing very well that he should be visited by Ebn Arthah, made the best preparation he was able, but to no purpose. He managed to escape himself, but was obliged to leave his two little boys behind him, both of whom Ebn Arthah barbarously murdered. This cruel act not only occasioned great grief to the father, but raised a just abhorrence in every body else. Ali was extremely touched, and cursed the author of such a horrible outrage, begging of God to take away his senses and understanding. They say, that towards the latter end of his days he did really turn fool, and was always calling for his sword, which his friends perceiving, gave him one made of wood, and another hollow one full of air; and that this poor wretch imagined that at every blow he struck with his wooden sword against the other, he killed an enemy.
However, Ali did not omit the sending Jariyah to pursue Ebn Arthah with four thousand horse; but he had scarce set out towards Yemen, when the other was returning into Syria. About the same time another great calamity befell Ali. His brother Okail went over to Moawiyah, who received him with open arms, and assigned him large revenues. Okail alleged no other excuse for his defection, but that his brother Ali had not entertained him according to his quality.
A little while after the battle of Naharwan, three of those among the Karegites that were the most zealous for the advancement of their sect, met together at Mecca, and making frequent mention among themselves of those that were killed in the battle, magnified their merit and bewailed their loss. These three men, Abdarrhaman the son of Melgem, Barak the son of Abdallah, whom some surname Turk, and Amrou the son of Beker, said one to the other, “If Ali, Moawiyah, and Amrou the son of Aas, these false Imams, were dead, the affairs of the Mussulmans would be in good condition.” Immediately the first of them said to his companions, “For my part, if you will, I will give you a good account of Ali.” The second, hearing this discourse, said he would undertake to make a good riddance of Moawiyah; and the third promised to kill Amrou Ebn Aas. These three men being thus unanimously resolved to execute their murderous design, pitched upon a Friday (the day of the solemn assembly of the Mussulmans), which fell upon the seventeenth of the month Ramadan. After having poisoned their swords, every man took his road; the first that to Cufah, the second that to Damascus, and the third that to, Egypt.
Barak, one of the three devotees, being arrived at Damascus, struck Moawiyah in the reins, but the wound was not mortal. The surgeon that was called to, see him, after having searched and considered it, gave him his, choice, either to be cauterized, or drink a potion that should render him incapable of generation. Moawiyah without any hesitation chose the latter, and did in reality remain the rest of his days without having any other children besides those, which were born to him before he received his wound.
The assassin, who was instantly seized, discovered the conspiracy which he had made with his two comrades, and, was condemned to have his hands and feet cut off, and be suffered to live. He did survive the execution of this sentence; but one of Moawiyah’s friends being informed of it, said that it was by no means reasonable that the assassin who had hindered Moawiyah from having children should have any of his own, went and killed him with his own hands.
Amrou Ebn Beker, the second of the conspirators, was in Egypt, on Friday the seventeenth of the month Ramadan, the day appointed to strike his blow; Amrou Ebn Aas was then, fortunately for him, troubled with a fit of the cholic, which hindered him that day from performing the office of Imam in the mosque; wherefore he appointed another to supply his place, who fell down dead with the blow, which the assassin, who mistook him for Amrou, gave him. The murderer, as he was led to execution, said, without any concern, “I designed Amrou, but God designed another.” Other authors say, that when he was brought before Amrou, he asked who that was. They told him Amrou. “Whom, then,” said he, “have I killed?” They answered Karijah. Then Amrou said to him, “You meant Amrou, but God meant Karijah.”
The third of these conspirators, Abdarrhaman, in the execution of his wicked design against Ali, had better success than his other two companions had against their intended victims. On his arrival at Cufah, he took up his lodgings at a woman’s house, whose nearest relations had been killed at the battle of Naharwan, and who for that reason cherished in heart a strong desire of being revenged upon Ali. Abdarrhaman, finding this woman in a position so favourable to his design, used his utmost efforts to gain her goodwill, at the same time making her an overture of marriage, to which she answered:—“The dowry which I will have of the man that marries me, shall be three thousand drachmas of silver, a slave, a maid, and Ali’s head.” Abdarrhaman instantly accepted the conditions. When he therefore was proceeding to put his design in execution, she joined with him two other men, whose names were Derwan and Sheith, to assist him.
During all the month of Ramadan in which be was killed, Ali had several presages of his death, and in private, among his friends, used occasionally to let drop some words to that purpose. Once, after he had undergone a great deal of uneasiness, he was heard to say, “Alas! my heart, there is need of patience, for there is no remedy against death!” In short, Friday the seventeenth of this month being come, he went out of his house early in the morning to go to the mosque, and it was observed that the household birds made a great noise as he passed through his yard; and that one of his slaves having thrown a cudgel at them to make them quiet, he said to him, “Let them alone, for their cries are only lamentations foreboding my death.”
As soon as he came into the mosque, those three villains, who waited for him, pretended to quarrel among themselves, and drew their swords.
Derwan made a blow at Ali, but missed him, and the blow fell upon the gate of the mosque. Abdarrhaman struck him upon the head, just in the same place where he had received a wound in the battle of Ahzab, which was fought in Mohammed’s time, and that stroke was mortal. The three assassins had time to make their escape, without being apprehended. Derwan crept home, where a man who had seen him with his sword in hand against Ali, went and killed him. Shabib took to his heels, and ran so well, that he was never caught. Abdarrhaman concealed himself for some time. When Ali was asked who was the author of such an enormous attempt against his life, he answered, “You shall soon hear tidings of him.” In short a Mussulman having found Abdarrhaman hid in a corner, with his sword in his hand, asked him if it was not he that had wounded Ali; the assassin, willing to deny it, was constrained by his own conscience to confess it; and was instantly brought before Ali. Ali delivered him in custody to his eldest son Hasan, with orders to let him want nothing; and if he died of his wound, then to execute his murderer at one stroke only. Hasan punctually obeyed the command of his father, who died on the 19th, 20th, or 21st of the same month, that is, the third, fourth, or fifth day after he was wounded. This is the account which the learned D’Herbelot gives of the death of the murderer, taken, as I suppose, from out of his Persian authors. But Tabari and Abulfeda, authors of great account among the Arabians, relate it quite differently; Abulfeda says, “That first his hand was cut off, and then his foot on the opposite side; next they put out his eyes with a red hot iron, then cut out his tongue, and afterwards burned him;” to which he adds, “the curse of God be upon him. This account I take to be much the more probable, considering the heinousness of the crime and the temper of that people. For though it is not at all improbable that Ali gave such orders, yet I can by no means be induced to believe that they were so mercifully executed. Doubtful, however, as may be the manner of his death, it is quite certain that the heretics look upon him as a martyr.
As to Ali’s age, also, authors differ. Some say he was sixty-three, others sixty-six, and some fifty-nine. The time of his caliphate was five years all but three months. Neither are writers better agreed as to the place of his burial; according to some he was buried opposite to the mosque in Cufah, or according to others in the royal palace; while a third class again asserted that his son Hasan conveyed him to Medina, and laid him by the side of his wife Fatima. The most probable opinion is, that he was buried in that place which, to this day, is visited by the Mussulmans as his tomb; at which a great many oblations are usually left by the devotees.
As to his person, he had a very red face, large eyes, a prominent belly, a bald head, a large beard; he was very hairy on the breast, rather short than middle-sized; of a good look, florid and youthful, and frequently smiling. He had in all nine wives, the first of whom was Fatima, Mohammed’s daughter, during whose life he married no other. By her he had three children, Hasan, Hosein, and Mohassan, of whom the last died in infancy.
The second wife was Omm-al Nebiyin, by whom he had four children, Abdallah, Abbas, Othman, and Jaasar, who were all four killed at the battle of Kerbelah.
His third wife, named Asimah, was the mother of Jahya and Aoun.
The fourth, whose name was Omm Habibah was the mother of Omar.
The sixth, whose name was Caulah, was the mother of Mohammed Ebn Hanifiyah, of whom we shall give a further account in the sequel of the history.
I find no particular mention of the names of the rest of his wives; two more sons, however, are mentioned, Mohammed the younger, and Amrou, who were born of some one or other of them.
Though there are but fourteen sons mentioned here, it is certain he had fifteen, whereof five only left any posterity behind them: namely, Hasan, Hosein, Mohammed Ebn Hanifiyah, Abbas, and Amrou. As for the number of his daughters, they are usually reckoned at eighteen.
This particular account of Ali’s family may seem superfluous to some, but it will not be so regarded by those who consider the great changes and revolutions which have been made by it in the several succeeding generations of the Mussulmans, and of what importance it is throughout the whole course of their history.
Strange things are reported of Ali. One thing particularly deserving to be noticed is that his mother was delivered of him at Mecca, in the very temple itself; which never happened to any one else. The name that his mother gave him first was Caid; but Mohammed his cousin-german changed it into Ali.
Among the many surnames, or honourable titles, which the Mussulmans bestow upon Ali, there are two principal ones; the first of which is Wasi, which signifies, in Arabic, legatee, mandatary, executor of a man’s will, and heir, “that is, of Mohammed. His second title is Mortada or Mortadi, which signifies “beloved by, or acceptable to, God.” They called him, even whilst he was alive, Esed Allah algalib, “the victorious lion of God;” to which may be added, Haidar, which also in the Arabic language signifies “a lion.” The Shii, who are his followers, or rather adorers, frequently call him, Faid alanwar, “the distributer of lights or graces.” And in Persian, Shah Mordman, “the king of men,” and Shir Khoda, “the lion of God.”
The greatest part of the Mussulmans pretend that Ali was the first that embraced their religion. And according to tradition he was a very early Mussulman indeed, for it seems he made profession of that religion in his mother’s womb. For all the time she was big of him he hindered her from prostrating herself before her idol which she used to worship. The form of benediction or blessing which the Mussulmans always add when they name him, is “God glorify the face of him.” They say, moreover, that Mohammed, talking of him, said, “Ali is for me, and I am for him; he stands to me in the same rank as Aaron did to Moses; I am the town in which all knowledge is shut up, and he is the gate of it.”
However, these great eulogies did not hinder his name, and that of all his family, from being cursed, and their persons excommunicated through all the mosques of the empire of the caliphs of the house of Ommiyah, from Moawiyah down to the time of Omar Ebn Abdalaziz, who suppressed this solemn malediction. There were besides several caliphs of the house of Abbas, who expressed a great aversion to Ali and all his posterity; such as Motaded and Motawakkel, to whom he is reported to have appeared in their sleep and threatened with his indignation. On the other hand, the Fatimite caliphs of Egypt caused his name to be added to that of Mohammed in the publication of the times of prayer, which is made from the turrets of the mosques.
It is said that the sepulchre of Ali was kept hid during the reign of the family of Ommiyah, and not discovered till the accession of the Abbasides, which is not credible. In the year 367 of the Hejirah (a.d. 977), Abhaudedaulat built a sumptuous monument over it, which the Persians generally call Konbud Faid alanwar, “the dome of the dispenser of the lights and graces.” Now, notwithstanding the sepulchre of Ali, near the city of Cufah, is very well known, there are some of his sect who believe him to be still alive, and affirm, that he will come again at the end of the world, and fill the earth with justice. Some among them are so extravagant as to make him a divine person. The more moderate say, that he is not truly God, but that in a great many things he partakes of the divine nature.
Among all the Mohammedans alike Ali has a great reputation for wisdom. There is extant of his a “Centiloquium,” or “a hundred sentences,” which have been translated out of Arabic into Turkish and Persian. There is likewise a collection of verses by him under the title of “Anwar Alokail.” And in the Bodleian library there is a large book of his sentences, a specimen whereof we have annexed to this history. But his most celebrated piece is that entitled “Jefr we Jame.” It is written on parchment in a mystic character intermixed with figures, which narrate or typify all the grand events that are to happen from the foundation of Mussulmanism to the end of the world. This parchment, which is deposited in the hands of his family, has not up to this time been deciphered. Jaafer Sadek has indeed succeeded in partially interpreting it; but the entire explication of it is reserved for the twelfth Imam, who is surnamed by way of excellence, the Mohdi, or “Grand Director.”
Besides these books of which we have been speaking, we find in different authors several sentences and apophthegms, under the name of Ali. The following, which is one of the most instructive, is quoted by the author of “Rabi Alakyar,” “He that would be rich without means, powerful without subjects, and subject without a master, hath nothing to do but to leave off sinning and serve God, and he will find these three things.” One of his captains having asked him one day, with impudence enough, what was the reason that the reigns of Abubeker and Omar his predecessors were so peaceable, and that of Othman and his own were so full of troubles and divisions, Ali answered him very wisely; “The reason is plain, it is because Othman and I served Abubeker and Omar during their reigns; and Othman and I found nobody to serve us but you, and such as are like you.”
Somebody having told Ali one day that Moawiyah had said that he and those of his house distinguished themselves by their bravery, Zobeir and his family made a noise with their magnificence, but that for his own part and his family’s, they did not pretend to distinguish themselves from others, or by anything but their humanity and clemency. Ali answered those that told him so, that it looked as if Moawiyah had made use of artifice in his discourse, having a mind, if possible, to spur on Zobeir and him to show off their magnificence and bravery; to the end that the one, throwing himself into a vast expense, and the other into great hazards, they might not be in a condition to oppose his usurpation; while he himself sought to gain the affections of the people by boasting of the sweetness of his temper.
There is, moreover, in the book entitled “Rabi Alakyar” another maxim of Ali, which is very memorable and very contrary to the conduct of those who vaunt themselves upon the account of their being of his sect. “Take great care,” said he, “never to separate yourselves from the fellowship of the other Mussulmans; for he that separates himself from them belongs to the devil, as the sheep that leave the flock belong to the wolf. Therefore give no quarter to him who marches under the standard of schism, though be has my turban upon his head, for he carries along with him the infallible mark of a man that is out of the way.” It should here be remarked, by the way, that those of the sect of Ali have not only a turban made after a particular fashion; but that they also twist their hair after a manner quite different from the rest of the Mussulmans.
Hosain Waez also, in his paraphrase and commentary upon the Koran, recites the following passage from Ali:—God hath given men two Imams, that is to say, two pontifs or mediators between him and them. The first is the prophet who is gone, and is no more among them. The second which remains and shall continue always with them is the prayer which they make to obtain pardon of sins.”
Ali’s sectaries are called by the Mussulmans (who entitle themselves Somnites, that is, observers of the tradition, or orthodox) by the scandalous name of Shii, which is formed from the term Shiyah, and signifies properly a scandalous, reprobate sect. A sect that follows approved opinions, is called by the Arabs, Medheb. But these sectaries of Ali, of whom we are speaking, do not call themselves by that opprobrious designation. On the contrary, they apply it to their adversaries, calling their own sect Adaliyah, which means the religion of them that follow justice and the right side.
The partisans of Ali have, in greater or less numbers, always been dispersed throughout all the countries of the empire of the Mussulmans, and have from time to time raised considerable disturbances. They have possessed several kingdoms both in Asia and Africa. At this day all the great empire of the Persians, and one half of the princes of the Uzbecks, whose dominions lie beyond the river Gihon, and some Mohammedan kings of the Indies, make profession of this sect.
These are the principal memoirs relating to that great caliph, who, laying aside all those impertinent fabulous stories which they tell of him, was, if he be considered with regard to his courage, temper, piety, and understanding, one of the greatest men that was ever born in that nation. The inscription of his seal was, “The kingdom belongs to the only mighty God.”
- Ebn Al Athir. MS. Pocock. No. 137.
- Ebn Al Athir.
- See Dr. Herbelot under the title Ali.
- D’Herbelot says, “Ali suivat son conseil,” Ali followed his counsel. Our manuscript says otherwise, and the sense proves it.
- An. Hej. 36.
- Price places this circumstance in Hej. 36. He thus gives at full length the messenger’s reply to Ali:—“Fifty thousand men are assembled about the robes of Othman, whose cheeks and beards have never been dry from tears, and whose eyes have never ceased from weeping blood, since the hour of that prince’s atrocious murder. They have drawn their swords with a solemn pledge never to return them to the scabbard, nor cease from mourning, until they have extirpated all concerned in that detested transaction. This sentiment they have left as a solemn bequest to their descendants; and the earliest principle that mothers instil into the minds of their infant offspring is, to revenge the blood of Othman to the last extremity.” This insolent speech excited the anger of the attendants of the caliph to such a degree, that had not Ali interposed, serious consequences might have ensued. Strange to say, this magnanimity on the part of Ali operated like magic on the messenger of Moawiyah, who then declared himself convinced of his error, and solemnly swore that for the future he would never voluntarily separate from the person of Ali, or acknowledge the authority of any other sovereign to his prejudice.”
- This was Ziyad Ben Hentelah, of Arabia Felix.
- Alcamil MS. Pocock, No. 137.
- Abulfeda, MS. Pocock, No. 303.
- Koran chap. ii. 151.
- D’Herbelot in voce Ali
- This was Othman Ben Haniph.
- Ebno Al Athir.
- Ebn Al Athir.
- Ziyad the son of Hantelah.
- By the two testimonies is meant the two articles of their faith, “There is but one God, Mohammed is the apostle of God.”
- That was Abu Kotadah.
- That is Mohammedanism. The word signifies the delivering one’s self up; and, with the article Al, it is restrained to the signification of delivering one’s self up to God.
- Flyers, or refugees.
- All who have been once on a pilgrimage to Mecca, are entitled to this name, which ensure them respect during life.
- Othman’s beard is said to have been of remarkable length and beauty, and the loss of it totally changed his appearance. Upon seeing him, Ali observed with a smile, “That he had left him an old man, but returned to him a beardless youth.” —Price.
- Ebn Al Athir.
- Ammar, the son of Yaser.
- It is a text in the Koran.
- It is a text that frequently occurs in the Koran.
- This account is corroborated by Major Price.
- Koran, chap. v.
- “To the very last moment Ali evinced a decided repugnance to shed the blood of a Mussulman; and just before the battle he endeavoured to turn the adverse party to their allegiance by a solemn appeal to the Koran. A person named Mosslem immediately offered himself for the service; and, uplifting a copy of the sacred volume with his right hand, this individual proceeded to admonish the enemy to recede from their unwarranted designs. But the hand which bore the holy manuscript was severed from his arm by one of the infuriated multitude. Seizing the charge with his left, that limb also was divided by another scimitar. Still, however, pressing it to his bosom with the mutilated remnants, he continued his exhortations until finally despatched by the swords of the enemy. His body was subsequently recovered by his friends, and prayers pronounced over it by Ali in person; after which, taking up a handful of dust, and scattering it towards the insurgents, that prince imprecated upon them the retribution of an avenging Deity. In the meantime, the impetuosity of Ali’s followers could no longer be restrained. Drawing their swords and pointing their spears, they rushed impetuously to the combat, which was supported on all sides with extraordinary fierceness and animosity.” —Price’s Moh. Hist.
- Ebn Al Athir. D’Herbelot in Ali.
- Mircond. D’Herbelot. Ebn Al Athir.
- Ebn Al Athir. D’Herbelot.
- “Convinced that the battle must remain in suspense as long as the camel continued to exhibit a rallying point to the defenders of Ayesha, Ali signified his desire to those around him that their efforts should be directed to bring down the animal. After repeated and desperate assaults, Malec Alashtar succeeded at length in forcing a passage, and immediately struck off one of the camel’s legs. The animal preserved its posture, notwithstanding, erect and unmoved. Another leg was struck off equally without effect, and Malec Alashtar, under an impression of astonishment and awe, was hesitating whether he should proceed, when Ali drew near and called out to him to strike boldly, though the noble animal might appear to be under the care of a supernatural agency. Thus stimulated, Malec smote the third leg, and the camel immediately sunk to the earth. The litter of Ayesha being thus brought to the ground, Mohammed, the son of Abubeker, was directed by Ali to take charge of his sister, and protect her from being injured by the missiles which still flew from all quarters. He drew near accordingly, but introducing his hand into the litter, and happening to touch that of Ayesha, she loaded him with abuse and execration, demanding what reprobate had presumed to stretch his hand where none but the prophet’s had been permitted to intrude. Mohammed replied, that though it was the hand of her nearest in blood, it was also that of her bitterest enemy. Recognizing, however, the well-known accents of her brother, the apprehensions of Ayesha were speedily dispelled.” —Price’s Moh. Hist.
- Abulfeda. Rejeb. anno 36.
- By the direction of Ali, Ayesha was escorted by a retinue of women, apparelled as men, and their familiar approach afforded a constant subject of complaint. On her arrival at Medina, however, she discovered the delicacy of the imposture, and became as liberal in her acknowledgments as she had before been in her reproaches.” —Price’s Mohammedan History.
- Abulfaragius says that they dial not swear to him by the title of caliph, but only of emir.
- The following interesting circumstance is related by Major Price as having taken place at the commencement of the war. “As Sefein commanded to a considerable distance, the only access to the waters of the Euphrates, Moawiyah had stationed Abul Our, one of his generals, with ten thousand men, to guard the communication from the troops of Ali. He had not long placed his army in this advantageous position, when Ali approached and pitched his camp in the same neighbourhood, and his followers soon found that their expected supply of water was intercepted. Under these circumstances, Ali sent a deputation to Moawiyah to request he would relinquish an advantage which appeared so inconsistent between kindred, though at present hostile tribes, assuring him that had he been possessed of it, the passage should have been equally free to both armies. Moawiyah immediately made known the message to his courtiers, most of whom contended that as the murderers of Othman had cut off all supplies of water when they besieged his palace, so on the present occasion it would only be just to retaliate. Amrou however, dissented from this opinion, declaring that Ali would not suffer his army to perish of thirst with the warlike legions of Irak at his heels, and Euphrates before his eyes, , and added that they were contending for the caliphate, not for a skin of water. But the first counsel prevailed, and the messenger was dismissed with the reply that Moawiyah was resolved not to forego what he considered to be the earnest of future victory. The result of this application occasioned Ali considerable vexation and perplexity, till at length the privation became unbearable, and Malec Alashtar, and Aishaath the son of Keyss begged to be allowed to open the communication with their swords. Permission being granted, and proclamation being made throughout the camp, in less than an hour, ten thousand men had flocked to the standard of Aishaath, and an equal number to the tent of Malec Alashtar. Disposing these troops in convenient order, the two chieftains conducted their army towards the channel of the Euphrates, and after vainly warning Abul Our to quit the banks of the river, Malec at the head, of the cavalry and Aishaath at the head of the foot, immediately closed upon the enemy. During the action that succeeded, Malec was nearly exhausted with thirst and exertion, when a soldier by his side begged him to accept a draught of water; but the generous warrior refused to accept the indulgence till the sufferings of his followers had been allayed, and at the same time being assailed by the enemy, he laid seven of their bravest soldiers in the dust. But the raging thirst of Malec and his troops became at length intolerable, and he directed all that were furnished with water-bags to follow him through the ranks of their opponents without quitting his person until they should have filled all their vessels. Piercing the line of the adverse party, Malec made good his way to the river whilst his followers supplied themselves with water. The conflict raged with unabated fury in the bed of the Euphrates, till Abul Our, finding his troops give way before the resistless attack of their assailants, and being already beaten from his post, despatched a messenger to Moawiyah, who immediately sent Amrou with 3000 horse to his relief. The arrival of that general, however, seems to have rendered the victory of Malec more signal and decisive. No sooner did the latter descry the approach of Amrou than, covering himself with his shield, he urged his courser towards him with irresistible impetuosity, and Amrou only eluded the fury of his adversary by retiring within the ranks of the Syrians. The latter, however, were put to the sword in great numbers, many were drowned in the Euphrates, whilst the remainder fled for refuge to the camp of Moawiyah; and the troops of Ali having thus successfully dislodged the enemy, established themselves in quiet possession of the watering place and its approaches. Smarting under the reproaches of Amrou, Moawiyah now found himself reduced to the necessity of applying to his adversary for the indulgence which he had so recently withheld; but Ali, with the liberality and magnanimity so congenial to his general character, readily granted to his troops a free communication to the Euphrates, and from this time the followers of either army passed and repassed to the river with equal confidence and freedom of intercourse.”
- An. Hej. 37. cœpit Jun. 18, A.D 657.
- The authorities, quoted by Price, enter very minutely into various individual contests which took place during this protracted campaign. In several of these Ali was personally engaged; but his extraordinary strength and skill was so well known to the opposite party, that he was obliged to disguise himself before an assailant would attack him. On one occasion, being mounted on the horse and arrayed in the armour of one of his chiefs, he was attacked by a warrior from Moawiyah’s army; and we are told that, with a single sweep of his scimitar, the caliph severed the upper from the lower half of his body. It is said that such was the keenness and temper of the steel, and the rapidity and precision of the stroke, that the man thus severed in twain continued fixed in the saddle; the spectators concluding that Ali had missed his blow, until the horse chanced to move, when the two halves of the body fell to the ground.
In the life of Abultaieb al Motanabbi, as given in the Oriental Collection, the following line by that poet, relating to Ali, is quoted:—
- “Spears and swords in his hand are slaves and domestics.”
- D’Herbelot says, five thousand, which must be a mistake.
- Ammar in spite of his venerable age, was one of the most enthusiastic combatants in Ali’s army. A short time previous to his death he thus addressed himself to the Irakians “By Allah! I do not know a deed more pleasing to God than to war against these lawless vagabonds. I would fight them even if I was assured of being run through with a lance; for the death of a martyr, and the paradise beyond, are only to be acquired in the ranks of Ali. However courageously our enemies may fight, still justice is on our side: they desire not to revenge Othman’s death, but ambition drives them to revolt. Follow me, companions of the prophet! the gates of heaven are opened, and houris are waiting to receive us. Let us triumph here, or meet Mohammed and his friends in paradise!” With these words he gave his charger the lash, and plunged with desperate violence into the hottest of the fight, till, at length, he was surrounded by the Syrians, and fell a sacrifice to his own courage. His death stirred up Ali’s troops to revenge, whilst even the Syrians regretted his loss, from the high esteem in which Ammar had been held by the prophet.—Weil, Geschicte der Chalifen.
- One day, towards the close of the campaign, Ali prepared for battle with unusual solemnity. Clad in the prophet’s mail and turban, and mounted on the prophet’s horse, Reyah, he brought out the old and venerated standard of Mohammed. The appearance of the sacred relic, now worn to shreds, brought sobs and tears from the illustrious companions who had so often fought and conquered under its shadow; and the enthusiastic troops drew out in formidable strength beneath the holy banner. Moawiyah had assembled twelve thousand of the best warriors of Hejaz, when Ali, sword in hand, rushed upon them at the head of his impetuous veterans to the cry of Allah Acbar, and threw the enemy into immediate confusion. The Syrians at length recovered from the disorder. The tribe of Auk on the side of Moawiyah, and that of the Hamdanites on the part of Ali, each made a solemn vow never to quit the fields whilst one of their opponents remained to dispute it. A dismal slaughter among the bravest of both armies was the result. Heads rolled about like tennis balls, and streams of blood polluted the field in all directions; but in the issue, the Syrians suffered a total defeat, and retired in the utmost confusion.—Price’s Mohammedan History.
- Amrou, however, does not seem to have possessed a much larger share of personal valour than Moawiyah on this occasion. Price tells us that a short time afterwards, Ali having changed his armour and disguised himself, again appeared in the lists. Unconscious of his identity, Amrou advanced a few steps, and Ali, pretending a degree of apprehension, still further encouraged him to proceed. They were both on horseback, and as Amrou neared his foe, he repeated certain bragging lines, importing the discomfiture and havoc he intended to carry into the enemy’s army, even though a thousand such as Ali were numbered in their ranks. Ali replied in a strain which rather unexpectedly announced his identity. Away went Amrou, without a moment’s delay, whipping and spurring as fast as possible, whilst Ali pursued with the utmost eagerness, and making a well directed plunge, the point of his lance passed through the skirts of Amrou’s coat of mail, and brought him, head foremost, to the earth. Unfortunately, as Amrou wore no drawers, and his heels were in the air, that part of his person became exposed which we shall forbear to particularize. In this situation Ali scorned to do him any further injury, and suffered him to escape with the contemptuous remark, that he was never to forget the circumstance to which he was indebted for life and safety. A very humorous account has been preserved of the conversation that ensued between Amrou and Moawiyah at their next interview, which we here insert.
- Moawiyah.—I give thee credit, Amrou, for thy ingenuity, and believe thou art the first warrior that ever escaped the sword by so scandalous an exposure. You ought to be grateful to those organs to the day of thy death.
- Amrou.—Cease thy railing, Moawiyah! hadst thou been in my place, thy pride had been completely humbled, and thy wives and children widowed and fatherless. These sarcasms come not well from you who turned pale and trembling at Ali’s challenge.
- Moawiyah.—Pray, Amrou, how didst thou breathe with thy legs swinging in the air? If thou hadst known how thou were to be disgraced, thou surely wouldst have worn a pair of drawers.
- Amrou.—I only retreated from the superior strength of my enemy.
- Moawiyah.—Oh, I do not consider it disgraceful to yield to Ali; but I maintain it was scandalous to make flag-staffs of thy legs, and expose thyself so shamefully to him and all the world.
- Amrou.—It cannot be surprising that Ali should have spared me when he recollected me to be his uncle’s son.
- Moawiyah.—Nay, Amrou, this is too arrogant. The prophet declared that Ali was of the same descent as himself, and we all know that his father was a chief of the illustrious race of Hashem, whereas thine was a common butcher, of the tribe of Koreish.
- Amrou.—Great God! Your remarks are worse than the swords and arrows of the enemy. Had I never involved myself in thy quarrel, nor bartered my eternal welfare for worldly profit, I should never have been forced to bear with such speeches, or endure such a burden of labour and anxiety.
- Price informs us that Moawiyah procured 550 copies of the Koran for this purpose.
- This agreement was signed on Wednesday the 13th of the month Saphar, in the year thirty-seven.
- Dumat al Jondel.
- D’Herbolet, Ebn Al Athir.
- D’Herbelot is here mistaken, for it was not, as he supposes, Abdallah Ebn Abbas, who was governor of Bassorah; but Abdallah, governor of Yemen, whom, as we have before noted, Ali put into that lieutenancy at his first coming to the caliphate. Besides, how should the governor of Bassorah receive a visit from him in his return from Arabia Felix into Syria?
- “Okail had complained to Ali of the slenderness of his means, and requested that an addition to his salary might be made him from the public treasury. This Ali refused to do, but upon being repeatedly urged by his brother, he at length desired Okail to meet him at night, when they would break into the house of a wealthy neighbour, and find ample means for his wants. ‘Are you serious?’ demanded Okail, with a mixture of surprise and indignation. ‘On the great day of account,’ replied Ali, ‘how much easier shall I acquit myself against the accusation of a solitary individual, than against the united cry of the whole community of Islam, individually possessed of that property which you wish me to give to thee? “Other writers, however, say, that when Okail applied to his brother for an augmentation of his pension, the latter desired him to wait for a moment, and withdrawing into his own house, he presently returned with a piece of red-hot iron, which he requested Okail to hold in his hand. The latter of course declined. ‘Nay, then,’ said Ali, ‘if you cannot sustain the heat which has been produced by man, how can you expect me to expose myself to the fire which God will kindle.’ Okail thus seeing that his application would not be attended to, left Cufah, and joined Moawiyah.” —Price’s Mohammedan History.
- Price informs us that Abdarrhaman became violently enamoured of this woman, whose uncommon beauty and attractions he was unable to resist. Her name was Kettaumah. An Arab writer adds, “That her face was like the glorious reward of the virtuous, and the tresses which adorned her cheek like the black records of the villain’s guilt.”
- Abulfeda says, Werdan and Shabib. The same letters may be read for both. D’Herbelot seems to have read it in Persian, in which writing, w is like d, and sometimes r. But Werdan and Shabib are the right names.
- Abulfeda says that in this opinion he chooses to follow Ebn Al Athir.
- From whence it is that our European travellers corruptly call him Mortis Ali, which the readers take to have been his name.
- Somnites and Shiites are the two leading sects into which the Mohammedan world is divided; and they have gone on cursing and persecuting each other, without any intermission for about eleven hundred years. The Somni is the established sect in Turkey, and the Shia in Persia. The differences between them turn chiefly upon trivial points, which are thus happily satirized by Thomas Moore in the sixth letter of his “Twopenny Post Bag.”
- “You know our Somnites, —hateful dogs
- Whom every pious Shiite flogs,
- Or longs to flog*—’tis true, they pray
- To God, but in an ill-bred way;
- With neither arms, nor legs, nor faces,
- Stuck in their right canonic places.†
- ’Tis true, they worship Ali’s name‡ —
- Their heaven and ours are just the same—
- (A Persian’s heaven is eas’ly made,
- ‘Tis but black eyes and lemonade.)
- Yet, though we’ve tried for centuries back—
- We can’t persuade this stubborn pack,
- By bastinadoes, screws, or nippers,
- To wear th’established pea-green slippers.§
- Then, only think, the libertines!
- They wash their toes—they comb their chins||
- With many more such deadly sins;
- And what’s the worse (though last I rank it),
- Believe the Chapter of the Blanket!
- “Yet, spite of tenets so flagitious,
- (Which must, at bottom, be seditious;
- Since no man living would refuse
- Green slippers, but from treasonous views;
- Nor wash his toes, but with intent
- To overturn the government, )
- Such is our mild and tolerant way,
- We only curse them twice a day,
- (According to a form that’s set),
- And, far from torturing, only let
- All orthodox believers beat ’em,
- And twitch their beards, where’er they meet ’em.”
- * “Les Somnites, qui étaient comme les Catholiques de Musulmanisme.” —D’Herbelot.
- † “In contradistinction to the Sounis, who in their prayers cross their hands on the lower part of the breast, the Sebiahs drop their arms in straight lines; and the Sounis, at certain periods of the prayer, press their foreheads on the ground or carpet, the Schiahs.”—Forster’s Voyage.
- ‡ “Les Turcs ne detestent pas Ali reciproquement; au contraire, ils le reconnaissent,” &c., &c.—Chardin.
- § The Shiites wear green slippers, which the Somnites consider as a great abomination.” —Mariti.
- || For these points of difference, as well as for the Chapter of the Blanket, see Picart’s Mohammedan Sects.
- The following anecdotes of Ali are chiefly extracted from “Oriental Table Talk,” translated by Jonathan Scott, Esq. See Ouseley’s “Oriental Collections.” Once when Mohammed and Ali were eating dates together, the former placed all the shells on the plate of the latter unperceived, and on finishing their repast, he said, “He who has most shells must have eaten most.” “No,” says Ali, “he surely must have eaten most who has swallowed the shells also.” An Arabian once, in a mosque where Ali was present, said his prayers in such an improper manner of pronunciation, as enraged the caliph, who, when he had ended, reproved him, and, hurling his slippers at his breast, commanded him to repeat them, which the Arab did with great propriety of tone and emphasis. After he had done, says Ali, “Surely thy last prayers were better than the former.” “By no means,” replied the Arab, “for the first I said from devotion to God, but the last from dread of thy slippers.” A Jew said to the venerable Ali, in argument on the truth of their respective religions, “You had not even deposited your prophet’s body in the earth when you quarrelled among yourselves.” Ali replied, “Our divisions proceeded from the loss of him, not concerning our faith; but your feet were not yet dry from the mud of the Red Sea, when you cried unto Moses, saying, make us gods like those of the idolaters, that we may worship them.” The Jew was confounded. A person complained to Ali, saying, “A man has declared he dreamed that he slept with my mother, may I not inflict upon him the punishment of the law?-what is it?” Ali replied, “Place him in the sun, and beat his shadow; for what can be inflicted on an imaginary crime but imaginary correction?” The following decision is creditable to the ingenuity of Ali:—Two travellers sat down to dine; the one had five loaves, the other three. A stranger passing by, asked leave to eat with them, and they hospitably agreed thereto. After dinner, the stranger laid down eight pieces of money for his fare, and departed. The owner of the five loaves took up five pieces, and left three for the other, who insisted upon getting half. The case was brought before Ali for his decision, and he gave the following judgment:—Let the owner of the five loaves take seven pieces of money, and the other but one.” And this was the exact proportion of what each furnished for the stranger’s entertainment; for, dividing each loaf into three shares, the eight loaves gave twenty-four shares, and as they all fared alike, each person’s proportion was a third of the whole, or eight shares. The stranger therefore, ate seven shares of the five loaves, and only one of the three loaves; and in this manner the caliph divided the money between the owners.