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27
CALIPHATE

the few days that Othman was besieged in his house that the danger became obvious. If the caliph then, as the chroniclers tell, sent a message to Moawiya for help, his messenger could not have accomplished half the journey to Damascus when the catastrophe took place. There is no real reason to doubt that the painful news fell on Moawiya unexpectedly, and that he, as mightiest representative of the Omayyad house, regarded as his own the duty of avenging the crime. He could not but view Ali in the light of an accomplice, because if, as he protested, he did not abet the murderers, yet he took them under his protection. An acknowledgment of Ali as caliph by Moawiya before he had cleared himself from suspicion was therefore quite impossible.

1. The Reign of Moawiya.—Moawiya, son of the well-known Meccan chief Abu Sofiān, embraced Islam together with his father and his brother Yazid, when the Prophet conquered Mecca, and was, like them, treated with the greatest distinction. He was even chosen to be one of the secretaries of Mahomet. When Abu Bekr sent his troops for the conquest of Syria, Yazid, the eldest son of Abu Sofiān, held one of the chief commands, with Moawiya as his lieutenant. In the year 639 Omar named him governor of Damascus and Palestine; Othman added to this province the north of Syria and Mesopotamia. To him was committed the conduct of the war against the Byzantine emperor, which he continued with energy, at first only on land, but later, when the caliph had at last given in to his urgent representations, at sea also. In the year 34 (A.D. 655) was fought off the coast of Lycia the great naval battle, which because of the great number of masts has been called “the mast fight,” in which the Greek[1] fleet, commanded by the emperor Constans II. in person, was utterly defeated. Moawiya himself was not present, as he was conducting an attack (the result of which we do not know) on Caesarea in Cappadocia. The Arabic historians are so entirely preoccupied with the internal events that they have no eye for the war at the frontier. The contention which Moawiya had with Ali checked his progress in the north.

Moawiya was a born ruler, and Syria was, as we have seen, the best administered province of the whole empire. He was so loved and honoured by his Syrians that, when he invited them to avenge the blood of Othman, they replied unanimously, “It is your part to command, ours to obey.” Ali was a valiant man, but had no great talent as a ruler. His army numbered a great many enthusiastic partisans, but among them not a few wiseacres; there were also others of doubtful loyalty. The battle at Siffin (657), near the Euphrates, which lasted two months and consisted principally in, sometimes bloody, skirmishes, with alternate success, ended by the well-known appeal to the decision of the Koran on the part of Moawiya. This appeal has been called by a European scholar “one of the unworthiest comedies of the whole world's history,” accepting the report of very partial Arabic writers that it happened when the Syrians were on the point of losing the battle. He forgot that Ali himself, before the Battle of the Camel, appealed likewise to the decision of the Koran, and began the fight only when this had been rejected. There is in reality no room for suspecting Moawiya of not having been in earnest when making this appeal; he might well regret that internecine strife should drain the forces which were so much wanted for the spread of Islam. That the Book of God could give a solution, even of this arduous case, was doubtless the firm belief of both parties. But even if the appeal to the Koran had been a stratagem, as Ali himself thought, it would have been perfectly legitimate, according to the general views of that time, which had been also those of the Prophet. It is not unlikely that the chief leader of the Yemenites in Ali's army, Ash‛ath b. Qais, knew beforehand that this appeal would be made. Certainty is not to be obtained in the whole matter.

On each side an umpire was appointed, Abu Mūsā al-Ash‛arī, the candidate of Ash‛ath, on that of Ali, Amr-ibn-el-Ass (q.v.) on that of Moawiya. The arbitrators met in the year 37 (A.D. 658) at Adhroḥ, in the south-east of Syria, where are the ruins of the Roman Castra described by Brünnow and Domaszewsky (Die Provincia Arabia, i. 433-463). Instead of this place, the historians generally put Dūmat-al-Jandal, the biblical Duma, now called Jauf, but this rests on feeble authority. The various accounts about what happened in this interview are without exception untrustworthy. J. Wellhausen, in his excellent book Das arabische Reich und sein Stürz, has made it very probable that the decision of the umpires was that the choice of Ali as caliph should be cancelled, and that the task of nominating a successor to Othman should be referred to the council of notable men (shūrā), as representing the whole community. Ali refusing to submit to this decision, Moawiya became the champion of the law, and thereby gained at once considerable support for the conquest of Egypt, to which above all he directed his efforts. As soon as Amr returned from Adhroḥ, Moawiya sent him with an army of four or five thousand men against Egypt. About the same time the constitutional party rose against Ali's vicegerent Mahommed, son of Abu Bekr, who had been the leader of the murderous attack on Othman. Mahommed was beaten, taken in his flight, and, according to some reports, sewn in the skin of an ass and burned.

Moawiya, realizing that Ali would take all possible means to crush him, took his measures accordingly. He concluded with the Greeks a treaty, by which he pledged himself to pay a large sum of money annually on condition that the emperor should give him hostages as a pledge for the maintenance of peace. Ali, however, had first to deal with the insurrection of the Kharijites, who condemned the arbitration which followed the battle of Siffin as a deed of infidelity, and demanded that Ali should break the compact (see above, A. 4). Freed from this difficulty, Ali prepared to direct his march against Moawiya, but his soldiers declined to move. One of his men, Khirrīt b. Rāshid, renounced him altogether, because he had not submitted to the decision of the umpires, and persuaded many others to refuse the payment of the poor-rate. Ali was obliged to subdue him, a task which he effected not without difficulty. Not a few of his former partisans went over to Moawiya, as already had happened before the days of Siffin, amongst others Ali's own brother ‛Aqīl. Lastly, there were in Kuta, and still more in Basra, many Othmaniya or legitimises, on whose co-operation he could not rely. Moawiya from his side made incessant raids into Ali's dominion, and by his agents caused a very serious revolt in Basra. The statement that a treaty was concluded between Moawiya and Ali to maintain the status quo, in the beginning of the year 40 (A.D. 660), is not very probable, for it is pretty certain that just then Ali had raised an army of 40,000 men against the Syrians, and also that in the second or third month of that year Moawiya was proclaimed caliph at Jerusalem. At the same time Bosr b. Abi Artāt made his expedition against Medina and Mecca, whose inhabitants were compelled to acknowledge the caliphate of Moawiya. On the murder of Ali in 661, his son Hasan was chosen caliph, but he recoiled before the prospect of a war with Moawiya, having neither the ambition nor the energy of Ali. Moawiya stood then with a large army in Maskin, a rich district lying to the north of the later West Bagdad, watered by the Dojail, or Little Tigris, a channel from the Euphrates to the Tigris. The army of Trak was near Madāin, the ancient Ctesiphon. The reports about what occurred are confused and contradictory; but it seems probable that Abdallah b. Abbas, the vicegerent of Ali at Basra and ancestor of the future Abbasid dynasty, was in command. No battle was fought. Hasan and Ibn Abbas opened, each for himself, negotiations with Moawiya. The latter made it a condition of surrender that he should have the free disposal of the funds in the treasury of Basra. Some say that he had already before the death of Ali rendered himself master of it. Notwithstanding the protest of the Basrians, he transported this booty safely to Mecca. When his descendants had ascended the throne and he had become a demi-saint, the historians did their best to excuse his conduct. Hasan demanded, in exchange for the power which he resigned, the contents of the treasury at Kuta, which amounted to five millions of dirhems, together with the revenues of the Persian province of Darābjird (Darab). When these negotiations became known, a mutiny broke out in Hasan's camp. Hasan himself was wounded and retired to Medina, where he

  1. The Arabs always call them Rūm, i.e. Romans.