The responsibility of the three leaders
As we look back at this war retrospectively, we find that thousands from the Bassrites met their death, believing that they were on the right side. They were confounded, and it was difficult for them to believe that a wife of the Messenger and two of his outstanding companions had parted with the truth. People were, and still are, trying to know the truth through their Leaders, rather than to try to know the Leaders through the truth. I do not believe that the people of Bassrah were aware of the brilliant history of the Imam Ali and the declarations of the Messenger concerning him.
The three leaders who led the Bassrites were fully aware of Ali's history and the testimonies of the Prophet for him, but they concealed what they knew about him. They did not want the Bassrites to know it. They tried with all their power to minimize his right and merit and accused him of what they themselves committed, the murder of Othman, knowing that Ali was innocent of their accusation. They added to what they had done to Othman the blood of thousands of victims who died in that battle from both sides. (1)
The Omayads Were Less Blamable than the Three Leaders
The responsibility of the three leaders in fighting the Imam and accusing him of the murder of Othman was bigger than the responsibilities of Muaweyah and the rest of the Omayads.
The attempt of the Omayads to avenge the blood of Othman by killing his killers did not have an Islamic justification, but it had a pre-Islamic tribal-justification. They were from the members of the clan of the assassinated Caliph. They did not play a big part in turning people against him. The three leaders of the Bassrite party did not have any justification in avenging the blood of 0th- man because they were the first to seek his blood. In addition to this, they were not from his relatives, and they knew that Ali was the most protective of Othman and opposed to his assassination. He offered Othman his help, and Othman rejected his offer (2) and in spite of this, he sent his two sons to do their share in his protection.
Talhah s Responsibility
Al-Balatheri reported that Talhah blamed Ali when he hit Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein for their unintended failure in protecting Othman, and that Ali cursed Talhah because he insisted to do what Ali disliked (conspiring against Othman). Talhah replied saying: Had Othman handed Marwan to the rebels, he would not have been killed. Ali disagreed with Talhah saying: "If Othman were to deliver Marwan to you, Marwan would have been killed before he was tried. (3)
A1-Tabari reported in his History about the events of the year 36 after the Hijrah that Ali said to Al-Zubeir at Bassrah, "Do you want to avenge from me the blood of Othman, while you were his killer? May God make our harshest to Othman meet what he dislikes today. (4)
Muaweyah, the head of the Omayad party, was not from those who pledged allegiance to the Imam. On the contrary, he refused to give such a pledge. It is true that the election of the Imam by the people of Medina and the majority of the Muslim nation made it mandatory for Muaweyah to follow the Imam and obey him, but he technically is not a breacher of covenant with the Imam as Al-Zubeir and Talhah. The two companions pledged their allegiance to the Imam, then led a devastating war against him. They were duty-bound to obey him as long as he followed the Book of God and the instructions of His Prophet. Ali was the most adherent to the Book of God and the teaching of the Holy Prophet. God ordered the believers to fulfill their covenant in which they give allegiance to a righteous ruler. The Holy Qur'an declared:
"And whoever breaches, he breaches against himself, and whoever fulfills what he pledges to God, God will give him a great reward". (5)
The Messenger of God ordered the nation to kill the breachers of the pledge of allegiance. Muslim reported in his Sahih that the Holy Prophet said: "There shall be events and events. Whoever tries to divide this nation while it is united, hit his head with the sword, whoever he may be. (6) It is reported also that the Holy Prophet said:
"Whoever takes a rebellious stand (against a righteous Imam), and parts with the united community, then he dies, he would die a pre-Islamic death. And whoever fights blindly under a banner unknown to be a banner of truth, siding with a wrong party selfishly, then he is killed, he dies a pre-Islamic death. And whoever parts with my nation and carries a sword indiscriminately hitting its righteous and transgressor and refusing to fulfill a covenant he made, he is not from me and I am not from him". (7)
Much more was expected from Ayeshah, Talhah, and Al-Zubeir than from Muaweyah who never had a brilliant past in religion; nor was he counted from among the righteous. The three leaders heard from the Messenger of God about Ali what Muaweyah did not hear. Even if the Omayad Muaweyah had heard what the three leaders heard from the Messenger about Ali, it would have been expected from them, rather than Muaweyah, the opportunist, to listen to the words of the Messenger and obey him.
Ayeshah, Al-Zubeir, and Talhah knew that the Messenger said on the day of Ghadeer Khum about Ali: "God, love whoever loves him and be hostile to whoever is hostile to him. (8)
And the Messenger also said to Ali, Fatima, Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein "I am at peace with whomever you are at peace, and I am at war with whomever you are at war. (9) These statements indicate clearly that whoever fights Ali fights the Messenger of God, and that the enemy of Ali is the enemy of God and His Messenger. Thus, the stand of the three righteous leaders with their hostilities towards Ali was an amazing event, for which there is no justification.
Al-Zubeir s Responsibility
Al-Zubeir should be particularly blamed. He is the one who stood up when Abu Bakr was elected, drawing his sword and saying "I shall not sheathe my sword until Ali is elected. Omar said to companions who were with him: "Take his sword and hit the rock with it. (10) Had Ali wanted to fight for the caliphate on that day, Al-Zubeir was ready to fight and be killed for the sake of Ali's leadership. How did he, after 25 years, fight the Imam after the Imam was elected by the companions and he was one of the electors?
Al-Zubeir particularly was to be blamed also because he heard from the Messenger of God that he shall fight Ali unjustly. This was reported by Ibn Al-Atheer in his AlKamil and Al-Tabari in his History and a number of historians. Al-Hakim reported in his Mustadrak through four channels that Ali reminded Al-Zubeir on the day of the Battle of Bassrah that the Prophet said to Al-Zubeir that he shall fight Ali while he is unjust to him. And AlZubeir acknowledged that and said he had forgotten it. (11)
Ayeshah particularly was to be blamed much more than the others because she was one of the wives of the Prophet, and she knew the extent of the love of the Messenger for Ali. She received from the Messenger warning and reprimand when she displayed resentment towards the presence of Ali with the Messenger.
Dialogue of Om Selemah and Ayeshah
Ibn Abu Al-Hadeed in his commentary on Nahjul-Balaghah recorded that Abu Makhnaf reported a dialogue between Om Selemah (another wife of the Messenger) and Ayeshah when the latter decided to go to Bassrah and invited Om Selemah to accompany her. Om Selemah reminded her of things which Ayeshah did not deny:
She reminded her of what took place when both of them were with the Messenger of God and Ali sat privately with the Prophet and his session with him was long. Ayeshah wanted to enter and Om Selemah advised her not to do that and she did not listen to Om Selemah. Then she came back crying. Ayeshah at that time informed Om Selemah that she said to Ali Ibn Abu Talib: "I have only one out of every nine days with the Messenger; why don't you leave me alone with my day? The Messenger turned to her angrily and his face was reddened, saying to her: "Go away! By God, whoever hates Ali from the members of my family or from other families, would be out of the Faith". (12)
The Lady of Al-Hau-ab
She reminded her also that they both were with the Messenger of God on a journey, and Ayeshah was washing the head of the Messenger and Om Selemah was preparing food for him. Suddenly he raised his head, saying:
"I wish I knew which one of you will be the rider of the huge camel. The dogs of Al-Hau-ab will bark at her while she is deviating from the right road. Om Selemah said:
"I freed my hand from the food and said, I seek refuge in God and His Messenger from this.' Then he slapped your back and said: Beware not to be that lady.' Then he said to me: Daughter of Abu Omayah, be not that lady.' Then he turned to Ayeshah saying: Humaira, (red faced) I have already warned you". (13)
The Patcher of the Sole
And the third item of which Om Selemah reminded Ayeshah was that they were with the Messenger on a journey. Ali used to mend the shoes of the Holy Prophet and wash his garments. The shoes of the Holy Prophet during that journey needed to be mended. He took them and started to patch them and sat in the shade of a tree. Abu Bakr and Omar asked permission to see the Prophet. Om Selemah said: Ayeshah and I left and sat behind the curtain. The two men entered and chatted with the Prophet for a while. Then they said: Messenger of God, we do not know how long you will be with us. We wish that you would inform us of a person whom you want as your successor. He said to the two men: "I see his place. And if I inform you of him, you shall part with him as the children of Israel parted with Aaron, son of Imran. When the two men heard these words, they left without comment. When we came out to the Messenger, you said to him (and you were our most courageous to ask him): Whom would you choose as your successor to lead them? He said: "The patcher of the sole. Then you and I went to see who was the patcher of the sole, and we found Ali patching the sole of the Prophet. You said to the Messenger of God: I do not see but Ali, and he said: "He is the one.
Ayeshah acknowledged all of what Om Selemah reminded her of. Then Om Selemah told her: I am Om Selemah. Yesterday you were agitating against Othman and saying about him the worst words. You named him Naathal (a name of a heavily bearded Arab Jew). And you know the place of Ali Ibn Abu Talib from the Messenger of God. (14)
A number of historians, including Ibn Al-Atheer and Al-Tabari reported the warning of the Messenger to Ayeshah and his prediction that she would be barked at by the dogs of A1-Hau-ab. (15)
A number of the recorders of the hadith, including AlHakim also reported that. Al-Hakim reported in his Mustadrak the following:
When Ayeshah reached the area of Banu Amir, dogs barked at her. She asked: Which water is this? They said:
Al-Hau-ab. She said: I think I am going back. A1-Zubeir said: No, you should continue your journey and let people see you, and you will bring about peace. She said: I guess that I am returning. I heard the Messenger of God saying:
What would one of you do when the dogs of Al-Hau-ab bark at her? (16)
Al-Hakim also reported that Om Selemah said: The Prophet one time mentioned the travels of some of the mothers of the believers and Ayeshah laughed, and he looked at her and said: Humaira, you should not be that lady. Then he turned to Ali saying: "If you have to deal with her, be kind to her. (17)
Om Selemah portrayed to Ayeshah her deeds and she excelled in her presentation. She said: . . . "What would you say if the Messenger of God faces you while you are in these deserts riding the camel from one water to another water? Certainly God witnesses your travel, and you shall meet His Messenger (on the Day of Judgment). If I were in your place and I am told: Enter Paradise, I would be ashamed to meet Mohammad after I tore up the screen with which he had hidden me. Make your house your fortress and the screen (of your room) your grave until you meet him, while you are in your best obedience to God and help to religion..." (18)
This sound advice was lost on Ayeshah. She said: "I accept your preaching. The matter is not what you think. It is a good journey which is requested by two parties fighting each other. If I stay, I would not be sinning, and if I leave, it would be for something I have to escalate. (19) It is amazing that Ayeshah claimed that she was taking the journey because two parties fighting each other resorted to her. Yet, one of the two parties (the party of the Imam) not only did not request her to take it, but vehemently opposed it. On the other hand, the other party would not have stood up to the Imam without Ayeshah's help and instigation. This shows us that when a person determines to do something, he would Pot lack an excuse with which to justify his action.
Ayeshah did all that while she knew that the Holy Qur'an commands the wives of the Messenger to stay in their houses:
"And stay in your houses and bedizen not yourselves with the bedizenment of the pre-Islamic State..." (Chapter 33, verse 34)
All this shows that the three leaders were more responsilbe than Muaweyah in destroying the unity of the Muslims by what they did under the pretext of avenging the blood of Othman while their aim was the destruction of the Imam's caliphate.
In spite of all this, we are not allowed to say about the three leaders but good and ask God to forgive them and say: "Our Lord, forgive us and our brethren who preceded us in Faith. What they had done is for God to judge. But there are certain conclusions which we may draw from these events:
Should We Accept Their Hadiths?
1. Since these three distinguished leaders had legalized for themselves to shed so much blood in order to achieve their ends, it would not be logical to take what they had reported of statements and deeds of the Prophet to be authentic. When a person breaches a legitimate covenant, divides the Muslims into two camps, leads one of the two camps to start a bloody war, he would not be righteous and reliable reporter. When a Muslim has the courage to shed the blood of thousands of innocent Muslims in order to serve his own interest, he would not lack the courage to tell the untruth.
Criticism is Much Smaller Sin Than Fighting
2. If the Muslims are not allowed to say but good about Ayeshah, Talhah, and Al-Zubeir, in spite of their war against "Ameer Al-Mumineen (the Leader of the believers) and the Brother of the Messenger, it would not be permissible to say but good about the Muslims who take a critical or an unfriendly attitude towards some outstanding companions. For fighting an outstanding companion is much more abhorable to God than an unfriendly attitude towards him.
The Islamic law does not discriminate among Muslims. What would be applicable to the three leaders should be applicable to the rest of the Muslims.
The criticism of any companion was never forbidden to people. The Muslims who criticize some of the caliphs do not do that because they deliberately want to defame them. They do that because they have a negative opinion of them. They sincerely believe in what they say. The three leaders, on the other hand, had fought the Imam while they knew that they were wrong. If we have to respect these leaders and say only good about them, it would not be right for us to be hostile to the millions of Muslims for what is much less than killing and fighting.
Critics of the companions are not necessarily devious or transgressors. It is neither logical nor fair for the Muslims to condemn each other because of their opinions pertaining to the events and personalities of the Islamic history, as long as those opinions do not contradict the Holy Qur'an or the well known instructions of the Holy Prophet. Nor is there anything in the known instructions of the Holy Prophet that prevents the Muslims from criticizing companions whose deeds or words disagree with the Qur`an or the Prophet in word or deed.
The Three Leaders Open the Door of Wars Among Muslims
3. The three leaders are the ones who opened on the Muslim society the doors of the civil wars. They started the first bloody battle in which thousands from both sides fell, and through which the unity of the Muslims was destroyed and never restored. It is difficult for our minds to understand how these righteous leaders have the courage to shed so much blood, while the Holy Qur'an declares that killing one believer would bring an eternal Divine punishment to the killer:
"And whosoever slays a believer deliberately, his reward is Hell forever. God's wrath is against him. He has cursed him and prepared for him an awful doom". (Chapter 4, verse 93)
4. The Battle of Siffeen with all its violence and ugliness was only a consequence of the Battle of Bassrah. Had Mother of Believers Ayeshah, Talhah and Al-Zubeir assisted the Imam and gone throughout the Islamic provinces urging people to obey the Imam and to walk under his banner, Muaweyah would not have dared to fight him. Had these leaders done that, Muaweyah would have realized that if he fights the Imam, he would be waging a losing battle that will end with his destruction and the destruction of his camp, and he would have humbly surrendered to the Imam. But when he witnessed a portion of the people of Iraq sharing with him his opinion and taking an attitude similar to his, and that leaders from the outstanding companions preceded him in combating the Imam, his hope of a victory against the Imam was heightened.
The Battle of Bassrah was in fact a main factor in Muaweyah's continued defiance of the Imam and his victory at the end. It is true that the Imam obtained a clear victory against his opponents at the Battle of Bassrah, but the losses which both camps suffered had weakened the Imam's camp a great deal. The tribes of the defeated camp remained unfriendly to the Imam, carrying grudges against him because of the thousands of men whom they lost in that battle. The tribes of the Imam's camp also were weakened and lost a great deal of determination to wage a decisive campaign against Muaweyah because of their losses in the battle of Bassrah. Muaweyah remained outside the battle waiting and increasing in material and manpower.
Probably the Qureshites had forgotten, through the passage of time, what they had suffered of losses at the hand of the Imam in the battles of Badr, Ohod, and Moat. However, the Battle of Bassrah in which the Qureshites lost seventy of their chiefs had not only revived but also increased their rancor and hatred.
It is an understatement to say that the action of the three rebellious leaders had led to the transformation of the Righteous Caliphate into the despotic rule of the Omayad dynasty.
Had these three leaders not waged that sinister war, the Imam could have uprooted the Omayad plantation from the Syrian land and the Righteous Caliphate could have continued for generations. Having internal peace, the Imam could have faced the external adversaries of the Muslim World with his unusual bravery.
The three leaders waged their campaign against Othman because they feared that the caliphate would be transferred from him to one of his relatives and that would mean the caliphate will rest with the Omayads. By this, a rule of dynasty would be established and Talhah and Al-Zubeir would be deprived of the caliphate. To prevent this, they managed to kill Othman. But the death of Othman did not make them closer to their goal. So they waged their bloody campaign to destroy the Imam's caliphate. This also brought them no closer to their goal. They destroyed themselves and the caliphate of the Imam and transformed the caliphate to a rule of Omayad dynasty, the least religious tribe, rather than the close relatives of Mohammad whom God purified of all sins.
1. Al-Tabari, his History, part 4, p. 539 mentioned that ten thousand Muslims died at the battle of Bassrah. Taha Hussein in his Al-Fitnatul-Kubra, part 2, p. 51 mentioned this estimate and other estimates came to twenty thousand.
2. Ibn Al-Atheer, Al-Kamil. part 3, p. 82 reported that the Imam mediated between Othman and his opponents and both sides agreed that Othman removed his bad relatives from their offices and stopped giving them and others the public funds. Then Marwan dissuaded Othman from fulfilling his promise.
3. Al-Balathori, Ansab Al-Ashraf part 4, p. 70.
4. Al-Tabari, his History, part 4, p. 509.
5. The Holy Qur'an, Chapter 48, verse 10.
6. Muslim, his Sahih, part 12, p. 241.
7. Muslim, his Sahih, part 12, p. 239.
8. Ibn Majah, his Authentic Sunan, part 1, hadith no. 145.
9. Ibn Al-Atheer, Al-Kamil, part 2, p. 220.
10. Ibn Al-Atheer,Al-Kamil, part 3, p. 120.
11. Ibn Abu Al-Hadeed, Commentary on Nahjul-Balaghah, part2,p. 78.
12,13,14. Ibn Abu Al-Hadeed, Commentary on Nahjul-Balaghah,part 2, p.78.
15. Al-Hakim, Al-Mustadrak, part 3, pp. 119-120.
16. Al-Hakim, Al-Mustadrak, part 3, pp. 119-120.
17. Ibn Abu Al-Hadeed, his Commentary on Nahiul-Balaghah, part 2, p.79.
18. Ibn Abu Al-Hadeed, his Commentary on Nahjul-Balaghah, part 2, p.79.
19. Ibn Abu Al-Hadeed, his Commentary on Nahjul-Balaghah, part 2, p. 79.
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