Muaweyah declared his open defiance to the Imam, and the Imam found his confrontation with Muaweyah inevitable. Therefore, he went on trying to mobilize an army in order to subdue this dangerous rebellion. While he was dealing with this crisis, he received the news of the journey of the three leaders to Iraq. He changed his plan. The Imam found it necessary to give priority to the crisis of the three leaders. The providence of Iraq was the most important among the Islamic provinces for the caliphate. Should the three leaders occupy Iraq while the Syrian province is controlled by Muaweyah, the Imam would have lost most of the moral, material and military forces in the Muslim World.
The Imam, facing this crisis, was fifty-eight years old. His relatively old age did not diminish his determination, bravery, and his fast response to the big problems and facing them with proper solutions. During the days of the Messenger, he was his right arm, the one who solved his problems and subdued his enemies. Now after twenty-five years during which he was in actual retirement, he returns with his well-known capabilities to face crises, but on a larger scale. The forces he had to face at this period were uncomparably greater than what he used to face in the days of the Prophet.
The struggle between right and wrong was and still is difficult for the followers of the truth. People of the right camp are usually in the minority. The wrong side has its own attraction as it has fruits which the people of its camp can pick quickly. The truth is not tempting, and the strength of its followers springs from their belief in God, the Day of Judgment, and their determination to sacrifice.
The difficulties which the camp of truth faces increase greatly when people are confounded, unable to distinguish between right and wrong. Under such circumstances, the truth loses the assistance of people with good intention who would be helpful if the right road were clear to them. On the other hand, the wrong camp wins certain forces which could have been antagonistic to it if they had known that it is the wrong camp. People of good intention may stay neutral because they do not know which side is right. Their neutrality decreases the number of the supporters of truth, and the wrong party would be relieved of the burden of combating these good people, due to their neutrality.
This is what happened to the camp of truth which the imam was leading. It was the first time it took place in the Islamic history. It never happened during the days of the Prophethood, nor did it happen during the days of the Three Caliphs who preceded the Imam.
The Holy Prophet faced many enemies, but the separation between him and his enemies was as clear as the separation between day and night. He is the Messenger and his followers are the believers in his message, and his enemies are the pagans and the rest of the unbelievers who declared their disbelief in his message. There was no possibility to lose the distinction between right and wrong.
Abu Bakr faced at the beginning of his reign forces that declared their desertion of the Faith of Islam. Thus, there was no room for any confusion between right and wrong. When the war of desertion ended, the First Caliph had to face forces that did not believe in Islam and declared their animosity towards its message. And so was the situation during the days of Omar and Othman. Right and wrong, distinguished from each other like day and night.
The Imam Ali, on the contrary, had to face hostile forces which belonged to the Faith of Islam and declared their belief in its Book and offered the five prayers and paid Zakat. Furthermore, one of the camps of those forces was led by three people whom the Muslims highly respected because of their companionship to the Prophet or for being related to him by marriage.
Thus, it became difficult for the masses of the people and even for some of the knowledgeable people to distinguish between the camp of the truth and that of falsehood. The history of the three leaders attracted tens of thousands of people and made them side with them against the well-guided Imam while they were thinking that they were right and that he was wrong.
Had Ali come to power immediately after the death of the Holy Prophet, his confrontation with Talhah, Al-Zubeir and Ayeshah could have been easier than his confrontation with them twenty-five years later. During the early years after the Prophet, people still remembered the distinctions of Ali, his great endeavor in the way of God and his position with the Holy Prophet, and the Prophet's declarations about him. By the passage of more than two decades after the death of the Prophet, people had forgotten Ali's distinctions. He was away from the political arena and in actual retirement.
People of Bassrah and Kufa probably knew about Talhah and Al-Zubeir more than they did about the Imam Ali. Talhah and Al-Zubeir had many properties and big investments in both cities. Even Al-Zubeir forgot that the Holy Prophet had told him that he will fight Ali while unjust to him. This explains the word of the Imam which he uttered before he was elected: ". . . For we are facing a crisis with many faces and colors. The hearts do not stand to it and the minds do not rest with it.
As the crisis which was precipitated by the movement of the three leaders had such great dimensions, it was the duty of the Imam to face it with all his forces. Therefore, he left Medina with a few hundred volunteers, hoping that he will overtake the leaders and their followers before reaching Iraq and prevent them from implementing their plan.
When he arrived to Rabatha, he realized that they had already passed it and gone towards Bassrah. However, he believed that their invasion of Bassrah was less harmful than invading Kufa where the most important Arab forces were settled.
He went on until he arrived to Thee Qar. He sojourned there after he sent a message to the people of Kufa urging them to join him for the sake of bringing peace, preventing evil and supporting truth.
The three leaders were already in control of Bassrah. They drove Othman Ibn Huneif out of his office. Othman came to Thee Qar. When he met the Imam, he told him:
"Ameer Al-Mumineen, when you sent me to Bassrah I was bearded, but I returned to you without a beard. The Imam said to him:
"May God reward you for what you have suffered. Two persons before me ruled the people and both followed the Book; then the third one followed them. People spoke about him and dealt with him the way they did. Then they elected me. Talhah and Al-Zubeir elected me, then they breached their covenant with me and instigated people against me. It is one of the wonders that they obeyed Abu Bakr and Omar and now they antagonize me. By God, they know that I am riot less than any of those who passed away. God, I ask Thee to untie what they knotted and abort what they plotted and make them meet the evil consequences of what they have done. (1)
source : http://www.imamalinet.net/