|Chapter XV: Ali's Silence Over The Caliphate|
Ali's silence in the matter of the Caliphate was not due to the absence of friends and supporters, but, out of respect for the wishes of the Holy Prophet; he did not press further his right to the Caliphate.
On hearing the news of the Holy Prophet's death, Abu Sufian came to Medina and, accompanied by Abbas Bin Muttalib, called on Hazrat Ali. He expressed his views Abdul on the Caliphate of Hazrat Abubakr thus: "AM Banff Taira (The tribe of Hazrat Abubakr), cannot rule over US. You are the only one suited to be our Caliph. Make use of this opportunity and wage a war against Abubakr. I swear to submit my allegiance to you and to all assistance that may be required."
Being fully aware of Abu Sufian's evil intentions towards the Holy Prophet and Islam in the past, and finding him opportunist with hatred, greed and racialism in a cheap his breed, Hazrat Ali refused to accept his proposal. Moreover, he knew that to wage a war would be detrimental and not beneficial to the cause of Islam. It was to avoid endangering Islam that he refused to fight against Hazrat Abubakr. So he preferred -to observe complete silence in the matter. (Tareekh Kamil).
Even if Abu Sufian had not offered his assistance to him for over-throwing the Caliphate of Hazrat Abubakr, and had his aim had not been for the welfare and prosperity of Hazrat Ali could well have taken care of the situation, having the support of the staunch followers of the Ahl-ul-Bait, such as Abu Zar Ghifari, Ammar Yasir, Salman, Miqdad and the other prominent members of the Hashimite family
Before his death on 22nd Iamadi-ul-Akhar 13 A.H., Abubakr nominated Hazrat Omar as his suo- Hazrat cessor, contrary to the principal laws of democracy stressed
by the Muslims who had assembled at Saqifa Bani Sa'da.
Thus Hazrat Ali's right was usurped for the second time in succession. In spite of this, he helped the ruling Caliph in religious as well as other matters referred to him and which could not be otherwise solved. So sound were his judgments and his advice based on the Holy Quran that Hazrat Omar ordered, the interpreters of the Verses of the Quran and the traditions of the Holy Prophet to refrain from giving their opinion while Hazrat Ali was amidst them. Hazrat Omar died on 29th Zilhajj, 23 A.H. and Hazrat Osman was elected as the third Caliph by a Council of Electors consisting of six members appointed by the dying Caliph. John Bagot Glubb says in his boo k The Great Arab Conquests, "Osman had been a failure as Caliph. He had proved too weak to control the turbulent and factious spirit of the Arabs, especially at a time when an almost unbroken succession of victories had rendered them more than usually intractable. His was a limited mental outlook, unable to grasp the big issues and dominated by his greedy relatives. He himself lived comfortably and accepted presents, though doubtless ( his primitive luxuries were negligible in comparison with) those of the former rulers of Byzantine and Madain."
Hazrat Ali continued assisting the ruling Caliph with the same perseverance as in the past, until Hazrat Osman was murdered. At this critical moment, when the angry groups of Muslims had besieged the house of Hazrat Osman, no one dared to protect the helpless Caliph.
"But" in the words of Amir Ali in The History of the Saracens, "Osman was bravely defended by Ali and his sons and dependants, and the insurgents had great difficulty in making any impression on the defenders. At last two
of the besiegers scaled the wall, and there killed the aged Caliph."
Writings of some Historians on the death of Osman.
"For a few days after the murder of Osman", writes John Bagot Glubb, "Medina was an anarchy with the mutineers in complete control .... Ali was pressed to accept the Caliphate both by the companions of the Prophet-the now venerable elders of Medina-and by the insubordinate troops who virtually controlled the city. Six days after the murder of Osman, Ali was proclaimed Caliph in Medina. The majority of the citizens, including Talha and Zubeir took the oath of allegiance to him."
Eric Schroeder in 'Mohammad's People', published in England (1955) says, "Five days after the murder of Caliph Osman, the people gathered together and decided; 'We know no one better to be Imam and Caliph than Ali but he will not take the burden, answered some, 'press him home till he consents'. They all gathered at Ali's house with such eagerness that they were pushing and crushing each other; they called Ali out, and said, 'If we go to our homes again without an Imam and a Caliph such a strife will stir as will never again be stilled; you will have to consent to be our Imam and Caliph of God.' Ali replied, 'small longings have I for this authority, yet the believers must have a chief; and right gladly will I accept the temporal authority of another, even Talha.' 'Nay, thou hast more right than I, said Talha. One who stood near by forced open Ali's palm and Talha swore the oath of allegiance to Ali. Zubeir did likewise, and from his house they brought Ali to the mosque and everybody once again thronged round him to swear the oath of allegiance to him as their Imam and Caliph."
(Professor Sedillot in 'Histories des Arabes' says, "It might have been thought that all would submit themselves before his glory; so fine and so grand; but it was not to be."
Contemplations for the election of a Caliph in place of Osman
After the murder of Osman terror reigned in the city and the regicides had the entire mastery of the situation, there being no settled government in Medina. The principal citizens, feeling the tumultuous state of the populace and apprehending civil war, clamoured for immediate election of a Caliph. The threatening attitude of those who had come from various parts of the empire, viz. Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia on the occasion was a source of great alarm, because they were resolved not to disperse until they knew whom they were to have as their Caliph.
There were two candidates, Talha and Zubeir (both brothers-in-law of Ayesha) who aspired to secure the Caliphate with the powerful support of Ayesha. (Ayesha was the daughter of the first Caliph Abubakr, and a wife of the Holy Prophet. Her youngest sister was a wife of Talha, who was also a cousin of her father. Her eldest sister was a wife of Zubeir, whose son Abdullah was adopted by Ayesha. Thus doubly related to both, Talha and Zubeir put her in the unique position of lending her powerful support to both the claimants to the Caliphate) To their great disadvantage, she was not present in Medinc at this juncture, having gone on pilgrimage to Mecca. Talha, who had taken an active part in inistigating those who had besieged Osman's dwelling and his associate
Zubeir had some people of Basra and Kufa to support their pretensions, but the majority of the general public of Medina, who enjoyed the exclusive right of electing a Caliph, considered quite a different person to be best fitted for the office. He was a man admired by his friends and foes alike for his courage, eloquence, magnanimity, piety, nobility, and his near kinship to the Prophet. This was Ali, the cousin of the Prophet and the father of the Prophet's posterity from his beloved daughter Fatima. He was considered as the rightful successor to the Caliphate; and the people, now wishing to be governed by the Prophet's heir, desired to see Ali elevated to his Legitimate Dignity. Talha and Zubeir, cautioned by the mood of the moment, held their peace and thought it prudent to dissemble their feelings so far as to take the oath of allegiance to Ali with a steadfast resolve, however, of breaking it as soon as a favourable opportunity should occur.
Election of Ali
In this dilemma several of the principal men of Medina approached Ali and desired him to accede to their request. In reply he assured them that he had no wish for temporal power and would willingly accept the authority of any other person elected by them. They, however, insisted that there was no one so well qualified as he. Notwithstanding their persistence, Ali was resolute in his refusal and said that he would rather like to serve as an adviser than take the reins of government in his hands. The insurgents, who had themselves been responsible for the prevailing disturbed condition at Medina, were anxious to put the city back to its normal state and were much annoyed at the difficulty in the choice of a Caliph.
and insisted that before they quitted Medina, the citizens, in exercise of their right, must elect a Caliph within one day, as they were the proper persons to determine the controversy. If the choice was not made within the time allowed by them, they would put to the sword the leading men of Medina. Upon this the populance again came to Ali in the evening and explaining to him the situation, earnestly entreated him to reconsider their position and the danger to the religion. Overcome at length by their pathetic expostulations, Ali consented with reluctance saying: "If you excuse me and elect another, whomsoever you may think fit to choose, I shall most submissively yield obedience to him. If I am compelled to comply to accept the offer, I must say frankly at the outset that I shall conduct the administration quite independently, and I shall deal with all of you according to the Holy Book of the Lord and to the best of my knowledge and judgment." They unhesitatingly assented and proferred to give him their hand in token of doing fealty to him; but he refused to do anything unless it was done in public, so that no one might have cause to grumble. "Ali was apprehensive of the intrigues of Ayesha, Talha and Zubeir and the whole house of Umayyah (of which Moawiya, Osman's lieutenant in Syria, was chief), who, he knew, would avail themselves of every opportunity to oppose and disturb his government." Ockley's History of the Saracens p. 289.
Inauguration of Ali as Caliph.
Next morning (on the fourth day after Osman's murder), the people assembled in large numbers in the peat mosque. Here Ali made his appearance clad in a simple cotton gown and a coarse turban wound round his head and carrying a bow in his right hand and in the left hand his slippers which
he had taken off in reverence for the place. Talha and Zubeir not being present, he caused them to be sent for. When they came, they offered him their hands in approbation of his election as Caliph. tut Ali paused and said to them that if they were sincere in their hearts they might do him fealty in good earnest assuring them at the same time that if either of them would accept the Caliphate, he was quite willing to swear fealty with perfect sincerity and would be glad rather to serve as an adviser than to take the government upon himself. This, however, both of them declined, and expressing their perfect satisfaction, stretched forth their hands to pay homage to Ali. Talha's right arm was maimed as a result of a wound he had received in the battle of Ohad, and therefore could stretch it forth with difficulty. As he was the first to begin with the ceremony, the audience took it as an evil omen and a by-stander remarked: 'It is likely to be a lame business that is begun with a lame hand.' The presage proved only too true as subsequent events showed. The assemblage then swore allegiance to Ali and their example was followed by the general public. None of the Umayyads and the immediate adherents of Osman came in, nor did Ali press any one to come and do fealty to him. There were also some prominent men in Medina who kept themselves aloof, being disinclined to pay homage to Ali. These were according to Mas'udi, Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas, Maslama b. Khalid. Moghira b. Shoba, Qidama b. Matzun, Wahban b. Saifi, Abdallah b. Salam, Hassan b. Thabit, Kab. b. Malik, Abu Sa'id Khudri, Mohammed b. Maslama, and Abdallalh 1 b. Omar, Fidzala b. Abeed, Kab b. Ajza;
1 Mas'udi assails the character of Abdalla'h b. Omar by his keeping himself from paying homage to Caliph Ali and later on swearing allegiance to Yazid b. Moawiya as Caliph, and again to Abd al Malik b. Marwa'n.
Habib-al-Siyar adds: Zaid b. Thabit, Osama b. Zaid, Abu Musa Ashari, Zaid b. Rafe, Salma b. Salama, Sohaib b. Sinan, Noman b. Bashir; Tabari adds: Rafe b. Khadij. These people were named Motazilities.
Having done homage to Ali, the insurgents returned to their homes.