|Chapter XVII: Battle Of Siffin-Before and After|
Moawiya's preliminary activities and defiance of Ali
It has already been stated that during his sojourn at Medina on the occasion of his visit to Caliph Osman, Moawiya happened one day to ask Kab-al-Ahbar how the prevailing disturbances against Osman would end. Kab predicted that Osman would be murdered and that in the long run the Grey Mule (meaning Moawiya) would succeed in rising to power. Relying on this prophecy, Moawiya looked forward to chances of his rise to the sovereign authority and lost no opportunity of taking measures to promote the object in view. It was due to this that he was slack in sending succour 1 demanded by Osman when he was besieged; that, when Osman was murdered he was busy in stirring up the Syrians to avenge his blood by exhibiting from the pulpit the gory shirt of the murdered Caliph; that, to let the spirit of revolt ripen among the Syrians he long detained the envoy from Ali and evaded a definite answer to the invitation of the Caliph demanding homage from him; that, he gathered around him several discontented men of note, such as 2 Obeidallah (the son of Caliph Omar, the murderer who had escaped for fear of being summoned to the tribunal before Ali), Abdallah b. Abi Sarh (the ex-governor of Egypt who was displaced when Ali came to power), Marwan (the secretary and the evil genius of Caliph Osman ) and almost all the immediate adherents of that Caliph, and the Umyyads who had fled to him when Ayesha was defeated at Busra; that, he secured the
alliance of Amr b. Aas, the conqueror of Egypt and the ex-governor of that country, now residing in Palestine as a landlord but as a discontented man; (With the 1 stipulation of this restoration to the same government as the teward for his successful co-operation in deposing Ali. he took the oath of allegiance to Moawiya acknowledging him the lawful Caliph, in the presence of all the army, who also took the oath of fealty. Thty were follwed by the Syrian public who joined in the acclamations at this grand ceremony); that, he sought 2 allegiance of several distinguished Companions of the Prophet, such as Saad b. Ali Waqqas, Abdallah b. Omar, Osama b Zaid, Mohammed b. Maslama, who were noted for not having done fealty to Ali on his inauguration as Caliph, and who chose to remain aloof from either patty and wrote reproachful answers to Moawiya. At this period Abu Horeira, Abu-al-Darda, Abu Osama Bahili and Noman b. Bashir Ansari were the only Companions in attendance at the court of Moawiya; that, being for over twenty years governor of the rich province of Syria and pursuing a far-sighted policy from the very beginning he had amassed an immense treasure and had a powerful army at his command. Now he had in his favour the prejudices of the Syrians in general and of his armies in particular, who had been artfully taught to implicate Ali in the murder of Caliph Osman. The blood-stained shirt of Osman was still hung over the pulpit in the great mosque of Damascus, and the people, inflamed by its sight, sobbed aloud and cried for vengeance on the murderers and those who sheltered them. Such was the formidable adversary with whom Ali had to deal after he had done with Ayesha, Talha and Zubiet.
Ali's march to Syrian frontier
On being apprised of these developments in Syria, Ali once more tried (Shaban 36 A.H. or Jany. 657 A. D.) to use conciliatory means. He summoned Jarir, chief of Bani Bajila and Governor of Hamadan, to pay homage to him. The latter happened to be at Kufa. He was known to be on friendly terms with Moawiya. His return from Syria was anxiously awaited. At length 1 he came back after three months with an oral message from Moawiya that the allegiance sought for could only be tendered if punishment were meted out to the murderers of Osman. Malik -al-Ashtar accused him of having wasted time in effeminate pleasures with Moawiya, who purposely kept him long enough to mature his plans of hostilities. Pretending to be offended wit: this imputation, Jarir left Kura and joined Moawiya.
Finding Moawiya hopelessly alienated, Ali resolved to march upon Syria without any further delay. In the month of Zil-qad 36 A. H. or April 657A. D. sending out a detachment as an advance guard to meet him at Riqqa, he himself with his army proceeded to Medaen. He despatched a contingent from Medaen and marched crossing the Mesopotamian desert.
The Miraculous fountain in the Mesopotamian desert
On his way he had to halt at a place where no water was available and the want of water was keenly felt by the army. A Christian hermit, who lived in a cave near the camping grounds, was sent for and asked to point out a well. He assured Ali that there was no well in the vicinity but there was a cistern near by, which contained not more than three buckets of rain water. Ali then said, 'I know, however, that some of the Bani Israel prophets
1 Ibn Khaldun.
of ancient times had fixed their abode in this place and had dug a pit for their stock of water.' The hermit replied that he also had heard of it, but it had been shut up for ages and all traces of it were lost; and that there was an old tradition that none but a prophet or one sent by a prophet would discover and re-open it.
"He then, says the Arabian tradition, 1 produced a parchment scroll written by Simeon bin Safa (Simon Cephos), one of the greatest apostles of Jesus Christ, predicting the coming of Muhammad, the last of the Prophets, and that this well would be discovered and re-opened by his lawful Heir and Successor. Ali listened with becoming reverence to this prediction ; then turning to his attendants and pointing to a spot, he said, 'dig there'. They dug, and after a time came to an immense stone, which having been removed with difficulty, the miraculous well stood revealed, affording a seasonable supply to the army, and furnishing an unquestionable proof of the legitimate claim of Ali as the Successor of the Prophet. The venerable hermit was struck with conviction; he fell at the feet of Ali, embraced his knees, and never afterwards would leave him." W. Irving's Successors of Mohamed p. 180.
Having offered thanks to God, and taking water sufficient for the army, Ali resumed his march. Crossing the Mesopotamian desert, he reached Riqqa on the banks of the Euphrates. A bridge of boats was constructed and the army 'crossing the river advanced westward, where it met the Syrian outposts at Sur-al-Rum. After some skirmishes between the vanguards of the two armies, the enemy gave way and Ali's army advancing forward
1. Rawdzat-al-Safa vol. ii, p. 292; Jame-al-Tawarikh, p. 183 etc. The Early History of Islam with special reference to the position of Ali, during the Life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad and after. Chp. XXI Saiyid Safdar Hosain.
came in sight of the main body of Moawiya's forces, already stationed at Siffin, (Zhilhajj 36 A. H. or May 657 A. D.). Tabri (Vol VI, page 577), Rawdzat-al-Safe Vol. II, page 425 and Orders to the Army before the battle of Siffin, Abul Fida (page 425) narrate in detail the orders issued by Hazrat Ali to his officers and soldiers before the battle. As these orders give a clear indication of the principles and methods laid down by Hazrat Ali as to how Jehad (Holy Wars) should be carried out, they are briefly given here:
Ali's advise to the army before the battle of Siffin
1. Never begin a war yourself, God does not like bloodshed; fight only in defence.
2. Never be first to attack your enemy, repulse his attacks, but do it boldly, bravely and courageously.
3. While declaring yourself and your deeds (Rajuz, a custom amongst hand to hand combatants engaged in a fight) never waste your time, and instead of speaking about yourself speak about God and the Holy Prophet (AS).
4. Never follow and kill those who run away from the battle or an encounter, life is dear to them, let them live.
5. Never kill wounded persons who cannot defend themselves.
6. Never strip naked a dead man for the sake of his coat of arms or dress.
7. Never cut the nose or the ears of the dead to humiliate them.
8. Never take to loot and arson.
( 167 )
9. Never molest or outrage the modesty of a woman.
10. Never hurt a woman even if she swears at you or hurts you.
11. Never hurt a child.
12. Never hurt an old and enfeebled person.
Ali's camp at Siffin
The following interesting incident is related by Major Price as having taken place at the commencement of the war :-"As Siffin commanded, to a considerable distance, the only access to the waters of the Euphrates, Moawiya had stationed Abul Awr, 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 soon found that their supply of water was intercepted.
Under these circumstances, Ali sent a deputation to Moawiya to request that he should relinquish an advantage which appeared very inconsistent assuring him that had he possessed the passage it would have been equally free to both the armies. Moawy14 immediately made known the message to his courtiers, most of whom contended that as the murderers of °s1134.n had cut off all supplies of water when they besieged his palace, so on the present occasion it would only be just to retaliate. Amr. b. Aas, however, dissented from this opinion, declaring that Ali would not suffer his army to perish of thirst with the warlike legions of Iraq at his heels and the Euphrates before his eyes. But the first counsel prevailed, and the messenger was dismissed With the reply that
Moawiya was resolved not to forego what he considered to be the forerunner of his future victory. The result of this application occasioned Ali considerable vexation and perplexity, till at length the privations became unbearable, and Malik-al-Ashtar and Ashas the son of Qais begged to be allowed to open the communication with their swords.
The fight for the waterway to the Euphrates
Permission being granted, and proclamation being made throughout the Camp, in less than an hour, ten thousand men had flocked to the Standard of Malik-al-Ashtar, and an equal number to the tent of Ashas. Directing these troops in a convenient order, each of the two chieftains conducted their army towards the channel of the Euphrates, and after vainly warning Abul Awr to quit the banks of the river, Malik at the head of the Cavalry and Ashas at the head of the Foot, immediately closed upon the enemy. During the action that followed, Malik 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 to the sword. But the raging thirst of Malik and his troops became at length unbearable, 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, Malik made good his way to the river whilst his followers supplied themselves with water. The conflict raged with unabated
fury near the Euphrates, till Abul Awr, finding his troops give way before the relentless attack of their assailants, and being already beaten from his post, despatched a messenger to Moawiya who immediately sent Amr b. Aas with three thousand horsemen to his relief.
Malik-al-Ashtar wins the day
The arrival of that General, however, seems to have rendered the victory of Malik more signal and decisive. No sooner did the latter descry the approach of Amr than, covering himself with his shield, he urged his courser towards him with irresistible impetuosity, and Amr 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 Moawiya 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 Amr, Moawiya 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 troops allowed his enemy a free access to the Euphrates, and from this time the followers of either army passed and re-passed to the river with equal confidence and freedom of intercourse." S. Ockley's History of Saracens p. 312.
Desultory fighting for one month
Ali divided his forces, which numbered 90,000, into seven columns, each commanded by a companion of
the Prophet or a Chieftain of renown. The Commanders were; Ammar Yasir, Abdallah b. Abbas, Qais b. Saad b. Obada, Adballah b. Jafar, Malik-al-Ashtar, Ashas b. Qais Kindi and Said b. Qais Hamdani.
Moawiya had similarly divided his men, 1,20,000 which greatly outnumbered the army of Ali, into seven or eight columns under the following commanders : Amr b. Aas, Abdallah b. Amr b. Aas, Obeidallah b. Omar, Abul Awr, Zhul Kala Homeiri, Abd-al-Rahman b. Khalid b. Walid, and Habib b. Maslama. Every day one of these columns from each army took the field by turn and engaged in skirmishing or single combat, in which case only one champion from each side fought till the heat of the sun became intolerable. In this way the contest was kept up for the whole month of Zilhajj, as Ali was desirous to avoid serious loss of the Muslims in a decisive battle.
The next year (37 A.H.) set in and as fighting was forbidden, in Moharram (the first month), both the armies lay encamped in sight of one another without any activity. During this month of truce Ali earnestly wished to conciliate Moawiya in order to avert the impending crisis and re-opened negotiations. The whole month passed in sending or receiving deputations but all to no purpose. Ali clearly pointed out that, as Caliph, he was ready to vindicate the majesty of the Divine Law on the murderers of Osman, if they were only named by Moawiya. But Moawiya, entertaining ambitious designs upon the Caliphate under cover of the pretended revenge of the blood of Osman, which had so far been his strength and had secured him so big an army, would not accede to any terms before the muderers of Osman were exterminated.
Furious battles at Siffin
The hostilities were resumed with the beginning of the next month (Safar, 37 A.H. ). For a week the battles raged with unceasing fury till sunset separated the contesting parties. Every day the conflict became severe! and more embittered. In the second week Ali made up his mind for a decisive engagement. The authorities quoted by Price, enter very minutely into various individual contests which took place during this protracted campaign. 1 "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 Moawiya's army; and we are told that with a single sweep of his scimitar, the Caliph severed the upper half of his body from the lower. 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 concluded that Ali had missed his blow, until the horse chanced to move, when the two halves of the body fell to the ground."
Ammar's fall in the Battle
"The carnage, chiefly in the ranks of Moawiya, was very great in these battles. Among the ranks of Ali the loss of certain distinguished Companions was regretted by friends and foes alike. Ammar Yasir was deeply grieved when Hashim b. Obta, the hero of Qadisia
1 S. Ockley's History of the Saracens p. 314.
fell fighting by his side. As he saw Hashim fall, he exclaimed to his fellows : '0 Paradise How close thou couchest beneath the arrow's point and the falchion's flash ! 0 Hashim even now I see heaven opened, and black-eyed maidens, all bridally attired, clasping thee in their fond embrace.' So singing, and refreshing himself with his favourite draught of milk and water, the aged warrior, fired again with the ardour of youth, rushed into the enemy's ranks and met the envied fate. People remembered very well the words of the Holy Prophet, who had said "O Ammar, thou shalt one day be slain by a godless and rebellious race", in other words the saying was interpreted, as 'Ammar would be killed fighting on the side of right.' Thus his death, as it were, condemned the cause of the ranks against whom he fought; and so it spread dismay in Moawiya's forces. When Amr b. Aas heard of it, he answered readily : 'And who is it that bath killed Ammar, but Ali the rebellious, who brought him hither ?' The clever repartee ran through the Syrian host, and did much to efface the evil omen.' Muir's Annals p. 382. Other versions of Ammar's last words run as follows : 'The thirsty man longeth for water and here, close by, it welleth up. Descend to the spring (death) and drink. This is the joyful day of meeting with friends, with Muhammad and his Companions.' Wackidi quoted in Muir's Annals p. 382. "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 assared 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 Osman's death, but ambition drives them to revolt."
"Follow me, Companions of the Prophet! The gates of Heaven are opened, and houries are waiting to receive us. Let us triumph here, or meet Muhammad 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. Well, Geschicte der Chalifen quoted in Ockley's History of the Saracens p. 314. Beholding Ammar fall, Moawiya cried to Amr b. Aas, who was sitting by him, 'Do you see, what precious lives are lost in our dissensions ?"see' ! exclaimed Amr, 'would to God I had not lived to see such a catastrophe.' Ammar Yasir, the patriarch of Muslim chivalry was ninety-three years of age; he had served the Prophet in Badr and in several other engagements. He was now Ali's General of the Horse. He was respected as long as he lived and died lamented by all. Having fallen wounded by a lance of Jowier Oskoni, he was brought to his tent where Ali, taking his head into his lap, shed tears of sorrow and offered prayers for the dead friend.
Ali's furious charge on the Enemy
Ali was very much annoyed and grieved at the loss of his brave General and friend. Putting himself at the head of twelve thousand of his Cavalry, he made a furious charge on the enemy, trying to reach Moawiya, whose pavilion was surrounded by five compact rows of his own body-guard behind the lines of the fighting ranks. Breaking the ranks, Ali confronted the body guard. They also
could not withstand the terrible shock of the charge. All the rows were broken up and coming within ear shot of Moawiya, Ali called him saying : 'Come forth O Moawiya How long shalt the blood of the Muslims flow over the battle-field in the strife between us two? Let us have a duel and let God decide our fate, whoever kills his adversary shalt be the master.' 'Fairly spoken,' said Amr b. Aas to Moawiya and he urged him to accept the challenge, telling him that his refusal would discredit him forever. But sneering at Amr, Moawiya replied that the provocation was prudently made to secure for him the Government of Syria, because he knew fully well that Ali's antagonist in fight never escaped death.
Scandalous plight of Amr B. AS
1 "Amr b. Aas, however, did not seem to possess a much larger share of personal valour than Moawiya 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, Amr b. Aas advanced a few steps, and Ali, pretending as if a little frightened, still further encouraged him to proceed. They were both on horse-back, and as Amr neared his foe, he repeated certain bragging lines, importing 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 Amr b. Aas, without a moment's delay, whipping and spurting 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 Amr's
1. S. Ockley's His. of Sar. P. 315.
coat of mail, and brought him, head foremost, to the earth. Unfortunately as Amr wore no drawers, and his heels were in the air, that part of his person became exposed which t we shall forbear to particularise. 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.
Fiercely contested battle
1 "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, Riyah, he brought out the old and venerated Standard of Muhammad. 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. Moawiya had assembled twelve thousand of the best warriors of Syria, when Ali, sword in hand, rushed upon them at the head of his impetuous veterans to the cry of Allah-oAkbar, and threw the enemy into immediate confusion. The Syrians at length recovered from the disorder. The tribe of Awk on the side of Moawiya and that of Hamdanites on the part of Ali, each made a solemn vow never to quit the field whilst one of their opponents remained to dispute it. A dismal slaughter among the bravest of both armies was the result. Heads rolled 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.
1 S. Ockley's His. of Sar. p. 315.
Decisive battles at Siffin and the valiant fight of Malik-Al-Ashtar
The battles of Siffin at last were fought desperately on the 11th , 12th and 13th of Safar, 37 A.H. War contined raging in the moonlit night of 13th rather more furiously than in the day. Like the night of Qadisia field, this night was called a second Lailat-al-Harir or 'Night of Clangour.' Malik-al-Ashtar mounted on a piebald horse, wielding a two-edged broad sword repeatedly shouted Allah-oAkbar. At every stroke of his terrible scimitar was a warrior cleft down. History has it that he was heard to utter this exclamation no less than four hundred times during the night. The hero of the battle, resolved on victory, was pushing his attacks with sustained vigour and persistence. The morning dawned more disadvantageous to the Syrians, who were pressed hard to their encampment by the brave assailants. Moawiya, who was eyeing the field with great anxiety grew more and more nervous when the ranks of his body-guard were cut to pieces. He despairingly be-thought himself of flight and even called for his horse, when Amr b. Aas, who stood by, said to him : 'Courage, Moawiya, do not be disheartened I have devised means to avert the crisis. Call the enemy to the Word of God by raising aloft the Holy Book. If they accept, it will lead to thy victory; if any refuse to abide thereby, it will sow discord amongst them.'
Trick to avert the crisis
Moawiya eagerly caught at the words, and in a moment' five hundred copies of the Quran were raised aloft at the point of the lance. 'Behold', cried they, 'the Book of
God, let it decide our differences.' This stratagem produced a magical effect on 1 Ashath b. Qais and his followers and some Kufians, as if the artifice was anxiously awaited by them. They at once leaped forward and with one voice re-echoed the cry, 'The Book of God, let it decide our differences,' and they dropped their weapons. Hearing the tumult, Ali stepped forth and remonstrated with them : 'It is a trick' he said, 'afraid of defeat the evil men have sought their safety by guile.' 'What !' they cried, 'Do you refuse to submit to the decision of the Quran to which they call you ? "That it is,' said Ali, 'which I have been fighting so long to bring them to, but they rebelled. Go on and fight your enemy. I know Moawiya, Amr b. Aas, Ibn Abi Sarh, Habib and Dzohak better than you do. 2 They have no regard for the religion or the Quran.' 'Whatever that might be,' they persisted, 'but we are now called to the Quran and we must not decline it.' Thus they would not listen to any argument. At last in a revolting attitude, they threatened the Caliph. that unless he agreed, they would all desert him, or deliver him into the hands of his enemies, or serve him as Osman was served. Further protest with such determined soldiery being of no avail, Ali said : 'Hold your mild and treasonable language, obey me and fight, but if you are intent upon disobedience, do as you like.' They refused obedience and pressed Ali to call back Malik-al-Ashtar from the field . These men turned Sectaries and are known in the history of Islam as Kharijities. Malik-al-Ashtar. being summoned, at first refused, saying, 'I cannot leave the field as victory is at hand.' On this answer of Malik the tumult of the Kharijites increased, insisting on Ali to call him back at once. He then again sent for Al-Ashtar.
2. Ibn Khaldun.
saying e 'Of what avail is victory when treason is rife in my own camp. Come back at once before I am murdered or delivered over to the enemy.' Malik-al-Ashtar reluctantly gave in and hurried to the Caliph. A fierce altercation ensued between him and the angry soldiery. 'Ye were fighting', he said, 'but yesterday for the Lord, and the choicest among you lost their lives. What is it but that ye now acknowledge yourselves in the wrong, and the martyrs gone to hell ? "Nay,' they answered, 'it is not so. Yesterday we fought for the Lord, and today, also for the Lord, we stay the fight. On this Ashtar upbraided them as traitors, cowards, hypocrites, and villains. In return they reviled him, and struck his charger with their whips. Ali interposed. The tumult was stayed." Muir's Annals p. 384.
Proposals for arbitration
1 Ash'ath b. Qais Kindi, stepping forth from amongst the Kharijites, asked permission of Ali to visit Moawiya to enquire of him what his precise meaning was in raising the Quran aloft. He went to Moawiya and on his return said that Moawiya and his party wished that the differences should be left to the arbitration of two umpires, who might decide it according to the true sense of the Quran, each party to nominate an umpire and their verdict to be final. Ali was questioned, "Ash'ath the son of Qais, one of those who had the greatest credit and influence among the soldiers of Iraq, and whose fidelity was suspected 2, had been bribed by Moawiya. "How do
1. Ash'ath is the same man who in 17 A. H. had travelled all the way from Iraq to Kinnisrin in Syria in expectation of bounty from Khalid b. Walid, who gave him 1000 pieces of gold.
2. According to Rawdzat-al-Safa a gift of one hundred thousand dirhams was promised by Moawiya to Ash'ath.
you approve 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." S. Ockley's History of the Saracens p. 317. The army, however, determined to follow it, shouted assent; and they named Abu Musa-al-Ashari, the late Governor of Kufa who was deposed by Ali for his disloyalty. 'This man,' said Ali, surprised at the designation, 'has already forsaken us; neither hath he now been fighting with us. The son of the Prophet's uncle viz. Abdallah b. Abbas can preferably be chosen instead.' 'More preferably,' they ironically answered, 'name thy own self, why namest thou thy cousin?' They said they would have none but one who would deal impartially between him and Moawiya. Ali then proposed Malik Al-Ashtar, but they obstinately forced him to accept none other than Abu-Musa as his representative. It was a bitter choice for Ali, but he had no alternative. Abu Musa had kept aloof from the battle, but must have been in the neighbourhood. When told of the arbitration, he exclaimed, 'The Lord be praised who hath stayed the fighting !"But thou art appointed arbiter on our side.' 'Alas ! Alas !' he cried; and so in much trepidation, he repaired to Ali's camp. Ahnaf Ibn Qais asked to be appointed joint umpire with Abu-Musa, who, he said, was not the man to stand alone, nor had he tact and wit enough for the task :- 'There is not a knot which Abu-Musa can tie, but I will unloose the same; nor a knot he can unloose, but I will find another still harder to unravel.' This was too true but the army was in an insolent and perverse mood, and would have none but Abu-Musa. The Syrian arbiter was Amr b. Aas for whose deep and crafty ways Abu-Musa was no match." Muir's Annals. p. 385.
The Deed of arbitration
1 The two referees (Abu-Musa and Amr b. Aas), having presented themselves in Ali's camp, a truce was put in writing. Dictated by Ali, it was begun thus : the name of God , the most Gracious and Merciful. This is what had been agreed upon between the Commander of the Faithful, Ali. and Moawiya.' Amr b. Aas objected to this and said, 'Ali is your commander but not ours; write down simple names Ali and Moawiya.' Upon this Ali, remembering the prophecy uttered by the Prophet at Hodaibiya, told the people around him that a similar objection was raised by the Quraish to delete the words, 'Apostle of God' appended to the name of the Prophet in the Treaty; that the Prophet yielded and erased out the words with his own hands when he saw me hesitating; that he then predicted that, 'the day will come when I shall also have to yield to make a similar concession.' Hearing this, Amr b. Aas cried out, 'Dost thou represent our similarity to the pagan Arabs in spite of our being good believers!' 'And when,' said Ali, 'an evil-born son had not been a friend of the wicked and a foe of the righteous ?' Upon this Amr swore that he would never again seek the company of Ali, and Ali expressed his wish that God may keep him free of such a companion. However, Ali yielded and the truce was written with simple names of Ali and Moawiya, and signed, by which the contracting parties bound themselves to ratify and confirm the decision of the referees, which was to be determined some six or eight months later at some place midway between Kufa and Damascus. The umpires swore that they would judge righteously in accordance with the Holy Book and without regard to partiality. This deed of arbitra
1 Rawdzat-al-Sala; Habib-al-Siyar 180
tion was executed on Wedensday, the 13th Safar, 37 A. H. or 31st July, 657 A. D.
The Carnage at Siffin
1 Ninety battles were fought at Siffin. The carnage had been very great. Most of the historians give the number of the slain on both sides, from first to the last, as seventy thousand. Of these forty five thousand were Syrians and twenty-five thousand Iraqians. Ammar Yasir, Hashim b. Otba, Khazima b. Thabit, Abdallah b. Bodail and Abul Hathim b. Teihan were the leading chiefs killed on Ali's side, while the men of distinction killed on Moawiya's side were Zhul-Kala Homeiri, Obeidallah b. Omar, Hoshab b. Zhi-Tzalim and Habis b. Saad-al-Tai.
Return of the armies
The truce having been arranged, Moawiya escaped a defeat and gained his point for the present with bright hopes for the future. The armies having buried their dead, left the ill-starred battle-field. Moawiya retired to Damascus and Ali repaired to Kufa.
Decision of the umpires
The time for arbitration having come, the umpires proceeded to Dumat-al-Jondel or Azroh, each with a retinue of four hundred horsemen according to the agreement. Many a leading Chief from Mecca, Medina, Iraq and Syria went there to watch the proceedings, which were to decide the future of Islam. Abdallah b.
1 Abul Fida
Abbas, who accompanied Abu-Musa to preside at the daily prayers, while having a discourse with Abu-Musa upon the topic of arbitration, urged him to beware of the crafty ways of his astute colleague and to keep particularly in his mind the fact that Ali had no blemish to render him incapable of government, nor Moawiya any virtue to qualify him for it. When Abu-Musa reached Duma, Amr b. Aas received him with great respect. A private conference was held between the two alone in a pavilion erected for the purpose. Amr was already well aware of the weaknesses in Abu-Musa's character. He treated Abu-Musa with utmost respect and civility till he brought him completely under his influence. Having won his confidence, he made him admit that Osman was foully murdered. Then he asked him why the avenger of his blood, a near relation of his and an able administrator viz. Moawiya should not be taken as his successor. To this Abu-Musa replied that the succession should not be determined on such a basis which would give preference to Osman's sons as legitimate claimants; but that they must above all things take care lest a mutiny should be kindled or civil wars break again. Upon this Amr b. Aas asked Abu-Musa to reject both Ali and Moawiya, and let the Faithful elect a third. This is the simplest and safest solution of the problem. 'I agree,' said Amr, 'let us go forth to pronounce.' A tribunal was erected from which each of the umpires was to declare publicly his decision. Abu-Musa wished Ann to go up first, but Amr, alleging reasons to give preference to Ali's man, overcame all his scruples and insisted upon Abu-Musa going up first. Abu-Musa ascended and addressed the people thus : 'Brethren ! 1 and Amr b. Aas, both of us, have given full consideration to the matter and have come to the conclusion that no other course to restore peace and
to remove discord from the people can possibly be better than to depose both Ali and Moawiya in order that people may have their choice of a better man in their stead. I therefore depose both Ali and Moawiya from the Caliphate to which they pretend, in the manner as I draw this ring from my finger.' Having made this declaration Abu-Musa came down. Amr b. Aas now took his turn and went up to announce what he had to declare. 'You have heard,' he said, 'how Abu-Musa on his part has deposed his chief Ali; I, on my part, do depose him too and I invest my chief Moawiya with the Caliphate and I confirm him to it, as I put this ring upon my finger. I do this with justice because Moawiya is the avenger of Osman and his rightful successor.' So saying, he came down. This arbitration took place in the month of Ramazan , 37 A.H. or February 658 A. D.
Amazement at the decision
The audience were quite amazed at the unexpected issue of the arbitration. Neither the Kufians dreamt of Amr b. Aas so shamefully over-reaching Abu-Musa, nor the Syrians ever thought of Moawiya achieving such a triumph. Abu-Musa, confounded and bewildered, assailed from every side, said, 'What can I do, I have been duped by Amr, who first agreed with me then swerved aside.' As much as the Syrians applauded the decision, the Kufians were emaged by it. In the heat of his indignation, Shureih, the commander of the Kufa escort, rushed upon Amr b. Aas and was roughly handling him when the people interposed and set them apart to have recourse only to mutual revilings. Laughed at by the Syrians and reproached by the Kufians, Abu-Musa felt deeply ashamed of having been outwitted by his colleague. Apprehending
mischief, he made good his escape and fled to Mecca, where he thenceforth lived in obscurity and was not heard of any more, though he died in 42 A. H. or according to others in 52 A. H.
"Many of the angry speeches at Duma by the chief men, who were bewildered at the strange denouement have been preserved. These are some of them: The son of Omar : 'See what a pass Islam hath come to. Its great concern committed to two men : one who knoweth not right from wrong, the other a nincompoop.' Abubekr's son : 'Would that Abu-Musa had died before this affair; it had been better for him.' Abu-Musa himself is represented as abusing Amr in the language of the Quran : 'His likeness is as the likeness of a dog, if they drive him away, he putteth forth his tongue, and if thou leave him alone, still he putteth forth his tongue.' (Sur. VII-771. 'And thou,' retorted Amr, 'art like the donkey laden with books, and none the wiser for it.' (Sur. V1-25). Shureih, Commander of the Kufa escort, flew at Amr, and they belaboured each other with their whips till they were separated by the people. Shureih exclaimed that he only wished he had used his sword instead. Muir's Annals p. 394.
Amr b. Aas returned to Damascus, where Moawiya, amidst the acclamations of joy, was saluted Caliph by the Syrians. Henceforward Moawiya's interests began to prosper, and the prediction of Kab-al-Ahbar appeared to be fulfilled.
Abu 'Moosa retired to Medina where he subsequently received a handsome yearly pension from the court of Moawiya. (Refer Tabari, Abul Fida, Ausam-e-Koofi, Rawdzat-al-Safa, Morooj-ul-Zahab, Kamil-ibne-Aseer and The Short History of the Saracen.)
Dr. Crichton describes Ali's prowess at the battle of Siffin
1 "Ninety actions or skirmishes are recorded to have taken place ; and in these the humanity of Ali was as conspicuous as his valour. He strictly enjoined his troops invariably to await the first onset of the enemy, to spare the fugitives, and respect the virtues of female captives. Not a day passed in which he displayed not some extraordinary feat of personal strength and skill. The bravest leaders of the Syrian host fell in succession by the single prowess of his resistless arm- "For death itself dwelt on the point of his spear, and perdition in the hilt of the sword." "The hideous and gigantic Kerreib, who could obliterate with his thumb the impression of a silver coin, he cleft at one stroke from the crest to the saddle-bow. Two warriors attacked him in disguise, but with a sweep of his double scimitar he bisected the foremost through the middle with such rapidity and precision that the rider remained fixed on the saddle; the spectators concluding he had missed his blow, until the motion of the horse threw the body in halves to the ground."
1 Dr Andrew Crichton. History of Arabia and its people p. 307. Publishers Nelsons & Sons, London Ed. 1852.