Sunday, 10 October 2010

Three Fitnas



A careful look at first decades after Prophet Muhammad reveals a period of great wars known as fitnas. Different political parties of muslims fought each other for dominance. By the time Umayyad Dynasty was overthrown by the Abbasids, the Muslims were thoroughly divided and this division remains to this day. Let us list the great wars and their causes.

# First Fitna
# Siege of Uthman
# Battle of the Camel [Battle of Basra]
# Battle of Siffin
# Battle of Nahrawan
# Battle of Karbala
# Second Fitna

[Third Fitna]

# Umayyad Caliphate [edited]
# Caliphate [edited]


# First Fitna

The First Islamic Civil War (656–661), also called the First Fitna (Arabic: Fitnat Maqtal Uthman "The Fitna of the killing of Uthman"), was the first major civil war within the Islamic Caliphate. It arose as a result of the death of the previous Caliph Uthman.

The Fitna began as a series of revolts fought against first Imam of Shia'a and fourth and final of the Sunni Rightly Guided Caliphs Ali ibn Abi Talib, caused by the controversial assassination of his predecessor, Uthman Ibn Affan. It lasted for the entirety of Ali's reign, and its end is marked by Muawiyah's assumption of the caliphate (founding the Umayyad dynasty), and the subsequent recorded peace treaty between him and Hassan ibn Ali.

Uthman was besieged in his house by rebels and rioters, culminating in his assassination in July 656. The main reason for their dissatisfaction with Uthman was his appointing of family members as governors in key Islamic provinces. Ali ibn Abi Talib was then chosen by the public as the fourth Caliph (see Ali#Election as Caliph).

Battle of the Camel

Ali was first opposed by a faction led by Talhah, Al-Zubayr and Muhammad's wife, Aisha bint Abu Bakr. First they gathered in Mecca then moved to Basra with the expectation of finding the necessary forces and resources to mobilize people in what is now Iraq. The opposers encamped close to Basra, and the subsequent heated exchange & protests during the parley turned from words to blows, leading to loss of life on both sides. When Ali asked them for obedience and a pledge of allegiance, they refused. Ali tried to negotiate with Aisha considering her the venerated wife of Muhammad, but she refused. At last the two parties met at the Battle of the Camel in 656, where Ali emerged victorious.

Battle of Siffin

Later Ali was challenged by Muawiyah I, the governor of Levant and the cousin of Uthman, who refused Ali's demands for allegiance and called for revenge for Uthman. Ali opened negotiations with him with the hope of regaining his allegiance but Muawiyah insisted on Levant autonomy under his rule. Muawiyah replied by mobilizing his Levantine supporters and refusing to pay homage to Ali on the pretext that his contingent had not participated in his election. The two armies encamped themselves at Siffin for more than one hundred days, most of the time being spent in negotiations. Although Ali exchanged several letters with Muawiyah, he was unable to dismiss the latter, nor persuade him to pledge allegiance. Skirmishes between the parties led to the Battle of Siffin in 657. A week of combat culminated in a violent battle known as the laylat al-harir (the night of clamor). Muawiyah's army were on the point of being routed when Amr ibn al-Aas advised Muawiyah to have his soldiers hoist mushaf (thin parchments inscribed with verses of the Qur'an) on their spearheads in order to cause disagreement and confusion in Ali's army; this resulted in many of Ali's troops agreeing with Muawiyah's calling for the conflict to be resolved via arbitration, despite having had what many modern observers believe to have been the upper hand in the battle. This is supposed to be the first battle fought by the son of Ali named Abbas ibn Ali.

The two armies finally agreed to settle the matter of who should be Caliph by arbitration. The refusal of the largest bloc in Ali's army to fight was the decisive factor in his acceptance of the arbitration. The question as to whether the arbiter would represent Ali or the Kufans caused a further split in Ali's army. Ash'ath ibn Qays and some others rejected Ali's nominees, `Abd Allah ibn `Abbas and Malik al-Ashtar, and insisted on Abu Musa Ash'ari, who was opposed by Ali, since he had earlier prevented people from supporting him. Finally Ali was forced to accept Abu Musa.

Battle of Nahrawan

Kharijites (schismatics), who initially had forced Ali to accept Abu Musa Ashari's role in the arbitration, were disgruntled when the arbitration resulted in what they believed was Abu Musa having been tricked by Amr bin Aas, as when Amr subsequently propagated from the Arbitration pulpit his support for the Caliphate of Muawiya. The Kharijites (or Khwarij), having seen that the arbitration had not gone in their favour, turned rebellious toward Ali and argued against Ali's original decision to give in to their own demand for arbitration. Their rebellion turned bloody when they started killing Ali's followers, including their reported killing of the pregnant wife of one of Ali's supporters; reportedly they also tore the mother's womb to bring out and kill the unborn child. Not compromising on their open enmity, Ali had to fight with the Kharijites in the Battle of Nahrawan.

Before the Battle of Nahrawan, Ali had prepared to attack Muawiya, but after it, the expedition to Syria was abandoned.

Muawiyah's army invaded and occupied many territories and cities, which Ali's governors could not prevent; it seems in many cases the populations did not support Ali and/or refused to oppose Muawiyah, who went on to overpower Egypt, Yemen and other areas.

Last days of Ali

On the 19th of Ramadan, while Ali was praying in the mosque of Kufa, the Kharijite Abd-al-Rahman ibn Muljam assassinated him with a strike of his poison-coated sword. Ali, wounded by the poisonous sword, lived for two days and died on the 21st of Ramadan in the city of Kufa in 661.

Hasan caliphate

Upon the death of Ali ibn Abi Talib, Kufi Muslims pledged allegiance to his eldest son Hasan without dispute.

Nahj al-Balagha (Peak of Eloquence)
The Succession to Muhammad, by Madelung, Wilferd (1997)
Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-64696-0.
Shi'ite Islam, by Tabatabai, Sayyid Mohammad Hosayn


[detailed accounts]

# Siege of Uthman

The Third Rightly Guided Caliph, Uthman, was assassinated at the end of a siege upon his house. Initially a protest, the siege escalated following an apparently wrongly attributed threat as well as the death of a protester. The protesters turned rebels had demanded a new caliph to which demands Uthman had refused and on July 17, 656 C.E., as his house was set alight, he died.

Uthman Ibn Affan, third caliph, was being sieged by several rioters for several reasons, chief of these was making his kin, Banu Umayya, governors of key Islamic provinces. . The dissatisfaction with his regime and the government's appointed by him wasn't restricted to the provinces outside Arabia. When Uthman's kin, especially Marwan, gained control over him, Uthman lost control over his Caliphate and many of the noble Companions including most of the members of elector council, withdrew their support.


Finally dissatisfaction led to rebellion in Egypt, Kufa and Basra. When Egyptian rebels gathered near Medina, Uthman asked Ali to speak with them. The delegates of Muhajirun led by Ali beside the delegates of Ansar led by Muhammad Ibn Maslamah met them and persuaded them to return by promising them in the name of the caliph redress for all their grievances and agreeing to act as guarantors. Due to their mediation and Uthman's commitment, the rebellion settled down. As they were about to leave they got a letter that was said to be signed by Uthman to kill the Egyptian rulers, but it was later found out that this letter was forged by Marwan ibn Al-Hakam. This brought the rebels back to Medina and began the siege.

Beginning of the siege

When Egyptian rebels returned to Madina, outraged by the official letter ordering the punishment of their leaders, Ali as the guarantor of Uthman's promises asked him to speak with the rebels directly. Uthman denied any knowledge about the letter and Ali and Muhammad Ibn Maslamah attested to this. But at this time the choices offered by the rebels amounted to resignation or abdication by Uthman and selection of another caliph. As turmoil broke out Ali left them. Ali seems to have broken with Uthman in despair over his own inability to break the influence of Marwan on the caliph. Ali intervened only after being informed that the rebels were preventing the delivery of water to the besieged caliph. He tried to mitigate the severity of the siege by his insistence that Uthman should be allowed to have water. Ali went to the extent of even sending his own sons to protect Uthman's house when he was in danger of being attacked. The rebels protested against this and committed excesses as a result.

Uthman's address in the Prophet's Mosque

On the first Friday after the siege, Uthman addressed the congregation in the mosque. After praising God and blessing and wishing peace on the Prophet Muhammad, Uthman invited the attention of the people to the commandment in the Quran requiring the people to obey God, His Apostle, and those in authority among them. He observed that the Muslims had been enjoined to settle all matters by mutual consultation. He said that he had kept the doors of consultation wide open. All the allegations that had been levelled against him had been duly explained by him and shown to be false. He had expressed his readiness to solve the legitimate grievances of the people, if any. He observed that under the circumstances it was uncharitable on the part of some persons to create disturbances in Mecca. He said that he was not afraid of death, but he did not want the Muslims to be guilty of bloodshed. To him the solidarity of the Muslim community was very dear and in order to prevent dissension among the Muslims he had instructed his supporters to refrain from violence. He wanted the people to be afraid of God and not to indulge in activities subversive of Islam. He pointed out that the foreign powers smarting under their defeat inflicted by the Muslim arms had sponsored some conspiracies to subvert Islam. He warned the people not to play in the hands of the enemies of Islam. He appealed to the rebels to retire from Madina. He wanted the people of Madina to support the cause of truth and justice and withhold their support from the rebels bent on mischief.

Rowdyism in the mosqueSome two or three persons from among the congregation stood up to assure Uthman of their support. They were manhandled by the rebels and were forced to sit down. The rebels including Amr ibn al-Aas, Ammar bin Yasir, and Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr raised their voices against Uthman. One rebel, Jabala bin 'Amr Saahadi, addressing Uthman said,

"Beware you foolish old man, that unless you abdicate we will strangle you to death".

When Uthman was addressing the congregation from the pulpit, one Jamjah Ghaffari seized the staff from the hands of Uthman, and broke it on his knees. This staff is said to have belonged to the Prophet Muhammad himself. Addressing Uthman, Jamjah Ghaffari insolently said that he had brought a dirty apparel and an old camel for Uthman to wear and ride, for he was no longer worthy of wearing the robes of the caliphate. Uthman merely dismissed him with the remarks, "May God curse you, and all that you have brought."

Some of the supporters of Uthman took up cudgels on behalf of Uthman. Hot words were exchanged between the parties. Tempers flared up on both the sides, and that led to the pelting of stones at one another. The state of complete rowdyism came to prevail in the mosque. One of the stones hit Uthman, and he fell unconscious. The gathering dissolved in a state of great disorder, and Uthman was carried to his house in a state of unconsciousness.

Intensification of the siege

The proceedings in the mosque showed to the rebels that Uthman did not enjoy the full support of the people of Madina. Apart from the Umayyads and a few other persons, most of the people of Madina preferred to be neutral and watch developments. When the rebels felt that the people of Madina were not likely to offer active support to Uthman, they changed their strategy, and tightened the siege of the house of Uthman. Uthman was denied the freedom to move about. He was not allowed to go to the mosque. Prayers in the mosque were now led by Amir Ghafiqi the leader of the rebels. Madina thus came to be in the full control of the rebels.

As days passed on, and no one came forward to oppose the rebels, they felt bold, and intensified their pressure against Uthman. They forbade the entry of any food or provisions into the house of Uthman. Then they placed an embargo even on the entry of water into the house of Uthman. Umm Habiba, a widow of Muhammad, and a sister of Muawiyah came to see Uthman and brought some water and provisions for Uthman. She was not allowed to enter the house of Uthman. Aisha bint Abu Bakr, a widow of Muhammad made a similar attempt, and she was also prevailed upon by the rebels to go back.

Deepening of the crisis

With the departure of the pilgrims from Medina to Makkah, the hands of the rebels were further strengthened and as a consequence the crisis deepened further. The rebels decided that after the Hajj the Muslims gathered at Makkah, from all parts of the Muslim world, would march to Madina to support the Caliph. They therefore decided to take action against Uthman before the pilgrimage was over.

It is related that during the course of the siege Mugheera bin Shu'ba went to Uthman and placed three courses of action before him, firstly, to go forth and fight against the rebels, secondly, to mount a camel and go to Mecca and thirdly to move to Syria. Uthman rejected all the three proposals. He rejected the first proposal saying that he did not want to be the first Caliph during whose time blood is shed. He turned down the second proposal to escape to Makkah on the ground that he had heard from Muhammad that a man of the Quraish would be buried in Makkah on whom would be half the chastisement of the world, and he did not want to be that person. He rejected the third proposal on the ground that he could not forsake Medina.

Abdullah bin Salam, a companion of the Prophet visited the house of Uthman and he is reported to have addressed the besiegers as follows:

"Slay him not, for by Allah not a man among you shall slay him, but he shall meet the Lord mutilated without a hand, and verily the sword of God has continued sheathed, but surely by Allah if you slay him the Lord will indeed draw it, and will never sheath it from you. Never was a Prophet slain, but there were slain on account of him 70,000 persons, and never was a Caliph slain. but 35,000 Persons were killed on his account."

A companion Nayyar bin Ayyad Aslami who joined the rebels exhorted them to enter the house and assassinate Uthman. When the rebels under the leadership of Nayyar bin Ayyad advanced to rush into the house, Kathir bin Salat Kundi, a supporter of Uthman, shot an arrow which killed Nayyar. That infuriated the rebels. They demanded that Kathir bin Salat Kundi should be handed over to them. Uthman said that he could not thus betray a person who had shot an arrow in his defense. That precipitated the matters. Uthman had the gates of the house shut. The gate was guarded by Hasan, Hussain, Abdullah bin Az-Zubair, Marwan and a few other persons. Open fighting now began between the rebels and the supporters of Uthman. There were some casualties among the rebels. Among the supporters Hasan, Marwan and some other persons were wounded.

Assassination of Uthman

The rebels increased their pressure and reaching the door of the house of Uthman set it on fire. Some rebels led by Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr climbed the houses of the neighbors and then jumped into the house of Uthman. It was July 17, 656 C.E. and Uthman was fasting that day. The previous night he had seen Prophet Muhammad in a dream. The Prophet had said,"If you wish help can be sent to you and if you want you can break your fast with us this evening. We will welcome you."Hazrat Usman (radiallho anhu) opted for the second. That made Uthman know that it was his last day of life.He was assasinated while reciting the Quran, The ayat of Surah Baqarah "137. So if they believe in the like of that which you believe, then they are rightly guided, but if they turn away, then they are only in opposition. So Allah will suffice you against them. And He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower". The blood-stained Quran he was reciting from is still preserved in a museum in Tashkent today.

Ali's role

There is controversy among historians about the relationship between Ali and Uthman Ibn Affan, the third Caliph. Ali disagreed with some of his policies. He clashed with Uthman in particular in question of the religious law. Therefore some historians consider Ali as one the leading members of Uthman's opposition, if not the main one of them. Because he could clearly be expected to be the prime beneficiary of the overthrow of Uthman. But German historian Wilferd Madelung is of the opinion that there is no evidence to suggest that Ali had close relations with the rebels who supported his caliphate or directed their actions. On the other hand Ali himself said in numerous cases that he had done whatever he had been able to defend him but he didn't agree with Uthman's policies. Some other sources says Ali had acted as a restraining influence on Uthman without directly opposing him. However Madelung narrates Marwan told Ali ibn Husayn, the grandson of Ali, that

No one [among the Islamic nobility] was more temperate toward our master than your master.

# Battle of the Camel [Battle of Basra]

The Battle of the Camel (also known as the Battle of Jamal) was a battle that took place at Basra, Iraq in 656 between forces allied to Ali ibn Abi Talib (Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, Commander of the Faithful) and forces allied to Aisha (widow of Muhammad, and Mother of the Believers (Arabic: Umm-al-Mu'mineen), who wanted justice on the perpetrators of the assassination of the previous caliph, Uthman.

Abu Bakr's reign was short, and in 634 CE he was succeeded by Umar as caliph. Assassination ended Umar's reign of ten years, and he was succeeded by Uthman Ibn Affan in 644 CE. Both of these men had been among Muhammad's earliest followers, were linked to him by clanship and marriage, and had taken prominent parts in various military campaigns.

Dissatisfaction and resistance had openly risen since 650-651 (30 AH) throughout most of the empire. The dissatisfaction with his regime and the governments he appointed was not restricted to the provinces outside Arabia. When Uthman's kin, especially Marwan, gained control over him, Uthman lost control over his Caliphate, and many of the noble companions, including most of the members of the elector council, withdrew their support.

The rebels of Egypt began the siege of Uthman Ibn Affan. The rebels refused to provide Uthman with food or water, and kept him imprisoned, hoping to force his abdication.

Role of Ali and Aisha


Ali intervened only when informed that the rebels were preventing the delivery of water to the besieged caliph. He tried to mitigate the severity of the siege by insisting that Uthman should be allowed water. Ali went to the extent of even sending his own sons to protect Uthman's house when he was in danger of being attacked. Rebels protested against it and committed excess therein.

Uthman was murdered provoking the First Fitna.

Caliphate to Ali

Ali was offered the caliphate by a large number of Muslims of Medina after Uthman's death. He is reported to have refused the caliphate at first but later, upon their insistence, he accepted.

It is said that the disciples of the prophet asked Ali to take the government, but he didn’t accept. They were not satisfied and insisted more until he had to accept. When Othman was killed, they went to Ali who was in his own estate and said:

“This man is killed. The public have to have a leader. No one we have found more deserving to the position than you! You are the oldest in the faith and the nearest to the prophet by relationship.”
“Don’t do that!” Ali said. “Better I be your advisor than your leader.”
They said: “No, we do swear by God! We won’t let you until we promise you loyalty!”

“So, let it to be in the mosque,” he said: “for the promise to be clear and by the willing of the people.”
His cousin Abdullah Abbas said:

I didn’t like him to go there for I was afraid there could be some opponents and problems. But he didn’t accept anywhere but in the mosque. Then he entered the mosque, both people of Migrants and Helpers gathered around him and promised him loyalty.

Abu-Boshre Abedi reports: When Othman was killed, people among them Talhah and Zobeir came to Ali and insisted: ‘Abul-Hassan! Come and let yourself to be our leader!’ Ali said: ‘I don’t need to be your leader! Any one you find, I am in your side and I we’ll accept him. Find another one for God's sake.’ ‘No one but you!’ people said.

They came many times to him and at the last time they said: ‘People can’t manage without a leader. This has become too long!’

Ali said: ‘Many times you have come to me and gone; now you have returned again! I will say a word that if you accept, I will take the position; otherwise I don’t need it!’ They said: ‘Anything you say!’

Ali went to the mosque on the pulpit and spoke:

‘I didn’t like to be your leader. But you insisted; now you must know that I won’t do anything against your will. The keys of your treasury will be in my hands but I don’t spend one drachma without your satisfaction. You accept this manner?’

“Yes!” they said. He said:

‘God! Witness this word!’

Many reports absolve Ali of complicity in the murder. German historian Wilferd Madelung is of the opinion that there is no evidence to suggest that Ali had a close relationship with the rebels who supported his caliphate or directed their actions. On the other hand, Ali himself said in numerous cases that he had done everything he could to defend him but that he didn't agree with Uthman's policies. Some other sources say that Ali had acted as a restraining influence on Uthman without directly opposing him. However, Madelung narrates that Marwan told Zayn al-Abidin, the grandson of Ali: "No one [among the Islamic nobility] was more temperate toward our master than your master."

Before hostilities

Talhah and Zubeir asked Ali the permission for pilgrimage. He let them and they departed. The Medina people wanted to know Ali’s point of view about war against Muslims by asking his view about Muawiah and his opposition. So they sent Ziyad Ben Hanzalah of Tamim who was an intimate friend to Ali. He went to him and sat for a while. Then Ali said:

"Get ready Ziad!"
"What for?"
"To fight the Syrians."
"Better to wait and tolerate."
Then Ziayd recited a poem:

"One who doesn’t tolerate
"He will be torn by the teeth
"And will be smashed by the feet"
Unconsciously recited another poem:

"When a wake heart and a brave sword and brain
Are gathered, then you will be safe from the oppression"
Then Ziyad came out to the people waiting for his conclusion. They asked:

"What happened? What is he going to do?"
Ziyad only said:

"You people! Sword!!"
And they understood what Ali was going to do. Ali gave the war flag to his young son Muhammad. He made Abdullah Abbas as the commander of the right wing and made Amr Ben Abi-Salamah as the head of the left. He wrote to his ruler in Egypt Keis Ben Said to make an army to fight the Syrians. Same letters he sent to Abu-Musa Ashaari in Kufah and Othman Ben Honeif in Basrah. Then he went to the mosque and spoke:

"God sent a prophet guiding us with a Book and a stable manner from which no one will be perverted but the destroyed people. Doubts and new ways can ruin man but if God saves him. So he is who saves you; obey him then with no doubt. I swear by God if you don’t do that, He will take the power of Islam from you and never give it back to you.
"Now get ready to fight with people who want to divide you! May God make what has ruined by the men in far horizons right by your hands! Accomplish now the duty you have!"
People were gathering for the fight but suddenly news came from Mecca saying that the people are getting ready to rebel. Again Ali went to the mosque and spoke:

"God forgives the oppressors, and delivers one who stands and resists. Everyone who can’t bear the truth, he will go the lies. Now beware you! that the mother of the believers and Talhah and Zubeir have been gathered to oppose my rule and have invited people with no violence. As long as I don’t feel danger about your unity, I will tolerate. If they stop and do only what I have heard, I won’t take any action too."

Preparation for battle

These events displeased Aisha and a large number of most significant sahaba (companions) of Muhammad. They believed that Ali was wrong to occupy himself in other tasks before finding Uthman's murderer. They challenged Ali's caliphate under the claim that Ali had been unsuccessful in finding Uthman's murderer, claiming Qisas for Uthman. Aisha formed a rebel army including Talha and Zubair and went to the city of Basra to seek vengeance for Uthman's blood, which was the beginning of the second civil war in Islam. They raised an army of 3000 warriors, and decided to march on Basra.

On learning of the advance of the rebels, Ali set out to meet them. He had with him only 700 men. Too weak to proceed, he camped at a desert well in Nejd. He sent his elder son Hasan, in company with former Kufa governor Ammar ibn Yasir, to request assistance from Kufa; their appeal eventually had the desired effect. With several thousand men from Kufa reinforcing his army, Ali was now ready for battle, and descended upon Basra.

Led by Zubair and Talha, the rebels marched out to meet Ali's army. Not all Basra was with them. Beni Bekr, the tribe once led by the Muthanna, joined the army of Ali. Beni Temeem decided to remain neutral.

Rebels in Basra

According to prominent Sunni scholar and historian Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Ali had employed Jats to guard the Basra treasury during the Battle of Jamal.

“ Jats were the guards of the Baitul Mal at al-Basra during the time of both Uthman's and Ali's caliphate. ”

The battle

In the war, Aisha accompanied the rebel army in her camel-litter. Professor Leila Ahmed claims that it was during this engagement that Muslims fought Muslims for the first time. Battle ensued and Aisha's forces were defeated. Aisha directed her forces from a howdah on the back of a camel; this 656 AD battle is therefore called the Battle of the Camel.

The attitude of the leaders was in marked contrast with the bitter struggle of the ranks. Zubair, half-hearted since his interview with Ali, left the battlefield according to his promise, and was killed in an adjoining valley. A man named Amr ibn Jarmouz had followed Zubair and murdered him while he performed Salat.

End of the battle

Marwan ibn al-Hakam shot his own general, Talha, who became disabled in the leg by the shot, and carried into Basra, where he died later of his wound. Marwan said,

“ By God, now I will not have to search for the man who murdered Uthman. ”

Ali's forces overcame the rebels, and the defeated army was treated with generosity. Ali met Aisha, who was at that time aged 45, with the intent of reconciliation. He sent her back to Medina under military escort headed by her brother Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, one of Ali's commanders. She subsequently retired to Medina with no more interference with the affairs of state.

Losses in the battle

According to William Muir, 10,000 people lost their life in this battle, with each party bearing equal loss. In the three days after the battle, Ali performed a funeral service for all the dead from both parties.

The combat had lasted 110 days in total.


Fought with Ali

Harith ibn Rab'i
Malik al-Ashtar
Ammar ibn Yasir
Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr
Hasan ibn Ali
Abu Ayub Ansari
Abu Qatada bin Rabyee
Qais bin Sa'd bin Idadah
Qathm bin Abbas

Fought with Aisha

Talha ibn Ubayd-Allah
Muhammad ibn Talha
Zubayr ibn al-Awwam
Marwan ibn al-Hakam

Others involved

Abd-Allah ibn Umar
Hafsa bint Umar
Umm Salama Hind bint Abi Umayya


Abdullah bin Aamir Hadhrami of Makkah
Ya'la bin Umayya
Abdullah bin Aamir bin Kurayz of Basra
Saeed bin Aas
Mughira bin Shaaba


# Battle of Siffin

The Battle of Siffin (May–July 657 CE) occurred during the First Fitna, or first Muslim civil war, with the main engagement taking place from July 26 to July 28. It was fought between Ali ibn Abi Talib and Muawiyah I, on the banks of the Euphrates river, in what is now Ar-Raqqah, Syria. Following the controversial murder of Uthman ibn Affan, Ali had become Caliph but struggled to be accepted as such throughout the Muslim Empire. Muawiyah, the governor of Syria, was a kinsman of the murdered Caliph, and wanted the murderers brought to justice. He considered that Ali was unwilling to do this, and so Muawiyah rebelled against Ali, who attempted to put down the rebellion. The result was the engagement at Siffin. However, the battle was indecisive, and the two parties agreed to an arbitration, which was equally indecisive. The battle and arbitration served to weaken Ali's position, but did not resolve the tensions that were plaguing the empire. To the Shia, Ali ibn Abi Talib was the first Imam. To Sunnis, Ali ibn Abi Talib was the fourth Rashidun Caliph, and Muawiyah the first Caliph of the Umayyad dynasty. The events surrounding the battle are highly controversial between Sunni and Shia, and serve as part of the split between the two groups.

Start of hostilities

After the Battle of the Camel, Ali returned from Basra to Kufa in Rajab of 36 A.H. (January 657). He decided to transfer the capital of his government to Kufa from Medina because it was more centrally placed in the Muslim Empire, and he could halt Muawiyah's progress into Iraq. Ali ibn Abi Talib tried to settle matters peacefully by sending an envoy to Syria. He chose Jarir, who was the chief of Banu Bajila and governor of Hamdan. In Syria, disorder and incitement to commotion continued unabated. Uthman's shirt, besmeared with his blood and the chopped-off fingers of his wife, Naila, were exhibited from the pulpit. In this manner, Muawiya raised the entire country of Syria against Ali. Ultimately, both parties converged on Siffin where the armies pitched their camps in 37/657. Even at this stage, Ali sent three men, viz. Bashir bin Amr bin Mahz Ansari, Saeed bin Qais Hamdani, and Shis bin Rabiee Tamini to Muawiya to induce him to settle for union, accord and coming together. According to Tabari, Muawiya replied that, "Go away from here, only the sword will decide between us."

Seeing that war was inevitable, Ali gathered his forces, and, after at first planning to invade Syria from the North, he attacked directly, marching through the Mesopotamian desert. Arriving at Riqqa, on the banks of the Euphrates, the Syrian vanguard was sighted, but it withdrew without engagement. The people of Riqqa were hostile to Ali, and his army had great difficulty crossing the river. Eventually, Malik al-Ashtar threatened the townspeople with death, which forced their co-operation. So, finally, the army managed to cross the river, by means of a bridge of boats. Ali's army then marched along the right bank of the Euphrates, until they came across the Syrian outpost of Sur al-Rum, where there was a brief skirmish, but Ali's advance was not slowed. So in Dhu al-Hijjah 36 (May 657), the army of Ali ibn Abi Talib came into sight of Muawiyah's main forces, which were encamped on the river plain at Siffin.

The fight for the river

With an army of some 80,000 strong, mainly recruited from Iraq, Ali set out from Kufa, planning to march through upper part of Iraq and invade Syria from the north. Ali, then pushed on to Raqa, on the left bank of the Euphrates. Here his troops came across the Syrian vanguard but it withdrew without engagement. The next problem was how to cross the river. Ali wanted to construct a bridge of boats, but the people of Raqa were hostile. It was only after Ali's general, Malik al-Ashtar, had threatened them with death that they consented to help in building the bridge which was completed under the great difficulties. Ali's men then advanced along the right bank of the river in the direction of Aleppo. At Sur-Rum they had a brief skirmish with a Syrian outpost before they reached the plain of Siffin, where they found Muawiya's forces drawn up in strength and waiting for them.

Ali soon discovered that the Syrian positions controlled the water supply of the whole valley, and that there was no access to the river for his men. Muawiya obviously intended to use thirst to drive Ali's men to surrender. Muawiya had, however, underestimated the calibre of Ali's troops. Ali, however wrote a letter to Muawiya, which reads: "You have fore-stalled me in pitching the stables for the horses of your cavalry. Before I could declare war on you, you have declared war on us. It was bad move on your part to cut off our supply of water. It behoves you to allow us the natural supply of water. Failing this, we will be reluctantly forced to fight with you." On receiving this letter, Muawiya conferred with his advisers, who urged him not to yield up the advantage he had gained. Ali was therefore left with no alternative but to attack at full gallop and inflicted a crushing defeat on Muawiya's forces, and took charge of water supply. Now it was the turn of Ali's counsellors to urge control of the water supplies and for the soldiers of Muawiya to suffer the rigours of extreme thirst. But Ali ordered his men to allow the Syrians free access to the river, saying: "Our religion and ethical code does not permit us to stop water supply, and so pay our enemy back in his own coin. I do not want to follow the way of the ignorant people."

The main engagement

Ali made one final demand for Muawiyah's army to submit to him as Caliph, but they refused. As a result, on 8th Safar 36 (26 July 657) Ali gave the order for a full attack, and the major part of the Battle of Siffin began.

Historian Yaqubi wrote that Ali had 80,000 men, including 70 Companions who participated in Badr, 70 Companions who took oath at Hudaibia, and 400 prominent Ansars and Muhajirs; while Muawiya had 120,000 Syrians.

During the 110 days of negotiations, no fewer than 90 skirmishes were fought. Almost every day one tribal column would engage an enemy in combat, sometimes two or more engagements would be fought in one day. Heart-broken at the amount of Muslim blood that had already been shed in vain, Ali made one last bid for peace with Muawiya, at the start of the new year, but of no avail. At long last, Ali decided on a general engagement, and thus the battle of Siffin broke out on 8th Safar, 36/July 26, 657. A fierce battle was fought between them on the whole day, and it even continued in the darkness of that night, which is known as laila'tul harir (the night of clangour). William Muir wrote that, "Both armies drawn out in entire array, fought till the shades of evening fell, neither having got the better. The following morning, the combat was renewed with great vigour. Ali posed himself in the centre with the flower of his troops from Medina, and the wings were formed, one of the warriors from Basra, the other of those from Kufa. Muawiya had a pavilion pitched on the field; and there, surrounded by five lines of his sworn body-guards, watched the day. Amr with a great weight of horse, bore down upon the Kufa wing which gave away; and Ali was exposed to imminent peril, both from thick showers of arrows and from close encounter. Reproaching the men of Kufa for their cowardice, the Caliph fought bravely, his unwieldy figure notwithstanding, sword in hand, and manfully withstood the charge. Ali's general Ashtar, at the head of 300 Hafiz-e-Quran(readers of (the Koran)) led forward the other wing, which fell with fury on Muawiya's Turbaned body-guard. Four of its five ranks were cut to pieces, and Muawiya, bethinking himself of flight, had already called for his horse, when a martial couplet flashed in his mind, and he held his ground."

The following morning, the battle started up again. Edward Gibbon wrote that, "The Caliph Ali displayed a superior character of valour and humanity. His troops were strictly enjoined to wait the first onset of the enemy, to spare their flying brethren, and to respect the bodies of the dead, and the chastity of the female captives. The ranks of the Syrians were broken by the charge of the hero, who was mounted on a piebald horse, and wielded with irresistable force, his ponderous and two edged sword."

Appalled by the carnage, Ali sent a message to Muawiya and challenged him to single combat, saying that whoever won should be the Caliph. In Gibbon's words, "Ali generously proposed to save the blood of the Muslims by a single combat; but his trembling rival declined the challenge as a sentence of inevitable death." Muawiya had indeed lost his nerve, and was about to flee from the field, a trick of his accomplice Amr bin al-A'as saved them from destruction.

At length, Muawiya made his mercenaries tie copies of Holy Koran to their lances and flags, demanding for the decision of arbitration.Tabari wrote that, "The defeat started Muawiya in the face. Amr bin al-A'as, however, had a trick up his sleeve for this emergency, and it was the raising of the Koran aloft on spear-heads, and announcing, "Brethren, this Book of God alone will decide between you and us." It will be recalled that even before the commencement of the battle, Ali had invited Muawiya by sending his three men to turn to the Koran for a decision, but his offer was declined by telling, "Go away from here, only the sword will decide between us.". And now they sought the intercession of the Holy Koran to escape the unpleasant consequences of an ignominious defeat. At this Ali came forward and expostulated his soldiers, saying, "It is an infamous stratagem and a nefarious device of Amr and Muawiya to cloak their defeat. Beware of the trick which they are playing. You should fight to a finish." But Ali's men refused to fight. Ali, with a great expectation of victory in sight, was therefore impelled to call a retreat.

Ali's supporters during the battle of Siffin were called ahel-i Iraq, or Shiat'i Ali, while his opponents became known as ahel-i Sham, or Shiat'i Uthman and Shiat'i Muawiya. But Ali called them al-kasitun (those who act wrong), a word derived from the Holy Koran that:"And as for the deviators, they shall be for the hell, a fuel.", wherein the word al-kasitun means the fuel of hell-fire.

Appointment of Arbitrators

It was decided that the Syrians and the residents of Kufa should nominate an arbitrator each to decide between Ali and Muawiya. The Syrians choice fell on Amr bin al-A'as who was the rational soul and spokesman of Muawiya. Ali wanted one of his sincere followers like Malik Ashtar or Abdullah bin Abbas to be appointed as an arbitrator for the people of Kufa, but the men of his own army strongly demurred, alleging that men like these two were, indeed, responsible for the war and, therefore, ineligible for that office of trust. They nominated Abu Musa al-Ashari as their arbitrator. Ali found it expedient to agree to this choice in order to ward off bloody dissensions in his army. According to "Asadul Ghaba", Ali had, therefore, taken care to personally explain to the arbitrators, "You are arbiters on condition that you decide according to the Book of God, and if you are not so inclined you should not deem yourselves to be arbiters."

When the arbitrators assembled at Daumet-ul-Jandal, which lay midway between Kufa and Syria and had for that reason been selected as the place for the announcement of the decision, a series of daily meeting was arranged for them to discuss the matters in hand. When the time arrived for taking a decision about the caliphate, Amr bin al-A'as deluded Abu Musa al-Ashari into entertaining the opinion that they should deprive both Ali and Muawiya of the caliphate, and give to the Muslims the right to elect the caliph. Abu Musa al-Ashari also decided to act accordingly. As the time for announcing the verdict approached, the people belonging to both parties assembled. Amr bin al-A'as requested Abu Musa to take the lead in announcing the decision he favoured. Abu Musa al-Ashari agreed to open the proceedings, and said, "We have devised a solution after a good deal of thought and it may put an end to all contention and separatist tendencies. It is this. Both of us remove Ali as well as Muawiya from the caliphate. The Muslims are given the right to elect a new caliph in their places as they think best."

As soon as he sat down after giving his award, Amr bin al-A'as sprang to his feet and addressing the gather said, "You have heard Abu Musa who represents Ali. He has deposed Ali from the caliphate. As the representative of Muawiya, I agree with him in the deposition of Ali, but I install Muawiya as the caliph." Here, an disorderly scene ensured in which Abu Musa al-Ashari cursed Amr bin al-A'as. The Syrians hailed the trick played by Amr bin al-A'as as a great diplomatic triumph. It should be noted that the above judgement, the arbitrators did not quote any authority of the Koran or Sunnah to justify deposing Ali.


# Battle of Nahrawan

The Battle of Nahrawan was a battle between Ali ibn Abi Talib (the fourth Sunni Caliph and the 1st Shi'a Imam) and the Kharijites, near Nahrawan, twelve miles from Baghdad.

After the unsatisfactory conclusion to the Battle of Siffin, Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib returned with his army back to Kufa on the 13th of Safar 37 A.H. (~30 July 657 C.E.). During the march, a group of 12,000 men kept themselves at a distance from the main part of the army.

This group, the Kharijites, was furious at the way things had ended at Siffin. Although they had put down their weapons on the battlefield, demanding that Ali accept the arbitration proposed by Muawiyah, they now, however, held that Ali ibn Abi Talib had betrayed Islam by agreeing to the truce and should have referred judgment to the Quran alone or continued to fight. They demanded that he repent for this great sin.

When the army neared Kufa, the Kharijites camped at a village named Harura. They began saying that all Muslims were equal and no one could rule over another, denouncing both Ali ibn Abi Talib and Muawiyah while proclaiming that their belief was in "La Hukma Illa Lillah", meaning, "No Rulership except by Allah alone."

Ali ibn Abi Talib sent Sa'sa'a ibn Sauhan and Ziyad ibn Nazr al-Harisi, in the company of `Abd Allah ibn `Abbas, to treat with them; afterwards he himself went to the Kharijite encampment and tried to explain to them that they were misunderstanding the words "La Hukma Illa Lillah", and that in accepting the Arbitration (peace talks) at Siffin, he had not gone against the teachings of the Quran.

He pointed out that they themselves were at fault, because they should never have laid down their arms and forced him to call back Malik al-Ashtar, who was at the point of securing victory. He reminded them that they had pressed for the Arbitration and had forced him to appoint Abu Musa al-Ash'ari as his (and thus their) representative, having rejected Ali's nominees, ibn Abbas and Malik al-Ashtar. He told them that he found their present behavior very strange, considering their involvement in the army revolt at Siffin. To this they admitted that they had sinned but now they had repented for it and he should do the same.

Ali ibn Abi Talib replied that he was a true believer and did not have to repent because he had not committed any sin; more discussion proved fruitless, and the Caliph dispersed the Kharijite representatives.

The Kharijites refused to accept the words of Ali ibn Abi Talib and awaited the decision of Amr al-Aas and Abu Musa al-Ash'ari. When they learnt of the decision they decided to revolt, setting up their headquarters at Nahrawan, twelve miles from Baghdad. A group of sympathizers from Basra came to join the rebels.

On the other side, after hearing the verdict of Arbitration, Ali ibn Abi Talib decided to attack the army of Syria and wrote to the Kharijites that the verdict passed by the two arbitrators in pursuance of their heart's wishes instead of the Quran and Sunnah was not acceptable to him, that he had therefore decided to fight Muawiyah, and they should now support him in crushing the enemy. But the Kharijites replied, "When you had agreed to Arbitration in our view you had turned heretic. Now if you admit your heresy and offer repentance we will think over this matter and decide what we should do." Ali ibn Abi Talib understood from their reply that their disobedience and misguidance had become very serious, and to entertain any kind of hope from them now was futile. Consequently ignoring them, he encamped in the valley of al-Nukhaylah with a view to marching towards Syria to fight against Muawiyah.

Ali ibn Abi Talib had already set out for Syria when he received the news that the Kharijites had butchered the governor of Nahrawan, Abdullah ibn Khabbab ibn al-Aratt, and his slave maid, reportedly tearing a child from her womb, and had killed three women of Banu Tayyi and Umm Sinan as-Saydawiyyah. Ali ibn Abi Talib sent al-Harith ibn Murrah al-Abdi to investigate but he too was killed by the Kharijites. With their rebellion at this stage it was obvious that the Caliph would have to deal with them; there was a danger that the Kharijites might attack Kufa while he and his men were marching to Syria, and so he decided to prevent this possibility. Ali changed his course eastward, crossed the river Tigris, and approached Nahrawan.

On reaching their stronghold Caliph Ali sent a messenger to the Kharijites demanding that those people who had murdered innocent Muslims around their camp should be surrendered. The Kharijites replied that they were all equally responsible for killing these sinners.

There was some reluctance amongst the Caliph's army to fight the Kharijites, because these had been their companions against Muawiyah at Siffin. Ali ibn Abi Talib himself did not desire the bloodshed of these misguided fanatics, so he sent Abu Ayyub al-Ansari with an offer of amnesty. Abu Ayyub al-Ansari declared "Whoever comes under this banner or separates from that party and goes to Kufa or al-Mada'in would get amnesty and he would not be questioned." Subsequently Farwah ibn Nawfal al-Ashja'i said that he did not know why they were at war with Ali ibn Abi Talib, and he separated along with five hundred men. Similarly group after group began to defect---some of them joining Ali; eventually, only a core force of 1,800 die-hards were left under the command of Abdullah ibn Wahab. These Kharijites swore that they would fight Ali ibn Abi Talib at any cost.

Nahjul Balagha - Sermon 36/Warning the people of Nahrawan of their fate:

"I am warning you that you will be killed on the bend of this canal and on the level of this low area while you will have no clear excuse before Allah nor any open authority with you. You have come out of your houses and then divine decree entangled you. I had advised you against this arbitration but you rejected my advice like adversaries and opponents till I turned my ideas in the direction of your wishes. You are a group whose heads are devoid of wit and intelligence. May you have no father! (Allah's woe be to you!) I have not put you in any calamity nor wished you harm."
The Kharijites attacked Ali's army with desperate courage, but stood little chance against the superior force that faced them; all except nine men were slain. These nine managed to flee to Basra and elsewhere, where they spread their beliefs and recruited more followers. The Caliph's army suffered only eight casualties, whom Ali's followers came to regard as martyrs. The battle took place on the 9th Safar, 38 A.H. Two years later, in 40 A.H., it was the Kharijites who sent out three assassins to kill Ali ibn Abi Talib, Muawiyah and his negotiator in the Arbitration, 'Amr ibn al-'As. The latter two survived but Ali ibn Abi Talib was assassinated by ibn Muljim's attack with a poisoned sword in the mosque of Kufa.

Having disposed of the Kharijites at Nahrawan, Ali ibn Abi Talib resumed his march to Syria. However, the chiefs of his followers urged him to stop at Kufa to let the men rest before the long journey and to enable the army to repair their weapons and armor. The Caliph agreed to this request and camped at al-Nukhaylah outside Kufa. The soldiers were allowed to leave the camp for a day.

On the next day, hardly any men returned and at length, Ali ibn Abi Talib entered Kufa and gave a stern sermon to the people. However, nobody came forward and finally, Ali ibn Abi Talib turned away from them in disappointment. The Syrian expedition was abandoned, never to be resumed.


# Battle of Karbala

The Battle of Karbala took place on Muharram 10, in the year 61 of the Islamic calendar (October 10, 680) in Karbala, in present day Iraq. The battle was between a small group of supporters and relatives of Muhammad's grandson Husain ibn Ali, and a much larger military detachment from the forces of Yazid I, the Umayyad caliph, whom Husain had refused to recognise as caliph. Husain and all his supporters were killed, including Husain's six months old infant son, and the women and children taken as prisoners. The dead are regarded as martyrs by Muslims, and the battle has a central place in Shi'ah history and tradition, and has frequently been recounted in Shi'ah Islamic literature.

The Battle of Karbala is commemorated during an annual 10-day period held every Muharram by the Shi'ah as well as many Sunnis, culminating on its tenth day, Ashura.

Political background

The rule of the third Caliph Uthman ibn Affan concluded with a violent uprising. This uprising ended with the assassination of Uthman and for many days rebels seized and occupied the city of Medina. Under the overwhelming pressure of the Ummah, Ali ibn Abu Talib was elected as the fourth Caliph with massive numbers of people swearing their allegiance to him. His immediate steps were to ensure the unity of Muslims. He issued the orders of not attacking the rebels until order was restored. The governor of Syria, Muawiya, kinsman to the murdered Caliph Uthman, refused allegiance to Ali and revolted against him, using his cousin's unpunished murder as a pretext. This resulted in armed confrontations between the Islamic Caliph Ali ibn Abu Talib and Muawiya. Practically, the Muslim world became divided. At the death of Ali ibn Abu Talib, his elder son Hasan ibn Ali succeeded him but soon signed a treaty with Muawiya to avoid further bloodshed. Muawiya remained the ruler of Syria. Prior to his death, Muawiya was actively plotting a major deviation from Islamic norms. He was establishing his son Yazid I as the next ruler hence establishing dynastic rule for the first time in Islam. This was a move which was considered unacceptable by some leaders of the ummah including the younger son of Ali ibn Abu Talib, Husain ibn Ali.

The majority of Muslims were observing the conduct of the leaders of prominent companion families, namely, Abdullah Ibn Abbas, Abdullah Ibn Zubair, Abdullah Ibn Omar, Husain ibn Ali and Abdu'l-Rahman ibn Abu Bakr. In his written instructions to Yazid, Muawiya suggested specific strategies for each one of them. Muawiya warned Yazid specifically about Husain ibn Ali, since he was the only blood relative of the prophet Muhammad. Yazid was successful in coercing Abdullah ibn Abbas, Abdullah Ibn Omar and Abdu'l-Rahman ibn Abu Bakr. Abdullah Ibn Zubair took refuge in Mecca. Husain ibn Ali believed the appointment of Yazid as the heir of the Caliphate would lead to hereditary kingship, which was against the original political teachings of Islam. Therefore, he resolved to confront Yazid.

Events Before the Battle

Muawiya I died on Rajab 22, 60 AH (680 CE). In violation of Islamic tradition and his own written agreement with Hasan ibn Ali, Muawiya I appointed his son Yazid as his successor, converting the Caliphate into a dynasty. Few notables of the Islamic community were crucial to lending some legitimacy to this conversion of Caliphate into a dynasty, even people like Said ibn Uthman and Al Ahnaf ibn Qays denounced his Caliphate. Husain ibn Ali was the most significant threat to this dynastic rule, since he was the only living grandson of the prophet Muhammad. Yazid instructed his Governor Walid in Medina to force Husain ibn Ali to pledge allegiance to Yazid. Husain refused it and uttered his famous words that "Anyone akin to me will never accept anyone akin to Yazid as a ruler." Husain departed Medina on Rajab 28, 60 AH (680 CE), two days after Walid's attempt to force him to submit to Yazid I's rule. He stayed in Mecca from the beginnings of the Sha'ban and all of Ramadan, Shawwal, as well as Dhu al-Qi'dah.

It is mainly during his stay in Mecca that he received many letters from Kufa assuring him their support and asking him to come over there and guide them. He answered their calls and sent Muslim ibn Aqeel, his cousin, to Kufa as his representative in an attempt to consider the exact situation and public opinion.

Husain's representative to Kufa, Muslim ibn Aqeel was welcomed by the people of Kufa, and most of them swore allegiance to him. After this initial observation, Muslim ibn Aqeel wrote to Husain Ibn Ali that the situation in Kufa was favorable. However, after the arrival of the new Governor of Kufa, Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad, the scenario changed. Muslim ibn Aqeel and his host, Hani ibn Urwa, were executed on Dhu al-Hijjah 9, 60AH (September 10, 680 CE) without any considerable resistance of the people. This shifted the loyalties of the people of Kufa, in favor of Yazid against Husain ibn Ali. Husain ibn Ali also realized a deep conspiracy that Yazid had appointed `Amr ibn Sa`ad ibn al As as the head of an army, ordering him to take charge of the pilgrimage caravans and to kill al Husain ibn Ali wherever he could find him during Hajj, and hence decided to leave Mecca on 08th Dhu al-Hijjah 60 AH (12 September 680 AD), just a day before Hajj and was contented with Umrah, due to his concern about potential violation of the sanctity of the Kaaba. He delivered a famous sermon in Kaaba highlighting his reasons to leave that he didn't want the sanctity of Kaaba to be violated, since his opponents had crossed any norm of decency and were willing to violate all tenets of Islam.

When Husain ibn Ali was making his mind to leave for Kufa, Abd-Allah ibn Abbas and Abdullah ibn Zubayr held a meeting with him and advised him not to move to Iraq, or, if he was determined to move, not to take women and children with him in this dangerous journey. Husain ibn Ali, however, had resolved to go ahead with his plan. He gave a speech to people the day before his departure and said:

"... The death is a certainty for mankind, just like the trace of necklace on the neck of young girls. And I am enamored of my ancestors like eagerness of Jacob to Joseph ... Everyone, who is going to devote his blood for our sake and is prepared to meet Allah, must depart with us..."

On their way to Kufa, the small caravan received the sad news of execution of Muslim ibn Aqeel and the indifference of the people of Kufa. Instead of turning back, Husain decided to continue the journey and sent Qais ibn Musahhar al-Saydavi as messenger to talk to the nobles of Kufa. The messenger was captured in the vicinity of Kufa but managed to tear the letter to pieces to hide names of its recipients. Just like Muslim ibn Aqeel, Qais ibn Musahhar was executed.

The Events of the Battle

Husain and his followers were two days away from Kufa when they were intercepted by the vanguard of Yazid's army; about 1000 men led by Hurr ibn Riahy. Husain asked the army, "With us or against us?" They replied: "Of course against you, oh Aba Abd Allah!" Husain ibn Ali said: "If you are different from what I received from your letters and from your messengers then I will return to where I came from." Their leader, Hurr, refused Husain's request to let him return to Medina. The caravan of the Mohammad's family arrived at Karbala on Muharram 2, 61AH (October 2, 680 CE). They were forced to pitch a camp on the dry, bare land and Hurr stationed his army nearby.

Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad appointed Umar ibn Sa'ad to command the battle against Husain ibn Ali. At first Umar ibn Sa'ad rejected the leadership of the army but accepted after Ibn Ziyad threatened to take away the governorship of Ray city and put Shimr ibn Zil Jawshan in his place. Ibn Ziyad also urged Umar ibn Sa'ad to initiate the battle on the sixth day of Moharram. Umar ibn Sa'ad moved towards the battlefield with an 80,000-strong army and arrived at Karbala on Muharram 2, 61 AH (October 3, 680 CE).

Ibn Ziyad sent a brief letter to Umar ibn Sa'd that commanded, "Prevent Husain and his followers from accessing water and do not allow them to drink a drop [of water]. Ibn Sa'ad followed the orders, and 5000 horsemen blockaded the Euphrates. One of Husain's followers met Umar ibn Sa'ad and tried to negotiate some sort of access to water, but was denied. The water blockade continued up to the end of the battle on Muharram 10th (October 10, 680 CE).

Umar ibn Sa'ad received an order from Ibn Ziyad to start the battle immediately and not to postpone it further. The army started advancing toward Husain's camp on the afternoon of Muharram 9th. At this point Husain sent Abbas ibn Ali to ask Ibn Sa'ad to wait until the next morning, so that he and his men could spend the night praying. Ibn Sa'ad agreed to the respite.

On the night before the battle, Husain gathered his men and told them that they were all free to leave the camp in the middle of the night, under cover of darkness, rather than face certain death if they stayed with him. None of Husain's men defected and they all remained with him. Husain and his followers held a vigil and prayed all night.

The day of the battle

On Muharram 10th, also called Ashura, Husain ibn Ali completed the morning prayers with his companions. He appointed Zuhayr ibn Qayn to command the right flank of his army, Habib ibn Muzahir to command the left flank and his half-brother Abbas ibn Ali as the standard bearer. There is controversy regarding the date for the day of Ashura in the Gregorian Calendar. October 10 is a calculated date through calculators. These calculators however, are not always correct. According to the book Maqtal al Husain, Muharram 9th is October 12, 680; if that book is correct Muharram 10th was October 13, 680 A.D.

Husain ibn Ali's companions numbered 32 horsemen and 40 infantrymen. Husain rode on his horse Zuljenah.

Husain ibn Ali called the people around him to join him for the sake of Allah and to defend Muhammad's family. His speech affected Hurr ibn Yazid Al-Riyahi, the commander of the Tamim and Hamdan tribes who had stopped Husain from his journey. He abandoned Umar ibn Sa'ad and joined Husain's small band of followers.

On the other side, Yazid had sent Shimir (his chief commander) to replace Umar ibn Sa'ad as the commander.

[edit] The battle beginsUmar ibn Sa'ad advanced and fired an arrow at Husain ibn Ali's army, saying: "Give evidence before the governor that I was the first thrower." Ibn Sa'ad's army started showering Husain's army with arrows. Hardly any men from Husain ibn Ali's army escaped from being shot by an arrow. Both sides began fighting. Successive assaults resulted in the death of a group of Husain ibn Ali's companions.

The first skirmish was between the right flank of Imam Husain's army with the left of the Syrian army. A couple of dozens men under the command of Zuhayr ibn Qain fought heroically and repulsed the initial infantry attack and in the process destroyed the left flank of the Syrian army which in disarray collided with the middle of the army. Seeing this, the Syrian army quickly retreated and broke the pre-war verbal agreement of not using arrows and lances. This agreement was made in view of the small number of Husain ibn Ali's companions. Umar ibn Sa'ad on advice of 'Amr ibn al Hajjaj ordered his army not to come out for any duel and to attack Husain ibn Ali's army together.

`Amr ibn al-Hajjaj attacked Husain ibn Ali's right wing, but the men were able to maintain their ground, kneeling down as they planted their lances. They were thus able to frighten the enemy's horses. When the horsemen came back to charge at them again, Husain's men met them with their arrows, killing some of them and wounding others. `Amr ibn al-Hajjaj kept saying the following to his men, "Fight those who abandoned their creed and who deserted the jam`a!" Hearing him say so, Husain ibn Ali said to him, "Woe unto you, O `Amr! Are you really instigating people to fight me?! Are we really the ones who abandoned their creed while you yourself uphold it?! As soon as our souls part from our bodies, you will find out who is most worthy of entering the fire!

In order to prevent random and indiscriminate showering of arrows on Husain ibn Ali's camp which had women and children in it, Husain's followers went out to single combats. Men like Burayr ibn Khudhayr, Muslim ibn Awsaja and Habib ibn Mazahir were slain in the fighting. They were attempting to save Husain's life by shielding him. Every casualty had a considerable effect on their military strength since they were vastly outnumbered by Yazid I's army. Husain's companions were coming, one by one, to say goodbye to him, even in the midst of battle. Almost all of Husain's companions were killed by the onslaught of arrows or lances.

After almost all of Husain's companions were killed, his relatives asked his permission to fight. The men of Banu Hashim, the clan of Muhammad and Ali, went out one by one. Ali al Akbar ibn Husain, the middle son of Husain ibn Ali, was the first one of Hashemite who received permission from his father.

Casualties from Banu Hashim were sons of Ali ibn Abi Talib, sons of Hasan ibn Ali, a son of Husain ibn Ali, a son of Abdullah ibn Ja'far ibn Abi-Talib and Zaynab bint Ali, sons of Aqeel ibn Abi Talib, as well as a son of Muslim ibn Aqeel. There were seventy-two Hashemites dead in all (including Husain ibn Ali).

Death of Abbas ibn Ali

Abbas ibn Ali advanced toward Euphrates branch along a dyke. Abbas ibn Ali continued his advance into the heart of ibn Sa'ad's army. He was under heavy shower of arrows but was able to penetrate them and get to the branch leaving heavy casualties from the enemy. He immediately started filling the water skin. In a remarkable and immortal gesture of loyalty to his brother and Muhammad's grandson he did not drink any water despite being severely thirsty. He put the water skin on his right shoulder and started riding back toward their tents. Umar ibn Sa'ad ordered an outright assault on Abbas ibn Ali saying that if Abbas ibn Ali succeeds in taking water back to his camp, we will not be able to defeat them till the end of time. A massive enemy army blocked his way and surrounded him. He was ambushed from behind a bush and his right arm was cut off. Abbas ibn Ali put the water skin on his left shoulder and continued his way but his left arm was also cut off. Abbas ibn Ali now held the water skin with his teeth. The army of ibn Sa'ad started shooting arrows at him, one arrow hit the water skin and water poured out of it, now he turned his horse back towards the army and charge towards them but one arrow hit his eyes and someone hit a gurz on his head and he fell off the horse.In his last moments when Abbas ibn Ali was wiping the blood in his eyes to enable him to see Husain's face, Abbas ibn Ali said not to take his body back to the camps because he had promised to bring back water but could not and so could not face Bibi Sakinah, the daughter of Husain ibn Ali. Then he called Imam Husain, "brother" for the first time in his life. Before the death of Abbas, Husain ibn Ali said: "Abbas your death is like the breaking of my back".

Death of Husain ibn Ali (Shia Perspective)

Husain ibn Ali told Yazid's army to offer him single battle, and they gave his request. He killed everybody that fought him in single battles. He frequently forced his enemy into retreat, killing a great number of opponents. Husain and earlier his son Hazrat Ali Akbar were the two warriors who penetrated and dispersed the core of Ibn-Saad's army (Qalb-e-Lashkar), a sign of extreme chaos in traditional warfare.

Imam Husain advanced very deep in the back ranks of the Syrian army. When the enemies stood between him and the tents he shouted:

"Woe betide you oh followers of Abu Sufyan's dynasty! If no religion has ever been accepted by you and you have not been fearing the resurrection day then be noble in your world, that's if you were Arabs as you claim."

Then his enemies invaded back toward him.

They continuously attacked each other, Until his numerous injuries caused him to stay a moment. At this time he was hit on his forehead with a stone. He was cleaning blood from his face while he was hit on the heart with arrow and he said: "In the name of Allah, and by Allah, and on the religion of the messenger of Allah." Then he raised his head up and said: "Oh my God! You know that they are killing a man that there is son of daughter of a prophet on the earth except him." He then grasped and pulled the arrow out of his chest, which caused heavy bleeding.

He became very weak and stopped fighting. The soldiers approaching him gave up confrontation, seeing his position. One soldier, however, walked up to Imam Husain and hit him on his head with his sword.

The enemies hesitated to fight Imam Husain, but they decided to surround him. At this time Abd-Allah ibn Hassan, an underage boy, escaped from the tents and ran to Husain. When a soldier intended to slay Husain, Abd-Allah ibn Hassan defended his uncle with his arm, which was cut off. Imam Husain hugged Abd-Allah, but the boy was already hit by an arrow.

Imam Husain got on his horse and tried to leave, but Yazid's army continued pursuit. According to Shia tradition, a voice came from skies stating: "We are satisfied with your deeds and sacrifices." Husain then sheathed his sword and tried to get down from the horse but was tremendously injured and so the horse let him down. He then sat against a tree.

Umar ibn Sa'ad ordered a man to dismount and to finish the job. Khowali ibn Yazid al-Asbahiy preceded the man but feared and did not do it. Then Shimr ibn Dhiljawshan dismounted his horse and cut Husain's throat with his sword whilst Husain was prostrating to Allah. Just before his throat was about to be cut, Imam Husain asked Shimr ibn Dhiljawshan, "Have you done your prayers today?" and this shocked Shimr because he did not expect anyone in the position of Husain to ask about such a question. Lanti Shimr ibn Dhiljawshan was saying: "I swear by God that I am raising your head while I know that you are grandson of the messenger of Allah and the best of the people by father and mother" when he raised head of Husain ibn Ali on a spear. The ibn Sa'ad's men looted all the valuables from Husain's body.

Alternative ending of the battle (Shia Perspective):

While Imam Husain was taking rest against the tree, Shimr knew that Imam Husain was unable to fight and sent one of his men to go and kill him. The man went and seeing Imam Husain's eyes,he got extremely scared and ran back to his camp. When Shimr asked why he had not killed Imam Husain, the man replied that looking into his eyes he saw prophet Muhammad. Angrily, Shimr sent another man. This one was so frightened that he dropped his sword and ran back to his camp. This time when Shimr asked him why he had not killed him, he said he saw into his eyes and saw the angry look of Ali ibn Abi Talib. Shimr was angry, said that he would have to do it himself and wearing his armor, he went to where Imam Husain was. Using his iron boots he kicked Imam Husain in the ribs. Imam Husain fell to the floor, when Shimr disrespected and sat on top of him. Using a blunt knife, he rugged 12 times against Imam Husain's throat. While his head was on the floor, Shimr removed his head from his body.

The army of Ibn Sa'ad rushed to loot the tents. The daughters of Mohammad's family were expelled from the tents, unveiled and barefooted, while weeping and crying for their slain relatives. The army set all the tents on fire. The women were asking: "By Allah, will you make us pass the site of the murder of Husain?" And when they saw the martyrs and wailed. Then Sakinah bint Husain (Death, 117 AH) embraced her father's body until some people dragged her away.

Umar ibn Sa'ad called volunteering horsemen to trample Imam Husain's body. Ten horsemen trampled his body such that his chest and back were ground.

According to Shia tradition, it is believed that Imam Husain's body was martyred but his 'noor' (light) and Imamat were passed on to his son Ali who became Imam Ali Zainul Abideen (Sahifa-e-Sajjadiya is a collection of his supplications).


Umar ibn Sa'ad sent Husain's head to ibn Ziyad on Ashura afternoon and ordered to sever heads of his comrades to send them to Kufa. The heads were distributed to various tribes enabling them to gain favor of ibn Ziyad. Ibn Sa'ad remained in Karbala until the next noon.

After ibn Sa'ad's army went out of Karbala, some people from Banu Asad tribe came there and buried their dead.

On Muharram 11 (October 11, 680 CE), all captives including all women and children were then loaded onto camels with neither saddle nor shade and were moved toward Kufa. As they approached Kufa, its people gathered to see them. Some women of Kufa gathered veils for them upon knowing that they are relatives of Muhammad. Among the captives were Hazrat Ali ibn Husain, who was gravely ill, as well as Hazrat Hassan ibn Hassan al-Muthanna, who was seriously injured in the battle of Karbala.

Zaynab bint Ali pointed at the people to be quiet. Then she addressed the people of Kufa:

"The praise is exclusively attributed to Allah. And greetings to my father (grand father), Muhammad, and to his pure and benevolent family. And then, Oh people of Kufa! Oh deceitful and reneger people! Do you weep? So let tears not be dried and let groans not be finished. ... Beware, such a bad preparation you have made for yourself that Allah became furious of you and you will be at punishment forever. Do you weep and cry? Yes, by Allah, do weep numerously and do laugh less! Since you brought its shame and fault on yourself and you will not be able to cleanse it forever. ..."

During the journey from Karbala to Kufa, and from Kufa to Damascus, Husain's sister Zaynab bint Ali and Umm-Kulthoom bint Ali, and son Ali ibn Husain gave various speeches that exposed the truth about Yazid and told the Muslim world of the various atrocities committed in Karbala. After being brought to Yazid's court, Zaynab courageously gave a famous speech in which she denounced Yazid's claim to the caliphate and eulogized Husain's uprising.

The prisoners were held in Damascus for a year. During this year, some prisoners died of grief, most notably Sukayna bint Husain. The people of Damascus began to frequent the prison, and Zaynab and Ali ibn Husain used that as an opportunity to further propagate the message of Husain and explain to the people the reason for Husain's uprising. As public opinion against Yazid began to foment in Syria and parts of Iraq, Yazid ordered their release and return to Medina, where they continued to tell the world of Husain's cause.


# Second Fitna

The Second Fitna, or Second Islamic Civil War, was a period of general political and military disorder that afflicted the Islamic empire during the early Umayyad dynasty, following the death of the first Umayyad caliph Muawiyah I. There seems to be a lack of solid consensus on the exact range of years that define the conflict, with several different historians dating the Second Fitna differently. Some see the end of Muawiya's reign in 680 AD as marking the beginning of the period, while the year 683 (following the death of Muawiya's son the Caliph Yazid I) is cited by others. Similarly, the end is variously dated from 685 (after the ascension of Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan) to 692 (following the death of Ibn al-Zubair and the termination of his revolt). The dates 683-685 seem to be the most commonly used.

The Second Fitna was a time of complexity in the Islamic world, involving a number of different occurrences that were seemingly not directly connected with one another. A brief sketch of the major events of the period may however be given as follows.

The first Umayyad Caliph Muawiya I was succeeded upon his death in 680 by his son, Yazid I. Yazid's first opposition came from supporters of Husayn ibn Ali, who was the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and the son of the former Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib, who had been assassinated. Husayn and many of his closest supporters were killed by Yazid's troops at the Battle of Karbala. This battle is often cited as the definitive break between the Shi'a and Sunni sects of Islam, and until this day it has been commemorated each year by Shi'a Muslims on the Day of Ashura.

Following these occurrences, Yazid faced a second revolt from Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, who was the son of a Sahabi, al-Zubayr ibn al-Awwam, who had previously revolted against the caliph Ali at the Battle of the Camel. Ibn al-Zubayr's rebellion was seen by many as an attempt to return to the pristine values of the early Islamic community, and his revolt was welcomed by a number of parties that were unhappy with the Umayyad rule for various reasons. Following the sudden death of Yazid and his son Mu'awiya II in 683, Ibn al-Zubayr gained widespread recognition as caliph. In Syria Marwan ibn Hakim, a cousin of Mu'awiya I, was declared caliph. Marwan had a short reign dying in 685 but he was succeeded by his able son Abd al-Malik. Ibn al-Zubayr was isolated in the Hejaz region when Kharijite rebels established an independent state in central Arabia in 684.

Other Kharijite uprisings followed in Iraq and Iran, while Shias revolted in Kufa to avenge the death of Husayn and to promote another of Ali's sons as a candidate for caliph. Eventually, order was restored by Syrian forces supporting Abd al-Malik. He was able to defeat all of his various rivals, and his army killed Ibn al-Zubayr in 692, bringing this period of exceptional turbulence to an end.

[Third Fitna]

# Umayyad Caliphate [edited]

The Umayyad Caliphate (Arabic: Banu Umayyah; "Sons of Umayyah") (c. 661–750 CE/41–132 AH) was the second of the four major Islamic caliphates established after the death of Muhammad. It was ruled by the Umayyad dynasty, whose name derives from Umayya ibn Abd Shams, the great-grandfather of the first Umayyad caliph. Although the Umayyad family originally came from the city of Mecca, their capital was Damascus.

After the Umayyads were overthrown by the Abbasid Caliphate, they fled across North Africa to the Iberian Peninsula (Al-Andalus), where they established the Caliphate of Córdoba, which lasted until 1031 before falling due to the Fitna of al-Ándalus.


According to tradition, the Umayyad family (also known as the Banu Abd-Shams) and Muhammad both descended from a common ancestor, Abd Manaf ibn Qusai and they are originally from the city of Mecca. Muhammad descended from Abd Manāf via his son Hashim, while the Umayyads descended from Abd Manaf via a different son, Abd-Shams, whose son was Umayya. The two families are therefore considered to be different clans (those of Hashim and of Umayya, respectively) of the same tribe (that of the Quraish). However Muslim Shia historians point out that Umayya was an adopted son of Abd Shams so he was not a blood relative of Abd Manaf ibn Qusai. Umayya was later discarded from the noble family.

While the Umayyads and the Hashimites may have had bitterness between the two clans before Muhammad, the rivalry turned into a severe case of tribal animosity after the Battle of Badr. The battle saw three top leaders of the Umayyad clan (Utba ibn Rabi'ah, Walid ibn Utbah and Shaybah) killed by Hashmites (Ali, Hamza ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib and Ubaydah ibn al-Harith) in a three-on-three melee. This fueled the opposition of Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, the grandson of Umayya, to Muhammad and to Islam. Abu Sufyan sought to exterminate the adherents of the new religion by waging another battle with Muslims based in Medina only a year after the Battle of Badr. He did this to avenge the defeat at Badr. The Battle of Uhud is generally believed by scholars to be the first defeat for the Muslims, as they had incurred greater losses than the Meccans. After the battle, Abu Sufyan's wife Hind, who was also the daughter of Utba ibn Rabi'ah is reported to have cut open the corpse of Hamza, taking out his liver which she then attempted to eat. Within five years after his defeat in the Battle of Uhud however, Muhammad took control of Mecca and announced a general amnesty for all. Abu Sufyan and his wife Hind embraced Islam on the eve of the conquest of Mecca, as did their son (the future caliph Muawiyah I). The Conquest of Mecca while overwhelming for the Umayyads for the time being, further fueled their hatred towards the Hashmites; this would later result in battles between Muawiyah I and Ali and then killing of Husayn ibn Ali along with his family and a few friends on the orders of Yazid ibn Muawiyah at the Battle of Karbala.

Most historians consider Caliph Muawiyah (661–80) to have been the second ruler of the Umayyad dynasty, even though he was the first to assert the Umayyads' right to rule on a dynastic principle. It was really the caliphate of Uthman Ibn Affan (644–656), a member of Umayyad clan himself, that witnessed the revival and then the ascendancy of the Umayyad clan to the corridors of power. Uthman, during his reign, placed some of the trusted members of his clan at prominent and strong positions throughout the state. Most notable was the appointment of Marwan ibn al-Hakam, Uthman's first cousin, as his top advisor, which created a stir amongst the Hashmite companions of Muhammad, as Marwan along with his father Al-Hakam ibn Abi al-'As had been permanently exiled from Medina by Muhammad during his lifetime. Uthman also appointed Walid ibn Uqba, Uthman's half-brother, as the governor of Kufa, who was accused, by Hashmites, of leading prayer while under the influence of alcohol. Uthman also consolidated Muawiyah's governorship of Syria by granting him control over a larger area and appointed his foster brother Abdullah ibn Saad as the Governor of Egypt. However, since Uthman never named an heir, he cannot be considered the founder of a dynasty.

After the assassination of Uthman in 656, Ali, a member of the Hashimite clan and a cousin of Muhammad, was elected as the caliph. He soon met with resistance from several factions, owing to his relative political inexperience. Fearing a danger to his life, Ali moved his capital from Medina to Kufa. The resulting conflict, which lasted from 656 until 661, is known as the First Fitna ("civil war").

Ali was first opposed by an alliance led by Aisha, the wife of Muhammad, and Talhah and Al-Zubayr, two of the companions of Muhammad. The two sides clashed at the Battle of the Camel in 656, where Ali won a decisive victory.

Following this battle, Ali fought a battle against Muawiyah, known as the Battle of Siffin. For reasons that remain obscure, the battle was stopped before either side had achieved victory, and the two parties agreed to arbitrate their dispute. Both the terms and the result of the arbitration, however, are subjects of contradictory and sometimes confused reports.

Following the battle, a large group of Ali's soldiers, who resented his decision to submit the dispute to arbitration, broke away from Ali's force, rallying under the slogan, "arbitration belongs to God alone." This group came to be known as the Kharijites ("those who leave").

In 659 Ali's forces and the Kharijites met in the Battle of Nahrawan. Although Ali won the battle, the constant conflict had begun to affect his standing, and in the following years some Syrians seem to have acclaimed Muawiyah as a rival caliph.

Ali was assassinated in 661, apparently by a Kharijite partisan. Muawiyah marched to Kufa, where he persuaded a number of Ali's supporters to acclaim him as caliph instead of Ali's son, Hasan. Following his elevation, Muawiyah moved the capital of the caliphate to Damascus. Syria would remain the base of Umayyad power until the end of the dynasty in 750 AD. However, this Dynasty became reborn in Cordoba (Al Andalus, today's Portugal and Spain) in the form of an Emirate and then a Caliphate, lasting until 1031 AD. Muslim rule continued in Iberia for another 500 years in several forms: Taifas, Berber kingdoms, and under the Kingdom of Granada until the 16th century AD.

In the year 712, Muhammad bin Qasim, an Umayyad general sailed from the khaleej into Sindh in Pakistan and conquered both the Sindh and the Punjab regions along the Indus river. The conquest of Sindh and Punjab, in modern day Pakistan, although costly, were major gains for the Umayyad Caliphate. However, further gains were halted by Hindu Kingdoms in India in the battle of Rajasthan. The Arabs tried to invade India but they were defeated by the north Indian king Nagabhata of the Pratihara Dynasty and by the south Indian Emperor Vikramaditya II of the Chalukya dynasty in the early 8th century. After this the Arab chroniclers admit that the Caliph Mahdi, “gave up the project of conquering any part of India'.”

During the later period of its existence and particularly from 1031 AD under the Ta'ifa system of Islamic Emirates (Princedoms) in the southern half of Iberia, the Emirate/Sultanate of Granada maintained its independence largely due to the payment of Tributes to the northern Christian Kingdoms which began to gradually expand south at its expense from 1031.

Muslim rule in Iberia came to an end on January 2, 1492 with the conquest of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada. The last Muslim ruler of Granada, Muhammad XII, better known as Boabdil, surrendered his kingdom to Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, the Catholic Monarchs, los Reyes Católicos.


Muawiyah's personal dynasty, the "Sufyanids" (descendants of Abu Sufyan), reigned from 661 to 684, until his grandson Muawiya II. The reign of Muawiyah I was marked by internal security and external expansion. On the internal front, only one major rebellion is recorded, that of Hujr ibn Adi in Kufa. Hujr ibn Adi supported the claims of the descendants of Ali to the caliphate, but his movement was easily suppressed by the governor of Iraq, Ziyad ibn Abi Sufyan.

Muawiyah also encouraged peaceful coexistence with the Christian communities of Syria, granting his reign with "peace and prosperity for Christians and Arabs alike", and one of his closest advisers was Sarjun, the father of John of Damascus. At the same time, he waged unceasing war against the Byzantine Empire. During his reign, Rhodes and Crete were occupied, and several assaults were launched against Constantinople. After their failure, and faced with a large-scale Christian uprising in the form of the Mardaites, Muawiyah concluded a peace with Byzantium. Muawiyah also oversaw military expansion in North Africa (the foundation of Kairouan) and in Central Asia (the conquest of Kabul, Bukhara, and Samarkand).

Following Muawiyah's death in 680, he was succeeded by his son, Yazid I. The hereditary accession of Yazid was opposed by a number of prominent Muslims, most notably Abd-Allah ibn al-Zubayr, son of one of the companions of Muhammad, and Husayn ibn Ali, grandson of Muhammad and younger son of Ali. The resulting conflict is known as the Second Fitna.

In 680 Ibn al-Zubayr and Husayn fled Medina for Mecca. Hearing about Husayn opposition to Yazid I, the people of Kufa sent to Husayn asking him to take over with their support. Al-Husayn sent his cousin Muslim bin Agail to verify if they would rally behind him. When the news reached Yazid I, he sent Ubayd-Allah bin Ziyad, ruler of Basrah, with the instruction to prevent the people of Kufa of rallying behind Al-Husayn. Yazid I did not instruct Ubayd-Allah bin Ziyad to kill either Muslim bin Agail or Al-Husayn. Ubayd-Allah bin Ziyad managed to disperse the crowd who gathered around Muslim bin Agail and captured Muslim bin Agail. After agreeing with Muslim bin Agail to send a message to Al-Husayn with the following: "return with your family, and don't be deceived by the people of Kufa. They have misled you and me", Ubayd-Allah bin Ziyad killed Muslim bin Agail. While Ibn al-Zubayr would stay in Mecca until his death, Husayn decided to travel on to Kufa to rally support against the wishes of many of prophet Mohammad disciples including Ibn Al-Zubayr who advised him to stay in Mecca. On his way to Kufa and before receiving Muslim bin Agail's message, he was intercepted by Yazid I forces led by Amru bin Saad, Shamar bin Thi Al-Joshan, and Hussain bin Tamim who fought Al-Husayn until he was killed. When the news reached Yazid I, he was saddened and he was hospitable to Al-Husayn Family, and allowed them to return to Mecca.

Following the death of Husayn, Ibn al-Zubayr, although remaining in Mecca, was associated with two opposition movements, one centered in Medina and the other around Kharijites in Basra and Arabia. In 683, Yazid dispatched an army to subdue both. This army suppressed the Medinese opposition at the Battle of al-Harra, and continued on to lay siege to Mecca. At some point during the siege, the Kaaba was badly damaged in a fire. The destruction of the Kaaba became a major cause for censure of the Umayyads in later histories of the period.

Yazid died while the siege was still in progress, and the Umayyad army returned to Damascus, leaving Ibn al-Zubayr in control of Mecca. Yazid was succeeded at first by his son, Muawiya II (683–84), but he seems never to have been recognized as caliph outside of Syria. Two factions developed within Syria: the Confederation of Qays, who supported Ibn al-Zubayr, and the Quda'a, who supported Marwan, a descendant of Umayya via Wa'il ibn Umayyah. The partisans of Marwan triumphed at a battle at Marj Rahit, near Damascus, in 684, and Marwan became caliph shortly thereafter.

First Marwanids

Marwan's first task was to assert his authority against the rival claims of Ibn al-Zubayr, who was at this time recognized as caliph throughout most of the Islamic world. Marwan recaptured Egypt for the Umayyads, but died in 685, having reigned for only nine months.

Marwan was succeeded by his son, Abd al-Malik (685–705), who reconsolidated Umayyad control of the caliphate. The early reign of Abd al-Malik was marked by the revolt of Al-Mukhtar, which was based in Kufa. Al-Mukhtar hoped to elevate Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah, another son of Ali, to the caliphate, although Ibn al-Hanafiyyah himself may have had no connection to the revolt. The troops of al-Mukhtar engaged in battles both with the Umayyads, in 686, at the river Khazir near Mosul: an Umayyad defeat, and with Ibn al-Zubayr, in 687, at which time the revolt of al-Mukhtar was crushed. In 691, Umayyad troops reconquered Iraq, and in 692 the same army captured Mecca. Ibn al-Zubayr was killed in the attack.

The second major event of the early reign of Abd al-Malik was the construction of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Although the chronology remains somewhat uncertain, the building seems to have been completed in 692, which means that it was under construction during the conflict with Ibn al-Zubayr. This had led some historians, both medieval and modern, to suggest that the Dome of the Rock was built to rival the Kaaba, which was under the control of Ibn al-Zubayr, as a destination for pilgrimage.

Abd al-Malik is credited with centralizing the administration of the Caliphate, and with establishing Arabic as its official language. He also introduced a uniquely Muslim coinage, marked by its aniconic decoration, which supplanted the Byzantine and Sasanian coins that had previously been in use. Abd al-Malik also recommenced offensive warfare against Byzantium, defeating the Byzantines at Sebastopolis and recovering control over Armenia and Caucasian Iberia.

Following Abd al-Malik's death, his son, Al-Walid I (705–15) became caliph. Al-Walid was also active as a builder, sponsoring the construction of Al-Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina and the Great Mosque of Damascus.

A major figure during the reigns of both al-Walid and Abd al-Malik was the Umayyad governor of Iraq, Al-Hajjaj bin Yousef. Many Iraqis remained resistant to Umayyad rule, and al-Hajjaj imported Syrian troops to maintain order, whom he housed in a new garrison town, Wasit. These troops became crucial in the suppression of a revolt led by an Iraqi general, Ibn al-Ash'ath, in the early eighth century.

Al-Walid was succeeded by his brother, Sulayman (715–17), whose reign was dominated by a protracted siege of Constantinople. The failure of the siege marked the end of serious Arab ambitions against the Byzantine capital. However, the first two decades of the eighth century witnessed the continuing expansion of the Caliphate, which pushed into the Iberian Peninsula in the west, and into Transoxiana (under Qutayba ibn Muslim) and northern India in the east.

Sulayman was succeeded by his cousin, Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz (717–20), whose position among the Umayyad caliphs is somewhat unique. He is the only Umayyad ruler to have been recognized by subsequent Islamic tradition as a genuine caliph (khalifa) and not merely as a worldly king (malik).

Umar is honored for his attempt to resolve the fiscal problems attendant upon conversion to Islam. During the Umayyad period, the majority of people living within the caliphate were not Muslim, but Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian, or otherwise. These religious communities were not forced to convert to Islam, but were subject to a tax (jizyah) which was not imposed upon Muslims. This situation may actually have made widespread conversion to Islam undesirable from the point of view of state revenue, and there are reports that provincial governors actively discouraged such conversions. It is not clear how Umar attempted to resolve this situation, but the sources portray him as having insisted on like treatment of Arab and non-Arab (mawali) Muslims, and on the removal of obstacles to the conversion of non-Arabs to Islam.

After the death of Umar, another son of Abd al-Malik, Yazid II (720–24) became caliph. Yazid is best known for his "iconoclastic edict", which ordered the destruction of Christian images within the territory of the Caliphate. In 720, another major revolt arose in Iraq, this time led by Yazid ibn al-Muhallab.

Hisham and the limits of military expansion

The final son of Abd al-Malik to become caliph was Hisham (724–43), whose long and eventful reign was above all marked by the curtailment of military expansion.

Hisham established his court at Resafa in northern Syria, which was closer to the Byzantine border than Damascus, and resumed hostilities against the Byzantines, which had lapsed following the failure of the last siege of Constantinople. The new campaigns resulted in a number of successful raids into Anatolia, but also in a major defeat (the Battle of Akroinon), and did not lead to any significant territorial expansion.

Hisham's reign furthermore witnessed the end of expansion in the west, following the defeat of the Arab army by the Franks at the Battle of Tours in 732. In 739 a major Berber Revolt broke out in North Africa, which was subdued only with difficulty.

Hisham suffered still worse defeats in the east, where his armies attempted to subdue both Tokharistan, with its center at Balkh, and Transoxiana, with its center at Samarkand. Both areas had already been partially conquered, but remained difficult to govern.

Once again, a particular difficulty concerned the question of the conversion of non-Arabs, especially the Sogdians of Transoxiana. Following the Umayyad defeat in the "Day of Thirst" in 724, Ashras ibn 'Abd Allah al-Sulami, governor of Khorasan, promised tax relief to those Sogdians who converted to Islam, but went back on his offer when it proved too popular and threatened to reduce tax revenues. In 734, al-Harith ibn Surayj led a revolt on behalf of the Sogdians, capturing Balkh but failing to take Merv. After this defeat, al-Harith's movement seems to have been dissolved, but the problem of the rights of non-Arab Muslims would continue to plague the Umayyads.

Third Fitna

Hisham was succeeded by Al-Walid II (743–44), the son of Yazid II. Al-Walid is reported to have been more interested in earthly pleasures than in religion, a reputation that may be confirmed by the decoration of the so-called "desert palaces" (including Qusayr Amra and Khirbat al-Mafjar) that have been attributed to him. He quickly attracted the enmity of many, both by executing a number of those who had opposed his accession, and by persecuting the Qadariyya.

In 744, Yazid III, a son of al-Walid I, was proclaimed caliph in Damascus, and his army tracked down and killed al-Walid II. Yazid III has received a certain reputation for piety, and may have been sympathetic to the Qadariyya. He died a mere six months into his reign.

Yazid had appointed his brother, Ibrahim, as his successor, but Marwan II (744–50), the grandson of Marwan I, led an army from the northern frontier and entered Damascus in December 744, where he was proclaimed caliph. Marwan immediately moved the capital north to Harran, in present-day Turkey. A rebellion soon broke out in Syria, perhaps due to resentment over the relocation of the capital, and in 746 Marwan razed the walls of Homs and Damascus in retaliation.

Marwan also faced significant opposition from Kharijites in Iraq and Iran, who put forth first Dahhak ibn Qays and then Abu Dulaf as rival caliphs. In 747, Marwan managed to reestablish control of Iraq, but by this time a more serious threat had arisen in Khorasan.


The Hashimiyya movement (a sub-sect of the Kaysanites Shia), led by the Abbasid family, overthrew the Umayyad caliphate. The Abbasids were members of the Hashim clan, rivals of the Umayyads, but the word "Hashimiyya" seems to refer specifically to Abu Hashim, a grandson of Ali and son of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya. According to certain traditions, Abu Hashim died in 717 in Humeima in the house of Muhammad ibn Ali, the head of the Abbasid family, and before dying named Muhammad ibn Ali as his successor. This tradition allowed the Abbasids to rally the supporters of the failed revolt of Mukhtar, who had represented themselves as the supporters of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya.

Beginning around 719, Hashimiyya missions began to seek adherents in Khurasan. Their campaign was framed as one of proselytism (dawah). They sought support for a "member of the family" of Muhammad, without making explicit mention of the Abbasids. These missions met with success both among Arabs and non-Arabs (mawali), although the latter may have played a particularly important role in the growth of the movement.

Around 746, Abu Muslim assumed leadership of the Hashimiyya in Khurasan. In 747, he successfully initiated an open revolt against Umayyad rule, which was carried out under the sign of the black flag. He soon established control of Khurasan, expelling its Umayyad governor, Nasr ibn Sayyar, and dispatched an army westwards. Kufa fell to the Hashimiyya in 749, and in November of the same year Abu al-Abbas was recognized as the new caliph in the mosque at Kufa.

At this point Marwan mobilized his troops from Harran and advanced toward Iraq. In January 750 the two forces met in the Battle of the Zab, and the Umayyads were defeated. Damascus fell to the Abbasids in April, and in August Marwan was killed in Egypt.

The victors desecrated the tombs of the Umayyads in Syria, sparing only that of Umar II, and most of the remaining members of the Umayyad family were tracked down and killed. One grandson of Hisham, Abd ar-Rahman I, survived and established a kingdom in Al-Andalus (Moorish Iberia), proclaiming his family to be the Umayyad Caliphate revived.

Previté-Orton argues that the reasons for the decline of the Umayyads was the rapid expansion of Islam. During Umayyad period, mass conversions brought Persians, Berbers, Copts, and Aramaics to Islam. These mawalis (clients) were often better educated and more civilised than their Arab masters. The new converts, on the basis of equality of all Muslims, transformed the political landscape. Previté-Orton also argues that the feud between Syria and Iraq, further weakened the empire.

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Theological opinions concerning the Umayyads

Sunni scholars agree that Muawiyah's family including his progenitors: Abu Sufyan ibn Harb and Hind bint Utbah, were both opponents of Islam and caused much transgression among the Arab aristocracy of that period and ultimately they overthrew Rashidun Caliphate after the death of Ali.

Sunni scholars criticize the Umayyads for imposing the Mawali system of servitude against the interests of non-Arab Muslims and converts to Islam. Converts to Islam were treated as "second class citizens" by the ruling Arab elite - they continued to pay the tax required of nonbelievers and were excluded from government and the military until the end of the Umayyad Caliphate.

Sunni opinions of the Umayyad dynasty after Muawiyah are dim, viewing many of the rulers as sinners and the cause of great tribulation in the Ummah. For example, in the section concerning Quran 17:60 in the exegesis by al-Suyuti entitled Dur al-Manthur, the author writes that there exist traditions which describe the Umayyads as "the cursed tree". There are some exceptions to this, for example Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz is praised as one of the greatest Muslim rulers after the four Rightly Guided Caliphs.

Only one Umayyad ruler (Caliphs of Damascus), Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, is unanimously praised by Sunni sources for his devout piety and justice and for his efforts to spread Islam and his efforts to undo the wrongdoings of his fore-bearers eventually led to internal hostilities within the dynasty that ultimately lead to his poisoning in the year 720.

Shi'a opinions

The negative view of the Umayyads of Shias is briefly expressed in the Shi'a book "Sulh al-Hasan". According to some sources Ali described them as the worst Fitna.

Bahá'í standpoint

Asked for an explanation of the prophecies in the Book of Revelation (12:3), `Abdu'l-Bahá suggests in Some Answered Questions that the "great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads," refers to the Umayyad caliphs who "rose against the religion of Prophet Muhammad and against the reality of Ali".

The seven heads of the dragon is symbolic of the seven provinces of the lands dominated by the Umayyads; Damascus, Persia, Arabia, Egypt, Africa, Andalusia, and Transoxania. The ten horns represent the ten names of the leaders of the Umayyad dynasty; Abu Sufyan, Muawiya, Yazid, Marwan, Abd al-Malik, Walid, Sulayman, Umar, Hisham, and Ibrahim. Some names were re-used as in the case of Yazid II and Yazid III were not counted for this interpretation.


# Caliphate [edited]

The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph ('successor')" (from the Arabic khilāfa, Turkish: Hilafet), refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the leader's unity of the Muslim Ummah (community). In theory, it is an aristocratic–constitutional republic (the Constitution being the Constitution of Medina), which means that the head of state, the Caliph, and other officials are representatives of the people and of Islam and must govern according to constitutional and religious law, or Sharia. In its early days, it resembled elements of direct democracy (see shura) and an elective monarchy.

It was initially led by Muhammad's disciples as a continuation of the leaders and religious system the prophet established, known as the 'Rashidun caliphates'. A "caliphate" is also a state which implements such a governmental system.

Sunni Islam stipulates that the head of state, the caliph, should be selected by Shura – elected by Muslims or their representatives. Followers of Shia Islam believe the caliph should be an imam chosen by God from the Ahl al-Bayt (Muhammad's purified progeny). From the end of the Rashidun period until 1924, caliphates, sometimes two at a single time, real and illusory, were ruled by dynasties. The first dynasty was the Umayyad. This was followed by the Abbasid, the Fatimid (not recognized by Muslims outside the Fatimid domain), and finally the Ottoman Dynasty.

The caliphate was "the core leader concept of Sunni Islam, by the consensus of the Muslim majority in the early centuries."

The caliph was often known as Amir al-Mu'minin (أمير المؤمنين) "Commander of the Believers". Muhammad established his capital in Medina, and after he died it remained the capital for the Rashidun period. At times in Muslim history there have been rival claimant caliphs in different parts of the Islamic world, and divisions between the Shi'a and Sunni communities.

According to Sunni Muslims, the first caliph to be called Amir al-Mu'minin was Abu Bakr Siddique, followed by Umar ibn al-Khattāb, the second of the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs. Uthman ibn Affan and Ali ibn Abi Talib also were called by the same title, while the Shi'a consider Ali to have been the only truly legitimate caliph.

The rulers preceding these first four did not receive this title by consensus, and as it was turned into a monarchy thereafter.

After the first four caliphs, the Caliphate was claimed by dynasties such as the Umayyads, the Abbasids, and the Ottomans, and for relatively short periods by other, competing dynasties in al-Andalus, North Africa, and Egypt. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk officially abolished the system of Caliphate in Islam (the Ottoman Empire) and founded the Republic of Turkey, in 1923. The Kings of Morocco still label themselves with the title Amir al-Mu'minin for the Moroccans, but lay no claim to the Caliphate.

Rashidun, 632–661

Abu Bakr, the first successor of Muhammad, nominated Umar as his successor on his deathbed, and there was consensus in the Muslim community to his choice. Umar Ibn Khattab, the second caliph, was killed by a Persian named Firoz. His successor, Uthman Ibn Affan, was elected by a council of electors (Majlis), but was soon perceived by some to be ruling as a "king" rather than an elected leader. Uthman was killed by members of a disaffected group. Ali then took control but was not universally accepted as caliph by the governors of Egypt, and later by some of his own guard. He faced two major rebellions and was assassinated after a tumultuous rule of only five years. This period is known as the Fitna, or the first Islamic civil war. Under the Rashidun each region (Sultanate, Wilayah, or Emirate) of the Caliphate had its own governor (Sultan, Wāli or Emir).

Muawiyah, a relative of Uthman and governor (Wali) of Syria, became one of Ali's challengers and after Ali's death managed to overcome the other claimants to the Caliphate. Muawiyah transformed the caliphate into a hereditary office, thus founding the Umayyad dynasty.

In areas which were previously under Sassanid Persian or Byzantine rule, the Caliphs lowered taxes, provided greater local autonomy (to their delegated governors), greater religious freedom for Jews, and some indigenous Christians, and brought peace to peoples demoralized and disaffected by the casualties and heavy taxation that resulted from the decades of Byzantine-Persian warfare.

Religious basis

Qur'anThe following excerpt from the Qur'an, known as the 'Istikhlaf Verse', is used by some to argue for a Quranic basis for Caliphate:

God has promised those of you who have attained to faith and do righteous deeds that, of a certainty, He will make them Khulifa on earth, even as He caused [some of] those who lived before them to become Khulifa; and that, of a certainty, He will firmly establish for them the religion which He has been pleased to bestow on them; and that, of a certainty, He will cause their erstwhile state of fear to be replaced by a sense of security [seeing that] they worship Me [alone], not ascribing divine powers to aught beside Me. But all who, after [having understood] this, choose to deny the truth – it is they, they who are truly iniquitous!" [:55] (Surah Al-Nur, Verse 55)
In the above verse the word Khulifa (the plural of Khalifa) has been variously translated as "successors" and "ones who accede to power".

Small subsections of Sunni Islamism argue that to govern a state by Islamic law (Shariah) is, by definition, to rule via the Caliphate, and use the following verses to sustain their claim.

So govern between the people by that which God has revealed (Islam), and follow not their vain desires, beware of them in case they seduce you from just some part of that which God has revealed to you - [Quran 004:049]

O you who believe! Obey God, and obey the messenger and then those among you who are in authority; and if you have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to God and the messenger's rulings, if you are (in truth) believers in God and the Last Day. That is better and more seemly in the end. - [Quran 004:059]


The following Hadith from Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal can be understood to prophesy two eras of Caliphate (both on the lines/precepts of prophethood).

Hadhrat Huzaifa narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: Prophethood will remain among you as long as Allah wills. Then Caliphate (Khilafah) on the lines of Prophethood shall commence, and remain as long as Allah wills. Then corrupt/erosive monarchy would take place, and it will remain as long as Allah wills. After that, despotic kingship would emerge, and it will remain as long as Allah wills. Then, the Caliphate (Khilafah) shall come once again based on the precept of Prophethood.
In the above Hadith the first era of Caliphate is commonly accepted by the Muslims as that of the Rashidun Caliphate.

Nafi'a reported saying:

It has been reported on the authority of Nafi, that 'Abdullah b. Umar paid a visit to Abdullah b. Muti' in the days (when atrocities were perpetrated on the People Of Medina) at Harra in the time of Yazid b. Mu'awiya. Ibn Muti' said: Place a pillow for Abu 'Abd al-Rahman (family name of 'Abdullah b. 'Umar). But the latter said: I have not come to sit with you. I have come to you to tell you a tradition I heard from the Messenger of Allah. I heard him say: One who withdraws his band from obedience (to the Amir) will find no argument (in his defence) when he stands before Allah on the Day of Judgment, and one who dies without having bound himself by an oath of allegiance (to an Amir) will die the death of one belonging to the days of Jahiliyyah.

[Sahih Muslim, Book 020, Hadith 4562.]

Hisham ibn Urwah reported on the authority of Abu Saleh on the authority of Abu Hurairah that Muhammad said:

Leaders will take charge of you after me, where the pious (one) will lead you with his piety and the impious (one) with his impiety, so only listen to them and obey them in everything which conforms with the truth (Islam). If they act rightly it is for your credit, and if they acted wrongly it is counted for you and against them.

Muslim narrated on the authority of al-A'araj, on the authority of Abu Hurairah, that Muhammad said:

Behold, the Imam (Caliph) is but a shield from behind whom the people fight and by whom they defend themselves.

Muslim reported on the authority of Abdel Aziz al-Muqrin, who said,

I accompanied Abu Hurairah for five years and heard him talking of Muhammd's saying: The Prophets ruled over the children of Israel, whenever a Prophet died another Prophet succeeded him, but there will be no Prophet after me. There will be Khalifahs and they will number many. They asked: What then do you order us? He said: Fulfil the baya'a to them one after the other and give them their due. Surely God will ask them about what He entrusted them with.

The Sahaba of Muhammad

Al-Habbab Ibn ul-Munthir said, when the Sahaba met in the wake of the death of Muhammad, (at the thaqifa hall) of Bani Sa’ida:

Let there be one Amir from us and one Amir from you (meaning one from the Ansar and one from the Mohajireen).

Upon this Abu Bakr replied:

It is forbidden for Muslims to have two Amirs (rulers)...

Then he got up and addressed the Muslims.

It has additionally been reported that Abu Bakr went on to say on the day of Al-Saqifa:

It is forbidden for Muslims to have two Amirs for this would cause differences in their affairs and concepts, their unity would be divided and disputes would break out amongst them. The Sunnah would then be abandoned, the bida’a (innovations) would spread and Fitna would grow, and that is in no one’s interests.
The Sahaba agreed to this and selected Abu Bakr as their first Khaleef. Habbab ibn Mundhir who suggested the idea of two Ameers corrected himself and was the first to give Abu Bakr the Bay'ah. This indicates an Ijma as-Sahaba of all of the Sahaba. Ali ibni abi Talib, who was attending the body of Muhammad at the time, also consented to this.

Imam Ali whom the Shia revere said:

People must have an Amir...where the believer works under his Imara (rule) and under which the unbeliever would also benefit, until his rule ended by the end of his life (ajal), the booty (fay’i) would be gathered, the enemy would be fought, the routes would be made safe, the strong one will return what he took from the weak till the tyrant would be contained, and not bother anyone.
[edit] The sayings of Islamic scholarsAl-Mawardi says:

It is forbidden for the Ummah (Muslim world) to have two leaders at the same time.
Yahya ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi (Al-Nawawi) says:

It is forbidden to give an oath to two leaders or more, even in different parts of the world and even if they are far apart.

Ahmad al-Qalqashandi says:

It is forbidden to appoint two leaders at the same time.

Ibnu Hazm says:

It is permitted to have only one leader (of the Muslims) in the whole of the world.

Al-sha’rani says:

It is forbidden for Muslims to have in the whole world and at the same time two leaders whether in agreement or discord.

Al-Qadhi Abdul-Jabbar (he is a Mu’tazela scholar), says:

It is forbidden to give the oath to more than one.

Al-Joziri says:

The Imams (scholars of the four schools of thought)- may Allah have mercy on them- agree that the Caliphate is an obligation, and that the Muslims must appoint a leader who would implement the injunctions of the religion, and give the oppressed justice against the oppressors. It is forbidden for Muslims to have two leaders in the world whether in agreement or discord.

The Shia schools of thought and others expressed the same opinion about this However, the Shia school of thought believe that the leader (Imam) must not be appointed by the Islamic ummah, but must be appointed by God.

Al-Qurtubi said in his Tafsir of the verse, "Indeed, man is made upon this earth a Caliph" that:

This Ayah is a source in the selection of an Imaam, and a Khaleef, he is listened to and he is obeyed, for the word is united through him, and the Ahkam (laws) of the Caliph are implemented through him, and there is no difference regarding the obligation of that between the Ummah, nor between the Imams except what is narrated about al-Asam, the Mu'tazzili ...

Al-Qurtubi also said:

The Khilafah is the pillar upon which other pillars rest

An-Nawawi said:

(The scholars) consented that it is an obligation upon the Muslims to select a Khalif
Al-Ghazali when writing of the potential consequences of losing the Caliphate said:

The judges will be suspeneded, the Wilayaat (provinces) will be nullified, ... the decrees of those in authority will not be executed and all the people will be on the verge of Haraam

Ibn Taymiyyah said:

It is obligatory to know that the office in charge of commanding over the people (ie: the post of the Khaleefah) is one of the greatest obligations of the Deen. In fact, there is no establishment of the Deen except by it....this is the opinion of the salaf, such as al-Fadl ibn 'Iyaad, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and others

Re-establishment of the Caliphate

Once the subject of intense conflict and rivalry amongst Muslim rulers, the caliphate has lain dormant and largely unclaimed since the 1920s. For the vast majority of Muslims the caliph as leader of the ummah, "is cherished both as memory and ideal" as a time when Muslims "enjoyed scientific and military superiority globally."

"Prophethood will remain with you for as long as Allah wills it to remain, then Allah will raise it up wherever he wills to raise it up. Afterwards, there will be a Caliphate that follows the guidance of Prophethood remaining with you for as long as Allah wills it to remain. Then, He will raise it up whenever He wills to raise it up. Afterwards, there will be a reign of violently oppressive rule and it will remain with you for as long as Allah wills it to remain. Then, there will be a reign of tyrannical rule and it will remain for as long as Allah wills it to remain. Then, Allah will raise it up whenever He wills to raise it up. Then, there will be a Caliphate that follows the guidance of Prophethood." [As-Silsilah As-Sahihah, vol. 1, no. 5]

Leader system

Electing or appointing a CaliphIn his book The Early Islamic Conquests (1981), Fred Donner argues that the standard Arabian practice during the early Caliphates was for the prominent men of a kinship group, or tribe, to gather after a leader's death and elect a leader from amongst themselves, although there was no specified procedure for this shura, or consultative assembly. Candidates were usually from the same lineage as the deceased leader, but they were not necessarily his sons. Capable men who would lead well were preferred over an ineffectual direct heir, as there was no basis in the majority Sunni view that the head of state or governor should be chosen based on lineage alone.

This argument is advanced by Sunni Muslims, who believe that Muhammad's companion Abu Bakr was elected by the community and that this was the proper procedure. They further argue that a caliph is ideally chosen by election or community consensus, even though the caliphate soon became a hereditary office, or the prize of the strongest general.

Al-Mawardi has written that the caliph should be Qurayshi. Abu Bakr Al-Baqillani has said that the leader of the Muslims simply should be from the majority. The founder of the biggest Sunni Madh'hab, Imam Abu Hanifa also wrote that the Caliph must be chosen by the majority.

Sunni belief

Following the death of Muhammad, a meeting took place at Saqifah. At that meeting, Abu Bakr was elected caliph by the Muslim community. Sunni Muslims developed the belief that the caliph is a temporal political ruler, appointed to rule within the bounds of Islamic law (Sharia). The job of adjudicating orthodoxy and Islamic law was left to Islamic lawyers, judiciary, or specialists individually termed as Mujtahids and collectively named the Ulema. Many Muslims call the first four caliphs the Rashidun meaning the Rightly Guided Caliphs, because they are believed to have followed the Qur'an and the sunnah (example) of Muhammad.

Shi'a belief
Main articles: Succession to Muhammad, Shia Islam, and Imamah (Shi'a doctrine)

Shia Muslims believe in the Imamate, in which the rulers are Imams divinely chosen, infallible, and sinless from Muhammad's family – Ahl al-Bayt literally "People of the House (of Muhammad)" regardless of majority opinion, shura or election. They claim that before his death, Muhammad had given many indications, in Ghadir Khumm particularly, that he considered Ali, his cousin and son-in-law, as his successor. As per Twelver/Ithna Ashery Shia, Ali and his eleven descendants, the twelve Imams, are believed to have been considered, even before their birth, as the only valid Islamic rulers appointed and decreed by God.

Main article: Hokumat-e Islami : Velayat-e faqih (book by Khomeini)

After these twelve Imams, the potential Caliphs, had passed, and in the absence of the possibility of a government headed by their Imams, some Shi'a believe it was necessary that a system of Shia Islamic government based on Vilayat-e Faqih be developed, due to the need for some form of government, where an Islamic jurist or faqih rules Muslims, suffices. However this idea, developed by the Marja (Ayatollah) Ruhollah Khomeini and established in Iran, is not universally accepted among Shi'as.

Shia group of Ismaili/ Fatimid/ Dawoodi Bohra believe in Imamate principle mentioned above, but they need not be ruler. To safe guard divine authority of Allah the "Din", from politics of World "Duniya" the 'external World', they have instituted office of Dai al-Mutlaq even from the era of their 21st Imam Tayyab (1130 AD), under juridiction of Suleyhid Queen, as Imam was under seclusion. In the twelver shia also many Imams were not ruler,and they sacrificed much to upheld "Din".

Majlis al-Shura: Parliament

Traditional Sunni Islamic lawyers agree that shura, loosely translated as 'consultation of the people', is a function of the caliphate. The Majlis al Shura (literally consultative assembly) or parliament was a representation of this idea of consultative governance. The importance of this is premised by the following verses of the Qur'an:

“...those who answer the call of their Lord and establish the prayer, and who conduct their affairs by Shura. [are loved by God]”[:38]

“...consult them (the people) in their affairs. Then when you have taken a decision (from them), put your trust in Allah”[:159]

The majlis is also the means to elect a new caliph. Al-Mawardi has written that members of the majlis should satisfy three conditions: they must be just, have enough knowledge to distinguish a good caliph from a bad one, and have sufficient wisdom and judgment to select the best caliph. Al-Mawardi also said that in emergencies when there is no caliphate and no majlis, the people themselves should create a majlis and select a list of candidates for caliph; then the majlis should select a caliph from the list of candidates.

Some modern interpretations of the role of the Majlis al-Shura include those by Islamist author Sayyid Qutb and Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, the founder of a transnational political movement devoted to the revival of the Caliphate. In an analysis of the shura chapter of the Qur'an, Qutb argued that Islam requires only that the ruler consult with at least some of the ruled (usually their representatives) and govern within the general context of God-made laws. Taqiuddin al-Nabhani writes that Shura is an important part of "the ruling structure" of the Islamic caliphate "but not one of its pillars," meaning that its neglect would not make the Caliphate's rule unislamic, hence justifying rebellion. Non-Muslims may serve in the Majlis. Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Islamist movement and main opposition in Egypt, argue that in the modern age Shura is democracy and that Islam and the caliphate system is inherently democratic without any need to conform to western political notions.

Accountability of rulers

Sunni Islamic lawyers have commented on when it is permissible to disobey, impeach or remove rulers in the Caliphate. This is usually when the rulers are not meeting their obligations to the public under Islam.

Al-Mawardi said that if the rulers meet their Islamic responsibilities to the public the people must obey their laws, but a Caliph or ruler who becomes either unjust or severely ineffective must be impeached via the Majlis al-Shura. Similarly, Al-Baghdadi believed that if the rulers do not uphold justice, the ummah via the majlis should warn them, and a Caliph who does not heed the warning can be impeached. Al-Juwayni argued that Islam is the goal of the ummah, so any ruler who deviates from this goal must be impeached. Al-Ghazali believed that oppression by a caliph is sufficient grounds for impeachment. Rather than just relying on impeachment, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani stated that the people have an obligation to rebel if the caliph begins to act with no regard for Islamic law. Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani said that to ignore such a situation is haraam and those who cannot revolt from inside the caliphate should launch a struggle from outside. Al-Asqalani used two ayahs from the Qur'an to justify this:

“...And they (the sinners on qiyama) will say, 'Our Lord! We obeyed our leaders and our chiefs, and they misled us from the right path. Our Lord! Give them (the leaders) double the punishment you give us and curse them with a very great curse'...”[:67–68]

Islamic lawyers commented that when the rulers refuse to step down after being impeached through the Majlis, becoming dictators through the support of a corrupt army, if the majority is in agreement they have the option to launch a revolution. Many noted that this option is to be exercised only after factoring in the potential cost of life.

Rule of law

The following hadith establishes the principle of rule of law in relation to nepotism and accountability

Narrated ‘Aisha: The people of Quraish worried about the lady from Bani Makhzum who had committed theft. They asked, "Who will intercede for her with Allah's Apostle?" Some said, "No one dare to do so except Usama bin Zaid the beloved one to Allah's Apostle." When Usama spoke about that to Allah's Apostle Allah's Apostle said: "Do you try to intercede for somebody in a case connected with Allah’s Prescribed Punishments?" Then he got up and delivered a sermon saying, "What destroyed the nations preceding you, was that if a noble amongst them stole, they would forgive him, and if a poor person amongst them stole, they would inflict Allah's Legal punishment on him. By Allah, if Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad (my daughter) stole, I would cut off her hand."

Various Islamic lawyers, however, place multiple conditions and stipulations on the execution of such a law, making it difficult to implement. For example, the poor cannot be penalized for stealing out of poverty, and during a time of drought in the Rashidun caliphate, capital punishment was suspended until the effects of the drought passed.

Islamic jurists later formulated the concept that all classes were subject to the law of the land, and no person is above the law; officials and private citizens alike have a duty to obey the same law. Furthermore, a Qadi (Islamic judge) was not allowed to discriminate on the grounds of religion, race, colour, kinship or prejudice. In a number of cases, Caliphs had to appear before judges as they prepared to render their verdict.

According to Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard University, the system of legal scholars and jurists responsible for the rule of law was replaced by the codification of Sharia by the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century. [wiki, 2012]

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