Only Allah can change things. That is why Islam takes its stand immovably upon the nature of things, upon the obvious realities of this world and of human experiences. Islam remains and will always remain what it is because of the timelessness of its message. All other religions have been changed, revised, and altered by the passage of time to meet the fancies and whims of their adherents. Islam, in order to preserve dignity and integrity of the human creatures, both man and woman, has persuaded them to move away from the chaos of the world and submit to the will of Almighty God.
Human beings possess intellect and a relative free will, yet they do not have the capacity to make laws for the conduct of the society. The rulers, who had power and wealth, did not use them to improve the conditions of mankind but used them from time immemorial to oppress, exploit and control it.
Our strong belief is that Allah is the sole legislator and law giver. That is why the message embodied in the Quran and the laws derived from it, and from the Suuah of the Prophet must be utilized to bind the community and keep it together. The main object of the Islamic laws is to bring human beings closer to Almighty God and to enforce and implement those laws through reformatory agenda for the betterment of mankind.
Islam developed a complete code of life. Prophet Muhammad became the greatest reformist of all times when guided by the Quranic laws and its principles. His own personal life, presented to the whole of mankind the forgotten message of the earlier Prophets. Revival of the forgotten message could only be achieved through faith and governance by upholding the dignity of man; by practicing the ideals of truth, equality and justice; by promoting education; by denouncing the differences of colour and race; by displaying boundless magnanimity and spirit of tolerance ; and by making peace with enemies.
One of the greatest Caliphs of Islam after Prophet Muhammad was Ali Ibn abi Talib, who as a young man lived under the guardianship of Prophet since childhood in the same house. He was the first youngest person to enter the folds of Islam, acquiring immense Islamic knowledge from the Prophet because of his constant companionship, and even as a young boy Hazrat Ali was his best helper. This developed in him the traits of piety, trust, clarity of thought and Islamic values that distinguished him from other companions of the Prophet.
The migration of Prophet Muhammad has been described as one of the greatest adventures the history has known in the cause of truth and to propagate the Islamic convictions. At that time Prophet had many items and things in his custody belonging to people of Makkah. He needed to return these things in his charge and custody to their rightful owners. On the night he was leaving Makkah, he told Hazrat Ali Ibn abi Talib to sleep in his bed, and to later return things to the rightful owners before coming to Madina – Yathrib. The young boy Ali dutifully discharged his responsibility before he joined the Prophet and Hazrat Abu Bakr a few days later.
Hazrat Ali learned early in life the skill and ability to handle situations and issues and acquired knowledge. Being a genius, Hazrat Ali absorbed knowledge, lived a humble and simple life, always displayed the courageous and bold side of his personality and Islamic upbringing – rearing and training under the ideal guardianship of Prophet Muhammad.
Before Hazrat Ali assumed the office of the Caliph, he was the principal advisor of the first three Caliphs after the Prophet, Hazrat Abu Bakr, Hazrat Umar and Hazrat Usman. He was proclaimed as the Caliph after the assassination of Caliph Hazrat Usman. At that time, unfortunate tensions and uncertainty was reigning supreme.
Hazrat Ali encountered more than his share of issues and problems when he become the Caliph. He had keenly watched the governors of various provinces during the Caliphate period of Hazrat Usman, and was now ready to streamline his administration and governance methods by replacing some of the governors. The prevailing conditions after the assassination of Hazrat Usman necessitated him to speed up the process of change. Hazrat Ali was advised to retain governors appointed by Hazrat Usman and to take the oath of allegiance instead of replacing them immediately with new governors. He, however, felt that the change would help in eradicating evils that had moved stealthily into the administration. Chaos of change contributed to disruption in Hazrat Ali’s administration. The disruptions were many including the breakdown of law and order in Madina due to the uprising against Hazrat Usman and later his assassination. The calling for revenge by the Ummayyads, the tribe of Hazrat Usman, for his assassination; refusal to resign and relinquish the governorship position by governors of Syria and Kufah and their actions in stopping the newly appointed governors from assuming the office.
Muawiyah, the governor of Syria, did not allow Suhail bin Hanif, the appointed governor to enter Syria, and Amr bin Shiba, the new governor of Kufah was turned away from Kufah by show of force by forces loyal to the governor of Kufah. This turned out to be an open revolt against Hazrat Ali. In Madina , Hazrat Talha and Hazrat Zubair, two prominent companions of Prophet Muhammad , had taken an oath of allegiance to Hazrat Ali, and were insisting that he take an immediate action to punish the assassins of Hazrat Usman. Hazrat Ali more disposed to enhancing the security of the Islamic state was not eager to take any drastic action against the insurgents that would make the situation more critical and explosive. It seems this infuriated Hazrat Talha and Hazrat Zubair. They sought the help of Hazrat Ayesha- Mother of Faithfuls. Ibn Aamer, the former governor of Basra, joined them and invited them to march to Basra where he had influence and support. In Basra, Uthman bin Hanif, the governor appointed by Hazrat Ali, was defeated by the forces led by Hazrat Talha and Hazrat Zubair.
In the meantime, Hazrat Ali was planning to install the governor of Syria appointed by him and remove Muawiyah from the office who had refused to relinquish the office. This was the first time that Hazrat Ali was ready to show up in the battle field after a long period of absence. During the caliphate period of the first three caliphs – Hazrat Abu Bakr, Hazrat Umar and Hazrat Usman, he had devoted his energies to the development of the moral and intellectual life of Muslims besides being an advisor; he seldom took part in battles. He learned that Basra was in the hands of Hazrat Talha and Hazrat Zubair. Hazrat Ali sent emissary to Kufah to negotiate and convince the people to support his caliphate. The mission succeeded and Hazrat Ali was invited to come to Kufah. He left Madina and went to Kufah where the people provided him complete support. From there, he went to Basra. Hazrat Talha and Hazrat Zubair died in the battle that took place between the forces of Hazrat Ali and those supporting Hazrat Talha and Hazrat Zubair. It has been reported by historians that “Hazrat Ayesha was treated with due respect and consideration. After a few days stay in Basra she was escorted to Madina with due courtesy.”
Hazrat Ali moved to Kufah after bringing matters under control and settling affairs in Basra. In Kufah, the support, allegiance and enthusiasm provided a reason and a rational for Hazrat Ali to shift the capital of the Muslims state from Madina to Kufah. This further added to the disruption of administration because it indicated a break with the past and a cut off with the administrative process that was already in place and functioning effectively in Madina.
In the best interest of the unity and integrity of the Islamic state, Hazrat Ali made an attempt to convince Hazrat Muawiyah and advised him to take the oath of allegiance. In reply Hazrat Muawiyah led his forces from Syria to Iraq. The civil war between Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Muawiyah resulted in considerable loss of life. In the beginning Hazrat Ali offered to fight a personal dual with Hazrat Muawiyah to settle the issue which the later declined. In the battle field when the forces of Hazrat Muawiyah were on the verge of defeat, the men from his force tied leaves from the Quran on the lances and appealed for the decision by the ‘Book of Allah’. Seeing this, Hazrat Ali’s forces laid down their arms and decided to end hostilities, finally a truce was declared. Negotiations commenced after the truce to settle the matters through arbitration that proved to be a challenge to the legitimacy of the caliphate of Hazrat Ali. The arbitration proceedings became more politicized and the end of conflict was not in sight. The question of caliphate between Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Muawiyah remained unresolved that produced another layer of disruption in Hazrat Ali’s administration.
Then a group of fanatical men who came to be known as Kawarijis – the seceders, who had originally supported Hazrat Ali, began a cessation movement. The Kawarijis agreed to join Hazrat Ali and later refused to join him when he decided to go to war against Syrians and Hazrat Muawiyah. Hazrat Ali’s frantic efforts failed to convince the Kawarijis, instead they turned on other Muslims and let loose a reign of terror at a site near Baghdad and accused both Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Muawiyah for betraying the Cause of Allah and declared their intention to start a new state. Hazrat Ali directed a campaign against the Kawarijis and defeated them in a battle.
After defeating the Kawarijis the forces of Hazrat Ali, instead of marching to Syria, returned to Kufah to take rest before moving on and facing the forces of Hazrat Muawiyah. Later Hazrat Ali’s forces refused to proceed to Syria even after many attempts by Hazrat Ali who urged them to participate in the battle against the Syrians. Finally, he had to abandon the idea of leading the expedition to Syria. From the standpoint of one scholar, “Hazrat Ali came to be overwhelmed with troubles from all quarters, and the painful aspect of the tragedy was that such troubles came from friends.”
The people of Basra revolted against the caliph but it was successfully suppressed, however, the campaign against the authority of Hazrat Ali by the forces of Hazrat Muawiyah in Madina, Makkah and Yamen resulted in people of these regions taking the oath of allegiance to Hazrat Muawiyah for a temporary period of time. The forces of Caliph Hazrat Ali took military action and recovered Hijaz and Yamen.
In Egypt, Amr bin Aas, one of the companions of Prophet Muhammad, who had conquered Egypt, was made the governor. Later he was deposed by the Caliph Hazrat Usman. From Syria Hazrat Muawiyah approached Amr bin Aas and sought his help, trying to hold on to power in Syria. After getting assistance and support and help from Hazrat Amr bin Aas, Hazrat Muawiyah conquered Egypt and installed Hazrat Amr bin Aas as the governor.
The extremism and fanatical approach by the Kawarijis, to the state of affairs in the Islamic state, took a new twist ending in a conspiracy to kill Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Muawiyah and Hazrat Amr bin Aas. To achieve their aim the Kawarijis sent three assassins to kill them at an appointed time. In the attack Hazrat Muawiyah was wounded; Hazrat Amr bin Aas escaped injury and his deputy was killed; and Hazrat Ali was fatally wounded and passed away.
Hazrat Ali began his governance strategy during the caliphate of Hazrat Abu Bakr. His knowledge that provided him insight, and acquired under the guardianship and training of Prophet Muhammad, helped him handle situation in a very simplistic manner to dispense justice. He would assist the weak in time of distress in the spirit of charity and humanitarian by upholding the Islamic values, by using his endowed daring and sound judgement and by using his insight. Hazrat Ali has been called as the greatest jurist of early Islamic period who was always on the side of simplicity, piety and tender heartiness, distributing the public money from the Baitul Maal among the needy and poor at all times.
Hazrat Ali’s administration did not indulge in partisanship, partiality or nepotism and kept a constant watch on the administration of the governors appointed by him. He replaced many of the governors appointed by his predecessors. Some of the deposed governors refused to relinquish the office and forced him to take extreme measures to resolve the issue by going to war.
Some of the actions taken by Hazrat Ali gradually slowed down the activities of his administration; impeded swift effective actions; entangled him in revolt at many fronts including Basra, Syria, Egypt and other places; addede to disruptions to his administration when decided to make Kufah as the capital; and decided to go to war to fight against those who had revolted. On top of this Hazrat Ali agreed to the terms of the truce and arbitration concerning the governorship of Syria. This implied a challenge to the legitimacy of has caliphate. Then, there was this new threat and danger coming in from the Kawarijis, even betrayal on the part of his supporters including a section of his forces.
Hazrat Ali’s bravery earned him the title of Asadullah – the lion of God. He was a great orator and had possessed the ability to persuade with stirring dialogue and speech. These traits and attributes, it seems, compelled him to launch wars against the deposed governors in various regions, contributing to the process of conquest coming to a halt, involved him in many battles that turned out to be a civil war among Muslims. Hazrat Ali’s eloquence, bravery and honesty was brought face to face against the grave and severe realities of political maneuvering. These unscrupulous tactics and activities were used, and the game of deceit was played by some of those who opposed him.
In spite of all this Hazrat Ali established a state archive for the safe custody and preservation of the records of the Caliphate, created the office of Hajib- chamberlain, reorganized the police and streamlined their duties, established army headquarters on the Syrian border, strengthened the frontiers of the Muslim state and constructed unconquerable fortifications on the Persian border.
The glorious Caliphate period of the Righteous Caliphs – Khulafah e Rashideen – came to an end with the passing of Hazrat Ali, the brave, pious and eloquent orator.
Mohammad Yacoob a retired Industrial Engineer and Engineering Proposals Analyst, lives in Los Angeles, California.,USA