Malik al-Ashtar - Part 1
Al-Rabathah is a desert between Makkah and Madina. It is a barren land. No one inhabits it. But in the year 30 A.H., there was only one tent. In the tent there were an old man, an old woman, and their daughter.
Why did the old man inhabit that distant area in the middle of the desert?
He did not inhabit it of his on accord - the Caliph banished him to die there.
The old man was ill. And his wife was always in tears. So, he said to her: Dhar's mother; why do you weep?
The old woman said: Why shouldn't I weep and you're dying in this desert?
The old man said: One day, my friends and I were sitting with Allah's Apostle [s]. And he said to us:
"One of you will die in the desert. And a group of believers will attend his death."
All my friends passed away in their houses. And no one has remained but I. A person will come to your aid.
The old woman said: The time of Hajj (Pilgrimage) is over. And no one has passed through this desert.
The old man said: Don't worry! Go up the hill and look at the road of caravans.
The old woman went up the hill and looked.
A long time passed, in the distance, the old woman saw a caravan coming towards her.
The old woman waved a piece of cloth. The riders wondered and asked each other about that lonely old woman in the desert.
They approached and asked about her condition. She said: My husband is dying. And no one is beside him.
And who's your husband?
While the old woman was weeping, she said: Abu Dhar, the companion of Allah's Apostle!
The owners of the caravan were surprised. So, they said: Abu Dhar! The Prophet's companion! Come on! Let's see him!
The men went to the tent. When they came into it, they saw Abu Dhar sleeping in his bed. They said: Assalamu Alaik, companion of Allah's Apostle!
Wa Alaikum al-Salam, who are you?
One of them said: Malik bin al-Haarth al-Ashtar. And there are some men with me from Iraq. We're going to Madina to tell the Caliph about the persecution we suffer from.
Abu Dhar said: My brothers, be cheerfull! Allah's Apostle [s] has told me that I'll die in the desert and that some believers will attend my death.
Malik and his friends rejoiced at that Prophetic good news. They sat down in Abu Dhar's tent. Malik al-Ashtar felt sorry for him. And he was sad to hear that the Umayyads mistreated the great companion, Abu Dhar.
Malik bin al-Haarth al-Nakhay belonged to an old Yemeni tribe. He became a Muslim in the time of the Prophet [s]. He was loyal to his Islam.
He took part and fought bravely in the Battle of Yarmook. He had brave attitudes in stopping the Romans' attacks against the Muslim Army. So, his eye was split by a sword, namely, its lower lid was split. Thus, he was called al-Ashtar.
In 30 A.H., the Muslims in Kufa and other Muslim cities were angry with their rulers' behaviour. For example, al-Waleed bin Akabah, the Caliph Uthman's brother, the ruler of Kufa, behaved contrary to Islam - he drank alcohol and spent his time in amusements.
One day, al-Waleed entered mosque drunk. He prayed four Raka'as during the morning prayers. Then he turned to the worshipers and said sarcastically: Shall I increase my prayers?
People were displeased with his behaviour. They criticized him in markets, houses and mosques.
People asked each other: Has not the Caliph found a good ruler to replace this bad one?
He drank alcohol openly. He violated the teachings of the religion and the Muslims' rights.
So, people thought about a way to solve the problem. Finally, they decided to ask the advice of the good people. So, they went to Malik al-Ashtar. Malik al-Ashtar said to them:
First we'd better advise him. Then we'll tell the Caliph about his bad behaviour.
Malik and some good people went to the ruler's palace. When they got into the palace, they saw him drinking as usual. They advised him to behave well. But he scolded and dismissed them.
So, they decided to go to al-Madina al-Munawwara to meet the Caliph and to tell him about the problem.
The delegation met the Caliph and told him about his ruler's bad behaviour. It was unfortunate that he scolded and dismissed them. Besides, he refused to hear their complaints. So, they became disappointed.
They thought about going to Ali bin Abu-Talib, our Master Muhammad's cousin, because he was the only hope to reform the situation.
In the meantime, all people all over the Muslim cities complained of the rulers' bad behaviour.
The companions went to Imam Ali's house. They told him about the rulers' persecution and corruption.
Imam Ali [a] was sad to hear that. So, he went to the Caliph's palace. He met Uthman and advised him:
Uthman, the Muslims are complaining of the rulers' persecution. And you know that very well I've heard Allah's Apostle [s] saying:
"On the Day of Judgement, the unjust imam will be brought to hell. And no one will support or excuse him. Then, he will be thrown into hell. He'll go round and round it till he gets into its intense heat."
Uthman thought for a while. He bent his head sadly. He admitted his mistakes. And he promised that he would ask Allah for forgiveness and that he would apologise to the Muslims.
Imam Ali [a] went out to give the Muslims good news. They were all happy.
But Marwan, the hypocrite, said to the Caliph: You'd better threaten the people so as no one would dare to say bad words against the Caliph.
Uthman broke his promise. He did not behave well and did not change the rulers. In the meantime, he used strict policy against people. Mu'awiyah, the ruler of Shaam, advised the Caliph to banish some companions from the land.
So, the Caliph banished Abu Dhar, the great companion, to al-Rabathah Desert where he died alone. He hit the companion Ammar bin Yasir, the son of the first two martyrs in Islam.
The Caliph whipped the companion Abdullah bin Masoud, too. So, people grumbled about Uthman's and his rulers' policy.
Our Master Muhammad's companions sent many letters to all Muslim cities. The letters read as follows:
Muslims, come to us. And save the Caliphate. Allah's Book has been changed. And the Prophet's Sunnah has been changed. So, come to us if you believe in Allah and the Day of Judgement.
The Muslim streamed into al-Madina al-Munawwara from everywhere. Malik al-Ashtar represented the revolutionaries. So, he held a meeting with Uthman to reform the affairs of the Muslim State.
The revolutionaries asked Uthman to leave power. But the Caliph refused that. Imam Ali [a] tried to reform the matters. But all his efforts were in vain.
The reason was that the Muslims were displeased with Uthman's and his rulers' persecution. In the meantime, Uthman stubbornly insisted on his policy.
The revolutionaries besieged Uthman's palace.
The revolutionaries climbed the walls of the palace. They broke into the Caliph's room and killed him. Marwan and other hypocrites ran away.
Talha and Zubair were ambitious to get the Caliphate. So, they helped the revolutionaries. But the people were thinking about only one person to be a Caliph. And the person was Imam Ali [a].
Streams of people came into Imam Ali's house. They asked him to be a Caliph. But the Imam refused.
Malik al-Ashtar and other companions insisted on Imam Ali's Caliphate. Malik addressed the people with enthusiasm:
People, this is the Prophet's Regent. He has learnt the Prophet's knowledge. Allah's Book has mentioned his belief. Allah's Apostle [s] has told him that he will enter al-Ridhwan Garden. His personality is perfect The people in the past and present are certain of his behaviour and knowledge.
Thus Malik al-Ashtar was the first to appoint Ali bin Abu-Talib as a Caliph. Then the Muslims followed him.
When Imam Ali [a] became the Caliph, a new time began. He dismissed all the unjust rulers. And he appointed good persons.
Adapted from the book: "The Companions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w)"
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