Malik al-Ashtar - Part 2
The Battle of the Camel
Some people were ambitious for the Caliphate. Talha and Zubair were two of them. They went to Makkah and urged A'isha, Abu Bakr's daughter, to revolt against Imam Ali [a]. Marwan took advantage of that situation. He began spending the Muslims' money, which he had stolen, to form a big army. He announced that he would revenge himself on Uthman's killers.
The army headed for Basrah. There they uprooted the ruler's beard and dismissed him. They robbed the Public Treasury.
Amirul Mu'mineen, Ali bin Abu Talib, was facing that mutiny strongly. He advanced towards Basrah to invite its people to strive against the rebels.
The ruler of Kufa was Abu Musa al-Ashary. He discouraged people from striving against the rebels. In the meantime, he ordered people to disobey Amirul Mu'mineen, Ali bin Abu Talib.
Days passed. But al-Hasan and Ammar bin Yasir did not come back. So, the Imam sent Malik al-Ashtar after them.
Malik al-Ashtar was a brave, determined man. He realized that the people of Kufa were always supporting the Imam against his enemies. And he understood that only Abu Musa al-Ashary obstructed them.
Malik al-Ashtar arrived in Kufa and began inviting its people to follow him. A numerous army obeyed him. So, he could attack the ruler's palace and to dismiss the guards from it.
At that time, Abu Musa al-Ashary was in the mosque asking the people to stay in their houses and to disobey Amirul Mu'mineen orders. The guards came and told him that Malik al-Ashtar occupied the palace.
Abu Musa al-Ashary asked Malik al-Ashtar for a day's time to leave Kufa. So, Malik accepted that. On the same day, Malik al-Ashtar hurried to the mosque to encourage the people to support Imam Ali [a].
Hence, Malik could form a big army. The army was more than eighteen thousand fighters. Al-Hasan headed nine thousand fighters. They marched by land. The others crossed by river. The purpose of all was to join Imam Ali's army at Dhiqaar in the southern part of Iraq.
Imam Ali [a] headed the army and advanced towards Basrah, where he met A'isha's army. The leaders of the A'isha's army were Talha, Zubair and Marwan bin al-Hakam.
Malik al-Ashtar was the leader of the right wing. Ammar leader of the left wing. Imam Ali [a] stood in the middle of the army. And Muhammad bin al-Hanafiyah, Imam Ali's son, carried the banner.
A'isha's Army began attacking Imam Ali's army. They showered the Imam's Army with arrows. So, some fighters were killed and others were wounded.
The Imam's Army wanted to return like for like. But the Imam stopped them and said:
Who can take this Qur'an and go to them to appeal to it? Surely they will kill him.
A young man said: Amirul Mu'mineen, I'll take it.
A Muslim headed for the Army of the Camel raising the Qur'an. A'isha shouted: Throw arrows at him.
So, the bow men threw arrows at him. He fell over the ground and became a martyr.
During those moments, Amirul Mu'mineen raised his hands towards the sky. He prayed for Allah, the Almighty, to grant them a victory. Then he said:
Allah, the eyes are gazing at you! And the hands are extended! Our lord, judge between our nation and us with justice! And you're the best judge!
Then the Imam ordered his fighters to launch a general attack. Malik al-Ashtar advanced. He was fighting bravely. Violent clashes took place around the camel.
The Imam realized that killing the camel would end bloodshed and that it would end the fighting between the two parties.
Malik al-Ashtar launched a violent attack towards the camel. He was fighting bravely and honestly. He did not kill the wounded. He did not chase the runaway.
Malik al-Ashtar copied Imam Ali's good behaviour. He loved the Regent of Allah's Apostle [s]. The Imam loved Malik too, for he was God-fearing. And Allah loves those who fear him.
After violent fights, the Imam's Army could kill the camel So, the facing army was in low spirits and its fighters began escaping from the battlefield.
The Imam ordered his fighters to stop the war operations. And he ordered them to treat A'isha kindly and to bring her back to Madina.
The Imam released the prisoners of war. He ordered his fighters to cure the wounded. And he forgave them all.
Malik al-Ashtar and Ammar bin Yasir visited A'isha. She said: Malik, you were about to kill my nephew.
Malik answered: Yes. I wanted to relieve Muhammad's nation from him. But I did not kill him because I was fasting for three days. And I'm an old man.
After some days stay in Basrah, the Imam headed for Kufa.
Malik al-Ashtar fought as bravely as a lion. So, the enemies were afraid of him.
But on the normal days, he looked a poor man. He wore simple clothing. He walked humbly. Thus most people did not know him.
One day, while Malik al-Ashtar was walking was walking in the street, a foolish person was eating some dates and throwing the stones about.
Malik al-Ashtar passed before the foolish person. He threw a stone at Malik. The stone hit him on the back. The foolish person began laughing at him.
A man saw the foolish person. He said to him: What are you doing? Do you know that man?
The foolish person answered: No, who is he?
He's Malik al-Ashtar!
Malik went on walking. He did not pay attention to the foolish person. He remembered how the polytheists treated our Master Muhammad [s] in Makkah. They threw dust and rubbish at him but he kept silent.
Malik came into mosque. He began praying for Allah to forgive the foolish person. The man ran quickly. He came into the mosque. He embraced Malik apologizing and saying:
I want to apologize to you for my bad behavior! So, accept my apology.
Malik answered with a smile: Brother, don't worry. By Allah, I've entered the mosque to pray for Allah to forgive you.
The Battle of Siffeen
The Imam chose the good persons to rule the cities. So, he appointed Malik al Ashtar ruler over Mousal, Sinjar, Naseebeen, Heet, and Anat. They are areas on the borders of Shaam.
Mu'awiyah disobeyed the Caliph. He became a dictator in Shaam.
The Imam tried to persuade Mu'awiyah to obey him. He sent him several letters, sent some delegates to talk with him. But all the Imam's efforts were in vain.
Thus the Imam formed an army and gave its leadership to Malik al-Ashtar.
The army advanced towards Shaam. It arrived in Kirkeesya, where it clashed with the Shamian Army headed by Abi al-Awar al-Salmy.
Malik al-Ashtar tried to persuade the leader of the army to end the mutiny and to obey Amirul Mu'mineen, but he refused.
At night, the Shamian Army took advantage of time and launched a surprise attack. That action was contrary to the religion and politeness because the two parties were in negotiations.
The Caliph's Army resisted the surprising attack. It killed and wounded many attackers and forced the others to withdraw to their original places.
Again Malik al-Ashtar showed his bravery. He sent a man to Abi al-Awar to invite him to duel with swords.
The man said: Abi al-Awar, Malik al-Ashtar is inviting you to duel with him!
The leader of Mu'awiyah's Army became afraid and with cowardice said: I don't want to duel with him!
Mu'awiyah headed a big army to join the Shamian Army.
The two armies met in the plain of Siffeen on the banks of the Euphrates.
Some units of Mu'awiyah's Army occupied the banks and besieged the river.
That action was also contrary to the laws of Islam and the laws of war.
The Imam sent Sasaah bin Suhan, one of the companions of the Prophet [s], to Mu'awiyah to talk with him.
Sasaah came into Mu'awiyah's tent and said: Mu'awiyah, Ali says:
"Let's take some water. Then we'll decide what's between you and us, otherwise we will fight each other till the victor drinks."
Mu'awiyah kept silent and said: I'll answer you later on.
The Imam's representative went out. Mu'awiyah asked the advice of some men. So al-Waleed said with spite:
Prevent them from drinking water to force them to surrender.
They agreed on this opinion.
Mu'awiyah gathered all the evil persons around him. They violated the laws of Islam and of human rights.
Malik al-Ashtar was watching the military movements on the river banks. He saw military supplies. So, he realized that Mu'awiyah would tighten the siege.
The Imam's soldiers became thirsty. Malik became thirsty, too. So, a soldier said to him: There's only little water in my water-skin, please drink it.
Malik refused that and said: I won't drink till all soldiers drink!
Malik went to the Imam and said: Amirul Mu'mineen, our soldiers are very thirsty. We've nothing but fighting.
The Imam answered: Yes.
The Imam gave the soldiers a speech and urged them to fight bravely.
Then he said: Death is that man is pleased with abasement. And life is that man who dies and becomes a martyr.
Malik led the first attack at the Battle of Siffeen. And he began fighting bravely. So, he advanced towards the banks of the Euphrates.
After violent clashes, Malik could recapture the river banks and force Mu'awiyah's Army to withdraw.
Mu'awiyah's Army became far from water. So, they thought of a trick to recapture its places on the River Euphrates.
On the following day, an arrow fell among the Imam's soldiers. There was a letter tied to the arrow. The soldiers read the letter carefully. They passed on the news quickly to each other. The news was:
From a loyal brother in the Shamian Army, Mu'awiyah is going to open the river to drown you. So, be careful!
The soldiers believed the news and withdrew. The Shamian Army took advantage of the situation and recaptured the river banks.
But the Imam's Army launched a general attack and dismissed the Shamian Army from the region.
Mu'awiyah was so worried that he asked Amru bin al-Aas: Do you think Ali will prevent us from drinking water?
Amru bin al-Aas answered: Ali doesn't do as you do!
The Shamian soldiers were worried, too. Immediately, the soldiers heard that Imam Ali [a] allowed them to come to the river to drink water.
Some people from Shaam realized the difference between Mu'awiyah and Ali. Mu'awiyah did every evil action for victory. But Ali did not think about that at all. He conformed to the human, good, ideal behaviour.
Thus, the soldiers of the Shamian Army left Mu'awiyah's front secretly at night. They joined Ali's front because it was always representing truth and humanity.
Adapted from the book: "The Companions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w)"
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