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Reforms Contemplated by Ali

The next matter for immediate attention of the new Caliph was the removal of the ungodly men, who governed various provinces with such tyranny that it drove the people to desperation, which cost Osman his life. Many abuses had crept in during the reign of Osman, which called for immediate action, and most of the provincial governments were in the hands of persons of dubious antecedents and suspected faith.

Having set his heart upon a thorough reform, he resolved to depose Moawiya and the other governors, who owed their appointments to his predecessor. Abdallah b. Abbas, who had returned by now from his pilgrimage to Mecca, strongly opposed this measure, especially of the proposal to depose Moawiya and advised him to postpone the execution of the contemplated measure for a short while till at least he should find himself more firmly established in authority. He argued : 'If thou deposest Moawiya, the Syrians, whom he hast firmly attached to himself by his munificence, will rise up against thee in a, body, will not recognise thee Caliph and worst of all, they will accuse thee of the murder of Osman. It will be advisable, therefore, to let him continue in his place till he submits to thy authority, and when once he hast done that, it will be easy for thee to pull him out of his house by the ears whensoever thou dost desire it.'

'Besides,' he reminded Ali, 'Talha and Zubeir are not the persons to be relied upon; I have good reasons to suspect them of taking up arms against thee very soon, and perhaps they may join Moawiya' 'But the Divine Law,' said Ali, 'dost not allow of crafty deceptions. I must strictly follow the true principles of religion and therefore should not willingly allow any ungodly man to retain his office. The reason why Ali did not listen to those who advised him not to dismiss Moawiya is given by Osborne (History of Islam) in the following words: "The Bayard of Islam, the hero without fear and without reproach refused to be guilty of any duplicity of compromise with injustice." 'Moawiya will have nothing but the sword from me. I cannot retain him for a single day.' 'See,' continued he, 'I appoint thee, O Ibn Abbas ! Thou shalt go forth thyself to Syria to turn him out.' 'That', cried Ibn Abbas, 'is quite impracticable, Moawiya would not leave me alive because of my being akin to thee.' When these arrangements were in progress, Talha and Zubeir came to Ali and applied for their appointment to the governments of Kufa and Basra, respectively.

But Ali politely refused, observing that in the present emergency, he needed such able counsellors near at hand.

Having chosen his men for the government of the various provinces, Ali sent them out to their respective destinations in the month of Moharram 36 A.H. to replace the existing Governors. Thus he sent (1) Obeidallah b. Abbas to Yemen; (2) Qais b. Saad b. Obada to Egypt; (3) Qutham b. Abbas to Mecca; (4) Samaha b. Abbas to Tihama; (5) Awn b. Abbas to Yamama; (6) Osman b. Honeif to Busra (7) Ammara b. Shahab to Kufa; (8) Said b. Abbas to Bahrein; and (9) Sahel b. Honeif to Syria.

Obeidallah reached Yemen and found that Yala, his predecessor, had carried off to Mecca all the treasure amounting to sixty thousand Dinars, which he made over to Ayesha along with six hundred camels, one of which was a rarity, a big-sized, well bred animal, valued at 200 gold pieces. It was named Al-Askar and was specially presented for the use of Ayesha. Obeidallah, however, took possession of the government of Yemen.

 

Qais b. Saad, when approaching Egypt, was opposed by a party with leanings towards the late Caliph Osman whilst passing a frontier garrison; but by feigning an attachment to the cause of Osman, he succeeded in reaching the seat of his government, which he was to occupy. His predecessor, Abdallah b. Abi Sarh, being certain of his removal, had already made his way to Syria to take refuge with Moawiya, as most of the Umayyads had done on the accession of Ali.

 

Osman b. Honeif, who went to Busra, entered unopposed; but Ibn Mir, his predecessor, had also already made away with all the treasure and joined Talha and Zubeir. Osman occupied his post but found that disaffection was rife against Ali among a considerable number of the people.

Ammara on his way to Kufa was met by Tulaiha and Qaqa at the stage named Zabala, and they advised him to go back to Medina as the Kufians, they said, were resolved not to part with Abu Musa Ashari, who was set over them by their own choice by the late Caliph. They warned him that if he attempted to enter Kufa, he would have to face strong hostilities. Ammara retraced his steps, to Medina and reported the state of affairs to the Caliph, Ali.

When Sahel, the Governor designate of Syria, reached Tabuk, he met a party of horsemen who told him that the people of Syria were clamouring for the vengeance of Osman's blood and would not receive a man of Ali's appointment whom they did not recognise as Caliph. Being unprepared to force his advance, Sahel returned to Medina and reported the matter to Mi.

Adapted from: "Ali, the Magnificent" by: "Yousuf N. Lalljee"