Condemning the people of Basrah(1)
the army of a woman and in the command of a quadruped. When it grumbled
you responded, and when it was wounded (hamstrung) you fled away. Your
character is low and your pledge is broken. Your faith is hypocrisy. Your
water is brackish. He who stays with you is laden with sins and he who
forsakes you secures Allah's mercy. As though I see your mosque prominent,
resembling the surface of a boat, while Allah has sent chastisement from
above and from below it and every one who is on it is drowned.(2)
your city would certainly be drowned so much so that as though I see its
mosque like the upper part of a boat or a sitting ostrich.
bosom of a bird in deep sea.
is the most stinking of all the cities as regards its clay, the nearest to
water and remotest from the sky. It contains nine tenths of evil. He who
enters it is surrounded with his sins and he who is out of it enjoys
Allah's forgiveness. It seems as though I look at this habitation of yours
that water has so engulfed it that nothing can be seen of it except the
highest part of mosque appearing like the bosom of a bird in deep sea.
Ibn Maytham writes that when the Battle of Jamal ended then on the third
day after it Amir al-mu'minin said the morning prayer in the central
mosque of Basrah and after finishing it stood on the right side of the
prayer place reclining against the wall and delivered this sermon wherein
he described the lowness of character of the people of Basrah and their
slyness, namely that they got enflamed at others' instigation without
anything of their own and making over their command to a woman clung to a
They broke away after
swearing allegiance and exhibited their low character and evil nature by
practising double facedness. In this sermon woman implies `A'ishah and
quadruped implies the camel (Jamal) after which this battle has been named
the Battle of Jamal.'
This battle originated in
this way that when although during the life time of `Uthman, `A'ishah used
to oppose him and had left for Mecca leaving him in siege and as such she
had a share in his assassination details of which would be stated at some
suitable place but when on her return from Mecca towards Medina she heard
from `Abdullah ibn Salamah that after `Uthman allegiance had been paid to
`Ali (as Caliph) she suddenly exclaimed, "If allegiance has been paid to
`Ali, I wish the sky had burst on the earth. Let me go back to Mecca."
Consequently she decided to return to Mecca and began saying, "By Allah
`Uthman has been killed helplessly. I shall certainly avenge his blood."
On seeing this wide change in the state of affairs Abu Salamah said, "What
are you saying as you yourself used to say "Kill this Na`thal ; he had
turned unbeliever." Thereupon she replied, "Not only I but everyone used
to say so; but leave these things and listen to what I am now saying, that
is better and deserves more attention.
It is so strange that first
he was called upon to repent but before giving him an opportunity to do so
he has been killed." On this Abu Salamah recited the following verses
You started it and now you
are changing and raising storms of wind and rain.
You ordered for his killing
and told us that he had turned unbeliever.
We admit that he has been
killed but under your orders and the real Killer is one who ordered it.
Nevertheless, neither the
sky fell over us nor did the sun and moon fall into eclipse.
Certainly people have paid
allegiance to one who can ward off the enemy with power and grandeur, does
not allow swords to come near him and loosens the twist of the rope, that
is, subdues the enemy.
He is always fully armed for
combat and the faithful is never like the traitor.
However, when she reached
Mecca with a passion for vengeance she began rousing the people to avenge
`Uthman's blood by circulating stories of his having been victimised. The
first to respond to this call was `Abdullah ibn `Amir al-Hadrami who had
been the governor of Mecca in `Uthman's reign and with him Marwan ibn
al-Hakam, Sa`id ibn al-`As and other Umayyads rose to support her. On the
other side Talhah ibn `Ubaydillah and az-Zubayr ibn al-`Awwam also reached
Mecca from Medina.
From Yemen Ya`la ibn
Munabbih who had been governor there during `Uthman's caliphate and the
former governor of Basrah, `Abdullah ibn `Amir ibn Kurayz also reached
there, and joining together began preparing their plans. Battle had been
decided upon but discussion was about the venue of confrontation.
`A'ishah's opinion was to make Medina the venue of the battle but some
people opposed and held that it was difficult to deal with Medinites, and
that some other place should be chosen as the venue. At last after much
discussion it was decided to march towards Basrah as there was no dearth
of men to support the cause.
Consequently on the strength
of `Abdullah ibn `Amir's countless wealth, and the offer of six hundred
thousand Dirhams and six hundred camels by Ya`la ibn Munabbih they
prepared an army of three thousand and set off to Basrah. There was a
small incident on the way on account of which `A'ishah refused to advance
What happened was that at a
place she heard the barking of dogs and enquired from the camel driver the
name of the place. He said it was Haw'ab. On hearing this name she
recalled the Prophet's admonition when he had said to his wives, "I wish I
could know at which of you the dogs of Haw'ab would bark." So when she
realised that she herself was that one she got the camel seated by patting
and expressed her intention to abandon the march. But the device of her
companions saved the deteriorating situation.
`Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr
swore to assure her that it was not Haw'ab, Talhah seconded him and for
her further assurance also sent for fifty persons to stand witness to it.
When all the people were on one side what could a single woman do by
opposing. Eventually they were successful and `A'ishah resumed her forward
march with the same enthusiasm.
When this army reached
Basrah, people were first amazed to see the riding animal of `A'ishah.
Jariyah ibn Qudamah came forward and said, "O' mother of the faithful, the
assassination of `Uthman was one tragedy but the greater tragedy is that
you have come out on this cursed camel and ruined your honour and esteem.
It is better that you should get back." But since neither the incident at
Haw'ab could deter her nor could the Qur'anic injunction: "Keep sitting in
your houses" (33:33) stop her, what effect could these voices produce.
Consequently, she disregarded all this.
When this army tried to
enter the city the Governor of Basrah `Uthman ibn Hunayf came forward to
stop them and when the two parties came face to face they drew their
swords out of the sheaths and pounced upon each other. When a good number
had been killed from either side `A'ishah intervened on the basis of her
influence and the two groups agreed that till the arrival of Amir
al-mu'minin the existing administration should continue and `Uthman ibn
Hunayf should continue on his post. But only two days had elapsed when
they made a nightly attack on `Uthman ibn Hunayf, killed forty innocent
persons, beat `Uthman ibn Hunayf, plucked every hair of his beard, took
him in their custody and shut him up.
Then they attacked public
treasury and while ransacking it killed twenty persons on the spot, and
beheaded fifty more after arresting them. Then they attacked the grain
store, whereupon an elderly noble of Basrah Hukaym ibn Jabalah could not
control himself and reaching there with his men said to `Abdullah ibn
az-Zubayr, "Spare some of this grain for the city's populace. After all
there should be a limit to oppression. You have spread killing and
destruction all round and put `Uthman ibn Hunayf in confinement. For
Allah's sake keep off these ruining activities and release `Uthman ibn
Is there no fear of Allah in
your hearts?" Ibn az-Zubayr said, "This is vengeance of `Uthman's life."
Hukaym ibn Jabalah retorted, "Were those who have been killed assassins of
`Uthman? By Allah, if I had supporters and comrades I should have
certainly avenged the blood of these Muslims whom you have killed without
" Ibn az-Zubayr replied, "We
shall not give anything out of this grain, nor will `Uthman ibn Hunayf be
released." At last the battle raged between these two parties but how
could a few individuals deal with such a big force? The result was that
Hukaym ibn Jabalah, his son al-Ashraf ibn Hukaym ibn Jabalah, his brother
ar-Ri'l ibn Jabalah and seventy persons of his tribe were killed. In
short, killing and looting prevailed all round. Neither anyone's life was
secure nor was there any way to save one's honour or property.
When Amir al-mu'minin was
informed of the march to Basrah he set out to stop it with a force which
consisted of seventy of those who had taken part in the battle of Badr and
four hundred out of those companions who had the honour of being present
at the Allegiance of Ridwan (Divine Pleasure). When he stopped at the
stage of Dhiqar he sent his son Hasan (p.b.u.h.) and `Ammar ibn Yasir to
Kufah to invite its people to fighting.
interference of Abu Musa al-Ash`ari seven thousand combatants from there
joined Amir al- mu'minin's army. He left that place after placing the army
under various commanders. Eye witnesses state that when this force reached
near Basrah first of all a contingent of ansar appeared foremost. Its
standard was held by Abu Ayyub al-Ansari. After it appeared another
contingent of 1000 whose commander was Khuzaymah ibn Thabit al-Ansari.
Then another contingent came in sight. Its standard was borne by Abu
Qatadah ibn ar-Rabi`.
Then a crowd of a thousand
old and young persons was seen. They had signs of prostration on their
foreheads and veil of fear of Allah on their face. It seemed as if they
were standing before the Divine Glory on the Day of Judgement. Their
Commander rode a dark horse, was dressed in white, had black turban on his
head and was reciting the Qur'an loudly. This was `Ammar ibn Yasir. Then
another contingent appeared. Its standard was in the hand of Qays ibn Sa`d
ibn `Ubadah. Then an army came to sight. Its leader wore white dress and
had a black turban on his head. He was so handsome that all eyes centred
This was `Abdullah ibn
`Abbas. Then followed a contingent of the companions of the Prophet. Their
standard bearer was Qutham ibn al-`Abbas.
Then after the passing of a
few contingents a big crowd was seen, wherein there was such a large
number of spears that they were overlapping and flags of numerous colours
were flying. Among them a big and lofty standard was seen with distinctive
position. Behind it was seen a rider guarded by sublimity and greatness.
His sinews were well-developed and eyes were cast downwards.
His awe and dignity was such
that no one could look at him. This was the Ever Victorious Lion of Allah
namely `Ali ibn Abi Talib (p.b.u.h.). On his right and left were Hasan and
Husayn (p.b.u.t.). In front of him Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah walked in
slow steps carrying the banner of victory and glory, and on the back were
the young men of Banu Hashim, the people of Badr and `Abdullah ibn Ja`far
ibn Abi Talib. When this army reached the place az-Zawiyah, Amir
al-mu'minin alighted from the horse, and after performing four rak`ah of
prayer put his cheeks on the ground. When he lifted his head the ground
was drenched with tears and the tongue was uttering these words:
O' Sustainer of earth,
heaven and the high firmament, this is Basrah. Fill our lap with its good
and protect us from its evils.
Then proceeding forward he
got down in the battle-field of Jamal where the enemy was already camping.
First of all Amir al-mu'minin announced in his army that no one should
attack another, nor take the initiative. Saying this he came in front of
the opposite army and said to Talhah and az-Zubayr, "You ask `A'ishah by
swearing in the name of Allah and His prophet whether I am not free from
the blame of `Uthman's blood, and whether I used the same words for him
which you used to say, and whether I pressurised you for allegiance or you
swore it of your own free will." Talhah got exasperated at these words but
az-Zubayr relented, and Amir al-mu'minin turned back after it, and giving
the Qur'an to Muslim (a young man from the tribe of `Abd Qays) sent him
towards them to pronounce to them the verdict of the Qur'an. But people
took both of them within aim and covered this godly man with their arrows.
Then `Ammar ibn Yasir went to canvass and convince them and caution them
with the consequences of war but his words were also replied by arrows.
Till now Amir al-mu'minin had not allowed an attack as a result of which
the enemy continued feeling encouraged and went on raining arrows
constantly. At last with the dying of a few valiant combatants
consternation was created among Amir al-mu'minin's ranks and some people
came with a few bodies before him and said, "O' Commander of the faithful
you are not allowing us to fight while they are covering us with arrows.
How long can we let them
make our bosoms the victim of their arrows, and remain handfolded at their
excesses?" At this Amir al-mu'minin did show anger but acting with
restraint and endurance, came to the enemy in that very form without
wearing armour or any arm and shouted, "Where is az-Zubayr?" At first
az-Zubayr hesitated to come forward but he noticed that Amir al-mu'minin
had no arms he came out. Amir al-mu'minin said to him "O' az-Zubayr, you
must remember that one day the Prophet told you that you would fight with
me and wrong and excess would be on your side." az-Zubayr replied that he
had said so. Then Amir al-mu'minin enquired "Why have you come then?" He
replied that his memory had missed it and if he had recollected it earlier
he would not have come that way. Amir al-mu'minin said, "Well, now you
have recollected it" and he replied, "Yes." Saying this he went straight
to `A'ishah and told her that he was getting back. She asked him the
reason and he replied, "`Ali has reminded me a forgotten matter.
I had gone astray, but now I
have come on the right path and would not fight `Ali ibn Abi Talib at any
cost." `A'ishah said, "You have caught fear of the swords of the sons of
`Abd al-Muttalib." He said, "No" and saying this he turned the reins of
his horse. However, it is gratifying that some consideration was accorded
to the Prophet's saying, for at Haw'ab even after recollection of the
Prophet's words no more than transient effect was taken of it. On
returning after this conversation Amir al-mu'minin observed that they had
attacked the right and left flanks of his army.
Noticing this Amir
al-mu'minin said, "Now the plea has been exhausted. Call my son Muhammad.
" When he came Amir
al-mu'minin said, "My son, attack them now." Muhammad bowed his head and
taking the standard proceeded to the battle-field. But arrows were falling
in such exuberance that he had to stop.
When Amir al-mu'minin saw
this he called out at him, "Muhammad, why don't you advance?" He said,
"Father, in this shower of arrows there is no way to proceed. Wait till
the violence of arrows subsides." He said, "No, thrust yourself in the
arrows and spears and attack." Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah advanced a
little but the archers so surrounded him that he had to hold his steps.
On seeing this a frown
appeared on Amir al-mu'minin's fore-head and getting forward he hit the
sword's handle on the Muhammad's back and said, "This is the effect of
your mother's veins." Saying this he took the standard from his hands and
folding up his sleeves made such and attack that a tumult was created in
the enemy's ranks from one end to the other.
To whichever row he turned,
it became clear and to whatever side he directed himself bodies were seen
falling and heads rolling in the hoofs of horses. When after convulsing
the rows he returned to his position he said to Muhammad ibn
al-Hanafiyyah, "Look, my son, battle is fought like this." Saying this he
gave the standard to him and ordered him to proceed. Muhammad advanced
towards the enemy with a contingent of ansar.
The enemy also came out
moving and balancing their spears. But the brave son of the valiant father
convulsed rows over rows while the other warriors also made the
battle-field glory and left heaps of dead bodies.
From the other side also
there was full demonstration of spirit of sacrifice. Dead bodies were
falling one over the other but they continued sacrificing their lives
devotedly around the camel. Particularly the condition of Banu Dabbah was
that although their hands were being severed from the elbows for holding
the reins of the camel, and bosoms were being pierced yet they had the
following battle-song on their tongues:
a) To us death is sweeter
than honey. We are Banu Dabbah, camel rearers.
b) We are sons of death when
death comes. We announce the death of `Uthman with the edges of spears.
c) Give us back our chief
and there is an end to it.
The low character and
ignorance from faith of these Banu Dabbah, can be well understood by that
one incident which al-Mada'ini has narrated. He writes that in Basrah
there was a man with mutilated ear. He asked him its reason when he said,
"I was watching the sight of dead bodies in the battle-field of Jamal when
I saw a wounded man who sometimes raised his head and sometimes dashed it
back on the ground. I approached near. Then the following two verses were
on his lips:
a) Our mother pushed us into
the deep waters of death and did not get back till we had thoroughly
b) By misfortune we obeyed
Banu Taym who are none but slave men and slave girls.
"I told him it was not the
time to recite verses; he should rather recall Allah and recite the
kalimat ash-shahadah (verse of testimony). On my saying this he saw me
with angry looks and uttering a severe abuse and said, "You are asking me
to recite kalimat ash-shahadah, get frightened at the last moment and show
impatience." I was astonished to hear this and decided to return without
saying anything further.
When he saw me returning he
said, "Wait; for your sake I am prepared to recite, but teach me." I drew
close to teach him the kalimah when he asked me to get closer. When I got
closer he caught my ear with his teeth and did not leave it till he tore
it from the root. I
did not think it proper to
molest a dying man and was about to get back abusing and cursing him when
he asked me to listen one more thing.
I agreed to listen lest he
had an unsatisfied wish. He said that when I should get to my mother and
she enquired who had bitten my ear I should say that it was done by `Umayr
ibn al-Ahlab ad-Dabbi who had been deceived by a woman aspiring to become
the commander of the faithful (head of the state)."
However, when the dazzling
lightning of swords finished the lives of thousands of persons and
hundreds of Banu Azd and Banu Dabbah were killed for holding the rein of
the camel, Amir al-mu'minin ordered, "Kill the camel for it is Satan."
Saying this he made such a severe attack that the cries of "Peace" and
"Protection" rose from all round. When he reached near the camel he
ordered Bujayr ibn Duljah to kill the camel at once. Consequently, Bujayr
hit him with such full might that the camel fell in agony on the side of
No sooner than the camel
fell the opposite army took to heels and the carrier holding `A'ishah was
left lonely and unguarded. The companion of Amir al-mu'minin took control
of the carrier and under orders of Amir al-mu'minin, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr
escorted `A'ishah to the house of Safiyyah bint al-Harith.
This encounter commenced on
the 10th of Jumada ath-thaniyah, 36 A.H., in the afternoon and came to an
end the same evening. In it from Amir al-mu'minin's army of twenty two
thousand, one thousand and seventy or according to another version five
hundred persons were killed as martyrs while from `A'ishah's army of
thirty thousand, seventeen thousand persons were killed, and the Prophet's
saying, "That people who assigned their affairs (of state) to a woman
would never prosper" was fully corroborated. (al-Imamah wa's-siyasah;
Muruj adh-dhahab; al-`Iqd al-farid; at-Tarikh, at Tabari)
Ibn Abi'l-Hadid has written that as prophesied by Amir al-mu'minin, Basrah
got under floods twice - once in the days of al-Qadir Billah and once in
the reign of al-Qa'im bi Amri'l-lah and the state of flooding was just
this that while the whole city was under water but the top ends of the
mosque were seen about the surface of the water and looked like a bird
sitting on the side of its bosom.