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Controversy Over March to Basra

Adil Salahi

Arab News

Justice Abu Bakr ibn Al-Arabi verifies the attitudes of the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the early period of Islam. He comments on some of the widely circulated reports accusing some of them of deception or other unlawful behavior. Commenting on the reports we mentioned last week accusing Talahah, Al-Zubayr and Aishah, the Prophet’s wife, of plotting against the fourth Caliph, Ali, he says: As for their travel to Basra, they certainly did; and there is no problem with that. The question is the reason for their departure. We have nothing authentic on that, and we cannot find any reliable view expressed by a trustworthy person. This means that we have only the views of partisan people, which should be discounted because most of the views of such partisans have been adulterated by those who try to undermine Islam and detract from the integrity of the Prophet’s companions.

It is possible that they left for Basra to oppose Ali after some sort of situation had become clear to them. They had pledged loyalty to him so that matters would cool down. Now they wanted justice to be restored. On the other hand, they might have set out for Basra in order to punish Uthman’s assassins. A third possibility is that they might have set out aiming to bring about unity between the different factions that had erupted among the Muslim community.

Their aim would be to bring the entire Muslim community under one banner so that no possibility of division and internal strife would be left. This is the truth about their aim, which is confirmed by many authentic reports.

As for the claim that they made their pledge to Ali under duress, it is all false as we have already explained.

The claim that they wanted to remove Ali from office is also false. Removing a Caliph from his post can only be done by the community. One or more may be elected, but removal could only occur after a case requiring such removal could be proven.

That they set forth in order to bring Uthman’s assassins to justice was rather a possibility, because this required first of all that the community should be united. In fact both purposes could be combined.

It was also reported that their absence from Madinah led to an end of friction. When Talhah, Al-Zubayr and Aishah left, they hoped that people would flock to their mother, i.e. Aishah, and respect the fact that she was the Prophet’s widow. They had persuaded her to join them on their mission, quoting the Qur’anic verse that says: “No good comes out of much of their secret talks; except for one who enjoins charity, or justice, or setting things right between people.” (4: 114) They further reminded her that the Prophet undertook missions of reconciliation and sent emissaries to achieve the same purpose. She agreed with them, hoping to be rewarded by God for so doing. But then God’s will was done.

In his annotation of Ibn Al-Arabi’s book, Al-Khateeb makes clear that none of these distinguished companions of the Prophet ever contemplated a revolt against Ali. “In fact all events confirm that it was far removed from the thoughts of such devoted servants of Islam.” He refers to Imam Ibn Hajar who, in his commentary on Al-Bukhari’s Sahih, quotes Al-Muhallab as saying: “No one has ever reported that Aishah or anyone with her disputed Ali’s position as Caliph. None made a claim for it.” Al-Khateeb further stresses that their primary aim was to agree with Ali on the steps that could ensure that Uthman’s killers would be brought to justice. That this should be first preceded by bringing about reconciliation between the different factions in the Muslim community was true and indeed was about to happen. However, the conspiring elements who supported Abdullah ibn Saba’, the chief conspirator, undermined it.

Ibn Al-Arabi continues his refutation of the false claims made against the Prophet’s companions: “The people of Basra soon heard of their arrival. Those in Basra who took part in the rebellion against Uthman began to raise its people, calling on them to move in force to find out the purpose of the arrival of Aishah and her group. Uthman ibn Haneef, the governor of Basra who was loyal to Ali, sent Hakeem ibn Jablah and he met Talhah and Al-Zubayr at Al-Zabooqah, but Hakeem was killed. Had he went out to greet, not to fight them, he would have come to no harm. We wonder what he was fighting for when they did not come to fight or to assume power in Basra. They only came to bring about peace and reconciliation between people.

It was only when they were met with opposition and fighting that they had to defend themselves and to stand up for their mission. This is the normal practice in all situations.”

Al-Khateeb explains that when Aishah and her group were at a short distance from Basra, Uthman ibn Haneef sent Imran ibn Hussayn, a companion of the Prophet, to find out their purpose. He went to them and spoke to them before returning to Uthman. The latter asked him for advice, and Imran suggested that he should not take any measures. Similarly, Hisham ibn Amir, another Ansari companion of the Prophet, counseled him to maintain good terms with them until he received instructions from the Caliph. Uthman rejected both views and said that he would stop them from entering the city until the Caliph, Ali, arrived. He then called on people to mobilize and move to meet them with force. The result was that his forces were defeated and Uthman was taken prisoner when some soldiers began to pull out his beard, but the leaders of the party he opposed, i.e. Talhah and Al-Zubayr, rescued him.

This was the first stage of what is known as the Battle of the Camel, which ended in victory for Aishah’s party known as the Camel’s people. They practically took over Basra, but Hakeem ibn Jablah rebelled against the new situation and, having 300 fighters under his command, he fought them again and was killed.


Earth, a planet hungry for peace


The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers (Ran Cohen, pmc, 5/24/03).


The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers in the West Bank, like a Python. (Alquds,10/25/03).

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