Battle of the Camel
|Battle of the Camel|
|Part of the First Islamic civil war|
|Rashidun Caliphate||Rebel Arabs|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Ali ibn Abi-Taleb
Hasan ibn Ali
Ammar ibn Yasir
Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr
Muslim ibn Aqeel
Harith ibn Rab'i
Jabir ibn Abd-Allah
Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah
Abu Ayub Ansari
Abu Qatada bin Rabyee
Qays ibn Sa'd
Qathm bin Abbas
Abd-Allah ibn Abbas
Khuzaima ibn Thabit
|Aisha bint Abu-Bakr
Talha ibn Ubayd-Allah †
Muhammad ibn Talha †
Zubayr ibn al-Awwam †
Kaab ibn Sur †
Abd-Allah ibn Zubayr
Marwan ibn al-Hakam (POW)
Walid ibn Uqba (POW)
|Casualties and losses|
Harb al-Jamal translated into English as the Battle of the Camel (also known as the Battle of Jamal) took place at Basra, Iraq in November 7, 656 AD. The forces of Amir al-Momineen Ali ibn Abi Talib, the fourth Rashidun Caliph and the first Shia Imam who was the cousin/son in-law of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, faced the forces led by Aisha, a widow of Muhammad. The battle is seen as the first Fitna (first Islamic civil war).
Before the conflict
Talhah and Zubeir asked Ali the permission for pilgrimage. He let them and they departed. The Medina people wanted to know Ali’s point of view about war against Muslims by asking his view about Muawiyah I and his refusal to give Ali his allegiance. So they sent Ziyad Ben Hanzalah of Tamim who was an intimate friend to Ali. He went to him and sat for a while.
He went back and told the people in Madina that Ali wanted to confront Muawiyah. In Madina, Marwan also manipulated people. In Iraq many people hated the Syrians following the Byzantine-Sassanid Wars. Some of Ali's supporters were also very extreme in their views and considered everyone to be their enemy. They also felt that if there was peace, they would be arrested for the killing of Uthman. Many of them later became the Kharijites and eventually killed Ali.
Aisha (Aisha bint Abu Bakr) (Muhammad's widow), Talhah (Talha ibn Ubayd-Allah) and Zubayr ibn al-Awam (Abu ‘Abd Allah Zubayr ibn al-Awwam) set off from Makah on their way to Iraq to ask Ali to arrest Uthman ibn Affan killers, not to fight Muawiyah.
Preparation for battle
They evidently believed that Ali was wrong to occupy himself in other tasks before finding Uthman's murderer. They challenged Ali's caliphate under the claim that Ali had been unsuccessful in finding Uthman's murderer, claiming Qisas for Uthman. While passing Madina, on their way to Iraq, Aisha, Talha and Zubair passed a group of Umayyads leaving Madina led by Marwan who said that the people who had killed Uthman, had also been causing them trouble. Everyone then went to Basra, which was the beginning of the first civil war in Islam. Some historians put the number at around 3000 people.
On learning of the advance of Aisha, Talha and Zubair, Ali set out to meet them. He had with him only 700 men. Too weak to proceed, he camped at a desert well in Nejd. He sent his elder son Hasan, in company with former Kufa governor Ammar ibn Yasir, to request assistance from Kufa; their appeal eventually had the desired effect. Several thousand men from Kufa reinforcing his army, Ali was now ready for battle, and descended upon Basra.
Zubair and Talha, then went out to meet Ali. Not all Basra was with them. Beni Bekr, the tribe once led by the second Caliph, joined the army of Ali. Beni Temeem decided to remain neutral.
Professor Leila Ahmed claims that it was during this engagement that Muslims fought Muslims for the first time. The battle was a reflection of pre-Islamic practices of bloodshed for vigilantly causes.
Some chieftains of the Kufa tribes contacted their tribes living in Basra. A Chieftain contacted Ali to settle the matter. Ali did not want to fight and Ali agreed to negotiate. He then contacted Aisha and spoke to her, "Is it not wise to shed the blood of five thousand for the punishment of five hundred" She agreed to settle the matter. Ali then met Talha and Zubair and told them about the prophecy of Muhammad. Ali's cousin Zubair said to Ali "What a tragedy that the Muslims who had acquired the strength of a rock are going to be smashed by colliding with one another". Both Talha and Zubair did not want to fight and left the field. Everyone was happy, but not the people who had killed Uthman and the supporters of Ibn Saba and the Qurra, who later became the Khawarij. They thought that if a settlement was reached, they would not be safe. The Qurra and the Sabaites launches a night attack and started burning the tents. Ali tried to restrain his men but no one was listening. Everyone thought that the other party had committed breach of trust. Confusion prevailed throughout the night. The Qurra and the Sabaites attacked the Umayyads and the fighting started.
Talhah had also left. On seeing this, Marwan who was also manipulating everyone shot Talhah with a poisoned arrow  saying that he had disgraced his tribe, by leaving the field. According to some Shia accounts Marwan ibn al-Hakam shot  Talha, who became disabled in the leg by the shot, and was carried into Basra, where he died later of his wound. According to Shia sources Marwan said,
By God, now I will not have to search for the man who murdered Uthman.
While in the Sunni sources it says that he said that Talha had disgraced his tribe, by leaving the field.
Qadi Kaab ibn Sur of Basra held the Quran on his head and then advised Aysha to mount her camel to tell people to stop fighting, until he was killed by arrows shot by the forces of Ali. As the battle raged Ali's forces targeted their arrows to pierce the howdah of Aisha. The rebels lead by Aisha then gathered around her and about a dozen of her warriors were beheaded while holding the reins of her camel. However the warriors of Ali faced much casualties during their attempts to reach Aisha as dying corpses lay pilled in heaps. The battle only came to an end when Ali's troops as commanded attacked the camel from the rear and cut off the legs of the beast. Aisha fled from the arrow-pierced howdah and was captured by the forces of Ali.
Ali's cousin Zubair, was by then making his way to Medina and he was killed in an adjoining valley by a Sabait  called Amr ibn Jarmouz, he had followed Zubair and murdered him while he was performing Salah prayers.
Aisha's brother Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, who was Ali's commander, then approached Aisha.
Ali then met Aisha, who was at that time aged 45, there was reconciliation between them and Ali pardoned Aisha. He then sent Aisha to Medina under military escort headed by her brother Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, one of Ali's commanders. She subsequently retired to Medina with no more interference with the affairs of state. Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr was the son of Abu Bakr, the adopted son of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, and the great-grandfather of Ja‘far al-Sadiq. Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr was raised by Ali alongside Hasan and Husein. Hassan also accompanied Aisha part of the way back to Madina. ‘Ali and Aisha were said to have become friends after the battle. Aisha then started teaching in Medina and deeply resented Marwan.
Tom Holland writes in the best selling book "The shadow of the sword, The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World "Marwan was fabulously venal and slippery. Nothing he had done had helped to improve his reputation for double dealing.
According to historian William Muir, 10,000 people lost their life in this battle, with each party bearing equal loss. In the three days after the battle, Ali performed a funeral service for all the dead from both parties.
Ali's forces overcame the rebels, and the defeated army was treated with generosity. Ali met Aisha, who was at that time aged 45, there was reconciliation between them. He sent her back to Medina under military escort headed by her brother Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, one of Ali's commanders. She subsequently retired to Medina with no more interference with the affairs of state.
When the head of Zubayr ibn al-Awwam was presented to Ali by Ahnaf ibn Qais, the Caliph Ali couldn't help but to sob and condemn the murder of his cousin this reaction caused Ahnaf ibn Qais to commit suicide by stabbing himself.
Two decades later, after years of planning and scheming and making every one else fight, Marwan came to power in Syria and the Qurra (the Kharijites) established a state in Southern Iraq.
Soldiers of Caliph Ali's Army
- Malik al-Ashtar
- Hasan ibn Ali
- Hussain ibn Ali
- Ammar ibn Yasir
- Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr
- Muslim ibn Aqeel
- Harith ibn Rab'i
- Jabir ibn Abd-Allah
- Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah
- Abu Ayub Ansari
- Abu Qatada bin Rabyee
- Qays ibn Sa'd
- Qathm bin Abbas
Soldiers of Aisha's Army
- Talha ibn Ubayd-Allah
- Muhammad ibn Talha
- Zubayr ibn al-Awwam
- Marwan ibn al-Hakam
- Abd al-Rahman I
- Abdullah ibn al-Walid (KIA)
- Abdullah ibn Hakim (KIA)
- Abdullah ibn Saffron
- Yahya ibn Hakim ibn Safwan
- Amir ibn Mascud ibn Umayya ibn Khalaf
- Ayyiib b. Habib b. Alqama b. Rabia
- Abdullah ibn Abi Uthman ibn al-Akhnas ibn Sharlq (KIA)
- Abdullah bin Aamir Hadhrami of Makkah
- Ya'la bin Umayya
- Abdullah bin Aamir bin Kurayz of Basra
- Saeed bin Aas
- Mughira bin Shaaba
Muslim conquest of the Levant
Year: 656 CE
Battle of Siffin
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Battle of the Camel.|
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