|Malik ibn al-Harith
|Titles: al-Ashtar and al-Nakha'i|
|Known For||Being a loyal companion of Muhammad and Ali|
|Influences||Allah, Muhammad, Ali, and the Ahl al-Bayt|
|Cause of Death||Poisoned honey ordered by Umayyad Caliph Mu'awiyah|
|Sons||Ishaq (Isaac) and Ibrahim (Abraham)|
|Opponents||Enemies of Allah,Enemies of Islam,Enemies of Muhammad, and Enemies of the Ahl al-Bayt|
Malik Al-Ashtar (Arabic: مالك الأشتر) (also known as Malik bin al-Harith al-Nakha'i) was one of the most loyal companions of Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the cousin of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Malik al-Ashtar became a Muslim during the time of Muhammad. And since then, he constantly tried to purify his soul while being a good Muslim. His hunger for purification rose him to a position of prominence during the caliphate of Ali Ibn Abi Talib. He participated in several battles, such as the Battle of Jamal and Siffin. However, he is recognized for his pious and humble nature, as well as his fierce and steadfast defense for Islam in battle.
- 1 Birth
- 2 Converting to Islam
- 3 al-Ashtar
- 4 Conflicts with the governor of Kufa and the Event of Al-Rabathah
- 5 The Downfall of Uthman and Malik's Resolution
- 6 Battle of Jamal
- 7 Battle of Siffeen
- 8 Becoming Governor of Egypt
- 9 Mu'awiyah's Poisoned Honey Plot
- 10 Martyrdom
- 11 Life Lessons
- 12 Descendants
- 13 References
- 14 External links
Although Malik's actual birth year is not known, many historians say that he was 10 years older than Ali Ibn Abi Talib and 20 years younger than Muhammad. Moreover, it is known that Malik was a Madh'hij, a sub-class of the Bani Nakha tribe from Yemen. which is also the tribe of another Sahabah named Amru bin Ma'adi Yakrib
His lineage is traced back to Yarab bin Qahtan which genealogy can be traced by sorting his paternal surname Malik bin Al Hareth bin Abed Yaghouth bin Salamah bin Rabha bin Al Harith bin Jathima bin Malik bin Al Naghe bin Amro bin Alaae bin Khald bin Mathgah bin Addad bin Zayd bin Urayb bin Zayd bin Kahlan bin Saba al Akbar bin Youshgab bin Yarab
Converting to Islam
Six months before the final expedition (under Muhammad), Muhammad told Khalid ibn al-Walid to go to the people of Yemen and deliver them the message of Allah. They are good people, they are honorable people, they are people of great value. Khalid go to them and speak to them in a way that will bring them to Islam. However, Khalid ibn al-Walid's approach made many of them upset, they were not familiar with his ways. They began to deny his message. When the news reached Muhammad, he turned to Ali and told him go to the people of Yemen and spread the message of Islam. Obeying the prophet's command, Ali went to the people of Yemen with a group of soldiers. As Ali mentioned the word Islam, the people of Yemen started to throw stones at him because they were still upset about the incident with Khalid ibn al-Walid. The soldier turned to Ali and asked him if they should retaliate. Despite being hit by stone, Ali told his soldiers to remain calm and patient because they had not heard about the true Islam. The choice to remain patient left a monumental effect in the minds of the Yemenis. After they finished pelting him with stones, Ali conveyed to them the religion of Islam. But they were more drawn to the fact that even though they abused and angered Ali, he maintained his neutral mannerism . As a result, many of the Yemeni tribes such as the Kinda, Banu Nakha, Hamadan, Thaftan tribe were inspired by Imam Ali and converted to Islam. In a similar way, Malik, Kumayl ibn Ziyad, Hujr ibn Adi, and Uwais al-Qarni was inspired by Ali's manners and teachings. Therefore, they all (including Malik) decided to convert to Islam.
Al-Ashtar is a title given to Malik after the Battle of Yarmouk (which was 4 years after the passing away of Muhammad). The Battle of Yarmouk was a battle between the Byzantines (Romans) and the Muslims during Caliph Ummar's rule. During the intense battle, Malik's eyelid was cut off by a sword. As a result, he got the title "al-Ashtar" which is Arabic word for someone whose eyelid has been attacked or has been injured. However, there were four other Arabs during that time who were also given the same title, al-Ashtar. These were al-Ahster al-Umree, al-Ashtar ibn Ammer, al-Ashtar Bisher bin Abdullah, al-Ahstar al-Hammamme. Malik was also given the title al-Nakha'i, which simply means a member of the Nakha tribe.
Conflicts with the governor of Kufa and the Event of Al-Rabathah
In the year 30 AH (after Hijra) or 650 CE, many Muslims living in the city of Kufa were angered over the action of the governor Waleed ibn Uqba (the half brother of Uthman ibn Affan). Al-Waleed ibn Uqba was disliked and was a very controversial figure because of his actions. Even the Quran (sure 49 verse 6), exposes his character by stating that he is an evil man. In addition, Muhammad described him as a Fasiq (open sinner). He (Muhammad) said, "He is an open sinner (Fasiq), get him out of the Islamic state." He was known to be an alcoholic who publicly consumed alcohol and was disliked because Islam prohibits the consumption of alcohol. The tipping point came when al-Waleed entered the mosque drunk to lead Fajr Namaz (morning prayer). He was so intoxicated that he read four Raka'ats. In fact, Ibn Taymiya, a 13th-century Sunni Islamic scholar stated, "The Companions would pray behind people whom they knew to be open transgressors, such as when Abd-Allah ibn Mas'ud and other companions would pray behind Walid ibn 'Uqba ibn Abi Mu'it, who may have recently drunken alcohol (when he was praying) and would wind up praying four rakaats." However, Fajr namaz (morning prayer) is only two raka'ats. At the end of his fourth raka'at, al-Waleed turned around and asked the people if he should continue the prayer. This event enraged many Muslim citizens. They started to criticize him in markets, houses, and mosques. Furthermore, they started to question the leadership and judgement of Uthman bin Affan. Because clearly to them al-Waleed was violating the teachings of Islam and the rights of the Muslims. Thus, Malik al-Ashtar addressed the concerned Muslims by saying "First we'd better advise him. Then we'll tell the Caliph about his bad behavior." So, Malik al-Ashtar and a group of ten people, one of whom was Kumayl ibn Ziyad, went to the palace of al-Waleed to address the issues they were having with him. However, they found him drinking alcohol. The delegation told him to behave in a proper manner, he scolded them, told them to leave and exiled them to Shaam (modern day Damascus, Syria). When the delegation of men reached Shaam, they addressed the issue to Mu'awiyah, who was the governor.
- After listening to the issues, Mu'awiyah told Kumayl "How dare you speak out the person in Kufa. How dare you disunity the religion of Allah."
- Kumayl replied "Its that man (referring to al-Waleed) who is disuniting. And Allah tells us to be beware of corrupt rulers."
- Mu'awiyah replied, "The Quran says obey Allah, obey the prophet, and obey the leaders from amongst you. I am from the leader amongst you."
- Kumayl replied, "You're not my leader and nothing to do with my leader. My leader is someone else :Mu'awiyah then told him and the delegation "Very well, you been exiled from Kufa. I'll exile you and Malik al-Ashtar from Shaam as well."
They were exiled them from Shaam to Homs. But eventually, Malik al-Ashtar, Kumayl ibn Ziyad, and the delegation made it back to Kufa. After coming back to Kufa and failing to remove al-Waleed, the delegation of Muslims (one of whom was Kumayl ibn Ziyad) led by Malik al-Ashtar set off on a journey to Madina, the capital of the Muslim empire, to address the issue with Uthman. Kumayl ibn Ziyad, Malik al-Ashtar, Muhammad ibn Abi Hudhaifa, and Abdur Rahman ibn Udays were the ones who spoke out most about al-Waleed and the corruption that was occurring.
The Event of al-Rabathan
On their way to Madina, Malik al-Ashtar and the delegation stopped at al-Rabathan to visit Abu Dharr al-Ghifari. Abu Dharr, who was a companion of Muhammad and firm supporter and companion of Ali, was banished to die in the desert of Al-Rabathan. At the time, 650 a.d, Abu Dharr's health was deteriorating. Narrations state that his wife would cry, seeing her husband slowly die in the desert. However, Abu Dharr told her the prophecy of his death, which was given to him the none other than Muhammad, messenger of God. He would say, "One day, my friends and I was sitting with Allah's Apostle (Muhammad). And he said to us: One of you will die in the desert. And a group of believers will attend his death. All my friends passed away in their houses. And no one has remained but I. A person will come to your aid." His was then stated, "The time of Hajj (Pilgrimage) is over. And no one has passed through this desert." Abu Dharr then told her "Don't worry! Go up the hill and look at the road of caravans." So she went and eventually saw a caravan coming towards her. When she saw the caravan, she started to wave a piece of cloth to get the attention of the on coming caravan. When the caravan approached her she started a conversation.
- "My husband is dying. And no one is beside him."
- The caravan men: "And who's your husband?"
- "Abu Dharr, the companion of Allah's Apostle!"
- The caravan men were surprised. So, they said: "Abu Dhar! The Prophet's companion! Come on! Let's see him!"
- The men went to the tent. When they came into it, they saw Abu Dhar sleeping in his bed. They said:"Assalamu Alaik, companion of Allah's Apostle!"
- Abu Dharr: "Wa Alaikum al-Salam, who are you?"
- One of the men said: "Malik bin al-Haarth al-Ashtar. And there are some men with me from Iraq. We're going to Madina to tell the Caliph about the persecution we suffer from."
- Abu Dharr: "My brothers, be cheerfull! Allah's Apostle [s] has told me that I'll die in the desert and that some believers will attend my death."
Malik and the delegation then sat next to Abu Dhurr. They felt sorrow to see one of the great companions of the prophet in bad condition. Malik told Abu Dhurr that they were on their way to Medina to meet with Uthman over the issue of al-Waleed. Upon hearing the news of al-Waleed, Abu Dhur became sad.
After the event of al-Rabathah, Malik and the delegation continued on their long journey to Medina. When finally met Uthman, they communicated their concerns and al-Waleed's behaviors to Uthman. However they were unsuccessful in their mission thus they decided to seek Hazrat Ali's help.
The Downfall of Uthman and Malik's Resolution
Since Uthman denied to hear the concerns about al-Waleed, the delegation of concerned Muslims went to the house of Ali in Medina. They told Ali the situation with al-Waleed and Uthman. Ali was sad to hear the news. However, he assured them that he would visit Uthman personally regarding this issue. In his meeting with Uthman, Ali said "Uthman, the Muslims are complaining of the rulers' persecution. And you know that very well I've heard Allah's Apostle (Muhammad) saying: On the Day of Judgement, the unjust imam will be brought to hell. And no one will support or excuse him. Then, he will be thrown into hell. He'll go round and round it till he gets into its intense heat." This statement made Uthman realize his mistakes. And as a result, Uthman promised to seek God's forgiveness and apologize to the Muslims. However, Marwan bin al-Hakam, the cousin of Uthman, persuaded Uthman not to do so by saying "You'd better threaten the people so as no one would dare to say bad words against the Caliph (Uthman)." Due to Marwan, Uthman broke his promise and became stricter. It is documented that he hit the noble companion Ammar ibn Yasir and whipped the companion Abdullah bin Masoud. The stricter policies caused an uproar in the Muslim empire; people began writing letter such as the following below.
- Muslims, come to us. And save the Caliphate. Allah's Book has been changed. And the Prophet's Sunnah has been changed. So, come to us if you believe in Allah and the Day of Judgement.
In a true democratic matter, Malik al-Ashtar represented the enraged Muslim in a meeting with Uthman. In the meeting, Malik asked Uthman to step down from power, but Uthman refused. Uthman's refusal to step down only led to increasing problems. Ali tried to help Uthman and resolve the issue. He sent his own two sons, Hasan ibn Ali and Hussein ibn Ali to go to Uthman and protect him from the angry protesters. Despite this, protesters broke into Uthman's room and killed him. After the killing of Uthman, many Muslims went to Ali and asked him to become the new caliph (leader). But he refused, but Malik and others insisted that he become the caliph. To which Malik addresses, "People, this is the Prophet's Regent. He has learnt the Prophet's knowledge. Allah's Book has mentioned his belief. Allah's Apostle [s] has told him that he will enter al-Ridhwan Garden. His personality is perfect The people in the past and present are certain of his behaviour and knowledge." Malik was one of the first to appoint Ali as the new caliph.
Battle of Jamal
After the downfall of Uthman, many Muslims wanted to gain power within the Islamic Empire. However, Ali was appointed as the new caliph. This upset power-hungry Muslims and the enemies of Ali. As a result, they planned to launch an offensive in the year 656 AD to fight against Ali under the claim that they wanted revenge for the killing of Uthman. One of these was Marwan al Hakim, who would later become a loyal supporter of Mu'awiyah. Marwan played a key role in the Battle of Jamal, in that he formed an large army to fight against Ali. He also bankrolled the army with money that he had stolen from the Public Treasury (money which was supposed to be for Muslim citizens) during the time of Uthman. The army included Aisha, Talha (a friend of Ali), Zubair (the cousin of Ali), and Marwan. Once the army was formed, the rebels headed to Basrah, Iraq. When Ali got news that a mutiny was going to occur, he also formed an army to combat the rebel forces. During the mutiny, the new governor of Kufa, Abu Musa al-Ashary, encouraged the Kufains (citizens of Kufa) not to join Ali's army. Additionally, he encouraged the people to distance themselves and disobey the new caliph, Ali. When Ali realized the situation in Kufa, he sent Malik al-Ashter to rally up troops. As a firm and loyal supporter of Ali Ibn Abi Talib, Malik rallied up the Kufian (citizens of Kufa) with a powerful speech. In the meantime, Abu Musa al-Ashary was commanding people to stay in their homes and not fight for Ali. Malik understood that he needed to remove Abu Musa al-Ashary. So Malik and a large group of fighters seized the palace. Luckily, Abu Musa al-Ashary was at the mosque. His guards informed him that Malik al-Ashtar and a large number of fighters had taken control of the palace. Since Abu Musa al-Ashary was not capable of fighting off Malik, he surrendered. And asked Malik to give him a day to leave Kufa. Malik accepted his offer and let Abu Musa al-Ashary leave peacefully. Once Abu Musa al-Ashary left, Malik delivered another powerful speech (in the mosque) that captivated the hearts of the Kufains. The speech successfully aroused more than 18,000 soldier to join him in order to defend against the rebel attack. 9,000 of those troops were under Malik's commands and the other 9,000 were under Hasan (the eldest son of Ali) commands. They quickly headed towards Dhiqaar, Iraq to join Ali's army. On the day of the Battle of Camel, Ali Ibn Abi Talib put Malik al-Ashtar in charge of the right wing of his army, Ammar ibn Yasir in charge of the left wing of his army, and gave the flag to his son Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah. After both sides introduced themselves (Arabian custom/tradition), Ali asked his army not to attack because they might be mistaken. He also asked his army is there is a brave soul who can take the Quran and appeal to them (the rebels). A brave young man told Ali that he is willing to do it. When the young man turned towards the rebels, the rebels killed him. After this, Ali raised his hands towards the sky and prayed "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!" When he finished, the war began. Malik al-Ashtar and his soldiers advanced fighting bravely. During the war, Ali Ibn Abi Talib told Malik that as long as the camel of Aisha is standing the war will continue. In order, to end the war he orders Malik al-Ashtar to cut the feet of the Aisha's camel. In addition, he orders Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, the blood brother of Aisha, to catch Aisha when she falls of the camel. Both Malik and Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr carried out their assignments, thus ending the battle. Above all, Ali ordered his soldiers to escort Aisha safely back to Medina, release the prisoners of war, and cure the injured rebels. Moreover, he forgave/pardoned all the rebels for their actions. However after the war, Malik al-Ashtar and Ammar bin Yasir went to Aisha. Many scholars state that Malik was 70 years old in the Battle of Jamal. Overall, Malik al-Ahstar was the main cavalry and commander of the army of Ali Ibn Abi Talib in the Battle of Jamal (Battle of the Camel).
Battle of Siffeen
The Spark of War
The Battle of Siffeen was caused by Mu'awiyah who seek to eliminate the caliphate of Ali in the year 657 AD. Tension arises when Ali was removing all the corrupt governors from power. In particular, the area near Shaam (modern day Damascus). Ali placed Malik al-Ashtar as governor of Mousal, Sinjar, Naseebeen, Heet, and Anat (areas on the borders of Shaam). Mu'awiyah, who became fearful that he was going to be removed from power by Ali. So the dictator, Mu'awiyah, formed an army to defend his position and power. Ali and Mu'awiyah in the meantime were exchanging letters (the letters can be found in the Nahj al-Balagha). But Mu'awiyah did not obey the caliph's orders (Ali). Consequently, Ali sent his army to advance towards Shaam. The two armies meet at Kirkeesya. Ali believed that he could persuade Mu'awiyah and the rebels not to start another mutiny. Malik al-Ashtar also tried to persuade the opposition not to fight against the ruling caliph ( Ali). At nightfall, Mu'awiyah's army led by Abi al-Awar al-Salmy launched a surprise attack even though the two parties were still in negotiation. This action violated Islamic religious teachings, thus sparking the war. Ali and his army were able to suppress the surprise attack. Many of the attackers were killed or injury by the counter of Ali's army.
Malik's Duel Proposal
Battles Over The Euphrates River
Although the minor conflict occurred in Kirkeesya, the war took place at Siffeen (on the banks of the Euphrates) when Mu'awiyah headed a large reinforcing army to join Abi al-Awar al-Salmy and his army (Mu'awiyah's first army that attacked at night). Mu'awiyah brought reinforcements because during the minor conflict many of his soldiers were killed and injured. When they got to Siffeen, Mu'awiyah ordered an offensive to his army to gain control of the Euphrates River. By taking the controlling the water, Mu'awiyah violated an Islamic law and the laws of war. Therefore, Ali sent Sasaah bin Suhan, one of the companions of the Prophet, to ask for some water. He states to Mu'awiyah, "Mu'awiyah, Ali says: Let us 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 replied "I'll answer you later on." After Sasaah bin Suhan left, Mu'awiyah sought advice from his trusted men about what he should do about the water situation. Al-Waleed bin Uthbah (the ex-governor of Kufa, which the Quran calls a Fasiq Sura 49 Verse 6) advised Mu'awiyah to "Prevent them from drinking water to force them to surrender." Mu'awiyah and the other men agreed. Over the course of time, Malik watched the military supply and movements taking place on the river banks. He then realized that Mu'awiyah is tightening the siege of the Euphrates River. During the coarse of war, the soldier in the army of Ali Ibn Abi Talib became thirsty due to the physical exertion and blistering heat. Even Malik himself became thirsty. To which a man came up to Malik and said "There's only little water in my water-skin, please drink it." But Malik refused and told him "I won't drink till all soldiers drink!" Noticing that most of the soldiers were thirsty, Malik went to Ali and said "Amirul Mu'mineen, our soldiers are very thirsty. We've nothing but fighting." So Ali Ibn Abi Talib wrote a letter to Muawiyah asking for water. However, Mu'awiyah denied giving Ali Ibn Abi Talib's soldiers water. Once again, Malik al-Ashtar plays a huge role for the army of Ali Ibn Abi Talib . Ali Ibn Abi Talib calls Malik and asks him to lead his soldiers in an attack to gain possession of the Euphrates River. Malik and his men fight valiantly and won back the possession of the Euphrates river. The following day, an with a letter attached was shoot at Ali's army. Soldiers read the letter which said "From a loyal brother in the Shamian Army, Mu'awiyah is going to open the river to drown you. So, be careful!" and passed the news around. This news caused the soldiers to withdraw from the banks of the Euphrates River. Mu'awiyah noticed this and decided to recapture the river for his army. Yet again, Ali sends his soldiers to fight of Mu'awiyah's troops and gain control of the river. At this point, Mu'awiyah became worried that now Ali won't allow them to drink water from the river. He even ask Amr ibn al-As, "Do you think Ali will prevent us from drinking water?" To which Amr replied, "Ali doesn't do as you do!" Ironically, Mu'awiyah's writes a letter to Ali Ibn Abi Talib asking him for water since his (Mu'awiyah) soldiers were now thirsty. Ali Ibn Abi Talib grants Mu'awiyah and his soldiers permission to drink water from the Euphrates River. Allowing the rebels to drink water changed the mindset of some people in Mu'awiyah's army. They reflected upon both Mu'awiyah and Ali. And realized that Mu'awiyah did everything and anything including breaking Islamic laws to win the war. Whereas, Ali did everything to represent the true Islam even if it meant losing the war. And at nighttime, some of Mu'awiyah's troops went and joined Ali's army because they represented the truth and humanity.
Malik and Ali's dialog
Malik was a brave and fearless warrior. There are several Ahadith which state that Malik al-Ahstar and Ali Ibn Abi Talib steamrollered through Mu'awiyah's army. One particular ahadith says that Malik al-Ashtar and Ali Ibn Abi Talib fought in a tandem destroying opposing soldiers.
- While fighting Malik tells Ali Ibn Abi Talib that "I killed the same number of soldier as you)."
- Ali Ibn Abi Talib says "how do you know".
- Malik replies "I count every time you say Allahu akbar (God is great) and from the number of times you said Allahuakbr we killed the same number".
- Ali Ibn Abi Talib turns around and replies "there is a difference between who I have killed and who you have killed."
- Malik then turns around and asks "whats the difference."
- Ali Ibn Abi Talib says "You kill any of the opposition that come in your way. I look seven generations down their line. If I see a good Muslim in their line I will not kill the person. No if I see a good human in their line I will not kill the person."
Malik's Discipline and The End of The War
As the battle continued, Malik al-Ashtar fought his way through the opposing army until he was two rows away from Mu'awiyah's tent. Only two rows away from killing Mu'awiyah and ending the war. However, a situation occurred. Mu'awiyah wanted to trick Ali's army to stop fighting and disunite them by creating confusion. Mu'awiyah loved the idea and ordered his soldiers to place the Quran on their spear. When most of the soldiers of Ali saw this they stopped fighting. Though Ali knew that it was a trick by Mu'awiyah to create confusion and disunity, he told his army "It's a trick! I was the first to invite them to Allah's Book. And I was the first to believe in it. They've disobeyed Allah and broken His promise." (this is referring to the negotiation/persuading process before the war) Ali wanted his soldier to continue fighting because they were so close to victory. Despite Ali's effort, 22,000 soldiers dsobeyed his commands and said "Stop fighting and order al-Ashtar to withdraw!" Knowing that his own soldiers had turned their backs on him and a few group of true believers, Ali Ibn Abi Talib told his soldiers to command Malik to return for safety reasons. The messenger gave Malik the order. Even though, Malik knew that he has the opportunity to end the war and rid the world of Ma'uwiyah, he stopped and returned. Malik said "If Ali ibn Abi Talib orders something, I have to return".
They ceased fighting and agreed to an arbitration according to the Quran. Mu'awiyah chose Amr ibn al-As to represent him and Ali chose Abdullah bin Abbas (because he was a wise man who had a good knowledge of the Quran). But the rebel did not agree to Abdullah bin Abbas and told Ali to pick Abu Musa al-Ashary (because Abu Musa was not really a firm supporter of Ali therefore the rebels could get an upper hand in the arbitration). Ali replied to them saying "I disagree with you on him. And Abdullah bin Abbas is better than he (Abu Musa)." But the rebels again denied. Ali then chose Malik al-Ashtar to represent him. Once again, the rebels refused and insisted for Abu Musa. To avoid further chaos/conflict, Ali told them "Do whatever you like!" As a result, Amr ibn al-As and Abu Musa entered the arbitration. Knowing that Abu Musa was not a firm supporter of Ali, Amr ibn al-As deceived Abu Musa by saying "Abu Musa, Mu'awiyah and Ali have caused all these troubles. So, lets dispose them and elect another man." Abu Musa took the bait and stated "I'm removing Ali from the caliphate as I'm removing my ring from my finger." And removed his ring. Afterwards, Amr ibn al-As said "I'm fixing Mu'awwiyah to the caliphate as I'm fixing my ring to my finger." And wore his ring. The tricked worked but Ali still had control of the caliphate. Both sided did agree to truces and a year of peace (no wars). Ali commanded his soldiers not to fight for a year, but a large group (who developed their own beliefs of "La Hukma Illa Lillah", meaning, "no rulership except by Allah alone.") broke away from Ali and disobeyed the agreement/orders. They became known as the Khawarij and fought Ali in the Battle of Nahrawan.
Becoming Governor of Egypt
At the time, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr was the governor of Egypt. Amr ibn al-As, one of Mu'awiyah's companion, want to become the governor of Egypt. So Amr ibn al-As rallied 6,000 soldiers and headed towards Egypt. After finding out about the possible overthrow, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr wrote to Ali Ibn Abi Talib asking for help and support. Ali Ibn Abi Talib wrote back assuring Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, Ali Ibn Abi Talib adopted son, that he is sending his best general and one of his best friend, Malik al-Ashtar. Ali then told Malik "Malik, may Allah have mercy on you, go to Egypt. I've absolute trust in you. Rely on Allah! Use gentleness in its places and intensity in its place."
Letter 38 in the Peak of Eloquence (Nahjul Balagha)
- From the creature of Allah, Ali bin Abi Talib, to people whose anger and enmity was on account of Allah. They got angry when they saw that their land was being run over by people disobedient to Allah, when rights were being crushed and obligations were being ignored and spurned, when tyranny and oppression were the order of the day and every good or bad person and every local resident or outsider had to face them; when goodness and piety were taboos and when nobody cared to keep himself away from vices and sins.
- After glorifying Allah and paying homage to the Holy Prophet be it known to you that I am sending towards you a creature of Allah who forsakes rest and sleep during days of danger, and who does not fear his enemy in the critical junctures, and who is more severe than burning fire to sinners and vicious people. He is Malik bin Harith Mazhiji (Mazzhiji is a sub-class of Bani Nakha). Hear him and obey his commands which you will find to be right and according to true canons of Islam. He is such a sword among the swords of Allah that its sharpness will never get blunt or whose stroke and blow will never be without effect and who will never lose an opportunity. If he orders you to advance against your enemies, then advance; if he commands you to halt then halt because he himself will neither advance nor halt and will never give orders to advance, halt or retreat without my consent. In sending him to you, I have given preference to your needs over those of mine (I also require him as the Chief of my Staff but I preferred to send him to your help and protection) so that he may serve you faithfully and may treat your enemies severely and strongly.
- Furthermore, (Rajiv Gandhi use to give letter 53 to his new cabinet members and in 1997 Kofi Annan did a survey in the UN to find the greatest document of justice ever. As a result the UN concluded that Letter 53 in the Peak of Eloquence was the greatest document of justice ever. In addition, the UN has made a plaque about this letter)
Muhammad ibn Abū-Bakr was instructed to return to ʻAlī's capital city, Kufa. Malik Al-Ashtar was appointed Governor of Egypt in 658 (38 A.H.) by Alī ibn Abī-Tālib, the caliph of the Muslims, after the Battle of Siffin had ended.
Mu'awiyah's Poisoned Honey Plot
When Mu'awiyah got the news that Ali appointed Malik al-Ashtar as the new governor of Egypt, he (Mu'awiyah) got scared and worried because Mu'awiyah knew that Malik would bring stability to Egypt. But Mu'awiyah knew that Malik could not be defeated by a duel or battle so he had to think of an indirect way to kill Malik, since his first plot to kill Makil al-Ashtar failed. After thinking it out, Mu'awiyah concocted a plan to give Malik poisoned honey. For this plan, Mu'awiyah imported the poisons from Rome. The Byzantines (Romans) permitted Mu'awiyah to import the highly toxic poisons because they knew that Mu'awiyah would use them to kill the Muslims. Now that Mu'awiyah got the poisons from the Romans, he need a way to make Malik al-Ashtar eat the poisoned honey. Amr ibn al-As, who was embarrassed after running away from the duel with Malik, told Mu'awiyah "I know a man. The man lives in al-Qilzim City (a service station/resting spot for travelers) on the borders of Egypt. He has vast lands. Certainly Malik al-Ashtar will pass through the city and stop in it to rest." Mu'awiyah liked this idea and said "Let's send a man to tell him to kill al-Ashtar and we won't tax him for life." Mu'awiyah's quickly dispatched a delegate to set out for Egypt with the poisoned honey and the tax proposal to persuade the man to kill Malik al-Ashtar. The delegate conveyed the villainous plan to the man. After hearing that about the tax exemption, the man agreed to give Malik the poisoned honey when he arrives.
On the way to Egypt, Malik al-Ashtar decided to stop at al-Qilzim. Upon his arrival, the man (who agreed to poison Malik) invited Malik, the new governor of Egypt, for lunch at his house. Malik humbly accepted the man's invitation without knowing that he was going to kill him. They went to his home to have lunch. The man placed the poisoned honey in a cup and placed it on the table. Malik took a spoon full of the poisoned honey. When Malik consumed the honey the poison spread rapidly throuthout his body. Malik realized that he was poisoned as soon as he felt pain in his stomach. After realizing that he was poisoned, Malik placed his hand on his stomach and said "In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. We belong to Allah, and we'll come back to Him!" The poison was so destructive and toxic that within moments Malik al-Ashtar passes away. When the news of Malik's death arrived to Mu'awiyah, he was full of happiness and joy. And he said, "Ali ibn Abu Talib had two hands. I cut off one of them on the day of Siffeen. It was Ammar bin Yasir. And today I've cut off the other hand. It is Malik al-Ashtar." Other narrations state that Mu'awiyah said "Now I have cut the two wings of Ali Ibn Abi Talib." The reference to the two wings were Ammar ibn Yasir (martyred in the Battle of Siffin) and Malik al-Ashtar (martyred in al-Qilzim, Egypt). Malik al-Ashtar's marytrdom had an effect on Ali Ibn Abi Talib. The news of his martyrdom made him sad. Reflecting on the martyrdom of one of his best friends, Ali said, "Malik. Who is Malik. If he was a stone he would be solid and hard. And if he was a rock he would be a great rock with no parallel. Women would become baron to give birth to a man like Malik..... Malik was to me as I was to Rasulullah (Muhammad)." He also said, "May Allah have mercy on Malik! He loved and obeyed me as I loved and obeyed Allah's Apostle (Muhammad)." Furthermore, many traditions/narratives state that Malik is amongst those who will be resurrected before the return of Muhammad al-Mahdi and Prophet Isa (Jesus).
Malik was a very humble man, who normally wore simple clothing. He used to look like a poor person and most people would not be able to recognize him. Furthermore, he exemplified his humble nature even at war. Malik would not kill the wounded or chase after those who fled unless ordered by Ali to do so. He wanted to mirror the manner and attributes of his master, best friend, and leader Ali.
A man who sold date stones (seeds) one day decided to pelt an old man who he saw walking in the market place of Kufa with some leftover date stone. So he picked up some dates stones and chucked it at the old man's head without realizing that the old man was Malik al-Ashtar (because Malik was wearing an Arabic shawl). But Malik continues walking. The man who threw the date stones started laughing. Another man came up to the laughing man and asked him if he knew the man whom he pelted with the date stone. The man replied no. The other informed him that the old man you pelted with date stones was Malik al-Ashtar leader of li's armed forces. The man got scared, so he went looking for Malik. Eventually, he found Malik in the Mosque praying. After Malik finished, the man asked for forgiveness. Malik replied do not worry I came to the mosque to pray asking God to forgive you.
Malik had two sons, the first was named Ishaq (Isaac) and the other was named Ibrahim (Abraham). Ishaq was a phenomenal warrior who supported and valiantly gave his life to protect Hussain ibn Ali, the son of Ali, in the Battle of Karbala. After Habib ibn Muzahir, Ishaq killed the most enemy fighters. On the other hand, Ibrahim ibn Malik al-Ashtar, the son of Malik al-Ashtar, along with Mukhtar al-Thaqafi rose against the killers of Hussain ibn Ali. The two killed most of the killers of Hussain and his army. For example they caught and killed Umar ibn Sa'ad, Shimr ibn Thil-Jawshan, Sanan ibn Anas, Hurmala ibn Kahil, and Ubaidullah Ibn Ziyad (these were Yazid I's soldiers who fought against Hussain).
Among his descendants are the Kalbasi family, who reside in Iran and some reside in Iraq. One branch of this family adds the title "Ashtari" to the end of their family name to denote this fact. In Lebanon, the Hamadani family from the southern town of Nabatieh are also direct descendants who have maintained a family tree dating back to the Nakha'i tribe origins. The Mroueh family, after tracing their lineage, are also believed to be descendants.
- Nakshawani, Ammar "Biography of Malik al-Ashtar." N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2013. http://www.sayedammar.com/ARBAEEN%202011/arbaeen2011poppa.html
- Ibn Abi Talib, Ali. Nahjul Balagha = Peak of Eloquence : Sermons, Letters, and Sayings of Imam Ali Ibn Abu Talib. Ed. Mohammad Askari. Jafery. Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Quran, 1984. Print.
- Nakshawani, Ammar. "Biography of Kumayl Ibn Ziyad al-Nakha'i." YouTube. Masjid Al Husayn Leicester, 21 Nov. 2012. Web. 01 July 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSxmk_yIrbc>.
- "Biography of Malik al-Ashtar." N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2013. http://www.sayedammar.com/ARBAEEN%202011/arbaeen2011poppa.html
- Sayyid, Kamāl, and Jasim Alyawy. Malik al-Ashtar. [Qum, Iran]: Ansariyan Foundation, 1996. Print.
- Nakshawani, Ammar. "Biography of Kumayl Ibn Ziyad Al Nakhai - Dr Sayed Ammar Nakshawani." YouTube. Masjid Al Husayn Leicester, 21 Nov. 2012. Web. 01 July 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSxmk_yIrbc>.
- Nakshawani, Ammar. "Biography of Malik al-Ahstar." Lecture.
- Malik Al-Ashtar. [Qum, Iran]: Ansariyan Foundation, 1996. Print.
- Lucknow, Aliganj, Siraj Naiyer, A. Kausar, and Basharat Hussain. The Greatest Defender of Faith and Justice. N.p.: International Islamic Thought, 2008. Print. Pg. 26
- "Hazrat Ali's Letter to Maalik Al-Ashtar– Testament of Human Rights and Equality." Majzooban. N.p., 24 May 2013. Web. 21 July 2013. <http://www.majzooban.org/en/articles/4119-hazrat-ali-s-letter-to-maalik-al-ashtar–-testament-of-human-rights-and-equality.html>
- Sanctuary of Malik al-Ashtar in Eski Yurt, Crimea, Ukraine (Russian language)
- http://www.al-islam.org/gallery/kids/Books/companion9/ (Ebook of Kamal al-Syyed on Malik al-Ashtar)