|Part of the Fitnas|
|Caliphate of Ali||Aisha's forces
|Commanders and leaders|
|Ali ibn Abi Talib (and Ahl al-Bayt)
Ammar ibn Yasir
|Aisha bint Abu Bakr
Talha ibn Ubayd-Allah
Zubair ibn al-Awam
'Amr ibn al-'As[b]
The First Fitna (Arabic: فتنة مقتل عثمان fitnat maqtal ʿUthmān "strife/sedition of the killing of Uthman") was a civil war within the Rashidun Caliphate which resulted in the overthrowing of the Rashidun caliphs and the establishment of the Umayyad dynasty. It began when the caliph Uthman ibn Affan was assassinated by Egyptian rebels in 656 and continued through the four-year reign of Uthman's successor Ali ibn Abi Talib. It ended in 661 when Ali's heir Hasan ibn Ali concluded a treaty acknowledging the rule of Muawiyah, the first Umayyad caliph.
The Islamic caliphate expanded very quickly under Muhammad and the first three caliphs. In 639 Muawiyah I was appointed the Governor of Syria by Umar after his elder brother Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan (Governor of Syria) died in a plague, along with Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah (the Governor before him) and 25,000 other people.
The rapid Muslim conquest of Syria and Egypt and the consequent Byzantine losses in manpower and territory meant that the Eastern Roman Empire found itself struggling for survival. The Sassanid Dynasty in Persia had already collapsed.
The Islamic empire expanded at an unprecedented rate, but there was a cost associated with it. Many desert nomads and some bandits living between current-day Iraq and Saudi Arabia also joined in, not out of commitment to Islam but to share the spoils and benefit from the change in the social order, after the defeat of the Persian Empire.
Before Islam, the Roman-Persian Wars and the Byzantine–Sasanian wars had occurred every few years for hundreds of years between 69 BC and 629 AD. High taxes were imposed on the populations in both the Byzantine Roman and Sassanid Persian empires to finance these wars. There was also continuous bloodshed of the people during these wars. The Arab tribes in Mesopotamia were paid by the Persian Sassanids to act as mercenaries, while the Arab tribes in Syria were paid by the Byzantines to act as their mercenaries. The Persians maintained an Arab satellite state of Lakhm and the Byzantine Empire maintained the Arab satellite state of Ghassan, which they used to fight each other. The Syrians and the Mesopotamians had been fighting each other for centuries. Therefore, each wanted the capital of the newly established Islamic state to be in their area.
As Uthman ibn Affan became very old, Marwan I, a relative of Muawiyah I, slipped into the vacuum and became his secretary, slowly assuming more control and relaxing some of these restrictions. Marwan I had previously been excluded from positions of responsibility. Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, the son of Abu Bakr and the adopted son of Ali ibn Abi Talib and Muhammad bin Abi Hudhaifa, the adopted son of Uthman, had no senior positions.
Sects started to form, among them the Sabaites named after Abdullah Ibn Saba. There is also Jewish literature from that time, regarding Abdullah Ibn Saba. Much of the Jewish literature on him from that time regards him as an apostate from Judaism and asks Jews to keep away from him.
There was also the movement towards more autonomous tribal groupings, which was particularly strong in Kufa, in Mesopotamia; they wanted to rule their own states. Among them developed a group called the Qurra, which later became known as the Kharijites. The earliest reference to these people are as Ahl al-Qura, the people of the village, those who fought with Abu Bakr against the desert tribes of Yamama during the Ridda wars when some of the tribes refused to pay taxes. Afterwards they were granted trusteeship over some of the lands in Sawad in Mesopotamia and were now called Ahl al Ayyam, those who had taken part in the eastern conquests. Some modern scholars like R. E. Brunnow trace the origins of the Qurra and the Kharijites back to Bedouin stock and desert tribesmen, who had become soldiers not out of commitment to Islam but to share the spoils. Brunnow held that the Kharijites were Bedouin Arabs or full blooded Arabs.
The Qurra received the highest stipend of the Muslim army, the sharaf al ata, and they had the use of the best lands which they came to regard as their private domain. The Qurra received stipends varying between 2,000 and 3,000 dirhams, while the majority of the rest of the troops received only 250 to 300 dirhams. The other Ridda tribesmen in Kufa, in Mesopotamia, resented the special position given to the Qurra. The tension between the Ridda tribesmen and the Qurra threatened the Qurra's newly acquired prestige. The Qurra therefore felt obliged to defend their position in the new but rapidly changing society.
The Qurra were mainly based in Kufa. They had not been involved in Syria. But later when Uthman declined to give them more lands in Persia they felt that their status was being reduced and therefore started to cause trouble. He also removed the distinction between the Ridda and pre-Ridda tribesmen which was not to their liking and lessened their prestige. As a result, they rebelled.
Some of the people with their tribal names as Qurra had been expelled from Kufa, for fomenting trouble and were sent to Muawiyah in Syria. Then they were sent to Abdur Rahman ibn Khalid ibn Walid who sent them to Uthman in Madina. In Madina they took an oath that they would not cause trouble and following the example of Muhammad, Uthman accepted their word and let them go. They then split up and went to various different Muslim centers and started fomenting rebellion, particularly in Egypt.
The Qurra then felt that Abu Musa al-Ashari could look after their interests better. In 655 the Qurra stopped Uthman's governor Sa'id ibn al-'As at Jara'a, preventing him from entering Kufa and declared Abu Musa al-Ashari to be their governor.
In 656, The Qurra approached Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr the son of Abu Bakr and the adopted son of Ali ibn Abi Talib and asked him why he was not a governor. They had fought under the service of his father in the Ridda wars. They also asked Uthman's adopted son, Muhammad bin Abi Hudhaifa, who Uthman had refused to appoint as a governor of any province, why he was not a governor.
Siege of Uthman
As Muawiyah and Caliph Uthman were preparing to besiege Constantinople, in 656, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr showed some Egyptians the house of Uthman ibn al-Affan. Finding the gate of Uthman's house strongly guarded by his supporters, the Qurra climbed the back wall and sneaked inside, leaving the guards on the gate unaware of what was going on inside. Hassan and Hussein were also guarding Uthman at the time. The rebels entered his room and struck him on the head. Muawiyah sent a relief force led by Habib ibn Maslama al-Fihri to protect Uthman, but Uthman died before they arrived, so they turned back from the wadi i kura According to al-Baladhuri who gives one of the earliest accounts of these events, Ali was furious and slapped Hassan and Hussein saying "How did he get killed when you were at the door?"
Uthman's death had a polarizing effect in the Muslim world at the time. Questions were raised not only regarding his character and policies but also about the relationship between Muslims and the state, religious beliefs regarding rebellion and governance, and the qualifications of rulership in Islam.
Succession of Ali
The people of Medina asked Ali, who had been chief judge in Medina, to become the Caliph and he accepted. Unlike many of the other companions of Muhammad, Ali had not been involved in the camel caravan trade and had less business and administrative experience. Ali was convinced to make Kufa the capital.
Muawiyah I the governor of Syria, a relative of Uthman ibn al-Affan, and Marwan I wanted the murderers of Uthman arrested. In Mesopotamia, many people hated the Syrians. 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.
Battle of the Camel
Aisha bint Abu Bakr (Muhammad's widow), Talhah ibn Ubayd-Allah) and Zubayr ibn al-Awam went to Basra to ask Ali to arrest Uthman ibn Affan's killers, rather than fighting Muawiyah. 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 he agreed. He then contacted Aisha and she agreed to settle the matter. Ali then met Talha and Zubair and both of them left the field.
However, the Qurra and the Sabaites were unhappy with the settlement and launched a night attack. Ali attempted to restrain his men but nobody paid attention, as everyone thought that the other party had breached the trust. Confusion prevailed throughout the night. Qazi K'ab of Basra advised Aisha to mount her camel to tell people to stop fighting. 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, who murdered him while he was praying. Marwan shot Talhah with a poisoned arrow saying that he had disgraced his tribe by leaving the field. With the two generals Zubair and Talhah gone, confusion prevailed.
Aisha's brother Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, Ali's commander and adopted son, approached Aisha. Ali pardoned Aisha and her brother escorted her back to Medina. Hassan also accompanied her part of the way back to Madina. Marwan and some of Ali's supporters who later became the Khawarij caused a lot of trouble. Marwan was arrested but he later asked Hassan and Hussein for assistance and was released.
Battle of Siffin
Ali's inability to punish the murderers of Uthman and Muawiyah's refusal to pledge allegiance eventually led Ali to move his army north to confront Muawiyah. The two armies encamped themselves at Siffin for more than one hundred days, most of the time being spent in negotiations. Neither side wanted to fight. Then on 29 July 657 (11th Safar), the Mesopotamians under Ashtar's command, the Qurra in Ali's army, who had their own camp, started the fighting in earnest. The batte lasted three days. The loss of life was terrible. Suddenly one of the Syrians, Ibn Lahiya, out of fear of further civil war and unable to bear the spectacle rode forward with a copy of the Quran on the ears of his horse to call for judgement by the book of Allah, and the other Syrians followed suit. Everyone on both sides took up the cry, eager to avoid killing their fellow Muslims - except for the conspirators. The majority of Ali's followers supported arbitration. Nasr b Muzahim, in one of the earliest sources states that al-Ashath ibn Qays, one of Ali's key supporters and a Kufan, then stood up and said:"O company of Muslims! You have seen what happened in the day which has passed. In it some of the Arabs have been annihilated. By Allah, I have reached the age which Allah willed that I reach. but I have never ever seen a day like this. Let the present convey to the absent! If we fight tomorrow, it will be the annihilation of the Arabs and the loss of what is sacred. I do not make this statement out of fear of death, but I am an aged man who fears for the women and children tomorrow if we are annihilated. O Allah, I have looked to my people and the people of my deen and not empowered anyone. There is no success except by Allah. On Him I rely and to Him I return. Opinion can be both right and wrong. When Allah decides a matter, He carries it out whether His servants like it or not. I say this and I ask Allah's forgiveness for me and you." Then, Nasr b Muzahim says people looked at Muawiya who said "He is right, by the Lord. If we meet tomorrow the Byzantines will attack our women and children and the people of Persia will attack the women and children of Mesopotamia. Those with forebearance and intelligence see this. Tie the copies of the Quran to the ends of the spears". So the fighting stopped.
Every time Ali tried to negotiate the Qurra and the Sabait started wars and launched night attacks, fearing that if there was peace, then they will be arrested.
It was decided that the Syrians and the residents of Kufa should nominate an arbitrator, each to decide between 'Ali and Mu'awiya. The Syrians choice fell on 'Amr bin al-A'as who was the rational soul and spokesman of Muawiya. 'Amr ibn al-'As was one of the generals involved in expelling the Romans from Syria and also expelled the Romans from Egypt. A few years earlier 'Amr ibn al-'As with 9,000 men in Palestine had found himself confronting Heraclius' 100,000 army until Khalid crossed the Syrian desert from Mesopotamia to assist him. He was a highly skilled negotiator and had previously been used in negotiations with the Heraclius the Roman Emperor. Ali wanted Malik Ashtar or Abdullah bin 'Abbas to be appointed as an arbitrator for the people of Kufa, but the Qurra strongly demurred, alleging that men like these two were, indeed, responsible for the war and, therefore, ineligible for that office of trust. They nominated Abu Musa al-Ash'ari as their arbitrator. (During the time of 'Uthman, they had appointed Abu Musa al-Ash'ari as the Governor of Kufa and removed 'Uthman's governor before they started fighting Uthman) Ali found it expedient to agree to this choice in order to ward off bloody dissensions in his army. According to "Usd al-G̲h̲āba", Ali had, therefore, taken care to personally explain to the arbitrators, "You are arbiters on condition that you decide according to the Book of God, and if you are not so inclined you should not deem yourselves to be arbiters."
When the arbitrators assembled at Dumat al-Jandal, which lay midway between Kufa and Syria and had for that reason been selected as the place for the announcement of the decision, a series of daily meetings were arranged for them to discuss the matters in hand. When the time arrived for taking a decision about the caliphate, Amr bin al-A'as convinced Abu Musa al-Ashari that they should deprive both Ali and Mu'awiya of the caliphate, and give to the Muslims the right to elect the caliph. Abu Musa al-Ash'ari decided to act accordingly. As the time for announcing the verdict approached, the people belonging to both parties assembled. 'Amr bin al-A'as requested Abu Musa to take the lead in announcing the decision he favoured. Abu Musa al-Ash'ari agreed to open the proceedings, and said, "We have devised a solution after a good deal of thought and it may put an end to all contention and separatist tendencies. It is this. Both of us remove 'Ali as well as Mu'awiya from the caliphate. The Muslims are given the right to elect a caliph as they think best." On his turn 'Amr bin al-A'as stated that he agreed with the part of Abu Musa Ash'ari's verdict that 'Ali should be deposed but he himself was in favour of retaining Mua'wiyah on his post.
Ali refused to accept the verdict as he felt he had been cheated and the verdict was one sided. This put Ali in a weak position even amongst his own supporters. The most vociferous opponents of Ali in his camp were the very same people who had forced Ali to appoint their arbitrator, the Qurra who then became known as the Kharijites. Feeling that Ali could no longer look after their interests Also fearing that if there was peace, they could be arrested for the murder of Uthman they broke away from Ali's force, rallying under the slogan, "arbitration belongs to God alone." The Qurra then became known as the Kharijites ("those who leave"). The Kharijites then started killing other people.
Conflict with Kharijites
In 659 Ali's forces finally moved against the Kharijites and they finally met in the Battle of Nahrawan. Although Ali won the battle, the constant conflict had begun to affect his standing. Tom Holland writes "Ali won a victory over them as crushing as it was to prove pyrrhic: for all he had done, in effect was to fertilise the soil of Mesopotamia with the blood of their martyrs. Three years later, and there came the inevitable blowback: a Kharijite assassin."
While dealing with the Iraqis, Ali found it hard to build a disciplined army and effective state institutions to exert control over his areas and as a result later spent a lot of time fighting the Kharijites. As a result, on the Eastern front, Ali found it hard to expand the state.
Ali was assassinated by Kharijites in 661. On the 19th of Ramadan, while Praying in the Great Mosque of Kufa, Ali was attacked by the Kharijite Abd-al-Rahman ibn Muljam. He was wounded by ibn Muljam's poison-coated sword while prostrating in the Fajr prayer. When Alī was assassinated, Muawiyah had the largest and the most organized and disciplined force in the Muslim Empire.
Peace treaty with Hassan
Six months later in 661, in the interest of peace, Hasan ibn Ali made a peace treaty with Muawiyah. By now Hassan only ruled the area around Kufa. In the Hasan-Muawiya treaty, Hasan ibn Ali handed over power to Muawiya on the condition that he be just to the people and keep them safe and secure and after his death he does not establish a dynasty.
In the year 661, Muawiyah was crowned as caliph at a ceremony in Jerusalem. Ali's caliphate had lasted for 4 years. After the treaty with Hassan, Muawiyah ruled for nearly 20 years most of which were spent expanding the state.
- Martin Hinds. "Muʿāwiya I". Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.). Brill. Retrieved 21 September 2014.
- History of the Jihad By Leonard Michael Kroll Page 123
- Prophets and Princes: Saudi Arabia from Muhammad to the Present By Mark Weston Page 61 
- Modern Intellectual Readings of the Kharijites By Hussam S. Timani Page 49  Some modern scholars like R.E. Brunnow trace the origins of the Qurra and the Kharitites back to Bedouin stock and desert tribesmen, who had become soldiers not out of commitment to Islam but to share the spoils. Brunnow held that the Kharijites were Bedouin Arabs (Beduinenaraber) or full blooded Arabs.
- A Chronology Of Islamic History 570-1000 CE, By H.U. Rahman 1999 Page 10
- Iraq a Complicated State: Iraq's Freedom War By Karim M. S. Al-Zubaidi Page 32
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- History of the Jews: From the Roman Empire to the Early Medieval ..., Volume 2 By Simon Dubnov page 330 where it talks about Abdullah Ibn Saba 
- Jewish Literature from the Eighth to the Eighteenth Century: With an ... By Moritz Steinschneider, William Spottiswoode page 59 
- history of the jews, Volume 2 By Ernst G. Maier Page 330
- There is also other non Muslim literature from near that time like The Chronography of Bar Hebraeus By Bar Hebraeus 
- al-Baladhuri and At-Tabari 5:66
- Modern Intellectual Readings of the Kharijites By Hussam S. Timani Page 62 
- Muawiya Restorer of the Muslim Faith By Aisha Bewley Page 13
- Modern Intellectual Readings of the Kharijites By Hussam S. Timani Page 61 
- Muawiya Restorer of the Muslim Faith by Aisha Bewley, page 14, with text from Al-Baladuri
- Modern Intellectual Readings of the Kharijites By Hussam S. Timani Page 62 
- Modern Intellectual Readings of the Kharijites By Hussam S. Timani Page 49 
- Modern Intellectual Readings of the Kharijites By Hussam S. Timani Page 61-65 about the writings of M. A. Shahban, In his Islamic History A.D. 600-750 (A.H. 132): A new Interpretation (1971) 
- Kirk H. Sowell (2004). The Arab World: An Illustrated History. Hippocrene Books. pp. 41–42. ISBN 978-0-7818-0990-0.
- Muawiya Restorer of the Muslim Faith By Aisha Bewley Page 14 with text from Al-Baladuri
- Hussam S. Timani (2008). Modern Intellectual Readings of the Kharijites. Peter Lang. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-8204-9701-3.
- Muawiya Restorer of the Muslim Faith By Aisha Bewley Page 14 with text from Al-Baladuri
- Ahmad Bin Yahya Bin Jabir Al Biladuri (1 March 2011). The Origins of the Islamic State: Being a Translation from the Arabic Accompanied With Annotations, Geographic and Historic Notes of the Kitab Futuh Al-buldan. Cosimo, Inc. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-61640-534-2.
- Muawiya Restorer of the Muslim Faith By Aisha Bewley Page 16
- Muawiya Restorer of the Muslim Faith By Aisha Bewley Page 14
- A Chronology Of Islamic History 570-1000 CE, By H.U. Rahman 1999 Page 53
- The Many Faces of Faith: A Guide to World Religions and Christian Traditions By Richard R. Losch
- Encyclopedia of Islam Volume VII, page 264 By Bosworth
- tabri 2959 2985
- al-Baladuri 204-5
- Muawiya Restorer of the Muslim Faith By Aisha Bewley Page 17
- Muawiya Restorer of the Muslim Faith By Aisha Bewley Page 18
- Valerie Jon Hoffman, The Essentials of Ibadi Islam, pg. 8. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2012. ISBN 9780815650843
- Iraq, a Complicated State Page 32
- Hadhrat Ayesha Siddiqa By Allamah Syed Sulaiman Nadvi Page 44
- Nahj al Balagha Sermon 72 Archived 2013-05-07 at the Wayback Machine.
- Medieval Islamic civilization By Josef W. Meri Page 131
- Hadhrat Ayesha Siddiqa By Allamah Syed Sulaiman Nadvi p. 44"
- The Early Caliphate, Maulana Muhammad Ali, Al-Jadda Printers, pg. 169-206, 1983
- Muawiya Restorer of the Muslim Faith By Aisha Bewley Page 22 from Ibn Hisham from Ibn Muzahim died 212 AH from Abu Mikhnaf died 170 AH
- Hadhrat Ayesha Siddiqa her life and works by Allamah Syed Sulaiman Nadvi translated by Syed Athar Husain and published by Darul Ishaat Page 44
- Islamic Conquest of Syria A translation of Fatuhusham by al-Imam al-Waqidi Translated by Mawlana Sulayman al-Kindi, Page 31 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-12. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
- Islamic Conquest of Syria A translation of Futuh ash-Sham by al-Waqidi Translated by Sulayman al-Kindi "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-12. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
- "Usd al-G̲h̲āba", vol 3, p. 246. Name of book needed
- A Chronology of Islamic History 570-1000 CE By H U Rahman Page 59
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- A Chronology of Islamic History 570-1000 By H. U. Rahman
- name="Tabatabaei 1979 192"
- The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate By Wilferd Madelung Page 232 
- Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 3, Book 49 (Peacemaking), Number 867
- History of Israel and the Holy Land By Michael Avi-Yonah, Shimon Peres. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
- Hadhrat Ayesha Siddiqa her life and works by Allamah Syed Sulaiman Nadvi translated by Syed Athar Husain and published by Darul Ishaat, Page 47
- Ali ibn Abi Talib (1984). Nahj al-Balagha (Peak of Eloquence), compiled by ash-Sharif ar-Radi. Alhoda UK. ISBN 0-940368-43-9.
- Holt, P. M.; Bernard Lewis (1977). Cambridge History of Islam, Vol. 1. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-29136-4.
- Lapidus, Ira (2002). A History of Islamic Societies (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-77933-3.
- Madelung, Wilferd (1997). The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-64696-0.
- Tabatabae, Sayyid Mohammad Hosayn (1979). Shi'ite Islam. Translated by Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Suny press. ISBN 0-87395-272-3.