|Malik ibn al-Harith
|Titles: al-Ashtar and al-Nakha'i|
|Known For||Being a loyal companion of Muhammad and Ali|
|Cause of Death||Poisoned honey ordered by Umayyad Caliph Mu'awiyah|
|Sons||Ishaq and Ibrahim|
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 remained an avid and loyal supporter of Muhammad's progeny and Hashemite clan. He rose to a position of prominence during the caliphate of Ali Ibn Abi Talib and participated in several battles, such as the Battle of Jamal and Siffin.
- 1 Birth
- 2 Conflicts with the governor of Kufa and the Event of Al-Rabathah
- 3 The Downfall of Uthman and Malik's Resolution
- 4 Battle of Jamal
- 5 Battle of Siffeen
- 6 Becoming Governor of Egypt
- 7 Alleged Assassination Plot By Muawiyah
- 8 Death
- 9 Legacy
- 10 References
- 11 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
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 Taymiyyah, 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 a 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
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 arrow with a letter attached was shot 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'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.", then he 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.", then he wore his ring. The trick worked but Ali still had control of the caliphate. Both sides did agree to a truce and a year of peace. 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 companions, wanted to become the governor of Egypt. So he 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, son of the first caliph and then Ali's adopted son, that he is sending his best general and one of his closest companions, Malik al-Ashtar. Ali then told Malik: "Malik, may Allah have mercy on you, go to Egypt. I have absolute trust in you. Rely on Allah! Use gentleness in its place and intensity in its place."
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.
Alleged Assassination Plot By Muawiyah
According to Shia tradition, when Mu'awiyah received the news that Ali appointed Malik al-Ashtar as the new governor of Egypt, he was overwhelmed with worry. Knowing that al-Ashtar was of ferocious built and strength, Muawiyah is said to have formulated a plot to assassinate him using poison imported from Rome and sent a delegate with the poison to a certain man owning vast lands in al-Qilzim City (a service station/resting spot for travelers) on the borders of Egypt, requesting that he poison al-Ashtar in exchange for lifelong tax exemption. The man is said to have agreed to the envoy's request.
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 by Muawiyah I on a suggestion of 'Amr ibn al-'As. 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 spoonful of the poisoned honey. When Malik consumed the honey, the poison spread rapidly throughout 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 died. Muawiyah is said to have rejoiced upon hearing of al-Ashtar's death.
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. The Malek (or Malekian) family, from Mazandaran (Iran), are also believed to be descendants.
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- Nakshawani, Ammar. "Biography of Kumayl Ibn Ziyad al-Nakha'i." YouTube. Masjid Al Husayn Leicester, 21 Nov. 2012. Web. 01 July 2013. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSxmk_yIrbc>.
- Nakshawani, Ammar. "Biography of Malik al-Ahstar." Lecture.
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- 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)