Why did the Battle of Siffin take place between Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Muawiyah? It is narrated in the history books that the soldiers of Muawiyah flagged their spears with the copies of the Quran. Is it not disrespect to the Quran?

The Details of the Question
Why did the Battle of Siffin take place between Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Muawiyah? It is narrated in the history books that the soldiers of Muawiyah flagged their spears with the copies of the Quran. Is it not disrespect to the Quran? Will you give information about the Battle of Siffin and the Incident of Arbitration?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The Battle of Siffin took place between Hazrat Ali (may Allah be pleased with him), the fourth one of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, and Hazrat Muawiyah bin Abu Sufyan (may Allah be pleased with him), the governor of Damascus, who did not accept the caliphate of Hazrat Ali. The Battle took place in 657, in Siffin, which is located in the east of ar-Raqqa in the basin of Euphrates.; many Muslims were martyred in this battle.   

The reason of the breaking out of the war was based on a difference of ijtihad. Since the issue was a political one, it ended up in the form of a war. If the difference of ijtihad had been about science, it would have been on paper. The way to the war took place as follows in short: While Hazrat Uthman was the Caliph, a group of rebels came to Madinah. After surrounding Hazrat Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) for a while, one or some of them martyred Hazrat Uthman.

Thereupon, Hazrat Ali declared his caliphate and started to seek the murderer(s) of Hazrat Uthman. However, it was impossible to determine the murderer(s) among the group of rebels. Then, Hazrat Muawiyah, who was the governor of Damascus then, wanted all of the rebels to be punished by defending relative justice, saying, “The right of the individual is sacrificed for the safety of the nation.” Hazrat Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) defended absolute justice and said, “The right of the individual cannot be sacrificed for anything”, and tried to find the murderer(s) among the rebels. When the identification of the murderer(s) was delayed, the discontent increased. Due to the provocation of the mischief-makers, two armies faced each other.   

Meanwhile, the Battle of Jamal took place. After the Battle of Jamal, Hazrat Ali headed toward Kufa; he sent an envoy to Hazrat Muawiyah informing him that Muhajirs and Ansar of the Companions approved his caliphate and asked Hazrat Muawiyah to pledge allegiance to him. Muawiyah stalled Jarir bin Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him), the envoy, and consulted Hazrat Amr bin al-As (may Allah be pleased with him); then, he told the envoy that if the murderers of Hazrat Uthman were not punished at once, he would head toward them with his army. Hazrat Muawiyah left Damascus with an army of eighty-five thousand people. Hazrat Ali left Kufa for Siffin with an army of ninety thousand people.

Hazrat Ali sent envoys to Hazrat Muawiyah to dissuade him. However, he did not get a positive response. Small clashes took place between the two armies; meanwhile, envoys tried to make a treaty until the end of the month of Muharram of the year 37 H. However, they could not make a treaty. The battle began again on the first day of the month of Safar.   

With the severe attack of the army of Hazrat Ali, the army of Damascus fell into a state of disbanding. Hazrat Ali was about to win the war when Amr bin al-As told the soldiers of Damascus, to put copies of the Quran on the spearheads. They fulfilled this order and shouted to the soldiers of Hazrat Ali, “Let the Book of Allah be the arbitrator between us.” The precaution of Hazrat Amr bin al-As became effective and the Iraqi soldiers started to say, “Let us answer the call for the Book of Allah.” Hazrat Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) tried to explain to them that it was a tactical maneuver, but he could not succeed. They chose an arbitrator from each party and wanted a decision in accordance with the Quran made. The soldiers of Hazrat Ali were glad about it. The people of Damascus chose Hazrat Amr bin al-As as the arbitrator and the Iraqis supporting Hazrat Ali chose Hazrat Abu Musa al-Ash’ari. They met in Dumat al-Jandal in the month of Safar of the year 37 H and wrote down the “Tahkim”, which included the principles to be referred to while making the decision. It is called the Incident of Tahkim (Arbitration) in the Islamic history.

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