Will you give information about the Battle of Siffin between Hz. Ali and Hz. Muawiya and the Incident of Hakam (Judge)?

Details of the Question

Why did the Battle of Siffin between Hz. Ali and Hz. Muawiya take place? It is narrated in history books that the army of Hz. Muawiya resorted to a trick (?) by placing pages of the Quran on the tip of their spears. Is it not disrespect to the Quran?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Battle of Siffin took place between Hz. Ali, the fourth one of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, and Hz. Muawiyah, the governor of Damascus, who did not accept his caliphate. The battle took place in 657 in Siffin, which is in the east of Raqqa; many Muslims were martyred in this battle.  

The reason for the outbreak of the war was based on a difference of ijtihad (view) on an issue. Since the issue was a political one, it ended up as a war. If the difference of view had been about knowledge only, it would have remanined in books. The way to war took place as follows in brief:

When Hz. Uthman was the caliph, a group of rebels arrived in Madinah. They besieged Hz. Uthman for a while; one or some of the people in the group martyred Hz. Uthman.

Thereupon, Hz. Ali declared his caliphate and started to look for the murderer of Hz. Uthman. However, the murderer in the group could not be identified. Hz. Muawiya, who was the governor of Damascus at that time, said “the rights of individuals are sacrificed for the salvation of the nation” by supporting relative justice and wanted all of the members of the rebellious group to be punished. Hz. Ali said “Rights are rights. The rights of an individual cannot be sacrificed for anything.” by supporting absolute justice; he continued working in order to find the real murderer(s) among the group. When the determination of the murderer delayed, the unrest increased. With the instigation of the mischief-makers who wanted to weaken Islam, the armies of the two parties confronted.

Meanwhile, the incident of Camel took place. After this incident, Hz. Ali sent an envoy to Hz. Muawiya, who proceeded to Kufa, to inform him that the Companions of both Muhajirs and Ansar accepted his caliphate and wanted him to accept his caliphate and obey him. Hz. Muawiya stalled Jarir bin Abdullah and consulted Hz. Amr bin al-As. He told the envoy that if the murderers of Hz. Uthman were not punished at once, he would proceed with his army. Hz. Muawiya left Damascus with his army of eighty-five thousand people. On the other hand, Hz. Ali left Kufa with his army of ninety thousand people and headed to Kufa.  

Hz. Ali sent envoys to Hz. Muawiya to make him give up. However, he did not receive a positive reply. While minor clashes continued between the units of two armies, envoys communicated between two armies in order to sign a peace treaty up to the end of the month of Muharram in 37 H. However, there was no hope for peace. The battle started again on the first day of the month of Safar.

As a result of the severe attack by Hz. Ali’s army, the army of Damascus was about to scatter. They were about to win the battle when Hz. Amr bin al-As said to the soldiers of Damascus, “Put the Quran pages on the tip of your spears and raise them.” They fulfilled this order and shouted at the soldiers of Hz. Ali’s army, “Let the book of Allah be a judge between us.” The act of Hz. Amr bin al-As started to take effect and the Iraqi soldiers started to say, “Let us accept the call to the book of Allah.” Hz. Ali tried to tell his soldiers that it was a ruse of war but he failed. They wanted a judge to be chosen from both parties and a decision in accordance with the Quran to be made. Hz. Ali’s supporters accepted it gladly. The people of Damascus chose Hz. Amr bin al-As as their judge and the people of Iraq supporting Hz. Ali chose Hz. Abu Musa al-Ash’ari as their judge. They met at Dumatul-Jandal in the month of Safar in 37 H and wrote an “arbitration agreement”, which included the principles which would form the basis for the decision to be made. This incident is called “the Incident of Hakam (Judge)” in Islamic history.

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