Battle of Siffin

Battle of Siffin

Infobox Military Conflict

conflict=Battle of Siffin
partof=First Fitna
date=July 26 to July 28, 657 CE
result=2nd Major Muslim Civil War-Undecided
combatant1=Muawiyah I
combatant2=Ali ibn Abi Talib
commander1=Amr ibn al-Aas
commander2=Malik al-Ashtar
strength1=120,000 (approx)
strength2=90,000 (approx)
casualties1=45,000 (approx) Fact|date=September 2007
casualties2=25,000 (approx) Fact|date=September 2007

The Battle of Siffin (May-July 657 CE) occurred during the First Fitna, or First Muslim civil war, with the main engagement taking place from July 26 to July 28. It was fought between Ali ibn Abi Talib and Muawiyah I, on the banks of the Euphrates river, in what is now Syria. Following the controversial murder of Uthman ibn Affan, Ali had become Caliph but struggled to be accepted as such throughout the Muslim Empire. Muawiyah, the governor of Syria, was a kinsman of the murdered Caliph, and wanted the murderers brought to justice. He considered that Ali was unwilling to do this, and so Muawiyah rebelled against Ali, who attempted to put down the rebellion. The result was the engagement at Siffin. However, the battle was indecisive, and the two parties agreed to an arbitration, which was equally indecisive. The battle and arbitration served to weaken Ali's position, but did not resolve the tensions that were plaguing the empire. To the Shia, Ali ibn Abi Talib was the first Imam. To Sunni, Ali ibn Abi Talib was the fourth Rashidun Caliph, and Muawiyah the first Caliph of the Ummayyad dynasty. The events surrounding the battle are highly controversial between Sunni and Shia, and serve as part of the split between the two groups.

tart of hostilities

Having defeated Aisha at the Battle of the Camel, Ali returned from Basra to Kufa in Rajab of 36 (January 657). He decided to transfer the capital of his government to Kufa from Medina because it was more centrally placed in the Muslim Empire, and he could halt Muawiyah’s progress into Iraq. However, Ali ibn Abi Talib tried to settle matters peacefully by sending an envoy to Syria. He chose Jarir, who was the chief of Banu Bajila and governor of Hamdan. However, negotiations proved fruitless, and Muawiyah's army pledged an oath that they would not wash or sleep a night at home, until the murderers of Uthman were brought to justice [] . Moreover, they also swore to bring to justice all those who sheltered the murderers - by which they meant Ali ibn Abi Talib and his followers.

Seeing that war was inevitable, Ali gathered his forces, and, after at first planning to invade Syria from the North, he attacked directly, marching through the Mesopotamian desert. Arriving at Riqqa, on the banks of the Euphrates, the Syrian vanguard was sighted, but it withdrew without engagement. The people of Riqqa were hostile to Ali, and his army had great difficulty crossing the river. Eventually, Malik al-Ashtar threatened the townspeople with death, which forced their co-operation [] . So, finally, the army managed to cross the river, by means of a bridge of boats. Ali's army then marched along the right bank of the Euphrates, until they came across the Syrian outpost of Sur al-Rum, where there was a brief skirmish, but Ali's advance was not slowed. So in Dhu al-Hijjah 36 (May 657), the army of Ali ibn Abi Talib came into sight of Muawiyah’s main forces, which were encamped on the river plain at Siffin.

The fight for the river

Muawiyah had stationed his general, Amr ibn al-Aas, with 10,000 men on the river to stop Ali ibn Abi Talib's army having access to the water. Ali gave command of his army to the general Malik al-Ashtar, who led the attack; after heavy fighting, Amr's forces were dislodged from the river bank. However, Ali did not immediately press forwards with his attack - instead, the two sides remained encamped facing each other for 110 days while attempts were made at a negotiated settlement. During this time, there were at least 90 skirmishes between tribal columns in the two armies, but no general battle.

Mu'awiyah refused to submit to Ali ibn Abi Talib as Caliph until those complicit in Uthman's murder be brought to justice. This demand was of course unacceptable to Ali, who saw Mu'awiyah as motivated by ambition. Moreover, Ali's position began to harden; regarding the murder of Uthman, he is said to have stated "I will not say that he was wrongly attacked, nor will I say that the attack was justified." [] As compromise was impossible, the negotiations remained deadlocked, but both sides were reluctant to fight, because it would mean killing fellow Muslims. This situation lasted 110 days.

The main engagement

Ali made one final demand for Muawiyah's army to submit to him as Caliph, but they refused [] . As a result, on 8th Safar 36 (26 July, 657) Ali gave the order for a full attack, and the major part of the Battle of Siffin began. The battle lasted all day, and into the night. The fighting lulled a little in the darkness, but started again even more fiercely the following day. Despite his age (he was now 58) Ali attacked personally with his Medinan troops in the centre, with his troops from Basra and Kufa on the flanks. Muawiyah watched the battle from a pavilion on the field, surrounded by his Personal Guard. Amr ibn al-Aas led Muawiyah's cavalry against the Kufa flank with great success, and almost broke through to kill Ali. However, Ali's personal bravery inspired his troops, and the attack was stalled [] . At the head of the Basra troops was al-Ashtar and 300 qari (reciters), who led the assault on Muawiyah's forces. The attack was quite successful, and almost drove Mu'awiyah from the field.

The fighting continued fiercely onto a third day, and casualties mounted, including Hashim ibn Utba and Ammar ibn Yasir, both Companions of the Prophet. Both sides had by now ran out of ammunition for their quivers and so the battle was fought hand-to-hand [] . Both Ali and Muawiyah were unhappy at the heavy losses both sides were taking, but Muawiyah was particularly dejected, believing that the battle would eventually be lost. Amr al-Aas suggested that single combat between the two leaders could resolve the battle without further bloodshed, but Muawiyah was unwilling to do this. Both men were old but Ali was still vigorous and almost certain to win such a duel against Muawiyah, who was unfit and overweight. But Muawiyah did take Amr's second suggestion - he told his bodyguards to put pages from the Qu'ran on their lances, and shout "The law of the Lord! That shall decide between us!" By this it was meant that the two sides should cease fighting and settle matters by peaceful arbitration under Islamic law. Muawiyah and Amr did not necessarily think that all of Ali's army would accept an arbitration, but they were sure that some of them would favour this, and so at the least it would cause dissension in Ali's army [] .

Ali's entire army quickly began chanting along with Muawiyah's men. Ali urged his army to fight on, saying that Muawiyah was simply using a trick and was on the point of defeat, but the soldiers did not listen. Ali and al-Ashtar spent a long time arguing against their men, but they could not change their minds. In fact the soldiers became impatient and attacked al-Ashtar with whips, calling him a warmonger; they even threatened to send Ali to Muawiyah as a prisoner if he did not accept the arbitration [] . With his army in mutiny against him, Ali had no choice but to accept the arbitration.


Ali ibn Abi Talib wanted his kinsman Abdullah ibn Abbas or Malik al-Ashtar to represent him in the arbitration, but the army rejected these candidates. Al-Ashtar was a regicide, and so was implacably opposed to Muawiyah, who would have had him executed. And Abdullah was Ali's close relation and so tied very closely to his cause. As a result, the soldiers feared that these men would advance Ali's claims too strongly and be unwilling to compromise - and so the war would continue. So Ali's men insisted that Abu Musa al-Ash'ari be chosen as the representative [] . Like most of the soldiers, Abu Musa was a Bedouin, and thought to be truly committed to peace. However, he was of questionable loyalty to Ali and had deserted him previously. Meanwhile, Muawiyah appointed his general Amr al-Aas to represent him. Ali retired to Kufa, Mu'awiyah to Damascus.

The result of this was that although Ali had got the better of the actual fighting, the result favoured Mu'awiyah. Ali had been denied him the choice of his own representative in the arbitration, and the peace treaty that Ali signed did not recognise him as Caliph, but merely placed Ali and Muawiyah as equal combatants in a war. In addition, the arbitration was set for several months after the battle - had the arbitration been held immediately, Ali could have resumed the battle if he was unhappy with the ruling.

Meanwhile Ali's followers now became divided; a group of 12,000 soldiers broke away from the main army, and instead camped at the nearby village of Harura. They took issue with the arbitration because they did not see it as proper under Islam. They said that the leadership of the Muslim world was not Ali's personal property to bargain over with Muawiyah, as rival (secular) kings might - rather, their aim in overthrowing Uthman had been to establish a truly religious government [] . Ali managed to pacify these soldiers and persuade them to rejoin his army, but it proved only temporary. These soldiers later became the core of the Kharijites (dissenters).

While waiting for the arbitration, Muawiyah ruled over Syria, Ali over the rest of the Muslim Empire. In Ramadan 37 (February 658), the umpires arrived at Dumat-al-Jondel. There are differing accounts of the arbitration. It seems that Abu Musa al-Ash'ari said that both Mu'awiyah and Ali should abandon their claims, and a new shura be held to choose the Caliph; Amr ibn al-Aas said that Mu'awiyah should simply be recognised as Caliph. At any rate the arbitration was indecisive, and the situation continued as before, with Mu'awiyah ruling over Syria and Egypt, and Ali ruling the rest of the Muslim territories. Ali continued to be recognised as Caliph, Mu'awiyah did not claim the title, no new shura held, and both sides remained hostile to each other. This uneasy situation continued until Ali was assassinated by the Kharijites in 661, and the Muslim world was reunited with Mu'awiyah as Caliph.


External links

* []
* []
* [] []
* []
* []

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем сделать НИР

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Battle of Nahrawan — First Islamic Civil War Bassorah – Siffin – …   Wikipedia

  • Battle of Bassorah — For other battles in the area, see Battle of Basra (disambiguation). Battle of Bassorah Part of the First Islamic civil war Date 656 Location Basra, Iraq …   Wikipedia

  • Battle of Karbala — Infobox Military Conflict caption= conflict=Battle of Karbala partof= date=October 10, 680 place=Karbala result=Military victory for the forces of Yazid I combatant1=Umayyads combatant2=Supporters of Ali commander1=Yazid ibn Mu awiah Umar ibn Sa… …   Wikipedia

  • Ṣiffīn, Battle of — ▪ Islamic history       (May–July 657), series of negotiations and skirmishes during the first Muslim civil war (fitnah; (fitnah) 656–661), ending in the arbitration of Adhruḥ (February 658–January 659), which undermined the authority of Alīʿ as… …   Universalium

  • Batalla de Siffin — Parte de Primera Fitna Jariyíes Fecha 26 de julio al 28 de julio de 657 …   Wikipedia Español

  • Bataille de Siffin — La bataille de Siffin se produisit en juin/juillet 657 (moharram 37 AH). Le plus fort de la bataille se produisit du 19 ou 20 juillet (1 et 2 Çafar 37 AH) sur les rives de l Euphrate près de la ville syrienne actuelle de Ar Raqqa. Ce fut le… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Nahj al-Balagha — Part of a series on the Imam of Islam Ali Life …   Wikipedia

  • Muawiyah I — Reign 661 – 680 Full name Muʻāwīya ibn ʻAbī Sufyān Born 602 Died May 6 680 (Aged 78) Successor Yazid I …   Wikipedia

  • Al-Abbas ibn Ali — Al ‘Abbās ibn ‘Ali ( ar. العباس بن علي) (born 4 Shaban 26 AH at Medina, died 10 Muharrum 61 AH at Karbala) was the son of the fourth sunni Caliph and the first Shi ah Imam, ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib and Fātima bint Hizam al Kilabiyyah, called Ummu l… …   Wikipedia

  • Ali — See also: Nahj al Balagha For other persons named Ali, see Ali (name). For other uses, see Ali (disambiguation). Ali ibn Abu Talib …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”