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Jang-e-Jamal: The Battle of the Camel

HAZRAT MIRZA BASHIRUDDIN MAHMUD AHMAD(RA), THE SECOND WORLDWIDE HEAD OF THE AHMADIYYA MUSLIM COMMUNITY

Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad(ra), also known as Hazrat Musleh Maud, was the second Caliph and worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and served in this capacity from his election in 1914 through to his death in 1965. During the course of his half-century caliphate, he delivered scores of speeches on a variety of topics. Until now, many of these have only been available in the original Urdu. The Review of Religions team is currently translating many of these speeches into English and is pleased to present this speech, originally delivered in 1920, translated into English for the first time. This speech was originally published in Urdu in Anwarul Uloom, volume 4.

On 17th February 1920, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II(ra) delivered a lecture at Islamia College, Lahore, at 7:15pm. Organized by the Martin Historical Society, the lecture took place in the Habibiya Hall of the College and was chaired by Khan Bahadur Sheikh Abdul Qadir, B.A., Barrister at Law. Entrance tickets to the lecture cost 2 anna [an old currency unit, equivalent to one sixteenth of a rupee]. People attended in such large numbers that the hall was fully occupied and when the lecture started, there was no room to even enter the hall.

Opening Address by the Chair of the Event

The proceedings began with the recitation of the Holy Qur’an by Hafiz Roshan Ali. After this, Khan Bahadur Sheikh Abdul Qadir extended an invitation to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II(ra) to address the congregation and said the following in his introductory remarks:

‘I would first of all like to thank the Martin Historical Society for organising a magnificent gathering such as this one and for granting me the honour to chair the event. After these brief words of appreciation, I would say that first and foremost, it would have been more befitting for the occasion – in which an honourable and esteemed leader and spiritual guide of a large part of the congregation was to speak – if the organisers had chosen a religious scholar to chair the event. Nevertheless, based on their own judgement they made their decision and granted me this honour. Having professed my ineptitude and incompetence, I once again, thank those who appointed me.

‘Furthermore, I would like to say that the name of Hazrat Sahibzada Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad sahib does not require any introduction or tribute, as you are all very familiar with him. For such a large congregation to be present here shows the regard all of you have in your hearts for his personality and oratory. Last year when Hazrat Sahibzada sahib delivered a lecture for this society, I was in Lyallpur [previous name for Faisalabad, Pakistan]. I learned from several newspapers that the lecture delivered by His Holiness was widely received and was the prequel to the lecture to be delivered today. As you would have already discovered from the posters, today will be the second instalment, exploring the reasons when and why the dissension began in Islam through the lens of historical analyses.

The battle known as ‘Jang-e-Jamal’ was so called because Hazrat Aishah(ra) rode a camel – the word for camel being jamal in Arabic – during this battle.

‘It is unnecessary to urge you to listen carefully and attentively to the lecture of Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib, as naturally you will listen to it intently. All I request is that in this large gathering the organisers should make arrangements for the many more people expected to arrive, in a manner that they can be seated comfortably wherever there is space, whilst not causing disruption to the audience. The audience ought to remain seated so we can enjoy the lecture that we so eagerly anticipate.

‘Without further ado, I now request Hazrat Sahibzada sahib to deliver his lecture.’

Address by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II(ra)

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II(ra) recited the Tashahhud and Surah al-Fatihah, after which he delivered a spectacular and persuasive lecture, the summary of which is presented below. Regarding the lecture delivered the year before, His Holiness(ra) said: ‘On that occasion, due to the shortage of time, I had to very briefly discuss the incidents during the caliphate of Hazrat Ali(ra). Today, I will expound on them in more detail.’

His Holiness(ra) then explained the reasons for the dissent amongst the Muslims: ‘One reason [for this discord] was that the Muslims attained such vast material and spiritual success in a short space of time that they were unable to consolidate it adequately. The companions(ra) of the Holy Prophet(sa) numbered few and far between as compared to the men entering the religion of Allah in troops, [as mentioned in the verse:]

For this reason, a segment of the Muslims remained untrained in the basic principles of Islam.

‘The second reason for the discord is that the enemies of Islam believed that the destruction of the Muslims would soon be met. However, when they witnessed the manifest victories of the Muslims before their very eyes, realizing their inability to contest with the might and grandeur of the Muslims, they embraced Islam with the intention of destroying it from within through deception and trickery. Such people planted the seed of discord in Islam. To achieve this, they added to their ranks those people who were untrained in the principles and morals of Islam.’

After this His Holiness(ra) said: ‘There is one major difference between the discord that arose in the time of Hazrat Usman(ra) and the time of Hazrat Ali(ra) and the difference is that the people who rose up against Hazrat Usman(ra) had no standing amongst the Muslims and were evil transgressors and criminals. However, the conflict that occurred later [in Hazrat Ali’s(ra) time] included august and highly honourable people on both sides. This was a truly dreadful situation. In this respect I would like to say at the outset that regardless of whether a dispute is concerning a spiritual or worldly matter, it does not mandate that one party would necessarily be excommunicated from the pale of Islam as a consequence. Even the Holy Prophet(sa) has termed a certain kind of dispute to be a blessing. Conversely, there is another kind of dispute where, whilst it cannot be termed as a blessing, we cannot declare those involved to be evil or immoral transgressors. This is especially true where the one who disputes has much evidence in their favour and offers this evidence with the best of intentions. However, one should not dispute regarding a matter whereby disagreement would lead to removal from the fold of Islam. In such a case [as mentioned above] the person in question would be deemed at fault, but not removed from the pale of Islam.’

When Hazrat Usman(ra) was martyred, the rebels looted the treasury and announced that whosoever challenged them would be put to death.

With this brief introduction, His Holiness(ra) then explained the discord that arose in the time of Hazrat Ali(ra) by saying: ‘When Hazrat Usman(ra) was martyred, the rebels looted the treasury and announced that whosoever challenged them would be put to death. People were not permitted to congregate anywhere and Madinah was under complete siege, with no one allowed to leave, to the extent that Hazrat Ali(ra) – whom the rebels claimed to love – was prevented from leaving, all the while the rebels ransacked Madinah. On the other hand, the stone-heartedness of the rebels was such that they did not stop at having murdered a pious individual such as Hazrat Usman(ra) – whom the Holy Prophet(sa) greatly praised; rather, they went even further and for three or four days, they prevented the body of Hazrat Usman(ra) from being buried. Eventually, some companions went out at night and buried him secretly. Alongside Hazrat Usman(ra), some servants were also martyred. They too were prevented from being buried and their corpses were fed to the dogs.

However, such was the state of affairs at that time that although Hazrat Ali(ra) was the Caliph, Madinah was still a garrison for the rebels.

‘Having perpetrated this act against Hazrat Usman(ra) and his servants, the rebels granted respite to the people of Madinah as they did not have any dispute with them. At this time, the companions began to flee Madinah. For five days Madinah remained without a ruler. The rebels wished to appoint a Caliph of their choosing so that he would carry out their demands. However, no one from among the companions(ra) of the Holy Prophet(sa) could ever imagine becoming the appointed Caliph of those who had murdered Hazrat Usman(ra). The rebels went to Hazrat Ali(ra), Talha(ra) and Zubair(ra) in turn and asked them to become the Caliph but they all refused. After hearing their refusal, the rebels knew that whilst these three individuals were alive, the Muslims would never accept a Caliph who was not from among them; therefore, they decided to resort to coercion in this matter as well. They thought that if a Caliph were not appointed soon they would face a great storm of opposition throughout the Islamic world. They announced that it would be wise to choose a Caliph within two days, otherwise they would kill Ali(ra), Talha(ra), Zubair(ra) and all other prominent persons. At this the people of Madinah became fearful that the people who killed Hazrat Usman(ra) would leave no stone unturned in their mistreatment of their families and children. They went to Hazrat Ali(ra) and pleaded with him to become the Caliph. He refused and said: “If I become the Caliph, everyone will assume that  I  had  Usman(ra) killed, and I cannot bear such a burden.” Hazrat Talha(ra) and Hazrat Zubair(ra) also gave the same response. Whoever from among the companions(ra) was asked to become the Caliph, refused. Ultimately, everyone went to Hazrat Ali(ra) and said that he ought to take up this burden. Eventually he agreed on the condition that everyone should gather in the mosque and accept him. Thus, the people gathered in the mosque and pledged allegiance to Hazrat Ali(ra). Some, however, refused to accept any Caliph until those who killed Hazrat Usman(ra) were punished, while others, albeit very few in number, said that a Caliph should not be chosen until the opinion of the people outside Madinah was ascertained. Hazrat Ali(ra) accepted the proposal to become the Caliph in such circumstances, but the events unfolded just as he had feared and people throughout the Islamic world began to allege that Hazrat Usman(ra) had been murdered on the order of Hazrat Ali(ra).

‘If we put all of Hazrat Ali’s(ra) attributes and qualities to one side, in my opinion, for him to accept the office of Caliphate in such precarious times was an extremely brave and courageous step and is worthy of immense praise and admiration. For the sake of Islam, he did not care at all about himself nor his honour and instead took upon himself a burden of such magnitude.

‘When Hazrat Ali(ra) became the Caliph, Hazrat Talha(ra) and Hazrat Zubair(ra) also pledged allegiance to him on the condition that he would follow the commandments of the Holy Qur’an and act in accordance with the injunctions of Shariah [the tenets of Islamic law and jurisprudence]. By this, they meant that the killers of Hazrat Usman(ra) ought to be brought to justice. However, such was the state of affairs at that time that although Hazrat Ali(ra) was the Caliph, Madinah was still a garrison for the rebels. A few days later Hazrat Talha(ra) and Hazrat Zubair(ra) went to Hazrat Ali(ra) and said that the rebels should be punished. Hazrat Ali(ra) asked: “Who is the ruler of Madinah, is it the rebels or I?” They replied: “At present, it is the rebels.” Hazrat Ali(ra) then replied: “How then can I bring them to justice until the current widespread volatile situation subsides and help from outside is received. Until then nothing can be done.” They both accepted this point.

‘At that time, there were three groups of mischievous people in Madinah; the first group were the rebels, the second group were the Bedouins who had arrived to loot and plunder, and the third group were the slaves, who did not subscribe to any religion. Hazrat Ali(ra) devised a plan to gradually remove them from Madinah. Hence, he made an announcement in the mosque saying: “All slaves should return to their masters. For otherwise, in the sight of God, I will be absolved from all responsibility towards them.” The rebels, who were very cunning and shrewd, realized that this was a plot to weaken them. They announced that nobody was permitted to leave nor should anyone obey this command. Hazrat Ali(ra) then addressed the Bedouins and announced that they must return to their homes, but the rebels thwarted this attempt as well. At the same time, there were some companions(ra) who were adamant that Hazrat Usman’s(ra) killers should be punished and they insisted that the commandments of the Qur’an should be upheld, even if it meant they were killed in the process. Hazrat Ali(ra) argued: “The Qur’an declares that a murderer should be put to death, but it does not stipulate that this should be carried out immediately. That is why for the time being this matter should not be raised as it will cause further disorder and strife.” Owing to this stance, Hazrat Ali(ra) was accused of siding with the rebels. Consequently, the companions(ra) began to leave Madinah. Hazrat Talha(ra) and Hazrat Zubair(ra) left Madinah and reached Makkah. Hazrat Aishah(ra) was in Makkah at the time and when she learnt that Hazrat Ali(ra) had not punished the murderers of Hazrat Usman(ra), she concluded that Hazrat Ali(ra) ought to punish them immediately.

No battle had been fought that shed more blood of Muslims than this one.

‘In my view, the stance of Hazrat Ali(ra) was more correct in light of the circumstances and events that unfolded, whilst also keeping in view the element of safety and prudency. However, with respect to following the Shariah, the opinions of Hazrat Aishah(ra) and the other companionsra was better. When Hazrat Talha(ra) and Hazrat Zubair(ra)arrived in Makkah, they began to incite the people to exact revenge for Hazrat Usman(ra). Hazrat Aishah(ra) was also of the opinion that whatever the circumstances, the killers of Hazrat Usman(ra) should be punished without any delay. Thus, they announced that they would set out to kill the murderers and other people also joined them, totalling approximately seven to eight hundred. They considered fighting against the murderers to be a lofty service for their faith. At that time, the concern was raised that owing to their lack of numbers, they may not achieve their goal and the rebels would end up victorious. Therefore, they headed towards Basra, which was the military headquarters of Muslims.

‘After this party left for Basra, Hazrat Ali(ra) learnt of this news and also departed for Basra. When they were near Basra, he sent a companion by the name Qa’qah(ra) to meet Hazrat Aishah(ra) and to inquire as to the reason why they had come. They replied they had come for reformation, to which he responded by asking why there was a need to fight, since they could work together to mutually resolve the issue. Both parties agreed to this and Hazrat Ali(ra) announced that any person who was involved in the murder of Hazrat Usman(ra) should leave his army. From this statement there was hope for reconciliation. However, the rebels from among them never desired reconciliation. They feared that if reconciliation were achieved, they would be killed. They consulted with one another and eventually agreed that they would launch an attack at night. They themselves would instigate this ambush under the cover of darkness, and this is exactly what transpired.

‘Both parties were sleeping peacefully, knowing that mutual reconciliation between them would take place in the morning. However, when they heard a commotion in the night, they woke up to see that swords were engaged. The rebels knew that if their conspiracy was discovered, they would be killed, hence they cunningly devised a plan to deploy a person next to Hazrat Ali(ra) and told him that as soon as he heard the uproar and commotion, he should inform Hazrat Ali(ra) that his army was under attack. Thus, the rebels launched the attack themselves, but at the same time they informed Hazrat Ali(ra) that they were under attack. Similarly, a few people from among them launched an attack on the other army. Even though this entire scheme was hatched by the rebels, both of the Muslim armies were regretful as to why a surprise attack had been launched after both parties had agreed on mutual reconciliation. Even in such circumstances Hazrat Ali(ra) erred on the side of caution and announced that nobody from among his army should fight back, even if the other side continued to attack. However, the rebels did not pay heed. The people of Basra became enraged and also joined the battle.

‘This was a strange battle since neither side wished to fight, yet the battle continued. At that time, Hazrat Ali(ra) devised a strategy in that he sent a person with a Qur’an and instructed that a settlement should be made based on it [i.e. using the Qur’an]. The people of Basra thought it implausible that they were now being asked to make a decision based on the Qur’an, when only the previous night a secret attack had been launched against them. Although Hazrat Ali(ra) devised this plan with the best of intentions, the prevailing circumstances led to confusion of the intended plan and the person who took the Qur’an was killed. At this Hazrat Ali(ra) and his companions became furious that the other party were rejecting an invitation towards the Qur’an. Now, there was no option left but to attack. They launched an attack from their side and a fierce battle ensued, to the extent that there was no end in sight. One companion named Ka’abra went to Hazrat Aishah(ra) and said that the Muslims were slaying each other and only she could save their lives, therefore, she must step into the battlefield. Hazrat Aishah(ra) mounted her camel and giving Ka’ab(ra) the Holy Qur’an, she instructed that a decision should be made on the basis of the Qur’an. As soon as Hazrat Ali(ra) saw her camel approaching, he immediately commanded for the fighting to stop. However, the rebels let out a large flurry of arrows, piercing Ka’ab(ra), as a result of which he fell to the ground. When the companions(ra) saw Hazrat Aishah(ra) under attack, they felt as if the honour and dignity of the Holy Prophet(sa) was under attack, and they desperately hurled themselves in front of her, but they too were killed and began to fall, one after the other. No battle had been fought that shed more blood of Muslims than this one. One by one they would stand in front of Hazrat Aishah(ra), but each one of them would be killed. During this incident, many great generals and brave fighters lost their lives. Finally, when there seemed to be no end to the fight, and it appeared as if all the Muslims present would be killed, the legs of Hazrat Aishah’s(ra) camel were cut. As soon as Hazrat Aishah’s(ra) camel fell, the people of Basra fled, leaving the army of Hazrat Ali(ra) victorious.

‘This was the scene from Jang-e-Jamal [The Battle of the Camel]. From this, we can gather that in reality, the evil and mischievous instigators were the cause of the war and their only purpose was to cause a great rift and dissension within Islam.

‘After the battle had ended, Hazrat Aishah(ra) wished to go back to Madinah. Upon her request, she was sent to Madinah and was accompanied by Hazrat Ali(ra) and other companions(ra). When they were about to set off, Hazrat Aishah(ra) said that she harboured no enmity. The disagreement was only to the extent that transpires occasionally between kinsfolk. Hazrat Ali(ra) echoed the same sentiments[1] and thus, the matter was completely cleared and resolved between them.’

Having narrated the incident of Jang-e- Jamal, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II(ra) then spoke about the circumstances surrounding the battle that took place between Hazrat Ali(ra) and Hazrat Muawiyyah(ra). He proved that the dissent and division was in fact due to the evil discord spread by the architects of this mischief. The rebels created circumstances that made it difficult to figure out the reality of the situation. It was the same people who plotted, and eventually murdered Hazrat Ali(ra). After this, Hazrat Hasan(ra) was chosen as the Caliph; however, he resigned in favor of Hazrat Muawiyyah(ra) for the sake of establishing peace.

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II(ra) concluded his speech which was heard by the audience with great attentiveness and concentration. The president then delivered the following remarks:

Concluding Remarks by the Chair of the Event

‘Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of all of you, I am deeply grateful to Sahibzada Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad[ra] for this powerful and informative lecture he delivered before you. I have seen that His Holiness spoke continuously for almost three hours and all of you listened very attentively. Certain aspects of this extremely enlightening lecture, delivered on the history of Islam, are truly extraordinary. In order to investigate these matters, Hazrat Sahibzada sahib would have had to analyse countless books. However, I can say without any hesitation that one cannot discover these facts by simply researching them. Rather:

“This blessing cannot be gained at will, unless one receives the succor of the Divine, the One who bestows to all.”

‘I have never heard anyone narrate historical accounts with such fluency and eloquence. Furthermore, I have enjoyed this historical account so much that even a gripping fable, narrated by a storyteller, has never delighted me as much. For this, I thank him once again.

‘In this regard I would also like to add that the relevant society, who has enabled us to benefit from this exceptional lecture on history, has been created for an excellent purpose. Having listened to these accounts of history, one ought to learn from them. The Holy Qur’an has narrated incidents of the past on numerous occasions and this was the very purpose of mentioning them. Thus, in this greatly informative lecture, delivered by Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib, it is not possible for me to highlight each individual incident from which we can derive a lesson. However, I can say with certainty that these accounts are of such worth, that when they are published, the ones who deliberate will be able to see that there are great lessons to be drawn from them. At present I will say that whatever incidents you are able to recall, you ought to ponder over them and learn from them. Since a lot of time has elapsed, I will not take up any more time, and with the words:

“A mere hint is enough for the wise.”

I request His Holiness to lead us in silent prayer.’

Endnotes

[1] Ibn al-Athīr, Al-Kamil fi’t Ta’rikh, (Beirut), 258.