Writers' Articles

The Jamal Event: A Battle without an Enemy

She was still a young woman when the Prophet (pbuh) turned his enlightened face to the Almighty, departing from this world. She, his beloved wife, and her father, his closest friend, had a share in many of his memories. Aisha was one who had embraced the heady scent of the Prophet in every moment of her life.

Sometimes the Prophet's revelation came while he was in her home; she was fortunate in that she was aware of his beautiful morals, both those that were secret and those that were apparent. She loved the Prophet; she was deeply loved by the Prophet and she was his wife who had a special place in his heart.

However, this pleasure and privilege did not last for many years. Fate was to separate them early on. A long journey through life was about to begin for Aisha, one that had a profound emptiness without the man she loved. These would be long years in which she would be a mother - not to children to whom she had given birth - but rather a mother for all believers. During this process, Aisha succeeded as a young woman, despite the traditional superiority of men and manliness in the society in which she lived; she excelled not only in knowledge, but in providing advice on social subjects. All the same, there was always a deep loneliness. The vacuum left by the departure of her soul mate grew with the passing years; the dynamism of youth, the ambition and fire gave way to maturity over the years, passing through the sieve of this absence, leaving behind the sediment of an anger that gathered slowly. The fuel, which was to be turned into a great fire by circumstances, was loaded upon Aisha.

When Marwan came that morning Aisha's anger was raging. She had heard that her bother was among the leaders of the group which had laid siege to the house of Muhammad's caliph Uthman; she believed that if the son of the first caliph, Abu Bakr, were to join this group it would give them more power than was justifiable and she tried to convince her brother to come with her to Mecca; however, she did not succeed.

Uthman, who heard that Aisha was preparing to go to Mecca, sent the head clerk Marwan ibn Hakam to her; the caliph, the target of intense criticism in this censorious atmosphere, emphasized that it would be more beneficial for the "Mother of Believers" to stay in Medina. He tried to make her abandon her journey to Mecca.

Aisha was incensed. At first she had been on the side of those who were content with Uthman, but she had gradually become one of those who complained of his rule. People often came to her from every corner of the Islamic geography; they criticized the practices of the caliphs and governors and they wanted to make her, as the mother of believers, an instrument against the caliph. Aisha did not forward these criticisms to the caliph; moreover, even if they were repeated in a number of different environments, she uttered not a word. In fact, from time to time she made it clear that she was opposed to such actions. Moreover, she agreed with the caliph when he did not treat such criticisms seriously. Yet, because of the pressure put on her by Abdullah ibn Mas’ud and Ammar ibn Yasir, who were leading Companions, Aisha called for the resignation of the caliph and she also put pressure on Uthman to dismiss the governors of Egypt and Kufa, who were his milk-brothers; before long she became the center for the opposition in Medina.

Aisha was enraged. The negative energy that was being pumped from every side was affecting her as well. Because of this negativity she did not realize the historical importance of helping the caliph, whose requests for help she had not heeded. Marwan, who claimed that disaster could strike the caliphate if Aisha was not in Medina, had now lost hope in her. Aisha, who claimed that it was fard (compulsory) for her to perform the pilgrimage, had long since finished her preparations for the journey.

Trying to convince her to abandon her journey, other envoys also visited Aisha. However, no one could make her give up the idea of the pilgrimage. Aisha set out for Mecca. She was running towards Mecca, a city in which she had been unable to breathe at one time. Medina, the place where the revelation had grown, was now besieged with crisis; it was time to immigrate to Mecca.

Before long, sad news came from Medina, the city that Aisha had abandoned, spreading all over the Islamic provinces: the caliph of the believers, Uthman, had been murdered. Medina was drowned in sorrow; the people took to their houses. Aisha received news of the caliph's martyrdom on her return journey from the pilgrimage; it struck her hard. Even though she knew well that no one had the power to change fate, she could not help but wonder if she had heeded the request of the caliph to stay in Medina whether "they would not have been able to prevent this disaster that has befallen not only the caliph, but the entire Islamic world?" Despite all the criticisms that she had made in the past, this question began to gnaw at Aisha; there is no way that she could have guessed events would come to such a pass. Finally, with an apprehension that was mixed with remorse, Aisha announced that Uthman had been wronged and thus the way was opened to the formation of a front that put forward Ali as the new caliph.

Aisha did not go to Medina, but rather returned to Mecca. This news had hit her hard, as it had all believers. While everyone was searching for whom to blame, they were blaming themselves. Aisha was among the targets. The criticisms she had made against Uthman while he was alive caused people to think that she had had some part in his death. Aisha was distraught once again. She said opposition is not the same as rebellion; she said that she had never been part of a process that would lead to revolt and insisted that she had never given any recommendation or any fatwa to this end. Externally she was wrestling with these accusations, internally she was being gnawed at by doubts as to what extent her questionable decision had played a role in the outcome; all the while, she had an eye on Medina, where Ali, the new caliph, was struggling to establish order. Before long the Islamic society, which was burning with regret at Uthman's murder, became the symbol for a need for justice. Ali was trying to keep the system running, although it had already been damaged by the failure to punish the perpetrators; it did not seem that all these efforts would be enough. With the rumors that the new caliph had a debt of loyalty to the group which had made him caliph and that it was for this reason that the killers were being left unpunished, Medina surrendered to instigation.

Now, there were some who thought that Uthman had been unjustly murdered in Aisha's name and there were some members of the Umayyads who wanted to seek revenge for the caliph; the increasing conflict among Muslims sheltered under her name. The mother of believers was convinced that if she went to Basra to punish the murderers of Uthman she would be able to save the Muslims from the strife in which they found themselves. The overriding belief was that peace and security could be attained for all Muslims with Aisha. Aisha based her belief on the verse "If two parties among the Believers fall into a quarrel, make ye peace between them: but if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then fight ye (all) against the one that transgresses until it complies with the command of God; but if it complies, then make peace between them with justice, and be fair..." (Al-Hujurat, 49/9) Aisha set out for Basra with the army she had mustered; she set out to punish that group, one of whom was her own brother, and to put an end to the civil war; she corresponded and communicated with the leaders of Basra and Kufa. She drew their attention to the fact that the people did not have the strength to repel this group, a group which did not fear Allah and which had caused great harm to those around. Aisha always emphasized that she was gathering people not for war but "for the people, great or small, male or female, who had been given the duty to improve conditions by Allah and His Prophet."

However, Aisha, who had set out from Mecca with an army numbering around 3,000, was only able to arrive in Basra with an army of 1,000. On the way the Umayyads had withdrawn from the army due to an argument about who the new caliph would be after the victory, still to be secured, had been won.

At this point Ali, who was aware of developments, set out with his own army from Medina and had approached Basra. The various correspondence and talks held between Ali and Aisha did not prevent a bloody clash; the believers who set out to clean the blood that had fallen in Medina were, sadly, the cause of more blood flowing on the soil of Basra.

This bloody battle, which has been symbolized by the word "Jamal: camel", as the mother of believers directed it from her camel, left bitter memories in Islamic history; in a conscious decision the event in question is remembered as the "Jamal Event" rather than the "Battle of Jamal". Perhaps the most important result of this battle was the regret and tears on both sides. Those who attacked and those who defended both deeply regretted what had occurred.

The victor of the battle, Ali, saw the mother of believers Aisha off to Basra under the supervision of his brother; on condition of giving 12,000 dirhem she was allowed to proceed to Medina with forty other women. However, Aisha wanted to go to Mecca first. Most likely, this time she wanted to leave her tears of regret in this land where she had sought Allah's aid during the siege. Aisha had frequently stated that she would have preferred to die herself than to experience the events that resulted in the death of so many Muslims; the Islamic sources record that in subsequent days when she remembered those days her tears flowed, soaking her veil.



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