Battle of Nahrawan
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Battle of Nahrawan (Arabic:معركة النهروان) was among the battles during the caliphate of Imam Ali (a) which happened after the battle of Siffin and following the event of Hakamiyya [judgment] in Safar of 38/658-659. On one side of the battle was a group of people known as Mariqun or Khawarij. In this battle, Khawarij were conquered by the army of Imam Ali (a). It is said that less than ten soldiers from Khawarij could run away unharmed. Among them, 'Abd al-Rahman b. Muljim al-Muradi, the murderer of Imam Ali (a).
Emergence of Khawarij
According to some reports, at the time of the battle of Jamal and then in the battle of Siffin before the event of Hakamiyya (judgment), Khawarij were in the army of Imam Ali (a). Generally, their emergence is thought to date back to the event of Hakamiyya. Some reports have considered the emergence of Khawarij after the declaration of the verdicts of the two judges. When Mu’awiya’s army raised copies of the holy Qur’an on their spears in the battle of Siffin and demanded going to the Qur’an, regardless of the opposition of Imam (a), most of his army asked for Hakamiyya. That, they had lost people, were exhausted, and because of the tribal tendencies, superficial understanding of Bedouin Arabs in the army of Imam (a) made the trick of the enemy work.
Some of the companions of Imam Ali (a) opposed the idea of Hakamiyya from the beginning and regarded it as turning their back to religion and developing doubt in faith. Also, some others referred to two verses of the holy Qur’an (5:44 and 49:9) and asked for continuing the fight with Mu’awiya. They regarded accepting Hakamiyya as infidelity and repented for it. They asked Imam (a) to repent from this infidelity and break the conditions he made with Mu’awiya! But Imam (a) did not accept and said:
- “We have accepted something that we cannot break.”
Also about Hakamiyya, Imam (a) said:
- “I was against Hakamiyya, and when later I accepted it due to the pressure of people forcing me to do so, I made a condition that if they rule according to the Book of God, I would follow it, because in fact we have accepted the judgment of the Qur’an, not the judgment of people.”
Moreover, Imam (a) declared his will for resuming the war with Sham after collecting the taxes. After the battle of Siffin was discontinued and Imam (a) returned to Kufa and Mu’awiya returned to Sham, those who were against Hakamiyya separated themselves from Imam Ali (a) and went to the village of Harura’ near Kufa. This way, a group called Khawarij [literally meaning “those who exit”] emerged.
Heads of Khawarij
Most famous heads of Khawarij were:
- Hurqus b. Zuhayr al-Tamimi
- Shurayh b. Awfi al-'Abasi
- Farwa b. Nawfil al-Ashja'i
- 'Abd Allah b. Shajara al-Silmi
- Hamza b. Sanan al-Asadi
- 'Abd Allah b. Wahab al-Rasibi
As the names of these people suggest, there was no famous person from Iraq among them. On the contrary, they were mostly from Bedouin tribes such as Bakr b. Wa’il and Bani Tamim.
Revolt of Khawarij
Khawarij gathered in the house of Zayd b. Hasin and chose Abd Allah b. Wahab Rasibi as their leader and this way they organized their political and military position. After Hakamiyya, they did not see it right to stay in Kufa and decided to move to Mada’in, but some of them did not agree with going to Mada’in due to the presence of the Shias of Imam Ali (a) and thus chose Nahrawan as their destination. During those days, following the outcome of Hakamiyya, Imam Ali (a) opposed it, calling his companions to prepare for battle with Mu’awiya. He (a) also sent a message to Khawarij and asked them to come for the war with Mu’awiya, but they rejected his call.
Khawarij killed many people on their way to Nahrawan including 'Abd Allah b. Khabbab b. Arat whose father was among the companions of the Prophet (s). Khawarij killed him along with his wife who was pregnant at that time in a ruthless manner. Reports of these crimes reached Imam Ali (a) and he (a) led the army from the camp of war with Mu’awiya toward Nahrawan.
Objections of Khawarij continued for 6 months after Siffin and thus, Imam Ali (a) sent ‘Abd Allah b. Abbas and Sa’sa’a b. Sawhan to talk with them. They did not accept the requests of the two for returning to the Muslim community. Later, Imam (a) asked them to select 12 people from themselves, and he did the same, then they exchanged dialogue with each other.
Imam Ali (a) wrote a letter to the heads of Khawarij and asked them to come back to people's side, but ‘Abd Allah b. Wahab reminded him about the events in Siffin and insisted that Imam Ali (a) had stepped out of religion therefore he needed to repent. After that, Imam (a) asked them to come towards him, for several times through people such as Qays b. Sa’d and Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, and guaranteed a safe-conduct for them. When he (a) became totally disappointed of the submission of Khawarij, he gathered his army of people, which was 14 thousand soldiers, against them and the war broke. Ali (a) insisted that his army should not begin the fight. Finally, the Khawarij started the war.
Number of the Soldiers of Khawarij
Following the peace-seeking manners of Imam Ali (a) before the battle by offering Khawarij safe-conduct and calling them to return, some left their army such as Frwa b. Nufil and 500 more. According to historical reports, from 4000 soldiers Khawarij had sent into the battle field, the ones standing against the army of Imam Ali (a) were a total of only 1800 horsemen and 1500 foot soldiers.
Result of the Battle
When the battle was begun, Khawarij were either killed or wounded very quickly. The wounded who were about 400 were sent back to their families. On the other side, from the army of Imam Ali (a), less than 10 soldiers were martyred. From all the army of Khawarij in Nahrawan, less than 10 people could escape unscathed, one of whom was ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Muljam Muradi who later martyred Imam Ali (a).
The material for this article is mainly taken from جنگ نهروان in Farsi Wikishia.