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Battle of Siffin

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Date Safar of 37/July 657
Location Siffin
Result Hakamiyya
Cause Mu'awiya's denial of pledging allegiance with Imam 'Ali (a)
Imam 'Ali's army Syria army
Imam 'Ali (a)
Malik al-Ashtar
'Amr b. 'As
Martyrdom of 25000 45000

The Battle of Șiffīn (Arabic: معركة صفين) was a battle between Imam Ali (a) and Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan occurred in Safar of 37/July 657 in an area called Siffin. Mu'awiya and his army later came to be called "Qasitun" (the cruel). When the army of Mu'awiya was about to be defeated they put up copies of Qur'an on their spearheads, as a sign of agreeing that Qur'an be the arbiter in settling their dispute), requiring troops to walk away from Imam Ali (a)'s army. Eventually, some arbiters were elected in order to judge between the two parties, and the battle ended with no result. 'Ammar and Khuzayma martyred in this battle.

The Cause of the Battle

Timeline of Imam 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) life
599 Birth
610 The first person who believes in Islam
619 Demise of Abu Talib (Father)
622 Laylat al-Mabit: sleeping in the place of the Prophet (s)
622 Hijra to Medina
624/2 Participating in the Battle of Badr
625/3 Participating in the Battle of Uhud
626/4 Demise of Fatima bt. Asad (Mother)
627/5 Participating in the Battle of Khandaq and killing 'Amr b. 'Abd Wadd
628/6 Writing the content of Hudaybiyya peace treaty
629/7 Victorious of Khiybar castle in the Battle of Khaybar
630/8 Participating in Conquest of Mecca and breaking idols by the order of the Prophet (s)
630/9 Successor of the Prophet (s) in Medina in the Battle of Tabuk
632/10 Participating in Hajjat al-Wida'
632/10 Event of Ghadir
632/11 Demise of the Prophet (s) and his burial by Imam 'Ali (a)
Three caliphs period
632/11 Incident of Saqifa and beginning of Caliphate of Abu Bakr
632/11 Martyrdom of Lady Fatima (a)
634/13 Beginning of Caliphate of 'Umar b. al-Khattab
644/23 Participating in Six-Member Council
644/23 Beginning of Caliphate of 'Uthman b. 'Affan
655/35 Beginning of his Caliphate
656/36 The Battle of Jamal
657/37 The Battle of Siffin
658/38 The Battle of Nahrawan
661/40 Martyrdom

Origins of the Battle of Siffin go back to when Imam Ali (a) undertook the position of caliphate, since he wanted to dismiss Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan from the rule of Syria and appoint 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas in his place. Imam Ali (a) wrote a letter to Mu'awiya, asking him to go to Medina together with the noblemen of Syria. He wrote to Mu'awiya that people murdered 'Uthman b. 'Affan without consulting him, but they elected him as the Caliph on the basis of consensus and consultation. In one of his letters to Mu'awiyya, Imam Ali (a) wrote:

My allegiance is public and all Muslims are committed to it, both the ones who were in Medina at the time of the allegiance and the ones who were in other cities such as Basra and Syria. You think that you can avoid pledging allegiance to me by accusing me of murdering 'Uthman. Everyone knows that I have not killed him and there is no qisas on me. 'Uthman's heirs are better-positioned than you to ask for his vengeance. You are one of the people who disobeyed 'Uthman, and when he asked for your help, you did not help him until he was killed.

Mu'awiya did not respond to the letter.

Mobilizing the Army

After the Battle of Jamal, Imam Ali (a) resided in Kufa and tried to persuade Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan to obey him. When Imam Ali (a) realized that Mu'awiya will not be persuaded by his advice and that the noblemen of Kufa support the decision to go to war with Syria, he called people to the battle in a public sermon. Imam Ali (a) wrote a letter to 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas to call people of Basra to attend the battle; many people from Basra went to Kufa together with 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas. He also wrote a letter to Mikhnaf b. Sulaym, the ruler of Isfahan, and called him to join his army.

Also a number of women from Kufa attended the battle, encouraging the Army of Iraq against the army of Syria by reciting poems involving praises of Imam Ali (a) and his virtues. These women included Suda bt. 'Amara al-Hamadani, Umm Sanan, Zarqa' bt. 'Adiyy al-Hamadani, Umm al-Khayr and Jarwa bt. Murra b. Ghalib al-Tamimi.

Mu'awiya's assistants and advisors in the battle included: 'Amr b. 'As (who resided in Palestine at that time, and Mu'awiya asked him to join his army and work as his advisor in Syria; he promised him to appoint him as the ruler of Egypt, 'Ubayd Allah b. 'Umar, 'Abd al-Rahman b. Khalid b. Walid, 'Abd Allah b. 'Amr b. 'As, Marwan b. Hakam, Mu'awiya b. Hudayj, Dahhak b. Qays, Busr b. Artat, Shurahbil b. Simt al-Kindi and Habib b. Maslama.

The Beginning of the Battle

The two armies met in the border of Rome on the north of Iraq and Syria. Imam Ali (a) sent Malik al-Ashtar to the army of Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan for talks before the war, emphasizing that Imam Ali (a)'s army should not start the war. When Malik al-Ashtar departed the camps, the army of Syria had already started the battle. However, after this attack, the army of Syria retreated.

After some sporadic clashes, in the month of Muharram, there was a ceasefire between the two parties of war. However, negotiations between Imam Ali (a)'s representatives and Mu'awiya continued. Mu'awiya suggested as his main condition for a compromise the execution of people who, in his view, were accomplices in the murder of 'Uthman, such as 'Ammar b. Yasir, 'Adi b. Hatam, and Malik al-Ashtar.

On the first day of Safar, there was a violent war between the two armies. Every day one of Imam Ali (a)'s commanders undertook the leadership of the frontline. On the first day Malik al-Ashtar, on the second day Hashim b. 'Utba, on the third day 'Ammar b. Yasir, on the fourth day Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya, and on the fifth day 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas led the frontline.


Main article: The Arbitration

By the cunning of 'Amr b. al-'As, the army of Syria put volumes of the Qur'an on their spears as the symbol of making the Qur'an the arbiter between the fighting parties. This led to a division within the army of Imam Ali (a), with some people saying that since the enemy has accepted the Qur'an as the arbiter, we can no longer fight with them. Imam Ali (a) resisted the pressures, announcing that this was but a deception, but eventually he had to accept the arbitration of the Qur'an by writing a letter to Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan saying that he knows that Mu'awiya does not believe in the Qur'an, but he accepts the arbitration of the Qur'an anyway.

This happened when the army of Mu'awiya was about to be defeated because of the attacks made by Malik al-Ashtar. Mu'awiya asked 'Amr b. al-'As for advice. By the suggestion of 'Amr b. al-'As and the order of Mu'awiya, people of Syria put volumes of the Qur'an on their spears, shouting: "O' people of Iraq! Let God be the arbiter between us". According to some accounts, they also shouted: "O' Arab people! Think about your women and daughters. If you die, who is going to fight the Romans, Turks and the Persians?" They thereby asked for ending the war. Imam Ali (a) ordered his army to continue the war, but most people in his army wanted to accept the arbitration. Thus Imam Ali (a) had to accept the arbitration.

Imam Ali (a) proposed 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas or Malik al-Ashtar as his arbiter, and proposed Ahnaf b. Qays as a second or third arbiter, but some people did not accept his suggestions, and imposed Abu Musa al-Ash'ari to Imam Ali (a) as an arbiter. And people of Syria elected 'Amr b. al-'As as their representative for arbitration.

The two arbiters decided that 'Amr b. al-'As announces the removal of Mu'awiya from power, and Abu Musa al-Ash'ari announces the removal of Ali b. Abi Talib (a) from power, leaving the election of the Caliph to a council. 'Amr b. al-'As asked Abu Musa to announce the result of the arbitration ahead of him. Thus Abu Musa al-Ash'ari announced the removal of Imam Ali (a) from power, but when it came to 'Amr b. al-'As, instead of announcing the removal of Mu'awiya from power, he confirmed the dismissal of Imam Ali (a) by Abu Musa, and appointed Mu'awiya as the Caliph. After this, there was a quarrel between these two arbiters and they cursed each other.

The Result of the War

Because of what happened in the arbitration, the two armies stopped the battle and Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan could escape the inevitable defeat of his army. After this, Imam Ali (a) tried to mobilize people to attack Syria, but people of Kufa and Hijaz did not comply with his orders. Moreover, a group called Khawarij was formed that launched the Battle of Nahrawan against Imam Ali (a). Finally, Imam Ali (a) was martyred by a person from Khawarij, called Ibn Muljam al-Muradi.

The Number of Casualties

There is controversy over the number of casualties in the two armies. According to some historians, 70,000 people were killed from both sides, 45,000 of whom were from the army of Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan, and 25,000 of whom were from the army of Imam Ali (a).

Among the martyrs of Imam Ali (a)'s army were 25 people who had fought in the Battle of Badr together with the Prophet (s), including:

'Ammar b. Yasir

Khuzayma b. Thabit known as Dhu al-Shahadatayn

Hashim b. 'Utba

• [Suhayl b. 'Amr al-Ansari]]

'Abd Allah b. Ka'b al-Muradi

Abu Hazim al-Bajali

Ya'la b. Umayya

Monographs Concerning the Battle of Siffin

Some bibliographers and cataloguers, such as Ibn Nadim in his al-Fihrist, al-Najashi in his al-Rijal, al-Shaykh al-Tusi in his Fihrist and others have introduced books written about the Battle of Siffin, such as:

Siffin by Jabir b. Yazid al-Ju'fi

Siffin by Aban b. Taghlib

Siffin by Abu Mikhnaf

Siffin by Muhammad b. 'Amr al-Waqidi

Waq'at Siffin (book) by Nasr b. Muzahim al-Minqari

Siffin by Hisham al-Kalbi

Siffin by Ishaq b. Bishr

Siffin by Abu Ishaq Isma'il b. 'Isa al-'Attar

Siffin by 'Abd Allah b. Muhammad b. Abi Shayba

Siffin by Yahya b. Sulayman al-Ju'fi

Siffin by Ibrahim b. Muhammad b. Sa'id al-Thaqafi

• The books al-Siffin al-kabir and al-Siffin al-saghir by Muhammad b. Zakariyya b. Dinar

Siffin by Mundhir b. Muhammad b. Mundhir b. Sa'id al-Qabusi

Siffin by 'Abd al-'Aziz b. Yahya b. Ahmad al-Jaludi

Siffin by Abu 'Abd Allah Husayn b. Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Halwani

Siffin by Ibrahim b. Husayn b. Dizil al-Hamadani

See Also


  • The material for writing this article has been mainly taken from جنگ صفین in Farsi wikishia.