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'Amr b. al-'As

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'Amr b. al-'As
Personal Information
Full Name 'Amr b. al-'As b. Wa'il al-Qarashi al-Sahmi
Teknonym Abu 'Abd Allah
Place(s) of Residence Medina, Oman, Egypt
Death/Martyrdom Shawwal 1, 43/January 9, 664
Burial Place Muqattam cemetery in Egypt
Religious Information
Known for Conquering Egypt in the time of 'Umar and Putting the Qur'an on spears in the Battle of Siffin
Notable Roles Governors of the Prophet (s) and Umar and Mu'awiya
Other Activities He had a role in many of Mu'awiya's deceptions against Imam Ali (a)

ʿAmr b. al-ʿĀṣ al-Sahmī (Arabic: عَمرو بن العاص السهمي; d. 43/664) was among the most serious enemies of the noble Prophet (s) who accepted Islam shortly before the conquest of Mecca and biographers have mentioned him among the companions of the Prophet (s). His enmity with Imam Ali (a) and his deceptions in the battles with Imam (a) made a despicable character of him to Shia. It is said that he had a role in many of Mu'awiya's deceptions against Imam Ali (a) including the shirt of 'Uthman. In the Battle of Siffin, he was among the top commanders of Mu'awiya and putting the Qur'an on spears is attributed to him.

Lineage and Attributes

His lineage has been recorded as: 'Amr b. al-'As b. Wa'il b. Hashim b. Sa'id b. Sahm b. 'Amr b. Hasis b. Ka'b b. Lu'y al-Qarashi al-Sahmi. His kunya (teknonym) was Abu 'Abd Allah. Arab sources of biography mentioned him among cleverest Arabs. In many Persian sources, his name has been mentioned as 'Amru 'As (عمرُو عاص).

At the Time of the Prophet (s)

'Amr accepted Islam in 8/629-30, shortly before the conquest of Mecca. To find why he accepted Islam, some researchers have said that in the years close to complete victory of Islam in the peninsula and the conquest of Mecca, that the Prophet (s) would become successful in his invitation was not difficult to conclude by people like Khalid b. Walid, 'Uthman b. Talha and 'Amr b. al-'As. A story has been narrated by him in some sources according to which, when he found that Islam will take over Mecca and the peninsula, took refuge to Habasha (Abyssinia) and Negusta, king of Habasha spoke about the honesty of the noble Prophet (s) in his call and urged 'Amr to accept Islam. So, he accepted Islam there and then went to the Prophet (s) in Medina.

After he accepted Islam, the Prophet (s) sent him to the tribe of his father to invite them to Islam. 'Amr participated in some military missions including Dhat al-Salasil and then went to Oman for a preaching mission and became the governor there and remained in that position until the demise of the Prophet (s).

After the Prophet (s)

The entrance of a mosque in Muqattam cemetery, Cairo in which 'Amr b. al-'As was buried

During the rule of Abu Bakr, 'Amr had an important role in conquering some regions of Palestine. However, his fame in western historical sources is due to the conquest of Egypt during the time of 'Umar b. al-Khattab. 'Umar appointed him as the governor of Palestine and its surrounding areas. He then wrote a letter to 'Amr and told him to go to Egypt. 'Amr b. al-'As conquered Egypt with three thousand and five hundred Muslim soldiers and 'Umar appointed him as the governor of Egypt and did not change him until his death. After the death of 'Umar, 'Amr remained the ruler of Egypt for some more years. Then 'Uthman b. 'Affan dismissed him and replaced him with 'Abd Allah b. Sa'd b. Abi Sarh. 'Amr went to Medina and stayed there. Upon the revolt of people against 'Uthman, 'Amr went to Syria and stayed in his farm called Sab' in Palestine. By staying there, 'Amr thought to have kept away from chaos.

After 'Uthman was killed, 'Amr went to Mu'awiya and joined him in calling for revenge for the blood of 'Uthman and participated in the Battle of Siffin. Later, Mu'awiya appointed him as the governor of Egypt. He died on the day of Eid al-Fitr, 43/January 9, 664 and was buried in Muqattam which was the cemetery of Egyptians, at the feet of a mountain.

The Battle with Imam Ali (a)

Main article: Battle of Siffin

According to sources of the Islamic history, in the dispute between Mu'awiya and Imam Ali (a), 'Amr b. al-'As was the adviser of Mu'awiya and planned many of the plots and tricks of the army of Syria; among which, it has been reported that when 'Uthman was killed and Imam Ali (a) accepted the caliphate due to the insistence of the majority of Muslims, Imam Ali (a) sent someone to Mu'awiya and asked him to give allegiance to him like other Muslims. Mu'awiya wanted to announce his own caliphate and thus did not answer. He consulted with 'Amr, and 'Amr told him, "you neither have a background in Islam like Ali (a) and not the power to stand against him. Thus, you first need to introduce Ali (a) among people of Syria as the murderer of 'Uthman and rise up to take revenge of the blood of 'Uthman and this way you pave the ground to claim your own caliphate."

Mu'awiya accepted and began propagating in Syria that Ali (a) was the murderer of 'Uthman and by the excuse of taking revenge for the blood of 'Uthman, prepared the grounds for the battle with Imam Ali (a) and claiming caliphate. In return to helping Mu'awiya, 'Amr received the promise of Mu'awiya for the government of Egypt. After Imam Ali (a) knew about the plan of Mu'awiya and 'Amr b. al-'As, wrote a letter to them. In his letter to 'Amr, Imam Ali (a) warned him that helping Mu'awiya would not bring him any benefit. But in response, 'Amr asked Imam Ali (a) to withdraw from caliphate and leave it to a council.

In the Battle of Siffin, 'Amr was the adviser of Mu'awiya and among his top commanders and perhaps the commander of his horsemen. According to some sources, in the Battle of Siffin when 'Amr faced Imam Ali (a) and he (a) wanted to attack 'Amr, he showed his private part and Imam (a) turned his face from him and 'Amr escaped.

In the Battle of Siffin, when a group of Imam Ali's (a) army led by Malik al-Ashtar broke the resistance of the army of Syria and the victory of Imam Ali's (a) army was close to be achieved, 'Amr advised Mu'awiya to distribute copies of the Qur'an among his soldiers and they put them on spears and ask to stop the battle, so that the Qur'an will judge between them. This trick of 'Amr b. al-'As helped the army of Syria to escape defeat and the event of Arbitration took place.

The Event of Arbitration

Main article: The Arbitration

In the event of Arbitration, 'Amr b. al-'As was the representative of Syria against Abu Musa al-Ash'ari, the representative of Kufa. He persuaded Abu Musa that they give the verdict to dismiss both Ali (a) and Mu'awiya and leave the caliphate to a council. On the day of giving verdict, as they had agreed, first Abu Musa went on the pulpit and dismissed Ali (a), but then 'Amr went on the pulpit and appointed Mu'awiya for the caliphate and this way, the event of Arbitration resulted in nothing but escaping the army of Syria from defeat.