Battle of Nahrawan

Battle of Nahrawan ... 20/07/658 History, #Abu_Musa, #Allah, #Arabia, #Arabic, #Baghdad, #Battle_of_Nahrawan, #Battle_of_Siffin, #Ibn, #Iraq, #January, #Khawarij, #Kufa, #Musa, #Muslim, #Nahrawan, #Persia, #Quran, #Syria, #Syrian, #Tigris, #Umayyad

The Battle of Nahrawan (Arabic: معركة النهروان‎, romanized: Ma'rakat an-Nahrawān) was fought between the army of caliph Ali and the rebel group called Kharijites in July 658 CE. Kharijites were a group of pious allies of Ali during the First Muslim Civil War. They separated from him following the Battle of Siffin when Ali agreed to settle the dispute with Mu'awiya, governor of Syria, through negotiations, a move labelled by the group as against Qur'an. After failed attempts to regain their loyalty and because of their rebellious and murderous activities, Ali confronted the Kharijites near their headquarters by Nahrawan canal, near modern-day Baghdad. Of the 4000 rebels, some 1200 were won over with promise of amnesty while majority of the remaining 2800 were killed in the ensuing battle.
Sects of Kharijites

* * * The battle resulted in permanent break between the group and the rest of Muslims, whom Kharijites branded as apostates. Although defeated, they continued to threaten and harass cities and towns for years to come. Ali himself was assassinated by one of the Kharijites in January 661.
The controversial policies of the third caliph Uthman resulted in a rebellion and he was assassinated in 656. Ali, the son-in-law and cousin of Muhammad, was subsequently elected caliph by the Medinese people. His election was challenged by some of Muhammad's companions including Talha ibn Ubayd Allah and Zubayr ibn al-Awam, and Muhammad's widow A'isha. Mu'awiya, the governor of Syria and Uthman's relative, also denounced Ali's election and demanded retribution against Uthman's killers. Although Ali defeated the rebellion of Talha and Zubayr in the Battle of the Camel in 656, his war against Mu'awiya resulted in stalemate at Siffin (July 657) when Mu'awiya called for peace. Although Ali was unwilling to halt the battle, his army refused to fight and he was forced to give in. An arbitration committee was setup with representatives from both Ali and Mu'awiya's side with a mandate to settle the dispute in the light of the Quran. As Ali marched back to Kufa, his capital, schisms appeared in his army. A group of his soldiers criticized the arbitration and accused Ali of blasphemy for he had left the matter to the discretion of two men and not acted according to the Book of God. Most of them had earlier forced Ali to accept the arbitration. Now they exclaimed that right to judgement belongs to God alone. Twelve thousand of them separated from the army and settled at a place called Harura. They became known as Harurites.
Ali, after some time, visited the Harura camp and persuaded the seceders to give up their protest and return to Kufa. According to some accounts, they returned on the condition that war against Mu'awiya be resumed after six months and Ali acknowledge his mistake, which he did in very general and ambiguous terms. The arbitration proceedings continued however and after about a year (March 658), when Ali refused to denounce the arbitration and sent his arbitration delegation headed by Abu Musa Ash'ari to carry out the talks, Kharijites decided to leave. In order to avoid being detected, they moved out in small groups and went to a place called Nahrawan on the east bank of Tigris. Some five hundred of their Basran comrades were informed and they too joined them in Nahrawan. Following this exodus, they were called as Khawarij, those who leave.
Kharijites denounced Ali as caliph, declared him, his followers, and Syrians as infidels and elected Abd Allah ibn Wahb al-Rasibi their caliph. They declared war against such infidels licit and started practice of interrogating people about their opinion on Uthman and Ali. If anybody did not share their view, he was killed. In the meantime, arbitrators declared that Uthman had been killed unjustly by the rebels. Other than that, however, they could not agree on anything substantial and the process collapsed. Ali now denounced the arbitrators and called on his supporters for renewed war against Mu'awiya. He invited Kharijites to join him in war against Mu'awiya as before. They refused to do so unless he would acknowledge that he had gone astray and repent. Ali consequently decided to depart for Syria without them. With the Kharijite threat looming on the Kufan horizon, Ali's forces refused to march on Syria unless the Kharijites were either won over or neutralized. Ali nevertheless persuaded them that war against Mu'awiya and Syrians was more important and started march to Syria. On the way he received news of the Kharijites' murdering various people because of their beliefs. Ali sent one of his men for inquiry but he too was killed by the Kharijites. His soldiers once agains implored him to deal with Kharijites first for they feared for their families and property in Kufa. Ali then moved with his army to Nahrawan.
He asked Kharjites to surrender the murderers and accept peace. If they did so, he would leave them and depart to fight the Syrians. Kharijites responded that all of them were responsible for the murders and that they considered blood of his companions and followers licit. After further exchange of arguments, Kharijite leaders told their followers not to engage in further discussion and instead prepare for martyrdom and to face God in paradise. Both sides then arranged in battle order and Ali announced that anyone of the Kharijites who would come to him or go back to Kufa would be safe and only murderers will be punished. As a result, some 1200 Kharijites left; some joined Ali, some went back to Kufa, while others left the battlefield and went into mountains; Ibn Wahb was left with 2800 fighters. Most of the Kharijites were on foot, while Ali's army consisted of archers, cavalry as well as foot soldiers. Ali sent his cavalry in front of his infantry. Infantry was divided in two rows and archers were placed in between the first row and cavalry. He ordered his army to let the Kharijites start the battle. Kharijites then attacked Ali's forces with vigor and broke through his cavalry. Archers showered them with arrows, cavalry attacked from behind and foot-soldiers attacked with swords and spears. Heavily outnumbered and surrounded, most of the Kharijites, including the caliph Ibn Wahb, were quickly slaughtered. After the battle was over, 400 hundred wounded were found laying on ground and were sent back to their families in Kufa. On Ali's side, seven to thirteen men are said to have died.
After the battle, Ali ordered his army to march with him on Syria. They refused with the excuse that they were tired and needed some rest in Kufa, after which they will go with him on the new campaign. Ali agreed and moved to Nukhayla, mustering ground outside Kufa, and permitted his soldiers to rest and occasionally visit their homes. In the next few days, however, the camp was almost completely deserted and he was forced to abandon the Syrian campaign. The slaughter of Ali's erstwhile Allies and pious Qur'an readers undermined Ali's position as caliph. He was eventually assassinated by the Kharijite Abd al-Rahman ibn Muljam in January 661.
Kharijites although decimated rose up again. The battle of Nahrawan cemented their break from the community and majority of them abandoned city life and resorted to brigandage, robbery, raiding and pillaging settled areas and other anti-state activities throughout the reigns of Ali and Mu'awiya, who became caliph a few months after the assassination of Ali. During the second civil war they controlled large parts of Arabia and Persia, but were later subdued by the Umayyad governor of Iraq Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. They were, however, not completely eliminated until the 10th century CE.
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