Talhah ibn `Ubaydullah

`Ali was persuaded to accept the responsibility of the Caliphate and all Muslims swore allegiance to him, including Talhah and Zubayr ibn al-Awwam. Talhah and Zubayr were deeply shocked by the murder of `Uthman. They were horrified and felt strongly that the murderers should be punished and that justice should be done. But the punishment of the murderers was not an easy task in as much as the crime was not just the work of a few individuals but involved a large number of persons.

Talhah and Zubayr sought `Ali’s permission to go to Makkah to perform `Umrah. They met `Aishah the wife of the Prophet (s). She was greatly shocked when she heard of the assassination of `Uthman. From Makkah, Talhah, Zubayr and `Aishah set off for Basrah where large numbers were gathering to seek revenge for the death of `Uthman.

The forces gathered at Basrah seemed to present an open challenge to `Ali. As the caliph of the Muslims and the head of the entire Muslim State, he could not tolerate any insurrection or armed revolt against the State. But what a difficult and awesome task he faced! To deal with the revolt, he had to confront his brothers, his companions and his friends-followers of the Prophet and his religion, those who often fought side by side with him against the forces of shirk, those whom he respected and loved.

The forces clamoring for vengeance for `Uthman and those supporting `Ali met at a place called Kuraybah, near Basrah. Ali desired to avoid war and settle matters by peaceful means. He used every means at his disposal to achieve peace. He clung to every hope of avoiding confrontation. But the dark forces at work against Islam and how numerous were these, were determined that matters should come to a terrible and bloody end.

Ali wept. He wept bitterly when he saw `Aishah, the “Mother of the Believers” in her hawdaj or palanquin astride a camel at the head of the army which now emerged to fight him. And when he saw Talhah and Zubayr, two close companions of the Prophet, in the midst of the army, he shouted to them to come out to him. They did and `Ali said to Talhah:

“O Talhah, have you come with the wife of the Messenger of Allah to fight along with her…?” And to Zubayr he said:

“O Zubayr, I implore you, by God, do you remember the day when the Prophet. peace be on him, passed by you and we were in such and such a place and he asked you: ‘Do you love Ali?’ and you said: ‘Why shouldn’t I love my cousin and one who follows my religion…?'”

Ali continued talking to them reminding them of the bonds of brotherhood and faith. In the end both Talhah and Zubayr withdrew from participation in this civil war. They withdrew immediately when they saw the situation in a different light. But they paid for that withdrawal with their lives.

As they withdrew, a man named Amr ibn Jarmouz followed Zubayr and cowardly murdered him while he performed Salat. Talhah was killed by an arrow allegedly shot by Marwan – a cousin of `Uthman who was too blinded by rage and the desire to seek revenge for his kinsman to respond to the possibility of avoiding war and bloodshed among Muslims.

The murder of `Uthman had become Talhah’s tryst with destiny. He did not participate in the fighting and killing that followed that came to be known in history as the “Battle of the Camel”. Indeed, if he had known that the fitnah would have degenerated into such insane hatred and bitterness and resulted in such a bloody outcome, he would have resisted it. He was not keen to fight `Ali. He was simply appalled by the murder of `Uthman and wanted to see justice done. Before the beginning of the battle he had said in a voice choked with emotion:

“O Lord, for the sake of `Uthman, take from me this day until You are pleased.” Then when `Ali faced him and Zubayr, they saw the correctness of his position and withdrew from the field of battle. Yet, in these difficult circumstances, martyrdom was reserved for them.

The Battle of Camel came to an end. Aishah, the mother of the believers, realized that she had precipitated matters and left Basrah for the Sacred Mosque and then to Madinah distancing herself from the conflict. Ali provided well for her journey giving her all the comfort and honor due to her.

When the numerous dead from the battle were brought together, `Ali led the funeral prayer for them all, those who were with him and those who were against him. And when he had finished burying Talhah and Zubayr he bade farewell to them with a heavy heart, a heart filled with tenderness and love.

“I really hope,” he said in simple and sublime words, “that Talhah, az-Zubayr, `Uthman and I will be among those of whom God has said: ‘And We shall remove from their hearts any lurking sense of injury and rancor; they will be brothers joyfully facing each other on thrones of dignity.’ “(The Quran, Surah al-Hijr, 15:47)

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