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The Battle of Jamal: Armored Camel

She was lying down in her death bed and was passing her last moments of life. She was extremely sad and upset. People around her asked: “you are the daughter of the first caliph and the mother of all believers. Why are you so sad?” She said: “The battle of Jamal has stick like a bone in my throat. I wish I had died before that day or I had been among the forgotten people.”(1)

This feeling of regret was not just before her death. One day, a group of people around Aisha started to talk about the battle of Jamal. She asked them: “Do people still remember that battle?” They replied back: “yes.”

Aisha said: “I wish I had never joined that battle and I had remained in my house like the rest of prophet’s wives.”(2)

It has also been narrated that whenever she recited the verse: “And [to the wives of the prophet] stay in your houses… “(3), she wept so much that you could see the wetness on her head scarf. (4)

What battle was the battle of Jamal, in which Aisha, the prophet’s wife got so upset about?

The foundation of this battle initiated shortly after people had pledged to Imam Ali (PBUH). Some people did not like Amir al-Mu’minin’s (PBUH) justice in distributing the common wealth and assigning rulers to different cities. This aroused their anger. As a result, hatred of Imam Ali grew amongst men like Talha and Zubair. This came especially after they were denied governance to the cities of Basrah and Kufa. Thus, they left Medina with the excuse of pilgrimage of the house of Allah and headed for Mecca.

On the other hand, many Umayyad members who had received special positions and gotten used to bonuses during the caliphate of Uthman had been cut off from these favors. Therefore, after usurping considerable amount from the common wealth they gathered in Mecca. They grouped with Talha and Zubair and met with Aisha. They used the stolen money from the common wealth and formed an army to take revenge for Uthman’s blood. They then took over the city of Basra. In this battle Aisha was on a camel and the army gathered around her camel as the camel presented their leading flag. Thus, the battle was known as the battle of Jamal (male camel).

Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH) went to Basra with his army to finish the uprising. He talked to them and fulfilled his proofs upon them to prevent the war and bloodshed. They did not accept and consequently there was an intense battle between the two groups and eventually the army of Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH) prevailed. Nonetheless, the war had many horrible consequences which started to show how devastating it had been.

In the battle of Jamal, there were so many arrows thrown between the two armies until each group ran out of arrows. There were so many spears thrown and so many men killed that the cavalry had to run over the bodies of killed Muslim soldiers. One of the soldiers in the battle narrates: After the battle, whenever I passed the cloth washing neighborhood (Dar al-Waleed) of Basra, the sound of washing sticks reminded me the spears and swords which penetrated the body of soldiers in the Battel of Jamal. (5)

There have been a number of reports on the count of soldiers killed in action. However, all historians have agreed upon the extremely high number of casualties. For example, Ya’qubi reports the total number of killed soldiers of this battle was over thirty thousand in his history book.

Indeed, the battle of Jamal caused immense amount of emotional distress and economical loss to Muslims. So many mothers who lost their sons; so many wives who became widows; and so many children who lost their fathers!

All these losses and injuries took place on only one day at a limited and definite part of the Islamic community. Nonetheless the damaging domino effects continued for years to come, and affected Muslims and Muslim countries later on. These effects are too much to be measured or calculated. Yes, these were the cause of Umm al-Mu’minin Aisha’s restlessness and anxieties.

(The above is a selection taken from “The Role of Aisha in Islam” by Late Allamah Murtada Askari (with some changes))

The Roshd Website commemorates the 10th of Jamadi al-Awwal, the anniversary of Battle of Jamal, the hard exam of Muslims and the advice-giving event at the beginning years of Islam.

Footnotes:

1. Balaaghaat al-Nisa’, p. 8. The story is mentioned in Tazkirah al-Khawas with further details.

2. Osd al-Ghaabah, vol. 3, p. 284 – Tabaqaat ibn Sa’ad, vol. 5, p. 1

3. “And stay in your houses and do not display your finery like the displaying of the ignorance.” (The Holy Quran, 33:33)

4. Tabaqaat ibn Sa’ad, vol. 8, p. 56 (Published in Europe) – Durr al-Manthur under the interpretation of 33:33.

5. Tarikh Tabari, vol. 5, p. 218 – Iqd al-Farid, vol. 4, p. 32

6. Tarikh Ya’qubi, the chapter of Battle of Jamal

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