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Ali ibn Abi Talib: The Fourth Khalifa Of Islam (Caliph)

Ali ibn Abi Talib: The Fourth Khalifa Of Islam (Caliph)

After the Muslims migrated to Madinah, they finally had a place they could truly call home. They were now free of the Makkans’ persecution, and additionally, they were rulers of Madinah. Naturally, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is the one who would assume the responsibility of the leader of the Muslims. Not only was he one of Allah’s most beloved prophets, but he was also a natural leader. Hence, he served as the leader of the Muslims, the Imam during the prayer, and the commander of the Muslim armed forces. One of his closest companions and allies was Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA).

Hazrat Ali was very young when he accepted Islam. In fact, he was just the second person to accept the message of the Prophet (PBUH) after his wife, Khadija. He was also related to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH). Firstly, he was his cousin, and later, he would go on to become his son-in-law after marrying his daughter. He was a very righteous and brave man, often at the forefront leading the Muslims during their battles. He was a well-respected companion and one of the people closest to Allah.

Meanwhile, Abu Bakr RA became the first Khalifa, while Umar RA was the second Khalifa. Everything went pretty smoothly until then. Abu Bakr quashed various rebellions in the area and helped unify the Muslims. Meanwhile, Umar achieved a lot during his administration. He expanded the borders of the Muslim state well beyond where they used to be. Additionally, he gained a lot of goodwill because of his exemplary leadership, ensuring that he looked after the poor and needy. However, the third caliph Usman RA had a slightly different story, and it played a key role in the caliphate of Ali as well as…

Ali ibn Abi Talib: The Fourth Khalifa Of Islam (Caliph)

The Election of Ali ibn Abi Talib as Khalifa (Caliph)

Unlike the previous caliphs, Ali’s election took place in very uncertain circumstances. On the previous three occasions, there was cause for worry, but the Muslims were always united. At the time of Abu Bakr’s appointment, people were in shock due to the Prophet (PBUH) passing away. However, once the companions got together and decided on the course of action, they quickly agreed. For Umar, Abu Bakr specified his successor, while for Uthman, the group of senior companions elected him.

When it was Ali’s turn, things were different. Toward the end of Uthman’s tenure, conspiring forces dealt a severe blow to the unity in the Muslim ranks. Conspirators and rebels took advantage of his kind nature and desire for peace in all circumstances by sowing the seeds of doubt among people. That eventually escalated more and more, until it culminated in the martyrdom of the third caliph, Uthman. The rebels who killed him were desperate to get the new caliph in position while Hajj was ongoing and many people of Madinah were away from home.

Various pressure groups pushed for different people to become the new caliph. Ali, Zubayr ibn al-Awwam, and Talha ibn Ubaydullah were among the contenders. Hence, different groups supported them. Reportedly, Ali even backed one of the other two to be elected. However, with the pressure growing and the need to replace Uthman becoming apparent quickly, the Muslims had to take a quick decision. The pressure also continued to mount, and soon, the people decided that Ali would be the fourth rightly guided caliph of Islam.

A Difficult Start for Hazrat Ali (RA)

While beginning his tenure as the new caliph, Ali faced a number of challenges – the likes of which none of the three previous caliphs had experienced. There was chaos all over the Islamic State. The wounds from Uthman’s brutal assassination were still open, and people wanted justice. At the same time, the culprits continued to spread their evil messages and ideas among the people. These insurgents and rebels were massive in number, and they had no intention of letting the caliph rule with ease. Hence, they did all they could to disrupt him.

One of the things causing the most chaos in the state was that many Muslims wanted quick justice for Uthman. This led to them expressing themselves in very strong ways. At times, they were even engaging in open protests so that Ali would accept their demands. However, the fourth caliph wasn’t accepting the demands for a reason. The fact is that in the aftermath of Uthman’s assassination, there were many things that Ali had to worry about. The whole of the Islamic State was in chaos, and he had to work on rectifying that.

While Hazrat Ali focused on consolidating the state and rectifying the many problems that had now cropped up, the conspirators continued to cause problems. Hence, Hazrat Ali decided to restructure the leadership hierarchy of all provinces. So, he decided that he must replace the current governors and leaders with others who would be capable of dealing with what now seemed to be quite a messy situation. However, the move largely backfired since people in many areas didn’t welcome the newcomers. Sometimes, they even failed to enter their provinces since their people weren’t supportive of them. Eventually, all this would culminate in a civil war.

Battle of the Camel

As Hazrat Ali continued to focus on administration, people became more impatient. Ali knew that he would have to deal with them sooner or later. However, he also wanted to ensure that he dealt with the instigators properly. He wanted to catch the culprits and punish them and mete out justice. However, the other band of Muslims wasn’t willing to wait any longer. Aisha bint Abi Bakr (RA), alongside Zubayr and Talha, led an army toward Basra, intending to punish the rebels and make them pay for their sins.

At the same time, Ali was also concerned about Syria, where the governor didn’t want to pledge allegiance to him. However, upon hearing about events in Basra, he changed course. Neither side was keen on fighting the other. Ali and Aisha eventually agreed to settle matters amicably. They knew about the many hardships that the Muslims had faced in the past. It was in no one’s interest for the Muslims to battle against each other. However, this development perturbed the rebels. Therefore, they devised a heinous plot.

During the dark of the night, after negotiations, the conspirators began a fight. They targeted the army of Aisha, Zubayr, Talha. The main aim was to cause chaos and confusion on the battlefield. This strategy largely worked as the army naturally retaliated against Ali’s army, thinking they were under attack. Zubayr embraced martyrdom during that battle, while Talha was also badly wounded. Aisha was on a camel before some of the fighters cut its legs – thus the name of the battle. In the aftermath of this event, Aisha withdrew to Madinah and stayed away from political activity. Meanwhile, Ali was sad about the devastating loss of life.

Battle of Siffin

There was no respite for Ali, the fourth Khalifa of Islam. As the Battle of the Camel came to an end, he had to turn his attention toward Syria. The situation was somewhat similar there. Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan, appointed by Umar, was refusing to pledge allegiance to Ali. He maintained that the caliph must punish Uthman’s killers first and exact revenge. Egged on by conspirators in the middle, the two sides became more and more antagonistic toward each other. Eventually, a conflict between the two sides was inevitable after the exhibition of Uthman’s shirt and his wife’s chopped-off fingers.

The two large armies eventually gathered at the battlefield. Both sides engaged in extensive negotiations, trying to avoid needless fighting. However, after many long weeks, they failed to come to an agreement. Thus, a conflict began between the groups. After fierce fighting, Hazrat Ali’s forces began to make gains; however, some prominent companions perished during this battle. After the killing of thousands, both sides grew wary, desperate to avoid killing further Muslims. Muawiya’s soldiers tied pages of the Quran to their spearheads, indicating a stoppage of the battle.

Now, the arbitration between the two sides began. Both sides agreed that they must bring Uthman’s killers to justice. However, they differed on the timing. Muawiya’s side wanted justice immediately, while Ali ibn Abi Talib’s side was more pragmatic. While the arbitration was ongoing, a large portion of Ali’s army broke away. They formed what people came to know as the Kharijites, an anarchist movement within the Islamic State that would prove troublesome for Muslim rulers for years to come.

Battle of Nahrawan

The Kharjites who had broken away from Ali ibn Abi Talib’s army now began to show their true colors. They considered anybody who disagreed with them as unbelievers. After seeing their nasty activities and demeanor, Ali decided to deal with them at their headquarters. They had declared Ali, his followers, as well as the Syrians as infidels. They killed several people for their beliefs. Then, Ali ibn Abi Talib sent a man to investigate what was happening, but they killed him as well. After this, Ali marched to their headquarters in Nahrawan.

Ali offered that the Kharjites give up the people engaged in killings, and there would be peace. However, this group considered outsiders to be legitimate targets. Hence, they were all in it together. Negotiations didn’t prove to be fruitful. The Kharjite leaders told their people to prepare for martyrdom. In the meantime, Ali announced an amnesty policy. He offered that anyone who would step away from the opposition would be safe. Furthermore, he stated that he would only punish the murderers.

This proved to be a successful strategy as 1200 of them left the army. Now, around 2800 remained. Unlike Ali’s army, however, this group wasn’t well-armed. Hence, the battle was extremely one-sided. The Kharjites instigated the fighting. However, Ali’s army hit back hard and inflicted massive casualties. They killed most of the force, with a few hundred remaining alive but injured. Despite being crushed, however, this wouldn’t be the end of the Kharjites. They would later resume via other forms of crime against various rulers in the coming years. Hence, they plagued the Muslim community for a long time.

The Assassination of Ali, the Fourth Khalifa

As was the case with Umar and Uthman, the previous two rightly guided caliph, Ali also died due to an assassination. The venomous effect of the Kharijites was still present on the ground, and it was one of them who inflicted the blow. The killer aimed to take revenge for what happened in the Battle of Nahrawan. Hence, he made a lengthy plan with a few conspirators to ensure that they would kill the fourth caliph, alongside Muawiya and Amr ibn al’As.

The man who would eventually carry out the terrible deed was Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Muljam. This man reportedly met a woman who infatuated him. She had lost her relatives at Nahrawan, and she agreed to marry him if he killed Ali. Therefore, the man set out to do just that. Ali was offering prayer one day, when this wretched man came and attacked him on the head with a poisoned sword. One of the men caught him and held him while the people tried to save Ali ibn Abi Talib’s life.

While Ali was struggling for survival, he stipulated that the man should be dealt with by the Islamic ruling of retaliation. The fourth caliph breathed his last a couple of days later. Hasan ibn Ali (RA) would be the one to carry out the ruling of Qisas, as his father instructed. In this way, Abd al-Rahman ibn Muljam met the fate he deserved after killing the fourth rightly guided caliph of Islam.

The Legacy of Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA)

The fourth rightly guided caliph followed a similar style of administration as his predecessors. Hence, he tried to govern by keeping a close eye on the governors of various provinces. Of course, due to the challenges he faced, this didn’t work as planned. He was also very particular about ensuring that there were justice and the rule of law. Sadly, once again, the circumstances dictated that there would be much lawlessness during his caliphate. He reportedly once appeared in front of a judge for a decision against him as well, read more details about four and present khalifa of Islam.

As the previous caliphs did, Ali also spent generously from the Bait-ul-Maal. He focused on the welfare of his people and was very generous. Moreover, he ensured that everyone received their fair share. Hence, he would never allow his family members or anyone to take more than what they deserved. In this way, he ruled according to Allah’s laws and the Prophet’s (PBUH) Sunnah and guidance.

Much of Ali’s caliphate suffered due to the continuous state of crisis. Hence, he had little time to focus on expansion or the improvement of facilities in new Muslim areas. Instead, he had to focus on the battles during his tenure. The first civil war occurred during his tenure, which saddened him immensely. However, he always did whatever he could to avoid engaging in these battles, aiming for peace. However, Allah willed that things would happen differently. Ultimately, he laid down his life in the same way, staying on Allah’s path, while an enemy of Allah and the Muslims attacked and killed him.


The end of Ali ibn Abi Talib’s caliphate brought an end to the tenure of the four rightly guided caliphs. The crises that the Muslims faced toward the end of this period only intensified going forward. Hence, many terrible things were to happen in the coming years. In the meantime, the caliphate lost its true style and meaning. Instead, it became like a dynasty with sons inheriting it from their fathers.

The fighting among Muslims would have much deeper consequences in the future. We can see its effects till today among the Muslim Ummah. Muslims nowadays remain deeply divided about the events that took place and who was responsible. However, we must all accept Caliph Ali’s immense services for Islam and admire his true faith in Allah. His bravery and various other characteristics make him an excellent role model for Muslims at all times.