The 17th of Ramadhan [Archives:2003/686/Opinion]

November 17 2003

The date of the 17th of Ramadhan represents two important events in Moslem History. The first occurred after about three years from the date of the migration of the Prophet Mohammed to Yathrib (henceforth called Madinat Al-Rasul, or the City of the Prophet PAUH and shortened to Medina). On that fateful day, Islam took on a more militant stance, after having established institutional footing, with the first Islamic state set up in Medina. When the Prophet Mohammed (PAUH) migrated from Mecca to Medina with his early followers, the autocrats of Mecca confiscated all the belongings of the Moslems of Mecca. The Moslems of Mecca wanted to repatriate themselves by attacking the trade caravans of the Meccan merchants who held sway in the Meccan establishment. Suffice it to say that these merchants were responsible for all the persecution the early Moslems faced in the City of Mecca, in the first 13 years after the first revelation came down to the Prophet Mohammed from heaven, which also happened during the Holy Month of Ramadhan. The Meccan polytheists heard that their trading caravan might be attacked by the Moslems, who have now become strengthened by the conversion of the Aws and Khazraj tribes (who themselves were emigres from Yemen), who were feuding tribes that settled in the City of Yathrib. The conversion of these tribes ended their long standing feud and introduced the utopian brotherhood of Islam, under which all Moslems became united together with everything they owned to be shared by all the members of the community. The Meccans sent a force of about 1,000 with 100 cavalrymen. The Moslem force that engaged them numbered 300 with only three on horseback. Yet from the start when the Meccans sought to be challenged on a three by three basis, the Moslem challengers (Hamza, the Prophet’s brave uncle, Ali, the Prophet’s faithful and brave cousin and Al-Walid Ibn Al-Mughiera, whose father fought on the side of the polytheists). The latter was wounded, but his attacker was killed by Ali. Then, the Moslems and polytheists fought it out in full combat, with the polytheists quickly being routed, leaving seventy dead and a number of others wounded and taken as prisoners. The Meccans were astounded by the victory of the rag-tag Moslem militia and were unable to get a hold of themselves especially as they were far more in numbers and far better equipped. The Meccans also lost many of the evil leaders, who were extremely prejudiced against the Moslems and some of them died of heartbreak at the defeat (such as Abu Lahab, who was the defiant uncle of the Prophet Mohammed as cited in the Quran) very soon after the Badr engagement, as the first battle for Islam was called.
The second event is significant also, especially to Shiite Moslems, and occurred some thirty years later, in Kufa, Iraq. The prophet’s cousin, Ali, had been elected to the Caliphate, as the fourth successor to rule the Moslem World after the passing away of the Prophet Mohammed (PAUH) in 622 AD. However, Ali was contested by the Umayyad leader Ma’awiah Ibn Abu Sufian (His father, Abu Sufian, was one of the staunchest opponents of the Moslems and only converted to Islam after the Moslems have taken over Mecca some thirteen years after the Flight to Medina. He and his allies were not keen on setting up an orthodox Islamic state as has been the case over the last forty years since the Moslems fled to Medina, but wanted to set up a more mundane order, with an autocaratic state replacing the far more democratic and just regime that prevailed under the Orthodox Caliphs (Abu Bakr, Omar ibn Al-Khattab, Uthman ibn Affan and Ali ibn Abu Talib). By claiming to avenge the death of the Third Caliph, who was sadistically killed when the citizens of the state were protesting the unjust and illegitimate influence of the Umayyads in the caliphate The protest turned into a mob scene. There was a battle fought between the two factions and Ali’s forces were prevailing and almost routed the Umayyads. The clever Amro ibn Al’as came up with a suggestion that prompted several Moslem Quranic readers to raise the Quran to decide on the case of the dispute between Ali and Ma’awiyah. When the arbitrators were chosen, for some reason, Ali’s followers insisted that he chose a weak arbitrator, while Ma’awiyah chose the cunning Amro without any dispute from anyone. Because Ali was democratic, he submitted to his constituent’s choice knowing full well that he did not have a chance against Amro. The settlement ended with a stalemate between Ali (ruling from Kufa, Iraq) and Ma’awiyah (ruling from Damascus). There were several constituents, who went on the extreme end of both sides and denounced the settlement, demanding that Ali should seek the forgiveness of God, for relenting to the Umayyads and for other non-sensical reasons. Ali had fought these dissenters fiercely for they started to cause havoc throughout the Moslem state. They were killing women and children and committing acts of highway robbery, while claiming that anyone who did not see Islam their way is an infidel and his blood and property are sanctioned for these extremists to take as they please (Doesn’t history often repeat itself?). Ali fought these dissenters (who were called Khawarij) fiercely until they were defeated in the Battle of Al-Nahrawain, where 1,100 of them were killed while only 11 of Ali’s followers fell. Three of these dissenters plotted to assassinate, Ma’awiyah, Amro and Ali on the same day (17th of Ramadhan) in the year 661 AD. The only one to succeed was the assassinator of Ali and this tragically ended the life of one of the most heroic and cultured (his eloquence is unrivalled to this date) disciples of the Prophet Mohammed (PAUH), who many chroniclers claimed killed half the number of enemies of Islam in combat during the early battles in defense of the faith.