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The First Islamic Civil War (656–661), also called the First Fitna ( "The Fitna of the killing of Uthman"), was the first major civil war within the Islamic Caliphate. It arose as a struggle over who had the legitimate right to become the ruling Caliph. The dispute shattered the unity of the Muslim ummah and resulted in the permanent division of Islam into rival Shi'a and Sunni sects.

The Fitna began as a series of revolts fought against Ali ibn Abi Talib, the fourth and final of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, caused by the controversial assassination of his predecessor, Uthman Ibn Affan. It lasted for the entirety of Ali's reign, and its end is marked by Muawiyah's assumption of the caliphate (founding the Umayyad dynasty), and the subsequent recorded peace treaty between him and Hassan ibn Ali.

Background

Battle of Bassorah

Ali was first opposed by a faction led by Talhah, Al-Zubayr and the Muhammad's wife, Aisha bint Abu Bakr. This group was known as disobedients (Nakithin) by their enemies. First they gathered in Mecca then moved to Basramarker with the expectation of finding the necessary forces and resources to mobilize people in what is now Iraq. The rebels occupied Basra, killing many people. When Ali asked them for obedience and a pledge of allegiance, they refused. The two parties met at the Battle of Bassorah (Battle of the Camel) in 656, where Ali emerged victorious.

Battle of Siffin

Later Ali was challenged by Muawiyah I, the governor of Levant and the cousin of Uthman, who refused Ali's demands for allegiance and called for revenge for Uthman. Ali opened negotiations with him with the hope of regaining his allegiance but Muawiyah insisted on Levant autonomy under his rule. Muawiyah replied by mobilizing his Levantn supporters and refusing to pay homage to Ali on the pretext that his contingent had not participated in his election. The two armies encamped themselves at Siffin for more than one hundred days, most of the time being spent in negotiations. Although Ali exchanged several letters with Muawiyah, he was unable to dismiss the latter, nor persuade him to pledge allegiance. Skirmishes between the parties led to the Battle of Siffin in 657. After a week of combat was followed by a violent battle known as laylat al-harir (the night of clamor) the Muawiyah's army were on the point of being routed when Amr ibn al-Aas advised Muawiyah to have his soldiers hoist mushaf (then parchments inscribed with verses of the Qur'an) on their spearheads in order to cause disagreement and confusion in Ali's army.

Arbitration

The two armies finally agreed to settle the matter of who should be Caliph by arbitration. The refusal of the largest bloc in Ali's army to fight was the decisive factor in his acceptance of the arbitration. The question as to whether the arbiter would represent Ali or the Kufans caused a further split in Ali's army. Ash'ath ibn Qays and some others rejected Ali's nominees, `Abd Allah ibn `Abbas and Malik al-Ashtar, and insisted on Abu Musa Ash'ari, who was opposed by Ali, since he had earlier prevented people from supporting him. Finally Ali was urged to accept Abu Musa.

Battle of Nahrawan

Some of Ali's supporters, later were known as Kharijites (schismatics), opposed this decision and rebelled and Ali had to fight with them in the Battle of Nahrawan. The arbitration resulted in the dissolution of Ali's coalition.It must be noted that before the battle of nahrawan Ali had prepared to attack Mauwiya but after this battle Ali's men did not gave him support that he wanted to attack Mauwiya so expedition to Syria was abandoned

Loss of All Provinces Except Kufa

Muawiyah's army invaded and occupied cities, which Ali's governors couldn't prevent and people didn't support him to fight with them. Muawiyah overpowered Egypt, Yemen and other areas.

Last days of Ali

On the nineteenth of Ramadan, while Ali was praying in the mosque of Kufa, the Kharijite Abd-al-Rahman ibn Muljam assassinated him with a strike of his poison-coated sword. Ali, wounded by the poisonous sword, lived for two days and died on the 21st of Ramadan in the city of Kufa in 661 A.D.

Hasan caliphate

Upon the death of Ali ibn Abi Talib, Kufi Muslims pledged allegiance to his eldest son Hasan without dispute.

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