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Malik Al-Ashtar (Arabic:مالك الأشتر) was one of the most loyal companions of Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the cousin of Muhammad. Al-Ashtar became a Muslim during Muhammad's time and rose to prominence during the caliphates of Uthman and Ali. During the caliphate of Ali he fought in the Battle of Jamal and Siffin during the first Fitna in Ali's Islamic defence. He is recognized for his fierce and steadfast defense of Islam in battle as well as his pious nature. The appellation of "Al-Ashtar" is Arabic meaning cut, torn or ripped. He earned the title of "Al-Ashtar" from a battle scar he received on his lower eyelid during the Battle of Yarmouk.

Serving in Ali's Caliphate

He was appointed Governor of Egyptmarker in 658 (38 A.H.) by ˤAlī ibn Abī-Tālib, the caliph of the Muslims, after the Battle of Siffin had ended. At that time, Amr ibn al-As had 6,000 soldiers who were on their way, sent by the governor of Damascusmarker, Muˤāwiyya. ˤAlī was asked to send help. ˤAlī's best general and childhood friend, Malik Al-Ashtar, was sent to defend his stepson, the former Governor of Egypt, Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr, since ˤAlī believed only Malik could beat Muˤāwiyya and Amr ibn al-As. Muhammad ibn Abū-Bakr was instructed to return to ˤAlī's capital city, Kufa.

Malik left Kufamarker to take charge of Egypt. At the frontier, Malik was greeted by innkeepers, not knowing they were disguised supporters of Muˤāwiyya. They poisoned his honey, killing Muˤāwiyya's long time nemesis. As soon as Muˤāwiyya got the news of Malik's demise, he exclaimed in an ecstasy of delight "Today ˤAlī has lost his second arm!" hardly believing his good fortune. By killing Ammar ibn Yasir in the Battle of Siffin, Muˤāwiyya had killed the one of ˤAlī's most devoted supporters, and by killing Malik, he had killed both. Ali ibn Abi Talib had lost his trusted and loyal battlefield commander.

Descendents

Among his descendents are the Kalbasi family, who reside in Iran. One branch of this family adds the title "Ashtari" to the end of their family name to denote this fact.

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