Bukhari narrates from Abu Humayra, from the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, who said:

The Last Day will not occur until two groups will have fought each other in a great battle while both claiming one and the same thing.

Ibn Hajar, in his commentary on the Hadiths of Bukhari, said that this refers to the Fitna which occurred after the murder of Sayyiduna ‘Uthman, radiyallahu ’anhu. Ibn Hajar says that “they both claim one and the same thing” refers to the fact that they both held to the same Deen, that is, the Deen of both was Islam, and that both claimed to be in the right.

The first Fitna to occur after the murder of ‘Uthman, radiyallahu ’anhu, came to be known as the Battle of the Camel. ‘Aisha, the Mother of the Muminin, radiyallahu ’anha, had just completed the Hajj when she heard the news of ‘Uthman’s assassination and ‘Ali becoming the Khalif. She consulted with some of the leading Companions. After a lengthy discussion as to the best course of action, it was decided they should leave for Iraq in order to intimidate the Khawarij who were fomenting unrest there, and in order to come to an agreement with the Khalif ‘Ali, karramullah wajhahu, as to how best justice could be done regarding retaliation, that is, against the murderers of ‘Uthman.

It was in no way the intention of ‘Aisha and all those with her – among them the Companions Talha and Zubayr who had both been told by the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, that they were assured the Garden – it was in no way their intention to make war against ‘Ali. Nor indeed did ‘Ali consider that they were his enemies. The matter had come to a head because of what was perceived by some as a delay on the part of ‘Ali in carrying out the punishment of those who had killed ‘Uthman.

The delay, Ibn Hajar tells us, was for several reasons: partly because those responsible, namely the Khawarij, were dispersed throughout ‘Ali’s own army and wielded great influence, partly because ‘Ali did not yet know who exactly was responsible, partly because he was waiting for a legal request for retribution from the Awliya of ‘Uthman – namely the Inheritors, and partly because he deemed that waiting was of more benefit to the Muslims as a whole.

The two forces met in the vicinity of Basra and for a few day there were skirmishes alternating with intense negotiations as both sides attempted to seek a peaceful solution. Just as peace seemed assured after each side had convinced the other that they had only come with the intention of clarification and reconciliation, the murderers of ‘Uthman, realising that things were turning against them and that ‘Ali, in the event of their being brought to trial would not hesitate to see that justice be done, set about inciting the people to war. Ibn Kathir, in his Al-Bidaaya wan-Nihaaya says:

Some people spent the night planning reconciliation and peace while the killers of ‘Uthman spent the night planning mischief, agreeing to cause the war at daybreak. So they awoke before dawn, some two thousand of them, and attacked the nearest group of people in the opposing camp

As a result, the two parties began fighting to protect their companions. Fighting then spread throughout the ranks. The Khawarij used deceit: ‘Aisha was informed that ‘Ali had given the command for hostilities to commence, and ‘Ali was informed that it was the other side which had started fighting. The parties were in effect tricked into full-scale conflict.

Moreover, it was only at this moment in time that the Shi‘a religion and the Khawarij sect came into being, in the sense of named, identifiable entities.

Despite the battle, direct reconciliation of ‘Aisha and ‘Ali followed, and the unity of the Khalifate was ensured. Bidding farewell to the people, ‘Aisha said after defeat:

My children, we should not bear any grudge against one another. By Allah, there was nothing between me and ‘Ali in the past except that which is usually between a woman and her son-in-law. He is one of the people of good.

Then ‘Ali said:

It is true that there was nothing between me and her, except what she mentioned, and she is the wife of your Prophet in this life and the Akhira.

An account of these events is continued in Qadi Abu Bakr’s work “Defence against Disaster.” Commenting on the warmth of the reconciliation, Muhibb ad-Deen al-Khatib adds the following note to Qadi Abu Bakr’s words:

Ash-Sha’ibi relates that ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib caught sight of Talha prostrate in one of the valleys after the battle. He got down from his mount and wiped the dust from his face. Then he said, “O Muhammad! It pains me to see you spread out in the dust in a valley under the stars of the sky. Any complaint I may have of my hidden faults and sorrows I make to Allah. Would that I had died twenty years before this day!”

Abu Habiba, the mawla of Talha also said: “‘Imran, the son of Talha, and I came to ‘Ali after the Battle of the Camel. He made ‘Imran welcome and had him sit next to him. He said, ‘I hope that Allah will place me and your father among those about whom Allah says, “We will strip away any rancour in their hearts. They will be as brothers, resting on couches face to face.”’”

This then, was how the Companions were with each other. Despite the Fitna, the love and mercy between them gained the upper hand. Allah ta’ala says in Surat al-Fath, The Victory (48: 29):

Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah,

and those who are with him

are fierce to the kafirun,

merciful to one another.

The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, as recorded in Muslim:

You will see that the Muminun are like one single body in the mercy, love and kindliness they show each other, such that if a single limb of this body is in pain, then the rest of the body is affected by sleeplessness and fever.

Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says in Surat al-Ma’ida, The Table (5: 54):

You who have iman! If any of you renounce your Deen,

Allah will bring forward a people

whom He loves and who love Him,

humble to the muminun,

fierce to the kafirun […]

Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says in Surat Al ‘Imran, (3: 102):

You who have iman! have Taqwa of Allah

with the Taqwa due to Him

and do not die except as Muslims.

In other words, do not be in any other state except that of Islam and remain so until your death. Then He says, subhanahu wa ta’ala:

Hold fast to the rope of Allah all together,

and do not separate.

The rope of Allah refers to Iman or Qur’an, because like a rope they are a means to reaching the goal. The Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said:

This Qur’an is the strong Rope of Allah and it is a shining light, an effective cure and a protection for the one who holds to it.

Allah commands us to hold fast to it all together and not to separate. This Ayat was revealed to the Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, for a specific situation but it is also, of course, of general import. There had been a long-standing enmity between the tribes of Khazraj and Aws and this enmity only came to an end when they accepted Islam. However, the jews tried to revive this enmity by sowing dissension between the two tribes, and it was at this point that Allah commanded the Muslims to unite.

We ask Allah ta’ala that He protect us from Fitna. We ask Him, subhanahu wa ta’ala, that we be people of reconciliation. We ask Allah ta’ala to make this Jumu’a Mosque a true place of gathering for all the Muslims of Cape Town. We ask Allah ta’ala for protection from shaytan and his allies. We ask Allah ta’ala that our love and mercy towards each other be as the love and mercy of the Companions after the Battle of the Camel.