|Malik bin al-Haarth al-Nakhay belonged to an old Yemeni tribe. He became a Muslim by converting to Islam, in the time of the Prophet Muhammad (saw). He was loyal to his religion Islam.
Malik bin al-Haarth al-Nakhay took part and fought bravely in the Battle of Yarmuk. He had brave attitudes in stopping the Romans’ attacks against the Muslim Army. So, his eye was split by a sword, namely, its lower lid was split. Thus, he was called al-Ashtar.
In 30 AH, the Muslims or Sahaba (Companions of Prophet Muhammad (saw)) in Kufa, Iraq and other Muslim cities were angry with their rulers’ behaviour. For example, al-Waleed bin Utbah, the third Caliph Hazrat Uthman’s r.a half brother, the ruler of Kufa, Iraq behaved contrary to Islam – he drank alcohol and spent his time in amusements.
One day, al-Waleed bin Utbah entered mosque drunk. He prayed four Raka’at during the morning prayers. Then he turned to the worshipers and said sarcastically: Do I prayed less, shall I increase my prayers? People were displeased with his behaviour. They criticized him every place in markets, houses and mosques. People asked each other: Has not the Caliph Uthman found a good ruler to replace this bad one?
Al-Waleed bin Utbah drank alcohol openly and violated the teachings of the religion Islam and the Muslims’ rights. So, people thought about a way to solve the problem. Finally, they decided to ask the advice of the good people. So, they went to Malik al-Ashtar. Malik al-Ashtar said to them: First we would better advise him. Then we will tell the Caliph Hazrat Uthman r.a about his bad behaviour.
Malik al-Ashtar and some good people went to the ruler’s palace. When they got into the palace, they saw al-Waleed bin Utbah drinking as usual. They advised him to behave well. But he scolded and dismissed them. So, they decided to go to Yathrib (Madina al-Munawara) to meet the Hazrat Uthman r.a and to tell him about the problem.
The delegation met the third Caliph Hazrat Uthman and told him about his ruler’s bad behaviour. Hazrat Ali a.s advice to Hazrat Uthman r.a That He had heard Prophet Muhammad (saw) saying: “On the Day of Judgement, the unjust Imam will be brought to hell. And no one will support or excuse him. Then, he will be thrown into hell. He will go round and round it till he gets into its intense heat.”. so Hazrat Usman r.a agreed to their point.
All the delegate went back while they were on the way they find the letter in which order was to kill the delegates (this was act of marwan bin hakam who secretly put seal of caliph on all letter) .This make them angry and they return to Madina shareef with more strength these rebel surrounded the house of Hazrat Usman r.a Mawla Ali try to explain them but all go in vain even Hazrat Usman r.a give surmon to stop rebel but they martyr them Hence plan of Marwan bin Hakam succeeded in his act along Muwaiya bin sufiyan .
Streams of people came into the Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abu Talib’s house. They asked him to be a Caliph. But the he refused. Malik al-Ashtar and other companions insisted on the Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abu Talib’s Caliphate. Malik al-Ashtar addressed the people with enthusiasm: People, this is the Prophet Muhammad’s Regent. He has learnt the Prophet Muhammad’s knowledge. Allah’s Book, Noble Qur’an has mentioned his belief. Prophet Muhammad (saw) has told him that he will enter al-Ridhwan Garden. His personality is perfect. The people in the past and present are certain of his behaviour and knowledge.
Thus Malik al-Ashtar was the first to appoint the Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abu Talib (as) as a Caliph. Then the Muslims followed him. When the Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abu Talib (as) became the Caliph, a new time began. He dismissed all the unjust rulers. And he appointed good persons.
Some people were ambitious for the Caliphate. Talha and Zubair were two of them. They went to Makkah and urged Ummul Momineen Ayesha daughter of Abu Bakr the first Caliph, to revolt against the Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abu Talib (as). Marwan bin Hakam took advantage of that situation. He began spending the Muslims’ money, which he had stolen, to form a big army. He announced that he would revenge himself on Caliph Uthman’s killers.
The battle of Jamal (Camel): The army headed for Basra, Iraq. There they uprooted the ruler’s beard and dismissed him. They robbed the Public Treasury. The Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abu Talib (as), was facing that mutiny strongly. He advanced towards Basra to invite its people to strive against the rebels.
The ruler of Kufa was Abu Musa Al-Ashari. He discouraged people from striving against the rebels. In the meantime, he ordered people to disobey the Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abu Talib (as) as it is a war between Muslims.
Malik al-Ashtar was a brave, determined man. He realized that the people of Kufa were always supporting the Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abu Talib (as) against his enemies. And he understood that only Abu Musa Al-Ashari obstructed them.
Malik al-Ashtar arrived in Kufa and began inviting its people to follow him. A numerous army obeyed him. So, he could attack the ruler’s palace and to dismiss the guards from it.
At that time, Abu Musa al-Ashari was in the mosque asking the people to stay in their houses and to disobey the Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abu Talib (as) orders. The guards came and told him that Malik al-Ashtar occupied the palace.
Abu Musa al-Ashari asked Malik al-Ashtar for a day’s time to leave Kufa. So, Malik al-Ashtar accepted that. On the same day, Malik al-Ashtar hurried to the mosque to encourage the people to support the Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abu Talib (as).
Hence, Malik al-Ashtar could form a big army. The army was more than eighteen thousand fighters. Al-Hasan (as) headed nine thousand fighters. They marched by land. The others crossed by river. The purpose of all was to join the Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abu Talib’s army at Dhiqaar in the southern part of Iraq.
The Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abu Talib (as) headed the army and advanced towards Basra, where he met Ummul Momineen Ayesha’s army. The leaders of the Ummul Momineen Ayesha’s army were Talha, Zubair and Marwan bin Hakam.
Malik al-Ashtar was the leader of the right wing. Ammar bin Yasir leader of the left wing. The Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abu Talib (as) stood in the middle of the army. And Muhammad bin al-Hanafiya, Imam Ali’s son, carried the banner.
Ummul Momineen Ayesha’s Army began attacking Imam Ali’s army. They showered the Imam Ali’s Army with arrows. So, some fighters were killed and others were wounded. The Imam Ali’s Army wanted to return like for like. But the Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abu Talib (as) stopped them and said: Who can take this Noble Qur’an and go to them to appeal to it? Surely they will kill him.
A young man said: Commander of the Faithful, I’ll take it. A Muslim headed for the Army of Ummul Momineen Ayesha raising the Noble Qur’an. Ummul Momineen Ayesha shouted: Throw arrows at him. So, the bow men threw arrows at him. He fell over the ground and became a martyr.
During those moments, the Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abu Talib (as) raised his hands towards the sky. He prayed for Allah, the Almighty, to grant them a victory. Then he said: Allah, the eyes are gazing at you! And the hands are extended! Our lord, judge between our nation and us with justice! And you’re the best judge!
Then the Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abu Talib (as) ordered his fighters to launch a general attack. Malik al-Ashtar advanced. He was fighting bravely. Violent clashes took place around the camel. The Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abu Talib (as) realized that killing the camel would end bloodshed and that it would end the fighting between the two parties.
After violent fights, the Imam Ali’s Army could kill the camel so, the facing army was in low spirits and its fighters began escaping from the battlefield. The Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abu Talib (as) ordered his fighters to stop the war operations. And he ordered them to treat Ummul Momineen Ayesha kindly and to bring her back to Madina al-Munawara.
Malik al-Ashtar and Ammar bin Yasir visited Ummul Momineen Ayesha. She said: Malik al-Ashtar, you were about to kill my nephew. Malik al-Ashtar answered: Yes. I wanted to relieve Muhammad’s nation from him. But I did not kill him because I was fasting for three days. And I’m an old man.
Malik al-Ashtar fought as bravely as a fearless lion. So, the enemies were afraid of him.
Although the minor conflict occurred in Kirkeesya, the war took place at Siffeen (on the banks of the Euphrates) when Mu’awiyah headed a large reinforcing army to join Abi al-Awar al-Salmy and his army (Mu’awiyah’s first army that attacked at night).Mu’awiyah brought reinforcements because during the minor conflict many of his soldiers were killed and injured. When they got to Siffeen, Mu’awiyah ordered an offensive to his army to gain control of the Euphrates River. By taking the controlling the water, Mu’awiyah violated an Islamic law and the laws of war. Therefore, Ali sent Sasaah bin Suhan, one of the companions of the Prophet, to ask for some water. He states to Mu’awiyah, “Mu’awiyah, Ali says: Let us take some water. Then we’ll decide what’s between you and us, otherwise we will fight each other till the victor drinks.”Mu’awiyah replied “I’ll answer you later on.” After Sasaah bin Suhan left, Mu’awiyah sought advice from his trusted men about what he should do about the water situation. Al-Waleed bin Uthbah (the ex-governor of Kufa, which the Quran calls a Fasiq Sura 49 Verse 6) advised Mu’awiyah to “Prevent them from drinking water to force them to surrender.” Mu’awiyah and the other men agreed. Over the course of time, Malik watched the military supply and movements taking place on the river banks. He then realized that Mu’awiyah is tightening the siege of the Euphrates River.During the course of war, the soldier in the army of Ali Ibn Abi Talib became thirsty due to the physical exertion and blistering heat. Even Malik himself became thirsty. To which a man came up to Malik and said “There’s only little water in my water-skin, please drink it.” But Malik refused and told him “I won’t drink till all soldiers drink!”Noticing that most of the soldiers were thirsty, Malik went to Ali and said “Amirul Mu’mineen, our soldiers are very thirsty. We’ve nothing but fighting.”So Ali Ibn Abi Talib wrote a letter to Muawiyah asking for water.However, Mu’awiyah denied giving Ali Ibn Abi Talib’s soldiers water. Once again, Malik al-Ashtar plays a huge role for the army of Ali Ibn Abi Talib . Ali Ibn Abi Talib calls Malik and asks him to lead his soldiers in an attack to gain possession of the Euphrates River. Malik and his men fight valiantly and won back the possession of the Euphrates river. The following day, an arrow with a letter attached was shot at Ali’s army. Soldiers read the letter which said “From a loyal brother in the Shamian Army, Mu’awiyah is going to open the river to drown you. So, be careful!” and passed the news around. This news caused the soldiers to withdraw from the banks of the Euphrates River. Mu’awiyah noticed this and decided to recapture the river for his army. Yet again, Ali sends his soldiers to fight of Mu’awiyah’s troops and gain control of the river. At this point, Mu’awiyah became worried that now Ali won’t allow them to drink water from the river. He even ask Amr ibn al-As, “Do you think Ali will prevent us from drinking water?”To which Amr replied, “Ali doesn’t do as you do!”Ironically, Mu’awiyah’s writes a letter to Ali Ibn Abi Talib asking him for water since his (Mu’awiyah) soldiers were now thirsty. Ali Ibn Abi Talib grants Mu’awiyah and his soldiers permission to drink water from the Euphrates River. Allowing the rebels to drink water changed the mindset of some people in Mu’awiyah’s army. They reflected upon both Mu’awiyah and Ali. And realized that Mu’awiyah did everything and anything including breaking Islamic laws to win the war. Whereas, Ali did everything to represent the true Islam even if it meant losing the war. And at nighttime, some of Mu’awiyah’s troops went and joined Ali’s army because they represented the truth and humanity.
Malik’s Discipline and The End of The War
As the battle continued, Malik al-Ashtar fought his way through the opposing army until he was two rows away from Mu’awiyah’s tent.Only two rows away from killing Mu’awiyah and ending the war. However, a situation occurred. Mu’awiyah wanted to trick Ali’s army to stop fighting and disunite them by creating confusion.Mu’awiyah loved the idea and ordered his soldiers to place the Quran on their spear. When most of the soldiers of Ali saw this they stopped fighting. Though Ali knew that it was a trick by Mu’awiyah to create confusion and disunity, he told his army “It’s a trick! I was the first to invite them to Allah’s Book. And I was the first to believe in it. They’ve disobeyed Allah and broken His promise.” (this is referring to the negotiation/persuading process before the war)Ali wanted his soldier to continue fighting because they were so close to victory. Despite Ali’s effort, 22,000 soldiers dsobeyed his commands and said “Stop fighting and order al-Ashtar to withdraw!”Knowing that his own soldiers had turned their backs on him and a few group of true believers, Ali Ibn Abi Talib told his soldiers to command Malik to return for safety reasons. The messenger gave Malik the order. Even though, Malik knew that he has the opportunity to end the war and rid the world of Ma’uwiyah, he stopped and returned. Malik said “If Ali ibn Abi Talib orders something, I have to return”.
They ceased fighting and agreed to an arbitration according to the Quran. Mu’awiyah chose Amr ibn al-As to represent him and Ali chose Abdullah bin Abbas (because he was a wise man who had a good knowledge of the Quran). But the rebel did not agree to Abdullah bin Abbas and told Ali to pick Abu Musa al-Ashary (because Abu Musa was not really a firm supporter of Ali therefore the rebels could get an upper hand in the arbitration). Ali replied to them saying “I disagree with you on him. And Abdullah bin Abbas is better than he (Abu Musa).”But the rebels again denied. Ali then chose Malik al-Ashtar to represent him. Once again, the rebels refused and insisted for Abu Musa.To avoid further chaos/conflict, Ali told them “Do whatever you like!” As a result, Amr ibn al-As and Abu Musa entered the arbitration. Knowing that Abu Musa was not a firm supporter of Ali, Amr ibn al-As deceived Abu Musa by saying “Abu Musa, Mu’awiyah and Ali have caused all these troubles. So, lets dispose them and elect another man.” Abu Musa took the bait and stated “I’m removing Ali from the caliphate as I’m removing my ring from my finger.”,then he removed his ring. Afterwards, Amr ibn al-As said “I’m fixing Mu’awwiyah to the caliphate as I’m fixing my ring to my finger.”,then he wore his ring. The trick worked but Ali still had control of the caliphate. Both sides did agree to a truce and a year of peace. Ali commanded his soldiers not to fight for a year, but a large group (who developed their own beliefs of “La Hukma Illa Lillah”, meaning, “no rulership except by Allah alone.”) broke away from Ali and disobeyed the agreement/orders. They became known as the Khawarij and fought Ali in the Battle of Nahrawan.
Becoming Governor of Egypt
At the time, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr was the governor of Egypt. Amr ibn al-As, one of Mu’awiyah’s companions, wanted to become the governor of Egypt. So he rallied 6,000 soldiers and headed towards Egypt. After finding out about the possible overthrow, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr wrote to Ali Ibn Abi Talib asking for help and support. Ali Ibn Abi Talib wrote back assuring Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, son of the first caliph and then Ali’s adopted son, that he is sending his best general and one of his closest companions, Malik al-Ashtar. Ali then told Malik: “Malik, may Allah have mercy on you, go to Egypt. I have absolute trust in you. Rely on Allah! Use gentleness in its place and intensity in its place.”
Muhammad ibn Abū-Bakr was instructed to return to ʻAlī’s capital city, Kufa. Malik Al-Ashtar was appointed Governor of Egypt in 658 (38 A.H.) by Alī ibn Abī-Tālib, the caliph of the Muslims, after the Battle of Siffin had ended.
Alleged Assassination Plot By Muawiyah
When Mu’awiyah received the news that Ali appointed Malik al-Ashtar as the new governor of Egypt, he was overwhelmed with worry.Knowing that al-Ashtar was of ferocious built and strength, Muawiyah is said to have formulated a plot to assassinate him using poison imported from Rome and sent a delegate with the poison to a certain man owning vast lands in al-Qilzim City (a service station/resting spot for travelers) on the borders of Egypt, requesting that he poison al-Ashtar in exchange for lifelong tax exemption. The man is said to have agreed to the envoy’s request.
Mausoleum of Malik Al-Ashtar
On the way to Egypt, Malik al-Ashtar decided to stop at al-Qilzim. Upon his arrival, the man (who agreed to poison Malik) invited Malik, the new governor of Egypt, for lunch at his house.Malik humbly accepted the man’s invitation without knowing that he was going to kill him by Muawiyah I on a suggestion of ‘Amr ibn al-‘As. They went to his home to have lunch. The man placed the poisoned honey in a cup and placed it on the table. Malik took a spoonful of the poisoned honey. When Malik consumed the honey, the poison spread rapidly throughout his body. Malik realized that he was poisoned as soon as he felt pain in his stomach. After realizing that he was poisoned, Malik placed his hand on his stomach and said “In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. We belong to Allah, and we’ll come back to Him!” The poison was so destructive and toxic that within moments Malik al-Ashtar died. Muawiyah is said to have rejoiced upon hearing of al-Ashtar’s death.
Malik had two sons, the first was named Ishaq (Isaac) and the other was named Ibrahim (Abraham). Ishaq was a phenomenal warrior who supported and valiantly gave his life to protect Hussain ibn Ali, the son of Ali, in the Battle of Karbala. After Habib ibn Muzahir, Ishaq killed the most enemy fighters. On the other hand, Ibrahim ibn Malik al-Ashtar, the son of Malik al-Ashtar, along with Mukhtar al-Thaqafi rose against the killers of Hussain ibn Ali. The two killed most of the killers of Hussain and his army. For example, they caught and killed Umar ibn Sa’ad, Shimr ibn Thil-Jawshan, Sanan ibn Anas, Hurmala ibn Kahil and Ubaidullah Ibn Ziyad (these were Yazid I’s soldiers who fought against Hussain).
Among his descendants are the Kalbasi family, who reside in Iran and some reside in Iraq. One branch of this family adds the title “Ashtari” to the end of their family name to denote this fact. In Lebanon, the Hamadani family from the southern town of Nabatieh are also direct descendants who have maintained a family tree dating back to the Nakha’i tribe origins. The Mroueh family, after tracing their lineage, are also believed to be descendants. The Malek (or Malekian) family, from Mazandaran (Iran), are also believed to be descendants.