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Battle of the Camel

The Battle of the Camel, also known as the Battle of Jamel or the Battle of Basra, took place at Basra, Iraq on 7 November 656 (13 Jumada Al-Awwal 36 AH). The battle was fought between Ali ibn Abi Talib, who was the cousin and son-in-law of the deceased Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, considered the fourth Rashidun Caliph of the Sunnis and the first Imam of the Shias, and A'isha widow of Prophet Muhammad, Talhah and Zubayr who led the war against Ali aiming to avenge the death of the third caliph Uthman who was the son-in-law of Muhammad, who had recently been killed as a result of rebellion by the followers of Ali. Marking the second chapter of the First Fitna, the fateful battle ended with victory for Ali and the defeat of Aisha.

Battle of the Camel
Part of the First Fitna
Ali and Aisha at the Battle of the Camel.jpg
Ali and Aisha at the Battle of the Camel
Date7 November 656 (13 Jumada Al-Awwal 36 AH)
Result Rashidun Caliphate victory

Rashidun Caliphate

Aisha's forces and Banu Umayya

Commanders and leaders
Ali ibn Abi Talib
Hasan ibn Ali
Hussein ibn Ali
Malik al-Ashtar
Ammar ibn Yasir
Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr
Abdul-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr
Muslim ibn Aqeel
Harith ibn Rab'i
Jabir ibn Abd-Allah
Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah
Abu Ayyub al-Ansari
Abu Qatada bin Rabyee
Qays ibn Sa'd
Qathm bin Abbas
Abd Allah ibn Abbas
Khuzaima ibn Thabit
Muhammad ibn Talha 
Zubayr ibn al-Awam 
Kaab ibn Sur 
Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr
Marwan I (POW)
Waleed ibn Uqba (POW)
Abdullah ibn Safwan ibn Umayya ibn Khalaf
~20,000[6] ~30,000[6]
Casualties and losses





Before the conflictEdit

The Rashidun Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib forgave his opponents after the Battle of the Camel.

After the murder of Uthman ibn Affan, people in Medina paid allegiance to Ali as the new Muslim caliph. But after allegiance Talhah and Zubair asked Ali for permission to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. He granted it and they departed. The Medina people wanted to know Ali’s point of view about the war against Muslims, by asking his view about Muawiyah I and his refusal to give Ali his allegiance. So they sent Ziyad Bin Hanzalah of Tamim who was set on getting the caliphate of Ali because Uthman had died and they wanted to "get to killers of Uthman". However, they went to Basra, and not Medina where the crime happened.

He went back and told the people in Medina that Ali wanted to confront Muawiyah. In Medina, Marwan manipulated people. In Iraq many people hated the Syrians following the Byzantine-Sassanid Wars.

Aisha (Aisha bint Abu Bakr) (Muhammad's widow), Talhah (Talha ibn Ubayd-Allah) and Zubayr ibn al-Awam (Abu ‘Abd Allah Zubayr ibn al-Awwam) set off from Makah on their way to Iraq to ask Ali to arrest Uthman ibn Affan's killers, not to fight Muawiyah.[10][11]

Preparation for battleEdit

While passing Medina, on their way to Iraq, Aisha, Talha and Zubair passed a group of Umayyads leaving Medina, led by Marwan, who said that the people who had killed Uthman, had also been causing them trouble.[12] Everyone then went to Basra, which was the beginning of the first civil war in Islam. Some historians put the number at around 3000 people.[13]

Zubair and Talha then went out to meet Ali. Not all Basra was with them. Bani Bakr, the tribe once led by the second Caliph, joined the army of Ali. Bani Temim decided to remain neutral.[14]

Before the battle started, Ali reminded Talha of the sermon of Prophet Muhammad at the event of Ghadir Khumm. Ali said to Talha, "I adjure you by Allah! Didn’t you hear the Messenger of Allah (S) when he said: 'Whoever I am his MAWLA, this Ali is his MAWLA. O God, love whoever loves him, and be hostile to whoever is hostile to him'?" Talha responded "Yes" to Ali, after which Ali asked him, "Then why do you want to fight me?" This conversation is recorded by both Shia and Sunni sources.[15][16][17][18][19]


Some chieftains of the Kufa tribes contacted their tribes living in Basra.[12] A chieftain contacted Ali to settle the matter.[12] Ali did not want to fight and agreed to negotiate.[12] He then contacted Aisha and spoke to her,[12] "It is not wise to shed the blood of five thousand for the punishment of five hundred."[12] She agreed to settle the matter.[12] Ali then met Talha and Zubair and told them about the prophecy of Muhammad. Ali's cousin Zubair said to him, "What a tragedy that the Muslims who had acquired the strength of a rock are going to be smashed by colliding with one another."[12] Talha and Zubair did not want to fight and left the field. Everyone was happy except the people who had killed Uthman and the supporters of the Qurra, who later became the Khawarij.[12] They thought that if a settlement was reached, they would not be safe.[12] The Qurra launched a night attack and started burning the tents.[12] Ali tried to restrain his men but no one was listening. Everyone thought that the other party had committed breach of trust. Confusion prevailed throughout the night.[12] The Qurra attacked the Umayyads and the fighting started.

Talhah had left. On seeing this, Marwan (who was manipulating everyone) shot Talhah with a poisoned arrow[12] saying that he had disgraced his tribe by leaving the field.[12] According to some Shia accounts Marwan ibn al-Hakam shot Talha,[20] who became disabled in the leg by the shot and was carried into Basra, where he died later of his wound.[21][22][23] According to Shia sources Marwan said,

By God, now I will not have to search for the man who murdered Uthman.[24]

In the Sunni sources it says that he said that Talha had disgraced his tribe by leaving the field.[12]

With the two generals Zubair and Talhah gone, confusion prevailed as the Qurra and the Umayyads fought.[12][25]

Qadi Kaab ibn Sur of Basra held the Quran on his head and then advised Aysha to mount her camel to tell people to stop fighting, until he was killed by arrows shot by the forces of Ali.[12] As the battle raged Ali's forces targeted their arrows to pierce the howdah of Aisha. The rebels led by Aisha then gathered around her and about a dozen of her warriors were beheaded while holding the reins of her camel. However the warriors of Ali faced much casualties during their attempts to reach Aisha as dying corpses lay piled in heaps. The battle only came to an end when Ali's troops as commanded attacked the camel from the rear and cut off the legs of the beast. Aisha fled from the arrow-pierced howdah and was captured by the forces of Ali.[26]

Ali's cousin Zubair was by then making his way to Medina; he was killed in an adjoining valley.

Aisha's brother Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr, who was Ali's commander, approached Aisha, who was age 45. There was reconciliation between them and Ali pardoned her. He then sent Aisha to Medina under military escort headed by her brother Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr, one of Ali's commanders. She subsequently retired to Medina with no more interference with the affairs of state.[12][27] Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr was the son of Abu Bakr, the adopted son of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr was raised by Ali alongside Hasan and Husein. Hassan also accompanied Aisha part of the way back to Medina. Aisha started teaching in Medina and deeply resented Marwan.[28][29]

Sunni View of the BattleEdit

According to Sunnis, the rebels who had been involved in the killing of Usman, the third Caliph, were responsible for igniting the fight. These rebels had gained much power after the killing of Ushman. It was difficult for Ali, the fourth Caliph, to instantly punish them for their role in the killing of Uthman, and this was the main reason which led to the difference of opinion between the two groups of Muslims. Some Muslims were of the opinion that they should be punished immediately, while Ali required time to punish them. He himself says in Nahjul Balagha:

"O my brothers! I am not ignorant of what you know, but how do I have the power for it while those who assaulted him are in the height of their power. They have superiority over us, not we over them." [30]

This led to difference of opinion, and a group started campaigning to pressurize Ali to punish the rebels. But when both groups confronted each other at the place of Basrah, they started negotiating. When the rebels saw that the negotiations may lead to their punishment, they attacked both the armies and disrupted the peace process. According to Sunnis, Ali was the rightly guided Caliph, and hence his decision must have been obeyed. Moreover, the hadith of Hawaab also proves that Ali's opponents were wrong in their stance. But since they also were sincere in their intentions to bring the killers of Uthman to justice, hence they must not be condemned for the violence. Both Ali and Aisha resented the outcome of the battle. Ali said after the battle, "I wish I had died two decades before this incident." [31][32]


Ali's forces overcame the rebels, and the defeated army was treated according to Islamic law. He sent Ayesha back to Medina under military escort headed by her brother Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, one of Ali's commanders. She subsequently retired to Medina with no more interference with the affairs of state.

Talha, who became disabled in the leg by the shot and fled the battlefield was carried into Basra, where he died later of his wound.

When the head of Zubayr ibn al-Awwam was presented to Ali by Ahnaf ibn Qais, the Caliph Ali couldn't help but to sob and condemn the murder of his cousin. This reaction caused Ahnaf ibn Qais resentment and, drawing his sword, stabbed it into his own breast.[33]

Marwan I and the Qurra (who later became the Khawarij) manipulated every one and created conflict. Marwan was arrested but he later asked Hassan and Hussein for assistance and was released.

Ali was later killed by a Kharijite named Abd-al-Rahman ibn Muljam while he was praying in the mosque of Kufa.[34]

Two decades later, after years of planning and scheming and making every one else fight, Marwan came to power in Syria and the Qurra (the Kharijites) established a state in southern Iraq.[35]


The name of the battle refers to the camel ridden by Āʿisha — once the camel had fallen, the battle was over. Some Muslim scholars believe the name was recorded as such in history to avoid linking the name of a woman with a battle.[36] Ali blamed Ayesha due to such warfare. Subsequently, Ali said to her brother (Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr) to take her to Basrah. She stayed there for some days till afterwards she went to Medina but Ali sent Abdullah bin Abbas to her and warned Ayisha because the deadline was finished for her, and actually she delayed in going. Afterwards, she was taken to Medina with a number of troops.[37]

Later on, whenever Ayisha was remembering the day of Jamal, she wished to be dead before that happening, and actually she had this desire that I wish I wouldn’t be presented in that event. [38]

Sunni and Shia's splitEdit

Āʿisha's depiction in regards to the first civil war in the Muslim community reflected the molding of Islamic definition of gender and politics. Those who did not pick a side due to the honor and respect of both Aisha and Ali onwards were called Sunnis, and those who sided with Ali alone were known as the Shia [39]


Soldiers of Ali's ArmyEdit

Soldiers of Aisha's ArmyEdit

Others involvedEdit



  1. ^ Madelung 1997, pg. 168
  2. ^ Madelung 1997, pg. 166
  3. ^ Madelung 1997, pg. 176-177
  4. ^ Madelung 1997, pg. 167-8
  5. ^ Crone 1980, pg. 108
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ a b Madelung 1997, pg. 177
  8. ^ a b Jibouri, Yasin T. Kerbalā and Beyond. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse, 2011. Print. ISBN 1467026131 Pgs. 30
  9. ^ a b Muraj al-Thahab Vol. 5, Pg. 177
  10. ^ Nahj al Balagha Sermon 72 Archived 7 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Medieval Islamic civilization By Josef W. Meri Page 131
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  13. ^ Dr. Mohammad Ishaque in Journal of Pakistan Historical Society, Vol 3, Part 1
  14. ^ Sir John Glubb, The Great Arab Conquests, 1967, p. 320
  15. ^ "A Shi'ite Encyclopedia". Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project.
  16. ^ al-Hakim. al-Mustadrak, Volume 3. p. 169.
  17. ^ al-Hakim. al-Mustadrak, Volume 3. p. 371.
  18. ^ al-Mas’udi. Muruj al-Dhahab, Volume 4. p. 321.
  19. ^ al-Haythami. Majma’ al-Zawa’id, Volume 9. p. 107.
  20. ^ "". Archived from the original on 18 June 2006. Retrieved 27 June 2006.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 June 2006. Retrieved 27 June 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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  27. ^ William Muir, The Caliphate: Its Rise, Decline and Fall from Original Sources. Chapter XXXV: "Battle of the Camel". London: 1891. p. 261.
  28. ^ Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 352
  29. ^ The shadow of the sword, The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World, Tom Holland, ISBN 9780349122359 Abacus Page 409
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  32. ^ Al Mustadrak Ala Sahihayn, Vol. 3, p. 420
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  34. ^ Tabatabae (1979), page 192 Archived 29 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 9, Book 88, Number 228:[1] Narrated by Abu Al-Minhal. When Ibn Ziyad and Marwan were in Sham and Ibn Az-zubair took over the authority in Mecca and Qurra' (the Kharijites) revolted in Basra, I went out with my father to Abu Barza Al-Aslami till we entered upon him in his house while he was sitting in the shade of a room built of cane. So we sat with him and my father started talking to him saying, "O Abu Barza! Don't you see in what dilemma the people has fallen?" The first thing heard him saying "I seek reward from Allah for myself because of being angry and scornful at the Quraish tribe. O you Arabs! You know very well that you were in misery and were few in number and misguided, and that Allah has brought you out of all that with Islam and with Muhammad till He brought you to this state (of prosperity and happiness) which you see now; and it is this worldly wealth and pleasures which has caused mischief to appear among you. The one who is in Sham (i.e., Marwan), by Allah, is not fighting except for the sake of worldly gain.
  36. ^ Mernissi, Fatima (1987). The Veil and the Male Elite. New York: Basic Books. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-201-63221-7.
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  38. ^ Ibn A'tham Kofi, Vol.2, p. 487.
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  44. ^ a b c d e f g h i Madelung, Wilferd. The Succession to Muḥammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997. Print. ISBN 0521646960 Pg. 18

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Muslim conquest of the Levant
Muslim battles
Year: 656 CE
Succeeded by
Battle of Siffin

Coordinates: 30°30′00″N 47°49′00″E / 30.5000°N 47.8167°E / 30.5000; 47.8167