As per historical records and is widely narrated in the books of Shiites and Ahle Sunnah, we get the impression that the conspiracy to martyr Imam Ali (a.s.) was hatched by the ‘Khwarij.’
With minor differences in narrations, Tarikh-e-Tabari, Tarikh-e-Yaqoobi, Shaikh Mufeed’s (a.r.) Irshad and Tabaqaat of Ibn Saad have narrated the event. Balazari and Waqedi too have recorded the same.
The summary of all accounts is that when the bloody battle of Nahrawan came to an end, a few Khwarij got together to mourn the dead.
They blamed three people for their sorrow:
(a) Imam Ali (a.s.),
(b) Amr Ibn Aas and
(c) Muawiyah Ibn Abi Sufyan
They felt that as long as these three were alive, the Muslim nation wouldn’t reform.
Consequently, three people took the responsibility of assassinating Imam Ali (a.s.), Amr Ibn Aas and Muawiyah.
1. Abdul Rahman Ibn Muljim took the responsibility of martyring Imam Ali (a.s.)
2. Barq Ibn Abdullah took the responsibility of eliminating Muawiyah
3. Amr Ibn Bakr al-Tamimi took the responsibility of getting rid of Amr Ibn Aas
They maintained that to execute the plan successfully, the month of Ramazan should be chosen as the three frequent the mosque in the month.
The dates fixed were the nights of 11, 13 or 17. According to Shiite records, the eve of nineteenth was chosen. The reason for preferring these nights was because their targets were expected to be in the mosque on the nights.
The person responsible for killing Amr Ibn Aas killed the person who had come to lead the prayers instead of Amr.
The sword of the one responsible to slay Muawiyah, struck his thigh. Muawiyah sustained injuries but recovered with medication.
It was only Ibn Muljim who succeeded in executing his nefarious intentions!
Is this incident accurate or is there more to it than meets the eye?
The fact is right from the onset there were clear indications that the incident is far from accurate.
Historians have speculated and written that the three targeted individuals visited the mosque in Ramazan and their coming to the mosque on the eve of 19th Ramazan was a certainty.
There’s no doubt that Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) was struck on the head by Ibn Muljim on the night of 19th Ramazan. But why did the one targeting Amr-e-Aas kill ‘Kharjah’ instead? Was it that he wasn’t aware who Amr-e-Aas was or did not recognize him? Or why did Amr-e-Aas not show up in the mosque that night? Was he warned or informed of the conspiracy?
The best way to dig out facts in this regard is to scrutinize the whole conspiracy closely because the net of this plot was cast from Kufa to Damascus.
As has been reported, Muawiyah was aware that so long as Imam Ali (a.s.) was alive it was not possible for him to attain caliphate over all Muslims.
And in Ashath Ibn Qais, a notorious hypocrite, Muawiyah had an ally who was antagonistic towards Ameerul Momineen (a.s.).
Ibn Abi al-Dunya (d. 281 A.H.) in his book ‘Maqtal-e-Imam Ameeril Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.)’ (it is worth noting that this book is older than the records of Tabari and Yaqoobi) has narrated on the authenticity of his chain of narrators through Abdul Ghaffar Ibn Qasim Ansari that:
‘I have heard from many people that Ibn Muljim was with Ashath on that fateful night (19th of Ramazan) and at the break of dawn, he told him ‘the dawn has arrived.’”
If the three Khawarij were the only ones involved in the conspiracy, then what was Ibn Muljim doing with Ashath in the mosque conversing in hush-hush tones?
Is it expected of a man, who is on a secret mission to kill Imam Ali (a.s.), to reveal his plans to another person (and that too to a person like Ashath)?
Balaazari has narrated this in ‘Ansaab al-Ashraaf‘:
“They say Ibn Muljim was with Ashath Ibn Qais that night. They were talking in a hush-hush tone till Ashath said to Ibn Muljim, ‘Get up, the morn is here.’ (Hurry lest people will recognize you in the daylight). When Hujr Ibn Adi heard his talk, he said, ‘O one-eyed! You have killed him (a.s.).'”
- Ansaab al-Ashraaf, p. 493
The narrators have also reported that when Ibn Muljim had struck the head of Imam Ali (a.s.) with his sword, Ashath sent his son to Imam Ali (a.s.)’s house to assess Imam’s (a.s.) condition.
He came back and related: His (Imam) eyes have sunk in.
On hearing this, Ashath remarked: By Allah! The eyes show that the poison has reached his brain.
- Maqtal al-Imam Ameeril Momineen (a.s.) p 37
- Tabaqaat Ibn Saad v 3 p 37
It appears from historical records that the conspiracy to assassinate Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) starts from Ashath bin Qais in Kufa and ends in Damascus with Muawiyah.
Ashath – a thorn in the side of Aal Muhammad (a.s.)
Shahrastani, the renowned historian, writes: Among those who rebelled against Imam Ali (a.s.), Ashath was in the forefront. He was harsh and the first to break away from religion.
- Al-Melal wa al-Nehal v 1 p 170
Ashath’s children followed in the footsteps of their father in antagonizing Aal-e-Muhammad (a.s.).
His daughter – Jodah poisoned Imam Hasan (a.s.) on Muawiyah’s orders.
His son – Muhammad – was in Umar Ibn Saad’s army that martyred Imam Husain (a.s.) in Karbala and also in the group that arrested Muslim Ibn Aqeel in Kufa.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Muawiyah chose Ashath to execute his plot to assassinate Ameerul Momineen (a.s.).