Page 1131

1131 MOHAMMEDAN ASCENDENCY-OTHMAN AND ALI.

Ibn Yaser, broke into the Mosque, where

Othman, now eighty-two years of age, sat

reading the Koran. By some he was struck

with clubs and by others pierced with

swords till he was dead. The treasure house was plundered, and the body of the

murdered Caliph was buried in his bloody

garments.

As soon as it was known that vengeance

had done its work, the city became first calm

and then repentant. . The magnanimous Ali

gave public expression to his sorrow, and rebuked his sons for not having fought more

bravely in defense of the dead Caliph. It appeared, moreover, that the treacherous letter

to the emir of Egypt had really been written

by Merwan for the purpose of hastening the

revolution; for he, in the mean time, had secretly abandoned the cause of Othman, and

gone over to the insurgents. Thus in the year

A. D. 655, the third Caliph of the Mohammedan states ended an unpopular reign with shameful death.

Though no successor was named by Othman, the popular voice at once indicated Ali.

But several candidates appeared for the vacant

Caliphate and the delegates who came to Medina from the various parts of the Moslem Empire were clamorous for their respective favorites.

From the first, however, it appeared that

the election of Ali could hardly be defeated. He was by birth the Prophet's cousin;

by marriage, his son-in-law. He was courageous, eloquent, and liberal. He had reputation

both in the field and in the cabinet. It was perceived, moreover, that his election would establish the crown in the House of Mohammed;

for Fatima, the Prophet's daughter, was the

wife of Ali, and the mother of all the lineal

descendants of Abdallah's son. The chief of

the opposing candidates were Zobeir, who had

distinguished himself in the war with Barbary

by the slaying of Gregorius; Telha, who had

been one of the electoral council appointed to

choose a successor to Omar the Great, and

Moawyah, the satrap of Syria.

Medina was thrown into great excitement on the occasion of the election. Nor

might the choice of a new Caliph be postponed; for the people were clamorous for a

new ruler. The leading men pleaded with Ali to accept the office, and he was disposed to yield to their entreaties; but he refused, as in the election twelve years previously to bind himself

with pledges, declaring his purpose, if elected

Caliph, to administer the government with

independence and justice to all. The election

was held in the mosque of Medina. The choice

fell on All, and the other candidates came

forward and gave their right hands in token

of allegiance. Moawyah, however, was not

present at the election, and his family, the

tribe of Ornmiah, withdrew as soon as they

perceived the result of the election. It was

doubtful also whether the pledge given by

Zobeir and Telha was any thing more than a

superficial recognition of what they were unable to prevent. Their merely nominal loyalty

was soon discovered in an effort which they made to ensnare Ali in difficulty by advising him to investigate the assassination of Othman

and to punish the perpetrators of that deed.

This, if undertaken, would have hopelessly

embroiled the government with some of its

most able supporters. Ali prudently adopted

the policy of letting the dead past bury its

dead; nor did he omit any measure which

wisdom could dictate to propitiate the favor

of the tribes of Koreish and Ornmiah, which

had so strenuously supported Moawyah for the

Caliphate.

Ali had the genius to discover and the will

to correct the governmental abuses which had

sprung up during his predecessor's reign. He

began his work by reforming the provincial

governments. The subject states of Islam had

received as their governors at the hands of

Othman a class of favorites who, as a rule,

had little fitness for their office. It became

the duty of Ali to displace these worthless

satraps and to appoint others in their

stead.

In the performance of this duty he displayed

his usual courage. Notwithstanding the temporizing advice of his counselors he proceeded

to depose the incompetent and to put the faithful in their places. Strenuous efforts were

made to retain Moawyah in the governorship

of Syria. His wealth and influence were so

great as to make him a terror to the timid

advisers of the Caliph. But the disloyalty of

Moawyah was so great that Ali could not

ignore the situation without jeopardizing his

own authority.

The governor of Syria had recently displayed one of the bloody garments of