Page 1132

1132 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD,

Othman in the mosque of Damascus and had exhorted the Syrians to demand the punishment

of the wretches who had slain their sovereign.

To permit Moawyah to retain authority in

the East was a virtual abdication on the part

of Ali. A new catalogue of governors was

accordingly made out, and the officers so appointed were at once sent to their respective

provinces.

These measures were attended with much

hazard. The new officers were either not accepted at all or received with aversion and

distrust. The deposed governor of Arabia,

Felix, resigned to his successor, but carried

off the treasures of the province to Medina

and delivered them to Ayesha, who was of the

party of the malcontents. The new governor

of Bass6ra found his subjects in such a states

of eruption that he was obliged to retire from

the city, and was glad to effect his escape.

Ammar Ibn Sahel, who had received the

satrapy of Cufa, found the people of his

province in arms, supporting the former governor, whom Othman had appointed. Saad

Ibn Kais, who had received the governorship

of Egypt, was met by multitudes who demanded that the murderers of Othman should

first be punished, and provincial governors

appointed afterwards, Ibn Kais, like the rest,

unable to support his claims by force, returned

to Medina. Nor did better success attend the

effort of Sahel Ibn Hanif to install himself in

the governorship of Syria. So completely were

the people of this province under the influence

of Moawyah, that they drew their cimeters on

the very borders, and forbade the satrap to

set his foot within their territory. It thus

happened that four out of the five provincial

governors were obliged to return to their

native lands as if from a fool's errand into

foreign parts, and present themselves empty

handed to the Caliph.

It was now evident that affairs had reached

a crisis. Ali dispatched a messenger to Moawyah demanding his allegiance, and the Syrian

governor sent back to Medina by the hands

of an officer a sealed missive; but when the

letter was opened it was found to contain

not a word. Such a mockery could not be

otherwise interpreted than as a challenge to

battle.

Moawyah immediately prepared for the

conflict. He hung up in the mosque of Damascus the bloody vest of Othman, and by his ascendancy over the passions of the Syrians soon mustered an army of sixty thousand

men. But Ali was not to be intimidated.

He made a public declaration in the name of

Allah and the Prophet that he was guiltless

of the blood of his predecessor. He then

dispatched messengers into all the provinces,

demanding that the true believers should rally

around the emblem of Islam.

Meanwhile, Ayesha, Zobeir, and Telha

withdrew with their confederates from Medina

and made their headquarters at Mecca. The

birthplace of the Prophet became the seat

of a conspiracy for the dethronement of his

successor.

Ayesha was the leading spirit of the

great rebellion. Supported by the two

powerful families of Koreish and Ornmiah,

she sent out couriers inviting the cooperation

of those governors whom Ali would have de-

posed and inciting the people of the provinces

to insurrection. In a council which was held

at Mecca, it was resolved that the rebellious

army, under the leadership of Telha, should

march to Bassora and make that city the base

of future operations against the Caliph. At

the same time the following proclamation was

prepared by Ayesha and trumpeted through

the streets of Mecca:

"In the name of the Most High God.

Ayesha, Mother of the Faithful, accompanied

by the chiefs Telha and Zobeir, is going in

person to Bassora. All those of the faithful

who burn with a desire to defend the faith

and avenge the death of the Caliph Othman,

have only to present themselves and they

shall be furnished with all necessaries for the

journey."

The retirement of the insurgent host from

Mecca was not unlike the embarrassed movements of the Prophet and his friends in the

early days of Islam. Ayesha, mounted on a

camel, led the way; but the princess was distracted with superstitious fears. On arriving

at Bassora the gates were closed against her

and her army; for the people of the city were

divided in their allegiance, and the party of

Ali had gained the ascendancy. Some went

forth and joined the camp of Ayesha, and

immediately Skirmishing began between the

two factions.

Meanwhile, a message was sent to Medina to

know whether Telha and Zobeir had freely

assented to the election of Ali or had acted