Page 1133

1133 MOHAMMEDAN ASCENDENCY-OTHMAN AND ALI.

under compulsion. While this business was

pending, however, the partisans of Ayesha

broke into the city, killed the governor's

guard, and obtained possession of his person.

By this means the party of Ali was suppressed

and Bassora remained in the hands of the

rebels. The latter conducted themselves with

more prudence than was to have been expected, for they forebore to persecute the

adherents of the Caliph, seeking to win

them from their allegiance by kindness and

blandishments.

Ali was not idle in the emergency. Being

an orator, he harangued the multitudes from

the mosque. There was, however, less enthusiasm for his cause in the city than a sanguine

prince would hope for. Still the people came

to his standard, and when two learned doctors

of the law made a solemn declaration that

Ali was in no wise implicated in the murder

of Othman, the loyalty of the people was kindled to full heat.

Taking advantage of the uprising, the

Caliph marched forth from the city and

proceeded against Bassora. He sent word

to Abu Musa Alashair, governor of Cufa,

and to the other satraps who were favorable to his cause to come to his assistance;

but the ruler of Cufa was little disposed to

aid a prince who had attempted to depose him

from office. A reply was accordingly sent

which meant either evasion or nothing at all.

Meanwhile, the governor of Bassora, who had

been put out of office by Ayesha, and whose

beard had been contemptuously pulled out

hair by hair, came to the camp of Ali and

made a plaint of his degradation. The Caliph next dispatched his son Hassan and Ammar Ibn Yaser to expostulate with the governor of Cufa and to demand a contingent of

troops.

These messengers were kindly received by

the governor, and urged upon him the reasonableness of Ali's demands; but he held aloof

from complying. He was for arbitration, for

investigating the. offense which was charged

to the Caliph, for every thing, indeed, except

furnishing the troops.

While the negotiations were pending, another one of the Caliph's ambassadors had

struck to the bottom of the question by

seizing the citadel of Cufa, scourging the

garrison into obedience, and sending the

soldiers of the escort to stop the nonsense which was enacted at the mosque. The people thereupon turned suddenly to the cause of Ali.

Nine thousand of the inhabitants followed the ambassadors to the Caliph's camp.

Bassora was invested by a loyal army of thirty

thousand men. Seeing the futility of resistance to such a force, Zobeir and Telha would

have capitulated; but the vindictive Ayesha

defeated the negotiations for peace; and the

issue was decided by battle.

A severe conflict ensued outside the walls,

in which Ayesha, seated on her camel, rode

up and down among her partisans, urging

them to strike for victory and spoil. After ,a

bloody fight, in which Moslem cut down Moslem with no better inspiration than the breath

of faction, victory declared for Ali. Telha

was killed, and Zobeir, withdrawing from the

field, set out towards Mecca, but was overtaken at a brook and slain while kneeling

down to pray. When his gory head was borne

to Ali, the generous Caliph wept bitterly at

the sight, and bade the wretch who brought

it to carry the tidings of his bloody deed to

burn forever in hell! Thus perished the two

rebels who had been the main support of the

insurrection.

As to Ayesha, she continued the fight

until her camel, hacked with the merciless

swords of Ali's men, sank to the earth

and left her a prisoner. Ali, however, had

given orders that no indignity should be

offered to her who had received the absurd

name of Mother of the Faithful. The spoils

of victory, were divided according to the rules

of war, and the rebellion in Arabia was at an

end.

Not so, however, with the revolt in Syria.

Here the powerful Moawyah stood in arms

and defied the authority of the. Caliph. The

minds of the Syrians had been abused with

the belief that Ali was guilty of the murder

of Othman, and the local power of the provincial governor was used to divide them more and

more widely from all sympathy with the government at Medina. Nor was Moawyah wanting in the subtle policy peculiar to ambitious

chieftains. He sent word to Amni, the deposed governor of Egypt, now in Palestine,

to come and join his standard, promising to

restore him to the high authority which he

had held under the former Caliphate.