Muawiyah was a down to earth realist, he realized he had no option but to wait in his hometown until Ali fought war in Basra. He also knew that his resources and men were low as compared to Ali.
Muawiyah only had Syria under his command, whereas Ali although weak was still a Caliph. he had numerous provinces under his command though the provinces had their own factions within them.
Ali’s army itself was fractioned. Muawiyah had firm grip over his administration. His soldiers were resolute and only answered to Muawiyah. Muawiyah also had informant in Ali’s army.
Muawiyah thus compelled Ali to launch an offensive.
Amr ibn al-As was in Palestine when he received news of Usman’s murder; it saddened him a lot. He then heard about Ali’s war with Talha and Zubayr which further alienated him. He threw his weight behind Muawiyah. These two would go on to attain unprecedented successes in near future.
Battle of Siffin: 657
When in Kufa, Ali sent a messenger to Muawiyah to submit for the last time. Muawiyah maintained that the murderers of Usman be brought to justice. He showed the grievances of Syrians. The messenger returned and narrated the events to Ali. Ali was convinced there was no other way but sword.
Both the armies met near Aleppo at a place called Siffin. For about three months two confronted each other without coming to blows. Both were trying to avoid blood-shed. It was Muslims against Muslims.
It can be said that the battle was between Syria and Iraq. It was between two clans of Arabia. Negotiations were again tried but both the leaders remained adamant about there stance.
Muawiyah was disheartened when he knew he might be defeated and was thinking of flight when Amr came to his rescue. He suggested that arbitration according Quran should take place. Ali’s army had many Quran readers who were already very reluctant to fight and wanted to solve matters through word
of God. Ali tried reasoning with them that they were being fooled and victory was only few days ahead, but the readers wouldn’t have it.
Thus fighting was halted, and two sides nominated an arbitrator who would meet six months later. Muawiyah nominated Amr while Ali nominated Abdullah bin Abbas, but the readers insisted upon Abu Musa, who Ali knew to be neutral. The Caliph again had to give in.
Kharijis are born
While Muawiyah returned with diplomatic win with his army still united, Ali’s army further degenerated.
The readers that had compelled Ali to agree to arbitration and then replace his nominee were the ones to defect. They now complained that only God could arbitrate not two men. They blamed Ali that was tricked by the opposition.
On the way back, they separated themselves from Ali’s army, some 12k of them near a place called Harura, 10 miles from Kufa. Ali didn’t take the matter seriously and instead believed they would return after a while.
They came to be called Kharijis.
The Court of Arbitration: 658
The two parties were convinced by Kharijis to meet at Adhrukh. Both the arbitrators came with 400 men each.
Abu Musa was one of the oldest companions. He was a pious and a simple-minded man, who spoke his mind.
Amr, on the other hand, was a much later convert, whom some old companions called ‘forced converts.’ But he was one of the cleverest man of Umayyad clan and of Makkah in general.
The arbitration began but Amr requested Abu Musa that they first discuss something in private. Amr presented a defence for Muawiyah and asked Musa why shouldn’t Muawiyah be a Caliph. Abu Musa rejected the idea, but it was clear from his negotiations that he didn’t favor Ali’s caliphate.
Amr detected that and suggested that both Ali and Muawiyah give up their claim and leave their seats and the people can decide in consultation who would lead them.
Abu Musa came and announced their decision first, but Amr turned away from his promise. Syrians accepted Muawiyah as their Caliph, which he didn’t accept for a year or more.
Ali, again, came out with disappointment. This further made Kharijis confident.
Why arbitration would’ve never worked
The matter of the Caliphate was a constitutional one. Quran had no specific solution to that. Quran only guided them to consult between themselves and nothing further. The issue at hand was unconventional where Muslims were at loggerheads with Muslims. To even resort to Quran plainly for the way-out was a mistake on Ali’s side and a clever play from Muawiyah’s part.
For complete Islamic history notes click here.