Page images

to enjoy the fruit of the rebellion, But the intriguing Aiesa meditated to become, a second time, the cherished wife of the commander of the Faithful. She wanted to place on the throne a young man called Telha, who had found means to please her; the bribed. Othman's secretary, with whom she fabricated letters, sealed with the seal of Mahomet, and addressed to the superseded governors, which contained in substance, that, far from wishing them to obey the pretended letters which displaced them, Othman ordered them to seize on those who should present themselves to succeed them, cut off their feet and hands, and empale them. These false orders were so managed as to be intercepted by those who were to be the victims of them. The secretary's hand, and the seal which he had set to it, leaving no doubt of the authenticity of these letters, they returned furious to Medina, raised the people a second time, penetrated into the caliph's house, and massacred him unheard. His body reinained three days exposed in the place where he had been murdered, after which he was buried without the least funeral honors. He had reigned near twelve years, and was eighty-two years old when he met with this miserable death. Before the affassination of the calipkı, Aiesa had set out for Mecca, in order to prevent any suspicion’s falling on her. This precaution did hurt to her intentions.



Othman was no fooner dead, than every eye turned on Ali. His great courage, a perfect knowledge of the Alcoran, added to an old age exempt froin infirmities, rendered him venerable to all the Medinese. His friends gave out, that he ought to have been the firft successor of the prophet. Age had leffened the ambition of Ali; he resisted for some time before he ascended the pulpit of the Caliphs: at length he seemed to consent to the unanimous wishes of the Medinese. Telha himself, hurried along by the torrent, took the customary oaths to the new caliph, which he soon hoped to break, and immediately fled to Mecca, carrying to the widow of Mahomet the bloody tunic of the caliph Othman. This artful woman was desirous of appearing to avenge a crime of which she was the real author. They called her the mother of the Faithful, and she abused the credit which she had with the people in order to have Ali condemned as the assassin of Othman. The fatal tunic was hung up in the temple of Mecca as the standard of rebellion ; it was even carried to Damascus, where the governor of Syria, a zealous fervant of Othman's, exerted every effort against Ali, whom he believed to be the assassin of his master.

Meanwhile, Aiefa, capable of undertaking any thing for Telha, meditated to poffefs herself of Arabia ; she assembled precipitately an army who flattered themselves with marching to certain vic

[merged small][ocr errors]

tory under the mother of the Faithful. She wrote to all the governors to acknowledge the voice of Mahomet. Some of them, at the sight of these orders, were all obedience; others, faithful to their oaths, declared for the caliph elect; in fine, Arabia in a short time saw two armies ready to rend this empire, become so formidable. Aiesa, at the head of her army, in a kind of covered litter carried by a camel, wanted to get poffeffion of Pasra, one of the strongest places in Irac. Ali hastened to its defence: the two armies met, and, in spite of the mediation of the chiefs, came to action.

A more bloody battle had not been fought a long time; Aiesa's camel carried her wherever her presence, could animate the foldiers; the pavilion of her litter was soon covered with darts, and her camel fell pierced with wounds; Telha perilhed near his benefactress. After a most obstinate resistance, Aiesa's army was cut to pieces, and she herself fell into the hands of the caliph. The latter respected the widow of his master; but he condemned her to that obscurity which was agreeable to all the Mussulmen. Aiesa passed the rest of her life attended and shut up as be. came the widow of Mahomet.

This victory brought Arabia, Irac, Egypt, and Perga,' under the subjection of the caliph. But Moavia, governor of Damascus, had assembled. an army in Syria; he still believed, or feigned to

( believe,

believe, Ali 'the affaffin of his master Othman, who was likewise his cousin german, both being defcended from Ommias the uncle of Mahomet. Under this pretext, he caused hiinself to be declared caliph, promising, as he said, to pull down the usurper; he brought over the governor of Palestine likewise to his fide, and was preparing to enter Arabia, when Ali, who had just defeated Aiefa, learned that it was time to oppose a more formidable enemy. Ninety thousand men marched under his command, and met at Saffein, on the confines of Arabia, the army of Moavia, which was still more numerous. In several skirmishes between detachinents, the arms of Ali had always the advantage. At length the brave caliph fent to propose to his adversary, in order to fpare Muffulman blood, to decide their quarrel by fingle combat, and to resign the fceptre only with life. Notwithstanding Ali's great age, his valour was dreaded; Moavia re. plied to Amru his lieutenant, who pressed him to accept a challenge which he could not honorably refuse: You are certain then of becoming caliph in my place? Ali, irritated at the cowardice of his adversary, longed to give him battle ; he ranged his troops accordingly, and was ready to attack Moavia's camp, when the chiefs came out with copies of the Alcoran at the end of their lances,

and presented them to Ali's foldiers as pledges of - union and safety. The caliph wanted to charge


these hypocrites with vigour; but his army refused to follow him, declaring they would not fight against the law of God.' A retreat was necessary, and in a little time deputies arrived in Ali's camp from Moavia; they came to propose to refer the dispute, to two arbitrators, chosen one from each army. Ali being pressed by the chiefs of his party : “I can decide nothing," cried he, “ amidst an army that has refused to “ obey me; it rests with you to complete your

work." Moavia having named an arbitrator, fome of Ali's soldiers named another, without the caliph's participation, but who promised at length to abide by his decision. The two parties agreed on a neutral place for the conference, and the caliphs retired with the major part of their troops : Ali to Cufa, Moavia to Damascus. The conference commenced during the ramazan. Amru, the arbitrator chosen by Moavia's party, perfuaded Ali's arbitrator, that each should publicly depose his caliph, in order that the election, which they should afterward make in conjunction, imight be more free and respected. The Arabian arbitrator being mounted on a tribunal raised in a place where there were a vast number of people, “I « depofe Ali from the califate,” faid he, " as I “ take this ring from my finger:"-then the Syrian arbitrator, taking the former's place: You have heard,” said he with a loud voice,

ss that


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »