Imam `Ali (a.s) made his utmost effort not to enter battle so that no one would be killed. When he was informed in Medina that the leaders of the Camel Army have left Mecca for Basrah, he quickly left Medina to hold talks with them. He sent them a letter through Sa`sa`ah, a great man of Basrah. In that letter, he gave them advice with the utmost degree of kindness and magnanimity. Once again, he sent Ibn `Abbas to al-Zubayr to talk to him saying, “Do not go or speak to Talhah, for it will be useless. Speak to al-Zubayr who is softer. Tell him, your cousin says: In Hijaz you were my friend. How come you have become my enemy in Iraq?” Then, he sent a letter to Talhah and al-Zubayr through `Imran al-Khuza`i which reads, “Though people may deny, but I did not go to people rather they came to me to pledge allegiance with me. Their allegiance with me was not out of fear, force or allurement. If your allegiance has not been out of fear, repent quickly and turn to Allah. You claim that I have killed `Uthman! I leave the judgment to unbiased people. Anyone who is condemned should be punished. You two elderly men of Quraish! Stop behaving like this before this disgrace will be accompanied with Hellfire.” When Imam `Ali arrived in the land of Zaviah on his way to Basrah, he performed a four-Rak`ah prayer saying, “O Lord of heavens and what cast shadow on them! O Lord of the earths and what they have on shoulders! O Lord of the Great Throne! This is Basrah! I ask You to put the good of this people in my hand and I seek refuge in You from their evil. O Lord! These people have disobeyed me, rebelled against me and broken allegiance with me. O Lord! Preserve the blood of Muslims and let not any blood be shed!”
When `Ali was placed against the army of Basrah, he called, “O people! Do not make haste!” Then the Imam called Ibn `Abbas ordering him to go to Talhah, al-Zubayr and `A’ishah and call them to Allah. Then `Ammar ibn Yasir, the great companion and elderly man of truth, stood between the two armies, addressing the army of Basrah as such, “O people! It is not fair that you have kept your wives behind curtains while you have brought the Holy Prophet’s wife to be faced with arrows and swords.” Then he went to `A’ishah, asking, “What do you want?” `A’ishah said, “I am here to seek the revenge of `Uthman!” `Ammar said, “May Allah on this day kill the oppressor, perish the rebel and destroy falsehood.”
Then, addressing the army of Basrah he cried out, “O people! Do you know which of the two parties has had a hand in killing `Uthman?” The arrows were coming towards `Ammar. The answer was arrows! `Ammar came to `Ali saying, “O Amir al-Mu’minin: What are you waiting for? They have no goal but killing arrows showered on the army of `Ali. There was no permission for battle yet!” Imam `Ali (a.s) addressed his army as such, “Who is here to take this Qur’an to the people and call them to it? Whoever does this will be killed but I will guarantee his going to Paradise.” A young man by the name of Muslim rose up, saying, “O Amir al-Mu’minin: I will take the Qur’an to them and do what you said.” He took the Qur’an, went to the enemy and called them to the Qur’an. They pierced his body with spear. He fell on the ground and was martyred. Was killing with spear an answer to logic?
`Ali told his army to be prepared for battle but not start it. Ibn Badil, a brave soldier, brought the dead body of his brother saying: O Amir al-Mu’minin! Until when should we wait? Should they kill us and we look on?” The dead body of another soldier was brought to `Ali but he still did not give the permission to fight. He just said, “O Lord! You are the Witness.” Then, he turned to his army saying, “Have mercy on the people!” Then, he took off his armor, rode on the mule of the Holy Prophet, went to the battlefield and cried out, “O Zubayr! Come to me.” Al-Zubayr came to the field with full arms. Seeing that `Ali called al-Zubayr to the field, `A’ishah said to herself, “Woe to me, my sister Asma’—al-Zubayr’s wife—will became a widow!” When `A’ishah was told that `Ali has come to the battlefield without arms, she calmed down.
In the battle field, `Ali hugged al-Zubayr, saying, “Why have you rebelled against me?” Al-Zubayr said, “I have come to take the revenge of `Uthman!” `Ali said, “May God kill either of us who has had a hand in the killing of `Uthman.” Then he spoke softly to him reminding him of Allah’s Messenger, who had said, “You will fight `Ali and you will be the wrong party.” Al-Zubayr said, “I seek Allah’s forgiveness. If I had not forgotten this word, I would not have rebelled.” The Imam said, “Zubayr! Now, go back.” Al-Zubayr said, “How can I go back? My going back would be considered as fear, a disgrace which cannot be washed away.” The Imam said, “Go back before disgrace is accompanied with Hellfire.” Al-Zubayr went back and as soon as he intended to go out of the Army of the Camel, his son `Abdullah cried out, “Where are you going?” Al-Zubayr said, “My Son! `Ali reminded me of something I had forgotten.” The son said, “This is no the case, you are afraid of the swords of the Hashimites!” The father said, “No, I remembered what the time had made me forget. Are you blaming me for fear?” He took the spear and attacked the right wing of `Ali’s army. Addressing his soldiers, `Ali said, “Let no one fight him. Open the way for him. They have provoked him!” Al-Zubayr so attacked both sides of the army. No one fought him or resisted against him. Returning to his army he said to his son, “Does a timid man act like that?” Then he took his way and left.
`Ali’s kindness towards the enemy made a hero of him in the battlefield. Did the Army of the Camel realize that what the Holy Prophet had foreseen was not particular to al-Zubayr alone but everyone who fought `Ali would be a wrongdoer?
Again `Ali came to the battlefield and called Talhah saying, “Why did you rebel against me?” Talhah claimed that he wanted to take the revenge of `Uthman. `Ali said, “May Allah kill either of us who has had a hand in killing `Uthman. Haven’t you heard the words of the Holy Prophet saying: (O God) Befriend one who befriends `Ali and bear enmity to one who bears enmity to `Ali. Were you not the first man who swore allegiance with me and breached your allegiance? Allah says:
فَمَن نَّكَثَ فَإِنَّمَا يَنكُثُ عَلَى نَفْسِهِ
Whoever breaks his faith, he breaks it only to the injury of his own soul (48:10)”
Expressing his regret, Talhah said, “I seek Allah’s forgiveness.” He went back. Sensing that Talhah intends to leave the battlefield, Marwan ibn Hakam threw an arrow towards him. Talhah died immediately without having a chance to inform the people of Basrah of their treacherous and unjust act which he and al-Zubayr had planned.
Addressing his army, `Ali said, “When you defeat the Army of the Camel, do not kill the wounded and the captives, nor follow the deserters, nor expose people’s private parts, nor cut anyone’s ears or noses, nor loot anyone’s property except what they leave in the battlefield.”
The enemy’s defeat was certain. Yet, no order of attack was issued. The Army of the Camel attacked the right wing of `Ali’s army, pushing them back. It was at this moment that the order of attack was issued and the Army of the Camel suffered a disgraceful defeat, this is `Ali’s kindness towards the enemy and his mercy on people in the battlefield. Does history remember a ruler to have behaved like this towards the rebels?