The Battle of Nahrawan took place in 38 AH. Nahrawan is situated between Baghdad and Wasit and here the battle ensued between Hazrat Ali (ra) and the Khawarij.
(Yaqut Ibn Abdullah al-Hamawi, Mu‘jam al-Buldan, Vol. 5 [Beirut, Lebanon: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah], 375)
Ibn Athir has written about this battle stating that in order to reconcile [between the two armies] during the Battle of Siffin, Hazrat Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari (ra) was appointed from Hazrat Ali’s (ra) side and Hazrat Amr (ra) bin al-Aas was appointed from Amir Mu‘awiyah’s (ra) side as the arbitrators. In history, this incident is referred to as Tahkim [arbitration].
One group from the army of Hazrat Ali (ra) disputed the tahkim. They rebelled and separated themselves and were subsequently known as the Khawarij. These Khawarij deemed the tahkim a sin and demanded Hazrat Ali (ra) to repent and abdicate the Caliphate, but Hazrat Ali (ra) refused outright to do such a thing.
It has already been explained earlier why he refused. Hazrat Ali (ra) was already occupied in preparation to advance towards Syria against Amir Mua‘wiyahra when the Khawarij began their mischievous ploys. They appointed Abdullah bin Wahab as their leader and departed from Kufa towards Nahrawan. The army of the Khawarij in Basra also gathered together and joined the army of Abdullah bin Wahab in Nahrawan.
Hazrat Abdullah (ra) bin Khabbab, a companion of the Holy Prophet (sa), was killed for siding with Hazrat Ali (ra). His pregnant wife was mercilessly killed by cutting open her abdomen. They also killed three other women of the Tayy tribe.
When news of this situation reached Hazrat Ali (ra), he sent Harith bin Murrah to investigate. He went to them as an emissary, but the Khawarij killed him as well. Owing to these circumstances, Hazrat Ali (ra) abandoned the thought of advancing to Syria and instead, the army of approximately 65,000 which was prepared for Syria, was now advancing to combat the Khawarij.
When Hazrat Ali (ra) reached Nahrawan, the Khawarij were called towards reconciliation. Hazrat Abu Ayyub Ansari was handed the flag and it was announced that whoever stood beneath it would be granted refuge and they will not fight him. Having heard this announcement, 100 members of the Khawarij – who numbered a total of 4,000 – joined Hazrat Ali (ra) and a large number of those remaining, returned to Kufa. Only 1,800 people advanced forward under the command of Abdullah bin Wahab Khariji and the battle between them and the 65,000-strong army of Hazrat Ali (ra) ensued, in which all the Khawarijwere killed.
According to one narration, a small amount of the Khawarij, numbering less than 10 survived. Seven people among the army of Hazrat Ali (ra) were martyred.
(Ibn al-Athir, Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, Vol. 3 [Beirut, Lebanon: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, 2003], 212-223) (Tarikh al-Mas‘udi, Chapter 2, p. 342, Nafees Academy Astrachan Road, Karachi, November 1985)
Hazrat Amrahra bint Abdir-Rahman relates that before Hazrat Ali (ra) departed for Basra, he visited Hazrat Umm Salamah (ra), the noble wife of the Holy Prophet (sa). She said to Hazrat Ali (ra), “Go forth with the protection of Allah the Almighty. By God, you are in the right and the truth is with you. The Holy Prophet (sa) instructed us to remain in our homes. Were it not for my fear of disobeying Allah and His Messenger (sa), I would have accompanied you. But by Allah, I send my son, Umar, with you who is most beloved and dearer to me than my own self.”
(Al-Mustadrak ala al-Sahihain, Vol. 3, p. 574, Kitab Marifat al-Sahabah, Dhikr Islam Amir al-Momineen Ali, Hadith No. 3611, Dar-ul-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 2002)
It is said that three people from among the Khawarij had been selected – Abdur Rahman bin Muljam Muradi, who was from the Himyar tribe and was a part of the Murad tribe who were confederates of the Banu Jabala from the Qindah family, along with Burak bin Abdullah Tamimi and Amr bin Bukair Tamimi. The three met in Mecca and made a solemn oath that they would certainly kill Hazrat Ali (ra) bin Abi Talib, Hazrat Mu‘awiyyah (ra) bin Abi Sufyan and Hazrat Amr (ra) bin Aas, as has already been mentioned earlier in the quote of Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud (ra), that there were three assailants and these were their names and their intention was to “save” the people from them.
Abdur Rahman bin Muljam said that he would undertake the task of killing Ali (ra) bin Abi Talib. Burak said that he would undertake the task of killing Mu‘awiyyah (ra), while Amr bin Bukair said that he would grant them freedom from Amr (ra) bin Aas [i.e. he would kill him]. After this, they made a solemn oath and assured one another that they would not back down from killing the person they had each mentioned and they would not return until they had killed them, otherwise they would give their own lives in this endeavour, meaning that they would go and either kill those three people or they would give their lives for this and not return.
They decided amongst themselves to set the 17th night of Ramadan to carry out this task. Then each of the three set out towards the city in which their targeted person lived, meaning the person who they intended to kill. Abdur Rahman bin Muljam went to Kufa and met with his Khariji friends, whom he would go to see or they would come to see him; however, he kept his mission secret from them.
One day, he saw a group of people from the Taimur Ribaab tribe, among whom was a woman named Qatam bint Shijnah bin Adi. During the Battle of Nahrawan, Hazrat Ali (ra) had killed her father and brother. Ibn Muljam became fond of that woman and sent her a proposal for marriage. She replied saying that she would not marry him unless he made a promise to her. Ibn Muljam said that he would do whatever she asked. She said that she wanted 3,000 dirhams and for Ali (ra) bin Abi Talib to be killed. Upon this, he said, “By God, I have come to this city for the very purpose of killing Ali and so I will certainly grant you that which you have asked for.”
Then Ibn Muljam met Shabib bin Bajrah Ashja‘i and informed him of his plot and asked that he join him, to which Shabib agreed. Abdur Rahman bin Muljam spent the night before the intended day of his mission to kill Hazrat Ali (ra), hidden in the mosque of Ash‘ath bin Qais Qindi. As the time of dawn drew near, Ash‘ath told him to wake up as it was now morning. Abdur Rahman bin Muljam and Shabib bin Bajrah stood up with their swords with them and sat near the entrance from where Hazrat Ali (ra) used to pass through.
Hazrat Hasan bin Ali (ra) narrates that he went and sat by Hazrat Ali (ra) early in the morning. At that time, Hazrat Ali (ra) said that he had spent the night waking his family members [for prayer] and himself was overcome by sleep and he saw the Holy Prophet (sa) in a dream. Hazrat Ali (ra) said to the Holy Prophet (sa) [in the dream], “O Messenger (sa) of Allah, I have been made to endure discord and conflict from the people of your Ummah.”
The Holy Prophet (sa) replied, “Pray to Allah the Almighty against them.” Hazrat Ali (ra) prayed, “O Allah, give me in exchange for them that which is better than them, and give them in exchange that which is worse than me.” In the meantime, the muazzin [caller to prayer], Ibn Nabah, arrived and said that it was time for prayer. Hazrat Hasan (ra) states that he took hold of Hazrat Ali’s (ra) hand, then he stood up and began walking. Ibn Nabah was in front of him and Hazrat Hasan (ra) was behind him. As soon as he emerged from the door, he called out saying, “O people, it is time for prayer, it is time for prayer” – every morning, he would call out in this manner saying “Salat, Salat.”
Whenever he would leave, he would have a whip in his hand which he used to hit on people’s doors in order to wake them up. At that very moment, the two assailants came before him. According to eye-witness accounts, some say that they saw the glistening of a sword and heard someone say, “O Ali, only Allah has the power to command, not you.” Then another sword was also seen and then both launched a joint attack. Abdur Rahman bin Muljam’s sword struck Hazrat Ali’s (ra) forehead to the crown of his head and penetrated his brain, whilst Shabib’s sword struck the wooden door.
[Hazrat Hasan (ra)] heard Hazrat Ali (ra) saying that these men should not get away and though people converged upon them from all sides, Shabib was able to escape while Abdur Rahman bin Muljam was captured and was brought to Hazrat Ali (ra). Hazrat Ali (ra) said, “He should be fed well and be given a comfortable place to sleep; if I remain alive, then I will decide as to whether I will forgive him or seek retribution. However, if I die, then he too should be killed and be sent along with me; I will settle the matter with him in the presence of the Lord of All the Worlds”, meaning he would present the matter before Allah.
(Ibn Saad, At-Tabaqat-ul-Kubra, Vol. 3 [Beirut, Lebanon: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, 1990], pp. 25-27)