The Caliphate of Ali Ibin Abe Taleb(as) began toward the end of the year 35/656 and lasted about for four years and nine, months.
During his period as Calipha. Imam Ali followed only the ways of the Holy Prophet Mohammad Al-Mustafa(pbuh&hf) and restored all conditions back to their original state.
He forced the resignation of all the incompetent political elements who had a hand in directing affairs and began in reality a major transformation of a revolutionary nature which caused him innumerable difficulties.
On his first day as Calipha,
in an address to the people, Ali said,
"O People, be aware that the difficulties which you faced during the apostolic
period of the Prophet of God have come upon you once again and has seized you.
Your ranks must be turned completely around so that the people of virtue who have fallen behind should come forward and those who had come to the fore without being worthy should fall behind.
There is both, Truth (Haqq) and Falsehood (Batil).
Each has its followers; but a person should follow only the truth. If falsehood be prevalent it is not something new, and if the truth is rare and hard to come by, sometimes even that which is rare wins the day so that there is hope of advance.
Of course it does not occur often that something which has turned away from man should return to him."
Ali Ibin Abe Taleb(as) continued his radically different type of government
based more on righteousness than political efficacy but, as is necessary in
the case of every movement of this kind, elements of the opposition whose interests
were endangered began to dislplay their displeasure and resisted his rule.
Basing their actions on the claim that they wanted to revenge the death of Uthman, they instigated bloody wars. Which continued throughout almost all the time that Ali was Calipha.
From the Shi'ite point of view those who caused these civil wars had no end in mind other than their own personal interest. The wish to revenge, the blood of the third caliph was no more than an excuse to fool the crowd. There was no question of a misunderstanding.
After the death of The Holy Prophet(pbuh&hf), a small minority, some of the closes of faithfull Companions followed Ali's example refused to pay any allegiance to Abu Bakir.
At the head of the Minority there were:
Salman Al Farisi
At the beginning of the Caliphate of Ali Ibin Abe Taleb also a sizable minority in disagreement refused to pay allegiance. Among the most persistent opponents were:
Sa'id Ibin A'ss
Waleed Ibin Uqbah
Marwan Ibin Hakam
Amr Ibin A'ss
Busr Ibin Artat
Samurah Ibin Jundab
Mughirah Ibin Shu'bah
The study of the biography of these two groups, and meditation upon the acts they have performed and stories recounted of them in the history books, reveal fully their religious personality and aim.
The First Group were among the elite of the Companions of The Holy Prophet Mohammad(phuh&hf) and among the asceties, devout worshipers and selfless devotees of Islam who struggled on the path for Islamic freedom.
They were especially loved by The Prophet(pbuh&hf) and he had said of them,
"God has informed me that He loves four men and that I should love them
They asked about their names. The Prophet(pbuh&hf) stated that it was,
"Ali Ibin Abe Taleb and then the names of Abu Dharr, Salman and Miqdad."
Sunan of Ibn Majah, Cairo, 1372, vol.I, p. 66
Ayesha has recounted that the Prophet(pbuh&hf) of God said,
"If two alternatives are placed before Ammar, he will definitely choose
that which is more true and right."
Ibn Miijah, vol.I, p. 66
The Prophet(pbuh&hf) had also said,
"There is no one between the Heaven and the Earth
more truthful than Abu Dharr."
Ibn Miijah, vol.I, p. 68
There is no record.of a single forbidden act committed by these men during their lifetime.
They never spilled any blood unjustly
They did not commit any kind of aggression against anyone
They did not steal anyone's property
They never sought to corrupt and misguide the people
History is, however, is full of accounts of unworthy acts committed by some of the Second Group. The various acts committed by some of these men in opposition to explicit Islamic Teachings are beyond reckoning.
These acts cannot be excused in any manner except the way that is followed by certain groups among the Sunnis who say that God was 'satisfied' with them and therefore they were 'free to perform' whatever act they wished, Good or Bad',and that they would not be punished for violating the injunctions and regulations existing in the Holy Book and the Sunnah!
Battle of the Camal
The first war in the Caliphate of Ali, which is called the Battle of the Camel, was caused by the unfortunate class differences created during the period of rule of the 2nd caliph as a result of the new socioeconomic forces which caused an ueven distribution of the public treasury among members of the community.
When chosen to the Caliphate, Ali divided the treasury evenly as had been the method of The Holy Prophet(pbuh&hf) before him, but this manner of dividing the Wealth upset Talhah and Zubayr greatly. They began to show signs of disobedience and left Medina for Mecca with the alleged aim of making the pilgrimage.
They persuaded Ayeshah, which was not very hard to do as she was not at all friendly with Ali, to join them and in the name of wanting to revenge the death of the 3rd caliph. Hence they began the bloody Battle of the Camel.
This was done, despite the fact that this same Talhah and Zubayr were in Medina when the 3rd caliph was besieged and killed but did nothing to defend him. Furthermore, after his death they were the first to pay allegiance to Ali on behalf of all the immigrants (Muhtijiriin) as well as on their own.
Also, Ayeshah, did not show any open opposition to those who had killed the 3rd caliph at the moment when she received the news of his death.
It must be remembered that the main instigators of the disturbances that led to the death of the 3rd caliph were those companions who wrote letters from Medina to people near and far inviting them to rebel against the calipha a fact which is repeated in many early Muslim histories.
Battle of Siffin
As for the second war, called the Battle of Siffin, which lasted for a year and a half, its cause was the covetousness of Muawiyah for the caliphate which for him was a worldly political instrument rather than a religious institution.
But as an excuse he made the revenge of the blood of the third caliph the main issue and began a war in which more than a hundred thousand people perished without reason. Naturally, in these wars Muawiyah was the aggressor rather than the defender, for the protest to revenge someone's blood can never occur the form of defense.
The pretext of this war was blood revenge. During the last days of his life, the third caliph, in order to quell the uprising against him, asked Muawiyah for help, but the army of Muawiyah which set out from Damascus to Medina purposely waited on the road at the citys outskirts until the caliph was killed. Then he returned to Damascus, to begin an uprising to revenge the Uthman's death.
After the death of Ali and of his gaining the caliphate for himself, Muawiyah conviently forgot the whole question of revenging the blood of the 3rd calipha and did not pursue the matter any further.
Battle of Nahrawan
After Siffin there occurred the battle of Nahrawiin in which a number of people, among whom there could be found some of the companions, rebelled against the Calipha Ali Ibin Abe Taleb(as), most possibly at the instigation of Muawiyah. These people were causing rebellion throughout the lands of Islam, killing the Muslims and especially the Shia, the followers of Ali.
They even attacked pregnant women and killed their babies. Ali put down this uprising as well, but a short while later was himself killed while praying in the mosque of Kufa by one of the members of this group who came to be known as the Khawarij.
The opponents of Ali claim that he was only a courageous man but did not possess political acumen.
They claim that at the beginning of his Caliphate he could have temporarily made peace with his opponents. He could have approached them through peace and friendship, thus courting their satisfaction and approval.
In this way he could have strengthened his Caliphate and only then turned to
their extirpation and destruction.
The people who hold this view forget
That the movement of Ali Ibin Abe Taleb(as) was not based on political opportunism. It was a radical and revolutionary religious movement, in the true sense of revolution as a spiritual movement to re-establish the real order of things and not in its current political and social sense; therefore it could not have been accomplished through compromise or flattery and forgery.
A similar situation can be seen during the Apostleship of The Holy Prophet(pbuh&hf). The infidels and polythesis proposed peace to him many occassions and swore that if he were to abstain from protesting against their gods they would not interfere with his religious mission.
But the Prophet Mohammad(phuh&hf) did not accept such a proposal, although he could in those days of difficulty have made peace and used flattery to fortify his own position, and then have risen against his enemies.
In fact, the Islamic message never allows a right and just cause to be abandoned for the sake of strengthening another good cause, nor a falsehood to be rejected and disproves through another falsehood.
There are many Koranic verses concerning this matter.
Taken from "Islam :
the living religioun " web site.