Abu-Musa Abd-Allah ibn Qays al-Ash'ari, better known as Abu Musa al-Ashari () (d.ca. 662 or 672) was a companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and important figure in early Islamic history. He was at various times governor of Basra and Kufa and was involved in the early Muslim conquests of Persia. He was also an important participant in the troubles which occupied the caliphate of Ali ibn Abi Talib (d.661).
Abu Musa came originally from Yemen, where his tribe, the Ashar, lived in the pre-Islamic period. He accepted Islam at Mecca prior to the hijra and returned to his native Yemen to propagate the faith. There was no news of him for more than a decade until following the conquest of Khaybar in 628 when he came to Muhammad in Medina with more than fifty converts from Yemen including his two brothers Abu Ruhm and Abu Burdah.
Following the conquest of Mecca in 629, Abu Musa was named among those sent by Muhammad on the expedition to Awtas. Two years later he was appointed as one of the governors over Yemen, where he remained until the caliphate of Abu Bakr, whom he joined in fighting the local leader of the ridda (lit. apostasy) movement.
After the Caliphate of Abu BakrEdit
The appointments of Abu Musa to the governates of Basra and Kufa were made during the caliphates of Umar and Uthman, but the exact dates and circumstances are not clear. However, during the period that he was governor of one or the other of the two Muslim garrison towns in Iraq, Abu Musa is frequently mentioned in connection with the early Muslim conquest of the Sasanian Empire. In the Battle of Tostar (642) he distinguished himself as a military commander. The Persian commander, Hormuzan, had withdrawn his forces to the fortified city of Tostar. The Caliph Umar did not underestimate the strength of the enemy and he mobilized a force to confront Hormuzan. Among the Muslim forces were dedicated veterans like Ammar ibn Yasir, Al-Baraa ibn Malik al-Ansari and his brother Anas, Majra'a al-Bakri and Salamah ibn Rajaa. Umar appointed Abu Musa as commander of the army. Tostar was impossible to take by storm and several unsuccessful attempts were made to breach the walls. Fortunately, a Persian defector opened the city's gates from within making way for Abu Musa's army.
Following the Assassination of UthmanEdit
There are many unresolved issues regarding the First Fitna (literally “trial”) period of dissension and civil war, which split the Muslim community following the assassination of the Caliph Uthman. When Ali arrived in Kufa in 656 seeking support against Aishah bint Abi Bakr and the Basrans it is agreed that Abu Musa (then the governor of Kufa), urged his subjects not to support Ali and avoid participation in the fitna. When his advice was rejected and the people of Kufa supported Ali, Abu Musa was forced to leave and Ali disposed him from his governorate.
However, the next year Abu Musa is named as the arbitrator (hakam) chosen by Ali’s party in accordance with the terms agreed between Ali and Muawiyah after the battle of Siffin. There are many historical versions of the result of the arbitration court. According to an academic research done by Khalid Kabir Alal in University of Algeria, the most authentic version is that both Abu Musa and 'Amr ibn al-'As, the arbitrator appointed by Muawiyah I, decided that Muawiyah will be deposed, and the fate of the murderers of Uthman will be decided by the remaining of The Ten Promised Paradise .
After this Abu Musa left for the Hejaz and spent the rest of his life near the Sacred Mosque, taking no further part in public affairs. There are a number of different dates given for his death, the most common being 662 and 672.
Contributions to Islamic LearningEdit
Despite Abu Musa’s reputation as a soldier and politician, he was also praised for his beautiful recitation of the Qur'an, and he is associated with one of the early versions (mashahef), which was superseded by Uthman's recension. Some of the variants of Abu Musa's version have been preserved. He was also a respected faqih and was regarded among the leading judges in early Muslim history. People used to say: "The judges in this ummah are four: Umar, Ali ibn Abi Talib, Abu Musa and Zayd ibn Thabit." Abu Musa is also credited with narrating numerous hadith, as well as being the ancestor of the founder of the Ash'ari theological school within Islam, Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari (d.935).