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Khalifa Ali bin Abu Talib - Kufa, the New Capital

Characteristics of Kufa and its people

Kufa was a new colony town founded in the late thirties of the seventh century during the caliphate of Umar. It was founded as a military cantonment consequent upon the Muslim conquest of Iraq. The town was populated by the Bedouins of Northern Arabia. These tribes originally belonged to Yemen. In the ancient period Yemen was known for its highly developed culture. The Yemenites boasted that they were the people who had taken their culture to ancient Egypt. They claimed to be the fathers of Arabian culture. Their culture was tribal in character, and though they had accepted Islam their culture at all retained many features of the pre-Islamic culture of the age of ignorance.

The city of Kufa was divided into a number of quarters, and each quarter was populated by one tribe. These people were late comers to Islam. Most of them apostatized after the death of the Holy Prophet as a result of the apostasy war. During the caliphate of Abu Bakr, they were reconverted to Islam. During the caliphate of Umar they played an important part in the conquest of Persia, Iran and Syria. Umar availed of the services of the men of Kufa in the ranks of his army, but he did not confer on them higher posts of trust and responsibility. Under Othman they came to hold high army posts. As long as the process of foreign conquests continued, all things remained quiet within the country. When the process of foreign conquests came to a grinding halt, disturbances broke out within the country in the revolt against Othman, the people of Kufa had taken the main part. When after the death of Othman, Ali became the Caliph, the cry for the vengeance for the blood of Othman was raised, and things became difficult for Ali, he had to seek the help of the people of Kufa. Indeed the victory of Basra was mainly due to the support of Ali by the people of Kufa. The rebels of Kufa who had participated in the murder of Othman had favored the election of Zubair as the Caliph, but later they chose to support Ali, and fight against Zubair at Basra. As the people of Kufa were late comers to the fold of Islam, they had not fully imbibed the Islamic values, and they became notorious for their perfidy and treachery. The purer Arabs of Hijaz regarded the Kufans as the "Bedouin element," the rabble of the Arabian stock.

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