'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr

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'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr
Personal Information
Full Name 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr b. al-'Awwam
Kunya Abu Bakr and Abu Khubayb
Well Known As Ibn al-Zubayr
Lineage Banu Asad
Well-Known Relatives Al-Zubayr (father), 'A'isha (aunt)
Birth 1/623
Place of Birth Medina
Place(s) of Residence Medina, Mecca
Death/Martyrdom 73/692
Cause of Death/Martyrdom He was killed by Hajjaj
Burial Place al-Hajun cemetery
Religious Information
Notable Roles Caliphate
Other Activities Participating in the battle of Jamal, not pledging allegiance with Yazid, rebuilding Ka'ba

ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Zubayr b. al-ʿAwwām (Arabic:عبدالله بن الزبير بن العوام), known as Ibn Zubayr (b. 1/623 – d. 73/692), one of the people who claimed the caliphate after the death of Mu'awiya and has establised his reign over Mecca and part of Iraq. He was the son of Al-Zubayr b. al-'Awwam who was a notable companion of the Prophet (s) and since was young during the life of the Prophet (s), he is considered among the youngster companions of Prophet Muhammad (s) (al-sahaba al-sighar). He was the first child born among the Immigrants (Muhajirun) in Medina. Ibn al-Zubayr was famous for not taking oath of allegiance to Yazid b. Mu'awiya. He claimed to be the caliph and fled to Mecca, which consequently led to an attack by the army of Yazid to this city. In 64/683 Ibn al-Zubayr called himself the caliph of Muslims and a large number of people of Syria and Hijaz including Mecca and Medina took oath of allegiance to him. One of the significant rebuilding of Ka'ba is attributed to him. Ibn al-Zubayr played an important role in the battle of Jamal and fought against Imam 'Ali (a), but after their defeat, Imam (a) granted them amnesty. He was killed by the army of Syria, led by Hajjaj b. Yusuf in Mecca at the age of 72.


'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr b. al-'Awam b. Khuwaylid was from Banu Asad tribe. Abu Bakr and Abu Khubayb were the kunyas of 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr. His father, al-Zubayr b. al-'Awam was a notable companion of Prophet Muhammad (s) and his maternal cousin. His mother, Asma' was the daughter of Abu Bakr.


There are minor differences between historical reports on the year Ibn al-Zubayr was born. According to famous reports, he was the first child born after the migration of Muslims to Medina in Shawwal the first year after Hijrat. As Jews claimed that they would use magic to prevent Muslims from having children in order to lead them to extinction, birth of Ibn al-Zubayr brought joy and delight to Muslims. It is said that Prophet Muhammad (s) became happy as well and he brought a date for him and called him 'Abd Allah. Then Abu Bakr recited Adhan in his ears (which is recommended for a newborn baby).

According to a number of Shi'ite and Sunni narrations, al-Zubayr and Asma' were in a temporary marriage and 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr was the first child to born on such marriage. When 'Abd Allah was seven or eight years old, along with a number of pre-teenage Muslims took oath of allegiance to Prophet Muhammad (s), as a result he was called youngster companion of Prophet (s).

After Prophet Muhammad (s)

In the time of Prophet Muhammad (s), 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr was living in his childhood years and he is not mentioned in any historical reports on battles and political and social events. He is only mentioned in the report on the battle of Yarmuk that took place against the Romans in the time of caliphate of Abu Bakr in 15/636. He was with his father and as he was a teenager he was not able to attend a battle.

'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr was increasingly mentioned in historical reports in the time of caliphate of 'Uthman b. Affan and he achieved different positions at times:

  • According to Al-Tabari, Ibn al-Zubayr accompanied Sa'id b. al-'As in the attacks of Muslims to northern regions of Iran (Khurasan) in 29/649-50 – 30/650-1.
  • He was among the inscribers of Qur'an when all the handwritten copies of Qur'an were collected and integrated.
  • He attended the attack of Muslims to Morocco in 27/647-8 or 28/648-9 led by 'Abd Allah b. Sa'd b. Abi Sarh.
  • As he stated himself, he killed the commander of the enemy's army which led to victory of Muslims.
  • When people rebelled against 'Uthman b. Affan, opposite his father and his maternal aunt, 'A'isha, he stayed with 'Uthman and defended him until the end.
  • Ibn al-Zubayr was the representative of 'Uthman in negotiations with oppositions, he also became Imam of congregational Prayer (a person who leads prayer) when 'Uthman's house was under siege which led to his injury.

In the Time of Imam 'Ali (a)

Ibn al-Zubayr opposed Imam 'Ali (a) and attended the battle of Jamal and rebelled against Imam (a) in which he was badly injured. He also convinced his father to fight against Imam (a). As Imam (a) stated in a narration, Ibn al-Zubayr was the reason that al-Zubayr b. al-'Awam departed from Ahl al-Bayt (a). Before the battle commence, Ibn al-Zubayr found out that his father had regrets about this battle, and wanted to leave, then he tried to convince his father to stay with them; he failed eventually though. Ibn al-Zubayr had a deep emotional relationship with his aunt, 'A'isha, so that she called him as her wasi (successor) after her death. According to historical reports, it is concluded that 'A'isha was under the influence of 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr.

When the army of Jamal arrived in Basra, 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr, the commander of the infantry, and his troops killed forty Muslim guards and captured public properties, against the peace treaty between him and 'Uthman b. Hunayf, the governor of Basra, which indicated that there would be no war until the arrival of Imam Ali (a) in Basra.

Uprising and Caliphate

After the death of Mu'awiya, 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr refused to take oath of allegiance to Yazid b. Mu'awiya and planned to fight against the Umayyad. According to historiographical resources, the purpose of Ibn al-Zubayr's fight against Umayyad was to achieve power and caliphate. Some reports mentioned that the presence of Imam al-Husayn (a) was an obstacle for Ibn al-Zubayr to reach his dream of becoming the caliph, as people favored Imam (a) over him. Then he tried to persuade Imam (a) to travel to Kufa. 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr was a close relative of Prophet Muhammad (s) and his wives Khadija bt. al-Khuwaylid and 'A'isha. His father was a close companion of Prophet Muhammad (s) and a member of the council appointed by 'Umar to choose the next caliph. 'Abd Allah also claimed that 'Uthman had made a covenant with him to choose him as the next caliph. Therefore, he thought he deserved to be the caliph rather than Banu Umayya.

After the martyrdom of Imam 'Ali (a), Mu'awiya managed to convince 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr by means of threat and bribery to take oath of allegiance to him. He also invited Ibn al-Zubayr to accompany him in an attack to Constantine. However, he warned his son, Yazid on the possibility that Ibn al-Zubayr may refuse to take oath of allegiance to him. After the death of Mu'awiya, his son Yazid threatened Ibn al-Zubayr to take oath of allegiance but he refused and fled to Mecca. He called himself "'A'id al-Bayt" (the one who take refuge in the house of God, Ka'ba). It may refer to a narration which said those who take refuge in the house of God will be safe and their enemies will perish.

At first Ibn al-Zubayr pretended that he wants to take oath of allegiance to Yazid. But after the battle of Karbala, he gave a critical speech, wept and implicitly called Yazid unfit to be a caliph. Then Yazid sent silver chains for him and ordered him to put himself in chain and come to him to take oath of allegiance, which was refused by Ibn al-Zubayr. 'Umar b. Yazid the governor of Mecca and Medina, was ordered by Yazid to prepare an army to force 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr to take oath of allegiance, but they were defeated by a small army of the supporters of Ibn al-Zubayr. The commander of Yazid's army was half-brother of Ibn al-Zubayr who was taken captive and then slayed in prison. As a result, Mecca was ruled by Ibn al-Zubayr. Meanwhile after the event of Karbala, people of Medina were angered and they opposed caliphate of Yazid; they were eager to accept Ibn al-Zubayr as caliph.

'Uthman b. Muhammad b. Abi Sufyan, the young governor of Medina gathered the notable and grand figures of the city after performing Hajj rites and set out for Syria so that Yazid would appease them to soothe the situation in Medina. In contrary the delegation members noticed non-Islamic behavior of Yazid which made them angry and discontented. When they returned to Medina they retold wrongdoings of Yazid. Consequently, Yazid wrote a strong-worded letter to people of Medina.

'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr gave a speech and severely criticized Yazid b. Mu'awiya, he also encouraged people to remove Yazid from caliphate. Then he wrote a letter to people of Medina and asked them to take oath of allegiance to him as the caliph of Muslims. Then people of Medina took the oath to 'Abd Allah b. Muti' al-'Adawi the representative of Ibn al-Zubayr. As a result people throw out 'Uthman b. Muhammad the governor of the city along with other Umayyad representatives in Medina.

Yazid b. Mu'awiya sent an army to suppress Ibn al-Zubayr and his followers. They besieged Medina and asked people to obey the orders of Yazid but they refused. In 28th Dhu l-Hijja 63/31 August 683 the army of Yazid faced the army of Medina to commence the battle.

The first Siege of Mecca by the Army of Syria

The army of people of Medina were defeated by Yazid's army. Yazid permitted his soldiers to slay people and invade public properties and women for three days. The massacre of people and companions of Prophet Muhammad (S) is regarded as the event of Harra. Then the army of Yazid set out for Mecca to suppress Ibn al-Zubayr and his supporters.

Ibn al-Zubayr and his followers were under siege from 13th of Safar 64/14 October 683 to 14th of Rabi' I 64/13 November 683 (40 days after the death of Yazid b. Mu'awiya). Ibn al-Zubayr settled in Masjid al-Hiram while the army of Yazid camped on high hills and mountains. They set up Trebuchet and started to throw stones and fiery cannonballs. The stones hit Ka'ba and set its curtains and woody frames on fire. Al-Ya'qubi narrated that, Ibn al-Zubayr did not put out fire in order to keep his followers and people strong-willed against Yazid's army. Different groups of people fought along with Ibn al-Zubayr to defend Masjid al-Hiram including two hundred fighters sent from the king of Abyssinia to defend Ka'ba.

The army of Yazid did not manage to enter Mecca and defeat Ibn al-Zubayr and his supporters, then after the death of Yazid they returned to Syria.


Historical reports have mentioned different times when Ibn al-Zubayr asked people to take oath of allegiance to him; some reports mentioned that it took place on 9th of Rajab 64/5 March 684, while some others stated that it happened three months after the death of Yazid b. Mu'awiya. It is also said that later a number of people of Syria became supporters of Ibn al-Zubayr as well. Therefore, the governor of Syria, asked Ibn al-Zubayr to forget the incident of Harra, and asked him to travel to Syria in order to attain caliphate, but he refused to do so.

After some time, people of important regions including Damascus, Kufa, Basra, Khurasan and Yemen took oath of allegiance to representatives of Ibn al-Zubayr. Ibn al-Zubayr treated the members of Banu Umayya harshly and drive them out of Mecca. He also killed 'Atabat b. Abi Sufyan along with fifty other Banu Umayya members which was severely criticized by 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar and 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas.

The relationship between Ibn al-Zubayr and Banu Hashim did not improve though. Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya refused to take oath of allegiance to him and said that he would take oath only under one condition that Muslims, unanimously accept caliphate of Ibn al-Zubayr; which was unachievable. Ibn al-Zubayr insulted Imam 'Ali (a) and Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya criticized and condemned him in his speech and asked people and Quraysh members to take a proper action.

Ibn al-Zubayr continuously insisted on taking oath of allegiance from Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya. After the uprising of Mukhtar al-Thaqafi in Kufa and expulsion of 'Abd Allah b. Muti', the agent of 'Abd Allah Ibn al-Zubayr, he imprisoned Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya and his companions and swore to God to burn them or behead them if they refuse to take oath of allegiance to him.

It is said that Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya sent a letter to Mukhtar al-Thaqafi and asked him for help. Then Mukhtar sent a group of his supporters to Mecca at the time that Ibn al-Zubayr prepared woods to set Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya on fire. They entered Masjid al-Hiram while saying their motto "Ya la-Tharat al-Husayn" (O, the avengers of Al-Husayn(a)) and they managed to free the prisoners. They wanted to maintain the sanctity of Masjid al-Hiram, so they took sticks instead of swords with themselves. After the arrival of reinforcements from Kufa, they managed to release Muhammad al-Hanafiyya out of prison. Afterwards Muhammad and his supporters settled in Shi'b Abi Talib until Mukhtar al-Thaqafi was killed. Later the conflicts between Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya and Ibn al-Zubayr resumed.

Ibn al-Zubayr treated Ibn 'Abbas violently and insulted him in his speeches. Ibn 'Abbas never accepted to take oath of allegiance to him and regarded him unworthy of caliphate who desecrated sanctity of Masjid al-Hiram. Considering religious and scientific position of Ibn 'Abbas, his opinion toward Ibn al-Zubayr hurt his position among people. In addition, Ibn 'Abbas was among the soldiers who fought alongside Imam 'Ali (a) in the battle of Jamal. Besides Ibn al-Zubayr did find fatwas of Ibn 'Abbas desirable including the one on temporary marriage, as Ibn 'Abbas stated that Ibn al-Zubayr was a child of such marriage; it was confirmed by Ibn al-Zubayr mother as well. Eventually Ibn al-Zubayr throw Ibn 'Abbas out of Mecca, but their conflicts remained continuous in Ta'if where Ibn 'Abbas was living.

The Second Siege and the Death of Ibn al-Zubayr

When 'Abd al-Malik b. al-Marwa came to power in Syria in 65/684-5 Ibn al-Zubayr started to persuade people against him in the time of Hajj so that they would take oath of allegiance to him. In his speech in the day of 'Arafa he reminded people of Prophet Muhammad's (s) curse on Hakam b. 'As, the ancestor of 'Abd al-Malik, and his family and he tried to persuade people of Syria to support him. On the other hand, 'Abd al-Malik tried to prevent people from attending Hajj rites, he also used a fatwa from Al-Zuhri, a courtier religious scholar, that Muslims are able to perform Hajj rites in Bayt al-Maqdis and perform Tawaf around the rocks of Masjid al-Aqsa instead.

The internal disputes among Banu Umayyad and the threats from Kharijites and Romans, prevented Marwanids to seriously face the oppositions from b. Ziyad. However in 72/691-2 when 'Abd al-Malik managed to defeat Mus'ab b. al-Zubayr and occupy Iraq, then he sent Hajjaj b. Yusuf al-Thaqafi to suppress Ibn al-Zubayr in Hijaz. Masjid al-Hiram was under siege by Hajjaj, which started in Dhu l-Hijja 72/692 and after six months and 17 days it ended with the death of Ibn al-Zubayr in 17th of Jumada I 73/7 October 692 some reports mentioned that the siege lasted for eight months and 17 days. Based on one account, in the beginning 'Abd al-Malik discouraged Hajjaj from taking a military action in Mecca and encouraged him to defeat Ibn al-Zubayr by means of economic restrictions.

Hajjaj b. Yusuf did not allow any food and nutrition to be given to Ibn al-Zubayr and his supporters. They only had access to Zamzam water. Hajjaj prepared trebuchets to hit b. al-Zubayr's supporters with rocks and stones which some hit Ka'ba as well; even Al-Hajar al-Aswad (The Black Stone) was displaced. Then he ordered to hit Masjid al-Hiram with fiery cannonballs which burnt the curtains of Ka'ba. These actions forced Ibn al-Zubayr to send some of his troops out of the mosque to move the fight out of Masjid al-Hiram and prevent more damages to Ka'ba. He also put some shields on Al-Hajar al-Aswad to protect it from more damages.

The family and supporters of Ibn al-Zubayr along with his brother, 'Urwa, suggested him to follow the strategy of Imam al-Hasan (a) and make peace with Hajjaj b. Yusuf. But he severely punished his brother 'Urwa. Meanwhile Hajjaj b. Yusuf declared public amnesty which encouraged Ibn al-Zubayr's supporters and even his sons, Khubayb and Hamza to surrender and save their lives.

Eventually Ibn al-Zubayr figured out that he was not able to defend against the army of Syria. He fought with his few loyal supporters until his last breath near Ka'ba. He was killed by members of Banu Sukun and Banu Murad.

Some reports mentioned that Ibn al-Zubayr was killed near Al-Hajun region. Based on some reports 'Abd al-Malik beheaded Ibn al-Zubayr and sent his head to 'Abd Allah b. Khazim the governor of Ibn al-Zubayr in Khurasan, to make them obey him. He buried Ibn al-Zubayr's head there.

Hajjaj b. Yusuf hanged Ibn al-Zubayr's body from his feet for a year, and lastly accepted continues demands of his mother Asma', and gave her the body. She buried his body in Al-Hajun cemetery in Mecca. Based on a historical report, his body was moved to Medina and it was buried in his grandmother's house, which later became a part of al-Masjid al-Nabawi.

Ibn al-Zubayr in Resources

Historical reports described Ibn al-Zubayr differently. Some of his supporters praised him with exaggeration while some others condemned him greatly.


Ibn al-Zubayr is excitedly praised in Sunni historical reports. Most of them admired Ibn al-Zubayr for his worship. Some historians of Islam cast doubts on these accounts.

According to local historical books in Mecca, Ka'ba was rebuilt some times, and one of the noteworthy ones was done by Ibn al-Zubayr. It is said when Ka'ba was partially destroyed and burnt by the army of Yazid, Ibn al-Zubayr destroyed it completely to rebuild it in its original extent. In addition, he bought the houses near Masjid al-Hiram and attached them to the mosque.


On the other hand, some Sunni historical reports criticized a number of Ibn al-Zubayr's actions including threatening to set Banu Hashim on fire as they refused to take oath of allegiance to him.

Ibn al-Zubayr held an old grudge against Ahl al-Bayt (a). Some accounts mentioned that he insulted Imam 'Ali (a). It is said that he refrain from reciting Salawat upon Prophet Muhammad (s) and his family for forty weeks in Friday prayers to dishonor Banu Hashim. This action made some Sunni religious scholars to be skeptical about reliability of Ibn al-Zubayr. In addition Shi'ites Muslims did not have positive attitude toward him.