Al-Mukhtar b. Abi 'Ubayd al-Thaqafi

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Companion of Imam (a)
Al-Mukhtar b. Abi 'Ubayd al-Thaqafi
قبر مختار.jpg
The grave of al-Mukhtar b. Abi 'Ubayd, Mosque of Kufa, Kufa, Iraq
Full Name Mukhtar b. Abi 'Ubayd al-Thaqafi
Companion of Imam al-Husayn (a)
Kunya Abu Ishaq
Epithet Kaysan
Wellknown Relatives Sa'd b. Mas'ud, Abu 'Ubayd al-Thaqafi, 'Umar b. Sa'd, 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar
Birth 1/622-623
Place of Birth al-Ta'f
Place(s) of Residence Al-Ta'f, Mada'in, Kufa
Death/Martyrdom 67/687
Cause of
Death/Martyrdom
He was killed by Mus'ab b. al-Zubayr
Burial Place Beside the Mosque of Kufa
Activities aking part in the rise of Muslim b. 'Aqil in 66/686, Uprising against Umayyads in revenge of Imam al-Husayn's (a) blood

Al-Mukhtār b. Abī ʿUbayd al-Thaqafī (المختار بن أبي عبيد الثقفي) (b. 1/622-623 - d. Ramadan 14, 67/April 6, 687) was from Ta'if, the Thaqif clan. Along with his father and brothers, he fought in the Battle of Al-Jisr when he was young. He hosted Muslim b. 'Aqil in Kufa and was imprisoned by 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad when the Event of Karbala was taking place. Al-Mukhtar owes his fame to his uprising in revenge of Imam al-Husayn's (a) blood, which resulted in the killing of many of those people who took part in killing Imam al-Husayn (a). There is a disagreement regarding al-Muhktar's rise, his religious sect, and his relation with the Ahl al-Bayt (a). Some believe his rise was with the permission of Imam Zayn al-'Abidin (a). After 18 months of rule in Kufa, al-Mukhtar was killed by Mus'ab b. al-Zubayr in 67/687. His grave, which is next to the Mosque of Kufa, is respected and visited by the Shi'a.

Birth, Lineage, and Nickname

Al-Mukhtar b. Abi 'Ubayd al-Thaqafi was called by his Kunya: Abu Ishaq and nicknamed as Kaysan. Kaysan means smart and incisive. Asbagh b. Nubata narrates that one day Imam 'Ali (a) seated al-Mukhtar on his knees and addressed him by saying, "O Kayyis, O Kayyis," and since Imam 'Ali (a) called him Kayyis twice, he became famous as such. Nevertheless, some believe that the word Kaysan was taken from one of his advisers and chiefs, whose Kunya was Abu 'Umra.

Al-Mukhtar is originally from Ta'if, the Thaqif clan. His great grandfather, Mas'ud al-Thaqafi was one of the nobles of Hijaz, and was nicknamed 'Azim al-Qaryatayn (The Great of the two tribes).

His father, Abu 'Ubayd al-Thaqafi, was one of the noble companions of the prophet (s). He was killed in the Battle of Al-Jisr, one of the battles fought during the era of the second caliph, known as the Qadisiyya Wars.

His mother was Duma bt. 'Amr b. Wahb. Ibn Tayfur has reported that she spoke eloquently and was articulate.

His uncle, Sa'd b. Mas'ud al-Thaqafi, was appointed as the governor of Mada'in by Imam 'Ali (a).

His brothers, Wahb, Malik, and Jibr, were killed with their father in the Battle of Al-Jisr.

Birth

Al-Mukhtar was born in 1/622-623. Before birth, his mother, Duma, had seen someone read a poem to her in a dream:

Congratulations to you for a child who, Is similar to a lion more than anything else. When in troubles men… Quarrel over worthless things, He shall have the luck of a lion (He shall have the best).

His mother saw another dream after his birth where someone told her that her child will have many followers.

Youth

Al-Mukhtar took part in the Battle of Al-Jisr when he was 13, where he lost his father and brothers. Regardless of his young age, he insisted on going to the battlefield, but was prevented by his uncle, Sa'd b. Mas'ud.

Sa'd b. Mas'ud al-Thaqafi was appointed as the governor of Mada'in by Imam 'Ali (a). He appointed al-Mukhtar as his successor when he left to fight the Kharijites.

Characteristics

Bravery

Ibn Taqtaqi records that al-Mukhtar was a noble and effortful man. Given that the Thaqif tribe were famed for their bravery, and al-Mukhtar's father and uncle were of the great military leaders of early Islam, al-Mukhtar was nurtured in the same way.

Worship

In gratitude to his revenge from the murderers of Imam al-Husayn (a), al-Mukhtar used to fast most of the days. Menhal b. 'Amr says, "I invited al-Mukhtar to my house on the day that Harmala was killed, but I was told that al-Mukhtar has fasted in gratitude."

Before Imam al-Husayn's (a) Rise

During Mu'awiya's Rule

In his book Siyar a'lam al-nubala', Shams al-Din al-Dhahabi writes of al-Mukhtar's activity in support of Imam al-Husayn (a) during Mu'awiya's rule. Al-Dhahabi reports that during Mu'awiya's rule, al-Mukhtar went to Basra and invited its populace to Imam al-Husayn (a). He was arrested by 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, who was the governor of Basra at the time, and whipped one hundred time. Then he was exiled to Ta'if.

During the Rise of Imam al-Husayn (a)

Sources state that al-Mukhtar was absent in Imam al-Husayn's (a) rise, but his absence was not on purpose. He collaborated with Imam al-Husayn's (a) representative in Kufa at first, and formed movements against the Umayyads.

  • Muslim b. 'Aqil in al-Mukhtar's House: al-Mukhtar was one of the individuals who rushed to the help of Muslim b. 'Aqil. Muslim b. 'Aqil went to al-Mukhtar's house when he reached Kufa but moved out to Hani b. 'Urwa's house when 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad found where he was settled.
  • Collaboration with Muslim b. 'Aqil: History reports show that al-Mukhtar intended to support Muslim b. 'Aqil, but on the day Muslim b. 'Aqil was martyred, al-Mukhtar had left Kufa and went to Khatarniyya, a place outside of Kufa, to gather supporters. Muslim b. 'Aqil and Hani b. 'Urwa had been already martyred when he went back to Kufa.
  • Day of 'Ashura' in Prison: Upon Muslim b. 'Aqil's martyrdom, 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad set to kill al-Mukhtar, but on 'Amr b. Hurayth's intermediary, he was spared. Nevertheless, 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad injured his eye with a whip and imprisoned him. al-Mukhtar was incarcerated until the end of Imam al-Husayn's (a) uprising.
  • Seeing Imam al-Husayn's (a) Head: When the captives of 'Ashura' entered Kufa, 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad brought the prisoners who supported Imam al-Husayn (a) to see the captives, one of whom was al-Mukhtar. A foul discussion ensued between the two. Upon seeing Imam Husayn's (a) decapitated head, al-Mukhtar cried, grieved, and hit himself on his head.

After the Event of 'Ashura', al-Mukhtar was freed with 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar's intermediary with Yazid, since al-Mukhtar's sister, Safiyya b. Abi 'Ubayd, was 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar's wife. Nonetheless, 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad let him free on the condition that he leaves Kufa within three days, and if he is seen afterwards, he will be killed.

Allegiance to 'Abd Allah b. Zubayr

Al-Mukhtar gave his allegiance to 'Abd Allah b. Zubayr on the condition that he would be consulted before 'Abd Allah b. Zubayr did anything, and that he was not disagreed with.

When Yazid attacked Mecca and encircled 'Abd Allah b. Zubayr, al-Mukhtar sided with 'Abd Allah b. Zubayr and fought next to him against Yazid's army, but when 'Abd Allah announced himself caliph, al-Mukhtar separated and left for Kufa, and created the grounds for his rise.

Six months had passed from Yazid's death when al-Mukhtar reached Kufa in the middle of Ramadan.

'Abd Allah b. Zubayr sent 'Abd Allah b. Muti' as his governor to Kufa. War broke out between the two and al-Mukhtar came out victorious.

Al-Mukhtar and the Rise of the Tawwabun

Main article: Tawwabun Uprising

Al-Mukhtar refused to participate in the Uprising of Tawwabun, because he believed it was useless, and that Sulayman b. Surad al-Khuza'i was unfamiliar with combat skills and tactics.

With al-Mukhtar's refusal, four thousand individuals, of the sixteen thousand who had given their allegiance to Sulayman b. Surad retreated because they believed he was incompetent in combat tactics.

It should be mentioned that al-Mukhtar was in prison when the Tawwabun Uprise occurred. When the Tawwabun were defeated, he sent a letter to the family of the dead to express his sympathy to them. The leaders of the Tawwabun had decided to free him from prison, but al-Mukhtar cautioned them from doing so, since he would be freed soon. Once again, al-Mukhtar was released with 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar's intermediation.

Rise

Main article: al-Mukhtar's Uprising

On Rabi' I 14, 66/October 22, 685, al-Mukhtar executed a rise in revenge of Imam al-Husayn's (a) blood. The Shi'a of Kufa supported him. He said, "By God, if I kill two third of the Quraysh, I wouldn't have sought the revenge of even one of Imam al-Husayn's fingers."

During his rise, al-Mukhtar managed to kill Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan, Khawli b. Yazid, 'Umar b. Sa'd, and 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, and some others who took part and have significant role in killing Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions.

The commander of the army of the rising was Ibrahim b. Malik al-Ashtar (the son of Malik al-Ashtar al-Nakha'i), and he was the one who killed 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad in Mosul.

Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya was busy eating when al-Mukhtar sent the heads of 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad and 'Umar b. Sa'd to him to hang in Masjid al-Haram. He said, "Gratitude be to the Lord, that when Husayn's head was taken to 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad he was busy eating, and now his head has been brought to me while I am in the same situation."

Motto

In order to arouse the Alawites to support him, al-Mukhtar used two phrases "Ya la-Tharat al-Husayn" (Arabic: یالثارات الحسین, lit.: O the avengers of Husayn) and "Ya Mansur, Amit" (Arabic: یا منصور أمِت, lit.: O the victor, kill) as his motto. When putting his war clothes on, al-Mukhtar informed his followers of the beginning of the rise by chanting these mottoes. The second motto was first used in the Battle of Badr, and the first one was first used by the Tawwabun Rise. Also, when 'Umar b. Sa'd was killed, the people of Kufa celebrated by chanting "Ya la-Tharat al-Husayn".

End of the Rise

After eighteen months of rule and war with three groups, the Umayyads in Syria, the Zubayr Dynasty in Hijaz, and the nobles of Kufa, al-Mukhtar was killed in the Ramadan 14, 67/April 6, 687, at his 67, by Mus'ab b. al-Zubayr. On Mus'ab's command, al-Mukhtar's hands were cut off and nailed to the wall of Masjid al-Kufa. When Hajjaj b. Yusuf gained power over Kufa, he ordered the hands be buried.

After al-Mukhtar's death, his followers, consisting of 6000 people who were encircled in the palace, surrendered. Mus'ab b. al-Zubayr ordered all of them be killed. The decision was so horrifying that when 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar saw Mus'ab, said: "Even if they were 6000 sheeps which belonged to your father, you shouldn't have done this."

Death of al-Mukhtar's Wife

Mus'ab pressurized 'Umra bt. Nu'man b. Bashir, the al-Mukhtar's wife, to express her abhorrence to al-Mukhtar. When she refused, Mus'ab decapitated her.

'Abd al-Rahman b. Hassan said in a poem: "Death and killing has been written for us, and for beautiful women, prancing and romance."

The event is recorded as such in a report: Mus'ab asked 'Umra, "what is your opinion about al-Mukhtar?" She replied, "He was pious and fasted everyday". Mus'ab ordered she be decapitated. She became the first woman in Islam to be beheaded.

Ambitions

Although al-Mukhtar used "Ya la-Tharat al-Husayn" (Arabic: یا لثارات الحسین) as the motto of his rise, but some doubt his intentions were truly to avenge the martyrs of Karbala, believing that he misused this motto. A look at al-Mukhtar's relation with the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and their opinion about him can help understand this important fact of history.

Relation with Imam al-Sajjad (a)

There are different reports on al-Mukhtar's relation with Imam al-Sajjad (a). Some reports show that Imam al-Sajjad (a) did not welcome al-Mukhtar and rejected his gifts, whereas other reports show that he was approved by Imam al-Sajjad (a). With the censorship that existed because of the Umayyads and Zubayr dynasty, it wasn't possible for Imam al-Sajjad (a) to directly interfere. Therefore, he announced that Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya is his representative and referred al-Mukhtar to him.

According to this report, al-Mukhtar sent 20,000 Dinars to the Imam (a), which he accepted, and rebuilt 'Aqil b. Abi Talib's house, and the rest of the Banu Hashims' houses which were ruined. al-Mukhtar also gifted a slave which he had bought for 30,000 Dirhams to Imam al-Sajjad (a). Zayd b. 'Ali was born from that slave.

Another report states that when a group of leaders from Kufa went to visit Imam al-Sajjad (a) and asked him about al-Mukhtar's mission, he referred them to Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya and said, "Oh uncle, if a black slave shows intolerance for our sake, it is obligatory for us to rush to his help. Do whatever you want regarding this matter, for I have chosen you as the representative in this issue."

Ayatollah Khoei and al-Mamaqani believe that al-Mukhtar had a specific permission from Imam al-Sajjad (a) for his uprise.

Connection with Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya

A study on some reports suggests that al-Mukhtar invited people to the Imamate of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya, calling him the Mahdi; but in his book, Kashf al-ghumma, al-Irbili believes that this connection, and the leadership of the uprise by Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya, was a façade set up because of the aberrant condition Imam al-Sajjad (a) was in.

Muhammad b. Isma'il al-Mazandarani al-Ha'iri, author of Muntaha l-maqal believes that al-Mukhtar believed in the Imamate of Imam al-Sajjad (a), and rejects that al-Mukhtar believed in Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya.

Rescuing Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya

When 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr was informed about al-Mukhtar's uprise, he pressurized Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya and his relatives to give him their allegiance, otherwise they would be burnt to death. Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya sent a letter to al-Mukhtar, seeking his help. In response, al-Mukhtar sent an army of 4000 men to march to Mecca and rescue Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya.

Opinions about al-Mukhtar

In the Opinion of the Ahl al-Bayt (a)

Reports on al-Mukhtar can be categorized in two groups of approval and disapproval of al-Mukhtar, but Ayatollah Khoei trusts the reports that approve al-Mukhtar more.

Reports of Approval

  • Imam al-Sajjad (a): "May God reward al-Mukhtar."
  • In a meeting with al-Mukhtar's son, Imam al-Baqir (a) first honored, and then praised al-Mukhtar, "May God bless your father." Al-Mamaqani believes that Imam al-Baqir's (a) sympathy to al-Mukhtar is a reason to believe he was on the right path, "The Imams' satisfaction follows and shows the satisfaction of God, therefore it is understood that al-Mukhtar did not have any deviated beliefs, and was a source of satisfaction for the Ahl al-Bayt (a)."
  • Imam al-Sadiq (a) has stated that al-Mukhtar's sending of 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad and 'Umar b. Sa'd's head to Medina made the Ahl al-Bayt (a) happy and said, "After the event of 'Ashura, no woman of ours put on makeup, until al-Mukhtar sent the decapitated head of 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad and 'Umar b. Sa'd."

Narrations Against

  • Reports on Imam al-Sajjad (a) show that he rejected a visit from al-Mukhtar's representatives, and sent back the gifts he had sent, calling him a liar. This Hadith is thought to be weak.
  • Imam al-Sadiq (a) has been narrated saying that al-Mukhtar used to lie about Imam al-Sajjad (a). The credibility of this Hadith is weak.
  • When Imam al-Hasan (a) was in Sabat, al-Mukhtar addressed his uncle, Sa'd b. Mas'ud, and suggested to surrender Imam al-Hasan (a) to Mu'awiya, so that their position would not weaken. Ayatollah Khoei believes this narration cannot be trusted since it is incompletely transmitted. He adds, that even if we imagine it is authentic, we can argue that al-Mukhtar was not serious about his suggestion, but wanted to test his uncle and understand how he thinks, Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin also agrees that al-Mukhtar's true intention was to understand his uncle's way of thinking.
  • Another narration states that al-Mukhtar belongs to hell, but will be forgiven with Imam al-Husayn's (a) intercession. Similarly, experts of 'Ilm al-Rijal believe this narration is weak.

In the Opinion of Shi'a Scholars

Most Shi'a scholars believe al-Mukhtar was praised. Nevertheless, some scholars such as Allama Majlisi have stayed undecided. The opinion of some Shi'a scholars is as follows:

You should know that many researchers fail to understand the exact meaning of the words, and miss it without noticing. Had they put their attention on the sayings of the Imams (a) who praised and lauded him, they would have understood that he is of the overtakers and Mujahids whom God has named in his book with glory. Imam al-Sajjad's positive prayer for al-Mukhtar is clear evidence that his eminence considered him of the pure and good people."
For me it is clear that we must not consider him to be bad, nonetheless, the narrations he quotes cannot be trusted either, and God knows him better than anyone else.
This man (al-Mukhtar) followed the Imami sect and believed in the Imamate of the infallible Imams. He governed with the permission of Imam (a), although his authenticity has not been proven. Yes, he has been blessed with a praise and laud which has put him amongst good deeded people. Even if there were no praise or virtue reported except for Imam al-Baqir's (a) prayer for him to be blessed, it would have been enough for him, specially that he repeated his prayer three times in one sentence.
He hasn't mentioned any non-Imami persons in the first volume of his book, even if he were to be completely authentic and praised up to perfection, but he has mentioned al-Mukhtar in the first volume, which means that al-Allama al-Hilli considered him to be at least an Imami Shi'a.
Al-Mukhtar was not complete in his faith and certitude, and did not have permission for the things he did, nevertheless, since he did many good deeds he died a faithful man. I am of those who have decided to remain silent regarding al-Mukhtar, although most scholars believe he was of the praised.
Even if we consider that the narrations against al-Mukhtar were not accusations (because al-Mukhtar and people like him were accused), we understand that narrations which praise and thank al-Mukhtar are more preferable, since narrators differ about them, and for some reasons, it needs to be specially focused on.
Some reports suggest that al-Mukhtar's rise was with the special permission of Imam al-Sajjad (a).
Whoever studies and researches history, hadith, and biographical evaluation in depth will understand that al-Mukhtar was one of the pioneers of religiosity, guidance, and purity… Imam al-Sajjad (a), Imam al-Baqir (a), and Imam al-Sadiq (a) have prayed for his blessing, specially Imam al-Baqir (a) who has done so in a very beautiful way.

Researchers Who Support al-Mukhtar

Wellhausen: al-Mukhtar is worthy of praise because he understood the situation of his time before others. He had understood that it was unstable, because in the Islamic government, only the Arab figures and race enjoyed all their personal and social rights.

Ali Hasan Karyateli, author of the book Ayiniyi asr-i umavi ya Mukhtar Thaqafi (the mirror of the Umayyad Era, or al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi) writes regarding al-Mukhtar: al-Mukhtar was just and had built his government on the premise of justice and equality among the people. Despite all his busyness, he personally took care of all the judgments and solved the disputes. After victory in war, he freed the hostages and forgave their crimes, and was content with their promise to not rise against him anymore.

Opposers' View

In his book, Usd al-ghaba, Ibn Athir has an invected approach to al-Mukhtar and rejects his narrations. Even narrations have been forged against him claiming to be from the Prophet (s), such as, "A liar and criminal shall come from Ta'if." The narrator of this Hadith is Asma' bt. Abu Bakr, 'Abd Allah b. Zubayr's mother. According to Asma', liar refers to al-Mukhtar, but it seems that Hajjaj b. Yusuf was the first person who used this word for al-Mukhtar, when he ordered the people to curse Imam 'Ali (a) and al-Mukhtar.

Accusations

Al-Mukhtar ruled over Kufa. The Umayyads ruled in the North, in Syria. To al-Mukhtar's south, in Hijaz, the Zubayr dynasty ruled. Both groups considered themselves caliph and regarded al-Mukhtar someone who had separated a part of their land. Therefore, both groups put as much effort as they could to deny al-Mukhtar and compose false narrations against him.

Prophetic Proclamation

Ibn Khaldun claims that al-Mukhtar had announced himself a prophet. This belief is more believed because of al-Mukhtar's way of talking in rhymed prose, but since the establishment of his government in Kufa, the Muslim's and the Ahl al-Bayt's support in narration, this issue cannot be correct. Another reason for this accusation is his letter to Ahnaf b. Qays. Since Ahnaf supported the Zubayris, he libeled that this letter was al-Mukhtar's claim as prophet and insisted on his claim even after al-Mukhtar's death. The fact that in his meeting with 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr, Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya was reluctant to calling al-Mukhtar a liar, is yet another reason regarding the falsity of this claim.

Founder of the Kaysanites

Some believe that al-Mukhtar was the founder of the Kaysanite movement, stating that since al-Mukhtar was nicknamed as Kaysan, his followers were called the Kaysanites. Al-Mamaqani doesn't believe so, and believes that al-Mukhtar was not a Kaysanite.

Ayatollah Khoei believes this accusation has been made by non-Shi'as who have referred to fabricated and rejected narrations, and believes that Kaysanitism was founded after the death of al-Mukhtar and Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya.

In addition, al-Allama al-Amini rejects al-Mukhtar's connection with the Kaysanites.

Al-Mukhtar's Gifts

Al-Mukhtar sent gifts to 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar, 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas, and Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya, all of whom accepted his gifts. 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar was the husband of al-Mukhtar's sister, Safiyyah bt. Abu 'Ubayd.

Wives and Children

Wives

Children

  • Muhammad, his mother was Umm Thabit
  • Ishaq, his mother was Umm Thabit
  • Umm Salama, her mother was Umm al-Walid
  • 'Umar, who was a Shi'a in Rey and was a draper. He was appointed as the governor of Rey when Abu Muslim Khurasani came to power.
  • Abu al-Hakam
  • Jibr
  • Umayya
Fariburz 'Arabniya in the role of al-Mukhtar, in Mukhtarnama tv series.

Mukhtarnama Television Series

Mukhtarnama is a television series on the life and uprising of al-Mukhtar b. Abi 'Ubayd al-Thaqafi, directed by Davud Mir Baghiri and broadcasted on the Islamic Republic of Iran's state television in forty episodes of sixty minutes.

The first episode was broadcasted on 11 October 2010 and the final episode was broadcasted on 29 July 2011. Fariburz 'Arabniya played the role of al-Mukhtar in this series.

See Also

References