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Battle of Harra

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Battle of Harra
Date Dhu l-Hijja 2 or two or three days to the end of Dhu l-Hijja, 63 (August 2, or August 27-28, 682)
Location Medina
Result the movement was defeated
Cause dissatisfaction of Yazid's ruling over Muslims
Belligerents
People of Medina Syrian army
Commanders
'Abd Allah b. Hanzala b. Abi 'Amir Muslim b. 'Uqba
Casualties
over 4000 or 10,700 or 11,700 people were killed including 700 memorizers of the Quran and 80 people of Sahaba Syrians committed crimes such as rapes, taking fetuses out of pregnant women's wombs, and killing infants

Battle of Ḥarra (Arabic: وقعة الحرّة) is the violent attack of the Syria army under the commandership of Muslim b. 'Uqba on the people of Medina who rose against Yazid b. Mu'awiya. In 63/682, the people of Medina rose against the rule of Yazid b. Mu'awiya under the leadership of 'Abd Allah b. Hanzala. In this event, many people were killed, including 80 of the Prophet Muhammad (s)'s Sahaba and 700 of memorizers (hafiz) of the Qur'an, and people's property were plundered.

In this uprising, Imam al-Sajjad (a) remained neutral, though he gave refuge to many women and children and even the family and companions of Marwan b. Hakam.

Meaning of Harra and the Date of the Event

The word "harra" refers to black rocky terrains. Since the uprising took place in rocky terrains East of Medina, called "Harra Waqim" or "Harra Zuhra" (attributed to Banu Zuhra, a Jewish tribe), it was called the event of Harra. Most historical sources take the event to have occurred on the second day of Dhu l-Hijja or two or three days to the end of Dhu l-Hijja, 63 (August 2, or August 27-28, 682), thus the accounts according to which it took place in 62/683 are wrong.

Causes of the Event

According to reports, 'Abd Allah b. Hanzala had a pivotal role in this movement and even people pledged allegiance to him as the leader of the uprising. There are different reports about the causes and grounds of this uprising. According to many of these reports, the cause of this protest and uprising was the corruption of Yazid. They say that the governor of Medina sends a group of nobles of the city to visit Yazid in Syria. When the group comes back to Medina, they testified to depravity and perversion of Yazid and invite people to uprise to dethrone him from caliphate. The other reports link this movement to the movement of 'Abd Allan b. Zubayr in Mecca and even it is said that 'Abd Allah b. Hanzala was Ibn Zubayr's agent. Some of the reports, also, count Mu'awiya's economic policies as the reasons for this movement, because it caused poverty and famine in the city.

Event

Dismissal of the Ruler of Medina

Upon the command of 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr, people of Medina dismissed 'Uthman b. Muhammad from the rule of Medina, rebelled against the Umayyads, and sieged about 1000 Umayyad people who had gathered in Marwan b. Hakam's house.

'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr appointed 'Abd Allah b. Hanzala as the ruler of Medina. This account as well as the ones mentioned before show how influential 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr was on this uprising and its leaders.

Equipment of the Syrian Army

The agent of the Syria government made attempts to make people obey Yazid, but to no avail. Yazid's threatening letter, as well as Nu'man b. Bashir's intercession to conciliate people, did not work. Thus Yazid decided to equip an army to quench people of Medina. When 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad refused to undertake the commandership of the army, Yazid gave the commandership to Muslim b. 'Uqba al-Murri. Different accounts have mentioned his army as having 5000 to 27000 soldiers. The attack was accompanied by Husayn b. Numayr (Arabic: حصين بن نمير). Husayn undertook the commandership of people of Homs.

Digging a Trench Around Medina

When people of Medina heard about the departure of Yazid's army to Medina, they dug a trench around Medina as a shelter.

People allowed the agents of the Umayyad government to go out of Medina on the condition that they give no information about Medina to the Syrian army and do not attend the war. After they went out of Medina, the Umayyad people broke their oath, and 'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan's father suggested him to devise a plan for an attack on Medina together with Muslim b. 'Uqba.

After crossing Harra, Muslim b. 'Uqba settled in east of Medina, and gave a three day deadline to people of Medina. Then he bypassed the trench and entered the city with the help of the Banu Haritha tribe—who were deceived by financial promises—and committed incredible crimes there in such a way that he came to be known as the criminal.

Army's Treatment with People of Medina

Upon the order of Yazid, Muslim b. 'Uqba announced that his army is at liberty to do anything to people's lives and property for three days. According to Ibn Kathir and al-Suyuti, the plunders and crimes of the army in these three days led to a horrific catastrophe. And according to al-Mas'udi, it was the most hideous event after the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a). In these three days, the army of Muslim b. 'Uqba committed abhorrent crimes such as rapes, taking fetuses out of pregnant women's wombs, killing infants, offending the outstanding companions of the Prophet (s), such as Jabir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansari who was blind and Abu Sa'id al-Khudri.

According to some sources, over 4000 or 10,700 or 11,700 people were killed in the Event of Harra. Of these, 700 people were memorizers of the Quran and 80 people were the Sahaba (companions) of the Prophet (s) such that none of the Sahaba who fought in the Battle of Badr—who were called "People of Badr" (Ahl al-Badr)—stayed alive. 'Abd Allah b. Hanzala and his sons were also killed.

Forcing People to Pledge Their Allegiance

After all these crimes, Muslim b. 'Uqba gathered people of Medina and coerced them to pledge their allegiance to Yazid on the condition that they and their fathers are Yazid's slaves, that is, they are owned by Yazid as booties of the war, and whoever refuses to obey the order will be decapitated.

Only 'Ali b. 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas (with the intercession of some of his relatives who were in Yazid's army) and Imam al-Sajjad (a) were exempted from pledging their allegiance.

Imam al-Sajjad (a)'s Position

Imam al-Sajjad (a)'s neutrality with respect to the uprising: Imam al-Sajjad (a) did not accompany the people of Medina in the uprising. The reasons for his neutrality included the facts that the uprising began by the permission and support of 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr, and the number of people in Medina was very small in comparison with the number of Syria's violent, cruel army. Moreover, Imam al-Sajjad (a) wanted to stay away from the accusations of the Umayyad government, which was, on one account, Muslim b. 'Uqba's main motivation for his attack on Medina, and he wanted his few followers to survive (in order for Shiism to survive) and he wanted to preserve the dignity of the Prophet (s)'s progeny and household.

Imam al-Sajjad (a)'s house as a safe refuge: since Imam al-Sajjad (a) did not accompany the rebels, his household remained safe, and his house came to be a safe place for many women and children and even the family of Marwan b. Hakam. Imam al-Sajjad (a) sent Marwan's family, together with his own family, to Yanabu'.

Muslim b. 'Uqba's treatment of Imam al-Sajjad (a): after the event, Imam al-Sajjad (a) went to Muslim together with Marwan b. Hakam and his son. It seems that Yazid had already recommended Muslim to treat Imam al-Sajjad (a) with respect. Thus Muslim honored the Imam (a), and saddled a horse to send him back home. Some people take the unexpectedly good treatment of Imam al-Sajjad (a) by Muslim b. 'Uqba to be caused by a pray that the Imam (a) recited in order to create fear in Muslim's heart.

The neutrality of some Sahaba with respect to rebels: some Sahaba, such as 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar, Abu Sa'id al-Khudri and Jabir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansari stayed neutral and did not accompany the people of Medina.

Cause of Defeat

Ibn Qutayba has compared the early and unexpected defeat of people in the Event of Harra with the resistance of 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr and his few companions to the same army, tracing the cause of people's defeat in Harra to be their having two commanders. But there are no reports in the sources about any disagreements among the heads of Medina's uprising.

Muslim b. 'Uqba is reported as having said that, after his confession to tawhid (monotheism), his best deed was the massacre of people in Harra. Some Muslim historiographers maintain that the violent oppression of people in the Event of Harra was motivated by the revenge of the Umayyad bloods who were killed in the Battle of Badr by Muslims and the revenge of the murder of 'Uthman by people of Medina, especially Ansar.

References

  • The material for this article is mainly taken from واقعه حره in Farsi Wikishia.