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Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan

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Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan
Murderer of Imam al-Husayn (a)
Full Name Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan
Kunya Abu Sabigha
Lineage Hawazin
Place of Residence Kufa
Death 66/685
Era Yazid b. Mu'awiyya, Umayyad dynasty
Known for Murderer of Imam al-Husayn (a)
Notable roles Commander of left side of 'Umar b. Sa'd's army
Activities One of Tabi'un, companions of Imam Ali (a) in the battle of Siffin, participating in the event of Ashura, ...

Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan (Arabic: شمر بن ذي الجوشن), a chief of the tribe of Hawazin and one of the Tabi'un, is one of the most detested figures for the Shi'a because of his role in the Tragedy of Karbala. In the beginning, Shimr was one of the companions of Imam 'Ali (a) but later became an arch-enemy of the Imam (a) and his family.

He had a significant role in the tragedy of Karbala, including paving the ground for the martyrdom of Muslim b. 'Aqil, starting the battle on the day of 'Ashura, leading the left wing of the army of 'Umar b. Sa'd, murdering Imam al-Husayn (a), attacking the tents of the Imam's family, and trying to murder Imam al-Sajjad (a), and this is why Shimr is cursed in Ziyarah 'Ashura.

He was defeated by al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi, and his head was cut off.


Abu Sabigha Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan was one of the Tabi'un and chiefs of the tribe of Hawazin from the clan of Banu 'Amir b. Sa'sa'a and the family of Dibab b. Kilab. This is why in some sources he is called 'Amiri, Dibabi, or Kilabi.

Shimr's birth date is not known.

His father's name was Shurahbil b. A'war b. 'Amr. Different explanations have been given as to why he was called Dhu l-Jawshan (the owner of the armor) including that he was the first Arab man who put on armor, and this armor was given to him by the king of Iran.

At first, Dhu l-Jawshan did not accept the Prophet's (s) call to Islam, but after the Conquest of Mecca, when polytheists surrendered themselves to Muslims, he converted to Islam.

Religious Shift

Shimr was one of the companions of Imam 'Ali (a) and helped him in the Battle of Siffin. But later he turned away from the Imam (a) and became a staunch enemy for him and his family.

When Hujr b. 'Adi, one of the companions of the Prophet (s) and Imam 'Ali (a), was arrested, Shimr was one of the people who falsely testified that Hujr had become an apostate and a rebel. In the Tragedy of Karbala, also, he was one of the people who played a major role in murdering the Imam (a).

Role in the Tragedy of Karbala

When Muslim b. 'Aqil went to Kufa in 60/680 as a representative of Imam al-Husayn (a), Shimr got a commission from 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad not to let the people gather around Mulim b. 'Aqil. Fulfilling this task, Shimr gave a speech in which he called Muslim b. 'Aqil a rebel and warned the Kufans of the army of the central government in Syria.

When Imam al-Husayn (a) arrived in Karbala, 'Umar b. Sa'd, the commander of the Kufan army, wanted to find a peaceful solution for the conflict, But Shimr encouraged 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, who seemed to be inclined to 'Umar b. Sa'd's intention, to go for violent measures.

In the afternoon of Muharram 9, 61/680, Shimr arrived in Karbala with an army of four thousand soldiers and a threatening letter from 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad. When 'Umar b. Sa'd saw the letter, he criticized Shimr for destroying the chance of peace, but still complied with 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad's command and prepared for battle with Imam al-Husayn (a). Shimr became a commander of his army.

As Shimr was from the same tribe as Umm al-Banin, the mother of 'Abbas b. 'Ali, in the evening of Tasu'a he came close to the camp of Imam al-Husayn and addressed 'Abbas and his brothers as nieces and wanted them to abandon Imam al-Husayn (a) in return for a safe-conduct from 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, but they refused and remained with Imam al-Husayn (a).

On the Day of 'Ashura

In the morning of the day of 'Ashura', Shimr became the commander of the left wing of 'Umar b. Sa'd's army. When approaching the tents of Imam al-Husayn (a), he was faced with a ditch and burning firewood around the tents. This made him say rude words to the Imam (a). He also cut the Imam's speech for the Kufan army on the excellences of his family and the commands of the Prophet (s) to love his Ahl al-Bayt.

When Zuhayr b. Qayn started his speech to advise the people of Kufa and invited them to support Imam al-Husayn (a), Shimr threw an arrow to him and insulted him.

When 'Abd Allah b. 'Umayr al-Kalbi was martyred, Shimr ordered his slave to kill 'Abd Allah's wife who was sitting next to the body of her husband.

When most of the Imam al-Husayn's companions were killed and he was in the middle of the battle, Kufans attacked the tents. Shimr put his spear in the tent of the Imam (a) and called for fire to burn the tent.

Murdering Imam al-Husayn (a)

Shimr commanded his soldiers to shoot the Imam's body with their arrows, and then attack him. There are different reports as to who murdered the Imam (a) and cut off his holy head. According to al-Waqidi, it was Shimr who did so and then stepped on the Imam's body with his horse. According to some reports he sat on the Imam's (a) chest and cut his holy head from behind.

After murdering Imam al-Husayn (a) and attacking and burning his tents, Shimr intended to murder Imam al-Sajjad (a) as well, but he was stopped from doing so.

After 'Ashura

On Muharram 11, 61/680, 'Umar b. Sa'd commanded his soldiers to cut off the heads of the 72 martyrs of Karbala, and take them, under the supervision of Shimr and some other commanders, to 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad in Kufa.

Ibn Ziyad, in turn, commissioned Shimr to take the heads and the captives to Yazid in Damascus. At the court of Yazid, Shimr gave an insulting speech about Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions.

After the return of Ahl al-Bayt (a) to Medina, Shimr went back to Kufa. It is said that in this period he would pray and ask God for forgiveness, but still he would justify his crime by calling it obedience to rulers.

End of Life

During al-Mukhtar's uprising started in 66/685, Shimr took part in the war against him. But al-Mukhtar was able to defeat his opponents, and thus Shimr ran away from Kufa. Al-Mukhtar sent a group to chase him; they found and killed Shimr, sent his head to al-Mukhtar, and threw his body to be eaten by dogs.

Status in the Eyes of Sunnis

Shimr has narrated from his father, and Abu Ishaq al-Subay'i has narrated from Shimr. However, Sunni sources mention Shimr disparagingly, regarding him unqualified for narrating hadith because of his participation in the murder of Imam al-Husayn (a).