Ubayd Allah b. al-Abbas b. Abd al-Muttalib

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Ubayd Allah b. al-Abbas b. Abd al-Muttalib
Personal Information
Full Name'Ubayd Allah b. 'Abbas b. Abd al-Muttalib
TeknonymAbu Muhammad
LineageBanu Hashim
Well-Known Relatives'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib (father) • 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas (brother)
Place(s) of ResidenceMedina
Religious Information
Migration toMedina
Known forcousin of the Prophet (s) • Ubayd Allah joined Mu'awiya after being bribed
Notable RolesImam Ali's (a) ruler in Yemen • commander of the army of Imam al-Hasan (a)

ʿUbayd Allāh b. ʿAbbās b. ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib (Arabic: عُبَیدالله بن عَبّاس بن عَبْدالمُطَّلِب, d. 58/677-8) was the Prophet Muhammad's (s) cousin (son of his father's brother) and the younger brother of the well-known 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas. During the caliphate of Imam 'Ali (a), 'Ubayd Allah was appointed by the Imam (a) as the ruler of Yemen. 'Ubayd Allah was one of the Prophet's (s) companion and transmitted hadiths from him. According to most of the historical sources, in the story of Peace Treaty of Imam al-Hasan (a), 'Ubayd Allah was a senior commander of Imam al-Hasan's (a) army who joined Mu'awiya.


'Ubayd Allah b. al-'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib b. Hashim al-Qurashi al-Hashimi, whose teknonym was Abu Muhammad, was the son of 'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib, the Prophet's (s) paternal uncle. his mother was Lubaba, the daughter of al-Harith b. al-Hazan al-Hilali and the sister of Maymuna, one of the Prophet's (s) wives. He saw the Prophet (s) and thus, he is considered as one of the Prophet's (s) companions. He is said to be born in the year of Hijra[1].[2] (622). 'Ubayd Allah was known as a well-known Arab benefactor.[3] There are stories of his generosity in old sources.[4]

'Ubayd Allah appears in the chains of transmitters of many hadiths. however, he only transmitted one hadith directly from the Prophet (s).[5]

Political and Military Positions of 'Ubayd Allah

The Period of Imam 'Ali (a)

During the period of the Prophet (s), 'Ubayd Allah was not old enough to be assigned a political or military task. He is said to be a supporter of Imam 'Ali (a). 'Ali (a) appointed him as Amir al-Hajj (commander of hajj pilgrims) for three consecutive years from 36/656-7 to 38/658-9. In the third year, a military skirmish was about to take place between him and Yazid b. Shajara al-Rahawi who was appointed by Mu'awiya as Amir al-Hajj. However, they eventually made a compromise and agreed that Shayba b. 'Uthman undertake the position of Amir al-Hajj.[6]

There is nothing in sources to show that 'Ubayd Allah had any political or military positions in the period of caliphs before Imam 'Ali (a). According to historical sources, he was appointed by Imam 'Ali (a) as the ruler of Yemen where he remained until the martyrdom of Imam 'Ali (a). Some events in this period have been narrated in sources, which are related to 'Ubayd Allah. For example, in 40/660-1 Mu'awiya sent Busr b. Artat al-'Amiri with 30,000 soldiers to invade realms of Imam 'Ali's (a) caliphate in Hijaz and Yemen. Busr went to Medina and then to Mecca, and then he departed to Yemen. Before his arrival in Yemen, 'Ubayd Allah fled from Yemen to Kufa, leaving his children behind and asking Imam 'Ali (a) for help. When Busr arrived in Yemen, he seized the House of Emirate (Dar al-Imara) and beheaded the two children of 'Ubayd Allah. 'Ali (a) sent an army to Yemen under the commandership of Jariya b. Qudama al-Sa'di. When Busr fled, Yemen was once again under the control of Imam 'Ali's (a) army, and 'Ubayd Allah returned there.[7]

In some sources of the Shiite hadiths, there is no mention of 'Ubayd Allah fleeing from Yemen. According to these sources, when Busr invaded Yemen, 'Ubayd Allah was already in Mecca. When Busr arrived in Yemen, he looked for 'Ubayd Allah, but he was told that 'Ubayd Allah was in Mecca. Thus, Busr found the two children of 'Ubayd Allah and beheaded them.[8]

The Period of Imam al-Hasan (a)

After the martyrdom of Imam 'Ali (a), 'Ubayd Allah supported the caliphate of Imam al-Hasan (a). In that period, letters were exchanged between Imam al-Hasan (a) and Mu'awiya, asking each other to give up the caliphate. The letters led to no results, and finally, Mu'awiya departed to Kufa with his army to wage a war. Imam al-Hasan (a) asked people to defend the lands against Mu'awiya. An army of 12,000 soldiers was formed. Imam al-Hasan (a) appointed 'Ubayd Allah as the commander of the army and told him: "this army consists of the best warriors, reciters of the Qur'an, and the companions of Amir al-Mu'minin (a)". He sent the army to combat Mu'awiya and asked him to stay there until the Imam (a) and the rest of the army joined them. However, 'Ubayd Allah joined Mu'awiya after being bribed.[9] Al-Baladhuri provided another account of 'Ubayd Allah joining Mu'awiya. According to him, 'Ubayd Allah joined Mu'awiya after finding out that al-Hasan b. 'Ali (a) was reluctant to stay a caliph.[10] However, remarks by Qays b. Sa'd b. 'Ubada who was appointed as the commander of the 12000-army after 'Ubayd Allah's escape imply that 'Ubayd Allah was not a brave and reliable commander. In these remarks, Qays said that 'Ubayd Allah, his father, 'Abbas, and his brother, 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas, were not loyal to the Prophet (s) and Imam 'Ali (a).[11]

Some sources have not pointed, however, to 'Ubayd Allah's commandership of Imam al-Hasan's (a) army, only citing Qays b. Sa'd as the commander. According to these sources, Imam al-Hasan (a) removed Qays from the rule of Azerbaijan and appointed him as the commander of the army, and appointed 'Ubayd Allah as the ruler of Azerbaijan.[12] However, according to al-Tabari's account, 'Ali (a) had appointed Qays as the commander of a 40,000-army and sent him to Azerbaijan. However, Qays postponed the mission until 'Ali (a) was martyred. When Imam al-Hasan (a) became the caliph, he was reluctant to go to war and he knew that Qays was willing to combat the army of Syria. Thus, he removed Qays from the commandership of his army and replaced him with 'Ubayd Allah b. 'Abbas. Since 'Ubayd Allah was aware of Imam al-Hasan's (a) view, he joined the army of Mu'awiya.[13] This account is inconsistent with other accounts according to which Imam al-Hasan (a) commissioned 'Ubayd Allah to combat the army of Mu'awiya and then appointed Qays as his successor and conditioned every action on consultation with Qays.[14]


It is said that when Mu'awiya took over the rule, 'Ubayd Allah went to Medina where he spent the rest of his life. There is no mention in the sources of his having a position in Mu'awiya's government. There are different accounts of the year of his death. According to Ibn 'Abd al-Barr, a historiographer in the 5th/11th century, the most accurate view is that he died in 58/677-8.[15]


  1. Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Istīʿāb fī maʿrifat al-aṣḥāb, vol. 3, p. 1010.
  2. Encyclopaedia of Islam, vol. 10, p. 761.
  3. Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Istīʿāb fī maʿrifat al-aṣḥāb, vol. 3, p. 1010.
  4. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 4, p. 55, 57.
  5. Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāya wa l-nihāya, vol. 8, p. 91.
  6. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 136; Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 4, p. 59; Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Istīʿāb, vol. 3, p. 1009; Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāya wa l-nihāya, vol. 8, p. 90; vol. 7, p. 309.
  7. Khalīfa b. Khayyāṭ, Tārīkh-i Khalīfa, p. 120; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 140; Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Istīʿāb, vol. 3, p. 1009; Dhahabī, Tārīkh al-Islām, vol. 3, p. 607.
  8. Ṭūsī, al-Amālī, p. 77.
  9. Abū l-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil al-ṭālibīyyīn, p. 71; Ibn Khaldūn, Tārīkh Ibn Khaldūn, vol. 2, p. 649.
  10. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 4, p. 59.
  11. Abū l-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil al-ṭālibīyyīn, p. 73.
  12. Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāya wa l-nihāya, vol. 8, p. 14.
  13. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 158.
  14. Abū l-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil al-ṭālibīyyīn, p. 71.
  15. Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Istīʿāb, vol. 3, p. 1010.


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