Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr

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Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr
Personal Information
Full NameAbd Allah b. al-Zubayr b. al-Awwam
TeknonymAbu Bakr and Abu Khubayb
Well Known AsIbn al-Zubayr
LineageBanu Asad
Well-Known Relativesal-Zubayr (father)Aisha (aunt)
Place of BirthMedina
Place(s) of ResidenceMedina • Mecca
Cause of Death/MartyrdomHe was killed by al-Hajjaj
Burial Placeal-Hajun cemetery
Religious Information

ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Zubayr b. al-ʿAwwām (Arabic: عبدالله بن الزبير بن العوّام), known as Ibn al-Zubayr (b. 1/623 – d. 73/692), one of the people who claimed the caliphate after the death of Mu'awiya and has established his reign over Mecca. He was the son of al-Zubayr b. al-'Awwam who was a notable companion of the Prophet (s) and since he was young during the life of the Prophet (s), he is considered among the youngest companions of Prophet Muhammad (s) [1]. He was the first child born among the Immigrants (Muhajirun) in Medina. Ibn al-Zubayr was famous for not pledging allegiance with Yazid b. Mu'awiya. He claimed to be the caliph and fled from Medina to Mecca, which consequently led to an attack by the army of Yazid on this city. In 64/684 Ibn al-Zubayr called himself the caliph of Muslims and a large number of people of Syria and Hijaz including Mecca and Medina pledged allegiance with him. One of the significant reconstruction 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 general amnesty, which included al-Zubayr as well. 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-'Awwam 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-'Awwam was a notable companion of the 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 Hijra. As Jews claimed that they would use magic to prevent Muslims from having children to lead them to extinction, the birth of Ibn al-Zubayr brought joy and delight to Muslims. It is said that Prophet Muhammad (s) became happy as well and rubbed a date to his mouth, and called him 'Abd Allah. Then Abu Bakr recited the adhan in his ears (which is recommended for a newborn baby).

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

After Prophet Muhammad (s)

In the time of Prophet Muhammad (s), 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr was in his childhood and 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 unable 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 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 (Khorasan) in 29/649-50 – 30/650-1. He was among the scribes of the Qur'an when all the handwritten copies of the 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 the 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-'Awwam departed from Ahl al-Bayt (a). Before the battle commences, 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 (executor) after her death. According to historical reports, it is concluded that 'A'isha's participation in the Battle of Jamal 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.

After the Death of Mu'awiya

After the death of Mu'awiya, 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr refused to pledge allegiance with Yazid b. Mu'awiya and planned to fight against the Umayyad. According to historiographical resources, the purpose of Ibn al-Zubayr's fight against the Umayyad was to achieve power and caliphate. '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.

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. When he knew that Imam al-Husayn (a) intends to go to Kufa, he persuaded Imam (a) to do so.

After the martyrdom of Imam 'Ali (a), Mu'awiya managed to convince 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr by means of threat and bribery to pledge allegiance with him. He also invited Ibn al-Zubayr to accompany him in an attack on Constantinople. However, he warned his son, Yazid, on the possibility that Ibn al-Zubayr may refuse to pledge allegiance with him. After the death of Mu'awiya, his son Yazid threatened Ibn al-Zubayr to pledge allegiance, but he refused and fled to Mecca. He called himself "'A'id al-Bayt" (the one who takes refuge in the house of God, Ka'ba). It may refer to a narration that 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 pledge 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 the chain and come to him to pledge 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 pledge allegiance, but they were defeated by a small army of the supporters of Ibn al-Zubayr. The commander of Yazid's army was a half-brother of Yazid, who was taken captive and then slain in prison. As a result, Mecca was ruled by Ibn al-Zubayr. Meanwhile, after the Battle of Karbala, the people of Medina were angered and opposed the 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 great 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 the non-Islamic behavior of Yazid which made them angry and discontented. When they returned to Medina, they retold the wrongdoings of Yazid. Consequently, Yazid wrote a strong-worded letter to the 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 the people of Medina and asked them to pledge allegiance to him as the caliph of Muslims. Then people of Medina pledged allegiance with '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 Dhu l-Hijja 28, 63/August 28, 683 the army of Yazid faced the army of Medina to commence the battle.

First Siege of Mecca

The army of people of Medina was defeated by Yazid's army. Yazid permitted his soldiers to slay people and plunder their properties and women for three days. The massacre of people and companions of Prophet Muhammad (S) is regarded as the Battle 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 Safar 13, 64/ October 11, 683 to Rabi' I 14, 64/ November 10, 683 (40 days after the death of Yazid b. Mu'awiya). Ibn al-Zubayr settled in al-Masjid al-Haram 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 the fire to keep his followers and people strong-willed against Yazid's army. Different groups of people fought along with Ibn al-Zubayr to defend al-Masjid al-Haram, 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 pledge allegiance. Some reports mentioned that it took place on 9th of Rajab 64/March 2, 684; while some others stated that it happened three months after the death of Yazid b. Mu'awiya. It is also said that later some people of Syria became supporters of Ibn al-Zubayr. Therefore, the commander of the Syria army asked Ibn al-Zubayr to forget the incident of Harra and asked him to travel to Syria to attain the caliphate, but he refused to do so.

After some time, people of important regions including Damascus, Kufa, Basra, Khurasan, and Yemen pledged allegiance to representatives of Ibn al-Zubayr. Ibn al-Zubayr treated the members of Banu Umayya harshly and drove them out of Mecca. He also killed Utba b. Abi Sufyan along with fifty other Banu Umayya members inside the Haram. This killing was severely criticized by Abd Allah b. Umar and Abd Allah b. al-Abbas.

The relationship between Ibn al-Zubayr and Banu Hashim did not improve though. Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya refused to pledge allegiance to him and said that he would pledge allegiance only under one condition that Muslims unanimously accept the 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 allegiance from Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya. After the uprising of al-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 pledge allegiance with him.

It is said that Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya sent a letter to al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi and asked him for help. Then al-Mukhtar sent a group of his supporters to Mecca at the time that Ibn al-Zubayr had prepared woods to set Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya on fire. They entered al-Masjid al-Haram 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 al-Masjid al-Haram, 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. Afterward, Muhammad and his supporters settled in Shi'b Abi Talib until al-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 pledge allegiance to him and regarded him unworthy of caliphate who desecrated the sanctity of al-Masjid al-Haram. Considering the 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's mother as well. Eventually, Ibn al-Zubayr threw Ibn 'Abbas out of Mecca, but their conflicts continued in Ta'if where Ibn 'Abbas was living.

Second Siege of Mecca

When 'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan 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 pledge allegiance to him. In his speech on the day of 'Arafa, he reminded people of Prophet Muhammad's (s) curse on al-Hakam b. Abi l-'As, the grandfather of 'Abd al-Malik, and his family and 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 face the oppositions from Ibn al-Zubayr seriously. However, in 72/691-2 when 'Abd al-Malik managed to defeat Mus'ab b. al-Zubayr and occupy Iraq, then he sent al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf al-Thaqafi to suppress Ibn al-Zubayr in Hijaz. Masjid al-Haram was under siege by al-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 on 17th of Jumada I 73/October 4, 692. Some reports have mentioned that the siege lasted for eight months and 17 days. Based on one account, in the beginning, 'Abd al-Malik discouraged al-Hajjaj from taking a military action in Mecca and encouraged him to defeat Ibn al-Zubayr by means of economic restrictions.

Al-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. Al-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 al-Masjid al-Haram 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 al-Masjid al-Haram 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 al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf. But he severely punished his brother 'Urwa. Meanwhile al-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 Sakun 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.

Al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf hanged Ibn al-Zubayr's body from his feet for a year, and lastly accepted the constant demands of his mother Asma' to give 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.


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 history books in Mecca, Ka'ba was rebuilt sometimes, and one of the noteworthy ones was done by Ibn al-Zubayr. When Ka'ba was partially devastated and burnt by the army of Yazid, Ibn al-Zubayr destroyed it completely to rebuild Ka'ba to its original extent. Besides, he bought the houses near al-Masjid al-Haram and attached them to the mosque.


Besides, there are other hadiths in Sunni sources in which, he is not mentioned as having good characteristics. After he drank the blood of the Prophet's (a) bloodletting, the Prophet (a) said, "woe be to people from your harms! And woe be to you from people's harm!". Ahmad b. Hanbal transmitted a hadith that when 'Uthman was besieged, 'Abd Allah b. Zubayr told him, "I have some fast horses which I have prepared for you! Do not you want to go to Mecca so that those who want to be with you come to you?" 'Uthman said, "No! I heard from the Prophet (a) that he (a) said, 'a ram will express blasphemy in Mecca whose name is 'Abd Allah and upon him is half of the punishment of people!". Also, based on the report of Ibn 'Asakir, Salam al-Farsi foretold about Ka'ba catching fire by one of Al al-Zubayr in the future.

In the battle of Jamal, Imam Ali (a) told al-Zubayr that his son would become the cause of his deviation from the path of the Ahl al-Bayt (a); and Imam al-Hasan (a) called him a fool. Also, some of his actions provoked many criticisms including threatening to set fire among Banu Hashim because they refused to give allegiance to him. 'Urwa b. al-Zubayr justified his brother's action saying, "he did that to avoid disunity and division and that Muslims do not create divisions and they (Banu Hashim) too obey him and thus become united, the same way 'Umar b. al-Khattab did so with Banu Hashim when they delayed in giving allegiance to Abu Bakr."

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 refrained from reciting salawat upon Prophet Muhammad (s) and his family for forty weeks in Friday prayer to dishonour Banu Hashim. This action made some Sunni religious scholars be sceptical about the reliability of Ibn al-Zubayr. Also, Shi'ite Muslims did not have a positive attitude toward him.


  1. In Arabic, the youngest companions of the Prophet (s) are called "al-sahaba al-sighar"