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Some books on maqtal

Maqtal (Arabic: المقتل) is a written account containing historical monographs and narrations about the murder or martyrdom of a notable personality in history. Writing maqtal among Shi'a is mostly for describing the martyrdom of infallible Imams (a) and notable Shi'a personalities. Over time and due to the prevalence of such works about the Tragedy of Karbala, this term became exclusively used for narrating the events related with the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions.

Lexical and Idiomatic Meanings

The lexical meaning of maqtal (مقتل) is "the place of killing or murder". In historical studies, any written account which contains reports about murder or martyrdom of a notable personality in history is called maqtal.[1]

Maqtal is the result of writing history based on monography. Monography of events is a kind of historical writing used in recording important events. Such writings are usually about recording the events in adventurous and historical days and narrating them chronologically with all the details.[2]


In the course of Shia historiography, first maqtals are mostly writings about the martyrdom of Imam 'Ali (a).[3] Some sources have mentioned fourteen maqtals, all titled as "Maqtal Amir al-Mu'minin (a)" written by scholars such as Abu l-Hasan al-Bakri, Jabir al-Ju'fi, Shaykh Yahya Bahrani Yazdi and Ibn Abi Dunya.[4]

Many maqtals written by Shia are about Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a). Although today, only a name remained of earlier works in indexes with the title of maqtal al-Husayn (a), or parts of them have been sparsely mentioned in recent works.[5]

Also, some maqtals are dedicated to the description of the death of people other than the Ahl al-Bayt (a) such as Maqtal Umar b. al-Khattab written by Muhammad b. Abd Allah b. Mihran,[6] Maqtal awlad Muslim written by Shaykh Husayn Usfuri, Maqtal Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr and Maqtal Hujr b. Adi written by Abu Mikhnaf and two other maqtals with the same name written by Nasr b. Muzahim al-Kufi and Hisham al-Kalbi, maqtal Rashid wa Maytham wa Juwayriyya b. Musahhar written by Hisham al-Kalbi, maqtal Zayd al-Shahid wa Tawarikhuh written by Muhammad Ali Sayyid Hibat al-Din Shahristani, maqtal Muhammad b. Abi Bakr written by 'Abd al-'Aziz Jaludi, which are all in Arabic, maqtal Sadat written by Abu l-Qalam al-Mawlawi Saghir Hasan known as Shams al-Hindi in two parts in Urdu and the maqtal nama written by Nasir al-Din in Persian.[7]

Maqtals of Imam al-Husayn (a)

According to the famous opinion, Maqtal Abi 'Abd Allah al-Husayn (a) written by Asbagh b. Nubata al-Mujashi'i is the oldest work among maqtals about the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a).[8] According to a news, al-Shaykh al-Saduq narrated, Asbagh b. Nubata has seen or heard about the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a),[9] however, there is no historical report about the Event of Ashura narrated from him, and the narrator of some of these reports has been his son, Qasim. It seems that he has had a book of maqtal.[10]

Between the 2nd/8th and 7th/13th centuries, written works about Ashura increased in number and then decreased and no important work was published then and even if there has been any, nothing has remained now.[11] However, during this period, reports of some writers such as Sayyid Muhammad b. Abi Talib Husayni Musawi (d. 10th/16th century) in Tasliyat al-majalis wa zinat al-majalis, 'Allama al-Majlisi in Bihar al-anwar and 'Abd Allah Bahrani (d. 1130/1717-8) in Maqtal al-Imam al-Husayn (a) are noteworthy and are very special.

The peak of writing maqtal in later centuries is in 14th/19-20th century. Qamqam-i zakhkhar wa samsam-i battar written by Farhad Mirza Mu'tamid al-Dawla (d. 1305/1887-8) belong to this period.

Researchers consider the works after the 7th century adopted from earlier reports mixed with unauthentic reports. Among these works, some writings have had great roles in deviation of the events of Ashura.[12] Rawdat al-Shuhada written by Mulla Husayn Kashifi (d. 910/1504-5) in the early 10th/16th century in Harat is among such works.[13]

Story, literary and Rawda-related Sources

According to researchers of Islamic history, after Safavids took power, the ceremonies of 'Ashura were promoted to a more official position and new texts in maqtal were written in which accurate references were not used and the Event of Ashura was viewed from the angle of grief, tragedy and trial before any intention for compiling authentic historical texts and they primarily intended to write a tragic work to recite in Rawda. Most of these works are written for mourning ceremonies and their major goal has been for crying. Works such as Ibtila' al-awliya, Izalat al-awham fi al-buka', Iksir al-'ibada fi asrar al-shahda, and Muhriq al-qulub are among the mentioned works.[14]


According to researchers in Islamic history, when the Events of Karbala are reviewed in the available maqtals, five works can be trusted which belong to 2nd/8th century until the early 4th/10th century and what has been written in later centuries, except for the content which has been somehow derived from those five works and needs to be checked, would be difficult to be considered as primary sources. The mentioned five authentic works are:

However, what al-Tabari has mentioned in tarikh al-umam wa l-muluk, al-Shaykh al-Mufid has mentioned in al-Irshad and Abu l-Faraj Isfahani has brought in Maqatil al-Talibiyyin have almost been adopted from Abu Mikhnaf's work and al-Khwarazmi's researches are mostly derived from Ibn A'tham's al-Futuh.[15]

Sources of Maqtals of Ashura

Among the sources on which the maqtals depended are the following:

  • Unseen news about 'Ashura including hadiths transmitted from the Prophet (s), Imam Ali (a), Salman the Persian and others before the happening of the event of 'Ashura and have illustrated different dimensions of this great tragedy.
  • Collection of letters, sermons and sayings of Imam al-Husayn (a) from the beginning of his movement until his martyrdom.
  • Speeches and war cries of the companions of Imam al-Husayn (a), sayings and sermons of Imam al-Sajjad (a), Lady Zaynab (a) and the family of Imam al-Husayn (a) in their journey from Kufa to Syria and Medina.
  • Hadiths narrated from the infallible Imams (a) about the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a).
  • Sayings narrated from those companions of Imam al-Husayn (a) who were not martyred.
  • Speeches narrated from dissidents of Imam (a).[16]

Famous Maqtals

Some famous maqtals of Imam al-Husayn (a) and their authors follow in chronological order:[17]

2nd/8th Century

3rd/9th Century

  • Maqtal al-Husayn (a), by Hisham b. Muhammad al-Kalbi.
  • Maqtal al-Husayn (a), by Muhammad b. 'Umar al-Waqidi.
  • Maqtal al-Husayn (a), by Abu 'Ubayda Mu'ammar b. Muthanna.
  • Maqtal al-Husayn (a), by Nasr b. Muzahim.
  • Maqtal al-Husayn (a), by Qasim b. Salam al-Hirawi.
  • Tarjumat al-Husayn (a) wa maqtaluhu min al-tabaqat al-kubra, by Ibn Sa'd.
  • Kitab al-Maqtal, Ahmad b. Hanbal.
  • Maqtal al-Husayn (a), by Ibrahim b. Ishaq Nahawandi.
  • Kitab al-Maqtal, by 'Abd Allah b. 'Amr al-Warraq.
  • Maqtal al-Husayn b. 'Ali (a) from the book al-Imama wa al-Siyasa, by Ibn Qutayba al-Dinawari.
  • Tarjuma wa maqtal Imam al-Husayn (a) from the book Ansab al-ashraf, by al-Baladhuri.
  • Maqtal al-Husayn (a), by Ibn Abi al-Dunya.
  • Report of Karbala movement from the book al-Akhbar al-tiwal, by Abu Hanifa Dinawari.
  • Maqtal al-Husayn (a), by Ibrahim b. Muhammad al-Thaqafi al-Kufi (the author of al-Gharat).
  • Maqtal al-Husayn (a), by Hasan b. Sahl Mujawwiz al-Basari.
  • Maqtal al-Husayn (a), by Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad b. Zakariyya al-Ghalabi.

4th/10th Century

5th/11th Century

6th/12th Century

7th/13th Century

8th/14th Century

  • A section called "al-Husayn al-Shahid" in Siyar a'lam al-nubala' by Muhammad b. Ahmad b. 'Uthman al-Dhahabi.
  • A report on the life of Imam al-Husayn (a) in al-Bidaya wa l-Nihaya, by Ibn Kathir.

10th/16th-13th/19th Century

Writing Maqtal in Contemporary Centuries

Writing Maqtals about the event of Karbala continues in recent centuries with the difference that in the 14th century AH, in addition to emotional approaches which are most tragic and painful, the authors also mentioned political approaches and fighting with tyranny are about the uprising of Imam al-Husayn (a). Written works in this century can be considered influenced by the conditions of the Shi'a community, especially movements seeking justice and religious free-mindedness.[18]

In 15th century AH, besides mentioning the events of that period, written works about 'Ashura also discussed theoretical and analytical issues such as philosophy and goals or secrets of the uprising of Imam al-Husayn (a).[19]

14th/20th Century

15th/late 20th- beginning of 21st Century

  • danishnama Imam al-Husayn (a) (Encyclopedia of Imam al-Husayn (a)) in Persian, by researchers of Dar al-Hadith under the direction of Muhammad Muhammadi Rayshahri.
  • Maqtal jami' Sayyid al-Shuhada' (comprehensive maqtal of Imam al-Husayn (a)) in Persian, by a group of historians under the direction of Sayyid Mahdi Pishwa'i.
  • Hamasa Husayni (epic of Imam al-Husayn (a)) in Persian, by Murtada Mutahhari.
  • Qissa Karbala (The story of Karbala) in Persian, by Ali Nazari Munfarid.


  1. Ṣāḥibī, "Maqtal wa maqtal nigārī", p. 31.
  2. Yāwarī, Maqtal nigari-yi shīʿayān, p. 10.
  3. Yāwarī, Maqtal nigari-yi shīʿayān, p. 11.
  4. Āqā Buzurg al-Tihrānī, al-Dharīʿa, vol. 22, p. 29-31.
  5. Yāwarī, Maqtal nigari-yi shīʿayān, p. 11.
  6. Āqā Buzurg al-Tihrānī, al-Dharīʿa, vol. 22, p. 22.
  7. Āqā Buzurg al-Tihrānī, al-Dharīʿa, vol. 22, p. 31-35.
  8. Āqā Buzurg al-Tihrānī, al-Dharīʿa, vol. 22, p. 23-24.
  9. Ṣadūq, Thawāb al-aʿmāl, p. 260.
  10. Maqtal-i jāmiʿ-i sayyid al-shuhadāʾ, vol. 1, p. 46.
  11. Maqtal-i jāmiʿ-i sayyid al-shuhadāʾ, vol. 1, p. 44-45.
  12. Maqtal-i jāmiʿ-i sayyid al-shuhadāʾ, vol. 1, p. 105-112.
  13. Nūrī, al-Luʾluʾ wa l-marjān, p. 252, 720.
  14. Jaʿfarīyān, "Darbāra-yi manābiʿ-i tārīkh-i ʿĀshūrā", p. 51-52.
  15. Jaʿfarīyān, "Darbāra-yi manābiʿ-i tārīkh-i ʿĀshūrā", p. 42.
  16. Pazhūhishī dar maqtalhā-yi Farsi, p. 21-27.
  17. Maqtal-i jāmiʿ-i sayyid al-shuhadāʾ, vol. 1, p. 105-113.
  18. Maqtal-i jāmiʿ-i sayyid al-shuhadāʾ, vol. 1, p. 139.
  19. Maqtal-i jāmiʿ-i sayyid al-shuhadāʾ, vol. 1, p. 148.


  • Āqā Buzurg al-Tihrānī, Muḥammad Muḥsin. Al-Dharīʿa ilā taṣānīf al-Shīʿa. Beirut: Dār al-Aḍwāʾ, [n.d].
  • Jaʿfarīyān, Rasūl. 1380 Sh. "Darbāra-yi manābiʿ-i tārīkh-i ʿĀshūrā." Majalla-yi Āyina-yi Pazhūhish 71, 72:41-52.
  • Group of authors. Maqtal-i jāmiʿ-i sayyid al-shuhadāʾ. Qom: Intishārāt-i Muʾassisa-yi Imām Khomeini, 1389 Sh.
  • Nūrī, Mīrzā Ḥusayn al-. Al-Luʾluʾ wa l-marjān. Tehran: Nashr-i Āfāq, 1388 Sh.
  • Group of authors. Pazhūhishī dar maqtalhā-yi Farsi. Qom: Zamzam-i Hidāyat, 1386 Sh.
  • Ṣadūq, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī al-. Thawāb al-aʿmāl. Beirut: Muʾassisat al-Aʿlamī li-l-Maṭbūʿāt, 1403 AH.
  • Ṣāḥibī, Muḥammad Jawād. 1373 Sh. "Maqtal wa maqtal nigārān." Kiyhān-i Farhangī 111:31-33.
  • Yāwarī, Muḥammad Jawād. 1386 Sh. "Maqtal nigari-yi shīʿayān." Tārīkh-i Islām 32:7-40.