Uprising of al-Mukhtar

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Uprising of al-Mukhtar
DateFrom 66/685 to 67/687
CauseVengeance for Imam al-Husayn's (a) blood
ResultDefeat of the uprising by Al Zubayr
Al-Mukhtar b. Abi 'Ubayd al-Thaqafi
Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr
Al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi
Mus'ab b. al-Zubayr

Uprising of al-Mukhtār (Arabic: ثورة المُختار) was a movement under the leadership of al-Mukhtar b. Abi Ubayd al-Thaqafi meant to seek vengeance for Martyrs of Karbala. The uprising began in 66/685 in the city of Kufa. It led to the execution of people who were involved in the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions: for example, Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, Umar b. Sa'd, Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan, and Sinan b. Anas. The Uprising of al-Mukhtar was called upon by Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya. Although Some Shiite scholars hold that al-Mukhtar launched his movement at the command of Imam al-Sajjad (a).


Al-Mukhtar was imprisoned during the Event of Karbala. After his release, he sought to avenge the murder of Imam al-Husayn (a).

Accompanying 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr

Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad released al-Mukhtar from the prison provided that he would not stay in Kufa for more than 3 days. Thus, al-Mukhtar headed towards Mecca which was then under the rule of 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr. In his meeting with 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubyar, he said in response to the suggestion of people to pledge his allegiance to 'Abd Allah that his goal and 'Abd Allah's goal diverge,[1] and thus, it would not be advisable for him to pledge his allegiance to Ibn al-Zubayr. However, after the insistence of people, he pledged his allegiance to 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr on two conditions:

  1. 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr had to consult him with respect to all affairs and never does anything on his own[2] and never opposes him,[3]
  2. 'Abd Allah should give al-Mukhtar the highest ranking position in his government.[4]

When Yazid b. Mu'awiya's army attacked Mecca and 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr was besieged, al-Mukhtar fought the army of Yazid alongside Ibn al-Zubayr. According to some sources, when al-Mukhtar found that 'Abd Allah deceitfully treated him and claimed caliphate,[5] he stepped aside from Ibn al-Zubayr's government and went to Kufa to prepare for his uprising.[6]

Meeting with Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya

Before moving towards Kufa, al-Mukhtar met Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya in Medina and told him about his intention to launch an uprising, asking him for a permission. Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya gave him a permission in terms of a general remark and asked him to observe abstinence.[7] According to al-Baladhuri's report, Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya explicitly gave al-Mukhtar the permission for an uprising.[8]

Entering Kufa

Al-Mukhtar went from Mecca to Kufa. On his way, he cried for Imam al-Husayn's (a) tragedy and mourned for him. Other Shi'as saw him and joined him there.[9] On Friday, al-Mukhtar arrived in al-Hira river and performed a ghusl there, wearing a perfume and a turban. He then put a sword on his waist and went to al-Sakun Mosque of al-Kinda. On his way there, he promised people of his victory.[10]

Al-Mukhtar arrived in Kufa 6 months after Yazid's death on Ramadan 15.[11] At the time 'Abd Allah b. Muti' was the governor of 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayrto in Kufa.[12]

Uprising of Tawwabun

After entering Kufa, al-Mukhtar received an invitation from Sulayman b. Surad and members of the Tawwabun Uprising. He refused to cooperate with them. He told people of Kufa that Sulayman was not experienced enough to launch a war and is ignorant of the secrets of a war. Umar b. Sa'd went to the ruler of Kufa and told him that Tawwabun were no threat to him; the real threat for Kufa, as he said, was al-Mukhtar.[13] Thus, al-Mukhtar was imprisoned by agents of 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr when Tawwabun launched their battle.[14]

When Tawwabun were defeated, al-Mukhtar wrote letters to their survivors and asked them to join him. They agreed with al-Mukhtar's request and expressed their readiness to attack the prison and release al-Mukhtar. Al-Mukhtar asked them to hold on, since he would be released a few days later. He wrote a letter to 'Abd Allah b. Umar who was the husband of his sister, Safiyya bt. Abi Ubayd and asked him to intercede for his release. Thus, al-Mukhtar was released with the help of 'Abd Allah b. Umar.

The ruler of Kufa, released al-Mukhtar on the condition that he would take no actions against the government and swear that if he did so, he would slaughter one thousand camels and emancipate all his slaves, both males and females. Al-Mukhtar swore and was released from the prison.

When he was released, he told his companions: "to slaughter one thousand camels is nothing in comparison to my goal. I prefer to achieve my goal and have no slaves."[15]


Since governmental agents monitored al-Mukhtar's actions, he first commissioned some people to gather forces surreptitiously. Al-Mukhtar's representatives and close companions consisted in:

A Representative of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya

In Kufa, al-Mukhtar claimed that he was a representative of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya, and called himself his trustee, minister, and ruler. He claimed that he launched his uprising at the command of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya for the vengeance of Ahl al-Bayt (a).[16]

Some Shi'as gathered in Sa'r b. Abi Sa'r al-Hanafi's house. 'Abd al-Rahman b. Shurayh said that al-Mukhtar claimed to be Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya's representative. He suggested that they go to Medina by themselves and see if al-Mukhtar was honest.[17]

'Abd al-Rahman b. Shurayh and others went to Medina and met Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya and inquired about the Uprising of al-Mukhtar and his claim to be Ibn al-Hanafiyya's representative. Ibn al-Hanafiyya replied: "I swear to God that I like God to avenge for us with the hands of any of His servants."[18]

Al-'Allama al-Majlisi quoted Ibn Nama as saying that Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya took them to Imam al-Sajjad (a) in order to ask him about their obligations. The Imam (a) said: "Dear Uncle! If a person from Zanzibar rises to support us, others are obliged to help him. I appoint you as my representative with respect to this, so do whatever you find appropriate."[19]

They left Medina to Kufa, and said: "Imam al-Sajjad (a) and Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya gave us the permission."[20] When they arrived in Kufa, they confirmed al-Mukhtar's claim.[21]

It might be on the basis of this hadith that some prominent Shiite scholars, such as al-Khoei[22] and al-Mamaqani[23] believe that the Uprising of al-Mukhtar was done with the particular permission of Imam al-Sajjad (a).

Role of Ibrahim b. Malik al-Ashtar

In order to realize the goals of his uprising, al-Mukhtar accepted the proposal of the Shiite heads to invite Ibrahim b. Malik al-Ashtar to help him in the uprising.[24] Ibrahim was first hesitant, but he pledged his allegiance to al-Mukhtar after seeing Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya's letter endorsing al-Mukhtar and hearing the testimonies of Shiite figures about the authenticity of the letter[25]. He played a role as the second ranking person in the uprising.


According to the plans, the uprising was supposed to start on Thursday, Rabi' I 14, 66 (October 19, 685),[26] but with the early conflict between Ibrahim and Ayas b. Mudarib, the commander of military forces in Kufa and the latter's murder, the uprising started two days earlier on Tuesday Rabi' I 12, 66 AH (October 17, 685).

Al-Mukhtar ordered 'Abd Allah b. Shaddad to commence the uprising with the slogan, "Ya Mansur, Amit" (O Victorious! Bring Death!).[27] It was a slogan of the Prophet (s) in battles of Badr[28] and Banu l-Mustaliq.[29] This slogan was a sign of later Shiite uprisings. It was also used later in the uprisings of Zayd b. 'Ali,[30] Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya, and Ibrahim b. 'Abd Allah. Al-Mukhtar also ordered Sufyan b. Layla and Qudama b. Malik to use the slogan, Ya la-Tharat al-Husayn (O the avengers of al-Husayn).[31]

The uprising was then publicized, and after a few days, al-Mukhtar's army ousted 'Abd Allah b. Muti', the ruler of Kufa, from the city.[32] 'Abd Allah b. Muti' had been appointed by 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr as the ruler of Kufa in order to quench the Tawwabun.[33]

Entering the Palace of Kufa

On Friday, Rabi' I 15, 66 AH (October 20, 685), al-Mukhtar entered the palace of Kufa. People said the Friday Prayer behind him. Before the prayer, he delivered two sermons in which he explained the goals of his uprising. After the prayer, the allegiance ceremony was held.

Division of Governmental Positions

Avenging the Murdurers

The Name of the Criminal Crime Punishment
Umar b. Sa'd General commander of Yazid's army Killed with a sword's strokes and decapitated
Hafs b. Umar b. Sa'd Cooperation with his father, Umar b. Sa'd Decapitated
Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan Commander of the infantries and several other crimes Murdered in a conflict and decapitated
Sinan b. Anas Decapitating Imam al-Husayn (a) Amputated by fingers, arms, and legs; thrown in a pot
Khawli b. Yazid Carrying the head of Imam al-Husayn (a) and numerous crimes Thrown into fire
Bajdal b. Sulaym al-Kalbi Cutting Imam al-Husayn's (s) finger Amputated by fingers, arms, and legs
Harmala b. Kahil al-Asadi Throwing arrows in Karbala and numerous crimes Amputated by hands and legs and thrown into fire
Hakim b. Tufayl Murderer of Abu l-Fadl al-'Abbas (a) Arms and legs being nailed and shot with arrows
Murra b. Munqidh Murderer of Ali al-Akbar (a) Amputated by arms and paralyzed until his death
Zayd b. Ruqad al-Junnabi Archer and numerous crimes Stoned and shot by arrows
Amr b. Subayh Murderer of 'Abd Allah b. Muslim Killed with a spear
'Abd Allah b. Usayn al-Juhani Active presence in the Event of Karbala Decapitated
Hamal b. Malik al-Muharibi Active presence in the Event of Karbala Decapitated
Ruqad b. Malik al-Bajali Plundering Imam al-Husayn's (a) property Decapitated in public
'Amr b. Khalid al-Bajali Plundering Imam al-Husayn's (a) property Decapitated in public
'Abd al-Rahman b. Bajali Plundering Imam al-Husayn's (a) tent and clothes Decapitated in public
'Abd Allah b. Qays al-Khawlani Attending the battle and plundering the property Decapitated in public
Malik b. Nusayr Plundering Imam al-Husayn's (a) hemlet Amputated by arms and legs
'Uthman b. Khalid al-Juhani Murderer of 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Aqil Decapitated and burned
Ziyad b. Malik Active presence in the battle, plundering Imam al-Husayn's (a) personal clothes Decapitated in public
'Abd al-Rahman b. Abi Khushkara Active presence in the war, plundering Imam al-Husayn's (a) personal clothes Decapitated in public
Ishaq b. Hawiya Running over Imam al-Husayn's (a) corpse with his horse Arms and legs nailed to the ground
Raja' b. Munqidh al-'Abdi Running over Imam al-Husayn's (a) corpse with his horse Arms and legs nailed to the ground
Salim b. Khuthayma Running over Imam al-Husayn's (a) corpse with his horse Arms and legs nailed to the ground
Wahiz b. Na'im Running over Imam al-Husayn's (a) corpse with his horse Arms and legs nailed to the ground
Salih b. Wahb Running over Imam al-Husayn's (a) corpse with his horse Arms and legs nailed to the ground
Hani b. Thubayt Running over Imam al-Husayn's (a) corpse with his horse Arms and legs nailed to the ground
Usayd b. Malik Running over Imam al-Husayn's (a) corpse with his horse Arms and legs nailed to the ground

Realization of Imam al-Sajjad's (s) Curse

Minhal b. 'Amr said that he met Imam al-Sajjad (a) in Medina. The Imam (a) asked about Harmala. He told the Imam (a): "he was alive when I was in Kufa", the Imam (a) said: "… O God, make him feel the heat of iron, O God, make him feel the heat of iron, O God, make him feel the heat of fire …".[34] Minhal said that when he returned to Kufa, he saw that Harmala was captured by al-Mukhtar and the Imam's (a) curse was realized.

'Umar b. Sa'd's Safety Conduct

'Umar b. Sa'd sent 'Abd Allah b. Ja'da, a close companion of Imam 'Ali (a), to al-Mukhtar to ask him for a safety conduct for 'Umar. For some exigencies, al-Mukhtar gave him a safety conduct on the condition that he does not leave his house and does not make any mistakes.

Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya expressed his concerns about the release of 'Umar b. Sa'd. When al-Mukhtar heard about Ibn al-Hanafiyya's concerns, he said, in a meeting where some close friends of 'Umar b. Sa'd were present, that the main perpetrators of the story of Karbala will be killed in the coming days.[35] One day, 'Umar b. Sa'd went out of his house to another place and then went back home. When al-Mukhtar heard about this, he seized the opportunity and sent Abu 'Amra to 'Umar b. Sa'd's house to kill him. Abu 'Amra killed him and took his head to al-Mukhtar.[36]

Battle with Syria's Government

Most murderers of the Martyrs of Karbala who resided in Kufa were killed, but a few of them could escape and survive. After this, al-Mukhtar planned to combat the central government in Syria, the Umayyad dynasty, in order to punish the main contributors of Imam al-Husayn's (a) martyrdom. On some accounts, after killing Imam al-Husayn's (a) murderers, al-Mukhtar's biggest concern was to send Ibrahim's army to Syria.[37]

Two days after the eradication of the murderers of Imam al-Husayn (a), al-Mukhtar sent Ibrahim b. Malik to Syria.[38] On the other hand, 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad moved towards Ibrahim with a large army. The two armies met near Mosul.

Ibrahim's army consisted of 12000 people, 8000 of which were Iranians and 4000 were Arabs.[39] On some accounts, Ibrahim's army consisted of 20,000 to 30,000 people.[40]

Ibrahim's army met with Ibn Ziyad's army consisting of eighty thousand people around Mosul.[41] The battle ended with the victory of Ibrahim, and people such as 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, al-Husayn b. Numayr, and Shurahbil b. Dhi l-Kila' were killed.[42] 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad was killed on the Ashura of 67/686.[43]

'Ubayad Allah b. Ziyad's corpse was burned,[44] and his head was taken to al-Mukhtar in Kufa. He sent the head to Imam al-Sajjad (a) and Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya in Medina.[45]

When Ibn Ziyad's head was taken to Imam al-Sajjad (a), he was having a meal. The Imam (a) said: "when we were taken to Ibn Ziyad, he was having a meal and my father's head was in front of him. I said to myself: O God, I hope to be alive and see his head in front of me."[46]

Al-Khashabiyya Army

'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr imprisoned Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya, 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas, and seventeen people from Banu Hashim, including al-Hasan al-Muthanna in a cave called "Shi'b al-'Arim" and threatened that he will throw them into fire if they do not pledge their allegiance to him. In order to justify his brother's threatening, 'Urwa b. al-Zubayr said that "he did this in order to unify Muslims and make them (Banu Hashim) obey him and prevent divisions in the Islamic community, as 'Umar b. al-Khattab did this to Banu Hashim when they delayed their allegiance to Abu Bakr b. Abi Quhafa."[47]

Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya sent a message to al-Mukhtar and asked him for help. Al-Mukhtar sent an army to Mecca whose only weapons were wooden sticks, and so they released the Banu Hashim. This army came to be known as "al-Khashabiyya", that is, holders of woods. Their wooden weapons were with the intention to respect Mecca and not enter this holy city with swords.

Battle between al-Mukhtar and Mus'ab

Some murderers of Imam al-Husayn (a) could escape. Their main figures were Muhammad b. al-Ash'ath and Shabath b. Rib'i. They went to Basra and incited Mus'ab b. al-Zubayr to launch a war against al-Mukhtar.

Battle Outside Kufa

The two armies first met in an area called "Midhar". Al-Mukhtar's army was under the commandership of Ahmar b. Shumayt and was assisted by 'Abd Allah b. Kamil with the presence of Abu 'Amra Kaysan, and Mus'ab's army was under the commandership of Mus'ab himself with the presence of al-Muhallab b. Abi Sufra. Al-Mukhtar's army was seriously defeated in this battle. Ibn Shumayt, Ibn Kamil, Abu 'Amra, and many Iranians who supported al-Mukhtar were killed.

After this, another battle occurred outside Kufa with the presence of al-Mukhtar, in which al-Mukhtar's forces were seriously defeated and retreated to Kufa. In this battle, Muhammad b. al-Ash'ath was killed.

Battle Inside the City

Mus'ab's forces moved forwards to the city and after some conflicts inside Kufa, they defeated al-Mukhtar's forces and siege Dar al-Imara (the governmental building). 6,000 people were inside Dar al-Imara with al-Mukhtar. Al-Mukhtar suggested that they attack the enemy and die bravely, but they did not accept it.

Al-Mukhtar's Murder

Al-Mukhtar and nineteen other people went out of the palace. After an unjust war, al-Mukhtar was killed on Ramadan 14, 67 (April 3, 687).[48]

Companions of al-Mukhtar who were killed with him included 'Abd Allah and 'Abd al-Rahman, the sons of Hujr b. 'Adi,[49] and Sa'ib b. Malik al-Ash'ari, the ancestor of Ash'ariyyun in Qom.[50]

Fate of the Surrounded People

People who did not comply with al-Mukhtar's order to be honorably killed in a confrontation with Mus'ab's army were all arrested after al-Mukhtar's murder and were decapitated.[51]

One day, Mus'ab met 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar. 'Abd Allah told him: "you are the one who killed six thousand Muslims in one day", Mus'ab replied: "they were not Muslims", 'Abd Allah said: "even if you had killed six thousand of your father's sheep, it would be a squander and would be forbidden, let alone six thousand Muslims."[52]

Murder of al-Mukhtar's Wife

After killing all the captives, Mus'ab captured al-Mukhtar's two wives, Umm Thabit bt. Samura b. Jundab and 'Umra bt. Nu'man b. Bashir, and asked them to curse al-Mukhtar.[53] Umm Thabit did so and was released, but 'Umra said: "may God bless him! He was a righteous servant of God". So Mus'ab ordered her murder. According to al-Ya'qubi, Mus'ab asked 'Umra's view about al-Mukhtar, she said: "he was pious, pure and always fasted". She was the first woman in Islam who was decapitated.[54]

See Also


  1. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 6, p. 378.
  2. Muqaddasī, Āfarīnish wa tārīkh, vol. 2, p. 907.
  3. Ibn Khaldūn, Tārīkh, vol. 2, p. 37.
  4. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 575.
  5. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 5, p. 317.
  6. Muqaddasī, Āfarīnish wa tārīkh, vol. 2, p. 910.
  7. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 6, p. 380.
  8. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 6, p. 380.
  9. Ibn Athīr, al-Kāmil fī l-tārīkh, vol. 4, p. 174.
  10. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 578.
  11. Ibn Khaldūn, Tārīkh, vol. 2, p. 43.
  12. Muqaddasī, Āfarīnish wa tārīkh, vol. 2, p. 911; Ibn Khaldūn, Tārīkh, vol. 2, p. 44.
  13. Ibn Athīr, al-Kāmil fī al-tārīkh, vol. 4, p. 172.
  14. Maqrizī, Imṭāʿ al-asmāʾ, vol. 12, p. 251.
  15. Ibn Miskawayh, Tajārib al-umam, vol. 2, p. 137.
  16. Maqrizī, Imṭāʿ al-asmāʾ, vol. 12, p. 250.
  17. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 6, p. 384.
  18. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 6, p. 13-14.
  19. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 45, p. 365.
  20. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 45, p. 365.
  21. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 6, p. 384; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 6, p. 14.
  22. Khoei, Muʿjam al-rijāl, vol. 18, p. 100.
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  26. Ibn Miskawayh, Tajārib al-umam, vol. 2, p. 147.
  27. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 6, p. 309.
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  30. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 7, p. 183.
  31. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 6, p. 390.
  32. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 6, p. 392; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 6, p. 27.
  33. Muqaddasī, Āfarīnish wa tārīkh, vol. 2, p. 911; Ibn Khaldūn, Tārīkh, vol. 2, p. 44.
  34. Irbilī, Kashf al-ghumma, vol. 2, p. 112.
  35. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 6, p. 61.
  36. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 6, p. 62.
  37. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 6, p. 423.
  38. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 6, p. 423; Ṭūsī, al-Amālī, p. 240.
  39. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 45, p. 334.
  40. Dīnawarī, Akhbār al-ṭiwāl, p. 293.
  41. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 6, p. 363.
  42. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 6, p. 426.
  43. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 45, p. 383.
  44. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 6, p. 426.
  45. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 45, p. 386.
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  47. Ibn Abī l-Ḥadīd, Sharḥ Nahj al-balāgha, vol. 20, p. 147.
  48. Qummī, Tārīkh-i Qom, p. 290.
  49. Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, al-Iṣāba, vol. 2, p. 34.
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  51. Ibn al-Jawzī, al-Muntaẓam, vol. 6, p. 66.
  52. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 6, p. 445; Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāya wa l-nihāya, vol. 8, p. 289.
  53. Dīnawarī, Akhbār al-ṭiwāl, p. 309.
  54. Yaʿqūbī, Tārikh al-Yaʿqūbī, vol. 2, p. 264.


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