Zuhayr b. al-Qayn

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Zuhayr b. al-Qayn
Full NameZuhayr b. al-Qayn al-Bajali
Companion ofImam al-Husayn (a)
LineageAl-Bajila tribe
Place(s) of ResidenceKufa
Cause of
Martyred in the Event of 'Ashura
Burial PlaceKarbala

Zuhayr b. al-Qayn al-Bajalī (Arabic: زهير بن القين البجلي) was a senior member of the al-Bajila tribe based in Kufa. He was known in Kufa and his tribe as a noble and brave man. He was highly respected in virtue of his attendance in many battles and conquests. In some sources, al-Qayn—Zuhayr's father—is mentioned as one of the companions of the Prophet (s). Zuhayr was a companion of Imam al-Husayn (a) and a high-ranking member of his army who was martyred in the Event of Ashura in Karbala.

Joining the Imam Husayn's (a) army

Zuhayr was an advocate of Uthman. In 60/680, Zuhayr and his wife were returning from hajj pilgrimage to Kufa together with their relatives and fellows, met Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions in a resting area on the way, called Zarud. Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions were also on their way to Kufa. According to al-Dinawari, the meeting occurred in Zarud resting area.[1]

Imam al-Husayn (a) sent someone to Zuhayr and asked him to set up a meeting. Zuhayr was first reluctant to meet the Imam (a), but when his wife, Daylam or Dalham, the daughter of Amr,[2] encouraged him to do so, he went to Imam al-Husayn (a). The meeting changed the course of his life. After the meeting, he happily went back to his family and friends, and had his camp and stuff moved near Imam al-Husayn's (a) camp.[3]

Zuhayr said goodbye to his wife, and, on one account, divorced her, and told her: "I am going to be martyred beside Imam al-Husayn (a). You go back to your family together with your brother because I do not want you to see anything harmful from me".[4]

After saying goodbye to his wife, Zuhayr asked his companions to accompany him if they love to be martyred; otherwise, this would be their last visit. According to some sources, Salman b. Mudarib—Zuhayr's cousin—accompanied him and joined Imam al-Husayn's (a) army.[5]

Speech in Dhu Husam

When Imam al-Husayn (a) encountered al-Hurr b. Yazid's army, he delivered a speech in Dhu Husam area, talking about changes happened to the world, corruptions dominant in the society, and the insignificance of this-worldly life.[6] When the Imam's (a) speech was over, Zuhayr was the first one who declared his obedience of Imam al-Husayn (a). The Imam (a) prayed for him and appreciated him.[7]

Suggestion of a Battle with al-Hurr

When Imam al-Husayn's (a) caravan arrived in Ninawa on Thursday, Muharram 2, 61/October 2, 680, a messenger from Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad delivered a letter for al-Hurr b. Yazid al-Riyahi. Ibn Ziyad wrote to al-Hurr to be strict on al-Husayn (a) and force him to dwell in a desert with no water. Al-Hurr informed the Imam (a) of the letter. Imam al-Husayn (a) asked al-Hurr to let him dwell in Nineveh, Ghadiriyya or Shufayh. But al-Hurr replied that this was not possible since Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad had spies there.

Zuhayr suggested to Imam al-Husayn (a) that they fight with this group since it is easier to fight with them than with the group that was about to arrive. But Imam al-Husayn (a) replied that "I will not start the war".

Zuhayr suggested that they dwell in a land near the Euphrates called al-'Aqar, since it had natural ramparts, and if the army of al-Hurr would prevent them from going there they would fight the army of al-Hurr since fighting them is easier than the army that will come after. Imam al-Husayn (a) said: "I refuge to God from al-'Aqar!"[8]

On the Day of Tasu'a

On the day of Tasu'a in the afternoon, when Umar b. Sa'd's army attacked Imam al-Husayn's (a) camps in order to start the battle, the Imam (a) asked his brother, al-'Abbas b. 'Ali (a) to go to them to see what they had in mind. 'Abbas and twenty of Imam al-Husayn's (a) companions, including Zuhayr b. al-Qayn and Habib b. Muzahir, went to the enemy's army and asked them what they wanted and what they had in mind.

They said: "we are ordered to fight you if you do not abide with Ibn Ziyad's orders". Al-'Abbas (a) told them to wait until he gives the message to Imam al-Husayn (a). They agreed and waited for the reply. In the meanwhile, Habib b. Muzahir and Zuhayr b. al-Qayn seized the opportunity to preach Umar b. Sa'd's army.

Uzra b. Qays (from Umar b. Sa'd's army) said: "O' Zuhayr! You were not a Shiite (follower) of this household and were an advocate of Uthman!" Zuhayr replied:

Does not my being here mean that I am with them now? I swear to God that I never wrote a letter to al-Husayn b. Ali (a) and never sent a messenger to him and never promised to help him, but our paths met and when I met him and remembered the Prophet (s) and al-Husayn's (a) place for him and learned that he was going to his enemy and your party, then I decided to help him and be in his group and sacrifice my life for the right of God and the Prophet (s) that ignored by you.

The Night Before Ashura

The night before Ashura, when Imam al-Husayn (a) withdrew the allegiance of his companions and household and gave them the permission to run away and save their lives, every one of his companions declared their allegiance and faithfulness to him. After members of Imam al-Husayn's (a) household expressed their allegiances, Muslim b. Awsaja al-Asadi declared his faithfulness. Then Zuhayr b. al-Qayn stood up and said:

"I swear to God that I want to be killed, then be alive again, and then be killed again for a thousand times so that God protects you and your household from being killed".[9]

Commandership of the Right Front of the Army

In the morning of Ashura after the morning prayer, Imam al-Husayn (a) organized his companions and the army. He appointed Zuhayr b. al-Qayn as the commander of the right front of his army, and Habib b. Muzahir as the commander of its left front. He gave the flag to his brother, al-Abbas (a).[10]

Preaching the Army of Umar b. Sa'd

On the day of Ashura when the two armies met before the war began, Imam al-Husayn (a) preached the enemy's army. After the Imam's speech, Zuhayr b. al-Qayn asked the Imam to let him give a speech. He addressed the people of Kufa and warned them about fighting with Imam al-Husayn (a). But the army of Umar b. Sa'd responded by cursing Zuhayr and praising Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, and insisted on the war. Finally, Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan threw an arrow at him.

Someone from Imam al-Husayn's (a) army called Zuhayr and told him that:

Imam al-Husayn (a) told you to come back. As the believer from the Pharaoh's household preached his tribe but to no avail, you too have preached them enough.[11]

Zuhayr's Fame Among People of Kufa

Zuhayr was known by people of Kufa as a brave, distinguished and famous figure. Thus he was challenged to individual battles by Salim and Yasar—servants of Ziyad b. Abih and Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad—who were chanting paeans. When 'Abd Allah b. Umayr al-Kalbi went to fight with them, they told him: "we do not know you. Let Zuhayr b. al-Qayn or Habib b. Muzahir come and fight with us".[12] Zuhayr raised to smash them, but Imam al-Husayn (a) did not let him go, and sent 'Abd Allah b. 'Umayr to fight them.

Preventing the Attack on Imam's Camps

When the war began, Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan and a number of his soldiers approached Imam al-Husayn's (a) camps from the back. Shimr hit the Imam's camp with a spear and cried: "bring a fire so that I burn the place with its residents". Imam al-Husayn (a) replied: "O' the son of Dhi l-Jawshan! You need fire to burn the camp and my household? May God burn you with fire!" At this time, Zuhayr and ten people from his companions attacked Shimr and his soldiers and forced them out of the location. Zuhayr killed Abu Izza al-Dababi—a friend and a relative of Shimr.[13]

Joint Battle

When Habib b. Muzahir was martyred before the noon on Ashura, Zuhayr and al-Hurr b. Yazid al-Riyahi went to the battlefield. They supported one another; whenever one was surrounded by the enemies, the other helped him out. They fought until al-Hurr was martyred and Zuhayr went back to the camp.[14]

Protection of Worshipers at the Noon of Ashura

When Imam al-Husayn (a) and some of his companions were saying noon prayers on the day of Ashura, Zuhayr b. al-Qayn and Sa'id b. 'Abd Allah al-Hanafi stood in front of the Imam and the rest of his companions to protect them against the attacks of the enemy. They shielded themselves against the arrows until the prayer was finished.[15]


Zuhayr asked for Imam's permission to go to the battlefield. It is said that he killed about 120 people from the enemy's army, and was eventually martyred by Kathir b. 'Abd Allah al-Sha'bi and Muhajir b. Aws al-Tamimi.[16]

Imam al-Husayn's (a) Pray for Zuhayr

When Zuhayr was martyred, Imam al-Husayn (a) prayed for him thus: "O, Zuhayr! May God bless you with His mercy and curse your killers with an eternal curse, like that of Israelites who were transshaped by God."[17]

Zuhayr's Name in Ziyara al-Shuhada'

Zuhayr b. al-Qayn is mentioned in Ziyara al-Shuhada' as follows:

"Peace be upon Zuhayr the son of al-Qayn al-Bajali; when the son of the Prophet (s) gave him the permission to leave, he replied: 'I swear to God that I will never abandon the son of the Prophet (s)—may peace be upon him and his progeny. Do I leave the son of the Prophet (s) while he is surrounded by the enemies and save my life? May such a day never come!'"[18]


  1. Dīnawarī, al-Akhbār al-ṭiwāl, p. 246.
  2. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 3, p. 167; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 4, p. 298.
  3. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 3, p. 167; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 4, p. 298.
  4. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 4, p. 396.
  5. Dīnawarī, al-Akhbār al-ṭiwāl, p. 246-247.
  6. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 4, p. 396.
  7. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 3, p. 171; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 4, p. 305.
  8. Dīnawarī, al-Akhbār al-ṭiwāl, p. 251-252; Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 3, p. 167; Ibn al-Athīr, al-Kāmil fī l-tārīkh, vol. 4, p. 51-52.
  9. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 4, p. 318; Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 92.
  10. Dīnawarī, al-Akhbār al-ṭiwāl, p. 256; Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 3, p. 187; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 4, p. 320.
  11. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 4, p. 323-324; Ibn al-Athīr, al-Kāmil fī l-tārīkh, vol. 4, p. 63-64
  12. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 4, p. 327; Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 101.
  13. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 4, p. 334; Ibn al-Athīr, al-Kāmil fī l-tārīkh, vol. 4, p. 69-70.
  14. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 4, p. 336; Ibn al-Athīr, al-Kāmil fī l-tārīkh, vol. 4, p. 71.
  15. Khwārizmī, Maqtal al-Ḥusayn, vol. 2, p. 20.
  16. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 3, p. 196; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 4, p. 336.
  17. Khwārizmī, Maqtal al-Ḥusayn, vol. 2, p. 20.
  18. Ibn Ṭāwūs, Iqbāl al-aʿmāl, vol. 3, p. 77-78.


  • Balādhurī, Aḥmad b. Yaḥyā al-. Ansāb al-ashrāf. Beirut: Dār al-Taʿāruf, 1977.
  • Ibn al-Athīr, ʿAlī b. Muḥammad. Al-Kāmil fī l-tārīkh. Beirut: Dār al-Ṣādir, 1965.
  • Ibn Ṭāwūs, ʿAlī b. Mūsā. Iqbāl al-aʿmāl. Edited by Jawād Qayyūmī. Qom: Daftar-i Tablīghāt-i Islāmī, 1376 Sh.
  • Khwārizmī, Muḥammad b. Aḥmad. Maqtal al-Ḥusayn. Edited by Muḥammad al-Samāwī. Qom: Maktabat al-Mufīd, [n.d].
  • Mufīd, Muḥammad b. Muḥammad al-. Al-Irshād. Qom: Kungira-yi Shaykh al-Mufīd, 1413 AH.
  • Ṭabarī, Muḥammad b. Jarīr al-. Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk. Second edition. Beirut: Dār al-Turāth, 1967.