Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
ʿAbd Allāh ibn al-Zubayr
Silver dirham of Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr 690-91.jpg
Sasanian-style dirham minted in the name of ʿAbd Allāh ibn al-Zubayr in Fars in 690/91
6th Caliph[note 1]
PredecessorYazīd I
SuccessorʿAbd al-Malik
BornMay 624
DiedOctober/November 692
Full name
ʿAbd Allāh ibn al-Zubayr ibn al-ʿAwwām ibn Khuwaylid ibn Asad ibn ʿAbd al-ʿUzza
ClanBanū Asad of Quraysh
FatherAl-Zubayr ibn al-ʿAwwām
MotherAsmā' bint Abi Bakr

ʿAbd Allāh ibn al-Zubayr ibn al-ʿAwwām (May 624 — October/November 692) was an influential Muslim figure who headed a caliphate that rivaled the Umayyads between 683 until his death. He was the son of al-Zubayr ibn al-Awwam and Asma bint ibn Abi Bakr and the first child born to the Muhajirun, Islam's earliest converts. While still a child, he participated in the early Muslim conquests alongside his father in Syria and Egypt, and later played a role in the Muslim conquests of Ifriqiya and northern Iran in 647 and 650, respectively. During the First Fitna, he fought on the side of his aunt A'isha and the Banu Umayya against Caliph Ali (r. 656–661). Though little is heard of Ibn al-Zubayr during the subsequent reign of the first Umayyad caliph Mu'awiya I (r. 661–680), it was known that he opposed Mu'awiya's designation of his son Yazid I as his chosen successor. Ibn al-Zubayr, along with much of the Quraysh and Ansar of the Hejaz, opposed the caliphate being an inheritable institution of the Banu Umayya.

Ibn al-Zubayr established himself in Mecca where he rallied opposition to Yazid's reign (680–683), before declaring himself caliph in the wake of Yazid's death in 683. Meanwhile, Yazid's son and successor died weeks into his reign, precipitating the collapse of Umayyad authority throughout the caliphate, most of whose provinces subsequently accepted the suzerainty of Ibn al-Zubayr. Though widely recognized as caliph, Ibn al-Zubayr's authority was largely nominal outside of the Hejaz. By 685, the Umayyad Caliphate was reconstituted under Marwan I in Syria and Egypt, while Zubayrid authority was being challenged in Iraq and Arabia by pro-Alid and Kharijite forces, respectively. Ibn al-Zubayr's brother Mus'ab was able to reassert Ibn al-Zubayr's suzerainty in Iraq by 686, but was defeated and killed by Marwan's successor Abd al-Malik in 691. The Umayyads under the general al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf proceeded to besiege Ibn al-Zubayr in his Meccan stronghold, where he was ultimately slain in 692.

Through the prestige of his family ties and social links with the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his strong association with the holy city of Mecca, Ibn al-Zubayr was able to lead the influential, disaffected Muslim factions opposed to Umayyad rule. He sought to reestablish the Hejaz as the political center of the caliphate. However, his refusal to leave Mecca precluded him from exercising power in the more populous provinces where he depended on his brother Mus'ab and other loyalists, who ruled with virtual independence. He thus played a minor role in the struggle carried out in his name.

Early life and career[edit]

Family and childhood[edit]

Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr was born in Medina in May 624.[1] His father, al-Zubayr ibn al-Awwam, was a sahaba (companion) of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and belonged to the Abd al-Uzza clan of the Quraysh tribe.[1] His mother was Asma, a daughter of the first caliph, Abu Bakr, and sister of Aisha, a wife of Muhammad.[1] According to the 9th-century historians Ibn Habib and Ibn Qutayba, Ibn al-Zubayr was the first child born to the Muhajirun, the earliest converts to Islam who lived in exile in Medina.[1] These early social, kinship and religious links to Muhammad, his family and the first Muslims all boosted Ibn al-Zubayr's reputation in adulthood.[1]

He was born of mutah.[2][3][4] According to leading scholars such as al-Raghib al-Isphahani,[3] Abu Dawood al-Tayalisi,[who?] and Qadhi Sanaullah Panipati,[who?] he is perhaps the most important and famous personality born to a temporary marriage (Nikah mut'ah) between Zubayr al-Awaam and Asma bint Abi Bakr.

During his childhood, in 636, Ibn al-Zubayr may have been present with his father at the Battle of Yarmouk against the Byzantines in Syria.[1] He was also present with his father when the latter joined Amr ibn al-As's campaign against Byzantine Egypt in 640.[1]

Career under Uthman[edit]

In 647, Ibn al-Zubayr actively took part in the Muslim conquest of Ifriqiya under the commander Abd Allah ibn Sa'd.[1] During that campaign, Ibn al-Zubayr slew the province's Byzantine governor, Gregory.[1] He issued a victory speech, well known for its eloquence, on his return to Medina.[5] Later, he joined Sa'id ibn al-As in the latter's offensive in northern Iran in 650.[5] Caliph Uthman (r. 644–656) appointed Ibn al-Zubayr to the commission charged with the recension of the Quran.[5]

Role in the First Fitna[edit]

In the aftermath of Uthman's assassination in June 656, he fought alongside his father, his aunt A'isha and the Banu Umayya against the partisans of Uthman's successor, Caliph Ali (r. 656–661), at the Battle of the Camel in Basra in December.[5] Ibn al-Zubayr's father was killed and Ali was victorious.[5] Ibn al-Zubayr returned to Medina with A'isha and took part in the arbitration to end the First Fitna (Muslim civil war) in Adhruh or Dumat al-Jandal.[5] During the talks, he counseled Abd Allah ibn Umar to pay for the support of Amr ibn al-As.[5]


Opposition to the Umayyads[edit]

The Kaaba in 1882. Throughout his revolt, Ibn al-Zubayr was based in the sanctuary, which was twice besieged in 683 and 692. He rebuilt it following severe damage during the first siege, but his changes were later reversed.

Ibn al-Zubayr did not oppose Mu'awiya I's accession to the caliphate in 661, but refused to recognize Mu'awiya's designation of his son Yazid I as his successor.[5] When Yazid acceded following his father's death in 680, Ibn al-Zubayr again rejected his legitimacy, despite Yazid having the backing of the Arab tribesmen of Syria who formed the core of the military.[6] Yazid charged Marwan ibn al-Hakam, the senior member of the Banu Umayya in Medina, where Ibn al-Zubayr was based, with gaining the latter's submission.[5] However, Ibn al-Zubayr evaded the Umayyad authorities by escaping to Mecca.[5] He was joined there by al-Husayn ibn Ali, who claimed the caliphate himself as per the treaty agreed by his brother Hasan and Mu'awiya in 661. It stipulated that al-Husayn would become caliph after Mu'awiya's death if Hasan had already died. Al-Husayn and his supporters made a stand against the Umayyads in Karbala in 680, but were defeated and al-Husayn was slain.[5]

Following al-Husayn's death, Ibn al-Zubayr began clandestinely recruiting supporters.[5] He referred to himself as al-ʿaʾidh biʾl bayt (the fugitive at the sanctuary, i.e. the Ka'aba in Mecca), but made no claim to the caliphate.[7] Yazid sent a small force of loyalist troops from Medina led by Ibn al-Zubayr's brother 'Amr to arrest Ibn al-Zubayr in 681.[5] However, this force was defeated and 'Amr himself was captured and died in captivity.[5] Ibn al-Zubayr subsequently proclaimed the illegitimacy of Yazid's caliphate and established contact with the Ansar of Medina.[5] The latter, under the leadership of Abd Allah ibn Hanzala, withdrew their support for Yazid due to alleged improprieties.[5] Ibn al-Zubayr also gained the support the Kharijite movement active in Basra and eastern Arabia.[7]

In response to the wellspring of opposition forming throughout Arabia, Yazid dispatched a Syrian Arab expeditionary force led by Muslim ibn Uqba to suppress Ibn al-Zubayr and the Ansar.[7] The Umayyad force defeated the latter at the Battle of al-Harrah in the summer of 683.[8] The army continued toward Mecca, but Muslim died en route and command passed to his deputy Husayn ibn Numayr al-Sakuni.[8] The latter besieged the city on 24 September after Ibn al-Zubayr's refusal to surrender.[8][5] The Ka'aba was severely damaged during Husayn's bombardment.[5][8] News of Yazid's death in November prompted Husayn to negotiate with Ibn al-Zubayr.[8] The former proposed to recognize him as caliph on the condition that he would rule from Syria, the center of the Umayyad military and administration.[5][8] Ibn al-Zubayr rejected this and the army returned to Syria, leaving Ibn al-Zubayr in control of Mecca.[5]

Claim to the caliphate[edit]

Map of the Middle East under the caliphate ca. 8th century. Ibn al-Zubayr's sovereignty as caliph was recognized in the Hejaz, Yemen, Egypt, Iraq and districts of Fars and Kerman.

Yazid's death and the subsequent withdrawal of the Umayyad army from the Hejaz afforded Ibn al-Zubayr the opportunity to realize his aspirations for the caliphate.[5][7] He declared himself amīr al-muʾminīn (commander of the faithful), a title traditionally reserved for the caliph.[5] Meanwhile, Yazid was succeeded by his young son Mu'awiya II, who wielded virtually no authority and died from illness months after his accession.[7] This left a leadership void in Syria as there were no suitable successors among Muawiya I's Sufyanid house.[7] In the chaos that followed Mu'awiya II's death, Umayyad authority collapsed across the caliphate and Ibn al-Zubayr gained wide recognition as caliph.[8] Most of the Islamic provinces offered their allegiance, including Egypt, Kufa, Yemen and the Qaysi tribes of northern Syria.[5][8] Ibn al-Zubayr subsequently appointed his brother Mus'ab as governor of Iraq (Basra and its dependencies in Khurasan).[8] In a testament to the extent of Ibn al-Zubayr's sovereignty, coins were minted in his name as far as the Khurasani districts of Kerman and Fars.[8] However, his authority outside the Hejaz was largely nominal.[5]

Most of the Arab tribes in central and southern Syria remained loyal to the Umayyads and selected the non-Sufyanid Marwan ibn al-Hakam from Medina to succeed Mu'awiya II.[8] The proclamation of Marwan as caliph in Damascus marked a turning point against Ibn al-Zubayr.[8] Marwan's partisans, led by Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad, decisively defeated the pro-Zubayrid Qaysi tribes, led by al-Dahhak ibn Qays al-Fihri, at the Battle of Marj Rahit in July 684.[5] The surviving Qaysi tribesmen fled to the Jazira (Upper Mesopotamia) under the leadership of Zufar ibn al-Harith al-Kilabi, who maintained his recognition of Ibn al-Zubayr's caliphate.[9] However, Ibn al-Zubayr lost the economically important province of Egypt to Marwan in March 685.[10]

Meanwhile, negotiations collapsed between Ibn al-Zubayr and the Kufan nobleman al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi, who afterward took up the cause of the Alid family.[11] He declared Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya, the half-brother of Husayn ibn Ali, as both caliph and, unprecedentedly in Islamic history, the mahdi (messiah).[11] Al-Mukhtar's partisans drove out the Zubayrid authorities from Kufa in October 685.[5][11] Mus'ab's authority in Basra and Khurasan was also beginning to waver, but was ultimately secured after he gained the backing of the powerful Azdi leader al-Muhallab ibn Abi Sufra.[5] Mus'ab also gained the defections of thousands of Kufan tribesmen and together they defeated and killed al-Mukhtar.[12]

Suppression and death[edit]

Meanwhile, Ibn al-Zubayr's erstwhile supporters, the Kharijites of Najda, had split from him following the death of Yazid.[5] The split developed when Ibn al-Zubayr refused to accept the Kharijite doctrine.[13] They established themselves in al-Yamama and from there took over Bahrayn.[5] By 687/88, they had also conquered Yemen and Hadhramawt, while in the following year they occupied Ta'if, Mecca's southern neighbor.[5] The defeat of al-Mukhtar, who had opposed the Zubayrids and the Umayyads, left Ibn al-Zubayr and Marwan's son and successor Abd al-Malik (r. 685–705) as the two main contenders for the caliphate.[12] However, Kharijite gains in Arabia had isolated Ibn al-Zubayr in the Hejaz, cutting him off from loyalists in other parts of the caliphate.[5] In 691, Abd al-Malik secured the support of Zufar and the Qays of Jazira, removing the principal obstacle betweeen his Syrian army and Zubayrid Iraq.[14] Later that year, his forces conquered Iraq and killed Mus'ab in the Battle of Maskin.[5][14] Al-Muhallab, who controlled Khurasan, subsequently switched his allegiance to Abd al-Malik.[14]

After asserting Umayyad authority in Iraq, Abd al-Malik dispatched al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf to subdue Ibn al-Zubayr.[5] Al-Hajjaj besieged and bombarded Mecca for six months, by which point, most of Ibn al-Zubayr's partisans and sons surrendered.[5] Nonetheless, Ibn al-Zubayr refused to surrender and acting on his mother's counsel, entered the battlefield where he was ultimately slain on 3 October or 4 November 692.[1][5] His body was posted on a gibbet where it remained until Abd al-Malik allowed Ibn al-Zubayr's mother to retrieve it.[5] His body was subsequently buried in the house of Safiyya in Medina.[5] The Umayyad victory and Ibn al-Zubayr's death marked the end of the Second Fitna.[13]


Ibn al-Zubayr adamantly opposed the caliphate becoming an Umayyad inheritance.[15] Instead, he advocated that the caliph should be chosen by a shura from the Quraysh as a whole.[15] The Quraysh opposed the monopolization of power by the Banu Umayya and insisted power be distributed between all the Qurashi clans.[5][12] According to historian H. A. R. Gibb, Qurashi resentment towards the Banu Umayya is evident as an underlying theme in the Islamic traditions about Ibn al-Zubayr's conflict with the Umayyads.[5] However, other than this conviction, Ibn al-Zubayr did not sponsor any religious doctrine or political program, unlike the contemporary Alid and Kharijite movements.[13] By the time he made his claim to the caliphate, Ibn al-Zubayr had emerged as the leader of the disaffected Quraysh.[5]

From his base in Mecca, Islam's holiest city, and through his prestige as a first-generation Muslim with family ties to the prophet Muhammad, Ibn al-Zubayr rallied opposition to the Umayyads in the Hejaz.[13] The region had lost its position as the political center of the caliphate after the assassination of Uthman and its replacement with Kufa under Ali and then Damascus under Mu'awiya I.[16] Ibn al-Zubayr aimed to restore the Hejaz to its former political prominence.[17] He developed a strong association with Mecca and its Ka'aba,[13] which combined with his control of Islam's second holiest city Medina furthered his prestige and gave his caliphate a holy character.[14][17] Ibn al-Zubayr rejected the offer of support from the caliphate's Syria-based army because it would have obliged him to relocate to Damascus.[13] Though the cities of the caliphate were available to him, Ibn al-Zubayr opted to remain in Mecca,[17] from which he issued directives to his supporters elsewhere in the caliphate.[14] This restricted him from exercising direct influence in the larger, more populated provinces, including Iraq, where his more worldly brother ruled with virtual independence.[5][14] In the Arabian Peninsula itself, Ibn al-Zubayr's power had been largely confined to the Hejaz with the Kharijite leader Najda holding more influence in the rest of the peninsula.[17] Thus, Ibn al-Zubayr was mostly a background figure in the movement that was launched in his name; in the words of historian Julius Wellhausen, "the struggle turned round him [Ibn al-Zubayr] nominally, but he took no part in it and it was decided without him".[17]

During his rule, Ibn al-Zubayr made significant alterations to the Ka'aba's structure, claiming that the changes were in line with the authority of the prophet Muhammad.[13] He called himself the "fugitive at the sanctuary [Ka'aba]" while his Umayyad detractors referred to him as "the evil-doer at Mecca".[13]

Timeline of the two caliphates[edit]

Four Umayyad caliphs reigned during the twelve years of Ibn Al-Zubayr's caliphate between 680 and 692. The shorts terms indicated in the upper plot in light blue and yellow correspond to the tenures of Muawiya II and Marwan I, respectively. (Note that a caliph's succession does not necessarily occur on the first day of the new year.)

Abd al-Malik ibn MarwanYazid I


  1. ^ Ibn al-Zubayr’s caliphate was initially recognized in the Hejaz, Yemen, Iraq, Egypt, Khurasan, and parts of Syria. His reign coincided with that of the following rival Umayyad caliphs, in succession: Mu'awiya II, Marwan I and Abd al-Malik.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Gibb 1960, p. 54.
  2. ^ Sharh Ibn Abi al-Hadid. 4. pp. 489–490.
  3. ^ a b Al-Raghib al-Isfahani. al-Muhadhiraat. 2. p. 96.
  4. ^ al-Ghiṭā, Muḥammad al-Ḥusayn Āl Kāshif (1982). The Shia Origin and Faith. Islamic Seminary. pp. 210–211. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao Gibb 1960, p. 55.
  6. ^ Hawting 1986, p. 46.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Hawting 1986, p. 47.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Hawting 1986, p. 48.
  9. ^ Kennedy 2004, p. 81.
  10. ^ Kennedy 2004, pp. 80–81.
  11. ^ a b c Kennedy 2004, p. 82.
  12. ^ a b c Kennedy 2004, p. 83.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h Hawting 1986, p. 49.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Kennedy 2004, p. 84.
  15. ^ a b Kennedy 2004, p. 77
  16. ^ Wellhausen 1927, pp. 199–200.
  17. ^ a b c d e Wellhausen 1927, p. 200.


Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr
Born: May 624 Died: November 692
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by
Muawiyah I
683 – November 692
Succeeded by
Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan