Qatada ibn Idris

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Qatada ibn Idris al-Hasani al-Alawi (Arabic: قتادة بن إدريس العلوي الحسني‎‎, 1130–1220) was the Sharif of Mecca, reigning from 1201 to 1220. He also founded the Banu Qatada dynasty and established a tradition of sharifs descended from him to rule Mecca which lasted until the office was abolished in 1925.[1]

Early life[edit]

Qatada was born in the seaport city of Yanbu, where his family—who descended from Hasan ibn Ali—held a considerable estate since the Umayyad era. Without seeking permission from the Ayyubids who controlled the area, Qatada went on and subdued most of the Hejaz. He maintained a garrisoned fortress in Yanbu which made it possible to exact a good share of the profits of the Red Sea trade as it stopped at this port before proceeding to Egypt.[1] Qatada may have taken part in the defense of Medina against the expeditionary Crusader force launched by Raynald of Châtillon.[2]

Sharif of Mecca[edit]

Between the Ayyubid takeover of Mecca in 1175 and 1200, Iraqi princes, Medina-based sharifs, and the Ayyubids under Emir Tughtakin ibn Ayyub (Saladin's brother) fought for control of the city which was governed by Emir Mikhtar. In 1200-01, the dignitaries of Mecca chose Qatada, one of their own, to rule in Mikhtar's place. Qatada was recognized by the Ayyubid sultan of Egypt, al-Kamil, as the emir (prince) of Mecca. After gaining control over the Emirate of Mecca, Qatada extended his influence to Medina and Ta'if, and parts of Najd and Yemen. Dutch historian Snouck Hurgronje referred to him as a "political genius".[3]

In 1205, Qatada and the Sharif of Medina, Salim ibn Qasim al-Husayni, entered into conflict. Each gathered a large army and battled at the outskirts of Medina. After visiting and praying at the Islamic prophet Muhammad's chamber in the Masjid an-Nabawi, Qatada proceeded to confront Salim. The latter drove him back and pursued Qatada to Mecca. Salim besieged him there, but Qatada sent letters to Salim's commanders requesting that they defect. Salim's commanders consequently became inclined to support Qatada. After realizing this, Salim withdrew to Medina, and Qatada's position in the region was strengthened.[4]

Qatada's growing autonomy and actions troubled the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad, the Ayyubid sultan in Cairo, and the Ayyubid emir in Yemen. Challenges from those authorities coincided with the annual Hajj pilgrim caravan to Mecca. Accordingly, caravans from Cairo, Baghdad, and Damascus were accompanied by whatever number of troops the caliph or sultan deemed necessary to deliver a message to Qatada. In 1212, an assassination attempt on Qatada occurred during the Hajj. Qatada suspected the Abbasids were responsible and ordered his Nubian slave troops to attack the Baghdadi caravan, although they had already fled to join the Damascene caravan where they gained protection from Saladin's mother. Qatada demanded a compensation of 100,000 dinars for calling off the attack on the caravan, but when Saladin's mother could only raise 30,000 dinars, Qatada desisted nonetheless. However, he also promised to kill any pilgrim coming from Baghdad during the following year.[3]


In 1220, Qatada was smothered to death in his bedclothes by his son Hasan at the age of 90. According to the medieval Muslim historian, Ibn al-Athir, Qatada, who had been feeling ill, assembled an army led by his brother and Hasan to march towards Medina. When they camped near the city, Hasan heard his uncle inform the troops that Qatada was near death and made them swear their loyalty to him shall Qatada die. Hasan came to his uncle's presence and had his mamluks (slave soldiers) kill him. The news outraged Qatada who vowed to have his son killed.[5]

One of Qatada's men informed Hasan of the situation, and the latter subsequently rode back to Mecca to confront his father. After ordering the large gathering outside of Qatada's residence to disperse, Hasan met his father, who reprimanded him. Hasan turned on Qatada and throttled him. Hasan then left the residence to inform the townspeople that his father was very ill and then recalled the local leaders of Mecca to tell them that Qatada was dead. According to this account, he brought out a coffin and buried it to give onlookers the impression that Qatada died of natural causes, but Hasan had his father secretly buried beforehand.[5] The power accumulated by Qatada remained in the hands of his descendants until the abdication of Ali ibn Hussein in 1925.[3]


  1. ^ a b Salibi, 1998, p.55.
  2. ^ Peters, 1994, p.145.
  3. ^ a b c Peters, 1994, p.146.
  4. ^ Ibn al-Athir (translated by D.S. Richards), 2008, p.86.
  5. ^ a b Ibn al-Athīr (translated by D.S. Richards), 2008, pp.233-234.


  • Ibn al-Athir, Izz al-Din; Richards, D.S. (2008), The chronicle of Ibn al-Athīr for the Crusading Period from al-Kāmil fi'l-taroikh: The years 589-629/1193-1231: the Ayyūbids after Saladin and the Mongol Menace, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., ISBN 978-0-7546-4079-0 
  • Peters, Francis E. (1994), Mecca: a Literary History of the Muslim Holy Land, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-03267-2 
  • Salibi, Kamal S. (1998), The Modern History of Jordan, I.B.Tauris, ISBN 978-1-86064-331-6