Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad

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Silver dirham following Sassanid motives, struck in the name of Ubayd Allah

Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad (Arabic: عبيد الله بن زياد‎‎) was an Umayyad general and the governor for the Umayyad Caliphate in Kufa, in what is now Iraq during the reign of Yazid I.


He was the son of Ziyad ibn Abi Sufyan. After his father's death in 673, he became the Governor of Kufa, Iraq and Basra, Iraq and later Khorasan region. He also minted coinage, which survives to this day.


In Khorasan[edit]

In 674 he crossed the Amu Darya and defeated the forces of the ruler of Bukhara in the first known invasion of the city by Muslim Arabs.[1]

In Iraq[edit]

In 680 Yazid I ordered Ubayd Allah to keep order in Kufa as a reaction to the popularity there of Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. Ubayd Allah appointed Amar as deputy and marched to Kufa. He executed Hussein’s cousin Muslim ibn Aqeel, and later killed Hussein in the Battle of Karbala.

Yazid I left a vacuum in the region upon his death in 683. Ubayd Allah abdicated the governor's mansion in Basra and took up shelter with Mas'ud ibn Amr al-Azdi of the Yemeni tribe of Azd - who then supported the Umayyads against the rebellion of Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr. But Basra's new governor Abd Allah ibn al-Harith sided with Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, and had Mas'ud killed the following spring; some traditions add that Ubayd Allah and Mas'ud had complained about Ibn al-Harith's corruption with a view to regaining for Ubayd Allah his command. Ubayd Allah fled the city for Syria, leaving his wife and family behind. (Madelung pp. 301–303)

In Syria[edit]

While Ubayd Allah was in Syria, he persuaded Marwan ibn al-Hakam not to recognise Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr. Meanwhile, the messianic campaigner al-Mukhtar wrested Kufa from Ibn al-Zubayr in 685. Capitalizing on the situation, Ubayd Allah sent an army against al-Mukhtar. According to contemporary historian John bar Penkaye, Al-Mukhtar sent an army of 13,000 lightly armed freedmen on foot under the command of Ibrahim ibn al-Ashtar. At the river Al-Khazir, Ibrahim met with Ubayd Allah, whose army had 40,000 soldiers. In the ensuing battle, Ubayd Allah's army was annihilated, and Ubayd Allah himself with most of his lieutenants fell. (Brock pp. 65–6)

Aggression against Muhammad's family[edit]

Muslim ibn Aqeel was the first Hashimite to be killed by Ubayd Allah on the orders of Yazid I in Kufa, where he himself was the governor.

Ubayd Allah was also one of the leaders of the army of Yazid I during the Battle of Karbala. In this battle, Yazid I's forces under the command of Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad with approximately 4000 troops killed Hussein, his family and his male followers in Karbala.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Arab Conquests in Central Asia By H. A. R. Gibb Published by READ BOOKS, 2007 ISBN 1-4067-5239-8, ISBN 978-1-4067-5239-7, pp. 17–19
  2. ^ Yasir Qadhi Understanding Islam (2014-09-18), The Massacre of Karbala: A Historical Analysis - Dr. Yasir Qadhi | 10th November 2013, retrieved 2016-05-24 


External links[edit]

Preceded by
Governor of Khurasan
Succeeded by
Sa'id ibn Uthman