World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf


Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf

Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf
Seal of al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf
Born Kulayb ibn Yusuf
Early June AD 661 / AH 40
Ta'if, the Hejaz (modern-day Saudi Arabia)
Died 714 (aged 53)
Ethnicity Arab
Occupation Minister of defence, Politician, Administrator and Teacher
Known for Governor of Iraq
Home town Kufa Iraq
Religion Islam

Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf (Arabic: الحجاج بن يوسف‎ / ALA: al-Ḥajjāj bin Yūsuf (or otherwise transliterated), also known more fully as al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf al-Kulayb or al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf al-Thaqafi[1]) (born early June AD 661 / AH 40 – AD 714 / AH 95) was a controversial[1] Arab administrator, politician and minister of defence of the Umayyad Caliphate.

He has also been described as draconian, although modern apologists and revisionists have sought to suggest that he has been negatively under the influence of later Abbasid historians and biographers who were opposed to the fiercely pro-Umayyad al-Hajjaj.[1] Al-Hajjaj bin Yousef played a crucial role in the selection of military commanders. He instilled fear in the mercenary soldiers under his command and led to the successful expansion of the Islamic empire gaining much bounty and loot from the conquered lands. He ensured all important records were translated into Arabic, and for the first time he convinced caliph Abd Al-Malik to adopt a special currency for the Muslim world. This led to war with the Byzantine Empire under Justinian II. The Byzantines were led by Leontios at the Battle of Sebastopolis in 692 and were decisively defeated.

During his reign of terror, he was responsible for the killing of notable Sahabi, companions of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, including Jabir ibn Abdullah and Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Soldier 2.1
    • Governor of Iraq 2.2
    • Asia 2.3
  • Reign as recounted in the Chach Nama 3
    • Palestine 3.1
  • Points of criticism 4
  • Cultural influence 5
    • Linguistic reform 5.1
    • Coinage 5.2
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7

Early life

Al-Hajjaj was born (661 AD) in the city of Ta'if in the Hijaz, in modern-day Saudi Arabia. His name at birth was Kulayb, but later he changed it to al-Hajjaj. He was a teacher of Quran to young students in Al-Taif. He migrated away from his city towards Damascus later on during his early life.



Al-Ḥajjāj first came to notice in the early years of the reign of Abd al-Malik when he set out from aṭ-Ṭā’if to Damascus to serve in the shurta "police force" under Rawh ibn Zinba' al-Judhami, vizier of the Caliph. He attracted the attention of ‘Abd al-Malik because he rapidly restored discipline among the mutinous troops with whom the Caliph was about to set out for Iraq against Mus’ab ibn al-Zubayr.

During the campaign against Mus'ab, al-Ḥajjāj seems to have led the rearguard and to have distinguished himself by some feats of valour. After the victory over Mus’ab at Maskin on the Dujayl (Little Tigris River) in 72 AH/691, on the Caliph's orders he set out from Kufa in the same month at the head of about 2000 Syrians against Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr. He advanced unopposed as far as his native aṭ-Ṭā’if, which he took without any fighting and used as a base.

The Caliph had charged al-Ḥajjāj first to negotiate with ibn al-Zubayr and to assure him of freedom from punishment if he capitulated but, if the opposition continued, to starve him out by siege, but on no account to let the affair result in bloodshed in Mecca. Since the negotiations failed and al-Ḥajjāj lost patience, he sent a courier to ask ‘Abdu l-Malik for reinforcements and also for permission to take the city by force.

Al-Ḥajjāj received both. Angered at being prevented by Ibn al-Zubayr from performing Hajj, al-Ḥajjāj bombarded Mecca, going so far as to target the Ka’bah and its pilgrims during the Hajj.

After the siege had lasted seven months and 10,000 men (among them two of ibn az-Zubayr's sons) had gone over to al-Ḥajjāj, Ibn al-Zubayr and loyal followers, including his youngest son, were killed in the fighting around the Ka’bah on Jumadah I 73 AH/October 692 AD.[2] Al-Ḥajjāj's siege of the Hijaz resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent inhabitants. While subsequently governing the Hijaz, al-Ḥajjāj was known for his severe rule.

Governor of Iraq

In AH 75/AD 694, Caliph Abd al-Malik sent al-Ḥajjāj to govern Iraq.[3] Al-Ḥajjāj continued to be viewed as cruel and his reputation was not helped when he fought and eventually crushed an Iraqi rebellion under Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn al-Ash'ath in 700–702 CE.

For his considerable successes, al-Ḥajjāj was also made governor of some provinces in Persia, where he was again tasked with putting down rebellions. However, his severe tactics led him to make many enemies, who would come to power after his death.

With the ascent of Al-Walid I, Ḥajjāj's reputation grew due to the selection and deployment of numerous successful generals who expanded the empire. He was given these powers due to his high status in the Umayyad government and he exhibited a lot of control over the provinces that he governed.

Among these generals was the teenaged Muhammad ibn-Qasīm, who in 712 was sent to Sindh in India, now part of modern Pakistan, and Qutayba ibn Muslim who was sent to conquer Turkestan, which he did.

Al-Ḥajjāj's most successful general was Mūsā ibn Nusayr, who consolidated control over North Africa and sent Tariq ibn Ziyād to conquer Spain.

Al-Ḥajjāj died at Wasit, in Iraq, in 714. The year after, al-Walid died as well, and his brother Sulayman ibn ‘Abdi l-Malik came to power. Sulayman was indebted to many opponents of al-Ḥajjāj for their political support in getting him elected Caliph, so he recalled all of al-Ḥajjāj's generals and had them tortured to death in prison.

The relationship between al-Hajjāj ibn Yūsuf and Muhammad ibn Qasīm has always been one of great debate. Many accounts list al-Hajjāj as being his uncle or father-in-law.


Reign as recounted in the Chach Nama

The Chach Nama is the oldest chronicle of the Arab conquest of Sindh.

The primary reason noted in the Chach Nama for the expedition by al-Hajjaj against Raja Dahir, was the raid by pirates off the coast of Debal, resulting in the capturing both gifts to the caliph from the King of Serendib (modern Sri Lanka) as well as the female pilgrims on board who were captured.[4]

The Chach Nama reports that upon hearing of the matter, al-Hajjaj wrote a letter to the Raja, and upon unsuccessful resolution being reached, launched a military attack. Other reasons attributed to al-Hajjaj's interest was in (1) gaining a foothold in the Makran, Balochistan and Sindh regions, (2) protecting the maritime interests, and (3) to teach the armies from Sindh a lesson, for participating alongside Persians in various battles such as those at Nahawand, Salasal and Qādisiyyah and the granting of refuge to fleeing rebel chieftains.


The two sons of al-Muhallab, an Azdi former governor of Khorasan and a military commander under al-Hajjaj, took refuge in Palestine with two Azdi retainers of the governor there, finding themselves now hounded angrily[5] by al-Hajjaj against a background of inter-tribal rivalry and accused by him of embezzlement.[5] The caliph, al-Walid I, issued an order to his brother, Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik, the pro-Azdi governor of Palestine, to send the sons of al-Muhallab to Damascus. Sulayman sent the elder brother, Yazid,[6] and his own son in chains to the caliph, who, however, showed them mercy.[5]

Points of criticism

Al-Hajjaj killed the last companion of Muhammad, Jabir ibn Abd-Allah. While besieging the city of Mecca, Al-Hajjaj crucified Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr and said," No one can take down his body except Asma (daughter of Abu Bakr); she must come to me and ask permission of me, and only then will his body be taken down".

He is recorded by Tha'ālibī (Laţ'āif, 142) as one of the four men to have killed more than 100,000 men (the others being Abu Harb, Abu Muslim and Babak).[7] This is mostly due to his numerous campaigns and also the many uprisings and revolts against the empire during his reign.

Cultural influence

Linguistic reform

Al-Ḥajjāj bin Yūsuf's period saw the Arabs on their zenith and he played an essential part in it. He is also credited for introducing the diacritic points to the Arabic script and for the first time Al-Ḥajjāj convinced the caliph to adopt a special currency for the Muslim world. This led to war with the Byzantine Empire under Justinian II. The Byzantines were led by Leontios at the Battle of Sebastopolis in 692 in Asia Minor and were decisively defeated by the Caliph after the defection of a large contingent of Slavs. The Islamic currency was then made the only currency exchange in the Muslim world. Also, many reforms happened in his time as regards agriculture and commerce.

The administrative language of Iraq officially changed from Middle Persian (Pahlavi) to Arabic during his governorship. The records of administrative documents (diwans) of Iraq transferred from Pahlavi to Arabic.


Silver dirham following Sassanid motives, struck in the name of al-Hajjaj

Al-Hajjaj was instrumental to the development of coinage in the Islamic world, entrusting the first Islamic mint, at Wasit in Iraq.[8]


  1. ^ a b c Taher 1998: 130
  2. ^ Dietrich, A., Encyclopaedia of Islam, CD-ROM edition, version 1.0
  3. ^ Ibn al-Athir, Kamal (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiya, 1987), v. 4, 138
  4. ^ Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbeg: The Chachnamah, An Ancient History of Sind, Giving the Hindu period down to the Arab Conquest. Commissioners Press 1900, Section 18: "It is related that the king of Sarandeb* sent some curiosities and presents from the island of pearls, in a small fleet of boats by sea, for Hajjáj. He also sent some beautiful pearls and valuable jewels, as well as some Abyssinian male and female slaves, some pretty presents, and unparalleled rarities to the capital of the Khalífah. A number of muslim men women also went with them, with the intention of visiting the Kaabah, and seeing the capital city of the Khalífahs. When they arrived in the province of Kázrún, the boat was overtaken by a storm, and drifting from the right way, floated to the coast of Debal. Here a band of robbers, of the tribe of Nagámrah, who were residents of Debal, seized all the eight boats, took possession of the rich silken cloths they contained, captured the men and women, and carried away all the valuable property and jewels." [2]
  5. ^ a b c Gil 1997: 82
  6. ^ It is not clear whether both the sons of al-Muhallab, or just Yazid, were sent. (Gil 1997: 82).
  7. ^ Gil 1997: 296 n. 29
  8. ^ Gil 1997: 110


  • Taher, Mohamed, ed. (1998), "Al-Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf Al-Thaqafi", Encyclopedic survey of Islamic culture, New Delhi: Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd.,  
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.