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Mukhtar al-Thaqafi

al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi's tomb

al-Mukhtār ibn Abī ‘Ubayd Allah al-Thaqafī (Arabic: المختار بن أبي عبيد الله الثقفي‎) (also spelled Mukhtar bin Abu Ubaid), (born c. 622, al-Ṭaʾif, Arabia [now in Saudi Arabia]—died March 687, Kūfah, Iraq), was an early Shia Islamic revolutionary based in Kufa, Iraq who led an abortive rebellion against the Umayyad Caliphs in vengeance for the death of Husayn ibn 'Ali at the Battle of Karbala [1] and the expulsion of Ibn Al-Zubayr's governor in Kufa.[2][3]


  • Early life 1
  • Under Ibn Ziyad in Kufa 2
  • In Makkah 3
  • Under Ibn Mutea in Kufa 4
  • Mukhtar announces the Revolution 5
  • The revenge 6
  • Battle of al-Khazir 7
  • Saving Madina & Alawids against Umayyad & Zubairid Caliphs 8
  • The last stand 9
  • Popular references 10
  • References 11
  • Further reading 12
  • External links 13

Early life

Al-Mukhtar's full name was Mukhtar Abu Ubaid Masood Thaqafi of Banu Hawazin tribe,[4] he was born in Ta’if in 622 CE,[2] 1 AH, the year the Islamic prophet Muhammad began the Migration to Medina. Al-Mukhtar was the son of Abu Ubaid al-Thaqafi who was killed at the Battle of al-Jisr in November 634 CE, 13 AH.[5] His mother's name was Husna, He had two sisters:[4]

  1. Safiya who was married to Abdullah ibn Umar
  2. another sister was married to Umar ibn Sa'ad

One of his daughters was married to Imam Zainul Abideen.[4]

After death of his father Mukhtar was brought up by his mother and uncle Sa'ad bin Mas'ud; his uncle was made governor of Al-Mada'in by Umar; during the time of Muawiyah, when there was a cease-fire between Imam Hasan (as) and Muawiyah, Mukhtar's uncle, till then the governor of Al-Mada'in, was transferred to the governorship of Mosul.[4]

Under Ibn Ziyad in Kufa

In 60 AH, Ubaidullah bin Ziyad arrested al-Mukhtar and sent him to al-Tamura, a fearful prison underground.[5] Maytham al-Tammar was in the same prison with Mukhtar.[6] Al-Mukhtar was released by Ubaidullah bin Ziyad on order of Yazeed bin Mu'awiyah who was persuaded by Abdullah bin Umar husband of Safyyah Mukhtar's sister. Ibn Ziyad gave him three days to leave Kufa, so al-Mukhtar left for Makkah.[7]

In Makkah

In Makkah, al-Mukhtar paid homage to Abdullah bin al-Zubair,[8] where Mukhtar bravely defended Ka'ba against the Syrian invaders sent by Yazeed bin Mu'awiyah under command of al-Husayn bin Numair.[9] After four years' stay, Mukhtar decided to go back to Kufa.[10]

Under Ibn Mutea in Kufa

In Kufa he was imprisoned again by Abdullah bin Mutea appointed by Abdullah bin Zubair as ruler over Kufa when after Yazeed's death, Ubaidullah bin Ziyad escaped to Damascus and the people of Kufa took advantage of the situation and supported Abdullah bin Zubair.[10] From his prison, Mukhtar sent a message to Ryfaah bin Shaddad and his companions, Ryfaah headed the Shia army after Sulaiman bin Sird who passed away during the fight against Ubaidullah bin Ziyad at Ain al-Warda on the borders between Iraq and Sham during his revolution against the Umayyads; after death of Sulaiman, Ryfaah decided to withdraw the army to Kufa. Ryfaah answered Mukhtar's message and said that they are ready to break into the prison to release Mukhtar but Mukhtar ordered them not to do that.[11] Abdullah bin Umar bin al Khattab interceded for Mukhtar again and he was released.[12]

Mukhtar announces the Revolution

In 66 AH after leaving prison, Mukhtar announced the revolution and began calling the people to punish the persons who committed the Karbala massacre. He received a letter from Muhammad bin al-Hanafiyah, Ali's son, in which Muhammad announced his support to Mukhtar. Muhammad's attitude encouraged people to stand by Mukhtar. Ibraheem al-Ashtar son of Malik al-Ashtar and a brave senior army leader also joined Mukhtar. The revolutionaries fixed time to announce the revolution. The time was Thursday night, 14 Rabi al-Awwal, 66 AH.[12] But on Tuesday night, 12 Rabi al-Awwal, two days before the fixed time, the revolution broke out when on the way to Mukhtar's house, Ibraheem al-Ashtar and some of his friends came across a patrol and Ibraheem al-Ashtar was forced to attack the Commander and kill him.[13] Mukhtar ordered his followers to make fires, a sign of the revolution. The revolutionaries gathered at Mukhtar's house. Street clashes took place in Kufa. The ruler's soldiers and the police surrendered and the ruler himself escaped to al-Hejaz.[14] Mukhtar went up the pulpit in Kufa Mosque and announced that he wanted to follow Ali's just policy.[15]

The revenge

After the Battle of Ain al-Warda, the advancing Umayyad Army occupied Mousal and headed for Kufa. Mukhtar formed an army of three thousand fighters under the command of Yazeed bin Anas, a brave, good, old man. Reaching Mousal suburbs, the army met the Umayyads' at two battles. They won the both battles but then Yazeed bin Anas died which affected his soldiers spirits. They were afraid of the Umayyads' big army and they decided to come back to Kufa.[16] The Umayyads rumoured that Mukhtar's army was defeated that Yazeed bin Anas was killed in the battle. Mukhtar formed an army of seven thousand fighters and ordered Ibraheem al-Ashtar to head the army. The army left Kufa. Mukhtar's enemies took advantage of the situation and plotted against Mukhtar's government and besieged the palace. In spite of the intense siege, Mukhtar sent a messenger to Ibraheem al-Ashtar and told him to come back. After three days' siege, the rebels were astonished to see the army coming back. The army ended the mutiny quickly and arrested some plotters while other escaped.[17]

The army executed Harmala bin Kahil, who killed Husayn's baby, Sanan bin Anas, who took part in Husayn's killing and Amr bin Saad (Umar ibn Sa'ad), who led the Umayyad army during the Karbala massacre. Shimr bin Thil Jawshan who beheaded Husayn also escaped but the army chased him and found him at a village in Wasit and executed him. Shibth bin Riby escaped to Basrah.[17]

Battle of al-Khazir

In August 686 CE, after controlling the situation in Kufa Ibraheem al-Ashtar's army reached al-Khazar River where he met Ubaidullah bin Ziyad's Army. Violent fights took place between the two sides. The Kufian Army fought bravely and attacked the Umayyad's headquarters and killed senior leaders such as Ubaidullah bin Ziyad and al-Husayn bin Numair. Ibraheem al-Ashtar's small army defeated Ubaidullah bin Ziyad's big one.[2][18]

Saving Madina & Alawids against Umayyad & Zubairid Caliphs

When Abid al-Malik bin Marwan Umayyad Caliph sent a big army to occupy al-Madina. Mukhtar formed an army of three thousand fighters to save the Prophet's City. Apparently, Bin al-Zubair the Zubairid Caliph sent an army of two thousand fighters to defend Madina against Abid al-Malik's army but his real aim was to attack Mukhtar's army. When Mukhtar's soldiers were busy fighting Umayyads, Bin al-Zubair's army took advantage of the situation and attacked Mukhtar's soldiers. It killed some soldiers and rest escaped to the desert where they died of hunger and thirst. Bin Zubair disliked the Alawids. He brought them together near a mountain outside Makkah and prevented them from leaving that place. Besides he demolished their houses. Mukhtar sent five thousand fighters to raise the siege. He released the Alawids and rebuilt their houses.[19]

The last stand

Abdullah bin al-Zubair appointed his brother Mus'ab bin al-Zubair as a ruler over Basrah.[20] Mus'ab formed a big army and headed for Kufa. He took Mukhtar by surprise. Ibraheem al-Ashtar was in Mousal. Mukhtar faced Bin al-Zubair with his small army. Bin al-Zubair's army launched a strong attack and forced Mukhtar's army to come back to Kufa. Mus'ab's army followed Mukhtar to Kufa. It besieged his palace. The siege went on for four months. Mukhtar tried to raise the siege. He ordered the Kufians to make street clashes. But they disobeyed him. On 14 Ramadan, 67 AH Mukhtar decided to leave his palace. Only seventeen persons obeyed Mukhtar. They went out to fight the big army that surrounded his palace. Mukhtar was sixty-seven years old. He fought bravely and died a martyr for Islam.[2][21]

Mus'ab cheated the persons who stayed in the palace. He promised not to harm them if they came out. When they opened the gates of the palace, he ordered his soldiers to kill them all. He executed seven thousand people on one day. The Kufians had never seen such a horrible massacre before.[21] Mus'ab ordered his soldiers to arrest Mukhtar 's wife. Her name was Umra. She was daughter al-Numan bin Bashher al-Ansary who was ruler of Kufa bofore Ibn Ziyad. Mus'ab decided to kill her. In the dark, a person took her to a place between Hira and Kufa. In that desert, the person beheaded her.[22]

The grave of al-Mukhtar can be found at the back of Masjid al-Kūfa, Kufa, Iraq.[23]

Popular references

A large scale Persian television series about him named Mokhtarnameh has been produced. Filming began in 2003 and finished in 2009.


  1. ^ Hawting. The History of Al-Tabari, vol. xx, 1989, p. 182
  2. ^ a b c d "al-Mukhtār ibn Abū ʿUbayd al-Thaqafi". Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  3. ^ E.J. Brill's first encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936 (Reprint ed.). Leiden: E.J. Brill. 1993. pp. 615–617.  
  4. ^ a b c d Dr Mahmood Husein Datoo. "Chapter 1 - Who was Mukhtar?". Mukhtar: How He Avenged The Kerbala Perpetrators. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  5. ^ a b al-Syyed, Kamal. "Mukhtar al-Thaqafy". Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Qum, Iran: Ansariyan Foundation. p. 3. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  6. ^ al-Syyed, Kamal. "Maytham al-Tammar". Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Qum, Iran: Ansariyan Foundation. p. 7. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  7. ^ al-Syyed, Kamal. "Safyyah". Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Qum, Iran: Ansariyan Foundation. p. 8. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  8. ^ al-Syyed, Kamal. "Abdullah bin al-Zubair". Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Qum, Iran: Ansariyan Foundation. p. 9. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  9. ^ al-Syyed, Kamal. "Mukhtar defends Allah's House". Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Qum, Iran: Ansariyan Foundation. p. 10. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  10. ^ a b al-Syyed, Kamal. "Mukhtar comes back to Kufa". Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Qum, Iran: Ansariyan Foundation. p. 11. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  11. ^ al-Syyed, Kamal. "Mukhtar sends a Message". Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Qum, Iran: Ansariyan Foundation. p. 13. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  12. ^ a b al-Syyed, Kamal. "Mukhtar announces the Revolution". Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Qum, Iran: Ansariyan Foundation. p. 14. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  13. ^ al-Syyed, Kamal. "The Revolution breaks out". Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Qum, Iran: Ansariyan Foundation. p. 15. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  14. ^ al-Syyed, Kamal. "The Revenge". Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Qum, Iran: Ansariyan Foundation. p. 16. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  15. ^ al-Syyed, Kamal. "In Kufa Mosque". Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Qum, Iran: Ansariyan Foundation. p. 17. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  16. ^ al-Syyed, Kamal. "The Victory". Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Qum, Iran: Ansariyan Foundation. p. 18. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  17. ^ a b al-Syyed, Kamal. "The Rumours". Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Qum, Iran: Ansariyan Foundation. p. 19. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  18. ^ al-Syyed, Kamal. "The Battle of al-Khazir". Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Qum, Iran: Ansariyan Foundation. p. 21. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  19. ^ al-Syyed, Kamal. "Abid al-Malik bin Marwan". Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Qum, Iran: Ansariyan Foundation. p. 22. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  20. ^ al-Syyed, Kamal. "Mus'ab bin al-Zubair". Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Qum, Iran: Ansariyan Foundation. p. 23. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  21. ^ a b al-Syyed, Kamal. "The End". Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Qum, Iran: Ansariyan Foundation. p. 24. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  22. ^ al-Syyed, Kamal. "The Believing Woman". Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. Qum, Iran: Ansariyan Foundation. p. 25. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  23. ^ "Hundreds of thousands’ Friday assemblage in Masjid-e-Uzma Kufa". Retrieved 20 November 2008. 

Further reading

  • Fishbein, Michael, ed. (1990). The History of al-Ṭabarī, Volume XXI: The Victory of the Marwanids, A.D. 685–693/A.H. 66–73. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.  
  • Islamic Apocalyptic Movements in Modern Iran
  • "Mukhtar Thaqafi". Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  • Al Hassanain Network for Heritage and Islamic Thought. "The Uprising of Mukhtar". Sibtayn International Foundation. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 

External links

  • The elimination of the murderers of Imam Husayn (a.s.) by Mukhtar
  • Movement of Mukhtar in Kufa
  • The Uprising of Mukhtar
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