Caliphate, Featured, Ruling

Was Yazid a Legitimate Caliph?

This is an extract from the article Part 2: Bay’a in Islamic History – The Umayyad Khilafah

There is ikhtilaaf (difference of opinion) among the ulema on Yazid’s legitimacy. Many scholars accept he was a legitimate Khaleefah such as Al-Dhahabi, but that he was sinful and blameworthy for the oppression and persecution he committed against the sahaba, and the murder of al-Hussain and his family. Others such as ibn al-Jawzi reject his legitimacy and call him a usurper, because he never had a legally convened bay’a that was given through free choice and consent by the majority of the Ahlul hali wal-aqd (political representatives of the ummah).

Al-Dhahabi says, “(Yazid) he was the commander of that army during the campaign against Constantinople, among which were people such as Abu Ayyoob al-Ansaari. Yazid was appointed by his father as his heir, so he took power after his father died in Rajab 60 AH at the age of thirty-three, but his reign lasted for less than four years.

Yazid is one of those whom we neither curse nor love. There are others like him among the Khaleefahs of the two states (Umayyad and Abbasid) and the governors of various regions, indeed there were some among them who were worse than him. But the issue in the case of Yazid is that he came to power forty-nine years after the death of the Prophet ﷺ, and it was still close to the time of the Prophet and some of the Sahaabah were still alive such as Ibn ‘Umar who was more entitled to the position than him or his father or his grandfather.

His reign began with the killing of the martyr al-Hussain and it ended with the battle of al-Harrah, so the people hated him and he was not blessed with a long life. There were many revolts against him after al-Hussain, such as the people of Madeenah who revolted for the sake of Allaah, and Ibn az-Zubayr.”[1]

It was mentioned in the Tafseer of Al-Alusi: “Ibn al-Jawzi (May Allah’s mercy be upon him) stated in his book: ‘As-Sirr ul-Masun’: “From the general beliefs that is prevalent amongst those attributed to the Sunnah is that they say: That Yazid was in the right and that Al-Hussain (ra) was wrong to rebel against him. Had they examined the Seerahs they would have become aware of how the bay’a was contracted to him and that the people were compelled with it! And that he did every ugly (or abominable) act. If we would have evaluated the Sihhah (correctness and validity) of the bay’a contract, then there appeared from it all that would oblige the annulment of the contract. Nobody inclines to that view except every ignorant person, blind in the Madhhab who believes that by adopting that opinion he is being harsh against the Rawaafid (i.e. Shi’ah).”[2]

The Ahlul hali wal-aqd resided in three areas at the time of Yazid. These centres of power were:

  1. Ash-Sham with Damascus as the capital of the Khilafah and seat of central government.
  2. Iraq – Kufa and Basra
  3. Hijaz – Makkah and Madinah

The Ahlul hali wal-aqd in Damascus and Ash-Sham gave bay’a to Yazid, but this is not enough because free consent and choice is required from all the Muslims, and so the political representatives who resided in the Hijaz and Iraq also needed to give consent. Mawardi says, “Those living in the country of the Imam do not possess any advantages over those living in other countries: it is rather that someone resident in the country of the Imam contracts to elect the Imam by custom not by any legal imposition of the shari’a; moreover such residents will come to know of the death of the Imam before people from other countries and usually the person who is most fitting for the succession is to be found in the country of the Imam.”[3]

The strongest opinion on this issue is that of ibn Al-Jawzi which is that Yazid did not have a legally convened (sihah) bay’a. This is why the Muslims of Madinah, Makkah and Kufa all rebelled against Yazid’s authority, which is their right (haqq) in fighting an injustice mazlama. The evidence for fighting the usurper is clearly established from the sunnah and ijma as-Sahaba.

As for the sunnah. In the Musnad of Ahmad Bin Hanbal he recorded the Messenger of Allah ﷺ saying:

مَنْ قُتِلَ دُونَ مَظْلَمَتِهِ فَ هُوَ شَهِيدٌ

“Whoever is killed in defence of an injustice (Mazlamah) against him, he is Shaheed.”[4]

The ightisaab (usurpation) of the authority from the Ummah is a Mazlamah from amongst the Mazhaalim (acts of injustice), and it is the Ummah’s right to fight to regain what was usurped from them. Whoever is killed in that fighting is a Shaheed.

Ahmad Bin Hanbal also related in his Musnad that the Nabi ﷺ said:

نِعْمَ الْمِيتَةُ أَنْ يَمُوتَ الرَّجُلُ دُونَ حَقِهِ

“What an excellent death it is for the man to die in defence of his Haqq (right).”[5]

The Sultah (authority) is a Haqq for the Ummah and as such it is her right to fight until death to regain this right from the one who has taken it without right!

As for the ijma as-Sahaba. Umar ibn Al-Khattab in a public speech said, “I have been informed that a speaker amongst you says, ‘By Allah, if Umar should die, I will give the bay’a to such-and-such person.’

One should not deceive oneself by saying that the bay’a given to Abu Bakr was given and completed suddenly. No doubt, it was like that, but Allah protected (the people) from its evil, and there is none among you who has the qualities of Abu Bakr. Remember that whoever gives the bay’a to anybody among you without consulting the other Muslims, neither that person, nor the person to whom the bay’a was given, are to be supported, lest they both should be killed.”

‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab then continued his Khutbah and came to the story of the bay’a that was given to Abu Bakr and how it happened in a sudden manner: “That it happened suddenly without prior consultation, but Allah protected the Muslims from the evil of disagreement in the selection of Abu Bakr due to everyone’s admission of his favour and merit, his precedence and the fact that he had the most right to the Khilafah, and so they (thereafter) gave him the bay’a out of willing choice …”

Umar continued: “So, if any person gives the bay’a to somebody (to become a Khaleefah) without consulting the other Muslims, then the one he has selected should not be granted allegiance, lest both of them should be killed.”[6]

Dr Muhammad Khair Haikal comments on this speech of Umar. “This is the speech of ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab delivered to a gathering of Fuqahaa’ from the Sahaabah immediately following the Hajj season in relation to the subject of the usurpation of the authority in addition to what was mentioned in Fat’h ul-Baari in terms of the explanation of Al-Khattaabi. The intended purpose of presenting this speech of ‘Umar’s (ra) and the explanation for it, is to show that ‘Umar Ibn ‘Al-Khattaab warned those who sought to attribute the authority to a particular person, being content to not present the matter to consultation amongst the individuals of the Ummah and its representatives. In addition, that the one who does that is exposing himself to being killed just as the one who wanted to attribute the authority to him would also be exposed to being killed.

The sahaabah listened to this speech and none spoke out against what was said. Consequently, it represented and Ijmaa’ (consensus) upon what was mentioned in terms of the obligation to take the opinion of the Muslims in respect to whom is chosen to be a Khalifah over them. Just as it represented an Ijmaa’ (consensus) over the matter to beware of those who want to usurp the affairs of the Muslims as ‘Umar expressed in his speech. And it also represents a consensus upon that being killed (i.e. the punishment of death) lies in wait for those usurpers, those who have gone outside from the method of shura to arrive to the position of the authority, and that it (i.e. death) applies equally to those who aspire and have ambition for the Khilafah and those who support them!”[7]

Although some of the sahaba such as Abdullah ibn Umar and Abdullah ibn Abbas gave bay’a to Yazid freely and with consent, the majority in Madinah did not give consent and they refused to submit to his authority. Ibn Umar and Ibn Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) were following their own ijtihad on the issue, but this is their individual opinion. In sharia the individual opinion of a sahabi is not a sharia daleel. Only the collective agreement (ijma) on an issue is a daleel (evidence). In the case of fighting the usurper there is explicit evidence from the sunnah and ijma as-sahaba as mentioned above, and this is what the majority of the sahaba and tabi’een followed and Allah knows best.

What happened when Yazid came to power?

After Mu’awiya died, Yazid was given the bay’a by the Ahlul hali wal-aqd of Ash-Sham but the Ahlul hali wal-aqd from among the senior sahaba and tabi’een were split. The collective consensus of the sahaba (ijma) is a sharia evidence for us, but the individual opinion and ijtihad of a sahabi is not. Someone is free to adopt or disagree with such an opinion as the scholars of the past have done. With regards to Yazid, each sahabi was following a valid ijtihad and as such there is no blame on them for what they did since they are the best generation.

The core issue on why the sahaba opposed Yazid was due to him corrupting the bay’a by transferring it from shura and meritocracy to hereditary rule. This was a vital issue for them and is why they sacrificed their lives. This can be seen from their numerous statements as discussed previously. If Mu’awiya had chosen based on merit then he would have chosen al-Hussain or Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr or another of the sahabi, as the sahaba are of a distinguished rank unmatched by anyone as Allah says, “The forerunners (sabiqun) – the first of the Muhajirun and the Ansar – and those who have followed them in doing good: Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him.”[8]

A Timeline of events

15 Rajab 60HYazid is appointed ‘Khaleefah’ with a contracting bay’a from the tribes in Ash-Sham.[9]  
Rajab 60HAl-Walid ibn Utbah, the governor of Madinah tries to take the bay’a forcibly from Ibn Umar, Ibn Zubayr and al-Hussain.[10]  
26 Rajab 60HIbn Zubayr and his brother Ja’far leave for Makkah at night. Al-Walid sends 30 or 80 horsemen after him but they fail to stop him.[11]  
27 Rajab 60HAl-Hussain and his family leave for Makkah at night. Al-Walid is distracted by his pursuit of ibn Zubayr allowing al-Hussain to escape.[12]  
Sha’ban 60HIbn Abbas and Ibn Umar give bay’a to Yazid via the governor of Madinah Al-Walid.[13]  
Ramadan 60HAl-Walid ibn Utbah is removed from Madinah for failing to take the bay’a from ibn Zubayr and al-Hussain. His replacement is Amr bin Sa’id who arrives in Madinah during this month.[14]  
Ramadan 60HThe people of Kufa send messengers to al-Hussain requesting he comes to them so they can give him bay’a and appoint him Khaleefah.[15]  
Ramadan 60HAl-Hussain dispatches his cousin Muslim ibn ‘Aqil ibn Abi Talib to investigate the Kufan’s offer.[16]  
Shawwal 60HMuslim ibn ‘Aqil arrives in Kufa and 12,000 pledge allegiance to al-Hussain. Ibn ‘Aqil writes to al-Hussain informing him of this so al-Hussain makes preparations to leave Makkah for Kufa.[17]  
Shawwal 60H Dhul Qa’dah 60HAl-Nu’man ibn Bashir does not oppose the plans of the Kufans. When Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah is informed of this replaces Al-Nu’man with Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad who at the time was the governor of Basra, so ibn Ziyad had Kufa under his authority as well.[18]  
Dhul Qa’dah 60HYazid ibn Mu’awiyah sends messengers to Abdullah Ibn az-Zubayr in Makkah trying to force him to pledge his allegiance. Ibn az-Zubayr refuses.[19]  
Dhul Qa’dah 60H‘Amr ibn az-Zubayr is then sent by the governor of Madinah Amr bin Sa’id with an army of 2,000 to attack his brother in Makkah.[20]  
Dhul Hijjah 60HUbaydullah ibn Ziyad arrives in Kufa heavily veiled so people don’t know who he is and assume he is al-Hussain. Every group he passes by says to him, “Greetings, son of the daughter of the Messenger of Allah.”[21]  
Dhul Hijjah 60HUbaydullah ibn Ziyad starts working to thwart the plans of Muslim ibn ‘Aqil and is successful in this. He executes Muslim ibn ‘Aqil along with his main protector Hani ibn Urwah.[22]  
8 Dhul Hijjah 60HAl-Hussain, unaware of the events in Kufa, departs from Makkah with his family.[23]  
Dhul Hijjah 60H‘Amr ibn az-Zubayr fails to defeat his brother Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr, and Makkah remains outside of Yazid’s authority for the rest of his rule.[24]  
10 Muharram 61HHussain and 72 of his followers are martyred at Karbala by the army of Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad.  
61HIbn az-Zubayr starts making preparations to take the bay’a but isn’t formally contracted as Khaleefah until after Yazid dies.[25]  
61HThe people of Madinah write to Ibn az-Zubayr saying that since al-Hussain has gone, there was no one who can dispute with him, as he is the next most suitable candidate for the post of Khaleefah.[26]  
61HAmr bin Said is removed and Al-Walid ibn Utbah is reappointed as governor.[27]  
62HYazid removes Al-Walid ibn Utbah and appoints his cousin Uthman ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Sufyan as governor of Madinah.[28]  
62HA delegation from the Ahlul hali wal-aqd ofMadinah is invited by Yazid to Damascus headed by Abdullah ibn Hanzalah al-Ghasil al-Ansari.[29]  
62HWhen the delegation returns to Madinah, they publicly repudiate Yazid and make Abdullah ibn Hanzalah their leader.[30]  
62HYazid dispatches al-Nu’man ibn Bashir al-Ansari to Madinah to try and persuade them to desist from their rebellion, but al-Nu’man’s efforts fail.[31]  
63HThe governor of Madinah Uthman bin Muhammad is deposed by the people and replaced with Abdullah ibn Hanzalah. The people of Madinah lay siege to Banu Umayyah in the city.[32]  
63HBanu Umayyah write to Yazid about their predicament and Yazid dispatches an army of 12,000 to Madinah under the command of Muslim ibn Uqbah.[33]  
Dhul Hijja 63HThe Battle of Harrah. Muslim ibn Uqbah’s army slaughter hundreds and some say thousands of Muslims in a three-day rampage on Madinah. Among those killed were many prominent sahaba and tabi’een.[34]  
Muharram 64HMuslim ibn Uqbah dies and his deputy Hussain ibn Numayr al-Sakuni takes over and proceeds to Makkah to lay siege to Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr.[35]  
14 Rabi’ al‐Awwal, 64HYazid ibn Mu’awiya dies.
Rabi’ al-Thani, 64HAfter being informed of Yazid’s death, Hussain ibn Numayr halts the siege on Makkah and offers to contract the bay’a to Ibn Zubayr if he comes to Damascus. Due to mistrust from Ibn Zubayr against his former enemy he refuses and stays in Makkah.[36] He starts taking the bay’a and becomes the Khaleefah.  

Taking the bay’a by force in Madinah(60H)

Yazid’s only concern when he assumed power was to receive the bay’a from those influentials among the sahaba and tab’ieen who had refused to accept his father’s demand that bay’a be given to him. On entering office in the month of Rajab 60H he wrote a letter to his governor and cousin in Madinah al-Walid bin ‘Utbah bin Abi Sufyan, demanding he take the bay’a by force from the senior sahaba.

Yazid wrote:

“In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate

From Yazid, Amir ul-Mu’mineen, to Walid ibn Utbah…

Mu’awiyah was one of the servants of Allah, whom Allah had blessed, appointed to authority, and given power and ability. He lived for a measured time and died at an appointed time. May Allah have mercy on him, for he lived as a praiseworthy man and died as a pious, Allah-fearing man. Peace be with you.”

Accompanying this letter, he wrote to him on another parchment as small as a rat’s ear for secrecy:

“Seize Hussain, Abdullah ibn Umar, and Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr to give the bay’a. Act so fiercely that they have no chance to do anything before giving the bay’a. Peace be with you.”[37]

This letter clearly shows that the bay’a was to be taken by force from the Ahlul hali wal-aqd which would make their bay’a invalid (batil).

After receiving this letter, al-Walid ibn Utbah set out to take the bay’a forcibly from Abdullah ibn Umar, Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr and al-Hussain as ordered by Yazid.[38] He sent one of his mawali (servants) to Ibn az-Zubayr who abused him and shouted at him, “Son of Kahiliyyah![39] By Allah! You should come to the governor or he will kill you!”[40]

Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr managed to buy some extra time by sending his brother Ja’far to visit al-Walid and to tell him that he would give bay’a the next day. That night on 26th Rajab 60H, Abdullah ibn Zubayr and his brother Ja’far manged to flee Madinah and head for Makkah. When al-Walid found out he sent 30 or 80 horsemen after them but failed to stop them.[41] The next night on the 27th Rajab, while al-Walid was distracted by his pursuit of ibn az-Zubayr, al-Hussain and his family also managed to escape to Makkah.[42]

According to Al-Waqidi, Ibn az-Zubayr and al-Hussain left Madinah on the same night, and on the way met Abdullah ibn Abbas and Abdullah ibn Umar who were coming back from Makkah. The latter two asked them what the situation was like in Madinah. Ibn az-Zubayr and al-Hussain replied, “The death of Mu’awiya, and the demand for the bay’a to be made to Yazid.” Ibn Umar warned them to be pious toward Allah and not to divide the unity of the Muslims. He along with Ibn Abbas then proceeded to Madinah and stayed there for some days. Ibn Umar waited until the bay’a came from the provinces and then went to al-Walid and gave him his bay’a. Ibn Abbas then came and gave his bay’a.[43] Although ibn Umar and ibn Abbas did give bay’a of their own free will[44] the majority of the sahaba and tabi’een in Madinah did not give bay’a through free consent and choice. Ibn Umar and ibn Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) were following their own ijtihad on the issue, which is their individual opinion and in sharia the individual opinion of a sahabi is not a sharia daleel as mentioned earlier.

Al-Hussain’s half-brother Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah, made it clear that Yazid did not have a legitimate bay’a. Instead, he encouraged al-Hussain to go and seek the bay’a for himself. If Yazid was considered a legitimate Khaleefah by Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah then he would not have encouraged this because the hadith is clear, where the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “When the bay’a has been taken for two Khaleefahs, kill the latter one.”[45]

Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah said to al-Hussain before he departed Madinah, “My brother, you are the most lovable of people and the dearest to me. I could not give my stored advice to any creature more entitled to it than you. Keep away from Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah with your followers, and avoid the provinces as long as you can.

Then send your messengers to the people and summon them to you. If they give you the bay’a, I praise Allah for that. If the people agree upon someone other than you, Allah will neither make your religion nor your reason deficient on that account; He will not remove your manliness and outstanding merit either. Yet I am afraid that you will enter one of these provinces and you will come to a group of people. They will differ among themselves: one group will be with you and another against you. They will fight, and you will be a target for the first of their spears. Then the best of all this community in person, in father, and in mother would be the one whose blood was most wastefully squandered and whose family most humiliated.”

Al-Hussain asked him where he should go, and he answered, “Stay at Makkah. If that place is secure for you, it will serve its purpose. However, if it is unsuitable for you, you can resort to the deserts and the mountain peaks; You can move from place to place until you see what becomes of the affairs of the people and then you will know their views. You will be most correct in judgment and firmest in action as long as you can directly face matters. Affairs will never be more abstruse for you than when you turn your back on them.” Al-Hussain replied, “Brother, you have given good advice and shown your concern. I hope that your judgment is correct and appropriate.”[46]

Taking the bay’a by force in Makkah (60H)

In the month of Ramadan, Yazid removed Al-Walid ibn Utbah from the governorship of Madinah for failing to take the bay’a from ibn Zubayr and al-Hussain. He replaced him with Amr bin Sa’id who arrived in Madinah during this month or the next.[47]

Amr bin Sa’id appointed Abdullah ibn Zubayr’s brother ‘Amr ibn az-Zubayr as his Chief of Police in Madinah. ‘Amr ibn az-Zubayr then started hunting down those who were in favour of his brother and had them flogged. Among those who were lashed were members of his own family. He flogged his brother al-Mundhir ibn az-Zubayr and his nephews Muhammad ibn al-Mundhir and Khubayb ibn Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr. He also flogged Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Aswad, Uthman ibn Abdullah ibn Hakim and Muhammad ibn Ammar bin Yasir. He had them flogged from forty to fifty or sixty lashes.[48]

In Dhul Qa’dah, Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah started sending messengers to Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr in Makkah trying to force him to pledge his allegiance. Ibn az-Zubayr refused.[49] Amr bin Sa’id then dispatched ‘Amr ibn az-Zubayr with an army of 2,000 to attack his brother in Makkah and force his allegiance.[50] ‘Amr ibn az-Zubayr launched an attack on Makkah but he and his army were defeated, and Makkah remained outside of Yazid’s authority for the rest of his rule.[51]

In 61H, Yazid removed Amr ibn Sa’id for his failure to subdue Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr and his supporters. The following year Amr met Yazid in Damascus and when asked about his failure Amr replied, “Amir ul-Mu’mineen! One who was present would have seen what one who was absent could not have seen. The majority of the people of Makkah and Madinah were inclined toward ibn az-Zubayr, they favoured him and gave their consent to him. They summoned each other both in secret and publicly.”[52]

After al-Hussain was martyred on 10th Muharram 61H, ibn az-Zubayr became the most suitable candidate for the post of Khaleefah. He was a sahabi, with the support from the Ahlul hali wal-aqd in Madinah, and had a power base in Makkah from which he could establish himself. The people of Madinah wrote to him and said that since al-Hussain had been destroyed, there was no one who could dispute with him.[53] Ibn az-Zubayr’s companions said to him, “Make public your acceptance of the bay’a to you, for no one remains now that Hussain is dead who can dispute this affair with you.”[54]

Ibn az-Zubayr started making preparations and taking the bay’a secretly but wasn’t formally contracted as Khaleefah until after Yazid died, because he didn’t have the necessary support at that time to take authority.[55]

Kufa offers their bay’a to Al-Hussain (60H)

In Ramadan, the people of Kufa began sending messengers to al-Hussain requesting he comes to them and be appointed the Khaleefah. They said, “We have kept ourselves exclusively for you. We do not attend the Friday prayer with the governor (Al-Nu’man bin Bashir al-Ansari), so come to us.”[56]Al-Hussain then dispatched his cousin Muslim ibn ‘Aqil ibn Abi Talib to investigate the Kufan’s offer.[57]

Muslim ibn ‘Aqil arrived in Kufa in the month of Shawwal and 12,000 Kufans pledged the bay’a to al-Hussain. Ibn ‘Aqil then wrote back to al-Hussain informing him of this so al-Hussain started making preparations to leave Makkah for Kufa.[58]

Al-Nu’man ibn Bashir, the governor of Kufa did not oppose the plans of the Kufans so one of Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah’s supporters stood up before al-Nu’man and said to him, “You are either a weak man or you are acting like a weak man. The town has been corrupted!”

Al-Nu’man replied, “I would prefer to be a weak man in obedience to Allah than a strong man in disobedience of Allah. I would not tear off a cover that Allah has spread.”[59]

Yazid was informed of Al-Nu’man’s words and Yazid’s Wazir Sarjun ibn Mansur advised Yazid to appoint Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad in his place. He said, “The only man for al-Kufah is Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad. Give him authority over the city.” So Yazid replaced al-Nu’man with Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad who at the time was the governor of Basra, so ibn Ziyad had Kufa under his authority as well.[60]

In Dhul Hijjah, Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad arrived in Kufa heavily veiled so people didn’t recognise him and assumed he was al-Hussain. Every group he passed by said to him, “Greetings, son of the daughter of the Messenger of Allah.”[61]

Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad began immediately working to thwart the plans of Muslim ibn ‘Aqil. He started by sending his mawla (servant) as a spy with 3,000 dirhams to find out where ibn ‘Aqil was staying. He was successful in this and found that he was staying in the home of one of the Kufan nobles Hani ibn Urwah.[62]

Ibn Ziyad then imprisoned Hani bin Urwah and invited all the Kufan tribal chiefs to his palace. When Muslim ibn ‘Aqil found out about Hani’s imprisonment he gathered an army of 4,000 Kufans who marched to the gate of ibn Ziyad’s palace. The Kufan tribal chiefs in the palace then persuaded all their people to go home, and eventually Muslim ibn ‘Aqil was abandoned and left to wander the city. He did manage to find refuge in one house but one of the inhabitants informed Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad and Muslim ibn ‘Aqil was subsequently captured and executed along with Hani ibn Urwah.[63] This is what ibn Abbas feared when he said to al-Hussain before his departure to Iraq, “I fear for you ruin and elimination in this direction. If the people of Iraq want you, as they claim, then write to them, for them to expel their enemy and thereafter say that I am coming to you …”[64]

Dr Muhammad Khair Haikal comments on this. “So Ibn ‘Abbas (ra), who was one of the representatives of the Ummah and one of the prominent sahaabah, in this text, at that time, did not oppose Hussain in respect to the legal legitimacy of rebelling against the usurper of the Khilafah (Yazid Bin Mu’awiya) but rather opposed his reliance upon the people of Iraq, due to prior experience with them in the time of his father ‘Ali (ra) and his brother Hasan (ra), which indicated that they were a people whom could not be depended on for strength and support. Consequently, there was no faithfulness to their covenant and no security in their betrayal! Al-Hussain later remembered this advice of Ibn ‘Abbas and so on the night of Al-Karbalaa’ he said: “How capable Allah has made Ibn ‘Abbas regarding what he advised me with.”[65]

On the 8th Dhul Hijjah, al-Hussain and his followers departed Makkah for Kufa.[66] At Tha’labiyya (Northern Saudi Arabia today) al-Hussain found out about ibn ‘Aqil’s death and he considered turning back but the brothers of ibn ‘Aqil wanted revenge and persuaded al-Hussain to continue on to Iraq. He continued on and nearing Kufa he was met by the army of Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad who were 1,000 men strong led by Hurr ibn Yazid al-Tamimi (Hurr ibn Yazid later defected to the side of al-Hussain and was martyred alongside him).

Hurr refused to let him enter Kufa so al-Hussain and his followers made camp at Karbala in the beginning of Muharram 61H. After negotiations for his surrender failed, al-Hussain and 72 of his followers were martyred on the 10th Muharram (Ashura).

The Rebellion of Madinah (63H)

In 62H a delegation from the Ahlul hali wal-aqd ofMadinah were invited by Yazid to Damascus to stay with him. This delegation included Abdullah ibn Hanzalah al-Ghasil al-Ansari, who is the son of the famous sahabi who the angels performed ghusl upon after he was martyred at Uhud.[67]

When the delegation returned to Madinah they publicly cursed and repudiated Yazid and the rest of the people followed them this. They then appointed Abdullah ibn Hanzalah as their leader.[68]

After hearing of this Yazid dispatched the famous sahabi al-Nu’man ibn Bashir al-Ansari to Madinah to try and persuade them to desist from their rebellion. Yazid b. Mu’awiyah sent for al-Nu’man and said to him, “Go to the people of Madinah and your own people. Soothe them away from what they are intending to do. If they do not rise up in this matter, the people will not dare to oppose me. There are those of my clan who would not want to rise up in this discord (fitnah), for they fear destruction.” Al-Nu’man then departed and went to his people in Madinah. He summoned the people and ordered them to obey and to adhere to unity and he warned them against fitnah. He told them, “You have no power against the Syrians.” Abdullah ibn Muti’, another famous sahabi, said, “Al-Nu’man, what is making you split our unity and corrupt our affairs that Allah has set right?” Al-Nu’man answered, “By Allah! It is as if I can see that which you are calling for (i.e., civil war) taking place, with men mounting their horses and striking blows against the heads of the other party and their faces. The mill of death revolves between the two parties. It is as if I can see you flying on your mule and setting your face in the direction of Makkah, leaving these wretched people (meaning the Ansar) behind to be killed in their alleys, in the mosques, and at the doors of their houses.” [69]

In 63H the majority of the people of Madinah rose up against Yazid and refused to give him their bay’a. They removed the governor Uthman bin Muhammad bin Abi Sufyan, and laid siege to Banu Umayyah who were almost a thousand strong and holed up in the dwellings of Marwan bin al-Hakam. Marwan’s son Abdul-Malik ibn Marwan was also among them.[70] This is important to note for future events.

The people of Madinah appointed Abdullah ibn Muti’ over the Quraish, Abdullah ibn Hanzalah over the Ansar and Ma‘qil bin Sinan al-Ashja‘i over the Muhajireen.[71] Abdullah ibn Hanzalah was the overall leader and Corp commander.

Ali bin al-Hussain (Zain ul-‘Abideen), on the other hand, chose to dissociate himself from the conflict and likewise, Abdullah bin ‘Umar did not renounce Yazid nor did any other member of his family. Similarly, no one from the Banu ‘Abdul-Muttalib tribe renounced Yazid.[72]

It has been reported on the authority of Nafi, that Abdullah ibn Umar paid a visit to Abdullah ibn Muti’ in the days (when atrocities were perpetrated on the People of Madinah) at Harrah in the time of Yazid ibn Mu’awiya. Ibn Muti’ said: “Place a pillow for Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman (family name of ‘Abdullah b. ‘Umar).” But the latter said: “I have not come to sit with you. I have come to you to tell you a tradition I heard from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. I heard him say: ‘One who withdraws his band from obedience will find no argument when he stands before Allah on the Day of Judgment, and one who dies without having a bay’a on his neck will die the death of Jahiliyyah.’”[73]

Nafi’ also narrated: “When the people abandoned the leadership of Yazid bin Mu’awiyah, Ibn Umar gathered his children and family together, “I heard the Prophet ﷺ saying, ‘A flag will be fixed for every betrayer on the Day of Resurrection,’ and we have given the bay’a to this person (Yazid) in accordance with the conditions enjoined by Allah and His Messenger and I do not know of anything more faithless than fighting a person who has been given the bay’a in accordance with the conditions enjoined by Allah and His Messenger, and if ever I learn that any person among you has agreed to dethrone Yazid, by giving the bay’a (to somebody else) then there will be separation between him and me.”[74]

This is the ijtihad and individual opinion of ibn Umar as discussed previously.

Why did it take three years for Madinah to rebel?

As mentioned, the majority of Muslims in Madinah were initially forced to give bay’a to Yazid by the governor Al-Walid ibn Utbah. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Allah had forgiven my Ummah for the mistake and forgetfulness and that which they were compelled to do.”[75]

Later some sahabi such as Abdullah ibn Umar and Abdullah ibn Abbas did give bay’a freely but many had not. It seems the people of Madinah were putting their hopes in al-Hussain becoming the Khaleefah, but after his death they were in shock and this then spurred them on as it did with Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr to make an organised rebellion against Yazid.

The Battle of Harrah (63H)

Banu Umayyah wrote to Yazid concerning the siege, abuse, hunger and thirst they were facing which deeply stirred Yazid. He then dispatched an army of 12,000 to Madinah under the command of the notorious Muslim bin ‘Uqbah al-Murri, who was a feeble, elderly man, to force them to give him bay’a.

Abdullah bin Ja‘far said to Yazid: “Do you reckon that if they return in obedience it will be accepted from them?” He said: “They will, as there is nothing keeping them from doing so.” Then Yazid said to Muslim bin ‘Uqbah: “If you arrive in al-Madinah and you are not forced out and they listen and obey you, then do not confront any one of them but instead proceed straight to the deviant Ibn az-Zubayr.”[76]Yazid also said to him, “Leave the people for three days. If they agree to your demands, so be it. Otherwise fight them and when you overcome them, give license to pillage the city for three days.”[77]

Ibn Kathir comments on this, “Yazid committed a grave mistake by authorising Muslim bin Uqbah to exercise his control over al- Madinah for three days. This was because during those three days, Muslim carried out the most unspeakable and indescribable atrocities to ever be witnessed by the Prophetic land of al-Madinah, whose severity is known by Allah alone.”[78]

In Dhul Hijja 63H, Muslim ibn ‘Uqbah arrived in Madinah and stationed his army at al-Harrah, east of Madinah where he called on the people for a period of three days, but it was to no avail as the people refused to comply with him. He then set out carrying out the “most unspeakable and indescribable atrocities” as Ibn Kathir mentioned.

Those remaining in the city were then forced to give bay’a to Yazid. Al-Mada’ini said: “Sa’eed bin al-Musayyib was brought to Muslim ibn ‘Uqbah who said to him: ‘Pledge your allegiance.’ So he said: ‘I pledge allegiance to the path of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar.’ So he was ordered to be executed by beheading and his order was just about to be carried out when a man testified to his insanity, on which grounds he was left alone.”[79]

Ibn Kathir says, “The number of eminent Companions and others who died in this year due to the al-Harrah incident is so extensive that it would take too long to name them all. However, to mention just a few prominent figures: Abdullah bin Hanzalah, the commander of al-Madinah at the time of the battle of of al-Harrah, Ma‘qil bin Sinan, ‘Ubaidullah bin Zaid bin ‘Asim (May Allah be pleased with them) and Masrooq bin aI-Ajda‘.”[80]

The Siege of Makkah (63-64H)

In the month of Muharram 64H, after the sacking of Madinah, Muslim ibn Uqbah made his way to Makkah but died on the way. His deputy Hussain ibn Numayr al-Sakuni took over command and laid siege to Makkah for 60 days. [81] Then on 14th Rabi’ al‐Awwal, 64H Yazid ibn Mu’awiya also died.

After Yazid’s death, Hussain ibn Numayr made contact with Ibn az-Zubayr and they met outside Makkah. Hussain to him, “If this man (Yazid) dies then you are the most deserving of this matter after him. Now then come! Travel with me to ash-Sham as, by Allah, neither of the two of you will differ on this.”[82]

Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr did not trust ibn Numayr and used rude language towards him which caused him to walk away in a huff.Ibn Numayr later remarked: “I summon him to the Khilafah and he speaks to me rudely?” [83]

Hussain ibn Numayr and his army then left Makkah and embarked towards ash-Sham. They were joined by Marwan bin al-Hakam and the rest of Banu Umayyah who had now left Madinah. Upon their arrival in Damascus they discovered that Mu’awiya ibn Yazid had already been appointed as the hereditary successor of his father Yazid by the Ahlul hali wal-aqd in the capital. [84]


[1] Shams ad-Dīn adh-Dhahabi, ‘Siyar A’laam al-Nubalaa,’ part 4, pp. 38

[2] Tafseer Aloosi (Ruh Al-Maani), 26/73

[3] Abu l-Hasan al-Mawardi, The Laws of Islamic Governance, translation of Al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyah, Ta Ha Publishers, pp.11

[4] Musnad Ahmad Bin Hanbal: Majma’ Az-Zawaa’id: 6/244

[5] Musnad Ahmad Bin Hanbal: 1/184

[6] Saheeh Al-Bukhaari: 6830, Fat’h ul-Baari’: 12/144

[7] Dr Muhammad Khair Haikal, ‘Al-Jihaad Wal-Qitaal Fee As-Siyaasah Ash-Shar’iyah,’ Volume One, Dar ul Thaqafah, pp.321

[8] Holy Qur’an, Surah At-Tauba, verse 100

[9] Abu Ja`far Muhammad b. Jarir al-Tabari, ‘The History of Al-Tabari’, translation of Ta’rikh al-rusul wa’l-muluk, State University of New York Press, Volume XIX, pp.1

[10] Ibid, pp.2

[11] Ibid, pp.7

[12] Ibid, pp.7

[13] Ibid, pp.10

[14] Ibid, pp.10

[15] Ibid, pp.17

[16] Ibid, pp.17

[17] Ibid, pp.17

[18] Ibid, pp.18

[19] Ibid, pp.11

[20] Ibid, pp.15

[21] Ibid, pp.18

[22] Ibid, pp.21

[23] Ibid, pp.64

[24] Ibid, pp.16

[25] Ibid, pp.190

[26] Ibid, pp.191

[27] Ibid, pp.195

[28] Ibid, pp.197

[29] Ibid, pp.198

[30] Ibid, pp.198

[31] Ibid, pp.200

[32] Ibn Kathir, ‘The Caliphate of Banu Umayyah,’ translation of Bidiyah wan-Nihiya, Darussalam, pp.185

[33] Ibid, pp.187

[34] Ibid, pp.188

[35] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XIX, pp.223

[36] Ibn Kathir, Op.cit., pp.193

[37] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XIX, pp.2

[38] Ibid, pp.2

[39] This is disparaging reference to Ibn az-Zubayr. The mother of his grandfather Khuwaylid was Zuhrah bint ‘Umar bin Hanthar of the clan of Kahn of the tribe of Asad.

[40] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XIX, pp.6

[41] Ibid, pp.7

[42] Ibid, pp.7

[43] Ibid, pp.10

[44] Ibid, pp.10

[45] Sahih Muslim 1853,

[46] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XIX, pp.8

[47] Ibid, pp.10

[48] Ibid, pp.11

[49] Ibid, pp.11

[50] Ibid, pp.15

[51] Ibid, pp.16

[52] Ibid, pp.196

[53] Ibid, pp.191

[54] Ibid, pp.190

[55] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.1

[56] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XIX, pp.17

[57] Ibid, pp.17

[58] Ibid, pp.17

[59] Ibid, pp.17

[60] Ibid, pp.18

[61] Ibid, pp.18

[62] Ibid, pp.19

[63] Ibid, pp.21

[64] Ibid, pp.67

[65] Dr Haikal, Op.cit., pp.328

[66] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XIX, pp.64

[67] Ibid, pp.198

[68] Ibid, pp.198

[69] Ibid, pp.200

[70] Ibn Kathir, Op.cit., pp.185

[71] Ibid, pp.185

[72] Ibid, pp.185

[73] Sahih Muslim 1851a,

[74] Sahih al-Bukhari 7111,

[75] Sunan Ibn Majah 2045,

[76] Ibn Kathir, Op.cit., pp.187

[77] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XIX, pp.205

[78] Ibn Kathir, Op.cit., pp.190

[79] Ibid, pp.190

[80] Ibid, pp.192

[81] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XIX, pp.223

[82] Ibn Kathir, Op.cit., pp.193

[83] Ibid, pp.193

[84] Ibid, pp.193