`Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr
عبد الله بن الزبير
Abdullah Ibn Az-Zubayr – عبد الله بن الزبير
The Companions of Prophet Muhammad
(peace be upon him)
What a Man! What a Martyr…!
`Abd Allah al-Zubayr or ibn Zubayr (Arabic: عبد الله بن الزبير ‘Abdallāh ibn az-Zubayr; 624 – 692) was an Arab sahabi whose father was Zubayr ibn al-Awwam, and whose mother was Asma bint Abi Bakr, daughter of the first Caliph Abu Bakr. He was the nephew of Aisha, third wife of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. Abd-Allah ibn al-Zubayr was the first Muslim to be born in Madinah after the hijrah.
Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr was the cousin of Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr. Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr was the grandfather of Imam Jafar al-Sadiq.
He was a member of the Bani Assad tribe and was born one year and 8 months after the hijra of Muhammad to Madinah. As such, he was the first Muslim child born in Madinah. As a young man, Abd Allah was an active participant in numerous Muslim campaigns against both the Byzantine and Sassanid empires. He marched to Sbeitla, Tunisia, the capital of self-proclaimed local emperor Gregory the Patrician. Gregory was defeated and killed in the Battle of Sufetula in 647 CE.
When Yazid took over
Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 352 : Narrated by Yusuf bin Mahak.
“Marwan had been appointed as the governor of Hijaz by Muawiya. He delivered a sermon and mentioned Yazid bin Muawiya so that the people might take the oath of allegiance to him as the successor of his father (Muawiya). Then ‘Abdur Rahman bin Abu Bakr told him something whereupon marwan ordered that he be arrested. But ‘Abdur-Rahman entered ‘Aisha’s house and they could not arrest him. marwan said, “It is he (‘AbdurRahman) about whom Allah revealed this Verse: ‘And the one who says to his parents: ‘Fie on you! Do you hold out the promise to me..?'” On that, ‘Aisha said from behind a screen, “Allah did not reveal anything from the Qur’an about us except what was connected with the declaration of my innocence (of the slander).”
Ibn al-Zubayr’s caliphate
Ibn al-Zubair’s revolt
Ibn al-Zubayr was not active in politics during the reign of Muawiyah I, but upon the ascension of Yazid I, he refused to swear allegiance to the new caliph. He advised Husayn bin Ali to make Makkah his base and fight against Yazid.
When Husayn was killed in Karbala, Ibn al-Zubair collected the people of Makkah and made the following speech:
“O people! No other people are worse than Iraqis and among the Iraqis, the people of Kufa are the worst. They repeatedly wrote letters and called Imam Husayn to them and took bay’at (allegiance) for his caliphate. But when Ibn Zeyad arived in Kufa, they rallied around him and killed Imam Husayn who was pious, observed the fast, read the Quran and deserved the caliphate in all respects
After his speech, the people of Makkah declared that no one deserved the caliphate more than Ibn al-Zubair and requested to take an oath of allegiance to his caliphate. When he heard about this, Yazid had a silver chain made and sent to Makkah with the intention of having Walid ibn Utbah arrest Ibn al-Zubair with it.
In Mecca and Madina Husayns family had a strong support base the people were willing to stand up for them. Husayns remaining family moved back to Madina. One of his supporters, Muslim ibn Shihab, was the father of Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri who became a famous scholar.
Eventually he consolidated his power by sending a governor to Kufa. Soon, Ibn Zubayr established his power in Iraq, southern Arabia and in the greater part of Syria, and parts of Egypt. Ibn Zubayr benefitted greatly from widespread dissatisfaction among the populace with Umayyad rule. Yazid tried to end Ibn Zubayr’s rebellion by invading the Hejaz, and took Medina after the bloody Battle of al-Harrah followed by the siege of Makkah but his sudden death ended the campaign and threw the Umayyads into disarray with civil war eventually breaking out.
This essentially split the Islamic empire into two spheres with two different caliphs, but soon the Umayyad civil war was ended, and Ibn Zubayr lost Egypt and whatever he had of Syria to Marwan I. This coupled with the Kharijite rebellions in Iraq reduced his domain to only the Hejaz.
Ibn Zubayr was finally defeated by Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, who sent Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf to reunite the Islamic empire. Hajjaj defeated and killed Ibn Zubayr on the battlefield in 692, beheading him and crucifying his body, reestablishing Umayyad control over the Islamic Empire. On his last hour he asked his mother Asmā’ bint Abu Bakr what he should do. Asmā’ bint Abu Bakr replied to her son, she said:
“You know better in your own self that if you are upon the truth and you are calling towards the truth go forth for people more honourable than you were killed and have been killed and if you are not upon the truth, then what an evil son you are, you have destroyed yourself and those who are with you. If you say what you say, that if you are upon the truth and you will be killed at the hands of others then you will not truly be free, for this is not the statement of someone who is free”.
Then Asmā’ bint Abu Bakr said to her son, this is the statement of the mother to her son, “how long will you live in this world, death is more beloved to me than this state you are on/ this state of weakness.”
Then this conversation between Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr and his mother continued.
Then Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr said to his mother after she had told him to go forth and fight.
He said, “I am afraid I will be mutilated by the people of Sham, I am afraid that they will cut up my body after they have killed me”
So she said to her son,”after someone has died it won’t make any difference what they do to you if you have been killed.”
Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr then said to his mother,”I did not come to you except to increase myself in knowledge.”
He said to her, “I did not come to you except to increase me in knowledge, look and pay attention to this day for verily I am a dead man, your son never drank wine, nor was he fornicator, nor did he wrong any Muslim or Non Muslim, nor was he unjust, I am not saying this to you to show off or show how pure I am but rather as an honour to you.”
So then Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr left by himself on his horse to take on Hajjaj and he was killed by the Army of Hajjaj and when he was killed by the Army of Hajjaj.
Then Hajjaj crucified him and said,” No one must put down his body except Asma, she must come to me and ask permission of me and only then will his body be put down”.
Asma refused to go and ask permission to put down her sons body and it was said to her if you don’t go his body will remain like that. So she said let it be then.
Until eventually, Hajjaj came to her and said,
“what do you say about this matter ” and she said,
” Verily you have destroyed him you have ruined his life and with that you have ruined your hereafter.”
A few years later the people of Kufa called Zayd ibn Ali the grandson of Husayns over to Kufa. Zaydis believe that on the last hour of Zayd ibn Ali, Zayd ibn Ali was also betrayed by the people in Kufa who said to him: “May God have mercy on you! What do you have to say on the matter of Abu Bakr and Umar ibn al-Khattab?” Zayd ibn Ali said, “I have not heard anyone in my family renouncing them both nor saying anything but good about them…when they were entrusted with government they behaved justly with the people and acted according to the Qur’an and the Sunnah”
What a Man! What a Martyr!
A blessed child in his mother’s womb was he, when his mother passed over the burning desert sand leaving Makkah for Al-Madiinah on her emigration route. While still unborn, “Abd Allah was to emigrate with the Muhaajiruun. His mother Asmaa’ (May Allah be pleased with her) had hardly reached Qubaa’, when she began to suffer labor pains.
Abd Allah, the first child to be born after the Hijrah, was carried to the Prophet’s house in Al-Madiinah. There the Prophet (PBUH) kissed him, then chewed a date and rubbed it on the newbom’s gums (a Sunnah called tahniik). Thus the Prophet’s saliva was the first thing to enter ‘Abd Allah’s belly.
Muslims gathered, carried the newbom baby and went round with him through the streets of Al Madiinah applauding and shouting “Allahu Akbar”(Allah is the Greatest).
When the Prophet (PBUH) and the Muslims settled in Al-Madiinah, the Jews there, bearing deep spite against the Muslims, were subdued. They spread the rumor that their priests had made the Muslims infertile by means of their witchcraft and Al- Madiinah was not going to witness the birth of Muslim babies. When “Abd Allah came out from the unseen, he was an irrefutable proof from Allah that the Jews’ claims were mere lies and deceptive tricks.
‘Abd Allah did not reach the age of majority during the Prophet’s lifetime. However, his intimate contact with the Prophet (PBUH) during childhood granted him the basic materials of manliness and taught him the principles of life, principles which would be the subject of people’s admiration and talk, as will be mentioned later.
The little child’s character developed rapidly. He displayed extraordinary energy, intellect, and firmness. His youth was full of chasity, purity, worship, and heroism beyond imagination. As days went by his manners did not change. He was a man sure of his path, walking his way with strong will and firm belief.
He did not exceed the age of 27, during the conquests of Africa, Spain, and Constantinople, when he proved to be one of the great heroes. That happened, in particular, during the Battle of Ifriiqiyah (Tunisia) when 20,000 Muslim soldiers confronted an army oF 120,000.
The battle was in progress and the Muslims encountered a real danger. ‘Abd Allah took a look at the enemy’s army and soon realized the source of their strength. It was the leader, the Berber king, who effectively encouraged his soldiers, pushing them towards death. “Abd Allah knew that the battle’s outcome depended primarily on the death of their stubborn leader. But how was he going to reach him? He had first to pass through a great and fiercely fighting army.
However, ‘Abd Allah’s courage and bravery were not ever subject to question. He called his companions and said, “Protect my back, attack with me.” Like a flying arrow he forced his way towards the leader, bursting through fighting warriors. When he reached him, he struck him dead. Immediately the leader fell down motionless. Then he turned towards those who surrounded their king and leader, killing them all. “Allahu Akbar” was then to be heard.
The Muslims soon saw their standard lifted on the same spot where the Berber leader had commanded his soldiers. They realized that victory had almost been achieved. They strengthened their force and soon everything was over in favor of the Muslims. The leader of the Muslim army, “Abd Allah Ibn Abi Sarh.was told about the great role ‘Abd Allah IbnAz-Zubair hadplayed. He rewarded him with the honor of personally carrying the news of victory to Al-Madiinah and to the Caliph ‘Uthmaan Ibn ‘Affaan.
Nevertheless, his miraculous and extraordinary heroism in fighting came second to his heroism in the sphere of worship.
His family, his youth, his position and its eminence, his wealth, his strength, nothing of that sort could hinder ‘Abd Allah from being an admirable God-fearing worshiper, fasting all day long while praying all night.
‘Umar Ibn ‘Abd APAziiz once asked Ibn Abi Mulaikah to describe ‘Abd Allah, so he said, “By Allah, I’ve never see a soul similar to his. When he began his prayer, he left everything behind. He bowed down and prostrated for such a long period that birds stood on his back considering him a wall or a gown thrown away. Once a projectile passed between his beard and chest while praying. By Allah, he did not feel it nor was he shaken by it. He did not stop his recitation nor hurry his bowing.”
Similar to legends, the truthful information about ‘Abd Allah’s worship was transmitted by history.
His fasting, his prayer, his pilgrimage, his noble soul, his continuous fear of Allah, his close relation to Allah, his being a devoted worshiper and a fasting fighter throughout his life were all in him like interwoven threads.
Although there was some kind of disagreement between “Abd Allah Ibn Az-Zubair and Ibn “Abbaas, the latter described ‘Abd Allah in the following words: “He was a reciter of the Qur’aan, a follower of the Sunnah, submissive to Allah, a God-fearing faster, son of the Prophet’s disciple. His mother was As-Siddiiq’s daughter, his aunt “Aa’ishah the Prophet’s wife; his rank can only be ignored by the blind.”
The strength of high mountains did not equal ‘Abd Allah’s firmness and assiduity. Sincere, noble, strong, he was always ready to sacrifice his life for his clarity and straightforwardness.
During his dispute and wars with Bani Umaiyah (the Ommiads), Al-Husain Ibn Numair, the leader of the army sent by Yaziid to suppress Ibn Az-Zubair’s revolt, went to visit “Abd Allah Ibn Az-Zubair in Makkah after the news reached there that Yaziid had died. Al-Husain offered “Abd Allah to go with him to Syria where he would use his power to force people to swear the oath of allegiance to Ibn Az-Zubair. However, Ibn Az-Zubair refused this golden chance because he was totally convinced of the necessity to take revenge on the Syrian army for the terrible crimes committed while marching on the Prophet’s Madiinah to satisfy the Ommiads’ greed.
We may differ with ‘Abd Allah, wishing he would have preferred peace and forgiveness by responding to a rare chance offered by Al-Husain, Yaziid’s leader. Nevertheless, the man’s position in favor of his conviction and faith, rejecting lies and tricks, deserves respect and admiration.
Al-Hajaaj attacked with his army, beseiging him and his followers. At that time, among “Abd Allah’s warriors was a group of very skillful Abyssinian spearmen and warriors. ‘Abd Allah heard them talking about the late Caliph ‘Uthmaan (May Allah be pleased with him). Their conversation lacked all forms of justice and fairness. ‘Abd Allah reprimanded them severely saying,” By Allah, I don’t like to defeat my enemy with the help of someone hating ‘Uthmaan.” He sent them away at a very critical time in which he needed help so desperately, like a drowning man seeking hope.
His sincerity and honesty in faith and principles made him indifferent to the loss of 2OO of his most skiUful spearmen, the faith of whom he could no longer trust.
All that despite the fierce decisive battle which stood in front of him, the outcome of which could have been different if those spearmen had remained.
His resistance against Mu’aawiyah and Yaziid was an extraordinary legend of bravery. He considered Yaziid Ibn Mu’aawiyah Ibn Abi Sufyaan the most unqualified person to rule the Muslim community. That was true. Yaziid was totally corrupt. He did not possess one single virtue which would forgive his crimes and evils which have been narrated by history.
How was it possible for Ibn Az-Zubair to swear the oath of allegiance to him? He strongly refused to do so while Mu’aawiyah was alive and more so when Yaziid became caliph. Yaziid sent someone to threaten him. He, however, said, “I’m not going to swear the oath of allegiance to a drunkard.”
Ibn Az-Zubair became Commander of the Faithful with Holy Makkah as his capital, extending his rule over Hejaz, Yemen, Basra, Kufa, Khurasan, and Syria except Damascus. The inhabitants of all these provinces swore the oath of allegiance to him. But the Qmmiads were not satisfied. Restless, they waged continuous wars, most of which ended in their defeat. Nothing changed until ‘Abd Al-Maalik Ibn Marwaan ordered one of the most harsh, criminal, cruel, and merciless human beings to attack ‘Abd Allah in Makkah. This was Al-Hajaaj Ath-Thaqafiy, who was described by ‘Umar Ibn Abd Al-ziiz: “If all nations were to weigh together their sins, and we came with Al Hajaaj only, the balance would sway to our part.”
Al-Hajaaj personally led his army to invade Makkah, Ibn Az-Zubair’s capital. He besieged it nearly six months, preventing the provision of water and food to force people to abandon ‘Abd Allah. Under the severe pressure of hunger, a large number of fighters surrendered and ‘Abd Allah found himself almost alone. Although chances to save his life and soul were still available, he decided to carry out his responsibilities to the very end. He went on fighting with legendary courage, although he was 70 years old at that time.
We will only grasp the full image of that situation if we listen to the conversation which took place between ‘Abd Allah and his mother, the great and noble Asmaa’ Bint Abu Bakr, a short while before his death.
He went to her presenting the whole situation and what seemed to be his destiny.
Asmaa’ told him, ” My son, you know yourself better than anyone else. If you know that you are adhering to the truth and calling to it, then be patient till you die for its sake and don’t let the boys of Bani Umaiyah reach your neck. But if life in this world has been your main concern, then you’re a wretched son, destroying yourself and those killed on your side.”
‘Abd Allah said, ” By Allah, mother, I’ve never sought life in this world, nor did I submit myself to it. I’ve never ruled with injustice, treated anyone unfairly, or betrayed anyone.”
His mother Asmaa’ said, “I hope I will receive good consolation if you precede me to Paradise or I precede you. May Allah have mercy for your long prayers at night, your fasting during hot days and your reverent treatment of me and your father. Allah, I’ve handed over my son to Your fate; I will be pleased with Your destiny. Reward me for sacrificing my son as You reward thankful and patient believers.”
They embraced each other and exchanged a farewell look. After one hour of fierce, unparalleled battle, the martyr received a deadly stroke. Al-Hajaaj, cruel, cunning, and deceiving as he was, insisted on crucifying the lifeless body.
‘Abd Allah’s mother, who was on that day 97 years old, went to see her crucified son. Like a high towering mountain, his mother stood in front of him when Al-Hajaaj approached with shame and humiliation and said, “O Mother, the Commander of the Faithful ‘Abd Al-Maalik Ibn Marwaan has’recommended me to treat you well. Do you need anything?”
She shouted,” I’m not your mother. I’m the mother of that one crucified on the cross. I don’t need you. But I’m going to tell you a hadiith which I heard from the Prophet (PBUH). He said, ‘He will emerge from Thaqiif, a liar and a vicious one.’ We have already seen the liar and the vicious one. I don’t think he’s anyone else but you.”
‘Abd Allah Ibn ‘Umar approached to console her and asked Allah to grant her patience. She replied, “What hinders me from being patient? Wasn’t the head of Yahyaa (John) Ibn Zakariyaa granted to an Israelite harlot?”
How great she was, daughter of As-Siddiiq! Are there more eloquent words to be directed at those who cut ‘Abd Allah’s head off his body before crucifying him?
If ‘Abd Allah’s head had been handed over as a present to Al-Hajaaj and ‘Abd Al-Maalik, the head of a great Prophet (PBUH), Yahyaa Ibn Zakariya had been granted to Salome, a miserable Israelite harlot. What a magnificent comparison! What truthful words!
Having suckled the milk of such an extraordinary mother, could ‘Abd Allah possibly have lived a different life, a life not reaching such great levels of success, virtue, and heroism?
May peace be upon ‘Abd Allah.
May peace be upon Asmaa’.
May peace be upon them among the eternally living martyrs.
May peace be upon them among the most reverent and pious.