Failure of the Uprising

Many people have questioned the factors that led to the failure of Muslim’s uprising inspite of the fact that he enjoyed military power while his opponent had no sort of power to defend himself. Leave alone getting such strength to attack or make war. Some of them think that the cause lay in Muslim’s lack of knowledge about political matters and his weakness in dominating the affairs. They think that he opened the way for the enemy to prevail over him…Obviously this is a superficial view and has no sign of research or contemplation for it is not based on a thorough understanding of the circumstances and events of that time. Most important thing is to undertake a thorough study of the social conditions of Kufa of that time and the similarity of its people in individual and social behavior. Also the political program of Ibn Ziyad that he used to subdue them. More than that the discretions allowed for Muslim by the Imam, because complete information about this matter explains to us the causes of the failure of the uprising which shall be studied in the coming pages.

Kufian Society

It is necessary for us to speak in more detail about the nature of society in Kufa. Because it is the mirror that reflects the terrible events that have left their imprints on the history of political Islam. And it is a must for us to describe the local elements in Kufa and the types of social relationships among them and the economic life that ruled over them so that this discussion illuminates the causes of the failure of revolution. It would also clarify the condition of indifference and deviated thinking regarding the sufferings of that society which resulted in the most evil disaster in the history of humanity; that is their stepping forward to slay the beloved grandson of the Messenger of Allah (s). The following are the main points that we explain to our readers:

Social Phenomena

The following social phenomena were present in the Kufian society of that time, which were exclusive to it among all communities:

Contradictory Behavior

A strange phenomenon in Kufa society was that, that society was in contradiction with its real life. Because they said one thing and did just the opposite. They believed in one thing and committed the opposite of it. While it is necessary for the actions of man to conform to his beliefs. These contradictions were mentioned by Farazdaq when Imam Husain (‘a) asked him about the conditions of Kufa. He said to the Imam, “The hearts of the people are with you but their swords are against you.”

Although it was necessary that their swords should have supported what they had faith in and confronted in the path that they believed in, and such a phenomenon is not seen in the history of any community.

Among the strange things about these contradictions was that the Kufa society in a positive way involved itself in the political field and they actively participated in those events and raised the slogan of overthrowing the Umayyad rule. People wrote letters to Imam Husain (‘a) imploring him to save them from the oppressions and injustice of the Umayyads. They sent delegations and messengers with thousands of letters to the Holy Imam (‘a) in order to invite him to their land. And when His Eminence sent his emissary, Muslim bin Aqil to them they welcomed him with great enthusiasm and assured him of their full support, so much so that he wrote to Imam Husain (‘a) to come over there at the soonest. However when Ibn Marjana arrived in Kufa and unleashed terror and fear among them, they became aloof from Muslim shutting their doors upon him and said, “Who are we to interfere in the affairs of rulers?”

Their practical life was not in consonance to their beliefs and in what they had faith in. Because they gave promises to their leaders that they would stand beside them and then in a delicate moment they become aloof from them.

Among examples of their contradictions was that after they had compelled Imam Hasan (‘a) to make peace with Muawiyah and His Eminence left their lands they lamented upon their own shortcomings regarding him. And when they had slain Imam Husain (‘a) and the prisoners of Ahle Bayt (‘a) arrived in their city, they raised their voices in lamenting for them. Such that Imam Ali Ibn Husain (‘a) considered this action of theirs astounding and he said, “They are lamenting for us and wailing, then who has killed us?”

Absence of balance in the life of that society for the people there brought calamities and problems and involved them in a great mischief.

Disloyalty and Deceit

Another phenomenon present in Kufa society was deceit and betrayal and they became so famous for this quality that idioms began to be coined regarding this specialty. So much so that it is said: “More deceitful than a Kufian.”[1]

And also about disloyalty an idiom says: “Al-Koofi Laa Yoofi (A Kufian cannot be loyal).”[2]

Amirul Momineen (‘a) has described them as follows: “Deceitful loins and crafty foxes…”

And it is said regarding them, “They are people whose bodies are together but whose views are conflicting. Anyone who has them with him just derived meager advantage. And they have become such that there should be no hope in their loyalty and their statements cannot be verified.”[3]

Practical aspects in their life were turnabout, hypocrisy and lack of co-operation.  

[1] Abdul Qahir Baghdadi, Al-Farq Bainal Farq, Pg. 26
[2] Zakaria Qazwini, Aathaarul Bilaad, Pg. 251
[3] Al Imamah was Siyasah 1/129-130

They deceived that great revolutionary, Zaid bin Ali and told him, “A hundred thousand men of Kufa are with you, who shall fight on your side.”[1] And 50000 people gave allegiance to help him.[2] Later when he declared his uprising their number went down to 218.[3] Such that Dawood bin Ali advised Zaid that he should not be fooled by the deception of Kufians and he said,

“Cousin, these people are fooling you. Before you, did they not deceive one who was more respected among them, that is your grandfather, Ali? And after him they pledged allegiance to Hasan but later arose against him and snatched his cloak, plundered his tent and injured him. Did they not call out your grandfather, Husain and made strongest oaths to him and later deserted him and did not submit? They did not rest content with this, they even went so far as to slay him.”[4]

They broke allegiance after allegiance.

Aashi Hamdan, who was the poet of uprising of Muhammad bin Ashath against Hajjaj, has ridiculed the Kufians in the following lines:

“Allah did not accept but that His light be perfected and that the light of the transgressors is extinguished and that light was extinguished.

And on Iraq and its people He sent humiliation due to their breaking of pledge.

And they created such inappropriate things that are not eligible to be taken up to God. (Be of any benefit).

That is they broke one pledge after another. Such that if they pledged an oath one day, they betrayed it the next.”[5]

They are well-known to all scholars for this quality of theirs. Falhauzen believes that they were absolutely ignorant of rebellion, retraction, deception and disobedience. And political and military loyalty was absolutely unknown to them. The scholar, Waztarshuneen has also emphasized this matter and he says, “Their most prominent characteristic was deception, retraction and betraying trust.”[6]

This deception in their life was not confined to their commoners, it was also seen in their thinkers and litterateurs. Because, the famous poet, Surraqa stood against Mukhtar and fought against him in the battle of Jabanah as-Sabi. However when Mukhtar came out victorious Surraqa was brought as a prisoner to him and he threw him into the prison. Surraq began to present his excuses to Mukhtar and composed poems and panegyrics in his praise. Therein he recalled the principles of his uprising. He resorted to hyperbole in his glorification. Among his compositions are the following couplets:

[1] Tabari, Tarikh 6/166
[2] Tabari, Tarikh 6/171
[3] Tabari, Tarikh 6/167-168
[4] Tabari, Tarikh 6/167-168
[5] Tabari, Tarikh 6/376
[6] As-Siyaadatul Arabiyya, Pg. 74

“You emerge victorious on your enemies everyday and with every battalion mourn the martyrdom of Husain.

Like the victory of Muhammad in the battle of Badr and on the day of the splitting of the mountains which was seen in the battle of Hunain.

Thus, now that you are victorious, be kind to forgive though if we were to be victorious we would have committed oppression and injustice in the kingdom.

Accept my repentance, such that even if you repay me afterwards I shall be grateful to you.”

When Mukhtar forgave him, he left Kufa and not much time elapsed that he again started badmouthing Mukhtar and instigated people against him saying:

“Tell Abu Ishaq that we have seen a large and strong number of piebald horses.

I shall show with my eyes those things that are not seen. We know even that which is hidden.

If they say that I have lied to them and if they come out I shall put on the armors to fight them.”[1]

He has sung about his uprising against Mukhtar and ridiculed him and his supporters with the same fervor as he showed in his previous panegyric. It is natural that such continued contradiction in their life caused perplexity and lack of equitability in their behavior.

The most surprising aspect of their contradictory behavior was that some of them exercised utmost precaution in the most ordinary religious problems but did not flinch from committing the most heinous of deeds. For example, a Kufian came to Abdullah Ibn Umar and asked whether the blood of mosquito on his clothes be considered ritually pure or impure.

“To which area do you belong?” asked Ibn Umar.

“I am an Iraqi.” replied the man.

Ibn Umar was surprised. He said, “Look at him, he is asking me about mosquito blood! While they have killed the son of the daughter of the Messenger of Allah (s)! I have heard His Eminence say about him and his brother: These two (Hasan and Husain) are for me two flowers in the world.”[2]

Some people have explained the cause of this confusion of theirs to be the tough political conditions that befell them. Because the Umayyad regime dealt with them in the harshest and most cruel manner. They appointed over them the most merciless and ferocious persons as governors, like Mughairah bin Shoba and Ziyad bin Sumaiyyah, who made public life suffocating and difficult. These conditions created contradictory behavior in them.

[1] Ansaab al-Ashraaf 6/401. Al-Ahkbaar at-Tiwaal, Pg. 303
[2] Al-Adabul Mufrad, Pg. 14. Hilyatul Awliya 5/71

Rebellion against Governors

A special characteristic prominently seen in Kufa society was its rebellion against governors and their complains regarding them. There was no governor whom they did not denounce. For example, Saad bin Abi Waqqas who was the founder of their city. They criticized him and said: He does not know the prayer well.[1] Umar dismissed him and appointed in his place, the most respectable companion, Ammar bin Yasir. Not much time passed but they complained about him also to Umar. Umar dismissed him also and appointed Abu Musa Ashari in that post. Again not many days passed in his governorship that they began to raise objections against him and said, “We have no need of Abu Musa.”[2]

Umar was fed up with them and he expressed his displeasure. Thus when Mughairah asked him what was troubling him, “O Chief of believers! You are like this only when facing a serious problem. Have you encountered a problem?”

Umar complained to him about the pain caused by the people of Kufa and he said, “What trouble is greater than these hundred thousand people who are neither satisfied with any governor nor any governor is satisfied with them…?”[3]

Umar has said about them as follows: “Among my problems from the people of Kufa is that if I appoint a strong man upon them, they describe him as a transgressor and if I appoint a weak one, they consider him lowly…”[4]

They had made rebellion a habit and were not able to sit peacefully without making any movement.[5]

Dimo Mobin believes that Kufians resorted to this habit during the time when they were ruled by Persians and they always kept on changing the governors.

Flutton is of the view that the Bedouins inhabiting Kufa possessed characteristics like enmity, malice, revengefulness, plunder and crying for blood. Therefore they were always rebellious and disobedient to the government.[6]


Another astounding quality of Kufian society for which it is famous, is the cowardice of those people and their lack of determination in the face of difficulties and disasters. Because whenever they were in hardships they used to retract and flee. For example they initially paid allegiance to Muslim in large numbers and promised him their support. But when he declared uprising against Ibn Marjana, they went away from him. So much so that not even a single person remained to show him the way.

[1] Futuh al-Buldan Pg. 277
[2] Tabari, Tarikh 4/165. And it is mentioned therein that he was a grocer.
[3] Futuh al-Buldan Pg. 278
[4] Futuh al-Buldan Pg. 278
[5] An-Nazmul Islamiya, Pg. 26
[6] As-Siyaadatul Arabiyya, Pg. 11

Zaid bin Ali was also the recipient of this same treatment. Because they deserted him and left him alone to confront the Syrian army, while he remarked, “Just as they did with Husain.”[1]

Also, they pledged allegiance to Abdullah bin Muawiyah and told him, “Call the people towards you, because Bani Hashim are more deserving of caliphate than Bani Marwan.” They urged him out of his residence and to come to the palace where they pledged oath of allegiance to him. However when he marched forward to fight Abdullah bin Umar, the Umayyad governor, they began to flee. Abdullah bin Muawiyah looked and saw the field devoid of his supporters because the commanders of his forces had betrayed his trust when they aligned with the Umayyad governor. So he fled from the side of Abdullah bin Muawiyah and the battalions also followed him.[2]

Isa bin Zaid has said regarding them, “I don’t know anyone worthy of trust, who would fulfill his pledge of allegiance and remain steadfast fast when facing the enemy.”[3]

Bad Manners

Most Kufians possessed bad morals and manners. Thus Abdullah bin Hasan says regarding them, “Apparently they seem to be proud but inwardly they are lazy, in replying they were nasty and in facing the enemy, impatient. Their tongues are in their forefront but their hearts do not follow them.”

Imam Amirul Momineen (‘a) has described them as follows: “If you are left alone you are cowardly, if you engage in battle you are lazy. If people get an Imam you criticize him and if you fall into hardships you turn on your heels.”[4]

Mukhtar has also described them to Ibn Zubair when he inquired from him about them and said, “Apparently they seem to be loyal to their rulers but actually they are inimical to them.”

Ibn Zubair added the following to the statement of Mukhtar, “This is the characteristic of bad slaves. That whenever they are in the presence of their masters, they serve and obey him. But whenever they (masters) are away, they abuse them.”

Aashi Hamadan has also denounced them as follows:

“A fear that Allah has put in their hearts that without being chastised they do not go near people.

Neither is there truthfulness in their statements nor do they have any patience. But pride, vanity and greed is widespread among them.”[5]

[1] Tabari, Tarikh 4/183-184
[2] Tabari, Tarikh 7/302-303
[3] Maqatilut Talibiyyin, Pg. 353
[4] Tabari, Tarikh 7/169
[5] Tabari, Tarikh 6/376

And Abul Sarya says regarding them:

“I have traveled to various lands but I haven’t seen people like you.

You are contradictory, foolish, lacking determination, lazy and weak in hardships and prosperity.

The curse that fell on you before and which shall remain on you till Doomsday is that no one is pleased with you and you are not pleased with anyone.[1]

I have made my home, in discontent, far away from your lands. Thus if I have become distanced from you, so you taste the enmity.”[2]

Dr. Yusuf Khalifa has explained these couplets as follows: In these lines, Abul Sarya has repeated the ancient view regarding the people of Kufa that were a people having evil, hypocrisy and bad morals. They are described to be disunited, contradictory, ignorant and having lack of determination, weakness and helplessness. The poet believes that these qualities shall remain in them always whether it is war or peace. Among their qualities was that no leader or guide has ever passed that was satisfied with them or they were satisfied with him. They were unique among all the communities with regard to their being affected by these traits and the poet says that nowhere has he come across people like them. In the end the poet declares his enmity to them and his decision to go far away from them. He also warns them of dire consequences and evil fate that was to befall them.”[3]

Abu Bakr Hazali has also described their condition as, “The people of Kufa broke off relations. They wrote to Husain bin Ali that, ‘We, a hundred thousand men are with you,’ till he came out to join them. But when he arrived, they attacked him. They killed the young and old of his family. After that they came out to take revenge for his blood. Has anyone ever heard of such a thing?”[4]

Greed and Jealousy

Another prominent defect of Kufian people was their greed for material wealth. They were so much greedy for worldly things that they did not refrain from resorting to the most shameless methods to achieve them. They had no fear of insult or exposure. This was one of the most important factors that led to the failure of Muslim’s uprising. Because Ibn Ziyad generously bestowed money to the nobles and leaders of Kufa and they hastened to him and betrayed Muslim. They broke the oath of allegiance they had given him and Ibn Ziyad was able to purchase their loyalties through his wealth and he was able to send them to fight the beloved grandson of the Messenger of Allah (s) while they had pledged to help and support His Eminence.

[1] He is alluding to Imam Husain's curse on the people of Kufa on the day of Ashura that: “May your rulers never be satisfied with you.”
[2] Maqatilut Talibiyyin, Pg. 444
[3] Hayatush Sha’ar fil Kufa, Pg. 445
[4] Mukhtasar al-Buldan, Pg. 173

Influenced by Rumors

Another major defect of Kufa society was that the people were proved to believe in rumors very soon without investigating the reality behind it. Umayyads took advantage of this in the days of Maskan[1] and spread rumor in Iraqi army that Imam Hasan (‘a) has made peace with Muawiyah. When the soldiers heard this rumor they were shocked and there developed conflict among them. They rushed upon Imam (‘a) and plundered all his belongings. They even attacked him and slashed his thigh with a sword.

When Ibn Ziyad’s agents spread rumor among them that the Syrian army was fast approaching them to take revenge from them, they were absolutely devastated. Their fighting spirit died down and they began to flee from the army. They left Muslim Ibn Aqil alone and not a single person remained with him who could have pointed him the way.

These were some prominent aspects of the Kufian society that tell us about their decadence and their failures in face of disasters because neither they possessed a firm determination nor view of social principles. Due to this they brought misfortune upon themselves and destroyed their future. They did not respect their own rights and instead opened up the way for the cruel son of Marjana to rule upon them and shower upon them the most terrible punishments.

Economic Life

The economic life in Kufa was in a disbalanced condition. A noble class existed which was drowned in extreme wealth due to the fact that the Umayyad regime during the reigns of Uthman and Muawiyah had accorded special treatment and made generous grants to persons of this special class, by depriving the poor and destitute they had become wealthy and some of them are as follows:

  1. Ashath bin Qais: During the reign of Uthman he purchased large tracts of land in Iraq and he became the foremost feudal lord of that time. He was the one who compelled the Imam to accept arbitration because the Imam’s government criticized special benefits and privileges given to him by the previous regimes.

  2. Amr bin Hareeth: He was the most affluent man of Kufa[2] and he played an important role in quelling Muslim’s uprising and paralyzing his movement.

  3. Shabth bin Rabi: He was from a prominent noble class of Kufa.[3] He was one of those who restrained people from supporting Muslim. In the same way he commanded a battalion in battle against His Eminence, Husain (‘a).

These were some wealthy people of that time who strengthened the hands of Ibn Marjana and provided him with their support so that the uprising of Muslim may be suppressed because they possessed wide power in Kufa and had the capability  

[1] It is a locality of Kufa (Tr.)
[2] It is mentioned in Tabari: Amr bin Hareeth was the richest man of Kufa.
[3] Hayatush Sha’ar fil Kufa, Pg. 168

to announce their opposition to Mukhtar even though the majority of people on his side included slaves and retainers. They were also those who overthrew his rule.

However the majority of the people of society in Kufa were having connections with the government and they obtained their livelihood from it as it was originally an army cantonment and the regime had guaranteed its expenses as many people of this area were deprived and in a poor condition.

Asadi, the poet, has described its unsuitable economic life in his panegyric that he composed in praise of a leader in order to obtain his favors and kindness. In that panegyric he says:

“O the generous Aba Talha! Bestow me something from what is given to you.

Enliven me, may my life be sacrificed on you as I am helpless and deprived and you’re aware of it.

Or give me barley flour as it is a great rewarding deed.

You know what Allah has said about feeding the orphans, so do not ignore me, sir.

Except for a cup and leather utensil and a discolored book-like fresh saplings, I do not possess anything else.

And the covering sheet patched with leather that I am selling for a loaf of bread.

And the firm saddle that I have been lent is sufficient for every respected guest.”[1]

You can see how poverty and deprivation has impelled him to beg in these lines. This was the same face of destitution that had squeezed his neck. Shauqi Zaef has opined about these couplets that: “If it is from here that the call for money arose in the Umayyad panegyric. It surrounds their various aspects and it became a basis of life of people. It is natural that it should also form the basis of their art and poetry. Is it not from the important pillars of life? Then how it could not be the important pillar of art? Because in the palm is hidden the sea of life and in the depth of poetry, because only poetry reflects life.”[2]

Economic life has a deep and active impact in the existence of society and it plays an important role in leading the society on the path of good or evil. And it is proved that the crimes and evils they committed was as a result of extreme poverty and deprivation. Or it was due to their greed in obtaining material things. Most of the soldiers who had gone out to fight Imam Husain (‘a) had done so only when Ibn Marjana promised a raise in their stipends.

Anyway, bad economic conditions in Kufa played an active role in failure of Muslim’s uprising and dispersing people from around him. At that time Ibn Ziyad generously bestowed riches to leaders and prominent people and they began to oppose Muslim and finally deserted him.

[1] Haajiz, Al-Haiwan 5/297
[2] Al-Tatur wat Tajaddud fil Sha’arul Amawi, Pg. 34

Social Factors

The city of Kufa was a city of many communities and people speaking various languages inhabited it. They differed from each other in habits and mannerisms because they included Arabs, Persians, Nabateans who lived with slaves and other people. It was not considered a pure Arab town like Mecca and Medina. Rather it was a town of homogeneous population. As Yaqubi says, these people migrated to this town as it was considered to be the original Islamic army cantonment. And Muslim soldiers used to be sent for expeditions from this town. War booties were sent to this town continuously as Allah has prescribed, so much so that every participating soldier’s share from the booty of Madayan came to 12000 units of currency,[1] thus that which became a cause to impel the people to move to Kufa was the desire to obtain wealth. Some of these communities were as follows:


When Kufa was founded at the hands of the conqueror of Iraq, Saad bin Abi Waqqas, Arabs were attracted to it. They began to compete with each other to relocate to Kufa. In the very beginning, seventy Badr veterans and 300 companions of Shajarah arrived to settle here.[2] Ibn Saad in his Tabaqaat has mentioned about 150 companions who were settled in Kufa.[3] Saffah says about them that, “It (Kufa) is the best residence of companions and noble men.”[4]

As for the Arab tribes that settled over there, they were as follows:

Yemeni Tribes

Yemeni tribes competed with each other to settle in Kufa. They numbered according to the statements of historians to be 12000 people[5] comprised of following clans:

  1. Qaza – a,  2. Ghasaan, 3. Bajeela, 4. Khas-a’m, 5. Kinda, 6. Hadhramaut, 7. Azd, 8. Madhij, 9. Himyar, 10. Hamadan, 11. Nakha.

These were clans that originally belonged to Yemen but who had made Kufa their home. The settled on the west side of the Masjid. And Falhauzen believes that famous tribes of Yemen like Madhij, Hamadan and Kinda became dominant in Kufa and acquired leadership. When Abdul Malik bin Marwan arrived in Kufa and when people of Madhij and Hamadan approached him he said to them, “Except for them I do not see anything for anyone.” (That is they are prominent everywhere).

Adnani Tribes

Adnani tribes that settled in Kufa comprised of 8000 persons. They formed two major groups: 1. Tameem, and 2. Bani Asr.

[1] Ibne Saad, Tabaqat 6/4. Mukhtasar al-Buldan, Pg. 166
[2] Ibne Saad, Tabaqat 6
[3] Ibne Saad, Tabaqat 6
[4] Mukhtasar al-Buldan, Pg. 73
[5] Mojam Qabail al-Arab 1/15 etc. Futuh al-Buldan Pg. 276. Mojam al-Buldan 5/492

Bani Bakr Tribes

A number of Bani Bakr clans arrived and settled in Kufa. They were as follows: 1. Bani Asad, 2. Ghitfaan, 3. Muharib, 4. Nameer.

Also other Arab tribes had settled in Kufa which were as follows: Kanariah, Jadeela, Zabee-a’, Abdul Qais, Taghlab, Iyyad, Tai, Thaqeef, Aamir and Mazeena.[1]

Masniyun believes that along with the Quraish tribe there were in Kufa people who were Bedouins at the heart that lived in tents and were camel herders from Bani Daram Tamimi and the neighbors of ancient Yemeni, the Tayy and people of lower middle class from the Rabia and Asad. Also from west and north-west. There was Bakr from east and south-east. There were also elements among the city dwellers from the original southern Arab tribes who had relocated from Hadhramaut. They were of two types: Either they were semi-urbans from Kinda and Bajila and fully urban people from other Yemeni cities and villages, that is the Madhij, Himyar and Hamadan.[2]

Arab people who came and settled in Kufa at the time of its establishment were a mixture of Yemenis, Nizaris and others, however the Yemenis were more in number. In the same way their influence on social life of Kufa was much more than that of the others.

Tribal Spirit

Tribal spirit reigned over the social tribes of Arabs in Kufa who lived in their particular quarters and people of other tribes had no share in their quarters. And Masniyun believes that the burial grounds in Kufa were also having demarcated areas based on tribal divisions.[3] In the same way roads and streets were also named after the tribes that resided in those areas.[4] The city became a perfect image of tribal life, so much so that tribal feeling and spirit was at the foremost and tribal bigotry was at the highest. And the tribes resorted to competition for achieving success among themselves just as was seen in the battle of Jamal. This led to a situation when ignorance reigned supreme in the life of Kufa.[5]

Ibn Abil Hadid has described to us in the following way the tribal spirit that was dominant in Kufa. “In the last period of Hazrat Ali (‘a) the people of Kufa were divided into tribes that whenever a person from a tribe came out and passed through the area of another tribe he used to call out the name of his tribe: O Nakha! O Kinda! Thus young men of that tribe used to gather around him and shout: O Tamimi! O Rabia! And they used to rush to the one who was shouting and they used to beat him up. He used to go towards his tribesmen and call them. They pulled out their swords and fights erupted.”

[1] Al-Hayatul Ijtimaiyyah was Iqtisaadiyaa fil Kufa, Pg. 42
[2] Naqshe Hai Kufa, Pg. 12-13
[3] Khatat al-Kufa, Pg. 18
[4] Khatat al-Kufa, Pg. 18
[5] Al-Tatur wat Tajaddud fil Sha’arul Amawi, Pg. 80-81

Tribal spirit was the most important element of social life of Kufa which was effectively utilized by Ibn Sumaiyyah to capture Hujr and to quell his uprising. And he used one group of people to defeat another group. In the same way his son took advantage of this phenomenon in order to put down the movement of Muslim, Hani and Abdullah bin Afif Azdi.[1]


Along with the Arabs, there resided in Kufa, people of Persian race also, were given the title of al-Humra,[2] the red-faced. They inquired about the most powerful of the Arabian tribes. It was said to them that they were the Tameem. And so they signed a peace treaty with them.[3] The greatest wave of Persians that came to Kufa and settled there at the time of its establishment comprised of surviving soldiers of the Sasanids who joined the Arab army and fought at their side. They came to be known in history as Humra Dailam. Their number according to historians was four thousand fighters. Their commander was a person, Dailam, with whom they had fought under the command of Rustam at Quddisiya and when the Persians were defeated and Rustam was killed they made peace with Saad bin Abi Waqqas with the condition that they would settle down wherever they liked and they would have treaties with anyone they liked. And that he would appoint a share for them from the Public Treasury.

They entered into a treaty with Zahra bin Juba Tamimi, a victorious general. Saad appointed for them a million as their share in Public Treasury. They became Muslims and participated in the conquest of Madayan just as they also had share in the conquest of Jeloola. After that they shifted their residence and settled down in Kufa.[4]

These were some of the people who had settled down in Kufa in large numbers. Falhauzen says they were more than half the total population of Kufa and their population increased so much so that Arab ratio decreased and in the time of Mamun they had become a majority. During that period Persian became the chief language.[5]

Jahiz says: “The Persian language has great influence on the language of Kufa.”[6]

Anyway, the Persians played an important role in Kufa and a big group of migrants came into being there in such a way that people of Kufa said: “I have come from Humra of Dailam.”[7]

[1] Sharh Nahjul Balagha 13/167-168
[2] Al-Ahkbaar at-Tiwaal, Pg. 288 & 293
[3] Tabari, Tarikh
[4] Futuh al-Buldan Pg. 279. Khatat al-Kufa, Pg. 11
[5] Fikrul Arabiyya, Pg. 83-84
[6] Al-Bayan wat-Tibbiyin 1/26
[7] Itiihaajaatush Sha’arul Arabi fil Qarith Thaaniul Hijri, Pg. 55

Balazari says, “Ziyad sent some of them to Syria and a group of them to Basra.[1] This group took part in numerous Islamic conquests and they were instrumental in the defeat of the Umayyad regime.


Anbat was one of the tribes that resided in Kufa. They had influenced the social and intellectual life. Historians say: “Anbat did not denote a distinct people. Rather they were Arabs and used the Darami language in their writings. They were natives of rocky parts in the Arab lands but from there they relocated to Iraq and started agriculture. They spoke in their own Darami language.”[3]

They had much influence on the life of Kufa. Abu Amr bin Alaa said to the people of Kufa: “You have the pretensions and cheekiness of the Anbat and we have the personality of the Persians and their foresight.”[4]

Tabari narrates: “A man from Bani Abas took a man from Nihawand, called Dinar as a prisoner. He used to frequent Abasi and gave him gifts. In the rule of Muawiyah he came to Kufa and stood among the people. He told them: ‘O people of Kufa! You are of the first who superceded us and were the best of people and took up your responsibility during the time of Umar and Uthman and after that you changed it and four qualities were acquired by you: Miserliness, deceit, betrayal of trust and poverty as none of them existed in you. I became with you and saw that they existed in your posterity and after that realized from where you have come.’”[5]

De Bond believes that the society and morals of Kufa underwent a great transformation in the past during the period of Muawiyah bin Abi Sufyan[6] and it is natural that Anbat caused a great part of this change.


The fourth element that took part in the creation of Kufa was the Syrians. They had spread in Iraq before Islamic conquest and an exceeding number of them settled at Tigris and some of them at Hira and Kufa. They developed relations with the Kufaites and were influenced by their habits and behavior because social life, as the scholars of social sciences say, is a life of giving and accepting influence. Every human accepts influence and to those are around him he leaves his effect.

These were some of the elements that contributed to the formation of society in Kufa. These people were not pure Arabs. Rather they were mixed races and the majority among them was Arab as they were dominant majority of the province. The religious customs and social habits were formed under the Arab influence in the same way the Arabs had the last word in that province…

[1] Futuh al-Buldan Pg. 279
[2] Sami people from north Arabian Peninsula. People who were originally Darham and Qati. (Al-Mojam al-Wasit).
[3] Al-Hizaaratul Islamiyya Pg. 97
[4] Al-Bayan wat-Tibbiyin 2/106
[5] Tabari, Tarikh 4/135-136
[6] Tarikh Falsafa dar Islam, Pg. 15-18

Religious Groups

The Kufan society was not made of people following one and the same religion. Rather people of every religious denomination resided in Kufa and each followed its particular religious customs. Some of the major religious groups were as follows:

1. Islam

Islam was the religion of the majority of Arabs who had settled in Kufa and the cause of the establishment of this town was that it was a garrison of soldiers who fought for Islam under the control of the regimes. They were actually expected to fight Jihad for the Islamic faith but most of them lacked this sincerity and they had joined the army due to greed and to earn booties from war prescribed by Allah for religious fighters. Social scientists have emphasized that social change, alone, developed after generation and generations and the society in the same way protected their habits and practices that they had received from their ancestors. Dua to this the Kufian society was involved in intellectual movements that were opposed to Islam and few dangerous groups existed among their ranks as we shall explain in the following pages:

A - Khawarij: The reciters of Quran and those who had blackened their foreheads in prostrations had acquired this faith. When in Siffeen, Qurans were raised aloft on the spears they compelled the Imam to accept arbitration after Muawiyah was defeated and almost routed. Imam accepted this against his will and warned them of deceit and humiliation. But he could not influence them and they remained obstinate upon their belief and when they realized that they have been misguided, they came to the Imam and said: “We had become disbelievers and have repented. You also express your regret and confess to your disbelief, so that we may accompany you!”

Imam refused to do this. They separated from His Eminence and selected for themselves the slogan of, “There is no command except of Allah’s!” They fell into falsehood and went astray. The Imam fought against and killed a large number of them. However some of them survived and they continued actively to spread their views and played an important role in fighting against Imam Hasan (‘a) who was finally compelled to sign the peace treaty with Muawiyah. In the same way most soldiers sent by Ibn Ziyad for battle against Imam Husain (‘a) were from the Khawarij, who harbored enmity against Imam Amirul Momineen (‘a). They displayed this enmity before his pure son in the battle of Kerbala and took revenge from him.

B – Umayyad Party: These persons were the representatives of the nobles of Kufa and their leaders. Like Qais bin Ashath, Amr bin Hajjaj Zubaidi, Yazid bin Harth, Shabt bin Rabi’, Amr bin Hareeth and Umar bin Saad. They were having loyalty to Bani Umayyah and believed that they were superior to Ahle Bayt (‘a) in the matter of Caliphate and leadership of the community. They played an important role in quelling the uprising of Muslim and they instigated people to participate in war against Imam Husain (‘a).

C – Shias: They had faith in the loyalty to Ahle Bayt (‘a) and considered them a religious necessity. Shias of Kufa displayed sincerity in their love and loyalty to Ahle Bayt (‘a) and the signs of their devotion were as follows:

1 – They used to deliver sermons to the people regarding the events related to Ahle Bayt (‘a) in which they praised and described the merits and greatness of Ahle Bayt (‘a) and they told the people about the examples of justice and truthfulness that they had witnessed during the rule of Imam Amirul Momineen (‘a).

2 – They wept profusely remembering the calamities and tortures that they bore during the reign of Muawiyah and the insults they had to suffer. However they did not show exemplary sacrifice in the path of their faith. Their friendship was merely a sort of human kindness and it was not based on firm religious belief. They separated from Muslim and abandoned him to become a morsel in the hands of the oppressive Ibn Marjana. Balazari has narrated that in Kerbala when they saw that swords and spears were hacking at the blessed body of the beloved grandson of the Messenger of Allah (s) they wept and prayed to God: “O God! Send Your help to the son of the daughter of Your Messenger!” One of them glanced at the suppliant and said in ridicule, “Why don’t you rush to help him instead of just praying?” Imam Husain (‘a) differentiated them from True Shias and shouted at them: “O Shias of the progeny of Abi Sufyan!”

The fact is that except for a small group, the majority were not true Shias. The small group of real Shias joined Imam Husain (‘a) and was martyred with His Eminence. In the same way a large number of them were lying in the dark dungeons.

Anyway, the Muslims of Kufa were not following a single faith. They were having some dangerous groups among them.

2 – Christians

Among the people that settled down in Kufa were the Christians who had arrived in Kufa after the downfall of the glory of Hira. They settled down in Kufa and constructed some churches for themselves. They had a church at the back of the great mosque of Kufa.[1] They were having two bishops, one following the Nestorian church and the other, Jacobite.[2] There were two major tribes among them:

A – Taghlib Christians: They had settled there since the time Saad laid the plans of Kufa. This tribe commanded respect and earned glory.[3] People of this tribe refused to pay the Jizya tax and Umar was helpless and instead allowed them to pay Sadaqah like other Muslim subjects.[4]

B – Christians of Najran: They settled down on the outskirts of Kufa during the  

[1] Futuh al-Buldan Pg. 284
[2] Khatat al-Kufa, Pg. 35
[3] Tabari, Tarikh
[4] Tabari, Tarikh

caliphate of Umar and their locality came to be known as “Najraniyyah”.[1]

Christians were employed in many government posts. Such that Abu Musa Ashari had Christian scribes[2] and Walid bin Uqbah, the governor of Uthman appointed a Christian in charge of the office of caretaker of mosques near Kufa.[3]

Christians mostly followed the occupation of money-changer in Kufa and they established markets for this purpose.[4]

These special banks during difficult times in the province loaned funds to the local government and the government used to distribute these funds among people with potential of staging uprisings so that such rebellions may be avoided. Ibn Ziyad also borrowed from them to pay the nobles in order to quell the uprising of Muslim.

Anyway, the population of Kufa was a mixture of Muslims and Christians and relations between the two groups were extremely strong.

3 – Jews

Jews came and settled down in Kufa since the 20th year of the Hijrah[5] and the majority of them arrived from Hijaz after they had been expelled from there by Umar bin Khattab.[6] They lived in a separate area in Kufa which was associated with their name and they also had a synagogue there. The traveler Binyamin writes: “Seven thousand Jews lived in Kufa. There was a grave over there that they considered sacred and circumambulated around it. They had built a synagogue over this tomb.”[7]

They mostly followed occupations like that of goldsmith etc. and other professions that the Arabs disliked…The Jews harbored deep animosity to the Holy Prophet (s) because he had destroyed a large number of them and humiliated and defeated them in every confrontation. According to some researchers they played a prominent role in the massacre of Kerbala so that by killing the grandsons and progeny of the Prophet they may extract their revenge…

Here we conclude our discussion regarding the various religious groups that dominated the population of Kufa and which played important roles in movements of Jihad and military actions of that area.

[1] Hayatush Sha’ar fil Kufa, Pg. 144
[2] Uyun al-Akhbaar 1/43
[3] Al-Aghani 4/184
[4] Tarikh Kufa, Pg. 148. The money changers and bankers’ begin from the Masjid Sohail to the Great Mosque as some of the sources have mentioned.
[5] Yusuf Rizqullaah Ghaneema, Nuzhatul Mushtaq fi Tarikh Yahood wal Iraq, Pg. 103
[6] Al-Hayatul Ijtimaiyyah was Iqtisaadiyaa fil Kufa, Pg. 105
[7] Safarnama Binyamin, Translation of Azar Haddad, Pg. 146

Military Organization

The city of Kufa had been initially established as a military cantonment to house the soldiers of the Islamic army. The army was organized on the basis of tribal divisions. It was divided into platoons and divisions according to the clans and tribes they belonged to. The divisions of the army were as follows:

Seven-division System

The army was divided into seven major divisions based on tribal differences inspite of the fact that all of them were supposed to be fighting for Islam and Allah. And tribal feeling dominated them to a great extent and it had not decreased a bit. The organization was as follows:

First Division: This division consisted of Kinanah and those who had peace treaties with them from the Abyssinians and the Jadilah who were, since the days of Saad, obedient to the governors of Quraish and they acted loyally to the Bani Umayyah and their governors.

Second Division: Qazaa-a, Ghassaan, Bajeelah, Khath-a’m, Kinda, Hadhramaut and Azd.

Third Division: Madhij, Himyar, Hamadan and their confederates who were distinguished for their enmity to Bani Umayyah and their support for His Eminence, Ali (‘a) and his children.

Fourth Division: Tameem and other Arab tribes and their confederates.

Fifth Division: Asad, Ghitfaan, Muharib, Zabi-a’, Taghlib and Nameer.

Sixth Division: Iyyad, A’k, Abdul Qais, Ahle Hijr and Humra.

Seventh Division: Tayy.[1]

These seven groups were present in the tribal battalions of the army. This system was followed so that general soldiers may participate in the battles that may occur in that period and that they may share in the war booty that is distributed after returning from the battles. Kufa was divided in this manner till the year 50 A. H. However Ziyad bin Abih, the governor of Iraq changed it and converted it into a four-division army as follows:

1 – People of Medina, Amr bin Hareeth was appointed over them.

2 – Tameem and Hamadan, Khalid bin Arafta was their commander.

3 – Rabi-a, Bakr and Kinda, Qais bin Walid bin Abde Shams controlled them.

4 – Madhij and Asad,[2] Abu Burdah bin Abu Musa was their commander-in-chief.

The reason why Ziyad took this step was that he wanted to make whole of Kufa his military regime. Thus he chose only those persons as commanders who were known for their loyalty to the government. Ibn Ziyad solicited their assistance in  

[1] Hayatush Sha’ar fil Kufa, Pg. 29-30
[2] Khatat al-Kufa, Pg. 15-16

suppressing the uprising of Muslim. In the same way some of them were appointed as commanders of the battalions that the tyrant had dispatched to fight Imam Husain (‘a). Thus Amr bin Hareeth and Khalid bin Arafta were commanders of that army.

Military commanders are chosen from those who hold a social position and are well known for harshness, courage and experience in war.[1] The commanders of all the four divisions were under the control of the government and the connection of the government with the people was also maintained through them, that in view of their great importance in the province, Imam Husain (‘a) wrote to them and requested them to help and support him.[2]

Experts of Tribal Affairs

The government relied upon the U'rafa.[3] They solved the problems of the tribes and distributed allowances among them, and also helped in maintaining public registers that recorded the names of men, women and children. In the same way they recorded births in order to secure from the government stipends for the newborns. Names of people who died used to be deleted from those registers by these officers.[4]

In the same way they also bore the responsibility of maintaining law and order and during hostilities they used to mobilize people for joining the army and used to encourage them in this regard. They used to report to the government about those who refused to join the armed forces.[5] If the U'rafa fell short in their duties or went beyond their power they used to be punished very severely by the government.[6]

One of the important causes of the people leaving Muslim was the activity of these U'rafa because they discouraged the people from joining the movement and spread fear and rumors among them.[7] In the same way they played an active role in instigating people to join forces against Imam Husain (‘a).

With this we conclude our discussion on the salient features of social life in Kufa as their understanding is necessary from the aspect of their effect on the failure of the uprising.

[1] Tabari, Tarikh 5/268
[2] Ansaab al-Ashraaf
[3] Urfa is the plural of Arifeen. It is that man who recognizes his friends. It is mentioned in traditions: “Turn back to your Urfa, so that they may tell us about you.” Arif’s duty was to administer the affairs of the tribe and its members. Through him the governor used to know of tribal matters and problems of members.
[4] Al-Hayatul Ijtimaiyyah was Iqtisaadiyaa fil Kufa, Pg. 53
[5] Tabari, Tarikh 7/226
[6] Al-Aghani
[7] Al-Bidayah wan Nihayah Pg. 154-155

The Tyrant Ibn Marjana

To understand fully the failure of Muslim’s revolt, it is necessary to know about the tyrant, Ibn Marjana’s coup d’etat and to learn about his life, characteristics and the plan he resorted to, to quell the uprising. Therefore we present the following points for our readers:

Birth of Ibn Marjana

This tyrant was born in the year, 39 A. H.[1] He created disasters and difficulties on the earth. Thus he was 21 when he put to the sword the beloved grandson of the Messenger of Allah (s). Sources available to us do not specify the place of his birth.


His father was Ziyad, the son of Sumaiyyah. He was among the elements of mischief and corruption on the earth. Such that, he blinded people and had them crucified on trunks of palm trees, and merely on the basis of suspicion or allegations he punished innocent people. Thus he put the area of Iraq into untold misery and sorrow.

Ibn Ziyad’s mother was Marjana, a Magian woman[2] well-known for her wantonness. Ubaidullah Tamimi mentioned her in the presence of Ibn Marjana and said, “Umar bin Khattab has said: O God! I seek Your refuge from fornicating women and from children of fornicating women.” Ibn Ziyad was disturbed by these words and he replied, “Umar said: No child remains for nine months in its mother’s womb but that it comes out as a fool.”[3]

Ziyad left Marjana and Shiruyah married her.[4]

Upbringing of Ibn Marjana

That tyrant was brought up in the house of crime. He spent his early childhood in the house of his stepfather, Shiruyah, who was not even a Muslim. When he grew up he was taken up by his father, Ziyad and trained to cause bloodshed and oppress the people. He was brought up to practice deceit and employ intrigue. In other words he inherited all the evil traits of his father, like cruelty and getting pleasure by doing bad to people. He was not less cruel than his father. That tyrant has himself mentioned in one of his speeches:

“I am Ibn Ziyad, I am most resembling the one who walks the desert. And I am having no resemblance to the paternal or maternal uncle.”[5]

Like his father he was harsh and firm on committing evil and he very much distant from truth.

[1] Al-Bidayah wan Nihayah Pg. 283
[2] Al-Bidayah wan Nihayah Pg. 283
[3] Al-Bayan wat-Tibiyyin 2/242
[4] Al-Bayan wat-Tibiyyin 1/72
[5] Tabari, Tarikh

Characteristics of Ibn Marjana

Of his prominent psychological characteristics were cruelty and obtaining pleasure through bloodshed. He arrested a Khawarij woman, cut off her limbs and ordered that she be exhibited in the market place.[1]

Hasan Basri has described him as a senseless young man who shed a lot of blood.[2] Muslim bin Aqil said about him: “He laps the blood of Muslims and kills the life of those whose killing Allah has forbidden and he sheds blood on the basis of anger, enmity and suspicion, while he is busy in vain pastimes, in such a way as if he has not done anything.”

He was arrogant and he did not heed the advice of anyone. For example Aaez bin Amr Sahabi came to him and said: “My son! I have heard the Messenger of Allah (s) say: The worst ruler is one who is cruel and who oppresses the people. So take care that you don’t become such.”

These words hit him sharply and he screamed, “Sit down! You are the rubbish of the companions of the Messenger of Allah (s).”

Aaez objected against him and said, “Is there rubbish among them? Rubbish is after them and among those other than them.”[3]

During his governorship of Basra he became well known as a deceitful man and a trickster with regard to the people. Motal bin Yasar advised him to leave such acts, saying, “I have heard the Messenger of Allah (s) say: There is none that is appointed as ruler who acts deceitfully with the people except that Allah deprives him from Paradise.”[4]

These were his personal and psychological characteristics. As for his physical traits, they were as follows:

Bad Accent

The tyrant was brought up in the house of his mother, Marjana, who was not Arab. He learnt her accent and was not able to understand Arabic. For example he often used to say: “Open up your swords!” While he meant to say: “Pull out your swords!” Yazid bin Mufrag in his poem had alluded to Ibn Ziyad’s faulty Arabic:

“On the day when you opened your sword from far away, you destroyed it, as all your actions were destructive.”

During a conversation with Suwaid, Ibn Ziyad said, “Sit on the buttocks of the floor!!”

Suwaid ridiculed him saying, “I didn’t know the floor had buttocks!”[5]

[1] Qisasul Arab 1/212
[2] Seer A’laamun Nubla 3/545
[3] Al-Bidayah wan Nihayah 8/285
[4] Muslim, Sahih 1/124, Tr. 142
[5] Al-Bayan wat-Tibiyyin 1/73

He pronounced the ‘h’a’ of Arabic as ‘ha’. Thus asked Hani: “Are you Haroori today?” While he meant to ask him if he had joined the Khawarij (H’aroori). He also used to pronounce the Arabic alphabet of ‘A’ain’ as ordinary ‘a’ and the Arabic ‘q’ as ‘k’. One day he said, “Man kaatalna kaatalna!” Actually he meant to say: “Man Qaatalna Qaatalna!” which means that we shall fight those who want to fight us.[1]

Gluttony and Debauchery

Historians say: He was a glutton and he had a voracious appetite. He ate five times a day and his last meal of the day used to be a donkey leg. His meal was concluded only after eating this. If a full lamb or a kid was brought to him, he used to finish it off alone.[2] In the same way he was a sex maniac. On the night he entered Kufa he slept with a woman named, Umme Nafe, the daughter of Ammarah bin Uqbah bin Abi Muit.[3]

These were his salient physical characteristics.

Ibn Ziyad’s Rule in Basra

Muawiyah gave him the governorship of Basra and entrusted him with authority upon the affairs of Muslims at a time when he was in the prime of his youth and given to arrogance and pride. He ruled Basra in the same way as his father had. Because he also killed on the basis of mere suspicion and allegation. And he considered the innocent as criminals and the sinners as innocent ones. Muawiyah trusted him and was pleased with his manners. Therefore he also proclaimed for him the governorship of Kufa. But Muawiyah died before dispatch of this appointment letter.

Yazid’s Dislike for Ibn Marjana

Yazid hated Ibn Marjana very much. This was due to some matters, most important of whom was that his father, Ziyad had objected to his father, Muawiyah when he wanted to appoint Yazid as the next caliph because Yazid was a profligate and always involved in evil vices.

Yazid wanted to dismiss Ubaidullah from the governorship of Basra and take away all his powers but when Imam Husain (‘a) announced his uprising and he sent Muslim as his emissary to Kufa to take the allegiance of the people for him, Sarjun suggested to Yazid that he allow Ibn Ziyad continue as the governor of Basra and at the same time appoint him as the governor of Kufa also and order him to quell the uprising. Yazid accepted this suggestion and the whole of Iraq came under the control of Ibn Ziyad. Ibn Ziyad took over the province in an iron fist and strived by all his might to suppress the uprising so that through it he may be able to get into the good books of Yazid and to gain the affections of the Umayyad clan.

[1] Al-Bidayah wan Nihayah 8/284
[2] Nihayatul Arab 3/343
[3] Miraat az-Zamaan, Pg. 285

Plan for Coup d’etat

In spite of his young age Ibn Ziyad was an expert politician and he had mastered the art of conducting coups and knew well how to turn unfavorable circumstances to his advantage. He succeeded through deceit and intrigue to get the control of the garrisons of Kufa and quell the revolt. The main points of his master plan were as follows:

1 – Spying on Muslim in order to gain intelligence about his matters.

2 – He spread such fear and rumors that it created an atmosphere of terror in Kufa and the people became concerned with their own selves. In this way he was able to prevent them from interference in any way, in the political events of that time.

3 – He bribed the nobles and upper class people so that they would always be at his beck and call and he could use them in any way whenever he liked. These people created disunity among the tribes and defeated Muslim’s forces.

4 – He worked out a cunning plot regarding Hani and had him arrested as he was a prominent man of the province. Through this he was able to remove a very important factor of the uprising.

These were some of the dangerous points of the plan of the tyrant, Ibn Ziyad, by which he was able to dominate the circumstances and to destroy the revolt and finally to mobilize forces to slay the beloved grandson of the Messenger of Allah (s).

Muslim bin Aqil

As for Muslim bin Aqil, he was an emblem of piety in Islam and extremely precautious and careful and in his behavior he did not deviate in any way and never resorted to any kind of deceit and fraud even if political victory depended on it. In this regard he acted on the manner of his uncle, Amirul Momineen (‘a). Moreover, he was not sent to Kufa as an absolute ruler that he could have acted in any way he liked. His responsibility was only to take allegiance on behalf of the Imam and to find out the true position of the Kufians. So that if he found it favorable he would ask Imam Husain (‘a) to proceed to Kufa. Apart from this he did not have any other responsibility as we have already explained in the previous discussions.

Thus we end our discussion about the failed uprising of Muslim, which was the beginning of the tragedy of Kerbala and the initial point of the deep pains. Along with this we conclude the second volume of this book.