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Published on 25 Jan 2016 | Category : Companions, Event of Karbala

Mukhtar al-Thaqafi: Detailed Account of his Personality and Revenge

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Birth, Lineage, and Nickname

Mukhtar b. Abu ‘Ubayd al-Thaqafi was called by his Kunya: Abu Ishaaq and nicknamed as Kaysan. Kaysan means smart and incisive. Asbagh b. Nubata narrates that one dayImam ‘Ali (a) seated Mukhtar on his knees and addressed him by saying, “O Kayyis, O Kayyis,” and since Imam ‘Ali (a) called him Kayyis twice, he became famous as such. Nevertheless, some believe that the words Kaysan was taken from one of his advisers and chiefs, whose Kunya was Abu ‘Umra.


Mukhtar is originally from Ta’if, the Thaqif clan. His great grandfather, Mas’ud al-Thaqafi was one of the nobles of Hijaz, and was nicknamed ‘Azim al-Qaryatayn (The Great of the two tribes).


His father, Abu ‘Ubayd al-Thaqafi, was one of the noble companions of the prophet (s). He was killed in the battle of Al-Jisr, one of the battles fought during the era of thesecond caliph, known as the Qadisiyya Wars.


His mother was Dumah bt. ‘Amr b. Wahab. Ibn Tayfur has reported that she spoke eloquently and was articulate.


His uncle, Sa’d b. Mas’ud al-Thaqafi, was appointed as the governor of Mada’in by Imam ‘Ali (a).


His brothers, Wahab, Malik, and Jibr, were killed with their father in the battle of Al-Jisr.



Mukhtar was born in 1/622. Before birth, his mother, Dumah, had seen someone read a poem to her in a dream:


Congratulations to you for a child who, Is similar to a lion more than anything else. When in troubles men… Quarrel over worthless things, He shall have the luck of a lion (He shall have the best).


His mother saw another dream after his birth where someone told her that her child will have many followers.



Mukhtar took part in the Battle of Al-Jisr when he was 13, where he lost his father and brothers. Regardless of his young age, he insisted on going to the battlefield, but was prevented by his uncle, Sa’d b. Mas’ud.


Sa’d b. Mas’ud al-Thaqafi was appointed as the governor of Mada’in by Imam ‘Ali (a). He appointed Mukhtar as his successor when he left to fight the Kharijites.



Bravery: Ibn Taqtaqi records that Mukhtar was a noble and effortful man. Given that the Thaqif tribe were famed for their bravery, and Mukhtar’s father and uncle were of the great military leaders of early Islam, Mukhtar was nurtured in the same way.


Worship: In gratitude to his revenge from the murderers of Imam Husayn (a), Mukhtar used to fast most of the days. Menhaal b. ‘Amr says, “I invited Mukhtar to my house for dinner on the day that Harmalah was killed, but I was told that Mukhtar has fasted in gratitude.”


Before Imam Husayn’s (a) Rise:


During Mu’awiya’s Rule

In his book Siyar al-a’lam al-naba’, Shams al-Din al-Dhahabi writes of Mukhtar’s activity in support of Imam al-Husayn (a) during Mu’awiya’s rule. Al-Dhahabi reports that during Mu’awiya’s rule, Mukhtar went to Basra and invited its populace to Imam Husayn (a). He was arrested by ‘Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, who was the governor of Basra at the time, and whipped one hundred time. Then he was exiled to Ta’if.


During the Rise of Imam Husayn (a)

Sources state that Mukhtar was absent in Imam al-Husayn’s (a) rise, but his absence was not on purpose. He collaborated with Imam al-Husayn’s (a) representative in Kufa at first, and formed movements against the Umayyads.



After the event of ‘Ashura’, Mukhtar was freed with ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Umar’s intermediary with Yazid, since Mukhtar’s sister, Safiyya b. Abu ‘Ubayd, was ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Umar’s wife. Nonetheless, ‘Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad let him free on the condition that he leaves Kufa within three days, and if he is seen afterwards, he will be killed.


Allegiance to ‘Abd Allah b. Zubayr

Mukhtar gave his allegiance to ‘Abd Allah b. Zubayr on the condition that he would be consulted before ‘Abd Allah b. Zubayr did anything, and that he was not disagreed with.


When Yazid attacked Mecca and encircled ‘Abd Allah b. Zubayr, Mukhtar sided with ‘Abd Allah b. Zubayr and fought next to him against Yazid’s army, but when ‘Abd Allah announced himself caliph, Mukhtar separated and left for Kufa, and created the grounds for his rise.


Six months had passed from Yazid’s death when Mukhtar reached Kufa in the middle of Ramadan. ‘Abd Allah b. Zubayr sent ‘Abd Allah b. Muti’ as his governor to Kufa. War broke out between the two and Mukhtar came out victorious.


Mukhtar and the Rise of the Tawwabun

Mukhtar refused to participate in the Uprising of Tawwabun, because he believed it was useless, and that Sulayman b. Surad al-Khuza’i was unfamiliar with combat skills and tactics.


With Mukhtar’s refusal, four thousand individuals, of the sixteen thousand who had given their allegiance to Sulayman b. Surad retreated because they believed he was incompetent in combat tactics.


It should be mentioned that Mukhtar was in prison when the Tawwabun Uprise occurred. When the Tawwabun were defeated, he sent a letter to the family of the dead to express his sympathy to them. The leaders of the Tawwabun had decided to free him from prison, but Mukhtar cautioned them from doing so, since he would be freed soon. Once again, Mukhtar was released with ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Umar’s intermediation.


Start of Revenge

On Rabi’ al-Awwal 14, 66/October 22, 685, Mukhtar executed a rise in revenge of Imam al-Husayn’s (a) blood. The Shi’a of Kufa supported him. He said, “By God, if I kill two third of the Quraysh, I wouldn’t have sought the revenge of even one of Imam al-Husayn’s fingers.”


He managed to kill Shimr b. Dhi l-Jawshan, Khawli b. Yazid, ‘Umar b. Sa’d, and ‘Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad in his rise.


The commander of the army of the rising was Ibrahim b. Malik Ashtar’s, and he was the one who killed ‘Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad in Mosul.


Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya was busy eating when Mukhtar sent the heads of ‘Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad and ‘Umar b. Sa’d to him to hang in Masjid al-Haram. He said, “Gratitude be to the Lord, that when Husayn’s head was taken to ‘Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad he was busy eating, and now his head has been brought to me while I am in the same situation (busy eating).”



In order to arouse the Alawites to support him, Mukhtar used “Ya la-Tharat al-Husayn” (Arabic: یا لثارات الحسین, lit.: O the avengers of Husayn) and “Ya Mansur Amit” (Arabic: یا منصور امِت, lit.: O the victor, kill) as his motto. When putting his war clothes on, Mukhtar informed his followers of the beginning of the rise by chanting these mottoes. The second motto was first used in the Battle of Badr, and the first one was first used by the Tawwabun Rise. Also, when ‘Umar b. Sa’d was killed, the people of Kufa celebrated by chanting “Ya la-Tharat al-Husayn”.


End of the Revenge & Rule

After eighteen months of rule and war with three groups, the Umayyads in Sham, the Zubayr Dynasty in Hijaz, and the nobles of Kufa, Mukhtar was killed in the Ramadan 14, 67/April 6, 687, at his 67, by Mus’ab b. al-Zubayr. On Mus’ab’s command, Mukhtar’s hands were cut off and nailed to the wall of Masjid al-Kufa. When Hajjaj b. Yusufgained power over Kufa, he ordered the hands be buried.


After Mukhtar’s death, his followers, consisting of 6000 people who were encircled in the palace, surrendered. Mus’ab b. al-Zubayr ordered all of them be killed. The decision was so horrifying that when ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Umar saw Mus’ab, said: “Even if they were 6000 sheeps which belonged to your father, you shouldn’t have done this.”


Death of Mukhtar’s Wife

Mus’ab pressurized ‘Umra bt. Nu’man b. Bashir the Mukhtar’s wife, to express her abhorrence to Mukhtar. When she refused, Mus’ab decapitated her.


‘Abd al-Rahmaan b. Hasan said in a poem: “Death and killing has been written for us, and for beautiful women, prancing and romance.”


The event is recorded as such in a report: Mus’ab asked ‘Umra, “what is your opinion about Mukhtar?” She replied, “He was pious and fasted everyday” Mus’ab ordered she be decapitated. She became the first woman in Islam to be beheaded.



Although Mukhtar used “Ya la-Tharat al-Husayn” (Arabic: یا لثارات الحسین) as the motto of his rise, but some doubt his intentions were truly to avenge the martyrs of Karbala, believing that he misused this motto. A look at Mukhtar’s relation with the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and their opinion about him can help understand this important fact of history.


Relations with Imam al-Sajjad (a)

There are different reports on Mukhtar’s relation with Imam al-Sajjad (a). Some reports show that Imam al-Sajjad (a) did not welcome Mukhtar and rejected his gifts, whereas other reports show that he was approved by Imam al-Sajjad (a). With the censorship that existed because of the Umayyads and Zubayr dynasty, it wasn’t possible for Imam al-Sajjad (a) to directly interfere. Therefore, he announced that Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya is his representative and referred Mukhtar to him.


According to this report, Mukhtar sent 20,000 Dinars to the Imam (a), which he accepted, and rebuilt ‘Aqil b. Abi Talib’s, and the rest of the Banu Hashims’ houses which were ruined. Mukhtar also gifted a slave which he had bought for 30,000 Dirhams to Imam al-Sajjad (a). Zayd b. ‘Ali was born from that slave. Another report states that when a group of leaders from Kufa went to visit Imam al-Sajjad (a) and asked him about Mukhtar’s mission, he referred them to Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya and said, “Oh uncle, if a black slave shows intolerance for our sake, it is obligatory for us to rush to his help. Do whatever you want regarding this matter, for I have chosen you as the representative in this issue.”


Ayatollah Khoei and Mamaqani believe that Mukhtar had a specific permission from Imam al-Sajjad (a) for his uprise.


Connection with Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya

A study on some reports suggests that Mukhtar invited people to the Imamate of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya, calling him the Mahdi, but in his book, Kashf al-ghumma, Irbilibelieves that this connection, and the leadership of the uprise by Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya, was a façade set up because of the aberrant condition Imam al-Sajjad (a) was in.


Muhammad b. ‘Isma’il al-Mazandarani al-Ha’iri, author of Muntaha l-maqal believes that Mukhtar believed in the imamate of Imam al-Sajjad (a), and rejects that Mukhtar believed in Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya.


Rescuing Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya

When ‘Abd Allah b. Zubayr was informed about Mukhtar’s uprise, he pressurized Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya and his relatives to give him their allegiance, otherwise they would be burnt to death. Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya sent a letter to Mukhtar, seeking his help. In response, Mukhtar sent an army of 4000 men to march to Mecca and rescue Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya.


Opinions about Mukhtar


Mukhtar, in the Opinion of the Ahl al-Bayt (a)

Reports on Mukhtar can be categorized in two groups of approval and disapproval of Mukhtar, but Ayatollah Khoei trusts the reports that approve Mukhtar more.


Reports of Approval

Narrations Against


In the Opinion of Shi’a Scholars

Most Shi’a scholars believe Mukhtar was praised. Nevertheless, some scholars such as Allama Majlisi have stayed undecided. The opinion of some Shi’a scholars is as follows:


You should know that many researchers fail to understand the exact meaning of the words, and miss it without noticing. Had they put their attention on the sayings of theImams (a) who praised and lauded him, they would have understood that he is of the overtakers and Mujahids whom God has named in his book with glory. Imam al-Sajjad’s positive prayer for Mukhtar is clear evidence that his eminence considered him of the pure and good people.”


For me it is clear that we must not consider him to be bad, nonetheless, the narrations he quotes cannot be trusted either, and God knows him better than anyone else.


This man (Mukhtar) followed the Imami sect and believed in the Imamate of the infallible Imams. He governed with the permission of Imam (a), although his authenticity has not been proven. Yes, he has been blessed with a praise and laud which has put him amongst good deeded people. Even if there were no praise or virtue reported except for Imam al-Baqir’s (a) prayer for him to be blessed, it would have been enough for him, specially that he repeated his prayer three times in one sentence.


He hasn’t mentioned any non-Imami persons in the first volume of his book, even if he were to be completely authentic and praised up to perfection, but he has mentioned Mukhtar in the first volume, which means that al-Allama al-Hilli considered him to be at least an Imami Shi’a.


“Mukhtar was not complete in his faith and certitude, and did not have permission for the things he did, nevertheless, since he did many good deeds he died a faithful man. I am of those who have decided to remain silent regarding Mukhtar, although most scholars believe he was of the praised.”


Even if we consider that the narrations against Mukhtar were not accusations (because Mukhtar and people like him were accused), we understand that narrations which praise and thank Mukhtar are more preferable, since narrators differ about them, and for some reasons, it needs to be specially focused on.


Some reports suggest that Mukhtar’s rise was with the special permission of Imam al-Sajjad (a).


Whoever studies and researches history, Hadith, and biographical evaluation in depth will understand that Mukhtar was one of the pioneers of religiosity, guidance, and purity… Imam al-Sajjad (a), Imam al-Baqir (a), and Imam al-Sadiq (a) have prayed for his blessing, specially Imam al-Baqir (a) who has done so in a very beautiful way.


Researchers Who Support Mukhtar

Wellhausen: “Mukhtar is worthy of praise because he understood the situation of his time before others. He had understood that it was unstable, because in the Islamic government, only the Arab figures and race enjoyed all their personal and social rights.”


Ali Hasan Karyateli, author of the book Ayiniyi Asr-i Amavi ya Mukhtar Thaqafi (the mirror of the Umayyad Era, or Mukhtar Thaqafi) writes regarding Mukhtar: Mukhtar was just and had built his government on the premise of justice and equality among the people. Despite all his busyness, he personally took care of all the judgments and solved the disputes. After victory in war, he freed the hostages and forgave their crimes, and was content with their promise to not rise against him anymore.


His Apposer’s Views

In his book, Usd al-ghaba, Ibn Athir has an invected approach to Mukhtar and rejects his narrations. Even narrations have been forged against him claiming to be from the Prophet (s), such as, “A liar and criminal shall come from Ta’if.” The narrator of this Hadith is Asma’ bt. Abu Bakr, ‘Abd Allah b. Zubayr’s mother. According to Asma’, liar refers to Mukhtar, but it seems that Hajjaj b. Yusuf was the first person who used this word for Mukhtar, when he ordered the people to curse Imam ‘Ali (a) and Mukhtar.



Mukhtar ruled over Kufa. The Umayyads ruled in the North, in Sham. To Mukhtar’s south, in Hijaz, the Zubayr dynasty ruled. Both groups considered themselves caliph and regarded Mukhtar someone who had separated a part of their land. Therefore, both groups put as much effort as they could to deny Mukhtar and compose false narrations against him.


Prophetic Proclamation

Ibn Khaldun claims that Mukhtar had announced himself a prophet. This belief is more believed because of Mukhtar’s way of talking in rhymed prose, but since the establishment of his government in Kufa, the Muslim’s and the Ahl al-Bayt’s support in narration, this issue cannot be correct. Another reason for this accusation is his letter to Ahnaf b. Qays. Since Ahnaf supported the Zubayris, he libeled that this letter was Mukhtar’s claim as prophet and insisted on his claim even after Mukhtar’s death. The fact that in his meeting with ‘Abd Allah b. Zubayr, Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya was reluctant to calling Mukhtar a liar, is yet another reason regarding the falsity of this claim.


Founder of the Kaysanites

Some believe that Mukhtar was the founder of the Kaysanite movement, stating that since Mukhtar was nicknamed as Kaysan, his followers were called the Kaysanites. Mamaqani doesn’t believe so, and believes that Mukhtar was not a Kaysanite.


Ayatollah Khoei believes this accusation has been made by non-Shias who have referred to fabricated and rejected narrations, and believes that Kaysanitism was founded after the death of Mukhtar and Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya.


In addition, al-Allama al-Amini rejects Mukhtar’s connection with the Kaysanites.


Mukhtar’s Gifts

Mukhtar sent gifts to ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Umar, ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Abbas, and Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya, all of whom accepted his gifts. ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Umar was the husband of Mukhtar’s sister, Safiyyah bt. Abu ‘Ubayd.

Wives and Children





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