Mukhtar al-Thaqafi

Mukhtar al-Thaqafi
ٱلْمُخْتَار ٱبْن ٱلثَّقَفِيّ
Mukhtār ibn Abī ʿUbayd al-Thaqafī
المختار بن أبي عبيد.png
Al-Mukhtar ibn Abi Ubayd's name in Arabic calligraphy
Bornc. 622
Died3 April 687
Burial placeGreat Mosque of Kufa
EraRashidun Caliphate
Umayyad Caliphate
Second Islamic Civil War
Known forLeader of an anti-Umayyad revolt in Kufa
Opponent(s)Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad
Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr
Spouse(s)Umrah bint Nu'man ibn Bashir Ansari
Umm Thabit bint Samura ibn Jundub
RelativesAbdullah ibn Umar (brother-in-law)
Umar ibn Sa'ad (brother-in-law)
Military career
Zubayrids (681–684)
Battles/warsSecond Islamic Civil War

Al-Mukhtar ibn Abi Ubayd Al-Thaqafi (Arabic: ٱلْمُخْتَار ٱبْن أَبِي عُبَيْد ٱلثَّقَفِيّ‎, al-Mukhtār ibn Abī ʿUbayd al-Thaqafīy; c. 622 – 3 April 687) was a pro-Alid revolutionary based in Kufa, who led a rebellion against the Umayyad Caliphate in 685 and ruled over most of Iraq for eighteen months during the Second Islamic Civil War.

Born in Ta'if, Mukhtar moved to Iraq at a young age and grew up in Kufa. Following the death of Husayn ibn Ali, a grandson of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, at the hands of the Umayyad army in the Battle of Karbala in 680, he allied with the rival caliph Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr in Mecca, but the alliance was short-lived. Mukhtar returned to Kufa where he declared Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah, a son of caliph Ali (r. 656–661) and brother of Husayn, the mahdi and the imam, and called for the establishment of an Alid caliphate and retaliation for Husayn's killing. He took over Kufa in October 685, after expelling its Zubayrid governor, and later ordered the execution of those involved in the killing of Husayn. Hostile relations with Ibn al-Zubayr ultimately led to Mukhtar's death by the forces of the Zubayrid governor of Basra, Mus'ab ibn al-Zubayr, following a four-month siege.

Although Mukhtar was defeated, his movement would have far-reaching consequences. After his death, his followers formed a radical Shi'a[a] sect, later known as the Kaysanites, who developed several novel doctrines and influenced later Shi'a ideology. Mukhtar raised the social status of mawali (local converts to Islam) and they became an important political entity. The mawali and Kaysanites went on to play a significant role in the Abbasid Revolution sixty years later. Mukhtar is a controversial figure among Muslims; condemned by many as a false prophet, but revered by Shi'a because of his support for the Alids. Modern historians' views range from regarding him as a sincere revolutionary to an ambitious opportunist.


Ali moved the capital of the caliphate from Medina to Kufa.

Mukhtar was born in Ta'if in 622 CE (the year that the Islamic prophet Muhammad migrated to Medina) to Abu Ubayd al-Thaqafi, a Muslim army commander from the Banu Thaqif tribe, and Dawma bint Amr ibn Wahb ibn Muattib.[2][3] Following Muhammad's death in 632, Abu Bakr became caliph. He died two years later and was succeeded by Umar, who expanded the Muslim conquests initiated by Abu Bakr,[4] and sent Mukhtar's father Abu Ubayd to the Iraqi front. Abu Ubayd was killed at the Battle of the Bridge in November 634. Mukhtar, then thirteen years old, remained in Iraq after the Muslim conquest of this region,[2] and was raised by his uncle Saad ibn Masud al-Thaqafi.[5] Umar was assassinated by a Persian slave Piruz Nahavandi in 644, after which his successor, Uthman, ruled for twelve years before being assassinated by rebels in 656.[4]

After Uthman's death, Ali, a cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, became caliph and moved the capital from Medina to Kufa,[4] where Mukhtar held some minor office under him,[2] and Mukhtar's uncle became governor of nearby al-Mada'in.[5] A few companions of Muhammad, including Muawiyah, the governor of Syria, refused to recongnise Ali's authority, and war broke out. The Battle of Siffin ended in stalemate (July 657), when Ali's forces refused to fight in response to Muawiyah's calls for arbitration. Ali reluctantly agreed to talks but a faction of his forces, later called Kharijites, broke away in protest, condemning Ali's acceptance of arbitration as blasphemous. Arbitration could not settle the dispute between Muawiyah and Ali and the latter was subsequently murdered by a Kharijite in January 661.[4]

Ali's eldest son Hasan became caliph, but Muawiyah challenged his authority and invaded Iraq.[4] While Hasan was mobilizing his troops, he was injured by a Kharijite near al-Mada'in and was brought to the home of Mukhtar's uncle. There, Mukhtar reportedly recommended that Hasan be handed over to Muawiyah in return for political favour, but was rebuffed by his uncle.[5][6] In August 661, Hasan abdicated the caliphate to Muawiyah in a peace treaty and the capital was transferred to Damascus. A few years before his death, Muawiyah nominated his son Yazid as his successor, thus founding the Umayyad Caliphate. Yazid's nomination angered Alid partisans,[b] because it was seen as the violation of the peace treaty, which stipulated that Muawiyah would not nominate a successor.[7] Scant information exists about Mukhtar's early life and he only rose to prominence when he was aged around sixty.[8]

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