Second Fitna

Second Fitna
Part of the Fitnas
Second Fitna Territorial Control Map ca 686.svg
Territorial control by the three contenders to the caliphate during the peak of the civil war (686)
ResultUmayyad victory
Commanders and leaders
Yazid I
Muslim ibn Uqba
Umar ibn Sa'ad (686) 
Marwan I
Abd al-Malik
Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad (686) 
Husayn ibn Numayr (686) 
Hajjaj ibn Yusuf
Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr (692) 
Mus'ab ibn al-Zubayr (691) 
Ibrahim ibn al-Ashtar (691) 
Muhallab ibn Abi Sufra (Defected)
Husayn ibn Ali (680)  
Sulayman ibn Surad (685) 
Mukhtar al-Thaqafi (687) 
Ibrahim ibn al-Ashtar (Defected)

The Second Fitna or the Second Islamic Civil War was a period of general political and military disorder and conflicts in the Islamic community during the early Umayyad caliphate.[note 1] It followed the death of the first Umayyad caliph Mu'awiya I in 680 and lasted for about twelve years. The war involved the suppression of two challenges to the Umayyad dynasty, the first by Husayn ibn Ali, as well as his supporters including Sulayman ibn Surad and Mukhtar al-Thaqafi who rallied for his revenge in Iraq, and the second by Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr.

The roots of the civil war go back to the First Fitna. After the assassination of the third caliph Uthman, the Islamic community experienced its first civil war over the question of leadership, with the main contenders being Ali and Mu'awiya. Following the assassination of Ali in 661 and the abdication of his successor Hasan the same year, Mu'awiya became the sole ruler of the caliphate. Mu'awiya's unprecedented move to nominate his son, Yazid, as his heir sparked opposition and tensions soared after Mu'awiya's death. Husayn ibn Ali was invited by the pro-Alids[note 2] of Kufa to overthrow the Umayyads but was killed with his small company en route to Kufa at the Battle of Karbala in October 680. Yazid's army assaulted anti-government rebels in Medina in August 683 and subsequently besieged Mecca, where Ibn al-Zubayr had established himself in opposition to Yazid. After Yazid died in November, the siege was abandoned and Umayyad authority collapsed throughout the caliphate except in certain parts of Syria; most provinces recognized Ibn al-Zubayr as caliph. A series of pro-Alid movements demanding revenge for Husayn's death emerged in Kufa beginning with Ibn Surad's Penitents movement, which was crushed by the Umayyads at the Battle of Ayn al-Warda in January 685. Kufa was then taken over by Mukhtar. Though his forces routed a large Umayyad army at the Battle of Khazir in August 686, Mukhtar and his supporters were slain by the Zubayrids in April 687 following a series of battles. Under the leadership of Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, the Umayyads reasserted control over the caliphate after defeating the Zubayrids at the Battle of Maskin in Iraq and killing Ibn al-Zubayr in the Siege of Mecca in 692.

Abd al-Malik made key reforms in the administrative structure of the caliphate, including increasing caliphal power, restructuring the army and Arabizing and Islamizing the bureaucracy. The events of the Second Fitna intensified sectarian tendencies in Islam and various doctrines were developed within what would later become the Sunni and Shi'a denominations of Islam.


After the third caliph Uthman's assassination by rebels in 656, the rebels and the townspeople of Medina declared Ali, a cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, caliph. Most of the Quraysh (the grouping of Meccan clans to which Muhammad and all the three caliphs belonged), led by Muhammad's prominent companions Talha ibn Ubayd Allah and Zubayr ibn al-Awam, and Muhammad's widow A'isha, refused to recognize Ali. They called for revenge against Uthman's killers and the election of a new caliph through shura (consultation). These events precipitated the First Fitna (First Muslim Civil War). Ali emerged victorious against these early opponents at the Battle of the Camel near Basra in November 656, thereupon moving his capital to the Iraqi garrison town of Kufa.[4] Mu'awiya, the governor of Syria, and a member of the Umayyad clan to which Uthman belonged, also denounced Ali's legitimacy as caliph and the two confronted each other at the Battle of Siffin. The battle ended in a stalemate in July 657 when Ali's forces refused to fight in response to Mu'awiya's calls for arbitration. Ali reluctantly agreed to talks, but a faction of his forces, later called the Kharijites, broke away in protest, condemning his acceptance of arbitration as blasphemous.[5] Arbitration could not settle the dispute between Mu'awiya and Ali. The latter was assassinated by a Kharijite in January 661, after Ali's forces had killed most of the Kharijites at the Battle of Nahrawan.[6] Ali's eldest son Hasan became caliph, but Mu'awiya challenged his authority and invaded Iraq. In August, Hasan abdicated the caliphate to Mu'awiya in a peace treaty, thus ending the First Fitna. The capital was transferred to Damascus.[7]

Yazid's succession

Army movements and battle locations marked on a grayscale map of the Middle East
The main campaigns and battles of the Second Fitna

The treaty brought a temporary peace, but no framework of succession was established.[8][9] As it had in the past, the issue of succession could potentially lead to problems in the future.[10] The orientalist Bernard Lewis writes: "The only precedents available to Mu'āwiya from Islamic history were election and civil war. The former was unworkable; the latter had obvious drawbacks."[9] Mu'awiya wanted to settle the issue in his lifetime by designating his son Yazid as his successor.[10] In 676, he announced his nomination of Yazid.[11] With no precedence in Islamic history, hereditary succession aroused opposition from different quarters and the nomination was considered the corruption of the caliphate into monarchy.[12] Mu'awiya summoned a shura in Damascus and persuaded representatives from various provinces by diplomacy and bribes.[9] The sons of a few of Muhammad's prominent companions including Husayn ibn Ali, Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, Abd Allah ibn Umar and Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr, all of whom, by virtue of their descent, could also lay claim to the caliphal office,[13][14] opposed the nomination. Mu'awiya's threats and the general recognition of Yazid throughout the caliphate forced them into silence.[15]

Historian Fred Donner writes that contentions over the leadership of the Muslim community had not been settled in the First Fitna and resurfaced with the death of Mu'awiya in April 680.[8] Before his death, Mu'awiya cautioned Yazid that Husayn and Ibn al-Zubayr might challenge his rule and instructed him to defeat them if they did. Ibn al-Zubayr, in particular, was considered dangerous and was to be treated harshly, unless he came to terms.[16] Upon his succession, Yazid charged the governor of Medina, his cousin Walid ibn Utba ibn Abi Sufyan, to secure allegiance from Husayn, Ibn al-Zubayr and Ibn Umar, with force if necessary. Walid sought the advice of his kinsman Marwan ibn al-Hakam. He counseled that Ibn al-Zubayr and Husayn should be forced to give allegiance as they were dangerous, while Ibn Umar should be left alone since he posed no threat.[17][18] Walid summoned the two, but Ibn al-Zubayr escaped to Mecca. Husayn answered the summons but declined to give allegiance in the secretive environment of the meeting, suggesting it should be done in public. Marwan threatened to imprison him, but due to Husayn's kinship with Muhammad, Walid was unwilling to take any action against him. A few days later, Husayn left for Mecca without giving allegiance.[19] In the view of the Islamicist G. R. Hawting, "... tensions and pressures which had been suppressed by Mu'awiya came to the surface during Yazid's caliphate and erupted after his death, when Umayyad authority was temporarily eclipsed."[14]

Other Languages
català: Segona fitna
español: Segunda Fitna
فارسی: فتنه دوم
français: Deuxième Fitna
Bahasa Indonesia: Perang Saudara Islam II
italiano: Seconda Fitna
lietuvių: Antroji fitna
Bahasa Melayu: Fitnah Kedua
Nederlands: Tweede Fitna
português: Segunda Fitna
русский: Вторая фитна
Türkçe: İkinci Fitne