Wahhabi sack of Karbala

Wahhabi sack of Karbala
Kerbela Hussein Moschee.jpg
LocationKarbala, Ottoman Iraq
Coordinates32°36′59″N 44°01′56″E / 32°36′59″N 44°01′56″E / 32.616365; 44.032313
DateApril 21, 1802 (1802-04-21) or 1801[1]
TargetThe shrine of Husayn ibn Ali
Attack type
Land Army attack
VictimsInhabitants of Karbala
PerpetratorFirst Saudi State
AssailantsWahhabis of Najd led by Abdul-Aziz bin Muhammad's son, Saud
No. of participants
12,000 Soldiers[4]

The Wahhabi sack of Karbala occurred on 21 April 1802 (1216 Hijri) (1801[1]), under the rule of Abdul-Aziz bin Muhammad the second ruler of the First Saudi State. Approximately 12,000 Wahhabis from Najd attacked the city of Karbala.[5]:387 The attack coincided with the anniversary of Ghadir Khum event,[3] or  Muharram.[2]:74

Wahhabis killed 2,000[2]:74–5,000[3] of the inhabitants and plundered the tomb of Husayn ibn Ali, grandson of Muhammad and son of Ali ibn Abi Talib,[2]:74 and destroyed its dome, seizing a large quantity of spoils, including gold, Persian carpets, money, pearls, and guns that had accumulated in the tomb, most of them donations. The attack lasted for eight hours, after which the Wahhabis left the city with more than 4,000 camels carrying their plunder.[4]


Following the teachings of Ibn Taymiyya, the Wahhabis "sought to return to the fundamentals of the tradition- the Quran, the Sunna, and the Hanbali school's legal positions."[6] They condemned some of the Shia practices such as veneration of the graves of their holy figures and Imams, which they called Bid‘ah, and did not limit themselves to academic confrontation.[7]:85 According to the French orientalist Jean-Baptiste Rousseau, it was also very well known that some of the Shia tombs of Karbala were repositories of "incredible wealth", accumulated over centuries.[4]