Andalusi Crete (827-961) and the Arab-Byzantine Frontier in the Early Medieval Mediterranean

The island of Crete is among the oldest centers of civilization in the Mediterranean, located strategically between the Italian Peninsula, the Aegean Sea, Egypt, and the Levant. It also lies on a key sailing route between the eastern and western Mediterranean. Since the decline of Minoan civilization around 1500 B.C., control of the island had shifted between a series of Mycenaean and Hellenistic rulers until it was conquered by the Roman Empire in 69 B.C. Although highly valued for its resources, Roman, and subsequently Byzantine, Crete was gradually neglected and entered a long period of decline, and had been largely overshadowed by Sicily in terms of strategic importance.[1] One of the periods of Crete’s long history that is generally overlooked by historians and researchers is the period of Andalusī Muslim dominance of the island during the ninth and tenth centuries. On the eve of its conquest by Andalusī Muslims in 827, Crete was a minor province of a much-weakened Byzantine Empire characterized by chaos, disorganization, and disunity. The island was not reconquered until 961 by a revitalized, resurgent, and militarily powerful empire. During its 135 year existence as an independent Andalusī emirate, Crete played an important role in the Arab-Byzantine conflict in the ninth and tenth centuries. It was also important in its own right as a regional center of Islamic civilization and naval power.

File:Vai R05.jpg

Continue reading

Abu Bakr al-Turtushi’s “Siraj al-Muluk”: A Masterpiece of Andalusi Political Philosophy

“A just ruler should be to his people what the rain is to the thirsty plants, or even better, for the rain lasts for a while, while the blessings of justice are timeless.” Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn al-Walīd al-Ṭurṭūshī, Sirāj al-Mulūk

Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn al-Walīd al-Ṭurṭūshī, who was originally from Tortosa—a city in northwestern Spain—was one of the most important Hispano-Muslim political philosophers of the twelfth century. Since he is largely unknown, I thought I would give some brief background about him to contextualize the extraordinary accomplishment which is his magnum opus: Kitāb Sirāj al-Mulūk, one of the most important works of political theory to be produced in the medieval Islamic world.

Abū Bakr al-Ṭurṭūshī was born in Tortosa around 1059, at a time when al-Andalus had become increasingly fragmented and was divided into various taifa kingdoms. Al-Ṭurṭūshī first traveled to Zaragoza (Ar: Saraqusta) where he became a student under Abū al-Walīd al-Bājī, a famous scholar and poet. While in Spain, he also familiarized himself with the philosophical and political treatises of the Andalusian polymath Ibn Hazm (d. 1064).


Around 1084, he set out to the central Islamic lands, making the pilgrimage to Mecca, before travelling to Basra and Baghdad. He then made a brief sojourn in Damascus and Jerusalem before finally settling in Alexandria where he taught at a madrasa. Al-Ṭurṭūshī was a major jurist of the Mālikī school who had studied with some of the most preeminent scholars of jurisprudence and legal theory. By the time he arrived in Egypt, he had become a major authority in his own right. Among his students were Qāḍī Abū Bakr ibn ‘Arabī, Abū Bakr al-Ghassānī Muḥammad ibn Ibrāhīm, Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥusayn al-Mayurqī, Abū Ṭāhir Ṣadr al-Dīn Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad al-Silāfī al-Iṣbahānī, among dozens of others who would all go on to become major jurists and theologians in their own right. Al-Ṭurṭūshī was renowned for his asceticism piety as well, which attracted the admiration of many of his students. The famous Andalusian scholar Abū al-Qāsim ibn Bashkuwāl (d. 1183) described al-Ṭurṭūshī as “one of the masters of knowledge, he was a great ascetic scholar, who was committed to his religious obligations and distanced himself from the temptations of the world who was satisfied with the blessings which God had bestowed upon him.”

When al-Ṭurṭūshī arrived in Egypt, it was was ruled by the Fatimid dynasty and al-Afdal Shāhinshāh ibn Badr al-Jamālī (d. 1121) was the vizier. The latter’s rule was tyrannical and oppressive and left a strong impression upon al-Ṭurṭūshī. His time in Cairo allowed him to reflect on political theory and philosophy, formulating his reflections into a masterpiece called Sirāj al-Mulūk (The Lamp of Kings), which he dedicated to the new Fatimid vizier, al-Ma’mun al-Bata’ahi, hoping that it would guide him to the good of his people.

The Counselor of the Princes

The Sirāj al-Mulūk was well received not only by the vizier, but also by a number of scholars and intellectuals over the centuries that followed. In his Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406) praised his pioneering work and later gave al-Ṭurṭūshī the title of ‘Counselor of the Princes’. Apart from sharing his own views on kingship and statecraft, al-Ṭurṭūshī lists hundreds of anecdotes and reflections by other jurists and thinkers that presented countless examples of a just ruler, on one hand, and tyrannical rulers on the other. He utilizes Islamic precepts of kingship and justice—as enshrined in the Qur’an, the words of the Prophet and the example of the rightly-guided caliphs—in addition to the wisdom of the ancient Greek philosophers. He also analyzed different kingdoms, both historical and contemporary. He did not limit his enquiry to the Islamic world, but also drew examples from the Roman Empire, Byzantium, the Sassanid Persians, China, India, and even the northern Spanish Christian kingdoms of Asturias and Navarre. The diversity of his examples as well as his willingness to draw equal inspiration from Islamic as well as pre-Islamic sources of wisdom testifies to the monumental and unique nature of the work which.

In addition to his scholarly activities in Egypt, al-Ṭurṭūshī was also significantly involved in political developments back in his homeland of al-Andalus. He was a major supporter of the efforts of the Almoravid emir Yūsuf ibn Tashfīn to take over al-Andalus and extinguish the taifa kingdoms, which would take place in 1090. Al-Ṭurṭūshī issued an important fatwa to legitimize this Almoravid conquest of al-Andalus, a development which he believed was necessary to ensure the survival of Islamic Spain in the face of a militant northern Christian drive to conquer the Iberian peninsula. Interestingly, it happened that one of al-Ṭurṭūshī’s students later founded a powerful Berber dynasty that would depose the Almoravids. His name was Muhammad ibn Tumart, the founder of the Almohad dynasty.

Al-Ṭurṭūshī died in Alexandria in 1126. While he may not be as famous as some other Andalusi saints and scholars such as Muḥyiddīn ibn ‘Arabī (d. 1240) from Murcia or Abū Isḥāq al-Shātibī (d. 1388) from Xativa, his book Sirāj al-Mulūk would inspire generations of writers and leaders to come, serving as an early manual of rule based on morality and justice, and becoming a masterpiece of Islamic political philosophy.


Sarim al-Din Ibrahim b. Duqmaq (d. 1406) on Yazid b. Mu’awiya (d. 683)

Ṣārim al-Dīn Ibrāhīm b. Muhammad b. Duqmāq was a prominent Mamluk historian who was originally a Mamluk soldier in Egypt before abandoning a career in the military in order to pursue the study of Hanafi jurisprudence, Arabic literature, and history. According to both his contemporaries and later scholars, such as the historian al-Maqrīzī (d. 1442), Ibn Duqmāq authored over 200 books on history and was a fair, careful historian who emphasizes the importance of the authenticity and veracity of facts rather than merely emulating the works of previous historians. The following is drawn from one of his most important works, al-Jawhar al-Thamīn, which deals with the political history of the Islamic world from the time of the Prophet Muhammad to the Circassian Mamluk period.


The reign of Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiya

Yazīd was granted the caliphate after his father, in Rajab 60 A.H. [April 680 A.D.]. He sent one of his representatives to Medina to secure the oath of allegiance from al-Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī (may God be pleased with them) and ‘Abd Allāh ibn ‘Umar, but they refused and fled the city by night. ‘Abd Allāh ibn ‘Abbās accompanied them. It was said that ‘Abd Allāh ibn al-Zubayr was in Mecca at the time and that many people had given him the oath of allegiance. Al-Ḥusayn had received various letters from the people of Kufa, and he had sent to them Muslim ibn ‘Aqīl, who was given the oath of allegiance [on behalf of al-Ḥusayn] in secret. When his matter was discovered in Kufa, he was killed by ‘Ubayd Allāh ibn Ziyād. At the beginning of 61 A.H. [October 680 A.D.], al-Ḥusayn set out [from Mecca] in the direction of Kufa but was intercepted by the troops of Ibn Ziyād, who killed him along with seventy two members of his household, including his children, his brothers, his cousins, and his companions. They also took the female members of his family captive. ‘Ubayd Allāh ibn Ziyād sent them along with the decapitated heads of those killed to Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiya, who was in Damascus. Yazīd sent the captives to Medina. The head of al-Ḥusayn was placed on a lance, and this was the first time such a thing had been done in the history of Islam

During his reign, ‘Abd Allāh ibn Zubayr led a rebellion in Mecca and in 63 A.H. [683 A.D.] the people of Medina was the Battle of al-Ḥarra, in which the people of Medina expelled and killed the [Umayyad] governor ‘Uthmān [ibn Muhammad ibn Abū Sufyān] and expelled the Umayyads from the city. As a result, Yazīd sent an army led by Muslim ibn ‘Uqba al-Murrī. This military force massacred most of the population of Medina, including a group of illustrious Companions [of the Prophet], among whom were ‘Abd Allāh ibn Zayd, Mu‘ādh ibn al-Ḥārith, ‘Abd Allāh ibn Handhala, Ma‘qal ibn Sinān al-Ashja‘ī, Ḥumayd ibn Abī Khaythama, Yazīd ibn ‘Abd Allāh, Ibrāhīm ibn Nu‘aym and others. The troops then proceeded to plunder the city for three days. Yazīd’s reign also witnessed the shedding of blood in the Holy Sanctuary of God in Mecca, with the Ka‘ba being assaulted with fire during the war with Ibn al-Zubayr. Yazīd was the first ruler who had singing girls and drinking companions in his court and would sit upon a throne. In 64 A.H. [683 A.D.], the Ka‘ba was assaulted with catapults until its walls collapsed, and it was eleven days later that Yazīd died.”

[Ibn Duqmāq, al-Jawhar al-Thamīn fī Siyar al-Mulūk wa al-Salāṭīn (Beirut: ‘Alam al-Kutub, 2007), pp. 67–69]


Shihab al-Din al-Alusi (d. 1854) on Yazid b. Mu’awiya

Belong to a notable Iraqi family in nineteenth-century Baghdad, Shihāb al-Dīn Mahmūd al-Alūsī was a prominent Sunni reformist who wrote many important treatises on theological doctrine, jurisprudence, and exegesis. Among his most well-known works is his 30-volume exegesis of the Qur’an, entitled Rūḥ al-Ma‘ānī, in which he lays out many of his distinct and unique interpretations of specific verses. He traveled widely in his own time, famously writing a travel account about his trip to the Ottoman capital of Istanbul. The following is derived from his exegetical work of the Qur’an, specifically his commentary on the following verse of the Qur’an: “Would you then, if you were granted authority, cause corruption upon the earth and break your ties of kinship?  It is these who are cursed by God, who has rendered them deaf and blind.” (Q. 47: 22-23).


I am inclined to believe that this accursed man [Yazīd] was not a believer in the message of the Prophet. Indeed, everything that he did to the people of Mecca, the people of Medina, and to the blessed and purified Family of the Prophet in their lives and after they had died, in addition to other reprehensible acts that he committed, are not the weakest proofs regarding his lack of belief. He had once gone so far as to place a manuscript from the blessed scripture in some dirt! I do not think that these things were unknown to the righteous Muslims of his time, but they were so severely oppressed that they were unable to do anything except be patient and let God’s decree be fulfilled. And if we accept that this accursed individual was indeed a Muslim, then he was a Muslim who committed all the major sins that one can possibly commit. As a result, I believe that it is permissible to explicitly curse him and those like him by name (even though it is difficult to fathom another individual committing as many sins as he). It is absolutely clear that he never expressed any repentance for his actions and the possibility that he did repent is even slimmer than the possibility that he was a believer to begin with. The same is true of Ibn Sa‘d, Ibn Ziyād and others. May the curse of God Almighty be upon them all until the Day of Resurrection and as long as the eye weeps for Abū ‘Abd Allāh al-Ḥusayn. May the curse of God also be upon their supporters, upon their followers, and those who showed a tendency to associate with them.

[al-Alūsī, Rūḥ al-Ma‘ānī fī Tafsīr al-Qur’an al-‘Aẓīm (Cairo, 1927),   Volume 26, p. 73].


Ibn Hazm (d. 1064) on Yazid b. Mu’awiya (d. 683)

Born in Cordoba in the late tenth century, Abū Muhammad ‘Alī b. Ḥazm was perhaps one of the greatest Andalusi scholars of all time. He was a polymath who excelled in various sciences, including jurisprudence, history, Aristotelian philosophy, ethics, logic, physics, Qur’anic exegesis, theology, comparative religion, poetry and literature. Overall, he produced about 400 works, only 40 or so which survive today. He was a major proponent of the Zahiri school of jurisprudence, which often set him apart from the dominant Maliki establishment in al-Andalus and led to his persecution on several occasions. The following is drawn from one of his many epistles on early Islamic history in which he provides a short biographical entry for each of the caliphs. Although generally holding pro-Umayyad historical views—due to his family’s prominence as members of the Umayyad court in Cordoba—it is notable that this passage on Yazīd b. Mu‘āwiya (r. 680–683) emphasizes not only the atrocities committed by this ruler, but devotes special attention to the murder of al-Ḥusayn b. ‘Alī (d. 680), whose death is considered by Ibn Ḥazm to be one of the greatest tragedies to ever befall the faith.


Yazīd b. Mu‘āwiya, also known as Abū Khālid, became caliph following the death of his father. Both al-Ḥusayn b. ‘Alī b. Abī Ṭālib and ‘Abd Allāh b. al-Zubayr b. al-‘Awwām refused to pledge allegiance to him. As for al-Ḥusayn (peace be upon him), he journeyed to Kufa but was killed before reaching it. This was the third great tragedy that afflicted Islam after the murder of ‘Uthmān [b. ‘Affān] or the fourth great tragedy after the assassination of ‘Umar b. al-Khaṭṭāb (may God be pleased with him). It was among the worst tragedies because the Muslims themselves openly participated in the unjust murder [of al-Ḥusayn].

As for ‘Abd Allāh b. al-Zubayr, he sought refuge in Mecca and remained there until Yazīd sent his armies to Medina, the holy sanctuary of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him), and to Mecca, the holy sanctuary of God Almighty. Multitudes of the Muhajirun and the Ansar were massacred at the Battle of al-Harra, which was another major tragedy to afflict Islam because the best of the Muslims and the remnants of the Companions of the Prophet and the most eminent of the Successors were oppressively and unjustly killed. Horses were stabled in the mosque of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him) and they urinated and defecated in the holy sanctuary between the pulpit and the tomb of the Prophet. During those days, no one was even permitted to perform their prayers in the mosque and, indeed, there was not a single soul that frequented it except for Sa‘īd b. al-Musayyib who never departed. Indeed, if not for the testimony of ‘Amr b. ‘Uthmān b. ‘Affān and Marwān b. al-Ḥakam that Sa‘īd was insane, he would have also been killed. The people were compelled to give their allegiance to Yazīd on the basis that they were his slaves which he had the right to sell or liberate as he willed. A group of people stated that they would be willing to pledge allegiance only on the basis of the caliph’s adherence to the Qur’an and the commandments of the Prophet. As a result, these were commanded to be killed and were subsequently executed. This criminal [i.e. Yazīd] desecrated and shamelessly disgraced Islam. He permitted the city of Medina to be plundered and sacked for three days, oppressing the Companions of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him), violently attacking them and looting their homes. This army then marched on Mecca (may God Almighty honor it!), which was besieged and attacked with large rocks propelled from catapults. The commanding general was al-Ḥuṣayn b. Numayr al-Sakkūnī who took over from Mujrim b. ‘Uqba al-Murrī [the general’s actual name was Muslim, but Ibn Hazm refers to him as Mujrim, meaning “criminal”], who had died three nights after the Battle of al-Harra. In punishment for his crimes, within two or three months of al-Harra, God Almighty seized him mightily and with all His power [Q. 54:42] and ended his life. After his death, the army departed from Mecca. Yazīd died on the 15th of Rabī‘ al-Awwal 64 A.H. [November 10th 683 A.D.] and he was a little over 30 years old. His mother was Maysūn b. Baḥdal al-Kalbīyya and his rule lasted for only three years and eight months.

[Ibn Ḥazm, Rasā’il Ibn Ḥazm (Beirut, 2007), ed. Ihsan Abbas, 1: 140–141]


Ali Hujviri (d. 1077) on al-Husayn b. Ali (d. 680)

‘Alī Hujvīrī was one of the greatest Persian mystics that the Islamic world has ever seen. A prominent Sunni Hanafi scholar and descended from both al-Ḥasan b. ‘Alī (d. 678) and al-Ḥusayn b. ‘Alī (d. 680), he commanded deep respect from both his contemporaries and later Muslim scholars. His magnum opus, Kashf al-Mahjūb, was among the first treatises on Islamic mysticism to be composed in Persian. His tomb in Lahore continues to be one of the most celebrate Sufi shrines in South Asia. The following section is drawn from his Kashf al-Mahjūb.


“And among the Ahl al-Bayt is the shining light of the Family of Muḥammad, the Lord of his Age (sayyid zamānihi), Abū ‘Abd Allāh al-Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib, may God be pleased with them both. He was from among the truthful saints and the beacon for the oppressed everywhere. He was murdered in the deserts of Karbala. All those adhering to our path are agreed that he was absolutely righteous in his cause because he was pursuing truth as long as it was manifest. And when truth faded away he unsheathed his sword in its cause and did not desist until he offered his blessed soul as a sacrifice and was martyred in the way of God.”

(‘Alī Hujvīrī, Kashf al-Maḥjūb [Cairo, 2007], Vol. 1, p. 277])


Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (d. 1505) on the Martyrdom of al-Husayn b. Ali (d. 680)

Jalāl al-Dīn ‘Abd al-Rahmān b. Abī Bakr al-Suyūṭī lived in Mamluk Egypt and was one of the most prolific scholars in Islamic history. He was an expert in hadith, language, theology, mysticism, jurisprudence, exegesis and history in addition to an array of other topics. Due to his mastery of a vast number of sciences and his authorship of hundreds of books (he apparently wrote over 550!), he was known as Ibn al-Kutub (“son of books”). He is considered a major authority in the Shafi’i school and is even widely considered by many to be the mujaddid (the Renewer of the Faith) of his time. He held various important offices and appointments throughout his life, including that of mufti. His works remain widely cited today and his authority is especially recognized in the fields of Qur’anic sciences and history. His historical chronicle of the lives of the caliphs, Tārikh al-Khulafā’, provides a continuous narrative of the political history of the institution of the caliphate from the death of the Prophet to the late fifteenth century. The following translation is taken from this work, particularly the section of his description of Yazīd b. Mu‘āwiya’s period of governance, and reflects a developed Sunni narrative of his caliphate. In contrast to many other Sunni historians, al-Suyūṭī emphasizes supernatural occurrences, especially in the context of the aftermath of Karbala, and reads the events in question through a lens that is informed by Sunni theology and hadith narrations. Among the later-day Sunni narratives of Karbala, al-Suyūṭī’s is by far the most comprehensive and detailed. Considering the degree of his authority in the Sunni tradition and as a historian of the medieval Islamic world, this is most certainly a narrative of Karbala that should strongly inform the modern reader’s understanding of the medieval Sunni perspective of both Yazīd and al-Ḥusayn b. ‘Alī.


When Mu‘āwiya died, the people of Syria pledged allegiance to his son Yazīd. However, when the latter sent individuals to Medina to secure their allegiance to him, both al-Ḥusayn and Ibn al-Zubayr refused to do so and they both departed by night from the city. With regard to Ibn al-Zubayr, he neither took the oath of allegiance nor made any explicit pretentions [to the caliphate]. Al-Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī, on the other hand, was implored by the people of Kufa to come to their city following the accession of Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiyah. [Abd Allāh] ibn al-Zubayr encouraged him to set out for Kufa, whereas Ibn ‘Abbās strongly advised him against it. Ibn ‘Umar also warned him against going to Kufa, for, as Ibn ‘Umar said: “God had placed two options before the Prophet, the benefits of this world or the reward of the afterlife, [and he chose the afterlife]. Since you, O Ḥusayn, are a part of him, I implore you not to pursue the temptations of this world.” He then embraced him, cried, and bid him farewell. Ibn ‘Umar would later say: “al-Ḥusayn insisted on going to Kufa, even though he had an important example in the lives of his father and his brother [who were betrayed by the Kufans].” Other companions attempted to dissuade al-Ḥusayn from going to Kufa, including Jābir ibn ‘Abd Allāh, Abū Wāqib al-Laythī, Abū Sa‘īd al-Khudrī, and others; however, he insisted on setting out for Iraq. Ibn ‘Abbās told him: “By God, I think that you will be killed in the presence of your wives, sisters, and daughters just as ‘Uthmān [ibn ‘Affān] had been.” These words did not dissuade al-Ḥusayn so Ibn ‘Abbās cried and said: “Woe to Ibn al-Zubayr [for encouraging al-Ḥusayn to go to Kufa]!” When Ibn ‘Abbās saw Ibn al-Zubayr, he rebuked him: “That which you sought has come to pass! Al-Ḥusayn has departed for Iraq and left the Ḥijāz for you!”

The people of Iraq had sent numerous letters to al-Ḥusayn begging him to come to them. As a result, he left Mecca on the 10th of Dhul Ḥijjah. He had with him a large group of his family, including women and children. Yazīd wrote to ‘Ubaydallāh ibn Ziyād, his governor in Iraq, ordering him to intercept and militarily engage al-Ḥusayn. Yazīd sent 40,000 soldiers to Ibn Ziyād for this purpose; this army was commanded by ‘Umar ibn Sa‘d ibn Abī Waqqāṣ. Just as they did to his father before him, the people of Kufa betrayed al-Ḥusayn. When he realized that he was militarily outnumbered, al-Ḥusayn offered to return to Mecca or to go to Yazīd in Damascus. However, they refused his offers and insisted on killing him. He was then killed, beheaded, and his head placed in a basket which was brought to Ibn Ziyād. May God curse his killers, Ibn Ziyād, and Yazīd as well! He was killed at Karbala; the story of his death is a long one which the heart cannot bear to relate without immense sadness. Verily, we are from God and unto him we return! Sixteen of his family members were killed alongside him.

When al-Ḥusayn was murdered, the world stood still for seven days and the stars collided with one another. He was killed on the Day of ‘Ashūra’ [10th of Muharram] and there was a lunar eclipse on that day and the horizon was a blood-red color for six months after that. The redness of the sky continued after that, even though such a thing had never been seen before. It was also said that not a single stone was overturned in Jerusalem on that day except that fresh blood was found beneath it. And the saffron that was in the army [of Ibn Ziyād] became ashes…and a man who had spoken an ill word against al-Ḥusayn was blinded when the Almighty cast two stars into his eyes to take away his sight.

Al-Tha‘labī has related that many historians have conveyed from several chains of narration on the authority of ‘Abd al-Malik ibn ‘Umayr al-Laythī who said: ‘I have seen in this very palace’—and he pointed to the governor’s residence of Kufa—‘the head of ‘Ubayd Allāh ibn Ziyād in the hands of al-Mukhtār ibn Abī ‘Ubayd; then I saw the head of al-Mukhtār before the hands of Muṣ‘ab ibn al-Zubayr; then I saw the head of Muṣ‘ab before the hands of ‘Abd al-Malik [ibn Marwān]. I related this to ‘Abd al-Malik who was startled at this and departed from the palace.’

Al-Tirmidhī narrated on the authority of Salma, who said: ‘I entered into the presence of Umm Salama, who was crying and I said to her: ‘Why do you cry?’ She said: ‘I saw the Prophet of God in my dream with dust upon his head and beard and asked him about why he was in this condition. He replied that he had just witnessed the murder of al-Ḥusayn.’

Al-Bayhaqī related in his Dalā’il on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbās: ‘I saw the Prophet at midday with disheveled hair, soiled with dust and in his hand a vial of blood, so I said to him: ‘May you be ransomed by my mother and father O Prophet of God, what is this [in your hand]?’ He replied and said: ‘This is the blood of al-Ḥusayn and his companions; I have not ceased to gather it up since this day.’ They calculated that day and found that it was the very day upon which al-Ḥusayn was killed.

Abū Nu‘aym related in his Dalā’il on the authority of Umm Salama who said: ‘I heard the jinn crying for al-Ḥusayn and lamenting for him.’

And when al-Ḥusayn and his brothers were killed, Ibn Ziyād had their heads sent to Yazīd, who at first rejoiced at the fact they had been killed, but came to regret that fact when the Muslims hated him for doing so and bore him enmity for his act, and justly so.

Abū Ya‘la narrated in his Musnad with a weak chain of transmission on the authority of Abū ‘Ubayda who said: ‘The Prophet of God said that the affairs of my nation shall remain firmly rooted in the principles of justice until the first that shall subvert it is a man of the Banū Umayya called Yazīd.’

On the authority of Nawfal ibn Abī al-Furāt: ‘I was with ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz when someone mentioned Yazīd with the title ‘the Commander of the Faithful Yazīd ibn Mu ‘āwiya.’ ‘Umar replied: ‘You dare call him the Commander of the Faithful?!’ and ordered that he be whipped with twenty lashes.’

In 63 A.H. [683 A.D.], Yazīd learned that the people of Medina had rebelled against him and overthrew his authority, so he had an army sent against them with orders to fight them before proceeding onto Mecca to fight Ibn al-Zubayr. When this army arrived in Medina, the Battle of al-Ḥarra took place near the Gate of Ṭayba, and if only you knew what the Battle of al-Ḥarra was like! Al-Hasan [al-Baṣrī] mentioned it once and said: ‘By God, barely any of them escaped alive!’ A large number of Companions and others were killed during this battle and Medina itself was plundered and a thousand young women violated. For verily we belong to God and unto Him we return! The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had said: ‘The one who harms the people of Medina is one whom God will harm and upon him be the curse of God, the angels and all mankind’ (narrated by Muslim). The reason for the rebellion of the people of Medina against Yazīd was that his iniquity knew no limit. According to al-Waqidī, relating from various chains of narration, ‘Abd Allāh ibn Handhala ibn al-Ghasīl said: ‘By God, we did not rebel against Yazīd until we had come to a point where we feared that we would be stoned by rocks from the heavens! Verily, he was an individual who would marry slave mothers who had borne children to their masters, and daughters and sisters [forbidden degrees of marriage in Islam], drink wine and abandon public prayers.’

Al-Dhahabī said: Due to Yazīd’s actions against the people of Medina, along with his wine-drinking and other forbidden things, the people began to violently oppose him, with many openly rebelling against him and God did not bless his life. And the army he had sent to al-Ḥarra advanced to Mecca to fight against Ibn al-Zubayr, with the army commander dying en route but a replacement was appointed and they reached Mecca, besieged Ibn al-Zubayr, waged war against him and assaulted him with catapults; this was in Ṣafar 64 A.H. [September 683 A.D.]. And from the sparks of the fire [of the catapults], the coverings of the Ka‘ba, as well as its roof—in which were the two horns of the ram with which God had substituted for [the Prophet] Ismā‘īl—caught fire.

God annihilated Yazīd on 15th Rabī‘ al-Awwal 64 A.H. [November 11th 683 A.D.], and the news of his death arrived while fighting was still ongoing [in Mecca], and Ibn al-Zubayr called out: ‘O people of Syria, verily your tyrant is dead’ and they were routed, broken and taken captive by the people. Following this, Ibn al-Zubayr called the people to pledge allegiance to him and he assumed the title of caliph; as for the people of Syria, they gave their allegiance to Mu‘āwiya ibn Yazīd, who did not rule for very long.”

[Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūtī, Tārīkh al-Khulafā’ (Beirut: al-Maktaba al-‘Asriyya, 2010), pp. 184–188]