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The Wahhabi Sack of Karbala (1802 A.D.)

Among the most atrocious acts committed in modern Islamic history has been the sack of Karbala in 1802. Unfortunately, this remains a little known fact to most Muslims. However, at a time when the cultural and religious heritage of the Muslim world is once against under severe threat, when shrines and mosques are bulldozed by the self-styled holy warriors and caliphs of our time, it remains more essential than ever to familiarize ourselves with these historical events. It is crucial to note that the Wahhabis—not unlike modern-day militants—were inspired by a mix of religious zeal and a desire for wealth. By 1802, the Wahhabi-Saudi state had seized control of the vast majority of the Arabian peninsula and even managed to raid into southern Iraq, then under Ottoman control. One of the worst massacres was committed at Karbala in April 1802, right before the beginning of the holy month of Muharram, during the pilgrimage to the shrine of Imam al-Husayn b. Ali (d. 680). The following are two accounts, one by an eyewitness, a non-Muslim Frenchmen, and the other by a Wahhabi propagandist writing in Arabia during the eighteenth century.

According to an eye-witnesses account, J.B. Rousseau in his Description du Pachalik du Baghdad Suivie d’une Notice Historique sur les Wahabis (Paris, 1809), the events that transpired were as follows:

“We have recently seen a horrible example of the Wahhabis’ cruel fanaticism in the terrible fate of the mosque of Imam Husayn. Incredible wealth was known to have accumulated in that town. The Persian shahs have, perhaps, never had something like that in their treasury. For centuries, the mosque of Imam Husayn was known to have received donations of silver, gold, jewels, a great amount of rarities…Tamerlane even spared that place. Everybody knew that the most part of the rich spoils that Nadir Shah had brought back from his Indian campaign had been transferred to the mosques of Imam Husayn and Imam Ali together with his own wealth. Now, the enormous wealth that has accumulated in the former has been exciting the Wahhabis’ avidity for some time. They have been continuously dreaming of looting that town [Karbala] and were so sure of success that their creditors fixed the debt payment to the happy day when their hopes would come true.

That day came at last…12,000 Wahhabis suddenly attacked the mosque of Imam Husayn; after seizing more spoils than they had ever seized after their greatest victories, they put everything to fire and sword…The elderly, women, and children—everybody died by the barbarians’ sword. Besides, it is said that whenever they saw a pregnant woman, they disemboweled her and left the fetus on the mother’s bleeding corpse. Their cruelty could not be satisfied, they did not cease their murders and blood flowed like water. As a result of the bloody catastrophe, more than 4000 people perished. The Wahhabis carried off their plunder on the backs of 4000 camels. After the plunder and murders they destroyed the Imam’s shrine and converted it into a trench of abomination and blood. They inflicted the greatest damage on the minarets and the domes, believing those structures were made of gold bricks.” [Rosseau, Description, pp. 74–75]

Another contemporary source, Uthman b. Abd Allah b. Bishr (d. 1872) in his Unwan al-Majd fi Tarikh Najd (Mecca, 1930), written from the Wahhabi perspective, gives a similar account:

“In the year 1802, Ibn Sa’ud made for Karbala with his victorious army, famous pedigree horses, all the settled people and Bedouin of Najd, the people of Janub, Hijaz, Tihama and others…The Muslims [i.e. the Wahhabis] surrounded Karbala and took it by storm. They killed most of the people in the houses and the markets. They destroyed the dome above al-Husayn’s grave. They took away everything they saw in the shrine and near it, including the coverlet decorated with emeralds, sapphires and pearls which covered the grave. They took away everything they found in the town—possessions, arms, clothes, fabric, gold, silver, and precious books. One cannot even enumerate the spoils! They stayed there for just one morning and left after midday, taking away all the possessions. Nearly 2000 people were killed in Karbala.” (Ibn Bishr, Unwan al-Majd, Vol. 1, pp. 121–122)

Many of these details are corroborated by other contemporary sources, both Muslim and non-Muslim, which also emphasize how thousands of Muslims were slaughtered by the Wahhabis in Karbala. Most significantly, the sack of Karbala demonstrates the way in which the two motives of the Wahhabis—accumulation of wealth and destroying shrines—went hand in hand. The process of Wahhabi conquest elsewhere, notably in Ta’if and the Hijaz, had followed a similar pattern to Karbala. Although the Wahhabis were defeated shortly thereafter (around 1818) by the Ottomans and Muhammad Ali Pasha’s dynasty in Egypt, they experienced a resurgence later in the century.

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The Shrine of Imam Husain (a.s) Karbala Iraq

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19 Comments

  1. shiaofali313 says:

    Reblogged this on Boarding The Ark and commented:
    A must read

  2. Wahhabism is a menace, not only for Shias but for Sunnis too. Wahhabis are not Sunnis, they are a bunch of hypocrites belonging to Yazidi dynasty. Muhammad Bin Abdul Wahhab, by establishing tyrannical falsified Islamic regime of minority Saud clan of Nejd has in fact introduced terrorism in Islam. All these criminals of Al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, Jeish E Muhammadi of Pakistan, Talibans in Afghanistan & Pakistan have their roots in Muhammad Bin Abdul Wahhab. Saudi regime is spreading this poisonous version in the name of Islam in Muslim anf non Muslim countries by constructing thousands of mosques & other so called Islamic institutions. They extend scholarships to thousands of young boys from these countries to take theological courses in their line in theological schools of Saudi Arabia mainly Medina University. ISIS is doing now what Wahhabis did 200 years ago. There is no difference between ISIS, BOKO HARAM, ANSAR E DIN, TALIBANS & Wahhabism. Wahhabis are destroying all those historical sites associated with Islam, our Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, his companions and Awlia Allah. Wahhabi influence in many countries have reached a dangerous point. Muslims – Sunnis & Shia- must unite to stop spread of Wahhabism, put pressure on world’s civilized countries to warn Saudis not to finance spreading Wahhabism, a dangerous menace for entire civilization.

  3. Samya says:

    Princes and kings of corruption and prostitution!
    We did review the history of Al Saoud on different Blogs, and we have said: Originally, they are Jews since the 15th century having the monopole of Trade between Bassora and Daria. With the Wahhabism, they have found the stratagem giving them a virginity, presenting themselves as radical Muslims! In darkness under the protection of England and later United States of America, the Saudis are the first allayed of Zionism and Israel.
    All difficulties facing Muslims and Arabs (terrorism everywhere), they are engineered by this corrupt and criminal family.

    Samya bnt al Houcine__

  4. Samya says:

    Princes and kings of corruption and prostitution!

    We did review the history of Al Saoud on different Blogs, and we have said: Originally, they are Jews since the 15th century having the monopole of Trade between Bassora and Daria. With the Wahhabism, they have found the stratagem giving them a virginity, presenting themselves as radical Muslims! In darkness under the protection of England and later United States of America, the Saudis are the first allayed of Zionism and Israel.

    All difficulties facing Muslims and Arabs (terrorism everywhere), they are engineered by this corrupt and criminal family.

    Samya bnt al Houcine__

  5. […] That day came at last…12,000 Wahhabis suddenly attacked the mosque of Imam Husayn; after seizing more spoils than they had ever seized after their greatest victories, they put everything to fire and sword…The elderly, women, and children—everybody died by the barbarians’ sword. Besides, it is said that whenever they saw a pregnant woman, they disemboweled her and left the fetus on the mother’s bleeding corpse. Their cruelty could not be satisfied, they did not cease their murders and blood flowed like water. As a result of the bloody catastrophe, more than 4000 people perished. The Wahhabis carried off their plunder on the backs of 4000 camels. After the plunder and murders they destroyed the Imam’s shrine and converted it into a trench of abomination and blood. They inflicted the greatest damage on the minarets and the domes, believing those structures were made of gold bricks.” [Rosseau, Description, pp. 74–75] Source […]

  6. Masood A. Syed says:

    We,the Shias lack ,Education,wealth ,and passion for the beliefs and teachings of the prophet(PBUH) , This is the first time I have come across an article about the 1802 sacking of Karbala. We lack writers,Scholars and Students ,this should be considered a serious matter ,specially in light of the present day danger of ISIS, Saudi Arabia, and Wahabis every where . Shias ,Please wake up , Get involved in higher education and Business !

  7. Masood A. Syed says:

    How would the world know ,what these Wahabis (i.e . Saudis ) are doing to destroy Shia Islam and their religious Monuments, Unless we write books about them so that there is a lesson for the coming generations ?????

  8. Beagle says:

    A very interesting and valuable resource you’ve created on the early 19th Century Wahhabi v. Shia conflict. The modern parallels are profound and yet so few have ever heard of it. I have tried to find details on the Web for quite a while. This is the best and most detailed description I have found.

  9. Samya says:

    Du drame de Karbala à celui de Sanaa et Aden!

    En 1802, Al Saoude ne comptaient que sur l´Angleterre et l´argent des futurs israélites en Palestine. Aujourd´hui, Al Saoude sont sous la protection des USA, l´Angleterre, la France et l´Allemagne. Quant aux petits vassaux calibre royaume alaouite marocain, craignant la perte de leurs trônes et privilèges, ils ne sont là que pour les pétrodollars et les exigences israélites.

    La participation des soldats marocains aux conflits syrien, irakien et yéménite, elle n´augure rien de bon pour toute l´Afrique du nord.

    Samya bnt Al Houcine__

  10. Ramzi says:

    I deny all acts of aggression and murder of civilians and prisoners, I believe both parties Sunnis and Shia have committed unbelievable acts of utter horror and barbarism against their Muslim brethren so, take a look at the transforming of Iranians from sunnism to Shiism too,,, Islam isn’t a master of who is the rightful caliph,,, it’s about upholding the truth , honesty, goodwill and above all worshipping one God

  11. Sulaiman says:

    Saud and her family destroy the holy mosque of imam hussain and the tomb of hasan & bibe fatima & other relatives of our prophet. They also destroy the janatul baqi in which many sahaba & wife of prophet was buried. It means that they are the enemy of ahle baiyat. They are truely belong to yazid. Insallh islam will once again the super power of the world.

  12. moehm says:

    Is there any documents on the “..Originally, they are Jews since the 15th century having the monopole of Trade between Bassora and Daria.” ?
    This is an interesting find.
    Regards,

  13. Houcine says:

    russofrevo!

    More than sure, they are, and for this great reason America is giveing them all support, as with Isarel.

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