Home » Early Islamic History » Ibn Hazm (d. 1064) on Yazid b. Mu’awiya (d. 683)

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]


1 Comment

  1. […] the killing of al-Ḥusayn b. ‘Alī was “among the worst tragedies [in Islamic history]” (  ). Another prominent Andalusi scholar, historian and man of letters—Abū ‘Abd Allāh […]

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