واقعة الحرة: عندما هاجم “مسلمون” الكعبة
THE HARRA INCIDENT:
WHEN “MUSLIMS” ATTACKED
THE KA`BA

Written by Yasin T. al-Jibouri
yasinaljibouri@hotmail.com

THE HARRA INCIDENT
The Harra Incident started on a Wednesday, Thul-Hijja 28, 63 A.H./August 31, 683 A.D. and was led by Abdullah‎ ibn az-Zubair, a cousin of the Prophet of Islam (P). Let us stop here to introduce the reader to this man although he is too well known to any average student of Islamic history.

  1. His full name is Abdullah‎ ibn az-Zubair ibn al-Awwam.
  2. His mother was Asma’, the oldest daughter of Khalifah Abu Bakr and older sister of Aisha, the youngest wife of Prophet Muhammed (P).
  3. He was born in 1 A.H. and died in 73 A.H. (622 – 692 A.D.)
  4. And participated in the Muslim invasions of Persia, Egypt and North Africa.
  5. He sided with his maternal aunt, Aisha, during the Battle of the Camel against Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib (a.s.).
  6. He lived most of his life in Medina and rebelled against the government of Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah and against Umayyad rulers of Hijaz, declaring himself Khalifah.
  7. He extended his influence to Iraq after the Battle of Marj Rahit till al-Hajjaj ibn Yousuf al-Thaqafi[1] succeeded in putting an end to his reign, executing him in the most ruthless way by nailing him to the Ka’ba..

Abdullah‎ ibn az-Zubair delivered a sermon once wherein he strongly condemned those responsible for killing Imam al-Hussain (a.s.), his family and friends, describing Yazid as a shameless drunkard, a man who preferred to listen to songs rather than to the recitation of the Holy Qur’an, who preferred wine drinking over fasting and the company of his hunting party to any majlis where the Qur’an is explained.

Amr ibn Sa’d ibn al-`Aas was then governor of Mecca, and he was quite ruthless in dealing with Abdullah‎ ibn az-Zubair, keeping him under constant surveillance, sending spies to his meeting places and constantly harassing him. When Yazid heard about Ibn az-Zubair’s denunciations, he pledged to have him chained, so he dispatched some of his men with a silver chain, ordering them to tie Ibn az-Zubair with it. His deputies passed by Medina on their way to Mecca and met with Marwan ibn al-Hakam who joined them in their effort to arrest Ibn az-Zubair, but the party failed in carrying out its mission, and more and more people pledged to assist Ibn az-Zubair against Yazid.

Having come to know of such failure, Yazid called to his presence ten men from among the most prominent supporters of his bloody regime, and there are always those who support bloody regimes in every time and clime. He ordered these ten men to meet with Ibn az-Zubair to dissuade him from rebelling. But they, too, failed in their attempt due to the public support Ibn az-Zubair was enjoying. Yazid now resorted to deposing Mecca’s governor Amr ibn Sa`d and appointing al-Walid ibn Utbah in his place, prompting Ibn az-Zubair to write Yazid to describe his newly appointed governor as an idiot who never listened to advice nor enjoyed any wisdom. Yazid deposed al-Walid ibn Utbah and replaced him with Othman ibn Muhammed ibn Abu Sufyan, a young man who knew absolutely nothing about politics or diplomacy.

The first action the new governor undertook was dispatching a fact finding committee to Damascus to ascertain all the rumors about Yazid being a corrupt bastard, a man unfit to rule. Among the members of the mission were: Abdullah‎ ibn Hanzalah al-Ansari[2], Abdullah‎ ibn Abu Amr al-Makhzumi, al-Munthir ibn az-Zubair, and a good number of the most prominent men of Hijaz. Yazid received them with open arms and showered them with money and presents, but when they returned, they cursed Yazid for his blasphemy and un-Islamic conduct, encouraging people to revolt against him, using the money they had received from him to finance the rebellion against him. While passing by Medina, the residents heard the report of the members of this committee. They, therefore, deposed their governor, Othman ibn Muhammed, and elected Abdullah‎ ibn Hanzalah as their new governor.

When the Umayyads saw how the public turned against them, they sought refuge at the house of Marwan ibn al-Hakam, cousin of Khalifah Othman ibn Affan, where they were besieged. The siege was not lifted till those Umayyads solemnly swore not to take any measure against those who laid the siege against them and not to help Yazid in any way whatsoever, a pledge which they did not keep, for Abu Sufyan, Mu’awiyah and Yazid were their mentors, and these men never honored a pledge as long as they lived.

When the rebellion reached such a point, Yazid realized that he had lost control over the people of Hijaz, and that only an army sent against them from Damascus would do the job. He, therefore, appointed a ruffian man named Muslim ibn Uqbah al-Murri who was, at the time, quite advanced in age, to undertake such a task. Despite his age, Muslim agreed to shoulder the responsibility of quelling the rebellion. An army, hence, of twenty thousand strong set out from Damascus to quell the rebellion in Hijaz with clear orders from Yazid to “… Invite the people to renounce their rebellion and to renew their pledge of loyalty [to Yazid]. Give them three days to consider doing so. If they persist in their defiance, let the soldiers have a free hand in the city for three days: Any money or weapons or food they lay their hands on is theirs. Once the three days are over, leave the people alone, and spare Ali son of al-Hussain (Imam Zainul-`Abidin) (a.s.), and admonish everyone to be good to him and show respect to him, for he did not join the rebellion,” as at-Tabari tells us on the first pages of Vol. 4 of his Tarikh (Beirut, Lebanon: Al-Amira Publishers, 1426 A.H./2005 A.D.) where more details are provided about this horrific crime of burning the Ka`ba, the holiest of holies in Islam.

Harrat Waqim

Yazid’s troops first attacked Medina then Mecca.
In Medina, according to al-Mas’udi and al-Daynuri, they demolished homes, raped women, girls and even children, plundered anything and everything they found in their way, committing untold atrocities justified only by those who follow Yazid and who do not curse or condemn him, hence they shall receive their share of the Almighty’s condemnation on the Day of Judgment and shall be lodged in hell in the company of Yazid and his likes.

In his renown Tarikh, Ibn Katheer tells us that as many as seven hundred men who knew the text of the Holy Qur’an by heart, including three close sahabis of the Prophet (P), were killed in that incident which is referred to in the books of history as the Incident of the Harra, a reference to “Harrat Waqim” where Yazid’s army first attacked.

Harrat Waqim is a place named after a man belonging to the Amaliqa (“the giants”) and is one of two Medina suburbs bearing the same name: the eastern Harra, this same “Harrat Waqim,” located on the eastern side of Medina, and the western Harra, as we are told by Imam Shihabud-Deen Abu Abdullah‎ Yaqut ibn Abdullah‎ al-Hamawi ar-Rami al-Baghdadi, famous as Yaqut al-Hamawi, who describes several places each one of which is called “Harra,” then he details Harrat Waqim (see image below) and comments saying the following on pp. 287-288, Vol. 2, of his voluminous work Mu’jam al-Buldan:

Harrat Waqim near Medina, Hijaz

It was at this Harra that the famous “Harra Incident” took place during the lifetime of Yazid son of Mu’awiyah in the year 63 A.H./683 A.D. The commander of the army, who had been appointed by Yazid, was Muslim ibn Uqbah al-Murri who, on account of his ugly action, was called “al-musrif” (the one who went to extremes in committing evil). He [Muslim] came to Harrat Waqim and the people of Medina went out to fight him.

  1. He vanquished them, killing three thousand and five hundred men from among the mawali,
  2. one thousand and four hundred from among the Ansar, but some say one thousand and seven hundred,
  3. and one thousand and three hundred men from among Quraish.
  4. His hosts entered Medina. They confiscated wealth, arrested some people and raped women.
  5. Eight hundred women became pregnant and gave birth, and the offspring were called “the offspring of the Harra.”
  6. Then he brought prominent personalities to swear the oath of allegiance to Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah and to declare that they were slaves of Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah. Anyone who refused was killed.

The people of Medina had re-dug the moat (khandaq) which had been dug during the Battle of the Moat, preparations for which started at the beginning of the month of Shawwal, 5 A.H. (the end of February, 627 A.D.), according to the orders of the Prophet (P) and in response to a suggestion presented to him by the great sahabi Salman al-Farisi as they stood to defend themselves against a huge army raised by Abu Sufyan to fight them. They also tried to fortify their city with a bulwark.

Yazid’s army succeeded in putting an end to the rebellion at a very high cost, but Abdullah‎ ibn az-Zubair survived unscathed. A number of highly respected sahaba and tabi’een as well as narrators of hadith and Sunna were branded like animals as an additional insult.

WHAT HAPPENED IN MECCA?
Having finished with the people of Medina, Muslim, the aging commander of Yazid’s handpicked troops, marched to Mecca. On the way, he camped at a place called al-Mushallal. There, he felt that death was approaching him, so he called to his presence al-Haseen ibn Nameer as-Sukuni and said to him, “O son of the donkey’s saddle! By Allah, had I not felt that death was approaching me, I would never have given you command of this army. But the commander of the faithful (meaning Yazid) had put you second in command, and none can override his orders. Listen, therefore, carefully to my will, and do not listen to any man from Quraish at all. Do not stop the Syrians from slaughtering their foes, and do not stay for more than three days before putting an end to the reprobate Ibn az-Zubair.” This is sated by at-Tabari on p. 381, Vol. 4, of the Arabic text of his famous voluminous Tarikh where he provides details of this incident. Muslim died and was buried there.

Once the Syrian army left al-Mushallal, people dug up his grave, took his corpse out and hanged it on a palm tree. When the army came to know about this incident, a detachment was sent to investigate and to kill those suspected of hanging the corpse which was buried again and soldiers were assigned to guard it at all times. These details and many more are stated on p. 251, Vol. 2, of al-Ya’qubi’s Tarikh.

Catapults were installed around Mecca and in the vicinity of the Ka’ba, the holiest of holies in Islam. Fireballs were hurled and the Ka’ba was soon in flames… Its walls collapsed and were burnt, and its ceiling crumbled… According to pp. 71-72, Vol. 3, of al-Mas’udi’s voluminous book Murooj al-Thahab, a thunderbolt hit the Syrian army on a Saturday, Rab’i I 27, 61 A.H./December 28, 680 A.D., only eleven days before Yazid’s death, burning eleven of the attackers.

Catapult: Ancient field artillery, powerful in old wars

Pleas to spare the Ka’ba went unheeded, and the fighting went beyond the three days’ deadline put by Muslim. The fighting took place during the last days of the month of Muharram and continued through the entire month of Safar. When the news that Yazid had died reached Mecca, Ibn az-Zubair addressed the Syrians thus: “Your tyrant has just died; so, whoever among you wishes to join the people (in their rebellion) may do so or he may return to Syria.” But the Syrians attacked him. The people of Mecca saw the extent of savagery of the Syrian army, so they collectively shielded Ibn az-Zubair and forced the army to retreat and to confine itself to its camp. Slowly the Syrians slipped out of their camp and joined the Umayyads in Mecca who sheltered them and transported them back to Syria in small groups, as we are told by at-Tabari who details these events on pp. 16-17, Vol. 7, of his Tarikh.

Abdullah‎ ibn az-Zubair declared himself as Khalifah and appointed a new governor for Mecca, and the people of Hijaz enjoyed a measure of self-rule till the year 72 A.H./692 A.D. when al-Hajjaj ibn Yousuf al-Thaqafi was ordered by the Umayyad “Khalifah” then, namely Abdul-Malik ibn Marwan, to bring the people of Hijaz back under his rule. It was in the month of Thul-Qida 72 A.H./March 692 A.D. that Mecca was attacked again (some of the war equipment used then included five catapults, predecessors of today’s field artillery). The Ka’ba was burned again and Mecca’s governor was deposed. A new governor loyal to the Umayyads was installed in his place, and he was a Syrian named Thu’labah who demonstrated utmost disregard and disrespect towards the Islamic tenets and towards the people of Hijaz while still claiming to be a Muslim!

Detailing the events of the year 73 A.H./692-93, at-Tabari, on p. 202, Vol. 7, of his Tarikh, narrates saying that when the Ka’ba was burnt, a dark cloud came from the direction of Jiddah roaring with lightning and thunder. It stood above the Ka`ba and poured its water on it and put the fire out. Then it went to the Abu Qubays mountain area where its lightning damaged one of the five catapults, killing four of the soldiers tending to it. Another lightning hit, killing forty other men. This incident is narrated by several other historians besides at-Tabari. It was not long before al-Hajjaj was able to arrest and behead Ibn az-Zubair whose severed head he sent to Damascus together with those of Abdullah‎ ibn Safwan, Imarah ibn Amr ibn Hazm and others. Those who carried the heads and displayed them on the way in Medina were generously rewarded by Marwan ibn Abdul-Malik.

Not everyone supported the revolt led by Abdullah‎ ibn az-Zubair. The famous sahabi and cousin of the Prophet (P), Ibn Abbas, that is, Abdullah‎ ibn Abbas ibn Abdul-Muttalib, was among those who did not support Ibn az-Zubair, considering him as an opportunist. When Imam Hussain (a.s.) was in Mecca immediately after his departure from Medina, and when the Meccans expressed their support for him, Abdullah‎ ibn az-Zubair isolated himself and did not show any support for the Imam (a.s.), considering him as a competitor for his own bid to power. When the Imam (a.s.) left Mecca, Abdullah‎ ibn az-Zubair felt relieved. Ibn Abbas composed poetry depicting such an attitude of Abdullah‎ ibn az-Zubair. The reader is already acquainted with Ibn Abbas in a footnote above. Since Aisha could not get Ibn az-Zubair, son of her sister Asma’ daughter of Khalifah Abu Bakr, to become the Khalifah following the murder of her cousin, Khalifah Othman ibn Affan, Ibn az-Zubair now tried on his own to acquire the Khilafah for himself, and he met with success though for a short while.

Having come to know that Abdullah‎ ibn Abbas refused to swear the oath of allegiance to Ibn az-Zubair, Yazid wrote him saying,

It has come to my knowledge that the atheist son of az-Zubair invited you to swear the oath of allegiance to him and to be obedient to him so that you might support him in his wrongdoing and share in his sins, and that you refused and kept your distance from him because Allah made you aware of our rights, we family members of the Prophet; so, may He grant you the rewards due to those who maintain their ties of kinship, those who are true to their promise. No matter what I forget, I shall never forget how you always remained in contact with us, and how good the reward you have received, the one due to those who obey and who are honored by being relatives of the Messenger of Allah. Look, then, after your people, and look at those whom the son of az-Zubair enchants with his words and promises and pull them away from him, for they will listen to you more than they will to him; they would hear you more than they would hear that renegade atheist, and peace be with you.

Ibn Abbas wrote Yazid back saying,

“I received your letter wherein you mentioned Ibn az-Zubair’s invitation to me to swear the oath of allegiance to him, and that I refused due to recognizing your right. If that is the case [as you claim], I desire nothing but being kind to you. But Allah knows best what I intend to do.

And you wrote me urging me to encourage people to rally behind you and to discourage them from supporting Ibn az-Zubair… Nay! Neither pleasure nor happiness is here for you; may your mouth be filled with stones, for you are the one whose view is weak when you listened to your own whims and desires, and it is you who is at fault and who shall perish!

And you wrote me urging me to hurry and to join my ties of kinship. Withhold your own, man, for I shall withhold from you my affection and my support. By my life, you do not give us of what is in your hand except very little while withholding a lot; may your father lose you!

Do you think that I will really forget how you killed al-Hussain (a.s.) and the youths of Banu Abdul-Muttalib, the lanterns that shone in the dark, the stars of guidance, the lamp-posts of piety, and how your horses trampled upon their bodies according to your command, so they were left unburied, drenched in their blood on the desert without any shrouds, nor were they buried, with the wind blowing on them and the wolves invading them, and the heinas assaulting them till Allah sent them people who do not have shirk (disbelief) running through their veins and who shrouded and buried them…?

From me and from them come supplications to Allah to torment you! No matter what I forget, I shall never forget how you let loose on them the da’iyy (pretender of following Islam) and the son of the da’iyy, the one begotten by that promiscuous whore, the one whose lineage is distant, whose father and mother are mean, the one because of whose adoption did your father earn shame, sin, humiliation and abasement in the life of this world and in the hereafter.

This is so because the Messenger of Allah (a.s.) said, “The son is begotten by wedlock, whereas for the prostitute there are stones.” Your father claims that the son is out of wedlock, and it does not harm the prostitute, and he accepts him as his son just as he does his legitimate offspring!

Your father killed the Sunnah with ignorance while deliberately bringing to life all misguidance. And no matter what I forget, I shall never forget how you chased al-Hussain (a.s.) out of the sanctuary of the Messenger of Allah [Medina] to that of Allah Almighty [Mecca], and how you dispatched men to kill him there. You kept trying till you caused him to leave Mecca and to go to Kuf‎a pursued by your horsemen, with your soldiers roaring at him like lions, O enemy of Allah, of His Messenger (a.s.), and of his Ahl al-Bayt (a.s.)!

Then you wrote Marjana’s son ordering him to face al-Hussain (a.s.) with his cavalry and infantry, with spears and swords. And you wrote him ordering him to be swift in attacking him and not to give him time to negotiate any settlement till you killed him and the youths of Banu Abdul-Muttalib who belong to Ahl al-Bayt (a.s.) with him, those from whom Allah removed all abomination and whom He purified with a perfect purification.

Such are we, unlike your own uncouth fathers, the livers of donkeys! You knew fully well that he (Hussain) was most prominent in the past and most cherished in the present, had he only sought refuge in Mecca and permitted bloodshed in its sanctuary. But he sought reconciliation, and he asked you to go back to your senses, yet you went after the few who were in his company and desired to eradicate his Ahl al-Bayt (a.s.) as if you were killing dynasties from Turkey or from Kabul! How do you conceive me as being friendly to you, and how dare you ask me to support you?! You have killed my own brothers, and your sword is dripping with my blood, and you are the one whom I seek for revenge.

So if Allah wills, you shall not be able to shed my blood, nor shall you be faster than me in seeking revenge so you would be more swift in killing us just as the prophets are killed, considering their blood equal to that of others. But the promise is with Allah, and Allah suffices in supporting the wronged, and He seeks revenge for the oppressed.

What is truly amazing is your own transporting the daughters of Abdul-Muttalib and their children to Syria. You see yourself as our vanquisher, and that you have the right to humiliate us, although through me and through them did Allah bestow blessings upon you and upon your slave parents.

By Allah! You welcome the evening and the day in security indifferent to my wounds; so, let my own tongue wound you instead, and let my tying and untying not provoke you to argue. Allah shall not give you a respite following your killing of the Progeny of the Messenger of Allah (a.s.) except for a very short while before He takes you like a Mighty One, and He shall not take you out of the life of this world except as an abased and dejected sinner; so, enjoy your days, may you lose your father, as you please, for what you have committed has surely made you abased in the sight of Allah.”[3]

Ibn Abbas never swore the oath of allegiance to the tyrant Yazid till his death.

Following the revolt of Abdullah‎ ibn az-Zubair, other revolts erupted throughout the Islamic lands. One of them was the Revolt of the Tawwabeen (the penitents) which broke out in Kuf‎a in 65 A.H./684-85 A.D., then the revolt in 66 A.H./686 A.D. which was led by al-Mukhtar who killed all those who had participated in killing al-Hussain (a.s.). The Alawites (Alawids) followed with revolts of their own, including that of the great martyr Zaid ibn Ali and his son Yahya and finally the revolt of the Abbasides who put an end to the Umayyads’ rule for good.

[1]al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf at-Thaqafi’s cruelty and disrespect for Islamic tenets are matched only by those demonstrated by Yazid son of Mu`awiyah. His date of birth is unknown, but he died in 95 A.H./762 A.D. He was born at Ta’if, not far from Mecca, and was famous for his loyalty to the Umayyads. Marwan ibn al-Hakam, cousin and bearer of the seal of Khalifah Othman ibn Affan, placed him in command of an army which he raised in order to subject Hijaz to the Umayyads’ control, rewarding him for his success by appointing him as governor of Mecca and Medina to which he later added Ta’if and Iraq. He founded the city of Wasit (located in Iraq midway between Basra and Kufa), where he died, and expanded the territory under the Umayyads’ control. He also crushed the Kharijites. He was proverbial in his ruthlessness and love for shedding blood. His passion for shedding blood can be understood from the way he was born. Having just been born, he refused to take his mother’s breast. It is said that Satan appeared in human form and said that the newborn had to be given the blood of animals to drink and to be fed with insects for four days. His cruelty towards those whom he jailed was unheard of. His prisoners were fed with bread mixed with ashes. At the time of his death, may he be placed in the deepest depths of hell, he and his Umayyad mentors and their supporters, his prisoners numbered 33,000 men and women, 16,000 of whom were completely naked and left to sleep without any blanket or sheet covering whatsoever… Refer to what al-Jahiz has written about him.

[2]Abdullah‎ ibn Hanzalah belonged to the Ansar of the Aws tribe, and he was one of the most famous of the tabi’een, a man of legendary courage and fortitude. When the people of Medina rebelled against Yazid, they chose him as their governor. He was killed during the Harra incident.

[3]This text is compiled from the contents of p. 250, Vol. 7, of Mujma az-Zawa’id of Abū Bakr al-Haythami, p. 18, Vol. 4 (first edition), of al-Balathiri’s book Ansab al-`Aashraf, p. 77, Vol. 2, of al-Khawarizmi’s great book Maqtal al-Hussain (ﻉ), p. 50, Vol. 4, and of Ibn Katheer’s book At-Tarikh al-Kamil, where the events of the year 64 A.H./684 A.D. are detailed, an account which agrees with what is recorded in al-Mas’udi’s book Muraj at-Thahab.