Obayd-Allah Ibn Ziad

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Obayd-Allah Ibn Ziad
Native name
عبید الله ابن زیاد
Died67 H. (August 686 AD)
Khazir (during the Battle of Khazir)
Known forBattle of Karbala (680)، Governor of Khurasan (672/73–684), Basra (674/75–684) and Kufa (680–684)
  • Ziyad ibn Abihi (father)
Ibn-Ziad's palace in Kufa which is just a ruin nowadays. It's known as Darul'Imara.

Obayd-Allah Ibn Ziad (d. 67/686), was Umayyad governor of Basra, Kufa and Khurasan during Mu’awiya I and Yazid I era. He was the son of Ziad b. Abih, a favorite of Mu’awiya, and a Persian slave called Marjana. During Ibn Ziad's governorship of Kufa, the revolt of Hussain b. ʿAli, a grandson of Prophet Muhammad, was suppressed leading to martyrdom of Hussain and his followers at the Battle of Karbala. After death of Yazid, he supported Marwan’s claim to become Caliph. Finally, he was killed by Ibrahim ibn Malek Ashtar, chief commander of Mukhtar revolt.

Governor of Khurasan and Iraq[edit | edit source]

He was given the governorship of Khurasan in 54/673 at the age of twenty-five, and soon afterward, he was appointed governor of Basra, where he subdued Kharijite unrest (Tabari, II, pp. 168, 172, 185-87). At the accession of Yazid I (r. 60-64/680-83), he forestalled the planned Shiʿite rebellion in Kufa by intimidating the chiefs of the main tribes and publicly executing known agents of Imam Hussain. When Hussain and his family reached Iraq, Ibn Ziad sent the army of Ibn Saʿd against him; Hussain was killed with his followers and most of the men of his family at Karbala on 10 Muharram 61/10 October 680.

After Death of Yazid[edit | edit source]

After Yazid’s death in 64/683, Ibn Ziad claimed the caliphate for himself, but finding little support in Kufa and Basra, he fled to Syria, supporting the claim of Marwan b. Hakam after the death of Muawiya II (64/684; Tabari, II, pp. 433 ff.). Under Marwan and his son ʿAbd-al-Malek, he fought to maintain control of Iraq, destroying the tawwabun (repentants, i.e., those who repented for having left Hussain to meet his fate) at the battle of ʿAyn-al-Warda (65/685).

Ibn Ziad’s Death[edit | edit source]

Umayyad Mosque in Damascus where Sayyidah Zeynab delivered a great speech before Ibn Ziad.

The Kufan Shiʿites revolted again under Mukhtar, who organized the mawali (freed slaves and non-Arab freemen, mostly Persians), overwhelmed the Arab opposition, and sought revenge on those responsible for Hussain’s death. Mukhtar’s general, Ibrahim b. Malek Ashtar, defeated the Syrian army near Mosul and killed Ibn Ziad (on the day of Ashura 67/6 August 686), sending his head to Mukhtar, who dispatched it to ʿAli Zayn-al-ʿAbedin (who smiled for the first time since his father’s death; Yaʿqubi, II, p. 309) or to Muhammad b. Hanafiya (Mukhtar-nama, Tehran, n. d., p. 7).

Ibn Ziad’s Hostility toward Imam Hussain[edit | edit source]

The tub that Karbala's martyrs heads were put in it to bring them for Ibn Ziad.

Ibn Ziad’s role in the death of Hussain has made him a symbol of tyranny in the Shiʿite world. Though it is said that the advice of Shamer b. Dhu’l-Jawshan prevented him from accepting the compromise negotiated by Ibn Saʿd, there is ample evidence that he was largely responsible for the outcome of the battle of Karbala. Abbasid historical sources stress his intransigence toward Hussain and his followers. He is said to have struck the mouth of Hussain’s severed head with a stick, provoking the indignation of an old companion of the Prophet, Zayd b. Arqam, who had seen the Prophet kiss those lips (Tabari, II, pp. 370 f.). He is also said to have refrained from killing ʿAli Zayn-al-ʿAbedin only because of the pleas of Hussain’s sister, Zaynab (Tabari, pp. 372 f.). Most accounts, both historical and semi-legendary, mention his sending the women of the Ahl-al-Bayt to Damascus in uncovered palanquins. The account in Balʿami’s Persian “translation” of Tabari shows the growth of the Hussain legend; Ibn Ziad is said to have had Hussain’s head presented to him on a golden plate (ed. Bahar, p. 271). Legend has embellished Ibn Ziad’s death. A drop of blood from the head of Hussain is said to have fallen on Ibn Ziad’s thigh, causing a deep sore with such a foul stench that he was forced to tie a pouch of musk to it. The odor of musk identified his body on the battlefield (Dinavari, p. 288; Calmard, pp. 568 f.).

Ibn Ziad in Mourning Rituals[edit | edit source]

Ibn Ziad's role in Mokhtarnameh. There is no picture to show Ibn Ziad in ta'ziya.

Ibn Ziad ‘s tyranny has become a symbol in Persian folklore and taʿziya. Allusion to his deceitful character can be found in proverbs (Dehkhoda, I, p. 11), and he figures in nearly all taʿziyas connected with Karbala. His tyranny is illustrated in numerous majales, particularly those forecasting the sufferings of Karbala martyrs, those sometimes called “Bazar-e Kufa” showing his attitude toward the surviving Ahl-al-Bayt and Zaynab’s famous imprecations against him, and those connected with Mukhtar’s and Muhammad b. Hanafiya’s revenge (Calmard, pp. 262 ff.; on Malayan literature on the subject, see Brakel). The actor playing Ibn Ziad, clad in red, had to declaim his part with a harsh voice. When seated in his court, he generally wore a cashmere robe and a cashmere or rezaʾi turban on his head (Mostawfi, Sharh-e zendagani I, p. 289). Most of these features have been retained in recent taʿziya staging in Persia. ʿObayd-Allah b. Ziad is so accursed by the Shiʿites that the word “Allah” is sometimes omitted from his name. He is then called ʿObayd-e Ziad in some taʿziyas (Rossi and Bombaci, no. 723) and in popular literature such as the Mukhtar-nama (Calmard, p. 247).

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

(For cited works not given in detail, see “Short References.”)

  • L. F. Brakel, The Hikayat Muhammad Ḥanafiyyah. A Medieval Muslim-Malay Romance, doctoral dissertation, Leiden, 1975.
  • Balāḏorī, Fotūhá, index. J. Calmard, Le culte de l’Imām Ḥusayn. Étude sur le commémoration du drame de Karbalā dans l’Iran pré-safavide, doctoral diss., University of Paris III (Sorbonne), 1975.
  • ʿA.-A. Dehḵodā, Amṯāl o ḥekam, 4 vol.,Tehran, repr. Tehran, 1352 Š./1973.
  • Abū Ḥanīfa Dīnavarī, al-Aḵbār al-ṭewāl, Cairo, 1330/1911.
  • Ibn al-Aṯīr, index. H. Lammens, Le Califat de Yazid Ier, Beirut, 1921, pp. 32 f., 124 ff., 137 ff.
  • Masʿūdī, Tanbīh, pp. 303, 311 f.
  • E. Rossi and A. Bombaci, Elenco di drammi religiosi persiani (fonde mss. Vaticani Cerulli), Vatican City, 1961.
  • Ṣ Sajjādī, “Ibn Zīād” in DMBE III, pp. 640-42.
  • Ṭabarī, II, index, s. v.
  • ʿUbayd-Allāh b. Zīād. L. Veccia Vaglieri, “Hussain b. ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭāleb” in EI2 III, pp. 607-14.
  • G. Weil, Geschichte der Chalifen I, Mannheim, 1846, pp. 291, 306 ff., 314 ff.
  • G. Wellhausen, Das arabische Reich und sein Sturz, Berlin, 1902, pp. 82, 92, 105, 107 ff.
  • Yaʿqūbī, Taʾrīḵ II, pp. 281 ff., 306 ff.
  • K. V. Zetterstéen, “ʿUbaid Allāh b. Ziyād” in EI¹ IV, p. 985. (Jean Calmard)

Source[edit | edit source]