Awana b. al-Hakam

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Awana b. al-Hakam
Native nameاواناب الحکم
Full NameAwana b. al-Hakam
ActivitiesHistorian

Awana b. al-Hakam was an Akhbari (author or collector of reports and narratives of historical, biographical, or anecdotal nature) historiographer of the second century and a member of a large family of scholars from Kufa and Wasit.

Biography[edit | edit source]

He was born perhaps before the year 90 and died perhaps in 147, 153 or 158 (the sources differ). Blind and reputed for his eloquence- he spoke Sindhi- he, like his father al-Hakam b. ‘Awana, devoted himself to philosophical and historical studies, genealogy, poetry, and futuh (Muslim wars of conquest) and was well versed in the science of hadith.

Battle of Karbala[edit | edit source]

Ibn al-Kalbi has included some narratives from Awana b. al-Hakam which supplement the version of Abu Mikhnaf and sometimes provide alternatives for it. Al-Baladhuri also gives quotations from Awana from different sources than Ibn al­Kalbi.[1]

Awana presents his reports without any further isnad. This suggests that they are taken from a continuous account which Awana had written.

The first extract which we have from it concerns Yazid's appointment of Ibn Ziyad as governor of Kufa after receiving complaints from his supporters that Nu’man b. Bashir was not acting firm against Muslim b. Aqil and the Shi’i in Kufa. Awana seems to be the only source for the story of Yazid consulting his father's Christian advisor, Sergius. Sergius tells Yazid that his father was going to appoint Ibn Ziyad over Kufa and advises him to do the same. Yazid takes this advice and writes to Ibn Ziyad, telling him to go to Kufa and hunt for Muslim. He gives him three choices in his treatment of Muslim: to imprison him, to kill him or to banish him.[2]

Ibn A'tham repeats this account in a somewhat embellished version without giving any reference to Awana[3] but it is clear that Awana must be his source, probably in the version of Ibn al-Kalbi. Shaykh al-Mufid also reproduces the account but he says that his version is based on Ibn A'tham.[4]

Another report from Awana of some significance is paralleled by reports from Abu Mikhnaf. It emphasizes the reluctance of Umar b. Sad to go against the Imam al-Hussain and stresses the pressure that Ibn Ziyad put on him by threatening to withdraw the appointment that he had earlier given him. Umar b. Sa'd suggests that the task be given to a tribal leader in Kufa but Ibn Ziyad refuses.

When Umar b. Sa’d's army reaches the Imam al-Hussain, he finds it difficult to send a messenger to the Imam because nearly all of them had previously sent messages to the Imam urging him to come to Kufa. The report ends with `Umar b. Sa’d's hope that he will not have to fight the Imam al-Hussain.[5]

A further report from Awana concerns Yazid's behaviour when the head of the martyred Imam and the prisoners of the ahl al-bayt are sent to him by Ibn Ziyad. In this account we are told that the members of the ahl al-bayt were imprisoned while Ibn Ziyad sent after Yazid. A message was sent to them in which there was a promise to inform them of their fate. When the prisoners are sent to Yazid, he justifies his action and indicates that he was unwilling that such a thing should happen. The report describes his good treatment of the prisoners, and even the praise of his treatment by one of them.[6]

This report should be seen in conjunction with another isolated report by Ibn al-Kalbi, which has clearly pro-Yazid tendencies. In it, Yazid expresses regret for the death of the Imam and puts the blame on Ibn Ziyad.

Awana, in his narrative, seems to be presenting again a slant which diverts the blame for the killing of the Imam away from Yazid and towards Ibn Ziyad. There is no mention of Yazid's desecration of the Imam's head.

A report from Awana, which has no support elsewhere, describes how Ibn Ziyad tries to get his letter instructing Umar b. Sa'd to attack the Imam al-Hussain from Umar b. Sa'd, but Umar b. Sa'd has already used it as a justification for himself.[7]

Thus, insofar as the reports from Awana which have been included in Ibn al-Kalbi’s version may be taken as a sample of Awana's full account, it would seem that Awana is presenting an account which reduces the amount of blame attached to Yazid in the affair. He is writing a marginally pro-Umayyad version. In his accounts of the battle of Siffin, it has been noted that Awana tends to shift responsibility from Mu`awiya to Amr b. al-As.[8]

The same operation appears to be taking place here with Awana shifting the responsibility away from Yazid to Ibn Ziyad and ultimately to his advisor, Sergius, for suggesting Ibn Ziyad's appointment.

Source:[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Al-Badadhuri, Ansab al-Ashraf (Beirut, 1977), III, 165, 213, 218.
  2. Al-Tabari, op. cit., II, 239-40.
  3. Ibn A`tham, Kitab al-Futuh, V, 60-1.
  4. Al-Mufid, op. cit., pp. 307-8.
  5. Al-Tabari, op. cit., Il, 309-11.
  6. Ibid., pp. 374-6.
  7. Ibid., p. 385.
  8. E. L. Petersen, Ali and Mu awiya in Early Arab Tradition (Copenhagen, 1964), pp. 32, 48, 53.