Battle of Harrah

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Category: Imam Al Bin Hussein

Battle of Harrah

Author: Muhammad Ali Chenarani

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Battle of Harrah

Battle of Harrah


Alhassanain (p) Network for Islamic Heritage and Thought

The Battle of Harrah

A historic account of the invasion and horrific plunder of the Holy City of Medina by the army of Yazīd b. Mu‘āwiyah

Project and Research: Muhammad Ali Chenarani

Edition and Analysis: Ahmad Turabi

Translation into English: Ahmad Rezwani

Islamic Research Foundation Astan Quds Razavi Mashhad - I.R. Iran


Table of Contents

Preface 5

Achievements of this Research 6

Introduction 9

A Great Disaster 10

Causes of the Revolt 11

A. Sentiments and Religious Zeal 11

B. The Tragedy of Karbalā and the Martyrdom of Imam Husayn b. ‘Alī (‘a) 14

C. Description of the Karbalā Tragedy by the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) 15

D. Political Unrests and Fallacies 17

Open Confrontation of the People of Medina against Umayyid Government 19

Expulsion of the Governor of Medina 19

Yazīd's Reaction against the People of Medina 19

Dispatch of the Syrian Army to Medina 22

Yazīd's Orders to the Commanders of the Syrian Army 24

The Itinerary of the Syrian Army 25

The Syrian Army Camps near Medina 28

‘Abd Allāh b. Hanzala, Commander of Medinan Forces 29

Confrontation of the Syrian Army and the Medinan Forces 31

The Syrian's Defeat during the Early Stages 32

Marwān b. Hakam's Role in Penetration of Syrian Army into Medina 33

Wearing out of Medinan Forces before the Syrian Army 36

The Syrian Army’s Savage Invasion of Medinan Houses 38

Crimes committed in the Prophet’s Holy Srhine and Mosque (Masjid al-Nabi) 40

Imam Zayn al-‘Abidīn’s (a) Stance in the Uprising of Madīnans 42

A. Historical Glance at Imam Zayn al-‘Abidīn’s (‘a) Position 42

B. An Ideological Glance at Imam Zayn al-‘Abidīn’s (‘a) Position 45

The Medina Uprising; a Right or Wrong Movement? 46

The Degree of Legitimacy of the Medina Uprising 46

Tribes that Actively Participated in the Medina Uprising 49

Those Who were Executed 50

Partial list of the names of males killed in the Tragedy of Harrah 50

Abī Tālib's Allies from the Banī Sulaim b. Mansūr Clan 50

From the Allies of Muttalib's Sons from Banī Sulaym Tribe 51

From the Sons of Nawfil b. ‘Abd Manāf 51

From the sons of Asad b. ‘Abd al-‘Uzzā b. Qusayy 51

From the Sons of ‘Abd al-Dār b. Qusayy 51

From Banī Zuhra Allies 52

From Taym b. Murra's Sons 52

From the Children of ‘Adī b. Ka‘b 52

From their Allies 53

From the Sons of ‘Āmir b. Lu’ayy 53

From the Sons Hujayz or Hajar b. Ma‘īs 53

From the Sons of Hārith b. Fihr 54

From Banī Qays b. Hārith b. Fihr 54

From Banī Muhārib b. Fihr 54

From Banī Hanash b. ‘Awf b. ‘Amr b. ‘Awf 54

From Banī Tha‘laba 55

From Banī al-‘Ujlān 55

From Banī Mu‘āwiyah b. Mālik 55

From Banī ‘Abd al-Ashhal 55

From Banī Zu‘war 55

From Nabīt Tribe 55

From Banī Hāritha b. Hārith 56

From the Khazrajīs, then from Banī Mālik b. Najjār 56

From Banī ‘Adīyy b. Najjār 57

From Banī Dīnār b. Najjār 57

From Banī Māzin b. Najjār 57

From Harith b. Khazraj 57

From Banī ‘Awf b. Khazraj 58

From Banī Sālim b. ‘Awf 58

From Banī Salima 58

From Banī Zurayq 58

From Āl-i Mu‘allā 58

Suwayd b. ‘Uwaym 59

Ayyūb b. Bashīr 59

‘Ubbād and Thābit, Sons of Tamīm 60

Mu hammad b. Thābit 60

Sons of Mu hammad 60

‘Īsā b. ‘Abd al-Ra hmān 60

Afla h 60

‘Amr b. Sa‘d 60

‘Umayr b. Sa‘d 60

Ibrāhīm b. Nu‘aym 60

Ja‘far b. ‘Abd Allāh 61

‘Abd Allāh b. ‘Utba 61

Abū Sa‘īd b. ‘Abd al-Ra hmān 61

‘Umāra b. Suhayb 61

‘Abbād b. Abī Nā’ila 61

Zayd b. Mu hammad 61

Ja‘far b. Yazīd 61

Thābit's Children 61

Khawwāt's Children 61

Children of Mujammi‘ 62

‘Abbād b. ‘Ā sim 62

Children of Zayd 62

‘Umārah b. ‘Aqaba 62

Sons of Nubay t 62

Yazīd b. Abī al-Yasar 62

Children of Abī ‘Ayyāsh 63

Mas‘ūd b. ‘Ubāda 63

Children of Ka‘b 63

Dhakwān 63

Bashīr b. Abī Zayd 63

Yazīd b. Hurmuz 63

Wahab b. ‘Abd Allāh 63

Fa dl Asghar 64

Mu hammad b. Ayyūb 64

‘Abd al-Ra hmān b. Abī ‘Ubayda 64

‘Abd Allā h b. Muhammad 64

Miqdād b. ‘Abd Allāh 64

Wahb b. ‘Abd Allāh 64

Yazīd b. Musāfi‘ 64

‘Abd Allā h b. Abī ‘Amr 64

Muslim b. Abū Burda 64

Sons of ‘Ā sim 64

‘Abd Allā h b. Nāfi‘ 64

Zyad b. ‘Abd al-Ra hmān 64

From the Children of ‘Abd Allāh b. Qays 64

Zayd b. Thābit 65

Ya‘qūb b. Talha 65

Miswar b. ‘Abd al-Ra hmān 65

‘Abd al-Ra hmān b. ‘Āsim 65

Mu‘ādh b. Hārath 65

‘Abd Allāh b. ‘Amr 65

Asīd b. Rāfi‘ 65

Suwayd b. ‘Awīm 65

Habīb b. Khawāt 65

‘Abd Allāhb. Ka‘b 65

Those who didn’t take part in the uprising 67

The Aftermaths of the Battle of Harrah 69

Claiming allegiance from the people of Medina for Yazīd 69

Muslim b. ‘Uqba's Report to Yazīd 70

Departure of the Syrian Army towards Mecca 71

The Invasion of Mecca by the Syrian Army 72

Death of Yazīd b. Mu‘āwiyah 73

Bibliography 74

Notes 79


History is a mirror that reflects the past events and happenings to the inquisitive eyes of the researchers who, years and centuries later, anxiously and eagerly try to scrutinize the past generations in order to recognize among them the forgotten figures, their roles, and their decisive historical impact. It teaches lessons of benevolence, honesty, and righteousness from the good among them and creates a strong dislike for the evil ones so that their footsteps are not followed.

Nevertheless, the mirror of history is not as transparent and exhilarating as it should be; for, instead of illustrating the birth of stars and the sunrise, it has crammed the long and tortuous memory of ages and epochs with bitter recollections, sad views of sunset and horrendous scenes of darkness!

Then, are the historians to be blamed to have witnessed most of the sorrows, battles, killings, wailings, and captivities, overlooking the beautiful blossoms and flowerings; or else, since the historians aspired to record something attractive and unique, to witness a smile, and to profile kind and relaxing moments of history and there were few of them to be found, and such moments were overshadowed by the onslaught of brutalities and opressions!

In any case, we are now opening another page from the early history of Islam that has perhaps remained hidden from the eyes of majority of Muslims across the world. However, the magnitutde of oppression and aggression committed against innocent human beings and brutalities reported in the pages of history against the inhabitants of the holy city of Medina still shakes human conscience, and mournfully bereaves souls and bitterly torments fair-minded people.

The battle of Harrah, which should be rightfully called the "tragedy of Harrah" occured just 64 years after the migration of the Holy Prophet (s) to Medina and 53 years after his sad demise. It took place in Medina, a city that was named as the city of the Prophet (s) whose people were from the generation of the men and women who formostly established the foundations of amity, compassion, benevolence, honesty and great Islamic culture throughout the violently hostile Arab lands, and with their self-sacrifice removed the pagan Arab customs of murder, plunder, and transgression and promoted the divine culture of knowledge and insight, and respect for human dignity.

However, within this short historical period of 64 years, especially after the sad demise of the Prophet of God (s), the Muslim community witnessed certain adverse and unanticipated events which eventually led the Umayyid rule over them. Banu Umayyah (the Umayyids) that was the polytheist tribe, and among the most aggressive ones against the Prophet (s) and the Muslims, took the reign of Caliphate and command of the Muslims' lives, property, and honor just within 40 years of the demise of the Prophet (s).

Yesterday's rebels and polytheists now returned triumphantly and sat on the Prophet’s (s) pulpit and proclaimed to be the commanders of the faithful!

Those freed at the conquest of Mecca and those who enjoyed the Prophet's clemency and compassion (known as ‘tulaqa’), were resolute to take hisUmmah as prisoners!

It was thus that after the battle of Harrah "Those among the children and descendents ofAnsār (Helpers) andMuhājirin (Emigrants) who survived this tragedy had to formally admit in front of the commander of the Shāmi (Syrian) army that they were the slaves of Yazīd (the leader of the Umayyid) and that he is allowed to do with them whatever he wished to!"

Achievements of this Research

This research does not intend to call the uprising of the inhabitants of Medina against the oppressive Umayyid rule of Yazid as great socio-religious bravery, although it can neither ignore the existence of religious, humanistic, and reformative motivations in that uprising. However, it can definitely arrive at the conclusion that the trend of Islamic Caliphate transformed into an anti-Islamic and anti-human trend in which Yazīd's hereditary monarchy represented the peak of this deviation.

The foundation of every government, its goals, its treatment of subjects and policies in general and its performance in particular are the most self-evident indicators of its rightfulness, legitimacy, and humanness, and the clearest evidences of its illegitimacy as well.

"Harrah tragedy" is only second to the "great tragedy of Karbalā" and the martyrdom of the descendents of Prophet (s) at the hands of Yazīd's army that was caused by the incompetence and oppressive nature of the Umayyid rule. It evidently showed that if the government of a Muslim soceity gives up the religious and human standards, how disastrous it can be to the religion and the Muslimummah .

We have attempted, in the following pages, to illustrate as much of the Harrah tragedy and issues related to some of its important aspects that have been recorded in history's memory, and to make a critical review and analyse them whenever necessary.

Among other achievements of this research that were not brought up in the main body of the book are briefly listed as follows:

A. Although the tragedy of Karbalā in 61 A.H. (680 C.E.) and the study of its different ideological and socio-political aftermaths could by itself be a vivid testimony to the brutality of Yazīd's and Umayyid's monarchy and an indication of the social degradation under the illegitimate political administrations of that era, the battle of Harrah that took place two or three years after the event of Karbalā showed that the latter, too, had not been a casual event perpetrated by the Umayyid ruling system. It showed that the essence of Umayyid monarchy demanded involvement in open onslaughts of murder and pillage of the household of Prophet (s), forcing such great men as Imam Husayn b. ‘Alī (‘a), who refused to recognize their rule, to pay for his religiosity and noble-spiritedness by his own blood and that of his loved ones.

The Harrah tragedy was in fact confirmatory evidence to the Umayyid's rebellious attitude towards religion of Islam and its humanistic values.

B. In the process of the Madinans' revolt and among various figures who lost their lives, were executed, fled from Medina, or had to swear allegiance to Yazīd out of degradation and humiliation and to call themselves his slaves, there were those who in the earlier years of the formation of deviation in political leadership of the Islamic community refused to take even the smallest steps in the reformation and correction of the deviated politico-religious trends; and when they happened to do so and stand against such perversions, it was to late too be of any avail. Subsequently, those who from the outset merely surrendered to the anti-Islamic trends and viewed religion as a means of power and polity, took up the rule, recruited a powerful and equipped army of newly converted Muslims who were unfamiliar with the basic teachings of the Islam, and by means of forged traditions of the Prophet (s) and ostensibly religious justifications persuaded them to slaughter and plunder the Muslims!

It is truly admonitory that such men as ‘Abd Allāh b. ‘Umar who, according to the historical reports regarded such high status and authenticity for themselves and were so cautious and obsessive during the Caliphate of ‘Alī b. Abī Tālib (‘a) that they would say, "We should be the last ones to swear allegiance to ‘Alī[1] !" Whereas in order to prevent people from opposition to Yazīd and to encourage them to pledge allegiance to him, they proclaimed, "The one who dies without a pledge of allegiance [to Yazīd] will die similar to the one who dies in a state of ignorance."[2]

Yet, what is more admonitory is that these people who did not pledge allegiance to ‘Alī (‘a)'s mighty hands, mind, and faith or when they did they did it hesitantly, hastened by night to pledge allegiance to such persons as Hajjāj b. Yūsuf Thaqafī - the historically notorious savage - not by shaking his hand as it was common but by vilely kissing his feet!

C. From whatever aspect that is considered, the tragedy of Karbalā and the massacre and plunder of Madinans are too massive and shameful; but what makes the resonance of those tragedies more painful and agonizing is that the perpetrators of such cruelities have introduced their inhuman actions as based on faith and religious foundations, to the extent that the commanders of Yazīd army in order to spur the troops to fight would shout at them "yā khail Allāh - O Army of Allah!"[3] Or, in the battle of Harrah, Muslim b. ‘Uqba - the commander of Syrian army - wishes that before dying he would be able to suppress the revolt of Medina and to terminate Yazīd's opponents in order to have enough spiritual provision in his book of deeds when meeting Allah on the day of Resurrection!

No doubt, such slogans, statements and tactics are more of a devilish and political nature than being rooted in ignorance and misunderstanding of religion. Unfortuneately these policies and practices rapidly influenced the hearts and minds of the newly converted naïve Muslims and the weak in faith and knowledge of Islamic teachings at that time.

It is for these reasons that the true scholars and the guardians of ideological boundaries of religion have always been concerned with such misapplications and misunderstanding of religion by the begrudged and spiteful and the feebleminded. In addition, whenever possible, they have tried to represent the humane and rational essence of religion so that no counter human and imprudent movement might be able to disguise its deviated and detrimental face under superficially religious slogans and banners.

Hoping that report of this crucial period of early Islamic history may be a step towards further appreciation of the real nature of the Umayyid’s Rule and its background, brutal policies and devellish tactics, its distortion of the Islamic teachings and the grievous aftermaths. It may provide lessons from this painful incident for distinguishing truth from falsehood and also serve as admonitions for avoiding wrong, inhumane, and anti-religious ways and as motivation for moving toward justice, fairness, and righteousness.

Ahmad Turābī

April 2008


The battle of Harrah was a bitterly disastrous and painful event that took place in 63 A.H. (682 C.E.) during the reign of Yazīd b. Mu‘āwiyah between the Syrian troops and the people of Medina.

In Arabic lexicon, Harrah means a rocky and rough terrain that is difficult to pass.[4]

This event has been named as such because the invasion of the state army of Shām (Syria) took place from the east of Medina, i.e., from the rocky region of the city.[5]

It has also been called "The Battle of Harrahtu Wāqim" in some historical sources since the rocky terrains around Medina have been extensive and protracted, covering various sections of its surrounding among which only the rocky terrains of the east side have been called "Harrahtu Wāqim".[6]

The historians have recorded the distance between Harrahtu Wāqim and Masjid al-Nabī as to be onemīl .[7]

A Great Disaster

The battle of Harrah that is rightly called to be one the great catastrophies of history and rated as one of the most cruel events perpetrated by the Umayyids has been so frustrating and unbearable that some historians have tried to alleviate the lasting painful memories of the Umayyid's reign by mentioning its marginal aspects and covering up the inhumane dimensions of this event. However, this human catastrophe has been so extensive in its emotional and ethical dimensions that it has pained the hearts of the fair-minded and justice loving and prompted the unprejudiced pens to bitterly lament and complain.

Abū ‘Alī Miskawayh puts it as follows:

"The battle of Harrah is one of the most formidable and harshest events."[8]

Another historian wrote:

"The battle of Harrah has had a terrifying impact on the Muslim world; it sounded as if the Umayyids had decided to pay off their debt to faith!

When the Prophet (s) forgave them upon the Conquest of Mecca and treated them with compassion, in response to this magnanimity of the Prophet (s), the Umayyids massacred the best of Medinan young men."[9]

The battle of Harrah was one of the outcomes of Umayyid’s reign, especially the imposed monarchy of Mu‘āwiyah b. Abū Sufyān's heir apparent which according to a hadīth, the Holy Prophet (s) expressed strong dislike in and called it the government of children: "O Allah, would it be that I would not witness the year 60 A.H. and the rule of the children!"[10]

The year 60 A.H. (679 C.E.) was the year when caliphate was formally and openly recognized as royal hereditary monarchy and Yazīd, the son of Mu‘āwiyah, a hedonist and characterless young man, rose to the throne by the contrivance of his father. In his four years of rulership, i.e., from 60 A.H. to 64 A.H. (683 C.E.), Yazīd perpetrated numerous tragedies, the most formidable of which was the Taff (Karbalā) event - martyrdom of Husayn b. ‘Alī (‘a) - then, the battle of Harrah in which the sanctity of the mosque of Prophet (s) in Medina was violated and after that his invasion of Mecca and desecrating the House of God (Holy Ka’aba).

In the holy month of Muharram of the year 61 A.H. (680 C.E.), Yazīd martyred the members of the household of the Holy Prophet (s) in Karbalā in the cruelest and the most tyrannical way possible and enslaved his household. In Dhū'l Hajja 63 A.H. (August 683 C.E.), he masterminded the second grand tragedy of his rulership by allowing the Syrian army to transgress over the lives and properties of the people of Medina and the female members of their families.