Chapter Seven: The incident of Hara


The atrocities committed against the Ahlulbayt (as) and the brutal murder of the grandson of holy Prophet (s), his family and his companions were not the only crimes perpetuated by Yazeed rather that was just the beginning of his malicious reign. After the slaughter of the Ahl’ul bayt (as) in Karbala, he continued from where he left off and exhibited further heinous and vicious aspects of his persona against the people of Harra. To shed light on the incident, allow us to cite the words that we read in the footnote of a tradition of Sahih Muslim:

We read in Sahih Muslim, Hadith 1851:

“The incident of Harra is indeed one of the most despicable events of early Islamic history. It occurred in 63 H at the fag [sic] of the reign of Yazeed. The sum and substance of this event is that the people of Madina on seeing the atrocities of his un-Islamic conduct in the affairs f the state had raised the standard of revolt against him and turned his governor out of the city and elected Abdullah b. Hanzala as the new Governor of Madina. When Yazeed heard of it, he sent Muslim b. Uqba al-Murri at the head of 12,000 soldiers to attack Madina. The city of Messenger (peace be upon him) was brutally attacked and such horrifying atrocities were perpetuated upon the citizens as the very thought of them makes one‘s hair stand on end. There was plunder and massacre on a large scale and ever a large number of woman was (The details of this incident can be seen in Ibn Athir, Vol iii, pp-310-13).
 Sahih Muslim, Vol III-A page 259 Footnote No. 2 (Dar-ul-Ishat, Urdu Bazar, Karachi)

Whilst it is evident that the writer was ashamed of mentioning the historical fact that a large number of women folk from the families of the Sahaba were raped by Yazeed’s forces, let us cite it from the History of al-Fakhri, translated by C.E.J. Whitting, London, 1947, pp. 113-115 wherein we learn that Yazeed initially instructed Ubaydullah bin Ziyad to lead an army assault on Medina, who offered excuses, as a result of which he then appointed Muslim bin Uqbah to lead the charge:

“Then Muslim, son of ‘Uqbah, for three days gave Madinah to the sack. He murdered, looted and took prisoners, so that it was said that a man of Madinah thereafter, if he gave his daughter to wed, would not guarantee her virginity, “She may have been raped in the battle of Harrah.”

Imam Darmi records in his Sunan, Volume 1 page 57 No. 94:

أخبرنا مروان بن محمد عن سعيد بن عبد العزيز قال لما كان أيام الحرة لم يؤذن في مسجد النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ثلاثا ولم يقم ولم يبرح سعيد بن المسيب من المسجد وكان لا يعرف وقت الصلاة إلا بهمهمة يسمعها من قبر النبي فذكر معناه

Saeed bin Abdul Aziz states that during the days of Hara, neither Adhan nor Iqamah was given for three days in the Mosque of the Prophet (s) despite this Saeed bin al-Musayib did not depart from the mosque, he would azquire receipt of the prayer times through faint voice of the Adhan coming from the grave of the Holy Prophet (s).

Imam Suyuti in his famed work Tarikh ul Khulafa writes as follows:

و في سنة ثلاث و ستين بلغه أن أهل المدينة خرجوا عليه و خلعوه فأرسل إليهم جيشا كثيفا و أمرهم بقتالهم ثم المسير إلى مكة لقتال ابن الزبير فجاؤوا و كانت وقعة الحرة على باب طيبة و ما أدراك ما وقعة الحرة ؟ ذكرها الحسن مرة فقال : و الله ما كاد ينجوا منهم أحد قتل فيها خلق من الصحابة رضي الله عنهم و من غيرهم و نهبت المدينة و افتض فيه ألف عذراء فإنا لله و إنا إليه راجعون ! قال صلى الله عليه و سلم : [ من أخاف أهل المدينة أخافه الله و عليه لعنة الله و الملائكة و الناس أجمعين ] رواه مسلم

“And in year 63 hijri, he came to know that the people of Madina had separated from him, so he sent a huge army to them and ordered that they be murdered and that they then head to Makka and kill Ibn Zubair, so there was Hara on the gate tayyaba and how can one realize what Hara was? Hassan said: ‘By Allah! There was none that was saved, that included companions of Prophet, and others, they looted the city, and took the virginity of a thousand women’.
The Holy Prophet (s) had said; “Whosoever frightens the people of Madina, Allah (swt) shall frighten him. The curse of Allah (swt), his angels, and all the people shall be upon such an individual” [narrated muslim].

We also read:

و سار جيش الحرة إلى مكة لقتال ابن الزبير فمات أمير الجيش بالطريق فاستخلف عليهم أميرا و أتوا مكة فحاصروا ابن الزبير و قاتلوه و رموه بالمنجنيق و ذلك في صفر سنة أربع و ستين و احترقت من شرارة نيرانهم أستار الكعبة و سقفها و قرنا الكبش الذي فدى الله به إسماعيل

”When the army of Hara left for Makka so as to fight Ibn Zubayr, the commander died, so a new commander was appointed. They then surrounded Makka and proceeded to fight Ibn Zubayr and fired stones from a catapault, the flames of which burnt down the curtains of the Kaaba as well as its ceiling and the horn of the ram which was replaced as a scarifice for Ismail (as) by Allah (swt).”

Ibn Kathir states:

وقد أخطأ يزيد خطأ فاحشا في قوله لمسلم بن عقبة أن يبيح المدينة ثلاثة أيام، وهذا خطأ كبير فاحش، مع ما انضم إلى ذلك من قتل خلق من الصحابة وأبنائهم، وقد تقدم أنه قتل الحسين وأصحابه على يدي عبيد الله بن زياد.
وقد وقع في هذه الثلاثة أيام من المفاسد العظيمة في المدينة النبوية ما لا يحد ولا يوصف، مما لا يعلمه إلا الله عز وجل، وقد أراد بارسال مسلم بن عقبة توطيد سلطانه وملكه، ودوام أيامه من غير منازع، فعاقبه الله بنقيض قصده، وحال بينه وبين ما يشتهيه، فقصمه الله قاصم الجبابرة، وأخذه أخذ عزيز مقتدر وكذلك أخذ ربك إذا أخذ القرى وهي ظالمة إن أخذه أليم شديد.

“Yazeed committed a big mistake by telling Muslim bin Utbah to continue with the bloodshed in Madina for three days. This was a huge and Fahash mistake and the bloodshed of Sahaba and their sons was further added to it while it has just been previously mentioned that Hussain and his Sahaba had been killed at the hands of Ibn Ziyad. During those three days, such huge crimes were committed that cannot be counted and cannot be mentioned; only Allah knows about them. Yazeed by sending Muslim bin Utbah had sought to strengthen the roots of his government and extend it without any obstacle. But contrary to his wishes, Allah punished him and became an obstacle to his desires and Allah, who (swt) breaks the backbone of the oppressors, likewise broke the backbone of Yazeed and He (swt) apprehended him in the same manner that a powerful all conquering individual apprehends someone ‘Even thus is the grasp of thy Lord when He graspeth the townships while they are doing wrong. Lo! His grasp is painful, very strong’.
 Al Bidayah Wal Nihayah (Urdu), Vol 8 Page 1146; Nafees Academy Karachi

We read in ‘Aujaz al masalik’ that Shaykh al hadith Muhammad Zakaria stated:

“The army that Yazeed had sent to Medina comprised of 60,000 horsemen and 15,000 foot soldiers. For three days they shed blood freely, 1000 women were raped and 700 named Quraysh and Ansar were killed. Ten thousand women and children were made slaves. Muslim bin Uqba forced people to give bayya to Yazeed in such a manner that people were enslaved and Yazeed could sell them as he pleased, none of the Sahaba that were present [with the Prophet (saws)] at Hudaibiya were spared”.

Ibn Hazm has summarised the entire incident in the following manner:

The oath of allegiance administered to Yazeed occurred following the death of his father; his title was Abu Khalid, Hussain bin Ali and Abdullah bin Zubair refused to pay the allegiance; then Hussain (peace by upon him) left for Kufa, and he was martyred before entering Kufa, this was the third sad incident following the death of Uthman and the fourth one following the martyrdom of Umar and was an interruption in Islam because oppression was openly declared against the Muslims with his martyrdom. Abdullah bin Zubair the went to Makka wherein he sought refuge in the House of Allah and resided there.

Yazeed sent his army towards Madina and Makka that amongst the holy sites of Allah (swt), so in the battle of Hara, those of Muhajir and Ansar that remained therein were killed and this horrendous incident is also amongst the worst tragic incidents of Islam, creating a break in it because esteemed Muslims, the remnants of the Sahaba and the honorable Tabayeen were openly killed in it or apprehended and then martyred. The horses of Yazeed’s army were present in the mosque of the Holy Prophet (s) and in Riadh ul Jannah, between the grave of the Rasulullah (s) and his pulpit, they defecated therein; no prayer was offered during those days. And there remained none, save Saeed ul Masayib, he did not leave the mosque at all and had Amro bin Uthman bin Afan and Marwan bin Hakam not testified to him being insane to Muslim bin Uqba [the leader of the army], he would have likewise been killed. He (Muslim bin Uqba) also compelled people to administer their oaths of allegiance on the condition that they were the slaves of Yazeed bin Mu’awiya, whether he sells them or frees them and when an individual said that we would pledge allegiance on the condition the allegiance was pursuant to the terms of the Quran and Sunnah, an order was made to kill him, the said individual was subsequently captured and killed; this sinner Muslim bin Uqba insulted Islam immensly; there was looting in Madina for three days; the companions of Rasulullah (s) were insulted and maltreated; their houses were robbed. The army then surrounded Makka and stoned the House of Allah (swt) via catapaults and this was done under the supervision of Hussain bin Numair by the Syrian battalions and this was because the sinner ibn Uqba died three days after the battle of Harra and the leader was now Hussain bin Numair. Allah likewise apprehended Yazeed in the same manner, the Owner of power and glory, apprehends others; he died in under three months but over two months (that is between 2 and 3 months) and Yazeed’s forces returned from Makka. Yazeed died on 15 rabi ul awal, 64 hijri, his age was just above 30, his mother was Maisoon bint Bajdal Kalbia, the era of his rule was three years, eight months and a few days.
 Jawama’e al-Sirah, pages 357-358

The Fatwa of Ibn Umar and the implications derived thereof

Talking of the incident of Hara, we deem it an apt opportunity to discuss the role of Abdullah Ibn Umar with respect to Yazeed and the defences for him that are commonly advanced by certain segments of Ahle Sunnah.

Hara was a horrific event; it involved the ethnic cleansing of the last remnants of those with a nexus with Rasulullah (s), the surviving Sahaba and Tabieen that followed them, individuals that as per Sunni beliefs were the best of generations. Slaughter and rape are not uncommon in war, we often hear such despicable crimes being perpetuated during the Rwandan civil war and when the Serbs sought to ethnically cleanse Yugoslavia of its Muslim inhabitants. Anyone that hears of such crimes is shocked, what is moiré shocking is the fact that the ransacking of Madina, the murder and rape of its female inhabitants was not by any non Muslim army during the crusades, this was a crime perpetuated by the Muslim head of state we have already quoted the comments of the translator of Sahih Muslim:

“The city of Messenger (peace be upon him) was brutally attacked and such horrifying atrocities were perpetuated upon the citizens as the very thought of them makes one‘s hair stand on end”.

Just reading about it make’s one’s hair stand on end, can one imagine how the Madinan population would have felt, the men folk were slaughtered, the women sexually violated and turned into captives, are these crimes not sufficient enough to cause an individual with a hear to distance himself from Yazeed and all that he stood for? Was the ransacking of Madina not sufficient evidence that Yazeed had nothing to do with the Deen? We are sure that any rational, just individual would agree with us that this would be enough proof for anyone to distance themselves from Yazeed, but not for one prominent individual by the name of Abdullah Ibn Umar. Following Hara and all the horrors associated with it, Abdullah Ibn Umar convened a private gathering of his near and dear ones and made clear his views on Yazeed and his views on those that had opposed him at Harra, and this is how this fact has been recorded in Sahih Bukhari Volume 9, Book 88, Number 227:

Narrated Nafi’:
When the people of Medina dethroned Yazeed bin Muawiya, Ibn ‘Umar gathered his special friends and children and said, “I heard the Prophet saying, ‘A flag will be fixed for every betrayer on the Day of Resurrection,’ and we have given the oath of allegiance to this person (Yazeed) in accordance with the conditions enjoined by Allah and His Apostle and I do not know of anything more faithless than fighting a person who has been given the oath of allegiance in accordance with the conditions enjoined by Allah and His Apostle , and if ever I learn that any person among you has agreed to dethrone Yazeed, by giving the oath of allegiance (to somebody else) then there will be separation between him and me.”

So the facts are clear that Ibn Umar:

  • was advising those within his close circle
  • it was at a time when the people of Madina had broken their bayya to Yazeed
  • relied upon a Hadith that any individual that breaks bayya will be raised as a betrayer on the Day of Judgment
  • underlined in no uncertain words that the bayya to Yazeed was pursuant to the conditions enjoined by Allah and His Apostle
  • would distance himself from anyone that broke the bayya to Yazeed

There is no way that these comments can be put down to taqiyya. Ibn Umar was not making some public declaration in the market it was a private audience with those closest to him and took the form of firm religious advice. In that advice not only did he condemn those that rebelled against Yazeed and made it clear that they would be raised as betrayers on the next world in other words suffer eternal damnation, pursuant to a Hadith of the Prophet (s) he reaffirmed his loyalty to Yazeed making it that he was a legitimate head of state, and his right to rule was in accordance with conditions set by Allah (swt) and his Rasul, in other words he had the legal backing of Shariah, negating the right of any individual to oppose him by breaking bayya. The thought of an individual turning his back on Ibn Umar made him so irate that he made it clear that he wanted nothing to do with such an individual.

Lest not forget this Islamic advice is being made after the Hara and all the heinous crimes that flowed from it. Crimes such as murder, mass rape and the pillaging of Madina may well have taken place but to Ibn Umar there was no Islamic basis to oppose Yazeed he remained the legal head of State in accordance with the conditions set by Allah and his Rasul (s), such conditions were not in any way negated by what Yazeed ordered either at Karbala or Hara!

This was not the single episode of Ibn Umar’s advocacy, he also went to the home of people to vouch for Yazeed’s Khilafat as can be gauged from this tradition in Sahih Muslim, Kitab al Imara Book 020, Number 4562:

It has been reported on the authority of Nafi, that ‘Abdullah b. Umar paid a visit to Abdullah b. Muti’ in the days (when atrocities were perpetrated on the People Of Medina) at Harra in the time of Yazeed b. Mu’awiya. Ibn Muti’ said: Place a pillow for Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman (family name of ‘Abdullah b. ‘Umar). But the latter said: I have not come to sit with you. I have come to you to tell you a tradition I heard from the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him). I heard him say: One who withdraws his band from obedience (to the Amir) will find no argument (in his defence) when he stands before Allah on the Day of Judgment, and one who dies without having bound himself by an oath of allegiance (to an Amir) will die the death of one belonging to the days of Jahillyya.


In the Bukhari tradition he gathered his close ones together and pledged his support for Yazeed, relying on a Hadith to support his stance. In this tradition he personally goes to the home of an acquaintance with one specific objective, to reiterate the legitimacy of Yazeed’s khilafat and the Islamic rulings for one that opposes him. He cites two traditions to evidence his support for Yazeed:

  • one who withdraws his hand from obedience (to the Amir) will find no argument (in his defence) when he stands before Allah on the Day of Judgment,
  • one who dies without having bound himself by an oath of allegiance (to an Amir) will die the death of one belonging to the days of Jahillyya

If we bring together all the traditions relied upon by Ibn Umar from the Sahihayn as part of his representing his client Yazeed we learn three things:

  • Those that break the bayya to Yazeed will be raised as betrayers in the next world
  • Those that break the bayya to Yazeed will have no defence in the next world
  • Those who died without having given bayya to Yazeed as their leader will die the death of jahliyya

This Fatwa of Ibn Umar, based on his reliance on three traditions means that in his eyes:

  • All of the Sahaba in Madina that broke their bayya will be punished in the next world accordingly
  • All those Sahaba that died without having given bayya to Yazeed whether that be by not having even given (Imam Hussain (as), his family and Sahaba) or broke it (all the Sahaba and Tabieen in Hara) died the death of apostates.

Now our questions are as follows:

  1. How does the Sunni aqaid that all the Sahaba are just, truthful and guaranteed Paradise concur with the viewpoint of Ibn Umar that all those that opposed Yazeed by either not giving him bayya or breaking died the death of jahilyya? Dying the death of jahilyya cannot be deemed to be the stance of people that are just and truthful.
  2. If Ibn Umar was so worried that failing to give Yazeed bayya, results in people dying the death of jahiliyya, why did he not inform Imam Hussain (as) as such before he left Madina?
  3. If the Hadith relied on by Ibn Umar for Yazeed were correctly applied why is it that no other Sahaba of the Prophet (s) alive at that time recollected it as proof of Yazeed’s Khilafat?
  4. If Ibn Umar was warning people not to died in a state wherein they have not accepted Yazeed, since doing so leads to an individual dying the death of Jahilyya, why did he not rely on this Hadith himself, after all according to Fatah ul Bari Sharh Sahih Bukhari, v6 p145 Ibn Umar never gave bayya to Imam Ali (as) but gave it to Yazeed. Was he not fearful that he might die the death of Jahiliyya by not giving baya to his Amir of time? If so why was he prepared to take a risk and wait until Muawiyah became Khalifa to give bayya to an Amir? Was Yazeed more worthy of recognition to avoid the death of Jahiliyya than Yazeed?
     Fatah ul Bari, volume 6 page 145
  5. If those that break their bayya to Yazeed will die the death of Jahiliyya and be raised as Baghis in the next world, why is the same Hadith not applied to those that broke the bayya to Ali (as), fought him and died in a state wherein they had not recognized him?

This Fatwa of Ibn Umar carries major implications for the Sunni belief system:

  • Most Sunnis regard Imam Hussain (as), his family and supporters who lost their lives in Karbala as martyrs, Ibn Umar views them as dying the death of jahiliyya
  • Must Sunnis regard those Sahaba that broke the bayya to Yazeed and died in that stat, laying their lives against the principle that he was not the legitimate head of state died as martyrs, Ibn Umar views them as dying the death of jahilyya, and persons who will be raised as betrayers in the next world
  • Sunnis believe that all the Sahaba that fought in wars after the Prophet (s) during the Caliphate of Ali (as) will be forgiven, as they exercised ijtihaad, for which they will get one reward if wrong and two if right. The Fatwa of Ibn Umar negates that completely he stated that those Sahaba that lost their lives Hara, will have no defence whatsoever on the Day of Judgment rather they will die the death of kaafirs and will be raised as rebels in the next world. Why did he not say they will forgiven as they exercised ijtihad, for which they will get one reward if wrong and two if right? Who knows the Shariah better today’s Sunni Mullah or Abdullah Ibn Umar?

The above points leave Sunni Muslims in a serious quandary. As a Sahabi he is regarded as just and truthful meaning that his Fatwa on those that opposed Yazeed by either not recognizing him or breaking bayya and dying in that state will die the death of jahiliyya was also accurate as it was given by a just and truthful man. Once they accept his reliance upon these Hadith then that automatically means all the other Sahaba died kaafirs then means that they cannot be regarded as just and truthful.

If Ibn Umar’s interpretation of Hadith to evidence his pro Yazeed stance was wrong then that destroys his credibility, it openly leads to one questioning his probity, he can no longer be viewed as just and truthful after all he was relying on Hadith to prove the legitimacy of a major transgressor, a view that was not shared by all of the other Sahaba of the time. If that approach is taken then questions need to be asked of all that he says, that means that Sunnis will have to reject the thousands of his narrations in Sahih Bukhari. So what can they do?

The tragedy of Hara and the open advocacy of Ibn Umar create serious questions for those Sunnis that love Imam Hussain (as) and support the stance that he took, deeming it one that revived the faith. The ordinary person on the street might be moved by what happened to the Ahl’ul bayt (as) at Karbala and the Sahaba at Hara and hate Yazeed, but not Ibn Umar .Abdullah Ibn Umar does not concur with modern day popular Sunni opinion, he was an out and out advocate of Yazeed and supported him through thick and thin at every stage of his life of debauchery, even when Madina rose up against him having recognized his atrocious conduct, Ibn Umar loyally stood behind him insisting to the people that his Khilafat was pursuant to the conditions set by Allah (swt) and his Rasul (s) and that anyone opposing him would die the death of Jahiliyya and that he wanted nothing to do with anyone that abandoned him. Perhaps it was for this very reason that the Urdu translator of Sahih Bukhari, Maulana Syed Naib Hussain (revision done by Maulana Syed Muhammad Ali) adopted blatant tahreef when translating this tradition when he replaced the name Yazeed with Muawiyah, so that it seemed as if Ibn Umar was rebuking those that had broken their bayya to Muawiyah, when the original/Arabic text has the words Yazeed ibn Muawiyah!
 Sahih Bukhari, Arabic to Urdu translation by Maulana Syed Naib Hussain, Vol 3 page 657 Hadith 54 (Ghulam Ali & Sons publications, Lahore)

The tragedy of Hara and the Fatwa of Ibn Umar after it has major implications for those that adhere to the thought that all the Sahaba are just and truthful on its head, and highlights how baseless this doctrine is.


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