ABD ALLAH IBN AZ-ZUBAIR
What a Man! What a Martyr!
A blessed child in his mother's womb was he, when his mother passed over
the burning desert sand leaving Makkah for Al-Madiinah on her
emigration route. While still unborn, Abd Allah was to emigrate with the
Muhaajiruun. His mother Asmaa' (May Allah be pleased with her) had
hardly reached Qubaa', when she began to suffer labor pains.
`Abd Allah, the first child to be born after the Hijrah, was
carried to the Prophet's house in Al-Madiinah. There the Prophet (PBUH)
kissed him, then chewed a date and rubbed it on the newborn's gums (a
Sunnah called tahniik). Thus the Prophet's saliva was the first thing to
enter `Abd Allah's belly.
Muslims gathered, carried the newborn baby and went round with
him through the streets of Al Madiinah applauding and shouting "Allahu
Akbar"( Allah is the Greatest).
When the Prophet (PBUH) and the Muslims settled in Al Madiinah,
the Jews there, bearing deep spite against the Muslims, were subdued.
They spread the rumor that their priests had made the Muslims infertile
by means of their witchcraft and Al- Madiinah was not going to witness
the birth of Muslim babies. When `Abd Allah came out from the unseen, he
was an irrefutable proof from Allah that the Jews' claims were mere
lies and deceptive tricks.
Abd Allah did not reach the age of majority during the Prophet's
lifetime. However, his intimate contact with the Prophet (PBUH) during
childhood granted him the basic materials of manliness and taught him
the principles of life, principles which would be the subject of
people's admiration and talk, as will be mentioned later.
The little child's character developed rapidly. He displayed
extraordinary energy, intellect, and firmness. His youth was full of
chasity, purity, worship, and heroism beyond imagination. As days went
by his manners did not change. He was a man sure of his path, walking
his way with strong will and firm belief.
* * *
He did not exceed the age of 27, during the conquests of Africa,
Spain, and Constantinople, when he proved to be one of the great
heroes. That happened, in particular, during the Battle of ifriiqiyah
(Tunisia) when 20,000 Muslim soldiers confronted an army of 120,000.
The battle was in progress and the Muslims encountered a real
danger. `Abd Allah took a look at the enemy's army and soon realized the
source of their strength. It was the leader, the Berber king, who
effectively encouraged his soldiers, pushing them towards death. `Abd
Allah knew that the battle's outcome depended primarily on the death of
their stubborn leader. But how was he going to reach him? He had first
to pass through a great and fiercely fighting army. However, `Abd
Allah's courage and bravery were not ever subject to question. He called
his companions and said, "Protect my back, attack with me." Like a
flying arrow he forced his way towards the leader, bursting through
fighting warriors. When he reached him, he struck him dead. Immediately
the leader fell down motionless. Then he turned towards those who
surrounded their king and leader, killing them all. "Allahu Akbar" was
then to be heard. The Muslims soon saw their standard lifted on the same
spot where the Berber leader had commanded his soldiers. They realized
that victory had almost been achieved. They strengthened their force and
soon everything was over in favor of the Muslims. The leader of the
Muslim army, Abd Allah Ibn Abi Sarh was told about the great role `Abd
Allah Ibn Az-Zubair had played. He rewarded him with the honor of
personally carrying the news of victory to Al Madiinah and to the Caliph
`Uthmaan Ibn `Affaan.
* * *
Nevertheless, his miraculous and extraordinary heroism in fighting came second to his heroism in the sphere of worship.
His family, his youth, his position and its eminence, his
wealth, his strength, nothing of that sort could hinder `Abd Allah from
being an admirable God-fearing worshiper, fasting all day long while
praying all night.
`Umar Ibn `Abd Al-'Aziiz once asked Ibn Abi Mulaikah to describe
`Abd Allah, so he said, "By Allah, I've never see a soul similar to
his. When he began his prayer, he left everything behind. He bowed down
and prostrated for such a long period that birds stood on his back
considering him a wall or a gown thrown away. Once a projectile passed
between his beard and chest while praying. By Allah, he did not feel it
nor was he shaken by it. He did not stop his recitation nor hurry his
Similar to legends, the truthful information about `Abd Allah's worship was transmitted by history
His fasting, his prayer, his pilgrimage, his noble soul, his
continuous fear of Allah, his close relation to Allah, his being a
devoted worshiper and a fasting fighter throughout his life were all in
him like interwoven threads.
Although there was some kind of disagreement between `Abd Allah
Ibn Az-Zubair and Ibn `Abbaas, the latter described `Abd Allah in the
following words: "He was a reciter of the Qur'aan, a follower of the
Sunnah, submissive to Allah, a God-fearing faster, son of the Prophet's
disciple. His mother was As-siddiiq's daughter, his aunt `Aa'ishah the
Prophet's wife; his rank can only be ignored by the blind."
* * *
The strength of high mountains did not equal `Abd Allah's
firmness and assiduity. Sincere, noble, strong, he was always ready to
sacrifice his life for his clarity and straightforwardness.
During his dispute and wars with Bani Umaiyah (the Ommiads),
Al-Husain Ibn Numair, the leader of the army sent by Yazild to suppress
Ibn Az-Zubair's revolt, went to visit `Abd Allah Ibn Az-Zubair in Makkah
after the news reached there that Yaziid had died. Al-Husain offered
Abd Allah to go with him to Syria where he would use his power to force
people to swear the oath of allegiance to Ibn Az-Zubair. However, Ibn
Az-Zubair refused this golden chance because he was totally convinced of
the necessity to take revenge on the Syrian army for the terrible
crimes committed while marching on the Prophet's Madiinah to satisfy the
We may differ with `Abd Allah, wishing he would have preferred
peace and forgiveness by responding to a rare chance offered by
Al-Husain, Yaziid's leader. Nevertheless, the man's position in favor of
his conviction and faith, rejecting lies and tricks, deserves respect
Al-Hajaaj attacked with his army, besieging him and his
followers. At that time, among Abd Allah's warriors was a group of very
skillful Abyssinian spearmen and warriors. `Abd Allah heard them talking
about the late Caliph `Uthmaan (May Allah be pleased with him). Their
conversation lacked all forms of justice and fairness. `Abd Allah
reprimanded them severely saying, " By Allah, I don't like to defeat my
enemy with the help of someone hating `Uthmaan." He sent them away at a
very critical time in which he needed help so desperately, like a
drowning man seeking hope.
His sincerity and honesty in faith and principles made him
indifferent to the loss of 200 of his most skillful spearmen, the faith
of whom he could no longer trust.
All that despite the fierce decisive battle which stood in front
of him, the outcome of which could have been different if those
spearmen had remained.
* * *
His resistance against Mu'aawiyah and Yaziid was an
extraordinary legend of bravery. He considered Yaziid Ibn Mu'aawiyah Ibn
Abi Sufyaan the most unqualified person to rule the Muslim community.
That was true. Yaziid was totally corrupt. He did not possess one single
virtue which would forgive his crimes and evils which have been
narrated by history.
How was it possible for Ibn Az-Zubair to swear the oath of
allegiance to him? He strongly refused to do so while Mu'aawiyah was
alive and more so when Yaziid became caliph. Yaziid sent someone to
threaten him. He, however, said, "I'm not going to swear the oath of
allegiance to a drunkard."
* * *
Ibn Az-Zubair became Commander of the Faithful with Holy Makkah
as his capital, extending his rule over Hejaz, Yemen, Basra, Kufa,
Khurasan, and Syria except Damascus. The inhabitants of all these
provinces swore the oath of allegiance to him. But the Ommiads were not
satisfied. Restless, they waged continuous wars, most of which ended in
their defeat. Nothing changed until `Abd Al Maalik Ibn Marwaan ordered
one of the most harsh, criminal, cruel, and merciless human beings to
attack `Abd Allah in Makkah. This was Al-Hajaaj Ath-Thaqafiy, who was
described by `Umar Ibn Abd Al-'Aziiz: "If all nations were to weigh
together their sins, and we came with Al Hajaaj only, the balance would
sway to our part."
* * *
Al-Hajaaj personally led his army to invade Makkah, Ibn Az
Zubair's capital. He besieged it nearly six months, preventing the
provision of water and food to force people to abandon Abd Allah. Under
the severe pressure of hunger, a large number of fighters surrendered
and Abd Allah found himself almost alone. Although chances to save his
life and soul were still available, he decided to carry out his
responsibilities to the very end. He went on fighting with legendary
courage, although he was 70 years old at that time. We will only grasp
the full image of that situation if we listen to the conversation which
took place between `Abd Allah and his mother, the great and noble Asmaa'
Bint Abu Bakr, a short while before his death.
He went to her presenting the whole situation and what seemed to be his destiny.
Asmaa' told him, " My son, you know yourself better than anyone else. If
you know that you are adhering to the truth and calling to it, then be
patient till you die for its sake and don't let the boys of Bani Umaiyah
reach your neck. But if life in this world has been your main concern,
then you're a wretched son, destroying yourself and those killed on your
`Abd Allah said, "By Allah, mother, I've never sought life in
this world, nor did I submit myself to it. I've never ruled with
injustice, treated anyone unfairly, or betrayed anyone."
His mother Asmaa' said, "I hope I will receive good consolation
if you precede me to Paradise or I precede you. May Allah have mercy for
your long prayers at night, your fasting during hot days and your
reverent treatment of me and your father. Allah, I've handed over my son
to Your fate; I will be pleased with Your destiny. Reward me for
sacrificing my son as You reward thankful and patient believers."
They embraced each other and exchanged a farewell look. After
one hour of fierce, unparalleled battle, the martyr received a deadly
stroke. Al-Hajaaj, cruel, cunning, and deceiving as he was, insisted on
crucifying the lifeless body.
* * *
`Abd Allah's mother, who was on that day 97 years old, went to
see her crucified son. Like a high towering mountain, his mother stood
in front of him when Al-Hajaaj approached with shame and humiliation and
said, "O Mother, the Commander of the Faithful `Abd Al-Maalik Ibn
Marwaan has recommended me to treat you well. Do you need anything?"
She shouted, " I'm not your mother. I'm the mother of that one
crucified on the cross. I don't need you. But I'm going to tell you a
hadith which I heard from the Prophet (PBUH). He said, "He will emerge
from Thaqiif, a liar and a vicious one." We have already seen the liar
and the vicious one. I don't think he's anyone else but you." `Abd Allah
Ibn `Umar approached to console her and asked Allah to grant her
patience. She replied, "What hinders me from being patient? Wasn't the
head of Yahyaa (John) Ibn Zakariyaa granted to an Israelite harlot?"
How great she was, daughter of As-siddiiq!. Are there more
eloquent words to be directed at those who cut `Abd Allah's head off his
body before crucifying him?
* * *
suckled the milk of such an extraordinary mother, could `Abd Allah
possibly have lived a different life, a life not reaching such great
levels of success, virtue, and heroism?
May peace be upon `Abd Allah.
May peace be upon Asmaa'.
May peace be upon them among the eternally living martyrs.
May peace be upon them among the most reverent and pious.