Muslim ibn Aqil

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Muslim ibn Aqil al-Hashimi (Arabic: مُسْلِم ٱبْن عَقِيل ٱلْهَاشِمِيّMuslim ibn ʿAqīl al-Hāshimīy) was the son of Aqil ibn Abi Talib and a member of the clan of Bani Hashim, thus, he is a cousin of Hussain ibn Ali. The people of Kufa called upon Husayn to overthrow the Umayyad dynasty who was on his way to Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage. He wanted to confirm the loyalty of the people of Kufa, so he sent his cousin and his ambassador, Muslim ibn Aqeel, a famous warrior, to Kufa to observe the situation. He sent a letter to Hussain confirming their loyalty, before knowing that the 30,000 followers that he gained would all betray him for their lives. He was executed by the newly installed governor, Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad, on the 9th of Zilhaj, 60 AH,[1] and is buried at the back of Great Mosque of Kufa.[2]

Journey to Kufa

Letters from Kufa

Hussain ibn Ali received thousands of letters from people of Kufa stating that they were rejecting their governor and asking him to come and serve as their Imam. One letter in particular contained these words: "We invite you to come to Kufa as we have no Imam to guide us. Through you Allah will unite us on the path of truth". A few days later, the people of Kufa sent an emissary, a special messenger, to Husayn ibn Ali to persuade him to go to Kufa. There followed hundreds of other letters and many special emissaries from the people of Kufa to Hussain ibn Ali.

Receiving so many petitions and messages from Kufa, Husayn ibn Ali decided to send Muslim ibn Aqeel, who was a famous warrior, as his emissary to Kufa to study the situation there and report to Hussain ibn Ali.[3]

Muslim's Assignment

He wrote a letter to the people of Kufa and gave it to Muslim ibn Aqeel. In this letter Husayn ibn Ali said, "I am sending my cousin and one of the most trusted ones from my family, Muslim ibn Aqeel, to report to me about your affairs. If his report agrees with what you have written I will soon be with you. You must be clear of the fact that the Imam is the only one who follows the book of Allah, and serves Allah in all matters and affairs with justice, honesty and truth".[4]

Husayn ibn Ali also told Ibn Aqeel: "Muslim, the whole world knows that you are one of the bravest warriors. It is just possible that seeing you in Kufa some people may think that our intention is to fight Yazid. Take your two sons Muhammad and Ibrahim with you. When they see you with such young children, they will know that our intentions are peaceful".

According to reports, Muslim ibn Aqeel's sons were so young, that they could not even tie up the buttons of their shirts.

Husayn sent three people with Muslim: Qays Ibn Mash'ar, 'Imarah Ibn 'Abdullah al-Saluli, and 'Abdul Rahman Ibn 'Abdullah al-Azd, in addition to the messenger from Kufa.[5]

Traveling to Kufa

This group set off from Mecca on the 15th of Ramadan. His first destination was Medina, where he left his family and hired two people to guide him on his way. The guides, however, lost their way in the desert and were too weak from lack of water to continue on. But in their weakened physical state, they managed to show Muslim the right direction before they both died of thirst.

In Kufa

Kufans' Pledge of Allegiance

Muslim arrived in Kufa on 5 Shawwal 60 AH/ 9 July 680. He went first to the house of al-Mukhtar ibn Abu 'Ubayd al-Thaqafi, who was highly liked by his people and who later became the person who ordered the murder of Ibn Ziyad.[6]

More than 18,000-30,000 people appeared before Muslim ibn Aqeel and enthusiastically pledged their allegiance to Husayn ibn Ali as their Imam and pledged to support Husayn even with their lives.[7] Muslim ibn Aqeel, encouraged by this response, reported to Husayn ibn Ali by letter that he should proceed to Kufa.[4]

The governor of Kufa, al-Nu'man Ibn Bashir, was told of Muslim's arrival, but refused to attack him. Bashir was a mild man and did not want to harm the members of the family of the Prophet, so he did nothing to stop Muslim.[8] Many of the supporters of Yazid saw this lack of action as a sign of weakness and encouraged the caliph to replace Bashir with a stronger man. Yazid then deposed Bashir and replaced him with Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad. Ibn Ziyad was a resourceful and often cruel politician who spared nothing in order to attain political ends. His strong and ruthless character was exactly what the caliph was looking for in order to gain control in Kufa.[8] Yazid wrote to him, "Go to Kufa, capture Muslim ibn 'Aqil and see what is appropriate to imprison him, send him to exile or kill him."[9]

Governor's Warning

The morning of his arrival in Kufa, Ibn Ziyad gathered the people at the grand mosque. There he delivered a speech warning them against mutiny and promised them generous rewards for conforming. He said, "Anyone found to be sheltering one of those who scheme against the authority of the commander of the faithful and who does not hand him over will be crucified on the door of his own house".[5]

Searching for Muslim

During this time, Ibn Ziyad was working diligently to discover the hiding place of Muslim. He knew that the people of Kufa were meeting secretly, but he was not able to figure out the location. Ibn Ziyad decided that the best way to find Muslim would be to infiltrate his inner circle. He called upon his servant, Ma'qil, to meet him. He gave Ma'qil three thousand dirhams and ordered him to meet with the Shi'as. He was to tell them that he was a Syrian slave who has just arrived in the country and wanted to hand deliver a donation to Muslim. Ma'qil entered the grand mosque and was introduced to Muslim. Ma'qil then delivered the money and swore allegiance to him. This servant continued to meet with Muslim in the coming days. No secrets were kept from him, so he kept gathering information, which he then reported back to Ibn Ziyad in the evenings.[9]

Hani's Arrest

With the information from Ma'qil, Ibn Ziyad was able to figure out that Muslim was staying at the house of Hani. The governor gathered some of the friends of Hani and asked why he had not visited in quite a while. They made excuses for him, saying that he had been sick and other similar things. Hani was then summoned by the governor who accused him of harboring Muslim in his house.[5] Hani denied this claim and things got heated. Ibn Ziyad then called in Ma'qil and had him corroborate the story that Ibn Ziyad was trying to paint. At this point, Hani was arrested, beaten in the face with an iron-tipped cane, and thrown into prison and was later executed with Muslim ibn Aqeel.

Muslim reported to Husayn through Abis ibn Shabib that most of the people in Kufa were ready to receive him as their Imam and advised that Husayn should proceed to Kufa (Tareekh-e-Tabri, Vol.6, Page211). Amongst the people of Kufa there were many spies employed by Yazid to report to him directly. When Yazid heard from them of the invitations to Hussain and the arrival in Kufa of Muslim he was filled with fury. He sent a message to his Governor in Basrah, Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad, to go to Kufa and take over the position of Nu'amaan ibne Basheer. Ibn Ziyad was also told to arrest Muslim and murder him and do all that was necessary to suppress the Shiahs in Kufa.

Ibn Ziyad was a shrewd man. He kept his journey from Basra to Kufa a secret and just before entering Kufa he covered his face with a black scarf so that he could not be recognized. He had a few horsemen in front of him and a few behind him as he entered Kufa. The people of Kufa had been waiting for the arrival of Imam Hussain anxiously and they presumed that the Imam had arrived. Soon people started gathering around him and singing welcoming songs. Ibn Ziyad kept observing the people and memorizing faces as the crowd grew and soon it was difficult for his convoy to proceed swiftly. One of his guards, Muslim bin Amr Bahili, shouted "Clear the way, this is the Amir Ubaidullah ibn Ziyad". Hearing this, people started running away quickly and when Ibn Ziyad reached the Dar-al-Amara only a handful people had been left. Ibn Ziyad arrived in Kufa on the evening of 2nd Dhul-Hajj. On the following day he went to the mosque and addressed the people of Kufa. He first announced his appointment as Yazid's governor. He then threatened any one who was engaged in any activity against the government with immediate death, and ordered them to surrender Muslim to him.

Ibn Ziyad sealed Kufa in such a way that no one could go in or out of the city without the governor's permission.


Since several people knew that he was staying with Mukhtar Thaqafi, Muslim decided to move from there as a measure of precaution and protection. At the invitation of Hani ibn Urwah, another leading member of the Shia community, he moved to Hani's house. This was done secretly and except for a few people no one knew where Muslim was. Through a spy, Maaqal, who pretended to be a Shia, Ibn Ziyad found out where Muslim was. Since ibn Ziyad had prior relations with Hani, he called him by trick to his palace and got him arrested and thrown into prison. Muslim got the news of Hani's arrest and not wishing to further endanger the lives of his friends, Muslim and his two sons left Hani's house. He left the children with Shurayb, a judge, and went into the desert to try to get back to Husayn to warn him not to go to Kufa. This was the 7th of Dhul-Hajj. That whole day and the following day Muslim tried to get out of the city. He found all the exits sealed and guarded by Ibn Ziyad's soldiers.

Muslim at the House of Tuwaa

On the 7th, late in the evening, tired, hungry and exhausted, Muslim knocked on the door of a house on the outskirts of the city. A lady named 'Tuwaa" opened the door. Muslim requested for a little water to quench his thirst. The lady gave him water. When she learnt who he was, she invited him in and offered him shelter for the night. She gave Muslim food and water and took him to a room where he spent the night.

Late that night Tuwaa's son came home. When he learned that the man Ibn Ziyad was looking for was in his mother's house, he felt that he would be rewarded by the governor if he got Muslim arrested. Unknown to his mother he slipped out in the darkness of the night and gave the information to a captain in Ibn Ziyad's army. Early the next morning, five hundred soldiers under the leadership of Mohammad bin Ashas surrounded the house of Tuwaa and demanded Muslim's surrender. Muslim came out holding his sword. Three times he drove the enemy away and killed 150 men. Twice Ibn Ziyad had to send in reinforcements.

While Muslim was fighting, some soldiers went up the rooftops and began throwing stones and lighted torches at him. Others dug a trench in the path of Muslim and covered it with grass. Ibn Ziyad told his commanders to trick Muslim otherwise it would not be possible to capture him. Although badly wounded and totally exhausted, Muslim kept on fighting. As a trick, soldiers of Ibn Ziyad offered peace and protection to Muslim but he rejected the offer. He was deeply wounded in this tough fight and finally fell into the trench. He was pounced upon, chained and dragged to the court of Ibn Ziyad.


Historians narrate that Muslim was badly wounded when he entered the court of Ibn Ziyad. His teeth were broken and blood was flowing from all over. Still he entered the court like a 'Lion'. Someone in the court told him to pay respect to Ibn Ziyad because he is the "Amir" (Ruler). Muslim refused and replied that his Amir was only Husayn.

Ibn Ziyad told Muslim that he would be killed and asked him if he had any last wishes. Muslim replied saying, "I owe a debt which should be discharged by selling off my sword and armour. Secondly I want my body to be given a proper burial. Thirdly I want a message sent to Hussain advising him not to come to Kufa." Ibn Ziyad agreed to the first request but refused to do anything about the second and third requests. He then ordered Muslim to be taken to the roof of the palace to be executed and his body thrown to the ground.

Muslim was calm and composed as he was dragged up the steps. He was reciting "Allahu Akber" until the last moment. Then there was an absolute silence followed by a thud as the head of Muslim was chopped and his body fell to the ground. This was on the 9th of Dhul-Hujja. Immediately after Muslim was killed, Hani ibn Urwah as well was dragged to the roof top and executed.

Ibn Ziyad ordered Muqair Ibn Obran-e-Ahmari to take him to the palace's roof.[6] They went to the top of the fortress, Muslim was decapitated in front of the people, his head was thrown down first and then followed by his body. Hani was also executed. They were executed in this way in order to intimidate the populace.[8] Ibn Ziyad ordered that the bodies of these two men be dragged by their feet through the streets and marketplaces in Kufa. Muslim's body was then crucified upside down and the heads of Muslim and Hani were sent to Yazid to be displayed on the streets of Damascus.[9]

Muslim bin Aqeel's two sons, Mohammad and Ibrahim, were also killed in Kufa.

Muslim is made a Shaheed

Muslim called on the people of Kufa for assistance and narrations say that approximately 40,000 people accompanied him to the government building. By then, Ibn Ziyad had placed the leaders of Kufa on the roof top of the building and threatened to kill them if they did not leave Muslim bin Aqeel.

Within a short while, not one person from the 40,000 was with Muslim.

Muslim was later taken by the soldiers of Ibn Ziyaad and was martyred. Later, the two sons of Muslim were also martyred. These were two young children who accompanied their father, thinking that they were journeying to a place that was filled with true followers of the Ahle Bait.

Husayn departs for Kufa

On receiving the letter of Muslim, Hussain departed from Makkah and left for Kufa. When this group of the Ahlul Bayt left Makkah, every person and every child stood watching them with sadness as they left.

Their eyes filled with tears and their hearts heavy with sadness. On his way, he received news of the death of Muslim and his children. Hussain was also informed of the betrayal of the people of Kufa. He was very sad when he heard this news and read In'na lil'laahi Wa in'na ilaihi Raaji'oon. He then comforted the family members and gave them hope.

When the Ahlul Bayt reached a place called Thaa'lba, Hussain rested for a while. He awoke with tears in his eyes. His beloved sister, Zainab asked the reason for this, and he said, "I dreamt of our grandfather, Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi Wa’aleh Wasallam. The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa’aleh Wasallam was crying and he said "O Hussain! You are soon to come and meet with me."

On hearing this, Ali Akbar the son of Hussain said, " O my dear father! Are we not on Haq (truth)?" Hussain replied, "verily we are on Haq and Haq is with us." Then Ali Akbar said, "why then should we fear death, O my father? We all must pass from this world one day. I am seeing the gardens of Shahaadat and a mansion better than that of the world and bounties even greater than that of this world are before us."


While Muslim was not killed at Karbala, he is counted as one of the martyrs of the battle.[8][10]

The Shi'ite recommend visiting his grave in Kufa and there are certain prayers that are to be recited there.[5]

On the other hand, there is the mausoleum of Ruqayyah bint Ali (Wife of Muslim ibn Aqeel) located in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan.[1] Legend has it that it holds the graves of six ladies (one is Ruqqayah herself and others are Muslim's sisters) from Muhammad's household (Ahl Al-Bayt).

Today, Muslim ibn Aqeel's descendants go by the surname "Uqaili" and are found in Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Hundreds of thousands' Friday assemblage in Masjid-e-Uzma Kufa". Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  3. ^ Rogerson, Barnaby. The Heirs of Muhammad. Woodstock, NY: The Overlook Press, 2006.
  4. ^ a b Jafri, Syed Husian Mohammad. The Origins and Early Development of Shi'a Islam. Oxford: Orxford UP, 2000.
  5. ^ a b c d Kitab al-Irshad. Excerpts from
  6. ^ a b Wellhausen, Julius. The Religio-Political Factions in Early Islam. New York: U of Hull, 1975.
  7. ^ Tabari. Excerpts from
  8. ^ a b c d Ayoub, Mahmoud. Redeptive Suffering in Islam. London: U of Toronto, 1978.
  9. ^ a b c Kohlberg, E. "Muslim B. Akil B. Ali Talib" The Encyclopedia of Islam. 2nd ed. Online.
  10. ^ Dorraj, Manochehr. "Symbolic nd Utilitarian Political Value of a Tradition: Martyrdom in the Iranian Political Culture" The Review of Politics. Summer 1997:511. JSTOR.

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