THE BATTLE OF HARRAH (27 Zilhajj, 63 Hijri).
The Battle of al-Harrah is a battle fought at al-Harrah in 683 CE, (27 Zilhajj, 63 Hijri) then lying to the northeast of Medina. The battle was fought against the armies of Yazid ibn Muawiyah by Abdullah ibn Zubayr and his allies, the people of Medina and several notable Sahabas, many of whom were killed in the battle. It is the second most infamous battle during the reign of Yazid bin Muawiyah, the 2nd Umayyad Caliph.
When Yazid ibn Muawiyah became Umayyad Caliph in 680 CE he faced two major crises. First was the dissent of Husayn ibn Ali and the other was the revolt of Abdullah ibn Zubayr. Husayn ibn Ali rejected the legitimacy of Yazid ibn Muawiyah as Caliph, which ultimately led to his death in the Battle of Karbala on October 10, 680. This event further deepened the schism between Sunni and Shia denominations.
After killing of Husayn ibn Ali that Abdullah ibn Zubayr, the hero of the Battle of Sufetula which was fought in 647 against the Exarch Gregory of Byzantine Rome in Africa, decided to stand up against Yazid ibn Muawiyah. He refused to swear allegiance to Caliph Yazid ibn Muawiyah. Abdullah bin Zubayr later launched an insurgency in the Hejaz region, the heartland of Islam, where Makkah and Medina are located.
The people of Medina were not quick to join Abdullah ibn Zubayr’s revolt. They first sent their emissaries to speak with Yazid ibn Muawiyah but returned disenfranchised with his approach to the problems of the region, his general policies and governing style. When the emissaries returned they held a council with other Medinites of status and decided to expel the Umayyad Governor of Medina, Uthman ibn Muhammad, as well as his aide, Marwan ibn Hakam. Other Umayyad supporters were expelled along with them.
Yazid sent an army of 10,000 Syrians against Medina in 683 under General Muslim bin Uqbah al-Marri. A young soldier, Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, who later played a major role in the politics of the Umayyad Caliphate, was in this army and participated in the Battle of al-Harrah against the Medinites. Abu Saeed al-Khudri, a Medinite Sahaba, also fought against the Umayyad army in this battle.
Following their victory, the Syrian army looted the city for three consecutive days. A large number of occupants were killed. The depravity of the people of Medina by the Umayyad army became a cause celebre that was invoked by future generations. Muslim bin Uqbah al-Marri was henceforth known as Musrif meaning he who exceeds all bounds of propriety. Medina was recaptured and Makkah was also besieged. During the siege, the Holy Kaaba was damaged. The siege ended when Yazid died suddenly in 683 CE
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:
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:
“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:
”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 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