True Islam

Yazid ibn Muawiya and the Massacre of the People of Medina

Many today portray Yazid ibn Muwiya as a believer and hero of Islam. They have gone so far as to even recognize him as a legitimate caliph of his time. However heinous crimes which Yazid had committed make many scholars admit that Yazid was the cause of numerous calamities for the Muslims, especially during the three years of his usurped caliphate.

One of these act which proves his barbarity and inhumanity was the event of Harrah. The incident resulted in killing of thousands of Muslims of Medina.

Event of Harrah

Event of Harrah took place in 63 year of Islamic calendar during the reign of Yazid ibn Muwiya who ordered army from Syria to march on Medina if people of Medina don’t accept him as legitimate caliph.  The event of Harrah is in all truth one of the most savage and horrible crimes of human history and the most appalling incident which occurred during the reign of Bani Umayyah. Ibn Mushkuwiyyah narrates, “The incident of Harrah is one of the most dreadful and formidable events of history.

Origin of Uprising

Event of Harrah was a result of people of Medina had risen up against the corrupt policies of Yazid ibn Muwiya. The uprising of the people of Medina was a popular and self-perpetuating social movement rooted in the people’s unanimous rejection of the rule of Yazid and Bani Umayyah. The group of the ansar had chosen ‘Abd Allah ibn Hanzalah to be their army commander and leader in the confrontation with Bani Umayyah and the Quraysh appointed ‘Abd Allah ibn Matih to be their commander

Medina had a fervent inclination towards Islamic tenets and stronger religious sentiments than the people of Syria; they were more familiar with the Prophet’s (S) conduct [sunnah] and that of his successors and companions. It was for this reason that they were able to discern the wrong ways of Bani Umayyah earlier than others.

It was the people of Medina who previously were the first to voice their objections to ‘Usman ibn ‘Uffan. Now, these same people were experiencing the rule of a raw inexperienced youth called Yazid ibn Muwiya. He knew absolutely nothing about politics and failed to uphold the sanctity of the tenets of religion. Accordingly, their disapproval and protest against Yazid sprang up.

‘Usman ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Sufyan, the governor of Medina, had sent a group of men consisting of Immigrants and Helpers to meet with the caliph in Damascus, so they could present their grievances to Yazid and so Yazid could bestow gifts upon them to silence them. During this meeting, not only did Yazid fail to win them over to his side, but his ignorant behavior proved his incompetence to them.

When they returned to Medina, they explained what they had seen from Yazid. They gathered in the Holy Prophet’s (S) Mosque and started shouting to the people, “We have come from meeting a person who is depraved of religion, drinks wine, plays the tambourine and spends the night with base men, slave girls and female singers and as a result has abandoned prayer.”

The people asked ‘Abd Allah ibn Hanzalah what news he had brought from the caliph. He replied, “I am coming from meeting a man whom, I swear by Allah, I would have fought if no one were present except my sons.” The people said, “We have heard that Yazid has given you money and gifts.”

‘Abd Allah answered, “It is true, but I accepted his money and gifts only for the purpose of using it to acquire and prepare an army against Yazid himself.” In this way, ‘Abd Allah started inciting and instigating the people against Yazid and the people responded positively to his calls for an uprising.

March of Syrian Army towards Medina

Muslim ibn ‘Aqabah accepted to be responsible for carrying out the attack on Medina. Yazid appointed him as army commander for this confrontation. This man agreed to carry out this responsibility in spite of the fact that he was an ill person aged over ninety years. Yazid paid two hundred dinars to every mounted soldier and one hundred dinars to every soldier of the ground forces. He then ordered them to march towards Medina in company with Muslim ibn ‘Aqabah

Yazid gave the following orders to Muslim ibn ‘Aqabah, “Invite the people of Medina to pay allegiance to me three times. If they respond positively and pay allegiance, let them go free. However, if they do not respond positively and refuse to pay allegiance, fight them. If you triumph over them, continue the massacre for three days. Anything that belongs to that city will be permissible for your army to loot. Do not stop the Syrian army from doing whatever it wishes with its enemy. After three days, stop the killing and pillaging. Then, again ask for allegiance from the people. They should promise to be Yazid’s slaves and servants. When you leave Medina, move towards Mecca for another attack and confrontation.”

Clash between Syrian Army & Forces of Medina

To protect Medina, the Islamic resistance forces of Medina used a trench which had remained since the Prophet’s (S) time. They neglected the eastern part of the city because they believed that there was a remote possibility that the Syrian army would begin their attack from the rugged rocky area.

They thought that even if the Syrian army were to begin their attack from this area, it was still improbable for them to achieve any success. However, the Syrian army took them by surprise and began its attack on Medina from that same stony area which the Islamic resistant forces had ignored.

The battle continued from morning up to afternoon. The Islamic forces of Medina were fighting and resisting fiercely. At noon, ‘Abd Allah ibn Hanzalah asked one of his slaves to watch and protect him from behind so that he could recite his prayers. ‘Abd Allah then recited his prayers and returned to the battlefront to lead the valiant resistance against the Syrian army.

Muslim ibn ‘Aqabah asked Marwan to help him enter Medina. Marwan went to Medina and visited the tribe of Bani Harthah. There, he called for a man he was acquainted with and in the process of a secret conversation, Marwan managed to persuade this traitor to show him the way for the Syrian army to penetrate Medina in return for generous rewards.

He showed Marwan a way which passed through the area of the tribe of Bani al-Ashhal and the Syrian army used this route to infiltrate Medina. The first line of the Islamic resistant fighters responsible for defending Medina suddenly heard the shout of ‘Allah-u Akbar’ by the syrian army from right inside Medina. It was not long before they realized that they were being attacked from behind by the Sham army. Many of the Islamic resistance fighters left the battlefield and returned to Medina in order to defend their women and children.

The Syrian army attacked and killed innocent civilians from every direction. When ‘Abd Allah ibn Hanzalah was finally killed, the Syrian army gained the upper hand against the resistance movement of Medina. Finally, they gained complete control of the whole city.

Massacre & Looting

Syrian army entered medina on the twenty seventh day of Dhu al-Hijjah in 63 AH. For three days Medina was plundered by the Syrian army up to the appearance of the new moon of the month of Muharram. Following Yazid ibn Muwiya’ s orders, and after the seizure of Medina, Muslim ibn ‘Aqabah told his soldiers, “Your hands are open and you are free to do whatever you want. You must plunder and loot Medina for three days

The brutal and wholesale massacre of the people of Medina was detestable. It was loathsome to see the descendants of the Prophet’s (S) companions, the Helpers and the Immigrants being butchered. The looting was dreadful. However, the wholesale violation of females by the depraved and reckless soldiers of Syria was more contemptible and disgraceful than all else.

In this invasion of the Prophet’s city, thousands of women were violated. Thousands of children were born whose fathers were not known and these children later became known as ‘the Children of Harrah [awlad al-harrah]

The scale of the killings was so great that because of his extravagance in killing people, Muslim ibn ‘Aqabah was from then onwards nicknamed “Musrif” ibn ‘Aqabah which in the Arabic language means ‘the one who is extravagant’. After this horrendous event, the people of Medina wore black mourning clothes and the sounds of their weeping could be heard from their homes for up to one year

Some well-known people who were executed

After gaining victory over the people of Medina, Muslim ibn ‘Aqabah called for an assembly of some of the well-known personalities of the uprising. After a special and summary trial, he condemned all of them to death. The significance of these trials was to force these prominent people to promise publicly to be Yazid’s loyal slaves and servants.46

Some of the most prominent people that were tried and executed include:

  1. Abu Bakr ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Ja‘far ibn Abu Talib
  2. Two daughters of Zaynab (daughter of Umm Salamah)
  3. Abu Bakr ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar ibn Khattab
  4. Ma‘qul ibn Sanan (One of the standard-bearers of the Prophet during the conquest of Mecca)
  5. Fadl ibn ‘Abbas ibn Rabi‘ah ibn Harith ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib
  6. Abu Sa‘id Khudri (One of the Prophet’s companions that had accompanied the Prophet in twelve of the holy wars [ghazwahs])
  7. ‘Abd Allah ibn Muti‘


1.Minhaj al-Sunnah, vol. 4, p. 575.

2.Ibn Qutaybah, ‘Uyun al-Akhbar, vol. 1, p. 238.

3.Tajarub al-Umam, vol. 2, p. 79.

4.Tabaqat al-Kubra, vol. 5, p. 106; Tarikh Tabari, vol. 4, p. 368.

5.Tarikh Tabari, vol. 4, p. 368; Al-‘Aqd al-Farid, vol. 5, p. 135.

6.Al-Futuh, vol. 3, p. 179.

7.Tarikh Tabari, vol. 4, p. 368; Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, vol. 6, p. 233.


9.Tarikh al-Khulafa’, p. 209.

10.Ibn Khaldun, Tarikh, vol. 2, p. 37.

11.Maqtal Abi Mukhnaf, p. 200.

12.Nihayah al-Arab, vol. 6, p. 216.


14.Al-Ma‘arif, p. 345.

15.Tarikh Ya‘qubi, vol. 2, p. 250; Al-Imamah wa al-Siyasah, vol. 1, p. 206.

16.Wafa’ al-Wafa’, vol. 1, p. 127.

17.Ibn Sa‘d, Al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, vol. 5, p. 47.

18.Ibid., Ibn Athir, Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, vol. 4, p. 111; Ibn Khaldun, Tarikh, vol. 2, p. 37.

19.Ibn Athir, Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, vol. 4, p. 114; Wafa’ al-Wafa’, vol. 1, p. 127.

20.Al-Imamah wa al-Siyasah, vol. 2, p. 9; Al-Mahasin wa al-Masawi, vol. 1, p. 46.

21.Al-Futuh, vol. 3, p. 179; Ibn Sa‘d, Al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, vol. 5, p. 176; Ibn Athir, Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, vol. 4, p. 11.

22.Al-Futuh, vol. 3, p. 180.

23.The area now considered as the Arab Peninsula where Medina lies.

24.Ibn Athir, Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, vol. 4, p. 112; Wafa’ al-Wafa’, vol. 1, p. 128.

25.Tarikh Tabari, vol. 4, p. 371; Akhbar al-Tuwal, p. 310.

26.Ibn Athir, Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, vol. 4, p. 56.

27.Tarikh al-‘Arab, vol. 1, p. 248.

28.Akhbar al-Tuwal, p. 310; Ibn Athir, Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, vol. 4, p. 112; Al-Futuh, vol. 3, p. 180.

29.Al-Imamah wa al-Siyasah, vol. 1, p. 211.

30.Ibn Sa‘d, Al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, vol. 5, p. 47.

31.Ibid., p. 48; Al-I‘lam, vol. 4, p. 234.

32.Al-Imamah wa al-Siyasah, vol. 1, p. 211; Akhbar al-Tuwal, p. 310; Wafa’ al-Wafa’, vol. 1, p. 129.

33.Wafa’ al-Wafa’, vol. 1, p. 130.

34.Al-Imamah wa al-Siyasah, vol. 1, pp. 220-221.

35.Ibid., vol. 2, p. 10.

36.Al-Futuh, vol. 3, p. 181; Ibn Athir, Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, vol. 4, p. 17.

37.Al-Imamah wa al-Siyasah, vol. 2, p. 10; Al-Futuh, vol. 3, p. 181; Al-Bada’ wa al-Tarikh, vol. 6, p. 14; Wafiyyat al-A‘yan, vol. 6, p. 276; Tarikh al-Khulafa’, p. 209.

38.Ibn Athir, Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, vol. 4, p. 113.

39.Al-Imamah wa al-Siyasah, vol. 1, p. 215.

40.Akhbar al-Tuwal, p. 314.

41.Al-Imamah wa al-Siyasah, vol. 1, p. 220.

42.Ibid., p. 216; Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, vol. 8, p. 242.

43.Tarikh al-Khulafa’, p. 209; Siyr A‘lam al-Nubala’, vol. 4, pp. 37-38.

44.Al-Imamah wa al-Siyasah, vol. 1, p. 218.

45.Tadhkirah al-Khawass, pp. 259-260; Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, vol. 8, p. 242; Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, vol. 2, p. 316.

46.Al-Futuh, vol. 2, p. 182.

47.Al-Nihayah al-Arb, vol. 6, p. 227.


49.Al-Ma‘arif, p. 187.

50.Wafa’ al-Wafa’, vol. 1, p. 133.

51.Al-Nihayah al-Irb, vol. 6, p. 227.

52.Hilyah al-Awliya’, vol. 1, p. 369.

53.Nasab al-Quraysh, p. 384.

54.Al-Imamah wa al-Siyasah, vol. 1, p. 214.


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