Thaqafi, Mukhtar Al- (C. 622–687)

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Mukhtar b. Abi ˓Ubayd al-Thaqafi took over Kufa (in Iraq) for a year and a half during the Second Civil War (fitna, set off by the murder of Husayn in 680), as the Zubayrids and Marwanids struggled for control of the empire in succession to the Sufyanid branch of the Umayyad caliphs. Mukhtar initially supported the Zubayrids but later, in 685, he deposed their governor of Kufa in the name of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya (d. 700), son of ˓Ali by a concubine of the Hanafi tribe. When Mukhtar sent an armed force to Medina, the Zubayrids released Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya, who, however, declined to join Mukhtar in Kufa. In 686, he defeated a Marwanid army from Syria, but soon after, the Zubayrids of Basra defeated his army and beleaguered him in the citadel of Kufa. After perhaps six months, Mukhtar was killed in battle. Four years later, the Zubayrids themselves were driven out of Iraq by the Marwanids, who refounded the Umayyad dynasty on the principle of vigorous direction from Syria.

Mukhtar's history is difficult to make out because of the vagaries of transmission between his time and that of our sources in the ninth century. The difficulty is further aggravated because numerous politico-religious factions have had an interest in dissociating themselves from him. It does seem, however, that non-Arab converts were prominent among his soldiers and that some elements of his program were taken up by later radical Shi˓ites, including the early Abbasids, while other elements, such as the concept of a mahdi, or a reformer who appears at the end of time, attracted later Sunnis. The distinctive religious tinge of Mukhtar's reign, although now difficult to identify with certainty, helped provoke the Marwanids to Islamize their administration.

See alsoMuhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya ; Shi˓a: Early ; Succession.


Dixon, ˓Abd al-Ameer ˓Abd. The Umayyad Caliphate 65–86/684–705: A Political Study. London: Luzac and Company, 1974.

Hawting, G. R. The First Dynasty of Islam. The UmayyadCaliphate AD 661–750. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987.

Christopher Melchert