Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr
ʿAbd Allāh ibn al-Zubayr ibn al-ʿAwwām (May 624 — October/November 692) was the leader of a caliphate based in Mecca that rivaled the Umayyads between 683 until his death. The son of al-Zubayr ibn al-Awwam and Asma bint Abi Bakr, Ibn al-Zubayr was a member of the Quraysh and the first child born to the Muhajirun, Islam's earliest converts. During his youth, he participated in the early Muslim conquests alongside his father in Syria and Egypt, and later played a role in the Muslim conquests of North Africa and northern Iran in 647 and 650, respectively. During the First Fitna, he fought on the side of his aunt A'isha and the Banu Umayya against Caliph Ali (r. 656–661). Though little is heard of Ibn al-Zubayr during the subsequent reign of the first Umayyad caliph Mu'awiya I (r. 661–680), it was known that he opposed Mu'awiya's designation of his son Yazid I as his successor. Ibn al-Zubayr, along with much of the Quraysh and Ansar of the Hejaz (western Arabia), opposed the caliphate being an inheritable institution of the Banu Umayya.
|ʿAbd Allāh ibn al-Zubayr|
Sasanian-style dirham minted in the name of ʿAbd Allāh ibn al-Zubayr in Fars in 690/91
|7th Caliph[note 1]|
|Reign||November 683 – October/November 692|
House of Safiyya bint Abd al-Muttalib, Medina
|Wives||Tumāḍir bint Manẓūr ibn Zabbān ibn Sayyār al-Fazārīyya |
Nafīsa bint al-Ḥasan ibn ʿAlī
ʿĀʾisha bint ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān
Ḥantama bint ʿAbd al-Rahmān ibn Hishām
|Clan||Banū Asad of Quraysh|
|Father||Al-Zubayr ibn al-ʿAwwām|
|Mother||Asmā' bint Abī Bakr|
Ibn al-Zubayr established himself in Mecca where he rallied opposition to Yazid's reign (680–683), before declaring himself caliph in the wake of Yazid's death in 683. Meanwhile, Yazid's son and successor died weeks into his reign, precipitating the collapse of Umayyad authority throughout the caliphate, most of whose provinces subsequently accepted the suzerainty of Ibn al-Zubayr. Though widely recognized as caliph, Ibn al-Zubayr's authority was largely nominal outside of the Hejaz. By 685, the Umayyad Caliphate was reconstituted under Marwan I in Syria and Egypt, while Zubayrid authority was being challenged in Iraq and Arabia by pro-Alid and Kharijite forces. Ibn al-Zubayr's brother Mus'ab was able to reassert Ibn al-Zubayr's suzerainty in Iraq by 686, but was defeated and killed by Marwan's successor Abd al-Malik in 691. The Umayyad commander al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf proceeded to besiege Ibn al-Zubayr in his Meccan stronghold, where he was ultimately slain in 692.
Through the prestige of his family ties and social links with the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his strong association with the holy city of Mecca, Ibn al-Zubayr was able to lead the influential, disaffected Muslim factions opposed to Umayyad rule. He sought to reestablish the Hejaz as the political center of the caliphate. However, his refusal to leave Mecca precluded him from exercising power in the more populous provinces where he depended on his brother Mus'ab and other loyalists, who ruled with virtual independence. He thus played a minor active role in the struggle carried out in his name.
Early life and careerEdit
Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr was born in Medina in the Hejaz (western Arabia) in May 624. He was the eldest son of al-Zubayr ibn al-Awwam, a sahabi (companion) of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and a leading Muslim figure. He belonged to the Banu Asad clan of the Quraysh, the tribe which dominated Mecca, a trade center in the Hejaz and location of the Ka'aba, the holiest sanctuary in Islam. Ibn al-Zubayr's paternal grandmother was Safiyya bint Abd al-Muttalib, the paternal aunt of Muhammad, and his mother was Asma, a daughter of the first caliph, Abu Bakr (r. 632–634), and sister of A'isha, a wife of Muhammad. According to the 9th-century historians Ibn Habib and Ibn Qutayba, Ibn al-Zubayr was the first child born to the Muhajirun, the earliest converts to Islam who had been exiled from Mecca to Medina. These early social, kinship and religious links to Muhammad, his family and the first Muslims all boosted Ibn al-Zubayr's reputation in adulthood.
Ibn al-Zubayr had a number of wives and children. His first wife was Tumadir bint Manzur ibn Zabban ibn Sayyar ibn Amr of the Banu Fazara. She bore him his eldest son Khubayb, hence Ibn al-Zubayr's kunya (epithet) "Abu Khubayb", and other sons Hamza, Abbad, al-Zubayr and Thabit. She or another of Ibn al-Zubayr's wives, Umm al-Hasan Nafisa, a daughter of Muhammad's grandson Hasan ibn Ali, bore his daughter Ruqayya. Tumadir's sister Zajla was at one point married to Ibn al-Zubayr. He was also married to A'isha, a daughter of Uthman ibn Affan, who served as caliph in 644–656. A'isha or Nafisa mothered Ibn al-Zubayr's son Bakr, of whom little is reported in the traditional sources. Ibn al-Zubayr divorced A'isha following the birth of their son. From another wife, Hantama bint Abd al-Rahman ibn Hisham, Ibn al-Zubayr had his son 'Amir.
As a child, during the reign of Caliph Umar in 636, Ibn al-Zubayr may have been present with his father at the Battle of Yarmouk against the Byzantines in Syria. He was also present with his father in Amr ibn al-As's campaign against Byzantine Egypt in 640. In 647, Ibn al-Zubayr actively took part in the Muslim conquest of Ifriqiya (North Africa) under the commander Abd Allah ibn Sa'd. During that campaign, Ibn al-Zubayr slew the province's Byzantine governor, Gregory. He issued a victory speech, well known for its eloquence, on his return to Medina. Later, he joined Sa'id ibn al-As in the latter's offensive in northern Iran in 650. Caliph Uthman appointed Ibn al-Zubayr to the commission charged with the recension of the Qur'an. In the aftermath of Uthman's assassination in June 656, he fought alongside his father, his aunt A'isha and the Banu Umayya clan against the partisans of Uthman's successor, Caliph Ali (r. 656–661), at the Battle of the Camel in Basra in December. Ibn al-Zubayr's father was killed and Ali was victorious. Ibn al-Zubayr returned to Medina with A'isha and took part in the arbitration to end the First Fitna (Muslim civil war) in Adhruh or Dumat al-Jandal. During the talks, he counseled Abd Allah ibn Umar to pay for the support of Amr ibn al-As.
Opposition to the UmayyadsEdit
Ibn al-Zubayr did not oppose Mu'awiya I's accession to the caliphate in 661 and remained largely inactive during the course of his reign. Toward the end of his rule, Mu'awiya designated his son Yazid I as his successor, which Ibn al-Zubayr refused to recognize. When Yazid acceded following his father's death in 680, Ibn al-Zubayr again rejected his legitimacy, despite Yazid having the backing of the Arab tribesmen of Syria who formed the core of the Umayyad military. Yazid charged Marwan ibn al-Hakam, the senior member of the Banu Umayya in Medina, where Ibn al-Zubayr was based, with gaining the latter's submission. However, Ibn al-Zubayr evaded the Umayyad authorities by escaping to Mecca. He was joined there by Husayn ibn Ali, who claimed the caliphate himself as per the treaty agreed by his brother Hasan (died 670) and Mu'awiya in 661. It stipulated that Husayn would become caliph after Mu'awiya's death if Hasan had already died. Husayn and his supporters made a stand against the Umayyads in Karbala in 680, but were defeated and Husayn was slain.
Following Husayn's death, Ibn al-Zubayr began clandestinely recruiting supporters. By September 683, he had taken control of Mecca. He referred to himself as al-ʿaʾidh biʾl bayt (the fugitive at the sanctuary, i.e. the Ka'aba), adopted the slogan lā ḥukma illā li-ʾllāh, but made no claim to the caliphate. Yazid order his governor in Medina, 'Amr ibn Sa'id ibn al-'As, to arrest Ibn al-Zubayr. The governor charged Ibn al-Zubayr's estranged brother, 'Amr, who was head of Medina's shūrṭā (security forces), with leading the expedition to arrest his brother. However, the Umayyad force was defeated and 'Amr himself was captured and died in captivity. Ibn al-Zubayr subsequently proclaimed the illegitimacy of Yazid's caliphate and established contact with the Ansar of Medina. The latter, under the leadership of Abd Allah ibn Hanzala, withdrew their support for Yazid due to alleged improprieties. Ibn al-Zubayr also gained the support of the Kharijite movement active in Basra and eastern Arabia.
In response to the wellspring of opposition forming throughout Arabia, Yazid dispatched a Syrian Arab expeditionary force led by Muslim ibn Uqba to suppress Ibn al-Zubayr and the Ansar. The Umayyad force defeated the latter at the Battle of al-Harrah in the summer of 683, during which Ibn Hanzala, was slain. The army continued toward Mecca, but Muslim died en route and command passed to his deputy Husayn ibn Numayr al-Sakuni. The latter besieged the city on 24 September after Ibn al-Zubayr's refusal to surrender. The Ka'aba was severely damaged during al-Sakuni's bombardment. During the siege, two Qurashi candidates for the caliphate, Mus'ab ibn Abd al-Rahman and al-Miswar ibn Makhrama, were killed or died of natural causes. In November, news of Yazid's death prompted al-Sakuni to negotiate with Ibn al-Zubayr. The former proposed to recognize him as caliph on the condition that he would rule from Syria, the center of the Umayyad military and administration. Ibn al-Zubayr rejected this and the army returned to Syria, leaving Ibn al-Zubayr in control of Mecca.
Claim to the caliphateEdit
Yazid's death and the subsequent withdrawal of the Umayyad army from the Hejaz afforded Ibn al-Zubayr the opportunity to realize his aspirations for the caliphate. He immediately declared himself amīr al-muʾminīn (commander of the faithful), a title traditionally reserved for the caliph, and called for the Muslims to give him their oath of allegiance. With the other Hejazi candidates dead, Ibn al-Zubayr remained the last contender for the caliphate among the anti-Umayyad factions in Mecca and Medina and these groups recognized him as their leader. An exception to this came from the Banu Hashim clan to which the prophet Muhammad and the Alids belonged and whose support Ibn al-Zubayr deemed important for his own legitimacy as caliph. The leading representatives of the clan in the Hejaz, Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya, the half-brother of Husayn ibn Ali, and the latter's cousin Abd Allah ibn Abbas, withheld their oaths citing the need for a stronger consensus in the wider Muslim community. Their refusal led to the ire of Ibn al-Zubayr who proceeded to pressure them by besieging the clan's neighborhood in Mecca and imprisoning Ibn al-Hanafiyya. Moreover, the Kharijites under Najda ibn 'Amir al-Hanafi abandoned Ibn al-Zubayr once he forwarded his claim to the caliphate, an institution they rejected, and refused to accept their doctrine.
In the Umayyad capital Damascus, Yazid was succeeded by his young son Mu'awiya II, who wielded virtually no authority and died from illness months after his accession. This left a leadership void in Syria as there were no suitable successors among Mu'awiya I's Sufyanid house. In the chaos that followed Mu'awiya II's death, Umayyad authority collapsed across the caliphate and Ibn al-Zubayr gained wide recognition. Most of the Islamic provinces offered their allegiance, including Egypt, Kufa, Yemen and the Qaysi tribes of northern Syria. Ibn al-Zubayr subsequently appointed his brother Mus'ab as governor of Basra and its dependencies in Khurasan. In a testament to the extent of Ibn al-Zubayr's sovereignty, coins were minted in his name as far as the districts of Kerman and Fars in modern-day Iran. However, his authority outside of the Hejaz was largely nominal.
Most of the Arab tribes in central and southern Syria remained loyal to the Umayyads and selected the non-Sufyanid Marwan ibn al-Hakam from Medina to succeed Mu'awiya II. The proclamation of Marwan as caliph in Damascus marked a turning point against Ibn al-Zubayr. Marwan's partisans, led by Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad, decisively defeated the pro-Zubayrid Qaysi tribes, led by al-Dahhak ibn Qays al-Fihri, at the Battle of Marj Rahit in July 684. The surviving Qaysi tribesmen fled to the Jazira (Upper Mesopotamia) under the leadership of Zufar ibn al-Harith al-Kilabi, who maintained his recognition of Ibn al-Zubayr's caliphate. However, Ibn al-Zubayr lost the economically important province of Egypt to Marwan in March 685.
Meanwhile, negotiations collapsed between Ibn al-Zubayr and the Kufan nobleman al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi, who afterward took up the cause of the Alid family. He declared Ibn al-Hanafiyya caliph and, unprecedentedly in Islamic history, the mahdi (messiah). Al-Mukhtar's partisans drove out the Zubayrid authorities from Kufa in October 685. Al-Mukhtar later dispatched a Kufan force to the Hejaz and freed Ibn al-Hanafiyya. Mus'ab's authority in Basra and Khurasan was also beginning to waver, but was ultimately secured after he gained the backing of the powerful Azdi leader al-Muhallab ibn Abi Sufra. Mus'ab also gained the defections of thousands of Kufan tribesmen and together they defeated and killed al-Mukhtar April 687. Ibn al-Zubayr subsequently dismissed Mus'ab from office in 686/87 and appointed his own son Hamza as governor of Basra. The latter dispatched a force under Abd Allah ibn Umayr al-Laythi to drive out the Najdiyya Kharijites from Bahrayn (Eastern Arabia) after they overran the province, but the Zubayrids were repelled. Hamza proved incompetent in his administration of Iraq and following his failure to deliver the provincial revenues to the state treasury in Mecca, he was dismissed and allegedly imprisoned by his father. Afterward, Ibn al-Zubayr reinstated Mus'ab to the governorship of Iraq in 687/88.
Suppression and deathEdit
The Najdiyya Kharijites, Ibn al-Zubayr's erstwhile supporters, had established themselves in al-Yamama (central Arabia) and from there had taken over Bahrayn. By 687/88, they had also conquered Yemen and Hadhramawt, while in the following year they occupied Ta'if, Mecca's southern neighbor. The defeat of al-Mukhtar, who had opposed the Zubayrids and the Umayyads, left Ibn al-Zubayr and Marwan's son and successor Abd al-Malik (r. 685–705) as the two main contenders for the caliphate. However, Kharijite gains in Arabia had isolated Ibn al-Zubayr in the Hejaz, cutting him off from loyalists in other parts of the caliphate. In 691, Abd al-Malik secured the support of Zufar and the Qays of Jazira, removing the principal obstacle betweeen his Syrian army and Zubayrid Iraq. Later that year, his forces conquered Iraq and killed Mus'ab in the Battle of Maskin. Al-Muhallab, who controlled Khurasan, subsequently switched his allegiance to Abd al-Malik.
After asserting Umayyad authority in Iraq, Abd al-Malik dispatched al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf to subdue Ibn al-Zubayr. Al-Hajjaj besieged and bombarded Mecca for six months, by which point, most of Ibn al-Zubayr's partisans and his sons Khubayb and Hamza surrendered. Nonetheless, Ibn al-Zubayr refused to surrender and acting on his mother's counsel, entered the battlefield where he was ultimately slain on 3 October or 4 November 692. In an anecdote recorded by 9th-century historian al-Tabari, when al-Hajjaj and his lieutenant commander, Tariq ibn Amr, stood over Ibn al-Zubayr's body, Tariq said of the latter: "Women have borne none manlier than he ... He had no defensive trench, no fortress, no stronghold; yet he held his own against us an equal, and even got the better of us whenever we met with him". Ibn al-Zubayr's body was posted on a gibbet where it remained until Abd al-Malik allowed Ibn al-Zubayr's mother to retrieve it. His body was subsequently buried in the house of his paternal grandmother Safiyya in Medina. The Umayyad victory and Ibn al-Zubayr's death marked the end of the Second Fitna.
Following his victory, Abd al-Malik confiscated the estates of Ibn al-Zubayr in Medina and elsewhere in the Hejaz. The caliph later restored one or more of the properties to Ibn al-Zubayr's sons after a request by Thabit. His eldest son, Khubayb, was flogged to death in Medina by its governor Umar II during the reign of Caliph al-Walid I (r. 705–715). Thabit, meanwhile, had gained particular favor from al-Walid's successor, Caliph Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik (r. 715–717), who agreed to return the remainder of the confiscated estates to Ibn al-Zubayr's sons. Under the Abbasid caliphs al-Mahdi (r. 775–785) and Harun al-Rashid (r. 786–809), several descendants of Ibn al-Zubayr attained senior administrative posts, including his great-grandson Abd Allah ibn Mus'ab ibn Thabit al-Zubayri and the latter's son Bakkar, who successively served as governors of Medina.
Ibn al-Zubayr adamantly opposed the caliphate becoming an Umayyad inheritance. Instead, he advocated that the caliph should be chosen by shūrā (consultation) among the Quraysh as a whole. The latter opposed the monopolization of power by the Banu Umayya and insisted power be distributed between all the Qurashi clans. However, other than this conviction, Ibn al-Zubayr did not sponsor any religious doctrine or political program, unlike the contemporary Alid and Kharijite movements. By the time he made his claim to the caliphate, Ibn al-Zubayr had emerged as the leader of the disaffected Quraysh. According to historian H. A. R. Gibb, Qurashi resentment towards the Banu Umayya is evident as an underlying theme in the Islamic traditions about Ibn al-Zubayr's conflict with the Umayyads and Ibn al-Zubayr was the "principal representative" of the second generation of the Hejaz's elite Muslim families who chafed at the "gulf of power" between them and the ruling Umayyad house. Though Gibb describes Ibn al-Zubayr as "brave, but fundamentally self-seeking and self-indulgent", the hostility to the Umayyads in traditional Muslim sources led to a general description of him as a "model of piety". Nonetheless, a number of Muslim sources condemn him as jealous and harsh and particularly criticize the fatal abuse of his brother 'Amr and his imprisonment of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya.
Ibn al-Zubayr rallied opposition to the Umayyads in the Hejaz from his base in Mecca, Islam's holiest city, and through his prestige as a first-generation Muslim with family ties to the prophet Muhammad. He aimed to restore the Hejaz to its former political prominence; after the assassination of Uthman, the region's position as the political center of the caliphate had been lost first to Kufa under Ali and then to Damascus under Mu'awiya I. To that end, Ibn al-Zubayr developed a strong association with Mecca and its Ka'aba, which, combined with his control of Islam's second holiest city of Medina, furthered his prestige and gave his caliphate a holy character. Ibn al-Zubayr rejected the offer of support from the caliphate's Syria-based army partly because it would have obliged him to relocate to Damascus. Indeed, while the cities of the caliphate were available to him, Ibn al-Zubayr opted to remain in Mecca, from which he issued directives to his supporters elsewhere in the caliphate. However, this restricted him from exercising direct influence in the larger, more populated provinces, particularly Iraq, where his more worldly brother ruled with virtual independence. In the Arabian Peninsula itself, Ibn al-Zubayr's power had been largely confined to the Hejaz with the Kharijite leader Najda holding more influence in the rest of the peninsula. Thus, Ibn al-Zubayr had virtually rendered himself a background figure in the movement that was launched in his name; in the words of historian Julius Wellhausen, "the struggle turned round him [Ibn al-Zubayr] nominally, but he took no part in it and it was decided without him".
During his rule, Ibn al-Zubayr made significant alterations to the Ka'aba's structure, claiming that the changes were in line with the authority of the prophet Muhammad. He called himself the "fugitive at the sanctuary [Ka'aba]" while his Umayyad detractors referred to him as "the evil-doer at Mecca".
Timeline of the two caliphatesEdit
Three Umayyad caliphs reigned during the twelve years of Ibn al-Zubayr's caliphate between 680 and 692. The shorts terms indicated in the upper plot in light blue and yellow correspond to the tenures of Mu'awiya II and Marwan I, respectively. (Note that a caliph's succession does not necessarily occur on the first day of the new year.)
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- Hasson 2002, p. 549.
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- Ahmed 2010, p. 115.
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Abd Allah ibn al-ZubayrBorn: May 624 Died: November 692
November 683 – November 692