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Second Fitna

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Title: Second Fitna  
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Subject: History of Islam, Umayyad Caliphate, Ibn al-Zubayr's revolt, Siege of Mecca (692), Shia Islam
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Second Fitna

Second Fitna
Part of the Islamic Civil Wars
Date 680–692
Location Arabian peninsula
Result Umayyad victory
Umayyad Caliphate Zubayrids Alids
Commanders and leaders
Yazid I
Umar ibn Sa'ad (686) 
Marwan I
Abd al-Malik
Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad (686) 
Husayn ibn Numayr (686) 
al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf
Abd-Allah ibn al-Zubayr (691) 
Mus'ab ibn al-Zubayr (690) 
Husayn ibn Ali (680)  
Abbas ibn Ali (680)  
Sulayman ibn Surad (684-685) 
al-Mukhtar (686-687) 

The Second Fitna, or Second Islamic Civil War, was a period of general political and military disorder that afflicted the Islamic empire during the early Umayyad dynasty, following the death of the first Umayyad caliph Muawiyah I. Historians dates its start variously as 680 AD and its end as being somewhere between 685 and 692. The war involved the suppression of two challenges to the Umayyad dynasty, the first by Husayn ibn Ali (killed at the Battle of Karbala in 680) as well as his supporters who rallied for his revenge in Iraq including Sulayman ibn Surad and al-Mukhtar and the second by Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr (killed in 692).


There seems to be a lack of solid consensus on the exact range of years that define the conflict, with several different historians dating the Second Fitna differently. Some see the end of Muawiya's reign in 680 AD as marking the beginning of the period, while the year 683 (following the death of Muawiya's son the Caliph Yazid I) is cited by others. Similarly, the end is variously dated from 685 (after the ascension of Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan) to 692 (following the death of Ibn al-Zubair and the termination of his revolt). The dates 683–685 seem to be the most commonly used.

The Second Fitna was a time of complexity in the Islamic world, involving a number of different occurrences that were seemingly not directly connected with one another. A brief sketch of the major events of the period may however be given as follows.

The first Umayyad Caliph Muawiya I was succeeded upon his death in 680 by his son, Yazid I. Yazid's first opposition came from supporters of Husayn ibn Ali, who was the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and the son of the former Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib, who had been assassinated. Husayn and many of his closest supporters were killed by Yazid's troops at the Battle of Karbala. This battle is often cited as the definitive break between the Shi'a and Sunni sects of Islam, and until this day it has been commemorated each year by Shi'a Muslims on the Day of Ashura.

Following these occurrences, Yazid faced a second revolt from Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, whose father was a Sahabi, al-Zubayr ibn al-Awwam and whose mother was Asma bint Abu Bakr. Ibn al-Zubayr's rebellion was seen by many as an attempt to return to the pristine values of the early Islamic community, and his revolt was welcomed by a number of parties that were unhappy with the Umayyad rule for various reasons. Following the sudden death of Yazid and his son Mu'awiya II in 683, Ibn al-Zubayr gained widespread recognition as caliph. Al-Zubayr moved quickly to remove opposition to his rule, erasing for the time being any cohesive Alid pretensions to control following his defeat of Mukhtar al-Thaqar in 637. In Syria Marwan ibn Hakim, a cousin of Mu'awiya I, was declared caliph. Marwan had a short reign dying in 685 but he was succeeded by his able son Abd al-Malik. Ibn al-Zubayr was isolated in the Tihamah and the Hejaz regions [1] when Kharijite rebels established an independent state in central Arabia in 684.

Other Kharijite uprisings followed in Iraq and Iran, while Shias revolted in Kufa to avenge the death of Husayn and to promote another of Ali's sons as a candidate for caliph. Eventually, order was restored by Syrian forces supporting Abd al-Malik. He was able to defeat all of his various rivals, and his army killed Ibn al-Zubayr following a siege of Mecca in 692, bringing this period of exceptional turbulence to an end.

See also


  • Karen Armstrong: Islam: A Short History. New York: The Modern Library, 2002, 2004 ISBN 0-8129-6618-X
  1. ^ Abū Ḥanīfa Dīnawarī, al-akhbâr al-tiwâl, vol. 1, p. 264
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