Zufar ibn al-Harith al-Kilabi

Zufar ibn al-Ḥārith al-Kilābī
Other name(s) Abu al-Hudhayl
Allegiance Aisha (656–661)
Umayyad Caliphate (661–684)
Zubayrids (684–691)
Umayyad Caliphate (691-death)
Battles/wars Battle of the Camel (656)
Battle of Siffin (657)
Hejaz Expedition (683)
Qays–Yaman war (686–691)
Relations Al-Harith ibn Yazid al-'Amiri (father)
Hudayhl (son)
Kawthar (son)
Majza'a ibn Kawthar (grandson)
Other work Chieftain of Banu 'Amir (656-death)
Governor of Jund Qinnasrin (684)
Leader of Qays (684-death)

Zufar ibn al-Ḥārith al-Kilābī (also known as Zufar Abū al-Hudhayl)[note 1] was a Muslim general, chieftain of the Arab tribe of Banu 'Amir, and the preeminent leader of the Qays faction in the 7th century. He commanded his tribesmen in Aisha's army during the First Muslim Civil War, and later served as the Umayyad governor of Jund Qinnasrin. In 684, during the Second Fitna, he supported Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr's bid to wrest the caliphate from the Umayyads. Afterward, he based himself in al-Qarqisiyah (Circesium) and led the Qays tribes against the Yaman, launching several raids against the latter in the Syrian Desert. By 688–689, he also became entangled in a conflict with the Banu Taghlib. Zufar made peace with the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik in 691 by abandoning Ibn al-Zubayr's cause in return for stately and military privileges. During the reigns of Abd al-Malik's successors, Zufar and his family maintained their high-ranking positions in the Umayyad government.

Early career

Zufar belonged to the 'Amr branch of the Banu Kilab, which itself was a major branch of the large Arab tribe of Banu 'Amir.[1] The 'Amr branch was known to be one of the more militant and warlike divisions of the Banu Kilab.[1] Zufar's father was al-Harith ibn Yazid al-'Amiri, who participated in the Muslim conquest of Hit and al-Qarqisiyah (Circesium) in the mid-630s.[2]

Prior to the First Muslim Civil War (656–661), Zufar settled in Basra.[2] At the Battle of the Camel in November 656, he fought alongside Aisha's forces and commanded troops from the Banu 'Amir.[2] He also participated in the Battle of Siffin in 657.[2] Sometime later during the war, he migrated to Upper Mesopotamia (al-Jazira).[2] During the reign of Umayyad caliph, Yazid I (680–683), Zufar served as a commander in Muslim ibn Uqba's army in its 683 campaign to quash a rebellion in the Hejaz; the rebellion was in support of Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr's bid for the caliphate.[2] Zufar is also said to have met with Ibn al-Zubayr in the Hejaz at that time.[2]

Rebellion against the Umayyads

The deaths of Yazid and his successor Mu'awiyah II in 683 and 684, respectively, amid the revolt of Ibn Zubayr, left the Umayyad Caliphate in political disarray.[3] At this point, Zufar was apparently governor of Jund Qinnasrin, encompassing northern Syria.[4] He may have seized this command after rallying his Qaysi allies and evicting Qinnasrin's previous governor, who came from the Banu Kalb tribe; the latter was the leading component of the Yaman faction, rivals of the Qays.[5] In any case, Zufar was in charge of Jund Qinnasrin in the aftermath of Mu'awiyah II's death, defected from the Umayyads and gave allegiance to Ibn al-Zubayr.[2]

While Qaysi chieftains began leaning towards supporting Ibn Zubayr, the leaders of the Yaman sought to ensure continued Umayyad rule and nominated Marwan I to assume the caliphate.[3] The Qays under al-Dahhak ibn Qays al-Fihri challenged the Umayyad–Yaman alliance at the Battle of Marj Rahit in 684.[3] Some traditions hold that Zufar himself participated in this battle, but this is dismissed by the historians Ya'qubi and Awana ibn al-Hakam;[6] al-Tabari holds that Zufar dispatched troops from the Qinnasrin garrison to join Dahhak's forces near Damascus.[7] Moreover, al-Tabari writes that when news that al-Dahhak and numerous Qaysi chieftains had been killed and the Qays routed, Zufar fled Qinnasrin to al-Qarqisiyah.[2][8] The town's Umayyad governor Iyad al-Jurashi initially refused entry to Zufar, who responded "I promise you on pain of having to divorce my wives and set free my slaves that once I have entered its bath I will leave the town."[8] He subsequently gained entry with his men and ousted Iyad.[8]

Leader of the Qays

Al-Qarqisiyah was fortified by Zufar and from there he assumed preeminent leadership of the battered, but still powerful, Qaysi tribes, while maintaining his recognition of Ibn al-Zubayr as caliph.[2][8][9] According to historian Patricia Crone, Zufar and his family "were considered to be the very incarnation of Qaysiyya".[2] The Battle of Marj Rahit opened a bloody phase in the previously benign Qays–Yaman rivalry as the Qays sought vengeance for their heavy losses.[10] This phase in the conflict was characterized by tit-for-tat raids known as ayyam (days) because each raid was typically a day long. The dates of these raids were not recorded, but Zufar led the first raid in an attack that killed twenty Kalb tribesmen at a place called Musaiyakh in the Syrian Desert soon after setting himself up in al-Qarqisiyah.[11] The Banu Kalb retaliated by killing sixty men from the Banu Numayr sub-tribe of the Banu 'Amir in Palmyra.[11] This prompted an attack by Zufar at a place called Iklil that ended with the deaths of 500–1,000 Kalbi tribesmen and Zufar's escape to al-Qarqisiyah unscathed.[11]

By circa 686, Zufar's participation in the Qaysi–Yamani conflict in the Syrian Desert was highly restricted by persistent campaigns against his safe haven at al-Qarqisiyah by the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik (r. 685–705); Zufar was replaced in this regard by Umayr ibn al-Hubab of the Banu Sulaym.[12] Umayr's Sulaymi tribesmen began encroaching on the lands of the Banu Taghlib along the northern Khabur Valley, prompting the Banu Taghlib to request Zufar intervene and force the Banu Sulaym to withdraw from the area.[12] Not wanting to push the neutral and Christian Banu Taghlib into joining the Umayyad–Yamani cause, Zufar attempted but failed to calm the situation.[13] Umayr opened hostilities against the Banu Taghlib in a number of punishing raids in Upper Mesopotamia, and dragged Zufar into assisting him in some of these clashes.[14] Umayr was killed by the Banu Taghlib in 689, obliging Zufar to avenge his death.[14] To that end, Zufar attacked a Taghlibi camp at the northern Tigris River town of Kuhail and executed two hundred Taghlibi captives taken in that raid.[15] Referencing this event, the poet Jarir taunted his Taghlibi rival al-Akhtal, stating:

The warriors of Qays bore down on you with steeds
Ungroomed and grim-faced, [their backs] bearing heroes
You kept thinking everything after them
Was steeds and men charging over and over
Zufar Abu al-Hudhayl, their chieftain, annihilated you[r men]
Then captured your women and plundered your herds.[16]
Jarir ibn Atiyah taunting the Taghlibi poet al-Akhtal in the Umayyad court in 692.

Reconciliation with the Umayyads

In 691, Zufar was compelled to negotiate a peace with Abd al-Malik, who had consolidated his strength by then.[17] Per their agreement, Zufar abandoned Ibn al-Zubayr's cause in return for a high position in the Umayyad royal court and army.[17] This effectively broke the Yamani monopoly on the Syrian military,[17] and with the collapse of Ibn al-Zubayr's revolt by 692, put an end to Zufar's war with the Banu Kalb and Banu Taghlib.[18] According to the Orientalist Julius Wellhausen, Zufar and later his sons Hudhayl and Kawthar were "amongst the most eminent and notable people at the court of Damascus".[19]

Later life and descendants

Zufar's estate in Qinnasrin was near a fortress at al-Na'ura, downstream of Balis on the Euphrates, which was the residence of Abd al-Malik's son, Maslama (d. 728).[2] Strong ties were established between the families of Zufar and Maslama. The latter married the former's daughter, while Zufar's eldest son Hudhayl became a commander in Maslama's service.[2] The sons of Zufar were supporters of the staunchly anti-Yaman Caliph Marwan II (r. 744–750), who appointed one of them, Kawthar, as governor of Mar'ash on the Byzantine–Arab frontier.[20] According to historian David S. Powers, the sons of Zufar "inherited the respect accorded to him. They too were held in high esteem by the caliphs."[21] Zufar's grandsons Majza'a ibn Kawthar and Wathiq ibn Hudhayl were among Marwan II's top aides, but following Marwan II's defeat at the Battle of Zab in 750, they submitted to the Abbasid Caliphate.[22] However, later that year, Majza'a led a Qaysi revolt against the Abbasids and was killed.[22]


  1. Full name and genealogy: Abū al-Hudhayl Zufar ibn al-Ḥārith ibn Yazīd al-Kilābī


  1. 1 2 Zakkar 1971, p. 74.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Crone 1980, p. 108.
  3. 1 2 3 Kennedy 2004, pp. 78–79.
  4. Al-Tabari, ed. Hawting 1989, p. 49.
  5. Brockelmann 1960, p. 77.
  6. https://books.google.com/books?id=qjRtAAAAMAAJ&q=Zufar+Qinnasrin&dq=Zufar+Qinnasrin&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiRjY_dvezOAhUGLyYKHbjFCe0Q6AEINjAF
  7. Tabari, ed. Hawting 1989, p. 56.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Tabari, ed. Hawting 1989, p. 63.
  9. Kennedy 2004, p. 81.
  10. Kennedy 2004, p. 80.
  11. 1 2 3 Wellhausen, p. 202.
  12. 1 2 Wellhausen 1927, p. 203.
  13. Wellhausen 1927, pp. 203–204.
  14. 1 2 Wellhausen 1927, p. 204.
  15. Wellhausen 1927, pp. 204–205.
  16. Stetkevych 2002, p. 112.
  17. 1 2 3 Kennedy 2004, p. 84.
  18. Wellhausen 1927, p. 205.
  19. Wellhausen 1927, p. 211.
  20. Crone 1980, pp. 108–109.
  21. Tabari, ed. Fishbein 1990, p. 185.
  22. 1 2 Crone 1980, p. 109.


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