ʿAbd Allāh b. Zubayr
By Junaid Ajmeri
(5th Year Alim Student, DarusSalam Seminary)
Allāh revealed the religion to the Prophet Muḥammad. And the Prophet conveyed it to his companions. The companions immersed themselves in studying and preserving what the Prophet taught. They are Islām’s forebears; they upheld and conveyed the tradition to those who would come after. The companions are excellent role models. One such role model is ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Zubayr. Many lessons can be extracted from his blessed life. A few of them shall be mentioned here.
ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Zubayr was born into a noble family. His mother was Asmāʾ, the daughter of Abū Bakr. And his paternal grandmother was the Prophet’s aunt Ṣafiyyah.
ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Zubayr’s kunya was Abū Bakr. Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr mentioned that the Prophet himself named him Abū Bakr. Many historians have mentioned this. In some biographical works, another kunya is related. In his Iṣābah, Ibn Ḥajar stated that his kunya is Abu Khubayb because Khubayb was his eldest son.
There is a difference of opinion on where and when ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Zubayr’s birth took place. There are three opinions:
The first is that he was born one year after the hijrah. This has been narrated in Iṣābah by Zubayr b. Bakkār. In Taqrīb al-Tahdhīb, Ibn Ḥajar said that Zubayr is thiqah; accordingly, this opinion has good merit.
The second is narrated in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī via Hishām b. ʿUrwah who mentioned that Asmāʾ was pregnant with him while in Makkah and she gave birth to him at Quba. This is strengthened by what Ibn al-Zubair said: “I performed hijrah in the womb of my mother.”
The third is weak. According to this opinion, he was born three years after the migration. However, its narrator, Muḥammad b. ʿUmar, is “matrūk.” Furthermore, him being the first boy to be born after the hijrah is unanimously accepted.
His birth brought tremendous joy to those who migrated from Makkah to Madinah because when they came to Madinah the Jews would try to intimidate them and would mock them. In Usd Al-Ghābah, it has been mentioned that the Jews would say to the migrants: “We have bewitched you; no boy will be born from you.” Then, when Ibn al-Zubayr was born, the Muslims were very grateful because his birth disproved what the Jews said.
Ibn al-Zubayr had many defining qualities and characteristics. Physically, he was dark in complexion and did not have facial hair.
His most distinct quality was his piety. He would divide his night into three parts: the first part he would spend in sujūd, the second in rukūʿ, and the third in qiyām. There are many statements related that detail his piety. ʿAmr b. Dinār -who is thiqah– stated that: “No one performed the prayer more excellently than ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Zubayr.” Mujāhid, who is Ibn ʿAbbās’s senior student, said: “There is no act of worship that ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Zubayr did not observe.” In fact, he mentioned that once the Kabah flooded and he saw Ibn al-Zubayr trying to perform ṭawāf by swimming around it.
Ibn al-Zubayr loved the Prophet immensely. His son, ʿĀmir b. ʿAbd Allāh, narrated an incident about him and the Prophet. He said that once his father came to the Prophet while he was being cupped. The Prophet asked him to throw the blood away. He took the blood, but instead of disposing of it, he drank it. From this incident, one can see how much love he had for the Prophet. Mūsā b. Ismāʿīl mentioned that Ibn al-Zubayr’s strength came from the blood that he drank.
Ibn al-Zubayr was known for strength and bravery. Ibn Maʿīn related that he left the battlefield at Jamal with approximately forty wounds covering his body. He was a valiant warrior.
There is an incident related by Ibn Ḥajar in his Iṣābah that Ibn al-Zubayr was on a campaign in Africa with 20,000 soldiers. In that land, the king’s army consisted of 100,000 soldiers. But when the king, Jarjīr, looked into the face of Ibn al-Zubayr he became frightened and fled. From this incident, one can deduce that Ibn al-Zubayr was so great that even kings felt overcome just by looking at him.
Ibn al-Zubayr was a caliph. And it was all these exceptional qualities that made him a great one. He became caliph in AH 64 or 65. All the people, from Yemen to Khurasan, pledged allegiance to him. He also did many great things during his caliphate, including rebuilding the Kabah.
Ibn al-Zubayr passed on in AH 73. He died during the caliphate of ʿAbd al-Malik b. Marwān. Ibn al-Zubayr did not pledge his allegiance to ʿAbd al-Malik. When the Levant and Iraq stabilized, ʿAbd al-Malik dispatched armies under the command of Ḥajjāj b. Yūsuf. On the first day of Dhū al-Ḥijjah in AH 72, they marched to Makkah where they held Ibn al-Zubayr under siege. He remained under siege until he was killed on the 14th or 15th of the following month.
The Muslims mourned his death. Ibn Qāsim narrated that Mālik said: “Ibn al-Zubayr was better than Marwān and was more entitled to command.” After his death, his body was hung on display. Ibn ʿUmar passed by the body and prayed for him. And he said: “By Allāh! Those who celebrated his birth are far greater and more righteous than those who celebrate his death.”
From all these statements, we can see what type of person he was. May Allāh inspire us to be better Muslims through the life story of ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Zubayr.
 al-Iṣābah, 6:150.
 al-Istiʿāb, 1:541.
 Usd al-Ghābah, 3:60.
 Tahdhīb, 3:268.
 al-Iṣābah, 6:151.
 Ibid, 6:153.
 al-Istiʿāb, 1:542.
 Usd al-Ghābah, 3:62.
 al-Istiʿāb, 1:544.
 Ṣuwar, 2:117.