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Abū Muḥammad Maʿdī karib ibn Qays ibn Maʿdī karib, better known as al-Ashʿath (died ca. 661) was a chieftain of the Kindah tribe of Hadramawt and founder of the one of the leading noble Arab households of Kufa. He embraced Islam in the presence of the Islamic prophet Muhammad only to leave the faith following the latter's death in 632. He was subsequently imprisoned and pardoned by Caliph Abu Bakr (r. 632–634) after his repentance. He joined the Muslim conquests of Mesopotamia and Persia, fighting in several battles between 636 and 642. He settled in the newly-founded garrison city of Kufa and became the leader of his tribesmen there. He served as the governor of Adharbayjan under Caliph Uthman (r. 644–656) and as a general in the Battle of Siffin in 657 under Caliph Ali (r. 656–661). He took part in the arbitration that ended the battle and died in Kufa. He was thereafter succeeded by his son Muhammad as leader of the Kufan Kindites.

Al-Ashʿath ibn Qays
AllegianceRashidun Caliphate (632–641)
Service/branchRashidun army
Battles/warsBattle of Qadisiyya (636)
Battle of Ctesiphon (637)
Battle of Jalula (637)
Battle of Nihawand (642)
Battle of Siffin (657)
RelationsMuhammad (son)
Abd al-Rahman (grandson)
Banu Mu'awiya al-Akramun (clan)
Kindah (tribe)
Other workGovernor of Adharbayjan
Governor of Mosul



Al-Ash'ath's actual name was Ma'dikarib ibn Qays.[1] From the pre-Islamic period, he served as the chieftain of the Banu Mu'awiya al-Akramun clan, part of the larger South Arabian tribal grouping of Banu Harith of Kindah.[note 1][1] He was among the most influential chiefs of this tribal grouping.[1] He earned his nickname al-Ashʿath ("the dishevelled") because he was known to have dishevelled hair.[3] Prior to his embrace of Islam in late 631, al-Ash'ath launched an expedition against the tribe of Murad, whose members had killed his father Qays. However, his assault was repulsed and he was taken captive. In return for his release, he paid the Murad 3,000 camels as a ransom.[4]

He led a delegation of seventy Kindite warriors to the Islamic prophet Muhammad and converted to Islam.[5] Following Muhammad's death in 632, he and his tribe withheld the customary payment to the nascent Muslim state and apostasized during the Ridda wars.[6] After their subsequent defeat at the Zurqan pasture in Hadhramawt, they and their families took up position at the al-Nujayr fort in Yemen and were besieged by the Muslim forces.[7] Al-Ash'ath secured safe passage for a number of his relatives, but the rest of the besieged fighters were executed.[8] He was spared but taken captive and sent to Caliph Abu Bakr (r. 632–634), who agreed to release him after he repented. He thereafter took up residence in Medina, capital of the caliphate, where he was married to Abu Bakr's sister, Umm Farwa.[5][9] Despite an initial prohibition on former apostates participating in the Muslim conquests, during the reign of Caliph Umar (r. 634–644), al-Ash'ath joined the Muslim army of Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas, which was dispatched to conquer Iraq from the Sasanian Empire.[5] During that campaign, he fought in the battles of Qadisiyya, Ctesiphon, Jalula and Nihawand between 636 and 642.[5] During the conquest of these territories, he gained a piece of land in the Arab garrison town of Kufa, at the time of its founding. He built a house there and it formed part of the Kindite neighborhood.[5]

Later, he became the leader of Kindah in Kufa, edging out his Kindite rival Shurahbil ibn Simt, who fled to Syria.[1] Al-Ash'ath was later appointed by Caliph Uthman (r. 644–656) as the governor of Adharbayjan and his daughter Habbana was married to Uthman's eldest living son.[10] Another of his daughters, Qariba, was also married off to a member of Uthman's family.[1] Al-Ash'ath's own wife was a daughter of Abu Bakr; marital relations between his own family and that of the caliphs was indicative of his high social standing.[1] Following the assassinaion of Uthman, al-Ash'ath served under Caliph Ali (r. 656–661) and commanded the right wing of the caliph's army at the Battle of Siffin against Mu'awiya ibn Abi Sufyan, the governor of Syria and opponent of Ali's caliphate in 657.[11] The battle ended in an agreement to hold an arbitration over leadership of the caliphate. Al-Ash'ath was selected as one of Ali's two representatives at the arbitration, apparently being chosen over the caliph's cousin, Abd Allah ibn Abbas, as a result of the Kindite's insistence.[5] His daughter, Ja'da bint al-Ash'ath, is accused of poisoning and murdering her husband, Hasan ibn Ali, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad.

Al-Ash'ath died in Kufa in 661.[5] His son, Muhammad, succeeded him as leader of the Kufan Kindites.[1] He later played a role in the killing of Husayn ibn Ali, the prophet Muhammad's other grandson, at the Battle of Karbala.[12]


  1. ^ Al-Ash'ath's full name and genealogy is traced back to the Banu Harith and the Kindah as follows: Maʿdīkarib ibn Qays ibn Maʿdīkarib ibn Muʾāwiya ibn Jabala ibn ʿAdī ibn Rabīʿa ibn Muʾāwiya al-Akramīn ibn al-Ḥārith ibn Muʾāwiya ibn al-Ḥārith ibn Muʾāwiya ibn Thawr ibn Murattiʿ ibn Kinda.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Crone 1980, p. 110.
  2. ^ Landau-Tasseron 1998, p. 87.
  3. ^ Madelung 1997, pp. 193
  4. ^ Reckendorf, H. "al-As̲h̲ʿat̲h̲.". Encyclopædia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online. Retrieved 2016-06-03.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Landau-Tasseron 1998, p. 88.
  6. ^ Donner 1993, pp. 179–180
  7. ^ Donner 1993, pp. 182–183.
  8. ^ Donner 1993, pp. 185–186.
  9. ^ Donner 1993, p. 188.
  10. ^ Madelung 1997, p. 193.
  11. ^ Madelung 1997, p. 219.
  12. ^ Al-Masudi, Abu al-Ḥasan (1989). Muruj adh-dhanab (Volume II ed.). United Kingdom: Lunde & Stone: Kegan Paul International. p. 650. ISBN 0-7103-0246-0.