Ibrahim ibn al-Ashtar

Ibrahim ibn Malik al-Ashtar ibn al-Harith al-Nakha'i (Arabic: إبراهيم بن مالك الأشتر بن الحارث النخعي, romanizedIbrāhīm ibn Mālik al-Ashtar ibn al-Ḥārith al-Nakhaʿī; died October 691), better known as Ibrahim ibn al-Ashtar (Arabic: إبراهيم بن الأشتر, romanizedIbrāhīm ibn al-Ashtar) was an Arab commander who fought in the service of Caliph Ali (r. 656–661) and later served the pro-Alid leader al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi. He led al-Mukhtar's forces to a decisive victory at the Battle of Khazir (686) against the Umayyads under Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad, who was personally slain by Ibn al-Ashtar.

Ibrahim ibn al-Ashtar
إبراهيم بن الأشتر
DiedOctober 691
Dayr al-Jathaliq
AllegianceRashidun Caliphate (656–661)
Al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi (685–687)
Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr (687–death)
Battles/warsBattle of Siffin (657)
Battle of Khazir (686)
Battle of Maskin  (691)
RelationsMalik al-Ashtar (father)
Nu'man (son)
Abd al-Rahman ibn Abd Allah al-Nakha'i (half-brother)
Other workGovernor of Mosul (687–691)

Family and early lifeEdit

Ibrahim was the son of Malik al-Ashtar ibn al-Harith, a commander in the Rashidun army and partisan of Caliph Ali (r. 656–661).[1] The family belonged to the Banu Nakha', hence their epithet al-Nakha'i.[2] The Banu Nakha' was part of the larger tribe of Madh'hij.[2] Ibrahim had a brother from the same mother but different father named Abd al-Rahman ibn Abd Allah al-Nakha'i, who also was a warrior.[2] Like his father, Ibrahim is also reported to have fought alongside Ali against the Banu Umayya at the Battle of Siffin in 657.[1]


Ibn al-Ashtar's prominence rose after he entered the service of the pro-Alid and anti-Umayyad leader al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi.[1] The latter took over Kufa in 685/86 and was soon after confronted by an invading Umayyad army from Syria under the command of Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad. Al-Mukhtar charged Ibn al-Ashtar with command over his mostly Persian mawali troops from Kufa to prevent the Umayyad advance into Iraq.[1] Ibn al-Ashtar marched northward with his forces and fought the Umayyads at the Battle of Khazir east of Mosul.[1] He inflicted a disastrous defeat on the Umayyads, personally slaying Ubayd Allah, while other senior Umayyad commanders, such as Husayn ibn Numayr al-Sakuni, were also slain.[1] He had their heads sent to al-Mukhtar, who in turn sent them to the anti-Umayyad caliph of Medina and Iraq, Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr.[1]

By 687, al-Mukhtar had appointed Ibn al-Ashtar governor of Mosul, which came under al-Mukhtar's control following the Umayyad rout at Khazir.[1] That same year, al-Mukhtar and his retinue were besieged in Kufa by Ibn al-Zubayr's brother Mus'ab, and al-Mukhtar was killed in the ensuing clashes.[1] Afterward, Ibn al-Ashtar defected to the Zubayrids, despite the efforts of Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik to woo him to the Umayyad side.[1] Ibn al-Ashtar was ultimately killed fighting alongside Mus'ab at the Battle of Maskin in October 691, during which the Umayyads defeated the Zubayrids and subsequently conquered Iraq.[1] After the battle's conclusion, Ibn al-Ashtar's body was confiscated and burned by the Umayyad forces.[1] His son Nu'man served as a commander of the Madh'hij and Banu Asad contingent of the Kufan troops of Yazid ibn al-Muhallab during the latter's rebellion against the Umayyads in 720.[3]


Ibn al-Ashtar is described as the "most talented commander Kufa produced during the Marwanid period" (684–750) by historian Hugh N. Kennedy.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1971 p. 987.
  2. ^ a b c Al-Tabari, ed. Hawting, p. 197.
  3. ^ Powers 1989, pp. 129–130
  4. ^ Kennedy 2001, p. 23.