Ibrahim ibn al-Ashtar

Ibrāhīm ibn Mālik al-Ashtar ibn al-Ḥārith al-Nakhaʿī (died October 691) 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. He later defected to the Zubayrids after they killed al-Mukhtar in 687. About four years later, while fighting for the Zubayrids at the Battle of Maskin, Ibn al-Ashtar was killed by the Umayyad army and his corpse was set alight.

Ibrāhīm ibn Mālik al-Ashtar
DiedOctober 691
AllegianceRashidun Caliphate (656–661)
Al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi (685–687)
Zubayrid Caliphate (687–death)A
Battles/warsBattle of Siffin (657)
Battle of Khazir (686)
Battle of Maskin (691)
RelationsMalik al-Ashtar (father)
Other workGovernor of Mosul (687–691)

Family and early lifeEdit

Ibrahim was the son of Malik al-Ashtar ibn al-Harith al-Nakha'i, a commander in the Rashidun army and partisan of Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib.[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 Abdallah al-Nakha'i, who also was a warrior.[2] Like his father, Ibrahim is also said to have fought alongside Ali against the Banu Umayya at the Battle of Siffin in 657.


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]


Ibn al-Ashtar is described as the "most talented commander Kufa produced during the Marwanid period" (684–750) by historian Hugh N. Kennedy.[3]


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


  • Hawting, G.R., ed. (1989). The History of al-Ṭabarī, Volume XX: The Collapse of Sufyānid Authority and the Coming of the Marwānids: The Caliphates of Muʿāwiyah II and Marwān I and the Beginning of the Caliphate of ʿAbd al-Malik, A.D. 683–685/A.H. 64–66. SUNY Series in Near Eastern Studies. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0-88706-855-3.
  • Kennedy, Hugh (2001). The Armies of the Caliphs: Military and Society in the Early Islamic State. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-25092-7.
  • Lewis, B.; Ménage, V. L.; Pellat, Ch. & Schacht, J., eds. (1971). "Ibrāhīm b. al-Ashtar". The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume III: H–Iram. Leiden: E. J. Brill. p. 987.