Wahhabi sack of Karbala

The Wahhabi sack of Karbala occurred on 21 April 1802 (1216 H), under the rule of Abdulaziz bin Muhammad Al Saud, the second ruler of the Emirate of Diriyah. Approximately 12,000 Wahhabis from Najd attacked the city of Karbala.[5]: 387  The raid was conducted in retaliation against attacks on Hajj caravans by Iraqi tribes[6] and coincided with the anniversary of Ghadir Khumm,[3] or 10th Muharram.[2]: 74 

Wahhabi sack of Karbala
Wahhabi sack of Karbala is located in Iraq
Wahhabi sack of Karbala (Iraq)
LocationKarbala, Ottoman Empire
DateApril 21, 1802 (1802-04-21) (or 1801)[1]
TargetThe shrine of Husayn ibn Ali
Attack type
Land army attack
Deaths2,000[2]: 74 –5,000[3]
VictimsShia inhabitants of Karbala
PerpetratorEmirate of Diriyah
AssailantsWahhabis of Najd led by Saud bin Abdulaziz
No. of participants
12,000 soldiers[4]

The Wahhabis killed between 2,000[2]: 74 and 5,000[3] of the inhabitants and plundered the tomb of Husayn ibn Ali, grandson of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and son of Ali ibn Abi Talib,[2]: 74  and destroyed its dome, seizing a large quantity of spoils, including gold, Persian carpets, money, pearls, and guns that had accumulated in the tomb, most of them donations. The attack lasted for eight hours, after which the Wahhabis left the city with more than 4,000 camels carrying their plunder.[4]

Background edit

Al-Muntafiq Emirate, a union of Shiite clans based in the middle Euphrates region, was a major rival of the Emirate of Diriyah

Following the teachings of Ibn Taymiyya, the Wahhabis "sought to return to the fundamentals of the tradition – the Quran, the Sunna, and the Hanbali school's legal positions."[7] They condemned some of the Shia practices such as veneration of the graves of their holy figures and Imams, which they called Bid‘ah, and did not limit themselves to academic confrontation.[8]: 85  According to the French orientalist Jean-Baptiste Rousseau, it was also very well known that some of the Shia tombs of Karbala were repositories of "incredible wealth", accumulated over centuries.[4]

The Turkish Deputy of Mecca had concluded an agreement with the Emirate of Diriyah which ensured the safety of Hajj pilgrims. However, in a bid to disrupt the Ottoman-Saudi treaty, Iraqi tribesmen were ordered to attack the caravans. In retaliation, 'Abd al-Azeez launched a major offensive and by April 1801 the Saudi armies had reached Karbala.[9]

Event edit

Date of attack edit

Most European and Russian orientalists date the attack to March 1801, based on works by Rousseau, Corancez, Burckhardt, and Mengin. Arab historians and St John Philby date the fall of Karbala to March – April 1802, based on Ibn Bishr's report of the event. The reports dating the attack to 1802, written soon after the attack, are accepted by Ibn Sanad and Raymond. Alexei Vassiliev argues that 1802 is correct, pointing out that the "dispatch" sent from Karbala reached the Russian embassy in Istanbul no later than 1803, and as Rousseau's book describing the attack is almost identical in wording with the text of the dispatch with the exception of accounted dates, the error could be due simply to "negligence" by the author, Rousseau, or the compositor.[4]

Attack edit

On 18 Dhu al-Hijjah, coincident with the anniversary of Ghadir Khum, (or on 10 Muharram coincident with the anniversary of Husayn ibn Ali's death[2]: 74 ) Wahhabis of the Najd led by Abdulaziz bin Muhammad's son, Saud, attacked Karbala. The Ottoman garrison escaped, and the Wahhabis were left free to loot the city and the shrine and kill 2,000[2]: 74 –5,000 people.[3]

Describing the event as "a horrible example of Wahhabis' cruel fanaticism in the terrible fate of [mosque of] Imam Husayn," Rousseau, who was residing in Iraq at the time, wrote that an incredible amount of wealth, including donations of silver, gold, and jewels to Husayn ibn Ali's shrine and those brought by Nadir Shah from his India campaign, was known to have been gathered in the city of Karbala. According to Rousseau, 12,000 Wahhabis attacked the city, set fire to everything, and killed old people, women, and children. "... when ever they saw a pregnant woman, they disembowelled her and left the foetus on the mother's bleeding corpse," said Rousseau.[4]

According to a Wahhabi chronicler, Uthman ibn Abdullah ibn Bishr:

The Muslims scaled the walls, entered the city ... and killed the majority of its people in the markets and in their homes. [They] destroyed the dome placed over the grave of Husayn ibn Ali [and took] whatever they found inside the dome and its surroundings ... the grille surrounding the tomb which was encrusted with emeralds, rubies, and other jewels ... different types of property, weapons, clothing, carpets, gold, silver, precious copies of the Qur'an."[2]: 74 

Wahhabis such as Ibn Bishr referred to themselves simply as 'Muslims', since they believed that they were the true Muslims.[2]: 74 

The leader of the attack, Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Muhammad bin Saud, has been known as the 'butcher of Karbala' since then.[2]: 75  The plunder of Karbala took the Wahhabis almost eight hours, according to Mengin.[4] Fath-Ali Shah of Iran offered military help, which was rejected by the Ottomans, and instead he sent "500 Baluchi families to settle in Karbala and defend it."[3]

Aftermath edit

Expansion of the Emirate of Diriyah from 1744 to 1814

The fall of Karbala was counted as a defeat for Buyuk Sulayman Pasha, creating an opportunity for the Ottoman sultan to "dismiss him", especially because his situation was further weakened after he was criticized by the Shah of Persia, Fath Ali Shah, for his inability to confront the Wahhabis.[4]

The attack exposed the lack of a Shia "army" to mobilize against such attacks. It also led to a strengthening of the "sectarian identity" of Shia ulama (i.e. scholars).[10]: 28  The sack horrified the "Sunni scholarly establishment", but its aftermath also gave fundamentalism a degree of intellectual credibility in the Sunni literary salons of Baghdad, further heightening sectarian tensions.[11]: 200  Saudi ruler Abd al-Azeez would soon be assassinated in a revenge attack. Following 'Abd al-Azeez's death, further Wahhabi advances within Iraq were halted.[12][9]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "The Saud Family and Wahhabi Islam, 1500–1818". au.af.mil. Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Khatab, Sayed (2011). Understanding Islamic Fundamentalism: The Theological and Ideological Basis of Al-Qa'ida's Political Tactics. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9789774164996.
  3. ^ a b c d e Litvak, Meir (2010). "Karbala". Iranica Online.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Vassiliev, Alexei (September 2013). The History of Saudi Arabia. Saqi. ISBN 9780863567797.
  5. ^ Martin, Richard C. (2003). Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim world ([Online-Ausg.]. ed.). New York: Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN 0-02-865603-2. OCLC 52178942.
  6. ^ Ahmed, Qeyamuddin (2020). "1: Genesis of the Wahhabi Movement in India". The Wahhabi Movement in India (Second Revised ed.). 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN: Routledge: Taylor and Francis Group. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-367-51483-9.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  7. ^ Hughes, Aaron W. (9 April 2013). Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam. Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231531924.
  8. ^ Brünnerr, Rainer (2004). Islamic Ecumenism in the 20th Century: The Azhar And Shiism Between Rapprochement And Restraint. BRILL. ISBN 9004125485.
  9. ^ a b Ahmed, Qeyamuddin (2020). "1: Genesis of the Wahhabi Movement in India". The Wahhabi Movement in India. 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN: Routledge: Taylor and Francis Group. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-367-51483-9.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  10. ^ Nakash, Yitzhak (2003). The Shi'is of Iraq. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691115753.
  11. ^ Prakash, Gyan (2008). The Spaces of the Modern City: Imaginaries, Politics, and Everyday Life. Princeton University Press. p. 200. ISBN 978-0691133430.
  12. ^ Abu alrub, Jalal (2013). "Three: The First Saudi State (1744–1818)". In Mencke, Alaa (ed.). Biography and Mission of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab: Second Edition. Madinah Punlishers and Distributors. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-9856326-9-4.