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10 July 2024

5:33:53 AM

Al-Ḥurr b. Yazīd b. al-Nājīya al-Tamīmī al-Yarbūʿī al-Rīyāḥī (Arabic: حر بن یزید بن الناجیة التمیمي الیربوعي الریاحي) was one of the elites of Kufa, who became a companion of Imam al-Husayn (a) and was martyred in Karbala. He was a nobleman and a good warrior. At first, he was the commander of a part of 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad's army in Karbala, then he regretted his action, changed side and joined the camp of Imam al-Husayn (a), thus gained special reverence in Shi'a tradition.

Al-Hurr b. Yazid al-Riyahi

Al-Ḥurr b. Yazīd b. al-Nājīya al-Tamīmī al-Yarbūʿī al-Rīyāḥī (Arabic: حر بن یزید بن الناجیة التمیمي الیربوعي الریاحي) was one of the elites of Kufa, who became a companion of Imam al-Husayn (a) and was martyred in Karbala. He was a nobleman and a good warrior. At first, he was the commander of a part of 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad's army in Karbala, then he regretted his action, changed side and joined the camp of Imam al-Husayn (a), thus gained special reverence in Shi'a tradition. He is regarded as the symbol of hope in repentance and its acceptance that leads to eternal salvation.


Al-Hurr b. Yazid b. al-Najiya b. al-Qa'nab b. 'Attab b. Harith b. 'Amr b. Hammam b. Bani Riyah b. Yarbu' b. Hanzala belongs to one of the branches of Tamim tribe.[1] That is why he has been mentioned with different titles like al-Riyahi, al-Yarbu'i, al-Hanzali, and al-Tamimi.[2] Both in the pre-Islamic period and after it, his family was from the elite.[3]

Life before the Event of 'Ashura

Al-Hurr was one of the best warriors of Kufa.[4] In some sources, he has been mistakenly listed as one of the bodyguards of 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, the ruler of Kufa.[5] However, his appointment as one of the commanders of 'Ubayd Allah's Army (that were mainly from Tamim and Hamdan tribes) to confront Imam al-Husayn (a),[6] his military discipline and full obedience to administrative edicts,[7] can be taken as proofs of his military rank (not necessarily a bodyguard) in 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad's government.

This assumption is more substantiated because al-Hurr had no pronounced political affiliation. None of the historical sources have reported his faith or political stance during the tense situations of the year 60/680 in Kufa; only al-Bal'ami, in a doubtful report, regards him as one of Shi'a who had hidden their faith.

As the Commander of Kufa Army

Having noticed the departure of Imam al-Husayn (a) toward Kufa, Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad summoned al-Hurr, the head of his tribe in Kufa, appointed him as the commander for an army of nearly a thousand soldiers, and dispatched them to stop Imam al-Husayn (a).

According to another report, 'Ubayd Allah dispatched Husayn b. Numayr al-Tamimi along with an army of four thousand soldiers to Qadisiyya to watch over the region between Qadisiyya to Khaffan and Qutqutaniyya to La'la' and to control all travelers passing through these regions. Husayn b. Numayr dispatched al-Hurr and one thousand soldiers under his command, to confront Imam al-Husayn (a).

Hurr hears a Call

It has been narrated from al-Hurr that: "upon my departure from the palace of Ibn Ziyad to confront al-Husayn b. 'Ali (a), I heard a call from behind, repeating three times: "O' al-Hurr! Glad tidings for paradise be for you." Al-Hurr continues: "I looked back but couldn't see anyone, and thought: By God, this is not a glad tiding; how can it be glad tidings while I am on my way to a war with al-Husayn b. 'Ali (a)?" Al-Hurr kept this incident in mind and when he joined the camp of Imam al-Husayn (a), told this story to the Imam, Imam al-Husayn (a) said: "you have been directed to goodness and reward."[8]

Meeting Imam al-Husayn (a)

In Dhu Husam, the army of al-Hurr arrived at the campsite of Imam al-Husayn's (a) caravan.[9] Historical sources have explicitly mentioned that al-Hurr had been dispatched, not to start a war with the Imam but to take him to Ibn Ziyad; that's why he lined up his army before the campsite of Imam al-Husayn (a).[10]

Abu Mikhnaf narrates the details of this face to face meeting, from two men of Banu Asad who were in the caravan of Imam al-Husayn (a):

"When we departed from the region Sharaf, in the middle of the day, we noticed the scout of an army from far away, the Imam asked his companions: is there a haven nearby so that we can get stationed in it, and confront this army from one direction? They replied: yes, to the left, there's a campsite called Dhu Husam. Taking the left direction of the road, the Imam moved toward Dhu Husam; likewise, the opposite army hurried toward that position. However, Imam al-Husayn's caravan reached that site earlier and Imam ordered his companions to camp there. Al-Hurr arrived there along with his soldiers at noon and they were thirsty. Although they lined up in battle position, the Imam's reaction was not confrontational. He ordered his companions to give water to the army of al-Hurr, both soldiers and their horses. Then al-Hurr requested to pray the noon prayer, along with his soldiers, behind the Imam; Imam al-Husayn (a) accepted and they prayed their noon prayer with the caravan of Imam al-Husayn (a), the Imam being the leader of the prayer. Al-Hurr told the Imam about his mission. Imam al-Husayn (a) emphasized that the people of Kufa have invited him to Kufa by sending frequent letters and requested him to take over the affairs; however, the Imam explicitly stated that if the Kufans regret their decision, he would return.

Al-Hurr said he had been unaware of such correspondence, neither he nor his soldiers sent any letters, and that he has the mission to take the Imam to Ibn Ziyad in Kufa.

When the Imam decided to continue his travel, al-Hurr stopped him from either heading toward Kufa or going back to Hijaz, al-Hurr suggested Imam take a third route, neither to Kufa nor to Hijaz, so that he can ask Ibn Ziyad for further instructions. Al-Hurr told the Imam: "I have not been ordered to battle against you, but I am ordered not to let you go and take you to Kufa; yet if you refuse, take a third route rather than Kufa and Hijaz so that I write a letter to Ibn Ziyad. If you wish, you can also write to Yazid; that might help the situation end in peace. To me, this seems better than getting involved in a battle against you."

After this, Imam al-Husayn (a) and his caravan took the route of 'Udhayb al-Hijanat and Qadisiyya; and al-Hurr, along with his army, followed them.[11]

Although al-Hurr did not have the order to start a war with the Imam, the possibility of military confrontation had been worrying him from the start. It is even reported that he warned the Imam about the fatal result of such a war. Frequently and whenever suited, he would tell Imam al-Husayn (a): "by God please save your sacred soul, for I am sure if a war takes place, you will be killed." To this concern the Imam replied by reciting a poem, saying he is not afraid of death and martyrdom for the sake of God.

In 'Udhayb, four Shi'a from Kufa joined Imam al-Husayn (a). Al-Hurr intended to arrest or send them back to Kufa, but the Imam prevented him. They told the Imam about the tense situation in Kufa, the martyrdom of Qays b. Mushir al-Saydawi (Imam's envoy to Kufa) and the preparation of a great army to confront the Imam.[12]

Muharram 2/October 2 was the deadline of al-Hurr's agreement with Imam al-Husayn (a). Both Imam's caravan and al-Hurr's army had arrived at a village called Naynawa when al-Hurr received a letter from Ibn Ziyad, ordering him to pressure the Imam and stop him and his companions in a plain area that has no water or tree.[13] It was written in Ibn Ziyad's letter to al-Hurr: "upon the arrival of my messenger and receiving my letter, take it hard on al-Husayn and never let him camp unless in a dry and treeless land. I have commanded my messenger not to leave you alone till he brings me the news about the fulfillment of my order. End." Al-Hurr came to Imam al-Husayn (a) and read Ibn Ziyad's letter for him. Imam said: let us camp in Naynawa or Ghadiriyya."

Being caught in a dilemma and feeling the surveillance of Ibn Ziyad's messenger, al-Hurr stopped Imam's caravan and refused their suggestion to camp in the nearby village Naynawa (or Ghadiriyya or Suqayh). Having no exit, the Imam's caravan camped in Karbala (according to some reports, close to the village 'Aqr) near the Euphrates. [14]

Zuhayr b. Qayn told Imam al-Husayn (a): "by God, I feel that after this, it turns even harder on us, O' son of Allah's Apostle! Now fighting this group (al-Hurr and his soldiers) is easier for us than fighting those who come after this group, I swear by my own life that there will come a group after this whom we can't stand against." The Imam replied: "you are right Zuhayr, but I won't be the one who starts the war."

Imam al-Husayn (a) moved with al-Hurr and reached Karbala, al-Hurr and his soldiers stood against Imam's caravan and stopped them from any further move. Al-Hurr said: "camp here, for the Euphrates, is close by." Imam asked: "What's the name of this land?" they replied: "Karbala..." Imam al-Husayn (a) came down from his horse. Al-Hurr and his soldiers camped nearby. Upon the settlement of Imam's caravan in Karbala, al-Hurr wrote to Ibn Ziyad and informed him about their situation.

Hurr's Repentance on the Day of 'Ashura

Although al-Hurr was serious, his behavior with the Imam was respectful. Even once, he mentioned the special reverence for Imam's mother, Lady Fatima al-Zahra (a).[15]

On the day of 'Ashura, 'Umar b. Sa'd lined up his army and appointed commanders for all sections. He appointed al-Hurr b. Yazid al-Riyahi as the commander of Banu Tamim and Banu Hamdan. After military arrangements, the army prepared to fight Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions.

When noticed the serious will of 'Umar b. Sa'd to confront Imam al-Husayn (a), Hurr went to him and asked: "do you really want to fight with this man (Imam al-Husayn (a))?" Umar replied: "yes, by God I will start a war the lightest [part] of which is dropping heads and chopping hands." Al-Hurr asked: "weren't his suggestions good enough for you?" Umar b. Sa'd replied: had it been up to me, I would have accepted, yet the commander (Ibn Ziyad) did not accept."

Then al-Hurr distanced from 'Umar b. Sa'd and went to a corner of the army and got close to the other side little by little. Muhajir b. Aws –a member of Umar's army- asked al-Hurr: "do you want to attack?" Al-Hurr did not reply and was shaking. Muhajir became suspicious and said: "by God, I have never seen you in any war like this, if I was asked who the bravest man of Kufa was, certainly I wouldn't miss your name. Now, what is this state I see you in?". Al-Hurr said: "truly I see myself between paradise and hellfire; and by God, if I get torn apart and burned, I will not choose anything but paradise." Upon saying this, al-Hurr directed his horse toward the campsite of Imam al-Husayn (a).

It is reported that he went to the Imam showing his regret. He asked for forgiveness and said that he had never imagined the situation would end up in actual war. Imam al-Husayn (a) requested God's forgiveness for him and said: "You are hurr (a freeman) in this world and the hereafter."[16] In another report, al-Hurr, while carrying his war shield upside-down, entered the campsite of Imam al-Husayn (a), he went to the Imam and said: "May I be your sacrifice O son of Allah's Apostle, I am the one who prevented you to go back (to your hometown) and I kept being with you so that you had to camp in this land, I had never imagined they would turn down your suggestions and get you caught in such a fate, by God if I'd known the situation would end up here, I would have never gotten involved in it. Now I repent to God from what I have done, would my repentance be accepted?"

The Imam replied: "yes, your repentance is accepted."

Reasons of Repentance

The change that happened for this high-ranking commander of Ibn Ziyad's army is so strange that some have suggested that al-Hurr might have heard a call from heaven or had an honest dream. Regardless of its accuracy, such an assumption does not disvalue al-Hurr's difficult and critical decision. Some of his words before joining the camp of Imam al-Husayn (a) show his free choice in that decision, like this phrase: "truly I see myself between paradise and hellfire, and by God, if I get torn apart and burned, I will not choose anything but paradise."

Speech and Preaching Ibn Ziyad's Army

After repentance, al-Hurr turned toward 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad's army and addressed them: "O people! Haven't the suggestions given by al-Husayn (a) prevented you from fighting with him?" they said: "tell your word to Umar b. Sa'd." Al-Hurr repeated the same question for 'Umar, he replied: "I am eager to fight al-Husayn (a) and if I had any other choice, I would do that." Then al-Hurr addressed the army: "O people of Kufa! may your mother grieve over you! Did you summon this good man to yourselves and said you would help him to fight his enemies, now he has come to you, you refrain from helping him, and have lined up against him and want to kill him? You have grabbed his soul, won't let him breathe, surrounded him from every angle, and prevented him from going to the vast cities and lands of God, in such a way that he is like a captive in your hands, he cannot do anything positive for himself nor protect himself from harms, and you have prevented him and his family and children from drinking the water of the Euphrates, from which Jews and Christians and Magus drink and in which black pigs and dogs swim, to the point that he has lost his energy due to thirst; how badly you observe and respect the right of (Prophet) Muhammad (s) in his progeny! May God not quench your thirst on the day of thirst (judgment)." At this point, the archers in Umar's army throw arrows toward him and he retreated and stood in front of Imam al-Husayn (a).


There was not a long time between al-Hurr's repentance and his martyrdom. According to one report, al-Hurr requested Imam permit him to be the first warrior and martyr, as he'd been the first to stand against him.[17]

Shortly after joining Imam's camp, al-Hurr went to the battlefield and after his word with 'Umar b. Sa'd and his army, attacked them while reciting Rajaz, after several rounds of combat, he was martyred.[18] He fought bravely and even though his horse was injured and was bleeding from the forehead and ears, he kept reciting Rajaz and attacking the enemy on the same horse. He killed more than forty members of Umar's army. Then the infantry part of the army rushed to him at once and martyred him. It's been reported that two individuals killed him, Ayyub b. Musarrah and a horseman from Kufa.

However, some other reports indicate that shortly before noon and after the martyrdom of Habib b. Muzahir, al-Hurr together with Zuhayr b. Qayn went to the battlefield and attacked the enemy. They supported each other in the fight and whenever one of them was surrounded by the enemy, the other would help him out. They were continuously fighting until al-Hurr was martyred and Zuhayr came back. Other companions brought the body of al-Hurr, Imam al-Husayn (a) sat beside his body, wiped off the blood on his face and said: "you are [truly] hurr (a freeman), like the way your mother has named you, you are a freeman both in this world and in the hereafter."

Imam al-Husayn (a) fastened a piece of cloth over al-Hurr's head.

Children, Brothers

According to some sources, al-Hurr's children, brother, and slave joined Imam al-Husayn's camp along al-Hurr and were martyred in the Battle of 'Ashura.[19] However, these reports are not reliable since none of the early sources have mentioned them.


There are some reports about the descendants of al-Hurr. Throughout history, two famous families are known to be descendants of al-Hurr: the Mustawfis of Qazwin, Hamd Allah Mustawfi the well-known Iranian historian is from this family; and Al Hurr in the region Jabal 'Amil in Lebanon, one of the most famous figures of this family is al-Shaykh al-Hurr al-'Amili, the author of the reputable book, Wasa'il al-Shi'a.


According to Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin,[20] when some members of the tribe Banu Asad were burying the bodies of Karbala martyrs, some members of al-Hurr's tribe did not allow them to bury his body with the rest of the martyrs and buried al-Hurr's body in a farther location, which was called Nawawis at the time.[21] Therefore, his body was buried at a distance of around one league from the holy tomb of Imam al-Husayn (a).

Presently, al-Hurr's tomb is located far from Imam al-Husayn's shrine, around 7 kilometers to the west.

Story of Exhumation

In the 10th/16th century, the grave of al-Hurr had been known and it is reported that Shah Isma'il I, of Safavid dynasty, built a dome over it.

In one account, it is reported that after he conquered Iraq and went to Karbala, the king became suspicious about the story of al-Hurr and his tomb. To investigate its truth, he ordered to exhume al-Hurr's grave. Upon the exhumation, they saw a body wearing bloody clothes and the wounds were still fresh. There was a sword-made wound on his head and a piece of cloth was fastened over it. Since it had been reported in historical sources that this cloth belonged to Imam al-Husayn (a) and he had fastened it over al-Hurr's head, the king ordered to open it and replace it with another piece of cloth. However, when they opened it, the wound started bleeding, they fastened it with another piece of cloth, but the flow of blood did not stop. Inevitably, they fastened the same piece of cloth that belonged to Imam al-Husayn (a), and the blood stopped. The king only took a little part of that cloth... and ordered to build a more respectful shrine over the tomb of al-Hurr.

Repair and Expansion

During the Qajar period, the Mother of Aqa Khan Mahallati financed the repair of al-Hurr's tomb and built a castle-like courtyard around it so that visitors can seek refuge in it against bandits. In 1325/1907-8, Husayn Khan Shuja' al-Saltana repaired the tomb of al-Hurr, and in 1330/1911-2, Sayyid 'Abd al-Husayn Kiliddar, repaired the balcony of the building.

Today, this shrine is located several kilometers far from Imam al-Husayn's Holy Shrine to the west, with a dome upon it; however, there are doubts regarding the authenticity of this place. Some believe al-Hurr had been buried alongside other martyrs, near the holy tomb of Imam al-Husayn (a), but Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin believes the reputation and public respect for this shrine are not baseless.

Al-Hurr has been mentioned in Ziyarah al-Nahiyya al-Muqaddasa in the following phrase: Peace be upon al-Hurr b. al-Riyahi[22].


  1. Ibn al-Kalbī, Jumhurat al-nasab, vol. 1, p. 213-216.
  2. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 2, p. 472, 476, 489; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 422.
  3. Samāwī, Ibṣār al-ʿayn, p. 203.
  4. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 392, 427; Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāya wa l-nihāya, vol. 8, p. 195.
  5. Ibn al-Jawzī, al-Muntaẓam, vol. 5, p. 335; Ibn al-Wardī, Tārīkh, vol. 1, p. 231.
  6. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 422.
  7. See: Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 2, p. 473.
  8. Qummī, Nafs al-mahmūm, p. 231.
  9. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 2, p. 472; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 400.
  10. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 2, p. 473; Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 80.
  11. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 2, p. 472-473; Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 78-80; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 402-403.
  12. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 2, p. 473-474; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 403-406.
  13. Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 5, p. 408-409; Dīnawarī, al-Akhbār al-ṭiwāl, p. 251.
  14. Dīnawarī, al-Akhbār al-ṭiwāl, p. 251-252; Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 84.
  15. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 2, p. 475-476, 479; Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 100-101.
  16. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 2, p. 475-476, 479; Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 100-101.
  17. Khwārizmī, Maqtal al-Ḥusayn, vol. 2, p. 13.
  18. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 2, p. 476, 489; 494; 517; Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 102-104; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 5, p. 428-429.
  19. Khwārizmī, Maqtal al-Ḥusayn, vol. 2, p. 13.
  20. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 1, p. 613.
  21. Ibn al-Kalbī, Jumhurat al-nasab, vol. 1, p. 216.
  22. اَلسَّلامُ عَلی الحُرِّ بْنِ الرِّیاحِي


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