ABŪ LOʾLOʾA, a Persian slave of Moḡīra b. Šoʿba, the governor of Baṣra, who assassinated the caliph ʿOmar b. al-Ḵaṭṭāb, on Wednesday, 26 Ḏu’l-ḥeǰǰa 23/2 November 644. The sources agree on his Persian origin, but disagree with respect of his religion; some claim that he was a Mazdean from Nehāvand, while others claim that he was Christian called Fērōz Naṣrānī. What motivated him to kill ʿOmar is not clear. According to Masʿūdī, for example (Morūǰ IV, pp. 191, 226-27, 353; ed. Pellat, pars. 1524, 1559, 1670), ʿOmar would not let any ʿaǰam enter Medina. He had, however, authorized Moḡīra to send him Abū Loʾloʾa, whose skills as a joiner and blacksmith could be of service. Since his master had imposed on him a tax (ḵarāǰ) of two dirhams a day (three dirhams a month according to Ebn ʿAbd Rabbeh, ʿEqd al-farīd, ed. A. Amīn et al., Cairo, 1962, IV, p. 272), Abū Loʾloʾa complained to ʿOmar, but in vain. As a result he conceived an implacable hatred of the caliph which, according to tradition, expressed itself in a threat concerning the construction of a mill. In contrast Ebn al-Ṭeqṭaqā (Faḵrī, ed. J. Derenbourg, Paris, 1895, p. 134) maintains that Abū Loʾloʾa was angry at ʿOmar because the caliph had imposed the ḵarāǰ on his master, Moḡīra.
The circumstances of the assassination itself and of the death of the assassin are no less controversial. According to some sources, Abū Loʾloʾa, having hidden under his robes a double-bladed dagger, crouched in a corner of the mosque of Medina. When the caliph was going to perform the morning prayer and passed within his reach, he leapt out and stabbed him three (or six) blows, one of which struck below the navel and was fatal. Others say that Abū Loʾloʾa placed himself behind ʿOmar among the worshippers. According to some sources, death was instantaneous. Others relate that the caliph survived three days; this version seems more probable. In addition, Abū Loʾloʾa, while trying to make a way through the crowd, was supposed to have stabbed some dozen or more men; of these, one, six, or seven died. According to one version, he was captured and killed; according to another, he committed suicide.
The caliph’s son, ʿObaydallāh, killed the assassin’s wife and daughter, and swore to have all the Persians of Medina killed. Among the Persians of Medina was Hormezdān (Hormozān), who was the victim of his thirst for vengeance, although innocent. The subsequent acquittal of ʿObaydallāh was a matter for contention between the Sunnites and the Shiʿites. According to one source, Abū Loʾloʾa had previously belonged to Hormezān, in whose company he had been some time before the assassination; it was thus concluded that Abū Loʾloʾa had plotted with his former master to assassinate ʿOmar. According to Caetani, Abū Loʾloʾa was made the unconscious instrument of a conspiracy hatched by some of the Companions of the Prophet who wanted to rid themselves of the caliph. One can equally well suppose that he was simply moved by a personal feeling of vengeance aroused by the rebuff he had received.
Caetani, Annali V, pp. 51-79, translates the principal accounts, including Ṭabarī, I, pp. 2722-24.
Ebn Saʿd, Biographien Muhammads, Leiden, 1904, II/1, pp. 246-47, 250-52.
See also: Balāḏorī, Fotūḥ, Persian tr. by Ā. Āḏarnūš, Tehran, 1346 Š./1967, pp. 248, 285.
Maqdesī, Badʾ, pp. 188-89; tr., pp. 196-97. Ebn al-Aṯīr, p. 23.
Originally Published: December 15, 1983
Last Updated: July 19, 2011
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