EBN AŠTAR, the name usually given to Abu Noʿmān Ebrāhim b. Mālek al-Aštar b. al-Hāreṯ al-Naḵaʿi (i.e., of al-Naḵaʿ, a branch of the South Arabian Maḏḥej tribal group), Arab chief and Shiʿite military leader (d. at Maskin on the Tigris, in Jomādā I 72/September-October 691). His father Mālek Aštar was ʿAli’s general at Ṣeffin in 37/657, at which battle Ebn al-Aštar is said to have been present. If so, he can only have been a small boy then, for he is described as a young man (fatā ḥadaṯ, ḥadaṯ) nearly 30 years later. Ebn al-Aštar’s prominence is due to his association with Moḵtār, and his active career is confined to a few years subsequent to the death of al-Ḥosayn b. ʿAli (61/680). He was head of the latter’s partisans in Kufa (al-Ḥosayniya). But al-Moḵtār, apparently in 66/685, was able to secure his support by means of an apparently fraudulent letter from Moḥammad b. al-Ḥanafiya, and with his help became for a time master of Kufa. Probably Ebn al-Aštar’s greatest exploit was his defeat, on 10 Moḥarram 67/6 August 686, of a numerically superior Umayyad army advancing from Syria to crush Moḵtār. His troops on this occasion consisted largely of the Ḥamrāʾ of Kufa, i.e., freedmen (mawāli) of Persian origin. A visitor to the ʿAlid camp before the battle said that he heard no word of Arabic spoken until he reached the camp of the commander (Dinawari, ed. W. Guirgass, Leiden, 1888, p. 302). Ebn al-Aštar became Moḵtār’s governor for Mosul and al-Jazira. It is possible that his titular authority extended to Armenia and Azerbaijan. After the death of Moḵtār in Kufa in the same year, Ebn al-Aštar submitted to Moṣʿab al-Zobayr, to whom he remained loyal; he was killed with him at Maskin. Masʿudi presents a story claiming that Ebn al-Aštar was the real father of the last Umayyad caliph, Marwān II (Masʿudi, Tanbih, p. 281).



See the indices to Ṭabari; Ebn al-Aṯir; and Balāḏori, Ansāb IV A. See also the account of Moḵtār in Ebn Aʿṯam al-Kufi, Ketāb al-fotuḥ VI, Hyderabad, 1392/1972.

Masʿudi, Moruj al-ḏahab V, pp. 244-46.

Idem, Ketāb al-Tanbih, Baghdad, 1357/1938, pp. 199, 270.

Taʾriḵ al-ḵolafāʾ, ed. Gryaznevitch, Moscow, 1967, fol. 102b-121a passim.

H. D. Van Gelder, Mohtar de valsche Profeet, Leiden, 1888, pp. 43ff., 117ff., 125.

J. Wellhausen, Die religios-politischen Oppositionsparteien im alten Islam, trans. as The Religio-Political Factions in Early Islam by R. C. Ostle and S. M. Walzer, Amsterdam, 1975, pp. 59-61, 130-32, 136-40.

(D.M. Dunlop)

Originally Published: July 20, 2002

Last Updated: July 20, 2002