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Last Updated: 2017/01/24
Summary of question
Did Mukhtar keep any love of Abu Bakr and Umar in his heart? Why didn’t he defend Imam Hussein in Karbala?
Is it true that Mukhtar Thaqafi kept love of Abu Bakr and Umar in his heart and it is said that he is going to fall down Sirat Bridge and Imam Hussein (AS) will save him. Where was he when Imam Hussein rose up against Yazid? Why didn’t he defend the Imam?
Concise answer
The traditions about Mukhtar in our sources are divided into two categories; some of them praise and others simply reproach him.  The scholars who specialize in hadith and biographical accounts generally choose to rely on the traditions which praise him and they have given their views about the ones in opposition to the first category.
Allamah Majlisi (ra) is of the view that the tradition about Mukhtar’s protection reconciles between the two groups of praising and reproaching narrations. He because of his beliefs was among the inhabitants of Fire but he was saved from divine punishment by Imam Hussein (AS). However, late Ayatollah Khoei (ra) believes that the chain of transmission of this tradition is poor (dha’if).
It is noteworthy that before the revolution of Ashura, Mukhtar was imprisoned in Kufa due to him supporting Muslim bin Aqil, Imam Hussein’s envoy to Kufa. At the best of Ibn Ziad, Mukhtar remained in prison until the end of the uprising in Karbala.
Detailed Answer
Mukhtar bin Abi Ubaida belonged to Thaqif tribe. His epithet was Abu Ishaq and his nickname was Kaysan meaning clever and smart.[1] According to a tradition, Asbagh bin Nabatah, one of the companions of the Commander of the Faithful, Ali (AS) says: The title “kayyis” was given by the Commander of the Faithful to Mukhtar.”[2]
He learned manners and merits and acquired moral virtues from the Ahlul-Bayt (AS). In his youth age, he, his father and uncle went to Iraq to fight the Persian army.  Mukhtar was in the company of the Commander of the Faithful, Ali (AS) and after his martyrdom, he went to Basra and settled there for a short period.[3]
Allamah Majlisi (ra) writes: Mukhtar narrated the merits of the Holy Prophet (S) and even spread the beautiful traits of the Commander of the Faithful, Ali (AS), Imam Hasan and Imam Hussein (AS) amongst people and he believed that the family of the Prophet (S) was more entitled to leadership and government after the Prophet (S) than those in power. He was sad at the sufferings which the family of the Prophet (S) went through.[4]
Mukhtar’s personality in the narrations
The traditions about Mukhtar in our sources are divided into two categories; some of them praise him and others simply reproach him. 
A) Traditions praising Mukhtar
There are many traditions in the hadith books praising Mukhtar. However, for the sake of brevity, we will mention only three instances:
1. Imam Sadiq (AS) said: “None of the Hashemi women combed and applied henna to their hair until Mukhtar sent the heads of the murderers of Hussein to our family.”[5] Ayatollah Khoi (ra) considered this narration as authentic[6] and it is a clear endorsement of Mukhtar’s action.
2. Imam al-Baqir (‘a) thus said about him: “Do not speak ill of Mukhtar because he killed our murderers, did not allow our spilled blood to be disregarded, gave our daughters in marriage, and at the time of difficulty he distributed properties among us.”[7]
It has been narrated that when Mukhtar sent the head of the accursed ‘Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad to Imam as-Sajjad (‘a), the Imam (‘a) prostrated and made benevolent prayer for Mukhtar saying: "جَزىَ اللهُ المُختارَ خَیراً"  (may Allah reward Mukhtar). [8]
Traditions reproaching Mukhtar
Here, we shall also make reference to only three instances:
1. Imam Sadiq (AS) said:  “Mukhtar ascribed lies to Imam Sajjad.”[9]
2. In another report it has been narrated that Mukhtar sent twenty thousand dinars to Imam Zainul Abedeen. The Imam accepted the amount and spent it on reconstructing ruined houses.  Then he sent Imam Sajjad another load, a gift,  which the Imam (AS) did not accept.[10] In another narration, it has been reported that the Imam said: “I do not accept any gift from liars.”[11]
3. Mukhtar is also reproached for his belief in the imamate of Muhammad bin Hanafiyah and for his calling on people to accept him as the next leader. He was allegedly involved in the creation of the Kaysaniyyah sect.[12]
Mukhtar from the Perspective of Scholars
Most of the scholars and experts in the field of hadith and biography have chosen the traditions which praise Mukhtar. They have given opinions on these traditions as such:
A) The traditions which reproach and criticize Mukhtar are very poor in terms of the chain of transmission.[13] Kashi says in this regard: “It seems these traditions have been fabricated by Sunnis.”[14]
B) It is very much likely that these traditions have been issued in the state of taqiyah (quietism or dissimulation) only to protect the Imam and the Hashemites from the evils of the tyrant  rulers.[15]
C) It has been reported in the tradition that Mukhtar sent gifts twice to Imam Sajjad (AS) and his family but he rejected the gift on the second occasion arguing that Mukhtar was a liar. This is something very unlikely because if Mukhtar was a liar, Imam Sajjad (AS) should not have accepted the gifts on both occasions but he accepted the first gift.[16]
D) The narrations which ascribe the Kaysaniyyah sect to him and labeling him as being a liar are, according biographers and experts of ilm-e rijal, among the accusations put to him Sunnis because Muhammad bin Hanafiyah never claimed to be the imam so that Mukhtar could call others to him. In fact, Kaysaniyyah was formed after the demise of Muhammad bin Hanfiyah.[17]
Mukhtar’s Beliefs
Some other scholars believe Mukhtar did not have proper beliefs and they are quoting two traditions to substantiate their point:
1.  It has been reported from Imam Sadiq (AS) said:
عَنْ أَبِی عَبْدِ اللَّهِ (ع) قَالَ لِی: "یجُوزُ النَّبِی(ص) الصِّرَاطَ یتْلُوهُ عَلِی وَ یتْلُو عَلِیاً الْحَسَنُ وَ یتْلُو الْحَسَنَ الْحُسَینُ فَإِذَا تَوَسَّطُوهُ نَادَى الْمُخْتَارُ الْحُسَینَ(ع) :یا أَبَا عَبْدِ اللَّهِ(ع) إِنِّی طَلَبْتُ بِثَارِکَ فَیقُولُ النَّبِی(ص) لِلْحُسَینِ(ع) :أَجِبْهُ؛ فَینْقَضُّ الْحُسَینُ(ع) فِی النَّارِ کَأَنَّهُ عُقَابٌ کَاسِرٌ فَیخْرِجُ الْمُخْتَارَ حُمَمَةً وَ لَوْ شُقَّ عَنْ قَلْبِهِ لَوُجِدَ حُبُّهُمَا فِی قَلْبِهِ"[18]
Imam Sadiq (AS) said: “The Holy Prophet (S) cross the Sirat Bridge with Ali (AS) and Imam Hasan after him followed by Imam Hussein (AS).  When they reach the middle of the Bridge, Mukhtar (who is languishing in punishment of Hell) calls out, ‘O Aba Abdillah, I was your avenger’. The Prophet (S) says: ‘O Hussein, respond him.’ Then Imam Hussein (AS) soars down like an eagle and saves Mukhtar from Hell Fire. Perhaps, if Mukhtar’s heart were to split open, his love for those two Caliphs would have been unveiled.”
In another tradition having almost a similar purport, it has been reported from Imam Sadiq (AS) that he was asked as to why Mukhtar was sent to Hell despite all the services he had rendered to Islam. The Imam (AS) answered:  “Because in his chest he kept love of those two caliphs.” Imam Sadiq (AS) says that if there was the slightest amount of love in the hearts Gabriel and Mikail for these two (caliphs), God would throw them face down into the hell fire.”[19]
Allamah Majlisi (ra) is of the view that these two traditions about Mukhtar’s protection reconcile between the two groups of praising and reproaching narrations. Because of his beliefs he was among the inhabitants of Fire but he was saved from divine punishment by Imam Hussein (AS) because of his good deeds.[20] However, late Ayatollah Khoei (ra) believes that the chain of transmission of this tradition is poor and that Mukhtar’s belief was good.[21]
In closing, it is necessary to make mention of two points:
1. Before the revolution of Ashura, Mukhtar was imprisoned in Kufa due to him supporting Muslim bin Aqil, Imam Hussein’s envoy to Kufa. At the best of Ibn Ziad, Mukhtar remained in prison until the end of the uprising in Karbala.[22] That was why he was not present in Karbala to defend Imam Hussein (AS).
2. According to some historical accounts, during the time of Imam Hasan (AS) in Madaen, Mukhtar decided to surrender the Imam to Mu’awiyah and take over the emirate in Iraq.[23]
When it comes to this historical account, it must be said that even if we assume that this claim about Mukhtar is genuine, this event and what he had said dates back to twenty years before his martyrdom.  When we want to judge about someone being good or bad, we should look at his present condition. Although this saying of Mukhtar is not good, it does not change our judgement about his overall character. There have been people in history such as Hurr bin Yazid Riyahi who deserted Yazid’s army and joined Imam Hussein. Just in a few hours’ time, he turned in repentance, achieved eternal prosperity and changed the judgement of history about himself.

[1] Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir, Behar al-Anwar, vol.45, p.345, Al-Wafa Institute, Beirut, 1404 A.H; Firuz Abadi, Muhammad bin Ya’qub, Qamus al-Mohit, vol.1, p.257, Beirut, Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, 1991 A.D.
[2] Kashi, Al-Rijal, p.127, Tehran, 1348 (Persian Calendar); Behar al-Anwar, vol.45, p.344.
[3] Al-Musavi al-Muqrim, Abdur Rezaq, Maqtal al-Hussein, p.167, Dar al-Thaqafah, second edition, 1411; al-Zarkali, Khairuddin, al-A’lam, vol.8, p.70, Beirut, first edition, Dar al-Ilm Lil-Malayeen.
[4] Behar al-Anwar, vol.45, p.352.
[5] Behar al-Anwar, vol.45, p.386; Rijal al-Kashi, p.127.
[6]Khoei, Abul Qasim, Mu’jam al-Rijal, vol.18, p.94, Qom, 1410 A.H.
[7] Behar al-Anwar, vol.45, p.343; Rijal al-Kashi, p.125.
[8] Rijal al-Kashi, p.128.
[9] Behar al-Anwar, vol.45, p.343.
[10] Rijal al-Kashi, p.128.
[11] Ibid, p.126.
[12] Hilli, Ibn Dawood, Rijal, p.514, Tehran, 1383 (Persian calendar).
[13] Mu’jam al-Rijal, vol.18, p.97.
[14] Rijal Ibn Dawood, p.514, This is not stated anywhere in Rjial al-Kashi. Perhaps, Ibn Dawood has had a version of Rijal in which this is said.
[15] Mu’jam al-Rijal, vol.18, p.100
[16] Rijal Ibn Dawood, p.514.
[17] Ibid, Mu’jam al-Rijal, vol.18, p.101.
[18] Sheikh Tusi, Tahzib al-Ahkam, vol.1, p. 467, hadith 1528, Tehran, 1365 (Persian solar calendar).
[19] Behar al-Anwar, vol.45, P.345; Mustatrafat al-Saraer, p. 567.
[20] Behar al-Anwar, vol.45, P.345, hadith 5.
[21] Mu’jam al-Rijal, vol.18, p.100.
[22] Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir, Behar al-Anwar, vol.45, p.353, al-Wafa Institute, Beirut, 1404 A.H; Karami, Ali,  Dar Sug Amir Azadi – Guyatarin Tarikh Karbala, p.398, Hazeq Publications, Qom, first edition, 1380 (Persian solar calendar); Ibn Hajar Asqalani, Ahmad bin Ali, Al-Isabah fi Tamyiz al-Sahabah, research: Adil Ahmad Abdul Mawjud and Ali Muhammad Mu’awwaz, vol.6, p.250, Beirut, Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah, Beirut, first edition, 1415 A.H;  Tabari, Abu Ja’far Muhammad bin Jarir, Tarikh al-Tabari, researched by Muhammad Abul Fazl Ibrahim, vol.5, p.571, Dar al-Turath, Beirut, second edition 1387 A.H.
[23] Sheikh Saduq, ”Ilal al-Sharaye’, vol.1, p.221, chap. 160, Dawari Bookstore, Qom, first edition, 1385 (Persian solar calendar).
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