The Uprising by the Tawwabin
The Shi'ites in Ku`fa showed great remorse for their abandoning Ima`m al-Husayn, peace be on him. It was they who wrote to him, and pleaded to him in order to save them from the tyranny and oppression of the Umayyads. When he responded to them, they left him alone before the swords and spears of the Umayyads. They did not help him nor did they defend him.
The Shi'ites blamed each other, for they felt the terror of the heavy tragedy. Hence they thought about a practical way to expiate their sins. They found no means to efface their sins except announcing a revolt (against the Umayyads) and avenging the blood of al-Husayn. Then they announced their well-known motto: "Come on to avenge the blood of al-Husayn!"
This motto moved the Shi'ites and those who were displeased with the Umayyads. Now we will briefly present this revolt which holds the mark of Shiism, for it was the first revolt the Shi'ites led on the external level.
The First Conference of the Tawwabin
The Tawwa`bin or the repenters held their first conference in the house of Sulayma`n b. Sart al-Khuza`'i, a great Companion (of the Prophet) and leader of the Shi'ites. The leaders of the movement delivered many speeches in this conference. In them they showed their remorse and regret for deserting Ima`m al-Husayn, peace be on him. They declared that they would deserve Allah's displeasure if they did not avenge the blood of al-Husayn. The number of those who attended the conference was over a hundred men, from among the knights of the Shi'ites and their great figures.(Al-Tabari, vol. 2/1, p. 499).
That was in the year sixty-one A. H.(Al-Tabari, vol. 2/1, p. 506).
It was the year when Ima`m al-Husayn, peace be on him, was martyred.
The Decisions of the Conference
The Conference took decisions of great importance, which showed their ripen political awareness. They are as follows:
1. Sulayma`n b. Sarat al-Khuza`'i was elected as the leader of the movement, and commander-in-chief of the revolt. He was charged with designing political and military plans, corresponding with the regions which included the Shi'ites in Iraq and outside it.
2. Keeping the movement a secret lest the authorities should be informed of it.
3. Collecting money and donations from the Shi'ites to buy weapons and war equipment. Kha`lid b. Sa'd donated all his possessions, and made the revolutionists move about in them freely(Ibn al-Athïr, Ta`rikh, vol. 3, p. 333).
Abu` al-Mu'tamar al-Kina`ni donated a sum similar to this(Ibn al-Athïr, Ta`rikh, vol. 3, p. 333).
They appointed 'Abd Allah b. Wa`l al-Tamimi to collect money and buy weapons.(Ibn al-Athïr, Ta`rikh, vol. 3, p. 333).
4. Appointing al-Nukhayla as the place of their meeting and their revolt against the Umayyads.
Announcing the Revolt
When the fixed time came, the Tawwa`bin went out of Ku`fa. They were about four thousands.(Al-Tanbïh wa al-Ishra`f, p. 311).
They met at al-Nukhayla and had complete (war) equipment. That was in the year sixty-five A. H. It was the year when Yazid, the sinner, perished. The troops headed for the grave of Ima`m al-Husayn.
They stayed by it for a day and night. They asked Allah to bless the great Ima`m and asked Him to forgive them. They wept before Allah and pleaded to Him. They showed their repentance and remorse before Him for deserting the grandson of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, and his plant of sweet basil. Then they left the Holy Grave and swore by Allah to avenge the blood of al-Husayn. 'Abd Allah b. 'Awf al-Ahmar raised the spirits of the troops through his revolutionary poetry. He addressed them and recited:
I have become attentive, abandoned yearning for the
beautiful women, and said to my companions: Respond
to the caller, and say to him-before and after he summons you to
guidance- here we are! Here we are, O summoner!
The poet went on striking this right note, which moved the determinations of the souls. He spoke about the martyrdom of the great Ima`m (al-Husayn) reciting:
Al-Husayn was the target of spears, left
deprived (of his garments), and stayed at al-Taf.
I wish I had witnessed him and defended him against
the spiteful enemies!
May Allah water with copious rain the grave at al-Taf,
the western, which has included glory and reverential
Then the poet addressed the community saying:
O Community, who has gone astray in foolishness, turn (to Allah in
repentance) and please the One, the Most Exalted!
This poetry moved the feelings of the Tawwa`bin (repenters) and urged them to fight against the troops of wrongdoing and error.
At 'Ayn al-Warda
The phalanxes of the Tawwa`bin covered the desert. 'Abd Allah b. 'Awf headed them and recited:
They (the phalanxes) have become frowning, and gone out
in ranks shining through us, and containing heroes!
Through them we want to meet the heads, the unjust, the
treacherous, the straying!
We have left children, possessions, and women, that
we may please the Possessor of the bounteous favors!(Al-Mas'u`di, Muru`jj al-Dhahab, vol. 3, p. 380).
This poetry moved the Tawwa`bin and urged them to please Allah, the Exalted, through fighting against the unjust.
The phalanxes of the Tawwa`bin reached 'Ayn al-Warda and stopped at it. Meanwhile 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziya`d, the criminal, headed his troops and advanced against them. The two armies met, and a violent battled occurred between them. The Tawwa`bin stood the good test in fighting, which none can describe.
Their leaders were martyred at this Battle. Some of them were Sulayma`n b. Sarat, al-Musayyab b. Nujayya, and 'Abd Allah b. Sa'd. The Tawwa`bin thought that they had no ability to continue fighting against the Syrians, hence they left the battle-field and returned to Ku`fa at night.
However, the Syrian troops did not follow them. The Shi'ites were very sad to hear of the martyrdom of the leaders of the Tawwa`bin. A'sha` Hamada`n, a great poet, elegized these leaders in a poem. In it he mentioned their bravery and resistance before the Syrian troops. This poem is as follows:
Through the mountain pass, the phalanxes advanced in
ranks against Ibn Ziya`d.
Some of them sought Allah-fearingness; some of them
sought repentance of what they committed in the past.
They met huge troops at 'Ayn al-Warda and greeted them
with sharp swords.
A troop followed by troops like the waves of the sea came
from Syria (and besieged) the phalanxes from all directions.
Shortly after this, the phalanxes were destroyed. None of
them was safe except some bands.
The patient (the phalanxes) were left thrown down, hence
east and south winds blew over them.
Al-Khuza`'i, the chief, was thrown down as if he did not fight,
along with him were the chief of the children of Shamkh
(the hero of his people), al-Taymi (the guide of the phalanxes),
'Amru`` b. 'Amru`, Ibn Bishr, Kha`lid, Bakr, Zayd, and
al-Hulays b. Gha`lib.
They refused everything except hitting (with the sword)
which split open the tops of the heads at the battle, and
faultless stabbing with the spears.
O you who are the best troops for Iraq and its people, you
have made the mounts drink flowing blood.
(May Allah) not send you far, for you are the defenders of
You have been killed; slaying is the noblest death,
and everyone will face a misfortune someday.
You were killed, but you were as strong as the lions in
destroying the bands (of those troops).
In this poem 'Asha` Hamada`n has drawn a wonderful picture of the Tawwa`bin. He has classified them into two categories: one category sought Allah-fearingness through its struggle; the other wanted to expiate its sins and turn to Allah, the Exalted, in repentance. They all showed bravery and resistance beyond description. East and south wind blew over the graves of those who were martyred in the battle-field and greeted them.
A'sha` Hamada`n talked with admiration about the leaders of the revolt who were martyred in the battle-field. He praised and lauded them. At the end he asked Allah not to send them far, for they were the defenders of the city. This is one of the most wonderful poems composed on the Revolt of the Tawwa`bin.
Any how, the revolt of the Tawwa`bin filled the murderers of Ima`m al-Husayn, peace be on him, with fear and terror, and prepared the Shi'ites for struggle against the Umayyads. Dr. Yousif Khulayf said: "Regardless of its results, the revolt of the Tawwa`bin was the most violent of the revolts which the Shi'ites announced after the murder of 'Ali. It helped the Shi'ites overthrow the Umayyad government. Moreover, it paved the way to another Shi'ite revolt, which was the Revolt of al-Mukhta`r.( Haya`t al-Shi'r fi al-Ku`fa, vol. 73).