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Al-Mukhtar ibn Abi Ubayd Al-Thaqafi (Arabic: ٱلْمُخْتَار ٱبْن أَبِي عُبَيْد ٱلثَّقَفِيّ, al-Mukhtār ibn Abī ʿUbayd al-Thaqafīy; c. 622 – 3 April 687) was a pro-Alid revolutionary based in Kufa, who led a rebellion against the Umayyad Caliphate in 685 and ruled over most of Iraq for eighteen months during the Second Fitna.
Born in Ta’if, Mukhtar moved to Iraq at a young age and grew up in Kufa. Following the death of Husayn ibn Ali, a grandson of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, at the hands of the Umayyad army in the Battle of Karbala in 680, he allied with the rival caliph Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr in Mecca, but the alliance was short-lived. Mukhtar returned to Kufa where he declared Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah, a son of caliph Ali (r. 656–661) and brother of Husayn, the mahdi and the imam, and called for the establishment of an Alid caliphate and retaliation for Husayn’s killing. He took over Kufa in October 685, after expelling its Zubayrid governor, and later ordered the execution of those involved in the killing of Husayn. Hostile relations with Ibn al-Zubayr ultimately led to Mukhtar’s death by the forces of the Zubayrid governor of Basra, Mus’ab ibn al-Zubayr, following a four-month siege.
Although Mukhtar was defeated, his movement would have far-reaching consequences. After his death, his followers formed a radical Shi’a[a] sect, later known as the Kaysanites, who developed several novel doctrines and influenced later Shi’a ideology. Mukhtar raised the social status of mawali (local converts to Islam) and they became an important political entity. The mawali and Kaysanites went on to play a significant role in the Abbasid Revolution sixty years later. Mukhtar is a controversial figure among Muslims; condemned by many as a false prophet, but revered by Shi’a because of his support for the Alids. Modern historians’ views range from regarding him as a sincere revolutionary to an ambitious opportunist.