History of Kufa, the city of Ali’s assassination

This article is also available in: Italiano

Kufa is one of the most beautiful and significant cities of Iraq, known for being the birthplace of Abu Hanifa, the Kufic and being the place where Ali ibn Abi Talib, grandson and son-in-law of the Prophet, as well as a key figure in the Shiite world, was assassinated.

The words of Ibn Battuta

“A great Iraqi metropolis, Kufa stands out from the others for its distinguished prerogatives. Although today in ruins due to the hostile hands that have wreaked havoc on it – and at the mercy of disorder due to the Khafaja Bedouin brigands on its streets – it was in the past the abode of Compagni and tabi’un, residence of ulama and pious men, and even the capital of the emir of believers Ali ibn Abi Talib “


The city of Kufa was built between 633 and 636 over the territories of ancient Al Hirah, capital of the Arab kingdom of the Lakhmids, long vassal of the Sassanids. As already happened with the future Cairo in Egypt, also in this case one of the commanders decided to fortify the camp, providing it with military and administrative tasks. Under the first caliphs the center grew very rapidly, but it was with Ali ibn Abi Talib that it became the capital of the caliphate, binding more than ever to his figure. It is no coincidence that the Prophet’s son-in-law lived here and was killed here at the hands of Ibn Muljam, giving life to that rift that will lead to the division between Sunnis and Shiites. With the rise to power of the Umayyads, who moved the capital to Damascus, Kufa will still remain faithful to the alides and this led the new caliphs to always put men of particular trust in control of the city; the most famous of these will surely be Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad, who became the protagonist of Karbala Massacre, in which Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet, and all his entourage were murdered. With the arrival of the Abbasids, it returned to being the capital, in 762 the administrative center was moved to Baghdad and Kufa’s role was increasingly peripheral and tied to faith; this made it an even more coveted goal for the Qarmatians, who attacked it 3 times, causing its definitive decline.

The Great Mosque of Kufa

To underline the incredible importance of this city within the Islamic world. In fact, some of the greatest and most famous figures originated from this place such as Abu Hanifa, founder of the Hanafi legal school, one of the most followed and popular in the Sunni world, as well as the wonderful Kufic calligraphic style. Also in this place many of the Sahaba are buried, the companions of the prophet Muhammad, in addition to the fact that Kufa was one of the first centers for tafsir, the interpretation of the Koran. Starting from the 11th century the city began to merge with the nearby center of Najaf, going de facto to form a single entity.

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