Qatada ibn Idris al-Alawi al-Hasani (Arabic: قتادة بن إدريس العلوي الحسني‎, 1130-1220) was the Sharif of Mecca, reigning from 1201 to 1220. He also founded the Banu Qatada dynasty and established a tradition of sharifs descended from him to rule Mecca which lasted until the office was abolished in 1925.[1]

Early life

Qatada was born in the seaport city of Yanbu, where his family—who descended from Hasan ibn Ali—held a considerable estate since the Umayyad era. Without seeking permission from the Ayyubids who controlled the area, Qatada went on and subdued most of the Hejaz. He maintained a garrisoned fortress in Yanbu which made it possible to exact a good share of the profits of the Red Sea trade as it stopped at this port before proceeding to Egypt.[1] Qatada may have taken part in the defense of Medina against the expeditionary Crusader force launched by Raynald of Chatillon.[2]

Sharif of Mecca

From the Ayyubid takeover of Mecca in 1175 to 1200, Iraqi princes, Medina-based sharifs, and the Ayyubids under Sayf al-Islam, fought for control of the city which was governed by Amir Mikhtar. In 1200-01, the notables of Mecca chose Qatada, one of their own, to rule in Mikhtar's place. Qatada was recognized by the Ayyubid sultan of Egypt, al-Kamil, as the emir of Mecca. Possession of the Emirate of Mecca did not quench Qatada's ambitions and his power soon extended into Medina and Ta'if, as well as parts of Najd and Yemen. Dutch historian Snouck Hurgronje referred to him as a "political genius".[3]

In 1205, Qatada and the Sharif of Medina, Salim ibn Qasim al-Husayni came into conflict. Each had gathered a large army fought at a site just outside Medina. After visiting and praying at Muhammad's chamber, Qatada proceeded to meet Salim who drove him back and pursued Qatada to Mecca. Salim besieged him there, but Qatada sent letters to Salim's commanders suborning them and the commanders inclined to support Qatada. After realizing this, Salim withdrew back to Medina, and Qatada's position in the region strengthened.[4]

Qatada's actions troubled the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad and the Ayyubid sultan in Cairo, as well as from Yemen. Challenges from those authorities came at the time of the annual Hajj to Mecca when caravans of pilgrims from Cairo, Baghdad, and Damascus were accompanied by whatever number of troops the caliph or sultan deemed necessary to deliver a message to Qatada. In 1212, an assassination attempt on Qatada occurred during the Hajj. Qatada suspected the Abbasids were behind the plot and ordered his Nubian slave troops to attack the Iraqi caravan, although they had already fled to join the Syrian caravan where they gained protection from Saladin's mother. Qatada demanded a compensation of 100,000 dinars for calling off the attack on the caravan and when Saladin's mother could only raise 30,000 dinars, Qatada desisted nonetheless, but promised to kill any pilgrim coming from Baghdad in the following year.[3]


In 1220, Qatada was smothered to death in his bedclothes by his son Hasan at age 90. According to Ibn al-Athir, Qatada, who had been feeling sickly, assembled any army led by his brother and Hasan to march towards Medina. When they camped near the city, Hasan had heard that his uncle said to the troops that Qatada was ill and nearing his death and made them swear their loyalty to him shall Qatada die. Hasan came to his uncle's presence and had his mamluks kill him. The news outraged Qatada who vowed to have his son killed.[5]

One of Qatada's men informed Hasan of the situation, and so he rode back to Mecca to confront his father. After ordering the large gathering outside Qatada's residence to leave for their own dwellings, Hasan met his father who reprimanded him. He turned on him and throttled him on the spot. He left the residence to inform the townspeople that his father was very ill and then recalled the local leaders of Mecca to tell them that Qatada was dead. According to this account, subsequently he brought out a coffin and buried it to give onlookers the impression that Qatada died of natural causes, but Hasan had his father secretly buried beforehand.[5] The power accumulated Qatada remained in the hands of his descendants from his death to the abdication of Ali ibn Hussein.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Salibi, 1998, p.55.
  2. Peters, 1994, p.145.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Peters, 1994, p.146.
  4. Ibn al-Athir (translated by D.S. Richards), 2008, p.86.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Ibn al-Athīr (translated by D.S. Richards), 2008, pp.233-234.


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