ibn Zubayr led a rebellion against the Umayyad Caliphate but was defeated and killed in Mecca in 692 AD after a six-month siege by general Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf.
Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr was a member of the Bani Hashim tribe and was born one year and 8 months after the hijra of Muhammad to Medina. As such, he was the first Muslim child born in Medina. He was the cousin of Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr who, in turn, was the grandfather of Jafar al-Sadiq
Ibn 'Abbas said about him: "his (maternal) grandfather, Abu Bakr was (the Prophet's) companion in the cave, his mother, Asma' was 'Dhatun-Nitaq', his aunt, 'Aisha was the mother of the Believers, his paternal aunt, Khadija was the wife of the Prophet , and the paternal aunt of the Prophet was his grandmother. He himself is pious and chaste in Islam, well versed in the Knowledge of the Quran".
As a young man, Abd Allah was an active participant in numerous Muslim campaigns against both the Byzantine and Sassanid empires. He marched to Sbeitla, Tunisia, the capital of self-proclaimed local emperor Gregory the Patrician. Gregory was defeated and killed in the Battle of Sufetula in 647 CE. After the death of Uthman ibn Affan, he stayed politically inactive during the civil wars that followed; however when the Umayyad Dynasty came to power and Yazid I became the heir apparent he refused to swear allegiance.
After Muawiyah I died, in 680, his son Yazid I took over. Husayn bin Ali Muhammad's grandson felt that he had to confront him. Both Abu Bakr's family and Ali's family felt Yazid I was unjust and stood up to him. Robert Payne quotes Muawiyah in History of Islam as telling his son Yazid to defeat Hussein, who was surely preparing an army against him, but to deal with him gently thereafter as Hussein was a descendent of Muhammad; but to deal with Abdullah al-Zubair switfly, as Muawiyah feared him the most.
Upon the accession of Yazid I, al-Zubayr refused to swear allegiance to the new caliph, and went to Mecca. He advised Husayn bin Ali to make Mecca his base and fight against Yazid.
When Hussain was martyred in Karbala, Ibn al-Zubair collected the people of Mecca and made the following speech:
"O people! No other people are worse than Iraqis and among the Iraqis, the people of Kufa are the worst. They repeatedly wrote letters and called Imam Husayn to them and took bay'at (allegiance) for his caliphate. But when Ibn Zeyad arrived in Kufa, they rallied around him and martyr Imam Husayn who was pious, observed the fast, read the Quran and deserved the caliphate in all respects
After his speech, the people of Mecca declared that no one deserved the caliphate more than Ibn al-Zubair and requested to take an oath of allegiance to his caliphate. When he heard about this, Yazid had a silver chain made and sent to Mecca with the intention of having Walid ibn Utbah arrest Ibn al-Zubair with it.
In Mecca and Medina Husayn's family had a strong support base and the people were willing to stand up for them. Husayn's remaining family moved back to Medina.
Eventually he consolidated his power by sending a governor to Kufa. Soon, Ibn Zubayr established his power in Iraq, southern Arabia and in the greater part of Syria, and parts of Egypt. Ibn Zubayr benefited greatly from widespread dissatisfaction among the populace with Umayyad rule. Yazid tried to end Ibn Zubayr's rebellion by invading the Hejaz, and took Medina after the bloody Battle of al-Harrah. He then invaded the Tihamah and lay siege to Mecca but his sudden death, in 683, ended the campaign and threw the Umayyads into disarray with civil war eventually breaking out.
The Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik then sent against ibn al-Zubayr the general al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. When Hajjaj approached Mecca, he sent a letter to Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr telling him he had three choices; to be taken and chained to Abd al-Malik who was then the caliph of Damascus; to leave by himself wherever he wished, renouncing claim on all the lands he had under his control; or to continue fighting to the death. He then went to his mother (Asma bint Abu Bakr) for advice, and she was over a hundred years old. So Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr said to his mother:
In death I will find peace and tranquility. My people have deserted me, even my children and my family, and I am left with a handful of men around me. And the people (al-Hajjaj) are willing to give me whatever I want from this world (i.e. they would let him leave freely without hindrance). So what is your counsel?
Thereupon Asma replied to her son:
You know better than me your circumstances. But I say to you this: if you know you are upon the truth, go forth and die like your companions; and if you are after this world, then you are the most wretched of men, for you have wasted yourself and those who are with you. And for how long shall you live in this world? And if you are upon the truth, but now that your companions have left you, you have become weak... this is not the action of a free man and a man of the deen.
Then he said, "I am afraid I will be mutilated by the people of al-Sham", to which she replied "My son, a slaughtered goat does not feel the pain when it is skinned". He kissed her upon the forehead and said:
I swear by Allah, this is my opinion. I have no desire to live in this world, for my aspiration is the life of the hereafter, and all my life I have stood up for truth. But I wanted to know your opinion so that your opinion strengthens my opinion!
And then his mother said, “Come closer my son!” When he came closer to her, she embraced him and when she did so, she felt that he had some metal armour on. And she said, “O’ my son! What is this? For people who want Shahaadah don’t wear this!” He said, “O’ my mother! I only did this to comfort you!” She said:
My son, take it off. Tie your belt so when you fall, your ‘awrah is not exposed! Fight with bravery for you are the son of Zubayr and the grandson of Abu Bakr and your grandmother was Safiyyah.
That day he fought bravely and would repel huge numbers of men until finally, they threw a rock upon him and he was on the floor and was still fighting. Then they cut off his leg and finally, they martyred him. And when they martyred him, al-Hajjaj came to the mother of Abdullah and wanted to break her resolve, and he said, “How has Allah dealt with His enemy?” but she answered, “You have ruined his life, but he has ruined for you the hereafter!"
They beheaded Abdullah ibn Zubayr and stuck his body up on a cross. The men of al Hajjaj were saying, “Allahu Akbar, Takbir!” and Abdullah ibn ‘Umar went by and he heard them saying that, and he turned towards his body and said,
I was there the day Abdullah was born and I am here the day he has died, and I heard those who said Takbir the day he was born and I heard those who have said Takbir the day he has died, and I swear by Allah those who said Takbir the day when he was born were far greater than those who have said Takbir today!
The soldiers went to al Hajjaj and said, "Take his body down, it has been up for days.” to which he responded, “I swear by Allah I will not take it down until Asma’ begs me.”
And when they told Asma’ that, she said, “Take me to where the body of my son is.” She made du’a for her son and said, “Isn’t it time that knight of Allah was allowed to come off his horse?” And when they told this to al-Hajjaj, he felt so little and mean that he brought the body down.
Four Umayyad caliphs reigned during the twelve years of Ibn Al-Zubayr's caliphate between 680 and 692. The shorts terms indicated in the upper plot in light blue and yellow correspond to the tenures of Muawiya II and Marwan I, respectively. (Note that a caliph's succession does not necessarily occur on the first day of the new year.)