As far as Abu Mikhnaf's reports are concerned, it can be said that he is anti‑Umayyad and in favour of the Imam al‑Husayn, but whether he was actually a Shi’i is questionable. Certainly, he is hostile to both Ibn Ziyad and Yazid; both poke at the teeth in the head of the martyred Imam in his account.
Because of the nature of al‑Tabaris annalistic approach to history, Abu Mikhnaf's beginning of the account is missing, as it does not belong to events of the year 60. Part of it may be preserved by al‑Baladhuri by using the collective term qalu. When the Imam al‑Hasan died the Shi’i in Iraq wrote to the Imam al‑Husayn to ask him to come to lead them. He wrote back reminding them of the agreement that his brother had made with Mu'awiya and promising to lead them. Mu`awiya heard that the people thought that the Imam al‑Husayn would lead them after his death and wrote to him warning him against this. The Imam al‑Husayn wrote back denouncing him. Thus the scene is set for the confrontation on the death of Mu'awiya.
The variety of Abu Mikhnaf's stories and his statement about the majority of the reporters1 suggest that he was reporting from an existing literature. We have already discussed the accounts of al‑Asbagh, Jabir and `Ammar, and it is noticeable that he does not report from them. His work has already been closely examined by Ursula Sezkin; but she did not attempt to reconstruct possible literary sources, despite the thoroughness of her work2.