The Ash'abah (roughly translated as unclean people) are an ancient and secretive tribe of Redguards who inhabit the northern wastes of Hammerfell, roaming the Alik'r Desert. They are shunned by Redguard society due to their "unclean" interactions with the risen dead, as they disregard religious taboos and destroy the undead, slaying with great skill what might be honored ancestors returned. Against the widespread distrust of magic, the Ash'abah perform rituals of purification for mausoleums and other places where vengeful spirits might arise, including an annual ceremony at Tu'whacca's Throne meant to ensure the rest of the ranks of Redguard royalty. This activity is regarded as blasphemous, but tolerated due to the necessity of its performance. The Ash'abah consider the body to be sacred. If one ever becomes corrupted by necromancy, they strive to preserve the body while banishing the unholy essence. To achieve this, they have developed highly ritualistic methods of killing that involve uttering pleas of forgiveness and apology.
The origins of the Ash'abah can be traced back to the First Era when the Yokudan Ra Gada were migrating to Hammerfell. Settlers from the island of Yath began to established colonies along the coast, but were met by resistance from a native Altmer tribe called the Corelanya.
By 1E 853 the Yokudans were led by King Xakhwan, who in a final push to drive the Corelanya from Hammerfell, sent his two sons to kill their leader. Prince Haqmir and Sameer led the charge into a valley known as the Ash'abah Pass, and were successful in killing their leader. Unexpectedly, the Corelanya tricked the Yokudans into leaving King Xakhwan vulnerable. They infiltrated the king's palace and killed him, then reanimated his corpse to use against the Yokudans. This presented prince Sameer and Haqmir with a dilemma. Yokudan laws were sacred and their father was now considered "honored dead". To harm their father would have meant dishonoring themselves, which in turn would have resulted in their exile. Conversely, the brothers refused to leave their father as a walking undead husk. The brothers came to an agreement that one of them would deal with their father and accept exile, while the other would take their father's place as king. Which brother accepted this sacrifice (known later as "the first sacrifice") is lost to history, but ultimately the raised corpse of King Xakhwan was killed.[nb 1]
The prince was dishonored and left the colony. He went on to start a family and a tribe in exile. They wandered the desert as nomads and became known as the Ash'abah. The other became king and ruled peacefully until years later when he faced the threat of necromancers. The former prince led his tribe against the necromancers and saved the colony. He accepted the dishonor of fighting undead to save the kingdom, and thus the Ash'abah's role in the Alik'r was established.
Despite being pariahs, the tribe managed to survive into the Second Era (some Crowns of the time attributed their remarkable hardiness to secret support from some Forebears). They are said to continue the work first started by the three great Ansei who formed the Ansei Wards. Despite being exiled to the wastes, the Ash'abah were still taxed.
Around 2E 556, Sentinel came under threat from an undead army led by Suturah, a disgruntled adviser to King Fahara'jad. It is said the king personally (but secretly) appealed to the exiled tribe for help. The Ash'abah headman, Marimah, agreed, though the terms he set are unknown. The Ash'abah mounted a surprise attack which employed forbidden mystical means and destroyed the invaders. Publicly, Fahara'jad credited their destruction to the intervention of the Eight Divines.
In 2E 582, the sons of Suturah formed a necromatic cult called Withered Hand, and threatened the Alik'r with attacks from risen dead. Led by the brothers Uwafa and Alasan, they plotted to take revenge on Fahara'jad. They began by poisoning the Ash'abah tribe, which killed chief Marimah and severely weakened the rest. They then stole the Ansei Wards from the Impervious Vault in Sentinel, allowing them to raise more powerful undead. Once again, King Fahara'jad asked for the help of the Ash'abah to recover the Wards and deal with the undead. With the aid of their newest member, the Ash'abah ended the undead threat to the Alik'r once more.
- Exiled from Exile, Volume 7 by Yasra al-Ash'abah — The tale of a man and his daughter's encounter with a cult of Daedra worshippers
- Sacrilege and Mayhem in the Alik'r by Doctor Tazhim of the Bureau of Outlander Affairs — A Report to the Royal Family of Hegathe
- Members of the Hew's Bane Thieves Guild Answer Your Questions — Walks-Softly, Kari Coin-Counter, Velsa, Zeira, Thrag, Andarri
- The Improved Emperor's Guide to Tamriel: Hammerfell — Flaccus Terentius, 2E 581
- Correct Ways of Slaying Ra-Netu: 12
- Prince Haqmir's dialogue in ESO
- Vizier Yeqdah's dialogue in ESO
- The Initiation quest in ESO
- Talia at-Marimah's dialogue in ESO
- Sacrilege and Mayhem in the Alik'r — Doctor Tazhim of the Bureau of Outlander Affairs
- Exiled from Exile, Volume 7 — Yasra al-Ash'abah
- Restoring the Ansei Wards quest in ESO