Sunday, August 1, 2010

Al-Khansa' : A Jahili & Muslim Elegiac Poetess

Tumadir bint 'Amr ibn al-Harth ibn al-Sharid al-Sulamiyah, better known as "al-Khansa' ," is one of the most famous pre-Islamic poets. Her life spanned both the Jahiliyyah and early Islamic periods. Al-Khansa' is most famous for her elegies written in mourning of her two brothers, Mu'awiya and Sakhr, who were killed in inter-tribal fighting and blood feuds. She converted to Islam and is said to have been a poetess favored by the Prophet Muhammad. Her four sons (Yazid, Mu'awiya, 'Amr, and 'Amrah) were killed at the Battle of Qadisiyya in November 636 and she wrote elegies to the as well.

Her name and legacy has been hijacked by transnational jihadi-takfiris who have named two magazines after her. The first, Al-Khansa', was published briefly by Al-Qa'ida in Saudi Arabia, the original Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) before it was dismantled by Saudi security and military forces between 2003 and 2006. Currently, the shadowy transnational jihadi-takfiri media outlet Al-Somood has published two issues of a new magazine dedicated to women in their war entitled Hafidat Al-Khansa' (Granddaughters of Al-Khansa').

Her collection (Diwan) is available for purchase at FADAK BOOKS (an online Arabic book retailer that I recommend).

Below is a brief selection from one of her elegies:

"The herald of the dead announced the loss
Of the most generous man, Sakhr;
And he cried it so loud
That far and wide he was heard.

It wounded me so painfully
That in my misery I looked like a drunken person.
Every morning when I awaken,
The first rays of the sun remind me of him
And every evening when the sun sets
I mourn for him”

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