Al-Khansa bigraphy, stories - Poet

Al-Khansa : biography

575 –

Tumāḍir bint ʿAmr ibn al-Ḥarth ibn al-Sharīd al-Sulamīyah (), usually simply referred to as al-Khansā’ () (translated from Arabic as either "gazelle" or "short-nosed") was a 7th-century Arabic poet. She was born and raised in the Najd region (the central region of modern-day Saudi Arabia). She was a contemporary of Muhammad, and eventually converted to Islam.

In her time, the role of a female poet was to write elegies for the dead and perform them for the tribe in public oral competitions. Al-Khansa’ won respect and fame in these competitions with her elegies for her brothers, Ṣakhr and Muʿāwiyah, who had died in battle. She is the best known female poet in Arabic literature.


Al-Khansa’ was born into a wealthy family of Najd.

In 612, her brother Muʿawiyah was killed by members of another tribe. Al-Khansa’ insisted that her brother, Sakhr, avenge Muʿawiyah’s death, which he did. Sakhr was wounded in the process and died of his wounds a year later. Al-Khansa’ mourned his death in poetry and gained fame for her elegiac compositions.

She met the Islamic prophet, Muhammad in 629 and converted to Islam. He is said to have been very impressed by her poetry.

She had four sons: Yazīd, Muʿāwiyah, ʿAmr, and ʿAmrah, all of whom converted to Islam. She went with her sons who fought in the Battle of Qadisiyah, where all four were killed.

When she received the news, she allegedly did not grieve, but said, "Praise be to Allah who honored me with their martyrdom. And I have hope from my Lord that he will reunite me with them in the abode of his mercy." ()

Critical reception

The contemporaneous Arabic poet al-Nābighah al-Dhubyānī said of her: "al-Khansa’ is the finest poet of the jinn and the humans." () Ibn Qutaybah, al-Shiʿr wa-al-shuʿarā’ (Beirut, 1964)

Another anecdote says that al-Nabigha told al-Khansa "If Abu Basir had not already recited to me, I would have said that you are the greatest poet of the Arabs. Go, for you are the greatest poet among those with breasts." Al-Khansa replied, "I’m the greatest poet among those with testicles, too."Arab women writers: a critical reference guide, 1873-1999, American Univ in Cairo Press, 2008