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Samuel Ibn ʿĀdiyā


SAMUEL IBN ʿĀDIYĀ (al-Samawal b. Ghārid Ablaq ; mid-sixth century), poet in *Tayma, Hejaz, N. Arabia. Samuel b. Ādiyā's Arabic poetry ranks with the finest heroic traditional Arabic battle poetry of the pre-Islamic period and shows little trace of Jewish origins and themes. For a time he resided in the citadel of Ablaq near Tayma and was called "King of Tayma" by the local Arabs. His mother was an Arab of the Ghassan tribe. He was Jewish, although Shaikho, the Jesuit who published his diwan, attempted to prove that he was a Christian, or at least belonged to a Judaeo-Christian sect. He lived to be an old man and was known for his loyalty and fulfillment of pledges. When the noble Imruʾal-Qays deposited his arms in Samuel's home, and the castle was besieged by his enemies after he left for Byzantium, Samuel allowed his own son to be killed rather than surrender Imru's arms to the invader. This act earned him lasting fame among Arabs, and he is the subject of several poems by later authors. A popular proverb on the extent of one's loyalty was coined, "more loyal than Samuel" (Ar. Awfā min al-Samawʾal). His descendants were landowners in the region of Taima during the Umayyad dynasty and later converted to Islam. Moses Ibn Ezra in his book Shirat Israel (Helper edition, 49) notes Samuel as a Jewish poet. One of his sons and a grandson are said to have been poets, too.


Nine poems and fragments attributed to Samuel were collected by the philologist Nifṭawayh (d. 935). Most scholars agree that these poems were composed by a Jew but doubt that all were written by Samuel. The first poem is considered an example of classical Arabic poetry. Called Lāmiyyat al-Samawʾal, it expounds the virtues of purity of blood, generosity, honor, and strength. The battles of his people and their deaths on the battlefield are extolled, indicating the extent of the cultural assimilation of the Jews to Arab society. The second poem, however, expresses his belief in resurrection and glorifies the kings and prophets of Israel, also mentioning the splitting of the Red Sea. Its philological importance lies in the rhyming of certain stanzas as an aid to exegesis of the *Koran and in the traces of the Arabic dialect of the Jewish tribes. Poem number 6 exalts the fortress of Samuel's father and his loyalty to Imruʾal-Qays. A 26-line poem attributed to Samuel appears in the collection edited by Sheikho, who interpreted the phrase "our prophet came and brought peace to all men" as evidence of the poet's Christian origin. His opinion has been contested, as the poem possesses a koranic style and hence indicates its later composition by a Jew refuting Muslim claims. A fragment from the Cairo *Genizah, signed Samuel of the *Qurayẓa (al-Quraẓi) tribe, had previously been attributed to Samuel ibn ʿĀdiyā. H.Z. Hirschberg, however, presumes that the author wrote this poem during the period of struggle between the Jews and *Muhammad, and therefore is not Samuel ibn ʿĀdiyā. Hirschberg sees the influence of the Jewish aggadah and Midrash in Samuel's poetry, rather than their Koranic adaptations. Schwartzbaum perceives these verses as poetic examples of the Israi'liyyāt and Qiṣaṣ al-Anbiyāʾ literature. The Muslim–Arab legends are literature which draws upon Jewish aggadic and midrashic sources, and especially upon the Jewish elements in the Koran.


H. Hirschfeld, in: jqr, o.s. 15 (1903), 167–179; H.Z. Hirschberg, Yisrael ba-'Arav (1946), 242ff.; idem, Diwan des As-Samauʾal Ibn ʿAdyāʾ (1931); Baron, Social2, 3 (1957), 72f.; I. Lichtenstaedter, in: paajr, 10 (1939), 192. add. bibliography: H. Schwartzbaum-Ben-Yaacov, in: Horev, 5 (1939), 169–89; A. Goren, in: Ariel, 42 (1976), 55–65.

[Shmuel Moreh /

Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky (2nd ed.)]

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