Sukayna (671–737)

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SUKAYNA (671–737)

Sukayna was the nickname (laqab) of the granddaughter of Fatima (the daughter of the Prophet) and ˓Ali bin Abi Talib. Her full name is variously given as Umayma (according to al-Kalbi) or Amina (according to al-Isbahani) bint Husayn. Her mother was al-Rabab bint Imri˒ al-Qays al-Kalbiyya, a poet, whose father was the reputed military leader of the Kalb.

Having lost both her father and husband (˓Abdallah b. al-Hazan b. Abi Talib) at Karbala, Sukayna moved to Medina, where she acquired a taste for intellectual matters from her mother. In 686 c.e. she married Mus˓ab b. al-Zubayr (d. 691 c.e.), who was killed fighting for his brother, ˓Abdallah, the acknowledged caliph in Medina and Iraq. Then, after a couple of marriages which ended in divorce, she finally wed Zayd b. ˓Umar, the grandson of ˓Uthman b. ˓Affan. She died as his widow at the age of sixty-seven.

A member of the ahl al-bayt (family of the Prophet), Sukayna nevertheless had the reputation of a barza, a woman who is never veiled, entertains men at home, and is recognized for her judgment and sound reasoning. Her bold integrity was expressed politically in her opposition to the Umayyads, and socially, in her marriage contracts, wherein she insisted on her freedom from marital control and demanded the monogamy of her intended husband. Though it was to a hairstyle—al-turra al-Sukayniyya—that she gave her name, Sukayna was, importantly, a lover of the arts: According to Abu Zinad (d. 757), Jarir (d. 728) and Farazdaq (d. 727) were two famous poets whose skills she encouraged, and Ibn Surayj (d. 744), one of the great singers of the Hijazi School, considered himself her protege, and set many of her verses to music.

See alsoAhl al-Bayt ; Law .


Mernissi, Fatima. The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women's Rights in Islam. Translated by Mary Jo Lakeland. Reading, Mass.: Addison Wesley Publishing Co., 1991.

Sanni, Amidu. "Women Critics in Arabic Literary Tradition with Particular Reference to Sukayna bt. al-Husayn." British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (July 1991): 358–366.

Rizwi Faizer