Fadl (d. around 870)

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Fadl (d. around 870)

Arabian singer and poet who was much beloved as a performer. Born in Basra (now Iraq), date unknown; died in Baghdad, probably in 870 ce; performed in the court of Caliph al-Mutawakki and caliphs al-Muntasir and al-Mutamid.

Different versions are told of Fadl's childhood. In one account, she was the daughter of a slave woman, who originally came from Yamama, and was brought up by the slave woman's master before being sold when she reached adulthood. Fadl and her mother, however, maintained that Fadl's father was the master and that when he died, his son sold her. In yet another version, the master recognized Fadl as a legitimate heir. When he died, one of Fadl's half-brothers sold her in order to prevent her from receiving her fair share of the inheritance due under Islamic law.

No matter what her beginnings, Fadl changed owners several times as a slave before coming to the court of Caliph al-Mutawakki (r. 847–861) of Baghdad. The caliph was enchanted by her talents as a composer and singer as well as her wit and beauty, and Fadl became his favorite. An excellent poet, she often set her poetry to music. In addition, some of her verses were musically arranged by other Arab singers, among them Oraib , who was also famous. The caliph eventually gave Fadl her freedom. Many of her poems were dedicated to the poet Sa'id Ibn Humaid. Later she left him for Bunan Ibn Amr, another favored court singer. When Caliph al-Mutawakki died, Fadl's gifts were equally prized by his successors, al-Muntasir (r. 861–862) and al-Mutamid (r. 870–892).

John Haag , Athens, Georgia