Khansa (c. 575–c. 645)

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Khansa (c. 575–c. 645)

Arabian poet. Name variations: al-Khansa. Born Tumadir bint Amr ibn al Harith ibn al Sharid in Najd, a central plateau in Arabia, around 575; died around 645 or 646; of the tribe Sulaim, a branch of Qais; sister of Sakhr and Mu'awiya (also seen as Moawiya); married Mirdas ben Abi 'Amir; children: six, including at least four sons and a daughter 'Amra who also wrote poetry.

Khansa, an Arabian poet of the tribe Sulaim, a branch of Qais, was born around 575 and raised in an atmosphere of wealth and privilege. Refusing the offer of Duraid ibn us-Simma, a great poet, warrior, and prince, because he had been chosen for her, she married Mirdas and had six children; her daughter 'Amra also wrote poetry. Before 632, the first year of the Muslim calendar, Khansa lost her brothers Sakhr and Mu'awiya in battle with warring tribes. Her elegies written about them, as well as those about her father, made Khansa the most famous poet of her time. In a poetry contest at the fair of 'Ukaz Nabigha Dhubyani, it is said that A'isha was first among the poets then present and Khansa was second above Hassan ibn Thabit.

Along with her tribe, Khansa accepted Islam somewhat late. Though she led a delegation to Medina in 629, she persisted in wearing a hairshirt, the heathen sign of mourning, against the precepts of Islam. Her four sons fought in the armies of Islam and were slain in the battle of Kadisiya (Qadisiya). Omar wrote her a letter congratulating her on their heroic end and offered her a pension. Khansa died in her tent around 645. Opinion was divided among later critics as to whether Khansa or Layla al-Akhyaliyya was the greater poet. About 1,000 of Khansa's verses are extant. Her dewan (account book) was edited by L. Cheikho (Beirut, 1895) and translated into French by De Coppier (Beirut, 1889).

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Khansa (c. 575–c. 645)

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