/ No. 2 July 2013 / Ibrahim Mumayiz – Zuhayr ibn Abi Selma

Ibrahim Mumayiz – Zuhayr ibn Abi Selma

Administrator on 13/02/2014 - 01:16 in No. 2 July 2013

Zuhayr  ibn  Abi Selma

Prof. dr. Ibrahim Mumayiz


He was born c. 520 C.E in al-Hajer, Nejd (south of modern Riyadh). While still a young boy his father died and his mother was remarried to ‘Aws b. Hajar (d. 620) who cared for him and taught him poetry and Zuhayr used to recite his own verse to his step-father. The young poet inherited the talent for versification from his father and his uncle Bishama b. al-Ghadeer. His sister was the celebrated poetess al-Khansaa’. Zuhayr was known among his contemporaries for his outstanding poetic eloquence, and for sapiential sayings in verse. Omar b. al-Khattab, the Second Caliph, said of him that he was the most poetic of poets, and that he never praised the undeserving.

Zuhayr first married “Umm Awfa” who appears in the first line of his Mucuallaqa as part of the atlal motif which shows that he considered her his ‘beloved’ in the traditional ‘atlal’ conventions, and not just as a wife. She produced a number of children for him all of whom died young, and which probably made him  see her as a disappointment, and which prompted him to take another wife, Kebsha b. Ammar b. Suhaim who gave birth to his two sons, Kcab and Bujayr. Umm Awfa then grew jealous and malicious and attempted to hurt him. He divorced her but deeply regretted that in his verse.

The most notable feature of the Mucuallaqa of Zuhayr is the celebration of a private act of munificence which brought the war between the two tribes of ‘Abs and Dhubyan to an end over “Dahis and Ghabraa”; two horses from each tribe who competed in a race. Cheating in this horserace led to bloodshed which sparked off a war between the two tribes. By the self-sacrificing intervention of two chiefs of Dhubyan Harim b. Sinan and Harith b. cAwf, the whole sum of blood money to which the Absites were entitled was paid to them due to the greater numbers on their side who were killed. Such an example of selfless patriotism merited the praise of  Zuhayr of  whom it was said he never praised men but for what they deserved.

The Mucuallaqa also has a memorable account of a lawless brigand, Husayn  b. Dhamdham who almost caused a fresh outbreak of hostilities after the prolonged assiduous efforts of peace-making. Zuhayr is also remembered for his sententious sapiential sayings which have become household proverbs in the Arab world and part of the educational curriculae of secondary schools.

There are several references to monotheism in his poetry, including his Mucuallaqa, which raises suggestions, especially by Fr. Lewis Cheikhu, that he might have been a Christian. Brocklemann, however disagrees. Notwithstanding the widespread presence of Christianity in pre-Islamic Arabia, he does not think that Zuhayr was a Christian, and that he remained an adherent to the pagan Arab faith of his forefathers

Zuhayr lived to a great age, and died just before Mohammad proclaimed his mission, though it is related that when he was a centenarian he met the Prophet who cried out “O God! Protect me from his demon”; the Arabs then believed that poets owed their inspiration to djinn (genii), sometimes called shayateen (satans). Zuhayr was world-weary towards the end of his life, as a verse in his Mucuallaqa shows.


 Selected Bibliography:

R.A. Nicholson Literary History of the Arabs (New York: Charles Scribner, 1907) Reissued by Kessinger Publications (undated) pp 116-118 ; Ibn Salam Tabaqat al-shcuaraa’ (Cairo: al-Madani Press, 1974) Vol.1, p.51; Ibn Qutayba al-shicr wal shcuaraa’ (Beirut: Dar al-Thaqafa, undated) Vol. 1 p.76 ; cUmar Farrukh Tarikh al-adab alcarabi (Beirut: Dar al-cIlm lil malayeen, 1984) Fifth ed. Vol.1 p.195; Abul Faraj al-Isfahani Al-Aghani  Abdul Sattar Farraj, ed. (Beirut: Dar al-Thaqafa, 1983) Vol. 10,pp 303,313,321; Fr. Lewis Cheikhu  Shcuaraa’ al-nasraniya (Beirut: Dar al-Mashriq, 1967)Vol. 1 p. 510; Carl Brocklemann (Abdul Halim Najjar, trans). Tarikh al-Adab al-cArabi ( Cairo: Dar al-Mcaarif bi misr, undated) Vol.1p. 95


The Mucuallaqa of Zuhayr ibn Abi Selma

1-  أمِنْ  أم ِّ أوفى دِمـنـَة ٌ  لم تـَكـَلـم ِ                        بـِحـَومـَانـة الـَـدّراج ِ  فـالــمـُتـَلثــّم ِ

1.   At “Umm Awfa”(1)  silent is the soot of yore’s home fire

When of “Darraj”(2) and “Mutathallim”(3)  I inquire.

2- ودارٌ لـها بالرَ قمَـــتــين ِ كــأنـــها                      مَرَاجـِـيعُ  وَشْـم ٍ في نواشِـر مِعـْصَم ِ

  1. Two homes(4), apart, she has that bare have been laid

Like some faded tattoos that on a wrist were made

3- بـِـها العَـيْنُ و الأرْام يَمْـشَـيْنَ خِلفـَة ً           وألهلا ؤها يَنـْهضْــنَ من كـُل ِّمَجْثــَم ِ

  1. There, flocks of deer, and of oryx wide-eyed,

Forward walk, with their young stepping on beside

4- وَقفـْـتُ  بـها مِـن بَعْد ِ عِـشْـرين حِجَّة               فـَلأيـاً عَـرفـْتُ الـدّارَ بـعد تـَـوهــّـم

  1. After twenty years, at her ruined abode I stood

But I hardly knew it; to know it well I should.

5- أثــافيَّ سُـفـْعـاً في مــعرَّس ِ مِـــرْجَل ٍ               ونـُـؤيـاً  كجـذ ْم ِ الحوْض ِ لم يـَـتـَثـَـلَّم ِ

  1. But the cooking-pot stones were where they’d once been laid

And the all-round rain barrier (5) still intact had stayed.

6- فـَلـَـمّا عَرَفـْتُ الدارَ قـُـلـت ُ لـِرَبْعـِها         ألا انـْعَـمْ صَبَاحاً ايـّها الـرَّبْْع ِ و اسْــلم ِ

  1. It was the house indeed , as far as I could tell

“Good morn to you” I said “May you fare safe and well”.

 7- تـَبـَصَّـر خليليَّ هَلْ ترى مِـنْ ظعائِـن ٍ        تـَتـَحمَّـلنَ بالعَلياء  مـِنْ فوق ِ جُرْ ثـُم ِ

  1. Look friends! behold the belles that yonder howdahs bear(6)

O’er “Jurthum”(7), well on their way they fare.

8-  جـَعـَلنَ القـنانَ عَن ْ يمين ٍ و حَزْنـَه ُ          وكـم ْ بالــقنان ِ من مُحــِل ٍّ و مُــحْرم ِ

8.  “Al-Qinan” (8) was on their right (9), high from level ground

With its honest men, and rogues lurking all around.

9-  عَلـَـوْن َ بأنـماط ِعِتـَاق ٍ وَ كِــــلـَّـةٍ            ورَادٍ حواشــيها مُــــشاكِهـةِ الـــــــدّم ِ

9.  With fine, light fabrics their howdahs were widely spread

Inside, they reclined on cushions dyed brightest red.

10- وَوَرّكـْنَ في السُّويان ِ يَعْـلونَ مَـتنَهُ                   عَليــهـِـنَّ دَلُّ الــناعـِـــم ِ المُــــتنـَعِّـم ِ

10. The slope’s steep upward trail on foot they had to take.

An effort hard for such soft-living belles to make.

11- بَكـَرْنَ بُـكُوراً  واسْـتحَرْنَ بسُحرة ٍ                   فـَهُــنَّ ووادي الــرّسّ كالــــيد ِ للفـَم ِ

11. Leaving Early, trav’lling late, well they knew their way

To “al-Rass”(10),as one’s hand knows where one’s own mouth lay.

12- وفيهُـنَّ مَلهىً  للطـيف ِ ومَنــظـَرٌ                 أنــيقٌ لـِعَين ِ النــــاظر ِ المُـتوسِّـــــم ِ

12. To a beholder to watch, they were pure delight

Comely and neatly dressed, were such a perfect sight.

13- كأنَ فـُـتاتَ العـِهْـن ِ في كل مَنزل ٍ               نـَزلـــنَ بـه ِ حَــبُّ الفـَنـَا لـــم يُحَطـَم ِ

13. When they alight, falling bits of wool dyed bright red

Are like reddish foxgrape ere their redness is shed.(11)


14- فلما وَردنَ  المـاءَ زُرْ قــا ً جـمامُهُ             وضَـعـْن عِصِــيَّ الحـاضِـرالمُـتـَخيــّم

14. They stopped to drink. The well’s water was clear and high

They wanted to stay, as if striking tents nearby.

15- ظـَهـَرْنَ مـِنْ السُّوبان ثـُمَ جَزَعْـنَهُ              على كُــــلِّ قيـْنيّ ٍ قـَشـيــبٍ ومـُـفأم ِ

15. They reached “Suban”(12), and then onward  their way they made

As they in their howdah’s cool spacious comfort laid.

16- فأقـسَـمتُ بالبيتِ الذي طافَ حَوله                   رجالٌ بَـنُــوهُ من قـُــريش ٍ و جُرهُم ِ

16. I swore by th’House (13) which men circumambulated,

Men of “Quraysh” and of “Jurhum”(14) who had built it.

17- يـميناً لـَنِعْــم  السَّـيّدان ِ وُجدْتــــما                  على كُـل ٍ حال ٍ مِنْ سَحيل ٍ و مُبْـرم ِ

17. In truth, worthy you will be praised for what you’ve assailed,

In ease and in hardship, steadfast you’ve well prevailed(15)

18- تداركتـُما عَبْـساً و ذبـــيانَ بَــعدَما            تفـــانوا و دَقـَّـوا بَينَهم عِــطرَ مَـنـْشَم ِ

18.   You stopped the ‘Abs-Dhubyan war which both could have doomed,

And all those slain whom “Mansham”(16) had perfumed.

     19- وقد قـُلتـُـما: إن نـُدْرك السّـلم واسعاً         بمال ٍ ومعروف ٍ مِن ِ القــول ِ نـَسْـلم ِ

19.You said: A poss’ble  lasting peace we all could see

With money, and good deeds, from war we could be free .(17)

20- فاصْبـَحتـُما منها على خـَير مَوطِن ٍ          بعــيدين فيــها مِـنْ عقوق ٍ و مـأثــَم ِ

20. By so doing you have done yourselves so much good  (18)

From sin of sev’ring blood ties, well away you stood.(19)

21- عَظيمَين في عُــليا مــَعَدٍّ هُــدَيتـُما                   ومَنْ يَـستـبـحْ كنزاً من المَجْد يَعظـُم ِ

21. In the glories of “Mcaad” (20), greatest you have seemed

For he who win’s glory’s treasure, great will he be deemed

22- تـُعـْـفى الكـُلومُ بالمِئينَ فأصْـبَحتْ                    يـُنـَجـّمُها مـَنْ ليس فيـها بمُــجْـرم ِ

22. Through such pedigree camels, wounds are fully healed (21)

For use as stars (22) by those (23) who to no crime did yield.


23- يـُـنجـّمـُها قومٌ لـِقـوم ٍ غـَرامَة ً                          يـُهـَريَـقـوا بَـينـَهـُمْ مـِلءَ مِـحْـجـَم ِ

23.  Those who the blood money assess for the war dead

Have not  blood-letting cupful  of blood had shed.

24- فأصْبـَحَ يجري فيهُـمُ مِنْ ثلادكـُمْ            مـَغانـِمُ شتى مِـنْ إفـال ٍ مُـــزَنـَّم ِ

24. For another tribe’s use, one tribe these foals have paid

Though not a cup of blood had they in payment made (24)

25- ألا أبْـلِـغ ِ الأحْلافَ عَـنّي رسالة ً                   وذ ُبيـــان َهــلْ أقسَـمْـتـُمُ كــلّ مُـقسَــم ِ

25. To the allies, from me, this one message convey

To Dhubyan: will you faithful to the sworn peace stay?

26- فلا تـَـكـْـتـُمَنَّ الله ما في نفوسِـكُم ْ                    ليخفـْى ومَـــهمَا يـُكـْـتـَم ِ الله يَعْــلـم ِ

26. Do not hide from God what is in your breast concealed.

For whate’er is concealed, to God is well revealed

27- يُؤَخر فـَيوضَعْ في كتاب ٍ فـيُدّخـَر                   لــيوم الحـسابِ او يُعجَّــلْ فـيـُنـقـَم ِ

27. What you conceal, the charge ‘gainst you God will defer

Till Judgment Day, or, you’ll now his vengeance incur.


28- وما الحَربُ إلا ما عَـلمْـتـُم وذقـْـتـُم ْ               وما هو عَــنها بالحَــديثِ المُـرجَّــم ِ

28. War is what you’ve known of it, and tasted it well,

Not what idle, baseless chatter of it would tell.

29- متى تـَبعَـثوها تـَبعثــُوها ذميمة                    و تـَـضـْـرَ إذا ضـَرّيتـُمُـوها فتضرَم ِ

29. Should you wage war, what’s loathsome and vile is what you’d wage.

Kindle it, and out of control it’ll wildly rage.

30- فـَتعْرُكـُكـُم ْعَـركَ الرّحى بـثـِفـالـِها         وتـَـلـقـحْ  كِـشافاً ثم تـُـنـْـتـَج فـَــتـُـتـْـئِم ِ

30. Like grinding stone, it’ll grind your roughage and your grain.

And breed, like camel that had given birth to twain (25)


31- فـتـُـنـْـتجْ لكُم غـِلمانَ أشأمَ كُــــلّهمْ                     كــأحْمر عادٍ ثـــم تـُرضعْ فـَــتفـْطم ِ

31.  It will beget young, who ill-omened e’er will be deemed

like cAad; its young suckled, and at long last, weaned.(26)

32- فـَـتـُغللْ لكُ ما لا تـــــُغلّ لأهلــها                    قـُــرىً بالعراق ِ مِـنْ فقير ٍ  ودِرْهَم ِ

32. It will give you such harvest of bounty and gain (27)

One that Iraq’s vill’ges ne’er had in coin or grain.(28)


33- لـعَـمْري لنِـعْمَ الحَيِّ جَـرَّ عليهـِم ِ                      بما لا يُـؤتيهمْ حُصَينُ بن ضَـمْضَم ِ

33. By life! Hail to the hay who suffered the rash move

Of Husain bin Dhamdham that so harmful did prove.(29)

  34- وكانَ طوى كـَشـْحاً على مـُسْـتـَكنـَّة ٍ         فـلا هــو ابْــــداها ولــــم يـَتـــــــقدَّم ِ

 34. He meant to keep in strict secrecy his intent (30)

And to do his dastard deed, was on vengeance bent.

35- وقـــالَ سأقضي جاجَتي ثـــم اتــَّـقي         عـــدُوِّي بألف مِـنْ ورائــــي مُـلـجم ِ

35. Said he: I’ll do my deed, my foe I’ll face sans fear

With a thousand bitted horse close by at my rear.(31)


36- فــــَشدَّ فلمْ يُــفزع ْ بـُـــيـُوتاً كـــثيرة ً             لـــدى حيثُ ألقتْ رَحْــلها أمُّ قـــشعم ِ

36. He fought and slew his man, but his hand he stayed

From tents who knew not of the war that had been waged (32)

37- لدى أسَد ٍ شاكي السّـلاح ِ مُـقـَذ َّف ِ                 لـــهُ لِــــبَـــدٌ أظـــفارُهُ لــمْ تـــُـقـلــَّم ِ

37. Full armed was he, for battle ever was prepared

A maned lion was he, whose claws had never been pared (33)


38- جرئ ٍ متى يـُـظلــَمْ يُعاقِــبْ بظـُـلمه ِ               ســـريعاً و إلا يـُـبْــدَ بالظلم ِ يَـــظلم ِ

  38. When wronged, his retribution is quite swift and bold.

Even if wronged not, he’d never his might withhold.

39- رَعَوا ظـِـمأهـُمْ حتى إذا تـم َّ أوردوا               غـِماراً تـفـَرّى بالسّــلاح ِ و بالـــدَم ِ

    39. When they their thirst had quenched, of more drink felt in need,

Midst bloodshed and arms-clash they dared the direst deed.

40- فـَقــَضَّوا منايا بَينـَهُم ثم اصدروا                 إلى كـَــلأ مُـــستـَوبَــــل ٍ مُـــتوخـِّـم ِ

  40. One another they slew, then their war adjourned

But resumed, like camels that to vile pasture returned.(34)

41- لعَـمركَ ما جَرَّتْ عليهمْ رماحُهُمْ             دَمَ ابن ِ نهــيك ِ أوْ قــَـتـْـل ِ المُــثــَّـلم ِ

  41. Upon your life their spears from killing did refrain:

                                          “Ibn Nuhayk” and he at “Muthallam” were slain (35)

42- ولاشارَكـَتْ في الموتِ في دم ِ نوفل ٍ              ولا وَهْب ٍ مــنهاً و لا ابن ِ المُـــخرَّم ِ

42. The blood of “Ibn Nawfal” was not in that war shed

Nor there “wahab” and “Ibn Mukhazzam” had bled(36)


43- فكــــــُلا ً أراهُمْ أصبَحوا يعقـِلـُونــَهُ               صحيحات ِ مال ٍ طالعات ٍ بمَـــخـّـرم ِ

43. I see them all, blood money they’re ready to pay.

As thousands of camels to payment make their way (37)

44- لـِحَيّ ٍ حـِلال ٍ يَعْـصمُ الناسَ أمرُهُمْ              إذا طـَـرَقــتْ إحدى اللـــيالي بمُعـْظم ِ

44. They are for the folk who close to each other dwell.(38)

Who’d stand fast if, on black nights, foes upon them fell.

45- كرام ٍ فلا ذو الضـِّغن ِ يُدْركُ تـبْـلهُ              ولا الـــجارمُ الجانيَ عليْــهمْ بمُـسْــلـَم ِ

45. They’re honest folk, vengeance ‘pon them one could not wreak.

They’d keep their own felons if strangers them should seek.

46- سَـئِمــتُ تكاليفَ الحياة ِ ومَن يَعـِشْ              ثمانــينَ حَـــولاً  لا ابـــــا لكَ يســـأم ِ

46. Of life’s hardships weary I’ve grown. Who lives to see

Eighty years, sans father, will weary of life be.

47- و أعْلمُ ما في اليوم ِ و الامس ِ قبْـلهُ             و لكنني عن عِـلم ِ ما في غد ٍ عَـمِــي

47. I know what passed today, and in the day before.

But of tomorrow, I’m blind and can know no more

48- رأيتُ المنايا خَـبْط َ عَشواءَ مَنْ تـُصبْ                تـُمتـْهُ ومنْ تخــطئ يُـــعمَّـرْ فيهرَم ِ

48. I see death’s random strikes, who it strikes, it slays

who it misses will to old age live out his days

49- ومَنْ لـــم يُصانعْ في امـــور ٍ كثــــيرة ٍ            يُضـَّرسَ بأنـــياب ٍ ويوطأ بـــمنسَم ِ

49. And he who with others will not tactfully deal,

him will molars chew, and camel pads’ weight he’ll feel (39)

50- ومَنْ يجعل المعروف مـِنْ دون عـِـرضه ِ         يَـفـْرهُ ومَنْ لا يتـَّق ِ الشـَـتمَ يـُـشتم ِ

50. Who puts honor beneath good, his honor will lose. (40)

He will be abused who does not avoid abuse.(41)

51- ومَنْ يَـكُ  ذا فضل ٍ فيَبْـخـــل بفضلـِه ِ               على قومـِه ِ يُستغـْنَ عَـنـْهُ و يُـذمَم ِ

51. Who’s well-favored, but to his kin favors denied,

Will be dispensed with, and by his people reviled.

52- ومَنْ يوف ِ لا يُذمَمْ ومَنْ يُــهْد قلبَــــهُ                الى مُطمَــئِــن ِ البــِرِّ لا يتجــمْـجَم ِ

52. Who keeps his word won’t be reviled, whose heart is bent

On doing good will ne’er falter in his intent.

53- ومَنْ هابَ أسبابَ المنايا يَــنـَلنـَهُ                   ولو رَامَ  أسبَابَ السَّـــماءِ بــِسـُـلـَّــم ِ

  53. Who fears causes of death, and far away he flies,

Will be caught by death, though he ladder-climbs to the skies

54- ومَنْ يَجْعل ِ المعروف في غيرأهـلـِه ِ             يكــــُنْ حَـمدُهُ  ذمّـاً عــــليه ويَنـْـــدم ِ

54.  He who does good to those who deserve it not

Abuse will be his thanks; regret will be his lot.

55- ومَنْ يَعْص ِ أطرافَ الزِّجاج ِ فـأنـَّه              يُــطيعُ العوالي رُكـّـبَتْ  كـلَّ  لــَهْذم ِ

55.  And he who chooses to ignore a speare’s blunt end

With its sharpest front spike he’ll be forced to contend (42)

56- ومَنْ لم يَذ ُد عن حَوضـِه ِ بسلاحِه ِ             يُهـــدَّم ومَنْ لايَـــظلِم الــناس ِ يُظـْـلــَم ِ

56. Ruined he’ll be who won’t for his land and folk fend.

Who wrongs others not, won’t ‘gainst wrong himself defend. (43)

57- ومَنْ يَغتربْ يَحْسَبْ عدوّاً صَديقــَهُ              ومَنْ لايُـكــــرِّمْ  نــَفسَــــــهُ لايُــــكـَرَّم ِ

57. A stranger far from home a foe as friend will see.

He who honors himself not, will ne’er honored be.

58- ومَهما تـَكـُنْ عِـنـْدَ امرئ ٍ من خليقةٍ              وان خالهـا تـَخفى على الناس ِ تـُـعْـلم ِ

58. Whate’er traits one has which from others he’d concealed

Though one thinks they’re hidd’n, to others are well revealed.

59- وَكائن ترى مـِـنْ صامت ٍ لك مُعْجب                  زيادُتـُـهُ  أو نـَـقصُهُ في التـَكـَلــّم ِ

59.  A silent one’s silence you may admire and praise

But when he speaks his worth will see a fall – or raise.

60- لِـسَانُ الفتى نِـصفٌ ونصفٌ فؤادُهُ                         فلــَمْ يَـبْقَ ألا صُورَةُ اللحم ِوالدم ِ

60. Man is half heart, half tongue; they both do Man sustain.

Nothing else but image of flesh and blood remain.

61- وإن ســَفـَـاة  الشيخ ِ لا حِــلمَ بَــعْدهُ              وإنّ الفتى بَعْدَ السفاهة ِ يَحْـــــلـُم ِ

61. After a crass life, th’old could not with wisdom glow

But youth, after a crass phase, may to wisdom grow.

62- ســـــألنا فأعْطيتـُم وعُـدْنا فـــَعُـدتـُمْ              ومَنْ أكثـرَ التسألَ  يوماً سَــيُحرَم ِ

62. We asked, you gave; we asked again and you’ve complied

But he who asks often, will one day be denied.




(1) Umm Awfa: Zuhayr’s wife.

(2) Darraj: A location in Najd

(3) Mutathallim: Also a location in Najd. The verse is a standard example of the atlal   syndrome – weeping over the deserted campsite – with which practically all pre-Islamic qasidas invariably begin

(4) She has two homes, one near Bosra, and the other near Medina . Both are devastated by flash floods which leave only traces of their former prosperity.

(5) An earthen barrier surrounded the lower part of the tent to prevent rain water from flooding in inside.

(6) He is recollecting nostalgically. They had left this encampment twenty years ago.

(7) A stretch of water belonging to the Beni Assad

(8) Al-Qinan: A mountain of the Beni Assad.  Al-Zawzani, citing al-Asma’i says that Al-Qinan is populated by both honest men with scruples and unscrupulous rogues and bandits

(9) their right: referring to the departing women in their howdas.

(10) Al-Rass: A valley of ponds and wells belonging to the Beni Assad.

(11) The howdahs are ornamentally bedecked with tufts of red wool. When camels kneel for women to alight the tufts, which he likens to red foxgrape which turns dark violet when ripe, fall off.

(12) Suban: A valley they had to cross twice.

(13) The House: The Ka’ba in Mecca.

(14)  In pre-Islamic times the ritual of circumambulation –tawaf –  also practiced by the pagan Arabs.

(15) “Jurhum”: The original Meccan tribe, succeeded by Quraysh.

(16) The two worthies he is praising are Harim b. Sinan and al-Harith b. ‘Awf for their salutary, commendable efforts in bringing the war between ‘Abs and Dhubyan to an end and offering to pay the deads’ blood money.

(17) Mansham was an itinerant perfume seller. Tribesmen who ritually wore his perfume before going into battle were invariably killed . “Mansham’s perfume” then became a byword for ill-omen, and death.

(18)& (19) He is referring to the two worthies mentioned in verse 17.By their commendable intercessionary efforts to bring the ‘Abs-Dhubyan war to an end, the two worthies have done so much good.-Turning away from those one is connected to by blood was considered an abominable sin.

(20) Mcaad: The greatest tribal confederation in pre-Islamic Arabia.

(21) Pedigree camels, as blood-money, fully heal the wounds of war.

(22) camels could be used as time-pieces, a certain time  to be assigned to each of the camel’s  functions and activities.

(23) “by those” refers to the two peacemakers of the previous verse. The second hemistich means that the two peacemakers could follow the effects of their peace-making efforts with reference to the daily and seasonal activity of the camels they have negotiated as blood-money payments.

(24)  This refers to the peace settlement between ‘Abs and Dhubyan. The camel foals were part of the settlement paid by the one tribe to the other, although those paying had not participated in the fighting themselves. They willingly made the payments to bring about a final and lasting peace.

(25) Twain: twins,  meaning that war is prolific in what it breeds.

(26) The war could drag on for the length of time it would take a camel to suckle, wean its young, and see them to adulthood, almost three years. The aftermath of war will be as ill-omened as the legendary people of cAad  who perished for their depravities.

(27) The meaning of this verse is ambiguous. It may mean that a peaceful resolution of war would bring as much bounty and gain as were enjoyed by the rich and fertile villages of Iraq.

(28) This verse may also mean that war will provide you with nothing but suffering and pain, as plentiful as the harvests of rich Iraqi villages.

(29)Husain bin Dhamdham’s brother was slain by a man from cAbs before the truce. WhencAbs and Dhubyan agreed on peace Husain vowed on vengeance. He kept out of sight to avoid agreeing to the  peace settlement. He finally had his vengeance by killing a man from cAbs. This verse laments that Husain’s deed was against Dhubyan’s tribal interests which lay in consolidating the peace.

(30) He is referring to Husain b. Dhamdham, of the previous verse

(31) bitted: with metal bits in their mouths, i.e fully harnessed.(32) He slew only his man, and did not accost others.

(33) In praise of Husain b. Dhamdham

(34)They returned to warring with one another like camels who had grazed unwholesome pasture     detrimental to their health, yet returned to graze there yet again.

(35) “Ibn Nuhayk” and “the one slain at Muthallam” were killed before the war and thus “their spears” are absolved of their blood, and the two casualties were not included in the causes of the conflict.

(36). Those named in this and the previous verse were killed before the war and thus should not be included in blood-money settlements.

(37) I see all those honorable worthies ready to pay the blood money of those killed in the war. A thousand camels follow another thousand as payment.

(38) “They” refers to camels paid as peace settlement.

(39) A pad to a camel is what a hoof is to a horse.

(40) Honor here is ‘Ird, the chastity, virtue and intactness of one’s womenfolk.

(41) Abuse here means ‘scurrilous, foul-mouthed libel’.

(42) Before a battle commences, the Arabs put forward the back end of their spears to enable peace-makers to do what they can. Should they fail the warriors reverse their spears, spikes forward, in preparation for battle. Zuhair is citing this custom to laud the peace makers’ efforts in extolling all to pay the blood money to end the war.

(43) Zuhair was severely criticized  for inciting wrong-doing (dhulm) in this verse when saying that if one does not wrong others, he will be wronged by them. But he seems to imply that people are malicious by nature and prone to wrong-doing, and that one should not be lax in standing up to whatever evil that may arise in others.


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