Al-Khansa – The unmatched poetess of Medina

She was Tamadur bint Amr ibn Shareef and was known as Al-Khansa. She came to Medina along with a delegation of  her tribe, Banu Sulaym. She embraced Islam and began the life of a righteous Muslimah. She was an extremely beautiful, well mannered and an eloquent woman of her times.

Khansaa started reciting poetry at a young age, early in her life. However she would not recite more than three or four lines of poetry. It was only after the death of her brother Sakhr, that the innate poetess in her awoke and she began to recite long poetry.

Her poems were long, emotional and extremely stylish. She would recite them in the memory of her brothers Sakhr and Muwaiyah. She used to eulogize them in an eloquent manner. It is a consensus of the scholars of poetry that no woman ever attained the status of al-Khansa in poetry neither before or after her.

In one of her eulogy for her brother she said (what means):

“O’ my eyes, shed tears generously! Will you not weep for Sakhr, the generous?!

Will you not shed tears for the audacious, tall and handsome young man

who possessed qualities of leadership and who lead his people?!”

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) heard her poetry and asked her to recite more. He (pbuh) liked her poetry and encouraged her to recite more poems. He (pbuh) used to call her out as, ”Hey Khanas.” It is normal for Arabs to shorten names in this manner, just as the Prophet (pbuh) used to address ‘Aa’ishah (ra) as ‘Aa’ish.

It was in the battle of Qadisiyah, that the whole of Medina got to witness the beautiful character and strong faith of this gifted poetess. She attained the prominence of being one of the unparalleled Muslim ladies of her times. This was due to two reasons. One being the martyrdom of her four sons in this battle and second how she received the news of their martyrdom.

Ibn ‘Abdul-Barr reported in his book al-Istee‘ab:

“Al-Khansa’ bint ‘Amr witnessed the battle of Qaadisiyah with her four sons. She addressed them right at the eve of the battle saying,

”My sons! You embraced Islam and migrated willingly. By Allah, besides whom there is no other deity worthy of being worshiped, you are all sons of one man as you are sons of one woman. I have never cheated on your father. Never have I brought disgrace upon your uncle, disparaged your esteem or altered your lineage. You know the great and abundant reward that Allah has set aside for the Muslims who fight against the disbelievers. Know that the everlasting abode is better than this transient one.

Allah (swt) says: O you have believe! Endure and be more patient [than your enemy], and guard your territory by stationing army units permanently at the places from where the enemy can attack you, and fear Allah, so that you may be successful. (Ale-Imran 3:200)

When you wake up tomorrow morning, Allah willing sound and healthy, go and fight against your enemy with conviction and seek Allah’s help over His enemies. When you see that the war has become tense, engage yourselves in the fight gallantly and resiliently that you may attain treasures and honor in the Abode of Eternity.’”

The narrator proceeds:

“Her sons then left having accepted her admonition and were determined to implement her words. When the morning came, they set out early towards the battlefield and they all fought both gallantly and courageously until they were martyred, one after another.”

Here is where the greatness of al-Khansa truly manifested. When she heard of this great news she forgot her poetry, her beauty, her place among her people and all other things. She remembered nothing but Allah’s promise and the transient nature of this world. She said,

“All praise is due to Allah who honored me with their martyrdom. And I hope that my Lord will make me join them in the Abode of His Mercy!”

Such is the faith of a true Muslimah, the one who knows the true purpose of this life, the one whose faith remains unshattered in the face of greatest trials, the one who expects her reward from no one but Allah swt alone.

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