Kindah (كندة) is the name of an Arab kingdom by the Kindah tribe, the tribe's existence dates back to the second century BCE. The Kindites established a kingdom in Najd in central Arabia unlike the organized states of Yemen; its kings exercised an influence over a number of associated tribes more by personal prestige than by coercive settled authority. Their first capital was Qaryat Dhāt Kāhil, today known as Qaryat Al-Fāw.
The Kindites were polytheistic until the 6th century CE, with evidence of rituals dedicated to the idols Athtar and Kāhil found in their ancient capital in south-central Arabia (present day Saudi Arabia). It is not clear whether they converted to Judaism or remained pagan, but there is a strong archaeological evidence that they were among the tribes in Dhū Nuwās' forces during the Jewish king's attempt to suppress Christianity in Yemen. They converted to Islam in mid 7th century CE and played a crucial role during the Arab conquest of their surroundings, although some sub-tribes declared apostasy during the ridda after the death of Muḥammad.
Ancient South Arabian inscriptions mention a tribe settling in Najd called kdt, who had a king called rbˁt (Rabi’ah) from ḏw ṯwr-m (the people of Thawr), who had sworn allegiance to the king of Saba’ and Dhū Raydān. Since later Arab genealogists trace Kindah back to a person called Thawr ibn ‘Uqayr, modern historians have concluded that this rbˁt ḏw ṯwrm (Rabī’ah of the People of Thawr) must have been a king of Kindah (kdt); the Musnad inscriptions mention that he was king both of kdt (Kindah) and qhtn (Qaḥṭān). They played a major role in the Himyarite-Ḥaḑramite war. Following the Himyarite victory, a branch of Kindah established themselves in the Marib region, while the majority of Kindah remained in their lands in central Arabia.
The first Classical author to mention Kindah was the Byzantine ambassador Nonnosos, who was sent by the Emperor Justinian to the area. He refers to the people in Greek as Khindynoi (Greek Χινδηνοι, Arabic Kindah), and mentions that they and the tribe of Maadynoi (Greek: Μααδηνοι, Arabic: Ma'ad) were the two most important tribes in the area in terms of territory and number. He calls the king of Kindah Kaïsos (Greek: Καισος, Arabic: Qays), the nephew of Aretha (Greek: Άρεθα, Arabic: Ḥārith).
Relations with Himyar
When some of the Kindites returned to Yemen in the 4th century CE, the Ḥimyarites were at the height of their power, having annexed Ḥaḑramawt, the last rival South Arabian kingdom. The Kindites had historic feuds with the Ḥaḑramite tribes of the southern Wadi, so they were settled in Northern Ḥaḑramawt and were given authority over that region by the Ḥimyarites. From this point on, some Arab historians consider Kindah to have been part of the Ḥimyarite tribal federation.
Expansion towards Northern Arabia
In the 5th century CE, the tribes of North Arabia became a major threat to the trade line between Yemen and Syria. The Ḥimyarites decided to establish a vassal state that controlled Central and North Arabia. The Kindites gained strength and numbers to play that role, and in 425 CE the Ḥimyarite king Ḥasan ibn 'Amr ibn Tubba’ made Ḥujr 'Akīl al-Murār ibn 'Amr the first King (Ḥujr) of Kindah.
Wars with the Lakhmids
In that period the Ghassānids, Lakhmids and Kindites were all Kahlānī and Qaḥṭānī vassal kingdoms appointed by the Byzantines, Persians and Ḥimyarites to protect their borders and imperial interests from the raids of the then-rising threat of the 'Adnānī tribes. In the 5th and 6th centuries CE the Kindites made the fist real concerted effort to unite all the tribes of Central Arabia through alliances, and focused on wars with the Lakhmids. Al-Ḥārith ibn 'Amr, the most famous of their kings, finally succeeded in capturing the Lakhmid capital of al-Ḥirah in southern modern day Iraq. Later however in about 529, al-Mundhir recaptured the city and put King Ḥārith and about fifty members of his family to death.
The fall of Ḥimyar
In 525 CE, the Aksumites invaded Ḥimyar, and this Kindites, had a knock-on effect with the Kindites who lost the support of the Ḥimyarites. Within three years the Kindite kingdom had split into four groups: Asad, Taghlib, Qays and Kinānah, each led by a prince of Kindah. These small 'principalities' were then overthrown in the 530s and 540s in a series of uprisings of the 'Adnānī tribes of Najd and Ḥijāz.
Among the most famous Kindites is Imru' al-Qays, who was not only a son of one of the last Kindite kings (and unsuccessfully tried to resurrect his father's kingdom), but also the most prominent pre-Islamic Arab poet. It was during Al-Qais' time, in 540 CE, that the Lakhmids destroyed all the Kindite settlements in Nejd, forcing the majority of them to move to the Yemen. The Kindites and most the Arab tribes switched their alliances to the Lakhmids.
The Kindites converted to Judaism following the conversion of the Ḥimyarite kings in the late 5th century CE. However, Kindite Judaism was weakened by the rise of the Christian Aksumites in Yemen around 525 CE.
Descendants of the Kindites
- D. H. Müller, Al-Hamdani, 53, 124, W. Caskel, Entdeckungen In Arabien, Koln, 1954, S. 9. Mahram, P.318
- History of Arabia – Kindah. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
- Le Museon, 3-4, 1953, P.296, Bulletin Of The School Of Oriental And African Studies, University Of London, Vol., Xvi, Part: 3, 1954, P.434, Ryckmans 508
- Jamme 635. See: Jawād 'Alī: Al-Mufaṣṣal fī Tārīkh al-'Arab Qabl al-Islam, Part 39.
- "Kindah (people)". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
- Al Owtabi Al Sohari, Salama bin Muslim (1994). Al Ansaab Part 1. Muscat: Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman. p. 392.