Antarah ibn Shaddad

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Antarah Ibn Shaddād
عنترة بن شداد
Born Qusaiba, Al Qassim, Ancient Arabia
Era Pre-Islamic Arabia
Region Al Jiwa, Ancient Arabia, Arab world
Main interests
Jahili poetry

 'Antarah Ibn Shaddād al-'Absī عنترة بن شداد العبسي was a pre-Islamic Arab hero and poet (525-608) famous for both his poetry and his adventurous life. What many consider his best or chief poem is contained in the Mu'allaqat. The account of his life forms the basis of a long and extravagant romance.


Antarah and Abla depicted on a 19th-century Egyptian tattooing pattern.
A recent photo of what is said to be the famous Rock where Antarah used to meet Abla. Taken in al Jiwa, Saudi Arabia

ʿAntarah ibn Shaddād (Arabic: عنترة إبن شداد‎), also known as ʿAntar, was a pre-Islamic poet born in Najd, Ancient Arabia. He was the son of Shaddād, a well-respected member of the Arab tribe of Banu Abs and his mother was Zabibah, a woman from al-Habash (ancient Ethiopia) who Shaddād had enslaved after a tribal war.

ʿAntarah grew up a slave. He was described as one of the "Arab crows" (al-aghribah al-'Arab) because he had a very dark black complexion.[1] ʿAntarah gained attention and respect for himself by his remarkable personal qualities and courage in battle, excelling as an accomplished poet and a mighty warrior. He earned his freedom after one tribe invaded Banu Abs, so his father said to him: "ʿAntarah, fight with the warriors". Then he looked at his father in resentment and said: "The slave doesn't know how to invade or how to defend, but the slave is only good for milking goats and serving his masters". Then his father uttered the famous words: "Defend your tribe, O ʿAntar, and you are free", so ʿAntarah fought and expelled the invading tribes.

ʿAntarah fell in love with his cousin ʿAblah and sought to marry her despite his status as a slave. To secure allowance to marry, Antarah had to face challenges including getting a special kind of camel from the northern Arab kingdom of the Lakhmids ruled by Al-Nu'man III ibn al-Mundhir.

ʿAntarah took part in the great war between the related tribes of Abs and Dhubyān, which began over a contest of horses, and was named after them the war of Dāhis and Ghabrā. He died in a fight against the tribe of Tai.

ʿAntarah's poetry is well preserved and often talks of chivalrous values, courage and heroism in battle as well as his love for ʿAbla. It was immortalized when one of his poems was included in the Mu'allaqat. His poetry's historical and cultural importance stems from its detailed descriptions of battles, armour, weapons, horses, desert and other themes from his time.

The story of ʿAntar and ʿAbla was embroidered into a poetic saga still recited by traditional story-tellers in Arab coffee houses. "Antar" is the title of the first Palestinian opera, composed by the Palestinian musician Mustapha al-Kurd in 1988. The Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov wrote his Symphony No. 2 based on the legend of ʿAntar.

One of the seven clans of Bethlehem is called the Anatreh, named after ʿAntar, and in past centuries acted as guardians of the Church of the Nativity.


In 1898 the French painter Étienne Dinet published[2] his translation of a 13th-century epic Arab poem Antar which brought Antar bin Shaddad to European notice.[2] It has been followed by a number of derivative works such as Diana Richmond's Antar and Abla[3] which furthered western exposure to the Antar bin Shaddad legends.

Modern Painting[edit]

Lebanese painter Rafic Charaf developed from the 1960s a series of paintings depicting the epics of Antar and Abla. These works that show interest on popular the region are considered as a keystone in the artist's oeuvre.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Pouillon, Francois (1997) Les deux vies d'Étienne Dinet, peintre en Islam: L'Algerie et l'heritage colonial Editions Balland, Paris;
  3. ^ Richmond, Diana (1978) Antar and Abla: a Bedouin romance Quartet Books, London, ISBN 0-7043-2162-9 ;
  4. ^ "Rafic Charaf". The Mokbel Art Collection. 2011. Retrieved 18 February 2012. 

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "'Antara ibn Shaddād". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.