Banu Abs

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Banu Abs
(Arabic: بنو عبس)
Ghatafan, Qays, Adnanite
Antarah ibn Shaddad & Abla.jpg
LocationSaudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Eritrea, Kuwait, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Egypt, Arab world, Malaysia, Europe, United States, Canada, Brazil
Descended fromAbs ibn Baghid ibn Rayth ibn Ghatafan
Populationest. 2,000,000
BranchesBanu Rasheed, Banu Rawaha, certain branches of the Mahas peoples
ReligionSunni Islam (Primarily), Christianity (Minority)

The Banu Abs (Arabic: بنو عبس, lit. "sons of ʿAbs") are an ancient Bedouin tribe that originated in central Arabia. They form a branch of the powerful and numerous Ghatafan tribes. They still inhabit the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa but have spread to many other regions of the world, as well. Their descendants today include the large Al Qubaisat tribe located in United Arab Emirates, Bani Rasheed tribe located in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Yemen, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Eritrea, and Jordan, and the Banu Rawaha located mostly in Oman and the UAE. They are known to be the second strongest tribe after The Prophet's Tribe. Parts of the Mahas tribe of the Butana region in Sudan are also linked by blood to the Banu Abs due to intermarriage between the Sudanese Rashaida tribe and the Mahas peoples. One of the earliest stories concerning this tribe was the famous classical love and war story of Antar and Abla.


The Banu Abs are of the Northern Adnanite Arabs, meaning they descend from Adnan. The Banu Abs line of patrilineal descent, from Abs all the way back to Adnan, is as follows: Abs ibn Baghid ibn Rayth ibn Ghatafan ibn Sa'd ibn Qays ibn Mudar ibn Nizar ibn Ma'ad ibn Adnan.[1] They are related to numerous other Arabian tribes, being distant cousins of the powerful Quraysh, the Banu Tamim, and the Banu Kinanah. The Banu Dhubyan and the Mutayr are also descendants of the Ghatafan tribe, and are thus cousins of the Banu Abs. The Banu Abs are distant cousins to Muhammad, the final prophet of Islam, due to his direct descent from Adnan. The large and prestigious Rashaida people tribe is directly descended from the Banu Abs.


The Banu Abs originated almost 2,000 years ago, branching from the Ghatafan clan, and inhabiting the outskirts of Medinah in modern Hejaz, an area called today Hurrat Bani Rasheed.

The tribe is known for its independence and bravery, as it had been called one of the Jamarat of the Arabs, or the most powerful tribes that took no allegiance to anyone but themselves. The earliest stories regard tales of war and chivalry before Islam, in the famous war of al-Dahhas wal Ghabra, between them and their brother tribe, the Banu Dhubyan, which had lasted almost 40 years. The war had ended when Zuhayr ibn Jadhima of the Banu Abs had called for an end to the bloodshed, asking the wealthy merchants of both tribes to pay the losses caused by the war. Their traditions further recall 3,000 of them repelling a Sasanian attack of 20,000.

Absi traditions tell of their prophet Khalid ibn Sinan ibn Ghayth ibn Murayta ibn Makhzum ibn Malik ibn Ghalib ibn Qutayya ibn Abs who taught them Biblical monotheism, and the worship of God as "al-ahad al-samad", prior to Muhammad.[2] It was told that Khalid saved his tribe (accounts differ on how) and that most men of the Abs rejected this prophet at the time.[3]

During the Arab conquests some Absis remembered their prophet Khalid again; others, like Ubayy ibn Amara ibn Malik, accepted Muhammad as Prophet and are now ranked as Companions.[4] Some Absis settled at Manbij in Syria,[5] others at the Nile. In North Africa one Ka'b, a close relative of Khalid (some say the son of his daughter), adopted some Berbers as clients, and spread the word of Khalid amongst them alongside that of Muhammad.[6]

As Muslims the Abs (and some Berbers) insisted on their veneration for Khalid; some have claimed that Khalid prophesied the 'last' prophet after him, who in Islam is Muhammad.[7] Another tradition has it that King Zuhayr had predicted Muhammad, but Zuhayr is not called prophet for that.

On Khalid's status, the Muslims have historically been divided. Other Arab tribes had either suffered false prophets, as the Asad suffered Tulayha; or, like the 'Ad and the Thamud, they received the preachings of their Prophets, disbelieved, and were destroyed[8](although some living tribes have claimed a rebirth from those dead tribes' surviving prophets, as Yemenis claim of Hud). Also if the bedouin Khalid were accepted as a prophet between Jesus and Muhammad this is constrained by Q. 12:109, which insists that Apostles must come from the towns.[9]

Antarah ibn Shaddad[edit]

Antarah ibn Shaddad al-Absi (c. 525–615), or 'Antar al-Absi, was one of the seven great pre-Islamic Arab poets and the protagonist of the great story Antar and Abla. Throughout this non-fiction story, he displayed chivalry, bravery, and eloquence in the Arabic language. This earned him the name among all of the Arabs of the Peninsula as the "Complete Knight". Furthermore, he was the author of the Divan and he was a warrior. His father was a leader of the Banu ʿAbs tribe named Shaddad and his mother was Zabiba, an African Abyssinian princess-turned-slave who was originally captured during a battle between the invading Banu Abs tribe and the ancient Abyssinian army (specifically the Kingdom of Aksum).

This most famous member of the Banu Abs tribe has had a cultural impact beyond Arabia and even into the modern era. A number of modern cultural artistic works are inspired by the warrior-poet 'Antar. These include Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Symphony No. 2, which is based on the legend of ʿAntar, as well as the first Palestinian opera composed in 1988 by Mustapha al-Kurd, of which Antarah ibn Shaddad was the primary subject.

Role in Umayyad and Abbasid Syria[edit]

The Banu Abs gained significant wealth and property in Syria and influence in the Umayyad caliphal court mainly through the marriage of the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik (r. 685–705) to the Absi noblewoman Wallada, the daughter of al-Abbas ibn al-Jaz ibn al-Harith, a great-grandson of Zuhayr ibn Jadhima. [10] Wallada mothered Abd al-Malik's sons and successors al-Walid I (r. 705–715) and Sulayman (r. 715–717).[11] Abd al-Malik granted estates to Wallada's father al-Abbas and her first cousin al-Qa'qa ibn Khulayd ibn al-Jaz, including the massive estate which developed into the town of Hiyar Bani Qa'qa or Hiyar Bani Abs in northwestern Syria near Manbij where the family established itself.[11][12] Al-Walid I granted further estates to al-Qa'qa near Damascus and Manbij and made him his katib (scribe or secretary).[11] The caliph appointed another member of the tribe, Khalid ibn Barz ibn Kamil ibn Barz, governor of Jund Dimashq (military district of Damascus).[13] Al-Qa'qa backed the abortive efforts by al-Walid I to replace Sulayman with his son Abd al-Aziz ibn al-Walid as caliphal successor.[12] Al-Qa'qa's uncle Abd Allah ibn al-Jaz was a prominent dignitary in Syria and al-Qa'qa's brother Husayn was a companion of Caliph Sulayman.[11]

Al-Qa'qa's sons al-Walid and Abd al-Malik, both named after their Umayyad kinsmen,[14] served as the governors of the junds (military districts) of Qinnasrin and Homs under Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik (r. 724–743).[11] Al-Walid and Abd al-Malik (al-Qa'qa's sons) played a role in the unsuccessful attempt to install Hisham's son Maslama as his successor over his nephew, the appointed successor al-Walid II (r. 743–744).[15] As a result, they were both tortured to death by al-Walid II's governor of Qinnasrin, Yusuf, the son of Umar ibn Hubayra al-Fazari.[16] Al-Walid ibn Qa'qa's son Thumama later served as a commander under the Abbasids, who toppled the Umayyads in 750, and led summer expeditions against the Byzantine Empire.[14] His son Uthman became a semi-autonomous local leader in Jund Qinnasrin in the aftermath of the Fourth Muslim Civil War (813–819).[14]

As late as the 10th and 11th centuries, the Banu Abs continued to occupy Hiyar Bani Qa'qa and the neighboring Wadi Butnan valley, as well as Hadhir Qinnasrin south of Aleppo. The tribe, like other old-established tribes in Jund Qinnasrin, had become largely sedentarized while maintaining their tribal structure and customs.[17]

The 1890 work of Guy Le Strange is a source of information on the regions once controlled or governed by the Banu 'Abs. Titled "Palestine Under the Moslems: A Description of Syria and the Holy Land from A. D. 650 To 1500", it was originally published in 1890 and includes translations from the works of medieval Arab geographers. As a collection of historical and geographical Islamic writings on Syria and Palestine, it makes mention of the lands of the Bani 'Abs (also referred to as Bani Qa'qa, or Bani Ka'ka, due to the descendance of the local Banu 'Abs from al-Qa'qa al-Absi). Hiyar is mentioned as being "a district in the lands of the Bani Ka'ka, lying a days' march from Halab (Aleppo), in the country near the desert of Kinassrin (Qinnasrin), and 2 days' journey also from the town of Kinnasrin" (sourced from Palestine Under the Moslems: A Description of Syria and the Holy Land from A. D. 650 To 1500 by Guy Le Strange, p. 455). In later centuries, at least some of the old Bani 'Abs strongholds were abandoned and left to waste. For example, a district called Kurah al Hiyar, as described by Abu-l Fida and translated by Guy Le Strange, is mentioned: ""Kurah al Hiyar," says Abu'l Fida, "is the name of one of the districts of Aleppo. At the present time (1321) its lands are desert, and only wild animals live here. But it is mentioned in books. It took its name from Hiyar ibn al Ka'ka. There camp the 'Abs, the Fazarah and other tribes of the Arabs"" (sourced from Palestine Under the Moslems: A Description of Syria and the Holy Land from A. D. 650 To 1500 by Guy Le Strange, p. 455).

Modern era[edit]

The modern Banu Abs tribe is quite large and scattered across the region. Significant populations of this tribe can be found in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Palestine, Yemen, Sudan, Kuwait, Egypt, and Jordan. In addition, branches of the tribe can be found in the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere in the Arab World, as well as in Malaysia, Europe, the United States, and Brazil. Members and descendants of the tribe may carry the tribal name or some variation thereof, such as: Alabsi, Al-Absy, al-Absy, Al'Absy, Al Absy, Al-Absi, al-Absi, Al'Absi, Al Absi, Absy, Absi, Absey, Abzi, etc.


The modern Bedouins in Arabia value ancient Arab traditions including chivalry, honor, bravery, honesty, nobility, hospitality, and generosity. While the Banu 'Abs share such values with their tribal neighbors, they are famous for their unique tribal cultural values. In addition to the aforementioned Bedouin mores, the Banu 'Abs greatly value very ancient traditions that are held in high regard. This helps distinguish them from the many other tribes in Arabia. The main branch of the Banu 'Abs tribe has succeeded in preserving their traditional dress, language, and ethics despite the Westernization of some of their neighbors. The traditional dialect of the tribe is a form of Hejazi and Najdi Arabic. Specifically, it is a mix between the dialect of the northern peoples of Ha'il, the standard Bedouin dialect and Hijazi Arabic. The Banu 'Abs tribe has its own tribal emblem or symbol, which is a practice that is common amongst Arab tribes. This symbol has been lost to some branches of the tribe which settled in other regions.

Branches of the Banu Abs located in other countries uphold their clan-based traditions such as maintaining a clan head to whom all respect is directed and from whom tribal edicts are delivered, upholding traditional codes of honor and utmost family loyalty, and establishing and holding tribal Diwans. Maintaining and respecting family traditions is an important aspect of what differentiates members of the Banu Abs diaspora. At the same time, they have also adapted to their local cultures, incorporating traditions, stories, legends, foods, and music from the lands where they have settled.

While the original Banu Abs have their own tribal emblem, many of the scattered branches outside of Saudi Arabia have developed their own independent tribal crests and flags to identify, and take pride in, their section of the extended family. Some branches of the tribe have also developed their own mottos, fables, and proverbs.

It is a common practice for branches of the Banu Abs tribe to maintain private family genealogies and histories that trace their patrilineal lines from their modern members all the way back to Abs, Adnan, Ishmael, Abraham, and ultimately to Adam. These private family histories of their ancestors also record notable details about historical members of the tribe. These histories can include dates of birth and/or death, mention of wars or battles participated in, various deeds done and honors earned, details of personalities and reputations, information on the crafts, trades, and businesses that the people engaged in, any peculiar or interesting causes of death, and other notable events or actions.

Social work[edit]

The sheer numbers, and widespread nature, of the Banu Abs clan have contributed to the formation of various tribal organizations, divans, cultural groups, and charitable trusts.

One example is the 'Abs Universal Organization for Social Development. This is a non-profit organization dedicated to:

"Social, cultural, economic and humanitarian organization. It aims to improve the living conditions of Rashaida people and in particular the Rashaida people in the Sudan, Eritrea and poor areas. Also, it aims to raise the level of education and cultural knowledge for Rashaida people in the whole Arabic world."

- The organization includes some charities. The charities are going to build some schools and hospitals in some poor countries that are home to Rashidi people.

The President is Mr. Fayez Albghaili Al- Rashidi

Secretary-General is Mr. Mubarak Al-Duwailah

Deputy of Secretary-General Dr. Abdullah Saad Alawaimrai"5

Descendant branches[edit]

Banu Rasheed[edit]

The Bani Rasheed or Rashaida peoples are the sons of Rasheed Al-Zaul Al-Absi. Rasheed Al-Zaul was one of the Banu Abs tribe's most famous warriors, living in the 7th century. Afterwards, his progeny named themselves after him. The Rashaida peoples are currently located in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Sudan, Eritrea, Jordan, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Oman.

Al Hubus[edit]

The Al Hubus, or Habsi tribe, are one of the largest tribes of Oman. The inhabitants of this tribe reside in the Eastern region of Oman, and Ras al-Khaimah alongside the Shuhooh. They descend directly from Banu Abs, and branch into several other large tribes. Some of the most notable are: the Jawaber (Al Jabry, which is distinct from Bani Jabir of Yemen or Hamdan, present in other parts of Oman), Yal Thaneen, Aial Mahara, Aial Abdu, Awlad Habn, Al Ghassassina, Bani Bu Said, Maqadima, Ghananima, Sawalem, Najyah, and the Asiyrah.

Like their central Arabian cousins, the Habsi tribe and its many branches are known for their courage, strength, and bravery.

Mahas people[edit]

The Mahas people are a tribe that are descended on the matrilineal side from a combination of the Banu Khazraj of Arabia (of whom the Nasrid dynasty of Granada was also descended) and the Nubians. There is some intermarriage between the Rashaida peoples and the Mahas peoples of the Butana region in Sudan. Due to their intermarriage with the Rashaida peoples, some branches of the Mahas are partially linked to the Banu Abs tribe, as well. It is unclear when exactly they intermarried, and which full name they would carry, whether back to Adnan (of the Rashaida and Banu Abs) or Qahtan (of the Khazraj). Members of the Mahas that are descended from the Banu Abs are, by blood, technically a combination of Adnanite, Qahtanite, and Azdite.

Notable members[edit]


  • Khaled ibn Sinan ibn Ghaith ibn Murayta ibn Makhzum ibn Malik ibn Ghalib ibn Qutaya ibn 'Abs: Khalid ibn Sinan al-Absi was a revered figure of pre-Islamic Arabia who is thought to have lived sometime between the 1st and 7th century CE. Historical accounts narrate that he was one of a line of prophets sent to the Arab peoples, beginning with Ismā'īl and ending with Muhammad. According to some accounts, he was born 50 years prior to the Year of the Elephant (approximately 520 CE). He learned to read and write at an early age and attained a respected position in the judiciary among his people. He was a prominent writer on literature and jurisprudence. He also composed works about the Prophet Ibrahim, and he called on his people to abandon idolatry, alcohol, and the practice of usury, or riba. He should not be confused with the companion of Muhammad of the same name, "Khalid ibn Sinan al-Awsi", who fought in the Battle of Badr.
  • Antarah ibn Shaddad: Perhaps the most famous member of the Banu Abs tribe, Antar ibn Shaddad was an ancient, pre-Islamic warrior poet. He was the son of an Abyssinian princess and a prominent member of the Banu Abs nobility and a respected warrior.
  • Harith ibn Rab'i al-Absi: Also known as Abu Qatada al-Ansari, he was one of the companions, or Sahabah, of Muhammad. He participated in the battle of Uhud in 625 CE and he took part in the events of Hudaybiyyah. He also took part in the Battle of the Camel in 656 CE, serving in the Rashidun Caliph Ali's forces. During this battle he was armed with a bow and sword and wore a white turban while he served as a commander of a contingent of 1000 cavalrymen. His wife was Kabsha bint Kab ibn Malike and his son was named Qatada ibn al-Harith.
  • Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman: Hudhayfah (died in 656 CE) was one of the Sahabah (companions) of Prophet Muhammad.
  • Qurra ibn Sharik al-Absi: Qurra ibn Sharik (or Sharif) al-Absi was the governor of Egypt in 709–715 CE, under the Umayyad Caliphate. A sharif from Qinnasrin, he was previously the governor of his home province in Syria before being relocated to Egypt by Caliph Al-Walid I.
  • Abd al-Malik ibn Rifa'a al-Fahmi: Abd al-Malik ibn Rifa'a al-Fahmi was the governor of Egypt for the Umayyad Caliphate in 715–717 CE.
  • Ka'b ibn Hamid al-Absi: Served as commander of the Caliph's household guard under the Umayyad Caliph Sulayman, and his successor Caliph Umar II, between 715 and 720 CE (History of al-Tabari, Vol. XXIV, The Empire in Transition). According to the cited source, after Sulayman's death, Ka'b assisted in the initial transition of power between him and his son, Umar II.
  • Hudhaifa ibn al-Ahwas al-Absi: Ruled as the Umayyad-appointed governor of newly conquered Islamic Spain (al-Andalus) for a period of one year in 728 CE (1984, Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad Maqqarī, The History of the Mohammedan Dynasties in Spain: Extracted from the Nafhu-t-tíb Min Ghosni-l-Andalusi-r-rattíb Wa Táríkh Lisánu-d-Dín Ibni-l-Khattíb, Volume 2, 665pp).
  • al-Qa'qa' ibn Khulayd (or Khalid) al-Absi: He was a member of the old Arabian tribal nobility. His family became involved with the Caliphate and imperial affairs after the Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan married Wallada (or Walida) bint al-'Abbas al-Absi, one of his cousins. He served as personal secretary to the Umayyad Caliph Walid ibn 'Abd al-Malik between 705 and 715 CE. The Caliph rewarded him by granting him the locality of Hiyar Bani Qa'Qa' near Qinnasrin (The History of al-Tabari, Vol. XXVIII, 'Abbasid Authority Affirmed). The territory was named after al-Qa'qa' and his descendants continued to control this territory for at least the next century, if not longer. He supported Caliph Al-Walid I against his brother, Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik. Al-Qa'qa' was the father of Walid ibn al Qa'a' al-Absi and the grandfather of Thumama ibn al-Walid ibn Qa'qa' al-Absi.
  • Thumama ibn al-Walid: Thumāma ibn al-Walīd ibn Qa'qā al-'Absi' was an Arab general of noble lineage from Syria. He survived the purge of Al-Walid II and served the Abbasid Caliphate after the Umayyads were overthrown. He was the son of Walid ibn al Qa'qa al-Absi and the father of Uthman ibn Thumāma ibn al-Walīd ibn Qa'qā al-'Absi'. He led the annual summer raids into Byzantine Asia Minor in 777 - 779 CE. In 778 CE, his raid was defeated by the Byzantine general Michael Lachanodrakon. The 779 CE expedition was also defeated, according to al-Tabari. After that, he was replaced by al-Hasan ibn Qahtaba.
  • Ali ibn Ziyad: Ali ibn Ziyad at-Tarabulsi al-Tunisi al-'Absi (d. 799 CE) (Arabic: علي بن زياد الطرابلسي التونسي العبسي), more commonly referred to in Islamic scholarship as Ali ibn Ziyad or Imam al-Tarabulsi, was an 8th-century CE Tunisian Muslim jurist from Tripoli.
  • Muhammad al-Shaybani: al-Shaybānī (749/50 – 805 CE), the father of Muslim international law, was an Islamic jurist and a disciple of the Muslim scholars Malik ibn Anas, Abu Yusuf, and Abu Hanifa (later being the eponym of the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence).
  • 'Utmàn al-Absi al-Kûfî: He was a traditionalist, a hàfiz, a lawyer, an historian, and commentator born in Kufa, Iraq (159 - 235 AH / 775 -849 CE). (Sourced from: Review of The Muslim West and the Mediterranean , Issues 31–34, Association for the Study of the Humanities in North Africa , 1981)
  • Abd Allah al-Qaysi: Abu Muhammad Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn Qasim ibn Hilal ibn Yazid ibn 'Imran al-'Absi al-Qaysi was an early Muslim jurist and theologian. He died in 885 or 886 CE.
  • Al-Tutili: Abu 'l-ʿAbbās (or Abū Dj̲aʿfar) Aḥmad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Hurayra al-ʿUtbī (or al-Kaysī) al-Absi (died 1126 CE), nicknamed al-Aʿmā al-Tuṭīlī or the Blind Poet of Tudela, was an Andalusian mūwallad poet who composed in Arabic.
  • Sidi Khaled ibn Sinan al Absi (or Sidi Khaled ibn Sounan Elabsi): A prominent Muslim holy man. The Algerian town in which he is buried is named after him.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad. The Life of Muhammad. Oxford University Press. p. 4.
  2. ^ Landau-Tasseron 1997, pp. 42–61.
  3. ^ Landau-Tasseron 1997, pp. 48–49, 53.
  4. ^ Landau-Tasseron 1997, p. 51.
  5. ^ Landau-Tasseron 1997, p. 52.
  6. ^ Landau-Tasseron 1997, p. 53.
  7. ^ Landau-Tasseron 1997, p. 45, note 16.
  8. ^ Landau-Tasseron 1997, p. 46.
  9. ^ Landau-Tasseron 1997, p. 43.
  10. ^ Elad 1999, pp. 59–63.
  11. ^ a b c d e Elad 1999, p. 61.
  12. ^ a b Crone 1980, p. 105.
  13. ^ Elad 1999, pp. 61–62.
  14. ^ a b c Crone 1980, p. 106.
  15. ^ Hillenbrand 1989, p. 89.
  16. ^ Elad 1999, pp. 61–62, note 126.
  17. ^ Zakkar 1971, p. 85.