Layla al-Akhyaliyya

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Layla Bint Abullah Bin Shaddad Bin Ka’b Al Akheeliyya (d. c. AH 75/694×90/709 CE),[1] or simply Layla Al Akheeliyya (Ar. ليلى الأخيليّة) was a famous Umayyad Arab poet who was renowned for her poetry, eloquence, strong personality as well as her beauty. Nearly fifty of her short poems survive. They include elegies for her lover Tawba ibn Humayyir and ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan;[2] 'lewd satires' exchanged with the poet al-Nabigha al-Ja‘di; and panegyrics for leading Umayyad officials and caliphs: Al-Ḥajjāj ibn Yūsuf, Caliph Marwan I, and Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan.[3]

Life[edit]

She was born to the Banu 'Uqayl section of the Banu 'Amir tribe, coincidentally the same tribe as Qays ibn al-Mullawah and Layla Al-Aamiriya. However, unlike them she was a city dweller not a bedouin.[citation needed]

In her early years she was known for her love of Tawba ibn Humayyir but her father refused the marriage and she married a man called Abi Al-Athla’, Tawba continued to visit her despite her marriage until her husband complained to the Caliph, who made Tawba leave. Her husband could not bear the jealousy so he divorced her. She then married an unknown poet and had many children, little is known about them.

Poetry and Influence[edit]

Her strong personality and fame gave her access to the courts of the Umayyads and others.

She was one of the few early female Arab poets who dared to speak of her love in public; this poetry is particularly associated with Tawba b. al-Ḥumayyir: 'Laylā and Tawba had fallen in love with each other. But when Tawba asked for Laylā's hand in marriage, her father refused, and married Laylā to another man. Later, Tawba was killed, and this inspired the laments of Laylā'.[4] What made this even more daring was that she was married to another (Sawwār b. Awfā al-Qushayrī).[5] Nevertheless love poetry was not her only genre as her poems were diverse in subjects although she avoided politics. This helped her to continue her relations with politically influential people despite changing times and powers. Here work includes exchanges of satires with Nābigha al-Ja‘dī (apparently between 40/660 and 63/683)[6] and Ḥumayda bint Nu‘mān ibn Bashīr.[7]

Her poetry was often compared to that of Al-Khansa.[3] However, Layla had more diverse imagery, not confined to the desert, and used more than one genre, not confining herself to one subject. Her poetry also contained some philosophical aspects and wisdom, usually attributed to her extensive travel. On the other hand, Layla depended highly on her poetry for income where she was awarded with money for some poems, and her poetry provided her with connections to rich and powerful people while Al-Khansa depended on her family’s traditional pastoralism.

She died in 704 near the city of Samawa in Iraq while traveling.

Example of her poetry:

أحــجاج لا يفـلل سلاحك إنما

المنـايا بكـف الله حيث تراها

إذا هبـط الحجاج أرضاً مريضة

تتبـع أقصـى دائـها فشفـاها

شفاها من الداء العضال الذي بها

غـلام إذا هـز القنـا سقـاها

سقاها دمــاء المارقين وعلـها

إذا جمحت يوماً وخفيـف أذاها

إذا سمـع الحجـاج صوت كتيبة

أعـد لها قبـل النـزول قراها

References[edit]

  1. ^ For a full discussion of her date of death, Aram A. Shahin, 'Reflections of the Lives and Deaths of Two Umayyad Poets: Laylā al-Akhyaliyya and Tawba b. al-Ḥumayyir', in The Heritage of Arabo-Islamic Learning: Studies Presented to Wadad Kadi, ed. by Maurice A. Pomerantz, Aram A. Shahin (Leiden: Brill, 2016), pp. 398-443 (p. 399-414), DOI: 10.1163/9789004307469_018.
  2. ^ Lang, Kate (2002). "Layla al-Akhyaliyya (fl. 650–660)". In Commire, Anne. Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Waterford, Connecticut: Yorkin Publications. ISBN 0-7876-4074-3. (Subscription required (help)). 
  3. ^ a b Tahera Qutbuddin, 'Women Poets' Archived 2014-02-07 at the Wayback Machine., in Medieval Islamic Civilisation: An Encyclopedia, ed. by Josef W. Meri, 2 vols (New York: Routledge, 2006), II 867.
  4. ^ Aram A. Shahin, 'Reflections of the Lives and Deaths of Two Umayyad Poets: Laylā al-Akhyaliyya and Tawba b. al-Ḥumayyir', in The Heritage of Arabo-Islamic Learning: Studies Presented to Wadad Kadi, ed. by Maurice A. Pomerantz, Aram A. Shahin (Leiden: Brill, 2016), pp. 398-443 (p. 398), DOI: 10.1163/9789004307469_018.
  5. ^ Aram A. Shahin, 'Reflections of the Lives and Deaths of Two Umayyad Poets: Laylā al-Akhyaliyya and Tawba b. al-Ḥumayyir', in The Heritage of Arabo-Islamic Learning: Studies Presented to Wadad Kadi, ed. by Maurice A. Pomerantz, Aram A. Shahin (Leiden: Brill, 2016), pp. 398-443 (p. 416 n. 48), DOI: 10.1163/9789004307469_018.
  6. ^ Aram A. Shahin, 'Reflections of the Lives and Deaths of Two Umayyad Poets: Laylā al-Akhyaliyya and Tawba b. al-Ḥumayyir', in The Heritage of Arabo-Islamic Learning: Studies Presented to Wadad Kadi, ed. by Maurice A. Pomerantz, Aram A. Shahin (Leiden: Brill, 2016), pp. 398-443 (p. 416 n. 48), DOI: 10.1163/9789004307469_018.
  7. ^ A. Schippers, 'The Role of Woman in Medieval Andalusian Arabic Story-Telling', in Verse and the Fair Sex: Studies in Arabic Poetry and in the Representation of Woman in Arabic Literature, ed. by F. de Jong (Utrecht: M. Th. Houtsma Stichting, 1993), pp. 139-52 (p. 140), http://hdl.handle.net/11245/2.80595.

Further reading[edit]

  • Al-Isfahani, Abu al-Faraj. Kitab al-aghani (Book of Songs). 24 vols, in progress. Cairo: Dar al-Kutub al-Misriyya, 1929–present.
  • The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature: Arabic Literature to the End of the Umayyad Period. Edited by A.F.L. Beeston, T.M. Johnstone, R.B. Serjeant, and G.R. Smith. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
  • Gabrieli, F. "Layla al-Akhyaliyya," in Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2nd ed.
  • Ibn Qutayba. al-Shi'r wa-'l-shu'ara' (Poetry and Poets). Beirut: Dar al-Thaqafa, 1964.